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Chapter XVII.—Synodical Act of Damasus, Bishop of Rome, and of the Western Bishops, about the Council at Ariminum.

The condemnation of this formula by all the champions of the truth, and specially those of the West, is shewn by the letter which they wrote to the Illyrians559559    The letter is given in Soz. vi. 23. The Latin text (Coll. Rom. ed. Holsten. p. 163) differs materially from the Greek.. First of the signatories was Damasus, who obtained the presidency of the church of Rome after Liberius, and was adorned with many virtues560560    These were displayed after his establishment in his see. He was the nominee of the Arian party, and bloody scenes marked the struggle with his rival Ursinus. “Damasus et Ursinus, supra humanum modum ad rapiendam episcopatus sedem ardentes, scissis studiis asperrime conflictabantur, adusque mortis vulnerumque discrimina progressis.…Constat in basilica ubi ritus christiani conventiculum uno die centum triginta septem reperta cadavera peremptorum.” Amm. Marc. xxvii. 3, 13. “But we can say that he used his success well, and that the chair of St. Peter was never more respected nor more vigorous than during his bishopric.” Mr. Moberly in Dict. Christ. Biog. i. 782. Jerome calls him (Ep. Hier. xlviii. 230) “an illustrious man, virgin doctor of the virgin church.”
   But not his least claim to our regard is that in the Catacombs it was his “labour of love to rediscover the tombs which had been blocked up for concealment under Diocletian, to remove the earth, widen the passages, adorn the sepulchral chambers with marble, and support the friable tufa walls with arches of brick and stone.” “Roma Sotterranea,” Northcote and Brownlow, p. 97.
. 83With him signed ninety bishops of Italy and Galatia561561    Γαλάται = Κέλτοι, the older name, which exists in Herodotus II. 33 and IV. 49. Pausanias (I. iii. 5) says ὀψὲ δέ ποτε αὐτοὺς καλεὶσθαι Γαλάτας ἐξενίκησε, Κέλτοι γὰρ κατά τε σφᾶς τὸ ἀρχαῖον καὶ παρὰ τοῖς ἄλλοις ὠνομάζοντο. Galatia occurs on the Monumentum Ancyranum. Bp. Lightfoot (Galat. p. 3) says the first instance of Gallia (Galli) which he has found in any Greek writer is in Epictetus II. 20, 17., now called Gaul, who met together at Rome. I would have inserted their names but that I thought it superfluous.

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“The bishops assembled at Rome in sacred synod, Damasus and Valerianus562562    In Sozomen, Valerius, Bishop of Aquileia. “But little is known of his life, but under his rule there grew up at Aquileia the society of remarkable persons of whom Hieronymus became the most famous.” Dict. Christ. Biog. iv. 1102. and the rest, to their beloved brethren the bishops of Illyria, send greeting in God.

“We believe that we, priests of God, by whom it is right for the rest to be instructed, are holding and teaching our people the Holy Creed which was founded on the teaching of the Apostles, and in no way departs from the definitions of the Fathers. But through a report of the brethren in Gaul and Venetia we have learnt that certain men are fallen into heresy.

“It is the duty of the bishops not only to take precautions against this mischief, but also to make a stand against whatever divergent teaching has arisen, either from incomplete instruction, or the simplicity of readers of unsound commentators. They should be minded not to slide into slippery paths, but rather whensoever divergent counsels are carried to their ears, to hold fast the doctrine of our fathers. It has, therefore, been decided that Auxentius of Milan is in this matter specially condemned. So it is right that all the teachers of the law in the Roman Empire should be well instructed in the law, and not befoul the faith with divergent doctrines.

“When first the wickedness of the heretics began to flourish, and when, as now, the blasphemy of the Arians was crawling to the front, our fathers, three hundred and eighteen bishops, the holiest prelates in the Roman Empire, deliberated at Nicæa. The wall which they set up against the weapons of the devil, and the antidote wherewith they repelled his deadly poisons, was their confession that the Father and the Son are of one substance, one godhead, one virtue, one power, one likeness563563    χαρακτήρ; contrast the statement in Heb. i. 3, that the Son is the χαρακτήρ of the person of the Father. χαρακτήρ in the letter of Damasus approaches more nearly our use of “character” as meaning distinctive qualities. cf. Plato Phæd. 26 B., and that the Holy Ghost is of the same essence564564    ὑπόστασις and substance. Whoever did not thus think was judged separate from our communion. Their deliberation was worthy of all respect, and their definition sound. But certain men have intended by other later discussions to corrupt and befoul it. Yet, at the very outset, error was so far set right by the bishops on whom the attempt was made at Ariminum to compel them to manipulate or innovate on the faith, that they confessed themselves seduced by opposite arguments, or owned that they had not perceived any contradiction to the opinion of the Fathers delivered at Nicæa. No prejudice could arise from the number of bishops gathered at Ariminum, since it is well known that neither the bishop of the Romans, whose opinion ought before all others to have been waited for, nor Vincentius, whose stainless episcopate had lasted so many years, nor the rest, gave in their adhesion to such doctrines. And this is the more significant, since, as has been already said, the very men who seemed to be tricked into surrender, themselves, in their wiser moments, testified their disapproval.

“Your sincerity then perceives that this one faith, which was founded at Nicæa on the authority of the Apostles, ought to be kept secure for ever. You perceive that with us, the bishops of the East, who confess themselves Catholic, and the western bishops, together glory in it. We believe that before long those who think otherwise ought without delay to be put out from our communion, and deprived of the name of bishop, that their flocks may be freed from error and breathe freely. For they cannot be expected to correct the errors of their people when they themselves are the victims of error. May the opinion of your reverence be in harmony with that of all the priests of God. We believe you to be fixed and firm in it, and thus ought we rightly to believe with you. May your charity make us glad by your reply.

“Beloved brethren, farewell.”


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