The authentic account of the proceedings of the Nicene Council is not extant. It has in consequence been judged expedient to put together in the fore­going Chapter whatever was necessary for the explanation of the Catholic and Arian creeds, and the controversy concerning them, rather than to reserve any portion of the doctrinal discussion for the present, though in some respects the more appropriate place for its introduction. Here then the transactions at Nicaea shall be reviewed in their political or ecclesiastical aspect.

Arius first published his heresy about the year 319. With his turbulent conduct in 306 and a few years later we are not here concerned. After this date, in 313, he is said, on the death of Achillas, to have aspired to the primacy of the Egyptian Church; and, according to Philostorgius, the historian of his party, a writer of little credit, to have generously resigned his claims in favor of Alexander, who was elected. His ambitious character renders it not improbable that he was a candidate for the vacant dignity; but, if so, the difference of age between himself and Alexander, which must have been considerable, would at once account for the elevation of the latter, and be an evidence of the indecency of Arius in becoming a competitor at all. His first attack on the Catholic doctrine was conducted with an openness which, considering the general duplicity of his party, is the most honorable trait in his character. In a public meeting of the clergy of Alexandria, he accused his diocesan of Sabellianism; an insult which Alexander, from deference to the talents and learning of the objector, sustained with somewhat too little of the dignity befitting "the ruler of the people". The mischief which ensued from his misplaced meekness was considerable. Arius was one of the public preachers of Alexandria; and, as some suppose, Master of the Catechetical School. Others of the city Presbyters were stimulated by his example to similar irregularities. Colluthus, Carponas, and Sarmatas began to form each his own party in a Church which Meletius had already troubled; and Colluthus went so far as to promulgate an heretical doctrine, and to found a sect. Still hoping to settle these disorders without the exercise of his episcopal power, Alexander summoned a meeting of his clergy, in which Arius was allowed to state his doctrines freely, and to argue in their defense; and, whether from a desire not to over­bear the discussion, or from distrust in his own power if accurately expressing the truth, and anxiety about the charge of heresy brought against himself, the Primate, though in no wise a man of feeble mind, is said to have refrained from committing himself on the controverted subject, "applauding", as Sozomen tells us, "sometimes the one party, sometimes the other". At length the error of Arius appeared to be of so serious and confirmed a nature, that countenance of it would have been sinful. It began to spread beyond the Alexandrian Church; the indecision of Alexander excited the murmurs of the Catholics; till, called unwillingly to the discharge of a severe duty, he gave public evidence of his real indignation against the blasphemies which he had so long endured, by excommunicating Arius with his followers.

This proceeding, obligatory as it was on a Christian Bishop, and ratified by the concurrence of a provincial Council, and expedient even for the immediate interests of Christianity, had other Churches been equally honest in their allegiance to the true faith, had the effect of increasing the influence of Arius, by throwing him upon his fellow-Lucianists of the rival dioceses of the East, and giving notoriety to his name and tenets. In Egypt, indeed, he had already been supported by the Meletian faction; which, in spite of its profession of orthodoxy, continued in alliance with him, through jealousy of the Church, even after he had fallen into heresy. But the countenance of these schismatics was of small consideration, compared with the powerful aid frankly tendered him, on his excommunication, by the leading men in the great Catholic communities of Asia Minor and the East. Caesarea was the first place to afford him a retreat from Alexandrian orthodoxy, where he received a cordial reception from the learned Eusebius, Metropolitan of Palestine; while Athanasius, Bishop of Anazarbus in Cilicia, and others, did not hesitate, by letters on his behalf, to declare their concurrence with him in the full extent of his heresy. Eusebius even declared that Christ was not very or true God; and his associate Athanasius asserted, that He was in the number of the hundred sheep of the parable, that is, one of the creatures of God.

Yet, in spite of the countenance of these and other eminent men, Arius found it difficult to maintain his ground against the general indignation which his heresy excited. He was resolutely opposed by Philogonius, Patriarch of Antioch, and Macarius of Jerusalem; who promptly answered the call made upon them by Alexander, in his circulars addressed to the Syrian Churches. In the meanwhile Eusebius of Nicomedia, the early friend of Arius, and the ecclesiastical adviser of Constantia, the Emperor's sister, declared in his favor; and offered him a refuge, which he readily accepted, from the growing unpopularity which attended him in Palestine. Supported by the patronage of so powerful a prelate, Arius was now scarcely to be considered in the position of a schismatic or an outcast. He assumed in consequence a more calm and respectful demeanor towards Alexander; imitated the courteous language of his friend; and in his Epistle, which was introduced into the foregoing Chapter, addresses his diocesan with studious humility, and defers or appeals to previous statements made by Alexander himself on the doctrine in dispute. At this time also he seems to have corrected and completed his system. George, afterwards Bishop of Laodicea, taught him an evasion for the orthodox test "of God" by a reference to 1 Cor. XI. 12. Asterius, a sophist of Cappadocia, advocated the secondary sense of the word Logos as applied to Christ, with a reference to such passages as Joel II. 25; and, in order to explain away the force of the word "Only-begotten" maintained, that to Christ alone out of all creatures it had been given, to be fashioned under the immediate presence and perilous weight of the Divine Hand. Now too, as it appears, the title of "True God" was ascribed to Him by the heretical party; the "of an alterable nature" was withdrawn; and an admission of His actual indefectibility substituted for it. The heresy being thus placed on a less exceptionable basis, the influence of Eusebius was exerted in Councils both in Bithynia and Palestine; in which Arius was acknowledged, and more urgent solicitations addressed to Alexander, with the view of effecting his readmission into the Church.

This was the history of the controversy for the first four or five years of its existence; that is, till the era of the battle of Hadrianople (a.d. 323), by the issue of which Constantine, becoming master of the Roman world, was at liberty to turn his thoughts to the state of Christianity in the Eastern Provinces of the Empire. From this date it is connected with civil history; a result natural, and indeed necessary under the existing circumstances, though it was the occasion of subjecting Christianity to fresh persecutions, in place of those which its nominal triumph had terminated. When a heresy, condemned and excommunicated by one Church, was taken up by another, and independent Christian bodies thus stood in open opposition, nothing was left to those who desired peace, to say nothing of orthodoxy, but to bring the question under the notice of a General Council. But as a previous step, the leave of the civil power was plainly necessary for so public a display of that wide-spreading Association, of which the faith of the Gospel was the uniting and animating principle. Thus the Church could not meet together in one, without entering into a sort of negotiation with the powers that be; whose jealousy it is the duty of Christians, both as individuals and as a body, if possible, to dispel. On the other hand, the Roman Emperor, as a professed disciple of the truth, was of course bound to protect its interests, and to afford every facility for its establishment in purity and efficacy. It was under these circumstances that the Nicene Council was convoked.


Now we must direct our view for a while to the character and history of Constantine. It is an ungrateful task to discuss the private opinions and motives of an Emperor who was the first to profess himself the Protector of the Church, and to relieve it from the abject and suffering condition in which it had lain for three centuries. Constantine is our benefactor; inasmuch as we, who now live, may be considered to have received the gift of Christianity by means of the increased influence which he gave to the Church. And, were it not that in conferring his benefaction he burdened it with the bequest of an heresy, which outlived his age by many centuries, and still exists in its effects in the divisions of the East, nothing would here be said, from mere grateful recollection of him, by way of analyzing the state of mind in which he viewed the benefit which he has conveyed to us. But his conduct, as it discovers itself in the subsequent history, natural as it was in his case, still has somewhat of a warning in it, which must not be neglected in after times.

It is of course impossible accurately to describe the various feelings with which one in Constantine’s peculiar situation was likely to regard Christianity; yet the joint effect of them all may be gathered from his actual conduct, and the state of the civilized world at the time. He found his empire distracted with civil and religious dissensions, which tended to the dissolution of society; at a time too, when the barbarians without were pressing upon it with a vigor, formidable in itself, but far more menacing in consequence of the decay of the ancient spirit of Rome. He perceived the powers of its old polytheism, from whatever cause, exhausted; and a newly-risen philosophy vainly endeavoring to resuscitate a mythology which had done its work, and now, like all things of earth, was fast returning to the dust from which it was taken. He heard the same philosophy inculcating the principles of that more exalted and refined religion, which a civilized age will always require; and he witnessed the same substantial teaching, as he would consider it, embodied in the precepts, and enforced by the energetic discipline, the union, and the example of the Christian Church. Here his thoughts would rest, as in a natural solution of the investigation to which the state of his empire gave rise; and, without knowing enough of the internal characters of Christianity to care to instruct himself in them, he would discern, on the face of it, a doctrine more real than that of philosophy, and a rule of life more severe and energetic even than that of the old Republic. The Gospel seemed to be the fit instrument of a civil reformations being but a new form of the old wisdom, which had existed in the world at large from the beginning. Revering, nay, in one sense, honestly submitting to its faith, still he acknowledged it rather as a school than joined it as a polity; and by refraining from the sacrament of baptism till his last illness, he acted in the spirit of men of the world in every age, who dislike to pledge themselves to engagements which they still intend to fulfill, and to descend from the position of judges to that of disciples of the truth .

Concord is so eminently the perfection of the Christian temper, conduct, and discipline, and it had been so wonderfully exemplified in the previous history of the Church, that it was almost unavoidable in a heathen soldier and statesman to regard it as the sole precept of the Gospel. It required a far more refined moral perception, to detect and to approve the principle on which this internal peace is grounded in Scripture; to submit to the dictation of truth, as such as a primary authority in matters of political and private conduct; to understand how belief in a certain creed was a condition of Divine favor, how the social union was intended to result from an unity of opinions, the love of man to spring from the love of God, and zeal to be prior in the succession of Christian graces to benevolence. It had been predicted by Him, who came to offer peace to the world, that, in matter of fact, that gift would be changed into the sword of discord; mankind being offended by the doctrine, more than they were won over by the amiableness, of Christianity. But He alone was able thus to discern through what a succession of difficulties Divine truth advances to its final victory; shallow minds anticipate the end apart from the course which leads to it. Especially they who receive scarcely more of His teaching than the instinct of civilization recognizes (and Constantine must, on the whole, be classed among such), view the religious dissensions of the Church as simply evil, and (as they would fain prove) contrary to His own precepts; whereas in fact they are but the history of truth in its first stage of trial, when it aims at being "pure", before it is "peaceable"; and are reprehensible only so far as baser passions mix themselves with that true loyalty towards God, which desires His glory in the first place, and only in the second place, the tranquility and good order of society.

The Edict of Milan (A.D. 313) was among the first effects of Constantine's anxiety to restore fellowship of feeling to the members of his distracted empire. In it an absolute toleration was given by him and his colleague Licinius, to the Christians and all other persuasions, to follow the form of worship which each had adopted for himself; and it was granted with the professed view of consulting for the peace of their people.

A year did not elapse from the date of this Edict, when Constantine found it necessary to support it by severe repressive measures against the Donatists of Africa, though their offences were scarcely of a civil nature. Their schism had originated in the disappointed ambition of two presbyters; who fomented an opposition to Cecilian, illegally elevated, as they pretended, to the episcopate of Carthage. Growing into a sect, they appealed to Constantine, who referred their cause to the arbitration of successive Councils. These pronounced in favor of Cecilian; and, on Constantine's reviewing and confirming their sentence, the defeated party assailed him with intemperate complaints, accused Hosius, his adviser, of partiality in the decision, stirred up the magistrates against the Catholic Church, and endeavored to deprive it of its places of worship. Constantine in consequence took possession of their churches, banished their seditious bishops, and put some of them to death. A love of truth is not irreconcilable either with an unlimited toleration, or an exclusive patronage of a selected religion; but to endure or discountenance error, according as it is, or is not, represented in an independent system and existing authority, to spare the pagans and to tyrannize over the schismatics, is the conduct of one who subjected religious principle to expediency, and aimed at peace, as a supreme good, by forcible measures where it was possible, otherwise by conciliation.

It must be observed, moreover, that subsequently to the celebrated vision of the Labarum (a.d. 312), he publicly invoked the Deity as one and the same in all forms of worship; and at a later period (A.D. 321), he promulgated simultaneous edicts for the observance of Sunday, and the due consultation of the aruspices. On the other hand, as in the Edict of Milan, so in his Letters and Edicts connected with the Arian controversy, the same reference is made to external peace and good order, as the chief object towards which his thoughts were directed. The same desire of tranquility led him to summon to the Nicene Council the Novatian Bishop Acesius, as well as the orthodox prelates. At a later period still when he extended a more open countenance to the Church as an institution, the same principle discovers itself in his conduct as actuated him in his measures against the Donatists. In proportion as he recognizes the Catholic body, he drops his toleration of the sectaries. He prohibited the conventicles of the Valentinians, Montanists, and other heretics; who, at his bidding, joined the Church in such numbers (many of them, says Eusebius, "through fear of the Imperial threat, with hypocritical minds"), that at length both heresy and schism might be said to disappear from the face of society.

Now let us observe his conduct in the Arian controversy.

Doubtless it was a grievous disappointment to a generous and large-minded prince, to discover that the Church itself, from which he had looked for the consolidation of his empire, was convulsed by dissensions such as were unknown amid the heartless wranglings of Pagan philosophy. The disturbances caused by the Donatists, which his acquisition of Italy (a.d. 312) had opened upon his view, extended from the borders of the Alexandrian patriarchate to the ocean. The conquest of the East (A.D. 323) did but enlarge his prospect of the distractions of Christendom. The patriarchate just mentioned had lately been visited by a deplorable heresy, which having run its course through the chief parts of Egypt, Lybia and Cyrenaica, had attacked Palestine and Syria, and spread thence into the dioceses of Asia Minor and the Lydian Proconsulate.

Constantine was informed of the growing schism at Nicomedia, and at once addressed a letter to Alexander and Arius jointly; a reference to which will enable the reader to verify for himself the account above given of the nature of the Emperor's Christianity. He professes therein two motives as impelling him in his public conduct; first, the desire of effecting the reception, throughout his dominions, of someone definite and complete form of religious worship; next, that of settling and invigorating the civil institutions of the empire. Desirous of securing an unity of sentiment among all the believers in the Deity, he first directed his attention to the religious dissensions of Africa, which he had hoped, with the aid of the Oriental Christians, to terminate.

“But”, he continues, “glorious and Divine Providence! how fatally were my ears, or rather my heart, wounded, by the report of a rising schism among you, far more acrimonious than the African dissensions ... On investigation, I find that the reason for this quarrel is insignificant and worthless ... As I understand it, you, Alexander, were asking the separate opinions of your clergy on some passage of your law, or rather were inquiring about some idle question, when you, Arius, inconsiderately committed yourself to statements which should either never have come into your mind, or have been at once repressed. On this a difference ensued, Christian intercourse was suspended, the sacred flock was divided into two, breaking the harmonious unity of the common body ... Listen to the advice of me, your fellow-servant:—neither ask nor answer questions which are not upon any injunction of your law, but from the altercation of barren leisure; at best keep them to yourselves, and do not publish them ... Your contention is not about any capital commandment of your law; neither of you is introducing any novel scheme of divine worship; you are of one and the same way of thinking, so that it is in your power to unite in one communion. Even the philosophers can agree together, one and all, in one dogma, though differing in particulars. ... Is it right for brothers to oppose brothers, for the sake of tiffles? ... Such conduct might be expected from the multitude, or from the recklessness of boyhood; but is little in keeping with your sacred profession, and with your personal wisdom”. Such is the substance of hi? letter, which, written on an imperfect knowledge of the facts of the case, and with somewhat of the preju­dices of Eclectic liberalism, was inapplicable, even where abstractedly true ; his fault lying in his suppos­ing, that an individual like himself, who had not even received the grace of baptism, could discriminate between great and little questions in theology. He concludes with the following words, which show the amiableness and sincerity of a mind in a measure awakened from the darkness of heathenism, though they betray the affectation of the rhetorician : " Give me back my days of calm, my nights of security ; that I may experience henceforth the comfort of the clear light, and the cheerfulness of tranquillity, Otherwise, I shall sigh and be dissolved in tears. . . So great is my grief, that I put off my journey to the East on the news of your dissension ... Open for me that path towards you, which your contentions have closed up. Let me see you and all other cities in happiness ; that I may offer due thanksgivings to God above, for the unanimity and free intercourse which is seen among you."

This letter was conveyed to the Alexandrian Church by Hosius, who was appointed by the Emperor to mediate between the contending parties. A Council was called, in which some minor irregularities were arranged, but nothing settled on the main question in dispute. Hosius returned to his master to report an unsuccessful mission, and to advise, as the sole measure which remained to be adopted, the calling of a General Council, in which the Catholic doctrine might be formally declared, and a judgment promulgated as to the basis upon which communion with the Church was henceforth to be determined. Constantine assented; and, discovering that the ecclesiastical authorities were earnest in condemning the tenets of Arius, as being an audacious innovation on the received creed, he suddenly adopted a new line of conduct towards the heresy; and in a Letter which he addressed to Arius, professes himself a zealous advocate of Christian truth, ventures to expound it, and attacks Arius with a vehemence which can only be imputed to his impatience in finding that any individual had presumed to disturb the peace of the community. It is remarkable, as showing his utter ignorance of doctrines, which were never intended for discussion among the unbaptized heathen, or the secularized Christian, that, in spite of this bold avowal of the orthodox faith in detail, yet shortly after he explained to Eusebius one of the Nicene declarations in a sense which even Arius would scarcely have allowed, expressed as it is almost after the manner of Paulus.


The first Ecumenical Council met at Nicaea in Bithynia, in the summer of A.D. 325. It was attended by about 300 Bishops, chiefly from the eastern provinces of the empire, besides a multitude of priests, deacons, and other functionaries of the Church. Hosius, one of the most eminent men of an age of saints, was president. The Fathers who took the principal share in its proceedings were Alexander of Alexandria, attended by his deacon Athanasius, then about 27 years of age, and soon afterwards his successor in the see; Eustathius, patriarch of Antioch, Macarius of Jerusalem, Cecilian of Carthage, the object of the hostility of the Donatists, Leontius of Caesarea in Cappadocia, and Marcellus of Ancyra, whose name was afterwards unhappily notorious in the Church. The number of Arian Bishops is variously stated at 13, 17, or 22; the most conspicuous of these being the well-known prelates of Nicomedia and Caesarea, both of whom bore the name of Eusebius.

The discussions of the Council commenced in the middle of June, and were at first private. Arius was introduced and examined; and confessed his impieties with a plainness and vehemence far more respectable than the hypocrisy which was the characteristic of his party, and ultimately was adopted by himself. Then followed his disputation with Athanasius, who afterwards engaged the Arian Eusebius of Nicomedia, Maris, and Theognis. The unfortunate Marcellus also distinguished himself in the defense of the Catholic doctrine.

Reference has been already made to Gibbon's representation, that the Fathers of the Council were in doubt for a time, how to discriminate between their own doctrine and the heresy; but the discussions of the foregoing Chapter contain sufficient evidence, that they had rather to reconcile themselves to the adoption of a formula which expedience suggested, and to the use of it as a test, than to discover a means of ejecting or subduing their opponents. In the very beginning of the controversy, Eusebius of Nicomedia had declared, that he would not admit the "from the substance" as an attribute of our Lord. A letter containing a similar avowal was read in the Council, and made clear to its members the objects for which they had met; viz. to ascertain the character and tendency of the heresy; to raise a protest and defense against it; lastly, for that purpose, to overcome their own reluctance to the formal and unauthoritative adoption of a word, in explanation of the true doctrine, which was not found in Scripture, had actually been perverted in the previous century to an heretical meaning, and was in consequence forbidden by the Antiochene Council which condemned Paulus.

The Arian party, on the other hand, anxious to avoid a test, which they themselves had suggested, presented a Creed of their own, drawn up by Eusebius of Cascara. In it, though the expression "of the substance" or "consubstantial" was omitted, every term of honor and dignity, short of this, was bestowed therein upon the Son of God; who was designated as the Logos of God, God of God, Light of Light, Life of Life, the Only-begotten Son, the First­born of the whole creation, of the Father before all worlds, and the Instrument of creating them. The Three Persons were confessed to be in real hypostasis or subsistence (in opposition to Sabellianism), and to be truly Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The Catholics saw very clearly, that concessions of this kind on the part of the Arians did not conceal the real question in dispute. Orthodox as were the terms employed by them, naturally and satisfactorily as they would have answered the purposes of a test, had the existing questions never been agitated, and consistent as they were with certain producible statements of the Ante-Nicene writers, they were irrelevant at a time when evasions had been found for them all, and triumphantly proclaimed. The plain question was, whether our Lord was God in as full a sense as the Father, though not to be viewed as separable from Him; or whether, as the sole alternative, He was a creature; that is, whether He was literally of, and in, the one Indivisible Essence which we adore as God, "consubstantial with God," or of a substance which had a beginning. The Arians said that He was a creature, the Catholics that He was very God; and all the subtleties of the most fertile ingenuity could not alter, and could but hide, this fundamental difference. A specimen of the Arian argumentation at the Council has already been given on the testimony of Athanasius; happily it was not successful. A form of creed was drawn up by Hosius, containing the discriminating terms of orthodoxy; and anathemas were added against all who maintained the heretical formulae. Arius and his immediate followers being mentioned by name. In order to prevent misapprehension of the sense in which the test was used, explanations accompanied it. Thus carefully defined, it was offered for subscription to the members of the Council; who in consequence bound themselves to excommunicate from their respective bodies all who actually obtruded upon the Church the unscriptural and novel positions of Arius. As to the laity, they were not required to subscribe any test as the condition of communion; though they were of course exposed to the operation of the anathema, in case they ventured on positive innovations on the rule of faith.

While the Council took this clear and temperate view of its duties, Constantine acted a part altogether consistent with his own previous sentiments, and praiseworthy under the circumstances of his defective knowledge. He had followed the proceedings of the assembled prelates with interest, and had neglected no opportunity of impressing upon them the supreme importance of securing the peace of the Church. On the opening of the Council, he had set the example of conciliation, by burning publicly, without reading, certain charges which had been presented to him against some of its members; a noble act, as conveying a lesson to all present to repress every private feeling, and to deliberate for the well-being of the Church Catholic to the end of time. Such was his behavior, while the question in controversy was still pending; but when the decision was once announced, his tone altered, and what had been a recommendation of caution, at once became an injunction to conform. Opposition to the sentence of the Church was considered as disobedience to the civil authority; the prospect of banishment was proposed as the alternative of subscription; and it was not long before seven of the thirteen dissentient Bishops submitted to the pressure of the occasion, and accepted the creed with its anathemas as articles of peace.

Indeed the position in which Eusebius of Nicomedia had placed their cause, rendered it difficult for them consistently to refuse subscription. The violence, with which Arius originally assailed the Catholics, had been succeeded by an affected earnestness for unity and concord, so soon as his favor at Court allowed him to dispense with the low popularity by which he first rose into notice. The insignificancy of the points in dispute which had lately been the very ground of complaint with him and his party against the particular Church which condemned him, became an argument for their yielding, when the other Churches of Christendom confirmed the sentence of the Alexandrian. It is said, that some of them substituted the "like in substance", for the "one in substance" in the confessions which they presented to the Council; but it is unsafe to trust the Anomoean Philostorgius, on whose authority the report rests, in a charge against the Eusebian party, and perhaps after all he merely means, that they explained the latter by the former as an excuse for their own recantation. The six, who remained unpersuaded, had founded an objection, which the explanations set forth by the Council had gone to obviate, on the alleged materialism of the word which had been selected as the test. At length four of them gave way; and the other two, Eusebius of Nicomedia and another, withdrawing their opposition to the ''homousion" only refused to sign the condemnation of Arius. These, however, were at length released from their difficulty, by the submission of the heresiarch himself; who was pardoned on the understanding, that he never returned to the Church, which had suffered so much from his intrigues. There is, however, some difficulty in this part of the history. Eusebius shortly afterwards suffered a temporary exile, on a detection of his former practices with Licinius to the injury of Constantine; and Arius, apparently involved in his ruin, was banished with his followers into Illyria.





From the time that the Eusebians consented to subscribe the Homousion in accordance with the wishes of a heathen prince, they became nothing better than a political party. They soon learned, indeed, to call themselves Homoeusians, or believers in the "like" substance as if they still held the peculiarities of a religions creed; but in truth it is an abuse of language to say that they had any definite belief at all. For this reason, the account of the Homoeusian or Semi-Arian doctrine shall be postponed, till such time as we fall in with individuals whom we may believe to be serious in their professions, and to act under the influence of religious convictions however erroneous. Here the Eusebians must be described as a secular faction, which is the true character of them in the history in which they bear a part.

Strictly speaking, the Christian Church, as being a visible society, is necessarily a political power or party. It may be a party triumphant, or a party under persecution; but a party it always must be, prior in existence to the civil institutions with which it is surrounded, and from its latent divinity formidable and influential, even to the end of time. The grant of permanency was made in the beginning, not to the mere doctrine of the Gospel, but to the Association itself built upon the doctrine; in prediction, not only of the indestructibility of Christianity, but of the medium also through which it was to be manifested to the world. Thus the Ecclesiastical Body is a divinely-appointed means, towards realizing the great evangelical blessings. Christians depart from their duty, or become in an offensive sense political, not when they act as members of one community, but when they do so for temporal ends or in an illegal manner; not when they assume the attitude of a party, but when they split into many. If the primitive believers did not interfere with the acts of the civil government, it was merely because they had no civil rights enabling them legally to do so. But where they have rights, the case is different; and the existence of a secular spirit is to be ascertained, not by their using these, but their using them for ends short of the ends for which they were given. Doubtless in criticizing the mode of their exercising them in a particular case, differences of opinion may fairly exist; but the principle itself, the duty of using their civil rights in the service of religion, is clear; and since there is a popular misconception, that Christians, and especially the Clergy, as such, have no concern in temporal affairs, it is expedient to take every opportunity of formally denying the position, and demanding proof of it. In truth, the Church was framed for the express purpose of interfering, or (as irreligious men will say) meddling with the world. It is the plain duty of its members, not only to associate internally, but also to develope that internal union in an external warfare with the spirit of evil, whether in Kings' courts or among the mixed multitude; and, if they can do nothing else, at least they can suffer for the truth, and remind men of it, by inflicting on them the task of persecution.


These principles being assumed, it is easy to enter into the relative positions of the Catholics and Arians at the era under consideration. As to the Arians, it is a matter of fact, that Arius and his friends commenced their career with the deliberate commission of disorderly and schismatical acts; and it is a clear inference from their subsequent proceedings, that they did so for private ends. For both reasons, then, they were a mere political faction, usurping the name of religion; and, as such, essentially anti-Christian. The question here is not whether their doctrine was right or wrong; but, whether they did not make it a secondary object of their exertions, an instrument towards attaining ends which they valued above it. Now it will be found, that the party was prior to the creed. They grafted their heresy on the schism of the Meletians, who continued to support them after they had published it; and they readily abandoned it, when their secular interests required the sacrifice. At the Council of Nicaea, they began by maintaining an erroneous doctrine; they ended by concessions which implied the further heresy that points of faith are of no importance; and, if they were odious when they blasphemed the truth, they were still more odious when they confessed it. It was the very principle of Eclecticism to make light of differences in belief; while it was involved in the primary notion of a Revelation that these differences were of importance, and it was taught with plainness in the Gospel, that to join with those who denied the right faith was a sin.

This adoption, however, on the part of the Eusebians, of the dreams of Pagan philosophy, served in some sort as a recommendation of them to a prince who, both from education and from knowledge of the world, was especially tempted to consider all truth as a theory which was not realized in a present tangible form. Accordingly, when once they had rid themselves of the mortification caused by their forced subscription, they had the satisfaction of finding themselves the most powerful party in the Church, as being the representative and organ of the Emperor's sentiments. They then at once changed places with the Catholics; who sustained a double defeat, both in the continued power of those whom they had hoped to exclude from the Church, and again, in the invidiousness of their own unrelenting suspicion and dislike of men, who had seemed by subscription to satisfy all reasonable doubt respecting their orthodoxy.

The Arian party was fortunate, moreover, in its leaders; one the most dexterous politician, the other the most accomplished theologian of the age. Eusebius of Nicomedia was a Lucianist, the fellow-disciple of Arius. He was originally Bishop of Berytus, in Phoenicia; but, having gained the confidence of Constantia, sister to Constantine, and wife to Licinius, he was by her influence translated to Nicomedia, where the Eastern Court then resided. Here he secretly engaged in the cause of Licinius against his rival, and is even reported to have been indifferent to the security of the Christians during the persecution which followed; a charge which certainly derives some confirmation from Alexander's circular epistle, in which the Arians are accused of directing the violence of the civil power against the orthodox of Alexandria. On the ruin of Licinius, he was screened by Constantia from the resentment of the conqueror; and, being recommended by his polished manners and shrewd and persuasive talent, he soon contrived to gain an influence over the mind of Constantine himself. From the time that Arius had recourse to him on his flight from Palestine, he is to be accounted the real head of the heretical party; and his influence is quickly discernible in the change which ensued in its language and conduct. While a courteous tone was assumed towards the defenders of the orthodox doctrine, the subtleties of dialectics, in which the sect excelled, were used, not in attacking, but in deceiving its opponents, in making unbelief plausible, and obliterating the distinctive marks of the true creed. It must not be forgotten that it was from Nicomedia, the see of Eusebius, that Constantine wrote his epistle to Alexander and Arius.

In supporting Arianism in its new direction, the other Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, was of singular service. This distinguished writer, to whom the Christian world has so great a debt at the present day, though not characterized by the unprincipled ambition of his namesake, is unhappily connected in history with the Arian party. He seems to have had the faults and the virtues of the mere man of letters; strongly excited neither to good nor to evil, and careless at once of the cause of truth and the prizes of secular greatness, in comparison of the comforts and decencies of literary ease. His first master was Dorotheus of Antioch; afterwards he became a pupil of the School of Caesarea, which seems to have been his birth-place, and where Origen had taught. Here he studied the works of that great master, and the other writers of the Alexandrian school. It does not appear when he first began to arianize. At Caesarea he is celebrated as the friend of the Orthodox Pamphilus, afterwards martyred, whom he assisted in his defense of Origen, in answer to the charges of heterodoxy then in circulation against him. The first book of this work is still extant in the Latin translation of Ruffinus, and its statements of the Catholic doctrines are altogether explicit and accurate. In his own writings, numerous as they are, there is very little which fixes on Eusebius any charge, beyond that of an attachment to the Platonic phraseology. Had he not connected himself with the Arian party, it would have been unjust to have suspected him of heresy. But his acts are his confession. He openly sided with those whose blasphemies a true Christian would have abhorred ; and he sanctioned and shared their deeds of violence and injustice perpetrated on the Catholics.

But it is a different reason which has led to the mention of Eusebius in this connection. The grave accusation under which he lies, is not that of arianizing, but of corrupting the simplicity of the Gospel with an Eclectic spirit. While he held out the ambiguous language of the schools as a refuge, and the Alexandrian imitation of it as an argument, against the pursuit of the orthodox, his conduct gave countenance to the secular maxim, that difference in creeds is a matter of inferior moment, and that, provided we confess as far as the very terms of Scripture, we may speculate as philosophers, and live as the world. A more dangerous adviser Constantine could hardly have selected, than a man thus variously gifted, thus exalted in the Church, thus disposed towards the very errors against which he required especially to be guarded. The remark has been made that, throughout his Ecclesiastical History no instance occurs of his expressing abhorrence of the superstitions of paganism, and that his custom is either to praise, or not to blame, such heretical writers as fall under his notice.

Nor must the influence of the Court pass unnoticed, in recounting the means by which Arianism secured a hold over the mind of the Emperor. Constantia, his favorite sister, was the original patroness of Eusebius of Nicomedia; and thus a princess, whose name would otherwise be dignified by her misfortunes, is known to Christians of later times only as a principal instrument of the success of heresy. Wrought upon by a presbyter, a creature of the bishop's, who was in her confidence, she summoned Constantine to her bed-side in her last illness, begged him, as her parting request, to extend his favor to the Arians, and especially commended to his regard the presbyter himself, who had stimulated her to this experiment on the feelings of a brother. The hangers-on of the Imperial Court imitated her in her preference for the polite and smooth demeanour of the Eusebian prelates, which was advantageously contrasted to the stern simplicity of the Catholics. The eunuchs and slaves of the palace (strange to say) embraced the tenets of Arianism; and all the most light-minded and frivolous of mankind allowed themselves to pervert the solemn subject in controversy into matter for fashionable conversation or literary amusement.

The arts of flattery completed the triumph of the heretical party. So many are the temptations to which monarchs are exposed of forgetting that they are men, that it is obviously the duty of the Episcopal Order to remind them that there is a visible Power in the world, divinely founded and protected, superior to their own. But Eusebius places himself at the feet of a heathen; and forgetful of his own ordination-grace, allows the Emperor to style himself "the bishop of Paganism," and "the predestined Apostle of virtue of all men." The shrine of the Church was thrown open to his inspection; and, contrary to the spirit of Christianity, its mysteries were officiously explained to one who was not yet even a candidate for baptism.

The restoration and erection of Churches, which is the honorable distinction of his reign, assimilated him, in the minds of his courtiers, to the Divine Founder and Priest of the invisible temple; and the magnificence, which soothed the vanity of a monarch, seemed in its charitable uses almost a substitute for personal religion.


While events thus gradually worked for the secular advancement of the heretical party, the Catholics were allotted gratifications and anxieties of a higher character. The proceedings of the Council had detected the paucity of the Arians among the Rulers of the Church; which had been the more clearly ascertained, inasmuch as no temporal interests had operated to gain for the orthodox cause that vast preponderance of advocates which it had actually obtained. Moreover, it had confirmed by the combined evidence of the universal Church, the argument from Scripture and local tradition, which each separate Christian community already possessed. And there was a satisfaction in having found a formula adequate to the preservation of the all-important article in controversy in all its purity. On the other hand, in spite of these immediate causes of congratulation, the fortunes of the Church were clouded in prospect, by the Emperor's adoption of its Creed as a formula of peace, not of belief, and by the ready subscription of the unprincipled faction, which had previously objected to it. This immediate failure, which not unfrequently attends beneficial measures in their commencement, issued, as has been said, in the temporary triumph of the Arians. The disease, which had called for the Council, instead of being expelled from the system, was thrown back upon the Church, and for a time afflicted it; nor was it cast out, except by the persevering fasting and prayer, the labors and sufferings, of the oppressed believers. Meanwhile, the Catholic prelates could but retire from the Court party, and carefully watch its movements; and, in consequence, incurred the reproach and the penalty of being "troublers of Israel". This may be illustrated from the subsequent history of Arius himself, with which this Chapter shall close.

It is doubtful, whether or not Arius was persuaded to sign the symbol at the Nicene Council; but at least he professed to receive it about five years afterwards. At this time Eusebius of Nicomedia had been restored to the favor of Constantine; who, on the other hand, influenced by his sister, had become less zealous in his adherence to the orthodox side of the controversy. An attempt was made by the friends of Arius to effect his re-admission into the Church at Alexandria. The great Athanasius was at this time Primate of Egypt; and in his instance the question was tried, whether or not the Church would adopt the secular principles, to which the Arians were willing to subject it, and would abandon its faith, as the condition of present peace and prosperity. He was already known as the counselor of Alexander in the previous controversy; yet, Eusebius did not at once give up the hope of gaining him over, a hope which was strengthened by his recent triumph over the orthodox prelates of Antioch, Gaza, and Hadrianople, whom he had found means to deprive of their sees to make way for Arians. Failing in his attempt at conciliation, he pursued the policy which might have been anticipated, and accused the Bishop of Alexandria of a youthful rashness, and an obstinate contentious spirit, incompatible with the good understanding which ought to subsist among Christians, Arius was summoned to Court, presented an ambiguous confession, and was favorably received by Constantine. Thence he was dispatched to Alexandria, and was quickly followed by an imperial injunction addressed to Athanasius, in order to secure the restoration of the heresiarch to the Church to which he had belonged. "On being informed of my pleasure," says Constantine, in the fragment of the Epistle preserved by Athanasius, "give free admission to all, who are desirous of entering into communion with the Church. For if I learn of your standing in the way of any who were seeking it, or interdicting them, I will send at once those who shall depose you instead, by my authority, and banish you from your see". It was not to be supposed, that Athanasius would yield to an order, though from his sovereign, which was conceived in such ignorance of the principles of Church communion, and of the powers of its Rulers; and, on his explanation, the Emperor professed himself well satisfied, that he should use his own discretion in the matter. The intrigues of the Eusebians, which followed, shall elsewhere be related; they ended in effecting the banishment of Athanasius into Gaul, the restoration of Arius at a Council held at Jerusalem, his return to Alexandria, and, when the anger of the intractable populace against him broke out into a tumult, his recall to Constantinople to give further explanations respecting his real opinions.

There the last and memorable scene of his history took place, and furnishes a fresh illustration of the clearness and integrity, with which the Catholics maintained the true principles of Church union, against those who would have sacrificed truth to peace. The aged Alexander, bishop of the see, underwent a persecution of entreaties and threats, such as had already been employed against Athanasius. The Eusebians urged upon him, by way of warning, their fresh successes over the Bishops of Ancyra and Alexandria; and appointed a day, by which he was to admit Arius to communion, or to be ejected from his see. Constantine confirmed this alternative. At first, indeed, he had been struck with doubts respecting the sincerity of Arius; but, on the latter professing with an oath that his tenets were orthodox, and presenting a confession, in which the terms of Scripture were made the vehicle of his characteristic impieties, the Emperor dismissed his scruples, observing with an anxiety and seriousness which rise above his ordinary character, that Arius had well sworn if his words had no double meaning; otherwise, God would avenge. The miserable man did not hesitate to swear, that he professed the Creed of the Catholic Church without reservation, and that he had never said nor thought otherwise, than according to the statements which he now made.

For seven days previous to that appointed for his re-admission, the Church of Constantinople, Bishop and people, were given up to fasting and prayer. Alexander, after a vain endeavor to move the Emperor, had recourse to the most solemn and extraordinary form of anathema allowed in the Church; and with tears besought its Divine Guardian, either to take himself out of the world, or to remove thence the instrument of those extended and increasing spiritual evils, with which Christendom was darkening. On the evening before the day of his proposed triumph, Arius passed through the streets of the city with his party, in an ostentatious manner; when the stroke of death suddenly overtook him, and he expired before his danger was discovered.

Under the circumstances, a thoughtful mind cannot but account this as one of those remarkable interpositions of power, by which Divine Providence urges on the consciences of men in the natural course of things, what their reason from the first acknowledges, that He is not indifferent to human conduct. To say that these do not fall within the ordinary course of His governance, is merely to say that they are judgments; which, in the common meaning of the word, stand for events extraordinary and unexpected. That such do take place under the Christian Dispensation, is sufficiently proved by the history of Ananias and Saphira. It is remarkable too, that the similar occurrences, which happen at the present day, are generally connected with some unusual perjury or extreme blasphemy; and, though we may not infer the sin from the circumstance of the temporal infliction, yet, the commission of the sin being ascertained, we may well account, that its guilt is providentially impressed on the minds and enlarged in the estimation of the multitude, by the visible penalty by which it is followed. Nor do we in such cases necessarily pass any absolute sentence upon the person, who appears to be the object of Divine Visitation; but merely upon the particular act which provoked it, and which has its fearful character of evil stamped upon it, independent of the punishment which draws our attention to it. The man of God, who prophesied against the altar in Bethel, is not to be regarded by the light of his last act, though a judgment followed it, but according to the general tenor of his life. Anus also must thus be viewed; though, unhappily, his closing deed is but the seal of a prevaricating and presumptuous career.

Athanasius, who is one of the authorities from whom the foregoing account is taken, received it from Macarius, a presbyter of the Church of Constantinople, who was in that city at the time. He adds, "while the Church was rejoicing at the deliverance, Alexander administered the communion in pious and orthodox form, praying with all the brethren and glorifying God greatly; not as if rejoicing over his death, (God forbid ! for to all men it is appointed once to die,) but because in this event there was displayed somewhat more than a human judgment. For the Lord Himself, judging between the threats of the Eusebians and the prayer of Alexander, has in this event given sentence against the heresy of the Arians; showing it to be unworthy of ecclesiastical fellowship, and manifesting to all, that though it have the patronage of Emperor and of all men, yet that by the Church itself it is condemned."