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ARIANISM finds its place in history as one of the four great controversies which have done so much to shape the growth of Christian thought. They all put the central question but they put it from different points of view. For Gnosticism—Is the Gospel history; or is it an edifying parable? For Arianism—Is it the revelation of a divine Son, which must be final; or is it something short of this, which cannot be final? For the Reformation—Is its meaning to be declared by authority; or is it to be investigated by sound learning? The scientific (or more truly philosophical) scepticism of our own time accepts the decision of the Reformation, but raises afresh the issues of Gnosticism and Arianism as parts of the deeper question, whether the reign of law leaves any freedom to either God or man.

The Arian controversy arose on this wise. Both Greece and Israel had long been tending in different ways to a conception of God as purely transcendent. If the Stoics made him the immanent principle of reason in the world, they only helped the forces which made for transcendence by their utter failure to show that the things in the world are according to reason. As the Christians also accepted any current beliefs which did not evidently contradict their doctrine of a historic incarnation, all parties were so far generally agreed by the end of the second century. In times of disillusion God seems far from men, and in the deepening gloom of the declining Empire he seemed further off than ever. But a transcendent God needs some sort of mediation to connect him with the world. There was no great difficulty in gathering this mediation into the hand of a Logos, as was already done by Philo the Jew in our Lord’s time, and to assign him functions as of creation; and of redemption, as Christians and Gnostics added. But then came the question, Is the Logos fully divine, or not? If no, how can he create—much less redeem? If yes, then the purely transcendent God acts for himself, and ceases to be transcendent. The dilemma was hopeless. A transcendent God must have a mediator, and yet the mediator cannot be either divine or undivine. Points were cleared up, as when Tertullian shifted the stress of Christian thought from the Logos doctrine to the Sonship, and when Origen’s theory of the eternal generation presented the Sonship as a relation independent of time: but the main question was as dark as ever at the opening of the fourth century. There could be no solution till the pure transcendence was given up, and the Sonship placed inside the divine nature: and this is what was done by Athanasius. There was no other escape from the dilemma, that if the Son is from the divine will, he cannot be more than a creature; if not, God is subject to necessity.

The controversy broke out about 318. Arius was no bustling heresiarch, but a grave and blameless presbyter of Alexandria, and a disciple of the learned Lucian of Antioch; only—he could not understand a metaphor. Must not a son be later than the father, and inferior to him? He forgot first that a divine relation cannot be an affair of time, then that even a human son is essentially equal to his father. However, he concluded that the Son of God cannot be either eternal or equal to the Father. On both grounds then he cannot be more than a creature—no doubt a lofty creature, created before all time to be the creator of the rest, but still only a creature who cannot reveal the fullness of deity. “Begotten” can only mean created. He is not truly God, nor even truly man, for the impossibility of combining two finite spirits in one person made it necessary to maintain that the created Son had nothing human but a body. Arius had no idea of starting a heresy: his only aim was to give a commonsense answer to the pressing difficulty, that if Christ is God, he is a second God. But if the churches did worship two gods, nothing was gained by making one of them a creature without ceasing to worship him, and something was lost by tampering with the initial fact that Christ was true man. As Athanasius put it, one who is not God cannot create much less restore—while one who is not man cannot atone for men. In seeking a via media between a Christian and a Unitarian interpretation of the Gospel, Arius managed to combine the difficulties of both without securing the advantages of either. If Christ is not truly God, the Christians are convicted of idolatry, and if he is not truly man, there is no case for Unitarianism. Arius is condemned both ways.

The dispute spread rapidly. At the first signs of opposition, Arius appealed from the Church to the people. With commonsense doctrine put into theological songs, he soon made a party at Alexandria; and when driven thence to Caesarea, he secured more or less approval from its learned bishop, the historian Eusebius, and from other conspicuous bishops, including Constantine’s chief Eastern adviser, Eusebius of Nicomedia, who was another disciple of Lucian. As it appeared later, few agreed with him; but there were many who saw no reason for turning him out of the Church. So when Constantine became master of the East in 393, he found a great controversy raging, which his own interests compelled him to bring to some decision. With his view of Christianity as essentially monotheism, his personal leaning might be to the Arian side: but if he was too much of a politician to care greatly how the question was decided, he could quite understand some of its practical aspects. It was causing a stir in Egypt: and Egypt was not only a especially important province, but also a specially troublesome one—witness the eighty years of disturbance from Caracalla's massacre in 216 to the suppression of Achillaeus in 296. More than this, Arianism imperiled the imposing unity of the Church, and with it the support which the Empire expected from an undivided Church. The State could deal with an orderly confederation of churches, but not with miscellaneous gatherings of schismatic’s. So he was quite sincere when he began by writing to Arius and his bishop Alexander that they had managed to quarrel over a trifle. The dispute was really childish, and most distressing to himself.

This failing, the next step was to invite all the bishops of Christendom to a council to be held at Nicaea in Bithynia (an auspicious name!) in the summer of 325, to settle all the outstanding questions which troubled the Eastern churches. If only the bishops could be brought to some decision, it was not likely to be disobeyed; and the State could safely enforce it if it was. Local councils had long been held for the decision of local questions, like Montanism or Paul of Samosata; but a general council was a novelty. As it could fairly claim to speak for the churches generally, it was soon invested with the authority of the ideal Catholic Church; and from this it was an easy step to make its decisions per se infallible. This step however was not taken for the present: Athanasius in particular repudiates any such idea.

As we have already discussed the council as sealing the alliance of Church and State, we have now to trace only its dealings with Arianism. Constantine was resolved not only to settle the question of Arianism, but to make all future controversies harmless; and this he proposed to do by drawing up a test creed for bishops, and for bishops only. This was a momentous change, for as yet no creed had any general authority. The Lord’s Baptismal Formula was variously expanded for the catechumen’s profession at Baptism, and some churches further expanded it into a syllabus for teaching, perhaps as long as our Nicene Creed; but every church expanded it at its own discretion. Now however bishops were to sign one creed everywhere. Whatever was put into it was binding; whatever was left out remained an open question. The council was to draw it up.

The bishops at Nicaea were not generally men of learning, though Eusebius of Caesarea is hardly surpassed by Origen himself. But they had among them statesmen like Hosius of Cordova, Eusebius of Nicomedia, and the young deacon Athanasius from Alexandria; and men of modest parts were quite able to say whether Arianism was or was not what they had spent their lives in teaching. On that question they had no doubt at all. The Arianizers mustered a score or so of bishops out of about 300—two from Libya, four from the province of Asia, perhaps four from Egypt, the rest thinly scattered over Syria from Mount Taurus to the Jordan valley. There were none from Pontus or from any part of Europe or Africa north of Mount Atlas. The first act of the council was the summary rejection of an Arian creed presented to them. The deity of Christ was not an open question in the churches. But was it needful to put the condemnation of Arianism into the creed? Athanasius had probably but few decided supporters. Between them and the Arianizers floated a great conservative centre party, whose chief aim was to keep things nearly as they were. These men were not Arians, for the open denial of the Lord's true deity shocked them: but neither would they go with Athanasius. Arianism might be condemned in the creed, if it could be done without going beyond the actual words of Scripture, but not otherwise. As they would have said, Arianism was not all false, though it went too far. It maintained the Lord's pre-mundane and real personality, and might be useful as against the Sabellianism which reduced him to a temporary appearance of the one God. Athanasius and Marcellus of Ancyra were mistaken in thinking Arianism a pressing danger, when it had just been so decisively rejected. Only five bishops now supported it. So the conservatives hesitated. Then Eusebius of Caesarea presented the catechetical creed of his own church, a simple document couched in Scripture language, which left Arianism an open question. It was universally approved: Athanasius could find nothing wrong in it, and the Arians were glad now to escape a direct condemnation. For a moment, the matter seemed settled.

Never was a more illogical conclusion. If the Lord’s full deity is false, they had done wrong in condemning Arianism: if true, it must be vital. The one impossible course was to let every bishop teach or disown it as he pleased. So Athanasius and his friends were on firm ground when they insisted on revising the Caesarean creed to remove its ambiguity. After much discussion, the following form was reached:


We believe in one God, the Father all-Sovereign,

maker of all things, both visible and invisible:

And in one Lord Jesus Christ,

the Son of God,

begotten of the Father, an only-begotten 

that is, from the essence of the Father

—God from God,

Light from light,

true God from true God,

begotten, not made,

being of one essence with the Father;

by whom all things were made,

both things in heaven and things on earth;

who for us men and for our salvation came down and was made flesh,

was made man, suffered, and rose again the third day,

ascended into heaven,

cometh to judge quick and dead:

And in the Holy Spirit.

But those who say

that “there was once when he was not”,

and “before he was begotten he was not”,

and “he was made of things that were not”,

or maintain that the Son of God

is of a different essence,

or created or subject to moral change or alteration

—These doth the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematize.


It will be seen at once that the creed of the council differs a good deal from the Nicene Creed now in use, which is a revision of the catechetical creed of Jerusalem, made about 362. That is not the work of the Council of Constantinople in 381, but displaced the genuine Nicene Creed partly by its merits, and partly through the influence of the capital. However, it will be noted further that (apart from the anathemas) the stress of the defense against Arianism rests on the two clauses from the essence of the Father, and of one essence with the Father; to which we may add that begotten, not made contrasts the words which the Arians industriously confused, and that the clause was made man meets the Arian denial that he took anything human but a body. Now the essence of a thing is that by which it is—whatever we are supposing it to be. It is not the general ground of all attributes, but the particular ground of the particular supposition we are making. As we are here supposing that the Father is God, the statement will be first that the Son is from that essence by which the Father is God, then that he shares the possession of it with the Father, so that the two together allow no escape from the confession that the Son is as truly divine and as fully divine as the Father. The existence of the Son is not a matter of will or of necessity, but belongs to the divine nature. Two generations later, under Semiarian influences, a similar result was reached by taking essence in the sense of substance, as the common ground of all the attributes, so that if the Son is of one essence with the Father, he shares all the attributes of deity without exception.

The conservative centre struggled in vain. The decisive word (of one essence with) is not found in Scripture. But there was no dispute about the Canon, so that the Arians had their own interpretations for all words that are found in Scripture. Thus to, The Son is eternal, they replied, “So are we, for We which live are always” (2 Cor. IV. 11, delivered unto death). The bishops were gradually forced back on the plain fact that no imaginable evasion of Scripture can be forbidden without going outside Scripture for a word to define the true sense: and of one essence with was a sentence which could not be evaded. No doubt it was a revolution to put such a belief into the creed: but now that the issue was fairly raised by Constantine’s summons, they could not leave the Lord's full deity an open question without ceasing to be Christians. Given the unity of God and the worship of Christ—and even the Arians agreed to this—there was no escape from the dilemma, of one essence with or creature-worship. So they yielded to necessity. Eusebius of Caesarea signed with undisguised reluctance, though not against his conscience. To his mind the creed was not untrue, though it was revolutionary and dangerous, and he was only convinced against his will that it was needed. The emperor’s influence counted heavily in the last stage of the debates—for Constantine was too shrewd to use it before the question was nearly settled—and in the end only two bishops refused to sign the creed. These he promptly sent into exile along with Arius himself; and Eusebius of Nicomedia shared their fate a few months later. If he had signed the creed at last, he had opposed it too long and been too intimate with its enemies.

Let us now look beyond the stormy controversies of the next half century to the broad issues of the council. The two fundamental doctrines of Christianity are the deity of Christ and the unity of God. Without the one, it merges in philosophy or Unitarianism; without the other, it sinks into polytheism. These two doctrines had never gone very well together; and now the council reconciled them by giving up the purely transcendental conception of God which brought them into collision with each other and with the historical facts of the Incarnation. The question was ripe for decision, as we see from the prevalence of such an unthinkable conception as that of a secondary God: and if the conservatives had been able to keep it unsettled, one of the two fundamental doctrines must before long have overcome the other. Had the unity of God prevailed, Christianity would have sunk into a very ordinary sort of Deism, or might possibly have become something like Islam, with Jesus for the prophet instead of Mahomet. But it is much more likely that the deity of Christ would have effaced the unity of God, and in effacing it have opened a wide door for polytheism, and itself sunk to the level of heathen hero-worship. As a matter of history, the churches did sink into polytheism for centuries, or common people made no practical difference between the worship of saints and that of the old gods. But because the Council of Nicaea had made it impossible to think of Christ simply as one of the saints, the Reformers were able to drop the saint-worship without falling into Deism

Further, the recognition of eternal distinctions in the divine nature establishes within that nature a social element before which despotism or slavery in earth or heaven stands condemned. It makes illogical the conception of God as inscrutable Power in whose acts we must not presume to seek for reason—a conception common to Rome, Islam, and Geneva. Yet more, if God himself is not a despot, but a constitutional sovereign who rules by law and desires his subjects to see reason in his acts, this is an ideal which must profoundly influence political thought. True, there was little sign for centuries of any such influence. The Empire did not grow less despotic, and such ideas of freedom as the Teutons brought in did not come out of the Gospel: and if Islam and the Papacy lean to despotism, the Unitarians have done honorable work in the cause of liberty. But thoughts which color the whole of life may have to work for ages before they are clearly understood. The Latin Church of the Middle Ages was not a mere apotheosis of power like Islam; and when Teutonic Europe broke away from Latin tutelage, the way was prepared for the slow recognition of a higher ideal than power, and our own age is beginning to see better the profound and far-reaching significance of the Nicene decision, not for religion only, but for political, scientific, and social thought.

The victory won at Nicaea was decisive. Arianism started vigorously, and seemed for awhile the winning side; but the moment it faced the council, it collapsed before the all but unanimous reprobation of the Christian churches. Only two bishops from the edge of the African desert ventured to deny that it contradicts essentials of the Gospel. The decision was free, for Constantine would not risk another Donatist controversy by putting pressure on the bishops before he could safely crush the remnant; and it was permanent, for words deliberately put into a creed cannot be removed without admitting that the objection to them is valid on one ground or another. Thus Arianism was not only condemned, but condemned in the most impressive way by the assembly which comes nearer than any other in history to the stately dream of a concrete catholic church speaking words of divine authority. No later gathering could pretend to rival the august assembly where Christendom had once for all pronounced the condemnation of Arianism, and no later movements were able definitely to reverse its decision.

But if the conservatives (who were the mass of the Eastern bishops) had signed the creed with a good conscience, they had no idea of making it their working belief. They were not Arians—or they would not have torn up the Arianising creed at Nicaea; but if they had been hearty Nicenes, no influence of the Court could have kept up an Arianising reaction for half a century. Christendom as a whole was neither Arian nor Nicene, but conservative. If the East was not Nicene, neither was it Arian, but conservative: and if the West was not Arian, neither was it Nicene, but conservative also. But conservatism was not the same in East and West. Eastern conservatism inherited its doctrine from the age of subordination theories, and dreaded the Nicene definition as needless and dangerous. But the Westerns had no great interest in the question and could scarcely even translate its technical terms into Latin, and in any case their minds were much more legal than the Greek; so they simply fell back on the authority of the Great Council. Shortly, “East and West were alike conservative; but while conservatism in the East went behind the council, in the West it was content to start from it”.

The Eastern reaction was therefore mainly conservative. The Arians were the tail of the party; they were not outcasts only because conservative hesitation at the Nicene Creed kept open the back door of the Church for them. For thirty years they had to shelter themselves behind the conservatives. It was not till 357 that they ventured to have a policy of their own; and then they broke up the anti-Nicene coalition at once. The strength of Arianism was that while it claimed to be Christian, it brought together and to their logical results all the elements of heathenism in the current Christian thought. So the reaction rested not only on conservative timidity, but on the heathen influences around. And heathenism was still a living power in the world, strong in numbers, and still stronger in the imposing memories of history. Christianity was still an upstart on Caesar's throne, and no man could yet be sure that victory would not sway back to the side of the immortal gods. So the Nicene age was pre-eminently an age of waverers; and every waverer leaned to Arianism as a via media between Christianity and heathenism. The Court also leaned to Arianism. The genuine Arians indeed were not more pliant than the Nicenes; but conservatives are always open to the influence of a Court, and the intriguers of the Court (and under Constantius they were legion) found it their interest to unsettle the Nicene decisions—in the name of conservatism forsooth. To put it shortly, the Arians could have done nothing without a formidable mass of conservative discontent behind them, and the conservatives would have been equally helpless if the Court had not supplied them with the means of action. The ultimate power lay with the majority, which was at present conservative, while the initiative rested with the Court, which leaned on Asia, so that the reaction went on as long as both were agreed against the Nicene doctrine. It was suspended when Julian's policy turned another way, became unreal when conservative alarm subsided, and came to an end when Asia went over to the Nicenes.

The contest (325-381) falls into two main periods, separated by the Council of Constantinople in 360, when the success of the reaction seemed complete. We have also halts of importance at the return of Athanasius in 346 and the death of Julian in 363.

The first period is a fight in the dark, as Socrates calls it, but upon the whole the conservative coalition steadily gained ground till 357, in spite of Nicene reactions after Constantine’s death in 337 and the detection of Stephen's plot in 344. First the Arianising leaders had to obtain their own restoration, then to depose the Nicene chiefs one after another. By 341 the way was open for a series of attempts to replace the Nicene Creed by something that would let in the Arians. But this meant driving out the Nicenes, for they could not compromise without complete surrender; and the West was with the Nicenes in refusing to unsettle the creed. Western influence prevailed at Sardica in 343, and Western intervention secured an uneasy truce which lasted till Constantius became master of the West in 353. Meanwhile conservatism was softening into a less hostile Semiarian form, while Arianism was growing into a more offensive Anomoean doctrine. So the conservatives were less interested when Constantius renewed the contest, and took alarm at the open Arianism of the Sirmian manifesto in 357. This brought things to a deadlock, and gave rise to a Homoean or professedly neutral party supported by the Anomoeans and the Court. They were repulsed at Seleucia by a new alliance of Semiarians and Nicenes, and at Ariminum by the conservative West; but their command of the Court enabled them to exile the Semiarian leaders after the Council of Constantinople in 360.

The second period of the reaction opens with a precarious Homoean supremacy. It was grievously shaken at the outset by Julian's restoration of the exiles. The Nicenes were making rapid progress, and might have restored peace if Julian had lived longer. But Valens, with a feebler character and a weaker position, returned to the policy of Constantius. For the moment it may have been the best policy; but the permanent forces were for the Nicenes, and their issue was only a question of time. There were misunderstandings in abundance, but a fairly united party hailed in Theodosius (379) an orthodox emperor from the West. The Arians were first put out of the churches, then formally condemned by the Council of Constantinople in 381. Henceforth Arianism ceased to be a power except among its Teutonic converts. Now we return to the morrow of the great council.

When the bishops returned home, they took up their controversies just where the summons to the council had interrupted them. The creed was signed and done with, and we hear no more of it. Yet both sides had learned caution at Nicaea. Marcellus disavowed Sabellianism and Eusebius avoided Arianism, and even directly controverted some of its main positions. Before long however a party was formed against the council. Its leader was Eusebius of Nicomedia, who had returned from exile and recovered his influence at Court. Round him gathered the bishops of the school of Lucian, and round these again all sorts of malcontents. The conservatives in particular gave extensive help. Charges of heresy against the Nicene chiefs were sometimes more than plausible. Marcellus was practically Sabellian, and Athanasius at least refused to disavow him. Some even of the darker charges may have had truth in them, or at least a semblance of truth.

So in the next few years we have a series of depositions of Nicene leaders. By 335 the Church was fairly cleared of all but the two chief of them, Marcellus of Ancyra, and Athanasius of Alexandria (since 328). Marcellus was already in middle life when he refuted the Arians at Nicaea; and in a diocese full of the strife and debate of endless Gaulish sects and superstitions he had learned that the Gospel is wider than Greek philosophy, and that simpler forms may better suit a rude flock. So his system is an appeal from Origen to St. John. He begins with the Logos as impersonal—as at once the thinking principle which is in God and the active creating principle which comes forth from God, and yet remains with God. Thus the Logos came forth from the Father for the work of creation, and in the fullness of time descended into human flesh, becoming the Son of God in becoming the Son of Man. Only in virtue of this humiliating separation did the Logos acquire personality for a time: but when the work is done, the human flesh will be thrown aside, and the Logos will return to the Father and be immanent and impersonal as before. Marcellus has got away from Arianism as far as he can: but he is involved in much the same difficulties. If for example the idea of an eternal Son is polytheistic, nothing is gained by transferring the eternity to an impersonal Logos; and if the work of creation is unworthy of God, it matters little whether it is delegated to a created Son or to a transitory Logos. Marcellus misses as completely as Arius the Christian conception of the Incarnation.

Then they turned to a greater than Marcellus. Athanasius was a Greek by birth and education; Greek also in subtle thought and philosophic insight, in oratorical power and skilful statesmanship. Of Coptic influence he scarcely shows a sign. His very style is clear and simple, without a trace of Egyptian involution and obscurity. Athanasius was born about 297, so that he must have well remembered the last years of the Great Persecution, which lasted till 313. He may have been a lawyer for a short time, and seems to have known Latin; but his main training was Greek and scriptural. As a man of learning or a skilful party-leader Athanasius was not beyond the reach of rivals. But he was more than this. His whole spirit is lighted up with vivid faith in the reality and eternal meaning of the Incarnation. His small work de Incarnatione, written before the rise of Arianism, ranks with the Epistle to Diognetus as the most brilliant pamphlet of early Christian times. Even there he rises far above the level of Arianism and Sabellianism; and throughout his long career we catch glimpses of a spiritual depth which few of his contemporaries could reach. And Athanasius was before all things a man whose life was consecrated to a simple purpose. Through five exiles and fifty years of controversy he stood in defense of the great council. The care of many churches rested on him, the pertinacity of many enemies wore out his life; yet he is never soured but for a moment by the atrocious treachery of 356. At the first gleam of hope he is himself again, full of brotherly consideration and respectful sympathy for old enemies returning to a better mind. Even Gibbon is awed for once before “the immortal name of Athanasius”.

Marcellus had fairly exposed himself to a doctrinal attack, but against Athanasius the most convenient charge was that of episcopal tyranny. In 335 the Eastern bishops gathered to Jerusalem to dedicate the splendid church which Constantine had built on Golgotha. First however a synod was held at Tyre to restore peace in Egypt. The Eusebians had the upper hand, and they used their power shamelessly. Scandal succeeded scandal, till the iniquity culminated in the dispatch of an openly partisan commission (including two young Pannonian bishops, Ursacius and Valens) to get up evidence in Egypt. Moderate men protested, and Athanasius took ship for Constantinople. The council condemned him by default and the condemnation was repeated at Jerusalem, where also proceedings were commenced against Marcellus. They also restored Arius; but his actual reception was prevented by his sudden death the evening before the day appointed. Meanwhile Athanasius had appealed to Constantine in person, who summoned the bishops at once to Constantinople. They dropped the charges of sacrilege and tyranny, and brought forward a new charge of political intrigue. Athanasius was allowed no reply, but sent into exile at Trier in Gaul, where he was honorably received by the younger Constantine. The emperor seems as usual to have been aiming at peace and unity. Athanasius was evidently a centre of disturbance, and the Asiatic bishops disliked him: he was therefore best kept out of the way for the present.

Constantine died 22 May 337, and his sons at once restored the exiles. Presently things settled down in 340 with the second son Constantius master of the East, and Constans the youngest holding the three Western prefectures. So Eusebian intrigues were soon resumed. Constantius was essentially a little man, weak and vain, easy-tempered and suspicious. He had also a taste for church matters, and without ever being a genuine Arian, he hated first the Nicene Council, and then Athanasius personally. The intriguers could scarcely have desired a better tool.

They began by raising troubles at Alexandria, and deposing Athanasius afresh (late in 338) for having allowed the civil power to restore him. In Lent 339 Athanasius was expelled, and Gregory of Cappadocia installed by military violence in his place. The ejected bishops—Athanasius, Marcellus and others— fled to Rome. Bishop Julius at once took up the high tone of impartiality which became an arbiter of Christendom. He received the fugitives with a decent reserve, and invited the Easterners to the council they had asked him to hold. After long delay, it was plain that they did not mean to come; so a council of fifty bishops met at Rome in the autumn of 340, by which Athanasius and Marcellus were acquitted. As Julius reported to the Easterners, the charges against Athanasius were inconsistent with each other and contradicted by evidence from Egypt, and the proceedings at Tyre were a travesty of justice. It was unreasonable to insist on its condemnation of Athanasius as final. Even the great council of Nicaea had decided (and not without the will of God) that the acts of one council might be revised by another: and in any case Nicaea was better than Tyre. As for Marcellus, he had denied the charge of heresy and presented a sound confession of his faith (our own Apostles’ Creed, very nearly) and the Roman legates at Nicaea had borne honorable witness to the part he had taken in the council. If they had complaints against Athanasius, they should not have neglected the old custom of writing first to Rome, that a legitimate decision might issue from the apostolic see.

The Eusebians replied in the summer of 341, when some ninety bishops met to consecrate the Golden Church of Constantine at Antioch. Hence it is called the Council of the Dedication. Like the Nicene, it seems to have been in the main conservative; but the active minority was Arianising, not Athanasian; and it was not quite so successful. The bishops began as at Nicaea by rejecting an Arian creed. They next approved a creed of a conservative sort, said to be the work of Lucian of Antioch, the teacher of Arius. The decisive clause however was rather Nicene than conservative. It declared the Son “morally unchangeable, the unvarying image of the deity and essence of the Father”. The phrase declares that there is no change of essence in passing from the Father to the Son, and is therefore equivalent to of one essence with. Athanasius might have accepted it at Nicaea, but he could not now; and the conservatives did not mean of one essence with—only the illogical of one essence with, of like essence. So they were satisfied with the Lucianic creed: but the Arianizers endeavored to upset it with a third creed, and the council seems to have broken up uncertainly, though without revoking the Lucianic creed. A few months later, another council met at Antioch and adopted a fourth creed, more to the mind of the Arianizers. In substance it was less opposed to Arianism than the Lucianic, its form is a close copy of the Nicene. In fact, it is the Nicene down to the anathemas, but the Nicene with every sharp edge taken off. So well did it suit the Arianizers that they reissued it (with ever-growing anathemas) three times in the next ten years.

Western suspicion became a certainty, now that the intriguers were openly tampering with the Nicene faith. Constans demanded a general council, and Constantius was too busy with the Persian war to refuse him. So it met at Sardica, the modern Sofia, in the summer of 343. The Westerns were some 96 in number “with Hosius of Cordova for their father”. The Easterners, under Stephen of Antioch, were about 76. They demanded that the condemnation of Athanasius and Marcellus should be taken as final, and retired across the Balkans to Philippopolis when the Westerns insisted on reopening the case. So there were two contending councils. At Sardica the accused were acquitted, while the Easterners confirmed their condemnation, denounced Julius and Hosius, and reissued the fourth creed of Antioch with some new anathemas.

The quarrel was worse than ever. But next year came a reaction. When the Western envoy Euphrates of Cologne reached Antioch, a harlot was let loose upon him; and the plot was traced up to bishop Stephen. The scandal was too great: Stephen was deposed, and the fourth creed of Antioch reissued, but this time with long conciliatory explanations for the Westerns. The way was clearing for a cessation of hostilities. Constans pressed the decrees of Sardica, Ursacius and Valens recanted the charges against Athanasius, and at last Constantius consented to his return. His entry into Alexandria (31 Oct. 346) was the crowning triumph of his life.

The next few years were an interval of suspense, for nothing was decided. Conservative suspicion was not dispelled, and the return of Athanasius was a personal humiliation for Constantius. But the mere cessation of hostilities was not without influence. The conservatives were fundamentally agreed with the Nicenes on the reality of the Lord's divinity; and minor jealousies abated when they were less busily encouraged. The Eusebian phase of conservatism, which dreaded Sabellianism and distrusted the Nicenes, was giving place to the Semiarian, which was coming to see that Arianism was the more pressing danger, and slowly moving towards an alliance with the Nicenes. We see also the rise of a more defiant Arianism, less patient of conservative supremacy, and less pliant to imperial dictation. The Anomoean leaders emphasized the most offensive aspects of Arianism, declaring that the Son is unlike the Father, and boldly maintaining that there is no mystery at all in God. Their school was presumptuous and shallow, quarrelsome and heathenizing, yet not without a directness and firm conviction which compares well with the wavering and insincerity of the conservative chiefs.

Meanwhile new troubles were gathering in the West. Constans was deposed (Jan. 350) by Magnentius. After a couple of minor claimants were disposed of, the struggle lay between Magnentius and Constantius. The decisive battle was fought (28 Sept. 351) near Mursa in Pannonia, but the destruction of Magnentius was not completed till 353. Constantius remained the master of the world. The Eusebians now had their opportunity. Already in 351-2, they had reissued the fourth creed of Antioch from Sirmium, with its two anathemas grown into twenty-seven. But as soon as Constantius was master of Gaul, he determined to force on the Westerns an indirect condemnation of the Nicene faith in the person of Athanasius. A direct approval of Arianism was out of the question, for Western conservatism was firmly set against it by the Nicene and Sardican councils. The bishops were nearly all resolute against it. Liberius of Rome followed in the steps of Julius, Hosius of Cordova was still the patriarch of Christendom, and the bishops of Trier, Toulouse and Milan proved their faith in exile. So doctrine was kept in the background. Constantius came forward personally before a council at Arles (Oct. 353) as the accuser of Athanasius, while all the time he was giving him solemn and repeated promises of protection. The bishops were not unwilling to take the emperor's word, if the Court party would clear itself of Arianism; and at last they gave way, the Roman legate with the rest. Only Paulinus of Trier had to be exiled. For the next two years Constantius was busy with the barbarians, so that it was not till the autumn of 355 that he was able to call another council at Milan, where Julian was made Caesar for Gaul. It proved quite unmanageable, and only yielded at last to open violence. Three bishops were exiled, including Lucifer of Calaris in Sardinia. 

Lucifer’s appearance is a landmark. The lawless despotism of Constantius had roused an aggressive fanaticism. Lucifer had all the courage of Athanasius, but nothing of his wary self-respect and moderation. He scarcely condescends to reason, but revels in the pleasanter work of denouncing the fires of damnation against the disobedient emperor. A worthier champion was Hilary of Poitiers, the noblest representative of Western literature in the Nicene age. Hilary was by birth a heathen, coming before us in 355 as an old convert and a bishop of some standing. In massive power of thought he was a match for Athanasius; but he was rather student and thinker than orator and statesman. He had not studied the Nicene Creed till lately; but when he found it true, he could not refuse to defend it. He was not at the council, but was exiled to Asia a few months later, apparently on the charge of immorality, which the Eusebians usually brought against obnoxious bishops.

When Hosius of Cordova had been imprisoned, there remained but one power in the West which could not be summarily dealt with. The grandeur of Hosius was personal, but Liberius claimed the universal reverence due to the apostolic and imperial see of Rome. Such a bishop was a power of the first importance, when Arianism was dividing the Empire round the hostile camps of Gaul and Asia. Liberius was a staunch Nicene. When his legates yielded at Arles, he disavowed their action. The emperor's threats he disregarded, the emperor's gifts he cast out of the Church. It was not long before the world was scandalized by the news that Constantius had arrested and exiled the bishop of Rome.

Attempts had already been made to dislodge Athanasius from Alexandria, but he refused to obey anything but written orders from the emperor. As Constantius had given his solemn promise to protect him in 346, and three times written to repeat it since his brother's death, duty as well as policy forbade him to credit officials. The most pious emperor could not be supposed to mean treachery; but he must say so himself if he did. The message was plain enough when it came. A force of 5000 men surrounded the church of Theonas on a night of vigil (8 Feb. 356). The congregation was caught as in a net. Athanasius fainted in the tumult: yet when the soldiers reached the bishop's throne, its occupant had somehow been conveyed away.

For six years Athanasius disappeared from the eyes of men, while Alexandria was given over to military outrage. The new bishop George of Cappadocia (formerly a pork-contractor) arrived in Lent 357, and soon provoked the fierce populace of Alexandria. He escaped with difficulty from one riot in 358, and was fairly driven from the city by another in October. Constantius had his revenge, but it shook the Empire to its base. The flight of Athanasius revealed the power of religion to stir up a national rising, none the less real for not breaking out in open war. In the next century the councils of the Church became the battlefield of nations, and the victory of Hellenic orthodoxy at Chalcedon implied sooner or later the separation of Monophysite Egypt and Nestorian Syria.

Arianism seemed to have won its victory when the last Nicene champion was driven into the desert. But the West was only terrorized, Egypt was devoted to its patriarch, Nicenes were fairly strong in the East, and the conservatives who had won the battle would never accept Arianism. However, this was the time chosen for an open declaration of Arianism, by a small council of Western bishops at Sirmium, headed by Ursacius and Valens. They emphasize the unity of God, condemn the words essence, and lay stress on the inferiority of the Son, limit the Incarnation to the assumption of a body, and more than half say that he is only a creature. This was clear Anomoean doctrine, and made a stir even in the West, where it was promptly condemned by the Gaulish bishops, now partly shielded from Constantius by the Caesarship of Julian. But the Sirmian manifesto spread dismay through the ranks of the Eastern conservatives. They had not put down Sabellianism only in order to set up the Anomoeans; and the danger was brought home to them when Eudoxius of Antioch and Acacius of Caesarea convened a Syrian synod to approve the manifesto. The conservative counterblow was struck at Ancyra in Lent 358. The synodical letter is long and clumsy, but we see in it conservatism changing from its Eusebian to a Semiarian phase—from fear of Sabellianism to fear of Arianism. They won a complete victory at the Court, and sent Eudoxius and the rest into exile. This however was too much. The exiles were soon recalled, and the strife began again more bitterly than ever.

Here was a deadlock. All parties had failed. The Anomoeans were active enough, but pure Arianism was hopelessly discredited throughout the Empire. The Nicenes had Egypt and the West, but they could not overcome the Court and Asia. The Eastern Semiarians were the strongest party, but such men of violence could not close the strife. In this deadlock nothing was left but specious charity and colorless indefiniteness; and this was the plan of the new Homoean party, formed by Acacius and Eudoxius in the East, Ursacius and Valens in the West.

A general council was decided on; but it was divided into two — the Westerns to meet at Ariminum, the Easterners at Seleucia in Cilicia, the headquarters of the army then operating against the Isaurians. Meanwhile parties began to group themselves afresh. The Anomoeans went with the Homoeans, from whom alone they could expect any favor, while the Semiarians drew closer to the Nicenes, and were welcomed by Hilary of Poitiers in his conciliatory de Synodis. The next step was a small meeting of Homoean and Semiarian leaders, held in the emperor's presence on Pentecost Eve (22 May 359) to draw up a creed to be laid before the councils. The dated creed (or fourth of Sirmium) is conservative in its appeals to Scripture, in its solemn reverence for the Lord, in its rejection of essence as not found in Scripture, and in its insistence on the mystery of the eternal generation. But its central clause gave a decisive advantage to the Homoeans. “We say that the Son is like the Father in all things as the Scriptures say and teach”. Even the Anomoeans could sign this. “Like the Father as the Scriptures say—and no further; and we find very little likeness taught in Scripture. Like the Father if you will, but not like God, for no creature can be. Like the Father certainly, but not in essence, for likeness which is not identity implies difference—or in other words, likeness is a question of degree”. Of these three replies, the first is fair, the third perfectly sound.

The reception of the creed was hostile in both councils. The Westerns at Ariminum rejected it, deposed the Homoean leaders, and ratified the Nicene Creed. In the end however they accepted the Sirmian, but with the addition of a stringent series of anathemas against Arianism, which Valens accepted — for the moment. The Easterners at Seleucia rejected it likewise, deposed the Homoean leaders, and ratified the Lucianic creed. Both sides sent deputies to the emperor, as had been arranged; and after much pressure, these deputies signed a revision of the dated creed on the night of 31 Dec. 359. The Homoeans now saw their way to final victory.

By throwing over the Anomoeans and condemning their leader Aetius, they were able to enforce the prohibition of the Semiarian of one essence with: and then it only remained to revise the dated creed again for a council held at Constantinople in Feb. 360, and send the Semiarian leaders into exile.

The Homoean domination never extended beyond the Alps. Gaul was firmly Nicene, and Constantius could do nothing there after the mutiny at Paris in Jan. 360 had made Julian independent of him. The few Western Arians soon died out. But in the East, the Homoean power lasted nearly twenty years. Its strength lay in its appeal to the moderate men who were tired of strife, and to the confused thinkers who did not see that a vital question was at issue. The dated creed seemed reverent and safe; and its defects would not have been easy to see if the Anomoeans had not made them plain. But the position of parties was greatly changed since 356. First Hilary of Poitiers had done something to bring together conservatives and Nicenes; then Athanasius took up the work in his own de Synodis. It is a noble overture of friendship to his old conservative enemies. The Semiarians, or many of them, accepted of the essence and the Nicene anathemas, and doubted only of one essence with. Such men, says he, are not to be treated as enemies, but reasoned with as brethren who differ from us only in the use of a word which sums up their own teaching as well as ours. When they confess that the Lord is a true Son of God and not a creature, they grant all that we are contending for. Their own creed without of the essence does not shut out Arianism, but the two together amount to The Creed. If they accept our doctrine, sooner or later they will find that they cannot refuse its necessary safeguard. But if Nicenes and Semiarians drew together, so did Homoeans and Anomoeans. Any ideas of conciliating Nicene support were destroyed by the exile of Meletius, the new bishop of Antioch, for preaching a sermon carefully modeled on the dated creed, but substantially Nicene in doctrine. A schism arose at Antioch; and henceforth the leaders of the Homoeans were practically Arians.

The mutiny at Paris implied a civil war: but just as it was beginning, Constantius died at Mopsucrenae beneath Mount Taurus (3 Nov. 361) and Julian remained sole emperor. We are not here concerned with the general history of his reign, or even with his policy towards the Christians—only with its bearing on Arianism. In general, he held to the toleration of the Edict of Milan. The Christians are not to be persecuted —only deprived of special privileges—but the emperor's favor must be reserved for the worshippers of the gods. So the administration was unfriendly to the Christians, and left occasional outrages unpunished, or dismissed them with a thin reproof. But these were no great matters, for the Christians were now too strong to be lynched at pleasure. Julian's chief endeavor was to put new life into heathenism: and in this the heathens themselves hardly took him seriously. His only act of definite persecution was the edict near the end of his reign, which forbade the Christians to teach the classics; and this is disapproved by “the cool and impartial heathen” Ammianus.

Every blow struck by Julian against the Christians fell first on the Homoeans whom Constantius had left in power; and the reaction he provoked against Greek culture threatened the philosophical postulates of Arianism. But Julian cared little for the internal quarrels of the Christians, and only broke his rule of contemptuous impartiality when he recognized one greater than himself in “the detestable Athanasius”. Before long an edict recalled the exiled bishops, though it did not replace them in their churches. If others were in possession, it was not Julian's business to turn them out. This was toleration, but Julian had a malicious hope of still further embroiling the confusion. If the Christians were left to themselves, they would “quarrel like beasts”. He got a few scandalous wrangling, but in the main he was mistaken. The Christians only closed their ranks against the common enemy: the Arians also were sound Christians in this matter— blind old Maris of Chalcedon came and cursed him to his face.

Back to their cities came the survivors of the exiled bishops, no longer travelling in pomp and circumstance to their noisy councils, but bound on the nobler errand of seeking out their lost or scattered flocks. It was time to resume Hilary's interrupted work of conciliation. Semiarian violence had discredited in advance the new conservatism at Seleucia: but Athanasius had things more in his favor, for Julian's reign had not only sobered partisanship, but left a clear field for the strongest moral force in Christendom to assert itself. And this force was with the Nicenes. Athanasius reappeared at Alexandria 22 Feb. 362, and held a small council there before Julian drove him out again. It was decided first that Arians who came over to the Nicene side were to retain their rank on condition of accepting the Nicene council, none but the chiefs and active defenders of Arianism being reduced to lay communion.

Then, after clearing up some misunderstandings of East and West, and trying to settle the schism at Antioch by inducing the old Nicenes, who at present had no bishop, to accept Meletius, they took in hand two new questions of doctrine. One was the divinity of the Holy Spirit. Its reality was acknowledged, except by the Arians; but did it amount to co-essential deity? That was still an open question. But now that attention was fully directed to the subject, it appeared from Scripture that the theory of eternal distinctions in the divine nature must either be extended to the Holy Spirit or abandoned. Athanasius took one course, the Anomoeans the other, while the Semiarians tried to make a difference between the Lord's deity and that of the Holy Spirit: and this gradually became the chief obstacle to their union with the Nicenes. The other subject of debate was the new system of Apollinarius of Laodicea—the most suggestive of all the ancient heresies. Apollinarius was the first who fairly faced the difficulty, that if all men are sinners, and the Lord was not a sinner, he cannot have been truly man. Apollinarius replied that sin lies in the weakness of the human spirit, and accounted for the sinlessness of Christ by putting in its place the divine Logos, and adding the important statement that if the human spirit was created in the image of the Logos (Gen. i. 28) Christ would not be the less human but the more so for the difference. The spirit in Christ was human spirit, although divine. Further, the Logos which in Christ was human spirit was eternal. Apart then from the Incarnation, the Logos was archetypal man as well as God, so that the Incarnation was not simply an expedient to get rid of sin, but the historic revelation of that which was latent in the Logos from eternity. The Logos and man are not alien beings, but joined in their inmost nature, and in a real sense each is incomplete without the other. Suggestive as this is, Apollinarius reaches no true incarnation. Against him it was decided that the Incarnation implied a human soul as well as a human body—a decision which struck straight enough at the Arians, but quite missed the triple division of body, soul, and spirit on which Apollinarius based his system.

Athanasius was exiled again almost at once: Julian's anger was kindled by the news that he had baptized some heathen ladies at Alexandria. But his work remained. At Antioch indeed it was marred by Lucifer of Calaris, who would have nothing to do with Meletius, and consecrated Paulinus as bishop for the old Nicenes. So the schism continued, and henceforth the rising Nicene party of Pontus and Asia was divided by this personal question from the older Nicenes of Egypt and the West. But upon the whole the lenient policy of the council was a great success. Bishop after bishop gave in his adhesion to the Nicene faith. Friendly Semiarians came in like Cyril of Jerusalem, old conservatives followed, and at last (in Jovian's time) the archenemy Acacius himself gave in his signature. Even creeds were remodeled in all directions in a Nicene sense, as at Jerusalem and Antioch, and in Cappadocia and Mesopotamia. True, the other parties were not idle. The Homoean coalition was even more unstable than the Eusebian, and broke up of itself as soon as opinion was free. One party favored the Anomoeans, another drew nearer to the Nicenes, while the Semiarians completed the confusion by confirming the Seleucian decisions and reissuing the Lucianic creed. But the main current set in a Nicene direction, and the Nicene faith was rapidly winning its way to victory when the process was thrown back for nearly twenty years by Julian's death in Persia (26 June 363).

Julian's death seemed to leave the Empire in the gift of four barbarian generals: but while they were debating, a few of the soldiers outside hailed a favorite named Jovian as emperor. The cry was taken up, and in a few minutes the young officer found himself the successor of Augustus. Jovian was a decided Christian, though his personal character did no credit to the Gospel. But his religious policy was one of genuine toleration. If Athanasius was graciously received at Antioch, the Arians were told with scant courtesy that they could hold meetings as they pleased at Alexandria. So all parties went on consolidating themselves. The Anomoeans had been restive since the condemnation of Aetius at Constantinople, but it was not till now that they lost hope of the Homoeans, and formed an organized sect. But all these movements came to an end with the sudden death of Jovian (16-17 Feb. 364). This time the generals chose; and they chose the Pannonian Valentinian for emperor. A month later he assigned the East from Thrace to his brother Valens.

Valentinian was a good soldier and little more, though he could honor learning and carry forward the reforming work of Constantine. His religious policy was toleration. If he refused to displace the few Arian bishops he found in possession, he left the churches free to choose Nicene successors. So the West soon recovered from the strife which Constantius had introduced. It was otherwise in the East. Valens was a weaker character — timid and inert, but not inferior to his brother in scrupulous care for the interests of his subjects. No soldier, but more or less good at finance. For awhile events continued to develop naturally. The Homoean bishops held their sees, but their influence was fast declining. The Anomoeans were forming a schism on one side, the Nicenes were recovering power on the other. On both sides the simpler doctrines were driving out the compromises. It was time for even the Semiarians to bestir themselves. A few years before they were beyond question the majority in the East; but this was not so certain now. The Nicenes had made a great advance since the Council of Ancyra, and were now less conciliatory. Lucifer had compromised them in one direction, Apollinarius in another, and even Marcellus had never been disavowed; but the chief cause of suspicion to the Semiarians was now the advance of the Nicenes to a belief in the deity of the Holy Spirit.

It was some time before Valens had a policy to declare. He was only a catechumen, perhaps cared little for the questions before his elevation, and inherited no assured position like Constantius. It was some time before he fell into the hands of the Homoean Eudoxius of Constantinople, a man of experience and learning, whose mild prudence gave him just the help he needed. In fact, a Homoean policy was really the easiest for the moment. Heathenism had failed in Julian's hands, and an Anomoean course was even more hopeless, while the Nicenes were still a minority outside Egypt. The only alternative was to favor the Semiarians; and this too was full of difficulties. Upon the whole, the Homoeans were still the strongest party in 365. They were in possession of the churches and had astute leaders, and their doctrine had not yet lost its attraction for the quiet men who were tired of controversy.

In the spring of 365 an imperial rescript commanded the municipalities to drive out from their cities the bishops who had been exiled by Constantius and restored by Julian. At Alexandria the populace declared that the rescript did not apply to Athanasius, whom Julian had not restored, and raised such dangerous riots that the matter had to be referred back to Valens. Then came the revolt of Procopius, who seized Constantinople and very nearly displaced Valens. Athanasius was restored, and could not safely be disturbed again. Then after the Procopian revolt came the Gothic war, which kept Valens occupied till 369: and before he could return to church affairs, he had lost his best adviser, for Eudoxius of Constantinople was ill replaced by the rash Demophilus.

The Homoean party was the last hope of Arianism. The original doctrine of Arius had been decisively rejected at Nicaea, the Eusebian coalition was broken up by the Sirmian manifesto, and if the Homoean union also failed, its failure meant the fall of Arianism. Now the weakness of the Homoean power is shown by the growth of a new Nicene party in the most Arian province of the Empire. Cappadocia was a country district: yet Julian found it incorrigibly Christian, and we hear very little of heathenism from Basil. But it was a stronghold of Arianism; and here was formed the alliance which decided the fate of Arianism. Serious men like Meletius had only been attracted to the side of the Homoeans by their professions of reverence for the Person of the Lord, and began to look back to the Nicene council when it appeared that Eudoxius and his friends were practically Arians after all. Of the old conservatives also, there were many who felt that the Semiarian position was unsound, and yet could find no satisfaction in the indefinite doctrine professed at Court. Thus the Homoean domination was threatened with a double secession. If the two groups of malcontents could form a union with each other and with the older Nicenes of Egypt and the West, they would be much the strongest of the parties.

This was the policy of the man who was now coming to the front of the Nicene leaders. Basil of Caesarea—the Cappadocian Caesarea—was a disciple of the Athenian schools, and a master of heathen eloquence and learning, and man of the world enough to secure the friendly interest of men of all sorts. His connections lay among the old conservatives, though he had been a decided opponent of Arianism since 360. He succeeded to the bishopric of Caesarea in 370. The crisis was near. Valens moved eastward in 371, reaching Caesarea in time for the great midwinter festival of Epiphany 372. Many of the lesser bishops yielded, but threats and blandishments were thrown away on their metropolitan, and when Valens himself and Basil met face to face, the emperor was overawed. More than once the order was prepared for his exile, but it was never issued. Valens went forward on his journey, leaving behind a princely gift for Basil’s poorhouse. Thenceforth he fixed his quarters at Antioch till the disasters of the Gothic war called him back to Europe in 378.

Armed with spiritual power which in some sort extended over Galatia and Armenia, Basil was now free to labor at his plan. Homoean malcontents formed the nucleus of the league, but old conservatives came in, and Athanasius gave his patriarchal blessing to the scheme. But the difficulties were enormous. The league was full of jealousies. Athanasius might recognize the orthodoxy of Meletius, but others almost went the length of banning all who had ever been Arians. Others again were lukewarm or sunk in worldliness, while the West stood aloof. The confessors of 355 were mostly gathered to their rest, and the Church of Rome cared little for troubles that were not likely to reach herself. Nor was Basil quite the man for the work. His courage indeed was indomitable. He ruled Cappadocia from a sick-bed, and bore down opposition by sheer force of will; and to this he joined an ascetic fervor which secured the devotion of his friends, and often the respect of his enemies. But we miss the lofty self-respect of Athanasius. The ascetic is usually too full of his own purposes to feel sympathy with others, or even to feign it like a diplomatist. Basil had worldly prudence enough to dissemble his belief in the Holy Spirit, not enough to shield his nearest friends from his imperious temper. Small wonder if the great scheme met with many difficulties.

The declining years of Athanasius were spent in peace. Heathenism was still a power at Alexandria, but the Arians were nearly extinct. One of his last public acts was to receive a confession presented on behalf of Marcellus, who was still living in extreme old age at Ancyra. It was a sound confession so far as it went; and though Athanasius did not agree with Marcellus, he had never thought his errors vital. So he accepted it, refusing once again to sacrifice the old companion of his exile. It was nobly done; but it did not conciliate Basil.

The school of Marcellus expired with him, and if Apollinarius was forming another, he was at any rate a resolute enemy of Arianism. Meanwhile the churches of the East seemed in a state of universal dissolution. Disorder under Constantius became confusion worse confounded under Valens. The exiled bishops were so many centers of strife, and personal quarrels had full scope. When for example Basil's brother Gregory was expelled from Nyssa by a riot got up by Anthimus of Tyana, he took refuge under the eyes of Anthimus at Doara, where another riot had driven out the Arian bishop. Creeds were in the same confusion. The Homoeans had no consistent principle beyond the rejection of technical terms. Some of their bishops were substantially Nicenes, while others were thoroughgoing Anomoeans. There was room for all in the happy family of Demophilus. Church history records no clearer period of decline than this. The descent from Athanasius to Basil is plain; from Basil to Cyril it is rapid. The victors of Constantinople are but the Epigoni of a mighty contest.

Athanasius passed away in 373, and Alexandria became the prey of Arian violence. The deliverance came suddenly, and in the confusion of the greatest disaster that had ever yet befallen Rome. When the Huns came up from the Asiatic steppes, the Goths sought refuge beneath the shelter of the Roman eagles. But the greed and peculations of Roman officials drove them to revolt: and when Valens himself with the whole army of the East encountered them near Hadrianople (9 Aug. 378) his defeat was overwhelming. Full two-thirds of the Roman army perished in the slaughter, and the emperor himself was never heard of more. The blow was crushing: for the first time since the days of Gallienus, the Empire could place no army in the field.

The care of the whole world now rested on the Western emperor, Gratian the son of Valentinian, a youth of nineteen. Gratian was a zealous Christian, and as a Western he held the Nicene faith. His first step was to proclaim religious liberty in the East, except for Anomoeans and Photinians—a small sect supposed to have pushed the doctrine of Marcellus too far. As toleration was still the general law of the Empire (though Valens might have exiled individual bishops) the gain of the rescript fell almost entirely to the Nicenes. The exiles found little difficulty in resuming the government of their flocks, or even in sending missions to the few places where the Arians were strong, like that undertaken by Gregory of Nazianzus to Constantinople. The Semiarians were divided. Numbers of them joined the Nicenes, while the rest took an independent position. Thus the Homoean power in the provinces collapsed of itself, and almost without a struggle, before it was touched by persecution.

Gratian's next step was to share his heavy burden with a colleague. The new emperor came from the far West of Cauca near Segovia, and to him was entrusted the Gothic war, and with it the government of all the provinces east of Sirmium. Theodosius was therefore a Western and a Nicene, with a full measure of Spanish courage and intolerance. The war was not very dangerous, for the Goths could do nothing with their victory, and Theodosius was able to deal with the Church long before it ended. A dangerous illness early in 380 led to his baptism by Acholius of Thessalonica; and this was the natural signal for a more decided policy. A law dated 27 Feb. 380 commanded all men to follow the Nicene doctrine, "committed by the apostle Peter to the Romans, and now professed by Damasus of Rome and Peter of Alexandria," and threatened heretics with temporal punishment. In this he seems to abandon Constantine's test of orthodoxy by subscription to a creed, returning to Aurelian's requirement of communion with the chief bishops of Christendom. But the mention of St Peter and the choice both of Rome and Alexandria, are enough to show that he was still a stranger to the state of parties in the East.

Theodosius made his formal entry into Constantinople 24 Nov. 380, and at once required the bishop either to accept the Nicene faith or to leave the city. Demophilus honorably refused to give up his heresy, and adjourned his services to the suburbs. But the mob of Constantinople was Arian, and their stormy demonstrations when the cathedral of the Twelve Apostles was given up to Gregory of Nazianzus made Theodosius waver. Not for long. A second edict in Jan. 381 forbade all heretical assemblies inside cities, and ordered the churches everywhere to be given up to the Nicenes. Thus was Arianism put down as it had been set up, by the civil power. Nothing remained but to clear away the wrecks of the contest.

Once more an imperial summons went forth for a council of the Eastern bishops to meet at Constantinople in May 381. It was a sombre gathering: even the conquerors can have had no more hopeful feeling than that of satisfaction to see the end of the long contest. Only 150 bishops were present — none from the west of Thessalonica. The Semiarians however mustered 36, under Eleusius of Cyzicus. Meletius of Antioch presided, and the Egyptians were not invited to the earlier sittings, or at least were not present. Theodosius was no longer neutral as between the old and new Nicenes. After ratifying the choice of Gregory of Nazianzus as bishop of Constantinople, the next move was to sound the Semiarians. They were still a strong party beyond the Bosphorus, so that their friendship was important. But Eleusius was not to be tempted. However he might oppose the Anomoeans, he could not forgive the Nicenes their doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Those of the Semiarians who were willing to join the Nicenes had already done so, and the rest were obstinate. They withdrew from the council and gave up their churches like the Arians.

Whatever jealousies might divide the conquerors, the contest with Arianism was now at an end. Pontus and Syria were still divided from Rome and Egypt on the question of Meletius, and there were germs of future trouble in the disposition of Alexandria to look to Rome for help against the upstart see of Constantinople. But against Arianism the council was united. Its first canon is a solemn ratification of the Nicene creed in its original form, with an anathema against all the Arianising parties. It only remained for the emperor to complete the work of the council. An edict in the middle of July forbade Arians of all sorts to build churches even outside cities; and at the end of the month Theodosius issued an amended definition of orthodoxy. The true faith was henceforth to be guarded by the demand of communion, no longer with Rome and Alexandria, but with Constantinople, Alexandria, and the chief sees of the East: and the choice of cities is significant. A small place like Nyssa might be included for the personal eminence of its bishop; but the omission of Hadrianople, Perinthus, Ephesus and Nicomedia shows the determination to leave a clear field for the supremacy of Constantinople.

So far as numbers went, the cause of Arianism was not hopeless even yet. It was fairly strong in Asia, could raise dangerous riots in Constantinople, and had on its side the Western empress-mother Justina. But its fate was only a question of time. Its cold logic generated no fiery enthusiasm, its recent origin allowed no venerable traditions to grow up round it, and its imperial claims cut it off from any appeal to provincial feeling. So when the last overtures of Theodosius fell through in 383, Arianism soon ceased to be a religion in the civilized world. Such existence as it kept up for the next three hundred years was due to its barbarian converts.