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horted him to repent, and promised to pray for him, but would not change his determination to exclude him from communion. When the imperial culprit went to the church, to offer his devotions as usual, the bishop met him at the threshold, and said, “Stand back, thou man of blood !” Theodosius humbly pleaded that King David also sinned, yet God accepted him. Ambrose replied : “As you have imitated him in sin, copy him also in repentance." The emperor confessed his guilt, and promised to submit to any penance imposed upon him. He was ordered not to appear in church again for eight months, and to go through a certain form of prayers and religious exercises every day at home. Meantime, the Christmas festival occurred, and when all the world were thronging to the churches, Theodosius sent a message, imploring to be admitted; urging that he had every day obeyed to the letter all that had been enjoined upon him. Ambrose replied: "The emperor has power to kill me, but he must pass over my body, before he can enter the sanctuary of the Lord.” When the eight months had expired, the episcopal interdict was removed, on two conditions. The emperor was required to publish an edict, forbidding any execution to take place throughout the empire, until thirty days after the culprit had been convicted by due process of law. In the next place, as his sin had been public, it was required that his penance should be public also. Accordingly, he took off his royal robes, and insignia of office, covered himself with sackcloth, prostrated himself on the pavement of the church, in view of the whole congregation, beat his breast, tore his hair, threw ashes on his head, and with tears implored forgiveness of his great sin; repeating the words of King David, “My soul cleaveth to the dust, quicken thou me according to thy word.” Having thus publicly humbled himself, he was again allowed to frequent the church, but he confessed to Ambrose that not a day of his life passed without his feeling a pang for that cruel transaction. Theodosius lived but few months after his triumph over
Eugenius in Rome. But so active and energetic had been his measures for the downfall of idolatry, that the religion thenceforth called Pagan, lingered in the empire only as a pale disembodied ghost. What the inflexible will of Athanasius had begun, was so effectually aided by his strong arm, and the powerful character of Ambrose, that the church which he decreed should be Universal, and therefore named it Catholic, ruled all Europe for a thousand years, and the creed thus established is still received as an inheritance by a large majority of Christendom.
tinguished at school for the quickness of his intellect. In his youth, he was the private secretary of his patron. Being drawn toward monastic life, he went into the desert, and spent some time with the famous hermit, Anthony. When he returned, he was appointed archdeacon, and at the Council of Nice gained great reputation by the ability he displayed in the Arian controversy. Six months after, he succeeded his friend as Bishop of Alexandria. He is said to have been little cultivated in general literature, but deeply versed in biblical learning. To him, more than to any other person, the Christian world owes what was afterward generally received as orthodox doctrine concerning the Trinity; therefore he is often called “the father of theology." He lived at a stormy period, and was a spirit well calculated to ride on the storm. He was banished from his bishopric, recalled in triumph, banished and recalled, again and again; attacked with the utmost rancour of theological hatred; protected and defended with the utmost warmth of theological zeal; accused of many misdemeanours and crimes, and always satisfactorily vindi., cated; unyielding in his opinions, hot in controversy, but never convicted of dishonesty toward his opponents. He sustained all reverses with fortitude, and could neither be driven or tempted to swerve from the course which his own mind had established as the right one. When Constantine deposed him on account of charges brought against him, he appeared in the midst of a long train of ecclesiastics, as the emperor was riding through the streets, and demanded a hearing. Constantine tried to pass in silence; but the bold prelate exclaimed: “God will judge between you and me, since you thus take part with my slanderers. I only demand that they should be summoned, and my cause heard in the imperial presence." The emperor acknowledged the justice of his request, and summoned his accusers. Being informed that Athanasius boasted he could force him to his wishes, by cutting off the supplies of corn from Alexandria to Constantinople, he formed a strong dislike of him, banished him to the distant city of
Treves, and was ever after accustomed to designate him as "proud, turbulent, obstinate, and intractable." Whereever he resided, the clergy were devoted to him, and so were a majority of the people. His commanding character and inflexible will had immense power over the minds of men. When Constantius, from motives of policy, recalled him to Alexandria, bishops flocked from all parts to wel. come bim, the city was illuminated, incense waved before him in the streets, alms distributed liberally to the poor, and prayers of thanksgiving offered in all the houses of his numerous friends. When Constantius again deposed him, on account of fresh charges against him, it was deemed necessary to send a force of five thousand men, to carry the order into effect. He was performing service in the church at midnight, preparatory to the communion, when the soldiers burst in. Amid the trampling of horses, and the clashing of steel, he exhorted the people to continue their worship; and the choristers chanted “O give thanks unto the Lord," while the people responded, “For his mercy endureth forever.” The clergy around him finally hurried him out of a private door, and compelled him to escape. He retired into the desert, wbere he outdid all the hermits in fasting and watching, penances and prayers. In vain his enemies hunted for his life. All the monks of the desert were his faithful adherents, and it was impossible to trace him. During several months, he was concealed in his father's tomb. Twenty years of his life were passed in banishment; but he finally died in peaceful possession of his bishopric, and left a high reputation for piety, benevolence, and unblemished virtue. He had the advantage of belonging to the victorious party, and nearly all that we know of him is recorded by his friends and admirers.
t he final years of his he was conceale
BASIL.–Basil, called the Great, was born of a noble Christian family in Cappadocia, in the year three hundred and twenty-nine. During the persecution under Dioeletian, his grandfather retired to a mountain forest, in Pon
o the pl precepte was accion.
tus. His grandmother was a very devout woman, who had often listened to the preaching of Gregory Thaumaturgus; and her character and precepts had a powerful influence on her descendants. His father was an eminent lawyer, and he was educated for the same profession. Having received all the instruction Cæsarea afforded, he went to Constantinople, where he studied rhetoric with the celebrated Libanius. He afterward went to Athens, where at that time many young men of talent congregated; among whom was Julian, afterward emperor. He returned to Cæsarea, where he became distinguished for eloquence as an advocate. But the religious impressions received in childhood, and the persuasions of his pious sister Macrina, induced him to quit the career of brilliant success which was opening before him. He became interested in monastic life, and practised such severe austerities, that he reduced his body almost to a skeleton. He retired to a neighbouring mountain, where he built a monastery intended as a general asylum for orphans. There he spent twelve years, with a large company of devotees, who lived very austerely, and divided their time between useful labour, study of the Scriptures, and prayer.
Basil took part in the controversy against Macedonius, concerning the equal dignity of the Son and the Holy Ghost, with almost as much zeal as Athanasius contended with Arians for the equal dignity of the Father and the Son; but he manifested more charity toward opponents, than was common with theological partisans. During a severe famine in Cappadocia he devoted the whole of his fortune to the relief of the sufferers. This increased the popularity he had already acquired by his piety, learning, and comparative mildness in controversy. At the age of forty-one, he was chosen Archbishop of Cæsarea; but he always wore his monastic dress, and retained his ascetic habits. His administration was distinguished by energy, vigilance, strictness in church discipline, and careful exami. nation of candidates for the priesthood; but especially for benevolence to the poor, for whom he caused asylums to