Page images

ST. ANTHONY of Egypt in the Fourth Century, retired to a desert eastward of the Mle. He is considerd the first that instituted the Monastic life.

province, urged with vigour and diligence the execution of the work, horrible balls of fire, breaking out near the foundations with frequent and reiterated attacks, rendered the place from time to time inaccessible to the scorched and blasted workmen ; and the victorious element continuing in this manner obstinately and resolutely bent, as it were, to drive them to a distance, the undertaking was abandoned.” This remarkable event is fully attested by various historians of that age.*

During Julian's reign open persecution was prohibited ; but by every other means were the followers of Christ humbled and oppressed. The Saviour he always distinguished by the name of Galilean. Being engaged in a war with the Persians, he was mortally wounded by a lance. As he was expiring he filled his hand with blood, and indignantly casting it up into the air, exclaimed,

- O Galilean! thou hast conquered!

It is mentioned that about this time one Libanius, an admirer of Julian, meeting a Christian schoolmaster at Antioch, asked him in derision, What the carpenter's son was now doing? The carpenter's son,” replied the schoolmaster, " is making a coffin for your hero." The event proved the truth of this prediction.


ABOUT the year 315 lived one Arius, who was a presbyter of the church of Alexandria. He maintained that the Son of God was totally and essentially distinct from the Father; that he was the first and noblest of those beings whom God had created the instrument by whose subordinate operations he formed the universe ; and therefore inferior to the Father both in nature and dignity; also, that the Holy Ghost was not God, but created by the power of the Son. He owned the Son

* Jones's History of the Christian Church.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

was the Word, lut denied that Word to have been eternal. He gained many followers, who were called Arians. They were first condemned and anathematized by a council held at Alexandria in 320, under Alexander, bishop of that city; who accused Arius of impiety, and caused him to be expelled from the church. In 325 they were again condemned by the council of Nice, composed of 380 fathers, assembled. by Constantine. Their doctrines, however, were not extinguished ; but soon became the reigning religion in the east.

In two or three years Arius was recalled by the emperor, and the laws which had been enacted against him were repealed. Athanasius, then bishop of Alexandria, refused to admit him or his followers to communion; whereupon the Arians became so enraged, that by their interest at court they procured him to be deposed and banished. But the church at Alexandria still refused to admit Arius to their communion ; upon which the emperor sent for him to Constantinople, where he delivered a fresh confession in terms less offensive. The emperor then commanded him to be admitted to their communion. But that very night he suddenly expired as his friends were conducting him in triumph to the great church at Constantinople.

The Ariảns found a protector in Constantius, who succeeded nis father. In 349 he was influenced to recall Athanasius, and to restore him to his office. But no measure could be so repulsive to his enemies, who rose up against him in the most bitter accusations. Athanasius was obliged to flee before the storm and take shelter in a desert. The blast fell upon his friends, whom he had left behind. Some were banished, some loaded with chains and imprisoned; while others were scourged to death.

The Arians underwent various revolutions and persecutions under succeeding emperors. Theodosius the Great put forth a mighty effort to suppress them; but to no avail. Their doctrines were carried into Africa in the fifth century, under the Vandals; and into Asia under the Goths; and also into Italy, Gaul, and

[ocr errors]

Spain. In the commencement of the sixth century, Arianism was triumphant in many parts of Asia, Europe, and Africa. But when the Vandals were driven out of Africa, and the Goths out of Italy, by the arms of Justinian, it sunk almost at once.

The state of the church, during these scenes, was deplorable. The Scriptures were disregarded, and what was error, and what was truth, was to be determined by fathers and councils. Ministers had departed from the simplicity of Christian doctrine and manners ; avarice and ambition ruled ; and as either party, at any time, gained the advantage, it treated the other with marked severity. As the Arians, however, were generally in power, the orthodox party experienced almost uninterrupted oppression. But when they possessed the power, they were not much less violent ihan the Arians. Even Athanasius, who was at the head of the orthodox party, was a man of a restless disposition, and of ambitious and aspiring views; and cannot be exempted from the charge of oppressing his opponents, whenever he had the means in his possession.

At length, the Arians became divided among themselves, and a great variety of sects sprang up from among them.

Arianism has made its appearance, in a great variety of forms, down to the present time.

23. COUNCILS. THESE councils were an assemblage of deputies, or commissioners, representing the body of the Christian church ; and were generally held to decide upon some controversial points, in religious sentiments. Of these, there have been quite a number held since the days of Constantine ; of which the following may be considered as the most important.

The “ Council of Nice," assembled by Constantine in 325, was the first general council. Its object was lo scan the doctrine of Arius. In this council, which was composed of three hundred and eighteen bishops, besides presbyters, deacons, and others, the emperor

« PreviousContinue »