THE CHURCH UNDER VALENS.—THE DEATH, CHARACTER, AND WRITINGS OF ATHANASIUS.
Jovian was succeeded by two brothers, Valen- Chap.
tinian and Valens; the former governed in the West, . XJ'
the latter in the East. Valentinian followed the
plan of Jovian, in the affairs of the church. Valens,
a man of weak capacity himself, had not been yet
baptized, and seemed as little qualified to judge of
matters of religion as of government. Valentinian,
whom fraternal affection induced to make him his
colleague in the empire, had been in vain advised
to choose another person. The Arians, who, under
Eudoxius bishop of Constantinople, had ruled the
capital in all ecclesiastical affairs, in the time of
Constantius, rejoiced to find Valens equally supple
and ductile as that emperor. Even the party of
Chap. Macedonius, a sort of Semi-Arians, who allowed . *L . the Son of God to be like the Father, though not of the same substance, and who were likewise enemies to the Divinity of the Holy Ghost, could not gain the favour of the emperor, but were persecuted as well as the orthodox ; while Eudoxius with the complete Arians, who would not allow the similarity of the Son to the Father, engrossed all the churches. The Semi-Arians, induced by these circumstances, entered into connexions with Liberius bishop of Rome, and reunited themselves with the orthodox churches of the West: yet one can have no great idea of the sincerity of this sect, as they would have probably persisted in their heresy, if Valens had favoured their notion ; many of them, however, might be perverted by the subtilties of disputation, and be more orthodox in their hearts than in their expressions. Valens * ordered all the followers of the Nicene faith to be expelled from Constantinople. In this persecution were included the Novatians: their churches were ordered to be shut up, as well as their persons to be banished. For the orthodox of the general church had no places of worship from the days of Constantius; and Jovian their friend had not lived to come to his capital. One Agelius,the Novatian bishop, was exiled, a man of admirable sanctity and virtue, and remarkable for his perfect contempt of money. Yet was he restored not long after, and he recovered the churches of his communion. He owed this, under Providence, to one Marcian, a man of learning and piety, a Novatian presbyter, who tutored two daughters of the emperor. On this account the Novatians were at length tolerated ; while the general church suffered the rigour of banishment, and was silent by compulsion, and while the Arians tyrannized over all the Christian world in the East. Yet the Novatians were still infested by the Arians, because they * Soz. C. IX.
therished and loved in a tender manner their brethren of the general church *.
We must once more see Athanasius attacked by Edict of the enemies of Christian piety. About the begin- Ya^n''v ning of the year 367, Valens, at the solicitation of V ' Eudoxius, ordered the bishops who had been deposed *' in the reign of Constantius, and were afterwards restored, to be expelled from their churches. By virtue of this order, Tatian, governor of Alexandria, attempted to drive Athanasius out of that city. The prelate had the heartsof his people. Long experience of his integrity and virtue, respect for his talents, and compassion for his sufferings, had secured him this the most reasonable and the most glorious of all empires. The prefect was so sensible of this, that for some time he dared not proceed to execute his orders. At length, he brake one night with an armed force into his church, where he generally lodged, and sought for his person in every place, but in vain. Athanasius, probably warned beforehand Athana»im of the danger, had retired, and remained for four A"xa°dri« months concealed in his father's sepulchre. This the fourth was the fourth time that he had fled from Alexandria. Valens, however, from the dread he seems to have had of the people, ordered him to be recalled ; nor could Lucius, the Arian bishop of Alexandria, prevail on him to give Athanasius any more disturbance.
* Hyxirm xai ij-ijyo*. B. IV. c. 9. Socrates. This historian having himself a particular acquaintance with the Novatians, *e learn something from him concerning this people. 1 wish he had given us more information. But their charity and tenderness toward the general church in its distress, while they themselves were indulged with toleration, and their suffering some molestation from the reigning party, because of their affection for those who endured persecution for righteousness sake, reflects an amiable lustre on the character of these Dissenters. And I wish the lesson it is calculated to teach were well attended to at this day. Let men who love the faith of the Gospel, and are content to suffer for it in the world, adorn it by brotherly love', and leave political contentions and the arts of ambition to the <*emie3 of the Gospel.
About this time Valens himself received baptism from Eudoxius, who had such an ascendant over the weak emperor, as to induce him to swear, that he would never depart from the Arian creed*.
A council was held at Laodicea in Phrygia about this time. A few of its canons shall be mentioned, as they will throw some light on the spirit of religion. One of them prohibits the ordination of men lately baptized ; and so far agrees with the sacred rule f. The choice of those appointed to the priesthood was not to be left to the people, but the bishops were to be chosen by the metropolitans, after a long probation of their faith and morals. In this, an alteration was doubtless made from the customs, which had obtained before the time of Constantine, and the metropolitans now exercised the same power which the Apostles had done, who doubtless ordained pastors in all the churches by their own authority. The council orders $ clergymen not to lend money upon usury, nor to visit taverns and houses of entertainment, nor to assist at the public shows exhibited at marriages and festivals. A proof, I fear, that their manners were grown more lax and dissolute. The invocation of angels is also solemnly forbidden ; a proof that this species of idolatry had already crept into the church, and a condemnation of the practice of the Romanists. Presbyters are forbidden also to practise magic and enchantment; pity, that there should be occasion to make such a canon ! On the whole, this council, though it appears seriously bent on the support of good discipline and manners, evidences a great and deep corruption to have taken place in the church of Christ.
Valens himself, being at Tomi, a city of Scythia, near the mouth of the Danube, ordered Brettannio the bishop to meet and communicate with him and his Arian attendants, who came to the bishop's
• Theod. IV. c. 12. Fleury, B. 16. 8. f 1 Tim. iii. 6.
I Fleury, B. XVI. c. la.
church for that purpose. Brettannio firmly refused, Cent. professing his regard for the Nicene faith, and Ivleaving the emperor he went to another church, and ' all his congregation followed him. Valens with his attendants being left alone, was so enraged, that he ordered the bishop to be banished, though political reasons induced him soon after to permit his return. The Scythians were indignant at the banishment of their bishop, a man renowned among them* for piety and integrity, and Valens dreaded their revolt. Of the conduct of Basil and Gregory Nazianzen in these times, it will be more proper to speak in the course of their story, as they are men, who deserve to be held out to the more distinct attention of the reader. Antioch was sorely shaken with the conflicts of this persecution. There Arianism triumphed, both in numbers and in power, though the influence of the two orthodox bishops, Meletius and Paulinus, under God, preserved a considerable remnant. For wherever men of firm piety ruled in the churches, they were enabled to check the torrent. On the Death of death of Eudoxius in 370, the Arians chose De- Eudo,ia». mophilus in his room, and Valens approved of the A' D* election. The orthodox elected at the same time 37°Evagrius bishop of Constantinople. Valens, incensed, banished both him and the bishop who had dared to ordain him.
On this occasion eighty ecclesiastics were sent to the emperor at Nicomedia, to complain of his conduct. Enraged at their presumption, and yet afraid of a sedition, he gave private orders to Modestus, his prefect, to murder them secretly. The execution of this order deserves to be known in all ages. The prefect pretended that he would send them into banishment, with which they cheerfully acquiesced. But he directed the mariners to set the ship on fire as soon as they were gone to sea. The mariners did so, and going into a boat which * Soz. B. VI., 21.
Chap- followed them, escaped. The burning vessel was t *L > driven by a strong west wind into the haven of Dacidizus, on the coast of Bithynia, where it was consumed with the ministers*. The intention of concealing what was done was frustrated ; and the wickedness and inhumanity of the murder appeared more odious, by the meanness with which it was contrived.
Caesarius, the brother of Gregory Nazianzen, had been recalled to court by Jovian, and Valens made him questor of Bithynia. His brother exhorted him to disengage himself from the world, which at length he did, and died soon after.
Athanasius had the courage to expel from the church the governor of Lybia, a man wholly given up to cruelty and debauchery: nor was the world then so degenerated, as to despise altogether the A council «t discipline of the church. A council held at Antioch Amioch. ^ the faithful, consisting of an hundred and fortysix bishops, pathetically bewailed the times: and among other things, they observed, that the infidels laughed at these evils, and staggered the weak ; while true Christians avoiding the churches, as being now nurseries of impiety, went into deserts, and lifted up their hands to God with sighs and tears.
Meletius, who was the chief of this council, was banished the third time, and sent into Armenia, his own country. The other bishop, Paulinus, whose flock was small, was spared. The Meletians, deprived of their churches, assembled at the foot of a mountain near Antioch, and heard the word of God. But from this place also they were driven, and many of them were thrown into the Orontes.
Maximus, the philosopher and friend of Julian, was at length made a victim to the jealousy of Valens, for some magical contrivances real or pretended,
At Edessa, the orthodox were wont to meet in a * Socrates, B. IV. c. 16.
field ; Valens ordered them to be dispersed; but the Cent. resolution of a woman who hastened thither as on t 'J- , purpose to suffer martyrdom, staggered his mind, and caused him to cease from the attempt.
Another method was taken : the pastors of Edessa were sent into banishment; some of them were conducted to Antinous*, where observing the greater part of the inhabitants to be Pagans, they employed themselves in taking pains for their eternal salvation.. Protogenes particularly taught the children to writeand to read the psalms of David and suitable passages of the New Testament; and though the account we have here is very defective, there is reason to believe, that the progress of the Gospel was< increased by these means f.
Athanasius died in the year 373, after he had Death of been bishop forty-six years; and being desired to Atl'a"""u*' nominate a successor, he mentioned Peter, an aged A'„D' saint, and the faithful companion of his labours. ^73' Let us pause a little, to view the writings and character of this great man.
A person so actively employed, and so wholly taken up during the course of a long life with a single controversy, is not likely to leave behind him writings very instructive to after ages. I run Hi* through his works, and find nothing important in wrmu8* them, except what relates to the Arian controversy. As a writer, he is nervous, clear, argumentative, and every where discovers the man of sense, except in the Life of Anthony the monk, and other monastic pieces ; the superstitions and follies of which unhappy perversion of piety received but too liberal a support from his influence. But such were the times; and in public life, the abuses of Christianity were so many, that I wonder not that the. most godly had the strongest relish for monastieism, in an age when the knowledge of the genius of the
* A place, I suppose, in Thebais in Fgypt.' f Fleury, 3:. B. V. VOL. II. M
Gospel was so much darkened. His two treatises against the Gentiles bid the fairest to show his general knowledge and spirit in religion, because they are exempt from the Arian controversy. In them he discovers the source of idolatry to be the corruption of the heart, in consequence of the Fall. Men being fallen from God, cannot erect their minds to things spiritual, but sink down to things earthly and sensual. He allows the evil propensity of nature, and describes its effects very justly; at the same time like Justin, and other of the fathers whom we have seen, he speaks of the free-will of man, and of his power of resisting this propensity, using the same Greek term*. He speaks very solidly of the incarnation of the Son of God, describes it as essential to the recovery of fallen man, and speaks of the propriety of man's being taught by Him, who is the Wisdom of the Father. Redemption by his cross he speaks of in a manner perfectly scriptural: but little is to be found in him of the experience of these doctrines, and their application to the heart and conscience; nor does he dwell much on the virtues and graces of the Holy Spirit. Opposition to Arianism absorbed his whole soul, and he keeps it in constant view throughout all his writings, or nearly so, except in his two discourses to the Gentiles. His address to Constantius is vehement and persuasive; but though full of integrity, it is wanting in meekness. In his apology for his flight, he amply vindicates himself by scriptural and apostolical authority. His book on the Psalms explains very justly their excellencies. He shows, that in them is found the whole sum of duty, all the arguments of prayer, all the doctrines of religion, prophecies concerning Jesus Christ, and all the histories of the Old Testament: he observes, with great propriety, .that the believer may see in them the state and frame of his own soul,
what he himself feels; and let a man's state be what Cent. it may, every one may find words adapted to his . TM' . condition, and a true relief for every trouble. His treatise on the unpardonable sin is a monument of infirmity in a great and noble mind, and such an infirmity as men of great sincerity are more exposed to than others; I mean that of wresting every subject that we handle, to promote the darling object of our own minds. To defend the Trinity was his; I wonder not therefore, that Arianism with him is represented as the " unpardonable sin," and truly the conduct of the Arians in his time would naturally give an edge to his spirit. I have represented things in as faithful a manner as I can from the lights of antiquity which remain to us ; and I must say, independently of all doctrinal sentiments, there appears no comparison between the two parties in their moral conduct. Every thing mean and sordid, Comparison cruel and inhuman, ambitious and perfidious, is J^TM^** found on the side of Arianism. The fruits of AriaTM, genuine religion evidently appear on the other side, so far as I can discover hitherto. However melancholy may have been the scenes of human wickedness, which we have reviewed, and however faint the marks of godliness in any person, still " real virtue was seen the attendant of orthodox sentiments alone." Is it to be wondered, that Athanasius, who knew and felt all this, should be betrayed into such an interpretation of the unpardonable sin ?
In his defence of the Trinity, he guards it on all sides with extreme exactness. He is not solicitous to remove the mystery ; he leaves the account as it always should be left, inadequate and imperfect, clear and exact only so far as the Scripture has explained it. He is not careful to clear it of the objections, and to answer the captious questions of the enemies of the doctrine. But all sorts of opposition to it, find in him a just refutation. He asserts every where the Trinity in Unity. Among the rest, the heresy of Apollinarius, who denied to Jesus Christ an human soul, was by him effectually confuted. But not to dwell longer on a subject we have- had so much occasion to consider, I observe, that though the creed, commonly called that of Athanasius, be not his, yet it contains precisely his views and sentiments*.
Athanasius shines, however, more in his life than in his writings: his conduct every where appears consistent and upright, sharpened too much by long and cruel opposition indeed, yet never governed by malice, always principled by the fear of God in this whole controversy. I doubt not but he was raised by a special providence to defend the doctrine of the Trinity; and while men of no religion are blaming his asperity, let us admire the strength of that grace, which kept him so invincibly firm and calmly magnanimous, and through his means preserved to us this precious part of Christian doctrine. The Lord has ever raised up instruments of this strong and hardy cast, to maintain his cause in the world ; and let it be remembered, in regard to this great and good man, that after all the abuse thrown on his character respecting persecution, there is very much of persecution indeed, but persecution by him always suffered, never inflicted on others.
The choice of Peter, as his successor at Alexandria, was confirmed by the whole church; and the almost universal respect which was paid to the virtues of Athanasius, seemed to put his election out of the reach of controversy. But imperial violence prevailed. By Euzoius of Antioch, Valens was stirred up to oppose Peter; arid Lucius, whom Jovian had so contemptuously rejected, was introduced by the power of the sword. Then f was seen the insolent cruelty of Magnus a Pagan, whom the mercy of Jovian had spared. Many Athanasians were murdered, and many treated with great * See Du Pin's view of his works. -j- Theod. IV. 22. ' outrages; while Arianism, supported by the civil powers, triumphed without control. Nineteen riests and deacons, some very old, were seized by lagnus. " Agree, wretches,"said the Pagan, "to the sentiments of the Arians. If your religion be true, God will forgive you for yielding to necessity." " Forbear to importune us," they replied, " we do not believe that God is sometimes Father, and sometimes not. Our fathers at Nice confessed, that the Son is consubstantial with the Father." Whips and tortures, the grief of the godly, and the insults of Jews and apostates, altered not their determination : they were banished to Heliopolis in Phoenicia. Palladius a Pagan, the governor of Egypt, sent many to prison, who had presumed to weep ; and after he had scourged them, sent twenty-three of them, chiefly monks, to work in the mines. Other scenes of savage cruelty are related; it is tedious and unpleasant to enlarge on them : but it is a pleasure to behold the fruits of Athanasius's labours in the faithful sufferings of so many of his followers. Euzoius, having put Lucius and his Arians into the possession of the churches, and left Alexandria in tears, returned to Antioch. What a bishop was this ! But the Christian reader will steadily observe with me, that Christ had all along a real church, and that the cross is her mark, but the cross meekly endured : and were not Euzoius's conduct connected with this truth, his name would deserve no notice in this history.
The monks of Egypt, whose piety moved the common people, were courted by the Arian party; but they offered their necks to the sword, rather than quit the Nicene profession. A number of these were banished, but were afterwards permitted to return *. Peter himself, though imprisoned, found means to escape, and in Europe, where Arianism had no power, he enjoyed a quiet exile.
* Sozom. VI. '2v.
Chap. The piety of Terentius, an officer of Valens, de« .. , serves to be recorded. The emperor, pleased with his services, bade him ask a favour. The man begged the liberty of a place of worship for the orthodox. Valens in a rage tore his petition. Terentius gathering the fragments of the petition, said, I have received a gift, from you, O Emperor. Let the Judge of all the earth judge between us*.
At the same time among the G oths, by the cruelty of their king Athanaric, numbers of godly men were murdered for the sake of their Redeemer. Eusebius of Samosata was expelled by the Arian tyranny from his see. He took particular care to preserve the life of the imperial messenger before his departure, and when desired with floods of tears by his flock not to leave them to the mercy of the wolves, he read to them that passage of the Apostle, which commands obedience to the powers that bef. Excellent servant of Christ!
Eusebius of Samosata is one of those bishops, of whom it were to be wished we had a more distinct account. His zeal had exposed him to this persecution. In the disguise of a soldier he had travelled through various parts of the East, to confirm the desolate churches, and to supply them with pastors. When the messenger of his banishment came to him, " Conceal the occasion of your journey," says he, " or you will be thrown into the river, and your death laid to my charge." He himself retired with great secrecy, yet was he followed by the people. The testimony he gave of the primitive duty of passiveness under injuries was much needed in these times, when men had too much forgotten to suffer with meekness. He received from his friends very little for his journey, though their liberality would have supplied him abundantly. He prayed and instructed the people, and then retired in peace.
* Cent. Magd. f Rom. xiii.
It will be proper to finish here all that I can find Cunt. concerning Eusebius which is material. In the time . TM' . of Constantius he had been intrusted with the care of a decree of a council held at Antioch, which the Arian party afterwards persuaded Constantius to order him to deliver up. He justly observed, that what had been delivered by a synod, could only be returned by the authority of the same synod. Even a menace, that he should have his hand cut off, prevailed not with him. Constantius admired his fortitude, and desisted *. No wonder that the people of Samosata, after his exile under Valens, admiring a man so firm and sincere, refused to attend the religious instructions of the successor who was forced upon them; who being a man of a meek temper, took much pains to ingratiate himself with them, but in vain. Eunomius (that was his name) left them, because he could not gain their favour. The Arians put in his room one Lucius, who acted with more violence, and encouraged the secular power to persecutef. Eusebius however lived long enough to recover his see of Samosata after the death of Valens, and was at last killed with a tile by a zealous Arian woman in the town of Dolicha, whither he was come to ordain an orthodox pastor, the place being very hostile to the doctrine of the Trinity. He died in a very charitable spirit, insisting with his friends, that the woman should not be brought to justice on his account, and obliged them to swear that they would gratify him in this J.
Some further views of the church under Valens Death of will appear in the lives of Basil and Gregory Nazi- Vaimi' anzen, whom I studiously pass over for the present. ' R* Valens perished in a battle with theGoths in the year " 378, after having reigned fourteen years.
Valens, however, from whatever cause, a little before his death, recalled the exiled bishops. Lucius
• Theodoret, B. II. c. 32. f lb. B; IV. c. 15.
t lb. V. c. 4
Chap- was driven from Alexandria ; Peter recovered his XI J see, and Arianism lost its external dominion a little before the death of its benefactor.
The Goths, who had settled on the Roman side of the Danube, in the dominions of Valens, were by the advice of Eudoxius, the Arian bishop of Constantinople, brought over to Arianism. Valens proposed that they should agree with him in doctrine ; but they declared, that they never would recede from the doctrine of their ancestors. Ulfila, the bishop of the whole nation, of whom more hereafter, was induced, by the presents and complaisance of Eudoxius, to attempt to draw them over to the emperor's doctrine; and his argument, which I suppose he had from Eudoxius, was that it was only a verbal dispute. Hence the Gothic Christians continued to assert, that the Father was greater than the Son, but would not allow the Son to be a creature. Nor yet did they wholly depart from the faith of their ancestors. For Ulfila assured them, that there was no difference of doctrine at all, but that the rupture had arisen from a vain contention*.