THE emperor Constantius was succeeded by Julian, who restored paganism as the religion of the emperor and the empire, and exerted his influence, though not his power, in favor of its restoration as the religion of the people.
Julian refused to take any part whatever in the strifes of the church parties, "saying that as he was not so well acquainted with the nature of their disputes as a just and impartial judge ought to be, he hoped they would excuse him, lest he should be guilty of some injustice." -- Bower.1 He therefore directed them to settle their differences among themselves. To this end he issued an edict of toleration to all classes of Christians, and recalled from banishment all the bishops and clergy who had been banished by Constantius.
Thus there was restored to the afflicted empire a condition of peace and quietness such as had not been for fifty years. And because of his refusal to allow himself and his authority to be made the tool of the riotous and bigoted church parties -- to this more than to any other one thing, is to be attributed the spiteful epithet of "the apostate," which ever since has been affixed to his name. Pagan though he was, if he had like Constantine assumed the hypocritical mask and had played into the hands of the dominant church party, there is no room for doubt that he might, like Constantine, have been an orthodox emperor, with the title of "the great."
Under the circumstances, it would be almost surprising if Julian had been anything else than what he was. His own father, an uncle, and seven of his cousins, were the victims of a murder instigated by the dying Constantine and faithfully carried out by Constantius. Julian himself, though only six years of age, by the care of some friends barely escaped the same fate. Constantius was his cousin, and, as emperor, assumed the place of his guardian. "His place of education had been a prison, and his subsequent liberty was watched with suspicious vigilance." -- Milman.2 He had seen the streets of the chief cities of the empire run with blood,in the savage strifes of church parties. Over the bodies of slaughtered people he had seen bishops placed upon thrones of episcopal ambition. Such impressions forced upon his young mind, confirmed by more than twenty years' observation of the violent and unchristian lives of Constantius, and hundreds of ecclesiastics, and multitudes of the populace, all professing to be living repositories of the Christian faith, -- all this was not the best calculated to convince him of the virtues of the imperial religion.
It is indeed charged that, in issuing the edict of toleration, and the recall of the exiled ecclesiastics, Julian's motive was to vent his spite against Christianity, by having the church parties destroy one another in their contentions. Even if this be true, if he was to be guided by the experience and observations of his whole life, he is hardly to be blamed for thinking that there was some prospect of such a result. No such result followed, however, because when the prospect of imperial favor, and patronage, and power, was gone, the church parties had nothing to contend for; because "party passions among the Christians would, undoubtedly, never have risen to so high a pitch, had it not been for the interference of the State. As this disturbing and circumscribing influence of a foreign power now fell away of itself, ' and the church was left to follow out naturally its own development from within itself, the right relations were every-where more easily restored." -- Neander3
Julian died June 26, A. D. 363, beyond the River Tigris, of a wound received in a war with Persia, after a reign of one year, eight months, and twenty-three days. Upon his death, the army in the field elected Jovian emperor, and returned to Antioch. The emperor was no sooner arrived at Antioch than the ecclesiastical commotion was again renewed. The leaders of the church parties endeavored to out- do one another in their eager haste to secure his support; "for the heads of each party assiduously paid their court to the emperor, with a view of obtaining not only protection for themselves, but also power against their opponents." -- Socrates.4
Among the first of these came the party of Macedonius of Constantinople, with a petition that the emperor would expel all the Arians from their churches, and allow them to take their places. To this petition Jovian replied, "I abominate contentiousness; but I love and honor those who exert themselves to promote unanimity." This somewhat checked the factious zeal. Another attempt was made, but Jovian declared "that he would not molest any one on account of his religious sentiments, and that he should love and highly esteem such as would zealously promote the unity of the church." A pagan philosopher in an oration in honor of the emperor, rebuked these parties with the observation that such persons worshiped the purple and not the Deity, and resembled the uncertain waves of the sea, sometimes rolling in one direction and again in the very opposite way; and praised the emperor for his liberality in permitting every one freely to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience.5
Jovian, though guaranteeing a general toleration, himself professed the Nicene Creed, and a particular preference for Athanasius, who at his invitation visited Antioch, and after having settled the faith of the emperor, and promised him "a long and peaceful reign," returned to his episcopal seat at Alexandria. The long and peaceful reign assured by the zealous ecclesiastic continued only about two months from this time, and ended in the death of Jovian, February 17, A. D. 364. after a total reign of seven months and twenty one days from the death of Julian.
Ten days after the death of Jovian, Valentinian was chosen emperor, and thirty days after this he bestowed upon his brother Valens an equal share in the imperial dignity. Valens assumed the jurisdiction of the whole East, with his capital at Constantinople. Valentinian retained the dominion of the West, with his capital at Milan. Both of these emperors pursued the tolerant policy of Jovian, so far as paganism and the church parties were concerned; but they let loose a cruel persecution upon the profession of "magic."
The practice of magic was made treason, and under the accusations of sorcery and witchcraft, an infinite number and variety of individual spites and animosities were let loose, and it seemed as though the horrors of the days of Tiberius and Domitian were returned. Rome and Antioch were the two chief seats of the tribunals of this persecution, and "from the extremities of Italy and Asia, the young and the aged were dragged in chains to the tribunals of Rome and Antioch. Senators, matrons, and philosophers expired in ignominious and cruel tortures. The soldiers who were appointed to guard the prisons, declared, with a murmur of pity and indignation, that their numbers were insufficient to oppose the flight or resistance of the multitude of captives. The wealthiest families were ruined by fines and confiscations; the most innocent citizens trembled for their safety." -- Gibbon.6
In 370 Valens cast his influence decidedly in favor of the Arian faith, by receiving baptism at the hands of the Arian bishop of Constantinople. The tumults of the religious parties again began, and "every episcopal vacancy was the occasion of a popular tumult . . . as the leaders both of the Homoousians and of the Arians believed that if they were not suffered to reign, they were most cruelly injured and oppressed. . . In every contest, the Catholics were obliged to pay the penalty of their own faults, and of those of their adversaries. In every election, the claims of the Arian candidate obtained the preference, and if they were opposed by the majority of the people, he was usually supported by the authority of the civil magistrate, or even by the terrors of a military force." -- Gibbon.7
In 373 Athanasius died, and the emperor Valens commanded the perfect of Egypt to install in the vacant bishopric an Arian Prelate by the name of Lucius, which was done, but not without the accompaniment of riot and bloodshed which was now hardly more than a part of the regular ceremony of induction into office of the principal bishoprics of the empire.
In the West, after the death of Constantius, the bishops returned to the faith established by the Council of Nice, which so largely prevailed there that the differences springing from the Arian side caused no material difficulty. As before stated, Valentinian suffered all religious parties, even the pagan, to continue unmolested; yet he himself was always a Catholic. About the year 367 he greatly increased the dignity and authority of the bishop of Rome by publishing a law empowering him to examine, and sit as judge, upon the cases of other bishops. In 375 Valentinian died, and was succeeded by his two sons, Gratian, aged sixteen years, and Valentinian II, aged four years.
Gratian was but the tool of the bishops. Ambrose was at that time bishop of Milan, and never was episcopal ambition more arrogantly asserted than in that insolent prelate. Soon the mind of the bishop asserted the supremacy over that of the boy emperor, and Ambrose "wielded at his will the weak and irresolute Gratian." -- Milman.8 But above all things else that Gratian did, that which redounded most to the glory of the Catholic Church was his choice of Theodosius as associate emperor. Valens was killed in a battle with the Goths, A. D. 378. A stronger hand than that of a youth of nineteen was required to hold the reins of government in the East.
In the establishment of the Catholic Church, the place of Theodosius is second only to that of Constantine. About the beginning of the year 380 he was baptized by the Catholic bishop of Thessalonica, and immediately afterward he issued the following edict: --
"It is our pleasure that the nations which are governed by our clemency and moderation, should steadfastly adhere to the religion which was taught by St. Peter to the Romans, which faithful tradition has preserved, and which is now professed by the pontiff Damasus, and by Peter, bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic holiness. According to the discipline of the apostles, and the doctrine of the gospel, let us believe the sole deity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost: under an equal majesty, and a pious Trinity. We authorize the followers of this doctrine to assume the title of Catholic Christians; and as we judge that all others are extravagant madmen, we brand them with the infamous name of "heretics," and declare that their conventicles shall no longer usurp the respectable appellation of churches. Besides the condemnation of divine justice, they must expect to suffer the severe penalties which our authority, guided by heavenly wisdom, shall think proper to inflict upon them."9
This law was issued in the names of the three emperors, Gratian, Valentinian II, and Theodosius. "Thus the religion of the whole Roman world was enacted by two feeble boys and a rude Spanish soldier." -- Milman.10
In Constantinople the Catholics were so few that at the accession of Theodosius they had no regular place of meeting, nor had they any pastor. No sooner was the new emperor proclaimed, however, than they called to their aid Gregory, bishop and native of Nazianzum, and hence called Gregory Nazianzen. A room in a private house was fitted up as the place of meeting, and Gregory began his ministry in the imperial city. The quarrel between the religious parties again broke out into open riot. A great crowd led on by monks and women, with clubs, stones, and fire-brands, attacked the meeting- place of the Catholics, broke down the doors, and ravaged the place inside and outside. Blood was shed, lives were lost, and Gregory was accused before the magistrate; but upon the strength of the imperial edict establishing the Catholic religion, he secured his acquittal.
And now the contentions began among the Catholics themselves. The occasion of it was this: As soon as Constantine had become sole emperor by the murder of Licinius, he proceeded to complete the organization of the government of the empire which had been planned, and in a manner begun, by Diocletian. He divided the empire into prefectures, dioceses, and provinces. Of the prefectures there were one hundred and sixteen, of the dioceses, thirteen, of the provinces, four.
The heads of the prefectures were entitled prefects. The heads of the dioceses were entitled vicars or vice-prefects. The heads of the provinces were designated by different titles, of which the term "governor" will be sufficiently exact.
The governors were subject to the jurisdiction of the vicars, or vice-prefects; the vicars or vice-prefects were subject to the jurisdiction of the prefects; and the prefects were subject to the immediate jurisdiction of the emperor himself.
Now when the Church and the State became one, the organization of the church was made to conform as precisely as possible to that of the empire. In fact, so far as the provinces and the dioceses, the organization of the church was identical with that of the empire. There was a gradation in the order and dignity of the bishoprics according to the political divisions thus formed.
The dignity of the chief bishop in a province or diocese was regulated by the chief city. The bishop of the chief city in a province was the principal bishop of that province, and all the other bishops in the province, were subject to his jurisdiction; to him pertained the ordination to vacant bishoprics and all other matters. The bishop of the principal city in the diocese was chief bishop of that diocese, and all other bishops within said diocese were subject to his jurisdiction.
The chief bishop of the province was called "Metropolitan," from the metropolis or chief city, or "primate" from primus, first. The chief bishop of a diocese was called "exarch." Above these were four bishops corresponding to the four prefects, and were called "patriarchs," yet these were not apportioned according to the lines of the prefectures, but were bishops of the four chief cities of the empire, -- Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, and Constantinople.
This was the general plan of the organization of the church, though through the mutual ambitions and jealousies of the whole hierarchy, there were many exceptions; and as time went on, titles and jurisdictions overran the limits defined in this general plan.
The bishopric of Alexandria had always been held as second only to that of Rome in dignity, since Alexandria was the second city of the empire. Constantinople was now an imperial city, and its bishopric was fast assuming an importance which rivaled that of Alexandria for second place. To this the archbishop of Alexandria did not propose to assent. That Peter, bishop of Alexandria, whom the edict of Theodosius had advertised and indorsed as a man of apostolic holiness, asserted his episcopal jurisdiction over Constantinople. He sent up seven Alexandrians, who ordained a certain Maximus to be bishop of Constantinople. A tumult was raised, and Maximus was driven out by the party of Gregory. He fled to Theodosius, but his claim was rejected by the emperor also.
Theodosius soon came to Constantinople, and immediately on his arrival, summoned to his palace Damophilus, the Arian bishop of the city, and commanded him to subscribe to the Nicene Creed, or else surrender to the Catholics the episcopal palace, the cathedral, and all the churches of the city, which amounted to fully a hundred. Damophilus refused, and November 24, A. D. 380, an edict was issued expelling all the Arians from all their houses of worship, and forfeiting the same to the Catholics, who in fact were barely able to fill the single house of worship which they already owned.
Damophilus was exiled, and Gregory, accompanied by the emperor and surrounded by armed troops, was conducted to the cathedral, which was already occupied by a body of imperial guards, where he was regularly installed in the office of bishop of Constantinople. "He beheld the innumerable multitude of either sex and of every age, who crowded the streets, the windows, and the roofs of the houses; he heard the tumultuous voice of rage, grief, astonishment, and despair; and Gregory fairly confesses, that on the memorable day of his installation, the capital of the East wore the appearance of a city taken by storm, in the hands of a barbarian conqueror." -- Gibbon.11
At the beginning of the year 381 Theodosius issued an edict expelling from all the churches within his dominions, all the bishops and other ecclesiastics who should refuse to subscribe to the creed of Nice. By a commissioned officer with a military force, the edict was executed in all the provinces of the East. Having thus established his religion throughout the empire, the next thing to do was to have a general council indorse his action, compose the disputes which disturbed the Catholic party itself, and again settle the faith of the Catholic Church. To this end a general council was called to meet at Constantinople this same year, A. D. 381.
The council met in the month of May, and was composed of one hundred and eighty-six bishops -- one hundred and fifty Catholics, and thirty-six Macedonians. The first question considered was the disputed bishopric of Constantinople. For that Maximus who had been ordained at the direction of Peter of Alexandria, though disallowed by the emperor, still claimed to be the regular bishop of Constantinople, and exercised the office by ordaining other bishops. The council, however, adjudged his ordination to be irregular; declared that he was not, and had never been, a bishop; and that therefore all the ordinations performed by him were null and void. The appointment of Gregory Nazianzen was then confirmed, by regular services of installation.
The next question that was considered by the council was of the same nature as the foregoing, but one of much more far-reaching consequences, as it involved both the East and the West. Just fifty years before -- A. D. 331 -- Eustathius, the Catholic bishop of Antioch, had been displaced by an Arian, who was received by the greater part of the Catholics as well as the Arians; but a small party still adhered to his cause, and declared they would acknowledge no other bishop, and have no fellowship with any of the others, as long as he lived. From this they acquired the name of Eustathians. Thirty years afterward -- A. D. 360 -- the see of Antioch became vacant by the translation of its bishop to that of Constantinople, and the two parties agreed upon a certain Meletius to fill the vacant bishopric. No sooner had he been installed, than he openly declared for the Homoousion, and excommunicated "as rotten and incurable members," all who held the contrary doctrine. The bishops round about plead with him to conduct his office in the spirit in which he had been elected to it, instead of making matters worse by his extreme position.
It was all of no avail. He declared that "nothing should, and nothing could, make him desist from, or relent in, the work he had undertaken, till he had utterly extirpated the Arian heresy, without leaving the least shoot of so poisonous a weed in the field, which by divine appointment he was to guard and cultivate." -- Bower.12 The Arians then applied to Constantius, and had Meletius banished thirty days after his installation.
The partisans of Meletius then separated entirely from the Arians, and clung so tenaciously to this course, that they acquired the name of Meletians. This created a third party, because the Eustathians refused to have anything at all to do with either the Meletians or the Arians -- with the Arians because they were Arians; with the Meletians because they had communicated with the Arians, and because they still acknowledged Meletius, who had been chosen with the help of the Arians. Thus there were two parties of the Catholics, each arrayed against the other.
In 363 Lucifer of Cagliari, the same who had been the messenger of Liberius to Constantius at Milan, attempted to reconcile the two Catholic factions; but being more anxious to display authority than to promote real peace, he made the matter worse by ordaining as bishop a certain Paulinus, who was the leader of the Eustathians, and the most bitter opponent of the Meletians. From this the schism spread yet farther. Lucifer was not only a Western bishop, but had been a confidant of the bishop of Rome. Athanasius indorsed his action by communicating with Paulinus, and not with Meletius; and all the bishops of Egypt, Cyprus, and the West followed his example, while all the rest of the Catholic bishops in the East espoused the cause of Meletius.
Basil, the Catholic bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, finding it impossible to moderate the schism in any other way, thought to do so by applying to the bishop of Rome. He therefore -- A. D. 371 -- wrote a letter to Damasus, and with it sent another signed by many of the Eastern bishops. asking him to lend his assistance. "He added that it was from his zeal alone they expected relief, from that zeal which he had made so eminently appear on other occasions; that Dionysius, one of his predecessors, had afforded them a seasonable assistance, when their wants were less pressing, and their condition not so deplorable; and therefore that there was no room left to doubt of his readily conforming to so glorious an example." -- Bower.12
It was some time before Damasus took any notice of this request, and when he did, it was only to assume the office of dictator and judge, rather than that of mediator. He declared Paulinus lawful bishop of Antioch, and Meletius "a transgressor of the canons, an intruder, a schismatic, and even a heretic." -- Bower.14 Basil repented of his application to Rome, with the wise observation that "the more you flatter haughty and insolent men, the more haughty and insolent they become." He should have thought of that before, and indulged in neither flattery nor appeal.
Such was the grave question, and thus that question arose, which now engaged the serious attention of the Council of Constantinople; and Meletius presided at the council. Before they reached this subject, however, Meletius died. He and Paulinus had previously agreed that when either of them should die, the other should be sole bishop of the two factions; but he was no sooner dead than some of the bishops in the council moved for the election of a successor.
Gregory Nazianzen was now president of the council, and he exerted all his influence to persuade the council to put an end to the schism by having nothing more to do with it, but to let Paulinus end his days in peace, according to the arrangement with Meletius. He was joined by other members of the council, but the vast majority loved discussion more than they loved anything else than power, and as disputes and schisms were the way to power, they could not bear to let slip such an opportunity to show that the East was not subject to the West -- especially as the Western bishops, with the bishop of Rome at their head, had already assumed the authority to dictate in the matter. They declared that they would not betray to the West the dignity which of right belonged to the East, from its being the scene of the birth and death of the Son of God. They therefore elected Flavianus as successor to Meletius, and thus only aggravated the schism which they attempted to heal, and which continued for eighteen years longer.
Gregory Nazianzen having done all he could to prevent this act of the council, and knowing that what they had done could only strengthen the contentions already rife, resigned his bishopric, and left both the council and the city of Constantinople. He likened a church council to a nest of wasps, or a flock of magpies, cranes, or geese; declared that no good ever came of one; and refused ever more to have anything to do with them.15 Had a few other men been as wise as Gregory Nazianzen showed himself to be in this case, what miseries the world might have escaped! how different history would have been! As Gregory has been, for ages, a Catholic saint, even the Catholic Church ought not to blame any one for adopting his estimate of the value of church councils.
Gregory's resignation made it necessary to elect a new bishop of Constantinople. The choice fell upon Nectarius, a senator and praetor of the city, who had never yet been baptized. He was first elected bishop, next baptized into membership of the church, and then by the bishops of the council was installed in his new office.
Having "settled" these things, the council proceeded to settle the Catholic faith again. The same question which had been so long discussed as to the nature of Christ, was up now in regard to the nature of the Holy Spirit. Now, the question was whether the Holy Spirit is Homoousion with the Father and the Son. The Macedonians held that it is not. The council decided that it is. The Macedonians left the assembly, and the remaining one hundred and fifty bishops framed the following creed: -- "We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all times [ages], Light from Light, very God from very God, begotten, not created, of the same substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man; who was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of the Father; and he shall come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end. And we believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Life-giver, who proceedeth from the Father; who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified; who spake by the prophets. And in one Holy Catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. We look for a resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen."16
They also established seven canons, in one of which they attempted to settle the question of dignity between the bishops of Alexandria and Constantinople by ordaining as follows:
"CANON 3. The bishop of Constantinople shall hold the first rank after the bishop of Rome, because Constantinople is New Rome."17
This, however, like every other attempt to settle their ecclesiastical disputes, only bred new and more violent contentions. For, by a trick in words, and a casuistical interpretation, this canon was afterward made the ground upon which was claimed by the bishopric of Constantinople, superiority over that of Rome. It was argued that the words "the first rank after the bishop of Rome," did not mean the second in actual rank, but the first, and really carried precedence over Old Rome; that the real meaning was that hitherto Rome had held the first rank, but now Constantinople should hold the first rank, i, e., after Rome had held it !
The bishops in council, having finished their labors, sent to Theodosius the following letter: --
"In obedience to your letters, we met together at Constantinople, and having first restored union among ourselves, we then made short definitions confirming the faith of the Fathers of Nicaea, and condemning the heresies which have risen in opposition to it. We have also, for the sake of ecclesiastical order, drawn up certain canons; and all this we append to out letter. We pray you now, of your goodness, to confirm by a letter of your piety the decision of the synod, that, as you have honored the church by your letters of convocation, you would thus seal the decisions."18
Accordingly, the emperor confirmed and sealed their decisions in an edict issued July 30, 381, commanding that "all the churches were at once to be surrendered to the bishops who believed in the oneness of the Godhead of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. and were in communion with Nectarius of Constantinople; in Egypt with Timotheus of Alexandria; in the East with Pelagius of Laodicea and Diodorus of Tarsus; in proconsular Asia and the Asiatic diocese with Amphilochius of Iconium and Optimus of Antioch (in Pisidia); in the diocese of Pontus with Helladius of Caeasarea, Otreius of Melitene, and Gregory of Nyssa; lastly (in Moesia and Scythia) with Terentius, the bishop of Scythia (Tomi), and with Martyrius, bishop of Marcianople (now Preslaw in Bulgaria). All who were not in communion with the above-named, should, as avowed heretics, be driven from the church." -- Hefele.19
While the council of Constantinople was sitting, the emperor Gratian called a council at Aquileia in Italy. This was presided over by the bishop of Aquileia, but Ambrose, bishop of Milan, "was the most active member and soul of the whole affair." The object of this council was, in unison with the Council of Constantinople, to establish the unity of the faith throughout the whole world. There happened to be three bishops in all the West who were accused of being Arians. They would not acknowledge that they were such; but the accusation of heresy was sufficient foundation upon which to call a council.
The council met in August, and after several preliminary meetings, met in formal session, the third of September. A letter which Arius had written to his bishop, Alexander, about sixty years before, was read, and the three accused bishops were required to say "yes" or "no," as to whether or not they agreed to "these blasphemies against the Son." They would not give a direct answer, choosing rather to speak for themselves than to answer by an emphatic "yes" or "no," questions that were framed by their accusers. The council next spun out a string of curses upon all the leading points of the Arian doctrine; and because the three bishops would not join in these curses, the council, at the proposal of Ambrose, and as early as one o'clock on the afternoon of the first day, pronounced its curse upon the three bishops as heretics, declaring them deposed from office, and immediately sent a circular letter to this effect to all the bishops of the West. They next sent a full account of their proceedings, according to their own view, "to the emperors Gratian, Valentinian, II, and Theodosius, and prayed them to lend the aid of the secular arm, in the actual deposition of the condemned, and the appointment of orthodox bishops in their stead." They also asked the emperor Theodosius to make it impossible for the teacher of one of these condemned bishops any "further to disturb the peace of the church or to travel about from one town to another." -- Hefele.20
With Damasus, bishop of Rome, this council disagreed with that of Constantinople, upon the dispute between the Eustathians and Meletians, and a letter was therefore sent to the emperor, asking for another general council to be held at Alexandria, to decide this, with other disputes amoung the Catholics themselves.
The condemned bishops complained that they were misrepresented in the letters of the council, and protested against being confounded with the Arians. They likewise demanded another council, to be held at Rome. When these letters reached Theodosius, the Council of Constantinople was over, and the bishops had gone home. But instead of calling the council to meet at Alexandria, he recalled the bishops to Constantinople. He sent two special invitations to Gregory Nazianzen to attend the council, but Gregory, still retaining the wisdom he had acquired at the preceding council, positively refused, with the words, "I never yet saw a council of bishops come to a good end. I salute them from afar off, since I know how troublesome they are."21
By the time the bishops were again got together at Constantinople, it was early in the summer of 382. They there received another letter from a council which had just been held under the presidency of Ambrose, at Milan, asking them to attend a general council at Rome. The bishops remained at Constantinople, but sent three of their number as their representatives, and also a letter affirming their strict adherence to the Nicene Creed. Lack of time and space alike forbid that the proceedings of these councils should be followed in detail. Council after council followed; another one at Constantinople in 383, at Bordeaux in 384, at Treves in 385, at Rome in 386, at Antioch in 388, at Carthage in 389, Rome again in 390, Carthage again in 390, Capua in 391, at Hippo in 393, at Nismes in 394, and at Constantinople again in 394.
On his part Theodosius was all this time doing all he could to second the efforts of the church to secure unanimity of faith, and to blot out all heresy. "In the space of fifteen years he promulgated at least fifteen severe edicts against the heretics, more especially against those who rejected the doctrine of the Trinity." -- Gibbon.22 In these edicts it was enacted that any of the heretics who should usurp the title of bishop or presbyter, should suffer the penalty of exile and confiscation of goods, if they attempted either to preach the doctrine or practice the rites of their "accursed" sects. A fine of about twenty thousand dollars was pronounced upon every person who should dare to confer, or receive, or promote, the ordination of a heretic. Any religious meetings of the heretics, whether public or private, whether by day or by night, in city or country, were absolutely prohibited; and if any such meeting was held, the building or even the ground which should be used for the purpose,was declared confiscated. "The anathemas of the church were fortified by a sort of civil excommunication," which separated the heretics from their fellow-citizens by disqualifying them from holding any public office, trust, or employment. The heretics who made a distinction in the nature of the Son from that of the Father, were declared incapable of either making wills or receiving legacies. The Manichaean heretics were to be punished with death, as were also the heretics "who should dare to perpetrate the atrocious crime" of celebrating Easter on a day not appointed by the Catholic Church.23
That these laws might not be vain, the office of "inquisitor of the faith," was instituted, and it was not long before capital punishment was inflicted upon "heresy," though not exactly under Theodosius himself. Gratian was killed in A. D. 383, by command of a certain Maximus, who had been declared emperor by the troops in Britain, and acknowledged by the troops in Gaul. A treaty of peace was formed between him and Theodosius, and the new emperor Maximus stepped into the place both in Church and State, which had been occupied by Gratian.
A certain Priscillian and his followers were condemned as heretics by the Council of Bordeaux in A.D. 384. They appealed to the emperor Maximus, under whose civil jurisdiction they were; but by the diligence of three bishops -- Ithacius, Magnus, and Rufus -- as prosecutors, they were there likewise condemned. Priscillian himself, two presbyters, two deacons, Latronian a poet, and Euchrocia the widow of an orator of Bordeaux, -- seven in all, -- were beheaded, while others were banished.
Thus the union of Church and State, the clothing of the church with civil power, bore its inevitable fruit. It is true that there were some bishops who condemned the execution of the Priscillianists, but the others fully justified it. Those who condemned it, however, did so more at the sight of actual bloodshed, than for any other reason; because they fully justified, and in fact demanded, every penalty short of actual death. And those who persecuted the Priscillianists, and who advocated, and secured, and justified, their execution, were never condemned by the church nor by any council. In fact their course was actually indorsed by a council; for "the synod at Treves, in 385, sanctioned the conduct of Ithacius" (Hefele24), who was the chief prosecutor in the case. Even the disagreement as to whether it was right or not,was silenced when, twenty years afterward, Augustine set forth his principles, asserting the righteousness of whatever penalty would bring the incorrigible to the highest grade of religious development; and the matter was fully set at rest for all time when, in A. D. 447, Leo, bishop of Rome, justified the execution of Priscillian and his associate heretics, and declared the righteousness of the penalty of death for heresy.
In re-establishing the unity of the Catholic faith, Theodosius did not confine his attention to professors of Christianity only. In his original edict, it will be remembered that all his subjects should be Catholic Christians. A good many of his subject were pagans, and still conformed to the pagan ceremonies and worship. In 382 Gratian, at the instance of Ambrose, had struck a blow at the pagan religion by rejecting the dignity of Pontifex Maximus, which had been borne by every one of his predecessors; and had also commanded that the statue and altar of Victory should be thrown down. Maximus was killed in 388, and on account of the youth of Valentinian II, Theodosius, as his guardian, became virtually ruler of the whole empire; and at Rome the same year, he assembled the Senate and put to them the question whether the old or the new religion should be that of the empire.
By the imperial influence, the majority of the Senate, as in the church councils, adopted the will of the emperor, and "the same laws which had been originally published in the provinces of the East, were applied, after the defeat of Maximus, to the whole extent of the Western empire. . . . A special commission was granted to Cynegius, the praetorian prefect of the East, and afterwards to the counts Jovius and Gaudentius, two officers of distinguished rank in the West, by which they were directed to shut the temples, to seize or destroy the instruments of idolatry, to abolish the privileges of the priests, and to confiscate the consecrated property for the benefit of the emperor, of the church, or of the army." -- Gibbon.25
Thus was the Catholic faith finally established as that of the Roman empire, thus was that empire "converted," and thus was Pagan Rome made Papal Rome.
1 [Page 383] "History of the Popes," Liberius, par. 29.
2 [Page 384] "History of Christianity," book iii, chap. vi, par. 9.
3 [Page 385] "History of the Christian Religion and Church," Vol. ii, Section First, part i, A, par. 74.
4 [Page 385] "Ecclesiastical History," book iii, chap. 25.
5 [Page 385] Id.
6 [Page 386] "Decline and Fall," chap. xxv, par. 9.
7 [Page 387] Id. par. 13.
8 [Page 388] "History of Christianity," book iii, chap. viii, par. 28.
9 [Page 388] Gibbon's "Decline and Fall," chap. xxvii, par. 6.
10 [Page 388] "History of Christianity," book iii, chap. ix, par. 1.
11 [Page 391] "Decline and Fall," chap. xxvii, par. 3.
12 [Page 393] "History of the Popes," Damasus, par. 16.
13 [Page 394] Id., par. 19.
14 [Page 394] Id., par. 20.
15 [Page 395] "Decline and Fall," chap. xxvii, par. 9; Schaff's "History of the Christian Church," Vol. iii, section 65, last par. but one; Stanley's "History of the Eastern Church," Lecture ii, par. 10 from the end.
16 [Page 396] Hefele's "History of the Church Councils," sec. 97.
17 [Page 396] Id., sec. 98.
18 [Page 397] Id., sec. 99.
19 [Page 397] Id.
20 [Page 398] "History of the Church Councils," sec. 101, par. 1, 2.
21 [Page 399] Stanley's "History of the Eastern Church," Lecture ii, par. 10 from the end.
22 [Page 399] "Decline and Fall," chap. xxvii, par. 11.
23 [Page 400] Id.
24 [Page 401] "History of the Church Councils," sec. 104.
25 [Page 402] "Decline and Fall," chap. xxviii, par. 5.