HISTORY OF THE ARIANS
[Translated in Historical Tracts of Saint Athanasius, Oxford, 1843.]
CHAPTER V. PERSECUTION AND LAPSE OF LIBERIUS.
[§35] 1. Now it had been better if from the first Constantius had never become connected with this heresy at all; or being connected with it, if he had not yielded so much to those impious men; or having yielded to them, if he had stood by them only thus far, so that judgment might come upon them all for these atrocities alone. But as it would seem, like madmen, having entangled themselves in the bonds of impiety, they are drawing down upon their own heads a more severe judgment. Thus from the first they spared not even Liberius Bishop of Rome, but extended their fury even to those parts; they respected not his bishopric, because it was an Apostolical throne; they felt no reverence for Rome, because she is the Metropolis of Romania; they remembered not that formerly in their letters they had spoken of her Bishops as Apostolical men. But confounding all things together, they at once forgot every thing, and cared only to shew their zeal in behalf of impiety. When they perceived that he was an orthodox man, and hated the Arian heresy, and earnestly endeavoured to persuade all persons to renounce and withdraw from it, these impious men reasoned thus with themselves: "If we call persuade Liberius, we shall soon prevail over all."
2. Accordingly they accuse him falsely before the Emperor; and he, expecting easily to draw over all men to his side by means of Liberius, writes to him, and sends a certain eunuch called Eusebius with letters and offerings, to cajole him with the presents, and to threaten him with the letters. The eunuch accordingly went to Rome, and first proposed to Liberius to subscribe against Athanasius, and to hold communion with the Arians, saying, "The Emperor wishes it, and commands you to do so." And then shewing him the offerings, he took him by the hand, and again besought him, saying, "Be persuaded to comply with the Emperor's request, and receive these." [§36] But the Bishop endeavoured to convince him, reasoning with him thus: "How is it possible for me to do this against Athanasius? How can we condemn a man, whom not one Council only, but a second assembled from all parts of the world, has fairly acquitted, and whom the Church of Rome dismissed in peace? who will approve of our conduct, if we reject in his absence one, whose presence amongst us we gladly welcomed, and admitted him to our communion? There is no Ecclesiastical Canon which can authorize such a proceeding; nor have we had transmitted to us any such tradition from the Fathers, which they might have received from the great and blessed Apostle Peter.
3. "But if the emperor is really concerned for the peace of the Church, if he requires our decrees respecting Athanasius to be reversed, let their proceedings both against him and against all the others be reversed also; and then let an Ecclesiastical Council be called at a distance from the Court, at which the Emperor shall not be present, nor any Count be admitted, nor magistrate to threaten us, but where only the fear of God, and the Apostolical rule shall prevail; that so in the first place, the faith of the Church may be secured, as the Fathers defined it in the Council of Nicaea, and the supporters of the Arian doctrines may be cast out, and their heresy anathematized. And then after that, an enquiry being made into the charges brought against Athanasius, and any other beside, as well as into those things of which the other party is accused, let the guilty be cast out, and the innocent receive encouragement and support. For it is impossible that they who maintain an impious creed can be admitted as members of a Council; nor is it fit that an enquiry into matters of conduct should precede the enquiry concerning the faith; but all diversity of opinion on points of faith ought first to be eradicated, and then the enquiry made into matters of conduct. Our Lord Jesus Christ did not heal them that were afflicted, until they shewed and declared what faith they had with him. These things we have received from the Fathers; these report to the Emperor; for they are both profitable for him and edifying to the Church. But let not Ursacius and Valens be listened to, for they have retracted their former assertions, and in what they now say they are not to be trusted."
[§37] 4. These were the words of the Bishop Liberius. And the eunuch, who was vexed, not so much because he would not subscribe, as because found him an enemy to the heresy, forgetting that he was in the presence of a Bishop, after threatening him severely, went away with the offerings; and proceeded to perpetrate an offence, which is foreign from a Christian, and too audacious for a eunuch. In imitation of the transgression of Saul, he went to the Martyry of the Apostle Peter, and then presented the offerings. But Liberius having notice of it, was very angry with the person who kept the place, that he had not prevented him, and cast out the offerings as an unlawful sacrifice, which increased the anger of the mutilated creature [ton thladian] against him. Consequently he exasperates the Emperor against him, saying, "The matter that concerns us is no longer the obtaining the subscription of Liberius, but the fact that he is so resolutely opposed to the heresy, that he anathematizes the Arians by name." He also stirs up the other eunuchs to say the same; for many of those who are about Constantius, or rather the whole number of them, are eunuchs, who engross all the influence with him, and it is impossible to do anything there without them. The Emperor accordingly writes to Rome, and again Palatines, and Notaries, and Counts are sent off with letters to the Prefect, in order that either they may inveigle Liberius by stratagem away from Rome and send him to the Court to him, or else persecute him by violence.
[§38] 5. Such being the tenor of the letters, there also fear and treachery forthwith prevailed throughout the whole city. How many were the families against which threats were held out! How many received great promises on condition of their acting against Liberius! How many Bishops hid themselves when they saw these things! How many noble women retired to their estates in consequence of the calumnies of the enemies of Christ! How many ascetics were made the objects of their plots! How many who were sojourning there, and had made that place their home, did they cause to be persecuted! How often and how strictly did they guard the harbour and the approaches to the gates, lest any orthodox person should enter and visit Liberius! Rome also had trial of the enemies of Christ, and now experienced what before she would not believe, when she heard how the other Churches in every city were ravaged by them.
6. It was the eunuchs who instigated these proceedings against all. And the most remarkable circumstance in the matter is this; that the Arian heresy which denies the Son of God, receives its support from eunuchs, who, as both their bodies are fruitless, and their souls barren of the seeds of virtue, cannot bear even to hear the name of son. The Eunuch of Ethiopia indeed, though he understood not what he read, believed the words of Philip, when he taught him concerning our Saviour; but the eunuchs of Constantius cannot endure the confession of Peter, nay, they turn away when the Father manifests the Son, and madly rage against those who say, that the Son of God is His genuine Son, thus claiming as a heresy of eunuchs, that there is no genuine and true offspring of the Father. On these grounds it is that the law forbids such persons to be admitted into any ecclesiastical Council; notwithstanding which these have now regarded them as competent judges of ecclesiastical causes, and whatever seems good to them, that Constantius decrees, while men with the name of Bishops dissemble with them. Oh! who shall be their historian? who shall transmit the record of these things to future generations? who indeed would believe it, were he to hear it, that eunuchs who are scarcely entrusted with household services (for theirs is a pleasure-loving race, that has no serious concern but that of hindering in others what nature has taken from them); that these, I say, now exercise authority in ecclesiastical matters, and that Constantius in submission to their will treacherously conspired against all, and banished Liberius!