The Fidelity of the Laity
Read first Bishops contra Athanasius.
Now we come secondly to the proofs of the fidelity of the laity, and the effectiveness of that fidelity, during that domination of imperial heresy to which the foregoing passages have related. I have abridged the extracts which follow, but not, I hope, to the injury of their sense.
1. ALEXANDRIA. "We suppose," says Athanasius, "you are not ignorant what outrages they (the Arian Bishops) committed at Alexandria, for they are reported everywhere. They attacked the holy virgins and brethren with naked swords; they beat with scourges their persons, esteemed honourable in God's sight, so that their feet were lamed by the stripes, whose souls were whole and sound in purity and all good works." Athan. Op. c. Arian. 15, [Oxf: tr.]
"Accordingly Constantius writes letters, and commences a persecution against all. Gathering together a multitude of herdsmen and shepherds, and dissolute youths belonging to the town, armed with swords and clubs, they attacked in a body the Church of Quirinus: and some they slew, some they trampled under foot, others they beat with stripes and cast into prison or banished. They hauled away many women also, and dragged them openly into the court, and insulted them, dragging them by the hair. Some they proscribed; from some they took away their bread, for no other reason but that they might be induced to join the Arians, and receive Gregory (the Arian Bishop), who had been sent by the Emperor." Athan. Hist. Arian. §10.
"On the week that succeeded the holy Pentecost, when the people, after their fast, had gone out to the cemetery to pray, because that all refused communion with George (the Arian Bishop), the commander, Sebastian, straightway with a multitude of soldiers proceeded to attack the people, though it was the Lord's day; and finding a few praying, (for the greater part had already retired on account of the lateness of the hour,) having lighted a pile, he placed certain virgins near the fire, and endeavoured to force them to say that they were of the Arian faith. And having seized on forty men, he cut some fresh twigs of the palm-tree, with the thorns upon them, and scourged them on the back so severely that some of them were for a long time under medical treatment, on account of the thorns which had entered their flesh, and others, unable to bear up under their sufferings, died. All those whom they had taken, both the men and the virgins, they sent away into banishment to the great oasis. Moreover, they immediately banished out of Egypt and Libya the following Bishops (sixteen), and the presbyters, Hierax and Dioscorus: some of them died on the way, others in the place of their banishment. They caused also more than thirty Bishops to take to flight." Apol. de Fug. 7.
2. EGYPT. "The Emperor Valens having issued an edict commanding that the orthodox should be expelled both from Alexandria and the rest of Egypt, depopulation and ruin to an immense extent immediately followed; some were dragged before the tribunals, others cast into prison, and many tortured in various ways; all sorts of punishment being inflicted upon persons who aimed only at peace and quiet." Socr. Hist. iv. 24, [Bohn.]
3. THE MONKS OF EGYPT. "Antony left the solitude of the desert to go about every part of the city (Alexandria), warning the inhabitants that the Arians were opposing the truth, and that the doctrines of the Apostles were preached only by Athanasius." Theod. Hist. iv. 27, [Bohn.]
"Lucius, the Arian, with a considerable body of troops, proceeded to the monasteries of Egypt, where he in person assailed the assemblage of holy men with greater fury than the ruthless soldiery. When these excellent persons remained unmoved by all the violence, in despair he advised the military chief to send the fathers of the monks, the Egyptian Macarius and his namesake of Alexandria, into exile." Socr. iv. 24.
OF CONSTANTINOPLE. "Isaac, on seeing the emperor depart at the head of his army, exclaimed, 'You who have declared war against God cannot gain His aid. Cease from fighting against Him, and He will terminate the war. Restore the pastors to their flocks, and then you will obtain a bloodless victory." Theod. iv.
OF SYRIA, &c. "That these heretical doctrines (Apollinarian and Eunomian) did not finally become predominant is mainly to be attributed to the zeal of the monks of this period; for all the monks of Syria, Cappadocia, and the neighbouring provinces were sincerely attached to the Nicene faith. The same fate awaited them which had been experienced by the Arians; for they incurred the full weight of the popular odium and aversion, when it was observed that their sentiments were regarded with suspicion, by the monks." Sozom. Hist. vi. 27, [Bohn.]
OF CAPPADOCIA. "Gregory, the father of Gregory Theologus, otherwise a most excellent man and a zealous defender of the true and Catholic religion, not being on his guard against the artifices of the Arians, such was his simplicity, received with kindness certain men who were contaminated with the poison, and subscribed an impious proposition of theirs. This moved the monks to such indignation, that they withdrew forthwith from his communion, and took with them, after their example, a considerable part of his flock." Ed. Bened. Monit. in Greg. Naz. Orat. 6.
[4. SYRIA. "Syria and the neighbouring provinces were plunged into confusion and disorder, for the Arians were very numerous in these parts, and had possession of the churches. The members of the Catholic Church were not, however, few in numbers. It was through their instrumentality that the Church of Antioch was preserved from the encroachments of the Arians, and enabled to resist the power of Valens. Indeed, it appears that all the Churches which were governed by men who were firmly attached to the faith did not deviate from the form of doctrine which they had originally embraced." Sozom. vi. 21]
5. ANTIOCH. "Whereas he (the Bishop Leontius) took part in the blasphemy of Arius, he made a point of concealing this disease, partly for fear of the multitude, partly for the menaces of Constantius; so those who followed the apostolical dogmas gained from him neither patronage nor ordination, but those who held Arianism were allowed the fullest liberty of speech, and were placed in the ranks of the sacred ministry. But Flavian and Diodorus, who had embraced the ascetical life, and maintained the apostolical dogmas, openly withstood Leontius's machinations against religious doctrine. They threatened that they would retire from the communion of his Church, and would go to the West, and reveal his intrigues. Though they were not as yet in the sacred ministry, but were in the ranks of the laity, night and day they used to excite all the people to zeal for religion. They were the first to divide the singers into two choirs, and to teach them to sing in alternate parts the strains of David. They too, assembling the devout at the shrines of the martyrs, passed the whole night there in hymns to God. These things Leontius seeing, did not think it safe to hinder them, for he saw that the multitude was especially well affected towards those excellent persons. Nothing, however, could persuade Leontius to correct his wickedness. It follows, that among the clergy were many who were infected with the heresy: but the mass of the people were champions of orthodoxy." Theodor. Hist. ii. 24.
6. EDESSA. "There is in that city a magnificent church, dedicated to St. Thomas the Apostle, wherein, on account of the sanctity of the place, religious assemblies are continually held. The Emperor Valens wished to inspect this edifice; when, having learned that all who usually congregated there were opposed to the heresy which he favoured, he is said to have struck the prefect with his own hand, because he had neglected to expel them thence. The prefect, to prevent the slaughter of so great a number of persons, privately warned them against resorting thither. But his admonitions and menaces were alike unheeded; for on the following day they all crowded to the church. When the prefect was going towards it with a large military force, a poor woman, leading her own little child by the hand, hurried hastily by on her way to the church, breaking through the ranks of the soldiery. The prefect, irritated at this, ordered her to be brought to him, and thus addressed her: 'Wretched woman, whither are you running in so disorderly a manner?' She replied, 'To the same place that others are hastening.' 'Have you not heard,' said he, 'that the prefect is about to put to death all that shall be found there?' 'Yes,' said the woman, 'and therefore I hasten, that I may be found there."And whither are you dragging that little child?' said the prefect. The woman answered, 'That he also may be vouchsafed the honour of martyrdom.' The prefect went back and informed the emperor that all were ready to die in behalf of their own faith; and added that it would be preposterous to destroy so many persons at one time, and thus succeeded in restraining the emperor's wrath." Socr. iv. 18. "Thus was the Christian faith confessed by the whole city of Edessa." Sozom. vi. 18.
7. SAMOSATA. "The Arians, having deprived this exemplary flock of their shepherd, elected in his place an individual with whom none of the inhabitants of the city, whether poor or rich, servants or mechanics, husbandmen or gardeners, men or women, young or old, would hold communion. He was left quite alone; no one even calling to see him, or exchanging a word with him. It is, however, said that his disposition was extremely gentle; and this is proved by what I am about to relate. One day, when he went to bathe in the public baths, the attendants closed the doors; but he ordered the doors to be thrown open, that the people might be admitted to bathe with himself. Perceiving that they remained in a standing posture before him, imagining that great deference towards himself was the cause of this conduct, he arose and left the bath. These people believed that the water had been contaminated by his heresy, and ordered it to be let out and fresh water to be supplied. When he heard of this circumstance, he left the city, thinking that he ought no longer to remain in a place where he was the object of public aversion and hatred. Upon this retirement of Eunomius, Lucius was elected as his successor by the Arians. Some young persons were amusing themselves with playing at ball in the marketplace; Lucius was passing by at the time, and the ball happened to fall beneath the feet of the ass on which he was mounted. The youths uttered loud exclamations, believing that the ball was contaminated. They lighted a fire, and hurled the ball through it, believing that by this process the ball would be purified. Although this was only a childish deed, and although it exhibits the remains of ancient superstition, yet it is sufficient to show the odium which the Arian faction bad incurred in this city. Lucius was far from imitating the mildness of Eunomius, and he persuaded the heads of government to exile most of the clergy." Theodor. iv. 15.
8. OSRHOENE. "Arianism met with similar opposition at the same period in Osrhoëne and Cappadocia. Basil, Bishop of Caesarea, and Gregory, Bishop of Nazianzus, were held in high admiration and esteem throughout these regions." Sozom. vi. 21.
9. CAPPADOCIA. "Valens, in passing through Cappadocia, did all in his power to injure the orthodox, and to deliver up the churches to the Arians. He thought to accomplish his designs more easily on account of a dispute which was then pending between Basil and Eusebius, who governed the Church of Caesarea. This dissension had been the cause of Basil's departing to Pontus. The people, and some of the most powerful and wisest men of the city, began to regard Eusebius with suspicion, and to meditate a secession from his communion. The emperor and the Arian Bishops regarded the absence of Basil, and the hatred of the people towards Eusebius, as circumstances that would tend greatly to the success of their designs. But their expectations were utterly frustrated. On the first intelligence of the intention of the emperor to pass through Cappadocia, Basil returned to Caesarea, where he effected a reconciliation with Eusebius. The projects of Valens were thus defeated, and he returned with his Bishops." Sozom. vi. 15.
10. PONTUS. "It is said that when Eulahus, Bishop of Amasia in Pontus, returned from exile, he found that his Church had passed into the hands of an Arian, and that scarcely fifty inhabitants of the city had submitted to the control of their new Bishop." Sozom. vii. 2.
11. ARMENIA. "That company of Arians, who came with Eustathius to Nicopolis, had promised that they would bring over this city to compliance with the commands of the imperial vicar. This city had great ecclesiastical importance, both because it was the metropolis of Armenia, and because it had been ennobled by the blood of martyrs, and governed hitherto by Bishops of great reputation, and thus, as Basil calls it, was the nurse of religion and the metropolis of sound doctrine. Fronto, one of the city presbyters, who had hitherto shown himself as a champion of the truth, through ambition gave himself up to the enemies of Christ, and purchased the bishopric of the Arians at the price of renouncing the Catholic faith. This wicked proceeding of Eustathius and the Arians brought a new glory instead of evil to the Nicopolitans, since it gave them an opportunity of defending the faith. Fronto, indeed, the Arians consecrated, but there was a remarkable unanimity of clergy and people in rejecting him. Scarcely one or two clerks sided with him; on the contrary, he became the execration of all Armenia." Vita S. Basil., Bened. pp. clvii, clviii.
12. NICOMEDIA. "Eighty pious clergy proceeded to Nicomedia, and there presented to the emperor a supplicatory petition complaining of the ill-usage to which they had been subjected. Valens, dissembling his displeasure in their presence, gave Modestus, the prefect, a secret order to apprehend these persons and put them to death. The prefect, fearing that he should excite the populace to a seditious movement against himself, if he attempted the public execution of so many, pretended to send them away into exile," &c. Socr. iv. 16.
13. CAOOADOCIA. St. Basil says, about the year 372: "Religious people keep silence, but every blaspherning tongue is let loose. Sacred things are profaned; those of the laity who are sound in faith avoid the places of worship as schools of impiety, and raise their hands in solitude, with groans and tears, to the Lord in heaven." Ep. 92. Four years after he writes: "Matters have come to this pass; the people have left their houses of prayer, and assemble in deserts: a pitiable sight; women and children, old men, and men otherwise infirm, wretchedly faring in the open air, amid the most profuse rains and snow-storms, and winds, and frosts of winter; and again in summer under a scorching sun. To this they submit, because they will have no part in the wicked Arian leaven." Ep. 242. Again: "Only one offence is now vigorously punished, an accurate observance of our fathers' traditions. For this cause the pious are driven from their countries, and transported into deserts. The people are in lamentation, in continual tears at home and abroad. There is a cry in the city, a cry in the country, in the roads, in the deserts. Joy and spiritual cheerfulness are no more; our feasts are turned into mourning; our houses of prayer are shut up, our altars deprived of the spiritual worship." Ep. 243.
PAPHLAGONIA, &c. "I thought," says Julian in one of his Epistles, "that the leaders of the Galilaeans would feel more grateful to me than to my predecessor. For in his time they were in great numbers turned out of their homes, and persecuted, and imprisoned; moreover, multitudes of so-called heretics" (the Novatians who were with the Catholics against the Arians) "were slaughtered, so that in Samosata, Paphlagonia, Bithynia, and Galatia, and many other nations, villages were utterly sacked and destroyed." Ep. 52.
14. SCYTHIA. "There are in this country a great number of cities, of towns, and of fortresses. According to an ancient custom which still prevails, all the churches of the whole country are under the sway of one Bishop. Valens (the emperor) repaired to the church, and strove to gain over the Bishop to the heresy of Arius; but this latter manfully opposed his arguments, and, after a courageous defence of the Nicene doctrines, quitted the emperor, and proceeded to another church, whither he was followed by the people. Valens was extremely offended at being left alone in a church with his attendants, and, in resentment, condemned Vetranio (the Bishop) to banishment. Not long after, however, he recalled him, because, I believe, he apprehended an insurrection." Sozom. vi. 21.
15. CONSTANTINOPLE. "Those who acknowledged the doctrine of consubstantiality were not only expelled from the churches, but also from the cities. But although expulsion at first satisfied them (the Arians), they soon proceeded to the worse extremity of inducing compulsory communion with them, caring little for such a desecration of the churches. They resorted to all kinds of scourgings, a variety of tortures, and confiscation of property. Many were punished with exile, some died under the torture, and others were put to death while being driven from their country. These atrocities were exercised throughout all the eastern cities, but especially at Constantinople." Socr. ii. 27.
16. ILLYRIA. "The parents of Theodosius were Christians, and were attached to the Nicene doctrine, hence he took pleasure in the ministration of Ascholius (Bishop of Thessalonica). He also rejoiced at finding that the Arian heresy had not been received in Illyria." Sozom. vii. 4.
17. NEIGHBOURHOOD OF MACEDONIA. "Theodosius inquired concerning the religious sentiments which were prevalent in the other provinces, and ascertained that, as far as Macedonia, one form of belief was universally predominant." &c. Ibid.
18. ROME. "With respect to doctrine no dissension arose either at Rome or in any other of the Western Churches. The people unanimously adhered to the form of belief established at Nicaea." Sozom. vi. 23.
"Liberius, returning to Rome, found the mind of the mass of men alienated from him, because he had so shamefully yielded to Constantius. And thus it came to pass, that those persons who had hitherto kept aloof from Felix (the rival Pope), and had avoided his communion in favour of Liberius, on hearing what had happened, left him for Felix, who raised the Catholic standard. Baron. arm. 357. (56) He tells us besides (57), that the people would not even go to the public baths, lest they should bathe with the party of Liberius.
19. MILAN. "At the council of Milan, Eusebius of Vercellae, when it was proposed to draw up a declaration against Athanasius, said that the council ought first to be sure of the faith of the Bishops attending it, for he had found out that some of them were polluted with heresy. Accordingly he brought before the Fathers the Nicene creed, and said he was willing to comply with all their demands, after they had subscribed that confession. Dionysius, Bishop of Milan, at once took up the paper and began to write his assent; but Valens (the Arian) violently pulled pen and paper out of his hands, crying out that such a course of proceeding was impossible. Whereupon, after much tumult, the question came before the people, and great was the distress of all of them; the faith of the Church was attacked by the Bishops. They then, dreading the judgment of the people, transfer their meeting from the church to the imperial palace." Hilar. ad Const. i. 8.
"As the feast of Easter approached, the empress sent to St. Ambrose to ask a church of him, where the Arians who attended her might meet together. He replied, that a Bishop could not give up the temple of God. The pretorian prefect came into the church, where St. Ambrose was, attended by the people, and endeavoured to persuade him to yield up at least the Portian Basilica. The people were clamorous against the proposal; and the prefect retired to report how matters stood to the emperor. The Sunday following, St. Ambrose was explaining the creed, when he was informed that the officers were hanging up the imperial hangings in the Portian Basilica, and that upon this news the people were repairing thither. While he was offering up the holy sacrifice, a second message came that the people had seized an Arian priest as he was passing through the street. He despatched a number of his clergy to the spot to rescue the Arian from his danger. The court looked on this resistance of the people as seditious, and immediately laid considerable fines upon the whole body of the tradesmen of the city. Several were thrown into prison. In three days' time these tradesmen were fined two hundred pounds weight of gold, and they said that they were ready to give as much again, on condition that they might retain their faith. The prisons were filled with tradesmen: all the officers of the household, secretaries, agents of the emperor, and dependent officers who served under various counts, were kept within doors, and were forbidden to appear in public under pretence that they should bear no part in sedition. Men of higher rank were menaced with severe consequences, unless the Basilica were surrendered. . . .
"Next morning the Basilica was surrounded by soldiers; but it was reported, that these soldiers had sent to the emperor to tell him that if he wished to come abroad he might, and that they would attend him, if he was going to the assembly of the Catholics; otherwise, that they would go to that which would be held by St. Ambrose. Indeed, the soldiers were all Catholics, as well as the citizens of Milan; there were no heretics there, except a few officers of the emperor and some Goths....
"St. Ambrose was continuing his discourse when he was told that the emperor had withdrawn the soldiers from the Basilica, and that he had restored to the tradesmen the fines which he had exacted from them. This news gave joy to the people, who expressed their delight with applauses and thanksgivings; the soldiers themselves were eager to bring the news, throwing themselves on the altars, and kissing them in token of peace." Fleury's Hist. xviii. 41, 42, Oxf. trans.
[20. THE SOLDIERY. Soldiers having been mentioned in the foregoing extract, I add the following passage. "Terentius, a general distinguished by his valour and by his piety, was able, on his return from Armenia, to erect trophies of victory. Valens promised to give him everything that he might desire. But he asked not for gold or silver, for lands, power, of honours; he requested that a church might be given to those who preached the apostolical doctrines." Theodor. iv. 32.
"Valens sent Trajan, the general, against the barbarians. Trajan was defeated, and, on his return, the emperor reproached him severely, and accused him of weakness and cowardice. But Trajan replied with great boldness, 'It is not I, O emperor, who have been defeated; for you, by fighting against God, have thrown the barbarians upon His protection. Do you not know who those are whom you have driven from the churches, and who are those to whom you have given them up?' Arintheus and Victor, the other commanders, accorded in what he had said, and brought the emperor to reflect on the truth of their remonstrances." Ibid. 33.]
21. CHRISTENDOM GENERALLY. St. Hilary to Constantius: "Not only in words, but in tears, we beseech you to save the Catholic Churches from any longer continuance of these most grievous injuries, and of their present intolerable persecutions and insults, which moreover they are enduring, which is monstrous, from our brethren. Surely your clemency should listen to the voice of those who cry out so loudly, 'I am a Catholic, I have no wish to be a heretic.' It should seem equitable to your sanctity, most glorious Augustus, that they who fear the Lord God and His judgment should not be polluted and contaminated with execrable blasphemies, but should have liberty to follow those Bishops and prelates who observe inviolate the laws of charity, and who desire a perpetual and sincere peace. It is impossible, it is unreasonable, to mix true and false, to confuse light and darkness, and bring into a union, of whatever kind, night and day. Give permission to the populations to hear the teaching of the pastors whom they have wished, whom they fixed on, whom they have chosen, to attend their celebration of the divine mysteries, to offer prayers through them for your safety and prosperity." ad Const. i.
Newman, On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine,  1871. Compare text in Modern History Sourcebook: John Henry Newman (1801-1890): On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine, July 1859.