Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. II: The Ecclesiastical History of Socrates Scholasticus.: Acacius, Bishop of Cæsarea, dictates a new Form of Creed in the Synod at Seleucia.Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Chapter XL.—Acacius, Bishop of Cæsarea, dictates a new Form of Creed in the Synod at Seleucia.
Acacius and his adherents criticised what was done: because, that is to say, they closed the church doors and thus affixed their signatures; declaring that all such secret transactions were justly to be suspected, and had no validity whatever. These objections he made because he was anxious to bring forward another exposition of the faith drawn up by himself, which he had already submitted to the governors Leonas and Lauricius, and was now intent on getting it alone confirmed and established, instead of that which had been subscribed. The second day was thus occupied with nothing else but exertions on his part to effect this object. On the third day Leonas endeavored to produce an amicable meeting of both parties; Macedonius of Constantinople, and also Basil of Ancyra, having arrived during its course. But when the Acacians found that both the parties had come to the same position, they refused to meet; saying p. 69 that not only those who had before been deposed, but also such as were at present under any accusation, ought to be excluded from the assembly. And as after much cavilling on both sides, this opinion prevailed; those who lay under any charge went out of the council, and the party of Acacius entered in their places. Leonas then said that a document had been put into his hand by Acacius, to which he desired to call their attention: but he did not state that it was the drought of a creed, which in some particulars covertly, and in others unequivocally contradicted the former. When those present became silent, thinking that the document contained something else besides an exposition of a creed, the following creed composed by Acacius, together with its preamble, was read.
We having yesterday assembled by the emperors command at Seleucia, a city of Isauria, on the 27th day of September, exerted ourselves to the utmost, with all moderation, to preserve the peace of the church, and to determine doctrinal questions on prophetic and evangelical authority, so as to sanction nothing in the ecclesiastic confession of faith at variance with the sacred Scriptures, as our Emperor Constantius most beloved of God has ordered. But inasmuch as certain individuals in the Synod have acted injuriously toward several of us, preventing some from expressing their sentiments, and excluding others from the council against their wills; and at the same time have introduced such as have been deposed, and persons who were ordained contrary to the ecclesiastical canon, so that the Synod has presented a scene of tumult and disorder, of which the most illustrious Leonas, the Comes, and the most eminent Lauricius, governor of the province, have been eye-witnesses, we are therefore under the necessity of making this declaration. That we do not repudiate the faith which was ratified at the consecration of the church at Antioch; 423 for we give it our decided preference, because it received the concurrence of our fathers who were assembled there to consider some controverted points. Since, however, the terms homoousion and homoiousion have in time past troubled the minds of many, and still continue to disquiet them; and moreover that a new term has recently been coined by some who assert the anomoion of the Son to the Father: we reject the first two, as expressions which are not found in the Scriptures; but we utterly anathematize the last, and regard such as countenance its use, as alienated from the church. We distinctly acknowledge the homoion of the Son to the Father, in accordance with what the apostle has declared concerning him, 424 “Who is the image of the invisible God.”
We confess then, and believe in one God the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth, and of things visible and invisible. We believe also in his Son our Lord Jesus Christ, who was begotten of him without passion before all ages, God the Word, the only-begotten of God, the Light, the Life, the Truth, the Wisdom: through whom all things were made which are in the heavens and upon the earth, whether visible or invisible. We believe that he took flesh of the holy Virgin Mary, at the end of the ages, in order to abolish sin; that he was made man, suffered for our sin, and rose again, and was taken up into the heavens, to sit at the right hand of the Father, whence he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. We believe also in the Holy Spirit, whom our Lord and Saviour has denominated the Comforter, and whom he sent to his disciples after his departure, according to his promise: by whom also he sanctifies all believers in the church, who are baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Those who preach anything contrary to this creed, we regard as aliens from the catholic church.
This was the declaration of faith proposed by Acacius, and subscribed by himself and as many as adhered to his opinion, the number of whom we have already given. When this had been read, Sophronius bishop of Pompeiopolis in Paphlagonia, thus expressed himself: If to express a separate opinion day after day, be received as the exposition of the faith, we shall never arrive at any accurate understanding of the truth. These were the words of Sophronius. And I firmly believe, that if the predecessors of these prelates, as well as their successors, had entertained similar sentiments in reference to the Nicene creed, all polemical debates would have been avoided; nor would the churches have been agitated by such violent and irrational disturbances. However let those judge who are capable of understanding how these things are. At that time after many remarks on all sides had been made both in reference to this doctrinal statement, and in relation to the parties accused, the assembly was dissolved. On the fourth day they all again met in the same place, and resumed their proceedings in the same contentious spirit as before. On this occasion Acacius expressed himself in these words: Since the Nicene creed has been altered not once only, but frequently, there is no hindrance to our publishing another at this time. To which Eleusius bishop of Cyzicus, p. 70 replied: The Synod is at present convened not to learn what it had no previous knowledge of, nor to receive a creed which it had not assented to before, but to confirm the faith of the fathers, from which it should never recede, either in life or death. Thus Eleusius opposing Acacius spoke meaning by the faith of the fathers, that creed which had been promulgated at Antioch. But surely he too might have been fairly answered in this way: How is it O Eleusius, that you call those convened at Antioch “the fathers,” seeing that you do not recognize those who were their fathers? The framers of the Nicene creed, by whom the homoousian faith was acknowledged, have a far higher claim to the title of “the fathers”; both as having the priority in point of time, and also because those assembled at Antioch were by them invested with the sacerdotal office. Now if those at Antioch have disowned their own fathers, those who follow them are unconsciously following parricides. Besides how can they have received a legitimate ordination from those whose faith they pronounce unsound and impious? If those, however, who constituted the Nicene Synod had not the Holy Spirit which is imparted by the imposition of hands, 425 those at Antioch have not duly received the priesthood: for how could they have received it from those who had not the power of conferring it? Such considerations as these might have been submitted to Eleusius in reply to his objections. But they then proceeded to another question, connected with the assertion made by Acacius in his exposition of the faith, that the Son was like the Father; enquiring of one another in what this resemblance consisted. The Acacian party affirmed that the Son was like the Father as it respected his will only, and not his substance or essence; but the rest maintained that the likeness extended to both essence and will. In altercations on this point, the whole day was consumed; and Acacius, being confuted by his own published works, in which he had asserted that the Son is in all things like the Father, his opponents asked him how do you now deny the likeness of the Son to the Father as to his “essence”? Acacius in reply said, that no author, ancient or modern, was ever condemned out of his own writings. As they kept on their discussion on this matter to a most tedious extent, with much acrimonious feeling and subtlety of argument, but without any approach to unity of judgment, Leonas arose and dissolved the council: and this was the conclusion of the Synod at Seleucia. For on the following day [Leonas] being urged to do so would not again meet with them. I have been deputed by the emperor, said he, to attend a council where unanimity was expected to prevail: but since you can by no means come to a mutual understanding, I can no longer be present: go therefore to the church, if you please, and indulge in vain babbling there. The Acacian faction conceiving this decision to be advantageous to themselves, also refused to meet with the others. The adverse party left alone met in the church and requested the attendance of those who followed Acacius, that cognizance might be taken of the case of Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem: for that prelate had been accused long before, on what grounds however I am unable to state. He had even been deposed, because owing to fear, he had not made his appearance during two whole years, after having been repeatedly summoned in order that the charges against him might be investigated. Nevertheless, when he was deposed, he sent a written notification to those who had condemned him, that he should appeal to a higher jurisdiction: and to this appeal the emperor Constantius gave his sanction. Cyril was thus the first and indeed only clergyman who ventured to break through ecclesiastical usage, by becoming an appellant, in the way commonly done in the secular courts of judicature: 426 and he was now present at Seleucia, ready to be put upon his trial; on this account the other bishops invited the Acacian party to take their places in the assembly, that in a general council a definite judgment might be pronounced on the case of those who were arraigned: for they cited others also charged with various misdemeanors to appear before them at the same time, who to protect themselves had sought refuge among the partisans of Acacius. When therefore that faction persisted in their refusal to meet, after being repeatedly summoned, the bishops deposed Acacius himself, together with George of Alexandria, Uranius of Tyre, Theodulus of Chæretapi in Phrygia, Theodosius of Philadelphia in Lydia, Evagrius of the island of Mytilene, Leontius of Tripolis in Lydia, and Eudoxius who had formerly been bishop of Germanica, but had afterwards insinuated himself into the bishopric of Antioch in Syria. They also deposed Patrophilus for contumacy, in not having presented himself to answer a charge preferred against him by a presbyter named Dorotheus. These they deposed: they also excommunicated Asterius, Eusebius, Abgarus, Basilicus, Phœbus, Fidelis, Eutychius, Magnus, and Eustathius; determining that they should p. 71 not be restored to communion, until they made such a defense as would clear them from the imputations under which they lay. This being done, they addressed explanatory letters to each of the churches whose bishops had been deposed. Anianus was then constituted bishop of Antioch instead of Eudoxius: but the Acacians having soon after apprehended him, he was delivered into the hands of Leonas and Lauricius, by whom he was sent into exile. The bishops who had ordained him being incensed on this account, lodged protests against the Acacian party with Leonas and Lauricius, in which they openly charged them with having violated the decisions of the Synod. Finding that no redress could be obtained by this means, they went to Constantinople to lay the whole matter before the emperor.
Athanas. (de Synodd. 29) gives the following portion of this creed apparently as the only declaration made by the council.69:424
Col. i. 15.70:425
See Chrysostom, Homilies 9 and 27, on Acts, and Hom. 1, on 2 Tim., for the belief of the ancient Church in the descent of the Holy Spirit on the ordained in and through ordination.70:426
He was the only one, inasmuch as the General Synod of Constantinople (381 a.d.) expressly forbade all appeals from the ecclesiastical to the civil courts, attaching severe penalties to the violation of its canon on this subject. Cf. Canon 6 of Council of Constantinople. Hefele, Hist. of the Ch. Councils, Vol. II. p. 364.
Next: On the Emperor's Return from the West, the Acacians assemble at Constantinople, and confirm the Creed of Ariminum, after making Some Additions to it.
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