Chapter XXI.—The Melitians and the Arians agree in Sentiment; Eusebius and Theognis endeavor to inflame anew the Disease of Arius.
In the meantime the contention which had been stirred in the beginning among the Egyptians, could not be quelled. 1177 The Arian heresy had been positively condemned by the council of Nice, while the followers of Melitius had been admitted into communion under the stipulations above stated. When Alexander returned to Egypt, Melitius delivered up to him the churches whose government he had unlawfully usurped, and returned to Lycus. Not long after, finding his end approaching, he nominated John, one of his most intimate friends, as his successor, contrary to the decree of the Nicæan Council, and thus fresh cause of discord in the churches was produced. When the Arians perceived that the Melitians were introducing innovations, they also harassed the churches. For, as frequently occurs in similar disturbances, some applauded the opinion of Arius, while others contended that those who had been ordained by Melitius ought to govern the churches. These two bodies of sectarians had hitherto been opposed to each other, but on perceiving that the priests of the Catholic Church were followed by the multitude, they became jealous and formed an alliance together, and manifested a common enmity to the clergy of Alexandria. Their measures of attack and defense were so long carried on in concert, that in process of time the Melitians were generally called Arians in p. 272 Egypt, although they only dissent on questions of the presidency of the churches, while the Arians hold the same opinions concerning God as Arius. Although they individually denied one anothers tenets, yet they dissimulated in contradiction of their own view, in order to attain an underhanded agreement in the fellowship of their enmity; at the same time each one expected to prevail easily in what he desired. From this period, however, the Melitians after the discussion on those topics, received the Arian doctrines, and held the same opinion as Arius concerning God. This revived the original controversy concerning Arius, and some of the laity and clergy seceded from communion with the others. The dispute concerning the doctrines of Arius was rekindled once more in other cities, and particularly in Bithynia and Hellespontus, and in the city of Constantinople. In short, it is said that Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia, and Theognis, bishop of Nicæa, bribed the notary to whom the emperor had intrusted the custody of the documents of the Nicæan Council, effaced their signatures, and attempted openly to teach that the Son is not to be considered consubstantial with the Father. Eusebius was accused of these irregularities before the emperor, and he replied with great boldness as he showed part of his clothing. “If this robe,” said he, “had been cut asunder in my presence, I could not affirm the fragments to be all of the same substance.” The emperor was much grieved at these disputes, for he had believed that questions of this nature had been finally decided by the council of Nicæa, but contrary to his hopes he saw them again agitated. He more especially regretted that Eusebius and Theognis had received certain Alexandrians into communion, 1178 although the Synod had recommended them to repent on account of their heterodox opinions, and although he had himself condemned them to banishment from their native land, as being the exciters of sedition. 1179 It is asserted by some, that it was for the above reasons that the emperor in anger exiled Eusebius and Theognis; but as I have already stated, I have derived my information from those who are intimately acquainted with these matters.
This chapter is also unique with Soz., both as to the Melitians and Eusebius. The Melitian opposition is evident from Soc. i. 27.272:1178
Soz. has taken this from the Epistle of Constantine to the Nicomedians against Eusebius and Theognis. This is preserved by Theodoret, H. E. i. 20. Theodoret gives the full text; he and Soz. both obtained it from some such collection as that of Sabinus.272:1179
Cf. Athan. Apol. cont. Arian. 7 (in the letter of the Alexandrian Synod).