Chapter II.—Declension of the Emperor Constantius from the true Faith.
Constantia, the widow of Licinius, was the half-sister of Constantine 451 . She was intimately acquainted with a certain priest who had imbibed the doctrines of Arius. He did not openly acknowledge his unsoundness; but, in the frequent conversations which he had with her, he did not refrain from declaring that Arius had been unjustly calumniated. After the death of her impious husband, the renowned Constantine did everything in his power to solace her, and strove to prevent her from experiencing the saddest trials of widowhood. He attended her also in her last illness 452 , and rendered her every proper attention. She then presented the priest whom I mentioned to the emperor, and entreated him to receive p. 66 him under his protection. Constantine acceded to her request, and soon after fulfilled his promise. But though the priest was permitted the utmost freedom of speech, and was most honourably treated, he did not venture to reveal his corrupt principles, for he observed the firmness with which the emperor adhered to the truth. When Constantine was on the point of being translated to an eternal kingdom, he drew up a will, in which he directed that his temporal dominions should be divided among his sons. None of them was with him when he was dying, so he entrusted the will to this priest alone, and desired him to give it to Constantius, who, being at a shorter distance from the spot than his brothers, was expected to arrive the first. These directions the priest executed, and thus by putting the will into his hands, became known to Constantius, who accepted him as an intimate friend, and commanded him to visit him frequently. Perceiving the weakness of Constantius, whose mind was like reeds driven to and fro by the wind, he became emboldened to declare war against the doctrines of the gospel. He loudly deplored the stormy state of the churches, and asserted it to be due to those who had introduced the unscriptural word “consubstantial” into the confession of faith, and that all the disputes among the clergy and the laity had been occasioned by it. He calumniated Athanasius and all who coincided in his opinions, and formed designs for their destruction, being used as their fellow-worker by Eusebius 453 , Theognis, and Theodorus, bishop of Perinthus.
The last-named, whose see is generally known by the name of Heraclea, was a man of great erudition, and had written an exposition of the Holy Scriptures 454 .
These bishops resided near the emperor, and frequently visited him; they assured him that the return of Athanasius from banishment had occasioned many evils, and had excited a tempest which had shaken not only Egypt, but also Palestine, Phœnicia, and the adjacent countries 455 .
Vide Pedigree. Philostorgius (ii. 16) said the will was given to Eusebius of Nicomedia. Valesius (on Soc. i. 25) thinks that if the story had been true Athanasius would have recorded it, with the name of the Presbyter.65:452
Of Nicomedia, now transferred to the see of Constantinople.66:454
Vide note on p. 61.66:455
The ground of objection to the return was (i) that Athanasius had been condemned by a Council—that of Tyre, and (ii) that he was restored by the authority of the state alone. The first intention was to get the Arian Pistus advanced to the patriarchate.