Chapter XXIII.—Eusebius Bishop of Nicomedia, and Theognis Bishop of Nicæa, having recovered Confidence, endeavor to subvert the Nicene Creed, by plotting against Athanasius.
The partisans of Eusebius and Theognis having returned from their exile, these latter were reinstated in their churches, having expelled, as we observed, those who had been ordained in their stead. Moreover, they came into great consideration with the emperor, who honored them exceedingly, as those who had returned from error to the orthodox faith. They, however, abused the license thus afforded them, by exciting greater commotions in the world than they had done before; being instigated to this by two causes—on the one hand the Arian heresy with which they had been previously infected, and bitter animosity against Athanasius on the other, because he had so vigorously withstood them in the Synod while the articles of faith were under discussion. And in the first place they objected to the ordination of Athanasius partly as a person unworthy of the prelacy, and partly because he had been elected by disqualified persons. But when Athanasius had shown himself superior to this calumny (for having assumed control of the church of Alexandria, he ardently contended for the Nicene creed), then Eusebius exerted himself to the utmost insidiously to cause the removal of Athanasius and to bring Arius back to Alexandria; for he thought that thus only he should be able to expunge the doctrine of consubstantiality, and introduce Arianism. Eusebius therefore wrote to Athanasius, desiring him to re-admit Arius and his adherents into the church. Now the tone of his letter indeed was that of entreaty, but openly he menaced him. And as Athanasius would by no means accede to this, he endeavored to induce the emperor to give Arius an audience, and then permit him to return to Alexandria: and by what means he attained his object, I shall mention in its proper place. Meanwhile before this another commotion was raised in the church. In fact, her own children again disturbed her peace. Eusebius Pamphilus says, 232 that immediately after the Synod, Egypt became agitated by intestine divisions: not assigning, however, the reason for this, so that hence he has won the reputation of disingenuousness, and of avoiding to specify the causes of p. 27 these dissensions, from a determination on his part not to give his sanction to the proceedings at Nicæa. Yet as we ourselves have discovered from various letters which the bishops wrote to one another after the Synod, the term homoousios troubled some of them. So that while they occupied themselves in a too minute investigation of its import, they roused the strife against each other; it seemed not unlike a contest in the dark; for neither party appeared to understand distinctly the grounds on which they calumniated one another. Those who objected to the word homoousios, conceived that those who approved it favored the opinion of Sabellius 233 and Montanus; 234 they therefore called them blasphemers, as subverting the existence of the Son of God. And again the advocates of this term, charging their opponents with polytheism, inveighed against them as introducers of heathen superstitions. Eustathius, bishop of Antioch, accuses Eusebius Pamphilus of perverting the Nicene Creed; Eusebius again denies that he violates that exposition of the faith, and recriminates, saying that Eustathius was a defender of the opinion of Sabellius. In consequence of these misunderstandings, each of them wrote as if contending against adversaries: and although it was admitted on both sides that the Son of God has a distinct person and existence, and all acknowledged that there is one God in three Persons, yet from what cause I am unable to divine, they could not agree among themselves, and therefore could in no way endure to be at peace.
Euseb. Life of Const. III. 23.27:233
Cf. ch. 5, and note.27:234
It is not clear why Socrates joins the name of Montanus to that of Sabellius; the former was undoubtedly in accord with the common doctrine of the church as to the Trinity. Cf. Epiphan. Hær. XLVIII. and Tertullian ad. Praxeam. It was, however, frequently alleged by various writers of the age that Montanus and the Montanists held erroneous views concerning the Godhead. See Eus. H. E. V. 16.