Chapter XXII.—The Vain Machinations of the Arians and Melitians against St. Athanasius.
The various calamities which befell Athanasius were primarily occasioned by Eusebius and Theognis. 1180 As they possessed great freedom of speech and influence with the emperor, they strove for the recall of Arius, with whom they were on terms of concord and friendship, to Alexandria, and at the same time the expulsion from the Church of him who was opposed to them. They accused him before Constantine of being the author of all the seditions and troubles that agitated the Church, and of excluding those who were desirous of joining the Church; and alleged that unanimity would be restored were he alone to be removed. The accusations against him were substantiated by many bishops and clergy who were with John, and who sedulously obtained access to the emperor; they pretended to great orthodoxy, and imputed to Athanasius and the bishops of his party all the bloodshed, bonds, unjust blows, wounds, and conflagrations of churches. But when Athanasius demonstrated to the emperor the illegality of the ordination of Johns adherents, their innovations of the decrees of the Nicæan Council, and the unsoundness of their faith, and the insults offered to those who held right opinions about God, Constantine was at a loss to know whom to believe. Since there were such mutual allegations, and many accusations were frequently stirred up by each party, and since he was earnestly anxious to restore the like-mindedness of the people, he wrote to Athanasius that no one should be shut out. If this should be betrayed to the last, he would send regardless of consequences, one who should expel him from the city of Alexandria. If any one should desire to see this letter of the emperors, he will here find the portion of it relating to this affair: “As you are now acquainted with my will, which is, that to all who desire to enter the Church you should offer an unhindered entrance. For should I hear that any who are willing to join the Church, have been debarred or hindered therefrom by you, I shall send at once an officer who shall remove you, according to my command, and shall transfer you to some other place.” Athanasius, however, wrote to the emperor and convinced him that the Arians ought not to be received into communion by the Catholic Church; and Eusebius perceiving that his schemes could never be carried into execution while Athanasius strove in opposition, determined to resort to any means in order to get rid of him. But as he could not find a sufficient pretext for effecting this design, he promised the Melitians to interest the emperor and those in power in their favor, if they would bring an accusation against Athanasius. Accordingly, came the first indictment that he had imposed upon the Egyptians a tax on linen p. 273 tunics, and that such a tribute had been exacted from the accusers. Apis 1181 and Macarius, presbyters of the Church of Athanasius, who then happened to be at court, clearly proved the persistent accusation to be false. On being summoned to answer for the offense, Athanasius was further accused of having conspired against the emperor, and of having sent, for this purpose, a casket of gold to one Philumen. The emperor detected the calumny of his accusers, sent Athanasius home, and wrote to the people of Alexandria to testify that their bishop possessed great moderation and a correct faith; that he had gladly met him, and recognized him to be a man of God; and that, as envy had been the sole cause of his indictment, he had appeared to better advantage than his accusers; and having heard that the Arian and Melitian sectarians had excited dissensions in Egypt, the emperor, in the same epistle, exhorted the multitude to look to God, to take heed unto his judgments, to be well disposed toward one another, to prosecute with all their might those who plotted against their like-mindedness; thus the emperor wrote to the people, exhorting them all to like-mindedness, and striving to prevent divisions in the Church.
Athan. Apol. cont. Arian. 6; Soc. i. 27; Theod. H. E. i. 26, 27. Soz. works independently from the same sources.273:1181
Soc. i. 27, Alypius; Athan. Apol. cont. Arian. 60, where a part of the Epistle of the emperor Constantine is given, and in this Apis and Macarius are mentioned; here is an instance how Soz. corrects Soc.