Vol.2, Chapter XIII (Cont’d) – Novatian


Comp. §58 and §183.

(I.) Novatiani, Presbyteri Romani, Opera quae exstant omnia. Ed. by Gagnaeus (Par. 1545, in the works of Tertullian); Gelenius (Bas. 1550 and 1562); Pamelius (Par. 1598); Gallandi (Tom III.); Edw. Welchman (Oxf. 1724); J. Jackson (Lond. 1728, the best ed.); Migne (in “Patrol. Lat.” Tom. III. col. 861-970). Migne’s ed. includes the dissertation of Lumper and the Commentary of Gallandi.

English translation by R. E. Wallis in Clark’s “Ante-Nicene Library,” vol. II. (1869), p. 297-395; Comp. vol. I. 85 sqq.

(II.) Euseb.: H. E. VI. 43, 44, 45. Hieron.: De Vir. ill. 66 and 70; Ep. 36 ad Damas.; Apol. adv. Ruf. II. 19. Socrates: H. E. IV. 28. The Epistles Of Cyprian and Cornelius referring to the schism of Novatian (Cypr. Ep. 44, 45, 49, 52, 55, 59, 60, 68, 69, 73). Epiphanius: Haer. 59; Socrates: H. E IV. 28. Theodor.: Haer. Fab. III. 5. Photius Biblioth. 182, 208, 280.

(III.) Walch: Ketzerhistorie II. 185-288. Schoenemann: Biblioth. Hist. Lit. Patr. Latinorum, I. 135-142. Lumper: Dissert. de Vita, Scriptis, et doctrina Nov., in Migne’s ed. III. 861-884. Neander, I. 237-248, and 687 (Am ed.) Caspari: Quellen zur Gesch. des Taufsymbols, III. 428-430, 437-439. Jos. Langen (Old Cath.): Gesch. der röm. Kirche (Bonn 1881), p. 289-314. Harnack; Novatian in Herzog2 X. (1882), p. 652-670. Also the works on Cyprian, especially Fechtrup. See Lit. § 199. On Novatian’s doctrine of the trinity and the person of Christ see Dorner’s Entwicklungsgesch. der L. v. d. Pers. Christi (1851), I. 601-604. (Dem Tertullian nahe stehend, von ihm abhängig, aber auch ihn verflachend ist Novatian.”)

Novatian, the second Roman anti-Pope (Hippolytus being probably the first), orthodox in doctrine, but schismatic in discipline, and in both respects closely resembling Hippolytus and Tertullian, flourished in the middle of the third century and became the founder of a sect called after his name. He was a man of unblemished, though austere character, considerable biblical and philosophical learning, speculative talent, and eloquence. He is moreover, next to Victor and Minucius Felix, the first Roman divine who used the Latin Language, and used it with skill. We may infer that at his time the Latin had become or was fast becoming the ruling language of the Roman church, especially in correspondence with North Africa and the West; yet both Novatian and his rival Cornelius addressed the Eastern bishops in Greek. The epitaphs of five Roman bishops of the third century, Urbanus, Anteros, Fabianus, Lucius, and Eutychianus (between 223 and 283), in the cemetery of Callistus are Greek, but the epitaph of Cornelius (251-253) who probably belonged to the noble Roman family of that name, is Latin (“Cornelius Martyr E. R. X.”)

At, that time the Roman congregation numbered forty presbyters, seven deacons, seven sub-deacons, forty-two acolytes, besides exorcists, readers and janitors, and an “innumerable multitude of the people,” which may have amounted perhaps to about 50,000 members.

We know nothing of the time and place of the birth and death of Novatian. He was probably an Italian. The later account of his Phrygian origin deserves no credit, and may have arisen from the fact that he had many followers in Phrygia, where they united with the Montanists. He was converted in adult age, and received only clinical baptism by sprinkling on the sick bed without subsequent episcopal confirmation, but was nevertheless ordained to the priesthood and rose to the highest rank in the Roman clergy. He conducted the official correspondence of the Roman see during the vacancy from the martyrdom of Fabian, January 21, 250, till the election of Cornelius, March, 251. In his letter to Cyprian, written in the name of “the presbyters and deacons abiding at Rome,” he refers the question of the restoration of the lapsed to a future council, but shows his own preference for a strict discipline, as most necessary in peace and in persecution, and as “the rudder of safety in the tempest.”

He may have aspired to the papal chair to which he seemed to have the best claim. But after the Decian persecution had ceased his rival Cornelius, unknown before, was elected by a majority of the clergy and favored the lenient discipline towards the Fallen which his predecessors Callistus and Zephyrinus had exercised, and against which Hippolytus had so strongly protested twenty or thirty years before. Novatian was elected anti-Pope by a minority and consecrated by three Italian bishops. He was excommunicated by a Roman council, and Cornelius denounced him in official letters as “a deceitful, cunning and savage beast.” Both parties appealed to foreign churches. Fabian of Antioch sympathized with Novatian, but Dionysius of Alexandria, and especially Cyprian who in the mean time had relaxed his former rigor and who hated schism like the very pest, supported Cornelius, and the lax and more charitable system of discipline, together with worldly conformity triumphed in the Catholic church. Nevertheless the Novatian schism spread East and West and maintained its severe discipline and orthodox creed in spite of imperial persecution down to the sixth century. Novatian died a martyr according to the tradition of his followers. The controversy turned on the extent of the power of the Keys and the claims of justice to the purity of the church and of mercy towards the fallen. The charitable view prevailed by the aid of the principle that out of the church there is no salvation.

Novatian was a fruitful author. Jerome ascribes to him works On the Passover; On the Sabbath; On Circumcision; On the Priest (De Sacerdote); On Prayer; On the Jewish Meats; On Perseverance; On Attilus (a martyr of Pergamus); and “On the Trinity.”

Two of these books are preserved. The most important is his Liber de Trinitate (31 chs.), composed a.d. 256. It has sometimes been ascribed to Tertullian or Cyprian. Jerome calls it a “great work,” and an extract from an unknown work of Tertullian on the same subject. Novatian agrees essentially with Tertullian’s subordination trinitarianism. He ably vindicates the divinity of Christ and of the Holy Spirit, strives to reconcile the divine threeness with unity, and refutes the Monarchians, especially the Sabellians by biblical and philosophical arguments.

In his Epistola de Cibus Judaicis (7 chapters) written to his flock from a place of retirement during persecution, he tries to prove by allegorical interpretation, that the Mosaic laws on food are no longer binding upon Christians, and that Christ has substituted temperance and abstinence for the prohibition of unclean animals, with the exception of meat offered to idols, which is forbidden by the Apostolic council (Act_15:1-41).


201. Commodian

(I.) Commodianus: Instructiones adversus Gentium Deos pro Christiana Disciplina, and Carmen Apologeticum adversus Judaeos et Gentes. The Instructiones were discovered by Sirmond, and first edited by Rigault at Toul, 1650; more recently by Fr. Oehler in Gersdorf’s “Biblioth. P. Lat.,” vol. XVIII., Lips. 1847 (p. 133-194,) and by Migne.”Patrol.” vol. V. col. 201-262.

The second work was discovered and published by Card. Pitra in the “Spicilegium Solesmense,” Tom. I. Par. 1852, p. 21-49 and Excurs. 537-543, and with new emendations of the corrupt text in Tom. IV. (1858), p. 222-224; and better by Rönsch in the “Zeitschrift für hist. Theol.” for 1872.

Both poems were edited together by E. Ludwig: Commodiani Carmina, Lips. 1877 and 1878; and by B. Dombart, Vienna.

English translation of the first poem (but in prose) by R. E. Wallis in Clark’s “Ante-Nicene Library,” vol. III. (1870, pp. 434-474.

(II.) Dodwell: Dissert. de aetate Commod. Prolegg. in Migne, V. 189-200. Alzog: Patrol. 340-342. J. L. Jacobi in Schneider’s “Zeitschrift für christl. Wissenschaft und christl. Leben” for 1853, pp. 203-209. Ad. Ebert, in an appendix to his essay on Tertullian’s relation to Minucius Felix, Leipz. 1868, pp. 69-102; in his Gesch. er christl. lat. Lit., I. 86-93; also his art. in Herzog2 III. 325 sq. Leimbach, in an Easter Programme on Commodian’s Carmen apol. adv. Gentes et Judaeos, Schmalkalden, 1871 (he clears up many points). Hermann Rönsch, in the “Zeitschrift für historische Theologie” for 1872, No. 2, pp. 163-302 (he presents a revised Latin text with philological explanations). Young in Smith and Wace, I. 610-611.

Commodian was probably a clergyman in North Africa. He was converted from heathenism by the study of the Scriptures, especially of the Old Testament. He wrote about the middle of the third century two works in the style of vulgar African latinity, in uncouth versification and barbarian hexameter, without regard to quantity and hiatus. They are poetically and theologically worthless, but not unimportant for the history of practical Christianity, and reveal under a rude dress with many superstitious notions, an humble and fervent Christian heart. Commodian was a Patripassian in christology and a Chiliast in eschatology. Hence he is assigned by Pope Gelasius to the apocryphal writers. His vulgar African latinity is a landmark in the history of the Latin language and poetry in the transition to the Romance literature of the middle ages.

The first poem is entitled “Instructions for the Christian Life,” written about a.d. 240 or earlier. It is intended to convert heathens and Jews, and gives also exhortations to catechumens, believers, and penitents. The poem has over twelve hundred verses and is divided into eighty strophes, each of which is an acrostic, the initial letters of the lines composing the title or subject of the section. The first 45 strophes are apologetic, and aimed at the heathen, the remaining 35 are parenetic and addressed to Christians. The first part exhorts unbelievers to repent in view of the impending end of the world, and gives prominence to chiliastic ideas about Antichrist, the return of the Twelve Tribes, the first resurrection, the millennium, and the last judgment. The second part exhorts catechumens and various classes of Christians. The last acrostic which again reminds the reader of the end of the world, is entitled “Nomen Gazaei,” and, if read backwards, gives the name of the author: Commodianus mendicus Christi.

2. The second work which was only brought to light in 1852, is an “Apologetic Poem against Jews and Gentiles,” and was written about 249. It exhorts them (like the first part of the “Instructions” to repent without delay in view of the approaching end of the world. It is likewise written in uncouth hexameters and discusses in 47 sections the doctrine of God, of man, and of the Redeemer (vers. 89-275); the meaning of the names of Son and Father in the economy of salvation (276-573); the obstacles to the progress of Christianity (574-611); it warns Jews and Gentiles to forsake their religion (612-783), and gives a description of the last things (784-1053).

The most interesting part of this second poem is the conclusion. It contains a fuller description of Antichrist than the first poem. The author expects that the end of the world will soon come with the seventh persecution; the Goths will conquer Rome and redeem the Christians; but then Nero will appear as the heathen Antichrist, reconquer Rome, and rage against the Christians three years and a-half; he will be conquered in turn by the Jewish and real Antichrist from the east, who after the defeat of Nero and the burning of Rome will return to Judaea, perform false miracles, and be worshipped by the Jews. At last Christ appears, that is God himself (from the Monarchian standpoint of the author), with the lost Twelve Tribes as his army, which had lived beyond Persia in happy simplicity and virtue; under astounding phenomena of nature he will conquer Antichrist and his host, convert all nations and take possession of the holy city of Jerusalem. The concluding description of the judgment is preserved only in broken fragments. The idea of a double Antichrist is derived from the two beasts of the Apocalypse, and combines the Jewish conception of the Antimessiah, and the heathen Nero-legend. But the remarkable feature is that the second Antichrist is represented as a Jew and as defeating the heathen Nero, as he will be defeated by Christ. The same idea of a double antichrist appears in Lactantius.


202. Arnobius

(I.) Arnobii (oratoris) adversus Nationes (or Gentes) libri septem. Best ed. by Reifferscheid, Vindob. 1875. (vol. IV. of the “Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum,” issued by the Academy of Vienna.)

Other editions: by Faustus Sabaeus, Florence 1543 (ed. princeps); Bas. (Frobenius) 1546; Paris 1580, 1666, 1715; Antw. 1582; Rom. 1583; Genev. 1597; Lugd. Bat. 1598, 165l; by Orelli, Lips. 1816; Hildebrand, Halle, 1844; Migne, “Patrol. Lat.” v. 1844, col. 350 sqq. Fr. Oehler (in Gersdorf’s “Bibl. Patr. Lat.”), Lips. 1846. On the text see the Prolegg of Oehler and Reifferscheid.

English Version by A. Hamilton Bryce and Hugh Campbell, in Clark’s “Ante-Nic. Libr.” vol. XIX. (Edinb. 1871). German transl. by Benard (1842), and Alleker (1858).

(II.) Hieronymus: De Vir. ill. 79; Chron. ad ann. 325 (xx. Constantini); Ep. 46, and 58, ad Paulinum.

(III) The learned Dissertatio praevia of the Benedictine Le Nourry in Migne’s ed. v. 365-714. Neander: I. 687-689. Möhler (R.C.): Patrol. I. 906-916. Alzog (R.C.): Patrologie (3d ed), p. 205-210. Zink: Zur Kritik und Erklärung des Arnob., Bamb. 1873. Ebert, Gesch. der christl. lat. Lit. I 61-70. Herzog in Herzog2 I. 692 sq. Moule in Smith and Wace I. 167-169.

Arnobius, a successful teacher of rhetoric with many pupils (Lactantius being one of them), was first an enemy, then an advocate of Christianity. He lived in Sicca, an important city on the Numidian border to the Southwest of Carthage, in the latter part of the third and the beginning of the fourth century . He was converted to Christ in adult age, like his more distinguished fellow-Africans, Tertullian and Cyprian. “O blindness,” he says, in describing the great change, “only a short time ago I was worshipping images just taken from the forge, gods shaped upon the anvil and by the hammer … When I saw a stone made smooth and smeared with oil, I prayed to it and addressed it as if a living power dwelt in it, and implored blessings from the senseless stock. And I offered grievious insult even to the gods, whom I took to be such, in that I considered them wood, stone, and bone, or fancied that they dwelt in the stuff of such things. Now that I have been led by so great a teacher into the way of truth, I know what all that is, I think worthily of the Worthy, offer no insult to the Godhead, and give every one his due … Is Christ, then, not to be regarded as God? And is He who in other respects may be deemed the very greatest, not to be honored with divine worship, from whom we have received while alive so great gifts, and from whom, when the day comes we expect greater gifts?”

The contrast was very startling indeed, if we remember that Sicca bore the epithet “Veneria,” as the seat of the vile worship of the goddess of lust in whose temple the maidens sacrificed their chastity, like the Corinthian priestesses of Aphrodite. He is therefore especially severe in his exposure of the sexual immoralities of the heathen gods, among whom Jupiter himself takes the lead in all forms of vice.

We know nothing of his subsequent life and death. Jerome, the only ancient writer who mentions him, adds some doubtful particulars, namely that he was converted by visions or dreams, that he was first refused admission to the Church by the bishop of Sicca, and hastily wrote his apology in proof of his sincerity. But this book, though written soon after his conversion, is rather the result of an inward impulse and strong conviction than outward occasion.

We have from him an Apology of Christianity in seven books of unequal length, addressed to the Gentiles. It was written a.d. 303, at the outbreak of the Diocletian persecution; for he alludes to the tortures, the burning of the sacred Scriptures and the destruction of the meeting houses, which were the prominent features of that persecution. It is preserved in only one manuscript (of the ninth or tenth century), which contains also the “Octavius” of Minucius Felix. The first two books are apologetic, the other five chiefly polemic. Arnobius shows great familiarity with Greek and Roman mythology and literature, and quotes freely from Homer, Plato, Cicero, and Varro. He ably refutes the objections to Christianity, beginning with the popular charge that it brought the wrath of the gods and the many public calamities upon the Roman empire. He exposes at length the absurdities and immoralities of the heathen mythology. He regards the gods as real, but evil beings.

The positive part is meagre and unsatisfactory. Arnobius seems as ignorant about the Bible as Minucius Felix. He never quotes the Old Testament, and the New Testament only once. He knows nothing of the history of the Jews, and the Mosaic worship, and confounds the Pharisees and Sadducees. Yet he is tolerably familiar, whether from the Gospels or from tradition, with the history of Christ. He often refers in glowing language to his incarnation, crucifixion, and exaltation. He represents him as the supreme teacher who revealed God to man, the giver of eternal life, yea, as God, though born a man, as God on high, God in his inmost nature, as the Saviour God, and the object of worship. Only his followers can be saved, but he offers salvation even to his enemies. His divine mission is proved by his miracles, and these are attested by their unique character, their simplicity, publicity and beneficence. He healed at once a hundred or more afflicted with various diseases, he stilled the raging tempest, he walked over the sea with unwet foot, he astonished the very waves, he fed five thousand with five loaves, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments that remained, he called the dead from the tomb. He revealed himself after the resurrection “in open day to countless numbers of men;” “he appears even now to righteous men of unpolluted mind who love him, not in any dreams, but in a form of pure simplicity.”

His doctrine of God is Scriptural, and strikingly contrasts with the absurd mythology. God is the author and ruler of all things, unborn, infinite, spiritual, omnipresent, without passion, dwelling in light, the giver of all good, the sender of the Saviour.

As to man, Arnobius asserts his free will, but also his ignorance and sin, and denies his immortality. The soul outlives the body but depends solely on God for the gift of eternal duration. The wicked go to the fire of Gehenna, and will ultimately be consumed or annihilated. He teaches the resurrection of the flesh, but in obscure terms.

Arnobius does not come up to the standard of Catholic orthodoxy, even of the ante-Nicene age. Considering his apparent ignorance of the Bible, and his late conversion, we need not be surprised at this. Jerome now praises, now censures him, as unequal, prolix, and confused in style, method, and doctrine. Pope Gelasius in the fifth century banished his book to the apocryphal index, and since that time it was almost forgotten, till it was brought to light again in the sixteenth century. Modern critics agree in the verdict that he is more successful in the refutation of error than in the defense of truth.

But the honesty, courage, and enthusiasm of the convert for his new faith are as obvious as the defects of his theology. If he did not know or clearly understand the doctrines of the Bible, he seized its moral tone. “We have learned,” he says, “from Christ’s teaching and his laws, that evil ought not to be requited with evil (comp. Mat_5:39), that it is better to suffer wrong than to inflict it, that we should rather shed our own blood than stain our hands and our conscience with that of another. An ungrateful world is now for a long period enjoying the benefit of Christ; for by his influence the rage of savage ferocity has been softened, and restrained from the blood of a fellow-creature. If all would lend an ear to his salutary and peaceful laws, the world would turn the use of steel to occupations of peace, and live in blessed harmony, maintaining inviolate the sanctity of treaties.” He indignantly asks the heathen, “Why have our writings deserved to be given to the flames, and our meetings to be cruelly broken up? In them prayer is offered to the supreme God, peace and pardon are invoked upon all in authority, upon soldiers, kings, friends, enemies, upon those still in life, and those released from the bondage of the flesh. In them all that is said tends to make men humane, gentle, modest, virtuous, chaste, generous in dealing with their substance, and inseparably united to all that are embraced in our brotherhood.” He uttered his testimony boldly in the face of the last and most cruel persecution, and it is not unlikely that he himself was one of its victims.

The work of Arnobius is a rich store of antiquarian and mythological knowledge, and of African latinity.


203. Victorinus of Petau

(I.) Opera in the “Max. Biblioth. vet. Patrum.” Lugd. Tom. III., in Gallandi’s “Bibl. PP.,” Tom. IV.; and in Migne’s “Patrol. Lat.,” V. 281-344 (De Fabrica Mundi, and Scholia in Apoc. Joannis).

English translation by R. E. Wallis, in Clark’s “Ante-Nicene Library,” Vol. III., 388-433; N. York ed. VII. (1886).

(II.) Jerome: De. Vir. ill., 74. Cassiodor: Justit. Div. Lit., c. 9. Cave: Hist. Lit., I., 147 sq. Lumper’s Proleg., in Migne’s ed., V. 281-302, Routh: Reliq., S. I., 65; III., 455-481.

Victorinus, probably of Greek extraction, was first a rhetorician by profession, and became bishop of Petavium, or Petabio, in ancient Panonia (Petau, in the present Austrian Styria). He died a martyr in the Diocletian persecution (303). We have only fragments of his writings, and they are not of much importance, except for the age to which they belong. Jerome says that he understood Greek better than Latin, and that his works are excellent for the sense, but mean as to the style. He counts him among the Chiliasts, and ascribes to him commentaries on Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Habakkuk, Canticles, the Apocalypse, a book Against all Heresies, “et multa alia.” Several poems are also credited to him, but without good reason.

1. The fragment on the Creation of the World is a series of notes on the account of creation, probably a part of the commentary on Genesis mentioned by Jerome. The days are taken liberally. The creation of angels and archangels preceded the creation of man, as light was made before the sky and the earth. The seven days typify seven millennia; the seventh is the millennial sabbath, when Christ will reign on earth with his elect. It is the same chiliastic notion which we found in the Epistle of Barnabas, with the same opposition to Jewish sabbatarianism. Victorinus compares the seven days with the seven eyes of the Lord (Zec_4:10), the seven heavens (comp. Psa_33:6), the seven spirits that dwelt in Christ (Isa_11:2,Isa_11:3), and the seven stages of his humanity: his nativity, infancy, boyhood, youth, young-manhood, mature age, death. This is a fair specimen of these allegorical plays of a pious imagination.

2. The scholia on the Apocalypse of John are not without interest for the history of the interpretation of this mysterious book. But they are not free from later interpolations of the fifth or sixth century. The author assigns the Apocalypse to the reign of Domitian (herein agreeing with Irenaeus), and combines the historical and allegorical methods of interpretation. He also regards the visions in part as synchronous rather than successive. He comments only on the more difficult passages. We select the most striking points.

The woman in Rev_12:1-17 is the ancient church of the prophets and apostles; the dragon is the devil. The woman sitting on the seven hills (in Rev_17:1-18), is the city of Rome. The beast from the abyss is the Roman empire; Domitian is counted as the sixth, Nerva as the seventh, and Nero revived as the eighth Roman King. The number 666 (Rev_13:18) means in Greek Teitan (this is the explanation preferred by Irenaeus), in Latin Diclux. Both names signify Antichrist, according to the numerical value of the Greek and Roman letters. But Diclux has this meaning by contrast, for Antichrist, “although he is cut off from the supernal light, yet transforms himself into an angel of light, daring to call himself light.” To this curious explanation is added, evidently by a much later hand, an application of the mystic number to the Vandal king Genseric (γενσήρικος) who in the fifth century laid waste the Catholic church of North Africa and sacked the city of Rome.

The exposition of Rev_20:1-6 is not so strongly chiliastic, as the corresponding passage in the Commentary on Genesis, and hence some have denied the identity of authorship. The first resurrection is explained spiritually with reference to Col_3:1, and the author leaves it optional to understand the thousand years as endless or as limited. Then he goes on to allegorize about the numbers: ten signifies the decalogue, and hundred the crown of virginity; for he who keeps the vow of virginity completely, and fulfils the precepts of the decalogue, and destroys the impure thoughts within the retirement of his own heart, is the true priest of Christ, and reigns with him; and “truly in his case the devil is bound.” At the close of the notes on Rev_22:1-21, the author rejects the crude and sensual chiliasm of the heretic Cerinthus. “For the kingdom of Christ,” he says, “is now eternal in the saints, although the glory of the saints shall be manifested after the resurrection.” This looks like a later addition, and intimates the change which Constantine’s reign produced in the mind of the church as regards the millennium. Henceforth it was dated from the incarnation of Christ.


204. Eusebius, Lactantius, Hosius

On Eusebius see vol. III. — Add to Lit. the exhaustive article of Bp. Lightfoot in Smith and Wace, II. (1880), p. 308-348; Dr. Salmon, on the Chron. of Eus. ibid. 354-355; and Semisch in Herzog2 IV. 390-398.

On Lactantius see vol. III. — Add to Lit. Ebert: Gesch. der christl. lat. Lit. I. (1874), p. 70-86; and his art. in Herzog2 VIII. 364-366; and E. S. Ffoulkes in Smith and Wace III. 613-617.

On Hosius, see § 55; and vol. III. § 120 and 121. — Add to Lit. P. Bonif. Gams (R.C.): Kirchengesch. v. Spanien, Regensb. 1862 sqq., Bd II. 137-309 (the greater part of the second vol. is given to Hosius); W. Möller in Herzog2 VI. 326-328; and T. D. C. Morse in Smith and Wace III. 162-174.

At the close of our period we meet with three representative divines, in close connection with the first Christian emperor who effected the politico-ecclesiastical revolution known as the union of church and state. Their public life and labors belong to the next period, but must at least be briefly foreshadowed here.

Eusebius, the historian, Lactantius, the rhetorician, and Hosius, the statesman, form the connecting links between the ante-Nicene and Nicene ages; their long lives — two died octogenarians, Hosius a centenarian — are almost equally divided between the two; and they reflect the lights and shades of both. Eusebius was bishop of Caesarea and a man of extensive and useful learning, and a liberal theologian; Lactantius, a professor of eloquence in Nicomedia, and a man of elegant culture; Hosius, bishop of Cordova and a man of counsel and action. They thus respectively represented the Holy Land, Asia Minor, and Spain; we may add Italy and North Africa, for Lactantius was probably a native Italian and a pupil of Arnobius of Sicca, and Hosius acted to some extent for the whole western church in Eastern Councils. With him Spain first emerges from the twilight of legend to the daylight of church history; it was the border land of the west which Paul perhaps had visited, which had given the philosopher Seneca and the emperor Trajan to heathen Rome, and was to furnish in Theodosius the Great the strong defender of the Nicene faith.

Eusebius, Lactantius, and Hosius were witnesses of the cruelties of the Diocletian persecution, and hailed the reign of imperial patronage. They carried the moral forces of the age of martyrdom into the age of victory. Eusebius with his literary industry saved for us the invaluable monuments of the first three centuries down to the Nicene Council; Lactantius bequeathed to posterity, in Ciceronian Latin, an exposition and vindication of the Christian religion against the waning idolatry of Greece and Rome, and the tragic memories of the imperial persecutors; Hosius was the presiding genius of the synods of Elvira (306), Nicaea (325), and Sardica (347), the friend of Athanasius in the defense of orthodoxy and in exile.

All three were intimately associated with Constantine the Great, Eusebius as his friend and eulogist, Lactantius as the tutor of his eldest son, Hosius as his trusted counsellor who probably suggested to him the idea of convening the first ecumenical synod; he was we may say for a few years his ecclesiastical prime minister. They were, each in his way, the emperor’s chief advisers and helpers in that great change which gave to the religion of the cross the moral control over the vast empire of Rome. The victory was well deserved by three hundred years of unjust persecution and heroic endurance, but it was fraught with trials and temptations no less dangerous to the purity and peace of the church than fire and sword.