Dionysius

, bishop of Alexandria, a man of great renown in the church, was born a heathen, and of an ancient and illustrious family. He was a diligent inquirer after truth, which he looked for in vain among the sects of philosophers; but at last found it in Christianity, in which he was probably confirmed by his preceptor Origen. He was made a presbyter of the church of Alexandria in the year 232; and in the year 247 was raised to that see upon the death of Heracles. When the Decian persecution arose, he was seized by the soldiers and sent to Taposiris, a little town between Alexandria and Canopus; but he escaped without being hurt, of which there is an extraordinary account in the fragments of one of his letters, which Eusebius has preserved. He was less fortunate under the Valerian persecution, which began in the year 257, being then forcibly hurried off in the midst of a dangerous illness, and banished to Cephrus, a most desert and uncultivated region of Libya, in which terrible situation he remained for three years. Afterwards, when Gallienus published an edict of toleration to the Christians, he returned to Alexandria, and applied himself diligently to the offices of his function, as well by converting heathens, as by suppressing heretics. To the Novatian heresy he laboured to put a stop; he endeavoured to quiet the dispute, which was risen to some height, between Stephen and Cyprian, concerning the re-baptization of heretics: both which he attempted with Christian moderation and candour, and it must be acknowledged to his credit, that he seems to have possessed more of that spirit of gentleness and meekness than was usually to be found in those zealous times. He does not indeed appear to have been quite so moderate in the next congress which he had with Sabellius, who had asserted, that “the substance in the trinity was nothing more than one person distinguished by three names;‘’‘ which Dionysius opposed with such zeal and ardour, as to fall into the Arian opinion, and maintain, that there was *’ not only a distinction of persons, but of essence or substance also, and even an inequality of power and glory in them.” Cave, however, excuses this error, or “blindness,” as he calls it, in him, because it flowed from his | intemperate zeal and hatred of heretics, and because Dionysius was in all other respects a very sound and orthodox bishop. A little before his death he was called to a synod at Antioch, to defend the divinity of Jesus Christ against Paul of Samosata, bishop of Antioch: but he could not appear by reason of his great age and infirmities. He wrote a letter, however, to that church, in which he explained his own opinion of the matter, and refuted Paul, whom he thought so very blameable for advancing such an error, that he did not deign to salute him even by name. He died in the year 267; and though his writings were very numerous, yet scarce any of them are come down to us, except some fragments preserved by Eusebius. 1

1

Cave. Dupin.