Writings of Basil - The Letters f

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The Letters

Of Saint Basil the Great, Archbishop of Cæsaria,

Translated with Notes by

The Rev. Blomfield Jackson, M.A.
Vicar of Saint Bartholomew's, Moor Lane, and Fellow of King's College, London.

Under the editorial supervision of Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D., Professor of Church History in the Union Theological Semimary, New York, and Henry Wace, D.D., Principal of King's College, London

Published in 1895 by T&T Clark, Edinburgh

Letter CCL. [3093]

To Patrophilus, bishop of Ægæ.

There has been some delay in my receiving your answer to my former letter; but it has reached me through the well-beloved Strategius, and I have given thanks to the Lord for your continuance in your love to me. What you have now been kind enough to write on the same subject proves your good intentions, for you think as you ought, and you counsel me to my gain. But I see that my words will be extending too far, if I am to reply to everything written to me by your excellency. I therefore say no more than this, that, if the blessing of peace goes no further than the mere name of peace, it is ridiculous to go on picking out here one and there another, and allow them alone a share in the boon, while others beyond number are excluded from it. But if agreement with mischievous men, under the appearance of peace, really does the harm an enemy might do to all who consent to it, then only consider who those men are who have been admitted to their companionship, who have conceived an unrighteous hatred against me; who but men of the faction not in communion with me. There is no need now for me to mention them by name. They have been invited by them to Sebasteia; they have assumed the charge of the Church; they have performed service at the altar: they have given of their own bread to all the people, being proclaimed bishops by the clergy there, and escorted through all the district as saints and in communion. If one must adopt the faction of these men, it is absurd to begin at the extremities, and not rather to hold intercourse with those that are their heads. [3094]If then we are to count heretic and shun no one at all, why, tell me, do you separate yourself from the communion of certain persons? But if any are to be shunned, let me be told by these people who are so logically consistent in everything, to what party those belong whom they have invited over from Galatia to join them? If such things seem grievous to you, charge the separation on those who are responsible for it. If you judge them to be of no importance, forgive me for declining to be of the leaven of the teachers of wrong doctrine. [3095]Wherefore, if you will, have no more to do with those specious arguments, but with all openness confute them that do not walk aright in the truth of the Gospel.

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Footnotes

[3093] Placed in 376. [3094] i.e. with Euzoius, Eudoxius, and the more pronounced Arians. [3095] ton heterodidaskalounton. cf. 1 Tim. i. 3. The Ben. note compares Greg., Orat. xii. 203.

Letter CCLI. [3096]

To the people of Evæsæ. [3097]

1. My occupations are very numerous, and my mind is full of many anxious cares, but I have never forgotten you, my dear friends, ever praying my God for your constancy in the faith, wherein ye stand and have your boasting in the hope of the glory of God. Truly nowadays it is hard to find, and extraordinary to see, a Church pure, unharmed by the troubles of the times, and preserving the apostolic doctrine in all its integrity and completeness. Such is your Church shewn at this present time by Him who in every generation makes manifest them that are worthy of His calling. May the Lord grant to you the blessings of Jerusalem which is above, in return for your flinging back at the heads of the liars their slanders against me, and your refusal to allow them entry into your hearts. I know, and am persuaded in the Lord, that "your reward is great in heaven," [3098] even on account of this very conduct. For you have wisely concluded among yourselves, as indeed is the truth, that the men who are "rewarding me evil for good, and hatred for my love," [3099] are accusing me now for the very same points which they are found to have themselves confessed and subscribed. 2. Their presenting you with their own signatures for an accusation against me is not the only contradiction into which they have fallen. They were unanimously deposed by the bishops assembled at Constantinople. [3100]They refused to accept this deposition and appealed to a synod of impious men, [3101] refusing to admit the episcopacy of their judges, in order not to accept the sentence passed upon them. The reason alleged for their non-recognition was their being leaders of wicked heresy. All this [3102] happened nearly seventeen years ago. The principal men of those who deposed them were Eudoxius, Euippius, George, [3103] Acacius, and others unknown to you. [3104] The present tyrants of the churches are their successors, some ordained to fill their places, and others actually promoted by them. 3. Now let those who charge me with unsound doctrine tell me in what way the men whose deposition they refused to accept were heretical. Let them tell me in what way those promoted by them, and holding the same views as their fathers, are orthodox. If Euippius was orthodox, how can Eustathius, whom he deposed, be other than a layman? If Euippius was a heretic, how can any one ordained by him be in communion with Eustathius now? But all this conduct, this trying to accuse men and set them up again, is child's play, got up against the Churches of God, for their own gain. When Eustathius was travelling through Paphlagonia, he overthrew the altars [3105] of Basilides of Paphlagonia, [3106] and used to perform divine service on his own tables. [3107]Now he is begging Basilides to be admitted to communion. He refused to communicate with our reverend brother Elpidius, because of his alliance with the Amasenes; [3108] and now he comes as a suppliant to the Amasenes, petitioning for alliance with them. Even ye yourselves know how shocking were his public utterances against Euippius: now he glorifies the holders of Euippius's opinions for their orthodoxy, if only they will cooperate in promoting his restitution. And I am all the while being calumniated, not because I am doing any wrong, but because they have imagined that they will thus be recommended to the party at Antioch. The character of those whom they sent for last year from Galatia, as being likely by their means to recover the free exercise of their episcopal powers, is only too well known to all who have lived even for a short time with them. I pray that the Lord may never allow me leisure to recount all their proceedings. I will only say that they have passed through the whole country, with the honour and attendance of bishops, escorted by their most honourable bodyguard and sympathizers; and have made a grand entry into the city, and held an assembly with all authority. The people have been given over to them. The altar has been given over to them. How they went to Nicopolis, and could do nothing there of all that they had promised, and how they came, and what appearance they presented on their return, is known to those who were on the spot. They are obviously taking every single step for their own gain and profit. If they say that they have repented, let them shew their repentance in writing; let them anathematize the Creed of Constantinople; let them separate from the heretics; and let them no longer trick the simple-minded. So much for them and theirs. 4. I, however, brethren beloved, small and insignificant as I am, but remaining ever by God's grace the same, have never changed with the changes of the world. My creed has not varied at Seleucia, at Constantinople, at Zela, [3109] at Lampsacus, and at Rome. My present creed is not different from the former; it has remained ever one and the same. As we received from the Lord, so are we baptized; as we are baptized, so we make profession of our faith; as we make profession of our faith, so do we offer our doxology, not separating the Holy Ghost from Father and Son, nor preferring Him in honour to the Father, or asserting Him to be prior to the Son, as blasphemers' tongues invent. [3110]Who could be so rash as to reject the Lord's commandment, and boldly devise an order of his own for the Names? But I do not call the Spirit, Who is ranked with Father and Son, a creature. I do not dare to call slavish that which is royal. [3111]And I beseech you to remember the threat uttered by the Lord in the words, "All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men, neither in this world, neither in the world to come." [3112]Keep yourselves from dangerous teaching against the Spirit. "Stand fast in the faith." [3113]Look over all the world, and see how small the part is which is unsound. All the rest of the Church which has received the Gospel. from one end of the world to the other, abides in this sound and unperverted doctrine. From their communion I pray that I may never fall, and I pray that I may have part and lot with you in the righteous day of our Lord Jesus Christ, when He shall come to give to every one according to his conduct.


Footnotes

[3096] Placed in 376. [3097] Euassai. Possibly Ptolemy's Seioua. Ramsay, Hist. Geog. A. M. 304. Now Yogounes, i.e. ;'Agios 'Ioannes. [3098] Matt. v. 12. [3099] Ps. cix. 5. [3100] i.e. in January 360. Soc. ii. 41-43; Soz. iv. 24. [3101] The Synod of Lampsacus in 365 is probably referred to, but Socrates (v. 14) mentions several synods of the Homoiousians. [3102] i.e. the deposition. [3103] Of uncertain see. [3104] A ms. variety is "to me." [3105] thusiasteria . [3106] i.e.Basilides, bishop of Gangra. cf. Letter ccxxvi. p. 268. [3107] trapezon . [3108] i.e.the Arian bishop of Amasia, who was intruded into the place of Eulalius. On the state of the Amasene church at his time, cf. Soz. vii. 2. [3109] cf. Letter ccxxvi. p. 268. [3110] cf. De Sp. S. chap. xii. p. 18. [3111] cf. Ps. li. 12, LXX. [3112] Matt. xii. 31, 32. [3113] 1 Cor. xvi. 13.

Letter CCLII. [3114]

To the bishops of the Pontic Diocese. [3115] The honours of martyrs ought to be very eagerly coveted by all who rest their hopes on the Lord, and more especially by you who seek after virtue. By your disposition towards the great and good among your fellow servants you are shewing your affection to our common Lord. Moreover, a special reason for this is to be found in the tie, as it were, of blood, which binds the life of exact discipline to those who have been made perfect through endurance. Since then Eupsychius and Damas and their company are most illustrious among martyrs, and their memory is yearly kept in our city and all the neighbourhood, the Church, calling on you by my voice, reminds you to keep up your ancient custom of paying a visit. A great and good work lies before you among the people, who desire to be edified by you, and are anxious for the reward dependent on the honour paid to the martyrs. Receive, therefore, my supplications, and consent of your kindness to give at the cost of small trouble to yourselves a great boon to me. [3116]

Footnotes

[3114] Placed in 376. [3115] In the title the word dioikesis is used in its oldest ecclesiastical sense of a patriarchal jurisdiction commensurate with the civil diocese, which contained several provinces. cf. the IXth Canon of Chalcedon, which gives an appeal from the metropolitan, the head of the province, to the exarch of the "diocese." "The title exarch is here applied to the primate of a group of provincial churches, as it had been used by Ibas, bishop of Edema, at his trial in 448; alluding to the `Eastern Council' which had resisted the council of Ephesus, and condemned Cyril, he said, `I followed my exarch,' meaning John of Antioch (Mansi vii. 237; compare Evagrius iv. 11, using `patriarchs' and `exarchs' synonymously). Reference is here made not to all such prelates, but to the bishops of Ephesus, Cæsarea in Cappadocia, and Heraclea, if, as seems possible, the see of Heraclea still nominally retained its old relation to the bishop of Thrace." Bright, Canons of the First Four Gen. Councils, pp. 156, 157. The Pontic diocese was one of Constantine's thirteen civil divisions. [3116] cf. p. 184, n. cf. Proleg. Eupsychius, a noble bridegroom of Cæsarea, was martyred under Julian for his share in the demolition of the temple of Fortune. Soz. v. 11. cf. Greg. Naz., Ep. ad Bas. lviii. September 7 was the day of the feast at Cæsarea.

Letter CCLIII. [3117]

To the presbyters of Antioch. [3118] The anxious care which you have for the Churches of God will to some extent be assuaged by our very dear and very reverend brother Sanctissimus the presbyter, when he has told you of the love and kindness felt for us by all the West. But, on the other hand, it will be roused afresh and made yet keener, when he has told you in person what zeal is demanded by the present position of affairs. All other authorities have told us, as it were, by halves, the minds of men in the West, and the condition of things there. He is very competent to understand men's minds, and to make exact enquiry into the condition of affairs, and he will tell you everything and will guide your good will through the whole business. You have matter before you appropriate to the excellent will which you have always shewn in your anxiety on behalf of the Churches of God.

Footnotes

[3117] Placed in 376. [3118] This and the three following letters are complimentary and consolatory epistles conveyed by Sanctissimus on his return to Rome. It does not appear quite certain whether they are to be referred to the period of his return from his second journey to the East in 376, or that of his earlier return in 374. cf. Letters cxx. and ccxxi.

Letter CCLIV. [3119]

To Pelagius, [3120] bishop of the Syrian Laodicea. May the Lord grant me once again in person to behold your true piety and to supply in actual intercourse all that is wanting in my letter. I am behindhand in beginning to write and must needs make many excuses. But we have with us the well beloved and reverend brother Sanctissimus, the presbyter. He will tell you everything, both our news and the news of the West. You will be cheered by what you hear; but when he tells you of the troubles in which we are involved he will perhaps add some distress and anxiety to that which already besets your kindly soul. Yet it is not to no purpose that affliction should be felt by you, able as you are to move the Lord. Your anxiety will turn to our gain, and I know that we shall receive succour from God as long as we have the aid of your prayers. Pray, too, with me for release from my anxieties, and ask for some increase in my bodily strength; then the Lord will prosper me on my way to the fulfilment of my desires and to a sight of your excellency.

Footnotes

[3119] Placed in 376. [3120] cf. Letter xcii. p. 177. On Pelagius bishop of the Syrian Laodicea, see Theod., H.E. iv. 13 and v. 8. Philostorg., H.E. v. 1. Sozomen, H.E. vi. 12, and vii. 9.

Letter CCLV. [3121]

To Vitus, bishop of Charræ. [3122] Would that it were possible for me to write to your reverence every day! For ever since I have had experience of your affection I have had great desire to converse with you, or, if this be impossible, at least to communicate with you by letter, that I may tell you my own news and learn in what state you are. Yet we have not what we wish but what the Lord gives, and this we ought to receive with gratitude. I have therefore thanked the holy God for giving me an opportunity for writing to your reverence on the arrival of our very well beloved and reverend brother Sanctissimus, the presbyter. He has had considerable trouble in accomplishing his journey, and will tell you with accuracy all that he has learnt in the West. For all these things we ought to thank the Lord and to beseech Him to give us too the same peace and that we may freely receive one another. Receive all the brethren in Christ in my name.

Footnotes

[3121] Placed in 376. [3122] cf. Letter xcii. p. 177. Vitus of Charræ (Haran) was bishop of Constantinople in 381. (Labbe, ii. 955.) cf. Sozomen, H.E. vi. 33.

Letter CCLVI. [3123]

To the very well beloved and reverend brethren the presbyters Acacius, Aetius, Paulus, and Silvanus; the deacons Silvinus and Lucius, and the rest of the brethren the monks, Basil, the bishop. [3124] News has reached me of the severe persecution carried on against you, and how directly after Easter the men who fast for strife and debate [3125] attacked your homes, and gave your labours to the flames, preparing for you indeed a house in the heavens, not made with hands, [3126] but for themselves laying up in store the fire which they had used to your hurt. I no sooner heard of this than I groaned over what had happened; pitying not you, my brethren, (God forbid!) but the men who are so sunk in wickedness as to carry their evil deeds to such an extent. I expected you all to hurry at once to the refuge prepared for you in my humble self; and I hoped that the Lord would give me refreshment in the midst of my continual troubles in embracing you, and in receiving on this inactive body of mine the noble sweat which you are dropping for the truth's sake, and so having some share in the prizes laid up for you by the Judge of truth. But this did not enter into your minds, and you did not even expect any relief at my hands. I was therefore at least anxious to find frequent opportunities of writing to you, to the end that like those who cheer on combatants in the arena, I might myself by letter give you some encouragement in your good fight. For two reasons, however, I have not found this easy. In the first place, I did not know where you were residing. And, secondly, but few of our people travel in your direction. Now the Lord has brought us the very well beloved and reverend brother Sanctissimus, the presbyter. By him I am able to salute you, and I beseech you to pray for me, rejoicing and exulting that your reward is great in heaven, [3127] and that you have freedom with the Lord to cease not day and night calling on Him to put an end to this storm of the Churches; to grant the shepherds to their flocks, and that the Church may return to her proper dignity. I am persuaded that if a voice be found to move our good God, He will not make His mercy afar off, but will now "with the temptation make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." [3128]Salute all the brethren in Christ in any name.

Footnotes

[3123] Placed in 376. [3124] Maran (Vit. Bas. xxxvi. 5) remarks that the Acacius heading this list is probably the Acacius who in 375 had invited Basil in the name of the Church of Beroea, and was afterwards famous alike for his episcopate at Beroea and his hostility to St. Chrysostom. cf. Letter ccxx. p. 260. [3125] Is. lviii. 4. [3126] 2 Cor. v. 1. [3127] Matt. v. 12. [3128] 1 Cor. x. 13.

Letter CCLVII. [3129]

To the monks harassed by the Arians. 1. I have thought it only right to announce to you by letter how I said to myself, when I heard of the trials brought upon you by the enemies of God, that in a time reckoned a time of peace you have won for yourselves the blessings promised to all who suffer persecution for the sake of the name of Christ. In my judgment the war that is waged against us by our fellow countrymen is the hardest to bear, because against open and declared enemies it is easy to defend ourselves, while we are necessarily at the mercy of those who are associated with us, and are thus exposed to continual danger. This has been your case. Our fathers were persecuted, but by idolaters their substance was plundered, their houses were overthrown, they themselves were driven into exile, by our open enemies, for Christ's name's sake. The persecutors who have lately appeared, hate us no less than they, but, to the deceiving of many, they put forward the name of Christ, that the persecuted may be robbed of all comfort from its confession, because the majority of simpler folk, while admitting that we are being wronged, are unwilling to reckon our death for the truth's sake to be martyrdom. I am therefore persuaded that the reward in store for you from the righteous Judge is yet greater than that bestowed on those former martyrs. They indeed both had the public praise of men, and received the reward of God; to you, though your good deeds are not less, no honours are given by the people. It is only fair that the requital in store for you in the world to come should be far greater. 2. I exhort you, therefore, not to faint in your afflictions, but to be revived by God's love, and to add daily to your zeal, knowing that in you ought to be preserved that remnant of true religion which the Lord will find when He cometh on the earth. Even if bishops are driven from their Churches, be not dismayed. If traitors have arisen from among the very clergy [3130] themselves, let not this undermine your confidence in God. We are saved not by names, but by mind and purpose, and genuine love toward our Creator. Bethink you how in the attack against our Lord, high priests and scribes and elders devised the plot, and how few of the people were found really receiving the word. Remember that it is not the multitude who are being saved, but the elect of God. Be not then affrighted at the great multitude of the people who are carried hither and thither by winds like the waters of the sea. If but one be saved, like Lot at Sodom, he ought to abide in right judgment, keeping his hope in Christ unshaken, for the Lord will not forsake His holy ones. Salute all the brethren in Christ from me. Pray earnestly for my miserable soul.

Footnotes

[3129] Placed in 376. [3130] Maran conjectures an allusion to Fronto.

Letter CCLVIII. [3131]

To Epiphanius the bishop. [3132] 1. It has long been expected that, in accordance with the prediction of our Lord, because of iniquity abounding, the love of the majority would wax cold. [3133]Now experience has confirmed this expectation. But though this condition of things has already obtained among us here, it seems to be contradicted by the letter brought from your holiness. For verily it is no mere ordinary proof of love, first that you should remember an unworthy and insignificant person like myself; and secondly, that you should send to visit me brethren who are fit and proper ministers of a correspondence of peace. For now, when every man is viewing every one else with suspicion, no spectacle is rarer than that which you are presenting. Nowhere is pity to be seen; nowhere sympathy; nowhere a brotherly tear for a brother in distress. Not persecutions for the truth's sake, not Churches with all their people in tears; not this great tale of troubles closing round us, are enough to stir us to anxiety for the welfare of one another. We jump on them that are fallen; we scratch and tear at wounded places; we who are supposed to agree with one another launch the curses that are uttered by the heretics; men who are in agreement on the most important matters are wholly severed from one another on some one single point. How, then, can I do otherwise than admire him who in such circumstances shews that his love to his neighbour is pure and guileless, and, though separated from me by so great a distance of sea and land, gives my soul all the care he can? 2. I have been specially struck with admiration at your having been distressed even by the dispute of the monks on the Mount of Olives, and at your expressing a wish that some means might be found of reconciling them to one another. I have further been glad to hear that you have not been unaware of the unfortunate steps, taken by certain persons, which have caused disturbance among the brethren, and that you have keenly interested yourself even in these matters. But I have deemed it hardly worthy of your wisdom that you should entrust the rectification of matters of such importance to me: for I am not guided by the grace of God, because of my living in sin; I have no power of eloquence, because I have cheerfully withdrawn from vain studies; and I am not yet sufficiently versed in the doctrines of the truth. I have therefore already written to my beloved brethren at the Mount of Olives, our own Palladius, [3134] and Innocent the Italian, in answer to their letters to me, that it is impossible for me to make even the slightest addition to the Nicene Creed, except the ascription of Glory to the Holy Ghost, because our Fathers treated this point cursorily, no question having at that time arisen concerning the Spirit. As to the additions it is proposed to make to that Creed, concerning the incarnation of our Lord, I have neither tested nor accepted them, as being beyond my comprehension. [3135]I know well that, if once we begin to interfere with the simplicity of the Creed, we shall embark on interminable discussion, contradiction ever leading us on and on, and shall but disturb the souls of simpler folk by the introduction of new phrases. [3136] 3. As to the Church at Antioch (I mean that which is in agreement in the same doctrine), may the Lord grant that one day we may see it united. It is in peril of being specially open to the attacks of the enemy, who is angry with it because there the name of Christian first obtained. [3137]There heresy is divided against orthodoxy, and orthodoxy is divided against herself. [3138]My position, however, is this. The right reverend bishop Meletius was the first to speak boldly for the truth, and fought that good fight in the days of Constantine. Therefore my Church has felt strong affection towards him, for the sake of that brave and firm stand, and has held communion with him. I, therefore, by God's grace, have held him to be in communion up to this time; and, if God will, I shall continue to do so. Moreover the very blessed Pope Athanasius came from Alexandria, and was most anxious that communion should be established between Meletius and himself; but by the malice of counsellors their conjunction was put off to another season. Would that this had not been so! I have never accepted communion with any one of those who have since been introduced into the see, not because I count them unworthy, but because I see no ground for the condemnation of Meletius. Nevertheless I have heard many things about the brethren, without giving heed to them, because the accused were not brought face to face with their accusers, according to that which is written, "Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?" [3139]I cannot therefore at present write to them, right honourable brother, and I ought not to be forced to do so. It will be becoming to your peaceful disposition not to cause union in one direction and disunion in another, but to restore the severed member to the original union. First, then, pray; next, to the utmost of your ability, exhort, that ambition may be driven from their hearts, and that reconciliation may be effected between them both to restore strength to the Church, and to destroy the rage of our foes. It has given great comfort to my soul that, in addition to your other right and accurate statements in theology, you should acknowledge the necessity of stating that the hypostases are three. Let the brethren at Antioch be instructed by you after this manner. Indeed I am confident that they have been so instructed; for I am sure you would never have accepted communion with them unless you had carefully made sure of this point in them. 4. The Magusæans, [3140] as you were good enough to point out to me in your other letter, are here in considerable numbers, scattered all over the country, settlers having long ago been introduced into these parts from Babylon. Their manners are peculiar, as they do not mix with other men. It is quite impossible to converse with them, inasmuch as they have been made the prey of the devil to do his will. They have no books; no instructors in doctrine. They are brought up in senseless institutions, piety being handed down from father to son. In addition to the characteristics which are open to general observation, they object to the slaying of animals as defilement, and they cause the animals they want for their own use to be slaughtered by other people. They are wild after illicit marriages; they consider fire divine, and so on. [3141]No one hitherto has told me any fables about the descent of the Magi from Abraham: they name a certain Zarnuas as the founder of their race. I have nothing more to write to your excellency about them.

Footnotes

[3131] Placed in 377. [3132] The learned and saintly bishop of Salamis in Cyprus. About this time he published his great work against heresy, the Panarion, and also travelled to Antioch to reconcile the Apollinarian Vitalis to Paulinus. On the failure of his efforts, and the complicated state of parties at Antioch at this time, cf. Epiphan., lxxvii. 20-23; Jerome, Epp. 57, 58, and Soz., H.E. vi. 25. [3133] cf. Matt. xxiv. 12. [3134] This Palladius may possibly be identified with the Palladius of Cæsarea of Athanasius, Ep. ad Pall. Migne, Pat. xxvi. 1167, and in the Ath. of this series, p. 580. [3135] The Ben. note remarks "Cum nonnulli formulæ Nicenæ aliquid de Incarnatione adderent ad comprimendos Apollinaristas, id Basilius nec examinaverat," etc. I rather understand the present prosuphainomena to refer to the proposals of Innocent to Palladius. [3136] Yet Basil will admit an addition which he holds warranted, in the case of the glorification of the Spirit, and would doubtless have acquiesced in the necessity of the additions finally victorious in 451. [3137] cf. note on Theodoret in this series, p. 320. [3138] In 377 Meletius was in exile, and Paulinus the bishop of the "old Catholics," or Eustathians (Soc., H.E. iv. 2, v. 5) opposing Vitalius, who was consecrated to the episcopate by Apollinaris. On the confusion resulting from these three nominally orthodox claimants, vide Jerome's Letter xvi. in this series, p. 20. [3139] John vii. 51. [3140] From Magusa in Arabia, cf. Plin., Nat. Hist. vi. 32. [3141] With the statements of Basil may be compared those of Bardesanes in Eusebius, Præp. Evan. vi. 275, and of Epiphanius in his Exp. Cathol. Fid.

Letter CCLIX. [3142]

To the monks Palladius and Innocent. From your affection for me you ought to be able to conjecture my affection for you. I have always desired to be a herald of peace, and, when I fail in my object, I am grieved. How could it be otherwise? I cannot feel angry with any one for this reason, because I know that the blessing of peace has long ago been withdrawn from us. If the responsibility for division lies with others, may the Lord grant that those who cause dissension may cease to do so. I cannot even ask that your visits to me may be frequent. You have therefore no reason to excuse yourselves on this score. I am well aware that men who have embraced the life of labour, and always provide with their own hands the necessities of life, cannot be long away from home; but, wherever you are, remember me, and pray for me that no cause of disturbance may dwell in my heart, and that I may be at peace with myself and with God.

Footnotes

[3142] Placed in 377.

Letter CCLX. [3143]

To Optimus the bishop. [3144] 1. Under any circumstances I should have gladly seen the good lads, on account of both a steadiness of character beyond their years, and their near relationship to your excellency, which might have led me to expect something remarkable in them. And, when I saw them approaching me with your letter, my affection towards them was doubled. But now that I have read the letter, now that I have seen all the anxious care for the Church that there is in it, and the evidence it affords of your zeal in reading the divine Scriptures, I thank the Lord. And I invoke blessings on those who brought me such a letter, and, even before them, on the writer himself. 2. You have asked for a solution of that famous passage which is everywhere interpreted in different senses, "Whosoever slayeth Cain will exact vengeance for seven sins." [3145]Your question shews that you have yourself carefully observed the charge of Paul to Timothy, [3146] for you are obviously attentive to your reading. You have moreover roused me, old man that I am, dull alike from age and bodily infirmity, and from the many afflictions which have been stirred up round about me and have weighed down my life. Fervent in spirit as you are yourself, you are rousing me, now benumbed like a beast in his den, to some little wakefulness and vital energy. The passage in question may be interpreted simply and may also receive an elaborate explanation. The simpler, and one that may occur to any one off hand, is this: that Cain ought to suffer sevenfold punishment for his sins. For it is not the part of a righteous judge to define requital on the principle of like for like, but the originator of evil must pay his debt with addition, if he is to be made better by punishment and render other men wiser by his example. Therefore, since it is ordained that Cain pay the penalty of his sin sevenfold, he who kills him, it is said, will discharge the sentence pronounced against him by the divine judgment. This is the sense that suggests itself to us on our first reading the passage. 3. But readers, gifted with greater curiosity, are naturally inclined to probe into the question further. How, they ask, can justice be satisfied seven times? And what are the vengeances? Are they for seven sins committed? Or is the sin committed once and are there seven punishments for the one sin? Scripture continually assigns seven as the number of the remission of sins. "How often," it is asked, "shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him?" (It is Peter who is speaking to the Lord.) "Till seven times?" Then comes the Lord's answer, "I say not unto thee, until seven times, but, until seventy times seven." [3147]Our Lord did not vary the number, but multiplied the seven, and so fixed the limit of the forgiveness. After seven years the Hebrew used to be freed from slavery. [3148] Seven weeks of years used in old times to make the famous jubilee, [3149] in which the land rested, debts were remitted, slaves were set free, and, as it were, a new life began over again, the old life from age to age being in a sense completed at the number seven. These things are types of this present life, which revolves in seven days and passes by, wherein punishments of slighter sins are inflicted, according to the loving care of our good Lord, to save us from being delivered to punishment in the age that has no end. The expression seven times is therefore introduced because of its connexion with this present world for men who love this world ought specially to be punished in the things for the sake of which they have chosen to live wicked lives. If you understand the vengeances to be for the sins committed by Cain, you will find those sins to be seven. Or if you understand them to mean the sentence passed on him by the Judge, you will not go far wrong. To take the crimes of Cain: the first sin is envy at the preference of Abel; the second is guile, whereby he said to his brother, "Let us go into the field:" [3150]the third is murder, a further wickedness: the fourth, fratricide, a still greater iniquity: the fifth that he committed the first murder, and set a bad example to mankind: the sixth wrong in that he grieved his parents: the seventh, his lie to God; for when he was asked, "Where is Abel thy brother?" he replied, "I know not." [3151]Seven sins were therefore avenged in the destruction of Cain. For when the Lord said, "Cursed is the earth which has opened to receive the blood of thy brother," and "groaning and trembling shall there be on the earth," Cain said, "If thou castest me out to-day from the earth, then from thy face shall I be hid, and groaning and trembling shall I lie upon the earth, and every one that findeth me shall slay me." It is in answer to this that the Lord says, "Whosoever slayeth Cain will discharge seven vengeances." [3152]Cain supposed that he would be an easy prey to every one, because of there being no safety for him in the earth (for the earth was cursed for his sake), and of his being deprived of the succour of God, Who was angry with him for the murder, and so of there being no help for him either from earth or from heaven. Therefore he said, "It shall come to pass that every one that findeth me shall slay me." Scripture proves his error in the words, "Not so;" i.e. thou shalt not be slain. For to men suffering punishment, death is a gain, because it brings relief from their pain. But thy life shall be prolonged, that thy punishment may be made commensurate with thy sins. Since then the word ekdikoumenon may be understood in two senses; both the sin for which vengeance was taken, and the manner of the punishment, let us now examine whether the criminal suffered a sevenfold torment. 4. The seven sins of Cain have been enumerated in what has been already said. Now I ask if the punishments inflicted on him were seven, and I state as follows. The Lord enquired `Where is Abel thy brother?' not because he wished for information, but in order to give Cain an opportunity for repentance, as is proved by the words themselves, for on his denial the Lord immediately convicts him saying, "The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me." So the enquiry, "Where is Abel thy brother?" was not made with a view to God's information, but to give Cain an opportunity of perceiving his sin. But for God's having visited him he might have pleaded that he was left alone and had no opportunity given him for repentance. Now the physician appeared that the patient might flee to him for help. Cain, however, not only fails to hide his sore, but makes another one in adding the lie to the murder. "I know not. Am I my brother's keeper?" Now from this point begin to reckon the punishments. "Cursed is the ground for thy sake," one punishment. "Thou shalt till the ground." This is the second punishment. Some secret necessity was imposed upon him forcing him to the tillage of the earth, so that it should never be permitted him to take rest when he might wish, but ever to suffer pain with the earth, his enemy, which, by polluting it with his brother's blood, he had made accursed. "Thou shalt till the ground." Terrible punishment, to live with those that hate one, to have for a companion an enemy, an implacable foe. "Thou shalt till the earth," that is, Thou shalt toil at the labours of the field, never resting, never released from thy work, day or night, bound down by secret necessity which is harder than any savage master, and continually urged on to labour. "And it shall not yield unto thee her strength." Although the ceaseless toil had some fruit, the labour itself were no little torture to one forced never to relax it. But the toil is ceaseless, and the labours at the earth are fruitless (for "she did not yield her strength") and this fruitlessness of labour is the third punishment. "Groaning and trembling shalt thou be on the earth." Here two more are added to the three; continual groaning, and tremblings of the body, the limbs being deprived of the steadiness that comes of strength. Cain had made a bad use of the strength of his body, and so its vigour was destroyed, and it tottered and shook, and it was hard for him to lift meat and drink to his mouth, for after his impious conduct, his wicked hand was no longer allowed to minister to his body's needs. Another punishment is that which Cain disclosed when he said, "Thou hast driven me out from the face of the earth, and from thy face shall I be hid." What is the meaning of this driving out from the face of the earth? It means deprivation of the benefits which are derived from the earth. He was not transferred to another place, but he was made a stranger to all the good things of earth. "And from thy face shall I be hid." The heaviest punishment for men of good heart is alienation from God. "And it shall come to pass that every one that findeth me shall slay me." He infers this from what has gone before. If I am cast out of the earth, and hidden from thy face, it remains for me to be slain of every one. What says the Lord? Not so. But he put a mark upon him. This is the seventh punishment, that the punishment should not be hid, but that by a plain sign proclamation should be made to all, that this is the first doer of unholy deeds. To all who reason rightly the heaviest of punishments is shame. We have learned this also in the case of the judgments, when "some" shall rise "to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." [3153] 5. Your next question is of a kindred character, concerning the words of Lamech to his wives; "I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt: if Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold." [3154]Some suppose that Cain was slain by Lamech, and that he survived to this generation that he might suffer a longer punishment. But this is not the case. Lamech evidently committed two murders, from what he says himself, "I have slain a man and a young man," the man to his wounding, and the young man to his hurt. There is a difference between wounding and hurt. [3155]And there is a difference between a man and a young man. "If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold." It is right that I should undergo four hundred and ninety punishments, if God's judgment on Cain was just, that his punishments should be seven. Cain had not learned to murder from another, and had never seen a murderer undergoing punishment. But I, who had before my eyes Cain groaning and trembling, and the mightiness of the wrath of God, was not made wiser by the example before me. Wherefore I deserve to suffer four hundred and ninety punishments. There are, however, some who have gone so far as the following explanation, which does not jar with the doctrine of the Church; from Cain to the flood, they say, seven generations passed by, and the punishment was brought on the whole earth, because sin was everywhere spread abroad. But the sin of Lamech requires for its cure not a Flood, but Him Who Himself takes away the sin of the world. [3156]Count the generations from Adam to the coming of Christ, and you will find, according to the genealogy of Luke, that the Lord was born in the seventy-seventh. Thus I have investigated this point to the best of my ability, though I have passed by matters therein that might be investigated, for fear of prolonging my observations beyond the limits of my letter. But for your intelligence little seeds are enough. "Give instruction," it is said, "to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser." [3157] "If a skilful man hear a wise word he will commend it, and add unto it." [3158] 6. About the words of Simeon to Mary, there is no obscurity or variety of interpretation. "And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary His mother, Behold, this Child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (yea, a sword shall pierce through thine own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." [3159]Here I am astonished that, after passing by the previous words as requiring no explanation, you should enquire about the expression, "Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also." To me the question, how the same child can be for the fall and rising again, and what is the sign that shall be spoken against, does not seem less perplexing than the question how a sword shall pierce through Mary's heart. 7. My view is, that the Lord is for falling and rising again, not because some fall and others rise again, but because in us the worst falls and the better is set up. The advent [3160] of the Lord is destructive of our bodily affections and it rouses the proper qualities of the soul. As when Paul says, "When I am weak, then I am strong," [3161] the same man is weak and is strong, but he is weak in the flesh and strong in the spirit. Thus the Lord does not give to some occasions of falling and to others occasions of rising. Those who fall, fall from the station in which they once were, but it is plain that the faithless man never stands, but is always dragged along the ground with the serpent whom he follows. He has then nowhere to fall from, because he has already been cast down by his unbelief. Wherefore the first boon is, that he who stands in his sin should fall and die, and then should live in righteousness and rise, both of which graces our faith in Christ confers on us. Let the worse fall that the better may have opportunity to rise. If fornication fall not, chastity does not rise. Unless our unreason be crushed our reason will not come to perfection. In this sense he is for the fall and rising again of many. 8. For a sign that shall be spoken against. By a sign, we properly understand in Scripture a cross. Moses, it is said, set the serpent "upon a pole." [3162]That is upon a cross. Or else a sign [3163] is indicative of something strange and obscure seen by the simple but understood by the intelligent. There is no cessation of controversy about the Incarnation of the Lord; some asserting that he assumed a body, and others that his sojourn was bodiless; some that he had a passible body, and others that he fulfilled the bodily oeconomy by a kind of appearance. Some say that his body was earthly, some that it was heavenly; some that He pre-existed before the ages; some that He took His beginning from Mary. It is on this account that He is a sign that shall be spoken against. 9. By a sword is meant the word which tries and judges our thoughts, which pierces even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of our thoughts. [3164] Now every soul in the hour of the Passion was subjected, as it were, to a kind of searching. According to the word of the Lord it is said, "All ye shall be offended because of me." [3165]Simeon therefore prophesies about Mary herself, that when standing by the cross, and beholding what is being done, and hearing the voices, after the witness of Gabriel, after her secret knowledge of the divine conception, after the great exhibition of miracles, she shall feel about her soul a mighty tempest. [3166]The Lord was bound to taste of death for every man--to become a propitiation for the world and to justify all men by His own blood. Even thou thyself, who hast been taught from on high the things concerning the Lord, shalt be reached by some doubt. This is the sword. "That the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." He indicates that after the offence at the Cross of Christ a certain swift healing shall come from the Lord to the disciples and to Mary herself, confirming their heart in faith in Him. In the same way we saw Peter, after he had been offended, holding more firmly to his faith in Christ. What was human in him was proved unsound, that the power of the Lord might be shewn.

Footnotes

[3143] Placed in 377. [3144] Bishop of Antioch in Pisidia. Soc. vii. 36; Theod. v. 8. [3145] Gen. iv. 15, LXX. [3146] cf. 1 Tim. iv. 13. [3147] Matt. xviii. 21, 22. [3148] Deut. v. 12. [3149] Lev. xxv. 10. [3150] Gen. iv. 8. [3151] Gen. iv. 9. [3152] Gen. iv. 11, 12, 14, 15, LXX. [3153] Dan. xii. 2. [3154] Gen. iv. 23, 24. [3155] LXX. molops, i.e. weal. [3156] John i. 29. [3157] Prov. ix. 9. [3158] Ecclus. xx. 18. [3159] Luke ii. 34, 35. [3160] epidaneia. [3161] 2 Cor. xii. 10. [3162] Num. xxi. 8. [3163] semeion, LXX. [3164] cf. Heb. iv. 12. [3165] Matt. xxvi. 3. [3166] The Ben. note strongly objects to this slur upon the constancy of the faith of the Blessed Virgin, and is sure that St. Basil's error will not be thus corrected without his own concurrence. It supposes this interpretation of the passage in question to be derived from Origen, Hom. xxvii. In Lucam, and refers to a list of commentators who have followed him in Petavius, De Incar. xiv. 1.

Letter CCLXI. [3167]

To the Sozopolitans. [3168] I have received the letter which you, right honourable brethren, have sent me concerning the circumstances in which you are placed. I thank the Lord that you have let me share in the anxiety you feel as to your attention to things needful and deserving of serious heed. But I was distressed to hear that over and above the disturbance brought on the Churches by the Arians, and the confusion caused by them in the definition of the faith, there has appeared among you yet another innovation, throwing the brotherhood into great dejection, because, as you have informed me, certain persons are uttering, in the hearing of the faithful, novel and unfamiliar doctrines which they allege to be deduced from the teaching of Scripture. You write that there are men among you who are trying to destroy the saving incarnation [3169] of our Lord Jesus Christ, and, so far as they can, are overthrowing the grace of the great mystery unrevealed from everlasting, but manifested in His own times, when the Lord, when He had gone through [3170] all things pertaining to the cure of the human race, bestowed on all of us the boon of His own sojourn among us. For He helped His own creation, first through the patriarchs, whose lives were set forth as examples and rules to all willing to follow the footsteps of the saints, and with zeal like theirs to reach the perfection of good works. Next for succour He gave the Law, ordaining it by angels in the hand of Moses; [3171] then the prophets, foretelling the salvation to come; judges, kings, and righteous men, doing great works, with a mighty [3172] hand. After all these in the last days He was Himself manifested ill the flesh, "made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." [3173] 2. If, then, the sojourn of the Lord in flesh has never taken place, the Redeemer [3174] paid not the fine to death on our behalf, nor through Himself destroyed death's reign. For if what was reigned over by death was not that which was assumed by the Lord, death would not have ceased working his own ends, nor would the sufferings of the God-bearing flesh have been made our gain; He would not have killed sin in the flesh: we who had died in Adam should not have been made alive in Christ; the fallen to pieces would not have been framed again; the shattered would not have been set up again; that which by the serpent's trick had been estranged from God would never have been made once more His own. All these boons are undone by those that assert that it was with a heavenly body that the Lord came among us. And if the God-bearing flesh was not ordained to be assumed of the lump of Adam, what need was there of the Holy Virgin? But who has the hardihood now once again to renew by the help of sophistical arguments and, of course, by scriptural evidence, that old dogma [3175] of Valentinus, now long ago silenced? For this impious doctrine of the seeming [3176] is no novelty. It was started long ago by the feeble-minded Valentinus, who, after tearing off a few of the Apostle's statements, constructed for himself this impious fabrication, asserting that the Lord assumed the "form of a servant," [3177] and not the servant himself, and that He was made in the "likeness," but that actual manhood was not assumed by Him. Similar sentiments are expressed by these men who can only be pitied for bringing new troubles upon you. [3178] 3. As to the statement that human feelings are transmitted to the actual Godhead, it is one made by men who preserve no order in their thoughts, and are ignorant that there is a distinction between the feelings of flesh, of flesh endowed with soul, and of soul using a body. [3179]It is the property of flesh to undergo division, diminution, dissolution; of flesh endowed with soul to feel weariness, pain, hunger, thirst, and to be overcome by sleep; of soul using body to feel grief, heaviness, anxiety, and such like. Of these some are natural and necessary to every living creature; others come of evil will, and are superinduced because of life's lacking proper discipline and training for virtue. Hence it is evident that our Lord assumed the natural affections to establish His real incarnation, and not by way of semblance of incantation, and that all the affections derived from evil that besmirch the purity of our life, He rejected as unworthy of His unsullied Godhead. It is on this account that He is said to have been "made in the likeness of flesh of sin;" [3180] not, as these men hold, in likeness of flesh, but of flesh of sin. It follows that He took our flesh with its natural afflictions, but "did no sin." [3181]Just as the death which is in the flesh, transmitted to us through Adam, was swallowed up by the Godhead, so was the sin taken away by the righteousness which is in Christ Jesus, [3182] so that in the resurrection we receive back the flesh neither liable to death nor subject to sin. These, brethren, are the mysteries of the Church; these are the traditions of the Fathers. Every man who fears the Lord, and is awaiting God's judgment, I charge not to be carried away by various doctrines. If any one teaches a different doctrine, and refuses to accede to the sound words of the faith, rejecting the oracles of the Spirit, and making his own teaching of more authority than the lessons of the Gospels, of such an one beware. May the Lord grant that one day we may meet, so that all that my argument has let slip I may supply when we stand face to face! I have written little when there was much to say, for I did not like to go beyond my letter's bounds. At the same time I do not doubt that to all that fear the Lord a brief reminder is enough.

Footnotes

[3167] This letter is placed in 377. Fessler styles it "celeberrima." The Benedictine heading is "Cum scripsissent Basilio Sozopolitani nonnullos carnem coelestem Christo affingere et affectus humanos in ipsam divinitatem conferre; breviter hunc errorem refellit; ac demonstrat nihil nobis prodesse passiones Christi si non eandem ac nos carnem habuit. Quod spectat ad affectus humanos, probat naturales a Christo assumptos fuisse, vitiosos vero nequaquam." [3168] Sozopolis, or Suzupolis, in Pisidia (cf. Evagrius, Hist. Ecc. iii. 33), has been supposed to be the ancient name of Souzon, S. of Aglasoun, where ruins still exist. On its connexion with Apollonia, cf. Hist. Geog. A.M. p. 400. [3169] oikonomian. [3170] Here the Ben. Ed. call attention to the fact that S. Basil may by this word indicate the appearance of the Son to the patriarchs before the Birth from the Virgin, and compares a similar statement in his Book Cont. Eunom. II., as well as the words of Clemens Alex. in the work Quis Dives Salvandus, n. 8, in which the Son is described as apo geneseos mechri tou semeiou ten anthropoteta diatrechon. [3171] cf. Gal. iii. 19. [3172] krataia with the ed. Par. seems to make better sense than kruphai& 139;, which has better authority. [3173] Gal. iv. 4, 5. [3174] Lutrotes. cf. Acts vii. 35, where R.V. gives redeemer as marginal rendering. Lutrotes=payer of the lutron, which is the means of release (luo). The word is used of Moses in the Acts in a looser sense than here of the Saviour. [3175] On the use of "dogma" for heretical opinion, cf. De Sp. S. note on § 66. [3176] dokesis. [3177] Phil. ii. 7. [3178] On the Docetism of Valentinus vide Dr. Salmon in D. C. Biog. i. 869. "According to V. (Irenæus i. 7) our Lord's nature was fourfold: (1) He had a psuche or animal soul; (2) He had a pneuma or spiritual principle derived from Achamoth; (3) He had a body, but not a material body, but a heavenly one....(4) The pre-existent Saviour descended on Him in the form of a dove at His Baptism. When our Lord was brought before Pilate, this Saviour as being incapable of suffering withdrew His power;" (cf. the Gospel of Peter, "The Lord cried, saying, `My Power, my Power, Thou hast left me.'") "and the spiritual part which was also impassible was likewise dismissed; the animal soul and the wonderfully contrived body alone remaining to suffer, and to exhibit on the cross on earth a representation of what had previously taken place on the heavenly Stauros. It thus appears that Valentinus was only partially docetic." But cf. Iren. v. 1, 2, and iii. 22. [3179] cf. De Sp. S. § 12. p. 7. [3180] Rom. viii. 3, R.V. marg. [3181] 1 Pet. ii. 22. [3182] cf. Rom. v. 12 ad fin.

Letter CCLXII. [3183]

To the Monk Urbicius. [3184] 1. You have done well to write to me. You have shewn how great is the fruit of charity. Continue so to do. Do not think that, when you write to me, you need offer excuses. I recognise my own position, and I know that by nature every man is of equal honour with the rest. Whatever excellence there is in me is not of family, nor of superfluous wealth, nor of physical condition; it comes only of superiority in the fear of God. What, then, hinders you from fearing the Lord yet more, and so, in this respect, being greater than I am? Write often to me, and acquaint me with the condition of the brotherhood with you. Tell me what members of the Church in your parts are sound, that I may know to whom I ought to write, and in whom I may confide. I am told that there are some who are endeavouring to deprave the right doctrine of the Lord's incarnation by perverse opinions, and I therefore call upon them through you to hold off from those unreasonable views, which some are reported to me to hold. I mean that God Himself was turned into flesh; that He did not assume, through the Holy Mary, the nature [3185] of Adam, but, in His own proper Godhead, was changed into a material nature. [3186] 2. This absurd position can be easily confuted. The blasphemy is its own conviction, and I therefore think that, for one who fears the Lord, the mere reminder is enough. If He was turned, then He was changed. But far be it from me to say or think such a thing, when God has declared, "I am the Lord, I change not." [3187]Moreover, how could the benefit of the incarnation be conveyed to us, unless our body, joined to the Godhead, was made superior to the dominion of death? If He was changed, He no longer constituted a proper body, such as subsisted after the combination with it of the divine body. [3188]But how, if all the nature of the Only-begotten was changed, could the incomprehensible Godhead be circumscribed within the limit of the mass of a little body? I am sure that no one who is in his senses, and has the fear of God, is suffering from this unsoundness. But the report has reached me that some of your company are afflicted with this mental infirmity, and I have therefore thought it necessary, not to send you a mere formal greeting, but to include in my letter something which may even build up the souls of them that fear the Lord. I therefore urge that these errors receive ecclesiastical correction, and that you abstain from communion with the heretics. I know that we are deprived of our liberty in Christ by indifference on these points.

Footnotes

[3183] Placed in 377. [3184] cf. Letters cxxiii. and ccclxvi. [3185] phurama. [3186] phusis. [3187] Mal. iii. 6. [3188] The sentence in all the mss. (except the Codex Coislin. II., which has ho trapeis) begins ou trapeis. The Ben. Ed. propose simply to substitute ei for ou, and render "Si enim conversus est, proprium constituit corpus, quod videlicet densata in ipsa deitate, substitit." I have endeavoured to force a possible meaning on the Greek as it stands, though pachuntheises more naturally refers to the unorthodox change than to the orthodox conjunction. The original is ou gar trapeis oikeion hupestesato soma, hoper, pachuntheises auto tes theikes phuseos, hupeste.

Letter CCLXIII. [3189]

To the Westerns. 1. May the Lord God, in Whom we have put our trust, give to each of you grace sufficient to enable you to realize your hope, in proportion to the joy wherewith you have filled my heart, both by the letter which you have sent me by the hands of the well-beloved fellow-presbyters, and by the sympathy which you have felt for me in my distress, like men who have put on bowels of mercy, [3190] as you have been described to me by the presbyters afore-mentioned. Although my wounds remain the same, nevertheless it does bring alleviation to me that I should have leeches at hand, able, should they find an opportunity, to apply rapid remedies to my hurts. Wherefore in return I salute you by our beloved friends, and exhort you, if the Lord puts it into your power to come to me, not to hesitate to visit me. For part of the greatest commandment is the visitation of the sick. But if the good God and wise Dispenser of our lives reserves this boon for another season, at all events write to me whatever it is proper for you to write for the consolation of the oppressed and the lifting up of those that are crushed down. Already the Church has suffered many severe blows, and great has been my affliction at them. Nowhere is there expectation of succour unless the Lord sends us a remedy by you who are his true servants. 2. The bold and shameless heresy of the Arians, after being publicly cut off from the body of the Church, still abides in its own error, and does not do us much harm because its impiety is notorious to all. Nevertheless men clad in sheep's clothing, and presenting a mild and amiable appearance, but within unsparingly ravaging Christ's flocks, find it easy to do hurt to the simpler ones, because they came out from us. It is these who are grievous and hard to guard against. It is these that we implore your diligence to denounce publicly to all the Churches of the East; to the end that they may either turn to the right way and join with us in genuine alliance, or, if they abide in their perversity, may keep their mischief to themselves alone, and be unable to communicate their own plague to their neighbours by unguarded communion. I am constrained to mention them by name, in order that you may yourselves recognise those who are stirring up disturbance here, and may make them known to our Churches. My own words are suspected by most men, as though I had an ill will towards them on account of some private quarrel. You, however, have all the more credit with the people, in proportion to the distance that separates your home from theirs, besides the fact that you are gifted with God's grace to help those who are distressed. If more of you concur in uttering the same opinions, it is clear that the number of those who have expressed them will make it impossible to oppose their acceptance. 3. One of those who have caused me great sorrow is Eustathius of Sebasteia in Lesser Armenia; formerly a disciple of Arius, and a follower of him at the time when he flourished in Alexandria, and concocted his infamous blasphemies against the Only-begotten, he was numbered among his most faithful disciples. On his return to his own country he submitted a confession of the sound faith to Hermogenes, the very blessed Bishop of Cæsarea, who was on the point of condemning him for false doctrine. Under these circumstances he was ordained by Hermogenes, and, on the death of that bishop, hastened to Eusebius of Constantinople, who himself yielded to none in the energy of his support of the impious doctrine of Arius. From Constantinople he was expelled for some reason or another, returned to his own country and a second time made his defence, attempting to conceal his impious sentiments and cloking them under a certain verbal orthodoxy. He no sooner obtained the rank of bishop than he straightway appeared writing an anathema on the Homoousion in the Arians' synod at Ancyra. [3191]From thence he went to Seleucia and took part in the notorious measures of his fellow heretics. At Constantinople he assented a second time to the propositions of the heretics. On being ejected from his episcopate, on the ground of his former deposition at Melitine, [3192] he hit upon a journey to you as a means of restitution for himself. What propositions were made to him by the blessed bishop Liberius, and to what he agreed, I am ignorant. I only know that he brought a letter restoring him, which he shewed to the synod at Tyana, and was restored to his see. He is now defaming the very creed for which he was received; he is consorting with those who are anathematizing the Homoousion, and is prime leader of the heresy of the pneumatomachi. As it is from the west that he derives his power to injure the Churches, and uses the authority given him by you to the overthrow of the many, it is necessary that his correction should come from the same quarter, and that a letter be sent to the Churches stating on what terms he was received, and in what manner he has changed his conduct and nullifies the favour given him by the Fathers at that time. 4. Next comes Apollinarius, who is no less a cause of sorrow to the Churches. With his facility of writing, and a tongue ready to argue on any subject, he has filled the world with his works, in disregard of the advice of him who said, "Beware of making many books." [3193] In their multitude there are certainly many errors. How is it possible to avoid sin in a multitude of words? [3194]And the theological works of Apollinarius are founded on Scriptural proof, but are based on a human origin. He has written about the resurrection, from a mythical, or rather Jewish, point of view; urging that we shall return again to the worship of the Law, be circumcised, keep the Sabbath, abstain from meats, offer sacrifices to God, worship in the Temple at Jerusalem, and be altogether turned from Christians into Jews. What could be more ridiculous? Or, rather, what could be more contrary to the doctrines of the Gospel? Then, further, he has made such confusion among the brethren about the incarnation, that few of his readers preserve the old mark of true religion; but the more part, in their eagerness for novelty, have been diverted into investigations and quarrelsome discussions of his unprofitable treatises. 5. As to whether there is anything objectionable about the conversation of Paulinus, you can say yourselves. What distresses me is that he should shew an inclination for the doctrine of Marcellus, and unreservedly admit his followers to communion. You know, most honourable brethren, that the reversal of all our hope is involved in the doctrine of Marcellus, for it does not confess the Son in His proper hypostasis, but represents Him as having been sent forth, and as having again returned to Him from Whom He came; neither does it admit that the Paraclete has His own subsistence. It follows that no one could be wrong in declaring this heresy to be all at variance with Christianity, and in styling it a corrupt Judaism. Of these things I implore you to take due heed. This will be the case if you will consent to write to all the Churches of the East that those who have perverted these doctrines are in communion with you, if they amend; but that if they contentiously determine to abide by their innovations, you are separated from them. I am myself well aware, that it had been fitting for me to treat of these matters, sitting in synod with you in common deliberation. But this the time does not allow. Delay is dangerous, for the mischief they have caused has taken root. I have therefore been constrained to dispatch these brethren, that you may learn from them all that has been omitted in my letter, and that they may rouse you to afford the succour which we pray for to the Churches of the East.

Footnotes

[3189] Placed in 377. [3190] Col. iii. 12. [3191] In 358, when the homoiousion was accepted, and twelve anathemas formulated against all who rejected it. [3192] Before 359. Mansi iii. 291. [3193] Ecc. xii. 12, LXX. cf. Ep. ccxliv. p. 286. [3194] cf. Prov. x. 19.

Letter CCLXIV. [3195]

To Barses, bishop of Edessa, in exile. [3196] To Barses the bishop, truly God-beloved and worthy of all reverence and honour, Basil sends greeting in the Lord. As my dear brother Domninus [3197] is setting out to you, I gladly seize the opportunity of writing, and I greet you by him, praying the holy God that we may be so long preserved in this life as to be permitted to see you, and to enjoy the good gifts which you possess. Only pray, I beseech you, that the Lord may not deliver us for aye to the enemies of the Cross of Christ, but that He will keep His Churches, until the time of that peace which the just Judge Himself knows when He will bestow. For He will bestow it. He will not always abandon us. As He limited seventy years [3198] for the period of captivity for the Israelites in punishment for their sins, so peradventure the Mighty One, after giving us up for some appointed time, will recall us once again, and will restore us to the peace of the beginning--unless indeed the apostasy is now nigh at hand, and the events that have lately happened are the beginnings of the approach of Antichrist. If this be so, pray that the good Lord will either take away our afflictions, or preserve us through our afflictions unvanquished. Through you I greet all those who have been thought worthy to be associated with you. All who are with me salute your reverence. May you, by the grace of the Holy One, be preserved to the Church of God in good health, trusting in the Lord, and praying for me.

Footnotes

[3195] Placed in 377. [3196] See Soz., H.E. vi. 34, who says that Barses, with Eulogius, was not consecrated to any definite see. cf. also Theodoret H.E. iv. 16, where it is stated that his bed was preserved at Aradus. [3197] Domninus was a not uncommon name, and there are several mentioned about the same time, e.g. Nilus, Epp. iii. 43 and 144. [3198] Jer. xxv. 12.

Letter CCLXV. [3199]

To Eulogius, Alexander, and Harpocration, bishops of Egypt, in exile. 1. In all things we find that the providence exercised by our good God over His Churches is mighty, and that thus the very things which seem to be gloomy, and do not turn out as we should like, are ordained for the advantage of most, in the hidden wisdom of God, and in the unsearchable judgments of His righteousness. Now the Lord has removed you from the regions of Egypt, and has brought you and established you in the midst of Palestine, after the manner of Israel of old, whom He carried away by captivity into the land of the Assyrians, and there extinguished idolatry through the sojourn of His saints. Now too we find the same thing, when we observe that the Lord is making known your struggle for the sake of true religion, opening to you through your exile the arena of your blessed contests, and to all who see before them your noble constancy, giving the boon of your good example to lead them to salvation. By God's grace, I have heard of the correctness of your faith, and of your zeal for the brethren and that it is in no careless or perfunctory spirit that you provide what is profitable and necessary for salvation, and that you support all that conduces to the edification of the Churches. I have therefore thought it right that I should be brought into communion with your goodness, and be united to your reverences by letter. For these reasons I have sent my very dear brother the deacon Elpidius, who not only conveys my letter, but is moreover fully qualified to announce to you whatever may have been omitted in my letter. 2. I have been specially moved to desire union with you by the report of the zeal of your reverences in the cause of orthodoxy. The constancy of your hearts has been stirred neither by multiplicity of books nor by variety of ingenious arguments. You have on the contrary, recognised those who endeavoured to introduce innovations in opposition to the apostolic doctrines, and you have refused to keep silence concerning the mischief which they are causing. I have in truth found great distress among all who cleave to the peace of the Lord at the divers innovations of Apollinarius of Laodicea. He has all the more distressed me from the fact that he seemed at the beginning on our side. A sufferer can in a certain sense endure what comes to him from an open enemy, even though it be exceedingly painful, as it is written, "For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it." [3200]But it is intolerable, and beyond the power of comfort, to be wronged by a close and sympathetic friend. Now that very man whom I have expected to have at my right hand in defence of the truth, I have found in many ways hindering those who are being saved, by seducing their minds and drawing them away from direct doctrine. What rash and hasty deed has he not done? What ill considered and dangerous argument has he not risked? Is not all the Church divided against herself, specially since the day when men have been sent by him to the Churches governed by orthodox bishops, to rend them asunder and to set up some peculiar and illegal service? Is not ridicule brought upon the great mystery of true religion when bishops go about without people and clergy, having nothing but the mere name and title, and effecting nothing for the advancement of the Gospel of peace and salvation? Are not his discourses about God full of impious doctrines, the old impiety of the insane Sabellius being now renewed by him in his writings? For if the works which are current among the Sebastenes are not the forgery of foes, and are really his composition, he has reached a height of impiety which cannot be surpassed, in saying that Father, Son, and Spirit are the same, and other dark pieces of irreverence which I have declined even to hear, praying that I may have nothing to do with those who have uttered them. Does he not confuse the doctrine of the incarnation? Has not the oeconomy of salvation been made doubtful to the many on account of his dark and cloudy speculations about it? To collect them all, and refute them, requires long time and much discussion. But where have the promises of the Gospel been blunted and destroyed as by his figments? So meanly and poorly has he dared to explain the blessed hope laid up for all who live according to the Gospel of Christ, as to reduce it to mere old wives' fables and doctrines of Jews. He proclaims the renewal of the Temple, the observance of the worship of the Law, a typical high priest over again after the real High Priest, and a sacrifice for sins after the Lamb of God Who taketh away the sin of the world. [3201]He preaches partial baptisms after the one baptism, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the Church which, through its faith in Christ, has not spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; [3202] cleansing of leprosy after the painless state of the resurrection; an offering of jealousy [3203] when they neither marry nor are given in marriage; shew-bread after the Bread from heaven; burning lamps after the true Light. In a word, if the law of the Commandments has been done away with by dogmas, it is plain that under these circumstances the dogmas of Christ will be nullified by the injunctions of the law. [3204]At these things shame and disgrace have covered my face, [3205] and heavy grief hath filled my heart. Wherefore, I beseech you, as skilful physicians, and instructed how to discipline antagonists with gentleness, to try and bring him back to the right order of the Church, and to persuade him to despise the wordiness of his own works; for he has proved the truth of the proverb "in the multitude of words there wanteth not sin." [3206]Put boldly before him the doctrines of orthodoxy, in order that his amendment may be published abroad, and his repentance made known to his brethren. 3. It is also desirable that I should remind your reverence about the followers of Marcellus, in order that you may decide nothing in their case rashly or inconsiderately. On account of his impious doctrines he has gone out from the Church. [3207]It is therefore necessary that his followers should only be received into communion on condition that they anathematize that heresy, in order that those who are united to me through you may be accepted by all the brethren. And now most men are moved to no small grief on hearing that you have both received them and admitted them to ecclesiastical communion on their coming to your excellency. Nevertheless you ought to have known that by God's grace you do not stand alone in the East, but have many in communion with you, who vindicate the orthodoxy of the Fathers, and who put forth the pious doctrine of the Faith at Nicæa. The Westerns also all agree with you and with me, whose exposition of the Faith I have received and keep with me, assenting to their sound doctrine. You ought, then, to have satisfied all who are in agreement with you, that the action which is being taken may be ratified by the general consent, and that peace may not be broken by the acceptance of some while others are kept apart. Thus you ought to have at the same time seriously and gently taken counsel about matters which are of importance to all the Churches throughout the world. Praise is not due to him who hastily determines any point, but rather to him who rules every detail firmly and unalterably, so that when his judgment is enquired into, even at a later time, it may be the more esteemed. This is the man who is acceptable both to God and man as one who guides his words with discretion. [3208]Thus I have addressed your reverence in such terms as are possible in a letter. May the Lord grant that one day we may meet, that so, after arranging everything together with you for the government of the Churches, I may with you receive the reward prepared by the righteous Judge for faithful and wise stewards. In the mean time be so good as to let me know with what intention you have received the followers of Marcellus, knowing this, that even if you secure everything, so far as you yourselves are concerned, you ought not to deal with a matter of such importance on your own sole responsibility. It is further necessary that the Westerns, and those who are in communion with them in the East, should concur in the restoration of these men.

Footnotes

[3199] Placed in 377. [3200] Ps. lv. 12. [3201] John i. 29. [3202] Eph. v. 27. [3203] cf. Num. v. 15. [3204] This passage shews in what sense St. Basil understands dogmata in Eph. ii. 15, and Col. ii. 14. cf. note on p. 41. [3205] cf. Ps. lxiv. 7. [3206] Prov. x. 19. [3207] Here the Ben. note is Mirum id videtur ac prima specie vix credibile, Marcellum ob impios errores ex ecclesia exiisee. Nam S. Athanasius suspectum illum quidem, sed tamen purgatum habuit, teste Epiphanio, Hæres. lxxii. lxxii. p. 837. Hinc illius discipuli communicatorias beatissimi papæ Athanasii litteras ostenderunt confessoribus Ægyptiis, ibid. p. 843. Testatur idem Epiphanius varia esse Catholicorum de Marcello judicia, aliis eum accusantibus, aliis defendentibus, p. 834. Paulinus ejus discipulos sine discrimine recipiebat, ut in superiore epistola vidimus. Ipse Basilius in epist. 69 queritur quod eum Ecclesia Romana in communionem ab initio suscepisset. Quomodo ergo exiise dicitur ex Ecclesia qui tot habuit communicatores? Sed tamen S. Basilii testimonium cum sua sponte magni est momenti (non enim ut in dijudicandis Marcelli scriptis, ita in ejusmodi facto proclive fuit errare), tum etiam hoc argumento confirmatur quod Athanasius extremis vitæ suæ annis Marcellum a communione sua removerit. Neque enim, si semper cum eo communicasset Athanasius, opus habuissent illius discipuli confessione fidei ad impetrandam confessorum Ægyptiorum communionem: nec Petrus Athanasii successor canones violatos, concessa illis communione, quereretur, ut videmus in epistola sequenti, si Ægyptum inter ac Marcellum ejusque clerum et plebem non fuisset rupta communio. Videtur ergo Marcellus sub finem vitæ aliquid peccasse, quod Athanasium ab ejus communione discedere cogeret: et cum jamdudum a tota fere oriente damnatus esset, amissa Athanasii communione, quæ unicum fere illius refugium erat, desertus ab omnibus videri debuit, nec ei nova ignominia notato prodesse poterat concessa olim a Romana Ecclesia communio. [3208] Ps. cxii. 5.

Letter CCLXVI. [3209]

To Petrus, bishop of Alexandria. [3210] 1. You have very properly rebuked me, and in a manner becoming a spiritual brother who has been taught genuine love by the Lord, because I am not giving you exact and detailed information of all that is going on here, for it is both your part to be interested in what concerns me, and mine to tell you all that concerns myself. But I must tell you, right honourable and well-beloved brother, that our continuous afflictions, and this mighty agitation which is now shaking the Churches, result in my taking all that is happening as a matter of course. Just as in smithies where men whose ears are deafened get accustomed to the sound, so by the frequency of the strange tidings that reach me I have now grown accustomed to be undisturbed and undismayed at extraordinary events. So the policy which has been for a long time pursued by the Arians to the detriment of the Church, although their achievements have been many and great and noised abroad through all the world, has nevertheless been endurable to me, because of their being the work of open foes and enemies of the word of truth. It is when these men do something unusual that I am astonished, not when they attempt something great and audacious against true religion. But I am grieved and troubled at what is being done by men who feel and think with me. Yet their doings are so frequent and so constantly reported to me, that even they do not appear surprising. So it comes about that I was not agitated at the recent disorderly proceedings, partly because I knew perfectly well that common report would carry them to you without my help, and partly because I preferred to wait for somebody else to give you disagreeable news. And yet, further, I did not think it reasonable that I should show indignation at such proceedings, as though I were annoyed at suffering a slight. To the actual agents in the matter I have written in becoming terms, exhorting them, because of the dissension arising among some of the brethren there, not to fall away from charity, but to wait for the matter to be set right by those who have authority to remedy disorders in due ecclesiastical form. That you should have so acted, stirred by honourable and becoming motives, calls for my commendation, and moves my gratitude to the Lord that there remains preserved in you a relic of the ancient discipline, and that the Church has not lost her own might in my persecution. The canons have not suffered persecution as well as I. Though importuned again by the Galatians, I was never able to give them an answer, because I waited for your decision. Now, if the Lord so will and they will consent to listen to me, I hope that I shall be able to bring the people to the Church. It cannot then be cast in my teeth that I have gone over to the Marcellians, and they on the contrary will become limbs of the body of the Church of Christ. Thus the disgrace caused by heresy will be made to disappear by the method I adopt, and I shall escape the opprobrium of having gone over to them. 2. I have also been grieved by our brother Dorotheus, because, as he has himself written, he has not gently and mildly reported everything to your excellency. I set this down to the difficulty of the times. I seem to be deprived by my sins of all success in my undertakings, if indeed the best of my brethren are proved ill-disposed and incompetent, by their failure to perform their duties in accordance with my wishes. On his return Dorotheus reported to me the conversation which he had had with your excellency in the presence of the very venerable bishop Damasus, and he caused me distress by saying that our God-beloved brethren and fellow-ministers, Meletius and Eusebius, had been reckoned among the Ariomaniacs. [3211]If their orthodoxy were established by nothing else, the attacks made upon them by the Arians are, to the minds of all right thinking people, no small proof of their rectitude. Even your participation with them in sufferings endured for Christ's sake ought to unite your reverence to them in love. Be assured of this, right honourable sir, that there is no word of orthodoxy which has not been proclaimed by these men with all boldness. God is my witness. I have heard them myself. I should not certainly have now admitted them to communion, if I had caught them tripping in the faith. But, if it seem good to you, let us leave the past alone. Let us make a peaceful start for the future. For we have need one of another in the fellowship of the members, and specially now, when the Churches of the East are looking to us, and will take your agreement as a pledge of strength and consolidation. If, on the other hand, they perceive that you are in a state of mutual suspicion, they will drop their hands, and slacken in their resistance to the enemies of the faith. [3212]

Footnotes

[3209] Placed in 377. [3210] cf. Letter cxxxiii. p. 200. [3211] The Ben. note points out that the accusation against Eusebius (of Samosata) and Meletius was monstrous, and remarks on the delicacy with which Basil approaches it, without directly charging Petrus, from whom it must have come, with the slander involved. [3212] One ms. contains a note to the effect that this letter was never sent. Maran (Vit. Bas. xxxvii.) thinks the internal evidence is in favour of its having been delivered.

Letter CCLXVII. [3213]

To Barses, bishop of Edessa, in exile. For the sake of the affection which I entertain for you, I long to be with you, to embrace you, my dear friend, in person, and to glorify the Lord Who is magnified in you, and has made your honourable old age renowned among all them that fear Him throughout the world. But severe sickness afflicts me, and to a greater degree than I can express in words, I am weighed down by the care of the Churches. I am not my own master, to go whither I will, and to visit whom I will. Therefore I am trying to satisfy the longing I have for the good gifts in you by writing to you, and I beseech your reverence to pray for me and for the Church, that the Lord may grant to me to pass the remaining days or hours of my sojourn here without offence. May He permit me to see the peace of His Churches. Of your fellow-ministers and fellow-athletes may I hear all that I pray for, and of yourself that you are granted such a lot as the people under you seek for by day and by night from the Lord of righteousness. I have not written often, not even so often as I ought, but I have written to your reverence. Possibly the brethren to whom I committed my greetings were not able to preserve them. But now that I have found some of my brethren travelling to your excellency, I have readily entrusted my letter to them, and I have sent some messages which I beg you to receive from my humility without disdain, and to bless me after the manner of the patriarch Isaac. [3214]I have been much occupied, and have had my mind drowned in a multiplicity of cares. So it may well be that I have omitted something which I ought to have said. If so, do not reckon it against me; and do not be grieved. Act in all things up to your own high character, that I, like every one else, may enjoy the fruit of your virtue. May you be granted to me and to the Church, in good health, rejoicing in the Lord, praying for me.

Footnotes

[3213] Placed in 377, or in the beginning of 378. [3214] Gen. xxvii. 27.

Letter CCLXVIII. [3215]

To Eusebius, in exile. Even in our time the Lord has taught us, by protecting with His great and powerful hand the life of your holiness, that He does not abandon His holy ones. I reckon your case to be almost like that of the saint remaining unhurt in the belly of the monster of the deep, or that of the men who feared the Lord, living unscathed in the fierce fire. For though the war is round about you on every side, He, as I hear, has kept you unharmed. May the mighty God keep you, if I live longer, to fulfil my earnest prayer that I may see you! If not for me, may He keep you for the rest, who wait for your return as they might for their own salvation. I am persuaded that the Lord in His loving-kindness will give heed to the tears of the Churches, and to the sighs which all are heaving over you, and will preserve you in life until He grant the prayer of all who night and day are praying to Him. Of all the measures taken against you, up to the arrival of our beloved brother Libanius the deacon, [3216] I have been sufficiently informed by him while on his way. I am anxious to learn what happened afterwards. I hear that in the meanwhile still greater troubles have occurred where you are; about all this, sooner if possible, but, if not, at least by our reverend brother Paul the presbyter, on his return, may I learn, as I pray that I may, that your life is preserved safe and sound. But on account of the report that all the roads are infested with thieves and deserters, [3217] I have been afraid to entrust anything to the brother's keeping, for fear of causing his death. If the Lord grant a little quiet, (as I am told of the coming of the army), I will try to send you one of my own men, to visit you, to bring me back news of everything about you.

Footnotes

[3215] Placed in 378. [3216] To be distinguished from Libanius the bishop, p. 177, and Libanius the professor, mentioned later. [3217] Deseroron, or Desertoron, the accepted reading, is a curious Latinism for the Greek autouoloi. Eusebius was in exile in Thrace, and the now the Goths were closing round Valens.

Letter CCLXIX. [3218]

To the wife of Arinthæus, the General. Consolatory. 1. It had been only proper, and due to your affection, that I should have been on the spot, and have taken part in the present occurrences. Thus I might have at once assuaged my own sorrow, and given some consolation to your excellency. But my body will no longer endure long journeys, and so I am driven to approach you by letter, that I seem not to count what has happened as altogether of no interest to me. Who has not mourned for that man? Who is so stony of heart as not to have shed a warm tear over him? I especially have been filled with mourning at the thought of all the marks of respect which I have received from him, and of the general protection which he has extended to the Churches of God. Nevertheless, I have bethought me that he was human, and had done the work he had to do in this life, and now in the appointed time has been taken back again by God Who ordains our lots. All this, I beseech you, in your wisdom, to take to heart, and to meet the event with meekness, and, so far as is possible, to endure your loss with moderation. Time may be able to soothe your heart, and allow the approach of reason. At the same time your great love for your husband, and your goodness to all, lead me to fear that, from the very simplicity of your character, the wound of your grief may pierce you deeply, and that you may give yourself up entirely to your feelings. The teaching of Scripture is always useful, and specially at times like this. Remember, then, the sentence passed by our Creator. By it all we who are dust shall return to dust. [3219]No one is so great as to be superior to dissolution. 2. Your admirable husband was a good and great man, and his bodily strength rivalled the virtues of his soul. He was unsurpassed, I must own, in both respects. But he was human, and he is dead; like Adam, like Abel, like Noah, like Abraham, like Moses, or any one else of like nature that you can name. Let us not then complain because he has been taken from us. Let us rather thank Him, who joined us to him, that we dwelt with him from the beginning. To lose a husband is a lot which you share with other women; but to have been united to such a husband is a boast which I do not think any other woman can make. In truth our Creator fashioned that man for us as a model of what human nature ought to be. All eyes were attracted towards him, and every tongue told of his deeds. Painters and sculptors fell short of his excellence, and historians, when they tell the story of his achievements in war, seem to fall into the region of the mythical and the incredible. Thus it has come about that most men have not even been able to give credit to the report conveying the sad tidings, or to accept the truth of the news that Arinthæus is dead. Nevertheless Arinthæus has suffered what will happen to heaven and to sun and to earth. He has died a bright death; not bowed down by old age; without losing one whit of his honour; great in this life; great in the life to come; deprived of nothing of his present splendour in view of the glory hoped for, because he washed away all the stain of his soul, in the very moment of his departure hence, in the laver of regeneration. That you should have arranged and joined in this rite is cause of supreme consolation. Turn now your thoughts from the present to the future, that you may be worthy through good works to obtain a place of rest like his. Spare an aged mother; spare a tender daughter, to whom you are now the sole comfort. Be an example of fortitude to other women, and so regulate your grief that you may neither eject it from your heart, nor be overwhelmed by your distress. Ever keep your eyes fixed on the great reward of patience, promised, as the requital of the deeds of this life, by our Lord Jesus Christ. [3220]

Footnotes

[3218] Placed in 378. [3219] Gen. iii. 19. [3220] cf. Ep. clxxix and Theod., H.E. iv. 30.

Letter CCLXX. [3221]

Without Address. Concerning Raptus. [3222] I am distressed to find that you are by no means indignant at the sins forbidden, and that you seem incapable of understanding, how this raptus, which has been committed, is an act of unlawfulness and tyranny against society and human nature, and an outrage on free men. I am sure that if you had all been of one mind in this matter, there would have been nothing to prevent this bad custom from being long ago driven out of your country. Do thou at the present time shew the zeal of a Christian man, and be moved as the wrong deserves. Wherever you find the girl, insist on taking her away, and restore her to her parents, shut out the man from the prayers, and make him excommunicate. His accomplices, according to the canon [3223] which I have already put forth, cut off, with all their household, from the prayers. The village which received the girl after the abduction, and kept her, or even fought against her restitution, shut out with all its inhabitants from the prayers; to the end that all may know that we regard the ravisher as a common foe, like a snake or any other wild beast, and so hunt him out, and help those whom he has wronged.

Footnotes

[3221] Placed after 374. [3222] On this subject see before Letters cxcix. and ccxvii. pp. 238 and 256. See Preb. Meyrick in D.C.A. ii. 1102: "It means not exactly the same as our word ravishment, but the violent removal of a woman to a place where her actions are no longer free, for the sake of inducing her or compelling her to marry....By some raptus is distinguished into the two classes of raptus seductionis and raptus violentiæ." cf. Cod. Theod. ix. tit. xxiv. legg. 1, 2, and Cod. Justin. ix.-xiii. leg. 1 Corp. Juris. ii. 832. [3223] kerugua. The Ben. note is no doubt right in understanding the word not to refer to any decree on this particular case, but to Basil's general rule in Canon xxx. cf. p. 239. On the use of kerugma by Basil, see note on p. 41.

Letter CCLXXI. [3224]

To Eusebius, [3225] my comrade, to recommend Cyriacus the presbyter. At once and in haste, after your departure, I came to the town. Why need I tell a man not needing to be told, because he knows by experience, how distressed I was not to find you? How delightful it would have been to me to see once more the excellent Eusebius, to embrace him, to travel once again in memory to our young days, and to be reminded of old times when for both of us there was one home, one hearth, the same schoolmaster, the same leisure, the same work, the same treats, the same hardships, and everything shared in common! What do you think I would not have given to recall all this by actually meeting you, to rid me of the heavy weight of my old age, and to seem to be turned from an old man into a lad again? But I have lost this pleasure. At least of the privilege of meeting your excellency in correspondence, and of consoling myself by the best means at my disposal, I am not deprived. I am so fortunate as to meet the very reverend presbyter Cyriacus. I am ashamed to recommend him to you, and to make him, through me, your own, lest I seem to be performing a superfluous task in offering to you what you already possess and value as your own. But it is my duty to witness to the truth, and to give the best boons I have to those who are spiritually united to me. I think that the man's blamelessness in his sacred position is well known to you; but I confirm it, for I do not know that any charge is brought against him by those who do not fear the Lord and are laying their hands upon all. Even if they had done anything of the kind, the man would not have been unworthy, for the enemies of the Lord rather vindicate the orders of those whom they attack than deprive them of any of the grace given them by the Spirit. However, as I said, nothing has even been thought of against the man. Be so good then as to look upon him as a blameless presbyter, in union with me, and worthy of all reverence. Thus will you benefit yourself and gratify me.

Footnotes

[3224] Placed at the end of Basil's life. [3225] Apparently a schoolfellow of Basil, not to be identified with any of the others of the name.

Letter CCLXXII. [3226]

To Sophronius the magister officiorum. [3227] 1. It has been reported to me by Actiacus the deacon, that certain men have moved you to anger against me, by falsely stating me to be ill-disposed towards your excellency. I cannot be astonished at a man in your position being followed by certain sycophants. High position seems to be in some way naturally attended by miserable hangers-on of this kind. Destitute as they are of any good quality of their own whereby they may be known, they endeavour to recommend themselves by means of other people's ills. Peradventure, just as mildew is a blight which grows in corn, so flattery stealing upon friendship is a blight of friendship. So, as I said, I am by no means astonished that these men should buzz about your bright and distinguished hearth, as drones do about the hives. But what has moved my wonderment, and has seemed altogether astounding, is that a man like yourself, specially distinguished by the seriousness of your character, should have been induced to give both your ears to these people and to accept their calumny against me. From my youth up to this my old age I have felt affection for many men, but I am not aware that I have ever felt greater affection for any one than for your excellency. Even had not my reason induced me to regard a man of such a character, our intimacy from boyhood would have sufficed to attach me to your soul. You know yourself how much custom has to do with friendship. Pardon my deficiency, if I can show nothing worthy of this preference. You will not ask some deed from me in proof of my good will; you will be satisfied with a temper of mind which assuredly prays for you that you may have all that is best. May your fortunes never fall so low, as that you should need the aid of any one so insignificant as myself! 2. How then was I likely to say anything against you, or to take any action in the matter of Memnonius? These points were reported to me by the deacon. How could I put the wealth of Hymetius before the friendship of one so prodigal of his substance as you are? There is no truth in any of these things. I have neither said nor done anything against you. Possibly some ground may have been given for some of the lies that are being told, by my remarking to some of those who are causing disturbance, "If the man has determined to accomplish what he has in mind, then, whether you make disturbance or not, what he means to be done will certainly be done. You will speak, or hold your tongues; it will make no difference. If he changes his mind, beware how you defame my friend's honourable name. Do not, under the pretence of zeal in your patron's cause, attempt to make some personal profit out of your attempts to threaten and alarm." As to that person's making his will, I have never said one word, great or small, directly or indirectly, about the matter. 3. You must not refuse to believe what I say, unless you regard me as quite a desperate character, who thinks nothing of the great sin of lying. Put away all suspicion of me in relation to the business, and for the future reckon my affection for you as beyond the reach of all calumny. Imitate Alexander, who received a letter, saying that his physician was plotting his death, at the very moment when he was just about to drink his medicine, and was so far from believing the slanderer that he at one and the same time read the letter and drank the draught. [3228]I refuse to admit that I am in any way inferior to the men who have been famous for their friendship, for I have never been detected in any breach of mine; and, besides this, I have received from my God the commandment of love, and owe you love not only as part of mankind in general, but because I recognise you individually as a benefactor both of my country and of myself.

Footnotes

[3226] Written in the last years of Basil's life. [3227] cf. p. 134, n. [3228] Plut., Alex.

Letter CCLXXIII. [3229]

Without address. Concerning Hera. I am sure that your excellency loves me well enough to regard all that concerns me as concerning you. Therefore I commend to your great kindness and high consideration my very reverend brother Hera, whom I do not merely call brother by any conventional phrase, but because of his boundless affection. I beseech you to regard him as though he were nearly connected with yourself, and, so far as you can, to give him your protection in the matters in which he requires your generous and thoughtful aid. I shall then have this one more kindness to reckon in addition to the many which I have already received at your hands.

Footnotes

[3229] Written in the last years of Basil's life.

Letter CCLXXIV. [3230]

To Himerius, the master. That my friendship and affection for the very reverend brother Hera began when I was quite a boy, and has, by God's grace, continued up to my old age, no one knows better than yourself. For the Lord granted me the affection of your excellency at about the same time that He allowed me to become acquainted with Hera. He now needs your patronage, and I therefore beseech and supplicate you to do a favour for the sake of our old affection, and to heed the necessity under which we now lie. I beg you to make his cause your own, that he may need no other protection, but may return to me, successful in all that he is praying for. Then to the many kindnesses which I have received at your hands I shall be able to add yet this one more. I could not claim any favour more important to myself, or one more nearly touching my own interests.

Footnotes

[3230] Of the same time as the preceding.

Letter CCLXXV. [3231]

Without address. Concerning Hera. You have anticipated my entreaties in your affection for my very reverend brother Hera, and you have been better to him than I could have prayed for you to be in the abundant honour which you have shewn him, and the protection which you have extended to him on every occasion. But I cannot allow his affairs to go unnoticed by a word, and I must beseech your excellency that for my sake you will add something to the interest you have shewn in him, and will send him back to his own country victorious over the revilings of his enemies. Now many are trying to insult the peacefulness of his life, and he is not beyond the reach of envy's shafts. Against his foes we shall find one sure means of safety, if you will consent to extend your protection over him.

Footnotes

[3231] Placed at the same time as the preceding.

Letter CCLXXVI. [3232]

To the great Harmatius. The common law of human nature makes elders fathers to youngsters, and the special peculiar law of us Christians puts us old men in the place of parents to the younger. Do not, then, think that I am impertinent or shew myself indefensibly meddlesome, if I plead with you on behalf of your son. In other respects I think it only right that you should exact obedience from him; for, so far as his body is concerned, he is subject to you, both by the law of nature, and by the civil law under which we live. His soul, however, is derived from a diviner source, and may properly be held to be subject to another authority. The debts which it owes to God have a higher claim than any others. Since, then, he has preferred the God of us Christians, the true God, to your many gods which are worshipped by the help of material symbols, be not angry with him. Rather admire his noble firmness of soul, in sacrificing the fear and respect due to his father to close conjunction with God, through true knowledge and a life of virtue. Nature herself will move you, as well as your invariable gentleness and kindliness of disposition, not to allow yourself to feel angry with him even to a small extent. And I am sure that you will not set my mediation at naught,--or rather, I should say, the mediation of your townsmen of which I am the exponent. They all love you so well, and pray so earnestly for all blessings for you, that they suppose that in you they have welcomed a Christian too. So overjoyed have they been at the report which has suddenly reached the town.

Footnotes

[3232] Placed in the last years of Basil's life.

Letter CCLXXVII. [3233]

To the learned Maximus. The excellent Theotecnus has given mean account of your highness, whereby he has inspired me with a longing for your acquaintance, so clearly do his words delineate the character of your mind. He has enkindled in me so ardent an affection for you, that were it not that I am weighed down with age, that I am the victim of a congenital ailment, that I am bound hand and foot by the numberless cares of the Church, nothing would have hindered my coming to you. For indeed it is no small gain that a member of a great house, a man of illustrious lineage, in adopting the life of the gospel, should bridle the propensities of youth by reflection, and subject to reason the affections of the flesh; should display a humility consistent with his Christian profession, bethinking himself, as is his duty, whence he is come and whither he is going. For it is this consideration of our nature that reduces the swelling of the mind, and banishes all boastfulness and arrogance. In a word it renders one a disciple of our Lord, Who said, "Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart." [3234]And in truth, very dear son, the only thing that deserves our exertions and praises is our everlasting welfare; and this is the honour that comes from God. Human affairs are fainter than a shadow; more deceitful than a dream. Youth fades more quickly than the flowers of spring; our beauty wastes with age or sickness. Riches are uncertain; glory is fickle. The pursuit of arts and sciences is bounded by the present life; the charm of eloquence, which all covet, reaches but the ear: whereas the practice of virtue is a precious possession for its owner, a delightful spectacle for all who witness it. Make this your study; so will you be worthy of the good things promised by the Lord. But a recital of the means whereby to make the acquisition, and secure the enjoyment of these blessings, lies beyond the intention of this present letter. Thus much however, after what I heard from my brother Theotecnus, it occurred to me to write to you. I pray that he may always speak the truth, especially in his accounts of you; that the Lord may be the more glorified in you, abounding as you do in the most precious fruits of piety, although derived from a foreign root.

Footnotes

[3233] Placed at the end of Basil's life. [3234] Matt. xi. 29.

Letter CCLXXVIII. [3235]

To Valerianus. I desired, when in Orphanene, [3236] to see your excellency; I had also hoped that while you were living at Corsagæna, there would have been nothing to hinder your coming to me at a synod which I had expected to hold at Attagæna; since, however, I failed to hold it, my desire was to see you in the hill-country; for here again Evesus, [3237] being in that neighbourhood, held out hopes of our meeting. But since I have been disappointed on both occasions, I determined to write and beg that you would deign to visit me; for I think it is but right and proper that the young man should come to the old. Furthermore, at our meeting, I would make you a tender of my advice, touching your negotiations with certain at Cæsarea: a right conclusion of the matter calls for my intervention. If agreeable then, do not be backward in coming to me.

Footnotes

[3235] Placed in the episcopate. [3236] A district in Armenia Minor. Ramsay, Hist. Geog. A.M. 314. [3237] cf. Ep. ccli. p. 291. Euassai or Evesus is about fifty miles north of Cæsarea.

Letter CCLXXIX. [3238]

To Modestus the Prefect. Although so numerous are my letters, conveyed to your excellency by as many bearers, yet, having regard to the especial honour you have shewn me, I cannot think that their large number causes you any annoyance. I do not hesitate therefore to entrust to this brother the accompanying letter: I know that he will meet with all that he wishes, and that you will count me but as a benefactor in furnishing occasion for the gratification of your kind inclinations. He craves your advocacy. His cause he will explain in person, if you but deign to regard him with a favourable eye, and embolden him to speak freely in the presence of so august an authority. Accept my assurance that any kindness shewn to him, I shall regard as personal to myself. His special reason for leaving Tyana and coming to me was the high value he attached to the presentation of a letter written by myself in support of his application. That he may not be disappointed of his hope; that I may continue in the enjoyment of your consideration; that your interest in all that is good may, in this present matter, find scope for its full exercise--are the grounds on which I crave a gracious reception for him, and a place amongst those nearest to you.

Footnotes

[3238] Placed in the episcopate.

Letter CCLXXX. [3239]

To Modestus the Prefect. I feel my boldness in pressing my suit by letter upon a man in your position; still the honour that you have paid me in the past has banished all my scruples. Accordingly I write with confidence. My plea is for a relative of mine, a man worthy of respect for his integrity. He is the bearer of this letter, and he stands to me in the place of a son. Your favour is all that he requires for the fulfilment of his wishes. Deign therefore to receive, at the hands of the aforesaid bearer, my letter in furtherance of his plea. I pray you to give him an opportunity of explaining his affairs at an interview with those in a position to help him. So by your direction shall he quickly obtain his desires; while I shall have occasion for boasting that by God's favour I have found a champion who regards the entreaties of my friends as personal claims to his protection.

Footnotes

[3239] Placed in the episcopate.

Letter CCLXXXI. [3240]

To Modestus the Prefect. I am mindful of the great honour I received in the encouragement you gave me, along with others, to address your excellency. I avail myself of the privilege and the enjoyment of your gracious favour. I congratulate myself upon having such a correspondent, as also upon the opportunity afforded your excellency of conferring an honour on me by your reply. I claim your clemency on behalf of Helladius my special friend. I pray that he may be relieved from the anxieties of Tax-assessor, and so be enabled to work in the interests of our country. You have already so far given a gracious consent, that I now repeat my request, and pray you to send instructions to the governor of the Province, that Helladius may be released from this infliction.

Footnotes

[3240] Placed in the episcopate.

Letter CCLXXXII. [3241]

To a bishop. You blame me for not inviting you; and, when invited, you do not attend. That your former excuse was an empty one is clear from your conduct on the second occasion. For had you been invited before, in all probability you would never have come. Act not again unadvisedly, but obey this present invitation; since you know that its repetition strengthens an indictment, and that a second lends credibility to a previous accusation. I exhort you always to bear with me; or even if you cannot, at any rate it is your duty not to neglect the Martyrs, to join in whose commemoration you are invited. Render therefore your service to us both; or if you will not consent to this, at any rate to the more worthy.

Footnotes

[3241] Placed in the episcopate.

Letter CCLXXXIII. [3242]

To a widow. I hope to find a suitable day for the conference, after those which I intend to fix for the hill-country. I see no opportunity for our meeting (unless the Lord so order it beyond my expectation), other than at a public conference. You may imagine my position from your own experience. If in the care of a single household you are beset with such a crowd of anxieties, how many distractions, think you, each day brings to me? Your dream, I think, reveals more perfectly the necessity of making provision for spiritual contemplation, and cultivating that mental vision by which God is wont to be seen. Enjoying as you do the consolation of the Holy Scriptures, you stand in need neither of my assistance nor of that of anybody else to help you to comprehend your duty. You have the all-sufficient counsel and guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead you to what is right.

Footnotes

[3242] Placed in the episcopate.

Letter CCLXXXIV. [3243]

To the assessor in the case of monks. Concerning the monks, your excellency has, I believe, already rules in force, so that I need ask for no special favour on their behalf. It is enough that they share with others the enjoyment of your general beneficence; still I feel it incumbent upon me too to interest myself in their case. I therefore submit it to your more perfect judgment, that men who have long since taken leave of this life, who have mortified their own bodies, so that they have neither money to spend nor bodily service to render in the interests of the common weal, should be exempted from taxation. For if their lives are consistent with their profession, they possess neither money nor bodies; for the former is spent in communicating to the needy; while their bodies are worn away in prayer and fasting. Men living such lives you will, I know, regard with special reverence; nay you will wish to secure their intervention, since by their life in the Gospel they are able to prevail with God.

Footnotes

[3243] Placed in the episcopate.

Letter CCLXXXV. [3244]

Without Address. The hearer of this letter is one on whom rests the care of our Church and the management of its property--our beloved son. Deign to grant him freedom of speech on those points that are referred to your holiness, and attention to the expression of his own views; so shall our Church at length recover herself, and henceforth be released from this many-headed Hydra. Our property is our poverty; so much so that we are ever in search of one to relieve us of it; for the expenses of the Church property amount to more than any profit that she derives from it.

Footnotes

[3244] Placed in the episcopate.

Letter CCLXXXVI. [3245]

To the Commentariensis. [3246] Whereas certain vagabonds have been arrested in the church for stealing, in defiance of God's commandment, some poor men's clothing, of little value otherwise, yet such as they had rather have on than off their backs; and whereas you consider that in virtue of your office you yourself should have the custody of the offenders:--I hereby declare, that I would have you know that for offences committed in the church it is our business to mete out punishment, and that the intervention of the civil authorities is in these cases superfluous. Wherefore, the stolen property, as set forth in the document in your possession and in the transcript made in the presence of eyewitnesses, I enjoin you to retain, reserving part for future claims, and distributing the rest among the present applicants. As for the offenders,--that they be corrected in the discipline and admonition of the Lord. By this means I hope to work their successive reformations. For where the stripes of human tribunals have failed, I have often known the fearful judgments of God to be effectual. If it is, however, your wish to refer this matter also to the count, such is my confidence in his justice and uprightness that I leave you to follow your own counsels.

Footnotes

[3245] Placed in the episcopate. [3246] A registrar of prisons, or prison superintendent. Cod. Just. ix. 4. 4. Dis. xlviii. 20. 6.

Letter CCLXXXVII. [3247]

Without address. IT is difficult to deal with this man. I scarcely know how to treat so shifty, and, to judge from the evidence, so desperate a character. When summoned before the court, he fails to appear; and if he does attend, he is gifted with such volubility of words and oaths, that I think myself well off to be quickly rid of him. I have often known him twist round his accusations upon his accusers. In a word, there is no creature living upon earth so subtile and versatile in villainy. A slight acquaintance with him suffices to prove this. Why then do you appeal to me? Why not at once bring yourselves to submit to his ill-treatment, as to a visitation of God's anger? At the same time you must not be contaminated by contact with wickedness. I enjoin therefore that he and all his household be forbidden the services of the Church, and all other communion with her ministers. Being thus made an example of, he may haply be brought to a sense of his enormities.

Footnotes

[3247] Placed in the episcopate.

Letter CCLXXXVIII. [3248]

Without address. Excommunicatory. When public punishment fails to bring a man to his senses, or exclusion from the prayers of the Church to drive him to repentance, it only remains to treat him in accordance with our Lord's directions--as it is written, "If thy brother shall trespass against thee....tell him his fault between thee and him;...if he will not hear thee, take with thee another;" "and if he shall" then "neglect to hear, tell it unto the Church; but if he neglect to hear even the Church, let him be unto thee henceforth as an heathen man, and as a publican." [3249]Now all this we have done in the case of this fellow. First, he was accused of his fault; then he was convicted in the presence of one or two witnesses; thirdly, in the presence of the Church. Thus we have made our solemn protest, and he has not listened to it. Henceforth let him be excommunicated. Further, let proclamation be made throughout the district, that he be excluded from participation in any of the ordinary relations of life; so that by our withholding ourselves from all intercourse with him he may become altogether food for the devil. [3250]

Footnotes

[3248] Placed in the episcopate. [3249] Matt. xviii. 15-17. [3250] Contrast 1 Tim. i. 20.

Letter CCLXXXIX. [3251]

Without address. Concerning an afflicted woman. I consider it an equal mistake, to let the guilty go unpunished, and to exceed the proper limits of punishment. I accordingly passed upon this man the sentence I considered it incumbent on me to pass--excommunication from the Church. The sufferer I exhorted not to avenge herself; but to leave to God the redressing of her wrongs. Thus if my admonitions had possessed any weight, I should then have been obeyed, for the language I employed was far more likely to ensure credit, than any letter to enforce compliance. So, even after listening to her statements that contained matter sufficiently grave, I still held my peace; and even now I am not sure that it becomes me to treat again of this same question. For, she says, I have foregone husband, children, all the enjoyments of life, for the attainment of this single object, the favour of God, and good repute amongst men. Yet one day the offender, an adept from boyhood in corrupting families, with the impudence habitual to him, forced an entrance into my house; and thus within the bare limits of an interview an acquaintanceship was formed. It was only owing to my ignorance of the man, and to that timidity which comes from inexperience, that I hesitated openly to turn him out of doors. Yet to such a pitch of impiety and insolence did he come, that he filled the whole city with slanders, and publicly inveighed against me by affixing to the church doors libellous placards. For this conduct, it is true, he incurred the displeasure of the law: but, nevertheless, he returned to his slanderous attacks on me. Once more the market-place was filled with his abuse, as well as the gymnasia, theatres, and houses whose congeniality of habits gained him an admittance. Nor did his very extravagance lead men to recognise those virtues wherein I was conspicuous, so universally had I been represented as being of an incontinent disposition. In these calumnies, she goes on to say, some find a delight--such is the pleasure men naturally feel in the disparagement of others; some profess to be pained, but shew no sympathy; others believe the truth of these slanders; others again, having regard to the persistency of his oaths, are undecided. But sympathy I have none. And now indeed I begin to realise my loneliness, and bewail myself. I have no brother, friend, relation, no servant, bond or free, in a word, no one whatever to share my grief. And yet, I think, I am more than any one else an object of pity, in a city where the haters of wickedness are so few. They bandy violence; but violence, though they fail to see it, moves in a circle, and in time will overtake each one of them. In such and still more appealing terms she told her tale, with countless tears, and so departed. Nor did she altogether acquit me of blame; thinking that, when I ought to sympathise with her like a father, I am indifferent to her troubles, and regard the sufferings of others too philosophically. For it is not, she urged, the loss of money that you bid me disregard; nor the endurance of bodily sufferings; but a damaged reputation, an injury involving loss upon the Church at large. This is her appeal; and now I pray you, most excellent sir, consider what answer you would have me make her. The decision I have come to in my own mind is, not to surrender offenders to the magistrates; yet not to rescue those already in their custody, since it has long ago been declared by the Apostle, that the magistrates should be a terror to them in their evil-doings; for, it is said, "he beareth not the sword in vain." [3252]To surrender him, then, is contrary to my humanity; while to release him would be an encouragement to his violence. Perhaps, however, you will defer taking action until my arrival. I will then shew you that I can effect nothing from there being none to obey me.

Footnotes

[3251] Placed in the episcopate. [3252] Rom. xiii. 4.

Letter CCXC. [3253]

To Nectarius. May many blessings rest on those who encourage your excellency in maintaining a constant correspondence with me! And regard not such a wish as conventional merely, but as expressing my sincere conviction of the value of your utterances. Whom could I honour above Nectarius--known to me from his earliest days as a child of fairest promise, who now through the exercise of every virtue has reached a position of the highest eminence?--So much so, that of all my friends the dearest is the bearer of your letter. Touching the election of those set over districts, [3254] God forbid that I should do anything for the gratification of man, through listening to importunities or yielding to fear. In that case I should be not a steward, but a huckster, battering the gift of God for the favour of man. But seeing that votes are given but by mortals, who can only bear such testimony as they do from outward appearances, while the choice of fit persons is committed in all humility to Him Who knows the secrets of the heart, haply it is best for everybody, when he has tendered the evidence of his vote, to abstain from all heat and contention, as though some self-interest were involved in the testimony, and to pray to God that what is advantageous may not remain unknown. Thus the result is no longer attributable to man, but a cause for thankfulness to God. For these things, if they be of man, cannot be said to be; but are pretence only, altogether void of reality. Consider also, that when a man strives with might and main to gain his end, there is no small danger of his drawing even sinners to his side; and there is much sinfulness, such is the weakness of man's nature, even where we should least expect it. Again, in private consultation we often offer our friends good advice, and, though we do not find them taking it, yet we are not angry. Where then it is not man that counsels, but God that determines, shall we feel indignation at not being preferred before the determination of God? And if these things were given to man by man, what need were there for us to ask them of ourselves? Were it not better for each to take them from himself? But if they are the gift of God, we ought to pray and not to grieve. And in our prayer we should not seek our own will, but leave it to God who disposes for the best. Now may the holy God keep from your home all taste of sorrow; and grant to you and to your family a life exempt from harm and sickness.

Footnotes

[3253] Placed in the episcopate. [3254] On the word summorias the Ben. note is: "Hac voce non designatur tota diocesis, sed certos quidam pagorum numerus chorepiscopo commissus, ut patet ex epist. cxlii.," q.v., "erat autem chorepiscoporum sedes insigni alicui affixa pago, cui alii pagi attribuebantur. Unde Basilius in epist. clxxxviii. § 10. Auctor est Amphilochio ut agrum Mestiæ subjectum Vasodis subjiciat.

Letter CCXCI. [3255]

To Timotheus the Chorepiscopus. [3256] The due limits of a letter, and that mode of addressing you, render it inconvenient for me to write all I think; at the same time to pass over my thoughts in silence, when my heart is burning with righteous indignation against you, is well-nigh impossible. I will adopt the midway course: I will write some things; others I will omit. For I wish to chide you, if so I may, in terms both flank and friendly. Yes! that Timotheus whom I have known from boyhood, so intent upon an upright and ascetic life, as even to be accused of excess therein, now forsakes the enquiry after those means whereby we may be united to God; now makes it his first thought what some one else may think of him, and lives a life of dependence upon the opinions of others; is mainly anxious how to serve his friends, without incurring the ridicule of enemies; and fears disgrace with the world as a great misfortune. Does he not know, that while he is occupied with these trifles he is unconsciously neglecting his highest interests? For, that we cannot be engaged with both at once--the things of this world and of Heaven--the holy Scriptures are full of teaching for us. Nay, Nature herself is full of such instances. In the exercise of the mental faculty, to think two thoughts at the same time is quite impossible. In the perceptions of our senses, to admit two sounds falling upon our ears at the same moment, and to distinguish them, although we are provided with two open passages, is impossible. Our eyes, again, unless they are both fixed upon the object of our vision, are unable to perform their action accurately. Thus much for Nature; but to recite to you the evidence of the Scriptures were as ridiculous as, so runs the proverb, `to carry owls to Athens.' [3257]Why then combine things incompatible--the tumults of civil life and the practice of religion? Withdraw from clamour; be no more the cause or object of annoyance; let us keep ourselves to ourselves. We long since proposed religion as our aim; let us make the attainment of it our practice, and shew those who have the wish to insult us that it does not lie with them to annoy us at their will. But this will only be when we have clearly shewn them that we afford no handle for abuse. For the present enough of this! Would that some day we might meet and more perfectly consider those things that be for our souls' welfare; so may we not be too much occupied with thoughts of vanity, since death must one day overtake us. I was greatly pleased with the gifts you kindly sent me. They were most welcome on their own account; the thought of who it was that sent them made them many times more welcome. The gifts from Pontus, the tablets and medicines, kindly accept when I send them. At present they are not by me. N.B. The letters numbered CCXCII.-CCCLXVI. are included by the Ben. Ed. in a "Classis Tertia," having no note of time. Some are doubtful, and some plainly spurious. Of these I include such as seem most important.

Footnotes

[3255] Placed in the episcopate. [3256] cf. note on p. 156. [3257] glauke 'Athenaze. Arist., Av. 301.

Letter CCXCII.

To Palladius. The one-half of my desire has God fulfilled in the interview He granted me with our fair sister, your wife. The other half He is able to accomplish; and so with the sight of your excellency I shall render my full thanks to God. And I am the more desirous of seeing you, now that I hear you have been adorned with that great ornament, the clothing of immortality, which clokes our mortality, and puts out of sight the death of the flesh; by virtue of which the corruptible is swallowed up in incorruption. Thus God of His goodness has now alienated you from sin, united you to Himself, has opened the doors of Heaven, and pointed out the paths that lead to heavenly bliss. I entreat you therefore by that wisdom wherein you excel all other men, that you receive the divine favour circumspectly, proving a faithful guardian of this treasure, as the repository of this royal gift, keeping watch over it with all carefulness. Preserve this seal of righteousness unsullied, that so you may stand before God, shining in the brightness of the Saints. Let no spot or wrinkle defile the pure robe of immortality; but keep holiness in all your members, as having put on Christ. "For," it is said, "as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ." [3258]Wherefore let all your members be holy as becomes their investment in a raiment of holiness and light.

Footnotes

[3258] Gal. iii. 27.

Letter CCXCIII.

To Julianus. How fare you this long while? Have you altogether recovered the use of your hand? And how do other things prosper? According to your wishes and my prayers? In accordance with your purposes? Where men are readily disposed to change, it is only natural that their lives are not well ordered: but where their minds are fixed, steadfast and unalterable, it follows that their lives should be conformable to their purposes. True, it is not in the helmsman's power to make a calm when he wishes; but with us, it is quite easy to render our lives tranquil by stilling the storms of passion that surge within, by rising superior to those that assail us from without. The upright man is touched by neither loss, nor sickness, nor the other ills of life; for he walks in heart with God, keeps his gaze fixed upon the future, and easily and lightly weathers the storms that rise from earth. Be not troubled with the cares of earth. Such men are like fat birds, in vain endowed with flight, that creep like beasts upon the ground. But you--for I have witnessed you in difficulties--are like swimmers racing out at sea. A single claw reveals the whole lion: so from a slight acquaintance I think I know you fully. And I count it a great thing, that you set some store by me, that I am not absent from your thoughts, but constantly in your recollection. Now writing is a proof of recollection; and the oftener you write, the better pleased I am.

Letter CCXCIV.

To Festus and Magnus. It is doubtless a father's duty to make provision for his children; a husbandman's to tend his plants and crops; a teacher's to bestow care upon his pupils, especially when, innate goodness shews signs of promise for them. The husbandman finds toil a pleasure when he sees the ears ripen or the plants increase; the teacher is gladdened at his pupils' growth in knowledge, the father at his son's in stature. But greater is the care I feel for you; higher the hopes I entertain; in proportion as piety is more excellent than all the arts, than all the animals and fruits together. And piety I planted in your heart while still pure and tender, and I matured it in the hopes of seeing it reach maturity and bearing fruits in due season. My prayers meanwhile were furthered by your love of learning. And you know well that you have my good wishes, and that God's favour rests upon your endeavours; for when rightly directed, called or uncalled, God is at hand to further them. Now every man that loves God is prone to teaching; nay, where there is the power to teach things profitable, their eagerness is well nigh uncontrollable; but first their hearers' minds must be cleared of all resistance. Not that separation in the body is a hindrance to instruction. The Creator, in the fulness of His love and wisdom, did not confine our minds within our bodies, nor the power of speaking to our tongues. Ability to profit derives some advantage even from lapse of time; thus we are able to transmit instruction, not only to those who are dwelling far away, but even to those who are hereafter to be born. And experience proves my words: those who lived many years before teach posterity by instruction preserved in their writings; and we, though so far separated in the body, are always near in thought, and converse together with ease. Instruction is bounded neither by sea nor land, if only we have a care for our souls' profit.

Letter CCXCV.

To monks. I do not think that I need further commend you to God's grace, after the words that I addressed to you in person. I then bade you adopt the life in common, after the manner of living of the Apostles. This you accepted as wholesome instruction, and gave God thanks for it. Thus your conduct was due, not so much to the words I spoke, as to my instructions to put them into practice, conducive at once to your advantage who accepted, to my comfort who gave you the advice, and to the glory and praise of Christ, by Whose name we are called. For this reason I have sent to you our well-beloved brother, that he may learn of your zeal, may quicken your sloth, may report to me of opposition. For great is my desire to see you all united in one body, and to hear that you are not content to live a life without witness; but have undertaken to be both watchful of each other's diligence, and witnesses of each other's success. Thus will each of you receive a reward in full, not only on his own behalf, but also for his brother's progress. And, as is fitting, you will be a source of mutual profit, both by your words and deeds, as a result of constant intercourse and exhortation. But above all I exhort you to be mindful of the faith of the Fathers, and not to be shaken by those who in your retirement would try to wrest you from it. For you know that unless illumined by faith in God, strictness of life availeth nothing; nor will a right confession of faith, if void of good works, be able to present you before the Lord. Faith and works must be joined: so shall the man of God be perfect, and his life not halt through any imperfection. For the faith which saves us, as saith the Apostle, is that which worketh by love.

Letter CCXCVI.

To a widow. [A short letter in which Basil excuses himself for making use of the widow's mules.]

Letter CCXCVII.

To a widow. [A short letter of introduction.]

Letter CCXCVIII.

Without address. [A short letter of commendation.]

Letter CCXCIX.

To a Censitor. [3259] I was aware, before you told me, that you do not like your employment in public affairs. It is an old saying that those who are anxious to lead a pious life do not throw themselves with pleasure into office. The case of magistrates seems to me like that of physicians. They see awful sights; they meet with bad smells; they get trouble for themselves out of other people's calamities. This is at least the case with those who are real magistrates. All men who are engaged in business, look also to make a profit, and are excited about this kind of glory, count it the greatest possible advantage to acquire some power and influence by which they may be able to benefit their friends, punish their enemies, and get what they want for themselves. You are not a man of this kind. How should you be? You have voluntarily withdrawn from even high office in the State. You might have ruled the city like one single house, but you have preferred a life free from care and anxiety. You have placed a higher value on having no troubles yourself and not troubling other people, than other people do on making themselves disagreeable. But it has seemed good to the Lord that the district of Ibora [3260] should not be under the power of hucksters, nor be turned into a mere slave market. It is His will that every individual in it should be enrolled, as is right. Do you therefore accept this responsibility? It is vexatious, I know, but it is one which may bring you the approbation of God. Neither fawn upon the great and powerful, nor despise the poor and needy. Show to all under your rule an impartiality of mind, balanced more exactly than any scales. Thus in the sight of those who have entrusted you with these responsibilities your zeal for justice will be made evident, and they will view you with exceptional admiration. And even though you go unnoticed by them, you will not be unnoticed by our God. The prizes which He has put before us for good works are great.

Footnotes

[3259] i.e. assessor of taxes. [3260] See geographical note in Prolegomena.


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