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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:
Dogmatic Treatises.: Section 1

Early Church Fathers  Index     

p. XXXV Book I. 57

§1. Preface.—It is useless to attempt to benefit those who will not accept help.

It seems that the wish to benefit all, and to lavish indiscriminately upon the first comer one’s own gifts, was not a thing altogether commendable, or even free from reproach in the eyes of the many; seeing that the gratuitous waste of many prepared drugs on the incurably-diseased produces no result worth caring about, either in the way of gain to the recipient, or reputation to the would-be benefactor. Rather such an attempt becomes in many cases the occasion of a change for the worse. The hopelessly-diseased and now dying patient receives only a speedier end from the more active medicines; the fierce unreasonable temper is only made worse by the kindness of the lavished pearls, as the Gospel tells us. I think it best, therefore, in accordance with the Divine command, for any one to separate the valuable from the worthless when either have to be given away, and to avoid the pain which a generous giver must receive from one who ‘treads upon his pearl,’ and insults him by his utter want of feeling for its beauty.

This thought suggests itself when I think of one who freely communicated to others the beauties of his own soul, I mean that man of God, that mouth of piety, Basil; one who from the abundance of his spiritual treasures poured his grace of wisdom into evil souls whom he had never tested, and into one among them, Eunomius, who was perfectly insensible to all the efforts made for his good. Pitiable indeed seemed the condition of this poor man, from the extreme weakness of his soul in the matter of the Faith, to all true members of the Church; for who is so wanting in feeling as not to pity, at least, a perishing soul? But Basil alone, from the abiding 58 ardour of his love, was moved to undertake his cure, and therein to attempt impossibilities; he alone took so much to heart the man’s desperate condition, as to compose, as an antidote of deadly poisons, his refutation of this heresy 59 , which aimed at saving its author, and restoring him to the Church.

He, on the contrary, like one beside himself with fury, resists his doctor; he fights and struggles; he regards as a bitter foe one who only put forth his strength to drag him from the abyss of misbelief; and he does not indulge in this foolish anger only before chance hearers now and then; he has raised against himself a literary monument to record this blackness of his bile; and when in long years he got the requisite amount of leisure, he was travailling over his work during all that interval with mightier pangs than those of the largest and the bulkiest beasts; his threats of what was coming were dreadful, whilst he was still secretly moulding his conception: but when at last and with great difficulty he brought it to the light, it was a poor little abortion, quite p. XXXVI prematurely born. However, those who share his ruin nurse it and coddle it; while we, seeking the blessing in the prophet (“Blessed shall he be who shall take thy children, and shall dash them against the stones 60 ”) are only eager, now that it has got into our hands, to take this puling manifesto and dash it on the rock, as if it was one of the children of Babylon; and the rock must be Christ; in other words, the enunciation of the truth. Only may that power come upon us which strengthens weakness, through the prayers of him who made his own strength perfect in bodily weakness 61 .


Footnotes

XXXV:57

This first Book against Eunomius was not in the 1st Paris Edition of Gregory’s works, 1615; but it was published three years later from the ‘Bavarian Codex,’ i.e. that of Munich, by J. Gretser, in an Appendix, along with the Summaries (i.e. the headings of the sections, which appear to be not Gregory’s) and the two Introductory Letters. These Summaries and the Letters, and nearly three quarters of the 1st Book were found in J. Livineius’ transcript from the Codex Vaticanus made 1579, at Rome. This Appendix was added to the 2nd Paris Edit. 1638. F. Oehler, whose text has been followed throughout, has used for the 1st Book the Munich Codex (on paper, xvith Cent.); the Venetian (on cotton, xiiith Cent.); the Turin (on cotton, xivth Cent.), and the oldest of all, the Florentine (on parchment, xith Cent.).

XXXV:58

Reading,—

τὸ μόνιμονπιτολμῶντα. This is the correction of Oehler for τὸν μόνονπιτολμῶν which the text presents. The Venetian ms. has πιτολμῶντι

XXXV:59

his refutation of this heresy. This is Basil’s Ανατρεπτικὸς τοῦ ἀπολογητικοῦ τοῦ δυοσεβοῦς Εὐνομίου. ‘Basil,’ says Photius, ‘with difficulty got hold of Eunomius’ book,’ perhaps because it was written originally for a small circle of readers, and was in a highly scientific form. What happened next may be told in the words of Claudius Morellius (Prolegomena to Paris Edition of 1615): ‘When Basil’s first essay against the fœtus of Eunomius had been published, he raised his bruised head like a trodden worm, seized his pen, and began to rave more poisonously still as well against Basil as the orthodox faith.’ This was Eunomius’ ‘Apologia Apologiæ:’ of it Photius says, ‘His reply to Basil was composed for many Olympiads while shut up in his cell. This, like another Saturn, he concealed from the eyes of Basil till it had grown up, i.e. he concealed it, by devouring it, as long as Basil lived.’ He then goes on to say that after Basil’s death, Theodore (of Mopsuestia), Gregory of Nyssa, and Sophronius found it and dealt with it, though even then Eunomius had only ventured to show it to some of his friends. Philostorgius, the ardent admirer of Eunomius, makes the amazing statement that Basil died of despair after reading it.

XXXVI:60

Psalm cxxxvii. 9.

XXXVI:61

‘He asks for the intercession of Saint Paul’ (Paris Edit. in marg.).


Next: We have been justly provoked to make this Answer, being stung by Eunomius' accusations of our brother.

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