Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises.: Eunomius displays much folly and fine writing, but very little seriousness about vital points.
§4. Eunomius displays much folly and fine writing, but very little seriousness about vital points.
In these and such like antics I allow him to have the advantage; and to his hearts content he may revel in his victory there. Most willingly I forego such a competition, which can attract those only who seek renown; if indeed any renown comes from indulging in such methods of argumentation, considering that Paul 64 , that genuine minister of the Word, whose only ornament was truth, both disdained himself to lower his style to such prettinesses, and instructs us also, in a noble and appropriate exhortation, to fix our attention on truth alone. What need indeed for one who is fair in the beauty of truth to drag in the paraphernalia of a decorator for the production of a false artificial beauty? Perhaps for those who do not possess truth it may be an advantage to varnish their falsehoods with an attractive style, and to rub into the grain of their argument a curious polish. When their error is taught in far-fetched language and decked out with all the affectations of style, they have a chance of being plausible and accepted by their hearers. But those whose only aim is simple truth, unadulterated by any misguiding foil, find the light of a natural beauty emitted from their words.
But now that I am about to begin the examination of all that he has advanced, I feel the same difficulty as a farmer does, when the air is calm; I know not how to separate his wheat from his chaff; the waste, in fact, and the chaff in this pile of words is so enormous, that it makes one think that the residue of facts and real thoughts in all that he has said is almost nil. It would be the worse for speed and very irksome, it would even be beside our object, to go into the whole of his remarks in detail; we have not the means for securing so much leisure so as wantonly to devote it to such frivolities; it is the duty, I think, of a prudent workman not to waste his strength on trifles, but on that which will clearly repay his toil.
As to all the things, then, in his Introduction, how he constitutes himself truths champion, and fixes the charge of unbelief upon his opponents, and declares that an abiding and indelible hatred for them has sunk into his soul, how he struts in his new discoveries, though he does not tell us what they are, but says only that an examination of the debateable points in them was set on foot, a certain legal trial which placed on those who were daring to act illegally the necessity of keeping quiet, or to quote his own words in that Lydian style of singing which he has got, “the bold law-breakers—in open courts—were forced to be quiet;” (he calls this a “proscription” of the conspiracy against him, whatever may be meant by that term);—all this wearisome business I pass by as quite unimportant. On the other hand, all his special pleading for his heretical conceits may well demand our close attention. Our own interpreter of the principles of divinity followed this course in his Treatise; for though he had plenty of ability to broaden out his argument, he took the line of dealing only with vital points, which he selected from all the blasphemies of that heretical book 65 , and so narrowed the scope of the subject.
If, however, any one desires that our answer should exactly correspond to the array of his arguments, let him tell us the utility of such a process. What gain would it be to my readers if I were to solve the complicated riddle of his title, which he proposes to us at the very commencement, in the manner of the sphinx of the tragic stage; namely this New Apology for the Apology, and all the nonsense which he writes about that; and if I were to tell the long tale of what he dreamt? I think that the reader is sufficiently wearied with the petty vanity about this newness in his title already preserved in Eunomius own text, and with the want of taste displayed there in the account of his own exploits, all his labours and his trials, while he wandered over every land and every sea, and was heralded through the whole world. If all that had to be written down over again,—and with additions, too, as the refutap. XXXVIII tions of these falsehoods would naturally have to expand their statement,—who would be found of such an iron hardness as not to be sickened at this waste of labour? Suppose I was to write down, taking word by word, an explanation of that mad story of his; suppose I were to explain, for instance, who that Armenian was on the shores of the Euxine, who had annoyed him at first by having the same name as himself, what their lives were like, what their pursuits, how he had a quarrel with that Armenian because of the very likeness of their characters, then in what fashion those two were reconciled, so as to join in a common sympathy with that winning and most glorious Aetius, his master (for so pompous are his praises); and after that, what was the plot devised against himself, by which they brought him to trial on the charge of being surpassingly popular: suppose, I say, I was to explain all that, should I not appear, like those who catch opthalmia themselves from frequent contact with those who are already suffering so, to have caught myself this malady of fussy circumstantiality? I should be following step by step each detail of his twaddling story; finding out who the “slaves released to liberty” were, what was “the conspiracy 66 of the initiated” and “the calling out 67 of hired slaves,” what Montius and Gallus, and Domitian, and false witnesses, and an enraged Emperor, and certain sent into exile have to do with the argument. What could be more useless than such tales for the purpose of one who was not wishing merely to write a narrative, but to refute the argument of him who had written against his heresy? What follows in the story is still more profitless; I do not think that the author himself could peruse it again without yawning, though a strong natural affection for his offspring does possess every father. He pretends to unfold there his exploits and his sufferings; the style rears itself into the sublime, and the legend swells into the tones of tragedy.
Cf. 1 Corinth. ii. 1-8.XXXVII:65
that heretical book, i.e. the first Apology of Eunomius in 28 parts: a translation of it is given in Whistons Eunomianismus Redivivus.XXXVIII:66
τάξιν. We have no context to explain these allusions, the treatise of Eunomius being lost, which Gregory is now answering, i.e. the Apologia Apologiæ.
Next: His peculiar caricature of the bishops, Eustathius of Armenia and Basil of Galatia, is not well drawn.
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