Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Letters.: To the City of Sebasteia.
Letter II.—To the City of Sebasteia 2168 .
Some of the brethren whose heart is as our heart told us of the slanders that were being propagated to our detriment by those who hate peace, and privily backbite their neighbour; and have no fear of the great and terrible judgment-seat of Him Who has declared that account will be required even of idle words in that trial of our life which we must all look for: they say that the charges which are being circulated against us are such as these; that we entertain opinions opposed to those who at Nicæa set forth the right and sound faith, and that without due discrimination and inquiry we received into the communion of the Catholic Church those who formerly assembled at Ancyra under the name of Marcellus. Therefore, that falsehood may not overpower the truth, in another letter we made a sufficient defence against the charges levelled at us, and before the Lord we protested that we had neither departed from the faith of the Holy Fathers, nor had we done anything without due discrimination and inquiry in the case of those who came over from the communion of Marcellus to that of the Church: but all that we did we did only after the orthodox in the East, and our brethren in the ministry had entrusted to us the consideration of the case of these persons, and had approved our action. But inasmuch as, since we composed that written defence of our conduct, again some of the brethren who are of one mind with us begged us to make separately 2169 with our own lips a profession of our faith, which we entertain with full conviction 2170 , following as we do the utterances of inspiration and the tradition of the Fathers, we deemed it necessary to discourse briefly of these heads as well. We confess that the doctrine of the Lord, which He taught His disciples, when He delivered to them the mystery of godliness, is the foundation and root of right and sound faith, nor do we believe that there is aught else loftier or safer than that tradition. Now the doctrine of the Lord is this: “Go,” He said, “teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Since, then, in the case of those who are regenerate from death to eternal life, it is through the Holy Trinity that the life-giving power is bestowed on those who with faith are deemed worthy of the grace, and in like manner the grace is imperfect, if any one, whichever it be, of the names of the Holy Trinity be omitted in the saving baptism—for the sacrament of regenerap. 529 tion is not completed in the Son and the Father alone without the Spirit: nor is the perfect boon of life imparted to Baptism in the Father and the Spirit, if the name of the Son be suppressed: nor is the grace of that Resurrection accomplished in the Father and the Son, if the Spirit be left out 2171 :—for this reason we rest all our hope, and the persuasion of the salvation of our souls, upon the three Persons, recognized 2172 by these names; and we believe in the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the Fountain of life, and in the Only-begotten Son of the Father, Who is the Author of life, as saith the Apostle, and in the Holy Spirit of God, concerning Whom the Lord hath spoken, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth”. And since on us who have been redeemed from death the grace of immortality is bestowed, as we have said, through faith in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, guided by these we believe that nothing servile, nothing created, nothing unworthy of the majesty of the Father is to be associated in thought with the Holy Trinity; since, I say, our life is one which comes to us by faith in the Holy Trinity, taking its rise from the God of all, flowing through the Son, and working in us by the Holy Spirit. Having, then, this full assurance, we are baptized as we were commanded, and we believe as we are baptized, and we hold as we believe; so that with one accord our baptism, our faith, and our ascription of praise are to 2173 the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. But if any one makes mention of two or three Gods, or of three God-heads, let him be accursed. And if any, following the perversion of Arius, says that the Son or the Holy Spirit were produced from things that are not, let him be accursed. But as many as walk by the rule of truth and acknowledge the three Persons, devoutly recognized in Their several properties, and believe that there is one Godhead, one goodness, one rule, one authority and power, and neither make void the supremacy of the Sole-sovereignty 2174 , nor fall away into polytheism, nor confound the Persons, nor make up the Holy Trinity of heterogeneous and unlike elements, but in simplicity receive the doctrine of the faith, grounding all their hope of salvation upon the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,—these according to our judgment are of the same mind as we, and with them we also trust to have part in the Lord.
Marcellus of Ancyra had been deposed in the Council of Constantinople in 336, for teaching the doctrine of Paul of Samosata. Basil and Athanasius successively separated from their communion all who were united to Marcellus; and these, knowing that Valens the Emperor had exiled several bishops of Egypt to Diocæsarea, went to find them (375) and were admitted to their communion. Armed with letters from them, they demanded to be received into that of the other bishops of the East, and at length Basil and others, having examined the matter closely, admitted them. Gregory followed Basils example, being assured of their Catholicity: and to justify himself wrote this letter to the Catholics of Sebasteia.528:2169
ἰδίως, i.e. as a distinct matter from the previous ἀπολογία; or perhaps “privately.”528:2170
πεπληροφορήμεθα; a deponent, the same use as in Rom. iv. 21, of Abraham, πληροφορηθεὶς ὅτι ὃ ἐπήγγελται κ.τ.λ.: cf. πληροφορία πίστεως, Heb. x. 22: πληροφορία τῆς ἐλπίδος, Heb. vi. 11. The other N.T. use of this word, as an active and passive, is found 2 Tim. iv. 5, “fulfil thy ministry;” 2 Tim. 4:17, Luke 1:12 Tim. iv. 17; S. Luke i. 1, πεπληροφορημένων, “most surely believed” (A.V.): in all which the R.V. follows the Vulgate interpretation. In the Latin translation of this passage in Gregory, “(professionem) quâ sacris nos Scripturis ac Patrum traditioni penitus inhærere persuasum omnibus foret,” the meaning put upon πληροφορεῖσθαι by A.V. in the last text is adopted, “we are fully believed to follow,” with a very harsh construction.529:2171
There is some repetition and omission here. Gregory ought to have said in one of the clauses, “Nor is Baptism in the name of the Son and Holy Ghost sufficient, without the name of the Father” (H. C. O.).529:2172
γνωριζομένην looks as if it ought to be γνωριζομέναις, and the Latin translator renders accordingly (H. C. O.).529:2173
The same preposition εἰς is used after βάπτισμα, πίστις, and δόξα.529:2174
μοναρχία, i.e. the One First Cause or Principle. See p. 84, note 7.
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