Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Ecclesiastical History, Dialogues, and Letters of Theodoret.: Of the heresy of the Messaliani.
Chapter X.—Of the heresy of the Messaliani.
At this time also arose the heresy of the Messaliani. Those who translate their name into Greek call them Euchitæ. 703
They have also another designation which arose naturally from their mode of action. From their coming under the influence of a certain demon, which they supposed to be the advent of the Holy Ghost, they are called enthusiasts. 704
Men who have become infected with this plague to its full extent shun manual labour as iniquitous; and, giving themselves over to sloth, call the imaginations of their dreams prophesyings. Of this heresy Dadoes, Sabbas, Adelphius, Hermas, and Simeones were leaders, and others besides, who did not hold aloof from the communion of the Church, alleging that neither good nor harm came of the divine food of which Christ our Master said “Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood shall live for ever.” 705
In their endeavor to hide their unsoundness they shamelessly deny it even after conviction, and abjure men whose opinions are in harmony with their own secret sentiments.
Under these circumstances Letoius, who was at the head of the church of Melitine, 706 a man full of divine zeal, saw that many monasteries, or, shall I rather say, brigands caves, had drunk deep of this disease. He therefore burnt them, and drove out the wolves from the flock.
In like manner the illustrious Amphilochius 707 to whom was committed the charge of the metropolis of the Lycaonians and who ruled all the people, no sooner learnt that this pestilence had invaded his diocese than he made it depart from his borders and freed from its infection the flocks he fed.
Flavianus, 708 also, the far famed high-priest of the Antiochenes, on learning that these men were living at Edessa and attacking with their peculiar poison all with whom p. 115 they came in contact, sent a company of monks, brought them to Antioch, and in the following manner convicted them in their denial of their heresy. Their accusers, he said, were calumniating them, and the witnesses giving false evidence; and Adelphius, who was a very old man, he accosted with expressions of kindness, and ordered to take a seat at his side. Then he said “We, O venerable sir, who have lived to an advanced age, have more accurate knowledge of human nature, and of the tricks of the demons who oppose us, and have learnt by experience the character of the gift of grace. But these younger men have no clear knowledge of these matters, and cannot brook to listen to spiritual teaching. Wherefore tell me in what sense you say that the opposing spirit retreats, and the grace of the Holy Ghost supervenes.” The old man was won over by these words and gave vent to all his secret venom, for he said that no benefit accrues to the recipients of Holy Baptism, and that it is only by earnest prayer that the in-dwelling demon is driven out, for that every one born into the world derives from his first father slavery to the demons just as he does his nature; but that when these are driven away, then come the Holy Ghost giving sensible and visible signs of His presence, at once freeing the body from the impulse of the passions and wholly ridding the soul of its inclination to the worse; with the result that there is no more need for fasting that restrains the body, nor of teaching or training that bridles it and instructs it how to walk aright. And not only is the recipient of this gift liberated from the wanton motions of the body, but also clearly foresees things to come, and with the eyes beholds the Holy Trinity.
In this wise the divine Flavianus dug into the foul fountain-head and succeeded in laying bare its streams. Then he thus addressed the wretched old man. “O thou that hast grown old in evil days, thy own mouth convicts thee, not I, and thou art testified against by thy own lips.” After their unsoundness had been thus exposed they were expelled from Syria, and withdrew to Pamphylia, which they filled with their pestilential doctrine.
The Syriac name whence comes “Messaliani” or “Massaliani” means praying people ןילצָמְ, י אלָצְ Dan. vi. 1. Epiphanius rendered the name εὐχόμενοι, but they were soon generally known in Greek as εὐχῆται or εὐχῖται114:704
The form ἐνθουσιαστὴς is ecclesiastical, and late Greek, but the verb ἐνθουσιάζειν occurs at least as early as Æschylus. (Fr. 64 a.)114:705
Compare John 6:54, 51John vi. 54 and 51; the citation as before is inexact.114:706
Melitine (Malatia). metropolis of lesser Armenia; the scene of the defeat of Chosroes Nushirvan by the Romans a.d. 577.114:707
Archbishop of Iconium, the friend of Basil and first cousin of Gregory of Nazianzus, B. probably about 344. He is not mentioned after the beginning of the 5th century.114:708
cf. ii. 19, and iv. 22. He was not consecrated bishop until 381.
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