Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises.: In charging Basil with not defending his faith at the time of the 'Trials,' he lays himself open to the same charge.
§9. In charging Basil with not defending his faith at the time of the Trials, he lays himself open to the same charge.
He hints at a certain locality where this trial for heresy took place; but he gives us no certain indication where it was, and the reader is obliged to guess in the dark. Thither, he tells us, a congress of picked representatives from all quarters was summoned; and he is at his best here, placing before our eyes with some vigorous strokes the preparation of the event which he pretends took place. Then, he says, a trial in which he would have had to run for his very life was put into the hands of certain arbitrators, to whom our Teacher and Master who was present gave his charge 85 ; and as all the voting power was thus won over to the enemies side, he yielded the position 86 , fled from the place, and hunted everywhere for some hearth and home; and he is great, in this graphic sketch 87 , in arraigning the cowardice of our hero; as any one who likes may see by looking at what he has written. But I cannot stop to give specimens here of the bitter gall of his utterances; I must pass on to that, for the sake of which I mentioned all this.
Where, then, was that unnamed spot in which this examination of his teachings was to take place? What was this occasion when the best then were collected for a trial? Who were these men who hurried over land and sea to share in these labours? What was this expectant world that hung upon the issue of the voting? Who was the arranger of the trial? However, let us consider that he invented all that to swell out the importance of his story, as boys at school are apt to do in their fictitious conversations of this kind; and let him only tell us who that terrible combatant was whom our Master shrunk from encountering. If this also is a fiction, let him be the winner again, and have the advantage of his vain words. We will say nothing: in the useless fight with shadows the real victory is to decline conquering in that. But if he speaks of the events at Constantinople and means the assembly there, and is in this fever of literary indignation at tragedies enacted there, and means himself by that great and redoubtable athlete, then we would display the reasons why, though present on the occasion, we did not plunge into the fight.
p. XLIV Now let this man who upbraids that hero with his cowardice tell us whether he went down into the thick of the fray, whether he uttered one syllable in defence of his own orthodoxy, whether he made any vigorous peroration, whether he victoriously grappled with the foe? He cannot tell us that, or he manifestly contradicts himself, for he owns that by his default he received the adverse verdict. If it was a duty to speak at the actual time of the trial (for that is the law which he lays down for us in his book), then why was he then condemned by default? If on the other hand he did well in observing silence before such dicasts, how arbitrarily 88 he praises himself, but blames us, for silence at such a time! What can be more absurdly unjust than this! When two treatises have been put forth since the time of the trial, he declares that his apology, though written so very long after, was in time, but reviles that which answered his own as quite too late! Surely he ought to have abused Basils intended counter-statement before it was actually made; but this is not found amongst his other complaints. Knowing as he did what Basil was going to write when the time of the trial had passed away, why in the world did he not find fault with it there and then? In fact it is clear from his own confession that he never made that apology in the trial itself. I will repeat again his words:—We confess that we were condemned by default; and he adds why; Evil-disposed persons had been passed as jurymen, or rather, to use his own phrase, there was a packed panel of them where a jury ought to have sat. Whereas, on the other hand, it is clear from another passage in his book that he attests that his apology was made at the proper time. It runs thus:—“That I was urged to make this apology at the proper time and in the proper manner from no pretended reasons, but compelled to do so on behalf of those who went security for me, is clear from facts and also from this mans words.” He adroitly twists his words round to meet every possible objection; but what will he say to this? It was not right to keep silent during the trial. Then why was Eunomius speechless during that same trial? And why is his apology, coming as it did after the trial, in good time? And if in good time, why is Basils controversy with him not in good time?
But the remark of that holy father is especially true, that Eunomius in pretending to make an apology really gave his teaching the support he wished to give it; and that genuine emulator of Phineas zeal, destroying as he does with the sword of the Word every spiritual fornicator, dealt in the Answer to his blasphemy a sword-thrust that was calculated at once to heal a soul and to destroy a heresy. If he resists that stroke, and with a soul deadened by apostacy will not admit the cure, the blame rests with him who chooses the evil, as the Gentile proverb says. So far for Eunomius treatment of truth, and of us: and now the law of former times, which allows an equal return on those who are the first to injure, might prompt us to discharge on him a counter-shower of abuse, and, as he is a very easy subject for this, to be very liberal of it, so as to outdo the pain which he has inflicted: for if he was so rich in insolent invective against one who gave no chance for calumny, how many of such epithets might we not expect to find for those who have satirized that saintly life? But we have been taught from the first by that scholar of the Truth to be scholars of the Gospel ourselves, and therefore we will not take an eye for an eye, nor a tooth for a tooth; we know well that all the evil that happens admits of being annihilated by its opposite, and that no bad word and no bad deed would ever develope into such desperate wickedness, if one good one could only be got in to break the continuity of the vicious stream. Therefore the routine of insolence and abusiveness is checked from repeating itself by long-suffering: whereas if insolence is met with insolence and abuse with abuse, you will but feed with itself this monster-vice, and increase it vastly.
Sozomen (vi. 26): “After his (Eunomius) elevation to the bishopric of Cyzicus he was accused by his own clergy of introducing innovations. Eudoxius obliged him to undergo a public trial and give an account of his doctrines to the people: finding, however, no fault in him, Eudoxius exhorted him to return to Cyzicus. He replied he could not remain with people who regarded him with suspicion, and it is said seized this opportunity to secede from communion.”XLIII:87
ὑπογραφῇ; or else on the subject of Basils charge.XLIV:88
τίς ἡ ἀποκλήρωσις: this is a favourite word with Origen and Gregory.
Next: All his insulting epithets are shewn by facts to be false.
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