Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises.: All his insulting epithets are shewn by facts to be false.
§10. All his insulting epithets are shewn by facts to be false.
I therefore pass over everything else, as mere insolent mockery and scoffing abuse, and hasten to the question of his doctrine. Should any one say that I decline to be abusive only because I cannot pay him back in his own coin, let such an one consider in his own case what proneness there is to evil generally, what a mechanical sliding into sin, dispensing with the need of any practice. The power of becoming bad resides in the will; one act of wishing is often the sufficient occasion for a finished wickedness; and this ease of operation is more especially fatal in the sins of the tongue. Other classes of sins require time and occasion and co-operation to be committed; but the propensity to speak can sin when it likes. The treatise of Eunomius now in our hands is sufficient to prove this; one who attentively considers it will perceive the rapidity of the descent into sins p. XLV in the matter of phrases: and it is the easiest thing in the world to imitate these, even though one is quite unpractised in habitual defamation. What need would there be to labour in coining our intended insults into names, when one might employ upon this slanderer his own phrases? He has strung together, in fact, in this part of his work, every sort of falsehood and evil-speaking, all moulded from the models which he finds in himself; every extravagance is to be found in writing these. He writes “cunning,” “wrangling,” “foe to truth,” “high-flown 89 ,” “charlatan,” “combating general opinion and tradition,” “braving facts which give him the lie,” “careless of the terrors of the law, of the censure of men,” “unable to distinguish the enthusiasm for truth from mere skill in reasoning;” he adds, “wanting in reverence,” “quick to call names,” and then “blatant,” “full of conflicting suspicions,” “combining irreconcileable arguments,” “combating his own utterances,” “affirming contradictories;” then, though eager to speak all ill of him, not being able to find other novelties of invective in which to indulge his bitterness, often in default of all else he reiterates the same phrases, and comes round again a third and a fourth time and even more to what he has once said; and in this circus of words he drives up and then turns down, over and over again, the same racecourse of insolent abuse; so that at last even anger at this shameless display dies away from very weariness. These low unlovely street boys jeers do indeed provoke disgust rather than anger; they are not a whit better than the inarticulate grunting of some old woman who is quite drunk.
Must we then enter minutely into this, and laboriously refute all his invectives by showing that Basil was not this monster of his imagination? If we did this, contentedly proving the absence of anything vile and criminal in him, we should seem to join in insulting one who was a bright particular star to his generation. But I remember how with that divine voice of his he quoted the prophet 90 with regard to him, comparing him to a shameless woman who casts her own reproaches on the chaste. For whom do these reasonings of his proclaim to be truths enemy and in arms against public opinion? Who is it who begs the readers of his book not to look to the numbers of those who profess a belief, or to mere tradition, or to let their judgment be biassed so as to consider as trustworthy what is only suspected to be the stronger side? Can one and the same man write like this, and then make those charges, scheming that his readers should follow his own novelties at the very moment that he is abusing others for opposing themselves to the general belief? As for brazening out facts which give him the lie, and mens censure, I leave the reader to judge to whom this applies; whether to one who by a most careful self-restraint made sobriety and quietness and perfect purity the rule of his own life as well as that of his entourage, or to one who advised that nature should not be molested when it is her pleasure to advance through the appetites of the body, not to thwart indulgence, nor to be so particular as that in the training of our life; but that a self-chosen faith should be considered sufficient for a man to attain perfection. If he denies that this is his teaching, I and any right-minded person would rejoice if he were telling the truth in such a denial. But his genuine followers will not allow him to produce such a denial, or their leading principles would be gone, and the platform of those who for this reason embrace his tenets would fall to pieces. As for shameless indifference to human censure, you may look at his youth or his after life, and you would find him in both open to this reproach. The two mens lives, whether in youth or manhood, tell a widely-different tale.
Let our speech-writer, while he reminds himself of his youthful doings in his native land, and afterwards at Constantinople, hear from those who can tell him what they know of the man whom he slanders. But if any would inquire into their subsequent occupations, let such a person tell us which of the two he considers to deserve so high a reputation; the man who ungrudgingly spent upon the poor his patrimony even before he was a priest, and most of all in the time of the famine, during which he was a ruler of the Church, though still a priest in the rank of presbyters 91 ; and afterwards did not hoard even what remained to him, so that he too might have made the Apostles boast, Neither did we eat any mans bread for nought 92 ; or, on the other hand, the man who has made the championship of a tenet a source of income, the man who creeps into houses, and does not conceal his loathsome affliction by staying at home, nor considers the natural aversion which those in good health must feel for such, though according to the law of old he is one of those who are banished from the inhabited camp because of the contagion of his unmistakeable 93 disease.
p. XLVI Basil is called hasty and insolent, and in both characters a liar by this man who would in patience and meekness educate those of a contrary opinion to himself; for such are the airs he gives himself when he speaks of him, while he omits no hyperbole of bitter language, when he has a sufficient opening to produce it. On what grounds, then, does he charge him with this hastiness and insolence? Because he called me a Galatian, though I am a Cappadocian; then it was because he called a man who lived on the boundary in an obscure corner like Corniaspine 94 a Galatian instead of an Oltiserian; supposing, that is, that it is proved that he said this. I have not found it in my copies; but grant it. For this he is to be called hasty, insolent, all that is bad. But the wise know well that the minute charges of a faultfinder furnish a strong argument for the righteousness of the accused; else, when eager to accuse, he would not have spared great faults and employed his malice on little ones. On these last he is certainly great, heightening the enormity of the offence, and making solemn reflections on falsehood, and seeing equal heinousness in it whether in great or very trivial matters. Like the fathers of his heresy, the scribes and Pharisees, he knows how to strain a gnat carefully and to swallow at one gulp the hump-backed camel laden with a weight of wickedness. But it would not be out of place to say to him, refrain from making such a rule in our system; cease to bid us think it of no account to measure the guilt of a falsehood by the slightness or the importance of the circumstances. Paul telling a falsehood and purifying himself after the manner of the Jews to meet the needs of those whom he usefully deceived did not sin the same as Judas for the requirement of his treachery putting on a kind and affable look. By a falsehood Joseph in love to his brethren deceived them; and that too while swearing by the life of Pharaoh 95 ; but his brethren had really lied to him, in their envy plotting his death and then his enslavement. There are many such cases: Sarah lied, because she was ashamed of laughing: the serpent lied, tempting man to disobey and change to a divine existence. Falsehoods differ widely according to their motives. Accordingly we accept that general statement about man which the Holy Spirit uttered by the Prophet 96 , Every man is a liar; and this man of God, too, has not kept clear of falsehood, having chanced to give a place the name of a neighbouring district, through oversight or ignorance of its real name. But Eunomius also has told a falsehood, and what is it? Nothing less than a misstatement of Truth itself. He asserts that One who always is once was not; he demonstrates that One who is truly a Son is falsely so called; he defines the Creator to be a creature and a work; the Lord of the world he calls a servant, and ranges the Being who essentially rules with subject beings. Is the difference between falsehoods so very trifling, that one can think it matters nothing whether the falsehood is palpable 97 in this way or in that?
Jeremiah iii. 3.XLV:91
ἔτι ἐν τῷ κληρῳ τῶν πρεσβυτερων ιερατεύωνXLV:92
2 Thess. iii. 8.XLV:93
According to Ruffinus (Hist. Eccl. x. 25), his constitution was poisoned with jaundice within and without.XLVI:94
ἐν ἀνωνύμῳ τινι Κορνιασπινῆς ἐσχατί& 139·. Cf. μεγὰ χρῆμα ὑ& 232·ς (Herod.) for the use of this genitive. In the next sentence εἰ ἀντὶ, though it gives the sense translated in the text, is not so good as ᾗ ἀντὶ (i.e. ἐσχατία), which Oehler suggests, but does not adopt.
With regard to Eunomius birthplace, Sozomen and Philostorgius give Dacora (which the former describes as on the slopes of Mt. Argæus: but that it must have been on the borders of Galatia and Cappadocia is certain from what Gregory says here): Probably Dacora was his paternal estate: Oltiseris the village to which it belonged (Dict. Christ. Biog.; unless indeed Corniaspa, marked on the maps as a town where Cappadocia, Galatia and Pontus join, was the spot, and Oltiseris the district. Eunomius died at Dacora.XLVI:95
Gen. xlii. 15.XLVI:96
Psalm cxv. 11.XLVI:97
Next: The sophistry which he employs to prove our acknowledgment that he had been tried, and that the confession of his faith had not been unimpeached, is feeble.
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