Vol. 3, Chapter X. Church Fathers, and Theological Literature

Comp. the general literature on the Fathers in vol. ii. §116, and the special literature in the several sections following.


I. — The Greek Fathers

161. Eusebius of Caesarea

I. Eusebius Pamphili: Opera omnia Gr. et Lat., curis variorum nempe II. Valesii, Fr. Vigeri, B. Montfaucon, Card. Angelo Maii edita; collegit et denuo recognovit J. P. Migne. Par. (Petit-Montrouge) 1857. 6 vols. (tom. xix.-xxiv. of Migne’s Patrologia Graeca). Of his several works his Church History has been oftenest edited, sometimes by itself, sometimes in connection with his Vita Constantini, and with the church histories of his successors; best by Henr. Valesius (Du Valois), Par. 1659-’73, 8 vols., and Cantabr. 1720, 3 vols., and again 1746 (with additions by G. Reading, best ed.); also (without the later historians) by E. Zimmermann, Francof. 1822; F. A. Heinichen, Lips. 1827-’8, 3 vols.; E. Burton, Oxon. 1838, 2 vols. (1845 and 1856 in 1 vol.); Schwegler, Tüb. 1852; also in various translations: In German by Stroth, Quedlinburg, 1776 ff., 2 vols.; by Closs, Stuttg. 1839; and several times in French and English; in English by Hanmer (1584), T. Shorting, and better by Chr. Fr. Cruse (an Amer. Episcopalian of German descent, died in New York, 1865): The Ecclesiastical History of Euseb. Pamph., etc., Now York, 1856 (10th ed.), and Lond. 1858 (in Bohn’s Eccles. Library). Comp. also the literary notices in Brunet, sub Euseb., and James Darling, Cyclop. Bibliograph. p. 1072 ff.

II. Biographies by Hieronymus (De viris illustr. c. 81, a brief sketch, with a list of his works), Valesius (De vita scriptisque Eusebii Caesar.), W. Cave (Lives of the most eminent Fathers of the Church, vol. ii. pp. 95-144, ed. H. Cary, Oxf. 1840), Heinichen, Stroth, Cruse, and others, in their editions of the Eccles. Hist. of Eusebius. F. C. Baur: Comparatur Eusebius Hist. eccl. parens cum parente Hist. Herodoto. Tub. 1834. Haenell: De Euseb. Caes. religionis christ. defensore. Gott. 1843. Sam. Lee: Introductory treatise in his Engl. edition of the Theophany of Eusebius, Cambr. 1843. Semisch: Art. Eusebius v. Caes. in Herzog’s Encycl. vol. iv. (1855), pp. 229-238. Lyman Coleman: Eusebius as an historian, in the Bibliotheca Sacra, Andover, 1858, pp. 78-96. (The biography by Acacius, his successor in the see of Caesarea, Socr. ii. 4, is lost.)

Fr. Ad. Heinichen: Eusebii Pamphili Scripta Historica. New ed. Lips., 1868-70. 3 Tom. The third vol. (804 pages) contains Commentarii et Meletemata. The ample indexes and critical and explanatory notes make this the most useful edition of the Church History and other historical works of Eusebius. Dindorf’s ed., Lips., 1867 sqq., 4 vols., includes the two apologetic works. Best ed. of the Chronicle by Alfred Schöne: Eusebii Chronicorum libri II. Berol. 1866 and 1875. 2 Tom., 4°. Schöne was assisted by Petermann in the Armenian Version, and by Rödiger in the Syriac Epitome. He gives also the χρονογραφεῖον σύντομον of the year 853, the first part of which professes to be derived from the labors of Eusebius. Stein: Eusebius nach s. Leben, s. Schriften, und s. dogmatischen Charakter. Würzburg, 1859. Bishop Lightfoot: art. Eusebius of Caes. in Smith and Wace, vol. ii. (full and fair). Semisch: art. Eus. v. Caes. in Herzog,2 vol. iv. 390-398. A new translation of Eusebius, with commentary, by A. C. McGiffert, will appear, N. York, 1890.

This third period is uncommonly rich in great teachers of the church, who happily united theological ability and practical piety, and who, by their development of the most important dogmas in conflict with mighty errors, earned the gratitude of posterity. They monopolized all the learning and eloquence of the declining Roman empire, and made it subservient to the cause of Christianity for the benefit of future generations. They are justly called fathers of the church; they belong to Christendom without distinction of denominations; and they still, especially Athanasius and Chrysostom among the Greek fathers, and Augustine and Jerome among the Latin, by their writings and their example, hold powerful sway, though with different degrees of authority according to the views entertained by the various churches concerning the supremacy of the Bible and the value of ecclesiastical tradition.

We begin the series of the most important Nicene and post-Nicene divines with Eusebius of Caesarea, the “father of church history,” the Christian Herodotus.

He was born about the year 260 or 270, probably in Palestine, and was educated at Antioch, and afterwards at Caesarea in Palestine, under the influence of the works of Origen. He formed an intimate friendship with the learned presbyter Pamphilus, who had collected a considerable biblical and patristic library, and conducted a flourishing theological school which he had founded at Caesarea, till in 309 he died a martyr in the persecution under Diocletian. Eusebius taught for a long time in this school; and after the death of his preceptor and friend, he travelled to Tyre and to Egypt, and was an eye-witness of the cruel scenes of the last great persecution of the Christians. He was imprisoned as a confessor, but soon released.

Twenty years later, when Eusebius, presiding at the council at Tyre (335 or 336), took sides against Athanasius, the bishop Potamon of Hieraclea, according to the account of Epiphanius, exclaimed in his face: “How dost thou, Eusebius, sit as judge of the innocent Athanasius? Who can bear it? Why! didst thou not sit with me in prison in the time of the tyrants? They plucked out my eye for my confession of the truth; thou camest forth unhurt; thou hast suffered nothing for thy confession; unscathed thou art here present. How didst thou escape from prison? On some other ground than because thou didst promise to do an unlawful thing [to sacrifice to idols]? or, perchance, didst thou actually do this?” But this insinuation of cowardice and infidelity to Christ arose probably from envy and party passion in a moment of excitement. With such a stain upon him, Eusebius would hardly have been intrusted by the ancient church with the episcopal staff.

About the year 315, or earlier, Eusebius was chosen bishop of Caesarea, where he labored till his death in 340. The patriarchate of Antioch, which was conferred upon him after the deposition of Eustathius in 331, he in honorable self-denial, and from preference for a more quiet literary life, declined.

He was drawn into the Arian controversies against his will, and played an eminent part at the council of Nicaea, where he held the post of honor at the right hand of the presiding emperor. In the perplexities of this movement he took middle ground, and endeavored to unite the opposite parties. This brought him, on the one hand, the peculiar favor of the emperor Constantine, but, on the other, from the leaders of the Nicene orthodoxy, the suspicion of a secret leaning to the Arian heresy. It is certain that, before the council of Nicaea, he sympathized with Arius; that in the council he proposed an orthodox but indefinite compromise-creed; that after the council he was not friendly with Athanasius and other defenders of orthodoxy; and that, in the synod of Tyre, which deposed Athanasius in 335, he took a leading part, and, according to Epiphanius, presided. In keeping with these facts is his silence respecting the Arian controversy (which broke out in 318) in an Ecclesiastical History which comes down to 324, and was probably not completed till 326, when the council of Nicaea would have formed its most fitting close. He would rather close his history with the victory of Constantine over Licinius than with the Creed over which theological parties contended, and with which he himself was implicated. But, on the other hand, it is also a fact that he subscribed the Nicene Creed, though reluctantly, and reserving his own interpretation of the homoousion; that he publicly recommended it to the people of his diocese; and that he never formally rejected it.

The only satisfactory solution of this apparent inconsistency is to be found in his own indecision and leaning to a doctrinal latitudinarianism, not unfrequent in historians who become familiar with a vast variety of opinions in different ages and countries. On the important point of the homoousion he never came to a firm and final conviction. He wavered between the older Origenistic subordinationism and the Nicene orthodoxy. He asserted clearly and strongly with Origen the eternity of the Son, and so far was decidedly opposed to Arianism, which made Christ a creature in time; but he recoiled from the homoousion, because it seemed to him to go beyond the Scriptures, and hence he made no use of the term, either in his book against Marcellus, or in his discourses against Sabellius. Religious sentiment compelled him to acknowledge the full deity of Christ; fear of Sabellianism restrained him. He avoided the strictly orthodox formulas, and moved rather in the less definite terms of former times. Theological acumen he constitutionally lacked. He was, in fact, not a man of controversy, but of moderation and peace. He stood upon the border between the ante-Nicene theology and the Nicene. His doctrine shows the color of each by turns, and reflects the unsettled problem of the church in the first stage of the Arian controversy.

With his theological indecision is connected his weakness of character. He was an amiable and pliant court-theologian, and suffered himself to be blinded and carried away by the splendor of the first Christian emperor, his patron and friend. Constantine took him often into his counsels, invited him to his table, related to him his vision of the cross, showed him the famous labarum, listened standing to his occasional sermons, wrote him several letters, and intrusted to him the supervision of the copies of the Bible for the use of the churches in Constantinople.

At the celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of this emperor’s reign (336), Eusebius delivered a panegyric decked with the most pompous hyperbole, and after his death, in literal obedience to the maxim: “De mortuis nihil nisi bonum,” he glorified his virtues at the expense of veracity and with intentional omission of his faults. With all this, however, he had noble qualities of mind and heart, which in more quiet times would have been an ornament to any episcopal see. And it must be said, to his honor, that he never claimed the favor of the emperor for private ends.

The theological and literary value of Eusebius lies in the province of learning. He was an unwearied reader and collector, and probably surpassed all the other church fathers, hardly excepting even Origen and Jerome, in compass of knowledge and of acquaintance with Grecian literature both heathen and Christian; while in originality, vigor, sharpness, and copiousness of thought, he stands far below Origen, Athanasius, Basil, and the two Gregories. His scholarship goes much further in breadth than in depth, and is not controlled and systematized by a philosophical mind or a critical judgment.

Of his works, the historical are by far the most celebrated and the most valuable; to wit, his Ecclesiastical History, his Chronicle, his Life of Constantine, and a tract on the Martyrs of Palestine in the Diocletian persecution. The position of Eusebius, at the close of the period of persecution, and in the opening of the period of the imperial establishment of Christianity, and his employment of many ancient documents, some of which have since been lost, give these works a peculiar value. He is temperate, upon the whole, impartial, and truth-loving — rare virtues in an age of intense excitement and polemical zeal like that in which he lived. The fact that he was the first to work this important field of theological study, and for many centuries remained a model in it, justly entitles him to his honorable distinction of Father of Church History. Yet he is neither a critical student nor an elegant writer of history, but only a diligent and learned collector. His Ecclesiastical History, from the birth of Christ to the victory of Constantine over Licinius in 324, gives a colorless, defective, incoherent, fragmentary, yet interesting picture of the heroic youth of the church, and owes its incalculable value, not to the historic art of the author, but almost entirely to his copious and mostly literal extracts from foreign, and in some cases now extinct, sources. As concerns the first three centuries, too, it stands alone; for the successors of Eusebius begin their history where he leaves off.

His Chronicle consists of an outline-sketch of universal history down to 325, arranged by ages and nations (borrowed largely from the Chronography of Julius Africanus), and an abstract of this universal chronicle in tabular form. The Greek original is lost, with the exception of unconnected fragments by Syncellus; but the second part, containing the chronological tables, was translated and continued by Jerome to 378, and remained for centuries the source of the synchronistic knowledge of history, and the basis of historical works in Christendom. Jerome also translated, with several corrections and additions, a useful antiquarian work of Eusebius, the so-called Onomasticon, a description of the places mentioned in the Bible.

In his Life, and still more in his Eulogy, of Constantine, Eusebius has almost entirely forgotten the dignity of the historian in the zeal of the panegyrist. Nevertheless, this work is the chief source of the history of the reign of his imperial friend.

Next in importance to his historical works are his apologetic; namely, his Praeparatio evangelica, and his Demonstratio evangelica. These were both written before 324, and are an arsenal of the apologetic material of the ancient church. The former proposes, in fifteen books, to give a documentary refutation of the heathen religious from Greek writings. The latter gives, in twenty books, of which only the first ten are preserved, the positive argument for the absolute truth of Christianity, from its nature, and from the fulfilment of the prophecies in the Old Testament. The Theophany, in five books, is a popular compend from these two works, and was probably written later, as Epiphanius wrote his Anacephalaeosis after the Panarion, for more general use. It is known in the Greek original from fragments only, published by Cardinal Mai, and now complete in a Syriac version which was discovered in 1839 by Tattam, in a Nitrian monastery, and was edited by Samuel Lee at London in 1842. To this class also belongs his apologetic tract Against Hierocles.

Of much less importance are the two dogmatic works of Eusebius: Against Marcellus, and Upon the Church Theology (likewise against Marcellus), in favor of the hypostatical existence of the Son.

His Commentaries on several books of the Bible (Isaiah, Psalms, Luke) pursue, without independence, and without knowledge of the Hebrew, the allegorical method of Origen.

To these are to be added, finally, some works in Biblical Introduction and Archeology, the Onomasticon, already alluded to, a sort of sacred geography, and fragments of an enthusiastic Apology for Origen, a juvenile work which he and Pamphilus jointly produced before 309, and which, in the Origenistic controversy, was the target of the bitterest shots of Epiphanius and Jerome.


162. The Church Historians after Eusebius

I. The Church Histories of Socrates, Sozomen, Theodoret, Evagrius, Philostorgius, and Theodorus Lector have been edited, with the Eccles. Hist. of Eusebius, by Valesius, Par. 1659-’73, in 3 vols. (defective reprint, Frankf. a. M. 1672-’79); best ed., Cambridge, 1720, and again 1746, in 3 vols., with improvements and additions by Guil. Reading. Best English translation by Meredith, Hanmer, and Wye Saltonstall, Cambr. 1688, 1692, and London, 1709. New ed. in Bohn’s Ecclesiastical Library, Land. 1851, in 4 vols. small 8vo.

II. F. A. Holzhausen: De fontibus, quibus Socrates, Sozomenus, ac Theodoretus in scribenda historia sacra usi sunt. Gött. 1825. G. Dangers: De fontibus, indole et dignitate librorum Theod. Lectoris et Evagrii. Gött. 1841. J. G. Dowling: An Introduction to the Critical Study of Eccl. History. Lond. 1838, p. 84 ff. F. Chr. Baur: Die Epochen der kirchlichen Geschichtschreibung. Tüb. 1852, pp. 7-32. Comp. P. Schaff: History of the Apostolic Church, Gen. Introd. p. 52 f.

Eusebius, without intending it, founded a school of church historians, who continued the thread of his story from Constantine the Great to the close of the sixth century, and, like him, limited themselves to a simple, credulous narration of external facts, and a collection of valuable documents, without an inkling of the critical sifting, philosophical mastery, and artistic reproduction of material, which we find in Thucydides and Tacitus among the classics, and in many a modern historian. None of them touched the history of the first three centuries; Eusebius was supposed to have done here all that could be desired. The histories of Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret run nearly parallel, but without mutual acquaintance or dependence, and their contents are very similar. Evagrius carried the narrative down to the close of the sixth century. All of them combine ecclesiastical and political history, which after Constantine were inseparably interwoven in the East; and (with the exception of Philostorgius) all occupy essentially the same orthodox stand-point. They ignore the Western church, except where it comes in contact with the East.

These successors of Eusebius are:

Socrates, an attorney or scholasticus in Constantinople, born in 380. His work, in seven books, covers the period from 306 to 439, and is valuable for its numerous extracts from sources, and its calm, impartial representation. It has been charged with a leaning towards Novatianism. He had upon the whole a higher view of the duty of the historian than his contemporaries and successors; he judged more liberally of heretics and schismatics, and is less extravagant in the praise of emperors and bishops.

Hermias Sozomen, a native of Palestine, a junior contemporary of Socrates, and likewise a scholasticus in Constantinople, wrote the history of the church, in nine books, from 323 to the death of Honorius in 423, and hence in its subjects keeps pace for the most part with Socrates, though, as it would appear, without the knowledge of his work, and with many additions on the history of the hermits and monks, for whom he had a great predilection.

Theodoret, bishop of Cyrus, was born at Antioch about 390, of an honorable and pious mother; educated in the cloister of St. Euprepius (perhaps with Nestorius); formed upon the writings of Diodorus of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopsuestia; made bishop of Cyros, or Cyrrhos, in Syria, after 420; and died in 457. He is known to us from the Christological controversies as the most scholarly advocate of the Antiochian dyophysitism or moderate Nestorianism; condemned at Ephesus in 431, deposed by the council of Robbers in 449, acquitted in 451 by the fourth ecumenical council on condition of his condemning Nestorius and all deniers of the theotokos, but again partially condemned at the fifth long after his death. He was, therefore, like Eusebius, an actor as well as an author of church history. As bishop, he led an exemplary life, his enemies themselves being judges, and was especially benevolent to the poor. He owned nothing valuable but books, and applied the revenues of his bishopric to the public good. He shared the superstitions and weaknesses of his age.

His Ecclesiastical History, in five books, composed about 450, reaches from 325 to 429. It is the most valuable continuation of Eusebius, and, though shorter, it furnishes an essential supplement to the works of Socrates and Sozomen.

His “Historia religiosa” consists of biographies of hermits and monks, written with great enthusiasm for ascetic holiness, and with many fabulous accessories, according to the taste of the day. His “Heretical Fables,” though superficial and marred by many errors, is of some importance for the history of Christian doctrine. It contains a severe condemnation of Nestorius, which we should hardly expect from Theodoret.

Theodoret was a very fruitful author. Besides these histories, he wrote valuable commentaries on most of the books of the Old Testament and on all the Epistles of Paul; dogmatic and polemic works against Cyril and the Alexandrian Christology, and against the heretics; an apology of Christianity against the Greek philosophy; and sermons and letters.

Evagrius (born about 536 in Syria, died after 594) was a lawyer in Antioch, and rendered the patriarch Gregory great service, particularly in an action for incest in 588. He was twice married, and the Antiochians celebrated his second wedding (592) with public plays. He is the last continuator of Eusebius and Theodoret, properly so called. He begins his Ecclesiastical History of six books with the council of Ephesus, 431, and closes it with the twelfth year of the reign of the emperor Maurice, 594. He is of special importance on the Nestorian and Eutychian controversies; gives accounts of bishops and monks, churches and public buildings, earthquakes and other calamities; and interweaves political history, such as the wars of Chosroes and the assaults of the barbarians. He was strictly orthodox, and a superstitious venerator of monks, saints, and relics.

Theodorus Lector, reader in the church of Constantinople about 525, compiled an abstract from Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret, under the title of Historia tripartita, which is still extant in the manuscript; and composed a continuation of Socrates from 431 to 518, of which fragments only are preserved in John Damascenus, Nilus, and Nicephorus Callisti.

Of Philostorgius, an Arian church historian (born in 368), nothing has come down to us but fragments in Photius; and these breathe so strong a partisan spirit, that the loss of the rest is not to be regretted. He described the period from the commencement of the Arian controversy to the reign of Valentinian III. a.d. 423.

The series of the Greek church historians closes with Nicephorus Callistus or Callisti (i.e., son of Callistus), who lived at Constantinople in the fifteenth century. He was surprised that the voice of history had been silent since the sixth century, and resumed the long-neglected task where his predecessors had left it, but on a more extended plan of a general history of the catholic church from the beginning to the year 911. We have, however, only eighteen books to the death of emperor Phocas in 610, and a list of contents of five other books. He made large use of Eusebius and his successors, and added unreliable traditions of the later days of the Apostles, the history of Monophysitism, of monks and saints, of the barbarian irruptions, etc. He, too, ignores the Pelagian controversy, and takes little notice of the Latin church after the fifth century.

In the Latin church — to anticipate thus much — Eusebius found only one imitator and continuator, the presbyter and monk Rufinus, of Aquileia (330-410). He was at first a friend of Jerome, afterwards a bitter enemy. He translated, with abridgments and insertions at his pleasure, the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius, and continued it to Theodosius the Great (392). Yet his continuation has little value. He wrote also biographies of hermits; an exposition of the Apostles’ Creed; and translations of several works of Origen, with emendations of offensive portions.

Cassiodorus, consul and monk (died about 562), composed a useful abstract of the works of Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret, in twelve books, under the title of Historia tripartita, for the Latin church of the middle age.

The only properly original contributions to church history from among the Latin divines were those of Jerome († 419) in his biographical and literary Catalogue of Illustrious Men (written in 392), which Gennadius, a Semi-Pelagian presbyter of South Gaul, continued to the year 495. Sulpicius Severus († 420) wrote in good style a Sacred History, or History of the Old and New Testament, from the creation down to the year 400; and Paulus Orosius (about 415) an apologetic Universal History, which hardly, however, deserves the name of a history.


163. Athanasius the Great

I. S. Athanasius: Opera omnia quae extant vel quae ejus nomine circumferuntur, etc., Gr. et lat., opera et studio monachorum ordinis S. Benedicti e congregatione S. Mauri (Jac. Lopin et B. de, Montfaucon). Paris, 1698. 3 tom. fol. (or rather 2 tomi, the first in two parts). This is the most elegant and correct edition, but must be completed by two volumes of the Collectio nova Patrum, ed. B. de Montfaucon. Par. 1706. 2 tom. fol. More complete, but not so handsome, is the edition of 1777, Patav., in 4 vols. fol. (Brunet says of the latter “Édition moins belle et moins chère quo cello de Paris, mais augmentée d’un 4e vol., lequel renferme les opuscules de S. Athan., tirés de la Collectio nova du P. Montfaucon et des Anecdota de Wolf, et de plus l’interpretatio Psalmorum.”) But now both these older editions need again to be completed by the Syrian Festal Letters of Athanasius, discovered by Dr. Tattam in a Nitrian monastery in 1843; edited by W. Cureton in Syriac and English at London in 1846 and 1848 (and in English by H. Burgess and H. Williams, Oxf. 1854, in the Libr. of the Fathers); in German, with notes by F. Larson, at Leipzig in 1852; and in Syriac and Latin by Card. Angelo Mai in the Nova Patr. Bibliotheca, Rom. 1853, tom. vi. pp. 1-168. A new and more salable, though less accurate, edition of the Opera omnia Athan. (a reprint of the Benedictine) appeared at Petit-Montrouge (Par.) in J. P. Migne’s Patrologia Gr. (tom. xxv.-xxviii.), 1857, in 4 vols.

The more important dogmatic works of Athanasius have been edited separately by J. C. Thilo, in the first volume of the Bibliotheca Patrum Graec. dogmatica, Lips. 1853; and in an English translation, with explanations and indexes, by J. H. Newman, Oxf. 1842-’44 (Library of the Fathers, vols. 8, 13, 19).

G. R. Sievers: Athanasii Vita acephala (written before 412, first publ. by Maffei, 1738). Ein Beitrag zur Gesch. des Athan. In the “Zeitschr. für Hist. Theol.” (ed. by Kahnis). Gotha, 1868, pp. 89-162. Böhringer: Athanasius und Arius, in his Kirchengesch. in Biogr. Bd. vi., new ed. Leipz., 1874. Hergenröther (R.C.): Der heil. Athanas. der Gr. Cologne, 1877 (an essay, pages 24). L. Atzberger: Die Logoslehre des heil. Athanas. München, 1880. W. Möller: Art. Athan. in Herzog,2 i. 740-747. Lüdtke: in Wetzer and Welte, 2 i. (1882), 1534-1543. Gwatkin: Studies in Arianism. Cambr. 1882.

II. Gregorius Naz.: Oratio panegyrica in Magnum Athanasium (Orat. xxi.). Several Vitae Athan. in the 1st vol. of the Bened. ed. of his Opera. Acta Sanctorum for May 2d. G. Hermant: La Vie d’Athanase, etc. Par. 1679. 2 vols. Tillemont: Mémoires, vol. viii. pp. 2-258 (2d ed. Par. 1713). W. Cave: Lives of the most eminent Fathers of the first Four Centuries, vol. ii. pp. 145-364 (Oxf. ed. of 1840). Schröckh: Th. xii. pp. 101-270. J. A. Möhler: Athanasius der Grosse und die Kirche seiner Zeit, besonders im Kampfe mit dem Arianismus. Mainz, 1827. 2d (title) ed. 1844. Heinrich Voigt: Die Lehre des heiligen Athanasius von Alexandria oder die kirchliche Dogmatik des 4ten Jahrhunderts auf Grund der biblischen Lehre vom Logos. Bremen, 1861. A. P. Stanley: Lectures on the History of the Eastern Church. New York, 1862, lecture vii. (pp. 322-358).

Athanasius is the theological and ecclesiastical center, as his senior contemporary Constantine is the political and secular, about which the Nicene age revolves. Both bear the title of the Great; the former with the better right, that his greatness was intellectual and moral, and proved itself in suffering, and through years of warfare against mighty, errors and against the imperial court. Athanasius contra mundum, et mundus contra Athanasium, is a well-known sentiment which strikingly expresses his fearless independence and immovable fidelity to his convictions. He seems to stand an unanswerable contradiction to the catholic maxim of authority: Quod sem per, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus creditum est, and proves that truth is by no means always on the side of the majority, but may often be very unpopular. The solitary Athanasius even in exile, and under the ban of council and emperor, was the bearer of the truth, and, as he was afterwards named, the “father of orthodoxy.”

On a martyrs’ day in 313 the bishop Alexander of Alexandria saw a troop of boys imitating the church services in innocent sport, Athanasius playing the part of bishop, and performing baptism by immersion. He caught in this a glimpse of future greatness; took the youth into his care; and appointed him his secretary, and afterwards his archdeacon. Athanasius studied the classics, the Holy Scriptures, and the church fathers, and meantime lived as an ascetic. He already sometimes visited St. Anthony in his solitude.

In the year 325 he accompanied his bishop to the council of Nicaea, and at once distinguished himself there by his zeal and ability in refuting Arianism and vindicating the eternal deity of Christ, and incurred the hatred of this heretical party, which raised so many storms about his life.

In the year 328 he was nominated to the episcopal succession of Alexandria, on the recommendation of the dying Alexander, and by the voice of the people, though not yet of canonical age, and at first disposed to avoid the election by flight; and thus he was raised to the highest ecclesiastical dignity of the East. For the bishop of Alexandria was at the same time metropolitan of Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis.

But now immediately began the long series of contests with the Arian party, which had obtained influence at the court of Constantine, and had induced the emperor to recall Arius and his adherents from exile. Henceforth the personal fortunes of Athanasius are so inseparably interwoven with the history of the Arian controversy that Nicene and Athanasian are equivalent terms, and the different depositions and restorations of Athanasius denote so many depressions and victories of the Nicene orthodoxy. Five times did the craft and power of his opponents, upon the pretext of all sorts of personal and political offences, but in reality on account of his inexorable opposition to the Arian and Semi-Arian heresy, succeed in deposing and banishing him. The first exile he spent in Treves, the second chiefly in Rome, the third with the monks in the Egyptian desert; and he employed them in the written defence of his righteous cause. Then the Arian party, was distracted, first by internal division, and further by the death of the emperor Constantius (361), who was their chief support. The pagan Julian recalled the banished bishops of both parties, in the hope that they might destroy one another. Thus, Athanasius among them, who was the most downright opposite of the Christian-hating emperor, again received his bishopric. But when, by his energetic and wise administration, he rather restored harmony in his diocese, and sorely injured paganism, which he feared far less than Arianism, and thus frustrated the cunning plan of Julian, the emperor resorted to violence, and banished him as a dangerous disturber of the peace. For the fourth time Athanasius left Alexandria, but calmed his weeping friends with the prophetic words: “Be of good cheer; it is only a cloud, which will soon pass over.” By presence of mind he escaped from an imperial ship on the Nile, which had two hired assassins on board. After Julian’s death in 362 he was again recalled by Jovian. But the next emperor Valens, an Arian, issued in 367 an edict which again banished all the bishops who had been deposed under Constantius and restored by Julian. The aged Athanasius was obliged for the fifth time to leave his beloved flock, and kept himself concealed more than four months in the tomb of his father. Then Valens, boding ill from the enthusiastic adherence of the Alexandrians to their orthodox bishop, repealed the edict.

From this time Athanasius had peace, and still wrote, at a great age, with the vigor of youth, against Apollinarianism. In the year 373 he died, after an administration of nearly forty-six years, but before the conclusion of the Arian war. He had secured by his testimony the final victory of orthodoxy, but, like Moses, was called away from the earthly scene before the goal was reached.

Athanasius, like many great men (from David and Paul to Napoleon and Schleiermacher), was very small of stature, somewhat stooping and emaciated by fasting and many troubles, but fair of countenance, with a piercing eye and a personal appearance of great power even over his enemies. His omnipresent activity, his rapid and his mysterious movements, his fearlessness, and his prophetic insight into the future, were attributed by his friends to divine assistance, by his enemies to a league with evil powers. Hence the belief in his magic art. His congregation in Alexandria and the people and monks of Egypt were attached to him through all the vicissitudes of his tempestuous life with equal fidelity and veneration. Gregory Nazianzen begins his enthusiastic panegyric with the words: “When I praise Athanasius, I praise virtue itself, because he combines all virtues in himself.” Constantine the Younger called him “the man of God;” Theodoret, “the great enlightener;” and John of Damascus, the corner-stone of the church of God.”

All this is, indeed, very hyperbolical, after the fashion of degenerate Grecian rhetoric. Athanasius was not free from the faults of his age. But he is, on the whole, one of the purest, most imposing, and most venerable personages in the history of the church; and this judgment will now be almost universally accepted.

He was (and there are few such) a theological and churchly character in magnificent, antique style. He was a man of one mould and one idea, and in this respect one-sided; yet in the best sense, as the same is true of most great men who are borne along with a mighty and comprehensive thought, and subordinate all others to it. So Paul lived and labored for Christ crucified, Gregory VII. for the Roman hierarchy, Luther for the doctrine of justification by faith, Calvin for the idea of the sovereign grace of God. It was the passion and the life-work of Athanasius to vindicate the deity of Christ, which he rightly regarded as the corner-stone of the edifice of the Christian faith, and without which he could conceive no redemption. For this truth he spent all his time and strength; for this he suffered deposition and twenty years of exile; for this he would have been at any moment glad to pour out his blood. For his vindication of this truth he was much hated, much loved, always respected or feared. In the unwavering conviction that he had the right and the protection of God on his side, he constantly disdained to call in the secular power for his ecclesiastical ends, and to degrade himself to an imperial courtier, as his antagonists often did.

Against the Arians he was inflexible, because he believed they hazarded the essence of Christianity itself, and he allowed himself the most invidious and the most contemptuous terms. He calls them polytheists, atheists, Jews, Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, spies, worse persecutors than the heathen, liars, dogs, wolves, antichrists, and devils. But he confined himself to spiritual weapons, and never, like his successor Cyril a century later, used nor counselled measures of force. He suffered persecution, but did not practise it; he followed the maxim: Orthodoxy should persuade faith, not force it.

Towards the unessential errors of good men, like those of Marcellus of Ancyra, he was indulgent. Of Origen he spoke with esteem, and with gratitude for his services, while Epiphanius, and even Jerome, delighted to blacken his memory and burn his bones. To the suspicions of the orthodoxy of Basil, whom, by the way, be never personally knew, he gave no ear, but pronounced his liberality a justifiable condescension to the weak. When he found himself compelled to write against Apollinaris, whom he esteemed and loved, he confined himself to the refutation of his error, without the mention of his name. He was more concerned for theological ideas than for words and formulas; even upon the shibboleth homoousios he would not obstinately insist, provided only the great truth of the essential and eternal Godhead of Christ were not sacrificed. At his last appearance in public, as president of the council of Alexandria in 362, he acted as mediator and reconciler of the contending parties, who, notwithstanding all their discord in the use of the terms ousia and hypostasis, were one in the ground-work of their faith.

No one of all the Oriental fathers enjoyed so high consideration in the Western church as Athanasius. His personal sojourn in Rome and Treves, and his knowledge of the Latin tongue, contributed to this effect. He transplanted monasticism to the West. But it was his advocacy of the fundamental doctrine of Christianity that, more than all, gave him his Western reputation. Under his name the Symbolum Quicunque, of much later, and probably of French, origin, has found universal acceptance in the Latin church, and has maintained itself to this day in living use. His name is inseparable from the conflicts and the triumph of the doctrine of the holy Trinity.

As an author, Athanasius is distinguished for theological depth and discrimination, for dialectical skill, and sometimes for fulminating eloquence. He everywhere evinces a triumphant intellectual superiority over his antagonists, and shows himself a veritable malleus haereticorum. He pursues them into all their hiding-places, and refutes all their arguments and their sophisms, but never loses sight of the main point of the controversy, to which he ever returns with renewed force. His views are governed by a strict logical connection; but his stormy fortunes prevented him from composing a large systematic work. Almost all his writings are occasional, wrung from him by circumstances; not a few of them were hastily written in exile.

They may be divided as follows:

1. Apologetic works in defence of Christianity. Among these are the two able and enthusiastic kindred productions of his youth (composed before 325): “A Discourse against the Greeks,” and “On the Incarnation of the Divine Word,” which he already looked upon as the central idea of the Christian religion.

2. Dogmatic and Controversial works in defence of the Nicene faith; which are at the same time very important to the history of the Arian controversies. Of these the following are directed against Arianism: An Encyclical Letter to all Bishops (written in 341); On the Decrees of the Council of Nicaea (352); On the Opinion of Dionysius of Alexandria (352); An Epistle to the Bishops of Egypt and Libya (356); four Orations against the Arians (358); A Letter to Serapion on the Death of Arius (358 or 359); A History of the Arians to the Monks (between 358 and 360). To these are to be added four Epistles to Serapion on the Deity of the Holy Spirit (358), and two books Against Apollinaris, in defence of the full humanity of Christ (379).

3. Works in his own Personal Defence: An Apology against the Arians (350); an Apology to Constantius (356); an Apology concerning his Flight (De fuga, 357 or 358); and several letters.

4. Exegetical works; especially a Commentary on the Psalms, in which he everywhere finds types and prophecies of Christ and the church, according to the extravagant allegorizing method of the Alexandrian school; and a synopsis or compendium of the Bible. But the genuineness of these unimportant works is by many doubted.

5. Ascetic and Practical works. Chief among these are his “Life of St. Anthony,” composed about 365, or at all events after the death of Anthony, and his “Festal Letters,” which have but recently become known. The Festal Letters give us a glimpse of his pastoral fidelity as bishop, and throw new light also on many of his doctrines, and on the condition of the church in his time. In these letters Athanasius, according to Alexandrian custom, announced annually, at Epiphany, to the clergy and congregations of Egypt, the time of the next Easter, and added edifying observations on passages of Scripture, and timely exhortations. These were read in the churches, during the Easter season, especially on Palm-Sunday. As Athanasius was bishop forty-five years, he would have written that number of Festal Letters, if he had not been several times prevented by flight or sickness. The letters were written in Greek, but soon translated into Syriac, and lay buried for centuries in the dust of a Nitrian cloister, till the research of Protestant Scholarship brought them again to the light.


164. Basil the Great

I. S. Basilius Caes. Cappad. archiepisc.: Opera omnia quae exstant vel quae ejus nomine circumferuntur, Gr. et Lat. ed. Jul. Garnier, presbyter and monk of the Bened. order. Paris, 1721-’30. 3 vols. fol. Eadem ed. Parisina altera, emendata et aucta a Lud. de Sinner, Par. (Gaume Fratres) 1839, 8 tomi in 6 Partes (an elegant and convenient ed.). Reprinted also by Migne, Par. 1857, in 4 vols. (Patrol. Gr. tom xxix, xxxii.). The first edition of St. Basil was superintended by Erasmus with Froben in Basle, 1532. Comp. also Opera Bas. dogmatica selecta in Thilo’s Bibl. Patr. Gr. dogm. vol. ii. Lips. 1854 (under care of J. D. H. Goldhorn, and containing the Libri iii. adversus Eunomium, and Liber i. de Spiritu Sancto).

II. Ancient accounts and descriptions of Basil in the funeral discourses and eulogies of Gregory Naz. (Oratio xliii.), Gregory Nyss., Amphilochius, Ephraem Syrus. Garnier: Vita S. Basilii, in his edition of the Opera, tom. iii. pp. xxxviii.-ccliv. (in the new Paris ed. of 1839; or tom. i. in Migne’s reprint). Comp. also the Vitae in the Acta Sanctorum, sub Jan. 14, by Hermant, Tillemont (tom. ix.), Fabricius (Bibl. tom. ix.), Cave, Pfeiffer, Schröckh (Part xiii. pp. 8-220), Böhringer, W. Klose (Basilius der Grosse, Stralsund, 1835), and Fialon (Etude historique et littéraire sur S. Basile, Par. 1866).

Dörgens: Der heil. Basilius und die class. Studien. Leipz., 1857. Eug. Fialon. Étude historique et literaire sur S. Basile, suivie de l’hexaemeron. Paris, 1861. G. B. Sievers: Leben des Libanios. Berl., 1868 (p294 sqq.). Böhringer: Die drei Kappadozier oder die trinitarischen Epigonen (Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Naz.), in Kirchengesch. in Biograph., new ed. Bd. vii. and viii. 1875. Weiss: Die drei grossen Kappadozier als Exegeten. Braunsberg, 1872. R. Travers Smith: St. Basil the Great. London, 1879. (Soc. for Promoting Christian Knowledge), 232 pages. Scholl: Des heil. Basil Lehre von der Gnade. Freib., 1881. W. Möller, in Herzog,2 ii. 116-121. E. Venables, in Smith and Wace, i. 282-297. Farrar: “Lives of the Fathers,” 1889. vol. ii. 1-55.

The Asiatic province of Cappadocia produced in the fourth century the three distinguished church teachers, Basil and the two Gregories, who stand in strong contrast with the general character of their countrymen; for the Cappadocians are described as a cowardly, servile, and deceitful race.

Basil was born about the year 329, at Caesarea, the capital of Cappadocia, in the bosom of a wealthy and pious family, whose ancestors had distinguished themselves as martyrs. The seed of piety had been planted in him by his grandmother, St. Macrina, and his mother, St. Emmelia. He had four brothers and five sisters, who all led a religious life; two of his brothers, Gregory, bishop of Nyssa, and Peter, bishop of Sebaste, and his sister, Macrina the Younger, are, like himself, among the saints of the Eastern church. He received his literary education at first from his father, who was a rhetorician; afterwards at school in Constantinople (347), where he enjoyed the instruction and personal esteem of the celebrated Libanius; and in Athens, where he spent several years, between 351 and 355, studying rhetoric, mathematics, and philosophy, in company with his intimate friend Gregory Nazianzen, and at the same time with prince Julian the Apostate.

Athens, partly through its ancient renown and its historical traditions, partly by excellent teachers of philosophy and eloquence, Sophists, as they were called in an honorable sense, among whom Himerius and Proaeresius were at that time specially conspicuous, was still drawing a multitude of students from all quarters of Greece, and even from the remote provinces of Asia. Every Sophist had his own school and party, which was attached to him with incredible zeal, and endeavored to gain every newly arriving student to its master. In these efforts, as well as in the frequent literary contests and debates of the various schools among themselves, there was not seldom much rude and wild behavior. To youth who were not yet firmly grounded in Christianity, residence in Athens, and occupation with the ancient classics, were full of temptation, and might easily kindle an enthusiasm for heathenism, which, however, had already lost its vitality, and was upheld solely by the artificial means of magic, theurgy, and an obscure mysticism.

Basil and Gregory remained steadfast, and no poetical or rhetorical glitter could fade the impressions of a pious training. Gregory says of their studies in Athens, in his forty-third Oration: “We knew only two streets of the city, the first and the more excellent one to the churches, and to the ministers of the altar; the other, which, however, we did not so highly esteem, to the public schools and to the teachers of the sciences. The streets to the theatres, games, and places of unholy amusements, we left to others. Our holiness was our great concern; our sole aim was to be called and to be Christians. In this we placed our whole glory.” In a later oration on classic studies Basil encourages them, but admonishes that they should be pursued with caution, and with constant regard to the great Christian purpose of eternal life, to which all earthly objects and attainments are as shadows and dreams to reality. In plucking the rose one should beware of the thorns, and, like the bee, should not only delight himself with the color and the fragrance, but also gain useful honey from the flower.

The intimate friendship of Basil and Gregory, lasting from fresh, enthusiastic youth till death, resting on an identity of spiritual and moral aims, and sanctified by Christian piety, is a lovely and engaging chapter in the history of the fathers, and justifies a brief episode in a field not yet entered by any church historian.

With all the ascetic narrowness of the time, which fettered even these enlightened fathers, they still had minds susceptible to science and art and the beauties of nature. In the works of Basil and of the two Gregories occur pictures of nature such as we seek in vain in the heathen classics. The descriptions of natural scenery among the poets and philosophers of ancient Greece and Rome can be easily compressed within a few pages. Socrates, as we learn from Plato, was of the opinion that we can learn nothing from trees and fields, and hence he never took a walk; he was so bent upon self-knowledge, as the true aim of all learning, that he regarded the whole study of nature as useless, because it did not tend to make man either more intelligent or more virtuous. The deeper sense of the beauty of nature is awakened by the religion of revelation alone, which teaches us to see everywhere in creation the traces of the power, the wisdom, and the goodness of God. The book of Ruth, the book of Job, many Psalms, particularly the 104th, and the parables, are without parallel in Grecian or Roman literature. The renowned naturalist, Alexander von Humboldt, collected some of the most beautiful descriptions of nature from the fathers for his purposes. They are an interesting proof of the transfiguring power of the spirit of Christianity even upon our views of nature.

A breath of sweet sadness runs through them, which is entirely foreign to classical antiquity. This is especially manifest in Gregory of Nyssa, the brother of Basil. “When I see,” says he, for example, “every rocky ridge, every valley, every plain, covered with new-grown grass; and then the variegated beauty of the trees, and at my feet the lilies doubly enriched by nature with sweet odors and gorgeous colors; when I view in the distance the sea, to which the changing cloud leads out — my soul is seized with sadness which is not without delight. And when in autumn fruits disappear, leaves fall, boughs stiffen, stripped of their beauteous dress — we sink with the perpetual and regular vicissitude into the harmony of wonder-working nature. He who looks through this with the thoughtful eye of the soul, feels the littleness of man in the greatness of the universe.” Yet we find sunny pictures also, like the beautiful description of spring in an oration of Gregory Nazianzen on the martyr Mamas.

A second characteristic of these representations of nature, and for the church historian the most important, is the reference of earthly beauty to an eternal and heavenly principle, and that glorification of God in the works of creation, which transplanted itself from the Psalms and the book of Job into the Christian church. In his homilies on the history of the Creation, Basil describes the mildness of the serene nights in Asia Minor, where the stars, “the eternal flowers of heaven, raised the spirit of man from the visible to the invisible.” In the oration just mentioned, after describing the spring in the most lovely and life-like colors, Gregory Nazianzen proceeds: “Everything praises God and glorifies Him with unutterable tones; for everything shall thanks be offered also to God by me, and thus shall the song of those creatures, whose song of praise I here utter, be also ours …. Indeed it is now [alluding to the Easter festival] the spring-time of the world, the spring-time of the spirit, spring-time for souls, spring-time for bodies, a visible spring, an invisible spring, in which we also shall there have part, if we here be rightly transformed, and enter as new men upon a new life.” Thus the earth becomes a vestibule of heaven, the beauty of the body is consecrated an image of the beauty of the spirit.

The Greek fathers placed the beauty of nature above the works of art, having a certain prejudice against art on account of the heathen abuses of it. “If thou seest a splendid building, and the view of its colonnades would transport thee, look quickly at the vault of the heavens and the open fields, on which the flocks are feeding on the shore of the sea. Who does not despise every creation of art, when in the silence of the heart he early wonders at the rising sun, as it pours its golden (crocus-yellow) light over the horizon? when, resting at a spring in the deep grass or under the dark shade of thick trees, he feeds his eye upon the dim vanishing distance?” So Chrysostom exclaims from his monastic solitude near Antioch, and Humboldt adds the ingenious remark: “It was as if eloquence had found its element, its freedom, again at the fountain of nature in the then wooded mountain regions of Syria and Asia Minor.”

In the rough times of the first introduction of Christianity among the Celtic and Germanic tribes, who had worshipped the dismal powers of nature in rude symbols, an opposition to intercourse with nature appeared, like that which we find in Tertullian to pagan art; and church assemblies of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, at Tours (1163) and at Paris (1209), forbid the monks the sinful reading of books on nature, till the renowned scholastics, Albert, the Great († 1280), and the gifted Roger Bacon († 1294), penetrated the mysteries of nature and raised the study of it again to consideration and honor.

We now return to the life of Basil. After finishing his studies in Athens he appeared in his native city of Caesarea as a rhetorician. But he soon after (a.d. 360) took a journey to Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, to become acquainted with the monastic life; and he became more and more enthusiastic for it. He distributed his property to the poor, and withdrew to a lonely romantic district in Pontus, near the cloister in which his mother Emmelia, with his sister Macrina, and other pious and cultivated virgins, were living. “God has shown me,” he wrote to his friend Gregory, “a region which exactly suits my mode of life; it is, in truth, what in our happy jestings we often wished. What imagination showed us in the distance, that I now see before me. A high mountain, covered with thick forest, is watered towards the north by fresh perennial streams. At the foot of the mountain a wide plain spreads out, made fruitful by the vapors which moisten it. The surrounding forest, in which many varieties of trees crowd together, shuts me off like a strong castle. The wilderness is bounded by two deep ravines. On one side the stream, where it rushes foaming down from the mountain, forms a barrier hard to cross; on the other a broad ridge obstructs approach. My hut is so placed upon the summit, that I overlook the broad plain, as well as the whole course of the Iris, which is more beautiful and copious than the Strymon near Amphipolis. The river of my wilderness, more rapid than any other that I know, breaks upon the wall of projecting rock, and rolls foaming into the abyss: to the mountain traveller, a charming, wonderful sight; to the natives, profitable for its abundant fisheries. Shall I describe to you the fertilizing vapors which rise from the (moistened) earth, the cool air which rises from the (moving) mirror of the water? Shall I tell of the lovely singing of the birds and the richness of blooming plants? What delights me above all is the silent repose of the place. It is only now and then visited by huntsmen; for my wilderness nourishes deer and herds of wild goats, not your bears and your wolves. How would I exchange a place with him? Alcmaeon, after he had found the Echinades, wished to wander no further.”

This romantic picture shows that the monastic life had its ideal and poetic side for cultivated minds. In this region Basil, free from all cares, distractions, and interruptions of worldly life, thought that he could best serve God. “What is more blessed than to imitate on earth the choir of angels, at break of day to rise to prayer, and praise the Creator with anthems and songs; then go to labor in the clear radiance of the sun, accompanied everywhere by prayer, seasoning work with praise, as if with salt? Silent solitude is the beginning of purification of the soul. For the mind, if it be not disturbed from without, and do not lose itself through the senses in the world, withdraws into itself, and rises to thoughts of God.” In the Scriptures he found, “as in a store of all medicines, the true remedy for his sickness.”

Nevertheless, he had also to find that flight from the city was not flight from his own self. “I have well forsaken,” says he in his second Epistle, “my residence in the city as a source of a thousand evils, but I have not been able to forsake myself. I am like a man who, unaccustomed to the sea, becomes seasick, and gets out of the large ship, because it rocks more, into a small skiff, but still even there keeps the dizziness and nausea. So is it with me; for while I carry about with me the passions which dwell in me, I am everywhere tormented with the same restlessness, so that I really get not much help from this solitude.” In the sequel of the letter, and elsewhere, he endeavors, however, to show that seclusion from worldly business, celibacy, solitude, perpetual occupation with the Holy Scriptures, and with the life of godly men, prayer and contemplation, and a corresponding ascetic severity of outward life, are necessary for taming the wild passions, and for attaining the true quietness of the soul.

He succeeded in drawing his friend Gregory to himself. Together they prosecuted their prayer, studies, and manual labor; made extracts from the works of Origen, which we possess, under the name of Philocalia, as the joint work of the two friends; and wrote monastic rules which contributed largely to extend and regulate the coenobite life.

In the year 364 Basil was made presbyter against his will, and in 370, with the co-operation of Gregory and his father, was elected bishop of Caesarea and metropolitan of all Cappadocia. In this capacity he had fifty country bishops under him, and devoted himself thenceforth to the direction of the church and the fighting of Arianism, which had again come into power through the emperor Valens in the East. He endeavored to secure to the catholic faith the victory, first by close connection with the orthodox West, and then by a certain liberality in accepting as sufficient, in regard to the not yet symbolically settled doctrine of the Holy Ghost, that the Spirit should not be considered a creature. But the strict orthodox party, especially the monks, demanded the express acknowledgment of the divinity of the Holy Ghost, and violently opposed Basil. The Arians pressed him still more. The emperor wished to reduce Cappadocia to the heresy, and threatened the bishop by his prefects with confiscation, banishment, and death. Basil replied: “Nothing more? Not one of these things touches me. His property cannot be forfeited, who has none; banishment I know not, for I am restricted to no place, and am the guest of God, to whom the whole earth belongs; for martyrdom I am unfit, but death is a benefactor to me, for it sends me more quickly to God, to whom I live and move; I am also in great part already dead, and have been for a long time hastening to the grave.”

The emperor was about to banish him, when his son, six years of age, was suddenly taken sick, and the physicians gave up all hope. Then he sent for Basil, and his son recovered, though he died soon after. The imperial prefect also recovered from a sickness, and ascribed his recovery to the prayer of the bishop, towards whom he had previously behaved haughtily. Thus this danger was averted by special divine assistance.

But other difficulties, perplexities, and divisions, continually met him, to obstruct the attainment of his desire, the restoration of the peace of the church. These storms, and all sorts of hostilities, early wasted his body. He died in 379, two years before the final victory of the Nicene orthodoxy, with the words: “Into Thy hands, O Lord I commit my spirit; Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, God of truth.” He was borne to the grave by a deeply sorrowing multitude.

Basil was poor, and almost always sickly; he had only a single worn-out garment, and ate almost nothing but bread, salt, and herbs. The care of the poor and sick he took largely upon himself. He founded in the vicinity of Caesarea that magnificent hospital, Basilias, which we have already mentioned, chiefly for lepers, who were often entirely abandoned in those regions, and left to the saddest fate; he himself took in the sufferers, treated them as brethren, and, in spite of their revolting condition, was not afraid to kiss them.

Basil is distinguished as a pulpit orator and as a theologian, and still more as a shepherd of souls and a church ruler; and in the history of monasticism he holds a conspicuous place. In classical culture he yields to none of his contemporaries, and is justly placed with the two Gregories among the very first writers among the Greek fathers. His style is pure, elegant, and vigorous. Photius thought that one who wished to become a panegyrist, need take neither Demosthenes nor Cicero for his model, but Basil only.

Of his works, his Five Books against Eunomius, written in 361, in defence of the deity of Christ, and his work on the Holy Ghost, written in 375, at the request of his friend Amphilochius, are important to the history of doctrine. He at first, from fear of Sabellianism, recoiled from the strong doctrine of the homoousia; but the persecution of the Arians drove him to a decided confession. Of importance in the East is the Liturgy ascribed to him, which, with that of St. Chrysostom, is still in use, but has undoubtedly reached its present form by degrees. We have also from St. Basil nine Homilies on the history of the Creation, which are full of allegorical fancies, but enjoyed the highest esteem in the ancient church, and were extensively used by Ambrose and somewhat by Augustine, in similar works; Homilies on the Psalms; Homilies on various subjects; several ascetic and moral treatises; and three hundred and sixty-five Epistles, which furnish much information concerning his life and times.