1. Christ warned His followers against false prophets.
All things whatsoever our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, as Luke wrote, both hath done and taught ,' He effected after having appeared for our salvation; for He came, as John saith, not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved .' And among the rest we have especially to admire this instance of His goodness, that He was not silent concerning those who should fight against us, but plainly told us beforehand, that, when those things should come to pass, we might straightway be found with minds established by His teaching. For He said, There shall arise false prophets and false Christs, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, the very elect shall be deceived. Behold, I have told you before .' Manifold indeed and beyond human conception are the instructions and gifts of grace which He has laid up in us; as the pattern of heavenly conversation, power against demons, the adoption of sons, and that exceeding great and singular grace, the knowledge of the Father and of the Word Himself, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. But the mind of man is prone to evil exceedingly; moreover, our adversary the devil, envying us the possession of such great blessings, goeth about seeking to snatch away the seed of the word which is sown within us. Wherefore as if by His prophetic warnings He would seal up His instructions in our hearts as His own peculiar treasure, the Lord said, Take heed that no man deceive you: for many shall come in My name, saying, I am he; and the time draweth near; and they shall deceive many: go ye not therefore after them .' This is a great gift which the Word has bestowed upon us, that we should not be deceived by appearances, but that, howsoever these things are concealed, we should all the more distinguish them by the grace of the Spirit. For whereas the inventor of wickedness and great spirit of evil, the devil, is utterly hateful, and as soon as he shews himself is rejected of all men, -- as a serpent, as a dragon, as a lion seeking whom he may seize upon and devour, -- therefore he conceals and covers what he really is, and craftily personates that Name which all men desire, so that deceiving by a false appearance, he may thenceforth fix fast in his own chains those whom he has led astray. And as if one that desired to kidnap the children of others during the absence of their parents, should personate their appearance, and so putting a cheat on the affections of the offspring, should carry them far away and destroy them; in like manner this evil and wily spirit the devil, having no confidence in himself, and knowing the love which men bear to the truth, personates its appearance, and so spreads his own poison among those that follow after him.
2. Satan pretending to be holy, is detected by the Christian.
Thus he deceived Eve, not speaking his own, but artfully adopting the words of God, and perverting their meaning. Thus he suggested evil to the wife of Job, persuading her to feign affection for her husband, while he taught her to blaspheme God. Thus does the crafty spirit mock men by false displays, deluding and drawing each into his own pit of wickedness. When of old he deceived the first man Adam, thinking that through him he should have all men subject unto him, he exulted with great boldness and said, My hand hath found as a nest the riches of the people; and as one gathereth eggs that are left, have I gathered all the earth; and there is none that shall escape me or speak against me .' But when the Lord came upon earth, and the enemy made trial of His human Economy, being unable to deceive the flesh which He had taken upon Him, from that time forth he, who promised himself the occupation of the whole world, is for His sake mocked even by children: that proud one is mocked as a sparrow . For now the infant child lays his hand upon the hole of the asp, and laughs at him that deceived Eve ; and all that rightly believe in the Lord tread under foot him that said, I will ascend above the heights of the clouds: I will be like the Most High .' Thus he suffers and is dishonoured; and although he still ventures with shameless confidence to disguise himself, yet now, wretched spirit, he is detected the rather by them that bear the Sign on their foreheads ; yea, more, he is rejected of them, and is humbled, and put to shame. For even if, now that he is a creeping serpent, he shall transform himself into an angel of light, yet his deception will not profit him; for we have been taught that though an angel from heaven preach unto us any other gospel than that we have received, he is anathema .'
3. And although, again, he conceal his natural falsehood, and pretend to speak truth with his lips; yet are we not ignorant of his devices ,' but are able to answer him in the words spoken by the Spirit against him; But unto the ungodly, said God, why dost thou preach My laws?' and, Praise is not seemly in the mouth of a sinner .' For even though he speak the truth, the deceiver is not worthy of credit. And whereas Scripture shewed this, when relating his wicked artifices against Eve in Paradise, so the Lord also reproved him, -- first in the mount, when He laid open the folds of his breast-plate ,' and shewed who the crafty spirit was, and proved that it was not one of the saints , but Satan that was tempting Him. For He said, Get thee behind Me Satan; for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve .' And again, when He put a curb in the mouths of the demons that cried after Him from the tombs. For although what they said was true, and they lied not then, saying, Thou art the Son of God,' and the Holy One of God ;' yet He would not that the truth should proceed from an unclean mouth, and especially from such as them, lest under pretence thereof they should mingle with it their own malicious devices, and sow these also while men slept. Therefore He suffered them not to speak such words, neither would He have us to suffer such, but hath charged us by His own mouth, saying, Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheeps' clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves ;' and by the mouth of His Holy Apostles, Believe not every spirit .' Such is the method of our adversary's operations; and of the like nature are all these inventions of heresies, each of which has for the father of its own device the devil, who changed and became a murderer and a liar from the beginning. But being ashamed to profess his hateful name, they usurp the glorious Name of our Saviour which is above every name ,' and deck themselves out in the language of Scripture, speaking indeed the words, but stealing away the true meaning thereof; and so disguising by some artifice their false inventions, they also become the murderers of those whom they have led astray.
4. It profits not to receive part of Scripture, and reject part.
For whence do Marcion and Manichæus receive the Gospel while they reject the Law? For the New Testament arose out of the Old, and bears witness to the Old; if then they reject this, how can they receive what proceeds from it? Thus Paul was an Apostle of the Gospel, which God promised afore by His prophets in the holy Scriptures :' and our Lord Himself said, ye search the Scriptures, for they are they which testify of Me .' How then shall they confess the Lord unless they first search the Scriptures which are written concerning Him? And the disciples say that they have found Him, of whom Moses and the Prophets did write .' And what is the Law to the Sadducees if they receive not the Prophets ? For God who gave the Law, Himself promised in the Law that He would raise up Prophets also, so that the same is Lord both of the Law and of the Prophets, and he that denies the one must of necessity deny the other also. And again, what is the Old Testament to the Jews, unless they acknowledge the Lord whose coming was expected according to it? For had they believed the writings of Moses, they would have believed the words of the Lord; for He said, He wrote of Me .' Moreover, what are the Scriptures to him of Samosata, who denies the Word of God and His incarnate Presence , which is signified and declared both in the Old and New Testament? And of what use are the Scriptures to the Arians also, and why do they bring them forward, men who say that the Word of God is a creature, and like the Gentiles serve the creature more than' God the Creator ?' Thus each of these heresies, in respect of the peculiar impiety of its invention, has nothing in common with the Scriptures. And their advocates are aware of this, that the Scriptures are very much, or rather altogether, opposed to the doctrines of every one of them; but for the sake of deceiving the more simple sort (such as are those of whom it is written in the Proverbs, The simple believeth every word ),' they pretend like their father the devil ' to study and to quote the language of Scripture, in order that they may appear by their words to have a right belief, and so may persuade their wretched followers to believe what is contrary to the Scriptures. Assuredly in every one of these heresies the devil has thus disguised himself, and has suggested to them words full of craftiness. The Lord spake concerning them, that there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, so that they shall deceive many .' Accordingly the devil has come, speaking by each and saying, I am Christ, and the truth is with me;' and he has made them, one and all, to be liars like himself. And strange it is, that while all heresies are at variance with one another concerning the mischievous inventions which each has framed, they are united together only by the common purpose of lying . For they have one and the same father that has sown in them all the seeds, of falsehood. Wherefore the faithful Christian and true disciple of the Gospel, having grace to discern spiritual things, and having built the house of his faith upon a rock, stands continually firm and secure from their deceits. But the simple person, as I said before, that is not thoroughly grounded in knowledge, such an one, considering only the words that are spoken and not perceiving their meaning, is immediately drawn away by their wiles. Wherefore it is good and needful for us to pray that we may receive the gift of discerning spirits, so that every one may know, according to the precept of John, whom he ought to reject, and whom to receive as friends and of the same faith. Now one might write at great length concerning these things, if one desired to go into details respecting them; for the impiety and perverseness of heresies will appear to be manifold and various, and the craft of the deceivers to be very terrible. But since holy Scripture is of all things most sufficient for us, therefore recommending to those who desire to know more of these matters, to read the Divine word, I now hasten to set before you that which most claims attention, and for the sake of which principally I have written these things.
5. Attempt of Arians to substitute a Creed for the Nicene.
I heard during my sojourn in these parts (and they were true and orthodox brethren that informed me), that certain professors of Arian opinions had met together, and drawn a confession of faith to their own liking, and that they intend to send word to you, that you must either subscribe to what pleases them, or rather to what the devil has inspired them with, or in case of refusal must suffer banishment. They are indeed already beginning to molest the Bishops of these parts; and thereby are plainly manifesting their disposition. For inasmuch as they frame this document only for the purpose of inflicting banishment or other punishments, what does such conduct prove them to be, but enemies of the Christians, and friends of the devil and his angels? and especially since they spread abroad what they like contrary to the mind of that gracious Prince, our most religious Emperor Constantius . And this they do with great craftiness, and, as appears to me, chiefly with two ends in view; first, that by obtaining your subscriptions, they may seem to remove the evil repute that rests upon the name of Arius, and may escape notice themselves as if not professing his opinions; and again, that by putting forth these statements they may cast a shade over the Council of Nicæa , and the confession of faith which was then put forth against the Arian heresy. But this proceeding does but prove the more plainly their own maliciousness and heterodoxy. For had they believed aright, they would have been satisfied with the confession put forth at Nicæa by the whole Ecumenic Council; and had they considered themselves calumniated and falsely called Arians, they ought not to have been so eager to innovate upon what was written against Arius, lest what was directed against him might seem to be aimed at them also. This, however, is not the course they pursue, but they conduct the struggle in their own behalf, just as if they were Arius. Observe how entirely they disregard the truth, and how everything they say and do is for the sake of the Arian heresy. For in that they dare to question those sound definitions of the faith, and take upon themselves to produce others contrary to them, what else do they but accuse the Fathers, and stand up in defence of that heresy which they opposed and protested against? And what they now write proceeds not from any regard for the truth, as I said before, but rather they do it as in mockery and by an artifice, for the purpose of deceiving men; that by sending about their letters they may engage the ears of the people to listen to these notions, and so put off the time when they will be brought to trial; and that by concealing their impiety from observation, they may have room to extend their heresy, which, like a gangrene ,' eats its way everywhere.
6. Accordingly they disturb and disorder everything, and yet not even thus are they satisfied with their own proceedings. For every year, as if they were going to draw up a contract, they meet together and pretend to write about the faith, whereby they expose themselves the more to ridicule and disgrace, because their expositions are rejected, not by others, but by themselves. For had they had any confidence in their previous statements, they would not have desired to draw up others; nor again, leaving these last, would they now have set down the one in question, which no doubt true to their custom they will again alter, after a very short interval, and as soon as they shall find a pretence for their customary plotting against certain persons. For when they have a design against any, then it is that they make a great show of writing about the faith; that, as Pilate washed his hands, so they by writing may destroy those who rightly believe in Christ, hoping that, as making definitions about the faith, they may appear, as I have repeatedly said, to be free from the charge of false doctrine. But they will not be able to hide themselves, nor to escape; for they continually become their own accusers even while they defend themselves. Justly so, since instead of answering those who bring proof against them, they do but persuade themselves to believe whatever they wish. And when is an acquittal obtained, upon the criminal becoming his own judge? Hence it is that they are always writing, and always altering their own previous statements, and thus they shew an uncertain faith ,' or rather a manifest unbelief and perverseness. And this, it appears to me, must needs be the case with them; for since, having fallen away from the truth, and desiring to overthrow that sound confession of faith which was drawn up at Nicæa, they have, in the language of Scripture, loved to wander, and have not refrained their feet ;' therefore, like Jerusalem of old, they labour and toil in their changes, sometimes writing one thing, and sometimes another, but only for the sake of gaining time, and that they may continue enemies of Christ, and deceivers of mankind.
7. The party of Acacius really Arians.
Who, then, that has any real regard for truth, will be willing to suffer these men any longer? who will not justly reject their writing? who will not denounce their audacity, that being but few in number, they would have their decisions to prevail over everything, and as desiring the supremacy of their own meetings, held in corners and suspicious in their circumstances, would forcibly cancel the decrees of an uncorrupt, pure, and Ecumenic Council? Men who have been promoted by Eusebius and his fellows for advocating this Antichristian heresy, venture to define articles of faith, and while they ought to be brought to judgment as criminals, like Caiaphas, they take upon themselves to judge. They compose a Thalia, and would have it received as a standard of faith, while they are not yet themselves determined what they believe. Who does not know that Secundus of Pentapolis, who was several times degraded long ago, was received by them for the sake of the Arian madness; and that George , now of Laodicea, and Leontius the Eunuch, and before him Stephanus, and Theodorus of Heraclea , were promoted by them? Ursacius and Valens also, who from the first were instructed by Arius as young men , though they had been formerly degraded from the Priesthood, afterwards got the title of Bishops on account of their impiety; as did also Acacius, Patrophilus , and Narcissus, who have been most forward in all manner of impiety. These were degraded in the great Synod of Sardica; Eustathius also now of Sebastea, Demophilus and Germinius , Eudoxius, and Basil, who are supporters of that impiety, were advanced in the same manner. Of Cecropius , and him they called Auxentius, and of Epictetus the impostor, it were superfluous for me to speak, since it is manifest to all men, in what manner, on what pretexts, and by what enemies of ours these were promoted, that they might bring their false charges against the orthodox Bishops who were the objects of their designs. For although they resided at the distance of eighty posts, and were unknown to the people, yet on the ground of their impiety they purchased for themselves the title of Bishop. For the same reason also they have now hired one George of Cappadocia, whom they wish to impose upon you. But no respect is due to him any more than to the rest; for there is a report in these parts that he is not even a Christian, but is devoted to the worship of idols; and he has a hangman's temper . And this person, such as he is described to be, they have taken into their ranks, that they may be able to injure, to plunder, and to slay; for in these things he is a great proficient, but is ignorant of the very principles of the Christian faith.
8. Words are bad, though Scriptural, which proceed from bad men.
Such are the machinations of these men against the truth: but their designs are manifest to all the world, though they attempt in ten thousand ways, like eels, to elude the grasp, and to escape detection as enemies of Christ. Wherefore I beseech you, let no one among you be deceived, no one seduced by them; rather, considering that a sort of judaical impiety is invading the Christian faith, be ye all zealous for the Lord; hold fast, every one, the faith we have received from the Fathers, which they who assembled at Nicæa recorded in writing, and endure not those who endeavour to innovate thereon. And however they may write phrases out of the Scripture, endure not their writings; however they may speak the language of the orthodox, yet attend not to what they say; for they speak not with an upright mind, but putting on such language like sheeps' clothing, in their hearts they think with Arius, after the manner of the devil, who is the author of all heresies. For he too made use of the words of Scripture, but was put to silence by our Saviour. For if he had indeed meant them as he used them, he would not have fallen from heaven; but now having fallen through his pride, he artfully dissembles in his speech, and oftentimes maliciously endeavours to lead men astray by the subtleties and sophistries of the Gentiles. Had these expositions of theirs proceeded from the orthodox, from such as the great Confessor Hosius, and Maximinus of Gaul, or his successor , or from such as Philogonius and Eustathius , Bishops of the East , or Julius and Liberius of Rome, or Cyriacus of Moesia , or Pistus and Aristæus of Greece, or Silvester and Protogenes of Dacia, or Leontius and Eupsychius of Cappadocia, or Cæcilianus of Africa, or Eustorgius of Italy, or Capito of Sicily, or Macarius of Jerusalem, or Alexander of Constantinople, or Pæderos of Heraclea, or those great Bishops Meletius, Basil, and Longianus, and the rest from Armenia and Pontus, or Lupus and Amphion from Cilicia, or James and the rest from Mesopotamia, or our own blessed Alexander, with others of the same opinions as these; -- there would then have been nothing to suspect in their statements, for the character of apostolical men is sincere and incapable of fraud.
9. For such words do but serve as their cloak.
But when they proceed from those who are hired to advocate the cause of heresy, and since, according to the divine proverb, The words of the wicked are to lie in wait,' and The mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things,' and The counsels of the wicked are deceit :' it becomes us to watch and be sober, brethren, as the Lord has said, lest any deception arise from subtlety of speech and craftiness; lest any one come and pretend to say, I preach Christ,' and after a little while he be found to be Antichrist. These indeed are Antichrists, whosoever come to you in the cause of the Arian madness. For what defect is there among you, that any one need to come to you from without? Or, of what do the Churches of Egypt and Libya and Alexandria stand so much in need, that these men should make a purchase of the Episcopate instead of wood and goods, and intrude into Churches which do not belong to them? Who is not aware, who does not perceive clearly, that they do all this in order to support their impiety? Wherefore although they should make themselves dumb, or although they should bind on their garments larger borders than the Pharisees, and pour themselves forth in long speeches, and practise the tones of their voice , they ought not to be believed; for it is not the mode of speaking, but the intentions of the heart and a godly conversation that recommend the faithful Christian. And thus the Sadducees and Herodians, although they have the law in their mouths, were put to rebuke by our Saviour, who said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God :' and all men witnessed the exposure of those who pretended to quote the words of the Law, as being in their minds heretics and enemies of God . Others indeed they deceived by these professions, but when our Lord became man they were not able to deceive Him; for the Word was made Flesh,' who knoweth the thoughts of men that they are vain.' Thus He exposed the carping of the Jews, saying, If God were your Father, ye would love Me, for I proceeded forth from the Father, and am come to you .' In like manner these men seem now to act; for they disguise their real sentiments, and then make use of the language of Scripture for their writings, which they hold forth as a bait for the ignorant, that they may inveigle them into their own wickedness.
10. They ought first to condemn Arius, if they are to be heard.
Consider, whether this be not so. If, when there is no reason for their doing so, they write confessions of faith, it is a superfluous, and perhaps also a mischievous proceeding, because, when there is no enquiry, they offer occasion for controversy of words, and unsettle the simple hearts of the brethren, disseminating among them such notions as have never entered into their minds. And if they are attempting to write a defence of themselves in regard to the Arian heresy, they ought first to have removed the seeds of those evils which have sprung up, and to have proscribed those who produced them, and then in the room of former statements to set forth others which are sound; or else let them openly vindicate the opinions of Arius, that they may no longer covertly but openly shew themselves enemies of Christ, and that all men may fly from them as from the face of a serpent. But now they keep back those opinions, and for a pretence write on other matters; just as if a surgeon, when summoned to attend a person wounded and suffering, should upon coming in to him say not a word concerning his wounds, but proceed to discourse about his sound limbs. Such an one would be chargeable with utter stupidity, for saying nothing on the matter for which he came, but discoursing on those other points in which he was not needed. Yet just in the same manner these men omit those matters which concern their heresy, and take upon themselves to write on other subjects; whereas if they had any regard for the Faith, or any love for Christ, they ought first to have removed out of the way those blasphemous expressions uttered against Him, and then in the room of them to speak and to write the sound words. But this they neither do themselves, nor permit those that desire to do so, whether it be from ignorance, or through craft and artifice.
11. No profit to do right in one way, if we do wrong in another.
If they do this from ignorance they must be charged with rashness, because they affirm positively concerning things that they know not; but if they dissemble knowingly, their condemnation is the greater, because while they overlook nothing in consulting for their own interests, in writing about faith in our Lord they make a mockery, and do anything rather than speak the truth; they keep back those particulars respecting which their heresy is accused, and merely bring forward the language of the Scriptures. Now this is a manifest theft of the truth, and a practice full of all iniquity; and so I am sure your piety will readily perceive it to be from the following illustrations. No person being accused of adultery defends himself as innocent of theft; nor would any one in prosecuting a charge of murder suffer the accused parties to defend themselves by saying, We have not committed perjury, but have preserved the deposit which was entrusted to us.' This would be mere child's play, instead of a refutation of the charge and a demonstration of the truth. For what has murder to do with a deposit, or adultery with theft? The vices are indeed related to each other as proceeding from the same heart; yet in respect to the refutation of an alleged offence, they have no connection with each other. Accordingly as it is written in the Book of Joshua the son of Nun, when Achan was charged with theft, he did not excuse himself with the plea of his zeal in the wars; but being convicted of the offence was stoned by all the people. And when Saul was charged with negligence and a breach of the law, he did not benefit his cause by alleging his conduct on other matters . For a defence on one count will not operate to obtain an acquittal on another count; but if all things should be done according to law and justice, a man must defend himself in those particulars wherein he is accused, and must either disprove the past, or else confess it with the promise that he will desist, and do so no more. But if he is guilty of the crime, and will not confess, but in order to conceal the truth speaks on other points instead of the one in question, he shews plainly that he has acted amiss, nay, and is conscious of his delinquency. But what need of many words, seeing that these persons are themselves accusers of the Arian heresy? For since they have not the boldness to speak out, but conceal their blasphemous expressions, it is plain that they know that this heresy is separate and alien from the truth. But since they themselves conceal it and are afraid to speak, it is necessary for me to strip off the veil from their impiety, and to expose the heresy to public view, knowing as I do the statements which Arius and his fellows formerly made, and how they were cast out of the Church, and degraded from the Clergy. But here first I ask for pardon of the foul words which I am about to produce, since I use them, not because I thus think, but in order to convict the heretics.