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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : VIII.--St. Basil and Eustathius.

Basil Letters And Select Works by Basil

VIII.--St. Basil and Eustathius.

It was Basil's doom to suffer through his friendships. If the fault lay with himself in the case of Gregory, the same cannot be said of his rupture with Eustathius of Sebaste. If in this connexion fault can be laid to his charge at all, it was the fault of entering into intimacy with an unworthy man. In the earlier days of the retirement in Pontus the austerities of Eustathius outweighed in Basil's mind any suspicions of his unorthodoxy. Basil delighted in his society, spent days and nights in sweet converse with him, and introduced him to his mother and the happy family circle at Annesi. And no doubt under the ascendency of Basil, Eustathius, always ready to be all things to all men who might be for the time in power and authority, would appear as a very orthodox ascetic. Basil likens him to the Ethiopian of immutable blackness, and the leopard who cannot change his spots. But in truth his skin at various periods shewed every shade which could serve his purpose, and his spots shifted and changed colour with every change in his surroundings. He is the patristic Proteus. There must have been something singularly winning in his more than human attractiveness. But he signed almost every creed that went about for signature in his lifetime. He was consistent only in inconsistency. It was long ere Basil was driven to withdraw his confidence and regard, although his constancy to Eustathius raised in not a few, and notably in Theodotus of Nicopolis, the metropolitan of Armenia, doubts as to Basil's soundness in the faith. When Basil was in Armenia in 373, a creed was drawn up, in consultation with Theodotus, to be offered to Eustathius for signature. It consisted of the Nicene confession, with certain additions relating to the Macedonian controversy. Eustathius signed, together with Fronto and Severus. But, when another meeting with other bishops was arranged, he violated his pledge to attend. He wrote on the subject as though it were one of only small importance. Eusebius endeavoured, but endeavoured in vain, to make peace. Eustathius renounced communion with Basil, and at last, when an open attack on the archbishop seemed the paying game, he published an old letter of Basil's to Apollinarius, written by |layman to layman,| many years before, and either introduced, or appended, heretical expressions of Apollinarius, which were made to pass as Basil's. In his virulent hostility he was aided, if not instigated, by Demosthenes the prefect's vicar, probably Basil's old opponent at Cæsarea in 372. His duplicity and slanders roused Basil's indignant denunciation. Unhappily they were not everywhere recognized as calumnies. Among the bitterest of Basil's trials was the failure to credit him with honour and orthodoxy on the part of those from whom he might have expected sympathy and support. An earlier instance of this is the feeling shewn at the banquet at Nazianzus already referred to. In later days he was cruelly troubled by the unfriendliness of his old neighbours at Neocæsarea, and this alienation would be the more distressing inasmuch as Atarbius, the bishop of that see, appears to have been Basil's kinsman. He was under the suspicion of Sabellian unsoundness. He slighted and slandered Basil on several apparently trivial pretexts, and on one occasion hastened from Nicopolis for fear of meeting him. He expressed objection to supposed novelties introduced into the Church of Cæsarea, to the mode of psalmody practiced there, and to the encouragement of ascetic life. Basil did his utmost to win back the Neocæsareans from their heretical tendencies and to their old kindly sentiments towards himself.

The clergy of Pisidia and Pontus, where Eustathius had been specially successful in alienating the district of Dazimon, were personally visited and won back to communion. But Atarbius and the Neocæsareans were deaf to all appeal, and remained persistently irreconcilable. On his visiting the old home at Annesi, where his youngest brother Petrus was now residing, in 375, the Neocæsareans were thrown into a state of almost ludicrous panic. They fled as from a pursuing enemy. They accused Basil of seeking to win their regard and support from motives of the pettiest ambition, and twitted him with travelling into their neighbourhood uninvited.

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