Fathers of the Church
Letter CCLXIII: to the Westerns
by Basil the Great in 357-370 | translated by Blomfield Jackson, M.A
1. MAY the Lord God, in Whom we have put our trust, give to each of you grace sufficient to enable you to realize your hope, in proportion to the joy wherewith you have filled my heart, both by the letter which you have sent me by the hands of the well-beloved fellow-presbyters, and by the sympathy which you have felt for me in my distress, like men who have put on bowels of mercy,' as you have been described to me by the presbyters afore-mentioned. Although my wounds remain the same, nevertheless it does bring alleviation to me that I should have leeches at hand, able, should they find an opportunity, to apply rapid remedies to my hurts. Wherefore in return I salute you by oar beloved friends, and exhort you, if the Lord puts it into your power to come to me, not to hesitate to visit me. For part of the greatest commandment is the visitation of the sick. But if the good God and wise Dispenser of our lives reserves this boon for another season, at all events write to me whatever it is proper for you to write for the consolation of the oppressed and the lifting up of those that are crushed down. Already the Church has suffered many severe blows, and great has been my affliction at them. Nowhere is there expectation of succour unless the Lord sends us a remedy by you who are his true servants.
2. The bold and shameless heresy of the Arians, after being publicly cut off from the body of the Church, still abides in its own error, anti does not do us much harm because its impiety is notorious to all. Nevertheless men clad in sheep's clothing, and presenting a mild and amiable appearance, but within unsparingly ravaging Christ's flocks, find it easy to do hurt to the simpler ones, because they came out from us. It is these who are grievous and hard to guard against. It is these that we implore your diligence to denounce publicly to all the Churches of the East; to the end that they may either turn to the right way and join with us in genuine alliance, or, if they abide in their perversity, may keep their mischief to themselves alone, and be unable to communicate their own plague to their neighbours by unguarded communion. I am constrained to mention them by name, in order that you may yourselves recognise those who are stirring up disturbance here, and may make them known to our Churches. My own words are suspected by most men, as though I had an ill will towards them on account of some private quarrel. You, however, have all the more credit with the people, in proportion to the distance that separates your home from theirs, besides the fact that you are gifted with God's grace to help those who are distressed. If more of you concur in uttering the same opinions, it is clear that the number of those who have expressed them will make it impossible to oppose their acceptance.
3. One of those who have caused me great sorrow is Eustathius of Sebasteia in Lesser Armenia; formerly a disciple of Arius, and a follower of him at the tithe when he flourished in Alexandria, and concocted his infamous blasphemies against the Only- begotten, he was numbered among his most faithful disciples. On his return to his own country he submitted a confession of the sound faith to Hermogenes, the very blessed Bishop of Caesarea, who was on the point of condemning him for false doctrine. Under these circumstances he was ordained by Hermogenes, and, on the death of that bishop, hastened to Eusebius of Constantinople, who himself yielded to none in the energy of his support of the impious doctrine of Arius. From Constantinople he was expelled for some reason or another, returned to his own country and a second time made his defence, attempting to conceal his impious sentiments and cloaking them under a certain verbal orthodoxy. He no sooner obtained the rank of bishop than he straightway appeared writing an anathema on the Homoousion in the Arians' synod at Ancyra. From thence he went to Seleucia and took part in the notorious measures of his fellow heretics. At Constantinople he assented a second time to the propositions of the heretics. On being ejected from his episcopate, on the ground of his former deposition at Melitine, he hit upon a journey to you as a means of restitution for himself. What propositions were made to him by the blessed bishop Liberius, and to what he agreed, I am ignorant. I only know that he brought a letter restoring him, which he shewed to the synod at Tyana, and was restored to his see. He is now defaming the very creed for which he was received; he is consorting with those who are anathematizing the Homoousion, and is prime leader of the heresy of the pneumatomachi. As it is from the west that he derives his power to injure the Churches, and uses the authority given him by you to the overthrow of the many, it is necessary that his correction should come from the same quarter, and that a letter be sent to the Churches stating on what terms he was received, and in what manner he has changed his conduct and nullifies the favour given him by the Father's at that time.
4. Next comes Apollinarius, who is no less a cause of sorrow to the Churches. With his facility of writing, and a tongue ready to argue on any subject, he has filled the world with his works, in disregard of the advice of him who said, "Beware of making many books." In their multitude there are certainly many errors. How is it possible to avoid sin in a multitude of words? And the theological works of Apollinarius are founded on Scriptural proof, but are based on a human origin. He has written about the resurrection, from a mythical, or rather Jewish, point of view; urging that we shall return again to the worship of the Law, be circumcised, keep the Sabbath, abstain from meats, offer sacrifices to God, worship in the Temple at Jerusalem, and be altogether turned from Christians into Jews. What could be more ridiculous? Or, rather, what could be more contrary to the doctrines of the Gospel? Then, further, he has made such confusion among the brethren about the incarnation, that few of his readers preserve the old mark of true religion; but the more part, in their eagerness for novelty, have been diverted into investigations and quarrelsome discussions of his unprofitable treatises.
5. As to whether there is anything objectionable about the conversation of Paulinus, you can say yourselves. What distresses me is that he should shew an inclination for the doctrine of Marcellus, and unreservedly admit his followers to communion. You know, most honourable brethren, that the reversal of all our hope is involved in the doctrine of Marcellus, for it does not confess the Son in His proper hypostasis, but represents Him as having been sent forth, and as having again returned to Him from Whom He came; neither does it admit that the Paraclete has His own subsistence. It follows that no one could be wrong in declaring this heresy to be all at variance with Christianity, and in styling it a corrupt Judaism. Of these things I implore you to take due heed. This will be the case if you will consent to write to all the Churches of the East that those who have perverted these doctrines are in communion with you, if they amend; but that if they contentiously determine to abide by their innovations, you are separated from them. I am myself well aware, that it had been fitting for me to treat of these matters, sitting in synod with you in common deliberation. But this the time does not allow. Delay is dangerous, for the mischief they have caused has taken root. I have therefore been constrained to dispatch these brethren, that you may learn from them all that has been omitted in my letter, and that they may rouse you to afford the succour which we pray for to the Churches of the East.
Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in 1867. (PNPF II/VIII, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.