Fathers of the Church

Letter Ccxc: to Nectarius

Description

Basil offers his opinion regarding election of public officials.

Provenance

St. Basil's correspondence is a copious and invaluable store of information for the history of the Eastern Church in the fourth century, particularly in Cappadocia. Since he never found a real biographer, his letters represent the best source for his life and times, for his many activities and far-reaching influence, especially for his personality and his character. (Quasten)

by Basil the Great in 357-370 | translated by Blomfield Jackson, M.A

MAY many blessings rest on those who encourage your excellency in maintaining a constant correspondence with me! And regard not such a wish as conventional merely, but as expressing my sincere conviction of the value of your utterances. Whom could I honour above Nectarius—known to me from his earliest days as a child of fairest promise, who now through the exercise of every virtue has reached a position of the highest eminence?— So much so, that of all my friends the dearest is the bearer of your letter.

Touching the election of those set over districts, God forbid that I should do anything for the gratification of man, through listening to importunities or yielding to fear. In that case I should be not a steward. but a huckster, battering the gift of God for the favour of man. But seeing that votes are given but by mortals, who can only bear such testimony as they do from outward appearances, while the choice of fit persons is committed in all humility to Him Who knows the secrets of the heart, haply it is best for everybody, when he has tendered the evidence of his vote, to abstain from all heat and contention, as though some self-interest were involved in the testimony, and to pray to God that what is advantageous may not remain unknown. Thus the result is no longer attributable to man, but a cause for thankfulness to God. For these things, if they be of man, cannot be said to be; but are pretence only, altogether void of reality.

Consider also, that when a man strives with might and main to gain his end, there is no small danger of his drawing even sinners to his side; and there is much sinfulness, such is the weakness of man's nature, even where we should least expect it.

Again, in private consultation we often offer our friends good advice, and, though we do not find them taking it, yet we are not angry. Where then it is not man that counsels, but God that determines, shall we feel indignation at not being preferred before the determination of God?

And if these things were given to man by man, what need were there for us to ask them of ourselves? Were it not better for each to take them from himself? But if they are the gift of God, we ought to pray and not to grieve. And in our prayer we should not seek our own will, but leave it to God who disposes for the best.

Now may the holy God keep from your home all taste of sorrow; and grant to you and to your family a life exempt from harm and sickness.

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.