Fathers of the Church
Letter CCXXIV: to the Presbyter Genethlius
by Basil the Great in 357-370 | translated by Blomfield Jackson, M.A
1. I have received your reverence's letter and I am delighted at the title which you have felicitously applied to the writing which they have composed in calling it "a writing of divorcement," What defence the writers will be able to make before the tribunal of Christ, where no excuse will avail, I am quite unable to conceive. After accusing me, violently running me down, and telling tales in accordance not with the truth but with what they wished to be true, they have assumed a great show of humility, and have accused me of haughtiness for refusing to receive their envoys. They have written, as they have, what is all—or nearly all—for I do not wish to exaggerate,—lies, in the endeavour to persuade men rather than God, and to please men rather than God, with Whom nothing is more precious than truth. Moreover into the letter written against me they have introduced heretical expressions, and have concealed the author of the impiety, in order that most of the more unsophisticated might be deceived by the calumny got up against me, and suppose the portion introduced to be mine. For nothing is said by my ingenious slanderers as to the name of the author of these vile doctrines, and it is left for the simple to suspect that these inventions, if not their expression in writing. is due to me. Now that you know all this, I exhort you not to be perturbed yourselves, and to calm the excitement of those who are agitated. I say this although I know that it will not be easy for my defence to be received, because I have been anticipated by the vile calumnies uttered against me by persons of influence.
2. Now as to the point that the writings going the round as mine are not mine at all, the angry feeling felt against me so confuses their reason that they cannot see what is profitable. Nevertheless, if the question were put to them by yourselves, I do think that they would not reach such a pitch of obstinate perversity as to dare to utter the lie with their own lips, and allege the document in question to be mine. And if it is not mine, why am I being judged for other men's writings? But they will urge that I am in communion with Apollinarius, and cherish in my heart perverse doctrines of this kind. Let them be asked for proof. If they are able to search into a man's heart, let them say so; and do you admit the truth of all that they say about everything. If on the other hand, they are trying to prove my being in communion on plain and open grounds, let them produce either a canonical letter written by me to him, or by him to me. Let them shew that I have held intercourse with his clergy, or have ever received any one of them into the communion of prayer. If they adduce the letter written now five and twenty years ago, written by layman to layman, and not even this as I wrote it, but altered (God knows by whom), then recognise their unfairness. No bishop is accused if, while he was a layman, he wrote something somewhat incautiously on an indifferent matter; not anything concerning the Faith, but a mere word of friendly greeting. Possibly even my opponents are known to have written to Jews and to Pagans, without incurring any blame. Hitherto no one has ever been judged for any such conduct as that on which I am being condemned by these strainers-out of gnats. God, who knows men's hearts, knows that I never wrote these things, nor sanctioned them, but that I anathematize all who hold the vile opinion of the confusion of the hypostases, on which point the most impious heresy of Sabellius has been revived. And all the brethren who have been personally acquainted with my insignificant self know it equally well. Let those very men who now vehemently accuse me, search their own consciences, and they will own that from my boyhood I have been far removed from any doctrine of the kind.
3. If any one enquires what my opinion is, he will learn it froth the actual little document, to which is appended their own autograph signature. This they wish to destroy, and they are anxious to conceal their own change of position in slandering me. For they do not like to own that they have repented of their subscription to the tract I gave them; while they charge me with impiety from the idea that no one perceives that their disruption from me is only a pretext, while in reality they have departed from that faith which they have over and over again owned in writing, before many witnesses, and have lastly received and subscribed when delivered to them by me. It is open to any one to read the signatures and to learn the truth from the document itself. Their intention will be obvious, if, after reading the subscription which they gave me, any one reads the creed which they gave Gelasius, and observes what a vast difference there is between the two confessions. It would be better for men who so easily shift their own position, not to examine other men's motes but to cast out the beam in their own eye. I am making a more complete defence on every point in another letter; this will satisfy readers who want fuller assurance. Do you, now that you have received this letter, put away all despondency, and confirm the love to me, which makes me eagerly long for union with you. Verily it is a great sorrow to me, and a pain in my heart that cannot be assuaged, if the slanders uttered against me so far prevail as to chill your love and to alienate us from one another. Farewell.
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.