Fathers of the Church
Letter CCXXXIX: to Eusebius, Bishop of Samosata
by Basil the Great in 357-370 | translated by Blomfield Jackson, M.A
1. THE Lord has granted me the privilege of now saluting your holiness by our beloved and very reverend brother, the presbyter Antiochus, of exhorting you to pray for me as you are wont, and offering in our communication by letter some consolation for our long separation. And, when you pray, I ask you to beg from the Lord this as the first and greatest boon, that I may be delivered from vile and wicked men, who have gained such power over the people that now I seem to see, indeed, a repetition of the events of the taking of Jerusalem. For the weaker grow the Churches the more does men's lust for power increase. And now the very title of bishop has been conferred on wretched slaves, for no servant of God would choose to come forward in opposition to claim the see;—no one but miserable fellows like the emissaries of Anysius the creature of Euippius, and of Ecdicius of Parnassus: whoever has appointed him has sent into the Churches a poor means of aiding his own entry into the life to come.
They have expelled my brother from Nyssa, and into his place have introduced hardly a man—a mere scamp worth only an obol or two, but, so far as regards the ruin of the faith, a match for those who have put him where he is.
At the town of Doara they have brought shame upon the poor name of bishop, and have sent there a wretch, an orphans' domestic, a runaway from his own masters, to flatter a godless woman, who formerly used George as she liked, and now has got this fellow to succeed him.
And who could properly lament the occurrences at Nicopolis? That unhappy Fronto did, indeed, for a while pretend to be on the side of the truth, but now he has shamefully betrayed both the faith and himself, and for the price of his betrayal has got a name of disgrace. He imagines that he has obtained from these men the rank of bishop; in reality he has become, by God's grace, the abomination of all Armenia. But there is nothing that they will not dare; nothing wherein they are at a loss for worthy accomplices. But the rest of the news of Syria my brother knows better, and can tell you better, than I.
2. The news of the West you know already, on the recital of brother Dorotheus. What sort of letters are to be given him on his departure? Perhaps he will travel with the excellent Sanctissimus, who is full of enthusiasm, journeying through the East, and collecting letters and signatures from all the men of mark. What ought to be written by them, or how I can come to an agreement with those who are writing, I do not know. If you hear of any one soon travelling my way, be so good as to let me know. I am moved to say, as Diomede said,
"Would God, Atrides, thy request were yet to undertake; ... he's proud enough."
Really lofty souls, when they are courted, get haughtier than ever. If the Lord be propitious to us, what other thing do we need? If the anger of the Lord lasts on what help can come to us from the frown of the West? Men who do not know the truth, and do not wish to learn it, but are prejudiced by false suspicions, are doing now as they did in the case of Marcellus, when they quarrelled with men who told them the truth, and by their own action strengthened the cause of heresy. Apart from the common document, I should like to have written to their Coryphaeus—nothing, indeed, about ecclesiastical affairs except gently to suggest that they know nothing of what is going on here, and will not accept the only means whereby they might learn it. I would say, generally, that they ought not to press hard on men who are crushed by trials. They must not take dignity for pride. Sin only avails to produce enmity against God.
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.