Fathers of the Church
Letter XXI. to the Learned Eusebius
by Theodoret in Unknown | translated by Blomfield Jackson
The disseminators of this great news, with the idea that it would be very distasteful to me, fancied that they might in this way annoy me. But I by God's grace welcomed the news, and await the event with pleasure. Indeed very grateful to me is any kind of trouble which is brought on me for the sake of the divine doctrines. For, if we really trust in the Lord's promises, "The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us."
And why do I speak of the enjoyment of the good things which are hoped for? For even if no prize had been offered to them that struggle for the sake of true religion, Truth alone by her own unaided force would herself have been sufficient to persuade them that love her to welcome gladly all perils in her cause. And the divine Apostle is witness of what I say, exclaiming as he does, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword? As it is written, 'For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.'"
And then to teach us that he looks for no reward, but only loves his Saviour, he adds straightway "Nay in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us."
And he goes on further to exhibit his own love more clearly. "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Behold, my friend, the flame of apostolic affection; see the torch of love.
I covet not, he says, what is His. I only long for Him; and this love of mine is an unquenchable love and I would gladly forego all present and future felicity, aye, suffer and endure again all kinds of pain so as to keep with me this flame in all its force. This was exemplified by the divine writer in deed as well as in word and everywhere by land and sea he has left behind him memorials of his sufferings. So when I turn my eyes on him and on the rest of the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, priests, what is commonly reckoned miserable I cannot but hold to be delightful. I confess to a feeling of shame when I remember how even they who never learnt the lessons we have learnt, but followed no other guide but human nature alone, have won conspicuous places in the race of virtue. The famous Socrates, son of Sophroniscus, when under the calumnious indictment, not only treated the lies of his accusers with contempt, but expressed his cheerfulness in the midst of his troubles in the words. "Anytus and Meletus can kill me, but they cannot harm me." And the orator of Paeania, who was as wise as he was eloquent, enriched both the men of his own day and them that should come after him with the saying: "to all the race of men the end of life is death, even though one shut himself up for safety in a cell; so good men are bound ever to put their hand to every honourable work, ever defending themselves with good hope as with a shield, and bravely to bear whatever lot may be given them by God."
Moreover a writer of earlier date than Demosthenes, I mean the son of Olorus, wrote many noble sentiments, and among them this "We must bear what the gods send us of necessity and the fortune of war with courage." Why need I quote philosophers, historians, and orators? For even the men who gave higher honour to their mythology than to the truth have inserted many useful exhortations in their stories; as Homer in his poems introduces the wisest of the Hellenes preparing himself for deeds of valour, where he says
"He chid his angry spirit and beat his breast, And said 'Forbear my mind, and think on this: There hath been time when bitterer agonies Have tried thy patience.'"
Similar passages might easily be collected from poets, orators, and philosophers, but for us the divine writings are sufficient.
I have quoted what I have to prove how disgraceful it were for the mere disciples of nature to get the better of us who have had the teaching of the prophets and the apostles, trusting in the Saviour's sufferings and looking for the resurrection of the body, freedom from corruption, the gift of immortality and the kingdom of heaven.
So, my dear friend, comfort those who are discouraged at the stories bruited abroad, and if anybody is pleased at them, tell them that we are happy too, that we are exulting and dancing with joy, and that what they call punishment we are looking for as the kingdom of heaven itself.
To inform those who do not know in what mind we are, be assured, most excellent friend, that we believe, as we have been taught, in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. There is no truth in the slander of some that we have been taught to believe, or have been baptized, or do believe, or teach others to believe, in two Sons. As we know one Father and one Holy Ghost so we know one Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, God the Word who was made man. We do not however deny the properties of the natures. We hold them to be in error who divide the one Lord Jesus Christ into two Sons, and we also call them enemies of the truth who endeavour to confound the natures. We believe an union to have been made without confusion, and we reckon some qualities to be proper to the manhood and others to the Godhead; for just as the man—I mean man in general— reasonable and mortal being, has a soul and has a body, and is reckoned to be one being, just so the distinction between the two natures does not divide the one man into two persons, but we recognise in the one man both the immortality of the soul and the mortality of the body, and acknowledge the invisible soul and the visible body, but, as I said, one being at once reasonable and mortal; so do we recognise our Lord and God, I mean the Son of God our Lord Christ, even after His incarnation, to be one Son; for the union is indivisible, as we know it is without confusion. We acknowledge too that the Godhead is without beginning, and that the manhood is of recent origin; for the one nature is of the seed of Abraham and David, from whom descended the holy Virgin, but the divine nature was begotten of the God and Father before the ages without time, without passions, without severance. But suppose the distinction between flesh and Godhead to be destroyed, what weapons shall we use in our war with Arius and Eunomius? How shall we undo their blasphemy against the only begotten? As it is, we apply the words of humiliation as to man, the words of exaltation and divinity as to God, and the setting forth of the truth is very easy to us.
But this disquisition on the faith is exceeding the limits of a letter. Still even these few words are enough to show the character of the apostolic faith.
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. (NPNF II/III, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.