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Mother ! 'tis late, with fear I cope,
Till come the Day-spring from on high.
My Child ! whate'er shall me betide,
Doth o'er thee lean, and hear thy cry.
Then leave them to their enmity.
Unto thine icy hills I fy.
Mother! our sun hath gone to rest,
From out our Father's house on high.
A Moon unfelt, but calm and nigh.
.. that we Thy servants, being hurt by no persecutions, may evermore give thanks unto Thee in Thy holy church.”
Whene’er goes forth Thy solemn word
To loose this mortal coil,
Upon a Christian soil.
I ask not in that hour to be
Circled by friends and kin,
Lose I such grace or win.
But, let my failing limbs beneath
Thy church's smile recline;
Heard in her sacred shrine.
And may the Cross beside my bed
In its meet emblems rest;
th'absolving words be said,
But He, who taught His own
To fear to die alone.
The Editor begs to remind his readers that he is not responsible for the opinions
of his Correspondents.
LETTERS ON THE CHURCH OF THE FATHERS.
A BISHOP of vigorous mind, who discerns and is pained at those disorders to which the church is ever liable, will be sure to have an abundance of enemies and detractors. He will be called turbulent, headstrong, proud; especially if he cherishes a noble attachment to the rules of the primitive discipline, and a reverence and zeal for that great gift of God, the apostolical commission. Basil had his share in these discomforts, although the duty of church order was far more practically recognized in his day than now. While he acted as a presbyter for Eusebius, his diocesan, he had become unpopular with a large portion of the bishops of his exarchate; who, on finding they could not prevent his elevation, on the death of Eusebius, had refused to be present at his ordination, or to hold intercourse with him. Others who did not go these lengths, yet were suspicious or cold, perhaps merely because others were violent in their opposition, and were ready to imagine affronts and injuries where none really existed. With this introduction, the following letters will almost speak for themselves.
BASIL TO ARCADIUS, BISHOP. I
gave thanks to Almighty God on receiving your boliness's letter. It is my prayer that I may not disappoint the expectations you and your brethren have formed of me, and that you may receive a full return for the honour which you have done me in the Lord's name. It gave me exceeding joy to hear of your undertaking a business so worthy of Christians, as that of raising a house to the glory of Christ. Doubtless, you have a sincere love for what Scripture calls “the place where his honour dwelleth,” and so are preparing for yourselves that heavenly habitation which is reserved in rest for those who love Christ's name. Should I be able to discover any relics of martyrs, it would be my wish to offer them to you as my contribution to wards
your zealous work. If, as it is written, “the just shall be held in everlasting remembrance," I should thus have some share in the blessed memory which you will doubtless inherit from the Holy One.
It need scarcely be observed, that it was usual in early times to deposit the bodies of martyrs under the high altar, in accordance with Rev. vi. 9.
BASIL TO INNOCENT, BISHOP. Surely no one was fitter, both to embolden the timid and to rouse the sleepers than your lordship, who have displayed your customary worth, in your readiness to descend to one so humble as myself; as a true disciple of Him who said, “I am in the midst of you, not as one who silteth at meat, but as one who ministereth.” Thus you have deigned to minister to me yourown spiritual cheerfulness, and to refresh my soul with your valuable letter, enfolding, as in arms of a strong man, the feebleness of an infant. Let me put it upon your kindness to pray that I, on my part, may be worthy of the aid of such 'men as yourself; and receive a voice and wisdom to dare respond to men who are led by the Holy Ghost, and who (as I hear with great thankfulness) have been so grounded and settled in godly love as to have shewn themselves zealous defenders of his divinity. The Lord grant I may have my lot with the true worshippers, of whom I know your holiness to be one. I make my prayer to Him, who is the great and true Bishop of souls, who has filled the whole world with his wondrous works.”
BASIL TO PERGAMIUS.
I know I am naturally forgetsul, and I have lately had a multitude of engagements, which has increased this original defect. This must be my excuse for not remembering your sending me a letter, which I now, of course, believe you wrote to me, since you tell me so, though I have no recollection of it. Yet I am hardly in fault, since they who require an answer should ask for it. However, you now receive from me what will at once account for what is past, and have a claim on you for a reply. So, when you next write, you must not think that you are taking the lead in our correspondence, but merely paying me what is due for my present letter. I say this, because this letter, being twice as long as your's, serves both for reply and challenge. You will say I am talking as idly as if I were at leisure. My good friend, let me beg of you not to turn, as you have done, what is a small matter into a charge so great, that perhaps no greater business could be imputed to me. For I must consider that a forgetfulness of friendships, and insolence after promotion, contain in them all that is wretched. Whether it is we do not love, as the Lord has bid us, then we have lost his image ; or whether we are puffed up and gorged with vain glory and conceit, we fall into the sure condemnation of the devil. Therefore, if you have accused me advisedly, pray for my escape from the sin which you discern in my conduct; if, on the other hand, from an inconsiderate habit you have let your tongue run on, I shall seek support in my own self against the charge, and shall tax your goodness to adduce facts in proof of it. Be sure of this, that the pain your accusation has occasioned me has been any how a means of humbling me. I am not likely to forget you till I forget myself, so, for the future, do not take my engagement as a proof of a bad disposition.
The above letters were written in answer to congratulations on his elevation. The following are of a different character. By the Chorepiscopi, or suffragan bishops, are meant, in the first letter, the diocesan bishops of his province. The title, however, properly applies to bishops without sees, assisting and representing a bishop within the limits of his own diocese, which seems to be its meaning in the second.
BASIL TO HIS CHOREPISCOPI, So great is the enormity of the crime which is the subject of this letter, that the very suspicion and report of it pained me deeply. And hitherto I did not believe it could have been committed. So what I shall say about it must be taken as a wholesome medicine by such as are conscious of guilt; by the innocent as a warning ; and as a protest by those who stand aloof, though I trust such indifference is not found among you. What am I denouncing ? It is reported that some among you receive a price for bestowing ordination, and then give a religious colour to their proceeding. Should this be so, let it cease ; for we are bound to say to him who receives, what the apostles said to him who offered a price for the participation of the Spirit, “Thy money perish with thee !” Indeed, it is a less sin to be ignorant we cannot buy, than to sell the gift of God. For we sell what we received without price, and so, being sold to Satan, shall certainly lose it. We traffic in things spiritual, even in that church into which the body and blood of Christ are given us in charge. This must not be.
The evasion of these persons is as follows. They consider they are clear of the guilt, in that they receive nothing before ordination, but after. But to receive is still to RECEIVE, whatever be the time.
I beseech you turn from this way of gain, or rather, of perdition; nor by such pollution deprive your hands of the power of celebrating the holy mysteries. Let me speak my purpose. First, I exhort as disbelieving the charge; next, as if convinced, I threaten. Should any instance occur after this my letter, the offender shall be removed from the altars of his church; for he makes a gain of the gift of God. We have no such custom, neither the churches of God. I will add one word. The love of money, which has caused this crime, is the root of all evil, and is termed in Scripture idolatry. Prefer not idols to Christ, for a paltry bribe; nor be as Judas, selling Him afresh who was once for all crucified for us. Surely both the estates, and the hands of those who reap the fruits thereof, shall be called Aceldama.
BASIL TO HIS CHOREPISCOPI.
I am much concerned at the utter disuse,' which prevails among us, of the canons of our fathers, and the banishment of exact discipline from the churches ; and I am apprehensive lest, if this indifference goes further, ecclesiastical affairs will fall into utter confusion. According to the ancient custom of the church, candidates for its ministry* were not admitted without most careful examination. Diligent inquiry was made into their manner of life, whether they were railers, or drunkards, or quarrelsome, or unable to control their youth, so as to secure that holiness, without which no one shall see the Lord. The presbyters and deacons in their neighbourhood ascertained these points, and reported to the suffragans, who collected their opinions together, and laid them before the bishop; and then the candidate was received. But at present you have deprived me of the right of this report, and have taken the whole authority into your own hands. Next, you have neglected the duty thus undertaken, and have allowed the presbyters and deacons to introduce into the church whom they would, without inquiry into their previous life, from personal liking, either from relationship or other connexion. Hence, many as are the inferior ministers in each town, there is not, perhaps, one fit to be advanced to the ministry of the altar, [i. e., to the priesthood and diaconate,) as, indeed, yourself acknowledge, in the difficulty you find in electing them. Since then these irregularities tend to irreparable mischief, especially
* By ministry is meant, not merely that of the three orders, but also the inferior offices, of subdeacons, &c.
now, when so many are entering the ministry to avoid conscription for the army, I have felt myself compelled to recur to the canons of our fathers ; and I write to you for a list of the ministers of each town, and by whom each was recommended, and his mode of life. And I wish you to keep lists of your own, which may be checked by those you send me, so that no one may be able to introduce his name of himself. If any should be introduced by presbyters after this arrangement, they are to be put back again into the laity, and undergo an examination afresh. Should they be approved, then let them be re-admitted.
The following solemn epistles will bring to our recollection, by the contrast, one of the greatest ecclesiastical sins of the present time, the neglect of the duty of a godly discipline.
BASIL TO ATHANASIUS, BISHOP OF ALEXANDRIA. I have received your Holiness's letters, in which you give a distressing account of that wretched man, the Governor of Libya. It pained me to think that my own country should have given birth and education to such a person ; and that your Libya should have been exposed to evils of our production, and delivered over to the brutality of a cruel and profligate man. Wisely said the Preacher—" Woe unto thee, O city, when thy king is a child !"-(though the present case is worse than this)" and thy princes eat in the morning. So for such an one are reserved stripes from the Just Judge ; inflicted in due measure, according to his previous persecution of the Lord's saints. Your Holiness's letters were published in our church, and all our members will account him an abomination, and will communicate with him neither by fire, water, nor dwelling: if so be men so abandoned can be benefited by an unanimous condemnation. However, your very letters, which are circulated everywhere, are a sufficient stigma. We will be assiduous in shewing them to all his relations, friends, and acquaintance. nd these censures do not affect him, as in the case of Pharaoh, then he must surely suffer a heavy and bitter recompense hereafter.
BASIL TO HIS PEOPLE (about an individual unknown). Those who are not sobered by ordinary punishment, nor are brought to repentance by prohibition from public worship, must be dealt with according to the canon which the Lord hath given us. It is written, 'If thy brother shall commit trespass, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone ; if he will not hear thee, then take with thee another; if not then, tell it unto the church; but if he neglect to hear the church, let him henceforth be to thee as a heathen man and a publican.' This is the case with the individual about whom I write. First he was charged with his offence ; convicted before one or two; lastly, before the church. Whereas, then, we have protested against him without his submitting himself, henceforth let him be excommunicate. And let it be published in the whole place, that no one may receive him in any of the usages of common life; so that, being cut off from our intercourse, he may altogether become a food for the devil.
It was Basil's misfortune that his uncle Gregory, who was one of the bishops of Cappadocia, sided with the faction which had opposed his elevation. After a time, he had reason to believe that his uncle was reconciled to him ; but on his publishing the supposed fact, he received a message from his uncle, negativing the grounds on which he had been persuaded of it. On this he wrote the following letter, which happily produced the effect he desired.