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seduction of Liberius, was first presented with this alternative; and, with an honesty of which his party affords few instances, he refused to assent at once to opinions, which he had all through his life been opposing, and retired from the city. Many bishops, however, of the Arian party conformed; and the Church was unhappily inundated by the very evil, which in the reign of Constantine the Athanasians had strenuously and successfully withstood.
The unfortunate policy, which led to this measure, might seem at first sight to be sanctioned by the decree of the Alexandrian Council, which made subscription the test of orthodoxy; but, on a closer inspection, the cases will be found to be altogether dissimilar. When Athanasius acted upon that principle, in the reign of Julian, there was no secular object to be gained by conformity; or rather, the malevolence of the Emperor was peculiarly directed against those, whether orthodox or Semi-Arians, who evinced any earnestness about Christian truth. Even then, the recognition was not extended to those who had taken an active part on the side of heresy. On the other hand, the example of Athanasius himself, and of Alexander of Constantinople, in the reign of Constantine, sufficiently marked their judgment in the matter; both of them having resisted the attempt of the Court to force Arius upon the Church, even though he professed his assent to the Homoüsion.
Whether or not it was in Gregory's power to hinder the recognition of the Arianizers, or whether his firmness was not equal to his humility and zeal, the consequences of the measure are visible in the conduct of the General Council, which followed it. He himself may be considered as the victim of it; and he has left us in poetry and in oratory his testimony to the deterioration of religious principle, which the chronic vicissitudes of controversy had brought about in the Eastern Church.
The following passage, from one of his orations, illustrates both the state of the times, and his own beautiful character, though unequal to struggle against them. “ Who is there,” he says, “but will find, on measuring himself by St. Paul's rules for the conduct of Bishops and Priests,—that they should be sober, chaste, not fond of wine, not strikers, apt to teach, unblamable in all things, unassailable by the wicked,—that he falls far short of its perfection ? . . I am alarmed to think of our Lord's censure of the Pharisees, and his reproof of the Scribes ; disgraceful indeed would it be, should we, who are bid be so far above them in virtue, in order to enter the kingdom of heaven, appear even worse than they. . . These thoughts haunt me night and day; they consume my bones, and feed on my flesh; they keep me from boldness, or from walking with erect countenance. They so humble me and cramp my mind, and place a chain on my tongue, that I cannot think of a Ruler's office, nor of correcting and guiding others, which is a talent above me; but only, how I myself may flee from the wrath to come, and scrape myself some little from the poison of my sin. First, I must be cleansed, and then cleanse others; learn wisdom, and then impart it; draw near to God, and then bring others to Him; be sanctified, and then sanctify. "When will you ever get to the end of this ?' say the all-hasty and unsafe, who are quick to build up and to pull down. "When will you place your light on a candlestick ? Where is your talent ?' So say friends of mine, who have more zeal for me than religious seriousness. Ah, my brave men, why ask my season for acting, and my plan? Surely the last day of payment is soon enough, old age in its extreme term. Grey hairs have prudence, and youth is untaught. Best be slow and sure, not quick and thoughtless; a kingdom for a day, not a tyranny for a life; a little gold, not a weight of lead. It was the shallow earth shot forth the early blade. Truly there is cause of fear, lest I be bound hand and foot, and cast without the marriage-chamber, as an audacious intruder without fitting garment among the assembled guests. And yet I was called thither from my youth (to confess a matter which few know), and on God was I thrown from the womb; made over to Him by my mother's promise, confirmed in His service by dangers afterwards. Yea, and my own wish grew up beside her purpose, and my reason ran along with it; and all I had to give, wealth, name, health, literature, I brought and offered them to Him, who called and saved me; my sole enjoyment of them being to despise them, and to have something which I could resign for Christ. To undertake the direction and government of souls is above me, who have not yet well learnt to be guided, nor to be sancti. fied as far as is fitting. Much more is this so in a time like the present, when it is a great thing to flee away to some place of shelter, while others are whirled to and fro, and so to escape the storm and darkness of the evil one; for this is a time when the members of the Chris
tian body war with each other, and whatever there was left of love is come to nought. Moabites and Ammonites, who were forbidden even to enter the Church of Christ, now tread our holiest places. We have opened to all, not gates of righteousness, but of mutual reviling and injury. We think those the best of men, not who keep from every idle word through fear of God, but such as have openly or covertly slandered their neighbour most. And we mark the sins of others, not to lament, but to blame them; not to cure, but to second the blow; and to make the wounds of others an excuse for our own. Men are judged good and bad, not by their course of life, but by their enmities and friendships. We praise to-day, we call names to-morrow. All things are readily pardoned to impiety. So magnanimously are we forgiving in wicked ways : !”
The first disturbance in the reviving Church of Constantinople had arisen from the ambition of Maximus, a Cynic philosopher, who aimed at supplanting Gregory in his see. He was a friend and countryman of Peter, the new Patriarch of Alexandria; and had suffered banishment in the Oasis, on the persecution which followed the death of Athanasius. His reputation was considerable among learned men of the day, as is shown by the letters addressed to him by Basil. Gregory fell in with him at Constantinople; and pleased at the apparent strictness and manliness of his conduct, he received him into his house, baptized him, and at length admitted him into inferior orders. The return made by
3 Greg. Orat. i. 119–137. [ii. 69-73. 77–80. abridged.]
Maximus to his benefactor, was to conduct an intrigue with one of his principal Presbyters; to gain over Peter of Alexandria, who had already recognized Gregory; to obtain from him the presence of three of his bishops; and, entering the metropolitan church during the night, to instal himself, with their aid, in the episcopal throne. A tumult ensued, and he was obliged to leave the city; but, far from being daunted at the immediate failure of his plot, he laid his case before a Council of the West, his plea consisting on the one hand, in the allegation that Gregory, as being Bishop of another Church, held the See contrary to the Canons, and on the other hand, in the recognition which he had obtained from the Patriarch of Alexandria. The Council, deceived by his representations, approved of his consecration; but Theodosius, to whom he next addressed himself, saw through his artifices, and banished him.
Fresh mortifications awaited the eloquent preacher, to whom the Church of Constantinople owed its resurrection. While the Arians censured his retiring habits, and his abstinence from the innocent pleasures of life, his own flock began to complain of his neglecting to use his influence at Court for their advantage. Overwhelmed with the disquietudes, to which these occurrences gave birth, Gregory resolved to bid adieu to a post which required a less sensitive or a more vigorous mind than his own. In a farewell oration, he recounted his labours and sufferings during the time he had been among them, commemorated his successes, and exhorted them to persevere in the truth, which they had learned from him. His congregation were affected by this