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A History Of The Church In Five Books by Theodoret

VALENS, after having, so to speak, stripped the church of its pastors, went to Cæsarea, a city of Cappadocia. The church of this city was then ruled by the great Basil, who was one of the lights of the world. The emperor sent the prefect on before him, commanding him either to persuade Basil to enter into communion with Eudoxius, or else to expel him from the city. The fame of this bishop had reached his ears, and had rendered him fearful of being the first to molest him, lest he should receive and repel the attack in a mode that would serve as an example of fortitude to others. But this artful stratagem was as ineffective as a spider’s web; for the other bishops had many records of those whose illustrious examples might be said to serve as bulwarks in repelling the attacks made against the faith. When the prefect arrived at Cæsarea he sent for Basil, treated him with respect, and addressed him in a kind manner, exhorting him to submit to the exigencies of the times, and not to relinquish the government which he held over so many churches for the sake of a few doctrines. He promised him the friendship of the emperor, and protested that all the favours that he might solicit for others should be accorded. “Such protestations,” replied the holy man, “might, perhaps, be suitably addressed to young people, or to those who resemble them in mind and disposition. But those who have been nourished by the words of God are ready to suffer death, if requisite, rather than relinquish one iota of the divine doctrines. I highly esteem the friendship of the emperor when conjoined with piety; but without piety I consider that it would be injurious.” The prefect resented this reply, and told him that he was out of his mind. “I wish,” replied the holy Basil, “that I could always be thus out of my mind.” At length the prefect desired him with many threats to retire and to reflect upon the course he meant to pursue, and to acquaint him the next day with his final determination. Then this man, so worthy of all praise, replied, “I shall be to-morrow the same as I am to-day; do not you either change your mind, but execute your threats.” After this interview, the prefect went to the emperor, related what had passed, and represented the virtue and fidelity of the bishop. The emperor listened in silence, and then went into the city. But when he found within his own house the inflictions of divine judgment, his son being sick and nigh unto death, and his wife beset with severe sufferings, he reflected on the cause of these calamities, and sent to the holy man against whom he had threatened vengeance, entreating him to come to the palace. The chief military commanders of the empire were despatched to the bishop with this message. The great Basil, accordingly, went to the palace, and perceiving that the emperor’s son was at the point of death, promised to restore him to health as soon as the holy rite of baptism was administered to him by the orthodox functionaries of the church. After making this declaration he withdrew. The emperor, however, like Herod in similar circumstances, remembered an oath which he had formerly made, and ordered the bishops of the Arian faction to baptise the child. At the completion of the ceremony the child expired. Valens was touched with remorse, and reflecting on the catastrophe which had resulted from the fulfilment of his oath, he went into the holy church, listened to the teaching of the great Basil, and offered the usual gifts at the altar. Then Basil, who was sitting within the holy veil, motioned to him to come in, and discoursed with him at great length concerning the divine doctrines. A certain man was present, named Demosthenes, who held the situation of cook at the palace: he began to blame the teacher of the world, and in so doing he happened to commit a grammatical error. The holy Basil replied, smiling, “We have heard Demosthenes transgress a rule of grammar.” Demosthenes was excessively offended, and burst out into threats of vengeance. The great Basil rejoined, “It is your office to attend to the seasoning of soups; you cannot receive the doctrines of God because the ears of your understanding are closed.”

The emperor so highly admired the character of the bishop, that for his sake he presented the most beautiful lands in the neighbourhood to those among the poor whose whole bodies were affected with disease, as being those who stood most in need of assistance. In this way did Basil avert the first blow which Valens designed for the church. But at a subsequent period, Valens re-visited Cæsarea, and having forgotten what had previously passed between him and Basil, endeavoured to draw him into communion with the opposite faction; and not succeeding in persuading him, he ordered an edict to be issued for his banishment. When he endeavoured to affix his own signature to the document, he could not form a single letter, for his pen split. The same thing happened the second and the third time that he vainly made the attempt; his right hand also was seized with a sudden tremor, rendering him quite unable to sign the impious edict. He was struck with terror, and with both hands tore the document. The Ruler of the universe delivered Basil from the designs of his enemies, while others were permitted to struggle with affliction, in order that in what befel Basil his own power might be manifested; while, in the trials which were encountered by the other excellent men, their own virtue might be exhibited to all the world. Thus, then, were the efforts and hopes of Valens frustrated.








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