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A History Of The Church In Six Books by Evagrius

HISTORIANS have not detailed either the banishment of Nestorius, his subsequent fortunes, or the manner in which his life was closed, and the retribution with which he was visited for his blasphemy; matters which would have been allowed to slip into oblivion, and have been altogether swallowed up by time, so as not to be current even in hearsay, if I had not met with a book written by himself, which supplied an account of them. Nestorius, then, himself, the father of the blasphemy, who raised his structure not on the foundation already laid, but built upon the sand one which, in accordance with the Lord’s parable, quickly fell to ruin, here, in addition to other matters of his choice, puts forth a defence of his own blasphemy, in reply to those who had charged him with unnecessary innovation and an unseemly demand for the convening of the synod at Ephesus. He asserts that he was driven to assume this position by absolute necessity, on account of the division of the church into two parties, one maintaining that Mary ought to be styled Mother of Man; the other, Mother of God; and he devised the title, Mother of Christ, in order, as he says, that error might not be incurred by adopting either extreme, either a term which too closely united immortal essence with humanity, or one which, while admitting one of the two natures, involved no mention of the other. He also intimates that Theodosius, from feelings of friendship, withheld his ratification of the sentence of deposition; and, afterwards, that, on occasion of the mission of several bishops of both parties from Ephesus to the emperor, and, moreover, at his own request, lie was allowed to retire to his own monastery, situated without the gates of the city now called Theopolis. It is not, indeed, expressly named by Nestorius, but is said to be that which is now styled the monastery of Euprepius; which we know to be, in fact, not more than two stadia from that city. Nestorius, then, himself says, that during a residence there of four years, he received every mark of respect and distinction; and that, by a second edict of Theodosius, he is banished to the place called Oasis. But the pith of the matter he has suppressed. For in his retirement he did not cease from his peculiar blasphemy; so that John, the president of the church of Antioch, was led to report the circumstance, and Nestorius was, in consequence, condemned to perpetual banishment. He has addressed also a formal discourse to a certain Egyptian, on the subject of his banishment to Oasis, where he treats of these circumstances more fully. But the retribution with which, unable to escape the all-seeing eye, he was visited for his blasphemous imaginations, may be gathered from other writings addressed by him to the governor of the Thebaid: in which one may see how that, since he had not yet reached the full measure of his deserts, the vengeance of God visited him, in pursuance, with the most terrible of all calamities, captivity. Being, then, still deserving of greater penalties, he was liberated by the Blemmyes, into whose hands he had fallen; and, after Theodosius had decreed his return to his place of exile, wandering from place to place on the verge of the Thebaid, and severely injured by a fall, lie closed his life in a manner worthy of his deeds: whose fate, like that of Arms, was a judicial declaration, what are the appointed wages of blasphemy against Christ: for both committed similar blasphemy against him; the one by calling him a creature; the other, regarding him as human. When Nestorius impugns the integrity of the acts of the council of Ephesus, and refers them to subtle designs and lawless innovation on the part of Cyril, I should be most ready thus to reply:—How came it to pass, that he was banished even by Theodosius, notwithstanding his friendly feelings towards him, and was condemned by repeated sentences of extermination, and closed this life under those unhappy circumstances? If Cyril and his associate priests were not guided by heaven in their judgment, how came it to pass that, when both parties were no longer numbered with the living, in which case a heathen sage has observed, “A frank and kindly meed is yielded to departed worth,” the one is reprobated as a blasphemer and enemy of God, the other is lauded and proclaimed to the world as the sonorous herald and mighty champion of true doctrine? In order that I may not incur a. charge of slander, let me bring Nestorius himself into court as an evidence on these points. Read me then, word for word, some passages of thy epistle, addressed to the governor of the Thebaid:—“On account of the matters which have been lately mooted at Ephesus concerning our holy religion, Oasis, further called Ibis, has been appointed as the place of my residence by an imperial decree.” And presently he proceeds thus: “Inasmuch as the beforementioned place has fallen into the hands of the barbarians, and been reduced to utter desolation by fire and sword, and I, by a most unexpected act of compassion, have been liberated by them, with a menacing injunction instantly to fly from the spot, since the Mazices were upon the point of succeeding them in their occupation of it; I have, accordingly, readied the Thebaid, together with the captive survivors whom they had joined with me, by an act of pity for which I am unable to account. They, accordingly, have been allowed to disperse themselves to the places whither their individual inclinations led them, and I, proceeding to Panopolis, have shewed myself in public, for fear lest any one, making the circumstance of my seizure an occasion of criminal proceeding, should raise a charge against me, either of escaping from my place of exile, or some other imagined delinquency: for malice never wants occasion for slander. Therefore I entreat your highness to take that just view of my seizure which the laws would enjoin, and not sacrifice a prisoner of war to the malice and evil designs of men: lest there should hence arise this melancholy story with all posterity, that it is better to be made captive by barbarians, than to fly for refuge to the protection of the Roman sovereignty.” He then prefers, with solemn adjuration, the following request: “I request you to lay before the emperor the circumstance, that my arrival hither from Oasis arose from my liberation by the barbarians; so that my final disposal, according to God’s good pleasure, may now be determined.” The second epistle, from the same to the same, contains as follows: “Whether you are disposed to regard this present letter as a friendly communication from me to your highness, or as an admonition from a father to a son, I beseech you bear with its detail, embracing, indeed, many matters, but as briefly as the case would allow. When Ibis had been devastated by a numerous body of Nomades,” and so forth. “Under these circumstances, by what motive or pretext on the part of your highness I know not, I was conducted by barbarous soldiers from Panopolis to Elephantine, a place on the verge of the province of the Thebaid, being dragged thither by the aforesaid military force; and when, sorely shattered, I had accomplished the greater part of the journey, I am encountered by an unwritten order from your valour to return to Panopolis. Thus, miserably worn with the casualties of the road, with a body afflicted by disease and age, and a mangled hand and side, I arrived at Panopolis in extreme exhaustion, and further tormented with cruel pains: whence a second written injunction from your valour, speedily overtaking me, transported me to its adjacent territory. While I was supposing that this treatment would now cease, and was awaiting the determination of our glorious sovereigns respecting me, another merciless order was suddenly issued for a fourth deportation.” And presently he proceeds: “But I pray you to rest satisfied with what has been done, and with having inflicted so many banishments on one individual. And I call upon you kindly to leave to our glorious sovereigns the inquisition, for which reports laid before them by your highness, and by myself too, by whom it was proper that information should be given, would furnish materials. If, however, this should excite your indignation, continue to deal with me as before, according to your pleasure; since, no words can prevail over your will.” Thus does this man, who had not learned moderation even by his sufferings, in his writings strike and trample with fist and heel, even reviling both the supreme and provincial governments. I learn from one who wrote an account of his demise, that, when his tongue had been eaten through with worms, he departed to the greater and everlasting judgment which awaited him.








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