Page images



rities.* These exceptions are happily not numerous, and we shall only notice them for the sake of bringing out more fully s the whole facts of the case, and of showing how difficult it is even for an independent mind like M. de Broglie's entirely to free itself from the effects of early prejudice and the haze which -long ages of traditional representation have thrown over the

In order to comprehend the actors and the circumstances of the assembly, we must step back a few years into the past.

The city of Constantinople had been almost ever since the Council of Nicæa in the hands of the great party which was called by the name of the heresiarch Arius, and which embraced all the princes of the Imperial House from Constantine the Great to Valens (with the exception of the 'apostate'Julian), as well as the Gothic tribes on the frontier. But the 'orthodox' or so called “Catholic' party, to which the name and memory of Athanasius still gave life and energy, struggled on ; and when the rude Spanish soldier Theodosius restored peace to the Empire, his known opinions in favour of the orthodox doctrine gave a hope of returning strength to the cause which had vanquished at Nicæa. Under these circumstances, the little community which professed the Athanasian belief at Constantinople determined on the step of calling to their assistance one of the leaders of those opinions from the adjacent province of Asia Minor. Basil would have been the natural choice; but his age and infirmities rendered this impossible. Accordingly, they fixed on Gregory, commonly called of

Nazianzus. Unlike the school in our own Church which, in the time of the Nonjurors, and still more recently, sanctions the intrusion of new bishops into places already preoccupied by lawful prelates, the orthodox community at Constantinople showed a moderation which M. de Broglie highly commends. Gregory was already a bishop, but a bishop without a diocese. Appointed to the see of Sasima, he had never undertaken its duties, but contented himself with helping his aged father in the bishopric of his birthplace Nazianzus. Ac


The usual authorities which describe it are the ecclesiastical historians of the following century--Socrates, Sozomen, Theodoret. But far more important than these, and almost unique in the history of the Councils, are the letters, orations, and long autobiographical poems of Gregory Nazianzen, who, as we shall see, was not only a contemporary, but an eyewitness of most of what he describes. We must add from modern times the learned and candid Tillemont, and the exact and impartial lefele, both of them belonging to the more moderate school of the Roman Church.

cordingly he was ready to the hands of the minority of the Church of Byzantium, without any direct infringement of the rights and titles of Demophilus, the lawful bishop of Constantinople.

He came from his rustic retreat reluctantly. He was prematurely old and infirm. His bald head streaked with a few white hairs, and his bent figure, were not calculated to command attention. He was retiring, susceptible, and, in his manners, simple to a fault. It is this contrast with the position which was forced upon him that gives the main interest to the curious cycle of events of which he thus became the centre.

Constantinople was crowded with the heads of the different ecclesiastical parties, awaiting the arrival of the new Emperor There were the Arian bishops in possession of the imperial sees. There were the semi-Arians, who by very slight concessions on both sides might be easily included in the orthodox community. There were the liberal Catholics, who were eager to grant such concessions. There were the Puritan Catholics, who rigidly spurned all compromise. With these divisions - in that age to which some in our own day look back as to a time of golden unity, but assuredly not less distracted than the Church of old England, or of New America--there was a vast society, hardly less civilised, less frivolous, less complex, than that of our great capitals now, entering into those abstract theological questions as keenly as our metropolitan circles into the political or ecclesiastical disputes which form the materials of conversation at the dinner-tables of London or the saloons of Paris. Everywhere in that new capital of the world—at the races of the Hippodrome, at the theatres, at feasts, in debauches,* the most sacred names were bandied to and fro in eager disputation. Every corner, every alley of the city, the streets, the markets, the drapers’ shops, the tables of moneychangers and of victuallers, were crowded with these

offhand dogmatizers.'t If a trader was asked the cost of such an article, he answered by philosophising on generated and ungenerated being. If a stranger inquired the price of bread, he was told the Son is subordinate to the Father. If a traveller asked whether his bath was ready, he was told the •Son arose out of nothing.'

The shyness as well as the piety of Gregory led him to confine his appearance in public to the pulpit. So completely


[ocr errors]

Gregory Naz. Or. 22-27. † avrooyé ou coypariotai. Gregory Nyssa, De Deitate Filli, vol. ii. p. 898.

had the orthodox party been depressed, that they had no church to offer him for his ministrations. They went back for the moment to the custom which, beginning at or before the first conversion of the Empire, was in fact the origin of all the early Christian churches. Every great Roman house had attached to it a hall, which was used by its owner for purposes of justice or of public assemblies, and bore (at least in Rome) the name of · basilica.' Such a hall can still be traced in Vespasian's palace on the Palatine; such was the origin of the basilica of Santa Croce in the Sessorian palace, and of St. John in the palace of the Lateran. Such a hall was employed by Gregory on this occasion in the house where he had taken up his quarters. An extempore altar was raised, and in accordance with the ancient Eastern practice of separating the sexes, a gallery was erected for the women, such as on a gigantic scale may be seen in the Church of St. Sophia ; showing at once the importance of the female element in these Byzantine congregations, and also the prominence given to an element in church architecture which our modern ecclesiologists regard as the extreme of bad Protestant taste. To this extemporised chapel he gave the name of the Anastasia, or Church of the Resurrection or Revival ; in * allusion to the resurrection, as he hoped, of the orthodox party in the Church, much as our modern Nonconformists gave to their places of worship the names, not of the ancient saints, but of such events, or symbols, as seemed to indicate their solitary position in a corrupt world or church-Ebenezer, ‘the stone of help;' Bethesda, • the house of help.' The building was soon crowded; the crush at the entrance was often terrific; the rails of the chancel were broken down; the congregation frequently burst out into loud applause. It required a more than mortal not to be touched and elated by these signs of the effect produced by his oratory As the aged Wilberforce used long after his retirement from public life to recall the results of his eloquence in the House of Commons-Oh! those cheers, those delightful *cheers!' so Gregory, years afterwards, used to be visited in his solitary dreams by visions of his beloved Anastasia; the church brilliantly illuminated; himself, after the manner of the ancient

a name.

It furnishes a curious example of the growth of a legend from

Socrates records a miracle of a woman falling from the gallery without injury to life, as the origin of the title. As we know the real meaning of the name, it is obvious that the reverse is the true account of the matter. . A Novatian chapel had borne the same name for the same reason.

bishops, aloft on his throne at the eastern end, the presbyters round him, and the deacons in their white robes below the crowd thronging the church, every eye fixed on him; the congregation sometimes wrapt in profound silence, sometimes breaking out into loud shouts of approbation.

But, as M. de Broglie says, 'these bright days' were destined to have a sad morrow. The sermons, which consisted usually of abstract disquisitions on the disputed doctrines, but sometimes of counsels towards moderation, veiled under a eulogy of the great Athanasius,* provoked the jealousy or hostility of the opposite party, or perhaps of the more zealous members of his own. On one occasion a body of drunken artisans broke into the church, accompanied by an army of beggars, of furious nuns,f and, the usual accompaniment of riots at that time, ferocious monks. A violent conflict ensued --- some of the priests and

. neophytes were wounded. The police hesitated to interfere -ostensibly on the ground that it was impossible to decide which were the assailed and which the assailants. M. de Broglie treats this as a mere feint. But the facts which he proceeds to relate seem to justify the uncertainty of the magistrates. Gregory, with an imprudence which M. de Broglie severely condemns, had surrounded himself with a body of orthodox fanatics, with whom he had but little sympathy, and whose hostility to the moderation of the venerable Basil might have well roused his suspicion. They slept in his house, they assisted him in preparing his sermons, they formed a guard about him in these tumults. One of them was no less a person than the youthful Jerome, then on his way from the farther East, whose fierce and acrid temper rendered him a staunch but perilous friend, and who lost no occasion of expressing his admiration of Gregory-his beloved master,' to whom there was no equal • in the Western Church.' † There was another who rendered a get more dubious assistance. Maximus or Heron was one of the class of those wild Egyptians who played so disgraceful a part some years later in the train of Cyril of Alexandria. He had once been a philosopher of the Cynical sect, and, although ordained, still wore their curious costume. In all

• This is the date of the oration on Athanasius, according to M. de Broglie.

† M. de Broglie says des femmes débauchées.' But it is clear from Gregory's account (Or. xxiii. 5, xxxv. 3; Ep. 77; Carm. de Vitâ Suâ, 660, 670), that they were the nuns or consecrated virgins.

Many questions passed between them on Biblical criticism and on ecclesiastical policy. (Jerome Contra Rufin. i. 13; De Viris Illustribus, c. 117.)

these disturbances his figure was conspicuous. He wielded a long staff in his hands. A tangled mass of curls-half of their natural black, half painted yellow-fell over his shoulders. * A dirty shirt enveloped his half-naked limbs, which he occasionally drew aside to show the scars of wounds which he professed to have received in some persecution. At every word of Gregory he uttered shouts of delight, at every allusion to the heretics he uttered yells of execration. The most sinister rumours, however, were circulated against his private character. Even the marks on his back were whispered to be the effects of a severe castigation with which he had been visited for some discreditable transaction. But Gregory was infatuated, as is sometimes the case with the most sagacious and the most incorruptible of men, by the charms of assiduous flattery, by the advantage of having near him an ally who stopped at nothing in defence of a cause which he thought right. Such was the hold which Titus Oates established on respectable Protestants, and Sacheverell on respectable High Churchmen. Such is the secret of the ridiculous eulogy which Gregory pronounced on Maximus in his presence, in a sermon which still remains as a monument of the weakness into which party-spirit can betray even a thoughtful and pious man. His dear . Heron was a true model of the union of philosophy and ' religion't-a-friend from an unexpected quarter?-a dog' alluding to the title of his philosophical sect of the Cynics or • Dogs'

_' a dog indeed in the best sense: a watch-dog, who ‘guards the house from robbers '-finally, it was not too much to say, ' his successor in the promised see of Constantinople. This last hint was not thrown away on the Dog. There was no time to be lost. The Emperor was on his way to Constantinople. Whoever was the orthodox champion in possession of the see, would probably be able to keep it. Maximus communicated his designs to his Egyptian fellow-countrymen amongst the bishops. They, as the orthodox of the orthodox, entered at once into his plan, which received the sanction of Peter, successor of Athanasius in the sce of Alexandria. Alexandria at that time was, saving the dignity of the new capital of Constantinople, the chief city of the Eastern world. Its ecclesias



* De Vit. 757, 766.

+ Gregory Naz. Or. xxv. 1, 2. It is from his companion St. Jerome that we are able to substantiate the identity of Maximus with the Heron of this strange discourse. The names were changed,' says Jerome, 'in order to save the credit of Gregory from having alter

nately praised and blamed the same man. (De Viris Illustribus, c. 117.)

« PreviousContinue »