« PreviousContinue »
history cannot but be pronounced useful; for the men of whom it treats occupy a very prominent place in the records of those periods in which they lived. They held the highest place in the esteem and veneration of the public, and were not unfrequently called from their solitary and comfortless cells to the head of the largest and most important dioceses.
3. "Eranistes, or Polymorphus," a work which derives its name from its being designed to combat error under the many forms or shapes imparted to it by different heresies. Two persons are introduced as conversing on the subject: the one proposes questions and starts objections, the other defends the true faith. The doctrines mainly advocated in these dialogues may be briefly stated as follows:-Jesus Christ is both man and God. The human and the Divine nature are united in one person, yet these two natures subsist without mixture or confusion. At the end of the dialogues is a synopsis of the arguments previously advanced, arranged in the scholastic form; the dialogues themselves are written in an easy and familiar strain, and are intended for general readers. The 'style of the whole work is clear and logical. The objections of the opponent are well and fairly propounded, and the arguments brought against them, though not always very convincing, may yet be said, on the whole, to give indications of strong reasoning powers.
4. Another work "on Heresies." This treatise gives a detailed account of the errors held by various heresiarchs and sects. Four volumes, one devoted to these descriptions, arranged not chronologically, but, as it were, in classes according to the subject. In the fourth volume there are some very severe strictures against Nestorius; but their authenticity is doubted. Theodoret drew his materials for the compilation of this history from the most esteemed writers; and he cites St. Justin, Št. Irenæus, St. Clemens of Alexandria, Origen, Eusebius of Palestine, and several others as his authorities. A fifth volume is annexed, containing a clear and eloquent statement of the doctrines of the church as opposed to those of heretics.
5. "A Series of Ten Discourses on Providence," which have been pronounced the finest productions on the subject that have been handed down from antiquity. The first of these discourses treats on natural theology, constantly refer
ring the sceptic to the works of God, to the sun, moon, stars, which he has made. It seems probable that these were sermons prepared by Theodoret for the benefit of some particular congregation; but the power of analogical reasoning which they exhibit, as well as the brilliant eloquence of the style, render them permanently valuable.
6. "Twelve Discourses on the Cure of Pagan Errors," a work in which the classical erudition of Theodoret is more fully displayed than in any other. He here quotes upwards of a hundred writers. The style is very elaborate; the author evidently endeavoured to imitate that of Plato. These discourses were suggested by the public disputations which he frequently held with heretics of different denominations.
7. "Discourse on Charity." This is considered to have been intended as the conclusion of the work entitled "Philotheus," which has been already mentioned. It extols the love and charity exhibited by those who suffered for the faith. 8. "Sermon upon St. John."
9. "Confutation of St. Cyril's Twelve Chapters." It must be observed, that Theodoret does not here combat any of the doctrines received as orthodox, but that he merely attacks the mode in which these doctrines are enunciated by St. Cyril.
10. Fragments of a book against St. Cyril.
11. "The Letters of Theodoret." These were very numerous; they are generally arranged in the following order :1. "Letter to Sporatius," which, however, is rather a fragment of the treatise on heresies.
2. "Letter to John, bishop of Germanica."
3. "Some Letters written during the Time of the Council of Ephesus.
4. "Some Letters written in the Time of negotiating the Peace."
5. "Letters written after the Peace."
All these letters are divisible into two classes; those which relate to his disputes with the bishops of Egypt, and which are all more or less imbued with the acrimony of party spirit ; and, secondly, the friendly and familiar letters which, though likewise very frequently of a polemical nature, relate chiefly to his own private affairs. These letters give an insight into the character and motives of Theodoret. They serve to prove the blamelessness of his course of life, and the piety, charity,
and true humility of his spirit. He seems to have excelled particularly in the epistolary style of writing; and his letters have been described as being just what letters ought to be, "short, plain, neat, courteous, elegant, full of matter, wit, and holiness."
The first collection of Theodoret's writings was printed at Cologne in 1573. An excellent edition of his works was published as early as 1642 at Paris, by Sirmond, in four volumes, folio, to which Garnier, in 1684, added a fifth volume, containing the letters and discourses of Theodoret, with long dissertations by the editor. An edition from this recension was published at Halle, A. D. 1769-74, by Nonselt, and this is the most recent edition which we possess of Theodoret's entire works.
Although it is evident, even from the above enumeration, that Theodoret was a voluminous writer, yet all his works have not been mentioned, many of them having been lost. The following is a list of those which are no longer extant :— Commentary on Isaiah.
Five Books against St. Cyril.
Treatise upon the Incarnation.
Several Treatises against the Arians, Apollinarists, Marcionists, and Jews.
An Answer to the Questions of the Persian Magi.
A Mystical Book.
Apology for Diodorus, bishop of Tarsus, and for Theodorus, bishop of Mopsuestia.
The following works are attributed to Theodoret, though not upon the best authority :
Preface upon the Psalms.
Fragments of a Commentary upon the Psalms.
Five Sermons in Praise of St. Chrysostom.
CHAP. I.-DESIGN OF THIS WORK.
WHEN painters depict on tablets and on walls the events of ancient history, their delineations delight the eye, and preserve the remembrance of the past. But historians substitute books for canvass, flowery eloquence for brilliant colours, and thus render the recollection of past events much more vivid and permanent. Besides, as the most skilful productions of painting are liable to be destroyed by time, I have undertaken to record in writing events hitherto omitted in ecclesiastical history,1lest so many illustrious actions and incidents so deserving of fame, should be suffered to sink into oblivion. In addition to all this, I have been very frequently urged by my friends to undertake this work. But when I compared my own powers with the magnitude of the undertaking, I shrank from attempting it. Trusting, however, in the bounty of the Giver of all good, I feel emboldened to enter upon a task beyond my own strength.
Eusebius of Palestine has written a history of the church from the time of the holy apostles to that of Constantine, the prince beloved of God. I shall commence my history from the period at which his terminates.
1 Valesius thinks that Theodoret is alluding here, not so much to Socrates and Sozomen, as to Eusebius. But nevertheless he remarks that the History of Theodoret contains little except the omissions of the firstmentioned writers.
CHAP. II.-ORIGIN OF THE ARIAN HERESY.
AFTER the death of the wicked tyrants, Maxentius, Maximin, and Licinius, the storm abated which their atrocity had, like a furious whirlwind, excited against the church: the hostile winds were hushed, and tranquillity ensued. This was effected by Constantine, a prince deserving of the highest praise, who, like the divine apostle, was not called by man or through man, but by God. He enacted laws prohibiting sacrifices to idols, and commanding churches to be erected. He appointed believers to be the governors of the provinces, ordered that honour should be shown to the priests, and threatened with death those who dared to insult them. The churches which had been destroyed were rebuilt, and others still more spacious and magnificent than the former ones were erected. Hence the concerns of the church were smiling and prosperous, while those of her opponents were involved in disgrace and ruin. The temples of the idols were closed; but frequent assemblies were held, and festivals celebrated in the churches. But the devil, the enemy of mankind, although conscious that the church was upheld by the Creator and Ruler of the world, could not see her sailing on her course in prosperity without devising plans for overwhelming her.1 When he perceived that his former artifices had been detected, that the error of idolatry was recognised, and that the greater number of men worshipped the Creator, instead of adoring, as heretofore, the creature, he did not dare to declare open war against our God and Saviour; but having found some who, though bearing the name of Christians, were yet slaves to ambition and vain-glory, he thought them fit instruments for the execution of his designs. He accordingly used them as the means of drawing others back into error, not indeed by the former artifice of setting up the worship of the creature, but by attempting to bring down the Creator to a level with the creature. I shall now proceed to relate where and by what means he sowed these tares.
Alexandria is a large and populous city, and is considered the metropolis not only of Egypt, but also of the adjacent
He compares the church to a ship, whose helm is directed by God. The comparison is a very favourite one among the Fathers. Among other passages, see St. Augustine on Psal. ciii.