Page images
PDF
EPUB

to be felt, not only in the church of Rome, but every where else.

Socrates was born early in the fifth century, and edu. cated at Constantinople. He professed the law, and pleaded at the bar, and thence was called Scholasticus, the name which was then given to advocates. He wrote an Ecclesiastical History with much accuracy and judiciousness, and with much plainness and simplicity of style, avoiding all rhetorical flourishes. He is suspected by some of having been a Novatian; but Valesius defends him, and acquits him of the charge, Vit. Socr. Yet he certainly entertained a very favourable opinion of that sect. See vi. 21. and the notes of Valesius. He was a prudent, cool, and moderate man, who made no scruple to commend what he thought commendable in Christians of all parties; and though he calls the society of the orthodox the Church, yet he did not believe that all they who separated themselves from it were therefore profligate people and reprobates. As he was a lawyer, says Le Clerc, he had learned and acquired from the course of his studies a moderation and an equity rarely to be found in the ecclesiastics of that time. Upon all occasions he declares himself openly against persecution', and appears a true friend to liberty civil and religious. Only in the affair of miracles he was too easy of belief, and hath disgraced himself and his History by relating some foolish stories of the marvellous kind.

Hermias Sozomenus was also a lawyer. His style is rather more elegant than that of Socrates; but in judgment he is not equal to him. Being of a family which had ex. cessively admired the monks, and himself born and bred up in Palæstine, and educated at the feet of those Gama. liels, he contracted a superstitious and trifling turn of mind, and an amazing credulity for monkish miracles; and in this respect became magnus nugarum helluo. He speaks of the benefit which himself had received from the intercession of Michael the archangel. ii. 8.

| Julian, says he, did not attack the Christians with the cruelty of a Diocletian, and yet be may truly be said to have persecuted them ; for I call it persecution to molest in any manner those who lead quiet and peaceable lives. διωγμόν δε λέγω, το οποσούν ταράττειν τους ήσυzázytas. ii. 12.

He and Socrates were contemporaries, and lived in the time of Theodosius Junior. As historians, they so often and so largely coincide, that the one must have transcribed the other : and there is reason to think that Socrates wrote first, and that Sozomen was the copyist. See Valesius, Vit. Soz.

S. Basnage concludes that these two lawyers could not have had much practice and many briefs, since they found time to write ecclesiastical histories. • Sozomeno in ea arte constituto multum otii ex causarum penuria contigisse eo liquet, quod ad Historiam scribendam se converterit.' Ann. iii. 395. His argument is both uncivil and inconclusive.

Theodoret is, in my opinion, one of the most valuable of the Fathers. He is learned, he reasons well, especially in his Dialogues against the Greek heresies of his times : he is a good literal interpreter of the Scriptures. I cannot help admiring his prudence and his moderation, when I consider that he ended his Ecclesiastical History at the time when the Nestorian quarrels began, in which he was so deeply interested. But I fear his zeal against heretics imposed upon him almost as much as his admiration for the heroes of the ascetic life, with whom he was charmed. Monasteries have undoubtedly sent forth great men into the world ; but these disciples of the monks contracted there in their youth a superstitious disposition, which is hardly ever thrown off; and the weak side of this able man seems to have been an excessive credulity.' Beausobre Hist. de Man. t. i. p. 226.

Theodoret's learning and abilities were great, but he wanted the calmness and moderation and impartiality which are requisite in an historian. He cannot speak of the Arians, and of the emperor Julian, without losing his temper; he hath given a good character to some worthless men, because he thought them orthodox; and in the point of miracles, he was either credulous beyond all measure, or he judged it expedient to keep up devotion and piety in the common people, by feeding them with legends suited to their taste.

Whatever was his reason for it, he wrote the Lives of the most eminent monks, in which we find a beggar who

died suddenly whilst he was acting the dead man to get alms from a saint, and then was raised to life again ; an hermit fed by a lion, who used to bring him dates in his pocket ; apples sent from heaven to the monks; a dead man declaring who had murdered him; Jews conducted by lions; the emperor's sick horse cured by a monk, who anointed his belly with holy oil

, and made him drink some water sanctified with the sign of the cross; together with the marvellous exploits of Symeon Stylites, &c. A work how unworthy of Theodoret !

Dans ce sac ridicule où Scapin s'envelope

Je ne reconnois plus l'auteur du Misanthrope.? Du Pin mentions this book and these miracles, in a way which shows that he gave little credence to them, and this might help to draw upon him a. persecution from those who perhaps believed them no more than he.

Amongst the solitary saints celebrated by Theodoret, there was one who wore the same coat all his life, putting a patch where it was torn, from time to time. . It would have been a proper subject for a metaphysicotheological debate in the fifth century, whether this continued to be the same coat under all these changes, and it would have furnished a fair opportunity for visions, revelations and miracles in confirmation of the identity or diversity of the holy tunic, and then for censures and excommuniçations.

In his writings against heretics of all denominations, he makes no mention of the Origenists, or of the Pelagians, whence it is probable that he thought them innocent. He himself hath affirmed that infants are without sin ; which smells strongly of Pelagianism.

He attacked Cyril of Alexandria, and he wrote in de fence of Theodorus Mopsuestenus, an honest and a learned man, who had the misfortune to displease boobies ; and this is the reason why he is not called Saint Theodoret. But he is called Márápios, the blessed Theodoret, which is almost as good; and the title of Saint became insignificant, or rather ridiculous, when it was given to such men as Cyril.

Contra Cyrillum scribere, idem pene est quod adver

sus Synodum Oecumenicam cui præfuit Cyrillus. Itaque Nicephorus-diserte affirmat Theodoritum contra tertiam Oecumenicam Synodum scripsisse. Atque idcirco, tametsi de ecclesia catholica optime meritus fuerit, nec natalis ejus dies annua commemoratione honoratus est, nec ipse inter sanctos Patres locum suum habet in Menologio.' Valesius Præfat.

Here we see one of the bad effects of a superstitious veneration for general councils. The reputation of Theodoret must be blasted, because he dared to oppose Cyril, Cyril who was lord president of the factious council of Ephesus, and who disturbed the whole Christian world with his quarrels and his anathematisms.

Faucibus ingentem fumum (mirabile dictu)
Evomit, involvitque domum caligine cæca,
Prospectum eripiens oculis; glomeratque sub antro
Fumiferam noctem, commixtis igne tenebris.'

Virgil Æn. viii. 252. Cyril's confession of faith (or his anathematisms) was injudicious, obscure, uncharitable, and, I think, not reconcileable with the holy Scriptures.

Anathematismi ejus, si verum yolumus, et obscuri sunt, et doctrinæ Nestorii peregrini. Eorum et nonnulli, primâ quidem specie, pietatem non redolent.' S. Basnage. Ann. iii. 337.

Theodoret was accused of being a Nestorian ; a dreadful accusation in those days, when it was a far greater crime to have thought Nestorius innocent, than to have worshipped Judas Iscariot, or an Ægyptian monkey. But the Nestorian controversy was so perplexed on both sides, and involved in so many and so great difficulties, that the contenders should have agreed in pardoning and tolerating each other.

Theodoret was contemporary with Socrates and Sozomen, and seems to have written after them both; for his History often supplies the deficiencies in theirs.

- Porro de historia Theodoriti optiine omnino judicavit Photius in Bibliotheca. "Ejus styium ait præstantiorem esse Socratis et Sozomeni stylo. Perspicuum enim esse et grandem, nec tamen redundantem, sed historiæ rerum

ecclesiasticarum aptissime convenientem : nisi quod transla. tionibus interdum utitur audacius, et, ut ita dicam, putide.Illud præterea in historia Theodoriti reprehendendum mihi videtur, quod in toto opere nuliam notam temporum adhi. buit. Valesius.

Theodoret's character may be found in an Epistle which he wrote to a man of quality, and a consul, in which he thought it necessary for his justification to give some account of himself.

My parents, says he, before I was conceived, made a vow to God that they would consecrate me to his service, and they educated me according to their promise. After having passed my first days in a monastery, I was ordained bishop against my inclination. For twenty-five years I have so lived in that station, as never to be at variance, never to prosecute any one at law, or to be prosecuted. The same I can say of all the pious clergy who are under my inspection, none of whom was ever seen in any court of justice. Neither I nor my domestics ever received the smallest present from any person, not even a loaf or an egg. My patrimony I gave away long ago to the poor, and I have made no new acquisitions. I have neither house, nor land, nor money, nor a sepulchre where my friends may lay my body when I die. I am possessor of nothing, save the poor raiment which I wear. Out of the ecclesiastical revenues I have built porticos, and two very large bridges, and put the public baths in good condition. I found the city without water, and the inhabitants obliged to go to the river to fetch it. I built them an aqueduct, which supplies them plentifully. I found eight villages infected with the heresy of the Marcionites, and one full of Eunomians, and another of Arians. I have converted them all, yet not without incurring much danger, having been often assaulted, wounded, stoned, and reduced to death's door. Epist. 81. et Epist. 113. ad Leon.

Thus Theodoret was extremely poor m, and therefore not qualified to contend with Cyril, who was rich, and drew

m Augustin was as poor as Theodoret, and so was Paulinus, bishop of Nola, who had parted with great possessions.

« PreviousContinue »