Page:Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire vol 3 (1897).djvu/170

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
150
THE DECLINE AND FALL

battle, could be compared only to wasps or magpies, to a flight Retreat of Gregory Nazianzen. A.D. 381 of cranes, or to a flock of geese. [1]

A suspicion may possibly arise that so unfavourable a picture of ecclcsiastical synods has been drawn by the partial hand of some obstinate heretic or some malicious infidel. But the name of the sincere historian who has conveyed this instructive lesson to the knowledge of posterity must silence the impotent murmurs of superstition and bigotry. He was one of the most pious and eloquent bishops of the age; a saint and a doctor of the church; the scourge of Arianism, and the pillar of the orthodox faith; a distinguished member of the council of Constantinople, in which, after the death of Meletius, he exercised the functions of president: in a word — Gregory Nazianzen himself. The harsh and ungenerous treatment which he experienced, [2] instead of derogating from the truth of his evidence, affords an additional proof of the spirit which actuated the deliberations of the synod. Their unanimous suffrage had confirmed the pretensions which the bishop of Constantinople derived from the choice of the people and the approbation of the emperor. But Gregory soon became the victim of malice and envy. The bishops of the East, his strenuous adherents, provoked by his moderation in the affairs of Antioch, abandoned him, without support, to the adverse faction of the Egyptians; who disputed the validity of his election, and rigorously asserted the [15th Canon of Nicæa] obsolete canon that prohibited the licentious practice of episcopal translations. The pride, or the humility, of Gregory prompted him to decline a contest which might have been imputed to ambition and avarice; and he publicly offered, not without some mixture of indignation, to renounce the government of a church which had been restored, and almost created, by his labours. His resignation was accepted by the synod, and by the emperor, with more readiness than he seems to have expected. At the time, when he might have hoped to enjoy the fruits of his victory, his episcopal throne was filled by the senator Nectarius;

  1. Consult Gregory Nazianzen, de Vitâ suâ, tom. ii. p. 25-28 [1509 sqq.]. His general and particular opinion of the clergy and their assemblies may be seen in verse and prose (tom. i. orat. i. p. 33 [=or. ii. Migne], epist lv. [=ep. cxxx. Migne, iii. p. 225] p. 814, tom. ii. carmen x. [leg. xi.] p. 81 [Migne, ib. p. 1227]). Such passages are faintly marked by Tillemont, and fairly produced by Le Clerc.
  2. See Gregory, tom. ii. de Vitâ suâ, p. 28-31 [1680 sqq.]. The fourteenth [22nd], twenty-seventh [36th], and thirty-second [42nd] orations were pronounced in the several stages of this business. The peroration of the last (tom. i. p. 528) in which he takes a solemn leave of men and angels, the city and the emperor, the East and the West, &c. , is pathetic, and almost sublime.