|Ancient Source(s)||Athanasius, Ap. 61/2|
|Ancient Description(s)||Soc. HE 1.27.9-10; Soz. HE 2.22.8-9; portion in Theodoret HE 1.27|
Beloved brethren, I greet you well, calling upon God, who is the chief witness of my intention, and on the Only-begotten, the author of our Law, who is sovereign over the lives of all men, and who hates dissensions. But what shall I say to you? That I am in good health? No, but I should be able to enjoy better health and strength, if you were possessed with mutual love towards one another, and had rid yourselves of your enmities, through which, in consequence of the storms excited by contentious men, we have left the haven of brotherly love. Alas, what perverseness is this! What evil consequences are produced every day by the tumult of envy which has been stirred up among you! Hence it is that evil reports have settled upon the people of God. Whither has the faith of righteousness departed? For we are so involved in the mists of darkness, not only through manifold errors, but through the faults of ungrateful men, that we bear with those who favor folly, and though we are aware of them, take no heed of those who set aside goodness and truth. What strange inconsistency is this! We do not convict our enemies, but we follow the example of robbery which they set us, whereby the most pernicious errors, finding no one to oppose them, easily, if I may so speak, make a way for themselves. Is there no understanding among us, for the credit of our common nature, since we are thus neglectful of the commands of the law? But someone will say, that love is a thing brought out by nature. But, I ask, how is it that we who have got the law of God for our guide in addition to our natural advantages, thus tolerate the disturbances and disorders raised by our enemies, who seem inflamed, as it were, with firebrands? How is it, that having eyes, we neither see nor understand, though we are surrounded by the intelligence of the law? What a stupor has seized upon our life, that we are thus neglectful of ourselves, and that although God admonishes us! Is it not an intolerable evil? And ought we not to esteem such men as our enemies, and not the household and people of God? For they are infuriated against us, abandoned as they are; they lay grievous crimes to our charge, and make attacks upon us as enemies.
And I would have you yourselves to consider with what exceeding madness they do this. The foolish men carry their maliciousness at their tongues’ end. They carry about with them a sort of leaden anger, so that they reciprocally smite one another, and involve us by way of increasing their own punishment. The good teacher is accounted an enemy, while he who clothes himself with the vice of envy, contrary to all justice makes his gain of the gentle temper of the people; he ravages, and consumes, he decks himself out, and recommends himself with false praises; he subverts the truth, and corrupts the faith, until he finds out a hole and hiding-place for his conscience. Thus their very perverseness makes them wretched, while they impudently prefer themselves to places of honor, however unworthy they may be. Ah, what a mischief is this! They say, “Such an one is too old; such an one is a mere boy; the office belongs to me; it is due to me, since it is taken away from him. I will gain over all men to my side, and then I will endeavor with my power to ruin him.” Plain indeed is this proclamation of their madness to all the world; the sight of companies, and gatherings, and rowers under command in their offensive cabals. Alas, what preposterous conduct is ours, if I may say it! Do they make an exhibition of their folly in the Church of God? And are they not yet ashamed of themselves? Are they not smitten in their consciences, so that they now at length show that they entertain a proper sense of their deceit and contentiousness? Theirs is the mere force of envy, supported by those baneful influences which naturally belong to it. But those wretches have no power against your bishop. Believe me, brethren, their endeavors will have no other effect than this, after they have worn down our days, to leave to themselves no place of repentance in this life. Therefore I beseech you, lend help to yourselves; receive kindly our love, and with all your strength drive away those who desire to obliterate from among us the grace of unanimity; and looking unto God, love one another. I received gladly your Bishop Athanasius, and addressed him in such a manner, as being persuaded that he was a man of God. It is for you to understand these things, not for me to judge of them. I thought it becoming that the most reverend Athanasius himself should convey my salutation to you, knowing his kind care of you, which, in a manner worthy of that peaceable faith which I myself profess, is continually engaged in the good work of declaring saving knowledge, and will be able to exhort you as is suitable. May God preserve you, beloved brethren.
Translation from NPNF2 vol. 4, p. 132-3
Adapted by SMT
Last updated: 3-12-2011
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