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NPNF2-08. Basil: Letters and Select Works
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Chapter X.

Against those who say that it is not right to rank the Holy Spirit with the Father and the Son.

24.  But we must proceed to attack our opponents, in the endeavour to confute those “oppositions” advanced against us which are derived from “knowledge falsely so-called.”924924    1 Tim. vi. 20.  The intellectual championship of Basil was chiefly asserted in the vindication of the consubstantiality of the Spirit, against the Arians and Semi-Arians, of whom Euonomius and Macedonius were leaders, the latter giving his name to the party who were unsound on the third Person of the Trinity, and were Macedonians as well as Pneumatomachi.  But even among the maintainers of the Nicene confession there was much less clear apprehension of the nature and work of the Spirit than of the Son.  Even so late as 380, the year after St. Basil’s death, Gregory of Nazianzus, Orat. xxxi. de Spiritu Sancto, Cap. 5, wrote “of the wise on our side some held it to be an energy, some a creature, some God.  Others, from respect, they say, to Holy Scripture, which lays down no law on the subject, neither worship nor dishonour the Holy Spirit.”  cf. Schaff’s Hist. of Christian Ch. III. Period, Sec. 128.  In Letter cxxv. of St. Basil will be found a summary of the heresies with which he credited the Arians, submitted to Eusthathius of Sebaste in 373, shortly before the composition of the present treatise for Amphilochius.

It is not permissible, they assert, for the Holy Spirit to be ranked with the Father and Son, on account of the difference of His nature and the inferiority of His dignity.  Against them it is right to reply in the words of the apostles, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”925925    Acts v. 29.

For if our Lord, when enjoining the baptism of salvation, charged His disciples to baptize all nations in the name “of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost,”926926    Matt. xxviii. 19. not disdaining fellowship with Him, and these men allege that we must not rank Him with the Father and the Son, is it not clear that they openly withstand the commandment of God?  If they deny that coordination of this kind is declaratory of any fellowship and conjunction, let them tell us why it behoves us to hold this opinion, and what more intimate mode of conjunction927927    The word used is συνάφεια, a crucial word in the controversy concerning the union of the divine and human natures in our Lord, cf. the third Anathema of Cyril against Nestorius and the use of this word, and Theodoret’s counter statement (Theod. pp. 25, 27).  Theodore of Mopsuestia had preferred συνάφεια to ἕνωσις; Andrew of Samosata saw no difference between them.  Athanasius (de Sent. Dionys. § 17) employs it for the mutual relationship of the Persons in the Holy Trinity:  “προκαταρκτικὸν γάρ ἐστι τῆς συναφείας τὸ ὄνομα.” they have.

If the Lord did not indeed conjoin the Spirit with the Father and Himself in baptism, do not928928    μηδέ.  The note of the Ben. Eds. is, “this reading, followed by Erasmus, stirs the wrath of Combefis, who would read, as is found in four mss., τότε ἡμῖν, ‘then let them lay the blame on us.’  But he is quite unfair to Erasmus, who has more clearly apprehended the drift of the argument.  Basil brings his opponents to the dilemma that the words ‘In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost’ either do or do not assert a conjunction with the Father and the Son.  If not, Basil ought not to be found fault with on the score of ‘conjunction,’ for he abides by the words of Scripture, and conjunction no more follows from his words than from those of our Lord.  If they do, he cannot be found fault with for following the words of Scripture.  The attentive reader will see this to be the meaning of Basil, and the received reading ought to be retained.” let them lay the blame of conjunction upon us, for we neither hold nor say anything different.  If on the contrary the Spirit is there conjoined with the Father and the Son, and no one is so shameless as to say anything else, then let them not lay blame on us for following the words of Scripture.

25.  But all the apparatus of war has been got ready against us; every intellectual missile is aimed at us; and now blasphemers’ tongues shoot and hit and hit again, yet harder than Stephen of old was smitten by the killers of the Christ.929929    Χριστοφόνοι.  The compound occurs in Ps. Ignat. ad Philad. vi.  And do not let them succeed in concealing the fact that, while an attack on us serves for a pretext for the war, the real aim of these proceedings is higher.  It is against us, they say, that they are preparing their engines and their snares; against us that they are shouting to one another, according to each one’s strength or cunning, to come on.  But the object of attack is faith.  The one aim of the whole band of opponents and enemies of “sound doctrine”930930    1 Tim. i. 10. is to shake down the foundation of the faith of Christ by levelling apostolic tradition with the ground, and utterly destroying it.  So like the debtors,—of course bona fide debtors—they clamour for written proof, and reject as worthless the unwritten tradition of the Fathers.931931    Mr. Johnston sees here a reference to the parable of the unjust steward, and appositely quotes Greg. Naz. Orat. xxxi, § 3, on the heretics’ use of Scripture, “They find a cloak for their impiety in their affection for Scripture.”  The Arians at Nicæa objected to the ὁμοόυσιον as unscriptural.  But we will not slacken in our defence of the truth.  We will not cowardly abandon the cause.  The Lord has delivered to us as a necessary and saving doctrine that the Holy Spirit is to be ranked with the Father.  Our opponents think differently, and see fit to divide and rend932932    cf. Ep. cxx. 5. asunder, and relegate Him to the nature of a ministering spirit.  Is it not then indisputable that they make their own blasphemy more authoritative than the law prescribed by the Lord?  Come, then, set aside mere contention.  Let us consider the points before us, as follows:

26.  Whence is it that we are Christians?  Through our faith, would be the universal answer.  And in what way are we saved?  Plainly because we were regenerate through the grace given in our baptism.  How else could we be?  And after recognising that this salvation is established through the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, shall we fling away “that form of doctrine”933933    Rom. vi. 17. which we received?  Would it not rather be ground for great groaning if we are found now further off from our salvation “than when we first believed,”934934    Rom. xiii. 11, R.V. and deny now what we then received?  Whether a man have departed this life without baptism, or have received a baptism lacking in some of the requirements of the tradition, his loss is equal.935935    The question is whether the baptism has been solemnized, according to the divine command, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  St. Cyprian in his controversy with Stephen, Bp. of Rome, represented the sterner view that heretical baptism was invalid.  But, with some exceptions in the East, the position ultimately prevailed that baptism with water, and in the prescribed words, by whomsoever administered, was valid.  So St. Augustine, “Si evangelicus verbis in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Marcion baptismum consecrabat, integrum erat Sacramentum, quamvis ejus fides sub eisdem verbis aliud opinantis quam catholica veritas docet non esset integra.”  (Cont. Petil. de unico bapt. § 3.)  So the VIII. Canon of Arles (314), “De Afris, quod propria lege sua utuntur ut rebaptizent, placuit, ut, si ad ecclesiam aliquis de hæresi venerit, interrogent eum symbolum; et si perviderint eum in Patre, et Filio et Spiritu Sancto, esse baptizatum, manus ei tantum imponantur, ut accipiat spiritum sanctum.  Quod si interrogatus non responderit hanc Trinitatem, baptizetur.”  So the VII. Canon of Constantinople (381) by which the Eunomians who only baptized with one immersion, and the Montanists, here called Phrygians, and the Sabellians, who taught the doctrine of the Fatherhood of the Son, were counted as heathen.  Vide Bright’s notes on the Canons of the Councils, p. 106.  Socrates, v. 24, describes how the Eunomi-Eutychians baptized not in the name of the Trinity, but into the death of Christ.  And whoever does not always and everywhere keep to and hold fast as a sure protection the confession which we recorded at our first admission, when, being delivered “from the idols,” we came “to the living God,”936936    1 Thess. i. 9. constitutes himself a “stranger” from the “promises”937937    Eph. ii. 12. of God, fighting against his own handwriting,938938    The word χειρόγραφον, more common in Latin than in Greek, is used generally for a bond.  cf. Juv. Sat. xvi. 41, “Debitor aut sumptos pergit non reddere nummos, vana supervacui dicens chirographa ligni.”  On the use of the word, vide Bp. Lightfoot on Col. ii. 14.  The names of the catechumens were registered, and the Renunciation and Profession of Faith (Interrogationes et Responsa; ἐπερωτήσεις καἰ ἀποκρίσεις) may have been signed. which he put on record when he professed the faith.  For if to me my baptism was the beginning of life, and that day of regeneration the first of days, it is plain that the utterance uttered in the grace of adoption was the most honourable of all.  Can I then, perverted by these men’s seductive words, abandon the tradition which guided me to the light, which bestowed on me the boon of the knowledge of God, whereby I, so long a foe by reason of sin, was made a child of God?  But, for myself, I pray that with this confession I may depart hence to the Lord, and them I charge to preserve the faith secure until the day of Christ, and to keep the Spirit undivided from the Father and the Son, preserving, both in the confession of faith and in the doxology, the doctrine taught them at their baptism.


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