TRIALS OF BASIL.
"As a servant earnestly desireth the shadow, and as an hireling looketh for the reward of his work, so am I made to possess months of vanity, and wearisome nights are appointed to me."
On various occasions, before his episcopate, Basil had shown his care for the poor and afflicted. His sale of his lands to alleviate the miseries of a famine, has already been mentioned: he raised funds for erecting and endowing a hospital, near Csesarea, principally for lepers, whom he treated with a studious familiarity in order to remove the horror at their persons which their malady commonly excited. The buildings also contained accommodation for travellers, and were so extensive as to go by the name of the "New Town." Institutions, such as these, have been ever felt as especially characteristic of Christianity, and St. Basil seems to have succeeded in introducing them throughout his province.
If personal suffering be the providential means of sympathising in the sufferings of others, Basil had abundant opportunities of learning this Christian grace. From his multiplied trials he may be called the Jeremiah or Job of the fourth century, though occupying the honoured place of a ruler in the Church at a time when heathen violence was over. He had a very sickly constitution, to which he added the discomforts of an ascetic life. He was surrounded hy jealousies and dissensions at home; he was accused of heterodoxy in the world; he was insulted and roughly treated by great men; and he laboured, apparently without fruit, in the endeavour to restore unity and stability to the Catholic Church. If temporal afflictions work out for the saints " an exceeding weight of glory," who is higher in the kingdom of heaven than Basil?
I will here give some specimens of his private trials, reserving those which more especially belong to him as bishop. As to his austerities, we know something of them from his own picture what a monk's life should be, and from Gregory's description of them. In a letter to the latter, (Ep. 2.) Basil limits the food of his recluses to bread, water, herbs, and but one meal a day, and allows of sleep only till midnight, when they were to rise for prayer. And he says to the emperor Julian, "Cookery with us is idle; no knife is familiar with blood; our daintiest meal is vegetables with coarsest bread and vapid wine." Ep. 41. Gregory in like manner, when expecting a visit from Basil, writes to Amphilochius to send him some fine pot-herbs, "if he did not wish to find Basil hungry and cross." Ep. 12. And in his account of his friend, after his death, he says, that " he had but one inner and outer garment; his bed was the ground; little sleep, no bath; his food bread and salt, his drink the running stream." Ora't. 20. He slept in a hair-shirt, or other rough garment; the sun was his fire; and he braved the severest frosts. Even when bishop he was supported by the continual charity of his friends. He kept nothing.
His constitution was naturally weak, or rather unhealthy. What his principal malady was, is told us in the following passage of his history, which sets before us another kind of trial, of which we have already had before us one specimen.—A widow of rank being importuned with a proposal of marriage from a powerful quarter, fled for refuge to the altar. St. Basil.received her. This brought him into trouble with the sub-prefect of Pontus, who summoned him. When he had presented himself, the magistrate gave orders to pull off his outer garment. His inner garment, which remained, did not conceal his emaciated body. The brutal persecutor threatened to tear out his liver. Basil smiled and answered, "Thanks for your intention: where it is at present it has been no slight annoyance."
On one occasion he gives the following account of his maladies to Eusebius, Bishop of Samosata.
"What was my state of mind, think you, when I received your piety's letter? When I thought of the feelings which its language expressed, I was eager to fly straight to Syria; but when I thought of the bodily illness, under which I lay bound, I saw myself unequal, not only to flying, but to turning even on my bed. This is the fiftieth day of my illness, on which our beloved and excellent brother and deacon Elpidius has arrived. I am much reduced by the fever, which, failing what it might feed on, lingers in this dry flesh as in an expiring wick, and so has broughton a wasting and tedious illness. Next, my old plague, the liver, coming upon it, has kept me from taking nourishment, prevented sleep, and held me on the confines of life and death, granting just life enough to feel its inflictions. In consequence I have had recourse to the hot springs, and have availed myself of aid from medical men."—Ep. 138.
The fever here mentioned seem to have been an epidemic, and so far unusual; but his ordinary state of health will be understood from the following letter, written to the same friend in the beginning of his illness, in which he describes the fever as almost a change for the better.
"In what state the good Isaaces has found me, he himself will best explain to you; though his tongue cannot be tragic enough to describe my sufferings, so great was my illness. However, any one who knows me ever so little, will be able to conjecture what it was. For, if when I am called well, I am weaker even than persons who are given over, you may fancy what I was when thus ill. Yet, since disease is my natural state, it would follow (let a fever have its jest) that in this change of habit, my health became especially flourishing. But it is the scourge of the Lord which goes on increasing my pain according to my deserts; therefore, I have received illness upon illness, so that now even a child may see that this shell of mine must for certain fail, unless perchance God's mercy, vouchsafing to me, in His long suffering, time for repentance, now, as often before, extricate me from evils beyond human cure. This shall be, as it is pleasing to Him and good for myself."—Ep. 136.
Eusebius seems to have been especially the confidant of his bodily sufferings. Five years before, he writes to him a similar description in answer to a similar call. "When," he says, '' by God's grace and the aid of your prayers, I seemed to be somewhat recovering from my illness and rallied my strength, then the winter came upon me, keeping me in-doors and confining me where I was. It was, indeed, much milder than usual, yet enough to prevent, not only my travelling during it, but even my putting out my head even a little from my room." Ep. 27. And nine years later than this, and three years before his death, he says, that for a time " all remaining hope of life had left him." "I cannot number," he adds, "the various affections which have befallen me, my weakness, the violence of the fever, and the bad state of my constitution." Ep. 198. One especial effect of his complaints was to hinder his travelling, which, as his presence was continually needed, accounts for his frequently insisting on them. To Amphilochius, bishop of Iconium, he writes in the same year: "The remains of my illness are sufficient to keep me from the least motion. I went in a carriage as far as the Martyrs, and had very nearly a relapse; so I am obliged to beg you to excuse me. If the matter could be put off for a few days, then, by God's grace, I will be with you, and share your counsels." Ep. 202. To a friend, whom at an earlier date, he was urging to visit him in his retreat, he says, "You must not answer with Diogenes to Alexander, it is no further from you to me, than from me to you. For my sickness almost makes me like a plant, confined ever to one spot; besides, to live in concealment I account among the first of goods." Ep. 9. He elsewhere speaks of his state of health as " bodily weakness, natural to him from childhood to age, and chastening him according to the just judgment of an AllwLse Governor." Ep. 203. At forty-five he calls himself an old man; and by the next vear he had lost his teeth. He died at the age of fifty. Yet, in spite of his infirmities, he does not seem at all to have spared himself the fatigue of travelling. He writes to Meletius, bishop of Antioch, " Many other journeys from my own country have engaged me. I crossed over to Pisidia, to arrange, in conjunction with the bishops there, the affairs of our Isaurian brethren. The journey to Pontus followed, Eustathius having put Dazimon in sufficient confusion, and persuaded many there to separate from my church. I went as far as my brother Peter's cottage, near Neocsesarea. On my return, when.I was very ill from the rains and despondency, letters arrived forthwith from the East," hc.—Ep. 216.
Something of St. Basil's tone of mind is seen in the above extracts; it will be seen more fully in three letters of expostulation to friends, written under very different circumstances.
The first is a familiar letter to one who, having congratulated him on his elevation to the see of Csesarea, was disappointed at not receiving a reply.
BASIL TO PEROAMIUS.
"I am naturally forgetful, and have had a multitude of engagements, which has increased my infirmity. If I do not remember receiving a letter from your nobleness, I believe you sent it to me; it is impossible you should be incorrect. Yet I am hardly in fault, but he who did not ask for an answer. However, you now receive from me what will at once account for what is past, and have a claim on you for a reply. So, when you next write, you must not think that you are making a second beginning of our correspondence, but merely paying your debt for my present letter. For though it be an acknowledgment of what has gone before, yet being more than twice as long, it will answer the other office too. Do you observe how sharp leisure makes me? My good friend, let me beg of you not to turn, as you have done, what is a small matter into a charge so great, that perhaps no greater baseness could be imputed to me. For a forgetfulness of friendships, and insolence from power, contain in them all that is wretched. Whether it is that we do not love, as the Lord has bid us, then we have lost His image; or whether we are puffed up and gorged with vain glory and boasting, we fall into the sure condemnation of the devil. Therefore, if you have accused me advisedly, pray for my escape from the sin which you discern in my conduct; if, on the other hand, from a habit I do not understand, you have fallen upon those words, I shall take comfort and shall tax your goodness to adduce facts in proof of it. Be sure of this, that my present annoyance has been the means of humbling me. I am not likely to forget you till I forget myself; so, for the future, do not take my engagements as a proof of a bad disposition."—Ep. 56.
Basil's election had been very distasteful to a certain number of the bishops of his province; who, finding they could not prevent it, refused to be present at his consecration, or to hold intercourse with him. Among these was Basil's uncle, Gregory. This was more than usually distressing, for Gregory had been more than a common uncle to him. He had been closely connected with Basil's family circle, which was a sort of nursery of bishops and saints. His father, whose name also was Basil, and whose profession was that of rhetoric, was a man of landed property in Pontus and Cappadocia, and of good family, as was his wife Emmelia, Basil's mother. He numbered on the line of both his parents, high functionaries, military and civil. Nor was his descent less illustrious in a Christian aspect. His maternal grandfather was a martyr; his father's parents had been driven to live seven years in the woods and mountains of Pontus, during the Maximinian persecution. Basil was one of ten children: three of them lived to be bishops; four of them are held in remembrance as saints, St. Basil, St. Gregory Nyssen, St. Peter, and St. Macrina, besides his mother St. Emmelia. Another brother, Naucratius, embraced the life of a solitary, and was drowned while engaged in works of mercy. Such being the character of Basil's paternal home, a difference with Gregory, his paternal uncle, would, under any circumstances, have been painful; but it so happened that the latter had been called to take on him a father's duties towards Basil and his brothers. His father had died when he was young, and Gregory, who was one of the bishops of Cappadocia, had superintended what remained of his education. His mind had already been formed by three women, his grandmother Macrina, his mother Emmelia, and another Macrina, his elder sister.
Basil had conceived that his uncle's estrangement from him was removed; but on his saying so, his uncle wrote to him to deny the fact. On this he wrote the following letter, which happily had the desired effect.
"BASIL TO HIS UNCLE GREGORY.
"I have kept silence; must there be no end of it? Shall I bear any longer to enforce this most heavy penalty of silence against myself—neither writing nor conversing with you? Indeed, in persisting hitherto in this melancholy determination, I seem to have a right to use the prophet's words—' T have been still, and refrained myself as a woman in travail;'—always anxious to see or hear from you, always disappointed for my sins. No other cause can be assigned for the present state of things, except that my estrangement from your affection is certainly an infliction on me for old transgressions. Yet, if the very name of estrangement be not irreligious as shown towards you by whomsoever, yet certainly by me, to whom you have been from the first in place of a father. However, the time of my punishment has been long indeed. So I can hold no longer, and am the first to speak; beseeching you to remember both me and yourself, who have treated me, all through my life, with a greater tenderness than relationship could claim, and to love the city which I govern for my sake, instead of alienating yourself on my account from the city.
"If, therefore, there is anv consolation in Christ, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil my prayer; put an end at once to this gloom, making a beginning of a more cheerful state of things for the future, becoming yourself the guide of the rest towards right, not following another towards wrong. No one's features were ever more strongly marked, than your soul is characterized with peaceableness and mildness. It becomes such an one to draw others to him, and to give to all who approach him to be filled, as it were, with the fragrant oilofhisown amiableness. There may be obstacles just now; but, in a short time, the blessedness of peace will be recognised. But while our dissension gives opportunity to tale-bearers, our complaints of each other must necessarily be increasing. It is unbecoming in other parties to neglect me, but more than any, in your venerableness. Tell me if I am any where wrong, and I shall be the better in future. But it is impossible to do so without intercourse. If, on the other hand, I have committed no offence, why am I hated? This I say by way of self-defence.
"What those churches will say for themselves, which are so unbecomingly partners in our dispute, I will not ask, for I have no wish to give offence by this letter, but to remove it. You are too clearsighted for any thing of this kind to escape you; and will take and lay before others a much more accurate view than I can. Indeed you were sensible of the existing evils in the churches before I was, and have felt them more keenly, having long ago learnt of the Lord not to despise any of the least of His matters. At present, however, the mischief is not confined to one or two individuals, but whole cities and communities are partners in our misfortune. Comfort me then, either by coming to see me, or by writing, or by sending for me, or in any way you will. My own earnest wish is. that you would make your appearance in my church, so that both I and my people might be benefited by the sight and the words of your grace. This will be best, if possible; but I shall welcome any proposition which you will make. Only, let me beg of you to give me some sure intelligence of your intention."—Ep. 59.
This misunderstanding he surmounted: but the following was of a far more painful matter, being not so much a misunderstanding between friends, as a real difference of view, which did not admit of removal.
Eustathius had been one of the pupils of Arius at Alexandria, and was admitted into orders at Antioch by the Arians. After a time, he joined the SemiArian party in Asia Minor, with whom he continued some years. On the death of Constantius, this party lost the patronage of the court; and, during the reign of Valens, an Arian prince, Eustathius deserted them, and, after a time, professed himself of the emperor's religion. Up to this date he had the friendship of Basil, as bearing about him all the marks of a zealous and honest, though inconsistent, man. He was austere in his manner of life, professed a most strict adherence to truth, and seemed to be possessed of the genuine spirit of Christian love. On occasion of his first lapsing after the death of Constantius, he carried the appearance of sincerity so far as even to betake himself to Rome for the purpose of subscribing the orthodox creed, and to acknowledge publicly his offence. Afterwards he became a bitter enemy of Basil. The following letter -was written A.d. 375, about the time of the first rupture between him and Basil, and is interesting as disclosing some particulars of the early life of the latter.
BASIL IN ANSWER TO BUSTATHIUS, BISHOP OF SBBASTB.
"There is a time for silence, and a time for speaking, as the preacher says; so now, after keeping silence a sufficient time, it is seasonable to open my mouth in order to explain what is unknown. For great Job himself endured his afflictions silently a long while, manifesting his fortitude by bearing up against the heaviest afflictions. But, after fulfilling that silent conflict, that continued confinement of his grief in the deep of his heart, then he opened his mouth and uttered what all know, and spoke aloud what is told us in Scripture. I too have been near three years silent, and may aspire to the prophet's boast, being as one who heard not, and in whose mouth are no reproofs. Thus I shut up within me the pain I felt from the calumnies heaped upon me. I expected the evil would cure itself; for I supposed that things were said against me, not from any bad feeling, but from ignorance. Now, however, that I perceive the enmity against me continues, and that the parties who manifest it show no sorrow for what they have said, nor are anxious to heal what is past, but increase their united efforts towards the same end which they originally proposed, to annoy me and injure my reputation with the brethren, silence is no longer safe.
"- After long time spent in vanity, and almost the whole of my youth vanishing in the idle toil of studying that wisdom which God has made folly; when at length, roused as from a deep sleep, I gazed upon the marvellous light of Gospel truth, and discerned the unprofitableness of the wisdom taught by the perishing authorities of this world, much did I bewail my wretched life, and pray that guidance would be vouchsafed to me for an entrance into the doctrines of godliness. And above all was it a care to me to reform my heart, which the long society of the corrupt had perverted. So when I read the Gospel, and perceived thence that the best start towards perfection was to sell my goods and share them with indigent brethren, and altogether to be reckless of this life, and to rid my soul of all sympathy with things on earth, I earnestly desired to find some brother who had made the same choice, and who might passage with me over the brief waves of this life. Many did I find in Alexandria, many in the rest of Egypt, and in Palestine, in Coele-Syria and Mesopotamia, whose abstinence and endurance I admired, and whose constancy in prayer I was amazed at, how they overcame sleep, being broken by no natural necessity, bearing ever a high and free spirit in hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness, not regarding the body, nor enduring to spend any thought upon it, but living as if in flesh not their own; how they showed in deed what it is to sojourn in this world, what it is to have our conversation in heaven. Ad
miring and extolling the life of these men, who could so in deed carry about with them the dying of the Lord Jesus, I desired that I myself, as far as I could attain, might be an imitator of them.
"With this object, finding that there were persons in my own country attempting to rival them, I deemed I had found some aid towards my own salvation, and I made what was seen the token of what was hidden. And since it is difficult to get at the secret heart of a man, I reckoned it was argument enough of humbleness to have an humble clothing; and I gave my faith to the coarse garment, and the girdle, and the untanned sandals. And, when many would have seduced me from their converse, I bore it not, seeing that these preferred an hardness of life to self-indulgence: and being taken with their extraordinary life, I was zealous in my defence of them. It followed that I would not admit of any attack upon their doctrines, though many contended that they were unsound in creed, and secretly disseminated the doctrines of their master, the founder of the now prevailing heresy. Having never myself heard such from them, I thought the report calumnious. Afterwards, when called to the government of the church, what these chosen guardians and keepers of my life turned out to be, with their pretences to loving aid and intercourse, I say not, lest its seeming incredibility should reflect upon myself, or the belief of it should infect the hearer with misanthropy. This, indeed, was almost my calamity, had not God's mercies quickly prevented me; for I well nigh fell into a suspicion of every one, thinking truth was nowhere to be found, being wounded in my mind by their deceitful strokes. Yet for a while I kept up some sort of intercourse with them; and we had several discissions about doctrinal points, and it appeared as if we really agreed. They heard from me the same doctrine which I had ever expressed; for though I have done many things worthy of groans, yet so much I may boast in the Lord, that I never held erroneous views concerning the Divine nature, nor have had to change my profession. The idea of God which I had from my blessed mother and her mother, Macrina, that has ever grown within me. I did not change about, as reason unfolded, but perfected the rudiments of faith thus delivered to me.
"lam charged of blasphemy towards God, though neither former writing, nor word of mouth uttered publicly, as is usual without book in the churches of God, can be brought against me. Ask thyself. How often hast thou visited me at my monastery on the Iris, when my most gracious brother, Gregory, was with me, following the same rule of life as myself. Did you then hear from me any such thing? or catch any hint of it, strong or slight? How many days did we pass together as friends in the village opposite with my mother, and discussed subjects night and day, in which we found each other sympathise?
"A man ought to take much thought—nay, pass many sleepless nights, and seek his duty from God with many tears, ere he ventures to break up a friendship. They ground their conduct altogether on one letter, and that a doubtful one. But in reality this letter is not the cause of their separation. I am ashamed to mention the real reason; and I should
not tell it now, nor indeed ever, had not their present proceedings made it necessary for the general good to publish an account of their whole design. These honest persons considered that intimacy with me would stand in the way of their promotion; so, since they had committed themselves by a subscription to a creed which I imposed on them, (not that I at that time distrusted their views, I own it, but from a wish to obviate the suspicions which most of my brethren, who felt with me, entertained against them,) to prevent their rejection on the part of the now ascendant party, on account of this confession, they then renounced my communion; and this letter was pitched upon as a pretext for the rupture. There cannot be a clearer proof of this than the fact, that on their disowning me, they circulated their accusations on every side before acquainting me with them. Their charge was in the hands of others seven days before it reached me: and these persons had received it from others, and intended to send it on. I knew this at the time from friends who sent me certain intelligence of their measures; but I determined to keep silence, till He, who brings to light the deep secrets, should make manifest their plans by the clearest and most cogent evidence."—Ep. 223.
Sensitive, anxious, and affectionate as Basil appears in his letters, he had a reserve and sedateness of manner which his contemporaries sometimes attributed to pride, sometimes to timidity. Gregory Nazianzen notices the former charge, and exclaims, "Is it possible for a man to embrace lepers, abasing himself so far, and yet to be supercilious towards those who are in health? to waste his flesh with continence, yet be swollen in soul with empty elation? to condemn the Pharisee, and to enlarge on his fall through pride, and to know that Christ descended even to a servant's form, and ate with publicans, and washed the disciples' feet, and disdained not the Cross, that He might nail to it my sin, and yet to soar beyond the clouds and count no one his equal; as appears to them who are jealous of him? But I suppose it was the self-possession of his character, and composure and polish, which they named pride."—Orat. 20. This testimony is the stronger as coming from one whom, on one occasion, as we shall see by and by, Basil did offend, by behaviour which is specified by a modern historian as the great specimen of his pride. Gregory certainly did not so feel it afterwards, though Gibbon thereupon calls Basil a "haughty prelate," as elsewhere for his resistance to Modestus he reproaches him with "inflexible pride." Indeed, Basil's doctrinal views on the subject of pride have even approved themselves to the fastidious judgment of Protestant controversialists, who, in their warfare with Rome, have often alleged with great satisfaction a passage which it will not be out of place here to quote.
"This is the perfect and absolute glorying in God," says Basil, " when a man is not elated by his own righteousness, but knows himself to be wanting in true righteousness, and justified by faith alone, which is in Christ. And Paul glories in despising his own righteousness and seeking that which is through Christ, a 'righteousness which is of God unto faith, in order that he may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being brought into the form of His death, if by any means he may attain unto the resurrection from the dead.' Here is cast down all height of haughtiness; nothing is left to thee for boasting, O man, whose glorying and hope lies in mortifying all that is thine, and living the life to come, which is in Christ; of which we, as having the first fruits, already pursue, living wholly in the grace and gift of God. And God it is 'who worketh in us to will and to do of His good pleasure.' That Pharisee, intrusive and extreme in pride, who not only was confident in himself, but even scoffed at the publican in God's presence, lost the glory of justification for the cause of his pride. Such, too, was the fall of the Israelites; for being elated against the Gentiles, as unclean, they became really unclean, and the Gentiles were cleansed. And the righteousness of the one became as a filthy rag: while the iniquity and the ungodliness of the Gentiles was wiped out through faith.
"How, then, shall we attain to saving humility, abandoning the deadly elevation of pride? by practising something which is humble in all we do, and by overlooking nothing, from an idea that we shall gain no harm from it. For the soul is influenced by outward observances, and is shaped and fashioned according to its actions. Let, then, thy appearance, and garment, and gait, and sitting, and table, and bedroom, and house, and its furniture, all be directed according to lowliness. And thy speech and singing and conversation, in like manner, look towards meanness, and not exaltation. But perhaps
thou art awarded the highest seat, and men observe and honour thee? Become equal to those who are in subjection; 'not lording it over God's heritage,' saith scripture; be not like to rulers of this world. For whoso would be first, him our Lord bids be servant of all. In a word, follow after humility, as one enamoured of it. Be in love with it, and it shall glorify thee. So shalt thou nobly journey on to true glory, which is among the Angels, which is with God; and Christ will acknowledge thee as His own disciple, before the Angels, and will glorify thee, if thou learn to copy His humility."—Horn, de Humil.
The opposite charge to which his reserve gave rise, was that of timidity. It is remarkable that he himself, writing to a friend, playfully notices " the want of spirit" and " the sluggishness" of the Cappadocians, and attributes these qualities to himself. Ep. 48. Accordingly, the heretic Eunomius, after his death, accuses the opponent of Valens and Modestus of being " a coward and craven, and skulking from the heavier labours," speaking contemptuously of his "retired cottage and his closely fastened door, and his fluttered manner on persons entering, and his voice, and look, and expression of countenance, and the other symptoms of fear." Greg. Nyss. App. p. 46. This malicious account may be just so far founded on truth, as to make it worth while noticing a curious difference in a little matter which it brings out between Ambrose and Basil; for while the latter is here represented as fastening his door, it was the peculiarity of Ambrose never to shut himself into his house, but to be accessible at all times. Philostorgius, the Arian historian, in like manner speaks of Basil, as "superior to many in the power of discussion, but, from timidity of mind, withdrawing from public disputations." And Gregory makes several remarks of his friend which serve to illustrate the shyness or refinement of mind complained of by these writers. The following is curious as bringing Basil before our eyes.
"Such were the virtues of the man, such the fulness of his celebrity, that others, in order to gain reputation, copied many even of his peculiarities, nay, his bodily imperfections; I mean, for instance, bis paleness, his beard, the character of his gait, his deliberateness in speaking, as being generally deep in thought, and intent on his subject; which things most of them copying ill, and indeed not understanding, turned into gloom;—moreover, the quality of his garment, and the shape of his bed, and his mode of eating, nothing of which was studied in him, but natural and spontaneous. And you may fall in with many Basils as far as outside goes, figures in shadow; it is too much to say echoes. For echo, at least, repeats the last syllables even more clearly; but these are much further off from Basil than they desire to be near him. Moreover, it is no longer a common, but the greatest of honours, and with reason, to have happened ever to have been in his company, or to have shown attentions to him, or to carry the memory of any thing said or done by him, playfully or in earnest, since the by-doings of this man are more precious and illustrious than what others do with labour."— Orat. 20.
Allusion is made in these last words to Basil's playfulness. This quality his letters abundantly vindicate to him, though it is of a pensive sort. Lest the reader should go away with a more austere notion of him, I will add the following passage from St. Gregory.
"Who made himself more amiable than he to the well-conducted? or more severe when men were in sin i whose very smile was many a time praise, whose silence a reproof, punishing the evil in a man's own conscience. If he was not full of talk, nor a jester, nor a holder forth, nor generally acceptable from being all things to all men, and showing goodnature; what then? Is not this to his praise, not his blame, among sensible men? Yet, if we ask for this, who so pleasant as he in social intercourse, as I know who have had such experience of him? Who could tell a story with more wit? who could jest so playfully? who could give a hint more delicately, so as neither to be overstrong in his rebuke nor remiss through his gentleness."—Orat. 20.
Basil died on the first of January, A.d. 379, having been born in 329. He rallied before his death, and his last discourses were delivered with more strength than usual. His last act was to ordain some of his immediate disciples, that '' the things which he had heard" and taught might be transmitted to the next generation, together with the sacred ministry itself. He died with the words "Into Thy hands I commend my spirit."