"Behold, thou art wiser than Daniel; there is no secret that they can hide from thee. By thy great wisdom, and by thy traffic, hast thou increased thy riches, and thine heart is lifted up because of thy riches."
No passage of early ecclesiastical history is more painful and more instructive than the fall of Apollinaris into heresy. It becomes so from his high repute for learning and virtue, his intimacy with the great Catholic champions of his day, his former services to the Church, the temptation which seems to have led to it, the comparative insignificance of his error at first, yet the deplorable defection from the faith at which he, or at least his school, in no long time arrived. He began with the denial of our Lord's human soul, or rather of the intellectual part of it, which he considered was supplied by the Eternal Word incarnate. His object in this was to secure more completely the doctrine of the divinity of our Lord's person, to impress upon the mind that He who came on earth, who taught, acted, and suffered, was God, and not a man, in every thought, word, and deed, though acting through and in human nature; and he did so with an especial view of overthrowing Arianism, which denied our Lord's divinity. His error, slight as it may appear in itself to orthodox Christians of this day, is, at first sight, in one point of view, even slighter still in the judgment of the theologian, who bears in mind that, according to the Catholic creed, our Lord, though perfect man, as far as nature is concerned, is not a man in the sense in which any given individual of the species is such, His person or subsistence not being human, but divine. Apollinaris seemed to say no more than this, that our Lord, not having a human person, had not that particular part of human nature in which personality may be considered to reside—viz., the rational part of the soul. Such was the seemingly trivial character of his doctrinal error; it ended, however, as the history of his school shows us, in no many years, and by no difficult or complicated process, when we come to inspect it, in a variety, or rather an alternative, of the most grievous and wildest tenets—in the belief, on the one hand, that Christ's body was only in appearance flesh; or, on the other, that it was created out of the very substance of Almighty God.
This was the incredible aberration of a grave, a literary, an aged man, some of whose writings are still extant, and evince a vigour and elegance of mind not inferior to any writer of his day. An impious and monstrous gnosticism seemed to revive, in the person of a dialectician, versed in all the accomplishments of Grecian philosophy and rhetoric. A brief sketch of his history, and of the conduct of the Church towards him, may not be out of place in this series of views, as they are intended to be, of ancient Christianity.
His father, who bore the same name, was a native of Alexandria, by profession a grammarian or schoolmaster; who, passing from Berytus to the Syrian Laodicea, married and settled there, and eventually rose to the presbyterate in the Church of that city. Apollinaris, the son, was horn there in the early part of the fourth century, and was educated for the profession of rhetoric. After a season of suspense, as to the ultimate destination of his talents, he resolved on dedicating them to the service of the Church; and, after being admitted into reader's orders, he began to distinguish himself by his opposition to philosophical infidelity. His work against Porphyry, the most valuable and elaborate of his writings, was extended to as many as thirty books. During the reign of Julian, when the Christian schools were shut up, and the Christian youth debarred from the use of the classics, the two Apollinares, father and son, exerted themselves to supply the inconvenience thence resulting from their own resources. They wrote heroical pieces, odes, tragedies, and dialogues, after the style of Homer and Plato, and other standard authors, upon Christian subjects; and the younger wrote and dedicated to Julian a refutation of Paganism, on grounds of reason.
Nor did Apollinaris confine himself to the mere external defence of the Gospel, or the preparatory training of its disciples. His expositions on Scripture were the most numerous of his works; he especially excelled in eliciting and illustrating its sacred meaning, and had sufficient acquaintance with the Hebrew to enable him to translate or comment on the original text. There was scarcely a controversy of the age, prolific as it was in heresies, into which he did not enter. He wrote against the Arians, Eunomians, Macedonians, and Manichees; against Origen and Marcellus; and in defence of the Millenarians.
Such a man seemed to be raised up providentially for the Church's defence in an evil day; and for awhile he might be said resolutely and nobly to fulfil his divinely appointed destiny. The Church of Laodicea, with the other cities of Syria, was at the time in Arian possession; when the great Athanasius passed through on his return to Egypt, after his second exile (a. D. 348), Apollinaris communicated with him, and was in consequence put out of the Church by the bishop in possession. On the death of Constantius, the cause of orthodoxy prevailed; and Apollinaris was consecrated to that see, or to that in Asia Minor which bears the same name.
Such, was the station, such the reputation of Apollinaris, at the date of the Council thereupon held at Alexandria, A. D. 362, for settling the disorders of the Church; and yet, in the proceedings of this celebrated assembly, the first intimation occurs of the existence of that doctrinal error by which he has been since known in history, though it is not there connected with his name. The troubles under Julian succeeded, and diverted the minds of all parties to other objects. The infant heresy slept till about the year 369; when it gave fresh evidence of its existence by the presence of a number of persons, scattered about Syria and Greece, and professing it in one form or other, and by the solemn meeting of a Council in the former countrv, in which its distinctive tenets were condemned. We find that even at this date it had run the full length of the extravagances already specified; still the name of Apollinaris is not connected with them. The Council, as I have said, was held in Syria, hut the heresy which occasioned it had already, it seems, extended into Greece; for a communication which the assembled bishops addressed to Athanasius elicited from him a letter, still extant, addressed to Epictetus, bishop of Corinth, who had also written to him on the subject. This letter, whether from tenderness to Apollinaris, or from difficulty in bringing the heresy home to him, still does not mention his name. A work written by Athanasius against the heresy, at the very end of his life, with the keenness and richness of thought which distinguish his writings generally, is equally silent; as are two letters to friends about the same date, which touch more or less on the theological points in question. All these treatises seem to be forced from the writer, and are characterized by considerable energy of expression: as if the Catholics were really perplexed with the novel statements of doctrine, and doubtful how Athanasius would meet them, or at least required his authority before pronouncing upon them; and, on the other hand, as if the writer himself were fearful of conniving at them, whatever private reasons he might have for wishing to pass them over. Yet there is nothing in the history or documents of the times to lead one to suppose that more than a general suspicion attached to Apollinaris; and, if we may believe his own statement, Athanasius died in persuasion of his orthodoxy. A letter is extant, written by Apollinaris on this subject, in which he speaks of the kind intercourse he had with the Primate of Egypt, and of their agreement in faith, as acknowledged by Athanasius himself. He claims him as his master, and at the same time slightly hints that there had been points to settle between them, in which he himself had given way. In another, written to an Egyptian bishop, he seems to refer to the very epistle to Epictetus noticed above, expressing his approbation of it. It is known, moreover, that Athanasius gave letters of introduction to the western bishops, to Timotheus, Apollinaris' intimate friend, and afterwards the most extravagant teacher of his sect, on the ground of his controversial talents against the Arians.
Athanasius died in A. D. 371 or 373; and that bereavement of the Church was followed, among its calamities, by the open avowal of heresy on the part of Apollinaris. In a letter already referred to, he claims Athanasius as agreeing with him, yet proceeds to profess one of the very tenets against which Athanasius had written. In saying this, I have no intention of accusing so considerable a man of that disingenuousness which is almost the characteristic mark of heresy. It was natural that Athanasius should exercise an influence over his mind; and it was as natural that, when his fellow-champion was taken to his rest, he should find himself able to breathe more freely, yet be unwilling to own it. While indulging the speculations of a private judgment, he might still endeavour to persuade himself that he was not outstepping the range which Scripture had prescribed, and the Church Catholic witnessed. On the other hand, it appears that the ecclesiastical authorities of the day, even when he professed his heresy, were for awhile incredulous about the fact, from their recollection of his former services and faith, and the hope that he was but carried on into verbal extravagances by his opposition to Arianism. Thus they were as unwilling to denounce him as a heretic as he to confess it. Nay, even when he had lost shame, attacked the Catholics with violence, and formed his disciples into a sect, not even then was he himself at once publicly animadverted on, though his creed was anathematized. His first condemnation was at Rome, several years after Athanasius' death, in company with Timotheus, his disciple. In the General Council of Constantinople, several years later, his sect is mentioned as existing, with directions how to receive back into the Church those who applied for reconciliation. He outlived this Council about ten years; his sect lasted only twenty years beyond him; but in that short time it had split into three distinct persuasions, of various degrees of heterodoxy, and is said to have fallen more or less into the errors of Judaism.
Such is the outline of a melancholy history. We may fitly conclude our review of it by attending to what contemporary writers say of him and his sect. Epiphanius speaks thus mournfully:—
"That aged and venerable man, who was ever so singularly dear to us, and to the holy father, Athanasius of blessed memory, and to all orthodox men, Apollinaris of Laodicea, he it was who originally struck out and propagated this doctrine. And at first, when we were assured of it by some of his disciples, we disbelieved that such a man could admit such an error into his walk, and patiently waited in hope, till we might ascertain the state of the case. For we argued that his youths, who came to us, not entering into the profound views of so learned and clear-minded a master, had invented these statements of themselves, not learned them from him. For there were many points in which those who came to us were at variance with each other: some of them ventured to say that Christ had brought down His body from above (and this strange theory, admitted into the mind, developed itself into worse notions); others of them denied that Christ had taken a soul; and some ventured to say that Christ's body was consubstantial with the Godhead, and thereby caused great confusion in the East."—H<er. lxxvii. 2.
He proceeds afterwards :—
"Full of distress became our life at that time, that between brethren so exemplary as the forementioned, a quarrel should at all have arisen, that the enemy of man might work divisions among us. And great, my brethren, is the mischief done to the mind from such a cause. For were no question ever raised on the subject, the matter would be most simple: (for what gain has accrued to the world from such novel doctrine, or what benefit to the Church? rather has it not been an injury, as causing hatred and dissension ?) but when the question was raised, it became formidable; it did not tend to good; for whether a man disallows this particular point, or even the slightest, still it is a denial. For we must not, even in a trivial matter, turn aside from the path of truth. No one of the ancients ever maintained it—prophet, or apostle, or evangelist, or commentator—down to these our times, when this so perplexing doctrine proceeded from the most learned man aforesaid. His was a mind of no common cultivation; first in the preliminaries of literature in Greek education, then as a master of dialectics and argumentation. Moreover, he was most grave in his whole life, and reckoned among the very first of those who ever deserved the love of the orthodox, and so continued till the maintenance of this doctrine. Nay, he had undergone banishment, for not submitting to the Arians;—but why enlarge on it? It afflicted us much, and gave us a sorrowful time, as our enemy is ever accustomed to do."—Ibid. 24.
I have already noticed, in a former chapter, that St. Basil got into trouble from a supposed intimacy with Apollinaris. He had written one letter to him on an indifferent matter, in 356, when he himself was as yet a layman, and Apollinaris orthodox, and scarcely in orders. This was magnified by Eustathius into a correspondence and intercommunion between the archbishop and the heresiarch. As in reality he knew very little even of his writings, the description which the following passages give is valuable, as being, in fact, a sort of popular testimony to Apollinaris, more than an individual opinion. Basil wrote the former in defence of himself; in the latter of the two, other errors of Apollinaris are mentioned, besides those to which I have had occasion to allude, for errors seldom are found single. "For myself," says Basil, " I never indeed considered Apollinaris as an enemy; nay, there are points on which I reverence him; however, I did
not so connect myself with him, as to make myself answerable for his alleged faults, considering, too, that I have a complaint of my own against him, on reading some of his compositions. I hear, indeed, that he is become the most copious of all writers; yet I have fallen in with but few of his works, for I have not leisure to search into such, and besides I am difficult of introduction to recent writers, being hindered by bodily health from continuing even the study of inspired Scripture laboriously, and as is fitting."—.Ep. 244, § 3.
The other runs thus:—" After Eustathius comes Apollinaris; he, too, no slight disturber of the Church; for having a facility in writing, and a tongue which served him on every subject, he has filled the world with his compositions, despising the warning, ' Beware of making many books/ because in the many are many faults. For how is it possible, in much speaking, to escape sin? First, there are his theological opinions, supported not by proofs from Scripture, but by human processes. Again, there are his views on the resurrection, made up of fables, or rather of Judaisms; in which he says, that we shall again turn to the legal worship; again be circumcised, keep Sabbath, abstain from meat, offer sacrifices to God, worship in Jerusalem at the temple, and, in short, become Jews for Christians. What can be more absurd? or rather, more foreign to the Evangelical doctrine? Also, his views of the Incarnation have caused such confusion among my brethren, that few of those who have read them, preserve the ancient marks of piety, but the mass, attending to novelties, have turned aside to questions and contentious speculations of these unprofitable theories."—Ep. 264, § 4.
It is a solemn and pregnant fact, that two of the most zealous and forward of Athanasius's companions in his good fight against Arianism, Marcellus and Apollinaris, fell away into heresies of their own,—Marcellus denied our Lord's personality, Apollinaris His humanity. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed, lest he fall."
Alas, my brother! round thy tomb
In sorrow kneeling, and in fear,
We read the pastor's doom
Who speaks, and will not hear.
The gray-haired saint may fail at last,
The surest guide a wanderer prove,
Death only binds us fast
To the bright shore of love.