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Lectures on the History of the Eastern Church, with an Introduction on the Study of Ecclesiastical History. By ARTHUR PENRHYN STANLEY, D. D., Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History in the University of Oxford, and Canon of Christ's Church. London. 1861. 8vo. pp. 508.
THIS Volume has been already noticed in our pages,* and we wish not to retract anything we have said of Dr. Stanley's animated and glowing style and power of picturesque description. These are his great merits. The work is not a continued narrative; but topics having very little connection with each other have been selected from the great field of ecclesiastical history, apparently for no other reason than that they can be clothed with interest, and are susceptible of the heightenings of a brilliant rhetoric. Whatever may be the writer's faults, he is not chargeable with the unpardonable sin of dulness. He is not a dry writer; he is anything but that. But we do not propose to write an encomiastic article on his book, or indulge in any strain of enthusiastic admiration. Its merits have been so well set forth in the notice to which we have already referred, that we shall at present only attempt to point out some of its defects.
We do not find fault with its fragmentary character, or complain of the author's selection of topics. Doubtless he knows best what he is capable of, where his strength lies, and what he can most successfully accomplish. And we heartily thank him for his very attractive book. We only wish that he had sometimes been a little more careful of his statements, and shown a little more discrimination and a more kind and just appreciation of character. We are aware that the charges here implied are of a somewhat grave character, and we shall proceed to substantiate them by an examination of portions of his volume.
His worst offence, we think, is his treatment of the person and character of Arius. We confess to strong sympathies with
* Christian Examiner for November, 1861.
the down-trodden and persecuted, and would see justice done them. Especially would we vindicate them against the attempt to connect with their names and memory associations of a ludicrous or degrading character.
Dr. Stanley's description of the person of the Alexandrian heretic may be pronounced a bold caricature, or an unscrupulous fiction. We will quote two passages. In the first he says:
"In appearance he is the very opposite of Athanasius. He is sixty years of age, very tall and thin, and apparently unable to support his stature; he has an odd way of contorting and twisting himself, which his enemies compare to the wriggling of a snake.* He would be handsome but for the emaciation and deadly pallor of his face, and a downcast look, imparted by a weakness of eyesight. At times his veins throb and swell, and his limbs tremble, as if suffering from some violent internal complaint, the same, perhaps, that will terminate one day in his sudden and frightful death. There is a wild look about him which at first sight is startling. His dress and demeanor are those of a rigid ascetic. He wears a long coat with short sleeves, and a scarf of only half size, such as was the mark of an austere life; and his hair hangs in a tangled mass over his head. He is usually silent, but at times breaks out into fierce excitement, such as will give the impression of madness. Yet, with all this, there is a sweetness in his voice, and a winning, earnest manner, which fascinates those who come across him...... This strange, captivating, moonstruck giant is the heretic Arius, - or, as his adversaries called him, the madman of Ares, or Mars." - pp. 115, 116.
The only authorities produced for this strange picture, as given below, are Epiphanius, and the letter ascribed to Constantine in Gelasius of Cyzicus.
Now we do not think that these authorities, to whatever respect they may be entitled as historical documents, (of this we shall speak presently,) justify Dr. Stanley's description; certainly not all parts of it. Dr. Stanley sometimes writes for effect; he wants calmness and repose, the old Greek repose. He exaggerates, he intensifies, he distorts. In the present
*This description is put together from the two different, but not irreconcilable, accounts of Epiphanius (LXIX. 3), and the letter ascribed to Constantine in Gelasius, III. 1. (Mansi, II. 930.)
case he seems to have started with the intention of making the portrait of Arius as grotesque as possible. A few such phrases as "moonstruck giant," artfully thrown in, tell in the portraiture. But, passing over these embellishments, drawn from imagination, what shall we say of the authorities themselves? They are such, we believe, one of them at least, as no writer. of reputation or standing, however inimical to the memory of the heretic of Alexandria, has ventured to use as furnishing altogether authentic materials for a description of his personal qualities and habits. Of the two, Epiphanius is the more trustworthy, and the part of the description taken from him is the least exceptionable. Yet Epiphanius, who was Bishop of Constantia, in Cyprus, and who wrote in the latter part of the fourth century, some years after the death of the great heresiarch, was narrow, bigoted, and violent, and was especially hostile to the Arians. His authority has always been regarded with suspicion by writers on ecclesiastical history. Mosheim imputes to him "credulity and ignorance." Dr. Murdock in a note adds: "His learning was great, his judgment rash, and his credulity and mistakes very abundant." The learned Jortin had no better opinion of him; † and Cave pronounces him "too credulous," and wanting in accuracy. Du Pin says that he had "much reading and learning, but no faculty of discerning, nor exactness of judgment"; that he was "very credulous, and not very accurate"; that he is "mistaken in many places about very considerable matters in history"; that he "gave credit too lightly to false memoirs, or to uncertain reports."§ "He was," says Smith, in his Greek and Roman Biography, "without critical or logical power, . . . . . of a very bigoted and dogmatical turn of mind." Neander mentions the "little reliance" that
"can be placed on his authority." "Educated among the Egyptian monks," he says that "he had a narrow intellectual culture," was "quite deficient in criticism," and was "as excitable as he was credulous." ||
* Murdock's Mosheim, I. 293, ed. New Haven, 1832.
New Hist. Eccles. Writers, II. 239, Lond. 1693.
Such is one of Dr. Stanley's authorities, and the better of the two. His other authority is Gelasius of Cyzicus, a worthless writer near the end of the fifth century. He left a work called "The Acts of the First Council," compiled in part, as he says, from an old manuscript on parchment found in his father's house. Parts of it Cave believed to be "pure inventions," either of Gelasius himself, or of the author of the old manuscript.* Du Pin asserts that large portions of it are "either dubious or manifestly false,"-"a mere fiction." It has been published in several editions of the Acts of Councils. Du Pin recommends that it should be omitted in future editions, as a work of no authority.† Moreri thought no better of it. The learned Tillemont speaks very contemptuously of the work of Gelasius on the "Acts of the Council of Nice." "There is a good deal of probability," he says, "that there never were any written." As for Gelasius's work, he says it is "nothing but a jumble of what he took from Eusebius, Rufinus, and other ecclesiastical authors," mixed up with something of his own, which he inserts "without giving us any notice of it." The rest, he adds, consists of several "letters, speeches, or disputes," which "are by no means received as authentic, and they are not thought very strongly supported when they stand only on the testimony of this author." ‡
The work was originally in three books. It has been asserted that the third, which consisted of letters ascribed to Constantine, is lost. Of this opinion are Cave and Gieseler. In what now purports to be the third book, however, there are three such letters, the genuineness of which is more than doubtful. How any one can attribute the least weight to that used as an authority by Dr. Stanley, without any intimation at the time that it is of questionable genuineness, exceeds our power of comprehension. Even the Oxford translator of several pieces contained in the "Library of the Fathers," a work evidently used by Dr. Stanley, feels obliged to explain. It is possible," says he, "that Constantine is only declaiming, for
* Historia Literaria, I. 454.
† Tom. III. Part 2.
Hist. Council of Nice, appended to his History of the Arians, sec. 20, and
his whole invective is like a school exercise or fancy composition. Constantine, too, had not seen Arius at the time of this invective, which was prior to the Nicene Council." It is very improbable that Constantine should have been the writer of such an invective. Regarded as a mere school-boy "declamation," it is certainly in very bad taste. But it was to Dr. Stanley's purpose, as, with a little aid from imagination, it furnished colors for his marvellous portrait.
We now give the other part of Dr. Stanley's description. In the Council,
"Athanasius was his chief opponent. It was now, apparently, that the Council first heard of the songs which Arius had written, under the name of Thalia,† for the sake of popularizing his speculations with the lower orders. The songs were set to tunes or written in metres, which had acquired a questionable reputation from their use in the licentious verses of the heathen poet Sotades, ordinarily used in the low revels or dances of Alexandria; and the grave Arius himself is said, in moments of wild excitement, to have danced like an Eastern dervish, whilst he sang those abstract statements in long straggling lines, of which about twenty are preserved to us." ―pp. 152, 153.
The part to which we particularly object in this passage is that which relates to Arius's "wild excitement, and his dancing like an Eastern dervish," while his own" straggling lines" were sung. All very graphic, no doubt, and not without an element of the ludicrous. Arius is made to appear very ridiculous, when we recollect what has been just said of his person and costume, his age, his long, lank limbs, seemingly unable to support his tall "stature," his "odd way of contorting and twisting himself," his serpent "wrigglings," his "emaciation and deadly pallor," his downcast visage, his throbbing and swelling veins and his tremors, his "wild look," so"startling," his "hair hanging like a tangled mass over his head," his "long coat with short sleeves," with all this, "dancing like an Eastern dervish." Very ludicrous, to be
* Select Treatises of Athanasius, translated by Newman, p. 183, note.
† Soc. I. 9. 29. Apollinarius did the same. His songs were sung at banquets,
and at work, and by women weaving. Soz. VI. 25. (Stanley's note.)
Ath. Or. c. Ar. I. 4.