Basil, St.

, surnamed The Great, on account of his learning and piety, was born at Caesarea in Cappadocia, in. the year 326. He received the first part of his education under his father. He went afterwards and studied under the famous Libanius at Antiochia and Constantinople, and from thence to Athens, where he met with Gregory Nazianzen, with whom he had a very cordial intimacy. After finishing his studies, he returned to his native country in the year 355, and taught rhetoric. Some time after he travelled into Syria, Egypt, and Libya, to visit the monasteries of these countries; and the monastic life so much suited his disposition, that upon his return home he resolved to follow it, and became the first institutor of it in Pontus and Cappadocia. Eusebius bishop of Csesarea conferred the order of priesthood upon Basil, who soon after retired into his solitude, having had some misunderstanding with his bishop; but he came to a reconciliation with him about three years after, and his reputation was at length so great, that, upon the death of Eusebius, in the year 370, he was chosen his successor. It was with some difficulty that he accepted of this dignity; and no sooner was he raised to it, than the emperor Valens began to persecute him because he refused to embrace the doctrine of the Arians. Valens came twice to Ca?sarea, and finding he was not able to influence Basil, resolved to banish him from that place. He ceased at length, however, to molest Basil, who now began to use his utmost endeavours to bring about a re-union betwixt the eastern and western churches, then much divided about some points of faith, and in regard to Meletius and Paulinus, two bishops of Antioch. The western churches acknowledged Paulinus for the lawful bishop, and would have no communion with Meletius, who was supported by the eastern churches. But all his efforts were ineffectual, this dispute not being terminated till nine months after his | death. Basil was likewise engaged in some contests relating to the division the emperor had made of Cappadocia into two provinces. Anthimus, bishop of Tayane, the metropolis of the new province, was desirous to extend his limits, which Basil opposed. They contested chiefly about a little village named Zazime. Basil, in order to preserve it in his jurisdiction, erected a bishopric, and gave it to his friend Gregory of Nazianzen, but Anthimus took possession before him; and Gregory, who loved peace, retired from thence. Basil had also some disputes with Eustathius, and was engaged in most of the controversies of his age. Calumny, malice, and the domineering power of Arianism afflicted him with various trials, in which his patience was unwearied; and as his body became enfeebled by increasing distempers, his mind seems to have collected more vigour. Finding himself rapidly declining, after he had governed the church of Csesarea eight years and some months, he ordained some of his followers, and was then obliged to take to his bed. The people flocked about his house, sensible of the value of such a pastor. For a time he discoursed piously to those about him, and sealed his last breath with the ejaculation, “Into thy hands I commend my spirit.” He died in the year 379. By studying the works of Origen, he contracted a taste for exposition by no means very perspicuous. It is more to be regretted that a man of such extensive learning and piety should have been so attached to the monastic spirit, the excessive austerities of which impaired his constitution. His doctrines are consequently clouded with superstitious mixtures, although it is evident that he held the essential articles of Christianity in the utmost reverence.

There have been several editions of St. Basil’s works, or parts of them, printed before 1500, but the best is that published by the society of the Benedictines of the congregation of St. Maur, in 3 vols. fol. Gr. and Latin. The first two volumes of this edition were published in 1722, under the care of father Gamier, who dying in 1725, the third volume was completed by father Maran, but not until 1730. In 1764, M. Herman, a doctor of the Sorbonne, published a life of St. Basil, 2 vols. 4to. The French have translations of his letters, and some other parts of his works published separately. 1

1 Dupin. Cave, vol. I. both valuable articles. Lardner’s Works. Musheim and Milner’s Eccl, Histories, —Saxii Onomasticon,
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