Gregory, Nazianzen

, was born A. D. 324, at Azianzum, an obscure village belonging to Nazianzum, a town of the second Cappadocia, situated in a poor, barren, and unhealthy country. His parents were persons of rank, and no less eminent for their virtues: his father, whose name was also Gregory, had been educated in a religion called Hypsistarianism*, to which, being the religion of his ancestors, he was a bigot in his younger years; and the deserting it not only lost him the kindness of his friends, but estranged him from his mother, and deprived him of his estate. This, however, he bore with great cbearfulness for the sake of Christianity, to which he was converted by his wife, though not without the help of an emphatical dream; he was afterwards made bishop of Nazianzum, being the second who sat in that chair, where he behaved with great prudence and diligence. Nor was our author’s mother less eminent; descended of a pious family, sh was herself, for piety, so much the wonder of her age, that this son was said to have been the pure effect of her prayers, and of a vow to devote him to God, after the example of Hannah; and upon his birth she was careful to perform her vow.

Thus advantageously born, he proved a child of pregnant parts; by which, and the advantage of a domestic institution under his parents, he soon outstrip! his contemporaries in learning. Nature had formed him of a grave and serious temper, so that his studies were not obstructed by the little sports and pleasures of youth. After some time, he travelled abroad for his farther improvement; in which rout, the first step he took was to Crcsarea, and having rifled the learning of that university, he travelled to Caesarea Philippi in Palestine, where some of the most celebrated masters of that age resided, and where Eusebius then sat bishop. Here he studied under the famous orator Thespasias, and had among other fellow-pupils, Euzo’ius, afterwards

* This was a kind of Samaritan abstinence from some kind of meats,

mixture, made of Judaism and Pagan- but disowned circumcision. They

ism, or rather some select rites of each, pretended to worship no other deity

With the Gentiles, they did honour to but the almighty, supreme, and most

fire and burning lights, but rejected high God; whence they assumed

idols and sacrifices; with the Jews, their characteristic above-mentioned,

tUcy observed th labbath, and a strict tytslot, signifying The Most High., | the Arian bishop of that place. He applied himself par* ticularly to rhetoric, minding the elegance, not the vanity and affectation, which then too much disgraced that pro* fession. Hence he removed to Alexandria, whose schools were famous next to those of Athens, which he designed for his last stage; and therefore went aboard a ship belon.ingto JEgina, an Island not far from Athens, the mari’si -3 of which were his familiar acquaintance?; but it being about the middle of November, a season for rough weather, they were taken with a storm in the road near Cyprus; and the case was become desperate, when suddenly the tern" pest, it was affirmed, ceased by the prayers of Gregory, Thus miraculously preserved, he arrived safe at Athens, where he was joyfully entertained, his great abilities rendering him the admiration both of the scholars and professors. Here he commenced a friendship wiih St. Basil, the great companion of his life; here too he became acquainted with Julian, afterwards emperor and apostate, an event which he remarkably foretold, although at that time Julian had given no ground for suspicion.

After the departure of his friend, Nazianzen was prevailed upon by the students to undertake the professor’s place of rhetoric, and he sat in that chair with great applause for a little while; but being now thirty years of age, and much solicited by his parents tq return home, he complied', taking his journey by land to Constantinople. Here he met his brother Crcsarius, just then arrived from Alexandria, so accomplished in all the polite learning of that age, and especially in physic, which he had made his particular study, that he had not been there long before he had public honours decreed him, matches proposed from noble families, the dignity of a senator offered him, and a committee appointed to wait upon the emperor, to intreat him, that though the city at that time wanted no learned men in any faculty, yet this might be added to all its other glory, to have Cccsarius for its physician and inhabitant. But Nazianzen’s influence prevailed against all these temptations; and the two brothers returned home together, to the great joy of their aged parents.

Nazianzen now thought it time to fulfil a vow which he had made during the storm above-mentioned, to consecrate himself to God by baptism. Afterwards he was ordained a presbyter by his father, who soon had occasion to avail himself of his assistance. Gregory, the father, | among several of the eastern bishops, had received a creed composed by a convention at Constantinople, in the year 395, in which the word consubstantial being laid aside, that article was expressed thus: “that the Son was in all things like the Father, according to the Scriptures.” In consequence, the monks of Cappadocia, in denying him communion, were followed by a great part of the people. Nazianzen, therefore, zealously endeavoured to make up this breach. He first convinced his father of the error, which he found him as ready to recant, and give public satisfaction to the people; then he dealt with the other party, whom he soon prevailed with to be reconciled; and, to bind all with a lasting cement, he made on this occasion his first oration, “Concerning Peace.

Julian had now ascended the throne; and in order to suppress Christianity, published a law, prohibiting Christians not only to teach, but to be taught the books and learning of the Gentiles. The defeat of this design, next to the two Apollinarii in Syria, Was chiefly owing to Na0ianzen, who upon this occasion composed a considerable part of his poems, comprehending all sorts of divine, grave, and serious subjects, in all kinds of poetry; by which means the Christian youth of those times were completely furnished;, and found no want of those heathen authors that were taken from them. Julian afterwards coming to Caesarea, in the road to his Persian expedition, one part of the army was quartered at Nazianzum, where the commander peremptorily required the church (which the elder Gregory had not long since built) to be delivered to him. But the old man stoutly opposed him, daily assembling the people to public prayers, who were so affected with the common cause, that the officer was forced to retire for his own safety. Julian being slain not long after, Nazianzen published two invective orations against him, which are at once remarkable proofs of his wit and eloquence, but which qualities were mixed with too much virulence and acriiony.

Having by Julian’s death obtained some respite from public concerns, he made a visit to his friend Basil, who was then in monastic solitude upon a mountain in Pontus, whither he had often solicited Nazianzen’s company. The latter was naturally inclined to such a course of life, and always looked upon his entering into orders as a kind of force and tyranny put upon him, which he could | hardly digest; yet he knew not how to desert his parents. But his brother Caesarius being now returned from court, where he had been for some years, with a purpose to fix in his possession at home, gave him an opportunity to indulge his inclination. He accordingly retired to his old companion, with whom in his solitary recess he remained several years, passing the time in watching, fasting, and all the several acts of mortification. He was tbus employed when the necessity of affairs at home obliged him to quit his retirement. His father laboured under the infirmities of age, and being no longer able to attend his charge, prevailed with him to come home; he returned accordingly about Easter, and published a large apologetic in excuse of his flight, which had been much censured. He had not long entered upon his charge of assistant to his father, u-ben the family had the misfortune to lose his brother Cacsarius, who departed this life October 11, 358. Some time after, died of a malignant fever, his sister Gorgonia, whose funeral-sermon he preached; as he did also that of his father, the aged bishop of Nazianzum, who died not long after, near one hundred years old, having been fortyfive years bishop of that place. In the conclusion of thig latter oration he addressed himself to his mother Norma, to support her mind under so great a loss, consolations which were proper and seasonable: for she, being thus deprived of her affectionate partner, and being nearly of equal years to her husband, expired, as may probably be conjectured, soon after.

By these breaches in the family, Nazianzen was sufficiently weaned from the place of his nativity; and, though he was not able to procure a successor to" his father, he resolved to throw up his charge, and accordingly retired to Seleucia, famous for the temple of St. Thercla, the virginmartyr; where, in a monastery of devout virgins dedicated to that saint, he continued a long time, and did not return till the death of St. Basil, whom he deeply regretted he could not attend at his last hours, being himself confined by sickness. About this time he was summoned to a council at Antioch, holden anno 378, to consider the emperor’s late edict for tolerating the catholics, in order to suppress Arianism; and, being ordered by the council to fix himself for that purpose at Constantinople, he presently repaired thither. Here he found the catholic interest at the lowest ebb; the Arians, favoured by Valens, had | possessed themselves of all the churches, and proceeded to such extremities that scarcely any of the orthodox dared avow their faith. He first preached in his lodgings to those that repaired thither, and the congregation soon growing numerous, the house was immediately consecrated by Nazianzen, under the name of the church of Anastasia, or the resurrection; because the catholic faith, which in that city had been hitherto oppressed, here seemed to have its resurrection. The opposition to his measures but increased his fame, together with the number of his auditors, and even drew admirers and followers from foreign parts; among whom St. Jerom, lately ordained presbyter, came on purpose to put himself under his tutelage and discipline; an honour in which Jerom glories on every occasion. As the catholics grew more considerable, they chose him for their bishop, and the choice was confirmed by Meletus of Antioch, and Peter who succeeded Athanasius at Alexandria; but he was opposed by the Arians, who consecrating Maximus, a famous cynic philosopher and Christian, gave him a great deal of trouble. The Arian bishop, however, was at length forced to retire, and his successor Demophilus was deposed by the emperor Theodosius, who directed an edict to the people of Constantinople, February 27, 380, re-establishing the orthodox faith; and afterward coming thither in person, he treated Nazianzen with all possible kindness and respect, and appointed a day for his instalment in the see.

But this ceremony was deferred for the present at his own request; and falling sick soon after, he was visited by crowds of his friends, who all departed when they had made their compliments, except a young man with a pale look, long hair, in squalid and tattered cloaths, who, standing at the bed’s feet, made all the dumb signs of the bitterest sorrow -and lamentation. Nazianzen, starting, asked him, “Who he was, whence he came, and what he wanted?” To which he returned no answer, but expressed so much the moi’e passion and resentment, howling, wringing his hands, and beating his breast in such a manner that the bishop himself was moved to tears. Being at length forced aside by one who stood by, he told the bishop, “This, sir, is the assassin, whom some had suborned to murder you; but his conscience has molested him, and he is here come ingenuously to confess ins fault, and to beg your pardon.” The bishop replied. | Friend, God Almighty be propitious to you, his gracious preservation of me obliges me freely to forgive you the desperate attempt you designed has made you mine, nor do I require any other reparation, than that henceforth you desert your party, and sincerely give up yourself to God.

Theodosius being highly solicitous about the peace of the church, summoned a council to meet at Constantinople in May anno 382. This is called the second general council, in which the Nicene Creed was ratified; and, because the article concerning the Holy Ghost was but barely mentioned, which was become one of the principal controversies of the age, and for the determination of which the council had been chiefly summoned, the fathers now drew up an explanatory creed, composed, as it is said, by Gregory of Nyssen, and is the same which in our liturgy is called the Nicene Creed. The see of Constantinople was also now placed next in precedence to that of Rome. Our author carried a great sway in that council, where all things went on smoothly, till at last they fell into disturbances on the following occasion.

There had been a schism for some time in the church of Antioch, occasioned by the ordination of two bishops to that see; and one of those, named Melitus, happening to die before the end of the council, Nazianzen proposed to continue the other, named Paulinus, then grown old, for his life. But a strong party being made for one Flavianus, presbyter of the church, these last carried it; and, not content with that, resolved to deprive their grand opposer of his seat at Constantinople. To prevent this he made a formal resignation to the emperor, and went to his paternal estate at Nazmnzum, resolving never to episcopize any more; insomuch, that though, at his return, he found the see of Nazianzum still vacant, and over-run with the heresy of Apollinarius, yet he pertinaciously resisted all intreaties that were made to take that charge upon him. And, when he was summoned to the re-assembling of the council the following year, he refused to give his attendance, and even did not stick to censure all such meetings as factious, and governed by pride and ambition. In the mean time, in defence of his conduct, he wrote letters to the Roman praetorian prefect, and the consul; assuring them, that, though he had withdrawn himself from public affairs, it was not, as some imagined, from any discontent for the loss of the great place he had quitted; and that he would not abandon | the common interests of religion; that his retirement was a matter of choice more than necessity, in which he took as great pleasure as a man that has been tossed in a long storm at sea does in a safe and quiet harbour. And, indeed, being now freed from all external cares, he entirely gave himself up to solitude and contemplation, and the exercise of a strict and devout life. At vacant hours he refreshed the weariness of his old age with poetry, which he generally employed upon divine subjects, and serious reflections upon the former passages of his life; an account of which he drew up in iambics, whence no inconsiderable part of his memoir is derived. Thus he passed the remainder of his days till his death in the year 389. He made a will, by which, except a few legacies to some relations, he bequeathed his whole estate to the poor of the diocese of Nazianzum. In this spirit, during the three years that he enjoyed the rich bishopric of Constantinople, he never touched any part of the revenues, but gaVe it all to the poor, to whom he was extremely liberal.

He was one of the ablest champions of the orthodox faith concerning the Trinity, whence he had the title given him of e SeoAoyes, “The Divine,” by unanimous consent. His moral and religious qualities were attended with the natural graces of a sublime wit, subtle apprehension, clear judgment, and easy and ready elocution, which were all set off with as great a stock of human learning as the schools of the East, as Alexandria, or Athens itself, was able to afford. All these excellences are seen in his works, of which we have the following character by Erasmus; who, after having enriched the western church with many editions of the ancient fathers, confesses, that he was altogether discouraged from attempting the translation of Nazianzen, by the acumen and smartness of his style, the grandeur and sublimity of his matter, and those somewhat obscure allusions that are frequently interspersed among his writings. Upon the whole, Erasmus doubts not to affirm, that, as ha lived in the most learned age of the church, so he was the be*t scholar of that age. His works consist of sermons, letters, and poems, the latter evidently imbued with genius, and have been printed in Greek and Latin, Paris, 1609 and 1611, 2 vols. fol. with notes by the learned abbot de Billi, who was also author of the Latin translation. This edition is more esteemed than the new one of 1G30. There | are some poems by St. Gregory in “Tollii insignia itinerarii Italici,Utrecht, 1696, 4to, never printed before. 1

1 Cave, Dupjn —Moreri.^—Milner’s Church Hist. Saxii Onm*st>