Gregory, Nyssen

, was the younger brother of St. Basil, and had an equal care taken of his education, being brought up in all the polite and fashionable modes of learning; but, applying himself particularly to rhetoric, he valued himself more upon being accounted an orator than a Christian. On the admonition of his friend Gregory Nazianzen he quitted those studies; and, betaking himself to solitude and a monastic discipline, he turned his attention wholly to the holy scriptures, and the controversies of the age; so that he became as eminent in the knowledge of these as he had before been in the course of more pleasant studies. Thus qualified for the highest dignity in the church, he was placed in the see of Nyssa, a city on the borders of Cappadocia. The exact time of his promotion is not known, though it is certain he was bishop in the year 371. He proved in this station a stout champion for the Nicene faith, and so vigorously opposed the Arian party, that he was soon after banished by the emperor Valens; and, in a synod held at Nyssa by the bishop of Pontus and Galatia, was deposed, and met with very hard usage. He was hurried from place to place, heavily fined, and exposed to the rage and petulance of the populace, which fell heavier upon him, as he was both unused to trouble, and unapt to bear it. In this condition he remained for seven or eight years, during which, however, he went about countermining the stratagems of the Arians, and strengthening those in the orthodox faith; and in the council of Antioch in the year 378, he was, among others, delegated to visit the eastern churches lately harassed by the Arian persecution.

He went not long after to Arabia; and, having dispatched the affairs of the Arabian churches, he proceeded to Jerusalem, having engaged to confer with the bishops of those parts, and to assist in their reformation. Upon his arrival, finding the place overrun with vice, schism, and faction, some shunning his communion, and others setting up altars in opposition to him, he soon grew weary of it, and returned with a heavy heart to Antioch: and being on this occasion consulted afterwards, whether it was an essential part of religion to make pilgrimages to Jerusalem | (which, it seems, was the opinion of the monastic disciplinarians at that time), he declared himself freely in the negative. After this, he was summoned to the great council at Constantinople, where he made no inconsiderable figure, his advice being chiefly relied on in the most important cases; and particularly the composition of the creed, called by us the Nicene creed, was committed to his care. He composed a great many other pieces, commentaries on different parts of the scriptures; sermons; lives, and letters. There is a good edition of his works by Fronton du Due, 1615, 2 vols. fol. and another of 1638, 3 vols. fol. more ample, but not so correct. They are, however, in less estimation than the works of almost any of the fathers. He lived to a great age, and was alive when St. Jerom wrote his “Catalogue of Ecclesiastical Writers” in the year 392; and two years after was present at the synod of Constantinople, on adjusting the controversy between Agapius and Bagadius, as appears by the acts of that council. He died March 9, 396. He was a married man, and lived with his wife Theosebia, even after he was bishop. Gregory Nazianzen, in a consolatory letter to his sister on her death, gives her extraordinary commendations. 1


Cave’s Lives of the Fathers, —Milner’s Church Hist. —Saxii Onomasticon.