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History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empir

The rash and obstinate Nestorius


[Footnote 48: I should be curious to know how much Nestorius paid for these expressions, so mortifying to his rival.]

[Footnote 49: Eutyches, the heresiarch Eutyches, is honorably named by Cyril as a friend, a saint, and the strenuous defender of the faith. His brother, the abbot Dalmatus, is likewise employed to bind the emperor and all his chamberlains terribili conjuratione. Synodicon. c. 203, in Concil. tom. iv p. 467.]

[Footnote 50: Clerici qui hic sunt contristantur, quod ecclesia Alexandrina nudata sit hujus causa turbelae: et debet praeter illa quae hinc transmissa sint auri libras mille quingentas. Et nunc ei scriptum est ut praestet; sed de tua ecclesia praesta avaritiae quorum nosti, &c. This curious and original letter, from Cyril's archdeacon to his creature the new bishop of Constantinople, has been unaccountably preserved in an old Latin version, (Synodicon, c. 203, Concil. tom. iv. p. 465--468.) The mask is almost dropped, and the saints speak the honest language of interest and confederacy.]

[Footnote 51: The tedious negotiations that succeeded the synod of Ephesus are diffusely related in the original acts, (Concil. tom. iii. p. 1339--1771, ad fin. vol. and the Synodicon, in tom. iv.,) Socrates, (l. vii. c. 28, 35, 40, 41,) Evagrius, (l. i. c. 6, 7, 8, 12,) Liberatus, (c. 7--10, 7-10,) Tillemont, (Mem. Eccles. tom. xiv. p. 487--676.) The most patient reader will thank me for compressing so much nonsense and falsehood in a few lines.]

The rash and obstinate Nestorius, before the end of the synod, was oppressed by Cyril, betrayed by the court, and faintly supported by his Eastern friends. A sentiment or fear or indignation prompted him, while it was yet time, to affect the glory of a voluntary abdication: [52] his wish, or at least his request, was readily granted; he was conducted with honor from Ephesus to his old monastery of Antioch; and, after a short pause, his successors, Maximian and Proclus, were acknowledged as the lawful bishops of Constantinople. But in the silence of his cell, the degraded patriarch could no longer resume the innocence and security of a private monk. The past he regretted, he was discontented with the present, and the future he had reason to dread: the Oriental bishops successively disengaged their cause from his unpopular name, and each day decreased the number of the schismatics who revered Nestorius as the confessor of the faith. After a residence at Antioch of four years, the hand of Theodosius subscribed an edict, [53] which ranked him with Simon the magician, proscribed his opinions and followers, condemned his writings to the flames, and banished his person first to Petra, in Arabia, and at length to Oasis, one of the islands of the Libyan desert. [54] Secluded from the church and from the world, the exile was still pursued by the rage of bigotry and war. A wandering tribe of the Blemmyes or Nubians invaded his solitary prison: in their retreat they dismissed a crowd of useless captives: but no sooner had Nestorius reached the banks of the Nile, than he would gladly have escaped from a Roman and orthodox city, to the milder servitude of the savages. His flight was punished as a new crime: the soul of the patriarch inspired the civil and ecclesiastical powers of Egypt; the magistrates, the soldiers, the monks, devoutly tortured the enemy of Christ and St. Cyril; and, as far as the confines of Aethiopia, the heretic was alternately dragged and recalled, till his aged body was broken by the hardships and accidents of these reiterated journeys. Yet his mind was still independent and erect; the president of Thebais was awed by his pastoral letters; he survived the Catholic tyrant of Alexandria, and, after sixteen years' banishment, the synod of Chalcedon would perhaps have restored him to the honors, or at least to the communion, of the church. The death of Nestorius prevented his obedience to their welcome summons; [55] and his disease might afford some color to the scandalous report, that his tongue, the organ of blasphemy, had been eaten by the worms. He was buried in a city of Upper Egypt, known by the names of Chemnis, or Panopolis, or Akmim; [56] but the immortal malice of the Jacobites has persevered for ages to cast stones against his sepulchre, and to propagate the foolish tradition, that it was never watered by the rain of heaven, which equally descends on the righteous and the ungodly. [57] Humanity may drop a tear on the fate of Nestorius; yet justice must observe, that he suffered the persecution which he had approved and inflicted. [58]


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