The Constancy of the Ephesine Fathers in driving away Novelty and maintaining Antiquity.
[81.] After the preceding we added also the sentence of blessed Cyril, which is contained in these same Ecclesiastical Proceedings. For when the Epistle of Capreolus, 521 bishop of Carthage, had been read, wherein he earnestly intreats that novelty may be driven away and antiquity maintained, Cyril made and carried the proposal, which it may not be out of place to insert here: For says he, at the close of the proceedings, “Let the Epistle of Capreolus also, the reverend and very religious bishop of Carthage, which has been read, be inserted in the acts. His mind is obvious, for he intreats that the doctrines of the ancient faith be confirmed, such as are novel, wantonly devised, and impiously promulgated, reprobated and condemned.” All the bishops cried out, “These are the words of all; this we all say, this we all desire.” What mean “the words of all,” what mean “the desires of all,” but that what has been handed down from antiquity should be retained, what has been newly devised, rejected with disdain?
[82.] Next we expressed our admiration of the humility and sanctity of that Council, such that, though the number of priests was so great, almost the more part of them metropolitans, so erudite, so learned, that almost all were capable of taking part in doctrinal discussions, whom the very circumstance of their being assembled for the purpose, might seem to embolden to make some determination on their own authority, yet they innovated nothing, presumed nothing, arrogated to themselves absolutely nothing, but used all possible care to hand down nothing to posterity but what they had themselves received from their Fathers. And not only did they dispose satisfactorily of the matter presently in hand, but they also set an example to those who should come after them, how they also should adhere to the determinations of sacred antiquity, and condemn the devices of profane novelty.
[83.] We inveighed also against the wicked presumption of Nestorius in boasting that he was the first and the only one who understood holy Scripture, and that all those teachers were ignorant, who before him had expounded the sacred oracles, forsooth, the whole body of priests, the whole body of Confessors and martyrs, of whom some had published commentaries upon the Law of God, others had agreed with them in their comments, or had acquiesced in them. In a word, he confidently asserted that the whole Church was even now in error, and always had been in error, in that, as it seemed to him, it had followed, and was following, ignorant and misguided teachers.
The letter of Capreolus is given in Labbes Concilia, vol. 3, col. 529 sqq. The Emperor Theodosius had written to Augustine, requiring his presence at the Council which he had summoned to meet at Ephesus in the matter of Nestorius. But Augustine having died while the letter was on its way, it was brought to Capreolus, bishop of Carthage and Metropolitan. Capreolus would have summoned a meeting of the African bishops, that they might appoint a delegate to represent them at the Council; but the presence of the hostile Vandals, who were laying waste the country in all directions, made it impossible for the bishops to travel to any place of meeting. Capreolus therefore could do no more than send his deacon Besula to represent him and the African Church, bearing with him the letter referred to in the text. The letter, after having been read before the Council, both in the original Latin and in a Greek translation, was, on the motion of Cyril, inserted in the acts.