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An Ecclesiastical History To The 20th Year Of The Reign Of Constantine by Eusebius

ONE might, indeed, say much in attempting to write the life of the man at school, for the subject respecting him would require a particular and separate work. Nevertheless, for the present, we shall endeavour by abridging the most of the materials, as briefly as possible to relate some few events respecting him, and adduce the facts from certain epistles and histories which have come down to our own day, by those of his familiar friends who are yet living. The life of Origen, indeed, appears to me worthy of being recorded, even from his tender infancy. It was in the tenth year of the reign of Severus, when Alexandria and the rest of Egypt were under the government of his viceroy Lætus, and the churches there were under the episcopal administration of Demetrius, the successor of Julian, that the kindled flame of persecution blazed forth mightily, and many thousands were crowned with martyrdom.

It was then, too, that the love of martyrdom so powerfully seized the soul of Origen, though yet an almost infant boy, that he advanced so close to encounter danger, and was eager to leap forward and rush upon the conflict. And, indeed, there had been now but little wanting, and the termination of his life had not been far off, unless the heavenly providence of God for the benefit of vast numbers, had, by means of his mother, interposed an impediment to his eager desire. She, indeed, at first, implored and entreated him to spare a mother’s tenderness regarding him, but seeing him only the more vehemently bent upon it, as he understood that his father was taken and kept a prisoner, and he was wholly borne away by the desire of becoming a martyr, his mother concealed his clothes in order to compel him to remain at home. When he saw that there was no other course for him to pursue, as his great zeal was far beyond his years, he could not remain inactive, but sent to his father a most encouraging letter on martyrdom, in which he encourages him, saying, “Take heed (father) not to change thy mind on account of us.” This may serve as the first specimen of Origen’s intelligence, and his genuine devotedness to piety, for he had even then made no little progress in the doctrine of faith, as he had been conversant with the holy Scriptures even when a child. He had been considerably trained in them by his father, who, besides the study of the liberal sciences, had also carefully stored his mind with these. First of all, therefore, before he studied the Grecian literature, he led him to frequent exercise in the study of sacred things, appointing him to commit and repeat some passages every day; and these things were not unwillingly done by the child, but studies most cheerfully performed with great diligence. So that it was not sufficient for him merely to read what was simple and obvious in the sacred books, but he sought also what was beyond this, into the deeper senses of the text, and was busily employed in such speculations even at that age; so that he gave his father trouble, by his questions relative to the meaning of passages in the inspired Scriptures. He, indeed, to appearance, rebuked him to his face, telling him not to inquire into things beyond his age, nor to search beyond the obvious meaning of Scriptures; but he, greatly delighted in his own mind, gave most hearty thanks to Almighty God, the author of all good, that he had honoured him to be the father of such a child. And they say, that, frequently, when standing over his sleeping boy, he would uncover his breast, and as a shrine consecrated by the divine Spirit, reverently kissed it and congratulated himself upon his favoured offspring. These and other similar circumstances are related of Origen when yet a boy. But now, as his father had ended his days a martyr, he was left in this bereaved condition with his mother and younger brothers, in number six, when he was yet in his seventeenth year. And as his father’s property was forfeited to the imperial treasury, he was reduced with his relatives to great straits for the necessaries of life. But he was honoured with a provision from God, for he found a kind reception and retreat with a certain lady of great wealth and distinction, who at the same time patronised a certain celebrated man who was an advocate of the heretics then existing in Alexandria. This man was a native of Antioch, and was taken home by the lady as an adopted son, and was treated with the greatest kindness by her. But as Origen thus necessarily associated with him, he thenceforth gave him strong indications of his orthodox faith. As great numbers not only of heretics but ours also, induced by the apparent eloquence of the man, collected to hear this Paul, for that was his name, he could never be induced to join with him in prayer, observing even from a boy that rule of the church, and as he himself says, somewhere, abominating the inculcation of heretical doctrines. But as he had been instructed by his father in Greek literature, and after his death devoted himself more ardently to the sole study of literature, so that he acquired a tolerable acquaintance with philology, he devoted himself not long after his father’s death to this study, and young as he was, he thus acquired sufficient to supply his necessary wants in abundance.








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