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

THE pestilence, after these things, succeeding the war, and the festival being at hand, he again addresses the brethren in epistles; in which he shows the great calamities attending this affliction, as follows: “To other men, indeed, the present would not appear a fit season for a festival. Neither is this, nor any other time a festival for them to speak of sorrowful times, but even of those which a cheerful person might deem joyous. Now all things are filled with tears, all are mourning, and by reason of the multitudes already dead, and still dying, groans are daily resounding throughout the city. For as it is written respecting the firstborn of Egypt, thus now, also, a great lamentation has arisen, for there is not a house in which there is not one dead. And I wish this were all. Many and horrible calamities have preceded this. First they expelled us from the city, but we, in exile and persecuted, still celebrated the festival; and every place, marked by some particular affliction, was still a spot distinguished by our solemnities; the open field, the desert, the ship, the inn, the prison. But the most joyous festival of all was celebrated by those perfect martyrs who are now feasting in the heavens.

“After this, war and famine succeeded, which indeed we endured with the heathen, but beside bearing alone those miseries with which they afflicted us, we also experienced the effects of those which they inflicted on themselves. Again we rejoiced in the peace of Christ, which He gave to us alone, and when both we and they obtained a very short respite, then we were assailed by this pestilence, a calamity more terrific to them than any other terror, and more afflictive than any other affliction, and which, as one of their own historians has said, was of itself alone beyond all hope. To us, however, it did not wear this character, but no less than other events was a school for discipline and probation. It did not keep aloof from us, although it chiefly assailed the heathen.” To this he afterwards adds: “Many of our brethren, through their exceeding great love and brotherly affection, neglecting themselves, and befriending one another, constantly superintending the sick, ministering to their wants without fear and without cessation, and healing them in Christ, have died most willingly with them. Filled with disease from others, catching disorders from their neighbours, they expressed the pain from them and infused it into themselves. Many also, who had healed and strengthened others, themselves died, thus transferring death, and so exemplifying in the fact, that common phrase, which seemed before an idle one, ‘the offscouring of all’ (περιψημα παντων). The best of our brethen, indeed, have departed life in this way, some presbyters, some deacons, and of the people those that were exceedingly commended. So that this very form of death, with the piety and ardent faith which attended it, appeared to be but little inferior to martyrdom itself. They took up the bodies of the saints with their open hands and on their bosoms, cleaned their eyes and closed their mouths, carried them on their shoulders, and composed their limbs, embraced, clung to them, and prepared them decently, washing and wrapping them up, and ere long they themselves shared in receiving the same offices; those that survived always following those before them. Among the heathen it was the direct reverse. They repelled those who began to be sick, and avoided their dearest friends. They would cast them out into the roads half dead, or throw them when dead without burial, striving to shun any communication and participation in death, which it was impossible to avoid by every precaution and care.” After this epistle, when the city was at peace, he addressed another paschal epistle to the brethren in Egypt, and wrote many others besides. There is one of his extant, On the Sabbath, another On Exercise. He also addressed one to Hermammon, and to the brethren in Egypt. Many other facts, after describing the wickedness of Decius and his successors, he states, and also mentions the peace of Gallienus.








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