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

ABOUT this time flourished Polycarp in Asia, an intimate disciple of the apostles, who received the episcopate of the church at Smyrna, at the hands of the eye-witnesses and servants of the Lord. At this time, also, Papias was well known as bishop of the church at Hierapolis, a man well skilled in all manner of learning, and well acquainted with the Scriptures. Ignatius, also, who is celebrated by many even to this day, as the successor of Peter at Antioch, was the second that obtained the episcopal office there. Tradition says that he was sent away from Syria to Rome, and was cast as food to wild beasts, on account of his testimony to Christ; and that being carried through Asia under a most rigid custody, he fortified the different churches in the cities where he tarried, by his discourses and exhortations, particularly cautioning them against the heresies which even then were springing up and prevailing. He exhorted them to adhere firmly to the tradition of the apostles; which, for the sake of greater security, he deemed it necessary to attest by committing it to writing. When, therefore, he came to Smyrna, where Polycarp was, lie wrote one epistle, viz. that to the church of Ephesus, in which he mentions its pastor Onesimus; another, also, to the church in Magnesia, which is situated on the Meander, in which again he makes mention of Damas the bishop; another, also, to the church of the Trallians, of which he states that Polybius was then bishop. To these must be added, the epistle to the church at Rome, which also contains an exhortation, not to disappoint him in his ardent hope, by refusing to endure martyrdom. Of these, it is worth while also to subjoin very short extracts, by way of specimen. He writes, therefore, in the following manner: “From Syria, to Rome, I am contending with wild beasts by land and sea, by night and day, being tied to ten leopards, the number of the military band, who, even when treated with kindness, only behave with greater ferocity. But in the midst of these iniquities, I am learning. Yet I am not justified on this account. May I be benefited by those beasts that are in readiness for me, which I also pray may be quickly found for me, which also I shall entice and flatter to devour me quickly, and not to be afraid of me, as of some whom they did not touch. But should they perchance be unwilling, I will force them. Pardon me; I know what advantage it will confer. Now I begin to be a disciple. Nothing, whether of things visible or invisible, excites my ambition, as long as I can gain Christ. Whether fire, or the cross, the assault of wild beasts, the tearing asunder of my bones, the breaking of my limbs, the bruising of my whole body, let the tortures of the devil all assail me, if I do but gain Christ Jesus.” This he wrote from the above-mentioned city to the aforesaid churches. But after he had left Smyrna, he wrote an exhortation from Troas to those in Philadelphia, and particularly to Polycarp, who was bishop there; he designates him an apostolical man, and a good and faithful shepherd, and commends the flock of Antioch to him, requesting him to exercise a diligent oversight of the church. Writing to the Smyrnians, he has also employed words respecting Jesus (I know not whence they are taken), to the following effect. “But I know and believe that he was seen after the resurrection, and that he said to those that came to Peter, ‘take, handle me, and see that I am not an incorporeal spirit;’ and they immediately touched him and believed.” lrenæus, also, knew his martyrdom, and makes mention of his epistles, as follows: “As some one of our faith has said, who was condemned to the wild beasts, ‘I am the food of God, and am ground by the teeth of wild beasts, that I may be found pure bread.’ ” Polycarp also makes mention of these same epistles, in the Epistle to the Philippians that bears his name, in the following words: “I exhort you, therefore, all to yield obedience, and to exercise all the patience which you see with your own eyes, not only in the blessed martyrs Ignatius and Rufus, and Zosimus, but likewise in others of your fellow-citizens, as also in Paul and the other apostles, being persuaded that all these did not run in vain, but in faith and righteousness, and that they are gone to the place destined fur them by the Lord, for whom also they suffered. For they did not love the world that now is, but him that died for us, and that was raised again by God.” And afterwards he writes: “You have also written to me, both you and Ignatius, that if any one is going to Syria, he should carry your letters thither, which shall be clone if I find a suitable opportunity, either by me or the one that I send on this errand to you. The epistles of Ignatius that were sent to us by him, I have sent you at your request, and they are appended to this epistle, from which you will be able to derive great benefit: for they contain faith, and patience, and all edification pertaining to our Lord.” Thus much respecting Ignatius. But he was succeeded in the episcopal office at Antioch by Heros.








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