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A History Of The Church In Five Books by Theodoret

“PALLADIUS, governor of the province, who was a heathen and an idolater, and who had frequently taken up arms against the cause of Christ, having assembled the multitude, as already mentioned, marched against the church with the same impetuosity as if he were attempting the subjugation of hordes of barbarians. The most atrocious crimes were then perpetrated; but when I try to allude to them, the very remembrance overcomes me, and draws tears from my eyes. These feelings of despondency would have become permanent, had not my grief been assuaged by the words of God. The people entered the church of Theonas, singing the praises of the idols, instead of reciting words suitable to the place. Instead of reading the holy Scriptures, they clapped their hands, shouting obscene words, and uttering insults against the Christian virgins which my tongue refuses to repeat. Every man of correct feeling, on hearing these expressions, endeavoured to shut his ears, and wished to have been deaf rather than to have heard such obscenity. Would that they had confined themselves to words without carrying out into action the lewdness of their expressions. But the most insulting taunts are easily borne by those who have received the wisdom and doctrines of Christ. These people, who were vessels of wrath reserved for perdition, made loud and impudent noises through the nose which might be compared to the gushing forth of a torrent; and, at the same time, tore the garments of the virgins of Christ, whose purity rendered them like the angels. They dragged them in a complete state of nudity about the city, and treated them in the most wanton and insulting manner, and with unheard-of cruelty. When any one, touched with compassion, addressed a few words of remonstrance to them, they immediately attacked and wounded him. But what is still more painful to relate, many virgins were ravished, others were struck on the head with clubs, and expired beneath the blows; and their bodies were not permitted to be interred. Many of the corpses even to this day cannot, to the grief of the parents, be found. But why should comparatively small incidents be placed by the side of far greater atrocities? Why should I dwell upon such facts, and not proceed to the relation of what is still more important, and which will strike you with astonishment and amazement at the clemency of God that he did not destroy the whole universe. The impious people did that upon the altar which, as the Scripture says, was not done nor heard of in the days of our fathers. A young man who had abjured his own sex, and had assumed the dress of a female, danced upon the holy altar where we invoke the Holy Ghost, as though it had been a public theatre, making various gestures and grimaces to the diversion of the others, who laughed immoderately, and uttered many impious exclamations. In addition to disorders which they had already committed, as if they thought that what they had done was rather commendable than the contrary, one of their number, noted for his wickedness, stripped himself at once of his clothes, and of every remnant of modesty, and seated himself, as naked as when he was born, in the episcopal chair belonging to the church. All the others saluted him as an orator about to commence a discourse against Christ. He represented iniquity as superior to scriptural doctrines, placed licentiousness above decorum, impiety above piety; and, instead of inculcating temperance, taught that fornication, adultery, sodomitism, theft, gluttony, and drunkenness, are the most profitable pursuits in life. When these acts of impiety had been perpetrated, I left the church; for how could I have remained there while the soldiery were attacking it, while the people who had been bribed for the purpose were committing disorders, and while the idolaters had, by means of great promises, been assembled together in crowds? Our successor, who had purchased the episcopal office with gold, as though it had been a secular dignity, was a wolf in disposition, and acted accordingly. He had not been elected by a synod of bishops, by the votes of the clergy, or by the request of the people, according to the regulations of the church. He did not go into the city alone; but he was not accompanied by bishops, presbyters, or deacons, nor yet by the people. Neither did monks walk before him singing hymns selected from the Scriptures; but he was attended by Euzoius, who was once a deacon of the city of Alexandria, who was deposed with Arius at the holy and general council of Nice, and who is now reducing the city of Antioch to ruin. He was also accompanied by Magnus, the royal treasurer, who headed an immense body of soldiery. This Magnus was noted for his readiness in every work of impiety; he had, during the reign of Julian, burnt a church in Berytus, a celebrated city of Phœnicia, and was, in the reign of Jovian, of blessed memory, sentenced to re-erect it at his own expence; and would even have been put to death had not great exertions been made to incline the emperor to clemency.

“Having now been made acquainted with the tyranny and cruelty exercised by the enemy against us, you can judge of the magnitude of the transgressions committed against the church of God; and you ought not to rest till such iniquities have received the award of justice. The same Lucius, who had been so often condemned by you and by all the orthodox bishops, came to this city, where he was, and with good reason, regarded with great aversion. He not only said, with the blasphemer in the Psalms, ‘Christ is not truly God,’ he also delighted in all the blasphemies devised against Christ by those who served the creature rather than the Creator; and, being utterly depraved himself, he endeavoured to corrupt others. I say nothing that is not strictly correct; for this evil man held sentiments nearly allied to those of the heathens. On seeing him, all the people burst out into loud acclamations, saying, ‘Welcome, O bishop, welcome to you, who deny the Son! Serapis, who loves you, has brought you here!’ Serapis was the name which they had given to their idol. At the same moment, Magnus, the accomplice in his impious deeds, and the minister of his cruelty, having called together the troops which he commanded, seized nineteen presbyters and deacons, some of whom were more than eighty years of age; and, as if they had been detected in the commission of some hateful and unlawful action, he ordered them to be brought before him. He urged them to renounce the faith which our fathers had received from the apostles, and which they have handed down to us; assuring them that such an act would be regarded with approbation by Valens, the most clement of emperors. ‘Assent, O wretched men,’ exclaimed he, in a loud tone of voice, ‘assent to the Arian doctrines. Even if your religion be true, God will forgive you for having renounced it, for you are not now acting voluntarily, but by compulsion. What is done from constraint is excusable; voluntary actions alone carry with them their own condemnation. Therefore, reflect upon the reasons which I have brought before you, and sign, without delay, the doctrine of Arius, which is now preached by Lucius. You may be certain that, if you accede to this injunction, you will receive riches, gifts, and honours, from the emperors. But if you refuse obedience, you will be imprisoned, tortured, and scourged; you will be deprived of all your wealth and possessions, driven from your country, and banished to a sterile and inhospitable region.’ In this manner, coupling threats with promises, did he endeavour to induce them to renounce their principles. But these pious men, dreading the loss of faith for more than exposure to the greatest tortures, made the following reply: ‘Cease, cease! do not think to terrify us by words. Your threats are vain; it is not a new thing to us to serve God. It is in vain that you roar like the billows of the sea, and that you rage like a furious wind. We will adhere to the doctrines of religion, even unto death. We will not believe that God was ever without power, without wisdom, or without truth. We will never believe that he was a Father at one period, and not at another, as does that impious Arian, who declares that God has a finite Son. If the Son were, as the Arians say, a creature, and if he were not of the same substance as the Father, the Father would be reduced to nothing; since, according to them, if the Son existed not, the Father could not either have existed. If the Father is from all eternity, and if the Son was begotten of him, though not by effluxion, God not being susceptible of change, is it not foolish and extravagant to believe that there was a time in which the Son existed not, although by Him all things exist? It was for this reason that our fathers, who were assembled at Nice from all parts of the globe, condemned the evil opinions of the Arians, which the young man now maintains: they declared that the Son is not of a substance diverse from that of the Father, as you would constrain us to believe, but they confessed his consubstantiality. They derived, from many words of Scripture, the term consubstantial, which they rightly understood in accordance with religion.’ After they had spoken for some time in this strain, Magnus ordered them to be cast into prison for many days, in the expectation that a change would be thus induced in their opinions. But they, like brave combatants of the stadium, threw aside all fear, and, encouraged by the achievements of their fathers, they, through divine grace, looked with contempt upon the menaces of the tyrant, and welcomed tortures as being the trial of their virtue. All the inhabitants of the city ran out to see these soldiers of Christ, who were made, as the blessed Paul wrote, a spectacle for angels and for men; and who triumphed over tortures and scourging by their fortitude, erected trophies of victory over impiety by their patience, and obtained a complete triumph over the Arians. Their evil and bitter enemy strove, both by threats and by deceitful promises, to force them to range themselves under the banners of the impious faction opposed to Christ. After inflicting, to the grief and horror of the people, all the tortures that his resentment could devise, this cruel man, who was destitute of every feeling of humanity, became at length wearied of cruelty. He then called together the most disorderly persons of the city, and summoned the accused to judgment, or rather to condemnation. The banks of the river resounded with the shouts of the idolaters and of the Jews, who had been bribed to cry out against the holy men. When it became evident that they could not be made to embrace the Arian heresy, sentence was passed upon them, and all the people who were in the court of justice burst out into lamentations. They were banished from Alexandria to Heliopolis, a city of Phœnicia, where all the inhabitants were idolaters, and where no one could endure to hear the name of Christ. After having sent for a vessel, Magnus stood upon the shore, with a naked sword in his hand, near the public bath in which he had pronounced sentence against them. He foolishly imagined that the naked sword would terrify those who had so often, with a two-edged sword, wounded the hostile demons. He then ordered them to embark on board the vessel; but did not give them any necessaries for the voyage, nor any thing to solace them in their exile; and, what is still more extraordinary, and indeed almost incredible, he ordered them to sail immediately, although a storm was then raging, and the sea was violently agitated, as though it were indignant at his injustice, and unwilling to contribute to the execution of his sentence; thus exhibiting, to those who had not previously reflected on the subject, the barbarity of the judge. It may be said with truth, that heaven was amazed at this deed. The whole city wept over this sad occurrence, which is deplored even to this day. Some of the citizens struck their breasts with violence, others raised their hands and their eyes towards heaven, as if to implore assistance, and as if to say, ‘Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, to the deeds of injustice that have been perpetrated!’ Groans were heard in every place, and the whole city was full of the sounds of woe. The tears which were shed might have formed a stream almost large enough to have caused an inundation of the sea. When the tyrant, as before related, stood upon the shore and gave orders for sailing, a universal cry was raised by young maidens and by women, by old men and by youths; tears were mixed with the lamentations, and their simultaneous screams drowned the noise of the tempest and of the raging billows. But while the holy men were sailing towards Heliopolis,—the city where all the demons are worshipped, and where voluptuous principles are predominant—the city which is a fit home for wild beasts, being surrounded by mountains whose summits reach to heaven,—Palladium, prefect of Alexandria, who was extremely addicted to the worship of idols, prohibited the citizens from expressing their regret, either publicly in the city or privately in their own homes. Many of those who transgressed this order, were scourged, lacerated, and tortured, and were then sent to labour in the mines of Phenœum and of Proconnessus; yet these were inspired men, who zealously defended the church. Amongst them were twenty-three monks who had led a life of great austerity in the wilderness. A deacon, who had conveyed some consolatory letters to our beloved brother, Damasus, bishop of Rome, was arrested as a criminal, and had his hands fastened behind his back. He was tortured with equal if not with greater severity than he would have been had he committed a murder. His head was beaten with stones and with masses of lead, and he was then put into the ship and sent out to sea with the others. On entering the vessel, he made the sign of the cross: he was sent to the mines of Phenœum, without any supplies of provisions, or of the necessaries of life. Young children were, by order of the judge, put to the torture; while the bodies of those who had been killed were closely guarded, to prevent their parents, brothers, relations, and, so to speak, the whole city, from rendering them the rite of sepulture; for permission had been requested to perform this office. But O how great was the inhumanity of the judgment, or rather of the condemnation! Those who had so nobly struggled for the cause of religion received a severer sentence than murderers; for their bodies were deprived of burial, and were thrown to the beasts and birds of prey. Those who were led from pity or from conscientious feelings to sympathise with the parents, were immediately condemned, as if they had committed some flagrant misdemeanour, to have their heads broken. What law of the Romans, what decree of the barbarians, prohibits sympathy with afflicted parents? What tyrant of antiquity ever pronounced so unjust a sentence? Pharaoh commanded that all the male children of the Hebrews should be put to death; but he was excited to this deed by envy and by fear. How far more inhuman are the crimes now perpetrated than the cruel command of Pharaoh! If it were possible to choose between two evils, the acts of barbarity of former times would be chosen as preferable to those which we now suffer. Although the facts which I have related are incredible, inhuman, cruel, and barbarous, yet they gave pleasure to the followers of the Arian infatuation. At the very time that the whole city was tilled with mourning, and when there was not, to use an expression found in the book of Exodus, a house in which there was not one dead, the cruelty of those who had accustomed themselves to iniquity was still unsatiated. They proceeded to lay their hands on the bishops of the province, whom they arrested, through the instrumentality of Magnus, the public treasurer, above-mentioned. Some of the bishops were dragged before the tribunals; and they harassed the others in various ways, omitting nothing that they could devise to seduce every one into irreligion. Like the devil, who is the father of their heresy, they go about seeking whom they can devour. They exiled eleven bishops from Egypt, because they constantly opposed them. These bishops had in early youth entered upon a life of austerity, and had dwelt in the desert to an advanced age, having overcome voluptuousness by reason. They had imbibed religious doctrines with the milk with which they had been nourished in infancy; and they preached the faith with boldness. They had gained many victories over the demons: by the power of virtue they had covered their adversaries with confusion; and by the force of their reasonings they had refuted heresy. These bishops were banished, through the intervention of Magnus (that minister of cruelty already mentioned), to a place named Diocæsarea, inhabited by the Jews, who had slain the Lord. But, like hell, the persecutors were not satisfied, although they had slain so many of our brethren; and in their folly and infatuation they determined to leave throughout the earth monuments of their cruelty. They banished to Neocæsarea, a town of Pontus, some clergy of the catholic church of Antioch, who had, with some pious monks, resolved to protest against the artifices which they resorted to in the propagation of their evil heresy. These holy men died soon after their banishment; perhaps the ungenial climate of their place of exile occasioned their death.”

Such were the tragical incidents of this period. Although they deserve to be buried in oblivion, yet they have been handed down to posterity in various written documents, to the condemnation of those who used their tongues against the only Begotten One, and who not only blasphemously opposed the Ruler of the universe, but who also waged implacable war against his faithful servants.

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