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A History Of The Church In Five Books by Theodoret

THE palace of the city of Antioch is washed on the north by the river Orontes: on the south there is a large portico with two stories which touch the walls of the city, and which have two high towers. Between the palace and the river is a public road leading from the city to the suburbs. One day as Aphraates was passing along this road on his way to the military gymnasium, where he then tended his flock, he attracted the notice of the emperor, who was then on the top of the portico, and who, remarking an old man clad in a rough goat-skin garment, was told, upon enquiry, that that was Aphraates, and that he possessed great authority over all the inhabitants of the city. The emperor then said to him, “Where are you going?” Aphraates with great wisdom replied, “I am going to pray for the preservation of your empire.” “But you ought,” said the emperor, “to remain at home, and to pray according to the monastical rules.” To this the holy man replied, “Your observation, O emperor, is just; and, indeed, while the flock of Christ remained at peace, I pursued the line of conduct which you recommend. But now that the flock is involved in so many afflictions, and is exposed to so many perils from the attacks of wild beasts, I am compelled to use every effort for the rescue of the sheep. Tell me, O emperor,” he continued, “how a damsel ought to act under the following circumstances:—We will suppose that while she is sitting in her chamber, her father’s house, of which she is left in charge, is set on fire: what ought she to do? Ought she to remain within her apartment, allowing the flames to spread until they reach and consume her? Or ought she not rather to run hither and thither to fetch water and to extinguish the flames? You will surely admit that she ought to adopt the latter course; for she would thus be acting according to the suggestions of prudence. I am now, O emperor, doing the same thing. I am running to extinguish the flames which you have kindled in my Father’s house.” While he made these statements, the emperor remained silent. But one of the members of the imperial household had the insolence to threaten the holy man; and vengeance in consequence speedily overtook him. It was his office to prepare the baths; and directly after he had addressed these menaces to Aphraates, he went to get one ready for the emperor. As soon as he reached the spot, he lost his senses, threw himself into the hot water, and almost immediately expired. After some time had elapsed, the emperor, who was sitting waiting for him to announce that the bath was ready, sent to ascertain the cause of the delay. Those who were sent on this message found him dead in the hot bath. When this was announced to the emperor, they all recognised the power of the prayers of Aphraates, yet did not renounce their impious sentiments. The emperor hardened his heart like Pharaoh, and became yet more prejudiced against piety.








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