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A History Of The Church In Five Books by Theodoret

THUS did this most pious emperor restore peace among the churches. But before he had fully accomplished this great work, he was informed of the death of Valentinian, and of the usurpation of Eugenius, and he therefore led his army into Europe. About this time there dwelt in Egypt a certain hermit named John, who had devoted himself to a life of austerity. He possessed many spiritual gifts, and among others, that of predicting the future. The pious emperor sent to him, to inquire whether he ought to take up arms against the usurper. He had at a former period predicted the bloodless and triumphant issue of another war; but upon this occasion he told the emperor, that, in this second war, the victory would not be obtained without much effusion of blood. In this hope the emperor marched forward to battle. Great losses were sustained by the enemy in the engagement; but many of the barbarians who formed the emperor’s auxiliary forces were slain. The generals represented to him that his army was greatly reduced in numbers, and advised him to defer the war until the spring, when fresh reinforcements might be procured; but the faithful emperor refused to listen to this counsel. “It would not be right,” said he, “to attribute weakness to the cross of Christ, which is borne as the standard of our Army, and to testify our assent to the power of the image of Hercules, which the enemy adopts as their standard.” He made this declaration in the spirit of faith, although his troops were weakened and were few in number: finding a small house towards the summit of a mountain, near which was a place for his army to encamp, he passed the whole night in praying to the Lord of the Universe. Towards the hour of cock-crowing, sleep stole upon him. As he was lying on the ground he thought he saw two men clothed in white, and mounted on white horses, who exhorted him to be of good courage, to renounce all fear, and, at the dawn of day, to draw out his troops, and lead them on to battle. They said they had been sent to aid him, and to fight for him, and told him that one of them was John the Evangelist, and the other the Apostle Philip. The emperor, after seeing this vision, prayed with still greater fervour. One of the soldiers saw the same vision, and related it to the centurion. The centurion took the soldier to the tribune; the tribune took him to the general. The general went and told the emperor, thinking that it was something new that he had to communicate. “It is not for my sake,” said the emperor, “that these things were shown to him, for I fully believed those who promised me the victory. But that no one might suspect that from the desire of engaging in battle I feigned to have seen such things, the Protector of my empire revealed the same to him also, that he might bear witness to the truth of my assertion; for it was to me that the Lord of all first gave the vision. Let us then throw off all fear, and follow our military leaders, and let us not estimate the chances of victory by the number of combatants, but let us take into account the power of our leaders.”

After he had said these things to the soldiers, and had by his words filled them with alacrity, he led them down from the top of the mountain. The usurper seeing from afar the hostile army ranged in order of battle, armed his troops also, and prepared for combat. He addressed them from a rising ground, and stated that the emperor was only preparing for battle from despair and the desire of death, and he commanded his generals to capture him alive, to bind him, and to bring him before him. When the two armies approached each other, the hostile troops appeared extremely numerous, while those commanded by the emperor seemed very few in number. But when the combat commenced, the truth of the promises of the protectors of the emperor was soon manifested. A violent wind prevented the action of the enemy’s shafts, and blew back their arrows upon themselves. Neither the heavy armed men nor the archers could wound one of the emperor’s army. The wind blew such a quantity of dust into their faces, that they were compelled to close their eyes. In the meantime the emperor’s troops, who did not receive the least injury from the hurricane, boldly cut the enemy to pieces. The latter, perceiving that God was against them, laid down their arms, and entreated the emperor to give them quarter. He granted their petition, and desired that the usurper should be immediately brought before him. They ran to the place where the usurper, ignorant of what had occurred, was waiting to hear the issue of the battle. When he saw them running swiftly, and perceived that they were out of breath, he thought that they came to announce that victory had been gained, and asked them whether they had brought Theodosius bound, according to his commands. “We do not bring him to you,” said they, “but we have to take you to him!” When they had said this, they loaded him with chains, and dragged him as a captive before him against whom he had, but a short time previously, so proudly boasted. The emperor reminded him of the guilt of his conduct against Valentinian, of the illegality of his usurpation, and of his revolt against the lawful emperor. He also ridiculed the image of Hercules, and the folly of those who trusted in it. He then justly pronounced the sentence of death against him. Such was the conduct of Theodosius in peace and in war: he always implored the assistance of God, and invariably received it.








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