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A History Of The Church In Five Books by Theodoret

ALTHOUGH the audacious actions committed by the idolaters, at this period, were so numerous that it seems requisite that a whole book should be devoted to the narration of them, I shall select a few from the number to relate here. At Askelon and at Gaza, which are both cities of Palestine, they seized men truly worthy of the priesthood, and women who had vowed perpetual virginity, and after having torn open their stomachs, they filled them with barley, and threw them to the pigs to be devoured. In Sebaste, a city of the same province, they opened the coffin of John the Baptist, burnt his bones, and flung away the ashes. Who can relate without tears the detestable action which they perpetrated in Phœnicia? In Heliopolis, a city near Libanus, dwelt Cyril a deacon. Acting under the impulse of ardent zeal, he had here, during the reign of Constantius, destroyed many of the idols. These impious men not only killed him in remembrance of this act, but after having ripped up his stomach they ate his liver. This atrocious deed did not elude the observation and the punishment of Divine Justice. All those who took part in it lost their teeth, which fell out one after the other. Then they lost their tongues, which decayed in their mouths: at length they also lost their eyes, and thus perceived the power of religion by their sufferings. At Emessa, a city of the same region, the idolaters desecrated a church which had been recently erected, and dedicated it to Bacchus Androgynes, and placed within it the ridiculous hermaphrodite statue of that idol. At Dorostolis, a celebrated city of Thrace, Emilius, an undaunted champion of the faith, was thrown into the flames by Capitolinus governor of the province. It would require the descriptive powers of Æschylus and of Sophocles to relate the tragical sufferings endured by Marcus, bishop of Arethusa. He had during the reign of Constantius destroyed an idolatrous temple and erected a Christian church in its stead: the inhabitants of the city, therefore, on learning the bent of Julian’s mind, openly avowed their hostility against their bishop. He at first, according to the precept of the gospel, attempted to save himself by flight; but hearing that some individuals had been arrested instead of him, he returned, and delivered himself up to his executioners. These men showed no pity for his age, nor respect for his virtues. Notwithstanding his holy course of life and his admirable mode of teaching, they seized him, stripped him naked, and lacerated him with scourgings. They then threw him into the fœtid sewers, and, after drawing him out, they delivered him to the youths of the city, commanding them to pierce him with the points of their writing implements. After these cruel inflictions they thrust him into a basket, anointed him with a kind of pickle, and with honey, and, suspending him where the heat was most excessive, left him to attacks of wasps and bees. These sufferings were inflicted by his torturers in order to compel him either to rebuild the temple which he had demolished, or else to furnish money for its re-erection. But all the torments which he underwent did not induce him to promise what was demanded. It then occurred to the citizens that poverty might probably be the cause of his refusing the money, and they offered to reduce the sum specified to one half the amount. But although he was suspended in the air, his flesh punctured with the points of writing implements, and stung by wasps and bees, he did not manifest the slightest sense of pain; and he even ridiculed the evil men around him, and told them that they were crawling on the earth while he was elevated towards heaven. At length they moderated their demands to a very inconsiderable sum of money. He replied that it would be as impious to give an obolus as to give the whole sum. Being thus defeated in their attempts, they released him, but not without the highest admiration of his fortitude. They were converted, and learnt from his lips the doctrines of religion.








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