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A History Of The Church In Seven Books by Socrates

ABOUT this time Christianity was disseminated in Persia, by means of the frequent embassies between the sovereigns of that country and the Roman empire, for which there were continual causes. It happened that the Roman emperor thought proper to send Maruthas bishop of Mesopotamia, who has been before mentioned, on a mission to the king of the Persians: who perceiving this prelate to be eminently pious, treated him with great honour, and revered him as one who was indeed beloved of God. This excited the jealousy of the magi, whose influence is considerable in that country, lest he should prevail on the Persian monarch to embrace Christianity. For Maruthas had by his prayers cured the king of a violent head-ache to which he had been long subject, and which the magi were unable to relieve. They therefore had recourse to this expedient in order to get rid of him. As the Persians worship fire, and the king was accustomed to pay his adorations in a certain edifice where a fire was kept perpetually burning; they concealed a man underneath the sacred hearth, ordering him to make this exclamation as soon as the king began his devotions: “Let the king be thrust out who is guilty of impiety, in imagining a Christian priest to be loved by the Deity.” When Isdigerdes, for that was the king’s name, heard these words, he determined to dismiss Maruthas, notwithstanding the reverence with which he regarded him. But this holy man, by the earnestness of his prayers, detected the imposition of the magi. Going to the king therefore, he addressed him thus: “Be not deluded, O king; but when you again enter that edifice and hear the same voice, explore the ground below, and you will discover the fraud. For the fire does not speak, but this pretended oracle proceeds from human contrivance.” In accordance with this suggestion, the king went as usual to the place where the ever-burning fire was; and when he again heard the same voice, he ordered the earth to be dug up, where the impostor was found, who uttered the supposed words of the Deity. Indignant at the cheat which was thus attempted to be practised upon him, the king commanded that the tribe of the magi should be decimated. After which he permitted Maruthas to erect churches wherever he wished; and from that time the Christian religion was diffused among the Persians. Maruthas being recalled for a while to Constantinople, was afterwards again sent as ambassador to the Persian court, when the magi sought by every possible means to prevent his having access to the king. One of their devices was to cause a most disgusting smell where the king was accustomed to go, and then accuse the Christians of being the authors of it. The king however having already had occasion to suspect the magi, closely scrutinized the matter; and again detecting their deceptive tricks, he punished several of them, and held Maruthas in still higher honour. For the Romans as a nation he had much regard, and entered into an alliance with them. Nay, he was on the point of embracing the Christian faith himself, after witnessing another miracle which was wrought by Maruthas in conjunction with Abdas bishop of Persia: for these two by giving themselves to much fasting and prayer, had cast out a demon with which the king’s son was possessed. But the death of Isdigerdes prevented his making an open profession of Christianity. The kingdom then devolved on Vararanes his son, in whose time the treaty between the Romans and Persians was violated, as the sequel of this history will show.








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