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A History Of The Church In Seven Books by Socrates

BUT although I neither seek the notice of my sovereign, nor wish to make an exhibition of my oratorical powers, yet have I felt it my duty to record without exaggeration, the singular virtues with which the emperor Theodosius is endowed: for I am persuaded that should I pass them over in silence, posterity would be defrauded of the knowledge of that which is calculated, as an illustrious example, to be eminently useful. In the first place then, this prince though born and bred to empire, was neither stultified nor effeminated by the circumstances of his birth and education. He early evinced so much prudence, that he appeared to those who conversed with him to have acquired the wisdom and experience of advanced age. Such was his fortitude in undergoing hardships, that he would courageously endure both heat and cold; fasting very frequently, especially on Wednesdays and Fridays, from an earnest endeavour to observe with accuracy all the prescribed forms of the Christian religion. His palace was so regulated, that it differed little from a monastery: for he, together with his sisters, rose early in the morning, and recited responsive hymns in praise of the Deity. By this training he learnt the holy Scriptures by heart; and he would often discourse with the bishops on scriptural subjects, as if he had been an ecclesiastic of long standing. He was a more indefatigable collector of the sacred books and of the expositions which had been written on them, than even Ptolemy Philadelphus had formerly been: while in clemency and humanity he far surpassed all others. The emperor Julian although he professed to be a philosopher, could not moderate his rage against the Antiochians who derided him, but inflicted upon Theodore the most agonizing tortures. Theodosius on the contrary, bidding farewell to Aristotle’s Syllogisms, exercised philosophy in deeds, by getting the mastery over anger, grief, and pleasure. Never has he revenged himself on any one by whom he has been injured; nor has he ever even appeared irritated. And when some of his most intimate friends once asked him, why he never inflicted capital punishment upon offenders? his answer was, “Would that it were even possible to restore to life those that have died.” To another making a similar enquiry he replied, “It is neither a great nor a difficult thing to put a mortal to death: but it is God only that can resuscitate by repentance a person that has once died.” So habitually indeed did he practise mercy, that if sentence of death was passed upon a criminal, and he was conducted toward the place of execution, he was never suffered to reach the gates of the city before a pardon was issued, commanding his immediate return. Having once exhibited a show of hunting wild beasts in the Amphitheatre at Constantinople, the people cried out, “Let one of the boldest Bestiarii encounter the enraged animal.” But he said to them, “Do ye not know that we are wont to view these spectacles with feelings of humanity?” By this expression he instructed the people to be satisfied in future with shows of a less cruel description. His piety was such that he had a reverential regard for all who were consecrated to the service of God; and honoured in an especial manner those whom he knew to be eminent for their sanctity of life. The bishop of Chebron having died at Constantinople, the emperor is reported to have expressed a wish to have his cassock of sackcloth of hair; which, although it was excessively filthy, he wore as a cloak, hoping that thus he should become a partaker in some degree of the sanctity of the deceased. In a certain year during which the weather had been very tempestuous, he was obliged by the eagerness of the people to exhibit the usual sports in the Hippodrome; and when the circus was filled with spectators, the violence of the storm increased, and there was a heavy fall of snow. Then the emperor made it very evident how his mind was affected towards God; for he caused the herald to make a proclamation to the people to this effect: “It is better to desist from the show, and that all should unite in prayer to God, that we may be preserved unhurt from the impending storm.” Scarcely had the herald executed his commission, than all the people with the greatest joy began with one accord to offer supplication and sing praises to God, so that the whole city became one vast congregation; and the emperor himself laying aside his imperial robes, went into the midst of the multitude and commenced the hymns. Nor was he disappointed in his expectation, for the atmosphere suddenly resumed its wonted serenity: and Divine benevolence bestowed on all an abundant harvest, instead of an expected deficiency of corn. If at any time war was raised, like David he had recourse to God, knowing that He is the disposer of battles, and by prayer brought them to a prosperous issue. I shall here therefore relate, how by placing his confidence in God he vanquished the tyrant John, after Honorius had died on the 15th of August, in the consulate of Asclepiodotus and Marian. For I judge what then occurred worthy of mention, inasmuch as there happened to the emperor’s generals who were despatched against the tyrant, something analogous to what took place when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea under the guidance of Moses. My narrative must however be brief, for the details, which I leave to others, would require a special treatise.








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