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A History Of The Church In Seven Books by Socrates

IT is now proper to relate how the Iberians about the same time became proselytes to the faith. A certain woman distinguished by her devout and chaste life, was, in the providential ordering of God, taken captive by the Iberians, who dwell near the Euxine sea, and are a colony of the Iberians of Spain. She accordingly in her captivity exercised herself among the barbarians in the practice of virtue: for she not only maintained the most rigid continence, but spent much time in fastings and prayers; which extraordinary conduct the barbarians observing, were very greatly astonished at. The king’s son then a mere babe, happening to be attacked with disease, the queen, according to the custom of the country, sent the child to other women to be cured, in the hope that their experience would supply a remedy. After the infant had been carried around by its nurse without obtaining relief from any of the women, he was at length brought to this captive. She having no knowledge of the medical art, applied no material remedy; but taking the child and laying it on her bed which was made of horse-cloth, in the presence of other females, she simply said, “Christ who healed many, will heal this child also:” then having prayed in addition to this expression of faith, and called upon God, the boy was immediately restored, and continued well from that period. The report of this miracle spread itself far and wide among the barbarian women, and soon reached the queen, so that the captive became very celebrated. Not long afterwards the queen herself having fallen sick, sent for this woman, who being a person of modest and retiring manners excused herself from going; on which the queen was conveyed to her, and received relief in like manner as her son had, for the disease was at once removed. But when the queen thanked the stranger, she replied, “this work is not mine, but Christ’s, who is the Son of God that made the world:” she therefore exhorted her to call upon him, and acknowledge the true God. Amazed at his wife’s sudden restoration to health, the king of the Iberians wished to requite her with gifts whom he had understood to be the means of effecting these cures: she however declined their acceptance, telling him that she needed not riches, inasmuch as she possessed abundance in the consolations of religion; but that she would regard as the greatest present he could offer her, his recognition of the God whom she worshipped and declared. This answer the king treasured up in his mind, and going forth to the chase the next day, the following circumstance occurred: a mist and thick darkness covered the mountain tops and forests where he was hunting, so that their sport was embarrassed, and their path became inextricable. In this perplexity the prince earnestly invoked the gods whom he worshipped, but finding that it profited him nothing, he at last determined to implore the assistance of the captive’s God; when scarcely had he begun to pray, ere the darkness arising from the mist was completely dissipated. Wondering at that which was done, he returned to his palace rejoicing; and relating to his wife what had happened, he immediately sent for the captive stranger, and begged her to inform him who that God was whom she adored. The woman on her arrival caused the king of the Iberians to become a preacher of the Gospel: for having believed in Christ through the faithfulness of this devoted woman, he convened all the Iberians who were under his authority; and when he had declared to them what had taken place in reference to the cure of his wife and child, as well as the circumstances connected with the chase, he exhorted them to worship the God of the captive. Thus therefore both the king and queen were made preachers of Christ, the one addressing their male, and the other their female subjects. Moreover the king having ascertained from his prisoner the plan on which churches were constructed among the Romans, ordered an Oratory to be built, providing all things necessary for its immediate erection; and the edifice was accordingly commenced. But when they came to set up the pillars, Divine Providence interposed for the confirmation of the inhabitants in the faith, for one of the columns remained immoveable; and the workmen disheartened by the fracture of their ropes and machinery, at length gave up all further effort. Then was proved the reality of the captive’s faith in the following manner: going to the place at night without the knowledge of any one, she spent the whole time in prayer; and the power of God was manifested by the pillar’s being raised, and caused to stand erect in the air above its base, yet so as not to touch it. At day-break the king, who was an intelligent person, came himself to inspect the work, and seeing the pillar suspended in this position without support, both he and his attendants were amazed; but shortly after, while they stood gazing on this wonder, the pillar descended on its own pedestal, and there remained fixed. Upon this the people shouted, attesting the truth of the king’s faith, and hymning the praise of the God of the captive. Their belief being thus established, the rest of the columns were easily reared, and the whole building was soon completed. An embassy was afterwards sent to the emperor Constantine, requesting that henceforth they might be in alliance with the Romans, and receive from them a bishop and consecrated clergy, since they sincerely believed in Christ. Rufinus says that he learnt these facts from Bacurius, formerly one of the petty princes of the Iberians, who subsequently went over to the Romans, and was made a captain of the military force in Palestine: being at length entrusted with the supreme command in the war against the tyrant Maximus, he greatly assisted the emperor Theodosius. In this way then, during the reign of Constantine, were the Iberians converted to Christianity.








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