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A History Of The Church In Nine Books by Sozomen

THE emperor, on being informed that Athanasius held meetings in the church of Alexandria, taught the people boldly, and converted many Pagans to Christianity, commanded him, under the severest penalties, to depart from Alexandria. The pretext made use of for enforcing this edict, was that Athanasius, after having been banished by Constantius, had re-assumed his episcopal administration without the sanction of the reigning emperor: for Julian declared that he had never contemplated restoring the bishops who had been exiled by Constantius to their ecclesiastical functions, when he recalled them to their native land. On the announcement of the command enjoining his immediate departure, Athanasius said to the Christian multitudes who stood weeping around him, “Be of good courage; it is but a cloud which will speedily be dispersed.” He then committed the care of the church to the most zealous of his friends, and quitted Alexandria.

About the same period, the inhabitants of Cyzicus sent an embassy to the emperor, to lay before him some of their private affairs, and particularly to entreat the restoration of the Pagan temples. He applauded their zeal, and promised to grant all their requests. He expelled Eleusius, the bishop of their city, because he had destroyed some temples, provided for the support of widows, erected edifices as dwelling-places for holy virgins, and induced many Pagans to abandon their ancient superstition. The emperor prohibited some foreign Christians, who had accompanied him, from entering the city of Cyzicus, from the apprehension, it appears, that they would, in conjunction with the Christians within the city, excite a sedition on account of religion. There were, in fact, great numbers of artizans engaged in the woollen manufacture, and in the coinage of money; they were divided into two bands, and had received permission from preceding emperors to dwell, with their wives and possessions, in Cyzicus, provided that they annually handed over to the public treasury a supply of clothes for the soldiery, and of newly-coined money. Although Julian was anxious to advance, by every means, the Pagan religion, yet he deemed it the height of imprudence to employ force or intimidation against those who refused to sacrifice. Besides, there were so many Christians in every city, that it would have been no easy task for the rulers even to number them. He did not even forbid them to assemble together for worship; as he was aware that, when freedom of the will is called into question, constraint is utterly useless. He expelled the clergy and bishops from all the cities, in order to put an end to these assemblies, imagining that, when there would be no longer teaching or administration of the sacraments, religion itself would, in course of time, fall into oblivion. The pretext which he advanced for these proceedings was, that the clergy were the leaders of sedition among the people. Under this plea, he expelled Eleusius and his friends from Cyzicus, although there was not even a symptom of sedition in that city. He also publicly called upon the citizens of Bostra to expel Titus their bishop. It appears that the emperor had threatened to impeach Titus and the other clergy as the authors of any sedition that might arise among the people, and that Titus had thereupon written to him, stating that, although the Christians were more in number than the Pagans, yet that, in accordance with his exhortations, they were disposed to remain quiet, and were not likely to rise up in sedition. Julian, with the view of exciting the enmity of the inhabitants of Bostra against Titus, represented, in a letter which he addressed to them, that their bishop had advanced a calumny against them, by stating that it was in accordance with his exhortations, rather than with their own inclination, that they refrained from sedition; and Julian exhorted them to expel him from their city, as a public enemy. It appears that the Christians were subjected to similar injustice in other places; sometimes by the command of the emperor, and sometimes by the wrath and impetuosity of the populace. The blame of these transactions may be justly imputed to the emperor; for, out of his hatred to the Christian religion, he only visited the perpetrators of such deeds with verbal rebukes, while, by his actions, he urged them on in the same course. Hence, although not absolutely persecuted by the emperor, the Christians were obliged to flee from city to city. My grandfather and many of my ancestors were compelled to flee in this manner. My grandfather was of Pagan parentage; and, with his own family and that of Alaphion, had been the first to embrace Christianity in Bethelia, a populous town near Gaza, in which there are temples highly reverenced by the people of the country, on account of their extreme antiquity. The most celebrated of these temples is the Pantheon, built on an artificial eminence commanding a view of the whole town. It is conjectured that the original name given to this temple was in the Syriac language, and that this name was afterwards rendered into Greek, and expressed by a word which signifies that the temple is the residence of all the gods. It is said that the above-mentioned families were converted through the instrumentality of the monk Hilarion. Alaphion, it appears, was possessed of a devil; and neither the Pagans nor the Jews could, by any of their enchantments, deliver him from this affliction; but Hilarion, by simply calling upon the name of Christ, expelled the demon, and Alaphion, with his whole family, immediately embraced the faith. My grandfather was endowed with great natural ability, which he applied with success to the explanation of the Sacred Scriptures; he had made some attainments in general knowledge, and was not ignorant of arithmetic. He was much beloved by the Christians of Ascalon, of Gaza, and of the surrounding country; and was regarded as necessary to religion, on account of his gift in expounding Scripture. No one can speak in adequate terms of the virtues of the other family. The first churches and monasteries erected in that country were founded by members of this family, and supported by their liberality and humanity. Some good men belonging to this family have flourished even in our own days; and, in my youth, I saw some of them, but they were then very aged. I shall have occasion to say more concerning them in the course of my history.








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