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A History Of The Church In Nine Books by Sozomen

AS this period was distinguished by many holy men, who devoted themselves to a life of philosophy, it seems requisite to give some account of them. There was not, it appears, a more celebrated man in Egypt than John; he had received from God the power of discerning the future and the most hidden things as clearly as the ancient prophets; and he had, moreover, the gift of curing the most desperate and inveterate diseases. Or was another eminent man of this period; he had lived in solitude from his earliest youth, occupying himself continually in singing the praises of God. He subsisted on herbs and roots; and his drink was water, when he could find it. In his old age he went, by the command of God, to Thebaïs, where he presided over several monasteries, and performed many wonderful works. By means of prayer alone, he expelled devils and healed divers diseases. He knew nothing of letters; but whatever might once engage his attention was never afterwards forgotten.

Ammon, the leader of the monks called Tabennesiotians, dwelt in the same regions, and was followed by about three thousand disciples. Benus and Theonas likewise presided over monasteries, and possessed the gift of foreseeing and of foretelling the future. It is said that, though Theonas was versed in all the learning of the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Romans, he preserved a profound silence for the space of thirty years. Benus was never seen to manifest any signs of anger, and never heard to swear, or to utter a false, a vain, a rash, or a useless word.

Coprus, Helles, and Elias, also nourished at this period. It is said that Coprus had received from God the power of healing sickness and divers diseases, and of expelling demons. Helles had, from his youth upwards, pursued a life of monastic asceticism, and he wrought many wonderful works. He could carry fire in his bosom without burning his clothes. He excited the other monks to the practice of virtue, by representing that purity of life leads to the acquisition of the power of working miracles. Elias, who dwelt near the city of Antinöus, was at this period about a hundred and ten years of age, of which, he said, he had passed seventy years alone in the desert. Notwithstanding his advanced age, he was unremitting in the practice of fasting and asceticism.

Apelles flourished at the same period, and performed numerous miracles in the Egyptian monasteries, near the city of Acoris. He worked as a smith at the forge; and one night, when he was engaged at this employment, the devil undertook to tempt him to incontinence, by appearing before him in the form of a woman; Apelles, however, seized the iron which was heating in the furnace, and burnt the face of the devil, who screamed wildly, and ran away.

Isidore, Serapion, and Dioscorus, who presided over monasteries at this period, were among the most celebrated men of the æra. Isidore caused his monastery to be closed, so that no one could obtain egress or ingress, and supplied the wants of those within the walls. Serapion lived in the neighbourhood of Arsinöe, and had about a thousand monks under his guidance. They lived on the produce of their labour, and provided for the poor. During harvest time, they busied themselves in reaping; they set aside sufficient corn for their own use, and furnished grain gratuitously for the other monks. Dioscorus had not more than a hundred disciples; he was a presbyter, and applied himself with great diligence to the duties of his ministry; he scrupulously examined those who presented themselves as candidates for participation in the holy mysteries, and excluded those who had not a conscience void of offence. The presbyter Eulogius was still more scrupulous in the dispensation of the mysteries. It is said that, when he was officiating in the priestly office, he could discern what was in the minds of those around him; so that he could clearly detect sin, and the secret thoughts of each one of his audience. He excluded from the altar all who had perpetrated crime, or formed evil resolutions, and publicly convicted them of sin; but, on their purifying themselves by repentance, he again received them into communion.








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