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A History Of The Church In Nine Books by Sozomen

ABOUT this period the king of the Saracens died, and the peace which had previously existed between that nation and the Romans was dissolved. Mavia, the widow of the late monarch, finding herself at the head of the government, led her troops into Phœnicia and Palestine, as far as the regions of Egypt lying to the left of those who sail towards the source of the Nile, and which are generally denominated Arabia. This war was by no means a contemptible one, although conducted by a woman. The Romans, it is said, considered it so arduous and so perilous, that the general of the Phœnician troops applied for assistance to the general of the Cavalry and Infantry of the East. This latter ridiculed the summons, and undertook to give battle alone. He accordingly attacked Mavia, who commanded her own troops in person; and he met with so signal a defeat, that it was with difficulty he saved his life. This rescue was solely effected by the intervention of the general of the troops of Palestine and Phœnicia. Perceiving the extremity of the danger, this general deemed it unnecessary to obey the orders he had received to keep aloof from the combat; he therefore rushed upon the barbarians, and then, while retreating, discharged volleys of arrows upon them, in order to enable the Romans to make good their escape. This occurrence is still held in remembrance among the people of the country, and is celebrated in songs by the Saracens.

As the war was still pursued with vigour, the Romans found it necessary to send an embassy to Mavia to solicit peace. It is said that she refused to comply with the request of the embassy, unless consent were given for the ordination of a certain man named Moses, who dwelt in solitude in a neighbouring desert, as bishop over her subjects. This Moses was a man of virtuous life, and capable of performing the most wonderful miracles. On these conditions being announced to the emperor, the chiefs of the army were commanded to seize Moses, and conduct him to Lucius. The monk exclaimed, in the presence of the rulers and the assembled people, “I am not worthy of the honor of bearing the name of bishop; but if, notwithstanding my unworthiness, God destines me to this office, I take Him to witness who created the heavens and the earth, that I will not be ordained by the imposition of the hands of Lucius, which are defiled with the blood of the saints.” Lucius immediately rejoined, “If you are unacquainted with the nature of my creed, you do wrong in judging me before you are in possession of all the circumstances of the case. If you have been prejudiced by the calumnies that have been circulated against me, at least allow me to declare to you what are my sentiments; and do you be the judge of them.” “Your creed is already well known to me,” replied Moses; “and its nature is testified by bishops, priests, and deacons, of whom some have been sent into exile, and others condemned to the mines. It is clear that your sentiments are opposed to the faith of Christ, and to all orthodox doctrines concerning the Godhead.” Having again protested, upon oath, that he would not receive ordination at the hands of Lucius, the Roman rulers conducted him to the bishops who were then in exile. After receiving ordination from them, he went to exercise the functions of his office among the Saracens. He concluded a peace with the Romans, and converted many of the Saracens to the faith.

It appears that the Saracens were descended from Ishmael, the son of Abraham, and were, in consequence, originally denominated Ishmaelites. As their mother Hagar was a slave, they afterwards, to conceal the opprobium of their origin, assumed the name of Saracens, as if they were descended from Sara, the wife of Abraham. Such being their origin, they practise circumcision like the Jews, refrain from the use of pork, and observe many other Jewish rites and customs. If, indeed, they deviate in any respect from the observances of that nation, it must be ascribed to the lapse of time, and to their intercourse with neighbouring nations. Moses, who lived many centuries after Abraham, only legislated for those whom he led out of Egypt. The inhabitants of the neighbouring countries being strongly addicted to superstition, probably soon corrupted the laws imposed upon them by their forefather Ishmael. These laws, though not set down in writing, were the only ones known to the ancient Hebrews before the promulgation of the written laws of Moses. These people certainly served the same gods as the neighbouring nations, recognised them by the same appellations, and rendered them the same species of homage; and this clearly evidences their departure from the laws of their forefathers. It appears probable that, in the lapse of time, their ancient customs fell into oblivion, and that they gradually learnt to follow the practices of other nations. Some of their tribe afterwards happening to come in contact with the Jews, gathered from them the facts of their true origin, and returned to the observance of the Hebrew customs and laws. Indeed, there are some among them even at the present day, who regulate their lives according to the Jewish precepts. Some of the Saracens were converted to Christianity not long before the accession of Valens. Their conversion appears to have been the result of their intercourse with the priests who dwelt among them, and with the monks who dwelt in the neighbouring deserts, and who were distinguished by their purity of life, and by their miraculous gifts. It is said that a whole tribe, and Zocomus, their chief, were converted to Christianity and baptised about this period, under the following circumstances:—Zocomus was childless, and went to a certain monk of great celebrity to complain to him of this calamity; for among the Saracens, and I believe other barbarian nations, it was accounted of great importance to have children. The monk desired Zocomus to be of good cheer, engaged in prayer on his behalf, and sent him away with the promise that if he would believe in Christ, he would have a son. When this promise was accomplished by God, and when a son was born to him, Zocomus was baptised, and all his subjects with him. From that period this tribe was peculiarly fortunate, and became strong in point of number, and formidable to the Persians as well as to the other Saracens. Such are the details that I have been enabled to collect concerning the conversion of the Saracens and their first bishops.








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