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A History Of The Church In Nine Books by Sozomen

WE have heard that about this period some of the most distant of the nations that we call Indian, to whom the preaching of Bartholomew was unknown, were converted to Christianity by Frumentius, a priest. The wonderful circumstances attending the arrival of this priest in India, and the cause of his ordination, are necessary to be known to show that Christianity is not of man, as is falsely represented by those who are prejudiced against the doctrines of religion. The most celebrated philosophers among the Greeks took pleasure in exploring unknown cities and regions. Plato, the friend of Socrates, dwelt for a time among the Egyptians, in order to acquaint himself with their manners and customs. He likewise sailed to Sicily to examine its craters, whence, as from fountains, spontaneously issued streams of fire, which, by inundating the neighbouring regions, rendered them so sterile that, as at Sodom, no seed could be sown there nor trees planted. These craters were likewise explored by Empedocles, a man highly celebrated for philosophy among the Greeks, and who has expounded his doctrines in heroic verse. He was engaged in prosecuting inquiries as to the cause and origin of these eruptions, when, either because he thought such a mode of death preferable to any other, or because, to say the truth, he knew not wherefore he should seek to terminate his life in this manner, he threw himself into the crater and perished. Democritus of Coos relates that he visited many cities and countries and nations, and that eighty years of his life were spent in travelling through foreign lands. Besides these philosophers, thousands of wise men among the Greeks, ancient and modern, habituated themselves to travel. Desirous of imitating their example, Merope, a philosopher and native of Tyre in Phœnicia, travelled as far as India. He was accompanied by two youths, named Frumentius and Edesius; they were his relatives, and he had the charge of their education. After accomplishing a journey through India, he determined upon returning home, and embarked in a vessel which was on the point of sailing for Egypt. It happened that, from want of water or some other necessary, the vessel was obliged to stop at some port, and the Indians rushed upon it, and murdered Merope and the crew. These Indians had just thrown off their alliance with the Romans; they took pity, however, on the youth of the two lads, and conducted them to their king. He appointed the younger one his cup-bearer, and, recognising at once the fidelity and prudence of Frumentius, constituted him his treasurer. These youths served the king usefully and faithfully during a long course of years, and when he felt his end approaching he rewarded their services by giving them their liberty, with permission to go where they pleased. They were anxious to return to Tyre, where their relatives resided, but the king’s son and successor being a minor, the mother of the young sovereign besought them to remain and take charge of public affairs, until her son reached the years of manhood. They yielded to her entreaties, and directed the affairs of the kingdom and of the Indian government. Frumentius was impelled by some divine impulse, or by the promptings of his own mind and the assistance of God, to inquire whether there were any Christians or Roman merchants in India. Having succeeded in finding the objects of his inquiry he summoned them into his presence, treated them with great kindness and benevolence, and commanded the erection of houses of prayer, that there worship might be offered and the Roman ecclesiastical routine observed.

When the king’s son attained the age of manhood, Frumentius and Edesius besought him and the queen to permit them to resign their appointments and return to the Roman dominions, and they obtained a reluctant assent. Edesius went to Tyre to see his relatives, and was soon after advanced to the dignity of presbyter. Frumentius, however, instead of returning to Phœnicia, repaired to Alexandria, for with him patriotism and filial piety were subordinate to religious zeal. He conferred with Athanasius, the head of the Alexandrian church, described to him the state of religion in India, and the necessity of appointing a bishop over the Christians located in that country. Athanasius assembled the clergy of his diocese, and consulted with them on the subject: they were all of opinion that Frumentius was peculiarly qualified to hold the office of bishop of India, as it was by him that the name of Christian was first made manifest in that country, and that the first seeds of the Word were sown. Frumentius therefore returned to India, and, it is said, discharged the priestly functions so admirably that he became an object of universal admiration, and was revered as an apostle. God highly honoured him, enabling him to perform many wonderful cures, and to work signs and wonders. Such was the origin of the Indian bishopric.








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