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Chapter XX.—Extension of our Doctrines, and Complete Demolition of Idolatrous Temples. Inundation of the Nile.

While the heretics were disrupted among themselves, the Catholic Church increased more and more by many accessions from the heterodox, on account of the dissensions among them and 391especially from multitudes of pagans.15601560    Independent chapter. Cf. Ruf. H. E. ii. 19; Theodoret, H. E. v. 21; Zos. iv. 28, 29. The emperor having observed that the practice of idolatry had been greatly promoted by the facility of constant ingress and egress to and from the temple, directed the entrances of all temples to be closed; and eventually he commanded the demolition of many of these edifices.15611561    Cod. Theod. xvi. 10, 12. When the pagans found themselves deprived of their own houses of prayer, they began to frequent our churches; for they did not dare to offer sacrifices after the pagan form in secret, for it was dangerous, since the sacrifice was under the penalty of death and of confiscation of property.

It is said that the river of Egypt did not overflow its banks this year at the proper season; and that the Egyptians angrily ascribed this circumstance to the prohibition of sacrifices to it, according to the ancestral law. The governor of the province, apprehensive lest the general discontent should terminate in sedition, sent a message to the emperor on the subject. But the emperor, far from attaching more importance to the temporary fertility produced by the Nile, than to the fidelity he owed to God and the interests of religion, replied as follows: “Let that river cease to flow, if enchantments are requisite to insure the regularity of its course; or if it delights in sacrifices, or if blood must be mingled with the waters that derive their source from the paradise of God.” Soon afterwards, the Nile overflowed its banks with such violence, that the highest eminences were submerged. When it reached the farthest limit and almost had attained the fullest measure, the water did not the less press upward, so that the Egyptians were thrown into the contrary fear. The dread was lest the city of Alexandria and part of Libya should be submerged. The pagans of Alexandria, irritated at this unexpected occurrence, exclaimed in derision at the public theatres, that the river, like an old man or fool, could not moderate its proceedings. Many of the Egyptians were hence induced to abandon the superstitions of their forefathers, and embrace Christianity. These incidents are given as I have learned them.


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