Page images
PDF
EPUB

3

? When Saint Helena, the mother of Constantine, was arrived at Jerusalem, and had begun to visit the sacred places, the Holy Ghost inflamed her with a desire to find the wood of the cross. But there was no person who had ever seen it, or could tell where it had been hid. She then inquired for the place where Christ was crucified, and found it out by the help of the Jews and Christians; or, as Rufinus says, by some revelation : and being moved by the Holy Spirit, she ordered the buildings to be pulled down, and the rubbish to be removed. The faith of this female saint was recompensed beyond expectation; and upon digging very deep, they found the holy sepulchre, and near it three crosses, with the title which had been affixed to the cross of Christ, and the nails which had pierced his sacred body. But still a difficulty remained, to distinguish which was the cross of Christ. Saint Macarius, who was bishop of Jerusalem, proposed the method. He was a prelate illustrious for his wisdom, and truly worthy of God, and he had just then overthrown the heresy of Arius at the great council of Nice. This holy man, knowing that one of the principal ladies of the city lay extremely ill, told Helena, that they must carry the three crosses to the sick person, and beg of God that he would cure her by the application of the true cross. The empress and all the people being present, he touched the woman with two of the crosses ineffectually ; but as soon as he had made use of the third, she arose in perfect

Protestants, will only esteem it so much the more.' Le Clerc, Bibl. A. et M. ii: p. 194.

The pious ears of the archbishop of Paris, and of other good souls, must have been offended at many free things said by Du Pin, and at the account which he gave of Cyril and of the council of Ephesus. Every intelligent reader will perceive that he had a bad opinion of this. Father, and that he thought him an insolent man, and a miserabie scribbler. He sets forth very fairly the objections which may be made to the conduct and the proceedings of the saint and of the council ; and then he sets himself to remove and invalidate those objections, and he gives as good answers to them as could be given. If his defence was unsatisfactory (as it really is), how could he help it ? Matters of fact are of a stubborn nature, and it was not in his power to annihilate them. He might, indeed, have made history, in the manner of Varillas and Maimbourg, and then he would have been in odour of sanctity, and have enjoyed the favour of his superiors.

health, and stronger than she had ever been. It is bei lieved, says Sozoment

, that they applied the cross to a dead body, which instantly revived. Saint Paulinus and Saint Sulpitius Severus mention only this last miracle.

• Helena, full of joy, adored, not the wood itself, says St. Ambrose, which would have been a Pagan folly, but the King of Heaven who suffered upon it. She took part of this treasure to carry to her son, and inclosing the rest in a silver box, she committed it to the bishop of Jerusalem. It was carefully kept in the church which was built there, and the bishop alone had the power to give little bits of it, which were considered as a singular favour and blessing. Saint Paulinus relates a very singular thing concerning that part of the cross which was at Jerusalem. This cross, says he, having a vital virtue in an insensible and inanimate substance, hath yielded and continues to yield almost daily its precious wood to the desires of an infinite number of persons, without suffering any diminution, continuing all the while as if it had been untouched 6. It permits itself every day to be divided into several parts, and yet remains exposed entire to the veneration of the people.

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem says only that the pieces of the cross were brought away from Jerusalem, and were spread all over the earth twenty-five years after.' vii. 5.

See more in Tillemont concerning the nails, the title which was upon the cross, the spear, the reed, the spunge, and the crown of thorns, part of which wrought miracles even so lately as in his time.

Here arises some difficulty, not whether the miracles were true or talse, for as to that, all is clear enough, but whes ther the discovery of the cross was a fiction, made up some years after the death of Helena and of Constantine, or whether Helena really found a cross.

This must remain a

H. E.

• A man capable of affirming a fact so absurd and ridiculous, ought not to be cited and recommended to us as a good witness for miracles, but şhould be rejected with disdain, at least by Protestant divines. What pity is it that an ingenious, religious, charitable, and good-tempered prelate, as Paulinus was, gave into these godly fictions !

dubious point, though upon the whole it seems most probable that the story was invented by the Christians of Jerusalem after the emperor and his mother were dead.

The discovery in the time of Constantine rests principally upon the authority of Cyril of Jerusalem, the only witness who lived at that time, and who speaks of no miracles attending the discovery; and the question is whether the Epistle of Cyril, which mentions it, be genuine, or spu. rious, or interpolated, and also whether Cyril, supposing it genuine, made up that part of the story himself, and dated the discovery too early.

If Helena found a cross, it is impossible now to know how the fraud was conducted, and who were the actors in this godly knavery, the hiders, and the finders. Eusebius, who lived then, and was bishop of Cæsarea in the neighbourhood, says not a word of the cross, though he relates the discovery of the sepulchre of Christ, and mentions the magnificent church which was erected there, and names Macarius, as the person to whom the care of the building was committed. Vit. Const. iii. 25, &c.

Vit. Const. iii. 25, &c. It is therefore to be concluded that either he knew nothing, or believed nothing of it. If the thing was really transacted as Socrates and others relate, one might conjecture that Eu. sebius chose to be silent, lest he should offend the family of Constantine, and say what the times would not bear.

Neque crucis inventionem solus præterit Eusebius. Quod magis miramur, de ea nihil memorat Constantinus ipse, in sua ad Macarium Epistola, ubi Dei in laudes erumpit, ob repertum, quod tamdiu delituerat, sepulcrum Domini, sacratissimum passionis ejus monumentum. Quanto magis repertæ crucis meminisset ? Non nescimus Bellarminum Constantini verba hæc accommodasse cruci. Sed intoleranda hæc est Bellarmini sive inscitia, sive audaa cia, quocunque nomine vocetur, dum ex sepulcro crucem fabricat. Inventæ crucis primus mentionem fecit Cyrillus, qui ea de re ad Constantium scripsit Augustum: Ac tempore quidem Deo dilectissimi ac beatæ memoriæ Constantini patris tui, salutare crucis lignum Hierosolymis repertum est. Cum autem illo tempore vixerit Cyrillus, quo Hierosolymam lustravit Helena, durum fortasse vide

bitur, aut factum negare, aut Epistolam Cyrillo detrahere. Non dissimulabimus tamen in ea quæstione nos pendere animi. Urget Cyrilli ad Imperatorem Epistola qui commentis ludi non debuit. Dubium tamen animum multa faciunt. Primum de reperta cruce traditionis dissimilitudo. Dein altissimum Eusebii Constantinique de ea inventione silentium, &c. Denique fraus reliquiariorum nobis est timenda in rebus ejusmodi. Excogitatam esse crucis inventionem, partim ut pergratum fieret Constantio, qui reliquiis extra modum delectabatur, partim et ecclesiæ Hierosolymitanæ honos accumularetur, quid vetat ? Nonne Juvenalis, Cyrilli de successoribus unus, per commentitia scripta Palæstinæ principatum extorquere voluit, docente Leone, Epist. 62. Hieronymus quidem Cyrillum ejusmodi coloribus pingit in Chronico, quibus existimari forsan posset animum a piis fraudibus alienum non gestasse,' &c. S. Basnage, Ann. ii. 728, 9,

If Cyril of Jerusalem wrote these words, and vouched for the discovery of the true cross, he must, as to this particular, pass either for a deceiver, or for

that tool, Which wise men work with, call'd One would therefore willingly suppose that the letter ascribed to Cyril is spurious or interpolated. The good woman Helena was near fourscore years

old when she took this journey to Jerusalem. It is more probable that she should have been imposed upon, than that she should have had any share in the contrivance. As to Macarius, if what is here related of him be true, his blessedness must have been let into the secret.

Helena was sainted and highly honoured after her death: her body is said to be in an abbey in France, and also at Rome ; but there is no great inconvenience to suppose

it to be in two places at once. The multiplication of the cross, attested by Paulinus, leads us to this opinion. See Tillemont H, E. vii. 18.

The ecclesiastics of Jerusalem, at what time soever they

See Sozom. iv. 25. vii. 7. Socrat. ii. 40. concerning the character of Cyril,

contrived the discovery of the cross, knew their own interest very well. It must have drawn a swarm of pious vagrants to their city, and have brought in great revenues to the church and to the bishop, if they gave only sixpence a piece to see the box in which the cross was locked up!

The finding of the cross hath been also ascribed to one Judas, a Jew (and a bad name), by Gregory of Tours. See the remarks of J. Basnage, Hist. des Juifs, vi. 14. § 10. p. 1243.

I know not why Basnage should affirm that this Gregory is the first of those who have spoken of the finding of the cross. p. 1244.

There is a passage of Eusebius on the Psalms, which hath been thought to refer to these miracles.

Montfaucon conjectụres that Eusebius composed this work after the year 327, in which those miracles were wrought that later authors have recorded concerning the discovery of the cross, and to which Eusebius seems to allude on Psalm lxxxvii. p. 549. where he speaks of miracles wrought in his time near the sepulchre of Jesus Christ, as also of the church which was built there by Helena, the mother of Constantine. It was not dedicated till the year 335. so that Eusebius must have composed his Commentary after that year. Yet in the Life of Constantine, where Eusebius speaks of this church, and describes very particularly, and with much pomp, the synod which was held there when the church was consecrated, he 'says nothing at all of it, though this was the most proper place to mention it. Montfaucon, however, persuades himself that Eusebius refers to these miracles in his Commentary on the Psalms.

But one might as probably conclude that this passage in the Commentary was the interpolation of some copyist, at a time when no scruple was made to add to the writings of the antients, or to take away from them. If Eusebius had heard any thing of these miracles, is it to be

i Macrina, the sister of Gregory Nyssen, carried about her a little cross, and a ring in which a small bit of the true cross was enclosed. Vit. Macr. Vol. II.

Q

« PreviousContinue »