Page images
PDF
EPUB

probationibus per ignem, per aquam, &c. quæ tam mihi nefas videatur omnia credere, quam omnia rejicere. Certe ut veri non sunt sat clara in iis argumenta : ita nec mendacii indiciis manifestis notata sunt. Ideoque an vera sint, aut falsa, nos quidem scire non possumus.

The custom of trying the innocence of suspected persons by fire, or boiling water, is very anticnt, for it is mentioned in the Antigone of Sophoclesk, and it lasted till the fourteenth century in Europe, and is said to continue still in some places. But the horrible rashness and the profane impudence of appealing thus to God, without his permission, and of calling upon him to interpose miraculously, and the injuries which on these occasions have been done to the innocent, and the favour which hath been showed to the guilty, incline us to think that no miracle of this kind was ever wrought at such trials, and that they who escaped used some tricks, as well as the Hirpi. It would not be difficult to paint iron bars so as to make them look as if they were red-hot.

But, to return to Polycarp's martyrdom : If we may be permitted to hazard a conjecture upon this occasion, we may suppose that the Jews and Pagans, full of rage, brought together wood enough to burn ten persons, and heaped it all round the martyr, and set fire to it in many places, which blazed up, as at the pile of Creesus', napi 6YHTA, at the extremities on all sides, and arched over Polycarp m. Upon this

some of the Christians began to cry A miracle; his enemies said that the man was a magician, and fearing, perhaps, lest something extraordinary should appear in his favour, called for the executioner to dispatch

[ocr errors]

k Hμεν δ' έτοιμοι και μύδρους αίρειν χερούν,

Και πυρ διέρπειν, και θεούς ορκωμοτείν
* Eranius quoque parati et ferrum ignitum levare manibus,
Et per ignem ire, et jurare Deos.

v. 270.
I See the story in Herodotus.

m Something not unlike this was seen at the martyrdom of Porphy, rius,- αλλά και αφθείσης έξω από μακρού αποστήματος κύκλω περί αυτόν της πυρας, ενθένδε κακείθεν αραρπάζοντα τω στόματι την φλόγα. . Quin etiam cum rogus satis longo ab ipso intervalio circumquaque accensus fuisset, ipsc hinc inde fiammam ore attrahebat.' Euseb. Mart, Pal. 11.

him quickly. There was no withstanding the giddy impatience of an irritated populace. The executioner coinplied, and ran Polycarp through, when he was almost dead, and suffocated with the flames, and when perhaps his lower parts had been scorched ; and thus he perished partly by fire, and partly by the sword.

In order to reconcile the whole account, and to remove useless prodigies, it seems reasonable to suppose that there was nothing miraculous in the arching of the flames, that the fire had almost killed the martyr when he was wounded, and that the blood which issued from him quenched or damped the fire only on one side, and where it burned weakest.

The writer of the Epistle observes, that Polycarp stood in the fire, ως χρυσός και άργυρος εν καμίνω πυρούμενος,

sicut aurum et argentum in fornace candens,' alluding possibly to those passages of Scripture where the righteous are compared to gold and silver tried in the furnace; or to what is said of Christ, Revel. i. noi oi nodes avron © P1010! χαλκολιβάνω, ως εν καμίνω πεπυρωμένοι. Εusebius uses the same kind of expression concerning Peter, who suffered martyrdom at the stake, in Diocletian's persecution :δια πυρος οία χρυσος ακραιφνέστατος- velut aurum purissimum per ignem probatus.” Mart. Pal. 10.

The story of the dove coming out of Polycarp's body, which is in the Epistle, but not in Eusebius, or Rufinus, or Nicephorus, or two MSS of the Latin translation of the Epistle, arose possibly from a corruption of the text. The executioner stabbed him, and then anabe Trepotepa na πλήθος αιματος, , a dove came out, and abundance of blood.' It is not likely that the author would have related 80 marvellous a circumstance so concisely and coldly, in one single word Teplotépa, just as if he were ashamed of it, and wanted to get over it as fast as he could: but he might have written, with a very small alteration, Einasy επ' αριστερα πλήθος αίματος, ώστε κατασβέσαι το πυρ,

a great quantity of blood issued out on, or to the left side, and put out the fire' (on that side :) after which, the commanding officer ordered his body to be laid wood and consumed, and the Christians had leave to gather up his bones. Or we might read, with an alteration still

upon the

smaller, and without striking out the nxi, Eğ29:v ta’dpora τερα και πλήθος αίματος, supposing και to mean

there issued out even so much blood as to extinguish the fire.' The dove could scarcely be mentioned designedly by the author, who would have said something more, or nothing at all.

The first conjecture is proposed by Le Moyne; but he writes it ena. S adplotégé. I should prefer 72.9zy, to avoid poetic numbers ; and besides, the accusative plural fredpistepa, joined to a verb of motion, would be better than the dative or ablative singular, én? deplo Tépő. 'ESADETE' aplotapa exivit ad lævam, as in Homer Il.' M. 299.

TOS,

Είτ' επί δεξί ίωσι προς ήω τ' ήέλιον τε,

Είτ' επ' αριστερα τοίγε, ποτί ζόφον ήερόεντα. Genes. xii. 9. els dipotepa sis de Esc. And so very often in the LXX,

Somebody hath proposed, εξήλθε περισσία και πλήθος auaros, i. e. there came out plenty and abundance of blood ;' which is clumsy enough. Another improves upon it, and conjectures, 95 spiocela Üdatos na! Tangos aiva

which is too bold, and passes the bounds of sober criticism.

When the virgin Eulalia was put to death, a dove, spotless and white as snow, flew out of her mouth, says Prudentius llepi E7sp. iii. 161. This hath made some suspect that the story of Polycarp's dove might be somewhat more antient than the time of Prudentius, and give occasion to the fiction about Eulalia's dove.

In the third century, when the Roman Christians were assembled together to choose a bishop, a dove came and sat upon Fabian's head, to point him out for that office. This rumour Eusebius inserted in his History, vi. 29. but he might as well have left it out.

In the fourth century, Ephraim Syrus went to Cæsarea, to visit Basil, and to hear him preach, and saw a dove, white as snow, and bright as the sun, sitting upon Basil's

n Amongst other conjectures, one is, át' apstecă. It should have been απαριστεράς, οι απαριστερών.

shoulder, and whispering to him what he should say. See Tillemont H. E. ix. 208.

These prodigies were borrowed partly from Pagan prodigies and auguries, and partly from some passages in the Gospels, to which Christians ought to have paid more reverence, and not to have made this imprudent and impertinent use of them.

It seems probable upon the whole (for in points of this kind there is no such thing as certainty) that the writer of the Epistle did not mention the dove. It is impossible to determine whether Eusebius found negotepad in his copy or not; because, though he had seen it there, he might have dropped it on purpose, accounting it to be either a ridiculous miracle, or an interpolation. When he gives an account of the death of Herod Agrippa, from Josephus, aurois réupaow in the very words,” he drops the owl, who, as Josephus says, appeared over the head of Agrippa ; in which omission there is perhaps a little too much of the finesse. Mr. Whiston endeavours to vindicate Eusebius in this affair, and forces the owl upon him by the help of a conjecture. We are certain that this bird is in Josephus, but we have little reason to conclude that he ever was in Eusebius. One owl in the hand is worth two in the conjectural bush. See Eusebius H. E. ii. 10. and Josephus Ant. xix. 8. and Mr. Whiston's Translation and Notes.

Eusebius i. 9. cites Josephus as mentioning ' Lysanias the Tetrarch,' for which Jos. Scaliger and Valesius blame him, and take it to be a wilful misrepresentation.

After all, supposing that Eusebius suppressed the dove, I see no reason for tragical outcries, that, by granting this, we must give him up as a writer of no integrity, and that all his credit is at an end. He had his defects, as well as other antient writers, and some of those faults shall be taken notice of in their proper place.

But in the case before us it may be said, he had no mind to expose Christi. anity to the scoffs of infidels, and himself at the same time, by recording such a silly contemptible tale; and in such cases suppressions are more allowable than interpolations; the latter are always unpardonable, the former may sometimes be excuseable ; for, as a critic, Eusebius might justly suspect that the passage was not genuine, and, as an histo

[ocr errors]

rian, he might not care to go out of his way, and give reasons for omitting it, since that was not the method of writing in antient times.

"Le Clerc,' says Middleton, “took meg!ttepa' to be the true reading.' How doth this appear? Because he it in his edition of the Apostolical Fathers.' And so would any fair editor; who ought to represent the reading of the manuscript in such a remarkable place. But Le Clerc says nothing against it in his notes.' " True: because he was in haste, which was often the case with him, and not disposed to discuss the question. In his Ecclesiastical History he passes the dove over in silence, as not worthy to be mentioned, p. 729. and in his Bibl. Chois. xxvi. p. 218. he absolutely rejects it as an interpolation. 'Il n'y a rien de cette colombe dans un MS. que le P. Ruinart cite, non plus que dans Eusebe, &c. ce qui fait croire que c'est une addition de quelcun, qui vouloit rendre, par une fraude pieuse, le martyre de S. Polycarpe plus merveilleux.'

Polycarp's prayer at the stake is such as one might expect from a holy martyr, and it is in few words. When he had finished it, and said ' Amen,' they set fire to the pile. 'Aναπέμψαντος αυτού το αμήν. . Cum Amen clara voce insonuisset

• Verbum ávanéu Avtos hoc mihi indicare videtur, ipsam quidem orationem tacite ac submissa voce a Polycarpo pronunciatam fuisse; Amen vero edita voce prolatum. Valesius.

Non potuissent preces ab iis qui aderant Christianis audiri et aliis referri, si submissa voce eas fudisset Polycarpus. Quod miror Valesium ad animum non revocasse.' Clericus Hist. Eccl. p. 728.

The observation of Valesius is indeed neither judicious, nor worthy of him ; nor will the word avcTréju T ELV, joined to Amen (take it as you will), prove that the prayer was uttered in a low voice. It should have been translated simply, 'Et postquam Amen pronunciasset,' or emisisset—'

When the proconsul exhorted Polycarp to comply, and to repent, and to say, Aies īcūs átéous, Away with the impious,' the saint, looking severely on the multitude, and sighing, said, “Away with the impious.'

This, in the sense in which Polycarp must be supposed

« PreviousContinue »