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- Serapis, Volume 4. - 4/9 -

destroy the gorgeous vessel, who drive it from amongst us, or sink or burn it. May our Father in Heaven give courage to their hearts, strength to their hands and blessing on their deeds! When we hear: "Great Serapis has fallen to the earth and is no more, we and the world are free from him! then, in this city, and wherever Christians dwell and worship, let a solemn festival be held.

"But still let us be just, still let us bear in mind all the great and good gifts that the trireme brought to our parents when it rode the waves manned by a healthy crew. If we do, it will be with sincere pity that we shall watch the proud vessel sink to the bottom, and we shall understand the grief of those whom once it bore over ebb and flow, and who believe they owe every thing to it. We shall rejoice doubly, too, to think that we ourselves have a safe bark with stout planks and strong masts, and a trustworthy pilot at the helm; and that we may confidently invite others to join us on board as soon as they have purified themselves of the plague with which they have been smitten.

"I think you will all have understood this parable. When Serapis falls there will be lamentation and woe among the heathen; but we, who are true Christians, ought not to pass them by, but must strive to heal and save the wounded and sick at heart. When Serapis falls you must be the physicians--healers of souls, as the Lord hath said; and if we desire to heal, our first task must be to discover in what the sufferings consist of those we wish to succor, for our choice of medicine must depend on the nature of the injury.

"What I mean is this: None can give comfort but those who know how to sympathize with the soul that craves it, who feel the sorrows of others as keenly as though they were their own. And this gift, my brethren, is, next to faith, the Christian grace which of all others best pleases our Heavenly Master.

"I see it in my mind's eye! The ruined edifice of the Serapeum, the masterpiece of Bryaxis laid in fragments in the dust, and thousands of wailing heathen! As the Jews wept and hung their harps on the trees by the waters of Babylon when they remembered Zion, so do I see the heathen weep as they think of the perished splendor. They themselves, indeed, ruined and desecrated the glory they bewail; and when something higher and purer took its place they hardened their hearts, and, instead of leaving the dead to bury their dead and throwing themselves hopefully into the new life, they refused to be parted from the putrefying corpse. They were fools, but their folly was fidelity; and if we can win them over to our holy faith they will be faithful unto death, as they have been to their old gods, clinging to Jesus and earning the crown of life. 'There will be more joy in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth than over ninety and nine that need no repentance,'--that you have heard; and whichever among you loves the Saviour can procure him a great joy if he guides only one of these weeping heathen into the Kingdom of Heaven.

"But perhaps you will ask: Is not the sorrow of the heathen a vain thing? What is it after all that they bewail? To understand that, try to picture to yourselves what it is that they think they are losing. Verily it is not a small matter, and it includes many things for which we and all mankind owe them a debt of gratitude. We call ourselves Christians and are proud of the name; but we also call ourselves Hellenes, and are proud of that name too. It was under the protection of the old gods, whose fall is about to be consummated, that the Greeks achieved marvellous deeds, nurturing the gifts of the intellect which the Almighty bestowed on their race, like faithful gardeners, and making them bring forth marvellous fruit. In the realm of thought the Greek is sovereign of the nations, and he has given to perishable matter a perfection of form which has elevated and vivified it to immortality. Nothing more beautiful has ever been imagined or executed, before or since, or by any other people, than was produced by Greece in its prime. But perhaps you will ask, why did not the Redeemer come down among our fathers in those glorious days? Because beauty, as they conceived and still conceive of it, is a mere perishable accident of matter, and because a race which thus devoted every thought and feeling to an inspired and fervent worship of beauty--which was so absorbed in the contemplation of the visible, could have no longing for the invisible which is the real life that came down among us with the only-begotten Son of God. Nevertheless Beauty is beautiful; and when the time shall come when the visible is married to the invisible, when eternal Truth is clothed in perfect form, then, and not till then, will the ideal which our fathers strove after in the great old days be realized, by the grace of the Saviour.

"But this visible beauty, which they so passionately cherished, does us good service too, so long as we do not allow it to dazzle us and lead us astray from the one thing needful. To whom, if not to the heathen Hellenes, do our great teachers owe, under God, the noble art of coordinating their loftiest feelings, and casting them in forms which are intelligible to the Christian and at once instruct, delight, and edify him? It was in a heathen school that each one of your pastors--that even I, the humblest of them--studied that rhetoric which enables me to utter with a flowing tongue the things which the Spirit gives me to speak to you; and if some day there are Christian schools, in which our sons may acquire the same power, they must adopt many of the laws devised by the heathen. If in the future we are rich enough to raise churches to the Almighty, to the Virgin Mary and the great Saints, in any way worthy of their sublime merits, we shall owe our skill to the famous architects of heathen Hellas. We are indebted to the arts of the heathen for a thousand things in daily use, beside numberless others that lend charm to existence. Yes, my beloved, when we consider all they did for us we cannot in justice withhold our tribute of gratitude and admiration.

"Nor can we doubt that the best of them were acceptable to the Almighty himself, for he granted to them to see darkly and from afar what he has brought nigh to us, and poured into our hearts by divine revelation. You all know the name of Plato. He, from whom Salvation was hidden, saw remotely, by presentiment as it were, many things which to us, the Redeemed, are clear and plain and near. He perceived the relation of earthly beauty and heavenly truth. The great gift of Love binds and supports us all and Plato gave the name of the divine Eros, that is divine love, to an inspired devotion to the Imperishable. He placed goodness--the Good--at the top of the great scale of Ideas which he constructed. The Good was, to him, the highest Idea and the uttermost of which we can conceive:--Good, whose properties he made manifest by every means his lofty and lucid mind could command. This heathen, my brethren and sisters, was well worthy of the grace bestowed on us. Do justice then to the blinded souls, justice in Plato's sense of the word; he calls the virtue of reason Wisdom; the virtue of spirit Courage, and the virtue of the senses Temperance. Well, well! 'Prove all things and hold fast that which is good.' That is to say: consider what may be worth anything in the works of the heathen that it may be duly preserved; but, on the other hand, tread all that is idolatry in the dust, all that brings the unclean thing among us, all that imperils our souls and bodies, or anything that is high and pure in life; but do not forget, my beloved, all that the heathen have done for us. Be temperate in all things; avoid excess of zeal; for thus, and thus only, can we be just. 'It is not to hate, but to love each other that we are here.' It was not a Christian but Sophocles, one of the greatest of the heathen, who uttered those words, and he speaks them still to us!"

Eusebius paused and drew a deep breath.

Dada had listened eagerly, for it pleased her to hear all that she had been wont to prize spoken of here with due appreciation. But since Eusebius had begun to discourse about Plato she had been disturbed by two men sitting just in front of her. One was tall and lean, with a long narrow head, and the other a shorter and more comfortable-looking personage. The first fidgeted incessantly, nudging and twitching his companion, and looking now and then as if he were ready to start up and interrupt the preacher. This behavior evidently annoyed his neighbors who kept signing to him to be quiet and hushing him down, while he took no notice of their demonstrations but kept clearing his throat with obtrusive emphasis and at last scraped and shuffled his feet on the floor, though not very noisily. But Eusebius began again:

"And now, my brethren, how ought we to demean ourselves in these fateful times of disturbance? As Christians; only--or rather, by God's aiding grace as Christians in the true sense of our Lord and Master, according to the precepts given by Him through the Apostles. Their words shall be mine. They say there are two paths--the path of Life and the path of Death, and there is a great difference between them. The path of Life is this: First, Thou shalt love God who hath created thee; next thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, and whatsoever thou wouldst men should do unto thee even so do unto them; but what thou wouldst not have done unto thee do thou not to them. And the sum of the doctrine contained in these words is this: Bless those that curse you, pray for your enemies and repent for those who persecute you, for 'if ye love them that love you what thank have ye? Do not even the heathen the same?' Love those that hate you and you will have no enemies.

"Take this teaching of the holy Apostles to heart this day. Beware of mocking or persecuting those who have been your enemies. Even the nobler heathen regarded it as an act of grace to respect the conquered foe, and to you, as Christians, it should be a law. It is not so hard to forgive an enemy when we regard him as a possible friend in the future; and the Christian can go so far as to love him when he remembers that every man is his brother and neighbor, and equally precious in the sight of the Saviour who is dearer to us than life.

"The heathen, the idolater, is the Christian's archfoe; but soon he will he in fetters at our feet. And, then, my brethren, pray for him; for if the Almighty, who is without spot or stain and perfect beyond words, can forgive the sinner, ye who are base and guilty may surely forgive. 'Fishers of souls' we all should be; try to fulfil the injunction. Draw the enemy to you by kindness and love; show him by your example the beauty of the Christian life; let him perceive the benefits of Salvation; lead those whose gods and temples we have overthrown, into our churches; and when, after triumphing over those blind souls by the sword, we have also conquered them by love, faith and prayer--when they can rejoice with us in the Redemption by our Lord Jesus Christ--then shall we all be as one fold under one shepherd, and peace and joy shall reign in the city which is now torn by dissension and strife."

At this point the preacher was interrupted, for a loud uproar broke out in the Narthex--[The vestibule of the early Christian basilica which was open to penitents.]--shouts and cries of men fighting, mingled with the dull roar of a bull.

The congregation started to their feet in extreme consternation, and the door was flung open and a host of heathen youths rushed into the nave, followed by an overwhelming force of Christians from whom they had sought refuge in the sanctuary. Here they turned at bay to make a last desperate resistance. Garlands, stripped of their leaves and flowers, still crowned their heads and hung over their shoulders. They had been attacked close to the church, by a party of monks when in the act of driving a gaily-decorated steer to the temple of Apollo, in defiance of the Imperial edict; and the beast, terrified by the tumult, had rushed into the narthex for shelter.

The fight in the church was a short one; the idolaters were soon vanquished; but Eusebius threw himself between them and the monks, and tried to save the victims from the revengeful fury of the conquerors. The women had all made for the door, but they did not venture out into the vestibule, for the young bull was still raging there, trampling or tossing everything that came in his way. At last, however, a soldier of the city-watch dealt him a sword-thrust in the neck, and he fell rolling

Serapis, Volume 4. - 4/9

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