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ancestors have corrected the people's ignorance, and by public edicts have repressed the audacity of those who attempted to treat us ill. Your grandfather Adrian wrote in our favour to Fundanus, governor of Asia, and to many
other persons. The emperor your father, during the period when you divided with him the cares of government, wrote to the inhabitants of Larissa, of Thessalonica, of Athens, and in short to all the people of Greece, to repress the seditions and tumults which had been excited against us.”
This declaration by a most pious, learned, and veracious bishop, is sufficient to confound for ever all the lies and legends which may be regarded as the Arabian tales of christianity.
6. Of another Saint Felicita, and of Saint Perpetua.
If it were an object to dispute the legend of Felicita and Perpetua, it would not be difficult to show how suspicious it is. These Carthaginian martyrs are only known by a writing, without date, of the church of Saltzbourg. Now, it is a great way from this part of Bavaria to Goletta. We are not informed under what em peror this Felicita and this Perpetua received the crown of martyrdom. The astounding sights with which this history is filled, do not discover a very profound historian. A ladder entirely of gold, bordered with lances and swords; a dragon at the top of the ladder; a large garden near the dragon; sheep from which an old man drew milk; a reservoir full of water; a bottle of water whence they drank without diminishing the liquid; St. Perpetua fighting entirely naked against a wicked Egyptian; some handsome young men all naked who took her part; herself at last become a man and a vigorous wrestler;—these are, it appears to me, conceits which ought not to have place in a respectable book.
There is one other reflection very important to make. It is, that the style of all these stories of martyrdoms which took place at such different periods, is everywhere alike, everywhere equally puerile and bombastic. You find the same turns of expression, the same phrases, in the history of a martyr under Domitian and of another under Galerius. There are the same epithets, the same exaggerations. By the little we understand of style, we perceive that the same hand has compiled them all.
I do not here pretend to make a book against Don Ruinart; and while I always respect, admire, and invoke the true martyrs with the holy church, I confine: myself to making it perceived, by one or two striking. examples, how dangerous it is to mix what is purely ridiculous with what ought to be venerated. 7 of Saint Theodotus of the City of Ancyra, and of the
Seven Virgins; written by Nisus, an Eye-witness, and extracted from Bollandus.
Many critics, as eminent for wisdom as for true piety, have already given us to understand, that the legend of St. Theodotus the publican is a profanation and a species of impiety which ought to have been suppressed. The following is the story of Theodotus. We shall often employ the exact words of the Genuine Acts' compiled by Don Ruinart.
“ His trade of publican supplied him with the means of exercising his episcopal functions. Illustrious tavern! consecrated to piety instead of debauchery.
Sometimes Theodotus was a physician, sometimes he furnished, tit-bits to the faithful. A tavern was seen to be to the christians what Noah's ark was to those whom God wished to save from the deluge."*
This publican Theodotus walking by the river Xalis with his companions, towards a town adjacent to the city of Ancyra, “ a fresh and soft plot of turf offered them a delicious couch; a spring which issued a few. steps off, from the foot of the rock, and which by a channel crowned with flowers came running past them in order to quench their thirst, offered them clear and pure water. Trees bearing fruit, mixed with wild
* What is between marks of quotation is word for word as in the Genuine Acts;" all-the rest is strictly agreeable to their meaning. We have only abridged, in order iu avoid the tedium of the declamatory style of these Acts.
ones, furnished them with shade and fruits; and an assemblage of skilful nightingales, whom the grasshoppers relieved every now and then, formed a charming concert," &c.
The clergyman of the place, named Fronton, having arrived, and the publican having drank with him ca the
grass, the fresh green of which was relieved by the various gradations of colour in the flowers, he said to the clergyman-'Ah, father! what a pleasure it would be to build a chapel here.'— Yes,' said Fronton, but it would be necessary to have some relics to begin with. "Well, well,' replied St. Theodotus,
you shall have some soon, I give you my word; here is my ring which I give you as a pledge ;-build your chapel quickly.'
The publican had the gift of prophecy, and knew well what he was saying. He went away to the city of Ancyra, while the clergyman Fronton set himself about building. He found there the most horrible persecution, which lasted very long. Seven christian virgins, of whom the youngest was seventy years old, had just been condemned, according to custom, to lose their virginity, through the agency of all the young men of the city. The youth of Ancyra, who had probably more urgent affairs, were in no hurry to execute the sentence. One only could be found obedient to justice. He applied himself to St. Thecusa, and carried her into a closet with surprising courage. Thecusa threw herself on her knees, and said to him, “ For God's sakė, my son, a little shame! Behold these lack-lustre eyes, this half dead flesh, these greasy wrinkles which seventy years have ploughed in my forehead, this face of the colour of the earth; abandon thoughts so unworthy of a young man like you—Jesus Christ entreats you by my mouth. He asks it of you as a favour, and if you grant it him, you may expect his entire gratitude."
The discourse of the old woman, and her countenance, made the executioner recollect himself. The seven virgins were not deflowered.
The irritated governor sought for another punishment: he caused them to be initiated forthwith in the
mysteries of Diana and Minerva. It is true; that great feasts had been instituted in honour of those divinities, but the mysteries of Diana and Minerva were not known to antiquity. St. Nil, an intimate friend of the publican Theodotus, and the author of this marvellous story, was not quite correct.
According to him, these seven pretty lasses were placed quite naked on the car which carried the great Diana and the wise Minerva to the banks of a neighbouring lake. The Thucydides St. Nil still appears to be very ill-informed here. The priestesses were always covered with veils; and the Roman magistrates never caused the goddesses of chastity and wisdom to be attended by girls who showed themselves both before and behind to the people.
St. Nil adds, that the car was preceded by two choirs of priestesses of Bacchus, who carried the thyrses in their hands. St. Nil has here mistaken the priestesses of Minerva for those of Bacchus. not versed in the liturgy of Ancyra.
Entering the city, the publican saw this sad spectacle--the governor, the priestesses, the car, Minerva, Diana, and the seven maidens. He runs to throw himself on his knees in a hut, along with a nephew of St.. Thecusa.. He beseeches heaven, that the seven: ladies should be dead rather than naked. His prayer is heard; he learns that the seven damsels, instead of being deflowered, have been thrown into the lake with a stone round their necks, by order of the governor. Their virginity is in safe keeping. At this news, the saint, raising himself from the ground and placing himself upon his knees, turned his eyes towards heaven; and in the midst of the various emotions he experienced of love, joy, and gratitude, he said, “ I give thee thanks, O Lord i that thou hast not rejected the prayer of thy servant.”
He slept; and during his sleep, St. Thecusa, the youngest of the drowned women, appeared to him.
How now, son Theodotus!” she said, “you are sleeping without thinking of us: have you forgotten so scon the care I took of your youth? Do not, dear, Theodotus, suffer our bodies to be devoured by the fishes. Go to the lake, but beware of a traitor.”
This traitor was in fact the nephew of St. Thecusa.
I omit here a multitude of miraculous adventures that happened to the publican, in order to come to the most important. A celestial cavalier, armed cap-à-pie, preceded by a celestial flambeau, descends from the height of the empyrean, conducts the publican to the lake in the midst of storms, drives away all the soldiers who guard the shore, and gives Theodotus time to fish up the seven old women and to bury them.
The nephew of St. Thecusa unfortunately went and told all. Theodotus was seized, and for three days all sorts of punishments were tried in vain to kill him. They could only attain their object by cleaving his scull; an operation which saints are never proof against.
He was still to be buried. His friend the minister Fronton, to whom Theodotus, in his capacity of publican, had given two leathern bottles filled with wine, made the guards drunk, and carried off the body. Theodotus then appeared in body and spirit to the minister. Well, my friend, he said to him; did I not say well, that you should have relics for your chapel ?
Such is what is narrated by St. Nil, an eye-witness, who could neither be deceived nor deceive; such is what Don Ruinart has quoted as a genuine act. Now every man of sense, every intelligent christian, will ask himself, whether a better wode could be adopted of dishonouring the most holy and venerated religion in the world, and of turning it into ridicule?
I shall not speak of the Eleven Thousand Virgins; I shall not discuss the fable of the Theban legion, composed (says the author) of six thousand six hundred men, all christians coming from the east by Mount St. Bernard, suffering martyrdom in the year 286, the period of the most profound peace as regarded the church, and in the gorge of a mountain where it is impossible to place 300 men a-breast; a fable written more than 550 years after the event; a fable in which