Writings of Sulpitius Severus

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Translated, with preface, and notes,

by Rev. Alexander Roberts, D.D.,
Professor of Humanity, University of St. Andrews, Scotland.

Published in 1886 by Philip Schaff, New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co.

Life and Writings of Sulpitius Severus.

Sulpitius (or Sulpicius) Severus was born in Aquitania about a.d. 363, and died, as is generally supposed, in a.d. 420. He was thus a contemporary of the two great Fathers of the Church, St. Jerome and St. Augustine. The former refers to him in his Commentary on the 36th chapter of Ezekiel as "our friend Severus." St. Augustine, again, having occasion to allude to him in his 205th letter, describes him as "a man excelling in learning and wisdom." Sulpitius belonged to an illustrious family. He was very carefully educated, and devoted himself in his early years to the practice of oratory. He acquired a high reputation at the bar; but, while yet in the prime of life, he resolved to leave it, and seek, in company with some pious friends, contentment and peace in a life of retirement and religious exercises. The immediate occasion of this resolution was the premature death of his wife, whom he had married at an early age, and to whom he was deeply attached. His abandonment of the pleasures and pursuits of the world took place about a.d. 392; and, notwithstanding all the entreaties and expostulations of his father, he continued, from that date to his death, to lead a life of the strictest seclusion. Becoming a Presbyter of the Church, he attached himself to St. Martin of Tours, for whom he ever afterwards cherished the profoundest admiration and affection, and whose extraordinary career he has traced with a loving pen in by far the most interesting of his works.

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It is stated by some ancient writers that Sulpitius ultimately incurred the charge of heresy, having, to some extent, embraced Pelagian opinions. And there have not been wanting those in modern times who thought they could detect traces of such errors in his works. But it seems to us that there is no ground for any such conclusion. Sulpitius constantly presents himself to us as a most strenuous upholder of "catholic" or "orthodox" doctrines. It is evident that his whole heart was engaged in the love and maintenance of these doctrines: he counts as his "friends" those only who consistently adhered to them; and, while by no means in favor of bitterly prosecuting or severely punishing "heretics," he shrunk with abhorrence from all thought of communion with them. Perhaps the most striking impression we receive from a perusal of his writings is his sincerity. We may often feel that he is over-credulous in his acceptance of the miraculous; and we may lament his narrowness in clinging so tenaciously to mere ecclesiastical formulæ; but we are always impressed with the genuineness of his convictions, and with his fervent desire to bring what he believed to be truth under the attention of his readers.

The style of Sulpitius is, upon the whole, marked by a considerable degree of classical purity and clearness. He has been called "the Christian Sallust," and there are not a few obvious resemblances between the two writers. But some passages occur in Sulpitius which are almost, if not entirely, unintelligible. This is owing partly to the uncertainty of the text, and partly to the use of terms which had sprung up since classical times, and the exact import of which it is impossible to determine. In executing our version of this author (now for the first time, we believe, translated into English), we have had constantly before us the editions of Sigonius (1609), of Hornius (1664), of Vorstius (1709), and of Halm (1866). We have also consulted a very old French translation of the Historia Sacra, published at Rouen in 1580.

The order in which we have arranged the writings of Sulpitius is as follows:--

1. Life of St. Martin.

2. Letters (undoubted).

3. Dialogues.

4. Letters (doubtful).

5. Sacred History.

By far the most attractive of these works are those bearing on the life and achievements of St. Martin. Sulpitius delights to return again and again to this wonderful man, and cannot find language sufficiently strong in which to extol his merits. Hence, not only in the professed Life, but also in the Letters and Dialogues, we have him brought very fully before us. The reader will find near the beginning of the Vita as translated by us, a note bearing upon the solemn asseverations of Sulpitius as to the reality of the miracles which Martin performed.

Most of the Letters here given are deemed spurious by Halm, the latest editor of our author. He has, nevertheless, included the whole of them in his edition, and we have thought it desirable to follow his example in our translation.

The Sacred History of Sulpitius has for its object to present a compendious history of the world from the Creation down to the year a.d. 400. The first and longer portion of the work is simply an abridgment of the Scripture narrative. The latter part is more interesting and valuable, as it deals with events lying outside of Scripture, and respecting which we are glad to obtain information from all available sources. Unfortunately, however, Sulpitius is not always a trustworthy authority. His inaccuracies in the first part of his work are very numerous, and will be found pointed out in our version.

The following are some of the Estimates which have been formed of our author.

Paulinus, a contemporary of Sulpitius, and bishop of Nola, addressed to him about fifty letters, in the fifth of which he thus writes: "It certainly would not have been given to thee to draw up an account of Martin, unless by a pure heart thou hadst rendered thy mouth worthy of uttering his sacred praises. Thou art blessed, therefore, of the Lord, inasmuch as thou hast been able, in worthy style, and with proper feeling, to complete the history of so great a priest, and so illustrious a confessor. Blessed, too, is he, in accordance with his merits, who has obtained a historian worthy of his faith and of his life; and who has become consecrated to the Divine glory by his own virtues, and to human memory by thy narrative regarding him."

Gennadius (died a.d. 496), in his "Catalogue of illustrious men," says: "The Presbyter Severus, whose cognomen was Sulpitius, belonged to the province of Aquitania. He was a man distinguished both for his family and learning, and was remarkable for his love of poverty and humility. He was also a great friend of some holy men, such as Martin, bishop of Tours, and Paulinus, bishop of Nola; and his works are by no means to be neglected."

In modern times, J. J. Scaliger has said of Sulpitius, "He is the purest of all the ecclesiastical writers." And Vossius, referring to some remarks of Baronius on Sulpitius, says: "I differ from him (Baronius) in this, that, without sufficient care, he calls Gennadius the contemporary of Severus, since Gennadius flourished seventy years, more or less, after Severus. For he dedicated his book `On Faith' (as he himself tells us) to Pope Gelasius, who became bishop of Rome in a.d. 492. But he greatly extols the holiness of Sulpitius; and in the Roman martyrology his memory (i.e. of Sulpitius) is celebrated on the 29th of January."

Archdeacon Farrar has recently remarked concerning Martin and Sulpitius, "Owing partly to the eloquent and facile style of his (Martin's) biographer, Sulpicius Severus, his name was known from Armenia to Egypt more widely than that of any other monk or bishop of his day."--Lives of the Fathers, i. 628.

.

Sulpitius Severus On the Life of St. Martin.

Preface to Desiderius.

Severus to his dearest brother Desiderius sendeth greeting. I had determined, my like-minded brother, to keep private, and confine within the walls of my own house, the little treatise which I had written concerning the life of St. Martin. I did so, as I am not gifted with much talent, and shrank from the criticisms of the world, lest (as I think will be the case) my somewhat unpolished style should displease my readers, and I should be deemed highly worthy of general reprehension for having too boldly laid hold of a subject which ought to have been reserved for truly eloquent writers. But I have not been able to refuse your request again and again presented. For what could there be which I would not grant in deference to your love, even at the expense of my own modesty? However, I have submitted the work to you on the sure understanding that you will reveal it to no other, having received your promise to that effect. Nevertheless, I have my fears that you will become the means of its publication to the world; and I well know that, once issued, it can never [1] be recalled. If this shall happen, and you come to know that it is read by some others, you will, I trust, kindly ask the readers to attend to the facts related, rather than the language in which they are set forth. You will beg them not to be offended if the style chances unpleasantly to affect their ears, because the kingdom of God consists not of eloquence, but faith. Let them also bear in mind that salvation was preached to the world, not by orators, but by fishermen, although God could certainly have adopted the other course, had it been advantageous. For my part, indeed, when I first applied my mind to writing what follows, because I thought it disgraceful that the excellences of so great a man should remain concealed, I resolved with myself not to feel ashamed on account of solecisms of language. This I did because I had never attained to any great knowledge of such things; or, if I had formerly some taste of studies of the kind, I had lost the whole of that, through having neglected these matters for so long a course of time. But, after all, that I may not have in future to adopt such an irksome mode of self-defense, the best way will be that the book should be published, if you think right, with the author's name suppressed. In order that this may be done, kindly erase the title which the book bears on its front, so that the page may be silent; and (what is quite enough) let the book proclaim its subject-matter, while it tells nothing of the author.


Footnotes

[1]"Delere licebit Quod non edideris: nescit vox missa reverti." --Hor. Art Poet. 389-90.


Chapter I.

Reasons for writing the Life of St. Martin.

Most men being vainly devoted to the pursuit of worldly glory, have, as they imagined, acquired a memorial of their own names from this source; viz. devoting their pens to the embellishment of the lives of famous men. This course, although it did not secure for them a lasting reputation, still has undoubtedly brought them some fulfilment of the hope they cherished. It has done so, both by preserving their own memory, though to no purpose, and because, through their having presented to the world the examples of great men, no small emulation has been excited in the bosoms of their readers. Yet, notwithstanding these things, their labors have in no degree borne upon the blessed and never-ending life to which we look forward. For what has a glory, destined to perish with the world, profited those men themselves who have written on mere secular matters? Or what benefit has posterity derived from reading of Hector as a warrior, or Socrates as an expounder of philosophy? There can be no profit in such things, since it is not only folly to imitate the persons referred to, but absolute madness not to assail them with the utmost severity. For, in truth, those persons who estimate human life only by present actions, have consigned their hopes to fables, and their souls to the tomb. In fact, they gave themselves up to be perpetuated simply in the memory of mortals, whereas it is the duty of man rather to seek after eternal life than an eternal memorial and that, not by writing, or fighting, or philosophizing, but by living a pious, holy, and religious life. This erroneous conduct of mankind, being enshrined in literature, has prevailed to such an extent that it has found many who have been emulous either of the vain philosophy or the foolish excellence which has been celebrated. For this reason, I think I will accomplish something well worth the necessary pains, if I write the life of a most holy man, which shall serve in future as an example to others; by which, indeed, the readers shall be roused to the pursuit of true knowledge, and heavenly warfare, and divine virtue. In so doing, we have regard also to our own advantage, so that we may look for, not a vain remembrance among men, but an eternal reward from God. For, although we ourselves have not lived in such a manner that we can serve for an example to others, nevertheless, we have made it our endeavor that he should not remain unknown who was a man worthy of imitation. I shall therefore set about writing the life of St. Martin, and shall narrate both what he did previous to his episcopate, and what he performed as a bishop. At the same time, I cannot hope to set forth all that he was or did. Those excellences of which he alone was conscious are completely unknown, because, as he did not seek for honor from men, he desired, as much as he could accomplish it, that his virtues should be concealed. And even of those which had become known to us, we have omitted a great number, because we have judged it enough if only the more striking and eminent should be recorded. At the same time, I had in the interests of readers to see to it that, no undue amount of instances being set before them should make them weary of the subject. But I implore those who are to read what follows to give full faith to the things narrated, and to believe that I have written nothing of which I had not certain knowledge and evidence. I should, in fact, have preferred to be silent rather than to narrate things which are false. [2]


Footnotes

[2] This is a remarkable asseveration in view of the many miraculous accounts which follow. When we remember, on the one hand, how intimate Sulpitius was with St. Martin, and how strongly, as in this passage, he avouches the truth of all he narrates, it is extremely difficult to decide as to the real value of his narrative. It has been said (Smith's Dict. II. 967) that Sulpitius' Life of St. Martinus is "filled with the most puerile fables," and undoubtedly many of the stories recorded are of that character. But whether, considering the close relation in which the two men stood to each other, all the miraculous accounts are to be discredited, must be left to the judgment of the reader. The following valuable remarks may be quoted on this interesting question. "Some forty years ago," writes Dr. Cazenove, "an audience in Oxford was listening to a professor of modern history (Dr. Arnold of Rugby), who discussed this subject. After pointing out the difference between the Gospel miracles and those recorded by ecclesiastical historians, the lecturer proceeded as follows: `Some appear to be unable to conceive of belief or unbelief, except as having some ulterior object: "We believe this because we love it: we disbelieve it because we wish it to be disproved." There is, however, in minds more healthfully constituted a belief and a disbelief, founded solely upon the evidence of the case, arising neither out of partiality, nor out of prejudice against the supposed conclusions, which may result from its truth or falsehood. And in such a spirit the historical student will consider the case of Bede's and other historians' miracles. He will, I think, as a general rule, disbelieve them, for the immense multitude which he finds recorded, and which, I suppose, no credulity could believe in, shows sufficiently that on this point there was a total want of judgment and a blindness of belief generally existing which make the testimony wholly insufficient; and, while the external evidence in favor of these alleged miracles is so unsatisfactory, there are, for the most part, strong internal evidence against them. But with regard to some miracles, he will see that there is no strong a priori improbability in their occurence, but rather the contrary; as, for instance, when the first missionaries of the Gospel in a barbarous country are said to have been assisted by a manifestation of the spirit of power; and, if the evidence appears to warrant his belief, he will readily and gladly yield it. And in doing so he will have the countenance of a great man (Burke) who in his fragment of English history has not hesitated to express the same sentiments. Nor will he be unwilling, but most thankful, to find sufficient grounds for believing that not only at the beginning of the Gospel, but in ages long afterwards, believing prayer has received extraordinary answers; that it has been heard even in more than it might have dared to ask for. Yet, again, if the gift of faith--the gift as distinguished from the grace--of the faith which removes mountains, has been given to any in later times in remarkable measure the mighty works which such faith may have wrought cannot be incredible in themselves to those who remember our Lord's promise, and if it appears from satisfactory evidence that they were wrought actually, we shall believe them,--and believe with joy. Only as it is in most cases impossible to admit the trustworthiness of the evidence, our minds must remain at the most in a state of suspense; and I do not know why it is necessary to come to any positive decision.'"--"The Fathers for English Readers": St. Hilary of Poitiers and St. Martin of Tours, p. 191. On this subject it has lately been said: "Most, if not all, of the so-called miracles which were supposed to surround Martin with a blaze of glow were either absolutely and on the face of them false; or were gross exaggerations of natural events; or were subjective impressions clothed in objective images; or were the distortions of credulous rumor; or at the best cannot claim in their favor a single particle of trustworthy evidence. They cannot be narrated as though they were actual events. Martin was an eminent bishop but half of the wonderful deeds attributed to him are unworthy and absurd."--Farrar's Lives of the Fathers, I. 644.


Chapter II.

Military Service of St. Martin.

Martin, then, was born at Sabaria [3] in Pannonia, but was brought up at Ticinum, [4] which is situated in Italy. His parents were, according to the judgment of the world, of no mean rank, but were heathens. His father was at first simply a soldier, but afterwards a military tribune. He himself in his youth following military pursuits was enrolled in the imperial guard, first under king Constantine, and then under Julian Cæsar. This, however, was not done of his own free will, for, almost from his earliest years, the holy infancy of the illustrious boy aspired rather to the service of God. [5] For, when he was of the age of ten years, he betook himself, against the wish of his parents, to the Church, and begged that he might become a catechumen. Soon afterwards, becoming in a wonderful manner completely devoted to the service of God, when he was twelve years old, he desired to enter on the life of a hermit; and he would have followed up that desire with the necessary vows, had not his as yet too youthful age prevented. His mind, however, being always engaged on matters pertaining to the monasteries or the Church, already meditated in his boyish years what he afterwards, as a professed servant of Christ, fulfilled. But when an edict was issued by the ruling powers [6] in the state, that the sons of veterans should be enrolled for military service, and he, on the information furnished by his father, (who looked with an evil eye on his blessed actions) having been seized and put in chains, when he was fifteen years old, was compelled to take the military oath, then showed himself content with only one servant as his attendant. And even to him, changing places as it were, he often acted as though, while really master, he had been inferior; to such a degree that, for the most part, he drew off his [servant's] boots and cleaned them with his own hand; while they took their meals together, the real master, however, generally acting the part of servant. During nearly three years before his baptism, he was engaged in the profession of arms, but he kept completely free from those vices in which that class of men become too frequently involved. He showed exceeding kindness towards his fellow-soldiers, and held them in wonderful affection; while his patience and humility surpassed what seemed possible to human nature. There is no need to praise the self-denial which he displayed: it was so great that, even at that date, he was regarded not so much as being a soldier as a monk. By all these qualities he had so endeared himself to the whole body of his comrades, that they esteemed him while they marvelously loved him. Although not yet made a new creature [7] in Christ, he, by his good works, acted the part of a candidate for baptism. This he did, for instance, by aiding those who were in trouble, by furnishing assistance to the wretched, by supporting the needy, by clothing the naked, while he reserved nothing for himself from his military pay except what was necessary for his daily sustenance. Even then, far from being a senseless hearer of the Gospel, he so far complied with its precepts as to take no thought about the morrow.


Footnotes

[3] Sarwar. [4] Pavia. [5] The text is here corrupt and uncertain, but the general meaning is plain to the above effect. Hahn has adopted "divinam servitutem," instead of the common "divina servitute." [6] Sulpitius uses reges instead of the more common expression imperatores. [7] Sulpitius manifestly refers to baptism in these words. However mistakenly, several others of the early Fathers held that regeneration does not take place before baptism, and that baptism is, in fact, absolutely necessary to regeneration. St. Ambrose has the following strong statement on the subject: "Credit catechumenus; sed nisi baptizetur, remissionem peccatorum non potest obtinere."--Libri de his, qui initiantur mysteriis, chap. 4.


Chapter III.

Christ appears to St. Martin.

Accordingly, at a certain period, when he had nothing except his arms and his simple military dress, in the middle of winter, a winter which had shown itself more severe than ordinary, so that the extreme cold was proving fatal to many, he happened to meet at the gate of the city of Amiens [8] a poor man destitute of clothing. He was entreating those that passed by to have compassion upon him, but all passed the wretched man without notice, when Martin, that man full of God, recognized that a being to whom others showed no pity, was, in that respect, left to him. Yet, what should he do? He had nothing except the cloak in which he was clad, for he had already parted with the rest of his garments for similar purposes. Taking, therefore, his sword with which he was girt, he divided his cloak into two equal parts, and gave one part to the poor man, while he again clothed himself with the remainder. Upon this, some of the by-standers laughed, because he was now an unsightly object, and stood out as but partly dressed. Many, however, who were of sounder understanding, groaned deeply because they themselves had done nothing similar. They especially felt this, because, being possessed of more than Martin, they could have clothed the poor man without reducing themselves to nakedness. In the following night, when Martin had resigned himself to sleep, he had a vision of Christ arrayed in that part of his cloak with which he had clothed the poor man. He contemplated the Lord with the greatest attention, and was told to own as his the robe which he had given. Ere long, he heard Jesus saying with a clear voice to the multitude of angels standing round--"Martin, who is still but a catechumen, clothed [9] me with this robe." The Lord, truly mindful of his own words (who had said when on earth--"Inasmuch [10] as ye have done these things to one of the least of these, ye have done them unto me), declared that he himself had been clothed in that poor man; and to confirm the testimony he bore to so good a deed, he condescended to show him himself in that very dress which the poor man had received. After this vision the sainted man was not puffed up with human glory, but, acknowledging the goodness of God in what had been done, and being now of the age of twenty years, he hastened to receive baptism. He did not, however, all at once, retire from military service, yielding to the entreaties of his tribune, whom he admitted to be his familiar tent-companion. [11] For the tribune promised that, after the period of his office had expired, he too would retire from the world. Martin, kept back by the expectation of this event, continued, although but in name, to act the part of a soldier, for nearly two years after he had received baptism.


Footnotes

[8] The place here called by Sulpitius "Ambianensium civitas" was also known as "Samarobriva," and is supposed to be the modern Amiens. [9] St. Matt. xxv. 40. [10] There is a peculiar use of quamdiu in the old Latin rendering of the passage here quoted. It is used as an equivalent for the Greek eph' hoson, no doubt with the meaning "inasmuch as." [11] Comp. Tacitus, Agric. chap. 5, "electus, quem contubernio æstimaret."


Chapter IV.

Martin retires from Military Service.

In the meantime, as the barbarians were rushing within the two divisions of Gaul, Julian Cæsar, [12] bringing an army together at the city [13] of the Vaugiones, began to distribute a donative to the soldiers. As was the custom in such a case, they were called forward, one by one, until it came to the turn of Martin. Then, indeed, judging it a suitable opportunity for seeking his discharge--for he did not think it would be proper for him, if he were not to continue in the service, to receive a donative--he said to Cæsar, "Hitherto I have served you as a soldier: allow me now to become a soldier to God: let the man who is to serve thee receive thy donative: I am the soldier of Christ: it is not lawful for me to fight." Then truly the tyrant stormed on hearing such words, declaring that, from fear of the battle, which was to take place on the morrow, and not from any religious feeling, Martin withdrew from the service. But Martin, full of courage, yea all the more resolute from the danger that had been set before him, exclaims, "If this conduct of mine is ascribed to cowardice, and not to faith, I will take my stand unarmed before the line of battle tomorrow, and in the name of the Lord Jesus, protected by the sign of the cross, and not by shield or helmet, I will safely penetrate the ranks of the enemy." He is ordered, therefore, to be thrust back into prison, determined on proving his words true by exposing himself unarmed to the barbarians. But, on the following day, the enemy sent ambassadors to treat about peace and surrendered both themselves and all their possessions. In these circumstances who can doubt that this victory was due to the saintly man? It was granted him that he should not be sent unarmed to the fight. And although the good Lord could have preserved his own soldier, even amid the swords and darts of the enemy, yet that his blessed eyes might not be pained by witnessing the death of others, he removed all necessity for fighting. For Christ did not require to secure any other victory in behalf of his own soldier, than that, the enemy being subdued without bloodshed, no one should suffer death.


Footnotes

[12] Commonly known as Julian the Apostate. [13] This city was called Borbetomagus, and is represented by the modern Worms.


Chapter V.

Martin converts a Robber to the Faith.

From that time quitting military service, Martin earnestly sought after the society of Hilarius, bishop of the city Pictava, [14] whose faith in the things of God was then regarded as of high renown, and in universal esteem. For some time Martin made his abode with him. Now, this same Hilarius, having instituted him in the office of the diaconate, endeavored still more closely to attach him to himself, and to bind him by leading him to take part in Divine service. But when he constantly refused, crying out that he was unworthy, Hilarius, as being a man of deep penetration, perceived that he could only be constrained in this way, if he should lay that sort of office upon him, in discharging which there should seem to be a kind of injury done him. He therefore appointed him to be an exorcist. Martin did not refuse this appointment, from the fear that he might seem to have looked down upon it as somewhat humble. Not long after this, he was warned in a dream that he should visit his native land, and more particularly his parents, who were still involved in heathenism, with a regard for their religious interests. He set forth in accordance with the expressed wish of the holy Hilarius, and, after being adjured by him with many prayers and tears, that he would in due time return. According to report Martin entered on that journey in a melancholy frame of mind, after calling the brethren to witness that many sufferings lay before him. The result fully justified this prediction. For, first of all, having followed some devious paths among the Alps, he fell into the hands of robbers. And when one of them lifted up his axe and poised it above Martin's head, another of them met with his right hand the blow as it fell; nevertheless, having had his hands bound behind his back, he was handed over to one of them to be guarded and stripped. The robber, having led him to a private place apart from the rest, began to enquire of him who he was. Upon this, Martin replied that he was a Christian. The robber next asked him whether he was afraid. Then indeed Martin most courageously replied that he never before had felt so safe, because he knew that the mercy of the Lord would be especially present with him in the midst of trials. He added that he grieved rather for the man in whose hands he was, because, by living a life of robbery, he was showing himself unworthy of the mercy of Christ. And then entering on a discourse concerning Evangelical truth, he preached the word of God to the robber. Why should I delay stating the result? The robber believed; and, after expressing his respect for Martin, he restored him to the way, entreating him to pray the Lord for him. That same robber was afterwards seen leading a religious life; so that, in fact, the narrative I have given above is based upon an account furnished by himself.


Footnotes

[14] This city of the Pictones (or Pictavi) who are mentioned by Cæsar, Bell Gall. iii. 11. Their territory corresponded to the modern diocese of Poitiers.


Chapter VI.

The Devil throws himself in the Way of Martin.

Martin, then, having gone on from thence, after he had passed Milan, the devil met him in the way, having assumed the form of a man. The devil first asked him to what place he was going. Martin having answered him to the effect that he was minded to go whithersoever the Lord called him, the devil said to him, "Wherever you go, or whatever you attempt, the devil will resist you." Then Martin, replying to him in the prophetical word, said, "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear what man can do unto me." [15] Upon this, his enemy immediately vanished out of his sight; and thus, as he had intended in his heart and mind, he set free his mother from the errors of heathenism, though his father continued to cleave to its evils. However, he saved many by his example.

After this, when the Arian heresy had spread through the whole world, and was especially powerful in Illyria, and when he, almost single-handed, was fighting most strenuously against the treachery of the priests, and had been subjected to many punishments (for he was publicly scourged, and at last was compelled to leave the city), again betaking himself to Italy, and having found the Church in the two divisions of Gaul in a distracted condition through the departure also of the holy Hilarius, whom the violence of the heretics had driven into exile, he established a monastery for himself at Milan. There, too, Auxentius, the originator and leader of the Arians, bitterly persecuted him; and, after he had assailed him with many injuries, violently expelled him from the city. Thinking, therefore, that it was necessary to yield to circumstances, he withdrew to the island Gallinaria, [16] with a certain presbyter as his companion, a man of distinguished excellences. Here he subsisted for some time on the roots of plants; and, while doing so, he took for food hellebore, which is, as people say, a poisonous kind of grass. But when he perceived the strength of the poison increasing within him, and death now nearly at hand, he warded off the imminent danger by means of prayer, and immediately all his pains were put to flight. And not long after having discovered that, through penitence on the part of the king, permission to return had been granted to holy Hilarius, he made an effort to meet him at Rome, and, with this view, set out for that city.


Footnotes

[15] Comp. Ps. cxviii. 6. [16] An island near Albium Ingaunum--the modern Allenga, on the gulf of Genoa. The island was so named from abounding in fowls in a half tamed state. It still bears the name of Gallinaria.


Chapter VII.

Martin restores a Catechumen to Life.

As Hilarius had already gone away, so Martin followed in his footsteps; and having been most joyously welcomed by him, he established for himself a monastery not far from the town. At this time a certain catechumen joined him, being desirous of becoming instructed in the doctrines [17] and habits of the most holy man. But, after the lapse only of a few days, the catechumen, seized with a languor, began to suffer from a violent fever. It so happened that Martin had then left home, and having remained away three days, he found on his return that life had departed from the catechumen; and so suddenly had death occurred, that he had left this world without receiving baptism. The body being laid out in public was being honored by the last sad offices on the part of the mourning brethren, when Martin hurries up to them with tears and lamentations. But then laying hold, as it were, of the Holy Spirit, with the whole powers of his mind, he orders the others to quit the cell in which the body was lying; and bolting the door, he stretches himself at full length on the dead limbs of the departed brother. Having given himself for some time to earnest prayer, and perceiving by means of the Spirit of God that power was present, [18] he then rose up for a little, and gazing on the countenance of the deceased, he waited without misgiving for the result of his prayer and of the mercy of the Lord. And scarcely had the space of two hours elapsed, when he saw the dead man begin to move a little in all his members, and to tremble with his eyes opened for the practice of sight. Then indeed, turning to the Lord with a loud voice and giving thanks, he filled the cell with his ejaculations. Hearing the noise, those who had been standing at the door immediately rush inside. And truly a marvelous spectacle met them, for they beheld the man alive whom they had formerly left dead. Thus being restored to life, and having immediately obtained baptism, he lived for many years afterwards; and he was the first who offered himself to us both as a subject that had experienced the virtues [19] of Martin, and as a witness to their existence. The same man was wont to relate that, when he left the body, he was brought before the tribunal of the Judge, and being assigned to gloomy regions and vulgar crowds, he received a severe [20] sentence. Then, however, he added, it was suggested by two angels of the Judge that he was the man for whom Martin was praying; and that, on this account, he was ordered to be led back by the same angels, and given up to Martin, and restored to his former life. From this time forward, the name of the sainted man became illustrious, so that, as being reckoned holy by all, he was also deemed powerful and truly apostolical.


Footnotes

[17] All this seems to be implied in the words "institui disciplinis." [18] "adesse virtutem." [19] Or "powers" according to the use of the Greek word dunamis in Luke viii. 46. [20] Here again it is to be noted what fatal consequences were supposed to flow from dying without receiving baptism.


Chapter VIII.

Martin restores one that had been strangled.

Not long after these events, while Martin was passing by the estate of a certain man named Lupicinus, who was held in high esteem according to the judgment of the world, he was received with shouting and the lamentations of a wailing crowd. Having, in an anxious state of mind gone up to that multitude, and enquired what such weeping meant, he was told that one of the slaves of the family had put an end to his life by hanging. Hearing this, Martin entered the cell in which the body was lying, and, excluding all the multitude, he stretched himself upon the body, and spent some little time in prayer. Ere long, the deceased, with life beaming in his countenance, and with his drooping eyes fixed on Martin's face, is aroused; and with a gentle effort attempting to rise, he laid hold of the right hand of the saintly man, and by this means stood upon his feet. In this manner, while the whole multitude looked on, he walked along with Martin to the porch of the house.


Chapter IX.

High Esteem in which Martin was held.

Nearly about the same time, Martin was called upon to undertake the episcopate of the church at Tours; [21] but when he could not easily be drawn forth from his monastery, a certain Ruricius, one of the citizens, pretending that his wife was ill, and casting himself down at his knees, prevailed on him to go forth. Multitudes of the citizens having previously been posted by the road on which he traveled, he is thus under a kind of guard escorted to the city. An incredible number of people not only from that town, but also from the neighboring cities, had, in a wonderful manner, assembled to give their votes. [22] There was but one wish among all, there were the same prayers, and there was the same fixed opinion to the effect that Martin was most worthy of the episcopate, and that the church would be happy with such a priest. A few persons, however, and among these some of the bishops, who had been summoned to appoint a chief priest, were impiously offering resistance, asserting forsooth that Martin's person was contemptible, that he was unworthy of the episcopate, that he was a man despicable in countenance, that his clothing was mean, and his hair disgusting. This madness of theirs was ridiculed by the people of sounder judgment, inasmuch as such objectors only proclaimed the illustrious character of the man, while they sought to slander him. Nor truly was it allowed them to do anything else, than what the people, following the Divine will, desired [23] to be accomplished. Among the bishops, however, who had been present, a certain one of the name Defensor is said to have specially offered opposition; and on this account it was observed that he was at the time severely censured in the reading from the prophets. For when it so happened that the reader, whose duty it was to read in public that day, being blocked out by the people, failed to appear, the officials falling into confusion, while they waited for him who never came, one of those standing by, laying hold of the Psalter, seized upon the first verse which presented itself to him. Now, the Psalm ran thus: "Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise because of thine enemies, that thou mightest destroy the enemy and the avenger." [24] On these words being read, a shout was raised by the people, and the opposite party were confounded. It was believed that this Psalm had been chosen by Divine ordination, that Defensor [25] might hear a testimony to his own work, because the praise of the Lord was perfected out of the mouth of babes and sucklings in the case of Martin, while the enemy was at the same time both pointed out and destroyed.


Footnotes

[21] The Turones occupied territory on both sides of the river Loire. Cæsar refers to them (Bell. Gall. ii. 35, &c.). Their chief town was named Cæsarodunum, the modern Tours. [22] It is clear from this passage that the people at large were accustomed in ancient times to give their votes on the appointment of a bishop. [23] We here adopt Halm's reading "cogitabat," in preference to the usual "cogebat." [24] Ps. viii. 3. [25] The word translated "avenger" in the English A.V. is "defensor" in the Vulgate, and thus the man referred to would have seemed to be expressly named.


Chapter X.

Martin as Bishop of Tours.

And now having entered on the episcopal office, it is beyond my power fully to set forth how Martin distinguished himself in the discharge of its duties. For he remained with the utmost constancy, the same as he had been before. There was the same humility in his heart, and the same homeliness in his garments. Full alike of dignity and courtesy, he kept up the position of a bishop properly, yet in such a way as not to lay aside the objects and virtues of a monk. Accordingly he made use, for some time, of the cell connected with the church; but afterwards, when he felt it impossible to tolerate the disturbance caused by the numbers of those visiting it, he established a monastery for himself about two miles outside the city. This spot was so secret and retired that he enjoyed in it the solitude of a hermit. For, on one side, it was surrounded by a precipitous rock of a lofty mountain, while the river Loire had shut in the rest of the plain by a bay extending back for a little distance; and the place could be approached only by one, and that a very narrow passage. Here, then, he possessed a cell constructed of wood. Many also of the brethren had, in the same manner, fashioned retreats for themselves, but most of them had formed these out of the rock of the overhanging mountain, hollowed into caves. There were altogether eighty disciples, who were being disciplined after the example of the saintly master. No one there had anything which was called his own; all things were possessed in common. It was not allowed either to buy or to sell anything, as is the custom among most monks. No art was practiced there, except that of transcribers, and even this was assigned to the brethren of younger years, while the elders spent their time in prayer. Rarely did any one of them go beyond the cell, unless when they assembled at the place of prayer. They all took their food together, after the hour of fasting was past. No one used wine, except when illness compelled them to do so. Most of them were clothed in garments of camels' hair. [26] Any dress approaching to softness [27] was there deemed criminal, and this must be thought the more remarkable, because many among them were such as are deemed of noble rank. These, though far differently brought up, had forced themselves down to this degree of humility and patient endurance, and we have seen numbers of these afterwards made bishops. For what city or church would there be that would not desire to have its priests from among those in the monastery of Martin?


Footnotes

[26] Cf. St. Matt. iii. 4. [27] In St. Matt. xi. 8, there is a reference to those "that wear soft clothing,"--hoi ta malaka phorountes.


Chapter XI.

Martin demolishes an Altar consecrated to a Robber.

But let me proceed to a description of other excellences which Martin displayed as a bishop. There was, not far from the town, a place very close to the monastery, which a false human opinion had consecrated, on the supposition that some martyrs had been buried together there. For it was also believed that an altar had been placed there by former bishops. But Martin, not inclined to give a hasty belief to things uncertain, often asked from those who were his elders, whether among the presbyters or clerics, that the name of the martyr, or the time when he suffered, should be made known to him. He did so, he said, because he had great scruples on these points, inasmuch as no steady tradition respecting them had come down from antiquity. Having, therefore, for a time kept away from the place, by no means wishing to lessen the religious veneration with which it was regarded, because he was as yet uncertain, but, at the same time not lending his authority to the opinion of the multitude, lest a mere superstition should obtain a firmer footing, he one day went out to the place, taking a few brethren with him as companions. There standing above the very sepulchre, Martin prayed to the Lord that he would reveal, who the man in question was, and what was his character or desert. Next turning to the left-hand side, he sees standing very near a shade of a mean and cruel appearance. Martin commands him to tell his name and character. Upon this, he declares his name, and confesses his guilt. He says that he had been a robber, and that he was beheaded on account of his crimes; that he had been honored simply by an error of the multitude; that he had nothing in common with the martyrs, since glory was their portion, while punishment exacted its penalties from him. Those who stood by heard, in a wonderful way, the voice of the speaker, but they beheld no person. Then Martin made known what he had seen, and ordered the altar which had been there to be removed, and thus he delivered the people from the error of that superstition.


Chapter XII.

Martin causes the Bearers of a Dead Body to stop.

Now, it came to pass some time after the above, that while Martin was going a journey, he met the body of a certain heathen, which was being carried to the tomb with superstitious funeral rites. Perceiving from a distance the crowd that was approaching, and being ignorant as to what was going on, he stood still for a little while. For there was a distance of nearly half a mile between him and the crowd, so that it was difficult to discover what the spectacle he beheld really was. Nevertheless, because he saw it was a rustic gathering, and when the linen clothes spread over the body were blown about by the action of the wind, he believed that some profane rites of sacrifice were being performed. This thought occurred to him, because it was the custom of the Gallic rustics in their wretched folly to carry about through the fields the images of demons veiled with a white covering. Lifting up, therefore, the sign of the cross opposite to them, he commanded the crowd not to move from the place in which they were, and to set down the burden. Upon this, the miserable creatures might have been seen at first to become stiff like rocks. Next, as they endeavored, with every possible effort, to move forward, but were not able to take a step farther, they began to whirl themselves about in the most ridiculous fashion, until, not able any longer to sustain the weight, they set down the dead body. Thunderstruck, and gazing in bewilderment at each other as not knowing what had happened to them they remained sunk in silent thought. But when the saintly man discovered that they were simply a band of peasants celebrating funeral rites, and not sacrifices to the gods, again raising his hand, he gave them the power of going away, and of lifting up the body. Thus he both compelled them to stand when he pleased, and permitted them to depart when he thought good.


Chapter XIII.

Martin escapes from a Falling Pine-tree.

Again, when in a certain village he had demolished a very ancient temple, and had set about cutting down a pine-tree, which stood close to the temple, the chief priest of that place, and a crowd of other heathens began to oppose him. And these people, though, under the influence of the Lord, they had been quiet while the temple was being overthrown, could not patiently allow the tree to be cut down. Martin carefully instructed them that there was nothing sacred in the trunk of a tree, and urged them rather to honor God whom he himself served. He added that there was a moral necessity why that tree should be cut down, because it had been dedicated to a demon. Then one of them who was bolder than the others says, "If you have any trust in thy God, whom you say you worship, we ourselves will cut down this tree, and be it your part to receive it when falling; for if, as you declare, your Lord is with you, you will escape all injury." Then Martin, courageously trusting in the Lord, promises that he would do what had been asked. Upon this, all that crowd of heathen agreed to the condition named; for they held the loss of their tree a small matter, if only they got the enemy of their religion buried beneath its fall. Accordingly, since that pine-tree was hanging over in one direction, so that there was no doubt to what side it would fall on being cut, Martin, having been bound, is, in accordance with the decision of these pagans, placed in that spot where, as no one doubted, the tree was about to fall. They began, therefore, to cut down their own tree, with great glee and joyfulness, while there was at some distance a great multitude of wondering spectators. And now the pine-tree began to totter, and to threaten its [28] own ruin by falling. The monks at a distance grew pale, and, terrified by the danger ever coming nearer, had lost all hope and confidence, expecting only the death of Martin. But he, trusting in the Lord, and waiting courageously, when now the falling pine had uttered its expiring crash, while it was now falling, while it was just rushing upon him, simply holding up his hand against it, he put in its way the sign of salvation. Then, indeed, after the manner of a spinning-top (one might have thought it driven [29] back), it swept round to the opposite side, to such a degree that it almost crushed the rustics, who had taken their places there in what was deemed a safe spot. Then truly, a shout being raised to heaven, the heathen were amazed by the miracle, while the monks wept for joy; and the name of Christ was in common extolled by all. The well-known result was that on that day salvation came to that region. For there was hardly one of that immense multitude of heathens who did not express a desire for the imposition of hands, and abandoning his impious errors, made a profession of faith in the Lord Jesus. Certainly, before the times of Martin, very few, nay, almost none, in those regions had received the name of Christ; but through his virtues and example that name has prevailed to such an extent, that now there is no place thereabouts which is not filled either with very crowded churches or monasteries. For wherever he destroyed heathen temples, there he used immediately to build either churches or monasteries.


Footnotes

[28] Perhaps "suam" here stands for "ejus," as in other passages of our author. The meaning will then be, "and to threaten his (Martin's) destruction by falling." [29] It seems better to preserve the parenthesis than to translate the words as they stand in Halm's text, "tum vero--velut turbinis modo retro actam putares--diversam in partem ruit."


Chapter XIV.

Martin destroys Heathen Temples and Altars.

Nor did he show less eminence, much about the same time, in other transactions of a like kind. For, having in a certain village set fire to a very ancient and celebrated temple, the circle of flames was carried by the action of the wind upon a house which was very close to, yea, connected with, the temple. When Martin perceived this, he climbed by rapid ascent to the roof of the house, presenting himself in front of the advancing flames. Then indeed might the fire have been seen thrust back in a wonderful manner against the force of the wind, so that there appeared a sort of conflict of the two elements fighting together. Thus, by the influence of Martin, the fire only acted in the place where it was ordered to do so. But in a village which was named Leprosum, when he too wished to overthrow a temple which had acquired great wealth through the superstitious ideas entertained of its sanctity, a multitude of the heathen resisted him to such a degree that he was driven back not without bodily injury. He, therefore, withdrew to a place in the vicinity, and there for three days, clothed in sackcloth [30] and ashes fasting and praying the whole time, he besought the Lord, that, as he had not been able to overthrow that temple by human effort, Divine power might be exerted to destroy it. Then two angels, with spears and shields after the manner of heavenly warriors, suddenly presented themselves to him, saying that they were sent by the Lord to put to flight the rustic multitude, and to furnish protection to Martin, lest, while the temple was being destroyed, any one should offer resistance. They told him therefore to return, and complete the blessed work which he had begun. Accordingly Martin returned to the village; and while the crowds of heathen looked on in perfect quiet as he razed the pagan temple even to the foundations, he also reduced all the altars and images to dust. At this sight the rustics, when they perceived that they had been so astounded and terrified by an intervention of the Divine will, that they might not be found fighting against the bishop, almost all believed in the Lord Jesus. They then began to cry out openly and to confess that the God of Martin ought to be worshiped, and that the idols should be despised, which were not able to help them.


Footnotes

[30] Literally "a covering made of Cilician goats' hair." It was called Cilicium, and was worn by soldiers and others.


Chapter XV.

Martin offers his Neck to an Assassin.

I shall also relate what took place in the village of the Ædui. When Martin was there overthrowing a temple, a multitude of rustic heathen rushed upon him in a frenzy of rage. And when one of them, bolder than the rest, made an attack upon him with a drawn sword, Martin, throwing back his cloak, offered his bare neck to the assassin. Nor did the heathen delay to strike, but in the very act of lifting up his right arm, he fell to the ground on his back, and being overwhelmed by the fear of God, he entreated for pardon. Not unlike this was that other event which happened to Martin, that when a certain man had resolved to wound him with a knife as he was destroying some idols, at the very moment of fetching the blow, the weapon was struck out of his hands and disappeared. Very frequently, too, when the pagans were addressing him to the effect that he would not overthrow their temples, he so soothed and conciliated the minds of the heathen by his holy discourse that, the light of truth having been revealed to them, they themselves overthrew their own temples.


Chapter XVI.

Cures effected by St. Martin.

Moreover, the gift [31] of accomplishing cures was so largely possessed by Martin, that scarcely any sick person came to him for assistance without being at once restored to health. This will clearly appear from the following example. A certain girl at Treves [32] was so completely prostrated by a terrible paralysis that for a long time she had been quite unable to make use of her body for any purpose, and being, as it were, already dead, only the smallest breath of life seemed still to remain in her. Her afflicted relatives were standing by, expecting nothing but her death, when it was suddenly announced that Martin had come to that city. When the father of the girl found that such was the case, he ran to make a request in behalf of his all but lifeless child. It happened that Martin had already entered the church. There, while the people were looking on, and in the presence of many other bishops, the old man, uttering a cry of grief, embraced the saint's knees and said: "My daughter is dying of a miserable kind of infirmity; and, what is more dreadful than death itself, she is now alive only in the spirit, her flesh being already dead before the time. I beseech thee to go to her, and give her thy blessing; for I believe that through you she will be restored to health." Martin, troubled by such an address, was bewildered, and shrank back, saying that this was a matter not in his own hands; that the old man was mistaken in the judgment he had formed; and that he was not worthy to be the instrument through whom the Lord should make a display of his power. The father, in tears, persevered in still more earnestly pressing the case, and entreated Martin to visit the dying girl. At last, constrained by the bishops standing by to go as requested, he went down to the home of the girl. An immense crowd was waiting at the doors, to see what the servant of the Lord would do. And first, betaking himself to his familiar arms in affairs of that kind, he cast himself down on the ground and prayed. Then gazing earnestly upon the ailing girl, he requests that oil should be given him. After he had received and blessed this, he poured the powerful sacred liquid into the mouth of the girl, and immediately her voice returned to her. Then gradually, through contact with him, her limbs began, one by one, to recover life, till, at last, in the presence of the people, she arose with firm steps.


Footnotes

[31] The Latin word gratia here corresponds to the Greek charisma. St. Paul says much respecting the various charismata in 1 Cor. xii., and speaks, among others, of charismata iamaton (v. 9). [32] The name Treveri at first denoted the people (as often in Cæsar, Bell. Gall. i. 37, &c.), and was afterwards applied to their chief city, the modern Treves.


Chapter XVII.

Martin casts out Several Devils.

At the same time the servant of one Tetradius, a man of proconsular rank, having been laid hold of by a demon, was tormented with the most miserable results. Martin, therefore, having been asked to lay his hands on him, ordered the servant to be brought to him; but the evil spirit could, in no way, be brought forth from the cell in which he was: he showed himself so fearful, with ferocious teeth, to those who attempted to draw near. Then Tetradius throws himself at the feet of the saintly man, imploring that he himself would go down to the house in which the possessed of the devil was kept. But Martin then declared that he could not visit the house of an unconverted heathen. For Tetradius, at that time, was still involved in the errors of heathenism. He, therefore, pledges his word that if the demon were driven out of the boy, he would become a Christian. Martin, then, laying his hand upon the boy, cast the evil spirit out of him. On seeing this, Tetradius believed in the Lord Jesus, and immediately became a catechumen, while, not long after, he was baptized; and he always regarded Martin with extraordinary affection, as having been the author of his salvation.

About the same time, having entered the dwelling of a certain householder in the same town, he stopped short at the very threshold, and said, that he perceived a horrible demon in the courtyard of the house. When Martin ordered it to depart, it laid hold of a certain member of the family, who was staying in the inner part of the house; and the poor wretch began at once to rage with his teeth, and to lacerate whomsoever he met. The house was thrown into disorder; the family was in confusion; and the people present took to flight. Martin threw himself in the way of the frenzied creature, and first of all commanded him to stand still. But when he continued to gnash with his teeth, and, with gaping mouth, was threatening to bite, Martin inserted his fingers into his mouth, and said, "If you possess any power, devour these." But then, as if red-hot iron had entered his jaws, drawing his teeth far away he took care not to touch the fingers of the saintly man; and when he was compelled by punishments and tortures, to flee out of the possessed body, while he had no power of escaping by the mouth, he was cast out by means of a defluxion of the belly, leaving disgusting traces behind him.


Chapter XVIII.

Martin performs Various Miracles.

In the meanwhile, as a sudden report had troubled the city as to the movement and inroad of the barbarians, Martin orders a possessed person to be set before him, and commanded him to declare whether this message was true or not. Then he confessed that there were sixteen demons who had spread this report among the people, in order that by the fear thus excited, Martin might have to flee from the city, but that, in fact, nothing was less in the minds of the barbarians than to make any inroad. When the unclean spirit thus acknowledged these things in the midst of the church, the city was set free from the fear and tumult which had at the time been felt.

At Paris, again, when Martin was entering the gate of the city, with large crowds attending him, he gave a kiss to a leper, of miserable appearance, while all shuddered at seeing him do so; and Martin blessed him, with the result that he was instantly cleansed from all his misery. On the following day, the man appearing in the church with a healthy skin, gave thanks for the soundness of body which he had recovered. This fact, too, ought not to be passed over in silence, that threads from Martin's garment, or such as had been plucked from the sackcloth which he wore, wrought frequent miracles upon those who were sick. For, by either being tied round the fingers or placed about the neck, they very often drove away diseases from the afflicted.


Chapter XIX.

A Letter of Martin effects a Cure, with Other Miracles.

Further, Arborius, an ex-prefect, and a man of a very holy and faithful character, while his daughter was in agony from the burning fever of a quartan ague, inserted in the bosom of the girl, at the very paroxysm of the heat, a letter of Martin which happened to have been brought to him, and immediately the fever was dispelled. This event had such an influence upon Arborius, that he at once consecrated the girl to God, and devoted her to perpetual virginity. Then, proceeding to Martin, he presented the girl to him, as an obvious living example of his power of working miracles, inasmuch as she had been cured by him though absent; and he would not suffer her to be consecrated by any other than Martin, through his placing upon her the dress characteristic of virginity.

Paulinus, too, a man who was afterwards to furnish a striking example of the age, having begun to suffer grievously in one of his eyes, and when a pretty thick skin [33] having grown over it had already covered up its pupil, Martin touched his eye with a painter's brush, and, all pain being removed, thus restored it to its former soundness. He himself also, when, by a certain accident, he had fallen out of an upper room, and tumbling down a broken, uneven stair, had received many wounds, as he lay in his cell at the point of death, and was tortured with grievous sufferings, saw in the night an angel appear to him, who washed his wounds, and applied healing ointment to the bruised members of his body. As the effect of this, he found himself on the morrow restored to soundness of health, so that he was not thought to have suffered any harm. But because it would be tedious to go through everything of this kind, let these examples suffice, as a few out of a multitude; and let it be enough that we do not in striking cases [of miraculous interposition] detract from the truth, while, having so many to choose from, we avoid exciting weariness in the reader.


Footnotes

[33] "Nubes," lit. "a cloud."


Chapter XX.

How Martin acted towards the Emperor Maximus.

And here to insert some smaller matters among things so great (although such is the nature of our times in which all things have fallen into decay and corruption, it is almost a pre-eminent virtue for priestly firmness not to have yielded to royal flattery), when a number of bishops from various parts had assembled to the Emperor Maximus, a man of fierce character, and at that time elated with the victory he had won in the civil wars, and when the disgraceful flattery of all around the emperor was generally remarked, while the priestly dignity had, with degenerate submissiveness, taken a second place to the royal retinue, in Martin alone, apostolic authority continued to assert itself. For even if he had to make suit to the sovereign for some things, he commanded rather than entreated him; and although often invited, he kept away from his entertainments, saying that he could not take a place at the table of one who, out of two emperors, had deprived one of his kingdom, and the other of his life. At last, when Maximus maintained that he had not of his own accord assumed the sovereignty, but that he had simply defended by arms the necessary requirements [34] of the empire, regard to which had been imposed upon him by the soldiers, according to the Divine appointment, and that the favor of God did not seem wanting to him who, by an event seemingly so incredible, had secured the victory, adding to that the statement that none of his adversaries had been slain except in the open field of battle, at length, Martin, overcome either by his reasoning or his entreaties, came to the royal banquet. The king was wonderfully pleased because he had gained this point. Moreover, there were guests present who had been invited as if to a festival; men of the highest and most illustrious rank,--the prefect, who was also consul, named Evodius, one of the most righteous men that ever lived; two courtiers possessed of the greatest power, the brother and uncle of the king, while between these two, the presbyter of Martin had taken his place; but he himself occupied a seat which was set quite close to the king. About the middle of the banquet, according to custom, one of the servants presented a goblet to the king. He orders it rather to be given to the very holy bishop, expecting and hoping that he should then receive the cup from his right hand. But Martin, when he had drunk, handed the goblet to his own presbyter, as thinking no one worthier to drink next to himself, and holding that it would not be right for him to prefer either the king himself, or those who were next the king, to the presbyter. And the emperor, as well as all those who were then present, admired this conduct so much, that this very thing, by which they had been undervalued, gave them pleasure. The report then ran through the whole palace that Martin had done, at the king's dinner, what no bishop had dared to do at the banquets of the lowest judges. And Martin predicted to the same Maximus long before, that if he went into Italy to which he then desired to go, waging war, against the Emperor Valentinianus, it would come to pass that he should know he would [35] indeed be victorious in the first attack, but would perish a short time afterwards. And we have seen that this did in fact take place. For, on his first arrival Valentinianus had to betake himself to flight but recovering his strength about a year afterwards, Maximus was taken and slain by him within the walls of Aquileia.


Footnotes

[34] "Regni necessitatem"--an awkward expression. [35] There is considerable confusion in this sentence.


Chapter XXI.

Martin has to do both with Angels and Devils.

It is also well known that angels were very often seen by him, so that they spoke in turns with him in set speech. As to the devil, Martin held him so visible and ever under the power of his eyes, that whether he kept himself in his proper form, or changed himself into different shapes of spiritual wickedness, he was perceived by Martin, under whatever guise he appeared. The devil knew well that he could not escape discovery, and therefore frequently heaped insults upon Martin, being unable to beguile him by trickery. On one occasion the devil, holding in his hand the bloody horn of an ox, rushed into Martin's cell with great noise, and holding out to him his bloody right hand, while at the same time he exulted in the crime he had committed, said: "Where, O Martin, is thy power? I have just slain one of your people." Then Martin assembled the brethren, and related to them what the devil had disclosed, while he ordered them carefully to search the several cells in order to discover who had been visited with this calamity. They report that no one of the monks was missing, but that one peasant, hired by them, had gone to the forest to bring home wood in his wagon. Upon hearing this, Martin instructs some of them to go and meet him. On their doing so, the man was found almost dead at no great distance from the monastery. Nevertheless, although just drawing his last breath, he made known to the brethren the cause of his wound and death. He said that, while he was drawing tighter the thongs which had got loose on the oxen yoked together, one of the oxen, throwing his head free, had wounded him with his horn in the groin. And not long after the man expired. You [36] see with what judgment of the Lord this power was given to the devil. This was a marvelous feature in Martin that not only on this occasion to which I have specially referred, but on many occasions of the same kind, in fact as often as such things occurred, he perceived them long beforehand, and [37] disclosed the things which had been revealed to him to the brethren.


Footnotes

[36] Halm reads the imperative "videris," "consider." [37] Halm reads "aut sibi nuntiata fratribus indicabat."


Chapter XXII.

Martin preaches Repentance even to the Devil.

Now, the devil, while he tried to impose upon the holy man by a thousand injurious arts, often thrust himself upon him in a visible form, but in very various shapes. For sometimes he presented himself to his view changed into the person of Jupiter, often into that of Mercury and Minerva. Often, too, were heard words of reproach, in which the crowd of demons assailed Martin with scurrilous expressions. But knowing that all were false and groundless, he was not affected by the charges brought against him. Moreover, some of the brethren bore witness that they had heard a demon reproaching Martin in abusive terms, and asking why he had taken back, on their subsequent repentance, certain of the brethren who had, some time previously, lost their baptism by falling into various errors. The demon set forth the crimes of each of them; but they added that Martin, resisting the devil firmly, answered him, that by-past sins are cleansed away by the leading of a better life, and that through the mercy of God, those are to be absolved from their sins who have given up their evil ways. The devil saying in opposition to this that such guilty men as those referred to did not come within the pale of pardon, and that no mercy was extended by the Lord to those who had once fallen away, Martin is said to have cried out in words to the following effect: "If thou, thyself, wretched being, wouldst but desist from attacking mankind, and even, at this period, when the day of judgment is at hand, wouldst only repent of your deeds, I, with a true confidence in the Lord, would promise you the mercy of Christ." [38] O what a holy boldness with respect to the loving-kindness of the Lord, in which, although he could not assert authority, he nevertheless showed the feelings dwelling within him! And since our discourse has here sprung up concerning the devil and his devices, it does not seem away from the point, although the matter does not bear immediately upon Martin, to relate what took place; both because the virtues of Martin do, to some extent, appear in the transaction, and the incident, which was worthy of a miracle, will properly be put on record, with the view of furnishing a caution, should anything of a similar character subsequently occur.


Footnotes

[38] This is a truly noteworthy passage. It anticipates a well-known sentiment of Burns, the national bard of Scotland. In his Address to the Deil, Burns has said that if the great enemy would only "tak a thocht an' men'," he might still have a chance of safety, and this idea seems very much in accordance with the opinion of St. Martin as expressed above. Hornius, however, is very indignant on account of it, and exclaims: "Intolerabilis hic Martini error. Nec Sulpicius excusatione sua demit, sed auget. Origenes primus ejus erroris author."


Chapter XXIII.

A Case of Diabolic Deception.

There was a certain man, Clarus by name, a most noble youth, who afterwards became a presbyter, and who is now, through his happy departure from this world, numbered among the saints. He, leaving all others, betook himself to Martin, and in a short time became distinguished for the most exalted faith, and for all sorts of excellence. Now, it came to pass that, when he had erected an abode for himself not far from the monastery of the bishop, and many brethren were staying with him, a certain youth, Anatolius by name, having, under the profession of a monk, falsely assumed every appearance of humility and innocence, came to him, and lived for some time on the common store along with the rest. Then, as time went on, he began to affirm that angels were in the habit of talking with him. As no one gave any credit to his words, he urged a number of the brethren to believe by certain signs. At length he went to such a length as to declare that angels passed between him and God; and now he wished that he should be regarded as one of the prophets. Clarus, however, could by no means be induced to believe. He then began to threaten Clarus with the anger of God and present afflictions, because he did not believe one of the saints. At the last, he is related to have burst forth with the following declaration: "Behold, the Lord will this night give me a white robe out of heaven, clothed in which, I will dwell in the midst of you; and that will be to you a sign that I am the Power of God, inasmuch as I have been presented with the garment of God." Then truly the expectation of all was highly raised by this profession. Accordingly, about the middle of the night, it was seen, by the noise of people moving eagerly about, that the whole monastery in the place was excited. It might be seen, too, that the cell in which the young man referred to lived was glittering with numerous lights; and the whisperings of those moving about in it, as well as a kind of murmur of many voices, could be heard. Then, on silence being secured, the youth coming forth calls one of the brethren, Sabatius by name, to himself, and shows him the robe in which he had been clothed. He again, filled with amazement, gathers the rest together, and Clarus himself also runs up; and a light being obtained, they all carefully inspect the garment. Now, it was of the utmost softness, of marvelous brightness, and of glittering purple, and yet no one could discover what was its nature, or of what sort of fleece it had been formed. However, when it was more minutely examined by the eyes or fingers, it seemed nothing else than a garment. In the meantime, Clarus urges upon the brethren to be earnest in prayer, that the Lord would show them more clearly what it really was. Accordingly, the rest of the night was spent in singing hymns and psalms. But when day broke, Clarus wished to take the young man by the hand, and bring him to Martin, being well aware that he could not be deceived by any arts of the devil. Then, indeed, the miserable man began to resist and refuse, and affirmed that he had been forbidden to show himself to Martin. And when they compelled him to go against his will, the garment vanished from among the hands of those who were conducting him. Wherefore, who can doubt that this, too, was an illustration of the power of Martin, so that the devil could no longer dissemble or conceal his own deception, when it was to be submitted to the eyes of Martin?


Chapter XXIV.

Martin is tempted by the Wiles of the Devil.

It was found, again, that about the same time there was a young man in Spain, who, having by many signs obtained for himself authority among the people, was puffed up to such a pitch that he gave himself out as being Elias. And when multitudes had too readily believed this, he went on to say that he was actually Christ; and he succeeded so well even in this delusion that a certain bishop named Rufus worshiped him as being the Lord. For so doing, we have seen this bishop at a later date deprived of his office. Many of the brethren have also informed me that at the same time one arose in the East, who boasted that he was John. We may infer from this, since false prophets of such a kind have appeared, that the coming of Antichrist is at hand; for he is already practicing in these persons the mystery of iniquity. And truly I think this point should not be passed over, with what arts the devil about this very time tempted Martin. For, on a certain day, prayer [39] having been previously offered, and the fiend himself being surrounded by a purple light, in order that he might the more easily deceive people by the brilliance of the splendor assumed, clothed also in a royal robe, and with a crown of precious stones and gold encircling his head, his shoes too being inlaid with gold, while he presented a tranquil countenance, and a generally rejoicing aspect, so that no such thought as that he was the devil might be entertained--he stood by the side of Martin as he was praying in his cell. The saint being dazzled by his first appearance, both preserved a long and deep silence. This was first broken by the devil, who said: "Acknowledge, Martin, who it is that you behold. I am Christ; and being just about to descend to earth, I wished first to manifest myself to thee." When Martin kept silence on hearing these words, and gave no answer whatever, the devil dared to repeat his audacious declaration: "Martin, why do you hesitate to believe, when you see? I am Christ." Then Martin, the Spirit revealing the truth to him, that he might understand it was the devil, and not God, replied as follows: "The Lord Jesus did not predict that he would come clothed in purple, and with a glittering crown upon his head. I will not believe that Christ has come, unless he appears with that appearance and form in which he suffered, and openly displaying the marks of his wounds upon the cross." On hearing these words, the devil vanished like smoke, and filled the cell with such a disgusting smell, that he left unmistakable evidences of his real character. This event, as I have just related, took place in the way which I have stated, and my information regarding it was derived from the lips of Martin himself; therefore let no one regard it as fabulous. [40]


Footnotes

[39] "Prece" for the usual reading "prae se." [40] In spite of the combined testimony of Martin and Sulpitius here referred to, few will have any doubts as to the real character of the narrative.


Chapter XXV.

Intercourse of Sulpitius with Martin.

For since I, having long heard accounts of his faith, life and virtues, burned with a desire of knowing him, I undertook what was to me a pleasant journey for the purpose of seeing him. At the same time, because already my mind was inflamed with the desire of writing his life, I obtained my information partly from himself, in so far as I could venture to question him, and partly from those who had lived with him, or well knew the facts of the case. And at this time it is scarcely credible with what humility and with what kindness he received me; while he cordially wished me joy, and rejoiced in the Lord that he had been held in such high estimation by me that I had undertaken a journey owing to my desire of seeing him. Unworthy me! (in fact, I hardly dare acknowledge it), that he should have deigned to admit me to fellowship with him! He went so far as in person to present me with water to wash my hands, and at eventide he himself washed my feet; nor had I sufficient courage to resist or oppose his doing so. In fact, I felt so overcome by the authority he unconsciously exerted, that I deemed it unlawful to do anything but acquiesce in his arrangements. His conversation with me was all directed to such points as the following: that the allurements of this world and secular burdens were to be abandoned in order that we might be free and unencumbered in following the Lord Jesus; and he pressed upon me as an admirable example in present circumstances the conduct of that distinguished man Paulinus, of whom I have made mention above. Martin declared of him that, by parting with his great possessions and following Christ, as he did, he showed himself almost the only one who in these times had fully obeyed the precepts of the Gospel. He insisted strongly that that was the man who should be made the object of our imitation, adding that the present age was fortunate in possessing such a model of faith and virtue. For Paulinus, being rich and having many possessions, by selling them all and giving them to the poor according to the expressed will of the Lord, had, he said, made possible by actual proof what appeared impossible of accomplishment. What power and dignity there were in Martin's words and conversation! How active he was, how practical, and how prompt and ready in solving questions connected with Scripture! And because I know that many are incredulous on this point,--for indeed I have met with persons who did not believe me when I related such things,--I call to witness Jesus, and our common hope as Christians, that I never heard from any other lips than those of Martin such exhibitions of knowledge and genius, or such specimens of good and pure speech. But yet, how insignificant is all such praise when compared with the virtues which he possessed! Still, it is remarkable that in a man who had no claim to be called learned, even this attribute [of high intelligence] was not wanting.


Chapter XXVI.

Words cannot describe the Excellences of Martin.

But now my book must be brought to an end, and my discourse finished. This is not because all that was worthy of being said concerning Martin is now exhausted, but because I, just as sluggish poets grow less careful towards the end of their work, give over, being baffled by the immensity of the matter. For, although his outward deeds could in some sort of way be set forth in words, no language, I truly own, can ever be capable of describing his inner life and daily conduct, and his mind always bent upon the things of heaven. No one can adequately make known his perseverance and self-mastery in abstinence and fastings, or his power in watchings and prayers, along with the nights, as well as days, which were spent by him, while not a moment was separated from the service of God, either for indulging in ease, or engaging in business. But, in fact, he did not indulge either in food or sleep, except in so far as the necessities of nature required. I freely confess that, if, as the saying is, Homer himself were to ascend from the shades below, he could not do justice to this subject in words; to such an extent did all excellences surpass in Martin the possibility of being embodied in language. Never did a single hour or moment pass in which he was not either actually engaged in prayer; or, if it happened that he was occupied with something else, still he never let his mind loose from prayer. In truth, just as it is the custom of blacksmiths, in the midst of their work to beat their own anvil as a sort of relief to the laborer, so Martin even when he appeared to be doing something else, was still engaged in prayer. O truly blessed man in whom there was no guile--judging no man, condemning no man, returning evil for evil to no man! He displayed indeed such marvelous patience in the endurance of injuries, that even when he was chief [41] priest, he allowed himself to be wronged by the lowest clerics with impunity; nor did he either remove them from the office on account of such conduct, or, as far as in him lay, repel them from a place in his affection.


Footnotes

[41] "Summus sacerdos": "that is," remarks Hornius, "bishop. They were also in those ages styled Popes (Papæ). This is clear from Cyprian, Jerome, and others of a much later age."


Chapter XXVII.

Wonderful Piety of Martin.

No one ever saw him enraged, or excited, or lamenting, or laughing; he was always one and the same: displaying a kind of heavenly happiness in his countenance, he seemed to have passed the ordinary limits of human nature. Never was there any word on his lips but Christ, and never was there a feeling in his heart except piety, peace, and tender mercy. Frequently, too, he used to weep for the sins of those who showed themselves his revilers--those who, as he led his retired and tranquil life, slandered him with poisoned tongue and a viper's mouth. And truly we have had experience of some who were envious of his virtues and his life--who really hated in him what they did not see in themselves, and what they had not power to imitate. And--O wickedness worthy of deepest grief and groans!--some of his calumniators, although very few, some of his maligners, I say, were reported to be no others than bishops! Here, however, it is not necessary to name any one, although a good many of these people are still venting [42] their spleen against myself. I shall deem it sufficient that, if any one of them reads this account, and perceives that he is himself pointed at, he may have the grace to blush. But if, on the other hand, he shows anger, he will, by that very fact, own that he is among those spoken of, though all the time perhaps I have been thinking of some other person. I shall, however, by no means feel ashamed if any people of that sort include myself in their hatred along with such a man as Martin. I am quite persuaded of this, that the present little work will give pleasure to all truly good men. And I shall only say further that, if any one read this narrative in an unbelieving spirit, he himself will fall into sin. I am conscious to myself that I have been induced by belief in the facts, and by the love of Christ, to write these things; and that, in doing so, I have set forth what is well known, and recorded what is true; and, as I trust, that man will have a reward prepared by God, not who shall read these things, but who shall believe them. [43]


Footnotes

[42] Lit. "are barking round about." [43] It seems extremely difficult (to recur to the point once more), after reading this account of St. Martin by Sulpitius, to form any certain conclusion regarding it. The writer so frequently and solemnly assures us of his good faith, and there is such a verisimilitude about the style, that it appears impossible to accept the theory of willful deception on the part of the writer. And then, he was so intimately acquainted with the subject of his narrative, that he could hardly have accepted fictions for facts, or failed in his estimate of the friend he so much admired and loved. Altogether, this Life of St. Martin seems to bring before us one of the puzzles of history. The saint himself must evidently have been a very extraordinary man, to impress one of the talents and learning of Sulpitius so remarkably as he did; but it is extremely hard to say how far the miraculous narratives, which enter so largely into the account before us, were due to pure invention, or unconscious hallucination. Milner remarks (Church History, II. 193), "I should be ashamed, as well as think the labor ill spent, to recite the stories at length which Sulpitius gives us." See, on the other side, Cardinal Newman's Essays on Miracles, p. 127, 209, &c.

.

The Letters of Sulpitius Severus.

.

Letter I. To Eusebius.

Against Some Envious Assailants of Martin.

Yesterday a number of monks having come to me, it happened that amid endless fables, and much tiresome discourse, mention was made of the little work which I published concerning the life of that saintly man Martin, and I was most happy to hear that it was being eagerly and carefully read by multitudes. In the meantime, however, I was told that a certain person, under the influence of an evil spirit, had asked why Martin, who was said to have raised the dead and to have rescued houses from the flames, had himself recently become subject to the power of fire, and thus been exposed to suffering of a dangerous character. Wretched man, whoever he is, that expressed himself thus! We recognize his perfidious talk in the words of the Jews of old, who reviled the Lord, when hanging upon the cross, in the following terms: "He saved others; himself he cannot save." [44] Truly it is clear that, whoever be the person referred to, if he had lived in those times, he would have been quite prepared to speak against the Lord in these terms, inasmuch as he blasphemes a saint of the Lord, after a like fashion. How then, I ask thee, whosoever thou art, how does the case stand? Was Martin really not possessed of power, and not a partaker of holiness, because he became exposed to danger from fire? O thou blessed man, and in all things like to the Apostles, even in the reproaches which are thus heaped upon thee! Assuredly those Gentiles are reported to have entertained the same sort of thought respecting Paul also, when the viper had bitten him, for they said, "This man must be a murderer, whom, although saved from the sea, the fates do not permit to live." [45] But he, shaking off the viper into the fire, suffered no harm. They, however, imagined that he would suddenly fall down, and speedily die; but when they saw that no harm befell him, changing their minds, they said that he was a God. But, O thou most miserable of men, you ought, even from that example to have yourself been convinced of your falsity; so that, if it had proved a stumbling-block to thee that Martin appeared touched by the flame of fire, you should, on the other hand, have ascribed his being merely touched to his merits and power, because, though surrounded by flames, he did not perish. For acknowledge, thou miserable man, acknowledge what you seem ignorant of, that almost all the saints have been more remarkable for [46] the dangers they encountered, than even for the virtues they displayed. I see, indeed, Peter strong in faith, walking over the waves of the sea, in opposition to the nature of things, and that he pressed the unstable waters with his footprints. But not on that account does the preacher of the Gentiles [47] seem to me a smaller man, whom the waves swallowed up; and, after three days [48] and three nights, the water restored him emerging from the deep. Nay, I am almost inclined to think that it was a greater thing to have lived in the deep, than to have walked along the depths of the sea. But, thou foolish man, you had not, as I suppose, read these things; or, having read them, had not understood them. For the blessed Evangelist would not have recorded in holy writ an incident of that kind--under divine guidance--(except that, from such cases, the human mind might be instructed as to the dangers connected with shipwrecks and serpents!) and, as the Apostle relates, who gloried in his nakedness, and hunger, and perils from robbers, all these things are indeed to be endured in common by holy men, but that it has always been the chief excellence of the righteous in enduring and conquering such things, while amid all their trials, being patient and ever unconquerable, they overcame them all the more courageously, the heavier was the burden which they had to bear. Hence this event which is ascribed to the infirmity of Martin is, in reality, full of dignity and glory, since indeed, being tried by a most dangerous calamity, he came forth a conqueror. But let no one wonder that the incident referred to was omitted by me in that treatise which I wrote concerning his life, since in that very work I openly acknowledged that I had not embraced all his acts; and that for the good reason that, if I had been minded to narrate them all, I must have presented an enormous volume to my readers. And indeed, his achievements were not of so limited a number that they could all be comprehended in a book. Nevertheless, I shall not leave this incident, about which a question has arisen, to remain in obscurity, but shall relate the whole affair as it occurred, lest I should appear perchance to have intentionally passed over that which might be put forward in calumniation of the saintly man.

Martin having, about the middle of winter, come to a certain parish, [49] according to the usual custom for the bishops to visit the churches in the diocese, the clerics had prepared an abode for him in the private [50] part of the church, and had kindled a large fire beneath the floor which was decayed and very thin. [51] They also erected for him a couch consisting of a large amount of straw. Then, when Martin betook himself to rest, he was annoyed with the softness of the too luxurious bed, inasmuch as he had been accustomed to lie on the bare ground with only a piece of sackcloth stretched over him. Accordingly, influenced by the injury which had, as it were, been done him, he threw aside the whole of the straw. Now, it so happened that part of the straw which he had thus removed fell upon the stove. He himself, in the meantime, rested, as was his wont, upon the bare ground, tired out by his long journey. About midnight, the fire bursting up through the stove which, as I have said, was far from sound, laid hold of the dry straw. Martin, being wakened out of sleep by this unexpected occurrence, and being prevented by the pressing danger, but chiefly, as he afterwards related, by the snares and urgency of the devil, was longer than he ought to have been in having recourse to the aid of prayer. For, desiring to get outside, he struggled long and laboriously with the bolt by which he had secured the door. Ere long he perceived that he was surrounded by a fearful conflagration; and the fire had even laid hold of the garment with which he was clothed. At length recovering his habitual conviction that his safety lay not in flight, but in the Lord, and seizing the shield of faith and prayer, committing himself entirely to the Lord, he lay down in the midst of the flames. Then truly, the fire having been removed by divine interposition, he continued to pray amid a circle of flames that did him no harm. But the monks, who were before the door, hearing the sound of the crackling and struggling fire, broke open the barred door; and, the fire being extinguished, they brought forth Martin from the midst of the flames, all the time supposing that he must ere then have been burnt to ashes by a fire of so long continuance. Now, as the Lord is my witness, he himself related to me, and not without groans, confessed that he was in this matter beguiled by the arts of the devil; in that, when roused from sleep, he did not take the wise course of repelling the danger by means of faith and prayer. He also added that the flames raged around him all the time that, with a distempered mind, he strove to throw open the door. But he declared that as soon as he again sought assistance from the cross, and tried the weapons of prayer, the central flames gave way, and that he then felt them shedding a dewy refreshment over him, after having just experienced how cruelly they burned him. Considering all which, let every one who reads this letter understand that Martin was indeed tried by that danger, but passed through it with true acceptance. [52]


Footnotes

[44] St. Matt. xxvii. 42. [45] Acts xxviii. 4. [46] "magis insignes periculorum suorum": such is the construction of insignis with later writers. [47] This refers to St. Paul, being an echo of the Apostle's own words in Rom. xi. 13--ego ethnon apostolos. [48] The writer here supposes that St. Paul was sunk for three days and three nights in the sea--a mistaken inference from 2 Cor. xi. 25. The construction of the very long sentence which soon follows is very confused, and has not been rigidly followed in our translation. [49] "ad dioecesim quandam": it seems certain that diocesis has here the meaning of "parish." [50] "in secretario ecclesiæ": it is very difficult to say what is here meant by "secretarium." It appears from Dial. II. 1, that there might be two or more secretaria in one church. [51] "pavimento": this word usually means "a floor," or "pavement," but some take it here to be the same as fornax. This, however, can hardly be the case; and the meaning probably is that the church was heated, as the baths were, by means of a hypocaustum, or flue running below the pavement. [52] Halm here inserts "vere."

.


Letter II. To the Deacon Aurelius.

Sulpitius has a Vision of St. Martin.

Sulpitius Severus to Aurelius the Deacon sendeth greeting,-- [53]

After you had departed from me in the morning, I was sitting alone in my cell; and there occurred to me, as often happens, that hope of the future which I cherish, along with a weariness of the present world, a terror of judgment, a fear of punishment, and, as a consequence, indeed as the source from which the whole train of thought had flowed, a remembrance of my sins, which had rendered me worn and miserable. Then, after I had placed on my couch my limbs fatigued with the anguish of my mind, sleep crept upon me, as frequently happens from melancholy; and such sleep, as it is always somewhat light and uncertain in the morning hours, so it pervaded my members only in a hovering and doubtful manner. Thus it happens, what does not occur in a different kind of slumber, that one can feel he is dreaming while almost awake. In these circumstances, I seemed suddenly to see St. Martin appear to me in the character of a bishop, clothed in a white robe, with a countenance as of fire, with eyes like stars, and with purple hair. [54] He thus appeared to me with that aspect and form of body which I had known, so that I find it almost difficult to say what I mean--he could not be steadfastly beheld, though he could be clearly recognized. Well, directing a gentle smile towards me, he held out in his right hand the small treatise which I had written concerning his life. I, for my part, embraced his sacred knees, and begged for his blessing according to custom. Upon this, I felt his hand placed on my head with the sweetest touch, while, amid the solemn words of benediction, he repeated again and again the name of the cross so familiar to his lips. Ere long, while my eyes were earnestly fixed upon him, and when I could not satisfy myself with gazing upon his countenance, he was suddenly taken away from me and raised on high. At last, having passed through the vast expanse of the air, while my straining eyes followed him ascending in a rapidly moving cloud, he could no longer be seen by me gazing after him. And not long after, I saw the holy presbyter Clarus, a disciple of Martin's who had lately died, ascend in the same way as I had seen his master. I, impudently desiring to follow, while I aim at and strive after such lofty steps, suddenly wake up; and, being roused from sleep, I had begun to rejoice over the vision, when a boy, a servant in the family, enters to me with a countenance sadder than is usual with one who gives utterance to his grief in words. "What," I enquire of him, "do you wish to tell me with so melancholy an aspect?" "Two monks," he replied, "have just been here from Tours, and they have brought word that Martin is dead." I confess that I was cut to the heart; and bursting into tears, I wept most abundantly. Nay, even now, as I write these things to you, brother, my tears are flowing, and I find no consolation for my all but unbearable sorrow. And I should wish you, when this news reaches you, to be a partaker in my grief, as you were a sharer with me in his love. Come then, I beg of you, to me without delay, that we may mourn in common him whom in common we love. And yet I am well aware that such a man ought not to be mourned over, to whom, after his victory and triumph over the world, there has now at last been given the crown of righteousness. Nevertheless, I cannot so command myself as to keep from grieving. I have, no doubt, sent on before me one who will plead my cause in heaven, but I have, at the same time, lost my great source of consolation in this present life; yet if grief would yield to the influence of reason, I certainly ought to rejoice. For he is now mingling among the Apostles and Prophets, and (with all respect for the saints on high be it said) he is second to no one in that assembly of the righteous as I firmly hope, believe, and trust, being joined especially to those who washed their robes in the blood of the [55] Lamb. He now follows the Lamb as his guide, free from all spot of defilement. For although the character [56] of our times could not ensure him the honor of martyrdom, yet he will not remain destitute of the glory of a martyr, because both by vow and virtues he was alike able and willing to be a martyr. But if he had been permitted, in the times of Nero and of Decius, [57] to take part in the struggle which then went on, I take to witness the God of heaven and earth that he would freely have submitted [58] to the rack of torture, and readily surrendered himself to the flames: yea, worthy of being compared to the illustrious Hebrew youths, amid the circling flames, and though in the very midst of the furnace, he would have sung a hymn of the Lord. But if perchance it had pleased the persecutor to inflict upon him the punishment which Isaiah endured, he would never have shown himself inferior to the prophet, nor would have shrunk from having his members torn in pieces by saws and swords. And if impious fury had preferred to drive the blessed man over precipitous rocks or steep mountains, I maintain that, clinging [59] to the testimony of truth he would willingly have fallen. But if, after the example of the teacher of the Gentiles, [60] as indeed often happened, he had been included among other victims who were condemned [61] to die by the sword, he would have been foremost to urge on the executioner to his work that he might obtain the crown [62] of blood. And, in truth, far from shrinking from a confession of the Lord, in the face of all those penalties and punishments, which frequently prove too much for human infirmity, he would have stood so immovable as to have smiled with joy and gladness over the sufferings and torments he endured, whatever might have been the tortures inflicted upon him. But although he did in fact suffer none of these things, yet he fully attained to the honor of martyrdom without shedding his blood. For what agonies of human sufferings did he not endure in behalf of the hope of eternal life, in hunger, in watchings, in nakedness, in fastings, in reproachings of the malignant, in persecutions of the wicked, in care for the weak, in anxiety for those in danger? For who ever suffered but Martin suffered along with him? Who was made to stumble and he burnt not? Who perished, and he did not mourn deeply? Besides those daily struggles which he carried on against the various conflicts with human and spiritual wickedness, while invariably, as he was assailed with divers temptations, there prevailed in his case fortitude in conquering, patience in waiting, and placidity in enduring. O man, truly indescribable in piety, mercy, love, which daily grows cold even in holy men through the coldness of the world, but which in his case increased onwards to the end, and endured from day to day! I, for my part, had the happiness of enjoying this grace in him even in an eminent degree, for he loved me in a special manner, though I was far from meriting such affection. And, on the remembrance, yet again my tears burst forth, while groans issue from the bottom of my heart. In what man shall I for the future find such repose for my spirit as I did in him? and in whose love shall I enjoy like consolation? Wretched being that I am, sunk in affliction, can I ever, if life be spared me, cease to lament that I have survived Martin? Shall there in future be to me any pleasure in life, or any day or hour free from tears; or can I ever, my dearest brother, make mention of him to you without lamentation? And yet, in conversing with you, can I ever talk of any other subject than him? But why do I stir you up to tears and lamentations? So I now desire you to be comforted, although I am unable to console myself. He will not be absent from us; believe me, he will never, never forsake us, but will be present with us as we discourse regarding him, and will be near to us as we pray; and the happiness which he has even to-day deigned to bestow, even that of seeing him in his glory, he will frequently in future afford; and he will protect us, as he did but a little while ago, with his unceasing benediction. Then again, according to the arrangement of the vision, he showed that heaven was open to those following him, and taught us to what we ought to follow him; he instructed us to what objects our hope should be directed, and to what attainment our mind should be turned. Yet, my brother, what is to be done? For, as I am myself well aware, I shall never be able to climb that difficult ascent, and penetrate into those blessed regions. To such a degree does a miserable burden press me down; and while I cannot, through the load of sin which overwhelms me, secure an ascent to heaven, the cruel pressure rather sinks me in my misery to the place of despair. [63] Nevertheless, hope remains, one last and solitary hope, that, what I cannot obtain of myself, I may, at any rate, be thought worthy of, through the prayers of Martin in my behalf. But why, brother, should I longer occupy your time with a letter which has turned out so garrulous, and thus delay you from coming to me? At the same time, my page being now filled, can admit no more. This, however, was my object in prolonging my discourse to a somewhat undue extent, that, since this letter conveys to you a message of sorrow, it might also furnish you with consolation, through my sort of friendly conversation with you.


Footnotes

[53] This salutation is omitted by Halm. [54] "crine purpureo": it is impossible to tell the exact color which is intended. [55] Compare Rev. vii. 14. [56] As being peaceful, the imperial power having now passed into the hands of Christians. [57] Roman emperor, a.d. 249-251; his full name was C. Messius Quintus Trajanus Decius. [58] "equileum ascendisset": lit. "would have mounted the wooden horse," an instrument of torture. [59] Some read "perhibeo confisus testimonium veritati," and others "veritatis"; in either case, the construction is confused and irregular. [60] St. Paul is referred to: tradition bears that he was beheaded. [61] A late use of the verb deputare. [62] i.e. martyrdom, "palmam sanguinis." [63] "in tartara."

.


Letter III. To Bassula, His Mother-In-Law.

How St. Martin passed from this Life to Life Eternal.

Sulpitius Severus to Bassula, his venerable parent, sendeth greeting.

If it were lawful that parents should be summoned to court by their children, clearly I might drag you with a righteous thong [64] before the tribunal of the prætor, on a charge of robbery and plunder. For why should I not complain of the injury which I have suffered at your hands? You have left me no little bit of writing at home, no book, not even a letter--to such a degree do you play the thief with all such things and publish them to the world. If I write anything in familiar style to a friend; if, as I amuse myself I dictate anything with the wish at the same time that it should be kept private, all such things seem to reach you almost before they have been written or spoken. Surely you have my secretaries [65] in your [66] debt, since through them any trifles I compose are made known to you. And yet I cannot be moved with anger against them if they really obey you, and have invaded my rights under the special influence of your generosity to them, and ever bear in mind that they belong to you rather than to me. Yes, thou alone art the culprit--thou alone art to blame--inasmuch as you both lay your snares for me, and cajole them with your trickery, so that without making any [67] selection, pieces written familiarly, or let out of hand without care, are sent to thee quite unelaborated and unpolished. For, to say nothing about other writings, I beg to ask how that letter could reach you so speedily, which I recently wrote to Aurelius the Deacon. For, as I was situated at Toulouse, [68] while you were dwelling at Treves, and were so far distant from your native land, owing to the anxiety felt on account of your son, what opportunity, I should like to know, did you avail yourself of, to get hold of that familiar [69] epistle? For I have received your letter in which you write that I ought in the same epistle in which I made mention of the death of our master, Martin, to have described the manner in which that saintly man left this world. As if, indeed, I had either given forth that epistle with the view of its being read by any other except him to whom it purported to be sent; or as if I were fated to undertake so great a work as that all things which should be known respecting Martin are to be made public through me particularly as the writer. Therefore, if you desire to learn anything concerning the end of the saintly bishop, you should direct your enquiries rather to those who were present when his death occurred. I for my part have resolved to write nothing to you lest you publish me [70] everywhere. Nevertheless if you pledge your word that you will read to no one what I send you, I shall satisfy your desire in a few words. Accordingly I shall communicate [71] to you the following particulars which are comprised within my own knowledge.

I have to state, then, that Martin was aware of the period of his own death long before it occurred, and told the brethren that his departure from the body was at hand. In the meantime, a reason sprang up which led him to visit the church at Condate. [72] For, as the clerics of that church were at variance among themselves, Martin, wishing to restore peace, although he well knew that the end of his own days was at hand, yet he did not shrink from undertaking the journey, with such an object in view. He did, in fact, think that this would be an excellent crown to set upon his virtues, if he should leave behind him peace restored to a church. Thus, then, having set out with that very numerous and holy crowd of disciples who usually accompanied him, he perceives in a river a number of water-fowl busy in capturing fishes, and notices that a voracious appetite was urging them on to frequent seizures of their prey. "This," exclaimed he, "is a picture of how the demons act: they lie in wait for the unwary and capture them before they know it: they devour their victims when taken, and they can never be satisfied with what they have devoured." Then Martin, with a miraculous [73] power in his words, commands the birds to leave the pool in which they were swimming, and to betake themselves to dry and desert regions; using with respect to those birds that very same authority with which he had been accustomed to put demons to flight. Accordingly, gathering themselves together, all those birds formed a single body, and leaving the river, they made for the mountains and woods, to no small wonder of many who perceived such power in Martin that he could even rule the birds. Having then delayed some time in that village or church to which he had gone, and peace having been restored among the clerics, when he was now meditating a return to his monastery, he began suddenly to fail in bodily strength, and, assembling the brethren, he told them that he was on the point of dissolution. Then indeed, sorrow and grief took possession of all, and there was but one voice of them lamenting, and saying: "Why, dear father, will you leave us? Or to whom can you commit us in our desolation? Fierce wolves will speedily attack thy flock, and who, when the shepherd has been smitten, will save us [74] from their bites? We know, indeed, that you desire to be with Christ; but thy reward above is safe, and will not be diminished by being delayed; rather have pity upon us, whom you are leaving desolate." Then Martin, affected by these lamentations, as he was always, in truth, full [75] of compassion, is said to have burst into tears; and, turning to the Lord, he replied to those weeping round him only in the following words, "O Lord, if I am still necessary to thy people, I do not shrink from toil: thy will be done." Thus hovering as he did between [76] desire and love, he almost doubted which he preferred; for he neither wished to leave us, nor to be longer separated from Christ. However, he placed no weight upon his own wishes, nor reserved anything to his own will, but committed himself wholly to the will and power of the Lord. Do you not think you hear him speaking in the following few words which I repeat? "Terrible, indeed, Lord, is the struggle of bodily warfare, and surely it is now enough that I have continued the fight till now; but, if thou dost command me still to persevere in the same toil for the defense [77] of thy flock, I do not refuse, nor do I plead against such an appointment my declining years. Wholly given to thee, I will fulfill whatever duties thou dost assign me, and I will serve under thy standard as long as thou shalt prescribe. Yea, although release is sweet to an old man after lengthened toil, yet my mind is a conqueror over my years, and I have no desire [78] to yield to old age. But if now thou art merciful to my many years, good, O Lord, is thy will to me; and thou thyself wilt guard over those for whose safety I fear." O man, whom no language can describe, unconquered by toil, and unconquerable even by death, who didst show no personal preference for either alternative, and who didst neither fear to die nor refuse to live! Accordingly, though he was for some days under the influence of a strong fever, he nevertheless did not abandon the work of God. Continuing in supplications and watchings through whole nights, he compelled his worn-out limbs to do service to his spirit as he lay on his glorious [79] couch upon sackcloth and ashes. And when his disciples begged of him that at least he should allow some common straw to be placed beneath him, he replied: "It is not fitting that a Christian should die except among ashes; and I have sinned if I leave you a different example." However, with his hands and eyes steadfastly directed towards heaven, he never released his unconquerable spirit from prayer. And on being asked by the presbyters who had then gathered round him, to relieve his body a little by a change of side, he exclaimed: "Allow me, dear brother, to fix my looks rather on heaven than on earth, so that my spirit which is just about to depart on its own journey may be directed towards the Lord." Having spoken these words, he saw the devil standing close at hand, and exclaimed: "Why do you stand here, thou bloody monster? Thou shalt find nothing in me, thou deadly one: Abraham's bosom is about to receive me."

As he uttered these words, his spirit fled; and those who were there present have testified to us that they saw his face as if it had been the face [80] of an angel. His limbs too appeared white as snow, so that people exclaimed, "Who would ever believe that man to be clothed in sackcloth, or who would imagine that he was enveloped with ashes?" For even then he presented such an appearance, as if he had been manifested in the glory of the future resurrection, and with the nature of a body which had been changed. But it is hardly credible what a multitude of human beings assembled at the performance of his funeral rites: the whole city poured forth to meet his body; all the inhabitants of the district and villages, along with many also from the neighboring cities, attended. O how great was the grief of all! how deep the lamentations in particular of the sorrowing monks! They are said to have assembled on that day almost to the number of two thousand,--a special glory of Martin,--through his example so numerous plants had sprung up for the service of the Lord. Undoubtedly the shepherd was then driving his own flocks before him--the pale crowds of that saintly multitude--bands arrayed in cloaks, either old men whose life-labor was finished, or young soldiers who had just taken the oath of allegiance to Christ. Then, too, there was the choir of virgins, abstaining out of modesty from weeping; and with what holy joy did they conceal the fact of their affliction! No doubt faith would prevent the shedding of tears, yet affection forced out groans. For there was as sacred an exultation over the glory to which he had attained, as there was a pious sorrow on account of his death. One would have been inclined to pardon those who wept, as well as to congratulate those who rejoiced, while each single person preferred that he himself should grieve, but that another should rejoice. Thus then this multitude, singing hymns of heaven, attended the body of the sainted man onwards to the place of sepulture. Let there be compared with this spectacle, I will not say the worldly [81] pomp of a funeral, but even of a triumph; and what can be reckoned similar to the obsequies of Martin? Let your worldly great men lead before their chariots captives with their hands bound behind their backs. Those accompanied the body of Martin who, under his guidance, had overcome the world. Let madness honor these earthly warriors with the united praises of nations. Martin is praised with the divine psalms, Martin is honored in heavenly hymns. Those worldly men, after their triumphs here are over, shall be thrust into cruel Tartarus, while Martin is joyfully received into the bosom of Abraham. Martin, poor and insignificant on earth, has a rich entrance granted him into heaven. From that blessed region, as I trust, he looks upon me, as my guardian, while I am writing these things, and upon you while you read them. [82]


Footnotes

[64] Instead of "justo loro," Halm reads, "justo delore," i.e. "with just resentment." [65] "notarios": shorthand writers, who wrote from dictation. [66] Halm here reads "obarratos," with what sense I know not: the reading "obæratos," followed in the text seems to yield a very good meaning. [67] The reading "sine dilectu ullo," adopted by Halm, seems preferable to the old reading, "sine delicto ullo." [68] The identity of Tolosa, mentioned in the text with the modern Toulouse, is uncertain. [69] Of course, this is all jocular, and shows the best relations as existing between Sulpitius and his mother-in-law. [70] There is clearly some affectation in the horror which Sulpitius expresses in this and other passages at the thought of his writings being published. It is obvious that he derived gratification from the fact of their being widely read. [71] "præstabo his participem": the construction is peculiar, but the meaning is obvious. [72] There were several towns of this name in Gaul. The one probably here referred to was on the road from Augustodunum (Autun) to Paris. It corresponds to the modern Cosne, at the junction of the stream Nonain with the river Loire. [73] "potenti virtute verborum": Halm reads simply "potenti verbo." [74] A singular and obviously corrupt reading is "quis eos a morsibus nostris prohibebit?" Halm's reading has been followed in the text. [75] Lit. "as he always flowed with bowels of mercy in the Lord." [76] "spes" seems here to mean "longing of heart." [77] "pro castris tuorum." [78] Or "I am not one to yield," nescius cedere. [79] "nobili illo strato suo"; nobilis in one sense, though so humble in another. [80] There is a great variety of readings here; Halm has been followed in the text. [81] Or, "the pomp of a worldly funeral." [82] Halm inserts this last sentence in brackets.

.

Dialogues of Sulpitius Severus.

.

Dialogue I.

Concerning the Virtues of the Monks of the East.


Chapter I.

When I and a Gallic friend had assembled in one place, this Gaul being a man very dear to me, both on account of his remembrance of Martin (for he had been one of his disciples), and on account of his own merits, my friend Postumianus joined us. He had just, on my account, returned from the East, to which, leaving his native country, he had gone three years before. Having embraced this most affectionate friend, and kissed both his knees and his feet, we were for a moment or two, as it were, astounded; and, shedding mutual tears of joy, we walked about a good deal. But by and by we sat down on our garments of sackcloth laid upon the ground. Then Postumianus, directing his looks towards me is the first to speak, and says,--

"When I was in the remote parts of Egypt, I felt a desire to go on as far as the sea. I there met with a merchant vessel, which was ready to set sail with the view of making for Narbonne. [83] The same night you seemed in a dream to stand beside me, and laying hold of me with your hand, to lead me away that I should go on board that ship. Ere long, when the dawn dispersed the darkness, and when I rose up in the place in which I had been resting, as I revolved my dream in my mind, I was suddenly seized with such a longing after you, that without delay I went on board the ship. Landing on the thirtieth day at Marseilles, I came on from that and arrived here on the tenth day--so prosperous a voyage was granted to my dutiful desire of seeing you. Do thou only, for whose sake I have sailed over so many seas, and have traversed such an extent of land, yield yourself over to me to be embraced and enjoyed apart from all others."

"I truly," said I, "while you were still staying in Egypt, was ever holding fellowship with you in my mind and thoughts, and affection for you had full possession of me as I meditated upon you day and night. Surely then, you cannot imagine that I will now fail for a single moment to gaze with delight upon you, as I hang upon your lips. I will listen to you, I will converse with you, while no one at all is admitted to our retirement, which this remote cell of mine furnishes to us. For, as I suppose, you will not take amiss the presence of this friend of ours, the Gaul, who, as you perceive, rejoices with his whole heart over this arrival of yours, even as I do myself."

"Quite right," said Postumianus, "that Gaul will certainly be retained in our company; who, although I am but little acquainted with him, yet for this very reason that he is greatly beloved by you, cannot fail also to be dear to me. This must especially be the case, since he is of the school of Martin; nor will I grudge, as you desire, to talk with you in connected discourse, since I came hither for this very purpose, that I should, even at the risk of being tedious, respond to the desire of my dear Sulpitius "--and in so speaking he affectionately took hold of me with both his hands.


Footnotes

[83] Narbona, more commonly called Narbo Martius; the modern Narbonne.


Chapter II.

"Truly" said I, "you have clearly proved how much a sincere love can accomplish, inasmuch as, for my sake, you have traveled over so many seas, and such an extent of land, journeying, so to speak, from the rising of the sun in the East to where he sets in the West. Come, then, because we are here in a retired spot by ourselves, and not being otherwise occupied, feel it our duty to attend to your discourse, come, I pray thee, relate to us the whole history of your wanderings. Tell us, if you please, how the faith of Christ is flourishing in the East; what peace the saints enjoy; what are the customs of the monks; and with what signs and miracles Christ is working in his servants. For assuredly, because in this region of ours and amid the circumstances in which we are placed, life itself has become a weariness to us, we shall gladly hear from you, if life is permitted to Christians even in the desert."

In reply to these words, Postumianus declares, "I shall do as I see you desire. But I beg you first to tell me, whether all those persons whom I left here as priests, continue the same as I knew them before taking my departure."

Then I exclaim, "Forbear, I beseech thee, to make any enquiry on such points, which you either, I think, know as well as I do, or if you are ignorant of them, it is better that you should hear nothing regarding them. I cannot, however, help saying, that not only are those, of whom you enquire, no better than they were when you knew them, but even that one man, who was formerly a great friend of mine, and in whose affection I was wont to find some consolation from the persecutions of the rest, has shown himself more unkind towards me than he ought to have been. However, I shall not say anything harsher regarding him, both because I once esteemed him as a friend, and loved him even when he was deemed my enemy. I shall only add that while I was silently meditating on these things in my thoughts, this source of grief deeply afflicted me, that I had almost lost the friendship of one who was both a wise and a religious man. But let us turn away from these topics which are full of sorrow, and let us rather listen to you, according to the promise which you gave some time ago."

"Let it be so," exclaimed Postumianus. And on his saying this, we all kept silence, while, moving his robe of sackcloth, on which he had sat down, a little nearer me, he thus began.


Chapter III.

"Three years ago, Sulpitius, at which time, leaving this neighborhood, I bade thee farewell, after setting sail from Narbonne, on the fifth day we entered a port of Africa: so prosperous, by the will of God, had been the voyage. I had in my mind a great desire to go to Carthage, to visit those localities connected with the saints, and, above all, to worship at the tomb [84] of the martyr Cyprian. On the fifth day we returned to the harbor, and launched forth into the deep. Our destination was Alexandria; but as the south wind was against us, we were almost driven upon the Syrtis; [85] the cautious sailors, however, guarding against this, stopped the ship by casting anchor. The continent of Africa then lay before our eyes; and, landing on it in boats, when we perceived that the whole country round was destitute of human cultivation, I penetrated farther inland, for the purpose of more carefully exploring the locality. About three miles from the sea-coast, I beheld a small hut in the midst of the sand, the roof of which, to use the expression [86] of Sallust, was like the keel of a ship. It was close to [87] the earth, and was floored with good strong boards, not because any very heavy rains are there feared (for, in fact, such a thing as rain has there never even been heard of), but because, such is the strength of the winds in that district, that, if at any time only a little breath of air begins there to be felt, even when the weather is pretty mild, a greater wreckage takes place in those lands than on any sea. No plants are there, and no seeds ever spring up, since, in such shifting soil, the dry sand is swept along with every motion of the winds. But where some promontories, back from the sea, act as a check to the winds, the soil, being somewhat more firm, produces here and there some prickly grass, and that furnishes fair pasturage for sheep. The inhabitants live on milk, while those of them that are more skillful, or, so to speak, more wealthy, make use of barley bread. That is the only kind of grain which flourishes there, for barley, by the quickness of its growth in that sort of soil, generally escapes the destruction caused by the fierce winds. So rapid is its growth that we are told it is ripe on the thirtieth day after the sowing of the seed. But there is no reason why men should settle there, except that all are free from the payment of taxes. The sea-coast of the Cyrenians is indeed the most remote, bordering upon that desert which lies between Egypt and Africa, [88] and through which Cato formerly, when fleeing from Cæsar, led an army. [89]


Footnotes

[84] "Ad sepulchrum Cypriani martyris adorare." [85] This was probably the Syrtis Minor, a dangerous sandbank in the sea on the northern coast of Africa; it is now known as the Gulf of Cabes. The Syrtis Major lay farther to the east, and now bears the name of the Gulf of Sidra. [86] "Ædificia Numidarum agrestium, quæ mapalia illi vocant, oblonga, incurvis lateribus tecta, quasi navium carinæ sunt."--Sall. Jug. XVIII. 8. [87] The hut was perhaps built on piles rising slightly above the ground. [88] The term Africa here used in its more restricted sense to denote the territory of Carthage. [89] This took place in the spring of the year b.c. 47.


Chapter IV.

I therefore bent my steps toward the hut which I had beheld from a distance. There I find an old man, in a garment made of skins, turning a mill with his hand. He saluted and received us kindly. We explain to him that we had been forced to land on that coast, and were prevented by the continued raging of the sea [90] from being able at once to pursue our voyage; that, having made our way on shore, we had desired, as is in keeping with ordinary human nature, to become acquainted with the character of the locality, and the manners of the inhabitants. We added that we were Christians, and that the principal object of our enquiry was whether there were any Christians amid these solitudes. Then, indeed, he, weeping for joy, throws himself at our feet; and, kissing us over and over again, invites us to prayer, while, spreading on the ground the skins of sheep, he makes us sit down upon them. He then serves up a breakfast truly luxurious, [91] consisting of the half of a barley cake. Now, we were four, while he himself constituted the fifth. He also brought in a bundle of herbs, of which I forget the name, but they were like mint, were rich in leaves, and yielded a taste like honey. We were delighted with the exceedingly sweet taste of this plant, and our hunger was fully satisfied."

Upon this I smiled, and said to my friend the Gaul, "What, Gaul, do you think of this? Are you pleased with a bundle of herbs and half a barley cake as a breakfast for five men?"

Then he, being an exceedingly modest person, and blushing somewhat, while he takes my [92] joke in good part, says, "You act, Sulpitius, in a way like yourself, for you never miss any opportunity which is offered you of joking us on the subject of our fondness for eating. But it is unkind of you to try to force us Gauls to live after the fashion of angels; and yet, through my own liking for eating, I could believe that even the angels are in the habit of eating; for such is my appetite that I would be afraid even singly to attack that half barley cake. However, let that man of Cyrene be satisfied with it, to whom it is either a matter of necessity or nature always to feel hungry; or, again, let those be content with it from whom, I suppose, their tossing at sea had taken away all desire for food. We, on the other hand, are at a distance from the sea; and, as I have often testified to you, we are, in one word, Gauls. But instead of wasting time over such matters, let our friend here rather go on to complete his account of the Cyrenian."


Footnotes

[90] "maris mollitie." [91] "Prandium sane locupletissimum": of course there is a friendly irony in the words. [92] "fatigationem," a late sense of the word.


Chapter V.

"Assuredly," continues Postumianus, "I shall take care in future not to mention the abstinence of any one, in case the difficult example should quite offend our friends the Gauls. I had intended, however, to give an account also of the dinner of that man of Cyrene--for we were seven days with him--or some of the subsequent feasts; but these things had better be passed over, lest the Gaul should think that he was jeered at. However, on the following day, when some of the natives had come together to visit us, we discovered that that host of ours was a Presbyter--a fact which he had concealed from us with the greatest care. We then went with him to the church, which was about two miles distant, and was concealed from our view by an intervening mountain. We found that it was constructed of common and worthless trees, and was not much more imposing than the hut of our host, in which one could not stand without stooping. On enquiring into the customs of the men of the district, we found that they were not in the habit of either buying or selling anything. They knew not the meaning of either fraud or theft. As to gold and silver, which mankind generally deem the most desirable of all things, they neither possess them, nor do they desire to possess them. For when I offered that Presbyter ten gold coins, he refused them, declaring, with profound wisdom, that the church was not benefited but rather [93] injured by gold. We presented him, however, with some pieces of clothing.


Footnotes

[93] "non instrui, sed potius destrui."


Chapter VI.

"After he had kindly accepted our gifts, on the sailors calling us back to the sea, we departed; and after a favorable passage, we arrived at Alexandria on the seventh day. There we found a disgraceful strife raging between the bishops and monks, the cause or occasion of which was that the priests were known when assembled together often to have passed decrees in crowded synods to the effect that no one should read or possess the books of Origen. He was, no doubt, regarded as a most able disputant on the sacred Scriptures. But the bishops maintained that there were certain things in his books of an unsound character; and his supporters, not being bold enough to defend these, rather took the line of declaring that they had been inserted by the heretics. They affirmed, therefore, that the other portions of his writings were not to be condemned on account of those things which justly fell under censure, since the faith of readers could easily make a distinction, so that they should not follow what had been forged, and yet should keep hold of those points which were handled in accordance with the Catholic faith. They remarked that there was nothing wonderful if, in modern and recent writings, heretical guile had been at work; since it had not feared in certain places to attack even Gospel truth. The bishops, struggling against these positions to the utmost extent of their power, insisted that what was quite correct in the writings of Origen should, along with the author himself, and even his whole works, be condemned, because those books were more than sufficient which the church had received. They also said that the reading was to be avoided of such works as would do more harm to the unwise than they would benefit the wise. For my part, on being led by curiosity to investigate some portions of these writings, I found very many things which pleased me, but some that were to be blamed. I think it is clear that the author himself really entertained these impious opinions, though his defenders maintain that the passages have been forged. I truly wonder that one and the same man could have been so different from himself as that, in the portion which is approved, he has no equal since the times of the Apostles, while in that which is justly condemned, no one can be shown to have erred more egregiously.


Chapter VII.

For while many things in his books which were extracted from them by the bishops were read to show that they were written in opposition to the Catholic faith, that passage especially excited bad feeling against him, in which we read in his published works that the Lord Jesus, as he had come in the flesh for the redemption of mankind, and suffering upon the cross for the salvation of man, had tasted death to procure eternal life for the human race, so he was, by the same course of suffering, even to render the devil a partaker of redemption. He maintained this on the ground that such a thing would be in harmony with his goodness and beneficence, inasmuch as he who had restored fallen and ruined man, would thus also set free an angel who had previously fallen. When these and other things of a like nature were brought forward by the bishops, a tumult arose owing to the zeal of the different parties; and when this could not be quelled by the authority of the priests, the governor of the city was called upon to regulate the discipline of the church by a perverse precedent; and through the terror which he inspired, the brethren were dispersed, while the monks took to flight in different directions; so that, on the decrees being published, they were not permitted to find lasting acceptance [94] in any place. This fact influenced me greatly, that Hieronymus, a man truly Catholic and most skillful in the holy law, was thought at first to have been a follower of Origen, yet now, above most others, went the length of condemning the whole of his writings. Assuredly, I am not inclined to judge rashly in regard to any one; but even the most learned men were said to hold different opinions in this controversy. However, whether that opinion of Origen was simply an error, as I think, or whether it was a heresy, as is generally supposed, it not only could not be suppressed by multitudes of censures on the part of the priests, but it never could have spread itself so far and wide, had it not gathered strength from their contentions. Accordingly, when I came to Alexandria, I found that city in a ferment from disturbances connected with the matter in question. The Bishop, indeed, of that place received me very kindly, and in a better spirit than I expected, and even endeavored to retain me with him. But I was not at all inclined to settle there, where a recent outbreak of ill-will had resulted in a destruction of the brethren. For, although perhaps it may seem that they ought to have obeyed the bishops, yet such a multitude of persons, all living in an open confession of Christ, ought not for that reason to have been persecuted, especially by bishops.


Footnotes

[94] "in nulla consistere sede sinerentur."


Chapter VIII.

Accordingly, setting out from that place, I made for the town of Bethlehem, which is six miles distant from Jerusalem, but requires sixteen stoppages [95] on the part of one journeying from Alexandria. The presbyter Jerome [96] rules the church of this place; for it is a parish of the bishop who has possession of Jerusalem. Having already in my former journey become acquainted with Hieronymus, he had easily brought it about that I with good reason deemed no one more worthy of my regard and love. For, besides the merit due to him on account of his Faith, and the possession of many virtues, he is a man learned not only in Latin and Greek, but also Hebrew, to such a degree that no one dare venture to compare himself with him in all knowledge. I shall indeed be surprised if he is not well known to you also through means of the works which he has written, since he is, in fact, read the whole world over."

"Well," says the Gaul at this point, "he is, in truth, but too well known to us. For, some five years ago, I read a certain book of his, in which the whole tribe of our monks is most vehemently assaulted and reviled by him. For this reason, our Belgian friend is accustomed to be very angry, because he has said that we are in the habit of cramming ourselves even to repletion. But I, for my part, pardon the eminent man; and am of opinion that he had made the remark rather about Eastern than Western monks. For the love of eating is gluttony in the case of the Greeks, whereas among the Gauls it is owing to the nature they possess."

Then exclaimed I, "You defend your nation, my Gallic friend, by means of rhetoric; but I beg to ask whether that book condemns only this vice in the case of the monks?"

"No indeed," replies he; "the writer passed nothing over, which he did not blame, scourge, and expose: in particular, he inveighed against avarice and no less against arrogance. He discoursed much respecting pride, and not a little about superstition; and I will freely own that he seemed to me to draw a true picture of the vices of multitudes."


Footnotes

[95] "mansionibus." [96] Otherwise, "Hieronymus."


Chapter IX.

"But as to familiarities which take place between virgins and monks, or even clerics, how true and how courageous were his words! And, on account of these, he is said not to stand high in favor with certain people whom I am unwilling to name. For, as our Belgian friend is angry that we were accused of too great fondness for eating, so those people, again, are said to express their rage when they find it written in that little work,--`The virgin despises her true unmarried brother, and seeks a stranger.'"

Upon this I exclaim, "You are going too far, my Gallic friend: take heed lest some one who perhaps owns to these things, hear what you are saying, and begin to hold you, along with Hieronymus, in no great affection. For, since you are a learned [97] man, not unreasonably will I admonish you in the verse of that comic poet who says,--`Submission procures friends, while truth gives rise to hatred.' Let rather, Postumianus, your discourse to us about the East, so well begun, now be resumed."

"Well," says he, "as I had commenced to relate, I stayed with Hieronymus six months, who carried on an unceasing warfare against the wicked, and a perpetual struggle in opposition to the deadly hatred of ungodly men. The heretics hate him, because he never desists from attacking them; the clerics hate him, because he assails their life and crimes. But beyond doubt, all the good admire and love him; for those people are out of their senses, who suppose that he is a heretic. Let me tell the truth on this point, which is that the knowledge of the man is Catholic, and that his doctrine is sound. He is always occupied in reading, always at his books with his whole heart: he takes no rest day or night; he is perpetually either reading or writing something. In fact, had I not been resolved in mind, and had promised to God first to visit [98] the desert previously referred to, I should have grudged to depart even for the shortest time from so great a man. Handing over, then, and entrusting to him all my possessions and my whole family, which having followed me against my own inclination, kept me in a state of embarrassment, and thus being in a sort of way delivered from a heavy burden, and restored to freedom of action, I returned to Alexandria, and having visited the brethren there I set out from the place for upper Thebais, that is for the farthest off confines of Egypt. For a great multitude of monks were said to inhabit the widely extending solitudes of that wilderness. But here it would be tedious, were I to seek to narrate all the things which I witnessed: I shall only touch lightly on a few points.


Footnotes

[97] "scholasticus." [98] "propositam eremum."


Chapter X.

"Not far from the desert, and close to the Nile, there are numerous monasteries. For the most part, the monks there dwell together in companies of a hundred; and their highest rule is to live under the orders of their Abbot, to do nothing by their own inclination, but to depend in all things on his will and authority. If it so happens that any of them form in their minds a lofty ideal of virtue, so as to wish to betake themselves to the desert to live a solitary life, they do not venture to act on this desire except with the permission of the Abbot. In fact, this is the first of virtues in their estimation,--to live in obedience to the will of another. To those who betake themselves to the desert, bread or some other kind of food is furnished by the command of that Abbot. Now, it so happened that, in those days during which I had come thither, the Abbot had sent bread to a certain person who had withdrawn to the desert, and had erected a tent for himself not more than six miles from the monastery. This bread was sent by the hands of two boys, the elder of whom was fifteen, and the younger twelve years of age. As these boys were returning home, an asp of remarkable size encountered them, but they were not the least afraid on meeting it; and moving up to their very feet, as if charmed by some melody, it laid down its dark-green neck before them. The younger of the boys laid hold of it with his hand, and, wrapping it in his dress, went on his way with it. Then, entering the monastery with the air of a conqueror, and meeting with the brethren, while all looked on, he opened out his dress, and set down the imprisoned beast, not without some appearance of boastfulness. But while the rest of the spectators extolled the faith and virtue of the children, the Abbot, with deeper insight, and to prevent them at such a tender age from being puffed up with pride, subjected both to punishment. This he did after blaming them much for having publicly revealed what the Lord had wrought through their instrumentality. He declared that that was not to be attributed to their faith, but to the Divine power; and added that they should rather learn to serve God in humility, and not to glory in signs and wonders; for that a sense of their own weakness was better than any vainglorious exhibition of power.


Chapter XI.

"When the monk whom I have mentioned heard of this,--when he learned both that the children had encountered danger through meeting the snake, and that moreover, having got the better of the serpent, they had received a sound beating,--he implored the Abbot that henceforth no bread or food of any kind should be sent to him. And now the eighth day had passed since that man of Christ had exposed himself to the danger of perishing from hunger; his limbs were growing dry with fasting, but his mind fixed upon heaven could not fail; his body was wearing away with abstinence, but his faith remained firm. In the meantime, the Abbot was admonished by the Spirit to visit that disciple. Under the influence of a pious solicitude, he was eager to learn by what means of preserving life that faithful man was supported, since he had declined any human aid in ministering to his necessities. Accordingly, he sets out in person to satisfy himself on the subject. When the recluse saw from a distance the old man coming to him, he ran to meet him: he thanks him for the visit, and conducts him to his cell. As they enter the cell together, they behold a basket of palm branches, full of hot bread, hanging fixed at the door-post. And first the smell of the hot bread is perceived; but on touching it, it appears as if just a little before it had been taken from the oven. At the same time, they do not recognize the bread as being of the shape common in Egypt. Both are filled with amazement, and acknowledge the gift as being from heaven. On the one side, the recluse declared that this event was due to the arrival of the Abbot; while, on the other side, the Abbot ascribed it rather to the faith and virtue of the recluse; but both broke the heaven-sent bread with exceeding joy. And when, on his return to the monastery, the old man reported to the brethren what had occurred, such enthusiasm seized the minds of all of them, that they vied with each other in their haste to betake themselves to the desert, and its sacred seclusion; while they declared themselves miserable in having made their abode only too long amid a multitude, where human fellowship had to be carried on and endured.


Chapter XII.

"In this monastery I saw two old men who were said to have already lived there for forty years, and in fact never to have departed from it. I do not think that I should pass by all mention of these men, since, indeed, I heard the following statement made regarding their virtues on the testimony of the Abbot himself, and all the brethren, that in the case of one of them, the sun never beheld him feasting, and in the case of the other, the sun never saw him angry."

Upon this, the Gaul looking at me exclaims: "Would that a friend of yours--I do not wish to mention his name--were now present; I should greatly like him to hear of that example, since we have had too much experience of his bitter anger in the persons of a great many people. Nevertheless, as I hear, he has lately forgiven his enemies; and, in these circumstances, were he to hear of the conduct of that man, he would be more and more strengthened in his forgiving course by the example thus set before him, and would feel that it is an admirable virtue not to fall under the influence of anger. I will not indeed deny that he had just reasons for his wrath; but where the battle is hard, the crown of victory is all the more glorious. For this reason, I think, if you will allow me to say so, that a certain man was justly to be praised, because when an ungrateful freedman abandoned him he rather pitied than inveighed against the fugitive. And, indeed, he was not even angry with the man by whom he seems to have been carried off." [99]

Upon this I remarked: "Unless Postumianus had given us that example of overcoming anger, I would have been very angry on account of the departure of the fugitive; but since it is not lawful to be angry, all remembrance of such things, as it annoys us, ought to be blotted from our minds. Let us rather, Postumianus, listen to what you have got to say."

"I will do," says he, "Sulpitius, what you request, as I see you are all so desirous of hearing me. But remember that I do not address my speech to you without hope of a larger recompense; I shall gladly perform what you require, provided that, when ere long my turn comes, you do not refuse what I ask."

"We indeed," said I, "have nothing by means of which we can return the obligation we shall lie under to you even without a larger return. [100] However, command us as to anything you have thought about, provided you satisfy our desires, as you have already begun to do, for your speech conveys to us true delight."

"I will stint nothing," said Postumianus, "of your desires; and inasmuch as you have recognized the virtue of one recluse, I shall go on to relate to you some few things about more such persons.


Footnotes

[99] It appears impossible to give a certain rendering of these words--"a quo videtur abductus." [100] "vel sine fænore."


Chapter XIII.

"Well then, when I entered upon the nearest parts of the desert, about twelve miles from the Nile, having as my guide one of the brethren who was well acquainted with the localities, we arrived at the residence of a certain old monk who dwelt at the foot of a mountain. In that place there was a well, which is a very rare thing in these regions. The monk had one ox, the whole labor of which consisted in drawing water by moving a machine worked with a wheel. This was the only way of getting at the water, for the well was said to be a thousand or more feet deep. There was also a garden there full of a variety of vegetables. This, too, was contrary to what might have been expected in the desert where, all things being dry and burnt up by the fierce rays of the sun produce not even the slenderest root of any plant. But the labor which in common with his ox, the monk performed, as well as his own special industry, produced such a happy state of things to the holy man; for the frequent irrigation in which he engaged imparted such a fertility to the sand that we saw the vegetables in his garden flourishing and coming to maturity in a wonderful manner. On these, then, the ox lived as well as its master; and from the abundance thus supplied, the holy man provided us also with a dinner. There I saw what ye Gauls, perchance, may not believe--a pot boiling without fire [101] with the vegetables which were being got ready for our dinner: such is the power of the sun in that place that it is sufficient for any cooks, even for preparing the dainties of the Gauls. Then after dinner, when the evening was coming on, our host invites us to a palm-tree, the fruit of which he was accustomed to use, and which was at a distance of about two miles. For that is the only kind of tree found in the desert, and even these are rare, though they do occur. I am not sure whether this is owing to the wise foresight of former ages, or whether the soil naturally produces them. It may indeed be that God, knowing beforehand that the desert was one day to be inhabited by the saints, prepared these things for his servants. For those who settle within these solitudes live for the most part on the fruit of such trees, since no other kinds of plants thrive in these quarters. Well, when we came up to that tree to which the kindness of our host conducted us, we there met with a lion; and on seeing it, both my guide and myself began to tremble; but the holy man went up to it without delay, while we, though in great terror, followed him. As if commanded by God, the beast modestly withdrew and stood gazing at us, while our friend, the monk, plucked some fruit hanging within easy reach on the lower branches. And, on his holding out his hand filled with dates, the monster ran up to him and received them as readily as any domestic animal could have done; and having eaten them, it departed. We, beholding these things, and being still under the influence of fear, could not but perceive how great was the power of faith in his case, and how weak it was in ourselves.


Footnotes

[101] Hornius strangely remarks on this, "Frequens id in Africa. Quin et ferrum nimio solis ardore mollescere scribunt qui interiorem Libyam perlustrarunt."


Chapter XIV.

"We found another equally remarkable man living in a small hut, capable only of containing a single person. Concerning him we were told that a she-wolf was accustomed to stand near him at dinner; and that the beast could by no means be easily deceived so as to fail to be with him at the regular hour when he took refreshment. It was also said that the wolf waited at the door until he offered her the bread which remained over his own humble dinner; that she was accustomed to lick his hand, and then, her duty being, as it were, fulfilled, and her respects paid to him, she took her departure. But it so happened that that holy man, while he escorted a brother who had paid him a visit, on his way home, was a pretty long time away, and only returned under night. [102] In the meanwhile, the beast made its appearance at the usual dinner time. Having entered the vacant cell and perceived that its benefactor was absent, it began to search round the hut with some curiosity to discover, if possible, the inhabitant. Now it so happened that a basket of palm-twigs was hanging close at hand with five loaves of bread in it. Taking one of these, the beast devoured it, and then, having committed this evil deed, went its way. The recluse on his return found the basket in a state of disorder, and the number of loaves less than it should have been. He is aware of the loss of his household goods, and observes near the threshold some fragments of the loaf which had been stolen. Considering all this, he had little doubt as to the author of the theft. Accordingly, when on the following days the beast did not, in its usual way, make its appearance (undoubtedly hesitating from a consciousness of its audacious deed to come to him on whom it had inflicted injury), the recluse was deeply grieved at being deprived of the happiness he had enjoyed in its society. At last, being brought back through his prayers, it appeared to him as usual at dinner time, after the lapse of seven days. But to make clear to every one the shame it felt, through regret for what had been done, not daring to draw very near, and with its eyes, from profound self-abasement, cast upon the earth, it seemed, as was plain to the intelligence of every one, to beg in a sort of way, for pardon. The recluse, pitying its confusion, bade it come close to him, and then, with a kindly hand, stroked its head; while, by giving it two loaves instead of the usual one, he restored the guilty creature to its former position; and, laying aside its misery on thus having obtained forgiveness, it betook itself anew to its former habits. Behold, I beg of you, even in this case, the power of Christ, to whom all is wise that is irrational, and to whom all is mild that is by nature savage. A wolf discharges duty; a wolf acknowledges the crime of theft; a wolf is confounded with a sense of shame: when called for, it presents itself; it offers its head to be stroked; and it has a perception of the pardon granted to it, just as if it had a feeling of shame on account of its misconduct,--this is thy power, O Christ--these, O Christ, are thy marvelous works. For in truth, whatever things thy servants do in thy name are thy doings; and in this only we find cause for deepest grief that, while wild beasts acknowledge thy majesty, intelligent beings fail to do thee reverence.


Footnotes

[102] "sub nocte": this may be used for the usual classical form "sub noctem," towards evening.


Chapter XV.

"But lest this should perchance seem incredible to any one, I shall mention still greater things. I call Christ [103] to witness that I invent nothing, nor will I relate things published by uncertain authors, but will set forth facts which have been vouched for to me by trustworthy men.

"Numbers of those persons live in the desert without any roofs over their heads, whom people call anchorites. [104] They subsist on the roots of plants; they settle nowhere in any fixed place, lest they should frequently have men visiting them; wherever night compels them they choose their abode. Well, two monks from Nitria directed their steps towards a certain man living in this style, and under these conditions. They did so, although they were from a very different quarter, because they had heard of his virtues, and because he had formerly been their dear and intimate friend, while a member of the same monastery. They sought after him long and much; and at length, in the seventh month, they found him staying in that far-distant wilderness which borders upon Memphis. He was said already to have dwelt in these solitudes for twelve years; but although he shunned intercourse with all men, yet he did not shrink from meeting these friends; on the contrary, he yielded himself to their affection for a period of three days. On the fourth day, when he had gone some distance escorting them in their return journey, they beheld a lioness of remarkable size coming towards them. The animal, although meeting with three persons, showed no uncertainty as to the one she made for, but threw herself down at the feet of the anchorite: and, lying there with a kind of weeping and lamentation, she manifested mingled feelings of sorrow and supplication. The sight affected all, and especially him who perceived that he was sought for: he therefore sets out, and the others follow him. For the beast stopping from time to time, and, from time to time looking back, clearly wished it to be understood that the anchorite should follow wherever she led. What need is there of many words? We arrived at the den of the animal, where she, the unfortunate mother, was nourishing five whelps already grown up, which, as they had come forth with closed eyes from the womb of their dam, so they had continued in persistent blindness. Bringing them out, one by one, from the hollow of the rock, she laid them down at the feet of the anchorite. Then at length the holy man perceived what the creature desired; and having called upon the name of God, he touched with his hand the closed eyes of the whelps; and immediately their blindness ceased, while light, so long denied them, streamed upon the open eyes of the animals. Thus, those brethren, having visited the anchorite whom they were desirous of seeing, returned with a very precious reward for their labor, inasmuch as, having been permitted to be eye-witnesses of such power, they had beheld the faith of the saint, and the glory of Christ, to which they will in future bear testimony. But I have still more marvels to tell: the lioness, after five days, returned to the man who had done her so great a kindness, and brought him, as a gift, the skin of an uncommon animal. Frequently clad in this, as if it were a cloak, that holy man did not disdain to receive that gift through the instrumentality of the best; while, all the time, he rather regarded Another as being the giver.


Footnotes

[103] "Fides Christi adest": lit. "the faith of Christ is present." [104] Also spelt "anchoret": it means "one who has retired from the world" (anachoreo).


Chapter XVI.

"There was also an illustrious name of another anchorite in those regions, a man who dwelt in that part of the desert which is about Syene. This man, when first he betook himself to the wilderness, intended to live on the roots of plants which the sand here and there produces, of a very sweet and delicious flavor; but being ignorant of the nature of the herbs, he often gathered those which were of a deadly character. And, indeed, it was not easy to discriminate between the kind of the roots by the mere taste, since all were equally sweet, but many of them, of a less known nature, contained within them a deadly poison. When, therefore, the poison within tormented him on eating these, and all his vitals were tortured with terrific pains, while frequent vomitings, attended by excruciating agonies, were shattering the very citadel of life, his stomach being completely exhausted, he was in utter terror of all that had to be eaten for sustaining existence. Having thus fasted for seven days, he was almost at the point of death when a wild animal called an Ibex came up to him. To this creature standing by him, he offered a bundle of plants which he had collected on the previous day, yet had not ventured to touch; but the beast, casting aside with its mouth those which were poisonous, picked out such as it knew to be harmless. In this way, that holy man, taught by its conduct what he ought to eat, and what to reject, both escaped the danger of dying of hunger and of being poisoned by the plants. But it would be tedious to relate all the facts which we have either had personal knowledge of, or have heard from others, respecting those who inhabit the desert. I spent a whole year, and nearly seven months more, of set purpose, within these solitudes, being, however, rather an admirer of the virtues of others, than myself making any attempt to manifest the extraordinary endurance which they displayed. For the greater part of the time I lived with the old man whom I have mentioned, who possessed the well and the ox.


Chapter XVII.

"I visited two monasteries of St. Anthony, which are at the present day occupied by his disciples. I also went to that place in which the most blessed Paul, the first of the eremites, had his abode. I saw the Red Sea and the ridges of Mount Sinai, the top of which almost touches heaven, and cannot, by any human effort, be reached. An anchorite was said to live somewhere within its recesses: and I sought long and much to see him, but was unable to do so. He had for nearly fifty years been removed from all human fellowship, and used no clothes, but was covered with bristles growing on his own body, while, by Divine gift, he knew not of his own nakedness. As often as any pious men desired to visit him, making hastily for the pathless wilderness, he shunned all meeting with his kind. To one man only, about five years before my visit, he was said to have granted an interview; and I believe that man obtained the favor through the power of his faith. Amid much talk which the two had together, the recluse is said to have replied to the question why he shunned so assiduously all human beings, that the man who was frequently visited by mortals like himself, could not often be visited by angels. From this, not without reason, the report had spread, and was accepted by multitudes, that that holy man enjoyed angelic fellowship. Be this as it may, I, for my part, departed from Mount Sinai, and returned to the river Nile, the banks of which, on both sides, I beheld dotted over with numerous monasteries. I saw that, for the most part, as I have already said, the monks resided together in companies of a hundred; but it was well known that so many as two or three thousand sometimes had their abode in the same villages. Nor indeed would one have any reason to think that the virtue of the monks there dwelling together in great numbers, was less than that of those was known to be, who kept themselves apart from human fellowship. The chief and foremost virtue in these places, as I have already said, is obedience. In fact, any one applying for admission is not received by the Abbot of the monastery on any other condition than that he be first tried and proved; it being understood that he will never afterwards decline to submit to any injunction of the Abbot, however arduous and difficult, and though it may seem something unworthy to be endured.


Chapter XVIII.

"I will relate two wonderful examples of almost incredible obedience, and two only, although many present themselves to my recollection; but if, in any case, a few instances do not suffice to rouse readers to an imitation of the like virtues, many would be of no advantage. Well then, when a certain man having laid aside all worldly business, and having entered a monastery of very [105] strict discipline, begged that he might be accepted as a member, the Abbot began to place many considerations before him,--that the toils of that order were severe; that his own requirements were heavy, and such as no one's endurance could easily comply with; that he should rather enquire after another monastery where life was carried on under easier conditions; and that he should not try to attempt that which he was unable to accomplish. But he was in no degree moved by these terrors; on the contrary, he all the more promised obedience, saying that if the Abbot should order him to walk into the fire, he would not refuse to enter it. The Master then, having accepted that profession of his, did not delay putting it to the test. It so happened that an iron vessel was close at hand, very hot, as it was being got ready by a powerful fire for cooking some loaves of bread: the flames were bursting forth from the oven broken open, and fire raged without restraint within the hollows of that furnace. The Master, at this stage of affairs, ordered the stranger to enter it, nor did he hesitate to obey the command. Without a moment's delay he entered into the midst of the flames, which, conquered at once by so bold a display of faith, subsided at his approach, as happened of old to the well-known Hebrew children. Nature was overcome, and the fire gave way; so that he, of whom it was thought that he would be burned to death, had reason to marvel at himself, besprinkled, as it were, with a cooling dew. But what wonder is it, O Christ, that that fire did not touch thy youthful soldier? The result was that, neither did the Abbot regret having issued such harsh commands, nor did the disciple repent having obeyed the orders received. He, indeed, on the very day on which he came, being tried in his weakness, was found perfect; deservedly happy, deservedly glorious, having been tested in obedience, he was glorified through suffering.


Footnotes

[105] "monasterium magnæ dispositionis."


Chapter XIX.

"In the same monastery, the fact which I am about to narrate was said to have occurred within recent memory. A certain man had come to the same Abbot in like manner with the former, in order to obtain admission. When the first law of obedience was placed before him, and he promised an unfailing patience for the endurance of all things however extreme, it so happened that the Abbot was holding in his hand a twig of storax already withered. This the Abbot fixed in the ground, and imposed this work upon the visitor, that he should continue to water the twig, until (what was against every natural result) that dry piece of wood should grow green in the sandy soil. Well, the stranger, being placed under the authority of unbending law, conveyed water every day on his own shoulders--water which had to be taken from the river Nile, at almost two miles' distance. And now, after a year had run its course, the labor of that workman had not yet ceased, but there could be no hope of the good success of his undertaking. However, the grace of obedience continued to be shown in his labor. The following year also mocked the vain labor of the (by this time) weakened brother. At length, as the third annual circle was gliding by, while the workman ceased not, night or day, his labor in watering, the twig began to show signs of life. I have myself seen a small tree sprung from that little rod, which, standing at the present day with green branches in the court of the monastery, as if for a witness of what has been stated, shows what a reward obedience received, and what a power faith can exert. But the day would fail me before I could fully enumerate the many different miracles which have become known to me in connection with the virtues of the saints.


Chapter XX.

"I will, however, still further give you an account of two extraordinary marvels. The one of these will be a notable warning against the inflation of wretched vanity, and the other will serve as no mean guard against the display of a spurious righteousness.

"A certain saint, then, endowed with almost incredible power in casting out demons from the bodies of those possessed by them, was, day by day, performing unheard-of miracles. For, not only when present, and not merely by his word, but while absent also, he, from time to time, cured possessed bodies, by some threads taken from his garment, or by letters which he sent. He, therefore, was to a wonderful degree visited by people who came to him from every part of the world. I say nothing about those of humbler rank; but prefects, courtiers, and judges of various ranks often lay at his doors. Most holy bishops also, laying aside their priestly dignity, and humbly imploring him to touch and bless them, believed with good reason that they were sanctified, and illumined with a divine gift, as often as they touched his hand and garment. He was reported to abstain always and utterly from every kind of drink, and for food (I will whisper this, Sulpitius, into your ear lest our friend the Gaul hear it), to subsist upon only six dried figs. But in the meantime, just as honor accrued to the holy man from his excellence, [106] so vanity began to steal upon him from the honor which was paid him. When first he perceived that this evil was growing upon him, he struggled long and earnestly to shake it off, but it could not be thoroughly got rid of by all his efforts, since he still had a secret consciousness of being under the influence of vanity. Everywhere did the demons acknowledge his name, while he was not able to exclude from his presence the number of people who flocked to him. The hidden poison was, in the meantime, working in his breast, and he, at whose beck demons were expelled from the bodies of others, was quite unable to cleanse himself from the hidden thoughts of vanity. Betaking himself, therefore, with fervent supplication to God, he is said to have prayed that, power being given to the devil over him for five months, he might become like to those whom he himself had cured. Why should I delay with many words? That most powerful man,--he, renowned for his miracles and virtues through all the East, he, to whose threshold multitudes had gathered, and at whose door the highest dignitaries of that age had prostrated themselves--laid hold of by a demon, was kept fast in chains. It was only after having suffered all those things which the possessed are wont to endure, that at length in the fifth month he was delivered, not only from the demon, but (what was to him more useful and desirable) from the vanity which had dwelt within him.


Footnotes

[106] "virtute," perhaps power, as in many other places.


Chapter XXI.

"But to me reflecting on these things, there occurs the thought of our own unhappiness and our own infirmity. For who is there of us, whom if one despicable creature of a man has humbly saluted, or one woman has praised with foolish and flattering words, is not at once elated with pride and puffed up with vanity? This will bring it about that even though one does not possess a consciousness of sanctity, yet, because through the flattery, or, it may be, the mistake of fools, he is said to be a holy man, he will, in fact, deem himself most holy! And then, if frequent gifts are sent to him, he will maintain that he is so honored by the munificence of God, inasmuch as all necessary things are bestowed upon him when sleeping and at rest. But further, if some signs of any kind of power fall to him even in a low degree, he will think himself no less than an angel. And even if he is not marked out from others either by acts or excellence, but is simply made a cleric, he instantly enlarges the fringes of his dress, delights in salutations, is puffed up by people visiting him, and himself gads about everywhere. Nay, the man who had been previously accustomed to travel on foot, or at most to ride on the back of an ass, must needs now ride proudly on frothing steeds; formerly content to dwell in a small and humble cell, he now builds a lofty fretted ceiling; he constructs many rooms; he cuts and carves doors; he paints wardrobes; he rejects the coarser kind of clothing, and demands soft garments; and he gives such orders as the following to dear widows and friendly virgins, that the one class weave for him an embroidered cloak, and the other a flowing robe. But let us leave all these things to be described more pungently by that blessed man Hieronymus; and let us return to the object more immediately in view."

"Well," says our Gallic friend upon this, "I know not indeed what you have left to be said by Hieronymus; you have within such brief compass comprehended all our practices, that I think these few words of yours, if they are taken in good part, and patiently considered, will greatly benefit those in question, so that they will not require in future to be kept in order by the books of Hieronymus. But do thou rather go on with what you had begun, and bring forward an example, as you said you would do, against spurious righteousness; for to tell you the truth, we are subject to no more destructive evil than this within the wide boundaries of Gaul."

"I will do so," replied Postumianus, "nor will I any longer keep you in a state of expectation.


Chapter XXII.

"A certain young man from Asia, exceedingly wealthy, of distinguished family, and having a wife and little son, happening to have been a tribune in Egypt, and in frequent campaigns against the Blembi to have touched on some parts of the desert, and having also seen several tents of the saints, heard the word of salvation from the blessed John. And he did not then delay to show his contempt for an unprofitable military life with its vain honor. Bravely entering into the wilderness, he in a short time became distinguished as being perfect in every kind of virtue. Capable of lengthened fasting, conspicuous for humility, and steadfast in faith, he had easily obtained a reputation in the pursuit of virtue equal to that of the monks of old. But by and by, the thought (proceeding from the devil) entered his mind that it would be more proper for him to return to his native land and be the means of saving his only son and his family along with his wife; which surely would be more acceptable to God than if he, content with only rescuing himself from the world, should, not without impiety, neglect the salvation of his friends. Overcome by the plausible appearance of that kind of spurious righteousness, the recluse, after a period of nearly four years, forsook his cell and the end to which he had devoted his life. But on arriving at the nearest monastery, which was inhabited by many brethren, he made known to them, in reply to their questionings, the reason of his departure and the object he had in view. All of them, and especially the Abbot of that place, sought to keep him back; but the intention he had unfortunately formed could not be rooted out of his mind. Accordingly with an unhappy obstinacy he went forth, and, to the grief of all, departed from the brethren. But scarcely had he vanished from their sight, when he was taken possession of by a demon, and vomiting bloody froth from his mouth, he began to lacerate himself with his own teeth. Then, having been carried back to the same monastery on the shoulders of the brethren, when the unclean spirit could not be restrained within its walls, he was, from dire necessity, loaded with iron fetters, being bound both in hands and feet--a punishment not undeserved by a fugitive, inasmuch as chains now restrained him whom faith had not restrained. At length, after two years, having been set free from the unclean spirit by the prayers of the saints, he immediately returned to the desert from which he had departed. In this way he was both himself corrected and was rendered a warning to others, that the shadow of a spurious righteousness might neither delude any one, nor a shifting fickleness of character induce any one, with unprofitable inconstancy, to forsake the course on which he has once entered. And now let it suffice for you to learn these things respecting the various operations of the Lord which he has carried on in the persons of his servants; with the view either of stimulating others to a like kind of conduct, or of deterring them from particular actions. But since I have by this time fully satisfied your ears--have, in fact, been more lengthy than I ought to have been--do you now (upon this he addressed himself to me)--pay me the recompense you owe, by letting us hear you, after your usual fashion, discoursing about your friend Martin, for my longings after this have already for a long time been strongly excited."


Chapter XXIII.

"What," replied I, "is there not enough about my friend Martin in that book of mine which you know that I published respecting his life and virtues?"

"I own it," said Postumianus, "and that book of yours is never far from my right hand. For if you recognize it, look here--(and so saying he displayed the book which was concealed in his dress)--here it is. This book," added he, "is my companion both by land and sea: it has been my friend and comforter in all my wanderings. But I will relate to you to what places that book has penetrated, and how there is almost no spot upon earth in which the subject of so happy a history is not possessed as a well-known narrative. Paulinus, a man who has the strongest regard for you, was the first to bring it to the city of Rome; and then, as it was greedily laid hold of by the whole city, I saw the booksellers rejoicing over it, inasmuch as nothing was a source of greater gain to them, for nothing commanded a readier sale, or fetched a higher price. This same book, having got a long way before me in the course of my traveling, was already generally read through all Carthage, when I came into Africa. Only that presbyter of Cyrene whom I mentioned did not possess it; but he wrote down its contents from my description. And why should I speak about Alexandria? for there it is almost better known to all than it is to yourself. It has passed through Egypt, Nitria, the Thebaid, and the whole of the regions of Memphis. I found it being read by a certain old man in the desert; and, after I told him that I was your intimate friend, this commission was given me both by him and many other brethren, that, if I should ever again visit this country, and find you well, I should constrain you to supply those particulars which you stated in your book you had passed over respecting the virtues of the sainted man. Come then, as I do not desire you to repeat to me those things which are already sufficiently known from what you have written, let those other points, at my request and that of many others, be fully set forth, which at the time of your writing you passed over, to prevent, as I believe, any feeling of weariness on the part of your readers."


Chapter XXIV.

"Indeed, Postumianus," replied I, "while I was listening attentively, all this time, to you talking about the excellences of the saints, in my secret thoughts I had my mind turned to my friend Martin, observing on the best of grounds that all those things which different individuals had done separately, were easily and entirely accomplished by that one man alone. For, although you certainly related lofty deeds, I really heard nothing from your lips (may I say it, without offence to these holy men), in which Martin was inferior to any one of them. And while I hold that the excellence of no one of these is ever to be compared with the merits of that man, still this point ought to be attended to, that it is unfair he should be compared, on the same terms, with the recluses of the desert, or even with the anchorites. For they, at freedom from every hindrance, with heaven only and the angels as witnesses, were clearly instructed to perform admirable deeds; he, on the other hand, in the midst of crowds and intercourse with human beings--among quarrelsome clerics, and among furious bishops, while he was harassed with almost daily scandals on all sides, nevertheless stood absolutely firm with unconquerable virtue against all these things, and performed such wonders as not even those accomplished of whom we have heard that they are, or at one time were, in the wilderness. But even had they done things equal to his, what judge would be so unjust as not, on good grounds, to decide that he was the more powerful? For put the case that he was a soldier who fought on unfavorable ground, and yet turned out a conqueror, and compare them, in like manner, to soldiers, who however, contended on equal terms, or even on favorable terms, with the enemy. What then? Although the victory of all is one and the same, the glory of all certainly cannot be equal. And even though you have narrated marvelous things, still you have not stated that a dead man was recalled to life by any one. In this one particular undoubtedly, it must be owned that no one is to be compared with Martin.


Chapter XXV.

"For, if it is worthy of admiration that the flames did not touch that Egyptian of whom you have spoken, Martin also not infrequently proved his power over fire. If you remind us that the savagery of wild beasts was conquered by, and yielded to, the anchorites, Martin, for his part, was accustomed to keep in check both the fury of wild beasts and the poison of serpents. But, if you bring forward for comparison him who cured those possessed of unclean spirits, by the authority of his word, or even through the instrumentality of threads from his dress, there are many proofs that Martin was not, even in this respect, inferior. Nay, should you have recourse to him, who, covered with his own hair instead of a garment, was thought to be visited by angels, with Martin angels were wont to hold daily discourse. Moreover, he bore so unconquerable a spirit against vanity and boastfulness, that no one more determinedly disdained these vices, and that, although he often, while absent, cured those who were filled with unclean spirits, and issued his commands not only to courtiers or prefects, but also to kings themselves. This was indeed a very small thing amid his other virtues, but I should wish you to believe that no one ever contended more earnestly than he did against not only vanity, but also the causes and the occasions of vanity. I shall also mention what is indeed a small point, but should not be passed over, because it is to the credit of a man who, being possessed of the highest power, manifested such a pious desire to show his regard for the blessed Martin. I remember, then, that Vincentius the prefect, an illustrious man, and one of the most eminent in all Gaul for every kind of virtue, when he had occasion to be in the vicinity of Tours, often begged of Martin that he would allow him to stay with him in the monastery. In making this request, he brought forward the example of Saint Ambrose, the bishop, who was generally spoken of at that time as being in the habit of entertaining both consuls and prefects. But Martin, with deeper judgment, refused so to act, lest by so doing some vanity and inflation of spirit might steal upon him. You, therefore, must acknowledge that there existed in Martin the virtues of all those men whom you have mentioned, but there were not found in all of them the virtues by which Martin was distinguished."


Chapter XXVI.

"Why do you," here exclaimed Postumianus, "speak to me in such a manner? As if I did not hold the same opinion as yourself, and had not always been of the same mind. I, indeed, as long as I live, and retain my senses, will ever celebrate the monks of Egypt: I will praise the anchorites; I will admire the eremites; but I will place Martin in a position of his own: I do not venture to compare to him any one of the monks, far less any of the bishops. Egypt owns this: Syria and Æthiopia have discovered this: India has heard this; Parthia and Persia have known this; not even Armenia is ignorant of it; the remote Bosphorus is aware of it; and in a word, those are acquainted with it who visit the Fortunate Islands or the Arctic Ocean. All the more wretched on this account is this country of ours, which has not been found worthy to be acquainted with so great a man, although he was in its immediate vicinity. However, I will not include the people at large in this censure: only the clerics, only the priests know nothing of him; and not without reason were they, in their ill-will, disinclined to know him, inasmuch as, had they become acquainted with his virtues they must have recognized their own vices. I shudder to state what I have lately heard, that a miserable man (I know him not), has said that you have told many lies in that book of yours. This is not the voice of a man, but of the devil; and it is not Martin who is, in this way, injured, but faith is taken from the Gospels themselves. For, since the Lord himself testified of works of the kind which Martin accomplished, that they were to be performed by all the faithful, he who does not believe that Martin accomplished such deeds, simply does not believe that Christ uttered such words. But the miserable, the degenerate, the somnolent, are put to shame, that the things which they themselves cannot do, were done by him, and prefer rather to deny his virtues than to confess their own inertness. But let us, as we hasten on to other matters, let go all remembrance of such persons: and do you rather, as I have for a long time desired, proceed to narrate the still untold deeds of Martin."

"Well," said I, "I think that your request would more properly be directed to our friend the Gaul, since he is acquainted with more of Martin's doings than I am--for a disciple could not be ignorant of the deeds of his master--and who certainly owes a return of kindness, not only to Martin, but to both of us, inasmuch as I have already published my book, and you have, so far, related to us the doings of our brethren in the East. Let then, our friend the Gaul commence that detailed account which is due from him: because, as I have said, he both owes us a return in the way of speaking, and will, I believe, do this much for his friend Martin--that he shall, not unwillingly, give a narrative of his deeds."


Chapter XXVII.

"Well," said the Gaul, "I, for my part, though I am unequal to so great a task, feel constrained by those examples of obedience which have been related above by Postumianus, not to refuse that duty which you impose upon me. But when I reflect that I, a man of Gaul, [107] am about to speak in the presence of natives of Aquitania, I fear lest my somewhat rude form of speech should offend your too delicate ears. However, you will listen to me as a foolish sort [108] of man, who says nothing in an affected or stilted fashion. For if you have conceded to me that I was a disciple of Martin, grant me this also that I be allowed, under the shelter of his example, to despise the vain trappings of speech and ornaments of words."

"Certainly," replied Postumianus, "speak either in Celtic, or in Gaulish, if you prefer it, provided only you speak of Martin. But for my part, I believe, that, even though you were dumb, words would not be wanting to you, in which you might speak of Martin with eloquent lips, just as the tongue of Zacharias was loosed at the naming of John. But as you are, in fact, an orator, [109] you craftily, like an orator, begin by begging us to excuse your unskillfulness, because you really excel in eloquence. But it is not fitting either that a monk should show such cunning, or that a Gaul should be so artful. But to work rather, and set forth what you have still got to say, for we have wasted too much time already in dealing with other matters; and the lengthening shadow of the declining sun warns us that no long portion of day remains till night be upon us. Then, after we had all kept silence for a little, the Gaul thus begins--"I think I must take care in the first place not to repeat those particulars about the virtues of Martin, which our friend Sulpitius there has related in his book. For this reason, I shall pass over his early achievements, when he was a soldier; nor will I touch on those things which he did as a layman and a monk. At the same time, I shall relate nothing which I simply heard from others, but only events of which I myself was an eye-witness."


Footnotes

[107] The word Gaul here must be taken in its more limited sense as denoting only the country of the Celtæ. See the well-known first sentence of Cæsar's Gallic War. [108] "Gurdonicus": a word said to have been derived from the name of a people in Spain noted for their stolidity. [109] "Scholasticus."

.

Dialogue II.

Concerning the Virtues of St. Martin.


Chapter I.

"Well then, when first, having left the schools, I attached myself to the blessed man, a few days after doing so, we followed him on his way to the church. In the way, a poor man, half-naked in these winter-months, met him, and begged that some clothing might be given him. Then Martin, calling for the chief-deacon, gave orders that the shivering creature should be clothed without delay. After that, entering a private apartment, and sitting down by himself, as his custom was--for he secured for himself this retirement even in the church, liberty being granted to the clerics, since indeed the presbyters were seated in another apartment, either spending their time in mutual [110] courtesies, or occupied in listening to affairs of business. But Martin kept himself in his own seclusion up to the hour at which custom required that the sacred rites should be dispensed to the people. And I will not pass by this point that, when sitting in his retirement, he never used a chair; and, as to the church, no one ever saw him sitting there, as I recently saw a certain man (God is my witness), not without a feeling of shame at the spectacle, seated on a lofty throne, yea, in its elevation, a kind of royal tribunal; but Martin might be seen sitting on a rude little stool, such as those in use by the lowest of servants, which we Gallic country-people call tripets, [111] and which you men of learning, or those at least who are from Greece, call tripods. Well, that poor man who had been chanced upon, as the chief-deacon delayed to give him the garment, rushed into this private apartment of the blessed man, complaining that he had not been attended to by the cleric, and bitterly mourning over the cold he suffered. No delay took place: the holy man, while the other did not observe, secretly drew off his tunic which was below his outer [112] garment, and clothing the poor man with this, told him to go on his way. Then, a little after, the chief-deacon coming in informs him, according to custom, that the people were waiting in the church, and that it was incumbent on him to proceed to the performance of the sacred rites. Martin said to him in reply that it was necessary that the poor man--referring to himself--should be clothed, and that he could not possibly proceed to the church, unless the poor man received a garment. But the deacon, not understanding the true state of the case--that Martin, while outwardly clad with a cloak, was not seen by him to be naked underneath, at last begins to complain that the poor man does not make his appearance. `Let the garment which has been got ready,' said Martin, `be brought to me; there will not be wanting the poor man requiring to be clothed.' Then, at length, the cleric, constrained by necessity, and now in not the sweetest temper, hurriedly procures a rough [113] garment out of the nearest shop, short and shaggy, and costing only five pieces of silver, and lays it, in wrath at the feet of Martin. `See,' cries he, `there is the garment, but the poor man is not here.' Martin, nothing moved, bids him go to the door for a little, thus obtaining secrecy, while, in his nakedness, he clothes himself with the garment, striving with all his might to keep secret what he had done. But when do such things remain concealed in the case of the saints desiring that they should be so? Whether they will or not, all are brought to light.


Footnotes

[110] "salutationibus vacantes": this is, in the original, a very confused and obscure sentence. [111] Halm edits "tripeccias," which may have been the local patois for "tripetias" (ter-pes), corresponding to the Greek tripous, and meaning "a three legged stool." [112] "Amphibalum": a late Latin word corresponding to the more classical toga. [113] "bigerricam vestem."


Chapter II.

"Martin, then, clothed in this garment, proceeds to offer the sacrifice [114] to God. And then on that very day--I am about to narrate something wonderful--when he was engaged in blessing the altar, as is usual, we beheld a globe of fire dart from his head, so that, as it rose on high, the flame produced a hair of extraordinary length. And, although we saw this take place on a very famous day in the midst of a great multitude of people, only one of the virgins, one of the presbyters, and only three of the monks, witnessed the sight: but why the others did not behold it is a matter not to be decided by our judgment.

"About the same time, when my uncle Evanthius, a highly Christian man, although occupied in the affairs of this world, had begun to be afflicted with a very serious illness, to the extreme danger of his life, he sent for Martin. And, without any delay, Martin hastened towards him; but, before the blessed man had completed the half of the distance between them, the sick man experienced the power of him that was coming; and, being immediately restored to health, he himself met us as we were approaching. With many entreaties, he detained Martin, who wished to return home on the following day; for, in the meantime, a serpent had struck with a deadly blow a boy belonging to my uncle's family; and Evanthius himself, on his own shoulders, carried him all but lifeless through the force of the poison, and laid him at the feet of the holy man, believing that nothing was impossible to him. By this time, the serpent had diffused its poison through all the members of the boy: one could see his skin swollen in all his veins, and his vitals strung up like a leather-bottle. Martin stretched forth his hand, felt all the limbs of the boy, and placed his finger close to the little wound, at which the animal had instilled the poison. Then in truth--I am going to tell things wonderful--we saw the whole poison, drawn from every part of the body, gather quickly together to Martin's finger; and next, we beheld the poison mixed with blood press through the small puncture of the wound, just as a long line of abundant milk is wont to flow forth from the teats of goats or sheep, when these are squeezed by the hand of shepherds. The boy rose up quite well. We were amazed by so striking a miracle; and we acknowledged--as, indeed, truth compelled us to do--that there was no one under heaven who could equal the deeds of Martin.


Footnotes

[114] "oblaturus sacrificium."


Chapter III.

"In the same way, some time afterwards, we made a journey with him while he visited the various parishes in his diocese. He had gone forward a little by himself, some necessity or other, I know not what, compelling us to keep behind. In the meantime, a state-conveyance, full of military men, was coming along the public highway. But when the animals near the side beheld Martin in his shaggy garment, with a long black cloak over it, being alarmed, they swerved a little in the opposite direction. Then, the reins getting entangled, they threw into confusion those extended lines in which, as you have often seen, those wretched creatures are held together; and as they were with difficulty rearranged, delay, of course, was caused to those people hastening forward. Enraged by this injury, the soldiers, with hasty leaps, made for the ground. And then they began to belabor Martin with whips and staves; and as he, in silence and with incredible patience, submitted his back to them smiting him, this roused the greater fury in these wretches, for they became all the more violent from the fact, that he, as if he did not feel the blows showered upon him, seemed to despise them. He fell almost lifeless to the earth; and we, ere long, found him covered with blood, and wounded in every part of his body. Lifting him up without delay, and placing him upon his own ass, while we execrated the place of that cruel bloodshed, we hastened, off as speedily as possible. In the meantime, the soldiers having returned to their conveyance, after their fury was satisfied, urge the beasts to proceed in the direction in which they had been going. But they all remained fixed to the spot, as stiff as if they had been brazen statues, and although their masters shouted at them, and the sound of their whips echoed on every side, still the animals never moved. These men next all fall to with lashes; in fact, while punishing the mules, they waste all the Gallic whips they had. The whole of the neighboring wood is laid hold of, and the beasts are beaten with enormous cudgels; but these cruel hands still effected nothing: the animals continued to stand in one and the same place like fixed effigies. The wretched men knew not what to do, and they could no longer conceal from themselves that, in some way or other, there was a higher power at work in the bosoms of these brutes, so that they were, in fact, restrained by the interposition of a deity. At length, therefore, returning to themselves, they began to enquire who he was whom but a little before they had scourged at the same place; and when, on pursuing the investigation, they ascertained from those on the way that it was Martin who had been so cruelly beaten by them, then, indeed, the cause of their misfortune appeared manifest to all; and they could no longer doubt that they were kept back on account of the injury done to that man. Accordingly, they all rush after us at full speed, and, conscious of what they had done and deserved, overwhelmed with shame, weeping, and having their heads and faces smeared with the dust with which they themselves had besprinkled their bodies, they cast themselves at Martin's feet, imploring his pardon, and begging that he would allow them to proceed. They added that they had been sufficiently punished by their conscience alone, and that they deeply felt that the earth might swallow them alive in that very spot, or that rather, they, losing all sense, might justly be stiffened into immovable rocks, just as they had seen their beasts of burden fixed to the places in which they stood; but they begged and entreated him to extend to them pardon for their crime, and to allow them to go on their way. The blessed man had been aware, before they came up to us, that they were in a state of detention, and had already informed us of the fact; however, he kindly granted them forgiveness; and, restoring their animals, permitted them to pursue their journey.


Chapter IV.

"I have often noticed this, Sulpitius, that Martin was accustomed to say to you, that such an abundance [115] of power was by no means granted him while he was a bishop, as he remembered to have possessed before he obtained that office. Now, if this be true, or rather since it is true, we may imagine how great those things were which, while still a monk, he accomplished, and which, without any witness, he effected apart by himself; since we have seen that, while a bishop, he performed so great wonders before the eyes of all. Many, no doubt, of his former achievements were known to the world, and could not be hid, but those are said to have been innumerable which, while he avoided boastfulness, he kept concealed and did not allow to come to the knowledge of mankind; for, inasmuch as he transcended the capabilities of mere man, in a consciousness of his own eminence, and trampling upon worldly glory, he was content simply to have heaven as a witness of his deeds. That this is true we can judge even from these things which are well known to us, and could not be hid; since e.g. before he became a bishop he restored two dead men to life, facts of which your book has treated pretty fully, but, while he was bishop, he raised up only one, a point which I am surprised you have not noticed. I myself am a witness to this latter occurrence; but, probably, you have no doubts about the matter being duly testified. At any rate, I will set before you the affair as it happened. For some reason, I know not what, we were on our way to the town of the Carnutes. [116] In the meantime, as we pass by a certain village most populous in inhabitants, an enormous crowd went forth to meet us, consisting entirely of heathen; for no one in that village was acquainted with a Christian. Nevertheless, owing to the report of the approach of so great a man, a multitude of those streaming to one point had filled all the widely spreading plains. Martin felt that some work was to be performed; and as the spirit within him was thus moving him, he was deeply excited. He at once began to preach to the heathen the word of God, so utterly different from that of man, often groaning that so great a crowd should be ignorant of the Lord the Saviour. In the meantime, while an incredible multitude had surrounded us, a certain woman, whose son had recently died, began to present, with outstretched hands, the lifeless body to the blessed man, saying, "We know that you are a friend of God: restore me my son, who is my only one." The rest of the multitude joined her, and added their entreaties to those of the mother. Martin perceiving, as he afterwards told us, that he could manifest power, in order to the salvation of those waiting for its display, received the body of the deceased into his own hands; and when, in the sight of all, he had fallen on his knees, and then arose, after his prayer was finished, he restored to its mother the child brought back to life. Then, truly, the whole multitude, raising a shout to heaven, acknowledged Christ as God, and finally began to rush in crowds to the knees of the blessed man, sincerely imploring that he would make them Christians. Nor did he delay to do so. As they were in the middle of the plain, he made them all catechumens, by placing his hand upon the whole of them; while, at the same time, turning to us, he said that, not without reason, were these made catechumens in that plain where the martyrs were wont to be consecrated."


Footnotes

[115] "eam virtutum gratiam." [116] The Carnutes dwelt on both sides of the Loire, and their chief town, here referred to, was Autricum, now Chartres.


Chapter V.

"You have conquered, O Gaul," said Postumianus, "you have conquered, although certainly not me, who am, on the contrary, an upholder of Martin, and who have always known and believed all these things about that man; but you have conquered all the eremites and anchorites. For no one of them, like your friend, or rather our friend, Martin, ruled over deaths of all [117] kinds. And Sulpitius there justly compared him to the apostles and prophets, inasmuch as the power of his faith, and the works accomplished by his power, bear witness that he was, in all points, like them. But go on, I beg of you, although we can hear nothing more striking than we have heard--still, go on, O Gaul, to set forth what still remains of what you have to say concerning Martin. For the mind is eager to know even the least and commonest of his doings, since there is no doubt that the least of his actions surpass the greatest deeds of others."

"I will do so," replies the Gaul, "but I did not myself witness what I am about to relate, for it took place before I became an associate of Martin's; still, the fact is well known, having been spread through the world by the accounts given by faithful brethren, who were present on the occasion. Well, just about the time when he first became a bishop, a necessity arose for his visiting the imperial [118] court. Valentinian, the elder, then was at the head of affairs. When he came to know that Martin was asking for things which he did not incline to grant, he ordered him to be kept from entering the doors of the palace. Besides his own unkind and haughty temper, his wife Arriana had urged him to this course, and had wholly alienated him from the holy man, so that he should not show him the regard which was due to him. Martin, accordingly, when he had once and again endeavored to procure an interview with the haughty prince, had recourse to his well-known weapons--he clothes himself in sackcloth, scatters ashes upon his person, abstains from food and drink, and gives himself, night and day, to continuous prayer. On the seventh day, an angel appeared to him, and tells him to go with confidence to the palace, for that the royal doors, although closed against him, would open of their own accord, and that the haughty spirit of the emperor would be softened. Martin, therefore, being encouraged by the address of the angel who thus appeared to him, and trusting to his assistance, went to the palace. The doors stood open, and no one opposed his entrance; so that, going in, he came at last into the presence of the king, without any one seeking to hinder him. The king, however, seeing him at a distance as he approached, and gnashing his teeth that he had been admitted, did not, by any means, condescend to rise up as Martin advanced, until fire covered the royal seat, and until the flames seized on a part of the royal person. In this way the haughty monarch is driven from his throne, and, much against his will, rises up to receive Martin. He even gave many embraces to the man whom he had formerly determined to despise, and, coming to a better frame of mind, he confessed that he perceived the exercise of Divine power; without waiting even to listen to the requests of Martin, he granted all he desired before being asked. Afterwards the king often invited the holy man both to conferences and entertainments; and, in the end, when he was about to depart, offered him many presents, which, however, the blessed man, jealously maintaining his own poverty, totally refused, as he did on all similar occasions.


Footnotes

[117] "mortibus." [118] "adire comitatum": this is a common meaning of comitatus in writers of the period.


Chapter VI.

"And as we have, once for all, entered the palace, I shall string together events which there took place, although they happened at different times. And, indeed, it does not seem to me right that I should pass unmentioned the example of admiration for Martin which was shown by a faithful queen. Maximus then ruled the state, a man worthy of being extolled in [119] his whole life, if only he had been permitted to reject a crown thrust upon him by the soldiery in an illegal tumult, or had been able to keep out of civil war. But the fact is, that a great empire can neither be refused without danger, nor can be preserved without war. He frequently sent for Martin, received him into the palace, and treated him with honor; his whole speech with him was concerning things present, things to come, the glory of the faithful, and the immortality of the saints; while, in the meantime, the queen hung upon the lips of Martin, and not inferior to her mentioned in the Gospel, washed the feet of the holy man with tears and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Martin, though no woman had hitherto touched him, could not escape her assiduity, or rather her servile attentions. She did not think of the wealth of the kingdom, the dignity of the empire, the crown, or the purple; only stretched upon the ground, she could not be torn away from the feet of Martin. At last she begs of her husband (saying that both of them should constrain Martin to agree) that all other attendants should be removed from the holy man, and that she alone should wait upon him at meals. Nor could the blessed man refuse too obstinately. His modest entertainment is got up by the hands of the queen; she herself arranges his seat for him; places his table; furnishes him with water for his hands; and serves up the food which she had herself cooked. While he was eating, she, with her eyes fixed on the ground, stood motionless at a distance, after the fashion of servants, displaying in all points the modesty and humility of a ministering servant. She herself mixed for him his drink and presented it. When the meal was over, she collected the fragments and crumbs of the bread that had been used, preferring with true faithfulness these remains to imperial banquets. Blessed woman! worthy, by the display of so great piety, of being compared to her who came from the ends of the earth to hear Solomon, if we merely regard the plain letter of the history. But the faith of the two queens is to be compared (and let it be granted me to say this, setting aside the majesty of the secret [120] truth implied): the one obtained her desire to hear a wise man; the other was thought worthy not only to hear a wise man, but to wait upon him."


Footnotes

[119] Halm's text is here followed. The older texts which read "vir omni vitæ merito prædicandus," seem hardly intelligible. [120] "Quod mihi liceat separata mysterii majestate dixisse."


Chapter VII.

To these sayings Postumianus replies: "While listening to you, O Gaul, I have for a long time been admiring the faith of the queen; but to what does that statement of yours lead, that no woman was ever said to have stood more close to Martin? For let us consider that that queen not only stood near him, but even ministered unto him. I really fear lest those persons who freely mingle among women should to some extent defend themselves by that example."

Then said the Gaul: "Why do you not notice, as grammarians are wont to teach us, the place, the time, and the person? For only set before your eyes the picture of one kept in the palace of the emperor importuned by prayers, constrained by the faith of the queen, and bound by the necessities of the time, to do his utmost that he might set free those shut up in prison, might restore those who had been sent into exile, and might recover goods that had been taken away,--of how much importance do you think that these things should have appeared to a bishop, so as to lead him, in order to the accomplishment of them all, to abate not a little of the rigor of his general scheme of life? However, as you think that some will make a bad use of the example thus furnished them, I shall only say that those will be truly happy if they do not fall short of the excellence of the example in question. For let them consider that the facts of the case are these: once in his life only, and that when in his seventieth year, was Martin served and waited upon at his meals, not by a free sort of widow, nor by a wanton virgin, but by a queen, who lived under the authority of a husband, and who was supported in her conduct by the entreaties of her husband, that she might be allowed so to act. It is further to be observed that she did not recline with Martin at the entertainment, nor did she venture even to partake in the feast, but simply gave her services in waiting upon him. Learn, therefore, the proper course; let a matron serve thee, and not rule thee; and let her serve, but not recline along with thee; just as Martha, of whom we read, waited upon the Lord without being called to partake in the feast: nay, she who chose rather simply to hear the word was preferred to her that served. But in the case of Martin, the queen spoken of fulfilled both parts: she both served like Martha and listened like Mary. If any one, then, desires to make use of this example, let him keep to it in all particulars; let the cause be the same, the person the same, the service the same, and the entertainment the same,--and let the thing occur once only in one's whole life."


Chapter VIII.

"Admirably," exclaimed Postumianus, "does your speech bind those friends of ours from going beyond the example of Martin; but I own to you my belief that these remarks of yours will fall upon deaf ears. For if we were to follow the ways of Martin, we should never need to defend ourselves in the case of kissing, and we should be free from all the reproaches of sinister opinion. But as you are wont to say, when you are accused of being too fond of eating, `We are Gauls,' so we, for our part, who dwell in this district, will never be reformed either by the example of Martin, or by your dissertations. But while we have been discussing these points at so great length, why do you, Sulpitius, preserve such an obstinate silence?"

"Well, for my part," replied I, "I not only keep silence, but for a long time past I have determined to be silent upon such points. For, because I rebuked a certain spruce gadding-about widow, who dressed expensively, and lived in a somewhat loose manner, and also a virgin, who was following somewhat indecently a certain young man who was dear to me,--although, to be sure, I had often heard her blaming others who acted in such a manner,--I raised up against me such a degree of hatred on the part of all the women and all the monks, that both bands entered upon sworn war against me. Wherefore, be quiet, I beg of you, lest even what we are saying should tend to increase their animosity towards me. Let us entirely blot out these people from our memory, and let us rather return to Martin. Do thou, friend Gaul, as you have begun, carry out the work you have taken in hand."

Then says he: "I have really related already so many things to you, that my speech ought to have satisfied your desires; but, because I am not at liberty to refuse compliance with your wishes, I shall continue to speak as long as the day lasts. For, in truth, when I glance at that straw, which is being prepared for our beds, there comes into my mind a recollection respecting the straw on which Martin had lain, that a miracle was wrought in connection with it. The affair took place as follows. Claudiomagus is a village on the confines of the Bituriges and the Turoni. The church there is celebrated for the piety of the saints, and is not less illustrious for the multitude of the holy virgins. Well, Martin, being in the habit of passing that way, had an apartment in the private part of the church. After he left, all the virgins used to rush into that retirement: they kiss [121] every place where the blessed man had either sat or stood, and distribute among themselves the very straw on which he had lain. One of them, a few days afterwards, took a part of the straw which she had collected for a blessing to herself, and hung it from the neck of a possessed person, whom a spirit of error was troubling. There was no delay; but sooner than one could speak the demon was cast out, and the person was cured.


Footnotes

[121] "adlambunt": perhaps only "touch."


Chapter IX.

"About the same time, a cow which a demon harassed met Martin as he was returning from Treves. That cow, leaving its proper herd, was accustomed to attack human beings, and had already seriously gored many with its horns. Now, when she was coming near us, those who followed her from a distance began to warn us, with a loud voice, to beware of her. But after she had in great fury come pretty near to us, with rage in her eyes, Martin, lifting up his hand, ordered the animal to halt, and she immediately stood stock-still at his word. Upon this, Martin perceived a demon sitting upon her back, and reproving it, he exclaimed, `Begone, thou deadly being; leave the innocent beast, and cease any longer to torment it.' The evil spirit obeyed and departed. And the heifer had sense enough to understand that she was set free; for, peace being restored to her, she fell at the feet of the holy man; and on Martin directing her, she made for her own herd, and, quieter than any sheep, she joined the rest of the band. This also was the time at which he had no sensation of being burnt, although placed in the midst of the flames; but I do not think it necessary for me to give an account of this, because Sulpitius there, though passing over it in his book, has nevertheless pretty fully narrated it in the epistle which he sent to Eusebius, who was then a presbyter, and is now a bishop. I believe, Postumianus, you have either read this letter, or, if it is still unknown to you, you may easily obtain it, when you please, from the bookcase. I shall simply narrate particulars which he has omitted.

"Well, on a certain occasion, when he was going round the various parishes, we came upon a band of huntsmen. The dogs were pursuing a hare, and the little animal was already much exhausted by the long run it had had. When it perceived no means of escape in the plains spreading far on every side, and was several times just on the point of being captured, it tried to delay the threatened death by frequent doublings. Now the blessed man pitied the danger of the creature with pious feelings, and commanded the dogs to give up following it, and to permit it to get safe away. Instantly, at the first command they heard, they stood quite still: one might have thought them bound, or rather arrested, so as to stand immovable in their own footprints. In this way, through her pursuers being stopped as if tied together, the hare got safe away.


Chapter X.

"Moreover, it will be worth while to relate also some of his familiar sayings, since they were all salted with spiritual instruction. He happened to see a sheep [122] that had recently been sheared; and, `See,' says he, `she has fulfilled the precept of the Gospel: she had two coats, and one of them she has given to him who had none: thus, therefore, ye ought also to do.' Also, when he perceived a swineherd in a garment of skin, cold and, in fact, all but naked, he exclaimed: `Look at Adam, cast out of Paradise, how he feeds his swine in a garment of skin; but let us, laying aside that old Adam, who still remains in that man, rather put on the new Adam.' Oxen had, in one part, eaten up the grass of the meadows; pigs also had dug up some portions of them with their snouts; while the remaining portion, which continued uninjured, flourished, as if painted with variously tinted flowers. `That part,' said he, `which has been eaten down by cattle, although it has not altogether lost the beauty of grass, yet retains no grandeur of flowers, conveys to us a representation of marriage; that part, again, which the pigs, unclean animals, had dug up, presents a loathsome picture of fornication; while the remaining portion, which had sustained no injury, sets forth the glory of virginity;--it flourishes with abundance of grass; the fruits of the field abound in it; and, decked with flowers to the very extreme of beauty, it shines as if adorned with glittering gems. Blessed is such beauty and worthy of God; for nothing is to be compared with virginity. Thus, then, those who set marriage side by side with fornication grievously err; and those who think that marriage is to be placed on an equal footing with virginity are utterly wretched and foolish. But this distinction must be maintained by wise people, that marriage belongs to those things which may be excused, while virginity points to glory, and fornication must incur punishment unless its guilt is purged away through atonement.'


Footnotes

[122] Halm has here an unintelligible reading, probably a misprint--"quem recens tonsam forte conspexerat."


Chapter XI.

"A certain soldier had renounced the military [123] life in the Church, having professed himself a monk, and had erected a cell for himself at a distance in the desert, as if with the purpose of leading the life of an eremite. But in course of time the crafty adversary harassed his unspiritual [124] nature with various thoughts, to the effect that, changing his mind, he should express a desire that his wife, whom Martin had ordered to have a place in the nunnery [125] of the young women, should rather dwell along with him. The courageous eremite, therefore, visits Martin, and makes known to him what he had in his mind. But Martin denied very strongly that a woman could, in inconsistent fashion, be joined again to a man who was now a monk, and not a husband. At last, when the soldier was insisting on the point in question; asserting that no evil would follow from carrying out his purpose; that he simply desired to possess the solace of his wife's company; and that there was no fear of his again returning to his own pursuits; adding that he was a soldier of Christ, and that she also had taken the oath of allegiance in the same service; and that the bishop therefore should allow to serve as soldiers together people who were saints, and who, in virtue of their faith, totally ignored the question of sex,--then Martin (I am going to repeat his very words to you) exclaimed: `Tell me if you have ever been in war, and if you have ever stood in the line of battle?' In answer he said, `Frequently; I have often stood in line of battle, and been present in war.' On this Martin replies: `Well, then, tell me, did you ever in a line which was prepared with arms for battle, or, having already advanced near, was fighting against a hostile army with drawn sword--did you ever see any woman standing there, or fighting?' Then at length the soldier became confused and blushed, while he gave thanks that he had not been permitted to follow his own evil counsel, and at the same time had not been put right by the use of any harsh language, but by a true and rational analogy, connected with the person of a soldier. Martin, for his part, turning to us (for a great crowd of brethren had surrounded him), said: `Let not a woman enter the camp of men, but let the line of soldiers remain separate, and let the females, dwelling in their own tent, be remote from that of men. For this renders an army ridiculous, if a female crowd is mixed with the regiments of men. Let the soldier occupy the line, let the soldier fight in the plain, but let the woman keep herself within the protection of the walls. She, too, certainly has her own glory, if, when her husband is absent, she maintains her chastity; and the first excellence, as well as completed victory of that, is, that she should not be seen.'


Footnotes

[123] "cingulum": lit. a girdle, or sword-belt, and then put for military service. [124] "brutum pectus": the word seems to refer to the man as psuchikos, in opposition to pneumatikos. [125] "monasterio."


Chapter XII.

"I believe, my dear Sulpitius, that you remember with what emphasis he extolled to us (when you too were present) that virgin who had so completely withdrawn herself from the eyes of all men, that she did not admit to her presence Martin himself, when he wished to visit her in the discharge of duty. For when he was passing by the little property, within which for several years she had chastely confined herself, having heard of her faith and excellence, he turned out of his way that, as a bishop, he might honor, with pious respect, a gift of such eminent merit. We who journeyed with him thought that that virgin would rejoice, inasmuch as she was to obtain such a testimony to her virtue, while a priest of so great reputation, departing from his usual rigor of conduct, paid her a visit. But she did not relax those bonds of a most severe method of life, which she had imposed upon herself, even by allowing herself to see Martin. And thus the blessed man, having received, through another woman, her praiseworthy apology, joyfully departed from the doors of her who had not permitted herself to be seen or saluted. O glorious virgin, who did not allow herself to be looked upon even by Martin! O blessed Martin, who did not regard that repulse as being any insult to himself, but, extolling with exultant heart her excellence, rejoiced in an example only too rare in that locality! Well, when approaching night had compelled us to stay at no great distance from her humble dwelling, that same virgin sent a present to the blessed man; and Martin did what he had never done before (for he accepted a present or gift from nobody), he refused none of those things which the estimable virgin had sent him, declaring that her blessing was by no means to be rejected by a priest, since she was indeed to be placed before many priests. Let, I beg, virgins listen to that example, so that they shall, if they desire to close their doors to the wicked, even shut them against the good; and that the ill-disposed may have no free access to them, they shall not fear even to exclude priests from their society. Let the whole world listen attentively to this: a virgin did not permit herself to be looked upon by Martin. And it was no common [126] priest whom she repulsed, but the girl refused to come under the eyes of a man whom it was the salvation of onlookers to behold. But what priest, besides Martin, would not have regarded this as doing an injury to him? What irritation and fury would he have conceived in his mind against that virgin? He would have deemed her a heretic; and would have resolved that she should be laid under an anathema. And how surely would such a man have preferred to that blessed soul those virgins who are always throwing themselves in the way of the priest, who get up sumptuous entertainments, and who recline at table with the rest! But whither is my speech carrying me? That somewhat too free manner of speaking must be checked, lest perchance it may give offense to some; for words of reproach will not profit the unfaithful, while the example quoted will be enough for the faithful. At the same time, I wish so to extol the virtue of this virgin, as nevertheless to think that no deduction is to be made from the excellence of those others, who often came from remote regions for the purpose of seeing Martin, since indeed, with the same object in view, even angels ofttimes visited the blessed man.


Footnotes

[126] "quemcumque," in the sense of qualemcumque, which is, in fact, found in some of the mss.


Chapter XIII.

"But in what I am now about to narrate, I possess you, Sulpitius" (here he looked at me) "as a fellow-witness. One day, I and Sulpitius there were watching before Martin's door, and had already sat in silence for several hours. We did so with deep reverence and awe, as if we were carrying out a watch prescribed to us before the tent of an angel; while, all the time, the door of his cell being closed, he did not know that we were there. Meanwhile, we heard the sound of people conversing, and by and by we were filled with a kind of awe and amazement, for we could not help perceiving that something divine was going on. After nearly two hours, Martin comes out to us; and then our friend Sulpitius (for no one was accustomed to speak to him more familiarly) began to entreat him to make known to us, piously enquiring on the subject, what meant that sort of Divine awe which we confessed we had both felt, and with whom he had been conversing in his cell. We added that, as we stood before the door, we had undoubtedly heard a feeble sound of people talking, but had scarcely understood it. Then he after a long delay (but there was really nothing which Sulpitius could not extort from him even against his will: I am about to relate things somewhat difficult of belief, but, as Christ is my witness, I lie not, unless any one is so impious as to think that Martin himself lied) said: `I will tell you, but I beg you will not speak of it to any one else. Agnes, Thecla, and Mary were there with me.' He proceeded to describe to us the face and general aspect of each. And he acknowledged that, not merely on that day, but frequently, he received visits from them. Nor did he deny that Peter also and Paul, the Apostles, were pretty frequently seen by him. Moreover, he was in the habit of rebuking the demons by their special names, according as they severally came to him. He found Mercury a cause of special annoyance, while he said that Jupiter was stupid and doltish. I am aware that these things seemed incredible even to many who dwelt in the same monastery; and far less can I expect that all who simply hear of them will believe them. For unless Martin had lived such an inestimable life, and displayed such excellence, he would by no means be regarded among us as having been endowed with so great glory. And yet it is not at all wonderful that human infirmity doubted concerning the works of Martin, when we see that many at the present day do not even believe the Gospels. But we have ourselves had personal knowledge and experience, that angels often appeared and spoke familiarly with Martin. As bearing upon this, I am to narrate a matter, of small importance indeed, but still I will state it. A synod, composed of bishops, was held at Nemausus, and while he had refused to attend it, he was nevertheless desirous of knowing what was done at it. It so happened that our friend Sulpitius was then on board ship with him, but, as was his custom, he kept his place at a distance from the rest, in a retired part of the vessel. There an angel announced to him what had taken place in the synod. And when, afterwards, we carefully enquired into the time at which the council was held, we found, beyond all doubt, that that was the very day of the council, and that those things were there decreed by the bishops which the angel had announced to Martin.


Chapter XIV.

"But when we questioned him concerning the end of the world, he said to us that Nero and Antichrist have first to come; that Nero will rule in the Western portion of the world, after having subdued ten kings; and that a persecution will be carried on by him, with the view of compelling men to worship the idols of the Gentiles. He also said that Antichrist, on the other hand, would first seize upon the empire of the East, having his seat and the capital of his kingdom at Jerusalem; while both the city and the temple would be restored by him. He added that his persecution would have for its object to compel men to deny Christ as God, while he maintained rather that he himself was Christ, and ordered all men to be circumcised, according to the law. He further said that Nero was to be destroyed by Antichrist, and that the whole world, and all nations, were to be reduced under the power of Antichrist, until that impious one should be overthrown by the coming of Christ. He told us, too, that there was no doubt but that Antichrist, having been conceived by an evil spirit, was already born, and had, by this time, reached the years of boyhood, while he would assume power as soon as he reached the proper age. Now, this is the eighth year since we heard these words from his lips: you may conjecture, then, how nearly about to happen are those things which are feared in the future."

As our friend the Gaul was emphatically speaking thus, and had not yet finished what he intended to relate, a boy of the family entered with the announcement that the presbyter Refrigerius was standing at the door. We began to doubt whether it would be better to hear the Gaul further, or to go and welcome that man whom we so greatly loved, and who had come to pay his respects to us, when our friend the Gaul remarked: "Even although this most holy priest had not arrived, this talk of ours would have had to be cut short, for the approach of night was itself urging us to finish the discourse which has been so far continued. But inasmuch as all things bearing upon the excellences of Martin have by no means yet been mentioned, let what you have heard suffice for to-day: to-morrow we shall proceed to what remains." This promise of our Gallic friend being equally acceptable to us all, we rose up.

.

Dialogue III.

The Virtues of Martin Continued.


Chapter I.

"It is daylight, our Gallic friend, and you must get up. For, as you see, both Postumianus is urgent, and this presbyter, who was yesterday admitted to hear what was going on, expects that what you put off narrating with regard to our beloved Martin till to-day, you should now, in fulfillment of your promise, proceed to tell. He is not, indeed, ignorant of all the things which are to be related, but knowledge is sweet and pleasant even to one who goes over again things already known to him; since, indeed, it has been so arranged by nature that one rejoices with a better conscience in his knowledge of things which he is sure, through the testimony borne to them by many, are not in any degree uncertain. For this man, too, having been a follower of Martin from his early youth, has indeed been acquainted with all his doings; but he gladly hears over again things already known. And I will confess to thee, O Gaul, that the virtues of Martin have often been heard of by me, since, in fact, I have committed to writing many things regarding him; but through the admiration I feel for his deeds, those things are always new to me which, although I have already heard them, are, over and over again, repeated concerning him. Wherefore, we congratulate you that Refrigerius has been added to us as a hearer, all the [127] more earnestly that Postumianus is manifesting such eagerness, because he hastens, as it were, to convey a knowledge of these things to the East, and is now to hear the truth from you confirmed, so to speak, by witnesses."

As I was saying these words, and as the Gaul was now ready to resume his narrative, there rushes in upon us a crowd of monks, Evagrius the presbyter, Aper, Sabbatius, Agricola; and, a little after, there enters the presbyter Ætherius, with Calupio the deacon, and Amator the subdeacon; lastly, Aurelius the presbyter, a very dear friend of mine, who came from a longer distance, rushes up out of breath. "Why," I enquire, "do you so suddenly and unexpectedly run together to us from so many different quarters, and at so early an hour in the morning?" "We," they reply, "heard yesterday that your friend the Gaul spent the whole day in narrating the virtues of Martin, and, as night overtook him, put off the rest until to-day: wherefore, we have made haste to furnish him with a crowded audience, as he speaks about such interesting matters." In the meantime, we are informed that a multitude of lay people are standing at the door, not venturing to enter, but begging, nevertheless, that they might be admitted. Then Aper declares, "It is by no means proper that these people should be mixed up with us, for they have come to hear, rather from curiosity than piety." I was grieved for the sake of those who ought not, as he thought, to be admitted, but all that I could obtain, and with difficulty, was that they should admit Eucherius from among the lieutenants, [128] and Celsus, a man of consular rank, while the rest were kept back. We then place the Gaul in the middle seat; and he, after long keeping silence, in harmony with his well-known modesty, at length began as follows.


Footnotes

[127] The original here is very obscure. [128] "ex vicariis."


Chapter II.

"You have assembled, my pious and eloquent friends, to hear me; but, as I presume, you have brought to the task religious rather than learned ears; for you are to listen to me simply as a witness to the faith, and not as speaking with the fluency of an orator. Now, I shall not repeat the things which were spoken yesterday: those who did not hear them can become acquainted with them by means of the written records. Postumianus expects something new, intending to make known what he hears to the East, that it may not, when Martin is brought into comparison, esteem itself above the West. And first, my mind inclines to set forth an incident respecting which Refrigerius has just whispered in my ear: the affair took place in the city of Carnutes. A certain father of a family ventured to bring to Martin his daughter of twelve years old, who had been dumb from her birth, begging that the blessed man would loose, by his pious merits, her tongue, which was thus tied. He, giving way to the bishops Valentinus and Victricius, who then happened to be by his side, declared that he was unequal to so great an undertaking, but that nothing was impossible to them, as if holier than himself. But they, adding their pious entreaties, with suppliant voices, to those of the father, begged Martin to accomplish what was hoped for. He made no further delay,--being admirable in both respects, in the display, first of all, of humility, and then in not putting off a pious duty,--but orders the crowd of people standing round to be removed; and while the bishops only, and the father of the girl, were present, he prostrates himself in prayer, after his usual fashion. He then blesses a little oil, while he utters the formula of exorcism; and holding the tongue of the girl with his fingers, he thus pours the consecrated liquid into her mouth. Nor did the result of the power thus exerted disappoint the holy man. He asks her the name of her father, and she instantly replied. The father cries out, embracing the knees of Martin, with a mixture of joy and tears; and while all around are amazed, he confesses that then for the first time he listened to the voice of his daughter. And that this may not appear incredible to any one, let Evagrius, who is here, furnish you with a testimony of its truth; for the thing took place in his very presence.


Chapter III.

"The following is a small matter which I learned lately from the narration of Arpagius the presbyter, but I do not think it ought to be passed over. The wife of the courtier Avitianus had sent some oil to Martin, that he might bless it (such is the custom) so as to be ready when needful to meet different causes of disease. It was contained in a glass jar of a shape which, round throughout, gradually bulges [129] out towards the middle, with a long neck; but the hollow of the extended neck was not filled, because it is the custom to fill vessels of the kind in such a way that the top may be left free for the knobs which stop up the jar. The presbyter testified that he saw the oil increase under the blessing of Martin, so much that, the abundance of it overflowing the jar, it ran down from the top in every direction. He added that it bubbled up with the same [130] effect, while the vessel was being carried back to the mistress of the household; for the oil so steadily flowed over in the hands of the boy carrying it, that the abundance of the liquid, thus pouring down, covered all his garment. He said, moreover, that the lady received the vessel so full even to the brim, that (as the same presbyter tells [131] us at the present day) there was no room in that jar for inserting the stopper by which people are accustomed to close those vessels, the contents of which are to be preserved with special care. That, too, was a remarkable thing that happened to this man." Here he looked at me. "He had set down a glass vessel containing oil blessed by Martin in a pretty high window; and a boy of the family, not knowing that a jar was there, drew towards him the cloth covering it, with rather much violence. The vessel, in consequence, fell down on the marble pavement. Upon this, all were filled with dread lest the blessing of God, bestowed on the vessel by Martin, had been lost; but the jar was found as safe as ever, just as if it had fallen on the softest feathers. Now, this result should be ascribed, not so much to chance, as to the power of Martin, whose blessing could not possibly perish.

"There is this, too, which was effected by a certain person, whose name, because he is present, and has forbidden it to be mentioned, shall be suppressed: Saturninus too, who is now with us, was present on the occasion referred to. A dog was barking at us in a somewhat disagreeable manner. ' I command thee,' said the person in question, `in the name of Martin, to be quiet.' The dog--his barking seemed to stick in his throat, and one might have thought that his tongue had been cut out--was silent. Thus it is really a small matter that Martin himself performed miracles: believe me that other people also have accomplished many things in his name.


Footnotes

[129] The text of this sentence is very uncertain, and the meaning somewhat obscure. [130] Here, again, the text is in confusion. [131] Text and meaning both very obscure.


Chapter IV.

"You knew the too barbarous and, beyond measure, bloody ferocity of Avitianus, a former courtier. He enters the city of the Turones with a furious spirit, while rows of people, laden with chains, followed him with melancholy looks, orders various kinds of punishments to be got ready for slaying them; and to the grave amazement of the city, he arranges them for the sad work on the following day. When this became known to Martin, he set out all alone, a little before midnight, for the palace of that beast. But when, in the silence of the depths of the night, and as all were at rest, no entrance was possible through the bolted doors, he lays himself down before that cruel threshold. In the meantime, Avitianus, buried in deep sleep, is smitten by an assailing angel, who says to him, `Does the servant of God lie at your threshold, and do you continue sleeping?' He, on listening to these words, rises, in much disturbance, from his bed; and calling his servants, he exclaims in terror, `Martin is at the door: go immediately, and undo the bolts, that the servant of God may suffer no harm.' But they, in accordance with the tendency of all servants, having scarcely stepped beyond the first threshold, and laughing at their master as having been mocked by a dream, affirm that there was no one at the door. This they did as simply inferring from their own disposition, that no one could be keeping watch through the night, while far less did they believe that a priest was lying at the threshold of another man during the horror of that night. Well, they easily persuaded Avitianus of the truth of their story. He again sinks into sleep; but, being ere long struck with greater violence than before, he exclaimed that Martin was standing at the door, and that, therefore, no rest either of mind or body was allowed him. As the servants delayed, he himself went forward to the outer threshold; and there he found Martin, as he had thought he would. The wretched man, struck by the display of so great excellence, exclaimed, `Why, sir, have you done this to me? There is no need for you to speak: I know what you wish: I see what you require: depart as quickly as possible, lest the anger of heaven consume me on account of the injury done you: I have already suffered sufficient punishment. Believe me, that I have firmly determined in my own mind how I should now proceed.' So then, after the departure of the holy man, he calls for his officials and orders all the prisoners to be set free, while presently he himself went his way. Thus Avitianus being put to flight, the city rejoiced, and felt at liberty.


Chapter V.

"While these are certain facts, since Avitianus related them to many persons, they are further confirmed on this ground that Refrigerius the presbyter, whom you see here present, lately had them narrated to him, under an appeal to the Divine majesty, by Dagridus, a faithful man among the tribunes, who swore that the account was given him by Avitianus himself. But I do not wish you to wonder that I do to-day what I did not do yesterday; viz. that I subjoin to the mention of every individual wonder the names of witnesses, and mention persons to whom, if any one is inclined to disbelieve, he may have recourse, because they are still in the body. The unbelief of very many has compelled that; for they are said to hesitate about some things which were related yesterday. Let these people, then, accept as witnesses persons who are still alive and well, and let them give more credit to such, inasmuch as they doubt our good faith. But really, if they are so unbelieving, I give it as my opinion that they will not believe even the witnesses named. And yet I am surprised that any one, who has even the least sense of religion, can venture on such wickedness as to think that any one could tell lies concerning Martin. Be that far from every one who lives in obedience to God; for, indeed, Martin does not require to be defended by falsehoods. But, O Christ, we lay the truth of our whole discourse before thee, to the effect that we neither have said, nor will say, anything else than what either we ourselves have witnessed, or have learned from undoubted authorities, and, indeed, very frequently from Martin himself. But although we have adopted the form of a dialogue, in order that the style might be varied to prevent weariness, still we affirm that we are really setting forth [132] a true history in a dutiful spirit. The unbelief of some has compelled me, to my great regret, to insert in my narrative these remarks which are apart from the subject in hand. But let the discourse now return to our assembly; in which since I saw that I was listened to so eagerly, I found it necessary to acknowledge that Aper acted properly in keeping back the unbelieving, under the conviction he had that those only ought to be allowed to hear who were of a believing spirit.


Footnotes

[132] "nos pie præstruere profitemur historiæ veritatem."


Chapter VI.

"I am enraged in heart, believe me, and, through vexation, I seem to lose my senses: do Christian men not believe in the miraculous powers of Martin, which the demons acknowledged?

"The monastery of the blessed man was at two miles' distance from the city; but if, as often as he was to come to the church, he only had set his foot outside the threshold of his cell, one could perceive the possessed roaring through the whole church, and the bands of guilty [133] ones trembling as if their judge were coming, so that the groanings of the demons announced the approach of the bishop to the clerics, who were not previously aware that he was coming. I saw a certain man snatched up into the air on the approach of Martin, and suspended there with his hands stretched upwards, so that he could in no way touch the ground with his feet. But if at any time Martin undertook the duty of exorcising the demons, he touched no one with his hands, and reproached no one in words, as a multitude of expressions is generally rolled forth by the clerics; but the possessed, being brought up to him, he ordered all others to depart, and the doors being bolted, clothed in sackcloth and sprinkled with ashes, he stretched himself on the ground in the midst of the church, and turned to prayer. Then truly might one behold the wretched beings tortured with various results--some hanging, as it were, from a cloud, with their feet turned upwards, and yet their garments did not fall down over their faces, lest the part of their body which was exposed should give rise to shame; while in another part of the church one could see them tortured without any question being addressed to them, and confessing their crimes. They revealed their names, too, of their own accord; one acknowledged that he was Jupiter, and another that he was Mercury. Finally, one could see all the servants of the devil suffering agony, along with their master, so that we could not help acknowledging that in Martin there was fulfilled that which is written that `the saints shall judge angels.'


Footnotes

[133] "agmina damnanda."


Chapter VII.

"There was a certain village in the country of the Senones which was every year annoyed with hail. The inhabitants, constrained by an extreme of suffering, sought help from Martin. A highly respectable embassy was sent to him by Auspicius, a man of the rank of prefect, whose fields the storm had been wont to smite more severely than it did those of others. But Martin, having there offered up prayer, so completely freed the whole district from the prevailing plague, that for twenty years, in which he afterwards remained in the body, no one in those places suffered from hail. And that this may not be thought to be accidental, but rather effected by Martin, the tempest, returning afresh, once more fell upon the district in the year in which he died. The world thus felt the departure of a believing man to such a degree, that, as it justly rejoiced in his life, so it also bewailed his death. But if any hearer, weak in faith, demands also witnesses to prove those things which we have said, I will bring forward, not one man, but many thousands, and will even summon the whole region of the Senones to bear witness to the power which was experienced. But not to speak of this, you, presbyter Refrigerius, remember, I believe, that we lately had a conversation, concerning the matter referred to, with Romulus, the son of that Auspicius I mentioned, an honored and religious man. He related the points in question to us, as if they had not been previously known; and as he was afraid of constant losses in future harvests, he did, as you yourself beheld, regret, with much lamentation, that Martin was not preserved up to this time.


Chapter VIII.

"But to return to Avitianus: while at every other place, and in all other cities, he displayed marks of horrible cruelty, at Tours alone he did no harm. Yes, that beast, which was nourished by human blood, and by the slaughter of unfortunate creatures, showed himself meek and peaceable in the presence of the blessed man. I remember that Martin one day came to him, and having entered his private apartment, he saw a demon of marvelous size sitting behind his back. Blowing upon him from a distance (if I may, as a matter of necessity, make use of a word which is hardly Latin [134] , Avitianus thought that he was blowing at him, and exclaimed, `Why, thou holy man, dost thou treat me thus?' But then Martin said, `It is not at you, but at him who, in all his terribleness, leans over your neck.' The devil gave way, and left his familiar seat; and it is well known that, ever after that day, Avitianus was milder, whether because he now understood that he had always been doing the will of the devil sitting by him, or because the unclean spirit, driven from his seat by Martin, was deprived of the power of attacking him; while the servant was ashamed of his master, and the master did not force on his servant.

"In a village of the Ambatienses, that is in an old stronghold, which is now largely inhabited by brethren, you know there is a great idol-temple built up with labor. The building had been constructed of the most polished stones and furnished with turrets; and, rising on high in the form of a cone, it preserved the superstition of the place by the majesty of the work. The blessed man had often enjoined its destruction on Marcellus, who was there settled as presbyter. Returning after the lapse of some time, he reproved the presbyter, because the edifice of the idol-temple was still standing. He pleaded in excuse that such an immense structure could with difficulty be thrown down by a band of soldiers, or by the strength of a large body of the public, and far less should Martin think it easy for that to be effected by means of weak clerics or helpless monks. Then Martin, having recourse to his well-known auxiliaries, spent the whole night in watching and prayer--with the result that, in the morning, a storm arose, and cast down even to its foundations the idol-temple. Now let this narrative rest on the testimony of Marcellus.


Footnotes

[134] "exsufflans."


Chapter IX.

"I will make use of another not dissimilar marvel in a like kind of work, having the concurrence of Refrigerius in doing so. Martin was prepared to throw down a pillar of immense size, on the top of which an idol stood, but there was no means by which effect could be given to his design. Well, according to his usual practice, he betakes himself to prayer. It is undoubted that then a column, to a certain degree like the other, rushed down from heaven, and falling upon the idol, it crushed to powder the whole of the seemingly indestructible mass: this would have been a small matter, had he only in an invisible way made use of the powers of heaven, but these very powers were beheld by human eyes serving Martin in a visible manner.

"Again, the same Refrigerius is my witness that a woman, suffering from an issue of blood, when she had touched the garment of Martin, after the example of the woman mentioned in the Gospel, was cured in a moment of time.

"A serpent, cutting its way through a river, was swimming towards the bank on which we had taken our stand. `In the name of the Lord,' said Martin, `I command thee to return.' Instantly, at the word of the holy man, the venomous beast turned round, and while we looked on, swam across to the farther bank. As we all perceived that this had not happened without a miracle; he groaned deeply, and exclaimed, `Serpents hear me, but men will not hear.'


Chapter X.

"Being accustomed to eat fish at the time of Easter, he enquired a little before the hour for refreshment, whether it was in readiness. Then Cato, the deacon, to whom the outward management of the monastery belonged, and who was himself a skillful fisher, tells him that no capture had fallen to his lot the whole day, and that other fishers, who used to sell what they caught, had also been able to do nothing. `Go,' said he, `let down your line, and a capture will follow.' As Sulpitius there has already described, we had our dwelling close to the river. We all went, then, as these were holidays, to see our friend fishing, with the hopes of all on the stretch, that the efforts would not be in vain by which, under the advice of Martin himself, it was sought to obtain fish for his use. At the first throw the deacon drew out, in a very small net, an enormous pike, and ran joyfully back to the monastery, with the feeling undoubtedly to which some poet gave utterance (for we use a learned verse, inasmuch as we are conversing with learned people)--`And brought his captive boar [135] to wondering Argos.'

"Truly that disciple of Christ, imitating the miracles performed by the Saviour, and which he, by way of example, set before the view of his saints, showed Christ also working in him, who, glorifying his own holy follower everywhere, conferred upon that one man the gifts of various graces. Arborius, of the imperial bodyguard, testifies that he saw the hand of Martin as he was offering sacrifice, clothed, as it seemed, with the noblest gems, while it glittered with a purple light; and that, when his right hand was moved, he heard the clash of the gems, as they struck together.


Footnotes

[135] "captivum suem." Probably there is here an allusion to the capture of the Erymanthian boar by Hercules, with a punning reference to a secondary meaning of sus as a kind of fish.


Chapter XI.

"I will now come to an event which he always concealed, owing to the character of the times, but which he could not conceal from us. In the matter referred to, there is this of a miraculous nature, that an angel conversed, face to face, with him. The Emperor Maximus, while in other respects doubtless a good man, was led astray by the advices of some priests after Priscillian had been put to death. He, therefore, protected by his royal power Ithacius the bishop, who had been the accuser of Priscillian, and others of his confederates, whom it is not necessary to name. The emperor thus prevented every one from bringing it as a charge against Ithacius, that, by his instrumentality, a man of any sort had been condemned to death. Now Martin, constrained to go to the court by many serious causes of people involved in suffering, incurred the whole force of the storm which was there raging. The bishops who had assembled at Treves were retained in that city, and daily communicating with Ithacius, they had made common cause with him. When it was announced to them expecting no such information, that Martin was coming, completely losing courage, they began to mutter and tremble among themselves. And it so happened that already, under their influence, the emperor had determined to send some tribunes armed with absolute power into the two Spains, to search out heretics, and, when found, to deprive them of their life or goods. Now there was no doubt that that tempest would also make havoc of multitudes of the real saints, little distinction being made between the various classes of individuals. For in such circumstances, a judgment was formed simply by appearances, so that one was deemed a heretic rather on his turning pale from fear, or wearing a particular garment, than by the faith which he professed. And the bishops were well aware that such proceedings would by no means please Martin; but, conscious of evil as they were, this was a subject of deep anxiety to them, lest when he came, he should keep from communion with them; knowing well as they did, that others would not be wanting who, with his example to guide them, would follow the bold course adopted by so great a man. They therefore form a plan with the emperor, to this effect, that, officials of the court being sent on to meet him, Martin should be forbidden to come any nearer to that city, unless he should declare that he would maintain peace with the bishops who were living there. But he skillfully frustrated their object, by declaring that he would come among them with the peace of Christ. And at last, having entered during the night, he went to the church, simply for the purpose of prayer. On the following day he betakes himself to the palace. Besides many other petitions which he had to present, and which it would be tedious to describe, the following were the principal: entreaties in behalf of the courtier Narses, and the president Leucadius, both of whom had belonged to the party of Gratianus, and that, with more than ordinary zeal, upon which this is not the time to dilate, and who had thus incurred the anger of the conqueror; but his chief request was, that tribunes, with the power of life and death, should not be sent into the Spains. For Martin felt a pious solicitude not only to save from danger the true Christians in these regions, who were to be persecuted in connection with that expedition, but to protect even heretics themselves. But on the first and second day the wily emperor kept the holy man in suspense, whether that he might impress on him the importance of the affair, or because, being obnoxious to the bishops, he could not be reconciled to them, or because, as most people thought at the time, the emperor opposed his wishes from avarice, having cast a longing eye on the property of the persons in question. For we are told that he was really a man distinguished by many excellent actions, but that he was not successful in contending against avarice. This may, however, have been due to the necessities of the empire at the time, for the treasury of the state had been exhausted by former rulers; and he, being almost constantly in the expectation of civil wars, or in a state of preparation for them, may easily be excused for having, by all sorts of expedients, sought resources for the defense of the empire.


Chapter XII.

"In the meantime, those bishops with whom Martin would not hold communion went in terror to the king, complaining that they had been condemned beforehand; that it was all over with them as respected the status of every one of them, if the authority of Martin was now to uphold the pertinacity of Theognitus, who alone had as yet condemned them by a sentence publicly pronounced; that the man ought not to have been received within the walls; that he was now not merely the defender of heretics, but their vindicator; and that nothing had really been accomplished by the death of Priscillian, if Martin were to act the part of his avenger. Finally, prostrating themselves with weeping and lamentation, they implored the emperor [136] to put forth his power against this one man. And the emperor was not far from being compelled to assign to Martin, too, the doom of heretics. But after all, although he was disposed to look upon the bishops with too great favor, he was not ignorant that Martin excelled all other mortals in faith, sanctity, and excellence: he therefore tries another way of getting the better of the holy man. And first he sends for him privately, and addresses him in the kindest fashion, assuring him that the heretics were condemned in the regular course of public trials, rather than by the persecutions of the priests; and that there was no reason why he should think that communion with Ithacius and the rest of that party was a thing to be condemned. He added that Theognitus had created disunion, rather by personal hatred, than by the cause he supported; and that, in fact, he was the only person who, in the meantime, had separated himself from communion: while no innovation had been made by the rest. He remarked further that a synod, held a few days previously, had decreed that Ithacius was not chargeable with any fault. When Martin was but little impressed by these statements, the king then became inflamed with anger, and hurried out of his presence; while, without delay, executioners are appointed for those in whose behalf Martin had made supplication.


Footnotes

[136] "potestatem regiam."


Chapter XIII.

"When this became known to Martin, he rushed to the palace, though it was now night. He pledges himself that, if these people were spared, he would communicate; only let the tribunes, who had already been sent to the Spains for the destruction of the churches, be recalled. There is no delay: Maximus grants all his requests. On the following day, the ordination of Felix as bishop was being arranged, a man undoubtedly of great sanctity, and truly worthy of being made a priest in happier times. Martin took part in the communion of that day, judging it better to yield for the moment, than to disregard the safety of those over whose heads a sword was hanging. Nevertheless, although the bishops strove to the uttermost to get him to confirm the fact of his communicating by signing his name, he could not be induced to do so. On the following day, hurrying away from that place, as he was on the way returning, he was filled with mourning and lamentation that he had even for an hour been mixed up with the evil communion, and, not far from a village named Andethanna, where remote woods stretch [137] far and wide with profound solitude, he sat down while his companions went on a little before him. There he became involved in deep thought, alternately accusing and defending the cause of his grief and conduct. Suddenly, an angel stood by him and said, `Justly, O Martin, do you feel compunction, but you could not otherwise get out of your difficulty. Renew your virtue, resume your courage, lest you not only now expose your fame, but your very salvation, to danger.' Therefore, from that time forward, he carefully guarded against being mixed up in communion with the party of Ithacius. But when it happened that he cured some of the possessed more slowly and with less grace than usual, he at once confessed to us with tears that he felt a diminution of his power on account of the evil of that communion in which he had taken part for a moment through necessity, and not with a cordial spirit. He lived sixteen years after this, but never again did he attend a synod, and kept carefully aloof from all assemblies of bishops.


Footnotes

[137] The text here is very corrupt: we have followed a conjecture of Halm's.


Chapter XIV.

"But clearly, as we experienced, he repaired, with manifold interest, his grace, which had been diminished for a time. I saw afterwards a possessed person brought to him at the gate [138] of the monastery; and that, before the man touched the threshold, he was cured.

"I lately heard one testifying that, when he was sailing on the Tuscan Sea, following that course which leads to Rome, whirlwinds having suddenly arisen, all on board were in extreme peril of their lives. In these circumstances, a certain Egyptian merchant, who was not yet a Christian, cried out, `Save us, O God of Martin,' upon which the tempest was immediately stilled, and they held their desired course, while the pacified ocean continued in perfect tranquillity.

"Lycontius, a believing man belonging to the lieutenants, when a violent disease was afflicting his family, and sick bodies were lying all through his house in sad proof of unheard-of calamity, implored the help of Martin by a letter. At this time the blessed man declared that the thing asked was difficult to be obtained, for he knew in his spirit that that house was then being scourged by Divine appointment. Yet he did not give up an unbroken course of prayer and fasting for seven whole days and as many nights, so that he at last obtained that which he aimed at in his supplications. Speedily, Lycontius, having experienced the Divine kindness, flew to him, at once reporting the fact and giving thanks, that his house had been delivered from all danger. He also offered a hundred pounds of silver, which the blessed man neither rejected nor accepted; but before the amount of money touched the threshold of the monastery, he had, without hesitation, destined it for the redemption of captives. And when it was suggested to him by the brethren, that some portion of it should be reserved for the expenses of the monastery, since it was difficult for all of them to obtain necessary food, while many of them were sorely in need of clothing, he replied, `Let the church both feed and clothe us, as long as we do not appear to have provided, in any way, for our own wants.'

"There occur to my mind at this point many miracles of that illustrious man, which it is more easy for us to admire than to narrate. You all doubtless recognize the truth of what I say: there are many doings of his which cannot be set forth in words. For instance, there is the following, which I rather think cannot be related by us just as it took place. A certain one of the brethren (you are not ignorant of his name, but his person must be concealed, lest we should cause shame to a godly man),--a certain one, I say, having found abundance of coals for his stove, drew a stool to himself, and was sitting, with outspread legs and exposed person, beside that fire, when Martin at once perceived that an improper thing was done under the sacred roof, and cried out with a loud voice, `Who, by exposing his person, is dishonoring our habitation?' When our brother heard this, and felt from his own conscience, that it was he who was rebuked, he immediately ran to us almost in a fainting condition, and acknowledged his shame; which was done, however, only through the forth-putting of the power of Martin.


Footnotes

[138] "Pseudothyrum": Halm prefers the form "pseudoforum," but the meaning is the same.


Chapter XV.

"Again, on a certain day, after he had sat down on that wooden seat of his (which you all know), placed in the small open court which surrounded his abode, he perceived two demons sitting on the lofty rock which overhangs the monastery. He then heard them, in eager and gladsome tones, utter the following invitation, `Come hither, Brictio, come hither, Brictio.' I believe they perceived the miserable man approaching from a distance, being conscious how great frenzy of spirit they had excited within him. Nor is there any delay: Brictio rushes in in absolute fury; and there, full of madness, he vomits forth a thousand reproaches against Martin. For he had been reproved by him on the previous day, because he who had possessed nothing before he entered the clerical office, having, in fact, been brought up in the monastery by Martin himself, was now keeping horses and purchasing slaves. For at that time, he was accused by many of not only having bought boys belonging to barbarous nations, but girls also of a comely appearance. The miserable man, moved with bitter rage on account of these things, and, as I believe, chiefly instigated by the impulse received from those demons, made such an onset upon Martin as scarcely to refrain from laying hands upon him. The holy man, on his part, with a placid countenance and a tranquil mind, endeavored by gentle words to restrain the madness of the unhappy wretch. But the spirit of wickedness so prevailed within him, that not even his own mind, at best a very vain one, was under his control. With trembling lips, and a changing countenance, pale with rage, he rolled forth the words of sin, asserting that he was a holier man than Martin who had brought him up, inasmuch as from his earliest years he had grown up in the monastery amid the sacred institutions of the Church, while Martin had at first, as he could not deny, been tarnished with the life of a soldier, and had now entirely sunk into dotage by means of his baseless superstitions, and ridiculous fancies about visions. After he had uttered many things like these, and others of a still more bitter nature, which it is better not to mention, going out, at length, when his rage was satisfied he seemed to feel as if he had completely vindicated his conduct. But with rapid steps he rushed back by the way he had gone out, the demons having, I believe, been, in the meantime, driven from his heart by the prayers of Martin, and he was now brought back to repentance. Speedily, then, he returns, and throws himself at the feet of Martin, begging for pardon and confessing his error, while, at length restored to a better mind, he acknowledges that he had been under the influence of a demon. It was no difficult business for Martin to forgive the suppliant. And then the holy man explained both to him and to us all, how he had seen him driven on by demons, and declared that he was not moved by the reproaches which had been heaped upon him; for they had, in fact, rather injured the man who uttered them. And subsequently, when this same Brictio was often accused before him of many and great crimes, Martin could not be induced to remove him from the presbyterate, lest he should be suspected of revenging the injury done to himself, while he often repeated this saying: `If Christ bore with Judas, why should not I bear with Brictio?'"


Chapter XVI.

Upon this, Postumianus exclaims, "Let that well-known man in our immediate neighborhood, listen to that example, who, when he is wise, takes no notice either of things present or future, but if he has been offended, falls into utter fury, having no control over himself. He then rages against the clerics, and makes bitter attacks upon the laity, while he stirs up the whole world for his own revenge. He will continue in this state of contention for three years without intermission, and refuse to be mollified either by time or reason. The condition of the man is to be lamented and pitied, even if this were the only incurable evil by which he is afflicted. But you ought, my Gallic friend, to have frequently recalled to his mind such examples of patience and tranquillity, that he might know both how to be angry and how to forgive. And if he happens to hear of this speech of mine which has been briefly interpolated into our discourse, and. directed against himself, let him know that I spoke, not more with the lips of an enemy than the mind of a friend; because I should wish, if the thing were possible, that he should be spoken of rather as being like the bishop Martin, than the tyrant Phalaris. But let us pass away from him, since the mention of him is far from pleasant, and let us return, O Gaul, to our friend Martin."


Chapter XVII.

Then said I, since I perceived by the setting sun that evening was at hand: "The day is gone, Postumianus; we must rise up; and at the same time some refreshment is due to these so zealous listeners. And as to Martin, you ought not to expect that there is any limit to one talking about him: he extends too far to be comprised fully in any conversation. In the meantime, you will convey to the East the things you have now heard about that famous man; and as you retrace your steps to your former haunts, and pass along by various coasts, places, harbors, islands, and seas, see that you spread among the peoples the name and glory of Martin. Especially remember that you do not omit Campania; and although your route will take you far off the beaten track, still any expenditure from delay will not be to you of so much importance as to keep you from visiting in that quarter Paulinus, a man renowned and praised throughout the whole world. I beg you first to unroll to him the volume of discourse which we either completed yesterday, or have said to-day. You will relate all to him; you will repeat all to him; that in due time, by his means, Rome may learn the sacred merits of this man, just as he spread that first little book of ours not only through Italy, but even through the whole of Illyria. He, not jealous of the glories of Martin, and being a most pious admirer of his saintly excellences in Christ, will not refuse to compare our leading man with his own friend Felix. Next, if you happen to cross over to Africa, you will relate what you have heard to Carthage; and, although, as you yourself have said, it already knows the man, yet now pre-eminently it will learn more respecting him, that it may not admire its own martyr Cyprian alone, although consecrated by his sacred blood. And then, if carried down a little to the left, you enter the gulf of Achaia, let Corinth know, and let Athens know, that Plato in the academy was not wiser, and that Socrates in the prison was not braver, than Martin. You will say to them that Greece was indeed happy which was thought worthy to listen to an apostle pleading, but that Christ has by no means forsaken Gaul, since he has granted it to possess such a man as Martin. But when you have come as far as Egypt, although it is justly proud of the numbers and virtues of its own saints, yet let it not disdain to hear how Europe will not yield to it, or to all Asia, in having only Martin.


Chapter XVIII.

"But when you have again set sail from that place with the view of making for Jerusalem, I enjoin upon you a duty connected with our grief, that, if you ever come to the shore of renowned Ptolemais, you enquire most carefully where Pomponius, that friend of ours, is buried, and that you do not refuse to visit his remains on that foreign soil. There shed many tears, as much from the working of your own feelings, as from our tender affection; and although it is but a worthless gift, scatter the ground there with purple flowers and sweet-smelling grass. And you will say to him, but not roughly, and not harshly,--with the address of one who sympathizes, and not with the tone of one who reproaches,--that if he had only been willing to listen to you at one time, or to me constantly, and if he had invited Martin rather than that man whom I am unwilling to name, he would never have been so cruelly separated from me, or covered by a heap of unknown dust, having suffered death in the midst of the sea with the lot of a ship-wrecked pirate, and with difficulty securing burial on a far-distant shore. Let those behold this as their own work, who, in seeking to revenge him, have wished to injure me, let them behold their own glory, and being avenged, let them henceforth cease to make any attacks upon me."

Having uttered these sad words in a very mournful voice, and while the tears of all the others were drawn forth by our laments, we at length departed, certainly with a profound admiration for Martin, but with no less sorrow from our own lamentations.


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