Page images
[ocr errors]

for what he says of Cerinthus. He flourished at the beginning of the third century, and is called by Eusebius an “ecclesiastical man"; but of his history little is known. Dionysius wrote in the latter part of the second century. Besides the letter alluded to, Eusebius mentions some others of his as extant, from which he gleans a few facts.*

In his notice of Montanus and the Cataphrygians, a sect of the second century, he quotes from Apollonius, an “ecclesiastical writer,” as he styles him; † from an author whose name, if known to him, he has not divulged ; and from Serapion, bishop of Antioch, who also wrote a book to prove the Gospel according to Peter a forgery, from which Eusebius has furnished an extract. ||

His account of Artemon, who lived in the second century, and who maintained that the doctrine of Christ's simple humanity was an article of the primitive faith, he professes to take from an anonymous writer, who attempted a confutation of his heresy, of course a suspicious authority. In the case of Paul of Samosata, who was of the same school, his principal authority appears to have been the Letter of the Council of Antioch, of which he inserts a part, if not the whole. He alludes also to a discussion between Paul and Malchion, minutes of which, taken by notaries at the time, were extant in his day. T

In his account of Novatus, the heretic and “first anti-pope, about the middle of the third century, he quotes from a letter of his rival and enemy, Cornelius, bishop of Rome, who is his principal authority, though, however, he appeals to letters of Cyprian and “the bishops with him," and the decrees of the council which condemned the heresiarch. The letter of Cornelius is addressed to Fabius of Antioch.**

For some facts relating to the final expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem, he relies on the authority of Aristo of He gives Apollinaris of Hierapolis as his principal authority in the case of the fulminating legion, who, it seems, was mistaken as to the origin of the epithet, for the legion bore it before the occurrence of the reputed miraculous shower.If He cites let

[ocr errors]


* Lib. iv. c. 23.

+ Lib. v. c. 18. Lib. v. c. 19; Lib. vi. c. 12. Lib. vii. 29, 30.

** Lib. vi. c. 43. #Lib. v. c. 5.

| Lib. V. c. 16. § Lib. v. c. 28. # Lib. iv. c. 6.




ters of Alexander, bishop of Jerusalem, the friend and admirer of Origen, as authority for some cotemporary transactions.* Upon the discrepancies between the genealogies of Matthew and Luke, he quotes from a letter of Julius Africanus, the chronologist, to Aristides. He gives an extract from the Paschal Canons of Anatolius of Laodicea, a man of eminence in his day, and who appears to have possessed no ordinary share of ancient and particularly Jewish learning. I One of his references is to Agrippa Castor, who wrote against Basilides, in the former part of the second century. A quotation is given from the Apology of Melito of Sardis, late in the same century, relating to the persecution which Christians underwent in his time, therefore a cotemporary authority, and another from a different work of his, containing a catalogue of the books of the Old Testament. I For the suicide of Pilate he refers, as authority, to the Greek writers of the Olympiads.** He has quoted from a book of Rhodon against Marcion, A. D. 190,ft and from Porphyry's books against the Christians. It

In his sixth and seventh books, Eusebius has made great use of the epistolary writings of Dionysius, called the Great, bishop of Alexandria. In his preface to his seventh book, he acknowledges his very great obligations to him ; he says, that Dionysius shall compose the book with him in his own words, relating the occurrences of his times in the letters he has left. Dionysius was an honest man, and reputed to be learned and eloquent. He mingled much in the affairs of Christians of his time, A. D. 247, and wrote of what he had seen and heard, and a "great part” of which he was. His authority, allowing for the ordinary weaknesses and imperfections of human nature, is entitled to great respect.

Such are the documents before the time of Eusebius, and expressly named by him as authorities, which have now wholly or in part perished, and of many of which we have only portions preserved by him. To these we must add the productions appealed to by him, which have entirely, or in a great measure, survived, the injuries of time ; as the Epistle of the Church of Smyrna in relation to the martyrdom of Polycarp and others, if our present copies be genuine, - a piece which

exhibits some marks of credulity in the writers, — the produc

[ocr errors]

* Lib. vi. c. 11, 14, 19. ti. 2.

Lib. iv. c. 26.

** ii. 7.

| vii. 32.
tt v. 13.

Şiv. 7.
#1 vi. 19.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

tions extant of Josephus, Philo, Justin Martyr, Clement the Alexandrian, Tatian, Irenæus, Tertullian, and Origen, and two or three imperial rescripts or letters. He derived assistance, no doubt, from other sources. He speaks of the collection of letters in the library of Ælia, which furnished him with materials,* and he drew largely, as we have said, from tradition. He has mentioned many writers not included in our enumeration, because he does not use them as authorities. We believe that our catalogue is tolerably complete of such as he has appealed to by name as sources of history. He often, however, omits to name his authorities, either from ignorance, carelessness, or perhaps because the general consent of writers seemed to render specification unnecessary.

We have thus completed our first division. The second need not long detain us. In the preface to his eighth book, Eusebius informs us, that he is about to relate events which happened in his own times. Of his ten books, then, he devotes three to contemporaneous history. He professes to speak of what he saw and knew, not always naming documents or authorities, yet often, especially near the close, appealing to letters and edicts of the Emperors, several of which he has preserved entire. It must be admitted, that no man of his times had better means than he of becoming acquainted with the general affairs of Christians; though in estimating the merit of this part of his narrative, we must not forget the difficulty of arriving at truth from the reports, often inaccurate, partial, and colored, of contemporaries, subject, as their minds must be, to the disturbing influence of human passions, partiality, or prejudices.

From this slight survey of the fountains to which Eusebius had access, it is obvious that his materials were, as we have said, of very various merit ; some being of the very best kind, others, to say the least, very suspicious, and some utterly without value. He had, at times, clear lights to direct him on the road; at others, he was compelled to thread his way amid surrounding darkness. Whatever skill and industry he might have brought to his task, such was the paucity of his materials in some instances, and their doubtful worth in others, that his work must necessarily have failed of gratifying our desire of full and accurate information concerning the times of which he wrote.

* Lib. vi. 20.

We do not pretend to assert, that he was always thorough in his researches, or had recourse, in all instances, to the best sources of information. Yet he sometimes discriminates, and manifests some solicitude, certainly, about the worth of the documents used by him. He frequently notes the time when, and the authors by whom, they were written. Examples might be given in abundance, but the enumeration would be tedious.* In his fifth book, however,t there occurs a statement which, in justice to him, we cannot pass over, for it shows that he was not utterly careless and indifferent about his authorities. Thus, after mentioning some writings, of which the authors and their times were known, he proceeds to say that many more pieces had come to his hands, the authorship and date of which he had no means of ascertaining, and therefore, he observes, he could not make use of them nor quote them. He sometimes, too, assigns reasons, historical and critical, for rejecting certain writings, which fall under his notice, of which we may mention as an example, the Gospels of Peter, Thomas, and others, and the Acts of Andrew, and John, and others of the Apostles, and some writings attributed to Clement of Rome. I

At the same time, it cannot be denied, that he was often too negligent in regard to his authorities, and reposed faith in writings which the critical sagacity of subsequent times has rejected as forged or worthless; of which the reputed correspondence of Jesus Christ and king Abgarus, already mentioned, is the most memorable, though not the only example.

He seems to make a writer's orthodoxy a voucher for his historical veracity, than which no principle can be more absurd, as all the world knows. $

He appears to think the fact, that a writer was a heathen, sufficient of itself to set aside his testimony, provided it contradicted the statement or opinion of a Christian writer, the latter being assumed, à priori, to be a lover of truth, and the former not; another false principle of historical composition. |

[ocr errors]


* He is sometimes, however, loose and inaccurate, and occasionally gives contradictory statements, of which we have an example in his account of the time of Hegesippus. Comp. Lib. iv. c. 8, and Ib. c. 21, 22.

Lib. iii. c. 25, 38. § Lib. iii. 23.

|| Lib. V. c. 5.

tc. 27.

[ocr errors]

He thinks that the exaggerated praises of good men may be allowed to pass, on the principle that they nourish a spirit of piety. From the same principle, or from credulity and superstition, of both of which he had in his constitution no slight infusion, he treats us with several accounts of miracles, some of which are said by him to have occurred in his own time, though the more cautious faith or philosophy of modern times will hesitate to receive them upon the evidence adduced. But other historians, Christian and heathen, ancient and modern, have been guiltier than he is in this respect.

It must be admitted too, we fear, that Eusebius's prejudices often prevented him from applying to the best sources. Thus, in the accounts he has given of some heretics, he seems to have been satisfied with the materials which lay nearest at hand, that is, generally such as were furnished by the writings of their adversaries, and consequently of a suspicious character. Thus, for our knowledge of Novatus, as we have seen, he sends us to his competitor and foe, Cornelius, and takes no notice of Novatus's defence of himself. All he says of Artemon, as before observed, is taken from an anonymous writer against him; and then in regard to Paul of Samosata, as we have said, he is content to give the letter of the bishops who condemned him, which contains statements evidently colored and exaggerated, and bears clear marks of passion in the writers. In this mode of proceeding he was not singular, any more than in his occasional use of abusive expressions and epithets, such as “madman,” dealer in “blasphemous lies,” and others of a similiar character. It was too much the practice of the age, and has been of all succeeding times. The world is in this respect but little improved. Still something better ought to be expected of a historian, who, if he allow himself to listen only to the evidence, often strongly prejudiced, on one side, certainly forfeits the praise of impartiality and justice. The ancient heretics had no doubt something to say for themselves; but by a feeling like that which, we are sorry to say, appears to have animated Eusebius, their testimony has been suppressed. All the portraits of them we possess were shaded by the hand of their enemies, who seem to have been abundantly careful that none of the deformities of the original should be lost in the representation.

Of the use Eusebius has made of his materials we have left ourselves little room to speak. That his diligence in collecting,


[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »