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mary account of the life of this bishop of Alexandria; but his eminent merit, and the time in which he flourished; re uire of us a more particular history. "
he Decian ersecutionP began in the year 249, or the beginning of 550: but there was a persecution raised against the christians of Alexandria in the yearq 248, whilst other churches enjoyed great peace under the emperor Philip. This persecutionr lasted a whole year, and was concluded by nothing but a sedition and disturbance among the Gentiles themselves. In a fragment of a letter of Dionysius to Fabius, bishop of Antioch, is an account of several who8 suffered martyrdom in that opular persecution, and of the breaking Open and pluntiiaring the houses of christians in that city. ‘ Nor ‘ had we,’ says Dionysius, ‘ a safe passage any where, throu [1 high streets or narrow lanes, neither by night nor by ay; b‘ut continually, and every where, the people were universally crying out, “ If any one refuse to pronounce such or such impious words, let him be immediately taken up and thrown into the fire.” So things went for a long time, till a sedition among themselves, and a civil war, returned this cruelty upon them. We“ had then a little breathing time: but presently news came of the end of that reign which had been favourable to us, and all were seized with fears of an impending storm. Then came the edict ;’ that is, Decius’s edict of persecution, published at Alexandria in the beginning of the year 250.
Soonv after the arrival of that edict, as Dionysius writes to Germanus, Sabinus, prefect of Egypt, gave orders for apprehending him. The officer, supposing he must needs have fled and absconded in such a time of manifest danger, made a diligent search every where, excepting only the bishop’s own house, where Dionysius continued four days after the prefect’s order for taking him up; but on the fifth day,
aving received a s ecial direction from God, who likewise opened a way or his escape, he removed, accompaniedW by his servants and many of the brethren. He was nevertheless very soon after, that very night as it seems, apprehended by a band of soldiers, and carried to Taposyris, a small village in that part of Egypt which Was called Mareotis. Then he was taken out of their custody by some country people in a very odd and unexpected manner, and against his own consent. Being thus rescued out of the hands of that strong guard by which he had been first taken, he retired and lived privately in a desert part of Libya, distantthree days’ journey from Parmtonium. The Decian persecution being over, Dionysius returned to his charge at Alexandria some time in the year 25}. '
P Vid. Pagi, 250. num. iv. Basnag. ann. 250. num. ii. iii.
‘1 Vid. Pagi, Crit. 248. n. viii. ' an: are re Bumhucs wpoqayparog 5 filmy/tog 1rap' flaw anuro, ahha yap bhov emav-rov rpovhapt. Dionys. in Ep. ad Fab. ap. Eus. 1. vi. c. 41. in.
‘ Ibid. p. 236, 237. ‘ lb. p. 237. D.
“ Kat apmpov luv wpnoausrvevuapw—wfiwg d: 1‘] H19 Bathtag ensuing 'rng cvpevasspag' ire-rape)"; dtnyyehrat—nat 55 irm. wapm! 'ro rpoaray'ta. lb. p. 238. A. ' Vid. Ens. 1. vi. cap. 40.
“' aye: re mt oi mutisg :car. woMot raw adtkgbwu apa MEEQAOopw. ib. p. 235. C.
Gallus succeeded Decius before the end of the year 251 ;' and Dionysius speaks of a persecution in his reign: for he says expressly, thatX ‘ Gallus banished those holy men that offered up prayers to God for his peace and safety.’ Whether any suffered at this time in Egypt is not certain ; nor is there much notice‘taken of this matter in ancient ecclesiastical writers. PagiY therefore concludes, that this was only a local persecution, and that it was felt in few
laces except Rome, where Cornelius, and afterwards ucius, were banished by this emperor.
In the year 253, Valerian and his son Gallienus succeeded Gallus and Volusian. The persecution began in the year 257, and ended in other parts of the empire in 259, when Valerian Was taken captive by the Persians; but at‘ Alexandria it continued till the year 261, when Gallienns overcame Macrian, in whose power Egypt had been till that time. Then Gallienus sent the same favourable edicts to Alexandria which had been sent before to several other parts of the empire. Our Dionysius speaks of this persecution having lastedz forty-two months, or three years and a half; which ought to be understood of Egypt only, not of the rest of the empire. The difliculties relating to this point have been finely cleared up by Pagi, to“ whom I refer, and b to Basnage, who does not much differ from him“.
Soon after the arrival of the edict at Alexandria, before the end of thec year' 257, as seems most probable, Dionysius was summoned before Emilian, then prefect of Egypt. He went to him, 'as'1 Dionysius himself writes, “attended by his fellow-presbyter Maximus, and by'Faus‘tus, Eusebius, and Cheremon, deacons, and a christian ‘ brother from Rome, then at Alexandria. Emilia'n requiring
-‘ him to renounce the christian religion, Dionysius answered ‘ without delay, that “ we ought to obey God rather than ‘ men,” (Acts v. 29.) and assured the prefect that he was a ‘ worshipper of the one God, and could worship no other, ‘ nor could he ever cease to be a christian. Whereupou he ‘ ordered them to a place called Cephro, in Libya, forbid‘ ding them to hold any assemblies. Nor could Dionysius ‘ obtain a delay of one day, though he was sick.’
In his banishment be retained a tender affection and concern for his peo ,le, and watched over them, carefully couvening them, as liee says, “ absent indeed in body, but.present in spirit,” 1 Cor. v. 3. At Cephro he hada large number of the faithful, partly such as came to him_thither from Alexandria, partly such as came from other places of Egypt. ‘ And here,’ saysf he, “ God opened a door to us for preaching the word}? 1 Cor. xvi. 9; 2 Cor. ii.,12. . At first the people of. the place were rude, and ready to pelt us with stones, but afterw‘ardsnot a few of the Gentiles, “ forsaking idols, turned unto God,” 1 Thess. i. 9. Then first the seed of the word was sown among them by us; for hitherto it had not been preached unto them: and, as if for that pnr ose God had brought us to them, when we had “ fulfille that ministry,” he removed us, Acts xii. 25. For Emilian, as if desirous to send us into some more uncomfortable place than Libya itself, gave orders for dis-a persing some others in several villages of Mareotis; and us he commanded to reside in the district of Colluthio, near the great road, that. we might be the nearer at hand to be brought to Alexandria, if he should think fitl . .
How long this banishment lasted, is not absolutely certain. Tillemontg says, it is evident that Dionysius continued in this exile about two years at least, becausein that. time he wrote two festalepistles, concerning the observation of Easter, asl‘ Eusebius relates. One of those epistles was directed to Flavius, the other-to Domitins and Didymus. I would just observe, that in the same place Eusebius adds: ‘ Beside these, Dionysius wrote another letter to his ‘ fellow-presbyters of Alexandria, and other letters to ‘ divers other persons, the persecution still raging.’ Pagii hasytaken notice of several of the letters written at that time. Basnagek computes Dionysius’s exile to have lasted four years, supposing him to have been banished in 257 ; as does1 Pagi: but I do not see any proof of so long a continuance of that exile; though it might be full three years, or somewhat more. ,
‘ lb. p. 259. A. . -f-Ib. p. 259. A. B. C.
k Pace apud Egyptum constitute, post extinctum Macu'anum, ejusque liberos Macrianum et Quietum, Dionysius, quadriennii exilium passus, edict Gallieni Alexandriam, anno 261, revocatur. Basn. A. 247. n..vr. . .
ln‘the yearm 261, if '1 not before, Dionysius returned to his people at Alexandria, and officiated again among them, to their great satisfaction and profit. But, as° Eusebius observes, the peace was of short duration at Alexandria; for that city was again afllicted with sedition and war, and then? with pestilence. The disturbance here intended, ‘IValesius, and rPagi, and “Basnage, uppose to be the rebellion of Emilian, which broke out in the latter part of the year 261. The Festal, 0r Paschal epistle of Dionysius to Hierax an Egyptian bishop, of whicht Eusebius has preserved some fragments, describing the unhappy circumstances of Alexandria in the time of that sedition, is supp0sed (lg “ Pagi and v Basnage to have been written in the year 2 . There follow in " Eusebius fragments of a letter to Dionysius, giving an account of the pestilence in that city, which letter appears plainly to have been written in" the year of Christ 263. Tillemonflv thinks this may be the same that Jerom callsZ the Letter concerning the mortality. After this Eusebius‘ mentions one more Festal epistle of Dionysius, and consequently written in the year 264. Eusebiusb particularly observes, that the city of Alexandria then enjoyed peace. And thus we have brought down our general history of this great man to the end of his life, or near it; for it is not improbable that0 he died in this very year 264.
I]. Dionysius was favoured with some revelations from heaven: Wed formerly saw an account of a special direction he receivede from God to leave Alexandria, at the beginning of the persecution under Decius. He had another like direction,'to encourage him to try all things, and to read all sorts of books. For Eusebius informs us, that Dionysius, in his third letter concerning baptism sent to Philemon, presbyter at Rome, writes after this manner: ‘ Asf for me,’ says he, ‘I have read the works and the traditions of the heretics; defiling my mind undoubtedly, for a while, with their execrable opinions. But then I have had this advantage in the end, that l have been more fully convinced of their falsehood, and my detestation of them has been increased. One of the brethren, a presbyter, would have dissuaded me from this course, fearing the consequence, and telling me that my mind would be defiled: and indeed I am sensible he spoke truly: nevertheless, I thought I ought to roceed as 1 had begun: andg I was confirmed therein y a vision from heaven; for a voice came to me, expressly commanding me to this purpose; “ Read whatever comes to your hands, for you are able to examine and try all things; and this was the first occasion of your embracing the faith.” I therefore gladly received the vision, as agreeing withh the apostolical precept, directed especially to such as are strong: “ Be e skilful money changers,”’ or, ini other words, “ prove ail things," and what follows, 1 Thess. v. 21.
I Vid. Pagi, 257. n. iv. "' Vid. Basn. ib. et Pagi, 262. 11. ii. " Ema..pr d: 6001! emu n1; etpqimg, Efl'tlllfiUL luv u: rm! AMEai/quav. Euseb. l. 7. cap. 21. in. ° Vid. Euseb. ib.
P lbid. cap. 22. ‘1 Vales. Ann. in Bus. p. 151.
" Pagi, 262. 11. ii. ' Basn. 247. vi.
‘ L. vii. cap. 21. “ Pagi, 262. n. ii.
' An. 247. n. vii. sub fin. " lb. c. 22.
‘ Vid. Basnag. an. 247. n. vii. sub fin. Tillem. St. Denys d‘A. Art. xiv. p. 593. 1 As before. 1 Et alia de Mortalidate. De. V. 1. cap. 69. ‘ lbid. p. 269. D.
b Etprlveuoawrwv row xara rm! 1ro)\w. ibid. c See
Tillemont, p. 594. Basn. 247. 11. vi. and before, page 644, note i. d See p. 646. ° Kat pokig ptra rm! nmp'rm/ fipepav ftkuaavroq pot psi-asylum rs 958, rat wapadofiwg bdowomoav-rog' Kat
9'" 7119 re Gee wpovotag Epyov exewo 167mm, 141 e'Em; equwow. Bus. 1. vi. c. 40. p. 235. C- _
Nothing certainly more worthy to be the matter of a revelation than this command ; nor could any thing be more honourable to Dionysius than this ' vision. Here is an admirable argument for freedom of inquiry; it had been the first occasion of Dionysius’s becoming a christian; it must therefore be advantageous afterwards. By this means christianity was spread at the beginning; and by this means it cannot e obstructed: the reason is, because it is true; andex'amination and inquiry are prejudicial and detrimental to error, beneficial and friendly to truth. Such christians, therefore, as discourage inquiry in matters of a religious
f Eye; 5: lat 'rorg GUI/fil'fluldl xal rat;- rapadoo'rm. rwv aiperucwv wervxov. x. X. 1. vii. C. 7. p. 253. A. 8 'Opaim Otowe'urrou wpoasheov swappier p.2- Kal. Xoyog 1rpog ye ywopwog wpourraEe diappndnu Myon!‘ 1rao'w eurv-yxave oig av uc xupag Xafioig' din/Quale"! yap Eras'a xar dompaZew brain); 51' Km O‘Ol 741011: Taro ziapxqg xat 711g ms'ewg tltftOV- AwedsZapnv r0 bpapa, big a1ro¢o7lucg 51>va avurpexov 1' Myacry wpog rag dvvarwrepeg- I‘wwes damper 'r amZu-ai. Ibid. p. 253. C.
" Mr. histou supposeth that Dionysius refers to the Apostolical Constitutions, Lib. ii. cap. 36. See his Essay on the Apostolical Constitutions, chap. iv. sect. 24, in his Primitive Christianity, &c. vol. iii. p. 425. But Mr. Whiston‘s arguments have been fully confuted by Mr. Robert Turner, in his Discourse of the pretended Apostolical Constitutions, ch. xiv. p. 134—436.
' See before, ch. xxxviii. sect. xxvii. 14. , V