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Part II

 

Chapter 4

 

That Saint-worship was advanced by fabulous legends. This proved from the acknowledged design of the Latin legends, as also of that Greek legender, Simeon Metaphrastes: particularly his fabulous narrations concerning Anastasia, St. Barbara, St. Blasius, St. Catherine, St. Margaret, &c.

 

The second particular I named of the hypocrisy or feigning of liars, was fabulous legends of the acts of saints and martyrs. This was also another means to advance the doctrines of demons. For the true acts and stories of the martyrs being extinguished for the most part by the bloody edict of Dioclesian, they now began to supply again that loss by collecting such tales as were then current of them, and adding thereto such miracles as were fabled of them after death; fashioned all to the best advantage of what they meant to promote in the Church, and which was already on foot in the same. Such was that wherewith the good father Gregory Nazianzen was abused in his funeral oration upon Cyprian, and many others of the Greek Church; that Cyprian, even that great Cyprian, who was both citizen and Bishop of Carthage in the reign of Decius, (for of him Gregory speaketh expressly,) being formerly a conjurer, and falling in love with a Christian virgin Justina, some say of

 

 

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Antioch, when by wooing and ordinary means he could not win her unto his will, he went about to prevail with magical spells and conjurations: which the damsel perceiving, she having recourse to God, fell to work against him with prayer and fasting, and in her devotions also besought the Virgin Mary to succor her a virgin in this jeopardy: by which means Cyprian痴 magical enchantments were frustrated, and he, convinced thereby, became a Christian. All which * Baronius himself confesses to be a fable; as well he might, it being unknown both to Pontius his deacon, who lived with him and wrote his life, and to the Western and African Churches where he lived and died, who knew (and who could know better?) that he was in his Paganism not a magician, but a professor of oratory at Carthage, far enough from Antioch, and converted by one C訥ilius. Nevertheless we have cause to think that this tale, together with other the like, served not a little for the advancement of the mystery of demons in the Eastern Churches; when we see our adversaries so willing to have that passage of calling upon the blessed Virgin to be authentical, (as seems by their often alleging it,) notwithstanding they know, (which the Greeks so well could not, he being a Latin Bishop,) that the whole story must needs be a fable.

 

Of this stamp are the well-known legends of our Latin Churches, which almost all of them drive principally at this mark; it being also the ordinary conclusion of their tales, certainly of

 

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* An. 250. soc. 5.

 

 

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our English ones, that since God hath done thus and thus by this holy martyr, or since God hath by such miracles honored this martyr, let us pray unto him, that by his merits and intercession we may obtain salvation. Nor is it a late device; Gregory Turonensis, above a thousand years ago, in his two books on the Miracles of the Martyrs; as his fabulous narrations, which yet many of them he refers to others before him, are excellently well framed for the promotion of Saint-worship; so in the conclusion of them plainly confesses that that was his aim, shutting up his first book thus: * 的t behooves us, therefore, to desire the patronage of the martyrs, that so we may merit, through their suffrages, and by their intercessions obtain that which we are not worthy of upon the account of our own merits. His second: 鄭nd, therefore, let the reader, well considering these miracles, understand that there is no possibility for him to be saved but by the help of martyrs and other friends of God.

 

But among the Greeks Simeon Metaphrastes hath a strain beyond all, who feigns prayers for many of his martyrs, wherein they desire of God, that whoever should pray unto Him in their names, or have recourse to their sepulchers when they were glorified, might obtain whatsoever they

 

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* Unde oportet et nos eorum patrocinia expetere, ut eorum mereamur suffragiis; vel quod nostris digni non sumus meritis obtinere, eorum possumus Intercessionibus adipisci, &c.

 

Ergo his miraculis Lector intendens intelligat, non aliter nisi Martyrum reliquorumque amicorum Dei adjutoriis se posse salvari, &c.

 

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asked 遥ea, even remission of sins itself. Which because it is so singular a counterfeit of a lying Greek, I shall not do amiss to insert the particulars, together with something about the occasion and time of this device.

 

In the martyrdom of Anastasia, a Roman virgin, under Diocletian, he tells us, if we be so wise as to believe it, 典hat at the time of her suffering, when she had, as was fit, given thanks under God, and prayed for the happy accomplishment of her martyrdom, and afterward made suit for those who, being sick, should have recourse unto her, (to wit, after death,) she heard a voice from heaven certifying, that what she had asked was granted her.

 

Saint Barbara, a virgin of Heliopolis, martyred under Maximianus, he makes, under the executioner痴 hand, to pray in this manner: 欄And thou, O King, (God,) now hear my prayer, that whosoever shall remember thy name, and (this) my conflict, no pestilent disease may enter upon his house, nor any other of those evils which may bring damage or troubles to the bodies of men. She had no sooner spoken, saith he, but a voice was miraculously heard from heaven, calling her and her fellow martyr Julian to the heavenly places, and promising also that those things which she had asked should be accomplished.

 

Of Saint Blasius, (who suffered, saith Baronius, under Lucinius,) our Simeon tells us, 典hat when a woman came unto him to cure her son, who had a fish bone sticking in his throat, he prayed in this manner: Thou, O Savior, who

 

 

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hast been ready to help those who called upon thee in truth, hear my prayer, and by thy invisible power, take out the bone which sticks in this child, and cure him; and whensoever hereafter the like shall befall men, children, or beasts; if anyone then shall remember my name, saying, O Lord, hasten thy help through the intercession of thy servant Blasius, do thou cure him speedily, to the honor and glory of thy holy name.

 

Again he tells us, that while they were carrying him before the president, he restored to a poor widow a hog, her only hog, which a wolf had taken away from her. And when afterward, in sign of thankfulness, she brought the hog痴 head and feet boiled to the martyr in prison, he, blessing her, spake in this manner: 欄Woman, in this habit celebrate my memorial, and no good thing shall ever be wanting in thine house from my God: yea, and if any other, imitating thee, shall in like manner celebrate my memorial, he shall receive an everlasting gift from my God, and a blessing all the days of his life.

 

When he comes to suffer, he makes him pray to God thus: 欄Hear me, thy servant; and whosoever shall have recourse to this thine altar, (he means himself,) and whosoever shall have swallowed a bone or prickle, or be vexed with any disease, or be in affliction or necessity of persecution, grant Lord, to every one his heart痴 desire, as thou art gracious and merciful; for thou art to be glorified now and evermore.

 

When he had thus prayed, (saith he,) Christ descended from heaven as a cloud, and overshadowed

 

 

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him; and our Savior said unto him, 徹 my beloved champion, I will not only do this, but that also which thou didst request for the widow; and I will bless also every house which shall celebrate thy memory, and I will fill their store-houses with all good things, for this thy glorious confession and thy faith which thou hast in me.

 

Saint Catherine, whom he calls ニcatharina, a martyr of Alexandria, under Maximianus, he makes to pray thus at her martyrdom: 欄Grant unto those, O lord, who through me shall call upon thy holy name, such their requests as are profitable for them; that in all things thy wondrous works may be praised now and evermore.

 

But, above all the rest, Marina痴 prayer, whom we Latins call Saint Margaret, is complete and for the purpose. She suffered under Diocletian, and thus she prayed, if you dare believe Simeon: 鄭nd now, O lord my God, whosoever for thy sake shall worship this tabernacle of my body, which hath fought for thee, and whosoever shall build an oratory in the name of thy handmaid, and shall therein offer unto thee spiritual sacrifices, oblations, and prayers, and all those who shall faithfully describe (O happy Simeon!) this my conflict of martyrdom, and shall read and remember the name of thy handmaid, give unto them, Most Holy Lord, who art a lover of the good and a friend of souls, remission of sins; and grant them propitiation and mercy, according to the measure of their faith; and let not the revenging hand come near them, nor the evil of

 

 

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famine, nor the curse of pestilence, nor any grievous scourge; nor let any other incurable destruction, either of body or soul, betide them. And to all those who shall in faith and truth adhere to my house (her oratory or chapel) or unto my name, and shall unto thee, O Lord, offer glory, and praise, and a sacrifice in remembrance of thine handmaid, and shall ask salvation and mercy through me; grant them, O Lord, abundant store of all good things: for thou alone art good and gracious, and the giver of all good things for ever and ever. Amen.

 

While she was thus praying with herself, saith Simeon, behold there was a great earthquake, &c., yea, and the Lord himself, with an host and multitude of holy angels standing by her, in such sort as was perceptible to the understanding, said, 釘e of good cheer, Marina, and fear not, for I have heard thy prayers, and have fulfilled, and will in due time fulfil, whatsoever thou hast asked, even as thou hast asked it.

 

Thus saith Simeon, who nevertheless, in the very entrance to this tale of Marina, or Margaret, complains much, forsooth, that not a few of these narrations of the acts of martyrs were at the beginning forged, yea, profaned, as he saith more truly than he was aware of 努ith the most evident doctrines of demons. (Evidentissimis demoniorum doctrinis.) Besides, he calls I know not what narration of this virgin痴 martyrdom, in that sort corrupted, a demon story (dictio demoniaca): but for his own part, he would reject all counterfeit fables, and tell us

 

 

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nothing but the very truth. Which how honestly he has performed, and what touchstone he used, let the reader judge. Baronius, I am sure, is quite ashamed of him*; who though he can be sometimes content to trade with not much better ware; yet this of Simeon痴, he supposes, will need very much washing and cleansing before it be merchantable.

 

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* In notis ad martyrologium Romanum. Jul. 13.

 

 

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