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Historical Sketches: Volumes 1 To 3 -Blessed John Henry Newman

“Hardly at length do I breathe again, now that I have reached Cucusus, from which place I write to you; hardly at length am I in the use of my eyes after the phantoms and the various clouds of ill which beset me during my journey. Now then, since the pain is passed, I will give you an account of it; for while I was under it I was loth to do so, lest I should distress you too much. For near thirty days, or even more, I was wrestling with a most severe fever; and, during my long and severe journey, was beset besides with a most severe ailment of the stomach; and this when I was without physicians, baths, necessaries, or relief of any kind, and in continual alarm about the Isaurians, besides having the ordinary anxieties of travel. However, all these troubles are at an end. On arriving at Cucusus I got rid of all my ailments, and all that appertained to them, and am now in the most perfect health.”—Ep. 13.

After this introduction, and more of the same character, he resumes the subject in a second letter:

“When I got rid of our Galatian friend [the Bishop of Ancyra] (who, indeed, almost threatened me with death), and was on the point of entering Cappadocia, I met many persons on the road who said, ‘My lord Pharetrius [Bishop of Cæsarea] is expecting to see you, and is going here and there in his fear of missing you; and is taking great pains to see and embrace you, and show you all love. He has even set in motion the monasteries and nunneries.’ I, however, did not anticipate any thing of the kind; rather I formed just the contrary surmises in my own breast: however, I did not say a word to that effect to those who brought me the news.

“At length, when I arrived at Cæsarea in a state of prostration, a mere cinder, in the fiercest flame of my fever, in the deepest depression, in extremities, I found a lodging in the outskirts of the city; and I did my best to get medical advice for the quenching of this furnace, for I entered the place almost a corpse. And then, to be sure, the whole clergy, the people, monks, nuns, physicians, at once came about me; I had an abundance of attention, all of them doing all in their power in the way of ministration and service. Even with all this care, I was altogether delirious in the burning heat, and lay in imminent danger. At length, by degrees, the malady gave way and retired. All this while Pharetrius was not to be found; he was but looking out for my departure, I cannot tell why.”—Ep. 14.


Chrysostom had been eager to proceed, wishing to get his journey over, and to be at last at rest at Cucusus; and scarcely was he better when he thought of moving. Then came the news that the Isaurians were approaching, and made him hesitate.

“While I was in this state, suddenly the tidings came that the Isaurians are overrunning the neighbourhood of Cæsarea in great force; that they have burned a large village, inflicting every evil on the people. On receipt of the news, the city commander, with such soldiers as he had with him, went out to meet them; for they were even apprehensive of an attack on the city. Indeed, all persons were in a state of great alarm, in great excitement, their native soil being in jeopardy; so that even aged men took part in guarding the walls. Things were in this state when on a sudden, at the break of dawn, down comes a battalion of monks (I can use no better word to express their fury), beset the house where I was, and threaten to set fire to it, to burn it down, to do me all possible mischiefs, unless I took myself off; and neither did the danger from the Isaurians, nor my own serious state of body, no, nor anything else, avail to disarm their violence.”

Here I interpose a word of explanation. Nothing which has been hitherto said of the monastic bodies would lead one to expect such a sudden movement as this. The monks, as we have seen, generally treated the Saint with great consideration and reverence, as he passed in their neighbourhood. But at this time, it must be confessed, they were a very rude and excitable set of men, at least in certain places; they were not under the strict discipline which afterwards prevailed; and they were sometimes, as here, at the command of their Bishop, sometimes actuated by strong local or national feelings. Moreover there was a vast number of fanatical monks at that day, whom the Church did not recognise, and who were exposed to the influence of any wild calumnies or absurd tales which might be circulated to the prejudice of Chrysostom. However, be the explanation of this incident what it may, this monastic troop played a chief part in worrying the Saint out of Cæsarea. He continues:

“Nor did any thing avail to disarm their violence; but they urged their point with such an explosion of wrath as even to frighten my companions, the soldiers of the prefecture. For they threatened to beat even them; and they boasted that many were the Prefect’s soldiers before now whom they had badly beaten. When my soldiers heard this, they came to me, and begged and prayed that, though they should in consequence fall into the hands of the Isaurians, I would rid them of these wild beasts. The mayor of the city also heard what was going on, and he hastened to my house with the wish to assist me; but the monks would not listen to his entreaties, and he too was unsuccessful. Upon this, feeling the dilemma in which matters were, not daring to advise me either to go out of the city to certain death, or to remain within it, exposed as I was to the fury of the monks, he sent to Pharetrius, entreating him to give me a few days’ grace, both by reason of my illness, and of the danger which lay in my way. However, he was not able to obtain even this, for on the next day the monks came with still greater violence; and no one of the presbyters ventured to stand by me or succour me; but with shame and a blush on their faces (for they said they acted on the orders of Pharetrius), they shuffled away and kept out of sight, and refused to answer when I appealed to them. Why many words? Though such dangers threatened me, and death was almost in sight, and my fever was preying on me, I threw myself into my lectica, noontide as it was, and set off amid the wailings and laments of the whole people.”

However, he had one more chance: at this moment Seleucia, the wife of one of the principal persons of Cæsarea, sent to offer him the use of her surburban villa, at a distance of five miles from the city; a kindness which he joyfully accepted. This good lady, moreover, gave orders to her steward to gather together the labourers on her farms round about, if the monks showed any disposition to repeat their violence, and fairly to give them battle. Nay, she had a fortified building on her ground, where she wished to place him; where neither the monks nor the Bishop could reach him. However, the Bishop was too much both for her and St. Chrysostom. He terrified her by threats into submission to his will; and a priest, one of his creatures, was sent to the Saint. The sequel shall be told in his own words:

“At midnight Evethius, the presbyter, came into my room when I was asleep; he woke me, and cried out loudly, ‘Up, I pray you, the barbarians are coming; they are close at hand.’ Fancy what my perplexity was at these words. I said to him, ‘What is to be done? It is impossible to make for the city; for I should fare worse there than at the hands of the Isaurians.’ He began to urge me to set off on my journey. There was no moon; it was midnight; it was dark, pitch dark: this, again, was a great perplexity. I had no one to aid me; they all had deserted me. However, compelled by the danger, and expecting instant death, I rose from my bed, overwhelmed with misery as I was, and ordered torches. Evethius insisted they should be put out again: he said, ‘The barbarians will be attracted by the light, and will fall upon us;’ so put out the torches were. The way was broken, steep, and stony. The mule, which was carrying my litter, fell; down came the litter, and I in it; and I had near been killed. I jumped out of it, and began to crawl along. Evethius dismounted, and got hold of me; and thus I was assisted or rather dragged forward; for I could not possibly walk on such difficult ground, amid formidable mountains, and in the middle of the night.”

The Saint’s military friends do not play a specially brilliant part in this affair; and their conduct tempts one to think that his praise of them is rather owing to his cheerful forgiving spirit, sanguine before trouble, and buoyant after it, than to any merit of theirs. We may suppose they did not go to Seleucia’s villa with him; if they did, it is strange he does not mention them in the last scene. After this we know nothing more of his adventures before he reached Cucusus, though he had still much heavy travelling over the mountains; he proceeds thus:

“Who can describe the other troubles which befell me on my journey—the alarms, the risks? I think of them every day, and always carry them about with me; and am transported with joy, and my heart leaps to think of the great treasure I have laid up. Do you rejoice also over it, and give glory to God, who has honoured me with these sufferings. But keep it all to yourself, and tell no one, though the soldiers are able to fill the city with their tales; especially as they were in extreme peril themselves.

“However, let no one know these matters from you; and stop the mouths of those who talk about them. And if you are pained at this memorial of my hardships, know for certain that I am now clean rid of them all; and I am stronger in health than I was in Constantinople. Why are you anxious about the cold? My dwelling is most comfortably built, and my lord Dioscorus busies himself in every way that I may not have the very slightest feeling of the cold. If I may conjecture from the trial I have had of it, the climate seems to me quite oriental, just like that of Antioch; such is the temperature, such the character of the air. Nor need you fear the Isaurians from this time; they have returned to their country: the Prefect has left nothing undone to effect this. I am much safer here than I was at Cæsarea. Henceforth I fear no one but the Bishops; a few of them excepted. How is it that you say, you have received no letters from me? I have sent you three; one by the soldiers of the prefecture, one by Antony, one by your domestic Anatolius: they were long ones.”

It is curious to see, that while he was complaining of the silence of his friends at home, they were complaining of his.* But now we may fairly stop, having brought the great confessor, whose trials we are tracing, to his place of exile.

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