committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs

 

 

SECTION XI.

THE MARTYRDOM OF BASIL.—THE BOGOMIL CHURCHES REINFORCED BY THE ARMENIAN
PAULICIANS, UNDER THE EMPEROR JOHN ZIMISCES.

EVEN in this scurrilous report there is brought before us one of the grandest scenes in the whole history of martyrs for the faith. This old man, with his long white hair and beard, suddenly finding himself betrayed by a most villainous plot of the imperial dastard before him, with his hands fettered and the full consciousness that martyrdom in its most cruel form was his doom, yet utters no reproach against his persecutor, but with a sublime faith looks up to heaven, and declares that he shall be borne to his home above by the angels of God, the ministers who do his will.

Turning away from this scene of ecstatic faith, we find ourselves compelled, not without loathing, to look over the pages of the record of this princess, who tells us daintily, after a vast expenditure of billingsgate, "I should like to say more of this cursed heresy, but modesty keeps me from doing so, as beautiful Sappho says somewhere; for though I am an historian, I am also a woman, and the most honorable of the purple, and the first offshoot of Alexius." Then, having gratified her vanity with this boasted modesty, she goes on to describe, in all its horrible details, the burning at the stake of this glorious martyr and those of his brethren whom Alexius, the head of the Greek hierarchy, had been able to capture either by force or guile. We cannot bring ourselves to lay before our readers the description she gives so minutely and with such evident enjoyment of the preparations for the holocaust in the hippodrome—the crackling of the fire and the shrinking of the poor human bodies wasted by fasting, but still sustained by unfaltering trust in their Saviour as they come nearer to the flames, the turning away of their eyes, and finally the quivering of their limbs as the fire scorched and shrivelled their flesh.[15]

Can it be, one asks in amazement, that a woman of high rank, and for her time of remarkable culture—a woman, too, professing to be a follower of Christ—can thus gloat over the tortures of a martyr for conscience' sake? Even the fiends of the pit would blush for shame over such a monster of cruelty.

The Bulgarian Bogomils were unquestionably more rigidly dualistic in their doctrines than those of Bosnia, Serbia, and the Herzegovina. There is also some reason to believe that they held to what the old theologians called "the phantastic theory of the incarnation of Christ"—i. e., that his body here on earth was a phantasm, and not a real body. This was due to several causes. These Bogomils, Paulicians, or Christians of Bulgaria had been largely reinforced by repeated migrations and transplantations from Armenia and the Caucasus, where the doctrine of the two principles had been first professed in a form most nearly allied to that of the Zendavesta. Even as late as the latter part of the tenth century the emperor John Zimisces brought great numbers of these Armenians from their native country and planted them in Roumelia and Thrace.[16] Their abhorrence of the licentiousness, falsity, treachery, and bloodthirstiness of those who ministered at the altars and were the heads of the Greek hierarchy, who worshipped in the gaudy temples of the Greek Church, caused them to cling with greater tenacity to the doctrines of their fathers. It was also true that only portions of the Scriptures had, even as late as the twelfth century, been translated into either the Bulgarian or the Armenian tongue; and so thoroughly had the persecutions and trials they had endured from the Greek Church led them to distrust everything Greek, that very few of them could speak or read the language in which the whole Scriptures were extant. The manuscript copies, even of the books of the Bible, which were to be had in Bulgarian and Armenian were very few, and many of their places of worship were only supplied with the Gospel of John.

 
 
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