Chapter VII.—How the Iberians received the Faith of Christ.
It is said that during this reign the Iberians, 1153 a large and warlike barbarian nation, confessed Christ. 1154 They dwelt to the north beyond Armenia. A Christian woman, who had been taken captive, induced them to renounce the religion of their fathers. She was very faithful and godly, and did not, amongst foreigners, remit her accustomed routine of religious duty. To fast, to pray night and day, and to praise God, constituted her delight. The barbarians inquired as to the motives of her endurance: she simply answered, that it was necessary in this way to worship the Son of God; but the name of Him who was to be worshiped, and the manner of worshiping, appeared strange to them. It happened that a boy of the country was taken ill, and his mother, according to the custom of the Iberians, took him around from house to house, in hope that some one might be found capable of curing the disease, and the change from the suffering might be easy for the afflicted. As no one capable of healing him could be found, the boy was brought to the captive, and she said, “as to medicines, I have neither experience nor knowledge, nor am I acquainted with the mode of applying ointments or plasters; but, O woman, I believe that Christ whom I worship, the true and great God, will become the Saviour of thy child.” Then she prayed for him immediately and freed him from the disease, although just before it was believed that he was about to die. A little while after, the wife of the governor of the nation was, by an incurable disease, brought nigh unto death; yet she too was saved in the same manner. And thus did this captive teach the knowledge of Christ, by introducing Him as the dispenser of health, and as the Lord of life, of empire, and of all things. The governors wife, convinced by her own personal experience, believed the words of the captive, embraced the Christian religion, and held the woman in much honor. The king, astonished at the celerity of the cure, and the miraculousness and healing of faith, learned the cause from his wife, and commanded that the captive should be rewarded with gifts. “Of gifts,” said the queen, “her estimate is very low, whatever may be their value; she makes much of the service she renders to her God only. Therefore if we wish to gratify her, or desire to do what is safe and right, let us also worship God, who is mighty and a Saviour, and who, at His will, gives continuance unto kings, casts down the high, renders the illustrious abject, and saves those in terrible straits.” The queen continued to argue in this excellent manner, but the sovereign of Iberia remained in doubt and unconvinced, as he reflected on the novelty of the matters, and also respected the religion of his fathers. A little while after, he went into the woods with his attendants, on a hunting excursion; all of a sudden thick clouds arose, and a heavy air was everywhere diffused by them, so as to conceal the heavens and the sun; profound night and great darkness pervaded the wood. Since each of the hunters was alarmed for his own safety, they scattered in different directions. The king, while thus wandering alone, thought of Christ, as men are wont to do in times of danger. He determined that if he should be delivered from his present emergency, he would walk before God and worship Him. At the very instant that these thoughts were upon his mind, the darkness was dissipated, the air became serene, the rays of the sun penetrated into the wood, and the king went out in safety. He informed his wife of the event that had befallen him, sent for the captive, and commanded her to teach him in what way he ought to worship Christ. When she had given as much instruction as it was right for a woman to say and do, he called together his subjects and declared to them plainly the Divine mercies which had been vouchsafed to himself and to his wife, and although uninitiated, he declared to his people the doctrines of Christ. The whole nation was persuaded to embrace Christianity, the men being convinced by the representations of the king, and the women by those of the queen and the captive. And speedily with the general consent of the entire nation, they prepared most zealously to build a church. When the external walls were completed, machines were brought to raise up the columns, and fix them upon their pedestals. It is related, that when the first and second columns had been righted by these means, great difficulty was found in fixing the third column, neither art nor physical strength being of any p. 264 avail, although many were present to assist in the pulling. When evening came on, the female captive remained alone on the spot, and she continued there throughout the night, interceding with God that the erection of the columns might be easily accomplished, especially as all the rest had taken their departure distressed at the failure; for the column was only half raised, and remained standing, and one end of it was so embedded in its foundations that it was impossible to move it downward. It was Gods will that by this, as well as by the preceding miracle, the Iberians should be still further confirmed about the Deity. Early in the morning, when they were present at the church, they beheld a wonderful spectacle, which seemed to them as a dream. The column, which on the day before had been immovable, now appeared erect, and elevated a small space above its proper base. All present were struck with admiration, and confessed, with one consent, that Christ alone is the true God. Whilst they were all looking on, the column slipped quietly and spontaneously, and was adjusted as by machinery on its base. The other columns were then erected with ease, and the Iberians completed the structure with greater alacrity. The church having been thus speedily built, the Iberians, at the recommendation of the captive, sent ambassadors to the Emperor Constantine, bearing proposals for alliance and treaties, and requesting that priests might be sent to their nation. On their arrival, the ambassadors related the events that had occurred, and how the whole nation with much care worshiped Christ. The emperor of the Romans was delighted with the embassy, and after acceding to every request that was proffered, dismissed the ambassadors. Thus did the Iberians receive the knowledge of Christ, and until this day they worship him carefully.
By the Iberians we are to understand, not the people of Spain (for they had a church among them as early as the time of Irenæus; see adv. Hæres. i. 3, ed. Harvey), but the people of that name in Asia. Cf. Soc. i. 20, who says these Iberians migrated from Spain.263:1154
Ruf. H. E. i. 10; Soc. i. 20; Soz. takes directly from Ruf.