« السابقةمتابعة »
At this moment a scuffle was heard outside the door, -the stern voices of the Varangians, and the frantic exclamations of Leontius, “I cannot! I will not! I will die rather," hardly hushed even as the door was opened, and he was dragged, rather than led, into the presence of the Cæsar.
The miserable man wore the same cloak which he had assumed when he set forth to the secret rendezvous : it was drenched with salt water, torn in the fight between the two boats, and as unlike the usual dress of the luxurious nobleman as imagination could conceive. His hair was loose and dishevelled; his face a ghastly pale ; his fingers worked convulsively together; his eyes rolled restlessly around: the bitterness of death was already begun in him. The guards, as they stood on each side, half held him, half supported him ; it seemed as though he would fain have spoken, but his voice refused its office; and there he stood,-shunned by all, contemned by all, marked out for punishment,—the very image of a detected and impotent traitor.
“My Lord Grand Duke," said Constantine, "to prolong this scene were to change justice into cruelty. The proofs of your treason-your gross, diabolical treason,are too manifest for you to attempt a defence. We suppose you will not attempt any." He paused; but Leontius only wrung his hands. “The necessities of the State would, in any case, have forbidden our extending mercy to you; but the villainy contemplated by you towards a noble lady of our court, dries up all pity in its source. God grant you forgiveness for this, and for all your other sins ! Your sentence is, that you be beheaded at noon, in the inner court of the palace. Till then, you shall have all such ghostly consolation as you may need. Any Bishop resident in the city shall attend you, and your
family, whom you have so deeply wronged, shall have free access to you.”
Leontius heard as one stupefied. At length, by a sudden exertion of strength, he burst from his guards, and flung himself at the feet of Constantine, grasping his purple buskins with frantic violence.
“Oh mercy, mercy, Lord Cæsar !" he shrieked, in a voice that long afterwards rang in the ears of the auditors. “Only mercy for my life! Spare that, and take every thing I have; take it, and I will bless your clemency to the end of my days: take it,--and imprison me where you will—only life!—for God's sake, life!"
“Lord Grand Duke," said the Emperor, “these effeminate entreaties advantage you not one jot. Your earthly doom is fixed. Only use the same vehemence towards God, and, as this holy man,” and he looked to the Archimandrite,“ will tell you, His Ear is ever open. Secretary, give the warrant” (for one of the officials had been busy drawing it out) " and the purple ink."
The miserable nobleman uttered shriek after shriek, and would have clung more closely to the Cæsar's knees ; but the guards, who, out of a principle of humanity, had allowed him, when he burst from them, one chance for life, now dragged him off, and held him between them till the Cæsar, notwithstanding the outcries of the prisoner, had calmly and quietly affixed his name to the deathwarrant in the purple ink, which was the peculiar badge of the Emperor of the Romans.
Leontius was then dragged off, and the two inferior officers introduced,—the Grand Emir being kept back to the last. A choice was held out to them between immediate death, and perpetual imprisonment: the latter being reserved for them if they made a full and free confession of all that they knew of the conspiracy. As, only
too thankful to escape death, they revealed all their information, its ramifications were so extensive as to strike terror into the Emperor himself. Many of the higbest officers of his court were implicated in it; none could say where it would stop: and at every fresh disclosure, the miserable chances of preserving Constantinople from the Turks grew
less and less. When the informers were removed, Constantine gave orders that the Secretaries and other officials should withdraw, and then, in private, with Phranza and Sir Edward de Rushton, he took counsel in the sad view that opened before him. The result of that deliberation we shall hereafter have occasion to relate; at present we must follow the fate of a personage closely connected with our story,—the Great Duke Leontius.
THE SHEEP AND THE GOATS.
“ These shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal.”—S. Matt. xxv. 46.
THERE is a difficulty in this parable of the sheep and goats ; and the difficulty is, that by it the LORD seems to hold out an actual reward for our works, and those, works of beneficence only. There is not a word here about faith, or purity, or the government of the passions, or religious feelings; nor is there anything about the means of grace, the blessed Sacraments, without which we have no life in us. It would seem to a man who rested his religion and formed his ideas of future judgment from this parable, that the principle of a state of future reward and punishment was, strictly speaking, a payment for work done,-a liberal payment, no doubt,a payment far beyond the intrinsic merit of the service,but still a payment.
Now this seems contrary to the principle of free grace, which we know is that by which God has been pleased to regulate His dealings with His creatures ; which principle is, that, willing our return to the state of happiness which we had lost, God gives us, freely and without merit or desert of our own, those things which are necessary to our restoration. How then can that be free grace which is so evidently the reward of work done? If the servant goes into everlasting happiness because he has fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the sick, how does God give him everlasting happiness freely ?
This is one of the numerous passages of Scripture which the unlearned and unstable, so S. Peter tells us, wrest to their own destruction. The Bible is not an easy book, as some people say, out of which every man can make out his own religion. It is very possible to be deceived, and deceived into the destruction both of soul and body, by the very TRUTH.
We need not be surprised at this. We have no right to say, Why did not God, in His Bible, place the conditions of His salvation before us in a form which it was impossible for us to mistake ?—if He had done so, we should have built up our religion firmly upon it.
If CHRIST had built His Church upon the Bible, or intended us to build up our Church upon the Bible, He probably would have done so; but He did please to build it upon the "foundation of the Apostles and Prophets," (i.e., living teachers,) and He was pleased to fulfil His promise that “its teachers should not be removed into a
corner any more, but that our eyes should see our teachers.” (Isa. xxx. 20.) The Bible He gave us afterwards, as a record, an explanation, a guide, and a proof; and we have no ground of complaint that "the things which should have been for our wealth are to us an occasion of falling," when we put them to a use for which they were never intended by the Giver. We learn our religion, as the first Christians learnt theirs, from the Church; that is to say, from those living messengers whom He has commissioned to teach and to stand in the place of the Apostles, upon whom the Church was built originally. We then search the Scriptures, and prove all things, with minds already trained to understand the principle of God's dealings with mankind, and with hearts already fitted to take in, and reasoning powers already prepared to comprehend the analogy of faith; that is to say, the bearings which one revelation has to another.
Now the parable before us is calculated to lead the man who reads it into great and serious error,-an error the more dangerous because of the unusually solemn and prophetical character of the passage, which absolutely reveals the judgment of the Last Great Day, and the grounds on which we must stand or fall. But it never could have led the man who heard it into any such error ; it did not lead S. John or S. Peter into any error that we know; nor have we any reason to suppose that any one of the Apostles misunderstood it, or imagined from it that they themselves should be saved on the merit of their works. Why did they not misunderstand it? They did misunderstand many things.
Because it had been revealed to them after the training necessary to comprehend it; not as a detached lesson, but as part of a course of lessons.
They knew that this parable did not relate to CHRIST'S