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must have felt. Among those who are recorded in this pious Martyrdoms service, and whose deaths may be thus supposed to have prolonged tholomew; this breathing time of the Church, are the apostles St. Bartholomew St. Thomas, and St. Thomas; and of the worthy fellow-labourers of the apostles, Linus, and Martialis, at Ravenna in Italy, Linus at Rome, where he was bishop, and Antipas, at Pergamus.
The troubled state of the Roman empire during this period, not a little contributed to the secure progress of Christianity, notwithstanding these occasional evidences of an evil spirit opposed to it. From the death of Nero to the reign of Vespasian, the imperial throne was perpetually contested, and the whole world thereby kept in continual alarm and suspense. Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, were scarcely allowed, one after the other, to take possession of the prize, when they were called on to pay the usual price of their lives for it. At length Vespasian secured for himself and for his family a more permanent seat; the tumult of political animosity gradually died away, and Christianity was destined to be one of the chief objects, on which the turbulent and bloody spirits of the age vented those savage feelings which, nursed amid civil wars, no longer found their former opportunity of indulgence. It was during the reigns of Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian, the martyrdoms above mentioned occurred. But even these acts of self-devotion could not long divert the popular fury from the whole body of Christians. A second Second
Persecution, persecution commenced in Domitian's reign. Under Nerva, his successor, a brief respite was obtained; but with the accession of Trajan a fresh scene of troubles was opened. Early in this reign, Clement, bishop of Rome, met the fate of his predecessors in that Clement. perilous station, and was cast into the sea with an anchor about his neck. The reigning emperor, according to history, was neither cruel nor supine; but his government becoming more and more embarrassed with the question concerning the proper management of the Christians, the established system continued to be acted on, until some better method should be devised ; and, accordingly, cruelty and injustice were not less conspicuous in this than in the preceding reigns. If we may credit the Greek Martyrology, besides the distinguished individuals who suffered, on one occasion one thousand one hundred Christian soldiers were banished into Armenia by order of the emperor; one thousand of whom perished by crucifixion on Mount Ararat. The account may be false or exaggerated. Trajan may have been, as he is represented, neither a bloody tyrant, nor an inert monarch ; but, if his character were really thus unspotted, his lot was at least unfortunate for his future fame. Christians cannot forget, that it was during his administration of the affairs of the world, that, separately and successively, the wanton violence of the people was gratified with the blood of five blameless bishops, besides numbers, most of whose names are only recorded in heaven. The rebellion of the Jews in Alexandria, Cyrene, and Cyprus; the
wrongs which roused them to vengeance, and their dreadful acts of retribution—all this, too, contributes to make the picture of his reign such a scene of bloodshed and general inhumanity, that it is vain to plead his love of humane literature and of literary men, against the impression which is thus made on us.
It was about A.D. 107, when the emperor, in the full confidence Persecution, of a prosperous reign of nearly nine years, came to Antioch, to
prepare for a war against the Parthians and Armenians. He had already in other parts of the empire indulged the persecuting spirit
, which was always ripe to burst forth against the Christians; and
his arrival at Antioch was, accordingly, received by the bishop, the Trajan at
good Ignatius, as a certain presage of distress and danger to his flock. He at once adopted the bold remedy, which before had been tried with success by others. He presented himself to Trajan, and behaved in a manner which attracted to himself chiefly, if not wholly, the attention of the monarch; and his sentence was, to be conveyed to Rome, and there to be thrown publicly to wild beasts. The interview between the emperor and the holy man, if faithfully related, was well adapted to produce the desired result. It presents a strange contrast between the language of a sovereign
the world, and the simple avowal of one who felt himself beyond his grasp
Being come into the presence of the Emperor, Trajan asked him, .** Ignatius and saying, What a wicked wretch art thou, thus to endeavour to transTrajan.
gress our commands, and to persuade others also to do likewise, to their destruction ?-Ignatius answered, No one ought to call Theophorus166 after such a manner; forasmuch as all wicked spirits are departed far from the servants of God. But if, because I am a trouble to those evil spirits, you call me wicked, with reference to them I confess the charge; for, having within me Christ, the heavenly King, I dissolve all the snares of the devils.
Trajan replied, and who is Theophorus ?—Ignatius. He who has Christ in his breast.—Trajan. And do not we then seem to thee to have the gods within us, who fight for us against our enemies ?— Ignatius. You err, in that you call the evil spirits of the heathens, gods. For there is but one God, who made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that are in them; and one Jesus Christ, his only-begotten Son, whose kingdom may I enjoy.
Trajan. His kingdom, you say, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate?-Ignatius. His, who crucified my sin with the inventor of it; and has put all the deceit and malice of the devil under the feet of those who carry him in their heart.—Trajan. Dost thou then carry Him who was crucified within thee ?-Ignatius. I do; for it is written, “ I will dwell in them, and walk in them.”—Then
155“ Martyrdom of Ignatius,” Archbishop Wake's translation.
156 This name was doubtless adopted in
allusion to the Christian doctrine, that we are “the temple of the Holy Ghost, who dwelleth in us."
Trajan pronounced the sentence against him. Forasmuch as Igna- His tius has confessed, that he carries about within himself Him that sentence. was crucified, we command that he be carried, bound by soldiers, to the great Rome, there to be thrown to the beasts, for the entertainment of the people.
When the holy martyr heard this sentence, he cried out with joy, “I thank thee, O Lord, that thou hast vouchsafed to honour me with a perfect love towards thee; and hast made me to be put into iron bonds with thy apostle Paul." It was in his journey to Rome, that the six Epistles were written, He writes
his Epistles. which comprise his genuine remains. Of that addressed to the Romans, expressing an anxiety to prevent any attempt to rescue, or even to intercede for him, some mention has been already made. On the same topic he dwells in his other Epistles.
It was more peculiarly, however, for his own charge at Antioch that he had courted death; and from his Epistle to the Philadelphians, written from Troas, he must have had the consolation of knowing that he had not devoted himself in vain. The persecution had, by this time, begun to abate; although its mitigation may, perhaps, have been owing to the concurrence of another cause, which deserves notice.1
The governor of Bithynia at this period was Pliny, the elegant Pliny's author of the Letters which are in the hands of every scholar. Trajan. That he was no ordinary favourite and friend of the emperor, those Letters testify; and the use which he appears to have made of this influence, is not the least brilliant part of his character. Finding himself daily more and more embarrassed by complaints against the Christians, he investigated their case, and sent the statement to the emperor, with a request for further instruction for his conduct. It was no common merit in that age, to have so far opposed the current of popular feeling, as to have given the question a patient and candid, although an imperfect investigation; and to have represented it so to the monarch, as to remove from his mind its worst suspicions. Concerning his Letter it may be sufficient to remark, that it bore evidence to the moral and orderly behaviour of the persecuted Christians; which was the point then most important, because it, doubtless, mainly contributed to check the permission to persecute. It has further placed on a heathen record the fact, that in that early period of the Church, one of its prominent practices, was the worship of Christ as God.168
157 Euseb. Hist. Lib. III. C. 33. 168 What the full information was which Pliny obtained respecting the Christian rites, especially from the two deaconesses whom he examined by torture, we do not know. His account is only the confession of certain apostates, in which, nevertheless, there is an obvious agreement with the truth. They de
clare," he writes, “that this was the amount of their guilt, or their error;that on a stated day they used to meet before daylight, and address to Christ, as God, a form of words broken into alternate portions; that their sacrament was nothing to bind them to any deed of wickedness, but to preserve them from committing theft, robbery, falsehood,
Heresies between the time of
MARTYRDOM OF POLYCARP. A.D. 167. From the death of Ignatius to that of the last surviving apostolic
Father, Polycarp, an interval of about sixty years intervenes, during
which the Church was still perpetually called on to exert all its Ignatius and efforts for self-preservation. Its dangers from within were kept up
by the craft or enthusiasm of such men as Basilides, Valentinius, and Marcion,l69 together with other sectarians, if possible, more impious and absurd — Ophitæ, Cainitæ, Sethiani. The wit and learning of the avowed heathens were more vigorously directed against the encroaching influence of a system, the establishment of which was the overthrow of what then seemed the most sublime and important portion of philosophy.100 The Christians were called on to write answers to accusations, and to refute arguments. Nor was the sword of persecution less bloody than heretofore. Trajan's Letter to Pliny, which, doubtless, established the principle by which the accusations against Christians were treated during the remainder of his reign, still gave considerable latitude to any provincial governor, who was either himself cruel, or disposed to indulge the malice and caprice of the provincials. Even at Rome, and shortly after the emperor's rule was laid down, Onesimus, St. Paul's disciple, is said to have been stoned. 16
Whatever moderation Trajan, however, may have used during Persecution, the latter part of his
reign, it was no longer observed on the accession of Hadrian. Persecution, severe and general, was again suffered to go on without control or mercy. At Rome, especially, it was no longer directed against the most eminent, but numbers were wantonly murdered, and still more were driven to seek shelter in crypts and caves. Their bishop, Evaristus, was among the first martyrs. A letter from Serenius Granianus262 to the emperor, in behalf of the defenceless Christians, procured at length an order for mitigating the severity of the proceedings. Still, even the intervals between the avowed and authorized persecutions abound with occasional acts, which, under existing prejudices, could not fail to be perpetually committed. Before Hadrian's reign was closed, Alex
161 The martyrologies make him bishop of Antioch. See Cave.
dishonest practices; that, when it was
159 Montanus and his followers were not
160 It is quite necessary, in order to understand Aristotle's view of codice in Ethics, to connect it with his religious theory--that the Deity, namely, pervaded the universe, and was the universe.
162 He was proconsul of Asia, and his Letter represents the Christian persecutions as an unjustifiable indulgence of popular licentiousness. As the Emperor's rescript was addressed to Minucius Fundanus, the Christians of that province must soon have lost the protection of one who deserves to be remembered as the first heathen governor who recommended the toleration of Christianity, as a right which could not justly be denied to Christian subjects. See Euseb. Hist. Lib. IV. C. 8 and 9.
ander, another bishop of Rome, suffered; and the deaths of Getulius, of Amantius Cerealis, and others of less note, occurred nearly within Bishop der, the last
of it. The Antonines succeeded, and from that period Rome. to the fifth great persecution which preceded the death of Polycarp, two more bishops of Rome, Telesphorus and Hyginus, besides Justin of
Telesphorus, Martyr, and many of inferior note, kept up the succession of martyrs. Hyginus,
Polycarp had been permitted to arrive at extreme old age, not- and Justin. withstanding his known zeal and activity as bishop of Smyrna. He was born during the reign of Nero, and is said to have enjoyed the Early life of
Polycarp. instruction and friendship of several of the apostles, of St. Paul especially, and St. John. No testimony to his good use of these great advantages can add weight to that which has been left on record by the last-mentioned apostle in the book of Revelations. "Unto the angel of the Church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead and is alive; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich,) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold the devil shall cast some of
into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” 183
The veneration felt by the whole Christian world, for one whose character and prophetic history had been thus made sacred by an apostle's pen, and who was the last of those who had conversed with the apostles themselves, may sufficiently account for his martyrdom. He was called for by the acclamations of a mob, and sacrificed to their inhuman wantonness. Among the relics of ecclesiastical antiquity, few are more worthy of being generally known than the Epistle of the Church of Smyrna, which details, Epistle of simply and sincerely, all the incidents of his fate. Scaliger has of Smyrna. said of it,164 that he never met with any thing in ecclesiastical history which so much affected him, and that after reading it he was no longer himself. A literal translation of the main parts of this Epistle then will, perhaps, be more generally acceptable than any other narrative of the martyrdom of the last apostolical Father. Of his own writings we have only one Epistle, not unworthy of his fame. It is addressed to the Philippians, and is preserved partly in the original Greek, and partly in an ancient Latin translation. Some of it is entirely lost.
163 Chap. ii. 8-10. 164 In Animadvers. Eusebian. Num. 2183.