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“Upon his confessing that he was, he endeavoured to per‘suade him to deny Christ, and saying: “Reverence thy age,” and other like things customary with them; “Swear by the fortune of Caesar.—Repent. Say, Away with the impious.” The governor still urging him, and saying: “Swear, and I will dismiss thee; reproach Christ,” Polycarp then answered : “Fourscore and six years have I served him, and he has never done me any injury. How can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?” The governor was still urgent, saying: “Swear by the fortune of Caesar.” Whereupon Polycarp answered: “How can you desire this of me, as if you did not know who I am. Hear me then openly professing I am a christian. And if you have a mind to know the doctrine of christianity, appoint me a day and I will inform you.”—The proconsul said: “I have wild beasts, and I will cast you to them unless you change your mind.” But he answered : “Call for them; there can be no alteration from good to bad : but it is good to change from vice to virtue.” He said again to him : “Since you do not mind the beasts, I will order you to be consumed by fire, unless you repent.” Polycarp said: “You threaten me with fire which burns for an hour, and then is extinguished ; but you are ignorant of the fire of the future judgment, and everlasting punishment reserved for the wicked. But why do you delay ? Appoint which you please.” The proconsul then sent the cryer to make proclamation thrice in the midst of the stadium: “Polycarp has confessed himself to be a christian.” That proclamation having being made by the cryer, the whole multitude of the Gentiles and Jews, inhabiting Smyrna, with furious rage, and in a loud voice, cried out: “This is the teacher of Asia, the father of the christians, the destroyer of our gods, who teacheth all men not to sacrifice, nor to worship them.” Having uttered those words, they cried out, and requested Philip the Asiarch to let out a lion upon Polycarp. He said he could not do that, because the amphitheatrical shows of wild beasts were over. Then they cried out, with one consent, that Polycarp should be burnt alive. Which was no sooner said than done; all immediately joining together in bringing wood, and dried branches of trees, from the shops and ‘the baths: the Jews also, according to their custom, assist
dratus; who is mentioned by Aristides the sophist, as proconsul of Asia. And Walesius hence argues that Polycarp suffered in the seventh year of the reign of Marcus Antoninus, or the year of Christ 167.
ing with the greatest forwardness. When the pile was made ready, he unclothed himself, and untied his girdle, and endeavoured to pull off his shoes himself, which for a long time he had not done before; the faithful performing such offices for him, and that not only since he became grey-headed, but in a more early age: such was the veneration in which he had been long held for the sanctity of his life! Now all things being prepared and put in order for the pile, when they were about to nail him to the stake, he said: “Let me be as I am. He that enables me to bear the fire, will enable me also to remain unmoved within the pile, without your fastening me with nails.” They therefore did not nail him, but only bound him. He then offered up a prayer to God; which he concluded, saying aloud, Amen. Then the officers who had the charge of it, kindled the fire. But Polycarp's body not being so soon consumed as expected, the people desired that the confector should be called for, and run him through with a sword. The faithful were now very desirous to have his body delivered to them : but some there were who moved Nicetas, father of Herod, to go to the governor to prevent his giving the body to the believers, lest, as they said, they should leave him that was crucified, to worship this man. This they said at the suggestion of the Jews, who also diligently watched us, that we might not carry off the body; little considering that we can never forsake Christ, who has suffered for the salvation of all men. Him we worship as the Son of God. The martyrs we love as the disciples and imitators of the Lord. The centurion therefore, perceiving ‘the perverseness of the Jews, caused the body to be brought “forth, and burnt it. We then gathered up his bones, and ‘ deposited them in a proper place. This is our account of ‘the blessed Polycarp, who, with twelve others from Phila‘delphia, suffered martyrdom at Smyrna;’ or, according to another reading, ‘who, together with those of Philadel‘phia, was the twelfth who suffered martyrdom at Smyrna.'
It may be here asked by some what was the death which Polycarp endured ? I answer, he was burnt alive. Some who were cast to wild beasts were torn and mangled, but not killed out-right by them: their death was completed by the officer called confector, who thrust them through with a sword, or some other weapon with which he was armed. So it now was with Polycarp : he was burnt alive. But by some means it so happened that he lived a good while in the pile. For which reason it was determined
that he should be despatched with a sword. Nor was there any exception made to that by the multitude: they even desired it to secure his death. Thus died the excellent, the aged and venerable Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna. It is needless for me to make remarks which may be obvious to every reader. Polycarp, and the rest with him, suffered as christians. It does not appear that any crime, beside that of christianity, was proved or even imputed to them. Their innocence of great crimes, punishable by law, is manifest. If they had been known, or even suspected, to kill and eat children, and practise promiscuous lewdness in their worship, they would not have been readily discharged upon a bare verbal renunciation of their religion. We must also be persuaded that the christians were now well known in the world: how much soever the great men of those times might affect to seem unacquainted with them, they knew them very well. It is not conceivable that an emperor, who has any the least concern for the welfare of his people, and the peace of society, should neglect to inform himself about what is done in great cities, and in their theatres or amphitheatres. Marcus, therefore, and his courtiers, and the philosophers about him, knew very well what had now happened at Smyrna in Asia. Nevertheless he took no pains to restrain the animosity of the people. Let me say one thing more—that the steadiness of the christians might have induced Marcus and his courtiers to make inquiries after their scriptures, and the evidences of those principles which they so firmly believed, and by which they were supported under so grievous sufferings. III. I shall be rather more particular in my account of the sufferings of the martyrs at Lyons, another instance of grievous persecution in the reign of the same emperor. Of the histories of their martyrdom, and of that of Polycarp as is well known, that great man, Joseph Scaliger, speaks with admiration: ‘The 5 minds of pious and devout men,” says he, ‘must be so affected with them, as never to be ‘satiated with the reading of them. For my own part I & Ea, et Polycarpi Martyrium, hodie exstant apud Eusebium in Historiá Ecclesiastică, quae Sunt vetustissima Ecclesiae Martyria, quorum lectione piorum animus ita afficitur, ut nunquam satur inde recedat. Quod quidem ita esse, unusquisque pro suo et conscientiae modo sentire potest. Certe ego nihil unquam in historiá ecclesiastică vidi, a cujus lectione commotior recedam, ut non amplius meus esse videar. Idem sentimus de Actis Martyrum Lugdunen
sium et Viennensium apud eundem Eusebium, quibus quid augustius, quid venerabilius in antiquitatis monumentis? Jos. Scal. Animad. in Euseb. p. 221. ‘ never met with any thing in ecclesiastical history by which ‘I have been so transported as by these.” I formerly said that" the history of the sufferings of the martyrs at Vienne and Lyons is the finest thing of the kind in all antiquity. The martyrdom, or passion, of Perpetua and Felicitas, who suffered near the beginning of the third century, in the time of the emperor Severus, is likewise affecting and curious in divers respects, as was also observed formerly. To relate this in the way of an extract would be to enervate what is in the highest degree affecting: and moreover, as before said, it is a necessary part of the history and character of this emperor. I therefore intend to transcribe Eusebius at length, word for word, for the most part: after which I shall add some remarks. Says Eusebius, in his preface to the fifth book of his Ecclesiastical History: “At this time Eleutherus succeeded “Soter in the see of Rome: and it was the seventeenth year ‘ of the emperor Antoninus; in which time the persecution against us raged with great violence in several parts of the world, through the enmity of the people in the cities. What' vast multitudes of martyrs there were throughout the whole empire may be concluded from what happened in one nation: which also have been committed to writing, that they may be delivered to others and may be always remembered. The whole history of these things has been inserted in our work, of the Collection of Martyrs, of which I here select a part.” Eusebius then goes on in" the first chapter of that book; The country in which those things happened, of which I am now to speak, is Gaul. In which are two great and famous cities, Lyons and Vienne, both washed by the river Rhone, which traverseth that country with a rapid stream. These famous churches sent in writing an account of their martyrs to the churches in Asia and Phrygia. I shall insert their own words: “ The servants of Jesus Christ, dwelling in Vienne and Lyons, to the brethren in Asia and Phrygia, who have the same faith and hope of redemp‘tion with us, peace and grace, and glory from God |. * Vol. ii. ch. xvi. i Vol. ii. ch. xl. * Mvpuačac papruptov ava row oucapsumv čvarpsilat soxaapup \affew evssw, atro Tov ka9' §v 80Voc ovg|3e3nkorov. H. E. l. 5. Pr. p. 153. ' That the persecution at Lyons, of which Eusebius here speaks, happened in the seventeenth year of the reign of Marcus Antoninus, and the year of
“Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.” After a few things “ said in the way of preface, they begin the narration in these words: “ The greatness of the affliction in these places, and the excessive rage of the people against the saints, and what the blessed martyrs have endured, we are not able to describe in words, nor put down in writing: for the enemy at the very first invaded us with the greatest violence, showing from the beginning what sore evils we were to expect. Every thing was done to exercise his ministers, and to train them to the practice of the utmost cruelty against the servants of God. We were not only excluded from houses,” [of friends, as it seems, “ and from the baths and the market, but we were forbidden to appear in any place whatever. However, the grace of God fought for us against the enemy; delivering such as were weak, and setting up the pillars, which were firm and stable, and able by their patience and fortitude to withstand all the force of the enemy. They therefore came to a near combat with him, undergoing all manner of reproach and suffering. Accounting the greatest afflictions to be small, they hastened to Christ; thus showing, in fact, that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us:” Rom. viii. 18. First then they courageously endured the insults of the multitude gathered together about them in crowds, their shouts, and blows, and draggings about, pillaging their goods, throwing of stones, confinement to their dwellings, and all such things as an enraged multitude is wont to practise against adversaries and enemies. Then, being brought into the market by the tribune and the chief magistrates of the city, they were examined before all the people: and, having made their confession, they were shut up in prison till the arrival of ‘the president. Afterwards, when they were brought be“fore the president, who exercised all manner of cruelty ‘against us, Vettius Epagathus, one of the brethren, full of
" The name of the president is no where mentioned in this epistle; but Walesius thinks he was Severus, afterwards emperor; and he thinks he was not proconsul, but the emperor's legate, or lieutenant; forasmuch as Spartian says he governed the province of Lyons in that quality. , Deinde Lugdunensem provinciam legatus accepit. De Severo, c. 4. I shall add, that Dion Cassius also mentions his government at Lyons. Kat sv Asyôsvg) apxovrt— rpoonA0s. Dion. p. 1243. Reimar. And Fr. Balduinus was of the same opinion. Interea, dum hac Roma exercerentur, Lugdunensem provinciam legatus regebat Septimius Severus.-Non dubium est, quae tuncillic de christianis sumpta supplicia esse dicuntur, hujus Severi imperio irrogata fuisse. Edict. Princ. Rom. de christianis. p. 97.