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which is extended to them, through the blood of a crucified Saviour. Not that I would be understood to detract in the least from that grateful sense of God's mercy, which should pervade all hearts without exception; for “let him that standeth“ be thankful, and “take heed lest he fall; ” but still we cannot divest ourselves of the idea of the exceeding great love which should ever dwell in the hearts of those who have been leading notoriously vicious and wicked lives, but have been mercifully reclaimed by the interposition of a benignant Providence.
When we behold the sensualist, the blasphemer, the drunkard, he who has been the slave of debauchery, the votary of vice, recalled by the power of the gospel to a state of penitence, and humbling himself in sackcloth and ashes before Him who came to call sinners to repentance;— when we behold the victim of seduction, the prey of the libertine, snatched from the brink of that fatal precipice on which she stood, and prevented from plunging headlong into the gulf of perdition which opened beneath to receive her ;-when we behold her prostrate before her God, and washing her Redeemer's feet with the bitter tears of sorrow, anguish, and remorse; and picture to ourselves the great Physician of souls looking down upon her with an eye full of infinite compassion and love, and pouring this healing medicine into the wounds of her broken and contrite heart, “ Daughter, I have beheld thy contrition, I have witnessed the tears of penitence thoủ hast shed, I perceive the sincerity of your resolution to forsake your evil ways; wherefore I say unto you, thy sins which are many are forgiven thee, go and sin no more ;"- who shall estimate, what tongue shall tell, what voice shall utter, where shall we find language to express, the joy, love, worship, adoration, and eternal gratitude, which thế redeemed sinner would strive to pour out in grateful homage at the feet of Him who is alone able to forgive sins! This is a joy, a peace of God which passeth all understanding; and let us, by timely repentance and future amendment, strive to be made partakers of it.
Let us then, my brethren, “ choose this day whom we will serve ;" let us no longer "halt between two opinions," or hazard our eternal happiness upon the uncertain event of a deferred repentance; but rather, acting “not as fools but as wise," let us " redeem the time" that is past by diligence in our spiritual concerns for the future. And may we, when that awful though certain, and we know not how far distant, hour shall arrive to us, in the which the body shall return to the dust from whence it came, but the spirit to God who gave it, all experience the comfort, consolation, and holy joy, which cheer the hearts of those who die in the Lord! May the rays of the Gospel then beam with celestial brightness around us, and inspire us with the humble though confident assurance, that as our repentance and faith have been sincere, so, through the merits of our Redeemer, our imperfect obedience may be accepted by Him who willeth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live for ever in his presence, where is fulness of joy, and at whose right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
J. T. B.
OF POLYCARP, the last of the Apostolical Fathers, some mention has already been made in our account of Ignatius. He appears to have been of Oriental origin, possibly a native of Smyrna, but of this there is no certain proof; and his parentage is also entirely unknown. In early childhood he was sold as a slave to a noble Smyrnæan lady, whose name was Calisto; and in her service, which was of the most mild and easy description, he was trained up in the principles of Christianity under the guidance of Bucolus, Bishop of the place. At her death she bequeathed to him all her estates; which, though very extensive, were scarcely equal to the unlimited charities of their new possessor. In the mean time, evincing an excellent Christian spirit, he had been made deacon and catechist under his reverend preceptor; and such was his zeal and fidelity in the discharge of his sacred function, that at the death of Bucolus, he was appointed his successor in the episcopal chair. Into this high office he was consecrated by the Apostles themselves, at the immediate sustgestion of St. John, upon whose instructions he had constantly attended, and with whom he was on the closest terms of affection. From the line of conduct which had been marked out for him by his inspired instructor, he never deviated through life; preserving his flock in the true apostolical doctrine and discipline, and maintaining the profession of the faith “ as it is in Jesus," against the seducing heresies which were perpetually increasing around him. Cerinthus, Ebion, Marcion, and Valentinus, had already collected a vast multitude of followers; and inferior sects, rivalling each other in the depth of their profane absurdities, and straining every nerve, were employing every artifice to add to the number of their proselytes. Of Polycarp's resistance to every perversion of the truth, and of his testimony to the doctrine which he had received from the Apostles, his pupil Irenæus speaks expressly (Hær. III. 3, 4. et ap. Euseb. Hist. Eccl. V. 20); and we may judge of his unyielding firmness in support of the essentials of the Gospel, from the zeal with which he persevered in the path which he thought correct, even in matters comparatively unimportant. We allude more especially to his controversy with Anicetus, Bishop of Rome, respecting the proper time of the observation of Easter, of which we had occasion to speak in our introductory observations.
Whatever difference of opinion might exist between the two Bishops, there was not the least breach of Christian charity in their
conduct towards each other. During the stay of Polycarp in Rome, he lived on terms of the most familiar intercourse with his opponent; and, by his mild and engaging demeanour, gained the esteem and affection of the whole Christian community. He preached frequently in their churches; and Anicetus himself entertained so high a respect for his character and goodness, as to request to receive from his hands the consecrated elements, at a celebration of the Lord's Supper. So great, indeed, was the authority attached to his name, and the influence which he possessed in checking the growth of heresy and disaffection, that the leaders of the various sects would fain have procured his countenance and support. Upon one occasion, being thus accosted by Marcion in the street, “ Dost thou own us, Polycarp ?” he immediately replied, “ I own thee to be the first-born of Satan." It is also related of him, but without any great appearance of truth, that while he was at Ephesus, he was desirous of going into a bath, but seeing Cerinthus there before him, he departed, observing to his companions, “ Let us flee hence, lest the bath fall upon us, while Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is in it. This latter story is differently related by Irenæus, Theodoret, and Epiphanius, who tell it of Ebion instead of Cerinthus ; and there are other circumstances which render the credibility of the narration deservedly suspected. There is much less reason to question the accuracy of a statement which Irenæus has given upon his own authority, that if any heretical doctrines chanced to be started in his presence, he would stop his ears, and exclaim, “ Good God, to what times hast thou reserved me, that I should hear such things!” (Epist. ad Florin. ap. Euseb. Hist. Eccl. V. 20.)
The good Bishop was spared for several years after his return to Smyrna, to watch over his charge, and to promote, by his advice and authority, the interests of the neighbouring churches. No particular records of his proceedings have come down to modern times; but his general character for mildness, perseverance, and inflexible integrity is attested by the primitive writers, and is sufficiently apparent from an epistle, still extant, which he wrote to the Philippians. His anxiety for the spiritual good of all, and for their continuance and improvement in righteousness, is seen in the heartfelt sorrow which he expresses for the conduct of a priest, named Valens, and his wife, who had been led by covetousness into the commission of sin. With a severe reprobation of their guilt, he mingles the most Christian pity for their fall, and the most fervent prayers for their repentance and forgiveness. In all respects, indeed, his conversation was blameless and irreproachable, and he sedulously performed the duties of his high and important station, till his career was ended by a glorious martyrdom. He survived his friend Ignatius about sixty years. The great veneration in which his character was held by the whole Christian Church is amply sufficient to account for his being put to death; indeed, it is only wonderful that he was spared so long. Hadrian had revived the persecution, which had been quelled by the rescript of Trajan, with increased severity and intolerance : and the fire and sword, which by degrees again were laid aside, had been rekindled and re-sharpened under the auspices of the Antonini. It was in the reign of M. Antoninus that the venerable Polycarp was called, in extreme old age, to seal his testimony to the truth of Christianity with his blood.
A faithful and highly interesting account of the martyrdom of Polycarp is still extant in a letter, written immediately after his death, from the Church of Smyrna to that of Philadelphia. Of the genuineness of this valuable document there is not the least question. It is transcribed almost entire by Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. IV. 15), and was read publicly in the churches of Asia, long after his death, at the annual commemoration of his sufferings. Scaliger has observed, that there was no writing, in the whole range of ecclesiastical antiquity, with which he was more sensibly affected: that he seemed to be no longer himself when he read it, and that no good Christian could be too often employed in reading this, and similar accounts, of the sufferings of the early martyrs. The letter, in the original, will be found in the Patres Apostolici of Cotelerius, and in Ruinart's Acts of the Martyrs. We proceed to give the main particulars of it in the correct version of Archbishop Wake. .
The most admirable Polycarp, when he first heard that he was called for, was not at all concerned at it, but resolved to tarry in the city; nevertheless he was at the last persuaded, and departed into a little village, not far distant from the city, and there tạrried with a few about him, night and day praying for all men, and for the Churches which were in all the world, according to his usual custom. And as he was praying, he saw a vision three days before he was taken, and, behold, the pillow under his head seemed to him on fire; where upon, turning to those that were with him, he said prophetically that he should be burnt alive.
Now when those who were to take him drew near, he departed into another village; and immediately they who sought him came thither. And when they found him not, they seized upon two young men that were there; one of which, being tormented, confessed. For it was impossible he should be concealed, forasmuch as they who betrayed him were his own domestics. So the officer, who is also called cleronomus, * (Herod by name), hastened to bring him into the lists; that so Polycarp might receive his proper portion, being made partaker of Christ, and they that betrayed him undergo the punishment of Judas.
The serjeants, therefore, and horsemen, taking the young lad along with them, departed about supper-time (being Friday), with their usual arms, as it were against a thief or a robber. And being come to the place where he was, about the close of the evening, they found him lying down in a little upper room, from whence he could easily have escaped into another place, but he would not, saying, “The will of the Lord be done." Wherefore, when he heard that they were come to the house, he went down and spake to them. And as they that were present wondered at his age and constancy, some of them began to say, “ Was there need of all this care to take such an old man ?” Then presently he ordered, that the same hour there should be somewhat got ready for them, that they might eat and drink their fill; desiring them withal that they would give him one hour's liberty the while, to pray without disturbance. And when they had permitted him, he stood praying, being full of the grace of God, so that he ceased not for two whole hours, to the admiration of all that heard him; insomuch that many of the soldiers began to repent that they were come out against so godly an old man.
As soon as he had done his prayer, the guards set him upon an ass, and so brought him into the city, being the day of the great Sabbath. And Herod,
* Justice of the Peace.
Vid. Usser. in loc. Num. 14, 15. Vales. in Euseb. p. 63. D. the chief officer, with his father Nicetas, met him in a chariot. And having taken him up to them, and set him in the chariot, they began to persuade him, saying, “ What harm is there in it, to say, Lord Cæsar, and sacrifice, and so. be safe?" But Polycarp, at first, answered them not: whereupon they continuing to urge him, he said, “ I shall not do what you persuade me to.” So being out of all hope of prevailing with him, they began first to rail at him; and then, with violence, threw him out of the chariot, insomuch that he hurt his thigh with the fall. But he, not turning back, went on readily with all diligence, as if he had received no harm at all, and so was brought to the lists, where there was so great a tumult, that nobody could be heard.
- As he was going into the lists, there came a voice from heaven to him “ Be strong, Polycarp, and quit thyself like a man.” Now no one saw who it was that spake to him: but for the voice, many of our brethren, who were present, heard it. And as he was brought in, there was a great disturbance when they heard how that Polycarp was taken. And when he came near, the Proconsul asked him, “ Whether he was Polycarp ?” who, confessing that he was, he persuaded him to deny the faith, saying, “ Reverence thy old age;" with many other things of the like nature, as their custom is; concluding thus, “ Swear by Cæsar's fortune. Repent, and say, Take away the wicked.” Then Polycarp, looking with a stern countenance upon the whole multitude of wicked Gentiles that was gathered together in the lists; and shaking his hand at them, looked up to heaven, and groaning, said, “ Take away the wicked.” But the Proconsul, insisting and saying, “ Swear; and I will set thee at liberty: reproach Christ.” Polycarp replied, “ Eighty-and-six years have I now served Christ, and he has never done me the least wrong; how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?”.
And when the Proconsul nevertheless still insisted, saying, “ Swear by the Genius of Cæsar," he answered, “Seeing thou art so vainly urgent with me that I should swear, as thou callest it, by the Genius of Cæsar, seeming as if thou didst not know what I am; hear me freely professing it to thee, that I am a Christian. But if thou farther desirest an account of what Christianity is, appoint a day, and thou shalt hear it.” The Proconsul replied, “ Persuade the people.” Polycarp answered, “To thee have I offered to give a reason of my faith: for so are we taught to pay all due honour (such only excepted as would be hurtful to ourselves) to the powers and authorities which are ordained of God. But for the people, I esteem them not worthy, that I should give any account of my faith to them.”.
The Proconsul continued, and said unto him, “ I have wild beasts ready; to those I will cast thee, except thou repent.” He answered, “ Call for them then; for we Christians are fixed in our minds not to change from good to evil, But for me it will be good to be changed from evil to good." The Proconsul added, “Seeing thou despisest the wild beasts, I will cause thee to be devoured by fire, unless thou shalt repent." Polycarp answered, “Thou threatenest me with fire which burns for an hour, and so is extinguished; but knowest not the fire of the future judgment, and of that eternal punishment which is reserved for the ungodly. But why tarriest thou? Bring forth what thou wilt.”
Having said this, and many other things of the like nature, he was filled with confidence and joy, insomuch that his very countenance was full of grace; so that the Proconsul was struck with astonishment, and sent his crier into the middle of the lists, to proclaim three several times—“ Polycarp has confessed himself to be a Christian.” Which being done by the crier, the whole multitude, both of the Gentiles and of the Jews which dwelt at Smyrna, being full of fury, cried out with a loud voice, “ This is the doctor of Asia, the father of the Christians, and the overthrower of our gods; he that has taught so many not to sacrifice, nor pay any worship to the gods.” And saying this, they cried out, and desired Philip the Asiarch,* that he would let loose a lion against Polycarp.
* Who was President of the Spectacles, the Chief Priest for that year. See Usser. Annot. Numb. 46. Vales. in Euseb. pp. 63, 64.