« AnteriorContinuar »
which made it very necessary for them to have their feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace.'' And certainly, if ever true courage and greatness of mind appeared in any persons in the world, it was in the Christians of those times, who with such a generous and unterrified mind defied dangers and torments, owned and gloried in the profession of Christianity against all the threats, reproaches, and persecutions which the worst of their adversaries could make against them. We shall first see what account their Apologists give of it even before their enemies, and then how they made it good in their lives and actions.
Justin Martyr, speaking of the successful propagation of the Gospel, immediately upon Christ's resurrection and ascension into heaven, “The apostles of Christ (says he) going forth from Jerusalem, preached the powerful word in every place; although it were capital either to preach or to profess the name of Christ, which yet we do everywhere embrace and teach : which if you, as enemies, still go on to obstruct, the worst you can do, is but to kill us, whereby you will do us no great harm, but will purchase to yourselves, and to all those that unjustly persecute us, and persist impenitent in their proceedings, the vengeance of eternal flames.” ? When Trypho the Jew had charged Christianity for an idle story, and the Christians for no better than fools to quit all the conveniences of this life upon the account of it; the Martyr answers, “ that this proceeded from his ignorance, and an implicit assent to the absurd and malicious insinuations of their rabbins, who understood very little of the
1 Eph. vi. 15.
? Apol. 2. p. 83.
Scriptures; that would he but admit the true reasons of Christianity, he would quickly understand how far they were from being in an error, and how , little reason they had to quit their profession, although men did sufficiently scorn and reproach them for it, and the powers of the world endeavour to force them to renounce and forsake it: notwithstanding all which, they chose rather to die, and cheerfully underwent it; being fully assured, that what God had promised through Christ he would infallibly make good to them.”l Discoursing afterwards of the same matter, “As for us (says he) that have entertained the religion of the holy Jesus, yourselves know very well, that there is none throughout the world that is able to subdue or affright us out of our profession; nothing being plainer, than that though our heads be exposed to swords and axes, our bodies fastened to the cross, though thrown to wild beasts, harassed out with chains, fire, and all other instruments of torment, yet do we not start from our profession; nay, the more these things happen to us, the faster others flock over to the name of Jesus, and become pious and devout followers of Christ; it being with us in this case, as with a vine, which being pruned and trimmed, and its luxurious excrescences pared off, brings forth more fruitful and flourishing branches."? How little he valued any danger in competition with the truth, he tells his adversary he might know by this, that he would not stifle and conceal it, although they should immediately tear him in pieces for it; and therefore when he saw his countrymen the Samaritans seduced by the impostures
| Dial. cum Tryph. p. 226, 323. D.
? Ib. p. 337.
of Simon Magus, whom they held to be a god above all principality and power, he could not but by an address make his complaint to Cæsar, not regarding the hazards and troubles that might ensue upon it. Tertullian giving the heathens an account of that Christ whom they worshipped, tells them they might well believe it to be true, for that they stood to it with their last drop of blood. “We speak it (says he) and we speak it openly; yea while you are tearing our flesh, and shedding our blood, we cry aloud, that we worship God through Christ.” 2 So fully were they satisfied in the truth of their religion, as to be ready rather a thousand times to die than to deny it.
Nor were these merely big words with which the Christians vapoured in the sight of their enemies, we shall find that they made them good by acting suitable to these professions and protestations. They did not then think it enough to espouse the faith of Christ, unless they publicly testified it to the world; whereof this instance amongst others. Victorinus a rhetorician of Rome, a man of so great note and fame, that he had obtained the honour of a public statue, but a zealous defender of paganism and idolatry, had read the holy Scriptures, by which being convinced, he came to Simplician, and privately told him that he was a Christian; which the other refused to believe unless he saw him testify it in the public church. To which Victorinus returned with a little scorn,“ What, are they then the walls that make a Christian ?” This answer he as oft returned as the other urged a public confession, for he was not willing to disoblige
· Dial. cum Tryph. p. 349.
? Apol. c. 21, p. 21.
his great friends, who he knew would fall foul upon him : till by reading and meditation he gathered courage, and fearing that Christ would 'deny him before the holy angels', if he should refuse to 'confess him before men,'' he became sensible of his fault, and was ashamed of his vanity and folly, and calling to Siroplician, “Let us go (said he) into the church, I will now become a Christian.” Which when he had done, and had been thoroughly instructed in the faith of Christ, he offered himself to baptism; and being to make the accustomed confession of his faith, the ministers of the church offered him the liberty of doing it in a more private way, (as they were wont to do for those who were of a fearful and bashful temper,) which he utterly refused, and openly made it before all the people; affirming it to be unreasonable that he should be ashamed to confess his hopes of salvation before the people, who while he taught rhetoric, (wherein he hoped for no such reward,) had publicly professed it every day: an action that begat great wonder in Rome, as it was no less matter of rejoicing to the church. No dangers could then sway good men from doing their duty. Cyprian highly commends Cornelius for taking the bishopric of Rome upon him in so dangerous a time; for the greatness of his mind, and the unshaken firmness of his faith, and the undaunted managery of his place, at a time when Decius the Tyrant threatened such heavy severities to the ministers of Christianity, and would sooner endure a co-rival in the empire, than a bishop to sit at Rome. How freely, how
1 Luke, xii. 8. ? August. Confes. lib. viii. c. 2, tom. i. col. 136, 137. 3 Ad Antonian. Epist. 52, p. 68.
impartially did they speak their minds, even to the face of their bitterest enemies! When Maris, bishop of Chalcedon, a man blind with age, met Julian the emperor, he boldly charged him with his atheism and apostacy from the Christian faith. Julian reproached him with his blindness, and told him his Galilean God would never cure him ; to which the good old man presently answered,“I thank my God, who has taken away my sight, that I might not behold the face of one that has lapsed into so great impiety.”
Were they at any time attempted by arts of flattery and enticement, the charms would not take place upon them. So when Julian, both by himself and the officers of his army, set upon the soldiers, and by fair promises of preferments and rewards sought to fetch them off from Christianity, though he prevailed upon some few weak and instable minds, yet the far greatest part stood off; yea, by many even of the meanest and most inconsiderable quality his temptations were as resolutely beaten back as the blow of an engine is by a wall of marble, 2 Nor were they any more shaken by storms and threatenings. When Modestus, the governor under Valens the Arian emperor, could not by any means bring over St. Basil to the party, he threatened him with severity : “Dost thou not fear this power that I have ?” “Why should I fear,” said Basil ; " what canst thou do, or what can I suffer ?" The other answered, “ The loss of thy estate, banishment, torment, and death.” “ Threaten us with something else if thou canst,” said Basil,
Socr. Hist. Eccl. lib. iii. c. 12, p. 183. ? Nazian. Orat. in Jul.l, p. 75.