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whatever might be al mtut, as the wild beast did Dot meddle with ber, she was remanded back to prison.
At length Attalus was loudly called for; and he was accordingly led round the amphitheatre, with a board beld before him, on which was inscribed, THIS IS ATTILLA THE CHRISTIAN. It appearing, however, that be was a Roman citizen, the president remanded him to prison, until the err peror's pleasure should be known concerning him, and others who were in the same predicament. In this respite they so encouraged many who had hitherto declined this glorious combat, as it was justly called, that great numbers voluntarily declared themselves Christians.
The emperor's answer was, that they who confessed themselves to be Christians should be put to death; but that those who denied it should be set at liberty. Upon this, a public assembly was convened, attended by a vast concourse of people, before whom the confessors were produced, when such of them as were found to be Roman citizens were beheaded, and the rest thrown to the wild beasts. But to the astonishment of all present, many who had previously renounced their Christianity, and were now produced only to be set at liberty, revoked their recantation, and, declaring themselves Christians, suffered with the rest. These had been greatly encouraged so to do, by Alexander, a Phrygian, who had shewn himself particularly solicitous for the perseverance of his brethren.
The multitude became greatly enraged at this; and Alexander being called before the tribunal, and confessing himself a Christian, he was sentenced to be thrown to the wild beasts; and on the following day he was produced in the amphitheatre for that purpose, together with Attalus, whom the people had insisted upon being brought out once more. Previous to their exposure to
the wild beasts they were subjected to a variety of tortures, and at last run through with a sword. During all this Alexander said nothing, but evinced the greatest firmness of mind. And, when Attalus was placed in the iron chair, he only said, in allusion to the vulgar charge against the Christians of those days, of murdering and eating infants, “ This, which is your own practice, is to devour men; we neither eat men, nor practice any other wickedness.”
On the last day of the show, Blandina was again produced, together with a young man of the name of Ponticus, about fitteen years of age, who had been brought out daily to be a spectator of the sufferings of others. This youth, being required to acknowledge the heathen deities, and refusing to do so, the multitude had no compassion for either of them, but subjected them to the whole circle of tortures, till Ponticus expired in them; and Blandina, having been scourged, and placed in the hot iron chair, was put into a net, and exposed to a bull; and after being tossed for some time by the furious aninal, she was at length despatched with a sword. The spectators acknowledged that they had never known any female bear torture with such fortitude.
When this scene was over, the multitude continued to show their rage by abusing the dead bodies of the Christians. Those who had been suffocated in prison were thrown to the dogs, and watched day and night, lest their friends should bury them. The same was done with the bodies that were left unconsumed by fire ; that had been mangled or burned, with the heads only of some, and the trunks of others. Even in this horrid state the heathens insulted them, by asking where was their God, and what their religion had done for them. The mangled carcasses baring been exposed in this manner for six days, were then burned; and being reduced to ashes, the latter was
cast into the river, to disappoint them, as was fondly imagined, of their hopes of a resurrection. From what was done in this place, says Eusebius, we may form an estimate of what was transacted in others.*
The prisons were now glutted with the multitude of the Christians—they were thrust into the darkest and most loathsome cells, and numbers were suffocated; even “young men who had been lately seized, and whose bodies had been unexercised with sufferings, unequal to the severity of the confinement, expired.” Pothinus, one of the elders of the church at Lyons, upwards of ninety years of age, though very infirm and asthmatic, was dragged before the tribunal; “ his body,” says the narrative, “worn out indeed with age and disease, yet he retained a soul through which Christ might triumph." After being grossly ill-treated by the soldiers and the rabble, who unmercifully dragged him about, insulting him in the vilest manner, without the least respect to his age, pelting him with whatever came first to hand, and every one looking upon himself as deficient in zeal if he did not insult him in some way or other; he was thrown into prison, and after languishing two days, expired.
These few instances, which indeed are but little in comparison of the horrid barbarities detailed in this letter, may however give the reader some idea of this dreadful persecution, which, lamentable to tell, received the express sanction of the philosophic emperor, Marcus Aurelius. “He sent orders,” says the letter, “that the confessors of Christ should be put to death; and that the apostates from their divine Master should be dismissed." Such proceedings, as Mosheim properly remarks, will be an indelible stain upon the memory of the prince by whose order they were carried on. His death, however,
· Euseb. Hist. b. v. ch. 1.
which took place in the year 180, put a period to this fiery trial, which, with scarcely any intermission, had raged in one quarter or other during a period of eighteen years.
Sketch of the state of Christianity from the death of Marcus Aurelius to the time of Constantine.
A. D. 180–306.
AURELIUS was succeeded in the government of the empire by his son Commodus, during whose reign of nearly thirteen years, the Christians enjoyed a large portion of external peace, and their numbers were every where multiplied to a vast extent. The character of this young prince formed a contrast to that of his father: he was not only an epicure, but, as Gibbon allows, “he attained the summit of vice and infamy." Historians attribute the toleration which he granted the Christians, to the influence which Marcia, his favourite concubine, had obtained over his mind. She is said to have had a predilection for their religion, and to have employed her interest with Commodus in their behalf. There is nothing incredible in this, unless indeed the character of that lady should be thought incompatible with it. The Lord, in whose hand are the hearts of all men, and who turns them as the rivers of water, frequently sends his people relief in the most unexpected manner, and by means from which they would least apprehend it-thus impressing upon their minds a conviction of his own dominion and sovereignty, and of their entire dependence upon him.
In the year 192, Commodus was put to death, in consequence of a conspiracy raised against him by his own
domestics; when the choice of a successor fell on Pertinax, præfect of the city, an ancient senator of consular rank, whose conspicuous merit had broke through the obscurity of his birth, and raised him to the first honours of the state. The reign of this amiable prince, however, proved of short duration; for on the 28th March, of the same year, only eighty-six days after the death of Commodus, a general conspiracy broke out in the Roman camp, which the officers wanted either the power or inclination to suppress, and the emperor fell a victim to the rebellious fury of the Prætorian guards.
On the death of Pertinax the sovereign power devolved upon Severus, who, during the persecution of the churches of Lyons and Vienne, had sustained the rank of governor of that province. In the first years of his reign, he permitted the Christians to enjoy a continuance of that toleration which had been extended to them by Commodus and Pertinas. But the scene changed towards the latter end of this century, and about the tenth year of his reign, which falls in with the year 202, his native ferocity of temper broke out afresh, and kindled a very severe persecution against the Christians. He was then recently returned from the east, victorious; and the pride of prosperity induced him to forbid the propagation of the gospel. He passed a law by which every subject of the empire was prohibited to change the religion of his ancestors for that of the Christian or Jewish. Christians, however, still thought it right to obey God rather than man. Severus persisted, and exercised the usual cruelties. At this time Asia, Egypt, and the other provinces were deluged with the blood of the martyrs, as appears from the testimonies of Tertullian, Clemens of Alexandria, and other writers. It was this series of calamities, during which Leonides, the father of Origen, and Irenæus, pastor of the church at Lyons, suffered martyrdom, that