2. THE EARLY PERSECUTION OF THE APOSTLES
But this by the way of digression. Now to regress again to the state of the first former times. It remaineth, that as I have set forth the justice of God upon these Roman persecutors, so now we declare their persecutions raised up against the people and servants of Christ, within the space of three hundred years after Christ. Which persecutions in number commonly are counted to be ten, besides their persecutions first moved by the Jews in Jerusalem and other places against the apostles. In the which, first St. Stephen the deacon was put to death, with divers others more, in the same rage of time either slain or cast into prison. At the doing whereof Saul the same time played the doughty Pharisee, being not yet converted to the faith of Christ, whereof the history is plain in the Acts of the Apostles, set forth at large by St. Luke.
Illustration -- The martyrdom of St. Stephen
After the martyrdom of this blessed Stephen, suffered next James the holy apostle of Christ, and brother of John. Of which James mention is made in the Acts of the Apostles, the twelfth chapter; where is declared, how that not long after the stoning of Stephen, king Herod stretched forth his hand to take and afflict certain of the congregation; among whom James was one, whom he slew with the sword, &c. Of this James Eusebius also inferreth mention, alleging Clement thus writing a memorable story of him. This James, (saith Clement,) when he was brought to the tribunal seat, he that brought him, (and was the cause of his trouble,) seeing him to be condemned, and that he should suffer death, as he went to the execution, he being moved therewith in heart and conscience. confessed himself also of his own accord to be a Christian. And so were they led forth together, where in the way he desired of James to forgive him that he had done. After that James had a little paused with himself upon the matter, turning to him, Peace (saith he) be to thee, brother, and kissed him, and both were beheaded together, in the year of our Lord thirty and six.
Dorotheus in his book named Synopsis testifieth, that Nicanor, one of the seven deacons, with two thousand others, which believed in Christ, suffered also the same day whereon Stephen did suffer.
The said Dorotheus witnesseth also that Simon, another of the deacons, bishop afterward of Bostrum in Arabia, was there burned. Parmenas also, another of the deacons, suffered.
Thomas preached to the Parthians, Medes, and Persians; also to the Germans, Hiraconies, Bactries, and Magies. He suffered in Calamina, a city of Judah, being slain with a dart.
Simon Zelotes preached at Mauritania, and in the countries of Africa, and in Britain; he was likewise crucified.
Judas, brother of James, called also Thaddeus and Lebbeus, preached to the Edessenes, and to all Mesopotamia: he was slain under Augarus, king of the Edessenes, in Berito.
Simon called Cananeus, which was brother to Jude above mentioned, and to James the younger, which all were the sons of Mary Cleophas, and of Alpheus, was bishop of Jerusalem after James, and was crucified in a city of Egypt in the time of Trajanus the emperor, as Dorotheus recordeth, But Abdias writeth, that he with his brother Jude were both slain by a tumult of the people in Suanir, a city of Parsidis.
Mark the evangelist, and first bishop of Alexandria, preached the gospel in Egypt, and there, drawn with ropes unto the fire, was burned, and afterward buried in a place called there Bucolus, under the reign of Trajanus the emperor.
Bartholomeus is said also to preach to the Indians, and to have converted the Gospel of St. Matthew into their tongue, where he continued a great space doing many miracles. At last in Albania, a city of Greater Armenia, after divers persecutions, he was beaten down with staves, then crucified, and after being excoriate, he was at length beheaded.
Of Andrew the apostle and brother to Peter thus writeth Hieroni in his Catalogue of ecclesiastical Writers. Andrew the brother of Peter (in the time and reign of Vespasianus, as our ancestors have reported) did preach in the eightieth year after our Lord Jesus Christ to the Scythians, Sogdians, to the Saxons, and in a city which is called Angustia, where theethiopians do now inhabit. He was buried in Patnis, a city of Achaia, being crucified of Egeas the governor of the Edessenes. Hitherto writeth Hierom, although in the number of years he seemeth a little to miss; for Vespasianus reached not to the eightieth year after Christ. But Bernard in his second sermon, and St. Cyprian, do make mention of the confession and martyrdom of this blessed apostle; whereof partly out of these, partly out of other credible writers, we have collected after this manner: that whenas Andrew, being conversant in a city of Achaia called Patris, through his diligent preaching had brought many to the faith of Christ, Egeas the governor knowing this, resorted thither, to the intent he might constrain as many as did believe Christ to be God, by the whole consent of the senate, to do sacrifice unto the idols, and so give divine honour unto them. Andrew thinking good at the beginning to resist the wicked counsel and the doings of Egeas, went unto him, saying to this effect unto him: That it behoved him which was judge of men, first to know his Judge which dwelleth in heaven, and then to worship him being known, and so in worshipping the true God, to revoke his mind from false gods and blind idols. These words spake Andrew to the consul.
But he, greatly therewith discontented, demanded of him whether he was the same Andrew that did overthrow the temple of the gods, and persuaded men of that superstitious sect, which the Romans of late had commanded to be abolished and rejected. Andrew did plainly affirm, that the princes of the Romans did not understand the truth, and that the Son of God, coming from heaven into the world for man's sake, hath taught and declared how those idols, whom they so honoured as gods, were not only not gods, but also most cruel devils, enemies to mankind, teaching the people nothing else but that wherewith God is offended, and being offended, turneth away and regardeth them not; and so by the wicked service of the devil they do fall head long into all wickedness, and after their departing nothing remaineth unto them but their evil deeds.
But the proconsul esteeming these things to be as vain especially seeing the Jews (as he said) had crucified Christ before, therefore charged and commanded Andrew not to teach and preach such things any more; or if he did, that he should be fastened to the cross with all speed.
Andrew abiding in his former mind very constant, answered thus concerning the punishment which he threatened: He would not have preached the honour and glory of the cross, if he had feared the death of the cross. Whereupon sentence of condemnation was pronounced, that Andrew, teaching and enterprising a new sect, and taking away the religion of their gods, ought to be crucified. Andrew coming to the place, and seeing afar off the cross prepared, did change neither countenance nor colour, as the imbecility of mortal men is wont to do, neither did his blood shrink, neither did he fail in his speech; his body fainted not, neither was his mind molested; his understanding did not fail him, as it is the manner of men to do, but out of the abundance of his heart his mouth did speak; and fervent charity did appear in his words as kindled sparks: he said, O cross, most welcome and long looked for; with a willing mind joyfully and desirously I come to thee, being the scholar of Him which did hang on thee; because I have been always thy lover, and have coveted to embrace thee. So being crucified, he yielded up the ghost and fell on sleep, the day before the kalends of December.
Illustration -- the martyrdom of St. Andrew
Matthew, otherwise named Levi, first of a publican made an apostle, wrote his Gospel to the Jews in the Hebrew tongue, according to Eusebius and Irenæus.
Matthias, after he had preached to the Jews, at length was stoned and beheaded. Some others record that he died inethiopia.
Philippus the holy apostle, after he had much laboured among the barbarous nations in preaching the word of salvation to them, at length suffered as the other apostles did, in Hierapolis, a city of Phrygia, being there crucified and stoned to death, where also he was buried, and his daughters also with him.
After that Festus had sent the apostle Paul to Rome after his appellation made at Cesarea, and that the Jews by the means thereof had left their hope of performing their malicious vow against him conceived, they fell upon James the brother of our Lord, who was bishop at Jerusalem, against whom they, being bent with like malice, brought him forth before them, and required him to deny before all the people the faith of Christ. But he, otherwise than they all looked for, freely and with a greater constancy before all the multitude confessed Jesus to be the Son of God, our Saviour, and our Lord. Whereupon, they not being able to abide the tes timony of this man any longer, because he was thought to be the justest among them all, for the highness of Divine wisdom and godliness which in living he declared, they killed him, finding the more opportunity to accomplish their mischief, because the kingdom the same time was vacant. For Festus being dead in Jewry, the administration of that province was destitute of a ruler and a deputy. But after what manner James was killed the words of Clement do declare, which writeth that he was cast down from the pinnacle of the temple, and, being smittcn with the instrument of a fuller, was slain; but Egesippus, which lived in the time next after the apostles, described the cause diligently in his fifth commentary, after this manner as followeth.
James the brother of our Lord took in hand to govern the church after the apostles, being counted of all men from the time of our Lord to be a just and perfect man. Many and divers other Jameses there were beside him, but this was born holy from his mother's womb; he drunk no wine, nor any strong drink; neither did he eat any living creature; the razor never came up on his head; he was not anointed with oil, neither did he use bath; to him only was it lawful to enter into the holy place; neither was he clothed with woollen cloth, but with silk; and he only entered into the temple, falling upon his knees, asking remission for the people; so that his knees by oft kneeling lost the sense of feeling, being benumbed and hardened like the knees of a camel. He was (for worshipping God and craving forgiveness for the people) called just, and for the excellency of his just life named Oblias, which (if you do interpret it) is the safeguard and justice of the people, as the prophets declare of him: therefore whenas many of the heretics which were among the people asked him what manner of gift Jesus should be, he answered that he was the Saviour. Whereof some do believe him to be Jesus Christ; but the aforesaid heretics neither believe the resurrection, neither that any shall come which shall render unto every man according to his works, but as many as believe, they believed for James's cause. Whenas many therefore of the princes did believe, there was a tumult made of the scribes, Jews, and Pharisees, saying, It is dangerous, lest that all the people do look for this Jesus as for Christ. Therefore they gathered themselves together, and said to James, We beseech thee, restrain the people, for they believe in Jesus as though he were Christ; we pray thee, persuade them all which come unto the feast of the passover of Jesus; for we are all obedient unto thee, and all the people do testify of thee that thou art just, neither that thou dost accept the person of any man; therefore persuade the people that they be not deceived in Jesus, and all the people and we will obey thee: therefore stand upon the pillar of the temple, that thou mayst be seen from above, and that thy words may be perceived of all the people, for to this pass over all the tribes do come with all the country. And thus the forenamed scribes and Pharisees did set James upon the battlements of the church, and they cried unto him and said, Thou just man, whom all we ought to obey, because this people is led after Jesus, which is crucified, tell what is the gift of Jesus crucified. And he answered with a great voice, What do you ask me of Jesus the Son of man, seeing that he sitteth on the right hand of God in heaven, and shall come in the clouds of the sky? But when many were persuaded of this, they glorified God upon the witness of James, and said, Hosanna in the highest to the Son of David. Then the scribes and the Pharisees said among themselves, We have done evil that we have caused such a testimony of Jesus, but let us go up, and let us take him, that they, being compelled with fear, may deny that faith. And they cried out, saying, Oh, oh, this just man also is seduced. Therefore they went up to throw down the just man, and said among themselves, Let us stone this just man James; and they took him to smite him with stones, for he was not yet dead when he was cast down. But he turning, fell down upon his knees, saying, O Lord God, Father, I beseech thee to forgive them, for they know not what they do.
But when they had smitten him with stones, one of the priests of the children of Rechas, the son of Charobim, spake to them the testimony which is in Jeremiah the prophet: Leave off; what do ye? The just man prayeth for you. And one of those which were present took a fuller's instrument, wherewith they did use to beat and purge cloth, and smote the just man on his head; and so he finished his martyrdom, and they buried him in the same place, and his pillar abideth still by the temple. He was a true testimony to the Jews and the Gentiles. And shortly after Vespasianus the emperor, destroying the land of Jewry, brought them into captivity. These things being thus written at large of Egesippus, do well agree to those which Clement did write of him. This James was so notable a man, that for his justice, he was had in honour of all men, insomuch that the wise men of the Jews, shortly after his martyrdom, did impute the cause of the besieging of Jerusalem, and other calamities which happened unto them, to no other cause, but unto the violence and injury done to this man. Also Josephus hath not left this out of his history, where he speaketh of him after this manner: These things so chanced unto the Jews for a vengeance, because of that just man James, which was the brother of Jesus, whom they called Christ; for the Jews killed him, although he was a righteous man.
The same Josephus declareth his death in the same book and chapter, saying, Cæsar hearing of the death of Festus, sent Albinus the lieutenant into Jewry; but Ananus the younger being bishop, and of the sect of the Sadducees, trusting that he had obtained a convenient time, seeing that Festus was dead, and Albinus entered on his journey, he called a council, and calling many unto him, among whom was James, by name, the brother of Jesus which is called Christ, he stoned them, accusing them as breakers of the law.
Whereby it appeareth that many other besides James also at the same time were martyred and put to death among the Jews, for the faith of Christ.HESE things being thus declared for the martyrdom of the apostles, and the persecution of the Jews; now let us (by the grace of Christ our Lord) comprehend, with like brevity, the persecutions raised by the Romans against the Christians in the primitive age of the church during the space of three hundred years, till the coming of godly Constantine: which persecutions are reckoned of Eusebius, and by the most part of writers, to the number of ten most special.
Wherein marvellous it is to see and read the numbers incredible of Christian innocents that were slain and tormented, some one way, some another, is Rabanus saith, and saith truly. Some slain with sword; some burnt with fire; some with whips scourged; some stabbed with forks of iron; some fastened to the cross or gibbet; some drowned in the sea; some their skins plucked off; some their tongues cut off; some stoned to death; some killed with cold; some starved with hunger: some their hands cut off, or otherwise dismembered, have been so left naked to the open shame of the world, &c. Their kinds of punishments, although they were divers, yet the manner of constancy in all these martyrs was one. And yet notwithstanding the sharpness of these so many and sundry torments, and like cruelties of the tormentors, yet such was the number of these constant saints that suffered, or rather such was the power of the Lord in his saints, that there is no day in the whole year unto which the number of five thousand martyrs cannot be ascribed, except only the first day of January.