4. THE SECOND PERSECUTION UNDER DOMITIAN
The first Roman persecution beginning under Nero, as is aforesaid, ceased under Vespasianus, who gave some rest to the poor Christians. After whose reign was moved, not long after, the second persecution by the emperor Domitian, brother of Titus. Of whom Eusebius and Orosius so write, that he first beginning mildly, afterward did so far outrage in pride intolerable, that he commanded himself to be worshipped as God, and that images of gold and silver in his hon our should be set up in Capitolio. The chiefest nobles of the senators, either upon envy, or for their goods, he caused to be put to death, some openly, and some he sent into banishment, there causing them to be slain privily.
And as his tyranny was unmeasurable, so the intemperancy of his life was no less. He put to death all the nephews of Jude, called the Lord's brother, and caused to be sought out and to be slain all that could be found of the stock of David, (as Vespasian also did before him,) for fear lest he were yet to come of the house of David which should enjoy the kingdom. In the time of this persecution, Simeon, bishop of Jerusalem, after other torments, was crucified to death, whom Justus afterward succeeded in that bishopric.
In this persecution John the apostle and evangelist was exiled by the said Domitianus into Patmos. Of whom divers and sundry memorable acts be reported in sundry chronicles. As, first, how he was put in a vessel of boiling oil by the proconsul of Ephesus. The legend and Perionius say it was done at Rome. Isidorus also writing of him, and comprehending many things in few words, declareth that he turned certain places of wood into gold, and stones by the sea-side into margarites, to satisfy the desire of two, whom he had before persuaded to renounce their riches; and afterward they repenting that for worldly treasure they had lost heaven, for their sakes again he changed the same into their former substance. Also how he raised up a widow and a certain young man from death to life; how he drank poison and it hurt him not, raising also to life two which had drunk the same before. These and such other miracles, although they may be true, and are found in Isidorus, and other writers more, yet because they are no articles of our Christian belief, I let them pass, and only content myself with that which I read in Eusebius, declaring of him in this wise: that in the fourteenth year after Nero, in the second persecution, in the days of Domitian, John was banished into Patmos for the testimony of the word, in the year fourscore and twelve. And after the death of the aforesaid Domitian, he being slain, and his acts repealed by the senate, John was again released under Pertinax the emperor, and came to Ephesus in the year one hundred; where he continued until the time of Trajanus, and there governed the churches in Asia; where also he wrote his Gospel, and so lived till the year after the passion of our Lord threescore and eight, which was the year of his age one hundred and twenty.
Moreover, in the aforesaid ecclesiastical history of Eusebius, we read that John the apostle and evangelist, whom the Lord did love, was in Asia, where he being returned out of Patmos, after the death of Domitian, governed the churches and congregations. Irenæus in his second book thus writeth: And of him all the elders do witness, which were with John the disciple of the Lord in Asia, that he spake and wrote these things, &c.; for there he continued with them unto the time of Trajanus, &c. Also the said Irenæus in like words declareth, saying, The church of the Ephesians being first founded by Paul, afterward being confirmed of John, (who continued in the same city unto the time of Trajanus the emperor,) is a true Witness of this apostolical tradition, &c. Clemens Alexandrinus moreover noteth both the time of this holy apostle, and also addeth to the same a certain history of him, not unworthy to be remembered of such which delight in things honest and profitable. Of the which history Sozomenus also in his commentaries maketh mention. The words of the author setting forth this history be these: Hear a fable, and not a fable, but a true report, which is told us of John the apostle, delivered and commended to our remembrance.
After the death of the tyrant, when John was returned to Ephesus, from the Isle of Patmos, he was desired to resort to the places bordering near unto him, partly to constitute bishops, partly to dispose the causes and matters of the church, partly to ordain and set such of the clergy in office whom the Holy Ghost should elect. Whereupon, when he was come to a certain city not far off, the name of which also many do yet remember, and had among other things comforted the brethren, he, looking more earnestly upon him which was the chief bishop among them, beheld a young man mighty in body, and of beautiful countenance, and of a fervent mind: I commend this man (saith he) to thee with great diligence, in witness here of Christ and of the church.
When the bishop had received of him this charge, and had promised his faithful diligence therein; again, the second time John spake unto him, and desired him in like manner and contestation as before. This done, John returned again to Ephesus. The bishop receiving the young man commended and committed to his charge, brought him home, kept him, and nourished him, and at length also did illuminate (that is, he baptized) him, and in short time through his diligence brought him into such order and towardness, that be committed unto him the oversight of a certain cure in the Lord's behalf. The young man thus having more his liberty, it chanced that certain of his companions and old familiars being idle, dissolute, and accustomed of old time to wickedness, did join in company with him, who first brought him to sumptuous and riotous banquets; then incited him forth with them in the night to rob and steal; after that he was allured by them unto greater mischief and wickedness. Where in by custom of time, by little and little, he being more practised, and being of a good wit and a stout courage, like unto a wild or an unbroken horse, leaving the right way, and running at large without bridle, was carried headlong to the profundity of all misorder and outrage. And thus, being past all hope of grace, utterly forgetting and rejecting the wholesome doctrine of salvation, which he had learned before, began to set his mind upon no small matters. And forasmuch as he was entered so far in the way of perdition, he cared not how much farther he proceeded in the same. And so, associating unto him the company of his companions and fellow thieves, took upon him to be as head and captain among them in committing all kind of murder and felony.
In the mean time, it chanced that of necessity John was sent for to those quarters again, and came. The causes being decided, and his business ended for the which he came, by the way meeting with the bishop afore specified, he requireth of him the pledge, which in the witness of Christ and of the Congregation then present he left in his hands to keep. The bishop, something amazed at the words of John, supposing he had meant of some money Committed to his Custody which he had not received, (and yet durst not mistrust John, nor contrary his words,) could not tell what to answer. Then John perceiving his doubting, and uttering his mind more plainly, The young man, (saith he,) and the soul of our brother committed to your custody, I do require. Then the bishop with a loud voice sorrowing and weeping said, He is dead, To whom John said, How, and by what death? The other said, He is dead to God; for he is become an evil man and pernicious; to be brief, a thief; and now he doth frequent this mountain with a company of villains and thieves like unto himself against the church. But the apostle rent his garments, and with a great lamentation said, I have left a good keeper of my brother's soul; get me a horse, and let me have a guide with me; which being done, his horse and man procured, he hasted from the church as much as he could, and coming to the same place, was taken of thieves that watched. But he, neither flying nor refusing, said, I came for this same cause hither; lead me, said he, to your captain. So he being brought, the captain, all armed, fiercely began to look upon him; and eftsoons coming to the knowledge of him, was stricken with confusion and shame, and began to fly. But the old man followed him as much as he might, forgetting his age, and crying, My son, why dost thou fly from thy father? an armed man from one naked, a young man from an old man? Have pity on me, my son, and fear not, for there is yet hope of salvation; I will make answer for thee unto Christ; I will die for thee, if need be; as Christ hath died for us, I will give my life for thee; believe me, Christ hath sent me. He hearing these things, first as in a maze stood still, and therewith his courage was abated. After that he had cast down his weapons, by and by he trembled, yea, and wept bitterly; and coming to the old man, embraced him, and spake unto him with weeping, (as well as he could,) being even then baptized afresh with tears, only his right hand being hid and covered. Then the apostle, after that he had promised and firmly ascertained him that he should obtain remission of our Saviour, and also prayed, falling down upon his knees, and kissed his murdering right hand, which for shame he durst not show before, as now purged through repentance, brought him to the congregation. And when he had prayed for him with continual prayer and daily fastings, and had comforted and confirmed his mind with many sentences, went not from him (as the author reported) before he had restored him to the congregation again, and made him a great example and trial of regeneration, and a token of the visible resurrection.
Moreover, the aforesaid Irenæus and Eusebius, prosecuting the history of John, declare in these words, saying, that there were certain which heard Polycarpus say, that John the disciple of our Lord, going into Ephesus to be washed, seeing Cerinthus within, he leaped out of the bath unbathed, because he feared the bath should have fallen, seeing that Cerinthus an enemy to the truth was within. Such fear had the apostles, (saith Irenæus,) that they would not communicate a word with them that adulterate the truth.
In this persecution, besides these afore mentioned, and many other innumerable godly martyrs, suffering for the like testimony of the Lord Jesus, was Flavia the daughter of Flavius Clemens, one of the Roman consuls; which Flavia, with many others, was banished out of Rome into the isle Pontia, for the testimony of the Lord Jesus, by the emperor Domitianus.
This Domitianus feared the coming of Christ as Herod did, and therefore commanded them to be killed which were of the stock of David in Jewry. There were remaining alive at that time certain of the Lord's kindred, which were the nephews of Jude, that was called the Lord's brother after the flesh. These, when the lieutenant of Jewry had brought up to Domitian to be slain, the emperor demanded of them whether they were of the stock of David; which when they had granted, he asked again what possessions and what substance they had. They answered, that they both had no more between them in all but nine and thirty acres of ground; and how they got their living, and sustained their families, with the hard labours of their hands, showing forth their hands unto the emperor, being hard and rough, worn with labours, to witness that to be true which they had spoken. Then the emperor, inquiring of them concerning the kingdom of Christ, what manner of kingdom it was, how and when it should appear; they answered that his kingdom was no worldly nor terrene thing, but a heavenly and angelical kingdom, and that it should appear in the consummation and end of the world, what time he coming in glory should judge the quick and the dead, and render to every one according to his deservings. Domitian the emperor hearing this, (as the saying is,) did not condemn them; but despising them as vile persons let them go, and also staid the persecution then moved against the Christians. They, being thus discharged and dismissed, afterward had the government of churches, being taken for martyrs, and as of the Lord's stock, and so continued in good peace till the time of Trajanus.
By this story here recited may appear what were the causes why the emperors of the Roman monarchy did so persecute the Christians; which causes were chiefly these: fear and hatred. First, fear, for that the emperors and senate, of blind ignorance, not knowing the manner of Christ's kingdom, feared and misdoubted lest the same would subvert their empire (like as the pope thinketh now that this gospel will overthrow his kingdom of majesty); and therefore sought they all means possible, how, by death and all kinds of torments, utterly to extinguish the name and memory of the Christians. And thereupon seemeth to spring the old law of the Roman senate, That the Christians should not be let go which were once brought to the judgment-seat, except they changed their purpose. Secondly, hatred, partly for that this world, of his own natural condition, hath ever hated and maliced the people of God, from the first beginning of the world. Partly, again, for that the Christians, being of a contrary nature and religion, serving only the true living God, despised their false gods, spake against their idolatrous worshippings, and many times stopped the power of Satan working in their idols; and therefore Satan, the prince of this world, stirred up the Roman princes and blind idolaters to bear the more hatred and spite against them.
Upon these causes, and such like, rose up these malicious slanders, false surmises, infamous lies, and slanderous accusations of the heathen idolaters against the Christian servants of God, which incited the princes of this world the more to persecute them; for what crimes soever malice could invent, or rash suspicion could minister, that was imputed to the Christians; as that they were a people incestuous, that in the night in their concourses, putting out their candles, they ran together in all filthy manner, that they killed their own children, that they used to eat man's flesh, that they were seditious and rebellious, that they would not swear by the fortune and prosperity of Cæsar, that they would not adore the image of Cæsar in the market-place, that they were pernicious to the empire of Rome. Briefly, whatsoever mishappened to the city or provinces of Rome, either famine, pestilence, earthquake, wars, wonders, unseasonableness of weather, or what other evils soever happened, it was imputed to the Christians, as Justinus recordeth. Over and beside all these, a great occasion that stirred up the emperors against the Christians came by one Publius Tarquinius, the chief prelate of the idolatrous sacrifices, and Mamertinus, the chief governor of the city in the time of Trajanus; who partly with money, partly with sinister and pestilent counsel, partly with infamous acccusations, (as witnesseth Nauclerus,) incensed the mind of the emperor so much against God's people.
Also among these other causes above said, crept in some piece of covetousness withal, (as in all other things it doth,) in that the wicked promoters and accusers, for lucre' sake, to have the possessions of the Christians, were the more ready to accuse them to have the spoil of their goods.
Thus hast thou, (Christian reader,) first, the causes declared of these persecutions; secondly, the cruel law of their condemnation; thirdly, now hear more what was the form of inquisition, which was (as is witnessed in the second apology of Justinus) to this effect: that they should swear to declare the truth, whether they were in very deed Christians or not:
and if they confessed, then by the law the sentence of death proceeded.
Neither yet were these tyrants and organs of Satan thus contented with death only, to bereave the life from the body. The kinds of death were divers, and no less horrible than divers. Whatsoever the cruelness of man's invention could devise for the punishment of man's body was practised against the Christians, as partly I have mentioned before, and more appeareth by the epistle sent from the brethren of France hereafter following: Crafty trains, outeries of enemies, imprisonment, stripes and scourgings, drawings, tearings, stonings, plates of iron laid unto them burning hot, deep dungeons, racks, strangling in prisons, the teeth of wild beasts, gridirons, gibbets and gallows, tossing upon the horns of bulls: moreover, when they were thus killed, their bodies were laid in heaps, and dogs there left to keep them, that no man might come to bury them; neither would any prayer obtain them to be interred and buried.
And yet, notwithstanding for all these continual persecutions and horrible punishments, the church of the Christians daily increased, deeply rooted in the doctrine of the apostles, and of men apostolical, and watered plenteously with the blood of saints. Whereof let us hear the worthy testimony of Justinus Martyr in his Dialogue with Tripheus. And that none (saith he) can terrify or remove us which believe in Jesus, by this it daily appeareth; for when we are slain, crucified, cast to wild beasts, into the fire, or given to other torments, yet we go not from our confession: but, contrary, the more cruelty and slaughter is wrought against us, the more they be that come to piety and faith by the name of Jesus; no otherwise than if a man cut the vine tree, the better the branches grow. For the vine tree, planted by God and Christ our Saviour, is his people.
To comprehend the names and number of all the martyrs that suffered in all these ten persecutions, (which are innumerable,) as it is impossible, so it is hard in such a variety and diversity of matter to keep such a perfect order and course of years and times, that either some be not left out, or that every one be reduced into hitright place, especially seeing the authors themselves, whom in this present work we follow, do diversly disagree, both in the times, in the names, and also in the kind of martyrdom of them that suffered. As, for example, where the common reading and opinion of the church and epistles decretal do take Anacletus to succeed after Clement, next before Euaristus; contrary, Eusebius, making no mention of Cletus, but of Anacletus, saith that Euaristus succeeded next to Clement. Likewise Ruffinus and Epiphanius, speaking nothing of Anacletus, make mention of Linus and of Cletus next before Clement, but say nothing of Anacletus; whereby it may appear that Cletus and Anacletus were both one. Sabellicus speaketh of Linus and of Cletus, and saith that they were ordained helpers under Peter, while he laboured in his apostleship abroad; and so saith also Marianus Scotus: contrary, Irenæus speaketh of Anacletus, making no mention of Cletus. Whereby it may appear, by the way, what credit is to be given to the decretal epistles, whom all the later histories of the pope's church do follow on this behalf, &c. Moreover, where Antoninus, Vincentius, Jacobus, Simoneta, Aloisius, with others, declare of Linus, Cletus, Clement, Anacletus, Euaristus, Alexander, bishops of Rome, that they died martyrs; Eusebius, in his ecclesiastical history, writing of them, maketh thereof no mention.
And, first, as touching Clement, (whom Marianus Scotus calleth the first bishop of Rome after Peter,) they say that he was sent out into banishment of Trajanus, beyond Ponticus, with two thousand Christians, where he opened a well-spring to them which in the wilderness were condemned to the mines. Afterward, being accused to the emperor, he was thrown into the sea with a millstone fastened about his neck, and not long after his body was cast up and buried (as Platina saith) at the place where the well was made. Some say it was found first in the days of Pope Nicholas the First. But forasmuch as I find of his martyrdom no firm relation in the ancient authors, but only in such new writers of later times which are wont to paint out the lives and histories of good men with feigned additions of forged miracles; therefore I count the same of less credit, as I do also certain decretal epistles untruly (as may seem) ascribed and entitled to his name. Eusebius in his third book, writing of Clement, giveth no more of him but thus: After he had governed the church of Rome nine years, the said Clement left the succession thereof to Euaristus.
Of which Euaristus, next bishop of Rome, thus we find in Irenæus: Peter and Paul (saith he) committed the charge of that church to Linus; after whom came Anacletus; then succeeded Clemens; next to Clemens followed Euaristus; after whom came Alexander; and then Sixtus, the sixth bishop of Rome after the apostles; after Sixtus sat Telesphorus; then Higinus, then Pius, then Anicetus; and when Soter took the place after him, then the twelfth bishop of Rome was Eleutherius. Thus after Clement followed (as is said) Euaristus in the second or third year of Trajanus, as saith Eusebius; or, as Nicephorus saith, the fourth year of the said emperor. But howsoever the count of years standeth, little or nothing remaineth of the acts and monu ments either of this or of other bishops of Rome in those days. Whereby it may appear that no great account was then made of Roman bishops in those days, whose acts and deeds were then either so lightly reputed, or so slenderly committed to history. Notwithstanding, certain decretal epistles are remaining, or rather thrust upon us in their names, containing in them little substance of any doctrine, but altogether stuffed with laws, injunctions, and stately decrees, little to the purpose, and less savouring of the nature of that time then present. Amongst whom also are numbered the two epistles of this Euaristus.
And when he had given these orders, and had made six priests, two deacons, and five bishops for sundry places, (saith the story,) he suffered martyrdom. But what kind of death, for what cause he suffered, what constancy he showed, what was the order or conversation of his life, is nothing touched, and seemeth therefore the more to be doubted that which our new histories do say; because the old ancient writers have no remembrance thereof, which otherwise would not have passed such things over in silence, if they had been true. Again, neither do the authors fully agree in the time of his martyrdom, which Nauclerus witnesseth to be in the last year of Trajanus; but Platina thinketh rather that he suffered under Hadrianus. Fascicul. Temporum referreth it to the third year of Hadrian; Volateranus to the beginning of the reign of Hadrian. Contrary, Eusebius coming near to the simple truth, (as seemeth,) doth affirm that Euaristus succeeded Clement in the third year of Trajanus, and so giving to him nine years, it should follow thereby that Euaristus deceased the twelfth year of Trajanus.
After whom succeeded next Alexander in the governance of that church, of whose time and death the like discrepance is among the writers. Marianus Scotus saith he was the fourth bishop from Peter; but that could not be. Some say he was the sixth, and some the seventh; but they likewise were deceived; for the most part all do grant Sixtus to be the sixth. Damasus affirmeth that he was in the reign of Trajan: and how can that be, when the said Damasus affirmed before that Euaristus's predecessor suffered in the last year of Trajan, and then the bishopric stood at least a month void, except he mean that the said Alexander succeeded Euaristus in the last year of Trajanus? But then how can that stand with Bede and Marianus Scotus, which say that he suffered under Trajanus? or with Otho Frisingensis, which saith he suffered the fourth year of Hadrian, when he had been bishop ten years by the general consent of most writers?
They which write of the deeds and doings of this blessed bishop, as Bergomensis Antoninus, Equilinus, and such as follow them, declare that he had converted a great part of the senators to the faith of Christ, amongst whom was Hermes, a great man in Rome, whose son being dead Alexander raised again to life, and likewise restored sight to his maid being blind. Hadrian the emperor, then absent, hearing this, sent word to Aurelianus, governor of Rome, to apprehend Alexander, with Euentius and Theodulus, otherwise called Theodorus, as Platina saith, his two deacons, and Hermes, and to commit them to ward with Quirinus the tribune: which being done, as their story recordeth, Alexander, enclosed in a diverse prison from Hermes, notwithstanding, by the guiding of an angel through three doors with three locks apiece, was brought with candle-light to the lodging of Hermes; and so returning to the prison again cured the daughter of Quirinus his keeper, named Balbina; by reason whereof the said Quirinus, with his whole household, were all baptized, and suffered also for the faith of Christ.
Thus, then, (saith the story,) about the second year of Hadrian, Aurelianus the ruler took Alexander the bishop, with Hermes, his wife, children, and his whole household, to the number of one thousand two hundred and fifty, and threw them in prison. And not long after the said Alexander, with Euentius his deacon, and Hermes, and the rest were burned in a furnace. Theodulus, another deacon of Alexander, seeing and rebuking the cruelty of the tyrant, suffered also the same martyrdom.
Quirinus also the same time, (as saith Antoninus,) having first his tongue cut out, then his hands and feet, aftervard was beheaded and cast to the dogs: Equilinus saith that he was beheaded and cast into Tiber in the reign of the emperor Claudius; but that cannot be: albeit Platina maketh relation but only of Alexander with his two deacons aforesaid, declaring, moreover, that in the time of this bishop Saphira of Antioch, and Sabina a Roman, suffered martyrdom.
Florilegus, the author of Flores Historiarum, affirmeth that Alexander bishop of Rome was beheaded seven miles out of Rome, (where he lieth buried,) in the year one hundred and five; but that agreeth not with the chronicles above recited. Eusebius recordeth of him no more, but that in the third year of Hadrian he ended his life and office, after he had been bishop ten years.
Divers miracles are reported of this Alexander, in the canon legends, and lives of saints; which as I deny not but they may be true, so because I cannot avouch them by any grave testimony of ancient writers, therefore I dare not affirm them, but do refer them to the authors and patrons thereof, where they are found. Notwithstanding, whatsoever is to be thought of his miracles, this is to be affirmed and not doubted, but that he was a godly and virtuous bishop.
And as I say of his miracles, the like judgment also I have of the ordinances both of him and of Euaristus his predecessor, testified in the pope's decrees by Gratianus, where is said that Euaristus divided divers titles in the city of Rome to the priests, also ordained in every city seven deacons to associate and assist the bishop in his preaching, both for his defence, and for the witness of truth. Notwithstanding, if probable conjectures might stand against the authority of Gratianus and his decrees, here might be doubted whether this absolute ordination of priests was first forbidden by Euaristus, and whether the intitulation of priests was first by him brought in or not; wherein an instance may be given to the contrary, that this intitulation seemeth to take his first beginning at the council of Chalcedon, and of Pope Urban in the council of Placentia. In the which council of Chalcedon the words of the canon (making no mention of Euaristus at all) do expressly forbid, that any ecclesiastical person, either priest or deacon, should be ordained absolutely; otherwise the imposition of hands, without some proper title of the party ordained, to stand void and frustrate, &c. And likewise Urbanus in the council of Placentia doth decree the same, alleging no name of Euaristus, but the statutes of former councils.
Moreover, in the time of Euaristus, the church, then being under terrible persecutions, was divided into no peculiar parishes or cures, whereby any title might rise, but was scattered rather in corners and deserts, where they could best hide themselves. And
as the Church of Rome in those days was not divided into several parishes or cures, (as I suppose,) so neither was then any such open or solemn preaching in churches, that the assistance or testimony of seven deacons either could avail among the multitude of the heathen, or else needed amongst the Christian secret congregations. Again, the constitution of seven deacons seemeth rather to spring out of the council of Neocesarea long after Euaristus, where it was appointed that in every city, were it never so small, there should be seven deacons after the rule. And this rule the said council taketh out of the book of the Acts of the Apostles, making no word or mention of Euaristus at all. But these (as is said) be but only conjectures, not denying that which is commonly received, but only showing what may be doubted in their epistles decretal.
More unlike it seemeth to be true that is recorded and reported of Alexander, that he should be the first founder and finder of holy water mixed with salt, to purge and sanctify them upon whom it is sprinkled.