9. THE SEVENTH PERSECUTION UNDER DECIUS
Thus Philippus being slain, after him Decius invaded the crown about the year of our Lord two hundred and fifty; by whom was moved a terrible persecution against the Christians, which Orosius noteth to be the seventh persecution. The first occasion of this hatred and persecution of this tyrant, conceived against the Christians, was chiefly (as is before touched) because of the treasures of the emperor which were committed to Fabian the bishop.
This Fabian, first being a married man, (as Platin writeth,) was made bishop of Rome after Anterius above mentioned, by the miraculous appointment of God, which Eusebius doth thus describe in his sixth book. When the brethren (saith he) were together in the congregation about the election of their bishop, and had purposed among themselves upon the nomination of some noble and worthy personage of Rome, it chanced that Fabianus among others was there present, who of late before was newly come out of the country to inhabit in the city. This Fabian, (as is said,) thinking nothing less than of any such matter, there suddenly cometh a dove flying from above, and sitteth upon his head; where upon all the congregation being moved with one mind and one voice to choose him for their bishop, in the which function he remained the space of thirteen years, as Eusebius writeth; Damasus, Marianus, and Sabellicus say fourteen years, unto the time of Decius; who, whether for that Philippus had committed to him his treasures, or whether for the hatred he bare to Philippus, in the beginning of his reign, caused him to be put to death; sending out, moreover, his proclamation into all quarters, that all which professed the name of Christ should be slain.
To this Fabian be ascribed certain ordinances; as of consecrating new oil once every year, and burning the old; of accusations against bishops; of appealing to the see apostolic; of not marrying within the fifth degree; of communicating thrice a year; of offering every Sunday; with such other things more in his three epistles decretal: the which epistles, as by divers other evidences, may be sup posed to be untruly named upon him, giving no signification of any matter agreeing to that time; so do I find the most part of the third epistle, word for word, standing in the epistle of Sixtus the Third, which followed almost two hundred years after him; beside the unseemly doctrine also in the end of the said epistles contained, where he, contrary to the tenor of the gospel, applieth remission of sins (only due to the blood of Christ) unto the offerings of bread and wine by men and women every Sunday in the church.
To this Fabian wrote Origen, Of the Righteousness of his Faith; whereby is to be understood that he continued to the time of Decius; some say also, to the time of Gallus. Of this Origen partly mention is touched before, declaring how bold and fervent he was in the days of Severus in assisting, comforting, exhorting, and kissing the martyrs that were imprisoned and suffered for the name of Christ, with such danger of his own life, that had it not been the singular protection of God, he had been stoned to death many times of the heathen multitude. Such great concourse of men and women was daily at his house to be catechised and instructed in the Christian faith by him, that soldiers were hired of purpose to defend the place where he taught them. Again, such search sometime was set for him, that scarce any shifting of place or country could cover him. In whose laborious travails and affairs of the church, in teaching, writing, confuting, exhorting, and expounding, he continued about the space of fifty-two years, unto the time of Decius and Gallus. Divers and great persecutions he sustained, but especially under Decius, as testifieth Eusebius in his sixth book; declaring that for the doctrine of Christ he sustained bonds and torments in his body, rackings with bars of iron, dungeons, besides terrible threats of death and burning. All this he suffered in the persecution of Decius, as Eusebius recordeth of him, and maketh no relation of any further matter. But Suidas and Nicephorus following the same, saith further concerning him, that the said Origen, after divers and sundry other torments, which he manfully and constantly suffered for Christ, at length was brought to an altar, where a foul, filthy Ethiop was appointed to be, and there this option or choice was offered unto him, whether he would sacrifice to the idols, or have his body polluted with that foul and ugly Ethiop. Then Origen, (saith he,) who with a philosophical mind ever kept his chastity undefiled, much abhorring that filthy villany to be done to his body, condescended to their request: whereupon the judge, putting incense in his hand, caused him to set it to the fire upon the altar; for the which impiety he afterward was excommunicated of the church. Epiphanius writeth, that he being urged to sacrifice to idols, and taking the boughs in his hand, wherewith the heathen were wont to honour their gods, called upon the Christians to carry them in the honour of Christ. The which fact the church of Alexandria misliking removed him from their communion whereupon Origen, driven away with shame and sorrow out of Alexandria, went into Jewry, where being in Jerusalem among the congregation, and there requested of the priests and ministers (he being also a priest) to make some exhortation in the church, he refused a great while to do. At length, by importunate petition being constrained thereunto, he rose up, and turning the book, as though he would have expounded some place of the Scripture, he only read the verse of the forty-ninth Psalm, But God said to the sinner, Why dost thou preach my justifications, and why dost thou take my testament in thy mouth? &c. Which verse being read, he shut the book, and sat down weeping and wailing, the whole congregation also weeping and lamenting with him. More what became of Origen it is not found in history, but only that Suidas addeth, he died and was buried at Tyrus. Eusebius affirmeth, that he departed unto the emperor Gallus, about the year of our Lord two hundred fifty and five, and the seventieth year of his age, in great misery (as appeareth) and poverty.
In this Origen divers blemishes of doctrine be noted, whereupon Hierom sometimes doth inveigh against him; albeit in some places again he doth extol and commend him for his excellent learning, as in his Apology against Ruffinus, and in his Epistle to Pammachius and Ocean, where he praiseth Origen, although not for the perfection of his faith and doctrine, nor for an apostle, yet for an excellent interpreter, for his wit, and for a philosopher: and yet in his Prologue upon the Homilies of Origen on Ezekiel, he calleth him another master of the churches after the apostles. And in another preface upon his Questions upon Genesis, he wisheth to himself the knowledge of the Scriptures which Origen had, also with the envy of his name. Athanasius moreover calleth him singular and laborious, and useth also his Testimonies against the Arians.
After Origen, the due order of history requireth next to speak of Heraclas his usher; a man singularly commended for his knowledge, not only in philosophy, but also in such faculties as to a Christian divine do appertain. This great towardness of wit and learning when Origen perceived in him, he appointed him above all others to be his usher or under-teacher, to help in his school or university of Alexandria, in the reign of Antoninus Caracalla, son of Severus. And after, in the tenth year of Alexander, Origen departing unto Cesarea, he succeeded in his room to govern the school in Alexandria. Further also, in the time of Gordianus, after the decease of Demetrius, bishop of Alexandria, this Heraclas succeeded to be bishop of the said city; in the which function he ministered the term of sixteen years. Of this Hereclas writeth Origen himself, that he, although being priest, yet ceased not to read over and peruse the books of the Gentiles, to the intent he might the better out of their own books confute their error, &c.
After Heraclas succeeded Dionysius Alexandrinus in the bishopric of Alexandria, like as he succeeded him in the school before; which Dionysius also writeth of the same Heraclas unto Philemon, a priest of Rome, thus saying, This canon and type I received of blessed Heraclas, our pope, &c. This Heraclas was no martyr, which died three years before Decius, about the year of our Lord two hundred and fifty. After whom succeeded next in the same seat of Alexandria Dionysius Alexandrinus, who also suffered much under the tyranny of Decius, as hereafter shall be showed, (Christ willing,) when we come to the time of Valerian.
Nicephorus in his first book, and others which write of this persecution under Decius, declare the horribleness thereof to be so great, and so innumerable martyrs to suffer in the same, that he saith it is as easy to number the sands of the sea, as to recite the particular names of them whom this persecution did devour. In the which persecution the chiefest doers and tormentors under the emperor appear in the history of Vincentius to be these:
Optimus the under-consul, Secundianus, Verianus, and Marcellianus, &c. Although therefore it be hard here to infer all and singular persons in order that died in this persecution, yet such as remain most notable in stories I will briefly touch by the grace of Him for whose cause they suffered.
In the former tractation of the first persecution, mention was made before of Alexander, bishop of Jerusalem, and of his troubles suffered under Severus, and how afterward by the miracle of God he was appointed bishop of Jerusalem, where he continued, a very aged man, above the term of forty years governor of that church, till the time of the first year of Decius, at what time he being brought from Jerusalem to Cesarea into the judgment place, after a constant and evident confession of his faith made before the judge, was committed unto prison, and there finished his life, as testifieth Dionysius Alexandrinus in the sixth book of Eusebius. After whom succeeded in that seat Mezabanes, the thirty and sixth bishop of that city after James the apostle.
Mention was made also before of Asclepiades, bishop of Antioch, who succeeded after Serapion, and in the persecution of Severus did likewise persevere a constant confessor, and, as Vincentius testifieth in his eleventh book, suffered martyrdom at last under this Decius. But this computation of Vincentius can in no wise agree with the truth of time: forsomuch as by probable writers, as Zonaras, Nicephorus, and others, the said Asclepiades after Serapion entered the bishop's seat of Antioch, in the year of our Lord two hundred and fourteen, and sat seven years before the time of Gordianus, after whom succeeded Philetus, in the year of our Lord two hundred twenty and one, governing the function twelve years. And after him Zebinus followed, in the year of our Lord two hundred thirty and two; and so after him Babylas; which Babylas, if he died in this persecution of Decius, then could not Asclepiades also suffer in the same time, who died so long before him, as is declared.
Of this Babylas, bishop of Antioch, Eusebius and Zonaras record, that under Decius he died in prison, as did Alexander, bishop of Jerusalem, above rehearsed.
We read in a certain treatise of Chrysostom, entitled Contra Gentiles, a notable and long history of one Babylas, a martyr, who about these times was put to death for resisting a certain emperor, not suffering him to enter into the temple of the Christians after a cruel murder committed, the story of which murder is this: There was a certain emperor, who, upon conclusion of peace made with a certain nation, had received for hostage or surety of peace the son of the king, being of young and tender age, with conditions upon the same, that neither he should be molested of them, nor that they should ever be vexed of him. Upon this, the king's son was delivered, not without great care and fear of the father, unto the emperor, whom the cruel emperor, contrary to promise, caused, in short time, without all just cause, to be slain. This fact so horrible being committed, the tyrant, with all haste, would enter into the temple of the Christians, where Babylas, being bishop or minister, withstood him that he should not approach into that place. The emperor, therewith not a little incensed, in great rage had him forthwith to be laid in prison with as many irons as he could bear, and from thence, shortly after, to be brought forth to death and execution. Babylas going constantly and boldly to his martyrdom, desired, after his death, to be buried with his irons and bands, and so he was. The story proceedeth, moreover, and saith, that in continuance of time, in the reign of Constantinus, Gallus, then made the overseer of the east parts, caused his body to be translated into the suburbs of Antioch, called Daphnes, where was a temple of Apollo, famous with devilish oracles and answers given by that idol, or by the devil rather, in that place. In the which temple, after the bringing of the body of Babylas, the idol ceased to give any more oracles, saying, that for the body of Babylas he could give no more answers, and complaining that that place was wont to be consecrated unto him, but now it was full of dead men's bodies. And thus the oracles there ceased for that time till the coming of Julianus, who, inquiring out the cause why the oracles ceased, caused the bones of the holy martyr to be removed again from thence by the Christians, whom he then called Galileans. They, coming in a great multitude, both men, maidens, and children. to the tomb of Babylas, transported his bones according to the commandment of the emperor, singing by the way as they went the seventh verse of the ninety-seventh Psalm in words as followeth: "Confounded be all they that serve graven images," &c. Which coming to the emperor's ear, set him in great rage against the Christians, stirring up persecution against them. Albeit Zonaras declareth the cause something otherwise. saying that so soon as the body of him and other martyrs were removed away, incontinent the temple of the idol with the image in the night was consumed with fire; for the which cause (saith Zonaras) Julian, stirred up with anger, persecuted the Christians, as shall be showed (Christ willing) in his order and place hereafter.
And thus much of Babylas, which whether it was the same Babylas, bishop then of Antioch, or an other of the same name, it appeareth not by Chrysostom, which neither maketh mention of the emperor's name, nor of the place where this Babylas was bishop. Again, the stopping of the emperor out of the church importeth as much as that emperor to have been a Christian; for otherwise, if he had come in as a heathen and as a persecutor, it was not then the manner of Christian bishops violently to withstand the emperors, or to stop them out. Over and beside the testimony of Eusebius, Zonaras doth witness contrary in his sixth book, that this Babylas, which was then bishop of Antioch after Zebinus, was not put to death by the tormentors, but died in prison; wherefore it is not impossible but this Babylas and this emperor which Chrysostom speaketh of may be another Bahylas than that which suffered under Decius. Nicephorus in his fifth book maketh mention of another Babylas beside this that suffered under Decius, which was bishop of Nicomedia.
In the forenamed city of Antioch. Vincentius speaketh of forty virgins martyrs which suffered in this persecution of Decius.
In the country of Phrygia, and in the town of Lampsar, the same Vincentius also speaketh of one Peter which there was apprehended, and suffered bitter torments for Christ's name, under Optimus the proconsul; and in Troada, likewise, of other martyrs that there suffered, whose names were Andrew, Paul, Nicomachus, and Dionysia, a virgin.
Also in Babylon (saith he) divers Christian confessors were found of Decius, which were led away into Spain, there to be executed.
In the country of Cappadocia, at the city of Cesarea, in like manner of the said author is testified, that Germanus, Theophilus, Cæsarius, and Vitalis suffered martyrdom for Christ; and in the same book mention is also made of Polychronius, bishop of Babylon; and in Pamphylia of Nestor, there bishop, that died martyr.
At Perside, in the town of Cardala, Olympiades and Maximus; in Tyrus also Anatolia, virgin, and Audax, gave their lives likewise to death for the testimony of Christ's name.
Eusebius, moreover, in his sixth book reciteth out of the Epistles of Dionysius Alexandrinus divers that suffered diversly at Alexandria; the which places of Dionysius, as they be cited in Eusebius, I thought here good, for the ancientness of the author, to insert and notify in his own words, and in our language, as he wrote them to Fabius, bishop of Antioch, as followeth.
This persecution (saith he) began not with the proclamation set forth by the emperor, but began a whole year before, by the occasion and means of a wicked person, a soothsayer, and a follower of wicked arts; who, coming to our city here, stirred up the multitude of the heathen against us, and incited them to maintain their own old superstition and gentility of their country; whereby they being set agog, and obtaining full power to prosecute their wicked purpose, so thought, and no less declared, all their piety and religion to consist only in the idolatrous worship of devils, and in our destruction. And first flying upon a certain priest of ours, named Metra, they apprehended him, and brought him forth to make him speak after their wicked blasphemy; which, when he would not do, they laid upon him with staves and clubs, and with sharp reeds pricked his face and eyes; and afterward bringing him out into the suburbs, there they stoned him to death. Then they took a faithful woman, called Quinta, and brought her to the temple of their idols, to compel her to worship with them; which when she refused to do, and abhorred their idols, they bound her feet, and drew her through the whole street of the city upon the hard stones; and so dashing her against millstones, and scourging her with whips, brought her to the same place of the suburbs as they did the other before, where she likewise ended her life. This done, in a great outrage, and with a multitude running together, they burst into houses of the religious and godly Christians, spoiling, sacking, and carrying away all that they could find of any price. The rest of things, such as were of less value and of wood, they brought into the open market and set them on fire. In the mean time, the brethren voided aside, and withdrew themselves, taking patiently and no less joyfully the spoiling of their goods, than did they of whom St. Paul doth testify; neither do I know any of them all (only excepted) apprehended of them which, revolting from his profession, denied the Lord yet to this present day.
Amongst the rest that there were taken, there was a certain virgin well stricken in years, named Apollinia, whom they brought forth, and dashing all her teeth out of her jaws, made a great fire before the city, threatening to cast her into the same, unless she would blaspheme with them and deny Christ; whereat she staying a little with herself, as one that would take a pause, suddenly leaped into the midst of the fire, and there was burned.
There was also one Serapion, whom they took in his own house; and after they had assailed him with sundry kinds of torments, and had broken almost all the joints of his body, they cast him down from an upper loft, and so did he complete his martyrdom. Thus was there no way, neither privy nor public, nor corner, nor alley, left for us, neither by day nor by night, to escape; all the people making an outcry against us, that unless we uttered words of blasphemy, we should be drawn to the fire and burned. And this outrageous tumult endured a certain space; but at length, as the Lord would, the miserable wretches fell at dissension among themselves, which turned the cruelty they exercised against us upon their own heads. And so had we a little breathing time for a season, while the fury of the heathen people by this occasion assuaged.
Shortly then after this word was brought unto us that the state of the empire, which before was something favourable to us, was altered and changed against us, putting us in great fear. And conse quently upon the same followed the edict of the emperor so terrible and cruel, that, according to the forewarning of the Lord, the elect (if it had been possible) might have been thereby subverted. Upon that edict such fear came over us all, that many there were, especially of the richer sort, of whom some for fear came running, some were led by the occasion of time, some were drawn by their neighbours being cited by name, to those impure and idolatrous sacrifices. Other some came trembling and shaking, as men not which should do sacrifice, but which should be sacrificed themselves, the multitude laughing them to scorn. Some again came boldly to the altars, declaring themselves never to have been of that profession, of whom it is said that hardly they shall be saved. Of the residue, some followed one part, some another; some ran away, some were taken; of whom certain continued to bands and torments constant; others again, after long imprisonment, before they should come before the judge, renounced their faith. Some also, after they suffered torments, yet after revolted. But others being as strong as blessed, and valiant pillars of the Lord's, fortified with constancy agreeing to their faith, were made faithful martyrs of the kingdom of God.
Of whom the first was Julianus, a man diseased with the gout, and not able to go, being carried of two men, of whom the one quickly denied; the other, Cronion, surnamed Eunus, with the foresaid Julianus the old man, confessing the Lord with a perfect faith, were laid upon camels, and there scourged, at length cast into the fire, and with great constancy were so consumed.
As these aforesaid were going to their martyrdom, there was a certain soldier, who in their defence took part against them that railed upon them. For the which cause the people crying out against him, he also was apprehended; and being constant in his profession, was forthwith beheaded.
Likewise one Macar, a man born in Libya, being admonished and exhorted of the judge to deny his faith, and not agreeing to his persuasions, was burned alive.
After these suffered Epimachus, and one Alexander, who being long detained in prison and in bands, after innumerable pains and torments with razors and scourges, were also cast into the burning fire, with four other women with them, which all there ended their martyrdom.
Also Ammonarion, a holy virgin, whom the cruel judge had long and bitterly tormented, for that she promising the judge before, that for no punishment she would yield to his request, and constantly performing the same, suffered likewise martyrdom with two other women, of whom there was an aged matron, named Mercuria; the other was called Dionysia, being a mother of many fair children, whom yet notwithstanding she loved not above the Lord. These, after they could not be overcome by any torments of the cruel judge, but he, rather ashamed and confounded to be overcome of silly women, at length being past feeling of all torments, were slain with the sword; first Ammonarion, like a valiant captain, suffering before them.
Heron, Ater, and Isidorus, Egyptians, and with them Dioscorus, also a child of fifteen years, were crowned with the same crown of martyrdom. And first the judge began with the child, thinking him more easy to be won with words to entice him, than with torments to constrain him; but he persisted immovable, giving neither place to persuasions nor punishments. The rest, after he had grievously tormented them, being constant in their profession, he committed to the fire. The judge greatly marvelling at Dioscorus, for his wise answers and grave constancy, dismissed him, sparing (as he said) his age to a longer respite; which Dioscorus is yet also with us at this present, waiting for a long trial.
Nemesion, being also an Egyptian, first was accused for a companion of thieves; but being purged thereof before the centurion, was then accused of Christianity, and for that cause being in bands, was brought to the president; who most unrighteously tormenting and scourging him double to all other thieves and felons, at length among the thieves burned him to death, making him a blessed martyr.
There were standing before the tribunal seat certain of the warriors or knights, whose names were Ammon, Zenon, Ptolomeus, Jngenuus, and with them a certain aged man, called Theophilus, who standing by at what time a certain Christian man was before the judge examined, and there seeing him for fear ready to decline and fall away, did burst almost for sorrow within themselves, making signs to him with their hands, and all gestures of their body, to be constant. This being noted of all the standers-by, they were ready to lay hold upon them; but they preventing the matter, pressed up of their own accord before to the bench of the judge, professing themselves to be Christians. Insomuch that both the president with the benchers were all astonished, the Christians which were judged more imboldened to suffer, and the judges thereby terrified. This done, they departed away from the place, glad and rejoicing for the testimony that they had given of their faith. Many other besides were in other cities and towns rent and torn asunder by the heathen, among whom one I will speak of, for cause worthy of memory.
Ischirion, one that was in service with a certain nobleman, was commanded of his master to make sacrifice, who for not obeying was therefore rebuked; after persisting in the same, was grievously threatened with sharp and menacing words. At last his master, when he could not prevail against him, taking a stake or pike in his hands, ran him through in the body and slew him.
What shall I speak of the multitude of them which, wandering in deserts and mountains, were consumed with hunger, thirst, cold, sickness, thieves, or wild beasts, of whose blessed victory they which be alive are yet witnesses; in the number of whom one I will speak of, among divers others, named Cheremon, bishop of the city called Nilus, an aged man: he with his wife, flying to the mountain of Arabia, never returned again, nor ever could be seen after; and though they were sought for diligently by their brethren, yet neither they nor their bodies were found. Many others there were which, flying to these mountains of Arabia, were taken of the barbarous Arabians; of whom some with much money could scarce be ransomed, some were never heard of yet to this present day. Thus much out of the Epistles of Dionysius in Eusebius.
Moreover, the foresaid Dionysius in another place writing to Germanus of his own dangers, and of others, sustained in this persecution, and before this persecution of Decius, thus inferreth as followeth: I, (saith he,) behold, before the sight of God, I lie not, and he knoweth I lie not, how that I having no regard of mine own life, and not without the motion of God, did fly and avoid the danger of this persecution. Yea, and also before that this persecution of Decius did rage against us, Sabinus the same hour sent a farmer to seek me, at what time I remaining at home waited three days for his coming. But he searching narrowly for me by all ways, fields, floods, and corners, where he thought I might best have hid myself or have passed by, was stricken with such blindness, that he could not find my house, thinking with himself nothing less than that I would abide at home in such and so dangerous persecution. Thus these three days being past, upon the fourth day, the Lord God so willing and commanding me to fly, and also marvellously opening to me the way, I, with my children, and many other brethren, went out together. And this not to come of myself, but to be the work of God's providence, the sequel of those things declared, wherein afterward I was not unprofitable peradventure to some, &c.
Again, in another place, shortly after, the aforesaid Dionysius, proceeding in the narration of himself, thus inferreth: Then I coming to Jerusalem with them which were with me, was brought by soldiers unto Taposixis, whereas Timotheus (by the providence of God) neither was present, nor yet taken; who then returning home, found his house desert, and officers watching about the same, and us within taken, &c. And again, shortly after, it followeth: And to see (saith he) the admirable disposing of God's works, as Timotheous was thus flying with much haste and great fear, a certain man, as happened, a dweller near by, met him by the way, and asked whither he went so hastily; to whom Timotheus answering, declared all the matter simply as it was. Which done, the man proceedeth on his journey, whither he was purposed to go, which was to a marriage; the manner of which marriages then was to sit up all the night long feasting and drinking. Thus, as he was come, sitting with them at the feast, he telleth his companions what was done, and what he heard by the way. This was no sooner told, but all they forth with upon a head, as stricken with a sudden fury, rushing out together, made toward us as fast as they could, with such crying and noise as might seem very terrible. At the first hearing whereof, the soldiers that had us in keeping being afraid, ran away, by reason whereof we were left alone, and found as we were lying upon forms and benches, I then (the Lord knoweth) thinking with myself that they had been thieves, which came to spoil and rob, being in my couch, lay still in my shirt only as I was, the rest of my garments lying by me I offered to them: they then willed me in all haste to rise and get away, whereby I then, perceiving the cause of their coming, cried unto them, desiring that they would suffer us so to do; and if they would do any benefit for me, forsomuch as I could not escape the hands of them which would pursue me and carry me away, I prayed them that they would prevent them, and cut off my head before. And as I was crying thus unto them, casting myself grovelling upon the pavement, as my companions can testify, who were partakers of all these things, they burst forth violently, taking me by the hands and feet, and carried me out of the doors, and led me away. There followed me Gaius, Faustus, Petrus, Paulus, (who were witnesses of all the same,) which brought me also out of the city, and so setting me upon a bare ass, conveyed me away. Thus much writeth Dionysius of himself, the example of whose epistle is cited in the ecclesiastical story of Eusebius.
Nicephorus, in his first book, cap. 27, maketh
mention of one named Christophorus, which also suffered in this persecution of Decius. Of which Christophorus, whether the fable riseth of that mighty giant set up in churches, wading through the seas with Christ on his shoulder, and a tree in his hand for a walking staff, &c., it is uncertain. Georgius Wicelius allegeth out of Ruggerus Fuldens., and mentioneth of one Christophorus, born of the nation of Canaanites, which suffered under Decius, being, as he saith, of twelve cubits high. But the rest of the history painted in churches the said Wicelius derideth as fables of Centaurus, or other poetical fictions.
Bergomensis, in his eighth book, maketh relation of divers martyred under Decius; as Meniatus, which suffered at Florence; of Agatha, a holy virgin of Sicily, who is said to suffer divers and bitter torments under Quintilianus, the proconsul, with prisonment, with beatings, with famine, with racking, rolled also upon sharp shells and hot coals, having, moreover, her breasts cut from her body, as Bergomensis and the martyrology of Ado record. In the which authors, as I deny not but that the rest of the story may be true, so again, concerning the miracles of the aged man appearing to her, and of the young man clothed in a silken vesture, with a hundred young men after him, and of the marble table with the inscription, I doubt.
Illustration -- Christians Wandering in the Wilderness
Hard it is to recite all that suffered in this persecution, whenas whole multitudes went in to wildernesses and mountains, wandering without succour or comfort; some starved with hunger and cold, some with sickness consumed, some devoured of beasts, some with barbarous thieves taken and carried away. Vincentius, in his eleventh book, speaking of Asclepiades, writeth also of forty virgins and martyrs which, by sundry kinds of torments, were put to death about the same time, in the persecution of this tyrant.
Likewise in the said Vincentius mention is made of Triphon, a man of great holiness, and constant in his suffering, who, being brought to the city of Nice, before the president Aquilus, for his constant confession of Christ's name, was afflicted with divers and grievous torments, and at length with the sword put to death.
At what time Decius had erected a temple in the midst of the city of Ephesus, compelling all that were in the city there to sacrifice to the idols, seven Christians were found, whose names were Maximianus, Malchus, Martianus, Dionysius, Joannes, Serapion, and Constantinus, who, refusing the idolatrous worship, were accused for the same unto the emperor to be Christians. Which, when they constantly professed and did not deny, notwithstanding, because they were soldiers, retaining to the emperor's service, respite was given them for a certain space to deliberate with themselves, till the return again of the emperor, which then was going to war. In the mean space, the emperor being departed, they taking counsel together, went and hid themselves in secret caves of the Mount Celius. The emperor returning again, after great inquisition made for them, hearing where they were, caused the mouth of the place where they were to be closed up with heaps of stones, that they, not able to get out, should be famished within. And thus were those good men martyred. The story (if it be true) goeth further, that they, between fear and sorrow, fell asleep, in which sleep they continued the space of certain ages after, till the time of Theodosius the emperor, before they did awake, as reporteth Vincentius, Nicephorus, and partly also Henricus Erfordiens. But of their awaking, that I refer to them that list to believe it. Certain it is that at the last day they shall awake indeed without any fable.
Hieronymus, in the Life of Paulus the hermit, reciteth a story of a certain soldier, whom when the pretor could not otherwise with torments remove from his Christianity, he devised another way, which was this: he commanded the soldier to be laid upon a soft bed in a pleasant garden among the flourishing lilies and red roses; which done, all others being removed away, and himself there left alone, a beautiful harlot came to him, who embraced him, and with all other incitements of a harlot laboured to provoke him to her naughtiness. But the godly soldier fearing God more than obeying flesh, bit off his own tongue with his teeth, and spit it in the face of the harlot, as she was kissing him; and so got he the victory, by the constant grace of the Lord assisting him.
Another like example of singular chastity is written of the virgin Theodora, and another soldier. At Antioch, this Theodora refusing to do sacrifice to the idols, was condemned by the judge to the stews, and notwithstanding, by the singular providence of God, was well delivered. For as there was a great company of wanton young men ready at the door to press into the house where she was, one of the brethren named Didymus, (as Ado saith,) moved with faith and motion of God, putting on a soldier's habit, made himself one of the first that came in, who rounding her in the ear told her the cause and purpose of his coming, being a Christian as she was: his counsel was, that she should put on the soldier's habit, and so slip away; and he putting on her garments would there remain to abide their force, and so did, whereby the virgin escaped unknown. Didymus, left unto the rage and wondering of the people, being a man instead of a woman, was presented unto the president, unto whom without delay he uttered all the whole matter as it was done, professing him, so as he was, to be a Christian, and thereupon was condemned to suffer. Theodora, understanding thereof, and thinking to excuse him by accusing herself, offered herself as the party guilty unto the judge, claiming and requiring the condemnation to light upon her, the other, as innocent, to be discharged. But the cruel judge, (crueller than Dionysius, which spared Damon and Pithias,) neither considering the virtue of the persons, nor the innocency of the cause, unjustly and inhumanly proceeded in execution against them both, who, first having their heads cut off, after were cast into the fire. Although what time or in what persecution these did suffer, in the authors of this narration it doth not appear.
Agathon, a man of arms in the city of Alexandria, for rebuking certain lewd persons scornfully deriding the dead bodies of the Christians, was cried out of and railed on of the people, and afterward, accused to the judge, was condemned to lose his head.
The said Erfordiensis also maketh mention of Paulus, Andreas, whom the proconsul of Troada gave to the people; who being scourged, and after drawn out of the city, were trodden to death with the feet of the people.
Among others that suffered under this wicked Decius, Bergomensis also maketh mention of one Justinus, a priest of Rome, and of another Nicostratus, a deacon. To these Vincentius also addeth Portius, a priest of Rome, whom he reporteth to be the converter of Philip the emperor afore mentioned.
Of Abdon and Sennas we read also in the foresaid Bergomensis and Vincentius, two noble men, who, because they had buried the Christians, whom Decius had brought from Babylon to Corduba, and there put them to death, were therefore accused to Decius, and brought to Rome; where they, being commanded to sacrifice to dead idols, would not obey, and for the same were given to the wild beasts to be devoured; but when the wild beasts, more gentle than the men, would not touch them, they were at length with the sword beheaded. Albeit to me it seemeth not impossible nor unlike this Abdon and Sennas to be the same whom in other stories we find, and before have mentioned, to be Ammon and Zenon.
One Secundianus was accused to Valerian, a captain of Decius, to be a Christian, which profession, when he stoutly did maintain, he was commanded to prison. By the way, as the soldiers were leading him to the gaol, Verianus and Marcellianus seeing the matter cried to the soldiers, asking them whither they drew the innocent. At the which word, when they also confessed themselves to be Christians, they were likewise apprehended, and brought to a city named Centumcellas; where being willed to sacrifice, they did spit upon the idols, and so after sentence and judgment given, first they were beaten with wasters or truncheons, after that hanged and tormented upon the gibbet, having fire set to their sides. Vincentius addeth, moreover, that some of the tormentors falling suddenly dead, other some being taken with wicked spirits, the martyrs with the sword at length were beheaded.
To prosecute in length of history the lives and sufferings of all them which in this terrible persecution were martyred, it were too long, and almost infinite; briefly therefore to rehearse the names of such as we find alleged out of a certain brief treatise of Bede, entitled De Temporibus, cited by Henricus de Erford., it shall be at this time sufficient. Under Decius suffered Hippolitus and Concordia, Hiereneus and Abundus, Victoria, a virgin, being noble personages of Antioch; Bellias, bishop of the city of Apollonia; Leacus, Tirsus, and Gallinetus, Nazanzo, Triphon, in the city of Egypt called Tamas; Phileas, bishop, Philocornus, with many other in Perside; Philcronius, bishop of Babylon, Thesiphon, bishop of Parnphylia, Nestor, bishop in Corduba, Parmenius, priest, with divers more. In the province called Colonia, Circensis, Marianus, and Jacobus. In Africa, Nemesianus, Felix, Rogatianus, priest, Felicissitnus. At Rome, Jovinus, Basileus, also Ruffina and Secunda, vir gins, Tertullianus, Valerianus, Nemesius, Sem pronianus, and Olympius. In Spain, Teragon. At Verona, Zeno, bishop at Cesarea, Marinus and Archemius. In the town of Milan, Privatus, bishop, Theodorus, surnamed Gregorius, bishop of Pontus.
Vincentius, in his eleventh book, maketh mention, citing of certain children suffering martyrdom under the same persecution, in a city of Tuscia, called Aretium, whose names I find not, except they be Pergentius and Laurentius, mentioned in Equiliqus.
Now that I have recorded sufficiently of them who under this tempest of Decius constantly gave their lives to martyrdom for the testimony of Christ, it remaineth that a few words also be spoken of such as for fear or frailty in this persecution did shrink and slide from the truth of their confession. In the number of whom first cometh in the remembrance of Serapion an aged old man. Of whom writeth Dionysius Alexandrinus unto Fabius, declaring that this Serapion was an old man, which lived amongst them a sincere and upright life of long time, but at length fell. This Serapion oft and many times desired to be received again; but no man listened to him, for he had sacrificed before. After this, not long after, he fell into sickness, where he remained three days dumb and benumbed of all senses. The fourth day following, beginning a little to recover, he called to him his sister's son, and said, How long, how long (my son) do ye hold me here? make haste, I pray you, that I were absolved. Call hither some of the ministers to me; and so, saying no more, held his peace, as dumb and speechless. The boy ran (it was then night) unto the minister, who, at the same time being sick, could not come with the messenger; but said, for so much as he willed heretofore, (as he said,) that such as lay a dying, if they covet to be received and reconciled, and especially if they required it earnestly, should be admitted, whereby with the better hope and confidence they may depart hence; therefore he gave to the boy a little of the eucharist, willing him to crumble it into the cup, and so to drop it into the mouth of the old man. With this the boy returned, bringing with him the holy eucharist. As he was now near at hand, before he had entered in, Serapion, the old man, speaking again, Comest thou, (said he,) my son? The priest, quoth the messenger, is sick and cannot come; but do as he willeth you, and let me go. And the boy immixed the eucharist, and dropped it in softly into the mouth of the old man, who after he had tasted a little immediately gave up the ghost, &c.
In the city of Troad, as the proconsul was grievously tormenting one Nicomachus, he cried out that he was no Christian, and so was let down again. And after, when he had sacrificed, he was taken speedily with a wicked spirit, and so thrown down upon the ground, where he, biting off his tongue with his teeth, so departed.
Dionysius in his epistles also writing to Fabius, and lamenting the great terror of this persecution, declareth how that many worthy and notable Christians, for fear and horror of the great tyranny thereof, did show themselves feeble and weak men. Of whom some for dread, some of their own accord, others after great torments suffered, yet after revolted from the constancy of their profession. Also St. Cyprian, in his treatise De Lapsis, reciteth with great sorrow, and testifieth how that a great number at the first threatening of the adversary, neither being compelled nor thrown down with any violence of the enemy, but of their voluntary weakness fell down themselves. Neither (saith he) tarrying while the judge should put incense in their hands, but before any stroke stricken in the field, turned their backs and played the cowards; not only coming to their sacrifices, but preventing the same, and pretending to come without compulsion, bringing moreover their infants and children either put into their hands, or taking them with them of their own accord, and exhorting moreover others to do the like after their example.
Of this weakness and falling the said author showeth two causes; either love of their goods and patrimony, or fear of torments; and addeth, moreover, examples of the punishments of them which revolted, affirming that many of them were taken and vexed with wicked spirits; and that one man among other, after his voluntary denial, was suddenly struck dumb. Again, another, after his abjuration, as he should communicate with others, instead of bread received ashes in his hand. Item, a certain maiden being taken and vexed with a spirit, did tear her own tongue with her teeth, and, tormented with pain in her belly and inward parts, so deceased.
Amongst others of this sort St. Cyprian maketh also mention of one Guaristus, a bishop in Africa, who leaving his charge, and making shipwreck of his faith, went wandering about in other countries, forsaking his own flock. In like manner, he maketh also mention of Nicostratus, a deacon, who forsaking his deaconship, and taking the goods of the church with him, fled away into other countries, &c, Albeit Bergomensis affirmeth that this Nicostratus the deacon afterward died a martyr. Thus then, although some did relent, yet a very great number (saith he) there was whom neither fear could remove, nor pain could overthrow, to cause them to betray their confession; but they stood like glorious martyrs unto the end.
The same Cyprian also, in another book, On Mortality, reciteth a notable story of one of his own colleagues and fellow priests, who being oppressed with weakness, and greatly afraid with death drawing at hand, desired leave to depart, and to be discharged. As he was thus entreating, and almost now dying, there appeared by him a young man, of an honourable and reverend majesty, of a tall stature, and comely behaviour, so bright and clear to behold, that scarce man's carnal eyes were able so to do, which was now ready to depart this world. To whom this young man, speaking with a certain indignation of mind and voice, thus said, To suffer ye dare not, to go out ye will not; what would ye have me to do unto you?
Upon the occasion of these and such others, which were a great number, that fell and did renounce, as is aforesaid, in this persecution of Decius, rose up first the quarrel and heresy of Novatus, who in these days made a great disturbance in the church, holding this opinion, that they which once renounced the faith, and, for fear of torments, had offered incense to the idols, although they repented therefore, yet could not afterward be reconciled, nor admitted to the church of Christ. This Novatus being first priest under Cyprian, at Carthage, afterward, by stirring up discord and factions, began to disturb the bishopric of Cyprian, to appoint there a deacon called Felicissimus, against the bishop's mind or knowledge; also to allure and separate certain of the brethren from the bishop. After this, the said Novatus going to Rome, kept there the like stir with Cornelius; setting himself up as bishop of Rome against Cornelius, which was the lawful bishop of Rome before. The which to bring to pass he used this practice. First he had allured to him, to be his adherents, three or four good men and holy confessors, which had suffered before great torments for their confession, whose names, were Maximus, Urbanus, Sidonius, and Celerinus. After this he enticed three simple bishops about the coasts of Italy to repair to Rome, under pretence to make an end of certain controversies then in hand. This done, he caused the same, whether by making them drunk, or by other crafty counsel, to lay their hands upon him, and to make him bishop; and so they did. Wherefore the one of those three bishops hardly was received to the communion, by the great intercession of his people; the other two by discipline of the church were displaced from their bishoprics, and others possessed with their rooms. Thus then were there two bishops together in one church of Rome, Novatus and Cornelius, which was unseemly, and contrary to the discipline of the church. And hereupon riseth the true cause and meaning of St. Cyprian writing in his Epistles so much of one bishop, and of the unity to be kept in ecclesiastical regiment. And in like sort writeth also Cornelius himself of one bishop, saying he knew not that there ought to be one bishop in a catholic church, &c. This by the way, not out of the way, I trust, I have touched briefly, to detect or refute the cavilling wresting of the papists, which falsely apply these places of Cyprian and Cornelius to maintain the pope's supreme mastership alone, over the whole universal church of Christ in all places, when their meaning is otherwise, how that every one catholic church or diocess ought to have one bishop over it, not that the whole world ought to be subject to the dominion of him only that is bishop of Rome. Now to the story again. Novatus being thus bishop, took not a little upon him; going about by all means to defeat Cornelius, and to allure the people from him. Insomuch that (as in the foresaid book of Eusebius appeareth) when Novatus came to the distributing of the offerings, and should give every man his part, he compelled the simple persons every man to swear, before they should receive of the benediction, and of the collects or oblations, holding both their hands in his, and holding them so long, speaking these words unto them, "Swear to me, by the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, that thou wilt not leave me and go to Cornelius," till that they, swearing unto him, instead of Amen, (to be said at the receiving of the bread,) should answer, I will not return to Cornelius, &c. Where note by the way, that the Latin book of Christoferson's translation, in this place, craftily leaveth out the name of bread. This story being written in Eusebius, also contained in Nicephorus, although
not in the same order of words, yet in effect drawn out of him, doth declare, in plain words, in both the authors, (whoso will mark the same,) that the sacrament of the body of Christ is termed with the plain name of bread, after the consecration.
It followeth more in the story, that Maximus, Urbanus, Sidonius, and Celerinus, before mentioned, perceiving at length the crafty dissimulation and arrogancy of Novatus, left him, and with great repentance returned again to the church, and were reconciled to Cornelius, as they themselves, writing to Cyprian, and Cyprian likewise writing to them an epistle gratulatory, doth declare; and Cornelius also in his epistle to Fabius witnesseth the same. In this epistle the said Cornelius, moreover, writeth of one Moses, a worthy martyr, which once being also a follower of Novatus, after perceiving his wickedness, forsook him, and did excommunicate him. Of him Cyprian also maketh mention, and calleth him a blessed confessor. Damasus in his pontifical saith that he was apprehended with Maximus and Nicostratus above mentioned, and was put with them in prison, where he ended his life. And thus much of Novatus, against whom (as Eusebius testifieth) a synod was holden at Rome of threescore sundry bishops in the time of Cornelius, and under the reign of Decius; whereby it may be supposed that the heat of the persecution at that time was somewhat calmed.
After Fabianus (or, as Zonaras calleth him, Flavianus) next succeeded into the bishopric of Rome, Cornelius, whom Cyprian noteth to be a worthy bishop, and for his great virtue and maidenly continency much commendable; chosen to that room not so much by his own consent, as by the full agreement, both of the clergymen, and also of the people. Hierom addeth also that he was a man of great eloquence; whereby it may appear those two epistles decretal, which go in his name, not to be his, both for the rudeness of the barbarous and gross style, and also for the matter therein contained, nothing tasting of that time, nor of that age, nor doings then of the church. Whereof in the first he writeth to all ministers and brethren of the church, concerning the lifting up of the bodies and bones of Peter and Paul, and transposed to Vaticanum, at the instance of a certain devout woman named Lucina; having no great argument or cause to write thereof unto the churches, but only that he in that letter doth desire them to pray unto the Lord, that through the intercession of those apostolical saints their sins might be forgiven them, &c. In the second epistle written to Ruffus, a bishop of the east church, he decreeth and ordaineth that no oath ought to be required or exacted of any head or chief bishop, for any cause, or by any power. Also that no cause of priests or ministers ought to be handled in any strange or foreign court without his precinct, except only in the court of Rome by appellation; whereby who seeth not the train of our later bishops, going about craftily to advance the dignity pf the court of Rome, under and by the pretensded title of Cornelius, and of ancient bishops? If Cornelius did write any epistles to any indeed in those turbulent times of persecution, no doubt but some signification thereof he would have touched in the said his letters, either in ministering consolation to his brethren, or in requiring consolation and prayers of others. Neither is there any doubt but he would have given some touch also of the matter of Novatus, with whom he had so much to do, as indeed he did; for so we find it recorded both in Eusebius and in Hierom, that he wrote unto Fabius, bishop of Antioch, of the decreements of the Council of Rome, and another letter of the manner of the Council, the third also of the cause of Novatus, and again of the repentance of such as fell, whereof there is no word touched at all in these foresaid epistles decretal.
What trouble this Cornelius had with Novatus sufficiently is before signified. In this persecution of Decius, he demeaned himself very constantly and faithfully, which sustained great conflicts with the adversaries, as St. Cyprian giveth witness. Hierom testifieth that he remained bishop after the death of Decius to the time of Gallus. But Damasus and Sabellicus, his followers, affirm that he was both exiled and also martyred under the tyrannous reign of Decius. Of whom Sabellicus writeth this story, taken out (as it seemeth) of Damasus, and saith, That Cornelius, by the commandment of Decius, was banished to a town called Centumeellas, bordering on Hetruria, from whence he sent his letters to Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, and Cyprian again to him. This coming to the ears of Decius the emperor, he sendeth for Cornelius, asking him how he durst be so bold to show such stubbornness, that he, neither caring for the gods, nor fearing the displeasure of his prince, durst against the commonwealth give and receive letters from others? To whom Cornelius answering again, thus purged himself, declaring to the emperor that letters indeed he had written, and received again, concerning the praises and honouring of Christ, and the salvation of souls, but nothing as touching any matter of the commonwealth. And it followeth in the story, Then Decius, moved with anger, commanded him to be beaten with plumbats, (which, as saith Sabellicus, is a kind of scourging,) and so to be brought to the temple of Mars, either there to do sacrifice, or to suffer the extremity. But he, rather willing to die than to commit such iniquity, prepared himself to martyrdom, being sure that he should die. And so commending the charge of the church unto Stephanus his archdeacon, was brought to the way of Appius, where he ended his life in faithful martyrdom. Eusebius in one place saith that he sat two years, in another place he saith that he sat three years, and so doth Marianus Scotus, following also the diversity of the said Eusebius. Damasus giveth him only two years.
In this foresaid persecution of Decius, it seemeth by some writers also that Cyprian was banished; but I suppose rather his banishment to be referred to the reign of Gallus, next emperor after Decius, whereof more shall be said (Christ willing) in his place hereafter. In the mean time, the said Cyprian in his second book maketh mention of two that suffered, either in the time of this Decius, or much about the same time. Of whom one was Aurelius, a worthy and valiant young man, who was twice in torments for his confession, which he never denied, but manfully and boldly withstood the adversary till he was banished, and also after; and therefore was commended of Cyprian to certain brethren to have him for their lecturer, as in the forenamed epistle of Cyprian appeareth. The other was named Mappalicus, who in the day before he suffered, declaring to the proconsul in the midst of his torments, and saying, To-morrow you shall see the running for a wager, &c., was brought forth, according as he forespoke, to martyrdom, and there with no less constancy than patience did suffer.
And thus much of the tyranny of this wicked Decius against God's saints. Now to touch also the power of God's vengeance and punishment against him. Like as we see commonly a tempest that is vehement not long to continue; so it happened with this tyrannical tormentor, who reigning but two years, as saith Eusebius, or three at most, as writeth Orosius, among the middle of the barbarians, with whom he did war, was there slain with his son. Like as he had slain Philippus and his son, his predecessors, before, so was he with his son slain by the righteous judgment of God himself. Eusebius affirmeth that he, warring against the Gotthians, and being by them overcome, lest he should fall into their hands, ran into a whirlpit, where he was drowned, and his body never found after.
Neither did the just hand of God plague the emperor only, but also revenged as well the heathen Gentiles and persecutors of his word throughout all provinces and dominions of the Roman monarchy; amongst whom the Lord immediately after the death of Decius, sent such a plague and pestilence, lasting for the space of ten years together, that horrible it is to hear, and almost incredible to believe. Of this plague or pestilence testifieth Dionysius to Hierax, a bishop in Egypt, where he declareth the mortality of this plague to be so great in Alexandria, where he was bishop, that there was no house in the whole city free. And although the greatness of the plague touched also the Christians somewhat, yet it scourged the heathen idolaters much more; beside that the order of their behaviour in the one and in the other was much diverse. For, as the foresaid Dionysius doth record, the Christians, through brotherly love and piety, did not refuse one to visit and comfort another, and to minister to him what need required, notwithstanding it was to them great danger; for divers there were who, in closing up their eyes, in washing their bodies, and interring them in the ground, were next themselves which followed them to their graves. Yet all this stayed not them from doing their duty, and showing mercy one to another; whereas the Gentiles, contrarily, being extremely visited by the hand of God, felt the plague, but considered not the striker, neither yet considered they their neighbour; but every man shifting for himself neither cared one for another; but such as were infected, some they would cast out of the doors half dead to be devoured of dogs and wild beasts, some they let die within their houses without all succour, some they suffered to lie unburied, for that no man durst come near them: and yet notwithstanding, for all their voiding and shifting, the pestilence followed them whithersoever they went, and miserably consumed them. Insomuch that Dionysius, bishop the same time of Alexandria, thus reporteth of his own city: that such a mortality was then among them, that the said city of Alexandria had not in number so many of all together, both old and young, as it was wont to contain before of the old men only from the age of threescore to seventy, and as were found in time past commonly almost in that city. Pomponius Letus and other Latin writers also making mention of the said pestilence, declare how the beginning thereof first came (as they think) out of ethiope, and from the hot countries, and so invading and wasting first the south parts, from thence spread into the east; and so further running and increasing into all other quarters of the world, especially wheresoever the edicts of the emperor went against the Christians, it followed after and consumed the most part of the inhabitants, whereby many places became desolate and void of all concourse, and so continued the term of ten years together.
This pestiferous mortality (by the occasion whereof Cyprian took the ground to write his book On Mortality) began, as is said, immediately after the death of Decius the persecutor, in the beginning of the reign of Vibias Gallus, and Volusianus his son, who succeeded through treason next unto Decius, about the year of our Lord two hundred fifty and one, and continued their reign but two years.
This Gallus, although the first beginning of his reign was something quiet, yet shortly after following the steps of Decius, by whom rather he should have taken better heed, set forth edicts in like manner for the persecution of Christians, albeit in this edict we find no number of martyrs to have suffered, but only all this persecution to rest only in the exilement of bishops or guides of the flock. Of other sufferings or executions we do not read, for the terrible pestilence following immediately, kept the barbarous heathen otherwise occupied. Unto this time of Gallus, rather than to the time of Decius, I refer the banishment of Cyprian, who was then bishop of Carthage; of the which banishment he himself testifieth in divers of his epistles, declaring the cause thereof to rise upon a commotion or sedition among the people, out of the which he withdrew himself, lest the sedition should grow greater; notwithstanding the said Cyprian, though being absent, yet had no less care of his flock, and of the whole church, than if he had been present with them, and therefore never ceased in his epistles continually to exhort and call upon them to be constant in their profession, and patient in their afflictions. Amongst divers others whom he doth comfort in his banishment, although he was in that case to be comforted himself, writing to certain that were condemned to mining for metals, whose names were Nemesianus, Felix, Lucius, with other bishops, priests, and deacons, he declareth unto them, "How it is no shame, but a glory, not to be feared, but to be rejoiced at, to suffer banishment or other pains for Christ; and confirming them in the same, or rather commending them, signifieth how worthily they do show themselves to be as valiant captains of virtue, provoking both by the confessions of their mouth, and by the suffering of their bodies, the hearts of the brethren to Christian martyrdom, whose example was and is a great confirmation to many, both maids and children, to follow the like. As for punishment and suffering, it is (saith he) a thing not execrable to a Christian; for a Christian man's breast, whose hope doth wholly consist in the tree, dreadeth neither bat nor club. Wounds and scars of the body be ornaments to a Christian man, such as bring no shame nor dishonesty to the party, but rather preferreth and freeth him with the Lord. And although in the mines where the metals be digged there be no beds for Christian men's bodies to take their rest, yet they have their rest in Christ; and though their weary bones lie upon the cold ground, yet it is no pain to lie with Christ. Their feet have been fettered with bands and chains, but happily he is bound of man whom the Lord Christ doth loose: happily doth he lie tied in the stocks, whose feet thereby are made swifter to run to heaven. Neither can any man tie a Christian so fast, but he runneth so much the faster for his garland of life. They have no garments to save them from cold, but he that putteth on Christ is sufficiently coated. Doth bread lack to their hungry bodies? But man liveth not only by bread, but by every word proceeding from the mouth of God. Your deformity (saith he) shall be turned to honour, your mourning to joy, your pain to pleasure and felicity infinite. And if this do grieve you, that ye cannot now employ your sacrifices and oblations after your wonted manner, yet your daily sacrifice ceaseth not, which is a contrite and humble heart, as when you offer up daily your bodies a lively and a glorious sacrifice unto the Lord, which is the sacrifice that pleaseth God. And though your travail be great, yet is the reward greater, which is most certain to follow; for God beholding and looking down upon them that confess his name, in their willing mind approveth them, in their striving helpeth them, in their victory crowneth them; rewarding that in us which he hath performed, and crowning that which he hath in us perfected. With these and such-like comfortable words he doth animate his brethren, admonishing them that they are now in a joyful journey, hasting apace to the mansions of the martyrs, there to enjoy after this darkness a stable light and brightness greater than all their passions, according to the apostle's saying, "These sufferings of this present time be nothing like comparable to the brightness of the glory that shall be revealed in us," &c.
And after the like words of sweet comfort and consolation, writing to Seagrius and Rogatianus, which were in prison and bonds for the testimony of truth, doth encourage them to "continue stedfast and patient in the way wherein they have begun to run; for that they have the Lord with them their helper and defender, who promiseth to be with us to the world's end; and therefore willeth them to set before their eyes in their death immortality, in their pain everlasting glory; of the which it is written, 'Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.' Item, although before men they suffered torments, yet their hope is full of immortality; and being vexed in small things, they shall be well requited in great matters; for the Lord hath tried them as gold in the fire. And writeth moreover, admonishing them that it is appointed from the beginning of the world, that righteousness here should suffer in secular conflicts; for so just Abel was slain in the beginning of the world, and after him all just and good men; the prophets also, and the apostles sent of the Lord himself; unto whom all the Lord first gave an example in himself, teaching that there is no coming to his kingdom but by that way which he entered himself, saying by these words, 'He that loveth his life in this world shall lose it,' &c. And again, 'Fear ye not them that slay the body, but have no power to slay the soul.' And St. Paul likewise admonishing all them whosoever covet to be partakers of the promises of the Lord to follow the Lord, saith, If we suffer together with him, we shall reign together," &c.
Furthermore, as the same Cyprian doth encourage here the holy martyrs which were in captivity to persist, so likewise, writing to the priests and deacons which were free, he exhorteth them to be serviceable and obsequious with all care and love, to cherish and embrace them that were in bonds. Cyprian, lib. iii. epist. 6. Whereby may appear the fervent zeal and care of this good bishop toward the church of Christ, although being now in exile in the time of this emperor Gallus.
In the same time, and under the said Gallus, reigning with his son Volusianus, was also Lucius, bishop of Rome, sent to banishment, who next succeeded after Cornelius in that bishopric, about the year of our Lord two hundred fifty and three. Albeit in this banishment he did not long continue, but returned home to his church, as by the epistle of St. Cyprian may appear. As to all other bishops of Rome in those primitive days, certain decretal epistles, with several ordinances, be ascribed, bearing their names and titles, as hath been before declared; so also hath Lucius one epistle fathered upon him, in the which epistle he, writing to the brethren of France and of Spain, appointeth such an order and form of the church as seemeth not to agree with the time then present; for so he declareth in that epistle, that a bishop in all places, whithersoever he goeth, should have two priests with three deacons waiting upon him, to be witnesses of all his ways and doings. Which ordinance, although I deny not but it may be and is convenient, yet I see not how that time of Lucius could serve then for a bishop to carry such a pomp of priests and deacons about him, or to study for any such matter; forsomuch as bishops commonly in those days were seldom free to go abroad, went they never so secret, but either were in houses close and secret, or in prison, or else in banishment. Moreover, in the said epistle, how pompously writeth he to the church of Rome! "This holy and apostolical Church of Rome, (saith he,) the mother of all churches of Christ, by the grace of God omnipotent, hath never been proved to swerve out of the path of apostolical tradition, neither hath ever fallen or been depraved with heretical innovations; but even as in the first beginning it received the rule of the apostolical faith by his first instructors, the princes of the apostles, so it continueth ever immaculate and undefiled unto the end."
Unto this Lucius also is referred in the decrees of Gratian this constitution, that no minister whatsoever after his ordination would at any time re-enter into the chamber of his own wife in pain of losing his ministry in the church, &c. Eusebius in his seventh book making mention of the death of Lucius, and not of his martyrdom, saith that he sat but eight months; but Damasus in his Martyrology holdeth that he sat three years, and was beheaded the second year of Valerian and Galienus, emperors; and so doth also Marianus Scotus and Nauclerus, with other that follow Damasus, affirm the same.
After him came Stephanus, next bishop of Rome following Lucius, whom Damasus, Platina, and Sabellicus affirm to have sat seven years and five months, and to die a martyr. Contrary, Eusebius and Volatennus, holding with him, give him but two years: which part cometh most near to the truth I leave to the reader's judgment. Of his two epistles decretal, and of his ordinances out of the same collected, I need not much to say for two respects; either for that concerning these decretal epistles suspiciously entitled to the names of the fathers of the primitive church sufficiently hath been said before; or else because both the phrase barbarous and incongruous, and also the matter itself therein contained, is such, that, although no testimony came against it, yet it easily refelleth itself. As where in the second epistle he decreeth, "That no bishop being expulsed out of his seat, or deprived of his goods, ought to be accused of any, or is bound to answer for himself, before that by the law regularly he be restored again fully to his former state, and that the primates and the synod render unto him again all such possessions and fruits as were taken from him before his accusation, as is agreeing both to the laws canon and also secular." First, here I would desire the reader a little to stay, and this to consider with himself, who be these here meant which either used or might despoil these bishops of their goods, and expel them from their seats for such wrongful causes, but only kings and emperors, which at this time were not yet christened, nor used any such proceedings against these bishops, in such sort as either primates or synods could restore them again to their places and possessions. Again, what private goods or possessions had bishops then to be taken from them, whenas churches yet neither were endowed with patrimonies nor possessions? And if any treasures were committed to the church, it pertained not properly to the bishop, but went in general to the subvention of the poor in the church, as in the epistle of Cornelius to Fabius may appear, alleged in Eusebius, where he, speaking of his church, and declaring how there ought to be but one bishop in the same, inferreth mention of forty and six priests, seven deacons, with seven subdeacons, forty-two Acoluthes, of widows and poor afflicted persons to the number of fifteen hundred and above, found and nourished in the same by the merciful benignity and providence of God. It followeth more in the end of the said canon, "Which thing is forbidden both by the laws ecclesiastical, and also secular," &c. Now what laws secular were in the time of Stephen for bishops not to be charged with any accusation before they were restored again to their state, let any reader, marking well the state of the heathen laws that then were, judge; and in judging I doubt not but this matter alone, though there were no other, will be enough to descry the untruth hereof.
Moreover, by divers other probable notes and ar guments in the said second epistle of Stephanus, it may be easily espied this epistle to be feigned and misauthorized, especially by the fifth canon of the said epistle, where he so solemnly treateth of the difference between primates, metropolitans, and archbishops; which distinction of degrees and titles, savouring more of ambition than of persecution, giveth me verily to suppose this epistle not to be written by this Stephen, but by some other man either of that name, or of some other time when the church began to be settled in more prosperity, and orders therein to be taken, for every man to know his degree and limits of his authority, according as is specified by the sixth and seventh canon of the Nicene Council, decreeing of the same matter.
The like estimation may be conceived also of the seventh canon of the said epistle, where he willeth and appointeth all causes judiciary to be decided and determined within the precinct of their own proper province, and not to pass over the bounds thereof, unless (saith he) the appeal be made to the apostolical see of Rome; which savoureth in my nose rather of a smack of popery, than of the vein of Christianity, especially in these times, during this terrible persecution among the bishops of Christ. And thus much of the second decretal epistle of Stephanus, although of the first epistle also, written to Hilarius, something may be said; as where he speaketh in the said epistle of holy vestments, and holy vessels, and other ornaments of the altar serving to Divine worship, and therefore not to be touched nor handled of any man, saving of priests alone. Concerning all which implements my opinion is this; I think the Church of Rome not to have been in so good state then, that either Stephanus, or Sixtus before him, being occupied about other more earnest matters, and scarce able to hide their own heads, had any mind or cogitation to study upon such unnecessary inventions serving in public churches; neither do I see how the heathen in those days would have suffered these ornaments to be unconsumed, which would not suffer the bishops themselves to live amongst them, notwithstanding Isidorus and Polydorus judge the contrary. Between this Stephanus and Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, was a great contention about rebaptizing of heretics, whereof more hereafter (Christ willing) shall be said.
Besides these bishops above specified, divers other there were also sent into banishment under the forenamed emperors Gallus and Volusianus, as appeareth by Dionysius writing to Hermannus on this wise: That Gallus, not seeing the evil of Decius, nor foreseeing the occasion of his seduction and ruin, stumbled himself also at the same stone, lying open before his eyes; for when at the first beginning his empire went prosperously forward, and alI things went luckily with him, afterward he drave out holy men, which prayed for his peace and safeguard, and so with them rejected also the prayers which they made for him. Otherwise, of any bloodshed or any martyrs that in the time of this emperor were put to death, we do not read.
After the reign of which emperor Gallus and of his son Volusianus being expired, (who reigned but two years,) Emilianus, which slew them both by civil sedition, succeeded in their place, who reigned but three months, and was also slain. Next to whom Valerianus and his son Galienus were advanced to the empire.
About the changing of these emperors the persecution which first began at Decius, and afterward slacked in the time of Gallus, was now extinguished for a time, partly for the great plague reigning in all places, partly by the change of the emperors, although it was not very long. For Valerianus in the first entrance of the empire, for the space of three or four years, was right courteous and gentle to the people of God, and well accepted of the senate. Neither was there any of all the emperors before him, no, not of them which openly professed Christ, that showed himself so loving and familiar toward the Christians as he did; insomuch that (as Dionysius writing to Herman doth testify) all his whole court was replenished with holy saints, and
servants of Christ and godly persons, so that his house might seem to be made a church of God. But by the malice of Satan, through wicked counsel, these quiet days endured not very long. For in process of time this Valerian being charmed or incensed by a certain Egyptian, a chief ruler of the heathen synagogue of the Egyptians, a master of the charmers or enchanters, who indeed was troubled for that he could not do his magical feats for the Christians, was so far infatuated and bewitched, that through the detestable provocations of that devilish Egyptian, he was wholly turned unto abominable idols, and to execrable impiety, in sacrificing young infants, and quartering bodies, and dividing the entrails of children new born; and so, proceeding in his fury, he moved the eighth persecution against the Christians, whom the wicked Egyptian could not abide, as being the hinderers and destroyers of his magical enchantings, about the year of our Lord two hundred fifty and nine.