12. THE PERSECUTION UNDER LICINIUS
This Licinius being a Dane born, and made first Cæsar by Galerius, as is above specified, was afterward joined with Constantine in government of the empire, and in setting forth the edicts which before we have described; although it seemeth all this to be done of him with a dissembling mind. For so is he in all histories described to be a man passing all others in desire of unsatiable riches, given to lechery, hasty, stubborn, and furious. To learning he was such an enemy, that he named the same a poison and a common pestilence, and especially the knowledge of the laws. He thought no vice worse became a prince than learning, because he himself was unlearned.
There was between him and Constantine in the beginning great familiarity, and such agreement, that Constantine gave unto him his sister Constantia in matrimony, as Aurelius Victor writeth. Neither would any man have thought him to have been of any other religion than Constantine was of, he seemed in all things so well to agree with him. Whereupon he made a decree with Constantine in the behalf of the Christians, as we have showed. And such was Licinius in the beginning; but after arming himself with tyranny, began to conspire against the person of Constantine, of whom he had received so great benefits; neither favourable to the law of nature, nor mindful of his oaths, his blood, nor promises. But when he considered that in his conspiracies he nothing prevailed, for that he saw Constantine was preserved and safely defended of God, and partly being puffed up with the victory against Maximinus, he began vehemently to hate him, and not only to reject the Christian religion, but also deadly to hate the same. He said he would become an enemy unto the Christians, for that in their assemblies and meetings they prayed not for him, but for Constantine. Therefore, first, by little and little, and that secretly, he went about to wrong and hurt the Christians, and banished them his court, which never were by any means prejudicial to his kingdom. Then he commanded that all those should be deprived which were knights of the honourable order, unless they would do sacrifice to devils. The same persecution afterward stretched he from his court into all his provinces, which, with most wicked and devised laws, he set forth. First, that for no cause the bishops should in any matter communicate together; neither that any man should come at the churches next unto them, or to call any assemblies, and consult for the necessary matters and utility of the church.
After, that the men and women together should not come in companies to pray, nor that the women should come in those places where they used to preach and read the word of God; neither that they should be after that instructed any more of the bishops, but should choose out such women amongst them as should instruct them. The third most cruel and wickedest of all was, that none should help and succour those that were cast in prison, nor should bestow any alms or charity upon them, though they should die for hunger; and they which showed any compassion upon those that were condemned to death should be as greatly punished as they to whom they showed the same should be. These were the most horrible constitutions of Licinius, which went beyond and passed the bounds of nature.
After this he used violence against the bishops, but yet not openly, for fear of Constantine, but privily and by conspiracy; by which means he slew those that were the worthiest men amongst the doctors and prelates. And about Amasea and other cities of Pontus he razed the churches even with the ground. Other some he shut up, that no man should come after their accustomed manner to pray and worship God; and therefore, as we said before, his conscience accusing him, all this he did, for that he suspected they prayed for Constantine, and not at all for him. And from this place in the east parts to the Libyans, which bordered upon the Egyptians, the Christians durst not assemble and come together for the displeasure of Licinius which he had conceived against them.URTHERMORE, the flattering officers that were under him, thinking by this means to please him, slew and made out of the way many bishops, and without any cause put them to death, as though they had been homicides and heinous offenders; and such rigour used they towards some of them, that they cut their bodies into gobbets and small pieces, in manner of a butcher, and after that threw them into the sea to feed the fishes. What shall we speak of the exiles and confiscations of good and virtuous men? For he took by violence every man's substance, and cared not by what means he came by the same; but threatened them with death, unless they would forego the same. He banished those which had com mitted none evil at all. He commanded that both gentlemen and men of honour should be made out of the way; neither yet herewith content, but gave their daughters that were unmarried to varlets and wicked ones to be defloured. And Licinius himself, (although that by reason of his years his body was spent,) yet shamefully did he vitiate many women, men's wives and maids. Which cruel outrage of him caused many godly men of their own accord to forsake their houses; and it was also seen that the woods, fields, desert places, and mountains were fain to be the habitations and resting-places of the poor and miserable Christians. Of those worthy men and famous martyrs, which in this persecution found the way to heaven, Nicephorus first speaketh of Theodorus, who first being hanged upon the cross, had nails thrust into his armpits, and after that his head stricken off. Also of an other Theodorus, being the bishop of Tyre. The third was a man of Perga. Basilius also the bishop of Amasenus, Nicholaus a bishop, Gregorius of Armenia the Great. After that Paul of Neocesaria, which, by the impious commandment of Licinius, had both his hands cut off with a searing iron. Besides these were in the city of Sebastia forty worthy men and Christian soldiers, in the vehement cold time of winter, soused and drowned in a horsepond, when Locias as yet, of whom we spoke before, and Agricolaus, executing the sheriff's office under Licinius in the east parts, were alive, and were in great estimation for inventing of new and strange torments against the Christians. The wives of those forty good men were carried to Heraclea, a city in Thracia, and there, with a certain deacon, whose name was Amones, were (after innumerable torments by them most constantly endured) slain with the sword. These things writeth Nicephorus. Also Sozomenus, in his ninth book and second chapter, maketh mention of the same martyrs. And Basilius, in a certain oration, seemeth to treat of their history, saving that in the circumstances he somewhat varieth. And surely Licinius was determined, for that the first face of this persecution fell out according to his desire, to have overrun all the Christians; to which thing neither counsel, nor good will, nor yet opportunity, perchance wanted, unless God had brought Constantine into those parts where he governed; where, in the wars which he himself began, (knowing right well that Constantine had intelligence of his conspiracy and treason,) joining battle with him, he was overcome.
Divers battles between them were fought: the first fought in Hungary, where Licinius was overthrown; then he fled into Macedonia, and repairing his army, was again discomfited. Finally, being vanquished both by sea and land, he lastly, at Nicomedia, yielded himself to Constantine, and was commanded to live a private life in Thessalia, where at length he was slain by the soldiers.
Thus have ye heard the end and conclusion of all the seven tyrants which were the authors and workers of this tenth and last persecution against the true people of God. The chief captain and incentor of which persecution was, first, Dioclesian, who died at Salona, as some say, by his own poison, in the year of our Lord three hundred and nineteen. The next was Maximinian, who (as is said) was hanged of Constantine at Masilia, about the year of our Lord three hundred and ten. Then died Galerius, plagued with a horrible disease sent of God. Severus was slain by Maximinian, father of Maxentius, the wicked tyrant who was overcome and vanquished of Constantine, in the year of our Lord three hundred and eighteen. Maximinus the first tyrant tarried not long after, who being overcome by Licinius, died about the year of our Lord three hundred and twenty. Lastly, how this Licinius was overcome by Constantine, and slain in the year of our Lord three hundred twenty and four, is before declared. Only Constantius, the father of Constantine, being a good and a godly emperor, died in the third year of the persecution, in the year of our Lord three hundred and ten, and was buried at York. After whom succeeded his godly father Constantine, as a second Moses, sent and set up of God to deliver his people out of this so miserable captivity into liberty most joyful.
Now remaineth, after the end of these persecutors thus described, to gather up the names and stories of certain particular martyrs, which now are to be set forth, worthy of special memory for their singular constancy and fortitude showed in their sufferings and cruel torments. The names of all which that suffered in this foresaid tenth persecution, being in number infinite, in virtue most excellent, it is impossible here to comprehend; but the most notable, and in most approved authors expressed, we thought here to insert for the more edification of other Christians, which may and ought to look upon their examples, first beginning with Albanus, the first martyr that ever in England suffered death for the name of Christ.
Illustration -- St. Alban's Abbey
At what time Dioclesian and Maximinian the pagan emperors had directed out their letters with all severity for the persecuting of the Christians, Alban, being then an infidel, received into his house a certain clerk flying from the persecutors' hands, whom when Alban beheld continually both day and night to persevere in watching and prayer, suddenly, by the great mercy of God, he began to imitate the example of his faith and virtuous life; whereupon, by little and little, he being instructed by his wholesome exhortation, and leaving the blindness of his idolatry, became at length a perfect Christian. And when the forenamed clerk had lodged with him a certain time, it was informed the wicked prince, that this good man and confessor of Christ (not yet condemned to death) was harboured in Alban's house, or very near unto him. Whereupon immediately he gave in charge to the soldiers to make more diligent inquisition of the matter; who, as soon as they came to the house of Alban the martyr, he, by and by, putting on the apparel where with his guest and master was apparelled, (that is, a garment at that time used, named caracalla,) offered himself in the stead of the other to the soldiers; who, binding him, brought him forthwith to the judge. It fortuned that at that instant when blessed Alban was brought unto the judge, they found the same judge at the altars offering sacrifice unto devils, who, as soon as he saw Alban, was straightways in a great rage, for that he would presume of his own voluntary will to offer himself to peril, and give himself a prisoner to the soldiers for safeguard of his guest whom he harboured, and commanded him to be brought before the images of the devils whom he worshipped, saying, For that thou hadst rather hide and convey away a rebel than to deliver him to the officers, and that (as a contemner of our gods) he should not suffer punishment and merit of his blasphemy, look what punishment he should have had, thou for him shalt suffer the same, if I perceive thee any wit to revolt from our manner of worshipping, But blessed Alban, who, of his own accord, had bewrayed to the persecutors that he was a Christian, feared not at all the menaces of the prince, but being armed with the spiritual armour, openly pronounced that he would not obey his commandment. Then said the judge, Of what stock or kindred art thou come? Alban answered, What is that to you of what stock soever I came of? if you desire to hear the verity of my religion, I do ye to wit that I am a Christian, and apply myself altogether to that calling. Then said the judge, I would know thy name, and see thou tell me the same without delay. Then said he, My parents named me Alban, and I worship and honour the true and living God, which hath created all the world. Then said the judge, fraught with fury, If thou wilt enjoy the felicity of this present life, do sacrifice (and that out of hand) to these mighty gods. Alban replieth, These sacrifices which ye offer unto devils can neither help them that offer the same, neither yet can they accomplish the desires and prayers of their suppliants; but rather shall they, whatsoever they be, that offer sacrifice to these idols, receive for their meed everlasting pains of hell-fire. The judge, when he heard these words, was passing angry, and commanded the tormentors to whip this holy confessor of God, endeavouring to overcome the constancy of his heart with stripes, which had prevailed nothing with words. And when he was cruelly beaten, yet suffered he the same patiently, nay, rather joyfully, for the Lord's sake. Then when the judge saw that he would not with torments be overcome, nor be reduced from the worship of Christian religion, he commanded him to be beheaded.
The rest that followeth of this story in the narration of Beda, as of drying up the river, as Alban went to the place of his execution; then of making a well-spring in the top of the hill, and of the falling out of the eyes of him that did behead him, (with such other prodigious miracles mentioned in his story,) because they seem more legend-like than truth-like; again, because I see no great profit nor necessity in the relation thereof; I leave them to the free judgment of the reader, to think of them as cause shall move him.
The like estimation I have of the long story, wherein is written at large a fabulous discourse of all the doings and miracles of St. Alban, taken out of the library of St. Albans, compiled (as there is said) by a certain pagan, who (as he saith) afterward went to Rome, there to be baptized. But because in the beginning or prologue of the book the said writer maketh mention of the ruinous walls
of the town of Verolamium, containing the story of Albanus, and of his bitter punishments; which walls were then falling down for age at the writing of the said book, as he saith; thereby it seemeth this story to be written a great while after the martyrdom of Alban, either by a Briton or by an Englishman. If he were a Briton, how then did the Latin translation take it out of the English tongue, as in the prologue he himself doth testify? If he were an Englishman, how then did he go up to Rome for baptism, being a pagan, when he might have been baptized among the Christian Britons more near at home?
But among all other evidences and declarations sufficient to disprove this legendary story of St. Alban, nothing maketh more against it than the very story itself; as where he bringeth in the head of the holy martyr to speak unto the people after it was smitten off from the body. Also where he bringeth in the angels going up and coming down in a pillar of fire, and singing all the night long. Item, in the river which he saith St. Alban made dry, such as were drowned in the same before in the bottom were found alive. With other such like monkish miracles and gross fables, wherewith these abbey-monks were wont in times past to deceive the church of God, and to beguile the whole world for their own advantage. Notwithdanding this, I write not to any derogation of the blessed and faithful martyr of God, who was the first that I did ever find in this realm to suffer martyrdom for the testimony of Christ; and worthy no doubt of condign condemnation, especially of us here in this land, whose Christian faith in the Lord, and charity towards his neighbour, I pray God all we may follow. As also I wish moreover that the stories, both of him and of all other Christian martyrs, might have been delivered to us simple as they were, without the admixture of all these abbey-like additions of monkish miracles, wherewith they were wont to paint out the glory of such saints to the most by whose offerings they were accustomed to receive most advantage.
As touching the name of the clerk mentioned in this story, whom Alban received into his house, I find in the English stories to be Amphibalus, although the Latin authors name him not, who, the same time flying into Wales, was also fetched from thence again to the same town of Verolamium, otherwise called Verlancaster, where he was martyred, having his belly opened, and made to run about a stake, while all his bowels were drawn out, then thrust in with swords and daggers, and at last was stoned to death, as the foresaid legend declareth.
Moreover, the same time with Alban suffered also two citizens of the aforesaid city of Verlancaster, whose names were Aaron and Julius; beside others, whereof a great number the same time no doubt did suffer, although our chronicles of their names do make no rehearsal.
The time of martyrdom of this blessed Alban and the other seemeth to be about the second or third year of this tenth persecution, under the tyranny of Dioclesian, and Maximinianus Herculius, bearing then the rule in England, about the year of our Lord three hundred and one, before the coming of Constantius to his government. Where, by the way, is to be noted, that this realm of Britain, being so christened before, yet never was touched with any other of the nine persecutions, before this tenth persecution of Dioclesian and Maximinian. In which persecution our stories and polychronicon do record, that all Christianity almost in the whole island was destroyed, the churches subverted, all books of the Scripture burned, many of the faithful, both men and women, were slain; amongst whom the first and chief ringleader (as hath been said) was Albanus. And thus much touching the martyrs of Britain. Now from England, to return again unto other countries, where this persecution did more vehemently rage, we will add hereunto (the Lord willing) the stories of others, although not of all that suffered in this persecution, (which were impossible,) but of certain most principal, whose singular constancy in their strong torments are chiefly renowned in later histories; beginning, first, with Romanus, the notable and admirable soldier and true servant of Christ, whose history set forth in Prudentius doth thus proceed; so lamentably by him described, that it will be hard for any man almost with dry cheeks to hear it.
Pitiless Galerius, with his grand captain Asclepiades, violently invaded the city of Antioch, in tending by force of arms to drive all Christians to renounce utterly their pure religion. The Christians, as God would, were at that time congregated together, to whom Romanus hastily ran, declaring that the wolves were at hand which would devour the Christian flock; but fear not, said he, neither let this imminent peril disturb you, my brethren. Brought was it to pass, by the great grace of God working in Romanus, that old men and matrons, fathers and mothers, young men and maidens, were all of one will and mind, most ready to shed their blood in defence of their Christian profession. Word was brought unto the captain, that the band of armed soldiers was not able to wrest the staff of faith out of the hand of the armed congregation, and all by reason that one Romanus so mightily did encourage them, that they stick not to offer their naked throats, wishing gloriously to die for the name of their Christ. Seek out that rebel, (quoth the captain,) and bring him to me, that he may answer for the whole sect. Apprehended he was, and, bound as a sheep appointed to the slaughterhouse, was presented to the emperor, who with wrathful countenance beholding him, said, What! art thou the author of this sedition? Art thou the cause why so many shall lose their lives? By the gods I swear thou shalt smart for it, and first in thy flesh shalt thou suffer the pains whereunto thou hast encouraged the hearts of thy fellows. Romanus answered, Thy sentence, O emperor, I joyfully embrace; I refuse not to be sacrificed for my brethren, and that by as cruel means as thou mayest invent; and whereas thy soldiers were repelled from the Christian congregation, that so happened, because it lay not in idolaters and worshippers of devils to enter into the holy house of God, and to pollute the place of true prayer. Then Asclepiades, wholly inflamed with this stout answer, commanded him to be trussed up, and his bowels drawn out. The executioners themselves, more pitiful in heart than the captain, said, Not so, sir; this man is of noble parentage, unlawful it is to put a nobleman to so unnoble a death. Scourge him then with whips (quoth the captain) with pieces of lead at the ends. Instead of tears, sighs, and groans, Romanus sung psalms all the time of his whipping, requiring them not to favour him for nobility's sake; Not the blood of my progenitors, (saith he,) but Christian profession, maketh me noble. Then with great power of spirit he inveighed against the captain, laughing to scorn the false gods of the heathen, with the idolatrous worshipping of them, affirming the God of the Christians to be the true God that created heaven and earth, before whose judicial seat all nations shall appear. But the wholesome words of the martyr were as oil to the fire of the captain's fury. The more the martyr spake, the madder was he, insomuch that he commanded the martyr's sides to be lanced with knives, until the bones appeared white again. Sorry am I, O captain, (quoth the martyr,) not for that my flesh shall be thus cut and mangled, but for thy cause am I sorrowful, who, being corrupted with damnable errors, seducest others. The second time he preached at large the living God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, his well-beloved Son, eternal life through faith in his blood, expressing therewith the abomination of idolatry, with a vehement exhortation to worship and adore the living God. At these words Asclepiades commanded the tormentors to strike Romanus on the mouth, that his teeth being stricken out, his pronunciation at leastwise might be impaired. The commandment was obeyed, his face buffeted, his eyelids torn with their nails, his cheeks scotched with knives, the skin of his beard was plucked by little and little from the flesh; finally, his seemly face was wholly defaced. The meek martyr said, I thank thee, O captain, that thou hast opened unto me many mouths, whereby I may preach my Lord and Saviour Christ. Look how many wounds I have, so many mouths I have lauding and praising God. The captain, astonished with this singular constancy, commanded them to cease from the tortures. He threateneth cruel fire, he revileth the noble martyr, he blasphemeth God, saying, Thy crucified Christ is but a yesterday's God, the gods of the Gentiles are of most antiquity.
Here again Romanus, taking good occasion, made a long oration of the eternity of Christ, of his human nature, of the death and satisfaction of Christ for all mankind. Which done, he said, Give me a child, O captain, but seven years of age, which age is free from malice and other vices, wherewith riper age is commonly infected, and thou shalt hear what he will say His request was granted. A pretty boy was called out of the multitude, and set before him. Tell me, my babe, (quoth the martyr,) whether thou think it reason that we worship one Christ, and in Christ one Father, or else that we worship infinite gods? Unto whom the babe answered, That certainly, whatsoever it be that men affirm to be God, must needs be one, which with one, is one and the same; and inasmuch as this one is Christ, of necessity Christ must be the true God; for that there be many gods, we children cannot believe. The captain, hereat clean amazed, said, Thou young villain and traitor, where and of whom learnedst thou this lesson? Of my mother, (quoth the child,) with whose milk I sucked in this lesson, that I must believe in Christ. The mother was called, and she gladly appeared. The captain commanded the child to be horsed up and scourged. The pitiful beholders of this pitiless act could not temper themselves from tears; the joyful and glad mother alone stood by with dry cheeks; yea, she rebuked her sweet babe for craving a draught of cold water; she charged him to thirst after the cup that the infants of Bethlehem once drank of, forgetting their mothers' milk and paps; she willed him to remember little Isaac, who, be holding the sword wherewith, and the altar whereon, he should be sacrificed, willingly proffered his tender neck to the dint of his father's sword. Whilst this counsel was in giving, the butcherly torturer plucked the skin from the crown of his head, hair and all. The mother cried, Suffer, my child, anon thou shalt pass to Him that will adorn thy naked head with a crown of eternal glory. The mother counselleth, the child is counselled; the mother encourageth, the babe is encouraged, and received the stripes with smiling countenance. The captain, perceiving the child invincible, and himself vanquished, committeth the silly soul, the blessed babe, the child uncherished, to the stinking prison, commanding the torments of Romanus to be renewed and increased, as chief author of this evil.
Thus was Romanus brought forth again to new stripes, the punishments to be renewed and received upon his old sores, insomuch as the bare bones appeared, the flesh all torn away.
Yea, no longer could the tyrant forbear, but needs he must draw nearer to the sentence of death. Is it painful to thee (saith he) to tarry so long alive? A flaming fire, doubt thou not, shall be prepared for thee by and by, wherein thou and that boy, thy fellow of rebellion, shall be consumed into ashes. Romanus and the babe were led to the place of execution. As they laid hands on Romanus, he looked back, saying, I appeal from this thy tyranny, O judge unjust, unto the righteous throne of Christ, that upright Judge, not because I fear thy cruel torments and merciless handlings, but that thy judgments may be known to be cruel and bloody. Now when they welcome to the place, the tormentor required the child of the mother, for she had taken it up in her arms; and she, only kissing it, delivered the babe; Farewell, she said, my sweet child. And as the hangman applied his sword to the babe's neck, she sang on this manner:
All laud and praise with heart and voice,
O Lord, we yield to thee,
To whom the death of all thy saints
We know most dear to be.
The innocent's head being cut off, the mother wrapped it up in her garment, and laid it to her breast. On the other side a mighty fire was made, whereinto Romanus was cast, who said that he should not burn; wherewith a great storm arose (if it be true) and quenched the fire. The captain gave in commandment that his tongue should be cut out. Out was it plucked by the hard roots and cut off: nevertheless he spake, saying, He that speaketh Christ shall never want a tongue; think not that the voice that uttereth Christ hath need of the tongue to be the minister. The captain at this, half out of his wits, bare in hand that the hangman deceived the sight of the people by some subtle sleight and crafty conveyance. Not so, (quoth the hangman,) if you suspect my deed, open his mouth, and diligently search the roots of his tongue. The captain at length, being confounded with the fortitude and courage of the martyr, straitly commandeth him to be brought back into the prison, and there to be strangled; where, his sorrowful life and pains being ended, he now enjoyeth quiet rest in the Lord, with perpetual hope of his miserable body to be restored again with his soul into a better life, where no tyrant shall have any power.
Gordius was a citizen of Cesarea, a worthy soldier, and captain of a hundred men. He, in the time of extreme persecution, refusing any longer to execute his charge, did choose of his own accord willing exile, and lived in the desert many years a religious and a solitary life. But upon a certain day, when a solemn feast of Mars was celebrated in the city of Cesarea, and much people were assembled in the theatre to behold the games, he left the desert, and got him up into the chief place of the theatre, and with a loud voice uttered this saying of the apostle: Behold, I am found of them which sought me not, and to those which asked not for me have I openly appeared. By which words he let it to be understood that of his own accord he came unto those games. At this noise, the multitude little regarding the sights, looked about to see who it was that made such exclamation. As soon as it was known to be Gordius, and that the crier had commanded silence, he was brought unto the sheriff, who at that instant was present, and ordained the games. When he was asked the question who he was, from whence and for what occasion he came thither, he telleth the truth of every thing as it was: I am come, saith he, to publish, that I set nothing by your decrees against the Christian religion, but that I profess Jesus Christ to be my hope and safety; and when I understood with what cruelty you handled other men, I took this as a fit time to accomplish my desire. The sheriff with these words was greatly moved, and revenged all his displeasure upon poor Gordius, commanding the executioners to be brought out with scourges, while gibbet, and whatsoever torments else, might be devised. Whereunto Gordius answered, saying, that it should be to him a hinderance and damage if he could not suffer and endure divers torments and pun ishments for Christ's cause. The sheriff, being more offended with his boldness, commanded him to feel as many kind of torments as there were. With all which Gordius, notwithstanding, could not be mastered or overcome; but lifting up his eyes unto heaven, singeth this saying out of the Psalms, The Lord is my helper, I will not fear the thing that man can do to me; and also this saying, I will fear none evil, because thou, Lord, art with me.
After this he, against himself, provoketh the extremity of the tormentors, and blameth them if they
favour him any thing at all. When the sheriff saw that hereby he could win but little, he goeth about by gentleness and enticing words to turn the stout and valiant mind of Gordius. He promiseth to him great and large offers if he will deny Christ; as to make him a captain of as many men as any other is, to give him riches, treasure, and what other thing soever he desireth. But in vain (as the proverb is) pipeth the minstrel to him that hath no ears to hear; for he, deriding the foolish madness of the magistrate, saith, that it lieth not in him to place any in authority which be worthy to have a place in heaven. The magistrate, with these words thoroughly angered and vexed, prepared himself to his condemnation. Whom, after that he had condemned, he caused to be had out of the city to be burnt, There run out of the city great multitudes by heaps to see him put to execution: some take him in their arms, and lovingly kiss him, persuading him to take a better way and save himself, and that with weeping tears. To whom Gordius answered, Weep not, I pray you, for me, but rather for the enemies of God, which always make war against the Christians; weep, I say, for them which prepare for us a fire, purchasing hell-fire for themselves in the day of vengeance; and cease further, I pray you, to molest and disquiet my settled mind. Truly (saith he) I am ready, for the name of Christ, to suffer and endure a thousand deaths, if need were. Some
other came unto him which persuaded him to deny Christ with his mouth, and to keep his conscience to himself. My tongue, (saith he,) which by the goodness of God I have, cannot be brought to deny the author and giver of the same; for with the heart we believe unto righteousness, and with the tongue we confess unto salvation. Many more such-like words he spake; but especially uttering to them such matter whereby he might persuade the beholders to death, and to the desire of martyrdom. After all which, with a merry and glad countenance, never changing so much as his colour, he willingly gave himself to be burnt.
Not much unlike to the story of Gordius is the story also of Menas, an Egyptian, who, being likewise a soldier by his profession, in this persecution of Dioclesian forsook all, and went into the desert, where a long time he gave himself to abstinence, watching, and meditation of the Scriptures. At length, returning again to the city Cotis, there, in the open theatre, as the people were occupied upon their spectacles by pastimes, he, with a loud voice, openly proclaimed himself to be a Christian, and upon the same was brought to Pyrrhus the presi dent, of whom he being demanded of his faith, made this answer: Convenient it is that I should (saith he) confess God, in whom is light, and no darkness, forsomuch as Paul doth teach that with heart we believe to righteousness, with mouth confession is given to salvation. After this the innocent martyr was most painfully pinched and cruciated with sundry punishments. In all which, notwithstanding, he declared a constant heart, and faith invincible, having these words in his mouth being in the midst of his torments: There is nothing in my mind that can be compared to the kingdom of heaven; neither is all the world, if it were weighed in balance, able to be conferred with the price of one soul: and said, Who is able to separate us from the love of Jesus Christ our Lord? shall affliction or anguish? And, moreover, (said he,) I have thus learned of my Lord and my King, not to fear them which kill the body, and have no power to kill the soul; but to fear Him rather, who hath power to destroy both body and soul in hell-fire. To make the story short, after manifold torments borne of him and suffered, when the last sentence of death was upon him pronounced, which was, to be beheaded, Menas, being then had to the place of execution, said, I give thee thanks, my Lord God, which hast so acccepted me to be found a partaker of thy precious death, and hast not given me to be devoured of my fierce enemies, but hast made me to remain constant in thy pure faith unto this my latter end. And so this blessed soldier, fighting valiantly under the banner of Christ, lost his head and won his soul. Simeon Metaphrast. In the which author there followeth a long narration of the miracles of this holy man, which here for prolixity I do omit.
Basilius, in a certain sermon of forty martyrs, rehearseth this story, not unworthy to be noted. There came (saith he) into a certain place (of which place he maketh no mention) the emperor's marshal, or officer, with the edict which the emperor had set out against the Christians, that whosoever confessed Christ should, after many torments, suffer death. And, first, they did privily suborn certain which should detect and accuse the Christians whom they had found out, or had laid wait for. Upon this the sword, the gibbet, the wheel, and the whips where brought forth; at the terrible sight whereof the hearts of all the beholders did shake and tremble. Some for fear did fly, some did stand in doubt what to do, certain were so terrified at the beholding of these engines and tormenting instruments, that they denied their faith. Some others began the game, and for a time did abide the conflict and agony of martyrdom; but, vanquished at length by the intolerable pain of their torments, made shipwreck of their consciences, and lost the glory of their confession. Among others, forty there were
at that time, young gentlemen, all soldiers, which, after the marshal had showed the emperor's edict, and required of all men the obedience of the same, freely and boldly of their own accord confessed themselves to be Christians, and declared to him their names. The marshal, somewhat amazed at this their boldness of speech, standeth in doubt what was best to do. Yet forthwith he goeth about to win them with fair words, advertising them to consider their youth, neither that they should change a sweet and pleasant life for a cruel and untimely death: after that he promiseth them money and honourable offices in the emperor's name. But they, little esteeming all these things, brake forth into a long and bold oration, affirming that they did neither desire life, dignity, nor money, but only the celestial kingdom of Christ; saying, further, that they are ready, for the love and faith they have in God, to endure the affliction of the wheel, the cross, and the fire. The rude marshal, being herewith offended, devised a new kind of punishment. He spied out in the middle of the city a certain great pond, which lay full upon the cold northern wind, for it was in the winter time, wherein he caused them to be put all that night; but they being merry, and comforting one another, received this their appointed punishment, and said, as they were putting off their clothes, We put off (said they) not our clothes, but we put off the old man, corrupt with the deceit of concupiscence; we give thee thanks, O Lord, that with this our apparel we may also put off, by thy grace, the sinful man; for by means of the serpent we once put him on, and by the means of Jesus Christ we now put him off. When they had thus said, they were brought naked into the place where they left most vehement cold, insomuch that all the parts of their bodies were stark and stiff therewith. As soon as it was day, they yet having breath, were brought into the fire, wherein they were consumed, and their ashes thrown into the flood. By chance there was one of the company more lively, and not so near dead as the rest, of whom the executioners taking pity, said unto his mother standing by, that they would save his life. But she, with her own hands taking her son, brought him to the pile of wood, where the residue of his fellows (crooked for cold) did lie ready to be burnt, and admonished him to accomplish the blessed journey he had taken in hand with his companions.
In this fellowship and company of martyrs cannot be left out and forgot the story of Cyrus. This Cyrus was a physician, born in Alexandria, which, flying into Egypt in the persecution of Dioclesian and Maximian, led a solitary life in Arabia, being much spoken of for his learning and miracles, unto whose company after a certain time did Joannes, born in the city of Edessa, beyond the river Euphrates, join himself, leaving the soldier's life, which before that time he had exercised. But whilst as yet the same persecution raged in a city in Egypt called Canope, there was cast into prison, for the confession of their faith, a certain godly Christian woman, called Athanasia, and her three daughters, Theoctiste, Theodota, and Eudoxia, with whom Cyrus was well acquainted. At whose infirmities he much fearing, accompanied with his brother John, came and visited them for their better confirmation; at which time Lirianus was chief captain and lieutenant of Egypt, of whose wickedness and cruelty, especially against women and maidens, Athanasius maketh mention in his Apologies, and in his Epistle to those that lead a solitary life. This Cyrus, therefore, and Joannes, being accused and apprehended of the heathen men, as by whose persuasions the maidens and daughters of Athanasia contumeliously despised the gods and the emperor's religion, and could by no means be brought to do sacrifice, were, after the publication of their constant confession, put to death by the sword; Athanasia also and her three daughters being condemned to death.
Sebastian, being born in the part of France called Gallia Narbonensis, was a Christian, and was lieutenant-general of the vanguard of Dioclesian the emperor, who also encouraged many martyrs of Christ by his exhortations unto constancy, and kept them in the faith. He being therefore accused to the emperor, was commanded to be apprehended, and that he should be brought into the open field, where of his own soldiers he was thrust through the body with innumerable arrows, and after that his body was thrown into a jakes or sink. Ambrosius maketh mention of this Sebastian the martyr in his Commentary upon the 118th Psalm; and Simeon Metaphrastes, amongst other martyrs that suffered with Sebastian, numbereth also these following; Nicostratus, with Zoe his wife, Tranquillinus, with Martin his wife, Traglinus, Claudius, Castor, Tibertius, Castellus, Marcus, and Marcellinus, with many others.
Basilius in another sermon also maketh mention of one Barlaam, being a noble and famous martyr, which abode all the torments of the executioners, even to the point of death; which thing when the tormentors saw, they brought him and laid him upon the altar, where they did use to offer sacrifices to their idols, and put fire and frankincense into his right hand, wherein he had yet some strength, thinking that the same his right hand, by the heat and force of the fire, would have scattered the burning incense upon the altar, and so have sacrificed. But of that their hope the pestiferous tormentors were disappointed; for the flame eat round about his hand, and the same endured as though it had been covered with hot embers, whenas Barlaam recited out of the Psalms this saying, Blessed is the Lord my God, which teacheth my hands to fight.
To this narration of Basilius, touching the martyrdom of Barlaam, we will annex consequently another story of Ambrose. He making a certain exhortation to certain virgins, in the same oration commendeth the martyrdoms of Agricola and Vitalis, who suffered also in the same persecution under Dioclesian and Maximinian (as they affirm) at Bononnie. This Vitalis was servant to Agricola, who both together between themselves had made a compact to give their lives with other martyrs for the name of Christ. Whereupon Vitalis, being sent before of his master to offer himself to martyrdom, fell first into the hands of persecutors, who laboured about him by all means to cause him to deny Christ. Which when he would in no case do, but stoutly persisted in the confession of his faith, they began to exercise him with all kind of torments, so unmercifully, that there was no whole skin left on all his body. So Vitalis in the midst of the agony and painful torments, after he had in a short prayer commended himself to God, gave up his life. After him, the tormentors set upon Agricola his master, whose virtuous manners and gentle conditions, because they were singularly well liked and known to the enemies, his suffering therefore was the longer deferred. But Agricola, not abiding the long delay and driving off, and provoking moreover the adversaries to quicker speed, at length was fastened unto the cross, and so finished his martyrdom, which he so long desired.
No less worthy of commemoration is the lamentable martyrdom of Vincentius, whose history here followeth. This Vincentius was a Spaniard, and a Levite most godly and virtuous, who at this time suffered martyrdom at Valence under Dacianus the president, as we may gather by Prudentius in his hymn. Bergomensis in his Supplement reciteth these words concerning his martyrdom, out of a certain sermon of St. Augustine: Our heart conceived not a vain and fruitless sight, (as it were in beholding of lamentable tragedies,) but certainly a great sight and marvellous, and there with singular pleasure received it, when the painful passion of victorious Vincentius was read unto us. Is there any so heavy-hearted that will not be moved in the contemplation of this immovable martyr, so manly, or rather so godly, fighting against the craft and subtlety of that serpent, against the tyranny of Dacianus, against the horrors of death, and by the mighty Spirit of his God conquering all? But let us in few words rehearse the degrees of his torments, though the pains thereof in many words cannot be expressed. First, Dacianus caused the martyr to be laid upon the torture, and all the joints of his body to be distended and racked out, until they cracked again. This being done in most extreme and cruel manner, all the members of his painful and pitiful body were grievously indented with deadly wounds. Thirdly, (that his dolours and griefs might be augmented,) they miserably vexed his flesh with iron combs sharply filed. And to the end the tormentors might vomit out all their vengeance on the meek and mild martyr's flesh, the tormentors themselves also were vilely scourged at the president's commandment. And lest his passion, through want of pains, might seem imperfect, or else too easy, they laid his body, being all out of joint, on a grate of iron, which when they had opened with iron hooks, they seared it with fiery plates, with hot burning salt sprinkling the same. Last of all, into a vile dungeon was this mighty martyr drawn, the floor whereof first was thick spread with the sharpest shells that might be gotten, his feet then being fast locked in the stocks, there was he left alone without all worldly comfort; but the Lord his God was with him, the Holy Spirit of God (whose office is to comfort the godly afflicted) filled his heart with joy and gladness. Hast thou prepared a terrible rack, O cruel tyrant, O devouring lion, for the martyr's bed? The Lord shall make that bed soft and sweet unto him. Rackest thou his bones and joints all asunder? His bones, his joints, his hairs are all numbered. Tormentest thou his flesh with mortal wounds? The Lord shall pour abundantly into all his sores of his oil of gladness. Thy scraping combs, thy sharp fleshhooks, thy hot searing irons, thy parched salt, thy stinking prison, thy cutting shells, thy pinching stocks, shall turn to this patient martyr to the best. All together shall work contrary to thine expectation, great plenty of joy shall he reap into the barn of his soul out of this mighty harvest of pains that thou hast brought him into. Yea, thou shalt prove him Vincentius indeed; that is, a vanquisher, a triumpher, a conqueror, subduing thy madness by his meekness, thy tyranny by his patience, thy manifold means of tortures by the manifold graces of God, wherewith he is plentifully enriched.
In this catalogue or company of such holy martyrs as suffered in this foresaid tenth persecution, many more and almost innumerable there be expressed in authors beside them whom we have hitherto comprehended; as Philoromus, a man of noble birth and great possessions in Alexandria, who, being persuaded by his friends to favour himself, to respect his wife, to consider his children and family, did not only reject the counsels of them, but also neglected the threats and torments of the judge, to keep the confession of Christ inviolate unto the death, and losing of his head; of whom Eusebius beareth witness that he was there present himself.
Of like estate and dignity was also Procopius in Palestina, who after his conversion brake his images of silver and gold, and distributed the same to the poor, and after all kind of torments, of racking, of cording, of tearing his flesh, of goring and stabbing and of firing, at length had his head also smitten off.
To this may be joined also Georgius, a young man of Cappadocia, who, stoutly inveighing against the impious idolatry of the emperors, was apprehended and cast into prison, then torn with hooked irons, burnt with hot lime, stretched with cords, after that his hands and feet, with other members of his body, being cut off, at last with a sword had his head cut off.
With these aforenamed add also Sergius and Bacchius, Panthaleon, a physician in Nicomedia, Theodorus, of the city of Amasia in Hellespont, Faustus, a martyr of Egypt, Gereon, with three hundred and eighteen fellow martyrs, who suffered at the same time. Hermogenes, the president of Athens, who, being converted by the constancy of one Menas and Eugraphus in their torments, suffered also for the like faith. Item, Samonas Gurias and Abibus, mentioned in Simeon Metaphrast. Hieron also, with certain of his confessors, under Maximinus, mentioned in Metaphrastes. Judes and Domuas, who suffered with many other martyrs above mentioned at Nicomedia, as recordeth Meta phrastes. Enelasius, Maximinus, the emperor's officers, whom Fausta the virgin in her torments converted. Also Thirsus, Lucius, Callinicius, Apollonius, Philemon, Asilas, Leonides, with Arrianus, president of Thebaide, Cyprianus likewise, a citizen of Antioch, who, after he had continued a long time a filthy magician or sorcerer, at length was converted and made a deacon, then a priest, and at last the bishop of Antioch, of whom partly we touched somewhat before. This Cyprian, with Justina, a virgin, suffered among the martyrs. Item, Glicerius at Nicomedia, Felix, a minister, Fortunatus, Achilleus, deacons in the city of Valent. Arthemius of Rome, Ciriacus, deacon to Marcellus the bishop, Carpophorus, priest at Thuscia, with Abundus his deacon. Item, Claudius, Sirinus, Antoninus, which suffered with Marcellinus the bishop. Cucusatus, in the city of Barcinona. Felix, bishop of Apulia, with Adauctus and Januarius his priest, Fortunatus and Septimus his readers, who suffered in the city Venusina under Dioclesian.
No less admirable than wonderful was the constancy also of women and maidens, who, in the same persecution, gave their bodies to the torments, and their lives for the testimony of Christ, with no less boldness of spirit than did the men themselves above specified, to whom how much more inferior they were of bodily strength, so much more worthy of praise they be, for their constant standing. Of whom some examples here we mind (Christ willing) to infer, such as in our stories and chronicles seem most notable, first beginning with Eulalia, whose story we have taken out of the foresaid Prudentius, as followeth.
In the west part of Spain, called Portugal, is a city great and populous, named Emerita, wherein dwelt and was brought up a virgin, born of noble parentage, whose name was Eulalia; which Emerita, although for the situation thereof was both rich and famous, yet more adorned and famous was the renown thereof, by the martyrdom, blood, and sepulchre of this blessed virgin Eulalia. Twelve years of age was she, and not much above, when she refused great and honourable offers in marriage, as one not skilful nor yet delighting in courtly dalliance, neither yet taking pleasure in purple and gorgeous apparel, or else in precious balms, or costly ornaments and jewels; but forsaking and despising all these and such-like pompous allurements, then showed she herself most busy in preparing her journey to her hoped inheritance and heavenly patronage. Which Eulalia, as she was modest and discreet in behaviour, sage and sober in conditions, so was she also witty and sharp in answering her enemies. But when the furious rage of persecution enforced her to join herself amongst God's children in the household of faith, and when the Christians were commanded to offer incense and sacrifice to devils or dead gods, then began the blessed spirit of Eulalia to kindle; and being of a prompt and ready wit, thought forthwith (as a courageous captain) to give a charge upon this so great and disordered a battle; and so she, silly woman, pouring out the bowels of her innocent heart before God, more provoketh thereby the force and rage of her enemies against her. But the godly care of her parents, fearing lest the willing mind of this damsel, so ready to die for Christ's cause, might make her guilty of her own death, hid her and kept her close at their house in the country, being a great way out of the city. She yet misliking that quiet life, as also detesting to make such delay, softly stealeth out of the doors (no man knowing thereof) in the night; and in great haste leaving the common way, openeth the hedge gaps, and with weary feet (God knoweth) passed through the thorny and briery places, accompanied yet with spiritual guard; and although dark and dreadful was the silent night, yet had she with her the Lord and Giver of light. And as the children of Israel, coming out of Egypt, had, by the mighty power of God, a cloudy pillar for their guide in the day, and a flame of fire in the night; so had this godly virgin, travelling in this dark night, when she, flying and forsaking the place where all filthy idolatry abounded, and hastened her heavenly journey, was not oppressed with the dreadful darkness of the night; but yet she, before the day appeared, in this her speedy journey, with herself considered and mused on a thousand matters and more.
In the morning betime, with a bold courage, she goeth unto the tribunal or judgment-seat and in the midst of them all with a loud voice crying out, said, I pray you, what a shame is it for you thus rashly and without advisement to destroy and kill men's souls, and to throw their bodies alive against the rocks, and cause them to deny the omnipotent God! Would you know, O you unfortunate, what I am? Behold, I am one of the Christians, an enemy to your devilish sacrifices; I spurn your idols under my feet, I confess God omnipotent with my heart and mouth, Isis, Apollo, and Venus, what are they? Maximinus himself, what is he? The one a thing of nought, for that they be the works of men's hands; the other but a castaway, because he worshippeth the same work. Therefore frivolous are they both, and both not worthy to be set by. Maximinus is a lord of substance, and yet he himself falleth down before a stone, and voweth the honour of his dignity unto those that are much inferior to his vassals. Why then doth he oppress so tyrannically more worthy stomachs and courages than himself? He must needs be a good guide and an upright judge which feedeth upon innocent blood, and breathing in the bodies of godly men, doth rend and tear their bowels, and, that more is, hath his delight in destroying and subverting the faith.
Go to therefore, thou hangman, burn, cut, and mangle thou these earthly members. It is an easy matter to break a brittle substance, but the inward mind shalt thou not hurt for any thing thou canst do. The pretor then, or judge, with these words of hers, set in a great rage, saith, Hangman, take her and pull her out by the hair of her head, and torment her to the uttermost; let her feel the power of our country gods, and let her know what the imperial government of a prince is. But yet, O thou
sturdy girl, fain would I have thee (if it were possible) before thou die to revoke this thy wickedness. Behold what pleasures thou mayest enjoy by the honourable house thou camest of; thy fallen house and progeny followeth thee to death with lamentable tears, and the heavy nobility of thy kindred maketh doleful lamentation for thee. What meanest thou? Wilt thou kill thyself, so young a flower, and so near these honourable marriages and great dowries thou mayest enjoy? Doth not the glistering and golden pomp of the bride-bed move thee? Doth not the reverend piety of thine ancestors prick thee? Whom is it not but that this thy rashness and weakness grieveth? Behold here the furniture ready prepared for thy terrible death: either shalt thou be beheaded with this sword, or else with these wild beasts shalt thou be pulled in pieces, or else thou, being cast into the fiery flames, shalt be (although lamentably bewailed of thy friends and kinsfolks) consumed to ashes. What great matter is it for thee, I pray thee, to escape all this? If thou wilt but take and put with thy fingers a little salt and incense into the censers, thou shalt be delivered from all these punishments. To this Eulalia made no answer, but being in a great fury, she spitteth in the tyrant's face, she throweth down the idols, and spurneth abroad with her feet the heap of incense prepared to the censers. Then, without further delay, the hangmen with both their strengths took her, and pulled one joint from another, and with the talons of wild beasts scotched her sides to the hard bones; she all this while singing and praising God in this wise: Behold, O Lord, I will not forget thee: what a pleasure is it for them, O Christ, that remember thy triumphant victories, to attain unto these high dignities! and still called upon that holy name, all stained and imbrued with her own blood. This sang she with a bold voice, neither lamentingly nor yet weepingly, but being glad and merry, abandoning from her mind all heaviness and grief, even when out of a warm fountain and from her mangled members the fresh blood bathed her white and fair skin. Then proceeded they to the last and final torment, which was not only the goring and wounding of her mangled body with the iron grate and hurdle, and terrible harrowing of her flesh, but the burning on every side with flaming torches of her tormented breasts and sides: her hair hanging about her shoulders, in two parts divided, (wherewith her shame-faced chastity and virginity was covered,) reached down to the ground. But when the crackling flame fleeth about her face, kindled by her hair, and reacheth the crown of her head, then she, desiring swift death, openeth her mouth and swalloweth the flame, and so rested she in peace.
Illustration -- Martrydom of St. Eulalia
Prudentius and Ado, also Equilinus, add moreover, writing of a white dove issuing out of her mouth at her departing, and of the fire quenched about her body, also of her body covered miraculously with snow, with other things more, whereof let every reader use his own judgment.
As ye have heard now the Christian life and constant death of Eulalia, much worthy of praise and commendation; so no less commendation is worthy to be given to blessed Agnes, that constant damsel and martyr of God, who, as she was in Rome of honourable parents begotten, so lieth she there as honourably entombed and buried. Which Agnes, for her unspotted and undefiled virginity, deserved no less praise and commendation than for her willing death and martyrdom. Some writers make of her a long discourse, more in my judgment than necessary, reciting divers and sundry strange miracles by her done in the process of her history; which, partly for tediousness, partly for the doubtfulness of the author, (whom some father upon Ambrose,) and partly for the strangeness and incredibility thereof, I omit, being satisfied with that which Prudentius briefly writeth of her, as followeth: She was (saith he) young, and not marriageable, when first she, being dedicated to Christ, boldly resisted the wicked edicts of the emperor, lest that through idolatry she might have denied and forsaken the holy faith; but yet though proved by divers and sundry policies to induce her to the same, (as now with the flattering and enticing words of the judge, now with the threatenings of the storming executioner,) she stood notwithstanding stedfast in all courageous strength, and willingly offered her body to hard and painful torments, not refusing (as she said) to suffer whatsoever it should be, yea, though it were death itself. Then said the cruel tyrant, If to suffer pain and torment be so easy a matter and lightly regarded of thee, and that thou accountest thy life nothing worth, yet the shame of thy dedicated or vowed virginity is a thing more regarded I know, and esteemed of thee. Wherefore this is determined, that unless thou wilt make obeisance unto the altar of Minerva, and ask forgiveness of her for thy arrogancy, thou shalt be sent or abandoned to the common stews or brothel-house. Agnes the virgin, with more spirit than vehemency, inveigheth against both Minerva and her virginity. The youth in crowds flock and run together, and crave that they may have Agnes their libidinous prey. Then saith Agnes, Christ is not so forgetful of those that be his, that he will suffer violently to be taken from them their golden and pure chastity, neither will he leave them so destitute of help; he is always at hand and ready to fight for such as are shame-faced and chaste virgins, neither suffereth he his gifts of holy integrity or chastity to he polluted. Thou shalt, saith she, willingly bathe thy sword in my blood if thou wilt, but thou shalt not defile my body with filthy lust for any thing thou canst do. She had no sooner spoken these words, but he commanded that she should be set naked at the corner of some street (which place at that time such as were strumpets commonly used); the greater part of the multitude, both sorrowing and shaming to see so shameless a sight, went their ways, some turning their heads, some hiding their faces. But one amongst the rest with uncircumcised eyes beholding the damsel, and that in such opprobrious wise, behold a flame of fire like unto a flash of lightning falleth upon him, and striketh his eyes out of his head; whereupon he for dead falling unto the ground, sprawleth in the kennel dirt; whose companions taking him up, and carrying him away, bewailed him as a dead man; but the virgin, for this her miraculous delivery from the danger and shame of that place, singeth praises to God and Christ.
There be (saith Prudentius) that report, how that she, being desired to pray unto Christ for the party that a little before with fire from heaven for his incontinency was stricken, was restored by her prayer both unto his perfect health and sight. But blessed Agnes, after that she had climbed this her first grief and step unto the heavenly palace, forth with began to climb another; for fury engendering now the mortal wrath of her bloody enemy, wringing his hands, he crieth out, saying, I am undone, o thou the executioner, draw out thy sword, and do thine office that the emperor hath appointed thee. And when Agnes saw a sturdy and cruel fellow (to behold) stand behind her, or approaching near to her with a naked sword in his hand; I am now gladder, saith she, and rejoice that such a one as thou, being a stout, fierce, strong, and sturdy soldier, art come, than one more feeble, weak, and faint should come, or else any other young man sweetly embalmed, and wearing gay apparel, that might destroy me with funeral shame. This, even this, is he, I now confess, that I do love. I will make haste to meet him, and will no longer protract my longing desire. I will willingly receive into my paps the length of his sword, and into my breast will draw the force thereof even unto the hilts, that thus I being married unto Christ my spouse, may surmount and escape all the darkness of this world, that reacheth even unto the skies, O eternal Governor, vouchsafe! to open the gates of heaven, once shut up against all the inhabitants of the earth, and receive, O Christ, my soul that seeketh thee. Thus speaking, and kneeling upon her knees, she prayeth unto Christ above in heaven, that her neck might be the readier for the sword, now hanging over the same. The executioner then with his bloody hand finished her hope, and at one stroke cutteth off her head, and by such short and swift death doth he prevent her of the pain thereof.
I have oftentimes before complained, that the stories of saints have been powdered and sauced with divers untrue additions and fabulous inventions of men, who either of a superstitious devotion, or of a subtle practice, have so mangled their stories and lives, that almost nothing remaineth in them simple and uncorrupt, as in the usual portions wont to be read for daily service is manifest and evident to be seen; wherein few legends there be able to abide the touch of history, if they were truly tried. This I write upon the occasion specially of good Katharine, whom now I have in hand; in whom although I nothing doubt but in her life was great holiness, in her knowledge excellency, in her death constancy; yet that all things be true that be storied of her, neither dare I affirm, neither am I bound so to think; so many strange fictions of her be feigned diversly of divers writers, whereof some seem incredible, some also impudent. As where Petrus de Natalibus, writing of her conversion, declareth, how that Katharine sleeping before a certain picture or table of the crucifix, Christ with his mother Mary appeared unto her; and when Mary had offered her unto Christ to be his wife, he first refused her for her blackness. The next time, she being baptized, Mary appearing again, offered her to marry with Christ, who then being liked, was espoused to him and married, having a golden ring the same time put on her finger in her sleep, &c. Bergomensis writeth thus, that because she in the sight of the people openly resisted the emperor Maxentius to his face, and rebuked him for his cruelty, therefore she was commanded and committed upon the same to prison, which seemeth hitherto not much to digress from truth. It followeth, moreover, that the same night an angel came to her, comforting and exhorting her to be strong and constant unto the martyrdom, for that she was a maid accepted in the sight of God, and that the Lord would be with her for whose honour she did fight, and that he would give her a mouth and wis dom which her enemies should not withstand; with many other things more which I here omit. As this also I omit concerning the fifty philosophers, whom she in disputation convicted and converted unto our religion, and died martyrs for the same. Item, of the converting of Porphyrius, kinsman to Maxentius, and Faustina, the emperor's wife. At length, (saith the story,) after she proved the rack, and the four sharp cutting wheels, having at last her head cut off with the sword, so she finished her martyrdom, about the year of our Lord (as Antoninus affirmeth) three hundred and ten. Simeon Metaphrastes, writing of her, discourseth the same more at large, to whom they may resort which covet more therein to be satisfied.
Among the works of Basil a certain oration is extant concerning Julitta the martyr, who came to her martyrdom (as he witnesseth) by this occasion. A certain avaricious and greedy person of great authority, and (as it may appear) the emperor's deputy, or other like officer, (who abused the decrees and laws of the emperor against the Christians, to his own lucre and gain,) violently took from this Julitta all her goods, lands, chattels, and servants, contrary to all equity and right. She made her pitiful complaint to the judges: a day was appointed when the cause should be heard. The spoiled woman and the spoiling extortioner stood forth together; the woman lamentably declareth her cause, the man frowningly beholdeth her face. When she had proved that of good right the goods were her own, and that wrongfully he had dealt with her, the wicked and blood-thirsty wretch, preferring the worldly substance before the precious substance of a Christian body, affirmed her action to be of no force, for that she was an outlaw, in not observing the emperor's gods, since her Christian faith hath been first abjured. His allegation was allowed as good and reasonable. Whereupon incense and fire were prepared for her to worship the gods, which, unless she would do, neither the emperor's protection, nor laws, nor judgment, nor life, should she enjoy in that commonwealth. When this handmaid of the Lord heard these words, she said, Farewell life, welcome death; farewell riches, welcome poverty. All that I have, if it were a thousand times more, would I rather lose, than to speak one wicked and blasphemous word against God my Creator. I yield thee thanks most hearty, O my God, for this gift of grace, that I can contemn and despise this frail and transitory world, esteeming Christian profession above all treasures. Henceforth when any question was demanded, her answer was, I am the servant of Jesus Christ. Her kindred and acquaintance flocking to her, advertised her to change her mind. But that vehemently she refused, with detestation of their idolatry. Forthwith the judge, with the sharp sword of sentence, not only cutteth off all her goods and possessions, but judgeth her also to the fire most cruelly. The joyful martyr embraceth the sentence as a thing most sweet and delectable. She addresseth herself to the flames in countenance, gesture, and words, declaring the joy of her heart, coupled with singular constancy. To the women beholding her, sententiously she spake: Stick not, O sisters, to labour and travail after true piety and godliness. Cease to accuse the fragility of feminine nature. What! are not we created of the same matter that men are? Yea, after God's image and similitude are we made, as lively as they. Not flesh only God used in the creation of the woman, in sign and token of her infirmity and weakness; but bone of bones is she, in token that she must be strong in the true and living God, all false gods forsaken; constant in faith, all infidelity renounced; patient in adversity, all worldly ease refused. Wax weary, my dear sisters, of your lives led in darkness, and be in love with my Christ, my God, my Redeemer, my Comforter, which is the true Light of the world. Persuade yourselves, or rather the Spirit of the living God persuade you, that there is a world to come, wherein the worshippers of idols and devils shall be tormented perpetually, the servants of the high God shall be crowned eternally. With these words she embraced the fire, and sweetly slept in the Lord.
There have been moreover, beside these above recited, divers godly women and faithful martyrs; as Barbara, a noble woman in Thuscia, who, after miserable prisonment, sharp cords, and burning flames put to her sides, was at last beheaded. Also Fausta, the virgin which suffered under Maximinus, by whom Euelasius, a ruler of the emperor's palace, and Maximinus the president, were both converted, and also suffered martyrdom, as witnesseth Metaphrastes. Item, Juliana, a virgin of singular beauty in Nicomedia, who, after divers agonies, suffered likewise under Maximinus. Item, Anasia, a maid of Thessalonica, who under the said Maximinus suffered. Justina, which suffered with Cyprianus, bishop of Antioch; not to omit also Tecla, although most writers do record that she suffered under Nero. All which holy maids and virgins glorified the Lord Christ with their constant martyrdom, in this tenth and last persecution of Dioclesian.
During the time of which persecution these bishops of Rome succeeded one after another: Caius, who succeeded next after Xistus before mentioned, Marcellinus, Marcellus, (of whom Eusebius, in his story, maketh no mention,) Eusebius, and then Miltiades; all which died martyrs in the tempest of this persecution. First, Marcellinus, after the martyrdom of Caius, was ordained bishop; he, being brought by Dioclesian to the idols, first yielded to their idolatry, and was seen to sacrifice; wherefore, being excommunicated by the Christians, he fell into such repentance, that he returned again to Dioclesian, where he, standing to his former confession, and publicly condemning the idolatry of the heathen, recovered the crown of martyrdom, suffering with Claudius, Cyrinus, and Antoninus.
Marcellus likewise was urged of Maxentius to renounce his bishopric and religion, and to sacrifice with them to idols, which, when he constantly refused, was beaten with cudgels, and so expelled the city. Then he, entering into the house of Lucina, a widow, assembled there the congregation, which, when it came to the ears of Maxentius the tyrant, he turned the house of Lucina into a stable, and made Marcellus the keeper of the beasts; who, with the stink thereof and miserable handling, was put to death. Eusebius sat bishop of Rome seven months, Marianus Scotus saith eight months, Damasus affirmeth six years; Sabellicus allegeth certain authors that say that he was slain by Maximianus, but correcteth that himself, affirming that Maximianus died before him.
Miltiades, by the testimony of Platina and others that follow him, sat three years and seven months, and suffered under Maximianus. But that seemeth not to be true, as both Sabelilcus doth rightly note, affirming that the same cannot stand by the supputation of time; forasmuch as the said Galerius Maximianus reigned but two years, and died before Miltiades. Also Eusebius manifestly expresseth the example of a letter of Constantine written to this Militiades, bishop of Rome. plainly convicting that to be false which Platina affirmeth.
In the book collected of general councils, among the decretal epistles, there is a long tractation about the judgment and condemnation of Marcellinus; whereof the masters and patrons of popery in these our days take great hold to prove the supremacy of the pope to be above all general councils, and that he ought not to be subject to the condemnation of any person or persons. The circumstance and proceeding of this judgment, if rightly weighed, maketh very little to the purpose of these men. Neither is it true that the bishops of this Council of Sinuesse did not condemn Marcellinus, for the words of the council be plain: They subscribed, therefore, to his condemnation, and condemned him to be expelled out of the city. Moreover, by the said Council were brought in the forty-two witnesses against Marcellinus. In the said Council, the verdict of the same witnesses was demanded, and also received. Furthermore, Quirinus, one of the bishops, there openly protested, that he would not depart the Council before the malice of the bishops was revealed. What doth all this declare, but that the bishop of Rome was called there, and did appear before the judgment-seat of the Council, and there stood subject to their sentence and authority, by the which he was expelled out of the city? As for the words of the Council, whereupon our papists stand so much: Thou wilt be condemned not by our judgment, but by your own. With your own mouth determine your own cause. These words import not here the authority of the Roman bishop to be above the Council; neither do they declare what the Council could not do, but what they would and wished rather to be done, that is, that he should rather acknowledge his Crime before God and them, with a voluntary yielding of his heart, than that the confession of such a heinous fact should be extorted from him through their condemnation, for that they saw to be expedient for his soul's health; otherwise their condemnation should serve him to small purpose; and so it came to pass. For he being urged of them to condemn himself, so did, prostrating himself and weeping before them. Whereupon immediately they proceeded to the sentence against him, condemning and pronouncing him to be expelled the city. Now whether by this may be gathered that the bishop of Rome ought not to be cited, accused, and condemned by any person or persons, let the indifferent reader judge simply.
As touchihg the decretal epistles, which he entitled under the names of these foresaid bishops, whoso well adviseth them, and with judgment will examine the stile, the time, the argument, the hanging together of the matter, and the constitutions in them contained, (little serving to any purpose, and nothing serving for those troublesome days then present,) may easily discern them either in no part to be theirs, or much of the same to be elouted and patched by the doings of others, which lived in other times, especially seeing all the constitutions in them for the most part tend to the setting up and to exalt the see of Rome above all other bishops and churches, and to reduce all causes and appeals to the said see of Rome. So the epistle of Caius, beginning with the commendation of the authority of his see, endeth after the same tenor, willing and commanding all difficult questions in all provinces whatsoever emerging to be referred to the see apostolical. Moreover, the greatest part of the said epistle is contained in the epistle of Leo unto Leo the emperor; and so rightly agreeth in all points with the style of Leo, that evident it is the same to be borrowed out of Leo, and to be patched into the epistle of Caius out of Leo.
Likewise the epistle of Marcellinus, to get more authority with the reader, is admired with a great part of Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians, word for word. And how it is like that Marcellinus, which died in the twentieth year of Dioclesian, could write of consubstantiality of the Divine Persons, when that controversy and term of consubstantiality was not beard of in the church before the Nicene Council, which was twenty-three years after him? But especially the two epistles of Marcellus bewray themselves, so that for the confuting thereof needeth no other probation more than only the reading of the same. Such a glorious style of ambition therein doth appear, as it is easy to be understood not to proceed either from such a humble martyr, or to savour any thing of the misery of such a time. His words of his first epistle, written unto the brethren of Antioch, and alleged in the pope's decrees by Gratianus, are these:
"We desire you, brethren, that you do not teach nor conceive any other thing but as ye have received of the blessed apostle St. Peter, and of other apostles and fathers. For of him ye were first of all instructed; wherefore you must not forsake your own father, and follow others. For he is the head of the whole church, to whom the Lord said, 'Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church,' &c. Whose seat was first with you in Antioch, which afterward, by the commandment of the Lord, was translated from thence to Rome, of the which church of Rome I am this day placed (by the grace of God) to be the governor. From the which church of Rome neither ought you to separate yourselves, seeing to the same church all manner of causes ecclesiastical being of any importance (God's grace so disposing) are commanded to be referred; by the same to be ordered regularly, from whence they took their first beginning," &c. And followeth consequently upon the same, "And if your church of Antioch, which was once the first, will now yield herself unto the see of Rome, there is no other church else that will not subject itself to our do minion; to whom all other bishops whosoever, as they must needs do, (according to the decrees of the apostles and their successors,) ought to fly, as to have their head, and must appeal to the same, there to have their redress and their protection, from whence they took their first instruction and consecration," &c.
Whether this be like matter to proceed from the spirit of Marcellus, that blessed martyr, in those so dreadful days, I say no more, but only desire the gentle reader to judge.
In his second epistle, moreover, the said Marcellus, writing to Maxentius the bloody tyrant, first reprehendeth him for his cruelty, sharply admonishing him how and what to do; to learn and seek the true religion of God, to maintain his church, to honour and reverence the priests of God; and especially exhorteth him to charity, and that he would cease from persecution, &c. All this is possible and like to be true. But now mark, good reader, what blanched stuff here followed withal; as where he, alleging the statutes and sanctions of his predecessors, declareth and discusseth that no bishop nor minister ought to be persecuted or deprived of his goods. And if they be, then ought they to have their possessions and places again restored by the law, before they were bound by the law to answer to their accusations laid in against them; and so after that, in convenient time, to be called to a council; the which council notwithstanding, without the authority of the holy see, cannot proceed regularly, albeit it remain in his power to assemble certain bishops together. Neither can he regularly condemn any bishop appealing to this his apostolical see before the sentence definitive do proceed from the foresaid see, &c. And it followeth after, And therefore (saith he) let no bishop, of what crime soever he be attached, come to his accusation or be heard, but in his own ordinary synod at his convenient time; the regular and apostolical authority being joined withal. Moreover, in the said epistle, writing unto Maxentius, he decreeth that no laymen, or any suspected bishop, ought to accuse prelates of the church: "So that if they be either laymen, or men of evil conversation, or proved manifest enemies, or incensed with any hatred, their accusations against any bishops ought not to stand," with other such matters, concerning the disposition of a judicial court. Which matter, if Pope Gregory the Seventh had written unto Henry the Third, emperor, or if Pope Alexander the Third had written to the Emperor Fredericus the First, it might have stood with some reason and opportunity of time, But now for Marcellus to write these decrees, in such persecution of the church, to Maxentius, the heathen and most cruel emperor, how unlike it is to be true, and how it served then to purpose, the reader may soon discern. And yet these be the epistles and constitutions decretal whereby (under the pretended title of the fathers) all churches of late time, and all ecclesiastical causes, have been, and yet are, in this realm of England to this day governed, directed, and disposed.
The like discussion and examination I might also make of the other epistles that follow of Eusebius and Miltiades, which all tend to the same scope, that no prelate or bishop ought to come to his answer before they be orderly and fully restored again to their possessions. Who, moreover, in the said their epistles still harp upon this key of the Scripture, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my church." Declaring, moreover, that this privilege of judging all men, and to be judged of no man, but only to be left to the judgment of the Lord was given to this foresaid holy see of Rome from time of the apostles, and chiefly left with Peter the holy key-keeper: so that although the election of the apostles was equal, yet this was chiefly granted to St. Peter, to have pre-eminence above the rest. Concluding in the end hereby, That always all greater causes, as be the matters of bishops, and such other cares of weighty importance, should be brought to the see of St. Peter, the blessed prince of the apostles, &c. These be the words of Miltiades and Eusebius, whereby it may partly be smelled, of him that hath any nose, what was the meaning of them which forged these writings and letters upon these ancient holy martyrs.
This I cannot but marvel at, in the third epistle of Eusebius the bishop of Rome, that whereas Marcellinus, his late predecessor before, in his own time and remembrance did fall so horribly, and was condemned for the same justly to be expulsed the city by the council of three hundred bishops; yet notwithstanding the foresaid Euesebius, in his third epistle, alleging that place of Tu es Petrus, bringeth in for a proof of the same, and saith, For in the apostolical see always the catholic religion hath been preserved without any spot or blemish.
But howsoever the forgers of these decretal epistles have forgotten themselves, most certain it is, that these holy bishops, unto whom they were and are ascribed, lived perfect good men, and died blessed martyrs. Of whom this Miltiades was the last among all the bishops of Rome here in the west church of Europe that ever was in danger of persecution to be martyred yet to this present day.
And thus have ye heard the stories and names of such blessed saints which suffered in the time of persecution, from the nineteenth year of Dioclesian to the seventh and last year of Maxentius, described, with the deaths also and plagues upon these tormentors and cruel tyrants, which were the cap tains of the same persecution. And here cometh in (blessed be Christ) the end of these persecutions here in these west churches of Europe, so far as the dominion of blessed Constantine did chiefly extend.
Yet notwithstanding in Asia all persecution as yet ceased not for the space of four years, as above is mentioned, by the means of wicked Licinius, under whom divers there were holy and constant martyrs that suffered grievous torments; as Hermilus, a deacon, and Stratonicus, a keeper of the prison, both which, after their punishments sustained, were strangled in the flood Ister. Also Thodorus the captain, who, being sent for of Licinius, because he would not come, and because he brake his gods in pieces, and gave them to the poor, therefore was fastened to the cross, and after being pierced with sharp pricks or bodkins in the secret parts of his body, was at last beheaded. Add to these also Miles, who, being first a soldier, was afterward made bishop of a certain city in Persia, where he, seeing himself could do no good to convert them, after many tribulations and great afflictions among them, cursed the city and departed; which city shortly after, by Sapores king of Persia, was destroyed.