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ple. So Eusebius, as we may remember, says in the preface to his fifth book of his Ecclesiastical History, and to his account of the persecutions in this reign ; ‘At" which ‘ time,’ says he, ‘the persecution against us raged with ‘great violence in several parts of the world, through the ‘ enmity (or instigation) of the people.’ 5. I presume it may be hence apparent that the emperor and the governor at Lyons were persuaded of the innocence of the christians; or that they were not guilty of the crimes sometimes imputed to them by the credulous, ignorant, and spiteful vulgar. If they had believed that the christians practised promiscuous lewdness in their assemblies, and that they killed and ate little children, they would not so readily have set at liberty all who renounced christianity: which we see they did, or were willing to do. And with great regret they saw any who had once renounced christianity return to the profession of it. It is manifest that they envied them the honour of it. Moreover, we plainly see, throughout this narrative, that they who suffered, suffered as christians. When Vettius Epagathus would have apologized for them, the governor refused to grant his request: and, upon his owning himself a christian, he committed him to prison with this character, “ The advocate of the christians.’ The title carried before Attalus was : * This is Attalus, the christian.” Other things might be added to show that the contest between the accusers and the accused was of a religious kind. Pothinus was asked by the governor, who was the God of “ the christians.’ And Attalus was asked, ‘what was God’s “name.’ When Blandina and Ponticus were brought in, they were required to swear by the heathen deities, And under their tortures they were again and again called upon to swear: that was all that was wanted; and they not complying, neither the governor, nor the multitude, had any compassion upon them. When the executions were over, the heathens insulted the bodies of the martyrs, and ascribed the victory, which they had obtained, to their deities. And they did all they could to defeat the hope of a resurrection, as knowing it to be a principle that had greatly contributed to the resolution and fortitude of the christians under all the sufferings which they had seen them endure. 6. The fortitude of the christians at Lyons was truly admirable and heroical. The sufferings set before them were very grievous. But neither death itself, nor all the preceding tortures inflicted upon them, could terrify them, or inh
avačğitto Bevroc Te Ka8 powv Čwype sé striðsgswg Twy kara Tag troAsic &mptov–p. 153.
duce them to depart from their stedfastness. The number' of these patient sufferers was very great. Many were suffocated in prison, none of whom are expressly mentioned by name, beside Pothinus. The mistress of Blandina was among the confessors or martyrs, but her name is not mentioned. Several Roman citizens were beheaded, as is expressly said in the narrative; but none of their names are mentioned. Attalus was a Roman citizen; but he had not the privilege of the city allowed him. Moreover, among the remains of the dead were heads and trunks of bodies, which must have been the remains of Roman citizens, no others having been put to death by separating the head from the body. Some gave way: but a great part of these afterwards recovered themselves, and made a right confession, in defiance of the sufferings by which they had been once terrified, and which they might now again justly expect: the rest were all along stedfast in their confession; and these were by much the majority of such as were publicly examined at the governor's tribunal. The testimony of these men is very valuable: they are not such witnesses as the apostles, and others, who were eye-witnesses of Christ and his miracles; but they lived at a time when the evidences of the truth of the christian religion might be easily traced to the first original. Irenaeus, now a presbyter in the church of Lyons, afterwards bishop of the same church, in his younger days was” well acquainted with Polycarp, disciple of St. John. Pothinus, now bishop of Lyons, who was older than Irenaeus, and now suffered martyrdom when he was ninety years of age, may be well supposed to have been acquainted with some of the first succession of bishops, or christians, next after that of the apostles. All these martyrs must have been firmly persuaded of the truth and divine original of the christian religion, and all the principles of it. They had embraced it upon the ground of such evidence as appeared to them sufficient and satisfactory: and, as their enemies themselves saw and acknowledged, “they preferred their religion above their lives.” They believed, as they supposed upon good ground, that Jesus Christ was a divine teacher sent from God. They were, in particular, firmly persuaded of the truth of his doctrine concerning future rewards for the good, and punishments for the wicked, and were thereby engaged to the
H. E. l. 5. cap. 4. p. 168. * See Vol. ii. ch. vi. p. 94.
sincere profession of the truth and the abhorrence of falsehood. Their knowledge of the scriptures of the Old and New Testament, and their respect for them, are manifest from their frequent allusions to them, or quotations of them. 7. They seem to have had among them gifts of the Spirit. Eusebius says, “they were not destitute of the grace of God, ‘ and the Holy Ghost was their director.” Of Alexander, the writers of this epistle say, ‘ he was known to almost all “men for his boldness in preaching the word; for he was * not destitute of apostolic grace.” They likewise say of Attalus, ‘that after his first combat it was revealed to him “ that Alcibiades did not do well in not using the creatures ‘ of God; and Alcibiades acquiesced, and thenceforward “ partook of all sorts of food promiscuously.” And it may deserve to be considered that Attalus was a Roman citizen, and not a mean person. To me those expressions likewise appear remarkable, where they say of these confessors: “They ° demonstrated in fact the power of martyrdom, using great ‘ freedom of speech in all their answers to the Gentiles, and ‘manifesting a greatness of mind in their patience, fear* lessness, and undaunted courage, under all their suffer‘ings.” Certainly the christian sufferers had the presence of God with them. All men around them were adversaries; but God did not forsake them; he strengthened and supported them. 8. Finally, by the example of these patient and victorious confessors and martyrs, let us be animated and encouraged to steadiness in the cause of truth; humbly depending upon God, and earnestly praying that we may have strength from above, equal to the trials which we may meet with : for it is better to suffer for truth and virtue, though we should be put into the iron chair with Attalus, or be hung upon a stake like Blandina, than to be a persecuting judge upon a tribunal, or a persecuting emperor upon a throne. What is above was intended for the conclusion of this article: but some may be of opinion that, to my own thoughts upon this subject, I ought to add the observations of that fine writer, and good christian, Mr. Joseph Addison: “ Under this" head,” says he, ‘ I cannot omit that which ‘ appears to me a standing miracle in the three first cen‘turies; I mean, that amazing and supernatural courage or ‘patience which was shown by innumerable multitudes of ‘ martyrs, in those slow and painful torments that were in‘ flicted on them. I cannot conceive a man placed in the
| Their testimony to the scriptures makes a distinct chapter, Vol. ii. ch. xvi. " Addison of the Christian Religion, sect. vii. num. iv. p. 314.
‘ burning iron chair at Lyons, amidst the insults and mockeries of a crowded amphitheatre, and still keeping his seat : or stretched upon a grate of iron, over coals of fire, and breathing out his soul among the exquisite sufferings of such a tedious execution, rather than renounce his religion, or blaspheme his Saviour. Such trials seem to me above the strength of human nature, and able to overbear duty, reason, faith, conviction, nay, and the most absolute certainty of a future state. Humanity, unassisted in an extraordinary manner, must have shaken off the present pressure, and have delivered itself out of such a dreadful distress by any means that could have been suggested to it. We can easily imagine that many persons, in so good a cause, might have laid down their lives at the gibbet, the stake, or the block; but to expire leisurely among the most exquisite tortures, when they might come out of them, even by a mental reservation, or an hypocrisy, which is not without the possibility of being followed by repentance and forgiveness, has something in it so far beyond the force and natural strength of mortals, that one cannot but think that there was some miraculous power to support the
sufferer.’ So Mr. Addison.
A REMARKABLE DELIVERANCE OF THIS EMPEROR IN HIS WARS IN GERMANY, AND THE HISTORY OF THE THUNDERING LEGION CONSIDERED.
I. A general account of the deliverance obtained by JMarcus ...Antoninus in Germany, in the year 174. II. The account given by Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History, where that deliverance is ascribed to the prayers of a legion of christians in the emperor's army. III. Observations upon that history. IV. A summary of the argument.
I. THERE is yet one thing more relating to this emperor, which must be taken notice of. If, upon enquiry, it should appear to be of small importance, some may be of opinion that it might have been passed by in silence, or but slightly mentioned. On the other hand, since some have judged it to be of great moment, and there have been many controversies about it, in which learned men of great eminence on each side have been engaged, it may be justly supposed to deserve particular consideration.
When Marcus Antoninus was engaged in a difficult war with the Quadi, a people in Germany," in the fourteenth year of his reign, and of our Lord 174, he was reduced to great straits, his army being in want of water. Whilst they were in that distress, there came a very seasonable and plentiful shower of rain, which refreshed him and his soldiers, and he obtained a victory over his enemies. This deliveranee has been thought by many to have been miraculous, owing to the prayers of the christians, who were in the Roman army. And it has been supposed that thereupon the emperor wrote a letter to the senate which was very favourable to the christians.
II. I shall begin with reciting what Eusebius says of this matter in his Ecclesiastical History.
* It" is said, that when Marcus Aurelius had drawn out ‘ his forces against the Germans and Sarmatians, his army was brought into a great strait by reason of drought, so that he knew not what course to take : that the soldiers of the legion, called the Melitenian Legion, which still subsists as a reward of their faith, when the armies were going to engage, falling down to the earth upon their knees, according to our usual custom in prayer, offered up requests to God: that the enemies were greatly surprised at that wonderful sight; and that, as is" said, there soon after followed a thing more wonderful, a violent lightning, which put the enemies to flight, and destroyed them; and also a shower, which fell upon that army which had prayed to God, and refreshed it when they were all ready to perish with thirst. This is related by such writers as are far from embraeing our religion, but were concerned to record the events of those times: it is also related by our authors. By other writers who were averse to our religion the" wonderful event is recorded : but they do not acknowledge that it was owing to the prayers of our people: but by our authors, who were lovers of truth, what happened is related in a plain and ingenuous manner. One of them is Apollinarius, who says, that from that time the legion, by whose prayers that wonderful deliverance was obtained, was by the emperor's order called" in the Roman lan‘guage, the Thunderbolt Legion, a name suited to the event. Tertullian is another witness worthy of credit; who in his
* Vid. Pagi ann. 174. m. ii. Basnag. 174, n. i. &c. et Cleric. Hist. Ec. ann. 174, b \oyoc exst. K. A. H. E. l. 5. c. 5. p. 169. &c. * — —a)\\o Tu Aoyoc exst. p. 169. B.
d Ts6stral psy ro Tapačošov. p. 139. C.
e kepavvosłoxov Ty Pwpawy strik\}Belgav povy, p. 169. D.
W. O. L. VII. N