MARTYRDOM OF POLYCARP AND HIS EPISTLE (155 AD)January 16 2012 at 7:00 PM
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MARTYRDOM OF POLYCARP AND HIS EPISTLE (155 AD)
The Epistle Of Polycarp To The Philippians
Polycarp, and the presbyters that are with him, to the Church of God which is at Philippi: mercy unto you and peace from God Almighty and the Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour, be multiplied. I rejoiced greatly with you in our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye received the images of a true love, and accompanied, as it is behooved you, those who were in bonds, becoming saints; which are the crowns of such as are truly chosen by God and our Lord: as also that the root of the faith which was preached from ancient times remains firm in you to this day; and brings forth fruit to our Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered himself to be brought even to the death for our sins. Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death; whom, having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
Into which many desire to enter; knowing that by grace ye are saved; not by works, but by the will of God through Jesus Christ. Wherefore girding up the loins of your minds, serve the Lord with fear and in truth; laying aside all empty and vain speech, and the error of many; believing in him that raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, and hath given him glory and a throne at his right hand. To whom all things are made subject, both that are in heaven and that are in earth; whom every living creature shall worship; who shall come to be the judge of the quick and dead: whose blood God shall require of them that believe in him.
But he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also raise up us in like manner, if we do his will and walk according to his commandments; and love those things which he loved; abstaining from all unrighteousness, inordinate affection, and love of money; from evil speaking; false witness; not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing, or striking for striking, or cursing for cursing. But remembering what the Lord has taught us, saying, Judge not, and ye shall not be judged; forgive and ye shall be forgiven; be merciful, and ye shall obtain mercy; for with the same measure that ye mete withal, it shall be measured to you again. And again, that blessed are the poor and they that are persecuted for righteousness' sake; for theirs is the kingdom of God.
These things, my brethren, I took not the liberty of myself to write unto you concerning righteousness, but you yourselves before encouraged me to it. For neither can I, nor any other such as I am, come up to the wisdom of the blessed and renowned Paul: who, being himself in person with those who then lived, did with all exactness and soundness teach the word of truth; and being gone from you wrote an epistle to you. Into which, if you look, you will be able to edify yourselves in the faith that has been delivered unto you; which is the mother of us all; being followed with hope, and led on by a general love, both toward God and toward Christ and toward our neighbor.
For if any man has these things he has fulfilled the law of righteousness: for he that has charity is far from all sin. But the love of money is the root of all evil. Knowing therefore that as we brought nothing into this world, so neither may we carry anything out; let us arm ourselves with the armor of righteousness. And teach ourselves first to walk according to the commandments of the Lord; and then your wives to walk likewise according to the faith that is given to them; in charity, and in purity; loving their own husbands with all sincerity, and all others alike with all temperance; and to bring up their children in the instruction and fear of the Lord. The widows likewise teach that they be sober as to what concerns the faith of the Lord: praying always for all men; being far from all detraction, evil speaking, false witness; from covetousness, and from all evil. Knowing that they are the altars of God, who sees all blemishes, and from whom nothing is hid; who searches out the very reasonings, and thoughts, and secrets of our hearts.
Knowing, therefore, that God is not mocked, we ought to walk worthy both of his command and of his glory. Also the deacons must be blameless before him, as the ministers of God in Christ, and not of men. Not false accusers; not double-tongued; not lovers of money; but moderate in all things, compassionate, careful; walking according to the truth of the Lord, who was the servant of all. Whom if we please in this present world we shall also be made partakers of that which is to come, according as he has promised to us, that he will raise us from the dead; and that if we shall walk worthy of him, we shall also reign together with him, if we believe.
In like manner the younger men must be unblamable in all things; above all, taking care of their purity, and to restrain themselves from all evil. For it is good to be cut off from the lusts that are in the world, because every such lust warreth against the Spirit; and neither fornicators, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, shall inherit the kingdom of God; nor they who do such things as are foolish and unreasonable. Wherefore ye must needs abstain from all these things, being subject to the priests and deacons, as unto God and Christ. The virgins admonish to walk in a spotless and pure conscience. And let the elders be compassionate and merciful toward all; turning them from their errors; seeking out those that are weak; not forgetting the widows, the fatherless, and the poor; but always providing what is good both in the sight of God and man. Abstaining from all wrath, respect of persons, and unrighteous judgment; and especially being free from all covetousness. Not easy to believe anything against any; not severe in judgment; knowing that we are all debtors in point of sin.
If, therefore, we pray to the Lord that he would forgive us, we ought also to forgive others; for we are all in the sight of our Lord and God; and must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ; and shall every one give an account of himself. Let us, therefore, serve him in fear, and with all reverence as both himself hath commanded, and as the apostles who have preached the gospel unto us, and the prophets who have foretold the coming of our Lord have taught us. Being zealous of what is good; abstaining from all offence, and from false brethren; and from those who bear the name of Christ in hypocrisy; who deceive vain men.
For whosoever does not confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, he is antichrist; and whoever does not confess his suffering upon the cross is from the devil. And whosoever perverts the oracles of the Lord to his own lusts, and says that there shall neither be any resurrection, nor judgment, he is the first-born of Satan. Wherefore, leaving the vanity of many and their false doctrines, let us return to the word that was delivered to us from the beginning. Watching unto prayer, and persevering in fasting. With supplication beseeching the all-seeing God not to lead us into temptation; as the Lord hath said, The spirit is truly willing, but the flesh is weak. Let us, therefore, without ceasing hold steadfastly to him who is our hope, and the earnest of our righteousness, even Jesus Christ; who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree; who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. But suffered all for us that we might live through him. Let us, therefore, imitate his patience; and if we suffer for his name, let us glorify him; for this example he has given us by himself, and so have we believed.
Wherefore I exhort all of you that ye obey the word of righteousness, and exercise all patience; which ye have seen set forth before our eyes, not only in the blessed Ignatius and Zozimus and Rufus, but in others among ourselves; and in Paul himself, and the rest of the apostles. Being confident of this, that all these have not run in vain, but in faith and righteousness, and are gone to the place that was due to them from the Lord, with whom they also suffered; for they loved not this present world, but him who died, and was raised again by God for us. Stand, therefore, in these things and follow the example of the Lord; being firm and immutable in the faith, lovers of the brotherhood, lovers of one another, companions together in the truth, being kind and gentle toward each other, despising none. When it is in your power to do good, defer it not, for charity delivered from death. Be all of you subject one to another, having your conversation honest among the Gentiles; that by your good works both ye yourselves may receive praise and the Lord may not be blasphemed through you. But woe be to him by whom the name of the Lord is blasphemed. Therefore teach all men sobriety; in which do ye also exercise yourselves.
I am greatly afflicted for Valens, who was once a presbyter among you; that he should so little understand the place that was given to him in the Church. Wherefore I admonish you that ye abstain from covetousness, and that ye be chaste, and true of speech. Keep yourselves from all evil; for he that in these things cannot govern himself, how shall he be able to prescribe them to another? If a man does not keep himself from covetousness he shall be polluted with idolatry and be judged as if he were a Gentile. But who of you are ignorant of the judgment of God? Do we not know that the saints shall judge the world, as Paul teaches? But I have neither perceived nor heard anything of this kind in you, among whom the blessed Paul labored, and who are named in the beginning of his epistle. For he glories of you in all the churches who then only knew God; for we did not then know him. Wherefore, my brethren, I am exceedingly sorry both for him and for his wife; to whom God grant a true repentance.
And be ye also moderate upon this occasion, and look not upon such as enemies, but call them back as suffering and erring members, that ye may save your whole body; for by so doing ye shall edify your own selves. For I trust that ye are well exercised in the Holy Scriptures, and that nothing is hid from you; but at present it is not granted unto me to practise that which is written, Be angry and sin not; and again, Let not the sun go down upon your wrath. Blessed be he that believeth and remembereth these things, which also I trust you do.
Now the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and he himself who is our everlasting high-priest, the Son of God, even Jesus Christ, build you up in faith and in truth and in all meekness and lenity; in patience and long-suffering, in forbearance and chastity. And grant unto you a lot and portion among his saints; and us with you, and to all that are under the heavens, who shall believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, and in his Father who raised him from the dead. Pray for all the saints; pray also for kings, and all that are in authority; and for those who persecute you, and hate you, and for the enemies of the cross; that your fruit may be manifest in all, and that ye may be perfect in Christ. Ye wrote to me, both ye and also Ignatius, that if anyone went from hence into Syria he should bring your letters with him, which also I will take care of, as soon as I shall have a convenient opportunity, either by myself or him whom I shall send upon your account. The Epistles of Ignatius, which he wrote unto us, together with what others of his have come to our hands, we have sent to you, according to your order, which are subjoined to this epistle. By which we may be greatly profited; for they treat of faith and patience, and of all things that pertain to edification in the Lord Jesus. What you know certainly of Ignatius and those that are with him signify to us.
These things have I written unto you by Crescens, whom by this present epistle I have recommended to you, and do now again commend. For he has had his conversation without blame among us, and I suppose also with you. Ye will also have regard unto his sister when she shall come unto you. Be ye safe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and in favor with all yours. Amen.§
Copyright © 1994 Bureau of Electronic Publishing
PERSECUTION OF THE CHRISTIANS IN GAUL (177 AD)
|January 16 2012, 7:12 PM |
PERSECUTION OF THE CHRISTIANS IN GAUL (177 AD)
Guizot, Francois P. G.
That the persecutions of Christians under the Roman Empire should have
been inaugurated by a Nero is not a subject of wonder in view of that
Emperor's character as depicted in history through all ages since his own.
But it is difficult to understand how an emperor like Trajan - an enlightened
and humane ruler - if he was powerless to prevent, could have brought himself
to give countenance to a policy at once so intolerant and cruel, and in the
end to prove so short-sighted. A great cause prospers by persecution. The
martyr-spirit is strengthened by blows and fagots. History has well proved
the truth of that saying of the Church Fathers, tersely given by St. Jerome:
Est sanguis martyrium seminarium Ecclesiarum ("The blood of the martyrs is
the seed of the Church").
Still more incomprehensible to modern students is the fact that Marcus
Aurelius, the imperial philosopher and benevolent man, should also be stained
with the infamy of the persecutions. The charges brought against him as a
cruel persecutor of the Christians have given rise to much dispute among
historical scholars. Among modern Christian writers of favorable disposition
toward Marcus, F. W. Farrar has perhaps as clearly as any set forth the views
that explain his conduct and vindicate his reputation for humanity: "That he
shared the profound dislike with which Christians were regarded is very
probable. That he was a cold-blooded and virulent persecutor is utterly
unlike his whole character. The deep calamities in which during his whole
reign the empire was involved caused widespread distress, and roused into
peculiar fury the feelings of the provincials against men whose atheism (for
such they considered it to be) had kindled the anger of the gods. Marcus,
when appealed to, simply let the existing law take its course." In like
manner the purely official or legal view of human affairs often leads the
most kindly and conscientious of men to pursue or acquiesce in policies
against which, in different situations, their moral nature would rebel.
There were many reasons which led the populace to hate Christians, whom,
first of all, they regarded as being unpatriotic. While among Romans it was
considered the highest honor to possess the privileges of Roman citizenship,
the Christians announced that they were citizens of heaven. They shrank from
public office and military service.
Again, the ancient religion of Rome was an adjunct of state dignity and
ceremonial. It was hallowed by a thousand traditional and patriotic
associations. The Christians regarded its rites and its popular assemblies
with contempt and abhorrence. The Romans viewed the secret meetings of the
Christians with suspicion, and accused them of abominable excesses and crime.
They were known to have representatives in every important city of Gaul,
Spain, Italy, and Asia; and the more their communities grew, the more the
Roman populace raged against them. Only such considerations appear to
mitigate the historical judgments against Aurelius for marring the splendor
of his reign by persecutions. The tragedies enacted in the churches of Lyons
and Vienne, as described in the following pages, form one of the most
melancholy records of history.
Persecution Of The Christians In Gaul
When Christianity began to penetrate into Gaul, it encountered there two religions very different one from the other, and infinitely more different from the Christian religion; these were Druidism and paganism - hostile one to the other, but with a hostility political only, and unconnected with those really religious questions that Christianity was coming to raise.
Druidism, considered as a religion, was a mass of confusion, wherein the instinctive notions of the human race concerning the origin and destiny of the world and of mankind were mingled with the oriental dreams of metempsychosis - that pretended transmigration, at successive periods, of immortal souls into divers creatures. This confusion was worse confounded by traditions borrowed from the mythologies of the East and the North, by shadowy remnants of a symbolical worship paid to the material forces of nature, and by barbaric practices, such as human sacrifices, in honor of the gods or of the dead.
People who are without the scientific development of language and the art of writing do not attain to systematic and productive religious creeds. There is nothing to show that, from the first appearance of the Gauls in history to their struggle with victorious Rome, the religious influence of Druidism had caused any notable progress to be made in Gallic manners and civilization. A general and strong, but vague and incoherent, belief in the immortality of the soul was its noblest characteristic. But with the religious elements, at the same time coarse and mystical, were united two facts of importance: the Druids formed a veritable ecclesiastical corporation, which had, throughout Gallic society, fixed attributes, special manners and customs, an existence at the same time distinct and national; and in the wars with Rome this corporation became the most faithful representatives and the most persistent defenders of Gallic independence and nationality.
The Druids were far more a clergy than Druidism was a religion; but it was an organized and a patriotic clergy. It was especially on this account that they exercised in Gaul an influence which was still existent, particularly in Northwestern Gaul, at the time when Christianity reached the Gallic provinces of the South and Centre.
The Graeco-Roman paganism was, at this time, far more powerful than Druidism in Gaul, and yet more lukewarm and destitute of all religious vitality. It was the religion of the conquerors and of the State, and was invested, in that quality, with real power; but, beyond that, it had but the power derived from popular customs and superstitions. As a religious, creed, the Latin paganism was at bottom empty, indifferent, and inclined to tolerate all religions in the State, provided only that they, in their turn, were indifferent at any rate toward itself, and that they did not come troubling the State, either by disobeying her rulers or by attacking her old deities, dead and buried beneath their own still standing altars.
Such were the two religions with which in Gaul nascent Christianity had to contend. Compared with them it was, to all appearance, very small and very weak; but it was provided with the most efficient weapons for fighting and beating them, for it had exactly the moral forces which they lacked. Christianity, instead of being, like Druidism, a religion exclusively national and hostile to all that was foreign, proclaimed a universal religion, free from all local and national partiality, addressing itself to all men in the name of the same God, and offering to all the same salvation. It is one of the strangest and most significant facts in history that the religion most universally human, most dissociated from every consideration but that of the rights and well-being of the human race in its entirety - that such a religion, be it repeated, should have come forth from the womb of the most exclusive, most rigorously and obstinately national religion that ever appeared in the world, that is, Judaism. Such, nevertheless, was the birth of Christianity; and this wonderful contrast between the essence and the earthly origin of Christianity was without doubt one of its most powerful attractions and most efficacious means of success.
Against paganism Christianity was armed with moral forces not a whit less great. Confronting mythological traditions and poetical or philosophical allegories, appeared a religion truly religious, concerned solely with the relations of mankind to God and with their eternal future. To the pagan indifference of the Roman world the Christians opposed the profound conviction of their faith, and not only their firmness in defending it against all powers and all dangers, but also their ardent passion for propagating it without any motive but the yearning to make their fellows share in its benefits and its hopes. They confronted, nay, they welcomed martyrdom, at one time to maintain their own Christianity, at another to make others Christians around them; propagandism was for them a duty almost as imperative as fidelity.
And it was not in memory of old and obsolete mythologies, but in the name of recent deeds and persons, in obedience to laws proceeding from God, One and Universal, in fulfillment and continuation of a contemporary and superhuman history - that of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Man - that the Christians of the first two centuries labored to convert to their faith the whole Roman world. Marcus Aurelius was contemptuously astonished at what he called the obstinacy of the Christians; he knew not from what source these nameless heroes drew a strength superior to his own, though he was at the same time emperor and sage. It is impossible to assign with exactness the date of the first footprints and first labors of Christianity in Gaul. It was not, however, from Italy, nor in the Latin tongue and through Latin writers, but from the East and through the Greeks, that it first came and began to spread. Marseilles and the different Greek colonies, originally from Asia Minor and settled upon the shores of the Mediterranean or along the Rhone, mark the route and were the places whither the first Christian missionaries carried their teaching: on this point the letters of the apostles and the writings of the first two generations of their disciples are clear and abiding proof.
In the West of the empire, especially in Italy, the Christians at their first appearance were confounded with the Jews, and comprehended under the same name. "The emperor Claudius," says Suetonius, "drove from Rome (A.D. 52) the Jews who, at the instigation of Christus, were in continual commotion." After the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus (A.D. 70), the Jews, Christian or not, dispersed throughout the empire; but the Christians were not slow to signalize themselves by their religious fervor, and to come forward everywhere under their own true name.
Lyons became the chief centre of Christian preaching and association in Gaul. As early as the first half of the second century there existed there a Christian congregation, regularly organized as a church, and already sufficiently important to be in intimate and frequent communication with the Christian churches of the East and West. There is a tradition, generally admitted, that St. Pothinus, the first bishop of Lyons, was sent thither from the East by the bishop of Smyrna, St. Polycarp, himself a disciple of St. John. One thing is certain, that the Christian Church of Lyons produced Gaul's first martyrs, among whom was the bishop, St. Pothinus.
It was under Marcus Aurelius, the most philosophical and most conscientious of the emperors, that there was enacted for the first time in Gaul, against nascent Christianity, that scene of tyranny and barbarity which was to be renewed so often and during so many centuries in the midst of Christendom itself. In the eastern provinces of the empire and in Italy the Christians had already been several times persecuted, now with cold-blooded cruelty, now with some slight hesitation and irresolution. Nero had caused them to be burned in the streets of Rome, accusing them of the conflagration himself had kindled, and, a few months before his fall, St. Peter and St. Paul had undergone martyrdom at Rome. Domitian had persecuted and put to death Christians even in his own family, and though invested with the honors of the consulate.
Righteous Trajan, when consulted by Pliny the Younger on the conduct he should adopt in Bithynia toward the Christians, had answered: "It is impossible, in this sort of matter, to establish any certain general rule; there must be no quest set on foot against them, and no unsigned indictment must be accepted; but if they be accused and convicted, they must be punished." To be punished, it sufficed that they were convicted of being Christians; and it was Trajan himself who condemned St. Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, to be brought to Rome and thrown to the beasts, for the simple reason that he was highly Christian. Marcus Aurelius, not only by virtue of his philosophical conscientiousness, but by reason of an incident in his history, seemed bound to be further than any other from persecuting the Christians.
During one of his campaigns on the Danube, A.D. 174, his army was suffering cruelly from fatigue and thirst; and at the very moment when they were on the point of engaging in a great battle against the barbarians, the rain fell in abundance, refreshed the Roman soldiers, and conduced to their victory. There was in the Roman army a legion, the Twelfth, called the Melitine or the Thundering, which bore on its roll many Christian soldiers. They gave thanks for the rain and the victory to the one omnipotent God who had heard their prayers, while the pagans rendered like honor to Jupiter, the Rain-giver and the Thunderer. The report about these Christians got spread abroad and gained credit in the empire, so much so that there was attributed to Marcus Aurelius a letter, in which by reason, no doubt, of this incident, he forbade persecution of the Christians.
Tertullian, a contemporary witness, speaks of this letter in perfect confidence; and the Christian writers of the following century did not hesitate to regard it as authentic. Nowadays, a strict examination of its existing text does not allow such a character to be attributed to it. At any rate the persecutions of the Christians were not forbidden, for in the year 177, that is, only three years after the victory of Marcus Aurelius over the Germans, there took place, undoubtedly by his orders, the persecution which caused at Lyons the first Gallic martyrdom. This was the fourth, or, according to others, the fifth great imperial persecution of the Christians.
Most tales of the martyrs were written long after the event, and came to be nothing more than legends laden with details often utterly puerile or devoid of proof. The martyrs of Lyons in the second century wrote, so to speak, their own history; for it was their comrades, eye-witnesses of their sufferings and their virtue, who gave an account of them in a long letter addressed to their friends in Asia Minor, and written with passionate sympathy and pious prolixity, but bearing all the characteristics of truth. It seems desirable to submit for perusal that document, which has been preserved almost entire in the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea in the third century, and which will exhibit, better than any modern representations, the state of facts and of souls in the midst of the imperial persecutions, and the mighty faith, devotion, and courage with which the early Christians faced the most cruel trials:
"The servants of Christ, dwelling at Vienne and Lyons in Gaul, to the brethren settled in Asia and Phrygia, who have the same faith and hope of redemption that we have, peace, grace, and glory from God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord!
"None can tell to you in speech or fully set forth to you in writing the weight of our misery, the madness and rage of the Gentiles against the saints, and all that hath been suffered by the blessed martyrs. Our enemy doth rush upon us with all the fury of his powers, and already giveth us a foretaste and the first-fruits of all the license with which he doth intend to set upon us. He hath omitted nothing for the training of his agents against us, and he doth exercise them in a sort of preparatory work against the servants of the Lord. Not only are we driven from the public buildings, from the baths, and from the Forum, but it is forbidden to all our people to appear publicly in any place whatsoever.
"The grace of God hath striven for us against the devil: at the same time that it hath sustained the weak, it hath opposed to the Evil One, as it were, pillars of strength - men strong and valiant, ready to draw on themselves all his attacks. They have had to bear all manner of insult; they have deemed but a small matter that which others find hard and terrible; and they have thought only of going to Christ, proving by their example that the sufferings of this world are not worthy to be put in the balance with the glory which is to be manifested in us. They have endured, in the first place, all the outrages that could be heaped upon them by the multitude, outcries, blows, thefts, spoliation, stoning, imprisonment, all that the fury of the people could devise against hated enemies. Then, dragged to the Forum by the military tribune and the magistrates of the city, they have been questioned before the people and cast into prison until the coming of the governor. He, from the moment our people appeared before him, committed all manner of violence against them.
"Then stood forth one of our brethren, Vettius Epagathus, full of love toward God and his neighbor, living a life so pure and strict that, young as he was, men held him to be the equal of the aged Zacharias. He could not bear that judgment so unjust should go forth against us, and, moved with indignation, he asked leave to defend his brethren, and to prove that there was in them no kind of irreligion or impiety. Those present at the tribunal, among whom he was known and celebrated, cried out against him, and the governor himself, enraged at so just a demand, asked him no more than this question, 'Art thou a Christian?' Straightway with a loud voice he declared himself a Christian, and was placed among the number of the martyrs.
"Afterward, the rest began to be examined and classed. The first, firm and well prepared, made hearty and solemn confession of their faith. Others, ill prepared and with little firmness, showed that they lacked strength for such a fight. About ten of them fell away, which caused us incredible pain and mourning. Their example broke down the courage of others, who, not being yet in bonds, though they had already had much to suffer, kept close to the martyrs, and withdrew not out of their sight. Then were we all stricken with dread for the issue of the trial: not that we had great fear of the torments inflicted, but because, prophesying the result according to the degree of courage of the accused, we feared much falling away. They took, day by day, those of our brethren who were worthy to replace the weak; so that all the best of the two churches, those whose care and zeal had founded them, were taken and confined.§
Copyright © 1994 Bureau of Electronic Publishing
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