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SUBSTANCE OF THE EPISTLE, &C.
We are unable to give you any adequate idea of the fury manifefted by the heathens against the faints, or of the fufferings of the bleffed martyrs. Our grand adversary affailed us with all his might, and left no method of cruelty unpractifed. We were forbidden to appear in the baths, or the forum; in any house except our own, or indeed in any place whatsoever. But the Grace of God fought for us, preferving the weak, and expofing to the fury of the tempter thofe chiefly, who, being armed with patience, were able to withstand his affault, and to endure every species of pain and reproach, efteeming them light and trivial, for the fake of Chrift, and the glory which should follow. They firft courageously fuftained the fhouts, blows, plunder, ftonings, and all other outrages and indignities which an exafperated mob could be expected to inflict. They then underwent a publick examination, and confeffing themselves to be christians were shut up in prifon. When the prefident arrived, they were brought before his tribunal, and treated with the utmost brutality. Vettius Epagathus, an eminent example of piety and devotedness to God, was moved with indignation at witneffing fuch a perversion of justice, and requested permiffion to repel the charge of impiety which was made against the chriftians. His requeft was refused, and he himself, confeffing that he was a christian, was numbered with the martyrs. But having within him the Holy Spirit, and being a genuine difciple of Chrift, he gladly laid down his life for the brethren, following the Lamb whither foever he goeth. Oth
ers were examined at the fame time, who proved illuftrious and ready martyrs; while fome prov. ed unequal to fo great a combat. Of thefe ten fell away, whofe cafe filled us with deep dejection on their account, and with alarming fears, not of being tortured, but left any of us also fhould be tempt ed to apoftatize from the faith. The most eminent perfons of both churches were now daily apprehended, and with them fome of our heathen fervants, who were induced, by the dread of torture, to charge us with eating human flesh, and with other practices not fit even to be named. This incenfed, beyond all bounds, against us many even of those who before had been more moderate. The holy martyrs were now called to endure inexpreffible tortures, Satan endeavouring to extort from them alfo fome flander against chriftianity. The rage of the multitude, as well as of the prefident and the foldiery, was chiefly directed against Sanctus, a deacon of Vienne; Maturus, who had only recently been baptized; Attalus, of Pergamus, a main pillar of the church; and Blandina, who, notwithstanding our fears for her weakness, was fupplied with fo much fortitude, that even those who in fucceffion were torturing her from morning till night were worn out, and owned themselves vanquished. They were even amazed that she should be still alive, mangled and pierced as was her whole body. But in the midst of all her torments, it seemed to abate her pains, and to recruit her fpirits to be able to fay, "I am a chriftian, and no wickedness is acted among us."
The aftonishing courage with which Sanctus encountered the intenfe fufferings he was made te
undergo, excited in an extraordinary degree the rage both of the governour and the torturers. At laft they applied red hot plates of brafs to the tendereft parts of his body: these were indeed burnt; but he ftill ftood unmov. ed, and firm in his confeffion, being refreshed by that heavenly fountain of living water which flows from the body of Chrift. His body was now one continued wound, and fcarcely retained the human form; but Chrift wrought wonders in him, fhewing that nothing is to be dreaded where the love of God, and the glory of Chrift are prefent. For fome days after, while his body was in an extremely tender ftate, fwoln and inflamed by what he had fuffered, they hoped, by repeating the fame courfe of tortures, to fubdue his conftancy; or at least to ftrike a terror into the reft. But fo far was this from being the cafe, that under this fecond in fliction he seemed, by the grace of Christ, rather to recover his former fhape, and the ufe of his limbs.
Biblias, one of those who had denied Chrift, was now brought to the torture, in the hope of compelling her to charge the christians with impious practices. But on being tortured, The feemed to awake as it were out of fleep, and to be reminded by her prefent fufferings of the everlasting torments of Hell. Denying, there fore, the truth of fuch allegations, fhe added, "How fhould fuch perfons eat children to whom it is unlawful even to eat the blood of beafts?" She then confeffed herself a christian, and was added to the army of martyrs.
places, their feet diftended in the ftocks, till many were fuffocated, and others died in prifon of the tortures they had endured. Many, however, furvived, notwithftanding their deftitution of all human aid, being ftrengthened by the Lord.
The torments already inflicted proving ineffectual through the power of Christ, the martyrs were imprisoned in dark and noifome
Pothinus, the Bishop, who was above ninety years of age, and ve ry infirm in body, though ftrong in fpirit, was now brought before the tribunal, and having, amid the fhouts of the multitude, witneffed a good confeffion, he was violently dragged about and inhumanly beaten, until fcarcely any breath was left in him. He was then caft into prifon, and after two days expired.
It is particularly worthy of remark, that fuch as on being feized had denied Chrift partook of the fame miferies in prifon as the martyrs, being treated as guilty by their own confeflion of murder and inceft; while they were destitute of the joy of martyrdom, the hope of the gofpel, the love of Chrift, and the confolations of the Spirit of God. Oppreffed with the pangs of guilt, their dejected looks diftinguished them from the faithful, who went forth cheerfully, their countenances beaming with grace and glory: moreover, the very heathens reviled them as cowards and murderers. When the others obferved these things they became more steadfast in the faith, and yielded not to the fuggeftions of the devil.
The martyrs fuffered death in various ways. Maturus, San&us, Blandina, and Attalus, were produced on one of the days of the fhews before the wild beafts in the amphitheatre. There the two firft again underwent all forts of torments, having been previously fcourged in their paffage thither.
They were torn, and dragged up and down by the wild beafts, and fubjected alfo to every barbarity which the populace chofe to call for, and at laft to the iron chair, in which their bodies were fo broiled as to produce a most offenfive odour. Nor did the cruelties of their perfecutors end here, but were continued with the utmoft fierceness until thefe two holy men at length expired under their fufferings.
Blandina was fufpended to a take and expofed to the wild beafts; and forming as the hung the figure of a crois, her appearance ferved to encourage the christians by exciting a lively recollection of Him who was crucified, that he might obtain for those who believe in him and fuffer for his fake, eternal communion with the living God. None of the beafts touching her, fhe was taken down and caft again into prifon, being referved for another combat. Attalus alfo, being vehemently called for by the populace, came forward with ferenity, and was led round the theatre, preceded by the tablet, on which was infcribed, "This is Attalus the chriftian." The rage of the people against him was exceffive: but the prefident understanding that he was a Roman citizen remanded him to prifon, till he fhould learn the will of the empeFor refpecting perfons in his circumstances. The respite which was thus obtained, proved highly beneficial to the church. The mercy of Chrift confpicuously appear ed in the patience with which he armed his fervants: and by means of the martyrs, most of thofe who had renounced the faith were born anew, and acquired courage to profefs themfelves chriftians; and being joyfully restored to the bo
fom of the church, they longed for a fresh opportunity of being examined. The emperor's orders were, that fuch as confeffed themfelves chriftians fhould be put to death by torture, and that the apoftates fhould be difmifled. It being now, therefore, the time of the public games, the martyrs were again brought before the populace. Such of them as were Roman citizens were beheaded, the rest were thrown to the wild beafts. Chrift was now in a particular manner glorified in those who had formerly apoftatized; for boldly avowing themfelves chriftians they alfo were added to the number of the martyrs. None now remained in a state of apostacy but a few whofe conduct had always been, a reproach to chriftianity, and had fhewn them never to have poffeffed true faith, nor to have had the fear of God before their eyes.
During the course of the examinations, one Alexander, who was diftinguished by his love of God, by his boldness in preaching, and by his apoftolical endowments, food near the tribunal, and with geftures animated the chriftians to profefs the faith. This conduct excited the indignation of the populace against him, and being interrogated and confeffing himfelf a chriftian, he was condemned to death. The next day he and Attalus were expofed together to the wild beafts, and having fuftained all the ufual methods of torture, were at laft run through with a fword. Alexander expired without having uttered a word or a groan, communing inwardly with God during his conflict. But Attalus, when placed in the iron chair and thoroughly fcorched, faid, "You indeed devour men, but we neither devour men,
nor practice any other wicked
tauntingly afked, Where is their God, and what advantages have they derived from that religion, which they preferred to life? At the end of fix days the bodies of the martyrs were reduced to ashes, and thrown into the Rhone, that no remains of them might be found on the earth. This was done by the heathens under the vain idea of deterring others, by deftroying their hope of a refur rection: for it was this hope, they faid, which led men to introduce a ftrange and new religion, to contemn the most exquifite torments, and even joyfully to undergo death. "Let us now see if they will rife again, and if their God is able to affift them, and deliver them out of our hands."
On the last day of the fhews, Blandina was again brought forth with Ponticus, a youth of fifteen (who had both been daily led in to fee the tortures of the rest :) and the multitude being greatly enraged against them on account of their firmly refufing to fwear by the idols, and their contemning the gods, no pity was fhewn either to the fex of the one, or the youth of the other. The whole circuit of tortures was inflicted on them without effect. Ponticus, after a most heroic exertion of patience, to which he was animated by his fifter Blandina, gave up the ghost. Blandina, having first been fcourged and expofed to the wild beafts, and alfo fet in the iron chair, was at last enclosed in a net and thrown to a bull, which toffed her for fome time: she ftill appeared, however, fuperior to all her fufferings, borne up by hope and faith and communion with Christ, until being run through with a sword, she at length breathed out her foul. Even the heathens owned that no woman had ever before sustained fuch tortures. But their rage was not yet fated. On the contrary, it was heightened by their disappointment to fuch a degree, that they caft to the dogs the bodies of those who had died in prifon, as well as the mangled remains of such as had been torn by the wild beafts, or scorched, or beheaded, watching day and night left any should bury them. Some gnashed with their teeth on the dead bodies. Others derided and infulted them. Even the more fympathifing
This epiftle gives us a high idea of the piety of Irenæus, to whofe worth a farther teftimony is given by Eufebius in an extract from a letter addreffed by the church of Lyons to Eleutherius, Bishop of Rome, wherein Irenæus is spoken of as "a follower of the Teftament of Chrift," and ftrongly recommended. It appears from this extract, that it was intended that Irenæus himself should be the bearer of the letter; but whether he actually proceeded on the miffion is not certainly known. Circumstances seem to favour the fuppofition that he vifited Rome about this time. His ftay there, however, could not have been of long duration; for on the mar tyrdom of Pothinus, about the year 179, Irenæus was chofen to fucceed him as Bishop of the church of Lyons.
(To be continued.)
For the Panoplist.
THE WICKEDNESS OF SKEPTICISM IN
DOUBT and indecifion in any bufinefs are unhappy and injurious; in religion they are wicked
and fatal. While the mind is clouded with uncertainty, it has little comfort in the promifes of religion; it has little dread of its threatenings, and yields a reluctant obedience to its laws. As decifion elevates, fo uncertainty depreffes a rational being. Where light fhines, to be undetermined refpecting things of ferious aspect, to have no fixed opinion refpecting things of infinite moment, is to wound the dignity of reafon, to difclaim the honours of a found mind.
Uncertainty refpecting religion is criminal, because there is evidence to fatisfy a teachable mind. To fuppofe that God has required a religious belief of men, without affording them evidence for the bafis of that belief, is a grofs reflection on his goodness. Nothing can prefent the Divine Being in a more difmal form, than to fuppofe he requires faith, where he has not furnifhed conclufive
No man is under obligation to believe without evidence; where there is evidence, it is always criminal not to affent. That the fulleft credit ought to be given to revelation, a fuperficial examination alone will make fufficiently certain. Chriftianity is fupported on a folid bafis. We have, to fay the leaft, as great reafon to be lieve there were fuch perfons, as Jefus Chrift, Paul, and Peter, who did the things afcribed to them, as we have to believe Vol. I. No. 3.
there were fuch men, as Cicero,
JOSEPHUS gives information cerning, "One JESUS, a wife man, if yet it be lawful to call He mentions his him a man." "miracles, crucifixion under PoNTIUS PILATE, his refurrection the third day, and his numerous followers in his time." Within feventy years after his death TACITUS wrote of "Christ, as the author of the christian name, and put to death by PONTIUS PILATE, the Procurator in the reign of TiBERIUS." PLINY Wrote to TRAJAN concerning "the chriftians, that they were wont to affemble together on a fet day, and to fing hymns to CHRIST, as GOD." Near the fame time SUETONIUS wrote, that the Emperors punishedthe chriftians on the fcore of their profefling CHRIST. Neither Pagans nor Jews, who lived near the time of CHRIST, denied the miracles he performed. Thus have enemies given their teftimony in fupport of the christian cause. The truth of the gospel being established by these and a variety of other proofs, we have only to read the facred volume, to learn what is truth.
With the fame facility and cer