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THE MARTYRDOM OF ST. STEPHEN.
Saint Stephen was one of the seventy-two disciples of Jesus Christ. At the prayer of the faithful, among whom all their possessions were in common, the apostles permitted seven persons, the most eminent for their fidelity and their virtue, to be intrusted with the distribution of alms. St. Stephen was the first selected to perform this honourable function. His zeal for the christian religion having raised the people of Jerusalem against him, he was cited before the Sanhedrim as guilty of attacking the law of Moses. He supported his opinions with much firmness before the magistrate; and reproached the jews with the recent death of Jesus Christ. His defence excited much tumult and indignation; in the midst of which he exclaimed, "I beheld the Heavens open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." The fury of his enemies was now at its excessive height; they seized him immediately, and dragged him out of the city, resolving to inflict upon him the punishment allotted to blasphemers. During the time of his martyrdom he offered up prayers for his murderers, and, after the example of Jesus, implored the Almighty not to impute to them the magnitude of so heinous a crime.
In this picture, which is one of his best productions, Le Brun has very judiciously combined the principal circumstances attending this event. In the numerous pictures of the martyrs, painters have frequently introduced