Page images

He cut down their sacred groves, demolished their temples and altars, and burnt many of the Druids in the fires they themselves kindled for sacrificing the Roman prisoners, had the Britons gained the victory. So great were the numbers who perished on this occasion, and in the unfortunate revolt of the Britons under Boadicea, which happened immediately after, that the Druids never after made any considerable figure. The Britons, however, clung long to their ancient superstitions ; -and so late as the eleventh century, Canute found it necessary to make the following law against them :-* We strictly charge and forbid all our subjects to worship the gods of the Gentiles ; that is to say, the sun, moon, fires, rivers, fountains, hills or trees, or woods of any kinds."

16. ALBAN, THE FIRST British MARTYR. Alban, from whom St. Alban’s, in Hertfordshire, received its name, was the first British martyr. He was originally a pagan, and being of a very humane dispotion, he sheltered a Christian ecclesiastic, named Amphibalus, who was pursued on account of his religion.

The pious example, and edifying discourses of the refugee, made a great impression on the mind of Alban; he longed to become a professor of a religion which charmed him ; the fugitive minister, happy in the opportunity, took great pains to instruct him; and, before his discovery, perfected Alban's conversion.

Alban now took a firm resolution to preserve the sentiments of a Christian, or to die the death of a martyr. The enemies of Amphibalus, having intelligence of the place where he was secreted, came to the house of Alban, in order to apprehend him. The noble host, desirous of protecting his guest, changed clothes with him, in order to facilitate his escape; and, when the soldiers came, offered himself up as the person whom they were seeking. Being accordingly carried before the governor, the deceit was immediately discovered ; and Amphibalus being absent, that officer determined

to wreak his vengeance upon Alban ; with this view he commanded the prisoner to advance to the altar and sacrifice to the pagan deities. The brave Alban, however, refused to comply with the idolatrous injunction, and boldly professed himself to be a Christian. The governor, therefore, ordered him to be scourged, which punishment he bore with great fortitude, seeming to acquire new resolution from his sufferings ; he was then beheaded.

The venerable Bede states, that upon this occasion the executioner suddenly became a convert to Christianity, and entreated permission either to die for Alban or with him. Obtaining the latter request, they were beheaded by a soldier, who voluntarily undertook the task. This happened on the 22d of June, A. D. 287, at Verulam, now St. Alban's, in Hertfordshire, where a magnificent church was erected to his memory, about the time of Constantine the Great. This edifice was destroyed in the Saxon wars, but was rebuilt by Offa, king of Mercia, and a monastery erected adjoining to it, some remains of which are still visible.


CENTURY. ABOUT the fourth century, many Christians, upon mature consideration, thought it unlawful to bear arms under a heathen emperor. Their reasons were:

1st. They thereby were frequently under the necessity of profaning the Christian Sabbath. 2d. That they were obliged, with the rest of the army, frequently to be present at idolatrous sacrifices, before the temples of idols. 3d. That they were compelled to follow the imperial standards, which were dedicated to heathen deities, and bore their representations. Such reasons induced


to refuse to enter into the imperial army, when called upon so to do; for the Roman constitution obliged all young men, of a certain stature, to ake several campaigns.

Maximilian, the son of Fabius Victor, being pointed out as a proper person to bear arms, was ordered by Dion, the proconsul, to be measured, that he might be enlisted in the service. Maximilian, however, boldly declared himself a Christian, and refused to do military duty. Being found of the proper height, Dion gave directions that he should be marked as a soldier, according to the usual custom. He, however, strenuously opposed this order, and told Dion that he could not possibly engage in the service. The proconsul instantly replied, that he should serve either as a soldier, or die for disobedience. “Do as you please with me, replied Maximilian ;

behead me if


proper; I am already a soldier of Christ, and cannot serve any other power.”

Dion wishing, however, to save the young man, commanded his father to use his authority over him, in order to persuade him to comply ; but Victor coolly replied, “ My son knoweth best what he has to do." Dion again demanded of Maximilian, with some acrimony, if he was yet disposed to receive the mark? To which the young man replied, he had already received the mark of Christ. Have you !” exclaimed the proconsul in a rage, “then I shall quickly send you to Christ.”—“ As soon as you please,” answered Maximilian ; " that is all I wish or desire.” sul ther pronounced this sentence upon him :-" That for disobedience in refusing to bear arms, and for professing the Christian faith, he should lose his head." This sentence he heard with great intrepidity, and exclaimed, with apparent rapture, “ God be praised.”

At the place of execution, he exhorted those who were Christians to remain so, and such as were not, to embrace a faith which led to eternal salvation. Then, addressing his father with a cheerful countenance, he desired that the military habit intended for him might be given to the executioner; and after taking leave of him, said, he hoped they should meet again in the other world, and be happy to all eternity. He then received the fatal stroke, which separated his head from his

The procons

body. The father beheld the execution with amazing fortitude, and saw the head of his son severed from his body, without any emotions but such as seemed to proceed from a conscious pleasure, in being the parent of one whose piety and courage rendered him so great an example for Christians to imitate,



he was.

WHILE Maximus, governor of Cilicia, was at Tarsus, three Christians were brought before him by Demetrius, a military officer. Tarachus, the eldest, and first in rank, was addressed by Maximus, who asked him what

The prisoner replied, “a Christian.” This reply offending the governor, he again made the same demand, and was answered in a similar manner. Hereupon the governor told him, that he ought to sacrifice to the gods, as that was the only way to promotion, riches, and honours ; and that the emperors themselves did what he recommended to him to perform. But Tarachus replied, that avarice was a sin, and gold itself an idol as abominable as any other; for it promoted frauds, treacheries, robberies, and murders; it induced men to deceive each other, by which in time they deceived themselves ; and it bribed the weak to their own eternal destruction. As for promotion, he desired it not, as he could not in conscience accept of any place which would subject him to pay adoration to idols ; and with regard to honours, he desired none greater than the honourable title of Christian. As to the emperors themselves being pagans, he added, with the same undaunted and determined spirit, that they were superstitiously deceived in adoring senseless idols, and evidently misled by the machinations of the devil himself. For the boldness of this speech, his jaws were ordered to be broken. He was then stripped, scourged, loaded with chains, and thrown into a dismal dungeon, to remain there till after the trials of the other two prisoners, Probus was then brought before Maximus,

who as usual asked him his name. Undauntedly he replied, the most valuable name he could boast of was that of a Christian. To this Maximus replied in the following words :-“ Your name of a Christian will be of little service to you; be therefore guided by me ; sacrifice to the gods, engage my friendship, and the friendship of the emperor.” Probus nobly answered, " that as he had relinquished a considerable fortune to become a soldier of Christ, it might appear evident that he neither cared for his friendship, nor the favour of the emperor.” Probus was then scourged; and Demetrius, the officer, reminding him how his blood flowed, advised him to comply ; but his only answer was, that those severities were agreeable to him, 66 What !” cried Maximus, “ does he still persist in his madness?" To which Probus rejoined, " That character is badly bestowed on one who refuses to worship idols, or what is worse, devils." After being scourged on the back, he was scourged on the belly, which he suffered with as much intrepidity as before ; still repeating, “ the more my body suffers and loses blood, the more my soul will grow vigorous, and be a gainer.” He was then committed to jail, loaded with irons, and his hands and feet stretched upon the stocks. Andronicus was next brought up, when, being asked the usual question, he said, " I am a Christian, a native of Ephesus, and descended from one of the first families in that city." He was ordered to undergo punishments simi- . lar to those of Tarachus and Probus, and then to be remanded to prison.

Having been confined some days, the three prison. ers were again brought before Maximus, who began first to reason with Tarachus, saying that as old age was honoured from the supposition of its being accompanied by wisdom, he was in hopes what had already passed must, upon deliberation, have caused a change in his sentiments. Finding himself, however, mistaken, he ordered him to be tortured by various means ; particularly, fire was placed in the hollow of his hands ; he was hung up by his feet, and smoked with wet

« PreviousContinue »