« PreviousContinue »
straw; and a mixture of salt and vinegar was poured into his nostrils; and he was then again remanded to his dungeon. Probus being again called, and asked if he would sacrifice, replied, “I come better prepared than before ; for what I have already suffered has only confirmed and strengthened me in my resolution. Employ your whole power upon me, and you will find, that neither you, nor your masters, the emperors, nor the gods whom you serve, nor the devil who is your father, shall oblige me to adore the gods whom I know not.” The governor, however, attempting to reason with him, paid the most extravagant praises to the pagan deities, and pressed him to sacrifice to Jupiter ; but Probus turned his casuistry into ridicule, and said, “Shall I pay divine honours to Jupiter; to one who married his own sister; to an infamous debauchee ; as he is acknowledged to have been by your own priests and poets ?” Provoked at this speech, the governor ordered him to be struck upon the mouth, for uttering what he called blasphemy; his body was then seared with hot irons, he was put to the rack, and afterwards scourged ; his head was then shaved, and red-hot coals placed upon the crown; and after all these tortures he was again sent to prison. When Andronicus was again brought before Maximus, the latter attempted to deceive him, by pretending that Tarachus and Probus had repented of their obstinacy, and owned the gods of the empire. To this the prisoner answered, “ Lay not, o governor, such a weakness to the charge of those who have appeared here before me in this cause, nor imagine it to be in your power to shake my fixed resolution with artful-speeches. I cannot believe that they have disobeyed the laws of their fathers, renounced their hopes in our God, and consented to your extravagant orders ; nor will I ever fall short of them in faith and dependence upon our common Saviour; thus armed, I neither know your gods nor fear your author rity ; fulfil your threats, execute your most sanguinary inventions, and employ every cruel art in your power *on me; I am prepared to bear it for the sake of
Christ." For this answer he was cruelly scourged, and his wounds were afterwards rubbed with salt; but being well again in a short time, the governor reproached the jailer for having suffered some physician to attend him. The jailer declared that no person whatever had been near him or any of the other prisoners, and that he would willingly forfeit his head if any al legation of the kind could be proved against him. Andronicus corroborated the testimony of the jailer, and added, that God, whom he served, was the most powerful of physicians. These three Christians were finally brought to a third examination, when they retained their constancy, were again tortured, and at-length ordered for execution. Being brought to the amphitheatre, several beasts were let loose upon them ; but none of the animals, though hungry, would touch them. Maximus became so surprised and incensed at this circumstance that he severely reprehended the keeper, and ordered him to produce a beast that would execute the business for which he was wanted. The keeper then brought out a large bear that had that day destroyed three men ; but this creature and a fierce lioness also refused to touch the Christians. Finding the design of destroying them by means of wild beasts ineffectual, Maximus ordered them to be slain by means of the sword, which was accordingly executed on the 11th of October, A. D. 303. They all declared, previous to their martyrdom, that as death was the common lot of all men, they wished to meet it for the sake of Christ; and to resign that life to faith which must otherwise be the prey of disease.
19. VISION OF CONSTANTINE.
The reign of. Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor, is an important era in the history of the Christian church.
The miraculous circumstances attending his conversion, though doubled by some, are fully credited by others. According to Eusebius (who received the ac
count from the emperor's own mouth, and who also confirmed it by his solemn oath) these extraordinary circumstances are as follows:
“As the emperor was marching at the head of his army, from France into Italy, against Maxentius, on an expedition which he was fully aware involved in it his future destiny; oppressed with extreme anxiety, and reflecting that he needed a force superior to arms, for subduing the sorceries and magic of his adversary, he anxiously looked out for the aid of some deity, as that alone could secure him success. About 3 o'clock in the afternoon, when the sun began to decline, whilst praying for supernatural aid, a luminous cross* was seen by the emperor and his army, in the air, above the sun, inscribed with the words, “ BY THIS CONQUER;" at the sight of which amazement overpowered both himself and the soldiery on the expedition with him. He continued to ponder on the event till night, when, in a dream, the Author of Christianity appeared to him to confirm the vision, directing him, at the same time, to make the symbol of the cross his military ensign.”+
Constantine, having vanquished his adversary, now built places for Christian worship, and showed great beneficence to the poor.
He removed the seat of the empire from Rome to Byzantium, which he afterwards honoured by the name of Constantinople, and prohibited, by a severe edict, the performance of pagan rites and ceremonies.
He died on the 22d of May, in the year 337, at the age of sixty-four, after a reign of thirty-three years, having fully established the Christian religion in the Roman empire.
* Historians are much divided in their judgment respecting this miraculous appearance. It is in vain for us to attempt to ascertain a doubtful matter, at a period so remote from the event; it is certain, however, that such a device was upon the standards and shields of Constantine's army, and also upon several coins in ex. istence at this day.
| Milner's Church History.
20. ORIGIN OF THE MONASTIC LIFE. Sr. ANTHONY, of Egypt, in the fourth century, first instituted the monastic life. He was an illiterate youth of Alexandria, and happening one day to enter a church, he heard the words of our Lord to the young ruler, “ Sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor.” Considering this as a special call to him, he distributed his patrimony, deserted his family and house, took up his residence among the tombs, and in a ruined tower. After remaining there a long time he at length advanced three days' journey into the desert, to the eastward of the river Nile, where, discovering a lonely spot which possessed the advantages of shade and water, he fixed his last abode. His example and his lessons infected others, whose curiosity pursued him to the desert; and before he quitted life, which was prolonged to the term of a hundred and five years, he beheld a numerous progeny imitating his original. Anthony formed his followers into a regular body, engaged them to live in society with each other, and prescribed to them fixed rules for their conduct. From this time monks multiplied incredibly, on the sands of Lybia, upon the rocks of Thebais, and the cities of the Nile. "Travellers, even to this day, may explore the remains of fifty monasteries, which were planted directly south of Alexandria, by the disciples of Anthony.
These regulations, which were made in Egypt, were soon introduced into Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia, and the adjacent countries ; and their example was fol. lowed with such rarid success, that in a short time the whole east was filled with a set of indolent mortals, who, abandoning all human connexions, advantages, pleasures, and concerns, wore out a languishing and miserable existence, amidst the hardships of want, and various kinds of suffering, in order to arrive at a more close and rapturous communication with God and angels.
From the east this gloomy disposition passed into the west, and Martin of Tours founded a monastery at
Poictiers, and thus introduced the monastic institutions into France. So rapid was the increase of his disciples, that two thousand monks followed in his funeral procession ; very soon all Christendom became infected with this superstition, and various orders of monks were founded, such as Franciscans, Dominicans, Benedictines, &c. This kind of life was not confined to males. Females also began to retire from the world and dedicate themselves to solitude and devotion. Nunneries were founded, and such as entered were henceforth secluded from all worldly intercourse. They were not allowed to go out, nor was any one permitted to go in to see them.
21. JULIAN, THE APOSTATE. JULIAN, the Roman emperor, began his reign about the year 360. He is commonly called Julian, the apostate, from his casting off the profession of Christianity and restoring the ancient pagan worship. In order to give the lie to our Saviour's prophecy, he attempted to rebuild the temple and the city of Jerusalem. He knew the Christians were firmly persuaded that by the advent of Christ the typical dispensation had come to an end; and could he succeed in restoring the Jews to their city and the ritual of their worship, he might convert it into an argument against the faith of prophecy and the truth of revelation.
He therefore resolved to erect on Mount Moriah a stately temple; and gave instructions to his minister Alypius, to commence without delay the vast undertaking. At the call of their supposed great deliverer, the Jews, from all the provinces of the empire, repaired to Jerusalem. Every purse was now opened in liberal contributions, every hand claimed a share in the la'our, and the commands of the emperor were executed with enthusiasm by the whole people. But they entirely failed in attaining their object. Ammianus Marcellinus (a heathen writer who lived during this transaction) says, “whilst Alypius, assisted by the governor of the