Obrázky na stránke

“ The tyrants were armed, says St. Chrysostom; "and the martyrs naked; yet they that were naked got the victory, and they that carried arms were vanquished."* Strong in the assurance of immortality, they bade defiance to the sword.

Though weak in body they seenied clothed with vicarious strength, and confident that though " counted as sheep for the slaughter," naught could separate them from the love of Christ. Wrapped in their fiery vesture and shroud of fiume, 1 hey yet exulted in their glorious victory. Wiile the leaden hail fell on the mangled frame, and the eyes filmed with the shadows of death, the spirit was enbraved by the beatific vision of the opening heaven, and above the roar of the mob fell sweetly on ihe inner sense the assurance of eternal life. “No group, indeed, of Oceanides was there to consule the Christian Prometheus; yet to his upturneil eye countless angels were visible--their authem swept solemnly to his ear —and the odours of an opening paradise filled the air. Though the dull ear of sense heard nothing, he could listen to the invisible Coryphæus as he invited him to heaven and promised him an eternal crown.”+ The names of the “great army

* Chrys. Hom. 74, de Martyr.

+ Kip, p. 88—from Maitland, p. 146. Sometimes the ardour for martyrdom rose into a passion. Eusebius says (Hist. Eccles., viii., 6) that in Nicomedia "en of martyrs,” though forgotten by men, are written in the Book of Life. “The Lord knoweth them that are His.”

There is a record, traced on high,
That shall endure eternally ;
The angel standing by God's throne
Treasures there each word and groan;
And not the martyr's speech alone,
But every wound is there depicted,
With every circumstance of pain-
The crimson stream, the gash inflicted-
And not a drop is shed in vain.*

This spirit of martyrdom was a new principle in society. It had no classical counterpart.f Socrates and Seneca suffered with fortitude, but not with faith. The lottiest pagan philosophy dwindled into insignificance before the sublimity of Christian hope. This looked beyond the shadows of time and the sordid cares of earth

and women with a certain divine and inexpressible alacrity rushed into the fire."

* Inscripta CHRISTO pagina immortalis est,

Excepit adstans angelus coram Deo.
Et quæ locutus martyr, et quæ pertulit :
Nec verbum solum disserentis condidit,
Omnis notata est sanguinis dimensio,
Quæ vis doloris, quive segmenti modus :

Guttam cruoris ille nullam perdidit.—Peristerh. + The pagans called the martyrs Blabávarol, or self murderers.

to the grandeur of the Infinite and the Eternal. The heroic deaths of the believers exhibited a spiritual power mightier than the primal instincts of nature, the love of wife or child, or even of life itself. Like a solemn voice falling on the dull ear of mankind, these holy examples urged the inquiry,“ What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul ?” And that voice awakened an echo in full many a heart. The martyrs made more converts by their deaths than in their lives. “Kill us, rack us, condemn us, grind us to powder,” exclaims the intrepid Christian Apologist; "our numbers increase in proportion as you mow us down."* The earth was drunk with the bloud of the saints, but still they multiplied and grew, gloriously illustrating the perennial truth--Sanguis martyrum semen ecclesive.

* Tertul., Apol., c. 52

[graphic][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]

ET us now turn our attention to the fate of the

characters in our tale of Christian trial and triumph, around whom its interest chiefly centres. They have been consigned to one of the most dismal of the many gloomy dungeons of Rome —the thrice terrible Mamertine prison-haunted with memories of long centuries of cruelty and crime. Manacled each to a Roman soldier, Adauctus, Aurelius, Demetrius, and Callirhoë, together with other Christians coudemned to martyrdom, marched through the streets under the noontide glare of a torrid sun. A guard armed cap à pié, tlung open an iron-studded door, and admitted them to a gloomy vault a few steps below the level of the street. Here a brawny Vulcan, with anvil and hammer, with many a brutal gibe smote off the fetters that linked the prisoners and soldiers together, and riveted them


again so that these victims of oppression were bound together in pairs. Sometimes it happened that one of a pair thus bound together died, and the survivor endured the horror of being inseparably fettered to a festering corpse. To this the apostle refers when, groaning over the corruptions of his sinful nature, he exclaims: “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death ?”

“My dainty lady,” said the hideous Cyclops, as he rudely seized the arm of Callirhoë, “this is not the sort of bracelet you've been used to

I should not much mind being bound to such as you myself, only I would prefer silken fetters to those iron gyves." Then, as she shrank from his touch and winced as he bruised her tender flesh in unriveting the fetters, he said, with an insolent jeer, “I wont hurt you more than I can help, my beauty. You are not used to having such a rough chamberlain ;” and he uttered a coarse jest with which we shall not pollute our page.

A rosy flush stormed the brow of the maiden as she turned her blushing cheek to the mildewed and cold stone wall, in haughty silence disdaining a word of reply to the brutal ruffian.

‘Nay, my fine gentlemen,” went on this typical Roman jailer, as Adauctus and the aged Demetrius, weary with their march, sank upon a stone

« PredošláPokračovať »