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where tradition avers that he died by his own hand.
A still more dreadful doom berell the fierce persecutor, Galerius.
Consumed by the same loathsome and iucurable disease which is recorded to have smitten his great rivals in bloodshed, Herod the Great and Philip II., from his dying couch he implored the prayers of the Christians, and, stung by remorse for his cruelties, commanded the surcease of their long and bitter persecution.
The Empress Valeria, his widow, by her beauty had the ill fortune to attract the regards of his successor in persecution, the Emperor Maximin, Spurning his suit with the scorn becoming a pure and high-souled woman, at once the daughter and widow of an Emperor, she encountered his deadly hate. Her estates were confiscated, her trusted servants tortured, and her dearest friends put to death.
“The Empress herself,” says Gibbon,“ together with her mother, Prisca, was condemned to exile; and as they were ignominiously hurried from place to place, before they were confined to a sequestered village in the deserts of Syria, they exposed their shame and distress to the provinces of the East, which during thirty years, had respected their august dignity.” On the death of Maximi:), Valeria escaped from exile and repaired in disguise to the court of his successor, Licinius, hoping for more humane treatment. But these hopes, to use again the language of Gibbon,"were soon succeeded by horror and astonishment, and the bloody execution which stained the palace of Nicomedia sufficiently convinced her that the throne of Maximin was filled by a tyrant more in human than bimself. Valeria consulted her safety by hasty flight, and, still accompanied by her mother Prisca, they wandered above fifteen months through the provinces in the disguise of plebeian habits. They were at length discovered at Thessalonica; and as the sentence of their death was already pronounced, they were immediately belieaded and their bodies thrown into the sea.
The people gazed on the melancholy spectacle; but their grief and indignation were suppressed by the terrors of a military guard. Such was the unworthy fate of the wife and daughter of Diocletian. We lament their misfortunes, we cannot discover their crimes." *
At length, on the triunıph of the British-born Emperor, Constantine, over his rivals for the throne of the world, like the trump of Jubilee,
* Valeria quoque per varias provincias quindecim mensibus plebeio cultu pervagata.
Ita illis pudicitia et conditio exitio fuit. Lactantius De Mort. Persec. Cap. 51.
the edict of the toleration of Christianity, pealeil through the land. It penetrated the gloomy dungeon, the darksome mine, the Catacombs' dim labyrinth, and from their sombre depths, vast processions of “noble wrestlers for religion," thronged to the long-forsaken churches, with grateful songs of praise to God.
Christianity, after long repression, became at length triumphant. It emerged from the conceal. ment of the Catacombs to the sunshine of imperial favour. Constantine, himself, proclaimed to eager thousands the New Evangel—the most august lay preacher the Church has ever known. The legend of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus strikingly illustrates the wondrous transforination of society. These Christian brothers, taking shelter in a cave during the Decian persecution, awoke, according to the legend, after a slumber of over a century, to find Christianity everywhere dominant, and a Christian Emperor on the throne of the Cæsars. * The doctrines of Christ, like the rays of the sun, quickly irradiated the world. With choirs and hymns, in cities and villages, in the highways and
* Even the sanguine imagination of Tertullian cannot conceive the possibility of this event.
“ Sed et Cæsares credidissent super Christo,” he exclaims,“ si aut Cæsares non essent seculo necessario, aut si et Christiani potuissent esse Cæsares.”—Apol., c. 21.
markets, the praises of the Almighty were sung. The enemies of God were as though they had not been.* The Lord brought up the vine of Christianity from a far country, and cast out the heathen, and planted and watered it, till it twined round the sceptre of the Casars, wreathed the columns of the Capitol, and filled the whole land. The heathen fanes were deserted, the gods discrowned, and the pagan flamen no longer offered sacrifice to the Capitoline Jove. Rome, which had dragged so many conquered deities in triumph at its chariot wheels, at length yielded to a mightier than all the gods of Olympus. The old faiths faded from the firmament of human thought as the stars of midnight at the dawn of day. The banished deities forsook their ancient seats. They walked no longer in the vale of Tempe nor in the grove of Dapline. The naiads bathed not in Scamander's stream nor Simois, nor the nereids in the waters of the bright Egean Sea. The nymphs and dryads ceased to haunt the sylvan solitudes. The oriads walked no more in light on Ida's lofty top.
Literally, “They are no more because they never were.” Eusebius applies, the promises of Scripture concerning the restoration of the exiled Jews from Babylon (Psa. lxxx ; xcviii ;) to the condition of Christianity in kis day. The above citations are given in his very words, O ye vain false gods of Ilellas !
Ye are vanished everinore !
Long before the recognition of Christianity as the religion of the empire, its influence had been felt permeating the entire community. Amid the disintegration of society it was the sole conservative element—the salt which preserved it from corruption. In the midst of anarchy and confusion a commuuity was being organized on a principle previously unknown in the heathen world, ruling not by terror but by love; by moral power, not by physical force; inspired by lofty faith amid a world of uubelief, and cultivating moral purity amid the reeking abominations of a
We should do scant justice to the blameless character, simple dignity, and moral purity of the primitive Christians, if we forgot the thoroughly effete and corrupt society by which they were surrounded. It would seem almost impossible for the Christian graces to grow in such a foetid atmosphere. Like the snow-white lily springing in virgin purity from the muddy ooze, they are more lovely by contrast with the surrounding pollutions. Like flowers that deck a sepulchre, breathing their fragrance amid scenes of corruption and death, are these holy characters, fragrant with the breath of heaven amid the social rottenness and moral death of their foul environment.