« PreviousContinue »
to know their phrases, verses, chapters; but the usages which they describe, the regions which they speak of, the periods and circumstances in which they were drawn up, the tenor of the narratives, arguments and declarations which they contain, and the spirit by which they are pervaded. A public exposition of these books, provided it be intelligent and honest, might contribute not a little towards giving Christian families, and especially their younger members, a taste for the study of them.
The preacher who carefully distinguishes between the various books which form the Bible, and who does not confound the records of Revelation with Revelation itself-he who, waiving minute and laboured criticisms, produces in the pulpit the fruit of his diligent researches, and is studiously plain, for the sake of being instructivehe whose admonitions are as earnest as his choice and treatment of his subjects are judicious—this man, assuredly, will not address his hearers altogether in vain. His expository discourses will not entirely fail of exciting or strengthening in his audience the desire of becoming yet better acquainted with the sacred volume.
Perhaps the delivery of expository sermons would induce the people to accompany it, as it proceeds, with the use of their Bibles. By doing this, they would, as it were, partake in the act. Such a proof of their union in it is signally encouraging and welcome.
I am aware that expositions from the pulpit will demand greater thought than public discourses usually obtain. They will demand it, in respect both of ministers and of their auditors. But we must remember the maxim, that whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well. The standard of Christian attainment and discipline must not be reduced; and sound knowledge and virtue would, I think, be materially aided by the practice of which I am the advocate. That it has difficulties to encounter in the manners of the day, I know and feel. Its advantages, however, far overbalance such considerations.
Examples are not wanting of its success—of its being so conducted as to be rendered acceptable, and even popular. * Authority, too and this the highest-may be cited in its favour. We have precedents for it in the Jewish Church, f and in the Christian ; # in ancient periods, $ and in modern;ll and in widely differing communions. I should go beyond the proper limits of an Essay, did I attempt giving a catalogue of the names** of those who, by their advice and in their own persons, have countenanced a mode of preaching which possesses, as we have seen, numerous intrinsic recommendations.
* Hall's Memoir of Rev. T. N. Toller. + Nehem viii. 7, 8; Luke iv. 16--22. Acts xiii. 1, 14, &c.
Mosheim, E. H., (Maclaine,] I. 127. | Campbell, G., Lectures on Pulpit Eloquence, Nos. vi., vii.; and Paley's Tracts, &c., p. 121.
I See Campbell and Paley, ubi supra.
** Among them we find M. Henry (Charge at the Ordination of Clark, at St. Alban's); Orton (Letters to Stedman, &c. &c.); and Archbishop Secker (Charge, No, iü. in Bishop Watson's Collection of Tracts, &c., Vol. VI.1.
THE MARTYRS OF LYONS. [The following narrative is founded on the celebrated “ Epistle of the Christians of Vienne and Lyons," preserved in the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius; and it has been the design of the writer, as far as the subject would allow, to afford an unprejudiced view of the circumstances in which the early Christians were placed at one of the most eventful periods of their history ; to give a fair representation of the difficulties to which Christianity was exposed from the scepticism of the philosophers and the superstition of the people; and to point out the means by which the very persecutions of the brethren were rendered conducive, by an overruling Providence, to the ultimate establishment of “the glorious Gospel of the blessed God."
Almost every individual particularized in the record preserved by Eusebius will appear in the course of our narrative, and the original names will be retained, except where a change has been thought desirable,-as OCTAvius, for VETTIUS EPAGATHUS. The character of CLAUDIAN has been purposely introduced, not only to give interest to the narrative, but likewise to indicate that no unfair advantage has been taken in representing the general state of Heathenism.
A few anachronisms will be met with in the early part of the narrative, but they will not perhaps be regarded as of much importance, and they were considered necessary in assisting to develop the changes of mind in the inquisitive Heathen, before he could honestly profess himself a convert to Christianity. The more important events recorded are almost entirely matters of history, and in no instance have they been intentionally distorted.
Lardner says, (Vol. VII. p. 156, new ed.) that “the history of the martyrs of Lyons and Vienne is the finest thing of the kind in all antiquity ;” and with such a testimony in its favour, the writer has considered it necessary to preserve as far as possible the simplicity of the original, rather than give to the narrative an air of romance. With this view he has endeavoured to avail himself not only of the statements, but also of the language, of the early Christians, although he has thought it more consistent with the taste of the present times to leave his pages unencumbered by notes and references, which to the general reader would be useless, and to all acquainted with the subject, unnecessary.
It may be observed, that Antoninus Pius, after a reign for the most part favourable to the Christians, died A.D. 161, and was succeeded by Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, the Philosopher as he is called, who associated with himself in the government of the empire Lucius Verus.)
CHAP. I. In the reign of that enlightened and benevolent Emperor of Rome, Antoninus Pius, lived Octavius, by birth a Gaul, but descended from a family that had acquired considerable influence in the city of Rome, and discharged some of the most important offices of the state. While yet in his boyhood, he had been deprived of the advantages of parental care; for his father had perished in a foreign land, and his mother had died immediately after the birth of her second son, Ponticus, leaving to her three fatherless children those means of independence which the family had so long enjoyed. The eldest, a daughter, was still too young to battle with an unfeeling and selfish world; and happy was it for them that the place of their natural protectors was supplied by a generous and faithful friend in the city of Lyons, Claudian by name, a good citizen, and an honourable and upright man. The uncle of this orphan family, on the mother's side, and the early friend and companion of their father, he willingly undertook the responsible office of guardian, and received not only Octavius and Ponticus, but Eusebia likewise, under his own roof, and brought them up in the bosom of his own family.
Attached to them by the ties of blood, no less than affection, and now regarding himself as their only protector, it was the object of Claudian to afford them all the advantages possessed by his own children, and to become to them a second father. With this view, he sent Octavius with his own son Maturus to be educated at Rome, entreating them to imitate the noble examples which would there be set before them; and not forgetting to enjoin upon them to perfect themselves in military knowledge, (for he had himself been a soldier,) and prepare themselves for the fatigues of the camp, by continually engaging in those athletic exercises of which the Romans were so passionately fond.
Nor did they neglect his commands, or in the end disappoint his expectations. They soon acquired that attachment to the profession of arms which he regarded as essential to their future eminence; while Octavius, in particular, not unmindful of his duty in other respects, devoted himself to the pursuit of knowledge with a laudable anxiety to realize all the wishes of the kind and indulgent Claudian. They both diligently exerted themselves to obtain pre-eminence, under the direction of their respective masters, till almost arrived at manhood; when, having completed their education, they returned to Lyons, and to the peaceful home which contained Claudian and Flavia, the father and sister of Maturus, and Ponticus and Eusebia, the brother and sister of Octavius. Here they spent their days in uninterrupted harmony, often portraying to their untravelled friends the splendour and magnificence of Rome, and still recreating them. selves with those warlike exercises in which they had both learnt to excel.
But they soon felt wearied by the monotony of domestic life: they lamented the absence of that excitement and novelty which they had so long enjoyed in the metropolis of the world; and the fiery and impatient spirit of Maturus almost defied restraint. They thirsted for an opportunity of signalizing themselves in the field, and sharing the tumult and changes of a soldier's life. But the very name of war had now become strange in the ears even of the Romans; for since the time of Adrian the army had almost entirely disappeared, and every other foe had been confounded and repelled by the mere report of the slaughter of five hundred thousand Jews, and the total destruction of Jerusalem! Since the accession of Antoninus Pius, there had scarcely been an enemy to contend against; and the general tranquillity yet remained undisturbed.
At length, however, troubles of a serious nature arose in a distant part of the empire. The fierce and barbarous tribes in the North of Britain, which the Romans had in vain attempted to subdue, again manifested a spirit of defiance. An army was therefore despatched against them under the command of Lollius Urbicus, the legions already stationed in the island being insufficient to repel their inroads; and the two friends did not neglect to avail themselves of so favourable an opportunity of satisfying their long-cherished desires.
The anxious Claudian, not forgetting their youth and inexperience,
at first steadily resisted their solicitations; but the resolute and fearless youths were uninfluenced by his entreaties. In vain he represented to them the strength and prowess of the enemies they were about to encounter: this only excited their courage and increased their impatience. In vain he urged the propriety of waiting to begin their career of glory till they should be better prepared to discharge the duties of a soldier's life : this impelled them forward with the desire of obtaining in youth, that renown which others were content to acquire at the age of maturity. Even the painful apprehensions and affectionate remonstrances of Eusebia and Flavia were disregarded in these moments of excitement; and, arrayed for battle against the foes of the empire, and occupied with lofty anticipations for the future, they permitted not themselves to be subdued by the sighs or tears of those who under any other circumstances would not have appealed to them in vain. The day of their departure arrived; they took an affectionate (their mourning friends were apprehensive that it might be a last) farewell; and, embarking on the Gallic coast, soon landed on the shores of Britain.
But what a void had their absence occasioned in the family of Claudian, and how dreary and deserted did his dwelling now appear! He was already an old man, and continually liable to suffering from the fatigues he had undergone and the wounds he had received in many successive campaigns. His mind was now disturbed by fearful apprehensions for the safety of his children (for he regarded Octavius also as his son); the powers of his body were rapidly declining; and death itself appeared almost at hand to remove him from a world in which he could no longer discharge his accustomed duties! He soon required the incessant attention of his already disconsolate family; and thus were the vain regrets of Eusebia and Flavia for their absent brothers in some measure allayed, by being directed into a different channel. But they could talk of little else than the war in Britain ; and Claudian appeared to cherish no other wish than that he might live once more to embrace the two absent soldiers, and hail them victorious! He could have borne their departure had they embarked on a less perilous adventure; but it was a fear for their safety, arising from their youth and inexperience, that harassed and exhausted his spirit. The turbulent and unyielding Britons were at this time regarded as a peculiarly ferocious race, from their bold and unexpected attacks on the Roman legions; being subdued to-day only to appear in greater numbers to-morrow ; feigning to be overcome, but fleeing chiefly for the purpose of decoying their enemies; and offering up the prisoners who fell into their hands as a sacrifice to their gods : for the Britons were accounted savage and barbarous even as to the religion they professed.
Thus anxious in mind and weak in body, it required but the addition of his accustomed malady to dispirit and almost overcome the infirm and aged man. He strove to conceal his weakness; but nature was too much exhausted to aid in the kind deceit: and he who had so often come off victorious in the field, now appeared destined to grapple with a foe that cannot be subdued. Death seemeda pproaching : and he endeavoured to prepare for it with all the courage of a soldier and all the indifference of a Stoic!
Now there lived at Lyons at this time a distinguished physician, a Phrygian by birth, whose skill seldom failed to benefit, if it did not restore, the patients who had the courage to place themselves under his care: but he was regarded by the great body of the people with suspicion and dislike, on account of some secret and dangerous opinions which he was supposed to have embraced. His name was Alexander; and he was no less remarkable for the integrity of his conduct and the simplicity of his manners, than his knowledge of the healing art. On him had Eusebia, from the first, unknown to all beside, rested her hopes of the recovery of her friend and guardian. But how could she presume to name to Claudian and Flavia a person thus universally shunned and suspected; and this, too, when she was conscious that even her own mind was not free from the general prejudice! Yet, whatever it might cost her, she must overcome not only her own scruples, but the aversion of others; for she knew that the life of her benefactor depended on her perseverance and energy.
Claudian was indeed worn down by age and infirmities: but the consciousness of having discharged his duty to his country and his children, gave pleasure to his mind even in the depth of his bodily affliction; the philosophy in which he had been educated had taught him to preserve a settled calmness and serenity under all the circumstances of life ; and although he was unhappily destitute of that joyful hope of a future state of being which Christianity alone can supply, he felt a secret pleasure in the conviction that his name and actions would be remembered when he was no more.
From a persuasion that such was his state of mind, Eusebia almost doubted whether he would avail himself of medical aid, even from a disciple of his own school and a worshiper of his country's gods; but to engage as his adviser a contemned and persecuted “Christian," was more than she could venture to expect, and she trusted rather to the tears and prayers of the young Ponticus, than to any other kind of influence. She prepared, therefore, with a beating heart, to begin the conversation, almost despairing of success, yet still resolved to make the trial.
But neither she nor Flavia had formed a proper estimate of the character and feelings of Claudian. They had forgotten his long and intimate acquaintance with the world, his liberal and comprehensive views, and his freedom from all the grosser and more degrading superstitions of his fellow-men. The name of “ Christian" excited no alarm in his mind; he had met with disciples of Jesus in foreign climes, no less than in his own country; he had found them in the camp; he had beheld and admired their virtues in every sphere of life, and had only failed to applaud them at home lest he should inspire amongst his children an affection for men whom he regarded as under a strange and unaccountable delusion, and whose doctrines, though they supplied the mind with almost superhuman fortitude, brought with them danger, disgrace, and too frequently death itself! But now, the means of recovery from a severe and painful illness were the chief considerations ; for he would yet live to welcome back the impetuous youths who had forsaken him: Eusebia had inspired him with hope, Flavia had hailed with delight his consent that the aid of medicine should be procured, and his children had no sooner de