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one could continue a member of the Christian community whose deportment in the world did not correspond with his profession. Even females were put to the torture, to induce them to accuse their brethren, but all in vain--no charge of guilt could be extorted. To meet together for the worship of God—to sing hymns to Christ their Saviour---to exhort one another to abstain from every evil word and work-to unite in commemorating the death of their Lord, by partaking of the symbols of his broken body and shed blood—these things constitute what Pliny has termed a “depraved superstition,” an “execrable crime," which could only be expiated by the blood of the Christians. Such was the aspect which the Gentile philosophy bore towards the religion of the cross. Thus verifying what the apostle Paul said to the Corinthians—" the doctrine of Christ crucified was to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness." And, from what took place in the province of Bithynia, it seems not unreasonable to infer, that the state of affairs was much the same in every other part of the empire.
While Pliny was thus conducting matters in Bithynia, the province of Syria was under the government of Tiberianus; and there is still extant a letter which he addressed to Trajan, in which he says, “ I am quite wearied with punishing and destroying the Galilæans, or those of the sect called Christians, according to your orders. Yet they never cease to profess voluntarily what they are, and to offer themselves to death. Wherefore I have laboured, by exhortation and threatening, to discourage them from daring to confess to me that they are of that sect. Yet, in defiance of all persecution, they still continue to do it. Be pleased therefore to inform me what your highness thinks proper to be done with them.”
About the time that Pliny wrote his celebrated letter, the emperor Trajan, who was then entering upon the Parthian war, arrived at Antioch in Syria. Ignatius was at that time one of the elders or presbyters of the church in that renowned city-a man of “ exemplary piety and in all things like unto the apostles.” During the emperor's stay at Antioch, the city was almost entirely ruined by an earthquake. It was preceded by violent claps of thunder, unusual winds, and a dreadful rumbling noise under ground, which was succeeded by so severe a shock that
ARREST OF IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH.
the earth trembled, several houses were overturned, and others tossed to and fro like a ship at sea. The noise of the cracking and breaking of the timber, and of the falling of houses, drowned the cries of the dismayed populace. Such of them as happened: to be in their houses were, for the most part, buried under their ruins : and those who were walking in the streets and squares were, by the violence of the shock, dashed against each other, and many of them either killed or dangerously wounded. The emperor himself was much hurt, but made his escape through a window from the house in which he had taken up his residence. When the earthquake was over, a woman's voice was heard from under the ruins, which being removed, she was found with a sucking child in her arms, which she had kept alive, as well as herself, by means of her own milk.
Nothing was more common than to resolve calamities of this kind into the anger of the gods against the Christians, whose impiety in forsaking their worship, it was said, had at length provoked the divine justice. The eminent station of Ignatius, and the popularity which generally attends superior talents, marked him out as the victim of popular fury on this occasion. He was seized, and by the emperor's order sent from Antioch to Rome. But his history is too interesting to be passed over with a slight incidental mention-I must give you a concise biographical account of him.
IGNATIUS was a native of Syria, and is said to have been brought to the knowledge of the truth under the ministry of the apostle John; but he was also intimately acquainted with both Peter and Paul. His eminent attainments in the doctrines of Christianity, combined with his fervent piety, pointed him out to the church in Antioch, of which he was a member, as a fit person to fill the office of elder, and he was accordingly ordained by the apostle John, about the year 67. In this important station he continued to preside with great reputation to himself and usefulness to the church during a period of forty years, in the midst of a stormy and tempestuous season. In the year 107, when the emperor Trajan, flushed with a victory which he had obtained over the Scythians and Daci, came to Antioch to prepare for a war against the Parthians and Armenians, he entered the city with the pomp and solemnities of a triumph, and, as he had already 'commenced a persecution against the Christians iit other parts of the empire, he now resolved to carry it on here.
What it was that brought Ignatius and the emperor into imme diate contact does not appear from any thing upon record. By some it is said that Ignatius, thinking it more prudent to go than wait to be sent for, presented himself to the emperor of his own accord; and it is affirmed that a long and interesting conversation took place between them, during which Trajan expressed his surprise that Ignatius should dare to transgress the laws, as he did by professing Christianity. The latter, however, boldly defended himself, and the cause of his divine Master, declaring that “the gods of the Gentiles were nothing better than dæmonsthat there was but one Supreme Deity, who made the world--and one only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, who, though crucified under Pontius Pilate, had nevertheless destroyed him that had the power of sin and death, namely, the devil, and who would ruin the whole power and empire of the dæmons, and tread it under the feet of those who carried God in their hearts”.- in other words, who loved God and kept his commandments. The result of this bold confession was that Ignatius was cast into prison, and sentence passed upon him to this effect, that, being incurably infected with superstition, he should be conveyed in chains to Rome under a guard of soldiers, and there thrown as a prey to wild beasts. It is doubtless strange that Ignatius was not cast to the lions at Antioch, which would have saved the trouble of conveying an old man from Syria to Rome, attended by a band of soldiers, and at a great expense; but it is said that the emperor's reason for adopting this plan was a determination to make a more public example of him, as of a ringleader of the sect, and thereby deter the Christians from inculcating their doctrine and propagating their religion, which was now spreading most extensively throughout the empire : and the reason assigned is very probable, inasmuch as Rome itself was filled with them at that time.
Ignatius was so far from being dismayed by the emperor's mandate, that, it is said, on hearing it he exclaimed, “ I thank thee, O Lord, that thou hast condescended to honour me with thy love, and hast thought me worthy, with thy apostle Paul, to be found in chains,” which he then embraced, and having fervently prayed for the church of which he was the pastor, and
IGNATIUS's JOURNEY TO ROME, AND MARTYRDOM. 201
recommended it to the care and protection of the chief shepherd, he surrendered himself into the hands of the military guard. This consisted of ten soldiers, by whom he was in the first instance conducted to Seleucia, a sea-port town of Syria, about sixteen miles from Antioch. . Thence they sailed to Smyrna, where Ignatius was allowed an interview with Polycarp, whose history we shall notice in the next lecture; and, during his residence at Smyrna, he was visited by the elders of all the Asiatic churches. It is probable that Ignatius stopped some time at Smyrna, perhaps waiting a favourable wind; for while there he wrote letters to several churches, as the Ephesians, the Magnesians, the Trallians, &c., encouraging them to steadfastness in the faith—besides which he addressed an epistle to the church of Rome, apprising them of his present situation and of his readiness to meet his approaching martyrdom.
His escort, a little impatient at their stay at Smyrna, now set sail for Troas, where on his arrival his spirit was refreshed by the welcome tidings that persecution had ceased in the church of Antioch. Here also several churches in the surrounding neighbourhood sent their messengers to convey to him their united salutations, and from Troas he also despatched two epistles, one to the church in Smyrna, which Eusebius tells us was accompanied by a private communication to Polycarp, recommending to his care and inspection the church at Antioch, and the other to the church of Philadelphia. From Troas they sailed to Neapolis—and proceeded thence to Philippi, where they were entertained with all imaginable kindness and courtesy, and conducted forwards on their journey, passing on foot through Macedonia and Epirus, till they came to Epidaurum, a city of Dalmatia, where again taking shipping they sailed through the Adriatic, and arrived at Rhegium, a sea-port town of Italy. -- The Christian brethren at Rome, having been apprised of Ignatius's coming, had been daily expecting his arrival, and accordingly, as in the case of Paul, they went out to meet him on his approach to the city and received him with a mixture of joy and sorrow. But, when some of them intimated that possibly the populace might be dissuaded from desiring his death, he is said to have expressed a pious indignation, entreating them not to cast any obstacles in his way, nor do any thing to hinder him in his course, now that he was hastening to his crown. The interval allowed him before his martyrdom was spent chiefly in prayer for the peace and prosperity of the churches. In order that his punishment might be the more signal and impressive, one of their solemn festivals, the Saturnalia, was fixed upon for the day of his execution, when it was their custom to entertain the people with the contests of gladiators and the hunting and fighting of wild beasts. Accordingly, on the 20th of December, A. D. 107, Ignatius was brought forth into the amphitheatre, and, the lions being let loose upon him, they quickly dispatched their meal, leaving nothing but a few of his bones, which were gathered up by two of the deacons of the church at Antioch who had been the companions of his journey, and by whom they were transported to his native place.*
His epistles are very interesting remains of ecclesiastical antiquity; but they are valuable to us, in the present day, chiefly on account of the numerous quotations which are found in them from the books of the New Testament, furnishing satisfactory evidence that those books were then in existence and were appealed to by Christians as constituting a part of divine revelation. For instance, he has referred to the epistle to the Ephesians and expressly ascribed it to the apostle Paul. In the next place, there are plain allusions in his writings to the Gospels of Matthew and of John; whether he has referred to the Gospel of Luke is doubtful. The other references found in his writings relate to the Acts of the Apostles—the Epistle to the Romans--first and second to the Corinthians, the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, first to the Thessalonians, second to Timothy, the epistle to Titus, that to Philemon, and that to the Hebrews, the first epistle of Peter, and the first and third epistles of John.t
* For a copious account of Ignatius, the reader is referred to Tillemont's Memoires pour servir a l'Histoire de l'Eglise, tom. ii. part ii. p. 42–80. Several others also have employed their pens on this subject, as may be seen in the Biblioth. Græc. of Fabricus, lib. V.cap. I. p. 38, where likewise the different editions of the Epistles of Ignatius are enumerated, and a view is taken of the disputes amongst the learned to which they have given rise. On this subject, however, I shall have occasion to onter somewhat more at large in a subsequent lecture.
+ Lardner's Works, vol. ij. 73–94.