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An Ecclesiastical History To The 20th Year Of The Reign Of Constantine by Eusebius

THE seventh year of the conflict against us was verging to its close, and the measures against us had gently and imperceptibly received a less afflictive aspect, and had now continued until the eighth year, when there was no small number of confessors collected in the copper mines of Palestine, and these were enjoying considerable freedom, so far as even to build houses for assembling together; then the governor of the province, a savage and wicked man, such, indeed, as his acts against the martyrs proved him to be, came thither, and ascertaining the state of things, and the manner of those that lived there, communicated the whole to the emperor, and wrote against them whatever slanders he thought proper. After this, being appointed as superintendent of the mines, he divided, as if by imperial orders, the multitude of confessors into different bodies, and sent some to inhabit Cyprus, some to Libanus. Others he ‘scattered into several parts of Palestine, and commanded, them all to labour in different works. Then selecting those that appeared to be pre-eminent among them, he sent them away to the commander of the forces there. Of these, two were Egyptians, bishops Peleus and Nilus, another was a presbyter, and a fourth added to these named Patermuthius, well known to all for his great benevolence towards all. These the commander, after demanding a renunciation of their religion, and not succeeding, committed to be consumed by the flames. Others, again, had their lot east there, in a separate place by themselves, as many of the confessors as, whether from age, or blindness, or other infirmities of body, were exempt from performing labour. Of these, the chief was Sylvanus, a bishop from Gaza, who presented a venerable example of genuine Christianity. This man, one might say, was eminent for his confessions, from the very first day of the persecution, through the whole time in a variety of conflicts, and was reserved until that time, that this might be as the last seal of the whole conflict in Palestine. With him were associated many from Egypt, among whom also was John, who in the excellence of his memory surpassed all of our time. He, indeed, had already before been deprived of his eyes, and had his foot destroyed with burning irons, like the others, on account of his confessions, yet although his sight was already destroyed he had the red hot iron nevertheless applied to him; the butchers aiming at every display of cruelty and inhumanity, and whatever was savage and brutal. And as this man was such, one has no cause to wonder at his philosophical life and habits, as he appeared not so wonderful on this account as from the excellence of his memory. He had whole books of the sacred Scriptures written, as the apostle says, not on tables of stone, neither on skins of animals, nor papers destroyed by moths and time, but on the tables of flesh in the heart, in an enlightened soul, and the pure eye of the mind. So that whenever he wished to produce any passage, whether from the law, or the prophets, or the apostles, the historical parts or the gospels, he could repeat and produce it as from a treasury of learning, whenever he pleased. I confess that I myself was astonished when I first saw the man standing in the midst of a large multitude, and repeating certain parts of the holy Scriptures. For as far as I had opportunity only to hear his voice, I thought that he was reading, as is usual in the congregations, but when I came near and saw the fact, all the others standing around, with their sound eyes, and him alone raising his mind and pronouncing without any artificial means, as a kind of prophet, and far surpassing those who were robust in body—I could not but glorify and praise God. And, indeed, I seemed to behold an evident and solid proof in facts, that not he who appears in the external form is the real man, but in truth that which is in the soul and mind. For he, though mutilated in body, exhibited the greater excellence of power and virtue. But as to those already mentioned, who were living in a separate place, and were engaged in performing their accustomed duties, in prayer and fasting, and other exercises, God himself condescended to grant them a salutary issue, by extending his right arm to help them.

The enemy, no longer able to bear them, armed with constant prayer to God, prepared to destroy and remove them from the earth, as troublesome to him. God granted him, also, power to do this, that at the same time he might not be restrained in his determined wickedness, and they might now receive the prizes of their varied conflicts. Thus, then, the thirty-nine, at the command of the most execrable Maximums, were beheaded in one day. And these were the martyrdoms exhibited in Palestine in the space of eight years, and such was the persecution in our day. It began, indeed, with the demolition of the churches, and grew to a great height during the insurrections from time to time under the rulers. In these, many and various were the contests of the noble wrestlers in the cause of piety, who presented an innumerable multitude of martyrs through the whole province, among those from Lybia, and through all Egypt, Syria, and those of the east, round as far as those of the region of Illyricum. For the countries beyond these, all Italy and Sicily, Gaul, and whatever parts extend towards the west, Spain, Mauritania, and Africa, as they did not experience the hostility of the persecution quite two years, very soon were blessed with the interposition and peace of God, as if his providence spared the simplicity and faith of these men. For that, indeed, which was never before recorded in the annals of the Romans, this first obtained in our day, contrary to all expectation. The empire was divided into two parts during this persecution. Those in the one part enjoyed peace, whilst those brethren that inhabited the other, endured innumerable trials one after another. But as soon as the divine favour prepared to display to us his kind and gracious care, then at length, also, our rulers themselves, through whom these wars were formerly waged against us, changing their mind in a most extraordinary manner, sounded a retreat, and extinguished the flame of persecution by kind ordinances and milder edicts. But we must not omit the recantation.








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