By Elizabeth Prata*
Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. According to this summary from Christian Book Summaries,
Writing in the mid-1500s, John Foxe was living in the midst of intense religious persecution at the hands of the dominant Roman Catholic Church. In graphic detail, he offers accounts of Christians being martyred for their belief in Jesus Christ, describing how God gave them extraordinary courage and stamina to endure unthinkable torture.
From the same link, the book’s purpose was fourfold:
- Showcase the courage of true believers who have willingly taken a stand for Jesus Christ throughout the ages, even if it meant death,
- Demonstrate the grace of God in the lives of those martyred for their faith,
- Expose the ruthlessness of religious and political leaders as they sought to suppress those with differing beliefs,
- Celebrate the courage of those who risked their lives to translate the Bible into the common language of the people.
Text from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs:
The cruelties against Christians under Marcus Aurelius were so inhuman that many of those who watched them shuddered with horror, and were astonished at the courage of the sufferers. Some of the martyrs had their feet crushed in presses, and were then forced to walk over thorns, nails, sharp shells, and other pointed objects. Others were whipped until their sinews and veins were exposed. Then after suffering the most excruciating tortures that could be devised they were killed in terrible ways. Yet few turned from Christ or begged their torturer to lessen their pain.
Metrodorus, a minister, who preached boldly, and Pionius, who made some excellent apologies for the Christian faith, were likewise burnt. Carpus and Papilus, two worthy Christians, and Agatonica, a pious woman, suffered martyrdom at Pergamopolis, in Asia.
Felicitatis, an illustrious Roman lady, of a considerable family, and the most shining virtues, was a devout Christian. She had seven sons, whom she had educated with the most exemplary piety. All of them were martyred.
Januarius, the eldest son of Felicitatus, was scourged, and pressed to death with weights; Felix and Philip, the two next had their brains dashed out with clubs; Silvanus, the fourth, was murdered by being thrown from a precipice; and the three younger sons, Alexander, Vitalis, and Martial, were beheaded. The mother was beheaded with the same sword as the three latter.
Justin, the celebrated philosopher, fell a martyr in this persecution. He was a native of Neapolis, in Samaria, and was born A.D. 103. Justin was a great lover of truth, and a universal scholar; he investigated the Stoic and Peripatetic philosophy, and attempted the Pythagorean; but the behavior of its professors disgusting him, he applied himself to the Platonic, in which he took great delight. About the year 133, when he was thirty years of age, he became a convert to Christianity, and then, for the first time, perceived the real nature of truth.
He wrote an elegant epistle to the Gentiles, and employed his talents in convincing the Jews of the truth of the Christian rites; spending a great deal of time in travelling, until he took up his abode in Rome, and fixed his habitation upon the Viminal mount.
He kept a public school, taught many who afterward became great men, and wrote a treatise to confuse heresies of all kinds. As the pagans began to treat the Christians with great severity, Justin wrote his first apology in their favor. Justin’s arguments overpowered Crescens and so disturbed him that he resolved to destroy Justin. This piece displays great learning and genius, and occasioned the emperor to publish a decree in favor of the Christians.
Soon after, he entered into frequent contests with Crescens, a person of a vicious life and conversation, but a celebrated cynic philosopher. The second defense that Justin wrote on behalf of the Christians gave Crescens the opportunity he needed. He convinced the emperor that Justin was dangerous to him whereupon Justin and six followers were arrested and ordered to sacrifice to pagan idols. When they refused, they were scourged and beheaded. –end text from Foxxe’s Book of Martyrs
Lord, we know that the unregenerate heart and unsanctified mind can devise horror after horror. The Holocaust showed us the depths of man’s inhumanity to man and the future Tribulation will exceed even those horrors. It’s unimaginable what the Christians who preceded us went through, but thank You for your grace and comfort to them while they were under trial. I know that many hearts were converted upon seeing their courage, which was the strength of the Holy Spirit in them. As this time at the end of the Age of Grace draws to a close, I pray You deliver the same strength and courage to today’s martyrs. So that once more, many hearts are converted as they see dark evil of hate and torture against Your light of holy eternity in pure hearts proclaiming Your name even as they die under the sword.
Christian History: Justin Martyr
*This essay first appeared on The End Time in August 2013