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:
Continuing the Fourth Persecution under Marcus Aurelius, 162AD
Some of the restless northern nations having risen in arms against Rome, the emperor marched to encounter them. He was, however, drawn into an ambuscade, and dreaded the loss of his whole army. Enveloped with mountains, surrounded by enemies, and perishing with thirst, the pagan deities were invoked in vain; when the men belonging to the militine, or thundering legion, who were all Christians, were commanded to call upon their God for succor. A miraculous deliverance immediately ensued; a prodigious quantity of rain fell, which, being caught by the men, and filling their dykes, afforded a sudden and astonishing relief. It appears that the storm which miraculously flashed in the face of the enemy so intimidated them, that part deserted to the Roman army; the rest were defeated, and the revolted provinces entirely recovered.
This affair occasioned the persecution to subside for some time, at least in those parts immediately under the inspection of the emperor; but we find that it soon after raged in France, particularly at Lyons, where the tortures to which many of the Christians were put, almost exceed the powers of description.
Sanctus, a deacon of Vienna; red hot plates of brass were placed upon the tenderest parts of his body; and kept there till they burned through to his bones.
Blandina, a Christian lady, of a weak constitution; who was not thought to be able to resist torture, but whose fortitude was so great that her tormentors became exhausted with their devilish work, and was afterward taken into an amphitheater with three others, suspended on a piece of wood stuck in the ground, and exposed as food for wild lions. While awaiting her suffering, she prayed earnestly for her companions and encouraged them. But none of the lions would touch her, so she was put back into prison. This happened twice.
When she was again produced for the third and last time, she was accompanied by Ponticus, a youth of fifteen, and the constancy of their faith so enraged the multitude that neither the sex of the one nor the youth of the other were respected, being exposed to all manner of punishments and tortures. Being strengthened by Blandina, he persevered unto death; and she, after enduring all the torments heretofore mentioned, was at length slain with the sword.
—end Foxe’s text
Lord, I am weak of fortitude, but I can be strengthened supernaturally, like Blandina, to endure all things. Would I be strong enough to pray for and encourage compatriots whilst impaled on a stick, suspended above milling and hungry lions? No. But I can do all things through You who strengthens me. You did not desert Blandina in her trial, and no matter what comes for me and my faithful brethren now or in the future, you will not desert us. You are Lord, and You are faithful.
*This essay first appeared on The End Time in August 2013