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Cod. Th. 1. xvi. tit. x. p. 257. and S. Basnage Ann. ii. 673. who endeavours to excuse the emperor. We may add to this, that a temple of the goddess Concord, being decayed by length of time, was repaired or rebuilt by Constantine, if we may trust to an inscription in Lilius Giraldus. Zosimus pretends that he built some temples at Constantinople.
Constantine was severe in his punishments; which shows that by temper he was disposed to cruelty. If any civil officer drew a matron out of her house by violence, he decreed that he should be punished not only capitali pena but exquisitis suppliciis, i. e. says Gothofred, that he should be burnt alive. Cod. Th. 1. i. tit. x. p. 57, 58. pointed this punishment for various offences. See Cod. Th. 1. x. tit. iv. p. 406. Vivicomburii porro pænam et aliis pluribus constitutionibus, et facinoribus facile imposuit Constantinus ; quomodo et alias idem in exacerbandis pænis aliquando nimius fuit,' Gothofred.
To burn men alive became thence forward a very common punishment, to the disgrace of Christianity. At last it was thought too cruel for traitors, murderers, poisoners, parricides, &c. and only fit for heretics,
One cannot help charging Constantine both with absurdity and with hypocrisy on this occasion. He thought it a barbarous thing to brand a malefactor in the cheek or the forehead, and he made no scruple to burn him at a stake!
The military laws enacted by him and his successors are pretty severe, and burning alive was one of the punishments for greater offences.
Perhaps it is impossible to keep up military discipline without rigour; but certain it is that the case of soldiers and sailors hath been frequently most deplorable, in their being so often subject to the arbitrary insolence of men who had not so much humanity as a wolf or a tiger; for a brute, when his hunger is satisfied, is not mischievous, but men who are cruel, are so, full and fasting.
THE CHRISTIANS, being blessed with an emperor of their own religion, were of opinion that the Divine Providence had in a signal manner appeared in raising up and protecting Constantine, and in destroying the enemies of
the church. There is usually much rashness and presumption in pronouncing that the calamities of sinners are particular judgments of God; yet if from sacred and profane, from antient and modern historians, a collection were made of all the cruel persecuting tyrants, who delighted in tormenting their fellow-creatures, and who died not the common death of all men, nor were visited after the visitation of all men, but whose plagues were horrible and strange, even a sceptic would be moved at the evidence, and would be apt to suspect that it was Ocióv ti, that the hand of God was in it. But the case of the persecuting emperors and princes is still more particular, if we consider, first the matter of fact, and secondly the prophecies concerning it.
Herod the Great was the first persecutor of Christianity, as he attempted to destroy Christ in his infancy, and for that wicked end slew the male children at Bethlehem. The miseries which befel this inhuman tyrant and his family are recorded by Josephus, and his calamitous death, and long and grievous sufferings before it, by a burning fever, a voracious appetite, a difficulty of breathing, swellings in his limbs, loathsome ulcers within and without, breeding lice and worms; violent torments and convulsions ; so that he endeavoured to kill himself, but was restrained by his friends. The Jews thought these evils to be divine judgements upon him for his wickedness.
He left a numerous family of children and grand-children, though he had put some to death, which in the
of about a hundred years was extinct.
Herod Antipas, who beheaded John the Baptist, and treated Christ contemptuously when he was brought before him, was defeated by Aretas, an Arabian king, and afterwards had his dominions taken from him, and was sent into banishment, along with his infamous wife Herodias, by the emperor Caius.
• Of [Salome] the daughter of Herodias, it is related, that she going over the ice in the winter, the ice brake, and she slipped in up to the head, which at last was severed from her body by the sharpness of the ice; idque non sine Dei numine, God requiring her head for that of the Baptist's she desired; which, if true, was a wonderful Providence.' Whitby on Matt. xiv.
Whitby did well to say, if true; for the story hath the air of a legend, was unknown to the antients, can boast no better vouchers than Nicephorus and Metaphrastes P, and is not adopted even by Tillemont. H. E. i. 101.
Of all the actors in this tragedy, Salome may seem to have been the least guilty, as she was a girl of fourteen years, and acted under the command of her profligate mother.
Pontius Pilate, who condemned Christ to death, was not long afterwards deposed and banished, and died by his own hands. Nor ought it to be passed over in silence, that Pilate himself, who condemned our Saviour to death, fell into so great calamities, in the reign of Caius, that he became his own executioner; the divine vengeance overtaking himn 9 not long after his crime. This we learn from the Greek historians.' Eusebius, ii. 7. and Orosius, vii. 5.
The high priest Caiaphas was deposed by Vitellius three years after the death of Christ, which gave 'no offence to the Jews, who loved him not. Thus this wicked man, who condemned Christ for fear of disobliging the Romans, was ignominiously turned out of his office by the Roman governor Josephus, Ant. xviii. 4.
To these we may add Flaccus, the governor of Ægypt, who persecuted, though not the Christians, yet the Jews in a most cruel manner, A. D. 38. « The wrath of God overtook Flaccus. Bassus, a centurion, giving the signal to his soldiers, came upon him and forced him away from his own table. His effects were seized, and he would have been sent to Gyarus, the most barren of all the islands in the Agean sea, if Lepidus had not entreated for him that he might be banished to Andros. They say that one night, lifting up his eyes to heaven, he cried out, O King of gods and men, thou art then a favourer of the Jews, and they do not falsely boast of being under thy protection!
P As to this compiler, we cannot help observing that he was not used according to his deserts by his contemporaries. The man's name was Symeon, and they surnamed him Metaphrastes ; but they ought to have called him Symeon Pseustes, or Symeon the Liar.
9 oủx eis axody, 'non longo post tempore ;' which is wanting in the version of Valesius.
When Caius had ordered all the exiles of rank and reputation to be destroyed, and had particularly named Flaccus, assassins were sent to dispatch him. When they landed at Andros, Flaccus guessed for what purpose they were come, and getting into an unfrequented path, he fled to conceal himself: but they overtook him, and immediately some of them digged a pit in the ground, others dragged him into it, as he was struggling and screaming, and stabbed him the more cruelly for his making resistance. Philo. See S. Basnage Ann. i. 493.
Catullus, governor of Libya, was also a cruel persecutor of the Jews, and died miserably, about A. D. 73.
Such was the lenity of the emperors towards Catullus, that their disapprobation was all the punishment which he then underwent; but not long afterwards he fell into a complicated and incurable disease, and died wretchedly; sorely tormented in his body, and worse in his mind. He was dreadfully terrified, and continually crying out that he was haunted by the ghosts of those whom he had slain : and not being able to contain himself, he leaped out of the bed, as if he were tortured with fire, and put to the rack. His distemper increased, till his entrails were all corrupted, and came out of his body; and thus he perished, as signal an example as ever was known of the divine justice rendering to the wicked according to their deeds.' Josephus B. Jud. vii. 11.
The wicked and mad emperor Caius did not persecute the Christians, whom he knew not, but was determined to destroy the Jews, with whom they were mixed, and blasphemed the God of the Jews and Christians, and wanted to set up his own image in the temple at Jerusalem, to be worshipped by all the nation. He was cut off by a conspiracy, and Petronius, governor of Syria, saved his life by it; for Caius would have put him to death, because he had delayed to execute those frantic orders. See Tillemont, H. des Emp. i. p. 446, &c.
Herod Agrippa killed James the brother of John, and put Peter in prison ; and the angel of the Lord smote him, and he was eaten with worms, and gave up the ghost. Açts xii. where Whitby says:
• Examples of the like exits of the persecutors of the
Christian faith, we have many in church history. Thus Tertullian saith of one Claudius Heminianus, one of their persecutors, that, cum vivus vermibus ebullisset, when worms broke forth from him whilst he was alive, he said,
Let no man know it, lest the Christians should rejoice. And Eusebius saith of Maximian, that sudden ulcers arose in his fundament and secret parts, from which sprung an incredible multitude of worms. And of the uncle of Julian the Apostate, who persecuted the Christians, and trampled upon the sacred vessels, Theodoret and Chrysostom inform us, that he perished by this disease, for his scrotum corrupted and bred worms.
An instance like to this we have in Pherecydes Syrus, eaten up of lice, for boasting of his great wisdom and his pleasant life, though he sacrificed to no god at all, saith Ælian, Var. Hist. iv. 28. Diog. Laert. i. p. 75. 77. See Bochart Hieroz. p. 2. 1. iv. 23. p. 620, 621. So also was it under the Jewish state: for of Antiochus Epiphanes we read, that worms sprang out of the body of this wicked man. 2 Macc. ix. 8, 9. &c.'
Add to these the story of Pheretimé, from Herodotus :
• Nor did this wicked woman come to an happy end; for as soon as she had returned from Libya to Egypt, after having taken revenge on the Barcæans, she perished mises rably, being eaten up of worms. Thus immoderate revenge brings down the displeasure of the gods upon cruel persons. Herodotus iv, 205.
Ananias, the high priest, persecuted St. Paul, and insolently ordered the by-standers to smite him on the mouth. And Paul said, 'God shall smite thee,' &c.
Chrysostom and Augustin are of opinion that St. Paul (though perhaps he had no such design) spake this prophetically; "for Ananias, after having contributed to the ruin of his country by a powerful faction which he had raised, and which produced many calamities, was slain, after the revolt of the Jews, A. D. 66. with his brother, and fell, not by the hands of the Romans, but by another faction of the Jews, which was headed by his own son.' Tillemont, H. E. i. p. 274.
Ananus the high priest slew St. James the lesser, A. D. 62. for which, and for other outrages, he was deposed