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Chapter XXXVII.—Argument:  Tortures Most Unjustly Inflicted for the Confession of Christ’s Name are Spectacles Worthy of God.  A Comparison Instituted Between Some of the Bravest of the Heathens and the Holy Martyrs.  He Declares that Christians Do Not Present Themselves at Public Shows and Processions, Because They Know Them, with the Greatest Certainty, to Be No Less Impious Than Cruel.

“How beautiful is the spectacle to God when a Christian does battle with pain; when he is drawn up against threats, and punishments, and tortures; when, mocking18341834    “Arridens,” but otherwise “arripiens,” scil. “snatching at,” suggesting possibly the idea of the martyrs chiding the delays of the executioners, or provoking the rush of the wild beasts. the noise of death, he treads under foot the horror of the executioner; when he raises up his liberty against kings and princes, and yields to God alone, whose he is; when, triumphant and victorious, he tramples upon the very man who has pronounced sentence against him!  For he has conquered who has obtained that for which he contends.  What soldier would not provoke peril with greater boldness under the eyes of his general?  For no one receives a reward before his trial, and yet the general does not give what he has not:  he cannot preserve life, but he can make the warfare glorious.  But God’s soldier is neither forsaken in suffering, nor is brought to an end by death.  Thus the Christian may seem to be miserable; he cannot be really found to be so.  You yourselves extol unfortunate men to the skies; Mucius Scævola, for instance, who, when he had failed in his attempt against the king, would have perished among the enemies unless he had sacrificed his right hand.  And how many of our people have borne that not their right hand only, but their whole body, should be burned—burned up without any cries of pain, especially when they had it in their power to be sent away!  Do I compare men with Mucius or Aquilius, or with Regulus?  Yet boys and young women among us treat with contempt crosses and tortures, wild beasts, and all the bugbears of punishments, with the inspired18351835    Otherwise, “unhoped-for.”  [This chapter has been supposed to indicate that the work was written in a time of persecution.  Faint tokens of the same have been imagined also, in capp. 29 and 33, supra.] patience of suffering.  And do you not perceive, O wretched men, that there is nobody who either is willing without reason to undergo punishment, or is able without God to bear tortures?  Unless, perhaps, the fact has deceived you, that those who know not God abound in riches, flourish in honours, and excel in power.  Miserable men! in this respect they are lifted up the higher, that they may fall down lower.  For these are fattened as victims for punishment, as sacrifices they are crowned for the slaughter.  Thus in this respect some are lifted up to empires and dominations, that the unrestrained exercise of power might make a market of their spirit to the unbridled licence that is characteristic of a ruined soul.18361836    This passage is peculiar; the original is, “Ut ingenium eorum perditæ mentis licentiæ potestatis liberæ nundinentur,” with various modifications of reading.  For, apart from the knowledge of God, what solid happiness can there be, since death must come?  Like a dream, happiness slips away before it is grasped.  Are you a king?  Yet you fear as much as you are feared; and however you may be surrounded with abundant followers, yet you are alone in the presence of danger.  Are you rich?  But fortune is ill trusted; and with a large travelling equipage the brief journey of life is not furnished, but burdened.  Do you boast of the fasces and the magisterial robes?  It is a vain mistake of man, and an empty worship of dignity, to glitter in purple and to be sordid in mind.  Are you elevated by nobility of birth? do you praise your parents?  Yet we are all born with one lot; it is only by virtue that we are distinguished.  We therefore, who are estimated by our character and our modesty, reasonably abstain from evil pleasures, and from your pomps and exhibitions, the origin of which in connection with sacred things we know, and condemn their mischievous enticements.  For in the chariot games who does not shudder at the madness of the people brawling among themselves? or at the teaching of murder in the gladiatorial games?  In the scenic games also the madness is not less, but the debauchery is more prolonged:  for now a mimic either expounds or shows forth adulteries; now nerveless player, while he feigns lust, suggests it; the same actor disgraces your gods by attributing to them adulteries, sighs, hatreds; the same provokes your tears with pretended sufferings, with vain gestures and expressions.  Thus you demand murder, in fact, while you weep at it in fiction.


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