When the Jews were deprived of their power, by the heathen, and their time was past, in which they had persecuted and slain the saints of God, the Lord God nevertheless suffered His church to be visited by the refining fire of presecution, namely, through the power of the heathen; of whom the Emperor Nero was the first tyrant. Introduction to the Mirror of the Anabaptist Martyrs, printed Anno 1631. p. 35. col 2.
This Nero, according to the testimony of Emperor Trajan, governed the monarchy of Rome in so laudable a manner during the first five years of his reign, that never an emperor had greater praise than he; for then he was so tenderhearted, hat when he was asked to sign the death warrant, of a highwayman, he replied,"Oh, that I could not write I" signifying thereby his aversion to the killing. of human beings. Trajan. in Tract. Also, Roomschen Adelaer, door D. P. Pers, printed Anno 1642, p. 100. in the life of Nero. Also, Suet. in Neron. cap. 10.
But after the first five years he became so full of hatred, murder, and bloodshedding, that he seemed to delight in nothing more, than in killing, murdering, and fearfully torturing, not only malefactors, but even the saints of God who were praised even among their enemies for their Godfearing walk and conversation.
I will not mention the cruelties and tyrannies he exercised against his own friends; how he had his beloved son Britannicus -poisoned, and his own mother Agrippina cut open, to see the place where he had lain; how he had his faithful wife, Octavia, put to death with the sword, because she was barren; and Seneca, his faithful teacher, bled to death, and poisoned. We will only speak of the persecutions and unheard-of cruelties he practiced on the beloved friends of God, namely, the true Christians. To this end we will begin thus
Once, desiring to see the burning of Troy represented by its equal, he caused the city of Rome to be set on fire, and ascended a certain tower without, where he, beholding it, began to sing,"Troy is on fire," etc. Suet. Idem. in Ner. cap. 38. Rom. Adel. p. 102. in the life of Nero.
After this was done he cast the blame on the Christians, saying that they had done it; for, when the Romans, very much agitated on account of the immeasurable damage and the dire calamities which had sprung from this conflagration, began to murmur greatly, he, in order to shield himself, and to wreak his prejudiced hatred upon the Christians, put the whole blame on them. Introduction to the Martyrs Mirror, p. 35, from Baron. Anno 66. num. 1.
For this reason there were proclaimed immediately, in the name of the Emperor, throughout the whole known world (then under the monarchy of the Romans), bloody decrees against the Christians, that they should everywhere be put to death. The contents of these decrees were as follows, "If any one confesses that he is a Christian, he shall be put to death, without further trial, as a convicted enemy of mankind." loh. Gysii Hist Mart. edit. 1657. fol. 6. col. 2.
Tertullian afterwards upbraided the Roman Senate, saying, "Read your own histories, and you will find, that Nero was the first who raged against this sect (so he calls the Christians), which then flourished the most in Rome." AQol. Contra Gentes. cap. 5.
In another place he says, "Nero was the first who stained with blood the rising Christian faith at Rome."
Shortly after this decree of Nero, a violent and unmerciful persecution of the Christians manifest-
ed itself in all the countries which were under the Roman dominion; which persecution lasted until the Emperor's death. The innocent Christians were accused not only of the burning of Rome, but also of every wickedness imaginable; that they might be tortured and put to death in the most awful manner. To this the Roman Tacitus (according to the translation of J. Gysius, and not that of Fenacolius) * refers, saying, "Then, Nero, in order to avert this report from himself, caused those called Christians by the common people, to be accused and exceedingly tormented. The author of this name is Christ, who was publicly put to death under the reign of Tiberius, by Pontius Pilate, the governor. Those who confessed that they were Christians, were first apprehended, and afterwards by making it known themselves a great multitude were all condemned, not so much on account of the conflagration, as of the hatred in which they were held by mankind. The taking of their lives was accompanied with much mockery; they were covered with the skins of wild beasts, and then torn to pieces by dogs; or nailed on crosses; or placed at stakes and burned; serving also as torches for the spectators, when the day was over."
Thus Tacitus, a Roman himself, has sufficiently confessed, in spite of himself, as J. Gysius writes, that the Christians were innocent of the burning of Rome, but that they notwithstanding had to suffer on account of their name.
Who the great multitudes were, that perished in those awful persecutions, confessing the name of Christ even unto death, is not stated in the histories of the fathers; however, we shall content ourselves therewith, that God remembers them, and that their names are written in the Book of Life. Nevertheless, we meet with some, though but few, names of such who suffered in that persecution in the reign of Nero, and sealed the truth of Christ with their blood and death; of these we shall speak in the proper place.
Touching the manner in which the Christians were tortured and killed at the time of Nero, A. Mellinus gives the following account from Tacitus and other Roman writers: namely, that four extremely cruel and unnatural kinds of torture were employed against the Christians
Firstly, that they dressed them in the skins of tame and wild beasts, that they might be torn to pieces by dogs or other wild animals.
Secondly, that they, according to the example of their Saviour, were fastened alive on crosses, and that in many different ways.
Thirdly, that the innocent Christians were burned and smoked by the Romans, with torches
Fourthly, that these miserable, accused Christian martyrs were used as candles, torches, or lanterns, to see by them at night.
Of those who were burned, some were tied or nailed to stakes, and held still by a hook driven through the throat, so that they could not move the head when the pitch, wax, tallow, and othef inflammable substances were poured boiling over their heads, and set on fire, so that all the unctious matter of the human body flowing down made long, wide furrows in the sand of the theatre. And thus human beings were lighted as torches, and burned as lights for the wicked Romans at night.
Juvenal and Martial, both Roman poets, and Tertullian, state this in a different manner, namely, that the Romans wrapped them in a painful or burning mantle, which they, wound around their hands and feet, in order to melt the very marrow in their bones.
Furthermore, it is stated by A. Mellinus (from the aforementioned authors), concerning those mantles, that they were made of paper or linen, and, having been thickly coated with oil, pitch, wax, rosin, tallow, and sulphur, were wrapped around their whole body, and then set on fire.
For this spectacle Nero gave the use of his gardens, and appeared himself among the people in the garb of a charioteer, taking an active part in the Circusian games; himself standing in the circus, and, as charioteer, guiding a chariot.
These proceedings, according to the testimony of Tacitus, although it had the appearance that the Christians were punished as malefactors who had deserved the extremest penalty, nevertheless moved the people to compassion; for they understood well enough that the -Christians were not exterminated for the good of the common weal, but simply to gratify the cruelty of one man, Nero. Compare Abr. Mellin. 1st book van de Histor. der vervolg. en Mart printed Anna 1619 fol. 11. col. 4. and fol. 12. col. 1. with Tacit. Annal. lib. 15. and Tertul. Apol. Contr. Gent. cap. 50 and adv Marc. cap. 5. Martinal. Epig. 25. lib. 25.
Simon jona, afterwards called Cephas in Syriac, but Petros or Petrus in Greek, was the brother of Andrew, a native of Bethsaida in Galilee, and a
fisherman by occupation. He had his abode at Capernaum, with his wife's mother. His brother Andrew, who was a .disciple of John, first brought him to Christ, and shortly afterwards he and his brother were called away from the fishery, to become fishers of men. Matt. 16:17; Mark 3:16; John 1:42; Matt. 4:18; John 1:44; Luke 4:31, 38; John 1:41, 42; Matt. 4:18,19.
He was diligently instructed by Christ, his Saviour, and made such progress therein, that he became the spokesman of all the apostles, being generally the most frank in asking and answering, as well as the most zealous for Christ, in order to prove to Him his love and fidelity, although at times he manifested a certain rashness therein; on which occasions the Lord, like a father his child, faithfully instructed, and, whenever it was necessary, kindly reproved him. Matt. 16:16; John 6:68; Matt. 18:21; 14:31; John 18:10, 11.
The Lord loved him in a special manner, and permitted him, together with James and John, to witness His glory on Mount Tabor; of which He afterwards made mention to the chosen scattered strangers, saying, We were eyewitnesses of his majesty. Matt. 17:1-3; 11 Pet. 1:16, 17. He was the boldest in offering to suffer with Christ, but the weakest when the conflict began. The Lord selected him and the two sons of Zebedee, to watch and pray with Him in the garden; but his eyes as well as those of the others were heavy with sleep; which showed that though he was specially loved by Christ, he was nothing more than a weak mortal. Matt. 26:33, 36.
About his denying Christ we shall not mention anything, as this is not the proper place for it. since we purpose to speak only of his faithfulness and steadfastness until death.
After the aforesaid denial, the Lord forgave him his sin, and commanded him three times to feed His sheep and lambs; which he subsequently faithfully did to the full extent of his ability: John 21:15,16; 1 Pet. 5:1-3.
In one day there were converted to the faith, by his preaching, about three thousand souls; all of whom were baptized, and continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. Acts 2:41, 42.
He confirmed his doctrine through the power of God by signs accompanying the same, according to the promise of Christ, as is evidenced in the
case of the lame man, Ananias, Sapphira, Eneas, Tabitha, and others. Acts 3:7; 5:5,10; 9:34, 40.
The calling of the Gentiles was revealed to him in a vision from heaven; but as he was properly an apostle of the Jews, his ministry was most effectual among the circumcision. Acts 10:10-12; Gal. 2:8.
But since he was so excellent and worthy a man in his ministry, it pleased the Lord, that he should also be one of His martyrs, to seal the truth of His doctrine not only with the mouth, but also with his blood, yea, even with his death. This the Lord showed to him shortly before His departure from this world, saying,"Verily, verily, I say unto thee. When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God" (John 21:18, 19).
This was verified in him, for shortly afterwards he and John, his fellow helper, were-brought before the Jewish council in Jerusalem, and severely threatened, to desist preaching in the name of Jesus; to which they both boldly replied,"Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye" (Acts 4:19).
Afterwards he was again apprehended, together with the other apostles, but by night, miraculously delivered out of prison by an angel. Acts 5:19.
After that he was not only apprehended, but, together with the other apostles, scourged and commanded, that they should absolutely not preach in the name of the Lord Jesus; but they went away from the Council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. Acts 5:40-42.
Afterwards King Herod stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And when he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further and apprehended Peter also, and put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. But in the night the angel of the Lord led him out, through the midst of the soldiers, so that he returned to the believers, who rejoiced greatly on account of him. Acts 12:1.
Finally there was fulfilled, according to the testimony of history, the prediction of Christ, that he should glorify God by his death; for while he was at Rome, he was sentenced by -the Emperor Nero to be crucified. But, esteeming himself unworthy to be crucified with his head upward, like his Saviour, he requested to be crucified with his head downward; which he easily obtained, for the tyrants were forthwith willing and ready to increase his pain.
This occurred, as is stated, after Peter had preached the Gospel for thirty-seven years, and when he was seventy years old.* Euseb. lib. 2. cap. 25. and 3. cap. 2. from the writings of Origen. Egesipp. Hist. of the miserable Destruction of the City of Jerusalem. 3d book, 2d chap. Also, Konsttooneel vain veertig heerlijke afbeeldingen Christi en sajner Apostelen, door N. D. C., printed Anno 1609, in the Life o f Peter. Also, W. Baudart Apophthegm. Christian. lib. 1. super Petrum. ex Hieron. de Vitis Illustribus. Johan. Strac. in Festo. Joh. Evang. Ambr. ad Aux.
Saul, afterwards called Paul, was of Jewish descent, a Hebrew of the tribe of Benjamin; but, as to who his father and mother were, we find in Holy Writ no record. Phil. 3:5.
As regards the place of his birth, it appears that his parents, either on account of persecution, or of the Roman war, or for some other reason, left their place of residence in the portion of Benjamin, and went to dwell in a Roman, free city in Cilicia, called Tarsus, where Paul was born, who, although he was a Jew, yet, by the privileges of this city, became a Roman citizen. Acts 22:3.
Respecting his early training, he was diligently instructed by the wise Gamaliel, in the law of the fathers; in which he became so proficient, that there were but few things in the entire Old Testament, with which he was not acquainted. Gal. 114.
He lived blamelessly, according to the law of Moses and the holy prophets, and that in the strictest order of Judaism; but, having not yet been rightly instructed in the doctrine of the holy Gospel, he, although in accordance with the law, manifested a wrong zeal, and persecuted the church of Christ; yea, at the death of Stephen he kept the garments of them that slew him. Acts 7:58.
But afterwards, having obtained letters from the priests at Jerusalem to the synagogues of Damascus, to bring as prisoners such men and women who confessed the name of Christ, the Lord, from heaven, arrested him in his course, calling,"Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into
the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do" (Acts 9:1-6).
The men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. Then he arose from the earth, to which he had been prostrated by fear; and when he opened his eyes, lie could not see, so that they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. Verses 7, 8.
In the city of Damascus there was a disciple, named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision,"Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth."
Ananias answered,"Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem."
Then said the Lord to him,"Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: for I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake., "And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him, said, Brother Saul, the Lord hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales; and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized" (Acts 9: 7-.16).
Such was the conversion of Saul, who was afterwards called Paul, and was one of the chief apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: yea, he labored more abundantly than they all. I Cor. 15:10.
Immediately after his conversion, he preached Christ in the synagogues, that He was the Son of God. Acts 9:20.
Some time afterwards, the Holy Ghost said to the prophets and teachers at Antioch, after they
had ministered to the Lord with fasting and prayer,"Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them." And thus they were sent out by the Holy Ghost. Acts 13:2, 3.
In the meantime, Paul, formerly called Saul, was endowed with special gifts of the Holy Ghost, so that he had the spirit of discernment, prophecy, tongues, miracles. Acts 13:9, 10; I Tim. 4:1; I Cor. 14:18; Acts 19:11.
He had also special revelations, so that, at a certain time, he was caught up to the third heaven, yea, into the heavenly paradise, where he heard unspeakable words, which no man can utter. II Cor. 12:1.
He was, moreover, adorned with many Christian virtues, which he practiced with a good conscience; as well as with faithfulness in his ministry, paternal care over all the churches, and sincere love for them, even unto death, so that he said,"Being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the Gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us" (I Thess. 2:8).
He was free from covetousness, of a benevolent disposition, and would rather labor with his own hands, than be a burden to the church, lest it might prove a hindrance to the holy Gospel. Acts 20:34.
He vigorously withstood, and overcame through the Word of God, the erring spirits, sorcerers, Epicurean philosophers, and false prophets.
He feared neither great nor small, noble nor ignoble, Jew nor Greek; but taught the Word of God in sincerity.
What he suffered in seven great land and sea journeys, during the time of thirty years; during which he traveled in Judea; Syria, Asia, Macedonia, Greece, Italy, Spain, France, Germany, yea, almost through the whole then known world, is sufficiently evident, from Holy Scripture as well as from history.
It is computed, that until his first imprisonment at Rome, he had traveled over three thousand German miles, by water and by land, only for the Gospel's sake; besides all the other arduous journeys he undertook, in order to strengthen, awaken, and comfort the newly-planted churches; in which he met with much vexation, misery ,and grief from the hands of the unbelievers. The words which the Lord had spoken at the time of his conversion, were fulfilled in every part, "I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake" (Acts 9:16).
Shortly after he was baptized, and his zeal for the truth of Christ began to break forth at Damascus, proving to the Jews that Christ was come, they took counsel to kill him; wherefore he was let down by the wall in a basket, that he might escape their hands. Acts 9:24, 25.
Afterwards, when he came to Iconium with his companion Barnabas, the Jews stirred up the Gentiles against him and his friend, intending to stone them. Acts 14:2, 5.
But when they had fled to Lystra, and had made a cripple able to walk, there came certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, and stirred up the people, so that they stoned Paul, whom they first had worshiped as a god, and drew him out of the city, supposing that he was dead: howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up again. Acts 14:19, 20. Afterwards, traveling with Silas, and having, at Philippi, delivered a damsel from a. spirit of divination, he and Silas were accused on that account, beaten with rods, cast into prison, their feet made fast in the stocks, and were kept in close confinement. But in the night God sent an earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken, the doors opened, and the bands (of the stocks) loosed of their own accord. By this means Paul and Silas were delivered, with the knowledge of the keeper, who accepted the faith, and was baptized. Acts 16:22-36.
Subsequently, being at Thessalonica, and having preached the Word of God three Sabbaths, so that of the devout Greeks, a great multitude believed, and of the chief women not a few; the Jews, who believed not, were moved with envy; wherefore they took unto them certain lewd fellows--market loungers-and gathered a great company, and set the city in an uproar, and assaulted the house of one Jason, thinking that Paul and Silas were within, and sought to bring them out to the people. And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying,"These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; whom Jason hath secretly received" (Acts 17:1-7). From there, on account of the persecution, the brethren sent both of them away by night unto Berea. Verse 10.
After that,"when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment seat, saying, This fellow persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law." And when Paul was now about to open his mouth, to defend himself, Gallio said unto the Jews, to show to them the groundlessness of their accusations,"If it were a matter of wrong or wicked lewdness, O ye Jews, reason would that I should bear with you: but if it be a question of words and names, and of your law, look ye to it: for I will be no judge of such matters. And he drave them from the judgment seat." Acts 18:12-16.
After this, there came down from Judea a prophet, named Agabus, who took Paul's girdle, and bound himself saying,"Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles." Thereupon the brethren besought Paul, not to go up to Jerusalem. But he answered,"What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem' for the name of the Lord Jesus." Acts 21:10-13. Oh, the great resolution of the Apostle Paul!
After that, when he, standing on the stairs at Jerusalem, defended himself before those who had accused him, it came to pass that the Jews, having given him audience for awhile, cast off their clothes, threw dust into the air, and cried,"Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live." Acts 22:22, 23.
In the meantime he was bound, in order to be scourged; which he would not have escaped, had he not declared that he was a Roman citizen: Verses 25-29., "Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day. And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth" (Acts 23:1, 2)., "The night following, the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome" (verse 11).
And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves neither to eat nor to drink till they had killed Paul. And they were more than forty which had made this conspiracy. Verse 12.
But Paul was warned of this ambuscade by his sister's son, and when the latter made it known to the chief captain of the Romans, measures were taken to escape it; wherefore.he was brought in the third hour of the night to Caesarea, unto Felix the governor. Verses 16-33. And Felix kept him in Herod's judgment hall, till his accusers should come. Verse 35.
After five days Ananias the high priest descended with the elders, and with the orator Tertullus, who informed the governor against Paul. And when Paul was called forth, Tertullus, after having saluted Felix with many flattering words, began to accuse him, saying,"We have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes: who also hath gone about to profane the temple: whom we took, and would have judged according to our law. But the chief captain Lysias came upon us, and with great violence took him away out of our hands," etc."And the Jews also assented, saying that these things were so." Acts 24:1-9.
But that this was not so (although they sought to bring about his death by these accusations), is evident from the preceding facts mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, and from the following dedense of Paul, verses 10-21., "But after two years Portius Festus came into Felix' room: and Felix, willing to shew the Jew a pleasure, left Paul bound" (verse 27).
Now when Festus was come into the province, after three days he ascended from Caesarea to Jerusalem. Then the high priest and the chief of the Jews went to him, and desired favor, that he would send for Paul to Jerusalem; laying wait in the way to kill him. Festus replied to the Jews, that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that those who were to accuse him, might come thither. Acts 25:4, 5.
And when they were come, they brought forward many and grievous complaints, which they could not prove, and which Paul briefly and conclusively refuted, declaring that he had offended neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the emple,; nor against Caesar. But being deceitfully asked by Festus, whether he was willing to go up
to Jerusalem, to be judged there (where his mortal enemies were), he fearlessly replied,"I stand at Caesar's judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest. But if I be an offender, or have committed anything worthy of death, I refuse not to die." Acts 25:9-11.
After this, Paul was examined by King Agrippa, in the presence of Festus. His defense caused Festus, who was a friend of the Jews, to exclaim
Paul, thou art beside thyself. Agrippa, however, declared that he was almost persuaded to become a Christian. He also gave as his opinion, that there was nothing worthy of death in him; wherefore he said to Festus,. This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar. Acts 26:1-32.
In the meantime it was determined that he should sail to Italy, to be examined before Caesar. To this end he and certain other prisoners were delivered to Julius, a centurion of the imperial band. Having embarked in a ship of Adramyttium, they sailed along Cyprus, Cilicia, Pamphylia, and other countries, to Myra in Lycia, where they were transferred into a ship of Alexandria bound for Italy. In this ship they sailed against Cnidus, as far as under Crete, over against the city of Salmone; thence to a place which is called the Fair Havens, nigh to Lasea. Acts 27:1-8.
At this place Paul foretold them, that they would not complete this voyage without great damage, clanger of shipwreck, and peril of life; but the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul. Verses 10, 11.
Departing thence, they hoped to winter at Phenice, a haven of Crete; but they touched at Asson, and sailed close by Crete. Verses 12, 13.
Then the ship was caught by a northeast wind, which had sprung up, and carried her, against their purpose, through the billows so that they had to let her drive before it; however, they came to the Island Clauda, yet with fear, lest they should fall into the quicksands. Verses 16, 17. For many days and nights they saw neither sun nor stars through the mighty tempest, so that all hope that they should be saved was taken away. Verse 20.
Meanwhile God sent His angel on a certain night to Paul, saying,"Fear not: thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee." Verses 23, 24.
Thereupon Paul urged them to take meat, for the preservation of their lives, for, on account of their deadly fear, they had not eaten anything for fourteen days; and breaking the bread, for to eat, he gave thanks to God in the presence of them all. Verses 33-36.
And when it was day, they knew not the land but they discovered a creek; which however they could not enter, but ran aground, before the island
of Melita (now called Malta); where the forepart of the ship stuck fast, but the hinder part was broken in pieces by the waves. Verses 39-41. Here the soldiers held a council and decided to kill the prisoners, including Paul, lest any of them should swim out, and escape. The centurion, however, willing to save Paul, kept them from their purpose: and commanded that they who could swim should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land which was done; and the rest floated, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship, so that all, namely, one hundred and seventy souls, escaped to land. Verses 42-44. Thus was fulfilled what Paul had foretold them, namely, that they should suffer shipwreck, and yet escape with their lives.
Here Paul was first pronounced a murderer, but afterwards a god, by the inhabitants of the island; and this, because they observed a viper fastening itself on his hand, which he shook off into the fire, without suffering any harm. Acts 21:3-6.
After three months they sailed for Italy in a ship which had wintered in the isle: yet they arrived first at Syracuse, in Sicily, and then at Puteoli, on the Italian .border, where Paul found brethren, with wham he tarried seven days; others came to meet him as far as Appii Forum, and the Three Taverns. Proceeding, he came to Rome, where the centurion delivered him to the chief captain, to be brought before Caesar. In the meantime he was kept by a soldier, and bound with a chain. Verses 11-16, 20.
We have narrated all these things the more circumstantially (and this, according to Holy Scripture) in order that it may be seen, how much this pious man suffered in his travels by sea and by land, for the sake of the holy Gospel. Of all this he gives a brief account in his second epistle to the Corinthian church, writing thus, "Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in cold and nakedness" (II Cor. 11:24-27).
Yea, it appears from the first epistle to the Corinthians, that he was thrown before the wild beasts in a theater at Ephesus, to be torn to pieces, or at least, to fight for his life with them; from which God at that time delivered him. Concerning this, the intelligent may judge; he writes,"If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not?" (I Cor. 15:32)
As regards his imprisonment at Rome, most of the ancient writers are of the opinion that, although nearly all his friends forsook him at the time when he was to make his defense, he, being brought be fore Caesar, defended himself so cleverly against the accusation of the Jews, that he was set free for this time. But how true this is, we leave to its own merits, and to the omniscient God. This much, however, is certain, that while in prison at Rome, he wrote to his spiritual son Timothy, that he was now ready to be offered as a drink offering, and that the time of his departure was at hand; but that he took comfort in the thought, that he had fought a good fight, finished his course, and kept the faith, and that there was laid up for him a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, should give him at that day. II Tim. 4:6-8.
According to ancient records he was then beheaded at the command of Nero, outside of Rome, on the road that leads to Ostia, called Via Ostiensis, where the Romans used to have their place of execution, in the last year of Nero, or about A.D. 69. Joh. Gys. in the History of the Martyrs, from Joseph Scaliger, about Paul. Egesipp. Hist. Destruc. Jerusal., lib. 3, cap. 2. Konst-tooneel van veertig heerlijke afbeelding.en Christi en sijner Apostelen, printed Anno 1609; about the life of Paul. Itinerarium Sacra?, Scri¢turce per H. Bunting, translated into the Dutch by Matthias Hazard; printed Anno 1624. in the Travels of Paul, page 162. col. 1.
It is related that shortly after the death of the Apostle Paul, his brethren and fellow prisoners, whom he mentions in the epistles which he wrote from his prison, namely, Aristarchus, Epaphras, Aquila, Prisca, Andronicus, Junias, Silas or Silvanus, Onesiphorus, etc., followed in his footsteps in suffering for the name of Christ.
Aristarchus, a native of Thessalonica, was, with Gaius, Paul's companion in his journey from Macedonia to Asia; with which Gaius he was apprehended at a certain time, in an uproar at Ephesus, but for that time made his escape. Afterwards, however, he was brought to Rome a prisoner, just at the time that Paul also was apprehended for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
This friend of God saluted the church at Colosse by the hand of Paul; of which Paul makes mention, writing,"Aristarchus my fellow prisoner saluteth you" (Col. 4:10).
This imprisonment, however, was not the end of it; for he was also devoured by that cruel lion. Nero, about the time of Paul's death after having been several years previously a faithful pastor of
the church at Thessalonica, A. Mell. 1st Book, van de Hist. der vervolg. en Mart., printed at Dort, Anno 1619, fol. 17, col. 4, froze Bedw Usuard. Adon Mart. Rom. 4 aug. Also, Menol. Grcec. 14 April.
Epaphras was a faithful minister of Jesus Christ for the church at Colosse, which, while in bonds at Rome, he saluted by the hand of Paul, as appears from the epistle Paul wrote from his prison at Rome to the Colossians, in which, among other things, he says, "Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis" (Col. 4:12, 13).
Concerning his being a prisoner with Paul, or, apparently, sharing the same dungeon with him, Paul writes to Philemon, in the conclusion of the epistle, "There salute thee Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus" (verse 23).
Hence, it follows that those write not without foundation, who hold that Epaphras also suffered a violent death under the persecution of Nero. Idem, Ibidem. ex Mart. Rom. 19. Jul.
The apostle Paul, at the conclusion of his epistle to the church of God at Rome, very lovingly saluting different saints residing there, mentions, among others, two persons who had laid down their own necks for his life; also two others whom he calls his fellowprisoners, doubtless, because they were subject, with him, to like persecution and suffering on account of the name of Christ. All these he mentions by name, and salutes them in apostolic manner.
Of the first two he writes thus, "Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my helpers in Christ Jesus, who have for my life laid down their own necks" (Rom. 16: 3, 4).
The last two he mentions in this manner, "Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me" (verse 7).
What was the end of these persons, is stated neither in Paul's epistles nor in any other part of the New Testament; but other writers hold, that, in the aforementioned persecution of Nero, they suffered and fought unto death for the truth of Jesus Christ; which can not well be contradicted, since the bloodthirstiness of this emperor, especially against the Christians, was so great, that but few of those who fell into his hands escaped without bloodshed or a miserable death. See above.
Silas, also called Silvanus, together with Judas, surnamed Barsabas, was added to the apostles Paul and Barnabas. These men were leaders among the brethren, and were to bear testimony to those matters which had been considered and decided upon by the apostles at Jerusalem, for the welfare of the church of God. Acts 15:27, 34.
This Silas having once promoted, with Paul, the work of the holy Gospel, at Philippi, in Macedonia, he was apprehended together with Paul, brought before the rulers, publicly scourged, though without trial, and thus maltreated, cast into prison, against right and reason, with his feet made fast in the stocks; but was by divine Providence miraculously delivered, an earthquake at midnight opening the doors of the prison. Acts 16:19-39.
According to the statements of some writers, he afterwards became bishop of the church at Corinth, and died a martyr after having done much preaching. This much is certain, according to the testimony of Holy Scripture, that he was not only apprehended and scourged for the Gospel's sake, but suffered many indignities before his end. A. Mell., 1st Book, van de Hist. der hervolg., fol. 18, col. 1.
Onesiphorus was an Asian, a citizen of Ephesus, in Asia Minor, and very virtuous and godly in life, so that he frequently came to visit, converse with, and comfort, the apostle Paul in his bonds at Rome; on account of which Paul rejoiced with all his heart, and prayed to God to reward him for this kindness in the great day of recompense. Concerning this, Paul writes thus to Timothy."The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: but when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me. The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well" (II Tim. 1:16-18). In the conclusion of the same letter he affectionately salutes the household of Onesiphorus, saying,"Salute . . .
and the household of Onesiphorus . . . Grace be with you. Amen" (II Tim. 4:19, 22) .
Some writers say that this pious man was bishop of (the church of) Colophon; others, of Coronia but whether Colophon and Coronia at that time
were not one and the same city, called by two different names; or, if they were two separate cities, whether he had the oversight over both churches at once, is a matter of little consequence. It is sufficient for us, that the historians agree in the fact that he and Porphyrius, his fellow servant of Jesus Christ, were first beaten with many severe stripes at Hellespontus, by the order of Adrianus the governor, and afterwards, both together, tied to wild horses, and thus dragged or torn to death, by virtue of Nero's bloody edict. A. Mellin., 1st Book van de histmrien der hervolgingen en Martelaren, printed A. D. 1619, fol. 18, cot. 2, from Doroth., in Synopsi Mart. Rom. 6 Sept.