[First of all, mention is made of the tyrants who in the beginning of this century tyrannized over the defenseless lambs of Christ; among them are mentioned Isdigerdis, and his son Geroranes.
The bloody edict issued by the two Emperors, Honorius and Theodosius, against the so-called Anabaptists, is adduced, according to different versions, and explained.
The couplet of Prosperus, which proclaims to he candidates for baptism, that their baptism must be perfected by martyrdom, is explained.
Albanus, a pious teacher at Mentz,* and others, martyred.
The threatenings of the Nestorian Emperor, Theodosius, against the upright teacher, Cyril of Alexandria.
The tyranny of Theodosius, Bishop of Jerusalem, against many upright people, especially towards a pious teacher of the church of Christ, whom he first caused to be scourged, and then beheaded.
Benjamin, a deacon, after suffering many torments, put to death with a knotty stick, in Persia.
The cruelty of Honoricus, the Arian King, towards certain bishops and elders who would not swear an oath, described at large, as also his destruction.
Thereupon it is shown in the margin, that about this time, in different councils held in Africa, there were made five hundred and five laws, some of them relating to infant baptism; the agitation about baptism, suppression of the same, etc.
The bloody oppression of the believers, which, it appears, occurred in the time of Fulgentius.
Two persons who denied infant baptism, condemned in a certain council at Carthage (as is shown in the margin); but we commit them to God. With this we conclude the fifth century.]
We now come to fulfill the promise we repeatedly made in the Account of Baptism in the fifth century, namely, that we would show that of those who were baptized according to the ordinance of Christ, and of those who defended them and their views, a number had to lose their lives on this account; and that others, who escaped death, were severely persecuted or had to suffer corporal punishment. In order to show this properly, we shall first notice the tyrants of this time, and their tyranny; and then the persons who through this tyranny were oppressed and suffered unto blood.
Among all the cruel bloodhounds, and persecutors of the Christians may well be counted Isdigerdis and his son, Geroranes, who not only flayed and roasted the Christians alive, but also split reeds, and bound them, with the cut side inwards, tightly around the naked bodies of the martyrs, whom they then drew out by force, thus shockingly lacerating the bodies of the Christians. They also confined the steadfast martyrs, naked, in cells, bound them hand and foot, and then chased in a great number of rats, which, impelled by hunger, gnawed their bodies, and, in the course of time, entirely devoured them. Nevertheless, they could not, through these
and similar cruelties, force many Christians to a denial of their Redeemer. All this is related in order to convey an idea of the cruel tyranny which was at this time practiced against the Christians. Compare with Chron. Leonh., lib. 2. Will Baudart. Denckw., lib. 5. Hist. Joh. Wega, lib. 4, cap. 3. Theodoret., lib. 5, carp. 39.
In order to give a thorough account of this bloody edict, and this in the best possible manner, we shall present the different versions which we have found of it, word for word, and then state our own views in regard to the matter.
"The most important matter in this transaction" he writes,"is the imperial code, which contains cap. 1, lib. 2, an edict issued by the Emperors Theodosius and Honorius, which reads thus: 'If any minister of the Christian church is found guilty of having rebaptized any one, he, together with the person thus rebaptized, provided the latter is proved to be of such an age as to understand the crime, shall be put to death."'
"Since we must speak," he writes,"of that imperial code, we will relate the following, namely, about the law contained in the first codex prohibiting rebaptism. Joined to the other, it reads thus
"The Emperors, Honorius and Theodosius, to A. A. Antonius, the magistrate, "If information is obtained that any one has rebaptized a servant of the Catholic [general] religion, he shall be put to death, together with the latter, who has committed a punishable crime, provided he is of an age admitting of the capability, to commit such (and has been instructed concerning the matter)."
In that year, he writes, the Emperor Theodosius issued an edict against the Anabaptists, commanding that they should be put to death.
This was subsequently also quoted by the inquisitor of Leeuwaerden, in his controversy with Jacques d' Allchi, in the year 1558. See register of the 2d book, on the name Jacques. Also, Inwoduction, fol. 47, col. 2.
These several versions of the edict of Honoriu and Theodosius unanimously indicate three things 1. That at that time, A. D. 413, there were peopl who were called Anabaptists. 2. That on accoun of this matter of rebaptizing, these people were exceedingly hated by the world, especially by the great. 3. it is shown how they were hated, namely, unto death, so that the command was given, that they should be punished with death. However, intelligent people well know, that Christ, our Saviour predicted long before, that such thing would befall His disciples and followers. Matt 10:22; 24:9; Mark 13:9; Luke 21:12; John 15:19; 16:2.
Moreover, that the afore-mentioned (people against whom said edict was issued, were no strange, unknown, erring spirits, but such peopl as are also in our day styled Anabaptists; this no only the inquisitor of Leeuwaerden, A. D. 1558 readily admitted, as has been shown in the prope place, but all the particulars of the last mentione authors make it almost as clear as the sun at midday, that this is the general opinion of the Roman ists. Nay, it appears that the edict of Honoriu and Theodosius was carried into execution, no only A. D. 413, and in some of the subsequen years, but that it was no small cause of the last great persecution of the Anabaptists, which began about A. D. 1524, through the strong urging of the Papists, especially of their clergy, who, to all appearance, by it induced the Emperor, Charles V to renew said edict against the Anabaptists of thei time, as being an identical people, and of the same faith, with those who lived in the time of Honoriu and Theodosius. At least, that many papistic magistrates put to death innumerable pious Anabaptis Christians, by virtue of said ancient edict of A. D. 413, appears with such certainty from various authors, that it cannot, with truth, be denied. Compare Seb. Franck, fol. 136, col. 3, with Marti Bellius, page 53.
Now the couplet of Prosperus was verified namely, that baptism did indeed sanctify the true candidate in some measure, but that all this was perfected by the crown of martyrdom. This was afterwards rendered in German, by Jacob Mehrn ing, thus
"Was heylligs bringt die Tmuffe schon
Solchs gants erfuellet der Martrer chron."*
Bapt. Hist., 2d part, Page 413, ex Prosp. in Epigramm.
He means to say that those who were then baptized, had to expect martyrdom. We shall therefore show what persons suffered at this time for the testimony of Jesus Christ, either by virtue of the above-mentioned edict, or otherwise.
In A. D. 424, eleven years after the Emperors Honorius and Theodosius had issued their bloody edict against the so-called Anabaptists, a pious teacher, who, intending to spread abroad the name of Jesus Christ, and promulgate the doctrines of the holy Gospel, had come to Mentz, was lamentably slain; as were also some others. Besides other authors, P. J. Twisck describes this, with these words, "When Albanus preached Christ at Mentz, he was martyred, together with others." Chron., 5th book, page 149, col. 2, from Hist. Andr. 143.
The Emperor Theodosius, not content with havink, together with his co-emperor, Honorius, A. D. 413, threatened the aforesaid Anabaptists with death, seems to have finally been seduced so far as to endeavor to compel the orthodox believers to assent to the very absurd errors of the Nestorians. Among others, he intended to compel, as one of the chief opponents of said errors, Cyril of Alexandria, the purity and uprightness of whose faith was very conspicuous. He threatened him with a certain edict (apparently with severe punishment), if he would not desist from his views, or at least accept the doctrine of Nestorius. Of this we find the following account in the Chronijk van den Qndergang der Tyrannen: "Cyril, a celebrated teacher, strenuously opposed the heresy of Nestorius; but as the Emperor Theodosius, who, in many respects is greatly praised, was somewhat infected with the doctrine of Nestorius, he sent Cyril an edict, severely threatening him, if he would not assent to the doctrine of Nestorius."
Fifth book, pag. 151, col. 21, from Merula, fol. 352.
Not only the Emperor Theodosius, who was a secular judge, but also one Theodosius, Bishop of Jerusalem, who ought to have been a spiritual judge, yea, a shepherd and leader of the flock of Jesus Christ, caused no small disturbance among the orthodox, well-meaning, and beloved friends of God.
Of Theodosius, the secular judge and Emperor, we have already spoken; we now speak of Theodo sius of Jerusalem, who, though only the administration of the spiritual law was committed to him, nevertheless, showed himself not less of a tyrant than the former, oppressing on account of their obedience to God, not only the souls and consciences of men, but also their bodies, even unto death. With regard to this, ancient writers furnish us among others, with the following example
That he had a certain pious minister of the church of Christ scourged and beheaded, and after his body had been dragged through the city, he caused it to be thrown before the dogs; simply because the latter, together with other pious Christians, opposed his wickedness. Compare Merulae Tract, fol. 370, with P. J. Twisck, chron. 5th book, pag. 160, col. 1.
This Benjamin was a deacon of the Christian church in Persia, who, when opportunity offered itself, also proclaimed the doctrines of the holy Gospel to the people, at which Geroranes, the King of Persia, took such offense, that he caused him to be cast into prison, in which he remained without deliverance for two years. After this a certain ambassador came to the King to transact some state business. Having heard of Benjamin and his dreary confinement, he besought the King to set him free. The King consented, yet on the condition, that the prisoner should not speak to any of his magi or priests of the Christian religion or dispute with them. The ambassador promised the King in Benjamin's name that his command should be heeded. But when he came to Benjamin, and admonished him to this, Benjamin answered, "I do not wish to do what you have promised in my name. I can not withhold the doctrine of the light of the Gospel, which I have received from God, from others, not communicating it to them; for I have learned from the Gospel how severely those will be punished, who bury the talent which has been given them to gain something therewith, in the earth."
In the meantime, the King, knowing nothing of the answer which Benjamin had returned to the ambassador gave command to release him from his confinement. Benjamin once more free, ceased not to exhort the people as before, and to set the light of the holy Gospel on the candlestick. When this had continued for about the space of one year after his liberation from prison, new complaints were brought against him before the King, who had him brought before him, and commanded him to renounce the God whom he served, on pain of bodily punishment. Then Benjamin asked the King, "What punishment, beloved King, does he deserve, who deserts and renounces thee and thy
government, and submits himself to, and serves another lord?" The King answered, "Such a man deserves punishment on body and property, yea, the severest penalty of death, " Benjamin asked again saying, "What punishment does the man deserve who forsakes his God, the Creator of all things in order to exalt one of his servants as God, and to give to a creature the worship due to God alone?"
These words so incensed the King, that he commanded his guards to sharpen twenty reeds and to thrust them between the flesh and the nails of his fingers and toes. But when the King saw that the pious martyr endured all this with steadfastness, yea, regarded it but very little, he, after other torments, ordered the executioners to prepare a knotty stick, which by cutting away the branches, was made as sharp as a stick of thorns. This he caused to be thrust into the nether part of his body, and then pulled backwards and forwards, until the faithful servant and professor of Christ ended his life under the hands of the executioners, like a defenseless lamb that is led to the slaughter and opens not its mouth. Compare the account of Abr. Mellinus, 2d book, fol. 260, col. 1, 2, taken from Theod., lib. 5, pag. 38, and Merul, Graec., with the annotation of P. J. Twisck, Chron., 5th book, page 191, col. 1, from Hist. Eccl. Tripart, 2d part, lib. 11, cap. 33, Hist. Andr. Hondorff, fol. 20.
A. D. 477, Honoricus, King of the Vandals, an adherent of the Arian sect, arose with great violence against those who would not assent to his views, cruelly persecuting, and lamentably maltreating them. He had honorable women and maidens suspended naked; their bodies burned with torches; their breasts and arms cut off; hot pitch applied to their back, breasts and sides; he also caused them to be drawn up, and heavy stones tied to their feet, etc.
When he proposed to many that they should swear an oath, some thought it not contrary to God, but the bishops and elders of the church of Christ
would not swear, saying that it was prohibited in the Gospel, since Christ says, "Swear not." Thereupon they were martyred, or at least severely punished. Those, however, who had been prevailed upon to swear, did not escape free, for, according to ancient writers, he punished both alike; these, because they had sworn contrary to the command of the Gospel, and those, because they refused to swear.
In the meantime, the distress and misery were so great that scarcely a house could be found that was not filled with wailing and lamentations.
After this terrible tyrant had put to death, by these and similar torments, as well as exiled, a countless number, God, after many plagues had been sent upon that country, awfully punished him: worms and lice so gnawed his flesh that his whole body became putrefied, one member, dropping off after another, so that he was buried piecemeal, thus coming to a horrible and not less ignominious end-the evident vengeance of God for his tyranny against the Christians. Compare P. J. Twisck, Chron., 5th book, pag. 166, col. 2, with Chron. Carionis, lib. 3, fol. 29. Eccl. Caspar Hedio 3d part, lib. 2, cap. 18-21, 25, 27, Chronol. Leonh. Krantz., lib. 3, fol. 87, 89. Paul. Merula, fol. 381, 382. Hist. Andr., fol. 180. Jan. Crespin, fol. 139.
NOTE.-It is stated that about this time, until the year 495, and afterwards, there were made in different councils held in Africa, five hundred and five laws (called canons or rules), in which among other things it was resolved by the Roman church
1."That the children of the Donatists, (namely those Donatists who had renounced the doctrine of Donatus) shall not be rebaptized." 2. "That those who say that a child is not to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins, etc., are excommunicated." 3. Act. 23. "That the agitation about baptism should be suppressed by military force." Seb. Franck, Chron. der Roomsche Concilien, fol. 48, col. 2-4, etc.
NOTE.-From the third article it appears: 1. That at[this time there were people who stirred up agitation about baptism, that is, infant baptism, for this was now practiced by the Roman church. 2. That these people were suppressed by military assistance or force. What views, besides this article, these people held, or in which manner they were suppressed, we have not been able to ascertain; hence we let this suffice.
It appears that at this time the persecution and martyrization of those who were baptized according to the ordinance of Christ was still in progress; of which the God-fearing teacher Fulgentius makes mention to his contemporaries. Bapt. Hist., 2d part, page 464, num. 12, from D. Vicec., lib. 3, cap. 3, from Fulgentius, lib. de fide ad petrum, cap. 30. "Rest assured of this," he writes,"and doubt not that those who, for the name of Christ are baptized in their blood, without which no man shall receive eternal life, that is, who has not previously been converted from his sins through repentance and faith, and redeemed through the sacrament of faith and repentance, that is, through baptism."
When Fulgentius here speaks of those who, for the name of Christ are baptized in the blood, etc., he plainly indicates thereby, that blood was shed then inasmuch as people were baptized with it as it were, that is, such people as he speaks of further on, namely,"who are converted through repentance and faith, and redeemed through the sacrament of faith and repentance, that is, through baptism," etc.
However, if to any one the above words of Fulgentius appear rather too obscure for the purpose in view, we leave him to the free and unrestrained enjoyment of his own judgment.
NOTE.-At this time, namely about the close of this century, those who opposed infant baptism were so hated by the Roman church, that in a certain council of Carthage, two persons, whose names we for certain reasons omit, were condemned, because they had denied infant baptism. Bapt. Hist. 2d part, page 436, taken from the 9th chapter van de Doop gerbruyken der Roomsche Kerke, fol. 460.
As to the persons themselves that were condemned, we commit them to God, since our only aim is to show how exceedingly the aforementioned doctrines were hated, and those, who defended them, oppressed, yea, condemned at that time. With this we conclude our account of the martyrs of the fifth century.