Ignatius, the contemporary of Polycarp, recognises the same topic, briefly indeed, but positively and precisely. “For this cause, (i. e. having felt and handled Christ’s body at his resurrection, and being convinced, as Ignatius expresses it, both by his flesh and spirit,) they (i. e. Peter, and those who were present with Peter at Christ’s appearance) despised death, and were found to be above it.” (19. Ep. Smyr. c. iii.)
Would the reader know what a persecution in those days was, I would refer him to a circular letter, written by the church of Smyrna soon after the death of Polycarp, who it will be remembered, had lived with Saint John; and which letter is entitled a relation of that bishop’s martyrdom. “The sufferings (say they) of all the other martyrs were blessed and generous, which they underwent according to the will of God. For so it becomes us, who are more religious than others, to ascribe the power and ordering of all things unto Him. And, indeed, who can choose but admire the greatness of their minds, and that admirable patience and love of their Master, which then appeared in them? Who, when they were so flayed with whipping that the frame and structure of their bodies were laid open to their very inward veins and arteries, nevertheless endured it. In like manner, those who were condemned to the beasts, and kept a long time in prison, underwent many cruel torments, being forced to lie upon sharp spikes laid under their bodies, and tormented with divers other sorts of punishments; that so, if it were possible, the tyrant, by the length of their sufferings, might have brought them to deny Christ.” (Rel. Mor. Pol. c. ii.)
There is satisfactory evidence that many, professing to be original witnesses of the Christian miracles, passed their lives in labours, dangers, and sufferings, voluntarily undergone in attestation of the accounts which they delivered, and solely in consequence of their belief of those accounts; and that they also submitted, from the same motives, to new rules of conduct.
On the history, of which the last chapter contains an abstract, there are a few observations which it may be proper to make, by way of applying its testimony to the particular propositions for which we contend.
I. Although our Scripture history leaves the general account of the apostles in an early part of the narrative, and proceeds with the separate account of one particular apostle, yet the information which it delivers so far extends to the rest, as it shows the nature of the service. When we see one apostle suffering persecution in the discharge of this commission, we shall not believe, without evidence, that the same office could, at the same time, be attended with ease and safety to others. And this fair and reasonable inference is confirmed by the direct attestation of the letters, to which we have so often referred.