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            “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake.” – S. Matt. V, 11.


            TWO days had elapsed since the scenes recorded in the last chapter took place. It was a warm sunny morning, and the overhead, occasionally crossed by a few light

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clouds, resembled in depth, and in colour, the quiet sea, on whose surface the white-winged ships continually come and go.


Below in the city all was hurry and confusion. It was the day appointed for the trial of Simplicius and Faustinus, and as they were of high rank, and possessed of considerable wealth and popularity, their case excited an unusual degree of curiosity and commiseration. Early in the morning a busy and talkative crowd of people assembled within the Forum, all eagerly discussing the same weighty matter, and each individual vehemently upholding his own opinion in total disregard of his neighbour’s.


The names of Simplicius and Faustinus were heard in all parts of the building, sometimes accompanied with contemptuous epithets, but more frequently by expressions of wonder, or of pity.


On the right of the tribunal were seated, the old man, noticed in the previous chapter, and by his side, Cornelius, their countenances presenting a strange contrast. The old man’s eyes were almost tearful in their sad anxious look, and his trembling hands were clasped together with nervous agitation, while the face of his companion wore a careless expression, his lips occasionally curling disdainfully as the names of the Christian brothers reached him. Suddenly the confused hum of voices ceased,

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and a suppressed murmur of sympathy burst from the crowd, as a young girl of about eighteen entered the Forum, whose appearance though her dress was of the plainest kind, denoted high birth. Her beautiful face was calm, but colourless as the white marble pillars around her, and in her eyes, like wells in their depth and darkness, lay almost hidden a sad sweet look, which told at once of keen mental suffering and of holy trust.


This was Beatrice, the sister of Simplicius and Faustinus.


She was closely followed by her friend, Donata. They placed themselves on the left of the prefect’s seat opposite to the old man and Cornelius, the latter regarding them with a cold suspicious glance, which deepened into positive contempt, as he looked at Donata, whose eyes were red and swollen with weeping and whose whole manner bespoke the greatest agitation. But other eyes than those of Cornelius, were fixed upon Donata and her friend.


Among the people on the right side of the Forum, were two Roman nobles, both alike in their dress, but very different in features and in expression.


The elder of the two seemed about thirty, and the other some twenty years old, these were Lysias and Secundus, two pagans of considerable reputation in the city.


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Both were intensely engaged in watching the new comers, though not apparently with the same object.


Lysias scanned closely the countenance of the young Beatrice, with an inquisitive, searching glance in his quick grey eyes, as though he desired to read the very thoughts of her heart, while his younger companion, Secundus, seemed rather inclined to sympathize in her sorrow.


Outside the Forum a noisy crowd was collected, all intent on the same object which had drawn together so great a number to the interior, – the trial of Simplicius and Faustinus.


This trial was indeed the prevailing topic of conversation all over the city, for the brothers were well-known and beloved, and most people were curious to understand how it could be, that men so unusually amiable and benevolent, could belong to such a community as that of the Christians, whom they believed the most abandoned and wicked of men. And, although we are all far from wishing to excuse the cruelty with which the pagans persecuted the saints of old, yet it certainly does not appear so very unaccountable that they were held in abhorrence, when we consider of what excesses and crimes they were supposed capable.


Indeed, it was generally believed that the Christians were professed murderers

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and drunkards, and it is almost impossible to say, what sin or what abomination was not attributed to them.


Tacitus in his writings thus describes them, – “These were the Christians, a new sect, hated by the people on account of their crimes. . . . . The author of this sect was one CHRIST, who in the reign of Tiberius was publicly executed by the governor Pontius Pilate. The detestable superstition of which he was the author was thus suppressed for the time, but notwithstanding, it broke out again, and spread itself not only throughout Judea, where the mischief had its origin, but it even found its way into the heart of the city, where the most shameful atrocities of every sort and kind are sure to gather together, and to converge as to a common centre or receptacle. The tortures used were such, that at last, although the guilty wretches well deserved any lengths of punishment, still the public began to feel some pity for them.”


Several other writings are still extant, exhibiting at once, both the ignorant blindness of the pagans, and the dreadful crimes and iniquities which they attributed to the Christians.


            For instance, another heathen says, on the same subject – “It is thus that their silly and senseless superstition glories in its crimes. And if it were to be asserted that there is no

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truth in what is said, every one must see that common report is of course far too sagacious to attribute such abominable and disgraceful things to them without foundation. I am also credibly informed, (by what sort of absurd fascination I cannot say:) that they venerate the consecrated head of such an ignoble beast; as an ass. Truly a fitting and suitable religion for such a morality as theirs!


“Others say that they worship the priest who stands at the altar, whether with truth, or not, I cannot say, but I have my suspicions that there must be something of the sort in their secret and midnight ceremonies. Certain it is that the priest talks publicly of a man who was executed for a crime of the worst character, and of the cross on which he suffered being connected with their ceremonies. The story of what they do, whenever they initiate a young proselyte is as well known as it is detestable.


“An infant concealed in flour is set before the person to be initiated, and he is made to pierce the surface of the flour in such a way, that without knowing it, he kills the child, by the wounds he unconsciously inflicts. Then something most truly horrible follows.


“They greedily suck the blood of the infant, and tear the body in pieces in order to devour it. Such is the victim which they use in their consecration of a proselyte.


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“As for their mode of holding a feast, it is only too well known, for every one speaks of it. On the day on which a solemnity occurs, they club together to have their festivity in common with their children, mothers and wives, – an assembly of every age and sex. Then when their feasting is far advanced, and they are all intoxicated, they throws cake at some distance before a dog, which they have previously tied to a large candelabrum that lights the room, and as the dog in his eagerness springs forward to seize the cake, he pulls over the candelabrum and all the lights are extinguished, and this is the signal for more horrid scenes to begin, than can bear to be imagined.” (Minucius Felix.)


From these few examples, it is easy to perceive in what abhorrence the Christians were held by the pagan world, and to what slanders and calumnies they were liable.


But to return to our history.


The day’s excitement was soon over. Simplicius and Faustinus had both been found guilty of Christianity, condemned and executed.


The crowd had left the Forum and all had returned to their several homes, there to recount among their families the scenes they had witnessed. The sun was at his height in the deep blue sky above, and but few people traversed the streets, for the heat was nearly

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intolerable. Two figures only remained, alone and almost motionless outside the Flavian Amphitheatre. They were Beatrice and Donata.


The former was standing upright, her head raised, and her eyes fixed on the sky above her, as though trying to pierce its depths, and behold within it, the glorious “inheritance of the saints in light.”


Her arm encircled Donata’s waist, who with her head bowed on her friend’s shoulder, was weeping convulsively.


It was a sad yet a beautiful picture; – those two young girls standing together, Beatrice with her fair, golden hair, and deep earnest eyes; and Donata, her whole form quivering passionately, and her hands clasped tightly on her forehead. Long time they stood there, still and silent, save when the sobs of the younger, now becoming less agonizing, convulsed her frame.


At length Donata exclaimed, her tears half choking her words; – “O Beatrice! how will you bear to go through this desolate world alone? peopled as it is with such monsters, such wretches, as they who, today – today” –


Another fit of weeping interrupted her, but presently she went on – “O how I hate, how I loathe these wicked heathens, these cruel prefects, who can thus torture and murder innocent and holy men! How I detest” –

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And here she burst into tears again, and sobbed more violently than before.


Beatrice glanced down at her trembling companion. She knew Donata’s impetuous nature, and she could not restrain it, but with a sorrowful look, she answered, – “JESUS said, ‘Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them that despitefully use you.’ ”


Donata was silent a moment, and then replied, – “But no man could ever yet reach such a state of perfection!”


“There was One,” said her friend, “Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again, and when He suffered, He threatened not.”


“But He was GOD,” rejoined Donata reverently.


“And Man,” said Beatrice.


There was another pause, again broken by Donata, who, raising her head, fixed her dark eyes on the sweet face before her, and said, “You are so good, sister’ (a term the Christians often employed towards those who were not relatives,) “I shall never be like you! But tell me, there is surely no harm in weeping over, – over their death?”


Donata! would you weep at the birth of a new star in Heaven? or would you lament the blossoming of a new flower to enhance the beauty of spring?


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“And do you grieve that two more souls are added to the number of the redeemed in glory, and have reached that blessed Home where the tears are wiped away from off all faces?


“Do you grudge them a place in heaven, who have toiled so bard for it? would you have them back again on earth, amid trials and snares and sorrows?


“They are not dead, my dear brothers, they are living, immortal, joyful and radiant! Ah, it seems as if I could almost hear their harps already ringing with the newly awakened melody of their song!


“O, dear sister, look up overhead, at the heavenly blue, where the sun shines out so brightly, that it seems like an outlet of those glorious realms beyond, whence the rays of never-fading light escape to cheer this dark, sinful world!


            “How happy, oh, how inconceivably happy are they who gaze for ever on that Divine Face, whose smile surpasses even the sun in lustre and in beauty!


“No! dear Donata! weep if you will for those who still toil and labour on earth, weep for those who know not GOD, weep for our persecutors, and our enemies, but not, not for the redeemed in glory!”


She ceased and Donata looking timidly up at her, thought she seemed like some holy

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angel of light, her countenance so glowed with the heavenly emotions of her loving heart.


Scarcely had Beatrice ended speaking when Secundus appeared before them,


“Pardon me, Lady Beatrice,” he said in a choked, husky voice,” if I have unintentionally overheard your conversation. I shall not betray you or your companion.”


Saying these words he raised his eyes reverently to the young girl’s face, and she fancied she saw tears in them, as he turned away with hasty steps.



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