Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol VII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Lactantius: Chap. XVI
Thus was all the earth afflicted; and from east to west, except in the territories of Gaul, three ravenous wild beasts continued to rage.“Had I a hundred mouths, a hundred tongues,
A voice of brass, and adamantine lungs,
Not half the dreadful scene could I disclose,”
or recount the punishments inflicted by the rulers in every province on religious and innocent men.
But what need of a particular recital of those things, especially to you, my best beloved Donatus, 1976 who above all others was exposed to the storm of that violent persecution? For when you had fallen into the hands of the prefect Flaccinian, no puny murderer, and afterwards of Hierocles, who from a deputy became president of Bithynia, the author and adviser of the persecution, and last of all into the hands of his successor p. 307 Priscillian, you displayed to mankind a pattern of invincible magnanimity. Having been nine times exposed to racks and diversified torments, nine times by a glorious profession of your faith you foiled the adversary; in nine combats you subdued the devil and his chosen soldiers; and by nine victories you triumphed over this world and its terrors. How pleasing the spectacle to God, when He beheld you a conqueror, yoking in your chariot not white horses, nor enormous elephants, but those very men who had led captive the nations! After this sort to lord it over the lords of the earth is triumph indeed! Now, by your valour were they conquered, when you set at defiance their flagitious edicts, and, through stedfast faith and the fortitude of your soul, you routed all the vain terrors of tyrannical authority. Against you neither scourges, nor iron claws, nor fire, nor sword, nor various kinds of torture, availed aught; and no violence could bereave you of your fidelity and persevering resolution. This it is to be a disciple of God, and this it is to be a soldier of Christ; a soldier whom no enemy can dislodge, or wolf snatch, from the heavenly camp; no artifice ensnare, or pain of body subdue, or torments overthrow. At length, after those nine glorious combats, in which the devil was vanquished by you, he dared not to enter the lists again with one whom, by repeated trials, he had found unconquerable; and he abstained from challenging you any more, lest you should have laid hold on the garland of victory already stretched out to you; an unfading garland, which, although you have not at present received it, is laid up in the kingdom of the Lord for your virtue and deserts. But let us now return to the course of our narrative.
[See p. 301, supra.]
Next: Chap. XVII
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