The Story of Simeon

Yesterday we celebrated All Saints’ Day, probably for the first time ever in my “traditional” Baptist church.  I told the story of the martyrdom of Simeon, from The Acts and Monuments of John Foxe, which is readable online at Google Books.

Albrecht Durer, Martyrdom of 10,000 Christians

Albrecht Durer (1471-1528)
Martyrdom of 10,000 Christians

In the same country of Persia, about this time [A.D. 343] suffered under Sapor the king (as recordeth Simeon Metasphrastcs) divers valiant and constant martyrs, as Acindynus, Pegasius, Anempodistus, Epidephorus, also Simeon, archbishop of Seleucia and Ctesiphon, royal cities of Persia, with other ministers and religious men of that region, to the number of one hundred and twenty-eight. Of this Simeon thus writeth Sozomen:

The idolatrous magicians and the Jews in Persia, taking counsel together against the Christians, accused Simeon, archbishop of Seleucia and Ctesiphon, to Sapor the king, of being friendly to the Roman emperor, and of bewraying to him such things as were done in the land of Persia. Whereupon Sapor being moved, took great displeasure against the Christians, oppressing them with taxes and tributes unto their utter impoverishing, killing all their priests with the sword : after that he called for Simeon the archbishop, who there, before the king, declared himself a worthy and valiant captain of Christ’s church. For when Sapor had commanded him to be led to suffer torments, he neither shrank for any fear, nor showed any great humble suit of submission for any pardon : whereat the king, partly marvelling, partly offended, asked “Why he did not kneel down as be was wont before to do?” Simeon to this answered, “For that,” saith he, “before this time I was not brought unto you in bonds to betray the true God, as I am now ; and so long I refused not to accomplish that which the order and custom of the realm of me required : but now it is not lawful for me so to do, for now I come to stand in defence of our religion and true doctrine.” When Simeon thus had answered, the king, persisting in his purpose, offereth to him the choice either to worship the sun with him after his manner (promising to him many great gifts, if he would so do), or, if he would not, threateneth to him and to all the other Christians within his land destruction. But Simeon, neither allured with his promises nor terrified with his threatenings, continued constant in his doctrine professed, so as neither he could be induced to idolatrous worship, nor yet to betray the truth of his religion. For the which cause he was committed into bonds, and there commanded to be kept, till the king’s pleasure was further known.

It befel in the way as he was going to the prison, there was sitting at the king’s gate a certain eunuch, an old tutor or schoolmaster of the king’s, named Usthazanes, who had been once a Christian, and afterward, falling from his profession, fell with the heathenish multitude to their idolatry. This Usthazanes, sitting at the door of the king’s palace, and seeing Simeon passing by, led to the prison, rose up, and reverenced the bishop. Simeon, again, with sharp words (as the time would suffer) rebuked him, and in great anger cried out against him, who being once a Christian, would so cowardly revolt from his profession, and return again to the heathenish idolatry. At the hearing of these words the eunuch forthwith bursting out into tears, laying away his courtly apparel, which was sumptuous and costly, and putting upon him a black and mourning weed, sitteth before the court gates, weeping and bewailing, thus saying with himself: “Woe is me! with what hope, with what face shall I look hereafter for my God, who have denied my God, when this Simeon, my familiar acquaintance, thus passing by me, so much disdaineth me, that he refuseth with one gentle word to salute me?”

These words being brought to the ears of the king (as such tale-carriers never lack in princes’ courts), procured against him no little indignation. Whereupon Sapor the king sending for him, first with gentle words and courtly promises began to speaK him fair, asking him, “What cause he had so to mourn, and whether there was any thing in his house which was denied him, or which he had not at his own will and asking?” Whereunto Usthazanes answering again, said, “That there was nothing in that earthly house, which was to him lacking, or whereunto his desire stood. Yea would God,” said he, “О king, any other grief or calamity in the world, whatsoever it were, had happened to me rather than this, for the which I do most justly mourn and sorrow! For this sorroweth me, that I am this day alive, who should rather have died long since, and that I see this sun, which against my heart and mind, for your pleasure dissemblingly I appeared to worship; for which cause double-wise I am worthy of death : first, for that I have denied Christ ; secondly, because I did dissemble with you.” And incontinent upon these words, swearing by him that made both heaven and earth, he affirmed most certainly, that although he had played the fool before, he would never be so mad again, as instead of the Creator and Maker of all things, to worship the creatures which he had made and created.

Sapor the king, being astonished at the so sudden alteration of this man, and more enraged than ever at the Christians, whom he supposed to have wrought this change in him by means of enchantments, doubting whether to intreat him with gentleness or with rigour, at length, in this mood, commanded the said Usthazanes, his old ancient servant, and first tutor and bringer up of his youth, to be had away, and to be beheaded. As he was going to the place of execution, he desired of the executioners a little to stay, while he might send a message unto the king, which was this (sent in by one of the king’s most trusty eunuchs), desiring that for all the old and faithful service he had done to his father, and to him, he would now requite him with this one office again, to cause to be cried openly by a public crier in these words following : “That Usthazanes was beheaded, not for any treachery or crime committed against the king or the realm, but only for that he was a Christian, and would not, at the king’s pleasure, deny his God.” And so, according unto his request, it was performed and granted. For this cause did Usthazanes so much desire the cause of his death to be published, because that as his shrinking back from Christ was a great occasion to many Christians to do the like, so now the same, hearing that Usthazanes died for no other cause but only for the religion of Christ, should learn likewise by his example to be fervent and constant in that which they profess. And thus this blessed eunuch did consummate his martyrdom. Of the which his said martyrdom Simeon (being in prison) hearing, was very joyful, and gave God thanks ; who, on the next day following, being brought forth before the king, and constantly refusing to condescend unto the king’s request, to worship him or the sun, was likewise by the commandment of the king beheaded, with a great number more which the same day also did suffer, to the number (as is said) of a hundred and more ; all which were put to death before Simeon, he standing by, and exhorting them with comfortable words, admonishing them to stand firm and steadfast in the Lord ; preaching, and teaching them concerning death, resurrection, and true piety ; and proving by the Scriptures that so to die, was true life indeed ; and that it was death indeed, to deny or betray God for fear of punishment. And added further, “There is no man alive, but needs once must die ; forsomuch as to all men is appointed necessarily here to have an end. But those things which after this life follow hereafter, are eternal ; which neither shall come to all men after one sort ; for the time shall come when all men in a moment shall render an account of their lives, and receive according to their doings in this present life immortal recompence : such as have here done well, life and glory ; such as have done contrary, perpetual punishment. As touching our well doing, there is no doubt but of all other our holy actions and virtuous deeds, there is no higher or greater deed, than if a man here lose his life for his Lord God.” With these words of comfortable exhortation the holy martyrs being prepared, willingly yielded up their lives to death. After whom at last followed Simeon, with two other priests or ministers of his church, Abedechalaas and Ananias, who also with him were partakers of the same martyrdom.

At the suffering of those above mentioned, it happened that Pusices, one of the king’s officers and overseer of his artificers, was there present ; who, seeing Ananias, being an aged old father, somewhat to shake and tremble as he was preparing to suffer, “О father,'” said he, “a little moment shut thine eyes, and be strong, and shortly thou shalt see the light of Christ.” Upon these words thus spoken, Pusices immediately was apprehended and brought unto the king; who there confessing himself constantly to be a Christian, and for that he was very bold and hardy before the king in this cause of Christ’s faith, was extremely and most cruelly handled in the execution of his martyrdom ; for in the upper part of his neck they made a hole to thrust in their hand, and plucked out his tongue out of his mouth ; and so he was put to death. At the which time also the daughter of Pusices, a godly virgin, by the malicious accusation of the wicked, was apprehended and put to death.

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply