Polyc Arp

, an apostolic father of the Christian church, was born in the reign of Nero, probably at Smyrna, a city of Ionia in Asia Minor, where he was educated at the expence of Calisto, a noble matron of great piety and charity. In his younger years he is said to be instructed in the Christian faith by Bucolus, bishop of that place but others consider it as certain that he was a disciple of St. John the Evangelist, and familiarly conversed with others of the apostles. At a proper age, Bucolus ordained him a deacon and catechist of his church; and, upon the death of that prelate, he succeeded him in the bishopric. To this he was consecrated by St. John who also, according to archbishop Usher, directed his “Apocalyptical Epistle,” among six others, to him, under the title of the “Angel of the Church of Smyrna,” where, many years after the apostle’s death, he was also visited by St. Ignatius. Ignatius recommended his own see of Antioch to the care and si>perintendance of Polycarp, and afterwards sent an epistle | to the church of Smyrna from Troas, A. C. 107 when Polycarp is supposed to have written his “Epistle to the Philippians,” a translation of which is preserved by Dr. Cave.

From this time, for many years, history is silent concerning him, till some unhappy differences in the church brought him into general notice. It happened, that the controversy about the observation of Easter began to grow very warm between the eastern and western churches each obstinately insisting upon their own way, and justifying themselves by apostolical practice and tradition. To prevent the worst consequences of this contest, Polycarp undertook a journey to Rome, that he might converse with those who were the main supports and champions of the opposite party. The see of that capital of the Roman empire was then possessed by Anicetus and many conferences were held between the two bishops, each of them urging apostolical tradition for their practice. But all was managed peaceably and amicably, without any heat of contention; and, though neither of them could bring the other into his opinion, yet they retained their own sentiments without violating that chanty which is the great and common law of our religion. In token of this, they communicated together at the holy sacrament when Anicetus, to do honour to Polycarp, gave him leave to consecrate the eucharistical elements in his own church. This done, they parted peaceably, each side esteeming this difference to be merely ritual, and no ways affecting the vitals of religion but the dispute continued many years in the church, was carried on with great animosity, and ended at length in a fixed establishment, which remains to this day, of observing Easter on different days in the two churches: for the Asiatics keep Easter on the next Lord’s day after the Jewish passover, and the church of Rome the next Sunday after the first full moon that follows the vernal equinox.

During Polycarp’s stay at Rome, he employed himself particularly in opposing the heresies of Marcion and Valentinus, which he did with more zeal and warmth than on former occasions. Irenaeus tells us, that upon Polycarp’s passing Marcion in the street without the common salutation, the latter called out, “Polycarp, own us” to which the former replied, with indignation, “I own thee to be the first-born of Satan.” To this the same author adds, | that, when any heretical doctrines were spoken in his presence, he would presently stop his ears, crying out, “Good God to what times hast thou reserved me, that I should hear such things I” and immediately quitted the place. In the same zeal he was wont to tell, that St. John, going into a bath at Ephesus, and finding the heretic Cerinthus in it, started back instantly without bathing, crying out, “Let us run away, lest the bath should fall upon us while Cerinthus, the enemy of truth, is in it.Polycarp governed the church of Smyrna with apostolic purity, till he suffered martyrdom in the seventh year of Marcus Aureiius, A. C. 167; the manner of which is thus related:

The persecution growing violent at Smyrna, and many having already sealed their confession with their blood, the general outcry was, “Away with the impious; let Polycarp be sought for.” On this he withdrew privately into a neighbouring village, where he lay concealed for some time, continuing night and day in prayer for the peace of the church. He was thus occupied, when, one night falling into a trance, he dreamed that his pillow took fire, and was burnt to ashes; which he told his friends was a presage, that he should be burnt alive for the cause of Christ. Three days after this dream, in. order to escape the search which was carried on incessantly after him, he retired into another village, where he was discovered, although some say he had time to escape but he refused it, saying, “The will of the Lord be done.” Accordingly he saluted his persecutors with a cheerful countenance and, ordering a table to be set with provisions, invited them to partake of them, only requesting for himself one hour for prayer. This being over, he was set upon an ass, and conducted towards the city. Upon the road he was met by Herod, an Irenarch or justice of the province, and his father, who were the principal agents in this persecution. This magistrate taking him up into his chariot, tried to undermine his constancy and, being defeated in the attempt, thrust him out of the chariot with so much violence, that he bruised his thigh with the fall. On his arrival at the place of execution, there came, as is said, a voice from heaven, saying, “Polycarp, be strong, and quit thyself like a man.” Being brought before the tribunal, he was urged to swear by the genius of Caesar. “Repent,” continues the proconsul, “and say with us, Take away the impious.” On this the martyr looking round the stadium, and beholding | the crowd with a severe and angry countenance, beckoned with his hand, and looking up to heaven, said with a sigh, quite in another tone than they intended, “Take away the impious.” At last, confessing himself to be a Christian, proclamation was made thrice of his confession by the crier, at which the people shouted, “This is the great teacher of Asia, and the father of the Christians; this is the destroyer of our gods, that teaches men not to do sacrifice, or worship the deities.” The fire being prepared, Polycarp, at his own request, was not, as usual, nailed, but only tied to the stake and after pronouncing a short prayer, with a clear and audible voice, the executioner blew up the fire, which increasing to a mighty flame, “Behold a wonder seen,” says Eusebius, “by us who were purposely reserved, that we might declare it to others the flames disposing themselves into the resemblance of an arch, like the sails of a ship swelled with the wind, gentty encircled the body of the martyr, who stood all the while in the midst, not like roasted flesh, but like the gold or silver purified in the furnace, his body sending forth a delightful fragrancy, which, like frankincense, or some other costly spices, presented itself to our senses. The infidels, exasperated by the miracle, commanded a spearman to run him through with a sword which he had no sooner done, but such a vast quantity of blood flowed from the wound, as extinguished the fire when a dove was seen to fly from the wound, which some suppose to have been his soul, cloathed in a visible shape at the time of its departure*.” The Christians would have carried off his body entire, but were not suffered by the Irenarch, who commanded it to be burnt to ashes. The bones, however, were gathered up, and decently interred by the Christians.

Thus died this apostolical man, as supposed, in May 167. The amphitheatre whereon he suffered was remaining in a great measure not many years ago, and his tomb is in a little chapel in the side of a mountain, on the southeast part of the city, solemnly visited by the Greeks on his festival day and for the maintenance and repairing of it, travellers were wont to throw a few aspers into an earthen pot that stands there for the purpose. He wrote some

* The miraculous part of this ac- in its favour, by Jortin, who observes, count is treated with ridicule by Mid- that “the circumstances are sufficient dleton in his ” Free Enquiry,“and to create a pause and a doubt.” ReDefence of it; but something is offered marks on Keel. Hist. vol. I.
| homilies and epistles, which are all lost, except that to the “Philippians,” which is a pious and truly Christian piece, containing short and useful precepts and rules of life, and which, St. Jerome tells us, was even in his time read in the public assemblies of the Asian churches. It is among archbishop Wake’s “Genuine Epistles of the Apostolic Fathers,” and the original was published by archbishop Usher in 1648, and has been reprinted since in various collections, [Wake has also given a translation of the account of Polycarp’s death, written in the name of the church of Smyrna.] It is of singular use in proving the authenticity of the books of the New Testament; inasmuch as he has several passages and expressions from Matthew, Luke, the Acts, St. Paul’s Epistles to the Philippians, Ephesians, Galatians, Corinthians, Romans, Thessalonians, Colossians, 1st Timothy, 1st Epistle of St. John, and 1st of Peter; and makes particular mention of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians. Indeed his whole “Epistle” consists of phrases and sentiments taken from the New Testament. 1
1

Wake’s Genuine Epistles. Lardner’s Works. Cave. Milnef’s Ch. Hist -—Saxii Onomast,