Friday, August 21, 2009

Famous last words: Julius (A.D. 235)

max_thrax Gaius Julius Verus Maximinus was the Roman Emperor from 235 to 238.  The first non-Roman to become emperor, he initiated a persecution in 235 specifically targeting the leaders of the Church.  Among those he tried and condemned was the elderly Julius.  Here is an account of Julius’ trial:

MAXIMUS: Julius, I see that you are a sensible and serious man. Take my advice therefore, and sacrifice to the gods.

JULIUS: I will not do as you desire, nor run into sin and eternal punishment.

MAXIMUS: If you think that sin, let it be laid to my charge. I will apply force to you, that it may not look as if you had complied willingly. Then you can go home with no further anxiety.

The offer was all the more seductive because it was so kindly intended; but Julius saw behind the indulgent governor the evil power which spoke through him.

JULIUS: You cannot draw me away from my eternal Lord. I cannot deny God. Give sentence against me, therefore, as a Christian.

MAXIMUS: Unless you will be obedient to the imperial orders and sacrifice I will cut your head off.

JULIUS: That is a good thought. I beseech you, religious governor, by the health of the emperors, to put it in execution, and give sentence upon me, that my desires may be fulfilled.

MAXIMUS: You are in such a hurry to die. You think that you will suffer for some praiseworthy object.

JULIUS: If I am permitted to suffer in this way everlasting glory will await me.

MAXIMUS: If you were suffering for your country and for the laws you would have everlasting praise.

JULIUS: It is indeed for the laws that I shall suffer, but the laws are God's laws.

MAXIMUS: Laws which are bequeathed to you by a dead man who was crucified. See what a fool you are, to make more of a dead man than of the live emperors.

JULIUS: He died for our sins that he might bestow on us eternal life, but he is God who endures for ever, and whoever confesses him shall have eternal life, and whoever denies him eternal punishment.

MAXIMUS: I am sorry for you and I advise you to sacrifice and live with us.

JULIUS: If I live with you it is death to me, but if I die, I live.

MAXIMUS: You have chosen death rather than life.

JULIUS: I have chosen death for the moment and then life everlasting.

The following sentence was then pronounced: "Julius, who refuses to obey the orders of the emperors, is to receive capital punishment."

Julius was taken out to be executed. His last words were, "0 Lord Jesus Christ, for whose name's sake I suffer thus, vouchsafe to set my spirit among thy saints." He was then beheaded.

(Source: A. J. Mason, The Historic Martyrs of the Primitive Church, Longmans, 1905, pp 218-219).

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