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circa 177 AD France

Blandina, a female slave, was distinguished above the rest of the martyrs for the variety of tortures she endured. Her mistress, who also suffered martyrdom, feared lest the faith of her servant might give way under such trials. But it was not so, the Lord be praised! Firm as a rock, but peaceful and unpretending, she endured the most excruciating sufferings. Her tormentors urged her to deny Christ and confess that the private meetings of the Christians were only for their wicked practices, and they would cease their tortures. But, no! her only reply was, "I am a Christian, and there is no wickedness amongst us." The scourge, the rack, the heated iron chair, and the wild beasts, had lost their terror for her. Her heart was fixed on Christ, and He kept her in spirit near to Himself. Her character was fully formed, not by her social condition, of course — that was the most debased in those times — but by her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, through the power of the indwelling Holy Ghost.

Day after day she was brought forth as a public spectacle of suffering. Being a female and a slave, the heathen expected to force her to a denial of Christ, and to a confession that the Christians were guilty of the crimes reported against them. But it was all in vain. "I am a Christian, and there is no wickedness amongst us," was her quiet but unvarying reply. Her constancy wearied out the inventive cruelty of her tormentors. They were astonished that she lived through the fearful succession of her sufferings. But in her greatest agonies she found strength and relief in looking to Jesus and witnessing for Him. "Blandina was endued with so much fortitude," says the letter from the church at Lyons, written seventeen hundred years ago, "that those who successively tortured her from morning to night were quite worn out with fatigue, and owned themselves conquered and exhausted of their whole apparatus of tortures, and amazed to see her still breathing whilst her body was torn and laid open."*

{*For full details, see Milner's Church History, vol. 1, p. 194.}

Before narrating the closing scene of her sufferings, we would notice what appears to us to be the secret of her great strength and constancy. Doubtless the Lord was sustaining her in a remarkable way as a witness for Him, and as a testimony to all ages of the power of Christianity over the human mind, compared with all the religions that then were or ever had been on the earth. Still, we would say particularly, that her humility and godly fear were the sure indications of her power against the enemy, and of her unfaltering fidelity to Christ. She was thus working out her own salvation — deliverance from the difficulties of the way — by a deep sense of her own conscious weakness, indicated by "fear and trembling. "

When on her way back from the amphitheatre to the prison, in company with her fellow-sufferers, they were surrounded by their sorrowing friends when they had an opportunity, and in their sympathy and love addressed them as "martyrs for Christ." But this they instantly checked; saying, "We are not worthy of such an honour. The struggle is not over; and the dignified name of Martyr properly belongs to Him only who is the true and faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, the Prince of life, or, at least, only to those whose testimony Christ has sealed by their constancy to the end. We are but poor humble confessors." With tears they besought their brethren to pray for them that they might be firm and true to the end. Thus their weakness was their strength, for it led them to lean on the mighty One. And so it always is, and ever has been, in small as well as in great trials. But a fresh sorrow awaited them on their return to the prison. They found some who had given way through natural fear, and had denied that they were Christians. But they had gained nothing thereby, Satan had not let them off. Under a charge of other crimes they were kept in prison. With these weak ones Blandina and the others prayed with many tears, that they might be restored and strengthened. The Lord answered their prayers; so that, when brought up again for further examination, they stedfastly confessed their faith in Christ, and thus passed sentence of death on themselves, and received the crown of martyrdom.

Nobler names, as men would say, than Blandina's had passed off the bloody scene; and honoured names too that had witnessed with great fortitude, such as Vettius, Pothinus, Sanctus, Naturus, and Attalius; but the last day of her trial was come, and the last pain she was ever to feel, and the last tear she was ever to shed. She was brought up for her final examination with a youth of fifteen, named Ponticus. They were ordered to swear by the gods; they firmly refused, but were calm and unmoved. The multitude were incensed at their magnanimous patience. The whole round of barbarities was inflicted. Ponticus, though animated and strengthened by the prayers of his sister in Christ, soon sank under the tortures, and fell asleep in Jesus.

And now came the noble and blessed Blandina, as the church styles her. Like a mother who was needed to comfort and encourage her children, she was kept to the last day of the games. She had sent her children on before, and was now longing to follow after them. They had joined the noble army of martyrs above, and were resting with Jesus, as weary warriors rest, in the peaceful paradise of God. After she had endured stripes, she was seated in a hot iron chair, then she was enclosed in a net and thrown to a bull; and having been tossed some time by the animal, a soldier plunged a spear into her side. No doubt she was dead long before the spear reached her, but in this she was honoured to be like her Lord and Master. Bright indeed will be the crown, amidst the many crowns in heaven, of the constant, humble, patient, enduring Blandina.

But the fierce and savage rage of the heathen, instigated by Satan, had not yet reached its height. They began a new war with the dead bodies of the saints. Their blood had not satiated them. They must have their ashes. Hence the mutilated bodies of the martyrs were collected and burned, and thrown into the river Rhone, with the fire that consumed them, lest a particle should be left to pollute the land. But rage, however fierce, will finally expend itself: and nature however savage, will become weary of bloodshed, and so many Christians survived this terrible persecution.