1) St. Stephen:
The martyrdom of
was occasioned by the faithful manner in which he preached the Gospel to the betrayers and murderers of Christ as recorded
in the 7th chapter of Acts. To such a degree of madness were they excited, that they cast him out of the city and
stoned him to death. The time when he suffered is generally supposed to have been at the Passover, which succeeded to that
of our Lord's crucifixion, and to the era of his ascension, in the following spring.
Upon this a great persecution was raised against all who
professed their belief in Christ as the Messiah, or as a prophet. We are immediately told by St. Luke, "there was a great
persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem;" and that "they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of
Judea and Samaria, except the apostles."
About two thousand Christians, with Nicanor, one of the
seven deacons, suffered martyrdom during the "persecution that arose about Stephen."
2) James the Great:
The next martyr we meet with, according to St. Luke, in
the History of the Apostles' Acts, was James the son of Zebedee, the elder brother of John, and a relative of our Lord; for
his mother Salome was cousin-germane to the Virgin Mary. It was not until ten years after the death of Stephen that the second
martyrdom took place; for no sooner had Herod Agrippa been appointed governor of Judea, than, with a view to ingratiate himself
with them, he raised a sharp persecution against the Christians, and determined to make an effectual blow, by striking at
their leaders. The account given us by an eminent primitive writer, Clemens Alexandrinus, ought not to be overlooked; that,
as James was led to the place of martyrdom, his accuser was brought to repent of his conduct by the apostle's extraordinary
courage and undauntedness, and fell down at his feet to request his pardon, professing himself a Christian, and resolving
that James should not receive the crown of martyrdom alone. Hence they were both beheaded at the same time. Thus did the first
apostolic martyr cheerfully and resolutely receive that cup, which he had told our Savior he was ready to drink. Timon and
Parmenas suffered martyrdom about the same time; the one at Philippi, and the other in Macedonia. These events took place
Philip was born at Bethsaida, in Galilee and was first
called by the name of "disciple." He labored diligently in Upper Asia, and suffered martyrdom at Heliopolis, in Phrygia. He
was scourged, thrown into prison, and afterwards crucified, A.D. 54.
Mathew whose occupation was that of a toll-gatherer was
born at Nazareth. He wrote his gospel in Hebrew, which was afterwards translated into Greek by James the Less. The scene of
his labors was Parthia, and Ethiopia, in which latter country he suffered martyrdom, being slain with a halberd in the city
of Nadabah, A.D. 60.
5) James the Less:
James is supposed by some to have been the brother of
our Lord, by a former wife of Joseph. This is very doubtful, and accords too much with the Catholic superstition, that Mary
never had any other children except our Savior. He was elected to the oversight of the churches of Jerusalem; and was the
author of the Epistle ascribed to James in the sacred canon. At the age of ninety-four he was beat and stoned by the Jews;
and finally had his brains dashed out with a fuller's club.
Matthias of whom less is known than of most of the
other disciples, was elected to fill the vacant place of Judas. He was stoned at Jerusalem and then beheaded.
was the brother of Peter. He preached the gospel to many Asiatic nations; but on his arrival at Edessa he was taken and crucified
on a cross, the two ends of which were fixed transversely in the ground. Hence the derivation of the term, St. Andrew's Cross.
Mark was born of Jewish
parents of the tribe of Levi. He is supposed to have been converted to Christianity by Peter, whom he served as an amanuensis,
and under whose inspection he wrote his Gospel in the Greek language. Mark was dragged to pieces by the people of Alexandria,
at the great solemnity of Serapis their idol, ending his life under their merciless hands.
Among many other saints,
the blessed apostle Peter was condemned to death, and crucified, as some do write, at Rome; albeit some others, and not without
cause, do doubt thereof. Hegesippus saith that Nero sought matter against Peter to put him to death; which, when the people
perceived, they entreated Peter with much ado that he would fly the city. Peter, through their importunity at length persuaded,
prepared himself to avoid. But, coming to the gate, he saw the Lord Christ come to meet him, to whom he, worshipping, said,
"Lord, whither dost Thou go?" To whom He answered and said, "I am come again to be crucified." By this, Peter, perceiving
his suffering to be understood, returned into the city. Jerome tells us that he was crucified, his head being down and his
feet upward, himself so requiring, because he was (he said) unworthy to be crucified after the same form and manner as the
Paul, the apostle, who before was called Saul, after his
great travail and unspeakable labors in promoting the Gospel of Christ, suffered also in this first persecution under Nero.
Abdias declareth that under his execution Nero sent two of his esquires, Ferega and Parthemius, to bring him word of his death.
They, coming to Paul instructing the people, desired him to pray for them, that they might believe; who told them that shortly
after they should believe and be baptized at His sepulcher. This done, the soldiers came and led him out of the city to the
place of execution, where he, after his prayers made, gave his neck to the sword.
Jude, the brother of James
was commonly called Thaddeus. He was crucified at Edessa, A.D. 72.
Bartholomew preached in several countries, and having
translated the Gospel of Matthew into the language of India, he propagated it in that country. He was at length cruelly beaten
and then crucified by the impatient idolaters.
Thomas, called Didymus,
preached the Gospel in Parthia and India, where exciting the rage of the pagan priests, he was martyred by being thrust through
with a spear.
Luke, the evangelist was the author of the Gospel, which
goes under his name. He traveled with Paul through various countries, and is supposed to have been hanged on an olive tree,
by the idolatrous priests of Greece.
Simon, surnamed Zelotes preached the Gospel in Mauritania, Africa, and even in Britain,
in which latter country he was crucified, A.D. 74.
John, the "beloved disciple,"
was brother to James the Great. He founded the churches of Smyrna, Pergamos, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea, and Thyatira.
From Ephesus he was ordered to be sent to Rome, where it is affirmed he was cast into a cauldron of boiling oil. He escaped
by miracle, without injury. Domitian afterwards banished him to the Isle of Patmos, where he wrote the Book of Revelation.
Nerva, the successor of Domitian, recalled him. He was the only apostle who escaped a violent death.
was of Cyprus, but of Jewish descent. His death is supposed to have taken place about A.D. 73. And yet, notwithstanding all
these continual persecutions and horrible punishments, the Church daily increased, deeply rooted in the doctrine of the apostles,
and watered plenteously with the blood of saints.