Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

was

to the expected Messiah. Hence it is frequently alluded to in the old testament, not as

a new doctrine, but as an article of the established faith, which needed not to be propounded, being by all, who looked closely into the language of prophecy, assuredly believed: and such

the faith of these martyrs in its absolute certainty, and of all the blessings, connected with it, that hope overcame sense, and the promise of God weighed more with them, than the apprehension of torture and the spectacle of present misery.

But, when we come to times, subsequent to the promulgation of christianity, we shall find not indeed examples of more heroic reliance on the faithfulness of God to his promise, but more distinct appeals to the principle, which sustains the courage of a dying martyr at a moment, when every other dependence fails its votary.

Let us first select two martyrs from the primitive church of Christ !

Justin was a learned man, and had acquainted himself with all the opinions of philosophers

6

[ocr errors]

concerning God and godliness. But he found rest in none of them, till he was instructed in the doctrine of Jesus of Nazareth. Then at length he was at peace; and, when in process of time a gentile magistrate questioned him concerning his religion, he shewed at once, in what the strength of his new principles consisted. “Unless you comply with our sacrifices' (said the governor) 'you shall be tormented without mercy,

'

"We desire nothing more sincerely, (replied the martyr) " than to 'endure tortures for our lord, Jesus Christ, and to be saved. Hence we shall have confidence before the awful tribunal of our lord ' and saviour, before which, by the divine

appointment, the whole world must appear.' It thus appears, that the hope of Justin depended on his adhering to Christ, to whose promised help he trusted for support under present sufferings, shame, and death, and for deliverance, acquittal, and reward in the awful day of judgment.

Polycarp was bishop of Smyrna ; and, when he was in like manner commanded to curse Jesus, or die, he answered nobly— Eighty

6

[ocr errors]

' and six years I have served him ; and he ' has never wronged me. How can I blas

pheme my saviour and my God?' This was an answer, which marked his confidence in the promises of his saviour; and, when he was afterwards condemned to the flames, and the executioners were preparing to fasten him to the stake, he said — Let me remain, as I 'am! For he, who gives me strength to sustain the fire, will enable me also without your

securing me by nails to remain unmoved in the fire.' In this challenge it is remarkable, that he boasts of no strength of his own. He does not say— I will bear'-but— He will enable me'-; and throughout his sufferings it is what Christ has done, is doing, and will do for him, that fills his mind, supports his spirit, and dictates his profession. Thus is he a witness to Christ, and an eminent instance of that faith, of which it is the distinctive characteristic, according to the description in the text, to run the race before it, looking unto Jesus, its author and finisher.

And, yet further to shew, how entirely the confidence of those, who suffered for Christ in the early days of the gospel, was from above, not prompted by a natural hardihood of disposition, but resting on the promised presence and support of the saviour, in whom they believed, I will adduce one other example of a different knd. It is the case of a female, who was delivered of a child in prison, three days before she was condemned to be exposed to wild beasts. When she was in great pain, a jailer, who heard her cries, said to her tauntingly~'Do you complain of this ? What will 'you do then, when you are cast to the

beasts? '-: to which unfeeling sarcasm she mildly answered— It is I, that suffer now. But then there will be another with me, who will suffer for me, because I shall suffer for his sake.'

We may now pass to a later period, when christians began to suffer persecution from those, who professed to follow the same master.

Hear then the language of Huss, when he was expecting the sentence of death by fire on a charge of heresy! I am far' (said he to a private friend) 'from the strength and * zeal of the apostle, Peter. Yet, placing all my

6

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

'confidence in Jesus Christ, I am determined,

when I hear my sentence, to continue sted' fast in the truth, even to the death.'

But no one was ever more thoroughly imbued and penetrated with the truth and importance of the main doctrines, for which we have been contending, than the great reformer, Luther, who through a long life of perpetual controversy maintained strenuously the principle, of which he thus writes. 'I myself have found' (says he) ' by number·less severe conflicts, continued to this very

day, how arduous a thing it is, how purely “it is a matter of divine gift, to have the

knowledge of the doctrine, that we are justi' fied by grace without works, that faith in • Christ alone is the only righteousness of the saints, to have this knowledge rooted and 'turned into a principle in the soul. To

expound the scriptures, and pass over this article, is no other than to darken and corrupt them: for there is scarcely a syllable, · which is not directed to this end, to give us 'the knowledge of Christ.'

The light of truth spread from the writings

6

6

6

[ocr errors]
« ПредишнаНапред »