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7. THE CONSTANCY OF ITS PROFESSORS AND MARTYRS

But what shall we say respecting the constancy of the professors and martyrs, which they displayed in the torments that they endured for the truth of this doctrine? Indeed, if we subject this constancy to the view of the most inflexible enemies of the doctrine, we shall extort from unwilling judges a confession of its Divinity. But, that the strength of this argument may be placed in a clearer light, the mind must be directed to four particulars: the multitude of the martyrs, and their condition; the torments which their enemies inflicted on them, and the patience which they evinced in enduring them.

(1.) If we direct our inquiries to the multitude of them, it is innumerable, far exceeding thousands of thousands; on this account it is out of the power of any one to say, that, because it was the choice of but a few persons, it ought to be imputed to frenzy or to weariness of a life that was full of trouble.

(2.) If we inquire into their condition, we shall find nobles and peasants, those in authority and their subjects, the learned and the unlearned, the rich and the poor, the old and the young; persons of both sexes, men and women, the married and the unmarried, men of a hardy constitution and inured to dangers, and girls of tender habits who had been delicately educated, and whose feet had scarcely ever before stumbled against the smallest pebble that arose above the surface of their smooth and level path. Many of the early martyrs were honourable persons of this description, that no one might think them to be inflamed by a desire of glory, or endeavouring to gain applause by the perseverance and magnanimity that they had evinced in the maintenance of the sentiments which they had embraced.

(3.) Some of the torments inflicted on such a multitude of persons and of such various circumstances in life, were of a common sort, and others unusual, some of them quick in their operation and others of them slow. Part of the unoffending victims were nailed to crosses and part of them were decapitated; some were drowned in rivers, whilst others were roasted before a slow fire. Several were ground to powder by the teeth of wild beasts, or were torn in pieces by their fangs; many were sawn asunder, while others were stoned; and not a few of them were subjected to punishments which cannot be expressed, but which are accounted most disgraceful and infamous, on account of their extreme turpitude and indelicacy. No species of savage cruelty was omitted which either the ingenuity of human malignity could invent, which rage the most conspicuous and furious could excite, or which even the infernal labouratory of the court of hell could supply.

(4.) And yet, that we may come at once to the patience of these holy confessors, they bore all these tortures with constancy and equanimity; nay, they endured them with such a glad heart and cheerful countenance, as to fatigue even the restless fury of their persecutors, which has often been compelled, when wearied out, to yield to the unconquerable strength of their patience, and to confess itself completely vanquished. And what was the cause of all this endurance? It consisted in their unwillingness to recede in the least point from that religion, the denial of which was the only circumstance that might enable them to escape danger, and, in many instances, to acquire glory. What then was the reason of the great patience which they shewed under their acute sufferings? It was because they believed, that when this short life was ended, and after the pains and distresses which they were called to endure on earth, they would obtain a blessed immortality. In this particular the combat which God has maintained with Satan, appears to have resembled a duel; and the result of it has been, that the Divinity of God’s word has been raised as a superstructure out of the infamy and ruin of Satan.

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