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Chapter IX.—Christ’s Sayings Respecting Martyrdom.
On martyrdom the Lord hath spoken explicitly, and what is written in different places we bring together. “But I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess in Me before men, the Son of man also shall confess before the angels of God; but whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I deny before the angels.”27822782 Luke xii. 8. “Whosoever shall be ashamed of Me or of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him shall the Son of man also be ashamed when He cometh in the glory of His Father with His angels. 422Whosoever therefore shall confess in Me before men, him will I also confess before my Father in heaven.27832783 Matt. x. 32. “And when they bring you before synagogues, and rulers, and powers, think not beforehand how ye shall make your defence, or what ye shall say. For the Holy Spirit shall teach you in the same hour what ye must say.”27842784 Luke xii. 11, 12. In explanation of this passage, Heracleon, the most distinguished of the school of Valentinians, says expressly, “that there is a confession by faith and conduct, and one with the voice. The confession that is made with the voice, and before the authorities, is what the most reckon the only confession. Not soundly: and hypocrites also can confess with this confession. But neither will this utterance be found to be spoken universally; for all the saved have confessed with the confession made by the voice, and departed.27852785 [Rom. x. 10. The indifference of our times is based on an abuse of the principle that God sees the heart, and needs no public (sacramental) profession of faith. Had this been Christ’s teaching, there would have been no martyrs and no visible Church to hand down the faith.] Of whom are Matthew, Philip, Thomas, Levi, and many others. And confession by the lip is not universal, but partial. But that which He specifies now is universal, that which is by deeds and actions corresponding to faith in Him. This confession is followed by that which is partial, that before the authorities, if necessary, and reason dictate. For he will confess rightly with his voice who has first confessed by his disposition.27862786 [Rom. x. 10. The indifference of our times is based on an abuse of the principle that God sees the heart, and needs no public (sacramental) profession of faith. Had this been Christ’s teaching, there would have been no martyrs and no visible Church to hand down the faith.] And he has well used, with regard to those who confess, the expression ‘in Me,’ and applied to those who deny the expression ‘Me.’ For those, though they confess Him with the voice, yet deny Him, not confessing Him in their conduct. But those alone confess ‘in Him,’ who live in the confession and conduct according to Him, in which He also confesses, who is contained in them and held by them. Wherefore ‘He never can deny Himself.’ And those deny Him who are not in Him. For He said not, ‘Whosoever shall deny’ in Me, but ‘Me.’ For no one who is in Him will ever deny Him. And the expression ‘before men’ applies both to the saved and the heathen similarly by conduct before the one, and by voice before the other. Wherefore they never can deny Him. But those deny Him who are not in Him.” So far Heracleon. And in other things he seems to be of the same sentiments with us in this section; but he has not adverted to this, that if some have not by conduct and in their life “confessed Christ before men,” they are manifested to have believed with the heart; by confessing Him with the mouth at the tribunals, and not denying Him when tortured to the death. And the disposition being confessed, and especially not being changed by death at any time, cuts away all passions which were engendered by corporeal desire. For there is, so to speak, at the close of life a sudden repentance in action, and a true confession toward Christ, in the testimony of the voice. But if the Spirit of the Father testifies in us, how can we be any more hypocrites, who are said to bear testimony with the voice alone? But it will be given to some, if expedient, to make a defence, that by their witness and confession all may be benefited—those in the Church being confirmed, and those of the heathen who have devoted themselves to the search after salvation wondering and being led to the faith; and the rest seized with amazement. So that confession is by all means necessary.27872787 [Absolutely necessary (i.e., open profession of Chirst) to the conversion of others, and the perpetuation of the Christian Church.] For it is in our power. But to make a defence for our faith is not universally necessary. For that does not depend on us. “But he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” For who of those who are wise would not choose to reign in God, and even to serve? So some “confess that they know God,” according to the apostle; “but in works they deny Him, being abominable and disobedient, and to every good work reprobate.”27882788 Tit. i. 16. And these, though they confess nothing but this, will have done at the end one good work. Their witness, then, appears to be the cleansing away of sins with glory. For instance, the Shepherd27892789 [See p. 18, this volume.] says: “You will escape the energy of the wild beast, if your heart become pure and blameless.” Also the Lord Himself says: “Satan hath desired to sift you; but I have prayed.”27902790 Luke xxii. 31, 32. Alone, therefore, the Lord, for the purification of the men who plotted against Him and disbelieved Him, “drank the cup;” in imitation of whom the apostles, that they might be in reality Gnostics, and perfect, suffered for the Churches which they founded. So, then, also the Gnostics who tread in the footsteps of the apostles ought to be sinless, and, out of love to the Lord, to love also their brother; so that, if occasion call, enduring without stumbling, afflictions for the Church, “they may drink the cup.” Those who witness in their life by deed, and at the tribunal by word, whether entertaining hope or surmising fear, are better than those who confess salvation by their mouth alone. But if one ascend also to love, he is a really blessed and true martyr, having confessed perfectly both to the commandments and to God, by the Lord; whom having loved, he acknowledged a brother, giving himself up wholly for God, resigning pleasantly and lovingly the man when asked, like a deposit.27912791 [As a reflection of the condition and fidelity of Christians, still “sheep for the slaughter.” At such a period the tone and argument of this touching chapter are suggestive.]423
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