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Christian religion, of whatever rank or degree, were deprived of all honour and dignity, and exposed to torture. Churches were ordered to be levelled with the ground; and the sacred books to be consumed by fire. Persons of dignity were to be disgraced and the common people to be made slaves, if they persisted in Christianity. A most systematick and laboured effort was made to extinguish the gospel of Christ. Theodosia, a Tyrian virgin of eighteen years of age, was put to death for owning and coun
, tenancing some Christian prisoners. Another, named Ennathas, was dragged by violence to the judge; whipped, and burnt to death. For eight years, both in the east and west, the keenest malice was exerted in this terrible and bloody persecution.
Respecting Constantine, he was an Emperour full of zeal for the propagation of the only divine religion. By his edicts he restores everything to the church, of which it had been deprived; indemnifies those who had suffered; honours pastors; and recommends to governours of provinces, to promote the gospel. Notwithstanding, he was opposed by men of power and influence, who were corrupt in doctrine and immoral in their lives. In this and succeeding ages, ecclesiastical councils and synods were assembled in order to determine what is sound doctrine, in opposition to heresy.
In the reign of Thrasamond, two hundred and twenty bishops were sent into exile. From this circumstance we may see, that the persecution must have been extensive.
The ninth century is considered as belonging to what is called the dark ages. For several centuries, the proper-description is a land of drought and of the shadow of death. Here and there, indeed a glimmering ray of the Sun of Righteousness appears; but it is in vain to look for any steady lustre of evangelical truth and holiness. The tenth century is considered as remarkable above all others for the scarcity of writers, and men of learning and eminent piety. Opposition began to be made by a few, to the corruptions and abominations in the church of Rome. Church history is perhaps the least interesting at this period.
The thirteenth century may be considered as the dawning of the reformation. Claudius, of Turin, may be accounted as the first real, protestant character; and may be considered as a blessing to the church and to mankind. The name of Wickliff is dear to every enlightened zealous christian : as he so vehemently opposed the whole doctrine of Popish indulgencies. At this period the Lollards endured distressing sufferings. The story concerning John Brown, is worthy of notice. He was brought to Ashford and confined in the stocks, towards evening. One of his female domesticks happened to become acquainted with his situation, and instantly carried home to her mistress the afflicting news. His mournful wife came and sat near him all the night, and heard him relate the melancholy facts of all
that had happened to him. His treatment had been barbarous in the extreme.
His feet had been placed upon hot burning coals, and kept there till they were burnt to the bones. Notwithstanding, Brown would not deny the faith ; but patiently endured the pain, fighting manfully the good fight. To his wife he then said, They have burnt my feet till I cannot set them on the ground; they have done so to make me deny my Lord; but, I thank God they will never be able to make ine do that. If I should deny him here, he would deny me hereafter. Therefore, I pray thee, continue as thou bast begun, and bring up thy children in the fear of God. Thy husband is to be consumed at the stake to-morrow. Whenexpiring, he lifted up his hands, and uttered the most fervent prayers ; particularly the words of the Psalmist, Into thy hands, I commend my spirit; for thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, thou God of truth. How must the mind of that disconsolate woman have been encouraged and consoled by such a departure! In the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Lord raised up for his people a son of thunder, who dared oppose Papal indulgences, and preach the truth as it is in Jesus. This was Luther, the celebrated reformer; whose soul was constantly panting for something very different from secular glory. He was of a penetrating mind, naturally eloquent; and became the wonder of his age. He bid the anathema of Popes, and the decrees of councils, defiance, when opposed to the doctrines and spirit of the gospel. What a luminary in the church, this protestant hero! But the glory of Zion will appear the more conspicuous, and her triumph the most complete, if we take a summary view of her persecutions. These are generally considered ten, by the heathen. The first was under the
emperour Nero, thirty-one years after our Lord's ascension. Christians were apprehended, and their tortures and death were aggravated by cruel derision and sport. In the year 95, under Domitian, forty thousand were supposed to have suffered martyrdom. Under Trajan, in the year 100, a persecution was carried on for several years with great violence. The fourth, was under Antonius, when Christians were banished from their houses, plundered, imprisoned, and stoned. The fifth, began in the year 127, under Severus, when great cruelties were committed The sixth, began with the reign of Maximinus, in the year 235. The seventh, under the emperour Decius, in the year 250, was more dreadful than any of the former. The Christians were driven from their habitations, stripped of their estates, tormented with racks, and destroyed by every kind of ignominious death. In the eighth, under Valerian, 257, both men and women suffered death, some by scourging, some by the sword, and others by fire. The ninth, was under Aurelian, in 274. The tenth began in the year 303, in the reign of Dioclesian. In this dreadful persecution, which lasted ten years, houses filled with Christians were set on fire, and many were tiedt with ropes, and thrown into the sea. It is related,
. that seventeen thousand were slain in one month's time. In Holland, fifty thousand are said to have suffered death by the hand of the executioner. But no country, perhaps, has produced more martyrs for the truth than France. More than thirty thousand protestants were destroyed in one massacre. Engsand, Scotland, Ireland, and Spain were also subject to the most dreadful persecutions. But blessed in the eyes of the Lord, is the death of his saints. Yes, and blessed is Zion in the midst of her trials and sufferings. The very means which ber enemies used for her overthrow, were overruled for the enlargement of her borders.
Various and glorious are the considerations which might be presented respecting Zion, that her friends may take courage and rejoice.
. ist. Her King is the Lord of glory, who possesses all possible perfection. He views her as the apple of his eye; and he is able, and will make all things work together for her good. He will make the wrath of man to praise him, and the remainder of wrath will he restrain. He will suffer no evil to befal Zion, that one of her subjects shall finally be overcome; or that all shall not eventually triumph gloriously. He will deliver her from all her enemies, external and internal; and exalt her far above their heads. Her people shall be his people, and he will be their God. He hath wisdom and goodness infinite; and his arm is omnipotent. Who can compare with him? Have some of the kings and princes of the earth, been worthy of loyal subjects? Still, all glory is due to Zion's King; whose sceptre is a sceptre of righteousness, and his kingdom and dominion eternal. 2d, Let us take a view of Zion, respecting her
prospenity and prospects in this world. In the sixteenth century was the glorious reformation in the church; and
the light and power of the gospel overcame persecution, and the combined forces of wicked men and devils. The machinations of secular priests, of Popes and Emperours, to quench and prevent the light and spread of the gaspel, were defeated and rendered abortive. The extensive and glorious revivals in the last and present century, are but a few feeble rays for ushering in the millennial day. The whole world must ere long be the kingdom of Christ; and when every part shall be peopled and prosperous, what a vast multitude of subjects! The kingdoms of this world are to become the kingdom of our Lord and his Christ. As manifold as shall be the nations, kindreds, and tongues under the whole heaven, so vast will be the inheritance of Zion.
But what great and glorious conquests yet to be achieved !
How will she go on conquering and to conquer, and render her captives loyal subjects. Her victories will not only be glorious achievments; but the earth itself will be blessed, when peopled throughout by the righteous. Could we walk about Zion, and go round about her, so as to tell the towers thereof, what blessed wonders should we tell.
3d. The weapons, with which Zion subdues her enemies, are essentially different from those which are formed against her. They are not instruments of death, but of life and peace. Says the Apostle Paul to his brethren, The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God, to the pulling down of strong holds ; Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. This is a warfare and conquest for the honour and immortality both of the conquerour and conquered. How different in its nature and effects from the contests and conquests of her enemies! The same Apostle in his epistle to the Ephesians says, We wrestle not against flesh and