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and gloomy strictness, and depriving you of all the joys of life, I will let a father of the church, Tertullian, answer for me. He requires Christians to compare the true joys of the spirit which have come to their share by faith with those seeming joys of the world, and thus addresses them : “ Tell me what else do we require than what the apostle himself

asked, to depart from the world and be with Christ! There is thy joy where thy desires are gone. But wherefore art thou so ungrateful as to deem insufficient, and not to acknowledge so many great joys which have been already bestowed upon thee by the Lord? For what can give more joy than reconciliation with God the Father, and thy Lord, the revelation of truth, the knowledge of error, the forgiveness of so many past sins ? What greater joys can there be than contempt of the whole world, than true liberty, than a pure conscience, an innocent life, than freedom from all fear of death ? These are the joys, these the spectacles of the Christian, holy, eternal, bought without money and without price. And of what kind will that be, which no eye hath seen, no ear hath heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive ?And another Christian writer


" No man who hath known himself as a child of God, can be astonished at the works of man's hands. That man casts himself down from the high summit of his nobility, who can admire any thing beside the Lord. Let the faithful Christian apply himself with all industry, there he will find spectacles worthy of his faith, spectacles at which even he who has lost his eye-sight can rejoice.”

My soul longeth after thee, O Lord ; my spirit thirsteth after God, even the living God. When shall I come into the presence of God! If I have but thee, O Lord, I ask for nothing else in heaven or earth. Nothing from the world and its vain perishable pleasures ! I would gladly love thee alone, and belong to thee entirely and for ever. My joy is that I hold myself to God, that I place my reliance on the Lord Jehovah, that I proclaim all thy wondrous acts. Amen.





O JESUS, thou mighty conqueror, our glorified Redeemer, do thou grant unto us such courage in our faith, and so arm us from heaven for the defence of thy truth, that, through thy divine power, we may conquer in every conflict, and remain true to thee unto death, so that we may one day receive at thy hands the everlasting crown of life. Amen.

The hymn of Luther, my brethren, which we have just sung, reminds us of persecution and conflict for the faith's sake, and this is the point which I would wish to make the subject of our meditations to-day, whilst I again direct your attention to the life of Christians in the first centuries. You know how often our Lord himself told his disciples, before the time came, that they would be the objects of hatred to a world lying in darkness and sin, and that his church only at intervals, and after hard and protracted conflicts, would obtain victory over its enemies. All that he ever

said on this subject was afterwards literally fulfilled. First of all, the messengers of his gospel were most obstinately opposed and persecuted by the unbelieving Jews, but in vain. The word of God increased daily more and more, and the church of God came victorious out of

every conflict. For three hundred years afterwards Christians had to suffer, almost without intermission, the most horrible persecutions from the heathen Romans. Among these their religion could not be tolerated; for the principle of their law was this, “ No one shall have peculiar gods, no one shall honour new or strange gods of his own, unless they be recognised by the law of the land." Christianity, then, being a new religion, and unacknowledged by the laws, they considered themselves bound to hinder its extension by the application of external force.

Hence it came that men suspected the union of Christians of secret political purposes, fraught with danger to the state, and this the more as the earnestness was more decided, which as we have seen, they exhibited in their position as opposed to heathenism and the world. Their internal union, their confined brotherhood, made them objects of suspicion. Men could not comprehend that it was only an inward bond, the bond of faith and love, that united them. 6 What is the cause,” they asked, “that Christians, recognising each other, as it were, by secret signs, love one another long before they can have become acquainted ?" Their having neither temples, nor altars, nor statues, was considered a proof that they were united by the signs of a secret order ; and men looked on their refusal to comply with heathen customs, such as strewing incense before the statues of the emperors, and swearing by their genius, as marks of a spirit of contradiction and rebellion. When, in times of public heathen popular rejoicings, they retired in silent earnestness, and would not take part in the wild and immodest sports of the multitude, they were called men that shunned the light, and complained against for taking so little interest in public affairs. In many places the most scandulous reports were spread against them, in order to rouse the fury of the populace; and all public calamities, such as famine, pestilence, and the like, were declared to be the effect of the anger of the gods, and the causes of this anger were the Christians alone.

If we consider all these things, my brethren, we must not be astonished at the persecutions which fell upon the professors of the gospel with more or less violence, and with longer or shorter intervals, under the Roman emperors. Such seasons of conflict were wholesome

times for sifting and proving the sincerity of the church. The chaff was then separated from the wheat, and whoever had not confessed the Lord from real conviction, and with an upright heart, could not abide the proof. Christians in name only consequently fell from the faith, and denied the Lord. But in general, we can point to these times of persecution as the brightest points in the history of the church of Christ, for during such seasons the full power and glory of the Christian faith in all its truth and constancy was manifested, being shewn forth by the disciples of the Lord, in the midst of the most exquisite tortures and cruelty; and far from the truth being thereby suppressed or conquered, we see it rather expanding with irresistible power, and at last overcoming both Paganism and Judaism together. Let us then now direct our attention to this conduct of the Christians during persecution, beseeching of the Lord that he would fill us with the same spirit of fidelity, which moved them rather to suffer torture and death than to deny their Saviour, and fall from the profes. sion of the truth; and for this grace let us earnestly ask in silent prayer.

Text. Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep, and to break mine heart ? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.-Acts, xxi. 13.

Paul! thou faithful witness of the Lord, how this profession of thine shames and humiliates us! “ Thou art ready not to be bound only, but also to die for the name of the Lord Jesus ;"—and thou didst prove in act, that there was in thee a holy earnestness in this profession; thou didst seal thy faith with thy blood, and hast obtained the crown of martyrdom! Thou remainedst true in the conflict, and in persecutions,-faithful even unto death and we, alas, how often do we fall away in peace! None persecute us, and yet how many deny the name of the Lord; what indifference, what Lukewarmness, prevails among us in our profession of the gospel ! O, accuse us not before the throne of God,and ye, glorious spirits of martyred Christians, who, like Paul, have fought, and like Paul have conquered ; ye faithful witnesses of the truth, whose blood the earth has drunk, accuse us not ! Pray for us, rather pray, that the Lord would give us also that spirit, which taught you to bear witness, to suffer, contend, and die for his name's sake ; that the spirit of fidelity which animated and guided you, may rest also upon us! Yes, my brethren, with such a prayer for the spirit of faithfulness in acknowledging our Lord, in word and walk, in joy and grief, in life and death, let us proceed to our meditation! They shall remind us of the conduct of the Christians in the first ages of the church under the

persecutions which befel them; and under this head we shall consider,

1. In general outline, the spirit which filled them in times of conflict and persecution; and,

2. We shall adduce some instances to strengthen us in our faith.

The first head we shall consider to-day, the second on the next occasion.

Holy Father, sanctify us with thy truth; thy word is truth. Amen.

I. In examining the spirit which filled the first Christians in times of conflict and persecution, the feelings which animated them, and the conduct which they exhibited, we shall find, first, that it was marked by quietness and reflection. By this they were distinguished from those who, with wild, unbridled, fanatic zeal, rushed headlong in search of dangers, which they might, without violence to their consciences, have escaped, and who pressed unbidden into the army of martyrs. There certainly were not wanting some who waited not till the Lord handed them the cup of suffering, in order thereby to prove the truth of their belief, but with a rash and daring courage, and an enthusiastic fanaticism, gave themselves up unasked to the heathen

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