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are those who are sheltered and at their ease
from preparing to suffer death when need
shall be that they do not even trouble them-
selves about serving God in their lives. It
nevertheless continues true that this prepara-
tion for persecution ought to be our ordi-
nary study, and especially in the times in
which we live.

Those, again, whom God calls to suffer for
the testimony of His name ought to show
by deeds that they have been thoroughly
trained to patient endurance. Then ought
they to recall to mind all the exhortations
which were given them in times past, and
bestir themselves just as the soldier rushes to
arms when the tempest sounds. But how dif-
ferent is the result. The only question is
how to find out subterfuges for escaping. I
say this in regard to the greater part; for
persecution is a true touchstone by which
God ascertains who are His. And few are so

I— IS 225



THE WORLD»S GREAT SERMONS

faithful as to be prepared to meet death
boldly.

It is a kind of monstrous thing, that per-
sons who make a boast of having a little of
the gospel, can venture to open their lips to
give utterance to such quibbling. Some will
say, What do we gain by confessing our faith
to obstinate people who have deliberately re-
solved to fight against God? Is not this to
cast pearls before swine? As if Jesus Christ
had not distinctly declared (Matt, viii., 38)
that He wishes to be confest among the
perverse and malignant. If they are not in-
structed thereby, they will at all events re-
main confounded; and hence confession is an
odor of a sweet smell before God, even tho it
be deadly to the reprobate. There are some
who say, What will our death profit ? Will it
not rather prove an offense? As if God hath
left them the choice of dying when they should
see it good and find the occasion opportune.
On the contrary, we approve our obedience
by leaving in His hand the profit which is to
accrue from our death.

In the first place, then, the Christian man,
wherever he may be, must resolve, notwith-
standing dangers or threatings, to walk
in simplicity as God has commanded. Let
him guard as much as he can against the
ravening of the wolves, but let it not be with
carnal craftiness. Above all, let him place
his life in the hands of God. Has he done so?

226



CALVIN



Then if he happens to fall into the hands of
the enemy, let him think that God, having so
arranged, is pleased to have him for one of
the witnesses of His Son, and therefore that
he has no means of drawing back without
breaking faith with Him to whom we have
promised all duty in life and in death — Him
whose we are and to whom we belong, even
though we should have made no promise.

In saying this I do not lay all under the
necessity of making a full and entire con-
fession of everything which they believe, even
should they be required to do so. I am aware
also of the measure observed by St. Paul, al-
tho no man was ever more determined boldly
to maintain the cause of the gospel as he
ought. And hence it is not without cause our
Lord promises to give us, on such an occasion,
*'a mouth and wisdom" (Luke xxi., 15) ; as if
he had said, that the office of the Holy Spirit
is not only to strengthen us to be bold and
valiant, but also to give us prudence and dis-
cretion, to guide us in the course which it
will be expedient to take.

The substance of the whole is, that those
who are in such distress are to ask and obtain
such prudence from above, not following their
own carnal wisdom, in searching out for a
kind of loop-hole by which to escape. There
are some who tell us that our Lord Himself
gave no answer to those who interrogated
Him. But I rejoin, First, That this does not

227



THE WORLD'S GREAT SERMONS

abolish the rule which He has given us to
make confession of our faith when so re-
quired. (I Peter iii., 15.) Secondly, That He
never used any disguise to save His life : and,
Thirdly, That He never gave an ansAver so
ambiguous as not to embody a sufficient testi-
mony to all that He had to say; and that,
moreover, He had already satisfied those who
came to interrogate Him anew, with the view
not obtaining information, but merely of lay-
ing traps to ensnare Him.

Let it be held, then, as a fixed point among
all Christians, that they ought not to hold
their life more precious than the testimony to
the truth, inasmuch as God wishes to be glori-
fied thereby. Is it in vain that He gives the
name of witnesses (for this is the meaning of
the word martyr) to all who have to answer
before the enemies of the faith? Is it not
because He wished to employ them for
such a purpose? Here every one is not
to look for his fellow, for God does not honor
all alike with the call. And as we are
inclined so to look, we must be the more on
our guard against it. Peter having heard
from the lips of our Lord Jesus (John xxi.,
18) that he should be led in his old age where
he would not, asked. What was to become of
his companion John? There is not one
among us who would not readily have put
the same question; for the thought which in-
stantly rises in our mind is, Why do I suffer

228



CALVIN



rather than others? On the contrary, Jesus
Christ exhorts all of us in common, and each
of us in particular, to hold ourselves ' ' ready, ' '
in order that according as He shall call this
one or that one, we may march forth in our
turn.

I explained above how little prepared we
shall be to suffer martyrdom, if we be not
armed with the divine promises. It now re-
mains to show somewhat more fully what the
purport and aim of these promises are — not to
specify them all in detail, but to show the
principal things which God wishes us to hope
from Him, to console us in our afflictions.
Now these things, taken summarily, are three.
The first is, that inasmuch as our life and
death are in His hand. He will preserve us
by His might that not a hair will be plucked
out of our heads without His leave. Believers,
therefore, ought to feel assured into whatever
hands they may fall, that God is not divested
of the guardianship which He exercises over
their persons. Were such a persuasion well
imprinted on our hearts, we should be de-
livered from the greater part of the doubts
and perplexities which torment us and ob-
struct us in our duty.

We see tyrants let loose : thereupon it seems
to us that God no longer possesses any means
of saving us, and we are tempted to provide
for our own affairs as if nothing more were
to be expected from Him. On the contrary,

229



THE WORLD'S GREAT SERMONS

His providence, as He unfolds it, ought to be
regarded by us as an impregnable fortress.
Let us labor, then, to learn the full import of
the expression, that our bodies are in the
hands of Him who created them. For this
reason He has sometimes delivered His people
in a miraculous manner, and beyond all
human expectation, as Shadrach, Meshach,
and Abednego, from the fiery furnace, Daniel
from the den of lions; Peter from Herod's
prison, where he was locked, chained, and
guarded so closely. By these examples He
meant to testify that He holds our enemies in
check, altho it may not seem so, and has power
to withdraw us from the midst of death when
He pleases. Not that He always does it ; but in
reserving authority to Himself to dispose of
us for life and for death, He would have us
to feel fully assured that He has us under His
charge ; so that whatever tyrants attempt, and
with whatever fury they may rush against
us, it belongs to Him alone to order our life.
If He permits tyrants to slay us, it is not be-
cause our life is not dear to Him, and held in
a hundred times greater honor than it deserves.
Such being the case, having declared by the
mouth of David (Psalm cxvi., 13), that the
death of the saints is precious in His sight. He
says also by the mouth of Isaiah (xxvi., 21),
that the earth will discover the blood which
seems to be concealed. Let the enemies of the
gospel, then, be as prodigal as they will of the

230



CALVIN



blood of martyrs, they shall have to render
a fearful account of it even to its last drop.
In the present day, they indulge in proud de-
rision while consigning believers to the flames ;
and after having bathed in their blood, they
are intoxicated by it to such a degree as to
count all the murders which they commit mere
festive sport. But if we have patience to
wait, God will show in the end that it is not
in vain He has taxed our life at so high a
value. Meanwhile, let it not offend us that it
seems to confirm the gospel, which in worth
surpasses heaven and earth.

To be better assured that God does not leave
us as it were forsaken in the hands of tyrants,
let us remember the declarations of Jesus
Christ, when He says (Acts ix., 4) that He
Himself is persecuted in His members. God
had indeed said before, (Zech. ii., 8), "He
who touches you touches the apple of mine
eye." But here it is said much more expressly,
that if we suffer for the gospel, it is as much
as if the Son of God were suffering in person.
Let us know, therefore, that Jesus Christ must
forget Himself before He can cease to think
of us when we are in prison, or in danger of
death for His cause ; and let us know that God
will take to heart all the outrages which ty-
rants commit upon us, just as if they were
committed on His own Son.

Let us now come to the second point which
God declares to us in His promise for our

231



THE WORLD^S GREAT SERMONS

consolation. It is, that He will so sustain us
by the energy of His Spirit that our enemies,
do what they may, even with Satan at their
head, will gain no advantage over us. And
we see how He displays His gifts in such an
emergency ; for the invincible constancy which
appears in the martyrs abundantly and beauti-
fully demonstrates that God works in them
mightily. In persecution there are two things
grievous to the flesh, the vituperation and in-
sult of men, and the tortures which the body
suffers. Now, God promises to hold out His
hand to us so effectually, that we shall over-
come both by patience. What He thus tells
us He confirms by fact. Let us take this
buckler, then, to ward off all fears by which
we are assailed, and let us not confine the
working of the Holy Spirit within such nar-
row limits as to suppose that He will not
easily defeat all the cruelties of men.

Of this we have had, among other examples,
one which is particularly memorable. A
young man who once lived with us here, hav-
ing been apprehended in the town of Tournay,
was condemned to have his head cut off if he
recanted, and to be burned alive if he contin-
ued steadfast to his purpose. When asked
what he meant to do, he replied simply, ''He
who will give me grace to die patiently for
His name, will surely give me grace to bear
the fire." We ought to take this expression
not ajs that of a mortal man, but as that of

232



CALVIN



the Holy Spirit, to assure us that God is not
less powerful to strengthen us, and render
us victorious over tortures, than to make us
submit willingly to a milder death. More-
over, we oftentimes see what firmness he gives
to unhappy malefactors who suffer for their
crimes. I speak not of the hardened, but of
those who derive consolation from the grace
of Jesus Christ, and by His means, with a
peaceful heart, undergo the most grievous
punishment which can be inflicted. One beau-
tiful instance is seen in the thief who was con-
verted at the death of our Lord. Will God,
who thus powerfully assists poor criminals
when enduring the punishment of their mis-
deeds, be so wanting to His own people, while
fighting for His cause, as not to give them in-
vincible courage?

The third point for consideration in the
promises which God gives His martyrs is, the
fruit which they ought to hope for from their
sufferings, and in the end, if need be, from
their death. Now, this fruit is, that after
having glorified His Name — after having edi-
fied the Church by their constancy — they will
be gathered together with the Lord Jesus into
His immortal glory. But as we have above
spoken of this at some length, it is enough
here to recall it to remembrance. Let believ-
ers, then, learn to lift up their heads towards
the crown of glory and immortality to which
God invites them, thus they may not feel re-

233



THE WORLD'S GREAT SERMONS

luctant to quit the present life for such a
recompense; and, to feel well assured of this
inestimable blessing, let them have always
before their eyes the conformity which they
thus have to our Lord Jesus Christ ; beholding
death in the midst of life, just as He, by the
reproach of the cross, attained to the glori-
ous resurrection, wherein consists all our
felicity, joy, and triumph.



END OF VOL. I.



234



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