Thou therefore endure hardness,
as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
- II Timothy 2:3
Charles Kingsley (1819-1875)
There were those -- to be counted by hundreds, if not thousands -- who dared all, and endured all; and won (as it was rightly called) the crown of martyrdom. Feeble old men, weak women, poor slaves, even little children, sealed their testimony with their blood, and conquered, not by fighting, but by suffering.
They conquered. They conquered for themselves in the next world; for they went to heaven and bliss, and their light affliction, which was but for a moment, worked out for them an exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
They conquered in this world also. For the very world which had scourged them, racked them, crucified them, burned them alive, when they were dead turned round and worshipped them as heroes, almost as divine beings. And they were divine; for they had in them the Divine Spirit, the Spirit of God and of Christ. Therefore the foolish world was awed, conscience-stricken, pricked to the heart, when it looked on those whom it had pierced, as it had pierced Christ the Lord, and cried, as the centurion cried on Calvary, 'Surely these were the sons and daughters of God. Surely there was some thing more divine, more noble, more beautiful in these poor creatures dying in torture, than in all the tyrants and conquerors and rich men of the earth. This is the true greatness, this is the true heroism -- to do well and suffer for it patiently.'
And thenceforth men began to get, slowly but surely, a quite new idea of true greatness; they learnt to see that not revenge, but forgiveness; not violence, but resignation; not success, but holiness, are the perfection of humanity. They began to have a reverence for those who were weak in body, and simple in heart, -- a reverence for women, for children, for slaves, for all whom the world despises, such as the old Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, had never had. They began to see that God could make strong the weak things of this world, and glorify himself in the courage and honesty of the poorest and the meanest. They began to see that in Christ Jesus was neither male nor female, Jew nor Greek, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but that all were one in Christ Jesus, all alike capable of receiving the Spirit of God, all alike children of the one Father, who was above all, and in all, and with them all.
And so the endurance and the sufferings of the early martyrs was the triumph of good over evil; the triumph of honesty and truth; of purity and virtue; of gentleness and patience; of faith in a just and loving God: because it was the triumph of the Spirit of Christ, by which he died, and rose again, and conquered shame and pain, and death and hell.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. - Hebrews 12:1
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