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In a dungeon dark and damp, lies a prisoner, whose calm and holy countenance, would almost persuade us that he was confined there for no crime of his own, but from the malice of some cruel enemy. The jailers treat him with respect, and listen to the words of inspiration which fall from 'his lips, “Repent, repent," be cries, " for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” His usual garments are unchanged, and by his raiment of cainel's
hair, and his leathern girdle, we recognize the fore-runner of Christ, of whom the Saviour said, " This is Elias which was to come.” The prison door turns heavily on its iron hinges, and the flickering light of a torch faintly illumes the humid walls. The captive turns towards the entrance, and what a sight meets his eye! A guard of soldiers enter, headed by a young and beautiful female, gaily clad in festive robes, and decked with rarest gems. An executioner, armed with the fearful weapon of punishment attends them! What follows ? A half uttered prayer; the gleaming of the fatal sword as it cleaves the air; a groan—and the headless corpse of the martyred saint falls to the stony floor, and the maiden receives the gory trophy in a costly basin, and carries it to her mother! As Í mentally shuddered at the dreadful sight, I exclaimed, “What reward shall the servant receive who hath died in his Lord's cause ?" And a voice answered me, “It is written, ‘Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.'”
What is that vast edifice towards which the innumerable inhabitants of yon seven-hilled city throng in such haste ? Old men and children, young men and maidens, all hurry forward to gain the entrance to the Colliseum ; so is the majestic building named. Enter with them. Above is the deeply blue Italian sky; thousands
thousands of human countenances, are ranged in regular circles, around the extensive area, into which they gaze with intense eagerness. The noise of voices like the roaring of the sea, is instantly hushed by the sound of a solemn trumpet. What is to take place ? The coronation of some powerful sovereign, the honour-giving pageant of some world-famed conqueror ? Yes, but not now.
The crown is not yet won, the victory not yet gained. A mild, but dignified old man, is led into the arena. On his venerable head time and trouble have laid a blanching hand; but, his face has surely caught its triumphant expression from some heaven-inspired thought. Perchance, the words returned to his mind which he himself had written, “Let the fire, the gallows, the devouring of wild beasts, the breaking of bones, the pulling assunder of my members, the bruising and pressing of my whole body, and the torments of the devil, or hell itself come upon me, so that I may win Christ Jesus.” And in that bitter hour, when his Heavenly Father seemed to bave forgotten him, and when he might have cried with the expiring Saviour, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me, perchance, some celestial vision like that vouchsafed to the Proto-martyr, Stephen, cheered his eye, or some soothing voice heard but by himself alone, supported his soul by the assurance that Christ was his. And now the hungry beasts of prey were loosed upon hin, and goaded on by their inhuman keepers, fell on the faithful soldier of the cross, and a mangled carcase was soon all that remained of Ignatius, the holy bishop of Antioch.
I asked not now, what should be the martyr's reward, but remembered that the voice had said before, that a bright and lasting crown was laid
for those who served their Lord below.
Years had rolled away, since first the fire of persecution had been kindled among the hills of Judea, against the humble followers of the Crucified One, and many changes had taken place in the godless world. Men professing, but disgracing the faith of
Christ, stood in the room of its avowed enemies. Imperial Rome had fallen, but Papal Kome, a phenix in life and vigour, had risen from its ashes, and sat a Queen among the nations, a very Babylon for wealth, and cruelty, and sin.
Embosomed among the guardian hills of Piedmont, stood a little Church, simple and unadorned as the faith, the followers of which had raised it as a temple wherein to worship God.
It was the Sabbath, and the Christian Pastor, with his little flock, had met within the humble structure, to praise the Almighty for the protection so long extended to them, and to pray that his all-powerful arm would still be their shield; or, if called to suffer for his sake, their stay. Then follows an exhortation, short, faithful, and earnest. What sounds break the Sabbath stillness of the hills, and re-echo through the mountain ravines? The hounds have reached their prey at last. Another minute and the Church is filled with
The shepherd is taken, and the sheep are scattered ; even, while on his lips, and in their ears are the words,
“ He that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved.”
In a long, low room, the groined roof of which is supported by massive pillars of roughly hewn stone, and lighted by the lurid glare of the fires kept up for the tortures inflicted by the self-constituted keepers of men's consciences, stands a prisoner, whose composed and fearless countenance is strangely at variance with the horrors with which he is surrounded. On a dais at one end of the gloomy chamber, sits a man arrayed in priestly robes ; and who, as he issues orders to the obedient minions of his tyrannical will, appears well qualified to fill the infernally devised office of Grand Inquisitor. Calm and collected stands the prisoner, and fearlessly avows his belief that “the Trinity in Unity alone should be worshipped.” The rack, the
flame, the cord, are all applied, and unshrinkingly sustained, till nature can endure no more, and the glorified spirit freed from its earthly teneinent, rises to the heavenly mansions where there is no more sin, and no more grief.
It is midnight, Paris, ever gay, every stirring is hushed in sleep, and the moon, struggling through intervening clouds, looked down on a scene of apparent repose. How oft the storm is preceded by a calm ! The bell tolls the second morning hour, from a neighbouring church tower, and while its sound yet breaks in reverberating echoes upon the death-like silence, the sword is unsheathed and thousands of the followers of the only Mediator, fall by the murderous hands of their fellow-men. From the reeking earth rise the tones of agony, the wail of helpless infancy, the convulsive sobs of woman, and the deep groans from the strong hearts of men. As when the first martyr fell, the voice of blood ascended to God, calling for vengeance on the head of the slayers. The Sabbath approached, and the day set apart for earthly rest was the birth-day of many an immortal soal, now entering upon their immortal rest, their everlasting Sabbath.
From this dark view, turn we to free England's brightest seat of learning and piety. Morning dawns, and the eastern sky borrows its ruddy flush, more from the fires beneath than from the rising sun. In the centre of a pile of faggots, stands a wooden post, to which is attached an iron chain. Two men, one in the prime of life, the other verging on old age, with steady pace approach the fatal pile. They are bound to the stake, the fire is kindled, the flame ascends ; turning to his companion, the venerable prisoner exclaims, “Be of good cbeer, Master Ridley, and play the man, we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as, I trust, shall never be put out:" and with the earnest prayer, “O Father of Heaven,
ceive my soul,” he sealed his testimony with his life. Death comes not so soon to the fellow-sufferer.
m agony he strives to embrace the devouring element, which still evades his grasp. After a time of anguish, worse than death, and while still commending bis soul to God, his pain at last is over. He had witnessed a great confession, and his name is yet the glory of the Protestant Church.
How beautiful the scene which next rises. Nature in her fairest form surely dwells here. See yon majestic river, flowing in broad lines of silver light, through the vast undulating plains, covered by the snowy pods of the cotton plant on the one hand, and on the other by the tall sugar cane, while here and there, Rhododendron scatters its purple flowers, and the Oleander sheds its delicate fragrance to the passing breeze. The mountains in the back ground, rising in gently waving lines from
the table land, are steeped in sunset's richest dyes. It is the hour of repose, but no rest comes to the weary labourers in these extensive fields. “They are Negroes," says their white master, “ therefore, they can work; they are slaves, therefore, they must work ;" the whip continually lacerates their flesh, to compel them to yet greater exertions. One man bowed with years, upon whom indeed, “ the sun hath looked," but whose dark skin is the casket which contains a precious jewel, cheers himself with heavenly song; the overseer watches him with malignant glance.
“ There the wicked cease from troubling,
And the weary are at rest,"
sings the negro.
“ Cease dog," cries the inhuman taskmaster, I will have no cant here. Leave your religion alone, you come to work, not to sing." The whip is upraised, and falls with fearful violence on the aged man, leaving a sanguine trace where it had been.