Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

upon those happy persons who have derived immortal honour upon themselves by the confession of their blessed master's name in a time of danger; we deservedly admire the steadfastness of their faith and virtue, we embrace them with ardent affections, and salute them with the religious kiss of peace and charity. Behold then this unspotted company of soldiers, serving under the captain of our salvation, breaking the force of their enemy, and weakening the fiercest assaults of persecution by their firmness and constancy, and their readiness to undergo imprisonment, or even death itself, for the sake of Christ. Hail gallant conquerors! You have made a noble stand against all the endeavours of the secular powers, to seduce you from your duty; you have exhibited a spectacle every way worthy of your maker's notice, and of your brethren's imitation! Your lips have scorned to deny their religious testimony to Christ in the day of trial, on whom they had solemnly before professed to believe! Your hands, which had been used to no work but God's, refused to assist at the profane altars of the Gentiles! Your mouths which had been sanctified with the food of heaven, and with the body and blood of your Saviour, would not, after that defile themselves with the impure remains of meat offered to idols! With what joy and ecstasy doth the church, your mother, receive you to her bosom, upon your successful return from this glorious conflict!

With what eulogies and gratulations doth she open wide her gates to you, that you may enter together in a full body, bringing back with you from the field of battle the trophies of your victory!

2. But amidst all our triumphs and gratulations, for the crowns of our martyrs, and for the honors which our confessors have gained by their glorious achievements, and for the unshaken firmness of the rest of our brotherhood, we have this sad abatement of our joy; that the enemy hath torn out a part of our bowels from us, and in the heat of this fierce engagement, hath made some fatal inroads upon the flock of Christ. What then is there left for me, my beloved brethren, either to say, or do, under such a variety of sentiments and passions as crowd into my mind upon this sad occasion? Tears will better express my concern than any words can do, for this grievous wound inflicted upon our body, and for this lamentable diminution of our numbers, by the force or fraud of our enemy. For who is there amongst us who hath so hard an heart, or so little affected with christian charity, as to stand unmoved amidst the ruins of his brethren, or to look with dry eyes upon the various miseries of the few who are left behind them; and not rather to express the first emotions of his mind in sighs and tears, than to form them into words, or to utter them in vocal sounds? I condole with you, my brethren, and my bowels yearn towards you; nor is it any mitigation of my grief to reflect upon my own particular innocence or safety; since a good shepherd always suffers when any of his flock are wounded. Accordingly, in heart and in affection I am closely linked to each of you; the weight of your sorrows, and the desolation of our common family, lie heavy upon my spirits, and are ready to overwhelm me. With them who mourn I mourn also, "I weep with them who weep and I imagine myself in the same condition with them who are fallen; those darts of the enemy which flew so thick amongst the flock, pierced my bowels when any of my flock were hurt by them; the assaults of the persecution tormented my mind continually, though they could not reach my body; and sympathy made me a sufferer in each advantage gained over any of my brethren.

3. We may not, however, my dearest friends, dissemble the truth; nor should we suffer our reflections upon the darkness and horror of the late calamity so far to possess or to blind our thoughts, as to shut out the light of heavenly instruction. If we can find out the cause of our misfortune, we shall the better be enabled to heal up the wound which hath been given by it. Our Lord and Master hath a mind to prove us; and as a long continuance of peace and security had relaxed the vigour of that holy discipline which was delivered to us from above, it grew necessary thence to awaken our sluggish faith, and to rouse up our dormant principles by some severe dispensation of providence; and when our sins had merited a much sorer punishment, our merciful and indulgent Lord so tempered its severity, that whatever hath passed had more the face of a trial than of a persecution. All were set upon an immeasurable increase of gain; and, forgetting how the first converts to our holy religion had behaved under the personal direction and care of our Lord's apostles, or how all ought in aftertimes to carry themselves, their love of money was their darling passion, and the master-spring of all their actions. The religion of the clergy slackened and decayed; the faith of priests and deacons grew languid and inactive; works of charity were discontinued, and an universal licence and corruption prevailed every where, and had tainted all ranks and orders of men amongst us. What measures of punishment could now be thought too severe for such raging provocations? Especially when the word of God had already denounced his judgments against such as should disobey him: "If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes." These things have been told us beforehand, and we have had a fair warning given us; but we, regardless of the law and of all obedience to it, have brought things to such a pass by our manifold offences, that since we would not hearken by fair means to the precepts of our Lord and Master, he hath now resorted to rougher measures; and thus hath at once corrected our misdeeds and tried the firmness of our faith, by a judicial process. Nor yet did we turn unto him, even when it was so very late; nor did we endure, as we should have done, with due courage and constancy, his chastisement nor his proof of us. As soon as ever the enemy threw out his menaces, a great number of our brethren betrayed their trust, and revolted from the faith of Christ; it was not here the force of the persecution which sunk them, but they fell of their own accord, before any violence offered them, and so contracted the guilt of a chosen and unconstrained apostacy.

[ocr errors]

4. What, I beseech you, could be the new, unexpected, unforeseen incident, which tempted these men to depart so suddenly from their obligations to Christ and his religion? Have not the prophets, and the apostles after them, apprised us of these things beforehand? Have not persons inspired by the Holy Ghost foretold to us the sufferings of good men, and the injurious treatment they should meet with from heathen hands? Is not the holy scripture full of encouragements to us to persevere in the profession of our faith, exhorting and persuading us to "worship the Lord our God, and him only to serve?" Hath it not denounced the wrath of God against such as

« AnteriorContinuar »