Still others endured mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.
I. HOW THIS WRITER SPEAKS FROM FULLNESS OF KNOWLEDGE. AS one might think, he has already been tolerably copious, but he hints that there is really much more to tell. He has looked through all the records of God's people, and he finds faith everywhere. Thus has been produced in his mind a strong conviction of what man can do when he believes in the right way. And might we not attain to a similar fullness of knowledge? Reading ecclesiastical history, in the widest sense of the term, we should see how much stronger is the man of simple faith than the man of this world, with all his resources and ingenuity. As knowledge and experience of the right things grow, so must convictions with respect to them deepen.
II. HOW HE CLASSIFIES THE EXAMPLES OF FAITH. He shows us faith active and passive - what it can do and what it can bear. By his function the prophet had to be a man of action, and as the result of his action he had also to be a man of suffering. God sent him out to do special deeds - deeds beyond ordinary resources - and then he had also to make ready for sufferings out of the ordinary way. He who would do great things in the sight of God must be ready also to suffer great things. Live on the level of the world, and you may escape much in the way of toil and strain; but try to achieve the things which Christ sets before you, and then you will find you must not only have strong hands, but a brave and patient heart.
III. THERE IS PLENTY OF WORK FOR FAITH YET TO DO. There are kingdoms to be overcome, not by physical force, not by disciplined armies, but by those who, having yielded first of all to truth, know its claims and its power, and believe in persistent pressing of that truth on others. Righteousness has to be worked out, promises have to be appropriated; and if we would inherit the promises, we must accept the conditions of faith and patience. Our faith can achieve great things, and therefore great things are set before it. The faith of a simple, humble Christian has far greater things within its reach than anything to be attained by the unaided human intellect even at its best.
IV. SIMILARLY THERE IS PLENTY OF TRIAL FOR FAITH YET TO ENDURE. The more there is to be done, the more there is to be suffered. Ingenious torments and cruel deaths there may not be, but the spirit of the world is unchanging. Let a man persevere as seeing the invisible one, and he will have to suffer. He may not be stoned, but he will be pelted with the sneers of thoughtless and ignorant men. Those who through mere self-respect would refrain from a blow with the fist yet delight in the most cutting words. - Y.
Cruel mockings and scourgings.I. THE EVILS WERE —
1. Mockings. The parties mocked were God's saints and prophets; the parties mocking were their enemies and persecutors, which proved to be sometimes their own brethren, of the same nation, language, kindred, religion — and amongst these sometimes the basest of the people, sometimes the priests and princes. These mockings issue out of contempt, and tend unto the disgrace of the party mocked, and makes it a sport to abuse them, so as to rejoice in their misery. These mockings are sometimes in words, sometimes in signs, sometimes in both. And because to a grave, serious person, of eminent worth, some of these mockings are very bitter, cutting, cruel, not only in respect of the matter, but also of the circumstances, this made the sufferings more glorious.
2. Scourgings. This is a punishment also of great disgrace and sometimes of cruel pain, when by whips, either of cords or wires, not only the skin is broken, but the very flesh torn. And this was the more grievous because it was an usual punishment of slaves, of vilest persons, and of such as were of worst behaviour; and by it they were not only put to pain, but to open shame.
3. Bonds and imprisonment. Both these were restraints of liberty, which is so precious and desirable. The end of them was the reservation of malefactors or suspected persons till the time of trial and judgment; and close imprisonment was so much the more grievous when they were deprived of all comfortable society, and no friends suffered to relieve them.
II. THESE THEY SUFFERED. Some endured one of them, some more, some all; for they had trial or experience of these things, so some understand it, as though the sense were that they did not fear them threatened but feel them inflicted. Though their enemies did afflict and vex them unjustly and wickedly, yet they suffered them patiently, and resolved that though God should kill them, yet they would trust in Him.
III. THEY THUS SUFFERED THESE THINGS BY FAITH. For they knew the way to heaven was rough and troublesome, and that these sufferings could not separate them from the love of God nor deprive them of the great reward, but prepare them for eternal glory. For they verily believed that there was eternal life, that God had promised it, and that constancy in the covenant and perseverance in the way of righteousness was the only means to obtain possession; and they knew that though their sufferings were grievous, yet the reward would infinitely recompense all.
Scientific Illustrations and Symbols.Some creatures are unquestionably used as scourges; but perhaps the less we mortals say about such animated pests the better. They act up to their own organisation, but never beyond; whilst it is far otherwise with mankind. The serpent employs its poisoned fangs to procure food or avert peril, real or fancied; the jaguar uses its terrible incisors in the destruction of its prey; and the shark avails itself of its dental apparatus to assuage its appetite. But man, says Hugh Miller, must surely have become an immensely worse animal than his teeth show him to have been designed for; his teeth give no evidence regarding his real character. Of our racks and thumbscrews, our inquisitions and oubliettes, our noyades at Nantes and our mitraillades at Lyons and Toulons, there is no prophetic intimation in our dentology.
(Scientific Illustrations and Symbols.)
Tinling's Illustrations.As a specimen of the fierce cruelty of Queen Mary's officers, Mr. Froude writes: "The persecution degenerated into wholesale atrocity. On the 23rd of April six men were burnt at Smithfield; on the 28th, six more were burnt at Colchester; on the 15th of May an old lame man and a blind man were burnt at Stratford-le-Bow. In the same month three women suffered at Smithfield, and a blind boy was burnt at Gloucester. In Guernsey, a mother and two daughters were brought to the stake. One of the latter, a married woman with child, was delivered in the midst of her torments, and the infant just rescued was tossed back into the flames. Reason, humanity, even common prudence, were cast to the winds. Along the river bank stood rows of gibbets, with bodies of pirates swinging from them in the wind. Ferocity in the Government and lawlessness in the people went hand in hand."
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