They willingly permitted friends to visit them during their last days on earth. This was a great boon, giving opportunity for farewell words of love and affection to the dear ones from whom they were parted. At last the solemn day dawned, when Vivia Perpetua and her four companions were led forth to die. Once more a determined effort was made to get these Christians to deny their Saviour. They were requested to bow down to idols, and thus own themselves heathen worshippers.
But not even immediate exposure to the fury of those wild beasts sufficed to make them yield. These faithful ones preferred the cruel death that was before them, rather than to save their souls by dishonouring the name of their Lord. We shall not follow that heart-rending scene through all its horrors, for they are too awful to relate. When death did at last release these captive ones from earth, it was only joyfully to usher them into the presence of their Lord. Such was one of many displays of man's hate to God in the early centuries of the church's history.
Raised seats overlooked the open space where the animals and victims were placed. And strange to say, many a human eye gazed upon those cruel sights, and took pleasure in the martyr's sufferings and death. But other eyes than those of men, looked down upon the inhuman spectacle.
God, who "with-draweth not his eyes from the righteous," watched over those patient, persecuted saints, and turned the eye of faith upward to Him. With what tender pity did the Father's heart feel for them! And how must the blessed Lord, for whose name they had endured such sufferings, have looked down upon them in loving sympathy! Angels, too, gazed upon the sorrowful sight, and it was theirs to minister to those whom man despised.
What a scene to call forth our mingled feelings, as in thought we retrace the long centuries of the past! Under the promptings of Satan, man was following out the desires of his own evil heart. On the other hand, dear saints of God were patiently enduring, not only shame and scorn, but actual bodily pain.
God sustained them, and the Spirit comforted till death snapped the tie that bound them to earth, and set them free for ever. Then had the blessed Lord the unspeakable joy of having His own with Himself in peace and love without alloy. One cannot help pitying the aged and affectionate father in the helplessness of his grief. Oh, if he had only known the Christ of God, who was the object of his daughter's heart, how different would all have been! He would then have been able to understand that his beloved daughter possessed a hidden imperishable treasure, of more value than even life itself.
His own heart too, would have been comforted by the presence of a sympathising Saviour and he could then have looked forward to a reunion in glory. But he knew not the secret strength which was her stay, nor the living Person who upheld her and therefore could only see sorrow and gloom.
The old grey-haired gentleman was completely bowed down with the agony of his grief. Little wonder was it indeed, for the affectionate father only saw his loved one about to die. The gloom of death seemed to him to separate them for ever. One can only hope that in his sorrow he may have turned the eye to the Saviour, who has said, "Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.
Many hundred years ago, a little boy of the name of Cyril, was called upon to lay down his life for Christ. His father was a heathen, and hated Christianity, yet his youthful son did not hide from him, or from any, the fact that he believed in the Lord Jesus. Unhindered by the fear of man, Cyril was known as one who prayed to God, and neither punishment nor aught else could make him desist.
Enraged at this conduct, the cruel father sent him from his home, sternly declaring that he would no longer regard him as his son. This young believer was then taken before a judge, who endeavoured to reason him out of his faith. He told Cyril that he ought to obey parental authority, and that if he would do so he might return to his home, and all the past would be forgiven. The noble-hearted boy knew that he was called to obey One higher than his father, and the latter only "in the Lord.
Cyril told his judge that he must ever be obedient to the Lord Jesus Christ, adding, "I am not sorry because I am turned out of the house, for I have a better mansion and I am not afraid to die, because then I shall have a better house.
Christian martyrs - Wikipedia
Still hoping to make the boy yield, the judge endeavoured to frighten him into submission. He therefore commanded him to be fettered and taken from his presence, as if about to be put to death. But yield he would not, in spite of all that the judge could say or do, and even the flames before his eyes did not alarm him. Truly God alone gave the needed strength to that youthful witness, and stayed his heart upon Himself. Some wept as they looked upon that young and courageous boy on the brink of the grave, while full of health and vigour.
To these, Cyril said, "Oh, you know not what a city I am going to live in, or what a hope I have!
There, with the blessed One whom he had loved and trusted on earth, dear Cyril entered into rest, in the spring-time of his youthful days. My dear young reader, would you thus willingly die for Christ, if life were offered on such persuasive terms? You could only do so by having the heart first "set on brighter things above. Yet the grace that was given to Cyril, is also free for you.
Death may overtake you, therefore why remain undecided any longer? Choose while young the way of life that leads to pleasures which are at God's right hand for evermore. Many a grey-headed old man would give all he possesses to have the opportunity of giving to God the best of his days. Yes, and strong able men in the prime of life, have frequent regrets that they turned not to God in their youth.
Suspect in murder of teen: ‘I wanted to kill a Jew and be a martyr’ — report
Oh, it is a privilege far beyond what you my youthful reader can at present understand, to be the Lord's while you are young! I should like also to tell my young readers of a young girl, who like Cyril, suffered in those early days of Christianity. Her name was Denisa, and her age sixteen, when she comes before our notice in history. The circumstance which made known her faith was a sudden exclamation from her lips as she gazed upon a suffering Christian. The latter was a man who had been commanded to sacrifice to idols, and at first firmly refused, but being put upon the rack the pain at last became more than he could bear.
In such an hour of weakness he denied the faith for the sake of life! No sooner had this denial fallen from his lips, than the intensity of his suffering so rapidly increased, that he died immediately! Denisa had been looking on this scene, and was greatly appalled at the sudden and solemn occurrence. On the impulse of the moment, she exclaimed with great feeling, "O, unhappy wretch!
Optimus, the pro-consul of Asia, under whose direction the torture had been going on, overheard her words, and quickly asked, "Are you a Christian? Immediately the hatred of the pagan was aroused by the mention of the holy One whom he despised and hated. He commanded the young girl to offer sacrifice to the idols, but all he could say was unavailing. Denisa stood firm, and bow to other than the one God, she neither would nor could.
Optimus, in great wrath, then delivered her into the hands of two brutal men she was placed wholly in their power, and her position was terrible in the extreme. God interposed, however, on behalf of His suffering witness, and those wretched men became powerless to do her harm. At the dead hour of night they were startled by a sight which alarmed them greatly. So much were they overcome by the effects of that vision of the night, that they even cried to her for mercy.
Throwing themselves at the feet of the helpless girl, they entreated her to pray for them, fearing that they were about to suffer at the hands of God for the evil done to this Christian. That midnight scene makes one think of the words of Eliphaz the Temanite in the book of Job.
David, the psalmist, says, by the Spirit of God, "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them. If the words of Eliphaz might have been uttered by these wicked men, those of David were true in Denisa's case, for God protected her in youth and helplessness. One would have thought that Optimus would have feared to lay hands on her again. But daring as ever in his wickedness, that cruel man soon gave orders for her execution, and rudely brought that precious life to an early and untimely end.
Denisa was beheaded, but, like many others, only to leave a scene of sorrow for a home of eternal bliss. A christian lady many hundreds of years since Cyril and Denisa ended their brief young lives, has written: At thy right hand there are pleasures, There are pleasures for evermore; In the depth of thy glory are treasures? A measureless, countless store. And surely could they speak to us from their happy abode on high, their words would only confirm the truth of the word of God expressed in this beautiful verse. Not only is there infinite and eternal bliss at God's right hand, but there is a risen glorified Man there, who waits in patience to have His own in that bright scene with Him.
It is to Him the eye of faith is directed, and with Him the waiting believer desires to be. Ah, if we long to see His face, how must He also be looking forward to the moment when He will come from that radiant place for us, His blood-bought people! We rest in the faithfulness of His parting words, "I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
No heart can think, no tongue can tell What joy 'twill be with Christ to dwell. At the time when these young Christians' lives were rudely snatched from them, the trial of their faith was different from that which was given to others in after centuries.
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Yet, in each case, through nearly nineteen hundred years, the true test has been the name of Christ. Circumstances only changed as time rolled on, and the persecuting power was not a heathen one. In those early days the demand was?
In later times it was a contest between a true and a false Christianity. Different modes of punishment were adopted in those early days, which usually corresponded with the habits and ways of the people. Cruelty in varied forms was ever exercised, and men grew ingenious in their plans when devising the most painful kinds of torture. But though the times grew darker and increasingly dangerous, yet the few believers in Jesus scattered here and there were kept faithful amid much temptation.
As it was said in the days of the Judges, when Israel's history was indeed a dark one, so may we say of the true-hearted in those early centuries: "The word of God was precious in those days. After shewing the faith of this little boy and girl, I want now to tell my reader about two brothers, as an instance of faithful witnesses whose words and conduct brought blessing to others. Marcus and Marcellanius were young Romans of noble family who lived towards the end of the third century. Cyril and Denisa confessed Christ and died.