Зображення сторінки

4. You, whose province it is to be a judge of others, exercise for once your office upon your own person, and judge yourself; look impartially into the secrets of your conscience; and, as now there is no where left any fear or shame in offending, and men sin with as much confidence as if they were to make a merit of it; I beseech you to see yourself, and you will find, I am persuaded, upon the self-examination which I am now recommending to you, that covetousness makes you an extortioner, or that anger provokes you to cruelty, or that gaming tempts you to profuseness. And can you then wonder that the wrath of God against man increases, when the offences of man against God increase ; or that the vengeance of the one rises in proportion to the provocations of the other ? You complain of new wars and enemies S; when yet, alas ! if they did not appear from abroad, they would be found at home; and if


could suppress at pleasure the attempts of foreigners and barbarians, you would have a much harder task of it to stop the injuries and insolences of domestic oppressors. You think the barrenness of the earth, and the prevailing famine, great and mighty grievances ; as if they really made more havoc, or did more mischief, than your greediness of gain, and your monopolies of corn, which raise the price of it as much as the greatest scarcity. The heavens, you object, are shut up, and withhold the rain from you ; whilst yet you suffer your barns to


be shut up, and to withhold from the inhabitants of the earth, what should nourish and sustain them. There is not, you say, the usual increase, either of vegetables or of animals. Why, if there were, the poor, you are sensible, would be never the better for it. You are disturbed at the continuance and progress of this same epidemical distemper; ; when yet it discovers the latent wickedness of some, and gives an occasion to the increase of it amongst others ; as the sick have no compassion extended to them, and as the survivor's covetousness expects their death, with impatience, whose life withholds him from falling on the prey.

Our greatest quarrel with you is, that you vent your rage and fury upon the innocent, and, to the great dishonour of God, you vex and persecute his faithful servants. It is a small matter, it seems, with you, to corrupt your lives and manners with all the varieties and kinds of wickedness which can be thought of; to subvert the great ends of all true religion by your superstitious practices ; to drop all regard and reverence for the majesty of the supreme being; but you must add, besides, to all this load of guilt, the farther aggravation of oppressing those who are devoted to his service, and would give him the glory due unto his name. Is it not enough that you do not, in your own person, worship the true God? Wherefore must you needs be so hard upon those who do? You neither will do it yourself, nor suffer it to be done and yet

by others. Not only they who worship dumb idols, and images made by the hands of man, but even they who pay their religious addresses to monsters, to things which have no resemblance to them in nature, it seems, can please you ; only the worshipper of the true God is peculiarly unfortunate, and can find no acceptance with you.

Your temples and altars are kept always warm and smoking with your sacrifices ;

yet the true God hath no altars but what we are forced to conceal. Crocodiles, and apes, and stones, and serpents have religious worship paid to them ; whilst the true God can have none, or, however, none with safety to the persons of the worshippers. You banish, you fine, you throw into chains and prisons ; fire, and sword, and wild beasts execute your vengeance upon men who are innocent and upright, and favourites of heaven. Nor are you pleased to put us presently out of our pain, or to dispatch us speedily ; but you invent for us lingering torments, you multiply upon us various instruments of cruelty ; nor is your rage contented with accustomed or common punishments, but you labour hard to find out such as are new, and as yet unheard-of. What savage rage, what cruelty of disposition, and appetite to torment us, is this, whereof your practice towards us makes a discovery! Take which part you please of the following dilemma, and try if you can justify it. It is either a crime, or no crime to be a christian :

If it be a crime, why do you not forth with dispatch the man who pleads guilty to the charge? If it be no crime, why do you pursue the innocent with vexatious prosecutions? If I denied your charge, then, indeed, you might legally and fairly put me to the torture : If I endeavoured to conceal the crime whereof you accuse me, by trick and doubling ; if I declined owning what I am ; if I did not plainly and clearly acknowledge that I am no worshipper of your gods, you would then have a fair occasion against me. But you have abundant witnesses of my confessing your charge against ine: I own myself a christian before thousands of you ;* and by such acknowledgment, I reject, and

* This good confession Cyprian again witnessed immediately before his execution :-" The arrival of the Proconsu was announced, and this venerable servant of Christ was brought before him into the judgmentlall. “Are you Thascius Cyprian ?” “I am.” “ Are you he whom the christians call their Bishop ?” “I am.” 6 Our Princes have ordered you to worship the gods.” “That I will not do." - You would judge better to consult your safety, and not to despise the gods.” “My safety and my strength is Christ the Lord, whom I desire to serve for ever.” “I pity your case,” says the Proconsul, “and could wish to consult for you.” “I have no desire,” says the prelate, “that things should be otherwise with me, than that I may adore my God, and hasten to him with all the ardour of my soul; for the afflictions of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” The Proconsul grew red with anger ; and immediately pronounced sentence of death in the following terms :—“You have lived sacrilegiously a long time ; you have formed a society of impious conspirators ; you have shown yourself an enemy to the gods and their religion, and have not hearkened to the equitable counsels of our princes; you have ever been a father and a ringleader of the impious sect_You shall, therefore, be an example to the rest,—that, by the shedding of your blood, they may learn their duty. Let Thascius Cyprian, who refuses to sacrifice to the gods, be put to death by the sword.” “God be praised,” said the martyr; and while they were leading him away, a multitude of the people followed and cried,—“Let us die with our holy Bishop."-MILNER.

as far as in me lies, I overthrow your gods, and the whole scheme of your worship and religion. Whilst I am therefore thus frank and open, why are you so mean and so ungenerous as to make your attack upon my weakest part, and to begin your dispute with the frailties of my flesh ? Turn your arms, for shame, against a fitter enemy; try your skill upon my mind, my soul, my reasoning powers; see if you can make any impression there, or gain the least advantage over my faith.

5. What stupidity therefore is it, and blindness of heart, to reject the overtures made for bringing you out of darkness into light ? What madness for those who are entangled in the chains of eternal death, to refuse the offers of eternal life? To hear, without concern, those menaces of God, saying ; “He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the Lord only, he shall be utterly destroyed.” And again : “ They worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made; and the mean man boweth down, and the great man humbleth himself ; therefore forgive them not.” Wherefore, then, do you bow down and humble yourself to false gods ? Why do you slavishly bend your body in honour to silly images, and the work of men's hands ? God hath made you upright ; to other animals he hath given indeed a different shape and figure, and made them to look downwards upon the earth; but your posture was formed erect, and your countenance

« НазадПродовжити »