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inspired by them, when hope was most wanted, and the comfort derived from them in the hour of trial, or in the article of death.
First then, in the very infancy of our reformation, Barnes was brought to the stake; who upon the scaffold itself thus briefly declared the substance of his faith and ground of his hope. I believe,' (said he) that Christ through his death overcame Sin, Death, and 'Hell, and that there is none other satisfaction ' unto the father, but this his death and passion only, and that no work of man did deserve 'anything of God, but only his passion, as
touching our justification: for I know the 'best work, that ever I did, is impure and im'perfect wherefore I trust in no good work, 'that ever I did, but only in the death of 'Christ. I do not doubt, through him to ' inherit the kingdom of Heaven.'
Lastly I will produce no other testimony than that of our chief reformer, Cranmer, who, having been the main instrument under divine Providence in settling the foundations of our national faith, was yet overcome by severe temptation so far as to recant the faith, which
he had so gloriously labored to uphold. Nevertheless the divine goodness did not forsake him; and, when with bitterness of contrition he reflected on that one grievous error, and resolved rather to die for the truth than to countenance a delusion, he thus exhibited the triumph of christian faith in his last address to the people, before he suffered. Having first besought their prayers for him, he then knelt down himself, and witnessed a good confession before God and the world. I have offended' (said he) both against Heaven and Earth 'more than my tongue can express. Whither 'then may I go? or whither should I fly? To 'Heaven I may be ashamed to lift up mine eyes; and in Earth I find no place of refuge or succour. To thee, therefore, O lord, do I run. To thee do I humble myself, sayingO lord, my God, my sins are great. But 'yet have mercy upon me for thy great 'mercy! The great mystery, that God became 'man, was not wrought for little or few of'fences. Thou didst not give thy son, O 'heavenly father, unto death for small sins
only, but for all the greatest sins of the
'world, so that the sinner return to thee with 'his whole heart, as I do here at this present: 'wherefore have mercy upon me, O God, 'whose property is always to have mercy! I crave nothing, O lord, for mine own merits, but for thy name's sake, that it may be hallowed thereby, and for thy dear son, 'Jesus Christ's sake!
On these different testimonies of so many martyrs one observation it seems impossible not to make, that, although they were afforded by so many individuals, at such different ages, under such diversified circumstances, and on occasions, when each would speak individually for himself, they are evidently dictated by the same spirit. One sentiment pervades them all; and that sentiment is an utter consciousness of their own weakness, and an implicit reliance on the sufficiency of their saviour.
The mere fact indeed of consistency under acute suffering and at the hour of death is not an adequate test of truth. But, when the tendency of a set of principles is to make men holy, gentle, peaceable, kind to all men, attentive to
every duty, meek, patient, honest, pure, inoffensive, and studious of every valuable quality, when the professors of such principles are found in fact to possess these qualities, when they are observed to retain them under severe trial with an unruffled and patient expectation of the result, without imprecations upon their tormentors, and without any overweening confidence in themselves, when further they are heard themselves to attribute, and that even in their dying moments, their fortitude, serenity, and peace to these principles, as their immediate cause, when they do this calmly, deliberately, with full self-possession and a careful calculation of consequences, when lastly this is done by a great cloud of witnesses, under different dispensations, in different countries, all agreeing in the same testimony, and exhibiting in the main the same general features of a holy and renewed character, he must be a hardy sceptic indeed, who can deny, that such consistency is an evidence of truth: for the confidence of these holy men was no sudden spark, struck out by the excitement of the occasion. It was a steady flame, long
nurtured in secret, and found sufficient, when the occasion called it into use. There is not one of the persons, whose testimony we have just recorded, that started suddenly into a martyr upon the pressure of a great emergency. No. Their life was the martyrdom, of which their death was the seal. They had conformably to the direction of saint Paul in the text run with patience the race, that was set before them, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of their faith: and therefore Jesus looked unto them, nay, drew near to them in the presence of his spirit and in the power of his consolations, when their race was cut short in the midst.
We in this age, my brethren, have an advantage over those, who were before us, because their testimony increases our light, and their experience warrants our convictions: wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin, which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race, that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith!