But how Paul, an apostle, from being a persecutor, who first of all shed the blood of the church, though afterwards he exchanged the sword for the pen, and turned the dagger into a plough, being first a ravening wolf of Benjamin, then himself supplying food as did Jacob, 8306 —how he, (I say,) speaks in favour of martyrdoms, now to be chosen by himself also, when, rejoicing over the Thessalonians, he says, “So that we glory in you in the churches of God, for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations, in which ye endure a manifestation of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be accounted worthy of His kingdom, for which ye also suffer!” 8307 As also in his Epistle to the Romans: “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also, being sure that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope; and hope maketh not ashamed.” 8308 And again: “And if children, then heirs, heirs indeed of God, and joint-heirs with Christ: if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” 8309 And therefore he afterward says: “Who shall separate us from the love of God? Shall p. 647 tribulation, or distress, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (As it is written: For Thy sake we are killed all the day long; we have been counted as sheep for the slaughter.) Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through Him who loved us. For we are persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor power, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 8310 But further, in recounting his own sufferings to the Corinthians, he certainly decided that suffering must be borne: “In labours, (he says,) more abundant, in prisons very frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes, save one; thrice was I beaten with rods; once was I stoned,” 8311 and the rest. And if these severities will seem to be more grievous than martyrdoms, yet once more he says: “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christs sake.” 8312 He also says, in verses occurring in a previous part of the epistle: “Our condition is such, that we are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; and are in need, but not in utter want; since we are harassed by persecutions, but not forsaken; it is such that we are cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in our body the dying of Christ.” 8313 “But though,” says he, “our outward man perisheth”—the flesh doubtless, by the violence of persecutions—“yet the inward man is renewed day by day”—the soul, doubtless, by hope in the promises. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal”—he is speaking of troubles; “but the things which are not seen are eternal”—he is promising rewards. But writing in bonds to the Thessalonians, 8314 he certainly affirmed that they were blessed, since to them it had been given not only to believe on Christ, but also to suffer for His sake. “Having,” says he, “the same conflict which ye both saw in me, and now hear to be in me.” 8315 “For though I am offered upon the sacrifice, I joy and rejoice with you all; in like manner do ye also joy and rejoice with me.” You see what he decides the bliss of martyrdom to be, in honour of which he is providing a festival of mutual joy. When at length he had come to be very near the attainment of his desire, greatly rejoicing in what he saw before him, he writes in these terms to Timothy: “For I am already being offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; there is laid up for me the crown which the Lord will give me on that day” 8316 —doubtless of his suffering. Admonition enough did he for his part also give in preceding passages: “It is a faithful saying: For if we are dead with Christ, we shall also live with Him; if we suffer, we shall also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us; if we believe not, yet He is faithful: He cannot deny Himself.” 8317 “Be not thou, therefore, ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner;” 8318 for he had said before: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 8319 For we suffer with power from love toward God, and with a sound mind, when we suffer for our blamelessness. But further, if He anywhere enjoins endurance, for what more than for sufferings is He providing it? If anywhere He tears men away from idolatry, what more than martyrdoms takes the lead, in tearing them away to its injury?
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