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It is declared in Scripture for the consolation of the people of God under their calamities, that though no chastening is for the present joyous but grievous, yet that it worketh the peaceable fruits of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby. Persecution and tribulation never come upon the real servants of God without their specified and appointed object; and it needs but little study of the word of God, and little observation of the world, to ascertain what that object is. It is to test the faith of God's people; it is to purge away the dross which may cling even to the gold, and as by a refining process, to bring forth the rich material in its most unadulterated condition, and in its most bright and resplendent aspect. God forewarns the members of the Church of Smyrna, that this persecution was intended, that they might be tried, not that they might be destroyed. They would then be enabled to see what would be the value of the faith which they had professed ; they would then ascertain whether their hope could live amidst the angry waves of the troubled ocean ; they would then see whether their patience was such as would enable them to bear without discontent the evils they were to encounter; then they would be sure whether their courage was of such a temper as would animate them in the cause of their Master, to disregard the frowns, the menaces, and the violence of their enemies. In fine, they were to be placed in situations in which all the Christian graces would be required in their most active and vigorous exercise—their faith, their hope, their courage, their love, their spirit of forgiveness. It will be found in the sequel, brethren, that they did stand

the test; and as every faithful servant of God will do, they came out like gold purified seven times in the fire. They verified what is true of every individual in whose heart the love of God has been shed abroad,

The soul that's filled with virtue's light,
Shines brightest in affliction's night.

But, my brethren, the people of God never have persecution without some accompanying consolation. There is no night so dark and cloudy, but some star breaks through the gloom, even though it be to pour but one faint glimmer on the path, to tell that above the regions of the clouds there is still the shining and the peaceful firmament; there is no wind so boisterous and terrific, but ever and anon there is some momentary interval of comparative calm, in which the tempest is almost stilled into a whisper. Thus, though it was told to the members of the Church at Smyrna that some of them were to be cast into prison, and all to have tribulation; yet,

3d. We have an allusion to a period promised for its termination-"ye shall have tribulation ten days." There are three interpretations of this passage, either of which may be considered as perfectly satisfactory. The ten days may possibly refer to what are denominated the ten persecutions of the Christian Church, which took place under successive Roman Emperors, by the most of which the Church of Smyrna greatly suffered. In another view of the subject, the ten days may merely express an indefinite term, indicating that their persecutions were not to continue for any very protracted period. An

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other view of the subject, however, appears to be still more satisfactory. I need hardly tell you,

that in the language of prophecy a day is frequently put to represent a year. This is the ordinary method of the prophets, and under this aspect of the subject, the ten days during which many of the members of the Church at Smyrna were to be cast into prison, and during which all the members of that Church were to suffer tribulation, most probably refer to that most grievous persecution of the Christian Church which took place under the Emperor Dioclesian, and which was carried on throughout the whole extent of the Roman dominions, with the most unmitigated fury, for the space of no less than ten years. may not be permitted to tell the horrors of a period like this. Yet it is profitable for a people, especially like ourselves, who in the providence of God enjoy the uninterrupted blessings of civil and religious liberty, who can sit under our own vine and sig-tree with none to molest or make us afraid, it is profitable for us to cast our eyes on those pages in the history of the world which tell of such days of darkness and distress, because it may lead us at least to one sober reflection, and it may kindle one feeling of gratitude for the unmerited goodness which has cast our lot in a land of freedom, where law, not the arbitrary will of some despot, directs the question of rights and liberty, and where the foot of the religious persecutor dares not to pollute the soil. Yet in those days of persecution it is impossible to tell the multitudes who fell the victims; many an aged man whom they might have given the poor boon of a few years of decreptitude; many a young man who might have formed the best defence of his

country; many a young woman, fair and delicate, was sacrificed to this foul spirit of persecution. Oh, how little do we know of what it cost our predecessors to maintain the faith which they had embraced! Would it not have appalled you, aged Christian, to have been taken from your comforts, shut up

in , loathsome prisons, only to be taken thence to suffer the fury of the fire? Would it not have shaken

your courage, my young friends, to have been carried to the theatre and exposed to wild beasts, there to be tossed and torn and trampled on? But the detail were entirely too horrible to dwell upon; suffice it to say, that the Church of Smyrna shared largely in these horrors. It was tried, and it came out from the furnace purified and bright.

With an allusion to the period during which this tremendous persecution should continue, there is a direct declaration of its author—"Behold the devil shall cast some of you into prison.”

Every persecution on the score of religious opinions, and every thing which bears the remotest analogy to religious persecution, has its origin with that great enemy of man's salvation, who is as a roaring lion, continually seeking whom he may devour. It would seem as if a burning zeal for religion was the ordinary motive, but here it is, that in the figurative language of the Scripture, Satan is transformed into an angel of light. It is that fell destroyer, who, disguised under the stolen garb of zeal, lights the flame of persecution with a torch set on fire of hell, lifts the axe of the executioner, or bars the doors of the prison. No matter by whom the persecution is set on foot, and no matter the cause, the origin is the malice of the adversary, and the men who think

that they are doing God service, are, in fact, but the instruments moved by the devil at his will. If those horrid persecutions, which in their turn have disgraced both the Church of Rome and much even of Protestant Christendom, were to be traced to their origin, we find it here; and if the actors in the dreadful tragedies had but consulted the

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which the Spirit of God wrote to this Church of Smyrna, they would have found who it was that made, and who it is that gives the first impulse to that machinery which they have toiled so hard to keep in motion. Thanks be to God, the day of such terrific persecution as this has passed away. We have no more to fear the vengeance of the civil power, and no more the fervid aberrations of misguided religious zeal. But he would be strangely mistaken who thinks that the age of persecution has entirely gone by, or that the devil has yet ceased to fill the bosoms of the children of men with unholy passions. Intolerance and bigotry are in these days but softer names for what persecution was once.

It is the same monster, though deprived of the terrific engines of his power. Persecution appears

in many a milder form, though actuated by the same spirit. It sometimes wears the form of slander, and the tongue which loves to deal in falsehoods can destroy as readily as the wild beasts who tore and mangled the innocent victim in the Roman amphitheatre. Sometimes it takes the form of ridicule, and seeks to destroy the rising influence of religion by its contempt and scorn. Infinite are the forms in which persecution still appears, and still is the devil the mover and contriver of them all. But amidst it all, the real Christian has one source of consolation which can never fail him, and

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