Thursday, March 10, 2011

How Might You Bleed?

foxe102

It is all too easy to become weary when enduring trials, but we are enjoined by the Scriptures not to lose heart through our consideration of God’s own Suffering Servant. No man or woman has ever suffered as our Lord Jesus Christ - which is another reason why Christians must herald His absolute uniqueness in all of human history. Having said this, there are others who have endured much violence within this world: a violence of such intensity that tends to make my own struggles appear as mere bruises rather than deep lashings. There is great profit in considering the perseverance of saints from the past, remembering that Christ stands above them all as the One who bore our sin on His own body (Hebrews 11:1-12:3). It is in this context that I am frequently challenged and edified by reading Foxe's Book of Martyrs. I am often ashamed by my frailty when reading about those saints who were horribly abused, beaten, and murdered just for owning a copy of the Scriptures, or for resisting the unquestioned dogma of the Roman Catholic Church. Such records of Christian faithfulness and devotion make me look at my freedoms here in America with renewed intensity; like a parched soul in a barren desert who has just rediscovered his own water bottle. When Foxe takes us through the Bohemian persecutions of the 15th century, he leads us to the particular torture and murder of one faithful pastor, whose endurance to the end is both difficult and encouraging:

As their principal rage was directed against the clergy, they took a pious Protestant minister, and tormenting him daily for a month together, in the following manner, making their cruelty regular, systematic, and progressive.

They placed him amidst them, and made him the subject of their derision and mockery, during a whole day's entertainment, trying to exhaust his patience, but in vain, for he bore the whole with true Christian fortitude. They spit in his face, pulled his nose, and pinched him in most parts of his body. He was hunted like a wild beast, until ready to expire with fatigue. They made him run the gauntlet between two ranks of them, each striking him with a twig. He was beat with their fists. He was beat with ropes. They scourged him with wires. He was beat with cudgels. They tied him up by the heels with his head downwards, until the blood started out of his nose, mouth, etc. They hung him by the right arm until it was dislocated, and then had it set again. The same was repeated with his left arm. Burning papers dipped in oil were placed between his fingers and toes. His flesh was torn with red-hot pincers. He was put to the rack. They pulled off the nails of his right hand. The same repeated with his left hand. He was bastinadoed on his feet. A slit was made in his right ear. The same repeated on his left ear. His nose was slit. They whipped him through the town upon an ass. They made several incisions in his flesh. They pulled off the toe nails of his right foot. The same they repeated with his left foot. He was tied up by the loins, and suspended for a considerable time. The teeth of his upper jaw were pulled out. The same was repeated with his lower jaw. Boiling lead was poured upon his fingers. The same was repeated with his toes. A knotted cord was twisted about his forehead in such a manner as to force out his eyes.

During the whole of these horrid cruelties, particular care was taken that his wounds should not mortify, and not to injure him mortally until the last day, when the forcing out of his eyes proved his death.[1]

The extent of cruelty in this passage is difficult to grasp, and the fact that they treated their victim’s wounds is deeply maniacal, especially when we remember that they did this, not for his good, but for his prolonged torture and pain. Accounts such as these cause me to pick up my Bible with a deeper sense of fear, joy, and earnestness. The comradery of those who would be willing to be sacrificed for the Lord and His truth is unspeakably precious. I would rather be found in fellowship with such solid saints, rather than the fluff and stuff of casual-christianity - men who would rather play with the Bible as a fictional game rather than consume it as their most real bread. Give me the fellowship of men like Bunyan, please, whose own allegory Pilgrim's Progress sends me into the text, rather than away from it. As C.H. Spurgeon said of this Tinker Of Bedford - “You can prick John Bunyan anywhere, for all his blood is bibline.”

May my heart and mind fellowship with men who bleed thus.


[1] John Fox. Fox's Book of Martyrs, Persecution of Zisca.