And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
O, how much those men are to be valued who, in the spirit with which the widow gave up her two mites, have given up themselves! How their names sparkle! How rich their very ashes are! How they will count up in heaven!
If martyrdom is now on the decline, it is not because martyrs are less zealous, but because martyr-mongers are more wise. The light of intellect has put out the fire of persecution, as other fires are observed to smoulder before the light of the same.
He that dies a martyr proves that he was not a knave, but by no means that he was not a fool; since the most absurd doctrines are not without such evidence as martyrdom can produce. A martyr, therefore, by the mere act of suffering, can prove nothing but his own faith.
To die for truth is not to die for ones country, but to die for the world. Truth, like the Venus de Medici, will pass down in thirty fragments to posterity; but posterity will collect and recompose them into a goddess. Then, also, thy temple, O eternal Truth! that now stands half below the earth, made hollow by the sepulchres of its witnesses, will raise itself in the total majesty of its proportions, and will stand in monumental granite; and every pillar on which it rests will be fixed in the grave of a martyr.
No language can fitly express the meanness, the baseness, the brutality, with which the world has ever treated its victims of one age and boasts of the next. Dante is worshipped at that grave to which he was hurried by persecution. Milton, in his own day, was Mr. Milton, the blind adder, that spit his venom on the kings person; and soon after, the mighty orb of song. These absurd transitions from hatred to apotheosis, this recognition just at the moment when it becomes a mockery, saddens all intellectual history.
His wife and children, being eleven in number, ten able to walk, and one sucking on her breast, met him by the way as he went towards Smithfield: this sorrowful sight of his own flesh and blood, dear as they were to him, could yet nothing move him but that he constantly and cheerfully took his death with wonderful patience, in the defence and support of Christs Gospel.