by John Foxe
This work is strictly what its title page imports, a compilation. Fox's "Book of Martyrs" has been made the basis of this volume. Liberty, however, has been taken to abridge wherever it was thought necessary;—to alter the antiquated form of the phraseology; to introduce additional information; and to correct any inaccuracy respecting matters of fact, which had escaped the author of the original work, or which has been found erroneous by the investigation of modern research.
The object of this work, is to give a brief history of persecution since the first introduction of christianity, till the present time. In doing this, we have commenced with the martyrdom of Stephen, and following the course of events, have brought the History of persecution down to the year 1830. In all ages, we find that a disposition to persecute for opinion's sake, has been manifested by wicked men, whatever may have been their opinions or sentiments on religious subjects. The intolerant jew, and the bigoted pagan, have exhibited no more of a persecuting spirit, than the nominal professor of christianity, and the infidel and the avowed atheist. Indeed, it seems to be an "inherent vice," in unsanctified nature to endeavour by the pressure of physical force, to restrain obnoxious sentiments, and to propagate favourite opinions. It is only when the heart has been renewed and sanctified by divine grace, that men have rightly understood and practised the true principles of toleration. We do not say that none but real christians have adopted correct views respecting civil and religious liberty;—but we affirm that these views owe their origin entirely to christianity and its genuine disciples.
Though nearly all sects have persecuted their opponents, during a brief season, when men's passions were highly excited, and true religion had mournfully declined, yet no denomination except the papal hierarchy, has adopted as an article of religious belief, and a principle of practical observance, the right to destroy heretics for opinion's sake. The decrees of councils, and the bulls of popes, issued in conformity with those decrees, place this matter beyond a doubt. Persecution, therefore, and popery, are inseparably connected; because claiming infallibility, what she has once done is right for her to do again; yea, must be done under similar circumstances, or the claims of infallibility given up. There is no escaping this conclusion. It is right, therefore, to charge upon popery, all the persecutions and horrid cruelties which have stained the annals of the papal church during her long and bloody career of darkness and crime. Every sigh which has been heaved in the dungeons of the Inquisition—every groan which has been extorted by the racks and instruments of torture, which the malice of her bigoted votaries, stimulated by infernal wisdom, ever invented, has witnessed in the ear of God, against the "Mother of Harlots;" and those kings of the earth, who giving their power to the "Beast" have aided her in the cruel work of desolation and death. The valleys of Piedmont, the mountains of Switzerland, the vine crowned hills of Italy and France—and all parts of Germany and the low countries, have by turns, been lighted by the fires of burning victims, or crimsoned with the blood of those who have suffered death at the hands of the cruel emissaries of popery. England too, has drunken deep of the "wine of the fierceness of her wrath," as the blood of Cobham, and the ashes of the Smithfield martyrs can testify. Ireland and Scotland, likewise, have each been made the theatre of her atrocities. But no where has the system been exhibited in its native unalleviated deformity, as in Spain, Portugal and their South American dependencies. For centuries, such a system of police was established by the Holy Inquisitors, that these countries resembled a vast whispering gallery, where the slightest murmur of discontent could be heard and punished. Such has been the effect of superstition and the terror of the Holy Office, upon the mind, as completely to break the pride of the Castillian noble, and make him the unresisting victim of every mendicant friar and "hemp-sandaled monk."
Moreover, the papal system has opposed the march of civilization and liberty throughout the world, by denouncing the circulation of the Bible, and the general diffusion of knowledge. Turn to every land where popery predominates, and you will find an ignorant and debased peasantry, a profligate nobility, and a priesthood, licentious, avaricious, domineering and cruel.
But it may be asked, is popery the same system now as in the days of Cardinal Bonner and the "Bloody Mary." We answer yes. It is the boast of all catholics that their church never varies, either in spirit or in practice. For evidence of this, look at the demonstrations of her spirit in the persecutions in the south of France, for several years after the restoration of the Bourbons, in 1814. All have witnessed with feelings of detestation, the recent efforts of the apostolicals in Spain and Portugal, to crush the friends of civil and religious liberty in those ill-fated countries. The narrative of Asaad Shidiak, clearly indicates that the spirit of popery, has lost none of its ferocity and bloodthirstiness since the Piedmontese war, and the Bartholomew massacre. Where it has power, its victims are still crushed by the same means which filled the dungeons of the inquisition, and fed the fires of the auto de fe.
This is the religion, to diffuse which, strenuous efforts are now making in this country. Already the papal church numbers more than half a million of communicants. This number is rapidly augmenting by emigration from catholic countries, and by the conversion of protestant children who are placed in their schools for instruction. The recent events in Europe, will, no doubt, send to our shores hundreds of jesuit priests, with a portion of that immense revenue which the papal church has hitherto enjoyed. Another thing, which will, no doubt, favour their views, is the disposition manifested among some who style themselves liberalists, to aid catholics in the erection of mass houses, colleges, convents and theological seminaries. This has been done in numerous instances; and when a note of warning is raised by the true friends of civil and religious liberty, they are treated as bigots by those very men who are contributing of their substance to diffuse and foster the most intolerant system of bigotry, and cruel, unrelenting despotism, the world has ever seen. Other sects have persecuted during some periods of their history; but all now deny the right, and reprobate the practice except catholics. The right to destroy heretics, is a fundamental article in the creed of the papal church. And wherever her power is not cramped, she still exercises that power to the destruction of all who oppose her unrighteous usurpation. All the blood shed by all other christian sects, is no more in comparison to that shed by the papacy, than the short lived flow of a feeble rill, raised by the passing tempest, to the deep overwhelming tide of a mighty river, which receives as tributaries, the waters of a thousand streams.
We trust the present work, therefore, will prove a salutary check to the progress of that system whose practical effects have ever been, and ever must be, licentiousness, cruelty, and blood.
The narratives of Asaad Shidiak, Mrs. Judson, the persecutions in the West Indies, and in Switzerland, have never before been incorporated in any book of Martyrs. They serve to show the hideous nature of persecution, and the benefit of christian missions.
At the close of this volume will be found a sketch of the French revolution of 1789, as connected with persecution. It has long been the practice of infidels to sneer at christianity, because some of its nominal followers have exhibited a persecuting spirit. And although they knew that christianity condemns persecution in the most pointed manner, yet they have never had the generosity to discriminate between the system, and the abuse of the system by wicked men. Infidelity on the other hand, has nothing to redeem it. It imposes no restraint on the violent and lifelong passions of men. Coming to men with the Circean torch of licentiousness in her hand, with fair promises of freedom, she first stupefies the conscience, and brutifies the affections; and then renders her votaries the most abject slaves of guilt and crime. This was exemplified in the French revolution. For centuries, the bible had been taken away, and the key of knowledge wrested from the people. For a little moment, France broke the chains which superstition had flung around her. Not content, however, with this, she attempted to break the yoke of God: she stamped the bible in the dust, and proclaimed the jubilee of licentiousness, unvisited, either by present or future retribution. Mark the consequence. Anarchy broke in like a flood, from whose boiling surge blood spouted up in living streams, and on whose troubled waves floated the headless bodies of the learned, the good, the beautiful and the brave. The most merciless proscription for opinion's sake, followed. A word, a sigh, or a look supposed inimical to the ruling powers, was followed with instant death. The calm which succeeded, was only the less dreaded, because it presented fewer objects of terrific interest, as the shock of the earthquake creates more instant alarm, than the midnight pestilence, when it walks unseen, unknown amidst the habitations of a populous city.
The infidel persecutions in France and Switzerland, afford a solemn lesson to the people of this country. We have men among us now, most of them it is true, vagabond foreigners, who are attempting to propagate the same sentiments which produced such terrible consequences in France. Under various names they are scattering their pestilent doctrines through the country. As in France, they have commenced their attacks upon the bible, the Sabbath, marriage, and all the social and domestic relations of life. With flatteries and lies, they are attempting to sow the seeds of discontent and future rebellion among the people. The ferocity of their attacks upon those who differ from them, even while restrained by public opinion, shews what they would do, provided they could pull down our institutions and introduce disorder and wild misrule. We trust, therefore, that the article on the revolution in France, will be found highly instructive and useful.