regard, at all events with respect and compassion, these martyrs for conscience' sake, and desire, as far as it lies in his power, to alleviate their sufferings.
I implore you, sir, carefully to investigate the conduct of these men, and to enter into the motive which prompts them to act as they do. If you will only do this, you will immediately see for yourself that they radically differ from all the other prisoners under your command, and that it would therefore be too unjust and cruel to make the same demands upon them as upon the other prisoners, and to submit them to the same punishments for the non-accomplishment of these demands. If an ordinary prisoner evades the fulfilment of the official demands made upon him, he does so in accordance with quite another kind of impulse, having no connection with the demands of conscience; whereas these men are in your battalion, placed in such a position that many of the demands of the authorities, which in the eyes of the other prisoners have nothing objectionable, are for them contrary to the will of God, as they understand it in relation to themselves. And just as no true Christian will regard it as admissible to attempt to convert a heathen from faith in idols to the true God by means of flogging, imprisonment and threats, so also those who do not share the convictions of these men cannot conscientiously regard as admissible the use of compulsory measures with a view to forcing them to act contrary to their faith, before they are inwardly convinced of the falsehood of that faith.
We all know what a dreadful responsibility is incurred, before God, by him who, for whatever purpose, endeavours to force a man to act contrary to his conscience. May God help us to avoid that responsibility. "We all walk under God," and very soon—much sooner than we generally suppose—will come for each one of us the day of reckoning before Him. And we all know that before that highest tribunal, not human but divine, we have to answer, not
- A Russian proverb implying that we are all responsible to and dependent on Him.—(Ed.)