Tracts for the Times/Record VIII

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Dec. 6, 1833.]




Epistle of Ignatius, the friend of St, Peter, on his way to martyrdom, to the Romans.

Ignatius, which is also Theophorus, to the Church which hath found mercy by the greatness of the supreme Father and of Jesus Christ His only Son, beloved and enlightened by the will of Him, who willeth all things, according to the love of Jesus Christ our God; and which is established in the place of the Romans, all-godly, all-gracious, all-blessed, all-praised, all-prospering, all-hallowed, enthroned in Love, with the name of Christ and with the name of the Father; salutation in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father; so that ye being united in flesh and spirit, according to all His will, ever filled with the grace of God, and cleansed from all outward pollution, may have a plenteous and blameless joy, through the Lord Jesus Christ our God.

I. Since, through prayer to God, it hath been granted unto me, to behold your godly countenances, (an event I have very greatly desired,) bound as I am in Jesus Christ, I have a hope of saluting you, if by God's will I be deemed worthy to attain unto my end. For my progress has been begun successfully if I but find grace to come unto my consummation without hindrance. For I have fears from your love, lest even it should bring injury upon me; for to you it is easy to work your purpose; but there will be a difficulty in the way of my going unto God, if your affection interfere for me.

II. I desire that ye be not men-pleasers, but pleasers of God, which ye also are. For never shall I find such an opportunity of gaining the presence of God; nor can you have any deed reported of you more glorious, than your silence now. For if you abstain from interfering for my safety, I shall go unto God; but if you attach yourselves to my temporal welfare, I shall have to run my course anew. You can give me no better gift, than my immola­tion to God, while yet the altar is ready; that becoming a choir in love, ye may sing to the Father in Jesus Christ, for that it hath pleased God to call the Bishop of Syria out of the east, and that he should be brought into the west. It is well for me, in learning the world, that I should set unto God, that in God I may rise.

III. Ye have spoken evil of no man. Ye have taught others. It is my desire, that the lessons ye have given may find a firm founda­tion. Do ye only ask for me power from within and from without, that I may not only speak, but also feel; not only bear the name of Christian, but approve myself one; for if I approve myself one, I shall be entitled to the name, and shall be reckoned to have been faithful, when the world seeth me no more. For nothing visi­ble is abiding; visible things are temporal; things invisible are eternal. For our God; which is Jesus Christ, assumes a more visible reality in His union with the Father. This is no time for holding peace. When Christianity is hated of the world, it calls for high exertions.

IV. I write to the Churches, and I charge you all, that I die willingly for God, unless you prevent me. I exhort you, not to shew me an unseasonable kindness. Suffer me to be devoured by wild beasts, for by their means I am permitted to go to God. I am food for God's service. Let me be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found pure bread unto Christ. Yea, encourage ye them, that they may be my grave, and may leave no part of my body; so that, when I am fallen asleep, I may burthen no man. Then shall I be a true disciple unto Christ, when the world seeth my mortal body no more; pray ye to Christ for me, that by their instrumentality I may be found a sacrifice unto God. I make not my commands unto you, as though I were Peter or Paul; they were Apostles; I have been condemned; they were free; I, hitherto, am a slave: but if I suffer unto death, I shall become the freedman of Jesus, and shall have a resurrection unto liberty in Him. Now am I learning, while in my bonds, not to set my affections on any thing that is worldly and fallacious.

V. From Syria unto Rome I carry forward my sufferings, by land and sea, night and day; enchained of ten leopards, which are the soldiers ranked around me; who by kindness are made harsher. But I take a lesson from their misdeeds; yet not herein am I made perfect. I long for the wild beasts that are prepared for me. And I pray that they may be found ready; yea, I will encourage them quickly to devour me, and not to spare me with the timidity which they have shewn to others. If they do it not of their own will, I will put a force upon them. I claim of you to bear with me. I have discovered my true interest; I am just becoming a disciple. All things, whether seen or unseen, are tasteless to me, so that I go to Christ. Fire and Cross, the assault of beasts, the rending of my bones, the laceration of my limbs, the crushing of my whole frame, dire tortures of Satan, let them come upon me, so that I but go to Christ!

VI. In the enjoyments and the ambition of this present world, my hopes repose not; I had rather die in Jesus Christ, than reign unto the ends of the earth. For what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? I am seeking Him, who died for us; I am longing for Him, who rose for our sake. This is the gain which I have before me. Have pity on me, my Brethren. Do not prevent me from living. Do not wish for me to die, when I desire to live with God. Enter not into the sympathies of this world. Permit me my portion in the spotless light. For when I arrive thither, I shall belong to God. Suffer me to imitate the sufferings of my God. If any man hath Him in him­self, let him perceive what are my wishes, and sympathize with me, knowing what it is "that constraineth me."

VII. The Prince of this world desireth to tear me away, and to corrupt the purpose that I have to God-ward. Let none of you, who are at my side, give him your help; adhere rather to my cause; it is the cause of God. Talk ye not of Jesus Christ, while your affections are set on the world. Let no hatred dwell within you. If, when I come among you, I claim of you to inter­fere for my preservation, yet listen not to me. Keep faith rather with the terms, in which I now write to you. I live, but while I am writing to you, I long to die. My affections are crucified. I have in me neither their flame, nor its fuel; but there is the living water, that speaketh in me, and saith from within, "Come hither unto the Father." I have no taste for corruptible food, or for the pleasures of this world. I long for the bread of God, heavenly bread, bread of life, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ the Son of God, who was of the seed of David in the latter days. And I long for the drink of God, His blood, which is Love without corruption, and Life for evermore.

VIII. I desire no longer to live after the manner of men; and no longer shall I live so, if you concede to me this favour. Favour me, therefore, that yourselves may find favour. I have written to you in few words. Place confidence in me. Surely Jesus Christ shall make this manifest unto you, that I have spoken truly; He is that mouth that cannot lie, whereby the Father spoke truly. Pray for me, that I may attain. I have written to you, not according to the flesh, but according to the counsel of God. If I suffer, let it have been with your good-will; if I am a castaway, let it have been at the expense of your regard for me.

IX. Remember in your prayers the Church that is in Syria, which hath God for its Shepherd instead of me. Its only Bishop now will be Jesus Christ, and your love. I feel unworthy to bear the name of my flock. I am the last among them. I am "one born out of due time." But, by the mercy of God, I shall be of some small account, if I go unto Him. My spirit saluteth you; as doth the love of the Churches, which received me in the name of Jesus Christ, not as a chance traveller; for even the cities, that lay not on my road, have in every instance forwarded me on this journeying of my outward man.

X. I write this unto you from Smyrna, by the hands of the truly blessed Ephesians. Crocus, a well-beloved name to me, and many others, are with me. I suppose you to be not unaware of those persons who have preceded me from Syria to Rome, to the glory of God. Make it known to them, that I am now at hand. They are all meet for God, and deserve your kindness; and you ought in every manner to assist them. I write this to you on the day preceding the 9th of the Kalends of September. Be strong unto the end, in the patience of Jesus Christ.

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