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The Royal Martyr; Or, Virtue Invincible

A Sermon Preached at Bridewell Chapel, January 30, 1754.

By Samuel Eccles, M.A.

London: J. Meres, 1754.

Acts xxvi. v. 11.

And I punished them oft in every Synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange Cities.

PERSECUTION is never more bloody and dreadful, destructive and indiscriminate, than when accompanied and assisted by Rebellion; and indeed they generally attend one another. Unity and Union, in Chruch and State, are so closely, I had almost said inseparably, connected, that 'tis not possible to disturb one without affecting both: And whosoever begins or broaches the Schism, (how foreign soever it may be to his present Thoughts or Intention) is, nevertheless, laying the Foundation of an ensuing Rebellion.

St. Paul's Zeal had blinded his Reason, and thereby rendered him no less Blood-thirsty than over-officious; [1/2] for, in the Verse immediately before my Text, we read, he honestly confesses, it had so far transported him, that when many of the Saints were shut up in Prison by his Authority, which he receiv'd from the Chief Priests, and put to Death, he gave his Voice against them.

This is the true Characteristick of all Persecutors; nor will any of them, (whose Zeal, according to the Scripture Phrase, is without Knowledge, and therefore directed and governed by this Spirit of Persecution,) ever be satisfied but with Blood: Nay! Even that will not always suffice; for many unhappy Wretches, before they were released from the Tyranny of their Persecutors, by Scourgings and Tortures were compelled to blaspheme; as if not content with inhumanly punishing them in this World, they would endeavour also to make them work their own Damnation in the next.

It is further observable also, that the Malice of this restless Spirit cannot, and will not be appeased with exerting itself against those unfortunately within the Limits of its Power and Authority, but pursues them likewise who have happily escaped its Fury, even unto strange Cities; not satisfied with depriving them of Liberty and Property at home, but revengefully hunting after them, to make a Prey of their Lives abroad. There needs no other Testimony to prove that they, of whatever Denomination, who are acted by this Spirit, are moved by a diabolical one; and search all History, divine and profane, and no Mention of a Persecution is to be found, but [2/3] what was begun, raised, and continued, by such wicked infernal Agents.

There are no Extremes more opposite than Persecution and Religion; the one is the Daughter of Error, the other is the Child of Truth: Persecution ariseth from beneath, Religion descendeth from above; and though, maugre all Opposition, the latter has hitherto prevailed, tho' sometimes it has been worsted, yet she never took that Method to force or win over Proselytes, which the other, since the Beginning of the World, ever used, and but too successfully has practiced: As this Persecution is always carried on against the Orthodox in the Church, so is it also as certainly raised against legal Monarchy on the Throne. Order and Regularity it nauseates and abhors; and Anarchy and Confusion are all it approves. Who ever yet read or heard of a true christian, legal, persecuting Monarch? or of an orthodox, tyrannizing Church? He only who has seen a quiet, peaceable, sincere, upright, and loyal Hypocrite.

But I have no Occasion to look back into Antiquity, or to search into History, antient or modern, sacred or profane, to multiply Instances as a Proof of what I have just now advanced; the Tragedy of this Day, and the dismal, inhuman, hypocritical and bloody Transactions that for Years preceded it, and too many after ensued, are all of them abundantly sufficient to confirm and attest it. However this short Remark let me make: that tho' there have been former most violent Persecutions, yet [3/4] they were either raised by professed Infidels, and therefore not so much to be wondered at, or carried on and continued by such blind Biggots, of which the woeful Disturbers of the Peace of this our Island are the Spawn: But never any, in any Age or Country, was initiated with more Cunning, prosecuted with more Vehemence, and terminated with the Loss of more Blood, common or sacred, Noble or Royal. 'Tis not so much Matter of Surprize, that Infidelity, by any the most cruel or barbarous Means, should endeavour to extirpate or abolish Christianity; that People professing it, should mistakenly withstand or resist, nay even punish unto Death, some honest equal Opponents; but that Enthusiasm and Fanaticism should entirely bring under Subjection the truly primitive, and legally established Religion, and not only sap, and raze the Foundation of the Church, and in her Ruins bury the Remains of most of her sincerest Children, ablest Advocates, and most orthodox Fathers; but finally, in the same fatal and most lamentable Desolation, shuffle in the mangled Relicks of their most righteous and religious, upright and sincere, tender and compassionate, endearing and affectionate Sovereign! This, when compared with all former Persecutions, will give their bitterest Malice some Resemblance of Lenity, and almost change the Inhumanity of a Nero into Mercy. Some indeed deny the Fact; Others, not so simple or impudent, tho' no less wicked, justify; but none of them ever repented, or do repent it; and yet all desire to have it buried in Oblivion. But alas! to disown the Guilt, is only to justify the Crime; and to confess and not [4/5] repent, if possible, is repeating and redoubling it; a Crime of so black and indelible a Nature that nothing can parallel, unless the Folly and Impiety of those, who would join with them in endeavouring to end and silence the Service of this Day's Humiliation.

In the Office for this Day appointed, 'tis truly and justly observed, that nothing can expiate the Shedding of this innocent Blood, but the Blood of the Son of God; and therefore we prudently are enjoined to supplicate Heaven, not to lay it to the Charge of the People of this Land; nor let it ever be required of us, or our Posterity; but then with what Hopes of Success can we put up these Petitions, or how can we expect this Part of our Prayers should be received, whilst we have amongst us many----too many, who, not content, secretly and in private, but publickly and in the open Face of the World, bear Witness, like the persecuting Jews in our Saviour's Days, that they allow the Deeds of their Fathers; differing from them only in this Respect, that they, indeed, built the Sepulchres of the Prophets, but these Men of our Days choose rather to deface them; and as their Fathers killed the best of Subjects, and finally martyred the Noblest of Kings, so they do allow their Deeds by an opposite Method, endeavouring that their Memorial should perish with them. How contradictory is this to the Sense of our Church, and I wish I could add, to that of all those who enter into her Courts! Let his Memory, prays She, be ever blessed among us: And grant, that this our Land may be freed [5/6] from the Vengeance of his righteous Blood. But these Sons of Belial, (for whilst they thus allow the Deeds of their Fathers, by what other Appellation shall we distinguish them?) are so far from praying, or desiring that his Memory should be blessed among us, that they would not be content it should be remembered no more, but rather calumniate and defame, blacken and deface it, with all the Malice and Bitterness, Falshood and accursed Slander, that infernal Invention can suggest: Nay! and in Ridicule of his most barbarous, inhuman Murder, still imitating their only Precedent, the beforementioned Jews, annually do they butcher one of the most contemptible and foolish Animals, in their Opinion, with no less Cruelty and Derision, though not with the same Satiety of Revenge, than their Forefathers exercised on the Scaffold; and then as profanely feast upon the mangled Remains in Contempt of the Fast, gorging their Stomachs with Blood as full as their Hearts are filled with Iniquity. Had he been an Usurper, or had he been a Parricide, had he lifted up an Hand against Father or Mother, Sister or Brother; had he been a Tyrant, or a Transgressor not only of his own, but God's Laws; had he deserted the Church, or been as wanton and profuse of the Blood of his Subjects as lavish of their Purses, or finally, had he been delighted as much in all the Variety of Oppression, as he really was busied and altogether employed in every Thing that was good and beneficial, or had he discovered any View or Design upon arbitrary Power, at which Usurpation is always aspiring, and but [6/7] too frequently arrives, then, perhaps, by these Set of Men, might his Memory have been styled--Immortal.

But he was, in every one of these Respects, the Reverse; so far from being an Usurper, that his Right to the Crown, the only Divine Right, was directly Lineal and Hereditary; Kings and Princes being his Ancestors for more Generations than either 'tis expedient I should here inform you, or requisite now to demonstrate, and whose greatest Honour would by them undoubtedly be confessed, was there a Possibility of attesting it, to have been the Royal Progenitors of such an illustrious Successor, and so glorious Martyr; it being not so easily determinable whether he reflected more upon them, by his superior Wisdom and Conduct, and other Princely Virtues, peculiar to himself, whilst in the Height of Prosperity; or by a pious submission and unparalleled Resignation to the Will of Heaven, in the most violent Torrent of Adversity.

He was no Parricide, or ever lifted up Hang against Father or Mother, Brother or Sister, but was ever as tender of their Lives who gave him Life, as of his own; if in any thing he exceeded in his Love and Respect, Duty and Submission to them, it was only in that to Him, who gave Being to them all, his Duty to God: And if his Concern for the Death of his truly Royal Father, notwithstanding the alluring Pleasure of the Possession of a Crown thereby, could be equalled by any Thing, it was by the general Satisfaction of his Nobility, [7/8] who best knew him, and therefore best understood how capable he was of repairing the otherwise irremediable Loss. His Affection to his Brother and Sister went in no wise behind that which natural Affection requires; and rather than to be said to have come short of fraternal Respect, he may justly be recommended as a Pattern and Example for all succeeding Princes, or any other, who have Kindred to whom they stand in so near a Relation.

He had nothing of the Tyrant in him, nor ever exercised Severity towards any, unless it was to himself; he was so naturally averse to any thing cruel, that even when Punishment became absolutely necessary, his Humanity and Compassion frequently remitted it to his own no inconsiderable Detriment. In the Midst of the most daring Insults, and indignant Reproaches, he manifested no less Courage and Resolution in sustaining and enduring them, than Pity and Tenderness in excusing and forgiving them. In short, he made this useful Improvement from the uncommon, unheard-of Barbarities and Cruelties he met with from others, never to return any himself.--A Lesson rarely learned in the School of Affliction.

As to his being a strict and exact Observer of Laws, human and divine; this I will venture to say, the World never produced one amongst the Sons of Men that was more obedient to either before him; and since (it will be no Presumption to affirm,) it has not afforded his Equal.

[9] His Love and Veneration for the Church was what he particularly delighted to discover; nor did he ever look upon that Day, in which he did not spend a Part in the House of Prayer, as either pleasantly or profitably spent: No Business was ever so urgent, when Necessity constrained him not, (as that was fatally too often the Case,) as to prevent his Devotion; no Pleasures so engaging as to supercede it: His first Address was always paid to Heaven, and always paid with so much Reverence, Respect, Fervency and Humiliation, as if that was to have been his last. He was thoroughly acquainted with our most excellent Liturgy, and for that Reason only approved and recommended it: He was convinced of the Divine Institution of Episcopacy, and therefore maintained, honoured, and supported it; and tho' it was extorted from him to permit Presbytery to be indulged and allowed in Scotland, yet, may we truly say, he neither assented or consented, but rather submitted, of which Submission he only once repented, and that was 'till his sacred Head was submitted to the Block in the Defence of Episcopacy in England.

A Person naturally of the mildest and tenderest Disposition, cannot be supposed to be delighted much with the Blood of any, and more especially with that of his own Subjects; and, indeed, so tender was he always of it, so studious and desirous of preserving it, that even Victory, at the Expence of it, brought him but little Satisfaction, and was a Purchase he would rather have [9/10] declined. Had he been as profuse of it, as his Enemies (Rebellious Subjects!) were thirsty after his; or had he as freely risqued the Lives of his own Soldiers, as he openly exposed his own, 'tis more than probably he had died a Conqueror, though a reluctant one. But he embraced Martyrdom at the Loss of his own Blood, rather than aim at Conquest, even at the Hazard of theirs.

As he was thus tender of the Lives of his Subjects, so was he no less frugal and careful of their Purses: He never augmented supernumerary Taxes and Loans, though frequently declined necessary ones; and those which were unavoidable, did he ever husband with that Oeconomy and Regularity, as to reflect as much Honour upon the Subject, as Lustre upon the Crown.

Riches, during the short peaceable Interval of his Reign, were never more abounding in this Kingdom; which indeed an ingrateful, treacherous Nation, made but too successful an Instrument to oppose and rebel against the most indulgent of Monarchs; but the Success of the Rebellion proved the Loss of its Liberty, and Tyranny and Usurpation in a few Years fleeced it more, and was daily more expensive and exacting, than the most extravagant Reign of the most lavish of Princes. It is the Desire and Glory of Kings, and was singularly his, to behold Subjects to flourish; but it is the Interest, as well as Inclination, of Usurpers, to impoverish and oppress, in order to ride and keep them in Subjection.

[11] So far likewise was this Royal Martyr, this now eternally-crown'd King, from suffering Oppression, that he was the First who suffered it himself; and that to a Degree which none of his Subjects could; and, finally, resisted unto Death, that none of them should. He had no View or Design upon arbitrary Power; the little he aim'd at, was what was only necessary for the Support and Honour of the Crown, and that rather that he thereby might the more securely defend the Injured and Oppressed, and be enabled to do ever one the more Good, than out of any real inward Pleasure he had in its himself. To say all that once, he valued neither Riches or Power for any Good that he saw in them themselves, but only approved them for the Power they gave him of doing Good.

This was the Man, the Monarch, and the Christian whom they persecuted, and to whose Death they all consented, together with that of all those who religiously, dutifully, affectionately, and sincerely adhered to him. And all this was perpetrated by a Set of Men, or rather a Banditti, in every Respect as unworthy of Power or Authority upon Earth, as they thereby had rendered themselves undeserving of Mercy or Forgiveness in Heaven: Men, as much beneath him in Birth, if possible, as he was superior to them in Virtue; and whose Parentage might have been struck out of, or never registered in the Records of Time, but for their superlative Wickedness. They were of all Men, whose Usurpation ever met with [11/12] Success, unexceptionably the cruelest and bloodiest of Tyrants; and wantoned in the Punishment and Undoing of their Fellow-Subjects and their Posterity to such a Degree, that it is not easily determinable whether they expressed more Hatred and Revenge in the Sentence, than Pleasure and Satisfaction at the Execution.

They trampled upon all Laws, human and divine, and to manifest their Contempt of both more conspicuously, they illegally and wickedly repealed all that was good in either.

They had a singular and most implacable Malice against the Church and her Clergy, which could not be appeased with totally defacing the one, without altogether starving, extirpating, and butchering the other; and in her Stead, and their Room, they instituted a Form of Mock-Worship, to be carried on by a no less wicked than illiterate Fraternity; in Substance, as well as Performance, as disagreeable to Common-Sense, as offensive to Omnipotence. What they call'd their Religion, was little else but a more private Consultation which Way to shed Blood; for, it is to be noted, they never went, as they gave out, to seek the Lord, but it was certainly the Prologue to some terrible inhuman Slaughter.

As they made such Havock with the Lives, so were they no less profuse of the Purses of those they had in Subjection: They exacted Taxes and Impositions, where they had not left a Competency for Necessaries; and [12/13] Death, or at least Imprisonment, (an Indulgence in those Days not often granted,) must answer the Deficiency.

But it would be too melancholy and moving a Task to paint out all the Variety of Miseries, and Vicissitudes of Troubles, to which this Royal Martyr and his Loyal Subjects were exposed, and which they personally suffered and underwent; otherwise, I doubt not, at a true Relation, many would stand wondering like the Ruler in the Gospel, upon a different Occasion, crying, How can these Things be? but this I will venture to affirm, they were such, and of so uncommon, unparalleled a Nature, as none, but Persons divinely assisted, could have endured, and none but Wretches diabolically instigated, would have inflicted.

Let us therefore, to conclude all, in Conformity to our most excellent Office for this Day appointed, constantly pray, that his Memory may be ever blessed among us; that we may follow the Example of his Courage and Constancy, his Meekness and Patience, and great Charity. And grant, that this our Land may be freed from the Vengeance of his righteous Blood, and that God's Mercy may be glorified in the Forgiveness of our Sins; and all for Jesus Christ his Sake, our only mediator and Advocate. Amen.


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