The Severe Law of Christ
Revelation 2:10
Fear none of those things which you shall suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that you may be tried…

Be thou faithful, etc. Beneath the city of Rome there is a long succession of subterranean streets and galleries, quarried from the rocky strata of the soil. These are now opened, and strangers may visit them. They are remarkable; they are even wonderful; they are the most astonishing cemeteries in the world. They are called the Catacombs; they are the burial places of the martyrs of the young Christian faith. The inscriptions over innumerable tombs are to be read even yet; they seem fresh, almost as if painted yesterday, and they are fragrant with the flowers of immortality. Many of the inscriptions are passionately, touchingly affectionate. They speak tenderly of the star of hope which had just risen on the confines of the grave; they stand in wonderful contrast to the despair of paganism and the poetry of Horace. Thither, from torturing racks and burning coals, the early Christians conveyed revered and beloved forms, precious dust. They deposited them there with tears, but in the full assurance of the life beyond the death, beyond the flame and dungeon. It is remarkable that in these low Catacombs Christian art had its birth - art, which is always the struggle of mind with death; and in this palpable carving in the stone, and the floral delineations of the pencil, the chisel and palette were first consecrated there. When John wrote, the martyrs were crowding into the Catacombs; and, not only so, the profession of the Christian faith everywhere had an outlook to martyrdom. It is said these words were addressed to Polycarp, and were the prophecy of his death beneath the persecution of the mild Aurelian; for, however mild and merciful an emperor could be to others, he could only be merciless to Christians. But there is a deeper lesson than the merely pleasant revival of an historical story, however venerable and affecting that story may be; it is that which underlies all such stories and all such texts as that before us now - the lesson that every crown is won only as we bear the cross. Such are the conditions under which we live. This is the everlasting lesson

"On whose still-recurring page
Naught grows obsolete with age." Let us trace it for a little while. It is true -

I. IN PHYSICAL LIFE. The body that is to become agile, healthy, strong, must not be pampered or allowed to lie at home in indolence. Athletes are not made so. But by discipline, toil, severe exercise.

II. IN MENTAL LIFE. What drudgery and grind at tasks arid as sand, and demanding severe effort of mind in proportion to their dryness, have to be submitted to! Scholarship is not to be attained by mere wishing for it. Look at the men who have won prizes in this department of life, and the traces of their toil will be seen furrowed in their countenances, and, too often, in worn and wasted frames.

III. IN MORAL LIFE. Innocence is pleasing enough, but if it is to be uplifted into virtue, it must be tried and disciplined. Temptation is the athletic of the soul, the indispensable training for its attainment of high moral excellence. A cloistered virtue is rarely a robust one; it is in the arena of the world, where the stress and strain of fierce temptation will have to be endured, that we gain real strength. And so -

IV. IN THE SPIRITUAL LIFE. Excellence in any of those regions of life of which we have already spoken is not easily attainable; one obstacle and another stand in the way, and must be overcome. But most of all must we expect to meet opposition when we strive for excellence in the spiritual life. The school is so hard a one that we should never go to it of our own accord, and therefore God sooner or later sends us all there. And some he sends early and keeps them late. And in it are heard strong cries and tears, agonized prayers, and often the moan of pain and the wail of the bereaved. There are broken hearts not a few, and souls overwhelmed with woe. What is the meaning of it all - the disappointment, the weariness and distress, the whole creation groaning and travailing together in pain even until now - what means it, but that our spirits are thus being taught and trained and educated for the higher life of God? Verily for this crown there is no other way than the way of the cross. And that we may the less shrink from it, our Lord himself came down from heaven to earth, and lived here our life, and, above all, bore our cross, only that his was much heavier and sharper than ours. "I love to lie here and look at that," said a poor dying girl to the writer, who was visiting her one day, and noticed a porcelain cast representing our Saviour bearing his cross, which was hanging at the side of her bed; "it helps me," she said, "to bear my pain better." Ah! yes; that Christ has borne his cross does help all who trust in him the better to bear theirs, and so the better and sooner and surer to attain to that spiritual excellence for which all the often stern disciplines of life here are preparing us. - S.C.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

WEB: Don't be afraid of the things which you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested; and you will have oppression for ten days. Be faithful to death, and I will give you the crown of life.

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