Had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings - We do not know the cases to which the apostle refers. The mockings here can never mean such as those of Ishmael against Isaac, or the youths of Bethel against Elisha. It is more probable that it refers to public exhibitions of the people of God at idol feasts and the like; and Samson's case before Dagon, when the Philistines had put out his eyes, is quite in point. As to scourgings, this was a common way of punishing minor culprits: and even those who were to be punished capitally were first scourged. See the case of our Lord.
And others had trial of cruel mockings - Referring to the scorn and derision which the ancient victims of persecution experienced. This has been often experienced by martyrs, and doubtless it was the case with those who suffered on account of their religion, before the advent of the Saviour as well as afterward. Some instances of this kind are mentioned in the Old Testament 2 Kings 2:23; 1 Kings 22:24; and it was frequent in the time of the Maccabees.
And scourging - Whipping. This was a common mode of punishment, and was usually inflicted before a martyr was put to death; see the notes on Matthew 10:17; Matthew 27:26. For instances of this, see Jeremiah 20:2; Genesis 39:20.
When Jesus revealed to His disciples the fate of Jerusalem and the scenes of the second advent, He foretold also the experience of His people from the time when He should be taken from them, to His return in power and glory for their deliverance. From Olivet the Saviour beheld the storms about to fall upon the apostolic church; and penetrating deeper into the future, His eye discerned the fierce, wasting tempests that were to beat upon His followers in the coming ages of darkness and persecution. In a few brief utterances of awful significance He foretold the portion which the rulers of this world would mete out to the church of God. Matthew 24:9, 21, 22. The followers of Christ must tread the same path of humiliation, reproach, and suffering which their Master trod. The enmity that burst forth against the world's Redeemer would be manifested against all who should believe on His name. GC 39.1
The history of the early church testified to the fulfillment of the Saviour's words. The powers of earth and hell arrayed themselves against Christ in the person of His followers. Paganism foresaw that should the gospel triumph, her temples and altars would be swept away; therefore she summoned her forces to destroy Christianity. The fires of persecution were kindled. Christians were stripped of their possessions and driven from their homes. They “endured a great fight of afflictions.” Hebrews 10:32. They “had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment.” Hebrews 11:36. Great numbers sealed their testimony with their blood. Noble and slave, rich and poor, learned and ignorant, were alike slain without mercy. GC 39.2Read in context »
“Brother Andrews related an instance of a faithful Christian about to suffer martyrdom for his faith. A brother Christian had been conversing with him in regard to the power of the Christian hope—if it would be strong enough to sustain him while his flesh should be consuming with fire. He asked this Christian, about to suffer, to give him a signal if the Christian faith and hope were stronger than the raging, consuming fire. He expected his turn to come next, and this would fortify him for the fire. The former promised that the signal should be given. He was brought to the stake amid the taunts and jeers of the idle and curious crowd assembled to witness the burning of this Christian. The fagots were brought and the fire kindled, and the brother Christian fixed his eyes upon the suffering, dying martyr, feeling that much depended upon the signal. The fire burned, and burned. The flesh was blackened; but the signal came not. His eye was not taken for a moment from the painful sight. The arms were already crisped. There was no appearance of life. All thought that the fire had done its work, and that no life remained; when, lo! amid the flames, up went both arms toward heaven. The brother Christian, whose heart was becoming faint, caught sight of the joyful signal; it sent a thrill through his whole being, and renewed his faith, his hope, his courage. He wept tears of joy. 1T 657.1
“As Brother Andrews spoke of the blackened, burned arms raised aloft amid the flames, he, too, wept like a child. Nearly the whole congregation were affected to tears. This meeting closed about ten. There had been quite a breaking away of the clouds of darkness. Brother Hemingway arose and said he had been completely backslidden, using tobacco, opposing the visions, and persecuting his wife for believing them, but said he would do so no more. He asked her forgiveness, and the forgiveness of us all. His wife spoke with feeling. His daughter and several others rose for prayers. He stated that the testimony which Sister White had borne seemed to come direct from the throne, and he would never dare to oppose it again. 1T 658.1
“Brother Ball then said that if matters were as we viewed them, his case was very bad. He said he knew he had been backslidden for years and had stood in the way of the young. We thanked God for that admission. We designed to leave early Monday morning, and had an appointment at Braintree, Vermont, to meet about thirty Sabbathkeepers. But it was very cold, rough, blustering weather to ride twenty-five miles after such constant labor, and we finally decided to hold on, and continue the work in Washington until Brother Ball decided either for or against the truth, that the church might be relieved in his case. 1T 658.2Read in context »
I was shown the Waldenses, and what they suffered for their religion. They conscientiously studied the word of God, and lived up to the light which shone upon them. They were persecuted, and driven from their homes; their possessions, gained by hard labor, were taken from them, and their houses burned. They fled to the mountains and there suffered incredible hardships. They endured hunger, fatigue, cold, and nakedness. The only clothing which many of them could obtain was the skins of animals. And yet the scattered and homeless ones would assemble to unite their voices in singing, and praising God that they were accounted worthy to suffer for Christ's name. They encouraged and cheered one another, and were grateful for even their miserable retreat. Many of their children sickened and died from cold and hunger, yet the parents did not for a moment think of yielding their religion. They prized the love and favor of God far above earthly ease or worldly riches. They received consolation from God and with pleasing anticipations looked forward to the recompense of reward. 1T 371.1
Again, I was shown Martin Luther, whom God raised up to do a special work. How precious to him was the knowledge of truth revealed in the word of God! His mind was starving for something sure upon which to build his hope that God would be his Father, and heaven his home. The new and precious light which dawned upon him from the word of God was of priceless value, and he thought that if he went forth with it, he could convince the world. He stood up against the ire of a fallen church and strengthened those who with him were feasting upon the rich truths contained in the word of God. Luther was God's chosen instrument to tear off the garb of hypocrisy from the papal church and expose her corruption. He raised his voice zealously and in the power of the Holy Spirit cried out against and rebuked the existing sins of the leaders of the people. Proclamations went forth to kill him wherever he might be found; he seemed left to the mercies of a superstitious people who were obedient to the head of the Roman Church. Yet he counted not his life dear unto himself. Luther knew that he was not safe anywhere, yet he trembled not. The light which he saw and feasted upon was life to him, and was of more value than all the treasures of earth. Earthly treasures he knew would fail; but the rich truths opened to his understanding, operating upon his heart, would live, and, if obeyed, would lead him to immortality. 1T 372.1
When summoned to Augsburg to answer for his faith, he obeyed the summons. That one lone man who had stirred the rage of priests and people was arraigned before those who had caused the world to tremble—a meek lamb surrounded by angry lions; yet for the sake of Christ and the truth he stood up undaunted, and with holy eloquence, which the truth alone can inspire, he gave the reasons of his faith. His enemies tried by various means to silence the bold advocate for truth. At first they flattered him, and held out the promise that he should be exalted and honored. But life and honors were valueless to him if purchased at the sacrifice of the truth. Brighter and clearer shone the word of God upon his understanding, giving him a more vivid sense of the errors, corruptions, and hypocrisy of the papacy. His enemies then sought to intimidate him and cause him to renounce his faith, but he boldly stood in defense of the truth. He was ready to die for his faith, if God required; but to yield it—never. God preserved his life. He bade angels attend him and baffle the rage and purposes of his enemies, and bring him unharmed through the stormy conflict. 1T 372.2Read in context »
In vain were Satan's efforts to destroy the church of Christ by violence. The great controversy in which the disciples of Jesus yielded up their lives did not cease when these faithful standard-bearers fell at their post. By defeat they conquered. God's workmen were slain, but His work went steadily forward. The gospel continued to spread, and the number of its adherents to increase. It penetrated into regions that were inaccessible, even to the eagles of Rome. Said a Christian, expostulating with the heathen rulers who were urging forward the persecution: You may “kill us, torture us, condemn us.... Your injustice is the proof that we are innocent.... Nor does your cruelty ... avail you.” It was but a stronger invitation to bring others to their persuasion. “The oftener we are mown down by you, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed.” SR 321.1
Thousands were imprisoned and slain; but others sprang up to fill their places. And those who were martyred for their faith were secured to Christ, and accounted of Him as conquerors. They had fought the good fight, and they were to receive the crown of glory when Christ should come. The sufferings which they endured brought Christians nearer to one another and to their Redeemer. Their living example and dying testimony were a constant witness for the truth; and, where least expected, the subjects of Satan were leaving his service and enlisting under the banner of Christ. SR 321.2Read in context »