On my commute to work yesterday morning I was listening to part 23 of James White’s series on church history. He quoted a piece of Cyprian’s letter that he wrote before his own execution by a Roman sword. His recipients were working as slaves in gold and silver mines in deathly conditions. Cyprian writes:
But that, being first severely beaten with clubs, and ill-used, you have begun by sufferings of that kind, the glorious firstlings of your confession, is not a matter to be execrated by us. For a Christian body is not very greatly terrified at clubs, seeing all its hope is in the Wood. The servant of Christ acknowledges the sacrament of his salvation: redeemed by wood to life eternal, he is advanced by wood to the crown. But what wonder if, as golden and silver vessels, you have been committed to the mine that is the home of gold and silver, except that now the nature of the mines is changed, and the places which previously had been accustomed to yield gold and silver have begun to receive them? Moreover, they have put fetters on your feet, and have bound your blessed limbs, and the temples of God with disgraceful chains, as if the spirit also could be bound with the body, or your gold could be stained by the contact of iron. To men who are dedicated to God, and attesting their faith with religious courage, such things are ornaments, not chains; nor do they bind the feet of the Christians for infamy, but glorify them for a crown. Oh feet blessedly bound, which are loosed, not by the smith but by the Lord!
It’s one thing to patiently await an execution in a cold, rank, rat-infested prison. It’s another thing to slowly die in a mine under hard labor, being beaten in chains with clubs. After reading this letter, I am embarrassed to complain about the heat of the July sun. What do American evangelicals who think Billy Graham preached the Sermon on the Mount know of this? What do I know of this?