From boyhood, one of my favorite stories has been the forty martyrs of
Sabaste. These forty soldiers, all Christians, were members of the famed Twelfth Legion of Rome's imperial army.
One day their captain told them Emperor Licinius had sent out an edict that all soldiers were to offer sacrifice to the pagan
gods. These Christians replied, "You can have our armor and even our bodies, but our hearts' allegiance belongs to Jesus Christ."
It was midwinter of A.D. 320, and the captain had them marched onto a nearby frozen lake. He stripped them of their
clothes and said they would either die or renounce Christ. Throughout the night these men huddled together singing their
song, "Forty martyrs for Christ." One by one the temperature took its toll and they fell to the ice.
At last there was only one man left. He lost courage and stumbled to the shore, where he renounced Christ. The officer of
the guards had been watching all this. Unknown to the others, he had secretly come to believe in Christ. When he saw this last
man break rank, he walked out onto the ice, threw off his clothes, and confessed that he also was a Christian.
When the sun rose the next morning, there were forty bodies of soldiers who had fought to the death for Christ.
Lieghton Ford, Good News is for Sharing, 1977, David C. Cook
Publishing Co., p. 16.
George Atley was killed while serving with the Central African Mission. There were no witnesses, but the evidence
indicates that Atley was confronted by a band of hostile tribesmen. He was carrying a fully loaded, 10-chamber Winchester
rifle and had to choose either to shoot his attackers and run the risk of negating the work of the mission in that area, or not to
defend himself and be killed. When his body was later found in a stream, it was evident that he had chosen the latter. Nearby lay
his rifle -- all 10 chambers still loaded. He had made the supreme sacrifice, motivated by his burden for lost souls and his
unswerving devotion to his Savior. With the apostle Paul, he wanted Christ to be magnified in his body, "whether by life or by
Writing on Philippians 1:20 in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Robert P. Lightner said, "Paul's concern was not what
would happen to him but what testimony would be left for his Lord. Release would allow him to continue preaching Christ. But
martyrdom would also advance the cause of Christ."
I am not come hither to deny my Lord and Master.
Anne Askew--July 16, 1545/burned at the stake after torture on
the rack, at the age of 25.
Margaret Wilson, a Scottish girl of eighteen, was tied to a stake where the tide was due to come in. The water covered her while
she was engaged in prayer; but before life was gone, they pulled her up till she recovered the power of speech, when she was asked
by Major Windram, who commanded, if she would pray for the king. She replied that "She wished the salvation of all men, and the
damnation of none."
"Dear Margaret," said one of the by- standers, deeply affected, "say God save the king."
She answered with great steadiness, "God save him, if he will, for it is his
salvation I desire." "Sir, they cried to the major, "she has said it; she has said it!"
The major, approaching her on hearing this, offered her the abjuration oath, charging her instantly to
swear it, otherwise to return to the water. The poor young woman...firmly replied, "I will not; I am one of Christ's
children! let me go." Upon which she was again thrust into the water, and drowned.
Margaret Wilson--Early 1680's/drowned for faithfulness to the Reformation.
Polycarp (A.D. 70-155) was bishop of Smyrna and a godly man. He had known the apostle John personally. When he was urged by the
Roman proconsul to renounce Christ, Polycarp said: "Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury. How
then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?" "I have respect for your age," said the official. "Simply say, 'Away with the
atheists!' and be set free." The aged Polycarp pointed to the pagan crowd and said, "Away with the atheists!" He was burned at
the stake and gave joyful testimony of his faith in Jesus Christ.
W. Wiersbe, Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching &
Preachers, p. 214.
Polycarp was a disciple of the Apostle John and an early church leader whose life ended when he refused to betray his
Lord. Asked one last time to disavow his Christ, the old man replied, "Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He has done
me no wrong. How can I speak evil of my King who saved me?"
Here is his martyr's prayer, as recorded by the historian Eusebius. "Father of Your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ,
through whom we have received the knowledge of You, I bless You that You have counted me worthy of this day and hour, that I
might be in the number of the martyrs. Among these may I be received before You today in a rich and acceptable sacrifice, as
You have beforehand prepared and revealed. Wherefore I also praise You also for everything; I bless You; I glorify You,
through the eternal High Priest Jesus Christ, Your beloved Son, through whom, with Him, in the Holy Spirit, be glory unto You
both now and for the ages to come. Amen." Eusebius adds: "When he had offered up his amen and had finished his prayer, the
firemen lighted the fire."
Quoted in Closer Walk, July, 1988, p. 22.
The Bohemian reformer John Hus was a man who believed the Scriptures to be the infallible and supreme authority in all
matters. He died at the stake for that belief in Constance, Germany, on his forty-second birthday. As he refused a final
plea to renounce his faith, Hus's last words were, "What I taught with my lips, I seal with my blood."