History tells of many battles for religious liberty in the Great Reformation and the Puritan movement. These battles brought about the religious freedoms we enjoy today. But the particulars of those battles, and the incredible sacrifice of thousands—perhaps millions—of men, women, and children, seem to have been forgotten. Too little do we study the lives of the heroes of faith. Their names are unknown to us, and their courage and constancy have little impact on our faith. Have we forgotten that we are debtors to their sacrifice? Can we safely ignore their faithful witness and still expect to stand firm in times of persecution?

In reading about persecution of the Church, we see that persecution has strengthened and enlarged the Church rather than harming it. For every one believer that was killed for his or her faith, more than double the number was added to the Church. In a very real sense, blood of the martyrs became the seed of the church.

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We must ever bear in mind that persecution did not produce the martyrs. It only made them public. There were many noble witnesses besides these, whom the flames did not reveal, who were true martyrs in the fullest meaning of the word.i

As this age draws to its close there is no doubt that persecution in a very severe form will take place. Those who side with Christ and refuse to give way to the Spirit of Antichrist will have to suffer. But they will be encouraged and strengthened to endure as they call to mind these saints of past ages, who “loved not their lives unto the death,” who would rather burn than turn, and sooner die than deny Christ.ii

May the following account of martyrs increase your courage and help you discover new reasons for your faith. May the story of their lives be used by God to strengthen your heart, so that when Christ comes in power and great glory, you may not be ashamed before Him.

 i. Jesse Sayer, preface to The Book of Martyrs, by John Foxe (London: Pickering & Inglis, no date): 7.
ii. Ibid: 8.