Stories from Martyrs' Mirror | 6. Algerius's Letter
6. Algerius's Letter
To my beloved brethren and fellow servants of Jesus Christ, who have left Babylon to go to mount Zion, whose names I do not omit without cause, grace, peace and mercy from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.
In order to sweeten or take away some of the pain which you suffer on my account, I would tell you of the sweetness which I experience, that you may rejoice with me, and shout for joy with thanksgiving in the presence of the Lord.
I will tell to the world an incredible thing, namely, that I have found infinite sweetness in the bowels of the lion. And who will by any means believe what I am going to tell here? Who can believe it?
In a dark hole I have found pleasure; in a place of bitterness and death, rest and hope of salvation; in the depths of hell, joy; where others weep, I have laughed; where others fear, I have found strength. Who will believe this?
In a state of misery I have had very great delight; in a lonely corner I have had most glorious company, and in the severest restraints, great rest. All these things, my fellow brethren in Jesus Christ, the gracious hand of God has given me.
Behold, He that at first was far from me, is now with me, and Him whom I knew but little, I now see clearly; to whom I once looked from afar, Him I now behold as present; He for whom I longed, now offers me His hand;
He comforts me; He fills me with joy; He drives bitterness from me; He makes me well; He sustains me; He helps me up; He strengthens me.
Oh, how good is the Lord, who does not let His servants be tempted with more than they can bear! Oh, how easy, pleasant and sweet is His yoke!
Is there anyone like God the Most High, who sustains and refreshes those who are tempted? He heals them that are bruised and wounded, and restores them completely.
None is like Him. Learn, most beloved brethren, how sweet the Lord is, how faithful and merciful; who visits His servants in trial; who humbles Himself to be with us in our huts and humble homes, He gives us a cheerful mind and peaceful heart.
But will the blind world believe these things? No; she will much rather say (since she is unbelieving):
"You will not be able to stand the heat, cold and discomfort of this place for long.
And how then will you be able to bear the cross, the thousandfold curses, wrong accusations, and undeserved shame? Will you not think of your dear native country, the riches of this world, your parents, rank and honour at the royal court?
Will you simply forget your glorious learning? Will you lose so much for nothing, yea, all the work you have done? For what purpose have you laboured and studied so much, even from your youth up?
But last of all, do you have no fear of death at all, which awaits you, though you are innocent?
Oh, what extreme foolishness this is, to be able to avoid all this suffering by speaking a single word, to escape death by returning back to the faith you left, and yet you refuse to do it!"
But hearken, you blind and mortal men, what is hotter and more intense than the fire which is prepared for you? What is colder than your own heart, which is yet in darkness and has no light at all?
What is harder and more confused and restless than your life? What is more shameful and ugly than old age that knows not God?
Tell me, my dear, what country or home is sweeter than the heavenly? What treasure is greater than eternal life? And who are our parents and friends, except those who keep the Word of God? Where is greater joy, riches, and honour than in heaven?
Tell me, you ignorant, is not all learning given to know God, whom if we do not know in truth, all our hard work means nothing? Answer me, ye unhappy men: what comfort or relief can a man have, if he misses God, who is the cure and refreshing of all?
How can he say that I fear death, if he himself is dead in sins, and thus prefers death to life? For if Christ is the way, the truth and the life, can life be found outside Christ?
Because of him, to me the heat is a refreshing pleasure, and winter a joy in the Lord. I who do not fear the burning of the fire, shall I be afraid of simple heat? Is he tormented by ice, who consumes, melts and falls asleep in the love of God?
This place is indeed hard and severe for the guilty and evildoers; but to the innocent and righteous it is very pleasant and sweet;
here honey flows; here the heavenly drink is found in abundance; here milk wells up; here springs forth the abundance of all good things.
It is true that this place is considered lonesome and despised; yet to it is a spacious valley, and one of the most excellent places in the world.
Who will now dare to say that I have lost my age and years? Who will say that I have lost my courage? For my soul has said, "The Lord is my portion; therefore will I seek Him." Lam. 3:24.
Hence since dying in the Lord is no dying, but leading a blessed life, why then am I oppose by those who know not God, who want to prevent me from dying? All this will be the greatest joy if I only may taste the cup of the Lord.
Written to all believers by their most zealous servant, the imprisoned and bound Algerius, from the most delightful pleasure garden of the prison, called Leonia, on 12th of July.