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they exclaim: “Let us die like brethren in the defence of our laws; let us imitate the brave example of the three Assyriai youths, who defied the furnace of the king of Babylon, in fighting for the cause of virtue ; let us never despair, nor once be cast down. When religion and a good conscience are at stake, let us abandon all ignoble fears, and act with becoming resolution." Another said, “ Assume courage, my brother, and suffer all with an insurmountable bravery of mind.” Others of them recognized ancient facts. “Remember whence you derive your origin, and what father Isaac could suffer in the cause of piety." Then inz general looking on each other with countenances serene, and highly pleased, they exclaimed, “ Let us cheerfully consecrate our bodies to God. Let us pay him back the lives he lent us for his service, and devote these bodies to the defence of his most holy law. Why should we stand in fear of one who only seems to kill the body? The only danger worthy of our dread is that of souls abandoned to torments everlasting, which can never be the fate of such as keep and honour the truth. Let us then arm ourselves with a holy fortitude, so shall Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, receive us when we die, and all our pious ancestors congratulate and applaud our constancy."
As they were dragged one by one to the place of execution, those whose turn was not yet come, encouraged those that went before them, with words to this purport : “ Brethren, do not dishonour us, nor elude the expectation of your brethren who have already suffered death.”
These must have been very engaging exliortations ; for none can be insensible what charms, what powerful influence so near a relation carries with it; what tender affections the All-wise Providence hath infused into their hearts, who have derived their being from the same father and mother, been maintained at one common table, conversed perpetually together under the same roof, instructed by the same teachers, and initiated in the same religion. Such was the affection, such the endearments, and, of course, such were the weight and efficacy of the admonitions and mutual encouragements of these seven brothers to one another ; for they were brought up in the same faith, trained up in the exercise of the same virtues, and the better men they were, the better VOL iv.
they must love each other. Natural affections are never so hapo pily improved as by perfect agreement in goodness, and united zeal in the love and service of God. And as each of these would love the rest more tenderly in proportion as he himself was more religious, so would he necessarily, in the same proportion, and upon the same account, become more worthy to be beloved by all the rest. And yet we may observe in this very case, a mighty conquest of reason over passion ; for though the brethren had all the tender concern that nature and blood, birth and education, acquaintance and personal worth, could inspire them with, yet these manifold endearments were so vanquished and borne down when religion lay at stake, that, in a cause so poble, the very tortures and deaths of their dearest relations gave a sensible satisfaction to those of the number who yet survived, and were the un. daunted, nay, even pleased, spectators of them.
THE pious and virtuous youths not only excited one another to suffer these terrible conflicts so as to make them surmount all the pains they might be put to, but also were the cause that their brothers, during their torments, bore every thing with astonishing resignation. Oh! minds more absolute than the most sovereign princes, and more free than liberty itself! Not one of them was observed to betray any fears, nor have any scruples on the approach of death ; but all, as with one accord, running the race of immortality, embraced death amidst their torments. As the hands and feet obey the motions of the mind, and so direct themselves, even so did these youths, from a motive of piety, consent to die in its cause. As the number of days in which the world was created give us the idea of God, and show the perfection of his majesty
and goodness, so do these most renowned martyrs, by running the · whole circle of pains and tortures, compose one finished piece of constancy and courage, and teach us that perfection of fortitude which banishes the slavish fear of death. But alas ! how far short of this pattern do we stop! we, who cannot so much as hear or read without trembling and amazement, what they not only
heard, not only saw, but felt and bore without the least disorder of mind.
Nor ought we to wonder that reason in man should have this dominion over his passions, when the mind of a woman contemned more cruelties than these, and of a different nature. For the mother of these seven youths had such presence of mind as to be a spectator of the tortures her children endured. Reflect on the force of natural affection, how diffuse to one's offspring : pay, this we observe in the brute creation, who have a tincture of the same kind of affection and love for their young as mankind. But there is no necessity for producing examples of brute animals to confirm this love for their young, when the very bees, at the time they are employed about making their honey, revenge themselves on those that approach them, and cause their stings to do the office of swords, and other military weapons, upon those that would attack their little ones.
BUT so true a daughter of Abraham was the mother of these gallant youths, that even compassion for her own children could not break in upon her duty. Such was her noble zeal, that, when two things were offered to her choice, religion and the present safety, and great preferment of seven sons, she wisely gave the preference to the former, which leads to eternal life and happiness. By what language shall I describe those tender passions of parents, that union of nature between them and their children, which, in a wonderful manner, draws upon their offspring the same lines and features of body, and impresses the same dispositions of soul ? how can I represent the concern they feel for these images and parts of themselves, when in any manner of distress ? How especially that of mothers, whose weaker minds, and natural excess of fondness, render them still more sensibly touched by whatever affects their children, than fathers are wont or expected to be ? This mother was more under the influence of such affection than mothers in common. Seven painful births had made as many additions to this love ; and every time her travail was repeated it was a fresh exercise of it, a fresh and strong endearment towards all for whom she had endured the same pangs.
But notwithstanding all this, tbe fear and love of God overcame her concern for the present safety and advantage of her children. Never did she love them so tenderly as when their steady virtue, and constancy in the truth, charmed her affections, and endeared them to ber; for they were just and wise, temperate and magnanimous, affectionate to each other, and dutiful to their mother to that degree, that they even died in the cause of their law in obedience to her. Though she had such extraordinary reasons to love her sons, yet not all the exquisite pains and cruelties they were exposed to could once divert the opinion and resolution she had formed within her breast, for she exhorted each of them singly, and all of them together, not to decline any sufferings, or death, for the sake of religion. Though she was an eyewitness to the torments inflicted on each of her sons, yet the cause of piety engrossed her soul, and she still maintained the sincerity of her intentions. Her piety was so firm, that it remained unchangeable by the horrid, the thrilling spectacle of her children being exposed to inconceivable tortures. Extraordinary mother! that felt greatter pangs of sorrow now than she ever experienced at bringing them into the world. Perfect pattern of piety! thou didst not utter a sigh at seeing thine eldest expire. The second giving up the ghost amidst his torments could not draw a tear from those eyes; nor could the third in his last terrible moments, or any one of them in the midst of their torments.
The songs of Syrens, and the dying notes of swans, with all their bewitching and enchanting melody, were not so persuasive to your ears as the last accents of your sons in their expiring moments. When nature and affection pleaded strongly with thee, and the pains and unparalleled sufferings of thy children added weight to their arguments, thou wouldst not accept a short deliverance with guilt, but gavest them up to death in prospect of a more lasting bliss. Thou didst thus approve thyself a true daughter of Abraham, an heiress of all his faith and fortitude.
Mother of our nation! protectress of our laws ! bulwark of piety! more patient than man, and armed with more fortitude to undergo difficulties ! the glory of thine own sex, and superior to ours! For as the ark of Noah, which then contained all the surviving world, rode triumphant upon the waters of the general food, so thou, protectress of the law, tossed on every side with the deluge of the passions, and the torments of thy sons, as with the most violent storm, didst bravely bear up against the fierceness of a dreadful tempest.
TO return to the point at which I have been aiming ; if a woman, aged, and the mother of seven sons, could not only sustain the sight of those children expiring in tortures, in consideration of the cause for which they suffered and died, it is evident, beyond dispute, that reason, supported by religion, hath a power superior to our passions. It has been abundantly proved, that not only men have overcome vast difficulties, but that a woman despised the most exquisite pains. The lions among whom Daniel was thrown were not so fierce, nor was the furnace of Mishael, though heated with the most raging fires, so hot as those violent passions which natural affection and piety had kindled in her breast, when she saw seven sons successively expire in agonies inexpressible. Yet reason and religion quenched these so furious and manifold affections.
It is reasonable to suppose, that had this woman the least degree of pusillanimity in her composition, she would have burst out into lamentations similar to the following. “ Miserable woman that I am, who having brought seven sons into the world, am now parent of none ! To what purpose, my sons, have I borne the many sorrows I have suffered for you, and the many solicitudes in bringing you up? Beloved children, whose faces I shall no more behold, nor rejoice in their marriage and posterity, nor have the much desired blessing in being esteemed happy in any descendants of the second and third generation. I once was happy, happy above my neighbours, when surrounded with seven comely children; but now I am deprived of them, and left desolate; nor have I a son to pay me the last duty of interment."
The piety of this eminent woman disdained such complaints. She was so far from desiring any of her children to live, that it would have been matter of grief to her had they not died as they