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Comment By Torchlight

Twentieth Century Martyrs

"More believers have died as' martyrs in our generation than in the 20 centuries of Christianity combined." This startling statement appears in the current issue of a contemporary magazine. We have no means of checking its truth, but the organization responsible' for it has reliable contacts in countries where governments ruthlessly persecute professing Christians, and do so as part of an atheistic political philosophy. The claim is made that one half of the' world is now in this category.

Whether or not these estimates can be substantiated (and suppression of free speech restricts publicity about them) there can be no doubt that the extent of religious persecution is unprecedented. And there is justification for the charge that believers in lands where religious freedom is permitted are not sufficiently aware of the scale of this devil-inspired attack on the Christian Faith. Nor do we realize that similar persecution may very soon come our way. We are far too complacent. Many of our persecuted fellow-believers would be shocked by our apathy.

We must take more thought for our persecuted brethren in the spirit of the injunction, "Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; them that are evil entreated, as being yourselves also in the body" (Heb. 13:3). We should also support by prayer those who risk their lives to carry copies of the Scriptures to these dark lands.

Present world conditions emphasize the value of spreading the gospel by means of the printed page. There is ample evidence that sound Bible-based literature penetrates and does its work where oral witness is forbidden. In the spiritual conflict of this late twentieth century the Spirit of God is using this weapon to bring to many who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death the knowledge of Christ as Saviour and Lord. Publishing and distribution of Christian literature must therefore be pursued with all diligence. Production costs continue to rise but it would be tragic if this important means of outreach were restricted through lack of funds. This must not happen. While the channel is open we should keep the stream flowing.

Let us then pray continually for those who write, translate and distribute Christian literature. Let there also be practical exercise to ensure that adequate funds are available for these ends, for "the word of God is not bound" (2 Tim. 2:9).

Constraining Love

"The love of Christ constraineth us" wrote Paul (2 Cor. 5:14). The word translated 'constraineth' here (Greek, sunecho) has the sense of a compelling force; an irresistible urge. As our Lord viewed the climax of His great mission He used the same word: "I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened (Greek, sunecho) till it be accomplished!" (Luke 12:50).

"The love of Christ!" Matchless! constant, unchanging, compelling love I "To live on Christ's love is a king's life", wrote the saintly Samuel Rutherford. Little wonder that included in Paul's great prayer for the Ephesian saints was the petition:

"That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God" (Eph. 3:17-19).

The love of Christ outstrips knowledge; its dimensions are immeasurable. Ter Steegen described it thus:

"The boundless Heaven of Thine eternal love

Around me, and beneath me, and above;

In glory of that golden day

The former things are passed away, I, past and gone."

And Isaac Watts confessed:

"Were the whole realm of nature mine,

That were an offering far too small,

Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my heart, my life, my all."