Youth and Glory - Short Lives of Some of the Saints - by Mr. Andrew MyersArticles on the Christian Walk, Systematic Theology and Practical Theology
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In the burying place may see,
Graves shorter there than I,
From death’s arrest no age is free,
Young children too must die.
My God may such an awful sight,
Awakening be to me !
Oh ! that by early grace I might
For death prepared be. – The New England Primer
Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth… – Ecclesiastes 12:1
Let no man despise thy youth. – I Timothy 4:12
These words spoken by the Apostle Paul to Timothy remind us that God is not limited in his ability to accomplish mighty works of faith by the age of his saints. Young people often pursue worldly glory. Their elders sometimes attain the honor associated with a long life lived well. But age is not a definitive barometer of spiritual maturity and grace. Sometimes, younger saints have been cut down providentially in their prime and thus their faithful testimony though of short duration, yet speaketh today (cf. Heb. 11:4). Scripture gives many examples of this from Abel to Jonathan, Saul’s son, to Stephen and, of course, including our Lord Jesus Christ himself.
Throughout Church history we have seen that young people have often demonstrated by God’s grace a remarkable witness for Christ either in the manner of their living or the manner of their dying. Here are some examples which should be an inspiration to us all, young and old.
· Lady Jane Grey, English Queen (1537 – 1554) – Queen of England for nine days, she was arrested by Queen “Bloody” Mary and given the choice to recant her Protestant beliefs and live or else face execution. She chose the former and died at the age of 16.
· Margaret Wilson, Scottish Covenanter (1667 – 1685) – Wilson was tied to a stake and drowned for refusing to swear that King Charles II was head of the Church rather than Jesus Christ. She died at the tender age of 18 with these words from Psalm 25 on her lips: ‘My sins and faults of youth do Thou, O Lord, forget. After Thy mercy, think on me; and for Thy goodness great.’
· Andrew Gray, Scottish Puritan (1634 – 1656) – One of the most highly regarded Scottish divines of the ‘Second Reformation’ was also one of the youngest. Gray was 22 years old when he died of fever, but as noted by one of his biographers, “We may safely say that never in the history of our country did a man of his years make so deep a mark.”
· Vibia Perpetua, African Christian (181 – 203) – Condemned for her Christian faith, she was imprisoned while pregnant and gave birth to her child two days before her death. Although her pagan father implored her to renounce Christianity, Perpetua refused and died at the age of 22 at the hands of wild animals and gladiators in Carthage, North Africa.
· Patrick Hamilton, Scottish Reformer (1503 – 1528) – Scotland’s first Protestant martyr did much by his death at the stake at the age of 24 to fan the flames of the Reformation. Of him it has been said: “it is better to have burned brightly and briefly, than never to have shone at all.”
· Hugh McKail, Scottish Covenanter (1640 – 1666) – This young minister was martyred at the age of 26. He uttered the following immortal words on the scaffold: “Now I leave off to speak any more with created beings and begin my communion with God, which shall never be broken off. Farewell, father and mother, friends and relations! Farewell, the world and all delights! Farewell meat and drink! Farewell, sun, moon and stars! Welcome, God and Father! Welcome, sweet Lord Jesus, the mediator of the New Covenant! Welcome, blessed Spirit of grace, God of all consolation! Welcome glory! Welcome eternal life! Welcome death!”
· James Renwick, Scottish Covenanter (1662 – 1688) – Martyred for his faithfulness to the covenants of Scotland during an age of persecution, Renwick died at the age of 26 but left a legacy of resistance to ecclesiastical and civil tyranny that is honored today by Reformed Presbyterians and other Christians in Scotland and around the world.
· John Calvin, French Reformer (1509 – 1564) – Though he lived a full life, it was at the age of 27 when Calvin wrote the Institutes of the Christian Religion, considered by many to be the finest theological work in the history of the Christian Church.
· Jim Elliot, American Missionary (1927 – 1956) – Killed at the age of 29 by Acua Indians in Ecuador, Elliot once wrote: “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
· Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Scottish Presbyterian (1813 – 1843) – The “Prophet of Dundee” was one of Scotland’s most beloved ministers, but he died of poor health at the age of 29.
· David Brainerd, American Puritan Missionary (1718 – 1747) – Missionary to the Indians, Brainerd was also close to the family of Jonathan Edwards, who after his death due to illness at the age of 29, published his journal, which was a landmark work in early American Christian literature, and has since inspired many other missionaries.
· Henry Martyn, British Missionary (1781 – 1812) – After proclaiming the gospel to Muslims in Persia and India, this faithful missionary died of illness at the age of 31. He translated the New Testament into Hindi and Persian, revised an Arabic translation of the New Testament, and translated the Psalter into Persian and the Prayer Book into Hindi. Martyn once wrote upon arriving in Calcutta: “Now let me burn out for God.”
· Richard Cameron, Scottish Covenanter (1648 – 1680) – This faithful minister known as the “Lion of the Covenant” died in battle during the Killing Times at the age of 32 after praying these words: “Lord, spare the green and take the ripe.”
· George Wishart, Scottish Reformer (1513 – 1546) – He was a faithful minister who proclaimed the gospel, and he mentored John Knox, the founder of Presbyterianism in Scotland. Wishart was executed for the faith at the age of 33.
· Christopher Love, British Presbyterian (1618 – 1651) – Though he was beheaded by Oliver Cromwell’s forces at the age of 33 on the charge of treason, a charge which he denied, Love was highly esteemed as a Presbyterian minister and his death was mourned by many.
· Martin Luther, German Reformer (1483 – 1546) – He died ‘full of years,’ but it was at the age of 33 when he nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the church door in Wittemburg and thus by God’s grace launched the Reformation.
· George Gillespie, Scottish Covenanter (1613 – 1648) – The youngest Scottish delegate to the Westminster Assembly, he was also the author of several notable works defending Presbyterian church government and worship. Gillespie died of poor health at the age of 36.
· James Durham, Scottish Presbyterian (1622 – 1658) – An eminent and learned divine, and one of the most popular of the Covenanter ministers and authors, Durham died of poor health at the age of 36.
· William Tyndale, British Reformer (1494 – 1536) – The first to translate the New Testament from Greek into English, Tyndale was burned at the stake for doing so at the age of 42. As he died, he prayed these words: “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.”
· Eric Liddell, Scottish Missionary (1902 – 1945) – The Olympic track hero who refused to run on the Lord’s Day was also a missionary to the Far East. He died of cancer in a World War II Japanese interment camp at the age of 43.
· John Hus, Bohemian Reformer (1372 – 1415) – Influenced by John Wycliffe and a later inspiration to Martin Luther, Hus was an important link in the providential chain of events that lead to the Reformation. He died at the stake at the age of 43.
· William Guthrie, Scottish Covenanter (1620 – 1665) – Author of The Christian’s Great Interest and cousin of James Guthrie who preceded him in glory, he was ejected from his pulpit in 1664 and died of illness two years later at the age of 45.
· Ulrich Zwingli, Swiss Reformer (1484 – 1531) – Leader of the Swiss Reformation prior to John Calvin, Zwingli died in battle at the age of 47 with these words on his lips: “Not to fear is the armour.”
· James Guthrie, Scottish Covenanter (1612 – 1661) – Cromwell referred to him as ‘the short man who would not bow,’ but it was King Charles II who ordered his death upon ascension to the throne for his faithful witness to the Covenants at the age of 49.
· Marie Durand (1712 – 1776) and Anne Salièges (dates unknown), French Camisards – Both were imprisoned in the Tower of Constance in their youth for the sake of the true religion as a result of French persecution of the Camisards during the early 18th century. Durand was arrested in 1730 at the age of 18 and remained locked up for 38 years before she was released in 1768. It is said that she carved the word resister (resist) in the wall of the prison, which may still be seen today. Salièges was locked up with her mother at the age of six months and released in 1772 after 71 years in jail.