July 18, 1895
“STEADFAMST she looks to heaven, and breathes the Sacred Name, unmoved by lover’s plea, or sword, or rack, or flame. O holy hope in God! O fearless faith divine! undimmed by death, or time, or tears; immortal and sublime!
“Edwin Long was not only won for himself merited fame as an artist, but more, he has in this picture given to the world a double object lesson on the cruelty of religious persecution and the triumphs of Christian fortitude, without an equal.
“Christ or Diana’ is a masterly representation of the conflict between Christianity and paganism. Studying the inspired face of the martyr and the countenance of her anxious lover,—who, realizing the cruel death that awaits a refusal, urges her to be ‘subject to the powers that be,’—one forgets the present, and absorbed in the scene, involuntarily asks, ‘Will she compromise’? To cast upon the flame a few grains of the incense would be to recognize the worship of the goddess Diana and reject Christ. What a contest! It is the Roman world against conscience. A religion hoary with age and resplendent with earthly glory, is determined to crush the new and simple faith of the despised Nazarene.
“Silence seals the assembly. Again, the gray-haired priest repeats the conditions: ‘Let her cast the incense; one grain and she  is free’—as if loth to sacrifice so sweet a life. The musicians wait with more than usual interest. Every face is solemn. But as the needle seeks the pole, so the eyes of the maiden turn heavenward, and she is steadfast. Her doom is sealed; Christianity triumphs; Rome is baffled. The emperor proclaims liberty of conscience, and the battle is won; but won for that age only, for history has many times repeated the scene. When men cease to suffer for principle, either sin or righteousness will have perished from the earth.”
The painter and the sculptor vie with each other in the effort to do honor to that faithfulness to principle so beautifully portrayed by our illustration. But reader, this faithful martyr was not a martyr in the eyes of the ruling Church and State of her time. She was but the despised follower of the despised Nazarene. Her steadfastness was termed stubbornness, and she died not as a martyr, but as a malefactor, a destroyer of religion and social order, an enemy to the peace and dignity of the State.
Thus it has always been. Faithfulness to conscience has been denounced as stubbornness by the contemporary historian. Decade after decade has passed before the “hated heretic” is viewed in the true light of a martyr to conscience.
Tennessee Against Conscience.
Eight men are not in jail at Dayton, Tenn., for refusing to cast the single grain of incense on the altar of what they believe to be a false worship. 299 Sunday, by many good people, is held to be the sabbath. They have a right so to think, and to conform their lives accordingly. But many who hold this belief demand more than this. They demand that their neighbors shall be made to at least act as if they too believed that Sunday is the sabbath. To this end they appeal to the government to enact statutes which shall force their dissenting neighbors to recognize that Sunday is the sabbath.
Some of these dissenters, like the eight men now in jail, not only believe that Saturday, the seventh day, is the only Sabbath of the Bible, but they believe that the Sunday-sabbath is an institution of the papacy, the “mark of the beast,” the observance of which by one who is cognizant of this fact is to invite upon him the “unmingled wrath of God.” With them life and death are at stake. That they are terribly in earnest no one can doubt. The kind-hearted judge, in passing sentence upon them, declared: “It must be patent, even to the most casual observer, that they are good citizens, who are thoroughly conscientious in the course they have taken.”
And so now, instead of having pagan Rome against conscience, as presented in our illustration, we have the “Christian” commonwealth of Tennessee against conscience.
The Possibilities Involved.
If both Tennessee and the persecuted men continue firm, what is to prevent the infliction of the death penalty as a final punishment? The logic of the case demands it. In similar cases last March the judge fined the same offenders one dollar and costs, but immediately remitted the fine and expressed a regret that he could not remit the costs. But at this the second offense, he increased the fine more than seven-fold as a punishment for continuing in a course which he admitted was dictated by “thoroughly conscientious” motives,—a course, too, which injured no other human being. Being “thoroughly conscientious” in the course they have taken they would meet the contempt of the judge and all men if they should now violate their consciences for fear of fines and imprisonment. If they continue to be “thoroughly conscientious,” they will certainly soon come before the judge for a third offense, and, following the course pursued in the second case he will multiply the penalty in accordance with the gravity of continued violation, and so on from one degree of punishment to another until life imprisonment or capital punishment is reached. All this is involved in the first attempt of the State to coerce the conscience, and two steps toward this final and fatal result have been taken in Rhea County, Tenn. The great historian, Gibbon, thus forcibly states the principle which is being so vividly exemplified in that State:—
It is incumbent on the authors of persecution previously to reflect whether they are determined to support it in the last extreme. They excite the flame which they strive to extinguish; and it soon becomes necessary to chastise the contumacy, as well as the crime of the offender. The fine, which he is unable or unwilling to discharge, exposes his person to the severity of the law; and his contempt for lighter penalties suggests the use and propriety of capital punishment.
Loyalty to Principle, Secular and Sacred.
Faithfulness to principle in secular matters is applauded by men of the world. The men of the Revolution who refused to pay the “three pence a pound” tax on tea are accounted heroes to-day. And when Embassador Pinckney resolutely answered a foreign power, “Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute,” our nation applauded the patriotic utterance and prepared to sacrifice a million human lives to defend the principle at stake. How much more important is it that Christian men should remain true to a principle which involves loyalty to their Creator and Redeemer, and upon which turns their weal or woe for both time and eternity! Ought not their watchword to be, Thousands of loyal hearts for the defense of truth and right, but not one cowardly compromise with error and oppression?