The church has never lacked valiant men. On August 15, 1714, the Romanian king Constantin Brincoveanu died a martyr’s death. During the twenty-five years of his reign, he had been a valiant defender of the Christian world against Islam. On Good Friday in 1714, he and his whole household were arrested by the Turkish sultan’s men and taken to Constantinople, where they were put in the notorious Yedikule prison. On his sixtieth birthday, King Brincoveanu was sentenced to death together with his four sons. Before the executioner raised his axe, the sultan said, “I will pardon you if you tell me where the wealth of your country is and if you will deny the Christian faith and convert to Islam.” King Brincoveanu replied: “I will never abandon the Christian faith. I was born in it, have lived in it, and will die in it. I have filled my country with churches, monasteries and hospitals. I will not worship in your mosques, neither I nor my children.” Then he turned to his sons and said: “My beloved, be strong in faith. We have lost all things. Let us not lose our souls as well.” The sultan ordered that the sons should die first. Young Constantin prayed and quietly put his head on the block. As he was beheaded, his father sighed and said, “God, Your will be done.” The next two sons followed. Then Matthew, who was only sixteen, wavered at the sight of the blood and hid himself near his mother. “Follow your brothers,” urged King Brincovaneau. “Do not deny Christ.” The youngster put his head on the block and said to the executioner, “Strike.” The king followed them. Kneeling, he prayed with many tears: “God, accept our sacrifice. For the blood of our martyrdom, I desire that the Romanian principates remain Christian. Amen.
The following is one of the oldest sermon illustrations used in the Christian church. It also tests one’s understanding of the Christian life. There once lived an ugly, hunchback dwarf. No one ever invited him to a party. No one showed him love or even attention. He became disillusioned with life and decided to climb a mountain and throw himself from its peak into the abyss. When he ascended the mountain, he met a beautiful girl. He talked to her and discovered that she was climbing the mountain for the same purpose. Her suffering was at the other extreme. She had everyone’s attention and love, but the one she loved had forsaken her for another girl, one with riches. She felt life had no meaning for her any longer, so they decided to make the ascent together. While they climbed, they met a man who introduced himself as a police officer in search of a very dangerous bandit who had robbed and murdered many people. The king had promised a large reward to the person who captured him. The police officer was very confident: “I will catch him because I know he has a feature by which he can be recognized. He has six fingers on his right hand. The police have been looking for him for years. For the last two or three, nothing has been heard from him, but he must pay for a multitude of past crimes.” The three climbed the mountain. Near its peak was a monastery. Its abbot, although he had become a monk only recently, had quickly attained great renown for saintliness. When they entered the monastery, he came to meet them. You could see the glory of God in his face. As the girl bowed to kiss his right hand, she saw he had six fingers. With this, the story ends. Those who hear this story are perplexed. It can’t finish like this! What happened to the dwarf, the girl, the policeman? Was the criminal caught? The story’s beauty is that it does finish here. Something beautiful has happened: A criminal hunted because of his many robberies and murders has become a great saint, renowned for his godly life. All the rest is of no further interest. The great miracle has been performed. Christ has been born in the heart of a man of very low character.
A story is told about David as a young boy in King Saul’s court. He asked permission to play on a beautiful harp that was sitting unused in the throne room. King Saul said: “It’s useless. I have been cheated. I paid a great deal for that harp because it was spoken of highly. But the best harpists have tried it, and it was painful to hear the ugly sounds it produced. It’s the worst harp that you could imagine.” David persisted; and because the king loved him greatly, he granted David permission to play it. The music was so beautiful that all the court wept. They had been moved to the depths of their hearts. “How is it,” demanded King Saul, “that so many tried to play this harp, and only you succeeded?” David replied, “All the others tried to play their own songs, and the harp refused to yield to their wishes. I played to the harp its own song. You saw its joy when I reminded it of the days when it was a young tree in the forest. I told it about sunbeams playing in its branches, about chirping birds and about lovers embracing each other in its shadow. The harp was glad to remember those days. “I told the story of the evil men who came and cut down the innocent tree. It was a sad day. Its life as a tree had finished. However, I told the harp that death cannot triumph over life. The tree has died as a tree, but its wood has become a harp, which can sing forever the glories of the eternal God. And the harp, which had wept when I told about her death, now rejoiced.