Cyprian: Treatise XI: Exhortation to Martyrdom, Addressed to Fortunatus
This longish treatise is broken into a preface and twelve arguments, each of which Cyprian spends a bit of time justifying. I won't go into detail in each section, rather I'll post the heads and note that they're all worth reading, especially the Preface where we are encouraged as Christians to prepare ourselves for suffering, even in times of peace and prosperity Cyprian's goal here is not so much to do all of the work for us, but to point the way. He has a wonderful way of putting this:
For if I were to give a man a garment finished and ready, it would be my garment that another was making use of, and probably the thing made for another would be found little fitting for his figure of stature and body. But now I have sent you the very wool and the purple from the Lamb, by whom we were redeemed and quickened; which, when you have received, you will make into a coat for yourself...The sections he covers are as follows:
1. Therefore, in exhorting and preparing our brethren, and in arming them with firmness of virtue and faith for the heralding forth of the confession of the Lord, and for the battle of persecution and suffering, we must declare, in the first place, that the idols which man makes for himself are not gods. For things which are made are not greater than their maker and fashioner; nor can these things protect and preserve anybody, which themselves perish out of their temples, unless they are preserved by man. But neither are those elements to be worshipped which serve man according to the disposition and ordinance of God.You need not necessarily read the whole treatise, the text defending each heading is largely Scriptural quotation. Which of course won't hurt you any and may do you no small amount of good...
2. The idols being destroyed, and the truth concerning the elements being manifested, we must show that God only is to be worshipped.
3. Then we must add, what is God’s threatening against those who sacrifice to idols.
4. Besides, we must teach that God does not easily pardon idolaters.
5. And that God is so angry with idolatry, that He has even commanded those to be slain who persuade others to sacrifice and serve idols.
6. After this we must subjoin, that being redeemed and quickened by the blood of Christ, we ought to prefer nothing to Christ, because He preferred nothing to us, and on our account preferred evil things to good, poverty to riches, servitude to rule, death to immortality; that we, on the contrary, in our sufferings are preferring the riches and delights of paradise to the poverty of the world, eternal dominion and kingdom to the slavery of time, immortality to death, God and Christ to the devil and Antichrist.
7. We must urge also, that when snatched from the jaws of the devil, and freed from the snares of this world, if they begin to be in difficulty and trouble, they must not desire to return again to the world, and so lose the advantage of their withdrawal therefrom.
8. That we must rather urge on and persevere in faith and virtue, and in completion of heavenly and spiritual grace, that we may attain to the palm and to the crown.
9. For that afflictions and persecutions are brought about for this purpose, that we may be proved.
10. Neither must we fear the injuries and penalties of persecutions, because greater is the Lord to protect than the devil to assault.
11. And lest any one should be frightened and troubled at the afflictions and persecutions which we suffer in this world, we must prove that it was before foretold that the world would hold us in hatred, and that it would arouse persecutions against us; that from this very thing, that these things come to pass, is manifest the truth of the divine promise, in recompenses and rewards which shall afterwards follow; that it is no new thing which happens to Christians, since from the beginning of the world the good have suffered, and have been oppressed and slain by the unrighteous.
12. In the last place, it must be laid down what hope and what reward await the righteous and martyrs after the struggles and the sufferings of this time, and 13. that we shall receive more in the reward of our suffering than what we suffer here in the passion itself.