Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, served Christ and His Church during a time of fearful persecution. It was common for Christians to be killed and maimed simply because they would worship no other God other than the triune God of the Bible.
In a treatise written to Demetrianus, Roman proconsul of Africa, Cyprian addressed the persecution that the Church was then having to enduring at the hands of Demetrianus. He wrote, “You deprive the innocent, the just, the dear to God, of their home; you spoil them of their estate, you load them with chains, you shut them up in prison, you punish them with the sword, with the wild beasts, with the flames. Nor, indeed, are you content with a brief endurance of our sufferings, and with a simple and swift exhaustion of pains. You set on foot tedious tortures, by tearing our bodies; you multiply numerous punishments, by lacerating our vitals; nor can your brutality and fierceness be content with ordinary tortures; your ingenious cruelty devises new sufferings.”
The government could then seize your property just for being a Christian. They could arrest you and throw you into prison for being a Christian. They could torture you in the most blood thirsty and brutal way, just for being a Christian. They could kill you by sword, crucifixion, feed you to wild animals in the arena, or burn you alive – just for being a Christian.
Demetrianus, was the man in charge of doing all these things to the Christians in North Africa, still Cyprian could write and say to him, “…we pour forth our prayers, and, propitiating and appeasing God, we entreat constantly and urgently, day and night, for your peace and salvation.”
In another treatise Cyprian wrote to his fellow believers, he wrote to encourage them in there suffering, he wrote to strengthen them, he wrote them to prepare them for torture and death at the hands of the state. He said, “The brave and steadfast mind, founded in religious meditations, endures; and the spirit abides unmoved against all the terrors of the devil and the threats of the world, when it is strengthened by the sure and solid faith of things to come. In persecutions, earth is shut up, but heaven is opened; Antichrist is threatening, but Christ is protecting; death is brought in, but immortality follows; the world is taken away from him that is slain, but paradise is set forth to him restored; the life of time is extinguished, but the life of eternity is realized. What a dignity it is, and what a security, to go gladly from hence, to depart gloriously in the midst of afflictions and tribulations; in a moment to close the eyes with which men and the world are looked upon, and at once to open them to look upon God and Christ!”
Modern Christians can learn a lot from St. Cyprian and those in his diocese who suffered and died for the cause of Christ and His Kingdom.