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Dear Boys and Girls,

If one of you children follows Jesus Christ so closely that others see in you the spirit of Christ, and the expression of His will, then you will be “A living epistle.” If the memory of your life and words live on because they give help to other lives after you have gone, then those words might be said of you, “He being dead, yet speaketh.” Here is a little story that I read recently which might help you to understand more clearly, what I mean.

The story is about an old man named Phocas, and he lived at a place called Sinope, on the shores of the Black Sea. It is a long time since Phocas lived, but his memory is so rich that he, “being dead, yet speaketh,” and is, indeed, “a living epistle.”

It was toward the end of the third century that Phocas died; at that time the Roman emperors were pagan, and to be a Christian was certain death if you were found out. However, Phocas never hid that he was a Christian, and would quietly speak about Jesus when he could. One evening when the old man was seated in his garden, three men came up to the garden gate, and because they looked tired, he invited them into his cottage, and asked them where they were going? “We are out on the Emperor's business in search of one named Phocas; it is reported that he is a Christian, and when we have found him we have to put him death.” Phocas calmly replied, “If you will wait until the morning, I will bring you Phocas.”

So the men went to bed, but there was no rest for Phocas, he rambled out into his garden to think: “Should he fly for his life? No, he couldn't do that; he had made his promise, and to run away would be unfaithfulness to his Saviour.” In the morning he called the men and said, “Now, friends, I am Phocas.” The men were stunned. How heavy were the hearts of those men as they looked at the old man, who they had grown to admire, and even love. Seeing them hesitate, he urged them on. One gleam of the sword and the lovely head was severed from the body.

In Venice there is a picture of the old man in his garden with just his spade in his hand, for he was a gardener. Many visitors who look at the picture are told the old man's story and of his great love to the Lord Jesus, and in this way Phocas is still “a living epistle read of all men.”

If we will but follow Christ closely, and serve Him faithfully, we too, may join with other Christians, such as Phocas, and be “living epistles, known and read of all men.”

   Mrs Seaton.

Jesus! My Shepherd, Saviour, Friend;
My Prophet, Priest, and King;
My Lord, my Life, my Way, my End:
Accept the praise I bring.

(John Newton)

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The Wicket Gate Magazine "A Continuing Witness".
Internet Edition number 89 – placed on line March 2011
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