CHAPTER IX- AN ACCOUNT OF THE PERSECUTIONS IN LITHUANIA AND POLAND
The persecutions in Lithuania began in 1648, and were carried on with great severity by the Cossacks and Tartars. The cruelty of the Cossacks was much, that even the Tartars, at last, grew ashamed of it, and rescued some of the intended victims from their hands.
The barbarities exercised were these: skinning alive, cutting off hands, taking out the bowels, cutting the flesh open, putting out the eyes, beheading, scalping, cutting off feet, boring the shin bones, pouring melted lead into the flesh, hanging, stabbing, and sending to perpetual banishment.
The Russians, taking advantage of the devastations which had been made in the country, and of its incapability of defence, entered it with a considerable army, and, like a flood, bore down all before them. Every thing they met with was an object of destruction; they razed cities, demolished castles, ruined fortresses, sacked towns, burnt villages, and murdered people. The ministers of the gospel were peculiarly marked out as the objects of their displeasure, though every worthy christian was liable to the effects of their cruelty.
As Lithuania recovered itself after one persecution, succeeding enemies again destroyed it. The Swedes, the Prussians, and the Courlanders, carried fire and sword through it, and continual calamities, for some years, attended that unhappy district. It was then attacked by the prince of Transylvania, who had in his army, exclusive of his own Transylvanians, Hungarians, Moldavians, Servians, Walachians, &c. These, as far as they penetrated, wasted the country, destroyed the churches, rifled the nobility, burnt the houses, enslaved the healthy, and murdered the sick.
A clergyman, who wrote an account of the misfortunes of Lithuania, in the seventeenth century, says, “In consideration of these extremities, we cannot but adore the judgment of God poured upon us for our sins, and deplore our sad condition. Let us hope for a deliverance from his mercy, and wish for restitution in his benevolence. Though we are brought low, though we are wasted, troubled, and terrified, yet his compassion is greater than our calamities, and his goodness superior to our afflictions. Our neighbours hate us at present, as much as our more distant enemies did before; they persecute the remnant of us still remaining, deprive us of our few churches left, banish our preachers, abuse our schoolmasters, treat us with contempt, and oppress us in the most opprobrious manner. In all our afflictions the truth of the gospel shone among us, and gave us comfort; and we only wished for the grace of Jesus Christ, (not only to ourselves, but to soften the hearts of our enemies) and the sympathy of our fellow christians.”
The protestants of Poland were persecuted in a dreadful manner. The ministers in particular were treated with the most unexampled barbarity; some having their tongues cut out, because they had preached the gospel truths; others being deprived of their sight on account of their having read the bible; and great numbers were cut to pieces for not recanting.
Private persons were put to death by various methods; the most cruel being usually preferred. Women were murdered without the least regard to their sex; and the persecutors even went so far as to cut off the heads of sucking babes, and fasten them to the breasts of the mothers.
Even the solemnity of the grave did not exempt the bodies of protestants from the malice of persecutors; for they sacrilegiously dug up the bodies of many eminent persons, and either cut them to pieces, and exposed them to be devoured by birds and beasts, or hung them up in conspicuous or public places.
The city of Lesna particularly suffered in this persecution; for being besieged and taken, the inhabitants were all put to the sword.