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riage of Christians, yea eren because of it, they suffer much. It is a resolved case, all that will live godly must suffer persecution". It meets a Christian in his entry to the way of the kingdom, and goes along all the way. No sooner canst thou begin to seek the way to heaven, but the world will seek how to vex and molest thee, and make that way grievous; if no other way, by scoffs and taunts, intended as bitter blasts to destroy the tender blossom or bud of religion, or (as Herod) to kill Christ newly born.
You shall no sooner begin to inquire after God, but, twenty to one, they will begin to inquire, if thou art gone mad. But if thou knowest who it is whom thou hast trusted, and whom thou lovest, this is a small matter. What though it were deeper and sharper sufferings, yet still, if you suffer for righteousness, happy are you :
Which is the second thing that was proposed, and more particularly imports, 1. That a Christian, uns der the heaviest load of sufferings for righteousness, is yet still happy, notwithstanding these sufferings. 2. That he is happier even by these sufferings. And,
1st, All the sufferings and distresses of this world are not able to destroy the happiness of a Christian, por diminish it; yea, they cannot at all touch it, it is out of their reach. If it were built on worldly enjoyments, then worldly deprivements and sufferings might slake it, yea, might undo it; when those rotten props fail, that which rests on them must fall. He that hath set his heart on his riches, a few hours can make him miserable; he that lives on popular applause, it is almost in any body's power to rob bim of his happiness, a little slight or disgrace undoes him; or, whatsoever the soul fixes on of these moving unfixed things, pluck them from it, and it must cry after them, ře have taken away my gods.
But the believer's happiness is safe, out of the reach of shot; he may be impoverished and imprisoned, and tortured and killed; but this one thing is out of hazard, he cannot be miserable; still, in the midst of all these, subsists a happy man. If all friends be shut out, yet the visits of the Com-, forter may be frequent, bringing him glad tidings from heaven, and communing with him
h 2 Tim. üi. 12. - i 2 Tim. i. 12.
of the love of Christ, and solacing him in that. It was a great word for a heathen to say of his false accusers, Kill me they may, but they cannot hurt me : How much more confidently may the Christian say so! Banishment he fears not, for his country is above; nor. death, for that sends him home into that country.
The believing soul having hold of Jesus Christ, can easily despise the best and the worst of the world, and bid defiance to all that is in it; can share with the Apostle in that of his, I am persuaded that neither death nor life shall separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lordk. Yea, what though the frame of the world were adissolving, and falling to pieces! This happiness holds, and is not stirred by it; for it is in that Rock of eternity, that stirs not, nor changes at all.
Our main work, truly, if you will believe it, is this, to provide this immovable happiness, that amidst all changes, and losses, and sufferings, may hold firm. You may be free, chuse it rather; not to stand to the courtesy of any thing about you, nor of any man, whether enemy or friend, for the tenure of your happiness. Lay it higher and surer, and, if you be wise, provide such a peace as will remain untouched in the hottest flame; such a light as will shine in the deepest dungeon, and such a life as is safe even in death itself; that life that is hid with Christ in God'.
But if in other sufferings, even the worst and saddest, the believer be still a happy man, then more especially in those that are the best kind, suffering for righteousness: Not only do they not detract from his happiness; but,
2dly, They concur and give accession to it; he
k Rom. viii. ult.
i Col. iji. 3.
is happy even so by suffering; as will appear from the following considerations,
1. It is the happiness of a Christian, until he attain perfection, to be advancing towards it; to be daily refining from sin, and growing richer and stronger in the graces that make up a Christian, a new creature; to attain a higher degree of patience, and meekness, and humility, to have the heart more weaned from the earth and fixed on heaven: now, as other afflictions of the saints do help them in those their sufferings for righteousness, the unrighteous and injurious dealings of the world with them have a particular fitness for this purpose. Those trials that come immediately from God's own hand, seem to bind to a patient and humble compliance, with more authority, and, (I may say), necessity: There is no plea, no place for so much as a word, unless it be directly and expressly against the Lord's own dealing; but unjust suffering at the hands of men, requires some uncommon degrees of respect unto God, without whose hand they cannot move; so that for his sake, and for reverence and love to him, a Christian can go through those with that mild evenness of spirit, that overcomes even in suffering
And there is nothing outward more fit to persuade a man to give up with the world and its friendship, than to feel much of its' enmity and malice: and that directly venting itself against religion, making that the very quarrel
, which is of all things dearest to a Christian, and in highest esteem with him.
If the world should caress them, and smile on them, they might be ready to forget their home; or at least to abate in the frequent thoughts and fervent desires of it, and to turn into some familiarity with the world, and favourable thoughts of it, so as to let out somewhat of their hearts after it; and thus grace would grow faint by the diversion and calling forth of the spirits; as in summer, in the hottest and fairest weather, it is with the body.
It is'a confirmed observation, by the experience of all ages, that when the church flourished most in outward peace and wealth, it abated most of its spiritual lustrem, which is its genuine and true beauty; and, when it seemed most miserable by persécutions and sufferings, it was most happy, in sincerity, and zeal, and vigour of grace. When the moon shines brightest towards the earth, it is dark heaven-wards ; and, on the contrary, when it appears not, is nearest the sun, and clear towards heaven.
2. Persecuted christians are happy in acting and evidencing, by those sufferings for God, their love to hiin.
Love delights in difficulties, and grows in them: the more a christian suffers for Christ, the more he loves him, and accounts him the dearer; and the more he loves him, still the more can he suffer for him.
3. They are happy, as in testifying love to Christ and glorifying him, so in conformity with him, which is love's ambition. It affects likeness and harmony at any rate. A believer would readily take it as an affront, that the world should be kind to him, that was so harsh and cruel to his beloved Lord and Master. Canst thou expeet, or wouldst thou wish, smooth language from that world that reviled thy Jesus, that called him Beelzebub? Couldst thou own and
own and accept friendship at its hands, that buffeted him, and shed his blood ? Or, art thou rather most willing to share with him, and of St. Paul's mind, who executed his embassy in chains", and yet could boldly say, 'God forbid that I should glory in any thing save in the cross of Christ, whereby, the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
4. Suffering Christians are happy, in the rich supplies of spiritual comfort and joy, that in those times of suffering are usual; so that as their sufferings for Christ do abound, their consolations in him abound much more, as the Apostle testifies P. God is speaking most peace to the soul when the world
m Opibus major, virtutibus minor. 1 peoleww év árucat, Eph. vi. 20. o Gail. vi. 14. P 2 Cor. i. 5.
speaks most war and enmity against it; and this compenses abundantly. When the Christian lays the greatest sufferings men can inflict in the one balance, and the least glances of God's countenance in the other, he says, it is worth all the enduring of these to enjoy this; says with David, 'Let them curse, but bless thou; let them frown, but smile thou. And thus God usually doth; refreshes such as are prisoners for him with visits, that they would buy again with the hardest restraint and debarring of nearest friends. The world cannot but misjudge the state of suffering Christians; it sees, as Bernard speaks, their crosses, but not their anointings'. Was not Stephen, think you, in a happy posture even in his enemies hands? Was he afraid of the showers of stones coming about his ears, that saw the heavens opened, and Jesus standing on the Father's right hand?, so little was he then troubled with the stoning him, that, as the text hath it, in the midst of them he fell asleep.
5. If those sufferings be so small, that they are weighed down even with present comforts, and so the Christian be happy in them in that regard, how much more doth the weight of glory' surpass, that follows these sufferings? They are not worthy to come in comparison; they are as nothing to that glory that shall be revealed, in the Apostie's arithmetic. That, his expression, imports, (aoyi Somas], when I have cast up the sum of the sufferings of this present time, this instant now, [rò vữv,] they amount to just nothing in respect of that glory". Now, these sufferings are happy, because they are the way to this happiness, and pledges of it, and (if any thing do) they raise the very degree of it; however, it is an exceeding excellent weight of glory; the Hebrew word that signifies glory, signifies weight, yet the glories that are here are all too light, tò incepeor, except in the weight of cares and sorrows that at
9 Psal. cix. 28. .' Vident cruces nostras, unctiones non vident. St. Bern. s Acts vii. 55. 60. t 2 Cor. iv. 17. u Rom. viii. 18. VOL. II.