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godly world, If it persecuted me (says he), it will also persecute you".
Acquaint therefore your thoughts and hearts with sufferings, that when they come, thou and they not being strangers, may agree and comply the better. Do not afflict yourselves with vain fears beforehand, of troubles to come, and so make uncertain evils a certain vexation by anticipation; but rather forethink the hardest trial you may probably be put to, for the name and cause of Christ, and labour for a holy stability of mind, for encountering it, if it should come upon you: Things certainly fall the lighter on us, when they fall first upon our thoughts
. In this way, indeed, of an imagined suffering, the conquest beforehand may be but imaginary, and thou mayest fail in the trial: Therefore he still humble, and depend on the strength of Christ, and seek to be previously furnished with much distrust of thyself, and much trust in him, with much denial of thyself, and much love to him; and this preparing and training of the heart may prove useful, and make it more dexterous, when brought to a real conflict: In all, both beforehand, and in time of the trial, make thy Lord Jesus all thy strength; that is our only way in all to be conquerors, to be more than conquerors, through him that loved us".
Think it not strange, for it is not; suit your thoughts to the experience and verdict of all times, and to the warnings that the Spirit of God in the Scriptures, and our Saviour himself hath given us from his own mouth, and in the example which he shewed in his own person.
But the point goes higher.
Rejoice: Though we think not the sufferings strange, yet may we vot well think that rule somewhat strange, to rejoice in them? No, it will be found as reasonable as the other, being duly considered: And it rests upon the same ground, which is well able to bear both, In as much as you are purtakers of the sufferings of Christ. m John xv. 20.
n Rom. viii, 37.
If the children of God consider not their trials in their natural bitterness, but in the sweet love from whence they spring, and the sweet fruits that spring from them; that we are our Lord's gold, and he tries us in the furnace to purify us (as in the former verse), this may beget not only patience, but gladne-s even in the sufferings. But add we this, and truly it completes the reason of this way in our saddest sufferings, that in them we are partakers of the sufferings of Christ. So then, i. Consider this twofold connected
participation of the sufferings of Christ, and of the after-glory. 2. The present joy even in sufferings springing from that participation.
I need not tell you, that this communion in sufferings is not in point of expiation, or satisfaction to divine justice, which was the peculiar end of the sufferings of Christ personal, not of the common sufferings of Christ mystical; he bare our sins on his own body on the tree', and, in hearing them, took them away; we bear his sufferings, as his body united to him by his Spirit. Those sufferings that were his personal burden, we partake the sweet fruits of; they are accounted ours, and we acquitted by them; but the endurance of them was his high and incommunicable task, in which none at all were with him; our communion in these, as fully completed by himself in his natural body, is the ground of our comfort and joy in these sufferings that are completed in his mystical body, the Church.
This is indeed our joy, that we have so light a burden, so sweet an exchange, the weight of sin quite taken off our backs, and all bound on his cross only, and our crosses, the badges of our conformity to him, laid indeed on our shoulders, but the great weight of them likewise held up by his hand, that they overpress us not.
These fires of our trial may be corrective, and purgative of the remaining power of sin, and they are so intended; but Jesus Christ alone, in the sufferings of his own
01 Pet. ii. 24.
cross, was the burnt-offering, the propitiation for our sins.
Now, although he hath perfectly satisfied for us, and saved us by his sufferings; yet this conformity with him in the way of suffering, is most reasonable. As our holiness doth not stand in point of law, nor come in at all in the matter of justifying us, yet we are called and appointed to holiness in Christ, as assimilating us to him our glorious Head; and we do really receive it from him, that we may be like him; so these our sufferings bear a very congruous likeness with him, though not as an accession to his in expiation, yet as a part of his image; and therefore the Apostle says, even in this respect, that we are predestinate to be conformed to the image of his son? Is it fit that we should not follow, where our Captain led, and went first, but that he should lead through ragged thorny ways, and we pass about to get away through flowery meadows ? As his natural body shared with his head in his sufferings, so ought his mystical to share with him, as its Head. Consider the buffetings and spittings on his face, and thorny crown on his head, a pierced side, nailed hands and feet; and if we be parts of him, can we think that a body finding nothing but ease, and bathing in delights, can be truly united to a Head so tormented ? I remeniber what that pious Duke is said to have declared at Jerusalem, when they offered to crown him king there, “I will have no crown of gold wherè Christ Jesus was crowned with thorns ,
This is the way we must follow, or else resolve to leave him; the way of the cross is the royal way to the crown.
He said it, and put them in mind of it again, that they might take the deep impression of it. Remember what I said unto you, the servant is not greater than the Lord: If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you : If they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also'. And particularly in point of reproaches, If they called the Master Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his houshold"? A bitter scoff, an evil name, reproaches for Christ, why do these fret thee? they were a part of thy Lord's entertainment while he was here, thou art even in this a partaker of his sufferings; and, in this way is he bringing thee forward to the partaking of his glory: That is the other thing.
p Rom. viii. 29. 4 Nolo auream, ubi Christus spineam.
When his glory shall be revealed.] Now he is hid, little of his glory is seen; it was hid while he was on earth, and now it is hid in heaven, where he is, and for his body here, his Church, it hath no pompous dress, nor outward splendour; and the particular parts of it, the saints, are poor despised creatures, the very refuse of men in outward respects and common esteem; so he himself is not seen, and his followers, the more they are seen and looked on by the world's eye, the more meanness appears: As in the days of his humiliation, some rays were breaking forth through the veil of his flesh, and cloud of his low despicable condition; thus is it with his followers, sometimes a glance of his image strikes the very eye of the world, and forces some acknowledgment and a kind of reverence in the ungodly: But commonly Christ and his followers are covered with all the disgraces and ignominies the world can put on them. But there is a day wherein he will appear, and it is at hand; and then he shall be glorious, even in his despised saints, and admired in them that believe*; how much more in the matchless brightness of his own glorious person.
In the mean time, he is hid, and they are hid in him; our life is hid with Christ in God". The world sees nothing of his glory and beauty, and even his own see not much here, they have but a little glimmering of him, and their own happiness in " John xv. 20.
s Matt. 8. 24. t 2 Thess. i. 10. u Colos. iii. 3.
him; know little of their own high condition, and what they are born to. But in that bright day he shall shine forth in his royal dignity, and every eye shall see him", and be overcome with his splendour; terrible shall it be to those that formerly despised him and his saints; but to them the gladdest day that ever arose upon them, a day that shall never set or be benighteil; the day they so much longed and looked out for, the full accomplishment of all their hopes and desires. Oh! how dark were all our days without the hope of this day !
Then, says the Apostle, ye shall rejoice with exceeding joy; and to the end you may not fall short of that joy in the participation of glory, fall not back from a cheerful progress in the communion of these sufferings that are so closely linked with it, and will so surely lead unto it, and end in it; for in this the Apostle's expression, this glory and joy is set before them, as the great matter of their desires and hopes, and the certain end of their present sufferings.
Now, upon these grounds the admonition will appear reasonable, and not too great a demand, to rejoice even in the sufferings.
It is true, that passage in the Epistle to the Heb. xii. 11. opposes present affliction to joy. But, 1. If you mark, it is but in the appearance or outward visage, it seemeth not to be matter of joy, but of grief. To look to it, it hath not a smiling countenance, yet joy may be under it. And, 2. Though to the flesh it is, what it seems, grief, and not joy, yet there may be under it spiritual jov; yea, the affliction itself may help and advance that joy. 3. Through the natural sense of it, there will be some allay or mixture of grief, so that the joy cannot be pure
and complete, but yet there may be joy even in it. This the Apostle here clearly grants, rejoice now in suffering, that you may rejoice exceedingly after it, áganismóuevos
, leaping for joy: Doubtless, this joy, at present, is but a little parcel, a drop of that
* Rev. 1.7.