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Now, the other thing is, that this is the lot of Christians, as it was of Christ; and why should they look for more kindness and better usage, and think to find acclamations and applauses from the world, that so vilified their Lord ? Oh no! The vain heart must be weaned from these to follow Christ, if we will indeed follow him; it must be tamed to share with him in this point of suffering, not only mistakes and misconstructions, but bitter scoffings and reproaches. Why should not our minds ply and fold to this upon that very reason, which he so reasonably presses again and again on his Disciples, The servant is not greater than his master ; (and when giving them express warning to lay their account with reproaches), If they called the Master Beelzebub, how much more will they speak so of the servants?
Infer. 1. Seeing it is thus, I shall first press upon the followers of Christ, the Apostle's rule here, to keep their suffering spotless, that it may not be comfortless; resolve to endure it, but resolve, likewise, that it shall be on your part innocent suffering; suffer not as evil doers, ver. 15. Besides that, the ways of wickedness are most unsuitable to your holy calling; look to the enmity about you, and gain, even out of that evil, this great good, of more circumspect and holy walking; recollect who you are, and where you are, your own weakness, and the world's wickedness. This our Saviour represents, and upon it gives that suitable rule, Behold I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves, be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves". Know you not what exact eyes of others are upon you? Will you not thence learn, exactly to eye yourselves, and all your ways, and seek of God, with David, to be led in righteousness, because of your enemies, your observers'.
This is the rule here, ver. 16. suffer as Christians, holily and blamelessly, that the enemy may not know h Mat. x. 24, 25.
16. k Prudens simplicitas. ' Psal. xxvii, 11.
i Mat. x.
where to fasten his hold: As the wrestlers anointed their bodies, that the hands of their antagonists might not fasten upon them; thus, truly, they that walk and suffer as Christians anointed with the Spirit of Christ, their enemies cannot well fasten their hold upon them.
To you, therefore, that love the Lord Jesus, I recommend this especially, to be careful, that all your reproaches may be indeed for Christ, and not for any thing in you unlike to Christ, that there be nothing save the matter of your rod; keep the quarrel as clean and unmixed as you can, and this will advantage you much, both within and without, in the peace and firmness of your minds, and in the refutation of your enemies. This will make you as a. brazen wall, as the Lord speaks to the Prophet, they shall fight against you, but shall not prevail".
Keep.far off from all impure unholy ways; suffer not as evil-doers, no nor as busy-bodies, be much at home, setting things at rights within your own breast, where there is so much work, and such daily need of diligence, and then you will find no leisure for unnecessary idle pryings into the ways and affairs of others; and further than your calling, and the rules of Christian charity, engage you, you will not interpose in any matters without you, nor be found proud and censorious, as the world is ready to call you.
2. Shun the appearances of evil; walk warily and prudently in all things; be not heady nor self-willed, no not in the best thing; walk not upon the utter brink and hedge of your liberty, for then you shall
be in danger of overpassing it; things that are law• ful may be inexpedient, and in case there is fear of
scandal, ought either to be wholly forborne, or used with much prudence and circumspection. Oh! study in all things to adorn the gospel, and under a sense of your own unskilfulness and folly, beg wisdom from above, that anointing, that will teach you all things, much of that holy Spirit, that will
m Jer. xv. 20.
you in the'way of all truth", and then in that way, whatsoever may
befal you, suffer it, and however you may be vilified and reproached, happy are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you.
Inf. 2. But if such as are thus reproached be happy, then, certainly, their reproaches are no less unhappy; if on those resteth the Spirit of glory and of God, what spirit is in these but the spirit of Satan, and of shame and vileness? Who is the basest and most contemptible kind of person in the world? truly, I think an avowed contemner and mocker of holiness. Shall any such be found amongst us?
I charge you all in this name of Christ, that you do not entertain godless prejudices against the people of God. Let not your ears be open to, nor your hearts close with, the calumnies and lies, that may be flying abroad of them and their practices, much less open your mouths against them, or let any disgraceful word be heard from you: And when you meet with undeniable real frailties, know the law of love, and practice it: Think, “this is blame-worthy, yet let me not turn it to the reproach of those persons, who, notwithstanding, may be sincere, much less to the reproach of other persons professing religion, and then cast it upon religion itself."
My brethren, beware of sharing with the ungodly in this tongue-persecution of Christians. There is a day at hand, wherein the Lord will make inquiry after those things; if we shall be made accountable for idle words (as we are warnedo,) how much more for bitter malicious words uttered against any, especially against the saints of God, whom, however the world may reckon, he esteems his precious ones, his treasure. You that now can look on them with a scornful eye, which way shall you look when they shall be beautiful and glorious, and all the ungodly clothed with shame? Oh! do not reproach them, but rather come in and share with them in the way of holiness, and in all the sufferings and ren John xvi. 13.
• Matt. xii. 36.
proaches which follow it: For if you partake of their disgraces, you shall share in glory with them, in the day of their Lord's appearing.
The words have two things, The evil of these reproaches supposed, and the good expressed. The evil supposed is, that they are trials, and hot trials: Of this I have spoken already. Let us now,
2dly, Consider the good expressed: Ye are happy, even at present, in the very midst of them; they do not trouble your happy estate, yea, they adyance it.
So very solid indeed is the happiness of the saints, that, in the lowest condition, it remains the same: Cast them where you will, into disgraces, or caves, into prisons and chains, still they are happy: A diamond in the mire, sullied and trampled on, yet still retains its own worth.
But this is more, that the very things that seem to make them miserable, do not only not do that, but, on the contrary, do make them the more happy; they are gainers by their losses, and attain more liberty by their thraldoms, and more honour by their disgraces, and more peace by their troubles : The world, and all their enemies, are exceedingly befooled in striving against them; not only can they not undo them, but by all their enmity and practices, they do them pleasure, and raise them higher; with what weapons shall they fight? How shall a Christian's enemies set upon him? Where shall they hit him, seeing all the wrongs they do him, do indeed enrich aud ennoble him; and the more he is depressed, he flourishes the more; certainly the blessedness of a Christian is matchless and invincible.
But how holds this, that a Christian is happy in reproaches and by them? it is not through their nature and virtue, for they are evilP; but (1.) By reason of the cause. (2.). Of the accompanying and consequent comfort.
First, the cause. We have it negatively, ver. 15. not as an evil doer, that stains thy holy profession,
P So Mat. v. 12. Vol. II.
damps thy comfort, clouds thy happiness, disprofits thee and dishonours thy Lord. We have it also positively, ver. 14. 16. for the name of Christ; and what is there so rough, which that will not make pleasant, to suffer with Christ and for Christ, who suffered so much and so willingly for thee? Hath he not gone through all before thee, and made all
and lovely? hath he not sweetened poverty, and persecution, and hatred, and disgraces, and death itself, perfumed the grave, and turned it from a pit of horror into a sweet resting bed? And thus the love of Christ judgeth, it thinks all lovely which is endured for him, is glad to meet with difficulties, and ambitious of suffering for him : Scorn and contempt is a thing of hard digestion ; but much inward heat of love digests it easily; reproaches are bitter, but the reproaches of Christ are sweet. Take their true value; The reproaches of Christ are greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; his very worst things are better than the best of the world. A touch of Christ turns all into gold; his reproaches are riches, as there, and honour, as here: Not only shall ye be happy afterwards, but happy are ye at present, and that not only in apprehension of that after happiness, as sure and as already present, faith realizing it; but even for that they possess the presence and comforts of the Spirit.
For the spirit of glory.] This accompanies disgraces for him; his Spirit, the Spirit of glory and of God; with your sufferings goes the name of Christ, and the Spirit of Christ: Take them thus, when reproaches are cast upon you for his name, do you bear them by his Spirit? And surely his Spirit is most fit to support you under them, yea, to raise you above them; they are ignominious and inglorious, he is the Spirit of glory; they are human reproaches, he the divine Spirit, the Spirit of glory and of God, that is, the glorious Spirit of God.
And this is the advantage, the less the Christian finds esteem and acceptance in the world, the more
9 Heb. xi. 26.