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and here, first, They can retire themselves inwards, and rejoice in the testimony of a good conscience'; yea, the possession of Christ dwelling within them. All the trouble that befals them, is but as the rattling of hail upon the tiles of the house to a man that is sitting within a warm room at a rich banquet; such is a good conscience, a feast, yea, a continual feast. The believer looks on his Christ, and in him reads his deliverance from condemnation, and that is a strong comfort, a cordial that keeps 'him from fainting in the greatest distresses. When the conscience gives this testimony that sin is forgiven, it raises the soul above ontward sufferings. Tell the christian of loss of goods, or liberty, or friends, or life, he ana swers all with this, “ Christ is mine, and my sin is pardoned ; that is enough for me. What would I not have suffered, to have been delivered from the wrath of God, if any suffering of mine in this world could have done that? Now that is done to my hand. All other sufferings are light; they are light, and but for a moment. One thought of eternity drowns the whole time of the world's endurance, which is but as one instant, or twinkling of an eye, betwixt eternity before, and eternity after. How much less is any short life, and a small part of that is spent in sufferings ? Yea, what is it, though it were all sufferings, without interruption, which yet it is not ? When I look forward to the crown, all vanishes, and I think it less than nothing.” Now, these things the good conscience speaks to the christian in his sufferings ; therefore, certainly, his choice is best, that provides it for his companion against evil and troublous times : if moral integrity went so far, (as truly it did much in some men that had much of it), that they scorned all hard encounters, and esteemed this a sufficient bulwark, a strength impregnable, hic murus aheneus esto, nil conscire sibi ; how much more the christian's good conscience, which alone is truly such ! 2. As the christian may thus look inward, and re
1 2 Cor. i. 12.
joice in tribulation ; so there is another look, upward, that is here likewise mentioned, that allays very much all the sufferings of the saints ; If the will of God be so 5.
The christian mind hath still one eye to this, above the hand of men, and all inferior causes, in suffering, whether for the name of God, or otherwise ; it looks on the sovereign will of God, and sweetly complies with that in all. Neither is there any thing that doth more powerfully compose and quiet the mind than this. It feels itself invincibly firm and content, when it hath attained this self-resignation to the will of God; to agree to that in every thing. This is the very thing wherein tranquillity of spirit lies : it is no riddle, nor hard to be understood, yet few attain it. And I pray you, what is gained by our reluctances and repinings, but pain to ourselves? God doth what he will, whether we consent or not; our disagreeing doth not prevent his purposes,
but our own peace. If we will not be led, we are drawn. We must suffer, if he will; but if we will what he wills, even in suffering, that makes it sweet and easy ; when our mind goes along with his, and we willingly move with that stream of providence, which will carry us with it, though we row against it; in which case we still have nothing but toil and weariness for our pains.
But this hard argument, of necessity, is needless to the child of God; persuaded of the wisdom and love of his Father, he knows that to be truly best for him that his hand reaches. Sufferings are unpleasant to the flesh, and it will grumble ; but the voice of the Spirit of God, in his children, is that of that good king, Good is the word of the Lord that he hath spoken"; or that other', Let him do with me us seemeth good in his eyjes. My foolish heart would think these things I suffer might be abated, but my wise and heavenly Father thinks otherwise : he hath his design of honour to himself, and good to me in these, which I would be loath to cross if I might. It would 81 Pet, iii, 17. h Isa. xxxix. 3.
2 Sam. x. 12.
think, I may do God more service by these advantages; but, doth not he know best what is fit? Cannot he advance his grace more by the want of these things I desire, than I could do myself by having them? Cannot he make me a gainer by sickness and poverty, and disgraces, and loss of friends and children, by making up all in himself, and teaching me more of his all-sufficiency? Yea, even concerning the affairs of my soul, I am to give up all to his good pleasure. Though I desire the light of his countenance above all things in this world, yet if he see it fit to hide it sometimes ; if that be his will, let me not murmur: there is nothing lost by this obedient temper ; yea, what way soever he deals with us, there is much more advantage in it. No soul shall enjoy so much in all estates, as that which hath divested and renounced itself, and hath no will but God's.
Ver. 18. For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just
for the unjust, (that he might bring us to God), being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.
The whole life of a christian, is a steady aiming at conformity with Christ ; so that, in any thing, whether doing or suffering, there can be no argument sọ apposite and persuasive as his example; and no kind or degree of obedience, either active or passive, so difficult, but the view and contemplation of that example will powerfully sweeten it. The apostle doth not decline the frequent use of it: here we have it thus, for Christ also suffered.
Though the doctrine of christian suffering is the occasion of speaking of Christ's suffering, yet he insists on it beyond the simple necessity of that argument, for its own excellency, and further usefulness. So we shall consider the double capacity. I. As an encouragement and engagement for christians to suffer. II. As the great point of their faith, whereon all their hopes and happiness depend, being the means of their reduction to God.
I. The due consideration of Christ's sufferings doth much temper all the sufferings of christians, especially such as are directly for Christ.
1. It is some known ease to the mind, in any distress, to look upon examples of the like, or greater distress, in present or former timesk. It diverts the eye from continual poring on our own suffering; and, when we return to view it again, it lessens it, abates of the imagined bulk and greatness of it. Thus public, thus spiritual troubles are lightened ; and particularly the sufferings and temptations of the godly, by the consideration of this as their common lot, their highway, and not new in the person of any', No temptation has befallen you, but what is common to men. 'If we trace the lives of the most eminent saints, shall we not find every notable step that is recorded marked with a new cross; one trouble following on another, as the waves dom, in an incessant succes. sion? Is not this manifest in the life of Abraham, and of Jacob, and the rest of God's worthies, in the scriptures? And, doth not this make it an unreasonable, absurd thought, to dream of an exemplion? Would any one have a new untrodden way cut out for him, free of thorns, and strewed with flowers all along? Would a man meet with no contradictions, nor hard measure from the world, or imagine that there may be such a dexterity necessary, as to keep its good will, and the friendship of God too? This will not be ; and it is an universal conclusion, All that will live godly in Christ Jesus, must suffer persecution". This is the path to the kingdom, that which all the sons of God, the heirs of it, have gone in, even Christ; as that known word is, one son without sin, but none without suffering ; Christ also suffered.
2. As the example and company of the saints in suffering is very considerable, so that of Christ is more than any other, yea, than all the rest together. Therefore the apostle having represented the former * Ferre quam sortem patiuntur omnes.
11 Cor. x. 13. m Velut unda pellitur unda.
n 2 Tim. iii. 12.
at large, ends in this, as the top of allo; There is a race set before us, it is to be run, and run with patience, and without fainting : now, he tells us of a cloud of witnesses ; a cloud made up of instances of believers suffering before us; and the heat of the day wherein we run is somewhat cooled, even by that cloud compassing us: but the main strength of their comfort here, lies in looking to Jesus, eyeing of his sufferings, and their issue.
The considering and contemplating of him will be the strongest cordial, will keep you from weurying and fainting in the way.
The singular power of this instance lies in many particulars, considerable in it. To specify some chief things briefly in the steps of the present words: the example is great and fit, and the result of the sufferings contemplated, of infinite importance to the chris. tian. Consider, 1st, the greatness of the example, which will appear from the greatness of the person, and of the sufferings.
1. From the greatness of the person : Christ, and that marked to us by the manner of expression, [ræi Xpisòs], Christ also, besides and beyond all others, even Christ himself.
There can be no higher example; not only are the sons of adoption sufferers, but the begotten, the only begotten Son, the eternal heir of glory, in whom all the rest have their title, their sonship, and heirship, derived from, and dependent on his; not only all the saints, but the king of saints. Who shall now repine at suffering? Shall the wretched sons of men refuse to suffer, after the suffering of the spotless glorious Son of God ? as one speaks of pride, that after majesty, highest majesty, to teach humility, hath so humbled himself, how wicked and impudent a thing will it be for a worm to swell, to be high conceited?? So thus our Lord hath taught us, by suffering in his own person, and hath dignified suf
o lleb. xii. 1, 2. 9 Ubi se humiliavit Majestas, vermiculius infletur et intumescat ?
p Verse 3.