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The Christian Life a State of Suffering:
[From Bishop Taylor's Sermons. ]
i peter iv. 17, 18. The time is come, that judgement must be· gin at the house of God: and if it first
begin at us, what Mail the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, · where shall the ungodly and the finner
appear ? T HE apostle is speaking here of a
state of suffering; and forewarns
the followers of Christ, that they must expect to have their share of the calamities of this world. But the wicked and disobedient are by no means exempted. And Christians have many things to fupport them under afflictions, of which the ungodly are utterly destitute. VOL. IV.
Beloved, says he, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial, which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, forasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that when bis glory Mall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye. But let none of you suffer as an evil doer. But if any man suffer as a Cbristian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this behalf. “ For the time “ is come, that judgement must begin at the “ house of God: and if it first begin at us, “ what shall the end be of them that obey “ not the gospel of God? And if the righ“ teous scarcely be saved,” (be safe, or exempt, from troubles and afflictions), “ where shall the ungodly and the finner “ appear ?” Wherefore, as he concludes, let them that suffer according to the will of God, commit the keeping of their souls ta him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.
The time is come, that judgement must bigin at the house of God
So long as the world lived by sense and the discourses of natural reason only, which were abated with human infirmities, and not assisted by divine revelation ; so long, men took their accounts of good and evil, by their being prosperous or unfortunate. And amongst the basest and most ignorant of men, that only was accounted honest, which was profitable; and he only wise, that was rich; and those men beloved of God, who received from him all that might satisfy their pride, their ambition, or their revenge.
But because God sent wise men into the world, and they were treated rudely by the world, and exercised with evil accidents, and this seemed so great a discouragement to virtue, that even these wise men were more troubled to reconcile virtue and misery, than to reconcile their affections to the suffering; God was therefore pleased to enlighten their reason with a little beam of faith, or else heightened their reason by wiser principles than those of vulgar understandings, and taught them to look beyond the cloud, and behold S 2
thofe glories which they could not attain to but by passing through that cloud, and being wet with the dew of heaven, and the waters of affliction. · And according as the world grew more enlightened by faith, so it grew more dark with mourning and sorrows. : God fometimes fent a light of fire, and a pillar of a cloud, and the brightness of an angel, to guide his people through their portion of forrows, and to lead them through troubles to rest. But as the fun of righteousness approached towards the chambers of the east, and sent the harbingers of light piercing through the curtains of the night, and leading on the day of faith and brightest revelation ; fo God fent degrees of trouble upon wise and good men, that now, in the same degree in which the world lives by faith and not by sense, in the same degree they might be able to live in virtue, even while thev lived in trouble : That is to say, God first entertained their services, and allured and prompted on the infirmities of the infant world by temporal prosperity, but by de
grees grees changed his method, and as men grew stronger in the knowledge of God and the expectations of heaven, so they grew weaker in their fortunes, more afflicted in their bodies, more abated in their expectations, more subject to their enemies, and were to endure the contradiction of finners, and the sharpnesses of providence and the divine administration.
First, Adam was placed in a garden of health and pleasure ; from which when he fell, he entered into the covenant of natural forrows, unto which he and his posterity succeeded until the days of Noah. But in all that period, they had the whole wealth of the earth before them; they needed not to fight for empires, or places for their cattle to graze in; they lived long, and felt no want, no slavery, no tyranny, no war; and the evils that happened were single, personal, and natural. And so long, their prosperity was just as was their virtue ; because it was a natural instrument towards all that which they knew of happiness.