« FöregåendeFortsätt »
he turns his eye inward, to see what is there, and there he finds the world's contempt counterpoised by a weight of excellency and glory, even in this present condition, as the pledge of the glory before him. The reproaches be fiery; but the Spirit of glory resteth upon you, doth not give you a passing visit, but stays within you, and is indeed yours. And in this the Christian can take comfort, and let the foul weather blow over, let all the scoffs, and contempts abroad, pass as they come, having a glorious Spirit within, such a guest honouring him with his presence, abode, and sweet fellowship, and indeed one with him. So that rich miser at Athens could say, when they scorned him in the streets, he went home to his bags and hugs himself there at that sight, say they what they would? How much more reasonably may the Christian say, “Let them revile and bark, I have riches and honour enough that they see not." And this it is that makes the world, as they are a malicious party, so to be an incompetent judge of the Christian's estate. They see the rugged unpleasant outside only, the right inside their eye cannot reach. We were miserable indeed, were our comforts such as they could
And as this is the constant estate of a Christian, it is usually most manifested to him in the time of his greatest sufferings. Then (as we said) he naturally turns inward and sees it most, and accordingly finds it most. God making this happy supplement and compensation, that when they have least of the world, they have most of himself; when they are most covered with the world's disfavour, his favour shines brightest to them. As Moses, when he was in the cloud, had nearest access and speech with God; so when the Christian is most clouded with distresses and disgraces, then doth the Lord often shew himself most clearly to him.
Populus me sibilat; at mihi plaudo
If you be indeed Christians, you will not be so much thinking at any time, how you may be free from all sufferings and despisings; but rather how you may go strongly and cheerfully through them. Lo, here is the way, seek a real and firm interest in Christ, and the participation of Christ's Spirit, and then a look to him will make all easy and delightful. Thou wilt be ashamed within thyself, to start back, or yield one foot, at the encounter of a taunt or reproach for him. Thou wilt think, “ For whom is it, is it not for him, who for my sake hid not his face from shame and spitting? and further, he died; now, how would I meet death for him, if I shrink at the blast of a scornful word ?”
If you would know whether this his Spirit is and resteth in you, it cannot be better known, than, 1st, by that very love, ardent love to him, and high esteem of him; and from thence a willingness, yea, a gladness, to suffer any thing for him. 2. This Spirit of glory sets the heart on glory. True glory makes heavenly things excellent in our thoughts, and sets the world, the better and worse, the honour and dishonour of it, at a low rate.
The spirit of the world is a base ignoble spirit, even the highest pitch of it. Those that are projecting for kingdoms, form but poor designs, compared to those of the Christian, who ascends above all things under the sun, and above the sun itself, and therefore he is not shaken with the threats of the world, nor taken with its offers. Excellent is that answer St. Basil gives, in the person of those mar. tyrs, to that emperor, who made them as he thought) great proffers to draw them off,"
Why, say they, dost thou bid us so low as pieces of the world, we have learned to despise it all ?” This is not supidity nor an affected stoutness of spirit, but a humble-sublimity, which the natural spirit of a man cannot reach unto.
But wilt thou say still, “ This stops me, I do not find this Spirit in me; if I did, then I think I could be willing to suffer any thing.” To this, for the present, I say only, Dost thou desire that Christ may be glorified, and couldst thou be content, though it were by thy suffering in any kind, thou inayest be called to undergo for him? Art thou wil. ling to give up thy own interest, to study and follow Christ's, and sacrifice thine own credit, and name, to advance his ? Art thou unwilling to do any thing that may dishonour him? Art thou willing to suffer any thing that may honour him, or desirest thou to be thus? Then dispute not, but up and walk on in his strength. Now, if any say,
" but his name is dishonoured by these reproaches ;" true, says the apostle, on their part it is so, but not on yours. They that reproach you do their best to reflect on Christ and his cause, but thus it is only on their part : you are sufferers for his name, and so you glorify it : your faith, and patience, and victory by these, do declare the power of divine grace, and the efficacy of the gospel. They have made torturers ashamed, and induced some beholders to share with those who were tortured. Thus, though the profane world intends, as far as it can, to fix dishonour upon the profession of Christ, yet it sticks not, but on the contrary he is glorified by your constancy.
And as the ignominy fastens not, but the glory from the endurance, so Christians are obliged, and certainly are ready, according to the apostle's zeal, ver. 16. to glorify God on this behalf; that as he is glorified in them, so they may glorify and bless him who hath dignified us so; that whereas we might have been left to a sad sinking task, to have suffered for various guilts, our God hath changed the tenor and nature of our sufferings, and makes them to be for the name of Christ.
Thus a spiritual mind doth not swell on a conceit of constancy and courage, which is the readiest way of self-undoing, but acknowledges all to be gift, even suffering, To you it is given not only to believe, but to suffer, and so to bless him on that behalf",
r Phil, i. 29.
Oh! this love grows in suffering'; They went away, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.
Consider, it is but a short while, and the wicked and their scoffs shall vanish; they shall not be. This shame is of short date, and will presently be over; but the glory, and Spirit of glory, are eternal. What though thou shouldst be poor, and defamed, and despised, and be the common mark of scorn and all injuries, yet the end of them all is at hand. This is now thy part, the scene shall be changed. Kings here, real ones, are in the deepest reality but stage kings; but when thou comest to alter the person thou now bearest, here is the odds, thou wast a fool in appearance, and for a moment, but thou shalt be truly a king for ever.
Ver. 17. For the time is come that judgment 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?
There is not only perfect equity, but also a comely proportion and beauty in all the ways of God, had we eyes sufficiently opened to discern, particularly in this point, of the sufferings and afflictions of the church. The apostle here sets it before his brethren, For the time is come, &c.
Where is, 1st, a parallel of the Lord's dealing with his own and with the wicked 4. 2. A persuasion of due compliance and confidence in his own upon that consideration.
The parallel is in the order and the measure of · punishing; and it is so, that, for the order, it begins at the house of God, ends upon the ungodly; and that carries in it this great difference in the measure, that it passes from the one on whom it begins, and rests on the other on whom it ends, and on whom the full weight of it lies for ever. It is so expressed, What shall be the end, &c. which imports, not only that judgment shall overtake them in the end, but • So Acts v.
a Verse 17, 18,
that it shall be their end; they shall end in it, and it shall be endless upon them.
The time is.] Indeed the whole time of this present life is so; it is the time of suffering and purging for the church, compassed with enemies who will afflict her, and subject to these impurities which need affliction. The children of God are in their under age here ; all their time they are children, and have their frailties and childish follies : and there. fore, though they are not always under the stroke of the rod, for that they were not able to endure, yet they are under the discipline and use of the rod all their time. And whereas the wicked escape, till their day of full payment, the children of God are in this life chastised with frequent afflictions, and so the time só respòs] may here be taken according as the Apostle St. Paul uses the same word ', wabýuara tã võ raipe, The sufferings of this present time.
But withal it is true, and appears to be here implied, that there are particular set times, which the Lord chooses for correcting of his church. He hath the days prefixed and written in his Ephemerides, hath his days of correcting, wherein he goes round from one church to another; we thought it would never come to us, but we have now found the smart of it.
· And here the apostle may probably mean the times of these hot persecutions that were begun and continued, though with some intervals, for two or three ages. Thus Apocal. vi. after the white horse, immediately follows at his heels the red, and the black, and the pale horse. And as it was upon the first publishing of the gospel, so usually, upon the restoring of it, or upon remarkable reformations of the church, and revivings of religion, follow sharp and searching trials. As the lower cause of this is the rage and malice of Satan, and the ungodly world, acted and stirred by him against the purity and prevalency of religion, so it is from a higher hand for better ends. The Lord will discover the
b Rom. viii, 18.