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tnen shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you."
The ministers of Christ are frail, imperfect creatures, in common with other men; they need thorns in the flesh to humble and keep them low; and their afflictions tend, if patiently endured, to work for them an exceeding weight of glory, 2 Cor. iv., 17. A reason of Paul's being so useful to the church of God was on account of his being a vessel chosen and formed in the furnace of affliction. Perhaps a more accurate attention to order would have led me to an additional detail of the sufferings of God's people under a former bead, such as a body of death, which Paul so much complains of: this made him cry out, O wretched man that I am! I believe this is the greatest enemy that faithful ministers have to contend with, and excites the most painful sensations. Oh! the pride, the stupidity, the corrupt passions, the selfishness, that they often fetl! tending to draw away their minds from God, and divert them from a close adherence to duty. These are trials that cleave unto us, go where we will. They are too apt to be intruders, even into our solemn acts of devotion; like Abraham's fowls, descend to mar the sacrifice, and 'tis hard to drive them away.
Ministers of the gospel need not be moved from the path of duty, nor be discouraged under suffering, because it is what they may reasonably expect: this was suggested by Christ to primitive teachers, to fortify against despondency, John xvi.: "These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended: they shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service," &c. "But these things have I told you, that, when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them."
The ambassadors of Christ have sworn to be faithful—are all under oath—and for them to betray their trust is treason and high-handed perjury. Their profession is before many witnesses: "In the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus," &c., 1 Tim. vi., 13. What is a life, yea, ten thousand lives, when contrasted with that sacrifice that must be made by our deserting the cause of God? The great and sure reward promised to the faitliful servants of Christ for all their sufferings should more than barely support them amid all the sorrows of life. Every pain, every tear, every insult they bear for Christ's sake, will secure them a great reward in heaven, Malt, v., 12. The wearisome and tiresome nights they spend here in running their race and in finishing their Course, will only prepare them for a more sweet repose and rest at their journey's end, when the morning shall break forth.
V. The faithful ministry of the servants of Christ will terminate or issue in their great joy and satisfaction: "So that I might finish my course with^'oy."
1. They will have the approbation of their own consciences, 2 Cor. i., 12: "For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that, in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward."—" It arises to a holy triumph," says Guyse. Conscience will not be an idle or indifferent spectator at the day of judgment; it will have peculiar influence in accusing or excusing in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men, Rom. ii., 15, 16. It will be a source of unspeakable torment to the wicked, a gnawing worm, that will never, never die; but where its dictates have been held sacred, and not violated, peace, comfort, and holy rejoicing will be the attendants. The true friends of God, amid all the calumny cast upon them by men and devils, can say, in the face of a frowning world, "We trust we have a good conscience."
2. When godly ministers have finished their course, it will end all their imperfections and trials. They
see so many defects in themselves, so much self-seeking, unfaithfulness, and ignorance, that they often tremble lest, after they have preached to others, they may be cast away—that they shall fall short of that heaven they have so often recommended to others, and have their dwelling with the wicked;—but these fears will subside, and, to their surprise, they will hear their Redeemer say, "Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord!" All those sorrows caused by the state of impenitent sinners, which have occasioned them many wearisome days and nights, will for ever cease. No more slander, no more stripes or imprisonments—they will be out of the reach of men and devils, and obtain a complete and everlasting victory—and shout that ecstatic song^ "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course !" &c.
3. God will explain to them those things that now appear dark and intricate : why so much distress, why they must be made the song of the drunkard, why they must be driven from town to town, and have no certain dwelling-place. The providences of God will • all appear harmonious, calculated, through divine ordination, to promote the highest glory of the universe and their personal good. "Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for thy judgments are made manifest," will be their song for ever, Rev. xv., 4.
4. It will afford peculiar joy to the people of God, especially to the ministers of Christ, when they have finished their course, in that God will publicly plead and espouse their cause, vindicate the doctrines they inculcate according to truth. The enemies of religion are often complaining that preachers are setters forth of strange things, too rigid, too pointed and overbearing in their preaching: tending to wound the delicate feelings of their hearers, like goads and nails, Eccl. xii., 11. There is no stopping the wide mouths of gainsayers; but, so far as ministers have been faithful, God will own them, and vindicate their cause against the vile aspersions of wicked men. Their characters will be exonerated and cleared from those hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against God and his people, Jude 15.
5. The sentence that will be pronounced and executed on the wicked will afford joy to the saints. In this world the ministers of Christ often tremble by anticipating the misery that is coming on sinners, and especially on their hearers that disregard their admonitions and reproofs, and, like their divine Lord and master, weep over them; but at the day of judgment, although pain and misery will, in itself considered, be undesirable, and an object of displacence, yet their holy and perfect attachment to the divine character will render the displays of vindictive justice glorious, and excite praise and adoration, Rev. xviii., 20; "Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her."
6; The great and unspeakable reward and honour that will be bestowed and conferred on the faithful servants of Christ will be matter of great joy: it will exhibit the condescending grace of God, and excite humility in them; they can scarcely believe that God could ever take notice and reward such poor services as they have done, and will cry out with wonder, love, and praise, "Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee 1 or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?" Matt, xxv., 37, 38, 39. As God's rewarding the saints will humble them, so it will tend to fit them for the world of everlasting adoration. One great design of the day of judgment will be to exhibit the riches of divine grace, which will excite endless songs of joy to the saints.
"The more thy glories strike mine eyes.
The humbler I shalUje;
God will make it appear, that those who had trials of cruel mockings and scourgings, of bonds and imprisonments, that were stoned and sawn asunder, tempted, slain with the sword, who wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, in deserts and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth, being destitute, afflicted, tormented, &c., were men, after all, of whom the world was not worthy, Heb. xi.
The scars and signals of sufferings in the cause of God, that his people will carry with them, will procure more illustrious monuments than pillars of marble; they will possess that kingdom prepared for them, and be made kings and priests unto God. This was that dignity to which St. Paul was aspiring, the prize of the high calling: that for which he did not account his life dear, honourable unto him.*
Finally, It will enhance the joy and reward of the ministers of Christ to meet all their brethren and companions in tribulations. There will be so great a degree of similarity in the sufferings of the servants of God, and in the interpositions of Divine providence towards them, as to excite a pleasing and holy fellowfeeling in their souls; the celestial spark will catch from breast to breast, while an harmonious flame of divine love and adoration will ascend as from one altar, to Him that hath given them all the victory. Ministers will meet the pious part of their congregations with great rejoicings: those especially to whom they have been instrumental of saving good: Such will be their crown of rejoicing in the day of the Lord Jesus, 2 Cor. i., 14; 1 Thes. ii., 19, 20; 'Heb. xiii., 17.
Paul will meet with his brethren that were at Corinth, Rome, &c. A more public and interesting rehearsal of their mutual and personal interviews will be attended to. What reciprocal joy will his meeting with Timothy and his son Onesimus afford! The parting of the apostle and his Ephesian brethren at Miletus was painful and distressing; what weeping and sorrowing! out at their arrival at the haven of eternal rest, what a contrast! No fearing that they should see each other's
* The Greek word it T'mim, honourable, precious.