Imágenes de páginas

cruelly slew his envied brother. Thus the Pharisees hated and persecuted our Lord, long before they laid hold of him: and our Lord mentions being inwardly hated of men, as one kind of persecution his disciples were to undergo. This heart enmity, (if I may so term it is the root of all other kinds of persecution, and is in some degree or other, to be found in the soul of every unregenerated man; and numbers are guilty of this persecution, who never have it in their power to persecute any other way. Nay, numbers would be carried out actually to put in practice all other degrees of persecution, had not the name of persecution become odious amongst mankind, and did they not hereby run the hazard of losing their reputation. Alas ! how many at the great day, whom we know not now, will be convicted and condemned, that all their life harbored a secret evil will against Zion! They may now screen it before men ; but God sees the enmity of their hearts, and will judge them as persecutors at the great and terrible day of judgment !

A second degree of persecution, is that of the tongue; out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. Many, I suppose, think it no harm to shoot out arrows, even bitter words, against the disciples of the Lord : they scatter the fire-brands, arrows, and death, saying, “ Are we not in sport ?" But, however they may esteem it, in God's account, evil speaking is a high degree of persecution. Thus Ishmael's mocking Isaac in the Old, is termed persecuting him in the New Testament. “Blessed are ye,” says our Lord," when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you, falsely, for my name's sake." From whence we may gather, that reviling and speaking all manner of evil falsely for Christ's sake, is a high degree of persecution. “For a good name," says the wise man, " is better than precious ointment," and to many is dearer than life itself. It is a great breach of the sixth commandment, to slander any one; but to speak evil of and slander the disciples of Christ, merely because they are his disciples, must be highly provoking in the sight of God; and those who are guilty of it, (without repentance,) will find that Jesus Christ will call them to an account, and punish them for all their ungodly and hard speeches, in a lake of fire and brimstone. This shall be their portion to drink.

The third and last kind of persecution, is that which expresses itself in actions; as when wicked men separate the children of God from their company; "blessed are ye,” says our Lord, " when they shall separate you from their company;" or expose them to church censures. “ They shall put you out of their synagogues ;” threatening and prohibiting them from making an open profession of his religion or worship; or in

terdicting ministers for preaching his word, as the high priests threatened the apostles, and forbade them any more to speak in the name of Jesus; and Paul “ breathed out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord :” or when they call them into courts; "you shall be called before governors,” says our Lord : or when they fine, imprison, or punish them, by confisication of goods, cruel scourging, and lastly, death itself.

It would be impossible to enumerate in what various shapes persecution has appeared. It is a many-headed monster, insatiable as hell, cruel as the grave; and, what is worse, it generally appears under the cloak of religion. But cruel, insatiable, and horrid as it is, they that live godly in Christ Jesus, must expect to suffer and encounter it in all its forms. This is what

we are to make good under our next general head. Thirdly. Why is it that godly men must expect to suffer persecution ? And,

First, This appears from the whole tenor of our Lord's doctrine. We will begin with his divine sermon on the mount. “ Blessed,” says he, “are they who are persecuted for righteousness' sake ; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” So that, if our Lord spoke truth, we are not so blessed as to have an interest in the kingdom of heaven, unless we are or have been

persecuted for righteousness' sake. Nay, our Lord (it is remarkable) employs three verses in this beatitude, and only one in each of the others; not only to show that it was a thing which men (as men) are unwilling to believe, but also the necessary consequence of it upon our being christians. This is likewise evident, from all those passages wherein our Lord informs us, that he came upon earth, not to send peace, but a sword; and that the father-in-law shall be against the mother-in-law, and that a man's foes shall be those of his own household. Passages, which, though confined by false prophets to the first, I am persuaded will be verified by the experience of all true Christians in this, and every age of the church. It would be endless to recount all the places wherein our Lord forewarns his disciples that they should be called before rulers, nay, that the time would come, wherein men should think that they did God service to kill them. For this reason, he so frequently declared, that unless a man forsake all that he had, and even hated life itself, he could not be his disciple. And therefore it is worthy our observation, that in that remarkable passage, wherein our Lord makes such an extensive promise to those who left all for him he cautiously inserts persecution. “And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, there is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake and the gospel's but

he shall receive an hundred fold now in this time ; houses and brethren, and sisters and mothers, and children and lands, with persecutions; (the word is in the plural number, including all kinds of persecution) and in the world to come eternal life.” He that hath ears to hear, let him hear what Christ says in all these passages, and then confess, that all who live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution.

As this is proved from our Lord's doctrine, so it is no less evident from his life. Follow him from the manger to the cross, and see whether any persecution was like that which the Son of God, the lord of glory, underwent whilst here on earth. How was he hated by wicked men! How often would that hatred have excited them to take hold of him, had it not been for fear of the people! How was he reviled, counted and called a blasphemer, a wine-bibber, a Samaritan, nay, a devil, and, in one word, had all manner of evil spoken against him falsely! What contradiction of sinners did he endure against himself! How did men separate from his company, and were ashamed to walk with him openly! Insomuch that he once said to his own disciples, “ Will you also go away ?" Again, how was he stoned, thrust out of the synagogues, arraigned as a deceiver of the people, a seditious and pestilent fellow, an enemy to Cæsar, and as such, scourged, blindfolded, spit upon, and at length condemned, and nailed to an accursed tree! Thus was the Master persecuted; thus did the Lord suffer; and the servant is not above his master, nor the disciple above his Lord: “ If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you,” saith the blessed Jesus. And again, every man that is perfect, i. e., a true christian, must be as his Master, i. e. suffer as he did. For all these things our Lord has set us an example, that we should follow his steps : and therefore, God forbid that any who would live godly in Christ Jesus, should henceforward expect to escape suffering persecution,

But farther : Not only our Lord's example, but the example of all the saints that ever lived, evidently demonstrates the truth of the apostle's assertion in the text. How soon was Abel made a martyr for his religion ! How was Isaac mocked by the son of the bond-woman! And what a large catalogue of suffering Old Testament saints, have we recorded in the eleventh chapter of the Hebrews! Read the Acts of the apostles, and see how the Christians were threatened, stoned, imprisoned, scourged and persecuted, even unto death! Examine church history in after ages, and you will find the murder of the innocents by Herod, was but an earnest of the innocent blood which should be shed for the name of Jesus. Examine the experience of saints now living on earth, and if it were possible

to consult the spirits of just men made perfect, I am persuaded each would concur with the apostle in asserting, that all who will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution.

How can it be otherwise in the very nature of things ? Ever since the fall, there has been an irreconcilable enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. Wicked men hate God, and therefore, cannot but hate those who are like him; they hate to be reformed, and therefore must hate and persecute those who, by a contrary behavior, testify of them, that their deeds are evil. Besides, pride of heart leads men to persecute the servants of Jesus Christ.

If they commend them, they are afraid of being asked, “Why do you

not follow them ?" And therefore because they dare not imitate, though they may sometimes be even forced to approve their way, yet pride and envy make them turn persecutors. Hence it is, that as it was formerly, so it is now, and so will it be to the end of time : he that is born after the flesh, the natural man, does and will persecute him that is born after the Spirit, the regenerate man. Because christians are not of the world, but Christ has chosen them out of the world, therefore the world will hate them. If it be objected against this doctrine, " that we now live in a christian world, and therefore must not expect such persecution as formerly;" I answer, “ All are not christians that are called so; and till the heart is changed, the enmity against God (which is the root of all persecution) remains," and consequently christians, falsely so called, will persecute as well as others. I observed therefore, in the beginning of this discourse, that Paul mentions those that had a form of religion, as persons of whom Timothy had need be chiefly aware: for, as our Lord and his apostles were mostly persecuted by their countrymen the Jews, so we must expect the like usage from the formalists of our own nation, the Pharisees, who seem to be religious. For the most horrid and barbarous persecutions have been carried on by those who have called themselves Christians; witness the days of queen Mary; and the fines, banishments, and imprisonments of the children of God in the last century, and the bitter, irreconcilable hatred that appears in thousands who call themselves Christians, even in the present days wherein we live.

Persons who argue against persecution now, are not sufficiently sensible of the bitter enmity of the heart of every unregenerate man against God. For my own part, I am so far from wondering that christians are persecuted, that I wonder our streets do not run with the blood of the saints: were men's power equal to their wills, such a horrid spectacle would soon appear. But,

Persecution is necessary in respect to the godly themselves. If we have not all manner of evil spoken of us, how can we know whether we love contempt, and seek only that honor which cometh from above? If we have not persecutors, how can our passive graces be kept in exercise? How can many christian precepts be put into practice ? How can we love, pray for, and do good to those who despitefully use us? How can we overcome evil with good ? In short, how can we know we love God better than life itself? St. Paul was sensible of all this, and therefore so positively and peremptorily asserts, that all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution.

Not that I affirm, "All are persecuted in a like degree.” No: This would be contrary both to scripture and experience. But though all christians are not really called to suffer every kind of persecution, yet all christians are liable thereto: and notwithstanding some may live in more peaceful times of the church than others, yet all christians, in all ages, will find by their own experience, that, whether they act in a private or public capacity, they must, in some degree or other, suffer persecution.

Here then I would pause, and, lastly, by way of application, exhort all persons,

First, To stand a while and examine themselves. For, by what has been said, you may gather one mark, whereby you may judge whether you are christians or not. Were you ever persecuted for righteousness' sake? If not, you never yet lived godly in Christ our Lord. Whatever you may say to the contrary, the inspired apostle, in the words of the text (the truth of which, I think, I have sufficiently proved) positively asserts, that “all that will live godly in him, shall suffer persecution.” Not that all who are persecuted are real christians; for many sometimes suffer, and are persecuted on other accounts than for righteousness' sake. The great question therefore is, “Whether you are ever persecuted for living godly?" You may boast (as perhaps you may think) of your great prudence and sagacity, (and indeed these are excellent things) and glory because you have not run such lengths, and made yourselves so singular, and liable to such contempt, as some others have. But, alas! this is not a mark of your being a christian, but of a Laodicean spirit, neither hot nor cold, and fit only to be spewed out of the mouth of God. That which you call prudence, is often only cowardice, dreadful hypocrisy, pride of heart, which makes you dread contempt, and afraid to give up your reputation for God. You are ashamed of Christ and his gospel ; and in all probability, were he to appear a second time upon earth, in words, as well as works, you would deny him. Awake

« AnteriorContinuar »