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therefore, all ye that live only formally in Christ Jesus, and no longer seek that honor which cometh of man. I do not desire to court you, but I entreat you to live godly, and fear not contempt for the sake of Jesus Christ. Beg of God to give you his Holy Spirit, that you may see through, and discover the latent hypocrisy of your hearts, and no longer decieve your own souls. Remember you cannot reconcile two irreconcilable differences, God and Mammon, the friendship of this world, with the favor of God. Know you not who has told you, that the “friendship of this world is enmity with God ?" If therefore you are in friendship with the world, notwithstanding all your specious pretenses to piety, you are at enmity with God; you are only heart hypocrites, and, “What is the hope of the hypocrite, when God shall take away his soul ?" Let the words of the text sound an alarm in your ears; O let them sink deep into your hearts ; "yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution.”
Secondly, From the words of the text, I would take occasion to speak to those, “who are about to list themselves under the banner of Christ's cross." What say you? Are you resolved to live godly in Christ Jesus, notwithstanding the consequence will be, that you must suffer persecution ? You are beginning to build, but have you taken our Lord's advice to sit down first and count the cost ? Have you well weighed with yourselves that weighty declaration," he that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me;" and again," Unless a man forsake all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple ?" Perhaps some of you have great possessions; will not you go away sorrowful, if Christ should require you to sell all that you have! Others of you again, may be kinsmen, or some way related, or under obligations to the high priests, or other great personages, who may be persecuting the Church of Christ : what say you? Will you, with Moses, rather choose to “suffer affliction with the people of God, than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season ?" Perhaps you may say, “ My friends will
me.” That is more than you know ; in all probability your chief enemies will be those of your own household. If therefore they should oppose you, are you willing naked to follow a naked Christ? And to wander about in sheep skins, and goat skins, in dens and caves of the earth, being afflicted, destitute, tormented, rather than not be Christ's disciples? You are now all following with zeal, as Ruth and Orpah did Naomi, and may weep under the word; but are not your tears crocodile's tears? And when difficulties come, will
you not go back from following your Lord, as Orpah departed from following Naomi; have you really the root of grace in your hearts ? Or,
are you only stony ground hearers? You receive the word with joy; but when persecution arises because of the word, will you not be immediately offended ? Be not angry with me for putting these questions to you. I am jealous over you, but it is with a godly jealousy ; for, alas ! how many have put their hands to the plough, and afterwards have shamefully looked back? I only deal with you, as our Lord did with the person that said, "Lord I will follow thee whithersoever thou wilt.” “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man, (says he) has not where to lay his head.” What say you? Are you willing to endure hardness, and thereby approve yourselves good soldiers of Jesus Christ You now come on foot out of the towns and villages to hear the word, and receive me as a messenger of God : But will you not by and by cry out, “Away with him, away with him; it is not fit such a fellow should live upon the earth ?" Perhaps some of you, like Hazael, may say, " Are we dogs that we should do this ?” But, alas ! I have met with many unhappy souls, who have drawn back unto perdition, and have afterwards accounted me their enemy, for dealing faithfully with them; though once, if it were possible, they would have plucked out their own eyes, and have given them unto me. Sit down therefore, I beseech you, and seriously count the cost, and ask yourselves again and again, whether you count all things but dung and dross, and are willing to suffer the loss of all things, so that you may win Christ, and be found in him ; for you may assure yourselves the apostle has not spoken in vain, “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution.”
Thirdly, The text speaks to you that are patiently suffering for the truth's sake: “Rejoice and be exceeding glad; great shall be your reward in heaven." For to you it is given not only to believe, but also to suffer, and perhaps remarkably too, for the sake of Jesus ! This is a mark of your discipleship, an evidence that you do live godly in Christ Jesus. Fear not, therefore, neither be dismayed. O, be not weary and faint in your minds ! Jesus, your Lord, your life, cometh, and his reward is with him. Though all men forsake you, yet will not he. No; the spirit of Christ and of glory shall rest upon you. In patience, therefore, possess your souls. Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts. Be in nothing terrified by your adversaries : on their part Christ is evil spoken of; on your part he is glorified. Be not ashamed of your glory, since others can glory in their shame. Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial, wherewith you are or may be tried. The devil rages, knowing that he hath but a short time to reign. He or his emissaries have no more power than what is given them from above; God
sets them their bounds, which they cannot pass; and the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; no one shall set upon you to hurt you, without your heavenly Father's knowledge. Do your earthly friends and parents forsake you? Are you cast out of the synagogues? The Lord shall reveal himself to you, as to the man that was born blind. Jesus Christ shall take you up. If they carry you to prison, and load you with chains, so that the iron enter into your souls, even there shall Christ send an angel from heaven, to strengthen you, and enable you with Paul and Silas, to sing praises at midnight. Are you threatened to be thrown into a den of lions, or cast into a burning fiery furnace, because you will not bow down and worship the beast ? Fear not; the God whom you serve, is able to deliver you: or, if he should suffer the flames to devour your bodies, they would only serve as so many fiery chariots, to carry your souls to God. Thus it was with the martyrs of old ; so that one, when he was burning, cried out, “Come, you Papists, if you want a miracle, here, behold one! This bed of flames, is to me a bed of down." Thus it was with almost all that suffered in former times; for Jesus, notwithstanding he withdrew his own divinity from himself, yet he always lifted up the light of his countenance upon the souls of suffering saints. “Fear not therefore those that can kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do: but fear him only, who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Dare, dare, to live godly in Christ Jesus, though you suffer all manner of persecution. But,
Fourthly, Are there any true ministers of Jesus Christ here? You will not be offended, if I tell you, that the words of the text are in an especial manner applicable to you. Paul wrote them to Timothy; and we, of all men, that live godly in Christ Jesus, must expect to suffer the severest persecution. Satan will endeavor to bruise our heels, let who will escape; and it has been the general way of God's providence, in times of persecution, to permit the shepherds first to be smitten, before the sheep are scattered. Let us not therefore show that we are only hirelings, who care not for the sheep; but, like the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls, let us readily lay down our lives for the sheep. Whilst others are boasting of their great preferments, let us rather glory in our great afflictions and persecutions for the sake of Christ. St. Paul now rejoices that he suffered afflictions and persecutions at Iconium and Lystra. Out of all the Lord delivered him; out of all the Lord will deliver us, and cause us hereafter to sit down with him on thrones, when he comes to judge the twelve tribes of Israel.
I could proceed; but I am conscious in this part of my discourse, I ought more particularly to speak to myself, knowing that Satan has desired to have me, that he may sift me as wheat. I know I must (how can it be avoided ?) suffer great things for Christ's name sake. Without a spirit of prophecy, we may easily discern the signs of the times. Persecution is even at the doors; the tabernacle of the Lord is already driven into the wilderness; the ark of the Lord has fallen into the unhallowed hands of uncircumcised Philistines. They have long since put us out of their synagogues, and high priests have been calling on civil magistrates to exert their authority against the disciples of the Lord. Men in power have been breathing out threatenings: we may easily guess what will follow, imprisonment and slaughter. The storm has been gathering some time; it must break shortly. Perhaps it will fall on me first.
Brethren, therefore, whether in the ministry or not, I beseech you, pray for me, that I may never suffer justly, as an evil doer, but only for righteousness' sake. 0! pray that I may not deny my Lord in any wise, but that I may joyfully follow him, both to prison and to death, if he is pleased to call me to seal his truths with my blood. Be not ashamed of Christ, or of his gospel, though I should become a prisoner of the Lord. Though I am bound, the word of God will not be bound. No; an open, an effectual door is opened for the preaching the everlasting gospel, and men or devils shall never be able to prevail against it. Only pray, whether it be in life or death, that Christ may be glorified in me. Then I shall rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.
And now to whom shall I address myself next?
Fifthly, To those who persecute their neighbors for living godly in Christ Jesus.”. But, what shall I say to you? Howl and weep
for the miseries that shall come upon you: for a little while the Lord permits you to ride over the heads of his people; but, by and by, death will arrest you, judgment will find you, and Jesus Christ shall put a question to you, which will strike you dumb: “Why persecuted you me?" You may plead your laws and your canons, and pretend what you do is out of zeal for God; but God shall discover the cursed hypocrisy and serpentine enmity of your hearts, and give you over to the tormentors. It is well, if in this life, God does not set some mark upon you. He pleaded the cause of Naboth, when innocently condemned for blaspheming God and the king; and our Lord sent forth his armies, and destroyed the city of those who killed the prophets, and stoned them that were sent unto them. If you have a mind, therefore, to fill up the measure of
your iniquities, go on, persecute and despise the disciples of the Lord: but know that, for all these things, God shall bring you into judgment. Nay, those you now persecute, shall be in part your judges, and sit on the right hand of the Majesty on High, whilst you are dragged by infernal spirits into a lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, and the smoke of your torment shall be ascending up for ever and ever. Lay down therefore, ye rebels, your arms against the Most High God, and no longer persecute those who live godly in Christ Jesus. The Lord will plead, the Lord will avenge their cause. be permitted to bruise their heels, yet in the end they shall bruise your accursed heads. I speak not this, as though I were afraid of you ; for I know in whom I have believed. Only out of pure love I warn you, and because I know not but Jesus Christ may make some of you vessels of mercy, and snatch you, even you persecutors, as fire-brands out of the fire. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, even persecutors, the worst of sinners : his righteousness is sufficient for them; his spirit is able to purify and change their hearts. He once converted Saul; may the same God magnify his power, in converting all those who are causing the godly in Christ Jesus, as much as in them lies, to suffer persecution! The Lord be with you all. Amen.
ABRAHAM'S OFFERING UP HIS SON ISAAC.
GENESIS xxii. 12.
And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any
thing unto him; for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.
The great apostle Paul, in one of his epistles, informs us, that “whatsoever was written aforetime, was written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the holy scripture might have hope." And as without faith it is impossible to please God, or to be accepted in Jesus, the Son of his love; we may be assured, that whatever instances of a more than common faith are recorded in the book of God, they were more immediately designed by the Holy Spirit for our learning and imitation, upon whom the ends of the world are come.