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interest, his reputation ; desiring only, that when his Lord cometh He may say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!.”
5. He doeth good, to the uttermost of his power, even to the Bodies of all men. He rejoices to “deal his bread to the hungry," and to “ cover the naked with a garment.” Is any a stranger ? He takes him in, and relieves him according to his necessities. Are any sick or in prison ? He visits them, and administers such help as they stand most in need of. And all this he does, not as unto man; but remembering Him that hath said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
6. How much more does he rejoice, if he can do any good to the Soul of any man! This power indeed belongeth unto God. It is He only that changes the heart, without which every other change is lighter than vanity. Nevertheless, it pleases Him who worketh all in all, to help man chiefly by man ; to convey bis own power, and blessing, and love, through one man to another. Therefore, although it be certain that “ the help which is done upon earth, God doeth it himself;” yet has no man need, on this account, to stand idle in his vineyard. The Peacemaker cannot: he is ever labouring therein, and, as an instrument in God's hand, preparing the ground for his Master's use, or sowing the seed of the kingdom, or watering what is already sown, if haply. God may give the increase. According to the measure of grace which he has received, he uses all diligence, either to reprove the gross sinner, to reclaim those who run on headlong in the broad way of destruction; or “ to give light to them that sit in darkness," and are ready to “ perish for lack of knowledge;” or to “support the weak, to lift up the hands that hang down, and the feeble knees ;” or to bring back and heal that which was lame and turned out of the way. Nor is he less zealous to confirm those who are already striving to enter in at the strait gate; to strengthen those that stand, that they may “run with patience the race which is set before them ;” to build up in their most holy faith those that know in whom they have believed ; to exhort them to stir up the gift of God which is in them, that, daily growing in grace, “an entrance may be ministered unto thein abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
7. “Blessed” are they who are thus continually employed in the work of faith and the labour of love; “For they shall be called,” that is, shall be, (a common Hebraism,) “the children of God.” God shall continue unto them the Spirit of Adoption, yca, shall pour it more abundantly into their hearts. He shall bless them with all the blessings of his children. He shall acknowledge them as sons before angels and men ; “ and, if sons, then heirs ; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.”
III, 1. One would imagine such a person as has been above described, so full of genuine humility, so unaffectedly serious, so mild and gentle, so free from all selfish design, so devoted to God, and such an active lover of men, should be the Jarling of mankind. But our Lord was better acquainted with human nature in its present state. He therefore closes the character of this man of God, with showing him the treatment he is to expect in the world. “Blessed,” saith he, “arc they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom ofhcaven.”
2. In order to understand this throughly, let us first inquire, Who are they that are Persecuted? And this we may easily learn from St. Paul: “ As of old, he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, cren so it is now." (Gal, iv: 29.) “Yea,” saith the Apostle, “and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution.” (2 Tim. iji. 12.) The same we are taught by St. John : “ Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." (1 John in.13, 14.) As if he had said, the Brethren, the Christians cannot be loved, but by them who have passed from death unto life. And most expressly, by our Lord : “ If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it bated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (John xv. 18, &c.)
By all these scriptures it manifestly appears who they are that are persecuted : namely, the Righteous : He “that is born of the Spirit;” “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus; ” they that are “passed from death unto lile; "those who are “ not of thc world;" all those who are meek and lowly in heart, that mouru for God, that bunger after his likeness; all that love God and their neighbour, and therefore as they have Opportunity do good unto all men.
3. If it be, secondly, inquired, Why they are persecuted ? The answer is equally plain and obvious. It is " for righteousness' sake :” because they are righteous : because they are born after the Spirit: because they “will live godly in Christ Jesus :” because they “are not of the world.” Whatever may be pretended, this is the real cause: be their infirmities more or less, still, if it were not for this, they would be borne with, and the world would love its own. They are persecuted, because they are poor in spirit; that is, say the world, “ Poor-spirited, mean, dastardly souls, good for nothing, not fit to live in the world :"-Because they mourn; “ They are such dall, heavy, lumpish creatures, enough to sink any one's spirits that sees them. They are mere death-heads; they kill innocent mirth, and spoil company wherever they come:” Because they are meek ; “ Tame, passive fools, just fit to be trampled upon :"-Because they hunger and thirst after righteousness; “A parcel of hot-brained enthusiasts, gaping after they know not what, not content with rational religion, but running mad after raptures and inward feelings :”-Because they are merciful, lovers of all, lovers of the evil and unthankful; “ Encouraging all manner of wickedness; nay, tempting people to do mischief by impunity : and men who, it is to be feared, have their own religion still to seek : very loose in their principles :"-Because they are purè in heart; “ Uncharitable creatures, that damn all the world, but those that are of their own sort! Blasphemous wretches, that pretend to make God a liar, to live without sin!”-Above all, Because they are peace-makers; because they take all opportunities of doing good to all men : This is the grand reason why they have been persecuted in all ages, and will be till the restitution of all things : “ If they would but keep their religion to themselves it would be tolerable. But it is this spreading their errors, this infecting so many others, which is not to be endured. They do so much mischief in the world that they ought to be tolerated no longer. It is true, the men do some things well enough; they relieve some of the poor. But this, too, is only done to gain the more to their party; and so, in effect, to do the more mischief!” Thus the men of the world sincerely think and speak. And the more the kingdom of God prevails, the more the peacemakers are enabled to propagate lowliness, meekness, and all other divine tempers, the more mischief is done, in theiraccount: consequently, the more are they enraged against the authors of this, and the more vchemently will they persecute them.
4. Let us, thirdly, inquire, Who are they that persecute them ? St. Paul answers, “ He that is born after the flesh :" every one who is not “born of the Spirit,” or at least desirous so to be; all that do not at least labour to “live godly in Christ Jesus ;” all that are not “passed from death unto life," and, consequently, cannot “ love the brethren ; ” “the world,” that is, according to our Saviour's account, “they who know not him that sent me ;” they who know not God, even the loving, pardoning God, by the teaching of his own Spirit.
The reason is plain : The spirit which is in the world is directly opposite to the Spirit which is of God. It must therefore needs be, that those who are of the world, will be opposite to those who are of God. There is the utmost contrariety betwecn them, in all their opinions, their desires, designs, and tempers. And hitherto the leopard and the kid cannot lie down in peace together. The proud, because he is proud, cannot but persecute the lowly ; the light and airy, those that mourn : and so in every other kind; the unlikeness of disposition (were there no other) being a perpetual ground of enmity. Therefore, were it only on this account, all the scrvants of the Devil will persecute the children of God.
5. Should it be inquired, fourthly, How they will persecute them? It may be answered in general, Just in that manner and measure which the wise Disposer of all secs will be most for his glory ; will tend most to his children's growth in grace, and the enlargement of his own kingdom. There is no one branch of God's government of the world which is more to be admired than this. His car is never heavy to the threatenings of the persecutor, or the cry of the persecuted. His cye is ever open, and his hand stretched out to direct every the minutest circumstance. When the storm shall begin, how high it shall rise, which way it shall point its course, when and how it shall end, are all determined by his unerring wisdom. The ungodly are only a sword of his; an instrument which he uscs as it pleaseth him, and which itself, when the gracious ends of his Providence are answered, is cast into the fire.
At some rare times, as when Christianity was planted first, and while it was taking root in the carth; as also when the pure doctrine of Christ began to be planted again in our nation ;
God permitted the storm to rise high, and his children were called to resist unto blood. There was a peculiar reason why he suffered this with regard to the Apostles, that their evidence might be the more unexceptionable. But from the annals of the Church we learn another, and a far different reason, why be suffered the heavy persecutions which arose in the second and third centuries ; namely, because the mystery of iniquity did so strongly work; because of the monstrous corruptions which even then reigned in the Church : these God chastised, and at the same time strove to heal, by those severe but necessary visitations.
Perhaps the same observation may be made, with regard to the grand persecution in our owu land. God had dealt very graciously with our nation : he had poured out various blessings upon us : he had given us peace abroad and at home; and a King, wise and good beyond his years : and, above all, he had caused the pure light of his Gospel to arise and shine amongst us. But what return did be find ? “ He looked for righteousness; but behold a cry!”-a cry of oppression and wrong, of ambition and injustice, of malice, and fraud, and covetousness. Yea, the cry of those who even then expired in the flames, entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. It was then God arose to maintain his own cause, against those that held the truth in unrighteousness. Then he sold them into the hands of their persecutors, by a judgment mixed with mercy; an affliction to punish, and yet a medicine to heal, the grievous backslidings of his people.
6. But it is seldom that God suffers the storm to rise so high as torture, or death, or bonds, or imprisonment. Whereas his children are frequently called to endure the lighter kinds of persecution; they frequently suffer the estrangement of kinsfolks,- the loss of the friends that were as their own soul. They find the truth of their Lord's word, (concerning the event, though not the design of his coming,) “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace upon earth ? I tell you, Nay; but rather division.” (Luke xii.51.) And hence will naturally follow loss of business or einployment, and consequently of substance. But all these circumstances likewise are under the wise direction of God, who allots to every one what is most expedient for him.
7. But the persecution which attends all the children of God is that our Lord describes in the following words : “ Blessed