תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, [shall persecute by reviling you,] and say all manner of evil against you, falsely, for my sake.” This cannot fail : it is the very badge of our cliscipleship; it is one of the seals of our calling ; it is a sure portion entailed on all the children of God : if we have it not, we are bastards and not sons. Straight through evil report, as well as good report, lies the only way to the kingdom. The meek, scrious, humble, zealous lovers of God and man, are of good report among their brethren; but of evil report with the world, who count and treat them “ as the filth and offscouring of all things.”

8. Indeed some have supposed that, before the fulness of the Gentiles shall come in, the scandal of the cross will cease ; that God will causc Christians to be esteemed and loved even by those who are as yet in their sius. Yea, and sure it is, that even now, he at some times suspends the contempt as well as the fierceness of men ; "he makes a man's enemies to be at peace with him” for a season, and gives him favour with his bitterest persecutors. But setting aside this excmpt case, the scandal of the cross is not yet ceased; but a man may say still, “ If I please men, I am not the servant of Christ.” Let no man therefore regard that pleasing suggestion, (pleasing doubtless to flesh and blood,) “ That bad men only pretend to hate and despise them that are good, but do indeed love and esteem them in their hearts.” Not so: tliey may employ them sometimes; but it is for their own profit. They may put confidence in them; for they know their ways are not like other men’s. But still they love them not; unless so far as the Spirit of God may be striving with them. Our Saviour's words are express : “ If ye were of the world, the world would love its own; but because ye are not of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” Yea, (setting aside what exceptions may be made by the preventing grace, or the peculiar providence of God,) it hateth them as cordially and sincerely as ever it did their Master.

9. It remains only to inquire, How are the children of God to behave with regard to persecution ? And, first, they ought not knowingly or designedly to bring it upon themselves. This is contrary, both to the example and advice of our Lord and all his Apostles; who teach us not only not to seek, but to avoid it, as far as we can, without injuring our conscience; without giving up any part of that righteousness which we are

to prefer before life itself. So our Lord expressly saith, “When they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another ;” which is indeed, when it can be taken, the most unexception. able way of avoiding persecution.

10. Yet think not that you can always avoid it, either by this or any other means. If ever that idle imagination steals into your heart, put it to flight by that earnest caution, “ 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.” “Be ye wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” But will this screen you from persecution ? Not unless you have more wisdom than your Master, or more innocence than the Lamb of God.

Neither desire to avoid it, to escape it wholly; for if you do, you are none of his. If you escape the persecution, you escape the blessing; the blessing of those who are persecuted for rightcousness' sake. If you are not persecuted for rightcousness' sake, you cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. “ If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him. But if we deny bim, he will also deny us.”

11. Nay, rather, “ Rejoice and be exceeding glad,” when men persecute you for his sake; when they persecute you by reviling you, and by “ saying all manner of evil against you falsely ;” which they will not fail to mix with every kind of persecution: they must blacken you to excuse themselves :“For 80 persecuted they the Prophets which were before you ;”those who were most eminently holy in heart and life; yea, and all the righteous which ever have been from the beginning of the world. Rejoice, because by this mark also ye know unto whom ye belong; and “ because great is your reward in heaven,”-the reward purchased by the blood of the Corenant, and freely bestowed in proportion to your sufferings, as well as to your holiness of heart and life. “Be exceeding glad;” knowing that these “light afflictions, which are but for a moment, work out for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." ;

12. Meantime, let no persecution turn you out of the way of lowliness and meekness, of love and bencficence. « Ye have heard (indeed] that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth; "(ver. 38;) and your miserable teachers have hence allowed you to avenge yourselves, to return evil for evil; “ But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil :”-not thus ;

Vou. I. No. 7,

not by returning it in kind. “ But," rather than do thing “ whosoever smiteth thee on thiy right check, turn to him the other also. And if any man will suc thce at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whoso. ever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.”

So invincible let thy Meckness be. And be thy Love suitable thereto. “Give to bim that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thce turn not thou away.” Only, give not away that which is another man's, that which is not thine own. Therefore, 1, Take care to owe no man any thing: for what thou owest is not thy own, but another man's. 2, Provide for those of thine own household : this also God hath required of thee; and what is necessary to sustain them in life and godliness, is also not thine own. Then, 3, Give or lend all that remains, from day to day, or from year to year: only first, seeing thou canst not give or lend to all, remember the Houschold of Faith.

13. The Meckness and Love we are to feel, the kindness we are to show to them which persecute us for rightcousness' sake, our blessed Lord describes farther in the following verses: 0 that they were engraven upon our hearts! “Ye bave heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thy enemy:" (ver. 43, &c. :) God indecd bad said only the former part, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour ;“ the children of the Devil had added the latter, “and hate thy enemy: ” “ But I say unto you,”' 1,“ Love your cnemies:” See that you bear a tender good will to those who are most bitter of spirit against you; who wish you all manner of evil. 2, “Bless them that curse.” Arc therc any whose bitterness of spirit breaks forth in bitter words ? who are continually cursing and reproaching you when you are present, and “saying all cvil against you" when absent? So much the rather do you bless : in conversing with them, use all mildness and softness of language. Reprove them, by repeating a better lesson before them; by showing them how they ought to have spoken. And in speaking of them, say all the good you can, without violating the rules of truth and justice. 3, “Do good to them that bate you :” Let your actions show, that you are as real in love as they in hatred. Return good for evil. “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” 4, If you can do notbing more, at Icast “ Pray for them that despitefully use you and persccute you.” You can never be disabled from doing this; nor can all their malicę or violence hinder you. . Pour out your souls to God, not only for those who did this once, but now repent :-this is a little thing : “ If thy brother, seven times a day, turn and say unto thee, I repent;” (Luke xvii. 3;) that is, if, after ever so many relapses, he give thee srcáşon, to believe that he is really and thoroughly changed.; then thou shalt forgive him, so as to trust him, to put him in thy bosom, as if he had never sinned against thee at all. But pray for, wrestle with God for those that do not repent, 'that now, dess pitefully use thee and persecute thee. Thus far forgive them, pot until seven times only, but until seventy times seven." (Matt. xviii. 22.) Whether they repent or no, yea, though they appear farther and farther from it, yet show.thcm this instance of kindness : “ That ye may be the children,” that ye may approve yourselves the genuine children, “ of your Father which is in heaven;" who shows his goodness by giving such blessings as they are capable of, even to his stubbornest enemies; “ who maketh the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the Publicans the same?” (Matt. v. 46;)—who pretend to no religion; whom ye yourselves acknowledge to be without God in the world. “And if ye salute,” show kindpess in word or deed to, “ your brethren,” your friends or kinsfolk, “only ; what do ye more than others ? "_than those who have no religion at all? “ Do not even the Publicans so ?Nay, but follow ye a better pattern than them. In patience, in longsuffering, in mercy, in beneficence of every kind, to all, even to your bitterest persecutors; “ Be ye (Christians) perfect, (in kind, though not in degree,] even as your Father, which is in heaven, is perfect.” (Ver. 48.)

III. Behold Christianity in its native form, as delivered by its great Author! This is the genuine Religion of Jesus Christ! Such he presents it to him whose eyes are opened. See a picture of God, so far as he is imitable by man! A picture drawn by God's own hand! “ Behold, ye despisers, and won- . der, and perish!” Or rather, wonder and adore! Rather cry out, Is this the Religion of Jesus of Nazareth ? The Rcligion which I persecuted ? Let me no more be found even to fight against God. Lord, what wouldest thou have me to do ? What beauty appears in the whole! How just a symmetry ! What exact proportion in every part! How desirable is the

happiness hcre described! How vencrable, how lovely the holiness! This is the spirit of religion ; the quintessence of it. These are indeed the fundamentals of Christianity. O that we may not be hearers of it only !_“like a man beholding his own face in a glass, who gocth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.” Nay, but lct us steadily “ look into this perfect law of liberty, and continue thercin." Let us not rest, until every line thereof is transcribed into our own hearts. Let us watch, and pray, and believe, and love, and “strive for the mastery," till every part of it shall appear in our soul, graven there by the finger of God; till we are “holy as He which hath called us is holy, perfect as our Father which is in heaven is perfect!”

« הקודםהמשך »