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after, even the joys and comforts of the kingdom of heaven, the glories of the church triumphant, and a mercy at the day of judgment. And consider that comfort presupposes mourning, and that heaven will be doubly transporting to a soul that has been used to such sorrows as these upon earth. And let us remember too, that the safety and happiness of the public includes our own, and which it is impossible to secure without it; and therefore, for our own sakes, we have reason to be much concerned for, and endeavour to remove its misfortunes.
These things, if we seriously weigh and consider them, will incline us to this duty of mourning in the proper seasons of it, and which we shall find in the event to be of great advantage to us, if it be only for this reason, that it will correct that levity of spirit which is of so ill consequence to gay, unthinking people, and accustom us to wise and solid reflections, which will be highly beneficial to us, in every respect, throughout the whole course of our life in this present uncertain and troublesome world; and entitle us to, and make us capable, and that in greater degrees than ordinary, of the ineffable joys and comforts of a happy eternity, where our mourning shall be turned into joy, even joy unspeakable and full of glory.
To which happy state, God, of his infinite mercy, bring us all, through Jesus Christ our Saviour. To whom, &c.
OF SUFFERING FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS' SAKE.
Matt. v. 10, 11, 12. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake:
for their's is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye,
when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in
heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were be
THE Christian religion being an institution so pure and holy, and levelled directly against the lusts of the flesh and the pride of life; earnestly pressing men, by the most cogent motives, to live soberly, righteously, and godly; to avoid all appearance of evil, and be zealous of good works; that so their affections may be weaned from the present world, and their minds trained up and prepared for the reception of the pure joys of heaven; no wonder if it meet with contradiction from sinners, and is opposed and vilified by sensual men, who place their happiness in brutal enjoyments and the acquisition of this world's good. And since it is designed for the overthrow of the dominion of sin, we cannot think but the prince of darkness, that great apostate and utter enemy to all that is good, will do what he can against the kingdom of righteousness; and, by discouraging those that are without from entering in, and stirring up his wicked instruments to persecute and afflict those that are the faithful subjects of it, to weaken its interest as much as is possible, and strengthen his own kingdom of darkness, and defeat the hopes the hated race of mankind have through Jesus Christ of at length enjoying the glory and happiness of that blessed place, from whence he knows he is now excluded for ever.
This our Lord and his apostles foresaw and foretold. For thus, Matthew, x. 16, &c. he tells his apostles, Behold, I send you forth as sheep among wolves :—and men will deliver you up to the councils, and scourge you in their synagogues ; shall be brought before kings and rulers for my sake.Brother shall betray brother, and fathers their children, and children rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake. For the disciple is not above his master, and they hated me before they hated you: and if they persecuted me, they will also persecute you,a. And, as our Lord thus forewarned his apostles, so they have forewarned us, that we are appointed to afflictions b, and that through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom of Godc. As much as to say, Not only the apostles and first Christians, but all others that love and obey the Lord Jesus in sincerity, must expect to suffer for it, in some measure or other, from the malice of the Devil and unreasonable and wicked
a John xv. 20.
b i Thess. iii. 3.
c Acts xiv. 22.
men; and have their patience and fidelity exercised by various trials before they attain their crown.
But that we may not be disheartened by such ill treatment, but bear it with fortitude and steadiness of mind, and fight the good fight with resolution and courage, and perseverance to the end, the great Captain of our salvation is pleased to animate us with the example of the prophets that were before us, and to whom we may add that blessed company, and noble army of apostles, saints, martyrs, and confessors, since, who set us a pattern of the truest bravery and patient suffering, and are now crowned with glory, honour, and immortality, in eternal life. And he assures us, that if we follow their heroical steps, we shall be so too: for, blessed are ye, says he in the text, when men shall revile
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 that were before you. And indeed this being the perfection of evangelical righteousness, no love being greater than that which is stronger than severe sufferings and death ; Greater love than this has no man, says our Lord himself, that a man lay down his life for his friends d, or runs the hazard of it, and is prepared to do so; it is but agreeable to the divine goodness to bestow the greatest reward upon it.
In discoursing therefore upon this subject I shall do two things;
I. First, shew what it is to be persecuted, reviled, and evil spoken of, for the sake of righteousness, and the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. And,
d John xv. 13.
II. Secondly, upon what accounts we have reason to rejoice and be exceeding glad, under such persecution and sufferings, both at present, and with respect to our future reward above.
I. As for the first thing to be considered, what it is to be persecuted, reviled, and evil spoken of, for the sake of righteousness, &c.
The word persecuted signifies, in the original, the being pursued and closely followed from place to place, as men do wild beasts which they design to take and destroy: and in the larger and more general acceptation of it, and in which it is here to be understood, it denotes any hard usage whatever, from the loss of liberty and goods, to the infliction of bodily pain and loss of life. And
By being reviled is meant the having taunts and flouts and base aspersions thrown upon one; names of disgrace, and vilifying, opprobrious language, such as our Lord was treated with, when he was called a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners, a madman, and possessed with an evil spirit, and it was said of him, blasphemously, that he cast out devils by the help of the prince of the devils, and the like; and when, at his death, he was taunted at by the inhuman spectators, and called upon to save himself, and come down from the cross, if he were the Son of God; and twitted with being unable to help and rescue himself, though he pretended to be the Saviour of others. And
By being evil spoken of, I suppose, is meant the being maliciously calumniated and accused before magistrates and courts of justice, and charged with heinous crimes, and eagerly prosecuted as great offenders ; and sentenced as such by those in au