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voyages ever prosperous, and that no military man was known at any time to descend to his grave in peace, and with his children weeping around him ? Such visitations, like the persecutions foretold in Scripture, are spoken of as impending over all, because they are such as may happen to any, and because all should, therefore, be prepared, if they come, to meet them boldly. But it would be a strange seamen who, during a prosperous voyage over an untroubled should
cry out before every ruffle of the elements as if it were St. Paul's euroclydon. And it is, surely, a strange and unthankful trifling with God's mercies and our own experience to talk of afflictions in His cause, when no man, on that account, either makes us afraid or troubles us, and when those lions have, by His Providence, been long since chained, which used, in ancient days, to scare the pilgrims in their journey to the New Jerusalem.
“But does not,” it will be rejoined, “in common life, and in those smaller distresses which every day brings forth, and which determine the general character of our journey far more than the greater but less frequent dangers to which you have alluded; does not experience show that genuine religion is still, to the generality of mankind, the object of dislike, and, so far as the present circumstances of the world will admit, of persecution? Is not the child who prays to God, and reverences its parents, exposed too often to mockery from its idle companions ? The young man who is sober and chaste, is he not ridiculed for want of spirit? is not the devout man of riper years too often charged with hypocrisy? and are not many of every age to be found who have been disliked or ill-used on account of their piety?"
I answer that all this is very true, and a treatment like this may very possibly befall any one of us in his journey through the wilderness of the world; but still these are exceptions from St. Peter's general rule, and such exceptions will be found less numerous than they at first appear, if we distinguish those sorrows and vexations which good meo endure on account of their religion, from those which they might have experienced whether they were religious or no; and those, still more, which they bring on themselves, not by their religion, but by their imprudence and their failiogs. Christ's kingdom is not of this world; and no promise that I can find in Scripture has been made to His followers, that they should have less than their share of the common accidents of their nature; that ruin tottering to its foundation should necessarily remain suspended while a Christian passed beneath; that a Christian should not slip, where another man should break a limb; or that a Christian should not be stripped by robbers, or torn by wild beasts, like any other man who might pass from Jerusalem to Jericho. Christians are men, and sinful men, and they require, no less than their fellow transgressors, that merciful discipline of affliction and sorrow which the Almighty dispenses, more or less, to every man as He sees occasion. But how many are those who, while drinking the cup which sinners partake of at least as plentifully as themselves, are forward to claim the praise of martyrs or confessors, and to reckon up these visitations as parts of that cross which it behoves us to be ready to take up when called on!
Still more must we be careful lest the sorrows under which we groan be brought on us, not by our religion itself, but by our vanity, our ill-temper, our want of common prudence, and of that serpent-like wisdom, to join which with the harmlessness of a dove should be the endeavour of every believer. Such defects as these by their nature provoké mockery, dislike, and injustice from all whose hearts are not impressed with a deep sense of their own weakness, and the necessity of bearing with the weakness of their brethren. And when a religious man shows his religion in an injudicious manner, when he makes it the occasion of judging and censuring others, or when he exhausts it in forms and trifles, (overlooking, it may be, in comparison, the weightier matters of the law while he strains out the gnat, and pays tithes of anise and cummin) though his religion might, by itself, have passed through life unnoticed, or respected, or endured, these fa be reflected on with double severity, because they are at variance with his professed principles, and because the
world, it must be owned, will not be sorry to bring down his character to its own low level.
But do our opponents appeal to the experience of mankind? To that experience let them go! Let them ask themselves whether, among their own acquaintance, their own neighbours, the public men whose lives and circum.' stances are known to them, there is any considerable appearance of such persecution as they apprehend, such atAiction for conscience sake as is implied in their gloomy anticipations? Is the sober, the honest, the religious labourer less employed by his superiors in rank, or less thriving in the world than his godless neighbour? Among merchants, among statesmen, I will add, among the followers of the naval or military profession, will it usually be found, (for some detached and rernarkable instances are no sufficient proof of the general rule) that a man's religion has done him any
harm? Why, then, should we dress up the confession of our faith with these unreasonable and unnecessary terrors, or doubt that, even in this world, as well as in the world to come, and in the necessities of the present life, as well as in the one thing eternally needful, the Lord of all things may, if we seek His help, make our very enemies to love us, and those, of whom we fear that they should carry us captive, to take pity on us?
As, however, situations may arise, in which we may be called upon, we know not how soon or how suddenly, to prefer our duty to our interest, and to suffer for righteousness sake, it is fit to keep our hearts in constant readiness for such a trial by the assurance, which should be deeply impressed on them, that such afflictions as, on this account, befall us are, by the concurrent assurances of God's words, among the surest earnests of His favour.
" Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say
all manner of evil against you, falsely, for my sake! Rejoice, and be exceeding glad,--for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you!"* "Rejoice,” saith St. Peter,"inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy."
• St. Matt. v. 11, 12. + 1 St. Peter iv. 13.
And the reason for such a joy a little consideration will suggest to us. In the first place, such persecutions, wherever they recur, are so many fulfilments of our Sa-. viour's prophecy that men should thus deal with His followers for His name's sake; and they are, in consequence, so many confirmations of our faith in Him, and so many fresh grounds of hope that, as the sorrows which He foretold have come true, the far greater joys which He has promised, will, in like manner, come true also. No other religion which the world has known was announced with such forebodings. The pretenders to inspiration have usually, if not uniformly, amused their followers with hopes of unmixed success and universal extension; and the failure of their hopes has demonstrated the folly of their assumptions.
Our Lord promised His people affliction first, and weight of glory afterwards. The affliction has arrived, yea, in a great measure, has passed away; the glory will therefore follow!
Secondly, since God has shown afflictions to be so precious in his sight, as to conduct His only Son through the same thorny passage to His present exaltation of Majesty, we may well feel ourselves honoured in being made to resemble Him, even in the circumstances of His humiliation; and that we are thought worthy to be His companions in working, by the same means, the same glorious will of His and our Almighty Father. The soldier who sleeps on the bare field of battle, feels elevated in his spirit so that his general lies no softer; and shall not we in our necessities, sometimes think with a holy joy that, even in these things, God hath made us like His Son ?
Thirdly, when we recollect, that the greater our sufferings are now, and the more courageously we pass through them, the more our faith is proved, our love rendered brighter, and the more exceeding weight of glory and reward is, for Christ's sake, laid up for us hereafter, may we not rejoice in our distress as a pledge of God's gracious designs in our favour, as a gate to greater eminence and far higher seats in His kingdom, than are to be attained by an easier entrance? Strange things are told in the early Christian writers of the glories and the nearer and more
immediate access to the Lord, which those who were kill. ed for His name's sake shall receive from Him. And be these as they may, yet, doubtless, a more than common happiness is laid up, not for the martyr only, but for every one, in proportion to his losses and trials in the cause, who, though he has borne a lighter and less illustrious cross, has still borne cheerfully whatever cross his Master has given him to carry. We know of men in hard and dangerous professions, who rejoice when sent on services of still greater danger and hardship, as knowing that where peril is, promotion may also be found; and the sufferer for conscience sake may, much more, exult in his trials, as knowing that, in the strength of God's grace, he will come off even more than conqueror.
But, fourthly, lest all these hopes should fail us in the hour of danger, it is wise, riay it is most needful, to accustom ourselves to frequent self-denial, even in lawful in. dulgences; to obtain, by frequent exercise, a complete mastery over ourselves; by a constant study of God's word to store our minds beforehand with a deep sense both of His threats and of His promises, and by daily meditation and prayer to accustom our thoughts to the constant spectacle of Christ on the cross, entreating His grace to frame our minds into the likeness of His Heavenly temper.
So shall we fear God; and, fearing Him, be fearless of all besides :--so shall we love God; and, for His sake, count all the world as dross in comparison of His services ;-—so, amid the changes and chances of this mortal life, shall our hearts be there fixed where unfailing joys are to be found ; and where all which now distresses us shall appear but as a painful dream when we awake from sleep refreshed and thankful, and the light of Heaven's great morning beams in through the windows of the sepulchre!