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by enable us to fight the good fight to the last, and to finish that course which shall be rewarded with an eternal crown of glory, however grievous it may be to our flesh; yet, considering the interest of the whole man, it is but highly reasonable to account, as the scripture does, those exceeding happy, that do thus patiently suffer and endure. This gives the pious sufferer the best proof of his sincerity in the Christian profession; and that creates the firmest hope of the glorious reward of it; which must needs cause the highest complacency in the midst of all the hard usage of the world.
But further, a good Christian has great reason to rejoice when he suffers for righteousness' sake, and esteem it as his glory and his happiness, because it is an insisting in his Saviour's heroic steps, and being made conformable to his brave example, who was made perfect through sufferings : and he becomes numbered thereby with the greatest saints that ever blessed the world with their presence, the persecuted prophets and apostles, martyrs and confessors, that noble army, who, with undaunted resolution, fought in this spiritual warfare, against the greatest powers of earth and hell; and endured unspeakable hardships for the sake of their great Leader, the Captain of their salvation : and, by their admirable behaviour under the severest trials, with the most invincible courage and constancy, joined with the greatest charity, won over their very enemies to that religion, which before they hated and persecuted with the utmost cruelty and spite.
Now so great an honour as this, and which shall be crowned with so exceeding great a reward as our Lord has declared it shall be, must certainly, to a good Christian, be just matter of the most triumphant joy.
That every man shall be rewarded according to his works, as it is agreeable to the divine justice, so it is expressly promised by our most bountiful and gracious Master, whose exact veracity will certainly make it good; and that infinitely beyond our highest expectations: for eye hath not seen, says the apostle, nor ear heard, neither can it enter into the heart of man to conceive, the things he hath prepared for those that love him. And therefore, as thus to suffer for his sake revilings and mockings, and torments and death, was the highest expression of their sincerest and entire affection and obedience to him ; so their recompense shall be the greatest degrees of glory and honour and happiness in his heavenly kingdom: where, of his divine bounty and munificence, their comparatively light afflictions, and which, with respect to their everlasting reward, may be said to endure but for a moment, shall procure for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. A weight of glory far too great for them to receive and bear, were they not rendered capable of it, and supported under it by the Almighty Giver. How immense, think we, must be the joy of those blessed sufferers, who here were used with the greatest barbarity, contempt, and scorn, when, with the greatest honour and triumph, they shall be conducted to the highest heavens, and welcomed and caressed, and praised and crowned by their God and Saviour, (their once persecuted and afflicted, but now glorious Saviour,) and by all the blessed company of that happy place! How will they think the severest sufferings of this present time not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall then be revealed! And what great encouragement have we now to bear up cheerfully under them, whenever God shall please to call us to them, in joyful expectation of such a recompense of reward as is the kingdom of heaven!
Wherefore, for a conclusion of the whole, it will be of very great use to us, sometimes to forearm ourselves against a day of trial, (which how soon it may come, as quiet and as happy as we now are, none but God can tell,) by seriously revolving in our minds what has been now discoursed of the great blessedness of suffering for righteousness' sake; and how base, how cursed a thing it is, on the contrary, upon any account whatever, to be false to so good a cause; and, with the vilest cowardice and extremest folly, to prefer the present ease and safety and sordid enjoyments of a wretched, tottering carcass, and that but for a very little time, before the ineffable and endless pleasures and glories of holy sufferers in heaven. And let us withal consider what he hath said, who died for us in torments, Whoso shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, as the most base, degenerate, ungrateful wretch, when he cometh in the glory of his Father and the holy angels. For what will it profit a man, if he shall (not only save a poor, perishing, uncertain life, but) gain the whole world, and lose his soul ? and what will a man give in exchange for his soul, when lost in endless and intolerable misery and woe?
Let us therefore stand fast in our holy profession, for he is faithful who hath promised, and will most certainly do it. And since God loves a cheerful giver, let us by no means murmur and repine when we are called to suffer for righteousness' sake, but with St. Paul even glory in such tribulations ; since if we suffer with and for our dearest Lord, we shall also be glorified together.
And since we have all of us, God knows, but too much reason to distrust our own strength in this matter, let us frequently call upon God for his aid, to keep us steadfast and unmovable, and confirm our good resolutions of never departing from his service and his truth, nor letting go our own integrity; and then, with his assistance, we need not doubt of ability to reach even this highest attainment of Christianity, remembering always the great encouragement to this most difficult part of our duty, and the blessing of our Lord upon it in the text; and that of St. James, chap. i. 12, with which I shall put an end to this Discourse: Blessed is he that thus endureth temptation : for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
Now to him that is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God and our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen 8.
And “ grant, O Lord, we beseech thee, that in all “ our sufferings upon earth for the testimony of thy “ truth, we may steadfastly look up to heaven, and
by faith behold the glory that shall be revealed;
and, being filled with the Holy Ghost, may learn “ to love and bless our persecutors by the example
8 Jude 24, 25