Page images

suited to such as are commanded to love and do all good to their most violent enemies, and who are to love their neighbours as themselves.

And whatever pride, self-love, or human wisdom may suggest against this doctrine, may, with equal strength, be objected against all those other doctrines, which are thus of a spirit like unto it.

But let Christians consider, that it is of these doctrives of the cross, that our Saviour saith, Whoever shall be ashamed of me, and of my word, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy angels. Farther.

This is my commandment, saith Christ, that ye love one another, as I have loved you. Now this as plainly forbids all strife and angry contentions with others, as when we are commanded to part with our coat, rather than contend for it. For it is as impossible to love our adversary whilst we are contending with him, as Christ loved us, as to follow Christ, and at the same time depart from him.

His love towards mankind (which is the example for our love) knew of no enemies, nor refused any sufferings, but was a continual labour for the salvation of all men. If, therefore, we treat any persons as our enemies, or flie in the face of those who injure us, and are impatient under sufferings, we are fallen from that love which is to govern all actions.

Men may fancy what they please of the charity of their tempers, whilst they are resisting evil, and carrying on the contentions of law, as others may think they have their conversation in heaven, whilst they are labouring after riches on earth ; but if they would consider, that Christian charity is to be like the charity of Christ, who died for his enemies, they would soon find, that it must be a charity of another kind, that allows them to contend with their enemies.

Every resistance or contention of any kind is a


quarrel, and necessarily begets some degrees of spight and ill-will; and though they may often be carried on with some show of external decency, yet the inward témper partakes of the contention, is tainted with some little and ill-natured resentments, and destroys that divine spirit of love to which we are called.

So that to talk of the charity of resisting, and contentious suits at law, is alniost like talking of the charity of duels.

The only way, therefore, to preserve our Christian spirit, and show ourselves more like Christ than those who injure us, is to act as he did under injuries, and bear them with patience, for such reasons as rendered him patient. We are sure, that whilst we follow him we follow the way, the truth, and the life; but as soon as we resent, and form designs of conquering our oppressor, we partake of his spirit, and offend against meekness and charity, as he offended against justice.

We must therefore bear with injuries and wrongs; not because it is difficult to redress them, but because it is difficult, and next to impossible, to resist and contend with our adversaries, without forfeiting that humility, meekness, and divine love, to which we are called.

We must suffer with patience, because such patience is an exercise of our self-denial, that renders us more like our Lord and Master.

This cannot be doubted of, since we are told of our blessed Saviour, That though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.

Now if this be true, is it not true in the same' degree, that we are not only to bear sufferings with patience, but even receive them with thankfulness, as proper means to teach us obedience to the laws of God?

For if he, who was a Son, who was without sin, and so full of divine knowledge, yet received instruc

tion from sufferings, surely we, who are poor infirm creatures, must want that instruction which is to be learnt from them.

For to suppose that we can be obedient to God without sufferings, is to suppose, that we can do our duty without such helps as the Son of God had. Sufferings are therefore to be considered amongst the graces of God, which purify our souls, enlighten our minds with divine knowledge, and prepare us to perfect holiness in the fear of God.

But how contrary to the spirit of Christ do we act, if our sufferings provoke us into methods of retaliation; and instead of teaching us obedience to God, lead us into a state of enmity towards our brethren?

Farther; it became him, saith the apostle, for whon are all things, and by whom are

Heb. ii. 10. all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

We are here plainly taught, not only that Christ was made perfect through sufferings, but that it was fit he should be made perfect that way, as the only way that could bring many sons unto glory.

So that we see one end of Christ's sufferings, before his being crowned with glory and honour, was to teach us, that sufferings is the way to arrive at glory, and that th use who desire to be sons of glory must first be made perfect through sufferings.

We therefore forget the nature of our religion, we mistake the one great design of Christ's sutierings, we go out of the road to glory, if we do not patiently submit to sufferings, if we are not thankful that we suffer with Christ, that we may reign with him.

Men in vain pretend that they only defend them· selves against injustice. For these are the very hard

ships which Christ suffered, and which they are, if they would be guided by his Spirit, to suffer with patience.

St. Peter, speaking to servants, saith, This is thank-worthy, if a man for conscience toward God, endure grief, suffering wrongfully. If when ye du well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that ye should follow his steps.

Here the apostle founds the duty of servants being subject to masters that treat them injuriously, upon the common doctrine of Christianity, because to suffer wrongfully is thank-worthy before God, and because Christ's example has called us to bear with patience those injurious and wrongful hardships.

Let it therefore be carefully observed, that as sure as the apostle here speaks by the Spirit of God, so sure it is that our behaviour is not thank-worthy, or acceptable with God, unless we endure wrongful sufferings with patience; and that if we lay aside this meekness, we leave the example of Christ, who only saves such as foliow his steps.

I have now gone through several instances of that mortification, self-denial, and suffering, to which the Christian world are called.

If the doctrines of this chapter seem hard and grievous, they can only seem so to such as have wrong notions of human live.

Too many people imagine this life to be something that is substantial in itself, and valuable for its own goods, and look upon religion as something that is added to it, to make a worldly life more easy, regular, and happy; and so embrace religion with no other spirit, nor to any farther degree than as it complies with the ease, order, and happiness of that way of life in which they live.

Our blessed Saviour has fully confuted this opinion, by teaching us that there is but one thing needful. If therefore we are but so far Christians, as to believe that what our Saviour has here taught is strictly true; then all the pretended grievances of self-denial and suffering are all struck off at once.

For what though meekness, patience, and humility, may often make us sufferers, yet if such sufferings make us not only lose such things as are not needful for us, where is any ground for complaint?

But farther, such sufferings are not only without any real hurt, but they promote our happiness, and become matter of real and solid joy. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you,


pera secute you, and shall say all mnnner Matt. v. 11. of evil of you falsely for my sake, rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven.

Christ does not endeavour to comfort us in this state, as if it was a hard or melancholy state, which we must bear, because it is made easier with patience, or because God has pleased to impose it upon us, but he looks at it in quite another view, not as needing comfort, but as having matter fit for congratulation.

What Christians are they therefore, what strangers to the Spirit of Christ, who reckon those things amongst the bardships of religion, which Christ recommends to us as reasons of rejoicing, and being exceeding glad?

The whole matter therefore plainly comes to this; if our sufferings, our injuries or hardships, be such as we undergo, because we dare not depart from that meekness, and patience, and charity, which Christ has taught, because we had rather love our enemies than be revenged on them, rather suffer like Christ, and be full of his Spirit, than avoid sufferings by a contrary temper, such sufferings are our greatest gains.

If, on the contrary, you know of any meekness and patience which is not after the example of Christ, any injuries or sufferings which you can resist, and yet show that you follow the example of

« PreviousContinue »