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tion, than when they have been flourishing unmolested on their native stalks.” Never, indeed, have the virtues of the Christian appeared so brilliant, or so much to the advantage of others, as when the dark and stormy night of violence has overtaken him.
Secondly. They are happy on account of the honour conferred upon them. There is a dignity in sustaining the cross in behalf of the truth. Extraordinary saints are called to extraordinary trials, while the common soldiers of Christianity have, in general, to encounter only those temptations “ which are common to man.” It is not every man in the army that would be capable of becoming a general, and leading forth the troops in the day of battle. Do you repine at your portion, ye persecuted followers of the Lamb? Wherefore do you wish to enjoy the smile of a world that put your Lord to death? Be satisfied with your allotment, and thankful that you have some proofs of discipleship with Christ. When the vine is pruned, it is an evidence that the proprietor values its fruit. “Be ye therefore stedfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.”
Thirdly. And are they not happy and blessed with respect to the promises given them? Hark! how delightfully the Saviour speaks : “There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake and the gospel's, but he shall receive an hundred fold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life."* Of the same kind was the reply given to the inquiry of the king of Jerusalem, in a case between worldly interest and religious duty: “And Amaziah said to the man of God, But what shall we do for the
• Mark x. 29, 30.
hundred talents which I have given to the army of Israel ? And the man of God answered, The Lord is able to give thee much more than this."* “ Men may be losers in the service of God, but they shall not be losers by it,” says Mr. Henry, the inimitable commentator. Religion always indemnifies its true friends. The path of duty will, in the end, be found the way of true profit. “A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked.” If you turn aside from the right path that you may avoid the cross, you will find yourself disappointed in the issue. The honest and unshrinking profession of the faith of Christ may expose you to some losses as it regards this world; but poverty, with a clear conscience, and the approbation of the Lord, is better than all the wealth of a continent obtained and possessed in the way of sin.
Fourthly. And have not suffering saints always found abundant consolation under their afflictions for Christ's sake? For this the apostle gives thanks: “ Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.”+ Oh, what joys the persecuted believer has sometimes known! Paul and Silas sang praises to God at midnight in prison. Many of the martyrs rejoiced when the flames of martyrdom began to kindle upon them. Somu hailed their second imprisonment because of the fellowship with God they enjoyed in the first. The common jail at Bedford, was as the antichamber of heaven to John Bunyan, where he wrote his
* 2 Chron. xxv. 9.
+ 2 Cor. i. 3, 4.
incomparable · Pilgrim. Thus it is, that as our “days so shall our strength be."*
Fifthly. Observe, that your case is not singular; you suffer in good company. “So persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” The best of men have been “evil entreated.” Think on Noah, Lot, David, Elijah, Jeremiah, and Daniel, with many others whom the world hated with unmingled bitterness, and some of whom were subjected, by the rage of wicked men, to violent death. And you, my brethren, call to mind the apostles and primitive believers, who “had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover, of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword : they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented.”+ And what are your sufferings compared with their’s ?
Finally. Its connection with glory at last, crowns and completes the whole. “Great is your reward in heaven.” The God of grace does not require his servants to labour for nothing. The doctrine of future reward is perfectly consistent with the scheme of grace unfolded in the gospel. Not, indeed, if we attach any idea of merit to the fact, but as it is represented by the great Teacher himself-that while “we have done no more than what was our duty to do,” yet that “a cup of cold water” shall not pass by unnoticed or unrequited. They who are enabled, by the strength they receive from above, to render eminent service to the kingdom of their Lord, “shall shine as the stars for ever and ever.”+ This, then, is the reason of the exhortation “rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven.”
To conclude. Suffer the word of exhortation, ye afflicted
• Deut. xxxiii. 25.
Heb. xi. 36. 37.
Dan. xii. 3.
brethren. Animated by such examples, and supported by such prospects, let nothing divert your feet from the path of religion, or alienate your heart from the service of your Master. Amidst the deepest wave of personal tribulation, remember, that “the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.”* Let prudence, however, mark your course. You must give no just occasion for “your good to be evil spoken of.” The advice of an apostle on this point is well deserving your serious adoption, and should be carefully followed: “Let none of you suffer as an evil doer, or as a busy body in other men's matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God on this behalf.”+ And here I close the subject. Amen.
MATTHEW v. 13.
" YE ARE THE SALT OF THE EARTH: BUT IF THE SALT
HAVE LOST HIS SAVOUR, WHEREWITH SHALL IT BE
These words may be considered as beginning the second topic of discourse in this divine sermon. It may, however, be proper to describe them, as containing the application of the foregoing maxims and doctrines to the useful and practical purposes of the Christian life. The preceding passages, which have been successively discussed, show us the principles on which all religious character must be constructed, and the solid happiness which such principles will invariably produce where they fully operate. Now, in this passage, we have these principles brought home to our own bosoms as profossors of “the truth as it is in Jesus.” It exhibits to our attention, and for our direction, a view of the nature of that most important service which the divine Redeemer expects us to perform towards all mankind, as far as lies within our power, and of the vast benefit which He requires his disciples to be to the world at large. Like a wise master-builder, he has laid a good foundation, and now he directs us how to rear the edifice.