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learning, and wisdom, and common virtue, have got that estimation in the nature of man, that he that persecuteth but a Seneca, a Cicero, a Demosthenes, or a Socrates, hath irrecoverably wounded his reputation to posterity, and left his name to the hatred of all succeeding ages. “The memory of the just is blessed, but the name of the wicked shall rote.”
4. The persecution of godliness as such in ministers or private Christians, is one of the most visible undoubted marks of one that is yet unsanctified, and in a state of sin and condemnation ; for it sheweth most clearly the predominancy of the serpentine nature in the persecutor. Though Asa in a peevish fit may imprison the prophet, and those Christians that are engaged in a sect or a party, may in a sinful zeal be injurious to those of the contrary party; and yet there may remain some roots of uprightness within; yet he that shall set himself to hinder the Gospel, and the serious practice of godliness in the world, and to that end, hinder or persecute the preachers, and professors, and practisers of it, hath the plainest mark of a child of the devil, and the most visible brand of the wrath of God upon his soul, of any sort of men on earth. If there might be any hope, of grace in him, that at present doth but neglect or disobey the Gospel, and doth not himself live a godly life (as indeed there is not), yet there can be no possibility that he should have grace at that present, who hateth and opposeth it; and that he should be justified by the Gospel who persecuteth it, and that he should be a godly man, who setteth himself against the godly, and seeketh to destroy them.
10. And it is a far more heinous sin in a professed Christian, than in an infidel or heathen. For these do according to the darkness of their education, and the interest of their party, and the principles of their own profession. But for a professed Christian to persecute Christianity, and one that professeth to believe the Gospel, to persecute the preachers and serious practisers of the doctrine of the Gospel; this is so near that sin which is commonly said to be the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost, that it is not easy to perceive a difference; and if I did consent to that description of the unpardonable sin, I should have little hope of the conversion of any one of these. But however they make up such a mixture of hypocrisy, and impiety, and cruelty, as sheweth them to exceed all ordinary sinners, in malignity and misery. They are a self-condemned sort of men; out of their own mouths will God condemn them. They profess themselves to believe in God, and yet they persecute those that serve him ; they dare not speak against the preaching and practising of the doctrine of godliness, directly, and in plain expressions; and yet they persecute them, and cannot endure them! They fight against the interest and law of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, when they have in baptism vowed themselves unto his service. Of all men on earth, these men will have less to say for their sin, or against their condemnation.
e Prov. x. 7.
11. Lastly, Remember that Christ taketh all that is done by persecutors against his servants for his cause, to be done as to himself, and will accordingly in judgment charge it on them. So speaketh he to Saul, “ Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me I am Jesus, whom thou persecutestf.” And Matt. xxv. 41-46. Even to them that did not feed, and clothe, and visit, and relieve them, he saith, “ Verily, I say unto you, inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.” What then will he
say them that impoverished and imprisoned them? Remember, that it is Christ reputatively, whom thou dost hate, deride and persecute.
Direct. Ju. 'If you would escape the guilt of persecution, the cause and interest of Christ in the world must be truly understood. He that knoweth not that holiness is Christ's end, and Scripture is his Word and law, and that the preachers of the Gospel are his messengers, and that preaching is his appointed means, and that sanctified believers are his members, and the whole number of them are his mystical body; and all that profess to be such, are his visible body, or kingdom in the world; and that sin is the thing which he came to destroy, and the devil, the world, and the flesh, are the enemies which he causeth us to conquer, I say, he that knoweth not this, doth not know what Christianity or godliness is; and therefore may easily persecute it in his ignorance. If you know not, or believe not, that ser
Acts ix. 5, 6.
ous godliness in heart and life, and serious preaching and discipline to promote it, are Christ's great cause and interest in the world, you may fight against him in the dark, whilst ignorantly you call yourselves his followers. If the devil can but make you think that ignorance is as good as knowledge, and pharisaical formality, and hypocritical shows, are as good as spiritual worship, and rational service of God; and that seeming and lip-service is as good as seriousness in religion; and that the strict and serious obeying of God, and living as we profess, according to the principles of our religion, is but hypocrisy, pride or faction, (that is, that all are hypocrites who will not be hypocrites, but seriously religious): I say, if satan can bring you once to such erroneous, malignant thoughts as these, no wonder if he make you persecutors. O value the great blessing of a sound understanding! for if error blind you (either impious error, or factious error), there is no wickedness so great, but you may promote it, and nothing so good and holy, but you may persecute it, and think all the while that you are doing well. “They shall put you out of the synagogues; yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you, will think that he doth God service 8.” What prophet so great, or saint so holy, that did not suffer by such hands? Yea, Christ himself was persecuted as a sinner, that never sinned.
Direct. iv. ‘And (if you would escape the guilt of persecution) the cause and interest of Christ, must be highest in your esteem, and preferred before all worldly, carnal interests of your own.' Otherwise the devil will be still persuading you, that your own interest requireth you, to suppress the interest of Christ; for the truth is, the Gospel of Christ is quite against the interest of carnality and concupiscence; it doth condemn ambition, covetousness and lust; it forbiddeth those sins on pain of damnation, which the proud, and covetous, and sensual love, and will not part with ; and therefore it is no more wonder to have a proud man, or a covetous man, or a lustful, voluptuous man to be a persecutor, than for a dog to fly in his face who takes his bone from him. If you love your pride, and lust, ind pleasures, better than the Gospel, and a holy life, no
5 John xvi. 2.
marvel if you be persecutors; for these will not well agree together: and though sometimes the providence of God may so contrive things, that an ambitious hypocrite may think that his worldly interest requireth him to seem religious, and promote the preaching and practice of godliness; this is but seldom, and usually not long. For he cannot choose but quickly find that Christ is no patron of his sin, and that holiness is contrary to his worldly lusts. Therefore if you cannot value the cause of godliness, above your lusts and carnal interests, I cannot tell you how to avoid the guilt of persecution, nor the wrath and vengeance of Almighty God.
Direct. v. ' Yea, though you do prefer Christ's interest in the main, you must carefully take heed of stepping into any forbidden way, and espousing any interest of your own or others, which is contrary to the laws or interest of Christ.' Otherwise in the defence or prosecution of your cause, you will be carried into a seeming necessity of persecuting before you are aware. This hath been the ruin of multitudes of the great ones in the world. When Ahab had set himself in a way of sin, the prophet must reprove him; and then he hateth and persecuteth the prophet, because he prophesied not good of him, but evil". When Jeroboam thought that his interest required him to set up calves at Dan and Bethel, and to make priests for them of the basest of the people, the prophet must speak against this sin; and then he stretcheth out his hand against him, and saith, “ Lay hold on him.” If Asa sin, and the prophet tell him of it, his rage may proceed to imprison his reprover'. If Amaziah sin with the idolaters, the prophet must reprove him, and he will silence him or smite him. And silenced he is, and what must follow ? “ The king said to him, Art thou made of the king's counsel ? Forbear: why shouldst thou be smitten? (This seemeth to be gentle dealing.) Then the prophet forbore and said, I know that God hath determined to destroy thee, because thou hast done this, and hast not hearkened unto my counsel k.” If Pilate do but hear, “ If thou let this man go, thou art not Cæsar's friend!,” he thinketh it is his interest to crucify Christ : as h i Kings xxji. 8. 27. xii. 2. 4.
i 2 Chron. xvi. 10. * 2 Chron. xv. 16,
| Johın xix. 12
Herod thought it his interest to kill him, and therefore to kill so many other infants, when he heard of the birth of a king of the Jews. Because of an Herodias, and the honour of his word, Herod will not hesitate to behead John the baptist; and another Herod will kill James with the sword, and imprison Peter, because he seeth that it pleaseth the Jews". Instances of this desperate sin are innumerable. There is no way so common, by which satan hath engaged the rulers of the world against the kingdom of Jesus Christ, and against the preachers of his Gospel, and the people that obey him, than by persuading them as Haman did Ahasuerus; “ There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom, and their laws are diverse from all people, neither keep they the king's laws : therefore it is not for the king's profit to suffer them, if it please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed.” When once the devil hath got men, by error or sensuality, to espouse an interest that Christ is against, he hath half done his work : for then he knoweth, that Christ or his servants will never bend to the wills of sinners, nor be reconciled to their wicked ways, nor take part with them in a sinful cause.
And then it is easy for satan to persuade such men, that these precise preachers and people are their enemies, and are against their interest and honour, and that they are a turbulent, seditious sort of people, unfit to be governed, (because they will not be false to God, nor take part with the devil, nor be friends to sin). When once Nebuchadnezzar hath set up his golden image, he thinks he is obliged in honor to persecute them that will not bow down, as refractory persons that obey not the king. When Jeroboam is once engaged to set up his calves, he is presently engaged against those that are against them; and that is against God, and all his servants. Therefore as rulers love their souls, let them take heed what cause and interest they espouse.
Direct. vi. * To love your neighbours as yourselves, and do as you would be done by,' is the infallible means to avoid the guilt of persecution. “ For charity suffereth long, and is kind, it envieth not, it is not easily provoked, it thinketh
m Matt. ii. 16–18. xiv. 6-9. Mark vi. 19. 21, 22. Acts xii. 2-4.