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to be persecuted : he counsels his disciples to imitate a wise builder, that computes the expence before he begins the fabric, lest having laid the foundation, and not being able to finish it, he be exposed to the just censure of folly. So christians are to forecast the injuries and troubles they are likely to suffer for religion, lest when the tempest threatens, they shamefully desert it. And how heavy will their doom be? “ The fearful,” that are not storm-proof, " and the liars,” that openly renounce what they believe, and profess what they do not believe, “ shall be with infidels, idolaters, and murderers, cast into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone." Rev. 21. 8.
The special reasons why prosperity makes men so disposed to quit the truth in times of danger, are, because it weakens the principles from whence christian magnanimity springs; and those are unfeigned faith, and divine love. As in natural things the formative virtue determinates the matter to such a being, and disposes to such operations in proportion to the principles from which it results: so in moral things, the soul is disposed and regulated in its actings correspondently to its principles, and is either carnal or spiritual. The universal principle of carnal persons is to be happy here: their eyes are ever engaged upon, and their desires ever thirsting after sensual satisfaction: “ who will show us any good ?” and by consequence their main care is, to obtain and secure temporal things, the materials of their happiness. The supernatural principle of a saint is to please God, and enjoy his favour. As men believe they love, and as they love they live.
ist. Unfeigned faith of the rewards of the gospel, is necessary to keep a christian steady in his course, through all the storms and tides of this mutable world. “It is a faithful saying, if we die with him, we shall also live with him. If we suffer with him, we shall reign with him.” 2 Tim 2. 11, 12. The apostle usually prefaces with that strong assurance, “ it is a faithful saying, " when the truth is of eminent importance, and contrary to the sentiments of carnal nature, “if we die with him, we shall also live with him.” Our Saviour dedicated martyrdom in his own person: his death was a ransom for us to God, and a sealing testimony of the gospel to men: “ he witnessed before Pontius Pilate a good confession.” I Tim. 6. 13. The terror of the Roman tribunal, nor the rage of the Jews, could not make him retract
the divine truth which he had so often declared, that he was the Son of God, come from heaven to save the world : and when the cross with its infamy and horror was in his view, he avowed his heavenly kingdom. And all those who suffer with him," for his truth, and in conformity to his pattern, with his meekness and patience, his charity and constancy, shall reign with him. And what is more powerful for the consolation and establishment of christians, than that their sufferings for Christ shall end in glory. “ This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” 1 John 5. This did miracles in the first ages of the church, conquering all that was terrible to Aesh and blood. The heathens despised the hopes of christians as wretched illusions, and with impious scorn upbraided them for their constancy under persecutions : * where is the God ' that can raise the dead, and not rescue the living ?' Unbelief is blind, and cannot see beyond this world to the eternal state. But faith in the blessed Redeemer, opens a prospect into the world to come, so full of glory, that no person that has an understanding and will to discourse and choose, if he steadfastly believes it, but must despise all the evils that the wit and strength of persecutors can inflict in comparison of it. “ I reckon," saith the apostle, “ that the sufferings of the present life,” in all their kinds and degrees, “ are not to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed.” Rom. 8. 18. Enlightened christians esteemed their sufferings for the cause of God, no arguments of his weakness, but his wisdom, to exercise and try their loyalty and cordial obedience before he rewarded them; and had reason to admire his providence, not to suspect his power and love. They knew that the power of tyrants could only reach the body, the vile, frail, and mortal part of man; but the precious soul was entirely exempted from their rage ; and faith assured them of a glorious resurrection after death. The body of a martyr shall be revived as a phænis out of its ashes ; when the body of a persecutor shall be quickened, as a serpent out of a dunghil, the one to be glorified, the other tormented for ever. The belief of this made them extremely valiant in the face of all their threatening cruel enemies. But “the evil heart of unbelief, causes a departure from the living God.” Heb. 3. 12. He that suspects God's fidelity in his prcmises, will suspend his own: nature will shrink at the first sight of imminent dangers. An infidel, that lives as if he were all body, and no immortal soul, judges the loss of the present life, and the comforts of it, as his utter undoing and total perishing. He has an appearance of reason to secure his present possessions, whatever becomes of religion; for he expects no future good, that will infinitely more than countervail his present loss : and that prosperity inelines men to atheism and infidelity, has been proved before.
* Min. Fæl,
2dly. The love of God inspires believers with a heavenly fortitude, to endure the worst evils that may befal them for his sake. 6 Perfect love casts out fear;" 1 John 4. 18. keeps its supremacy inviolate in the midst of the greatest dangers. Love is an active invincible affection, as strong as death," that none can vanquish. The love of God is a never-dying flame in the hearts of the saints, because it depends upon the unchangeable love of God to them. “ We love him, because he first loved us." | John 4. 19. Love esteems God as the greatest reward. A saint does not so much love God for heaven, though a place of inconceivable glory, as heaven for God, because he there reveals his perfections to his people. This holy love, makes the christians faithful and obsequious to Christ, and to prefer his honour incomparably before the present world. The martyrs of the divinest courage, were animated by this holy affection: they “ loved not their lives unto the death,” but cheerfully offered them as a sacrifice to his praise. Love kindled in them a sacred vehemence, in despising all the glittering temptations of the world. Love inspired them with a victorious patience, to blunt the edge of cruelty. They never repented the choice of his religion, but rejoiced when his glory was set forth by their ignominy, and when their love to Christ appeared in its radiancy and vigour through their sufferings. Love is the principle of constancy, by which religion reigns on earth, and is crowned in heaven.
On the contrary, when riches, honours, and pleasures, are the idols of men's heads and hearts, the chief objects of their esteem and affections, they will sacrifice their souls rather than lose the world, their dear felicity. Therefore St. John earnestly dehorts christians, “ love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him :” they are utterly inconsistent ; partly because the
heart cannot be entirely set upon contrary objects, and partly because love to the one requires what is directly contrary to love to the other. From hence St. James vehemently upbraids carna! professors, " ye adulterers, and adultresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world, is the enemy of God.” The world is the powerful star, whose aspect he regards, and though with the dishonour and displeasure of God, he will by irreligious compliance secure his temporal interests. The pure refined truth of the gospel, that has passed the fiery trial, he will corrupt and embase by carnal temperaments : the precious truth so dearly bought by the blood of the martyrs, he will vilely sell for the things of this world. Nay of a professor, he will by degrees turn persecutor of those who steadfastly own the truth. The love of the world so strangely inchants and infects the mind, that a false religion which a man did abhor from, yet when recommended by secular advantages, will appear tolerable, then eligible, then necessary; and consequently the divine truth must be suppressed that contradicts it.
There are such frequent examples of this in every age, that to insist upon many particular instances, were to tell great numbers of the dead to prove that men are mortal. The young man that so earnestly addressed himself to Christ for his direction how to obtain eternal life, when commanded to “ give all his estate to the poor, and to follow Christ:" he would not gain at so dear a rate " celestial treasures, but went away sorrowful.” Whereupon our Saviour declares with solemnity to his disciples, “ verily I say unto you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven." We read of two tribes of the Israelites, that chose their inheritance on this side Jordan, and would not have a share in the land of Canaan: thus the earthly minded prefer the present world, the object of their choice and love, before the heavenly Canaan. The ecclesiastical historian * relates, that in the time of persecution by Decius, the rich men among the christians, were most easily and miserably foiled : the love of the world was a daugerous earnest in their hearts, of their revolting back to Pagan idolatry, and the bondage of satan. And in the time of the Arian persecution, how many who by their titles and office were specially obliged to “ be valiant for the truth, and to contend earnestly for the faith;" yet did accommodate their profession to their aspiring ambition and greedy avarice? The standard of their religion was the pitch of the state : they had a politic faith, and appeared either orthodox or Arian, as the public favour shined upon truth or heresy, they robbed our Saviour of the honour of his deity (0 astonishment !) rather than part with their beloved dignities and riches. So powerful are human respects in those who mind earthly things. Great force is requi-ite to pluck up a tree that has its roots spread and deeply fastened in the earth; and it cannot be so entirely separated, but that part of the roots will be broken: thus when the affections are deeply set in the world, and by pleasures and riches fastened to it, how hardly is it rent from it! every fibre of the heart is broken with sorrow. As Lot's wife, when by an angel forced out of Sodom, yet cast a lingering affectionate look after it, and was turned into a pillar of salt. The separation is as bitter as the possession is sweet: and none are more unwillingly divorced from the world, than those who enjoy the confluence of earthly happiness. Now when secular interest outweighs duty, when apparent danger induces to deny the truth of Christ ; how terrible and unavoidable will be the punishment of that disloyalty ? Our Saviour's threatening is universal; “ whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I deny before my Father which is in heaven.” Matt. 10. 33. A most righteous and dreadful retribution; they denied him as their Lord, and he denies them as his servants. They usurped the title of christians, the relation of his disciples, and in the last day he will publicly disown them. When that sad sentence shall come from their Judge, “ depart ye cursed, I know ye not ;" what confusion, what anguish will seize upon them! They shall be banished from his glorious kingdom, excommunicated from his blessed society, and tormented with the rebellious angels for ever. It is true, this universal an peremptory threatening, must be understood with an exception of those who after their falling away are restored by repentance. Sometimes a christian that has deliberately and entirely devoted himself to Christ, that has sincerely resolved rather to part with his life, than that for which life is worthy the enjoying ; yet by strong temptations has been faint-hearted and denied the truth: like one that disannuls in the height of a fever, the will he made
* Euseb. lib. 6.