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THE DUTY OF PATIENCE.
Jam. i. 2-4. My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
VE at this time are scarcely able to form a conception of the state of the Church in the apostolic age. Christianity amongst us is attended with none of the evils to which the primitive professors of it were exposed. But to what is this owing? Is Christianity altered at all? or is it less offensive than it was in the eyes of ungodly men? No: it is the same as ever: and, if those who profess it be not despised and hated now as they were in former times, it is because they retain "the form only of godliness, and have none of its power." Let persons enter into the spirit of Christianity now, as the Christians did. in the Apostles' days, and they will be treated precisely as they were, so far at least as the laws of the land will admit of it: and, if they be not persecuted unto death, it will not be from there being any more love to piety in the carnal heart now, than there was then; but from the greater protection which is afforded by the laws of the land, and from a spirit of toleration which modern usages have established. Real vital godliness was then universally hated; and it is so still. It was not to the Jewish converts in
Palestine only that St. James wrote, but "to the twelve tribes who were scattered abroad." Religion was persecuted not by one party only, but by every party and in every place: and it is still, in every place," to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness:" and all who will cultivate it will sooner or later need to have the consolations of our text administered to them for their support.
In the words which we have read, we see, I. The appointed portion of God's people—
In former ages they were hated for righteousness' sake
[Go back to the time of Abel. You well know that he was murdered by his own brother Cain. And what was the ground of Cain's enmity against him? We are informed on infallible authority: "Cain slew his brother, because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous." Descend through all successive ages, and you will still find the same enmity subsisting between the seed of the woman, and the seed of the serpent. As light and darkness, so Christ and Belial, both in themselves and in their members, ever have been, and ever must be, opposed to each other. As to the diversity of trials to which the godly have been exposed, we need look no further than to the short summary given us in the 11th chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews: "Some were tortured: others 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 sheep-skins and goat-skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented:" (yes, they were so treated "of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth." Come we to the time of Christ and his Apostles: it might be hoped that their superior light and piety, and the innumerable`miracles with which their divine commission was confirmed, would screen them from such evil treatment; and especially that the Lord Jesus Christ, whose character was so spotless, and whose wisdom was infinite, should be able to overcome the prejudices of a blind infatuated world. But they were only the more exposed to the taunts and cruelty of the ungodly in proportion as their light shined with the brighter splendour. And all who in the first ages of the Church became their followers,
a 1 John iii. 12. b 2 Cor. vi. 14, 15. c Heb. xi. 35-38.
were, in their measure, subjected to the same trials, and made to drink of the same bitter cup.]
The same treatment they meet with in the present day
[We have observed, that a mere form of piety will pass without opposition: but real, vital godliness, will subject us to reproach at this day, as much as ever: "All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." That kind of godliness which arises from self and terminates in self, will bring us into favour with the world: but that which is derived altogether from Christ as its proper source and author, and is exercised altogether for the advancement of his glory, is, and ever will be, odious in the eyes of the ungodly and a man who exemplifies it in his life and conversation can no more escape persecution than Christ himself could. To receive all from Christ, and to do all for Christ, is the very essence of Christian piety: and in requiring this of his followers, our blessed Lord has bequeathed to his Church a never-failing source of variance with the world. This he himself tells us : "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law: and a man's foes shall be they of his own household." Accordingly we find universally, that where a person begins to live by faith on the Lord Jesus Christ, and to devote himself to his service, all his friends and relatives will take the alarm, and try, by every method of ridicule, or menace, or persuasion, to divert him from his purpose. Let him live in an entire neglect of his soul, and no one will trouble himself about him. He may live his whole life in such a state, and not a friend will exhort him to serve the Lord: but the least approach to piety will be discouraged by every friend and relative that he has. Not that religion will be discountenanced as religion: some evil name must be given to it first; and then it will be reprobated under that character. But the very persons who hold in the highest veneration the names of the Apostles, and of the great reformers of our Church, and who would raise shrines and monuments to departed saints, will persecute the living saints with the utmost rancour: and were the Apostles or reformers to live again upon the earth, they would receive the very same treatment from them that they met with from the people of the age in which they lived. If they called the Master of the house Beelzebub, it is in vain for any servant of his to hope that he shall escape a similar reproach.]
d 2 Tim. iii. 12.
e Matt. x. 24, 25.