Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man.
I. THAT THE ENMITY OF OTHERS IS A SORE TRIAL TO OUR SPIRIT. Other things bruise us beside bludgeons, and other things cut us beside whipcord. The manifest hatred of other hearts, the cruel reproaches of unsparing lips, banishment from the society of our fellow-men as being unworthy to remain, blighting a fair fame with unjust aspersions, - these things cut deep into the human soul, they bruise almost to breaking tender and sensitive spirits. Some, indeed, are so constituted that the roughest treatment on the part of others will not hurt them; they can throw it off, can cast it aside with indifference; it is to them "as the idle wind which they regard not." But these are the exception, and not the rule among men. God meant us to be affected by the judgment of our brethren and sisters, to be encouraged and sustained by their approval, to be discouraged and checked by their censure. It is a part of our humanity that, upon the whole, works for righteousness. But only too often its effect is evil; only too often the pure are pelted with reproaches, the faithful are condemned for their fidelity, the holy are exposed to the hatred and ribaldry of the profane. Then there is suffering which God never intended his children to endure, - that of the faithful witness to the truth, that of the brave, unyielding martyr to the cause of Jesus Christ. And many are they who would more readily welcome and more easily endure blows or imprisonment than bitter malignity of heart and cold severity of speech. But then it is also true -
II. THAT CHRISTIAN CONSIDERATIONS TRIUMPH OVER ALL. Our Master and Teacher would have our hearts to be so filled with the other and opposite aspect of the case, that our natural inclination to be saddened and stricken in spirit will be completely overborne, and that, instead of sorrow, there will be joy. "Our reward is great in heaven;" so great that we who are reproached for Christ's sake are "blessed; ' we are, indeed, to "leap for joy." What, then, are these balancing, these overbalancing considerations?
1. That we are taking rank with the very noblest men: "In like manner... unto the prophets." We stand, then, on the same level with Moses, with Samuel, with Elijah, with Isaiah, with Jeremiah; with a noble company of men and women who, long since their day and their dispensation, have "gone without the camp, bearing his reproach;" men and women were these "of whom the world was not worthy," to be classed with whom is the highest honour we can enjoy.
2. That we take rank with One who was nobler than all; for did not he, our Lord himself, bear shame and obloquy? was not he crowned with the crown of thorns, because he was here "bearing witness unto the truth" (John 18:37)?
3. That we are serving our self-sacrificing Saviour. A modern missionary relates that when he and another were assaulted by a Chinese crowd, and when, putting his hand to his head where he had been hit, he found it moist with his blood, he felt a strange thrill of exceeding joy as he realized that he had been permitted to shed his blood for that Divine Saviour who had poured out his life for him.
4. That we are truly serving our race; for the truth to which we bear a rejected testimony to-day will, and partly as the result of our suffering witness, be accepted further on, and become the nourishment of the people.
5. That we are on our way to the highest heavenly honour. They who suffer shame "for the Son of man's sake" now shall one day be exalted in the presence of the holy angels. Great will be their reward in the heavenly kingdom. - C.
Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil.James 1:3, 4).
(J. C. Dykes, D. D.)
(Bishop Moberly.)1. It tests and proves the worth of our religion. It tells us whether our Christianity is positive and aggressive, or whether it is only negative.
2. It forms character, it purifies the life, it develops graces — the great end of religion.
3. A necessary factor in the spiritual life. No cross, no crown.
(C. J. Ridgeway, M. A.)1. Wherefore the first principle to enable Christians to suffer for righteousness is, that we should look on ourselves as sent into the world for this end, especially to bear witness to the truth.
2. The second suffering principle is this — It is better to lose for God than to enjoy for ourselves.
3. Whosoever suffers anything for God, in the midst of all their sufferings they are in a better case than their persecutors.
4. That it is a great deal better to suffer for Christ than to suffer for sin.
5. That God may make me suffer in spite of my heart. If I find a reluctancy in me to come off to suffer for Christ, I may be forced in spite of my heart to do it; and what comfort shall I then have in it? How much better is it to suffer freely and willingly for Jesus Christ than to be forced to suffer? and then there will be no exercise of grace in it, but I shall be merely passive. Christ can lay afflictions upon you, and diseases upon you.
6. No creature hath any good in it any farther than it is enjoyed in God, and improved for God.
7. The seventh suffering principle is this: There are no sufferings of any of the saints that they are called unto at any time, but they are ordered by God, for the time of the suffering, for the kind of the suffering, the continuance of the suffering, the instruments of the suffering.
8. That whenever we suffer for Christ, Christ suffers with us; we are partakers of His sufferings, and He is partaker of our sufferings (Isaiah 63:9).
9. There is more evil in sufferings before they come, in imagination, than when they are come.
10. That there is more evil in the least sin than in the greatest afflictions. It is an ill choice to choose the least sin rather than the greatest affliction.Now for the blessedness that there is in suffering, many things might be said, but I shall but present before you some short view of what blessedness there is in suffering persecution.
1. If God gives thee a heart to suffer for Him, thou hast in this a full evidence of the truth of thy graces, yea, and of the strength and the eminency of thy graces.
2. There is a great deal of honour in suffering. It is a speech of Ignatius, "I had rather be a martyr than a monarch"; and so you know Moses chose "rather to suffer with the people of God, than to enjoy all the pleasures and riches of Egypt."
3. It is a blessed thing to suffer for righteousness' sake, for it is the highest and greatest improvement of men's abilities, graces, comforts, whatsoever they enjoy. It is the highest improvement that can be for them to suffer. Never are men's graces so improved as in times of suffering. As the spices have a more fragrant smell when they are beaten to powder that when they are whole; and so the saints' graces are more fragrant in the nostrils of God, and do grow up more in the time of suffering than ever.
4. It is blessed, for those that suffer are under many blessed promises. Why, "If you suffer with Him, you shall be glorified with Him." Read 2 Timothy 2:12, and in Romans 8., there you have divers excellent expressions wherein there are most excellent promises to such as suffer in the cause of Christ (Matthew 19:29).
1. The same spirit of wickedness that opposed them doth still prevail, and it is the same spirit of truth that is opposed.
2. Hence you may see that those that are dear and precious to God, that they may suffer hard things.
3. If so be God should deal with you otherwise than He did formerly with others, then it might discourage you; but they are no other things than His servants heretofore have suffered.
4. It is the way that God hath brought all His servants into heaven by. Why should you think that God will bring you in a better way than He did others?
5. That though the prophets have suffered such things, yet the truth of God prevails.
(J. Burroughs.)I. WE CANNOT BE SERVANTS OF JESUS WITHOUT SUFFERING. The contrast between the natural heart and the ideal Christian is not less marked to-day than it was eighteen hundred years ago. Nothing kindles so much hatred as evangelical love.
II. According to the Saviour's declaration, SUFFERING IS A SOURCE OF HAPPINESS.
1. It is a happiness to suffer for a noble cause.
2. The fact that suffering for truth brings with it its own reward is also a reason for joy, as it ensures the triumph of our cause.
3. "Your reward is great in heaven," said the Master, thus adding the consolation of a glorious hope to those which flow from duty performed.
4. This triumph of truth in heaven is not enough. It must have its glorious revenge on the very theatre of its humiliations and conflicts. The world must see how mistaken it was in rejecting it, and one day it will be forced to exclaim, "O Galilean, Thou hast overcome."
(E. de Pressense, D. D.)I. THE FELICITY WHICH AWAITS THOSE WHO PERSEVERE, THROUGH GOOD REPORT AND EVIL REPORT, IN A STEDFAST ADHERENCE TO CHRIST, IS FREQUENTLY EXPRESSED IN THE SCRIPTURES BY THE NAME OF REWARD.
1. It is inseparably joined to obedience, and promised as a motive to encourage and sustain
2. It will be bestowed as a mark of approbation, and acceptance of the obedience to which it is annexed.
3. It will be proportionate to the degree of religious improvement, to the work of faith and labour of love.
II. THE SUPERIORITY OF HEAVENLY TO EARTHLY REWARDS.
1. The rewards of heaven are certain.
2. They are satisfying.
3. They are eternal.
(R. Hall, A. M.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(Life of Fowell Buxton.)
(H. Burton.)— I have a large field to go over, an Aceldama, "a field of blood," a Golgotha, "a place of dead men's skulls," where you shall see "some stoned, some sawn asunder, some slain with the sword, others having trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, of bonds and imprisonment" (Hebrews 11:36, 37); but withal (what the eye of flesh cannot discover) blessedness waiting upon them, and shadowing them in the midst of horror. Here is a fair inscription upon a bitter roll, a pleasing preface to a tragical theme, a promise of pleasure in misery, of honour in dishonour, of life in death, of heaven in hell. Here we may see persecution making us strong by making us weak, making us rich by making us poor, making us happy by making us miserable, and driving us through this field of blood into Paradise. The parts of the text are manifestly but two: a blessing pronounced — " Blessed are they that suffer persecution," and a reason given — "For theirs is the kingdom of heaven." But we may, by a plain and natural deduction, make them three —
I. That they who begin in the other virtues and beatitudes must end in this; or, in the apostle's words, "They that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Timothy 3:12).
II. That persecution bringeth no blessing but to those "who suffer for righteousness' sake."
III. That to those it doth: which comprehendeth the inscription, "Blessedness"; and the reason of the inscription, "For theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
I. We find here persecution and blessedness joined together, wrought by the same hand, a hand of mercy, and like sweet and bitter water flow. ing from the same fountain, a fountain of love. For it is God's love and mercy to give us a kingdom; and it is His love and mercy to bring us to it by sufferings, to bring us, as the apostle speaketh, "through much tribulation," through the noise and tumults of this world, to a place of rest (Acts 14:22). And the reason is as plain, even written with the sunbeams.
1. For, in this, God dealeth with them as a loving father; He doeth it "for the trial, or rather the demonstration, of their faith"; to make it appear that they do not "make a profession of their love, when they hate Him in their heart"; depend upon Him for their salvation and happiness, and, when persecution cometh, leave Him and exchange Him for the world, rather yield, and fall under the burden, than stand fast in the faith, and retain Him as their God. There must some occasion and opportunity be offered, some danger, some cross, that may fright me; and when I withstand all, and cleave fast unto Christ, then it will appear that I am His friend and servant. "A mariner is best seen in a tempest, and a Christian is best known when persecution rageth."
2. Therefore, in the second place, this is the reason why God suffereth this mixture of good and evil, why He suffereth tyrants and blood-thirsty men to go on and prosper in their ways.
3. Therefore, in the third place, if we consider the Church, which is at her best nothing else but a collection and a body of righteous men, we shall find that, whilst she is on the earth, she is militant; and no other title doth so fully express her.
4. For, in the last place, it cometh not by chance that the righteous are persecuted. What hath chance to do in the school of Providence? No; persecution is brought towards the righteous by the providence and wisdom of a loving Father. I have now brought you into this Aceldama, this "field of blood," where you may behold the ungodly for their own lust "persecuting the poor" (Psalm 10:2), where you may behold hypocrites and deceitful men "bending their bow, and shooting at the righteous in secret" (Psalm 64:4), and mighty men drawing their swords and drenching them in their blood. A sad sight, to see righteousness under the whip and harrow! But withal you may discover not only an angel going before them, as before the children of Israel in the wilderness, but Christ Himself leading them through these terrors and amazements to a place of refreshing, to "a city not made with hands," to "the kingdom of heaven." Oportet, "They must suffer"; but "there remaineth a sabbath for the children of God" (Hebrews 4:9). Persecution is the lot, the inheritance of the righteous: that was our first part.
III. We will now present you with the second: That every man that suffereth hath not title to this blessedness in the text, but only those "who are persecuted for righteousness' sake," which comprehendeth all those duties which the gospel requireth at their hands who have given up their names unto Christ. For it is possible that a man may suffer for one virtue, and neglect the rest; may suffer to preserve his chastity, and yet be covetous. He can suffer for the law, and yet break it.
1. And, first, the cause; it must be the love of righteousness. For we see, as I told you, men will suffer for their lusts, suffer for their profit, suffer for fear, suffer for disdain. Be sure your cause be good, or else to venture goods or life upon it is the worst kind of prodigality in the world.
2. In the next place, as a good cause, so a good life, doth fit and qualify us to suffer for righteousness' sake. — "He dieth not the death of a martyr who liveth not the life of a Christian." An unclean beast is not fit to make a sacrifice. The persecuted and persecutor imply and suppose one another, and are never asunder.
1. But let them that suffer have the first place.(1) And, first, "knowing these terrors," as the apostle speaketh (2 Corinthians 5:11), seeing persecution is, as it were, entailed upon the righteous person, seeing there is a kind of providence and necessity it should be so, let us learn, first, as St. Peter speaketh, "not to think it strange concerning this fiery trial" (1 Peter 4:12); not to dote too much upon this outward gilded peace and perpetuity in public profession; or, when we see these things, think some strange thing is come unto us. For what strange thing is it that wicked men should persecute the righteous? that a serpent should bite, or a lion roar? that the world should be the world, and the Church the Church?(2) And, that we may not think it strange, let us not frame and fashion to ourselves a Church by the world.(3) And, therefore, in the third place, let us cast down these imaginations, these bubbles of wind blown and raised up by the flesh, the worse part, which doth soonest bring on a persecution, and soonest fear one; and let us, in the place of these, build up a royal fort, "build up ourselves in our most holy faith" (Jude 1:20), and so fit and prepare our. selves against this fiery trial.
2. And now, as we have brought the righteous person into this field of blood, and prepared and strengthened him against the horror of it; so must we bring the persecutor also, that he may behold what desolation he hath made. Why boasteth thou thyself in thy mischief, O mighty man? (Psalm 51:1), that "thou hast sped, that thou hast divided the prey"? (Judges 5:30).
(A. Farindon, D. D.)I. FROM WHOM CHRIST'S DISCIPLES SUFFER.
II. WHAT IT IS WHICH THE DISCIPLES OF CHRIST SUFFER.
4. The casting out of their names.
III. THE CAUSE OF THE SUFFERING OF CHRIST'S DISCIPLES. And here we meet —
1. The pretended cause. "They shall cast out your name as evil"; they shall fasten, as much as in them lies, all manner of calumnies upon you; and report of you, not as indeed you are, but as they who hate you would have you thought to be. But as to others, the supposed evil in the matter that Christ's followers are charged with, is but a pretended cause of their being so evilly dealt withal.
2. The real cause for which they suffer. This is that which is at the bottom of all — it is for Christ's sake, for their respect unto Him and His institutions, His truths and ordinances, that His disciples suffer. And this we may deduce from the following scheme.
I. It is for the truths of Christ, the doctrine owned, preached, and recommended by Him, that they thus deal with us.
II. It is for the purity of His worship, because we would serve God according to His own will, and not according to their will-worship, that they thus abhor us.
III. It is for His authority's sake, because we dare not take the government from off His shoulders (Isaiah 9:6), nor pay that respect to any frail man which is only due unto Him who is "God blessed for evermore" (Romans 9:5) — or, if you will, it is because we dare not worship the beast — that they serve us thus. To sum up all in one — it is for the vindication of Christ in all His offices that we endure these indignities at their hands. Three consolatory inferences.
1. In that it is but from men — "When men shall hate you" (Matthew 10:28).
2. It is "for the Son of Man's sake" that we thus suffer. And if He had required greater matters of us, would we not have done them?
3. Christ has pronounced such sufferers blessed — "Blessed are ye"(1) It is Christ's judgment on our case and condition. And He, we may truly say then, sees not as man sees.(2) It is not a bare opinion (though His could not be erroneous) that we are blessed, but it is Christ's effective sentence. His dicere is facere. Christ doth "make" them blessed whom He "pronounces" to be so; and He can make a blessed persecution. If He bless, who can curse? (Numbers 23:8). "Lord, let them curse, but bless Thou" (Psalm 109:28).
(P. Finke, D. D.)
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