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We have considered thus briefly why they are called the children of God; it concerns us next in a word or two to enquire the consequence of this, or whát benefit they have by being owned as the Children of God, and in this lies the substance of the blessing. St. Paul has done it to our hands in that one text to the Romans, + If children then beirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Chrift that we may be glorified together. They shall be partakers of the heavenly inheritance, be received into everlasting life, and reign with Christ in glory. And he who thinks there can be a more defírable blessing than this, is at once insensible and unworthy of any thing which may be called a blefsing; 'tis the utmost of a Christian's hopes, and a more than sufficient reward for all his labours. Yet this is still to be understood, as in the two preceding Beatitudes, suppofing a principle of love to God, and obedience to him, as the ground of all our endeavours for making or observing peace, and including the rest of our christian duty required of us in the Gospel, as the terms of our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.
CH A P. VIII.
Of PERSECUTION for Righteousness
MATTH. V. IO, II, I 2.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righ
teousness Sake, for theirs is the kingdom of
heaven. Blessed are ye when men Mall revile you and
persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsly for my fake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is
your reward in heaven; for lo persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
UR blessed Saviour, knowing that the adherence of his followers to him in the faith and practice of the Gospel would certainly raise them abundance
of enemics; that the prince of darkness, who is also stiled * the prince of this world, from his numerous and prevailing party in it, t the Spirit that still works in the children of disobediencey would muster all his forces against them, and ha
Tohn xii. 31.
+ Eph. ii. 2.
rass them at least (if he can do no more) by daily detachments of the violence or malice of wicked men, in some degree or other to insult and ruffle them in the profession of truth and holiness, so that * through much tribulation it is that we must enter into the kingdom of God; thought fit to encourage with a particular blessing thole who were to be exposed to so many particular hardships; and not only to entail a reward upon their virtue, but upon their suffering for it too. And this he does in a much larger compass of expression than any of the foregoing Beatitudes took up; he is copious in describing the perfecution, emphatical in pronouncing the reward, repeats the blessing twice, and throws in an exhortation and an additional comfort to the sufferer; and all this because he knew 'twas easier by much to do well than to suffer well: For notwithstanding all the corruption of our nature, the most elaborate and cxalted virtue is not so much against the grain with us, so difficult or uneasy, as it is to suffer persecution. Our Saviour therefore was pleas’d to apply himself with more than ordinary pains (as we find in many other discourses of his as well as this), to fortify his Disciples against the terrible shock which he foresaw the rage of hell and human wickedness would give them. In the verses now before us we have,
I. The persons blessed, those which are persecuted for righteousness fake.
II. The blessedness or reward of such persons.
III. Their duty, or an exhortation to them to rejoice and be exceeding glad.
To begin with the First,
* Acts xiv. 22.
1. The persons blessed, such as are perfecuted for righteousnefs fake. And here it concerns us to enquire, what is meant by righteousness; and consider what that persecution is, which may be expected on the account of righteousness.
FIRST, What is here meant by righteousness; a point which had need be well understood, and carefully distinguished; for if this be not the cause for which we luffer, or if we mistake that for righteousness which is not really so, the title to the reward is loft.
By righteousness therefore is meant, (1.) The profession of the christian faith, or the adherence to some eminent fundamental article thereof. The most material articles of this are comprised in what we commonly call the Apostles Creed; but more at large in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testa
The Apostle tells us, that * all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for do&trine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works, i. e. 'in one word, 'tis a compleat and perfect rule of faith and
Whatsoever therefore is expresly taught us in the holy Scriptures as an article of faith, we are to believe; these being that + form of sound words delivered to us, which we must hold fast, and earnestly contend for: Whatever is contrary to the ho-ly Scriptures, let the authority be what it will that Mall attempt to force it upon us for a truth, is to be resolutely and boldly rejected: And whatsoever is not expresly there laid down as matter of faith and doctrine in religion, or by necessary consequence clearly to be inferred from that which is, we are not only under no obligation to receive ; but when it shall be imposed as a truth cssential to the faith and
* 2 Tim. iii. 16. + 2 Tim. i. 13
communion of Christians, we are under an obligation to protest against it. And if we be called to suffer upon any of these accounts, either for maintaining the one, or rejecting, or opposing the other, it may with assurance be concluded that we suffer for righteousness fake. * St. Paul declares to the Galatians, that if he, or any other man, or even an angel from heaven Mould preach any other gospel to them than that which they had received, he should be accursed. Let those consider this who + make the commandment of God of. no effect by their traditions, and will needs be altering, adding to, or amending the Gospel which our Saviour left us. And since we cannot acknowledge that as an article of faith, which the Author of our faith Christ Jesus and his holy Apostles have not declared to be so, without owning another Law-giver and Author of our faith besides him, and another Gospel; to suffer persecution for refusing to do this, is properly and literally to suffer for Christ. But since there have been many differences about the interpretation of several texts of Scripture containing matters of faith and doctrine; and the Church has all along been divided into parties upon some or other of these, maintaining diverse and contrary expositions, and either side appears fo zealous in their own sense of them, as to be ready to expose their lives and all their advantages for the maintaining of it; and since it has often happen'd, that not only in different places and countries, where different opinions are countenanced; but in the same state or body, according to the sway of government on one fide or the other; men have suffered the loss of their estates, their liberty, and their lives, for maintaining a contrary sense of the same thing: It conicerns us to be very careful in judging of the cause of such suffering, and to be very lure of the ground
† Matth. xv. 6.
* Gal. i. 8, 9.