Page images
PDF
EPUB

Let us,

to-day, to depart from iniquity. Let us all endeavour, there. fore, so to live now, as we shall wish we had done, when we come to lie upon our death-bed: let us pursue those things now which we shall then like to think of, and reflect upon with pleasure; and presently forsake all such things, the remembrance of which, at that time, will be bitter to us. whilst we are well and in health, entertain the same thoughts and apprehensions of things, that we shall have, when we are sick and dying. Let us now as much despise this world, think as ill of sin, as seriously of God and eternity, as we shall then do; for this is the great commendation of the righteous man, that every one desires to die his death; that, at last, all men are of his mind and persuasion, and would choose his condition, and say, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his.'

(DR. BENJ. CALAMY.]

SERMON LXV.

SECOND SUNDAY AFTER EASTER.

THE CHRISTIAN STATE, A STATE OF SUFFERING. 1 Pet. ii. 21.--Even hereunto were ye called; because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.

[Text taken from the Epistle for the Day.] The duty and the perfection of a Christian consist in the imitation of Christ ; in the imitation of the passive as well as active graces in which he abounded. Both sides of his character are highly instructive to us, at different times and for different ends; but some occasions there are, when that part of Christ's example, which relates to the sad sufferings he underwent, and the heroic manner in which he bore them, is principally to be regarded by Christians. Such was the season, at which St. Peter wrote this epistle to his brethren of the dispersion, then every where oppressed, afflicted, persecuted: the chief design of the Apostle is, to fortify the new converts against those disgraces and afflictions, which had befallen, or were ready to befall them, on the account of their religion; and the argument by which he persuades them to equanimity and patience, is, that even hereunto they were called ;' that they felt no more now, than what, from their very entrance on Christianity, they had reason to expect; that such sufferings are the proper lot and portion of Christians ; because (as he adds) Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that ye should follow his steps. If the Captain of our salvation was made perfect through sufferings, how shall any man, who marches under his banner, ever hope to be exempted from them?

The words of the text contain two great truths; first, that the Christian state, however willing some Christians may be to mistake the nature of it, is certainly a state of suffering: secondly, that the sufferings of Christ afford us a plain argument, why we also should expect our share of sufferings; and withal a powerful motive to support us under them.

I. That the Christian state is a state of suffering, this is a hard saying, which will not easily gain admittance with the great, the rich, and the prosperous ; with those who are clothed in purple and fine linen, and fare sumptuously every day.' And yet, as unwelcome as the doctrine may be, we can scarce open a page of the Gospel, without finding it either laid down in the express words of Christ and his apostles, or recommended by their practice. "Even hereunto are we called,' says St. Peter in the text; We are thereunto appointed,' [1 Thess. ii. 3.) says St. Paul, where he is professedly treating of this subject.-And in another place, [2 Tim. ii. 12.]

All that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution.'—And again, We must, through much tribulation, enter into the kingdom of God.' (Acts xiv. 22.]

It is true, these, and many other passages of like import in the New Testament, are chiefly, and in their utmost extent, to be understood of the times when they were first uttered, the infant age of Christianity ; when the sufferings of Christians were designed to promote the reception of the faith of Christ, and the seed of the word sown was to be watered and made fruitful by the blood of Martyrs. However, although the in. stances be now rare, in which we are thus called upon to witness a good confession,' and to resist even to blood ;' yet still he, who would be a true disciple of Christ, must even now deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow him.

Can we doubt of this truth, if we consider the solemn engagements, into which we entered, when we were first listed in

his service at our baptism, that we would manfully fight under his banner, against sin, the world, and the devil, and continue Christ's faithful soldiers and servants to our lives' end? Are these enemies so weak, and contemptible, as that we should hope to resist them with ease? Can this combat be maintained, this warfare be accomplished by us, without great difficulties and troubles ?

The good Christian is not of this world, even while he lives in it: and therefore the man of this world, whose life is not like his, whose ways are of another fashion, will be sure to traduce, and perhaps despise him, because he runs not with them to the same excess of riot.' His humility and lowliness of mind will be called meanness of spirit; his patience under injuries and affronts, insensibility and folly ; his exactness in the performance of religious duties, his conscientious abstinence from whatever has the appearance of evil, his holy severities and mortifications, will furnish ample matter for their ungodly disdain: the proud will have him exceedingly in derision;' he

will be as a tabret' unto them; "a by-word of the people, and the song of the drunkards.'

And can a man, so treated and vilified, be said to be in an unsuffering state? I am sure, these are reckoned among the bitter ingredients of our Saviour's sufferings: so that even where he is said to have óendured the cross, and despised the shame,' it is added also, in the next verse, that he endured the contradiction of sinners :' as if that circumstance added some degree of weight and sharpness to his other afflictions.

The sincere Christian cannot deny or dissemble the truth, when a proper occasion bids him stand forth and own it; he cannot flatter wickedness in high places,' fall in with false and prevailing opinions, or follow a multitude to do evil:' and he, who cannot bend himself to a compliance in such cases, must expect, not to continue unmolested, but to reap the proper fruits of his stubbornness. Or should the course of this world, in which he lives, run smoothly on; should he be ruffled and discomposed by no enemies, no accidents from without ; yet still there are inward anxieties and sorrows, perplexities and troubles, that attend him. : "He finds,' for St. Paul himself owns that he found, • a law in his members, warring against the law of bis mind, and bringing him,' or endeavouring to bring him, into captivity

to the law of sin.' (Rom. vii. 23.) He has unruly appetites to mortify, strong passions to tame: and the struggle with these, even after they seem vanquished, must sometimes be renewed ; and such a struggle is no way joyous, but grievous. The fear he has of offending, keeps him under a perpetual alarm : the sense he has of guilt, is quick and pungent, and subjects him, whenever he falls, to great remorse and uneasiness. How doth bis own wickedness' (nay, how doth his very errors and infirmities) correct him, and his backslidings reprove him!'

Or could we suppose him to have no occasion thus to suffer for his own sins, yet will he never want one of suffering for the sins of others. The good Christian cannot be an unconcerned spectator of any great degree of wickedness, even while he himself stands free from the infection of it. His tender regard for God's honour, for the interests of piety, and the good of souls, makes him lay to heart the crying iniquities of that people, amidst whom he dwells, and grieve for those, who do not (and the rather, because they do not) grieve for themselves. When he observes the scandalous progress of infidelity, the open growth of profaneness ; the emulation and strife, the oppres. sion and injustice, the hatred and cruelty, that abound in the world through lust; in a word, when he sees the most immoral practices and pollutions of the heathens reigning among those who name the name of Christ, though in their works they deny him ;-such a scene of sin and misery wounds him to the quick, and fills his soul with unspeakable sorrow. “Rivers of waters run down his eyes, because men keep not God's law.'

It is true, his mind is not always employed in this melancholy manner; he has also the inward joys and consolations, arising from the testimony of a good conscience, from the assurances of God's favour, and the refreshing influences of his good spirit: but even these, either for the punishment of his misuse of them, or for a trial of his faith, are sometimes withdrawn; and then his soul is sorrowful even unto death ; fearfulness and trembling come upon him, and his heart within him is even like melted wax.' And this state of dereliction is what the most experienced saints and servants of God have felt, and complained of : and no wonder; since something not unlike it happened even to the Son of God himself.

Add to this, that even the best of men, and those who are

advanced nearest toward perfection, have often some peculiar infirmity of body or mind, which gives them great interruptions in the course of their duty, and great trouble and uneasiness in the performance of it; and this is permitted by God, in order to keep them vigilant, humble, dependent: even to St. Paul “there was given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet him.'

The Christian state then (even setting aside the extraordinary case of persecution for the name of Christ) is certainly a

state of suffering; hereunto are we called,' as many of us as have vowed obedience to Christ, and profess to believe and to live as he hath taught us. And if so, let us all lay our hands upon our hearts, and examine ourselves, whether, and how far we may be said to be in such a state. Have we then lived according to the flesh, or according to the spirit? Have we made a serious, a strict, and impartial scrutiny into our past lives and actions? Have we felt the spirit of compunction and contrition moving in our hearts, and condemning us for our transgressions ? Have we prayed, and striven against them, and applied those harsh, but wholesome remedies, which the Christian religion prescribes for the cure of such diseases ; fasting, and self-denial, and mortification ? Have we experienced the afflicting hand of God, laying hold of us, when we transgressed, and gently leading us back into the paths of virtue from whence we had swerved, by seasonable and merciful chastisements? If this be our case, we have some reason to hope, that we are in such a state and condition of mind as becomes a good Christian. But now, on the other side, what if the vanities of life, and the enjoyments of sense have engrossed all our thoughts and affections? What, if we have been so far from crucifying our lusts, that we have indulged them to the utmost? from mourning for our sins, that we have even boasted of them ? from bumbling ourselves in private, by voluntary austerities, that we have not regarded, as we ought to do, even the stated times of public and solemn humiliations ? What if our diversions have been pursued in prejudice to our devotions? Is this the work, the employment, 'whereunto we are called ?' Believe it, a life of perpetual pleasure and amusement cannot be the life of a true disciple of Christ. These things we may taste, but we are not to rest in them; they are our refreshments on the way, not the end and design of our journey. He that pretends to

« PreviousContinue »