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"if they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you" (v. 20). If, therefore, our circumstances have been, for the most part, thus signally prosperous, how then, it might be asked at first sight, can we be considered as having fallen into a less favoured condition? But, in answer to this, it will be sufficient to call to mind, that the highest privileges and richest gifts of the New Covenant are connected with sufferings from without. Such are the very mark of the true sonship; "if ye endure chastening, God dealeth with "you as with sons ;" "if ye be without chastisement, then are ye "bastards, and not sons." (Heb. xii. 7, 8.)
3. Suffering, the privilege of Sons.
It will not be attempted to explain the very mysterious subject of the connexion of outward circumstances with our internal spiritual condition; as serving together to make up our course of probation in the hand of our great Disposer. It may be the case after some incomprehensible manner, the bearings and extent of which our very position, as living in the world, prevents our discerning, that as the Jewish promises, consisting in temporal blessings, were in one point of view essentially opposed to the Christian, so also the state of captivity of a Christian Church may consist of circumstances the very opposite to those of which that of the Jew consisted, as far as regards the personal comfort and well-being of its members.
And first of all, let it be observed, that it is not merely the Christian disposition and character which has received the stamp of the blessings of the Gospel. It is often the external state and circumstances of life which are spoken of, when we should rather have expected it would be a certain temper of mind, which such circumstances might tend to foster; as, for instance, " Blessed are "ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven." "Blessed are they that mourn:" it is the very condition of mourning which is here blessed, not as persons would now confine and explain it, they that mourn for their sins, though, of course, they more especially. "Woe unto you that are rich;" not merely ye who trust in riches. It is to certain external contingencies that the
blessing or the woe is attached, as if a resemblance to the "Man "of Sorrows," though it be but in outward circumstances, brought us nearer unto Him, and was blessed on His account; as if such were modes of approach to Him, which were pervaded with that healing virtue that went out from Him.
And it may be as well to remark a little more at length, that among the privileges and blessings which the Gospel holds out to its faithful followers, those of the highest kind which speak of joy (the expression which is dropped in our Prayers), are connected with sufferings from without. Perhaps there is no place where spiritual rejoicing and gladness is spoken of but in implied or expressed connexion with them. That one, for instance, of the Beatitudes, which arises as it were into the mention of "rejoicing and being exceeding glad," is, "when men shall "revile you and persecute, and shall say all manner of evil "against you falsely." And "rejoice and leap for joy," in St. Luke, “is when men shall hate you and separate you, and cast "out your name as evil." Persecution, and losing house and kindred, is made the very condition of receiving "manifold more "in this present time;" a promise literally fulfilled in the early Christians, when in one verse it is said, they "sold their posses"sions and goods," and in the next that they "eat their meat "with gladness," and being beaten, that "they rejoiced that they
were counted worthy to suffer shame." And in accordance with these accounts are expressions in St. Paul's Epistles, either of rejoicing himself, or of calling others to rejoice, which are more particularly on occasions of his own or their sufferings. he "takes pleasure," it is in infirmities; if he is "exceeding
joyful," it is in all his tribulations for them; if he rejoices, it is "in all my sufferings for you;" and again, "if I be offered up, "I joy and rejoice with you all." He deprecates the thought that he "should glory, save in that Cross by which the world
was crucified to him, and he unto the world." It is the very condition requisite, "If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign "with Him." St. Peter also makes it the very subject of their rejoicing, that they are made" partakers of CHRIST's sufferings."
These are not mentioned to prove the point, but as casual
indications on the surface of a great principle lying in the depths of Scripture. Indeed it requires a high degree of that purity of heart which is privileged to see GOD, consistently to keep in mind what a favoured state in God's sight that of suffering is, the last gift and dying legacy of our SAVIOUR to those who attended Him on earth. (St. John xvi. 35.) The remark that those who were afflicted with bodily maladies derived the greatest benefits from our SAVIOUR'S Presence, refers to but one manifestation of this great principle. Those who were most favoured by Him, and approached most nearly to His adorable Person, received the largest share of this His benediction of suffering; and were made "conformable unto His death," to be brought more fully to "the power of His resurrection." Their sufferings are spoken of under sacramental figures of being baptized with a Baptism; and drinking of a cup; as if from a mysterious connexion with Himself, they partook of something like a Sacramental efficacy, and which, therefore, had annexed to them the promise of spiritual joy, as it was to drink of His cup, who is Himself "the well of joy." And not only the sufferings of the martyr, but even the common self-denials of daily life, are dignified and hallowed by some secret approximation to Him, and spoken of under the awful name of "bearing a cross;" as if they too were parts of that tree whose leaves are for the healing of the nations; as if, wherever the bitter waters of the desert were to be found, they partook of the virtue of that restoring and healing wood. The power of suffering even the heathen often bears witness to, in proverbs and precepts out of number, though he knew not its connexion with CHRIST crucified. On the contrary, worldly prosperity narrows, we are told, the otherwise strait gate of life, even to a "needle's eye." Wonder not, therefore, that from such a state the voice of joy should be withdrawn, and the warning call to humiliation be annexed to it in the moral Providence of GOD that circumstances which have the peculiar effect of blinding the eyes, should be made co-extensive with monitory appeals on all sides, to walk warily and near the ground.
At all events, enough has been said to prove that if that perfect freedom which is to be found in the service of God, the
liberty wherewith CHRIST hath made us free, is the highest gift of His children; yet we drink not fully of that Spirit of adoption without partaking also of His cup of suffering. This lowered tone, therefore, in our services, has been, according to a Christian view of the case, in entire consistency with a state of temporal prosperity. There is in this the same mutual agreement and adaptation, which is noted in things natural as manifesting Divine Providence; as when the internal structure of animals, and the very colour of their bodies, is found to be accommodated to their modes of life, and to change also with the changes of the latter.
4. The strength of the Church in persecution.
The instances, indeed, adduced of the power of the Cross, have rather referred to individuals; but in the Church, as a body, the same may be observed, that chastisement is the proof of love and favour, and riches a sign of danger. All the first establishment, growth and increase of the Church, is from persecution; like vital air and warmth drawing out and strengthening the branches. Like impulses extending, though more and more faintly, circle beyond circle, around where the Cross had moved the waters. First, the persecution which arose about St. Stephen, spreads the Church through Judea and Samaria; then at Antioch of Pisidia, from the Jews to the Gentiles of that place; then at Iconium, to the barbarians beyond. Throughout we see the great life-giving principle, which our SAVIOUR spoke of as arising from His Cross, "If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me."
It is the conspiracy against St. Paul that takes him from Jerusalem to Cæsarea, to preach before kings and governors. It is the bonds of St. Paul that bear him to Rome, and are made known in the imperial palace, and are, even in Rome, to the furtherance of the Gospel. Not only to individuals is chastisement the proof of favour; it is the Church that is like a woman in travail," who remembereth not the anguish for joy." It is to the Churches that our LORD says, "As many as I love I rebuke and chasten." It is a Church of which He knows "the tribulation and poverty," to which He says, "Thou art rich." It is another that
says of herself, "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have "need of nothing;" to which He says, Thou "knowest not that "thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." Awful words to those who are disposed to set the ease of an Establishment before the internal well-being of the Church, and to suppose that external prosperity is a sign of spiritual strength. From all this it appears that a lower condition, as Christians, an humbler position, as a Church, are so far from being incompatible with the favour and protection of the world, that they mutually imply and conspire to produce each other. The latter has necessarily an enslaving and enfeebling influence, imprisoning and enchaining, imperceptibly, the free spirit of sons; whereas oppression from without has immediately the effect of putting the Church in the situation and attitude of an enemy, leaning upon her own inherent spiritual strength and weapons that are not carnal, mighty to the pulling down of strong holds; she stands immedi ately as an armed foe, walking upon earth, but hiding her head in Heaven. But worldly favour, on the contrary, with a subtle influence lays her asleep, and then wreathes bands about her, depriving her of the free use of her arms, closing up her eyes, binding her feet, which are no more "like hinds' feet walking on "high places."
5. Confirmed by the history of our own Church.
And these general principles will derive a forcible illustration when applied to our own Church, and the general tone and character which has pervaded her members at different periods of her history. When she has been considered most prosperous from her union with the State, her writers have been characterized by cold and low views; and so far had their Theology taken up its station in the mere outskirts of Christian truth, that in the last age it was driven to contend for natural religion, and the existence of a GOD; her Sacraments were considered almost as lifeless as Jewish rites; religious controversies were engaged in on points on the very surface of Scripture, as if unconscious of the hidden depths which were below. But on occasions when persecution has begun more or less to show itself, her members