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feel, will you regard such things as these? Shall the jest of a distracted, miserable fool, abate the joy of your assured happiness? Princes and noblemen will not forsake their dominions or lordships, nor cast away the esteem and comfort of all they have, because the poor do ordinarily reproach them as proud, unmerciful oppressors. They think they may bear the words of the miserable, while they have the pleasure of prosperity. And shall not we give losers leave to talk? We will not be mocked out of the comfort of our health or wealth, our habitations or our friends: and shall we be mocked out of the comfort of Christ, and of the presence of the Comforter himself! If they that go naked deride you for having clothes, and they that are out of doors in the cold and rain, deride you that are warm and dry within; or they that are sick deride you for being well, this will but make you more sensible of your felicity, and pity them that have added such folly to their wants: so will it increase the sense of your felicity, to find that you are possessed of so unspeakable a mercy, which others have not so far tasted of as to know its worth. If you have the feast, you may bear the words of famished, unhappy souls that speak against it because they taste it not: if you are in your Father's arms, you may bear the scorns of such as stand without the doors.
2. If you have the contradictions and opposition of the ignorant or malicious, speaking evil of things they know not, and persuading you from the ways of righteousness, how easily may all this be borne while you have Christ within you to strengthen and encourage you! Had you but his example before you, who is "the Author and Finisher of your faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, it should keep you from being weary and fainting in your minds." (Heb. xii. 2, 3.) But when you have his presence, his Spirit, and his help, how much should it corroborate and confirm you!
3. How easy may you bear the slanders of your own or the Gospel's enemies, as long as you are sure of your interest in Christ! How easily may you suffer them to call you by their own names, "pestilent fellows, and movers of sedition among the people, ringleaders of a sect, profaners of the temple," as Paul was called, (Acts xxiv. 5, 6,) as long as
you have Christ within you, that was called Beelzebub for your sakes. (Matt. x. 25.) Your Judge that must finally decide the case, is your dearest friend, and dwelleth in you: It is "he that will justify you; who is he that condemneth you?" (Rom. viii. 33, 34.) His approbation is your life and comfort. How inconsiderable is it as to your own felicity, what mortal worms shall say or think of you? What if they call you all that is naught, and stain your names, and obscure your innocency, and make others believe the falsest accusations that Satan can use their tongues to utter of you? You have enough against all this within you: What if you go for hypocrites, or factious, or what malignity can call you, until the day of judgment? As long as you have so good security of being then fully cleared of all, and your righteousness vindicated by your Judge, how easily may you now bear the slanders of men, that prove themselves wicked, by falsely affirming it of you! You can endure to be called poor, so you be not poor; and to be called sick, as long as you are well. And you may well endure to be called proud, while you are humble; and factious, while you are lovers of unity and peace; or hypocrites, while you are sincere. How boldly may you say with the prophet, "The Lord God will help me, therefore shall I not be confounded; therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed: He is near that justifieth me: Who will contend with me? Let us stand together: Who is mine adversary ? Let him come near to me: Behold the Lord God will help me; who is he that shall condemn me? Lo, they shall all wax old as a garment: the moth shall eat them up.' (Isaiah 1. 7-9.)
Had you but Paul's assurance and experience of Christ. dwelling in you, you might imitate him in a holy contempt of all the slanders and revilings of the world: "For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were men appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men: We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong: ye are honourable, but we are despised: Even unto this present hour, we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place; and labour working with our own hands: being reviled, we
bless: being persecuted, we suffer it: being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the earth, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.” (1 Cor. iv. 9—13.) Thus may we "do and suffer all things through Christ that strengtheneth us." (Phil. iv. 13.) What matter is it what men call us, if God call us his children and friends, and Christ be not ashamed to call us brethren? With us it will be a very small thing to be judged of man, while we know "the Lord that must judge us, is on our side." (1 Cor. iv. 3,4.) It lieth not on our hands to justify ourselves: it is Christ that hath undertaken to answer for us; and made it the work of his office to justify us; and to him we may boldly and comfortably leave it: and let all the accusers prepare their charge, and deal with him, and do their worst.
4. How easily may you bear imprisonment, banishment, or other persecution, as long as you are assured of the love of Christ! Can you fear to dwell where Christ dwells with you? If he will go with you through fire and water, what need you fear? Those owning, appropriating words, will make us venture upon the greatest perils, "Fear not, for I have redeemed thee; I have called thee by thy name, thou art mine when thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burnt For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour." Who would not with Peter cast himself into the sea, or walk with confidence upon the waters, if Christ be there, and call us to him? (Matt. xiv. 28, 29; John xxi. 7.)
The eleventh chapter to the Hebrews doth recapitulate the victories of faith, and shew us what the hope of unseen things can cause believers patiently to undergo. How cheerfully will he endure the foulest way, that is assured to come safe to such a home? What will a man stick at, that knows he is following Christ to heaven; and knoweth that he "shall reign with him, when he hath suffered with him?" (2 Tim. ii. 12.) Who will refuse bloodletting, that is assured beforehand that it shall procure his health? He is unworthy of Christ, and of salvation, that thinks any thing in the world too good to lose for them. (Matt. x. 37.) What matter is it, whether death finds us in honour or dishonour, in
our own country or in another, at liberty or in prison, so we are sure it finds us not in a state of death? Who would not rather pass to glory by as straight a way as John Baptist, Stephen, or other martyrs did, than with their persecutors, to prosper in the way to misery? Who can for shame repine at the loss of temporal commodities, that is secured of the eternal joys? If assurance of the love of God, would not embolden you to patient suffering, and to lay down life and all for Christ, what do you think should ever do it?
But when you are afraid lest death will turn you into hell, what wonder if you timerously draw back? When you know not whether ever you shall have any better, no wonder if you are loath to part with the seeming happiness which you have. Those doubts and fears enfeeble the soul, and spoil you of that valour that becomes a soldier of Christ.
5. All personal crosses in your estates, your families, your friends, your health, will be easily borne, if you are once assured of your salvation. To a man that is passing into heaven, all these are almost inconsiderable things. What is Lazarus the worse now for his sores or rags? Or what is the rich man the better for his sumptuous attire and fare? (Luke xvi.) Whether you be poor or rich, sick or sound; whether you are used kindly or unkindly in the world, are questions of so small importance, that you are not much concerned in the answer of them: but whether you have Christ within you, or be reprobates; whether you are the heirs of the promise, or are under the curse, are questions of everlasting consequence.
6. Lastly, You may comfortably receive the sentence of death, when once you are assured of the life of grace, and that you have escaped everlasting death. Though nature will be still averse to a dissolution, yet faith will make you cheerfully submit, "desiring to depart and be with Christ," as the best condition for you. (Phil. i. 23.) When you "know that if the earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, you have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens;" you will then "groan earnestly, desiring to be clothed upon with your house, which is from heaven : not to be unclothed, (for the union of soul and body, is the constitution of the man, which nature cannot but desire,) but to be clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. This God doth work you for, who giveth you
the earnest of the Spirit: therefore as men that know while you are at home in the body, you are absent from the Lord; and that walk by faith, and not by sight, you would be always confident, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and present with the Lord." (2 Cor. v. 1-8.)
Though it be troublesome to remove your dwelling, yet you would not stick upon the trouble, if you were sure to change a cottage for a court: nor would you refuse to cross the seas, to change a prison for a kingdom. The holy desires of believers, do prepare them for a safe death; but it is the assurance of their future happiness, or the believing expectation of it, that must prepare them for a death that is safe and comfortable. The death of the presumptuous may be quiet, but not safe: the death of doubting, troubled believers may be safe, but not quiet: the death of the ungodly, that have awakened, undeceived consciences, is neither safe nor quiet but the death of strong believers, that have attained assurance, is both. And he that findeth Christ within him, may know, that when he dieth, he shall be with Christ: his dwelling in us by faith, by love, and by his Spirit, is a pledge that we shall dwell with him. Christ within us, will certainly carry us unto Christ above us. Let Socinians question the happiness of such departed souls, or doubt whether they be in heaven before the resurrection; I am sure that they are with Christ, as the forecited places shew, (2 Cor. v. 7, 8; Phil. i. 23,) and many other. We are following him, that when he had conquered death, and went before us, did send that message to his doubting, troubled disciples, (which is to me so full of sweetness, that methinks I can scarce too often recite it,) "Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God," (John xx. 17.) O piercing, melting words, which methinks do write themselves upon my heart, whenever I read them with attention and consideration! Know once that you are his brethren, and that his Father is your Father, and his God is your God, and that he is ascended and glorified in your nature; and then how can you be unwilling to be dismissed from the bondage of this flesh, and be with Christ! For in his "Father's house are many mansions! and he is gone before to prepare a place for us; and will come again and receive us unto himself, that where he is, there we may be also." (John xiv. 2, 3.)