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world. And if God have made the work of man's redemption, the most wonderful of his works, which ever he revealed to the sons of men, you may easily conceive what thanks he will give them, that resist him in so high and glorious a design. If you could pull the stars out of the firmament, or hinder the motions of the heavens, or deny the rain to the thirsty earth, you might look for as good a reward for this, as for opposing the merciful Redeemer of the world, in the blessed work of man's salvation.
3. Persecution is a resisting or fighting against the Holy Ghost. Saith Stephen to the Jews, "Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears; ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do yek." If you silence the ministers who are the means by which the Spirit worketh, in the illuminating and sanctifying of souls'. Or if you afflict men for those holy duties, which the Spirit of God hath taught them to perform, or would force men from that which the Spirit of Christ is sent to draw them to; this is to raise war against that Spirit, into whose name you were yourselves baptized.
4. Persecution endeavoureth the damnation of men's souls, either by depriving them of the preaching of the Gospel which should save them, or by forcing them upon that sin for which God will condemn them. Yea, the banishing or silencing of one faithful preacher, may conduce to the damnation of many hundreds! If it be said, that others who are set up in their stead, may save men's souls as well as they, I answer, 1. God seldom, if ever, did qualify supernumeraries for the work of the ministry! Many a nation hath had too few, but I never read of any nation that had too many, who were well qualified for that great and difficult work, no, not from the days of Christ till now! So that if they are all fit men, there are none of them to be spared; but all are too few, if they conjoin their greatest skill and diligence. Christ biddeth us pray the Lord of the harvest, to send forth more labourers into his harvest; but never biddeth us pray to send out fewer, or to call any in that were but tolerably fitted for the work. 2. Many persecutors banish all preachers of the Gospel, and set up no other to do the service which they were called to. And it is rarely
k Acts vii. 51.
Acts xxvi. 17, 18.
seen, that any who can find in their hearts to cast out any faithful ministers of Christ, have hearts to set up better, or any that are competent in their stead; but it is ordinarily seen, that when the judgment is so far depraved, as to approve of the casting out of worthy men; it is also so far depraved as to think an ignorant, unskilful, heartless or scandalous sort of ministers, to be as fit to save men's souls as they. And how many poor congregations in the eastern and western churches (nay, how many thousands) have ignorant, ungodly, sensual pastors, who are such unsavoury salt, as to be unfit for the land, or for the dunghill? Whilst men are extinguishing the clearest lights, or thrusting them into obscurity ". And there may be something of suitableness between a pastor and the flock, which may give him advantage to be more profitable to their souls, than another man of equal parts. And, though God can work by the weakest means, yet ordinarily we see that his work upon men's souls is so far moral, as that he usually prospereth men, according to the fitness of their labours to the work! And some men have far more success than others. He that should expel a dozen or twenty of the ablest physicians out of London, and say, There are enough left in their steads, who may save men's lives, as well as they; might, notwithstanding that assertion, be found guilty of the blood of no small numbers. And as men have sometimes an aversion to one sort of food, (as good as any to another man,) and as this distemper is not laudable; and yet he that would force them to eat nothing else, but that which they so abhor, were more like to kill them, than to cure them; so is it with the souls of many. And there are few who have any spiritual discerning and relish, but have some special sense of what is helpful or hurtful to their souls, in sermons, books and conference, which a stander by is not so fit to judge of as themselves. So that it is clear, that persecution driveth men towards their damnation! And, O how sad a case it is, to have the damnation of one soul to answer for! (Which is worse than the murdering of many bodies.) Much more to be guilty of the perdition of a multitude!
5. Persecution is injustice, and oppression of the inno
m Matt. v. 13-15. Luke xiv. 35.
cent! And what a multitude of terrible threatenings against this sin, are found throughout the Holy Scriptures? Doth a man deserve to be cruelly used, for being faithful to his God, and for preferring him before man? And for being afraid to sin against him? Or for doing that which God commandeth him, and that upon pain of greater sufferings than man can inflict upon him Is it not his Saviour that hath said, "Fear not them that can kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do; but fear him who after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you fear him." Though Christianity was once called, "A sect which every where was spoken against"." And Paul was accused as a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among the people. the people. And Christ was crucified as a usurper of the crown; yet innocency shall be innocency still in spite of malice, and lying accusations; because God will be the final Judge, and will bring all secret things to light, and will justify those whom injustice hath condemned, and will not call them as slandering tongues have called them. Yea, the consciences of the persecutors are often forced to say, as they did of Daniel, "We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God "." And therefore the net which they were fain to lay for him, was a law against his religion, or prayers to God; for a law against treason, sedition, swearing, drunkenness, fornication, &c. would have done them no service! And yet they would fain have aspersed him there". "Woe to him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness," &c. "Woe to thee that spoilest, and thou wast not spoiled s." "Woe to them that call evil good, and good evil." In thy skirts is found the blood of the souls of the poor innocents "." "Hands that shed innocent blood, the Lord doth hate," &c.
6. Persecution maketh men most like unto devils, and maketh them his most notable servants in the world". Ma
n Acts xxviii. 22.
4 Dan. vi. 4.
t Isaiah v.
• Acts xxiv. 5.
r Jer. xxii. 13.
u Jer. ii. 34.
P Dan. vi. 5.
Isaiah xxxiii. 1.
* Prov. vi. 16, 17.
y Dæmones ex hominibus fieri quidam opinati sunt, perpetua criminum licentia, &c. Quod ut forte tolerabiliter dictum sit, malarum voluntatum similitudo efficit, qua homo malus atque in malis obstinatus pene dæmonem æquat. Petrarch, de Injusto Domin.
ny wicked men may neglect that duty which they are convinced they should do. But to hate it, and malice men that do it, and seek their ruin; this, if any thing, is work more beseeming a devil, than a man. These are the commanders in the armies of the devil, against the cause and kingdom of the Lord! And accordingly shall they speed.
7. Persecution is an inhuman, disingenuous sin, and sheweth an extinction of the light of nature. A good-natured man, if he had no grace at all, would abhor to be cruel, and to oppress his brethren; and that merely, because they are true to their consciences, and obey their God, while they do no hurt to any others. If they had deserved execution, an ingenuous nature would not be forward to be their executioner; much more when they deserve encouragement and imitation: it is no honour to be numbered with bloodthirsty men.
8. It is a sin that hath so little of commodity, honour or pleasure to invite men to it, that maketh it utterly without excuse, and sheweth, that the serpentine nature is the What get men by shedding the blood of innocents, or silencing the faithful preachers of the Gospel? What sweetness could they find in cruelty, if a malicious nature made it not sweet?
9. It is a sin which men have as terrible warnings against from God, as any sin in the world, that I can remember. 1. In God's threatenings. 2. In sad examples, and judgments in this life, even on posterity. 3. And in the infamy that followeth the names of persecutors, when they are dead.
1. How terrible are those words of Christ, "But whoso shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a milstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea"." How terrible is that character which Paul giveth of the Jews; "Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us: and they please not God, and are contrary to all men; forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved to fill up their sins always; for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost","
a Gen. iii. 15.
b Matt. xviii. 6.
John viii. 42. 44.
Such terrors against persecutors are so common through the Scriptures, that it would be tedious to recite them.
2. And for examples, the captivity first, and afterwards the casting off of the Jews, may serve instead of many. "But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till there was no remedy d." And of the casting off, see Matt. xxiii. 37, 38. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how oft would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen gathereth her chicken together under her wings, and ye would not; behold your house is left unto you desolate- And Verse 34-36. "Behold I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes; and some of them ye shall kill and crucify, and some of them ye shall scourge in the synagogues, and persecute from city to city; that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel, to the blood of Zacharias, son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, all these things shall come on this generation." To give you the particular examples of God's judgments against persecutors, and their posterity after them, would be a voluminous work: you may find them in the Hol Scriptures, and the Church's Martyrologies.
3. And by a marvellous providence, God doth so overrule the tongue of fame, and the pens of historians, and the thoughts of men, that commonly the names of persecutors stink when they are dead; yea, though they were never so much honoured and flattered when they were alive! What odious names are the names of Pharaoh, Ahab, Pilate, Herod, Nero, Domitian, Dioclesian! &c. What a name hath the French massacre left on Charles the ninth! And the English persecution on Queen Mary! And so of others throughout the world. Yea, what a blot leaveth it on Asa, Amaziah, or any that do but hurt a prophet of the Lord! The eleventh chapter of the Hebrews, and all the Martyrologies that are written to preserve the name of the witnesses of Christ, are all the records of the impiety, and the perpetual shame of those, by whom they suffered. Even
d2 Chron. xxxvi. 16.