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BUT we will pass this, and come to our second particular, namely,TO SHOW WHEN IT MAY BE SAID AMAN DOTH NOT ONLY SUFFER FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS,BUT ALSO FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS’SAKE.
The persecutor, whatever the person’s suffering is, if he afflicteth this person for a supposed good that he thinketh he hath or professeth, he make him suffer for righteousness’ sake. So that, in this sense, a man that hath no grace may not only suffer for righteousness, but also for righteousness’ sake. But this I intend not, because the text is not concerned with it.
The thing, therefore, now intended to be spoken to, is this, namely, when a man may be said to suffer what he suffereth upon a religious account, of love to, or for the sake of, that good that he finds in the truths of God, or because his heart is joined and espoused to the good of the truths that he professeth; not that there is any thing in any truth of God that is not good; but a man may profess truth, not for the sake of the goodness that is in it, but upon a remote account. Judas professed truth, not of love to the truth, but of love to the bag, and to the money that was put therein. Men may profess for a wife, for a trade, for friendship, or because profession is at such a time or in such a place, in fashion. I wish that there were no cause to say this. Now there is not any of these that profess the truth for the truth’s sake , that profess the truth of love to it; nor shall they, should they suffer as professors, never so long, never so much, never so grievously, be counted of God among them that suffer for righteousness’ sake; that is, of unfeigned love to righteousness. Wherefore, that I may show you who may be said to suffer for righteousness’ sake, I will propound and speak to several things. 1. Then, he that suffereth in the apostle’s sense, for well-doing, or for righteousness’ sake, sets his face against nothing but sin. He resisteth unto blood, striving against sin. Sin is the object of his indignation, because it is an enemy to God, and to his righteous cause in the world ( Hebrews 12:3,4). Sin, I say, is that which such a man singleth out as his opposite, as his antagonist, and that against which his heart is set . It is a rare thing to suffer aright, and to have my spirit, in my suffering, bent only against God’s enemy — sin; sin in doctrine, sin in worship, sin in life, sin in conversation. Now then, he that suffereth for righteousness’ sake has singled out sin to pursue it to death, long before he comes to the cross. It is sin, alas, and his hatred to it that have brought him into this condition. He fell out with sin at home, in his own house, in his own heart, before he fell out with sin in the world, or with sin in public worship . For he that can let sin go free and uncontrolled at home within, let him suffer while he will, he shall not suffer for righteousness’ sake. And the reason is, because a righteous soul, as the phrase is, 2 Peter 2:8, has the greatest antipathy against that sin that is most ready to defile it, and that is, as David calls it, one’s own iniquity, or the sin that dwelleth in one’s own flesh. I have kept me, says he, from mine iniquity, from mine own sin. People that are afraid of fire are concerned most with that that burneth in their own chimney; they have the most watchful eye against that that is like to burn down their own house first.
He also that suffereth for righteousness’ sake, doth it also because he would not that sin should cleave to the worship of God; and, indeed, this is mostly the cause of the sufferings of the godly. They will not have to do with that worship that hath sinful traditions commixed with God’s appointments, because they know that God is jealous of his worship; and has given a strict charge that all things be done according to the pattern showed to us in the mount. He knows also that God will not be with that worship, and those worshippers, that have not regard to worship by the rule of the testament of Christ. He is also against the sin that is apt to cleave to himself while he standeth in the presence of God. I will wash mine hands in innocency, so will I compass thine altar, O Lord. This man also chooses to be in the practical parts of worship, if possible, for he knows that to have to do about holy things sincerely is the way to be at the remotest distance from sin. He chooses also to be with those holy ones that are of the same mind with him against sin; for he knows that two are better than one, and that a threefold cord is not easily broken. Wherefore look to yourselves, you that do, or may be called to suffer for religion: if you bend not yourselves against sin, if to be revenged of sin be not the cause of your suffering, you cannot be said to suffer for righteousness’ sake. Take heed, therefore, that something else be not an inducement to thee to suffer. A man may suffer to save what he has: there is credit also and an applause; there is shame to conform; there is carnal stoutness of spirit; there is hatred of persecutors and scorn to submit; there is fear of contempt and of the reproach of the people, etc. These may be motives and arguments to a suffering state, and may really be the ground of a man’s being in the jail; though he cries out in the meanwhile of popery, of superstition, and idolatry, and of the errors that attend the common modes of the religions of the world. I charge no man as though I knew any such thing by any; but I suggest these things as things that are possible, and mention them because I would have sufferers have a care of themselves; and watch and pray, because no man can be upright here that is not holy, that cannot pray, and watch, and deny himself for the love that he has to righteousness. I said it before, and will say it again, it is a rare thing to be set in downrightness of heart against sin. 2. Is it for the sake of righteousness that thou sufferest? Then it is because thou wouldest have righteousness promoted, set up, and established in the world ; also thou art afflicted at those advantages that iniquity gets upon men, upon things, and against thyself. “I beheld,” said David, “the transgressors, and was grieved; because men kept not thy word” ( <19B9158> Psalm 119:158).
And again, These are they that mourn for the abominations that are done among men ( Ezekiel 9:4). There is a great deal of talk about religion, a great deal of pleading for religion, namely, as to the formalities of this and the other way. F35 But to choose to be religious, that I might be possessed with holiness, and to choose that religion that is most apt to possess me with it, if I suffer for this, I suffer for righteousness’ sake. Wherefore say thus to thy soul, thou that art like to suffer for righteousness, How is it with the most inward parts of my soul? What is there? What designs, desires, and reachings out are there? Why do I pray? Why do I read? Why do I hear? Why do I haunt and frequent places and ordinances appointed for worship? Is it because I love holiness? would promote righteousness, because I love to see godliness show itself in others, and because I would feel more of the power of it in myself? If so, and if thou sufferest for thy profession, thou sufferest, not only for righteousness, but also for righteousness’ sake.
Dost thou thus practice, because thou wouldest be taught to do outward acts of righteousness, and because thou wouldest provoke others to do so too? Dost thou show to others how thou lovest righteousness, by taking opportunities to do righteousness? How is it, dost thou show most mercy to thy dog, F36 or to thine enemy, to thy swine, or to the poor? Whose naked body hast thou clothed? Whose hungry belly hast thou fed? Hast thou taken delight in being defrauded and beguiled? Hast thou willingly sat down by the loss with quietness, and been as if thou hadst not known, when thou hast been wronged, defamed, abused, and all because thou wast not willing that black-mouthed men should vilify and reproach religion upon thy account ( 1 Corinthians 6:7)?
He that loveth righteousness will do thus, yea, and do it as unto God, and of tenderness to the Word of God which he professeth. And he that thinks to make seeing men believe, that when he suffereth, he suffereth for righteousness’ sake, and yet is void in his life of moral goodness, and that has no heart to suffer and bear, and put up, and pass by injuries in his conversation among his enemies at home, is deceived.
There are some Scriptures that are as if they were out of date among some professors, specially such as call for actual holiness and acts of self-denial for God; but it will be found, at the day of judgment, that they only are the peculiar people that are “zealous of good works” ( Titus 2:14). God help us, it is hard now to persuade professors to come up to negative holiness, that is, to leave undone that which is bad; and yet this of itself comes far short of ones being found in practical goodness.
But this is the man that suffereth, when he suffereth for righteousness’ sake, that makes it his business, by all lawful means, according to the capacity that God has put him in, to promote, set up, and establish righteousness in the world; I say this is the man that suffereth for righteousness’ sake, that suffereth for so doing; and I am sure that a life that is moral, when joined to the profession of the faith of the things that are of the Spirit of God, is absolutely necessary to the promoting of righteousness in the world. Hence Peter tells them that suffer for righteousness’ sake, that they must have “a good conscience” — a good conscience towards God, towards men, towards friends, towards enemies ( 1 Peter 3:14-16; Acts 24:16; Acts 23:1). They must have a good conscience in all things, being willing, ready, desirous to live honestly, godly, and righteously in this world, or else they cannot, though they may suffer for the best doctrine under heaven, suffer for righteousness’ sake ( Hebrew 13:18). Wherefore, 3. Is it for righteousness’ sake that thou sufferest? then thy design is the ruin of sin . This depends upon what was said before; for he that strives against sin, that seeks to promote righteousness, he designs the ruin of sin. “Be not,” said Paul to the suffering Romans, “overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” ( Romans 12:21). To overcome evil with good is a hard task. To rail it down, to cry it down, to pray kings, and parliaments, and men in authority to put it down, this is easier than to use my endeavor to overcome it with good, with doing of good, as I said before. F37 And sin must be overcome with good at home, before thy good can get forth of doors F38 to overcome evil abroad.
David overcame evil with good, when he saved the life of his bloody enemy that was fallen into his hand; also when he grieved that any hurt should come to them that sought nothing so much as his destruction. “They rewarded me,” saith he, “evil for good, to the spoiling of my soul.
But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth. I humbled my soul with fasting, I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother; I bowed down heavily, as one that mourneth for his mother.” This is to overcome evil with good ( Psalm 35:12-14).
Job saith concerning his enemy, that he did not rejoice when evil found him; “neither have I,” said he, “suffered my mouth to sin by wishing a curse to his soul.” He means he did the quite contrary, and so overcame evil with good ( Job 31:29,30).
The New Testament also is full of this, both in exhortations and examples, In exhortations where it is said, resist not evil, that is, with evil, but overcome evil with good ( Proverbs 24:29). “But whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. — And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee; and from him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away. — Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven, for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil, and on the good — on the just, and on the unjust” ( Matthew 5:39-45). “Bless them that persecute you: bless and curse not” ( Romans 12:14). “Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing, but contrariwise, blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing” ( 1 Peter 3:9; Romans 12:14).
This is righteousness — these are righteous courses. And as these are preceptively propounded, so they were as practically followed by them that were eminently godly in the primitive church. “We are fools for Christ’s sake,” said Paul, “we are despised, we are hungry, thirsty, naked, and buffeted. — 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 Corinthians 4:10-13).
This is overcoming of evil with good, and he that has chosen to himself that religion that teaches these things, and that loves that religion because it so teacheth him; if he suffereth for it, he suffereth for righteousness’ sake. 4. He that suffereth for righteousness’ sake, will carry righteousness whithersoever he goes. Neither the enemy, nor thy sufferings, shall be able to take righteousness from thee. Righteousness must be thy chamber mate, thy bed companion, thy walking mate: it is that without which thou wilt be so uncouth, as if thou couldest not live ( Psalm 26, Psalm 25:21).
It is an excellent saying of Job, “I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my judgment was as a robe and a diadem. I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame; I was a father to the poor,” etc. ( Job 29:11-16). “Princes,” said David also, “did sit and speak against me, but thy servant did meditate in thy statues” ( <19B923> Psalm 119:23).
A man that loves righteousness doth as Abraham did with his Sarah, carry it every where with him, though he goes, because of that, in danger of his life. Righteousness! It is the only intimate that a Christian has. It is that by which he takes his measures, that with which he consults, with respect to what he doth, or is to do, in the world. “Thy testimonies,” said David also, “are my delight, and my counselors.” The men of my counsel, in the margin ( <19B924> Psalm 119:24).
David! He was the man of affliction; the suffering man in his day; but in all places where he came, he had righteousness, the law and godly practice with him. It was his counselor, as he was a man, a saint, a king. I dare say, for the man that suffers righteousness to be rent away from him by the violence and rage of men, and that casts it away, as David did Saul’s armor, that he may secure himself; he has no great love for righteousness, nor to the cross for righteousness’ sake. “My righteousness I hold fast,” said Job, “and will not let it go: my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live” ( Job 27:6).
What? part with righteousness! A righteous Lord! A righteous Word! A righteous profession! A righteous life! to sleep in a whole skin: the Lord forbid it me, and all that he has counted worthy to be called by his name.
Let us carry it with us from the bed to the cross, and then it shall carry us from thence to the crown. Let it be our companion to prison and death, then shall we show that we are lovers of righteousness, and that we choose to suffer for righteousness’ sake. 5. Dost thou suffer for righteousness’ sake? why then, thy righteousness is not diminished, but rather increased by thy sufferings. Righteousness thriveth best in affliction, the more afflicted, the more holy man; the more persecuted, the more shining man ( Acts 6:15). The prison is the furnace, thy graces are the silver and the gold; wherefore, as the silver and the gold are refined by the fire, and so made more to show their native brightness, so the Christian that hath, and that loveth righteousness, and that suffereth for its sake, is by his sufferings refined and made more righteous, and made more Christian, more godly ( Zechariah 13:9). Some, indeed, when they come there, prove lead, iron, tin, and at the best, but the dross of silver; and so are fit for nothing, but there to be left and consumed, and to bear the badge, if ever they come from thence, of reprobate silver from the mouth and sentence of their neighbors ( Ezekiel 22:18-22; Jeremiah 6:28-30). But when I, says Job, am tried, “I shall come forth as gold” ( Job 23:10).
When Saul had cast one javelin at David, it made him walk wisely in all his ways. But when he added to his first fury, plots to take away his life, then David behaved himself yet more wisely ( 1 Samuel 18:10-30). The hotter the rage and fury of men are against righteous ways, the more those that love righteousness grow therein. For they are concerned for it, not to hide it, but to make it spangle; not to extinguish it, but to greaten it, and to show the excellency of it in all its features, and in all its comely proportion. Now such an one will make straight steps for his feet, “let that which is lame be turned out of the way” ( Hebrews 12:13) Now he shows to all men what faith is, by charity, by self-denial, by meekness, by gentleness, by long-suffering, by patience, by love to enemies, and by doing good to them that hate us; now he walketh upon his high places. Yea, will not now admit that so slovenly a conversation should come within his doors, as did use to haunt his house in former times. Now it is Christmas, F39 now it is suffering time, now we must keep holy day every day. The reason is, for that a man, when he suffereth for Christ, is set upon a hill, upon a stage, as in a theatre, to play a part for God in the world. And you know when men are to play their parts upon a stage, they count themselves, if possible, more bound to circumspection; and that for the credit of their master, the credit of their art, and the credit of themselves. For then the eyes of every body are fixed, they gape and stare upon them ( Psalm 22:17). And a trip here is as bad as a fall in another place. Also now God himself looks on. Yea, he laugheth, as being pleased to see a good behavior attending the trial of the innocent. 1. He that suffereth for righteousness’ sake suffereth for his goodness, and he is now to labor by works and ways to convince the world that he suffereth as such an one. 2. He that suffereth for righteousness’ sake has many that are weak to strengthen by his sweet carriages under the cross, wherefore he had need to exceed in virtue. 3. He also is by well-doing to put to silence the ignorance of foolish men, he had need be curious and circumspect in all his actions. 4. He is to come in, and to be a judge, and to condemn, by his faith and patience in his sufferings, the world, with his Lord and fellows, at the appearing of Jesus Christ; he had need be holy himself. This, therefore, is the fit sign of suffering for righteousness’ sake ( 1 Corinthians 6:1-5; Hebrews 11:7; 2 Thessalonians 1:5,6; 1 Peter 4:3-5). 6. He that suffereth, not only for righteousness, but also for righteousness’ sake, will not exchange his cause, though for it in a jail, for all the ease and pleasure in the world . They that suffered for righteousness’ sake of old, were tempted before they were sawn asunder ( Hebrews 11). Tempted, that is, allured, to come out of their present sufferings, and leave their faith and profession in irons behind them. Tempted with promises of promotion, of ease, of friendship, of favor with men. As the Devil said to Christ, so persecutors of old did use to make great promises to sufferers, if they would fall down and worship. But his is alone as if they should say, Butcher, make away with your righteousness, F40 and a good conscience, and you shall find the friendship of the world. For there is no way to kill a man’s righteousness but by his own consent. This, Job’s wife knew full well, hence she tempted him to lay violent hands upon his own integrity ( Job 2:9).
The Devil, nor men of the world can kill thy righteousness or love to it, but by thy own hand; or separate that and thee asunder, without thine own act. Nor will he that doth indeed suffer for the sake of it, or of love he bears thereto, be tempted to exchange it for the goods of all the world. It is a sad sight to see a man that has been suffering for righteousness, restored to his former estate, while the righteousness for which he suffered, remains under locks and irons, and is exposed to the scorn, contempt, reproach of the world, and trodden under the foot of men. F41 “It is better,” said Paul, “for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.” And it had been a hundred times better for that man, if he had never known the way of righteousness, than after he has known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto him.
The striving is, in persecution, for righteousness; to wit, whether it shall be set up, or pulled down. The sufferer, he is for setting up, and the persecutors are for pulling down. Thus they strive for the mastery. Now, if a man stands by his righteousness, and holds fast his good profession, then is righteousness set up; nor can it, so long, be pulled down. Hence, so long a man is said to overcome; and overcome he doth, though he be killed for his profession. But if he starts back, gives place, submits, recants, or denieth any longer to own that good thing that he professed, and exposed himself to suffering for; then he betrays his cause, his profession, his conscience, his righteousness, his soul, and all; for he has delivered up his profession to be murdered before his face: A righteous man falling down before the wicked, is as a troubled fountain, and a corrupt spring ( Proverbs 25:26). But this, I hope, will not he do that loveth righteousness, and that suffereth for righteousness’ sake. I do not say but that a man may slip here, with Peter, Origen, Hierom, Cranmer, Baynham, Ormis, F42 and other good folk; but be he one of the right kind, a lover of righteousness indeed, he will return, and take revenge upon himself in a godly way, for so ungodly a fact. 7. He that suffereth not only for righteousness, but also for righteousness sake, is not so wedded to his own notions as to slight or overlook the good that is in his neighbor . But righteousness he loves wherever he finds it, though it be in him that smiteth him ( <19E105> Psalm 141:5). Yea, he will own and acknowledge it for the only thing that is of beauty and glory in the world. With the excellent in the earth is all such a man’s delight. Wherefore I put a difference betwixt suffering for an opinion and suffering for righteousness; as I put a difference between suffering for righteousness and suffering for righteousness’ sake.
If righteousness, if the stamp of God, if divine authority, is not found upon that thing which I hold, let men never suffer for it under the notion of righteousness. If sin, if superstition, if idolatry, if derogation from the wisdom of Christ, and the authority and perfection of his Word, be not found in, nor joined to that thing that I disown in worship, let me never open my mouth against it. I had rather fall in with, and be an associate of a righteous man that has no true grace, than with a professor that has no righteousness. It is said of the young man, though he went away from Christ, that he looked upon him and loved him ( Mark 10:17-22). But it is not said that ever he loved Judas. I know that the righteousness for which a good man suffereth, is not then embraced of the world, for that at such a time it is under a cloud. But yet there is righteousness also in the world, and wherever I see it, it is of a high esteem with me. David acknowledged some of his enemies to be more righteous than he acknowledged some of his servants to be ( 2 Samuel 4:9-11; 2 Samuel 3:31-35). It is a brave thing to have righteousness, as righteousness, to be the top-piece in mine affections. The reason why Christ was anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows, was, because he loved righteousness, and hated iniquity more than they ( Hebrews 1:9). Love to righteousness flows from golden graces, and is that, and that only, that can make a man capable of suffering, in our sense, for righteousness’ sake. 8. He that suffereth not only for righteousness, but also for righteousness’ sake, will take care that his sufferings be so managed with graciousness of words and actions, that it may live when he is dead; yea, and it will please him too, if righteousness flourishes, though by his loss .
Hence it is that Paul said, he rejoiced in his suffering, Colossians 1:24; namely, because others got good thereby. And that he said, “Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all” ( Philippians 2:17).
But why rejoice in this? Why, because though his sufferings were to the distressing of his flesh, yet they were to the refreshing, comfort, and stability of others. This was it also that made him jostle with the false brethren among the churches; to wit, “that the truth of the gospel might continue with them” ( Galatians 2:5).
When a man shall run the hazard of the ruin of what he has, and is, for righteousness, for the good and benefit of the church of God; that man, he managing himself by the rule, if he suffers for so doing, suffers not only for righteousness, but also for righteousness’ sake. “I endure all things,” said Paul, “for the elect’s sake, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” ( 2 Timothy 2:10). Here was love, you will say, to persons; and I will say also, to things; to all the righteousnesses of God that are revealed in the world, that all the elect might enjoy them to their eternal comfort and glory, by Christ Jesus. For “whether we be afflicted,” says he, “it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation” ( 2 Corinthians 1:6).
The end of a man and his design, if that be to promote righteousness, he using lawful means to accomplish it, is greatly accepted of God by Christ; and it is a sign he is a lover of righteousness; and that if he suffereth for so doing, he suffereth not for well-doing, only as to matter of fact, but also for his love to the good thing done, and for its sake.