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IWILL conclude, then, with a word to those professors, if there be any such, that are of an unquiet and troublesome spirit. Friends, I may say to you, as our Lord said once to his disciples, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.” To wish the destruction of your enemies doth not become you. If ye be born to, and are called, that you may inherit a blessing, pray be free of your blessing: “Bless, and curse not.” If you believe that the God whom you serve is supreme governor, and is also wise enough to manage affairs in the world for his church, pray keep fingers off, and refrain from doing evil. If the counsel of Gamaliel was good when given to the enemies of God’s people, why not fit to be given to Christians themselves? Therefore refrain from these men, and let them alone. If the work that these men do is that which God will promote and set up for ever, then you cannot disannul it; if not, God has appointed the time of its fall.
A Christian! and of a troublesome spirit; for-shame, forbear; show, out of a good conversation, thy works, with meekness of wisdom; and here let me present thee with three or four things. 1. Consider, That though Cain was a very murderer, yet God forbade any man’s meddling with him, under a penalty of revenging his so doing upon his own head sevenfold. “And the Lord said unto him, Therefore, whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold” ( Genesis 4:15) But why not meddle with Cain, since he was a murderer? The reason is, because he persecuted his brother for righteousness’ sake, and so espoused a quarrel against God; for he that persecutes another for righteousness’ sake sets himself against God, fights against God, and seeks to overthrow him. Now, such an one the Christian must let alone and stand off from, that God may have his full blow at him in his time. F50 Wherefore he saith to his saints, and to all that are forward to revenge themselves, Give place, stand back, let me come, leave such an one to be handled by me. “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord” ( Romans 12:19). Wherefore the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should slay him. You must not, indeed, you must not avenge yourselves of your enemies. Yea, though it was lawful once so to do, it is not lawful now. Ye have heard that it hath been said to them of old time, Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy; but I say, said our Lord, Love them, bless them, do good to them, and pray for them that hate you ( Matthew 5:43,44). 2. Consider, Revenge is of the flesh , — I mean this our revenge of ourselves; and it proceeds from anger, wrath, impatience under the cross, unwillingness to suffer, from too much love to carnal ease, to estates, to enjoyments, to relations, and the like. It also flows from a fearful, cowardly spirit; there is nothing of greatness in it, except it be greatness of untowardness. I know there may, for all this, be pretences to justice, to righteousness, to the liberty of the gospel, the suppressing of wickedness, and the promoting of holiness; but these can be but pretences, or, at best, but the fruits of a preposterous zeal. For since, as has been often said in this treatise, the Lord hath forbidden us to do so, it cannot be imagined that he should yet animate any to such a thing by the Holy Ghost and the effects of the graces thereof. Let them, then, if any such be, that are thus minded, be counted the narrow-spirited, carnal, fleshly, angry, waspishspirited professors — the professors that know more of the Jewish than of the Christian religion, and that love rather to countenance the motions, passions, and gross motions of and angry mind, that with meekness to comply with the will of a heavenly Father. Thou art bid to be like unto him, and also thou art showed wherein ( Matthew 5:45-48).
There is a man hates God, blasphemes his name, despises his being; yea, says there is no God. And yet the God that he carrieth it thus towards doth give him his breakfast, dinner, and supper; clothes him well, and when night comes, has him to bed, gives him good rest, blesses his field, his corn, his cattle, his children, and raises him to high estate. F51 Yea, and this our God doth not only once or twice, but until these transgressors become old; his patience is thus extended, years after years, that we might learn of him to do well. 3. Consider, A professor! and unquiet and troublesome, discontented, and seeking to be revenged of thy persecutors; where is, or what kind of grace hast thou got ? I dare say, they, even these in which thou thus actest, are none of the graces of the Spirit. The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance; against such there is no law; but wrath, strife, seditions, traitors, and inventors of evil things are reckoned with the worst of sins, and sinners, and are plainly called the works of the flesh ( Romans 1:29-31; Timothy 3:3, 4; Galatians 5:19-21).
But I say, where is thy love to thine enemy? where is thy joy under the cross? where is thy peace when thine anger has put thee upon being unquiet? Where is thy long-suffering? for, as thou actest, not ought but thy waspishness can be seen. Where, also, is thy sweet, meek, and gentle spirit? and is goodness seen in thy seeking the life or the damage of thy enemy? Away, away; thy graces, if thou hast any, are by these, thy passions, so jostled up into corners, and so pent for want of room and liberty to show themselves, that, by the Word of God, thou canst not be known to be of the right kind, what a noise soever thou makest.
A Christian, when he sees trouble coming upon him, should not fly in the face of the instrument that brings it, but in the face of the cause of its coming. Now the cause is thyself, thy base self, thy sinful self, and thy unworthy carriages towards God under all the mercy, patience, and longsuffering that God has bestowed upon thee, and exercised towards thee.
A Christian, then, should bewail his own doings, his own unworthy doings, by which he has provoked God to bring a cloud upon him, and to cover him with it in anger. A Christian should say, This is my wickedness, when a persecutor touches him; yea, he should say it, and then shut up his mouth, and bear the indignation of the Lord, because he has sinned against him. “Thy way and thy doings have procured these things unto thee; this is thy wickedness, because it is bitter, because it reacheth unto thine heart” ( Jeremiah 4:18). 4. Consider, What conviction of thy goodness can the actions that flow from such a spirit give unto observers ? None at all; yea, a spirit of unquietness under sufferings, and that seeketh to be revenged of those that do, for thy faith and the profession thereof, persecute thee, is so far off of giving conviction to beholders that thou art right, that it plainly tells them that thou art wrong. Even Julian the apostate, when he had cast away whatever he could of Christ, had this remaining with him — that a Christian ought to take with patience what affliction fell upon him for his Master’s sake; and would hit them in the teeth with an unbecoming behavior, that complained or that sought redress of them that had abused them for their faith and godly profession. What will men say if you shrink and winch, and take your sufferings unquietly, but that if you yourselves were uppermost, you would persecute also? Much more have they ground to say so, when you will fight lying on your backs. Be quiet, then, and if thine enemy strike thee on one check, turn to him the other; and if he also revile and curse thee, down upon thy knees and pray for him. This is the way to convince thy observers that thou art a godly man. Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do, was one of those things that convinced the centurion that Jesus was a righteous man; for he stood by the cross to watch and see how Jesus carried it in these his sufferings, as well as to see execution done ( Matthew 27:54; Luke 23:34-47). 5. Consider, A professor, unquiet and turbulent under sufferings, and seeking his own revenge, cannot be a victor over what he should, nor a keeper of God’s commandments . (1.) How can he be a victor over himself that is led up and down by the nose by his own passions? There is no man a Christian victor but he that conquers himself, but he that beats down and keeps under this body, his lusts, his passions, in the first place. Is he that is led away with divers lusts a victor? Is he that is a servant to corruption a victor?
And if he that is captivated by his anger, wrath, passion, discontent, prejudice, etc., be not led away by them, I am under a mistake. So then, to quarrel with superiors, or with any that are troublesome to thee for thy faith and thy profession, bespeaks thee over-mastered and captive, rather than a master and a conqueror. (2.) The same may be said upon the second head. He keepeth not the commandments of God; for those teach him other things, as I have also showed. The great gospel commands terminate in self-denial; but if self-revenge is self-denial, I am besides the Book. Christ, in the book of the Revelation, sets him that keeps the commandments of God a great way off from him that taketh and smiteth with the sword: “He that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword.
That is, in that they forbear to do thus, and quietly suffer under those that thus take it and afflict the godly with it. Again, “Here is the patience of the saints, here are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” ( Revelation 14:12).
So that, I say, he keepeth not God’s commandments that is angry with his enemies, and that seeks to be revenged of him that doth him ill. You know the subject I am upon. “The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” ( James 1:20).
Wherefore, professors, beware, and take heed to your spirits, and see that you let not out yourselves under your sufferings in such extravagancies of spirit against your enemies as is no way seemly nor convenient. 6. Consider, Men that are unquiet and discontented, and that seek revenge upon them that persecute them for their profession, do, by so doing, also put themselves upon the brink of those ruins that others are further from.
These men are like the fly that cannot let the candle alone until she hath burned herself in the flame. Magistrates and men in power have fortified themselves from being attacked with turbulent and unruly spirits by many and wholesome laws. And, indeed, should they not do so, one or other, perhaps, would be quickly tempted to seek to disturb them in the due exercise of their authority. Now the angry man, he is the fly that must be tripping and running himself upon the point of these laws; his angry spirit puts him upon quarrelling with his superiors, and his quarrelling brings him, by words spoke in heat, within the reach of the net, and that, with the help of a few more, brings his neck to the halter. Nor is this, whatever men think, but by the just judgment of God. “Whosoever, therefore, resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation” ( Romans 13:2; Esther 2:21-23). Wherefore, let the angry man take heed; let the discontented man take heed. He that has a profession, and has not grace to know, in this matter, to manage it, is like to bring his profession to shame. Wherefore, I say, let such take heed; and the graces afore mentioned, and the due exercise of them, are they and that which can keep us out of all such dangers. 7. Consider, And what comfort can such a man have who has, by his discontent and unruly carriages, brought himself, in this manner, to his end; he has brought himself to shame, his profession to shame, his friends to shame, and his name to contempt and scorn. Bad men rejoice at his fall; good men cannot own him, weak men stumble at him; besides, his cause will not bear him out; his heart will be clogged with guilt; innocency and boldness will take wings and fly from him. Though he talketh of religion upon the stage F52 or ladder, that will blush to hear its name mentioned by them that suffer for evil-doing. Wherefore, my brethren, my friends, my enemies, and all men, what religion, profession, or opinion soever you hold, fear God, honor the king, and do that duty to both which is required of you by the Word and law of Christ, and then, to say no more, you shall not suffer by the power for evil-doing.