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ICOME now to the second thing propounded to be spoken to, as to suffering, which is this. —THAT THERE HAVE BEEN,AND YET MAY BE, APEOPLE IN THE WORLD THAT HAVE,AND MAY,SUFFER IN THE SENSE OF THE APOSTLE HERE,ACCORDING TO THE WILL OF GOD,OR FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS’SAKE.
Besides, since the Scriptures were written, all nations can witness to this, whose histories tell at large of the patience and goodness of the sufferers, and of the cruelty of those that did destroy them. And that the thing will yet happen, or come to pass again, both Scripture and reason affirm. First, Scripture. The text tells us, That God hath put enmity betwixt the woman and her seed, and the serpent and his seed ( Genesis 3:15). This enmity put, is so fixed that none can remove it so, but that it still will remain in the world. These two seeds have always had, and will have, that which is essentially opposite to one another, and they are “the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” ( 1 John 4:6), sin and righteousness ( John 3:7,8), light and darkness ( 1 Thessalonians 5:5). Hence “an unjust man is an abomination to the just; and he that is upright in the way is abomination to the wicked” ( Proverbs 29:27).
So that unless you could sanctify and regenerate all men, or cause that no more wicked men should any where be in power for ever, you cannot prevent but that sometimes still there must be sufferers for righteousness’ sake. “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” ( 2 Timothy 3:12). Second, To prove this by reason is easy. The devil is not yet shut up in the bottomless pit — Antichrist is yet alive. The government in all kingdoms is not yet managed with such light, and goodness of mind, as to let the saints serve God, as he has said, whatever it is in some. And until then there will be in some places, though for my part I cannot predict where, a people that will yet suffer for well-doing, or for righteousness’ sake.
In order to a right handling of this matter, I shall divide this head into these two parts — A. Show you what it is to suffer for well-doing, or for righteousness. B. Show you what it is to suffer for righteousness’ sake. I put this distinction, because I find that it is one thing to suffer for righteousness, and another to suffer for righteousness’ sake.
To begin with the first, namely, to show you what it is to suffer for righteousness. Now that may be done either passively or actively. 1. Passively, as when any suffer for righteousness without their own will, or consent thereto. Thus, the little children at Bethlehem suffered by the hands of bloody Herod, when they died for, or in the room and stead of, Jesus Christ ( Matthew 2:16). Every one of those children died for righteousness, if Christ is righteousness; for they died upon his account, as being supposed to be he himself. Thus also the children of Israel’s little ones, that were murdered with their parents, or otherwise, because of the religion of them that begat and bare them, died for righteousness. The same may be said concerning those of them that suffered in the land of the Chaldeans upon the same account. I might here also bring in those poor infants that in Ireland, Piedmont, Paris, and other places, have had their throats cut, and their brains dashed out against the walls, for none other cause but for the religion of their fathers. Many, many have suffered for righteousness after this manner. Their will, nor consent, has been in the suffering, yet they have suffered for religion, for righteousness. And as this hath been, so it may be again; for if men may yet suffer for righteousness, even so, for ought I know, even in this sense, may their children also.
Now, although this is not the chief matter of my text, yet a few words here may do no harm. The children that thus suffer, though their own will and consent be not in what they undergo, may yet, for all that, be accepted as an offering unto the Lord. Their cause is good; it is for religion and righteousness. Their hearts do not recoil against the cause for which they suffer; and although they are children, God can deal with them as with John the Baptist, cause them in a moment to leap for joy of Christ; or else can save them by his grace, as he saveth other his elect infants, and thus comprehend them, though they cannot apprehend him; yea, why may they not only be saved, but in some sense be called martyrs of Jesus Christ, and those that have suffered for God’s cause in the world? God comforted Rachel concerning her children that Herod murdered in the stead, and upon the account of Christ. F27 He bids her refrain herself from tears, by this promise, that her children should come again from the land of the enemy, from death. And again, said he, Thy children shall come again to their own border; which I think, if it be meant in a gospel sense, must be to the heavenly inheritance. Compare Jeremiah 31:15-17 with Matthew 2:18,28.
And methinks this should be mentioned, not only for her and their sakes, but to comfort all those that either have had, or yet may have, their children thus suffer for righteousness. None of these things, as shall be further showed anon, happen without the determinate counsel of God. He has ordered the sufferings of little children as well as that of persons more in years. And it is easy to think that God can as well foresee which of his elect shall suffer by violent hands in their infancy, as which of them shall then die a natural death. He has saints small in age as well as in esteem or otherwise and sometimes the least member of the body suffereth violence, as well as the head or other chief parts. And although I desire not to see these days again, yet methinks it will please me to see those little ones that thus have already suffered for Jesus, to stand in their white robes with the elders of their people, before the throne, to sing unto the Lamb. 2. Actively. But to pass this, and to come to that which is more directly intended to be spoken to, namely, to show you who doth actively suffer for righteousness. And, First, It is he that chooseth by his own will and consent to suffer for it.
All suffering that can be called active suffering, must be by the consent of the will; and that is done when a man shall have sin and suffering set before him, and shall choose suffering rather than sin. He chose “rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” ( Hebrews 11:25).
And again, They did not accept of deliverance, that is, of base and unworthy terms, “that they might obtain a better resurrection” ( Hebrews 11:35).
Indeed, no man can force a Christian to suffer as a Christian, without his own consent. All Christians are sufferers of will and consent. Hence it is said, they must take up their cross, by which taking up, an act of their will is intended ( Matthew 10:38; Matthew 16:24). So again, “Take my yoke upon you,” which also intends an act of the will ( Matthew 11:29).
This, therefore, is the first thing that I would present you with. Not that an act of the will is enough to declare a man a sufferer for righteousness, it standing alone; for a man, through the strength of delusion, and the power of an erroneous conscience, may be willing to suffer for the grossest opinions in the world. But I bring it to show that actual suffering for righteousness must also be by the consent of the will — the mind of the man must be in it. Second, He that suffereth for righteousness thus, must also have a good cause. A good cause is that which is essential to suffering for righteousness. A good cause, what is that? Why, verily, it is the truth of God, either in the whole of it, as contained in the Scriptures of truth, or in the parts of it, as set before me to believe, or do, by any part of that holy Word. This may be called the matter for which one suffereth; or, as it is called in another place, “the word of righteousness” ( Hebrews 5:13). It may also be called the form of sound doctrine, or the like. Because without this Word, the matter and nature of God’s truths cannot be known.
See then that thy cause be good, thou that wouldest know what it is to suffer for righteousness; step not an hair’s breadth without the bounds of the Word of truth; also take heed of misunderstanding, or of wringing out of its place, any thing that is there. Let the words of the upright stand upright , warp them not, to the end they may comply in show with any crooked notion. And to prevent this, take these three words as a guide, in this matter to thee. They show men their sins, and how to close with a Savior; they enjoin men to be holy and humble; they command men to submit themselves to authority. And whatever is cross to these, comes from ignorance of, or from wresting, the rule of righteousness out of its place.
But more particularly, the word of righteousness — thy cause, within the bounds of which thou must keep, if thou wilt suffer for righteousness, is to be divided into two parts. 1. It containeth a revelation of moral righteousness. 2. It containeth a revelation of evangelical righteousness.
As for moral righteousness, men seldom suffer; only, for that. Because that is the righteousness of the world, and that, simply as such, that sets itself up in every man’s conscience, and has a testimony for itself, even in the light of nature. Besides, there is nothing that maketh head against that; but that which every man is ashamed, by words to plead for, and that is immorality. And this is that which Peter intends when he saith, “And if ye be followers of that which is good, who will harm you?” ( 1 Peter 3:13).
If ye be followers of moral goodness. But if it should so happen, for the case is rare, that any man should make you sufferers because you love God, and do good to your neighbor, happy are ye. Though I do not think that the apostle’s conclusion terminates there. But more of these things anon.
For let a man be a good neighbor in morals; let him feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give freely out of his purse to the poor, and do that which he would another should do to him; and stop there, and not meddle with the name of Christ, and he shall have but few enemies in the world. For it is not the law, but Christ, that is the stumbling-block, and the rock of offence to men ( Isaiah 8:14,15; Romans 9:31-33).
Wherefore, there is in God’s Word a revelation of another righteousness — a righteousness which is not so visible to, yea, and that suiteth not so with, the reason of man as that moral righteousness doth. Wherefore this righteousness makes men righteous in principle, and practice so, as is foreign to natural men. Hence it is said to be foolishness to them ( Corinthians 2:14). And again, “Its praise is not of men” ( Romans 2:29).
This righteousness is also revealed in the Scriptures, but the blind cannot see it. It is the work of the Holy Ghost in the heart, and is therefore called the fruits of the Spirit; and the grace, which in the head and fullness of it, is only to be found in Christ ( John 1:16; Colossians 1:19; Timothy 1:14). This righteousness being planted in the heart, leads a man out by the Word of God, to seek for another righteousness, as invisible to, and foreign from, the natural man, as this. And that righteousness is that which properly is the righteousness of Jesus Christ — a righteousness that standeth in his obedience to his Father’s law, as he was considered a common or public person — a righteousness which he brought into the world, not for himself, as considered in a private capacity, but for those that shall by faith venture themselves upon him, to obtain by him life eternal ( Romans 5:19; Philippians 3:7-10).
Again, This closing by faith, with this righteousness thus found in Christ, and being taken therewith, leads me yet to another righteousness, which is instituted worship, appointed by Christ, for all his followers to be conversant in; this worship is grounded on positive precepts, and so on words of righteousness, called Christ’s words, Christ’s sayings, etc.
Now, upon this bottom begins the difference betwixt the men of God and the world. For, first, by this inward principle of righteousness we come to see, and say, that men by nature are not Christians, what privileges soever they may account themselves partakers thereof. But whosoever is a Christian, of God’s making so, is begotten and born of God, and made a new creature by the anointing received from the Holy One ( James 1:18; John 3:3,5; 2 Corinthians 5:17,18; 2 Corinthians 1:21; 1 John 2:20,24,27).
To this, again, the Christian stands and backs what he says by the Word of God. Then the game begins, and the men of the world are thoughtful how they may remove such troublesome fellows out of the way. But because the Christians love their neighbors, and will not let them thus easily die in their sins, therefore they contend with them, both by reasonings, writings, sermons, and books of gospel divinity; and stand to what they say. The world, again, are angry with these sayings, sermons, and books, for that by them they are concluded to be persons that are without repentance, and the hope of eternal life. Here again, the carnal world judges that these people are proud, self-willed, pragmatical, contentious, self-conceited, and so unsufferable people. The Christian yet goes on and stands to what he has asserted. Then the poor world at their last shift begins to turn, and overturn the gospel-man’s sayings; perverting, forcing, stretching, and dismembering of them; and so making of them speak what was never thought, much less intended by the believer.
Thus they served our Lord; for, not being able to down with his doctrine, they began to pervert his words, and to make, as also they said afterwards of Luther’s, some offensive, some erroneous, some treasonable, and that both against God and Caesar, and so they hanged him up, hoping there to put an end to things. But this is but the beginning of things; for the Christian man, by the word of the gospel, goes further with his censure.
For he also findeth fault with all that this man, by the ability of nature, can do for the freeing himself from the law of sin and death . He condemns him by the Word, because he is in a state of nature, and he condemneth also whatever, while in that state, he doth, as that which by no means can please God ( Romans 14:23; Hebrews 11:6). This now puts him more out; this is a taking of his gods away from him. This is to strip him of his raiment, such as it is, and to turn him naked into the presence of God.
This, I say, puts him out and out. These wild-brained fellows, quote he, are never content, they find fault with us as to our state; they find fault with us as to our works, our best works. They blame us because we are sinners, and they find fault with us, though we mend; they say, by nature we are no Christians, and that our best doings will not make us such. What would they have us do? Thus, therefore, they renew their quarrel; but the Christian man cannot help it, unless he would see them go to hell, and saying nothing. For the Word of God doth as assuredly condemn man’s righteousness, as it doth condemn man’s sin; it condemneth not man’s righteousness among men, for there it is good and profitable ( Job 35:6-8), but with God, to save the soul, it is no better than filthy rags ( Isaiah 64:6).
Nor will this Christian man suffer these carnal ones to delude themselves with a change of terms; for the devil, who is the great manager of carnal men in things that concern their souls, and in the plea that they make for themselves, will help them to tricks and shifts to evade the power of the Word of God. Teaching them to call the beauties of nature grace, and the acts of natural powers the exercise of the graces of the Spirit, he will embolden them also to call man’s righteousness the righteousness of Christ, and that by which a sinner may be justified in the sight of God from the law. These tricks the Christian sees, and being faithful to God’s truth, and desiring the salvation of his neighbor, he laboreth to discover the fallacy of, and to propound better terms for this poor creature to embrace, and venture his soul upon ; which terms are warranted by the New Testament, a stranger to which the natural man is. But, I say, the things which the Christian presseth, being so foreign to nature, and lying so cross to man’s best things, are presently judged by the natural man to be fables or foolishness ( 1 Corinthians 2:14). Wherefore here again, he takes another occasion to maintain his strife, and contention against the righteous man; raising of slanders upon him, and laying things to his charge that he understandeth not; charging also his doctrine with many grievous things. Namely, that he holdeth that man was made to be damned; that man’s righteousness is no better than sin; that a man had as good to do ill as well; that we may believe, and do what we list; that holiness pleaseth not God; and that sinning is the way to cause grace to abound. Besides, say they, he condemneth good motions, and all good beginnings of heart to God-ward; he casteth away that good we have, and would have us depend upon a justice to save us by, that we can by no means approve of.
For it is possible for the carnal man to be beaten out of all his arguments for himself and his own things, by the power and force of the Word; and to be made to consent to what the Christian has said as to the notion of the truth. I must not speak this of all. But yet the breach doth still abide; for that yet there appears to be no more with the man, but only the notion of things. For though the notion of things are those that of God are made the means of conveying of grace into the heart, yet grace is not always with the notion of things ; the Word ofttimes standeth in man’s understanding alone, and remaineth there, as not being accompanied with such grace as can make it the power of God to salvation. Now, when it is thus with the soul, the danger is as great as ever , because there is a presumption now begotten in the heart that the man is in a saved condition, — a presumption, I say, instead of faith, which puffeth up, instead of enabling the soul after a godly manner to depend upon God for mercy through Christ. This is called the word of them that are puffed up; the word only , because not accompanied with saving grace ( 1 Corinthians 4:19; 1 Corinthians 8:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:5).
This the Christian also sees, and says it is too weak to conduct the soul to glory . And this, indeed, he says, because he would not that his neighbor should come short home. But neither can this be borne; but here again, the natural man with his notion of things is offended; and takes pet against his friend, because he tells him the truth, and would that he so should digest the truth, that it may prove unto him eternal life. Wherefore he now begins to fall out again, for as yet the enmity is not removed; he therefore counts him an unmerciful man, one that condemneth all to hell but himself; and as to his singularity in things, those he counteth for dreams, for enthusiasms, for allegorical whimsies, vain revelations, and the effects of an erroneous judgment. For the Lord has put such darkness betwixt Egypt and Israel, as will not suffer them to come together. But this is not all.
For it is possible for these carnal men to be so much delighted in the notion of things, as to addict themselves to some kind of worship of Christ, whose notions of truth have by them been received. And because their love is yet but carnal, and because the flesh is swelling, and is pleased with pomp and sumptuousness, therefore, to show how great an esteem such have for Christ, whom they are now about to worship, they will first count his testament, though good, a thing defective, and not of fullness sufficient to give, in all particular things, direction how they should, to their own content, perform their glorious doctrine. For here and there, and in another place, cry they, there is something wanting. Here, say they, is nothing said of those places, vestures, gestures, shows, and outward greatness that we think seemly to be found in and with those that worship Jesus. Here wants sumptuous ceremonies, glorious ornaments, new fashioned carriages, F30 all which are necessary to adorn worship withal.
But they again, seeing the things they have made are the very excellencies of human invention, and things added as a supplement to make up what, and wherein, as they think, that man that was faithful over his own house as a son was defective. They are resolved to stand upon their points, and not to budge an inch from the things that are so laudable, so necessary, so convenient, and so comely; the things that have been judged good, by so many wise, learned, pious, holy, reverend, and good men. Nay, if this were all, the godly would make a good shift; but their zeal is so great for what they have invented, and their spirits so hot to make others couch and bend thereto, that none must be suffered to their power to live and breathe, that refuseth to conform thereto. F31 This has been proved too true, both in France, Spain, Germany, Italy, and other places; and upon this account it is that persecution has been kept alive so many hundred years in some places against the church of God.
From what has been said as to these things, this I collect as the sum — First, That man by nature is in a state of wrath and condemnation ( Ephesians 2:1-4; John 3:18). Secondly, That the natural man, by all his natural abilities, is not able to recover himself from this his condemned condition ( John 6:44; Ephesians 1:19,20). Thirdly, That a man may have right notions of gospel things, that hath no grace in his heart ( Corinthians 13:2, 3). Fourthly, That to add human inventions to Christ’s institutions, and to make them of the same force and necessity, of the same authority and efficacy, is nought; and not to be subjected to ( Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:8,9; Mark 7:6,7).
So then, he that saith these things, saith true; for the Scriptures say the same. This, then, is a good cause to suffer for, if men will that I shall suffer for saying so; because it is that which is founded upon the Word of God; and the Word is the ground and foundation of all true doctrine. Let him, then, that believeth what is here discoursed, and that liveth soberly and peaceably in this belief among his neighbors, stand by what he hath received, and rejoice that he hath found the truth. And if any shall afflict or trouble him for holding of these things, they afflict or trouble him for holding to good things; and he suffereth at their hands because his cause is good.
And such an one may with boldness, as to this, make his appeal to the Bible, which is the foundation of his principles, and to God the author of that foundation, if what he holds is not good. He may say, “Lord, I have said, that man by nature is in a state of condemnation, and they make me suffer for that. Lord, I have asserted that man, by all his natural abilities, is not able to recover himself from this his condemned state, and they make me suffer for that. Lord, I have said that a natural man may have right notions of the gospel, and yet be without the saving grace thereof, and they make me suffer for that. Lord, I cannot consent that human inventions and doctrines of men should be joined with thy institution as matters of worship, and imposed upon my conscience as such, and they make me suffer for that. Lord, I own the government, pray for my superiors, live quietly among my neighbors, give to all their dues, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, relieve the afflicted, and show myself, by my faith and life, to be a true Christian man, and yet my neighbors will not let me alone. True, I cannot comply with all that some men would have me comply with; no more did Daniel, no more did Paul; and yet Daniel said, that he had to the king done no hurt ( Daniel 6:22), and Paul said, ‘neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended anything at all’” ( Acts 25:8).
For he that keeps within the compass of God’s Word, hurts no man, gives just offence to no man, though he complieth not with all that are modes and ways of worship in the world. Nor can this appeal be judged injurious, if it be not attended with intercessions against them that hate us. But we will pass this, and come to a second thing. Third, As he that suffereth for righteousness must have a good cause, so he that suffereth for righteousness must have a good call .
A man, though his cause be good, ought not by undue ways to run himself into suffering for it; nature teaches the contrary, and so doth the law of God. Suffering for a truth ought to be cautiously took in hand, and as warily performed. I know that there are some men that are more concerned here than some; the preacher of the Word is by God’s command made the more obnoxious man, for he must come off with a woe, if he preaches not the gospel ( 1 Corinthians 9:16). He, therefore, I say, doth and ought more to expose himself than other Christians are called to do. Yet it behoveth him also to beware, because that Christ has said to him, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep, or lambs, in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” ( Matthew 10:16; Luke 10:3). A man is not bound by the law of his Lord, to put himself into the mouth of his enemy. Christ withdrew himself; Paul escaped the governor’s hands, by being let down in a basket over the wall of the city ( 2 Corinthians 11:32,33). And Christ hath said, If they persecute you in one city, flee ye to another. If they will not let me preach here, I will take up my Bible, and be gone. Perhaps this is because I must preach in some other place. A minister can quickly pack up, and carry his religion with him, and offer what he knows of his God to another people ( Acts 13:44-47). Nor should a minister strive, I think, with the magistrate for place, or time. But let him hearken to hear what God shall say by such opposition . Perhaps the magistrate must drive thee out of this place, because the soul is in another place that is to be converted, or helped by thy sermon today. We must also in all things, show ourselves to be such as by our profession we would that men should believe we are, to wit, meek, gentle, not strivers, but take our Lord and our brethren the prophets for our examples.
But I will not here presume to give instructions to ministers; but will speak a few words in the general about what I think may be a sufficient call to a man to suffer for righteousness. First, Every Christian man is bound by God’s Word to hold to, or stand by his profession, his profession of faith, and to join to that profession an holy godly life; because the Apostle and High priest of his profession is no less a one than Christ Jesus ( Hebrews 3:1; Hebrews 10:23). This by Christ himself is expressed thus, Let your light so shine ( Matthew 5:16). No man lighteth a candle to put it under a bushel. Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning ( Luke 12:35). And Paul bids the Philippians hold forth the word of life ( Philippians 2:16).
And more particularly, by all this, this is intended, that we should hide our faith in Christ from no man, but should rather make a discover of it by a life that will do so; for our profession, thus managed, is the badge, and the Lord’s livery, by which we are distinguished from other men. F33 So then, if, while I profess the truth of Christ, and so walk as to make my profession of it more apparent, I be made a sufferer for it, my call is good, and I may be bold in God and in my profession. This, Peter intends when he saith, “But and if ye suffer for righteousness” sake, happy are ye, and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear ( 1 Peter 3:14,15). Here, then, is a call not to meddle with the other, but to mind our own business; to walk in our Christian profession, and to adorn it with all good works; and if any man will meddle with me, and ask me a reason of the hope that I have, to give it him with meekness and fear, whatever follows thereupon. This, Peter should have done himself there, where he denies his Master thrice.
The reason is, for that Christianity is so harmless a thing, that, be it never so openly professed, it hurts no man. I believe that Christ will save me; what hurt is this to my neighbor? I love Christ because he will save me; what hurt is this to any? I will for this worship Christ as he has bid me; what hurt is this to anybody? I will also tell my neighbors what a loving one my Christ is, and that he is willing to be good to them as he has been good to me; and what hurt is this to the governor of a kingdom? But and if any man will afflict me for this, my cause is good, and also my call to stand full godly to my profession. Secondly, There is sometimes a call to suffer for righteousness, even from the voice of necessity. That is, either when, by my silence, the truth must fall to the ground; or when, by my shrinking, the souls of other men are in danger. This, I say, is a call to suffer even by the voice of necessity. The case may be when God’s ways may be trodden under foot; yea, his Word, and ways, and name, and people, and all. Thus Goliath did do, for several days together ( 1 Samuel 17), and vaunted in his doing; and there was not a man, no, not in Israel, that durst answer him a word. And now was the spirit of David stirred in him, and he would put his life in his hand, and give this man an answer; and he saw there was reason for it — necessity gave him a call. Is there not a cause, saith he, lies bleeding upon the ground, and no man of heart or spirit to put a check to the bold blasphemer? I will go fight with him; I will put my life in my hand; if I die, I die.
Consider also what Daniel did when the law was gone out to forbid, for thirty days, petitioning any god or man, save the king only. At that time, also, not a man of Israel peeped ( Daniel 6:7). Now necessity walks about the streets, crying, Who is on the Lord’s side? Who, etc. And Daniel answers, I am, by opening of his window, and praying, as at other times, three times a day, with his face towards Jerusalem ( Daniel 6:10). He heard this voice of necessity, and put his life in his hand, and complied with it, to the hazard of being torn in pieces by the lions.
Much like this was that of the three children; for when that golden image was set up, and worship commanded to be done unto it, not one, that we read of, durst stand upright when the time was come that bowing was the sign of worship. Only the three children would not bow: it was necessary that some should show that there was a God in heaven, and that divine worship was due alone to him ( Daniel 3:10-12). But they run the hazard of being turned to ashes, in a burning fiery furnace, for so doing. But necessity has a loud voice, and shrill in the ears of a tender conscience : this voice will awake jealousy and kindle a burning fire within, for the name, and cause, and way, and people, of the God of heaven. Thirdly, There is sometimes a call to suffer for righteousness by the voice of providence. That is, when, by providence, I am cast for my profession into the hands of the enemies of God and his truth; then I am called to suffer for it what God shall please to let them lay upon me. Only, for the making of my way more clear in this matter, I will deliver what I have to say, with a caution or two. 1. Thou must take heed that thy call be good to this or that place, at which, by providence, thou art delivered up. 2. Thou must also take heed that, when thou art there, thou busiest thyself in nothing but that that good is. 3. Thou must also take heed that thou stay there no longer than while thou mayest do good or receive good there. 4.
Thus far a man is in the way of his duty, and therefore may conclude that the providence of God, under which now he is, is such as has mercy and salvation in the bowels of it, whatsoever is by it, at the present, brought upon him.
Christ Jesus, our Lord, though his death was determined, and of absolute necessity, and that chiefly for which he came into the world, chose rather to be taken in the way of his duty than in any other way or anywhere else.
Wherefore, when the hour was come, he takes with him some of his disciples, and goeth into a garden, a solitary place, to pray; which done, he sets his disciples to watch, and falleth himself to prayer. So he prays once; he prays twice; he prays thrice: and he giveth also good doctrine to his disciples. And now, behold, while he was here, in the way of his duty, busying himself in prayer to God, and in giving of good instruction to his followers, upon him comes Judas and a multitude with swords and staves, and weapons, to take him; to which providence he, in all meekness, submits, for he knew that by it he had a call to suffer ( Matthew 26:36-47).
In this way, also, the apostles were called to suffer, even while they were in the way of their duty. Yea, God bid them go into the temple to preach, and there delivered them into the hands of their enemies ( Acts 4:1-3; Acts 5:20-26).
Be we in the way of our duty, in the place and about the work unto which we are called of God, whether that work be religious or civil, we may, without fear, leave the issue of things to God, who only doth wonderful things. And he who lets not a sparrow fall to the ground without his providence, will not suffer a hair of our head to perish but by his order ( Luke 12:6,7). And since he has engaged us in his work, as he has if he has called us to it, we may expect that he will manage, and also bear us out therein; either so as by giving of us a good deliverance by way of restoration to our former liberty and service for him, or so as to carry us well out of this world to them that, under the altar, are crying, How long, holy and true: nor shall we, when we come there, repent that we suffered for him here. Oh! how little do saints, in a suffering condition, think of the robes, the crowns, the harps, and the Son that shall be given to them; and that they shall have when they come upon mount Zion ( Revelation 6:11; Revelation 14:1-7). Fourthly, There is sometimes a call to suffer for righteousness by an immediate and powerful impulse of the Spirit of God upon the heart. This, I say, is sometimes, and but sometimes; for this is not God’s ordinary way, nor are many of his servants called after this manner to suffer for righteousness. Moses was called thus to suffer when he went so often unto Pharaoh with the message of God in his mouth. And “he endured, as seeing him who is invisible” ( Hebrews 11:25-27).
Paul was called thus to suffer, and he obeyed, and went, and performed that work, according to the will of God. This kind of call Paul calls a binding, or a being bound in the Spirit, because the Holy Ghost had laid such a command upon him to do so, that he could not, by any means, get from under the power of it. “And now, behold,” saith he, “I go bound in the Spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there” ( Acts 20:22).
For he that is under this call has, as I said, bonds laid upon his spirit, which carry him to the place where his testimony is to be borne for God; nor shall he, if he willingly submits and goes, as Paul did, but have an extraordinary presence of God with him, as he. And see what a presence he had; for after the second assault was given him by the enemy, even “the night following, the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul; for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome” ( Acts 23:11). Thus God meeteth his people in their service for him, when he calls them aloud to do great service for him. The power of such a call as this, I say, is great, and men of ordinary spirits must needs give place thereto, and leave a man thus bound to the God that thus has bound him. All the help such can afford him is to follow him with our prayers, not to judge him or grieve him, or lay stumbling-blocks before him. No; they must not weep nor mourn for him, so as to make him sorrowful ( Acts 21:12-14).
His friends may suggest unto him what is like to attend his present errand, as Agabus did by the Spirit to Paul when he took his girdle and bound himself therewith, to show him how his enemies should serve him whither he went. “Thus said the Holy Ghost,” said he, “so shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles” ( Acts 21). But if this call be indeed upon a man, all sorrow is turned into joy before him; for he is ready, not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus ( Acts 21:13).
Instances, also, of later times might be given of a call extraordinary to suffer for righteousness. For many, in the first three hundred years’ persecution, when nobody knew what they were, would boldly come up to the face of their enemies and tell what they were, and suffer for what they professed, the death. I remember, also, the woman who, when her friends were gone before to suffer, how she came running and panting after, for fear she should not come thither time enough to suffer for Jesus Christ.
But I will give you an instance of later times, even in the beginning of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, of an Hertfordshire man that went as far as Rome to bear his testimony for God against the wickedness of that place. This man, when he was arrived there, and had told them wherefore he was come, they took and condemned him to death, to wit, to be burned for an heretic. Now he was to ride from the prison to the place of execution upon an ass, with his face to the beast’s tail, and was to be stripped from the shoulders to the waist, that he might be tormented all the way he went with burning torches continually thrust to his sides; but he, nothing at all afraid, spake in his exhortation to the people to fly from their sin and idolatry; he would also catch hold of the torches and put them to his sides, to show how little he esteemed the worst that they could do. Also, when he was come to the place of execution, he suffered there such cruelty, with so unconcerned a mind, and with such burning zeal for God’s truth, testified against them while he could speak; that, all amazed, his enemies cried, he could not have suffered as he did but by the help of the devil. His name I have now forgot, but you will find it, with the story at large, in the third volume of Acts and Monuments, at the 1022 page. F34