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ensues; a conflict, by so much the more difficult to be borne as the feelings of the heart after conversion possess greater sensibility than before. To these are to be added the trials which they meet with from Satan, and a persecuting world.
We do not question which, upon the whole, are the most happy in this world, because the scripture has decided that there is no peace to the wicked; whereas godliness hath the promise of the life which now is, as well as of that which is to come: and the reason is, that the righteous have something within to counterbalance their afflictions, and convert them into benefits; while the unrighteous have nothing correspondent to this under their calamities: there is therefore no question about this. But we say, that if the afflictions that befal the righteous and the wicked be compared, without taking into the account the resources they may respectively have, it will be perhaps difficult to decide which suffer most; nor' indeed is a decision necessary, for no man, anxious for salvation, would think of suspending his judgment upon the determination of this question, but rather judge that the Kingdom of Heaven must be entered at all events, whether more or less of tribulation is to be encountered in the way to it. When,, therefore, the Apostle exhorted the persecuted disciples to bear in mind that through much tribulation they should enter into the kingdom, he did not thereby intimate that a godly life was necessarily attended with more
trouble upon the whole than a wicked one, for we rather change our troubles than increase them; but only meant to forewarn them of what was to be expected, lest the trials attending their Christian profession should offend them; that though they were the favorites of God, and under his government, they should nevertheless for all this, meet with much tribulation. We will endeavor with the Divine Blessing, First, to shew the truth of the Apostle's words, or that necessity of which he speaks; and Secondly, point out the grounds of that necessity.
I. That those who are saved must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom appears evident from these considerations, that from matter of fact it always has been so—from the nature of our circumstances it is likely it should be so-and from the appointment of God it cannot be otherwise.
1. From matter of fact it appears to have been always so. As the history of mankind in general is justly observed to be only the catalogue of their crimes, so the history of the people of God is a narrative of their sufferings for righteousness sake. Abel, the first saint that died, brought upon himself a violent death, only by offering an acceptable sacrifice. Though the piety of Noah proved his preservation, yet during the long period of one hundred and twenty years, while the Ark was building, in obedience to God, he was no doubt exposed to the severest trials of his faith and patience,
amidst the ridicule of such a vast majority of contemptuous sinners. Abraham the friend of God, was called to many sacrifices painful to human nature. To be obliged as he was at the beginning to abandon his home, and go forth he knew not whither, is a trial which we shall best appreciate by placing ourselves in siinilar circumstances, and by conceiving our selves called to abandon a spot, to which we are attached by every tender tie, to go to sojourn in a foreign land. Yet even in Canaan he was not suffered to enjoy those comforts of a permanent establishment, which next to grandeur we are so apt to idolize. When we consider these things, and think of that deepest wound to his feelings, the command to offer up his son, it is to be concluded, that with all his riches and prosperity, he found the days of the years of his pilgrimage to be full of trouble. Lot, bis nephew, was long subject to another trial, very distressing to a good man; his righteous soul was vexed from day to day by the filthy conversation of the wicked, among whom he dwelt. The sufferings all these holy men underwent were such as they would have escaped had they not been saints—such as they might have eluded, had they chosen to disobey God. Thus also Joseph, for his purity and integrity incurred disgrace, imprisonment, and almost death. Job, for the trial of his uprightness, was subjected to the dreadful scourges of Satan, and suffered the loss of his property, family, health of body and peace of
mind all at once. And because Moses chose to endure affliction with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin, affliction he did endure! for partly from the murmurs of the stiff-necked people, and the care of governing them, and partly from the displeasure of God, testified against his passionate words, which would have passed unnoticed had he not been an eminent saint, he must have found his
passage through the world as toilsome as his pilgrimage through the wilderness. And what shall I more say, for the time would fail me to tell of David, and Samuel, and of the Prophets; who, if they were eminent examples of faith, were also of tribulation, and the trial of faith. The people of God were frequently the objects of persecution, in the times immediately preceding the coming of Christ: such were the persecutions by Antiochus Epiphanes, when thousands were murdered, because they would not forsake the Law of God. Others had trials of cruel mockings and scourging; yea moreover of bonds and imprisonments. They were stoned they were sawn aşunder--were tempted—were slain with the sword—they wandered about in sheep skins and goat skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. Nor were the saints of the New Testament dispensation exempt from sufferings. Could not St. Paul, when he spoke the words of the Text, testify the truth of it from his own painful experience,
who was in stripes above measure-in prisons frequent-in deaths oft-scourged, stoned, shipwrecked—in journeyings often-in perils of waters—in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often—in hunger and thirst, in fastings often—in cold and nakedness? Such were the lives of the Apostles! of whom every one but John was taken off by a violent death; and the Christians spoken of, and written to, in the New Testament, were evidently partakers of their tribulation. Scarcely is there a single epistle in which affliction is not supposed or expressed. And St. Peter tells the elect strangers that their case was not singular, Knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in their brethren that are in the world.* So John; 1 John, who also am your brother and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ.t With respect to the Christian believers in after ages, wherever the secular historian notices them, the Church comes forward to view, almost always, in a suffering condition. Wherever the experience of a private saint happens to be communicated to us, he appears as a subject of sorrows; and though there were times when the visible church enjoyed the sunshine of temporal prosperity, yet even then the true followers of Christ were, in all probability, no strangers to secret sorrows: for as we proceed to notice in the next place,
2. It is likely from the nature of our condition in this world that all should through much
* 1 Pet. , 9.
+ Rev. i, 9.