ePub 版

Peter were brought before Herod, Acts xii. 3. Paul before king Agrippa and his wife, and the Roman governors Gallio, Felix, Festus; and, last of all, before the emperor Nero, and his prefect Helius Cæsarianus.-For a testimony against them and the Gentiles: all these things are ordered to befal innoyou, that your cence may appear, and that the truth of the gospel may be demonstrated. Accordingly, the patience which the apostles shewed under continual persecutions, and the courage wherewith they went to death in confirmation of their doctrine, became strong proofs of their innocence, and of the truth of the gospel. Moreover, if the apostles had never been brought before the supreme powers, nor defended their cause in the presence of kings and governors, it might have been said, that because Christianity could not bear a strict examination from able judges, it was preached to none but men of vulgar understandings, who were not capable of detecting it. But when persons of the highest distinction for birth, fortune, capacity and learning, had the gospel laid before them in the defences which the apostles were obliged to make at the public tribunals of every country, its standing such a trial was certainly a great confirmation of its truth to persons of inferior note. Wherefore, as Jesus here foretold, the persecutions which the apostles suffered, and their being brought before kings, became a testimony of their innocence, and of the truth of the gospel, and consequently an undeniable proof of the guilt both of the Jews and Gentiles who rejected it. 19. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak, for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. 20. For it is not ye that speak, but the spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. This direction was repeated on several occasions afterwards, particularly Luke xii. 11. Mark xiii. 11. The apostles being illiterate men, and wholly unacquainted" with the laws of the different countries whither they were to go, and with the forms of their courts, their Master foresaw that they would be in great perplexity, when they appeared as criminals before persons of the first distinction. He foresaw, likewise, that this circumstance would occur to themselves, and render them anxious to meditate beforehand, by what apology they might best defend so noble a cause. More than once, therefore, he expressly forbade them to be in the least solicitous about the defences they were to make, or so much as to premeditate any part of them; promising to afford them on all occasions the aid of their Father's Spirit, who would inspire them to speak in a manner becoming the cause they were to defend. 21. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child, and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death: such is the nature of the men among whom ye are going, and such the obstinacy with which




they shall oppose the gospel, that were it their brother, their father, or their son who preaches it, they would make no scruple of being active in putting those nearest relations to death. You may therefore expect the hottest persecution. But as you are to have great assistances, you need not be dismayed. 22. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake, i. e. ye shall be hated by the generality of men. The apostles and first Christians set themselves in opposition both to the Jewish and Pagan religious, declaring the nullity of the former, and urging the renunciation of the latter in all its forms, as matter of indispensable necessity. On the most tremendous penalties they required every man, without exception, to believe in Christ, and submit implicitly to his authority; a demand most galling to the pride of princes, priests, and philosophers. Moreover, having a lively sense of the importance of the things which they preached, they urged them not in a cold and indifferent manner, but with the utmost fervency. Need it be matter of wonder then, that in every country such a furious storm of persecution arose against them and the religion they taught, and that they were treated as the filth and offscourings of the earth? But he that endureth to the end shall be saved. This encouragement Jesus likewise gave his disciples, when he spake to them of the sufferings they were to meet with, about the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, Matt. xxiv. 13. We may therefore believe, that he had those sufferings now in his view. 23. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another; for verily I say unto you, ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. Let not the persecutions ye are to meet with in any period of your ministry discourage you; but when ye are sore pressed in one city, flee into another, where ye will meet with an asylum; for I assure you, in spite of all opposition, your labours shall be attended with such success, that ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come: before ye have carried the glad tidings of the gospel to the several cities of Israel, my kingdom shall be established in many places; so that in the midst of the hottest persecution, ye may always expect to find some who will befriend you. By the coming of the Son of man here mentioned, Lightfoot understands his resurrection from the dead; others the destruction of Jerusalem, called the coming of the Son of man in the clouds of heaven, Matt. xxiv. 30.; others the miraculous effusion of the Spirit, named by our Lord himself, his coming, John xiv. 18.; but the last is the more simple and natural explication. 24. The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. 25. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord: if they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? That you may bear all with a becoming fortitude, consider that


they have calumniated, traduced, and persecuted me your Master, for which cause, you my disciples cannot think it hard if they shall calumniate and persecute you. Matt. x. 26. Fear them not therefore, for there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed, and hid that shall not be known: Be not afraid of their calumnies, however false or malicious, for neither shall their wickedness nor your innocence be always concealed; both shall be manifested, at least in the day of judgment. Wherefore, the doctrines of the gospel which I have delivered to you in private, you ought to preach plainly and publicly without the fear of men. 27. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light; and what ye hear in the ear (in private) that preach ye upon the house tops. See on Mark ii. 4. § 33. 28. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. The utmost malice of your enemies cannot reach your better part, your soul, it can only hurt your body; for which reason you ought to fear them less than God, who, if you offend him, can destroy (torment, so h sometimes signifies) both soul and body in hell. Besides, you should consider that your enemies cannot touch even your bodies, without your Father's permission. For the meanest of his creatures are under the protection of his providence, insomuch that nothing befalleth them without its direction. 29. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. The regard which the great Fa ther of the universe has for all his creatures, small and great, is strongly represented in the book of Jonah, where God makes his compassion to brute beasts, one of the reasons why he would not destroy Nineveh. "Should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left, and also much cattle?" 30. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Men number whatever things of value are in their possession, lest any of them should be lost through the carelessness or knavery of those who have them in charge. The numbering therefore of the disciples hairs, shews how precious his servants are in God's sight, and what a strict account he takes of every thing that concerns them. 31. Fear ye not, therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows: since the least of God's creatures are so much the object of his care, ye who are honoured with so important an employment as that of preaching the gospel is, need not be afraid. 32. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him vill I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. 35. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. (See 2 Tim. ii. 12. Rev. iii. 5. Rom. x. 9,-11.) Whosoever shall make profession of my religion in time of persecution, and by an inviolable attachment

tachment to its precepts, shall acknowledge me for his master, I will own him as my disciple in presence of my Father at the judgment, and will claim for him the rewards which my Father has promised to such; whereas, whosoever does not thus confess me before men, I also will not confess him before my Father. There is unspeakable majesty in this article of our Lord's discourse. Although he was now in the lowest state of humanity, he declared that his confessing us before God is the greatest happiness, and his denying us the greatest misery that can possibly befal us. (See on Mark viii. 38. § 71.) 34. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. 35. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-inlaw against her mother-in-law. 36. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. Because the prophets have spoken glorious things of the peace and happiness of the world under the reign of Messiah, Isa. xi. 6. whom they have named, for that reason, the Prince of peace, Isa. ix. 6. you may imagine that I am come to put the world into that happy state forthwith. But it is not so. For though the nature of my government be such as might produce abundant felicity, in regard my religion breathes nothing but love, men will not at first lay aside their animosity, nor will they exercise a mutual friendship among themselves as soon as the gospel is 'preached to them. No; such is their wickedness, that they shall make the gospel itself an occasion of bitter dissensions, in so much, that it will look as if I had come on purpose to sow discord among men. For, as I told you before, the nearest relations shall quarrel among themselves, on account of the doctrines of the gospel, and prosecute their quarrels with surprising virulence. The reader will be pleased to observe, that thus to apply our Lord's words to Christians, is the most unfavourable sense that can be put upon them, seeing they may as properly be interpreted of the unbelieving Jews and Heathens, who persecuted their nearest relations to death on account of the gospel. In neither sense however can it be thought, that they declare the end for which the Son of God came into the world. They only foretel what the effect of his coming would be. The glorious state of things predicted by the prophets was not instantly to begin, but Christianity was for a season to be the innocent occasion of much mischief. However, as these bad consequences


These bad consequences are by no means peculiar to Christianity,] The Deists indeed boldly affirm, that the diversity of religious opinions and worships which prevailed among the heathens, never produced either Lloodshed or disorder, nor broke in on the peace of mankind. But their assertion is false. It is true, we are not so well acquainted with the religious disputes of the heathens as we are with our own; but the reason is, not that there were no such disputes, but that the historians of those times

consequences are by no means peculiar to Christianity, they must not be imputed to it, but to the wickedness of men.-37. He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me. He that preferreth the friendship of his nearest relations, though the sweetest of all earthly satisfactions, to my religion, renouncing it that he may enjoy their good will, does not deserve to be called a Christian. He told them this very properly, after having declared that their bitterest foes should be the members of their own families.—38. And he that taketh not his cross and followeth after me, is not worthy of me: Whosoever does not resolve to suffer the greatest hardships rather than renounce my religion, is not worthy to bear my name. There is here an allusion to the customs of the Romans, who obliged criminals to bear the crosses on which they were to suffer, out to the place of execution. The figure therefore expresses this sentiment with great energy, that no man can be a true Christian unless he is willing to endure all sorts of persecutions, together with the most shameful and painful deaths, for Christ's sake, when called to it. So


did not think them worth mentioning. Yet some flagrant instances are accidentally preserved, by which we may judge of the rest. Socrates, one of the best of the heathens, was put to death by the Athenians, the wisest and most learned of all the Greeks, for teaching the unity of God, as we are told, and the spirituality of the worship that is due to him. Aristotle, the philosopher, was impeached likewise for his opinions, and obliged to flee from Athens, lest he should have incurred the fate of Socrates. Antiochus Epiphanes raised a most violent and bloody persecution of the Jews in their own country on account of religion, wherein many thousands perished, who would not submit to the idolatrous worship which he set up in the temple of Jerusalem. The emperor Claudius banished the Jews from Italy for their religion, pretending that they were seditious. The religious quarrels of the Egyptians, the fury with which they prosecuted them, and the disturbances which they occasioned, are well known. See Juven. Sat. xv. And, to name no more, was there ever any persecution raised by Christians, either against one another, or against infidels, more bloody, cruel, and extensive, than the ten persecutions carried on by the heathen Roman emperors, at the instigation of the philosophers? It is not to the purpose to reply, that these were persecutions of men who set themselves to overturn the established religions of the countries where they lived. For while they attacked them with the force of argument only, they ought to have been repelled by no other weapon. And if they could not be thus quelled, their adversaries, instead of persecuting them, ought to have yielded to truth. Whilst the accounts of those persecutions stand on record, it must not be a little impudence that is able to bear the Deists out in affirming that the ancient heathen religions never inspired their votaries with a spirit of persecution. Yet it will not reflect any dishonour on Christianity, though it should be allowed to have occasioned more disturbances than any other religion. On the contrary, it is rather a proof of its superior excellency. For if Christianity animates the persons who believe it, with greater zeal for truth, it is because it approves itself better worth the contending for. Its evidences are clearer, and its tendency better than those of any false religion; and therefore no wonder that men have espoused its interest more heartily.

« 上一頁繼續 »