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probably so, but it takes in many afflicted evils, for (verse 10) he mentioneth “ reproaches,” Paul was too apt to be proud. The Lord made him an eminent instrument, by his faith he had abundance of revelations. But God will prick the bladder, he doth it with thorns, and he calls it his infirmities, necessities, reproaches. Infirmity, by that I mean some reigning sickness. But reproaches was one ingredient. Now, lest we should be puffed up by vain conceit, the Lord humbles us with infirmities, necessities, reproaches.
2. Another sin for which God humbles us is careless walking. When we are negligent and do not take notice of the carnality that grows upon us, and the fleshly frame and temper of heart which breaks out into our lives, the Lord suffers others to reproach, then they gather up our filth, that we may see what cause we have to take our ways to heart. Every man that would live strictly had need either of faithful friends, or watchful enemies ; either faithful friends to admonish him ; or watchful enemies to censure him. They show us the spots in our garments that are to be washed off. Many times a friend is blinded with love, and grows as partial to us as we are to ourselves, will suffer sin upon us and not to tell us of it, then the Lord sets spies upon us to watch for our halting (Jer. xx. 10), and therefore we need go to God and pray, “ Lord lead me in a plain path because of mine enemies” (Psam xxvii. 11). They lie in wait and seek to take us tripping in ought they can. We can no more be without watchful enemies, than without faithful friends. How ignorant should a man be of himself if others did not put him in mind sometimes of his failings? Therefore God makes use of virulent persons in the world, as a rod to wash the dust out of our garments.
3. To humble us for our censuring. For if we have not been so tender of others' credit, the Lord makes us to see the bitterness of the affliction in our own case, by giving us the like measure that we have meeted unto others (Matt. vii. 1, 2); that is, we shall find others as hardly think of us, as we have of them. Good thoughts and speeches of other men are the best preservative of our own good names. God will take care of them that are careful not to judge and censure. And therefore it is no great matter whether the report be true or false, but a Christian is to examine, have we not drawn it upon ourselves by slandering others ? For God usually payeth us home in our own coin. He that is much given to censuring, seldom or never escapes great censures himself. It is said in the Psalms, “Let his own words grieve him," that is, “fall upon him." How do our own words fall upon us? Why, the Lord punisheth us for our censuring of others. Oh, then humble thyself before God for the reproaches thou hast cast upon others : “Take no heed unto all words that are spoken ; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee” (Eccl. vii. 21), that is, speaking evil against thee. Hard sayings and speeches of others against us, may put us in mind of God's just hand, of measuring to us as we have measured unto others, and therefore we should be the more patient if they wrong us, it is but in the like kind that we have wronged others. God will humble us for our censuring which is so natural and rife, especially with younger, weak, and more unmortified persons.
2ndly, The Lord doth it as to humble us, so to “try” us.
1. The first thing he will try in you by such a grievous affliction, and such volleys of reproaches is your faith when all the world is set to condemn you. What faith ?
(1.) Our faith in the great day of accounts, there is one great object of faith, and when the world is set to condemn us, our faith is tried, to see if we can rest with the vindication we shall have in the day of our Lord : so much you may see, “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness; and then shall every man have praise of God" (1 Cor. iv. 3–5). Every man that deserves it, and is qualified for it shall have praise with God. 'EXáziorov, it was a very small thing to be judged of man's day, because he expected God's day for the clearing of all things here in the world. Sin and error often get the major vote. Tollite impios, was the cry of the rabble against Christians. If there was any trouble, it was for the Christian's sake, take away the ungodly, meaning the Christians, because they denied the Heathen gods. Now, what was their comfort ? the day of the manifestation of all things. So, when we are looked upon as the pests of mankind, yet when we can comfort ourselves, there will come a day of the manifestation of the sons of God, that is enough, the great day of judgment is as hand, so this will set all things right again.
(2.) To try our faith in more particular promises. The Lord hath promised to provide for the health and credit of his people : so far he hath promised for their safety, and their daily bread, for their maintenance, and any earthly blessing that is good for us. Now, the Lord will see if we can trust him with our credit, as well as for other things : “ So shall I have wherewith to answer him that reproacheth me: for I trust in thy word ” (Psalm cxix. 42). I say the Lord hath in his covenant undertaken to preserve a Christian in all his interests and concernments, so far as shall be for his glory and our good, and so far we receive it. And a Christian, when he gives up himself to God, gives up everything he hath to God, in a way of consecration to God's use. God is the guardian of my body and soul, I give up my estate, and life, that he may watch over me night and day, and I give up my name and credit : “ Thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues” (Psalm xxxi. 20); that the Lord may take a charge of our names as well as our persons and estates. Now the Lord requires a trust in us according to the extent of the covenant (that is to say a waiting, a confidence, that our lives are not in man's power, that he can turn the hearts of men, and give you favour in their eyes, when it is for his glory and your good : “ Rest in the Lord and wait paitently for him : commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass” (Psalm xxxvii. 5, 7). There is the trust that is required. O, many times we seem to lose our estimation amongst men, and to be burried under calumnies and reproaches, but it will not be long. Your person and cause may be obscured, it may have a winter's night of trouble, but a morning of resurrection both of persons and name will come, it will be brought forth as the noon-day, the Lord is able to do this, the integrity of your hearts will be made known, and you will be absolved by God. Our Lord Jesus was a pattern to us of this. Christ, when foul crimes were laid to his charge by his slanderers, they had charged him with compliance with Satan, with blasphemy and sedition, what doth he do? the Apostle will tell you: “He committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1 Peter ii. 23). There is the faith of Christ, and therefore God will try this faith, whether we can with confidence and willingness deliver over ourselves to the will of our heavenly Father and righteous judge, whether we can resign up ourselves to him, to be disgraced or honoured as he shall think fit; when we commit and submit, perfectly resign up ourselves to the will of God in confidence of his righteousness and faithfulness in Christ, then we behave ourselves as Christians.
(3.) God will try our faith in the eternal recompences, whether we do so believe the glory of Heaven, the glory which shall be revealed in us in the other world, that we can be contented to be hun bled, and prepared for it by the reproaches of the present world : “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake." Why?“ Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in Heaven” (Matt. v. 11, 12). Oh, it is enough, we shall have glory hereafter. Your time is now to be tried with dishonour, reproach, contempt, but hereafter to be honoured. And the heirs of promise are described to be those, “who by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life.” A Christian is not destitute of natural affections, he prizeth honour, but he prizeth it at the lowest rate ; he looks for the glory, honour, and immortality that is in the other world, not in the fleshly, vain respects of this world, and therefore now we are tried whether it be enough to us that we shall have glory hereafter, and here we are willing to take what the world will afford us. Thus God will try our faith.
2. God will try our mortification and deadness to worldly credit. The heart is never sincere with God until it be so. Hypocrites are proud, self-conceited; they must be honoured among men. Now this is such an evil spirit that Christ makes it incapable of faith, for “How can ye believe than seek for honour one of another ?" (John v. 44.) When we must have glory one from another, else our hearts are exceedingly troubled. Oh, it shows we are not so dead, at least as we ought to be to credit in the world, to have the glory that comes from God only ; his image is implanted in us; the testimony of his love to our souls; all clear between God and our souls, and he is not upright whose peace and tranquillity of spirit doth depend upon man's speeches and judgment rather than God 3 : “For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth” (2 Cor. x. 18). Men cannot defend thee if God will condemn thee, they cannot condemn thee if God acquits thee. They that run a race regard not what the standers-by say, but the Agonothelæ, the great judge of the sports, he that was to give them the garland, what he would determine and decide in the case; so it is in your running, working, and striving, no matter what the world saith ; their applause will not shelter you from God's judgment, nor their condemnations nor reproach will not expose you to God's wrath. Look to the judge of all things, and we should be content with that, he is approved whom the Lord approves: “For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience" (2 Cor. i. 12). What is the great matter of joy to him? The good word of men ? No, he hath studied to approve himself to God, therefore should not be troubled over much. Peace of conscience is better than the applause of the world; certainly a man is not fit to have so divine a plant grow in his soul till he comes to live to his privilege. He lives not to opinion, but lives to God's approbation.
3. Another thing God will try is our patience, We should prevent reproaches as much as we can, but by a holy conversation may bear them when we cannot avoid them. “For my love, they are my adversaries : but I give myself unto prayer” (Psalm cix. 4). That was David's exer. cise, the revenge he took upon them, to pray to God for them. The Lord will try whether we have this meek humble patience. When Shimei went about railing to the peril of his life, “ Come out, come out, thou bloody man, and thou man of Belial” (2 Sam, xvi. 7), and reproached him for being treacherous to the house of Saul, and Abishai would have taken away his head : No, saith David, “ let him alone,” God hath bid him curse. A mad dog that biteth another makes him as mad as himself. Now it should not be so with Christians; if they bark or bite at us, yet we should possess our souls with patience. It is a time of reproach and rebuke, a time wherein God will humble his people; therefore we should expostulate the case with the Lord, and humble ourselves before him, and see what is the matter; God hath disposed this by his providence. We would revenge ourselves of those that reproach us if it were in our power ; but David had meekness and patience that would not permit it. God will discover the patience of his servants ; say the apostles: “Being reviled, we bless : being persecuted, we suffer it: we are made as the filth of the earth, and are the off-scouring of all things unto this day” (1 Cor. iv. 12, 13); the word is, the gweepings of the city, that are fit to be carried out of the city, to be swept away, unfit to live among men in civil societies. Christians, there must be a season for the trial of our graces. Now, God makes this season for the trial of patience. Such a time as this discovers the strength of grace.
4. Another thing God would have to be tried is our uprightness ; whether we can hold on our way " through honour and dishonour, evil report and good report,” as the Apostle speaks (2 Cor. vi. 8). Still approve ourselves faithful servants of Christ. If you search into the records of time, you shall find many have been discouraged in Christianity because of reproaches that have been cast upon them, for the Devil works much upon stomach and spleen. When Turtullian was reproached by certain priests at Rome, he turned Montanist. Now, God will try our uprightness. Look, as the moon shines and holds on her course though the dogs bark ; so we should hold on our course. Let men talk their pleasure, yet we should abide faithful with God: “ Remove from me reproach and contempt, for I have kept thy testimonies” (Psalm cxix. 22). David was not unsettled by contempt and reproach, but still kept God's testimonies, and adhered to his ways. Some can be religious no longer than they can be so with honour; when reproaches come, when their secular interests are in danger, then they fall off, questioning the ways of God, and unsettling their hearts, that is, to take a revenge upon God himself. Hypocrites take pet, like servants that run away when their master strikes them ; but a good servant will take a buffet patiently, and go about his work still; so, when the Lord buffets us by wicked men, still we must follow our work, and go on with God.
3rdly, The Lord doth it to do you good, to make you better. Reproaches are like soap that seems to defile the linen, but it cleanseth it. There is nothing so bad but we may make a good use of it, and a Christian may gain some advantage by it. Or, as dung, which seems to stain the grass, but it makes the ground fruitful, and the grass springs up with a fresher verdure; so reproaches are a necessary help to make us more humble, heavenly; to make us walk with a holy awe. This holy revenge we should take upon our enemies to make us more strict and watchful. The way is, not to contend for esteem, but to grow better, more serivus; more faithful in our lives, for this is the way oquoūv, (1 Peter ii. 15), to muzzle the mouths of adversaries, as the mouth of a dog, or wild beast is. Passionate returns do but increase sin, but a holy conversation will silence all, and therefore you should confute calumnies, you bind up their mouths thereby. In short, an innocent, meek, unblamable, profitable life, will certainly have its due esteem in the consciences of men, do what men can. Therefore, do you go on, and be you the more strict, and then these reproaches will do you good. This is the first use, advice to us what to do in case we be reproached.
USE II.—To those that either devise, or receive the reproach: both are very faulty and sinful.
1. First, you that devise reproaches.
(1.) You hazard the repute of your own sincerity : “ If a man among you seem to be religious and bridleth not his tongue, this man's religion is vain" (James i. 26). Such men as are seldom at home, seldom look to the state of their own hearts. Alas! if they were acquainted with themselves, or their own failings; they would see themselves the worst people in the world. Paul can see himself worse than Judas : “ I am the chief of sinners;" because he hath a greater feeling of his own case. Now he that is much in judging is seldom within. If a man had a catalogue of his own faults, he would not be so ready to blast others, but say, “I am the chief of sinners.” Hypocrites have nothing in them but empty shows and appearances. It is a cheap zeal to let fly (and yet this is the religion of a great many) at the miscarriages and faults of others. No, you should rather study your own.
(2.) You rob them of a most precious treasure. For if that of Solomon be true, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches” (Prov. xxii. 1), they are the worst thieves that rob a man of his good name. A thief that pilfers and steals anything from you, he is ashamed when found; and should not you be ashamed, that rob a man of a more excellent treasure?
(3.) You offend God, and draw public hatred upon yourselves. For censurers are always looked upon as the pests of the world. It is the Devil's business, his proper work (Rev. xii. 10). He is called the accuser of the brethren. The Devil doth not commit adultery, break the Sabbath, dishonour parents, but he will slander, and accuse, and speak evil. The other are not commandments suited to his nature, but this is a commandment that may suit with angelic nature. We are not to accuse another wrongfully
OBJECTION.-But must we in no case, you will say, speak evil of others? I answer, —
Ist, Be sure that it be not a downright slander. Now it is hard to avoid that. If the evil you speak of be without cause, then it is against truth : if it be for a light and slender cause, then it is against charity: if it be for things indifferent, or for lesser failings, the indiscretions, and weaknesses of Christians, all this is against that charity that should pass, especially between the disciples of Christ : “ Speak not evil one of another, brethren" (James iv. 11). It is worse in Christians always to be whispering, and speaking evil one of another ; you gratify the triumphs of Hell. In things doubtful, you should judge the best; in things hidden and secret, we cannot take cognizance of them, and we know not their