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and usque longe. They derided him with all possible bitterness; and day by day they had their scoffs for him, so that it was both a grievous and a perpetual temptation.
Secondly, His constancy and perseverance in the duty, that is set forth.
1. By the rule in the word, “thy law.” If we have God's law to justify our practice, it is no matter who condemneth it: we have God's warrant to set against man's censure. It must be God's way wherein we seek to be approved; otherwise our reproach is justly deserved, if it be for obstinacy in our own fancies.
2. The firmness and strictness of his adherence, “I hare not declined." The word signifies either to turn aside, or to turn back. Sometimes it is put for turning aside to the right hand or to the left: as “ Thou shalt not decline from the sentence which they shall show thee, to the right hand nor to the left” (Deut. xvii. 11). Sometimes for turning back : “My foot had held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined; neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips” (Job xxiii. 11). As it is taken for turning aside, it noteth error and wandering; as it is taken for turning back, it noteth apostasy and defection. Now David meaneth that he had neither declined in whole nor in part ; understand it of his faith: all their scoffs and bitter sarcasms did not discourage him, or tempt him to forsake his hold, or let go the comfort of the promise. Understand it of his obedience, he still closely cleaved to God's way. A declining implieth an inclining first. Well, then, David did not only keep from open apostasy, but from declining or turning aside in the least to any hand. Testimonies we have of his integrity in Scripture : “David kept my commandment, and followed me with all his heart to do only that which was right in my eyes” (1 Kings xiv. 8). His great blemish is mentioned elsewhere: “David did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and turned not aside from anything which he commanded him all the days of his life, sare only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite” (1 Kings xv. 5). However, the derision of bis enemies made him not to warp.
DOCTRINE.—That a Christian should not suffer himself to be flouted out of his religion, either in whole or in part: or, no scorn and contempt cast upon us should draw us from our obedience to God.
In the managing of it observe,-
3. That yet this should not move us either to open defection, or partial declining.
Ist, That a holy life is apt to be made a scorn by carnal men; and they that abstain from iniquity are as owls among their neighbours; the wonder, and the reproach of all that are about them. To evidence this, I shall give you an account of some of the scorns which are cast upon religion, with the reasons of them.
1. Some of the scorns are these :
(1.) Seriousness in religion is counted mopishness and melancholy. When men will not flant it, and rant it, and please the flesh as others do, but take time for meditation, and prayer, and praise, then they are mopish.
(2.) Self-denial, when upon hopes of the world to come, they grow dead to present interests, and can bazard them for God, and can forsake all for a naked Christ, the world thinketh this humorous folly. To do all things by the prescript of the word, and live upon the hopes of an unseen world, is by them that would accommodate themselves to present interests, counted madness.
(3.) Zeal in a good cause is in itself a good thing : “ It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing” (Gal. iv. 18); but the world is wont to call good evil. As astronomers call the glorious stars by horrid namres, the serpent, the dragon's tail, the greater or lesser bear, the dogstar; so the world is grossly guilty of misnaming. God will not be served in a cold and careless fashion. See Rom. xii. 11: LEOVTEC aveúuari, “fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” But this will not suit with that lazy and dull pace, which is called temper and moderation in the world.
(4). Holy singularity, as Noah was an upright man in a corrupt age : “Noah walked with God” (Gen. vi. 9). And we are bidden “not to be conformed to this world ” (Rom. xii. 2). Now, because they would have none to upbraid them in their sins, and to part ways, and the number of the godly is fewer, they count it a factious singularity in thein that walk contrary to the course of the world, and the stream of common examples.
(5.) Fervour of devotion and earnest conversing with God in humble prayers, is called imposture and enthusiasm. The world, who are wholly sunk in flesh and matter, are little acquainted with these elevations and enlargements of the Spirit, think all to be imposture and enthusiasm. And though praying by the Spirit be a great privilege, “ praying in the Holy Ghost" (Jude 20); “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities : for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself helpeth our infirmities with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Rom. vüi. 26); “I will pour upon you the Spirit of grace and of supplication” (Zech. xii. 10); yet it is little relished by them. A flat dead way of praying suiteth their gust better. Christ compareth the duties of the Gospel, fasting with prayer in the Spirit, to new wine, which will break old bottles (Matt. ix. 17); but the duties of the Pharisees, to old, dead, and insipid wine : there is no life in them.
(6.) Serious speaking of God and heavenly things, is in the phrase of the world, canting. Indeed, to speak swelling words of vanity, or an 1intelligible jargon betrayeth religion to scorn; but a pure lip and speech seasoned with salt, and that holy things should be spoken of in a holy manner, our Lord requireth.
(7.) Faith of the future eternal state is esteemed a fond credulity by them who affect the vanities of the world, and the honours and pleasures thereof. They are all for sight and present things, and Christianity inviteth us to things spiritual and heavenly. Now, to live upon the hopes of an unseen world, and that to come, they judge it to be but foppery and needless superstition. Thus do poor creatures, drunk with the delusions of the flesh, judge of the holy things of God.
(8.) The humility of Christians, and their pardoning wrongs, and forgiving injuries, they count to be simplicity or stupidness, though the law of Christ requireth us “ to forgive others, as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven us."
(9.) Exact walking is scrupulosity and preciseness, and men are more nice than wise; which is a reproach that reflecteth a mighty contempt upon God himself: that when he hath made a holy law for the government of the world, that the obeying of this law should be derided by professed Christians: the scorn must needs fall on him that made the law, VOL. 1.
and gave us these commands. If he be too precise that imperfectly obeyed God, what will you say of God himself, who commandeth more than any of us all performeth? Thus the children of God are not only reproached as hypocrites, but derided as fools; and it is counted as a part of wit and breeding to droll at the serious practice of godliness, as if religion were but a foppery.
2. The reasons of this are these,
(1.) Their natural blindness : “ The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him ; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. ii. 14). They are incompetent judges: “ Wisdom is too high for a fool” (Prov. xxiv. 7). Though by nature we have lost our light, yet we have not lost our pride : “ The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit, than seven men that can render a reason” (Prov. xxvi. 16). Though their way in religion be but a sluggish, lazy, and dead course ; yet they have a high conceit of it, and censure all that is contrary, or but a degree removed above it. From spiritual blindness it is that carnal men judge unrighteously and perversely of God's servants, and count zeal and forwardness in religious duties to be but folly and madness.
(2.) Antipathy and prejudicate malice. The graceless scoff at the gracious, and the profane at the serious; there is a different course, and that produceth difference of affections: “ The world will love its own, but because I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you".(John xv. 19). And they manifest their malice and hatred this way by evil speaking, “speaking evil of you ” (1 Peter iv. 4).
(3.) Want of a closer view. Christians complained in the primitive times that they were condemned unheard, διά την φήμην, and διά το όνομα, without any particular inquiry into their principles and practices. And Tertullian saith, nolentes auditis, fc., they would not inquire, because they had a mind to hate. A man riding afar off seeing people dancing, would think they were mad, till he draws near and observes the harmonious order. They will not take a nearer view of the regularity of the ways of God, and therefore scoff at them.
(4.) Because you do by your practice condemn that life that they affect: “ The world hateth me, because I testify that their deeds are evil ” (John vii. 7). “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as vet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world” (Heb. xi. 7). Now, they would not have their guilt revived; and therefore since they will not come up to others by a religious imitation, they seek to bring others down to themselves by scoffs, reproaches, and censures.
(5.) They are set awork by Satan, thereby to keep off young beginners, and to discourage and molest the godly themselves; for bitter words pierce deep and enter into the very soul.
2ndly, It is a grievous temptation, it is reckoned in Scripture among the persecutions: “As he that was born after the flesh, persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now” (Gal. iv. 29). He meaneth those bitter mockings that Isaac did suffer from Ishmael: “ And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had borne unto Abraham, mocking” (Gen. xxi. 9). When the wicked mock at our interest in God, shame our confidence, the church complaineth of it: “ We are filled with the scorning of those that are at ease, and with the contempt of the
proud” (Psalm cxxii. 4); the insultations of those that live in full pomp, over the confidence and hope the saints have in God. So we read that the servants of God were “made a gazing stock both by reproaches and afflictions” (Heb. x. 33); again, “ of cruel mockings" (Heb. xi. 36.) It is more grievous when they mock and persecute at the same time : there is both pain and shame. The parties mocked were God's saints, the parties mocking were their persecutors and enemies; which proved sometimes to be their own brethren, of the same nation, language, kindred, religion. In short, these mockings issue out of contempt, and tend to the disgrace and dishonour of the party mocked; they make it their sport to abuse them. David saith, “Reproach hath broken my heart” (Psalm Ixix. 20).
3rdly, This should not move us either to open defection or partial declining, for these reasons:
1. It is one of the usual evils wherewith the people of God are tempted. Now, a Christian should be fortified against obvious and usual evils. Let no man that is truly religious think that he can escape the mockage and contempt of the wicked. Jesus Christ himself endured the “contradiction of sinners" (Heb. xi. 3); and the rather, that we might not wax weary and faint in our minds. This is a part of his cross which we must bear after him. The Pharisees derided his ministry: “The Pharisees also who were covetous, heard all these things, and derided him ” (Luke xvi. 14). They flouted at him when he hung on the cross: “ They that passed by him, reviled him, wagging their heads, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking him with the scribes and elders, said, He sared others, himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God, let him deliver him now, if he will have him : for he said, I am the Son of God. The thieves also which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth” (Matt. xxvii. 39—44). So, “Some mocked, and said, What will this babler say?" (Acts xvii. 18.) Well, then, since it is an usual evil which God's children have suffered, it should be the less to us. Little can the wicked say, if they cannot scoff"; and little can we endure, if we cannot abide a bad word. There needs no great deal ado to advance a man into the chair of scorners; if they have wickedness and boldness enough, they may soon let fly.
2. This as well as other afflictions are not excepted out of our resignation to God. We must be contented to be mocked and scorned, as well as to be persecuted and molested. It is mentioned in the beatitudes, “Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake” (Matt. v. 11).
3. Railing and calumniating will never prevail with rational and conscientious men to cause them to change their opinions. To leave the truth because others rail at it, is to consult with our affections, not our judgments. Solid reasoning convinceth our judgments, but raillery is to our affections; and a rational conscientious man is governed by an enlightened mind, not perverse and preposterous affections: “Be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is " (Eph. v. 17). Therefore an honest man will not quit truth, because others rail; no, he looked to his
rule and warrant. A man will not be railed out of errors; nay often, they are the more rooted because ill-confuted.
4. It is the duty of God's children to justify wisdom: “Wisdom is justified of her children” (Matt. xi. 19). What is it to justify wisdom? Justification is a relative word opposed to crimination; so, to justify is the work of an advocate; or to condemnation, so it is the work of a judge. The children of wisdom discharge both parts; they plead for the ways of God, and exalt them : so much as others deny them, they value them, esteem them, hold them for good and right. When they are nerer so much condemned, and the more despised, the more zealous the saints will be for them: “I will yet be more vile."
5. Carnal men at the same time approve what they seem to condemn; they hate and fear strictness : “Herod feared John, because he was a just man, and a holy, and observed him” (Mark vi. 20). They scoff at it with their tongues, but have a fear of it in their consciences: they revile at it while they live, but what mind are they of when they come to die? then all speak well of a holy life, and the strictest obedience to the laws of God: “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his” (Num. xxiii. 10); “Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out" (Matt. xxv. 8). Oh, that they had a little of that holiness and strictness which they scoffed at, whilst they were pursuing their lusts. How will men desire to die, as carnal and careless sinners, or as mortified saints ? Once more, they approve it in thesi, and condemn it in hypothesi. All the scoffers at godliness within the pale of the visible church, have the same Bible, baptism, creed, pretend to believe in the same God and Christ, which they own with those whom they oppose. All the difference is, the one are real Christians, the other are nominal; some profess at large, the others practise what they profess; the one have a religion to talk of, the others to live by. Once more, they approve it in the form, but hate it in the power. A picture of Christ that is drawn by a painter they like, and the forbidden image of God made by a carver they will reverence and honour, and be zealous for ; but the image of God framed by the Spirit in the hearts of the faithful, and described in the lives of the heavenly and the sanctified, this they scorn and scoff at.
6. Their judgment is perverse, not to be stood upon. They count the children of God foolish and crack-brained ; the crimination may be justly retorted : their way is folly and madness, for they go dancing to their destruction. Though there be a God by whom and for whom they were made; and from whom they are fallen, and that they cannot be happy but in returning to him again; yet they carry it so, as if there were no misery but in bodily and worldly things, no happiness but in pleasing the senses. The beginning, progress, and end of their course is from themselves, in themselves, and to themselves. They pour out their hearts to inconsiderable toys and trifles, and will neither admit information of their error, nor reformation of their practice till death destroy them. They neglect their main business, and leave it undone, and run up and down they know not why, like children that follow a bubble blown out of a shell of soap, till it break and dissolve. Now, should those that are flying from wrath to come, and seeking after God and their happiness be discouraged, because these mad and merry worldings scoff at them for their diligent seriousness? surely we should deride their derisions, contemn their contempt, who