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Of Patience, Which Triumphantly Endures The Cross, And Waits For The Promised Glory.
Ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.—Heb. 10:36.
True Christian patience is that virtue by which, in all afflictions that cannot, by ordinary means, be avoided, we resign ourselves to the divine will, and submit entirely to it; choosing rather to suffer the greatest evils, than murmur against God, or let go our dependence on him.
2. The first reason or ground of this virtue is, the counsel and gracious will of God, by which we are appointed to sufferings and afflictions; according to Rom. 8:29: “Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son.” As, therefore, God appointed his own beloved Son to the sufferings of the cross, that thereby he might bring him to glory; so also has he appointed all the true members of Christ to bear the cross, without which they cannot be his body. Eph. 5:30. To each of these he has marked, measured, and, as it were, weighed out, his 319 exact portion of affliction, which cannot be escaped, much less shaken off by impatience; but may be alleviated by obedience and humble submission, and overcome by the power of Jesus Christ.
3. The second reason why we ought to be patient is the approaching consummation of all things; at which time, as our blessed Lord has told us, “iniquity shall abound, and love shall wax cold.” Matt. 24:12. The consequence of this must be that sincere Christians will be exposed to various afflictions, crosses, injuries, and sundry kinds of death; for “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” 2 Tim. 3:12. Christ assures us that the righteous must expect tribulations and persecutions for the testimony of a good conscience. John 15:20; 16:1. And the whole Revelation of St. John testifies that Antichrist shall persecute the Church of God till the last coming of the Lord; then the conflict will at last end, and the dragon and false prophets be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone. Do not, therefore, deceive thyself with golden dreams of felicity, but possess thy soul in patience, and strengthen thyself against the approaching calamities.
4. Thirdly, the hope of the restitution of all things, and the expectation of everlasting happiness, is another argument to support our patience. For as “the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain” (James 5:7), comforting himself under all his toils with the hopes of a plentiful harvest, so should Christians also learn to “possess their souls in patience” (Luke 21:19), and to persuade themselves that the great and universal harvest of the long-expected day of the Lord shall repair all our losses, and give to every one of us the fruit of our labors. For as the husbandman by no means reckons his seed lost, though it is for a while buried in the earth, but only sows it there in hopes of a harvest, so when Providence is pleased to take from us our lives, our friends, our estates, or honor, we must not look upon them as lost, but be assured that they are sown in hope of the great day of harvest, when we shall reap abundantly, “if we faint not.” Gal. 6:9. So also afflictions are compared to seed-time: “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” Ps. 126:5, 6.
5. Fourthly, another support of patience is the coming of Jesus Christ; when all our sorrows shall be done away, yea, be turned into joy (John 16:20), and the just judgment of God shall fall upon our enemies; and then “shall every man have praise of God.” 1 Cor. 4:5. And this day is at hand: “the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.” James 5:8. “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.” Rom. 12:19. The time of the cross is short, but the glory that follows it will be eternal. And that day of deliverance cannot be far off.
6. The fifth support of patience is the truth and faithfulness of God; by the consideration of which “we ought to stablish our hearts,” as St. James says, so that they may not waver. James 5:8. For as we tie a tender tree to a post, that it may not be broken by the winds; and as we cast anchor in a storm, to hold the ship, that it may not be driven by the tempest; 320 so ought we to apply our faint and weak hearts to the firm pillar of God's word, and hold the ship of our souls by the anchor of hope, that it sink not. Heb. 6:19. For how many and great promises of divine assistance have we in the Holy Scriptures! How many instances of strange deliverances have we daily before our eyes! And what variety of methods has God to deliver us! How many has he preserved in pestilence and famine (2 Kings 6:25; 7:16), and delivered from the peril of the sword! 2 Chron. 20:22; 14:12. For God can turn the hearts of enemies to unity and peace, or disappoint the designs of the adversary, as appears in the history of the blessed Jesus: “for,” says the angel, “they are dead which sought the young child's life.” Matt. 2:20. God can also convert an adversary, as he did St. Paul. Acts 9: 3, etc. How often does he disappoint the bloody intentions of wicked men! Saul had a design upon the life of David, and thought he was so penned in that he could not escape; but God recalls him by the message of a new incursion of the Philistines into his country. 1 Sam. 23:27. And the chief priests having sent their officers to lay hold on the blessed Jesus, the latter were so affected by our Lord's discourses, that they could not find in their hearts to touch him. John 7:44. Sometimes God smites the enemies of his servants with blindness, as in the cases of Elisha (2 Kings 6:18) and of Lot. Gen. 19:11. Consider, too, the innumerable legions of angels that guarded the Christians of old time, and miraculously preserved them from imminent dangers, as in the case of St. Peter. Acts 5:19; 12:7-11. And how often was St. Paul wonderfully preserved, and the designs laid against his life discovered! Acts 23:16. At length, by a temporal death, God puts an end to the miseries of his servants.
7. Sixthly, how glorious shall the recompense of past afflictions be to the faithful in the other world, which they would not exchange for all the pleasures and glories of this! Rom. 8:18. “Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted.” Matt. 5:4. And in Rev. 21:4 and Isa. 25:8, it is said, that “God shall wipe away all tears from the eyes of” his saints. But how shall he wipe away the tears of those that never sincerely wept?
8. Seventhly, we must set before our eyes the examples of holy men, as Abel, Noah, Lot, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David, Job, and especially the man of God, Moses; who, as the Holy Scripture witnesses, was “very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” Num. 12:3. The people were sometimes murmuring against him, sometimes chiding him, and sometimes threatening to stone him; but he broke their stubborn hearts by his meekness and patience, pacifying them with gentle words, praying to God for them, and entreating rather to be blotted out of the book of life, than that they should be cut off in His displeasure. Exod. 32:32. So also Elijah, having been most cruelly persecuted, yet obtained rain from God for his ungrateful country. 1 Kings 18:45. Micaiah, before the kings Ahab and Jehoshaphat, was struck by the false prophets, and cast into prison, only for dealing sincerely with the king, and giving him a salutary warning. 1 Kings 22:24; 2 Chron. 18:23. Why should I mention Isaiah, sawn asunder as a reward for his faithful services, or Jeremiah, bitterly persecuted by his countrymen (Jer. 15:10), 321 or Daniel, cast into the den of lions (Dan. 6:6), or John the Baptist beheaded (Matt. 14:10), or St. Paul, and all the afflictions which he endured (2 Cor. 11:23, etc.), or the sufferings and trials of the rest of the Apostles, and all the holy martyrs? See Heb. 11:35, etc. Should you inquire of all these, by what way they entered into heaven, they will all with one voice answer: By the way of the cross and tribulation. Acts 14:22. Neither did Christ himself enter by any other way. So says St. Peter, “Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.” 1 Pet. 2:21, 23. So great was the patience of our blessed Redeemer, that though the sun hid its head at the time of his passion, being unwilling to witness indignities so great; though the earth trembled, and the rocks rent (Luke 23:44; Matt. 27:51); yet he, still hanging upon the cross, murmured not against his enemies, nor by either word or gesture discovered the least impatience; but on the other hand, prayed for his enemies, that they might be saved by that blood which they so unjustly shed. Now if this be the lot of the children of God, that he chasteneth every one whom he loveth and receiveth, it follows that we must either suffer, or quit our title to be the sons of God. Heb. 12:6-8. If our heavenly Father spared not his own Son, though he was without sin, but chastened him with the rod of affliction; canst thou, who art an adopted son, and polluted with innumerable sins, expect to escape it? Moreover, if God bear so patiently with our provocations, how much more patient ought we to be, when we are punished for our good, with a view to our amendment! “Let us rather rejoice,” as St. Peter exhorts us (1 Epistle 4:13), “inasmuch as we are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that when his glory shall be revealed, we may be glad also with exceeding joy.”
9. Eighthly, we shall bear our afflictions patiently, when we consider that Christ Jesus has sanctified and blessed our crosses by his own, and has taken away the sting of affliction, and made it to us the instrument of blessing, life, and glory. For as the sufferings of Christ ended in glory, so will the sufferings of every Christian be turned into everlasting joy.
10. Ninthly, behold the glorious reward of those that bore their cross with patience. Though many of the holy martyrs were most barbarously treated, most inhumanly punished, and cruelly put to death, some thrown to wild beasts, some boiled in oil, others in melted lead; yet there is no man so impious or foolish, as to say, that he had not rather be in their condition now, than that of their murderers. Who would not now prefer the condition of the poor Lazarus, to that of the rich man? Luke 16:25. But if thou wouldest obtain the glory of the saints, thou must also bear the same crosses, and bear them with the same patience. To this we must refer those words of our blessed Saviour: “Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil of you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven.” Matt. 5:11, 12. As also those in Rom. 8:17, 18, “If we suffer with Christ, we shall also be glorified with him.” And again, “I reckon that the sufferings 322 of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
11. Tenthly, let the deep compassion of God be a support to our patience, who can no more forget us, than a mother can forget her sucking child. Isa. 49:15. He says, that “his bowels are troubled for Ephraim, and that he will have mercy upon him.” Jer. 31:20. Hence also he is said to be “faithful, who will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able” (1 Cor. 10:13); not chastening us for our hurt, but that we may obtain everlasting life, “and not be condemned with the world.” 1 Cor. 11:32. For, if the cross be nothing but a token of God's favor, wouldest thou rather choose the pleasures and dainties of the rich man here, and have his punishment hereafter, than enter into eternal life by the way of the cross, and wear a crown of glory?
12. All that has been said on this head, is admirably explained in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Heb. 12:1-11) as follows: “Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him. For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons: for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness, unto them which are exercised thereby.”
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