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I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed.—Ver. 46.
THE man of God had prayed, ver. 43, that God would ‘not take the word of truth utterly out of his mouth;’ that is, deny him the liberty or the grace, the opportunity or the heart, to make an open profession of his faith and respect to God and his ways. This suit he backeth with sundry arguments.
1. From his hope: ver. 23, ‘For I have hoped in thy judgments.’ He had placed all his confidence in them, and therefore would openly profess what rule he lived by, and what expectations he had from
2. His resolution to persist in this course, whatever befell him: ver. 44, ‘So shall I keep thy law continually for ever and ever;’ it would engage him to constancy to the end of his life.
3. From the alacrity and readiness of his obedience, as well as the constancy: ver. 45, ‘And I will walk at liberty, for I seek thy precepts.’ Then we have true liberty.
4. That no worldly splendour or terror should take him off from making this confession, if God would give him liberty and opportunity. Two things hinder a free confession of God’s truth carnal fear and carnal shame. Both are obviated by the resolution of the man of God; he would neither be afraid nor ashamed to recommend the ways of God to the greatest princes of the world.
[1.] The terror of kings or men in power may be supposed to be a hindrance to the free confession of God’s truth; therefore he saith, ‘I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings.’
[2.] Carnal shame may breed a loathness to own God’s despised ways; therefore he addeth, ‘I will not be ashamed.’ David would neither be afraid nor ashamed, if called thereto, to make this open confession, to own God and his truth.
First, His resolution against fear deserveth a little opening: ‘I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings.’ The words may be looked upon as a direction for them who are called to speak before kings. Men may suppose to be called—
1. Either by the duty of their office, to speak to them in a way of instruction; or
2. As convened before them in a judiciary way, to give an account of their faith.
1. In the first sense, those who are called to instruct kings ought with the greatest confidence to recommend the ways of God to them, as that which will enhance their crowns and dignity, and make it more glorious and comfortable to them and their subjects than anything else. And so David’s resolution showeth what faithfulness becometh them who live in the courts of princes. It concerneth princes to be instructed: Ps. ii. 10, ‘Be wise now therefore, ye kings; be instructed, ye judges of the earth.’ Few speak plainly and sincerely to them, as Nathan to David: 2 Sam. xii. 7, ‘Thou art the man;’ and God to 487David: 2 Sam. xxiv. 13, ‘Shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land; or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or that there be three days’ pestilence in the land?’ John the Baptist to Herod: Mat. xiv. 4, ‘It is not lawful for thee to have her,’ Jehu to Jehoshaphat: 2 Chron. xix. 2, ‘Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord.’ Many times they are impatient of truth, as Ahab could not endure Micaiah: 1 Kings xxii. 8, ‘And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, ‘There is yet one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the Lord; but I hate him, for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil,’ &c. (Josephus, lib. viii. cap. 10; Theodoret, lib. iv. cap. 30).
2. If convened before them in a judiciary way, as the three children were before Nebuchadnezzar: Dan. iii. 13, ‘Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and they brought these men before the king;’ and ver. 16-18, ‘They answered and said to the king, Nebuchadnezzar! we are not careful to answer thee in this matter; if it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us out of thine hand, O king; but if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up;’ Mat. x. 18, 19, ‘Ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them.’ There are some kings that have not submitted their crowns and sceptres to the King of kings; so pagans and wicked princes who can neither endure the truth, nor those which profess it. Ὁι καλλίνικοι μάρτυρες τῶν δυσσεβῶν κατεφρόνησεν βασιλέων. The children of God ought not to be daunted by any power and fear of princes. Their power may be a terror to us, and in other cases ought to be reverenced by us; but it should not be a snare to us, to make us desert our duty to God. We must never forget the honour put upon them by God: they bear his image, and in all lawful cases we acknowledge God’s authority in them; they are those by whom God will govern us; but if anything be decreed against God, we only urge our obedience to the Lord paramount: Acts iv. 19, ‘Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than God, judge ye;’ Acts v. 29, ‘Then Peter and the apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.’
The latter branch needeth little explaining. What shall we ob serve?
1. If I should take the first reference, and urge the duty of kings and princes, that would be unseasonable for this auditory. It is a preposterous solecism to preach to the people the duty of kings, and then to kings the duty of their people; as foolish a course as to make fires in summer, and adorn the chimney with herbs and flowers in winter.
2. If I should speak of the second reference, the clemency of the government we live under maketh it unseasonable also; for our king (whom God preserve) hath often avowed his resolutions against persecutions for conscience’ sake. Therefore, waiving all other things, I shall only insist upon two points, which are necessary, partly to show the excellency of our religion which we profess, partly to guide our practice.488
Doct. 1. That nothing is so necessary for kings, princes, and magistrates to know as God’s testimonies.
Doct. 2. That God’s testimonies are so excellent, that we should not be afraid or ashamed to own them before any sort of men in the world.
Of the first briefly.
Doct. 1. That nothing is so necessary for the potentates of the world to know as God’s testimonies. The king of Israel was to write a copy of the law of God in a book, and to have it ever before him, that he might read therein, and learn to fear the Lord his God, Deut. xvii. 18, 19. And therefore Josiah, one of the good kings which God gave unto his people, searched for the book of the law, 2 Kings xxiii. 2. The reasons concern them, if considered both as men and as potentates.
1. As men.
[1.] They are upon the same level with others, and are concerned to understand the way of pleasing, glorifying, and enjoying God, as much as their meanest subjects; for it is said, Job xxxiv. 19, ‘He accepteth not the person of princes, nor regardeth the rich more than the poor; for they are all the works of his hands.’ God dealeth with them impartially, respecting the greatest no more than the meanest. He hath an equal interest in all, and therefore doth command and dispose of all; for all are his creatures, not exempted from being subject to his dominion; as the potter is not more obliged to vessels of honour, than of dishonour. As his law bindeth all, so all that continue in impenitency and the neglect of his grace are obnoxious to the curse of the law. It is general to all transgressors: ‘Cursed is every one,’ &c. And if God should lay their sins home to their consciences, and speak to them in his wrath, they can stand before him no more than the meanest: Rev. vi. 15, 16, ‘And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every freeman, hid themselves in the dens, and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.’
[2.] The higher their station the greater their obligation. No sort of men more obliged to God than those that are advanced by him to rule over his people; therefore their ingratitude would be greater if they should sin against God: 2 Sam. xii. 7-9, ‘I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hands of Saul, and I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given thee such and such things. Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight?’ Their sins do more hurt, because of their example and authority, Job xxxiv. 20.
2. As rulers and potentates they are concerned to be acquainted with God’s testimonies.
[1.] That they may understand their place and duty. They are first God’s subjects, then his officers. They have their power from God: Horn. xiii. 4, ‘For he is the minister of God to thee for good.’ They hold their power in dependence on him; both natural, their strength and force: ‘Thou couldest have no power unless it were 489given thee from above,’ John xix. 10, 11. Legal, their authority or governing power, they hold it in dependence upon the absolute and heavenly Sovereign, who is the ‘Lord of lords and King of kings:’ Prov. viii. 15, 16, ‘By me kings reign, and princes decree justice; by me princes rule, and nobles, and all the judges of the earth.’ And as they hold it in dependence on him, they must use it in subordination to him. God, who is the beginning, must also be the end of their government. They are not officers of men, but ministers of God, from whom they have their authority; and therefore must rule for God, and seek his glory.
[2.] That they may be carried through their cares, and fears, and snares, and may know what reward to expect from the absolute Sovereign, who is the great patron of human societies. It is trust and dependence upon God that maketh good magistrates: 2 Kings xviii. 5, ‘He trusted in the Lord God of Israel, so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that went before him.’ Oh! it is a blessed thing when they can go to God for direction, and depend upon God for success. Great are the cares and fears which belong to a governor; and who can ease him of this burden but the Lord, who hath showed in his word how far he is to be trusted? It is not carnal policy which helpeth them out in their work, but trust in God in their high calling. Whosoever will improve his power for God will meet with many discouragements. Now that which sup ports his heart in his work is this holy trust: Prov. xxix. 25, ‘The fear of man bringeth a snare; but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe.’ Every public calling hath its snares and temptations from the fears of men. A minister, if he doth not trust God to bear him out in his work, he will do nothing with that courage which becometh a minister, but comply with the lusts of men, grow lukewarm, prostitute the ordinances for handfuls of barley, and pieces of bread, and family conveniences. The magistracy is a higher calling, which is more obnoxious to temptations from the different humours of men, who are to be governed. Nothing will carry a man through it but this holy courage and dependence on God. The fear of man brought a snare to Jeroboam, that he perverted the worship of God: 1 Kings xii. 30, ‘And this thing became a sin; for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan.’ So Jehu, so others, for their cares. But he that trusts in God in his discharge of this public office, though, many difficulties interpose, finds the blessed experience of the Psalmist verified, ‘In the multitude of my thoughts within me, thy comforts delight my soul.’
[3.] As to success and acceptance, obedience to God makes them a, double blessing to the people—as governors, as holy; as they have the natural image of God in dominion and authority: 1 Cor. xi. 7, ‘Forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God,’ which must be reverenced and respected, not resisted; so the spiritual image of God in holiness: the people doubly see God in their rulers. And besides, it bringeth down God’s blessings, while they command and the people obey in the Lord: 2 Kings xviii. 7, ‘And the Lord was with him, and he prospered whithersoever he went forth.’ Good magistrates are usually more prosperous than good men in a private condition, because they are given as a public blessing.490
Use 1. To inform us that religion hath a great influence on the welfare of human societies; for it equally respects governors an# governed, carving out their respective duties to them, causing the one to rule well, and the other to obey for conscience’ sake. The testimonies of the Lord prescribe the duty of rulers: 2 Sam. xxiii. 3, ‘He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.’ There is a word belonging to either table; justice to the second, fear of God to the first. Now all this duty is best learned out of God’s testimonies. For the governed it interposeth express rules for their obedience: Rom. xiii. 1, ‘Let every soul be subject to the higher powers;’ and 1 Peter ii. 15, ‘For so is the will of God, that with well-doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.’ There are many arguments why we should reverence magistrates. They bear God’s image: Ps. lxxxii. 6, ‘I have said ye are gods;’ visible representators of his authority and dominion over the creatures, because of their majesty, largeness of command and empire, and because of their use: they are exalted supra alios, above others in their authority; but propter altos, for others in their use and benefit. But the supreme reason is the will of God. The magistrate was then an enemy to religion when this commandment was given forth, even then when that part of the world in which the church was seated was under the command of Nero, whose universal wickedness and particular cruelty against the Christians might tempt them to disobedience and scorn of his authority: then God said, Obey ‘not for fear of wrath, but conscience 3 sake;’ then, ‘Fear God, honour the king, for so is the will of God.’ Now let atheists and anti-scripturists, or the enemies of those who profess to live by scripture, think, if they can, that the Christian religion doth not befriend human societies, or doth contain dangerous principles to government.
Use 2. It showeth us what to pray for, for our princes and governors, even a wise and an understanding heart, and a spirit of the fear of the Lord, that they may rule for God, and take his blessing along with them in all their affairs.
Doct. 2. That God’s testimonies are so excellent that we should not be afraid or ashamed to own them before any sort of men in the world; for David saith, ‘I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed.’
First, Observe, here are two things supposed which might shut his mouth and obstruct the confidence and boldness of his profession fear and shame. Fear represents danger in owning the ways of God; shame represents mockage, scorn, and contempt. Fear considereth our superiors and governors; we fear them that have power and authority in their hands. Shame may arise not only from the consideration of superiors, but inferiors and equals also. Fear respects the danger of the party professing; shame, the cause or matter professed. Therefore, of the two, to be ashamed of the ways of God doth more destroy godliness than to be afraid to own them, for then it is a sign we are not so soundly convinced, and deeply possessed of the goodness of them; for, Pudor est conscientia turpitudinis—it is a consciousness of something that is base. Look, as, on the contrary, to be ashamed of sin doth more wound it to the heart than to be afraid of sin, many a 491man is apprehensive of the danger of sin, who yet doth not hate it in his heart, but only abstaineth out of the fear of punishment; but when be is ashamed of sin, then he beginneth to hate sin as sin. In conversion, fear is stirring before shame; as a man sick of a loathsome painful disease is more and first affected with the pain than with the nastiness and filthiness and putrefaction that accompanieth the disease. So here, in religion; as the case is hopeful when ashamed of sin, so dangerous when ashamed of a strict holy course. A man may be willing to do that which he dares not do for fear; but shame extinguisheth the willingness itself. In short, to be afraid respects our interest; to be ashamed respects the cause, the gospel itself.
Secondly, I shall speak of them distinctly; and so—
1. Show why we should not be afraid to own the testimonies and ways of God before any sort of people in the world.
[1.] Because holy boldness in confession is an especial gift of God. David asketh it here, ‘Take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth;’ and promiseth that if God would give him this gift, the splendour of worldly greatness should not dazzle his eyes, and he would behave himself as one armed against all terrors of men, or gotten above the hopes and fears of the present world. And indeed it argueth some good degree of profiting in the word of God when it is so with us. Fearlessness of men in God’s cause is an excellent grace, which God hath promised to his choice servants. To Christ: Isa. 1. 7, ‘For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded; therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed; I shall not be confounded, for God is at my right hand.’ To Jeremiah, whom God set up ‘as a brazen wall ‘against all oppositions: Jer. i. 18; and to Ezekiel, chap. iii. 8, ‘Behold, I have made thy face strong against their faces, and thy forehead strong against their foreheads.’ So to the disciples: Mat. x. 19, 20, ‘They shall bring you before rulers and governors; but take no thought how or what ye shall speak, for it shall be given you in the same hour what ye shall speak.’ None have the gift of boldness but those to whom God gives it. If left to ourselves, we shall falter, as Peter did at the damsel’s question; but God will assist the resolved heart by his Spirit, and assist him in that very hour when the trial cometh; and then we need not be afraid before whomsoever we come, we need not be anxious. The servants of God beg this gift: Acts iv. 29, ‘Grant unto thy servants that with all boldness we may speak thy word;’ when the world rageth against them.
[2.] Though it be an especial gift of God, yet the duty is contained in our first dedication and resignation of ourselves to Christ; when we professed ourselves to be dead to every worldly interest, and promised to own him and his ways, whatever it cost us: Luke xiv. 26, ‘If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple;’ ver. 33, ‘So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all he hath, he cannot be my disciple.’ Therefore this should not be retracted, but verified in our whole course, for that showeth this dedication was sound: Heb. iii. 6, ‘Whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto 492the end; ver. 14, ‘For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.’ And therefore we should be ‘ready to render a reason of the hope which is in us, to every one that asketh us, with meekness and fear,’ 1 Peter iii. 15. Λόγον ἐλπίδος is an account of our religion, ἕτοιμοι, ready to confess Christ in persecutions and dangers: it is the same with ἑτοίμως ἔχω—Acts xxi. 13, ‘I am ready not only to be bound, but to die at Jerusalem, for the name of the Lord Jesus;’ the same with ἑτοιμασία τῆς εἰρήνης τοῦ εὐαγγελίου, ‘the preparation of the gospel of peace,’ Eph. vi. 15; a prepared resolved heart to encounter all difficulties for the gospel’s sake, so satisfied with the truth and hopes thereof.
[3.] This duty is confirmed in us by many Christian graces, as faith, love to God, fear of God, a deep sense of the world to come. We are afraid to own God and his ways, because we have not such a high opinion of God as we should have, but too great a love to ourselves; therefore faith, fear, and love is necessary to confirm and strengthen this resolution in us, and also the lively hope of blessedness to come.
(1.) Faith informeth us of the truth, goodness, power, and excellency of God, the worth of his favour, and the terror of his wrath, that the displeasure of God is much worse than the frowns of men. When we think of a higher Lord, why should we be afraid of a man that shall die, and the son of man that is as grass? If a great man stand by, we are not afraid of an underling. If the King of kings be with us, whom should we fear? Heb. xi. 27, ‘By faith Moses feared not the wrath of the king,’ meaning Pharaoh. Why? For ‘he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.’ A heathen could say, Regum timendorum in proprios greges, reges in ipsos imperium est Jovis. A believer should much more oppose God’s heavenly majesty to their earthly dignity. Their power is great, and to be reverenced next to God; but God is greater. We serve a king whose power is everlasting, and whose kingdom is to all generations.
(2.) Love to God is necessary to confirm and strengthen this resolution in us, for that overcometh all terrors: Rom. viii. 37, ‘Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us;’ and Cant. viii. 6, 7, ‘Love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave; the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame; many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.’ There is an unconquerable force in love; it is a fire that cannot be quenched. When Christ hath us by the heart, it is much more than when he hath us by the head. They that make a religion of their opinions, and have a faith that never went deeper than their brains and fancies, are soon discouraged; but when Christ ‘dwelleth in the heart by faith,’ Eph. iii. 17, there he resideth as in his strong citadel and castle. A Christian, because he loveth Christ, will own him, and his ways and truth, though they be never so much, despised in the world. A superficial bare assent to the gospel may let Christ go, but a faith working by love will not.
(3.) The fear of God, or a deep awe and reverence of him, when we are more afraid to offend God than to suffer from man. The apostle, when he biddeth us to be ready to make profession, 1 Peter iii. 5, bids 493us do it ‘with meekness and fear.’ Meekness respects men; fear, a care to approve ourselves to God. The fear of men is checked by the fear of God: Isa. viii. 12, 13, ‘Neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid: sanctify the Lord of hosts himself, and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread;’ Luke xii. 4, 5, ‘Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do: but I will forewarn you whom you shall fear; fear him which, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell.’ A holy impression of God’s excellency and greatness left upon the heart is this fear that carrieth the cause clearly for God; and as one nail driveth out another, the fear of men banisheth the fear of God out of our hearts. We are obliged to none so as to God, who hath the power of eternal life and eternal death. What is a prison to hell, a little vainglory to eternal glory, the creature to God?
(4.) A deep sense of the other world. When we translate the scene from earth to heaven, from this world to the next, and consider who is scorned there, received there, or rejected there, the temptation is lessened. The apostle showeth that a spirit of faith is at the bottom of confession with the mouth: 2 Cor. iv. 13, ‘We, having the same spirit of faith, believe, and therefore speak.’ He that believeth another world, and hopeth for it, will never be cowardly and bashful, but will confidently confess Christ, and own him both in worship and conversation. A spirit of faith cannot be suppressed, but will break out and show itself, and not be ashamed of Christ, his truth and ways.
Well, then, Christians should be ashamed of that spirit of fear, bashfulness, and inconfidence which keeps us from confessing Christ and owning his ways. Kings are more formidable by their place and power than the rest of the world; but alas! we give place to the meanest men, and the smallest opposition maketh us give out: 2 Tim. i. 7, ‘We have not the spirit of fear, but the spirit of love, power, and a sound mind.’ The Christian spirit is a sober spirit, that valueth all things according to their weight; but not a dastardly spirit: a spirit of love and power, that owneth Christ with meekness, and a due respect to earthly tribunals; and yet with courage, as looking higher, to the throne of God.
2. We must not be ashamed to own the testimonies and ways of God before any sort of men in the world. The apostle telleth us, Horn. i. 16, ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.’ The gospel is such a pure, sure rule, and offereth us such glorious hopes, that we should be ready to profess it without being ashamed of it. So he bids Timothy, 2 Tim. i. 8, ‘Be not ashamed of the testimony of the Lord, nor of me his prisoner;’ neither of the profession, nor of our companions in the profession, when they are under the greatest disgrace. So again, 1 Peter iv. 16, ‘If any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but glorify God in this behalf;’ it is matter of thanksgiving, not of shame. David is an instance; when Michal scoffed at him, ‘I will yet be more vile,’ 2 Sam. vi. 22. It is an honour to be dishonoured for Christ. The primitive Christians, when the heathens reproached them, Art thou not ashamed to believe ^in him that was crucified? the answer was, I am ashamed to believe in 494him that committed adultery, meaning the heathen Jupiter. Affliction is no disgrace, but sin is.
But what danger is there of being ashamed of the gospel, since Christianity is in fashion?
Ans. 1. Sometimes the simplicity of the gospel is contemned by the wits of the world; and therefore they either muster up the oppositions of science falsely so called, or else droll upon religion, and make it the common jest and byword.
Ans. 2. The stricter profession of the ways of God is under reproach. Though the nominal Christian and the serious Christian have the same Bible, and believe the same creed, and are baptized into one and the same profession, yet those that are false to their religion will hate and scorn those that are true to it; and among the carnal it will be matter of reproach to be serious and diligent. Now, though a gracious heart can be vile for God, yet others are afraid they shall be marked, and accounted precise, or Puritans; and so by resisting an imaginary shame, they fall into an eternal reproach.
Ans. 3. It may be the strict sort of Christians are the poorer sort; and though they be precious in the eyes of God, yet they are despised by men: John vii. 49, ‘This people that knoweth not the law are accursed. Have any of the Pharisees believed in him?’ any people of quality? They shall be accounted people of no port and breeding if they are strictly Christian. Quantus in Christiana populo honor Christi est, ubi religio ignobilem facit? coguntur esse viles ne mali videantur. Religion is too mean a thing for persons of quality, of their rank. Thus with many God’s image is made a scorn, and the devil’s image had in honour, and serious godliness is made a byword.
Now, to fortify you against being ashamed of God and his ways, take these considerations:—
1. The short continuance of this world’s glory. Within a while we shall be levelled with the lowest, and our dust mixed with common earth; and shall we love the praise of men more than the praise of God? This corruptible flesh must turn into a loathsome rottenness, though now it looketh high, and sets forth itself, and would be brave and lordly; but ‘the spirit must return to God that gave it,’ to be commanded into unseen and unknown regions: 1 Peter i. 24, ‘All flesh is grass, and the glory of man as the flower of grass.’
2. God is the fountain of honour; all things and persons receive an honour by having relation to him: James ii. 1, ‘Have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, in respect of persons.’ Services mean in themselves are accounted honourable with respect to princes. The reproach of Christ is enough to weigh down all the honours in the world: Heb. xi. 26, ‘Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.’
3. If your hearts be sincere with God, you will not be ashamed of his ways, for ‘wisdom is justified of her children;’ in Luke it is, ‘All her children,’ Luke vii. 35. They that have a faith which is the fruit of conviction only may be ashamed: John xii. 42, 43, ‘Among the rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 495for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.’ But that faith which is the fruit of conversion will make us courageous in God’s cause. In its infancy there may be some relics of fear in a Christian, as Nicodemus at first came to Jesus by night, John xix. 39; but a grown faith counts it no loss of honour or impeachment of dignity to become vile for God.
4. The eternal recompense: 1 Sam. ii. 30, ‘Those that honour me I will honour;’ 1 Peter i. 7, ‘That your faith may be found to praise, glory, and honour, at Christ’s coming.’ On the other side, if we are ashamed of Christ, Christ will be ashamed of us for evermore: Mark viii. 38, ‘Whosoever, therefore, shall be ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed when he cometh in the glory of his father, with the holy angels.’ The eagle eye of faith can look through all the pageantry of the world, and the mists and clouds of tune, to the future state, the judgment that shall be made of things. To a believer’s eye all the honour of the world is but a fancy and vain appearance, a scene in which a base fellow acteth the part of a prince.
5. The judgment of the world is not to be stood upon. Why should we desire the applause of the blind ungodly world, or make any great matter of their contempt and scorn? Shall the scorn of a fool be more to us than the approbation of God? If they slight you who slight God and Christ and their own salvation, why should you be troubled? They are incompetent judges of these things: 1 John iii. 1, ‘The world knoweth us not.
Use. See the strange perversion of human nature. Men are ashamed where they should be bold, and bold and confident where they should be ashamed: ‘They glory in their shame;’ but think it a disgrace to speak of God, and own God, not before kings only, but before their familiars and companions. Be ashamed to be filthy, false, proud; but never be ashamed to go to a sermon, where you may profit in the ways of God, and the knowledge of his testimonies; to be strict in conversation, to speak reverently of God, though scorned by men. None of God’s servants have reason to be ashamed of their master.
THE END OF VOL. VI.
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