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Remove from me reproach and contempt; for I have kept thy testimonies.—Ver. 22.
DAVID was derided for keeping close to God’s word, possibly by those proud ones mentioned in the former verse. They contemned the word themselves, and would not suffer others to keep it; as the Pharisees would neither enter into the kingdom of God themselves, nor suffer others to enter. But David makes this an argument to beg the Lord’s grace, to wit, light and strength, that he might give no occasion to their reproach; and if it lighted upon him, that it might not rest upon him. Or by the proud men may be meant Saul’s courtiers, who traduced his innocency, and sought to overwhelm him with slander. Now, God knew his conscience and integrity, and therefore could best clear him.
In the words, as in most of the other verses, you have—
1. A request, remove from me reproach and contempt.
2. A reason and argument to enforce the request, for I have kept thy testimonies.
First, for the request, ‘Remove from me reproach and contempt.’ The word signifies, Roll from upon me, let it not come at me, or let it not stay with me.
And then the argument, ‘for I have kept thy testimonies.’ The reason may be either thus:—(1.) He pleads that he was innocent of what was charged upon him, and had not deserved those aspersions. (2.) He intimates that it was for his obedience, for this very cause that he had kept the word, therefore was reproach rolled upon him. 205(3.) It may be conceived thus, that his respect to God’s word was not abated for this reproach. He still kept God’s testimonies, how wicked soever he did appear in the eyes of the world. It is either an assertion of his innocency, or he shows the ground why this reproach came upon him; or he pleads his respect to God, and his service was not lessened, whatever reproach he met with in the performance of it.
The points from hence are many.
1. It is no strange thing that they which keep God’s testimonies should be slandered and reproached.
2. As it is the usual lot of God’s people to be reproached, so it is very grievous to them, and heavy to bear.
3. It being grievous, we may lawfully seek the removal of it. So doth David, and so may we, with submission to God’s will.
4. In removal of it, it is best to deal with God about it; for God is the great witness of our sincerity, as knowing all things, and so to be appealed to in the case. Again, God is the most powerful assertor of our innocency; he hath the hearts and tongues of men in his own hands, and can either prevent the slanderer from uttering reproach, or the hearer from entertainment of the reproach. He that hath such power over the consciences of men can clear up our innocency; therefore it is best to deal with God about it; and prayer many times proves a better vindication than an apology.
5. In seeking relief with God from this evil, it is a great comfort and ground of confidence when we are innocent of what is charged. In some cases we must humble ourselves, and then God will take care for our credit. We must plead guilty when by our own fault we have given too much occasion to the slanders of the wicked: so Ps. cxix. 39, ‘Turn away my reproach which I fear, for thy judgments are good.’ My reproach, for it was in part deserved by himself, and therefore he feared the sad consequences of it, and humbles himself before God. But at other times we may stand upon our integrity, as David saith here, ‘Turn away my reproach and contempt, for I have kept thy testimonies.’
These are the points which may be drawn from this verse; but I shall insist but upon one of them, which, in the prosecution of it, will comprise all the rest; and that is this—
Doct. That reproaches are a usual, but yet a great and grievous, affliction to the children of God. I will show—
1. They are a usual affliction.
2. They are a grievous affliction.
First, They are a usual affliction. Reproaches are either such as light upon religion itself, or upon our own persons.
1. Upon religion itself. Sometimes the truth is traduced, and the way of God is evil spoken of, disguised with the nicknames of sedition, heresy, schism, faction. Look, as astronomers miscall the glorious stars by the name of the dog-star, the bear, the dragon’s tail, and the like—they put upon them names of a horrid sound—so do carnal men miscall the glorious things of God, his holy ways; they put an ill name upon them: Acts xxiv. 14, ‘After the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers.’ The Jews called Christianity a heresy, or an apostasy from the old religion; and so 206do Papists call the Reformation. Luther, when he was charged with apostasy from the faith, answered thus: I confess I am an apostate, but from the devil’s cause; I have not kept touch with the devil. Cant. v. 7, we read that the spouse’s veil was taken from her by the watchmen; so the comeliness of the church is taken away by the imputations of evil men. Thus there may reproaches light upon religion itself.
2. On our persons; and so either for religion’s sake, or upon a private and personal respect.
[1.] For religion’s sake; and thus God’s children have been often calumniated. It is foretold by Christ as the lot of his people; and therefore he provides against it: Mat. v. 11, ‘Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake.’ Those who have no strength and power to inflict other injuries have these weapons of malice always in readiness. When other kinds of persecutions and violences are restrained, yet men take a liberty of censuring and speaking all manner of evil falsely of the children of God; and ever this hath been verified in the experience of the saints. Their lives are a real reproach to the wicked, they do upbraid them; and therefore, to be quits with them, the wicked reproach them by censures and calumniations. I shall give some instances. Moses had his portion of reproaches: Heb xi. 26, ‘Esteeming the reproaches of Christ better riches than the treasures of Egypt.’ Possibly the Holy Ghost means there when he was scoffed at for joining himself with so mean and afflicted a people; they thought Moses was mad to quit all his honours. Christ himself was accused of the two highest crimes of either table—blasphemy and sedition: of blasphemy, which is the highest crime against the first table; and of sedition, which is the highest crime against the second. And all that will be Christ’s they must expect to bear his reproach: Heb. xiii. 13, ‘Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.’ The apostle alludes to the sacrifice of atonement, which was to be slain without the camp. So Jesus Christ was cast out of the city; and we must be contented thus to be cast off by the world, to be cast forth from among men as vile and accursed, bearing Christ’s reproach.
[2.] For personal reproaches; this is very usual with God’s children also, reproaches upon private and personal occasions. God may let loose a railing Shimei against David. Many times he complains of his reproaches, often in this psalm, more in other psalms: Ps. xxxi. 13, ‘For I have heard the slander of many; they took counsel together against me, they devised to take away my life.’ Sundry sorts of persons made him the butt upon which they let fly the arrows of censure and reproach: Ps. xxxv. 15, ‘The abjects gathered themselves together against me; they did tear me, and ceased not;’ meaning his name was torn and rent in pieces, and that by the abjects: such bold and saucy dust will be flying in the faces of God’s people. So I may speak of Jeremiah, and Joseph, and other servants of God; yea, our Lord himself endured the contradiction of sinners. Jesus Christ, that was so just and innocent, which did so much good in every place, yet meets with odious aspersions. So Ps. lxiv. 3, 4, ‘They bend their bows to shoot 207their arrows, even bitter words; that they may shoot in secret at the perfect: suddenly do they shoot at him, and fear not.’ Perfection meets with envy, and envy will vent itself by detraction—a usual affliction for the people of God, and therefore we cannot say they are wicked because they are traduced, and we should not presently condemn all those of whom we hear evil. It was the fashion of the primitive times to clothe Christians with bear-skins, and bait them with the dogs. God’s best children may be clad in an ill livery; and therefore we should not easily take up these slanders. Thus it is a usual affliction.
Secondly, It is a grievous affliction. Ver. 39, David saith he looked upon it as a great evil. In the account of scripture it is persecution. Ishmael is said to persecute Isaac: Gal. iv. 29. How? Because he mocked him. Compare it with Gen. xxi. 9: ‘Sarah saw the son of the bondwoman mocking Isaac;’ and in the reddition and interpretation, the Holy Ghost calls it a persecution. So they are called ‘cruel mockings,’ Heb. xi. 36. There is as much cruelty, and as deep a wound made by the tongue of reproach many times as by the fist of wickedness. Reproach must needs be grievous to God’s children, upon a natural and upon a spiritual account.
1. Upon a natural account, because a good name is a great blessing. See how it is against nature. It is more grievous than ordinary crosses. Many would lose their goods cheerfully, yet they grieve more for the loss of their name. Some constitutions are affected more with shame than with fear, and above all their possessions they prize their name and credit. To most proud spirits, disgraceful punishment is much more dreadful than painful: Ps. xxii. 7, ‘All they that see me laugh me to scorn; they shoot out the lip, they shake the head.’ A good name is more precious than life to some: Eccles. vii. 1, ‘A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.’ The coupling of these two sentences shows men had rather die than lose their name. If a man die, he may leave his name and memory behind him that may live still; therefore it is more hateful to have our names and credit mangled than be pierced with a sharp sword.
2. Upon a spiritual account it is a grievous affliction. It is not barely for their own sake, because their innocency is taxed; but for God’s sake, whose glory is concerned in the honour of his servants, and whose truth is struck at through their sides. This is grievous to grace. Why? Next to a good conscience there is no greater blessing than a good name; and certainly he that is prodigal of his credit will not be very tender of his conscience; and therefore the children of God, upon gracious reasons, stand upon their name, it is the next thing to conscience they have to keep. Grace values a good name, partly because it is God’s gift; it is a blessing adopted and taken into the covenant, as well as other blessings. It is one of the promises of God: ‘He will hide us as in a pavilion from the strife of tongues,’ Ps. xxxi. 20. This is frequent in the Old Testament, where heaven is but sparingly mentioned; a good name is often mentioned. Partly because it is a shadow of eternity. When a man dies, his name lives, which is a pledge of our living with God after death; as spices, when 208broken and dissolved, leave an excellent scent, so he leaves his name behind him. And partly because it is put above riches: Prov. xxii. 1, ‘A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.’ It is better, more pure and sublime than wealth, and more worthy our esteem. They are low and dreggy spirits whose hearts run after wealth; the greatest spirits run out upon fame and honour: so Eccles. vii. 1, ‘A good name is better than precious ointment.’ Aromatical ointments were things of great use and esteem among the Jews, and counted the chief part of their treasures; now a good name is better than precious ointment. And partly because of the great inconveniences which follow the loss of name. The glory of God is much interested in the credit of his servants. The credit of religion depends much upon the credit of the persons that profess it. When godly men are evil spoken of, the way of truth suffers; and when we are polluted, God is polluted: Ezek. xxxvi. 20, ‘They profaned my holy name when they said to them, These are the people of the Lord, and are gone forth out of his land;’ that is, by their scandals. The offences are charged upon us, but in effect they prove the disgrace of Christ. Christ, that will hereafter be admired of his saints, will now be glorified and honoured in them. The shame of those things charged upon us redounds to God and religion till we be clear. And as the honour of God is concerned in it, so again their safety lies in it. Observe it, Satan is first a liar, then a murderer. First, men are smitten with the tongue of slander, and afterwards with the fist of wickedness: the showers of slander are but presages and beginnings of grievous storms of persecution; wicked men take more liberty when the children of God are imprisoned as criminals; therefore it is the usual practice of Satan first to blast the repute of religious persons, then to prosecute them as offenders. Possibly this may be the meaning of that, Ps. v. 9, ‘Their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue;’ that is, the slanders of the wicked are a preparation to death, as an open sepulchre is prepared to swallow and take in the dead carcase. I expound it thus, because we find the phrase used in this sense. The force and power of the Babylonian, Jer. v. 16, is called an ‘open sepulchre;’ they are all mighty men; that is, you can expect nothing but death from the force and puissance of their assaults. So here their reproach is not only a burying-place for our names, but our persons; for first men slander, then molest the children of God. When the Arian emperor raged against the orthodox Christians, and the bishops and pastors of the churches were suppressed everywhere, they durst not meddle with Polonus, out of a reverence of the unspottedness of his fame; and therefore a good report is a great security and protection against violence. And then they desire a good name to honour God with it. A blemished instrument is little worth. Who would take meat from a leprous hand? It is Satan’s policy, when he cannot discourage instruments from the work of God, then to blemish and blast them. Therefore, those that have anything to do for God in the world should be tender of their credit, especially those that are called to public office, that they may carry on their work with more success. Therefore one of the qualifications of a minister is, ‘He must have a good report of them that are without, 209lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil,’ 1 Tim. iii. 7. I suppose it is taken there appellatively, lest he fall into the snare of the slanderer; I will not absolutely determine. Men set snares for you, and they watch for your halting. Thus grace presseth a good name, because of the consequences of it.
Use 1. Here is advice to persons reproached. Acknowledge God in the affliction, though it be great and grievous. God hath an aim in all things that befall you. The general aim of all afflictions is to try, purge, and make white: Dan. xi. 35; or as it is in Deut. viii. 13, ‘To humble thee, prove thee, and do thee good at the latter end.’ Your enemies may intend harm, but God means good; you should receive good by this, as by every affliction. Plutarch, in his excellent discourse, How a man should profit by his enemies, brings in a comparison of one Jason, that had an impostume, which was let out by the wounds an enemy gave him; so many times our impostumes, and the corrupt matter that is within us, is let out by the gashes and wounds which those that meant harm to us give to our name and credit.
First, God doth it to humble thee. Carnal men shoot at rovers, but many times we find the soul is pricked in the quick; when they shoot their arrows of detraction and slanders, it may revive guilt, and put us upon serious humiliation before God. There are many sins to which this affliction is very proper.
1. It seems to be a proper cure for the sin of pride; be it pride in the mind, which is self-conceit; or pride in the affections, which is called vainglory; all sorts of pride; there is no such effectual remedy as this. Possibly we have been too self-conceited, then God giveth us to such scandals that may show us what we are. Many times our very graces do us hurt, as well as our sins; and we may be puffed up with what we have received. So for vainglory, when we are apt too much to please ourselves in the opinions others have of us, which is an evil the people of God are liable to, this pride God will cure by reproach. Pride is one of the oldest enemies ever God had; it was born in heaven in the breast of the fallen angels, for which they are laid low; and when his children harbour it, God hath a quarrel against it. When Paul was puffed up, when the bladder was swollen, God sent him a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet him, lest he should be exalted above measure, 2 Cor. xii. 7. Possibly it was some eminent affliction; but when he expresseth it afterwards, he mentioneth reproaches, ver. 10, ‘Therefore I will rejoice in infirmities,’ that is, sickness; nay, ‘I will rejoice in reproaches.’
2. For carnal walking. When we are negligent, and do not take notice of the fleshliness and folly we are guilty of and allow in our hearts, that breaks out into our actions. God suffers others to reproach us and gather up our failings, that we may see what cause we have to take our ways to heart. Every man that would live strictly had need of faithful friends or watchful enemies; of faithful friends to admonish him, or watchful enemies to censure him. God makes use of watchful enemies to 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 ourselves; therefore God sets spies for us to watch 210for our halting: Jer. xx. 10, ‘I heard the defaming of many: report, say they, and we will report it: all my familiars watched for my halting.’ They lie in wait to take us tripping; and God sees it needful that we should have enemies as well as friends; how ignorant else should a man be of himself! Therefore God useth them as a rod to brush the dust from our clothes.
3. The sin God would humble us for is censuring. If we have not been so tender of the credit of others, God will make us taste the bitterness of affliction ourselves, and recompense the like measure into our bosoms: Mat. vii. 1, 2, ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged; for with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.’ We shall find others to judge as hardly of us as we do of them. Good thoughts and speeches of others are the best preservative of our own name; and therefore, when reproach falls upon you, it is not enough you should not slight it, though you know the report to be false; but a Christian is to examine himself: have we not drawn it upon ourselves by slandering others, or talking intemperately of others? and doth not God pay us home in our own coin? He that is much given to censuring seldom or never escapes severe censuring from others. It is said, ‘Let his own words grieve him.’ Your own words will fall upon you; therefore humble thyself before God for the reproaches thou hast cast upon others. Thus the Lord ordereth it with good advice to humble us, and that for pride, careless walking, and for censuring others.
Secondly, It is to try thee.
1. To try your faith in the great day of accounts. Can you comfort yourselves in the solemn vindication of the day of judgment, and in God’s approbation then? 2 Cor. x. 18, ‘He is approved whom the Lord commendeth.’ Men cannot defend thee if God condemn thee, they cannot condemn thee if God acquit thee; and therefore canst thou stand to God’s judgment? In a race it is not what the standers-by say, but what he that is the judge of the games will determine. We are all in a race, and it is not what men say of us, but what God saith, who is judge of all: 1 Cor. iv. 3, 4, ‘It is a small thing that I should be judged of man’s judgment; but he that judgeth me is the Lord.’ In the original it is ‘man’s day,’ and so in the margin. We shall never be resolute for God, until we come to this, to count it a very small thing to be judged of man’s judgment. Now is man’s day, but God hath his day hereafter. So to try our faith in particular promises: Ps. cxix. 42, ‘So shall I have wherewith to answer him that reproacheth me; for I trust in thy word.’ A Christian, when he gives up himself to God, he gives up everything he hath to God; not only gives his soul to God to keep, but that God may take charge of his person, estate, and good name. Now God requires a trust according to the extent of the covenant, a waiting and confidence in his power. He can turn the hearts of men, and give them favour in their eyes: Ps. xxxvii. 6, ‘He shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noon-day.’
2. As to try our faith, so our patience. We should prevent reproach as much as we can; but then we must bear it when we cannot avoid it. They reproach, but I pray, Ps. cix. 4; that was David’s exercise 211and revenge; he took that advantage, to pray for them. God will try how we can bear the injuries of men. The grace of patience must be tried as well as other graces. We read that Shimei went railing upon David to the peril of his life; saith David, ‘It may be God hath bid him curse.’ A mad dog that bites another makes him as mad as himself; so usually the injuries and reproaches of others foster up our revenge, and then there is no difference between us and them: they sin, and we sin. Revenge and injury differ only in order; injury is first, and revenge is next. Saith Lactantius, If it be evil in another, for thee to imitate him, to be as mad as they, break out in passion and virulency, it is more evil in thyself, because thou sinnest twice, against a rule and against an example; therefore God tries whether we will be passionate or patient. The patience of his servants is mightily discovered by reproaches: 1 Cor. iv. 12, ‘Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it; being defamed, we entreat.’ There must be a season to try every grace; and therefore now God trieth us, whether we can with a meek humble submission yield up ourselves; or whether we are exasperated and drawn into bitterness of passion, yea or nay.
3. God tries our uprightness. Many are turned out of the way by reproaches; the devil works much upon stomach and spleen. Tertullian being reproached by the priests of Rome, in revenge turns Montanist. Now God tries us to see whether we will hold on our course. The moon shines and holds on its course though the dogs bark; so a child of God should hold on his way though men talk their fill. In the text, though proud men reproached and contemned David, yet all this did not unsettle him. Some men can be religious no longer than when they are counted to be religious; but when their secular interest is in danger, they fall off. Thus when men injure them, they do as it were take a revenge upon God himself. Those carnal men that fall off from God are like pettish servants that run away from their master when he strikes them; a good servant will take a buffet patiently, and go about his master’s work; and if we were seasoned as we should be for God, we would pass ‘through evil report and good report,’ 2 Cor. vi. 8, and still keep our integrity.
Thirdly, God ordereth this grievous and sharp affliction to do you good or to better you. Reproach is like soap, which seems to defile clothes, but it cleanseth them. There is nothing so bad but we may make some good use of it, a Christian may gain some advantage by it. Dung seems to stain the grass, but it makes the ground fruitful, and to rise up at spring with a fresh verdure. Reproaches are a necessary help to a godly conversation, to make us walk with more care; and therefore there is another piece of holy revenge we should take upon them, to make us walk more strictly and more watchfully, the more they slander us and speak of us as evil-doers; the way is not to contend for esteem, so much as to stop their mouths by a good apology. Passionate returns will but increase sin, but a holy conversation will silence them.
Use 2. To them that either devise or receive reproaches; both are very sinful.
First, To you that devise them, that speak reproachfully of others. Consider—212
1. You hazard the repute of your own sincerity: James i. 26, ‘Whosoever seemeth religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.’ Hypocrites, and men that put themselves into a garb of religion, and are all for censuring, take a mighty freedom this way; these men bewray the rottenness of their hearts. Those that are so much abroad are seldom at home; they do not inquire and look into their own hearts. Alas! in our own sight we should be the worst of men. The children of God do ever thus speak of themselves as ‘the least of saints,’ the ‘greatest of sinners,’ ‘more brutish than any men,’ of ‘sinners whereof I am chief.’ Why? Because we can know others only by guess and imagination, but they can speak of themselves out of inward feeling; therefore we should have a deeper sense of our own condition. But now a man that is much in judging and reproving others is seldom within; for if he did but consider himself, if he had but an account of his own failings, he would not be so apt to blemish others. It is a cheap zeal to let fly at the miscarriages and sins of others, and to allow our own. Consider, thou hast enough to observe already in thyself.
2. You rob them of the most precious treasure. He that robs thee of thy name is the worst kind of thief: Prov. xxii. 1, ‘A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.’ A man that is taken pilfering another man’s goods, he is ashamed when he is found; so should a censurer: you rob him of a more excellent treasure.
3. You offend God, and draw public hatred. It is the devil’s work to be ‘the accuser of the brethren,’ Rev. xii. 10. The devil doth not commit adultery, doth not break the Sabbath, nor dishonour parents; these are not laws given to him. If the devil will bear false witness, he is an accuser of the brethren; it is the devil’s proper sin, and therefore slanderer and devil have one name, Diabolus.
Object. But must we in no case speak evil of another? or may we not speak of another’s sin in no case?
Sol. 1. It is a very hard matter to speak any evil of another without sin; for if it be without cause, then it is downright slander, and is against truth; if it be for a light and small cause, then it is against charity; if it be for things indifferent, or for lesser failings, indiscretions, or weaknesses, still it is against charity: James iv. 11, ‘Speak not evil one of another, brethren.’ It is worse in brethren. Many take liberty to traduce God’s choice servants that are in difference. For a soldier to speak evil of soldiers, or a scholar of scholars, is worse than for. those that hate these functions. So for you, Christians, to speak evil one of another, you gratify the triumphs of hell, and bring a reproach upon the ways of Christ. In things doubtful, judge the best; in things hidden and secret we can take no cognisance: when the fact is open, we do not know the aim nor the intent of the heart. It is the devil’s work to judge thus: ‘Doth Job serve God for nought?’ when he could not traduce his action. If the practice be open and public, we do not know what alleviating circumstances it may bear, what grievous temptations they had, or whether they have repented, yea or nay. The devil is called a slanderer, because he doth accuse the saints. It is too true many times what he accuseth them of. Ay! but he accuseth them when they are pardoned; he rakes up the 213filth God hath covered; he accuseth the brethren after repentance, after they are acquitted by the Lord’s grace; and so you may incur the like: and therefore it is a very hard matter to avoid sin; in one way or other we shall dash upon the command; better let it alone.
2. Speak not of him, but to him; and so change a sin into a duty. I say, when you turn admonition into censure, you exchange a duty for a sin. ‘Admonish one another,’ is a thing spoken of in scripture; but ‘speak not evil one of another.’
3. If you speak of the failings of others, it should be with tenderness and grief; as when they are incorrigible and likely to infect others, or when it is for the manifest glory of God: Phil. iii. 19, ‘There are some of whom I have told you often, and now tell you weeping,’ &c. He speaks of some seducers that, under the form of godliness, did under mine the purport of the Christian religion, merely took up the profession of it for their own ends. It should be done with a mighty deal of caution; not out of idleness for want of talk that is babble; not out of hatred and revenge—that is malice: though the matter is true, yet we must not speak of men’s faults to please others—that is flattery.
Secondly, To them that receive the slander. He is a slanderer that wrongs his neighbours’ credit by upholding an ill report against them. It is hard to say which is worse, railing or receiving. Ps. xv. 3, when an inhabitant of Sion is described, it is said, ‘He that receiveth not a report, and takes it not up against his neighbour;’ so Prov. xvii. 4, ‘A wicked doer giveth heed to false lips, and a liar giveth ear to a naughty tongue.’ It is not only a point of wickedness to have a naughty tongue or false lips, but to give heed. He is a liar that receiveth a lie, and loves it when brought to him. God will plague all those that love lies. As in treason, all that are acquainted with the plot are responsible; so you are responsible for your ears, as they for their tongue. It is good to have a spiritual tongue, that will heal the wounds that others make in men’s reputation: Prov. xii. 18, ‘There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword; but the tongue of the wise is health.’ Some carry a sword in their mouths, others balsam to heal the wounds that are made.
Use 3. If this be so usual and grievous an affliction, and that even to the children of God, and that not only upon the account of nature, but of grace, then it puts us upon seeking comfort against reproaches.
1. The witness of a good conscience within. If you be innocent, it is not against thee they speak, but against another, whom the slanderer takes thee to be. The hair will grow again though it be shaven, as long as the roots remain. A good conscience is the root of a good credit; and though the razor of censure hath brought on baldness, yet it will grow again. God will either turn their hearts or support thee under it.
2. Reproaches cannot make thee vile in God’s sight. The world’s filth many times are God’s jewels. Many that were praised in the world are now in hell, and many that were disgraced in the world are in great favour and esteem with God; many times their contempt doth increase their esteem with God, and therefore they cannot hurt thee. They may persecute thee; but if thou be patient, they cannot impose 214upon thee, and burden thy cause in his eyes.’ God doth not ask the world’s vote and suffrage whether such and such shall be justified or received into glory, yea or nay. If they be infirmities and defects, humble thyself, and God will cover them, Ps. xxxii. 1. God is wont to scatter reproaches cast upon his children, as the sun scatters the clouds, Ps. xxxvii., and heaven will make amends for all.
3. The profit thou gainest by them, the watchfulness, the diligence, all this will be sweet. I might have given comfort against reproaches for religion. These are honourable, they are the reproaches of Christ, Heb. xi. 26; Heb. xiii. 13. It is as honourable before God as ignominious before men. And we cannot expect better fare than our master: ‘The disciple is not above his lord, nor the servant above his master: it is enough for the disciple to be as his lord, and the servant as his master,’ Mat. x. 24, 25. We cannot expect to fare bet ter than Christ did, and it is an honour to suffer as he did.
Again, if cripples mock us for going upright, let us pity them. The judgment of wicked men is depraved, not to be stood upon; and this contempt one day will be cast upon themselves: Ps. xlix. 14, ‘The upright shall have dominion over them in the morning.’
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