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SERMON LXXVII.

[Preached on All-Saints Day.]

THE ENCOURAGEMENT TO SUFFER FOR CHRIST, AND THE DANGER OF DENYING HIM.

It is a faithful saying; for if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: if we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us.—2 Tim. ii. 11, 12.

IN the beginning of this chapter, St. Paul encourageth Timothy to continue steadfast in the profession of the gospel, notwithstanding the sufferings which attended it: (ver. l.) “Thou, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus;” and, (ver. 3.) “Thou, therefore, endure hardship, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” And, to animate him in this resolution, he quotes a saying, which it seems was well known and firmly believed among Christians; a saying, on the one hand, full of encouragement to those who with patience and constancy suffered for their religion; and, on the other hand, full of terror to those who, for fear of suffering, denied it. “It is a faithful saying.” This is a preface used by this apostle, to introduce some remarkable sentence, of more than ordinary weight and concernment: (1 Tim. i. 15.) “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners:” and (chap. iv. 8, 9.) “Godliness is profitable unto all things, having a promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation.” (Titus iii. 8.) “This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God, might be careful to maintain good works.” And here in the text, the same preface is used to signify the importance of the saying he was about to mention: “It is a faithful saying; if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him; if we suffer, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us.”

The first two sentences are matter of encouragement to those who suffer with Christ, and for him, and are the very same in sense. “If we be dead with him,” that is, if we lay down our lives for the testimony of the truth, as he did, “we shall also live with him,” that is, we shall in like manner be made partakers of immortality, as he is: a If we suffer,” or endure as he did, “we shall also reign with him” in glory.

The other sentence is matter of terror to those who deny him and his truth. “If we deny him, he also will deny us;” to which is subjoined another saying much to the same sense: “if we believe not, εἰ ἀπιστοῦμεν, if we be unfaithful; yet he remaineth faithful, he cannot deny himself;” that is, he will be as good as his word, and make good that solemn threatening which he hath denounced against those who shall for fear of suffering deny him, and his truth.

The words being thus explained, I shall begin with the first part of this remarkable saying: “If we be dead with him, we shall also live with him; 437if we suffer, we shall also reign with him.” This, it seems, was a noted saying among Christians, and whether they had it by tradition of our Saviour, or whether it was in familiar use among the apostles, as a very proper and powerful argument to keep Christians steadfast to their religion, I cannot determine. It is certain, that sayings to this sense are very frequent, especially in the epistles of St. Paul. (Rom. vi. 5.) “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.” And, (ver. 8.) “Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.” (2 Cor. iv. 10.) “Al ways bearing about in the body, the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.” And (ver. 11.) “For we which live are always delivered unto death, for Jesus sake; that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.” And (Rom. viii. 17.) “If so be that we suffer with him, that we maybe also glorified together.” (Phil. iii. 10, 11.) “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death: if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” (1 Pet. iv. 12, 13.) “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial, which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you; but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”

You see that the sense of this saying was in frequent use among the apostles, as a powerful argument to encourage Christians to constancy in their religion, notwithstanding the dangers and sufferings 438which attended it. “This is a faithful saying; if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him; if we suffer, we shall also reign with him.”

And the force of this argument will best appear, by taking into consideration these two things:

I. What virtue there is in a firm belief and persuasion of a blessed immortality in another world, to support and bear up men’s spirits under the greatest sufferings for righteousness sake; and even to animate them, if God shall call them to it, to lay down their lives for their religion.

II. How it may be made out to be reasonable, for men to embrace and voluntarily to submit to present and grievous sufferings, in hopes of a future happiness and reward; concerning which we have not, nor perhaps are capable of having, the same degree of certainty and assurance which we have of the evils and sufferings of this present life.

I. What virtue there is in a firm belief and persuasion of a blessed immortality in another world, to support and bear up men’s spirits under the greatest sufferings for righteousness sake; and even to animate them, if God shall call them to it, to lay down their lives for their religion.

If men do firmly believe that they shall change this temporal and miserable life for an endless state of happiness and glory, that they shall meet with a reward of their sufferings infinitely beyond the proportion of them, both in the weight and duration of it; this must needs turn the scales on that side, on which there is the greatest weight: and there is a sufficient ground for a firm belief of this. For if any thing can certainly be concluded from the providence of God, this may, that good men shall be happy one time or other: and because they 439are very often great sufferers in this life, that there is another state remains for them after this life, wherein they shall meet with a full reward of all their sufferings for righteousness’ sake.

But besides the reasonableness of this, from the consideration of God’s providence, we have now a clear and express revelation of it; life and immortality being brought to light by the gospel. This St. John tells us is the great promise of the gospel: (1 John ii. 25.) “This is the promise which he hath promised us, even eternal life.” And this promise, our Saviour most expressly makes to those who suffer for him: (Matt. v. 10, 11, 12.) “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness* sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake, rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven.” (Mark x. 29, 30.) “Verily I say unto you, there is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake and the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundred-fold now in this time, with persecutions, (that is, so far as a state of persecution would admit) and in the world to come eternal life.”

And if such a persuasion be firmly fixed in our minds; the faith of another world, and the assured hope of eternal life and happiness, must needs have a mighty force and efficacy upon the minds of sober and considerate men; because there is no proportion between suffering for a little while, and being unspeakably and eternally happy. So St. Paul tells us he calculated the matter: (Rom. viii. 18.) “I reckon (says he) that the sufferings of this present 440time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” The vast disproportion between the sufferings of a few days, and the joys and glory of eternity, when it is once firmly believed by us, will weigh down all the evils and calamities of this world, and give us courage and constancy under them. For why should we faint, if we believe that “our light affliction, which is but for a moment, will work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory?” as the same St. Paul assures us, 2 Cor. iv. 17. If our minds be but thoroughly possessed with the hopes of a resurrection to a better and happier life; this will make death, attended even with extremity or terror, to be tolerable; as we read of some, in that long catalogue of saints and martyrs, Heb. xi. 35. “Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.” It would make a man to rejoice in the ruin and dissolution of “this earthly tabernacle,” to be assured that, “when it is dissolved, we shall have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,” as the same apostle assures us. (2 Cor. v. 1.) Thus you see what virtue there is in the firm belief and persuasion of a better life, to bear up men’s spirits under those sufferings and torments which may seem unsupportable to human nature.

And so indeed they would be, without an extra ordinary grace and assistance of God to enable them to bear those sufferings, which his providence permits them to be exercised withal. But of this extraordinary grace, we are assured, not only from the consideration of the attributes and providence of God; but likewise from the express promises and declarations of his word.

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The attributes of God and his providence give us good ground to believe, that he who loves goodness and righteousness, and hath a peculiar favour and regard for good men, will never suffer his faithful friends and servants to be brought into that distress for righteousness sake, that they shall not be able to endure those evils and afflictions which befal them upon that account: and if, in the course of his providence, any thing happen to them that is above the ordinary constancy and patience of human nature to bear, that in such a case, God will extraordinarily interpose, and give them strength and patience, support and comfort, proportionable to the evils and sufferings that are upon them; and that he will either lighten their burden, or add to their strength; he will either mitigate their pain, or increase their patience; either he will check and restrain the effect of natural causes, as in the case of the three children that were in the fiery furnace; and of Daniel who was cast into the den of lions: or else (which comes to the same issue) if he will suffer causes to have their natural course, he will afford supernatural comforts to balance the fury and extremity of them. This is very credible, from the mere consideration of God’s goodness, and of the particular care and favour of his providence towards good men.

But, besides this, we have the express promise and declaration of God’s word to this purpose, which puts us out of all doubt concerning that which we had good reason to hope and expect before, 1 Cor. x. 13. St. Paul there tells the Christians at Corinth, that though they had met with some troubles, yet they had not been tried with the extremity of suffering: but when that should happen, 442they had no cause to doubt, but God would enable them to bear it. “There hath no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man;” that is, you have not yet been exercised with any trial but what is human; what the ordinary strength and resolution of human nature is able to bear: but in case it should come to extreme suffering, and that they must either comply with the heathen idolatry, or endure extremity of torments; they had the promise of God’s help to support them in that case. “God is faithful (says he), who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it;” and then it follows, “wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry;” that is, let no suffering that you are tempted withal make you guilty of this sin. And (1 Pet. iv. 14.) the presence of God’s Spirit, in a very glorious manner, for our support and comfort, is promised to those who suffer for him. “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you.”

And this consideration of God’s strength to sup port us under sufferings, makes the other, of the reward of them, a perfect and complete encouragement; which it could not be without it. For if, upon the whole matter, the present sufferings of good men were intolerable, and human nature were not divinely assisted to bear them; how great so ever the future reward promised to them should be, they that lay under them would be forced to consult their own present ease and deliverance. I proceed to the

II. Second thing I proposed to consider, namely, how it may be made out to be reasonable to embrace 443and voluntarily to submit to present and grievous sufferings, in hopes of future happiness and reward; concerning which we have not, nor perhaps are capable of having, the same degree of certainty and assurance, which we have of the evils and sufferings of this present life.

Now, granting that we have not the same degree of certainty concerning our future happiness, that we have of our present sufferings, which we feel, or see just ready to come upon us; yet prudence making it necessary for men to run this hazard, does justify the reasonableness of it. This I take to be a known and ruled case in the common affairs of life, and in matters of temporal concernment; and men act upon this principle every day. The husbandman parts with his corn, and casts it into the earth, in confidence that it will spring up again, and at the time of harvest bring him a considerable return and advantage. He parts with a certainty, in hope only of a great future benefit: and though he have no demonstration for the infallible success of his labour and hazard, yet he acts very reason ably; because, if he does not take this course, he runs a greater and more certain hazard of perishing by famine at last, when his present stock is spent. The case of the merchant is the same, who parts with a present estate, in hopes of a future improvement; which yet is not so certain as what he parts withal.

And if this be reasonable in these cases; then the hazard which men run, upon much greater assurance than either the husbandman or the merchant hath, is much more reasonable. When we part with this life in hopes of one infinitely better, that is, “in sure and certain hope of a resurrection 444to eternal life;” and when we submit to present sufferings, to avoid an eternity of misery, which is much more to be dreaded than temporal want, this is reasonable; because here is a much greater advantage in view, and a more pressing necessity in the case; nothing being so desirable to one that must live for ever, as to be happy for ever; and no thing to be avoided by him with so much care, as everlasting misery and ruin. And, for our security of obtaining the one, and escaping the other, we have the promise of God, who cannot He; which is all the certainty and security that things future and invisible are capable of.

Nay, I will go lower. If God had made no express promise and declaration of a future happiness and reward, to those that serve him and suffer for him: yet if any man, out of a sincere love to God, and awful regard to his laws, endure trouble and affliction, if there be a God and providence, this is assurance enough to us, that our services and sufferings shall one time or other be considered and rewarded. For as sure as any man is, that there is a God, and that his providence regards the actions of men; so sure are we, that no man shall finally be a loser by any thing that he doth or suffers for him.

So that the matter is now brought to this plain issue, that if it be reasonable to believe there is a God, and that his providence regards and considers the actions of men; it is also reasonable to endure present sufferings, in hope of a future reward: and there is certainly enough in this case, to govern and determine a prudent man, that is in any good measure persuaded of another life after this, and hath any tolerable consideration of, and regard to, his eternal interest.

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Indeed, if we were sure that there were no life after this; if we had no expectation of a happiness or misery beyond this world; the wisest thing that any man could do, would be to enjoy as much of the present contentments and satisfactions of this world, as he could fairly come at. For “if there be no resurrection to another life, the apostle allows the reasoning of the epicure to be very good—“Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.” But, on the other hand, if it be true, that we are designed for immortality, and that another state remains for us after this life, wherein we shall be unspeakably happy, or intolerably and eternally miserable, according as we have behaved ourselves in this world; it is then evidently reasonable, that men should take the greatest care of the longest duration, and be content to bear and dispense with some present trouble and inconvenience, for a felicity that will have no end; and be willing to labour and take pains, and deny our present ease and comfort for a little while, that we may be happy for ever. This is reckoned prudence in the account of this world, for a man to part with a present possession and enjoyment, for a much greater advantage in reversion: but surely the disproportion between time and eternity is so vast, that did men but firmly believe, that they shall live for ever, nothing in this world could reasonably be thought too good to part withal, or too grievous to suffer, for the obtaining of a blessed immortality.

In the virtue of this belief and persuasion, the primitive Christians were fortified against all that the malice and cruelty of the world could do against them; and they thought they made a very wise bargain, if through many tribulations they might at last enter into the kingdom of God; because they 446believed that the joys of heaven would abundantly recompense all their sorrows and sufferings upon earth. And so confident were they of this, that they looked upon it as a special favour and regard of God to them, to call them to suffer for his name. So St. Paul speaks of it: (Phil. i. 29.) “Unto you it is given, on the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” Yea, they accounted them happy, who upon this account were miser able in this world. So St. James expressly pronounceth of them: (James i. 12.) “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation (meaning the temptation of persecution and suffering); for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” And this consideration was that, which kept up their spirits from sinking under the weight of their greatest sufferings. So St. Paul tells us, (2 Cor. iv. 14. 16.) “Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus, shall raise up us also by Jesus. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” The sufferings of their bodies did but help to raise and fortify their spirits: nay, so far were they from fainting under those afflictions, that they rejoiced and gloried in them. So the same apostle tells us, (Rom. v. 2, 3.) that in the midst of their sufferings they rejoiced in hope of the glory of God; and that they gloried in tribulations, as being the way to be made partakers of that glory: and (Heb. x. 34.) that they took joyfully the spoiling of their goods; “knowing in themselves, that they had in heaven a better and an enduring substance.” And, for this reason, St. James (chap. i. 2.) exhorts Christians to account it all joy, when they fall into 447divers temptations (that is, various kinds of sufferings); because of the manifold advantages which from thence would redound to them.

Now, what was it that inspired them to all this courage and cheerfulness, but the belief of a mighty reward, far beyond the proportion of all their sufferings, and a firm persuasion that they should be vast gainers by them at the last? This consideration St. Paul urgeth with great force: (2 Cor. iv. 17, 18.) “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory: whilst we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” If we could compare things justly, and attentively regard and consider the invisible glories of another world, as well as the things which are seen, we should easily perceive, that he who suffers for God and religion does not renounce happiness; but puts it out to interest, upon terms of the greatest advantage.

I shall now briefly speak to the

Second part of this remarkable saying in the text. “If we deny him, he also will deny us:” to which is subjoined in the words following, “if we believe not; εἰ ἀπιστοῦμεν, if we deal unfaithfully with him; yet he abideth faithful, he cannot deny himself; that is, he will be constant to his word, and make good that solemn threatening which he hath denounced against those, who for fear of suffering shall deny him and his truth before men: (Matth. x. 33.) “Whosoever (saith our Lord there) shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” (Mark viii. 38.) “Whosoever 448therefore, shall be ashamed of me, and of 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.” This is a terrible threatening, to be disowned by Christ at the day of judgment, “in the presence of God and his holy angels;” and this threatening will certainly be made good; and though we may renounce him, and break our faith with him, yet he remains faithful, who hath threatened, and cannot deny himself.

This is matter of great terror, and ought seriously to be thought upon by those who are tempted to deny Christ and his truth, either by the hope of worldly advantage, or the fear of temporal sufferings. What worldly advantage can we propose to ourselves by quitting our religion, which can be thought an equal price for the loss of our immortal souls, and the happiness of all eternity? Suppose the whole world were offered us in consideration; yet “what is a man profited, if he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” as our Saviour reasons. (Matth. xvi. 26.)

And, on the other hand, if the fear of temporal suffering be such a terror to men, as to shake their constancy in religion, and to tempt them to renounce it; the fear of eternal torments ought to be much more powerful, to keep them steadfast to their religion, and to deter them from the denial of it. If fear will move us; then, in all reason, that which is most terrible ought to prevail most with us, and the great est danger should be most dreaded by us, according to our Saviour’s most friendly and reasonable advice: (Luke xii. 4, 5.) “I say unto you, my friends, be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after 449that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom you shall fear. Fear him, who, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, fear him.” If there can be no doubt which of them is most to be dreaded, there can be no doubt what we are to do, in case of such a temptation.

I shall now draw some inferences from this discourse by way of application.

First, If this be a faithful saying, that “if we be dead with Christ, we shall also live with him; if we suffer, we shall also reign with him; but if we deny him, he will also deny us;” the belief of it ought to have a mighty influence upon us, to make us stead fast and unmoveable in the profession and practice of our holy religion. This inference the apostle makes from the doctrine of a blessed resurrection. (1 Cor. xv. 58.) “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; forasmuch as ye know, that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” If any thing will fix men in the profession of their religion, and make them serious in the practice of it, the belief of a glorious resurrection, and of the reward which God will then give to his faithful servants, must needs have a very powerful influence upon them to this purpose. Upon the same ground the apostle to the Hebrews exhorts them to hold fast the profession of their “faith, without wavering; because he is faithful that hath promised.” If we be constant in the profession and practice of our holy religion, God will be faithful to the promise which he hath made of “eternal life to those who, by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory and honour and immortality.”

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If, under the dark and imperfect dispensation of the law, good men shewed so much courage and constancy for God and religion, as we read in that long catalogue of heroes, Heb. xi. how much more should Christians, whose faith is supported much more strongly than theirs was, by a much clearer evidence of another life, and a blessed immortality, than they had; by more express promises of Divine comfort and assistance under sufferings, than were made to them; and by the most Divine and encouraging example of the greatest patience under the greatest sufferings that the world ever had, in the death and passion of the Son of God, “who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, and despised the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God?” When we consider this glorious example of suffering, and the glorious reward of it, how can we be weary and faint in our minds! If the saints and apostles of the Old Testament did such great things, by virtue of a faith, which relied chiefly upon the attributes and providence of God; what should not we do, who have the security of God’s express promise for our comfort and encouragement! we certainly have much greater reason to take up our cross more cheerfully, and to bear it more patiently, than they did.

Secondly, We should always be prepared in the resolutions of our minds, to suffer for the testimony of God’s truth and a good conscience, if it should please God at any time to call us to it. This our Saviour hath made a necessary condition of his religion, and a qualification of a true disciple. “If any man will be my disciple, let him take up his cross, and follow me.” So that we are to reckon upon it, and to prepare for it; that if it comes we 451may not be surprised, as if some strange thing had happened to us; and may not be unresolved what to do in such a case. And God knows when we may be called to it: however it is wise, to forecast it in our minds, and to be always in a preparation and readiness to entertain the worst that may happen, that if it come, we may “be able to stand out in an evil day;” and, if it does not come, God will accept the resolution of our minds, and reward it according to the sincerity of it: he that knows what we would have done, will consider it as if we had done it.

Thirdly, The less we are called to suffer for God, the more we should think ourselves obliged to do for him; the less God is pleased to exercise our patience, we should abound so much the more in the active virtues of a good life; and our obedience to God should be so much the more cheerful, and we more “fruitful in every good work.” If there be no need of sealing the truth with our blood, we should be sure to adorn and recommend it by our lives.

Fourthly and lastly, If the hopes of immortality will bear men up under the extremity of suffering and torments, and give men courage and resolution against all the terrors of the world, they ought much more to make us victorious over the temptations and allurements of it. For certainly it is in reason much easier to forego pleasure, than to endure pain; to refuse or lay down a good place for the testimony of a good conscience, than to lay down our lives upon that account. And in vain does any man pretend that he will be a martyr for his religion, when he will not rule an appetite, nor restrain a lust, nor subdue a passion, nor cross his covetousness and ambition, for the sake of it, and in hope of that eternal 452life, “which God, that cannot lie, hath promised.” He that refuseth to do the less, is not like to do the greater. It is very improbable, that a man will die for his religion, when he cannot be persuaded to live according to it. So that by this we may try the sincerity of our resolution concerning martyrdom. For what profession soever men make, he that will not deny himself the pleasures of sin, and the advantages of this world, for Christ, when it comes to the push, will never have the heart to take up his cross, and follow him. He that cannot take up a resolution to live a saint, hath a demonstration within himself, that he is never like to die a martyr.

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