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Chapter XV.

Showing How We Should, Through Christ, Bear And Overcome The Trials And Contempt Of The World.

Consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.Heb. 12:3.

It is a most moving complaint uttered by the Messiah: “I became a reproach unto them; when they looked upon me, they shaked their heads. Help me, O Lord my God; O save me according to thy mercy; that they may know that this is thy hand; that thou Lord hast done it. Let them curse, but bless thou; when they arise, let them be ashamed; but let thy servant rejoice. Let mine adversaries be clothed with shame; and let them cover themselves with their own confusion as with a mantle. I will greatly praise the Lord with my mouth; yea, I will praise him among the multitude. For he shall stand at the right hand of the poor, to save him from those that condemn his soul.” Ps. 109:25-31.

2. This pathetic complaint of the Lord our Redeemer, every Christian ought to represent to himself as a mirror, in which to behold the life of Christ under the cross, together with that of all the saints in general. This way of the cross has been copiously set forth in the Book of Psalms, in order to render it the more familiar to us, and to teach us betimes, that “we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22. Such a consideration gives present ease and comfort under the contempt and reproaches incident to the true followers of Christ, and accustoms them to a conformity to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29): which as it is one of the greatest honors our Master bestows on his disciples; so it is by the world abhorred and loathed, just as a healing medicine is by a distempered and delicate palate. This conformity is, however, the grand duty of a Christian, inuring him to bear his Master's reproach (Heb. 13:13) and abject image in time, that he may also hereafter bear his glorious image in eternity. Phil. 3:21.

3. Now, as the 109th Psalm above-mentioned, contains a prayer of Christ poured out in the midst of his sufferings; so it mentions, in the latter part, three kinds of trouble more particularly, with which the Lord found himself oppressed.

4. In the first place, the Lord complaineth of a vehement anxiety of heart, declared in this manner: “I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.” Ver. 22. Behold, what complaints this holy, this eminent Person is reduced to! And what is the reason of them? Surely, to acquaint us in the most affectionate terms, with all that he hath suffered for our sake. He says, “I am poor;” and lo! thou toilest to get estates, to hoard up riches; and yet when thou hast them, thou art still poor and discontented in the possession of them. He says, “I am needy;” and thou, O man, art entirely bent upon thy ease, prosperity, and fulness of bread! He 215 complains, “my heart is wounded within me;” how unreasonable is it then, O man! that thou shouldest desire to be humored and gratified in all thy vain and carnal propensities! Now, if nothing will awaken in thee a love of the cross of Christ, let at least the consideration of the sacredness of the afflicted Person, infinitely exalted above thee, work thee into a ready compliance with his life. Such a consideration will give thee ease and patience under any grief that may attend thee, and make thee relish better those pure and untainted pleasures which will succeed the cross. Therefore, think with thyself in this manner: “I am now put to trouble and anxiety of heart; but the same befell also my Lord and Master, whose very soul was surrounded with sorrows so heavy and acute, with pains so great, that nothing of what I shall ever undergo can equal them.” However, the Lord, after his sufferings, entered into everlasting joy; after contempt, into never-fading glory; through death into life; and through hell into heaven. And thus will it be with the sincere followers of the Lord, to whom their crosses will prove but as so many advances to a more excellent glory, and their affliction will be the avenue to everlasting bliss and happiness.

5. The Lord continues his complaint thus: “I am gone like the shadow when it declineth: I am tossed up and down as the locust. My knees are weak through fasting; and my flesh faileth of fatness.” Ps. 109:23, 24. A most expressive description of the common frailty of human nature! What is a shadow, but a mere nothing, an empty lifeless appearance? To such an abject lowliness, to such an inconceivable degree of humiliation, the Lord suffered himself to be reduced whilst he dwelt among us! He who is life and light itself, and the bottomless fountain of life and happiness, is exposed to labor and infirmities; and should not men hereby learn so much humility at least, as to think themselves far more emphatically as shadows, or as nothing, than the Lord of life himself? At the same time, it is to be remembered that the Lord here refers to his state of humiliation alone, for, in his own glory he is our Lord and our life. He says, “I am tossed up and down as the locust.” The Lord had no settled habitation upon earth, as men of the world have. He was in a constant pilgrimage towards that kingdom which cannot be moved. For this reason he is said to have only dwelt or tabernacled among us (John 1:14), and is here compared to a locust, which having no abiding place, is fearful, and tossed to and fro with every wind. Nahum 3:17; Exod. 10:19. And even in this our blessed Saviour has left us a pattern, to walk as he walked; and since we have no continuing city here, to seek one to come, which “hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Heb. 11:10. What is farther added of the weakness of his knees, and the failing of his flesh, abundantly appeared about the time of his passion, when his “strength was dried up like a potsherd” (Ps. 22:15); and this may be a monitor to us under bodily diseases and infirmities. Should we complain of a fit of sickness, when the Lord of life pined away into weakness, and languished in misery? What matters it, how languid, weak, and neglected our body be, if our soul and spiritual life be but vigorous and sound? The soul ought to “eat that which is good, and delight itself in spiritual fatness” (Isa. 55:2), that so it may grow “strong in the 216 Lord, and in the power of his might.” Ephes. 6:10.

6. Thirdly, the Lord complains of the great contempt he underwent in this world, in order to stop us in our pursuit after vain honor, pride, and self-esteem. “I became,” says he, “a reproach unto them: when they looked upon me they shaked their heads.” What indignity is there like unto this! But the Anointed of the Lord endured it all for no other end, than to rescue mankind from eternal scorn and infamy; for man having become a scorner and hater of God, Christ was designed to make atonement for so heinous a sin, by the extreme contempt which he willingly endured. However, as the Lord by his humble submission to the contempt of the world, has laid a mighty obligation on all Christians to be his followers therein; so the considerations here annexed, may be of use for supporting a man under sufferings of that nature.

7. First consider, that in bearing the contempt of the world, thou bearest no less than the very image of Christ, and followest him who is thy Head and Master. Rom. 8:17.

8. (2) To be contemned and disrespectfully used by the world, is of great efficacy for improving thyself in true humility; a virtue which finds favor with God. “For God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5.

9. (3) Thy suffering of reproaches for the sake of truth, is an evidence that thou art ranked with that cloud of witnesses, who in all ages have been made “as the filth of the world, and the offscouring of all things,” and so continue to be esteemed “unto this day.” 1 Cor. 4:13.

10. (4) Remember that those that are come out “of great tribulation, shall be before the throne of God” at last (Rev. 7:14), and be there “confessed before the angels of God.” Luke 12:8; 1 Cor. 4:5.

11. (5) Of what consequence is it how contemptuously the world uses thee, since thou art not to rise in the last day (as many shall), “to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:2), (the Lord having redeemed thee from that), but to honor and glory!

12. (6) Remember that God does not withhold his grace from thee in this world. When the world frowns, God favors. When men withdraw their kindness, then God confers his mercy. For this purpose the Psalmist prays: “Help me, O Lord my God: O save me according to thy mercy; that they may know that this is thy hand, and that thou, Lord, hast done it.” Ps. 109:26, 27. That is to say: As the Lord removed at last his Son from the cross, from all the labors of his soul, from all the insults of his enemies, and crowned him with glory in heaven; so will he deal with thee also, if thou continuest faithful in bearing the cross, and all the injuries of a profane world. All shall see and shall know, that it is the Lord's hand that hath done it.

13. (7) It was God himself who suffered his beloved Son to be thus contemned, reproached, and reviled, according to the words of the Psalm: “Because for thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face.” Ps. 69:7. Remember, therefore, that the same God, who gave a bitter cup to his dear Son, hath also allotted thee thy trials, to humble thee, and to know what is in thy heart.

14. (8) Be sure that the Lord will change all the undeserved reproaches thrown upon thee, into so many blessings, 217 and in his own time pour shame and confusion upon the scoffers. This is expressed in the following verse: “Let them curse, but bless thou: when they arise, let them be ashamed; but let thy servant rejoice.” Ps. 109:28. Nay, if the wicked curse ever so much, yet “shall the curse causeless never come” (Prov. 26:2), as plainly appears from Balaam's attempt, who could not “curse, whom God had not cursed.” Numb. 23:8. Whereas, whosoever feareth the Lord, it shall go well with him at the last, and he shall find favor in the day of his death. The same blessing is bestowed on Abraham, and on all those that walk in the steps of his faith: “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee.” Gen. 12:3. And in another place we have this encouragement: “Fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings.” Isa. 51:7. And our Redeemer himself hath declared: “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you.” Matt. 5:11. And his apostle says: “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you.” 1 Pet. 4:14.

15. (9) The Lord goes on in the aforesaid Psalm: “I will greatly praise the Lord with my mouth; yea, I will praise him among the multitude.” Ps. 109:30. Christ now returns thanks to his heavenly Father for the very crosses and reproaches that were allotted him. This is the temper of every sincere Christian. He is thankful in the midst of afflictions and reproaches, particularly when he looks on the hand of that kind Father who entails all this upon him, but who also delivers him. And truly, the Lord never inflicts a judgment on any soul, but he affords at the same time sufficient reason for thanking and blessing him for that affliction. Thus is gratitude the happy product of crosses and trials. And this consideration is fit to sweeten the duty of resignation to the will of God. He that for the love of Christ readily submits to the contempt of a vain world, shall be honored by God again, both in this world and in the world to come. There is a time, wherein the Lord “raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill; that he may set him with princes, even with the princes of his people.” Ps. 113:7. Surely, it argues an excellent spirit, when a man for Christ's sake bears the insults of the wicked, and maintains an unshaken calmness of mind, in the midst of all the calumnies of the world. This is “the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which in the sight of God is of great price.” 1 Pet. 3:4.

16. (10) The Psalm concludes, “For he shall stand at the right hand of the poor, to save him from those that condemn his soul.” Ps. 109:31. Here is comfort sufficient to make a Christian bear up against the hardships and reproaches he is exposed to in his warfare. It is never said that the Lord will stand at the right hand of the violent and great ones, of the oppressors and persecutors; but he will stand at the right hand of the poor, who being destitute of the arm or support of men, flee to the Lord alone for help and refuge, as to the sole object of their faith and trust. Those are “remembered, when he maketh inquisition for blood” (Ps. 9:12); and those are the afflicted, or the humble, “whose cry the Lord doth not forget.” Tertullian tells us, “We are then absolved by God, when the world condemns us.” For though “the wicked 218 watcheth the righteous, and seeketh to slay him; yet will the Lord not leave him in his hand, nor condemn him when he is judged.” Ps. 37:32, 33. Thus will the Lord attend thee, O man! with a wonderful deliverance, and afford thee reason enough to extol his name among many, for his marvellous kindness. David himself “had fainted, unless he had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait, therefore, on the Lord; be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” Ps. 27:13, 14. “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart: and then shall every man have praise of God.” 1 Cor. 4:5.

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