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declaration from God himself; and shall unfold to you, I. God's testimony respecting his tempted people
“ Blessed is the man that endureth temptation”—
This sentiment doubtless, at first sight, appears very paradoxical
[How can it be? Consider the state of God's tempted people. Consider only the lighter trials which they are called to bear for their Lord's sake: hatred, reproach, contempt, ridicule, the opposition of their nearest friends and relatives ; this, every one that will follow the Lord Jesus Christ, must endure: a variety of circumstances may tend to screen a man from heavier trials; but these, in some measure at least, are the lot of all, even of the least and poorest of Christ's followers, as well as of the most conspicuous among them: let the light but shine even into the poorest cottage, and the surrounding darkness will evince its incapacity to maintain communion with it. But come to the severer trials which thousands have to sustain: think of privations, the most distressing that can be imagined to flesh and blood : think of bonds, and imprisonment: think of death in its most terrible and appalling forms: shall it be said that there is any blessedness in these ? Must we not rather say, that the persons who are called to endure such things are in the most wretched state ? Yes, I must confess, as St. Paul himself says, “ If in this life only such persons have hope, they are of all men most miserable," and altogether in a most pitiable condition. Nevertheless, whilst we heartily subscribe to this position of the Apostle, we must still say of the declaration in our text, that] Yet it is most true
[These sufferings must be viewed in their reference to eternity; and then they will wear a very different aspect from what they do when considered merely in themselves. For, " to those who love him and suffer for him, God has promised a crown of life, which they shall receive" at his hands the very instant that their sufferings are finished. Consider," a crown!” the highest of all distinctions! “a crown of life!” not a corruptible one, like those which were given to the victors in the Olympic games; nor a temporary one, which is soon to be transferred to a successor ;-a crown of life and glory, which fadeth not away! Conceive of the saint as just entering into the eternal world, and ascending to heaven from the flames of martyrdom: what a cloud of witnesses come forth to congratulate him on his victory, and to welcome him to those blest abodes! Behold him welcomed too by his Lord and Master,
for whose name he has suffered, and under whose banners he has fought : hear the plaudit with which he is received, “Well done, good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.' See the crown brought forth, and put upon his head; and behold him seated on the very throne of God himself, according to that promise, “ To him that overcometh, will I give to sit down with me upon my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father upon his throne :" I say, behold these things, and then tell me, whether the prospect of such glory, assured to him by the promise and oath of God, did not constitute him blessed in the midst of all his sufferings? Of the myriads, respecting whom it is said, “ These all came out of great tribulation,” do you suppose
there is one who regrets the sufferings he once endured for the sake of Christ? Not one assuredly: not one, who does not congratulate himself that he was ever counted worthy to suffer for the Redeemer's sake. But is St. James peculiar in his sentiments on this head ? No; our blessed Lord bids all “ who suffer for righteousness' sake, to rejoice and leap for joyb:" and to the same effect speak all his holy Apostles o. Though therefore" no suffering is for the present joyous, but grievous," yet, taken in connexion with their present consolations, and with all the future consequences, sufferings may justly be regarded as grounds of self-congratulation and joy ]
Such then being God's testimony, I proceed to set
II. Some instructions arising out of it
There are in our text several instructive hints, which ought not to be overlooked
1. We should so love the Lord Jesus Christ, as to be willing to suffer for him
[Love, even amongst men, is of little value, if it will make no sacrifices for the object beloved. But the Lord Jesus Christ is worthy of all the love that can ever be exercised towards him. Consider only what love he has manifested towards us: how he left the bosom of his Father for us, and emptied himself of all his glory, in order to assume our nature, and to expiate by his own blood the sins of the whole world: is it a mere cold esteem that is a proper return for such love? When the terms on which alone he could save the world were proposed to him, he said, “ Lo! I come, I delight to do thy will, O God.” When he then proposes that we, in testimony of our
• Matt. v. 10–12. c Rom. v. 3. 1 Pet. iv. 12–14,
d Phil. ii. 17, 18.
love to him, should “ take up our cross and follow him," shall we draw back, and complain that his yoke is too heavy for us? Of what value will he account such love as that? Go, he will say, and “offer it to your earthly friend,” and see whether he will value ite: how much less then is it suited to express your obligations to me, who have redeemed you to God with my own blood!
It is worthy of observation, that the same person who in the first clause of the text is spoken of as "enduring temptation," in the last clause is characterized as “ loving God :" for, in fact, none will suffer for him who do not love him ; nor can any love him without being willing to suffer for him. If therefore we profess love to God and to the Lord Jesus Christ whilst yet we are afraid of bearing the contempt and hatred of an ungodly world for his sake, we only deceive our own souls: for he has plainly told us, that he will consider none as his disciples, who will not take up their cross daily and follow him. He has told us, that, if we are ashamed of him and deny him, he will be ashamed of us and deny us: and that those only who are willing to lay down their lives for his sake, shall ever save them unto life eternal.
I pray you, brethren, try your love to the Saviour by this touchstone: and never imagine that it is sincere, unless it will stand this test -]
2. We should so apprehend God's promises, as utterly to despise men's threats
[“ Exceeding great and precious are the promises which God has given unto them that love him:" nor is it possible for us to be in any situation, wherein he has not made ample provision for our support and consolation. Now these promises are all sure and certain : “they are all yea
and amen in Christ Jesus:" nor can so much as one jot or tittle of them ever fail. But look at the threatenings of man; how empty and vain are they! The whole universe combined cannot effect the smallest thing without God's special permission: and, if permitted to execute their purposes, how impotent is their rage, when God is pleased to interpose in behalf of his people! Fire could not hurt the Hebrew Youths, nor lions injure the defenceless Daniel, nor chains and dungeons confine Peter on the eve of his intended execution. Men, the most potent monarchs not excepted, are no more than an axe or saw in the hand of God, who uses it, or not, according to his own sovereign will, and for the promotion only of his own glory. - Who then art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of a son of man that shall be as grass; and forgettest the Lord thy
e Mal. i. 8.
Maker?” Besides, suppose man to prevail to the extent of his wishes; what can he do? He can only reach the body: the soul he cannot touch. “ Fear not man therefore, who can only kill the body, and after that hath no more that he can do; but fear Him who can destroy both body and soul in hell: yea, I say unto you, Fear him.” And, as God has promised that “our strength shall be proportioned to our day " of trial, let us rest on his word, and hold in utter contempt all the menaces of our most potent enemies'.]
3. We should so realize eternity as to rise superior to all the concerns of time and sense
[In the view of eternity, all that relates to time vanishes, as the twinkling star before the mid-day sun.
If we could suppose a man caught up, like the Apostle Paul, to the third heavens, and then sent down again to abide a few more years upon earth, what would be his estimate of those things which so occupy and enslave our carnal minds? The baubles of children would not be more contemptible in his eyes than the glittering pageantry of courts: and, though the sufferings which are sometimes inflicted on the saints are heavy, they would be reckoned by him as “ not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall ere long be revealed in us." But it is not needful that we be transported to heaven to this end: we have the whole set before us in the oracles of God: and, if we believe those oracles, we may be as fully convinced of the comparative insignificance of earthly things, as if we saw the crown of glory with our bodily eyes, or already tasted of the heavenly bliss. Let us then seek that “ faith, which is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.” Then shall we, like those of old, “ take joyfully the spoiling of our goods, knowing that we have in heaven a better and an enduring substance ;” and, with Moses, shall "esteem even the reproach of Christ as greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt.”]
f See Isai. xxxvii. 22.
SIN THE OFFSPRING OF OUR OWN HEARTS.
Jam. i. 13–15. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am
tempted of God : for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man : but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin : and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
THERE are temptations necessarily connected with the Christian life, and which often, through the weakness of our nature, become the occasions of sin : and there are other temptations which are the direct and immediate cause of sin. The former are external; the latter are within a man's own bosom. The former may be referred to God as their author, and be considered as a ground of joy: the latter must be traced to our own wicked hearts; and are proper grounds of the deepest humiliation. This distinction is made in the passage before us. In the foregoing verses the former are spoken ofa; in the text, the latter.
In the words of our text, we notice the origin, the growth, and the issue of sin. We notice, I. Its origin
Many are ready to trace their sin to God himself
[This is done when we say, “I could not help it:" for then we reflect on our Maker, as not enduing us with strength sufficient for our necessities. It is done also, though not quite so directly, when we ascribe our fall to those who were in some respect accessary to it: for then we blame the providence of God, as before we did his creative power. It was thus that Adam acted, when he imputed his transgression to the influence of his wife, and ultimately to God who gave her to
But God neither is, nor can be, the Author of sin
[He may, and does, try men, in order to exercise their graces, and to shew what he has done for their souls. Thus he tempted Abraham, and Job, and Joseph, and many others. But these very instances prove that he did not necessitate, or in any respect influence, them to sin; for they shone the brighter in proportion as they were tried. But he never did, nor ever will, lead any man into sin. And though he is said to have “hardened Pharaoh's heart,” and to have “ moved David to number the people," he did not either of these things in any other way than by leaving them to themselves.]
a ver. 2, 12.
b Gen. iii. 12. c Exod. iv. 21. and 2 Sam. xxiv. 1. with 2 Chron. xxxii. 31.