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WHICH CHRISTIANS, IN EVERY AGE, ARE PARTAKERS.
2. HOW CONSOLATIONS ARE MADE TO ABOUND BY CHRIST IN THOSE VERY SUFFERINGS. As the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.
1. We are to consider WHAT ARE THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST, OF WHICH CHRISTIANS, IN EVERY AGE, ARE PARTAKERS.
1. A Christian will partake of the sufferings of Christ AS A WITNESS FOR THE TRUTH.
If, like Christ, he stands a witness for truth, he must needs have to oppose a host of falsehoods: and this host of falsehoods will put out all their force against him. Our Lord, the faithful witness, witnessed a good confession before Pontius Pilate; and, while he stood at the judgment-seat, he would not conceal the truth. Though he knew his confession would lead to his death, yet he told the true state of things, both with respect to himself and them before whom he witnessed his confession.
The Christian has before him a Book of Realities. Here," says he, "I read God's own account of his dealings with men. Here I read his declaration of what Satan is doing, and what I am doing, and whither I am going. Here is his account of the end of the world,
and of the only
method whereby a sinner can escape when standing before the judgment-seat of Christ. This will do me most important service! This is a Book of Realities, which lies before me: I am bound, therefore, to be a witness for truth. I know the truth. I have felt its power.
This man hears continually of falsehood riding triumphant, and reads false sentiments in almost every publication which he takes up, according to the wisdom of this world that cometh to nought. But he knows the falsehood of these things: he does not think them false, but he knows them to be so, because he has a standard whereby to measure every sentiment. Bringing these sentiments to his standard, and finding them false, My duty," he says, "is brought into a narrow compass. It is plain as noon-day. He, that confesseth me before men, him will I confess before my Father: and him, that denieth me before men, him will I deny before my Father and his holy angels. I must be a witness, therefore, for the truth. I dare not deny it. I dare not conceal it."
Can we conceive of a man going forth in this way, and not suffering for Christ? He is a bold witness for truth, and the sufferings of Christ will abound in him.
2. A Christian will partake of the sufferings of Christ and conformity to his death, in that he will be SCORNED AND MISREPRESENTED BY THE WORLD; for he brings to light and exposes the
falsehood, and iniquity, and false sentiments of the world.
A Christian has been justly compared to a man with perfect sight passing through a nation of blind men. A man with perfect sight passing through such a nation, could speak of very few things of which they could form any conception. "Did you ever hear," would one say to another, "did you ever hear of a rainbow?-or of colours ?—or of light?-or of stars? The man is beside himself."
It is thus with the Christian, when speaking to the world of the things of God. The natural man cannot understand them, and treats him as one insane. Nay, it is said of Christ himself, that his kindred ran out to lay hold of him, thinking him beside himself. And of his Apostles it is said, that they were spectacles to angels and to men. If, says our Lord, ye were of the world, the world would love its own; but, because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
It may be objected, that we are not to apply an expression, particularly addressed to disciples, to mankind at large. Let such objectors recollect, that one of these Apostles says, All, that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution.
This partaking of the sufferings of Christ may be occasioned many thousand ways by mankind. If men have not their fire and faggots to bring
forth, to demonstrate the malignity of their hearts; yet, they have, as the Apostle expresses it, their cruel mockings, bitter reproaches, misrepresentations, and uncharitable conjectures. Did they not say of Christ himself, that he was a mover of sedition? These are but the various expressions of the malignity and enmity of the carnal heart against Christ and his servants.
3. Christ suffered, being TEMPTED. He had to combat, not only against the world, but against sin.
And, to the end of the world, his servants must be cautioned against their grand enemy. They must maintain a conflict to their latest breath. The Christian draws the sword, and throws away the scabbard. He has no expectation that it will ever be sheathed again in this world; for Satan, where he cannot destroy, will disturb.
Beside open assaults, the Christian will find this enemy spreading snares suited to his disposition and constitution. The accuser of the brethren is a veteran in mischief: he will provide some trial in our circumstances, and throw some stumbling block in our way.
4. Being in the School of Christ, Christ's sufferings are made to abound in a Christian, when God exercises him by STRIPPING HIM OF SENSIBLE COMFORT AND STRENGTH; and calling him to walk by faith and patience, without anything external to lean upon when he dries up creaturesprings.
I know what it is, in myself and others, for a man to be brought into such a situation, that his props, if I may so express it, are cut away—when his very friends become traitors to him, as Judas. became to his master-when those, on whom he places most dependance, become strangers. He is then taught to walk in darkness, and yet to walk on: he is led through a wilderness, in which there is no way: he knows what it is to have his path walled up and he is ready to say, I shall one day perish.
Our Blessed Master himself poured out strong cries and tears. It must have been no small trial to make him pour out strong cries and tears, who` was from his birth a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.
Hear, too, how the Apostle speaks, in the ninth verse: We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead. And he speaks of being pressed out of measure—almost driven from hope: insomuch that he despaired even of life!. And this is the language of Christ's school.
Brethren, whatever God has promised to his people, he has not promised to exempt them from affliction in this world. As one well remarks, it is the only blessing which God gives to his people without their asking for it: but, because he will bless by it, he sends it without their asking.