By J O H N.B U N Y A N.
L O N D O N,
Printed for Benjamin Alsop, at the
Angel and Bible in the Poultry, 1684.
Published four years before John Bunyan's death.
[THE WILL OF GOD MEANS HIS LAW AND TESTAMENT.]
irst, By his will I understand his law and testament. This is called the revealed will of God, or that by which he has made himself, and how he will be worshiped, known unto the children of men. Now, I, understanding these words thus, must, before I go further, make this distinction, to wit, that there is a difference to be put betwixt them that suffer for the breach and those that suffer for keeping of this law and testament; for though both of them may suffer by the will of God, yet they are not both concerned in this text. A malefactor that suffereth for his evil deeds the due punishment thereof, suffereth, as other texts declare, according to the will of God. But, I say, this text doth not concern itself with them; for both this text and this epistle is writ for the counsel and comfort of those that suffer for keeping the law and testament of God; that suffer for well- doing (1 Peter 3:13,14,17; 4:13,14).
The man then that is concerned in this advice is he that suffereth from the hands of men for keeping of the word of God; and this is he that has licence, leave, yea, a command to commit the keeping of his soul to God in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator. We will a little enlarge upon this.
[What it is to suffer according to the will of God, or his law and testament.]
He that keepeth the word of God is such an one that has regard to both the matter and manner thereof. The matter is the truth, the doctrine contained therein; the manner is that comely, godly, humble, faithful way of doing it which becomes a man that has to do with the law and testament of God; and both these are contained in the text. For, first, here is the will of God to be done; and then, secondly, to be done according to his will. "Let them that suffer according to his will": which words, I say, take in both matter and manner of doing. So then, the man that here we have to do with, and to discourse of, is a man that, in the sense now given, suffereth. That which makes a martyr, is suffering for the word of God after a right manner; and that is, when he suffereth, not only for righteousness, but for righteousness' sake; not only for truth, but of love to truth; not only for God's word, but according to it, to wit, in that holy, humble, meek manner as the word of God requireth. A man may give his body to be burned for God's truth, and yet be none of God's martyrs (1 Cor 13:1-3). Yea, a man may suffer with a great deal of patience, and yet be none of God's martyrs (1 Peter 2:20). The one, because he wanteth that grace that should poise his heart, and make him right in the manner of doing; the other, because he wanteth that word of the Holy One that alone can make his cause good, as to matter. It is, therefore, matter and manner that makes the martyr; and it is this man that is intended in the text which is aforesaid described. So then, they that suffer for the law and testament of God in that holy and humble manner that the Word requires, they are they that, by this Word of God, are commanded to commit the keeping of their souls to God.
From this consideration, two things present themselves to our sight. 1. That a man may be a Christian, and suffer, and yet not suffer, in the sense last given, according to the will of God. 2. There have been, and may yet be a people in the world that have, and may suffer in the sense of the apostle here, according to the will of God.
[1. A Christian may suffer, but not in the sense of the apostle, according to the will of God.]
A few words to the first of these, namely, that a man may be a Christian, and suffer, and yet not suffer, in the sense of the apostle in the text, "according to the will of God." He may be a Christian and yet not suffer as a Christian. He may want the matter, or, he may want the manner, of suffering as a Christian.
This is evident from what this apostle suggests in several places of this epistle. For,
Saith he, "If ye be buffeted for your faults" (1 Peter 2:20). This supposeth that a Christian may so be; for he speaketh here to the same people, unto whom he speaketh in the text, though he putteth them not under the same circumstance, as suffering for well-doing. If ye be buffeted for your faults, for what God's word calls faults, what thank have you from God, or good men, though you take it patiently?
So again, "For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well-doing, than for evil-doing" (1 Peter 3:17). Here it is plainly supposed that a Christian man may suffer for evil-doing, yea, that the will of God may be, that he should suffer for evil- doing. For God, if Christians do not well, will vindicate himself by punishing of them for their doing ill. Yea, and will not count them worthy, though they be his own, to be put among the number of those that suffer for doing well.
Again, "But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters" (1 Peter 4:15). These are cautions to Christians to persuade them to take heed to themselves, their tongues and their actions, that all be kept within the bounds of the Word. For it would be a foolish thing to say, that these are cautions to persuade to take heed of that, into which it is not possible one should fall. It is possible for Christians to suffer for evil-doing, and therefore let Christians beware; it is possible for Christians to be brought to public justice for their faults, and therefore let Christians beware. It is possible for Christians to suffer justly by the hand of the magistrate, and therefore let Christians beware. This also is insinuated in the text itself, and therefore let Christians beware.
The causes of this are many, some of which I shall now briefly touch upon.
(1.) Sin is in the best of men: and as long as it is so, without great watchfulness, and humble walking with God, we may be exposed to shame and suffering for it. What sin is it that a child of God is not liable to commit, excepting that which is the sin unpardonable? Nor have we a promise of being kept from any other sin, but on condition that we do watch and pray (Matt 26:41).
(2.) It is possible for a Christian to have an erroneous conscience in some things, yea, in such things as, if God by his grace prevents not, may bring us to public justice and shame. Abishai, though a good man, would have killed the king, and that of conscience to God, and love to his master (1 Sam 26:7,8). And had David delivered him up to Saul for his attempt, he had in all likelihood died as a traitor. Peter drew his sword, and would have fought therewith, a thing for which he was blamed of his Master, and bid with a threatening, to put it up again (Matt 26:52). Besides, oppression makes a wise man mad; and when a man is mad what evils will he not do? Further, The devil, who is the great enemy of the Christians, can send forth such spirits into the world as shall not only disturb men, but nations, kings, and kingdoms, in raising divisions, distractions and rebellions. And can so manage matters that the looser sort of Christians may be also dipped and concerned therein. In Absalom's conspiracy against his father, there were two hundred men called out of Jerusalem to follow him, "and they went in their simplicity, not knowing any thing" (2 Sam 15:11). I thank God I know of no such men, nor thing: but my judgment tells me, that if Christians may be drawn into fornication, adultery, murder, theft, blasphemy or the like, as they may; why should it be thought impossible for them to be drawn in here. Wherefore I say again, watch and pray, fear God, reverence his Word, approve of his appointments, that you may be delivered from every evil work and way.
I said afore that the will of God may be, that a Christian should suffer as an evil-doer; but then it is because he keepeth not within the bounds of that, which is also called the will of God. The will of God is, that sin should be punished, though committed by the Christians; punished according to the quality of transgressions: and therefore it is that he hath ordained magistrates. Magistrates, to punish sin, though it be the sin of Christians. They are the ministers of God, revengers, to execute wrath, the wrath of God upon them that do evil (Rom 13). Wherefore, though the Christian as a Christian is the only man at liberty, as called thereunto of God; yet his liberty is limited to things that are good: he is not licensed thereby to indulge the flesh. Holiness and liberty are joined together, yea our call to liberty, is a call to holiness. Seek, and you shall find, that a quiet and peaceable life, in our respective places, under the government, is that which we should pray for, to wit, that we may without molestation, if it were "the will of God," spend our days in all godliness and honesty among our neighbours. See 1 Timothy 2:1-8; 1 Peter 2:13-17.
[First. Caution to Christians as Christians.] —I would improve this a little, and first, to Christians as Christians: beware the cautions, that are here presented to you, be not neglected by you. The evils are burning hot, as hot as a red hot iron. It is the greatest blemish that can be to a Christian, to suffer as an evil- doer. To say nothing of the reproach that such do bring to the name of Christ, their Lord; to his law, their rule; and to the Christian profession, which should be their glory: the guilt and shame that evil actions will load the conscience with at such a time, can hardly be stood under. The man that suffereth as an evil-doer, and yet weareth the name of a Christian, what stumbling blocks doth he lay in the way of the ignorant in a kingdom? The devil told them before, that a Christian was a mischievous man; and to suffer for evil-doing, confirms them in that belief.
Consider also the difficulties that surely such must meet with in the last minutes of their life. For can it be imagined but that such an one must have combats and conflicts at the last, who carry in their consciences the guilt and condemnation that is due to their deeds, to the place which magistrates have appointed for them to receive the reward of their works at. Such an one bereaves not only his own soul of peace, and his name of credit, but himself of life, his friends of all cause of rejoicing, and casteth reproach upon religion, as he is stepping out of the world. What shall I say, Christians as Christians have other things to do than to concern themselves in evil things, or to meddle in other men's matters. Let us mind our own business, and leave the magistrate to his work, office and calling among men also.
I speak now to them that are not by the king called to that employ. A Christian as such has enough to do at home, in his heart, in his house, in his shop, and the like. But if thou must needs be meddling, consider what place, office, calling or relation, God has put thee in, and busy thyself by the rule of the Word to a conscientious performance of that. Nor shalt thou want dignity, though thou art but a private Christian. Every Christian man is made a king by Christ (Rev 5:10). But then, his dominion as such, doth reach no further than to himself. He has not dominion over another's faith (2 Cor 1:24). His office is to govern, and bridle, and keep under, himself; to watch over himself, and to bring his body into subjection to the will of God. The weapons that he has for this purpose are not carnal, but spiritual, and mighty through God. Let him govern then, if he will be a governor, his whole man by the Word. Let him bring down, if he must be bringing down, his own high imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. If he must be a warrior, let him levy war against his own unruly passions, and let him fight against those lusts that war against his soul (2 Cor 10:3-5; Gal 5:17; James 3:3-8; 1 Peter 2:11).
I say therefore, if thou wilt needs be a ruler, thou hast a tongue, rule that; lusts, rule them; affections, govern them; yea, thou hast excellent graces, manage them, cherish, strengthen and replenish them according to the mind of that great one who has bestowed such power to rule, upon thee. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry (Col 3:5). Nor do I think that murmuring, shrinking, wincing, complaining, and the like, when men, governors, lay a yoke upon our necks, flow from any thing else, but love to our flesh, and distrust of the faithfulness of God to manage men, things, and actions for his church. The powers that be are ordered as well as ordained of God. They are also always in God's hand, as his rod or staff for the good and benefit of his people. Wherefore we ought with all meekness and humbleness of mind to accept of what our God by them shall please to lay upon us (1 Peter 5:6). By what I now say, I do not forbid groaning and crying to God under affliction. I speak against striving to deliver ourselves from the affliction. And since men are, as I said, the rod, staff or sword in God's hand, we should apply ourselves unto him in faith in a way of prayer, intercession, supplication and giving of thanks for governors. For since they are sent of God, they must needs come with some good in their hand for us, also our prayers may make them more profitable to us. And this we ought to do without wrath and doubting; for this is that which is good, and acceptable unto God (1 Tim 2).
Besides, it is a sign that we forget ourselves when we complain for the punishment of our sins. If we look into ourselves, and ways, we shall see cause of more heavy stripes than yet God by men has laid upon us. What sin has yet been suppressed by all that has happened to us: if pride, covetousness, looseness, treacherous dealing, schisms, and other things, redressed by all the affliction that we have had? Yea, do we not grow worse and worse? Wherefore then should we complain? Where is repentance, reformation, and amendment of life amongst us? Why, then, do we shrink and winch. For my part, I have ofttimes stood amazed both at the mercy of God, and the favour of the Prince towards us; and can give thanks to God for both: and do make it my prayer to God for the king, and that God will help me with meekness and patience to bear whatever shall befall me for my professed subjection to Christ, by men.
We are bid, as I said afore, to give thanks to God for all men, for kings, and for all that are in authority. Because, as I said, there is no man with whom we have to do, we doing as we should, but he bringeth some good thing to us, or doth some good thing for us. We will now descend from them that are supreme in authority, and will come to inferior men: and suppose some of them to act beyond measure, cruelly. What? Can no good thing come to us out of this? Do not even such things as are most bitter to the flesh, tend to awaken Christians to faith and prayer, to a sight of the emptiness of this world, and the fadingness of the best it yields? Doth not God by these things ofttimes call our sins to remembrance, and provoke us to amendment of life? how then can we be offended at things by
which we reap so much good, and at things that God makes so profitable for us?
Doth not God, ofttimes, even take occasions by the hardest of things that come upon us, to visit our souls with the comforts of his Spirit, to lead us into the glory of his word, and to cause us to savour that love that he has had for us, even from before the world began, till now. A nest of bees and honey did Samson find, even in the belly of that lion that roared upon him. And is all this no good? or can we be without such holy appointments of God? Let these things be considered by us, and let us learn like Christians to kiss the rod, and love it.
I have thought, again, my brethren, since it is required of us that we give thanks to God for all these men, it follows that we do with quietness submit ourselves under what God shall do to us by them. For it seems a paradox to me, to give thanks to God for them, that yet I am not willing should abide in that place that God has set them in for me. I will then love them, bless them, pray for them, and do them good. I speak now of the men that hurt me as was hinted afore. And I will do thus, because it is good so to do, because they do me good by hurting of me, because I am called to inherit a blessing, and because I would be like my heavenly Father. "Therefore if mine enemy hunger, let me feed him; if he thirst, let me give him drink" (Matt 5:43-48; 1 Peter 3:9; Rom 12:17-20). (1.) We must see good in that, in which other men can see none. (2.) We must pass by those injuries that other men would revenge. (3.) We must shew we have grace, and that we are made to bear what other men are not acquainted with. (4.) Many of our graces are kept alive by those very things that are the death of other men's souls.
Where can the excellency of our patience, of our meekness, of our long-suffering, of our love, and of our faith appear, if it be not under trials, and in those things that run cross to our flesh? The devil, they say, is good when he is pleased. But Christ and his saints, when displeased.
Let us therefore covet to imitate Christ and the scripture saints. Let us shew out of a good conversation, our works with meekness of wisdom. Let us take heed of admitting the least thought in our minds of evil, against God, the king, or them that are under him in employ, because, the cup, the king, all men, and things are in the hand of God (Psa 75:8; Prov 8:15; 21:1; Lam 3:37). And he can make them better to us, than if they were as our flesh desireth they should.
I have often thought that the best Christians are found in the worst of times: and I have thought again, that one reason why we are no better, is because God purges us no more (John 15). I know these things are against the grain of the flesh, but they are not against the graces of the Spirit. Noah and Lot, who so holy as they, in the day of their affliction? Noah and Lot, who so idle as they in the day of their prosperity? I might have put in David too, who, while he was afflicted, had ways of serving God that were special; but when he was more enlarged, he had ways that were not so good. Wherefore the first ways of David are the ways that God has commended: but the rest of his ways, such as had not pre-eminence (2 Chron 17:3).
We have need of all, and of more than all that has yet befallen us: and are to thank God, since his word and patience have done no more good to us, that he hath appointed men to make us better. Wherefore for a conclusion, as we are to receive with meekness the engrafted word of God, so also we are with patience to bear what God, by man, shall lay upon us. O that saying of God to them of old, "Why criest thou for thine affliction? thy sorrow is incurable for the multitude of thine iniquity: because thy sins were increased, I have done these things unto thee" (Jer 30:15). We have need to consider of, and to sit still and be quiet, and reverence the ordinance of God: I mean affliction. And until we can in truth get hither in our spirits, I neither look to find very right Christianity amongst us, nor much of God among professors. When I think of Mordecai, and Daniel, yea, and of David too, and of the behaviour of them all with respect to the powers that they were under, I cannot but think that a sweet, meek, quiet, loving, godly submission unto men for the Lord's sake, is an excellent token of the grace of God in us. But,
[Second Caution to Weak Christians.] —As I cannot but condemn the actions of such Christians as have been touched before, so I would caution weak Christians not to be offended with true religion for the miscarriages of their fellows. There are two things that are very apt to be an occasion of offence to the weak: one is, when the cross attends religion; the other is, when others that profess religion do suffer for evil-doing. To both these I would say this:—
1. Though the cross, indeed, is grievous to the flesh, yet we should with grace bear up under it, and not be offended at it.
2. And as to the second, though we should and ought to be offended with such miscarriage; yet not with religion, because of such miscarriage. Some, indeed, when they see these things, take offence against religion itself; yea, perhaps, are glad of the occasion, and so fall out with Jesus Christ, saying to him, because of the evils that attend his ways, as the ten tribes said to Rehoboam, the son of Solomon the king, "What portion have we in David? neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse; to your tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house, David," (1 Kings 12:16); and so go quite away from him, and cleave no more unto him, to his people, or to his ways: but this is bad. Shun, therefore, the evil ways of Christians, but cleave to the way that is Christian: cast away that bad spirit that thou seest in any, but hold fast to thy Head and Lord. Whither canst thou go? the Lord Jesus has the words of eternal life (John 6:68). Whither wilt thou go? there is not salvation in any other (Acts 4:12). Take heed, therefore, of picking a quarrel with Jesus Christ, and with his ways, because of the evil-doings of some of his followers. Judas sold him, Peter denied him, and many of his disciples went back and did walk no more with him; but neither himself nor his ways were the worse for that. Beware, therefore, that thou truly distinguish between the good ways of Jesus Christ and the evil ways of them that profess him; and take not an occasion to throw away thy own soul down the throat of hell, because others have vilely cast away their lives by transgressing of the law of God. Nay, let other men's faults make thee more wary; let other men's falls make thee look better to thy goings: shun the rock that he that went before thee did split his ship against; and cry to God to lead thee in a path that is plain and good, because of thy observers.
Further, Let not opposite Christians rejoice when they see that evil hath taken their brother by the heel. Hate the garment, the thing that is bad, and by which the name, and fame, and life of thy brother is so vilely cast away, thou shouldest; and take good heed lest it also touch thee, but yet thou shouldest pity thy brother, mourn for his hard hap, and grieve that a thing so much unbecoming Christianity should be suffered to show the least part of itself among any of those that profess the gospel.
Directions for the shunning of suffering for evil-doing, are they that come next to hand.
Direction 1. Therefore, wouldest thou not suffer as an evil-doer, then take heed of committing of evil. Evil courses bring to evil ends; shun all appearance of evil, and ever follow that which is good. And if ye be followers of that which is good, who will harm you (1 Peter 3:13)? Or if there should be such enemies to goodness in the world as to cause thee for that to suffer, thou needest not be ashamed of thy suffering for well-doing, nor can there be a good man, but he will dare to own and stand by thee in it. Yea, thy sufferings for that will make thee happy, so that thou canst by no means be a loser thereby.
Direction 2. Wouldest thou not suffer for evil-doing, then take heed of the occasions of evil. Take heed of tempting company. Beware of men, for they will deliver thee up. There have been men in the world that have sought to make themselves out of the ruins of other men. This did Judas, and some of the Pharisees (Matt 10:17; Luke 20:19,20). Take heed to thy mouth: "A fool's mouth calleth for strokes,—and his lips are the snare of his soul" (Prov 18:7). Take heed of indulging, and hearkening to the ease of the flesh, and of carnal reasonings, for that will put thee upon wicked things.
Direction 3. Wouldest thou not suffer as an evil-doer, then take heed of hearing of any thing spoken that is not according to sound doctrine: thou must withdraw thyself from such in whom thou perceivest not the words of knowledge. Let not talk against governors, against powers, against men in authority be admitted; keep thee far from an evil matter. My son, says Solomon, fear thou the Lord, and the King, and meddle not with those that are given to change.
Direction 4. Wouldest thou not suffer as an evil-doer, addict not thyself to play with evil,  to joke and jest, and mock at men in place and power. Gaal mocked at Abimelech, and said, Who is Abimelech that we should serve him? But he paid for his disdainful language at last (Judg 9). I have heard of an innkeeper here in England, whose sign was the crown, and he was a merry man. Now he had a boy, of whom he used to say, when he was jovial among his guests, This boy is heir to the crown, or this boy shall be heir to the crown; and if I mistake not the story, for these words he lost his life. It is bad jesting with great things, with things that are God's ordinance, as kings and governors are. Yea, let them rather have that fear, that honour, that reverence, that worship, that is due to their place, their office, and dignity. How Paul gave honour and respect unto those that were but deputy-kings and heathen magistrates, will greatly appear, if you do but read his trials before them in the book called, The Acts of the Apostles. And what a charge both he and Peter have left behind them to the churches to do so too, may be found to conviction, if we read their epistles.
Direction 5. Wouldest thou not suffer for evil-doing, then take heed of being offended with magistrates, because by their state acts they may cross thy inclinations. It is given to them to bear the sword, and a command is to thee, if thy heart cannot acquiesce with all things with meekness and patience, to suffer. Discontent in the mind sometimes puts discontent into the mouth; and discontent in the mouth doth sometimes also put a halter about the neck. For as a man, by speaking a word in jest may for that be hanged in earnest; so he that speaks in discontent may die for it in sober sadness. Adonijah's discontent put him upon doing that which cost him his life (1 Kings 2:13,23). Great peace have they that love thy law, and nothing shall offend them; for they are subjected to the will and foot of God.
Direction 6. But, above all, get thy conscience possessed yet more with this, that the magistrate is God's ordinance, and is ordered of God as such: that he is the minister of God to thee for good, and that it is thy duty to fear him, and pray for him, to give thanks to God for him, and to be subject to him as both Paul and Peter admonish us; and that not only for wrath, but for conscience sake (Rom 13:5). For all other arguments come short of binding the soul, where this argument is wanting; until we believe that of God we are bound thereto. I speak not these things, as knowing any that are disaffected to the government; for I love to be alone, if not with godly men, in things that are convenient. But because I appear thus in public, and know not into whose hands these lines may come, therefore thus I write. I speak it also to show my loyalty to the king, and my love to my fellow-subjects; and my desire that all Christians should walk in ways of peach and truth.
[2. That Christians may, and have, suffered according to the will of God.]
I come now to the second thing propounded to be spoken to, as to suffering, which is this.—That there have been, and yet may be, a people in the world that have, and may, suffer in the sense of the apostle here, according to the will of God, or for righteousness' sake.
That there have been such a people in the world, I think nobody will deny, because many of the prophets, Christ, and his apostles, thus suffered. Besides, since the Scriptures were written, all nations can witness to this, whose histories tell at large of the patience and goodness of the sufferers, and of the cruelty of those that did destroy them. And that the thing will yet happen, or come to pass again, both Scripture and reason affirm.
First, Scripture. The text tells us, That God hath put enmity betwixt the woman and her seed, and the serpent and his seed (Gen 3:15). This enmity put, is so fixed that none can remove it so, but that it still will remain in the world. These two seeds have always had, and will have, that which is essentially opposite to one another, and they are "the spirit of truth and the spirit of error" (1 John 4:6), sin and righteousness (3:7,8), light and darkness (1 Thess 5:5). Hence "an unjust man is an abomination to the just; and he that is upright in the way is abomination to the wicked" (Prov 29:27). So that unless you could sanctify and regenerate all men, or cause that no more wicked men should any where be in power for ever, you cannot prevent but that sometimes still there must be sufferers for righteousness' sake. "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Tim 3:12).
Second, To prove this by reason is easy. The devil is not yet shut up in the bottomless pit—Antichrist is yet alive. The government in all kingdoms is not yet managed with such light, and goodness of mind, as to let the saints serve God, as he has said, whatever it is in some. And until then there will be in some places, though for my part I cannot predict where, a people that will yet suffer for well-doing, or for righteousness' sake.
In order to a right handling of this matter, I shall divide this head into these two parts—A. Show you what it is to suffer for well-doing, or for righteousness. B. Show you what it is to suffer for righteousness' sake. I put this distinction, because I find that it is one thing to suffer for righteousness, and another to suffer for righteousness' sake.
[A. What it is to suffer for righteousness.]
To begin with the first, namely, to show you what it is to suffer for righteousness. Now that may be done either passively or actively.
1. Passively, as when any suffer for righteousness without their own will, or consent thereto. Thus, the little children at Bethlehem suffered by the hands of bloody Herod, when they died for, or in the room and stead of, Jesus Christ (Matt 2:16). Every one of those children died for righteousness, if Christ is righteousness; for they died upon his account, as being supposed to be he himself. Thus also the children of Israel's little ones, that were murdered with their parents, or otherwise, because of the religion of them that begat and bare them, died for righteousness. The same may be said concerning those of them that suffered in the land of the Chaldeans upon the same account. I might here also bring in those poor infants that in Ireland, Piedmont, Paris, and other places, have had their throats cut, and their brains dashed out against the walls, for none other cause but for the religion of their fathers. Many, many have suffered for righteousness after this manner. Their will, nor consent, has been in the suffering, yet they have suffered for religion, for righteousness. And as this hath been, so it may be again; for if men may yet suffer for righteousness, even so, for ought I know, even in this sense, may their children also.
Now, although this is not the chief matter of my text, yet a few words here may do no harm. The children that thus suffer, though their own will and consent be not in what they undergo, may yet, for all that, be accepted as an offering unto the Lord. Their cause is good; it is for religion and righteousness. Their hearts do not recoil against the cause for which they suffer; and although they are children, God can deal with them as with John the Baptist, cause them in a moment to leap for joy of Christ; or else can save them by his grace, as he saveth other his elect infants, and thus comprehend them, though they cannot apprehend him; yea, why may they not only be saved, but in some sense be called martyrs of Jesus Christ, and those that have suffered for God's cause in the world? God comforted Rachel concerning her children that Herod murdered in the stead, and upon the account of Christ.
He bids her refrain herself from tears, by this promise, that her children should come again from the land of the enemy, from death. And again, said he, Thy children shall come again to their own border; which I think, if it be meant in a gospel sense, must be to the heavenly inheritance. Compare Jeremiah 31:15- 17 with Matthew 2:18.
And methinks this should be mentioned, not only for her and their sakes, but to comfort all those that either have had, or yet may have, their children thus suffer for righteousness. None of these things, as shall be further showed anon, happen without the determinate counsel of God. He has ordered the sufferings of little children as well as that of persons more in years. And it is easy to think that God can as well foresee which of his elect shall suffer by violent hands in their infancy, as which of them shall then die a natural death. He has saints small in age as well as in esteem or otherwise and sometimes the least member of the body suffereth violence, as well as the head or other chief parts. And although I desire not to see these days again, yet methinks it will please me to see those little ones that thus have already suffered for Jesus, to stand in their white robes with the elders of their people, before the throne, to sing unto the Lamb.
2. Actively. But to pass this, and to come to that which is more directly intended to be spoken to, namely, to show you who doth actively suffer for righteousness. And,
(1.) It is he that chooseth by his own will and consent to suffer for it. All suffering that can be called active suffering, must be by the consent of the will; and that is done when a man shall have sin and suffering set before him, and shall choose suffering rather than sin. He chose "rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season" (Heb 11:25). And again, They did not accept of deliverance, that is, of base and unworthy terms, "that they might obtain a better resurrection" (verse 35).
Indeed, no man can force a Christian to suffer as a Christian, without his own consent. All Christians are sufferers of will and consent. Hence it is said, they must take up their cross, by which taking up, an act of their will is intended (Matt 10:38; 16:24). So again, "Take my yoke upon you," which also intends an act of the will (11:29). This, therefore, is the first thing that I would present you with. Not that an act of the will is enough to declare a man a sufferer for righteousness, it standing alone; for a man, through the strength of delusion, and the power of an erroneous conscience, may be willing to suffer for the grossest opinions in the world. But I bring it to show that actual suffering for righteousness must also be by the consent of the will—the mind of the man must be in it.
(2.) He that suffereth for righteousness thus, must also have a good cause. A good cause is that which is essential to suffering for righteousness. A good cause, what is that? Why, verily, it is the truth of God, either in the whole of it, as contained in the Scriptures of truth, or in the parts of it, as set before me to believe, or do, by any part of that holy Word. This may be called the matter for which one suffereth; or, as it is called in another place, "the word of righteousness" (Heb 5:13). It may also be called the form of sound doctrine, or the like. Because without this Word, the matter and nature of God's truths cannot be known. Pilate's question, "What is truth?" will still abide a question, to those that have not, or regard not the Word, the rule of righteousness (John 18:38). See then that thy cause be good, thou that wouldest know what it is to suffer for righteousness; step not an hair's breadth without the bounds of the Word of truth; also take heed of misunderstanding, or of wringing out of its place, any thing that is there. Let the words of the upright stand upright, warp them not, to the end they may comply in show with any crooked notion. And to prevent this, take these three words as a guide, in this matter to thee. They show men their sins, and how to close with a Saviour; they enjoin men to be holy and humble; they command men to submit themselves to authority. And whatever is cross to these, comes from ignorance of, or from wresting, the rule of righteousness out of its place.
But more particularly, the word of righteousness—thy cause, within the bounds of which thou must keep, if thou wilt suffer for righteousness, is to be divided into two parts. (1.) It containeth a revelation of moral righteousness. (2.) It containeth a revelation of evangelical righteousness. As for moral righteousness, men seldom suffer; only, for that. Because that is the righteousness of the world, and that, simply as such, that sets itself up in every man's conscience, and has a testimony for itself, even in the light of nature. Besides, there is nothing that maketh head against that; but that which every man is ashamed, by words to plead for, and that is immorality. And this is that which Peter intends when he saith, "And if ye be followers of that which is good, who will harm you?" (1 Peter 3:13). If ye be followers of moral goodness. But if it should so happen, for the case is rare, that any man should make you sufferers because you love God, and do good to your neighbour, happy are ye. Though I do not think that the apostle's conclusion terminates there. But more of these things anon.
For let a man be a good neighbour in morals; let him feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give freely out of his purse to the poor, and do that which he would another should do to him; and stop there, and not meddle with the name of Christ, and he shall have but few enemies in the world. For it is not the law, but Christ, that is the stumbling-block, and the rock of offence to men (Isa 8:14,15; Rom 9:31-33).
Wherefore, there is in God's Word a revelation of another righteousness—a righteousness which is not so visible to, yea, and that suiteth not so with, the reason of man as that moral righteousness doth. Wherefore this righteousness makes men righteous in principle, and practise so, as is foreign to natural men. Hence it is said to be foolishness to them (1 Cor 2:14). And again, "Its praise is not of men" (Rom 2:29). This righteousness is also revealed in the Scriptures, but the blind cannot see it. It is the work of the Holy Ghost in the heart, and is therefore called the fruits of the Spirit; and the grace, which in the head and fullness of it, is only to be found in Christ (John 1:16; Col 1:19; 1 Tim 1:14). This righteousness being planted in the heart, leads a man out by the Word of God, to seek for another righteousness, as invisible to, and foreign from, the natural man, as this. And that righteousness is that which properly is the righteousness of Jesus Christ—a righteousness that standeth in his obedience to his Father's law, as he was considered a common or public person—a righteousness which he brought into the world, not for himself, as considered in a private capacity, but for those that shall by faith venture themselves upon him, to obtain by him life eternal (Rom 5:19; Phil 3:7-10).
Again, This closing by faith, with this righteousness thus found in Christ, and being taken therewith, leads me yet to another righteousness, which is instituted worship, appointed by Christ, for all his followers to be conversant in; this worship is grounded on positive precepts, and so on words of righteousness, called Christ's words, Christ's sayings, &c.
Now, upon this bottom begins the difference betwixt the men of God and the world. For, first, by this inward principle of righteousness we come to see, and say, that men by nature are not Christians, what privileges soever they may account themselves partakers thereof. But whosoever is a Christian, of God's making so, is begotten and born of God, and made a new creature by the anointing received from the Holy One (James 1:18; John 3:3,5; 2 Cor 5:17,18; 1:21; 1 John 2:20,24,27). Now, this these carnal men cannot endure to hear of; because it quite excludes them, as such, from a share in the kingdom of heaven. To this, again, the Christian stands and backs what he says by the Word of God. Then the game begins, and the men of the world are thoughtful how they may remove such troublesome fellows out of the way. But because the Christians love their neighbours, and will not let them thus easily die in their sins, therefore they contend with them, both by reasonings, writings, sermons, and books of gospel divinity; and stand to what they say. The world, again, are angry with these sayings, sermons, and books, for that by them they are concluded to be persons that are without repentance, and the hope of eternal life. Here again, the carnal world judges that these people are proud, self- willed, pragmatical, contentious, self-conceited, and so unsufferable people. The Christian yet goes on and stands to what he has asserted. Then the poor world at their last shift begins to turn, and overturn the gospel-man's sayings; perverting, forcing, stretching, and dismembering of them; and so making of them speak what was never thought, much less intended by the believer.
Thus they served our Lord; for, not being able to down with his doctrine, they began to pervert his words, and to make, as also they said afterwards of Luther's, some offensive, some erroneous, some treasonable, and that both against God and Caesar, and so they hanged him up, hoping there to put an end to things. But this is but the beginning of things; for the Christian man, by the word of the gospel, goes further with his censure. For he also findeth fault with all that this man, by the ability of nature, can do for the freeing himself from the law of sin and death. He condemns him by the Word, because he is in a state of nature, and he condemneth also whatever, while in that state, he doth, as that which by no means can please God (Rom 14:23; Heb 11:6). This now puts him more out; this is a taking of his gods away from him. This is to strip him of his raiment, such as it is, and to turn him naked into the presence of God. This, I say, puts him out and out. These wild-brained fellows, quote he, are never content, they find fault with us as to our state; they find fault with us as to our works, our best works. They blame us because we are sinners, and they find fault with us, though we mend; they say, by nature we are no Christians, and that our best doings will not make us such. What would they have us do? Thus, therefore, they renew their quarrel; but the Christian man cannot help it, unless he would see them go to hell, and saying nothing. For the Word of God doth as assuredly condemn man's righteousness, as it doth condemn man's sin; it condemneth not man's righteousness among men, for there it is good and profitable (Job 35:6-8), but with God, to save the soul, it is no better than filthy rags (Isa 64:6).
Nor will this Christian man suffer these carnal ones to delude themselves with a change of terms; for the devil, who is the great manager of carnal men in things that concern their souls, and in the plea that they make for themselves, will help them to tricks and shifts to evade the power of the Word of God. Teaching them to call the beauties of nature grace, and the acts of natural powers the exercise of the graces of the Spirit, he will embolden them also to call man's righteousness the righteousness of Christ, and that by which a sinner may be justified in the sight of God from the law. These tricks the Christian sees, and being faithful to God's truth, and desiring the salvation of his neighbour, he laboureth to discover the fallacy of, and to propound better terms for this poor creature to embrace, and venture his soul upon; which terms are warranted by the New Testament, a stranger to which the natural man is. But, I say, the things which the Christian presseth, being so foreign to nature, and lying so cross to man's best things, are presently judged by the natural man to be fables or foolishness (1 Cor 2:14). Wherefore here again, he takes another occasion to maintain his strife, and contention against the righteous man; raising of slanders upon him, and laying things to his charge that he understandeth not; charging also his doctrine with many grievous things. Namely, that he holdeth that man was made to be damned; that man's righteousness is no better than sin; that a man had as good to do ill as well; that we may believe, and do what we list; that holiness pleaseth not God; and that sinning is the way to cause grace to abound. Besides, say they, he condemneth good motions, and all good beginnings of heart to God-ward; he casteth away that good we have, and would have us depend upon a justice to save us by, that we can by no means approve of. And thus the quarrel is made yet wider between the men of the world and Christian man. But there is not a stop put here.
For it is possible for the carnal man to be beaten out of all his arguments for himself and his own things, by the power and force of the Word; and to be made to consent to what the Christian has said as to the notion of the truth. I must not speak this of all. But yet the breach doth still abide; for that yet there appears to be no more with the man, but only the notion of things. For though the notion of things are those that of God are made the means of conveying of grace into the heart, yet grace is not always with the notion of things; the Word ofttimes standeth in man's understanding alone, and remaineth there, as not being accompanied with such grace as can make it the power of God to salvation. Now, when it is thus with the soul, the danger is as great as ever, because there is a presumption now begotten in the heart that the man is in a saved condition,—a presumption, I say, instead of faith, which puffeth up, instead of enabling the soul after a godly manner to depend upon God for mercy through Christ. This is called the word of them that are puffed up; the word only, because not accompanied with saving grace (1 Cor 4:19; 8:1; 1 Thess 1:5).
This the Christian also sees, and says it is too weak to conduct the soul to glory. And this, indeed, he says, because he would not that his neighbour should come short home. But neither can this be borne; but here again, the natural man with his notion of things is offended; and takes pet against his friend, because he tells him the truth, and would that he so should digest the truth, that it may prove unto him eternal life. Wherefore he now begins to fall out again, for as yet the enmity is not removed; he therefore counts him an unmerciful man, one that condemneth all to hell but himself; and as to his singularity in things, those he counteth for dreams, for enthusiasms, for allegorical whimsies, vain revelations, and the effects of an erroneous judgment. For the Lord has put such darkness betwixt Egypt and Israel, as will not suffer them to come together. But this is not all.
For it is possible for these carnal men to be so much delighted in the notion of things, as to addict themselves to some kind of worship of Christ, whose notions of truth have by them been received. And because their love is yet but carnal, and because the flesh is swelling, and is pleased with pomp and sumptuousness, therefore, to show how great an esteem such have for Christ, whom they are now about to worship, they will first count his testament, though good, a thing defective, and not of fullness sufficient to give, in all particular things, direction how they should, to their own content, perform their glorious doctrine. For here and there, and in another place, cry they, there is something wanting. Here, say they, is nothing said of those places, vestures, gestures, shows, and outward greatness that we think seemly to be found in and with those that worship Jesus. Here wants sumptuous ceremonies, glorious ornaments, new fashioned carriages,  all which are necessary to adorn worship withal.
But now here again, the truly godly, as he comes to see the evil of things, maketh his objections, and findeth fault, and counts them unprofitable and vain (Isa 29; Matt 15; Mark 7). But they again, seeing the things they have made are the very excellencies of human invention, and things added as a supplement to make up what, and wherein, as they think, that man that was faithful over his own house as a son was defective. They are resolved to stand upon their points, and not to budge an inch from the things that are so laudable, so necessary, so convenient, and so comely; the things that have been judged good, by so many wise, learned, pious, holy, reverend, and good men. Nay, if this were all, the godly would make a good shift; but their zeal is so great for what they have invented, and their spirits so hot to make others couch and bend thereto, that none must be suffered to their power to live and breathe, that refuseth to conform thereto. This has been proved too true, both in France, Spain, Germany, Italy, and other places; and upon this account it is that persecution has been kept alive so many hundred years in some places against the church of God.
From what has been said as to these things, this I collect as the sum—First, That man by nature is in a state of wrath and condemnation (Eph 2:1-4; John 3:18). Secondly, That the natural man, by all his natural abilities, is not able to recover himself from this his condemned condition (John 6:44; Eph 1:19,20). Thirdly, That a man may have right notions of gospel things, that hath no grace in his heart (1 Cor 13:2,3). Fourthly, That to add human inventions to Christ's institutions, and to make them of the same force and necessity, of the same authority and efficacy, is nought; and not to be subjected to (Isa 29:13; Matt 15:8,9; Mark 7:6,7).
So then, he that saith these things, saith true; for the Scriptures say the same. This, then, is a good cause to suffer for, if men will that I shall suffer for saying so; because it is that which is founded upon the Word of God; and the Word is the ground and foundation of all true doctrine. Let him, then, that believeth what is here discoursed, and that liveth soberly and peaceably in this belief among his neighbours, stand by what he hath received, and rejoice that he hath found the truth. And if any shall afflict or trouble him for holding of these things, they afflict or trouble him for holding to good things; and he suffereth at their hands because his cause is good.
And such an one may with boldness, as to this, make his appeal to the Bible, which is the foundation of his principles, and to God the author of that foundation, if what he holds is not good. He may say, "Lord, I have said, that man by nature is in a state of condemnation, and they make me suffer for that. Lord, I have asserted that man, by all his natural abilities, is not able to recover himself from this his condemned state, and they make me suffer for that. Lord, I have said that a natural man may have right notions of the gospel, and yet be without the saving grace thereof, and they make me suffer for that. Lord, I cannot consent that human inventions and doctrines of men should be joined with thy institution as matters of worship, and imposed upon my conscience as such, and they make me suffer for that. Lord, I own the government, pray for my superiors, live quietly among my neighbours, give to all their dues, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, relieve the afflicted, and show myself, by my faith and life, to be a true Christian man, and yet my neighbours will not let me alone. True, I cannot comply with all that some men would have me comply with; no more did Daniel, no more did Paul; and yet Daniel said, that he had to the king done no hurt (Dan 6:22), and Paul said, 'neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended anything at all'" (Acts 25:8).
For he that keeps within the compass of God's Word, hurts no man, gives just offence to no man, though he complieth not with all that are modes and ways of worship in the world. Nor can this appeal be judged injurious, if it be not attended with intercessions against them that hate us. But we will pass this, and come to a second thing.
(3.) As he that suffereth for righteousness must have a good cause, so he that suffereth for righteousness must have a good call.
A man, though his cause be good, ought not by undue ways to run himself into suffering for it; nature teaches the contrary, and so doth the law of God. Suffering for a truth ought to be cautiously took in hand, and as warily performed. I know that there are some men that are more concerned here than some; the preacher of the Word is by God's command made the more obnoxious man, for he must come off with a woe, if he preaches not the gospel (1 Cor 9:16). He, therefore, I say, doth and ought more to expose himself than other Christians are called to do. Yet it behoveth him also to beware, because that Christ has said to him, "Behold, I send you forth as sheep, or lambs, in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves" (Matt 10:16; Luke 10:3). A man is not bound by the law of his Lord, to put himself into the mouth of his enemy. Christ withdrew himself; Paul escaped the governor's hands, by being let down in a basket over the wall of the city (2 Cor 11:32,33). And Christ hath said, If they persecute you in one city, flee ye to another. If they will not let me preach here, I will take up my Bible, and be gone. Perhaps this is because I must preach in some other place. A minister can quickly pack up, and carry his religion with him, and offer what he knows of his God to another people (Acts 13:44-47). Nor should a minister strive, I think, with the magistrate for place, or time. But let him hearken to hear what God shall say by such opposition. Perhaps the magistrate must drive thee out of this place, because the soul is in another place that is to be converted, or helped by thy sermon today. We must also in all things, show ourselves to be such as by our profession we would that men should believe we are, to wit, meek, gentle, not strivers, but take our Lord and our brethren the prophets for our examples.
But I will not here presume to give instructions to ministers; but will speak a few words in the general about what I think may be a sufficient call to a man to suffer for righteousness.
First, Every Christian man is bound by God's Word to hold to, or stand by his profession, his profession of faith, and to join to that profession an holy godly life; because the Apostle and High priest of his profession is no less a one than Christ Jesus (Heb 3:1; 10:23). This by Christ himself is expressed thus, Let your light so shine (Matt 5:16). No man lighteth a candle to put it under a bushel. Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning (Luke 12:35). And Paul bids the Philippians hold forth the word of life (Phil 2:16).
And more particularly, by all this, this is intended, that we should hide our faith in Christ from no man, but should rather make a discover of it by a life that will do so; for our profession, thus managed, is the badge, and the Lord's livery, by which we are distinguished from other men. So then, if, while I profess the truth of Christ, and so walk as to make my profession of it more apparent, I be made a sufferer for it, my call is good, and I may be bold in God and in my profession. This, Peter intends when he saith, "But and if ye suffer for righteousness" sake, happy are ye, and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear (1 Peter 3:14,15). Here, then, is a call not to meddle with the other, but to mind our own business; to walk in our Christian profession, and to adorn it with all good works; and if any man will meddle with me, and ask me a reason of the hope that I have, to give it him with meekness and fear, whatever follows thereupon. This, Peter should have done himself there, where he denies his Master thrice.
The reason is, for that Christianity is so harmless a thing, that, be it never so openly professed, it hurts no man. I believe that Christ will save me; what hurt is this to my neighbour? I love Christ because he will save me; what hurt is this to any? I will for this worship Christ as he has bid me; what hurt is this to anybody? I will also tell my neighbours what a loving one my Christ is, and that he is willing to be good to them as he has been good to me; and what hurt is this to the governor of a kingdom? But and if any man will afflict me for this, my cause is good, and also my call to stand full godly to my profession.
Secondly, There is sometimes a call to suffer for righteousness, even from the voice of necessity. That is, either when, by my silence, the truth must fall to the ground; or when, by my shrinking, the souls of other men are in danger. This, I say, is a call to suffer even by the voice of necessity. The case may be when God's ways may be trodden under foot; yea, his Word, and ways, and name, and people, and all. Thus Goliath did do, for several days together (1 Sam 17), and vaunted in his doing; and there was not a man, no, not in Israel, that durst answer him a word. And now was the spirit of David stirred in him, and he would put his life in his hand, and give this man an answer; and he saw there was reason for it—necessity gave him a call. Is there not a cause, saith he, lies bleeding upon the ground, and no man of heart or spirit to put a check to the bold blasphemer? I will go fight with him; I will put my life in my hand; if I die, I die.
Consider also what Daniel did when the law was gone out to forbid, for thirty days, petitioning any god or man, save the king only. At that time, also, not a man of Israel peeped (Dan 6:7). Now necessity walks about the streets, crying, Who is on the Lord's side? Who, &c. And Daniel answers, I am, by opening of his window, and praying, as at other times, three times a day, with his face towards Jerusalem (verse 10). He heard this voice of necessity, and put his life in his hand, and complied with it, to the hazard of being torn in pieces by the lions.
Much like this was that of the three children; for when that golden image was set up, and worship commanded to be done unto it, not one, that we read of, durst stand upright when the time was come that bowing was the sign of worship. Only the three children would not bow: it was necessary that some should show that there was a God in heaven, and that divine worship was due alone to him (Dan 3:10-12). But they run the hazard of being turned to ashes, in a burning fiery furnace, for so doing. But necessity has a loud voice, and shrill in the ears of a tender conscience: this voice will awake jealousy and kindle a burning fire within, for the name, and cause, and way, and people, of the God of heaven.
Thirdly, There is sometimes a call to suffer for righteousness by the voice of providence. That is, when, by providence, I am cast for my profession into the hands of the enemies of God and his truth; then I am called to suffer for it what God shall please to let them lay upon me. Only, for the making of my way more clear in this matter, I will deliver what I have to say, with a caution or two. 1. Thou must take heed that thy call be good to this or that place, at which, by providence, thou art delivered up. 2. Thou must also take heed that, when thou art there, thou busiest thyself in nothing but that that good is. 3. Thou must also take heed that thou stay there no longer than while thou mayest do good or receive good there. 4. Thus far a man is in the way of his duty, and therefore may conclude that the providence of God, under which now he is, is such as has mercy and salvation in the bowels of it, whatsoever is by it, at the present, brought upon him.
Christ Jesus, our Lord, though his death was determined, and of absolute necessity, and that chiefly for which he came into the world, chose rather to be taken in the way of his duty than in any other way or anywhere else. Wherefore, when the hour was come, he takes with him some of his disciples, and goeth into a garden, a solitary place, to pray; which done, he sets his disciples to watch, and falleth himself to prayer. So he prays once; he prays twice; he prays thrice: and he giveth also good doctrine to his disciples. And now, behold, while he was here, in the way of his duty, busying himself in prayer to God, and in giving of good instruction to his followers, upon him comes Judas and a multitude with swords and staves, and weapons, to take him; to which providence he, in all meekness, submits, for he knew that by it he had a call to suffer (Matt 26:36-47).
In this way, also, the apostles were called to suffer, even while they were in the way of their duty. Yea, God bid them go into the temple to preach, and there delivered them into the hands of their enemies (Acts 4:1-3; 5:20-26).
Be we in the way of our duty, in the place and about the work unto which we are called of God, whether that work be religious or civil, we may, without fear, leave the issue of things to God, who only doth wonderful things. And he who lets not a sparrow fall to the ground without his providence, will not suffer a hair of our head to perish but by his order (Luke 12:6,7). And since he has engaged us in his work, as he has if he has called us to it, we may expect that he will manage, and also bear us out therein; either so as by giving of us a good deliverance by way of restoration to our former liberty and service for him, or so as to carry us well out of this world to them that, under the altar, are crying, How long, holy and true: nor shall we, when we come there, repent that we suffered for him here. Oh! how little do saints, in a suffering condition, think of the robes, the crowns, the harps, and the Son that shall be given to them; and that they shall have when they come upon mount Zion (Rev 6:11; 14:1-7).
Fourthly, There is sometimes a call to suffer for righteousness by an immediate and powerful impulse of the Spirit of God upon the heart. This, I say, is sometimes, and but sometimes; for this is not God's ordinary way, nor are many of his servants called after this manner to suffer for righteousness. Moses was called thus to suffer when he went so often unto Pharaoh with the message of God in his mouth. And "he endured, as seeing him who is invisible" (Heb 11:25-27).
Paul was called thus to suffer, and he obeyed, and went, and performed that work, according to the will of God. This kind of call Paul calls a binding, or a being bound in the Spirit, because the Holy Ghost had laid such a command upon him to do so, that he could not, by any means, get from under the power of it. "And now, behold," saith he, "I go bound in the Spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befal me there" (Acts 20:22). For he that is under this call has, as I said, bonds laid upon his spirit, which carry him to the place where his testimony is to be borne for God; nor shall he, if he willingly submits and goes, as Paul did, but have an extraordinary presence of God with him, as he. And see what a presence he had; for after the second assault was given him by the enemy, even "the night following, the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul; for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome" (Acts 23:11). Thus God meeteth his people in their service for him, when he calls them aloud to do great service for him. The power of such a call as this, I say, is great, and men of ordinary spirits must needs give place thereto, and leave a man thus bound to the God that thus has bound him. All the help such can afford him is to follow him with our prayers, not to judge him or grieve him, or lay stumbling-blocks before him. No; they must not weep nor mourn for him, so as to make him sorrowful (Acts 21:12-14).
His friends may suggest unto him what is like to attend his present errand, as Agabus did by the Spirit to Paul when he took his girdle and bound himself therewith, to show him how his enemies should serve him whither he went. "Thus said the Holy Ghost," said he, "so shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles" (Acts 21). But if this call be indeed upon a man, all sorrow is turned into joy before him; for he is ready, not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 21:13).
Instances, also, of later times might be given of a call extraordinary to suffer for righteousness. For many, in the first three hundred years' persecution, when nobody knew what they were, would boldly come up to the face of their enemies and tell what they were, and suffer for what they professed, the death. I remember, also, the woman who, when her friends were gone before to suffer, how she came running and panting after, for fear she should not come thither time enough to suffer for Jesus Christ.
But I will give you an instance of later times, even in the beginning of Queen Elizabeth's reign, of an Hertfordshire man that went as far as Rome to bear his testimony for God against the wickedness of that place. This man, when he was arrived there, and had told them wherefore he was come, they took and condemned him to death, to wit, to be burned for an heretic. Now he was to ride from the prison to the place of execution upon an ass, with his face to the beast's tail, and was to be stripped from the shoulders to the waist, that he might be tormented all the way he went with burning torches continually thrust to his sides; but he, nothing at all afraid, spake in his exhortation to the people to fly from their sin and idolatry; he would also catch hold of the torches and put them to his sides, to show how little he esteemed the worst that they could do. Also, when he was come to the place of execution, he suffered there such cruelty, with so unconcerned a mind, and with such burning zeal for God's truth, testified against them while he could speak; that, all amazed, his enemies cried, he could not have suffered as he did but by the help of the devil. His name I have now forgot, but you will find it, with the story at large, in the third volume of Acts and Monuments, at the 1022 page.  But we will pass this, and come to our second particular, namely,
[B. What it is to suffer for righteousness' sake.]
To show when it may be said a man doth not only suffer for righteousness, but also for righteousness' sake.
To suffer for righteousness' sake must be either with the intention of the persecutor or else of the persecuted. The persecutor, whatever the person's suffering is, if he afflicteth this person for a supposed good that he thinketh he hath or professeth, he make him suffer for righteousness' sake. So that, in this sense, a man that hath no grace may not only suffer for righteousness, but also for righteousness' sake. But this I intend not, because the text is not concerned with it.
The thing, therefore, now intended to be spoken to, is this, namely, when a man may be said to suffer what he suffereth upon a religious account, of love to, or for the sake of, that good that he finds in the truths of God, or because his heart is joined and espoused to the good of the truths that he professeth; not that there is any thing in any truth of God that is not good; but a man may profess truth, not for the sake of the goodness that is in it, but upon a remote account. Judas professed truth, not of love to the truth, but of love to the bag, and to the money that was put therein. Men may profess for a wife, for a trade, for friendship, or because profession is at such a time or in such a place, in fashion. I wish that there were no cause to say this. Now there is not any of these that profess the truth for the truth's sake, that profess the truth of love to it; nor shall they, should they suffer as professors, never so long, never so much, never so grievously, be counted of God among them that suffer for righteousness' sake; that is, of unfeigned love to righteousness. Wherefore, that I may show you who may be said to suffer for righteousness' sake, I will propound and speak to several things.
1. Then, he that suffereth in the apostle's sense, for well-doing, or for righteousness' sake, sets his face against nothing but sin. He resisteth unto blood, striving against sin. Sin is the object of his indignation, because it is an enemy to God, and to his righteous cause in the world (Heb 12:3,4). Sin, I say, is that which such a man singleth out as his opposite, as his antagonist, and that against which his heart is set. It is a rare thing to suffer aright, and to have my spirit, in my suffering, bent only against God's enemy—sin; sin in doctrine, sin in worship, sin in life, sin in conversation. Now then, he that suffereth for righteousness' sake has singled out sin to pursue it to death, long before he comes to the cross. It is sin, alas, and his hatred to it that have brought him into this condition. He fell out with sin at home, in his own house, in his own heart, before he fell out with sin in the world, or with sin in public worship. For he that can let sin go free and uncontrolled at home within, let him suffer while he will, he shall not suffer for righteousness' sake. And the reason is, because a righteous soul, as the phrase is, 2 Peter 2:8, has the greatest antipathy against that sin that is most ready to defile it, and that is, as David calls it, one's own iniquity, or the sin that dwelleth in one's own flesh. I have kept me, says he, from mine iniquity, from mine own sin. People that are afraid of fire are concerned most with that that burneth in their own chimney; they have the most watchful eye against that that is like to burn down their own house first.
He also that suffereth for righteousness' sake, doth it also because he would not that sin should cleave to the worship of God; and, indeed, this is mostly the cause of the sufferings of the godly. They will not have to do with that worship that hath sinful traditions commixed with God's appointments, because they know that God is jealous of his worship; and has given a strict charge that all things be done according to the pattern showed to us in the mount. He knows also that God will not be with that worship, and those worshippers, that have not regard to worship by the rule of the testament of Christ. He is also against the sin that is apt to cleave to himself while he standeth in the presence of God. I will wash mine hands in innocency, so will I compass thine altar, O Lord. This man also chooses to be in the practical parts of worship, if possible, for he knows that to have to do about holy things sincerely is the way to be at the remotest distance from sin. He chooses also to be with those holy ones that are of the same mind with him against sin; for he knows that two are better than one, and that a threefold cord is not easily broken. Wherefore look to yourselves, you that do, or may be called to suffer for religion: if you bend not yourselves against sin, if to be revenged of sin be not the cause of your suffering, you cannot be said to suffer for righteousness' sake. Take heed, therefore, that something else be not an inducement to thee to suffer. A man may suffer to save what he has: there is credit also and an applause; there is shame to conform; there is carnal stoutness of spirit; there is hatred of persecutors and scorn to submit; there is fear of contempt and of the reproach of the people, &c. These may be motives and arguments to a suffering state, and may really be the ground of a man's being in the jail; though he cries out in the meanwhile of popery, of superstition, and idolatry, and of the errors that attend the common modes of the religions of the world. I charge no man as though I knew any such thing by any; but I suggest these things as things that are possible, and mention them because I would have sufferers have a care of themselves; and watch and pray, because no man can be upright here that is not holy, that cannot pray, and watch, and deny himself for the love that he has to righteousness. I said it before, and will say it again, it is a rare thing to be set in downrightness of heart against sin.
2. Is it for the sake of righteousness that thou sufferest? Then it is because thou wouldest have righteousness promoted, set up, and established in the world; also thou art afflicted at those advantages that iniquity gets upon men, upon things, and against thyself. "I beheld," said David, "the transgressors, and was grieved; because men kept not thy word" (Psa 119:158). And again, These are they that mourn for the abominations that are done among men (Eze 9:4). There is a great deal of talk about religion, a great deal of pleading for religion, namely, as to the formalities of this and the other way. But to choose to be religious, that I might be possessed with holiness, and to choose that religion that is most apt to possess me with it, if I suffer for this, I suffer for righteousness' sake. Wherefore say thus to thy soul, thou that art like to suffer for righteousness, How is it with the most inward parts of my soul? What is there? What designs, desires, and reachings out are there? Why do I pray? Why do I read? Why do I hear? Why do I haunt and frequent places and ordinances appointed for worship? Is it because I love holiness? would promote righteousness, because I love to see godliness show itself in others, and because I would feel more of the power of it in myself? If so, and if thou sufferest for thy profession, thou sufferest, not only for righteousness, but also for righteousness' sake. Dost thou thus practise, because thou wouldest be taught to do outward acts of righteousness, and because thou wouldest provoke others to do so too? Dost thou show to others how thou lovest righteousness, by taking opportunities to do righteousness? How is it, dost thou show most mercy to thy dog,  or to thine enemy, to thy swine, or to the poor? Whose naked body hast thou clothed? Whose hungry belly hast thou fed? Hast thou taken delight in being defrauded and beguiled? Hast thou willingly sat down by the loss with quietness, and been as if thou hadst not known, when thou hast been wronged, defamed, abused, and all because thou wast not willing that black-mouthed men should vilify and reproach religion upon thy account (1 Cor 6:7)?
He that loveth righteousness will do thus, yea, and do it as unto God, and of tenderness to the Word of God which he professeth. And he that thinks to make seeing men believe, that when he suffereth, he suffereth for righteousness' sake, and yet is void in his life of moral goodness, and that has no heart to suffer and bear, and put up, and pass by injuries in his conversation among his enemies at home, is deceived.
There are some Scriptures that are as if they were out of date among some professors, specially such as call for actual holiness and acts of self-denial for God; but it will be found, at the day of judgment, that they only are the peculiar people that are "zealous of good works" (Titus 2:14). God help us, it is hard now to persuade professors to come up to negative holiness, that is, to leave undone that which is bad; and yet this of itself comes far short of ones being found in practical goodness.
But this is the man that suffereth, when he suffereth for righteousness' sake, that makes it his business, by all lawful means, according to the capacity that God has put him in, to promote, set up, and establish righteousness in the world; I say this is the man that suffereth for righteousness' sake, that suffereth for so doing; and I am sure that a life that is moral, when joined to the profession of the faith of the things that are of the Spirit of God, is absolutely necessary to the promoting of righteousness in the world. Hence Peter tells them that suffer for righteousness' sake, that they must have "a good conscience"—a good conscience towards God, towards men, towards friends, towards enemies (1 Peter 3:14-16; Acts 24:16; 23:1). They must have a good conscience in all things, being willing, ready, desirous to live honestly, godly, and righteously in this world, or else they cannot, though they may suffer for the best doctrine under heaven, suffer for righteousness' sake (Heb 13:18). Wherefore,
3. Is it for righteousness' sake that thou sufferest? then thy design is the ruin of sin. This depends upon what was said before; for he that strives against sin, that seeks to promote righteousness, he designs the ruin of sin. "Be not," said Paul to the suffering Romans, "overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rom 12:21). To overcome evil with good is a hard task. To rail it down, to cry it down, to pray kings, and parliaments, and men in authority to put it down, this is easier than to use my endeavour to overcome it with good, with doing of good, as I said before. And sin must be overcome with good at home, before thy good can get forth of doors to overcome evil abroad.
Abraham overcame evil with good, when he quieted the discontent of Lot and his herdsmen, with allowing of them to feed their cattle in the best of what God had given him (Gen 13:7,8).
David overcame evil with good, when he saved the life of his bloody enemy that was fallen into his hand; also when he grieved that any hurt should come to them that sought nothing so much as his destruction. "They rewarded me," saith he, "evil for good, to the spoiling of my soul. But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth. I humbled my soul with fasting, I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother; I bowed down heavily, as one that mourneth for his mother." This is to overcome evil with good (Psa 35:12-14).
Job saith concerning his enemy, that he did not rejoice when evil found him; "neither have I," said he, "suffered my mouth to sin by wishing a curse to his soul." He means he did the quite contrary, and so overcame evil with good (Job 31:29,30).
Elisha overcame evil with good, when he received the men that came for his life, and had them where he might feast, and comfort them, and sent them home in peace to their master (2 Kings 6:19-23).
The New Testament also is full of this, both in exhortations and examples, In exhortations where it is said, resist not evil, that is, with evil, but overcome evil with good (Prov 24:29). "But whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.—And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee; and from him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away.—Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven, for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil, and on the good - on the just, and on the unjust" (Matt 5:39-45). "Bless them that persecute you: bless and curse not" (Rom 12:14). "Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing, but contrariwise, blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing" (1 Peter 3:9; Rom 12:14). This is righteousness—these are righteous courses. And as these are preceptively propounded, so they were as practically followed by them that were eminently godly in the primitive church.
"We are fools for Christ's sake," said Paul, "we are despised, we are hungry, thirsty, naked, and buffeted.—Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it; being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the earth, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day" (1 Cor 4:10-13). This is overcoming of evil with good, and he that has chosen to himself that religion that teaches these things, and that loves that religion because it so teacheth him; if he suffereth for it, he suffereth for righteousness' sake.
4. He that suffereth for righteousness' sake, will carry righteousness whithersoever he goes. Neither the enemy, nor thy sufferings, shall be able to take righteousness from thee. Righteousness must be thy chamber mate, thy bed companion, thy walking mate: it is that without which thou wilt be so uncouth, as if thou couldest not live (Psa 26: 25:21).
Paul in his sufferings would have righteousness with him, for it must be as it were his armour-bearer; yea, his very armour itself (2 Cor 6:7). It is an excellent saying of Job, "I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my judgment was as a robe and a diadem. I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame; I was a father to the poor," &c. (Job 29:11-16). "Princes," said David also, "did sit and speak against me, but thy servant did meditate in thy statues" (Psa 119:23). A man that loves righteousness doth as Abraham did with his Sarah, carry it every where with him, though he goes, because of that, in danger of his life. Righteousness! It is the only intimate that a Christian has. It is that by which he takes his measures, that with which he consults, with respect to what he doth, or is to do, in the world. "Thy testimonies," said David also, "are my delight, and my counsellors." The men of my counsel, in the margin (Psa 119:24).
David! He was the man of affliction; the suffering man in his day; but in all places where he came, he had righteousness, the law and godly practice with him. It was his counsellor, as he was a man, a saint, a king. I dare say, for the man that suffers righteousness to be rent away from him by the violence and rage of men, and that casts it away, as David did Saul's armour, that he may secure himself; he has no great love for righteousness, nor to the cross for righteousness' sake. "My righteousness I hold fast," said Job, "and will not let it go: my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live" (Job 27:6). What? part with righteousness! A righteous Lord! A righteous Word! A righteous profession! A righteous life! to sleep in a whole skin: the Lord forbid it me, and all that he has counted worthy to be called by his name. Let us carry it with us from the bed to the cross, and then it shall carry us from thence to the crown. Let it be our companion to prison and death, then shall we show that we are lovers of righteousness, and that we choose to suffer for righteousness' sake.
5. Dost thou suffer for righteousness' sake? why then, thy righteousness is not diminished, but rather increased by thy sufferings. Righteousness thriveth best in affliction, the more afflicted, the more holy man; the more persecuted, the more shining man (Acts 6:15). The prison is the furnace, thy graces are the silver and the gold; wherefore, as the silver and the gold are refined by the fire, and so made more to show their native brightness, so the Christian that hath, and that loveth righteousness, and that suffereth for its sake, is by his sufferings refined and made more righteous, and made more Christian, more godly (Zech 13:9). Some, indeed, when they come there, prove lead, iron, tin, and at the best, but the dross of silver; and so are fit for nothing, but there to be left and consumed, and to bear the badge, if ever they come from thence, of reprobate silver from the mouth and sentence of their neighbours (Eze 22:18-22; Jer 6:28-30). But when I, says Job, am tried, "I shall come forth as gold" (Job 23:10).
When Saul had cast one javelin at David, it made him walk wisely in all his ways. But when he added to his first fury, plots to take away his life, then David behaved himself yet more wisely (1 Sam 18:10-30). The hotter the rage and fury of men are against righteous ways, the more those that love righteousness grow therein. For they are concerned for it, not to hide it, but to make it spangle; not to extinguish it, but to greaten it, and to show the excellency of it in all its features, and in all its comely proportion. Now such an one will make straight steps for his feet, "let that which is lame be turned out of the way" (Heb 12:13). Now he shows to all men what faith is, by charity, by self-denial, by meekness, by gentleness, by long-suffering, by patience, by love to enemies, and by doing good to them that hate us; now he walketh upon his high places. Yea, will not now admit that so slovenly a conversation should come within his doors, as did use to haunt his house in former times. Now it is Christmas, now it is suffering time, now we must keep holy day every day. The reason is, for that a man, when he suffereth for Christ, is set upon a hill, upon a stage, as in a theatre, to play a part for God in the world. And you know when men are to play their parts upon a stage, they count themselves, if possible, more bound to circumspection; and that for the credit of their master, the credit of their art, and the credit of themselves. For then the eyes of every body are fixed, they gape and stare upon them (Psa 22:17). And a trip here is as bad as a fall in another place. Also now God himself looks on. Yea, he laugheth, as being pleased to see a good behaviour attending the trial of the innocent.
(1.) He that suffereth for righteousness' sake suffereth for his goodness, and he is now to labour by works and ways to convince the world that he suffereth as such an one. (2.) He that suffereth for righteousness' sake has many that are weak to strengthen by his sweet carriages under the cross, wherefore he had need to exceed in virtue. (3.) He also is by well-doing to put to silence the ignorance of foolish men, he had need be curious and circumspect in all his actions. (4.) He is to come in, and to be a judge, and to condemn, by his faith and patience in his sufferings, the world, with his Lord and fellows, at the appearing of Jesus Christ; he had need be holy himself. This, therefore, is the fit sign of suffering for righteousness' sake (1 Cor 6:1-5; Heb 11:7; 2 Thess 1:5,6; 1 Peter 4:3-5).
6. He that suffereth, not only for righteousness, but also for righteousness' sake, will not exchange his cause, though for it in a jail, for all the ease and pleasure in the world. They that suffered for righteousness' sake of old, were tempted before they were sawn asunder (Heb 11). Tempted, that is, allured, to come out of their present sufferings, and leave their faith and profession in irons behind them. Tempted with promises of promotion, of ease, of friendship, of favour with men. As the Devil said to Christ, so persecutors of old did use to make great promises to sufferers, if they would fall down and worship. But his is alone as if they should say, Butcher, make away with your righteousness, and a good conscience, and you shall find the friendship of the world. For there is no way to kill a man's righteousness but by his own consent. This, Job's wife knew full well, hence she tempted him to lay violent hands upon his own integrity (Job 2:9).
The Devil, nor men of the world can kill thy righteousness or love to it, but by thy own hand; or separate that and thee asunder, without thine own act. Nor will he that doth indeed suffer for the sake of it, or of love he bears thereto, be tempted to exchange it for the goods of all the world. It is a sad sight to see a man that has been suffering for righteousness, restored to his former estate, while the righteousness for which he suffered, remains under locks and irons, and is exposed to the scorn, contempt, reproach of the world, and trodden under the foot of men. "It is better," said Paul, "for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void." And it had been a hundred times better for that man, if he had never known the way of righteousness, than after he has known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto him.
The striving is, in persecution, for righteousness; to wit, whether it shall be set up, or pulled down. The sufferer, he is for setting up, and the persecutors are for pulling down. Thus they strive for the mastery. Now, if a man stands by his righteousness, and holds fast his good profession, then is righteousness set up; nor can it, so long, be pulled down. Hence, so long a man is said to overcome; and overcome he doth, though he be killed for his profession. But if he starts back, gives place, submits, recants, or denieth any longer to own that good thing that he professed, and exposed himself to suffering for; then he betrays his cause, his profession, his conscience, his righteousness, his soul, and all; for he has delivered up his profession to be murdered before his face: A righteous man falling down before the wicked, is as a troubled fountain, and a corrupt spring (Prov 25:26). But this, I hope, will not he do that loveth righteousness, and that suffereth for righteousness' sake. I do not say but that a man may slip here, with Peter, Origen, Hierom, Cranmer, Baynham, Ormis, and other good folk; but be he one of the right kind, a lover of righteousness indeed, he will return, and take revenge upon himself in a godly way, for so ungodly a fact.
7. He that suffereth not only for righteousness, but also for righteousness sake, is not so wedded to his own notions as to slight or overlook the good that is in his neighbour. But righteousness he loves wherever he finds it, though it be in him that smiteth him (Psa 141:5). Yea, he will own and acknowledge it for the only thing that is of beauty and glory in the world. With the excellent in the earth is all such a man's delight. Wherefore I put a difference betwixt suffering for an opinion and suffering for righteousness; as I put a difference between suffering for righteousness and suffering for righteousness' sake.
If righteousness, if the stamp of God, if divine authority, is not found upon that thing which I hold, let men never suffer for it under the notion of righteousness. If sin, if superstition, if idolatry, if derogation from the wisdom of Christ, and the authority and perfection of his Word, be not found in, nor joined to that thing that I disown in worship, let me never open my mouth against it. I had rather fall in with, and be an associate of a righteous man that has no true grace, than with a professor that has no righteousness. It is said of the young man, though he went away from Christ, that he looked upon him and loved him (Mark 10:17-22). But it is not said that ever he loved Judas. I know that the righteousness for which a good man suffereth, is not then embraced of the world, for that at such a time it is under a cloud. But yet there is righteousness also in the world, and wherever I see it, it is of a high esteem with me. David acknowledged some of his enemies to be more righteous than he acknowledged some of his servants to be (2 Sam 4:9- 11; 3:31-35). It is a brave thing to have righteousness, as righteousness, to be the top-piece in mine affections. The reason why Christ was anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows, was, because he loved righteousness, and hated iniquity more than they (Heb. 1:9). Love to righteousness flows from golden graces, and is that, and that only, that can make a man capable of suffering, in our sense, for righteousness' sake.
8. He that suffereth not only for righteousness, but also for righteousness' sake, will take care that his sufferings be so managed with graciousness of words and actions, that it may live when he is dead; yea, and it will please him too, if righteousness flourishes, though by his loss. Hence it is that Paul said, he rejoiced in his suffering, Colossians 1:24; namely, because others got good thereby. And that he said, "Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all" (Phil 2:17). But why rejoice in this? Why, because though his sufferings were to the distressing of his flesh, yet they were to the refreshing, comfort, and stability of others. This was it also that made him jostle with the false brethren among the churches; to wit, "that the truth of the gospel might continue with them" (Gal 2:5).
When a man shall run the hazard of the ruin of what he has, and is, for righteousness, for the good and benefit of the church of God; that man, he managing himself by the rule, if he suffers for so doing, suffers not only for righteousness, but also for righteousness' sake. "I endure all things," said Paul, "for the elect's sake, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory" (2 Tim 2:10). Here was love, you will say, to persons; and I will say also, to things; to all the righteousnesses of God that are revealed in the world, that all the elect might enjoy them to their eternal comfort and glory, by Christ Jesus. For "whether we be afflicted," says he, "it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation" (2 Cor 1:6).
The end of a man and his design, if that be to promote righteousness, he using lawful means to accomplish it, is greatly accepted of God by Christ; and it is a sign he is a lover of righteousness; and that if he suffereth for so doing, he suffereth not for well-doing, only as to matter of fact, but also for his love to the good thing done, and for its sake.