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The reward is no less than the adoption and inheritance of sons; for "he hath given unto us power to be called the sons of God;" for he is the Father of peace, and the sons of peace are the sons of God, and therefore have a title to the inheritance of sons, to be heirs with God, and co-heirs with Christ, in the kingdom of peace, and essential and neverfailing charity.
18. Eighthly: " Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." This being the hardest command in the whole discipline of Jesus, is fortified with a double blessedness; for it follows immediately," Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you;" meaning, that all persecution for a cause of righteousness, though the affliction be instanced only in reproachful language, shall be a title to the blessedness. Any suffering, for any good or harmless action, is a degree of martyrdom. It being the greatest testimony in the world of the greatest love, to quit that for God which hath possessed our most natural, regular, and orderly affections. It is a preferring God's cause before our own interest; it is a loving of virtue without secular ends; it is the noblest, the most resigned, ingenuous, valiant act in the world, to die for God, whom we never have seen; it is the crown of faith, the confidence of hope, and our greatest charity. The primitive churches living under persecution commenced many pretty opinions concerning the state and special dignity of martyrs, apportioning to them one of the three coronets which themselves did knit, and supposed as pendants to the great "crown of righteousness." They made it suppletory of baptism, expiatory of sin, satisfactory of public penances; they placed them in bliss immediately, declared them to need no after-prayer, such as the devotion of those times used to pour upon the graves of the faithful: with great prudence they did endeavour to alleviate this burden, and sweeten the bitter chalice; and they did it by such doctrines,
Animas prælio aut suppliciis peremptorum æternas putant. Hinc moriendi contemptus. - C. Tacitus de Judæis.
which did only remonstrate this great truth, That since "no love was greater than to lay down our lives," nothing could be so great but God would indulge to them. And indeed, whatsoever they said in this had no inconvenience, nor would it now, unless men should think mere suffering to be sufficient to excuse a wicked life, or that they be invited to dishonour an excellent patience with the mixture of an impure action. There are many who would die for Christ if they were put to it, and yet will not quit a lust' for him: those are hardly to be esteemed Christ's martyrs: unless they be "dead unto sin," their dying for an article, or a good action, will not pass the great scrutiny. And it may be boldness of spirit, or sullenness, or an honourable gallantry of mind, or something that is excellent in civil and political estimate, moves the person, and endears the suffering; but that love only "which keeps the commandments" will teach us to die for love, and from love to pass to blessedness through the red sea of blood. And, indeed, it is more easy to die for chastity, than to live with it and many women have been found, who suffered death under the violence of tyrants for defence of their holy vows and purity, who, had they long continued amongst pleasures, courtships, curiosities, and importunities of men, might perchance have yielded that to a lover, which they denied to an executioner. St. Cyprian observes, that our blessed Lord, in admitting the innocent babes of Bethlehem first to die for him, did, to all generations of Christendom, consign this lesson, That only persons holy and innocent were fit to be Christ's martyrs. And I remember, that the prince of the Latin poets', over against the region and seats of infants, places in the shades below persons that suffered death wrongfully; but adds, that this their death was not enough to place them in such blessed mansions, but the Judge first made inquiry into their lives, and accordingly designed their station. It is certain, that such dyings, or
Non est autem consentaneum, qui metu non frangatur, eum frangi cupiditate; nec qui invictum se à labore præstiterit, vinci à voluptate.Cic. de Offic. lib. i.
s Tertul. de Castit.
Hos juxta falso damnati crimine mortis.
Nec verò hæ sine sorte datæ, sine judice, sedes;
Quæsitor Minos urnam movet; ille silentûm
Conciliumque vocat, vitasque et crimina discit.— Virg. Æneid. 6.
great sufferings, are heroical actions, and of power to make great compensations, and redemptions of time, and of omissions and imperfections; but if the man be unholy, so also are his sufferings": for heretics have died, and vicious persons have suffered in a good cause, and a dog's neck may be cut off in sacrifice, and swine's blood may fill the trench about the altar: but God only accepts the sacrifice which is pure and spotless, first seasoned with salt, then seasoned with fire. The true martyr must have all the preceding graces, and then he shall receive all the beatitudes.
19. The acts of this duty are: 1. Boldly to confess the faith, nobly to exercise public virtues, not to be ashamed of any thing that is honest, and rather to quit our goods, our liberty, our health, and life itself, than to deny what we are bound to affirm, or to omit what we are bound to do, or to pretend contrary to our present persuasion. 2. To rejoice in afflictions; counting it honourable to be conformable to Christ, and to wear the cognizance of Christianity, whose certain lot it is to suffer the hostility and violence of enemies, visible and invisible. 3. Not to revile our persecutors, but to bear the cross with evenness, tranquillity, patience, and charity. 4. To offer our sufferings to the glory of God, and to join them with the passions of Christ, by doing it in love to God, and obedience to his sanctions, and testimony of some part of his religion, and designing it as a part of duty. The reward is "the kingdom of heaven;" which can be no other but eternal salvation, in case the martyrdom be consummate and "they also shall be made perfect*;" so the words of the reward were read in Clement's time. If it be less, it keeps its proportion: all suffering persons are the combination of saints; they make the church, they are the people of the kingdom, and heirs of the covenant. For if they be but confessors, and confess Christ in prison, though they never preach upon the rack or under the axe, yet "Christ will confess them before his heavenly Father;" and "they shall have a portion where they shall never be persecuted any
" Athleta non vincit statim quia eruitur, nec ideo transnatant quia se spoliant. Sever. Ep. 2.
* Οτι ἀυτοὶ ἔσονται τέλειοι.
y Sic etiam olim legebatur hæc periodus ; ὅτι ἕξουσι τόπον ὅπου οὐ διωχθήσονται.
O blessed Jesus, who art become to us the fountain of peace and sanctity, of righteousness and charity, of life and perpetual benediction, imprint in our spirits these glorious characterisms of Christianity, that we by such excellent dispositions may be consigned to the infinity of blessedness, which thou camest to reveal, and minister, and exhibit to mankind. Give us great humility of spirit; and deny us not, when we beg sorrow of thee, the mourning and sadness of true penitents, that we may imitate thy excellences, and conform to thy sufferings. Make us meek, patient, indifferent, and resigned in all accidents, changes, and issues of Divine providence. Mortify all inordinate anger in us, all wrath, strife, contention, murmurings, malice, and envy; and interrupt, and then blot out, all peevish dispositions and morosities, all disturbances and unevenness of spirit or of habit, that may hinder us in our duty. Oh teach me so to "hunger and thirst after" the ways of "righteousness," that it may be "meat and drink” to me to do thy Father's will." Raise my affections to heaven and heavenly things, fix my heart there, and prepare a treasure for me, which I may receive in the great diffusions and communications of thy glory. And, in this sad interval of infirmity and temptations, strengthen my hopes, and fortify my faith, by such emissions of light and grace from thy Spirit, that I may relish those blessings which thou preparest for thy saints with so great appetite, that I may despise the world and all its gilded vanities, and may desire nothing but the crown of righteousness, and the paths that lead thither, the graces of thy kingdom and the glories of it; that when I have served thee in holiness and strict obedience, I may reign with thee in the glories of eternity: for thou, O holy Jesus, art our hope, and our life, and glory, our exceeding great reward. Amen.
Merciful Jesu, who art infinitely pleased in demonstrations of thy mercy, and didst descend into a state of misery,
suffering persecution and affronts, that thou mightest give us thy mercy, and reconcile us to thy Father, and make us partakers of thy purities; give unto us tender bowels, that we may suffer together with our calamitous and necessitous brethren, that we, having a fellow-feeling of their miseries, may use all our powers to help them, and ease ourselves of our common sufferings. But do thou, O holy Jesus, take from us also all our great calamities, the carnality of our affections, our sensualities and impurities, that we may first be pure, then peaceable, living in peace with all men, and preserving the peace which thou hast made for us with our God, that we may never commit a sin which may interrupt so blessed an atonement. Let neither hope nor fear, tribulation nor anguish, pleasure nor pain, make us to relinquish our interest in thee, and our portion of the everlasting covenant. But give us hearts constant, bold, and valiant, to confess thee before all the world in the midst of all disadvantages and contradictory circumstances, choosing rather to beg, or to be disgraced, or afflicted, or to die, than quit a holy conscience, or renounce an article of Christianity that we, either in acts, when thou shalt call us, or always in preparation of mind, suffering with thee, may also reign with thee in the church triumphant, O holy and most merciful Saviour Jesu. Amen.
END OF THE SECOND VOLUME.
J. MOYES, GREVILLE STREET, LONDON.