On Suffering Persecution for Justice Sake
Consider first, these words of the eighth beatitude; 'Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.' and again, 'Blessed are ye when men shall revile against you untruly, for my sake; be glad and rejoice, for your reward is great in heaven.' O how opposite is this gospel doctrine to all the sentiments of flesh and blood! Alas! we have naturally so little relish for such sufferings as these, that we are apt to pity all those, and look upon them as unhappy and miserable, that are exposed to such kinds of evils; and so far from rejoicing, when it is our own case, we are too often dejected and sorrowful. But surely we are in the wrong, since truth itself, that cannot be deceived, not only assures us that these sufferings are the way to be blessed, that is to be happy hereafter; but that even now, whilst we are actually suffering, we are in very deed happy, and blessed; and therefore he calls upon us to be glad and rejoice under the experience of those reputed evils, as being indeed real good in our regard, by the manifold fruits they produce, both in time and eternity.
Consider 2ndly, what these fruits are that proceed from suffering for Christ's sake, and for his justice. They are fruits of grace here and of glory hereafter. These kinds of sufferings wean the soul from the love of this world, and of all its empty toys, and shortlived enjoyments, and give her a longing desire after her true home, the happy region of truth and of life, the sight and enjoyment of her sovereign good. These sufferings entitle the soul to the sweet consolations of the Holy Ghost, which are usually bestowed more abundantly in proportion to the greatness of the sufferings; according to that of the psalmist, (Ps. xciii. 19), 'According to the multitude of my sorrows in my heart, thy comforts have given joy to my soul.' These sufferings give the soul a relish for the cross, and a new kind of love for her crucified Saviour. These sufferings teach her humility, meekness, patience, conformity to the will of God, with all the other lessons that are to be learned in the school of the cross; besides the happy opportunity they afford the soul of discharging the debt of punishment due for former sins, by offering up to God, and bearing in a Christian manner, these present afflictions.
Consider 3rdly, that the principal fruits of these sufferings are reserved to be gathered in another life - according to that of the apostle, Rom. viii. 17, 18: 'If we suffer with Christ, we shall be glorified with him. For the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come, that shall be revealed in us.' And again, 2 Cor. iv. 17., 'Our present tribulation which is momentary and light, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory.' O look forward, my soul, into this immense eternity, and contemplate the infinite rewards that are there laid up to recompense our little sufferings here; and learn to be glad and rejoice in the experience of these small temporal afflictions; because these put thee in the true way to joys that shall never end: and the grater thy sufferings are here, the grater shall be these joys hereafter.
Conclude not to pretend to a life without sufferings, if thou hopest to live for ever with God: but then take care not to draw down these suffering upon thy head, by any crime; for this would not be suffering for justice sake. Give ear to St. Peter, 1 Pet. iv. 15, 16: 'Let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a railer, or a coveter of other men's things. But if as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this name.'