Manifesting that the greatest Sufferings for Christ are not infallible Evidences of Grace.
1 COR. 13. 3.
THe Apostle his scope in the former part of this Chapter is to commend the graces of Gods Spirit above the gifts of the same. Hence he makes suppo∣sitions of the most excellent perfections, which if without Charity, are but as a tinkling cymbal that may please the ear of others, but it self is worn out and destroyed thereby. And by charity he means that unfeigned love of God, * and the good of others, whereby all our gifts are improved for this end, and not for our selves.
His first instance is diversity and variety of tongues, a gift in the Primitive times, that made the enjoyers thereof admirable.
A second is of Prophecie and understanding of all Mysteries, all Knowledge, and*all Faith. This place doth not prove justifying Faith to be separable from Cha∣rity. But either it is a conditional, hyperbolical speech, like that Gal. 1. If an Angel from Heaven, &c. as not onely some later Divines, but even the Ancients have thought: or else it may very well be restrained to miraculous Faith, in this sense, If I had all miraculous faith, so that I were able to work the greatest mira∣cle. And thus it is plain, such a faith may be severed from true love.
The Apostle having thus instanced in Gifts, he further proceeds to give two glorious instances of the external works of grace, which are most admirable amongst men, whereby he would teach us, That the most specious and glorious external acts of grace, if seeming onely, are nothing, if grace it self doth not in∣wardly animate them; so that inward grace in respect of those external actions, is like the soul to the body, like art to the instruments of Musick, without which an uncertain sound is made.
These glorious externals the Apostle specifieth are of two sorts:
1. A work of extraordinary mercy, If I bestow all my goods to feed the poor. The Greek word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 signifieth to divide victuals in several pieces, and so to distri∣bute it. Now this is very terrible to consider, that a man may do all the exter∣nal works of mercy, even the highest and most transcendent, yet not have true love.
The second instance is of remarkable fortitude and glorious courage for Christ and his truth, which is expressed in the designation of that action, wherein my courage may manifest it self, If I give my body to be burnt. Where some observe this aggravation, Though a man be not summoned by others, and condemned to death, but although he willingly and ultroneously offer himself, and then not to be whipped or imprisoned, but to die, and that the most terrible kinde of death, even burning, yet if all this be without true love to God, his glory, Church and truth, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, All this will profit me nothing. In which sense Page 136Hierom said in Gal. 5. Timeo dicere, sed dicendum est, Martyrium ipsum si ideo fiat, ut admiraetioni, & laudi habeatur à fratribus, frustra sanguis effusus est. A man may be the fleshes martyr, the devils martyr, as well as Christs.
No kinde of external sufferings, though never so grievous either for the truth of*Christ indeed, or for that which a mans conscience judgeth to be the truth of Christ, is a sure and infallible sign of the state of grace.
This Doctrine will be like a two edged sword, dividing between the joint and mar∣row. It's not all thy marks, stripes, imprisonments, persecutions, though for a good cause, is enough to evidence thy true interest in Christ. To open this Point many things are considerable.
First, That many times persecutions are a true discovery of a mans firmnesse in grace. Insomuch that all the while Christs cause and carnal accommodations are con∣joyned together, every hypocritical and unsound heart makes as great a shew, as that which is faithfull, But when storms and tempests arise, then the house built up∣on the sand fals, but that on the rock endureth. Thus Matth. 13. when the hot Sun arose, persecutions began to be violent, then that which was not deeply rooted, pre∣sently withered. So that howsoever we may not certainly gather the truth of our grace, by our perseverance in persecutions, yet troubles and oppositions do fre∣quently discover who is false. Hence afflictions and not mercies are alwaies in Scripture called temptations, God is never said to tempt by a mercy, but by an affliction, because it is more difficult to withstand an evil then to enjoy a good. The high and strong windes discover how well-rooted the tree is; the fire will manifest the cracked vessel. Oh then account it nothing to rest upon, that thou art for the truth, thou ownest God and good men! Alas as yet thou losest no good, no profit by doing thus. If a man may be imprisoned, impoverished, un∣done for the truths of God, and yet be nothing; then what a poor nothing in∣deed is Christs truth and thy riches with it! Alas Christ hath not put thee upon any trials, and thou knowest nothing by thy self as yet. It's true, out∣ward sufferings, and that to death, are the highest expressions before men; and therefore we are to judge with charitable apprehensions of all those who are able thus to suffer for that which is the truth, especially they at the same time demon∣strating all Christian deportment. Therefore it was cruelty in the Popish perse∣cutors to charge those blessed Martyrs with stoutnesse and pride. Hence also it is, that we account the Martyrdom of so many millions of all sorts for Christ, to be an eminent testimony of the truth of Christian Religion. No Sect could ever instance in the like, as Christians may, which we read was acknowledged by Trajane the Emperour; and Justine Martyr confesseth the consideration of the willingnesse and zeal of Christians to die for Christ, was the occasion of his con∣version. The Heathens instance only in Socrates and some few Gymnosophists for their false Religion.
Secondly, From hence it followeth, That wheresoever the Scripture promiseth*salvation to any external action that is by way of Patience or Fortitude for Christ; That must be understood with this proviso, that as the action for the matter is good, and the cause is good; so the motives that draw out his heart be also good. Matth. 10. 33. Whosoever shall confesse me before men, him will my Father also acknowledge before his holy Angels. In this place a glorious reward is promi∣sed to a stout confession of Christ in the midst of an adulterous generation, yet you must explain it thus, supposing he do as for Christ, so out of pure ends and holy affections, without which these external actions are but as so many glorious branches without any root at all; for we may see this fully confirmed in a paral∣lel about giving of alms, and relieving the poor. There is scarce any religious duty hath more promises made to it in the Scripture then this hath, yet a Pha∣risee who frequently gave aims, could take no comfort at all from those Promi∣ses, because his motives were carnal and unworthy. Thus in sufferings for Christ even in imprisonments and death it self, it being possible that corrupt grounds Page 137 may sway us, as well as heavenly, there can be no solid comfort from such ex∣ternal sufferings, though never so sad and miserable. Therefore no promise of heaven is made to the most specious external exercise of any religious action whatsoever; Even now as on the contrary our Saviour saith, He that shall deny him before men, him will God also deny. This is to be understood universally, for Peter and many godly men have denied Christ, yet God did not deny them, be∣cause their denial was through infirmity out of fear, not from any malicious or purposed obstinacy against him. So then in all externall duties we are not onely to look to the matter that it be good, but also to what frame of heart, we doe those things with; and in this lieth the marrow of Christianity, to look to internals, as well as externals; the former onely commends us to God, though the later make us admirable among men.
Thirdly, It is very possible for a man to suffer much losse, and endure hardship for*Christ, and yet have not his heart sound towards God. In the Apostles times, trou∣bles were so great, and carnal discouragements so many, that we may wonder any hypocrites or unsound men should joyn to that way which was so opposed and persecuted, yet there were false Apostles and false Brethren; There were ma∣ny that sought their own, and not the things of Christ, as Paul complaineth, Phil, 1. 22. and this was strange, for if they did seek their own, why did they not re∣nounce Christ? why did they not abjure the Gospel, seeing that was the cause of all the violence brought upon them? All that professed Christ in those daies were like Sheep among Wolves, Doves among Hawks; yet even among those ac∣knowledging Christ in the midst of an adulterous generation, all were not up∣right. Judas left all as well as the other Apostles, and this was a kinde of suffer∣ing, this was a taking up of the Crosse and following him; We see when Christ re∣quired such things of others, though they seemed to profer themselves, yet they presently revolted. Therefore Judas went further. And the Apostle Gal. 3. 4. supposeth men may suffer great and grievous troubles for Christ, yet all in vain, Have ye suffered〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 an aggravating word, so many things for number, so grie∣vous for quality, and all this in vain? implying, that if they revolted to those Mosaical Ceremonies from Christ, all their former sufferings for the truth, would be wholly unprofitable, indeed he addeth a rhetorical correction [If so be in vain] as hoping better things of them. Take we heed then, that we do not only lose all our praiers, Sacraments, and such like Duties, but also our suffer∣ings and troubles for a good cause. For sufferings for God are more then doings for God. Hence the Apostle speaketh by way of aggravation, We account these light afflictions, not comparable to that eternal weight of glory, and for an instance of losing our sufferings for God, we have a remarkable instance Act. 19. 33. of Alexander venturing his life in the multitude enraged at Paul and others for the cause of Christ, yet by most learned Interpreters, this is that Alexander Paul doth so complain of, 1 Tim. 1. 20. that did him so much wrong. And it is abun∣dantly known, that many who in Queen Maries daies continued faithful to Christ, in Queen Elizabeths daies through peace and quietness grew corrupt.
Now that it may more plainly appear, our sufferings though for a good cause * may be corrupted, we may take notice of what sinfull ingredients there may be which will make these sufferings unprofitable.
First, A man may suffer for the truth, or a good cause, not as it is true or good, but as his interest is in it, and as it is that way he hath ingaged himself in. Thus a man may die for Protestanism against Popery, not so much because it's the truth of God, but because it is that truth he hath lived in, it is that wherein all his outward interest lieth. O beloved! This cursed corruption is too common and frequent, not to look upon the truth of Christ, the cause of Christ, as his, but as it is ours, and so we become sufferers or Martyrs for our selves, and not for Christ. Among the Corinthians, some said they were for Paul, others for Apollo, others for Christ.Page 138 It is judged by some Interpreters, those were indeed for Christ, but they set him up by way of a party and faction, as their Christ, rather then Christ. Although therefore imprisonments, persecutions, are terrible and dreadfull to flesh and bloud, and they may be thought great testimonies of love to God and his cause? Yet be not too confident here, make diligent search of thy heart, whe∣ther that which moveth thee in all these sufferings, be not thy interest, thou art ingaged in this way; And so an argument from thy propriety, not Christs pro∣priety, prevail over thee. We may observe of Christs kindred, how desirous they were that Christ should do miracles; now their motive was not spiritual, that hereby he might be demonstrated the true Messiah, and so men graciously receive him, but from carnal pride, because he was their kinsman, and this might exalt their glory among others, such carnal self-seeking affections men may have to the truths of Christ, desiring they may be exalted, because hereby themselves shall be exalted.
Secondly, The power of truth may undeniably so work on the conscience, that they*cannot deny it, yet for all this not powerfully sanctifie their hearts. Thus a man may be so convinced of the true Doctrine, and his conscience set such a strong seal to it, that if he had all the world, he dared not gainsay it. Balaam, though he had a house full of gold, yet would not curse those whom he saw God would blesse. There is a natural light and goad by the conscience, whereby it makes a man willing to undergo any punishment rather then contradict it. Thus Socrates he died for this truth, that there was but one God, and when he was condemned by the Ma∣gistrates, staid himself with that which we read of the Apostles, It is better to obey God then man. This makes it evident, that a man having no more then nature in him, may yet die for those truths he is convinced of. Thus there are many who it may be reform not their lives from grosse impieties, yet would die rather then turn Papists or Socinians, I mean learned men, who have their understand∣ings fully satisfied with the truth. And History affords us many examples of Heathens, who would rather endure the most terrible death, then do any thing against moral honesty, why may not there be such orthodox Protestants, ventu∣ring as much for those truths, which they are perswaded are of God? There is a know approved sentence, Causa non poena facit Martyrem, the cause not the punishment makes a Martyr, but this is not enough, for neither punishment nor cause make a Martyr, without a gracious frame of heart, at least to God, though with man he may be judged so. So that these three must go to make a Martyr, pu∣nishment, a good cause, and a good heart. Therefore in all thy sufferings, say, It is not enough that I suffer for God and his truth, but doest thou also suffer with such a gracious, humble and heavenly heart, as Gods cause doth require? Look that besides conviction of judgement, there be also renovation of affections.
Thirdly, A man may suffer, though for Gods truth, yet the motive be the*meer stoutnesse of his stomack, and undaunted resolutions of spirit. As there is a spiritual fortitude wrought in us by Gods Spirit, so there is also in some men a natural height of spirit, whereby they fear not dangers or death. Now it is much to be enquired into, Whether thy sufferings arise from the strength of Gods Spirit, or the strength of thy own? Even Aristotle with his purblinde light of nature could make a difference between fortitude a vertue, when a man would die for vertues sake, and upon vertuous grounds; and an audacious man, who would contemn death out of a rash boldnesse in him. Oh then! How straight is the way to Heaven? How rare is grace, when our very sufferings in a good cause, may be so much corrupted and polluted through sinfull ingre∣dients? when men shall say not only, Lord, we have prayed in thy Name, pro∣phesied in thy Name; but Lord we have suffered in thy Name, been imprisoned in thy Name, died in thy Name, and yet God return this answer, Depart from me, I know ye not.
Page 139 Fourthly, A fourth corrupt motive in sufferings though for God, may be*Pride and Vain-glory, Ambition to get a Name in the Generations to come. One would think this were a poor thing to venture a mans life for such an aëry bub∣ble. Yet if we reade humane Histories, and see how willingly men have ex∣posed themselves to death for this outward glory; or if we peruse Ecclesiastical Histories, and consider, how much the Patriarchall Hereticks, Heads of Fa∣ctions, have suffered to propagate their Sects, we will cease to wonder; for as by the bloud of Martyrs, the Church hath flourished, so sometimes by the bloud of Hereticks, Heresies have encreased; as Paul said, Many of the godly waxed bolder by his bonds; So many times doe erroneous persons grow more obstinate by the sufferings of their fellow Hereticks. Though ashes and fire are barren things, yet pride is such a Salamander, that will live in these flames.
Fourthly, In the fourth general place, As sufferings for Christ, doe not*argue necessarily a state of Grace, so much lesse doe sufferings for those things a misguided conscience thinketh the truths of God, but are indeed damnable He∣refies, and dangerous Opinions. Yet how often doe we finde this in Books to prove Heresies great innocency, because they goe with a good conscience, they deny all carnal emoluments, patiently suffer the utmost dangers! but (alas) here is no solidity in this: For first, A false misled conscience may put a man upon all outward dangers. A deluded conscience in mat∣ters of Religion, will throw a man, as that Devil did the party possessed, Sometimes in the fire, and sometimes in the water: So that as our Saviour said, Some men thought they did God good service in putting others to death: So again, They may think they doe God great service in suffering themselves to be put to death. Doe not Socinians die? Doe not Papists die for their Reli∣gion? A false Religion, especially if received upon conscientious, not politi∣call Principles, will make a man think his bloud not dear enough to lose for that. The Pharisees by what reason they compassed Sea and Land to make prose∣lytes, by the same they would have lost their lives to defend their superstitious worship. Doe not then hereafter admire that specious Argument for Here∣ticks? Doe they seek themselves? Doe they not deny all worldly hopes? Doe they not give their bodies to be destroyed? for this is no more then Heathens do for their Idols. Nor is it any wonder, if men die thus for a false Religion, seeing we reade of Atheists who have died because they held there was no God. Vaninus who once wrote a Book to prove God and his Providence, yet after∣wards revolted to Atheisme, holding no God, and was put to death for it at Paris: And being commanded by the Judge, that he should ask forgive∣nesse of God, and the King, and his Judges: He answered, Of God he would not, because he did not believe there was any: Of the King he would not because he had not wronged him; Of his Judges he would not, but ra∣ther if there were a Hell, as he believed there was none, he would curse them all thither. Thus Voetius de Atheismo. You see here a miserable wretch, dying for this professedly, because he thought there was no God. So that all sufferings even to death, are not presently to move us.
And if you ask, What should make them thus venturous, if they be not in Gods way?
I answer, two things, First, There is a Carnal Self. Secondly, A Spiritual*Self; which also is carnal, though not grosse. A carnal Self is then set up, when a man prostitutes all Religion to outward advantages: Of such were some false Apostles Paul speaks of, Whose God was their belly, who minded earthly things, and did all they could to avoid persecution. Such an one was one Theo∣philus a Bishop in Ecclesiastical History, nicknamed Euripus, because of his ficklenesse in Religion, turning his conscience, as Diogenes did his Barrell al∣wayes against the winde. This man, when the warre was between ConstantinePage 140 the Christian, and Lycinius the Heathenish Persecutour, appointed his Dea∣con to reside at Constantinople, with this Direction, That he which did prevail in the battel, either Constantine or Lycinius, he should gratifie his victory with some Presents to him. This kinde of carnal Self is odious in the eyes of all men.
But then secondly, There is a Spiritual-carnal Self. When a man seeks not outward greatnesse and pomp in the world, but is inwardly proud, ambitious, affe∣cting a Name by some singular thing; And because this cannot be had in the world, without outward passages of worldly self-denial, therefore he is dili∣gent to deny himself carnally, that he may seek himself spiritually: and this hath been the temper of many Hereticks, prizing their Opinion and intel∣lectuall Abilities above all externall glory. Now this spirituall carnall self, is that which may put them upon imprisonments, and all outward ruine; So that herein they be the fleshes Martyrs, Pride-martyrs, not Gods. Hence although they may suffer like true Martyrs, yet for the most part they dis∣cover a carnall temper then, not shewing that holinesse, humility, self-resig∣nation into Gods hands, as the godly Martyrs doe. So that their very ex∣ternal sufferings have not such sweet Concomitants, as the godly men have. The godly men burning in the fire, being like Juniper in the fire, sending a sweet smell. The Heretick like crackling Thorns in the fire, full of discontent, rage and revenge.
2. The Devil who was a Man-slayer from the beginning, he through strong*delusions tempts men to such hardinesse, as to be prodigal of their lives. That as when he possessed the bodies of some, he delighted to torment them, and to make them miserable; so he doth also when he hath bewitched their souls. It is matter of amazement to me, when I reade the Story of the Do∣natists, especially the Circumcelliones, how greedy they were to die, threat∣ning to kill men, if they would not kill them. Whence should this madnesse arise, and fury to die, but from the Devil? yet they thought this great piety, and contempt of the world. Therefore the Devil by Gods just permissi∣on, may benumme and harden a man to die, as well as the Spirit of God in a gracious manner imbolden a man: And this may suffice to open the Point.
Now two grounds among others there are, Why we may not judge the firmnesse*of our spiritual estate by these sufferings.
First, Because no externals, whether in actions or passions, are any further good, then as they are animated from a spiritual life within. These outwards may be informed from a corrupt principle, as well as a spiritual one. We cannot judge of the Tree by this fruit, because it will grow both upon good and bad. Now herein we daily delude our selves, because we judge our estate good, by ex∣ternal Actions, when yet reprobates may doe the like. It is not here as it was with Moses, and Jannes and Jambres, Moses doth many miracles, and they do the like, but at last Moses doth such things which they could not imitate. If you speak of externals meerly as abstracted from inwards, we cannot judge. Do the godly pray, hear? so doe the reprobates: May the godly suffer, be impri∣soned, die for the truth? so may reprobates. It is true our Saviour saith, Greater love then this can no man shew, then to lay down ones life for another. So one would think, to give ones body to be burnt, and yet have no Charity, were to speak a contradiction. But when we consider how strong and potent corruption and a false Religion is, then we may no more admire. We reade in the Old Te∣stament of some superstitious parents, that would make their children passe tho∣row the fire to Moloch, that is, they offered them as a Sacrifice in the fire to Moloch: who would not wonder, how the tender bowels of a father or mother could ever become thus senslesse like a stone? But superstition made them thus Page 141 unnatural. And certainly as they offered their tender children, so if Moloch their god had required it, or rather his Priests for him, They would have given up their own bodies into the flames. Judge not then of the goodnesse of thy estate, by any externals whatsoever, though never so specious. They are a sheath that will receive either a golden, or an iron Sword in them. They are the Trumpet that make no other sound, then what the mouth bloweth into them.
2. That is not a pillar to be relied on, which may consist with unmortified lusts*and affections, yea with ungodly practices. But experience teacheth us, how ma∣ny men in their imprisonments, yea death it self, have been unsavoury, ungod∣ly; insomuch that their ungodlinesse hath more dishonoured the cause they suf∣fered for, then their sufferings have honoured it. Therefore if thou restest upon thy sufferings, and yet livest in sinne, say as Austin, Habes quod in te occidas, mar∣tyr thy sins, before thy body be martyred. If therefore thou sufferest for one truth, and holdest any thing, or practisest any thing against other fundamentals, it's no true Martyrdom; Hence the Primitive Church never judged a Mace∣donian (for example) who denied the Deity of the holy Ghost, to be a Mar∣tyr, though he were put to death by the Arrians, because he professed the Deity of Christ.
Use 1. Of Instruction, not to admire as signs of grace, or Gods being in a man,*when you see a man patient, denying all outward advantages and comforts for his opi∣nion and doctrine he holdeth. As some, misunderstanding places of Scripture, have given away all their goods and estates, and one parting with his very garments that covered him: being asked, Why he did so? held up the Bible, saying, Hoc me nudavit, This hath made me naked, whereas indeed it was his errour, his mi∣stake. Thus many may say, It is their conscience makes them endure all misery, whereas it may be corruption or carnal motives, or at most, an erroneous, misgui∣ded conscience, which although it may excuse à tanto, yet not à toto. Those that reade what Heathens have done in this way, will never admire at Chri∣stians.
Use 2. Of Direction, If God call us to suffer, Rest not on all the hardship thou*hast endured for Christ, Boast not of the bonds and chains thou hast born for his sake, but examine with what heart thou hast undergone all this. It is a wofull thing to be imprisoned in chains here for Christ, and at the day of Judgement Christ to cast thee in everlasting chains of darknesse. It is miserable to be burnt with fire here for Christ, and afterwards Christ to bid thee, Depart into everlasting fire here∣after. Lose not then thy sufferings by any corrupt frame and sinfull disposition of heart. It is a great matter to suffer for Christ, but it's a greater to suffer with that heart Christ requireth.