2. Consider who bears thee up, and carries thee through thy sufferings for Christ. Is it thy grace, or his, that is sufficient for such a work? thy spirit, or Christ’s, by which thou speakest when called to bear witness for the truth? How comes it to pass [that] thou art a sufferer and not a persecutor? a confessor, and not a denier, yea, betrayer of Christ and his gospel? This thou owest for to God. He is not beholden to thee, that thou wilt part with estate, credit, or life itself for his sake—if thou hadst a thousand lives, thou wouldst owe them all to him; but thou art beholden to God exceedingly, that he will call for these in this way, which has such an honour and reward attending it. He might have suffered thee to live in thy lusts, and at last to suffer the loss of all these for them. O how many die at the gallows as martyrs in the devil’s cause, for felonies, rapes and murders! Or, he might withdraw his grace, and leave thee to thy own cowardice and unbelief, and then thou wouldst soon show thyself in thy colours. The stoutest champions for Christ have been taught how weak they are if Christ steps aside. Some that have given great testimony of their faith and resolution in Christ’s cause—even to come so near dying for his name as to give themselves to be bound to the stake, and [to the] fire to be kindled upon them—yet then their hearts have failed, as that holy man Mr. Benbridge, in our English martyrology, who thrust the faggots from him, and cried out, ‘I recant, I recant.’ Yet this man, when reinforced in his faith, and endued with power from above, was able, within the space of a week after that sad foil, to die at the stake cheerfully. ‘He that once overcame death for us, is he that always overcomes death in us.’And who should be thy song, but he that is thy strength? applaud not thyself, but bless him. It is one of God’s names; he is called ‘the glory of his people’s strength,’ Ps. 89:17. The more thou gloriest in God that gives thee strength to suffer for him, the less thou wilt boast of thyself. A thankful heart and a proud cannot dwell together in one bosom.
- Consider what a foul blot pride gives to all thy sufferings; where it is not bewailed and resisted, it alters the case. The old saying is, that it is not the punishment but the cause [that] makes the martyr. We may safely say further, ‘It is not barely the cause, but the sincere frame of the heart in suffering for a good cause, that makes a man a martyr in God’s sight.’ Though thou shouldst give thy body to be burned, if thou hast not the humble heart of a sufferer for Christ, thou turnest merchant for thyself. Thou deniest but one self, to set up another; runnest the hazard of thy estate and life, to gain some applause may be, and rear up a monument to thy honour in the opinions of men. Thou doest no more, in this case, than a soldier, who for a name of valour will venture into the mouth of death and danger; only thou showest thy pride under a religious disguise; but that helps it not, but makes it the worse. If thou wilt in thy sufferings be a sacrifice acceptable to God, thou must not only be ready to offer up thy life for his truth, but [to] sacrifice thy pride also, or else thou mayst tumble out of one fire into another—suffer here from man as a seeming champion for the gospel, and in another world from God, for robbing him of his glory in thy sufferings.
Third Privilege. A third privilege is, when God flows in with more than ordinary manifestations of his love. Then the Christian is in danger of having his heart secretly lift up in pride. Indeed, the genuine and natural effect which such discoveries of divine love have on a gracious soul is to humble it. The sight of mercy increaseth the sense of sin, and that sense dissolves the soul kindly into sorrow, as we see in Magdalene. The heart which possibly was hard and frozen in the shade, will give and thaw in the sunshine of love, and so long is pride hid from the creature’s eye. ‘Then,’ saith God, ‘shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall loathe yourselves in your own sight,’ &c., Eze. 36:31. And when shall this be, but when God would save them from all their uncleannesses? as appears, ver. 25; yet notwithstanding this, there remain such dregs of corruption unpurged out of the best, that Satan finds it not impossible to make the manifestations of God’s love an occasion of pride to the Christian. And truly God lets us see our proneness to this sin in the short stay he makes, when he comes with any greater discoveries of his love. The Comforter, it is true, abides for ever in the saint’s bosom; but his joys, they come and are gone again quickly. They are as exceedings with which he feasts the believer, but the cloth is soon drawn; and why so, but because we cannot bear them for our everyday food? A short interview of heaven, and a vision of love now and then upon the mount of an ordinance, or affliction, cheers the spirits of drooping Christians, who —might they have leave to build their tabernacles there, and dwell under a constant shine of such manifestations—would be prone to forget themselves, and think they were lords of their own comforts. If holy Paul was in danger of falling into this distemper of pride from his short rapture—to prevent which, God saw it needful to let him bleed with a thorn in the flesh—would not our blood much more grow too rank, and we too crank and wanton, if we should feed long on such luscious food? And therefore, if ever, Christian, thou hadst need to watch, then is the time—when comforts abound, and God dandles thee most on the knee of his love—when his face shines with clearest manifestations; lest this sin of pride, as a thief in the candle, should swale out thy joy. To prevent which, thou shouldst do well,