“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” Hebrews 12:14
Objection: Some may object, and say, We see that no persons on earth are exposed to such troubles, dangers, afflictions, and persecutions, as those are exposed to who mind holiness, who follow after holiness. These are days wherein men labor to frown holiness out of the world, and to scorn and kick holiness out of the world; and do you think that we are mad now to pursue after holiness? Now to this great and sore objection, I shall give these following answers:
1. First, It must be granted that afflictions and persecutions has been the common lot and portion of the people of God in this world. Abel was persecuted by Cain, (1 John 3:12), and Isaac by Ishmael, (Gal 4:29). That seems to be a standing law, “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution,” (2 Tim 3:12). A man may have many faint wishes and cold desires after godliness, and yet escape persecution; yea, he may make some essays and attempts as if he would be godly, and yet escape persecution; but when a man is thoroughly resolved to be godly, and sets himself in good earnest upon pursuing after holiness and living a life of godliness, then he must expect to meet with afflictions and persecutions. It is neither a Christian’s gifts nor his graces, it is neither his duties nor his services that can secure him. Whoever escapes, the godly man shall not escape persecution in one kind or another, in one degree or another. He that will live up to holy rules, and live out holy principles, must prepare for sufferings. All the roses of holiness are surrounded with pricking briers. The history of the ten persecutions, and that little book of martyrs, the 11th of the Hebrews, and Mr. Foxe his Acts and Monuments,20 with many other treatises that are extant, do abundantly evidence that from age to age, and from one generation to another, they that have been born after the flesh have persecuted them that have been born after the Spirit, (Gal 4:29), and that the seed of the serpent have been still a-multiplying of troubles upon the seed of the woman. Would any man take the church’s picture, saith Luther, then let him paint a poor silly maid sitting in a wilderness, compassed about with hungry lions, wolves, boars, and bears, and with all manner of other cruel, hurtful beasts, and in the midst of a great many furious men assaulting her every moment and minute, for this is her condition in the world. As certain as the night follows the day, so certain will that black angel, persecution, follow holiness wherever it goes. In the last of the ten persecutions, seventeen thousand holy martyrs were slain in the space of one month. And in Queen Mary’s days, or, if you will, in the Marian days, not of blessed, but of most abhorred memory, the Popish prelates21 in less than four years sacrificed the lives of eight hundred innocents to their idols! And oh that that precious innocent blood did not still cry to heaven for vengeance against this nation!