Thomas Watson – How May We know Whether We Love God?

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He who loves God desires His presence. Lovers cannot be long asunder, they soon have their fainting fits, for lack of a sight of the object of their love. A soul deeply in love with God desires the enjoyment of Him. David was ready to faint away, when he had not a sight of God. “My soul faints for God.” Psalm 84:2

He who loves God, does not love sin. “You who love the Lord—hate evil.” Psalm 97:10. The love of God—and the love of sin, can no more mix together than iron and clay. Every sin loved, strikes at the being of God. He who loves God, has an antipathy against sin. He who would part two lovers is a hateful person. God and the believing soul are two lovers; sin parts between them, therefore the soul is implacably set against sin. By this try your love to God. How can he say he loves God, who loves sin—which is God’s enemy?

He who loves God is not much in love with anything else. His love is very cool to worldly things. The love of the world eats out the heart of piety; it chokes holy affections, as earth puts out the fire. He who loves God—uses the world but chooses God. The world engages him—but God delights and satisfies him. He says as David, “God, my exceeding joy!” Psalm 43:4. “God is the cream of my joy!”

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Thomas Watson – Indwelling Sin Pulls Down the Plumes of Remaining Pride

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The true Christian cannot keep God’s law perfectly. “There is certainly no righteous man on the earth who does good and never sins.” Eccl. 7:20. There is in the best actions of a godly man — that which is damnable — if God should weigh him in the balance of justice. Alas! He cannot pray without wandering, nor believe without doubting. “For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it.” Romans 7:18. Paul, though a saint of the first magnitude, was better at desiring than at performing.

The regenerate have a desire to obey God perfectly; but they lack strength; their obedience is weak and sickly. The mark they are to shoot at, is perfection of holiness. But though they take a right aim, and do what they can—they come short of the mark!

A Christian, while serving God, is like the rower who plies the oar, and rows hard—but is hindered, for a gust of wind carries him back again! So says Paul, “For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do.” Romans 7:19. “I am driven back by temptation!”

God permits this inability in His people—to humble us. Man is a self-exalting creature; and if he has but anything of worth, he is ready to be puffed up! But when he comes to see his deficiencies and failings, and how far short he comes of that holiness and perfection which God requires—it pulls down the plumes of his pride, and lays them in the dust! He weeps over his inability! He blushes over his leprous spots! He says with Job, “I abhor myself in dust and ashes!”

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Thomas Watson – 10 Ways the Evil of Affliction Works for Good

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The evil of affliction works for good, to the godly.

It is one heart-quieting consideration in all the afflictions which befall us—that God has a special hand in them: “The Almighty has afflicted me” (Ruth 1:21). Instruments can no more stir until God gives them a commission, than the axe can cut, by itself, without a hand. Job eyed God in his affliction: therefore, as Augustine observes, he does not say, “The Lord gave—and the devil took away,” but, “The Lord has taken away.” Whoever brings an affliction to us, it is God who sends it.

Another heart quieting consideration is—that afflictions work for good. “I have sent them into captivity for their own good.” (Jer. 24:6). Judah’s captivity in Babylon was for their good. “It is good for me that I have been afflicted” (Psalm 119:71). This text, like Moses’ tree cast into the bitter waters of affliction, may make them sweet and wholesome to drink. Afflictions to the godly are medicinal. Out of the most poisonous drugs God extracts our salvation. Afflictions are as needful as ordinances (1 Peter 1:6). No vessel can be made of gold without fire; so it is impossible that we should be made vessels of honor, unless we are melted and refined in the furnace of affliction. “All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth” (Psalm 35:10). As the painter intermixes bright colors with dark shadows; so the wise God mixes mercy with judgment. Those afflictive providences which seem to be harmful, are beneficial. Let us take some instances in Scripture.

Joseph’s brethren throw him into a pit; afterwards they sell him; then he is cast into prison; yet all this did work for his good. His abasement made way for his advancement, he was made the second man in the kingdom. “You thought evil against me—but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20).

Jacob wrestled with the angel, and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was put out of joint. This was sad; but God turned it to good, for there he saw God’s face, and there the Lord blessed him. “Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, for I have seen God face to face” (Gen. 32:30). Who would not be willing to have a bone out of joint, so that he might have a sight of God?

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Thomas Watson – The Eternity of God

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The next attribute is, ‘God is eternal.’ ‘From everlasting to everlasting thou art God’ (Ps. 90:2). The schoolmen distinguish between aevun et aeternum, to explain the notion of eternity. There is a threefold being.

1. Such as had a beginning; and shall have an end; as all sensitive creatures, the beasts, fowls, fishes, which at death are destroyed and return to dust; their being ends with their life. 2. Such as had a beginning, but shall have no end, as angels and the souls of men, which are eternal a parte post; they abide for ever. 3. Such as is without beginning, and without ending, and that is proper only to God. He is semper existens, from everlasting to everlasting. This is God’s title, a jewel of his crown. He is called ‘the King eternal’ (1 Tim. 1:17). Jehovah is a word that properly sets forth God’s eternity; a word so dreadful, that the Jews trembled to name or read it; and used Adonai, Lord, in its place. Jehovah contains in it time past, present, and to come. ‘Which is, and which was, and which is to come’ (Rev. 1:8), interprets the word Jehovah; (which is) he subsists of himself, having a pure and independent being; (which was) God only was before time; there is no searching into the records of eternity; (which is to come) his kingdom has no end; his crown has no successors. ‘Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever’ (Heb. 1:8). The doubling of the word ratifies the certainty of it, as the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream. I shall prove that God only could be eternal, without beginning. Angels could not; they are but creatures, though spirits; they were made; and therefore their beginning may be known; their antiquity may be searched into. If you ask, when were they created? Some think before the world was; but not so: for what was before time was eternal. The first origin of angels reaches no higher than the beginning of the world. It is thought by the learned, that the angels were made on the day on which the heavens were made. ‘When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy’ (Job 38:7). St. Jerome, Gregory, and venerable Bede understand it, that when God laid the foundation-stone of the world, the angels being then created, sang anthems of joy and praise. It is proper to God only to be eternal, without beginning. He is Alpha and Omega, the first and the last (Rev. 1:8), No creature can write itself Alpha, that is only a flower of the crown of heaven. ‘I am that I am’ (Ex. 3:14); that is, He who exists from and to eternity.

Use one: Here is thunder and lightning to the wicked. God is eternal, therefore the torments of the wicked are eternal. God lives for ever; and as long as God lives he will be punishing the damned. This should be as the handwriting upon the wall, it should ‘make their joints to be loosed, etc. (Dan. 5:6). The sinner takes liberty to sin; he breaks God’s laws, like a wild beast that breaks over the hedge, and leaps into forbidden pasture; he sins with greediness, as if he thought he could not sin fast enough (Eph. 4:19). But remember, one of God’s names is Eternal, and as long as God is eternal he has time enough to reckon with all his enemies. To make sinners tremble, let them think of these three things: the torments of the damned are without intermission, without mixture, and eternal.

(1) Without intermission. Their pains shall be acute and sharp, and no relaxation; the fire shall not be slackened or abated. ‘They have no rest day nor night’ (Rev. 14:11); like one that has his joints stretched continually on the rack, and has no ease. The wrath of God is compared to a stream of brimstone (Is. 30:33). Why to a stream? Because a stream runs without intermission; so God’s wrath runs like a stream, and pours out without intermission. In the pains of this life, there is some abatement and intermission; the fever abates; after a fit of the stone, the patient has some ease; but the pains of hell are intense and violent, in summo gradu. The damned soul never says, I am now more at ease.

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Danny Hyde – Meet a Puritan: Thomas Watson

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Thomas Watson (1620–1686) was probably born in Yorkshire. He studied at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, earning a B.A. in 1639 and a M.A. in 1642. Then he lived for a time with the Puritan family of Lady Mary Vere, the widow of Sir Horace Vere, Baron of Tilbury. In 1646, Watson went to St. Stephen’s, Walbrook, London, where he served as lecturer for about ten years, and as rector for another six years.

During the Civil War, Watson began expressing his strong Presbyterian views while he had sympathy for the king. He was one of the Presbyterian ministers who went to Oliver Cromwell to protest the execution of Charles I. Along with Christopher Love, William Jenkyn, and others, he was imprisoned in 1651 for his part in a plot to restore the monarchy. While Love was beheaded, Watson and the others were released after petitioning for mercy. Watson was formally reinstated to his pastorate in Walbrook in 1652.

When the Act of Uniformity passed in 1662, Watson was ejected from his pastorate. He continued to preach in private—in barns, homes, and woods—whenever he had the opportunity. In 1666, after the Great Fire of London, Watson prepared a large room for public worship, welcoming anyone who wished to attend. After the Declaration of Indulgence took effect in 1672, Watson obtained a license for Crosby Hall, Bishopsgate, where he preached for three years before Stephen Charnock joined him. They ministered together until Charnock’s death in 1680. Watson kept working until his health failed. He then retired to Barnston, in Essex, where he died suddenly in 1686 while engaged in private prayer.

Watson’s depth of doctrine, clarity of expression, warmth of spirituality, love of application, and gift of illustration enhanced his reputation as a preacher and writer. His books are still widely read today.

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Thomas Watson – The Mercy of God


The next attribute is God’s goodness or mercy. Mercy is the result and effect—of God’s goodness. So then this is the next attribute, God’s goodness or mercy. The most learned of the heathens thought they gave their God Jupiter two golden characters when they styled him good and great. Both these meet in God, goodness and greatness; mercy and majesty. God is essentially good in himself, and relatively good to us. “You are good, and do good.” This relative goodness is nothing else but his mercy, which is an innate propensity in God to pity and support such as are in misery.

I. Concerning God’s mercy, I shall lay down these twelve positions.

[1] It is the great design of the Scripture to represent God as merciful. This is a loadstone to draw sinners to him. “I am the Lord, I am the Lord, the merciful and gracious God. I am slow to anger and rich in unfailing love and faithfulness. I show this unfailing love to many thousands by forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. Even so I do not leave sin unpunished.” Exodus 34:6-7. Here are six expressions to set forth God’s mercy, and but one to set forth his justice. “God’s mercy is far above the heavens.” God is represented as a king, with a rainbow about his throne. Rev 4:4. The rainbow was an emblem of mercy. The Scripture represents God in white robes of mercy—more often than with garments rolled in blood; with his golden scepter—more often than his iron rod.

[2] God is more inclined to mercy, than wrath. Mercy is his darling attribute, which he most delights in. “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.” Micah 7:18. Mercy pleases him. “It is delightful to the mother,” says Chrysostom, “to have her breasts drawn; so it is to God to have the breasts of his mercy drawn.” “Fury is not in me,” that is, I do not delight in it. Acts of severity are rather forced from God; he does not afflict willingly. “For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.” Lamentations 3:33.

The bee naturally gives honey, it stings only when it is provoked. Just so, God does not punish until he can bear no longer. “So that the Lord could bear no longer, because of the evil of your doings.” Mercy is God’s right hand that he is most used to; inflicting punishment is called his “strange work.” He is not used to it. When the Lord would shave off the pride of a nation, he is said to use a hired razor, as if he had none of his own. “On that day the Lord will use a razor hired from beyond the Euphrates River—the king of Assyria—to shave the head, the hair on the legs, and to remove the beard as well.” Isaiah 7:20. “He is slow to anger,” but “ready to forgive.”

[3] There is no condition — but we may spy mercy in it. When the church was in captivity, she cried out, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed.” Geographers write of Syracuse in Sicily, that it is so situated that the sun is never out of sight. In all afflictions we may see some sunshine of mercy. That outward and inward troubles do not come together is mercy.

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Thomas Watson – The Doctrine of Repentance


Chapter One


Saint Paul, was falsely accused of sedition by Tertullus: “We have found this man a troublesome fellow, and a worker of sedition” (Act 24.5). And so Paul makes an apology for himself before Festus and King Agrippa in Chapter 26 of the Book of Act.

Paul proves himself as an orator. He courts the king (1) by his gesture: he stretched forth his hands, as was the custom of orators; (2) by his manner of speech: “I think of myself as happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself before you, touching upon all the things of which I am accused” (Act 26.2).

Paul then addresses three things, and in so deep a strain of rhetoric as almost to have converted King Agrippa:

(1) He speaks of the manner of his life before his conversion: “I lived as a Pharisee after the strictest sect of our religion” (v.5). During the time of his unregeneracy, he was zealous for traditions; his false fire of zeal was so hot that it scorched all who stood in his way; “I shut up many of the saints in prison” (v.10).

(2) He speaks of the manner of his conversion: “I saw in the road a light from heaven, beyond the brightness of the sun” (v.13). This light was none other than what shone from Christ’s glorified body. “And I heard a voice speaking to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’” The body being hurt, the head in heaven cried out. Paul was amazed at this light and voice, and fell to the earth: “I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said, ‘I am Jesus whom you persecute’” (v. 14-15). Paul was now departed from himself. All opinion of self-righteousness vanished and he grafted his hope of heaven upon the stock of Christ’s righteousness.

(3) He speaks of the manner of his life after his conversion. He who had been a persecutor before now became a preacher: “Arise, for I have appeared to you for this purpose: to make you a minister and a witness of those things which you have seen” (v. 16). When Paul, this “vessel of election,” was savingly worked upon, he labored to do as much good as previously he had done hurt. He had persecuted saints to death before; now he preached sinners to life. God first sent him to the Jews at Damascus and afterwards enlarged his commission to preach to the Gentiles. And the subject he preached was this, “That they should repent and turn to God, and do works fit for repentance” (v. 20). A weighty and excellent subject!

I shall not dispute the priority, whether faith or repentance goes first. Doubtless repentance shows itself first in a Christian’s life. Yet I am apt to think that the seeds of faith are first worked in the heart. When a burning taper is brought into a room, the light shows itself first, but the taper preceded the light. In the same way, we see the fruits of repentance first, but the beginnings of faith were there before.

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Thomas Watson – Signs and Character of a Godly Man

watson_0 “For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee.” Psalm 32:6

Who is the godly man? For the full answer whereunto, I shall lay down several specific signs and character of a godly man.

The first fundamental sign of a godly man is a man of know-ledge: “The prudent are crowned with knowledge” (Pro 14:18). The saints are called “wise virgins” (Mat 25:4). A natural man may have some discursive[44] knowledge of God, but he knoweth nothing as he ought to know (1Co 8:2). He knows not God savingly: he may have the eye of reason open, but he discerns not the things of God after a spiritual manner. Waters cannot go beyond their springhead; vapors cannot rise higher than the sun draws them. A natural man cannot act above his sphere. He is no more able to judge aright of sacred things, than a blind man is to judge of colors. 1. He sees not the evil of his heart: if a face is ever so black and deformed, yet it is not seen under a veil. The heart of a sinner is so black, that nothing but hell can pattern it, yet the veil of ignorance hides it. 2. He sees not the beauties of a Savior: Christ is a pearl, but a hidden pearl.

The knowledge of a godly man is quickening. [45] “I will never forget thy precepts, for with them thou hast quickened me” (Psa 119:93). Knowledge in a natural man’s head is like a torch in a dead man’s hand; true knowledge animates. A godly man is like John the Baptist, “a burning and a shining lamp” (Joh 5:35). He doth not only shine by illumination, but burn by affection. The spouse’s knowledge made her “sick of love” (Song 2:5), [or] “I am wounded with love. I am like a deer that is struck with a dart; my soul lies a-bleeding and nothing can cure me but a sight of Him whom my soul loves.”

The knowledge of a godly man is appropriating. “I know that my Redeemer liveth” (Job 19:25). A medicine is best when it is applied; this applicative knowledge is joyful. Christ is called a Surety[46] (Heb 7:22). O what joy, when I am drowned in debt, to know that Christ is my Surety! Christ is called an Advocate (1Jo 2:1). The Greek word for advocate signifies “a comforter.” O what comfort is it, when I have a bad cause, to know Christ is my Advocate, who never lost any cause He pleaded!

Question: But how shall I know that I make a right application of Christ? A hypocrite may think he applies when he doth not.

Answer: He, who rightly applies Christ, puts these two together: Jesus and Lord (Phi 3:8). Christ Jesus my Lord: many take Christ as a Jesus, but refuse Him as a Lord. Do you join Prince and Savior? (Act 5:31). Would you as well be ruled by Christ’s laws as saved by His blood? Christ is “a priest upon his throne” (Zec 6:13). He will never be a priest to intercede, unless your heart is the throne where He sways His scepter. A true applying of Christ is when we so take Him for a husband that we give up ourselves to Him as a Lord.

The knowledge of a godly man is transforming. “We all with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image” (2Co 3:8). As a painter looking upon a face, draws a face like it in the picture; so looking upon Christ in the glass of the Gospel, we are changed into His similitude.[47] We may look upon other objects that are glorious yet not be made glorious by them: a deformed face may look upon beauty and yet not be made beautiful. A wounded man may look upon a surgeon and yet not be healed. But this is the excellency of divine knowledge: it gives us such a sight of Christ as makes us partake of His nature. As Moses, when he had seen God’s back parts: his face shined, [for] some of the rays and beams of God’s glory fell upon him.

The knowledge of a godly man is growing: “Increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col 1:10). True knowledge is as the light of the morning, which increaseth in the horizon until it comes to the meridian.[48] So sweet is spiritual knowledge, that the more a saint knows, the thirstier he is of knowledge. It is called the riches of knowledge (1Co 1:5). The more riches a man hath, the more still he desires. Though Paul knew Christ, yet he would know him more: “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection” (Phi 3:10).

Question: But how shall we get this saving knowledge?

Answer: Not by the power of nature: some speak of how far well-improved reason will go. Alas, the plumb line of reason is too short to fathom the deep things of God. A man can no more by the power of reason reach the saving knowledge of God than a pigmy can reach the pyramids. The light of nature will no more help us to see Christ, than the light of a candle will help us to understand. “The natural man receiveth not the things of God, neither can he know them” (1Co 2:14). What shall we do then to know God in a soul-saving manner? I answer, “Let us implore the help of God’s Spirit.” Paul never saw himself blind until a light shined from heaven (Act 9:3). God must anoint our eyes ere[49] we can see. What needed Christ to have bid Laodicea to come to Him for eye-salve, if she could see before? (Rev 3:18). O let us beg the Spirit, which is a Spirit of revelation (Eph 1:17). Saving knowledge is not by speculation, but by inspiration (Job 32:8). The inspiration of the Almighty giveth understanding.

We may have excellent notions in divinity,[50] but the Holy Ghost must enable us to know them after a spiritual manner; a man may see the figures upon a dial, but he cannot tell how the day goes unless the sun shines. We may read many truths in the Bible, but we cannot know them savingly until God’s Spirit doth shine upon us. “The Spirit searching all things, yea, the deep things of God” (1Co 2:10). The Scripture discovers Christ to us, but the Spirit reveals Christ in us (Gal 1:16). The Spirit makes known that which all the world cannot do, namely, the sense of God’s love.

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Thomas Watson – A Test of Assurance

watson_0 He who loves God DESIRES HIS PRESENCE. Lovers cannot be long apart, they soon have their fainting fits, for want of a sight of the object of their love. A soul deeply in love with God desires the enjoyment of Him in His ordinances, in word, prayer, and sacraments. David was ready to faint away and die when he had not a sight of God. “My soul fainteth for God” (Psalm 84:2). Such as care not for ordinances, but say, “When will the Sabbath be over?” plainly reveal their lack of love to God.

He who loves God DOES NOT LOVE SIN. “Ye that love the Lord, hate evil” (Psalm 97:10). The love of God, and the love of sin, can no more mix together than iron and clay. Every sin loved, strikes at the being of God; but he who loves God, has a hatred of sin. He who would part two lovers is a hateful person. God and the believing soul are two lovers; sin parts between them, therefore the soul is implacably set against it. By this try your love to God. How could Delilah say she loved Samson, when she entertained correspondence with the Philistines, who were his mortal enemy?

He who loves God IS NOT MUCH IN LOVE WITH ANYTHING ELSE. His love is very cool to worldly things. His love to God moves swiftly, as the sun in the firmament; to the world it moves slowly, as the sun on the dial. The love of the world eats out the heart of religion; it chokes good affections, as earth puts out fire. The world was a dead thing to Paul. “I am crucified to the world, and the world is crucified to me” (Gal. 6:14). In Paul we may see both the picture and pattern of a mortified man. He that loves God, uses the world but chooses God. The world engages him, but God delights and satisfies him. He says as David, “God my exceeding joy,” the gladness or cream of my joy (Psalm 43:4).

He who loves God CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT HIM. Things we love we cannot be without. A man can do without music or flowers, but not food; so a soul deeply in love with God looks upon himself as undone without Him. “Hide not thy face from me, lest I be like them that go down into the pit” (Psalm 143:7). He says to Job, “I went mourning without the sun” (Job 30:28). I have starlight, I want the Sun of Righteousness; I enjoy not the sweet presence of my God. Is God our chief good, and we cannot live without Him? Alas! how do they show they have no love to God who can do well enough without Him! Let them have corn and oil, and you shall never hear them complain of the lack of God.

He who loves God WILL BE AT ANY PAINS TO GET HIM. What pains the merchant takes, what hazards he runs, to have a rich return from the Indies! Jacob loved Rachel, and he could endure the heat by day, and the frost by night, that he might enjoy her. A soul that loves God will take any pains for the fruition of Him. “My soul follows hard after God” (Psalm 63:8). Love is pondus animae (Augustine). It is the weight which sets the clock going. It is much in prayer, weeping, fasting; it strives as in agony that he may obtain Him whom his soul loves. Plutarch reports of the Gauls, an ancient people of France, that after they had tasted the sweet wine of Italy, they never rested till they had arrived at that country. He who is in love with God, never rests till he has a part in Him. “I sought him whom my soul loveth” (Song of Sol. 3:2). How can they say they love God, who are not industrious in the use of means to obtain Him? “A slothful man hides his hand in his bosom” (Pro. 19:24). He is not in agony, but lethargy. If Christ and salvation would drop as a ripe fig into his mouth, he would be content to have them; but he is loath to put himself to too much trouble. Does he love his friend, who will not undertake a journey to see him?

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Thomas Watson – Blessed Are Those Persecuted for Righteousness’ Sake (Matthew 5:10)

watson_0 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10

We are now come to the last beatitude: ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted . . ‘. Our Lord Christ would have us reckon the cost. ‘Which of you intending to build a tower sits not down first and counts the cost, whether he have enough to finish it?’ (Luke 14:28). Religion will cost us the tears of repentance and the blood of persecution. But we see here a great encouragement that may keep us from fainting in the day of adversity. For the present, blessed; for the future, crowned.

The words fall into two general parts.

1. The condition of the godly in this life: ‘They are persecuted’.

2. Their reward after this life: ‘Theirs is the kingdom of heaven’.

I shall speak chiefly of the first, and wind in the other in the application. The observation is that true godliness is usually attended with persecution. ‘We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God’ (Acts 14:22). ‘The Jews stirred up the chief men of the city and raised persecution against Paul . . .’ (Acts 13:50). Luther makes persecution the very definition of a Christian. Though Christ died to take away the curse from us—yet not to take away the cross from us. Those stones which are cut out for a building are first under the saw and hammer—to be hewed and squared. The godly are called ‘living stones’ (1 Peter 2:5). And they must be hewn and polished by the persecutor’s hand, that they may be fit for the heavenly building.

The saints have no charter of exemption from trials. Though they live ever so meek, merciful, pure in heart—their piety will not shield them from sufferings. They must hang their harp on the willows and take the cross. The way to heaven is by way of thorns and blood. Though it be full of roses in regard of the comforts of the Holy Spirit—yet it is full of thorns in regard of persecutions. Before Israel got to Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey, they must go through a wilderness of serpents and a Red Sea. So the children of God in their passage to the holy land must meet with fiery serpents and a red sea of persecution. It is a saying of Ambrose, ‘There is no Abel, but has his Cain.’ Paul fought with beasts at Ephesus (1 Corinthians 15:32). Set it down as a maxim—if you will follow Christ, you must see the swords and staves. ‘Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.’ (2 Timothy 3:12). Put the cross in your creed. For the amplification of this, there are several things we are to take cognizance of.

1. What is meant by persecution.

2. The several kinds of persecution.

3. Why there must be persecution.

4. The chief persecutions are raised against the ministers of Christ.

5. What that persecution is, which makes a man blessed.

1. What is meant by persecution? The Greek word ‘to persecute’, signifies ‘to vex and molest’, sometimes ‘to prosecute another’, to ‘arraign him at the bar’, and ‘to pursue him to the death’. A persecutor is a ‘pricking briar’ (Ezekiel 28:24); therefore the church is described to be a ‘lily among thorns’ (Canticles 2:2).

2. What are the several kinds of persecution? There is a twofold persecution; a persecution of the hand; a persecution of the tongue.

1. A persecution of the HAND. ‘Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?’ (Acts 7:52). ‘For your sake we are killed all the day long’ (Romans 8:36; Galatians 4:29). This I call a bloody persecution, when the people of God are persecuted with fire and sword. So we read of the ten persecutions in the time of Nero, Domitian, Trajan etc.; and of the Marian persecution. England for five years drank a cup of blood, and lately Christians in Bohemia have been scourged to death with the rod of the persecutor. God’s Church has always, like Abraham’s ram, been tied in a bush of thorns.

2. The persecution of the TONGUE, which is twofold.

[1] Reviling. This few think of or lay to heart—but it is called in the text, persecution. ‘When men shall revile you and persecute you’. This is tongue persecution. ‘His words were drawn swords’ (Psalm 55:21). You may kill a man as well in his name, as in his person. A good name is as ‘precious ointment’ (Ecclesiastes 7:1). A good conscience and a good name is like a gold ring set with a rich diamond. Now to smite another by his name, is by our Savior called persecution. Thus the primitive Christians endured the persecution of the tongue. ‘They had trial of cruel mockings’ (Hebrews 2:36). David was ‘the song of the drunkards’ (Psalm 69:12). They would sit on their ale-bench and jeer at him. How frequently do the wicked cast out the squibs of reproach at God’s children: ‘These are the holy ones!’ Little do they think what they do. They are now doing Cain’s work! They are persecuting.

[2] Slandering. So it is in the text: ‘When they shall persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely’. Slandering is tongue persecution. Thus Paul was slandered in his doctrine. Report had it that he preached, ‘Men might do evil that good might come of it’ (Romans 3:8). Thus Christ who cast out devils — was charged to have a devil (John 8:48). The primitive Christians were falsely accused for killing their children, and for incest. ‘They laid to my charge things that I knew not’ (Psalm 35:11)

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