Ralph Erskine Archive

Ralph Erskine




This Sermon was delivered by our author, in his own church at Dunfermline, December 16, 1722.

“Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me, are for signs and for wonders in Israel; from the Lord of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion.” Isaiah 8:8

The subjects I have lately discoursed upon, compared with this text, will hold forth to us a fourfold verdict concerning Christ, the glorious Redeemer of an elect world. 1. The Father’s verdict concerning him, saying, “I have given him for a covenant of the people, a light of the Gentiles,” [See the preceding Sermon]. 2. The Spirit’s verdict concern­ing him, witnessing in his behalf, “He shall testify of me.” 3. His own verdict of himself, saying, “I and my Father are one,” [These two last subjects have not yet appeared in print]. 4. The World’s verdict of him and his followers, “Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me, are for signs and for won­ders in Israel.” —In the first, the Father commends him to us by his approbation; “I will give thee for a covenant of the people.” In the second, the Spirit commends him to us by his attestation; “He shall testify of me.” In the third, he commends himself to us by his proclamation; “I and my Father are one.” But, in the fourth, the world discommends and entertains him with detestation; “Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me, are for signs and for wonders in Israel.” —Behold, how the Father’s gift is despised, though he gave him for a covenant of the people! Be­hold, how the Spirit’s testimony is rejected, while he testifies of Christ! Behold, how his own declaration is neglected, showing that he and his Father are one! Behold, how unworthily this glorious one is entertained by the generality who hear of him; even with prodigious marks of reproach and contempt upon him and all his children!

It might have been thought that Christ and his friends should be better entertained by the people of the world, seeing he is given of the Father to be the covenant of the people: yet the most of people are such strangers to their true interest, such apostates from, and enemies to Christ, that his best friends are ready to meet with the greatest opposition, when they are most employed in witnessing for him. But that he whom the Father hath given for a covenant of the people will still find some friends amongst the people to wit­ness for him, is evident from that word; “He shall testify of me; and ye also shall bear witness.” And surely they shall have no reason to be ashamed of their testimony concerning him, seeing he is such a glorious person, that he and his Father are one in essence: and yet what treatment his witnessing friends are to expect, even in Israel, is declared in this text, by their glorious leader; “Behold, I and the children which the Lord hath given me, are for signs and for wonders in Israel.”

That you may not apprehend we mistake the scope of the words; it may be here asked, “Of whom doth the prophet here speak? of himself, or of another?” We answer, He speaks both of himself and of another. That he speaks of himself, is evident from the context, which you may view at your leisure: and that he speaks of another also, is evident from Hebrews 2:13, where this very text is cited, and applied to Christ: “Behold, I and the children whom thou hast given me.” So that here the prophet is the type, and Christ the antitype: therefore, hence it is evident, that in discours­ing upon this subject, I will not deviate from the scope, while I apply it either to Christ, or his servants and friends: and while I consider it either as the language of the prophet, the type, speaking of himself, and his children, converted by his means and instrumentality; and so may be applied to all the faithful ambassadors of Christ, and their converts; or, as it is the language of Christ, the anti‑type, speaking of himself, and of all his friends and followers, who, of his own will, are begotten and regenerated by the word of grace: “Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me, are for signs and for wonders in Israel.”

The scope of this, and several following chapters, is to show the great destruction that was shortly to be brought upon the king­dom of Israel, by the King of Assyria, for their sins. In these times of public calamity threatened and impendent, the prophet com­forts the people of God, with the same comfort, wherewith himself had been comforted of God; “For the Lord spake thus to me, with a strong hand, and instructed me, that I should not walk in the way of this people,” (v. 11). Where we may remark, 1. That there is a proneness in men to walk in the way of the people they live amongst, though it be not a good way: the best of men are prone hereto. 2. Those whom God loves and owns, he will enable them to swim against the stream of common corruption, though they should be called singular. —In these times of distress, the Lord also cautions his people, by the prophet against all sinful fears, “Say you not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid,” (v. 12). Be not associate with them nor afraid of their confederacy. When the church’s enemies have sinful confederacies on foot, the church’s friends should watch against the sinful fears of these con­federacies. And especially, it concerns us, in time of trouble, to watch against all such fears as put us upon any indirect courses for our own security; or any sinful shafts to shun the cross. —He next advises them to a religious fear, “Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself, and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread,” (v. 13). The believing fear of God is a special preservative against the dis­quiet and fear of man: and they that truly fear God shall not need to fear any evil; for, He shall be for a sanctuary to them, though to others he will be a stone of stumbling, over which they will fall to ruin, (vv. 14,15). They who are helped to keep up the fear of God, and keep down the fear of man, will find God to be their refuge; while the wicked, and all their confederates, though hand join in hand, shall not go unpunished, but stumble and fall into despair and ruin. —In verse 16, we have the unspeakable privilege which the people of God enjoy, in having the oracles of God en­trusted to them; the scripture, as a testimony, to direct our faith; and a law, to direct our practice: it is God’s proclamation, under the broad seal of heaven; it is the good thing committed to them that are disciples. —In verse 17, we have the use, the good use we are to make of this privilege: and this we are taught by the pro­phet’s own practice and resolution; he embraced the law and the testimony, and had the comfort of it, amidst all the discouragements he met with. What council God hath given, (v. 12), the prophet here follows,— “I will wait upon the Lord, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him,” (v. 17). God was frowning upon his people; and then the prophet waiting and looking. When God is hiding his face, and threatening to come in a way of judgment, even then his people should be attending upon him, and expecting his return, in a way of mercy: and those that wait upon God, by faith and prayer, may look for him with hope and joy.

But now, while the prophet was taking this course, it was judged to be an imprudent and ridiculous thing in him; he and his disciples, amongst whom the law and testimony was sealed, were scoffed and mocked, contemned and reproached for it; “Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me, are for signs and wonders in Israel.” Where, for a short division, you may observe these six following things.

1. The note of admiration or lamentation, behold! The prophet admires that godliness should be so strange: or, he laments the sin of that age, that piety and religion should be such a strange thing among them.

2. We have the party that is here derided, contemned, and wondered at: “I and the children whom the Lord hath given me:” the prophet and his disciples, ministers and their converts, Christ and his friends.

3. Observe the mark of reproach and derision put upon them: they are signs and wonders; they are looked upon as prodigies and monsters, and turned to matter of scorn and ridicule.

4. We have the people that are guilty of this high contempt and this is the special consideration, speaking is to be matter of wonder and lamentation: it is in Israel. If it had been in Egypt, and ‘among heathens, it would not have been such a strange matter: but that they should be for signs and wonders, even in Israel, or, treated with contempt by a people professing the true religion, this is the more strange.

5. We have the spring of this dispensation; it is from the Lord of hosts. God, by his providence hath so ordered it; he hath a sovereign hand in over‑ruling these things, for the trial of his people, wherein men have a sinful hand.

6 We have the ground of comfort that the children of God have under all these and such like discouragements; and this is implied in the titles that are here ascribed unto him; in that,

(1.) He is the Lord of hosts, who hath all the hosts of heaven and earth at his command; insomuch, that the reproachers and despisers of his people can do them no harm; yea, cannot touch one hair of their head, any further than he gives them liberty and permission.

(2.) He dwells in mount Zion; there were the symbols of his presence, and the ark that was a type of Christ; so that his dwelling in mount Zion points out, not only his presence with his people, but his dwelling upon a throne of grace and mercy; as a God in Christ reconciling the world to himself. He dwelleth in mount Zion, manifesting himself to his people, ready to hear their prayers, and receive their complaints; ready to satisfy their desires, and sanctify their crosses, and support them under their sufferings and reproaches for his name. Though for the present he hide his face from the house of Jacob; and the time of hiding, be also a time of reproach, wherein they suffer contempt and ignominy; yet he dwelleth in mount Zion, so as they know where to find him, and recover the sight of him.

Now, instead of adducing many observations from the words, I shall insist mainly upon this one.

Observation: That as it hath been, so it is still the lot of Christ and his friends, whether ministers or people, who bear his image, to be held as monsters; hated, contemned, reproached, and wondered at: Or thus, Christ and his people are the world’s wonder. “Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me, are for signs and for wonders in Israel.”

In the prosecution of this proposition, I would, as the Lord may assist, essay the following things.

I.     Offer some remarks for the further application of the text.

II.   Adduce some scripture passages for the, confirmation of the doctrine.

III.  Inquire into some of these marks of reproach, that use to be cast upon Christ and his followers.

IV. Assign the reasons of the doctrine, whence it comes to pass, that they are thus held as monsters, and for signs and for wonders in Israel.

V.   Deduce some inferences for the application of the whole subject.

I. We proposed to offer some remarks for the further explication of the text: and there are these six following remarks evident in it.

Remark 1. “That converted persons are the children of Christ, and the children of those ministers by whom they are converted.” They are the children of Christ, as being the only author of their regeneration and adoption; “Behold, I and the children whom God hath given me,” saith Christ, (Heb. 2:13). They are the children of ministers, as being the instruments of their regeneration and new birth; “My little children,” saith the apostle, “of whom I travail in birth, till Christ be formed in you,” (Gal. 4:19). And again, “In Christ I have begotten you through the gospel,” (1 Cor. 4:15); and “I have espoused you to one Husband,” (2 Cor. 11:2). Christ is the everlasting Father of all believers: and as a father pities his children, so will he pity them; for, of his own will begat he them, by the word of truth. Ministers are the instrumental fathers of all those to whom the Lord blesses their ministry, as the instrument of their regeneration. But no sooner doth the church, the woman spoken of, (Rev. 12:), bring forth any children to God, than the dragon stands ready to devour them, as soon as they are born. “Behold, I and the children whom thou hast given me, are for signs and wonders.”

Remark 2. “That it is the power of God that converts and re­generates any that are converted and regenerated by the word:” “Who is Paul, who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?” (1 Cor. 3:5,6). Ministers must look upon their converts, as the children that God hath given them; for, whatever good they are instrumental of to others, it is owing to the free grace of God; if God had not given them, they had never been able to do them any saving good. Christ looks upon believers as his children, which the Father gave him: “I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou gavest me out of the world, thine they were, and thou gavest them me,” (John 17:6). They were thine by election from eternity, and thou gavest them me to be redeemed by my blood, and regenerated by my spirit: and in this regenerated work, the Father hath a special hand of power; for, “No man can come to me,” saith Christ, “except the Father which hath sent me draw him.”

Remark 3. “That the best that ever was in the world doth meet with the worst treatment therein:” “I, and the children whom thou hast given me, are for signs and wonders.” We are held as monsters, and prodigies, and gazing‑stocks. Who? Even Christ and his children; ministers and their converts; the chief Shepherd and the fairest of his sheep; the under‑shepherds, and the flower of their flock. Christ and his friends, both ministers and others, are generally hated and contemned by the wicked. Yea,

Remark 4. “That those who profess religion, and the worship of the true God, may yet despise Christ and his people: They are for signs and wonders; where? even in Israel: not in Babylon only, but even in Israel.” Many that bear the name of Christians, are enemies to Christ; they profess religion, and yet are despisers of all that are truly religious: “All are not Israel, who are of Is­rael;” for, even in Israel are to be found despisers of the God of Israel, and of the Israel of God. Even within the church visible are to be found despisers of the church invisible, and their glorious head.

    Remark 5. “That the children of God are not despised, con­temned, reproached, and wondered at without the providence of God: it is from the Lord of hosts, that dwelleth in Mount Zion.” “Is there evil in the city, and the Lord hath not done it?” The evil of affliction, he ordereth it; the evil of sin, he permits it, for wise ends: for he is not the author of sin, but he is the Over‑ruler of the wickedness of men, to make it contribute and work together, for glory to his name, and good to his people. Man hath a wicked hand in all the marks of contempt he pours upon the godly: but God hath an holy hand in ordering the same, for the trial of faith and patience: and it is the comfort of his children, amidst all dis­couragement from without, that it is not without the wise provi­dence of God that contempt is poured upon them; it is from the Lord of hosts; he hath bidden Shimei curse David. It is their comfort also that he is the Lord of hosts, who arms what instru­ments he pleases, to execute his will; and that he is the God that dwells in Mount Zion, to be a present help in time of trouble, and to give present comfort in time of discouragement: he is not far off, he dwells in Mount Zion.

Remark 6. “That it is matter of wonder and lamentation to all the children of God, both ministers and people, that the power of religion and true piety, should be such a rarity, and exposed to such contempt in a sinful world, and especially in Israel; and yet so it is, “Hear the word of the Lord, ye that tremble at his word; your brethren that hate you, that cast you out for my name’s sake, said, let the Lord be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed,” (Isa. 66:5). Where we see it is no new thing for the godly to be persecuted for Christ’s name, even in Is­rael, by men that pretend conscience, and a zeal for the honor and glory of God, and the good and welfare of the church; and who prosecute their hatred and despite with all the formality of devotion Christ doth explain this,— “They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think he doeth God service,” (John 16:2). —So much shall suffice for the remarks I premise for the explication of the text. I come now,

II. To adduce some scripture passages for the confirmation of the doctrine, namely, That as it hath been, so it is still the lot of Christ and his friends, whether ministers or people, who bear his image, to be held as monsters; hated, condemned, reproached, and wondered at. You may see both Old and New Testament instances of it. —In the Old Testament, see an instance of it in David, “I am as a wonder unto many,” (Ps. 71:7). See an instance of it in the Old Testament believers and church, mentioned, “Have mercy, upon us, O Lord; for we are exceedingly filled with contempt; our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that are at ease, and with the contempt of the proud,” (Ps. 123:3,4). —See an instance of it in Joshua and his fellows, “Hear now, O Joshua, the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee; for they are men wondered at,” (Zech. 3:8). —You may turn over to the New Testament, and see an instance of it in the believing Hebrews,— “We were made a gazing‑stock, both by reproach and affliction,” (Heb. 10:33). —We see an instance of it in all the primitive Christians, “For as concerning this sect, we know that everywhere it is spoken against,” (Acts 28:22). —And we see an instance of it in the flower of the flock, Christ himself, the Captain of the host,— “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against,” (Luke 2:34). Christ is the rejected stone, (Ps. 118:22). “Enduring the contradiction of sinners against himself,” (Heb. 12:3).

I might here demonstrate the truth of the doctrine, by an induction of particulars, showing how Christ and his Father, his spirit and his word, his servants and people., and his religion itself, hath been signs and wonders for reproach.

1. Christ himself hath been spoken against and reproached. —They spake against his person, as base and contemptible. “Having no form or comeliness,” (Isa. 53:22). —They spake against his preaching, as false, factious, senseless, and seditious, (John 7:12; Luke 22:2; 16:14). —They reproached and spoke against his miracles, as done in confederacy with Beelzebub the prince of devils, (Matt. 12: 24). —They spoke against his morals, charging him with blasphemy against God, profanation of the Sabbath, as a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. They spoke against his followers, as a company of ignorant, despicable people, (John 7:48,49). —They reproached him in his offices: in his teaching office, when they challenged him to prophecy who smote him; in his saving office, when they challenged him to save himself, as he had saved others; in his ruling office, when they challenged him to prove himself the king of the Jews, by coming down from the cross.

It is long since the world thus spake against him, and reproached him: and that he was held for a sign and a wonder in Israel, and was spoken against even in Israel. But are there none that speak against and reproach him to this day, even when he is exalted to the place of glory and power? Yea, How do the Jews speak against him still, in all these, and many other respects? How do the Mahometans speak against him, while they prefer their base imposter into his room? —Again, how are Arians and Socinians daily speaking against Christ, as if he was a mere man, though he thought it no robbery to be equal with God? —How do Quakers and enthusiasts speak against him, as if he was a mere nothing, an empty name, setting up, we know not what sort of a Christ with them, instead of that Jesus that was crucified at Jerusalem? —How do Atheists and Deists speak against him, as if he was a mere cheat; accounting the religion he hath established, a great imposture; and his gospel a jest? —How do profane and ignorant persons speak against him, as if our Beloved was no more than another beloved? saying, “What is thy beloved more than another beloved?” —How do Latitudinarians speak reproachfully against him, as if he was a minister of sin? —How do Legalists speak against him, as if he alone was not the Lord our righteousness? —How do Papists speak against him, and reproach him? They make him but a false Christ by their doctrine. They spoil him of his true manhood; holding that Christ’s body is not only in heaven, but really and substantially in all places wherever the sacrifice of the mass is offered: thus they make it omnipresent; and take away the very nature of a body. They reproach him in, and rob him of, his offices. They degrade him from his prophetical office; making the Pope the infallible judge of all controversies. They degrade him from his priestly office, which consists in satisfaction and intercession: they nullify his satisfaction, by joining therewith the satisfaction of man’s works, as if his were imperfect without that: and they rob him of his intercession, communicating the same to saints; yea, they exalt the Virgin Mary far above Christ, in this work; for they pray her to ask the Father, to command Christ her Son, by the authority of a mother, to do thus and thus for them. So much is evident from the genuine popish tenets, out of the Rhemish Testament [text used by Roman Catholics; origin Reims France]. Yea, they also degrade him from his kingly office, by placing the Pope in his room and stead, as his deputy, in his presence; while they give power to the Pope, to rule the Catholic church, to pardon sins, and make laws to bind men’s consciences; which are things proper to Christ alone; whereby they take the crown off Christ’s head, and set it on the Pope’s: for, to claim regency, in the presence of the lawful prince, is to proclaim rebellion against the prince; because commission of vice‑regency ceases in the presence of him that appoints it: now, Christ is always present with his church, (Matt. 27:20). And, therefore, the Pope, by his claim, must needs thrust Christ out of his offices.

And, alas! what a lamentable thing is it, by the bye, that this damnable doctrine spreads so much even in this island; particularly in the north of Scotland, where, we understand, the popish mass is as solemnly celebrate, as we attend upon these divine ordinances? And as Episcopacy was the very ground‑work, and foundation ­stone, upon which Popery was at first erected; so, what matter of lamentation is it, that popish ceremonies, maintained in the Epis­copal church, are so much affected; whereby such indignity is offered to the appointments of our Lord Jesus Christ, as if his in­stitutions were imperfect, detective, and faulty, without their ad­ditional inventions? I do not think it worth my while, here to meddle with particular persons, and their principles, which some may think I have fair before me: we should pity and pray for them who despitefully use us, or our glorious Lord and his ordinances: and especially we should pity and lament over an ignorant generation, that are so infatuated, as to desire nothing more, than to have these realms entirely subject to a popish government, and Antichristian yoke; which neither we nor our forefathers were able to bear: surely, such do not know and consider, how much Popery speaks to the reproach of Christ and true Christianity. —These are hard speeches, which ungodly sinners have spoken against him, (Jude 15), which is the sign to be spoken against.

2. As Christ himself, so his Father is spoken against and reproached. —Some denying his being, though his existence be so necessary, that, if he be not, it is impossible anything else should be; yet many fools say in their heart, what they dare not speak out, viz. “That there is no God,” (Ps. 14:1). And he that saith there is none, would wish there were none: and if he could help it there should be none. —Some blasphemously charging the all‑seeing eye with blindness, saying, “The Lord shall not see,” (Ps. 114:7). Charging the eternal mind with forgetfulness, saying, “God hath forgotten,” (Ps. 10:11). Charging the omnipotent arm with weak­ness, saying, “Can God give bread in the wilderness?” (Ps. 78:19,20). Charging his rectoral equity with injustice, saying, “Though we sin, we shall not surely die.” —Some speak against and reproach his providence, by quarrelling, murmuring, and com­plaining, and finding fault with the disposals of it. —Some profane his name, making it a by‑word, by which they give vent to their exorbitant passions, and fill up the vacancy of other idle words. Not only is the name of God thus abused by those who belch out their bloody oaths, which would make the ears of every good man to tingle; but also, by those who mention the name of God slightly, or irreverently, in their ordinary conversation; he is near to their mouth, but far from their heart. To use these forms of speech, which properly signify an acknowledgment of God’s being; as, O God! O Lord! or the like; or an appeal to his omniscience, as God knoweth, the Lord knoweth: or an invocation of his favor as God bless me! Lord be merciful to me! I say, to use these, or the like expressions, impertinently, and intending thereby only to express our wonder and surprise, or our passionate resentment, or anything beside that which is their proper and awful signification, is an evidence of a vain mind, that wants a due regard to that glorious and fearful name: yet, thus is the mouth of the ungodly set against Heaven, (Ps. 88:9; Jude 16). Ally the Lord, that hath chosen Jerusalem, rebuke them! (Zech. 3:2).

3. As Christ himself and his Father, so his Spirit is reproached. Many indeed are grossly ignorant of the Holy Ghost, like those, “We have not so much as heard, whether there be any Holy Ghost,” (Acts 19:2). Others that hear of the Holy Ghost, they blaspheme the Spirit of Christ; and so make fearful approaches to the unpardonable sin: while they reproach his motions, as enthusiastic fancies; and his operations, as frantic notions; and all his graces and influences, as dreams and delusions.

4. His word is reproached; “But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled kith envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming,” (Acts 13:45). Atheists speak against the authority of the scriptures: Papists speak against the perspicuity of the scriptures, and receive unwritten traditions with the same reverence and affection. Some profanely jest with the words of the scripture; making themselves merry with scripture language,— “The word of the Lord is to them a reproach,” (Jer. 6:10). Profligate wits relish no jests better, than those which ridicule the sacred word: as no cups could please Belshazzar better, in his drunken frolics, than the sacred vessels of the temple. But, he that sits in heaven will laugh at them, and hold them in derision; and, in spite of impotent malice, will magnify the law, and make it honorable.

5. His religion and doctrine is spoken against and reproached. The truth of it, and of the gospel, are many times reproached, ridiculed, and contradicted, as false and groundless; even as the mediation, and the resurrection of the dead was mocked at by the Athenian philosophers. The laws of it were accounted grievous and unreasonable, as hard sayings. The ordinances of it despised as mean, and having no form and comeliness; hence came in the gaudy ornaments of human invention, in the worship of God. Sabbaths and sacraments were mocked at and contemned. Primi­tive Christianity was industriously calumniated, because it over­threw idolatry; for, when the devil was silenced, in his oracles, he opened his mouth in lies and slanders: Julian discharged the Chris­tians to be called any other thing than Galileans. And the reformed religion, in like manner, was reproached: Where was your religion, say the Papists, before Luther and Calvin? Why, it was still in the Bible, where Popery never was: though it maintains all that doctrine which Christ and his apostles preached; yet, the pro­fessors and preachers of it are called schismatics and heretics. And even amongst those who profess the reformed religion, how is the flower of godliness contradicted and contemned, by those that rest only in a form! They that are fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, must expect to be evil spoken of by such as affect lukewarmness and indifference in religion; and so,

6. His servants and people are also reproached. The preachers of Christ are, with a distinguished enmity, everywhere spoken against, (2 Cor. 6:16). They have been trampled upon as the filth of the world, and the offscouring of all things, (Ezek. 33:30‑32). The standard‑bearers have been most struck at. The professors of religion also, have been reproached, reviled, and persecuted, (Matt. 5:11,12). God’s heritage hath been always a speckled bird; and his children for signs and wonders; and those who are the greatest blessings of the age branded as troublers of Israel. And, indeed, if they called the Master of the house Beelzebub, no nickname fas­tened upon his followers can seem strange. But this leads,

III. To the Third thing, which was to inquire into some of these marks of reproach and contempt that uses to be cast upon Christ and his friends, in the world. It is a true saying that the apostle hath, with respect to the children of God: “If in this life only we have hope, we are of all men the most miserable.” This he speaks with reference to the trials that they must lay their account with in the world; for, they must be the butt of the malice of the world, and the subject of the mockery of the wicked: yea, of many professors in Israel: “Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me, are for signs and for wonders in Israel.” There are these, and the like following marks of reproach that are cast upon them.

The First mark of reproach is, That sometimes they are held for monsters and prodigies of folly and impudence; “We are fools for Christ’s sake;” (1 Cor. 4:10), i.e., we are thus reckoned in the judg­ment of the world; because we prefer affliction before sin; and because we fear God more than man; and the wrath of God more than the wrath of a king. The world reckons it is a folly for men to choose affliction rather than sin. No doubt, the three children were reckoned fools, to expose themselves to the king’s fiery furnace: but surely it was more wisdom than to expose themselves to God’s fiery furnace, whose wrath is more terrible than all the fury of the kings of the earth. The world thinks Moses’ choice a folly; what! to prefer afflictions with the people of God, before all the pleasures of sin, and grandeur of Pharaoh’s court!

The Second mark of reproach is this, They are sometimes held for monsters and prodigies of wickedness, monsters of villainy. Christ himself was reproached as the most arrant villain upon the face of the earth; a man in compact with the devil: his followers were stigmatized with the greatest of wickedness; their religious meetings and conventicles for divine worship were reproached as being cloaks for covering the design of whoredom and uncleanness. Papists have looked upon Protestants as the worst of devils incar­nate; and do not loose‑living persons look upon those that are strict to be nothing but base persons, a pack of hypocrites, liars, and de­ceivers? They put them in bear skins, and then bark at them, and worry them. You will get a wretched, graceless, cursing, ranting, debauches, that, in some company, will persecute a child of God, and make him as hell, if you will believe him; and if you observe attentively, you may see just the devil, the father of lies, and accu­ser of the brethren, speaking out of him; and his tongue to be the instrument of calumny, while he represents them as enemies to the law and holiness. (See Acts 18:13).

The Third mark of reproach is, That they are sometimes held as monsters of injuriousness and hurtfulness: though even for their sakes the world is upheld, and for their sakes the wicked have many mercies continued with them; yet they are many times looked upon as the troublers of church and state: thus Elijah was the man that most lamented the sins of the children of Israel, and yet he is called the troubler of Israel, (1 Kings 18:17). Thus they are reproached sometimes with rebellion, and as enemies to civil government, hav­ing laws different from all people, —“And Haman said unto the king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad, and dispersed among the people, in all the provinces of thy king­dom, and their laws are diverse from all people, neither keep they the king’s laws; therefore it is not for the king’s profit to suffer them,” (Esther 3:8). While they hold by the laws of king Jesus, in opposition to all the laws of earthly government, that seem to clash with the law of God, then they are treated as lawless persons. When Amos was reproving the sins of Israel, the priests of Bethel complain upon him to the government, (Amos 7:11‑13). Thus were the Christians reproached, —“These are they,” say the wicked Jews, “that have turned the world upside down: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus,” (Acts 17:7). Thus the builders of the walls of Jerusalem were ac­cused and charged with rebellion against the government, (Neh. 2:19). —“They laughed us to scorn, and despised us, saying, What is this ye do, will ye rebel against the king?

The Fourth mark of reproach is this, They are sometimes held as monsters of pride and self‑conceit; as men affecting singularity; as men who think themselves wiser than others! and as a sect and faction preferable to all others, —“As for this sect, we know that everywhere it is spoken against,” (Acts 28:22): where the godly were represented under the invidious name of a sect, or a party that affected singularity. —The masters and maintainers of sects are looked upon as enemies to the great corporation of mankind: but there is not the least color to put this scandalous character upon the true professors of Christianity, or followers of Christ: for it esta­blishes that which is of general concern to all mankind.

We read, indeed, of the sect of the Sadducees, who justly de­served that character; because they overturned the foundation of religion, by denying a future state, and the immortality of the soul: whereas, the gospel and true religion establish those principles that concern man’s everlasting welfare. —Also, it cannot be called a sect, because it hath a native tendency to the uniting the children of men to the Son of God, and to one another in him, by love. Christ died to break down partition‑walls, and to slay all enmity; and taught all his followers, not only to love one another, but to love their ene­mies. And his gospel and the believers of it, are far from being a sect, which is supposed to lead to division, and to sow discord. It is true, the preaching of the gospel hath been the occasion of much contention in the world: and hence the preachers of the gospel have been branded as men of contention, (Jer: 15:10), where the prophet says, he was born a man of strife, and a man of contention to the whole earth; on which account Christ says, he came not to send peace, but a sword; and to set men at variance, one against another, (Matt. 10:34,35), intimating what occasion of contention the gospel would be; and what a load of reproaches might there­upon be cast upon its followers, as if they were contentious persons, and division makers; but whatever division it be the occasion of, yet it is nowise the cause of contention; for it was intended to be the cure of it:— and, so far as gospel truth and principles do powerfully prevail upon the hearts of men, so far doth it make them meek and quiet, and of a loving disposition; for the wisdom that is from above is pure and peaceable: and the gos­pel proclaims peace on earth. In a word, true gospel‑believers are so far from being a divisive sect, that, whereas the authors of sects use to be governed by secular interest, and to aim at wealth, ho­nor, and grander, true religion, instead of preferring a man to honor, lays him open to disgrace; and lays him obnoxious to fines and forfeiture, to flames and faggots, racks and imprisonments, when religion is persecuted openly, as was the common lot of the primitive Christians, and of several after‑ages of the church; and hath been the lot of some in Britain, yea, in Scotland, since the Reformation: and that it is not the lot of our day, is owing to re­straining Providence; but how soon it may be your lot, is hard to tell. However, in this respect, it is far from being a sect governed by secular interest.

We read likewise of the sect of the Pharisees; and they proved themselves to be a sect, by thirsting after the praise of men, by de­vouring widows’ houses, and the like: but some sworn enemies to the Christian religion, such as Caesar Vanimus, who was industrious in searching out all objections against it, owned there was nothing in it that savored of wordly and carnal designs. True Chris­tianity is a heavenly calling, not under the conduct of fleshly wisdom.

But if, notwithstanding of all this, the true followers of Christ be nicknamed a sect; if a strict and sober conversation—if a zealous contending for the faith—if a diligent attendance upon, and adher­ence to the gospel, and its truths and ordinances—if joining in religious societies for prayer and Christian conference, and endeavoring in our places the suppression of error, immorality, and profaneness—if a vigorous opposition to everything that encroaches upon the prerogative of Christ, or tendeth to hurt the doctrine, worship, dis­cipline, and government of his house—if these, and the like, be called the badge of a sect, or party, let us not be moved at it; but rather say as David, —“If this be to be vile, I will be more vile,” (2 Sam. 6:22). Let us not be deterred from gospel‑principles and prac­tices by the invidious name of a sect; it is better to be under the reproach of men for following of Christ, than to be under the curse of God for forsaking him.

The Fifth mark of reproach cast upon them is, That some­times they are held as monsters of error, and as signs and wonders for novelty of doctrine and deportment, “What new doctrine is this? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears,” (Acts 17:19,20): and yet it was nothing but the doctrine of Christ and his gospel, preached from the beginning of the world in Paradise, and professed of through the Old Testament; however, it was re­proached as a new scheme, and a doctrine subversive of the law; “This fellow persuades men to worship God contrary to the law,” (Acts 18:13). Christ himself was obliged to vindicate himself, from this charge, saying, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law and the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil,” (Matt. 5:17). And Paul vindicated himself, “Do we make void the law through faith? God forbid! Nay, we establish the law,” (Rom. 3:31).

The Sixth mark of reproach is, they are held as monsters of melancholy, dullness, and stupidity; that is an ordinary reproach cast upon religion, as if he turned men dumpish and sottish, dull and melancholy: which is occasioned especially by the humbled and dejected circumstances of new beginners in religion; while they are under a spirit of bondage, and under a law‑work of conviction and humiliation. But let poor humbled souls, that are weighted under a sense of sin, and fear of wrath, and grievous reflections upon their misspent time; and with a concern about what will become of them at judgment, and through a long vast eternity; let them remember, that it is better to bear that yoke, for a while, till the Lord himself give an outget, though they should be called mad and melancholy both, than to bear the yoke of God’s everlasting wrath, which will be wreathed about the necks of all despisers of God and godliness. —Sometimes this reproach is occasioned by the different dispositions that true religion works upon its followers, from that of the world. True godliness makes a man leave all sinful pleasure and delight, as well as all sinful profit and gain: and this being contrary to the way of the world, the man that is thus mortified to the world, is presently censured for melancholy; whereas no pleasure in the world is comparable to the pleasure of religion: “Wisdom’s ways are pleasantness.” And religion is so far from being a melancholy, uncomfortable thing, that nothing fills the religious man with more grief and melancholy than this, that he is not religious enough; and that he thinks he hath no religion. Some prospect of eternal happiness, in Christ Jesus, freedom from divine wrath, communion and fellowship with God, and religion, in the life and power of it, is the best antidote against melancholy that I know; and the greatest advancer of sober mirth, and spiritual gladness.

In a word, manifold are the remarks of reproach fastened upon true religion, and its friends. —Sometimes they are reproached as monsters of ingratitude to the world, because they will not humor and please them, in the way of wickedness; because they will serve them only, usque ad aras, according to the Latin proverb; that is to say, “As far as is lawful,” and no farther. —Sometimes they are reproached as monsters of wrath and spite, while their zeal for God comes under the name of anger, and canker, and rancor. The meek of the earth can bear injuries against themselves: but if they cannot bear the injuries that are done to the honor of God: if they cannot bear evil, as it is said to the commendation of the church of Ephesus, (Rev. 2:2): then they are censured and stigmatized for hot‑headed zealots. If they be faithful in reproving of sin, and tes­tifying against other general defections, or particular enormities, then they are ready to meet with the prophet Micaiah’s entertainment: “This fellow never speaks good of me.” —Sometimes they are re­proached as bunglers and babblers, The Athenian phi­losophers, Epicureans, and Stoics encountered Paul, and insulted him, saying, “What will this babbler say?” (Acts 17:18). —Sometimes they are re­proached for the very grace of God itself, that appears in them: “He that was born after the flesh, persecuted him that was born after the Spirit,” (Gal. 4:29). So also it is now: and the perse­cution here especially pointed at, was that of scorning and mocking, viz. as Ishmael mocked Isaac. And, indeed, mocking and derision, which arises from an hatred and contempt of our brother, is a de­gree of murder; “But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother, without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the Council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell‑fire,” (Matt. 5:22). Here raca signifies all signs and gestures that express contempt; such as hissing, and flouting, and looking contemptuously on our brother. —Now, the mocking where­with Ishmael mocked Isaac, proceeded from the contempt and hatred of the grace of God in Isaac; which Paul observes, when he says, that he persecuted that which was born after the Spirit. Thus Cain hated his brother, because of the grace of God in him: because his deeds were good, (1 John 3:12). A great part of the sufferings of Christ stood in this, that he was mocked for his confidence in God, (Ps. 22:8; Matt. 27:43). The children of Bethel mocked Elisha, 1. For his person, saying, “Go up thou bald‑head; go up thou bald‑head.” 2. For the grace and favor of God shared to Elijah his master, saying, Go up or ascend, as Elijah did; go up, not to Bethel, as some remark; but go up to heaven: and this profane scorning he cursed in the name of God. Let this learn children to beware of being mockers of the godly: the curse of God lighted upon these children, and “she‑bears came forth out of the wood, and tare to pieces forty‑two children of them,” (2 Kings 2:23,24).­ Now, these are some of the many marks of reproach, that are cast upon religion, and the followers of it, while they are for signs and for wonders in Israel.

IV. The Fourth thing was, To give the reasons of the doctrine, whence it is, that Christ and his children have been and are thus for signs and wonders in Israel: or, why they have been, and are thus stigmatized with marks of reproach and contempt. And,

1. They are for signs and wonders, because they are not known, “The world knoweth us not, because it knew not him,” (1 John 3:1). The world knew not Christ, and therefore they abused him: if they had known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. Christ was despised because the world knew him not, (John 1:10; 1 Cor. 2:8). The world did not know the dignity of his person, that he was the Son of God: yea, when he called him­self the Son of God, they called him a blasphemer, and stoned him. They did not know the excellency of his doctrine, otherwise they would never have said, that he deceiveth the people. They did not know the design of his coming, or that he was the Saviour of the world, and was to die that they might live. They did not know him in the power of his resurrection, or the fellowship of his suffer­ings; and, therefore, they reproached him. The world doth not know his followers and friends neither: though the world may know them with respect to their outward circumstances, yet the world doth not know the people of God. The world doth not know them in their spiritual relation to God, as being the children of God. The world doth not know them in their spiritual state of favor and friend­ship with God. The world doth not know them in their spiritual privileges, graces, and endowments. The world doth not know them in respect of their love to God, and God’s love to them, and his dis­position toward them. The world doth not know them in their acts of faith toward a God in Christ. The world doth not know them in their secret duties, and secret fellowship with God: their life is hid with Christ in God. As in a frosty night the stars will appear to them that live in that climate; while those that live in another cli­mate, cannot discern them; so will the graces of the godly appear, like so many glistering diamonds, to the spiritual discerning of those, who live in the same spiritual climate. But the world cannot see them; they live in another climate; “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: they are foolishness unto him.” The world doth not know them in respect of their usefulness; how useful they are to bring down blessings on these among whom they live; and how useful they are in holding off many sad judgments; so ten righteous men in Sodom would have saved it from destruc­tion. The world doth not know them in these respects; they do not know them because they are spiritually blind; they do not know them because they do not converse with them; they do not keep company with them; they may outwardly trade with them, but have no spiritual correspondence with them. And, O how ex­cellent are the ways of God, which none reproach but those that know them not!

2. They are for signs and wonders in the world, because they are not like the world; they are unlike to the wicked. As men will wonder at a person that is not like other folk: so they are for wonders, because they are a different species from the world; yea, they are men of another world, (John 15:16,17); where you see the world hates the people of God, because they are like Christ, who was hated of the world; and because they are unlike unto the world: they are new‑born, and have another nature: they are strangers here, and have their face set toward another world. They are many ways unlike the world. The world and they are objects of different affections; the one is loved, and the other is hated of God.—­They are subjects of different Lords, viz. God and the devil: and these two Lords command contrary things; they promise contrary rewards, and they threaten contrary punishments. The devil commands men to serve their lusts; he promises them temporal pleasures, and he threat­ens temporal miseries to those that will not serve him. Now, God’s commands, promises, and threatenings are of another nature: and so there is vast odds between the one and the other, while they are sub­jects of different Lords; the godly being brought from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God; the wicked being led captives by Satan, at his pleasure; he rules in the hearts of the child­ren of disobedience; yea, the god of this world blinds their eyes; and suggests all manner of evil unto them, and fills them with prejudice and enmity against the saints.—But then, as they are objects of different affections, and subjects of different Lords, so they are per­sons of different principles, that they act from; the one acts merely from the flesh, the other acts from the Spirit: contrary spirits act them severally; “Ye have not received the spirit of this world, but the spirit which is of God.” —Further, they are a people of dif­ferent ends, whether we consider the end proposed by them, or the end designed upon them. As to the end proposed by them; the godly man proposes the glory of God, as his great and ultimate end; the wicked man proposes the satisfaction of his own lusts as his end. As to the end designed upon them; the end of the godly man will be, that he shall enter into the joy of his Lord, to be forever with him; the end of the wicked will be, that he shall be turned into hell, to be tormented with the devil and his angels. —Now, seeing they are every way so unlike to the world, no wonder that they be for signs and wonders to the world; for, “What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? Or what concord hath light with darkness? What communion hath Christ with Belial? What part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” (2 Cor. 6:14,15). Now, because they are so unlike the world, and cannot follow the course of the world; therefore they are reproached therein: “They think it strange, that they run not with them, to the same excess of riot; speaking evil of you,”  (1 Pet. 4:4).

3. They are for signs and for wonders in the world, because they are enemies to the way of the world. The wickedness of the world is a vexation to them; “For that righteous man Lot, dwell­ing among them, in seeing, and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day, with their unlawful deeds,”  (2 Pet. 2:8). An unjust man is an abomination to the just, and he that is upright in the way, is an abomination to the wicked,”  (Prov. 29:27). The godly hate their ways, not their persons: we are obliged to love your persons, but to hate your vices, (Ps. 139:21,22). They cannot but be as signs and wonders to the wicked, especially when they hate that which they love, and love that which they hate. And the world is not behind with them in their hatred; for, as the godly hate the wickedness of the wicked, as far as he is godly; so the wicked hate the godly and their godliness both. The carnal mind of them is enmity against God: and, the heart being full of enmity, out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh, and speaketh reproachfully. The very root of all this opposition is the enmity that is put between the seed of the woman, and the seed of the serpent.

4. They are for signs and for wonders in Israel, and in the world, because they reprove the world, and do what they can to cause them leave their carnal joy, their darling pleasures and sinful delights, of which they are so fond. —The children of God are the lights of the world, “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye shine as the lights in the world,”  (Phil. 2:15). Now, the natural man loveth not to come to this light; “Every one that doth evil hateth the light; neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved,” (John 3:20). They will not come near the godly, so to speak; they will not so much as come in speaking terms with them upon any spiritual heavenly dis­course: they love not to talk with them, otherwise their talk would reprove theirs, which is nothing but the language of Ashdod: they love not to walk or converse with them, otherwise their walk and conversation would reprove and condemn theirs; and hence they care for none of their change; their company is but a burden to them; they are in bondage when they are obliged to be in their company anytime, especially if they be very spiritual Christians; the more spiritual their conversation is, the more hateful it is to the carnal man. —The godly are the salt of the earth, to keep the world from stinking; this salt will smart their wounds and sores; and they cannot endure to be crossed: hence “they hate them that rebuke them in the gate, and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly,” (Amos v. 10). “Reprove a scorner, and he will hate thee,”  saith Solomon, (Prov. 9:8). —“He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame; and he that reproveth a wicked man getteth to himself a blot,” (Prov 9:7). Men speak against religion, because it speaks against them. Why were the Pharisees so exasperated against Christ, but because he spake his parables against them? (John 7:7). He was a. sign everywhere spoken against, because his doctrine everywhere speaketh against the way of the world: and no wonder then that all these speak against it, who hate to be con­vinced by it, and fear to be condemned by it. Why are faithful ministers so much hated in the world, but because they show people their transgressions, their drunkenness, whoredom, swearing, lying, and Sabbath‑breaking; their villainy, knavery, and vice? Though none pretend it is for that cause they hate them, but, perhaps, say it is for some ill thing they allege against them: for Satan hides his calumny and cruelty best under a cloak of pretence for religion. But, however, if they would flatter men and speak peace to them to whom God speaks no peace, they might avoid a great deal of re­proach and censure; but they dare not do it: they are not to make a new law, or a new gospel, but to preach that which is made. There we have the ministerial commission; “Let them return unto thee, but return not thou unto them,” (Jer. 15:19). The hearts and lives of men must be brought to comply with the word of God; for the word of God can never be made to comply with the humors and fancies of men; if they aim at pleasing men, they cannot approve themselves the servants of Christ; and therefore they are reproached and evil spoken of.

The fifth thing was, the application of the subject; which we shall essay in an use of information, trial, and exhortation.

The First use then is of information. Is it so, as has been said, that Christ and his people, are hated, contemned, reproached, and wondered at by the world? Then hence we may see,

1. The necessity of the day of judgment: for if the world might be judged here, the best in the world would be run down with reproach and condemned; yea, hated as monsters. But what a wonder of divine patience is it, that this glorious One, who hath so much said against him and his followers, while he and his chil­dren are loaded with reproach, doth not answer all these reproaches with thunder and lightning? Why, it is a day of patience: but there is a day of vengeance coming, wherein he will no longer keep silence, (Jude, 14,15), &c. This day God will not anticipate, for he knows it is coming, (Ps.37:13).

2. Hence see the duty of all that hear these tidings: the duty of professors, the duty of profane persons, and the duty of saints.­ See the duty of professors, to beware that they be not a scandal to the wicked, (1 Tim. 5:14). Your scandalous conversation may oc­casion the reproaches, that are cast upon the saints by the wicked world: for, when you that profess religion, are but vain and frothy in your conversation, double and deceitful in your dealings, loose and untender in your walk, you bring up an ill report upon religion, and make enemies think that religion is but a sham.—See the duty of profane folk: that they beware of reproaching and contemning religion, and religious people, upon whatever pretence. And if none but saints shall win to heaven, what will become of them that look upon such as monsters! See also the duty of saints, and of all the children of God that are reproached; they are not to account it a strange thing though the world look upon them as monsters; yea, so blind is the world, that they may reckon you the very folk that should be banished out of the world. Paul, before his conversion, looked upon the saints as worthy of death; “I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus: which thing I also did in Jerusalem; and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests: and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceed­ingly mad against them I persecuted them even unto strange cities,” (Acts 26:9-11). Think it not strange, that the world should condemn you; you are contemned and despised with good company, even with the best of Company, with Christ himself; “Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me, are for signs and wonders.” I fear, to enlarge on this subject were to purchase myself more of that reproach; [About the time when this Sermon was preached, there were mighty altercations amongst both ministers and people about the Marrow Doctrine; our Author being a favorer of that doctrine, got his own share of the contumely and obloquy of these times].

3. Hence see the reason why the godly in all ages have been persecuted and barbarously used as monstrous persons, and religion as a monstrous opinion. The Lord’s people need not look upon it as a rare thing; “Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you,” (1 Pet. 4:12). We need not think it strange if religion it­self be ridiculed: ipsa religio in opprobliam vertit, said Ber­nard. Here many things might be condescended upon for the il­lustration of this point: but having assigned a variety of instances above on the second head, concerning Popery, &c., we shall super­sede any further enlargement.

4. Hence see what reason the godly have to bear reproach and contradiction with patience, seeing Christ himself, and all his fol­lowers, have been thus treated. We are ready to represent any re­proach very heinously, saying, “We do well to be angry; it is not a thing to be endured:” yet, O how much doth God bear with the contempt cast upon his name! How much doth Christ bear with the reproach cast upon his name. And surely this should moderate our resentment of any indignity done to our name. This does not hinder our taking all proper methods, for vindicating our own reputation, and good name, which is as precious ointment; but only it should mitigate our resentment: for, who are we that we should not be contradicted, seeing Christ himself endured the contradiction of sinners against himself?

5. Hence see what a wonder of divine power it is, that true Christianity and its followers have been kept up, and maintained, and preserved in the world, notwithstanding of the universal con­tradiction and opposition it had met with. The plantation of the gospel‑church, at first, was opposed by all the powers of darkness; and in all ages it had met with such opposition, that if it had not been of God, it had come to naught: “This is the doing of the Lord; and it is marvellous in our eyes.” That a profession, so opposite to the carnal thoughts, and sensual delights of men, should be yet preserved in the world, is a wonder, seeing it is everywhere spoken against, reproached, and reviled, and yet strangely victori­ous, not only without, but against secular power and force, for some ages. Here is the bush burning, and yet not consumed.

Mahomet’s delusions could never prevail in the world, till getting the power of the sword, he discharged upon, pain of death, speaking against him or his doctrine; and by such barbarous methods it hath been supported now, above these thousand years. Thus Antichrist also had maintained his interest, by causing as many as would not worship the image of the beast, to be killed, (Rev. 13:15). Thus have errors and false religion been propagated: but strip them of these supports, and they fall to nothing of course. Where is all the splendor of the heathen deities and idolatries? Are not their oracles silent, their altars deserted, their gods famished and perished from the earth? We may not only say, “Where are the gods of Hamath and Arphad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah?” But where are the gods of Babylon and Egypt, Greece and Rome; and the illustrious names of Saturn, Jupiter, Juno, and Diana, &c. Where are the gods of our British ancestors, before they received the light of the glorious gospel? Their names are written in the dust. But, behold! Christ and his glorious doctrine still flourish, in some places of the world, to this day: though, for many ages destitute of all secular support, and as­saulted on all hands, by daring and implacable enemies, yet still it is upheld by its own intrinsic truth and excellence, and that divine power that accompanied it: yea, to the end of the world, the Captain of sal­vation will ride forth, in the chariot of his gospel, with his crown upon his head, and his bow in his hand, conquering and to conquer.

6. Hence see the folly and wickedness of those, that reproach the way of the Lord, who spake against Christ and his holy religion as monstrous: surely we should lament their case, because of the dishonor hereby done to the name of God in Christ. How should it affect us, that the God that made the world should be so vilified in the world! That Christ, who so loved the world, should be hated by the world! What should we do with the reproach cast upon him and his followers, but as “King Hezekiah did with Rabshakeh’s blasphemous letter; He spread it before the Lord, saying, Now, Lord; what wilt thou do for thy own name? and with the psalmist: “O God! how long shall the adversary reproach, and enemies blaspheme thy name, for ever?” (Ps. 74:10,18, 22). What a miserable condition are they in, who thus presumptuously reproach the way of the Lord! Though they may do it with an air of assur­ance, as if there was no hazard; yet, he that rolls this stone, it will certainly return upon him: Zion will be a burdensome stone to her enemies; and on whomsoever this stone falls, it will grind them to powder. How little do reproachers consider what mischief they do to the souls of others? Unwary souls are easily beguiled, and brought over to entertain rooted prejudices against that which they hear everywhere spoken against and reproached. Few have consideration and resolution enough to maintain a good opinion of that which they, who set up for wits, make it their business to ridicule and cry down. Many poor souls have their minds quite debauched, by these means: and, under a pretence of free thought, a fashionable conversation, and a generous disdain of professing singularity, atheistical and deistical principles are imbibed, restraints of con­science are shaken off, brutish lusts are indulged, yea, pleaded for; and serious godliness, and fervent devotion, looked upon with con­tempt; and thus the heart impregnably fortified against Christ and the gospel.

Again, this doctrine may be improven by way of trial. People may try their state by this doctrine. Though every mark of reproach be not a mark of grace; for, some may be justly spoken of, and yet be gracious persons; and others may be unjustly reproached, and yet be graceless persons; yet there are some things whereby we may try, if we be reproached, whether the reproaches cast upon us meet with such reception from us, as to determinate our being the children of Christ, that are bearing his reproach with him. I may apply to this what the apostle says of chastisement, “If ye be without chastisement, then are ye bastards, and not sons,” (Heb. 12:8):  and yet chastisement of itself, as an affliction, is no mark of sonship, if it be not sanctified: even so here, if ye be without reproach, then are ye bastards, and not children; and yet reproach of itself is no mark of being children, if it be not accompanied with saving good, and if it be not sanctified.

Question: How shall we know if we get any saving good, out of reproach, such as will discover us to be children? “Behold, I and my children are for signs and wonders.”

1. It is a mark of one’s getting saving good out of reproach, if he receive them with the same mind and spirit, with which Christ received them. How did Christ receive them? Why, he received them as out of his Father’s hand. Reproach was a part of his bitter cup; “Now, says Christ, the cup which my Father giveth me to drink, shall I not drink it?” So, the child of God looks upon re­proach, as coming from the hand of God: though he sees the sinful hand of man, yet he sees the holy hand of Providence; this is observed in the text; “We are for signs and wonders, from the Lord of hosts, that dwelleth in Mount Zion:” we see the hand of our God. Thus David; God hath bidden Shimei curse David. —Again, Christ received reproach with meekness; for, “He was meek and lowly; when he was reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not:” yea, he was so far from reviling again, that he prayed for forgiveness to his reproachers, (Luke 23:46). Something of the same spirit will be in use if reproach do us real good. —He received them submissively: “He committed him­self to him that judgeth righteously,” (1 Pet. 2:23). So will we be submissive to God’s providential afflicting will, and thereby be more humbled.

2. It is a sign of one’s getting saving good of reproaches, if thereby they are brought to examine themselves, if they have given just occasion for reproach; and though they find they have given no just occasion before men, yet are they made to search their own souls, to see and lament the sin that hath provoked God to afflict them with the scourge of tongues; and thereupon are made to pray, with Job, “Shew me wherefore thou contendest with men,” (Job 5:2). And, withal being thankful to God, ascribing it only to his grace, that they have been kept from giving any just occasion for such an aspersion.

3. It is a mark of one’s getting good of reproach, if reproaches have come while we were in a course of backsliding, and they have, been the means of recovering us; whence we are made to bless the Lord that he hath sent them, to put a stop to our defection. This is an evidence of our getting good by reproach, as David said of affliction: “It is good for me that I was afflicted; before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I have kept thy word,” (Ps. 119:67). And that reproach was a part of his affliction, is evident from verse 69, “The proud have forged a lie against me.”

4. It is an evidence of one’s getting good of reproach, when a person is, in a spiritual manner, suitably affected according to the rise of the reproach. If it arise from our sin, so that we have given occasion for the reproach, so as God is dishonored: if in that case the soul be more grieved for the dishonor done to God, than for anything relative to his own particular interest; this is an evidence of his getting good thereby, why, the man in this case lays his own honor in the dust, and grieves for the dishonor done to God. If the rise of the reproach be from our duty, and thereupon the soul be more confirmed in the way of duty, as those, “Ought we not to walk in the fear of the Lord, because of the reproach of the brethren?” (Neh. 5:8). “And as David, “The proud have forged a lie against me; but I will keep thy precepts with my whole heart.” (Ps. 119:69). When a man, instead of being deterred from a duty, by reproach cast upon him, is more confirmed, and made more circum­spect, in the way of duty than ever. If the reproach hath risen from our zeal for the concerns of Christ and his interest; and there­upon, the man hath been made to count it his glory, “Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt:” and the man is more grieved for the aspersions cast upon Christ, than what concerneth himself, saying, “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproach thee, are fallen upon me,” (Ps. 69:9). These are evidences of reproach doing good to a man: when thereby, also, he is made to long for the day of the manifestation of the sons of God; when our reputa­tion will be cleared up, and aspersions cast upon us wiped away. Thus much for marks in order to trial.

Again, the doctrine may be applied for exhortation. Having no time for addressing myself to particular sorts of persons, I shall offer these following advices, and drop them in the general.

Advice 1. Let all professors of religion take care that they give no occasion to any to look upon them and their religion too as mon­strous. Some that wear Christ’s livery may be taxed, as a scandal to his family, by their lying, cheating, drunkenness, whoredom, and other vices: though it is unjust and unfair to reproach religion, because some who profess it expose themselves to reproach; yet, it is no doubt a grievous sin in those who give any occasion to do so, (1 Tim. 5:4). We should pray with David, “Lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies;” in the Hebrew it is, because of mine observers. Our enemies are our observers; and though no sinful practice is consistent with religion, yet enemies will think and say so, if they find us making it consistent with the profession of religion.

Advice 2. If the world be set upon speaking reproachfully of religion, let us be the more engaged to speak favorably of it. Every believer should be both a witness and an advocate for his re­ligion, and for the truth. When you hear how God’s name is abused, his people reproached, his truth contradicted, have you never a word to say for him? Whoever is ashamed of him now, of him will he be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father. If we hear our dearest friends in the world slandered, we will be ready to appear for their vindication: and have we no resentment of the contumely and contempt cast upon God, and Christ, and the scriptures of truth? If we fear we are not able to speak for the truth, as we ought, we may take encouragement from that promise, “It shall be given you in the same hour what ye shall speak.” Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings he can ordain strength; and so still the adversary and avenger.

Advice 3. Reckon the godly to be the excellent ones of the earth, however contemptible and hateful the world judge them to be. The righteous is more excellent than his neighbor, however reproached; and it is the wicked that are the monsters. Let none think the worse of the way of religion and godliness; neither be frightened from walking in that way, because of the contempt poured upon it. Consider who the reproachers are; generally men of debauched consciences, and profligate lives: if you choose such for your leaders, then the blind leads the blind, and both will fall into the ditch. Consider how trifling their reproaches are: they that speak against religion, they make lies their refuge, and under falsehood they hide themselves. Consider how much is to be said in favor of the good old way, whoever they be that reproach it: “Wisdom’s ways are pleasantness, and all her paths peace.” All the wealth and pleasure of the world is not worth an hour’s communion with God in Christ, in the way of believing the gospel, and embracing the truth. Consider, that however the godly may be run down, they shall be raised up; for the reproaching of them is the reproaching of Christ and his religion: though none pretend it is religion they reproach, but only such and such professors of religion; yet Christ reckons himself concerned in the quarrel. If his people be persecuted with tongues or hands, it is a persecution of Christ? “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” And surely Christ will be too hard for his enemies; he will concern himself in the cause of his friends and children; and therefore he and his people, and his cause and truths, will successfully prevail, and have the ascendant, ere all be done, let the world do and say what they will.

Advice 4. Beware of reproaching your neighbor in any case, lest you come to be amongst the reproachers of Christ and his children; “Speak not evil one of another,” saith the apostle.

(1.) God discharges this practice; “Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness,” (Ex. 23:1). “Thou shalt not raise a false report;” it may be rendered, “Thou shaft not receive a false report:” and it says, that raising or receiving of false reports are equally discharged.

(2.) God observes this bad carriage in a special manner; “I have heard the reproach of Moab, and the reviling of the children of Ammon, how they have reproached my people,” (Zeph. 2:8).

God threatens such as are chargeable with this impiety in the same place: “As I live, saith the God of Israel, Moab shall be as Sodom, and Ammon as Gomorrah; this shall they have for their pride, because they have reproached and magnified themselves against the people of the Lord of hosts,” (Zeph. 2:9-10). “What shall be given to thee? or what shall be done to thee? thou false tongue. Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper,” (Ps. 120:3,4).

(4.) The scripture shows this to be the ordinary practice of the wicked, and of the devil’s children. Christ says to his reproachers, “Ye are of your father the devil, for his works ye do,” (John 8:44).

(5.) Yea, revilers shall be put among the number of such as shall be excommunicated from the presence of the Lord; “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God: be not deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor revilers, shall inherit the kingdom of God,” (2 Cor. 6:9-10).

(6.) Bonds of humanity should oblige us to take care of re­proaching one another; the bonds of mutual obligation, fraternity, neighborhood, and brotherhood; the breaking of these bonds was what embittered the reproach of David, “It was not an enemy that reproached me, else I had borne it,” &c.; “but it was thou, a man, mine equal, my guide, and mine acquain­tance; we took sweet counsel together, and went to the house of God in company,” (Ps. 55:12-4).

In order to shun this great evil, observe your heart; for that is the fountain from which false witnesses and all blasphemies proceed, (Matt. 15:16). —Seek to have the heart freighted with love to God and man: Love thinketh no evil, and speaketh as little.­ Beware of giving credit, too hastily, to any ill report concerning your neighbor: it is God’s command, as instanced already, “Re­ceive not a false report.” If you would not be a reproacher, beware of idleness; that is the root of much reproach; “They learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house: and not only idle, but tattlers also, and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not,” (2 Tim. 5:13). If you would not be a reproacher, beware of pride and self‑love: this stirs up to reproachful language; such was that of Sanballet; “What do these feeble Jews? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burnt? Now, Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall. Hear, O our God, for we are de­spised: and turn their reproach upon their own head, and give them for a prey, in the land of captivity,” (Neh. 4:2-4). As of pride cometh con­tention, so of pride cometh reproach; while a man cannot endure that others should be above him. —If you would not be a reproacher, beware of being a neglecter of prayer; if we be reproached, we are not to reproach again, but to make the reproach cast upon us to be an errand to God, that our spirits be not exasperated; this was the method that Nehemiah took, (Neh. 4:4). And David, (Ps. 55:16), after he had considered Ahithopel’s reproaches; “But as for me,” saith he, “I will call upon God.” —In a word, if you would be no reproacher, beware of hypocrisy, and hunting after the praises of men, like the Pharisees; such will be careless how much their neighbor be reproached, providing they be applauded; they take all measures and methods for raising up their own name upon the ruins of the reputation of their neighbor. But if any, under a cloak of religion, or pretence of strictness, study to make others contemptible, and themselves famous, they take but a method to make their own name to stink: “They say, Stand by, for I am holier than thou: these are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day,” (Isa. 65:5).

Advice 5. To those that are reproached for Christ, that they would bear reproach for him: it is the express command of God, —“Let us go forth to him without the camp, bear­ing his reproach,” (Heb. 13:13). —“Fear not the reproach of men: neither be afraid of their revilings: for the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool,” (Isa. 51:7,8). Christ bore many a reproach for us; and shall we not bear a re­proach for him? “If they called the master of the house Beelze­bub, how much more shall they call them of his household?” Saints, in all ages, have been inured to this cross: “For thy sake have I borne reproach,” (Ps. 69: 7). The Old Testament saints, mentioned in Hebrews 11, had the trial of cruel mockings. But there is a blessing even in this part of the cross: “Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my name’s sake,” (Matt. 15:11). And, “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you,” (1 Pet. 4:14). Yea, it tends to the glory of God; for it follows, “On their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.” There is a day coming wherein such as bear reproach for Christ shall be openly vindicated and owned by him: “Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess before my Father which is in heaven:” that is, whatever affronts they meet with from men for owning of my gospel, there is a day coming wherein I will openly vindicate them from such malicious reproaches. Reproachers at that day will be obliged to account for all their hard speeches, (1 Pet. 4: 3,4; Jude 14,15). Reproaches for Christ betokens a good condition; “Blessed are ye when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy; for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets,” (Luke 6:22,23). Whereas it is no good sign when all men speak well of us: “Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you: for so did their fathers to the false prophets,” (v. 26). The people of God are, for the most part, in a more lively exercise of grace, when under reproach, than at other times; “I take plea­sure in infirmities, reproaches, persecutions, and distresses for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then am I strong,” (1 Cor. 12:10). We are pilgrims here, in a strange land, in our enemies’ land, and are not to stay; therefore we should bear reproach for Christ; Let us bear his reproach; for here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come, (Heb. 13:13-14). Christ hath forewarned us of reproaches for his name; “Remember the word that I said to you, The servant is not greater than his Lord; if they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you,” (John 15:20). Upon these con­siderations, we should bear reproach for Christ when called thereto.

Question: What help, in order to bear reproach for Christ, will you offer us?

Answer: A man that would bear reproach for Christ, must be a Christian indeed, a believer indeed: otherwise he will never bear his reproach aright. It is he and the children whom the Lord hath given him, that are signs and wonders: if you be not amongst his children, you cannot be a zealous sufferer for him. Yea, a man that would bear reproach for Christ, needs to be, not only a believer, but a strong believer, having much Christian courage, that he may bear an hiss as well as a hymn; I mean, a hiss of reproach and dis­dain as well as a hymn of applause and commendation: to bear this requires the armor of patience and spiritual courage, for marching through the world’s contempt and hazard, being looked upon as a monster, and made the scorn of fools: and all this requires the strength of faith; “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of faith: who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despised the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God,” (Heb. 12:2). And, in the following words, we are called to consider him who endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest we be wearied and faint in our minds; for we have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. It requires much zeal for God and love to him. Alas! who can say, “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up?” It requires a good cause, and a good conscience; if a man be firmly persuaded of the good­ness of the cause, it will help him to bear reproach; while he doth not suffer as an evil doer, though he be reproached as such; and a good conscience is an encouraging thing in this warfare; also, hav­ing a good conscience, that whereas they speak evil of you, as of evil doers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good con­versation in Christ, (1 Pet. 3:16; 4:15). In a word, it requires constant dependence upon the Captain of salvation, who was made perfect through sufferings.

Finally, Let us all consider and remember, that the cause of Christ will be a prevailing cause in the issue, however it be re­proached in the world. There is a schism, a rent, and division in the world, sirs, ever since the fall of Adam: a battle between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent; between Michael and his angels, and the dragon and his angels: but Michael and his angels, Christ and his children will carry the day; and contra­dicted truths will be effectually cleared and vindicated: if never fully here, yet the day of the Lord will be the valley of decision, when the great cause of true religion will be decided, and the ser­pent’s head broken so, as he shall never hiss or spit venom any more.

It is now a day of reproach, a day to be lamented, for the bitter calumny that takes place therein: yea, I may call heaven and earth to witness, whether ever gospel preachers and professors suffered a hotter persecution of the tongue, than in this apostate age, wherein if some ministers fall foul upon the sins and errors of the times, the very naming thereof is enough to offend, though yet the nation be sinking under the weight thereof. Never was a gospel ministry more contemptible than in our day: Satan hath used many instruments, and most of them have had their effect, to bring the dispensers of gospel‑ordinances into contempt; and it is still more lamentable, that many have had a sinful hand in bringing their own ministry under a reproach, and laying stumbling‑blocks in the way of the success of the gospel, and marring the edification of souls, by sad compliances with the public defections of the day, and errors of the age.

It is a day wherein the gospel of Christ is contemned. The time has been, when some have thought it worth crossing the sea, to enjoy the everlasting gospel: but now, that it is become so plenty and cheap, many are loath to cross the streets to hear it upon a weekday, unless they have some other errand, perhaps to compliment a neighbor with their presence, at a baptism or a marriage. How much are we souring upon the gospel, and loathing the honeycomb!

It is also a day wherein some of the friends of Christ are openly bantered, and lampooned, and gazed upon assigns and wonders; and wherein many sacred truths are publicly defamed and ridiculed; and heart‑enemies to revealed religion, and to the gospel in its purity, in the mean time, taking occasion utterly to run down the gospel. What am I saying! In the name of the great God, I defy all the powers of earth and hell to run it down: they may sooner run down the flowing tide, or the sun rising in his strength, than run down the least of the dictates of eternal truth: “Not one jot or title thereof shall fall to the ground. Dagon shall fall before the ark; and the rod of Aaron shall swallow up the rods of the magicians.”

It is likewise a day wherein providence is shaking both church and state; and particularly the ark must needs shake, when they who carry it are stricken at with axes and hammers, and many are knocking at all the four corners of it at once, namely, the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, to get it broken to pieces, while open enemies, (viz. cursed Popery and abjured Prelacy) are making inroads upon all corners of the land, in the public view of the church: she, in the mean time, unthoughtful of her danger, seems to be doing nothing, but, by intestine broils, cutting off her right‑hand with her left.

In a word, it is a day wherein that word seems to be made out, that there shall be scoffers, walking after their own lusts: drunkards, whoremongers, atheists, blasphemers, debauchees, and profane scoffers of the age, now have their day: it is now their hour, and the power of darkness. This is matter of lamentation, and deep lamentation. But, however, God will have his day ere long; and it will be a glorious day when Christ will appear, in all the glory and grandeur of the upper world, to the everlasting terror and confusion of all his adversaries, and to the eternal joy and honor of all his friends, who, though now they are for signs and wonders, by way of reproach, will then be for signs and wonders, by way of renown: when Christ will present them blameless unto his Father, saying, “Behold, I and the children whom thou hast given me, who, as they have suffered with me in my reproach in time, must now reign with me in my glory through eternity.”

O sirs, let us seek, above all things, to be on Christ’s side, on the side of truth now, and on the right‑hand road to heaven, whatever rubs we may meet with by the way, so as we may come to be on the right‑hand of the throne, in the day of the manifestation of the sons of God.

May the Lord bless what hath been said; and to his name be praise.

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