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Persecutions

2Ti_3:10-12; 2Co_11:23-29

When, towards the close of his career, Paul is writing to Timothy, he makes a deeply-interesting
allusion to the circumstances which now engage our attention. Thou hast fully known, he says to
that beloved disciple, my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long-suffering, charity,
patience, persecutions, afflictions, which came upon me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra: what
persecutions I endured, but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live godly
in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

Here the apostle alludes to afflictions and persecutions with which the history makes us
acquainted; but these, even all that are written, though enough is written for our profit, form but
a part of the trials of his entire career, of which Timothy knew more than we shall ever in this
world know. We have, however, an abridgment of his life, written by his own hand, and what a
record of suffering and trial it is! Some of the particulars to which he refers we can trace, but many
of them we do not recognize among the recorded facts of his history. Are they ministers of
Christ? I speak as a fool: I am more. In labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons
more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice I was
beaten with rods, once I was stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in
the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own
countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the
sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger
and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Besides those things that are without, that
which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is
offended, and I burn not? Note: 2Co_11:23-29. And this terrible catalogue of sufferings was
written, it will be observed, during that long residence at Ephesus, recorded in the nineteenth
chapter of Acts, when Paul had hardly completed two-thirds of his course, and he had still ten
years to laborthat is, to suffer, in his Masters cause. Thus largely had the Lord fulfilled the
promise made at his call to his great work: I will show him how great things he must suffer for my
name sake. Note: Act_9:16.

And was this vocation of suffering peculiar to Paul and to the times in which he lived? Let this
question be answered by another: Then is the offence of the cross ceased? It is to preclude this
idea that the apostle adds, Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer
persecution. Doubtless, in thus speaking to Timothy, he had a leading reference to the then
present time, and meant to impress upon him that he was not to expect exemption from the like
sufferings. But that he did not limit his meaning to this application, is clear from the exceedingly
general terms in which this declaration is made: All; all that do what? Not merely all who, like
himself, went forth into the active warfare against principalities and powers for Christs sake,
but all who will do what every sincere Christian must do in all agesAll who will live godly in
Christ Jesus. Conformable to this is the intimation which Paul and Barnabas made to the converts
generally, as they returned upon their former steps in this very journey: exhorting them to
continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
Note: Act_14:22. Here, again, is an object and aim common to all believers in every age. Our Lords
own declarations are entirely to the same purport.

The thing is, indeed, plain and inevitable as a matter of declaration; and if it were not of
declaration, it might be made clear by invincible reasoning. We know that whatever is in the
world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father but of the
world. Note: 1Jn_2:16. These are the things the carnal mind seeks after and rests on. But the
carnal mind is at enmity with God; Note: Rom_8:7. and necessarily, the friendship of the world is
enmity with God. Note: Jas_4:4. He, therefore, who takes up his cross to follow the Lamb
whithersoever he goeth; he who will give godly in Christ Jesus, does, by that act and purpose,
turn his back upon the world, and renounce that friendship which is at enmity with God. The world
will then be affronted, and its hostility roused. In some ages and countries it will be shown after
this manner; and in other ages and countries after that; but shown it will be, in some form or
other. If our religion be of that neutral tint that rouses not the enmity of the world; if the world
cannot, from our walk and conversation, take knowledge of us that we have been with Jesus, we
may then indeed escape this; but woe unto us, if we so escape! And let us look well to ourselves if
our religion be of that sort which the world regards with no distaste, which does not provoke its
hostility, which is compatible with the retention of its friendship.

In this age and country we have not now to expect the lash, the rack, the fagot, or the sword; but
it is not the less true that those who will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution. There is
the alienation of relatives and friends, there is the forfeiture of many social advantages, there is
the exclusion of men from the society they are fitted to adorn and improve. There is the quiet
neglect, the cold shrug, the contemptuous sneer, the derisive laugh, the unworthy depreciation.
There is the distress of witnessing the brightest, or at least most popular intellects of the age,
employed in systematically or habitually holding up all really serious religion to contempt and
scorn, as so much cant and hypocrisy, swindle, or foolishness.

All this, however, was to be expected. These, and things like these, make up the burden of that
cross which our Master calls us to take up and bear after Him. Indeed, if our religion be of that
kind which can bear the eye of man, which can escape his contumely, it is questionable how far it
will bear the eye of God.

There is, in fact, less of this persecution now than formerly. Religion is a more comfortable thing.
The world seems to hate it less intensely, and even, to a large extent, regards it as a decent and
creditable thing. How is this? Has the world become less worldly? Has its enmity to the things of
God abated? Or is it that the church has become more worldly? Has it kept out of the worlds
sight, and even out of its own sight, those holy roughnesses on its fair but earnest face, at which
the world took most offence? We tremble to press too closely for an answer to this question, and
prefer to offer the words of a wise and eloquent preacher, which bear very distinctly on this
question. If you share the feelings with which St. Paul has inspired me, and which continue to
grow by the renewed study of his life; if you have been penetrated with veneration, with
gratitude, and with love, for the apostle of the Gentiles, I rejoice at this, but only on one condition:
it is, that you do not stop there; it is, that you will seek for yourselves that which you praise in him;
it is, that you will not dispense with the duty of imitation for the pleasure of admiration; it is, in
short, that you will not deceive yourselves by substituting this fine but fruitless word, Be admirers
of me, for that earnest and fruitful one ventured on by the holy apostle, Be ye followers of me.

If, indeed, your tastes are for worldly things, for worldly glory, for worldly fortune, for worldly
satisfaction, or even for worldly affections, do not trust yourselves to the example of St. Paul and
to the application which I make of it. It is not without significance, that while hearing me speak of
imitating him, you perceive within yourselves an unseen hand hastening to protect your money,
your comforts, your human renown, and your idolatrous attachments. This movement has the
promptness of an instinct, but it is also an intelligent one. All this hoard of selfish pleasure, you risk
its loss by engaging to imitate St. Paul. The sacrifice was demanded of him, and he made it; it may
be required of you also, and it will be the more painful in proportion to that which is sacrificed.
Ah! if Jesus Christ were to require you to exchange the general good opinion which you enjoy, for
the humiliations of his life and the opprobrium of his death: the riches which abound in your
houses, for the abasement and destitution of his povertymark that, his poverty; that
comfortable life, that delicate bringing-up, all those desires gratified as soon as formed, for the
privations, the disquietudes, the sufferings of the body; the intense solicitude, or the sweet society
of those dearly-loved ones, who are the delight of your eyes and the joy of your heart, for
separation, bereavement, and bitter solitude. Do you think within yourselves that you would be
ready to bear the loss of all things, so that you may win Christ? If you can say with St. Peter, I am
ready to go with thee both to prison and to death, it only remains that you examine yourselves,
lest you should be deceiving yourselves. But if you inwardly answer, This is a hard saying, who can
bear it? all is said. I do not here decide whether your soul can be saved such as you are; but it is
very certain, such as you are you will not be a follower of St. Paul. Note: St. Paul: Five Discourses.
By A. Monod.