TIMES OF PERSECUTION IN SCOTLAND,
SUFFERERS FOR THE ROYAL PREROGATIVES OF JESUS CHRIST.
Sermons & Lectures by Alexander Shields.
WE meet with many discouragements in the way of our duty; we meet with many discouragements from enemies, the Popish, Prelatic, and Malignant faction. They do all they can to hinder duty. The persecution is as the Blast of the Terrible One, which is as a storm against the wall. But if this were all it were the more easily borne, but we meet with discouragements from these who should be against those who are against uswe mean our brethrenwho are bound by solemn and sacred Covenants to prosecute the testimony which we own and suffer for against enemies, as well as we. Yet now they are tolerated and we are persecuted. They are at ease and we are in trouble. They are living under the shelter of a vassal of Antichrist (which favour we dare not embrace nor in the least countenance), we are counted as aliens by our mother's children. If we were only the song of drunkards it were the less matter; but when we are not only become the contempt of the proud but the scorn of those our brethren who are at ease, it is very wounding. We are not the contempt of the Papists, Prelates, and Malignants only, but the scorn of those our brethren at ease. To have any of the godly against us is not easy to bear.
Another thing which is matter of discouragement in the way of our duty, and that is, though we get access (though with much difficulty) to go about our duty, yet we find little success in this. This is very discouraging. The Lord hides His face and does not countenance and shine upon the meetings of His people as sometimes He hath done. He is not so soon found and felt in His ordinances as sometimes He hath been. He is not so found and felt in His ordinances as formerly. Oh, the Comforter that should relieve our souls is far from us! And is not this sad? Again, another discouragement that we meet with in the way of duty is: the providences and dispensations of the weather. The Lord seems to cross and contradict us in going about the same. The providences and dispensations, whether cross or favourable, are not a rule of duty, and should not make us leave off duty, however cross they should be, yet we should not pass the same lightly or unconcernedly, but search out the meaning and language thereof unto us. This bad weather of cold and snow we are trysted with, though it should not hinder us from our duty, yet is for our trial and should be humbling to us. The last time that I was with you not far from this place, we got such a cold stormy day as this, which we might look upon as a presage of what we have met with since. It was like the small drops before the storm, for since we have been trysted with a sad stroke. We have lost a famous standard-bearer, Mr. James Renwick, who was with us that day, whose voice used to cry to you amongst these hills; and now his blood is crying to the heavens for vengeance against the most part of this generation, ministers and professors. He was as the voice of one crying in the wilderness, who preached the gospel freely and faithfully unto you. And now after this day so stormy we may fear a sadder stroke, even the removal of those left behind, if we be not humble and improve this day's work. Some of you are come from far and are cold and weary, yet be not discouraged. Compose your spirits. Set seriously about your duty and that will warm your hearts. I will tell you of two things which, if you had them, would help to warm your hearts and encourage you in this stormy day.
1st, The love of God shed abroad in your hearts. The sense of His love filling your souls would warm your hearts. The communications of His love, the manifestations of His presence, and the light of His countenance lifted up upon you, would encourage you, notwithstanding this stormy day the warm rays and beams of His love so inflaming your hearts as to make you forget the coldness of the day.
2ndly, Love in vigorous exercise unto Him would so inflame your hearts, and make you so instant about your duty, as not to regard cold very much. But alas! love is cold amongst you. Oh, if you saw Him, ye could not but love Him! If ye had a taste of His bounty, and a view of His beauty, your hearts would be ravished with them. Oh, labour for love to Him, and let it appear that you have it. Be zealous for His honour and glory, for without zeal you can never go right about your duty, nor will be able to go through trials nor endure afflictions that are coming. Zeal keeps all the graces of the Spirit in exercise, and is as oil to the wheels of the soul, to make it run sweetly after the Lord. If you want zeal, you may question your growth of grace in the soul, you may suspect the reality thereof. It is true your zeal should be according to knowledge, and we should look well that it pass not its due bounds. Yet zeal without knowledge speaks out the lightness of the head; so knowledge without zeal argues the rottenness of the heart, whereof many give demonstrations this day. Zeal this day is much condemned by the generality; yea, it is flouted and hooted at as ridiculous by the most part. They say ministers should preach faith and repentance, and people should hear. But never a word of zeal for Christ's cause and interest against all the wrongs and indignities done Him by this blasphemous absolute power arrogated by a monster of tyranny and perfidy, and a vassal of Antichrista power which is the alone incommunicable prerogative of Jehovah, whose will is a lawyet this encroached upon by that tyrant; and, by virtue of this encroachment, he grants that Antichristian toleration, that is so applauded by the most part of ministers and professors. Thus to separate faith and repentance from zeal is a quite inverting of the order which the Lord hath put amongst the graces of His Spirit. "And what He hath joined together, let no man put asunder;" for ministers cannot preach nor people practice faith aright without zeal, seeing the Scripture hath joined them together: "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." A confession of Christ with the mouth cannot be without zeal (especially in a time of suffering, when His truths are controverted and His people persecuted for their adherence thereunto), and is called for as well as believing in Him with the heart; and ministers cannot preach repentance nor people practice it aright without zeal. The Scripture puts them together: "Be zealous therefore, and repent." Ministers should preach against and give the people warning of the sins that they should repent of, otherwise they cannot exercise repentance for the same. For where repentance for sin is there will be a holy zeal and indignation against the same. Few of us can say, "The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up, and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me" with great weight. Oh, that we had zeal in exercise! We have many things to evidence the want of the same, though our Lord had not been wounded and wronged, as He is Mediator and King and Head of His Church by the wicked Supremacy, and now He is wounded and wronged as He is God of the whole world by this blasphemous toleration. But alas! where is sorrow for it and zeal against it? We have a noble cause deposited in our hands, even that which concerns the prerogatives of Christ, and privileges of His Church and liberties of mankind, which before we abandon and let go we should quit our hearts' blood. We have a noble testimony to contend and suffer for; yea, it is the noblest testimony that any Church in the world hath this day to contend for. It concerns no less than the kingly glory of Christ, which truth He will signally own and make glorious in the earth, when He returns to bring down His enemies and deliver His Church and people.
Although the testimony of the Church of France, and in the valleys of Piedmont,2 and in Hungary, be great and weighty and well worth the contending and suffering for, yet our testimony for the kingly office of Christ is more noble, and He will give it a glorious vindication when He comes to visit His people with His salvation. It is true, though the testimony for the prophetical and priestly office of Christ be noble and well worth the contending and suffering for, yet, in some respects, the kingly testimony of His kingly office is more noble and glorious, and though our testimony be so noble, yet there is not one part of it but what is opposed and contradicted not only by the enemies, but also by the ministers and professors in general. But we dare confidently affirm, and take heaven and earth to witness, that we hold and maintain nothing but what is consonant and agreeable unto the word of God and the covenanted principles of the Church of Scotland. For
1. Did not our forefathers in the beginning of the reformation, not only oppose but in a great measure disown the authority of the two Marys, viz., the mother and her daughter?
2. Was not Charles I. opposed by two armies, and his son Charles II. refused to be admitted to the government till he subscribed the covenants? Did not our Church, by their acts and constitutions, declare what magistrates they would have reign over them, and what qualifications were requisite to them. So that what we have done in disowning the present authority is no new nice notion, as some would have it, but consonant to the principles of the Church of Scotland. It is those that own the authority of the Popish usurper that espouse new notions and not we: for this principle is maintained by the generality of the enemies thereof, that when by providence any are in government, they have a right to govern. This is to make the Holy One the author of sin (seeing that though the ordinance and office of magistracy be according to His preceptive and approbative will), yet tyranny cannot be, but only by His permission and providential will; for where tyranny is, it is the throne of iniquity, which is the throne of the devil, which should not be owned.
As also, with regard to that part of our testimony which concerns our contending against the defections of ministers and professors (though for the same we are accounted and called Schismatics and Separatists), yet the same is consonant to the Scriptures, which command us to plead with our mother, that she may put away her whoredoms from between her breasts, and also agreeable to our covenanted principles of the Church of Scotland; for we withdrew from nothing but what is condemned by her standing acts and laws. And now this generation of ministers have accepted of a toleration granted by a vassal of Antichrist, by virtue of that absolute power arrogated with a design to introduce Popery. This is contrary to Scripture, our covenants and work of reformation. It is so clogged and loaded with restrictions that a minister that would be faithful cannot embrace it. Yet alas! it is complied with by the most part; so I urge you, if ye have any love to Christ or to your own souls, and as ye would be free of the snares and escape the judgments wherewith this course will be punished, come out from amongst these tolerated meetings, have nothing to do with them. I take heaven and earth and these hills to witness, that I have given you faithful warning of the sin and snare of this course, and to discountenance these tolerated meetings, for the sun hath gone down upon them. Ye may think this strange doctrine indeed; but I cannot help it. Love to your souls draws it from us; "For what concord can there be between Christ and Belial?" &c. "And what communication between light and darkness?" &c. And what agreement can there be betwixt Presbyterian principles and this Antichristian toleration.
IF we consider the church of Pergamos, and the rest of the seven churches of Asia that were once famous churches, and how long they have been forsaken, so that there is not in any of them now the face of a church, but each of them is inhabited by the Turks; and also if we consider the causes of this forsaking and desolation, we may fear and tremble.
- And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, These things saith he, which hath the sharp sword with two edges.
- I know thy works and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.Revelation 2.12,13.
1st, There is in this letter to Pergamos the introduction, which contains two things:(1) From whence it was sent, and (2) To whom it was sent.
2ndly, There is the body of the letter, which also contains two things:(1) They are commended for holding His name: (2) For not denying the faith, which is illustrated by two circumstances:1, They held fast His name, and did not deny His faith, even where Satan had his seat; 2, When Antipas was a faithful martyr. And
3rdly, The letter contains a reproof to them for several things, as that they had amongst them those who held the doctrine of Balaam and the Nicolaitanes, which things, says Christ, I hate.
For the first of these, viz., the introduction, which contains:
1. To whom it was sent; and that is to the church of Pergamos, whereby are meant the ministers, one or more, of that church, or respective body of ministers consociated together under a Presbyterian government. Ministers in Scripture are sometimes called angels. In the Old Testament, the word angel signifies messenger sometimes, as the messenger of the Lord of Hosts. "And the angel of the Lord came from Gilgal to Bochim," whereby is understood a minister or messenger of the Lord that came to tell the people of their sins. It cannot be meant of an angel coming down from heaven with such a message, for it is said "he came from Gilgal," and not from heaven; and, moreover, angels are such glorious creatures and so full of majesty that we cannot behold them or converse with them, therefore the Lord hath condescended so far, and consulted our good so much, that He makes use of men like ourselves to be our messengers and ambassadors to treat with us. Ministers are called angels, and that for these two reasons:(1.) Because of the dignity of their office; and they ought to be respected as such; (2.) Because angels are holy creatures, so should ministers be holy in their talk, holy in their walk, and in everything they do. Holiness should shine. But there are two sorts of people that contradict this exposition, saying that by angel is meant no more ministers than one. And
(1.) The Episcopal party say that by angel is meant no more ministers than one, being in the singular number, and that here is meant a bishop or prelate who hath power over the ministers to whom this letter is written. But as this office of lordly Prelacy hath no footing in Scripture, nor weight there for its foundation, being a human invention, so they have no ground from this place to plead their divine right, for the word angel here must be understood in the same way as in the letter to the church of Ephesus. Now as it is clear from Acts 20.17, that there were more ministers in the church of Ephesus than one, so it is also evident that there was no superiority amongst them, but such a parity that all had alike power. "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock over whom the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers." Likewise it must be understood the same way, as to the church of Thyatira. "But I say unto the rest of Thyatira," where it is clear the letter was written unto more than one, hence one had not the superiority over the rest. We should not lose our zeal against cursed Prelates, but labour to have it in exercise, for the Prelacy in this land is not only Diocesan but Erastian Prelacy. They first overturned the work of our reformation, and that was the beginning of the sorrows and miseries under which we have now been groaning these many years. The
(2.) Sort who oppose the interpretation are the Sectarians, the Independents, and Anabaptists, who are against a national church. They say it is meant here only of the ministers of one congregation, the absurdity whereof is manifest; for as Pergamos was a great city, and had many professors in it, it behoved them to have more ministers than one. So it must be understood in the same way that the church of Ephesus is. Now that there were more ministers there, is clear from that forecited text. "And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church." So let not your zeal against the Sectarians be blunted, but have it in exercise, and guard against them also. The
2. Thing in the introduction is, by whom the epistle was sent unto them. "These things, saith he." This is the same with what the prophet in the Old Testament said, "Thus saith the Lord," to the end that what they were to say might be the better believed and taken heed unto, for there is nothing that can bind the conscience but what hath the stamp of divine authority upon it; and in the New Testament the apostle Paul, beginning the most part of all his epistles with "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ," thereby shows that what he was to write was to be looked upon as having the stamp of divine authority upon it, and therefore to be believed and taken heed unto. And here John, to make the thing he was to write to this church have the more weight with them and be the better credited, begins with, "These things, saith he." It is not "These things saith John," for that could not bind the conscience, being only of human authority; but it is, "These things saith he." What he? It is He who is the great Prophet, King, and Lawgiver to His Church. It is He who saith these things, and therefore they ought to be taken heed unto. Ministers should preach nothing to people but what they have in commission from Christ, and what is warranted from His word; and they must say nothing to them but that which they can say, "These things saith he;" seeing that only can have weight upon the conscience. This reproves these two sorts:
(1.) Those who say less than the Lord in His word says. They make fewer duties and not so many sins as it makes. They cannot say, "These things saith he," for they say less than He allows them to say.
(2.) It reproves those who say more than He commands them to say. They make more duties and more sins than the word does. They cannot say, "These things saith he," seeing they say more than He bids them. The ministers who have accepted of this toleration cannot say, "These things saith he," for they are limited, restricted, and bounded in their doctrine by the granters thereof, that they shall preach nothing that may alienate the hearts of the people from the king and government. So it is sad to hear of the obedience that is given thereunto by the most part, when the obedience of our sacred covenants dare not be avowed, but they are suppressed and like to be burned because the owning of them is declared criminal by a wicked law.3 Neither are many of the duties of the day preached to the people nor warning given of many of the sins and snares of the times. Oh, this is lamentable! they dare not say as to these things, "Thus saith he."
The next thing we shall take notice of is, what He is that saith these things. Why? It is He who hath the sharp sword with two edges, that is Jesus Christ, in the vision which John saw of Him, and gives an account of in the first chapter of this book, and this part of the description he gives in the 16th verse, "And out of his mouth went a two-edged sword." This is very suitable and pertinent to what he was about to say to the ministers of the church of Pergamos, in reproving them for having amongst them those who held the doctrine of Balaam and the Nicolaitanes, and not drawing out the sword which He had given them to make use of for doctrine and reproof, and also for excommunication, seeing these false teachers were obstinate. As if our Lord had said, "Seeing ye have not drawn out the sword of doctrine and discipline against them who hold the doctrine of Balaam and the Nicolaitanes, but still have them amongst you, I will draw out the sharp sword of judgment and make them feel how sharp it is." In Scripture the Lord is said to have two swords. The
1. Is the sword of His judgment. "If I whet my glittering sword, and my hand take hold of judgment." This sword hath two edges, the one whereof He turns against His own people when they sin against Him and provoke Him to anger, in order to make them turn from and mourn for their sins, and to run or flee unto Him for mercy, pardon, and reconciliation. In this day, His people have got many blows, and found the dint of many strokes of this sword for their sins. We have of late got a sad and sore stroke, viz., the removal of two faithful witnesses, the one of whom sealed the cause with his blood, and the other is imprisoned in Ireland; and notwithstanding of all we have met with, we may expect more sad and heavier strokes and blows if we be not a mourning, humbled, purged, and reformed people.
The other edge of this sword He turns against His enemies in destroying them, in cutting them in pieces; and this we may hope for and expect; for though His enemies in this land be very many, mighty, and high, and likewise He hath spared them long, yet the time is coming when He will draw out this sword of judgment against them and hew them in pieces. Yea, He will make its edge blunt in cutting them down. The
2. Sword is the sword of His word, and this also hath two edges. "And the Word of the Lord is quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword"the one end whereof He turns against His people, by which He wounds them, and they run in unto Christ for healing; and the other edge is turned against His enemies, wherewith they are slain. "Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets: I have slain them by the word of my mouth." Oh, how sad and lamentable it is that the most part of the fruits and effects of all the preaching of the word now is to make people more deaf and blind, so that they may be the more ripe for judgment, yea, many are, as it were, blinded thereby.
Now, I come to speak somewhat of the body of the letter itself given unto this church; for the preceding part which I have explained a little, is, as it were, the backing of the letterdeclaring unto whom it was written, with this superscription, "I know thy works." Thus He begins all His epistles to the seven churches, to the end that what He was to say might have the more weight with them, seeing He knew all their works. He was witness to all their doings. He knew best what was worthy of reproof in them, and what was worthy of commendation. We may observe this, that it would be of great advantage to us to live under the impression of His omnisciency, still believing that He sees us in all our actions, whether they be done in public or private, and knows what we are doing, saying, or thinking; for this would help to keep us tender and circumspect before Him, and would stir us up to be lively and diligent in duty, and help to keep back from sin. But alas! the most part of you do not believe that He sees you and knows your works. Many of you do not believe that it is His word that you are hearing, and that He sees you when ye are hearing the same. All ye compilers with His enemies, ye did not believe He knew your works when ye were complying with them, otherwise ye durst not have done it. All ye who took any of these sinful oaths and bonds imposed upon you by the adversaries, and paid the wicked cess and locality, and heard the curates, ye did not believe that He saw you, when ye did those wicked deeds. All ye who paid the wicked cess and locality, His eyes were upon you, and He observed you when you were doing the same, and He will reward you for it if repentance prevent not.
The next thing we should take notice of is that for which this church is commended, and that is for two things, both of which are nearly to one and the same purpose. And
1st, It is commended for holding fast His name, that is His truth, cause, and interest, yea, everything whereby He makes Himself known. Then
(1.) We must lay hold of Him by making peace with Him. "Let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me." So unless ye be in Christ, ye cannot hold fast His name in a day of trial, temptation, and persecution. You must close with Him as JESUS, that is, as a Saviour to save you both from the guilt of sin and the power of sin. And also ye must close with Him, as CHRIST, that is, as He is anointed to be King, Priest, and Prophet to His people,
(2.) If you would hold fast His name, you must hold fast everyone of His truths, every part of His cause and interest We must quit with none of them, or any part of them, whatever it may cost us. Many will hold fast a part of His name. They will hold fast and suffer for some of His truths, but not for all. Some they will quit and not think them worth the suffering for. But if ye would hold fast His name, then ye must hold fast and suffer for all His truths, not quitting any of them.
(3.) If ye would hold fast His name, then ye must do it constantly. Ye must not think it enough to commend and suffer for the truths a while, and quit and deny the same afterwards; but that is not the way. If ye would hold fast His name, then ye must do it to the end.
2ndly, This church is commended for this, that she denied not His faith. This is much to the same purpose in not holding fast His name. I shall show you some ways whereby the faith is denied. And
(1.) The faith is denied by heresy. Yet many in this day are guilty thereof, for all heresies and errors, howsoever damnable they be, are tolerated by this Antichristian toleration.
(2.) The faith is denied by scandalous practices in many. Alas! many professors in this our day have denied this way by scandalous practices unbecoming the gospel.
(3.) The faith of Christ is denied by idolatry. But oh, how many are guilty of this! For not only the faith is denied by outward gross idolatry, as the worshipping of images, stocks and stones, whereof many are guilty at this time, but also of heart idolatry when anything is put in God's room, and that fear, honour, love, and delight given unto anything which is due to Him.
(4.) The faith is denied by hypocrisy. Oh, this will take in many of you, for if you would take heed to it, the faith is denied by defection and falling away from the truth, and for denying it when called to confess and profess the same! Ah! many of this generation are guilty of denying the faith this way.
Now, ye should seriously consider these things how the faith of Christ is denied, those of you who are guilty of the same in any of these ways. Oh, consider, mourn for, and forsake the same! Rest not until ye get repentance and pardon for the same. Guard against the denying of the faith for the time to come. Let it be your study and care to hold fast His name, and not to deny His faith.
Now, there are two circumstances which make the commendation of this church in Pergamos more remarkable, which our Lord Jesus Christ takes notice of:First, This church held fast His name, and did not deny His faith, even in that place where Satan's seat was. Secondly, It held fast His name, and did not deny His faith, even in those days wherein Antipas, who was His faithful martyr, was slain amongst them. To the
1. Of these, viz., their holding fast His name, &c., where Satan's seat was; this makes it more worthy of commendation, that they did so even where the devil had his seat and throne. It is more hard and difficult there than in any other place where he has not his seat. Pergamos was a wicked city, and Satan had his seat in it, and did, as it were, reign as a king, and the body and bulk of the people in it were his slaves, drudges, and subjects. Now there are these three things to be found in a city where Satan has his seat, and they are all to be found in Scotland with a witness:
(1.) Where profanity abounds without control, and wickedness and every abomination are universal and general amongst all ranks, there Satan hath his seat. Profanity abounded much in Pergamos where Satan's seat was. So we may say of Scotland, Satan hath his seat in it, for profanity abounds without control amongst all ranks from the highest to the lowest, from him that sits upon the throne to the beggar on the dunghill. There is not only wickedness set up and every abomination universal, but it is tolerated and entertained. And
(2.) Where persecution of the Lord's people is, and His servants and saints are murdered, there Satan hath his seat. This was in Pergamos, for there Antipas, Christ's faithful martyr, was murdered. So is it also in Scotland; the Lord's people have been long persecuted, and many of them are persecuted still. Though many of them are at ease, and living quietly under the shadow of this toleration, many of the Lord's people have been murdered both on fields and scaffolds in Scotland.
(3.) Where a throne and judicatory of a land are working for the devil, seeking to destroy the kingdom of Christ, and to root out His followers, and to advance the kingdom of Antichrist, and the acts and laws of that throne and hierarchy, Satan hath been, as it were, at the contriving and making of them. They are wicked and bloody, and they endeavour with all their force to put them in execution. I say, where all these are, Satan hath his seat and throne; and is not all this to be found in Scotland? For the throne and judicatories thereof are ruling for Satan. It is a throne of iniquity, which is a throne of the devil. Are they not seeking to destroy the kingdom of Christ, and to root out His followers, and to advance and establish Antichrist, which is the kingdom of the devil? And are not their acts and laws, made against the people of God, satanical? And have they not been and are endeavouring with all their might to put them in execution? Yet notwithstanding all this, we have matter of praise and ground of rejoicing, even in Scotland where Satan's seat is, that the Lord hath had many that "have held fast his name, and have not denied his faith." And there are some this day in this land, who are holding fast His name and not denying His faith. Oh, let this be our ambition to be in the number of such, and to count it our honour to be amongst the "called, chosen, and faithful ones who follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth"!
2. The second thing which makes the commendation of this church more remarkable is:
(1.) They held fast His name, and denied not His faith even in those days, "wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain" amongst them. It is more difficult to hold fast His name, and not deny His faith in a time of suffering, even when Antipas, a faithful martyr, was slain amongst them; for which it is the more commended. Now, this Antipas was a faithful minister of Christ. We read no more of him in Scripture or history but that he suffered martyrdom. Antipas, which is a Greek word, signifiesagainst all. So was he in his practice against all, whether professed friends or open enemies, who were not for Christ. He was a faithful zealous contender for truth; and for this he was murdered by his enemies. Mr. Durham thinks he was a man lying under reproaches and calumnies, and that, may be, he was stoned in some tumult, as not worthy to live, as a seditious person,4 which is very probable; for those who were most faithful and valiant for the Lord in contending for His truths, and most zealous in witnessing against sin, are liable to such things; and to vindicate the cause for which he suffered, and to clear him He gives him a noble testimony, and owns him to be His martyr. There are these things in it which make it the more remarkable:
(1.) That Antipas is a Greek word, and signifies a witness as hath been observed. This is a great honour indeed, to be a witness for Christ, to be a martyr for Christ and His cause. But
(2.) There is more said of him than that. He is called "a faithful martyr." Christ owns and avouches him to be His faithful martyr, in order to the clearing of these mistakes, lies and reproaches, which might be cast upon him. As if our Lord had said, "Notwithstanding all these lies and reproaches wherewith he was reproached, yet he was a faithful martyr. He died for My cause, and I own him to be Mine."
Now from this we may observe, that it is a great honour and privilege to suffer for Christ. He will own His martyrs to be His, and commend their sufferings. It is such an honour the angels of heaven cannot be capable of, for they have not a body to suffer for Christ; therefore we should not fear, nor be weary of suffering for Christ, but look upon it as our honour and glory. It may be enquired, What is requisite in those we are to account and esteem martyrs for Christ, for it is not everyone that may suffer that is to be looked upon as such? And
1. It is requisite that they be actually in Christ, otherwise though they should suffer, yet He will not esteem them His martyrs. They must be interested in Him. They must have laid hold of Him for salvation, otherwise their suffering will avail them nothing. Suppose they should "give their body to be burned, and want charity, it profiteth them nothing," and they will get no thanks for it.
2. It is requisite in those who are to be esteemed martyrs, not only that they be in Christ, but that the cause they suffer for be also His, that they be His truths that they die for, and not their own, or the notions or opinions of others. It must be truth and duty we lay down our lives and suffer for, if we would be martyrs for Christ. The least of His truths are worth the suffering death for, for although there be lesser and greater truths comparatively, or when compared amongst themselves, yet in point of suffering they are all alike when we are called thereunto. We ought to suffer as much and as cheerfully for the lesser as for the greater truths; and the lesser a truth is when compared with those that are greater, if we suffer for it as we should do; it argues the more love to Christ whose truth it is. And those who will not suffer for little truths when called thereunto, it may be feared that they shall never be honoured to suffer for those called greater truths.
3. It is not only requisite that it be truth and duty that they suffer for, but also that they be right as to other truths. For although a thing may be truth and duty to witness for it, and it would be a great sin to deny it, yet if he be heretical as to any of these fundamental truths, he cannot be looked upon as a martyr for Christ. Suppose a Papist, Quaker, Socinian, or Arminian, should lay down his life for that which is mere truth and duty, yet they could not be accounted martyrs for Christ; because they are heretical as to the most part of the fundamental truths of the Gospel of Christ.
4. It is requisite in those who are to be accounted martyrs for Christ, that their call to suffering for the present truth be clear and right. We must not run rashly upon suffering, but our call unto it should be clear. In the primitive times, some ran rashly upon suffering without a call, and out of some kind of vain glory they suffered that they might get a name thereby. Now, to prevent this rash suffering, it was decreed by the Church that those who should run upon suffering without a call, though they should suffer, yet they should not be accounted martyrs. Now, if it be asked, What is it that gives a call to suffering? I answer, When we are persecuted, hunted and chased for adhering to the cause of Christ, and for owning His truths, and if, in His holy providence, we fall into the hands of His enemies, then our call to suffering is clear, and it is our duty to adhere unto, and witness for His cause, and give a testimony for His truths and not deny them.
5. It is requisite in those who are to be looked on as martyrs of Christ, not only that their call to suffering be clear and their manner of suffering be right, but we must endure unto the end, and be faithful unto the death, without flinching from or denying the truth in compliance with enemies to get our lives preserved. Antipas was a faithful martyr. Here the manner of suffering was right. He was faithful unto the death. He did not deny truth but gave testimony for the same, nor complied with enemies. In our day we have had our Antipasses, faithful martyrs of Christ, whom He hath honoured and helped faithfully to own His cause unto the death, and to seal His truths with their blood, and whom He will avouch to be His faithful martyrs. Notwithstanding, at the beginning of this sad Restoration, Mr. James Guthrie was an Antipas, a faithful witness of Jesus Christ. There were also some both at and after Pentland, viz., Mr. Kid and Mr. King; these were Antipasses, faithful martyrs of Christ. And likewise, after Bothwell, Mr. Richard Cameron and Mr. Donald Cargill were Antipasses and faithful martyrs of Christ; and even of late we had another Antipas and faithful martyr of Christ, Mr. James Renwick, whose voice used to cry unto you on these hills, and to preach the gospel faithfully and freely unto you. Him hath the Lord honoured to be a faithful martyr for His cause, and whose blood is crying this day for vengeance against the bulk and body of this generation. The heads of whose sufferings are noble, and worth the loss of all we have, for, though by the most part they are counted small and despicable, yet they are both worthy and weighty. For, as to Mr. Renwick,
1st, It was because he would not own James VII. to be his lawful Sovereign: to own whom as a right and lawful magistrate being a Papist, who is an idolater (as all Papists are), a sworn votary and vassal of Antichrist, and an enemy to God, is contrary to Scripture and the Constitution of the Church of Scotland and our Covenants; yet, alas! he is owned and acknowledged by the most part of the ministers and professors in the land.
2ndly, It was for teaching, asserting and maintaining the privileges of mankind, the lawfulness of that principle of (defensive arms or) self-defence, to deny which is absurd and contrary to the law of nature and the law of nations, all which allow men to defend themselves against unjust violence. And
Lastly, It was for preaching against the unlawfulness of paying the cess enacted for suppressing the faithful preaching of the Gospel, for the enemies declared for what end they laid it on in their Act concerning itthat it was for maintaining forces for bearing down the meetings of the Lord's people for gospel ordinances. And now all ye who continue paying the same, ye not only trample upon all the warnings given by the faithful ministers of Christ concerning the sinfulness of paying that cess, but also upon the blood of that famous witness, minister, and martyr of Jesus Christ, who witnessed against the same both in his life and at his death. Oh, therefore consider the sinfulness of the same and forbear it. Have not the enemies told you for what end they lifted it? Is it not for suppressing and bearing down the meetings of the Lord's people? They have not hid their end. Ye who concur with them in paying it do all that is sought of you by that act, to buy the sword to them, to banish the gospel out of the land, and to root out all Christ's followers, for ye give money for that purpose. Oh, then consider the sinfulness thereof, and leave off this sinful practice!
1. This preface and the following lecture and sermon were delivered at the Lowthers in Crawfordmoor, March 11, 1688, and printed some time ago, but very incorrectly.
2. This Piedmont is one of the principalities of Italy, where the Church suffered a long series of persecutions, barbarities and bloody carnage, by the cruel Papists, about the years 1555-1560. See Fox's "Acts and Monuments," Vol. II.
3. For this see Act V., Session First Parliament of James VII.
4. See Mr. Durham's "Commentary on the Revelation."