There is one command of God so startling, so paradoxical, so utterly alien to this world and native to another, so, enveloping a disciple in triple brass, that it ought to be framed in letters of gold. Absorbed, and obeyed, any man is made unconquerable. For it passes all Christ-like suffering under the X-rays of another world, and, by what it thus discloses, transmutes the very substance of such sorrow. To the heart of a Church hovering once more on paths of martyrdom it is a strychnine of extraordinary power.
But first the ground must be cleared, as it is cleared both by
our Lord and by His Apostle, of all suffering which in no remotest degree falls
under the revelation. “Let none of you suffer” - for mere suffering, divorced
from goodness is valueless – “as a murderer, or a
thief, or an evil-doer, or as a meddler in other men’s matters” (1 Pet. 4: 15).
Our Lord carefully slips in an identical caution. “Blessed are ye when
men shall say all manner of evil against YOU FALSELY” (Matt. 5: 11).
There were three crosses on
So our Saviour catalogues the sufferings minutely, not as the sharp but exceptional sufferings of murderous epochs only, but as the steady, unvarying pressure of animus which the world exercises always and everywhere. “Blessed are ye when men shall hate you” - no words could plunge a more impassable gulf between the Church and the world – “and when they shall separate you from their company” - ostracize and boycott you – “and reproach you” - our Lord uses a word embracing not only mere abuse, but sometimes stern or even loving remonstrance: reproach rather than rebuke – “and cast out your name” - your name as ‘Christian’ – “as evil” (Luke 6: 22), as corrupt, or even as criminal.* The godly life is so stinging a rebuke to sin that it raises, in the worldling, either penitence or hate. Even he who has all the graces of all the Beatitudes will encounter slander and ostracism and hate: but our curser is our blesser, for the reviling creates the beatitude; as blessed as are the pure, the merciful, the meek, so blessed are they who simply suffer. The censure of the whole Church and of the whole world is valueless except in so far as it coincides with Scripture, and the only thing that matters is the approval of the Judgment Seat of Christ.
[* As one writer has said:- The daring disregard of truth with which the world is wont to calumniate the children of God, the Satanic cunning with which its lies are woven, would be altogether incredible if it were not matter of fact. “The early Christians,” says Professor H. B. Workman, “lived under the shadow of a great hate. Murder, theft, gross crimes were some of the charges freely brought against them.”]
Both the Apostle and the Lord reveal the beatitude’s fundamental cause. “If a man suffer as a Christian,* let him not be ashamed”: “in so much as” - to the degree that – “ye be partakers of Christ’s sufferings, rejoice.” So the Saviour, a wondrous phrase, which none but the Son of God could for the first time, says:- “Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you FOR MY SAKE” (Matt. 5: 11). Holy suffering is a proof of regeneration and an unmistakable identification with Christ. “Remember the word that I said unto you, they persecuted me, they will also persecute you: all these things will they do unto you for My Name’s sake” (John 15: 20). A ‘Christian’ is a lover of Christ’s person, a believer Christ’s doctrine, a follower in Christ’s footsteps, a partaker in Christ’s sufferings, a watcher for Christ’s glory, a trustee of Christ’s honour; and the suffering is a proof of trust. “The apostles rejoiced that they were COUNTED WORTHY to suffer dishonour for the Name” (Acts 5: 41).
[* God’s chosen name for His own in this dispensation, as
a bride takes the name of the bridegroom.
“The disciples were called” – called by
divine vine oracle, supernaturally named by God – “Christians first at
Now the isolating effect of the world’s action only consolidates God’s sainthood, and uncovers the age-long stock of the holy. “Rejoice, for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matt. 5: 12). Identical suffering reveals identical character: such stand in one crowd with ‘the glorious company of the Apostles,’ ‘the goodly fellowship of the Prophets’: if one in sorrow with Enoch and Elijah and Paul, then one in character, and one in destiny. “The recompense of the Elijahs and Isaiahs will become yours” (Godet).
An un-cursed servant of God is not in the apostolic
succession. As Luther said to Melancthon:- “So preach that those who do not fall out with their sins may
fall out with thee.” Throughout
man’s history no doctrine or practice ever received the world’s applause which
was not an outrage on the Word of God. He who (for example) practises the
Sermon on the Mount - who takes no oath, touches no sword, lays up no treasure,
who lives the unearthly life - parts at once and for ever with a worldly ‘career,’ and, ploughing a lonely furrow even among
Christians of every group, becomes, to the world, simply negligible; and (to
take but one other example) he who squares all life to an imminent, miraculous
Advent is, in the eyes of the whole world, a fool. But these things are the mind of Christ. Men
shun us because Christ is in our background, and hate us when we have too much
of Him. “The
reproaches of them that reproached Thee fell upon me” (
So now the Apostle discloses our unique and priceless revelation. “If ye are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are ye” - he repeats the beatitude he had heard thirty years before; “because” - as proved by the suffering – “the Spirit of glory and the Spirit of God RESTETH UPON YOU.” Babylon, as it was the first, so it will be the last, great enemy of God and man, and Peter, writing in Babylon, and probably martyred there, reveals that every furnace Babylon has ever kindled down the ages – ‘fiery trial’, ordeal by fire - brings into the furnace One like unto the Son of God. On the sufferer, in the eyes of God, dwells a Shekinah: the Holy Dove, in an iniquitous world, finds on him a rest for her foot: god-like suffering proves an invisible unction and (if un-forfeited) an inevitable glory. All holiness is anointing him and all glory is crowning him. Already the heavenly treasure is banked on high for those, on earth, made bankrupt for Christ. For “if we suffer with him, we shall also REIGN with him” (2 Tim. 2: 12). As Ignatius said, and he had his choice – “I would rather be a martyr than a monarch.”
So, therefore, even as the Apostle invokes to joy now because of the ‘exceeding joy’ coming for all such at the revelation of Christ’s glory, our Lord, commanding present gladness in words which describe the joy at the Lamb’s marriage supper (Rev. 19: 7), expresses it in an action never otherwise commanded. “Rejoice in that day [of suffering], AND LEAP FOR JOY: for behold, your reward is great in heaven” (Luke 6: 23). Insult and injury depress, and depression paralyzes: joy, on the contrary, is one of the most powerful of tonics; and our Lord commands a leaping, hounding joy, because of the extraordinary reward beyond. “That you may not fall short of that joy in the participation of glory,” as Archbishop Leighton says, “fall not back from a cheerful progress in the communion of those suffering that are so closely linked with it, and will so surely lead unto it, and end in it.” Exactly so far as we depart from the conduct of the ideal Christian, and conform to the world, exactly thus far shall we miss both the travail and the reward. Thought today revolts fiercely against the doctrine of reward, but it beats as harmless ripples against this rock of revelation which exalts reward into one of the gigantic facts awaiting us beyond the Veil; for the Lord grounds the exultant joy foursquare on the magnitude of the recompense.* One martyr, overwhelmed with the vision, exclaimed:- “So much wages for so little work!”
[* Since our Lord said – “Blessed are they that have been [R.V. and Greek] persecuted,” He must be referring to previous sufferers; and none such have belonged to the Church, which arose after their death: therefore the Kingdom here is not the Church, but the future [millennial] Kingdom; and it (Jesus says) is the reward. So a parallel beatitude says:- “They shall inherit the earth”: the ‘glory’ for the sufferer is the coming Royalty of the World.]
The Sufferings of this Present Time
(Romans 8: 18-23)
Our present sufferings and woes at times seem heard to bear;
Against God’s promises these are unworthy to compare.
How shall each trial when set beside our future destiny:
The glory that will be revealed in all God’s progeny.
Creation waits in eager hope to view the sons of God,
Displayed at last in righteousness imputed by their Lord.
Subject to sin, creation lies in bondage to decay;
Yet with God’s children it shall share the freedom of that day.
We eagerly anticipate eternal joy sublime,
This makes us groan within ourselves, until the present time.
We mourn this body of our death, the war with sin we feel;
But ours the first-fruits God has giv’n the Spirit’s inward seal.
In this great hope we will rejoice, with patience keep our heart.
God’s Day will come when we shall be redeemed in every part.
We wait with longing for ‘The Day’ when sin and death must flee;
This body, raised and glorified, will live eternally.