by Thomas Watson
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (v.10)
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
“Blessed are those who are persecuted, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”
We are now come to the last beatitude: ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted
Let us prepare for persecution. A wise pilot in a calm, will prepare for a storm. God knows how soon persecution may come. There seems to be a cloud of blood hanging over the nation.
3. Promote those things which will help to suffer. Continued
 Let us lay in suffering-CONSIDERATIONS. A wise Christian will consider several things.
Consider whom we suffer for. It is for Christ, and we cannot suffer for a better friend. There is many a man will suffer shame and death for his lusts. He will suffer disgrace for a drunken lust. He will suffer death for a revengeful lust. Shall others die for their lusts—and shall not we die for Christ? Will a man suffer for that lust which damns him—and shall not we suffer for that Christ who saves us? Oh remember, we espouse God’s own quarrel and he will not allow us to be losers. Surely no man shall sacrifice himself for God for nothing.
Consider that it is a great honor to suffer persecution. Ambrose, in the eulogy of his sister said, ‘I will say this of her—she was a martyr’. It is a great honor to be singled out to bear witness to the truth. ‘They departed from the council rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name’ (Acts 5:41). It is a title that has been given to kings, ‘Defender of the faith’. A martyr is in a special manner, a ‘defender of the faith’. Kings are defenders of the faith by their swords, martyrs by their blood. It is a credit to appear for God. Martyrs are not only Christ’s followers—but his ensign-bearers. The Romans had their brave warriors which graced the field. God calls out none but his champions to fight his battles. We read that Abraham called forth his trained soldiers (Genesis 14:14), such as were more expert and valiant. What a honor is it to be one of Christ’s trained band!
The disciples dreamed of a temporal reign (Acts 1:6). Christ tells them (verse 8), ‘You shall be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem . . ‘. To bear witness by their sufferings to the truth of Christ’s divinity and passion was a greater honor to the disciples than to have had a temporal reign upon earth. A bloody cross is more honorable than a purple robe. Persecution is called the ‘fiery trial’ (1 Peter 4:12).
‘I have refined you in the furnace of affliction.’ (Isaiah 48:10). ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his demons! And they will go away into eternal punishment!’ (Matthew 25:41, 46). God has two fires—one where He puts His gold, and another where He puts His dross. The fire where He puts His gold, is the fire of suffering and affliction–to purify them. The fire where He puts His dross, is the fire of damnation–to punish them.
God honors his gold when he puts it into the fire. ‘A spirit of glory rests upon you’ (1 Peter 1:7; 1. Peter 4:14). Persecution, as it is a badge of our honor, so an ensign of our glory. What greater honor can be put upon a mortal man, than to stand up in the cause of God? And not only to die in the Lord but to die for the Lord? Ignatius called his fetters his spiritual pearls. Paul gloried more in his iron chain than if it had been a gold chain! (Acts 28:20).
Consider what Jesus Christ suffered for us. Calvin says that Christ’s whole life, was a series of sufferings. Christian, what is your suffering? Are you poor? So was Christ. ‘Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests—but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head’ (Matthew 8:20). Are you surrounded with enemies? So was Christ. ‘Against your holy child Jesus whom you have anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate with the Gentiles . . . were gathered together’ (Acts 4:27). Do our enemies lay claim to religion? So did his. ‘The chief priests took the silver pieces and said—It is not lawful to put them into the treasury because it is the price of blood’ (Matthew 27:6). Godly persecutors! Are you reproached? So was Christ. ‘They bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ (Matthew 27:29). Are you slandered? So was Christ. ‘He casts out devils by the prince of devils’ (Matthew 9:34). Are you ignominiously treated? So was Christ. ‘Some began to spit upon him’ (Mark 14:65). Are you betrayed by friends? So was Christ. ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?’ (Luke 22:48). Is your estate taken from you? And do the wicked cast lots for it? So Christ was dealt with. ‘They parted his garments, casting lots’ (Matthew 27:35). Do we suffer unjustly? So did Christ. His very judge acquitted him. ‘Then Pilate said to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man’ (Luke 23:4). Are you barbarously dragged and haled away to suffering? So was Christ. ‘When they had bound him they led him away’ (Matthew 27:2). Do you suffer death? So did Christ. ‘When they were come to Calvary, there they crucified him’ (Luke 23:33). They gave him gall and vinegar to drink; the gall picturing the bitterness of his death, the vinegar picturing the sharpness of his death. Christ underwent not only the blood of the cross but the curse of the cross (Galatians 3:13). He had agony in his soul. ‘My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death’ (Matthew 26:38). The soul of Christ was overcast with a cloud of God’s displeasure. The Greek Church speaking of the sufferings of Christ, calls them ‘unknown sufferings’. Did the Lord Jesus endure all this for us—and shall not we suffer persecution for his name? Say, as holy Ignatius, ‘I am willing to die for Christ, for Christ my love was crucified!’ Our cup of suffering is nothing, compared to the cup which Christ drank. His cup was mixed with the wrath of God, and if he bore God’s wrath for us—well may we bear man’s wrath of him.
Consider the honor we bring to Christ and the gospel by suffering. It was a honor to Caesar that he had such soldiers as were able to fight with hunger and cold and endure hardship in their marches. It is a honor to Christ that he has such people listed under him, as will leave all for him. It proclaims him to be a good Master—when his servants will wear his livery though it be sullied with disgrace and lined with blood. Paul’s iron chain made the gospel wear a golden chain. Tertullian says of the saints in his time that they took their sufferings more kindly, than if they had had deliverance. Oh, what a glory was this to the truth, when they dared embrace it in the flame!
And as the saints’ sufferings adorn the gospel, so they propagate it. Basil says that the zeal and constancy of the martyrs in the primitive times made some of the heathens to be Christianised. ‘The Church is founded in blood and by blood it increases’. The showers of blood have ever made the church fruitful. Paul’s being bound made the truth more enlarged (Philippians 1:13). The gospel has always flourished in the ashes of martyrs.
Consider who it is, that we have engaged ourselves to in baptism. We solemnly vowed that we would be true to Christ’s interest and fight under his banner, to the death. And how often have we in the blessed supper, taken the oath of allegiance to Jesus Christ that we would be his servants and that death should not part us! Now if when being called to it, we refuse to suffer persecution for his name—Christ will bring our baptism as an indictment against us. Christ is called ‘the Captain of our salvation’ (Hebrews 2:10). We have listed ourselves by name under this Captain. Now if, for fear, we shall fly from our colors, it is perjury in the highest degree, and how shall we be able to look Christ in the face at the day of judgment? That oath which is not kept inviolably—shall be punished infallibly. Where does the ‘flying scroll’ of curses land—but in the house of him that ‘swears falsely’ (Zechariah 5:4)?
Consider that our sufferings are light. This ‘light affliction . . .’ (2 Corinthians 4:17) 1. It is heavy to flesh and blood—but it is light to faith. Affliction is light in a threefold respect:
1. It is light—in comparison to SIN. He who feels sin heavy, feels suffering light. Sin made Paul cry out, ‘O wretched man that I am!’ (Romans 7:24). He does not cry out of his iron chain—but of his sin. The greater noise drowns the lesser. When the sea roars, the rivers are silent. He who is taken up with his sins, and sees how he has provoked God—thinks the yoke of affliction to be light (Micah 7:9).
2. Affliction is light—in comparison of HELL. What is persecution, compared to damnation? What is the fire of martyrdom, compared to the fire of the damned? It is no more than the pricking of a pin, compared to a death’s wound. ‘Who knows he power of your anger!’ (Psalm 90:11) Christ himself could not have borne that anger, had he not been more than a man.
3. Affliction is light—in comparison of GLORY. The weight of glory makes persecution light. ‘If,’ says Chrysostom, ‘the torments of all the men in the world could be laid upon one man, it were not worth one hour’s being in heaven!’ And if persecution is light, we should not be overly downcast by it. Let us neither faint through unbelief, nor fret through impatience.
Consider that our sufferings are short. ‘After you have suffered a little while’ (1 Peter 5:10). Our sufferings may be lasting, not everlasting. Affliction is compared to a ‘cup’ (Lamentations 4:21). The wicked drink of a ‘sea’ of wrath which has no bottom. It will never be emptied. But it is only a ‘cup’ of martyrdom, and God will say, ‘Let this cup pass away’. ‘The rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous’ (Psalm 125:3). The rod may be there, it shall not rest. Christ calls his sufferings ‘an hour’ (Luke 22:53). Can we not suffer one hour? Persecution is sharp—but short. Though it has a sting to torment—yet it has a wing to fly! ‘Sorrow shall fly away’ (Isaiah 35:10). It is but a little while when the saints shall have a writ of ease granted them. They shall weep no more—and suffer no more. They shall be taken off the torturing wrack—and laid in Christ’s bosom. The people of God shall not always be in the iron furnace; a year of Jubilee will come. The water of persecution like a land-flood, will soon be dried up.
Consider that while we suffer for Christ—we suffer with Christ. ‘If we suffer with him . . .’ (Romans 8:17). Jesus Christ bears part of the suffering with us. ‘Oh,’ says the Christian, ‘I shall never be able to hold out!’ But remember—you suffer with Christ. He helps you to suffer. As our blessed Savior said: ‘I am not alone; the Father is with me’ (John 16:32); so a believer may say, ‘I am not alone, my Christ is with me’. He bears the heaviest end of the cross. ‘My grace is sufficient for you’ (2 Corinthians 12:9). ‘Underneath are the everlasting arms’ (Deuteronomy 33:27). If Christ puts the yoke of persecution over us—he will put his arms under us. The Lord Jesus will not only crown us when we conquer—but he will enable us to conquer. When the dragon fights against the godly, Christ is that Michael who stands up for them and helps them to overcome (Daniel 12:1).
Consider that he who refuses to suffer persecution shall never be free from suffering:
He will have INTERNAL sufferings. He who will not suffer for conscience, shall suffer in conscience. Thus Francis Spira, after he had abjured that doctrine which once he professed for fear of persecution, was in great terror of mind. He professed he felt the very pains of the damned in his soul. He who was afraid of the stake, was set upon the wrack of a tormenting conscience!
He will have EXTERNAL sufferings. Pendleton refused to suffer for Christ; not long after, his house was on fire and he was burned in it. He who would not burn for Christ—was afterwards made to burn for his sins.
He will have ETERNAL sufferings. ‘Suffering the vengeance of eternal fire’ (Jude 7).
These present sufferings cannot hinder a man from being blessed. ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted . . .’ We think, ‘Blessed are those who are rich’; nay—but ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted’. ‘Blessed is the man who endures temptation . . .’ (James 11, 12). ‘If you suffer for righteousness, sake, happy are you’ (1 Peter 3:14).