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
Persecution cannot hinder us from being blessed. I shall prove this by these demonstrations:
1. They are blessed who have God for their God. ‘Happy is that people whose God is the Lord’ (Psalm 144:15). But persecution cannot hinder us from having God for our God. ‘Our God is able to deliver us’ (Daniel 3:17). Though persecuted—yet they could say, ‘our God’. Therefore persecution cannot hinder us from being blessed.
They are blessed whom God loves—but persecution cannot hinder the love of God. ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall persecution?’ (Romans 8:35). The goldsmith loves his gold as well when it is in the fire—as when it is in his bag. God loves his children as well in adversity, as in prosperity. ‘As many as I love—I rebuke’ (Revelation 3:19). God visits his children in prison. ‘Be of good cheer, Paul’ (Acts 23:11). God sweetens their sufferings. ‘As the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds’ (2 Corinthians 1:5). As the mother, having given her child a bitter pill, gives it afterwards a lump of sugar; persecution is a bitter pill—but God gives the comforts of his Spirit to sweeten it. If persecution cannot hinder God’s love, then it cannot hinder us from being blessed.
2. They are blessed, for whom Christ prays. Such as are persecuted, have Christ praying for them. ‘Keep through your own name, those whom you have given me’ (John 17:11); which prayer, though made for all believers—yet especially for his apostles which he foretold should be martyrs (John 16:2). Now if persecution cannot hinder Christ’s prayer for us, then it cannot impede or obstruct our blessedness.
3. They are blessed, who have sin purged out. Persecution purges out sin (Isaiah 27:9; Hebrews 12:11). Persecution is a corrosive to eat out the proud flesh. It is a fan to winnow us, a fire to refine us. Persecution is the remedy which God applies to his children, to carry away their ill humours. That surely which purges out sin cannot hinder blessedness.
 The great suffering-consideration is the glorious reward which follows sufferings: ‘Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ ‘The hope of reward,’ says Basil, ‘is very powerful and moving.’ Moses had an eye to the ‘recompense of reward’ (Hebrews 11:26). Yes, so did Christ himself (Hebrews 12:2). Many have done great things for hope of a temporal reward. Camillus, when his country was oppressed by the Gauls, ventured his life for his country, to purchase fame and honor. If men will hazard their lives for a little temporal honor, what should we do for the reward of eternal glory! ‘A merchant,’ says Chrysostom, ‘does not mind a few storms at sea—but he thinks of the gain when the ship comes fraught home.’ So a Christian should not be overly concerned about his present sufferings—but think of the rich reward he shall receive, when he shall arrive at the heavenly port. ‘Great is your reward in heaven’ (verse 12). The cross is a golden ladder by which we climb up to heaven! A Christian may lose his life—but not his reward. He may lose his head—but not his crown. If he who gives ‘a cup of cold water’ shall not lose his reward, then much less he who gives a draught of warm blood. The rewards of glory may sweeten all the bitter waters of Marah. It should be a spur to martyrdom.
Not that we can merit this reward by our sufferings. ‘I will give you a crown of life’ (Revelation 2:10). The reward is the legacy which free grace bequeaths. Alas, what proportion is there between a drop of blood—and an eternal weight of glory? Christ himself, as he was man only (setting aside his Godhead), did not merit by his sufferings, for Christ, as he was man only, was a creature. Now a creature cannot merit from the Creator. Christ’s sufferings, as he was man only, were finite, therefore could not merit infinite glory. Indeed, as he was God, his sufferings were meritorious; but considering him purely as man, they were not. This I urge against the Papists. If Christ’s sufferings, as he was man only (though as man he was above the angels), could not merit, then what man upon earth, what prophet or martyr is able to merit anything by his sufferings?
But though we have no reward ‘ex merito’, by merit—we shall have it ‘ex gratia’, by grace. So it is in the text, ‘Great is your reward in heaven’. The thoughts of this reward should animate Christians. Look upon the eternal crown ov glory—and faint if you can. The reward is as far above your thoughts—as it is beyond your deserts. A man who is to wade through a deep water, fixes his eyes upon the firm land before him. While Christians are wading through the deep waters of persecution—they should fix the eyes of their faith on the land of promise. ‘Great is your reward in heaven!’ Those who bear the cross patiently—shall wear the crown triumphantly!
Christ’s suffering saints shall have greater degrees in glory (Matthew 19:28). God has his highest seats, yes, his thrones—for his martyrs. It is true, he who has the least degree of glory—a doorkeeper in heaven, will have enough; but as Joseph gave to Benjamin a double portion above the rest of his brethren, so God will give to his sufferers a double portion of glory. Some orbs in heaven are higher, some stars brighter. God’s martyrs shall shine brighter in the heavenly horizon.
Oh, often look upon ‘the recompense of the reward’. Not all the silks of Persia, nor all the spices of Arabia, nor all the gold of Ophir—can be compared to this glorious reward. How should the thoughts of this sharpen and steel us with courage in our sufferings! When they threatened Basil with banishment, he comforted himself with this—that he should be either under heaven, or in heaven. It was the hope of this reward which so animated those primitive martyrs, who, when there was incense put into their hands and there was no more required of them for the saving of their lives, but to sprinkle a little of that incense upon the altar in honor of the idol—they would rather die than do it!
This glorious reward in heaven, is called a reigning with Christ. ‘If we suffer, we shall also reign with him!’ First martyrs for Christ—then kings for Christ. Julian honored all those who were slain in his battles. So does the Lord Jesus. After the saints’ crucifixion, follows their coronation. ‘They shall reign!’ The wicked first reign—and then suffer. The godly first suffer—and then reign. The saints shall have a happy reign. It shall be both peaceable and durable. Who would not swim through blood—to this crown! Who would not suffer joyfully? Christ says, ‘Be exceeding glad’ (verse 12). The Greek word signifies ‘to leap for joy’. Christians should have their spirits elevated and exhilarated when they contemplate the eternal weight of glory!
If you would be able to suffer, pray much. Beg of God to clothe you with a spirit of zeal and magnanimity. ‘To you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him—but also to suffer for his sake’ (Philippians 1:29). It is a gift of God to be able to suffer. Pray for this gift. Do not think you can be able of yourselves, to lay down life and liberty for Christ. Peter was overconfident of himself. ‘I will lay down my life for your sake!’ (John 13:37). But Peter’s strength undid him. Peter had habitual grace—but he lacked auxiliary grace. Christians need fresh gales from heaven. Pray for the Spirit to animate you in your sufferings. As the fire hardens the potter’s vessel, which is at first weak and limber—so the fire of the Spirit hardens men against sufferings. Pray that God will make you like the anvil—that you may bear the strokes of persecutors with invincible patience!