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throughout endless ages? Which of you is not overwhelmed with amazement at the bare thought of being united with such companions of living forever in the midst of fiends and fiendlike men, and of beings tossed, and convulsed by furious passions, rankling with envy, malice and rage, hating truth and righteousness, putrid with deceit, forming no plan, pursuing no purpose but to dishonor God and ruin each other?" Yet, you are this day on the high way to this very doom. Not only are your faces turned in that direction, but you are moving-moving rapidly-moving a step to every pulsation of your hearts, which
"like muffled drums are beating Funeral marches to the grave."
Your very names are this moment on the list of those whom Satan fondly hopes ere long to welcome to the shades of death and hell. Waiting angels and an insulted Spirit hang trembling over you as almost gone beyond all hope. Awake, awake, awake! then, and grasp the help which Israel's God extends, or your sun is for ever set in blackness and in blood!
'Dwight's Theology, Vol. IV. page 475.
ENCOURAGEMENTS TO CHRISTIAN PERSEVERANCE.
Heb. x. 32-39. But call to remember the former days, in which, after ye were il luminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; partly, while ye were made a gazing-stock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance. Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul..
THE early christians, and especially those who were converts from Judaism, were greatly persecuted and afflicted. This is a matter of legitimate inference from the well known disposition of the Jewish rulers. There are also several facts in the Gospel history which put this beyond doubt. But persecution and affliction were not confined to the first professors of christianity. The Gospel of Christ imposes such a rigid check upon human passions, it comes into so direct contact with the most cherished feelings and desires of the depraved heart, and it is at the same time so aggressive, and so uncompromising with all error and superstition, that it has ever been its fate to meet with the most violent opposition. The cross-the dungeon the rack-the stake-the sword-the bloody inquisition-all have been glutted with the victims of its persecutors. Its great author came to an ignominious death; and nearly all its first defenders, some of its most holy representatives, and many of its magnanimous reformers met with a similar doom. And even now, though the blood of christian martyrs has ceased to flow, and the fires from consuming saints no longer flash and smoke unto the heavens, it is not because the Gospel has ceased to be an object of hatred or contempt, or because ungodly men do not burn with the same hell-inspired feelings. The followers of Christ are still, even in the most civilized and enlightened nations, the subjects of affliction and persecution from the wicked. And though not so
outbreaking and furious, yet just as real, and much more systematical. And so it will be until the wicked are separated from the righteous, and the wheat and the tares no longer grow together. The Savior himself has predicted it, and the experience of 1800 years has so fully developed the nature of man as to lead us to look for nothing else.
In the text the apostle presents various considerations by way of encouragement to christians under these afflictive circumstances. I will call your attention to them in the order in which they appear from the heaven guided pen of Paul himself.
1. The apostle encourages to perseverance in the faith from the consideration of steadfastness under former afflictions. "But call to remembrance the former days, in which after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions." It appears that the christianized Jews, to whom he more particularly wrote, had sustained some very grevious adversities. What was the precise nature of these trials, is not very clear. That they were fierce and powerful is expressed in the words "a great fight of afflictions." Their steadfastness was greatly endangered by them, and demanded from them a vigorous struggle.
It is said that they were "made a gazing-stock”—exhibited like wild beasts and other shows in theatres. They were thus exhibited as objects of contempt and reproach—as the professors of a despised religion-as the followers of a crucified malefactor-and as weak and fanatical in having renounced the Jewish worship; and also as the subjects of actual inflictions. They were not only reviled in words, but made to endure positive sufferings. And though all were not treated in the same manner, yet all shared in the afflictions by becoming "the companions of them that were so used." The shared in them by sympathy and also by their connection with that religion on account of which these persecutions were supported.
They were moreover plundered of their property-deprived of their inheritances-turned out of their dwellings-and spoiled of all their goods.
But with all these fiery trials, they remained faithful. They endured it all, not only without murmuring, but with joy. They counted it a privilege and honor to suffer for their Master. The apostle now wished them to call these things to remembrance; to
think of the fierce sufferings which they had thus triumphantly passed through; and by this means nerve themselves for what was yet to come. Having endured so much, and come out from the fight so joyfully, they certainly had great encouragement to remain undismayed for the future.
And so can nearly every christian refer to times of fierce conflict-times of sore trial-times when almost induced to give up Christ-times when temptations from without or doubts from within nearly robbed the soul of all its faith. But having passed through them without injury, we are to make the remembrance of the grace then bestowed on us the means of support and encouragement for all the afflictions and trials that may hereafter assail us. If God has given us the victory once, he will give as the victory again. If when unexperienced, and measureably estranged from that grace which we have at our command in times of need, we came off conquerors; shall we falter now having felt and seen that we have nothing to fear? Having held out so long and so successfully, shall we now with childish timidity throw down our armor and give up the fight? Surely the remembrance of the past should nerve every christian heart for the worst which the future may have in store for us.
2. Another encouragement to christian perseverance presented in the text, is the consideration of our possessions in heaven. The early christians endured all the afflictions and privations of which I have just spoken, "knowing in themselves that they had in heaven a better and an enduring substance." It does not mean that they had any mysterious internal revelation or knowledge of this; but simply that as christians they knew from the teachings of Christ and his apostles, they were the heirs of a preferable inheritance in heaven.
This heavenly inheritance which awaits all true christians, is better than any earthly possessions. It is worth more; it gives more comfort; and it makes a man really richer. All the wealth
of Croesus is nothing to compare with it. It is the source of more solid peace; it does more to make man happy under the various changes and reverses of time; and it is altogether more serviceable. Earthly property is a blessing if it be properly used, (though a great snare to the depraved heart,) but the possessions of heaven are beyond comparison more valuable and desirable. Then again.
it is more lasting. It is "an enduring substance." All earthly possessions are uncertain and transient. They soon vanish. Riches take to themselves wings and fly away; and at best we must soon depart and leave them all behind us to be possessed by others. But in heaven all is permanent and secure. No calamity of war, pestilence or famine-no change of times-no commercial embarrassments no bankruptcy-no fraudulent defaulters--no thieves-no sudden depreciations, can ever touch it or affect its value. No death ever comes there to vacate those heavenly mansions. All is lasting and eternal.
It was the reflection that such glorious possessions were theirs, which helped to strengthen and encourage those christian sufferers. The same consideration should encourage us to faithfulness. Remembering that we have a home in heaven-" an inheritance which is incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away," what need we care for all the destitutions, privations and afflictions which may befal us on earth. What if we are not and never shall be rich in the things of this world, when we have such imperishable riches laid up at the right hand of God. What if we must leave "house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or land, for Christ's sake and the Gospel;" is it not plain that we have an hundred-fold the value of all these desirable things? There is no earthly treasure which can compare in true value with our better and enduring substance; and why then should we ever give up our faith for any of the perishable joys and riches of this world? Just cast your eyes with the poet upon that fair and happy land where these glad possessions lie. And,
"O the transporting, rapt'rous scene, That rises to our sight!
There God the Son for ever reigns, And scatters night away.
No chilling winds, nor poisonous breath, Can reach that healthful shore;
And with the conviction that, that bright land is yours, why, why relinquish your glorious possession, or grow unwilling to do and suffer on the will of God until the end shall come? Certainly there is encouragement to perseverance in such a conviction.
3. The apostle further encouraged the Jewish christians to be