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wards his Redeemer. You know, my brethren, how that the holy apostles were preserved in such a manner, how they endured in all faithfulness to their Redeemer, in despite of all temptations and conflicts, and how they valued it as an honour to follow Him on the path of the cross, and to walk in fellowship with his sufferings. And no less patient and resigned, steadfast and immoveable, were the Christians of the first centuries of our church. It seemed to them a thing nowise strange, that they had to endure so many sufferings and conflicts in the service of the Redeemer. They considered it their calling here to suffer with the Lord, and prove themselves his true disciples by courageous endurance and steadfastness in following him. For they had not joined themselves to the Lord, in order to enjoy this world's goods together with Him, but in order to be made worthy of the heavenly goods, blessings, and joys of his kingdom. Earthly advantages and external good fortune were not to be reckoned on in the profession of Christianity, much rather was it needful that every one who entered the church of Jesus Christ should suffer tribulation; and they who came to the Lord in a mercenary spirit, and hoped to have good and comfortable days in His service, found themselves bitterly disappointed in their expectations. “As if a Christian believed,” says Bishop Cyprian, with regard to such earthly minded men, " in order to enjoy the pleasures of the world free from all evils of this time, and not rather in order to enter out of all the sufferings of this world into the blessedness of the world to come. What is there, then, in this world, that is not common to us with all other men, as long as we, after the law of natural generation, have this mortal body in common with them? As long as we live in this world, we share this corporeal nature with all the rest of mankind, and it is only according to the spirit that we are distinct from them. Indeed, if the Christian knows and holds firmly to those conditions under which he became a believer, he will be aware that he has to combat, even more than others, with the sorrows of this life." In like manner, the teachers of the church expressed themselves to the heathen, who were wont to reproach the Christians, that they had, through their faith, no advantage over them, since they were subject to the same sorrows. And they particularly adduced this, that their advantage did not consist in their being removed beyond the reach of all earthly sorrow, but in this, that, according to their inward life, they were exalted far above these sorrows and were distinguished from the heathen by their patient and courageous deportment under every cross, through the power of the spirit that dwelt in them. “He," says Cyprian, “ whose whole joy and happiness is in the world, and whose pleasure entirely ceases with this life, considers all the misfortunes of this world as punishments. But those whose hope is set on future goods, find no pain in the sorrows of this time. We Christians, who live more in the spirit than in the flesh, conquer the weakness of the body by the power of the soul. We know and believe that we are only proved and strengthened by that which pains and distresses you. Or, do you think, that we bear pain in the same way as you do, seeing how different is our deportment under it from yours? With
you there is an ever weeping and wailing impatience, with us a pious and steadfast resignation, which is ever calm and thankful towards God; ours is a resignation which appropriates to itself no pleasure or pain here below, but quietly and humbly awaits, amid all the storms of life, the approach of the time for the fulfilment of the divine promises. We, who are newly created and born again in the spirit, who live no longer to the world but to God, shall only then obtain God's gifts and promises when we come to Him. And yet we pray day and night to be preserved from enemies, for rain, for the removing or lessening of misfortune, for peace, and also for your welfare."
Behold, then, in the deportment of the first Christians, a confirmation of the truth announced in our text, “ Tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience.” But the more gloriously a truly Christian mind is shewn amid conflicts and sorrows, the more lively
and the stronger becomes therewith in their minds the hope of the future life, as St Paul says, “ Experience worketh hope, and hope maketh not ashamed.” The Christian knows whereunto he is called. " Where I am," the Lord hath promised, “ there shall my servants be also.” He will therefore follow his Redeemer into glory. Accordingly his eye is not fixed on things earthly and perishable, he directs his glance above, and his heart longs for the goods and enjoyments of the world to come ; and this longing increases in the same proportion as the Christian becomes aware how unsatisfaotory and vain all earthly enjoyments and goods really are. It is the strongest and most lively amid the conflicts and trials of this time. Nothing then comforts and raises him so much as the hope one day to be with the Lord, and to take part in the imperishable joys and glory of eternal life. In this hope he endures patiently every cross ; by this hope he conquers every pain ; this hope teaches him to depart joyfully from the world. 6 For I reckon," he cries in triumph, “ that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us hereafter." « For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal ; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
It was, then, my brethren, the sight of this glory, which so highly inspired the first Christians, that they cheerfully, for the Lord's sake, suffered sorrows and death. They saw, like Stephen, “ the heavens open, and Christ standing at the right hand of God;" they saw him extending to them the crown of life, and nothing could make them waver in their fidelity. While the heathen, whose whole happiness consisted in sensual enjoyments, gave themselves up to comfortless sorrow under the afflictions of this time, and could only weep and moan over the want of durability of all things, the faith and hope of Christians solemnized their most glorie ous triumph when earthly things were taken from them, and they felt called to follow their Redeemer in bearing their cross ; for they thought on his word, “ Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?" And they felt mightily strengthened by the word of the apostle, “ Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” Thus, raised by their faith and hope above the pains and sorrows of this time, they could celebrate joyful feasts when all around them were mourning. A touching instance of this conduct of the first Christians in great calamity, remains to us in a beautiful document written in the third century by Bishop Dionysius of Alexandria, in such a time of affliction to the Egyptian churches. · Persecution and civil war had been
raging, and a devastating pestilence had ensued. When, during this season, Dionysius invited the Egyptian churches to the celebration of the approaching Easter, he thus wrote: “ This cannot, indeed, appear to other men to be an appropriate season for the celebration of a feast, for now all are mourning. We can hear only wailing throughout the town, by reason of the multitudes of the dead and dying. _Much that is terrible has also previously occurred. First of all we were persecuted, but although we alone were persecuted and murdered by all, yet even then we celebrated our feast. Every place of suffering became to us a place of festive assembly, the open fields, the solitudes, the ships, the inns, the prisons; and the perfected martyrs, who had attained the festive joys of heaven, were enabled to celebrate the most glorious feast. After the persecution, war and famine came upon us, sufferings which we had to endure together with the heathen. But even then we enjoyed again the peace of Christ, which he alone bestowed upon us. Scarcely had we respired for a short space, when a pestilence broke out, a thing most fearful and terrible for the heathen, but for us an especial exercise and trial of faith. Very many of our brethren who, from the greatest love to their neighbours and brethren, spared not themselves, in order to provide for the sick, yielded up their lives cheerfully with them. And those who closed the mouth and eyes of the dying Christians, and carefully laid out the departed, soon followed them to the grave. Quite otherwise was it with the heathen. They drove away their sick from them, cast the half-dead into the streets, and fled from those who were dearest to them, because they feared the extension of the disorder, which, however, with all their efforts they could hardly avoid.”
II. If we now inquire, my brethren, what it was that made the believers in the Lord so patient and resigned amid all the sorrows of this time, so courageous and firm, so cheerful and joyous, the apostle points out the foundation of this demeanour in the words of our text, “ The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us." The apostle speaks not here of our love to God, but of God's love to us, the greatness and glory of which has been revealed to us in Christ Jesus. For“ God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son for it, that whoso believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” To this love we owe our redemption, our justification, the blessing of being children of God, eternal life and eternal blessedness; and when the sinner receives the grace of God in Christ with faith, the love of God gushes like a stream into his heart, and its effect is that peace which the world knoweth not, and cannot give. The sinner is now no longer separated from his God; he stands near to him, he belongs to him, he is inwardly and indissolubly united to him, he has received the right of a son, God has become his Father, and being assured of the grace that is given him by the Holy Spirit, he exclaims joyfully, “ I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principa. lities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus."