Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A Life Well Lived: Charity and Its Fruits (4)

"Many of the saints have set bright examples."

Jonathan Edwards

"Love is patient, love is kind" (1 Corinthians 13:4a, NASB)

From Lecture Four: "Charity Disposes Us Meekly To Bear The Injuries Received From Others"

The spirit of Christian long-suffering and meekness is commended to us by the example of the saints. The example of Christ alone might be, and is sufficient; since it is the example of him who is our head, and Lord and master, whose followers we profess to be, and whose example we believe to be perfect. And yet some may be ready to say, with regard to the example of Christ, that he was sinless, and had no corruption in his heart, and that it cannot be expected of us that we should do in all things as he did. Now, though this is no reasonable objection, yet the example of saints, who were men of like passions with ourselves, is not without its special use, and may in some respects have a peculiar influence. Many of the saints have set bright examples of this long-suffering that has been recommended.

With what meekness, for instance, did David bear the injurious treatment that he received from Saul, when he was hunted by him as a partridge on the mountains, and pursued with the most unreasonable envy and malice, and with murderous designs, though he had ever behaved himself dutifully toward him. And when he had the opportunity put into his hands of cutting him off, and at once delivering himself from his power, and others around him were ready to think it very lawful and commendable to do so, yet as Saul was the Lord’s anointed, he chose rather to commit himself and all his interests to God, and venture his life in his hands, and suffer his enemy still to live. And when, after this, he saw that his forbearance and goodness did not overcome Saul, but that he still pursued him, and when again he had the opportunity of destroying him, he chose rather to go out as a wanderer and an outcast, than to injure the one that would have destroyed him.

Another instance is that of Stephen, of whom we are told (Acts 7:59, 60), that, when his persecutors were venting their rage upon him by stoning him to death, “he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” This prayer is mentioned as that which he made with his expiring breath, and as the last words that he uttered after praying the Lord Jesus to receive his spirit; and immediately after making this prayer for his persecutors, we are told that he fell asleep, thus forgiving them and commending them to God’s blessing as the last act of his life on earth. Another example is that of the apostle Paul, who was the subject of numberless injuries from wicked and unreasonable men. Of these injuries, and his manner of behavior under them, he gives us some account in 1 Cor. 4:11-13 — “Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place; and labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it; being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.”

Thus he manifested a meek and long-suffering spirit under all the injuries that were heaped upon him. And not only do we have these records respecting inspired men; but we have accounts in uninspired and mere human histories, of the remarkable heroism and long-suffering of martyrs and other Christians, under the most unreasonable and wicked treatment and injuries received from men: all of which should lead us to the same meek and long-suffering spirit.

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