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2 CORINTHIANS CHAPTER. 1. VERSE 7.
' And our hope of you is steadfast, knowing that as you are partakers of the suffering, so you shall be also of the consolation.' This verse is nothing but a strengthening of what he said before. He had told them that whatsoever he suffered, it was for their comfort too; and now he repeats it again, and sets a seal upon it, our hope of you is steadfast, knowing that As you are partakers of the sufferings, so you shall also be of the consolation.' In these words he shows that they shall share in the good with him as well as in the ill; that the Spirit of God in them should help them to take all the good they could, both by his sufferings and by his comfort. For as he by the help of the Spirit of God intended the public good, intended their good and comfort in all, whether he were afflicted or comforted; so he with here, he was assured that as they were partakers of his sufferings, so they should be of his comforts likewise.
Here is the truth, and the seal of the troth.
The truth, that they were ' partakers of his sufferings,' and should be ' partakers of his consolations.'
And the seal is in the manner of affirming these troths, our hope of you is steadfast.' And in thin order I will speak of them. First,
Doct. God's children are partakers of the sufferings of others.
The Corinthians were partakers of the sufferings of St Paul.
God's children are partakers of the sufferings of others many ways.
First. By way of sympathy, taking to heart the estate of the church and children of God abroad. It grieved the Corinthians to hear that St Paul was afflicted; for even as it is in the natural body, so likewise in the mystical body, there is a sympathy between the members.
Second. Likewise they partake of the sufferings of others by way of proportion. They suffered in their kind and proportion as he suffered; though perhaps not in the same very individual kind. There is a portion of suffering in the church. Some suffer one way, and others another; but all partake of sufferings in some degree or other.
3. Then again, they did partake of St Paul's sufferings in preparation and disposition of mind. Howsoever now they did not suffer as much as he, yet, saith he, I know as far as the Spirit of God is in you, you are prepared to suffer; and what we are prepared to do, that we do. Christ saith ‘we sell all for the gospel,' when upon serious examination of our hearts we find we can part with it. When we set ourselves to examination, what cannot I part with for Christ? Can I part with my goods? Can I part with my life? If we can once come to resolution, it is done, as Abraham is said to sacrifice his son, because he resolved to do it, Heb. xi. 17 ; and David is said to build the temple, because he intended to do it, 1 Kings viii. 18. God looks upon us in our resolutions and preparations. What we resolve to do, that is done. So, saith he, you are partakers of my sufferings, not only by sympathy, and in proportion of sufferings, but you are prepared, he speaks charitably and lovingly, to suffer whatsoever I suffer, if God call you to it.
Reason. And the ground of Christians partaking of the sufferings one of another, it is the communion that is between Christians. They are all members of one body. If the hand suffer, the head suffers. The head thinks itself wronged when the hand or the foot is wronged, by reason of the sympathy between the members, as I said; and so it is in the mystical body of Christ.
There are these three unions which depend one upon another.
1. The union of Christ with our nature, which is inseparable. It is an eternal union. He never lays that blessed mass of our flesh aside which he took, which is the ground of all our comfort; for God is now at one with us, because God hath taken our nature on him, and satisfied the wrath of God his Father.
2. Next the union of Christ with our nature, is the union of Christ mystical. Christ and his members when they suffer, Christ suffers. Their sufferings are the sufferings of Christ.
3. The third is the union of one member with another, that what one member suffers, another doth suffer. Therefore the Corinthians were partakers of Christ, because their sufferings were the sufferings of Christ ; and they were partakers of St Paul's sufferings, because his sufferings were their sufferings.
They were partakers of Christ's sufferings, because of the communion between the head and the members ; and they were partakers of St Paul's sufferings, because of the communion of one member with another. And surely there is not a heart that was ever touched with the Spirit of God, but when he hears of any calamity of the church, whether it be in the Palatinate (r), in France, in the Low countries, or in any country in the world, if he hears that the church hath a blow, it strikes to the heart of any man that hath the Spirit of God in them, by a sympathetical suffering. It is one good sign to know whether a man be of the mystical body or no, to take to heart the grievance of the church. As good Nehemiah did; he would not take comfort in the pleasures of a court, in the king of Babylon's court, when it went not well with his country. When the church was in distress, he took their grievance to heart. So Moses, the very joys of Pharaoh's court could not please him, when he considered the abasement of his countrymen, and he joined with them; and it is called the I rebuke' of Christ.
So it is with all the people of God. There is a communication of sufferings. As you are partakers of the sufferings, so you shall be also of the consolation.'
Wherein two things are observable.
First, that a necessary precedent condition of comfort is sufferings.
And then the consequent of this, that those that suffer as they should are sure of comfort. These two things unfold the meaning of the Spirit of God here.
Before there be comfort, there must be suffering ; for God hath established this order. Even as in nature, there must be a night before the day, and a winter before a summer; so in the kingdom of Christ, in his ruling of the church, there is this divine policy, there must be suffering before comfort. God will sooner break the league and the covenant between day and night, than this league of suffering and comfort : the one must be before the other. It was so in our head, Christ. He suffered, and then entered into his glory. So all his members must be conformable to him in suffering, and then enter into their glory.
The reasons of this are divers.
Reason 1. First of all, this method and order is, first, suffering, and then comfort, because God finds us in a corrupt estate; and something must be wrought out of us, before we can be vessels to receive comfort. Therefore there must be a purgation one way or other, either by repentance, or if not, by repentance, by affliction, to help repentance. There must be suffering before comfort. The soul is unfit for comfort.
Secondly, this order commends and sweetens comfort to us. For fire is sweet after cold, and meat is sweet after hunger ; so comfort is sweet after suffering. God fits us to comfort by this, by purging out what is contrary to comfort. And he endears comfort by this. Those that have felt the cross, comfort is comfort indeed to them. Heaven is heaven indeed to him that hath had a hell in his conscience upon earth, that hath been afflicted in conscience, or outwardly persecuted. It set a price and value upon comfort.
Partly likewise to sharpen our desire of comfort ; for suffering breeds sense, and sense that stirs up desire, and desire is eager. Now suffering, it makes comforts precious, and sets us in a wondrous strong desire after them.
And by this means, likewise, God comes to his own end, which is that our comforts may be eternal. Therefore we have that which is ill, in the first place. Woe to us, if it should be said to us, as to Dives in the gospel, ' Son, son, thou hadst thy good here, and now thou must have thy ill,' Luke xvi. 25. God intends not to deal so with his children; but they taste the worst wine first, and better afterward. Because he intends eternal happiness to them, he observes this method, first ill, and then good, the best at last.
Use 1. If this be so, then why should we be offended at God's order? Why should we not take it, not only gently and meekly, but joyfully, the afflictions that God sends to prepare and fit us for happiness, to sharpen our desire to happiness, to make it precious to us? Certainly it is a ground, not only of patience and meekness, but of joy and comfort, in all the things we suffer. Will a patient be angry with his surgeon for searching of his wound? He knows that that is the way to cure him. Will any man take offence at the goldsmith for purging his mass? They know that is the way to purify it, and fetch out the dross.
This is the method in nature. The ground must be ploughed and prepared, and then comes the harvest. Let us be content with this method, and rejoice in any suffering, knowing it will have a blessed issue ; and not to think much at suffering anything for a good cause in ourselves, or by way of sympathy or support with others, because this is the highway to a better estate. If we suffer with the church, or for the church, any kind of way, we shall be comforted with the church. It is that which sweetens the cross, that we are under hope of better still. Who would not endure a little grievance in the way, to have honour in the end? to have ill usage in an inn, and to go to a kingdom? All our discomforts and afflictions are but by the way here ; and crosses are necessary for travellers, and here we are but in a travelling estate. It should, I say, encourage us not to take offence at anything that God exercises us with in this world, nor to take scandal at the afflictions of the church.
Use 2. And then it should strike terror to those that will not endure so much as a scratch, a scoff, a cord, a chip of the cross, that will endure nothing. Do they know that this is God's order? Do they avoid crosses in any degree? and do they think to have comfort? No! God will not change his order for them. He hath established this order, and heaven and earth shall fail, rather than God's order shall not be sure. If we will have comfort, we must suffer. If we will avoid suffering, and think to go to heaven another way than God hath ordained, we may take our own way, but we must give him leave to take his way in comforting and advancing whom he will, and that will not be us, because we will not frame ourselves to his order. We must not look for his dignity. ' If we will not suffer with him, we shall not reign with him,' Rom. viii. 17.
The next thing observable in the order is this, that
Doct. Those that suffer as they should are sure of comfort.
There is a threefold conformity with Christ, in suffering, grace, glory.
Those that are not conformable to him in suffering, they cannot be conformable to him in grace ; and if they be not in grace, they shall not in glory. He took upon him our nature abased first; and our nature purified, and our nature glorious, he hath now in heaven. So our nature in us must keep this order. First, it must be abased, as our flesh was in him, and then filled with grace, by little and little, and then glorious, as our nature is in him. If we will not suffer our flesh to be abased and exercised with afflictions, and let God work his own good work as he pleaseth this way, we are not conformable to Christ, who was first abased, and then advanced. What was wrought in his blessed flesh, must be wrought in his mystical body, in all his members, by little and little. Therefore those that are tender and wayward to endure anything, when God calls them to it, they are enemies to their own comfort. God hath set down this order, if they do not partake of the sufferings of the church, they shall not partake of the comfort.
Oh, it is a cursed estate to be out of the condition of God's people, and it is a comfortable thing to have part with those that are good, yea, even if it be in suffering with them. It is better to have communion with God's people in suffering, than to have communion with the wicked in the world, m reigning and triumphing.
And that is the reason that the Spirit of God in the prophet made him desire ' Deal with me, Lord, as thou usest to deal with those that fear thy name, Ps. cxix. 124. He knew he deals well enough with them. ' Visit me with the salvation of thy children,' Ps. cvi. 4. He knew that was a special salvation. So to have God deal with us, as he deals with his, and to visit us in mercy and love, as he visits his own, it is a special favour. It is better to bear the cross with them, that we may partake with them in the comfort, than to have all the comforts that the wicked have, and to share with them in the misery afterward. Therefore let us be content to share with God's people in their suffering. When we hear of any that suffer for a just cause, though we have no sufferings of our own, let us bear a part with them, and with the bond of the communion of saints, help what we may.
And it is as true on the contrary, if we partake with the wicked in their sins, we shall partake with them in their punishment. Therefore the Scripture with, I Come out of Babylon, my people, lest if you partake of her sins, so you partake of her punishments,' Rev. xviii. 4. Now, atheistical people think it nothing to enter into league, and amity, and society with profane people, that are professedly so, not only by weakness, but those that are stigmatized. But what with the Scripture? and the Holy Ghost doth not trifle with us. 'Come out of Babylon, my people, lest you partake of her plagues;' which is not meant so much locally to come out of the place, as in disposition to come out in respect of liking, and converse, and secret intimate communion. Lot's sons in law, they thought it was but trifling. They gibed as atheists do now, when they hear the ministers encourage people to make much of religion, and to set against those that are opposite. They think they are enforced to it, and it is upon mistake, &c., though it be as palpable as the light of the sun. They deal as Lot's sons in law, when he warned them to come out of Sodom, and he was pulled out. They would believe nothing till fire came down from heaven, and destroyed them all. It was too late then. Therefore let us hearken to the counsel of the angel, let us not make this a matter of scorn, a light matter ; but as we desire to have no part in their confusion, so avoid their courses. The Scripture is terrible to those that, after the breaking out of the light, will be such. There is not more direct Scriptures against any kind of men, than those that willfully cleave to antichrist. Therefore we should not esteem it a light matter, but think of it seriously indeed.
And not only in respect of them, but all wicked society. Were it not pity that men should be severed from them hereafter, whose company they will not be severed from now? If thou see an adulterer, a blasphemer, a wicked, licentious, atheistical person, and thou runnest into the same excess of riot with him, thou wilt not be drawn by any persuasions, ministerial or friendly, or by thine own light, which knows his course to be naught, to retire from his society, dost thou not think to share with him afterward in his judgment? As you are all tares, so you shall be bound in a bundle, and cast into hell together, Mat. xiii. 30. As the wheat shall be gathered into heaven, so the tares, a cursed company, that will cleave together though they be damned for it. As they clave together as bore and tares here, so they shall be cast into hell together. That is the end of dissolute, unruly creatures, that nothing will sever them from those who in their own consciences they know their courses to be naught.
Our hope of you is steadfast.' There is a double certainty, a certainty of the truth of the thing, and a certainty of the estate of the person. The certainty of the truth is this, those that suffer with Christ and his church, shall be glorified with Christ and his church. The certainty of the truth is more certain than heaven and earth. Now, besides the certainty of the truth, or thing, there is interposed a certainty of the persona, that as they were interested in the sufferings, so they should be in the comforts. And this is true as well as the former. For God's promises are not mere ideas wanting truths, that have no performance in the persons ; but if the thing be true, it is true in the person to whom the truth belongs. Suffering goes before glory. Therefore if we suffer we shall be glorified. But this is the condition, if they suffer with Christ. Then St Paul takes it for certain that they shall be glorified with Christ. There is not the same certainty of the persons as of the truth itself. The truth is certain by a certainty of faith, but the certainty of the persons is the certainty of a charitable persuasion. I am persuaded that you will suffer with me in sympathy, and therefore I am persuaded in the certainty of charity that you shall of a certain have the comfort.
Our hope of you is steadfast.' St Paul, you see, hath a good conceit of them, that he might encourage them to sympathise and take to heart his crosses, and to take good by them. A good hope of others hath a double efficacy.
1. It hath one efficacy in the party that hath the good hope of another. It stirs him up to be diligent to take all courses that may be for the good of another. As the speech is, Hope stirs up to work; it stirs up endeavour; so it doth in the husbandman, and in every kind of trade. Hope quickens endeavour. A man will never sow upon the sands. He loseth his cost. A man will never bestow his pains upon those that he thinks are desperate. And what is it that dulls and deads endeavour? I despair of ever doing such a man good. When those despairing thoughts enter into the soul, there is a stop of all endeavour. And surely Christians are much to blame that way. When they might have ground, if charity were in them, at least of hope of others ; upon some hard, despairing conceits they cast off hope, and so neglect all endeavours of doing good to others. The Spirit of God is wise in the hearts of his children to observe all advantages of doing good. Therefore it is willing to entertain all offers of good in others. If they be but willing to hear reproof, if they be willing to hear comfort, and to hear good discourse, it will make a good construction of their errors, if it may be, except it be those that are maliciously obstinate. It will impute it to passion, or to ill company, to one thing or other. As far as possible it will admit of a good construction. Love in God's children will admit of it; and love stirs up to hope, and hope stirs up to deal with them for their good.
I know that charity is not sottish; but yet it is willing to think the best. Where there is probability of good for the present, or where there is a tractableness, where there is a willingness to entertain communion, where there is any propension,t we must be of our blessed Saviour's disposition/inclination, ' who will not quench the smoking flax, nor break the bruised reed,' Mat. xii. 20. We must draw all, and drive none away. This is one special fruit and effect that hope hath in the party that doth hope toward another.
Now, as it is good for the speaker to be well conceited; so it is a good preparative in the hearer. It hath a winning power in the party hoped of. It is a great attractive ; for we willingly hear those that conceit good of us. St Paul here works upon the natural disposition in all, which is, that they love to be well thought of; and natural dispositions are strong. It is the natural disposition for every man to love where he is well thought of; and it is not sinful, unless it be in vainglory, to desire to have good place in the esteem of others. And there a man will labour to carry himself answerable to the good conceit had in him.
There is a conflict in the worst man. Where he is well conceited of, he labours to maintain it, except it be those that are mightily enthralled, as some wretches are, to blasphemy, and to a cursed life, that they care not. But else if they be well thought of, it will stir them up to maintain it. He is a dissolute man, he is not a man, so far as he is careless of this, he is brutish and senseless. St Paul, in saying ' our hope is steadfast concerning you,' he wins himself into their good opinion; and so by that means he hoped to prevail with them for greater matters. So hope, it stirs up men to do good, and it makes the other willing to receive good. For it makes them willing to content them that hope well of them. St Paul was led with this heavenly wisdom, and that which made him so industrious, was hope of prevailing; and that which made him prevail with others, was the good conceit he had of them. He would gather upon every one. When he saw Agrippa come on a little, Agrippa, believest thou the Scriptures ?' Acts xxvi. 27. I know thou believest. ' Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian,' saith he, ver. 28 ; and so he comes in a little. It is good, as much as may be, to have hope of others.
But what is his degree of hope? ' Our hope of you' is steadfast.
He had a steadfast hope, that if they were sufferers, they should be partakers of the comfort.
The observation may be this, that
Doct. Divine truths are such as we may build a steadfast hope on the performance of them.
Divine truths, divine comforts, they, are of that nature, that though we do not yet enjoy them, yet we may build certainly upon them. I hope stedfastly, that if you be partakers of the sufferings, you shall be partakers of the comforts. A man cannot say so of anything else but divine truths. A man cannot say of any other, or of himself, I hope stedfastly to be rich, I hope stedfastly to be great, or I hope stedfastly to live long. The nature of the thing is uncertain. The state of the world is vanity; and life itself, and all things here, will not admit of a certain apprehension. For the certainty in a man's understanding, it follows the certainty of the thing, or else there is no adequation/proportion. When there is an evenness in the apprehension to the thing, then it is true; but if we apprehend anything that is here, that either riches or life, or favour will be thus, or thus long, it is no true apprehension. We cannot build a certain hope upon an uncertain ground. But o€ divine truths, we can say, if we see the one, undoubtedly the other will follow; if we see the signs of grace in any man, that he is strong to endure any disgrace for religion, any discomfort, then we may say, certainly, as you partake of the afflictions of Christ, and of the afflictions and sufferings of his people, his body mystical ; so undoubtedly you shall be partakers of the comfort of God's people : heaven and earth shall fail, but this shall never fail.
Is not this a comfort to a Christian, that when he is in the state of grace, he hath something that he may build on, when all things else fail? In all the changes and alterations of this life, he hath somewhat unalterable, the certainty of divine comforts, the certainty of his estate in grace, though he be in an afflicted estate. As verily as he is afflicted, so verily he shall be comforted. I If we suffer with Christ, we shall be glorified with him,' Rom. viii. 17.
Upon what ground is this certainty built, that if we suffer we shall be glorified?
It is built upon our union with Christ. It is built upon the communion we have with the church of God. We are all of one body. And it is built upon his own experience. As verily as I have been afflicted, and have comfort, so shall you that suffer be comforted: what I feel, you shall feel.
Because in things necessary there is the like reason from one to all; if one be justified by faith, all are justified by faith ; if one suffer and receive comfort, all that suffer shall receive comfort. Divine comforts are from one to all, from the head to the body, from the body to every member. If Christ suffered, I shall suffer, if I be of his body ; if Christ was comforted, I shall be comforted. Divine truths they agree in the head and the members. If it be true in one, it is true in all. St Paul felt it in his own person ; and, saith he, as I have felt afflictions increase, and comforts increase, so it shall be with you; you shall be partakers of the comforts now, or hereafter. And it is built likewise upon God's promise, which is serer than heaven and earth. ' If we suffer with him, we shall be glorified with him,' as the apostle saith, Rom. viii. 17. All these are grounds to found this steadfast hope on. And then the nature of God: he is a just God, a holy God, and when we have taken the ill, we shall find the sweet, as in
* That is, ' proportion.' This is a superior example of the use of the word to that given by Richardson, sub voce from Fuller (I.
2 Thess. 1: 6. ` It is just with God, to render to them that afflict you trouble, and to you comfort.' God bath pawned his justice upon it, and he will observe this order. Where he begins in trouble, he will end in comfort. It is just with God, and therefore I may be persuaded.
It should be a special comfort to all that are in any sanctified cross, whether it be for a good cause or no. If a man find that he stands out for a good cause, then there is more matter of joy. It is matter of triumph then. But if they be crosses common to nature, if a man find them sanctified, (as they are only to God's children, they learn humility by them, they learn heavenly mindedness, they learn patience, they learn more carefulness by their afflictions, if it be thus sanctified), then a man may say to such a one, ` As you partake of the sufferings, so you shall partake of the comfort,' though you feel it not for the present.
Is it not a comfort for a patient to have his physician come to him, whom he knows to be wise, and speaks by his book, to say to him, Be of good comfort, you shall never die of this disease; this that I give you will do you good: there was never any that took this potion but they recovered. Would not this revive the patient? Now when the physicians of our souls shall come and tell a man, by discerning his state to be good, by discerning signs of grace in his abasement, Be of good comfort, there is good intended to you; your sufferings shall end in comfort, undoubtedly we may well be persuaded of this, God will never vary his order. Therefore, when we are in any trouble, and find God blessing it to us, to abate our pride, to sharpen our desire, to exercise our graces, when we find it sanctified, let it comfort us, it shall tern to our further comfort. We find a present good that it is a pledge of a further good. It will make a bitter potion to go down, when the physician with, it will do you good. How many distasteful things do poor creatures endure and take down to cure this carcass ! It were offensive to name what distasteful things they will take to do them good.
Let us take this cup from God's hand, let us endure the cross patiently, whatsoever it be. It is a bitter cup, but it is out of a Father's hand, it is out of a sweet hand. There may be a miscarrying in other physic, but God's physic shall certainly do us good. God bath said it, ` All things shall work for the best to those that love him,' Rom. viii. 28. He bath said it beforehand. We may presume, and build our persuasion upon this issue, that all things shall work for our good. What a comfort is this in all the intercourses and changes of this life, when we know before, that whatsoever we meet with, it bath a command from God to do us good, it is medicinal, though it seem never so ill, to do us good, to work ill out of us, by the blessing of God.