Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril…
First, we will take notice of the affliction, and that is killing. "We are killed." We see here what is the lot of the saints and servants of God. First of all, in regard of the enemies. What is the matter with them, that in their dealings with the people of God nothing will serve their turn but killing and slaying and taking away their lives? Surely it is not to be wondered at; there is very good reason for it, which may be given in these considerations: First, look upon them in their brood and generation and the stock they come of. Whose children are they? and from whom do they proceed? Children take after their parents. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do (John 8:44). Therefore, in the second place, their dispositions carry them hereunto, and that in a twofold respect. First, it proceeds from their malice; they hate them and cannot abide them, therefore they kill them. Hatred, when it comes to the height of it, very easily proceeds to murder. The second is their jealousy and fear. As they kill them because they hate them, so they kill them because they fear them. Herod feared John, and therefore beheaded him. The second is how it comes about in regard of the saints themselves, whence they come to suffer it, and for what reason God Himself permits it. Why does He so? First, for the honour of religion and for the evidence of their faith itself, that the world from hence may be convinced of their sincerity and universal obedience to the will of God. Secondly, which is pertinent hereunto, for the multiplying and increasing of their number and the drawing on of more unto them. Thirdly, as the signification and evidence of future judgment and the dispensations of another world, the slaying and killing of the saints, it tells us what shall be done to the enemies, and how it is likely hereafter to go with the servants of God. Therefore it teaches us both to expect and prepare for the like, to provide for killing, and to be content to profess Christianity, even at so dear a rate as this. It will be worth it when all is done. "For Thy sake we are killed." But if they were indeed killed, how could they say they were killed, and tell us so in so many terms? Killing, it takes away complaining, and makes the parties which are so dealt with incapable of saying what they are. First, as an expression of impatience, and making the worst of their evil and affliction that possibly they could. This we shall find sometimes to be the disposition of sorrow, to aggravate itself and make it seem greater than it is. But secondly, in the reality of the thing, the desperateness of their condition. They call it killing because it tended thereunto, and was in a manner death itself. Thirdly, from the preparation of their minds, and disposition which was in them hereunto, as occasion might require. The people of God in this Scripture count themselves killed, because they were ready to be so if God should please to call them unto it. Killing, it is not to be interpreted in this place according to the event, but according to the intention and purpose. They that go out in a wrong cause, they kill where they do not hit, because they go out upon killing and murdering principles. Lastly, the people of God might here say they were killed while they lived, by way of sympathy and participation. They were killed forasmuch as others were killed which they were interested in. And thus much now also of the first thing which I propounded to be considered in this complaint: the affliction itself, "We are killed, or put to death." The second is the occasion or ground of it, "We are killed for Thy sake," which may admit of divers constructions. First, as the pretence of the enemies. "They kill us for Thy sake," that is, they deal thus cruelly with us, and make the world in the meantime believe as if herein they had respect unto Thee. Secondly, "For Thy sake," that is, for our reference to. Thee, because we are Thy people, and worship Thy name, and profess Thy truth, and have Thy ordinances amongst us. Thirdly, it appears that God's cause is the thing which the enemies aim at in their killing of God's people, from a consideration of the means and ways whereby they labour to effect it, and that is by such as are most effectual to the extirpation of religion itself. Thirdly, "For Thy sake." We may carry it a little further than so, not only as a complaint, but a confession. Not so much for a complaint of their enemies, as indeed a complaint of themselves. "We are killed for Thy sake," that is, in satisfaction to Thy justice, "Who art a just and righteous God, and wilt not suffer sin to be unpunished." Our enemies have nothing against us themselves, but they kill us for Thy sake, that is, to accomplish Thy holy decrees, to bring about Thy wise providence, to fulfil Thy righteous judgments, to visit and avenge the quarrel of Thy covenant. And so much of these words, as they may be taken under the emphasis of complaint. The second is under the emphasis of triumph, in the words of the apostle, and so we have this from it, that the main ground of rejoicing in suffering is the cause we suffer for. Then we have cause of quiet and comfort, when we can say, "'Tis for Thy sake." There are two things which are principally to be looked at in suffering — the one is a good conscience, and the other is a good cause. This it serves as a distinction between martyrs and malefactors.
(Thomas Horton, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?