Matthew 5:10
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. This eighth Beatitude joins hands with the first in that part which may be called the "sanction" of the Beatitude, i.e. its promise, or the authoritative assurance attached to it. It also may be looked upon as closing the number of the general Beatitudes; for we find that the only remaining one, the ninth, turns from the use of the third person to a gracious personal address to those who were the listening company: "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you" etc. On the other hand, it is possible that the explanation of this lies in the juxtaposition of these two Beatitudes, making one by antithesis, as suggested by the stricter rendering of the Revised Version, e.g., "Blessed are they who have suffered persecution: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed (in like manner) are ye when... Rejoice... for great is your reward in heaven." Under any view, this present Beatitude may well be held to have been itself to a large degree a reminiscence. Persecution for righteousness' sake could be no absolute novelty for the time of the promulgating of Christ's religion, for the great Captain himself or for his apostles and first servants. None the less true, however, was it that a fresh force of goodness, and the greatest force that could be, must avail to stir up direr opposition on the part of the powers of darkness. The Beatitude stands like a repromulgation of one great law of suffering, with its attendant "great reward." And it had its special call at the time. Notice -

I. THE BOLD FORMULATING OF THIS GREAT HUMAN PRESENT FACT, VIZ. THAT RIGHTEOUSNESS SHALL DRAW UPON ITSELF THE WORLD'S PERSECUTION. The thing has of a truth been known; but it has been partly disguised, partly accounted for, by merely side issues, and as far as possible has been minimized, e.g. by methods (analogies to which are now not. unfamiliar to us) such as this, that "it must be confessed there were faults on both sides;" or this, that the right side was not perfect; or this, that it was a shade too uncompromising, or unnecessarily trenchant and thereby gratuitously provocative; with much else. In all such instances the end has not sanctified the means, even though the end was as genuinely as it gave itself out to be, the desire to shield the fair fame of the right, which it might antecedently have been supposed could not get its votaries into harm's way. All these cobwebs and this shallow sophistry the unconcealing voice of the utterer of this Beatitude blows away. This world is not yet the habitat of righteousness. Righteousness is not yet so at home in it that all men are its friends, or anything like all, or anything like the majority. Envy, jealousy, dislike of standing reproof in the shape of that condemning contrast, which stands stationary as a statue, if silent as a statue, as well as such hatreds as come of the more active witnesses and zeal of righteousness - all these are sworn foes to it and its devout followers. "In the world ye shall have tribulation." "What glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye take it patiently? but if, when ye do well and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God." The untoward fact has got its footing in the world and made its place here, and Righteousness does not on that account hide her face or lower her flag. She accepts it all as another task to do, another war to wage, another usurpation to overthrow. But there shall be no disguise about facts, nor shall the sufferer be left without help of promise, without fair consolation. Christ asks none to join his ranks ignorant of his claim, or without cautioning them to count the cost.

II. THE EQUALLY UNQUALIFIED CONDITIONING OF THE BEATITUDE THAT PROFFERS THE ANSWER TO THAT DISASTROUS FACT. The Beatitude is definitely for those who, through their fidelity to righteousness, become the objects of persecution. The scope of the Beatitude would be easily enlarged to the degree of latitudinarianism. It should easily become vague, and its value dissipated in a dubious comprehensiveness; or it might be made to put its most royal stamp on what should least deserve it. The two leading and determining words of the Beatitude are easily susceptible of being wrested from their just application. Righteousness must not be claimed to be a synonym with mere rightness, or what each and any individual may assert to be such by the so-called light of his "own conscience." It is, in point of fact, this very latitude that has been persecution's charter, and the plea for an incredible amount of cruelty and outpouring of blood, which still cries from the ground to Heaven! Righteousness must mean fidelity to moral right or law, or, as we might now more pronouncedly word it, to revealed spiritual law, and to the Revealer of it. It may be quite true that there is other very real rightness, very praiseworthy adherence to it, and very cruel persecution, incurred by and on account of that adherence. Only this is not what is here spoken off Uncovenanted blessing shall alight on this, or blessings covenanted on other promises. Note also that the Beatitude did not in its day mean something more exclusive than already was; on the contrary, while something more clearly defined indeed, its grand point of view was so high that it was vastly larger and more comprehending. The Beatitude is for this very reason most catholic, because its promise is to the citizens of the kingdom ever on the growth, the kingdom in which "dwelleth righteousness." Note also the caution necessary respecting the application of the word "persecution." It must not count in those occasions of suffering due to a variety of very mingled cause, which have really been largely the result of individual fault - perhaps as much so as of the animus of persecution and the persecutor. In corresponding manner, the work of great reformers has sometimes been grievously tarnished by the personal faults of the reformers. The clear significance of the closing verses of the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews guides us well in the discrimination required here.

CONCLUSION. Dwell again (as under first Beatitude) upon what lies in and under the pronouncement, "for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." By such suffering men are, so to say, made baptized members of that kingdom. Because they are humbly in sympathy with it, they may throw themselves back upon all the sympathy it has to offer, and most effectually to give to them. And they are entitled to remember and to prize the faithful saying, "If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him." And this is indeed the very essence and glory of all "kingdom." - B.







Persecuted for righteousness.
I. IN WHAT RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION CONSISTS.

1. Negative persecution which falls short of violence.

2. Domestic persecution.

3. Private persecution.

4. Public persecution.

II. THE FOLLY AND WICKEDNESS OF THOSE WHO INFLICT PERSECUTION.

1. It is contrary to mound reason.

2. It is contrary to sound policy.

3. It is contrary to Scripture.

4. Persecution for righteousness is virtually aimed at Christ.

III. THE HAPPINESS OF THOSE WHO ENDURE IT.

1. They are furnished with satisfactory evidence of the sincerity of their religion.

2. They are blessed in the enjoyment of those consolations which are generally administered under circumstances of persecution.

3. They largely share the sympathy of the children of God.

4. They are encircled with high associations," so persecuted they the prophets which were before you."

5. They are blessed. in extensive usefulness.

6. Great reward in heaven.

7. Let us be thankful that we are happily exempted, in a great measure, from the evil of persecution.

8. Let us not go out of our way to provoke persecution.

9. Support those who suffer persecution.

(E. Clagton.)

I. The nature of true religion.

1. Its principles — These are spiritual — unpopular — present. Not something without a man, but within. Not of earth, but from above. They are: poverty of spirit, docility of mind, intense aspirations after God, purity of heart.

2. Its practice. Penitential sorrow, mercy, peaceableness, endurance.

II. The blessedness of those who possess true religion. They have peace, true satisfaction. They enjoy all spiritual blessings. they are children of God — then all things are theirs.

1. Have you in possession the principles of true religion?

2. Do you daily reduce them to practice?

(Good Seed for the Lord's Sowers.)

I. WHAT PERSECUTION IS. It is more than affliction. It is cruel and unjust.

II. THE SUBJECTS OF PERSECUTION. Many suffer for their own peculiarities.

III. THE PROMISE belonging to it — "Great is your reward in heaven."

(W. Reeve, M. A.)

I. The PERSECUTIONS WHICH ATTEND THE FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST.

1. It is seen in marked disrespect.

2. In the Christian's company being avoided.

3. In ridicule and slander.

II. THE CAUSES of persecution.

1. The degenerate state of the world.

2. The influence which Satan exercises over the minds of men.

3. The conduct of Christians in the world.

III. The MANNER. in which we are called to suffer persecution. "Rejoice," etc.

1. Because the terra of our suffering at most can be but short.

2. Because we suffer in a righteous cause.

3. Because we have the most illustrious example.

4. Because if we suffer with Christ we shall also reign with Him.

IV. The ENCOURAGEMENT afforded.

1. So persecuted they the Prophets.

2. They possess the kingdom of heaven.

3. Great is their reward in heaven.

(J. Jordan.)

I. The GROUNDS of persecution.

II. The TIMES.

1. In heathen lands.

2. When its professors are despised, and in a minority.

3. When their doctrines strongly clash with reigning maxims and controlling interests.

III. The WAYS.

1. Reviling.

2. Slandering.

3. Injuring.

4. Destroying:

IV. The EXTENT.

1. Upon property.

2. Upon relatives.

3. Upon good name.

4. Upon life.

V. The REWARDS.

(L. O. Thompson.)

I. THE FACT THAT TRUE SPIRITUAL CHRISTIANITY EXPOSES TO PERSECUTION.

1. See this illustrated.

2. The form of the persecution. Reviling, injurious treatment, slander.

3. The ground of it. Because righteous.

4. The source of it. Enmity against God.

II. To VIEW PERSECUTION AS A GROUND OF REJOICING.

1. As an attestation of Christian goodness.

2. It connects you with the Prophets.

3. It brings great reward in heaven. Expect persecution; bear it; profit by it.

(T. G. Horton.)

I. True godliness is usually attended with persecution.

1. Christ died to take the curse from us, not the cross.

2. Piety will not shield us from suffering.

3. The way to heaven, though full of roses in regard of the comforts of the holy, is full of thorns in regard of persecutions.

4. Before Israel reached Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey, they must go through a wilderness of serpents and a Red Sea.

5. So, the children of God in their passage to the Holy Land, must meet with fiery serpents and a Red Sea of persecution.

II. Christianity is sanctity joined with suffering.

1. Saints carry Christ in their hearts, and the cross on their shoulders.

2. Christ and His cross are never parted.

3. It is too much for a Christian to have two heavens — one here and one hereafter.

4. What is the meaning of the shield of faith, the helmet of hope, the breastplate of patience, but to imply that we must encounter with sufferings?

III. Was Christ's head crowned with thorns, and do we think to be crowned with roses?

1. If we are God's gold, it is not strange to be cast into the fire.

2. Persecutions are pledges of God's love, badges of honour.

3. In the sharpest trial there is sweetest comfort; God's fanning His wheat is but to make it purer.

(Thomas Watson.)

I. WHAT IS PERSECUTION?

1. An abuse of power employed to the harm of another, with something of eagerness, pursuit, and perseverance.

2. No mortal is so weak, so wholly destitute of power, but that he has wherewithal to be some way or other upon the offensive; so there is no one in his turn is not some way or other capable of persecution.

3. The meanest vassals upon earth can have the insolence to say, "With our tongue we will prevail! our lips are our own, who is lord over us? "

II. Persecution for RIGHTEOUSNESS' SAKE. Men may be said to suffer persecution for righteousness' sake when they suffer for doing the duties of their stations, not in those acts alone which respect the faith and worship of God (though these more especially), but throughout the whole stage of Christian virtue, as princes, magistrates, subjects, or Christians.

1. When a prince is made uneasy by potent factions in the government, when designs for public good are directly opposed, or artificially frustrated, then is he persecuted.

2. When a magistrate finds a weight thrown in the scales of justice, and the furious power of parties bears heavy on his hands, then is he persecuted.

3. When a faithful subject's good deeds are lessened and undervalued or skillfully ascribed to ill ends: in a word, whenever he suffers in his goods or good name for adhering unmovably to an even course of duty, then is he persecuted.

4. When a man's sobriety and conscientiousness are traduced as preciseness; his firm adherence to well-established principles, as stiffness, bigotry, and narrowness of mind; his moderation disputed — then is he persecuted.

(Lancelot Blackburn.)Persecution, in the Scriptural use of the term, is evil treatment on a religious account.

I. It is the infliction of an injury, or the withholding of a right, because the person thus persecuted renders what he regards a duty to his God.

(1)Every person who suffers in his name, person, or family, for the faithful discharge of what he considers to be his duty to God, and who is actuated,

(2)not by a spirit of pride, or affected singularity, but by a

(3)commendable regard to Divine authority, and a

(4)sincere intention of promoting the interests of Christianity, and the good of man, is "persecuted for righteousness' sake."

II. There are other modes of persecution.

1. The carnal mind in its "enmity against God" has devised crafty and cruel schemes for the "vexation and embarrassment of the servants of Christ.

(1)There is persecution "by speech."

(2)"Men shall revile you."

(J. E. Good.)

It is said of Joan, Countess of Shrewsbury, that in the midst of court festivities, she let her garter fall unawares; and, upon her blushing at the accident, the king took it up in his hand, whereat the nobility smiled. "Well," said the king, "I will make this an honourable ornament ere long." Upon that came the Order of the Knights of the Garter, the garter thus becoming an ornament of the highest order. If man can put honour on such mean things, then God much more. He ennobleth reproaches, and sanctifieth afflictions to His children, and maketh the sufferings of His servants as so many ensigns of heavenly nobility. If men had but the true skill of Christianity, they would be ambitious of the crown of martyrdom, and look upon it as a blessed thing when men speak all manner of evil of them.

(Spencer.)

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