PREPARATION FOR SUFFERING
AN EVIL DAY:
HOW CHRISTIANS ARE TO BEAR SUFFERINGS,
AND WHAT GRACES ARE REQUISITE THEREUNTO
SUITED FOR ALL CHRISTIANS IN THIS PRESENT TIME
Edward Polhill, 1682.
Polhill ends his treatise on preparing for suffering with a description of the blessing of suffering. This is of two sorts, first how suffering well blesses God. Second, how God blesses the one who suffers.
How Suffering Well Glorifies God.
Pious sufferers do glorify God in a very signal eminent manner. What is said of St. Peter’s death? that “It was a glorifying of God,” (John 21:19). The same may be said of the death of all other martyrs; we glorify God by offering praise; much more by offering our lives for him. We glorify him by giving some of our estates in charity; much more, by giving our blood for his name…..As it was with Christ, his power appeared in miracles; but above all, in that he triumphed over principalities and powers upon the cross: so it is with christians; the divine power appears in other graces, but above all in that patient suffering which overcomes the world. The truth of God is in martyrs practically proved to be exceeding precious. The fathers, in the first general councils, were so earnest for the truth, that they would not exchange a letter or syllable of it.
Second, “Pious sufferers do propagate and multiply the church.”
Pious sufferers do give an evident token to the persecutor, that the wrath of God will come upon him…. “Stand fast,” saith he, “in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel, and in nothing terrified by your adversaries, which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God,” (Phil. 1:27, 28). The persecutor comes with his torments and engines of cruelty, to terrify the martyr; but the martyr, by his Christian patience and courage, gives the persecutor an evident token that the wrath of God will come down upon him at last. If bloody persecutors, who look upon the suffering martyrs, had but their eyes open, they would see cause enough to reflect upon themselves, and say, Surely these men have a patience more than human, and therefore they suffer for God; and, if so, we in persecuting them fight against him, and may expect that his wrath should come down upon us, as it hath upon former persecutors.
How God Blesses Those Who Suffer Well:
First, “Pious sufferers are happy here and hereafter. They are happy here upon a double account.”
They give the highest proof of their sincerity that can be given. …The highest proof of grace is in suffering. That faith must be right that endures the fiery furnace; that love must be pure, that practically lifts up God above all other things; that hope must be lively that lets go a present world for a future one; that obedience must be glorious that continues unto the death.
As they give the highest proof of their sincerity, so they have the gracious presence of God in the most eminent way with them. All his glorious attributes do, as it were, pitch their tents round about them, and put forth their virtues in a gracious manner for their good. His power rests upon them to bear them up, how weak soever, in the fiery trial; his wisdom directs them how to carry themselves under the cross; his mercy melts over them, while they are under man’s cruelty; his love is shed abroad in their heart while they bear the world’s hatred: the presence of God will be to them instead of, nay, infinitely more than all other comforts. They may say, “If God be for us, who can be against us, (Rom. 8:31).
Again: They are happy hereafter, and this stands in two things:
- They are freed from all evils. In heaven they shall have no corruption within, nor oppression without; no noise of passion in the heart, nor rout of turbulent persecutors to disquiet them; the will of the flesh shall have a total circumcision; the infirmities of the body shall have a perfect cure; the serpent cannot hiss in paradise; no temptations or miseries can fasten on a saint in glory. There is day without night, love without fear, joy without sorrow, life without death, all happiness without the least mixture of evil. There the blessed martyrs shall be freed from all their troubles and miseries.
- They are endowed with all good and happiness, The promises made to the overcomer in the Revelation of St. John, shall be made good to them; they shall eat of the tree of life in a blessed immortality; they shall have the white stone in a perfect absolution; they shall be clothed in robes of glory; they shall be pillars in the heavenly temple, standing there as ornaments in an immoveable felicity; they shall sit down with Christ in his throne, and judge their enemies that condemned them; they shall inherit all things; they that lost all for God shall inherit all in him who is goodness itself, and the fountain of it; they shall see him who is the original and crystal ocean of all truth; they shall enjoy Him who is the supreme good and sabbath of souls; they shall be swallowed up in the joy of infinite truth and goodness; and their happiness shall not be for a time, but run parallel with eternity itself; they shall be for ever in the Lord in the blessed region. There, as St. Austin hath it, God who is all in all, Sine fine videbitur, sine fastidio amabitur, sine fatigatione laudnbitur: “Shall be seen without end, loved without disdain, and praised without weariness.” In the next world there will be a vast difference between persecutors and sufferers. The pride and cruelty of the one will be paid for in torments and endless misery in the prison of hell; and the patience and suffering of the other will be returned in joys and eternal felicity in the blessed heaven.
Edward Polhill, The Works of Edward Polhill (London: Thomas Ward and Co., 1844), 356–359.