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To the confession of Divine Sovereignty let there be added a confession of Divine Righteousness. As you are a creature, you must allow sovereignty to lay you low. Because you are also a sinner, you must not wonder if righteousness make you vile. Follow the example of the brave Emperor Mauritius who being stripp’d of his purple and run down in to the most abject and wretched circumstances, lift[ed] up his eyes to heaven and only said, O Lord thou are righteous, and righteous are all thy judgments![1]

It is most certain that there cannot be the least wag of a tongue or scratch of a pen against you, but it is permitted by God.

Of your most calumnious adversary [the one who slanders you the most], you may say as that Great Man [King David] did of his abusive Shimei, 2 Sam. 16.11, The Lord hath bidden him! It will be but a due compliance with the righteousness of God, for you to confess before Him, That He is infinitely just, in the greatest injustice that any reproachful man can offer you.

You know so much amiss by yourself, that if were all known abroad in the world, they who would falsely speak what is ill of you might truly speak what is a great deal worse.

Make your defamations a provocation unto you, to humble yourself deeply before God for the secret sin which by leaving you defamed, you may see, He sets in the light of His Face. Under the law of ceremonies, if he who had an issue did spit upon another, the person spat upon was defiled.[2] Sir, if an unclean wretch spit upon you, it becomes you to inquire whether you have some defilement that is to be washed off and make a new flight to that which will cleanse from all sin.

My friend, It were a very proper thing for you, upon the first blowing up of any storm of obloquies, presently to fall down before the Lord with this petition, Lord, show me therefore thou contendest with me. And then go on with an impartial inquiry, a self-judging, a self-loathing inquiry. I am sure there will need be no long divination to bring you unot this one sensible stroke of repentance: Lord, I have not honor’d thy name as I ought to have done, and therefore, thou art righteous in all the dishonor that m name labors under.

Had we been more concerned for the Name of God, who can tell, but He would have been more concerned for ours? When you go on, it may be you will find that you have not always been so tender of your neighbor’s good name as you should have been; or so cautious of making right, fair, exact representations  when he has been spoken of. At least, when you have heard a neighbor with too much truth ill spoken of, there has not been that grief in you and that love which rejoices not in iniquity[3] as there should have been.

The injuries done to your name are it may be to chasten you, for this too common miscarriage. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God! [Rom. 11:22] Severity, in His not leaving such a most frequent fault without chastening. But goodness, because you are chastened of the Lord, that you should not be condemned with the world.[4]

Or, ‘tis possible you may have treated some very impious and vicious person with too much compliance and compliment; tho’ your design might be nothing under Heaven but only to win them that you might do them good and bring them to do good; yet you may have indiscreetly forgotten the last of the Proverbs of Solomon.[5]

God may correct this indiscretion of yours by making such persons to be the instruments of bring very great reproaches upon you. Briefly, carry on the scrutiny with all the accuracy imaginable to discovery the righteousness of God in your most unrighteous defamations.

Upon the discovery, repent of what has been amiss; abhor it; bewail it; weep to the Lord, that for the sake of His Blood, when cleanses from all sin, you may have pardon for it.[6]

O happy reproaches which quicken us in the great work of repentance! Be as meek as a lamb under the injuries that are done you; let the righteousness of God shining therein make you so. But fly to the Lamb of God[7]: and verily when you have conversed with the blood of the lamb you will have white robes upon you: White robes, I say; you may defy earth and hell to bespatter them[8].

That which makes me the more to urge a great regard unto the righteousness of God in your defamations, is this: Even persecutions that come upon us for the cause of God, yet oftentimes carry castigations in them. Rarely do there come any violent persecution on the churches of the Lord until they have by their formality and contention and abounding iniquity ripened themselves for such calamities.

Old Cyprian will tell you so[9]. The French refugees at this day may tell you so. And yet persecutions do at last prove privileges to the People of God. Thus particular servants of the Lord may be persecuted because heaven has a favor for them; they may be favorites of heaven.

Yet, Oh the wisdom of God! The sorrows brought upon them in their persecutions may be also to bring them into repentance for their errors which they have been guilty of. The most excellent, but reproached confessors of Christ, bearing the reproach of Christ, may yet also bear at the very same time a rebuke for sin.

When admirable Paul underwent stoning, he was honored in it; he was adorned by it; vastly enriched; every stone was to him as good as a pearl[10]. Some think that while he lay under a swoon under those outrages of his enemies. Now was the time that he was caught up and had one of his raptures, either that into Paradise or that into the Third Heaven[11].

Yet, no doubt, this martyr of the Lord, when he came to himself, soon made this reflection. Lord, when the blood of the martyr Stephen was shed, I was also standing by[12]. The share he had in the stoning the martyr Stephen, was not to be again repented of.

And so was the burning of the martyr Lambart[13] when the good man Martyr Cramner was going into the fire. Consider what I say and the Lord give you understanding.[14]

[1] The reference is to Emperor of Byzantium Mauritius who died at the hands of the usurper Phocas in 602. According to Gibbon, “The ministers of death were dispatched to Chalcedon. They dragged the emperor from his sanctuary, and the five sons of Maurice were successively murdered before the eyes of their agonizing parent. At each stroke, which he felt in his heart, he found strength to rehearse a pious ejaculation: ‘Thou art just, O Lord! and thy judgments are righteous.’…”

[2] Leviticus 15:8 (ESV) And if the one with the discharge spits on someone who is clean, then he shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening.

[3] 1 Corinthians 13:4–6 (ESV)

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

[4] 1 Corinthians 11:31–32 (ESV)

31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

[5] Proverbs 29:27 (ESV)

27    An unjust man is an abomination to the righteous,

but one whose way is straight is an abomination to the wicked.

[6] Proverbs 29:27 (ESV)

27    An unjust man is an abomination to the righteous,

but one whose way is straight is an abomination to the wicked.

[7] John 1:29 (ESV)

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

[8] Revelation 7:14 (ESV)

14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

[9] African bishop. Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage, was martyred in 258 during a time of especially violent persecution of the church.

[10] Acts 14:19.

[11] 2 Corinthians 12:1–4 (ESV)

12 I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.

[12] Acts 7:58 (ESV)

58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.

Acts 22:20 (ESV)

20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’

[13] Lambart was martyred 1538 in England. The complete recounting of the martyrdom of John Lambart may be found in the book, The history of the worthy martyr of God, the rev. John Nicolson, better known by the name of John Lambert, who was burned in Smithfield, in the year 1538. A copy may be found here: https://books.google.com/books?id=0rYCAAAAQAAJ&hl=en

[14] Thomas Cramner was martyred under Queen Mary on March 21, 1556. The text seems confused here, in that Cramner was present at Lambart’s burning.