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The previous post from this book may be found here. 

Embrace Your Defamations, as affording you precious opportunities to exemplify a patience that shall glorify God; and imitate the exemplary patience of your admirable Savior.

Usually defamations are little more than provocations. Nothing so unusually easily and provokes Men to intemperate passion as to be reproached. The old pagans and Stoics that could bear everything else found reproach to be insupportable. This would make them roar as load as waves on the Aegean shore.[1]

He was a great and a strong man and a scholar, yea, a master of better philosophy who yet complained, Reproach has broken my heart. For patience to get the upper hand of passion on this occasion, and moderate it, and regulate it, verily this is a more perfect work of Christianity.[2]

Sir, if you may be so happy as to attain unto it, you may, instead of being troubled say, I am happy that I ever had the occasion! Upon the first advice of any abuse offered to you, resolve, I will take heed to my ways that I sin not with my tongue; I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while I have before me what the unbridled mouth of wickedness has uttered of me .[3]

But make your application to the God of all grace,[4] for the grace to keep this resolution. If you resist the first impression, the first resentments, which you may too readily feel upon vile reproaches, you have gained a great point; you have steered clear of abundance of sin; you will be more able afterwards to carry on a strain of lovely patience, and merit the judge’s motto, prudens qui patiens: a prudent man is a patient man.

Let me beseech you, after this, to maintain most exact watch, a most severe guard upon yourself, lest while the waters of strife are broaching, your provoked spirit may at any time speak unadvisedly with your lips. The meekest man in the world[5], you know, did so.[6]

My friend, your calumnious adversaries furnish you with valuable opportunities to adorn the doctrine of God your Savior[7] and do such things as are done by none but those that may lay hold on the comforts of eternal life. The blessed Eliot’s three words, bear, forbear, forgive: Now, now is the time for them to come into exercise.

All tendencies to revenge upon your enemies the wrongs which they have done you must now be abhored, be suppressed; must be looked upon as worse things than the worst of your enemies’ [bad acts]. ’Tis probable they may be such people as may deserve to have much evil spoken of them. However, ’tis now decenet for you to be more sparing in speaking of it than you would have been if you had suffered nothing from them. Leave that just work to others; there is hazard lest you overdo, or least some revengeful glance of your own do work in it, if you go meddle with it.

On the other side, if you know any good of those that have spoken ill of you, be you not adverse to speak that good and not ill-pleased if you hear it spoken by others.

How famous, how precious is the name of Calvin for the answer which he gave when he was told that angry Luther put some hard names upon him. An answer so recited, so esteemed by all the world that there is no need now of my telling any of my neighbors what it is.[8]

But be sure that your heart stand always in awe of that word: Proverbs 20.22, “Say not thou, I will recompense evil.” And Romans 12.17, “Recompense to no man evil for evil.”

Athenagoras, I remember, gives this description of the primitive Christians, “’Tis counted an indifferent thing for a man to revile another, by whom he has been first reviled. But we Christians do speak as well as ever we can of them that speak nothing but evil of us.”[9]

And Justin Martyr bears just witness for them, “We don’t ask that they who haveh most accused us, and abused us, and falsely spoken evil of us may be punished for it; no ’tis punishment enough to be left unto such folly and rashness.”[10]

Oh! Do not look upon this generous patience as impracticable or a lesion only for the Elohim whose dwelling is with flesh![11] Rather, look upon it as an unmanly weakness to be unable to bear the ill words of other men. It is a pretty remark when Abishai could not bear the railing tongue of Shimei.[12] Says David unto him, What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? Now, Zeruiah was their mother. Why, the sons of Zeruiah? He seems to intimate you have more of your mother than of your father in you. You talk as if you were of the weaker sex. If you had the souls of men in you, a few ill words would not be such an intolerable grievance to you.

If you will harken to me, you shall take little notice of the affronts that are offered you: For the most part they are not worth your notice.

When the famous Doctor Sands was ignominiously carried on a lame jade through the city of London, a base woman in scorn threw a stone at him and hit him full on the breast. He took no other notice of it, but only made this mild answer, “Woman, I pray God forgive thee.” This was notice enough.

[1] Aegean: Greek. The reference is to the Iliad, Book 1, line 34 where the priest Chryses sits by the roaring sea.

[2] James 1:2–4 (AV)

2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

[3] Psalm 39:1.

[4] 1 Peter 5:10.

[5] Numbers 12:3 (AV) Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.

[6] Numbers 20:10–13 (AV)

10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? 11 And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. 12 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them. 13 This is the water of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with the LORD, and he was sanctified in them.

[7] Titus 2:10 (AV) Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.

[8]  In a 1544 letter from John Calvin to Heinrich Bullinger, he wrote, “Often have I been wont to declare, that even though [Martin Luther] were to call me a devil, I should still not the less esteem and acknowledge him as an illustrious servant of God.”

[9]

Allow me here to lift up my voice boldly in loud and audible out-cry, pleading as I do before philosophic princes. For who of those that reduce syllogisms, and clear up ambiguities, and explain etymologies,or of those who teach homonyms and synonyms, and predicaments and axioms, and what is the subject and what the predicate, and who promise their disciples by these and such like instructions to make them happy: who of them have so purged their souls as, instead of hating their enemies, to love them; and, instead of speaking ill of those who have reviled them (to abstain from which is of itself an evidence of no mean forbearance), to bless them; and to pray for those who plot against their lives? On the contrary, they never cease with evil intent to search out skilfully the secrets of their art,and are ever bent on working some ill, making the art of words and not the exhibition of deeds their business and profession. But among us you will find uneducated persons, and artisans, and old women, who, if they are unable in words to prove the benefit of our doctrine, yet by their deeds exhibit the benefit arising from their persuasion of its truth: they do not rehearse speeches, but exhibit good works; when struck, they do not strike again; when robbed, they do not go to law; they give to those that ask of them, and love their neighbours as themselves.

 

Athenagoras, “A Plea for the Christians,” in Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. B. P. Pratten, vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 134.

[10]

For all are called Christians. Wherefore we demand that the deeds of all those who are accused to you be judged, in order that each one who is convicted may be punished as an evil-doer, and not as a Christian; and if it is clear that any one is blameless, that he may be acquitted, since by the mere fact of his being a Christian he does no wrong. For we will not require that you punish our accusers; they being sufficiently punished by their present wickedness and ignorance of what is right

 

Justin Martyr, “The First Apology of Justin,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 165.

[11] That is, Jesus.

[12] The incident can be found in 2 Samuel 16. David is fleeing with his people from the rebellion of Absalom. While leaving the city, Shimei stops along the road and mocks David.