It may be some relief of your disquietments under your defamations to consider what company you have in your affliction. To consider how defamed and ill-spoken of the brst of men in the world have been before you. What you undergo has much temptation in it. But sir, no temptation except what is common to the best of men. [1 Cor. 10:13] This comfort for the miserable, seems to be recommend as no miserable comfort [poor, inadequate comfort] by our Savior. Matt. 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad; for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”
Well known is the story of that knight who going to his martyrdom and seeing himself because of his quality [station in society] excused from wearing a chain worn by the other martyrs, he cried out, “I pray let me be a knight of that order!” And [he] asked that he might wear a chain as well as they!
There never was a useful servant of God in the world without so many defamations. And if you should be wholly without tem, and all men should speak well of you, you might well question whether you are a saint of their order or not. The enmity which is fexed at the beginning between the two seeds [Gen. 3:15] has ever since been operating in defamations. The third chapter of Genesis has predicted them. For all that will renounce and oppose the kingdom of Satan in the world, and such is the influence of Satan on the tongues of his children [John 8:44] that he continually procures their prediction to be accomplished.
Moses, the writer of this [Genesis], was a famous instance [example] of this. Moses, the greatest man [Let the insolent critic of Amsterdam say what he will!] that ever shone in the world in four-thousand-years together, an angel in flesh. How often did his own people defame him in their murmurings. The people that were under more obligations unto him than [to] any other man under heaven. So impertinent as to make [up a false] staroy that there an Arabian woman whom he had harkened unto more than he should have done. [Num. 12:1]
The pagans did their part also in defaming him. He had once a leprosy on his hand most miraculously, most honorably circumstanced. [Ex. 4:6] The ancient historians hereupon spread a story that he was a leper and for this cause driven with his people out of Egypt. Yea, which is unaccountable: the accounts which the wicked Jews himself in their Talmuds, give both of Moses and of David, would render them the most scandalous Men that ever were in the world.
“The time would fail me to mention” (Heb. 11:32) all the holy prophets who have complaint made by one of them. Jer. 20:10, “I heard the defaming of many.” They have been defamed as the troublers of Israel (1 Kings 18:17), when they were the chariots of Israel (2 Kings 2:12). They were deserted and defamed until they have retired unto the Juniper tree. (1 Kings 19:5)
Under the New Testament, the matter has not been mended. The old enmity has been carried on in the old way which wicked men have trodden. The Apostles of our Savio could appeal to all that knew them, “Ye are witnesses who holily, how righteously, how unblameably we have behaved ourselves.” (1 Thess. 2:10)
But then those men of God were called unto this marvelous proof of their being so. 2 Corinthinas 5:4,8, “Approving ourselves as the ministers of God in much patience, by dishonor … by evil report.” Above all thou must not be forgotten, O Paul, who didst labor (and in this way suffer) “more abundantly than they all.” (2 Cor. 11:23)
Nor the “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7), the strange aversion which the Christianized Jews had unto him, on the score of his labor among the Gentiles: A reproachful aversion which could not be removed. The gracious God, though he be sought thrice (2 Cor. 12:8) by his prayerful and faithful servant, yet would not remove this buffeting encumbrance, but have him content with the favor which he had in other things bestowed on him.
In early times, the primitive Christians, how defamed were they? Such vile accusations were brought unto the imperial throne [of Rome], th tsome of the best emperors looked on them as the worst of people. Trajan himself because their persecutor. The church was long with child and in travail (full two hundred and eighty-eight prophetical days ) before the revolution when the Accuser of the Brethren could not be heard against her; yea, after the Constantinian Revolution, it was astonishing to see how professed Christians but shamefully divided ones persecuted one-another with defamations. Especially the Arians against the Orthodox.
The one example of Athanasius may be enough. You may learn all from what was done to that one. Church history reports that they accused him of beating some other ministers and offering them horrid outrages, and for spoiling and robbing of churches. The Arians compelled him to some necessary things for his own defense and then those unreasonable men complained of him doing those things. They accused him of murdering a man and cutting off one of his hands to serve certain magical purposes: though that man appeared alive, safe and sound, unto the confusion of his accusers. They accused him of a criminal conversation with women, though the accusers were anon [immediately] confounded by their confessions which the wretches had made that they never anything amiss by him.
Sometimes their accusation prevailed so far as to compel his retirement out of the town. The chief rulers were violently set against him. The corrupt clergy hated him and would have had him utterly deposed.
The glorious Christ whose cause he espoused strangely [miraculously] supported him and preserved him. Once by singing of Psalms, he so charmed the soldiers who came to seize him, they could not meddle with him. He had many triumphs over his adversaires. He often saw them reduced unto such confusion that they were afraid, they were ashamed of owning themselves to be his adversaries. At last, he died peaceably and honorably in his own city, after he had been bishop for six and forty years.