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You will be attacked by those for whom you do the most good

Secondly, ‘Tis a passage which I have somewhere else met withal, “Though I have done good offices for all men whatsoever, as they have come in my way, yet a great part of them, whom I have distinguished by doing of something peculiar for them, have afterwards treated me most ungratefully and abominably; have proved prodigies of ingratitude.”

Indeed, it is no rare thing for great services to be worse rewarded than great injuries. They that were lately your dependents will be shortly your defamers. It is a maxim of Seneca[1] , “Men bear a secret hatred unto those who have most obliged them.”[2]

Make yourself a scaffold for another to rise by; when is up, he will kick you down if he can. The prophecy is fulfilled in private as well as public instances, Men shall be unthankful.  The French Protestants must for this very cause be destroyed by a tyrant because they brought him to the throne and made him able to destroy them.

Sir, if you meet with such usage too, let it not at all dishearten you from doing unto eight those good offices which you have done already to seven. But learn to good for its own sake; do it, hoping for nothing again.

            God can use even defamations

O blessed improvement of defamations![3] My friend, make it and the issue will be glorious. Your experience will be that, Gen. 49:23,24, “The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him, but his bow abode in strength.” You know not what good arrows of service may yet be sent from you among the People of God; perhaps the more for the mischiefs which the archers have attempted upon you. Don’t sit down, and sink down under discouragements as if your opportunities to do good would be utterly lost by the malice of your defamers, with a tempest of defamations. Don’t say, “I shall one day perish by their tongues or pens.” But say, “O my soul, hope in God for I shall yet praise him.” (Ps. 42:5)  God will wonderfully rescue your opportunities. They are not at the disposal of your malicious enemies.

And you know not what may happen to hamstring those enemies or to muzzle the lions that you are thrown among. ‘Tis very possible they that are now your enemies may come to befriend you wonderfully, and your defamers may prove the very instruments of your good.  Yea, of your doing more good and of that by which your fame will be but advantaged and propagated.

I have heard a servant of God make this observation, That he has been defamed and abused by some, and he has out of obedience to Christ forborne to take notice of it. Christ has afterward put it into the hearts of those very men singly to assist him in his most valued serviceableness. Yea, if you duly humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, and rage of man, it would be no ne thing if anon ou find the accomplishment of that promise, Zeph. 3:19, “I will get you praise and fame in every place where they have been put to shame.”

Or, while these envious men are wishing and striving that you may come to nothing, they may do so themselves, Non ego sic cedidi, quamvis abjectus! (“I have not cut down him who was struck down.”)

It may-be they will become so contemptible and so miserable that you shall have them objects, not so much of your indignation as of your commiseration. Their esteem shall be very little, and the divine providence will order it, that they shall be the less esteemed for their disaffection of you.

It may be, God will give you that room in the hearts of his people and such a testimony in their consciences and sentiments that malignity toward you shall be reckoned a mark of an ill man by very man of them. The intoxicated creatures find that they have in truth only done the part of a viper in the fable. Their own viperous tongues bleed by licking of the file. But the servant of God is found invulnerable. AS you know, the Scripture gives it as good mark, to be a lover of good men. So, when the poet would paint out his Thersites as a very sorry wretch, this is the finishing stroke of his wretchedness. He is an adversary of brave Ulysses.[4]

            Vengeance is mine

Yea, it is possible God may punish them with reducing them to low and sad circumstances wherein they may need some assistances: They must fly for help to the very man whom they have abused. And sir, I assure myself that you will readily and heartily help them and utterly forget all their abuses, as if they had never been offered.

The governor Eutropius did but affront Chrysostom for his faithful rebukes of his briberies and oppressions. Anon the Emperor strips Eutropius of his offices and his like to fall a sacrifice unto his enemies.[5] Eutropius then flies to Chrysostom for defense. And Chyrsostom is the man who most now defends him from his enemies. Yea, it is possible that God may bring the fate a Pashur upon him that smites the servants of God. (See, Jer. 20) And the smitten saint must be the man whom the dying and woeful sinner then begs to pray for him, which you may be sure he cannot but do with all the charity imaginable.

Some that have been more than ordinarily virulent and violent in uttering their calumnies against good men, have hastened upon themselves that which is incurred by them who will keep their tongues from evil. (Ps. 34:13) But that which I know you would very loath to see come upon the work of your calumniators. It was a strange providence among the old Roman Law, of the XII Tables, [6] Si quis carmen occentassit, quot alteri flagitium parit, Capitale esto. The plain English of that old Latin is, “That it was a capital thing to publish a reproach which procured infamy of another man.” Our old Arnobius having occasion to twit the defamatory pagans with with it, I find citing it with this explanation, Carmen malum conscribere, quo Fama alterius Coinquinetur. (By writing an evil song, another’s reputation is ruined.)

The awful hand of Heaven oftener executes that strange punishment than men are well aware of.  Vavasor Powel[7]’s maxim was a very true one, “The less a good man strives for himself, the more will the great God strive for him.” Unjust enemies who are false witnesses breathing out cruelty, being with much moderation and resignation of min, put over into the hands of the living God, find it at last a “fearful thing to  fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31) There are arrows on the bent bow of Providence ordained against the persecutors (whose teeth are arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword (Ps. 57:4)). None knows how soon the Holy God may let them fly, especially if their persecutors carry on their malignity with such unwearied and impetuous molestation, that while they live, a diligent servant of God can proceed little further in the doing of good in the world.

[1] Seneca, Roman Stoic philosopher, 4 B.C. – 65 A.D. Counselor to Emperor Nero. At this place in the text, Mather has the word “unmasked” which makes no sense. It has been omitted.

[2] So far I have been unable to track down the original source.


Mistake me not, I do not say that of their own nature they are good, for they are a fruit of the curse; but though they are naturally evil, yet the wise over-ruling hand of God disposing and sanctifying them, they are morally good. As the elements, though of contrary qualities, yet God hath so tempered them, that they all work in a harmonious manner, for the good of the universe. Or as in a watch, the wheels seem to move contrary one to another, but all carry on the motions of the watch: so things that seem to move cross to the godly, yet by the wonderful providence of God work for their good. Among these worst things, there are four sad evils work for good to them that love God.

Thomas Watson, A Divine Cordial; The Saint’s Spiritual Delight; The Holy Eucharist; and Other Treatises, The Writings of the Doctrinal Puritans and Divines of the Seventeenth Century (The Religious Tract Society, 1846), 23.

[4] A reference to the Iliad, from book II, Samuel Butler, translation:

The rest now took their seats and kept to their own several places, but Thersites still went on wagging his unbridled tongue- a man of many words, and those unseemly; a monger of sedition, a railer against all who were in authority, who cared not what he said, so that he might set the Achaeans in a laugh. He was the ugliest man of all those that came before Troy- bandy-legged, lame of one foot, with his two shoulders rounded and hunched over his chest. His head ran up to a point, but there was little hair on the top of it. Achilles and Ulysses hated him worst of all, for it was with them that he was most wont to wrangle; now, however, with a shrill squeaky voice he began heaping his abuse on Agamemnon. The Achaeans were angry and disgusted, yet none the less he kept on brawling and bawling at the son of Atreus.

“Agamemnon,” he cried, “what ails you now, and what more do you want? Your tents are filled with bronze and with fair women, for whenever we take a town we give you the pick of them. Would you have yet more gold, which some Trojan is to give you as a ransom for his son, when I or another Achaean has taken him prisoner? or is it some young girl to hide and lie with? It is not well that you, the ruler of the Achaeans, should bring them into such misery. Weakling cowards, women rather than men, let us sail home, and leave this fellow here at Troy to stew in his own meeds of honour, and discover whether we were of any service to him or no. Achilles is a much better man than he is, and see how he has treated him- robbing him of his prize and keeping it himself. Achilles takes it meekly and shows no fight; if he did, son of Atreus, you would never again insult him.”

Thus railed Thersites, but Ulysses at once went up to him and rebuked him sternly. “Check your glib tongue, Thersites,” said be, “and babble not a word further. Chide not with princes when you have none to back you. There is no viler creature come before Troy with the sons of Atreus. Drop this chatter about kings, and neither revile them nor keep harping about going home. We do not yet know how things are going to be, nor whether the Achaeans are to return with good success or evil. How dare you gibe at Agamemnon because the Danaans have awarded him so many prizes? I tell you, therefore- and it shall surely be- that if I again catch you talking such nonsense, I will either forfeit my own head and be no more called father of Telemachus, or I will take you, strip you stark naked, and whip you out of the assembly till you go blubbering back to the ships.”

On this he beat him with his staff about the back and shoulders till he dropped and fell a-weeping. The golden sceptre raised a bloody weal on his back, so he sat down frightened and in pain, looking foolish as he wiped the tears from his eyes. The people were sorry for him, yet they laughed heartily, and one would turn to his neighbour saying, “Ulysses has done many a good thing ere now in fight and council, but he never did the Argives a better turn than when he stopped this fellow’s mouth from prating further. He will give the kings no more of his insolence.”

Thus said the people.

[5] Chrysostom the greatest preacher of the early church. You really must make his acquaintance.

You can find Chyrsostom’s Homilies on Eutropius here: https://orthodoxchurchfathers.com/fathers/npnf109/npnf1034.htm#TopOfPage

[6] You can find the law here: https://law.gwu.libguides.com/romanlaw/twelvetables.

[7] Welsh Baptist minister, born 1617. “He had no fear of men, or jails, or death in his heart. He was a strong republican, and he openly denounced the protectorship of Cromwell when his power was dreaded by all Europe; and Cromwell was so apprehensive of his influence that he arrested him. He spent eight years in thirteen prisons. And he died in the Fleet jail, in London, in the eleventh year of his incarceration, Oct. 27, 1671. His death was unusually blessed; the power and love of God filled his soul with enthusiasm in the miseries of a cell and in the agonies of a distressing complaint.” http://baptisthistoryhomepage.com/powell.vavasor.b.encyclo.html