“KEEP THY HEART WITH ALL DILIGENCE, FOR OUT OF IT
XI. Another season, wherein the heart must be kept with all diligence, is when sufferings for religion are laid upon us. Blessed is the man who in such a season is not offended in Christ. Now, whatever may be the kind or degree of your sufferings, if they are sufferings for Christ’s sake and the Gospel’s, spare no diligence to keep your heart. If you are tempted to shrink or waver under them, let what follows help you to repel and to surmount the instigation:
1. What reproach would you cast upon the Redeemer and his religion by deserting him at such a time as this! You would proclaim to the world, that how much soever you have boasted of the promises when you are put to the proof you dare hazard no thing upon your faith in them; and this will give the enemies of Christ an occasion to blaspheme. And will you thus furnish the triumphs of the uncircumcised? Ah, if you did but value the name of Christ as much as many wicked men value their names, you could never endure that his should be exposed to contempt. Will proud dust and ashes hazard death or hell rather than have their names disgraced, and will you endure nothing to maintain the honor of Christ?
2. Dare you violate your conscience out of complaisance to flesh and blood? Who will comfort you when your conscience accuses and condemns you? What happiness can there be in life, liberty or friends, when inward peace is taken away? Consider well what you do.
3. Is not the public interest of Christ and his cause infinitely more important than any interest of your own, and should you not prefer his glory and the welfare of his kingdom before every thing else? Should any temporary suffering, or any sacrifice which you can be called to make, be suffered to come into competition with the honor of his name?
4. Did the Redeemer neglect your interest and think lightly of you, when for your sake he endured sufferings between which and yours there can be no comparison? Did he hesitate and shrink back? No: “He endured the cross, despising the shame.” And did he with unbroken patience and constancy endure so much for you; and will you flinch from momentary suffering in his cause?
5. Can you so easily cast off the society and the privileges of the saints and go over to the enemy’s side? Are you willing to withhold your support from those who are determined to persevere, and throw your influence in the scale against them? Rather let your body and soul be rent asunder. “If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.”
6. How can you stand before Christ in the day of judgment, if you desert him now? “He that is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” Yet a little while, and the Son of man will come in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory, to judge the world. He will sit upon the throne of judgment, while all the nations are brought before him. Imagine yourself now to be witnessing the transactions of that day. Behold the wicked; behold the apostates; and hear the consuming sentence which is pronounced upon them, and see them sinking in the gulf of infinite and everlasting wo! And will you desert Christ now, will you forsake his cause to save a little suffering, or to protract an unprofitable life on earth, and thus expose yourself to the doom of the apostate? Remember, that if you can silence the remonstrances of conscience now, you cannot hinder the sentence of the Judge then. By these means keep your heart, that it depart not from the living God.
XII. The last season which I shall mention, in which the heart must be kept with all diligence, is when we are warned by sickness that our dissolution is at hand. . . .