By Sabine Baring-Gould
24th Sunday after Trinity.
S. Matt. ix. 24. "And they laughed Him to scorn."
INTRODUCTION.--"All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Tim. iii. 12.) This is what S. Paul says. This is what everyone of you must make up your mind to, if you intend to live godly lives, and, moreover, to live in Christ. Do you know what that meant to the early Christians? It meant that if they were going to be firm in their faith, live up to their profession, and eschew evil, they should be dragged before governors, and hung on what was called the "little horse," and their flesh torn with redhot pincers. It meant that they should be scourged to death, or that they should be roasted alive over slow fires, or that they should be gored in the amphitheatre by a bull, or torn to pieces by a lion, or that they should have their skin taken off, or that their heads should be struck off, or that they should be crucified. So when they were baptized and professed the Creed, and were signed with the cross, they knew that they were enlisted to suffer persecution if they acted up to their profession, and were worthy of the cross on their brows.
But this is not the sort of persecution you will be subjected to. The time of such cruel torture is over. The world has become Christian in name, but in heart it is pagan still.
"All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." S. Paul does not limit this to his day. It is not only all in the first century, but all in the nineteenth century as well. Only this is altered--the mode of persecution.
SUBJECT.--The persecution you will be subjected to, if you live godly in Jesus Christ is--Ridicule. No one will make you suffer in the body. No pincers and knives will be brought against you,--only Tongues.
I. Noah was ordered by God to build an ark on dry ground. Imagine the ridicule he met with! How the people would flock out of an evening, to see how he was getting on. What jibes! How he was tormented with questions, When was the great boat to be launched? How was he to bring the sea up to it? Was he with his three sons to put their shoulders to it, and push it down to the seashore? But Noah did not heed them, he went on with his building. It was very unpleasant to bear. It made him very red with shame and annoyance sometimes. But he did not give up. If he had done so, he would have been drowned. And one day the flood came. The fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven opened, and then the water overflowed the land. Then!--how was it with those men and women who had made fun of Noah? On whose side was the laugh now?
The Israelites were ordered by God to camp against Jericho. They were to march round the city once a day, with the priests going before, blowing their trumpets; this was to be done six days in succession, but on the seventh day they were to march seven times round the city, with the priests leading the way, blowing the rams' horns. The first day the inhabitants of Jericho rushed to their walls, and watched, and wondered. The second day they saw the same procession go round the town. It had ended in nothing on Sunday, so they laughed and pointed at them. What a ludicrous sight! All those men armed with swords and spears, who do not use them, those priests blowing the horns as to encourage the Israelites to battle, and not one rushing forward to scale the walls. The third day all the women and children were on the walls, marching round and mimicking them, blowing toy trumpets. What jokes! What jeers shouted from the walls! So on to the Friday. On the Sabbath the people got rather tired of this same scene. It was growing monotonous; so they did not come in such numbers. However, after the Israelites had marched round once, they began to march round a second time. Here was something new! Something still more nonsensical; and the people of Jericho came out on their walls again to flout them, and pass their jokes. When the Israelites had been round twice, they started to go round a third time, then a fourth, then a fifth, then a sixth. The mocking grew more excessive, the ridicule more keen. But, when the circuit of the city was made the seventh time, then, the walls of the city fell down, and the Israelites rushed in over the ruins, and killed all they came across. On whose side was the laugh then?
II. As I told you at the beginning of my sermon, if you will live godly in Christ Jesus, you must expect persecution, and the only sort of persecution you will get is Ridicule.
Therefore, if you will live godly in Christ Jesus, you must be prepared to be taunted, and made fun of, and teased. The tongues will wag and say all sort of hard things about you; You are a hypocrite, or you are going too far, or you are a fine person to set up to be a saint! but be of good cheer, do not mind the laughter, it is only for a while, and then the tables will be turned, and the laugh will be on your side.
It is very unpleasant to be made a butt for ridicule. Of course it is, but it is not so unpleasant as to have your flesh torn off with redhot pincers. The early Christians who would live godly in Christ Jesus had to expect that.
It is very galling to have bitter things said of you, often unjust and untrue, only because you have begun to serve God, and lead a better life. Of course it is, but it is not so bitter to bear as a cruel death, and that is what the early Christians had to expect if they would live godly in Christ Jesus.
Then again. As the Master was used, so the servant must expect to be treated. Jesus Christ had not only to endure the cruelty of wicked men, but their ridicule as well, "They laughed Him to scorn."
CONCLUSION.--Pluck up a little courage, my brethren, and do not be such cowards. If you lack courage, ask of God, and He will give it you. The Spirit of Fortitude is one of the gifts of the Holy Ghost. He gave it to the martyrs to strengthen them under torment, and they were able to endure and not forsake their Lord. Then surely He will give to you that measure of fortitude which will enable you to stand up against Ridicule.