Endurance of the World's Censure
Plain Sermons by Contributors to the, Tracts for the Times
Ezekiel 2:6
And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with you…

What is here implied, as the trial of the prophet Ezekiel, was fulfilled more or less in the case of all the prophets. They were not teachers merely, but confessors. This world is a scene of conflict between good and evil. The evil not only avoids, but persecutes the good; the good cannot conquer, except by suffering. When was it that this conflict, and this character and issue of it, have not been fulfilled? Cain, for instance, was envious of his brother Abel, and slew him. Ishmael mocked at Isaac; Esau was full of wrath with Jacob, and resolved to kill him. Joseph's brethren were filled with bitter hatred of him, debated about killing him, cast him into a pit, and at last sold him into Egypt. Saul persecuted David; and Ahab and Jezebel, Elijah; and the priests and the prophets the prophet Jeremiah. Lastly, not to dwell on other instances, the chief priests and the Pharisees, full of envy, rose up against our Lord Jesus Christ, and delivered Him to the heathen governor Pontius Pilate, to be crucified. So the apostles, after Him, and especially St. Paul, were persecuted by their fierce and revengeful countrymen. The case seems to be this: — those who do not serve God with a single heart, know they ought to do so, and they do not like to be reminded that they ought. And when they fall in with anyone who does live to God, he serves to remind them of it, and that is unpleasant to them, and that is the first reason why they are angry with a religious man; the sight of him disturbs them and makes them uneasy. And, in the next place, they feel in their hearts that he is in much better case than they are. They cannot help wishing, though they are hardly conscious of their own wish, they cannot help wishing that they were like him; yet they have no intention of imitating him, and this makes men jealous and envious. Instead of being angry with themselves, they are angry with him. These are their first feelings: what follows? Next they are very much tempted to deny that he is religious. They wish to get the thought of him out of their minds. Nothing would so relieve their minds as to find that there were no religious persons in the world, none better than themselves. Accordingly, they do all they can to believe that he is making a pretence of religion; they do their utmost to find out what looks like inconsistency in him. They call him a hypocrite and other names. And all this, if the truth must be spoken, because they hate the things of God and therefore they hate His servants. Accordingly, as far as they have power to do it, they persecute him, either, as the text implies, with cruel, untrue words, or with cold, or fierce, or jealous looks, or in some worse ways. A good man is an offence to a bad man. The sight of him is a sort of insult; and he is irritated at him, and does him what harm he can. Thus Christians, in former times, were put to death by the heathen. Even now, no one can give his mind to God, and show by his actions that he fears God, but he will incur the dislike and opposition of the world; and it is important he should be aware of this, and be prepared for it. He must not mind it, he must bear it, and in time (if God so will) he will overcome it. There are a number of lesser ways in which careless, ungodly persons may annoy and inconvenience those who desire to do their duty humbly and fully. Such, especially, are those, which seem intended in the text, unkind censure, carping, slander, ridicule, cold looks, rude language, insult, and, in some cases, oppression and tyranny. Whoever, therefore, sets about a religious life, must be prepared for these — must be thankful if they do not befall him; but must not be put out, must not think it a strange thing, if they do. For instance, persons may press you to do something which you know to be wrong — to tell an untruth, or to do what is not quite honest, or to go to companies whither you should not go; and they may show that they are vexed at the notion of your not complying. Still you must not comply. You must not do what you feel to be wrong, though you should thereby displease even those whom you would most wish to please. Again: you must not be surprised, should you find that you are called a hypocrite, and other hard names; you must not mind it. Again: you may be jeered at and mocked by your acquaintance, for being strict and religious, for carefully coming to church, keeping from bad language, and the like: you must not care for it. Again, you may, perhaps, discover, to your great vexation, that untruths are told of you by careless persons behind your backs, that what you do has been misrepresented, and that in consequence a number of evil things are believed about you by the world at large. Hard though it be, you must not care for it; remembering that more untruths were told of our Saviour and His apostles than can possibly be told of you. Again, you may find that not only the common run of men believe what is said against you, but even those with whom you wish to stand well. But if this happens through your conscientiousness, you must not mind it, but must be cheerful, leaving your case in the hand of God, and knowing that He will bring it out into the light one day or another, in His own good time. Again: persons may try to threaten or frighten you into doing something wrong, but you must not mind that; you must be firm. In conclusion, I will call your attention to two points — First, do not be too eager to suppose you are ill-treated for your religion's sake. Make as light of matters as you can. And beware of being severe on those who lead careless lives, or whom you think or know to be ill-treating you. Be kind and gentle to those who are perverse, and you will very often, please God, gain them over. Pray for those who lead careless lives, and especially if they are unkind to you. Secondly, recollect you cannot do any one thing of all the duties I have been speaking of without God's help. When brought into temptation of any kind, we Should lift up our hearts to God. We should say to Him, "Good Lord deliver us."

(Plain Sermons by Contributors to the "Tracts for the Times.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house.

WEB: You, son of man, don't be afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you, and you do dwell among scorpions: don't be afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house.

Boldness in Preaching
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