Recently someone asked me to comment on Facebook on a quotation from a Puritan. I told her I found the quotation troubling enough to make a blog post out of it. Here, finally, is the promised post.
My friend said, “When I read this quote, I thought it was true and couldn’t refute it, which is why I posted it – I thought it was okay. At the same time I had doubts, and that’s why I asked you about it. It’s typical of the preaching I heard in my old church. For many years I primarily read Puritan books like this.”
So what was it? It was a paragraph from a piece called “Seven Inferences from the Great Suffering of Jesus Christ,” by Puritan Thomas Brooks. But before I offer commentary on his work, I’d like to ask you to read it without commentary. (The original was all one paragraph, but I’ve split it into three for easier reading.)
Let the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ, work us into a gracious willingness to embrace sufferings for His sake, and cheerfully and resolutely to take up His cross and follow Him. Did Christ suffer, who knew no sin—and shall we think it strange to suffer, who know nothing but sin? Shall He lie sweltering under His Father’s wrath—and shall we cry out under men’s anger?
Was He crowned with thorns—and must we be crowned with rose-buds? Was His whole life, from the cradle to the cross, made up of nothing but sorrows and sufferings—and must our lives, from the cradle to the grave, be filled up with nothing but pleasures and delights? Was He despised—and must we be admired? Was He debased—and must we be exalted? Was He poor—and must we be rich? Was He low—and must we be high? Did He drink of a bitter cup, a bloody cup—and must we have only cups of consolation?
Let us not think anything too much to do for Christ, nor anything too great to suffer for Christ, nor anything too dear to part with for such a Christ, such a Savior—who thought nothing too much to do, nor too grievous to suffer—so that He might accomplish the work of our redemption! He left Heaven for us—and shall not we let go of this world for Him? He left his Father’s bosom for us—and shall not we leave the bosoms of our dearest relations for him? He underwent all sorts of sufferings for us—let us as readily encounter with all sorts of sufferings for Him.
Note that it seems evident that Thomas Brooks is talking about the suffering that comes from living for Christ (persecution, leaving relatives, undergoing hardships), rather than suffering because of illness or catastrophe.
Many modern-day Western Christians, the ones who don’t actually undergo a whole lot of suffering, might believe this is an excellent piece to be heartily commended, and might even wonder what my problem is.
But the problem is that while there are Scriptural and good parts to this section, there are also some teachings that can be used insidiously.
So I want to dissect it. I’ll start with the middle paragraph, because that’s the easiest.
Note: Some of these same concepts are addressed in Untwisting Scriptures that were used to tie you up, gag you, and tangle your mind, in the chapters in which I tackled the topic of giving up your rights.
Go here to download your free Guide, How to Enjoy the Bible Again (when you’re ready) After Spiritual Abuse (without feeling guilty or getting triggered out of your mind). You’ll receive access to both print and audio versions of the Guide (audio read by me). I’m praying it will be helpful.