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Observations on My Sufferings

Category Articles
Date December 13, 2023

The meditations below are from the Memoirs of the Rev. James Fraser of Brea, Minister of the Gospel at Culross, Written by Himself, as these appear in Vol. II of Scottish Puritans: Select Biographies. Fraser lived and ministered at a time of great trouble for the Church in Scotland, when those who had signed the covenants1The National Covenant of 1638, and the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 which held forth the independence of the Church from the intervention of the crown, were brutally suppressed. Those, like Fraser, who continued to preach, were hounded and imprisoned, as Fraser himself was between 1677-79 (on the Bass Rock), in 1681 (Blackness Castle), and again in 1683 for preaching while exiled in England (Newgate Prison, London).

Observations upon my Sufferings.

(1.) That such as will live godly in the world must and will suffer persecution, for the trial and exercise of their faith and patience, purging away of their dross, and for weaning their hearts from a present world, and for confirmation of the truth, 2 Tim. 3:12; 1 Pet. 4:12; John 15:3.

(2.) Although at some times there be more or less of persecution, yet there is no time in which the saints shall be without daily crosses; for a wicked world will persecute with the tongue, even in Abraham’s family, where piety did obtain, Gal. 4:28, 29; Gen. 21:9. Even when religion was favoured, I found persecution by reproach, and contempt of wicked men.

(3.) There are some special days of persecution, when hell breaks loose, and when great trials come, which are called “the hour of tentation,” and “the evil day, the hour and power of darkness,” Revelation 3:10; Ephesians 6:13; Luke 8:13, 22, 25.

(4.) The Lord “stayeth his rough wind in the day of his east wind,” Isaiah 27:8. He many times puts an end to the extremities of his people’s personal trials ere [ed. ‘before] he exercises with public sufferings; he “lays not on men more than is meet,” and therefore suffers not a multitude of evils to lie upon his poor people at once, 1 Corinthians 10:10.

(5.) God first (I find) ordinarily exercises with personal afflictions, ere he call them to sufferings on account of Christ, that, being exercised with the one, they may better bear the other.

(6.) I find that the Lord doth many times affright us with troubles which never come upon us, as he did to Nineveh; and we are made to fear that which the mercy of God never suffers to touch us, Jonah 1:3.

(7.) But seldom or never doth a great personal or public stroke come upon the Lord’s people, but he gives them some warning, and notice of it before-hand, that we be not surprised, but prepared for it, Zephaniah 2:1-42‘Gather together, yes, gather, O shameless nation, before the decree takes effect —before the day passes away like chaff— before there comes upon you the burning anger of the Lord, before there comes upon you the day of the anger of the Lord. Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, who do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the Lord. For Gaza shall be deserted, and Ashkelon shall become a desolation; Ashdod’s people shall be driven out at noon, and Ekron shall be uprooted.’.

(8.) Obstinacy in sin and impenitency, and the removing of God’s precious people, with security under this, have had greatest influence upon my fears of a day of desolation, Isaiah 57:12; Ezekiel 11:3, 4; Isaiah 9:4, 5.

(9.) Our fears, unbeliefs, and discouragements, with our confusions, are our greatest troubles in a day of trouble; it is a prison within a prison, Psalm 142:7, “O bring my soul out of trouble.” Our galled sore backs make our burdens more grievous to us–sin and unbelief are bad ballast in a storm.

(10.) The cross of Christ, when we once engage with it, is nothing so terrible, is nothing so heavy as at a distance in apprehension it is. How dreadful did a prison and appearing before synagogues appear to me! But, when I did encounter therewith, I found it nothing so terrible to me.

(11.) I was never in that trouble yet upon the account of Christ, but I was delivered out of it by the Lord, and that when it seemed very desperate to look for salvation, Psalm 34:19, “The troubles of the righteous are many, but the Lord delivereth out of them all.” We are to believe deliverance from all our troubles, though we cannot tell when or how.

(12.) Nothing contributes more to a Christian carriage under trouble, than faith of God’s support in and deliverance out of trouble, James 5:7, 8. Unbelief sinks the heart.

(13.) It is matter of great humiliation to us, that our troubles and afflictions do us but little good sometimes, that we are so unfruitful under the rod: and especially I observe, that small troubles have but small influence; every physic doth not work with strong constitutions. My lighter troubles, whether upon a personal or more public account, I found but little good by them. It was a deep heart-reaching stroke that did me good: and in times of greatest fears, sharpest afflictions, it was ever still best with me; and at first afflictions do not so much good, it is afterwards that they reap “the peaceable fruits of righteousness,” Hebrews 12:11. And, even when the Lord blesses them to do good, the fruit, alas! is but small; we are not so good under them as we ought to be or might.

(14.) I have observed, the more the Lord’s people are affiicted and persecuted, the more they grow; and the gospel never thrives better than when it is persecuted, Exodus 1:12; Phil. 1:12. Such things as happened to me have been “for the furtherance of the gospel.” All the malice of men could never have broken us, if we had not undone ourselves; they “plowed with our heifer” for the spreading of the gospel was the effect of a long time of their greatest severities.

(15.) Persecutors are ungodly, are cruel, are deceitful; and this did I see evidently, all persecutors have these three properties: and therefore let us beware of such persons, and keep at the utmost distance with them, and expect no good from them; let us not lean on them who smite us; let us suspect all their favours, for “the kisses of an enemy are deceitful; but let “our eyes be only to the Lord.”

(16.) Too great love, respect to, intimacy and communion with wicked men, and not standing at due distance with them, provokes the Lord to give his people into the hands of the wicked. The Israelites’ wicked confederacy with the Canaanites made them “briers and thorns in their sides;” had we carried to the ungodly as we ought to have done, we should not have smarted as we do this day.

(17.) It is a very great comfort to a godly person, that his persecutors and enemies are God’s enemies, and wicked persons: “Let my enemies be as the wicked,” saith Job. We may expect good hearing from God against them. It doth much likewise to determine us in our duties, that what they are for must be ill, and what they are against must be good: and, notwithstanding of the confidence of some compliers, it is strange that in almost six thousand years one instance from Scripture or authentic history cannot be given.

(18.) Under public sufferings we are mostly called to submission and patience, both in reference to God and men: “In patience possess your souls;” and to Christian cheerfulness. Oh, what a comely thing is it to see a meek sufferer, like the Master, “not opening his mouth,” but “dumb as a sheep is before the shearer!” And how ordinarily do men fall in this great sin of impatience? And cheerfulness under the cross of Christ is no less beautiful; and therefore how frequent such precepts and examples, to “glory, rejoice in tribulation?” for this gives a good report of Christ, his cause and cross to others.

(19.) Sufferings on public accounts are not only our duty, but our great privilege; to suffer for Christ is one of Christ’s love-gifts, Philippians 1:29, “It is given you to suffer for the name of Christ.” To give testimony for Christ and his truth is our greatest honour. A sufferer and witness for Christ is the most honourable person and officer in the kingdom of Christ; it is Christ’s highest and honourablest employment, Acts 5:41, “They rejoiced they were counted worthy to suffer shame for Christ.”

(20.) Reproach and shame, and ill-will of men, is the heaviest of Christ’s crosses to bear: “Reproach hath broken my heart,” saith David.

(21.) It is the great guilt of professors this day, that they not only shun the ways of God, but are ashamed of them, and of the cross of Christ, yea, and of the truths of Christ; of such will Christ be ashamed.

(22.) It is a very hard matter to get our sufferings stated upon Christ’s account, but yet it is very necessary we get it done; for many objections doth a poor suffering soul meet with in this case, as possibly not so clear to many as the matter of the sufferings of Christians under heathens, and of Protestants under Papists. Nor is the call to such a thing clear at such a time; some sinful accession of our own (through want of consideration or mistake) to our trouble, sense of guilt and unworthiness, doth render our cause dark to us many times. That as it was said of these, “Ye did not fast to me,” so may it be said of us, Ye suffer not to me, nor for me, but for your sins and yourselves.

(23.) Outward trouble from the hands of persecutors may be both a rod and correction for sin, and a testimony for Christ and his truth. The Lord Jesus may by one rod design both the correction and chastisement of his Church and people, and likewise design a confirmation and witness to his truth, cause, and work. Heb. 12:10, the public sufferings of the believing Hebrews were “chastisements for our profit.”

(24.) We by our sins therefore may provoke the Lord to deliver us into the hands of men, and by our weakness we may have some sinful hand and occasion thereto, and great failings attending our sufferings; and yet Christ accept of our sufferings, so maimed, as a testimony for him.

(25.) ‘Whatever pretext wicked persecutors make of afflicting God’s people, and that they be schismatic, scandalous, seditious, that they walk disorderly; yet the true ground of their quarrel is because of their enmity to God and godliness; and therefore we may be assured we suffer for Christ and for his cause: “All these things will they do unto you, because the love of the Father is not in them.” And David saith, that all his enemies’ quarrel with him was, “because he followed after that which was good.” It is the enmity that is between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman, Genesis 3:15 ; Matthew 23:33; John 15:19, 21.

(26.) I observe, that the Lord doth accept of the faithful ends and endeavours, and honest intention and zeal of his people, when the methods and particular means and courses they take for witnessing for Christ are sometimes not altogether justifiable; as he who scruples through want of light an oath in itself lawful, out of zeal for the glory of God which he fears by taking this oath he wrongs, and thereupon suffers, this man’s sufferings are accepted of Christ as a testimony for him.

(27.) The controversy this day is as manifestly stated betwixt Christ and the devil, sin and godliness, whether the world should be Christ’s subjects, or the devil’s and sin’s subjects, as ever it was. The smaller differences, though in themselves of no great consequence, yet centre in this great gulf of rebellion against God. To touch any thing belonging to this wicked generation, Christ’s stated enemies, or to have ought ado with them, is dangerous, Numbers 16:26; and they are the emissaries of Satan, and doing his work, who plead for union and compliance with them.

(28.) Yet ought not the miscarriages of superiors dissolve the civil or natural bonds of relation to them, Matthew 23:1, 2. We are to do, and be submissive to, the commands of superiors, though we be not to imitate their practice.

(29.) Man’s wrath, and all persecution, shall tend and work to the praise of God and the good of saints, Psalm 76:10 ; Isaiah 31:9, and this is a marvellous consolation.

(30.) Many a time may we, in a public stroke of persecution, see our sin and guilt clearly and legibly written, as in Adonibezek, Judges 1; Genesis 19; Such as burned with unnatural lust to one another are justly consumed with fire from heaven: and it is just that lovers, whom we preferred to Christ, be the instruments of our greatest trouble.

(31.) Many times do the people of God find great favour and kindness at the hands of natural men, yea, and more sometimes than from the truly godly: the earth helped the woman many times. I found some professors of religion stood at greater distance with me, than did mere natural and graceless persons.

(32.) The preservation of some, of a remnant in a day of straits, is exceeding wonderful and marvellous sometimes.

(33.) “The wicked are snared in the  work of their own hands,” Psalm 9, and Hamans hanged on their own gallows. The Lord makes the weapons of the wicked recoil on themselves; every mean for a good while they take in hand doth but weaken them, and increase the other party.

(34.) It is the people of God that only can undo and harm themselves; and it is by division that it is done: while we stood in one spirit, we could not be overcome or prevailed against; but false brethren crept in amongst us, divided and broke us through the subtilty of adversaries, and did draw us to rash enterprises.

(35.) The greatest consolations do attend the greatest tribulations, 2 Corinthians 1:5, 6.

(36.) The first brunt of the cross is saddest and sharpest: “No affliction for the present seemeth joyous, but grievous.”

(37.) Great outward troubles, whether personal or on public accounts, quicken and revive our apprehensions of eternity.

(38.) And always do us good; though not alike good to all, nor so sensibly, yet no cross but we get some good of it.

(39.) I found it very hard to appear before councils, and carry rightly. We seek rather to save ourselves in any lawful way, than to honour and give testimony for Christ; and there is not boldness and dependence on Christ for assistance.

(40.) There is not so much of the “Spirit of glory resting upon” sufferers as hath been formerly: which I think flows from these three; 1. That our testimony for Christ is not so glorious; 2. That a sadder shock is coming; and, lastly, That our sufferings are so moderate.

(41.) Yet, blessed be the Lord, for my part I have found the Lord in a special way with me in all my sufferings, and I never repent of any thing I have suffered for Christ.

(42.) Though the Lord can sanctify and bless any lot to his people, yet, to speak absolutely, an afflicted condition in the world is best for God’s people.

(43.) The infinite condescendence of God, and his gracious and tender nature, is that only which can be a bottom to our faith; to believe we suffer for Christ, and as such to be accepted and looked upon by him.

(44.) There is a large allowance for sufferers for righteousness; but many live not upon their allowance, and therefore look so ill upon it.3It is believed that Fraser continued to record the incidents of his life subsequent to the period here referred to ; but though frequent search has been m ade, no Diaries or Journals have been discovered. It is known that he even tually returned to his native country, and was settled as minister at C nlross,


Photo by Ross Sneddon on Unsplash

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