We have been so accustomed to hear of the persecutions of the Church, both from the New Testament and from the history of Christianity, that it is much if we have not at length come to regard the account of them as words of course, to speak of them without understanding what we say, and to receive no practical benefit from having been told of them; much less are we likely to take them for what they really are, a characteristic mark of Christ's Church. They are not indeed the necessary lot of the Church, but at least one of her appropriate badges; so that, on the whole, looking at the course of history, you might set down persecution as one of the peculiarities by which you recognize her. And our Lord seems to intimate how becoming, how natural persecution is to the Church, by placing it among His Beatitudes. "Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven;" giving it the same high and honourable rank in the assemblage of evangelical graces, which the Sabbath holds among the Ten Commandments,—I mean, as a sort of sign and token of His followers, and, as such, placed in the moral code, though in itself external to it.
He seems to show us this in another way, viz., by intimating to us the fact, that in persecution the Church begins and in persecution she ends. He left her in persecution, and He will find her in persecution. He recognizes her as His own,—He framed, and He will claim her,—as a persecuted Church, bearing His Cross. And that awful relic of Him which He gave her, and which she is found possessed of at the end, she cannot have lost by the way.
Discussions and Arguments, lecture 4