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giving " freely", what they had freely received, and making no claim upon the objects of their help beyond a willingness to receive it. And thus their mission, benevolent as it was, was also wiss; their Master having, by the rules He laid down, guarded it against any charge, either of want of patriotism, of one-sidedness
, or of ulterior motives of a questionable character. Such were the men, and such was their work ; and it was against these that the world's hatred was to be directed. How is this to be explained ?
The strange fact is not to be accounted for by asserting that the age in which the disciples lived was one of special depravity. Doubtless, that age was very corrupt, and the Jews in particular had sunk into a lamentable state of degradation. But there never was yet a period in the world's history in which men altogether failed to recognize their benefactors. Public gratitude is a virtue full of hardy endurance, and it has often been the almost solitary witness to a small remnant of an abiding conscience in the midst of the saddest immorality. As the bestowers of important material blessings, the disciples made their claim upon the justice as well as the thankfulness of the men of their day, and, in spite of the general depravity, we have no doubt that claim would have been met by high rewards but for some unexplained consideration which prevented this.
Nor is the fact to be accounted for by any peculiarity in the way in which the disciples worked. They had been endowed by their Lord with miraculous powers, and they wielded the forces of the invisible world, placed under human control for å purpose Christ had then in view. There was nothing in this agency sufficient to account for the antipathy shown to them. They laboured chiefly amongst a people whose whole history was leavened with the miraculous ; full of the old and wonderful tales of a past in which God had worked mighty deeds through His servants. The Jews had not advanced to that very profound knowledge of science which enables some very wise wen, in our day, to preach with a most refreshing dogmatism about the impossibility of miracles. It is true the sect of the Sadducees was in power, but the mass of the people still believed in a God and in the supernatural, and they still held to the notion that nature's laws, so called, were God's laws, and under His absolute control. The hatred with which the disciples were met, therefore, the expression of the popular suspicion that they were rash men, dealing flippantly with sacred things; or bad men, who had sold themselves to the devil; the conmon convictions of the age prevented such a suspicion as this ; and, therefore, anothe explanation of the phenomenon before us must be found.
Nor need we go far in our search ; a simple examination of the terms of our Lord's commission will give us all the information we want. “As ye go,” He says, “ preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” This was their first duty, the bigler part of their mission, to which the healing of diseases was subordinate. They understood this, and hence we find that, when by the Holy Spirit they were fully prepared for their work, they "went about everywhere preaching the Gospel.” They did, indeed, heal diseases of the body, but they did this mainly to prepare for themselves a way to heal the sicknesses of the soul. They made the physical evils they relieved the types of the spiritual necessities and infirmities the Gospel alone could meet
. The natural shadowed forth the spiritual. They cleansed lepers; but then they spoke of that fearful leprosy-sin, the plague-spot on the soul, the poison of its life, which separated it from God, even as the physical evil separated man from man; a terrible and hopeless disease, which only the great Physician could cure. They cast out devils which bad usurped authority over
man and made him their bondslave, with whom they made cruel sport ; but they also spoke of the passions and propensities which had withdrawn men from their allegiance to God and made them the slaves the Word and the Spirit of Christ. They opened blind eyes ; but they also told of a of Satan; evil powers, which but one voice could expel and but one Spirit counteractdarkness
which is not man's misfortune but his sin, and which makes him blind to truth, to goodness, to his highest interests, and to God; a blindness He alone could
remove who is "the light of the world.”. They restored power to palsied limbs; but they also spake of that fearful palsy which falls through sin upon the soul, and makes it powerless for good, so that man is as helpless as he is hopeless; a spiritual palsy He alone could remove who, by His Spirit, breathes His own life into the soul. They raised the dead; but then, too, they portrayed that other death in trespasses and in sins, which kills a man to present and future happiness, and overshadows eternity with the gloom of the second death and the terrors of the wrath of God. The secret of the hatred with which they were to be received lies here.
Had the disciples been content with the performance of the external part of their mission, there can be no doubt but that they would have been welcomed everywhere as noble benefactors of their kind; on all bands they would have received the blessings of the recipients of their healing help, and the world would have enshrined their names in lasting honour. But they were not thus content. They knew what their Master's commission involved ; they knew that He Himself had given them the example they should follow, for He, too, though He began by healing the bodies of men made this work subservient to the saving of their souls; they knew also what the wants of men required, and what an insignificant boon the physical blessing was, compared with the spiritual ; and, therefore, they preached the Gospel, and because they preached the Gospel they were hated. Their message was antagonistic to the world's carnality, selfishness, and sin ; for when, subsequently, under the fulness of the Spirit's teaching, they preached a complete Gospel through a crucified Christ, the truth they taught offended sinful natures in many ways. They could not speak of the vastness of God's love in the gift of Christ, without pointing out how little men deserved
, nay, how completely they had forfeited it. They could not tell of the mysterious agony in the garden and the shameful death on the tree, without showing what Divine justice was, and what, but for Christ, it would have exacted of guilty man. They could not urge faith in Christ, without making it obvious that there was Do room for boasting in the best of men, and that self-righteousness, in the best, was a delusion and a dream. They could not preach faith, except in connection with a repentance which should turn men away from sin to the love and practice of holiness, and for sinful natures this holiness bad no charm. And thus, at all points, did the disciples come into collision with sin, with vice, and with pride
, and the result of that clashing was the hatred which fell upon their devoted How fearful that hatred was, the history of the Apostolic Church abundantly shows. The Lord's prophecy of woe was fulfilled to the letter, and His disciples bitterly realized the meaning of His words
, “ Behold, I send
you forth as sheep in the midst No prudence of theirs shielded them from persecution, and no harmlessness was suficient to protect them from cruelty. Their history is written
that are blurred and blotted by tears and blood. See, for instance, what a story of woe is written by the greatest
apostle among them all. “Of the Jews,” he says, “ five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine wilderness, în perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings' often, in cold and nakedness.” (2 Cor. xi. 24–27.) All the first disciples, with perhaps one
exception, sealed their testimony with
their blood, and the story of those old days of Christian umorike reads like some tragedy in which' angels minister to fiends. How clearly does allthis reveal the inverterey of the opposition to truth in the unrenewed heart
, and how fearful an illustration of what the Word of God tells us of the enmity to Him in the" carnal mind.” Most surely that Word can never be charged with exaggeration by Opravel the secrets of his own heart.
If now we pass down from the apostolic times to our own, how stands the case Does the same sad phenomenon appear before us of Christian men engaged in the holiest and most loving of all missions, and yet met by the hatred of the world ? Le not the question take any one by surprise. We know full well the kind of remarl with which it will be met. It will be said the times have changed ; eighteet hundred years of Christian teaching and influence in the world have done their work it is only here and there that we find persecution now; in heathen lands, wher Christianity has to confront human depravity in its utmost lawlessness, and, if ir Christian lands at all, it is only as the result of the struggle between rival churche and sects. The world, it is said, owes much of its civilization to Christianity. Men passions are less fierce, their manners are more polished than of old, and they have in a great measure, learut to tolerate that which they nevertheless dislike Besides, persecution, in its direst forms, would hardly be possible now ; the secula power protects the spiritual interests of men ; and were the opponents of Christianit ever so wickedly disposed, they dare not overstep the barriers of law and publi sentiment.
We feel the force of all this. The Christian teaching of the past has had its effect; it has softened men's manners ; it has curbed their passions ; it has made the truth of Christ to be respected in civilized states; and it is not possible now for bad men to persecute with the violence they used during many dark ages. Yet, in the mids of all this advancement, certain great spiritual facts remain : the "carnal mind” i still
, as ever, at enmity with God; worldliness is still the law of the unregenerat heart ; self-righteousness and pride are still arrayed against the distinctive teaching of a gospel which treats all men as undeserving, and offers its boon as an act of grac to the best of men; conscience is still, as ever, bartered for convenience, and th sublime doctrines of Christian morality are still repugnant to sin-loving souls. In the presence of these facts there can be but little doubt that the grounds of the old antagonism between the world and Christianity remain, and that, however modified that antagonism may be in the modes it adopts, it still remains as the obstacle to be met wherever Christian teaching and Christian life approximate to their original standard. And, indeed, there are not wanting practical proofs of this even in the land in which we live. There is much persecution endured by the humble follower of the cross to-day, and facts night be accumulated to prove that the faithfu Christian must still be a persecuted disciple. This is the lesson tauglit by many home in which a believer finds his worst foes; by many a factory and many a workshop in which the name of Christ is insulted in the persons of His despised disciples ; an by many a village and hamlet in which the consistent Christian has to endure negled and poverty as the price of his allegiance to his Lord.
We speak of a modified opposition to Christianity; but we may do so too though lessly, and in forgetfulness of that which should shame and grieve us. For,
truth much of the Christianity of our day has lost its old thoroughness.
In doctrine has conceded too much to the irreverent and sceptical philosophy of the age, and i life it has lost too much of stern simplicity. Concessions have thus been made which, whilst they have left the world essentially where it was, have brought dowi the professing Church too near to its own low standard; and as the Church has exacte less, the world has hated it less too. Let each of us bring this matter homet bis own conscience, and, in the light God gives in holiest moments, learn that is better to be hated with the first disciples than to be tolerated with the half-hearte and the compromising.
Let us, however, guard against some mistakes. It is not always hatred for Christ sake that professing Christians have to endure. There is much opposition excite on other grounds and for other causes. The words, “ for my name's sake," at once both the explanation and the limitation of the circumstances Christ foretok If, for instance, the disciples had taken narrower views of their mission than thos Christ Himself sanctioned, preachivg
a gospel that had nothing to do with the tem
poral wants and sorrows of men, they would have been opposed on the ground of their want of sympathy and love, and men would have rejected a teaching which did not recommend itself to them by the kindness and practical devotedness of those who propounded it. Or, again, if the disciples had been men whose lives were inconsistent with the losty professions they made—all opposition to the truth itself apart, they
would have been scorned as hypocritical. Or, lastly, if they had shown any bigotry, " and had forgotten the essentials of their mission to preach each one his own peculiar
views, the world would have opposed them for their selfish narrow-mindedness; and in L any of these cases the hatred incurred would have arisen, not for Christ's sake, but
for something for which Christ's name was not responsible. And so, in our day, there is much obloquy cast upon professing Christians, of which we dare not say it is altogether undeserved. Two or three cautions, then, need to be observed.
1. Let us see to it that our Christianity is as comprehensive as Christ makes it. # He came to save the world from moral and spiritual ruin, and knowing, as He did, the B value of souls, in view of the solemn eternity which awaits them all. He accomplished
the stupendous sacrifice by which redemption was purchased for all men, even for the worst. Whilst, however, His self-sacrifice was the highest manifestation of His love,
it was an exhibition of a love which was not partial, but all-comprehensive. All · Deed, of whatever kind, made its appeal to His beart, and never in vain. Spiritual it wants, indeed, were recognized as the greatest and the most urgent, but material
wants were real and pressing too ; hence He who withheld not the greatest boon, also did not withhold the least ; the love that was equal to the redemption of men's souls was also of necessity equal to the healing of men's bodies. Just as the apostle, in speaking of the Father's love, argues from
the greater to the lesser, and says, " He that spared not His own Son but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things ?” so we may argue for the love of Christ, and say, He who could do the most for man would also freely do the least. And He ever did. No sorrowing heart went to Him in vain. He had strength in store for the weakest and joy for the saddest.
“ None in vain for healing came,
All the Saviour freely blessed.” Nor was Christ's course less wise than it was loving. He knew how needful it was that a way should be made to men's spiritual needs through their material wants, and He also knew how slow men are to believe in the higher help whilst the lower fails. Thas He proved that He could forgive sins by bidding a palsied man take up his bed and walk. “And such, too, is the way in which we, in our measure, must act. Christ here, as everywhere else, has left us an example. Whilst,
therefore, we aim at the highest results of our Christian mission, let us not forget the lowest, for it is often by these that we rise step by step to those. Those have always been credited as heaven's truest messengers who have been at the same time earth's best helpers
. Many an error in doctrine is kept alive by outward acts of kindness, and many a true creed is put in the background through lack of brotherly charity.' As we have opportunity, let us do the lesser good to all men, remembering that we should not pause there, but that we should seek through it to do the greater good ; and so let men, by seeing our good works," glorify the Father of whom we speak, and to whom we would lead them, hy accepting a message of truth which comes with all the attestations of 2. Let us se:k a perfect consistency between our outward life and our professed creed. Not, of course, as an immediate attainment, nor even, perhaps, to be perfectly realized here, but as a progressive growth. Let
the gospel of our lives, thougla never so perfect as the gospel of our lips, never run in manifest contradiction to it. Let us remember that the world, in its rashness and ignorance, reflects back upon our religion the faults which exist only in ourselves, and let us learn to distinguish between enmity for our own sakes and enmity for Christ's sake. We do not look to our Loliuess for immunity from hatred and persecution; our text forbids this; but for the
sake of our peace we are bound to see to it that what men hate in us is what they hated in that Saviour whom they put to death, though His life was free from stain.
3. Let us never sacrifice the essential in Christian truth to the subordinate. This is done whenever the sect is put above the Church, or the rite before the cross. Both the sect and the rite derive their value from their conformity to truth, and he is a coward as well as an unfaithful man who will not, when necessary, defend them, and even suffer for them; but the world's first need is the Gospel, and to give it instead of that, ritualism and sectarianism, is to offer it stones for bread. Give the essential first, and the subordinate will follow. Many a man is hated for his bigotry and exclusiveness, who might else have been respected for his Christianity. It is necessary, therefore, that we should look carefully into these things, lest we should too readily class ourselves among the “persecuted for righteousness sake,” and unfairly grasp at a blessing not yet our own.
For the true Christian, however, in one or other of its many forms, there will be hatred still. But, for present comfort, let us remember that it is hatred for the highest cause, and for the holiest sake-Christ's cause and Christ's sake. It is hatred, too, which, like that He endured, will lead to our glory and salvation. He that endureth to the end shall be saved ; " " if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.” The crown of thorns here will be transformed into a crown of glory there. Till then, God help us to hope and endure.
But what of the hating world ? Its case, indeed, is sad in the extreme. Its hatred reveals its character, and portends its doom. It is Christ who is persecuted in the Christian, and Christ, one day, will be the Judge. Worldling, cease thy hatred, ere it bear its bitterest fruits ; turn in love and penitence to the Lamb of God now, lest thou flee to thy endless despair from His avenging wrath!
THE SCRIPTURAL RULE WITH REFERENCE TO OFFENCES
'It might, perhaps, be reasonably expected, that amongst Christians, the disciples, the friends, the imitators of Christ, disputes and offences would not be found; and this expectation would, indeed, be realized, if all those who profess to believe in, and love, and obey the Saviour, acted consistently with the spirit and vows involved in such a profession. Two things, however, may be borne in mind, to show us why a different state of things often exists. One is, that in the visible Church of Christ there are many that are not His—who have a name to live, but are dead. The other is, that even true Christians are not already perfect; that, although they are pressing towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, and are going on unto perfection, they have not
yet fully apprehended that for which they have been apprehended of Christ.
The Lord Jesus Christ has not left us without a rule for the regulation and satisfactory disposal of such offences when they arise. This rule will be found recorded in Matthew xviii. 15–17 inclusive: “ Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone : if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the Church : but if he neglect to hear the Church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.”
These words of our Saviour, while they