Persecution

By James Smith

I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. John 17:14

The more one thinks of Jesus, or reads His holy word, the more one is struck with His wondrous love and amazing condescension. Everything in Christ is wonderful; and everything done by him is wonderful too. O that the Holy Spirit would unfold to us more and more of His glory, and give us to enjoy more and more of His love! All he received from His Father, He gave to His people; and gave to them, in order to render them holy and happy in this unhappy world. Hence, addressing His Father, He says, “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world”

Notice first, The communication: “I have given them thy word.”
The gospel comes as directly from God as the law. In giving the law, God came down in terrible majesty on Mount Sinai, and spake the words of the law, making even Moses exceedingly fear and quake. But in giving the gospel, he sent his well-beloved Son, to speak to us with man’s tongue, in words of tenderness and love. Jesus committed the gospel to His disciples as a trust, which they were carefully to keep; as a light, which they were widely to diffuse; and as a testimony, which they were to bear. This gospel of the kingdom is to be published in all nations for a testimony; and then shall the end come. The gospel is given to us, that knowing it, we may profess it; that professing it, we may preach it; that preaching it, we may enjoy it; that enjoying it, we may work with it; that working with it, we may be sanctified by it; that being sanctified by it, we may war with it; and that conquering our enemies with it, we may hold communion with God through it.

Then, The danger or trial: “The world hath hated them.”
There is in the world a bitter hatred to godliness; for as fallen man cannot bear to stand in the presence of God, so he cannot endure to look upon His image. Every true disciple of Christ is more or less hated by the world. The world hates their persons, as professing Christ; their principles, as preferring Christ ; their profession, as openly espousing the cause of Christ; and their practices, as being a copy of the life of Christ. The more we resemble Christ, the greater will be the hatred of the world. “If the world hate you,” said Jesus, “ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” The heart of the world is full of the bitterest enmity against God; and just in proportion as we resemble Him, obey Him, and take part with Him, will the world hate us. So the apostle testifies: “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” Until Satan is bound, and man is reconciled to God, there will be hatred in the world to the godly, and to godliness.

Also, The reason or occasion of it: they receive God’s word and act upon it.
This is offensive to carnal reason, and opposed to all vice. They are not of the world. They differ from it in nature — being born of God, they are spiritual; they differ from it in worship, for they worship God in spirit and in truth; they differ from it in spirit, for they have the Spirit of Chris; and they differ from it in behaviour, as they imitate God as dear children. They are living testimonies against it, being weaned from its wealth and turned from its wickedness. They are not of the world, even as Christ is not of the world.

We must not expect its good word; and if it grows very friendly, there is reason to fear that we are becoming like it. If we have its good word, it is not the best sign. Our Lord said, “Woe be unto you when all men speak well of you.”

The saints’ privilege is to be delivered from the world. This was God’s purpose. For this Jesus died. This is sure to be effected by the Spirit’s work. We are unfitted for the world, lose our relish for the carnal pleasures of the world, and are called to come out from the world and to be separate. The saint’s duty is, to be dead to the world. Jesus was dead to the world; and by virtue of our union to Him and fellowship with Him, we should be dead to the world too. Paul was crucified to the world, and the cross of Jesus crucified the world to him; and just so it should be with us. Christ highly respects those who suffer with him. He has sympathy, a fellow-feeling with them. He remembers how he suffered in the world and from the world once, and therefore He looks upon and succours those who suffer now.

Hatred to the saints is the very image of the devil. Satan hates God supremely. He hates the Lord Jesus bitterly. He hates all who love Christ, and just in proportion as they love Christ. The same spirit he has infused into the world, his image he has stamped upon the world. Just in proportion as we dislike godly men, and hate gospel holiness, do we resemble Satan. True religion is a crime in the world’s opinion. False religions the world will tolerate, approve, applaud, embrace, and support; but true religion it hates, despises, and persecutes. And the purer and the more scriptural our religion is, the more criminal and offensive will it appear in the eyes of the world.

The world in the Church and the world out of the Church will hate the godly. The world and the Church are pretty much mixed together in our country in the present day, and therefore certain forms of persecution have ceased. Instead of the world being converted and brought into the Church, the Church is converted and become mixed up with the world .But though there is an amalgamation, if there is any spiritual life, there can be no union — there can be no fellowship. For what fellowship hath light with darkness? As it always was, it is now, and will be: “He that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.”

O for grace to live distinct from the world, unlike the world, that the hatred of the world may prove our likeness to Jesus! Spirit of Jesus, make me more like my beloved Lord, and enable me to count the hatred of the world for Christ’s sake my glory. I would not have that world which hated and crucified my Lord love me: I would rather have fellowship with Christ in His sufferings.

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