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That “Holy Father," with whom Jesus interceded for his disciples, is our only Safeguard. He is our very present help in trouble; and we have the same Advocate with him, that the Apostles had, even Jesus Christ the righteous. We shall be carried safely, comfortably and honourably through all our tribulations, if only we abide in the fellowship of the Father and of his Son Jesus Christ; and maintain a holy fellowship one with another. We shall be “ kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.”
DISCIPLES OF CHRIST TO BE IN THE WORLD,
BUT NOT OF THE WORLD.
JOHN xvii. 14-16.
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.
I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. The charge committed to the disciples; their character and their position in the world; together with the peculiar guardianship which they would need—are all distinctly mentioned in these words of the Saviour.
1. The charge committed to them, was, “The word of God :" both for their own edification, and for the instruction of others. “I have given them thy word.” A deposit of inestimable value; re
vealing the mind and will of the great, holy, unseen God; describing the laws of his government and providence; and, above all, discovering to a lost world the way of peace and acceptance with him.
Upon the Scriptures of the Old Testament, the discourses of Christ had frequently thrown new light: so that in this sense, Jesus might be said to have given the disciples “the word of God.” But over and above this, he had communicated, and by the Holy Ghost he intended yet further to communicate to them, enlarged and important views of divine truth: raising them and other believers, to a far greater height in their understanding of God's will, than ever had been the case since the fall of Man in Paradise. After the care of their own souls, the grand, public business of their lives would be this—« Preach the word.” (2 Tim. iv. 2.) How great the responsibilities of this charge! The disciples strongly felt it, when, some time after the day of Pentecost, they unanimously declared, “We will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts vi. 4.)
2. Their character and their position in the world are next mentioned. “ The world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”
In society at large, there always have been two descriptions of character : those who are “ of the world,” and those who are not of the world.” They who are of the world, may be known by their attachment to the things which are seen and which
are temporal. Wealth, possessions, pleasures, honours, earthly wisdom, and the favour of men, together with life prolonged for the enjoyment of these advantages—this is the worldling's portion. And he would fain enjoy it, to the exclusion of spiritual life and happiness. “God is not in all his thoughts :” he “layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich towards God.” Piety (he feels) would be somewhat of an interruption to his schemes of worldly happiness. On the other hand, they who are “not of the world,” are guided in all their pursuits, by a steadfast regard to the things which are not seen and which are eternal. They walk by faith, not by sight. While they do not neglect the common duties of life, they nevertheless make every thing bend to the interests of eternity. They 6 seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness;" believing that all other things shall be added to them, in such measure as may appear best to Him, whose is the earth and the fulness thereof.
One peculiar characteristic of such persons, is, that they feel themselves under the deepest obligations to their Redeemer. They account themselves to be “not their own :" they are “bought with a price ;” and are bound therefore, (with their own most hearty consent,) to glorify God in their body and in their spirit, which are God's.
Now they who are of the world, and those not of the world, are characters not only different, but contrary the one to the other. They are like two parties, travelling indeed on the same road, but in opposite directions. They not only cannot stop, to associate together on equal terms: but they hinder and resist one another. 66 Can two walk together, except they be agreed ?”
The Apostles, like their Lord, were placed in the fore-front of this warfare against the world, the flesh and the devil. « Love not the world," was their doctrine. And their doctrine was confirmed by their conduct; that is, by their strictness, their abstinence from every thing defiling, and their earnestness in rescuing sinners from the evil courses of the world. How could it be otherwise, than that the world should hate them? It hated Christ; and it will hate every one who follows Christ in his holy maxims, habits, and conversation.
3. Being in such a position, the disciples would need a peculiar guardianship: and for this our Lord offers up a special petition. It might have been supposed, indeed, that as they are so little suited for the world, and the world is so little suited for them, it had been best for them to be as soon as possible removed, and translated to a better life. But this was not the mind of our Lord. He says, “I pray not, that thou shouldest take them out of the world.” The Apostles had too important a vocation here. The world would become hopelessly corrupt without such men; they are “ the salt of the earth.”—Moreover, pious persons have their graces brought into livelier exercise, and
consequently improved, as they struggle through a world lying in wickedness. Our natural love of ease, combining with many other motives for wishing to pass through the world comfortably, might induce an ordinary man to spare himself, or to desire that God would spare him, and give him a post of comparatively quiet duties. Not so the disciples : not so, they who are likeminded with these champions for the truth. Others may 5 seek their own:” these 6 seek the things that are Jesus Christ's.”
But then they would encounter temptations and snares. The enemy will not endure that they shall molest his kingdom, without endeavouring in return to foil them. Therefore our Lord's petition to his Father, is, “ Keep them from the evil.” They are nearly the same words as those in our daily prayer, “ Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” The petition signifies, “ Preserve us from every snare in this present evil world; and especially from the arts and malice of the Evil One, who is the god of this world.” This, on behalf of the Apostles, would signify“ From pride and ambition; from sensuality ; from carnal policy; from timidity; from lukewarmness; from rashness; from impatience; from all false doctrine; from whatever may tarnish the glory of my Gospel, or weaken the nerve of a Christian soldier—from all these things, Holy Father, keep my poor, sinful, erring, unprotected followers : that through their means thy word may everywhere have free course and be glorified !”.