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THE BIGOTRY OF THE ENEMIES OF THE
John xvi. 1-4.
These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended.
They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.
And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.
But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you. Our Lord, being tenderly concerned for his disciples, desired to fortify their minds beforeband against every kind of opposition which they might have to encounter. Some persons, having for a time walked with Christ, have suddenly become so much annoyed by the unforeseen enmity of the world, that they have turned back. Our Lord wants not timid or unprepared followers: and therefore he mingles plain warnings together with his consolations; faithfully telling his disciples what hardships are to be suffered for his Name's sake.
While Jesus was with the eleven, there was less necessity for his describing to them this enmity. He endured it for them : and they were cheered and protected by his presence.
But when they came to bear the brunt alone, they would need the most powerful consolations which the Holy Spirit
could afford to them: and no small comfort would it be to them to find, that their sufferings were of the exact nature foretold by their Master.
How wicked is every kind of enmity against Christ and his Gospel ! But most of all unreasonable is that opposition, which assumes the cloke of zeal for religion. This—far harder to bear than the open hatred of the ungodly—this it was, which Jesus predicts shall be the lot of the Apostles.
“They will put you out of the synagogues :" as if they were holy, and you destitute of all piety, not worthy to be admitted as worshippers of God in the same sanctuary with them! Thus they will endeavour to make you a scorn, and even a terror to your neighbours; possibly to some of your dearest relatives.
Their rage, moreover, will mount to such a pitch, that “the time cometh that whosoever killeth you shall think that he doeth God service.” Desperate madness indeed! They will make havock of you, as wolves falling on a flock of sheep: and all under pretence of zeal for God !
It may be useful to see, in a particular case, the truth of this prediction of our Lord. Let us remember the character of St. Paul, before his conversion; when he was Saul, the blaspheming persecutor. He perfectly fulfilled this prediction, being one of the earliest and most conspicuous of those, who beyond measure persecuted the Church of God and wasted it. When he came to know what had been his real character, he frankly acknowledges,
“I verily thought within myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus.” Now we ask - How could he be so sincere, and so criminal ?
This is a mystery which perplexes thousands. Many persons are fond of saying, that sincerity is all in all: so that if a man be but (as they call it) sincere, they think him right, even though he may carry out his views into gross absurdities and most injurious actions. It is necessary for us, therefore, to make a clear distinction between Scriptural sincerity, and the sincerity of the fierce bigot.
What, then, is genuine Scriptural sincerity?
The only sincerity pleasing in the sight of God, is that characterized by the following marks: namely, Diligent inquiry into the will of God; Hearty endeavour to do his will; and, Humble prayer to him for his grace to assist our inquiries and endeavours.
This Sincerity will lead a man to receive the Gospel: for he will find the humbling and purifying doctrines of Christ to be the only doctrines suited to the wants of a guilty, weak and perishing sinner. This was the kind of sincerity, to which St. Paul was brought after his conversion.
On the other hand, the sincerity of Bigotry is of a very different stamp. Here we find a zeal, indeed : but it is a zeal, not only not according to knowledge, but likewise not tending to holiness, and not flowing from the spirit of prayer. It is the zeal of much spiritual ignorance, proud self
sufficiency, and daring self-will. It is very frequently to be found in the self-righteous. And what is it a zeal for? Many, alas ! did they but know themselves, would be constrained to acknowledge, "My own sect and party is my Religion :” others would have to confess, “ My own opinion is my Religion :” and not a few might say, My temper is my Religion.”
To a devout mind, the opposition of the careless and ungodly is grating enongh: but a Christian is far more deeply distressed by the bitter enmity of formalists. How shocking to behold “the wrath of man” thrusting itself forward in religious matters: to see bigots, very often men of flagitious character, trampling under foot the meek and conscientious followers of Jesus !
The disciples, when their turn came, would remember that Jesus had told them beforehand of these things. Would they not also remember, that, within a short time after his so telling them, even He was seized by ruffians, and led away, “ as a lamb to the slaughter;" meek, silent, and unresisting!
RENEWED PROMISE OF THE COMFORTER.
John xvi. 5—7.
But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you
Whither goest thou ? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart.
Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that
I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. It was a mournful prospect, which lay before the disciples. At once to lose so kind a Master, and to face so rough a world, was more than they could bear to think of. Jesus perceived their disquietude; and now rouses their attention by a word of gentle remonstrance.
He tells them that he is departing to the Father, who had sent him on the mission which he had now nearly accomplished. And yet their curiosity had not been so far moved, as that any of them should press him with the inquiry, “Whither goest thou ?”
At the beginning of their conversation in the guest-chamber, it is true, Peter had asked, in a somewhat abrupt manner, “ Lord, whither goest thou?" But receiving at the moment such an answer as gave another turn to the conversation, this disciple and the rest of them had dropped all further inquiry, and heard many significant remarks from Jesus, without once being excited to follow up the subject. How was this? Were their hopes of a temporal kingdom dashed and disappointed ? Or had grief swallowed up every other passion ? Or may it have been with them, as it is too often with ourselves ? -as soon as the conversation rises in spirituality, the mind begins to flag, so that we find it difficult to pursue the track, in which a superior spirit is leading the way. So dull, so languid and drowsy-nay, so carnal and stupid is our nature, in apprehending things eminently spiritual !