Man's Treatment of God's People
James Smith, 1859
"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you!" John 15:18-19
Such is the testimony of the Lord Jesus.
Real Christians have never been favorites of the world—and while it continues what it is, they never can be. "Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you." 1 John 3:13
Nor can the pure and simple gospel be pleasant to the world, because it lays the sinner in the dust, and exalts God as supreme and sovereign. Let us not be surprised then, if we hear worldlings speak against the gospel, and traduce the Lord's people; for what the Romans told Paul is in a good measure true in the present day, "For concerning this sect, we are aware that it is spoken against everywhere." Acts 28:22
This sect originated with Jesus, the hated Nazarene, who came into the world for its good, and to save his people from their sins. He gathered around him many—but they were principally the poor and unlearned. There was nothing in them, or about them, to recommend them to the proud and sensual world. They were begotten of God, born again, and made new creatures in Christ. They . . .
embraced the truth he taught,
observed the precepts that he gave,
and copied the example that he set.
They loved his person, were concerned for his glory, and identified themselves with his interests.
Their creed consisted pretty much in these facts: that man is a lost sinner, that salvation by works is impossible, and therefore it must be all of grace—or not at all. That the Lord Jesus came into the world to take the sinner's place, fulfill the law in the sinner's stead, and die as the sinner's substitute. That on account of what Jesus has done and suffered—pardon, peace, and reconciliation are preached to sinners, and whoever believes is promised everlasting life. That believers should profess faith in Christ, observe his ordinances, and make his will the rule of their lives. That they should love one another, serve one another, and if need be, die for each other. That believing in Jesus, doing his will, and seeking to glorify his name, they secure to themselves an inheritance which is incorruptible, undefiled, and that fades not away, reserved in heaven for them. That as Christians, they should show their conformity to Christ, by loving sinners, doing good even to their enemies, and seeking by all means their salvation. By such hopes they were animated, by such rules they walked, and at such objects they aimed—and yet they were everywhere spoken against.
They themselves were spoken against, because they were generally poor and unlearned; and because they poured contempt on the luxuries, pride, and honors of this world. They were treated as the offscouring of all things, unfit for society, unfit to live. Everyone felt that he might reproach, revile, and speak against a 'Nazarene'. For them, often, there was no protection, no law but to condemn them; and they suffered the loss of all things, and multitudes of them of life itself.
And yet, like Israel in Egypt, the more they were persecuted, the more they multiplied and grew; until at length they spread not only over the Roman empire—but nearly over the world. And, had they retained the simplicity of their lives, the spirituality of their minds, and the correctness of their creed—they would no doubt have encircled the globe. But at length they were courted by royalty, loaded with wealth, and became intoxicated with worldly honors, and then their glory departed. They drank into the spirit of the world, conformed to its maxims and customs, sought its approbation and applause—and so fell from their exalted station, and lost their real dignity.
Their doctrines were spoken against. They insisted upon the fact, that there is but one God, that in the Divine nature there are three persons, and that each person is truly, naturally, and eternally God. That man has sinned, and God is bound to punish, in order to manifest his justice, and maintain the honor of his law. That there is no escaping the punishment of sin—but by an atonement, for "without shedding of blood—there is no remission of sin." That no atonement could be acceptable to God, except it were infinitely meritorious; and consequently that no sinner could atone for his own sins, or redeem his brother, giving unto God a ransom for him. That in order to meet the case, God sent his own Son into the world, who taking human nature into union with his divine nature—undertook to answer for man's conduct, atone for man's sin, and suffer all the penal consequences of man's guilt.
Consequently, that there is salvation in none other—but Jesus; by nothing—beside the perfect work of Jesus. MAN, therefore, must be pardoned as a criminal, for another's sake; must be justified as ungodly, through another's righteousness; must be sanctified as a sinner, through another's agency; must, in a word, be saved as a pauper, wholly and altogether of grace!
Such doctrines, laying as they do, man in the dust, and exalting the Lord alone, were highly offensive to the proud and haughty heart of man, and greatly excited his animosity and disdain. It became necessary, therefore, to suffer for them—OR to dilute and accommodate them to the prejudices of the carnal mind. For a time, the former course was pursued, and the preachers and professors were driven out from human society, wandering about in sheep skins and goat skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented; or were cruelly put to death.
But while the Nazarenes suffered, their doctrines spread and prospered; and multitudes became obedient unto the faith. But at length professors began to compromise with the world, to mix the water of human ceremonies—with the wine of gospel ordinances; to mingle the doctrines of the heathen—with the doctrines of Christ; and the result was, the sword of the Spirit lost its edge, and the world gave up its opposition to what was now become another gospel; and the sect that had been spoken against everywhere, with the exception of a few, was swallowed up in a worldly church. The crown was lost, the honor was forfeited, and punishment and rejection followed.
But there were always some who had not defiled their garments, who would not mingle among the heathen, or conform to their ways. Some who cleaved to Jesus, held fast his doctrine, and sought to do him honor. These were the objects of hatred, not to the heathen only—but to the worldly church, and these have been called to suffer for the truth, more or less.
There are still some, who, like the ancient sect of the Nazarenes, are spoken against everywhere. They will not swim with the stream. They will not compromise their Master's honor, give up their Master's truth, or change their Master's ordinances. According to the light they have—they walk; and they rejoice to exalt the Savior, humble the sinner, and proclaim salvation, all of grace. Spoken against they are—they will be; but while they maintain an honest conscience, enjoy the peace of God, and experience the comforts of the Holy Spirit; they can rejoice that they are counted worthy to suffer shame for His dear name.
Reader, do you belong to this sect? Is there anything in your religion that is distasteful to the world, anything that draws forth its opposition, or excites its contempt? The carnal mind is still enmity against God, and if we are godlike, that enmity will manifest itself against us! If we believe Christ's gospel as it is to be found in his word; if we copy Christ's example, as set before us in the gospel; if we testify against the world, that the works of it are evil, and call upon it to repent, as Christ did, we shall soon be hated by the world! We shall be ranked with those who would turn the world upside down. We shall be called enthusiasts, or hypocrites, or saints, or by some name intended to express contempt.
But if we be reproached for the sake of Christ, happy are we; for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon us; on their part he is evil spoken of—but on our part he is glorified. "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted!" 2 Timothy 3:12. If, therefore, our religion is palatable to the world, if it awakens no unpleasant remarks, if it calls forth no opposition, if it occasions us no loss in our reputation, or property, or social standing—there is some reason to suspect whether it be genuine and apostolic! One thing is clear, account for it how we may, we do not belong to that sect that is spoken against everywhere.