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but as one of difficulty. He had told them what they were to expect, that they might not be offended when their trials came. And then He goes on to specify what the nature of these trials would be; “They shall put you out of the synagogues,' that is, they shall excommunicate you. They shall treat you as they did the blind man, who was restored to sight, and men will expel you from their company.
He even speaks of their being put to death for His sake; · Yea, the time cometh, when whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.' Christ's sheep have ever been accounted as "sheep for the slaughter.' The Twelve Apostles were al of them put to death, excepting St. John. They were willing martyrs in His cause, and boldly sealed the truth with their blood. And their persecutors moreover fancied they were thus doing God ser vice.' We have a striking instance of this in the case of Saul, when he did all in his power to seize and destroy the people of God. Hear how he himself spoke some years after when God had changed his heart, “I verily thought within myself that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem ; and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priest; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme: and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.'
Our Lord, in the third verse, accounts for the bitterness which His enemies would feel towards them ; • These things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father nor me.' That was the spring from which all this persecuting spirit would flow—the blindness of their hearts. They knew not God; they knew not Christ; and therefore they could not love Him. And if they hated the Master, they would hate the servant also.
So it is, and so it will be to the end of time. 'If they have persecuted me (says Christ), they will also persecute you ;' 'If they have called the Master of the house
Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of His household !'
Let us not expect then better treatment than our Lord met with. Let us not hope to pass through this world unassailed. If we are faithful, and true, and earnest, we shall surely be found fault with. “If we were of the world, the world would love his own; but because we are not of the world, but Christ hath chosen us out of the world, therefore the world hateth us.'
Happy those who are willing to bear the cross, who are so bold and decided in the service of their Lord, who have so much of the mind of Christ, that the enmity of ungodly men is stirred up by their devotedness! They are happy, for Christ Himself declares so; 'Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven.'
Our Gospel portion closes with these words; But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them.'
Not many weeks, or even days, had passed away, when the disciples had plain proofs that their Lord had spoken but too truly. A storm of persecution soon gathered around them, and fell upon them with tremendous force. And if Jesus had not told them what would happen, they would have been taken by surprise ; their faith would have been greatly shaken ; and the shock would have been too great for them to bear.
As it was, they remembered His words, and were comforted. Ah, thought they, as one and another was seized, and dragged before councils and rulers, did not our Lord tell us that we should thus suffer for Him? They would call to mind His very words, and how He had graciously warned them that such would be the case. Perhaps at that fearful moment when St. Stephen saw himself surrounded by his cruel murderers, these words gave him confidence; and he thought within himself, My Saviour knows all, and He will help
When St. Paul's feet were put in the
stocks at Philippi, or when the Jews were ready to tear him to pieces like wild beasts at Ephesus, the Saviour's words must have come before him in all their truthfulness; • These things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father nor me.'
And so in the time of our heaviest trial, whatever it may be, and whenever it may come, it will be well to feel that every pang was foreseen by our Lord, and that He is able either to give us deliverance, or else to uphold us under it.
Let us trust Him then. Let us leave all in His hands. Let us feel assured not only that He knows all we suffer, but that He is ready to carry us safely through every trial as it comes.