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
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
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.