Consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
I. THE EVIL TO BE GUARDED AGAINST. "Lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds." The Christian is in danger of weariness in the course which he is called to run. This weariness springs from faintness of soul. When the heart loses its faith and hope and enthusiasm, the step soon loses its elasticity and vigor and speed. And this may arise:
1. From the difficulties of the course. The path of the Christian is not always through green pastures or beside still waters. It is often bleak and rugged, and mountainous. It is marked by trials of various kinds, which sorely strain his faith and patience and fortitude. And there are enemies who would delay his progress sometimes by subtle solicitations to ease and enjoyment, and at other times by opposing his efforts or obstructing his way. "And the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way."
2. From the slowness of the apparent progress. There are times when the Christian runner seems to make little or no advancement in the race. Notwithstanding reading and meditation, aspiration and resolution, prayer and effort, we are still so hampered by imperfections and sins, so deficient in holiness and usefulness, and so little like our Lord, that at times all that we desire and do seems to be vain, and our souls wax faint within us.
3. From a false or exaggerated estimate of the value of feeling in the Christian life. There are those who are prone to test their spiritual condition and progress by the state of their feelings. If their emotions are tender and confiding and cheerful, they conclude that they are in the true course and moving onward to the goal; but if their hearts seem unfeeling, or cold, or cheerless, they doubt whether they are in the course at all, or ever started aright in the race, and so they faint in their souls and flag in their footsteps. Feelings fluctuate; they ebb and flow; they rise and fall. But we run this race, not by feeling, but by faith. We are saved, not by our emotions, however delightful they may be, but by our confidence in our Lord and Savior.
4. From neglect of the means by which hope and courage are maintained. If prayer be neglected; if meditation upon the spiritual and eternal, upon the soul and truth and God, cease; if the testimony of the "great cloud of witnesses" be unregarded; if "the Leader and Perfecter of the faith" be not contemplated, - the soul will faint and the limbs become weary, and the attainment of the prize will be jeopardized, How, then, is the evil to be guarded against?
II. THE SAFEGUARD AGAINST THIS EVIL. "Consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself," etc. The meaning of the word rendered "consider" is not easily expressed in English. Analogize, compare, think on him and on his sufferings by way of comparison with ours. The "contradiction of sinners" should not be confined to words, but indicates the opposition of the wicked against him. A comparison of what he thus suffered and the trials we have to bear will preserve the soul from faintness, and the steps from faltering.
1. He suffered more than his followers are called to suffer. He was assailed by slander, by contradictions, by ensnaring questions. He was betrayed by one disciple, denied by another, and forsaken by all in the time of his trial. He was blasphemed, scourged, derided, and crucified. Think, moreover, how intensely susceptible to suffering he must have been, since he was untainted in his body and perfectly holy in his soul.
2. Yet his sufferings did not cause him to falter in his course, or to turn aside from it. Resolutely he went forward on his path of suffering and sacrifice; knowing the shame and anguish that awaited him, yet still he steadfastly pursued his appointed way -
"Until the perfect work was done, 3. In this he is an Example to us. "If, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye shall take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For hereunto were ye called; because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example," etc. (1 Peter 2:20-23). Consideration of him and of his sufferings makes our severest sufferings seem small, and saves us from weariness and discouragement in the Christian course. "Lord, should my path through suffering lie,
3. In this he is an Example to us. "If, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye shall take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For hereunto were ye called; because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example," etc. (1 Peter 2:20-23). Consideration of him and of his sufferings makes our severest sufferings seem small, and saves us from weariness and discouragement in the Christian course.
"Lord, should my path through suffering lie,
Consider Him that endured such contradiction.
I. LOOK AT THE PICTURE WHICH THE APOSTLE HERE EXHIBITS. It is the picture of Him who endured such contradiction of sinners. It is the picture of a mighty Being, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It represents Him, however, as man. It represents Him as suffering contradiction, that is, animosity, hatred, and persecution. It represents Him as suffering all this from sinners. It represents the suffering as being in every respect intense, aggravated, and indescribable. Let us seek to fill our minds with a sense of what He underwent.
1. The sufferings of Christ were Divinely appointed and tremendously severe. They were not the mere natural evils which are shed upon us, all in consequence of Adam's disobedience. They were singular, peculiar, and transcendental. They had no like, no parallel. They were infinite sufferings.
2. The subject of Christ's suffering is deserving of consideration because, had He chosen, He could have avoided them. But He did not so choose. He did not spare Himself. He gave Himself up to death for us all.
3. Again, in estimating the contradiction of sinners endured by Christ, let us remember that He was, through out the whole of it, actuated by disinterested motives.
4. Once more, Jesus did not deserve the punishment that was inflicted upon Him.
5. Lastly, the nature of Christ's endurance will be still more strikingly manifested when it is recollected that it was borne for the sake of those who inflicted it.
II. Let us now speak of THE LESSONS CONVEYED BY THE PICTURE on which we have been meditating.
1. By looking to the afflictions of Christ we derive materials for encouragement, because we could not of ourselves do what Christ has done for us. We may endure contradiction of sinners, as Christ Himself did; but ours will never be such contradiction as His.
2. Again, by looking to the tribulations of Christ we derive materials of encouragement, because we should not expect to be treated better than He Himself was.
3. By looking to the tribulations of Christ we derive materials of encouragement, because, as our great Model and Exemplar, He has exhibited to us a specimen of patient endurance and submission under the most dreadful inflictions.
4. By looking to the tribulations of Christ we derive materials of encouragement, because we find that, as our great High Priest and Redeemer, He is able to sympathise with us in all our afflictions.
5. Lastly, by looking to the tribulations of Christ we derive materials of encouragement, because, as He triumphed over all His enemies, so shall we if we be partakers of His salvation. Christians are one with their Redeemer.
(Alex. Nisbet.)Him that endured" — in keeping before us the personality of the Sufferer. But we shall only rightly consider the Sufferer Himself when we keep in mind the purpose He had in His endurance. He suffers for sinners, as well as from sinners; and He suffers for the direct purpose of removing the contradiction which He endures — to take away sins. And all profitable contemplation of the sufferings of Christ ought to have in it the desire and willingness to have its purpose fulfilled in us. In considering Him we must keep in mind His faultlessness; the entire absence of any justification for the contradiction. He was not only faultless, but good. Although graced with the perfect qualities of human virtue, and rich in the beneficent works of goodness, He endured the contradiction of sinners. Remember, too, that within, and perfectly conjoined to, that holy humanity, was all the fulness of God. In every act of endurance there is the manhood which endures as human, and there is the deeper endurance of God underlying it all. The word "contradiction" is here used to include the whole of the opposition which our Lord experienced from sinners. The Cross was only the climax of a long and varied course of antagonism out of which it sprung, without which it would not have been reached, and by which alone it can be understood and duly estimated. The first contradiction Christ endured was in the unbelief which met Him. He was the True One and the Truth; but they affirmed Him either deceived or a deceiver — utterly untrustworthy. But this contradiction advanced to open condemnation. He was said to be "a gluttonous man," &c. They said His power over evil spirits was due to a league between Himself and the prince of the devils. They charged Him with being the enemy of God and man, a blasphemer and an evildoer. Remember who it was against whom all these false and bitter things were spoken. Consider Him, and see His brave endurance. And there was an element in all this contradiction which added to its painfulness. It was not the result, in general, of a mistake, which could be excused by the Sufferer. It had its root in personal hate (John 15:24). And He knew the cause of that hate. It came out of a conscious moral antipathy. His pure, holy, humble, unselfish life made them conscious of the unreality and hollowness of their assumed excellence. And He endured this hate — He who combined in His own person all that is gracious in God and lovable in man. This antagonism and hate could not fail to proceed to acts of violence if occasion should arise. "They took up stones to stone Him"; and, think you, was it not as if He felt the blows of hardness of heart hurled at Him as He preserved Himself from this attempt upon His life? To Christ the spiritual was not less real than the physical; and in every infliction of suffering and wrong upon Him by the hands of wicked men He felt the spirit of the acts — the sin of the world — going right down deep into His soul. Yes, the painful pressure of the crown of thorns, the piercing of nails and the anguish of the body, were means through which He bore in Himself the contradiction of sinners and of sin. One point more: This endurance of the contradiction of sinners was out of consideration to them. He might have saved Himself, and have made them to feel His contradiction against themselves. But He suffered Himself, instead of making them to suffer. His consideration for them was grounded in love — love to them and to us. In love He endured seeing them the opposite of that which He could love; endured receiving from them the reverse of what He had a right to expect, the opposite of that which His coming had made possible. If He could have hated and despised those who contradicted Him, it would have been less painful to His spirit to endure the contradiction. But the more He loved us, the more bitter became every experience, the more pointed and painful every act of wrong. "Consider Him who endured," etc., and consider Him, with this fact in mind, that in thus enduring He was exhibiting and putting forth His gracious power to save us from sinning against Him. The purpose of His Cross is to reconcile us and all things to Himself; to bring us to harmony of mind and life with Him; to destroy our contradiction by enduring it.
(R. Vaughan, M. A.)
(M. G. Pearse.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
The Christian.Li Cha Mi, a Chinese preacher, was nearly killed by robbers during the excitement against foreigners, in 1872. At a subsequent conference, he said; "You have all heard of my sufferings during the past few months. I wish to say that these sufferings were very slight. It was easy to endure pain when I could feel that I bore it for Christ. It is wonderful — I cannot explain it. When attacked by the robbers, and beaten almost to death, I felt no pain. Their blows did not seem to hurt me at all. Everything was bright and glorious. Heaven seemed to open, and I thought I saw Jesus waiting to receive me. It was beautiful. I have no words to describe it. Since that time I seem to be a new man. I now know what it is to 'love not the world.' My affections are set on things above. Persecutions trouble me not. I forget all my sorrows when I think of Jesus. I call nothing on earth my own. I find that times of trial are best for me. When all is quiet and prosperous, I grow careless and yield to temptation, but when persecutions come, then I fly to Christ. The fiercer the trial, the better it is for my soul."
Lest ye be wearied.I. THERE IS A CONFLICT WHICH STILL DEMANDS OUR FAITH AND PATIENCE, The great purpose of life should be to attain the highest excellent of which our nature is susceptible. This involves difficulties.
II. WE ARE IN DANGER OF LOSING HEART, AND GROWING WEARY IN THIS CONFLICT. Perhaps we may hardly wonder at this, if we think of the nature of the conflict itself, its continuousness, its unintermittent character. This result ensues, too, from the providential trials under which we are sometimes called to carry on the conflict. This danger also arises from the perpetual vigilance and resistance which are required to be exercised against custom, against kindness, against the slumbrous atmosphere in which we live.
III. THIS WEARINESS AND FAILURE OF SPIRITUAL DETERMINATION IS AN EVIL WHICH OUGHT TO BE STRENUOUSLY RESISTED. Weariness and exhaustion are fatal to real enjoyment. They are equally fatal to work. When worn down by fatigue, you have neither strength nor spirit for work. Moreover, there must be much danger in this state of weariness and exhaustion.
IV. THE REST MEANS OF AVOIDING THIS WEARINESS AND SPIRITUAL EXHAUSTION IS STEADILY TO CONTEMPLATE JESUS. Look upon Him in such a way as to call out comparison with),ourselves, and it will encourage you, and enable you to rise above this exhaustion and fear.
1. The greatness and nobleness of the Sufferer!
2. Consider the poignancy and the severity of His suffering.
3. Consider the innocency of the Sufferer.
4. Consider the spirit in which Jesus suffered.
(J. C. Harrison.)I. MANY PERSONS ARE DISCOURAGED AT THE GREAT DIFFERENCE WHICH THEY EXPERIENCE IN THEIR FEELINGS, WHEN THEY RECEIVE INSTRUCTION FROM THE MINISTRATION OF OTHER PEOPLE'S MINDS, AND WHEN THEY ARE OBLIGED TO FURNISH THEMSELVES WITH THE TRUTH WHICH IS REQUIRED FOR THEIR DAILY CHRISTIAN LIFE.
II. MANY ARE LIABLE TO BECOME WEARIED AND FAINT FROM POSITIVE REACTION, FROM DEPRESSION ARISING FROM EXHAUSTION.
III. PERSONS OF A TIMID NATURE, WHOSE RELIGIOUS LIFE HAS, EITHER BY EDUCATION OR FROM SOMETHING IN THEMSELVES, TURNED UPON CONSCIENCE, OR IN WHOM THEIR RELIGIOUS LIFE IS OF THE TYPE OF CONSCIENCE RATHER THAN OF LOVE, OR TRUST, OR HOPE, ARE PECULIARLY LIABLE TO DISCOURAGEMENT AND WEARINESS.
IV. GREAT DISCOURAGEMENT BEFALLS MEN WHO HAVE A RELIGION WITHOUT ANY SOCIAL ELEMENT TO CORROBORATE IT.
V. MANY PERSONS ARE BROUGHT INTO GREAT DISCOURAGEMENT AND UNCERTAINTY AS TO WHAT THEY SHALL DO, BECAUSE THEY HAVE MISTAKEN THE FULL PURPORT OF RELIGION.
VI. THE NEGLECT TO CONSOLIDATE RELIGIOUS FEELINGS INTO HABITS IS FREQUENTLY AN OCCASION OF DISCOURAGEMENT, BECAUSE IT LEAVES MEN SUBJECT TO ALL THE FLUCTUATIONS OF FEELING.
VII. MANY ARE CONVICTED OF SIN LESS DEEPLY AT THE BEGINNING OF THEIR CHRISTIAN LIFE THAN LONG AFTER CONVERSION; AND THIS NOT ONLY ALARMS, BUT SERIOUSLY DISCOURAGES THEM.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Homilist.I. THE LIABILITY OF CHRISTIANS TO SPIRITUAL WEARINESS. Arising from —
1. The little advancement we seem to make in spiritual excellence.
2. The little good we seem to accomplish in all our efforts to serve our fellows.
3. The little difference which Providence in its dispensation makes between us and those who are the enemies of Christ.
4. The little influence which our best efforts seem to have in correcting the evils of our age.
II. THE ANTIDOTE OF CHRISTIANS TO SPIRITUAL WEARINESS. Reflection on Christ will renew our energies, reinvigorate the soul.
1. Consider what He endured. "The contradiction of sinners."
2. Consider how He endured (1 Peter 2:23).
3. Consider why He endured. For His enemies.
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