I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take courage; I have overcome the world!"
I. CHRIST'S PEOPLE MUST ENDURE TRIBULATION.
1. This is the consequence of their remaining for a season in a world where sin and sorrow still prevail.
2. It is involved in their participation in their Master's lot. If he was hated and persecuted, how can his followers escape? As the world treated the Lord, so in a measure will it treat those who are faithful to him, and who tread in his steps.
3. This lot is not one of unmixed evil. Tribulation is discipline; the wheat is threshed in order that it may be set free from the husks and straw, and the character of Christians is, as a matter of fact, refined and purified by the winnowing of affliction and persecution.
II. CHRIST HAS CONSOLATION AND ENCOURAGEMENT FOR HIS PEOPLE WHEN THEY ENDURE THE TRIBULATION OF THE WORLD.
1. His words bring peace. The whole of the discourse which here concludes breathes of peace. His revelations of the present and of the future are alike tilted to soothe the mind perturbed by the distresses and the disasters of this life.
2. His sympathy brings courage. It seems to have been a favorite saying of our Lord, "Be of good cheer!" Be courageous and confident! It was, however, a saying always accompanied by his own Divine presence and voice. It was powerful because it came from his lips, from his tender heart, because with it there went out from him to his afflicted ones the spiritual power which enabled them to endure and strive and hope.
3. His conquest brings victory. Even now, before he was overwhelmed with the baptism of sacrificial sorrow, he could speak of himself as having overcome the world. But a few hours had yet to elapse, and the world should lie at his feet, purchased, vanquished, subdued! And Christ overcame, not for himself, but for his people; that, fighting by his side on earth, they might reign with him above; that, overcoming in and with him, they might sit down with him upon his throne. - T.
These things have I spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace.I. The secret of COMMUNION (John 14:25).
II. The secret of JOY (John 15:11).
III. The secret of STEADFASTNESS (John 16:1).
IV. The secret of PRAYER (ver. 25).
V. The secret of PEACE AND VICTORY (text).
(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)I. THE PEACE HERE PROMISED.
1. It is spiritual peace. This is plain from the fact that it was to be enjoyed during tribulation, and it is the peace which Jesus promises in these words: "Peace I leave with you, not as the world giveth." From the connection in which it is evident that it is a fruit of the Spirit. It flows from a well-grounded persuasion of our reconciliation to God. We can enjoy no true happiness of which God is not both the Author and Finisher. There is an inseparable connection between holiness and happiness.
2. This peace is peculiar to the friends of Jesus. In Me ye shall have peace. He addresses His friends only. They are all united to Christ by the Spirit who dwells in Him and them, and are all furnished with that faith by which they obtain peace. All the wicked are entire strangers to it, because they are separated from the Prince of Peace. "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked."
3. The enjoyment of this peace is not at all inconsistent with the endurance of tribulation. It is seated in the mind. In his body the Christian may feel sickness and pain; in his estate he may suffer damage and loss; and, in his character and friends, he may suffer injury and loss; and yet the peace of his mind, on the whole, may remain unruffled and undiminished. In the history of the apostles, after the Ascension, we have an ample proof of this delightful truth. Rude and frequent as the tempests were by which they were assailed, they could not even check the growth of that fair plant of heavenly origin, peace of mind, which their Saviour had planted in their souls.
4. The tribulations of the world have a tendency to interrupt, and often do interrupt this peace. This is plainly implied in these words, "Be of good cheer," &c. The Christian has his days of sweet sunshine, but also his nights of gloomy darkness.
5. This peace shall never be totally or finally taken away from the Christian. "Your joy no man taketh from you."
II. THE WORDS OF CHRIST ARE FITTED TO MAINTAIN THE PEACE OF HIS PEOPLE AMIDST ALL THE TRIBULATIONS OF LIFE.
1. They tell Christians beforehand what they have to expect in the world, viz., tribulation; and, therefore, teach them to make preparation for it. A principal part of the misery of mankind arises from want of attention to such information. Men suffer the many keen pangs of disappointment, because they will indulge those wishes and hopes which general experience, the dictates of sober reason, and the word of God, pronounce to be groundless and extravagant.
2. In the season of tribulation, the words of Christ direct the mind to effectual sources of consolation. They teach us, that all our afflictions come from God; that God has a gracious design in afflicting us; that the same God, who is our God in the time of health and prosperity, is also our God in the time of trouble and adversity; that all things shall work together for our good.
3. They teach us that the time of our warfare and suffering is but short, and that all our tribulations shall come to a perpetual end, and immortal joy succeed.Conclusion: From this subject learn —
1. To rejoice in all your tribulations. This is, indeed, a very difficult lesson: none but Christ can teach it, and none but a true Christian can learn it. But to learn it is possible; for we hear Paul saying, "Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities," &c.
2. To make yourselves familiarly acquainted with the words of Christ. How can they afford us rich and lasting consolation if we are ignorant of them.
3. Never to forget that you have to contend only with vanquished enemies.
(C. G. Finney.)
Christian Treasury.A ship's compass is so adjusted as to keep its level amidst all the hearings of the sea. Though forming part of a structure that feels every motion of the restless waves, it has an arrangement of its own that keeps it always in place, and in working order. Look at it when you will, it is pointing — trembling, perhaps, but truly — to the pole. So each soul in this life needs an adjustment of its own, that amid the fluctuations of the "earthen vessel" it may be kept ever in a position to feel the power of its great attraction in the skies."
(Christian Treasury.)1. There is clearly a negative rolled up in this sentence, viz., that there is no "peace" out of Christ. Every promise involves a negative. There will be no negatives in heaven. And this is the more to be observed, because almost all that we know of heaven itself, as yet, is negative. But where there is nothing but Christ, there can be nothing but "peace."
2. These words were the last Christ said before His teaching turned, as by a necessary transition, into prayer. Jesus says that the whole of His teaching never swerved from that one end. The duty of the fourteenth, the union of the fifteenth, the coming of the Spirit in the sixteenth chapters all pointed to "peace." And, beyond those three peerless chapters, it was the property of Christ's whole doctrine upon earth. No one ever said severer things than Christ; but it was a severity only to "peace." He saddened to gladden, He stirred the deepest waters of the soul that He might make the greater calm. What a lesson to ministers! And you — see what your religion is! — peace-not fear, not condemnation, not excitement, not controversy.
I. LET US UNDERSTAND WHAT THIS PEACE IS.
1. It is the feeling of being forgiven — a quiet conscience — a stilling sense of the love of God.
2. Then, growing out of that, it is a certain contemplative habit of mind, which lives up high enough not to be anxious much about the matters of this world. For it is the repose of faith, a trust in promises, a sense of a Father's love, the hush of s little child on the bosom.
II. IT IS OF IMMENSE IMPORTANCE TO HAVE THAT PEACE, because —
1. It is the only satisfying of all possessions. Pleasure is man's delight, but "peace" is man's necessity. No man knows the capabilities of his own existence, or what enjoyment is, till he is at "peace."
2. Peace is the root of all holiness. To believe that you are pardoned, to carry a conscience at ease, to take the unruffled reflection of Christ, even as Christ did of the Father, that is the atmosphere of a daily religious life, and that is the secret of every good thing.
3. Peace is the fulfilment of the work of Christ. Then, He "sees of the travail of His soul" in you, "and is satisfied."
III. WHAT ARE THE CAUSES WHY YOU ARE NOT AT "PEACE."
1. A want of seriousness and earnestness about your salvation.
2. Or, it may be that you do not see the perfect freeness of this precious gift of "peace." You are trying to work up to it, when you ought to be trying to work from it.
3. Or, you are grieving the Holy Spirit by some continual sin.
4. Or, you are pre-occupied — your mind is cumbered with care, and a crowd of worldly thoughts oppress you, and "peace" will not, cannot come to dwell with what is so turbid, or breathes so thick an air.
IV. RULES FOR PEACE. Be more decided. Decision is the parent of "peace."
1. Take some step at once heavenward, and it may be that one step will land you in "peace."
2. Confess Christ. If you honour Him He will honour you. And "peace" is the seal of an honoured and an honouring Saviour.
3. Go up and down more in Christ — His work, His work, His person, His beauty, His grace. See all your evidences in Him, realize your union with Him, listen for His "still small voice."
(J. Vaughan, M. A.)I. THE INWARD PEACE.
1. Peace is not lethargy; and it is very remarkable that, in immediate connection, there are words of tribulation and battle. The Christian life moves in two realms — "in Me" and "in the world." And the predicates and characteristics of these are opposite. The tree will stand, with its deep roots and its firm bole, unmoved, though wildest winds may toss its branches and scatter its leaves. In the fortress, beleagured by the sternest foes, there may be, right in the very centre of the citadal, a quiet oratory, through whose thick walls the noise of battle and the shout of victory or defeat can never penetrate. So we may live in a centre of rest, however wild may be the uproar in the circumference.
2. But, then, note that this peace depends upon certain conditions.(1) It is peace in Him. We are in Him as in an atmosphere; as a tree in the soil; as a branch in the vine; as the members in a body; as the residents in a house. We are in Him by the trust that rests all upon Him, by the love that finds all in Him, by the obedience that does all for Him. And it is only when we are in Christ that we realize peace. All else brings distraction. Even delights trouble. Let nothing tempt us down from the heights, and out from the citadel where alone we are at rest. Keep on the lee side of the breakwater and your little cock-boat will ride out the gale.(2) Christ speaks these great words that they may bring to us peace. Think of how He has spoken of our Brother's Ascension to prepare a place for us, &c. If we believed all these things, and lived in the faith of them, how should anything be able to disturb us? We find peace nowhere else but where Mary found her repose, and could shake off care and trouble about many things, sitting at the feet of Jesus, wrapt in His love, and listening to His word.
II. THE OUTWARD TRIBULATION WHICH IS THE CERTAIN FATE OF HIS FOLLOWERS.
1. Of course there is very sad and true sense in which the warning, "In the world ye shall have tribulation," applies to all men. Pain and sickness, loss and death, and all the other ills that flesh is heir to afflict us all. But our Lord is not speaking here about the troubles that befall men as men, nor about the chastisement that befalls them as sinners, but of the yet more mysterious sorrows which fall upon them because they are good.
2. I have already said that the Christian life moves in two spheres, and hence there must necessarily be conflict. Whoever realizes the inward life in Christ will more or less find himself coming into hostile collision with lives which only move on the surface and belong to the world.
3. No doubt the form of the antagonism varies. No doubt the more the world is penetrated by Christian principles the less vehement and painful will the collision be. No doubt some portion of the battlements of organized Christianity has tumbled into the ditch and made it a little less deep. Christian men and women have dropped their standard far too much, and so the antagonism is not so plain as it ought to be. But there it is, and if you are going to live out and out like a Christian man, you will get the old sneers flung at you. We have all, in our several ways, to bear the Cross. Do not let us be ashamed of it, and, above all, for the sake of easing our shoulders, do not let us be unfaithful to our Master.
III. THE COURAGEOUS CONFIDENCE WHICH COMES FROM THE LORD'S VICTORY. "Be of good cheer."
1. It is the old commandment that rung out to Joshua on the departure of Moses, "Be strong and of a good courage," &c. So says the Captain of salvation. Like some leader who has climbed the ramparts, or hewed his way through the broken ranks of the enemies, and rings out the voice of encouragement and call to his followers, our Captain sets before us His own example.
2. Notice, then, how our Lord's life was a true battle. The world tried to draw him away from God by appealing to things desirable to sense, as in the wilderness; or to things dreadful to sense, as on the cross; and both the one and the other form of temptation He faced and conquered. It was no shadow fight which evoked this pecan of victory.
3. Our Lord's life is the type of all victorious life. The world conquers me when it draws me away from God, when it makes me its slave, when it coaxes me to trust it, and to despair if I lose it. And I conquer the world when I put my foot upon its temptations, when I crush it down, when I shake off its bonds, and when nothing that time and sense, with their delights or their dreadfulnesses, can bring, prevents me from cleaving to my Father with all my heart. Whoso thus coerces Time and Sense to be the servants of his filial love has conquered them both. And whoso lets them draw him away from God is beaten, however successful he may dream himself to be, and men may call him.
4. Our share in the Master's victory — "l have overcome the world. Be ye of good cheer." That seems an irrelevant way of arguing. What does it matter to me though He has overcome? So much the better for Him; but what good is it to me? It may aid us somewhat to more strenuous fighting if we know that a Brother has fought and conquered. But the victory of Christ is of extremely little practical use to me, if all the use is to show me how to fight. You must go deeper than that. "I have overcome the world," and "I will come and put My overcoming Spirit into your weakness, and be in you the conquering and omnipotent power."
5. The condition of that victory's being ours is the simple act of reliance upon Him and upon it. The man that goes into the battle as that little army of the Hebrews did against the wide-stretching hosts of the enemy, saying, "O Lord! we know not what to do, but our eyes are up unto Thee," will come out more than conqueror through Him that loved him. And "this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Family Churchman.I. TRIBULATION IN THE WORLD.
1. Christians may expect to experience the ordinary trials characteristic of the human lot.
2. To these are added those temptations which beset such as earnestly desire to do the will of God, and follow in the steps of Christ.
3. And in the case of some persecutions are encountered for the sake of righteousness.
II. PEACE IN CHRIST.
1. Christ was the author and bringer of peace, which was announced as the result of His Advent, and bequeathed by Him as His legacy.
2. Peace is enjoyed through spiritual union with Christ — "In Me."
3. Peace with God is followed by peace with men, and produces peace even within the troubled soul.
4. Such inward peace renders its possessor largely independent of adverse external circumstances.
III. VICTORY WITH CHRIST.
1. As a matter of fact Christ did overcome the world. In His life, on the cross, in His resurrection.
2. Through participation with Him Christians share His victory. Conflict is to be maintained, and victory won over the world, self, sin. The victory shall be perfected and manifested when the triumphant soldier of the Cross shall sit down with Christ on the throne.
IV. ENCOURAGEMENT FROM CHRIST. "Be of good cheer!" We hear His voice in the storm, "It is I, be not afraid." We hear His voice amid the flames, "Fear not for I am with you." We hear His voice upon the battlefield, "Be thou faithful unto death," &c.
S. S. Times.In the Pitti Palace, at Florence, there are two pictures which hang side by side. One represents a stormy sea with its wild waves, and black clouds and fierce lightnings flashing across the sky. In the waters a human face is seen, wearing an expression of the utmost agony and despair. The other picture also represents a sea, tossed by as fierce a storm, with as dark clouds; but out of the midst of the waves a rock rises, against which the waters dash in vain. In a cleft of the rock are some tufts of grass and green herbage, with sweet flowers, and amid these a dove is seen sitting on her nest, quiet and undisturbed by the wild fury of the storm. The first picture fitly represents the sorrow of the world when all is helpless and despairing; and the other, the sorrow of the Christian, no less severe, but in which he is kept in perfect peace, because he nestles in the bosom of God's unchanging love.
(S. S. Times.)
(T. Manton, D. D.)
S. S. Times.Cloudless skies drop no rain. We may bathe ourselves in the unclouded sunshine for days and for weeks, thinking that, if the blue of the heavens were nevermore veiled by the blackness of the storm, we at least would be perfectly satisfied. But as the unclouded days pass on, the parched earth begins to gape to heaven for water, the flowers fade, the grass is burned up, and men and beasts droop in the merciless heat, which now seems no longer the messenger of life, but the angel of death. For need like that there is no help in cloudless skies; the sign of deliverance rather comes in the livid thunder-cloud, the flashing lightning, and the pouring rain. There is a like need of the rain-cloud in the inner life. There is a parching and deadening influence even here in too much sunshine; and the storm-cloud of pain or of sorrow, which drenches our heart-soil with the rain of tears, alone makes possible the continued growth of that which is best in our heart-culture. We do right to thank God for cloudless days; but we do wrong if we do not thank Him also for days not cloudless. If the one gives the sunshine, the other gives the rain; and without either there would be no increase.
(S. S. Times.)I. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE WORLD. In St. John's writings the word occurs more than one hundred times, and mostly from our Lord's lips. It is used sometimes as equivalent to —
1. The universe. "The world was made by Him."
2. The race of men. "God so loved the world."
3. But here it cannot mean either of these, because the world in one sense is the revelation of God, and in the other the object of Christian love as the purchase of Christ's blood.
4. What is it then? It refuses to be described. It eludes our mental grasp. It is not a person, nor a multitude, nor anything on which we can fix responsibility. It is not civilization, though it hangs on its outskirts. It is not sin, though it produces and is produced by it. It is not the wicked, though they are its victims. It is not Satan, though he is its prince. It is an atmosphere, a temper, a spirit, a power most real and energetic, but dead and invisible — a miasma which has arisen from the putrefying corpses if all the sins which have been committed since the Fall. It has hung for ages like a dark, murky cloud over the heart of humanity. It poisons the very air we breathe.
5. But what is it in its essence? It is that warp in the aim and affections of the soul which makes of each of the objects of the visible creation and of the circumstances of life a distinct hindrance to getting to heaven. It is, says St. John, "The lust of the flesh, the lust of the age and the pride of life." It is putting the creature in the place of the Creator. Friends, business, books, &c., may become incorporate with the world. Solomon has told us how his palace, gardens, slaves, singers, &c., were to him the world. Though Haman had an establishment which rivalled that of Ahashuerus, yet this one object — the humiliation of Mordecai formed for him his world. Dives found a world in his purple and fine linen; the young ruler in his great possessions; Felix in the favour of Caesar.
6. We are all familiar with the phrase, "the spirit of the age," and know how one line of thought rules in one age, and another in another. Well, then, the world is a mighty tradition of all the thought and feeling that the human race has accumulated round itself since the Fall, and that is hostile to the rights of God. It is like a great river which rolls its dark volume across the ages, while a thousand civilizations and races and nations have poured their successive contributions, like so many rivulets, the tyrant as well as the handiwork of the human soul. It is like the November fog which hangs over our vast metropolis, the product of its countless homes and the proof of its vast industries; and yet the veil which shuts out from it the light of heaven destroys the colour on its works of art; the unwholesome vapour which clogs vitality and undermines health, and from which the Londoner escapes that he may see the sun, and the face of nature, and feels what it is to live. Even thus the world hangs over the soul, flapping its wings like the evil bird in the fable, or penetrating it like a subtle poison to sap its vigour and its life.
II. NOTE THE CHARACTER OF ITS INFLUENCE.
1. It works secretly and without being suspected.(1) When we speak of it, it is as something outside us. We are in private life, perhaps, in narrow circumstances, and we regard royal pageants, &c., as the pomps of the world. Or we have been brought up in comfort, in a Christian family shielded from temptation, and as we read the newspaper reports of crime and sin we shrug our shoulders and say "What things do go on in the world!" Or we have just been married, and we look from our happiness upon the worn faces around us, on which gain, pleasure, &c., have traced lines of care and say, "The world knows nothing of real joy." Or in deep affliction we reproach the hard, heartless world.(2) The world in fact disguises itself. It can be prudent, like the old prophet; wise like Ahitophel; courageous like Saul; zealous like Jehu; industrious and public-spirited like Herod; honest like Gallio; very pious like the false apostles at Corinth.
2. Which leads to another characteristic, viz., its marvellous versatility, and power of adaptation to all ages, races, classes. We speak of the Roman, Greek, French, and English world: the truth is, that the great world comprises many worlds or schools, the literary, commercial, political, clerical — each has its special work, but each contributes its quota to the whole. And thus the labourer, needlewoman, crossing-sweeper has as real a world as the monarch or statesman.
3. It is contagious. It may be conveyed by a hint, attitude, fashion, dress. Ancient monarchs lived in fear of the poison which might lurk in every dish, and we may well suspect each object around us of harbouring poisonous attractions.
III. THE RESULT OF ITS INFLUENCES ON THIS AGE.
1. Its view of sin is that of something which interferes with the comfort and well-being of society. Hence it is at times unjustly lax and unjustly severe.
2. It neutralizes the truth that, living or dying, each soul lives in awful solitude beneath the eye of God, by suggesting that we are merely members of a family, town or nation.
3. God is retained just as we might keep a piece of antiquity, or the apex of a theory, or a mere abstraction. From God it turns away to created life and proclaims its supreme importance. What St. John calls sensuality, the world terms enjoying life. What He calls covetousness, the world terms doing the best you can for yourself. What He calls pride, the world calls taking your proper place. Look how it treats the political adventurer, the literary character, the capitalist who have made their way through villainy. It "goes wondering after the beast;" and proclaims the libertine not so very bad after all.
IV. THE ATTITUDE OF CHRIST TOWARDS IT.
1. Between Him and the world of His day there was a profound and necessary hostility. He began with the world of a little provincial town — Nazareth — and passed to what resembled the world of our manufacturing districts, Capernaum, Bethsaida, &c. Then He passed to the London world of Palestine to Jesusalem. Here you see Him receiving deputations from the various sections of the world: from the popular religious teachers, the Pharisees; the sceptical intellectualists, the Sadducees; the political adventurers, the Herodians. He passes to the world of the lower classes, and mixes with publicans, Samaritans, Greeks. He entered into society; for He was at the marriage at Cana, and dined with the Pharisee, &c.; and the world condemned and rejected Him, and He measured the world and condemned it. There was no mistake on either side. It crucified Him, but the Resurrection was a triumph over the power that killed Him. He had conquered the world by His doctrine, His moral beauty, His death; but, in view of His Easter victory, He said, "I have overcome the world."
2. Only as the ages pass is that victory slowly developing its vast results. You see some of them in the world-wide establishment of His Church, in the ruin of the heathen empire, in the conquest of human thought, power, hearts, new races, and lands. And He is certain of the future. The theatre of the struggle indeed is shifted. It is now the Christian soul. Twice, especially does the world make an effort to dethrone Him — at conversion, and at the period when the soul is moved to dedicate itself to Him perfectly. Meet the world's enchantment by a greater — that of Christ, His conquest, and the heaven He won for you.
(Canon Liddon.)I. WHAT WORLD DOES HE MEAN?
1. Not this physical world, so well ordered and beautiful. No, that world was made by Him, and every Christian should find in it tokens of His presence. He was "in the world," and where He was it is an honour to go.
2. The world is that which did not know Him or the Father, which was in antagonism to the authority of Divine law, and the munificence of Divine love. He might have been here not of the world, and the world would, as far as it knew of Him, have admired Him. But He came to the front and manifested His unworldliness; hence the world hated Him.
II. IN WHAT MANNER DID OUR LORD OVERCOME THE WORLD.
1. He overcame the world's falsehood by the power of His truth. Others were sent to denounce the falsehood, but the world smiled or frowned on them, and silenced them by its seductions or threats, and many of them learned to repeat the wicked shibboleths. The faithful were murdered, one after another, and finally Christ came, born to this end to bear witness to the truth, and sealed His testimony with His blood, and by so doing won a victory such as the Church does not need to win again.
2. He overcame the world's wickedness by His holiness. Till He came, the idea of absolute holiness was never presented to the mind of man. But He presented to the end an image of perfect purity.
3. He overcame the world's malice by His infinite love. Only love can be victorious. The measure of malignity is the measure of defeat. Animosity is only roused by those who have in some sense gained an advantage over us. Here, then, is the peculiarity of the Lord's triumph. He was at war with the world openly and persistently, but the world never had a better friend; and He turned its murderous rage into an occasion for manifesting His most benignant gifts.
III. THE USE WHICH CHRIST TEACHES US TO MAKE OF HIS VICTORY. "Be of good cheer," — a word of large meaning and frequently on our Lord's lips.
1. The original thought is courage, which expresses itself in confidence. The Old Testament rendering is "Be of good courage."
2. The next effect is sure to bring refreshment, when fear is quelled, and agitation has ceased: then the word is "Be of good comfort."
3. But this passes into the higher domain of gladness, for courage wins the victory, and he who triumphs is clothed with smiles and sings the song: hence the word repeatedly is "Be of good cheer." Conclusion: The promise is to conquerors. Some of you are fighting on the wrong and losing side. Christ invites you to the winning side of truth, holiness, and love.
(J. Aldis.)1. In addressing His disciples, Christ never concealed from them the difficulties which awaited them. He purchased no discipleship by politic extenuation or concealment. We have therefore placed before us, in unmistakeable terms, the fact that, "through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom." The modern notion that it is possible without much difficulty to be religious, cannot plead, the sanction of the highest teaching.
2. But Christ never stated a difficulty, without at the same time inspiring with courage to meet it. He has given the true disciple in every age glimpses of the difficulties with which he will have to wrestle, only that He may be induced to turn his inward eye towards a never-failing source of strength.
I. THE DISCIPLE'S TRIBULATION.
1. Taking the term "tribulation" in its widest sense, it is obviously an inevitable condition of human life. "Man is born to trouble as the spark flieth upwards." What a fearful amount of suffering there is in the world, into which character does not enter as an element!
2. But admit character, and the conflict waxes infinitely more dire. As long as conscience speaks, and any God-ward sentiment impels, there will remain enough to engage the forces of the soul in fiercest conflict.
3. Extending our view to what is called practical life, as long as any considerable portion of mankind remained alien from God, the world must be expected to be, to the earnest disciple of Christ, a scene of conflict.(1) The conflict varies with the age. Christianity, in its first stages, and whenever a period somewhat analogous has been repeated, had to encounter all the forces of a steady, malignant opposition. At such times, the battle ground is more clear, the ranks better defined. But the conflict of this period, when a considerable assimilation of society has taken place, assumes generally another form; an enemy less bold and courageous, but more subtle and more difficult to resist, enters the field. Where there was once opposition, there is now allurement. Of the first period the cardinal virtue is courage; of the second, watchfulness.(2) The conflict varies with the individual. Ordinary Christian virtue is a far easier attainment to some than it is to others, for the obvious reason that it has so much less to contend with. The cost of some is comparatively a rapid pace along an easy, open path; that of others is an ever thwarted step through a tangled forest; with the former it is a triumphant pursuit of a retreating enemy, with the latter every inch of ground must be fiercely fought through blood and fire.
II. THE MASTER'S VICTORY.
1. That over which the conquest was obtained. The imagination stands appalled and paralysed at its vastness. "The world!" It must consist of all that is alien from God in human nature itself, and as its propensities are embodied in habit, custom, institution, and society.(1) Opposing Himself to "the world," as we have just characterized it, so entirely that He was the incarnate good in incessant conflict with all surrounding evil, He still preserved Himself "holy and undefiled." This constituted a part of His victory. To be able thus to work out in His own career, thwarted by prejudice, stratagem, and open enmity, and tempted by all that could alarm, bribe, or allure, for the human race, an ideal towards which all after ages could only aspire, is surely to conquer for Himself the world.(2) But Christ not only maintained His personal superiority over sin, but has arrested, in a way peculiar to Himself, its course in the world. There has been in His life and death that which has ever since modified the course of human history, in favour of the good and against the evil. Evil has since then, though surrounded with most auspicious circumstances, reared a form less erect and shown a brow more abashed, as it has had to encounter in combat less equal, as the centuries roll away, "one stronger than itself." Since then a new element, the main, and the most influential one, has been thrown into the loftiest struggles of advancing nations, and which has been always working, however silently and invisibly, for the "first good and the first fair." All the best features of modern times obviously bear His impress.
2. "Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world!"(1) With what strange meaning must these words have been inspired! The circumstances in which the speaker then stood, must have presented, to the outward eye, a startling contrast to His singular and lofty assurance.(2) His conquests are ours. From our vital alliance with Him, faith derives its unconquerable power, hope borrows its brightest radiance, and charity is supplied with its perennial motive. Yes, the conqueror of the world is leading us onwards! His victory includes as its prize more than a world redeemed!
(D. M. Evans.)
I. WHAT IS THIS WORLD WHICH HE IS REFERRING TO? The world here meant is that which "lieth in the wicked one." The invisible embodiment of that spirit of evil, and which now worketh in the children of disobedience; the human form of the same evil force with which our Lord contended when He overcame the devil. The devil is the god of this world, and its prince. It is the opposite of the Church, "Ye are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." Hence it is called "this present evil world," while the kingdom of grace is spoken of as "the world to come." "The world" includes —
1. The ungodly themselves.
2. Certain customs, fashions, maxims, forces, principles, desires, governments. Jesus says, "My kingdom is not of this world;" and Paul says, "Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed."
3. The present constitution and arrangement of all things in this fallen state, for everything has come under vanity by reason of sin.
4. It is a thing out of which tribulation will be sure to come to us. It may come in the form of temporal trial, of temptation, or persecution. We are sojourners in an enemy's country.
II. HOW HAS CHRIST OVERCOME THE WORLD?
1. In His life. Those thirty years of which we know so little were a wonderful preparation for His conflict. In the patience which made Him bide His time we see the dawn of the victory. When He appears upon the scene of public action, He overcomes the world —(1) By remaining always faithful to His testimony. He never modified it. He was no guarder of truth. He allowed truth to fight her own battles in her own way. His speech was confident, for He knew that truth would conquer in the long run.(2) By His calmness.(a) When the world smiled. Our Lord was popular to a very high degree at certain times, but He never lost His self-possession. He leaves acclamations to refresh Himself by prayer. He communed with God, and so lived above the praises of men.(b) When the world frowned. If calumnies were heaped upon Him, He went on as calmly as if they had not abused Him. Point me to an impatient word — there is not even a tradition Of an angry look at any offence rendered to Himself.(3) By the unselfishness of His aims. With whatever evil the most spiteful infidels have ever charged our Lord, they have never accused Him of avarice.(4) By never stooping to use its power. He might have gathered a troop about Him, and His heroic example, together with His miraculous power, must soon have swept away the Roman empire, and converted the Jew.(5) By His fearlessness of the world's elite, for many a man who have braved the frowns of the multitude cannot bear the criticism of the few. But Christ meets the Pharisee, and pays no honour to His phylactery; He confronts the Sadducee and yields not to his cold philosophy; and He braves also the Herodian, who is the worldly politican, and He gives him an unanswerable reply.(6) By the constancy of His love. He loved the most unlovely men.
2. Christ by His death overcame the world, because —(1) By a wondrous act of self-sacrifice, He smote to the heart the principles of selfishness, which is the very soul and life-blood of the world.(2) By redeeming man He lifted him up from the power which the world exercises over him.(3) By reconciling men unto God through His great atonement; also He has removed them from the despair which else had kept them down in sin, and made them the willing slaves of the world.
3. But chiefly has He overcome by His rising and His reigning, for when He rose He bruised the serpent's head, and that serpent is the prince of this world, and hath dominion over it.
4. He has overcome the world by the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus has set up a rival kingdom now: a kingdom of love and righteousness; already the world feels its power by the Spirit. Every year the name of Jesus brings more light to this poor world.
III. WHAT CHEER IS THERE HERE FOR US? Why —
1. That if Christ has overcome the world at its worst, we who are in Him shall overcome the world too through the same power which dwelt in Him. He has put His life into His people, He has given His Spirit to dwell in them, and they shall be more than conquerors.
2. Besides, He overcame the world when nobody else had overcome it. Now if our great Samson did tear this young lion, and fling it down as a vanquished thing, now it is an old lion, we, having the Lord's life and power in us, will overcome it too.
3. Remember He overcame the world as our Head and representative, and it may truly be said that if the members do not overcome, then the Head has not perfectly gained the victory.
(C. H. Spurgeon.).
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