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Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.” Jesus had before alluded to this enmity, when discoursing with his brethren in Galilee. 3 There he himself explains it.
" The world cannot hate you ;" has no reason for hating you : “but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.”
The obvious remedy and consolation would be, that as the Lord whom they had followed, was now to be removed from the world which had hated him, to a world congenial to him, so should his disciples too. “ To depart, and be still with Christ,” would be far better than to sojourn here in the midst of enmity and opposition, and put to hazard that faith which had hitherto persevered.
This, however, is not our Lord's prayer for these his people. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
It was impossible that they should be taken out of the world. Work was given them to do. They were to be “ witnesses” of Christ : they were to carry the message of reconciliation : they were to set on high and display to public view that light which should " light every man that cometh into the world.”
But does the same reason apply to the disciples of Christ, and is it still the will of God that they should not be taken out of the world? Undoubt
3 John vii. 7.
edly it is still the same, and for reasons which will prevail unto the end.
God chooses that they should be tried. Though he knows what the event will be, and needs not that any should show him : still he chooses that his people should prove their faith, and patience, and labours of love, in sight of the many witnesses by which they are surrounded, and should, “ after much tribulation, enter into the kingdom” prepared for them.“ Their “ tribulation must work patience; and patience, experience, and experience, hope.”5 They must submit to the cross before they wear the crown. They must consent to “suffer with Christ, that they may also “ reign with him." And as his will concerning themselves is thus accomplished, so likewise his purpose towards others is promoted.
The faithful disciples of Christ are living witnesses of the truth of his revelation and the power of his grace; and the word given by Christ to the apostles, the same word handed down from age to age, and not merely written in a book, but written in the hearts and read in the practice of living men, causes multitudes to fall down on their knees before God, and acknowledge that " God is in them of a truth.”6
Our Lord, therefore, does not pray that God should take them out of the world, but that he should keep them from the evil. From the evil one himself, and from the evil which proceeds from him, as its author and contriver.
4 Acts xiv. 22.
5 Rom. v. 4. 6 See I Cor. xiv. 25. 7 απο του πονηρου.
Satan, the hater of righteousness and holiness, the enemy of God and man, will grievously assail those who are taken out of his hands. We are warned so. “ Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he
may devour." He is allowed to be the author and instrument of much of that trial which all the people of God are designed to undergo, that “they which are approved may be made manifest.”9 But this enemy they cannot overcome in their own strength. He finds within too much in league with him, to be conquered by any power of ours ; he knows too well the weaknesses which give him advantage over us, and the situation by which we are endangered.
Hence the prayer of Christ, that the faith of his disciples “ fail not :” that God would keep them from the evil : keep them by his power through faith unto salvation." It is the same prayer which we offer daily for ourselves : “ Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
And how great is the comfort which we possess, in knowing of this support and thinking of this prayer! To be assured that he who thus supported the apostles whom he was about to leave behind in a sinful world, is still at the right-hand of God, to support all who “ believe in him through their word !” That our salvation is the object of his desire, his care, his intercession! And that he will suffer none to perish who commit themselves to him ! He “ with the temptation 8 1 Pet. v. 8. 9 1 Cor. xi. 19.
will make a way to escape, that we may be able to bear it." “ If God be for us, who shall be against us?” For “who hath resisted his will ?”
And He is for us." If“ he spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things !"?
To Him, then, “who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory, and majesty, dominion, and power, both now and ever.'
CONTINUATION OF THE PRAYER OF CHRIST
THAT HIS APOSTLES MAY BE SANCTIFIED.
JOHN xvii. 17-19.
17. Sanctify them through thy truth : thy word is truth.
18. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.
19. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
We see from this prayer what our Lord thought most needful for his disciples. What was needful for them, is needful for us : what he prayed for in their behalf, ought to be the first and chief object of our prayer, for ourselves, and our children, and all in whose welfare we are concerned.
1 Rom. viii. 32.
. Jude 25.
His prayer before had been, that they might be delivered from the evil that is in the world. And now he entreats farther, that they might be sanctified: “ redeemed from all iniquity, and purified unto God as a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” That God might have such a people--a people to whom he might be a Father, and they to him as dear children—was the purpose for which Christ had taken man's nature upon him. For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
For this object a body had been prepared for him : he had come to do the will of God; had been solemnly acknowledged by him, as his " beloved Son ;” and was now set apart, as “ a Lamb without blemish, and without spot,
a voluntary sacrifice to the justice and holiness of the Father. Thus he had sanctified himself ; as he had “
power to lay down his life, and power to take it again ;” and for their sakes: that he might bring them to everlasting salvation :-and not them alone ; but might also bring to the same glory “ those that should believe in him through their word :" in all ages and in all countries, as many as receive him and believe in his name.”
Those for whom he was interceding now, were the first fruits of his self-consecration. And that