An old disciple.—Acts 21:16.
My soul! of what standing art thou in the Church of Christ? If there be any thing of real rank and dignity in human life, to cause one man to differ from another, certainly that age, which consisteth not in multitude of years, but in fellowship and long acquaintance with Jesus, must be most honourable. But in this, as is in all other distinctions, the believer’s dignity is the reverse of the world’s. He that is highest in grace is the lowest in humility. How beautiful and engaging to this point are the words of Christ: “Whosoever will be chief among you, (saith that divine teacher,) let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Hence the simplicity and lowliness of the weaned child, Jesus makes the character and feature of those that are “greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” And wherefore is this? Is it because of our spiritual attainments, or of our improvement in the divine life? Will our title to salvation be at length made out, from our having been such a time, or so long a season, with Jesus? Is he “an old disciple” who hath been so many years an attendant on ordinances, sacraments, hearing sermons, and the like? Is this the plan of counting years in the school of Christ; and by so much, as we can number our attendance on the means of grace and improvements under them, as we fancy in ourselves the progress of our own holiness, do we estimate an old disciple? Not so, my soul, is the scripture calculation of age in the divine life. There we read that “the children shall die a hundred years old, but the sinner being a hundred years old shall be accursed.” (Isaiah 65:20.) What is it then to be an “old disciple?” Surely he is one that is eldest, in having learned, from the continued teachings of God the Holy Ghost, to think less of himself, and more and more of Jesus. He advanceth the farthest in this scriptural age who is growing in grace, by growing in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. His every day’s experience brings him more acquainted with his own unworthiness, so as to endear the infinite merit of the Redeemer. He is truly an old disciple who is old in this science, of being more out of love with himself, and more in love with Jesus. For it is impossible, in this progress of the divine life, but to make advances in this exact proportion; and as the blessed Spirit exalts Christ to the view, and brings him home to the heart, by so much our self-confidence lessens; and the more glorious he appears, the more lowly we become in our own eyes. This is one rule to ascertain the real age of a disciple. And there is another like it. As those who have long lived in a family best know its government, and find themselves more at home in it, so the oldest disciples in Jesus’s household will best know how to improve a long and growing acquaintance with him, by coming to him for all they want, and making his glory the one great object of all their desire. And it will prove, indeed, that they are faithful to their Lord’s interest, when they not only lay out every thing for his praise, but receive every thing that he lays out that it may be for his glory. My soul! what sayest thou to this statement of things, in respect of the real age of the believer in Jesus? Art thou an “old disciple” of thy Lord?