Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE OBJECT OF FAITH, AS ENJOINED BY CHRIST. Faith was the condition of receiving the revelation and enjoying the promise which the Lord Jesus had to communicate. Now, it is a very common thing in our days for men to eulogize faith. But it is not infrequently forgotten that the virtue of faith depends upon its object. To believe is good, if we believe what is worthy of credit. To trust is good, if we trust one deserving of confidence. Our Lord enjoins faith:
1. In God. If there be a God, surely we can need no argument, no persuasion, to induce us to believe in him. We believe in our imperfect earthly friends; how much more reason have we to believe in our perfect God? Especially does this appear when we consider, not only what God is, but what he has done to justify and to elicit our faith.
2. In Christ. How shall we connect faith in the Savior with faith in the Father? Probably thus: we need some faith in God in order to believe in Jesus whom he sent, and then, trusting in Christ, we attain to a fuller, stronger faith in the Father. The apostles and disciples, whom Jesus gathered round him in his earthly ministry, had such experience of his truth, his tenderness, his fidelity, that they might well trust him entirely and always - trust him so as to receive his declarations, to rely upon his promises, to do his will. How natural and proper is it for the Christian, who knows alike his own need and the sufficiency of his Savior, to place in him an absolute and unfaltering trust! If such trust was becoming on the part of those who knew Jesus in his ministry, how far stronger are the inducements which our experience of our Savior's grace and power furnish to our confidence! We took back upon what Jesus suffered for us, upon his victory as our Representative, and upon his long unseen ministry of grace; and we respond to his summons, and renew our faith in his words and in his work.
II. THE REVELATION CHRIST MAKES TO FAITH. This unfolding of Divine counsels has reference to man's life and history as a whole; not only to the seen, but to the unseen, the eternal. Temporary sorrows and difficulties all but disappear when they take their place as incidents in an immortal existence.
1. The universe is our Father's house and temple. How far otherwise is it regarded by many, even of the inquiring and intelligent! To not a few the world is mindless, loveless, has no origin that can he understood, and no aim; and has, therefore, a very feeble interest. As God's house, it has been built and furnished by the Divine Architect, who has arranged it to suit the needs of all his children. As God's temple, it is the scene of his indwelling and manifestation, of his holy service and his spiritual glory. It is the place where he dwells and where he is worshipped, who is Christ's Father and ours. What sweet and hallowed associations are wont to gather around the house of the human father! Similarly to the Christian the universe is dear, because there the Divine Father displays his presence, exercises his care, utters his love. That rebellious and profane voices are heard in the house which is consecrated to obedience, reverence, and praise, is indeed too true. Yet the Christian can never lose sight of the true purpose, the proper destination, of the world; in his apprehension it has been formed for the Divine glory, and it is consecrated by the Divine love.
2. The universe is further represented by Jesus as containing many and varied abodes for the spiritual children of God. Why is the great house so spacious and commodious? Because it is constructed to contain multitudes of inhabitants, and to afford to all a scene of service and of development. "Many abiding-places" are for the use of many guests, of many children. There are many citizens in the city, many subjects in the kingdom, many children in the household, many worshippers in the temple. Among those of whom we have little knowledge are the angels, thrones, principalities, and powers. Among those known to us by the records of the past are patriarchs and prophets, apostles, saints, and martyrs. There is room for all - for the young and the old, the ignorant and the learned, the great and the despised. No reader of Christ's words can doubt that his purpose and his promise included untold myriads of mankind. His life was given a ransom "for many." He designed to "draw all men unto himself." He foresaw that many should enter his kingdom, from the East and from the West. In the Book of his Revelation by John, it is foretold that "a great multitude, whom no man can number," shall assemble before the throne of glory. The pilgrim shall leave his tent, the captive his prison, the voyager his ship, the warrior his camp, and all alike shall repair to "the house which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God." It is a glorious spectacle, one which reason is too dim-sighted to behold, but which is clear to the eye of faith.
III. THE PROMISE CHRIST GIVES TO FAITH. Many of our Lord's earlier sayings had been vague; now, in anticipation of his departure, his language is plain and clear.
1. Jesus has gone to prepare. Not indeed for himself, but for his people. When earth has no longer a place for them, a home will be found to have been made ready for their reception elsewhere. There is much that is mysterious in the exercise of our Savior's mediatorial grace in the sphere of his present action; but we have no difficulty in believing that he concerns himself above with the work which he commenced below.
2. He will come again to receive. Shall we take this assurance to refer to his resurrection, or to his second coming yet in the future? Of has it not rather reference to that perpetual coming of Christ unto his own, of which his Church has always and everywhere had experience? When the earthly service of a faithful disciple is finished, then Jesus comes to welcome that beloved and approved one to rest and recompense. Concerning our dear ones who are dead to earth, we have the assurance that they have not been overlooked by the Divine and tender Friend of souls.
3. He assures his people of his blessed fellowship. The language in which Jesus conveyed the assurance must have been peculiarly affecting to those who had been with him during his earthly ministry. They knew by experience the charm of their Lord's society, and the strength it gave them for work and for endurance. What more attractive and glorious prospect could the future have for them than this - the renewal and the perpetuation of that fellowship which had been the joy and the blessing of their life on earth? But the same is in a measure true of every Christian. What representation of future happiness is so congenial and so inspiring as this - the being "ever with the Lord"?
IV. THE PEACE WHICH IS THE FRUIT OF FAITH. Much was at hand which was likely to occasion alarm and dismay. Events were about to happen which would crush many hopes and cloud many hearts. This was well known to the Master. Hence his admonition to his disciples, "Let not your heart be troubled." An admonition such as this, when it comes alone, is powerless. But Christ, by revealing himself and his purposes to the minds of his brethren, supported the precept he addressed to them. What might well distress and even overwhelm those who were without the support and consolation of a sustaining and inspiring faith, would be powerless to shake such as built their hopes upon the sure foundation of unchanging faithfulness, immortal love. Those who have faith in Christ are the possessors of true peace - the peace which "passeth understanding," the peace which the world can neither give nor take away. - T.
I. FAITH SPECIALLY ENJOINED.
1. As to its Objects - God and Christ.
(1) These are its proper and highest Objects. Faith must have an object. God and Christ are the proper Objects of faith. It cannot ascend higher, and must not remain lower, than this. Faith in the Father and Son, in the Creator and Savior. This alone is worthy of an immortal and responsible spirit. This is the basis of true religion, the element of spiritual progress, the foundation of Christian character, and is alone capable of drawing out the soul into perfection.
(2) Faith is enjoined in both personally. It is not, "Believe in something about God or about Christ," but" Believe in both personally." It is most important to realize the personality of the Divine Being as he is in his spiritual, eternal, and infinite existence, or as manifested in the flesh, so that our ideas of him may not evaporate into vague generalities; hence faith is directed to a personal God and a personal Christ.
(3) Faith is enjoined in both equally. "Believe in God, believe also," etc. This is a strong, but by no means uncommon, circumstantial evidence of the Divinity of our Lord. This equal demand of faith inevitably and unquestionably indicates equality of nature, authority, and honor. On the supposition that Christ was a mere man, to couple himself thus with the supreme Being as the Object of human faith, would be nothing less than a willful misdirection and blasphemy.
(4) Faith in one involves faith in the other. This is not an arbitrary, but a moral and philosophical, injunction. Such is the relationship between God and Christ that faith in one involves faith in both. Whether faith begins from the human or Divine side, it will find itself embracing the Father and Son, or neither. Thus, when Christ appeared in our world, those who had genuine faith in God readily believed in him, and those who had not rejected him. Faith in the visible and incarnate Son was a test of faith in the invisible and eternal Father.
2. The objects of faith are pointed out in their natural order of sequence.
(1) God is the supreme Object of faith. Hence he is introduced first. Christ, as a Teacher, ever pointed to Divinity, as contemplated in the Father or in himself, as the supreme and final Object of human faith.
(2) Christ meets the present requirement of faith. First he points to the highest goal of faith, then to himself as the Way which leads to it. Therefore, "Believe also in me' is not retrogressive, but progressive, in relation to faith. Before the appearance of Christ, faith was weak, struggling and crying for help, for a resting-place, for a medium between heaven and earth. Pious souls yearned for it. Jacob dreamed of it, and in his dream saw a ladder reaching from earth to heaven. Christ responded to this cry and fulfilled this dream. In him faith found a present Help, Encouragement, and a Resting-place. He is the real Ladder between heaven and earth, over which souls by faith may reach the glorious heights of the eternal throne, and embrace him who sits upon it.
(3) In Christ faith in God alone can be perfected. "Looking to Jesus," etc. He is the lowest and the highest rung of the ladder - the lowest touching the lowest parts of the earth, and the highest touching the eternal throne. "The Son of man, when he comes, shall he find faith," etc.? Little of it he found; but ever since, he creates, feeds, helps, and perfects it. By his perfect life and self-sacrificing death and intercessory work, he is become the Author, Example, the Inspirer and Perfecter of faith.
3. The exercise of faith is the only way of Divine realization in the soul.
(1) Faith is the power which alone can see the Divine.
(2) Faith is the power which alone can realize the Divine.
(3) Faith is the power which alone can appropriate the Divine. There is a God, but not to us but by faith. There is a Savior, but not to us but by faith. Without love we are nothing, and it is equally true that without faith we are nothing - nothing to God and Christ; and they are nothing savingly to us, but by faith they are ours. Hence the soul's chief duty is to believe.
II. FAITH IS ENJOINED AS THE ANTIDOTE OF TROUBLE. "Let not your heart," etc. This implies:
1. That Christians, while in this world, are exposed to trouble. These are:
(1) General. "Man is born to trouble." Christians are men, therefore by birth, nature, and circumstances, are heirs of the common troubles of humanity. Enumeration is unnecessary, as we are all educated in the great university of trouble, and are very proficient in its arithmetic.
(2) Special. As Christians, the disciples had their special trouble now arising from the impending departure of their Lord. This event already cast its dark shadow upon them. The little society, to all appearances, was on the verge of disorganization. The departure of their Lord would leave such a vacancy so that trouble, sorrow, doubts and fears, threatened to invade them as a sweeping flood. The road to Canaan is ever through the wilderness, and the way to life through tribulation.
2. That trouble naturally attacks the heart. Hence our Savior says, "Let not your heart," etc. The heart is the seat of emotion, the avenue of good and evil, and is impressible to every passing influence, and troubles which would be rejected by reason will be admitted by the trembling and undefended heart.
3. Faith in God and Christ fortifies the heart against trouble. "Let not your heart," etc. It was the aim of Christ now to strengthen them against the impending trouble and shelter them from the thunderstorm of sorrow and perplexity which had already begun to break out. This he does by fortifying their heart. This fortification is to be made by faith in God and Christ. For heart-disease there is but one remedy, and it is infallible, prescribed by the infallible Physician. "Believe in God," etc. This will fill the soul with elements of comfort and security, and while full of these, it is impregnable to trouble. What are these?
(1) Consciousness of the Divine indwelling. Believe in God and Christ, and they are yours. By faith the Divine Father and Son become the tenants of the heart and soul. "We will come unto him, and will make our abode with him." What powerful inmates! How near, sympathetic, and able! Who can take the heart with these within?
(2) The possession of adequate knowledge. Ignorance is weakness and trouble, knowledge is strength and happiness. Christ reveals himself to faith, and gives every necessary information. He gave this with regard to his departure, and faith followed him through the gloom of death, and especially through the effulgence of his ascension up to the right hand of power, and waited his return to fetch the spirit home. In the light of Jesus faith can see the invisible, and see the Divine movements proceeding in the direction of the soul's good; and where it cannot trace, it can trust.
(3) Consciousness of Divine care and love. A sense of loneliness and even apathy is a source of great trouble to a sensitive heart; but the possessor of faith need not feel this. His heart is filled with the sweet consciousness of a Savior's love, and a Father's tender and constant care.
(4) Infinite supplies. It is an old tactic of the foe to attempt to stop the supplies by besieging the heart with doubts and fears, and these threaten it with physical and spiritual destitution. But this can never be in the presence of a strong faith. If the water without become dry, there is still a perennial fountain within; and should the rivers about Jerusalem cease to flow, there is still "a river, the streams;" etc. The supplies come from above, and often meet faith midway, and often the suppliant can scarcely rise from his knees under the delightful burden of his prayer's speedy answer.
(5) The possession of glorious prospects. Much of our present trouble or comfort depends upon the future. If it be gloomy, there is trouble; but if bright, there is joy. The future of Christian faith is bright and full of hope. Faith often penetrates the intervening gloom, and opens the portals of immortality and the door of our Father's house, and returns with her wings laden with blessings, tinged with the light and beauty of the happy place, her garments perfumed with delightful aroma from the gardens of spices, her face beaming with the awaiting glory, and sings many a sweet song of the future amid the present discord of earth. The God and Savior of the past and present will be those of the future, and he who prepared for us homes and friends on our entrance to this world, shall meet us with even more surprising and congenial preparations on our entrance into other scenes. The departures of dear friends by death, to faith, are only apparent and temporary; they are only removed from the cold and damp kitchens of earth to the grand drawing-rooms in our Father's house. Death does not really separate the possessors of faith, but leads them into a more permanent and closer union. With these elements of comfort the heart is not only fortified against trouble, but filled with joy and ecstasy.
1. The freedom of the heart from trouble depends upon its own state and action. With the heart we grieve, and with it we also believe. If the heart is idle and stagnant, it will be filled with trouble; but if active in faith in God and the Savior, it will be filled with hope and joy.
2. The means of fortifying the heart against trouble are within our reach. The remedy for heart-trouble is ever at hand. The ingredients of the Divine prescription might be difficult to procure, but they are easy and near. "Believe," etc.
3. To keep troubles out from the heart is far easier than to drive them out once they are in. Hence our Lord's special injunction is, "Let not your," etc. Prevention is ever better than cure, and the prevention of trouble is the constant activity of the heart in a large and genuine faith in God and Christ. - B.T.
I. AN APPEAL TO A FAMILIAR EXPERIENCE. Most of the disciples, perhaps all of them, were well acquainted with the sea of Galilee. Some of them had earned their livelihood on its waters. They knew it in calm and in storm; and when their Master spoke of hearts being troubled, there was everything in this word "troubled" to make them think at once of the sea they had so often to do with. Their hearts were not to be as the waters of the lake, instantly responding to every breeze that set them in agitation. The surface is a mass of tossing billows; it cannot for a moment resist the wind; but the wind tries in vain to blow its turmoil down into the depths. So we cannot help the surface-trouble; but, whatever the changes of life, our hearts are kept in peace.
II. FUTURE TRIALS FORSEEN. We must recollect a little of the after experience of those whom Jesus here addresses. They were nearing a time of tempest and troubling, well perceived by him, altogether unexpected by them. They were to lose the visible presence of their Master. Persecution awaited them. They would have to go far from familiar and secluded Galilee out into all the world, to preach the gospel to every creature. So far the disciples had been like mariners, dropping down the harbor and making seaward under One whom they reckon as Captain. He is still with them, and they reckon on his continuing with them. And so he will, but in another guise from that which they expect. Thus Jesus would do his best to make them ready. The greatest of all dangers is that which for a while they will think of least, even the danger of trouble penetrating to the heart, and leaving not one single calm and blessed region in the whole of their experience.
III. THE SURE WAY TO UNBROKEN CALM. It is well for us when we come to estimate the perils of life according to the standard of Christ. Some people get no enjoyment out of life from their nervous apprehension concerning all sorts of temporal dangers. They are ever mounting sentinel against foes that no sentinel can keep out. But here is a peril only too easily overlooked - that of neglecting a real faith in God and in Christ. Remember the story of the man who was running full speed across a field to escape a thunderstorm. All at once he was gored by a bull, whose presence in the field he had altogether forgotten. This is a sample of the prudence of some people. The man had no certainty of escaping the lightning wherever he might go. But he could easily have escaped the bull by keeping out of the field where it was. Thus men thinking to save their lives, lose them. If the roots of our life are deepening and extending and intertwining into the life of God, then the fabric of our best interests cannot fall. We must be careful, too, to act on the double reference. Jesus does not stop with saying, "Believe in God." Nor does he begin with saying, "Believe in me." Jesus opens up all the resources at once. Jesus himself had believed in his Father. The disciples had to pass through tempests; Jesus himself had to pass through hurricanes and tornadoes, and say to himself, "Let not thy heart be troubled; believe in God." Believe in Jesus for the very works' sake. They will take him to prison; they will crown him with thorns; they will fasten him to the cross, and he will die; and still believe. Believe in Jesus, who himself has trod all the path, from earth's deepest sorrows to heaven's fullest joys. Who has better right to say, "Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me"? - Y.
I. CONSIDER THE OCCUPATIONS OF THOSE WHO WERE LEFT. Just one word gives the suggestion that these were in the mind of Jesus as he spoke, and that is the word "mansions." The settled life is thought of rather than the wandering one. Jesus knew full well what a wandering life his disciples would have, going into strange and distant countries. They would have to travel as he himself had never traveled. The more they apprehended the work to which they had been called, the more they would feel bound to go from land to land, preaching the gospel while life lasted. To men thus constantly on the move, the promise of a true resting-place was just the promise they needed.
II. THE FUTURE COMPANIONSHIP OF JESUS AND HIS PEOPLE. To those who have come into the real knowledge and service of Jesus nothing less than such a companionship will make happiness; and nothing more is needed. Jesus needed not to have a place in glory prepared for him; he had but to resume his old station, and be with his Father as he had been before. This is the great element of happiness on earth - not so much where we are as with whom we are. The most beautiful scenes, the most luxurious surroundings, count as nothing compared with true harmony in the human beings who are around us. And just so it must be in the anticipations of a future state. While Jesus was in the flesh, his presence with his disciples was the chief element in their happiness; and as they looked forward to the future, this was the main thing desired, that they should be with Jesus. As Paul puts it, "Absent from the body, present with the Lord."
III. THE PREPARATION OF A COMMON HOPE. Is this to be taken as a real preparation, or is it only a way of speaking, to impress the promise of reunion more deeply? Is there now some actual work of the glorified Jesus going on which amounts to a necessary preparation for his glorified people? Surely it must be so. We are not to go into another state, as pioneers, to cut our own way. We are not as the Pilgrim Fathers, who had to make their own houses, and live as best they could till then. It is clear that a kindly Providence made the earth ready for the children of men, storing up abundance for all our temporal need; and in like manner Jesus is making heaven ready. Earth was made ready for Jesus to come down and live in it, and for him and his disciples to live together in. And when his disciples ascend to a higher state, all things will be ready then. - Y.
I. CHRIST IS THE WAY TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. It is not so much by explanatory language that Jesus reveals to his people the character of the Father; he does not merely point out the way. But in his own Person, his life and ministry, he displays to us the attributes of Deity which it most concerns us to know; and thus he is the way. As incarnate God, as the one Mediator, he presents the Father before the view of his spiritual family.
II. CHRIST IS THE WAY TO THE FAVOR OF GOD. To understand how holy and how righteous is the Divine Ruler and Judge, is to understand that sinners forfeit his favor. Our Savior is the divinely appointed Way to reconciliation and harmony with him whose laws all men have broken. He removes obstacles otherwise insurmountable, bridges chasms otherwise impassable, makes of himself a path of safety and of progress, so that the passage to the Divine friendship becomes possible and safe. On this account, probably, Christianity is, in the Book of the Acts, repeatedly spoken of as "the way," i.e. the path by which sinful men return to the affectionate interest and regard of a righteous God.
III. CHRIST IS THE WAY TO THE FATHER'S FELLOWSHIP. It is, indeed, with a view to this that the former is desirable. It is moral union which is chiefly important. And the Spirit of Christ exercises over the nature of believing men that power and grace which transform into the Divine likeness. In coming thus unto the Father a man becomes a son indeed; he experiences the grace of true adoption; lie is made in the likeness of his Lord.
IV. CHRIST IS THE WAY TO THE FATHER'S PRESENCE AND HOME. This perhaps is both the ultimate sense of the language, and the first meaning attached to it by those to whom it was addressed. Jesus was himself about to go to the Father, and he wished his beloved friends to understand that he would not go alone, that in due time they should enter the sacred presence and know the mystic joy. And since it was difficult for them to believe and realize this, he drew their regard to himself, and led them to cherish the hope that in his society and through his mediation they should be introduced to all the honors and to all the immortal employments of the Father's house. - T.
I. WHAT IS THE TRUTH TO BE FOUND IN CHRIST? All truth is beautiful, worthy of reverence and of quest; but there are grades of truth. There is a common notion that upon matters of little moment truth is attainable; but that, the higher we go in our inquiries, the more is it imperative to be content with doubt and uncertainty; whilst upon the most wonderful and sacred of all themes truth is absolutely beyond our reach. This accounts for much of men's absorption in trifles. How many are content with the knowledge of individual facts and unimportant generalizations, just because the skeptical spirit of the time indisposes them to believe in the possibility of grasping the truth upon the greatest subjects of all! Yet it is a persuasion as unreasonable as it is dreary, that man is not made to know the truth. Pilate asked, perhaps with a cynical and wearied indifference, "What is truth?" But multitudes are like him in the conviction, the prejudice, that to this query there is no reply. Positivism tells us that phenomena and their invariable connections may be known, but that it is a waste of human time and power to seek for what really is, for what accounts for all that appears. Yet there are times when the most hopeless skeptic longs for truth. And especially are we constrained to desire truth regarding our own nature, truth regarding the character and purposes of God, truth regarding the Divine purpose in our being and our life, truth relating to eternity. The small syllogisms by which men attempt to prove that truth, on all matters upon which we really care for truth, is beyond our reach, impose upon none of us. And Christianity is the highest reason, because it offers that which our limited and unaided experience cannot acquire - the truth, which may take to one mind the form of spiritual beauty, to another the shape of a law of infinite righteousness, but which is what alone can satisfy the craving nature of man.
II. HOW DOES CHRIST REVEAL THE TRUTH? The most obvious answer to this inquiry is, that our Lord's recorded words are the embodiment of religious truth both speculative and practical. And he distinctly and boldly claimed to tell his auditors "the truth." Certain it is that upon all matters of highest interest we are indebted more to Jesus than to all others. The intuitions of genius, the conclusions of meditation and of learning, cannot be compared with those Divine utterances of the Prophet of Nazareth, which, though in form and in language so simple, have been recognized by the thoughtful as consummate wisdom - as, in fact, revelation, and nothing less than revelation. Sit at the feet of the great Teacher, and you will learn more truth from his lips than can be acquired from studying the treatises of thinkers and the aphorisms of sages. Yet it is observable that Jesus does not say, "I teach the truth;" he says," I am the Truth." This may be paradoxical, but it is just. The truth upon the highest of all themes cannot be put into words. Human language is not always adequate to express human ideas, human emotions; how can it be expected to utter the thoughts and the principles which are Divine? There are subjects to which the close precision of words may seem adapted; they are capable of verbal vesture. But how much there is which no words can tell-even those words which, as their Speaker said, are "spirit and life!"
"Truth in closest words shall fail, III. BY WHAT MEANS IS THE TRUTH TO BE GAINED? If what has been said be accepted as a just expression of the fact, and a just interpretation of the text, then we are on the way to a solution of the practical difficulty. There is no place for skepticism for that superficial and often unreflecting denial of the possibility of attaining truth, which leads some men to despair, but more to indolence of mind or to sensuality of life. And yet truth is not to be found by a mere passive submission to human authority; nor by a process of scientific inquiry applied to matters with which that process has no affinity. But it is to be found by those morally prepared for the discovery by humility and reverence; it is to be found by those who come to Christ, to listen to him, to watch him, to win him by the wide receptiveness of faith, and by the luminous sympathy of love. - T.
III. BY WHAT MEANS IS THE TRUTH TO BE GAINED? If what has been said be accepted as a just expression of the fact, and a just interpretation of the text, then we are on the way to a solution of the practical difficulty. There is no place for skepticism for that superficial and often unreflecting denial of the possibility of attaining truth, which leads some men to despair, but more to indolence of mind or to sensuality of life. And yet truth is not to be found by a mere passive submission to human authority; nor by a process of scientific inquiry applied to matters with which that process has no affinity. But it is to be found by those morally prepared for the discovery by humility and reverence; it is to be found by those who come to Christ, to listen to him, to watch him, to win him by the wide receptiveness of faith, and by the luminous sympathy of love. - T.
I. CHRIST IS IN HIMSELF THE POSSESSOR OF PERFECT SPIRITUAL LIFE, Such was the testimony of evangelists and apostles. "In him was life;" "The life which was with the Father was manifested unto us," etc. The same witness was borne by the Lord himself. "I am the Resurrection and the Life;" "I live." Such language declares the independence of the eternal Word, his underived authority, his supremacy over all who live by and through him. No man can dare to say, "I am the life;" a creature of Divine power, born but yesterday, and every moment depending upon providential care, he cannot but shrink from a claim which would be as absurd as it would be profane. But Jesus could say, "As the Father hath life in himself, even so gave he to the Son also to have life in himself."
II. CHRIST IS THE PRINCIPLE OF SPIRITUAL LIFE TO MEN. As far as we can trace it, life always comes from life. A mysterious principle, in its origin of lineal derivation, enables the living being to appropriate to itself its appointed nourishment, to discharge its proper functions, to do the work assigned to it in the economy of nature. Without this principle the lifeless matter is powerless. Now, the spirit of man is the breath of the Almighty. Informed by this Divine energy man lives, spiritually as well as naturally. But there is a life which is distinctively Christian; and this is always traceable to Christ himself. He communicates the life which he possesses. Imagine the earth as it is in the chill, hard grasp of winter; and in your fancy watch the change which takes place when that grasp is relaxed. The sun shines more warmly, the breezes play softly over the fields and the forests, and radiant spring smiles upon the earth, which beneath that smile begins to live. The corn springs up, the flowers bloom, the leaves burst into greenness, the grove lately still and silent echoes with the songs of birds, and all creation flushes, blossoms, murmurs into life. Such is the change which the coming of Christ brings to the soul, brings to the world. "Newness of life," life "more abundantly," the movement of emancipated energies, the chorus of newborn joy, the brightness and the smile of a glorious hope, - these all tell that Christ, "the Life," has come. His advent, his sacrifice, his resurrection, his Divine outpouring of blessing, were the means by which his spiritual vitality was communicated. The same Christ who gave the life at first, sustains, enriches, and develops it, and will in his own time also perfect it. It is his work to slay death itself, and to pour the vitality which streams from the bosom of the Eternal through all the channels of the spiritual organism. It must not be overlooked that it is not the mere bodily presence of the Savior upon earth that ensured this result. It is his spiritual presence which secures the fullness of Divine life to humanity. From the Day of Pentecost, when the Spirit, i.e. the Spirit of Christ, was poured out from on high, life has entered human souls in new measure and with new fruits, and in many a spot the desert has rejoiced and blossomed as the rose.
III. CHRIST IS THUS TO MAN THE AUTHOR OF AN IMMORTALITY OF BLESSEDNESS. The life of created organisms, both vegetable and animal, is perishable and brief. The life even of a species, a race, is but for a season. There are good reasons for regarding the spiritual life as above the action of this scientific law. To that law the body, a part of nature, is subject; from its action the spirit is exempt. There are those who hold that endless continuance of being is the purchase of the Savior's redemption. But certain it is, that what makes life good and desirable is due to the Spirit of the living Redeemer. He has "brought life and immortality to light by the gospel." He has said, "Because I live, ye shall live also." A mere enduring sentiency is valueless; eternal progress in the knowledge and fellowship of God himself, - this is life indeed. It is in this sense that he who liveth and believeth on Christ shall never die.
IV. THAT CHRIST IS THE LIFE OF MEN IS PRECIOUS TIDINGS WORTHY OF ALL ACCEPTATION. Spiritual death is indeed dreadful to contemplate; to experience it is the most awful doom that man can know. Yet the Scriptures represent sinful men as spiritually dead - "dead in trespasses and sins." To those in such a state it seems, if they know themselves and know not Christ, that existence is a curse. With what sweetness must the gospel come to such! To them it is the bringer of hope; for to them Christ is the Bringer of life. The welcome message is, "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light!" - T.
- the real we - must be ever moving forward into higher and still higher states. That Jesus should speak of a way was therefore evidently appropriate. But there are two other needs - the need of truth, all that gives a sense of reality, stability, security; and the need of life, all that gives energy, persistence, enjoyment. Or we might say that Jesus here indicates three aspects of the universal need, of which first one aspect and then another rises into prominence. But, whatever the aspect of human need may be, in Jesus there is something to correspond, for full and immediate supply.
I. THE WAY. There is a way which we must take - the way along which time takes our bodies; the way of physical development, maturity, decay. But side by side with the way which cannot be chosen, and in striking contrast with it, is the way which must be chosen. For that way we are responsible; none can compel us to take even one step in it. And what that way shall be depends on where we want to get. Those who want to be with Jesus hereafter must be with him here. And those who want to be with the Father hereafter, having knowledge of him, and receiving of his fullness, can only gain this through Jesus. There is no other name given whereby men are to be saved. No one else has a sure and certain path into the future. In Jesus there is a provision, the very neglect of which only sets in a most melancholy light the various provisions which men make for the life of time. Men who can walk diligently enough in the way of ordinary industry, in the way of frugality, in the way of intellectual activity, yet stumble and retreat at once when the Way Christ Jesus is put before them.
II. THE TRUTH. HOW much useless disputing, how many weary doubts, are saved to those who can put a real faith in Jesus! Everything practical and possible is known by knowing him. Truth is a very large word, but all that it suggests is amply comprehended in Jesus. In Jesus only do we find the real, the abiding, and that which can never be shaken. How simplified our inquiries become the moment we can rest in the all-sufficiency of Jesus! "Where is Jesus?" not "What is true?" becomes the main question then. All that lies outside of his intent and his support is seen to be but as a passing dream. All investigation of the problems of the universe is in vain apart from him. All phenomenal realities, all human sciences, only find out their use as they become subordinate to the truth as it is in Jesus.
III. THE LIFE. Jesus becomes the Existence of the believer. In him he lives and moves and has his being. Through Jesus we are born again into newness of life, and being born again, we find in Jesus the atmosphere, the nourishment, and all the ministering associations of our new life. We need all the energy and perennial freshness of his own vitality; and if we truly have Jesus, whatever we may lack, we shall not lack life. - Y.
I. A DIVINE VISION REQUESTED. "Show us the Father." This implies:
1. A special vision of God.
(1) A material vision. Such as Moses wished when he prayed, "Show me thy glory," and such as Moses had when he saw that glory on the mount. The request of Philip did not mean much more than this, although the language in itself is capable of a wider and a higher meaning, and ultimately led to this.
(2) A vision of God as the Father. "Show us the Father." it is not "Show us the Creator, the Governor, the Judge," but "the Father." How natural for an embodied spirit to wish an embodied representation of its Divine and invisible Parent! No view of God could be so charming and attractive as this.
2. That such a vision is the great want of man.
(1) This want is deeply felt. It is the deepest cry and the profoundest prayer of the human heart. The heart, in spite of sin and estrangement from God, has not lost all its aspirations for the Divine, but the echo of God's voice is still there, and the shadow of his image, and the most plaintive wail of the heart is for a fuller knowledge and a clearer vision of the Father. The ritualism and idolatry of the world were its intense but mistaken struggles for this.
(2) This want was generally felt. "Show us the Father." It was not the cry of one, but the cry of all to a more or less extent. It was the common prayer of the human family, expressed in every age, in different ways, and through different mediums. God is the universal Father, and to know and realize him was a universal want.
(3) This want was now especially felt by the disciples. "Show us the Father." They had heard so much of him in the ministry of Jesus, and this had excited in them an intense desire to know more of him, to enjoy a closer fellowship with him, and even to have a direct vision of him in his endearing character, and especially would they feel this desire now as Jesus was about to leave them; then they sighed for a vision of their Father.
3. That such a vision, they believed, Jesus was fully able to furnish. "Lord, show us," etc. Of his ability to do this they are quite confident, of his willingness they have but little doubt; hence the prayer is direct, confident, but reverential. Their request is addressed to the proper Person, and their confidence is well founded. Jesus was able and willing to furnish them with a vision of the Father, and struggled hard to prepare them for it.
4. That such a vision would be most satisfying. "It sufficeth us."
(1) Most satisfying to faith. Faith had become weak and struggling; her eye was dim by gazing on the invisible, and panted for a present and real vision of the Divine, the Source of light and love. Such a vision as requested would invigorate and even satisfy faith.
(2) Most satisfying to conscience. The conscience by sin is become guilty, burdened, and turbulent. The righteousness and reconciliation of God in Christ alone can appease it, and a full view of God in real character and disposition as a kind, loving, and forgiving Father can alone satisfy it.
(3) Most satisfying to the heart. The orphan-cry of the human heart is for the Divine Father. There is in it a craving which nothing can satisfy but the Divine Father, a vacant seat which no one else can fill. But a clear vision of the Father will give full satisfaction to the spiritual nature of man.
II. THIS DIVINE VISION HAD BEEN GIVEN.
1. It had been given in Christ. "He that hath seen me," etc.
(1) In Christ the nature and relationship of God were maul-rested. Being essentially one and equal with him, "the Image of the invisible God, the Brightness of his glory, and the express Image of his Person," he had a unique capacity of revealing his nature and glory as a personal, infinite Spirit, and the Spirit-Father of the human race.
(2) In Christ the character of God was manifested. Not only as the Creator of men, but as their Father; and in his life, actions, and conduct the power, wisdom, justice, holiness, love, and mercy of the supreme Father shone with constant and Divine brilliancy.
(3) In Christ God's will was manifested. In his life on earth he was an embodiment of the Divine heart and a revelation of the Divine will and purposes, and the Divine vision was exhibited in our nature, so that it was near, clear, and in the most attractive and congenial form.
2. It had been given, but not fully realized.
(1) Because Christ was not fully known. To realize fully the vision of the Father, Christ must be fully known. To see the Father, Christ must be seen and recognized. The very request, "Show us the Father," is a confession of their ignorance of Jesus; for if they had known him, they would have known the Father.
(2) Jesus was not fully known, although the greatest advantages to know him had been enjoyed. "So long a time with you." It would not be a long time to be with many, but a long time to be with Jesus. An hour with him was an age of the highest tuition. Their progress is not commensurate with their advantages.
(3) It takes a long time to know Jesus fully. It was so in this instance. They were very ignorant, short-sighted, and material in their notions of his mission and reign; so that to know him cost them repeated failures and struggles, and cost him repeated revelations.
3. Their confessed ignorance of Jesus called forth from him very significant and valuable expressions. "Have I been so long time with you," etc.?
(1) There is here a feeling of surprise and even grief. Christ struggled hard to reveal himself, his Person, character, Divinity, mission, his inmost thoughts and heart. Some are afraid to be really known - recognition pains them; such are impostors. But it pained Jesus not to be known. His chief object in making himself known was to make known the Father. He was the only Medium of this knowledge and vision.
(2) There is here a gentle rebuke. It is addressed to all, especially to Philip. "And yet hast thou not known me, Philip?" Thou, one of my first followers, who gavest such an early promise of spiritual insight into and recognition of my character and mission! And think of the long time I have been with you, and the advantages enjoyed! "And yet hast thou not," etc.? There is here a gentle rebuke. With whip of small cords faith is lashed to greater activity, to higher flights, and to open her eyes on the vision so much desired.
(3) There is here a fuller revelation. "He that hath seen," etc. The light is intensified, and the vision of the Father in him is directly pointed out, so that they gain by their failure and learn by their confessed ignorance. It is a step towards further knowledge. They are drawn out towards him and he towards them, and their minds are fixed upon him as the only Medium of the desired vision.
III. THIS DIVINE VISION CAN BE ONLY REALIZED BY FAITH. "Believest thou not," etc.?
1. By faith alone the Son and the Father can be seen and known. In the days of his flesh the Godhead of Jesus could not be seen in his Person by the material eye. To the carnal and material sight he was only an ordinary man. Faith alone could see his glory and Divinity. Divinity in the Father or the incarnate Son can only be seen and known by spiritual insight - by faith, the eye of the soul.
2. To faith, Christ and the Father are in essential, close, and Divine union. In this spiritual vision the Son is seen first in the Father, then the Father in the Son. The order depends upon the standpoint from which faith looks; but whether viewed in their essence, nature, and glory, or in relation to the scheme of redemption, the Son is seen in the Father and the Father in the Son.
3. Faith in relation to this vision is supported by the strongest evidence.
(1) The personal evidence of Christ. "Believe me," etc. This is the highest evidence of the highest Witness. He is the true and faithful Witness. The Son of God is in the witness-box. And his dignity and known character deserve and demand faith and confidence.
(2) The evidence of his ministry. "The words that I speak unto you," etc. His ministry as a whole, and some of his special sayings, they unquestionably point to the Father. His speech betrayed him; the echo of his Father's voice was in his. Any one who had the least knowledge of the Father would at once recognize him in Christ.
(3) The evidence of his miracles. "He doeth the works;" "Believe me for the very works' sake." His teaching and actions pointed to the same Divine Source. There is a perfect consistency. Although conscious of perfect veracity, yet he is willing to be judged by his works, all of which were of such a nature and character as to reflect most brightly the Father's glory and power.
4. The evidence of faith is promised a substantial increase.
(1) In the performance by the apostles of the same works. This would bring the evidence home to them; the Divine voice would speak in their own; the Divine vision would appear within them; and they themselves would be the direct mediums of the Father's power and glory.
(2) In the performance by them of even greater works than those performed by the Lord. This was literally fulfilled in the experience of some, if not all, of the apostles. Some of their works were more marvelous in some respects than his own. They were greater in number, wider in their influence, more extensive and mighty in their spiritual results and triumphs. Christ is spiritually mightier in believers than in his personal ministry; in them he still works and reveals the Father.
(3) In the exercise of prayer. "And whatsoever ye shall ask in my Name," etc. In prayer faith is strengthened and transfigured, and the Father is revealed to the soul. It brings it into immediate fellowship with him, and there is a spiritual commerce carried on between them. To establish this between the soul and the great Father was one of the chief aims of Jesus.
(4) All this was the result of the complete fellowship of Jesus with the Father. "Because I go unto the Father." Thus was completed his fellowship, in his human nature, work, and mission, with the Father; and the blessings of that fellowship would flow to believers in ever-living streams. He went nearer to the Father that the Father might come nearer to them; that faith might glow in the smiles of his countenance, and be satisfied with the Divine vision for which it craves, and the soul become ecstatic with the full answer of one of its profoundest prayers. "Show us the Father." - B.T.
I. PHILIP'S ACQUAINTANCE WITH JESUS. Philip would have spoken with the utmost sincerity and not without justification if he had said that certainly he knew Jesus. In Bethabara beyond Jordan he had heard the voice, "Follow me," and he had followed wherever he was allowed to follow. In a certain sense it was perfectly true that Philip knew Jesus. In the darkness he would have recognized the Master's voice and even his footsteps. In that which is the mere surface of humanity the knowledge was ample enough, but the moment Jesus seeks the depths, Philip's knowledge fails him. Philip says, "Show us the Father," in the simplicity of most utter and guileless ignorance. He is looking on the very thing he wants to see, and yet knows it not.
II. HOW FAR ARE WE INCLINED TO MAKE PHILIP'S REQUEST? If it were possible for Philip to do so, we may be sure he would press on us the need of making this request. So far as we can judge, he was a man who delighted in bringing others to Jesus. Philip himself came to make the request because so very often he had heard Jesus speak concerning the Father. According to Jesus, so much depended upon the Father, and the Father had a right to ask so much. How, for instance, could the disciple pray, "Our Father which art in heaven," as a real prayer unless first of all the Father had been shown to him? Philip must often have used the words of the Lord's Prayer. And yet here is proof of how little he had entered into the meaning. After the Father had been shown to Philip, only then would he begin to feel how great a thing true prayer is. There would be in it a power and a gladness it never had before. Thus it is clear we all need to have the Father shown to us. Not all our regularity in prayer and not all our importunity can bring down on us the highest blessings, if we know not to whom we are praying. Successful asking, successful seeking, successful knocking, implies that we ask from the right person, seek in the right place, and knock at the right door.
III. HOW FAR ARE WE EXPOSED TO THE ANSWER OF JESUS? The word of Jesus, be it observed, is not a word of blame. The natural man is riot to be blamed that he cannot see what is only to be seen by the spiritual man. The answer is rather meant to make plain to us very important truth.
1. How easy it is to think we know Jesus! Know about him, at least. And it is easy to know a great deal, in a certain way.
2. But to know Jesus, as he wants to be known, is not easy. Philip's experience proves that. If length of acquaintance and closeness of intimacy count for anything, Philip had enjoyed these. But time is only an element in real knowledge, when some part of the knowledge, at all events the alphabet and rudiments, is known from the beginning. Mere lapse of time by itself will not bring knowledge. Through what years of need and struggle some of us may have been ignorant of him, who came that he might help us in our need and struggle! - Y.
I. AN UNEXPECTED AND WONDERFUL SUPERIORITY. The master may naturally be expected to excel the servant, the teacher to excel the scholar, the leader to excel the follower. The reverse, however, was designed in the Christian dispensation. This very marvelous arrangement is to our mind a proof of the Lord's confidence in himself, and in the certainty of his expectations regarding the future of his cause. This is one of those many and instructive instances in which God's ways are not as our ways.
II. A REASONABLE SUPERIORITY. Below the superficial difficulty just mentioned there is a deep-rooted reasonableness in this arrangement. As explained in the text the conditions of this superiority are twofold.
1. They who do the greater works are believers on Christ. Faith is ever the inner power of works, both material and moral. It is the union with the Lord himself that makes his people strong to do the greater works; so that, in fact, they are not their works, but his, who works in and by his own faithful servants. Faith as a grain of mustard seed enables a disciple to remove mountains.
2. They who do the greater works are possessed and inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Lord himself assigns the reason: "Because I go unto the Father." The ascension of Christ secured the bestowal of the Spirit, and the influences of the Spirit enabled the richly endowed and blessed to do great marvels. "Strengthened with all might" by the Holy Spirit, they were made fit for the great enterprise committed to them. Feeble in themselves, they were strong in their Lord.
III. A PROVED SUPERIORITY. When Jesus uttered this assurance, it was received by those who heard it in faith, because they credited the Divine Speaker. But we have the evidence of the facts that followed the proclamation of the gospel, and of the facts of Christian history. By "greater works" we do not understand works more striking and marvelous in themselves, but more glorious in their effects upon human society and upon the progress of God's spiritual kingdom. The contrast between the signs and wonders recorded in the four Gospels and those recorded in the Acts of the Apostles is mainly in the spiritual results by which they were accompanied and followed. As their Lord foretold, the apostles received power to heal the sick, to expel demons, to raise the dead. They spake with tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews best explains these greater works, when he writes of the great salvation, that it "was confirmed unto us by them that heard, God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders, and by manifold powers, and by gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will" Thus it was that the moral and spiritual changes, wrought by the agency of the apostles, were astounding to a mind capable of measuring and appreciating wonders of this kind. The works of this nature wrought by them were great indeed. Souls were awakened, taught, counseled, renewed, and saved. The few who were spiritually blessed by the ministry of Jesus were but the firstfruits of a great harvest reaped in the ministry of his apostles. A vast variety of classes was reached. Gentiles as well as Jews received the gospel; great centers of civilization were attacked by the aggressive, apostolic host. Complete change of character was effected in unnumbered instances by this consecrated and inspired agency. Social improvements followed in the train of Christian evangelization - ameliorations which were the earnest of the most amazing transformations which the world has witnessed. Fully to realize these "greater works," it is necessary to take a survey of the history of Christendom. The glimmering dawn has been followed by the glorious day.
IV. AN INSTRUCTIVE SUPERIORITY. These greater works which we witness, and in the production of which we are called upon to bear our part, have practical lessons of value for us in this spiritual dispensation.
1. They remind us of the dignity, power, and glory of the Savior. Promised by him, they are evidences alike of his faithfulness and of his power. He by his Spirit reveals his presence in his Church.
2. They impress upon us our own responsibility. The provision having been made for the continuance of these spiritual operations, Christ's people are called upon to prepare themselves to act as agents in the establishment and extension of his Church on earth. The possession of spiritual gifts ought not to minister to our pride; it should remind us of our dependence and of our duty.
3. They encourage us to cherish a bright and glorious hope. What works have yet to be wrought before the purpose of God is achieved, before the sufferings of Christ are rewarded, before the work of the Church is completed! - T.
I. THE NEED OF THESE GREATER WORKS. We know the works of Jesus in the flesh - certainly not all he did; but still we know the kind of things he did. And we know, too, that if nothing more had been done, the greatest things would have been left undone. A diseased and defective body is bad, a physical leprosy is a great pollution; but a distracted, passion-ruled heart is infinitely worse. The miraculous healings and alleviations worked out by Jesus are very beautiful, but they were only deeds by the way; having in them something preparatory and illustrative, but always looking to fundamental renovations, which would bring all other renovations in due course. We should ever aim to look at need according to the gradation which Jesus gives. We easily become "the fools of time and sense." What shall it profit a man if he practically learns the secret of vigorous health, and a long, enjoyable physical life, if it leaves him, all through, self-indulgent and self-asserting? The abiding ministry of Jesus, through the ministry of those in every generation whom he chooses and qualifies, is a ministry to the greatest needs of men. For temporal and physical needs they can often do little or nothing; but Jesus fills them with a spiritual energy which works out results, making many increasingly grateful to them, and through them to the supreme Savior himself.
II. THE PERFECT SUBORDINATION OF THE SON TO THE FATHER. What consciousness there is here of a plan and an order! What humble and beautiful recognition of the place of Jesus and of his servants respectively! Jesus says it without the slightest hesitation that his servants would do greater things than himself. Here are the words of One who was ever thinking, first of all of the glory and will of his heavenly Father. So the thing be done, what matters it whose is the visible hand? Nothing good can be done, whether in higher or lower degree, without the enabling energy from on high. So long as the greater works are continually going on, and men being regenerated and sanctified, what we may call the mere reputation of Jesus is a small matter. There is no fear but what Jesus will get full recognition from those in whom the greater works are being done. Such recognition is no trivial part of the proof that the greater works are being done.
III. THE CAUSE OF THE GREATER WORKS. The apostles do not merely take the place of Jesus. His departure out of the ordinary conditions of human life is part of the qualification of his servants for the greater works. He is with the Father now in a sense in which he was not while here in flesh and blood. Even as Paul said, "Absent from the body, present with the Lord," so Jesus, absent from the body, was present with the Father. Let us, indeed, fully admit that the cause Jesus here gives is one we are little able to comprehend. But it is the real cause, and we should rejoice in its being mentioned; for what we know not now we shall know hereafter. - Y.
I. THE PRAYER WHICH CHRIST SANCTIONS.
1. The petitions here encouraged are such as the disciples of Jesus offer. Not that any human being is forbidden to pray, but that there is special encouragement for those who are Christ's own scholars and friends, and that there is a special guarantee on their behalf.
2. The condition affixed to the direction and promise of the text is very instructive. What is asked must be asked in Jesus' Name. This was a new condition, one which up to this time it was not in their power to fulfill, but which henceforth would be felt by them to be most natural and appropriate. In explaining this condition, it must be borne in mind that Jesus was explaining the unity of his people with himself; so that on the one hand they were called to bring all their desires into harmony with his will, and on the other hand they were encouraged to trust in his mediation and advocacy.
3. The breadth of the Lord's promise deserves attention; When prayer is offered by those whom he describes, and in the manner which he prescribes, there is no limitation set. The expressions "whatsoever" and "anything" indicate alike the vastness of the Lord's resources and the liberality of his heart.
II. THE ANSWER WHICH CHRIST PROMISES.
1. It proceeds from himself. "I will do it," says the Master. In making this declaration our Lord asserts his own Deity - makes himself "equal with God," who alone hears and answers prayer. Wonderful indeed is such language, as coming from One who was about to be betrayed and crucified.
2. It corresponds with the petition. The very thing which the Christian desires, Christ promises to give. Such an assurance places all the resources of Omnipotence at the disposal of the lowliest disciple. It corresponds with the apostolic assertion, "All things are yours."
III. THE PURPOSE WHICH CHRIST CONTEMPLATES. The ultimate end of Christian privileges and Divine blessings is to be sought in God himself; and such an end affords to the soul a full and final satisfaction. When Christ's people receive the supply of all their need, through the advocacy of the Redeemer whom the Father has appointed, that Father's wisdom and benevolence are seen in the brightest light. It raises our conception of the dignity of prayer when we understand and feel that its effect is not merely upon ourselves, that its effect does not terminate here. There is an even higher purpose in this Divine arrangement that Christian petitions shall be answered; it is a revelation of the character and of the will of the eternal Father himself. - T.
I. CHANGED METHODS OF COMMUNICATION. The prayers of the disciples were probably very shallow and vitiated expressions of feeling during the days when they knew Jesus according to the flesh. We know something of their misapprehensions and self-regarding ways - and how could these be kept out of their prayers? For a while Jesus came between them and God; as he himself suggested, he was a stumbling-block. But the happy day was coming when the disciples would be thrown upon the unseen. Intercourse with Jesus in flesh and blood was pleasant enough, but it had no special enrichment in it, and it had to be taken with all its drawbacks and limitations as well as its pleasures. No wonder the disciples so abounded in prayer after the ascension of their Master. All the way in which he had taken them led up to this. Becoming invisible, he did not become inaccessible; yea, rather, he became more accessible than ever.
II. SPECIFIED TOPICS OF SUPPLICATION, All that is asked must he asked in the Name of Jesus. Asked with confidence and understanding, even as a servant does in the name of his master. If a known servant goes to the bank with a check signed by his master, he gets the money at once; for his master has a claim there, and the claim is recognized, as a matter of course. Jesus was One who had great stores of wealth treasured up in the bank of heaven, and for a while he made application himself, whereby to do his wonderful works. He himself, dwelling on earth, had asked in his own Person, and for his own direct ministrations from his heavenly Father. And now that he was going away to the far country, the works had still to be done - yea, even greater works - and the heavenly treasury had to be in constant requisition. The greater works were impossible unless as answers to truly Christian prayer.
III. GREAT ENCOURAGEMENT FOR ALL WHO SEEK THE GOOD OF OTHERS. A large amount of good, of a certain sort, may be done without prayer. There are physical wants of men and there are physical supplies. But he who would do the highest good must ever be asking himself what Jesus would do, if he himself could be thought of just as one of his own servants. We are to live lives of ministry to men as the servants of the Lord Jesus. Our ministry is to be measured, not by what men ask for, but by what Jesus seeks to give. We have greater boons at our command for a needy world than anything nature can supply.
IV. THE REPLIED MEDIATION OF JESUS. He and his Father are one. Whatever is asked in the Name of Jesus will be done as by Jesus himself. Notice how soon opportunity was given to try the reality of all this. Look at the lame man laid at the Beautiful gate of the temple. He is asking, but his desires do not go beyond alms. He has long learned to be contented, if only he can drag on existence. But to Peter the opportunity is given of something far beyond an alms, and he speaks to the lame man, not in his own name - that would have been all in vain but in the Name of Jesus of Nazareth. Here is a revelation many of us have yet to discover, that we may become blessed channels of the highest power flowing from the mediation of the Lord Jesus. - Y.
I. IT IS ASSUMED BY CHRIST THAT OBEDIENCE TO HIMSELF IS ACKNOWLEDGED AS THE LAW OF HIS PEOPLE'S CONDUCT.
1. Obedience had been the very watchword of the older dispensation. The Law was given by Moses. The public and private life of the Israelites was governed by Divine statute. The government of Israel was a theocracy, and Jehovah was an absolute and a righteous Sovereign.
2. The religion which Jesus founded was none the less practical and authoritative. He came not to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it. He was not only a Savior; he was a Lawgiver and a Lord. His precepts, counsels, and admonitions are binding upon all the subjects of his kingdom. And he is Lord of all.
3. Christ's commandments are distinguished from others by their spirituality, their moral authority, their universal application. They are fitted for all nations and for every age.
II. IT IS ASSUMED BY CHRIST THAT HIS PEOPLE OFTEN FIND IT HARD TO OBEY HIS WILL. It is sometimes difficult for every man to obey. It is very often difficult for the self-confident and willful; and not for them only, but also for the indolent and the frivolous. Boys find it hard to bend their will to a father or a master. Men find it hard to give up their own will, and accept that of another as their law. Yet there are motives which constrain obedience. The soldier or sailor who is impressed into the service may obey the officer from compulsion; the slave may obey the driver from fear of the lash; the well-paid official may obey from a motive of interest; the workman may obey for the sake of daily bread; the miner, the diver, may obey with the prospect of reward; a subject may obey with the hope of favor from his king. Many motives may enable a man to master himself and to bend his will.
III. IT IS ASSUMED BY CHRIST THAT HIS PEOPLE CHERISH FERVENT LOVE TO HIMSELF.
1. Our Lord's character, conduct, and sacrifice are such as may well excite Our love. His perfect goodness, his pity and kindness, his sufferings and death, all appeal, as nothing else can do, to the human heart, and claim its best affection. His love passeth knowledge.
2. As a matter of fact, the love of Christ to mankind does elicit the response he desires. Hard natures are softened, masculine characters are rendered gentle, even rough and naturally unemotional persons are melted by the wonderful power of the cross of Christ. The spirit of Christianity is a spirit of love, and has effected a blessed change in the moral condition of humanity. Without disparaging the sterner virtues, our religion has exalted those which are more tender. Jesus has been, and is, loved as none other in the history of mankind.
IV. IT IS ASSERTED BY CHRIST THAT HIS LOVE IS THE ONE GREAT MOTIVE TO OBEDIENCE.
1. Willing and cheerful obedience is the only obedience which is acceptable to our Divine Lord. Earthly governors say nothing concerning the temper in which obedience is rendered; all they ask is compliance with their edicts and laws. Observing the threats and penalties attached to disobedience, we may well conclude that the spirit of the Lawgiver is, "If ye fear me, keep my commandments." It is not so with the Lord Christ. He values the spiritual consent, which expresses itself in outward acts of service.
2. Love is a powerful, because a personal, motive to obey. He who is capable of affection can feel the force of the appeal made by the father, the superior, whom he both reveres and loves. They who deny a personal God sacrifice this motive. They do not believe, as the Christian does, that obedience gives satisfaction and pleasure to the supreme Power of the universe. They simply yield to unconscious and unapproving law.
3. As love is sincere, its expression will be practical. To profess love to Christ, and at the same time to disregard his will and to defy his authority, is hypocrisy. We are exhorted to prove the sincerity of our love.
4. Law and love, as blended in Christ, are the revelation of the highest morality. They are not to be set over against each other, for they are in perfect harmony. It is the highest righteousness to love Christ; it is the purest love to obey him; for his will and his heart are alike Divine.
V. THE PRACTICAL ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF THIS PRINCIPLE BY CHRIST'S APOSTLES WAS THE EARNEST OF ITS UNIVERSAL PREVALENCE. The Lord did not rely in vain upon this new motive. It speedily proved its power to work unparalleled marvels. It enabled men to love one another, to labor for the welfare of their fellow-men, to welcome persecution when engaged in the effort to fulfill the commission they had received. And from their time it has been evident that Divine love is in the spiritual universe what gravitation is in the universe of matter. Christ is the central Sun, and the power of love causes every loyal soul to move as in even revolutions around him. And the purposes of Divine wisdom and compassion shall be completed when Christ's friends shall be his subjects, each one fulfilling his appointed service, yet all in happy harmony with one another because in perfect obedience to him.
APPLICATION. These words of our Lord are a rebuke and an admonition:
1. To those who think they love, but do not obey.
2. To those who think they obey, but do not love.
3. To those who are conscious that they neither obey nor love the Savior. - T.
I. OBEDIENCE TO CHRIST AS THE NATURAL CONSEQUENCE OF LOVE TO HIM. "If ye love me," etc. Where there is love to Christ, there is scarcely any need of a command to obey him; but it will follow as the stream from the fountain, or light and heat from the sun. Where there is love to Christ:
1. There is a recognition of his Divine authority. Where there is no authority, there is neither right nor power to command. There may be commands, but they are weak and powerless. Love to Christ recognizes his personal and administrative authority - his authority over the heart, the will, the intellect, the conscience, and over all the physical and spiritual nature. His kingship is freely owned by love.
2. There is a recognition of a close and essential connection between him and his commandments. The king is in his laws. Christ is really in his commandments; they are expressions of his will; they are his will, spoken or written; they are parts of himself; they are, in fact, he himself acting upon and addressing man's moral nature.
3. This recognition is ever practical. "If ye love me, ye will keep," etc. Genuine love ever manifests itself in genuine and practical forms. It does not begin and end in mere sentiment, in good wishes, in sighs and tears, but is essentially practical, and practical in the most pleasing way to its object, in the way requested. "Ye will keep," etc. Filial love ever manifests itself in filial obedience.
4. This recognition is most thorough and comprehensive. "Ye will keep my commandments." Not some of them, but all. The obedience is commensurate with the Master's expressed will. Love is very careful to keep whatsoever is commanded, however apparently small and insignificant. It keeps a sharp look-out whether a command bears the Divine signature and the seal of Divine authority. It seeks not its own way of obedience, but is thoroughly satisfied with the one prescribed by the great Law giver. "What wilt thou have me to do?" is ever the question of love to the Master.
5. This recognition is devotional. "My commandments." They are kept from love to him, from respect for his authority, from sympathy with his nature and character - kept because they are the recognized expressions of his will. Some of them are positive, the reasons for which are not stated; but love will obey them simply because they are his, and obey them for his sake. Jesus is now physically absent, but is ever present in his commands. Love to him finds its manifestation in ready and willing obedience to these. Personally he is now above practical hatred or love, but in his expressed will he is still the Object of both. Love is loyal to him behind his back, and ever true to the absent Savior; to it his laws are "more to be desired than gold, and sweeter than honey."
II. LOVE TO CHRIST AS THE NECESSARY BASIS OF OBEDIENCE TO HIM. "If ye love me," etc. As obedience is the essential consequence of love, so love is the essential basis of obedience. It is essential:
1. To make obedience real. Obedience which does not proceed from genuine love to Christ has no reality in it; it is not the genuine offspring of the heart, the real act of the soul; it lacks the essential motive and inspiration of all Christian deeds. It is formal, mechanical, legal, and empty.
2. To make obedience easy and delightful. Obedience not arising from love is forced, burdensome, and even painful - painful to the man himself and to others. Obedience which springs from fear, selfishness, legality, self-praise, or from mere custom, is insipid and wearisome; while the obedience of love is easy, natural, and pleasant. To such the words of our Lord are full of truth and significance: "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light." The least duty, in the absence of love, is really heavy; while the heaviest, with it, is really light. Many have counted it joy to suffer, and even die, for Christ. They rejoiced in chains, and sang in flames. Theirs was the obedience of love, the offering of affection, and the tribute of a willing heart.
3. To make it spiritually and personally valuable. There is no spiritual value in unloving obedience. It may be acceptable with men, and pass as a genuine coin in human markets, but it is a counterfeit in the spiritual and Divine. It may benefit society, but will not spiritually benefit the man himself; and however extensive, minute, and ostentatious its performance may be, it will not score in heaven. It is found wanting in the balance of God, and even in that of the enlightened conscience. "Though I speak with the tongues of men," etc. Love alone can impart spiritual value into obedience, and fill it with life and Divinity.
III. LOVING OBEDIENCE TO CHRIST ENSURING THE DIVINEST BLESSINGS. "If ye love me," etc.; "And I will pray the Father," etc. It brings into the soul the richest blessings, and in its interest the mightiest spiritual agencies.
1. The Holy Spirit.
(1) The Holy Spirit as the Father's Gift to them. "And he shall give," etc. The Spirit is sometimes described as coming of himself, or sent by Christ, but here as the Gift of the Father. All these descriptions are true and highly significant, but not one of them more endearing and attractive than the Spirit as the Father's Gift to his obedient and loving disciples.
(2) As his Gift to them in consequence of Christ's prayer. "I will pray the Father, and he shall give," etc. There is an inseparable connection between the Father's gifts and the Son's prayers. When the Son prays the Father gives, and gives because he prays and what he prays for. What an inestimable blessing to the disciples is the intercession of the object of their love!
(3) As his additional Gift to them It is not that the Spirit is given instead of Christ, but is given in addition to him. It is another installment of Divine love. The Father gave the Son, and this, one would think, was as much as even infinite benevolence could afford to give. But this was only the beginning of his munificence. Here is "another," and there will be another and another still.
2. The Holy Spirit in some of his special characteristics.
(1) As a Comforter, an Advocate, or a Helper. It was some of the special functions of the Spirit to comfort, to intercede for and in, and help believers. And these were the special purposes of the precious Gift.
(2) As the Spirit of truth. Its Source and Essence, its very Spirit, and the Revealer of truth to the soul. Christ was "the Truth," its incarnation and outward expression. The Holy Spirit is its inward Revealer, and who can reveal and communicate truth to the Spirit of man as well as the Spirit of Truth himself?
(3) This was specially required by the disciples now, and required by disciples at all times; and one was already sick at the prospect of the Lord's departure. They would immediately and through life meet with inward and outward troubles, and they required consolation and help. They would, through ignorance and weakness, be exposed to errors and mistakes, and they required inward guidance and light; and these are promised. "He shall give you another Comforter, even the Spirit," etc. There is a most fascinating correspondence between the Father's Gift and the disciples' need.
3. The Spirit as known to them, but not so to the world. On the part of the world there was a terrible inability to receive him - inability arising from spiritual blindness and agnosticism. The world only receives what it can see and handle. It walks by sight and sense, therefore cannot receive the "Spirit of truth." But it was not so with the disciples. The Spirit is promised to them:
(1) As a present Acquaintance. "Ye know him; for he abideth," etc. Not a stranger is introduced to them, but one at least partially known. The Spirit was known to and actually with them in Christ and his teaching. They were prepared to receive him, not as the world.
(2) In his closer fellowship. "And shall be in you." In the Person and life of Christ he was rather without them; but in his special advent he would be within them - in the heart, will, conscience, and reason.
(3) In his permanent indwelling. "And shall be in you and with you for ever," as their ever-present Light, Help, and Comfort.
1. Love is the great law of Christ's kingdom. It is established on this. There is no compulsion, no carnal weapons; but he reigns through love, and he is the only King whose subjects, without an exception, love passionately.
2. Loving obedience to him is most spiritually enriching. It insures the richest blessings and the most powerful spiritual agencies; for the prayers of Christ and the gifts of the Father are not made at random, but made to loving and obedient souls.
3. The supreme importance of possessing love to Christ. Where this is present all besides will naturally and inevitably follow. "If ye love me," etc. - B.T.
I. THE PROMISE IS SUGGESTIVE OF HUMAN NEEDS. Why should a "Comforter" be provided? There must be something in the condition of men which makes the promise of a Divine Friend so appropriate and welcome. Men suffer from ignorance and proneness to error and delusion. They are encompassed with temptations which act powerfully, sometimes fatally, upon their frail and feeble nature. And those who are bent upon attaining true knowledge and practicing true virtue are exposed to the bitter hostility and opposition of the world.
II. THE PROMISE IS SUGGESTIVE OF THE CHARACTER AND THE OFFICES OF CHRIST HIMSELF. In promising another Comforter to come upon his own departure, Jesus was really claiming to be a Comforter, whose loss must needs be sorely felt. And such he was. He had been very much in the society of his disciples, was always sympathetic, always wise in counsel, always faithful in admonition, always gracious in encouragement. Nor, indeed, did he cease to be the Paraclete, the Advocate, of his people, when he quitted the world which he visited in order to befriend and save its guilty and helpless inhabitants.
III. THE PROMISE IS SUGGESTIVE OF THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE CHURCH. The Paraclete is One who is called to the side of him who is in need, an Advocate who undertakes the cause Of the defenseless, a Patron exercising a wise protection, a Strengthener or Comforter communicating his power to the feeble. It is implied in the designation that the Holy Spirit is a Person, and that he is Divine. He teaches, guides, assists; he is living, acting, gracious. As he came on the Day of Pentecost - the promise of the Father - so he has ever resided in his Church, to quicken, to purify, to bless.
IV. THE PROMISE IS SUGGESTIVE OF THE PECULIAR ADAPTATION OF THE SPIRIT TO THE WANTS OF THE RANSOMED HUMANITY. Our Lord's mission to earth, and in the body, was a local and temporary mission. In both respects the mission of the Comforter was more suited to the condition of the Church. Whilst the ministry of Jesus was confined to one land, the influences of the Holy Spirit are felt wherever the gospel is preached, wherever Christian society is established. Whilst the ministry of Jesus lasted but for a few years, the abiding mission of the Comforter endures forever. Wherever and whenever human spirits call, in necessity and under the prompting of faith, upon the unseen God for strength and help, the Spirit of might and wisdom and grace, ever near and ever compassionate, comes to their aid, and proves himself their Comforter indeed. - T.
I. AS ANSWER TO A REQUEST OF JESUS. The manifestation of the Holy Spirit is a conditional thing. Jesus must ask the Father for it; and he can only ask the Father when he perceives the disciples to be going in the way of his directions. If only the disciples will do what Jesus wants them to do, ha will secure for them the indispensable help. They must not be under the delusion that the might of the Holy Spirit will be given to aid them in their own plans and schemes. They must be servants to the plans and schemes of Jesus. The Father waits for the Son to ask, and the Son waits till he sees his people ready to receive.
II. THE GIFT BESTOWED. Here it is plain we must try to look at things rather than words - at the whole actual work of the Holy Spirit rather than at special words by which he is described. And inasmuch as he is called "another Paraclete," we must consider the incarnate Jesus himself as the first and introductory Paraclete. Well did the disciples know how utterly helpless they would have been without the assistance of Jesus. Truly he was an earthly Providence to them. They never needed to be at a loss. And all the time they were made to feel more and more their natural insufficiency. And doubtless Jesus saw in their hearts the question rising as to what they should do when he was gone. If Jesus had not come into their lives, they would not have known what life can be. But having had a Paraclete, it would be like sinking from light into darkness to go on without one. Better never to have known Jesus at all, than to know him and then lose him, and have to go on with no mere than they had at the beginning. More than that, the gift of the second Comforter includes all that was essential in the first one. Nay, we may say even more. The first Comforter was only truly operative when he blossomed out, so to speak, into the second one. Jesus was the Truth, and the second Comforter was the Spirit of the Truth. Jesus gave the seed, and then the Spirit came like the breath of spring to stir up the seed into life. There is much about all this process that we cannot understand; but that is all the more reason why we should mark what we can mark - even the sequence of processes and results. If the second Comforter had never come, the mission of the first one would have been the greatest enigma in the history of humanity.
III. THE RECIPIENTS OF THE GIFT. It has been well said that Jesus is spoken of as having come into the world. The world could receive him after a fashion, because it could gaze upon him and recognize him by the senses, as it could any incarnated human being. But the Holy Spirit comes to the Church, to prepared and humbled hearts. He comes to complete repentance. Men see that the past has been wrong and foolish, full of wasted days and powers. Then they begin to study the communications of Jesus, and so they are led on into a reception of the Holy Spirit. There must surely be much listening to Jesus, much pondering over all the elements of his incarnate career, before it can be comprehended what the Holy Spirit really is and does. - Y.
I. THE COMFORT OF HIS CONTINUOUS COMING UNTO THEM. "I come unto you."
1. This was really the case, in spite of some appearances to the contrary. They thought that he would leave entirely and for ever by death. This was a mistake, and Christ is very careful to correct it. "I come unto you." Many of our troubles and sorrows arise from our mistaken notions of things. Things are not always what they seem. The disciples thought that Christ was going away from them by death, while in fact he was coming unto them, spiritually nearer to them in sympathy and fellowship. On the cross and in the grave he was coming unto them; and he was coming nearer and nearer unto them in all the trials and dangers of after-life. And thus he comes unto all believers, even when they think that he leaves them.
2. This was literally the case at his resurrection. He came unto them, and they embraced their risen Lord.
3. This was specially the case on the Day of Pentecost. When his promise of the Spirit was fulfilled, and in the fulfillment of this promise, they realized the presence of Christ more than ever; and, instead of the outward Christ, they henceforth enjoyed him in them as a Divine power, light, and inspiration. "Christ in you, the Hope of glory."
4. This will be fully the case at the last day. He ever comes in his Word, in his Spirit, in the dispensations of providence, in the shadows and sunshine of life, and especially in the gloom of death, and each coming is a source of comfort and joy; but his great coming at the last day will crown all, and swallow every other coming in itself, and will perfect the mutual fellowship for ever.
II. THE COMFORT OF A CONTINUOUS VISION OF JESUS.
1. This is denied to the world. "Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more." The world had seen him outwardly. But even this vision would be soon withdrawn. There is an undertone of sadness in his announcement of this. The best opportunity the world ever had would soon be lost forever. The world cannot see the spiritual and eternal; only the material and outward. Only this it saw of Jesus; but even this was about to be withdrawn.
2. This vision is granted to the disciples. "But ye see me." He assures them not merely that he would continue to come unto them, but that they would continue to see him - see him even after his departure; and if not, it would be their own fault. They had professed to have the power of spiritual vision, faith, which they doubtless had, and they had been well strengthened by his teaching and miracles. Now it was about to be tried, and he had no doubt of the ultimate success. Material and circumstantial changes cannot entirely intercept the vision of faith. There may be an eclipse, but not total; and if total, it will not continue long enough to be specially noticed. It was so now in the case of the disciples with regard to their impending trial. After the terrible but brief gloom, "the Sun of Righteousness" appeared to faith brighter than ever. So clear and full was the vision to the disciples that they could see nothing else. It filled their horizon with his presence and glory. They saw him in every object around and above them in the gloom of earth and in the glory of heaven; saw him in all the circumstances and trials of life and in the sufferings of death, in nature, providence and redemption. Christ, in fact, was their "all in all."
III. THE COMFORT OF A CONTINUOUS LIFE.
1. The life of Jesus. "I live." Christ's life was continuous. It is true that he really died, but it was the act of his own will. He was the Prisoner of death, but only for a short time, and that by his own permission. By reason of the fullness of life in him, he could well afford to ignore death. He lived in death, and through death he attained his mediatorial life in its glory. Death was made by him to serve life. The disciples were afraid that would be his final end; but this fear is dispelled by the announcement, "I live." Of the truth of this they had ample proofs in due time. What a comfort it is to believers to know that their pious dead are still living, and especially to know that their Redeemer liveth! They are not orphans.
2. Their life. "And ye shall live also." Next to their concern for his life was that for their own. They were afraid that his death would involve their death, and they would naturally and sadly ask - What will become of us, of our fond hopes, dreams, and aspirations? They are set at rest by the statement, "And ye shall live a]so."
3. Their life as united with his. "Because I live," etc. We have here:
(1) The nature of their life. A life like that of Jesus; a Divine and spiritual life, different from and superior to the physical and its circumstances. They are directed to the spiritual nature of their life as a source of consolation.
(2) The infinite cause of their life. It is a great source of comfort to have an adequate reason for an important statement such as the one made here by our Lord, "Ye shall live also." One would naturally ask - Why and how is this? It appears strange, if not impossible. There is sufficient answer in the statement of Jesus, "Because I live," etc. Physical life is dependent upon the life and will of God; and spiritual life by faith is entirely dependent on the life of Christ as its Divine Source, its efficient and meritorious Cause, its infinite Support and Guarantee.
(3) The perfect certainty and safety of their life. In the degree they would believe in the life of Jesus they would realize their own, and have confidence in its safety. The life of faith is as certain and safe as that Divine life from which it emanates, and by which it is protected and supported. Safe in all the trials and dangers of life, and even in death itself. It is "hid with Christ in God."
(4) The endless continuance of their life. "Ye shall live also." The cravings and aspirations of immortality are fully satisfied in the life of Jesus. There is no room for any fear with regard to the great changes of the future. The life of faith is commensurate in duration with the life of Christ, with which it is inseparably connected. They had the comfort of a continuous vision of an ever-living Savior, and of their life eternally safe in connection with his.
IV. THE COMFORT OF A FULLER REALIZATION OF DIVINE FELLOWSHIP.
1. The fellowship of Christ with the Father. "Ye shall know that I am in my Father." This as yet was but imperfectly known - a source of perplexity to them.
2. Their fellowship with Christ, and Christ with them. "Ye in me," etc.
3. Their fellowship with the Father. This is an inevitable consequence of their fellowship with Christ. To realize all this would be to them a source of great comfort and spiritual peace and joy. Then they would not consider themselves orphans, but happy and rich children in the warm embrace of an almighty and infinitely kind Father.
(1) It is possible to have an interest in Christ without fully knowing it at the time. The disciples had much now of which they were not aware. Their spiritual possessions were greater than knowledge.
(2) Faith naturally presses forward to a fuller knowledge of Divine things. It craves for it, and is never disappointed. If we want an increase of knowledge, let us strive for an increase of faith. Believe, and you shall know.
(3) There are periods when Divine knowledge is specially attained and realized. "In that day ye shall," etc. The morning of Christ's resurrection was such a day, and Pentecost was another; and in individual and social experience of believers there are many such days, when faith is rewarded with knowledge, and culminates in spiritual realization. Then the language of the soul is not "I believe," but "I know" - "I know that my Redeemer," etc.; "I know whom," etc. Then there is in the soul a spring-tide of spiritual comfort and peace, and an ecstasy of inspired confidence.
V. THE COMFORT OF A CLEARER MANIFESTATION OF CHRIST. "I will manifest," etc,
1. This is a self-manifestation of Christ. He is the Revealer and the Revealed. Different mediums and agents are employed; still he is the Source and Subject of the revelation. During his personal ministry on earth he chiefly manifested the Father and the Spirit; but after the Ascension he manifests himself through the Spirit and the ministry of his Word. He manifests himself in his humanity and Divinity - in his human and Divine relationships; in short, in all his past, present, and future agency with regard to the great scheme of human redemption. His manifestation in the flesh was comparatively small, and only introductory to the great spiritual manifestation of himself in the soul and in the spirit of humanity.
2. This self-manifestation of Christ is inseparably connected with loving obedience to him. "He that hath my commandments," etc. Love to Christ manifests itself through obedience to his commands, and through this loving obedience Christ manifests himself to the soul. With every loving act comes a fresh vision of the Savior.
3. This self-manifestation of Christ is inseparably connected with a corresponding experience of Divine love. "He that loveth me shall be loved," etc. Love begets love. Human love to Christ is repaid with Divine interest. It returns in living streams of love to the experience from the Father and the Son. And this Divine love is the sweetest and most powerful medium through which Christ manifests himself. It is a manifestation of him in itself.
4. This self-manifestation of Christ is gradual and progressive. It was so in the experience of the disciples. There was a vast difference between the Christ of Pentecost and Jesus of Nazareth. And it is so in the experience of believers ever since. Jesus once really seen by faith will never be permanently lost sight of, but the constancy and clearness of the vision depend upon the degree of faith and love in the soul. He will manifest as we believe and love.
5. This self-manifestation of Christ will be ultimately complete. "I will," etc. It will not reach completion till the last day. To fully see him, he must fully appear; to fully know him, we must be like him; and to be like him, we must see him as he is. But even then we shall not see all his beauty nor comprehend all his Being. Were this the case, our happiness would cease. Eternity will not exhaust his glory, although fully employed in its exhibition. But at his final coming there will be such a full manifestation of him as will exclude every element of unhappiness, and fill the soul with satisfaction forever. We shall be satisfied with each draught of revelation, and look forward with serene confidence and ecstatic joy to the next and the next.
1. The sympathy of Christ with his people is most tenderly considerate. It was so here. His disciples did not tell him that they were afraid of orphanage and desolation, but he knew it; and in answer to their inward thoughts and feelings, he tenderly said, "I will not leave you," etc.
2. His sympathy with his people is ever practical. It is not mere sentiment. It is not only negative, but ever assumes an affirmative form. He did not stop with saying, "I will not leave," etc., but proceeded to say, "I come," etc. And all this was fulfilled in their experience; and it is ever so.
3. As Christ is manifested in the soul, we at once realize all we need. When the sun appears in the sky, all the landscape around is in full view. So, when the Sun of Righteousness arises in the soul, the spiritual universe is all ablaze. We see an ever-living Savior and an ever-loving Father in closest fellowship, and our life by faith in closest fellowship with both. When Christ manifested himself to his disciples, they never thought of orphanage and desolation afterwards.
4. Let us take care of the condition of our spiritual comfort and realization. "He that hath my commandments," etc. - B.T.
I. UPON CHRIST'S DEPARTURE THE WORLD CEASED TO SEE HIM.
1. Whilst Jesus was upon earth, the unenlightened and unspiritual saw but little of him. It had been foretold that men should "see no beauty in him." "His own received him not." They saw in him a Friend of sinners, a carpenter's son, One unlearned. But they saw in him no Divine glory, for they had no spiritual eyesight with which to discern it. Some there were who wished to behold his form and features, e.g. Zacchaeus, Herod, the Greeks, etc. But generally speaking, the Jews, because there was no sign such as they desired to witness, cared not to see anything of him. In his humiliation Jesus disappointed the expectations of the carnal, and offended their prejudices.
2. After Jesus was crucified, he was not - to the apprehension of the world. Those who had seen but little of the Lord during his ministry, after his departure saw nothing of him. His enemies thought they had succeeded in altogether expelling hint from the world he came to save, and they had no further concern with him. And ever since, to the irreligious, Jesus is invisible and as it were non-existent. Perverted by prejudice and self-sufficiency, their minds are open to what interests them, but are closed against any communication with the Savior and the Lord of men.
II. WHEN CHRIST WAS HIDDEN FROM THE EYES OF THE UNSPIRITUAL, HE WAS SEEN BY HIS FRIENDS MORE CLEARLY THAN BEFORE. There were those who learned to see in Jesus after his departure more than they had seen during his residence on earth. Just as the sailor can see a distant ship which the landsman's eyes cannot discover; just as the scholar can read a difficult manuscript which is unintelligible to the unlearned; just so there were those who, during Christ's ministry of humiliation, saw him to be full of grace and truth. Lowly, penitent, devout souls recognized his authority and felt his love. And after his departure, taught and illumined by the Spirit, they beheld indeed their Friend and King. Like the blind man whose eyes Jesus opened, they saw their Benefactor, believed, and worshipped. Stephen saw him in the hour of martyrdom; Saul saw him by the way. Christians see their Lord, in all the glory of his moral attributes, in all the adaptation of his mediatorial grace, in all the authority of his world-wide rule. Christians see their Lord so as to correct their views of all beside, and especially to moderate their earthly affections by the recognition of his superior excellence. Christians see their Lord as the Guide of their present course, and as the Object of their aspiring hope. He is now discerned by the eye of faith, and this vision is the pledge and the preparation for a vision fuller, clearer, and immortal. Faith shall give place to sight. The confident expectation of the Christian is that expressed by the apostle in the simple but soul-stirring words, "We shall see him as he is." - T.
I. THE GROUND OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IS IN THE LIFE OF THE LORD HIMSELF.
1. The true life of the Savior was not suspended by his death upon the cross.
2. Its continuance was manifested by the glorious resurrection from the dead of him over whom death had no power.
3. Christ's life is revealed in the apocalyptic vision as powerful and benevolent, he spake as the one Being who had known death only to vanquish it, and who had the keys of death and of the unseen world.
4. The means and the power of the spiritual life are provided by wisdom and the loving kindness of the living Lord. The outpouring of the Spirit is the life of the Church.
II. THE LIFE OF CHRISTIANS IS ACCORDINGLY AKIN TO THAT OF THEIR LORD.
1. By "life" here and elsewhere in Scripture we are not to understand the mere continuance of being or even of consciousness, which would be an interpretation very derogatory to our Lord, but the life or the sensitiveness and energy of the spiritual nature.
2. This life partakes in the moral qualities of him from whom it is derived. Even in the physical realm the life which is derivative partakes of the character of its origin. As Christ lives in holiness, in wisdom, and in love, it is reasonably to be believed that such attributes of spiritual life are reflected in the character of Christ's people. And this is actually the case; the "notes" or symptoms of the Christian life are not to be mistaken.
III. THE SPIRITUAL LIFE IS THE IMMORTAL LIFE. in a memorable conversation which our Savior held with the Sadducees, this great principle was plainly asserted: "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living; for all live unto him." Through Christ, those who believe on him, and live in fellowship with him, share the life of God, and are partakers of the highest kind of immortality. As surely as Christ lives, who purchased his people with his blood, laying down his life that their life might be hid with him in God, so surely they shall be delivered from the death which is the doom of the unbelieving and the ungodly. Jesus says to us as we pursue the walk of faith - and the words reach our ears like music in the darkness of earth's night - "I will see you again." And our hearts, cheered and emboldened by the promise, reply in loving confidence, in exulting aspiration and hope, "We shall see him as he is."
"If my immortal Savior lives,
I. JESUS CONTINUALLY THOUGHTFUL FOR HIS PEOPLE. These disciples could not for a moment place themselves in the present position of their Master. They knew not how he was feeling; they knew not what mental agonies were impending for him. He, on the other hand, the nearer he drew to his own crowning trials, the more he thought of all the terrible experiences of his disciples. Thus we see how entirely Divine Providence takes in all human needs. The time of desolation and perplexity for the disciples was really very short. It extended at the utmost from the arrest in Gethsemane to the morning of the resurrection. Then separation was swallowed up in reunion, and it was made clearer and clearer to the disciples that visible communion, however sweet, was to melt away into an invisible communion, equally sweet and vastly more helpful
II. THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF ANY REAL SEPARATION BETWEEN JESUS AND HIS PEOPLE. The degree of such a separation is indicated by a very strong term. Much separation would be exaggerated if it were called orphanhood. Those are justly reckoned orphans who are bereft of their natural supports and defenses. Orphans must be provided for. Those who have once tasted the good word of life in Christ Jesus cannot get anything to nourish and augment life anywhere else. Hence we see the light in which Jesus looks upon such as are not yet in any living and abiding connection with himself. He looks on them as being unprovided for, in any true and proper manner. In comparison of any real discipline and preparation for the future, they are as the waifs and strays upon the streets, who grow up anyhow, and drift into a manhood of crime and misery. There is such a thing as practical orphanhood, without any consciousness of it. It is surely the intent of the Father of Jesus that we all should be his children; and if we cannot truly say, "Our Father in heaven," what is that but practical orphanhood? We have yet to find the fullness of sonship and brotherhood. It is possible to have the most loving and sheltering of human parentage and yet suffer as the worst of orphans. All other separations are to lose their sting and curse, because nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
III. THIS ABIDING COMMUNION IS MANIFESTLY IN THE FULLNESS OF THE TRINITY. Jesus has said that another Paraclete will come, even the Spirit of the truth. Thus he seems to separate himself, begins to depart from his disciples, and as it were looks over his shoulder while he speaks. He had, indeed, to honor the Holy Spirit. As the Father had glorified the Son, saying, "This is my beloved Son; hear ye him;" so Jesus glorifies the Spirit, saying as it were, "This is my Spirit; hear ye him." But immediately the distinction is drawn, there has to be an implication of the unity. Those who had heard Jesus say, "I and the Father are one," must also be made to feel that Jesus and the Spirit are one. And thus we are prepared for the undeniable and beautiful correspondence between the Gospels and the Epistles. The presence of Jesus is now universal as the air, and yet only comprehended and profited by when we have received the Holy Spirit. The Spirit reveals Jesus; does not bring the distant near, but simply lifts the hiding veil. Thus the full Trinity is nearest to us of all things, if only we can be established in living connection with it. - Y.
I. THE QUESTION OF JUDAS. This question shows how much the disciples had yet to learn; for without doubt all shared the perplexity of the one. How one fundamental error stops a true understanding of all the words of Jesus! In a sense, Jesus had been seen of all men who had eyes to see, but what they had seen had just been the human form. That Jesus should have kingly honor and kingly power they had not discerned. But the disciples seem to have thought that one day he would assume outward royal pomps, and then everybody would be forced to recognize him for what he truly was. A glory that could be manifested to some and not to all was beyond the comprehension of the disciples. The question of Judas was only the world's own habitual and self-conceited question, amounting to this - that if there was anything in Christianity, the world would have seen it long ago. The world's delusive notion is that it can know everything that is to be known, if only the manifestation is made intense enough.
II. THE EXPLANATION OF JESUS. An explanation, indeed, and yet not an explanation to be understood in the moment of utterance. For these very disciples had yet to have stirred up in their hearts a true spiritual affection. They did love Jesus as human friend loves human friend; but doing this, what did they more than others? The mutual bond of friendship requires no high stretch of human virtue. But the disciples had yet to attain the ἀγαπῆ, that ἀγαπῆ which is specially affirmed as the crowning gift of the Holy Spirit. God so loved the world as to give his Son for the world's redemption, and there is a continual effort through many and ever multiplying agencies to manifest himself in saving power to the world. But this is done by all arts of persuasion and warning - by persistent shaking of those who are asleep till they open their eyes, which many of them never do. There is, of course, an increase of manifestation in the glory of God in Christ Jesus, so that those able to see the manifestation at all see more and more, and have an increase of joy the longer they look. But just as the same eye beholds the sun in its noonday glory and in its earliest dawn, so the same eye beholds all the manifestations of God in Jesus. If We cannot see the beginning, we cannot see the continuing. To those spiritually blind, all comforting manifestations of the Trinity are alike impossible. There must be a breaking down of selfishness, an opening up of the streams of love, and a gradual increase of them into copious flow. How many indulge selfishness, well knowing the claims that press on them from every side! Shut your eyes and keep them closed; it is true then that you cannot see; but you are not therefore reckoned blind. Only when you are penitent, and profoundly troubled because of deep-rooted selfishness, can the manifestation of Jesus begin to you. Selfishness is what makes the world the world; and as soon as a counter-current is set up in any human heart, that is a sign of salvation begun, and if only there be no Demas-lapse into the love of the temporal and the visible, then manifestations from above will more and more increase. The more we fit ourselves to see, the more we shall see. - Y.
I. FIDELITY TO CHRIST IS THE CONDITION OF THE DIVINE MANIFESTATION. This fidelity is both emotional and practical; it is displayed in the heart and in the life.
1. Love is the inward principle and motive. The personal nature of the Christian life is here strikingly exhibited. "If a man love me" -language this which bring the individual believer close to the living Christ. What a rebuke to all merely sacerdotal and ecclesiastical views of religion! If a man be spiritually enlightened and quickened, he will love Christ; both because Christ is in his own character and ministry deserving of the purest, strongest love our nature can offer, and also because "he first loved us" -because his goodness found its highest expression in devotion and in sacrifice.
2. Obedience is the evidence of love. Law and love do not always seem to harmonize; yet human relationships furnish examples of their combination. Obedience here takes the form of keeping the Master's word. This involves our
(1) becoming acquainted and familiar with his Word;
(2) retaining his Word in memory and often recalling it;
(3) reverencing his Word as in itself authoritative, and as in many ways binding especially upon us;
(4) obeying cheerfully and constantly the Word which is believed to be authoritative and Divine. The Christian's love is not sentimentality; it is a feeling which prompts to that obedience which, the relation of the Christian to Christ being considered, is the proper fruit of grateful affection.
II. THE DIVINE MANIFESTATION TO THE FAITHFUL TAKES THE FORMS OF LOVE AND FELLOWSHIP. It must not be forgotten that the love and kindness of God are presumed as preceding and as accounting for the dispositions and purposes above described. But whilst the Divine pity is the cause of the Christian's newness of heart and life, it is also true that the dispositions and habits which become the Christian are the condition of the enjoyment of those amazing privileges which Jesus here describes.
1. There is, then, a sense in which the Father's love is the reward of the affectionate obedience of Christ's people. The filial dutifulness and affection are approved, and the approval is manifested by the tender affection of the paternal heart.
2. In addition to, and indeed in proof of, this display of Divine love, there is assured Divine fellowship and indwelling. How different is this representation from the imaginations of human fancy, the expectations of human reason! Yet it is in the highest degree honorable to God, and it tends to inspire and to elevate man. The Christian welcomes his Maker, his Savior, as his Guest and Friend. - T.
I. THE POWERLESSNESS OF TRUTH. Jesus continually remembered this. No one, indeed, had more complete experience as to the inability of the natural man to receive spiritual things; and even here, when perhaps the disciples were unusually attentive, Jesus knew that they would be more than ever perplexed. And there was nothing in the mere lapse of time to make the meaning clearer, the promises more receivable, the duties more feasible. Persevering, indomitable students have, ere now, puzzled out some abstruse treatise usually made plain by a teacher who knows it thoroughly. They have not been able to get the teacher, and so they have managed to do without him. But the utterances of Jesus in the Gospels are sealed up, every one of them, to mere intellectual inquiry. The words are there, with a strange attractive power - unique words; and yet the very power that is to make them useful is somehow lacking, or at all events unavailable. No fresh words are needed; it may truly be said there is nothing in the Epistles which is not already in the Gospels, so far as principles are concerned; but something is needed to bring the human heart and the words of Jesus into living contact.
II. WHAT MAKES TRUTH VITAL The energy of the Holy Spirit. He will indeed be a Paraclete, ever coming in with ample and effectual guidance just at the needful moment. What riches have been got out of the Gospels by Spirit-guided men! What a serious accusation if we reject or neglect what has evidently been given to meet the emergency! God never gives anything unnecessary. Let it not be supposed that the Holy Spirit is for the difficulties of some, or for occasions when we cannot see our way to truth unaided. The Holy Spirit is for all and always. The truth as it is in Jesus can never become a real system to us, individually, unless as we accept this guidance provided by Jesus and his Father. How this guidance operates is another matter. That we may not be able to understand. But neither do we understand how the seed bursts into life and develops into plant and fruit. What we need is firm faith and an abiding recollection that the Holy Spirit which the Father sends in the Name of the Son is a real and a present power. The difference between the seed unsown and the seed springing up and moving onwards to fruit, is an analogue of the difference between an utterance of Jesus verbally lodged in the memory, and that same utterance opened up and filled with perennial power by the Holy Spirit.
III. THE TWOFOLD ASPECT OF THE SPIRIT'S WORK HERE PRESENTED.
1. Teaching. The death of Jesus had yet to come, and then the resurrection and ascension. Everything Jesus has ever spoken must be brought into proper relation with these marvelous experiences of his personal life. The Holy Spirit has to explain the sum total of the incarnation.
2. Reminding. To recollect what we know just when we want it, is one of the hardest of things. What is the value of knowledge unless it can be turned to practice just at the right time? The Holy Spirit may be a help to mere memory, far more than we think. - Y.
In Face ("In peace"). So did they value the gift and legacy of their beloved Lord.
I. THERE IS IN HUMAN LIFE MUCH THAT IS FITTED TO DISTURB AND TO DESTROY PEACE.
1. Looking back to the past, many are troubled at the retrospect of their own errors, follies, and sins.
2. Looking round upon the present, many cannot fail to discern in their actual circumstances occasions of distress and alarm.
3. Looking forward to the future, anxious minds are perturbed by forebodings and fears.
II. THE WORLD IS POWERLESS TO IMPART OR TO RESTORE PEACE TO THE TROUBLED HEART. The consolations of the world are delusive, its promises deceptive.
1. There may well be here a reference to the ordinary greetings of the East. "Peace!" is the common salutation, and has been from time immemorial. Like all such greetings, it often was and is altogether thoughtless and insincere. Our Lord's "peace" is something quite different.
2. But there is a deeper reference, viz. to the pretence of peace as given by the world, to which no reality corresponds. The world says, "Peace, peace; when there is no peace." Superficial, deceptive, utterly false, is that insensibility to terrible realities which frivolity and skepticism offer to the troubled soul, Far better storms of fear and care than such a calm as this!
III. CHRIST'S PEACE, AND HIS ALONE, IS VALID AND LASTING.
1. This is spiritual peace. It is not to be supposed that the Christian is exempt from the cares and the calamities of life, that outward circumstances and human society are all to combine in order to his preservation from the troubles which are incidental to human life. But there may be calm within even while the storm rages without. The heart may be so free from fear.
2. This peace proceeds from the restoration of right relations between the soul and God. It is peace of conscience, the substitution of harmony with the government and the will of God for that state of discord which is the experience of the nature that is alienated from the eternal Ruler of all. To be right with God is the first condition of human peace. Such concord it is the work of the Redeemer to bring about.
3. This peace is both a bequest and a gift of Christ. It is a legacy, because it was dependent upon the Lord's departure, and the subsequent establishment of a spiritual dispensation. It is a gift, because apart from the Savior's provision there was no means by which this blessing might be secured and enjoyed. The peace in question is not to be earned by any effort or sacrifice of ours; it is the bestowment of the infinite love and grace of the Divine Mediator.
4. This gift is essentially his who bestows it. The peace which he enjoys he also imparts. That peace which flows from obedience and submission to the Divine will was naturally the proper possession of the Son of God; and it is that same peace which Jesus conveys to the heart that trusts and rests in him.
5. The peace of Christ is all-sufficient. In plenitude and in perpetuity it is alone.
"The world can neither give nor take,
I. THIS LEGACY IN ITS RICH CONTEXTS. "Peace I leave," etc.
1. The great system of reconciliation. The gospel is pre-eminently the gospel of peace. It is peace on earth, and good will to men. This gospel Christ committed to his apostles as its special ambassadors, and to them was given "the ministry of reconciliation, to wit," etc.
2. This great system in its blessed effects on them. Our Lord sums up these effects in one word, "peace," and it is most significant and expressive. It involves:
(1) The peace of the soul with God. By sin it is at enmity with him, out of harmony altogether with his character and will, but by acceptance of the Divine system of reconciliation, peace with God is effected. This the disciples enjoyed. They could say, "Being justified by faith, we have," etc.
(2) The peace of the soul with itself. By sin it is at war with itself; there are painful discords, unrest and guilt throughout its empire. But peace with God brings peace within. Then there is order, good government, and harmony in the soul. They enjoyed inward peace.
(3) Their peace with each other, and a peaceful disposition towards all. There is nothing more remarkable in the history of the disciples than the almost perfect unity and peace which reigned among them, which was the wonderful result of the Divine system of reconciliation, and the personal tuition and influence of their Master. This he leaves with them.
3. This legacy of Christ has the peculiarity of being absolutely his own. "My peace."
(1) He is its Author. Think of it as a work, he made it; or as a scheme, he wrought it out; or as a purchase, he paid the price; or as a gracious interference between offensive man and offended Deity, he is the Mediator; or as a Divine principle, he imparts and inspires it. He is the Peace-maker and the Peace Offering. It is his so thoroughly, that with propriety the apostle says, He is our Peace, who hath made both one, etc.
(2) He is its absolute Proprietor and Dispenser. Being its absolute Author, he is also its absolute proprietor, and has an absolute right to withhold it from or give it to whomsoever he pleases.
(3) It is such as he himself enjoyed. "My peace" -the peace which is mine; the peace of his own soul, resulting from perfect obedience, self-sacrificing love, serene confidence in and fellowship with the God of peace; the peace which reigned in his own heart, which was exemplified in his own life, which was its strength and happiness. This he gave, and the gift was absolutely and practically his own.
4. This legacy is very precious.
(1) It is precious in itself. What is more precious than peace in families, in neighborhoods, in Churches, and empires? Take it away, society would soon become a Bedlam, and the world a hell. But higher in its nature, more extensive and lasting in its influence still, is spiritual peace - peace of heart, mind, and conscience. "The peace of God, which passeth," etc.
(2) It is precious as it is the most needful blessing. It is ever so, and it was so now with regard to the disciples. Jesus was about to leave them, and they were surrounded with dangerous elements, and were to live in a hostile world. With regard to their personal and official wants, peace was an essential blessing. Nothing is more precious than what we absolutely need, and cannot do without. The disciples could do without many things, but not without this. How could they be the heralds of peace without the message; and how could they give it to others without its being given to them first? This Jesus gave them.
(3) It is very precious as coming from him. A gift derives value from the giver; and peace coming from him is a guarantee of its genuineness and worth. We value the gift of a dear friend, especially his parting gift and his dying keepsake. This is the parting gift of Jesus to his disciples; as if he were to say, "I have no riches, no fortune, no estates, to give you; but I give you something far better - ' My peace.'" He gave them the most precious part of even himself - his peace.
(4) It is very precious because it could not be had of any one else. The rarity of a thing makes it precious; and so rare is this peace that it could not be obtained of any one but Jesus, "the Prince of Peace;" and could not be obtained of him but as the gift of his grace. His peace, like his commandment of love, is new and original.
(5) This legacy is given them as an absolute and personal possession. "Peace I leave with you, my peace," etc. They seem to be trustees under his first Clause, but actual possessors under the second. The ministry of reconciliation I leave with you, to publish and offer to others; but "my peace" I give unto you as your personal property - your support and inspiration in life, your solace in death, and your fortune forever.
II. IN THE DISTINGUISHING FEATURES OF ITS CHARACTER AND BESTOWMENT. "Not as the world giveth," etc. Here is a contrast. There is no comparison. They knew something of the world as a giver; and for fear they would look at him in the same light, he asserts a great contrast.
1. In the reality of the gifts and the giving. The world gives shadows; Christ gives substances. The world gives that which is not bread, and satisfieth not; Christ's gifts are good, perfect, and satisfying. The world gives in vain wishes and empty salutations - "Peace he with you;" but Christ gives substantial peace. The world pays in promissory notes, but they are all dishonored; Christ pays in hard cash. No sooner he says, "My peace I give unto you," than that peace is given and felt as a living principle in the soul, and all his promises are fulfilled.
2. In the heart of man which is supplied. The world gives to the body; Christ to the soul. The world gives to the outward and transient in man; Christ to the inward and eternal. The world only supplies music for the physical ear, and sceneries for the physical eye; Christ supplies music for the soul, and spiritual sceneries of unspeakable beauty to the eye of faith. The world supplies the lowest part of man - his passions and animal propensities; but Christ furnishes the highest part of him - his reason, faith, conscience - and satisfies his immortal aspirations and wants.
3. In the manner of the giving. The world gives its best first, and there is a sad deterioration; but Christ keeps the best wine to the last. The world gives laughter which ends in weeping, joy which ends in sorrow, pleasures which end in pain, bright hopes which end in dis. appointment, a heaven which ends in hell; but Christ gives good things even at first, and they improve with time. He gives pleasures which sweeten with experience, joys which intensify with years, delights which increase with ages, prospects which brighten with eternities, and hopes which are divinely realized. Weeping is converted into laughter, the pains of birth into the pleasures of a new life, the pangs of repentance into the ecstasies of pardon, the gloomy doubts of faith into the brilliant visions of heaven, the streams of peace into an ocean of joy and happiness, and the struggles of the warfare into the hosannas of a final victory. "Not as the world," etc.
4. In permanency. The world only lends; Christ gives. What the world gives, it soon takes away; but Christ leaves his peace with his people, and gives them "that good part," etc. The world at best only gives a life-interest, and that life very brief and uncertain; but Christ's gifts are eternal possessions and real property. The lease of his gifts is not for the life of the body, but for the life of the soul. The world's fountains soon get dry, but those of Christ are perennial. "Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh," etc.
III. IN ITS PRACTICAL EFFECTS UPON HIS FOLLOWERS. "Let not your heart be," etc.
1. They were exposed to special dangers.
(1) From within, arising from their innate depravity, the imperfections of their spiritual nature, the youth and weakness of their faith. They were as yet but babes in Christ; they were exposed to inward trouble and doubts.
(2) From without. They were in a hostile world, and sent forth as sheep among wolves. The departure of their Savior and the terrible tragedy of his crucifixion were in the immediate future, and all this was but an introduction to more personal attacks and hostilities.
2. To strengthen their heart against trouble and fear was now Christ's chief aim. "Let not your heart," etc. There may be trouble without much fear; still they are near relations, and ever attack the heart. The heart, as the seat of emotion, is the most vulnerable avenue to these foes. They were rushing in torrents upon the disciples already. The mere talk of his departure had filled their heart with sorrow. It was his chief aim to strengthen their heart.
3. This aim he accomplished by the bestowment of his own peace. "Peace I leave with you," etc. He prescribes and furnishes the remedy - "peace." The Divine element which had been so infallible against fear and trouble in himself. "My peace I give unto you." This Divine peace is the only dement which can successfully combat trouble and fear. It sets the whole soul to music; and the music of the soul, like the music of heaven, makes sorrow and sighing to flee away. Filled with Christ's peace, like him, they would be calm in the storm, joyful in tribulation, patient in suffering, and jubilant in death.
1. All the movements of Jesus were in order to bless. He came to the world to bless. He was in it for a while to bless, and left it in order to bless his people all the more. The legacy of peace could not be fully enjoyed while the testator was alive.
2. When Jesus left his disciples, he left the best part of himself with them. "My peace I give," etc. He left infinitely more than he took away. He took himself personally away, but left his peace - the cream of his life, and the life of his death.
3. To enjoy his peace is to enjoy him in the highest sense, and to enjoy all we require in this world. It will raise us above our troubles and fears, into the calm sphere of Divine love, fellowship, and protection. - T.
I. THE NEED OF SOME SUCH ASSURANCE. Jesus had already said perturbing things. We know the disciples were so perturbed, for we find the Master himself referring to their manifest disappointment and consternation. "Because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart." And this was a sorrow that probably included vexation, chagrin, and humiliation. The Master was quietly demolishing certain castles in the air. This wonderful and profound discourse, which has brought light and comfort to so many generations of Christians, would bring little of either to those who first heard it and in the first hearing. But Jesus was thinking of the future rather than of the present; thinking of a day to come when the disciples would rejoice that he had shattered their delusions and vain hopes.
II. JESUS POINTS BACKWARD TO THE PEACE OF HIS OWN LIFE. He directs his friends to his own experience and attainments. He intimates that his disciples were not altogether ignorant of the peculiar composure of their Master's life. They had seen him again and again in all sorts of scenes and circumstances, but never in a hurry or a flurry. Goethe's ideal of progress was to go on without haste, without rest; and Jesus turned that ideal into reality. The stream of his life was not a rushing torrent, like some Swiss stream fed from a glacier; neither was it made up of dull, sluggish, creeping, almost stagnant stretches of water. If the disciples had not sufficiently noticed this peace, it was just one of the very things the promised Paraclete would bring to their remembrance. They must have remembered how calm Jesus was when the tempest from the hills came down on the little boat. And then they would remember, too, how, when just delivered from the tempest, Jesus met the fierce maniac, possessed of many devils, so strong in his frenzy that he broke the bonds that bound him. Such was the habitual, profound peace of Jesus, and he never could have done his work without it.
III. THE POSSIBILITY OF THIS PEACE BECOMING OURS. We need it not less than Jesus, and surely we can have it. His word was not a mere word of good wishes and kindly interest. He did make over something substantial to his friends. He predicted what assuredly would happen. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is peace, if only that Spirit is allowed to have free course. A mere possibility, a mere ideal, would have been a poor legacy. Through Jesus many have learned to go through this world of care and turmoil, yet keeping their hearts like that smooth, glassy sea which John saw before the throne.
IV. THE MANNER OF MAKING THIS PEACE A REALITY. We must obtain it, as he obtained it. The Spirit of his heavenly Father, the Spirit that rules in heaven, was ever in him, full and strong. He was in the world, but not of the world. He belonged to a state of being where all is wondrous harmony. He was out of heaven, yet not for a moment did the communications between him and heaven get broken. He was like the diver who goes down into the water, a foreign and impossible element in itself, taking with him the tube that connects his mouth with the upper air, and so being able to remain under the water a long time and do very necessary work. Everything earthly was estimated by heavenly measurements. He belonged to heaven, and knew how things were going in heaven, and so, whatever the inconvenience of an earthly sojourn, his heart was at perfect peace. - Y.
I. THE FUTURE SHALL VERIFY HIS WORDS, AND SO STRENGTHEN HIS DISCIPLES' FAITH. He had explicitly foretold his death, his resurrection and ascension, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. They did not disbelieve him, but they were slow to grasp the purport of his words. Fulfillment should render his predictions plain, and should confirm the feeble faith of those who through strong faith were to do their work as his witnesses to the world.
II. THE FUTURE SHALL BRING ON THE CONFLICT BETWEEN JESUS AND THE POWER OF EVIL - A CONFLICT WHICH MUST ISSUE IN VICTORY FOR CHRIST AND HIS PEOPLE. The prince of this world had before now assailed the Prince of Light, but had departed for a season. But the hour of the power of darkness was at hand. An absorbing conflict was about to take place, in which the adversary of God and men should find nothing in him on which to lay hold, and in which Christ should certainly overcome.
III. THE FUTURE SHALL UNFOLD TO THE WORLD CHRIST'S RELATION TO THE FATHER. It should be seen that what Jesus did and suffered was one long act of affectionate obedience to God. This deep significance of the facts which occurred at the close of the Redeemer's ministry was hidden from the world; but the eyes of men should be opened to discern it. And for the benefit of all time it should be seen that love and obedience are mightier than sin, than Satan, than death. - T.