Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in me.…
I. OUR POSITION TO GOD IS SIMILAR TO THAT IN WHICH THE DISCIPLES STOOD TO CHRIST — We are looking to Him for the fulfilment of hopes which reach beyond our present life.
1. It cannot be questioned that there is a deep and wide testimony in man's nature to the existence of a God and of a future life.
(1) There is a dim token of a nature which seeks more than earth, in the manner in which earthly things are often pursued. The world cannot fill man's soul, because it is greater than the world. The magnet in his heart can never rest till it points to its pole star.
(2) In his thirst for truth, in his faith in it, in his search after it as single and sovereign, there is a token of man's origin and destiny.
(3) We all know men who have aims, more or less exalted, for which they are ready to give time and labour and endless anxiety without even any hope that they themselves shall see the result. In this stretch of man's soul beyond self there is a look of his nature beyond earthly limits.
(4) We can perceive the same in the conception men have of an ideal of perfection, in their struggle to realize it, and in their deep lamentation over the imperfect and impure around them. The only sphere in which this yearning can be realized is immortality.
(5) It is discerned in all the religions which man has made for himself. We can see also, that, as religions rise in their perception of moral excellence, they become clear on this question. We have a right to say, further, that this hope is one of its greatest living forces. No one can read these parting words of Christ or the utterances of such men as Paul and John, without seeing that, wherever their religion goes, the conviction of an immortality goes with it as an all-pervading thought. Its martyrdoms and its missionary efforts are everywhere based upon it. It remains yet to be shown that any view of man, as possessed of a mere earthly life, will lead to the suffering and labour which the gospel has called forth in the cause of humanity. I know that it is the fashion of some to speak of the hope of immortality as selfish. But it is surely worthy of consideration, that the religion which of all others is most disinterested in its morality, which founds its motives on love, is that one also which looks most clearly and steadily into an eternal life, and that its central act is a sacrifice unto death, which becomes the spring and birth of numberless immortalities.
2. If in these hopes and aspirations men were deceived, and were appealing to the Author of their being, so widely and so constantly, for the fulfilment of what He never intends to bestow, then — in some distinct way or other — by some voice from heaven, or some prevailing voice of reason in their own hearts — we might justly conclude that He would act on this principle — "If it were not so, I would have told you."
II. THE SAME CONSIDERATIONS WHICH WOULD HAVE LED CHRIST TO UNDECEIVE HIS DISCIPLES, HAD THEY BEEN IN ERROR, APPLY TO GOD IN HIS POSITION TO US.
1. Those which lie in God's own character.
(1) His truthfulness. A genuine nature will shun not merely active falsehood, but silent connivance with it.
(2) His justice. It would have impelled Christ to undeceive His disciples, had He known their hopes to be vain. For these hopes they were exposing themselves to hardship and scorn, and were ready to suffer a cruel and untimely death. It was right that the terms should be before them, and that Christ should not accept their services and sufferings on a false presumption. If Divine equity can have the law of the universe move on amid a perpetual delusion, and be subserved by it, then God's justice is something else than the image of it which He has formed within us.
(3) His goodness. If this life were indeed all, would not that goodness bring man's wishes within the circle of his brief existence, and not suffer him to tantalize himself with the lights and shadows, the hopes and fears, of an eternity which shall never dawn!
2. Those which lie in the relation which exists between God and His human creatures.
(1) That of Teacher. Christ had led His disciples to look to Him for instruction in all the great interests of life. He would have convinced them that the desire was unreasonable, or He would have carefully guarded against exciting it.
(2) A higher relation is the drawing out of the heart's affections. Christ's words and conduct bound the disciples to Him irrevocably. Now, let us suppose for an instant, that, by some strange arrangement, immortality was for Him but not for them. Then the love had failed, not on the part of earth but heaven — not the mortal friend but the immortal Master would have been guilty of cold forgetfulness. And, if He meant never to meet its desire, would He not be allowing a love to spring up in the human heart, stronger and truer than His own, for man's would be perpetually struggling to overpass death, while God's would coldly yield to it?
(3) This relation of affection rises into the higher one of fellowship. The bond between Christ and His disciples, of mutual converse and appeal, finds its counterpart in the bond between God and many souls of men in this world. It is as strong a necessity — it is a stronger — for some men to speak to God, than it is for others to speak to their fellow creatures. Whence has come this spontaneous recourse to prayer, which withstands all arguments? If it is not God's heart meeting man, it is man's heart meeting God, and seeking a fellowship with his Maker, which cannot but be of His Maker's prompting. And when, in the trust and joy of this fellowship, the soul looks forward to its continuance, can we believe that God would permit it, in this, to be forever deceived? Conclusion: Note —
1. That God has contradicted this hope in the lower creatures, that is, He has not suffered it to spring up.
2. He has contradicted prevalent falsities in human nature in various ways. Apart from supernatural utterance, there is the progress of reason, the growth of conscience, the rise of the soul's highest life, which make superstitions and immoralities that have covered whole ages and nations to pine and die. In these ways He tells man what is false; but here it is in proportion as the soul grows and sin dies, that this hope increases, and it is strongest when we find our highest intuitions answered in the light and life of God.
(J. Ker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.