Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE FIGURE HERE EMPLOYED. Jesus would speak words of such a kind as that, by attending to them, the disciples would escape offense. The allusion is to something coming in our way which may cause us to stumble, perhaps to fall. This agrees with the whole spirit of the discourse, in which Jesus again and again speaks of his disciples as making progress in a particular way. And what Jesus wants is to take out of the way all difficulties coming from wrong notions and expectations. We all have difficulties enough in our Christian life, what we may call external difficulties, without adding to them difficulties of our own making. And surely in that same spirit Jesus deals with us still. He seeks to spare us the stumbling-blocks. Others may have stumbled, but that is no reason why we should stumble too. And just as we put up signals of all sorts to catch eye and ear in dangerous places, so Jesus does the same. If any one has to do with guarding against the main dangers that beset human life, surely it is he who is eminently called the Savior. He who leaves the ninety and nine to bring back the wanderer will take all possible means to keep him from wandering again.
II. THE EFFECT OF SUCH AS INTIMATION ON OUR MINDS.
1. A continuous feeling of self-distrust. We must never forget how easy it is to go wrong. The longer we live the more reason we have for distrusting ourselves. We need a wisdom, a foresight, a largeness and depth of view, altogether beyond our own. Our hesitating, vacillating actions come often just because we listen too entirely to the suggestions and prophecies coming out of our own hearts. Our natural boldness and our natural fearfulness are equally without reason. We must not listen too readily either to the suggestions of self or the suggestions of others. Be warned by the experiences of these first disciples. All their notions had to be upset, all their dearest fancies dissipated, before they could get at the truth.
2. A continuous regard to Jesus. Jesus must be ever in the foreground if self is to be ever in the background. Stumbling begins the moment the hand of Jesus is let go. We are but of yesterday, and know nothing; Jesus is of eternity, and knows everything. He who seeks to sweep all stumbling-blocks out of our way never stumbled himself. We can only take a step at a time, and it must be just where Jesus tells us to plant it. That is the secret of safe progress, and progress always in the right direction. - Y.
I. THE NATURE OF PERSECUTION. It was no new thing in the world that men should be pursued with bitter hostility for their devotion to truth, to duty, to righteousness, to God. The history of Israel contained but too many illustrations of the enmity with which the good have been assailed by those to whom their life and testimony were a rebuke. And Jesus foresaw that confessors and martyrs were to render a service in his kingdom, both by establishing the faith upon a basis of hard trial and proof, and by extending the truth amongst unbelievers. Jesus here refers to two ways in which his disciples should experience the hostility of an unbelieving world.
1. Ecclesiastical censure and excommunication. Doubtless the reference here is to the Jews. Even during our Lord's ministry, those who confessed him were in some instances excluded from the synagogues. And when the Church was constituted by the descent of the Spirit, and especially when the broad designs of Christianity as a religion, not for Israel only, but for mankind, were clearly exhibited, then the hostility of the bigoted among the Jewish leaders and the Jewish populace knew no hounds. Reverencing everything connected with the Law and the prophets, the preachers of Christ would fain have resorted to the synagogues as of old, would fain have reasoned out of the Scriptures with a view of proving that Jesus was the Messiah, and of showing how his religion realized all the types and predictions of Judaism. But the merit and the glory of Christianity was, in the eyes of legalists and formalists, its chief offence; and a sharp line was drawn, over which the followers of the Nazarene were not suffered to step.
2. Temporal and corporal infliction, reaching even to death. The Jews did, as we know from the record of the Acts, even very early in the history of the Christian faith, carry their enmity so tar as to inflict capital punishment upon a Christian advocate. But it seems as if our Lord, in this prediction, looked forward to events which should follow the proclamation of the gospel among the Gentiles. The annals of the Church of Christ are rich indeed in instances of martyrdom. And it has passed into a proverb, that "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church."
II. THE MOTIVE TO PERSECUTION. Our Lord admitted that the motive to much of the persecution that should assail the professors of the faith was a conscientious and even a religious motive. Events have confirmed this attribution of motive. No doubt there have been persecutors who have acted from interested, selfish motives. But there have been those who have persecuted Christians in the belief that they were doing God a service, offering to him an acceptable sacrifice in the blood of the "faithful unto death" The Jews particularly were, in many instances, influenced in their hostility to Christians by a reverence for what they believed, however erroneously, to be the perfect religion, capable of no addition, no improvement. The professions and claims made first by Jesus, and afterwards by his servants on his behalf, were of a very high and authoritative character. Christ was either the Son of God or be was a blasphemer; and we know that the latter view was taken by many of the Jewish unbelievers. It is no justification of evil conduct that those guilty of it are sincere; yet sincere ignorance is an extenuation, though not a vindication, of guilt. Alas! what evils have been wrought in the name, not only of liberty, but of religion!
III. THE EXPLANATION OF PERSECUTION. Our Lord was a Revealer of all hearts. He looked below the profession, and even below the belief. He penetrated deep into the spiritual nature of men, and was familiar with the hidden springs of thought and of action. There was a reason, not in every case known to the agents themselves, for the actions which they committed. The Lord Jesus was able to account for conduct by searching the inner nature. And so doing he discovered, in the spiritual ignorance of the persecutors, the true and all-sufficient reason for their attitude and proceedings. "They have not known the Father, nor me." They cannot "know" Christ by the knowledge, that is, of spiritual appreciation and sympathy, who persecute and slay his friends and the promulgators of his faith. They must utterly misunderstand him, his character, and his mission, if they suppose that God can be pleased when Christians are persecuted. For it is not to be believed that the Father can look with satisfaction upon injuries done to his own Son in the person of his followers. Had the Jews known Christ, they would not have slain the Lord of glory. And none who truly knew our Lord could have persecuted his faithful people in order to do his Father service. - T.
I. THE CHARACTER OF THE REVELATIONS WHICH CHRIST HERE REFERS TO.
1. Concerning himself. Jesus had uttered language which both perplexed and distressed his friends. He had spoken of his approaching departure - a prospect which could not but grieve, and which clearly did depress his hearers. Their life was bound up in his life, and separation could not be faced without sinking of heart.
2. Concerning them, the Lord had opened up a prospect which dismayed, or at least disconcerted, them. He had plainly told them that they should be both hated and persecuted. Such an outlook as this was very gloomy. They were not prepared to endure such tribulation, especially when deprived of the presence and support, visible and tangible, of their Chief.
II. THE EFFECT OF THESE REVELATIONS UPON THE MINDS OF THE APOSTLES. "Sorrow," said Jesus, "hath filled your heart." He had opened the conversation by bidding them trust in him, and dismiss fear and trouble from their mind. And he had given them reasons for confidence, grounds for hope, motives to peace. But they were conscious of their feebleness, their dependence. They had accordingly no thought but for themselves. As they looked one at another, they must have felt that there was among them no ore upon whom they could lean in the absence of their Lord. And he was going, and going soon. How were they to keep together? And if they should keep together, what was there for them to do? Had not the Master done everything? Without him, where would be the meaning of their fellowship - the purpose of their life? It is a proof of the reality of their attachment to Jesus, of the bitterness of their disappointment at his departure, that in this hour their souls should he burdened, and all but overwhelmed with grief.
III. THE EFFECT OF SORROW TO TURN AWAY THE MIND FROM INQUIRIES WHICH MAY LEAD TO CONSOLATION. The apostles were absorbed in their own grief and trouble. Hence they were prevented by their own depression from inquiring further into the Lord's departure. Not that they were altogether incurious and careless concerning this; some of them had put questions suggested by the Lord's words. But they sank back at once upon their own condition and prospects. If they had turned away from their own loss, if they had followed Christ's declarations concerning himself with interest and faith, if they had asked for further revelations, they would both have forgotten their personal distress, and they would have received inspiration and fortitude as they realized the victory which should follow the Savior's humiliation, and as they understood that in that victory they themselves should share.
IV. THE GENERAL PRINCIPLE IS THUS REACHED, THAT THE BEST AND MOST HELPFUL HABIT OF THE RELIGIOUS LIFE IS THE CONCENTRATION OF THOUGHT AND FEELING RATHER UPON OUR SAVIOR THAN UPON OURSELVES. Experience has shown that it is a most deleterious practice to direct thought too much inwardly upon our own sorrows and perplexities, or even upon our joys and comforts. Religious progress is made by fixing the gaze of the heart upon him who is infinite Excellence and infinite Faithfulness. Let our chief interest, our most earnest questioning, our most ardent affection, be directed towards him; and then sorrow will vanish and peace will reign. - T.
"My Savior, can it ever be, I. THE DISPENSATION OF PERSONAL PRESENCE WAS THUS SUCCEEDED BY THE DISPENSATION OF SPIRITUAL POWER. The ascension of Christ was the occasion of the descent of the Comforter. The Holy Spirit was indeed no stranger to our humanity even before our Lord's coming, but his influences were to be more widely diffused and more powerfully active than in the earlier ages. Why the coming of the Spirit was made, in the wise counsels of God, dependent upon the departure of Jesus, we can only partially understand. But the events of Pentecost are matter of Scripture history. The records of this dispensation reform us how the Spirit has convinced the world of sin, of righteousness, of judgment. The Church has never, since our Lord's ascension, ceased to enjoy the enlightening, quickening, sanctifying influences of its Comforter. II. THE LIFE OF SIGHT WAS THUS REPLACED BY THE HIGHER LIFE OF FAITH. It was necessary that the Son of God and the Savior of mankind should dwell upon earth, and, by the deeds of his ministry and his death of Sacrifice, reveal God to his sinful children, and furnish a basis for the spiritual life of humanity. A revealed Object of faith was thus provided. But when the manifestation was complete, it was withdrawn. The special excellence of the Christian religion lies here: it is a religion which calls for, justifies, and encourages faith - faith in an unseen, but mighty, ever-present, and ever-gracious Redeemer and Lord. "In him, though now we see him not, yet believing we rejoice." III. CHRISTIANITY WAS THUS MADE NO LOCAL RELIGION, BUT A RELIGION FOR HUMANITY. So far as we can see, the bodily presence of Jesus upon earth could not but limit his reign; it could not well, in such case, be other than partial, local, national. But the purposes of the Eternal were comprehensive in benevolence. It was designed that "all the ends of the earth should see the salvation of our God." The going away of Jesus assured to the new humanity a Divine and heavenly Head. By his Spirit the ascended and glorified Lord is equally present in every part of his dominions. Thus all local limitations are transcended, and provision is made for the extension to all mankind of the blessings of our Savior's spiritual presence, authority, and grace. IV. THE HOPE OF CHRISTIANS IS THUS BEHOVED FROM EARTH TO HEAVEN. If Jesus were still on earth, who would not be content to live and loath to die? What prospect would have reconciled his friends to death? But our Divine Friend has gone on before us, and we can only join him upon the condition of the taking down of this perishable tent in which we dwell. It is the prospect of going to him who has gone away from earth which lends brightness to the Christian's future. His prayer has secured that, where he is, there also his friends and disciples shall be. Accordingly an apostle could speak of removing hence as being "with Christ, which is far better." And there is no prospect so dear to the Christian's heart as that of ever being with the Lord. - T.
I. THE DISPENSATION OF PERSONAL PRESENCE WAS THUS SUCCEEDED BY THE DISPENSATION OF SPIRITUAL POWER. The ascension of Christ was the occasion of the descent of the Comforter. The Holy Spirit was indeed no stranger to our humanity even before our Lord's coming, but his influences were to be more widely diffused and more powerfully active than in the earlier ages. Why the coming of the Spirit was made, in the wise counsels of God, dependent upon the departure of Jesus, we can only partially understand. But the events of Pentecost are matter of Scripture history. The records of this dispensation reform us how the Spirit has convinced the world of sin, of righteousness, of judgment. The Church has never, since our Lord's ascension, ceased to enjoy the enlightening, quickening, sanctifying influences of its Comforter.
II. THE LIFE OF SIGHT WAS THUS REPLACED BY THE HIGHER LIFE OF FAITH. It was necessary that the Son of God and the Savior of mankind should dwell upon earth, and, by the deeds of his ministry and his death of Sacrifice, reveal God to his sinful children, and furnish a basis for the spiritual life of humanity. A revealed Object of faith was thus provided. But when the manifestation was complete, it was withdrawn. The special excellence of the Christian religion lies here: it is a religion which calls for, justifies, and encourages faith - faith in an unseen, but mighty, ever-present, and ever-gracious Redeemer and Lord. "In him, though now we see him not, yet believing we rejoice."
III. CHRISTIANITY WAS THUS MADE NO LOCAL RELIGION, BUT A RELIGION FOR HUMANITY. So far as we can see, the bodily presence of Jesus upon earth could not but limit his reign; it could not well, in such case, be other than partial, local, national. But the purposes of the Eternal were comprehensive in benevolence. It was designed that "all the ends of the earth should see the salvation of our God." The going away of Jesus assured to the new humanity a Divine and heavenly Head. By his Spirit the ascended and glorified Lord is equally present in every part of his dominions. Thus all local limitations are transcended, and provision is made for the extension to all mankind of the blessings of our Savior's spiritual presence, authority, and grace.
IV. THE HOPE OF CHRISTIANS IS THUS BEHOVED FROM EARTH TO HEAVEN. If Jesus were still on earth, who would not be content to live and loath to die? What prospect would have reconciled his friends to death? But our Divine Friend has gone on before us, and we can only join him upon the condition of the taking down of this perishable tent in which we dwell. It is the prospect of going to him who has gone away from earth which lends brightness to the Christian's future. His prayer has secured that, where he is, there also his friends and disciples shall be. Accordingly an apostle could speak of removing hence as being "with Christ, which is far better." And there is no prospect so dear to the Christian's heart as that of ever being with the Lord. - T.
John 16:7John 16:7. The expediency of Christ's departure. We shall elucidate the truths of the text by the following remarks.
I. THAT THE MISSION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WAS ESSENTIAL TO THE GREAT PLAN OF REDEMPTION. "The Comforter will not come," implying that his coming was essential to the carrying on of the good work in them and through them.
1. As the Divine Revealer. Christ revealed the Father; the Spirit was to reveal Christ. This revelation involves:
(1) Inward light. The illumination of the soul, the mind, the intellect, the heart, and conscience.
(2) Outward light. The great truths concerning Jesus and all the facts of redemption, would be presented in a new and clearer light by the ministry of the spirit.
(3) Inward application, He not only sheds fresh light upon the great facts of redemption, but specially and directly applies them to the soul. As the Spirit of truth, capable of inspiring and influencing directly the springs of action and choice, he is specially adapted for this inward application without which the revelation is incomplete.
2. As the Divine Regenerator. The Creator of the new life, the new heart, the new man, and the new world, and the Builder of the spiritual temple. This new creation is an essential part of the plan of redemption, and is the department of the Holy Spirit.
3. As the Divine Sanctifier. Carrying on the good work gradually unto perfection.
4. As the Divine Comforter. As such he is introduced by our Lord. This was their special need, as well as the special need of all believers in all ages.
II. THAT THE DEPARTURE OF JESUS WAS ESSENTIAL TO THE COMING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. "If I go not away," etc.
1. His departure was essential to the completion of his own work and the fulfillment of his mission. He could say with propriety, "If I go not away, I cannot finish the work given me to do." This involved:
(1) A perfect atonement for sin. It is true the atonement was begun in his life; for "he is the Atonement;" but completed by his voluntary and self-sacrificing death, and it was through death he was to depart and by death complete the atonement.
(2) His perfect example.
(3) His perfect and glorified life. Only in consequence of his departure by death these were attainable. He was made perfect through sufferings.
2. The completion of his work was essential to the coming of the Holy Spirit. "If I go not away, the Comforter," etc.
(1) The Holy Spirit could not come without a complete commission. In all the Divine proceedings there is perfect order. There is nothing done at random or by accident, but all according to the strictest laws of order and fitness. When Christ came, he came with a complete commission, in the fullness of time, and in the fullness of his Father's love. The Spirit could only come in the same way.
(2) He could not obtain his full commission until the triumphant arrival of Jesus at home. Then iris commission would be complete in the completed work of Christ. Its conditions were then fulfilled and its substance then perfect, ready for use.
(3) The departure of Jesus was not only essential in relation to the commission of the Spirit, but also in relation to the disciples themselves. The remaining of Christ with them in the flesh was incompatible with the full enjoyment of the Spirit. He had to ascend on high, not only to receive the gift of the Spirit, but also to make room for him in their heart and faith. In a sense there was no room for both at the same time.
3. The completion of his work would result in the certain coming of the Spirit. "If I go away, I will send," etc. This certainty lies:
(1) In the finished work and glorified life of Christ. This deserved and even demanded the coming of the Spirit. The latter is the natural result of the former.
(2) In his personal and official influence with the Holy Spirit. This was the result of their oneness of nature, sympathy, will, and work. He was fully conscious of the Spirit's readiness to come at his request.
(3) In the unerring fidelity of the Divine promises. The promise of the Father to Jesus and that of Jesus to his disciples: "I will send him," etc. He could not forget his promise, nor fail to send him. The struggles and agonies of the past would remind him, the infinite price paid and the importance of his coming would remind him, the tender and eternal love he bore them would make him careful to send him. They had the earnest when he breathed upon them. Let him go away, and the Spirit would come in his Divine fullness.
III. THAT THE MINISTRY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WOULD BE MORE BENEFICIAL TO THE DISCIPLES AND ALL BELIEVERS THAN THE PERSONAL MINISTRY OF JESUS. "It is expedient," etc.
1. The personal ministry of Jesus was local; that of the Spirit is universal. Christ could not be personally present in more than one place at the same time; the Spirit can be everywhere.
2. The personal ministry of Christ was outward; that of the Spirit is inward. Christ appealed, with words and voice, to man through his physical senses; but the ministry of the Spirit is inward, appealing directly to the human heart, will, and conscience.
3. The personal ministry of Christ had a tendency to keep alive and foster the material and temporal ideas of his reign; that of the Spirit had a direct tendency to foster and establish spiritual ideas of his kingdom. While he remained with his disciples, they tenaciously clung to the idea of a temporal king and a temporal kingdom, and this idea would last as long as his personal presence; but his departure by death, had a direct tendency to destroy this notion and blast this hope for ever, and prepare them for the advent of the Holy Spirit, who would, on the ruins of the temporal kingdom, establish a spiritual one, a kingdom of God within. So that to the advent of the Spirit, in consequence of the personal departure of Jesus, they were indebted for true notions of the nature of his kingdom.
4. The personal ministry of Jesus was essentially temporary; that of the Spirit is permanent. He came only for a time, and under human conditions was subject to persecutions and death, and would ever be so, therefore his ministry could only be temporary; but the Spirit came to remain with and in his people for ever, and was personally above any physical injury from the wicked world. Christ, like the Baptist, was only a temporary herald in the world. As soon as his mission was fulfilled, he disappeared; but the Spirit is a settled Minister, and his charge he will never relinquish.
5. Christ, by the Holy Spirit, was more really and efficiently present with his disciples than he would be by his continual personal presence. So that he went away in order to come nearer to them, and come in a higher and diviner form; not in weakness, but in power; not in shame, but in glory; not in the shadow of death, but in the halo of a" Divine and glorified life;" not in the flesh, but in the Spirit; not outside, but within them; so that his departure resulted to them in more of Christ and the ministry of the Spirit as well.
6. By the Spirit, not only he could be more to them, but they also could be more to him and to his purposes of grace. More to themselves in the progress and development of their spiritual nature and character. More to the human family in their conversion and progress in holiness. With Christ's ministry of reconciliation, his perfect example, the inspiration of his devoted life, and self-sacrificing and atoning death, with the indwelling and accompanying influences of the Spirit, they could do infinitely more for Christ than if he were alone to remain personally with them. This was demonstratively proved after Pentecost. They were better missionaries, better heralds of the gospel of peace, and more heroic and enduring soldiers of the cross. In fact, in this way alone Christ could fulfill his purposes in them, and through them in the world.
1. All the teaching of Jesus to his disciples was absolutely true. "I tell you the truth." He never told a falsehood; he was incapable of this. He knew the truth, so that he could not mistake. He was true - the Truth, so that he would not deceive. It would be as easy for darkness to proceed from light as for falsehood to proceed from him who is the Truth.
2. He told them the truth, although he knew it to be at the time most unpalatable. "Nevertheless," etc. This truth concerning iris departure was so. Nothing could be more distasteful to their feelings and sentiments. Still he told them. He was most tenderly careful of their feelings. Still these were not the chief regulators of his revelations.
3. Some truths which at the time are most unpalatable prove at the end most beneficial and joyous when fully understood and realized. The departure of Jesus was such. It filled, at the moment, their heart with sorrow, but filled it afterwards with spiritual joy.
4. Christ, in all his sayings, deeds, and movements, was ever actuated by the supreme good of his disciples. "It is expedient for you," etc. Not what was best or most convenient for him, but what would best serve their spiritual interest and that of the world. - B.T.
I. THE NEED OF A STRONG ASSERTION. Jesus says, "I tell you the truth." Jesus never says anything but the truth, and yet we can see here clearly what need there was for the most solemn and emphatic mode of statement. For what an antecedent improbability there was that his absence could ever be better than his presence! For him to vanish from the natural sight of his disciples might well be reckoned the greatest of calamities, until actual and abundant experience showed it to be one of the greatest of blessings. Jesus had to make it clear that he meant exactly what he said, nothing else and nothing less. Until we become wiser, it is the natural, the inevitable view that to lose what we can see is a loss never to be made up from some unseen source. Not without reason did these disciples set value on the incarnate life of Jesus.
II. LOOK AT THE ASSERTION IN THE LIGHT OF HISTORICAL CONFIRMATION. It is clear to us, looking at all the facts in their connections, that the departure of Jesus was an advantage to the disciples. If we had been numbered among them we should have said beforehand, "Impossible!" And now looking back on all in the light of history, it is plain that what caused at the time such exquisite grief opened wide the door to joys and blessings unspeakable. It is also plain what a boon the death of Jesus was to himself, delivering him, as it did, from all further exposure to pain of body and grief of heart. But what Jesus would ever have us comprehend is how his departure is distinctly an advantage to his people. He wants us to feel how much better the spiritual is than the natural; how much better it is to have the invisible Jesus doing good to our inner life than the visible Jesus doing good to our outward life. If ever the visible is to be made better, it will be through the invisible. He who made the outside made the inside also, and to get the inside thoroughly pure and strong is the only way to make the outside the same. We are but extending the great principle which Jesus laid before Nicodemus, when we say that flesh can only minister to flesh, spirit only to spirit. Even as the old dispensation was preparatory to the new, so the manifestation of Jesus in the flesh was preparatory to the manifestation of Jesus in the spirit.
III. AS ILLUSTRATION OF HOW THE PLANS OF HEAVEN ARE BETTER THAN THE WISHES OF EARTH. Well was it that Jesus did not leave his disciples to decide. They would all have said, "Stop with us longer;" but who of them could have said how much longer? That would have sent their thoughts in a direction by no means pleasant to follow out. If Jesus must be more to humanity than any one else who ever trod the earth in human form, it can only be by having a different end to his life and a different result of it. Fancy Moses or Elijah (those two names which are so eminently coupled with Jesus) saying that it was expedient for the people they had to do with that they should go away. When we consider what we owe to the Paraclete, when we consider all his deep and abiding ministries, here is a fresh cause of profound thankfulness to Jesus that he accepted the sufferings of death that the Paraclete might come. The Day of Pentecost was not easily achieved; other days had to go before - the day when he sweat as it were great drops of blood, the day when he stood among the soldiers with the thorny crown, and was afterwards nailed to the cross. - Y.
I. THE SIN OF WHICH THE SPIRIT CONVICTS THE WORLD. By the world we understand humanity at large, as alienated from God, and as in rebellion against him. Our race has been the prey of sin. However the form of sin has varied, the principle has remained the same. But the most striking and the most awful proof of the presence and the power of sin in the world is its rejection of Christ. "They believe not on me." For Christ was goodness incarnate; a greater sin it was not within the power of man to commit than to reject the Holy One and the Righteous. Jesus foresaw how he was about to be treated by his fellow-countrymen the Jews, and by the Romans.
II. THE MANNER IN WHICH THE SPIRIT CONVICTS THE WORLD OF SIN. In the Mosaic dispensation very much was done to introduce into men's minds the Divine estimate, the Divine abhorrence, of sin. The Law and the prophets ever kept this in view, and their work was doubtless that of the Spirit. But in the later and completer dispensation the Spirit has made manifest in many ways the exceeding sinfulness of sin. We may instance the emphatic condemnation of sin in our Lord's words, in which it is come, red to darkness, to bondage, to death; and yet more in the contrast presented to a sinful world by the spotless character and perfect moral example of the Son of man. Yet to the Christian mind the world's sin is brought home most effectively by the provision of redemption. Jesus was the Sin Offering; he condemned sin in the flesh; he redeemed the sinner at the priceless cost and ransom of his life. The Spirit, accompanying the gospel which conveys these tidings, has rendered sin obviously and flagrantly such in the view of all who are capable of judging. Especially the sin of unbelief, of willfully rejecting the Savior, has been charged upon the human conscience in such a manner as to lead multitudes to contrition and repentance.
III. THE RESULTS WHICH HAVE FOLLOWED THE CONVICTION OF THE SINFUL WORLD BY THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST. There is something paradoxical in attributing such a result as conviction of sin to the Paraclete, the Comforter. Yet it is not to be questioned that the consciousness of sinfulness is essential in order to its forgiveness. It is the Spirit of God who renders the sinner not merely aware of his state and of his danger, but contrite and penitent; whilst contrition and penitence are necessary and indispensable in order to pardon and acceptance. There is for the sinner no true consolation which does not come by way of conviction. - T.
I. THERE IS A CLOSE CONNECTION BETWEEN CONVICTION OF SIN AND CONVICTION OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. The knowledge of the Law gives the knowledge of sin. Obedience and disobedience are correlative. The good man by his goodness enforces the excellence of the Law he obeys, and at the same time suggests the flagrant enormity of defying and despising that Law. There is nothing inconsistent in the performance by the same Spirit of this twofold office. In a world where sin abounds the functions cannot be separated.
II. THE HOLY SPIRIT CONVINCES OF RIGHTEOUSNESS IN THE RECORD OF CHRIST'S JUST AND HOLY LIFE. The narratives of the evangelists are expressly attributed to the Spirit of Christ, who brought all that it concerned the Church and the world to know concerning Jesus to the minds of the inspired and sympathetic writers. What a record these memoirs constitute! Jesus fulfilled all righteousness, magnified the Law, was holy, harmless, and undefiled, was actively and benevolently good. It is one thing for righteousness to be expressed in the Law; another thing for it to be embodied in a life. Wherever the record of our Savior's ministry is read, there the Spirit testifies to the reader's heart of a righteousness faultless and peerless, fitted to command reverence and adoration.
III. THE DEPARTURE AND ASCENSION OF CHRIST WERE THE OCCASION OF THIS CONVINCING WITNESS OF THE SPIRIT. His going to the Father and his consequent concealment from the bodily eyes of men were mentioned by himself as thus connected with the conviction of the world. How this was so we, as a matter of fact and history, can see. A completed life was crowned by a sacrificial death and by a triumphant ascension; the Representative and Savior of man was accepted by the Father; his work was secured beyond all possibility of failure. The personal animosity which beset the Incarnate One came then to an end; the protest against sin, and the exhibition of righteousness, both of which were perfected in Christ, were now presented to men with a completeness which was impossible during his ministry. Righteousness had been resented and rejected when it conflicted with personal interests, when it visibly and audibly set itself against individual and national sins. It was necessary that this should be so for a season. But the time came when the protest of Christ was heard from heaven as the authoritative voice of God himself. The Holy Spirit works with this now historical and ideal exhibition of righteousness, in order to make it a mighty factor in the moral life of humanity.
IV. THE HOLY SPIRIT HAS BEEN DURING THIS DISPENSATION CONVICTING THE WORLD OF ITS SIN IN REJECTING THE SUPREMELY RIGHTEOUS. The Jews would not have this Man to reign over them; his justice, his truth, his purity, his spirituality, were an offence to them; they slew him whose presence was to them a perpetual rebuke. But to how many was the preaching of the gospel by the apostles a convincing of sin? When these fearless heralds, under the guidance of the Divine Spirit, charged upon the nation their sin and guilt, many were "pricked to the heart," feeling as if their own hands had slain the Prince of Life; many sought mercy for their unjust and fearful sin. They saw the righteousness of the Redeemer in a new light. The sick had slain their Physician, the enslaved their Liberator. Thus did the Spirit bring the enemies of righteousness to seek for themselves the righteousness they had despised when it had come to them in the Person of the Son of God. And in this the action of these aroused, repentant Israelites was an earnest of the turning unto God which should follow upon the preaching of Christ to the Gentiles also.
V. IT IS THE GRACIOUS OFFICE OF THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST TO LEAD THE WORLD TO SEEK AND TO APPROPRIATE THE RIGHTEOUSNESS IT HAS SCORNED. It would not have been in harmony with the character of our Redeemer to have laid stress upon righteousness as rejected, and to have lost sight of righteousness as acquired and appropriated. The Holy Spirit does indeed convince men that they have violated righteousness in their denial and contempt of Christ. But in this is no gospel. And Christ died, and the Holy Spirit was given, for the good of man, for the salvation and not for the condemnation of the sinner. Accordingly, it is by these heavenly influences exerted by the Spirit of God that men are led not only to lament their deficiency, but to seek that that deficiency may be supplied. Jesus becomes to us who believe "the Lord our Righteousness;" he is "made unto us of God Righteousness." And it is for the Spirit that we must give thanks for leading us into the possession and enjoyment of "the righteousness which is by faith." - T.
I. THE MORAL NECESSITY THERE WAS THAT THE PRINCE OR RULER OF THIS WORLD SHOULD BE JUDGED.
1. The power of evil had already had a long and prosperous course. In the lapse of centuries and millenniums every possible form of sin had flourished in one community or another. Satan had had things almost his own way.
2. Yet the ruler of this world de facto was not its ruler de jure; he was a usurper meeting with too ready a submission on the part of men.
3. Neither the operation of natural laws nor the occasional judgments and interpositions of the Supreme had been sufficient to arrest the downward progress of humanity. The laws of society, the Law given by Moses, nay, the very law embodied in the constitution of human affairs, had been effective chiefly as a protest against disobedience and iniquity.
II. THE FACT THAT THE PRINCE OF THIS WORLD WAS JUDGED IN THE CRUCIFIXION AND RESURRECTION OF CHRIST. It is a grand and solemn hour when an evil ruler or an unjust, perfidious prince is brought to trial and to the block. How great is the solemnity and awe attached to the scene, the time, when the power of evil was met on the field, discomfited, and crippled by the irresistible might of God's own Son! This was the issue of the combat, as foreseen by Christ himself. As the struggle approached, the Lord Jesus realized its momentous character and its glorious results. He saw Satan as lightning fall from heaven. "Now," said he, "is the judgment of this world; now is the prince of this world cast out." The hour of Christ's death was the hour when he "destroyed him that had the power of death." In his resurrection Jesus led captivity captive, and robbed death of its sting. The sinful, unbelieving world was judged in its prince. The sentence against the prince of darkness was pronounced; the execution of that sentence should follow.
III. THE OFFICE OF THE SPIRIT WAS TO CONVINCE THE WORLD THAT ITS ANCIENT USURPER HAD BEEN DETHRONED BY CHRIST. The two kingdoms - that of sin and darkness, and that of light and holiness - could not exist side by side. The stronger must needs prevail over the weaker. Immediately upon the resurrection and ascension el Jesus, and upon the gift of the Holy Spirit, the kingdom of Christ began to prosper, and to prevail against that of the adversary. The demoniacs who were set free from Satanic possession were the earnest of the liberation of the ransomed humanity. When the idols were abolished, the kingdom of error and of sin felt the blow. When worshippers of cruelty and lust transferred their homage to the holy Savior, the contest issued in victory for God. And every human soul in which the Spirit has wrought the work of enlightenment and enfranchisement is a new trophy won for Christ. The day shall surely come when every foe shall be beneath the Master's feet, when "the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ." - T.
I. NOTE WITH WHOM THE SPIRIT HAS TO DEAL. His work is with all who are comprised under that wondrous and frequent word in this Gospel, "the world." Elsewhere Jesus speaks of the world hating the disciples. But that very world which hates is not merely to have its malignities warded off; its hatred must, if possible, be changed to friendship, its opposition must give way to support. The spirit of the world in all of us is to be beaten down and starved out by the persuasions of a nobler Spirit ever striving to make friends with the conscience within. This word "reprove," or "convict," is a grand word. It shows us what noble thoughts God has of us. There is no true submission to God in Jesus unless through persuasion. The door of the heart must ever be opened from inside.
II. THE OBJECTS OF HIS CONVINCING WORK.
The connection of these three words is obvious. The presence of sin is the absence of righteousness, and vice versa. And the possibility of sin and the possibility of righteousness mean the coming of a judgment which shall settle with authority whether sin has overcome righteousness or righteousness overcome sin. The Spirit comes, making it clear to men what is the deep, underlying cause of all human unrest and weariness. The work of conviction as to sin, righteousness, and judgment all goes on together. It is, of course, not so much an appeal to the intellect, though the intellect cannot be left out of the operation. The process is one in which there goes on contemporaneously a revelation of self and a revelation of Jesus. Old words have to be emptied of old, insufficient meanings. When the Holy Spirit brings the word "sin," he brings no new word. The old covenant was full of it, the thoughts of men were full of it, but as of something which could be easily put away by the blood of some slain animal. The Holy Spirit makes us ask the question why we are so different from Jesus. The image of Jesus to our understandings should always be a rebuking image, filling us with a deep sense, in no way to be removed by mere lapse of time, of our shortcomings and pollutions. The greatest miracle about Jesus is his pure and perfect character, and the more intense becomes our desire after likeness to him in this respect the more it is evident that the convicting work of the Spirit is going on in us. Ever the humbler we become at the sight of ourselves, the more hopeful shall we become at the sight of Jesus. For, as Jesus goes on to say in a sentence or two later, the Spirit's work is not only a revelation, but a guidance. - Y.
I. IT IS NOT THE OFFICE OF THE SPIRIT TO ORIGINATE AND EMBODY TRUTH. This is an error into which Christians of different Churches and different tendencies have fallen - an error sometimes designated "mysticism." Good men have often looked to the enlightenment of the Spirit for a manifestation of new truth. Light proceeds from a visible object directly or by reflection, and by the light we see the object and its visible qualities; but the object must be there in order that the light may reveal it. So is it in the spiritual realm. The Spirit does "not speak from himself;" this is not his office. The truth is embodied in revelation, in the Law, the Gospel, especially in the Lord Jesus, who is "the Truth." If men turn away from the revelation and look to the Spirit alone for illumination, they will mistake their own tastes and prejudices for the truth of God.
II. IT IS THE OFFICE OF THE SPIRIT TO LEAD THE MIND TO RECOGNIZE AND APPRECIATE DIVINE TRUTH. The words here used by Jesus concerning the Spirit are decisive upon this point; he will "guide" and "show." The truth exists in the revealed counsels of God, and especially in the character and the mediation of Jesus Christ. But for the ignorant, the untaught, the unspiritual, the truth is as though it were not. The work of the Spirit is to witness to the soul, i.e. to bring the soul into harmony with the Divine revelation, to remove the dullness, the coldness, the sin, which would prevent men from realizing God's truth. A landscape in the dark midnight can afford no man pleasure, however artistic and sympathetic be may be by nature; but when the sun arises and irradiates the scene, and pours the light, in all its power to reveal the beauties of form and color, into the eyes of the beholder, then his pleasure is perfected. So is the case with the soul of man, which needs Divine illumination in order to value and enjoy Divine truth.
III. THE SPECIAL OFFICE OF THE SPIRIT IS TO REVEAL AND THUS TO 'GLORIFY CHRIST HIMSELF. He knows the way, and guides God's people into it; he hears the truth, and repeats it in the spiritual hearing of the susceptible; he receives, and what he receives he imparts to those who are prepared to accept it. In these verses the substance of the revelation is represented in three different lights. There is the Person Christ, only to be apprehended by the spiritual quickening which enables the mind to discover in him the Gift of God himself. There is the truth, all gathered up in Chest, and made in him an object of faith and delight to the soul. There are the things that are to come, the unfolding of the counsels of the Mediator in the growth of the Church and the universality of the kingdom. - T.
I. LOOK AT THE POSSIBILITY HERE SET BEFORE US. We may be led into the whole truth. He wants us thoroughly to know the fullness of which we already know the part. What we need above everything, and what is quite possible if only we choose to make it possible, is to get the full benefit meant to come to every human being from the entrance of Jesus into the world. We are already better off in an indirect way. But indirect benefit must always be superficial benefit. Jesus, having great expectations for us, wants us also to have great expectations for ourselves; expectations going out after the true crown and glory of humanity. Our own wish surely ought to be to know all a human being can know about this wondrous Jesus, and have all the transactions with him that a human being can.
II. THE WAY IN WHICH THIS WHOLE TRUTH IS TO BE GAINED.
1. There is the significant word about being guided. We may be among those taking things just as they come, following our own inclination when we can, and, when we cannot, submitting to necessity; or we may be distinctly conscious that we are led - led as by one in authority, whom we feel that we ought to follow. In lesser things it makes all the difference whether we are led or not led. The child left to grow up pretty much as it likes, without any attempt to guide it and put something like order into its life, is sure to suffer. We always gain in being led by those who are competent to lead. Those whom we call pioneers, who seem to have found out a way for themselves, have often been under some overmastering impulse which has really amounted to a leading. And if the loss of leading be so serious a loss in lower, visible affairs, what must it be in dealing with the unseen and eternal!
2. The Guide is pointed out. The Spirit of the truth will lead us into the whole truth. The process is a gradual, persuasive, and certain one. The Spirit of Jesus did for these disciples what Jesus in the flesh was never able to do. The Resurrection came to lift the obscuring film from their eyes. Their thoughts were sent into a new channel. The ordinary objects of human ambition became very paltry and worthless. What a difference between the Peter of the Gospels and the Peter of the First Epistle! These men were actually guided into a firm and satisfying grasp of the whole truth; and we want the same. We want a power all-sufficient to guide our feelings and behavior every day of life. The influence of the unseen and eternal must swallow up the influence of the seen and temporal. And this is all secured by submitting to the leadership and absolute disposition of the Spirit promised by Jesus. - Y.
disciples, step by step, "into all the truth," the whole truth as it is in Jesus.
I. THIS PROMISE WAS LARGELY FULFILLED IN THE MINISTRY OF THE APOSTLES THEMSELVES AFTER PENTECOST. They knew all the facts of our Lord's history already - his birth of a virgin, his death on the cross, and his resurrection and ascension into glory. But they were not left to themselves to interpret these facts and explain their spiritual meaning. Far from it; their eyes were opened, and their understandings guided from above. They and the Apostle Paul, who was ere long to be added to their company, had the mighty work entrusted to them of explaining to all ages the true significance of the mission of Christ in the flesh. They were inspired to do this. A wisdom not their own was given to them. They were no longer "fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken." Formerly they had been like children; now they were men of full age, and became the authoritative heralds and expounders of the gospel. Paul was fully conscious of this when he said, "God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts," etc. (2 Corinthians 4:6). It is important to observe the order, so to say, of the Spirit's revelations concerning Christ. The great outstanding facts, as just noted, of our Lord's manifestation to men are
(1) his incarnation;
(2) his cross;
(3) his crown.
It is around these that all the doctrines of the faith are clustered; out of these facts they may be said to grow. From the very first - that is to say from Pentecost - the Holy Spirit bore a certain witness concerning them all. But in what order did he bring them into prominence? Which did he first show forth in light and glory to the eyes of men? Plainly it was not the birth of Christ, but his exaltation to the right hand of God. This was the great and urgent theme of Pentecost and of the days which immediately followed (see the Book of Acts). The words of the Apostle Peter," God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified both Lord and Christ," - these words were the beginning of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. And then, as time went on, the full meaning of the cross was unfolded, and the Apostle Paul, who, above all things, preached Christ crucified, was inspired to declare it as no one else had done. And, last of all, the deep mystery of Christ's incarnation, how "the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us," - that in its turn was chiefly explored by the beloved disciple John. Thus, through the illumination of the same Spirit, the crown shed its light upon the cross, and the cross and the crown shed their united light on the cradle. The ripe fruit, the imperishable record of all this, is to be found in the Scriptures of the New Testament. How did the Spirit of truth glorify Jesus in guiding and inspiring their human authors! What a revelation do they contain of the Person and work, the mind and heart, of the Holy One, never to be superseded by any newer Testament so long as the world lasts!
II. THIS PROMISE HAS BEEN FURTHER FULFILLED IN THE SUBSEQUENT HISTORY AND LIFE OF THE CHURCH. It was by no means exhausted when the eyewitnesses and first ministers of the Word had gone to their rest, leaving behind them the memory of their oral teaching and the Books of the New Testament. So far from this, it has ever been by the Spirit of truth that the voice of Christ, even in the Scriptures, has continued to be audible and mighty, and that his presence in any of the means of grace has been realized. We are warned that the letter killeth; and, alas! there have been Churches whose candlestick has been removed out of its place. But in each living Christian community there are men whose lips and hearts are touched by fire from God's altar, that they may interpret the gospel to their own times and their own brethren. Like householders, they bring forth out of their treasures things new and old. By their spoken words, by their written treatises, perhaps by their hymns of faith and hope, they declare afresh to those around them the unsearchable riches of Christ. In its essence and substance their message is still the same - "That which was from the beginning;" in its form and expression it varies with the aspects of providence and the problems of human life. In Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and the age will never come when these treasures shall be exhausted, or the Spirit's ministry of revelation shall cease. "The world will come to an end when Christianity shall have spoken its last word" (Vinet). Great, indeed, is the responsibility of Christian pastors and teachers, called as they are to be fellow-workers with God. The means of grace, the lively oracles, are committed especially to their trust. It is theirs to trim the lamps of life in a dark world; it is theirs to feed the flock of Christ, to stand by the wells of salvation and draw water for every one that is athirst. And who is sufficient for these things? But it is the Master's work, and here is the promise which he has given for the encouragement of all his servants. Light and power from on high are assured by it, and God will give his Spirit to them that ask him.
III. THIS PROMISE IS CONSTANTLY FULFILLED IN ALL TRUE CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE; for in the case of each individual believer the Holy Spirit takes of the things of Christ, and shows them to his soul. It is no doubt true that the gospel record is the common property of all mankind, and that any man in the mere exercise of his natural intelligence can see clearly enough how the great doctrines of the faith are founded on the record, and grow out of it. And thus, in point of fact, there are thousands who look upon Christ as a great historical Teacher, and content themselves with making what we may call an intellectual study of his own words and those of his apostles. But his true disciples go further, much further than this. How shall we express the thoughts of their hearts about Christ? May we not say that these correspond to his own words, "Behold, I am alive for evermore;" "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world"? They think of him not as a Being separated from them by eighteen long centuries of time, but as One who is really, though spiritually, present with them, at once human and Divine. They habitually rejoice in his exaltation as "Lord of all." They feel a present peace in the blood of his cross. They bow before the mystery of his taking on him our nature. His authority over them is supreme, and altogether welcome. His example is ever immeasurably in advance of them, though they humbly seek to follow it; and his words are like no other words - spirit and life to their hearts. And we may say that these feelings and convictions of Christ's disciples are altogether reasonable - that is to say, they are entirely in accordance with the supernatural fact that Jesus is the Son of God. But whence came these convictions? Whence their depth and their permanence and their power? There is but one explanation, and we find it in the promise before us: "The Spirit of truth shall receive of mine," etc. Not that he brings any fresh tidings from the invisible world concerning Christ, or adds a single fact or truth to what the Scriptures contain; but to those who resist not his teaching he manifests what is already known in its reality and glory. He opens their eyes, purges their vision, sweeps away the veil that comes between them and their Lord. And it is ever the same Christ that the Spirit of truth reveals to the soul of man; and yet under his teaching what room there is for variety and progress of spiritual apprehension! The same sun puts on a different glory every hour of the longest day. His light is as various as the lands on which he shines; and so it is with Christ, our unchanging Sun of Righteousness - himself "the same yesterday, and today, and forever." He has an aspect for every period of life, and for all life's great vicissitudes, to those who believe. In childhood he may chiefly appear as a gentle Shepherd, in youth as an earnest Counselor, in manhood as a mighty King, and in the evening of life, when its battles are well-nigh over, and its companions scattered, as a faithful, never-dying Friend. What is the result of this teaching of the Spirit of truth? Under his illumination the soul cannot remain unchanged. It is true that here below Christians see through a glass darkly - not yet face to face. Still, amid all the imperfections of the life of faith, what they do see of the glory of Christ makes them see all things in new light, and judge all things by a new standard. The world cannot be to them what it was before, for their horizon widens out far beyond its frontiers. Self can no longer be their idol, for they have become conscious of a Presence which raises them above themselves. In their own measure and degree "they have the mind of Christ." Grandly and powerfully does the Apostle Paul describe the ultimate effect of the Spirit's teaching: "We all, with open face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed," etc. (2 Corinthians 3:18).
IV. In conclusion, WHO SHALL PUT BOUNDS OR LIMITS TO THE FULFILLMENT OF THIS PROMISE IN THE FUTURE? We know that men shall be blessed in Christ, and all nations shall call him blessed. On this earth, where he was despised and rejected, he is yet to be crowned with glory and honor from the rising to the setting sun. Human life in all its departments is to be gladdened by his presence, inspired by his example, molded by his will. Through what means, or after what convulsions or shakings of the nations, this is to be brought about we cannot tell; but it will not be by human might or power, but by the Spirit of the Holy One, that the grand result will be achieved. It is written that "he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations;" and when that veil is rent from the top to the bottom, then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. - G.B.
I. THE GRIEF OCCASIONED BY THE LORD'S ABSENCE. Probably had the twelve been perfectly informed, perfectly sympathetic, and perfectly patient, they would not have undergone all the distress which came upon them when their Lord was seized, insulted, and crucified, and whilst his body lay in Joseph's tomb. But as it was, their experience was more like our own, and therefore more instructive and helpful.
1. The disciples sorrowed because of their own loss. Jesus was everything to them, and they were about to lose him; this they knew, and the consciousness of this loss, which was imminent, seems to have occupied and absorbed their souls, to the exclusion of considerations which might have brought consolation. Thus it has often been with all of us; grief is so close to the heart that it shuts out the vision of aught beyond.
2. The disciples sorrowed through sympathy with the sorrow of their Lord. He was to be hated, to be persecuted, to lay down his life. Yet he was not only innocent, he was the Friend and Benefactor of men. The treatment he received from the world was a proof of monstrous ingratitude. Those who were nearest to him, and who knew him best, could not but sympathize with him, and in some measure, though very imperfectly, share his grief.
3. The disciples sorrowed because of the cloud which gathered over their hopes. These hopes were to some extent indefinite; yet they looked forward to a Messianic kingdom of which their Master should be the Head, and in which they should hold place and sway and honor. They trusted that he should redeem Israel; and they could not understand how such a fate as that which was, according to his own words, about to overtake him, could be reconciled with the prospect which they had been cherishing. Hence their weeping and lamentation.
II. THE GLADNESS TO BE CREATED BY THE LORD'S RETURN. There was only one antidote to sorrow such as that which was oppressing the apostles' hearts, and which was to deepen into anguish and terror. If their Lord was all to them, their minds could only be relieved by the prospect of reunion with him.
1. Jesus promised that after "a little while" his friends should again behold his form and hear his voice. How this prospect was consistent with the assurance that he was about to be slain, these inexperienced and bewildered friends of Jesus could not see. But events were to teach them. That the Resurrection came upon them as a surprise, the narrative makes abundantly clear. But the disciples were "glad when they saw the Lord."
2. This fellowship for a brief season to be accorded to the disciples was an earnest of a spiritual communion never to cease, and of a final and perfect reunion in a higher state of being. There were in our Lord's last discourses and conversations many intimations of this glorious prospect. Very inadequately did these simple learners grasp truths so great and so new, that only time, experience, and the Holy Spirit's teaching could possibly bring them home to their hearts. The revelation was too grand to be grasped at once. Yet it was a revelation which was to nourish the faith, impel the consecration, and inspire the patience, of the Church of Christ through the long ages of the spiritual dispensation. What joy the spiritual fellowship with the unseen Savior enkindled in the souls of his faithful people, we know from their recorded experience and from their confident admonitions. "Joy unspeakable and full of glory" was, in the view of the apostles, the proper portion of those who believed in Jesus. "Rejoice evermore!" was the exhortation with which gloom was rebuked, with which privilege and hope of immortal progress were indissolubly connected. - T.
I. THE OCCASIONS UPON WHICH THIS PROMISE WAS FULFILLED.
1. Upon our Lord's resurrection. Had he not taken this very early opportunity of again seeing his own, it is not obvious how their faith and courage could have been sustained. They were depressed almost to despondency by their Lord's Passion and burial. Had he not appeared when he did, it would seem that their confidence in him must have been shaken, and their mutual unity must have been dissolved. But when he saw them, gladness took the place of sorrow, attachment was strengthened, and hope banished despair.
2. The descent of the Spirit was a richer and fuller accomplishment of our Lord's designs of grace towards his Church. He had promised the Comforter, whose coming should keep them from being orphans, abandoned, and friendless in the world. And in the Spirit he himself came again to his own, visiting them in showers of spiritual blessing.
3. The return at the second advent must also have been in the Master's mind when he uttered these gracious words of friendly assurance. His parables and his direct discourses alike animated the breasts of the disciples with this blessed hope. All the more did they rejoice in this prospect, because they were taught that he who had come the first time in humiliation and obedience would come the second time to judge and to reign.
II. THE FULLNESS OF IMPORT AND BLESSING WHICH THIS PROMISE CONTAINS.
1. The assurance that Christ will see his people is even more precious and welcome than the assurance given (in previous verses) that they shall see him. Our religion teaches us to look away from ourselves to God, to rest on his declarations, his faithfulness, his love. Unless we are in a morbid, self-conscious state, it will give us strength and comfort to forget ourselves in order to concentrate our thoughts and desires upon him who holds us dear, and who will never forget and never forsake his own.
2. That Christ will see his people, involves an accession to their happiness. To know that the eye of our dearest friend is resting upon us, and that with interest and approbation, what so fitted as this to send a thrill of joy through all our nature? We are encouraged by the language of the text to think of Christ thus affectionately and (so to speak) in a manner so truly human.
3. That Christ will see his people, assures them of the supply of all their wants. Can our dearest and mightiest Friend see us in danger, and not deliver us? in temptation, and not succor us? in sorrow, and not console us? in need, and not minister to us? For a Being so sympathizing, to see is to pity; for a Being so mighty, to pity is to aid. - T.
I. OBSERVE EXACTLY WHAT JESUS HERE SPEAKS ABOUT. He is dealing with a part of prayer - the petitionary part, the part where need should be deeply felt and clearly expressed. And yet, after all, in what part of prayer can the sense of need be absent? For instance, it will not be pretended that it is an easy thing to give adequate utterance to adoration. As we go on in the spiritual life, we shall more and more feel that all true prayer, from the very beginning to the end, has asking lying under it. Though there be not always petitionary form, there will be petitionary reality. The spiritual man is not one whit less needy than the natural man. The further he advances, the more do his own needs and the needs of the world press upon him. Left to himself, he is very likely to become confused among a multitude of perplexing thoughts. Now, here is a recommendation and promise of Jesus which most assuredly will simplify and concentrate prayer.
II. WHAT IT IS TO PRAY IN THE NAME OF JESUS. No particular name can be said here to be meant. All the names are needed, and even then there is not enough to indicate the fullness of the person named. We must get underneath names to things. Asking in the Name of Jesus means fundamentally asking in connection with him. Think of yourself habitually as the servant of Jesus, bound to attend to his interests, bound to consult his wishes, hound to carry out his purposes, and then you will get wonderful light as to what things you should pray for, and wonderful help in making them really subjects of prayer. A banker honors immediately all checks that a servant presents signed by his master. The self-willed and the self-indulgent cannot truly pray; their cry may be genuine and intense enough; but it is only the cry of exasperation and disappointment. No prayer is worth the breath it is uttered with that leaves the Lordship of Jesus out of the question.
III. THERE MUST BE A REAL CONNECTION WITH JESUS. It will never do to go by our own notions of what Jesus wants. There is such a thing as unwittingly presenting forged checks at the bank of heaven. Each of us must be like a hand of the living Jesus, in immediate and flexible connection with his will. We must be really at his disposal, ready and ready ever for the doing of his will and his will only. There must come a time in the history of the heart when everything less than the truth as it is in Jesus will fail to command us. - Y.
I. THE OBJECTS OF THE FATHER'S LOVE. The description given of such as the Father regards with affection is very definite and very instructive.
1. They are those who love Christ. Undoubtedly, the apostles, to whom these words were originally spoken, did love their Master; events proved the sincerity of their attachment. Yet this qualification is one which may exist in those who have not seen Jesus in the body, but only with the eye of faith. Christians, who are such in reality and not merely in name, cherish a warm and grateful affection towards the Son of God, who himself loved them and bought them with his precious blood. Their love does not evaporate in sentiment; it displays itself in their reception of his doctrine, their obedience to his commands, their imitation of his holy example.
2. They are those who believe in Christ's Divine mission. If any man thinks of Christ as of One who is "of the earth," who is a merely human development, who has no special and Divine authority to save and to rule, such a one is not described in this language, and shuts himself out from the blessing which is accessible. But he who thinks of Jesus as of the Being who came forth from the Father, commissioned and equipped by the Father to be the Savior of men, and who not only thinks of him aright, but acts towards him in such a way as this belief authorizes, he may be encouraged to regard himself as the object of the Divine Father's love. Thus love and belief are both necessary. In this passage love takes precedence; but some belief concerning Christ must come before love, though unquestionably the loving soul learns to believe more richly and fully concerning the Divine, incomparable Friend.
II. THE CHARACTER OF THE FATHER'S LOVE.
1. It originates in his benevolent nature. His love is not caused by ours. "We love him, because he first loved us." But the love of Divine pity revealed in Christ enkindles the flame of love upon our hearts.
2. It manifests itself in the mediation of the Son. The love of God is not caused by the intercession of our Divine Advocate and Representative.
3. It is, towards these who believe in Christ, the love of satisfaction and complacency. Beginning (if we may use language so human) with pity, the Divine love goes on to approval. The Father recognizes in the friends and followers of Christ the same moral features and expressions which he looks upon with delight in his Son. This is a view of God which is eminently and distinctively Christian. The God whom we worship is a God who can love man, whose love flows forth in streams of compassion towards all men, but whose favor is revealed to those who display moral sympathy with his own beloved Son.
III. THE PROOF OF THE FATHER'S LOVE.
1. The objects of this Divine affection are encouraged to ask for what they need from him who is able to supply their many and varied wants. What greater evidence can there be of fatherly and filial feeling than when a son is at liberty to prefer requests to a parent who has confidence in his child and has the means of satisfying and of pleasing him? Such are the relations between the heavenly Father and those whom he adopts into his family.
2. The spontaneous disposition of the Father is to grant the requests of his children. This language casts light upon the Scripture doctrine of intercession. Christ is the Advocate with God, but his advocacy does not consist in persuading an unwilling Deity to relent from his severity and to act with generosity. On the contrary, the advocacy is the appointment of Divine love and the channel of Divine favor. Christ does not mean that he will not pray the Father for us; but that this fact of intercession is not the point upon which he is now dwelling. He is anxious that his friends should understand that the Father's love is free, that his liberality is such as to secure to his Son's friends the enjoyment of all good. And, as a consequence, every Christian is encouraged to bring his petitions to God, in the Name of Christ indeed, yet with the assurance that there is now nothing on the part of the Father to hinder the bestowal of all needed and desirable blessings. - T.
I. WHENCE HE CAME. "I came out from the Father." This implies:
1. Unity or oneness of nature. It is not "I came from the presence of the Father," or "from a near point to him," but "I came out from him" - an expression which would be highly improper to be used by any one but by him who is equal and one with the Father, one in nature and essence. It is clearly the language of an equal, and not of an inferior.
2. Nearness of relationship. The human relationship which best expresses the relationship of the "eternal Word" to the Godhead is that of father and son, and this is used. It must not be carried too far, but we are grateful for it, as it sheds some light on Christ with regard to the Godhead; he stands in the most near and natural relationship to him, and this relationship is not outward, accidental, and transient, but inward, essential, and everlasting - the relationship of nature and essence.
3. The most intimate fellowship and acquaintance. The Divine nature is social. We like the idea of the unity of God, one supreme Being fulfilling the idea of perfect oneness; and we like also the idea of a Trinity which deprives mere unity of its dreariness, loneliness, anti monotony, and fills it with the joys and delights of society - the royal and Divine society of the Divine nature. "I came out from," etc. Their fellowship must be most intimate, inspiring, and pure, and their acquaintance perfect.
4. The warmest friendship. What must be the mutual friendship of the Father of love with the Son of his love? It must be the warmest, intensest, sweetest, and most delightful. The purest and most loving human friendships fade before this.
5. The most dignified and glorious position. "From the Father." The most glorious position in the universe. His position was equal with that of the eternal Father, his glory was as resplendent, his throne as majestic, his scepter as universal, and his throne as dignified.
6. A Divine procession. It is difficult, in human language, to describe the Divine movements, and to add anything in explanation to the simple statement of our Lord, which to him was quite plain. "I came out," etc. But there must be a special movement of the Divine nature on the part of the Son, a coming out from the Father, a partial but temporary separation, and a procession of him whose goings forth have been from of old.
II. WHITHER WE CAME. As we see the first movement of the eternal Son, we are inclined to ask whither will he go? Doubtless to one of the largest planets, in one of the most glorious systems in the universe. No; but he came into the world. He was in the world before, but now came to it, and came into it in a usual, natural way, by birth. This implies:
1. A great distance. From the Father into the world. The physical distance must be great, but the moral distance greater still. From the Divine to the human, from the sphere of Divine glory, purity, and life, to the sphere of shame, sin, sorrow, and death. The distance was infinite, and the journey was long.
2. A great change. There is a change of air, from the pure air of the Father's presence to the foul air of this world. A change of sceneries, of society, of associations, of relationships. The old ones were only partially left, but new ones were formed. A new nature was assumed; new conditions, circumstances, and employments under-token. The nature of the creature was assumed by the Creator, the nature of the sinner was assumed by Divine purity, and the nature of weakness was assumed by infinite power. The Son of God became the Son of man, the form of God was exchanged for the form of a servant, and the Lord of heaven became the tenant of this wretched, insignificant, and rebellious world. What a change! What a change from the throne to the manger, from the crown to the cross, from the society of the Father and angels to that of the rebellious children of the Fall, from the sweet music of heaven to the malignant execrations of earth!
3. A great mission. "Am come into the world." This suggests that he came as an Ambassador; and the very fact that he came from the Father into the world proves that he came upon a most important mission - a mission which deeply affected the very heart of the King, the honor of his throne, and the well-being of his subjects. His important mission was to effect reconciliation between earth and heaven; to condemn sin and save the sinner; to conquer forever the prince of this world and the powers of darkness, and create a new heaven and a new earth. His mission affected not merely this world, but the whole universe.
4. A great sacrifice. This was required to meet the demands of justice and law, and the need of the world. And his mission was a sacrifice from beginning to end; from the first movement, the coming out from the Father, the coming into the world, his life in it, and his departure from it through the ignominious death of the cross, - all this was an infinite sacrifice sufficient to answer the purposes of Divine love involved in the mission of the Son in the world.
5. A great fact. What is this? That the Son of God was incarnate in this world, and it includes all the great facts of his earthly history, which are summed up here in one, "Am come into the world." This is the greatest in this world's history - the fact of the greatest glory, interest, and consequences in all its annals. It has made this world a center of interest, meditation, and wonder for all the intelligent universe.
6. A great responsibility. If the Son of God was in this world, and for it lived and died in order to bring it into allegiance with heaven, in the face of such a condescension, expense, and sacrifice, its responsibility is infinite.
III. WHITHER HE WENT.
1. He left the world.
(1) His stay here was not intended to be long. When he came, he came only for a short time. He was a pilgrim in the land rather than a permanent resident. He came as an Ambassador, to perform a special work, and his hard work bespoke a short stay.
(2) He accomplished his work here. He came to the world, not to enjoy, but to work; not to rest, but to toil; not to live, but rather to die. He worked hard, and finished his work early; then he left - there was no more to do here. The world tried to send him away before his work was finished, but failed. Not before he cried, "It is finished!" he gave up the ghost.
(3) He had a work to do in another place - within the veil. He could not do that work here. He could not be idle. If there was no work here, he would go where it was. He was bound to time and special employments.
2. He went to the Father - to the same place as he came from.
(1) This was in the original plan. It was one of the conditions of his departure that he should soon return to the same place and to the same glory. The inhabitants could not be long happy without him. Heaven was not the same during his absence.
(2) His mission was fulfilled to the Father's entire satisfaction. Jesus was fully conscious of this, otherwise he would not speak with such confidence and delight of returning to his Father. This is the last thing a disloyal and inefficient ambassador will do. The sweet voice ever rang in his soul, "I have both glorified, and will glorify thee."
(3) His return was most natural and sweet to him, to the -Father, and to all. He was never so far and so long from home before, and his return was most gratifying to the Divine heart, and it fulfilled the Divine love. Never had a conquering hero such welcome on his return. Welcome was the language of all the happy family, and the sweet burden of every strain which streamed from harps of gold. It was specially delightful to him. After the hardships of his earthly campaign, home must be indeed sweet; but all the sufferings he forgot in the ecstasy of Divine welcome and the delight of triumph.
1. All the promises of Christ to faith will be fulfilled. He had promised it plainer revelations of the Father, and the text is the first installment. Christ's light is ever in proportion to the strength of the eye, and his revelations, in substance and language, suitable to the capacities of faith - now in proverbs, now in plainer language and with greater confidence, introducing to it deeper mysteries and brighter visions.
2. All the movements of Christ in connection with the great scheme of redemption were purely voluntary. Those indicated in these words were so. "I came out from the Father," etc. He had perfect control over all his movements, and they were invariably the results of his sovereign and free will.
3. When he went to the Father he took the cause of the world, especially that of his disciples, with him - in his nature, in his heart, and will never leave nor forget it.
4. When he left the world he left the best part of himself behind. He left the precious results of his life and death, his example, his pardoning love, his Spirit, his blessed gospel with all its rich contents.
5. As he went to the -Father, this indicates the direction we should go, and ever look for him. We know where he is. He left not his disciples in ignorance of his destination; he left his full address, and in its light we have a Father, and an Almighty Advocate with him. - B.T.
I. THE CONFESSION OF FAITH. "By this we believe," etc. This indicates:
1. Faith in the proper Object. "We believe that thou," etc. They believed in his Person and character, and in the Divinity of his mission. Their faith, even at this time, had not made much progress in spiritual elevation and grasp of its Object; still, this fresh confession of it was encouraging. If not much progress is made, it is cheering to know there is no retrogression.
2. Faith is founded upon intelligent basis. "By this we believe," etc.
(1) The plainness of his speech. In his last words there was no proverb. The revelation is clear. He had promised them this, and now it is partly fulfilled, and fulfilled sooner than they expected. This prompt fulfillment of his promise gives new life to faith.
(2) The Divinity of his knowledge. They are struck with its Divine extensiveness: "all things;" and with its Divine quality. It is not derived through the ordinary human channels of answers to questions, but it is independent of these, and the inherent produce of his own mind. And this they had learnt, not from hearsay and observation, but from experience. He revealed and satisfied their most secret wants and wishes without any questions.
3. Its confession is very confident. "Now we know," etc. This knowledge is experimental, and such knowledge is the confidence of faith. Knowledge is helpful to faith, and faith is helpful to knowledge. Knowledge is the resting-place of faith, and the steps over which it climbs the alpine heights of Divine truth.
4. Its confession is enthusiastic. "Lo, now speakest thou," etc. This is the glow of faith on emerging from darkness into light, its first blush at the sight of a new vision, its enthusiasm on the hill of a newly acquired knowledge. The plainer revelation of Jesus was sudden, and produced in the disciples a triumphant outburst of confidence in the Divinity of his mission. The confession has some light, but more heat. 5. Its confession is united. "By this we," etc. There is not a dissentient voice. One spoke for all, and all spoke in one. It is the chorus of young faith.
II. THE EXAMINATION OF FAITH.
1. It is examined by Jesus. He is the Object of faith, and its only infallible Examiner; the examination is short, but very thorough and improving. "Do ye now believe?"
(1) This question is very important. Important to the Master and the disciples. Every true master feels an interest in the success of his pupils. Jesus was intensely desirous that they all should pass in faith successfully. His reputation as a Master and a Savior was at stake, and he trained them for service which he required, and for which faith was essential. It was still more important to them. "Do ye believe?" This is the first and greatest lesson of Christianity, and the crucial question of Christ to his disciples.
(2) This question naturally anticipates an affirmative answer. Indeed, it had been enthusiastically answered in the affirmative in the confession just made. And this was quite natural and true. Their faith was genuine, and ought to be strong and firm; they had great advantages, and Jesus had taken infinite pains with them.
(3) This question is very searching. Do you believe, and believe now? And not merely Jesus by this question searches them, but inspires them to search themselves. This was highly characteristic of him as a Teacher. He did not cram his disciples with his own thoughts, but rather inspired and helped them to think themselves. He set the mental and spiritual machinery in motion, and this simple question is highly calculated to inspire them to think and reflect and search themselves, and to look about within as to the real and present state of faith.
(4) This question is as tender and sympathetic as it is searching. Worthy of the great Master and suitable to the condition of his disciples. His patience and compassion were Divine. He does not upbraid them with slowness, imperfection, and vacillation of faith in spite of all his tuition. He does not break out into a storm of impatience and recrimination, but tenderly for the moment leaves the question to them, and gradually sends more light so as to bring it fully home to them.
(5) This question involves joy and sorrow. The joy and sorrow of perfect knowledge. He knew that their faith was genuine and would be ultimately triumphant: this was a source of joy. He knew as well that at present it was weak, too weak to withstand the impending storm: this was a source of sorrow. And in this short question the sad and joyous notes are distinctly heard.
2. Faith is examined by Christ in connection with a most extraordinary trial. His own trial, the great tragedy of his crucifixion, which also would be the trial of faith. This is foretold.
(1) It is foretold as being very near. "Behold, the hour cometh," etc. They were within the hour and already within the vortex of the terrible whirlpool.
(2) It is foretold as being certain. There was no doubt about it, and this they would readily believe from the new glimpse they profess to have had of his perfect knowledge of all things.
(3) It is foretold in the interest of faith. Not to discourage and damp its ardor, but rather to break its inevitable fall from the height of present confidence to the depths of momentary doubt and darkness. Over the ladder of his revelation it had climbed up, and ought to remain there; but knowing that it would not, he furnishes it with another ladder to descend, so as not to be destroyed if somewhat daunted. It was foretold in the present and future interest of faith.
III. THE TEMPORARY FAILURE OF FAITH. "Ye shall be scattered," etc.
1. Its failure happened when it was thought to be strong. Think of their enthusiastic confession a short time ago. The gloom of doubt is often at the heels of the glow of faith. The fire often blazes brightly just before it is partially extinguished. When we are weak we are strong, and when we are strong we are weak.
2. Its failure happened when it ought to be firm, and when it was most needed by them and the Savior. When was it needed more than when its Object needed sympathy? It was one thing to be loud in their professions of faith in him during the palmy days of his triumph and miracles, but quite another to cling to him in his apparent defeat. They left him in the storm, when their adherence would be most important and valuable. "A friend in need is a friend indeed."
3. The manner of its failure reveals its real cause. "Every man to his own." The cause of the failure of faith was selfishness. Faith in Christ is essentially a denial of self, but in this hour of severe trial faith for a moment left Christ and clung to self. Is not this a true picture of weak and imperfect faith in all ages?
4. Its failure is very melancholy in its immediate results.
(1) A temporary separation from one another. "Every man to his own." Weakness of faith in Christ tends to dissolve society. Genuine faith in Christ sends every man out of himself to his fellow, and finds strength and happiness in union.
(2) A temporary separation from Christ. "And shall leave me alone." What weakness, inconsistency, and cowardice! And what a sad failure of even genuine faith at the beginning of its glorious career! And this will appear especially when we think that he was a Divine volunteer from the other world come to fight and conquer their foes. They left him in the grip of the enemy, and fled. What British soldier would behave so towards his general? But such was the sad failure of the bravest soldiers of the cross in the ever-memorable battle between self and benevolence.
5. This temporary but sad failure of faith engages his sympathy. We describe it as base and cowardly, and so it was; and so it is in us often under less trying circumstances. But not a harsh word drops from his lips, but words of encouragement and comfort. In order that they might, not be too depressed on account of their cowardly conduct in leaving him alone, he tenderly adds, "Yet I am not alone," etc.
1. Faith may be genuine, yet weak, inconsistent, and temporarily eclipsed. It was so in the case of the first disciples. It miserably gave way in the hour of trial; yet it was genuine, as the sequel amply proves. We must not judge too soon with regard to the reality of faith and its ultimate fate.
2. A severe trial is a test of the strength of faith. But in judging the partial failure of faith we must take into account the severity of the trial. The most heroic faith will often be baffled in a terrible storm. Such was the storm in which the disciples' faith was now.
3. Genuine faith, however weak, wilt benefit by its own failures. This was the case with regard to the disciples. Their faith never gave way afterwards.
4. The partial failure of genuine faith often culminates in a most glorious triumph. Genuine faith seldom sank lower than in the case of the disciples here, but certainly never rose higher in heroism and victory than in their after-life.
5. Although genuine faith may sometimes leave Jesus, he never leaves genuine faith. Hence its ultimate triumph. In his first disciples he nursed faith with the patience and tenderness of a mother, and in its greatest weakness and shame cast on it a tender look of love. Faith can only live on Divine love. And although he set the highest mark before his disciples, and ever encouraged and inspired them on to it, yet he was most sympathetic with their failings, and ever treated them as human. And so successful was his tuition, that eleven out of twelve passed with honors, and the only failure was the son of perdition. This is the greatest encouragement to the weakest faith in him. - B.T.
I. CHRIST ALONE. "Shall leave me alone." Through the great tragedy which followed, of which Gethsemane was but a short prelude, and of which the visible was but a small part, Christ, as far as this world was concerned, was alone.
1. He was socially alone. He could really say, "And of the people there was none with me." The world was against him, and even the existing Church was against him, its chief magnates being the ringleaders in his crucifixion. And, more than all, he was alone as to the adherence of his most faithful followers, which he might naturally expect and would so much appreciate. At this very time one of them was in the city betraying him to his most inveterate foes; another was about to deny him in the most determined manner; all were about to leave him in terror. So that from Gethsemane to the cross he was socially alone - alone amidst such a vast throng of men.
2. He was mentally alone. He was ever so. Even when his disciples were with him, his mental conceptions towered above them; they could not understand his thoughts, comprehend fully his mission in the world, nor grasp the meaning of his life and death. The Baptist, who hitherto had the highest conception of him when he exclaimed, "Behold the Lamb of God!" was gone, and even the few glimpses which his disciples caught of his scheme were now extinguished. His mind had no associate, and there was no mental reciprocity between him and any human being. He stood in the world of thought the lonely Thinker.
3. He was spiritually alone. He was the only sinless Being in the world, and there was not a single soul in full spiritual harmony with his. His disciples still clung to the idea of a temporal kingdom. Peter manifested his sympathy in a clumsy attempt to fight his foes with a sword, which was to him a greater insult than help. And even the wail of the tender-hearted women at the cross was misapplied, lacked spiritual virtue, and did not rhyme with the agonizing wail of his soul for sin. In the yearnings and. struggles of his holy nature, and the spiritual conceptions and purposes of his heart, he stood the lonely King and Savior.
4. To a great extent he was necessarily alone. In a great portion of his work no one could help. He drank a cup of which no one could drink a drop, and carried a burden of which no one could carry an atom - the cup of our curse and the burden of our sin. When making an atonement, satisfying justice and honoring Law, and manifesting Divine love in sacrifice, he was necessarily alone. He fought the powers of darkness, vanquished death and the prince of this world in a single combat. He trod the wine-press alone. No one could help him, and he did not expect it. But he expected the allegiance of his friends. But even this was denied him for a time, not for want of genuine love, but for want of intelligent and courageous faith and self-sacrificing adherence and spiritual discernment. He does not complain of this; still, he keenly felt it, and it pained him. What pain was it?
(1) The pain of perfect and tender sociality at being alone. To be left alone would not affect an unsocial hermit, a cold misanthrope; such would be in their element. But Jesus was the most social of beings; he would associate with the poor, and would appreciate the least kindness. The desertion of friends would specially pain such a nature.
(2) The pain of perfect humanity in the total absence of genuine sympathy in suffering. It is not more natural for the thirsty flower to look to heaven for its dew than for man to look to his friend for sympathy in suffering. But this was denied Jesus. When he cried," I thirst," there was only the rough and unsympathetic hand of a foreigner to give him a sip of drink.
(3) The pain which perfect benevolence feels at ingratitude. He felt this with regard to the nation, and with regard to hundreds in that crowd whom he had personally benefited, and all of whom he had sought to benefit; but especially with regard to his disciples, whom he had loved, and loved to the end. But they deserted him while fighting their battle and the battle of the world.
(4) The pain of an absolutely pure and loving being at the terrible and universal sinfulness and selfishness which his loneliness indicated. He was face to face with this as he was never before. From it there was not so much as a weak disciple to shelter him. "Every man to his own," and he alone for all.
(5) The pain of perfect sympathy with the weakness of friends, lie loved them still. Hence the special pain caused by their desertion. The betrayal of Judas was to him more poignant than the nails of steel, the denial of Peter keener than the spear of the Roman, and the flight of his friends more painful than all the cruel treatment of his foes.
II. CHRIST NOT ALONE. "Yet I am not alone, because the Father," etc. Tie had the fellowship of his Father.
1. This fellowship was essential. Being one in nature and essence, nothing could separate him from this. It was one of the special and essential privileges of nature and relationship.
2. This fellowship was deserved, and bestowed upon him as a Divine favor for his perfect obedience. It was not interrupted by his incarnation, but fully enjoyed by him in human nature and under human conditions. It was the reward of his voluntary sacrifice and his perfection as a Mediator and the Author of eternal salvation. He did nothing to forfeit it, but everything to deserve and secure it in the fullest measure.
3. This fellowship was continuous and unbroken. It is not "The Father was," or "will be," but "is with me" -with me now and always. He was fully conscious of his Father's cheering and smiling presence in every emotion he felt, every thought he conceived, every word he uttered, every purpose he executed, every act he performed, and in every suffering he bore. His whole life was such a manifestation of his Father's character and love, such an execution of his will and purposes, that he was ever conscious of his loving and approving fellowship. It is true that at that darkest moment on the cross he exclaimed, "My God, my God," etc. - the full meaning of which we probably can never know. When drinking the very dregs of the cup of our curse, he could not describe his experience better than by saying that he felt as if the Father had for a moment hid his face from him. But he was still conscious of his fellowship, addressed him as his God, and soon committed his Spirit unto his loving care.
4. This fellowship was to him now specially sweet and precious. It was ever precious, but specially so now. He could not bear the opposition of foes, and especially the desertion of friends, were it not for the continued fellowship of the Father. And who can render such help and solace in the hour of trial as an able and a kind father? Jesus, the most lonely of human beings, especially now, was yet not alone; deserted by the best human fellowship, he still enjoyed the Divine, and the human desertion made the Divine all the more precious and sweet. This was his support in trial, his light in darkness, and his safety from utter loneliness. He enjoyed the best and Divinest society.
1. There was one thing which neither friends nor foes could do to Jesus, viz. deprive him of Divine fellowship. From the greatest human loneliness he could say, "I am not alone, because the Father is with me." Neither earth nor hell can interfere with Divine fellowship with regard to Jesus or believers.
2. We should not be disappointed or despair if in the hour of trial we are deserted by the best of friends. Think of Jesus.
3. True fellowship with the Father by faith in Christ can only preserve us from utter loneliness. We can bear every loneliness but that in relation to our Father.
4. When deserted by friends and by all, God comes nearest to us. The least of man the most of God, often; furthest from earth the nearest to heaven.
5. The fellowship of the Father will more than compensate for all the desertions of earth. One day in his courts is better than a thousand. 6. Let us cultivate the fellowship of Christ, especially in his loneliness, then we shall enjoy with him the fellowship of his -Father. Let us prepare for human desertions, for they will certainly come; but let them come upon us in the best society - that of the Father. To be left alone by him is the most horrible loneliness, but his fellowship will be sufficient in all circumstances, even in death itself. - B.T.
I. A PREMATURE BOAST. Faith is necessary, faith is possible; but a deep-rooted faith that shall itself be trustworthy is not easy. Jesus knew that in due time he would have full power over the devotion of his disciples, but their hearts had yet to be won from that fear of the world which bringeth a snare. A faith that shall be superior to all conceivable temptations must be the result of much humble and patient watchfulness. It is for Jesus rather than for us to say when true faith is attained. Faith must show itself by its fruits. Not he that commendeth himself is commended, but whom Jesus commends.
II. HOW THE LONELINESS OF JESUS COMES ABOUT. By the departure of those who professed to be his own. It is plain that as yet there had been no real κοινῶνια. There had been outward companionship; service of a certain sort; generous intentions; but the disciples had not yet entered into the aims of Jesus; and directly their lives seemed to be in peril, they showed how fragile was the bond that united them to him. They showed that they could not believe in Jesus whatever happened. As long as Jesus bade a calm defiance to the worst plots of the Jews, as long as he escaped out of their hands, as long as he went on adding one wondrous deed to another, they seemed to believe. But when the hour and power of darkness came they lost at once what little presence of mind they ever had. Hence we see that the loneliness of Jesus did not begin with that hour when his disciples forsook him and fled. No one ever knew more of what it is to be alone in a crowd than Jesus did. With regard to many, the solitude is simply that of the stranger; in proportion as they become acquainted with others, the solitude passes away. But the more Jesus mingled with men, the lonelier in a certain sense he became. The nearer they drew to him, the plainer it became what an immense change must take place in them before they could look on all things just as he looked at them. He said he was like the seed, abiding alone till it is planted in the ground. But the seed cannot feel, and Jesus had to know the loneliness that comes from having higher aims than all round about him. Moses and Elijah had the same feeling.
III. THE LONELINESS WAS ONLY RELATIVE. In one sense Jesus did not know near so much of loneliness as John the Baptist. He was a great deal in society; he, the loneliest of beings, was also, after a fashion, the least lonely. Jesus always had One with him whom the world knew not, whom his own disciples knew not. Jesus continually carried about with him the essentials of heaven. When men showed themselves furthest from him, God was nearest. The wide gulf that separated Jesus from even his closest companions was well made manifest, for so it was also made manifest that he had resources far beyond any that human intercourse could supply. Jesus meant his disciples not to reflect too hardly on themselves when they came to look back on their leaving him alone. They were but showing the weakness Jesus expected them to show. It is well for us that, so far as human support was concerned, we should see Jesus alone; for so it becomes clearer and clearer to us that through those hours of seeming solitude a presence gloriously superhuman, and full of all possible strength and comfort, must have been with him. - Y.
I. CHRIST'S PEOPLE MUST ENDURE TRIBULATION.
1. This is the consequence of their remaining for a season in a world where sin and sorrow still prevail.
2. It is involved in their participation in their Master's lot. If he was hated and persecuted, how can his followers escape? As the world treated the Lord, so in a measure will it treat those who are faithful to him, and who tread in his steps.
3. This lot is not one of unmixed evil. Tribulation is discipline; the wheat is threshed in order that it may be set free from the husks and straw, and the character of Christians is, as a matter of fact, refined and purified by the winnowing of affliction and persecution.
II. CHRIST HAS CONSOLATION AND ENCOURAGEMENT FOR HIS PEOPLE WHEN THEY ENDURE THE TRIBULATION OF THE WORLD.
1. His words bring peace. The whole of the discourse which here concludes breathes of peace. His revelations of the present and of the future are alike tilted to soothe the mind perturbed by the distresses and the disasters of this life.
2. His sympathy brings courage. It seems to have been a favorite saying of our Lord, "Be of good cheer!" Be courageous and confident! It was, however, a saying always accompanied by his own Divine presence and voice. It was powerful because it came from his lips, from his tender heart, because with it there went out from him to his afflicted ones the spiritual power which enabled them to endure and strive and hope.
3. His conquest brings victory. Even now, before he was overwhelmed with the baptism of sacrificial sorrow, he could speak of himself as having overcome the world. But a few hours had yet to elapse, and the world should lie at his feet, purchased, vanquished, subdued! And Christ overcame, not for himself, but for his people; that, fighting by his side on earth, they might reign with him above; that, overcoming in and with him, they might sit down with him upon his throne. - T.
I. THAT THE CHRISTIAN IN THE PRESENT STATE IS BOTH IN THE WORLD AND IN CHRIST.
1. He is in the world.
(1) He is in the material world. In virtue of his connection with the material world he is a man, and in it he finds the present essential sources and elements of his physical life.
(2) He is in the social world. He is a member of society, and subject to its various laws, arrangements, relationships, and obligations. He eats his bread by the sweat of his brow.
(3) He is in the wicked world. We mean that he lives among wicked men; for the world in itself is good and beautiful, but there are in it many wicked inhabitants. As a subject, he may have a tyrannical sovereign. As a citizen, he may have oppressive and persecuting laws, which interfere with his rights as a man and as a Christian. As a member of a Church, he may have more than one Judas to deal with. The world is full of ignorance, carnality, selfishness, pride, hypocrisy, bigotry, and intolerance. He may have to do with men who deem it a sacred duty and a Divine service to take away his life.
2. He is also in Christ. He is united by faith to him. As his physical life is in the world, his spiritual life is in Christ.
(1) As to its source and authorship.
(2) As to its support.
(3) As to its Example and Model.
(4) As to its continuance and safety.
(5) As to its present and final end.
He is in Christ, and Christ is in him. But although he is the world, the world is not in him. He is a mere pilgrim in the world; his home is in Christ.
3. He is in the world and in Christ at the same time. He is a member of society and a member of Christ; a citizen of earth and a citizen of heaven; the subject of an earthly sovereign and a loyal subject of the King of kings; carries on business in this world and in another; deals with different men and perhaps different nations, and deals with angels and God; his feet walk this earth, and his conversation is in heaven at the same time. He is two, and yet one. He has physical and spiritual life, human and Divine nature, and has to do with two different spheres at the same moment.
4. He was in the world before he was in Christ, not, perhaps, in all its relationships, but he was certainly in the wicked world, and the wicked world to a more or less extent in him. From the world are all those who are in Christ. Some of them were about to pass out of the world when they passed by faith into Christ. A second birth presupposes a first, and the first is a birth into the world, and the second into Christ.
5. He will be in Christ after he has left the world. If the world had him first, Christ will have him last. The world will soon expel him, but Christ never. The world shall ultimately pass away, but Christ shall remain. The world shall vanish, that Christ and all in him may appear and enjoy each other all the more. The Christian was born into the world soon to die, but born into Christ to live forever. When lost from the world he will be found still in Christ. His connection with the world is temporal, but his connection with Christ is eternal. The requirements of physical life will soon be at an end, but those of spiritual life are coeval with the life of Christ himself. Circumstances will inevitably break our connection with this world; but "who shall separate us from the love of Christ? etc.
II. THAT WHICH THE CHRISTIAN HAS IN THE WORLD IS VERY DIFFERENT FROM WHAT HE HAS IN CHRIST.
1. He has tribulation in the world. Not in the material world. This is as kind to him, and perhaps more so, than to any. The material world has ere this been rather partial to the Christian. This is very natural. He is on the side of and friendly with its Author, Proprietor, and Ruler, and has special capacities to really appropriate and enjoy it. The world in which he has tribulation is the wicked, ignorant, religious, ecclesiastical, bigoted, and intolerant world. This is the world which worried the patriarchs, killed the prophets, martyred the apostles, and persecuted and butchered believers through many ages. And the wicked world is still full of the genius of tribulation.
2. He has peace in Christ. There is no peace in the world; there is no tribulation in Christ, but unmixed peace. One of his names is the Prince of Peace, and the motto of his kingdom is "Peace on earth, and good will." He is the Author, Medium, and Supporter of Divine peace to all connected with him by faith.
3. He has tribulation in the world because he has peace in Christ.
(1) The passage between the world and Christ is rough. In a sense it is but a narrow sea, but the hostile world and its prince from within and without manage to make it generally stormy. Many have commenced the voyage and almost reached the shore, but were swept back by the storm. That young man who came to Christ asking, "What must I do," etc., almost had reached "the Rock of ages," but was dashed back by an awful wave of worldliness, and was disheartened.
(2) The passage through the world in Christ is rough. He is safe in Christ, but cannot reach the desired haven without storms and hurricanes. If a man is in Christ, he must steer through the same course, and, if so, must go through tribulation, shame, persecution, and perhaps martyrdom. Whoever has invariably fine weather on the Christian voyage may well question whether he is in the right vessel and in the right course. For "through much tribulation ye must," etc. Some may fare better than others, but it is ever true that "whoever will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." The nearer to Jesus the greater the tribulation of the world.
4. The Christian has peace in Christ because he has tribulation in the world. Those who have the world's frowns have Jesus' smiles. At every point the world troubles Jesus has provided special peace. At every stage of the voyage there is a harbor of refuge, and at every port there is a "Sailors' Home." When persecuted in Christ we can bless our persecutors; when misjudged by a selfish world we can well wait in him for the day of revelation and redress. When the Christian has most tribulation in the world then he has most peace in Christ - then he needs and is driven for it. It was never so dark with Stephen as when under that terrible shower of stones; but it was never so bright between him and above, - then he saw heaven opened, and the "Son of man," etc. When Paul and Silas were in chains in the world, then they sang in Christ. When the world banished the beloved disciple, then he was received into Christ's inner court of revelation and peace.
III. THAT ALL WHICH CHRIST SAID AND DID ON EARTH WAS IN ORDER THAT HIS PEACE SHOULD OUTWEIGH THE TRIBULATION OF THE WORLD. "These things," etc. Notice:
1. What he said as a source of peace.
(1) He foretold the tribulation of the world. He faithfully drew the map of their pilgrimage, and indicated their sufferings in red lines and marks. No tribulation, however severe, could take them by surprise. And to be forewarned is to be forearmed.
(2) He explained to them its nature, degree, causes, and effects, and how to behave in it. He describes the tribulation as only limited and temporary, and, under his gracious direction and influence, sanctifying and spiritually advantageous. It is a tonic to the soul, a furnace to purify, a storm to blow them from the material to the spiritual, and ultimately from a foreign and hostile land to their peaceful home.
(3) He pointed them to an infinite Source of comfort. "That in me ye may," etc. Himself as a Source of peace, he describes as never failing, ever near, and most communicative and satisfying. The cruelest storms of tribulation can only drive the Christian nearer to the Source of peace, and its last wave can only cast him on the shores of the pacific ocean of endless life and love. Every word of Christ, especially his last words, is a pipe through which the oil of peace flows to the believing heart, and a golden pitcher with which to draw water from the wells of salvation.
2. What he did as a Source of comfort. "I have overcome the world." This is a source of something more than peace. It is a source of joy. "Be of good cheer," etc. What good cheer is this?
(1) The good cheer of a complete victory over the greatest foe. The wicked world is the greatest foe of God and man. Christ overcame it completely in all its corrupt elements and forces, temptations and destructiveness, including its prince. He gained a complete victory over the great empire of evil. The world was the champion before Christ appeared, but he is the Champion now. His followers have only a conquered foe to fight.
(2) The good cheer of a complete victory ever the world for us. It certainly would be some source of comfort in fighting the wicked world to know that it had been conquered at all, but this comfort rises into a cheer when we know that it has been conquered for us. This Christ did:
(a) As our Substitute. He fought and conquered for us. This is self-evident. He was infinitely above the world, and would be eternally happy apart from our destiny; but in his love he took up our cause.
(b) As our Example. In our nature and in our circumstances, tempted in all things as we are, but without sin, he has shown us in his own life that there is something in us that is superior to the world, superior to suffering and death; that we can live a spiritual life independent of this, and can conquer every element opposing our progress. He conquered the world to show us the way to conquer it ourselves.
(c) As our Inspiration. All he said, and especially what he did, cheers us in the battle.
(3) The good cheer of a certain victory in and through him. "I have overcome the world," and it is unquestionably understood, "you will also overcome in me." Those who fight the world in him, his presence is theirs, his substitution is theirs, his example is theirs, his good cheer is theirs, and his conquest will be theirs. He throws all he said, and did, and does, and will do into the balance on their side, and the result will be certain victory over the world.
1. The great difficulty of a Christian life is to live in the world and in Christ at the same time. It would be easy to live in the world in complete agreement with it, and it would be easy to live in heaven as a perfect saint; but to live in the world and in Christ means a conflict with the former, and it is the difficulty to triumph.
2. This is alone possible by vital union with him. In him alone there is peace, and through him alone there is victory.
3. Then the certainty of victory depends entirely upon our union with him. There is a great danger of misappropriating the greatest truths. "I have overcome the world." This may be developed into a delusive confidence; still it is highly intended to cheer the weakest but honest faith. Let the practical side of his substitution inspire us to make an honest effort in our spiritual conflict with the world; and let its meritorious, vicarious, and gracious side keep us from despair even in our failures, but even down under the foe's feet let us cling and look to Christ, ever remembering the infinite possibilities of his complete victory for us, and, if we fail, we will fail in faith in him, and not in victory over the world in him. - B.T.
The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.
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