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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

John 12

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 23-24

DISCOURSE: 1671

OUR LORD’S VIEWS OF HIS OWN DEATH

John 12:23-24. Jesus answered them, saying. The hour is come, that the Son of Man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

THE nearer our Lord’s death approached, the more he delighted to speak of it. So far from regarding it as an object of terror, he was longing for its accomplishment. To his Disciples he had frequently declared the precise manner of it, together with all its antecedent indignities; and now he declares it to some strangers, whom curiosity had led to visit him.

Whether those strangers were Jews or heathens, is not agreed: but from the general use of the term which we translate “Greeks,” and from the difficulty which the Disciples felt about introducing them to Jesus, we apprehend that they were heathens, who had been proselyted to the worship of the true God, but were not become Jews by circumcision. Jesus had forbidden his Disciples to enter into any cities of the Gentiles, when he sent them out to preach his Gospel; and therefore they might well doubt the propriety of introducing Gentiles to him; which Philip did not venture to do, till he had conferred with Andrew, and consulted Jesus himself also on the point. When, however, they were brought to him, he advertised them of his approaching death, which he represented as a source of honour to himself, and of benefit to man. In these two views we shall consider it,

I. As a source of honour to himself—

He speaks not of being crucified, but glorified: for his death was indeed a glory to him:

1. As atoning for the sins of the whole world—

[This is the true light wherein to view his death: it was a sacrifice for sin, for the sins of all mankind: and it perfectly satisfied all the demands of law and justice, so that “God may be just and yet the justifier of all who believe in Jesus” — — — View the death of Christ in this light, and say whether his crown of thorns were not his brightest diadem; and the cross on which he expired, his most glorious throne? Men indeed saw nothing but shame in his crucifixion; but God and angels beheld it replete with glory [Note: John 13:31.] — — —]

2. As opening a way for the salvation of all mankind—

[Being “lifted up, he was to draw all men unto him [Note: ver. 32.].” He was the true “Shiloh, unto whom the gathering of the people should be.” Had he been the Saviour of Jews only, it had been comparatively a light matter; but being God’s salvation to the ends of the earth, he was most glorious in the eyes of God himself [Note: Isaiah 49:5-6.]. Behold, now already was he reaping the first-fruits of that harvest which was soon to be gathered in: the solicitude of these Greeks to be made acquainted with him was an earnest of that more extended dominion which he was speedily to possess. And who can reflect on “his erecting thus his standard to the nations,” and not acknowledge “his rest to be glorious [Note: Isaiah 11:10.]?” Indeed this gathering of the people to him is represented by the prophets as constituting the summit of his glory [Note: Isaiah 55:5; Isaiah 60:8-9.] — — — and he himself is “satisfied with all the travail of his soul, when he reaps this as its appointed fruit.” But the songs of the redeemed in heaven are the best evidence of this unquestionable truth [Note: Revelation 7:9-14.].]

Our Lord next speaks of his death,

II. As a source of benefit to man—

The illustration here used is familiar to all: every one knows that a grain of wheat, if left exposed upon a rock will be unproductive; but that if buried in the earth, it will corrupt, and vegetate, and bring forth fruit. Now to this our Lord compares his death.

If he had not died, he would not have proved a Saviour to any—

[If he had not died, there would have been no atonement made, no sin forgiven, no soul of man delivered. There was no other way in which God could have been reconciled to his sinful creatures, consistently with his justice, holiness, and truth — — — In vain would Christ himself have become incarnate, if he had not died: in vain would he have fulfilled the law himself, and set us a perfect example of obedience: if he had not completed the work by his death, the demands of law and justice had been still unsatisfied, and every child of Adam must have perished. As for any attempt on our part to supply the deficiency, either by repentance or amendment, it would have answered no purpose; it would have left us under the curses of the broken law — — —]

But by his death millions obtain life—

[It is not thirty, or sixty, or a hundredfold, that that grain of corn produces, but millions, innumerable as the sands upon the sea-shore: “the fruit of it shall shake like Lebanon, and they that spring up from it in the city, shall be as the piles of grass upon the earth [Note: Psalms 72:16.]. Think of the fruit produced by it in the apostolic age, and that which is yet growing from it in every quarter of the globe, and that which will arise in the Millennium, when the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea: truly it will at last be a multitude, which no man can number, out of every kindred, and nation, and tongue, and people; all growing upon his root, all deriving life from his stem, all assimilated to his image, and all treasured up at last in the same garner! And is one single soul of such value, that the whole world is as nothing in comparison of it? What then is the benefit arising to mankind from the death of Christ! how vast! how extensive! how incalculable!]

Address—

1. Those who are inquiring after Jesus—

[If any are saying, like these Greeks, “Sir, we would see Jesus,” we bless God who has put that desire into their hearts: and we shall be glad to be instrumental in any respect in introducing them to him. Of one thing we can confidently assure them, that there no longer exists any barrier to their admission to his presence, provided they desire in sincerity of heart to devote themselves to his service: whatever be their nation, their profession, their character, they are alike welcome, if they come with penitence and faith; and may be assured, that “he will in no wise cast them out.” Would they know what he would principally commend to their attention? we answer, he would direct them to consider his death as the most stupendous display of his love, and an inexhaustible source of blessings to their souls. Reflect then, ye inquiring people, on the Saviour’s love, and give him the glory due unto his name.]

2. Those who profess themselves his followers—

[As Jesus had frequently told his own Disciples that they must be ready to lay down their lives for him, so he now declared to these strangers, that these were the only terms on which he would accept them as his people. The wheat must resemble that from which it sprang; and the Disciples be conformed to the image of their Lord. Nor must they only be willing to suffer like him, but must account those sufferings their glory. This was the practice of the Apostles; and must be the practice of all who would adorn the Gospel [Note: Acts 5:41.]. We should feel no difficulty in pronouncing him honoured and glorified, who should be irradiated with a glory, like Moses, or have the Holy Ghost lighting visibly on him, as once he did on the Apostles: with equal confidence then may we pronounce him glorified, who bears his cross after Jesus; for “the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon him [Note: 1 Peter 4:12-14.].” Remember then, brethren, that these are the terms on which Christ acknowledges you as his; and “arm yourselves with the mind that was in him.” Be content to “suffer with him; and then you shall also be glorified together.”]


Verse 26

DISCOURSE: 1672

THE BENEFIT OF FOLLOWING CHRIST

John 12:26. If any man sense me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.

THE Christian’s life is certainly a life of difficulty and self-denial, not only as being contrary to our natural inclinations, but as exposing us to the contempt and hatred of an ungodly world. From the very days of Cain to this present moment, the wicked have hated, reviled, and persecuted the just. The prophets were all, without exception, treated with great malignity. The Apostles were deemed as “the very filth of the world, and as the off-scouring of all things,” both by their own people the Jews, and by the Gentiles in every place. Our blessed Lord himself, in whom no fault whatever could be found, was an object of “abhorrence to his whole nation,” and was put to death by them as the vilest and most odious of malefactors. And we also are taught to expect similar treatment at the hands of those amongst whom we live. Nor are we at liberty to shun the cross by any relaxation of our principles, or by any deviation from the path of duty. Our Lord tells us plainly, that “he who loveth his life shall lose it; and that he only who hateth his life in this world, shall keep it unto life eternal [Note: ver. 25.].” But if this appear hard, the encouragement which our Lord affords us is amply sufficient for the support of our minds. His injunction is, “If any man serve me, let him follow me,” even unto death. And for his encouragement I assure him, that where I am there shall also my servant be: yea, if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.

Here we have, on the most unquestionable authority,

I. Our duty set before us.

II. Our encouragement to perform it.

I. Our duty is to “serve” the Lord Jesus Christ, “whose we are and whom therefore we are bound to serve.” But how must we serve him? Our Lord says, “If any man serve me, let him follow me:” Let him follow me,

As his Teacher, to instruct him.

As his Master, to rule him.

As his Saviour, to save him.

As his Example, whereby to regulate the whole of his conduct.

We must follow Christ as our Teacher, to instruct us. “Christ is a Teacher come from God.” He has “left the bosom of his Father, and come down to earth to declare him to us,” and to make known to us his mind and will. In particular, He is come to inform us what plan his heavenly Father has devised for the restoration of a guilty world to his favour; and in what way they must walk so as to please and honour him. And he expects that we come to him with the docility of little children, and receive instruction from his lips: “Learn of me,” says he, “for I am meek and lowly in heart [Note: Matthew 11:29.];” that is, ‘Learn of me, for I can bear with your infirmities, and will carefully convey instruction to you as you are able to receive it.’ It was in this way that Mary sat at his feet, whilst her more earthly-minded sister Martha was cumbered about providing for the guests whom she was about to entertain: and this was “the good part” which Mary chose, and which, our Lord assured her, should never be taken from her. To inculcate this lesson, and to induce this habit, was the real scope of our Lord’s address to the Rich Youth, who desired to know what he must do in order to obtain eternal life. Our Lord told him to “keep the commandments.” And, when the Young Man, ignorant of their spiritual import, affirmed that he had kept them all from his youth up, our Lord said to him, “Go and sell all thou hast, and come and follow me; and thou shalt have treasure in heaven [Note: Matthew 19:21.];” by which he meant, not that the sacrifice of earthly treasures would purchase those which are eternal; but that by disencumbering his mind of earthly cares, and attending diligently on the instructions that should be given him, he should gradually be guided into all truth, and finally attain that eternal life about which he had professed so much concern. This is what our Lord requires at our hands also; and not at the commencement of our career only, but throughout our whole lives. After he had taught his Disciples during the whole of his ministerial life, even after he was risen again from the dead, he both “expounded to them out of the prophets all that related to himself,” and “opened their understandings that they might understand the Scriptures [Note: Luke 24:44-45.]:” and in like manner must we, to the latest hour of our lives, come to him for the illumination of our minds by his word and Spirit. We shall still need the same teaching as at the first, and must come to him for that spiritual “eye-salve which he alone can give [Note: Revelation 3:18.].”

Next we must follow him as our Master, to rule us. “We call him Lord and Master; and we say well; for so he is.” But “to what purpose shall we call him Lord, Lord, if we do not the things which he says?” His word must be a law unto us at all times, and under all circumstances. There is no authority whatever that is to be regarded in comparison of his. When the Disciples were forbidden to preach in his name, they made this appeal to their Rulers; “Whether it be right to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye [Note: Acts 4:19; Acts 5:29.].” So whatever menaces be used to intimidate us, and to deter us from the path of duty, we must say with St. Paul, “None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto me [Note: Acts 20:24; Acts 21:13.],” so that I may but discharge the duty I owe unto my Lord, and approve myself to him as his faithful servant.

Further, we must follow him as our Saviour, to save us. There is no other Saviour, no other name under heaven given among men whereby we, or any human being, can be saved. It is he who has by the sacrifice of himself effected our reconciliation with our offended God: and he says, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” “As the serpent was lifted up in the wilderness that the wounded Israelites might look unto it and be healed, so,” says our Lord, “have I been lifted up, that whosoever shall believe in me may not perish, but may have eternal life [Note: John 3:14-15.].” But our eyes must be to him alone. We must not blend any thing with his all-sufficient merits. We must not look partly to ourselves and partly to him; for he will not endure any rival, or “give any part of his glory to another.” If St. Paul “desired to be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness but the righteousness which is of God by faith in Christ [Note: Philippians 3:9.],” much more must we renounce all dependence on our own works, and seek to be justified by Christ alone. As in heaven there is but one song, “To him that loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and made us kings and priests unto God and the Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever; [Note: Revelation 1:5-6.]” so on earth must there be an entire and exclusive affiance in him for all the blessings of salvation.

Once more, we must follow him as our Example, to regulate the whole of our life and conversation. When he washed his Disciples’ feet, he declared, that he intended in this symbolical act to shew, how they were to demean themselves towards each other; and, by the example he then set them, to inculcate the necessity of their performing towards the meanest of their brethren every possible act of condescension and love [Note: John 13:12-14.]. So by St. Peter we are informed, that under still more trying circumstances the Lord Jesus Christ “has set us an example that we should follow his steps,” and more especially in those duties which are most difficult and self-denying. As “he did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth, and when he was reviled, reviled not again, and when he suffered, threatened not, but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously [Note: 1 Peter 2:21-23.]; so we, under all the heaviest trials that can come upon us, are to suffer them with all meekness, “blessing those who curse us, and praying for those who despitefully use us, and persecute us [Note: Matthew 5:44.];” our determination, through grace, must be, not to be overcome of evil, but to overcome evil with good [Note: Romans 12:21.]. In a word, “the whole mind must be in us that was in Christ Jesus [Note: Philippians 2:5.]; and under all imaginable circumstances we must approve ourselves as followers of Christ, walking as he walked [Note: 1 John 2:6.], and doing only those things which will please and honour our Father which is in heaven. It must at all times be “our very meat to do his holy will [Note: John 4:34.].”

Now this, I apprehend, is the import of those words, “If any man serve me, let him follow me:” ‘let him follow me for all the ends and purposes for which I came into the world, that he may honour me before men, and become fully meet for all the blessedness which I will award unto him.’

To enforce this precept, our Lord adds the richest possible encouragement:” Where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.”

Now I would ask, Where was our Lord when he spake these words? In his human nature he was on earth; but in his divine nature he was in heaven. For thus he said to Nicodemus; “No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven [Note: John 3:13.].” And after our blessed Lord had completed on earth the work which his Father had given him to do, he was raised from the dead, and exalted to the right hand of God, far above all principalities and powers, and was invested with a throne and a kingdom as the just recompence of his obedience unto death. ‘Now’ says our blessed Lord, ‘such is the felicity that awaits all my obedient servants, and such the glory that shall be accorded to them.’ Whilst he was yet on earth, he told them, that “he was going to heaven to prepare mansions for his obedient followers, and that in due time he would come again and receive them to himself that they might be with him, in a full enjoyment of his presence and glory [Note: John 14:2-3.].” He also made it a part of his intercessory prayer just before his death, “Father, I will that they whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me [Note: John 17:24.].” And St. Paul has told us, that at the last day the Lord Jesus will come again in power and great glory, and gather together his obedient people to “meet him in the air; that so they may be ever with the Lord [Note: 1 Thessalonians 4:17.].” At the instant of death shall this felicity be conferred on our souls, as on the dying thief in paradise; and at the day of judgment shall our bodies also be restored to life, that in union with our souls they may have a full and everlasting participation of this glory. Well, therefore, does the Apostle add, “Comfort ye one another with these words.” And are there any circumstances under which these words must not administer comfort? The Lord Jesus glorified his Father when on earth: and now he is glorified with him [Note: John 17:4-5.].” And, if we glorify God by following his dear Son, will he not glorify us also? Yes: he will honour us, even as he has honoured the Lord Jesus. He will acknowledge us as his beloved children before the whole assembled universe. He will exalt us to the kingdom which he has prepared for us before the foundation of the world. He will place us on the very same throne on which he has placed his Son [Note: Revelation 3:21.]: he will assign to us the office of judging the world, yea and of judging angels too, as assessors in judgment with him [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:2-3.]: and he will “give to us the very same glory which he has given to him [Note: John 17:22-23.].” Doubtless in all this the Lord Jesus will have the pre-eminence, even as the sun, which is the fountain of light, has above the twinkling star, which emits only a borrowed radiance: but as far as what is finite can be compared with what is infinite, we shall enjoy in our measure the same blessedness and the same glory which Christ himself possesses; being “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ [Note: Romans 8:17.].”

Behold then what encouragement is here afforded us! Did Christ himself “for the joy that was set before him endure the cross and despise the shame, till he was called to sit down at the right hand of the throne of God [Note: Hebrews 12:2.]?” Methinks we should do the same: we should account no commandment hard, nor any suffering grievous. We should consider ourselves as altogether devoted to the Lord Jesus, and “yield up both our bodies and our souls as living sacrifices to him [Note: Romans 12:1.],” to be consumed, as it were, if he see fit, on his altar by the flames of martyrdom, but especially and above all by the fire of his love.

But who can conceive aright of this glory? We can form no idea of what it was to behold the Lord Jesus on Mount Tabor, when his glory shined above the brightness of the meridian sun: how much less can we conceive what it must be to “see him as he is” in glory! There he shines, not only in all the brightness of the Godhead, but in the tempered effulgence of the “Lamb that has been slain [Note: Revelation 5:6.].” There we shall see, not merely the glories of his nature, but all of them exhibiting in the brightest possible array the wonders of his love. There we shall behold him not merely as God, but as a Redeeming God, yea, as our Redeemer, and our God, and our portion for ever. Tell me, does not this afford us encouragement to serve him, and to “follow him without the camp, bearing his reproach [Note: Hebrews 13:12-13.]?” Surely not life itself should be of any value, but to honour him with it. See what men will do for earthly advancement; what cares, what labours, what privations will they endure; if by any means they may obtain the favoured objects of their ambition! And shall we account much of any labours or sufferings which we may be called to endure in order to the attainment of this glory? I blush to think how stupid and brutish we all are: Methinks, that acknowledgment of Agur was but the just expression of his feelings, and well befits every one of us, “I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man [Note: Proverbs 30:2.].”

And now, my brethren, let us improve this subject, first in reference to ourselves, and next in reference to the mournful occasion before us.

In respect to ourselves, we are here of necessity called to inquire what our habits are, and what our prospects? Whose servants are we, and whom do we follow? The Apostle appeals to us, that “To whomsoever we yield ourselves servants to obey, his servants we are to whom we obey, whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness [Note: Romans 6:16.].” Let me ask you then, Whose sentiments you have adopted, and whose precepts you have followed? Do you not find, on a retrospect of your past lives, that you have adopted for the most part the maxims of a corrupt world, instead of receiving explicitly, and following exclusively, the commandments of your God? Let me further ask respecting your views of salvation: Have you seen and felt your utter incapacity to save yourselves, and “fled to Christ for refuge as to the hope set before you,” renouncing every other ground of dependence, and relying altogether upon his blood and righteousness for your acceptance before God? And have you consecrated yourselves to God as his redeemed people, that, “having been bought with a price, you may glorify him with your body and in your spirit which are his?” And do those who are around you, behold in you such a resemblance to Christ, as constrains them to acknowledge you as his peculiar people, who have been brought by him out of darkness into marvellous light, and are shewing forth his virtues in the whole of your life and conversation [Note: 1 Peter 2:9. the Greek.]? If you are really Christ’s, you are “living epistles of Christ, known and read of all men [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:2-3.]?” Now inquire whether it be so with you? for on this depends all the consolation which is here afforded us. I appeal to you, whether you can reasonably hope to be with Christ hereafter, if you do not serve him here; or, that God will honour you as his redeemed people in heaven, if you do not honour him in this world as his faithful servants? He has told you expressly, “Them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed [Note: 1 Samuel 2:30.].” Yes indeed, if the obedient shall come forth to everlasting life, the disobedient “will awake only to shame and everlasting contempt [Note: Daniel 12:2.].” Of this there can be no doubt. I will appeal even to the most confident amongst you, Do you yourselves believe, that God will put no “difference between those who serve him and those who serve him not [Note: Malachi 3:18.]?” You cannot but know that he will act as a righteous Judge, though you are unwilling to regard this truth in reference to yourselves with all the solemnity that it deserves. Behold then, ye servants of the world, ye stand altogether self-condemned. Ye know, and must know, that God will recompense men according to their works; and that “they only who seek for glory and honour, and immortality, can ever have eternal life.” Suffer me then to ask, If in the eternal world ye be not with Christ in heaven, where, and with whom will ye be? Oh! this is an awful question. I pray you to answer it to your own souls. To the Jews who rejected him, our Lord said, “Whither I go ye cannot come:” so must I say to you who make it not the one end of your lives to serve and honour him: “Ye shall die in your sins; and where Christ is, ye cannot come [Note: John 8:21.].” I pray you, lay this to heart, and give up yourselves to him without delay, as his willing and devoted servants.

In reference to the mournful occasion on which we are assembled [Note: The Funeral of the Rev. C. S. Hawtrey, July 27, 1831.], one sentiment pervades us all; viz. that our loss is our brother’s gain. Our loss is indeed great. To his bereaved family it is irreparable, except as the bereavement may bring them, as I hope it will, to God, and be the means of spiritual and eternal welfare to their souls. To the Church of God the loss will be exceeding great. Who, that has known our departed brother from the first moment that he undertook to advocate the cause of God’s ancient people, must not bear witness to his unremitting zeal and diligence in this high calling? Truly in labours has he been very abundant; as all who have been connected with “the London Society [Note: The Society formed for the Conversion of the Jews.]” can witness. In truth, it is wonderful how a person, not naturally robust, should have been able to sustain all his diversified labours and fatigues. In all his counsels and deportment, they who have seen the most of him will attest, that he has manifested, in no ordinary degree, the meekness of wisdom, and rendered incalculable service to the cause in which he has been so long engaged. To the children in the schools he has been a parent from the beginning; nor can we doubt but that several of them, who have died in the faith of Christ, will be “his joy and crown of rejoicing” for ever and ever. O that God may be pleased to raise up another like unto him, endued with the same holy zeal and heavenly disposition! As for himself, we cannot but congratulate him rather than condole with him. If St. Paul accounted it “better to depart and be with Christ,” than to protract the most favoured existence upon earth, no doubt our departed brother feels this realized in himself at this time. Who can conceive what blessedness he now enjoys in the presence of his Saviour, and in the very bosom of his God? Could we but now behold the crown of glory placed upon his head, and the throne on which he is seated at the right hand of God, and could we appreciate the transports of his soul in singing the praises of his redeeming God, we should not wish him back in the midst of us, but should congratulate him, saying, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.” The office that remains for us, is, to “follow him, as he followed Christ,” and to stand ready for that summons which all of us must ere long receive; that, whenever it be sent, we may be found “with our loins girt and our lamps trimmed,” and may receive that welcome which has been vouchsafed to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”


Verse 27-28

DISCOURSE: 1673

CHRIST’S RESIGNATION

John 12:27-28. Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name.

THE sight of one in affliction necessarily produces some emotion of pity in our breasts, if we be not dead to all the feelings of humanity. But if there be majesty in distress, and that majesty be accompanied with consummate goodness, we take a deeper interest in all the circumstances exhibited to our view. Behold then a spectacle, such as the world never saw before, never will see again! a sufferer, infinitely superior to the highest archangel in dignity and worth! a suffering God! Let us draw nigh with reverence, and learn from his own lips,

I. The depth of his troubles—

Man had not yet touched his body; nor, whatever weight we may give to his apprehension of bodily sufferings, can we suppose that it was that alone, or that chiefly, which drew forth these bitter complaints.

His soul was now enduring the severest agonies—

[He particularly says, “Now is my soul troubled.” If it be asked, What was the source of his troubles? we answer, he was now sustaining the wrath of God, and conflicting with all the powers of darkness.

It had been foretold that the Father should bruise his Son [Note: Isaiah 53:10. first part.], and smite him with the sword [Note: Zechariah 13:7.] of his inexorable justice. And now the season was come for the accomplishment of these prophecies. The wrath of God was the punishment due to sin: and that wrath Jesus was now enduring: yes; in order that he might redeem us from the curse of the law, he himself was become a curse [Note: Galatians 3:10; Galatians 3:13.].

But it had also been foretold that the “Serpent should bruise his heel [Note: Genesis 3:15.].” And he himself had just before said, that the prince of this world was coming to assault him [Note: John 14:30; John 12:31.]. Satan, when first our Lord entered on his ministry, had made repeated efforts to destroy him [Note: Luke 4:2-12.]; and, though foiled and vanquished, he retreated only for a season [Note: Luke 4:13.], determining to renew his assaults with increased vigour. This therefore seeming an opportunity peculiarly favourable to his designs, he failed not to improve it. He summoned all his principalities and powers to unite their efforts [Note: Colossians 2:15.]: and O, how desperate was their attack! Our blessed Lord himself, though victorious in the conflict, had almost fainted, if angels had not been sent from heaven to succour and support him [Note: Matthew 4:11.].]

Under these agonies he was reduced to the greatest embarrassment—

[Never was he embarrassed through the persecutions or cruelties of man: but when he endured the wrath of God, and the assaults of Satan, he could not but complain of his accumulated troubles: yea, so was he distressed, that he was at a loss what to say, or what to do. His nature dictated a prayer, which however he afterwards saw occasion to revoke. He begged that the cup might pass from him, and that he might be saved from that tremendous hour [Note: Some read the words with an interrogation; thus: “What shall I say? Father, save me from this hour?” But our translation seems preferable, if we compare the account in Matthew 26:38-42.]. Nor was this petition in the least degree inconsistent with his fortitude or resignation. It shewed him to be a man; and it was such a petition as he might offer with perfect innocence; seeing that to dread and deprecate the wrath of God is not only lawful but our bounden duty.]

Recovering himself, however, he welcomes his afflictions, and states,

II. The grounds of his submission to them—

1. It was with a view to those very sufferings that he had come to that hour—

[These sufferings had been foreseen, when he first engaged to redeem a fallen world [Note: Isaiah 53:10. latter part.]; and he had then stipulated to bear them for our sakes [Note: Psalms 40:7-8.].” It was with a view to them that he had assumed our nature, without which he would have been incapable of bearing them [Note: Hebrews 2:9; Hebrews 2:14-15.]. And throughout the whole of his ministry he had frequently adverted to them as what he should undergo, as soon as his hour was fully come [Note: Luke 18:32-33.]. Yea, he had reproved Peter with great severity for attempting to dissuade him from his purpose [Note: Matthew 16:21-23]: and had expressed his eager “desire to be baptized with that bloody baptism,” being greatly “straitened till it should be accomplished [Note: Luke 12:50.].” And would he now recede? would he shrink from the trial now it was come upon him? would he rescind his own voluntary engagements, and abandon the work he had undertaken? No: difficult as it was to submit to these sufferings, he determined to endure them, since the purposes of his grace could in no other way be accomplished.]

2. They were necessary for the promoting of his Father’s glory—

[This is strongly intimated in the latter petition. The Father’s justice could not have been so much glorified even in the destruction of the whole human race, as in the sufferings of his co-equal co-eternal Son: in these it appeared altogether inflexible. And how glorious would be the display of the Father’s love, when it was seen that he had adopted such a method of restoring man to his favour! Yea, how would every perfection shine forth in this stupendous mystery! Would Jesus then sacrifice the Father’s glory to his present feelings? When the Father had already glorified him by repeated attestations from heaven, and by so many miracles, would Jesus now draw back, and rob the Father of all the glory that was to accrue to him from this dark and painful dispensation? No, by no means; and therefore he not only acquiesces in the appointment, but even prays, that, whatever he himself might endure, God would glorify his own name.]

This subject is capable of most useful improvement—

1. For the awakening of our fears—

[These sorrows were the just reward of our sins: and every one on whom sin shall be found must sustain them. Go then, ye who make a mock at sin, go follow at your ease the imaginations of your own hearts. Ye who think it unnecessary to repent of sin, go on in your impenitence; but consider, and learn, “if these things were done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry [Note: Luke 23:31.]?” If the curse due to sin so overwhelmed the Lord of glory himself in the space of one hour, what effect shall it produce on you to all eternity? Then no supplication can remove, nor any submission mitigate, our anguish. This, this alone, is the time for prayer. If then we would escape the wrath of Almighty God, let us flee instantly to this very Saviour, whose blood can cleanse us from the guilt of sin, and whose grace can rescue us from its dominion.]

2. For the encouraging of our hopes—

[What do we owe to the adorable Saviour, for that, in the hour of his extremity, he did not recede? But he saved not himself, that he might save us: “He gave up his own life, that he might ransom us;” and drank, even to the dregs, the cup of bitterness, that he might take it out of our hands for evermore. Let all then rest assured, that the debt once discharged by our great Surety, shall never be required at our hands, provided we believe in him.]

3. For the regulating of our conduct—

[There is no sin in praying for the removal of afflictions, provided we be willing, on the whole, that God’s will should be done in preference to our own. But, when we see what the Lord’s will is, we must say, “The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?” We must desire above all things the glory of God: and cheerfully acquiesce in any dispensation, provided God may be honoured by it.]


Verse 31

DISCOURSE: 1674

THE EFFECTS OF CHRIST’S DEATH

John 12:31, John 12:32. Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.

INCONCEIVABLY arduous was the work which Christ had undertaken: yet amidst his heaviest trials his confidence never for a moment forsook him. He had just complained of the insupportable weight of his mental agonies; yet not so complained, but that he had desired his heavenly Father to glorify his own name, whatever sufferings he might have to endure for that end. For the satisfaction of those who would otherwise have drawn wrong conclusions from those sufferings, the Father answered him by a voice like thunder, “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again:” and immediately Jesus, with his wonted calmness, resumed his discourse respecting the nature and necessity of his approaching death, and confidently predicted,

I. The issue of his conflicts—

The world and Satan were his great adversaries: and though by his death they would appear victorious over him, yet he declared that by his death,

1. The world would be judged—

[What we are to understand by “the judgment of this world,” we cannot absolutely determine: but we apprehend the import of that expression to be, that his death would be the means of exhibiting in the clearest view, first, the wickedness, and next, the desert of the ungodly world.

Who would have conceived the wickedness of the world to be so great as it really is? Who would have conceived, that, if God himself should become incarnate, and sojourn in a familiar manner upon earth, and cause the light of his perfections to shine around him, and diffuse innumerable blessings by the unbounded exercise of omnipotence and love, his creatures should rise up against him, and put him to death? Who would conceive too, that this should be done, not by ignorant savages, but by the people who had enjoyed the light of revelation, heard his gracious instructions, beheld his bright example, and received the benefit of his miraculous exertions: yea, that it should be done too, not by the inconsiderate vulgar, but by the rulers themselves, and by the priests and ministers of God’s sanctuary? This shews what human nature itself is, even under the greatest possible advantages: and humiliating is the picture which it exhibits to us.

But the desert also of the world is manifested to us in the death of Christ: for Christ suffered the penalty due to sin: “to redeem us from the curse of the law, he became a curse;” and all the misery that he endured both in body and soul as our surety and substitute, was our deserved portion. He indeed, by reason of his office, could endure it but for a time: but the soul that perishes in sin, must endure it to all eternity. Death, which to him was the period of his release, will be to the condemned soul the commencement of its sorrows, of sorrows that shall endure to all eternity. The hidings of God’s face and the sense of his wrath will be co-existent with the soul itself.]

2. The prince thereof would be cast out—

[Satan is called the prince, and the god, of this world, because he exercises an universal government over men who are his willing subjects [Note: Ephesians 2:2. 2 Corinthians 4:4. 2 Timothy 2:26.]. That which has given him this power is sin: on account of sin, God has delivered men into his hands as their jailor and their executioner. But Jesus Christ has “finished transgression and made an end of sin, and brought in everlasting righteousness;” and has thus rescued from the hands of Satan a countless multitude, who shall be eternal monuments of his electing love and his redeeming power. Whilst yet he hanged on the cross, the Lord Jesus “bruised the serpent’s head [Note: Genesis 3:15.];” yea, “he spoiled principalities and powers, triumphing over them openly upon the cross [Note: Colossians 2:15.].” At that moment did “Satan fall from heaven as lightning:” and though he still retains a sway over the children of disobedience, yet he is forced continually to give up his vassals to the Lord Jesus, and is made to flee from those [Note: James 4:7.] whom he lately “led captive at his will.” Moreover, the time is shortly coming, (yea, in the Divine purpose it was, as it were, then present,) when he shall be bound in chains of everlasting darkness, and be cast into that “lake of fire” which has from the beginning been “prepared for him and for his angels.”]

Next, our Lord predicts,

II. The triumphs of his grace—

By being “lifted up from the earth” was meant, his crucifixion. The expression refers to the lifting up the brazen serpent in the wilderness, which was a type and emblem of the death of Christ [Note: Compare Numbers 21:8-9. with John 3:14-15.]. The Evangelist himself tells us, that our Lord intended to intimate the peculiar kind of death which he was to suffer: and the people themselves understood him as speaking of his removal from them by death [Note: ver. 33, 34.]. Nor did his words convey the idea of uncertainty, which seems intimated in our translation: the event was fixed in the Divine counsels from all eternity; and he spoke of it as certainly to be accomplished [Note: ἐὰν should be “when,” and not “if.”].

Here then are two things to be noted;

1. The event predicted—

[Christ will “draw all men to himself:” He is that “Shiloh, to whom the gathering of the people should be;” and we see on the day of Pentecost the commencement of this great and glorious work. Would we understand precisely the import of the expression, there we behold it exemplified in the clearest view — — — We must not indeed imagine that every individual of mankind will be drawn to Christ; for in every age many have rejected him: but some of all nations, professions, and characters, shall be drawn to him; and at last they shall be found a multitude that no man can number [Note: Daniel 7:13-14.] — — —]

2. The manner in which it shall be accomplished—

[Men are not drawn to him like stocks and stones, but in a way consistent with the perfect exercise of their own free will. The power indeed is Christ’s; and it is exerted with effect: but it is made effectual,

First, by shewing men their need of him. The eyes of all the wounded Israelites were drawn to the brazen serpent in the wilderness: they felt that they were dying of their wounds; they knew that no human efforts could heal them; and they were assured that a sight of that brazen serpent would effect their cure. This attraction was sufficient: they looked and were healed. Thus the jailor saw his own perishing condition, and asked, “What shall I do to be saved?” and was glad to embrace the Saviour proposed to him [Note: Acts 16:30-31.]. This is universally the first operation of Christ’s victorious grace.

Next, he draws men by the attractive influences of his grace. Because men know not how the Holy Spirit works upon the souls of men, they are ready to doubt, or even deny, his operations. But who doubts the agency of the wind? yet no man knows whence it comes, or whither it goes. It is visible in its effects, and therefore its operation is acknowledged, notwithstanding it is involved in the deepest mystery. Why then should the operation of the Holy Spirit be doubted, merely because the mode of his agency is not understood [Note: John 3:8.]? Were it possible to question the evidence of our senses, we should deny the virtue of the loadstone, and represent any one as weak or wicked who should profess to believe it. But we behold its effects; and our incredulity is vanquished. So then must we confess the agency of the Holy Spirit upon the souls of men, though we cannot comprehend every thing respecting it. Our Lord has told us, that “no man can come unto him, except the Father draw him [Note: John 6:44.]:” and the Psalmist affirms, that God makes us “willing in the day of his power [Note: Psalms 110:3.].” It is sufficient for us to know, that he draws us rationally, “with the cords of a man, and with the bands of love.”

Lastly, he draws men by discovering to them the wonders of his love. Let but a glimpse of his incomprehensible love be seen, and every thing in the whole creation will be darkened: just as a view of the meridian sun renders every other object invisible. Paul tells us, that “the love of Christ constrained him:” it carried him away like a mighty torrent: nor will the soul of any man who feels it, be either able or desirous to withstand its influence. As well might the angels in heaven be averse to serve their God, as the man that has tasted of redeeming love.

In this way then does the grace of Christ prevail; and in this way shall it triumph to the ends of the earth.]

Application—

1. Seek to experience the attractions of his grace—

[Nothing under heaven is so desirable as this — — — Say then, with the Church of old, “ Draw me, and I will run after thee [Note: Song of Solomon 1:4.]” — — —]

2. Fear not the counteracting influence of men or devils—

[Men may oppose you, and vaunt themselves against you: but they are already “judged” by the word of God; and, if they repent not, they shall be judged by the same at the tribunal of their God. If they do not themselves become such despised creatures as they esteem you to be, they will ere long “awake to shame and everlasting contempt.”

Satan too may harass you: but he is a vanquished enemy: yea, he too “is judged [Note: John 16:11.]:” and though, “as a roaring lion, he seeketh to devour you,” you are provided with armour, whereby you may withstand him [Note: Ephesians 6:11-13.]: and you have the promise of God, that “he shall be shortly bruised under your feet [Note: Romans 16:20.]” — — —]


Verse 32

DISCOURSE: 1674

THE EFFECTS OF CHRIST’S DEATH

John 12:31, John 12:32. Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.

INCONCEIVABLY arduous was the work which Christ had undertaken: yet amidst his heaviest trials his confidence never for a moment forsook him. He had just complained of the insupportable weight of his mental agonies; yet not so complained, but that he had desired his heavenly Father to glorify his own name, whatever sufferings he might have to endure for that end. For the satisfaction of those who would otherwise have drawn wrong conclusions from those sufferings, the Father answered him by a voice like thunder, “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again:” and immediately Jesus, with his wonted calmness, resumed his discourse respecting the nature and necessity of his approaching death, and confidently predicted,

I. The issue of his conflicts—

The world and Satan were his great adversaries: and though by his death they would appear victorious over him, yet he declared that by his death,

1. The world would be judged—

[What we are to understand by “the judgment of this world,” we cannot absolutely determine: but we apprehend the import of that expression to be, that his death would be the means of exhibiting in the clearest view, first, the wickedness, and next, the desert of the ungodly world.

Who would have conceived the wickedness of the world to be so great as it really is? Who would have conceived, that, if God himself should become incarnate, and sojourn in a familiar manner upon earth, and cause the light of his perfections to shine around him, and diffuse innumerable blessings by the unbounded exercise of omnipotence and love, his creatures should rise up against him, and put him to death? Who would conceive too, that this should be done, not by ignorant savages, but by the people who had enjoyed the light of revelation, heard his gracious instructions, beheld his bright example, and received the benefit of his miraculous exertions: yea, that it should be done too, not by the inconsiderate vulgar, but by the rulers themselves, and by the priests and ministers of God’s sanctuary? This shews what human nature itself is, even under the greatest possible advantages: and humiliating is the picture which it exhibits to us.

But the desert also of the world is manifested to us in the death of Christ: for Christ suffered the penalty due to sin: “to redeem us from the curse of the law, he became a curse;” and all the misery that he endured both in body and soul as our surety and substitute, was our deserved portion. He indeed, by reason of his office, could endure it but for a time: but the soul that perishes in sin, must endure it to all eternity. Death, which to him was the period of his release, will be to the condemned soul the commencement of its sorrows, of sorrows that shall endure to all eternity. The hidings of God’s face and the sense of his wrath will be co-existent with the soul itself.]

2. The prince thereof would be cast out—

[Satan is called the prince, and the god, of this world, because he exercises an universal government over men who are his willing subjects [Note: Ephesians 2:2. 2 Corinthians 4:4. 2 Timothy 2:26.]. That which has given him this power is sin: on account of sin, God has delivered men into his hands as their jailor and their executioner. But Jesus Christ has “finished transgression and made an end of sin, and brought in everlasting righteousness;” and has thus rescued from the hands of Satan a countless multitude, who shall be eternal monuments of his electing love and his redeeming power. Whilst yet he hanged on the cross, the Lord Jesus “bruised the serpent’s head [Note: Genesis 3:15.];” yea, “he spoiled principalities and powers, triumphing over them openly upon the cross [Note: Colossians 2:15.].” At that moment did “Satan fall from heaven as lightning:” and though he still retains a sway over the children of disobedience, yet he is forced continually to give up his vassals to the Lord Jesus, and is made to flee from those [Note: James 4:7.] whom he lately “led captive at his will.” Moreover, the time is shortly coming, (yea, in the Divine purpose it was, as it were, then present,) when he shall be bound in chains of everlasting darkness, and be cast into that “lake of fire” which has from the beginning been “prepared for him and for his angels.”]

Next, our Lord predicts,

II. The triumphs of his grace—

By being “lifted up from the earth” was meant, his crucifixion. The expression refers to the lifting up the brazen serpent in the wilderness, which was a type and emblem of the death of Christ [Note: Compare Numbers 21:8-9. with John 3:14-15.]. The Evangelist himself tells us, that our Lord intended to intimate the peculiar kind of death which he was to suffer: and the people themselves understood him as speaking of his removal from them by death [Note: ver. 33, 34.]. Nor did his words convey the idea of uncertainty, which seems intimated in our translation: the event was fixed in the Divine counsels from all eternity; and he spoke of it as certainly to be accomplished [Note: ἐὰν should be “when,” and not “if.”].

Here then are two things to be noted;

1. The event predicted—

[Christ will “draw all men to himself:” He is that “Shiloh, to whom the gathering of the people should be;” and we see on the day of Pentecost the commencement of this great and glorious work. Would we understand precisely the import of the expression, there we behold it exemplified in the clearest view — — — We must not indeed imagine that every individual of mankind will be drawn to Christ; for in every age many have rejected him: but some of all nations, professions, and characters, shall be drawn to him; and at last they shall be found a multitude that no man can number [Note: Daniel 7:13-14.] — — —]

2. The manner in which it shall be accomplished—

[Men are not drawn to him like stocks and stones, but in a way consistent with the perfect exercise of their own free will. The power indeed is Christ’s; and it is exerted with effect: but it is made effectual,

First, by shewing men their need of him. The eyes of all the wounded Israelites were drawn to the brazen serpent in the wilderness: they felt that they were dying of their wounds; they knew that no human efforts could heal them; and they were assured that a sight of that brazen serpent would effect their cure. This attraction was sufficient: they looked and were healed. Thus the jailor saw his own perishing condition, and asked, “What shall I do to be saved?” and was glad to embrace the Saviour proposed to him [Note: Acts 16:30-31.]. This is universally the first operation of Christ’s victorious grace.

Next, he draws men by the attractive influences of his grace. Because men know not how the Holy Spirit works upon the souls of men, they are ready to doubt, or even deny, his operations. But who doubts the agency of the wind? yet no man knows whence it comes, or whither it goes. It is visible in its effects, and therefore its operation is acknowledged, notwithstanding it is involved in the deepest mystery. Why then should the operation of the Holy Spirit be doubted, merely because the mode of his agency is not understood [Note: John 3:8.]? Were it possible to question the evidence of our senses, we should deny the virtue of the loadstone, and represent any one as weak or wicked who should profess to believe it. But we behold its effects; and our incredulity is vanquished. So then must we confess the agency of the Holy Spirit upon the souls of men, though we cannot comprehend every thing respecting it. Our Lord has told us, that “no man can come unto him, except the Father draw him [Note: John 6:44.]:” and the Psalmist affirms, that God makes us “willing in the day of his power [Note: Psalms 110:3.].” It is sufficient for us to know, that he draws us rationally, “with the cords of a man, and with the bands of love.”

Lastly, he draws men by discovering to them the wonders of his love. Let but a glimpse of his incomprehensible love be seen, and every thing in the whole creation will be darkened: just as a view of the meridian sun renders every other object invisible. Paul tells us, that “the love of Christ constrained him:” it carried him away like a mighty torrent: nor will the soul of any man who feels it, be either able or desirous to withstand its influence. As well might the angels in heaven be averse to serve their God, as the man that has tasted of redeeming love.

In this way then does the grace of Christ prevail; and in this way shall it triumph to the ends of the earth.]

Application—

1. Seek to experience the attractions of his grace—

[Nothing under heaven is so desirable as this — — — Say then, with the Church of old, “ Draw me, and I will run after thee [Note: Song of Solomon 1:4.]” — — —]

2. Fear not the counteracting influence of men or devils—

[Men may oppose you, and vaunt themselves against you: but they are already “judged” by the word of God; and, if they repent not, they shall be judged by the same at the tribunal of their God. If they do not themselves become such despised creatures as they esteem you to be, they will ere long “awake to shame and everlasting contempt.”

Satan too may harass you: but he is a vanquished enemy: yea, he too “is judged [Note: John 16:11.]:” and though, “as a roaring lion, he seeketh to devour you,” you are provided with armour, whereby you may withstand him [Note: Ephesians 6:11-13.]: and you have the promise of God, that “he shall be shortly bruised under your feet [Note: Romans 16:20.]” — — —]


Verse 35-36

DISCOURSE: 1675

THE DUTY OF WALKING IN THE LIGHT

John 12:35-36. Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light.

THE perverseness of men in resisting the means of conviction, is apt to beget an asperity in the minds of their instructors, and to make them cease from their labours of love. But we are required “in meekness to instruct them that oppose themselves.” And our blessed Lord affords us in this respect an admirable example. He had plainly told the Jews, that he must be crucified: and their very answer shews, that they understood his meaning. But, instead of receiving the information aright, they cavilled at it, and concluded from thence, that he could not be the Messiah [Note: ver. 32–34.]. Our Lord did not judge it proper at that time to afford them any farther means of conviction, when they had so abused those that were already afforded them: but he most affectionately warned them to improve their present advantages, before they should be finally withdrawn from them.

The words being equally applicable to us, we shall consider,

I. The duty enjoined—

Christ is here spoken of as “the light”—

[We might consider the term “light” in general, as referring to the Gospel: but here it undoubtedly relates to Christ himself [Note: John 1:9; John 8:12; John 12:46.]. He is justly characterized by this name, not only as being the eternal fountain of light, but as enlightening the world by his doctrines and life.]

“In him,” under this character, we are to “believe”—

[All that he has spoken respecting his person, work, and offices, together with all his promissory, or threatening declarations, should be received by us without gainsaying, and be relied upon without hesitation.]

“In him” also we ought to “walk”—

[We view earthly things in the light of the material sun; and avail ourselves of its light, every step we take. Precisely thus should we act with respect to Christ, “the Sun of Rightousness.” We should view sin and holiness, time and eternity, yea, every thing without exception, in the light that he, by his word and conduct, reflects upon it. Nor should we take any one step in life, without a direct reference to his word as our rule, and his life as our example [Note: 1 John 2:6.].]

To render this injunction more impressive, let us consider—

II. The arguments with which it is enforced—

There are three topics mentioned in the text, from whence we may urge this important duty:

1. From the shortness of the time that we shall enjoy the light—

[The Jews now had the light; but it was to be extinguished within the space of four days. Hence our Lord repeatedly urges this consideration, “Walk, while ye have the light.” And how strongly does this argument apply to us! You have the light at present, yea, even greater light than the Jews enjoyed under the ministry of Christ: (for there were many subjects, which he did not fully open; and the things he did utter could not be perfectly understood, till the day of Pentecost; whereas you have Christ exhibited to you in all his glory; and the fulness, the freeness, the suitableness of his salvation constantly set before you.) But how soon may it be removed from you, or you from it [Note: Revelation 2:5. Amos 8:11-12.]! O then, “while ye have the light, believe, and walk, in the light.”]

2. From the danger we incur by disregarding the light—

[If we will not attend to the voice of Christ, a “darkness will come upon us,” even “darkness that may be felt.” They who never have had Christ preached unto them, are indeed in an awful condition; but by no means so awful as that of those who have despised the Gospel [Note: ver. 39, 40.]. The darkness of which the text speaks, is judicial, sent them by God as the punishment of their iniquity; and the very light that shines around them, serves only to increase their blindness, and to aggravate their guilt [Note: 2 Corinthians 2:15-16. 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12.]. In this state, “they stumble at the noon-day,” and wander, “not knowing whither they go;” till at last they fall into that pit of destruction, where is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth for evermore.

Should not then the dread of such a state lead us to a just improvement of our present privileges?]

3. From the benefit arising to those who rightly improve the light—

[By “children of light,” we may understand either children of God (who is light) or, truly enlightened persons [Note: Thus υἱοὶ ἀπειθείας is used Ephesians 2:2.; and τέκνα κατάρͅας, 2 Peter 2:14. is so translated, as υἱοὶ φωτὸς may be here.]. In either sense the general import is the same, namely, that, by believing in Christ, we shall attain the knowledge and enjoyment of God. Compare this state with that of those who are in darkness; and how great will this benefit appear!

Shall not then this blessed prospect allure us to embrace the Gospel? Or shall we still prefer sin and misery to holiness and glory?]

Application—

[Let us no longer withstand the solemn warnings and affectionate exhortations of the Lord Jesus; but improve to the utmost this accepted time, this day of salvation.]


Verse 42-43

DISCOURSE: 1676

THE DANGER OF LOVING THE PRAISE OF MEN

John 12:42-43. Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

IT seems astonishing to those who have ever considered the evidences of Christianity, that any one should hesitate to embrace it, or to acknowledge any one of its fundamental truths. But reason is by no means a certain guide, even in the things which come within its proper and legitimate sphere: it is too frequently biassed in its decisions, even when the person himself is unconscious of any undue influence upon his mind. Evidence does not carry the same conviction to all: one is persuaded, whilst another doubts: the prejudices and passions of mankind operate to a great extent, and often leave demonstration itself almost without effect. Hence we find, that all the credentials with which our Lord confirmed his divine mission, were insufficient to produce conviction on the minds of many: as it is said, “Though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him [Note: ver. 37.].” But by this the Scriptures themselves were fulfilled: for “Isaiah had said, Who hath believed our report; and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Yea, he had also declared, that on account of the perverseness and obstinacy with which many resisted the evidence set before them, they should be given over to judicial blindness and obduracy, so as to be incapable of estimating truth aright, or of embracing it when proposed to them [Note: ver. 38–40.]. Even when reason is convinced, it does not always carry the affections along with it; but is often constrained to yield to the superior influence of some predominant lust. Thus it was with those spoken of in our text; who believed indeed that Jesus was the true Messiah, yet could not find in their hearts to acknowledge him in that character.

We propose to consider,

I. The conduct they pursued—

They had seen the miracles of our Lord, and were persuaded that he was the person spoken of in the prophets: yet, because the Pharisees had agreed to excommunicate any who should receive him as the Messiah, they dared not to confess him openly. Now this conduct was exceeding sinful. Of its constituent evils we may notice,

1. The disingenuousness—

[The use of knowledge is to direct our ways: for the sake of our practice therefore we should be careful to acquire just sentiments. If our opinions be doubtful, we should try them; if erroneous, renounce them; if true, we should regulate our lives according to them. To act contrary to the convictions of our mind is unworthy of a rational Being. We all know in what a contemptible light that man appears, who for the sake of human applause pretends to religion, whilst the world and sin are predominant in his heart: and equally contemptible is he, who, with the knowledge of the truth in his head, is deterred by the fear of man from yielding to its influence. Indeed the latter species of dissimulation seems the worse of the two, inasmuch as to disclaim what is good, is worse than to express an approbation of it. At all events, it is marked with a decisive testimony of God’s abhorrence; “To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin [Note: James 4:17.].”]

2. The ingratitude—

[The gift of God’s only dear Son to die for us is the greatest that God himself could bestow upon us: for from that the Apostle infers the unquestionable willingness of God to give us all other things, seeing that all other things together are not to be compared with that [Note: Romans 8:32.]. Now to know that God has bestowed that gift upon us, and yet not dare to confess it, is the basest ingratitude that can be imagined — — — And if it be ingratitude towards the Father, so is it also towards the Lord Jesus Christ himself, who voluntarily undertook the great work of our redemption. Reflect a moment on this: think of his pitying our undone condition, and leaving the bosom of his Father, in order that he might assume our nature, and die in our stead — — — What incomprehensible love was this! and what a base wretch must he be, who, believing that Christ has so loved him as to give himself for him, is afraid to confess it openly! To all such persons, well may that indignant expostulation be applied, “Do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people, and unwise [Note: Deuteronomy 32:6.]?”]

3. The impiety—

[Wherein can any man be guilty of more flagrant rebellion against God, than in knowingly and deliberately denying his dear Son? The command of God respecting the submitting to his Son is positive, and enforced with a very awful menace [Note: Deuteronomy 18:18-19. with Acts 3:22-23.]. What an act of defiance then is he guilty of, who against the convictions of his own conscience denies him! What cruelty also is he guilty of towards his fellow-creatures! Men are influenced greatly by example, especially by the example of those in higher life: the lower classes are ready to suppose that the rich and learned must know better than they, and with a blind confidence to embrace or reject sentiments solely on the authority of their opinions. Hence the timid dissembler is the means of deceiving many souls; and involves himself in the double guilt of destroying others together with himself. The man who rejects Christ for want of conviction, will “be beaten with few stripes;” but the man who rejects him contrary to his convictions, will “be beaten with many stripes [Note: Luke 12:47-48.]:” the one “dashes himself against a rock that will break his bones;” the other will have “that rock fall upon him, which will grind him to powder [Note: Luke 20:17-18.].”]

That we may be able to account for such strange conduct, let us consider,

II. The principle by which they were actuated—

They acted from a regard for the good opinion of men. But the praise of men runs not in the same channel with the praise of God [Note: Romans 2:29.]; and they unhappily gave the applause of man the preference. Now this love of man’s applause is,

1. A common principle—

[The moment that we begin to be impressed with a sense of eternal things, we begin to consider, what men will say, if we betray our feelings to the world. Though we should have never paid much attention to the sentiments of others before, we shall now feel the emotions of fear and shame: we shall contrive how we may reconcile the performance of our duties with a conformity to the customs and habits of the world; and shall often strain our conscience to make compliances with the world, in order to escape reproach on account of our singularity. It may be thought that persons who move in a higher sphere should have learned to divest themselves of this principle; but the higher any men are in society, the more they are influenced by the opinions of the world: they set a higher value on man’s applause, and feel conscious that their actions are more open to remark. They of whom our text speaks, were “chief rulers:” they conceived that they had much to lose; and they well knew that their rank would not screen them from the assaults of religious intolerance. They might have indulged vices with impunity; those would have been connived at, even by Pharisees themselves; but piety in them would have been an unpardonable offence, which the very refuse of the people would have been forward to resent. But, though this principle is peculiarly operative on the great, it is not confined to them: we all feel it working in our own bosoms, and have need to be on our guard against its malignant influence.]

2. A foolish principle—

[What can the applause of man do for us? it is a mere breath of air, that vanishes in a moment: but the approbation of God is of incalculable importance, since according to that will our eternal state be fixed. To many, the choice of Moses would appear unwise: to refuse the first honours of the Egyptian court, and participate rather in the afflictions of the oppressed Israelites! to “esteem the reproach of Christ as riches, yea as greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt [Note: Hebrews 11:24-26.]!” this might be regarded as folly by the ignorant Egyptians; but to us who know how to appreciate such conduct, it appears an act of consummate wisdom. Look at the rulers of whom we are speaking: suppose that all the consequences which they dreaded had come upon them; what would the anathemas of men have been, in comparison of God’s displeasure? and what an expulsion from the synagogue, in comparison of a rejection from heaven? If the whole world cannot compensate for the loss of a soul, surely they must be fools indeed who barter away their souls for the breath of man’s applause.]

3. A fatal principle—

[God himself has told us, that it is absolutely incompatible with saving faith; “How can ye believe, who receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh of God only [Note: John 5:44. Galatians 1:10.]?” And we may appeal to all, whether it does not chill every devout affection, and impede the exercise of every Christian grace? What its ultimate effect will be, our blessed Lord has warned us; “If we confess him, he will confess us; but if we are ashamed of him and deny him, he also will be ashamed of us, and deny us, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with his holy angels [Note: Mark 8:38.].”]

Address—

1. The secret and timid disciples—

[We do not put you all upon a level; for even where the outward conduct is the same, the inward principle may be widely different. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were not so open in their acknowledgment of Christ as they should have been [Note: John 3:2; John 19:38.]; but, when a necessity occurred for making known their sentiments, they rose to the occasion, and avowed their attachment to him more boldly than the Apostles themselves. We mean not to express any approbation of their previous timidity; but to intimate, that an essential difference may be found, where none externally appears; and that God may have his “hidden ones” even among those who are as yet too much entangled by prudential considerations. It is not however by such examples that we are to regulate our conduct. Our duty is clear: the heart and the mouth are to be alike consecrated unto God; the one, to exercise faith on Christ, the other, to confess him to the world: and as the mouth without the heart will be an unacceptable offering to the Lord, so also will the heart without the mouth [Note: Romans 10:8-10.].]

2. Those who are suffering for confessing him—

[We are far from despising the approbation of men; but we account it of no value, any longer than it can be enjoyed with a good conscience. That in which alone we are materially interested is, the plaudit of our God: and if only he say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servants,” we need not be concerned, whatever may have been the judgment of men concerning us. Are any of you reproached for the sake of Christ; be not grieved, but rather rejoice [Note: 1 Peter 4:14.]; for “it turns unto you for a testimony [Note: Luke 21:13.].” Great is the encouragement which God himself affords you in his word [Note: Isaiah 51:7-8.]; and glorious is the prospect that awaits you at your departure hence [Note: Isaiah 66:5.]. Be strong then, and of good courage; knowing, that if your faith be subjected to heavy trials at the present, “it shall be to praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ [Note: 1 Peter 1:7.].”]


Verse 48

DISCOURSE: 1677

MEN JUDGED BY THE GOSPEL

John 12:48. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.

THE judgment of the last day is a period to which we must all look forward with the deepest interest, and for which we should be preparing from day to day: for then “we shall receive at the Lord’s hands according to what we have done in the body, whether it be good or evil.” True it is, our Lord says, in the verse before my text, “If any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.” But we are not to understand this absolutely: for we are told expressly, that “God has committed all judgment to the Son;” and that “he will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom he has ordained.” The meaning is, that “to save the world” was the great and primary object of his mission; and that, though he will also judge the world, he will not do it arbitrarily, according to any secret will of his own, but according to his revealed will, even with that word which, from day to day, he declared unto them. Of their reception of this word they should give account; and in strict accordance with it should his judgment be passed upon them.

In confirmation of this truth, I will shew,

I. The responsibility of those who hear the Gospel—

[Man is responsible to God for every talent that has been committed to him, and for every advantage he enjoys. In proportion to the opportunities which men have of knowing their Lord’s will, must be their accountableness for the performance of it: and more or fewer stripes will be awarded to the negligent servant, according to the degree of information which had been given him, and the knowledge he possessed [Note: Luke 12:47-48.]. “The times of men’s ignorance God winked at; but, when his fuller revelation was made known to them, he called upon them more authoritatively to repent [Note: Acts 17:30.].” The uninstructed “heathen will be judged by the law written on their hearts [Note: Romans 2:14-15.]:” the Jews, by the law of the Ten Commandments [Note: Romans 2:12.]; but Christians, by the Gospel [Note: 2 Thessalonians 1:8.]. And a far more severe account will be required of us than of the others, on account of the superior light we have enjoyed. Our Lord told his hearers, that “if he had not come and spoken unto them, they bad not (comparatively) had sin; but that now they had no cloak for their sin [Note: John 15:22.].” And he warned them, that not only Tyre and Sidon, but even Sodom and Gomorrha, with all their wickedness, would have a lighter condemnation in the day of judgment, than those who neglected to improve the advantages afforded them by his instructions [Note: Matthew 10:14-15.]. This he plainly declared in the words of my text: “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.”]

Here also we see,

II. The rule by which they shall be judged—

“The word that Christ spoke, the same shall judge,” both those who heard, and us who read it. We shall be judged by,

1. Its declarations—

[Nothing can be plainer than his declarations respecting the necessity of a new and heavenly birth [Note: John 3:3.], or the necessity of faith in him [Note: John 3:18; John 3:36.] — — — Now, in the last day these will appear against us: we cannot plead ignorance: the terms, in which these requirements were made known, were clear, peremptory, decisive; and if we have not obeyed them, we must take the bitter consequences of our neglect — — —]

2. Its invitations—

[These have been as free as our hearts could wish. Do we need to obtain rest in Christ? he says, “Come unto me, and I will give it you [Note: Matthew 11:28.].” Do we need a new nature? he bids us to “take from him the water of life freely [Note: Revelation 22:17.].” Have we any apprehension that he will not vouchsafe to us these blessings on account of our own unworthiness? be bids us receive them at his hands, “without money and without price [Note: Isaiah 55:1.].” Now these also will appear against us in judgment. And what excuse can we offer for not accepting them? Verily, we must confess, in that day, that “our ruin was of ourselves alone [Note: Hosea 13:9.];” and that we perished only because “we would not come to Christ for life [Note: John 5:40.].”]

3. Its promises—

[How “exceeding great and precious” are these! They are enlarged to the full extent of our necessities. What can we desire more than this, “Whosoever cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast him out [Note: John 6:37.]?” Here is no exception, either of character or condition. Whoever the person be, “the blood of Jesus Christ will cleanse him from all sin [Note: 1 John 1:7.]:” yea, “though his sins have been red as crimson, they shall be made white as snow [Note: Isaiah 1:18.].” And what shall we say, when these appear in array against us on account of the contempt we poured upon them? Verily, our mouths will be shut, and not so much as a word of excuse can ever be offered by us.]

4. Its threatenings—

[These are no less plain than any of the former [Note: Mark 16:16. Psalms 9:17.]: so that we can never plead ignorance, or a want of faithful admonition. And I appeal to you, whether all of these, the more awful as well as the more encouraging parts of Scripture, have not, in their season, been set before you with all fidelity? These, therefore, shall also be your judges in the last day. No arbitrary appointment of God shall determine your fate; but these very words, which you have so neglected and despised.]

And now, I pray you,

1. Examine how you have treated all these portions of Holy Writ [Note: There is no medium between “a rejecting of Christ, and a cordial reception of his words.” See the text.] — — —

2. Bear in mind your responsibility for the warning now given you — — —

END OF VOL. XIII.

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on John 12:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/john-12.html. 1832.


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Sunday, August 20th, 2017
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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