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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

John 16

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 8-11

DISCOURSE: 1702

OFFICES OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

John 16:8-11. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.

IN judging of the dispensations of God’s providence or grace, we are extremely apt to err. Hence we often mourn for things, which, if we knew the end of them, would afford us occasion for joy. This was the case with the Disciples, who were dejected on account of their Lord’s approaching departure from them. To relieve their minds, our Lord not only promised them another Comforter, but told them for what ends and purposes that Comforter should come:

I. To “convince the world of sin”—

This office the Spirit executed among the Jews—

[The sin of rejecting Christ was that which the Spirit was more particularly to reveal to the world; and he discovered it fully by his miraculous operations on the Disciples [Note: Christ had rested, as it were, the whole credit of his Messiahship on this one point: consequently, the visible descent of the Spirit, accompanied with the miraculous gift of tongues, was such an attestation to Christ, as could not be doubted, and such a reproof to his murderers as could not be withstood.], and wrought an irresistible conviction of it by his gracious influences on the hearts of thousands.]

This office too he yet executes in the Christian Church—

[The external testimony which he gave, remains the same in all ages: the internal witness is given to those only whom “God has ordained to life.” To them the Spirit shews the number, the greatness, the malignity of their sins; and particularly, the guilt, and danger of that unbelief, in which they have ignorantly lain. This is the Spirit’s work; nor is it wrought in any, but by his almighty power [Note: Zechariah 4:6. 2 Corinthians 5:5. 1 Corinthians 12:11.].]

If he proceeded no farther, he would not be a Comforter; but it is his office also,

II. To convince the world “of righteousness”—

This also was accomplished by him on his first descent from heaven—

[Christ, though professing himself the Saviour of the world, had been crucified as a malefactor. The Spirit therefore was to evince, both that Christ was a righteous person, and that through his righteousness others also might be saved. Accordingly, by his descent, the Spirit proved these things beyond a doubt. He shewed that Christ was accepted of the Father (which he would not have been, if he had been an impostor), and had finished all that was necessary for our salvation; seeing that, if any thing had remained to have been done on earth, he must have returned hither in order to complete it [Note: See the text.]. He moreover inclined, and enabled multitudes to believe on him for righteousness, whom they had just before reprobated as worthy of universal execration.]

And yet daily is he occupied in glorifying Christ among us—

[Whomsoever the Spirit convinces thoroughly of sin, he leads also to discoveries of Christ. He shews to the soul the suitableness and all—sufficiency of Christ’s righteousness to all those who trust in it [Note: ver. 14.], and leads them, with holy glorying, to say, “In the Lord have I righteousness and strength [Note: Isaiah 45:24.].”]

He has yet further undertaken,

III. To convince the world of judgment—

He shewed to the first Christians that Satan was a vanquished foe—

[By the descent of the Spirit it was manifest, that Christ had triumphed over sin and Satan, death and hell [Note: Ephesians 4:8. Colossians 2:15.]. By his gracious influences also, he rescued myriads from their power, and inspired them with an holy confidence, that they should finally prevail over all their spiritual enemies [Note: 2 Timothy 1:12.].]

Thus at this day does he cause the weakest to exult over their fallen enemy—

[However active and malicious Satan is, his head is bruised [Note: Genesis 3:15.], his power is limited [Note: Revelation 2:10. 1 Peter 5:8.], his doom is fixed [Note: Romans 16:20.]. Of this the Holy Spirit assures the weak and trembling believer; and puts into his mouth, even in the midst of all his conflicts, that triumphant song [Note: Romans 8:38-39.]—]

Uses—

1. Of conviction—

[All true Christians have received the Spirit for the ends and purposes for which he is here promised. In vain then will be our orthodoxy in sentiment, if we have not this evidence of our conversion to God [Note: Romans 8:9.]. Let us pray that the Spirit may be poured out upon us; and let our views of our guilt and weakness lead us to glory in Christ alone.]

2. Of consolation—

[Are we bowed down with a sense of sin? we may be sure that Christ has sent his Spirit to work that conviction in us; and that, if we be instant in prayer, he will, by the same Spirit, lead us also to a view of his righteousness. Are we ready to despond by reason of the power of sin? the resistance which the Holy Spirit has enabled us already to make to its dominion, is a pledge that “we shall be more than conquerors, through Him that loved us [Note: Romans 8:37.].” Let us only seek the Spirit as our Comforter, and we need regret no loss, no pain, no trouble, that may be the means of bringing him into our hearts.]


Verse 14

DISCOURSE: 1703

THE OFFICE OF THE SPIRIT TO GLORIFY CHRIST

John 16:14. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.

MANY imagine that the doctrine of the Divinity of Christ is founded on some few passages only of Holy Writ, on passages too which may possibly be of doubtful interpretation. But the truth is, that that doctrine pervades the whole New Testament; so that scarcely any part of it can be fairly explained except on the hypothesis, that Christ is God. Take for instance the passage before us. Our blessed Saviour told his Disciples that he would “send to them the Comforter, even the Spirit of Truth, who should guide them into all truth, and shew them things to come [Note: ver. 7, 13.].” But is he a man, or a mere created being, that arrogates to himself this power? Of that Spirit he proceeds to say, “He shall glorify me.” What language is this? Does a creature say, he will send the Spirit of the living God to glorify him? That God should send a creature for the advancement of his own glory, is intelligible enough: but that a creature should send God for the advancement of his glory, is what no rational being would for a moment admit. But further; our Saviour adds, “He shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” What! Has a creature any thing that he can call his own; and which is of so mysterious a nature, that it cannot be known, except God himself shall make it the subject of a special revelation? And has he such an exclusive propriety in that thing, that it must be acknowledged to be his, at the very time that God is taking of it in order to shew it unto men? This was so strong an assertion of his Godhead, that the Disciples themselves appear to have been staggered at it; on which account our Lord proceeded to vindicate and confirm the expression he had used: “All that the Father hath, is mine: therefore said I that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you [Note: ver. 15.].”

The whole declaration, if viewed in this light only, is of infinite importance: but, without insisting on this doctrine, which only incidentally arises out of the text, we shall turn our attention to the doctrines more directly contained in it; and shall shew you,

I. The office of the Spirit—

The whole of our Saviour’s life was a state of humiliation: the establishing of his proper character was committed to the third Person in the ever—blessed Trinity, who was in due time to come down from heaven for the express purpose of glorifying Christ. In what way he was to glorify Christ, is specified in the text; he was to take, as it were, all the excellencies of Christ, and to display them before the eyes of all his people. Among these excellencies we will mention a few, which are deserving of more especial notice:

1. The virtue of his sacrifice—

[Man, as soon as he begins to be truly “convinced of sin,” is apt to doubt whether his iniquities be not too great to be forgiven. But the Holy Spirit discovers to him from the word, that the death of Christ was a propitiation, not for the sins of a few only, but for the sins of the whole world; that “his blood has an efficacy to cleanse from all sin;” and that all who believe in him “shall be justified from all things,” even from “sins of a scarlet or crimson dye.” How glorious does Christ then appear in the sinner’s eyes!]

2. The prevalence of his intercession—

[After a person has believed in Christ, he still is renewed only in part; “the flesh still lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, so that he cannot do the things that he would.” Hence he is sometimes led to fear that God will cast him off, and be no more entreated by him. Then the Holy Spirit shews him that Christ is “his Advocate with the Father [Note: 1 John 2:1-2.],” and that he “ever liveth in heaven on purpose to make intercession for him.” He convinces him that Christ can never intercede in vain, for that “him the Father heareth always;” and that consequently the backslider, as well as the newly—awakened sinner, shall be saved to the uttermost, if only he look to Christ as his all—prevailing Advocate and Mediator. Thus the Spirit still further endears the Saviour to the believing soul.]

3. The sufficiency of his grace—

[Conflicts innumerable both with sin and Satan will still remain, even such conflicts as may bring the believer sometimes to the borders of despair. But then the Spirit again proceeds in his work of glorifying Christ: he shews the soul, that there is, by the Father’s own appointment, an inexhaustible fulness of grace treasured up in Christ [Note: Colossians 2:9.] out of which his people shall receive all the grace that they shall stand in need of [Note: John 1:16.]: and that, whatever their conflicts or temptations may be, his grace shall be sufficient for them [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:9.]. How precious does Christ then become, when the believer, after crying, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?” is enabled to add, “I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord [Note: Romans 7:24-25.]:” “In the Lord have I righteousness and strength [Note: Isaiah 45:24-25.]!”]

4.. The extent of his love—

[Of this no finite being can form any adequate idea; much less can the language of mortality express it. But in some degree it is the privilege of “all saints to have” it “revealed to them by the Spirit.” The times and seasons, as well as the manner and degree, of making this revelation to the soul, are altogether ordered by that Spirit “who divideth to every man severally as he will.” Generally it is in some season of trial or affliction, and by means either of some remarkable providence, or of the written word, that he thus glorifies Christ: but, O! when he does take of the love of Christ, and discover unto men “its length and breadth and depth and height [Note: Ephesians 3:17-18.], what joy and transport does he impart! truly it is “a joy that is unspeakable and glorified;” a very heaven upon earth. Such manifestations of the Saviour’s glory cannot be made to the world, because the world has no dispositions suited to them: but to the believer they are made; and they produce in him a determination of heart to consecrate himself wholly and for ever to the Lord.]

5. The greatness of his salvation—

[Salvation, when first embraced, is regarded almost exclusively as a deliverance from everlasting punishment. But when the Spirit of God brings it more fully to our view, how amazing does it appear: and how glorious does that Saviour appear who has obtained it for us! The renovation of the soul after the Divine image, and the investing of it with all the glory and felicity of heaven, a glory inconceivable, a felicity everlasting; truly salvation, in this view of it, overwhelms the soul with wonder, and prepares it to do and suffer whatever can be done or suffered, for the ultimate enjoyment of it.]

Such being the office of the Spirit, let us consider,

II. Our duty arising from it—

We have an office similar in some respects to that which is sustained by the Spirit himself: we are all in our place and station to glorify Christ, and to take of the things that are his, and shew them unto men.

This is our duty,

1. As Ministers—

[Our Lord particularly marks this connexion between the office of the Holy Spirit, and that which his Disciples were to execute in the world [Note: John 15:26-27.]. They were sent forth, as all other ministers are, to testify of Christ, and to exalt him in the eyes of men. At this day, no less than in the apostolic age, is this the duty of those who are his ambassadors to a guilty world: we are to speak of Christ, to set forth the fulness and excellency of his salvation, and to commend him to the love of all around us. Counting all things but dung for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ ourselves, we should labour day and night to impart it unto others. How earnest the Apostles were in this blessed work, may be seen from their first addresses to the unbelieving Jews [Note: Acts 2:32-36; Acts 4:10-12.]: and we in like manner should “contend earnestly for the faith,” and determine to know nothing among our people but Jesus Christ and him crucified. The treasure of divine knowledge is put into us, as earthen vessels, for this purpose; and “God has shined into our hearts for this very end, that we may give unto all around us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:6-7.].” What a glorious office is this! O that every minister bore it fully in mind: and that all who profess to execute it, might execute it with their whole hearts, and “with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven!”]

2. As private Christians—

[Our Lord assigns the same office to all his people; “All mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them [Note: John 17:10.].” All indeed are not called upon to exert themselves as ministers: but all are to glorify Christ by a holy conversation, and are to take of his virtues and his graces, and to exhibit them to the world. This is one end of their calling, namely, “to shew forth the virtues of him that hath called them out of darkness into his marvellous light [Note: 1 Peter 2:9. The marginal reading.].” All are to “shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life” in their own conduct, so that all may read it, yea, may be compelled to read it, as transcribed in their lives [Note: Philippians 2:15-16.]. What an exalted office is this for every private Christian! O that all might be ambitious to execute it aright! for Christ himself has said, “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye may bring forth much fruit; so shall ye be my Disciples [Note: John 15:8.].”]


Verse 24

DISCOURSE: 1704

THE BENEFIT OF PRAYER

John 16:24. Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.

THIS world is justly characterized as a vale of tears. Even they who experience the most happiness, find many interruptions of it: nor is there any way of securing permanent tranquillity, but by waiting upon God in prayer.

The Disciples were sorrowful on account of the approaching departure of their Lord, with whom they had hitherto enjoyed the most familiar fellowship. Our Lord tells them, that though they would no longer be able to inquire [Note: ver. 23. ἐρωτήσετε.] of him, yet, if they would ask [Note: ver. 23. αἰτήσητε.] of the Father in his name, he would grant them whatsoever they should need; and that the answers which they should receive to their prayers would abundantly overbalance the loss of their present privileges, and fill them with unutterable joy.

In the direction given them, we may notice,

I. Our duty—

It is comprised in one word, “Ask.” Now this is,

1. An easy duty—

[We do not mean that it is always easy to pray, (for there is nothing more difficult when the heart is indisposed for that exercise;) but that is the easiest condition that could possibly be imposed — — — and that, when the heart is in a proper frame, prayer is as easy to the soul, as breathing is to the body: it is the first, and most natural, effort of a living soul: “Behold, he prayeth [Note: Acts 9:11.]!”]

2. A reasonable duty—

[Man is a dependent creature; and it is but reasonable that he should acknowledge that dependence at a throne of grace, and ask for those mercies which he stands in need of. The very heathens have felt the propriety of supplicating their deities, and have established ordinances whereby they might conciliate the favour of their gods. It is true, that God knows our necessities before we ask: yet is it highly proper that we should spread them before him, in order that we ourselves may be humbled under a sense of them, and that God’s mercy in relieving them may be more clearly seen.]

3. A necessary duty—

[Though God cannot be prevailed upon by dint of importunity [Note: The expressions, Luke 18:7-8. must not lead us to think of God as though he were wrought upon as we are.], yet he has appointed prayer as the means of obtaining his blessings. He has said, “I will be inquired of to do it for them [Note: Ezekiel 36:37.].” There is no room therefore left for us to speculate upon the use of prayer: it is quite sufficient that God has required it as means to an end: and if we will not comply with his injunctions respecting it, it is utterly in vain for us to expect his blessings.]

4. An acceptable duty—

[Prayer offered to the Deity without any respect to the mediation of Christ, is not acceptable: but when presented in a humble dependence on his atonement, and intercession, it comes up before God as incense, and prevails beyond the utmost extent of our conceptions. It is to prayer offered in this manner, that the promise in the text is given [Note: ver. 23, 24.]. And this has been the qualification of all acceptable prayer from the beginning. Abel was heard on account of his sacrifice [Note: Hebrews 11:4.]. The penitents under the law obtained mercy in no other way [Note: Hebrews 9:22.]. The Jews, when unable, by reason of their captivity, to offer their accustomed sacrifices, were to look towards the temple, which was a type of our incarnate God [Note: 1 Kings 8:47-48. Daniel 6:10.]. And to that same Jesus must we look, trusting in him as “our Advocate with the Father, and as the propitiation for our sins [Note: 1 John 2:1-2.].” Nor did any one ever ask in this manner without obtaining a supply of all his wants.]

To counteract the backwardness of our hearts to this duty, let us consider,

II. Our encouragement to perform it—

The promise of acceptance is without any limit or exception—

[There is no exception with respect to the persons who may apply to God. The vilest person in the universe, provided he ask in the manner prescribed in the text, shall be heard as readily as the very chief of the Apostles. His past iniquities, of whatever kind they have been, shall not operate as any bar to his acceptance with God — — —

Nor is there any limit respecting the blessings we implore: provided they will really conduce to our good, and to God’s glory, they shall be given. However “wide we open our mouths, God will fill them [Note: Psalms 81:10. John 14:13-14.]” — — — The frequent and solemn repetition of this truth by our Lord himself, must of necessity remove all doubt upon the subject [Note: Matthew 7:7-8.].”]

And instances of its accomplishment occur in almost every page of the sacred writings—

[Whether Abel’s prayer was answered by fire from heaven which consumed his sacrifice, or by some other token of the Divine favour, the acceptance of it was equally manifest, and the fact is equally encouraging to us. To recount the various instances that occurred from that period to the times of Christ and his Apostles, would be a pleasing task, but would occupy many hours. Suffice it to say, that whether men’s prayer has been offered for themselves [Note: Jonah 2:1; Jonah 2:7.] or for others [Note: Exodus 32:11-14. Acts 12:5-9.], and whether it has been of a more stated and solemn kind [Note: Psalms 18:6.], or only in a sudden ejaculation [Note: Nehemiah 2:4-6.], it has equally prevailed; it has prevailed speedily [Note: 2 Kings 20:2; 2 Kings 20:4-5. Daniel 9:20-21; Daniel 9:23.], and to a most incredible extent [Note: James 5:17-18.]; and shall yet prevail, by whomsoever it may be offered [Note: James 5:16.].]

This encouragement to prayer is greatly heightened by what is added respecting,

III. The consequence of a due and acceptable performance of it—

God delights in the prosperity of his people; and desires that they should be happy here, as well as in the world to come. It is with this view that he has enjoined prayer as a duty; because, when performed aright, it is the means of filling the soul with the suhlimest joy.

1. It tranquillizes the most perturbed mind—

[Let a person under any sudden irritation or calamity betake himself to prayer, and he will speedily find the tempest calmed, and his agitations quieted. No other thing will operate like this. It will enable him to educe good out of every evil: it will not only blunt the edge of all his trials, but will turn his sorrows into joy [Note: Psalms 30:8-11; Psalms 40:1-3.].]

2. It brings God nigh unto the soul—

[God in answer to prayer will take away the veil which intercepts our views of him, and “manifest himself to us, as he does not unto the world.” What an exhibition of his glory was that which he vouchsafed to Moses! What a bright display of Christ’s excellency was that which the three favoured Disciples were admitted to behold on Mount Tabor! We say not indeed that any similar vision of the Father or the Son shall ever be presented to our bodily eyes: but God will certainly “shine into the hearts of those who call upon him, to give them the light of the knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:6.];” and will enable them to say, “Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ [Note: 1 John 1:3.].” What ineffable delight must such manifestations bring with them! — — —]

3. It gives us an earnest and foretaste of heaven itself—

[The happiness of heaven consists in the vision and fruition of God: and this, as far as it can be enjoyed by faith, is enjoyed in prayer. There is not any one who has abounded in the performance of this duty, but has had frequent occasion, when in his closet, to exclaim with Jacob, “This is none other but the house of God, this is the gate of heaven [Note: Genesis 28:17.]!” In such seasons as these a man has no occasion to search out evidences of his acceptance with God, or of his title to heaven; for the very intercourse which he has with the Deity is, if we may so speak, heaven brought down to earth; it is an actual anticipation of heaven, and a pledge of his complete possession of it in due season.]

Address—

1. To those who ask without receiving—

[Think not that God has violated his promise. The reason of your not receiving is, that “you ask amiss [Note: James 4:3.].” Your petitions are cold, formal, hypocritical; and you have not a due respect to the name of Jesus in presenting them to God. Perform your duty as you ought, and you shall never complain of a want of acceptance in it.]

2. To those who have received answers to prayer—

[Let not your communion with God puff you up with pride, but rather abase you in the dust. If once you grow vain and secure, you will provoke God to hide his face from you, and to withhold the communications of his grace. Rejoice in the glorious privileges you possess; but “rejoice with trembling.”]


Verse 27

DISCOURSE: 1705

THE OBJECTS OF THE FATHER’S LOVE

John 16:27. The Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came nut from God.

THE atonement and intercession of Christ are doubtless the grounds of a Christian’s hope, and the richest source of his comforts: but much consolation also may be derived from the consideration of the Father’s love; nor do we understand the Gospel aright, till we see that Christ himself was the gift of the Father’s love, and that every blessing which we receive through Christ was prepared for us in the eternal counsels of the Father. Our Lord, solicitous to comfort his Disciples previous to his departure from them, directed their views unto the Father, assuring them, that, while they prayed to the Father in his name, they should find acceptance and support; and this too, not merely in consequence of his intercession, but also in consequence of the love which the Father himself bore towards them, In discoursing upon his words, we shall speak of,

I. The objects of the Father’s love—

The description which our Lord gives of his own Disciples will characterize all his faithful followers to the end of time—

They love the Lord Jesus Christ—

[There is not a real Christian in the universe who does not esteem the Lord Jesus above every other being, desire him more than thousands of silver and gold, and delight in him as the only source of true happiness. To love him more, and to serve him better, is the daily labour of his soul, and the very summit of his ambition.]

They believe in him—

[True Christians do not merely assent to this proposition, That Jesus is the Messiah; but they most cordially acquiesce in his appointment to that office; they trust altogether in his mediatorial work; and they seek to receive out of his fulness the blessings which he was sent to communicate.]

All who are of this description are, for that very reason, objects of the Father’s love—

[By the exercise of faith and love, they honour the Lord Jesus Christ in the world; and in so doing they honour the Father also [Note: John 5:23.]: on this account the Father loves and honours them. We do not mean to intimate, that their graces merit the Divine favour (for “their best righteousnesses are as filthy rags [Note: Isaiah 64:6.]”); or that their graces are the spring and source of the Father’s love (for God’s love was from everlasting [Note: Jeremiah 31:3.], and was exercised by him in a perfectly free and sovereign manner): but we say, that their exercise of faith and love is the occasion of God’s manifesting his love to them. Abel’s offering of a lamb, in token of his dependence on that Lamb of God which was to be slain in due time, was the occasion of God’s testifying his acceptance in a visible manner; and God justified his apparent partiality, by declaring this act to have been the ground of the preference he had shewn to Abel [Note: Genesis 4:4-7. Hebrews 11:4.]. When Abraham also had offered up his son, God made his faith and obedience the occasion and the ground of manifesting his love to Abraham [Note: Genesis 22:16-17.]. The Scriptures uniformly speak the same language [Note: Psalms 91:14-16.]; nor are we in danger of erring, provided we discriminate between the meritorious ground on which God’s favours are secured, and the particular occasion on which his love may be manifested.]

If we believe that any are so distinguished by the Father we cannot but wish to know,

II. The manner in which he displays his love towards them—

We might easily trace this part of our subject in the experience of those to whom the words of the text were immediately addressed; but, as it is of general importance, we shall rather treat it in a way that is alike applicable to all:

1. He watches over them by his providence—

[The dearest of God’s children may appear to others, perhaps also to themselves, to be forsaken of God. But the Father’s eye is ever upon them for good, and “runneth to and fro throughout the whole earth, to interpose effectually in their behalf [Note: 2 Chronicles 16:9.].” They may be suffered to want for a season, in order that they may be stirred up to seek relief from him: but they shall assuredly be supplied with every thing that is needful for them [Note: Psalms 34:10.]. They may experience many deep and heavy afflictions, but not one which shall not ultimately “work fur their good [Note: Romans 8:28].”]

2. He keeps them by his grace—

[God is not an unconcerned spectator of his people’s conflicts. He shields their heads in the day of battle. If they fall, he raises them up; if they be wounded, he heals them; if they faint, he renews their strength [Note: Psalms 146:7-8.]. He will not endue them with such a degree of grace as shall supersede the need of vigilance and exertion; nor will he commit to them a stock that shall suffice for months or days: but he will give them “grace to help in the time of need [Note: Hebrews 4:16.];” and that “grace shall be sufficient for them.” Thus will he secure them from the destruction which they fear, and make them “more than conquerors, through Him that loved them [Note: Romans 8:37.].”]

3. He comforts them by his presence—

[Who can express the consolations which God sometimes pours into the souls of those who wait upon him? They have been weeping perhaps under a sense of sin, or lamenting a state of spiritual darkness; and behold, God reveals himself unto them: their “light rises in obscurity, and their darkness becomes as the noon-day.” Often will God “manifest himself to them as he does not unto the world;” he will give them “a spirit of adoption, whereby they shall cry with confidence, Abba, Father;” and will so “shed abroad his love in their hearts,” that they shall have “an earnest of their inheritance,” and a foretaste of the heavenly glory. This is promised by God himself to all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, and is actually experienced by many who can attest his fidelity [Note: John 14:21; John 14:23.].]

Address—

1. Those who are destitute of love to Christ, and of faith in him—

[If a mere profession of Christianity be a sufficient proof of our faith and love, we may spare ourselves the trouble of addressing any as though they were destitute of those graces. But if none truly love Christ or believe in him, except they who are altogether devoted to him in heart and life, then the persons we are addressing will be found to constitute the greater part, we fear, of almost every congregation. And what shall we say to such persons? Shall we address them in the words of our text, “The Father himself loveth you?” Would to God we could! But there is not one amongst you so ignorant, as not to know, that such an assertion would be false. Let your own consciences judge: Can God love those who neglect and despise his dear Son? Let the Scriptures determine. Does not St. Paul say, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maran-atha [Note: 1 Corinthians 16:22.]?” Be assured that God cannot be your Father: for our Lord says expressly, “If God were your Father, ye would love me [Note: John 8:42.].” Be assured too, that if you die as you are, you must perish for ever; for Christ says again, “If ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins [Note: John 8:24.].” Repent ye then of all your ingratitude and unbelief, and “turn to your strong-hold, as prisoners of hope;” begin to “live by faith in the Son of God;” and “delight yourselves in him” now, that ye may be meet to enjoy him in a better world.]

2. Those to whom Christ is precious—

[Thanks be to God! there is a little flock that hear the voice of the good Shepherd, and that follow his steps. Think then, ye who love the Lord, how greatly ye are honoured, how highly ye are privileged; the Father himself loveth you! To say that all good and holy men loved you, or that all the angels in heaven loved you, would be a rich blessing: but to be loved by the Creator of men and angels, to be loved by the Father himself, O! who can estimate this blessing? It is true, that the very thing which causes God to love you, will cause the blind and the wicked world to hate you [Note: John 15:19.]: but why should you regard the hatred and contempt of men, if you are owned and approved of your God? “Let them curse, provided your God condescend to bless.” And if your “love at any time be ready to wax cold through the abounding of iniquity” around you, remember that the very thing which heightens man’s resentment, will call forth the manifestations of God’s favour; and that when your enemies shall “want a drop of water to cool their tongue,” you shall “be drinking of those rivers of pleasure which are at God’s right hand for evermore.”


Verse 31

DISCOURSE: 1706

AN INQUIRY INTO THE REALITY AND DEGREE OF OUR FAITH

John 16:31. Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe?

THE meekness and gentleness of Christ were manifested on all occasions. Even his reproofs were tempered with inexpressible kindness, and fully justified the description given of him by the prophet, “He shall not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax.” He had been speaking plainly about his departure from the world: and his Disciples, understanding him somewhat better than before, were now confident that they believed in him. But he, knowing the very low state of their attainments, mildly reproved their mistaken confidence, and warned them of the sad discovery which they would shortly make of their unbelief. The mode in which our Lord put the question to them was very significant. To mark its true import, I will bring it before you,

I. In a way of explanation—

If we consider the question in connexion with the foregoing and following context, it will be found to contain several important truths:

1. That many think they believe, when they are wholly destitute of faith—

[The nature of faith is very little understood. It is generally supposed to be a mere assent to the Gospel as true; whereas it is a living operative principle, infused into the soul by the Holy Ghost [Note: Philippians 1:29.]. From these mistaken views of faith, every one of course conceives himself to be a believer. The worldling, the self-righteous Pharisee, the sensualist, yea all, except avowed infidels, lay claim to this appellation; and, while they acknowledge themselves to need correction with respect to morals, have no idea at all that they need instruction with respect to their faith — — — This self-deception universally obtained among the unconverted Jews, who “trusted in Moses,” not doubting but that they believed his writings, though they shewed by their rejection of Christ, that they did not believe them [Note: John 5:45-47.]: and too much of the same spirit yet manifested itself in those who had become the stated followers of our Lord.]

2. That many, who have some faith, are yet much under the influence of unbelief—

[As for unregenerate men, they have no faith at all, no, not even in the plainest truths of our religion; for though they assent to many truths, they feel not the force, nor experience the vital influence of any. Nor, when faith is imparted to the soul, is unbelief altogether eradicated; yea, it will be well if the natural principle do not, in many and very alarming instances, overcome the new-created principle which ought to govern the whole man [Note: Galatians 5:17.] — — — Thus it was with the Apostles in the passage before us: our Lord acknowledges that they were true believers [Note: ver. 27.]; but intimates that they would soon manifest, by their dereliction of him, how weak and insufficient their faith at present was. And thus it is with all, though in different degress, till they have been taught and disciplined in the school of Christ.]

3. That heavy trials will discover the state of our souls with respect to faith—

[Affliction is a touchstone whereby all our graces, and especially our faith, may be tried. If our faith be strong, we shall approve ourselves to God under the most arduous circumstances: if it be weak, we shall be ready to faint at the approach of any dangers we fear [Note: Matthew 14:30-31.], and to adopt sinful methods of attaining any ends we desire [Note: Genesis 27:6-10.]. If we have nothing but a false faith, we shall “make shipwreck both of it and of a good conscience” as soon as ever we are brought into any storms of difficulty and temptation: if our troubles be of a spiritual nature, we shall flee from God, and reject his grace [Note: Genesis 3:8.]: or if they arise from temporal things, we shall be offended with God, and condemn his providence. For the effects of weak faith we need look no further than to the passage before us. The immediate scope of our Lord’s question was, to put his disciples on their guard against their remaining unbelief; and, by warning them of their approaching fall, to encourage and facilitate their speedy recovery: and we may learn from their example that, if our faith be not increased in proportion to our trials, we shall surely faint in the day of adversity.]

If such truths be implied in the interrogation before us, we may well urge it upon you,

II. In a way of personal inquiry—

We are particularly exhorted to “examine ourselves whether we be in the faith [Note: 2 Corinthians 13:5.].” Let all of us then inquire into,

1. The reality of our faith—

[Before we conclude too confidently that we are believers, we should ask ourselves, Whence we obtained our faith? It is not a plant of nature’s growth; nor is it formed in us by human teaching. There is but one way in which it ever is or can be obtained, namely, by acknowledging our unbelief before God, and imploring him to create a lively faith in our hearts by his blessed Spirit. If we have never been “convinced of unbelief,” we have not yet one grain of real faith [Note: John 16:8-9.]. But if this inquiry be satisfactorily answered, we should further ask, How our faith operates? If it be genuine and scriptural, it will overcome the world, and work by love, and purify the heart [Note: 1 John 5:4. Galatians 5:6. Acts 15:9.]. But has it these effects? — — — We are warned by God that “all men have not faith [Note: 2 Thessalonians 3:2.];” nor should we conclude that we have, unless we manifest it in its fruits.]

2. The degree of our faith—

[If we cannot ascertain precisely the degree of our faith, we yet have grounds whereon we may form some estimate. Are we enabled to realize the things which are invisible? This is a very principal office of faith; and in proportion as we are enabled to set God before our eyes, and to keep heaven in view, we may safely conclude that we have that principle, which alone can produce this effect. Do we maintain our hope under discouraging circumstances? This was the mark whereby the strength of Abraham’s faith was so fully known [Note: Romans 4:18-20.]: and, if we be strong in faith, we shall be steadfast under heavy and long-protracted trials, and “against hope believe in hope.” Are we kept diligent in the way of duty? It is presumption, and not faith, that leads us to relax our diligence in the use of means: the more faith we have, the greater will be our activity in every good work [Note: 1 Thessalonians 1:3.]. The various offices of faith are fully delineated in the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews; and by comparing our spirit and conduct with that of the saints there mentioned, we may weigh ourselves in the balance of the sanctuary. In this way we may provide an answer to the interrogation in the text; and, instead of boasting as though we had attained, shall learn to reply, “Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief.”]

Application—

[Trials must ere long come upon every soul amongst us: and then nothing but faith will support us [Note: 1 Peter 1:5-7.]. And even now if our graces be examined, it will be found that our progress has been in exact proportion to our faith. Let us then pray with the Apostles, “Lord, increase our faith; that through it we may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on John 16:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/john-16.html. 1832.


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