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FAITH IN CHRIST AN ANTIDOTE TO ALL TROUBLE
John 14:1. Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
AS God is eminently distinguished by that character, “The Comforter of all them that are cast down,” so did Jesus evince his title to it during the whole time of his sojourning on earth: there was no distress which he did not remove from those who made their application to him; and not unfrequently did he anticipate the wants, which the unbelief or ignorance of his followers made them unable to express. He had now been revealing to his Disciples the things which were speedily to be accomplished: and, perceiving that they were greatly dejected by the prospect before them, he encouraged them in the words which we have read; “Let not your hearts be troubled:” and then he prescribed an antidote, sufficient to dispel all their fears: “Ye believe in God; believe also in me.”
In discoursing on these words, we shall shew,
The troubles which he taught them to expect—
There were three in particular which seemed most to affect them;
Their bereavement of his presence—
[This, if it had been only to a remote quarter of the globe, or after the manner of Elijah’s departure, would have greatly depressed their minds; because of the love he had manifested towards them, and their entire dependence on him for instruction and support — — — but to have him withdrawn from them by cruel sufferings and an ignominious death, was distressing beyond measure; so that the very thought of it filled them with the deepest concern — — —]
The disappointment of their worldly hopes—
[They had supposed he was about to establish an earthly kingdom, and that they should be exalted to situations of great dignity. But when they heard, that, instead of reigning over other nations, he was to be rejected by his own; and that, instead of elevating them to posts of honour, he himself was to die upon a cross; they knew not how to reconcile these things with his former professions, or how to bear the shame which such a disappointment would unavoidably occasion — — —]
The persecutions they were to meet with from an ungodly world—
[Hitherto they had been screened from persecution, their Lord and Master having borne the brunt of it in his own person: but now they understood that they were to drink of his cup, and to endure all manner of sufferings, and death itself, after his example. This excited painful apprehensions in their minds, and caused them the most serious disquietude — — —]
What means he used to dissipate their fears, will be found in,
The remedy he proposed—
The verbs in our text may be taken either imperatively or indicatively; and many think it would be better to construe both of them alike: but the spirit of the passage seems best preserved in our translation; which acknowledges, that they do believe in God the Father, and exhorts them to place the same confidence in him as in the Father. They now thought they should lose him entirely and for ever. To rectify this error, he enjoins them, notwithstanding his removal from them, to believe in him,
As present with them in their trials—
[Though he would not be present to the eye of sense, he would be really nigh to them on all occasions. Wherever they should be, there would be no bar to his admission to their souls: he would come and visit them, and dwell in them, and manifest himself to them, as he would not unto the world. This would be a far greater blessing to them than his bodily presence; so that they had no reason to regret his apparent withdrawment from them.]
As interested in their welfare—
[They had never found him indifferent about any thing that related to them: nor would he forget them after he should have been taken from them into heaven: on the contrary, he was going thither to prepare mansions for them; and he would still enter into all their concerns, sympathizing with them in their afflictions, and regarding every thing that should be done to them as done immediately to himself. If any should give them a cup of cold water only, he would acknowledge it as an obligation conferred on him; and, if any should presume to touch them in a way of injury, he would resent it as if they had “touched the apple of his eye.”]
As sufficient for their support—
[They had seen what wonders he had wrought during his continuance among them: and they must not imagine, that, because he offered up his soul a sacrifice for sin, he was therefore deprived of his power to perform them: for though he would, in appearance, be crucified through weakness, he did really possess all power in heaven and in earth. They might still look to him for the relief of every want, and support in every trial; and they should assuredly find his grace sufficient for them.]
As coming again to recompense all that they might endure for his sake—
[He had told them, that he would come again, and that too in all the glory of his Father, with myriads of attendant angels, to judge the world. They need not therefore be anxious about any present trials, since he pledged himself to remember all that they should do or suffer for him, and richly to compensate their fidelity to him.
These were subjects on which he had often conversed familiarly with them: and if only they would give him credit for the accomplishment of his promises, they might discard their fears, and be of good comfort.]
It will be not unprofitable to consider more distinctly,
The sufficiency of this remedy to dispel all anxiety from their minds—
Faith in Christ is a perfect antidote against troubles of every kind. Faith has respect to him in all his glorious offices and characters:
As the Saviour of the soul—
[What has that man to do with fear and trouble, who sees all his iniquities purged away by the blood of Jesus, and his soul accepted before God? — — — If he forget these things, he may be cast down by earthly trials: but if he keep this steadily in view, the sufferings of time will be of no account in his eyes: he will feel that he has ground for nothing but unbounded and incessant joy — — —]
As the Governor of the universe—
[Who that sees how perfectly every thing is under the controul of Jesus, will give way to fear or grief? Not a sparrow falls, nor a hair of our head can be touched, without him: and, if he suffer any injury to be inflicted on us, he can overrule it so as to convert it into the greatest benefit. What then have we to do, but to let him work his own will, and to expect that all things shall work together for good? — — —]
As the Head of his people—
[He is to all his people the head of vital influence; and will he forget to communicate what is necessary for the welfare of his members? We are weak; and our enemies are mighty: but is that any ground for fear, whilst we remember whose members we are? Can we not do all things through Christ strengthening us? — — —]
As the Judge of quick and dead—
[The distribution of rewards and punishments is committed unto him; and he has told us what sentence he will pronounce on all his faithful people. And will not that word, “Come ye blessed,” or that, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” richly repay all that we can do or suffer for him in this world? Can we survey the thrones of glory he has prepared for us, and be afraid of the trials that await us here? — — —]
The happiness of believers—
[They may, they must, have their trials; and whilst they possess the feelings of men, they will find some trials grievous to be borne: but they neither have, nor can have, any cause for anxious fear: whilst God is for them, none can be against them. Let them therefore “be careful for nothing,” but “cast all their care on Him who careth for them.”]
The misery of unbelievers—
[Where has God said to them, “Let not your hearts be troubled?” No such word can be found in all the sacred volume. They have need of continual fear and terror: for, what refuge have they, whilst they are not united unto Christ by faith? Whither can they go under the trials of this life? and what consolation can they have in the prospects of eternity? Better were it, if they die in such a state, that they had never been born. Hear then what Jesus says to you: Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God; and besides me there is none else. His address, in the text, is a proof of his Godhead, and consequently of his sufficiency to save all that come unto God by him.]
THE COMFORT TO BE DERIVED FROM CHRIST’S ASCENSION
John 14:2-3. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
A HOPE of future happiness affords strong consolation under present trials. The children of God, if destitute of this, would be “of all men most miserable;” but this renders them incomparably more happy, even under the most afflictive dispensations, than the greatest fulness of earthly things could make them. Our Lord opened these springs of comfort to his disconsolate Disciples. Being about to leave them, he not only told them whither, and for what purpose, he was going, but that he would assuredly return to recompense all which they might endure for his sake—“In my Father’s house,” &c.
We shall consider,
Our Lord’s description of heaven—
We are taught to conceive of heaven as a place of unspeakable felicity. The description given of it by St. John is intended to elevate our thoughts, and enlarge our conceptions to the uttermost [Note: Revelation 21:19; Revelation 21:21.]; but a spiritual mind, which is dead to earthly things, may perhaps see no less beauty in our Lord’s description.
Our Lord thus describes it; “My Father’s house with many mansions”—
[Here seems to be an allusion to the temple at Jerusalem: God dwelt there in a more especial manner [Note: 1 Kings 8:10-11.]; around it were chambers for the priests and Levites. Thus in heaven God dwells, and displays his glory [Note: Isaiah 57:15.]; there also are mansions where his redeemed people “see him as he is.”]
This description may be depended upon—
[The Disciples had left all in expectation of a future recommence: our Lord had taught them to look for it, not on earth, but in heaven. Had no such recompence awaited them, he “would have told them so.” Thus he pledges, as it were, his love and faithfulness for the truth of what he had told them.]
Our Lord further acquaints them with the reason of his ascending thither:
The end of his ascension thither—
All which our Lord did on earth was for the good of his people. He consulted their good also in his ascension to heaven: he went “to prepare a place for them,” which he does,
By purging heaven itself with his own blood—
[Heaven would have been defiled, as it were, by the admission of sinners into it; he therefore entered into heaven to sanctify it by his blood. This was typified by the atonement made for the altar and the tabernacle [Note: Leviticus 16:15-20.]. The type is thus explained and applied [Note: Hebrews 9:21-24. Here is a parallel drawn not only between the Holy of holies and heaven, but also between the purifying of the Holy of holies by the high-priest, and the purifying of heaven itself by Christ with his own blood: and both are declared to have been necessary; the one as a type, and the other as the anti-type.]—]
By taking possession of it as their Head and Representative—
[He is the head, and his people are his members [Note: Ephesians 4:15-16.]. His ascension to heaven is a pledge and earnest of theirs [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:20.]. In this view he is expressly called “our forerunner [Note: Hebrews 6:20.].”]
By maintaining their title to it—
[They would continually forfeit their title to it by their sins: but he maintains their peace with God by his intercession. Hence his power to bring them finally to that place is represented as depending on his living in heaven to intercede for them [Note: Hebrews 7:25.].]
By these means every obstacle to his people’s happiness is removed.
The prospects which his ascension affords us—
His ascension is the foundation of all our hope: as it proves his mission, so also it assures us,
That he shall “come again”—
[The high-priest, after offering incense within the vail, was to come out and bless the people. This was a type of our Lord’s return from heaven when he shall have finished his work of intercession there [Note: Hebrews 9:28.].]
That he shall take his people to dwell with him—
[He had promised this as a condition of their engaging in his service [Note: John 12:26.]. He declared it to be his fixed determination just before his departure [Note: John 17:24.]. It may even be inferred from his ascension; seeing that his ascension would have been utterly in vain without it [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:14.].]
What a bright and blessed prospect is this! What an effectual antidote against their approaching troubles!
How wonderful are the condescension and grace of Christ!
[We cannot conceive any thing more tender than the whole of this address. Such is still his conduct towards all his people — — — Let us admire and adore this compassionate high-priest.]
How highly privileged are they that believe in Christ!
[How different was our Lord’s address to unbelievers [Note: John 8:21.]; but to believers he says, “Where I am, ye shall be also.” Let this inestimable privilege have its due effect upon us; let it stimulate our desires after heaven; let it reconcile us to the thoughts of death; let it engage us more earnestly to serve God [Note: 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10.].]
NO WAY TO GOD BUT THROUGH CHRIST
John 14:6. Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
THERE is in the Christian church a great diversity of character: some, like Nebuchadnezzar’s image, have heads of gold, while their feet are of materials as unstable as they are unsuitable, even of iron and clay. Others are upright in their conversation, while yet their views of divine truth are very imperfect. Such the Apostles shewed themselves all the time of our Lord’s sojourning on earth: nor could the plainest instructions wholly eradicate the errors in which they had been educated from their earliest years. Our Lord had just informed them, that he was about to die, and to go to his Father; and that he would soon come again and receive them to himself, that they might be with him for ever. And, knowing that, in general, they were acquainted with his intentions, he said, “Whither I go, ye know; and the way ye know.” But, alas! though this was true in the general, their minds were at present so engrossed with the notion of an earthly kingdom, that they supposed him to be speaking of some great palace, where he was about to erect his standard. Hence St. Thomas requested further information: to which our Lord replied in the explicit manner related in the text.
In discoursing on his words, it will be proper to consider,
Our Lord’s description of himself—
He speaks of himself as,
[The first way to heaven was, by the covenant of works. But, when man had sinned, that way was closed for ever [Note: Genesis 3:24.]. From that time another way was opened, through the incarnation and sufferings of God’s only Son. This was announced to the unhappy pair, who were informed, that “the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head.” To him therefore they were to look as their mediator and advocate, and through him they were to obtain reconciliation with God. There were two obstacles to their re-admission to the divine favour: these were, guilt and corruption. But both of these were to be removed by Jesus; the former by his blood, the latter by his Spirit. Thus is Christ our way also to the Father making atonement for us by his meritorious death, and renewing us by his all-sufficient grace [Note: Amidst a multitude of passages to this effect, see Ephesians 2:13; Ephesians 2:16; Eph 2:18 and Hebrews 10:19-20.].]
[As the Disciples might not be able to reconcile this with the ceremonial law, which appeared to prescribe other means of access to God, our Lord informed them that the legal sacrifices were only shadows, of which he was the substance; and figurative representations, of which he was the truth. There had been many persons raised up as saviours and deliverers. Many different things also were intended to mark out the way of salvation: the manna from heaven; the water from the rock; the brazen serpent; the daily sacrifices, with innumerable others; but they all pointed at him as the one true source of reconciliation, of healing, of spiritual vigour, and of eternal salvation. He was the one scope and end of all, in whom all were united; from whom all derived their efficacy; and by whom they all were both accomplished and annulled.]
[It would have been to but little purpose to direct his Disciples in what way to go, if he had not told them how they might obtain life and strength to walk in that way. They, as well as all others, were by nature dead in trespasses and sins. Jesus therefore added yet further, that he was “the life.” By this we are not to understand merely that Jesus is the author and giver of life: but that he is really to the soul what the soul is to the body. Without the soul, the body is altogether motionless and senseless. It is the soul that animates, as it were, the different members, and enables them to perform their proper functions. So, without Christ, the soul has no spiritual motion or perception: it is from its union with Christ that it has a sufficiency for any thing that is good [Note: John 15:5. 2 Corinthians 3:5.]. Christ must live in the soul, as the soul does in the body. If we live, it is not we that live, but Christ that liveth in us [Note: Galatians 2:20.].” Hence He both calls himself [Note: John 11:25.], and is called by others [Note: Colossians 3:4.], “our life.”]
This description will appear of the greatest importance, if we consider,
His declaration founded upon it—
Many are the ways which men have devised of coming unto God—
[Some have sought for mediators among their fellow-creatures. Others have trusted in their own repentances and reformations — — — Innumerable are the refuges of lies in which sinners have sought to hide themselves from the displeasure of God — — —]
But there is no way to God but through Christ—
[Nothing can be plainer than our Lord’s assertion. If we ask, What is the way to God? He answers, ‘I am.’ If we inquire, What other way there is? He answers, ‘None.’ If we wish to be informed whether there be not some exception in favour of those who have served God from their earliest infancy, as Timothy, or to the most advanced age, as John? the answer is, ‘No: “no man cometh unto the Father, but by me:” ’ Timothy must come as Mary Magdalen, out of whom seven devils were cast; and John, as the thief, who died a few hours after his conversion. All need equally to have their guilt expiated, and their hearts renewed: and there is none but Jesus who can do either the one or the other of these things fur us: therefore there is no other name or power but his, that can ever save us [Note: Acts 4:12.].]
Those who are ignorant of the Saviour—
[Have you so little concern for heaven that you will not inquire the way thither? Or do you suppose that a life of worldliness and carnal ease is the path that leads to God; and that men will find it, as it were, blindfold? If this were the case, Jesus would never have become incarnate, and died upon the cross, to open a way for you; nor would he have warned you to the contrary in such solemn terms as those before us. Consider this; for every tittle of his word, whether credited or not, shall be fulfilled.]
Those who desire to come to God—
[Beware lest you attempt for a moment to find any other way than that marked out for you by Christ. He must be your only way of access to God. We do not say that you are not to walk in the way of holiness, (for the Scripture asserts the contrary in the strongest terms [Note: Isaiah 35:8.]) but this we say; It is the blood of Christ, and not your own holiness, that must reconcile you to God; and it is the Spirit of Christ, and not your own natural powers, that must enable you to believe in him, or to serve him. Submit to this at once [Note: Romans 10:3.]; for you must be brought to it, if ever you would enter into the kingdom of heaven. You cannot come to God in prayer, but by Christ; much less can you be admitted to him in heaven. Even Christ himself, as the sinner’s representative, entered into heaven by his own blood [Note: Hebrews 9:12.]: think not therefore that ye shall enter in by any other way.]
Those who have already come to God—
[Yes; blessed be God, many have come, through Christ as their way, and by Christ as their life: and O, whither are they going? to their Father’s house, whither Christ is gone before to prepare a place for them! What a joyful thought! every day and hour brings them nearer to their home! and, for aught they know, they may arrive at those blissful mansions within the space of a few months, or days, or even hours! Regard not then if your road be occasionally rough; but keep in it; press forward; turn not from it even to the end; and, “when Christ, who is your life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”]
CHRIST ONE WITH THE FATHER
John 14:8-11. Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me; or else believe me for the very works’ sake.
IT was a great advantage to the Apostles, that, at the close of his daily ministrations, they were admitted to a more intimate and familiar intercourse with their Lord: for by this means they received a much fuller instruction than others, and gained a deeper insight than others into the discourses which had been publicly delivered. Nor do we derive less benefit from this than they: because the explanations which were given to them in private are handed down to us, and unfold to us many things which we should not otherwise have been able to comprehend. We behold, too, their errors rectified. They were greatly mistaken in many things. Their spirit was far from being, on some occasions, what God would approve; as for instance, when they would have called fire from heaven to consume a Samaritan village; and also when “they disputed amongst themselves which of them should be the greatest.” Their views, also, of the Messiah’s kingdom were extremely erroneous; insomuch that, when our blessed Lord told them what was coming upon him, “Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, That be far from thee, Lord [Note: Matthew 16:22.].” In like manner, they could not conceive aright of his divine character. Sometimes, indeed, they spake well respecting it: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God [Note: Matthew 16:16. John 6:69.]:” but, at other times, they shewed that their judgment respecting it was very wavering and ill-informed. When our Lord spake of his equality with the Father, they knew not how to understand him: and though he told them, that, in having “seen and known him, they had seen and known the Father [Note: ver. 7.],” Philip, in the name of all the rest, contradicted him, and said, “Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.” And this brought from our blessed Lord an answer, which is of the greatest importance to the Church in all ages, inasmuch as it establishes the doctrine of the divinity of Christ beyond all contradiction.
In opening to you this passage, we will consider,
The desire expressed—
This, in part, was good—
[To desire a manifestation of the Father’s glory could not but be pleasing to God himself. After the giving of the law, such a revelation had been vouchsafed to Moses, and Aaron, and “the nobles” of Israel [Note: Exodus 24:9-11.]; as, at a subsequent period, it had been in a more especial manner to Moses alone, in answer to that request of his, “Lord, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.” Of this request God had expressed his approbation, by “proclaiming to him his name,” and causing “all his goodness to pass before him [Note: Exodus 33:18-19; Exodus 34:6.].” Now, therefore, at the first introduction of the Gospel, the Apostles conceived it possible that their Divine Master might favour them with somewhat of a similar manifestation; more especially because he had, without any solicitation on their part, spoken to them on the subject of “seeing the Father [Note: ver. 7.].”
The satisfaction, too, which they expressed, at the expected result of such a manifestation, could not but be pleasing to their Lord and Master: “Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.” It must not be forgotten here, that the Lord Jesus had been speaking to them of his expected departure, an event which they could not but contemplate with extreme pain [Note: ver. 2. with chap. 16:5, 6.]. Yet, in the very prospect of such an overwhelming loss, Philip says, “Shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us;” that is, there is no bereavement which we shall not readily submit to, if only this extraordinary token of the Divine favour may be conferred upon us.
In this view, I cannot but consider the request as expressing a piety like that of David, when he said, “Many say, Who will shew us any good? Lord, lift thou the light of thy countenance upon us.” That is the good, the only good, that my soul desires. But]
In some respects it was faulty—
[Our blessed Lord had often represented the Father as speaking in him, and working by him, and as, in reality, one with him. Indeed, so plainly had he spoken on this subject, that his enemies had repeatedly taken up stones to stone him for blasphemy. They understood him to be affecting an equality with God, yea, and an identity with God: and they were filled with indignation against him on account of it, as an usurpation of the Divine prerogative [Note: John 5:17-18; John 10:30; John 10:33.].” And well they might be indignant, if he was not really God: for, after they had brought the accusation against him, he demanded, in yet stronger terms, their acquiescence in his claims, and their acknowledgment of him under his true and proper character. He told them plainly, that God required all men to “honour the Son, even as they honoured the Father;” that the works which he performed bore ample testimony to him as equal with the Father, because they were wrought, not, like the miracles of others, by a power derived from above, but by a power inherent in himself [Note: John 5:19; John 5:23; John 5:36; John 10:36-38.].
Now, of this the Apostles ought to have been aware: they should not have suffered things of such infinite importance to escape from their memory, or to pass without more minute inquiry into their true meaning: and least of all should they, when informed by their Divine Master in plain terms, “Henceforth ye know the Father, and have seen him,” have questioned the truth of his assertion.
Inasmuch, therefore, as their reply argued a blameable ignorance and inadvertence, it may justly be considered as deserving of reproof.]
Yet nothing could be more mild than,
The reproof administered—
Here let us mark,
How decisive was our Lord’s assertion—
[“Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me?” What words could our Lord have used more clearly declarative of his identity with the Father, than these? The way to estimate the force of them aright will he to put them into the mouth of any of his Apostles, or of any creature whatever. Can we suppose that any created being would use such words, and use them too in a way of reproof, and in answer to such a desire as was here expressed? No: if any creature in the universe dared to arrogate to himself such an identity with the Father, we should instantly unite with the Jews in denouncing him a blasphemer. Moreover, the very circumstance of its being a reply to such a request, and of its being uttered in so emphatical a manner; not as a mere assertion, but a reproof; and not in a way of simple affirmation, but in an appeal to the person reproved; this, I say, gives a weight and force to the words, which nothing can withstand. And, if they do not prove, beyond all reasonable doubt, the divinity of our Lord, we shall in vain look for words capable of expressing such an idea.]
How strong the testimony with which it was confirmed—
[“Believe me, that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.” The repetition of the point before asserted, and of the very words in which it had been asserted, shews the earnestness with which our Lord sought to establish and confirm it. And, if his own testimony to this mysterious truth was thought not sufficient, he was willing to abide by that which was given in his works. Here it is of importance to observe, that, in this appeal to his works, we must clearly understand him as referring to the manner in which they had been wrought: for otherwise there would be no force in his appeal to them; since, if the mere working of miracles were of itself a proof of his identity with the Father, it would prove the same in reference to his Apostles; who, as he foretold, would soon work even greater miracles than any which he had wrought. But no Prophet or Apostle ever professed to work miracles by any power of his own: they utterly disclaimed any such vain and impious conceit [Note: Acts 3:12; Acts 3:16.]: whereas, Jesus, though he spoke of “his Father as doing the works,” spoke of himself as concurring with the Father, in a way of personal and independent exertion [Note: Compare ver. 10. with John 5:17; John 5:19; John 5:21.]. And as this had been his habit from the beginning, he might well expect that his Apostles should have comprehended his meaning, and have been fully satisfied, that he was indeed “the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person [Note: Hebrews 1:3.].”]
We may see from hence,
How slow even the best of men are to apprehend and believe the truths of God—
[After the day of Pentecost, the Apostles had juster views of their Lord and Saviour. They might then say with truth, “We beheld his glory, as the glory of the only-begotten of the Father [Note: John 1:14.].” But, previous to that time, they did not even understand the true nature of his kingdom [Note: Acts 1:6.]: and the answer of Philip clearly shewed that they did not yet fully see him as their incarnate God. And is there not reason to complain that multitudes in this day hear the Gospel, but understand it not; and have the whole counsel of God declared unto them, yet perceive it not? It is perfectly surprising, that persons should have line upon line, precept upon precept, repeated to them for many years together, and yet never attain a distinct knowledge of “the truth as it is in Jesus.” But so it is: and our adorable Lord may yet, with just displeasure, address himself to many amongst us, “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip [Note: This may be illustrated either in the plainer or in the more hidden doctrines of the Gospel, as occasion may require.]?” I pray you, brethren, be more attentive to the blessed truths which from week to week are brought before you; and “give more earnest heed to them, lest in future, as in past times, you let them slip [Note: Hebrews 2:1.].”]
How much infirmity there is mixed even with our best services—
[Certainly, upon the whole, the request of Philip must be considered as an expression of a pious mind. But yet it was full of imperfection. And who that examines his prayers, either in public or in private, must not blush at the recollection of the infirmities that have attended them? Were they all scrutinized, and weighed, as it were, in a balance, how defective would they all be found! Had Philip’s error not been pointed out, he would probably have taken credit to himself as deserving the highest commendation: whereas his words rather merited reproof. Let us not, then, be too confident respecting any of our services as pleasing and acceptable to God. At all events, let us bear in mind that they are attended with many imperfections; and that, “if God were to call us into judgment for them, we could not answer him for one of a thousand.”]
What reason we have to bless our God, who has provided us with such a Saviour—
[It is not a mere man, no, nor the first of all created beings, that is appointed to be a Saviour to us: but it is our incarnate God, “Jehovah’s Fellow [Note: Zechariah 13:7.],” “God over all, blessed for evermore [Note: Romans 9:5.].” Hear ye this, and rejoice, all ye who feel your guilt and helplessness! It is “God who has purchased the Church with his own blood [Note: Acts 20:28.]:” it is God who has wrought out a righteousness for his believing people [Note: Daniel 9:24.Jeremiah 23:6; Jeremiah 23:6.]: He, “in whom all the fulness of the Godhead dwells [Note: Colossians 2:9.],” has in him “a fulness treasured up for us,” out of which we are to receive, according to our diversified necessities, “even grace for grace [Note: Colossians 1:19. with John 1:16.].” Have you, then, seen Christ, known Christ, received Christ? You have seen, and known, and received the Father also. If Christ be dwelling in you, then does the Father also dwell in you: and, if you are one with Christ, then are you one with the Father also. Know ye this, my brethren, that He who has said, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth,” has added, for your encouragement, “for I am God, and none else [Note: Isaiah 45:22.].” Go on your way, therefore, rejoicing in him; and let this be your song and boast, “In the Lord Jehovah have I righteousness and strength [Note: Isaiah 45:24.].”]
CHRIST ENGAGES TO ANSWER PRAYER
John 14:13-14. Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
THE Gospel is properly termed “glad tidings of great joy:” it finds men guilty; and reveals to them a way in which their iniquities may be pardoned: it finds them polluted; and provides means for their restoration to the Divine image: it finds them altogether destitute; and supplies them with every thing that their souls can desire. The words before us are fully decisive on this point: they were addressed, indeed, by our Lord, to his own immediate Disciples only: but they must not be confined to any individuals of any age: they were intended for the whole world. As referring to the persons to whom they were addressed, they may be considered as including a promise of miraculous powers: but, as extending to us, they unequivocally engage that we shall possess all that we pray for, provided we ask for it in Jesus’ name.
That we may more fully enter into the scope and meaning of them, we will shew,
To what extent Jesus will answer prayer—
Our blessed Lord is appointed of the Father to answer prayer—
[It was a part of the reward bestowed on him as Mediator, that he should have the whole universe subjected to his dominion [Note: Philippians 2:6-11.]. For this end, every thing, upon his ascension to heaven, was committed into his hands; that as “a Prince” he might subdue his enemies, and as “a Saviour” he might secure the happiness of his believing people [Note: Acts 5:31.]. He was in a more especial manner constituted “Head over all things to his Church [Note: Ephesians 1:21.],” and furnished with an inexhaustible fulness of all good [Note: Colossians 1:19.], that he might communicate to all according to their respective necessities [Note: John 1:16. Ephesians 1:22.]. He received gifts himself, in order that he might communicate them unto men [Note: Comp. Psalms 68:18. with the Apostle’s citation of it, Ephesians 4:8.]: and he will impart them to all who pray to the Father in his name.]
Nor is there any limit to his bounty in answering it—
[In our own name it is impossible to approach God: he is a holy God; and we are altogether filthy and abominable: and of this our unworthiness we ought to be deeply sensible: but at the same time we should have such a view of Christ’s worthiness, as emboldens us to expect the most favourable acceptance with God for his sake. We should come trusting in his sacrifice, and pleading the merit of his blood, This is indispensable in all our addresses at the throne of grace. We must not think of asking for any thing, but in His name [Note: This is twice mentioned in the text; and frequently elsewhere. See John 15:16; John 16:23-24; John 16:26.]. But if we have a becoming respect to him, we need not be straitened in our requests to God: we may “open our mouths wide, and he will fill them.” Of course, a person thus humbled with a sense of his own sinfulness, and thus exercising faith m the Lord Jesus, will desire nothing but what is agreeable to the Divine will: that limit to his prayers he himself will readily assign [Note: 1 John 5:14.]: he will take the promises as the legitimate standard of his petitions: and, so doing, he needs not be afraid of asking too much: the repeated declarations of Christ shall be literally fulfilled: “Whatsoever he asks, he shall have [Note: Compare Joh 15:7 and Matthew 21:22. with the text.]:” yea, he shall have “exceeding abundantly above all that he can ask or think [Note: Ephesians 3:20.]:” nothing can be so great, but it shall be granted to him; nothing so small, but he shall be heard concerning it. Of this we have repeated assurances from our Lord in the words before us: “Whatsoever ye shall ask, that will I do: if ye shall ask any thing, I will do it.”]
Of the accomplishment of these promises we have the strongest pledge, when he tells us,
For what end he will answer it—
The end for which Jesus left the bosom of the Father was to do his Father’s will [Note: Psalms 40:7-8.]: and during the whole time of his sojourning on earth, he invariably sought, not his own glory, but the glory of Him that sent him [Note: John 5:30; John 8:50.]: and in the last prayer he offered with his Disciples, he desired only to be glorified himself, that he might thereby advance the Father’s glory [Note: John 17:1.]. This same end does he keep in view in answering the prayers that are offered in his name.
The effect of his answers is, that his Father is glorified—
[See what effects were produced by the miraculous powers which he bestowed on his Apostles: multitudes were converted by their ministry: the empire of sin and Satan was weakened: the authority of God was established over the hearts of men: and all the perfections of the Father were magnified and adored. Similar effects are produced by every communication of his grace to the souls of men; who are thereby “turned from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God.” Only trace the change that is wrought in the heart and life of any individual, when the Spirit of God works effectually in his soul, and it will instantly appear how greatly the honour of God is advanced by the answers which our Saviour gives to the prayers of men — — —]
The circumstance of the prayers being answered by him tends also to the glory of God the Father—
[The power of God would appear equally if the prayers were answered by the Father: but not so his other perfections: they are more eminently displayed by that office being vested in the Lord Jesus. By that the justice and holiness of the Father are exalted; inasmuch as men are thereby taught, that God cannot accept a sinner, if coming in his own name, nor reject him, if coming in the name of Jesus: the holiness of God prohibiting all access to him, except through a Mediator; and the justice of God withholding from none the blessings which have been purchased for them by the Saviour’s blood. By that also the love and mercy of God are magnified; in that, when there was no possibility of salvation to our fallen race if left to themselves, God gave his only-begotten Son to obtain salvation for them, and to impart it to them. By that too are the truth and faithfulness of God displayed; because, the promises being given us only in Christ Jesus [Note: 2 Corinthians 1:20. Galatians 3:17.], the accomplishment of them by Christ is an evidence that “with God there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” If it should be thought by any that the delegation of this power to Christ derogates from the honour of the Father, let him know, that God the Father accounts himself then alone honoured, when equal honour is given to his co-equal, co-eternal Son [Note: Philippians 1:11. Joh 5:22-23.].]
Hence then we may see,
Whence it is that so few persons receive answers to prayer—
[Many offer prayers, both in public and private; but they do not pray with that humility, or that faith, which are necessary to procure an answer from God. They do not feel that deep consciousness of their own vileness that makes a Mediator necessary: though they may notionally acknowledge Christ as their Saviour, they do not really feel the impossibility of coming to a holy God in their own name: and consequently they do not depend so entirely on the merits of Christ as the only ground of their hopes; nor do they plead those merits for the acceptance of their prayers, as they ought: hence it is that the Father does not hear their prayers; and that the Lord Jesus does not answer them. If then we would really experience the truth contained in our text, let us seek help from God, that we may be enabled to approach him in that way which alone will prevail for our eternal good — — — Let us also draw nigh to him with that frequency, and delight, which a firm belief in our Saviour’s veracity must produce.]
What they should attend to who have received answers to prayers—
[That which is Christ’s end in answering prayer, ought to be our end when an answer has been obtained; we should seek to glorify our heavenly Father. Do we ask, “How can we glorify him?” I answer, “In bringing forth much fruit [Note: John 15:8.].” Holy tempers, and a life devoted to the service of God, are the proper fruits of grace received. As a seal stamps its own image on the wax, so does the sealing of the Spirit impress the Divine image on the soul. By this we must judge of answers to prayer. It is not by vain conceits, or transient impressions, that we can judge, but by the practical results. “If we have received Christ Jesus the Lord, we must walk in him, rooted and built up in him;” or, in other words, “we must walk as he walked.” Where such fruits of prayer are wanting, God is grievously dishonoured: it is only by a conformity to Christ in all his dispositions and actions that we can approve ourselves his Disciples. Beware then how you substitute the reveries of enthusiasm for the holiness of the Gospel: “He that doeth righteousness, (as every Disciple of Christ must,) is righteous, even as he is righteous.”]
THE GIFT OF THE SPIRIT AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO OBEDIENCE
John 14:15-17. If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth: whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
IT has pleased God to unite man’s happiness with his duty, and to ordain, that the paths of righteousness alone should be paths of pleasantness and peace. Hence our Lord, in his last discourse, wherein he laboured more abundantly to comfort his Disciples, insisted on obedience to his commandments as the best proof of their attachment to him, and the best means of securing blessings from above: yea, when he was informing them how richly the loss of his bodily presence should be overbalanced by the indwelling of the Spirit in their hearts, he first reminds them, that this benefit was inseparably connected with holiness of heart and life.
In discoursing on his words, we shall consider,
The promise made by Christ to his obedient Disciples—
Our Lord requires all his followers to “keep his commandments”—
[The believer is said to be “dead to the law;” but though dead to it as a covenant, he is as much alive to it as ever as a rule of life. The marriage connexion which once subsisted between him and it, is dissolved: but it is only dissolved, “that he may be married to another, even to the Lord Jesus Christ, and through him may, in the quality of his Spouse, be enabled to “bring forth fruit unto God [Note: Romans 7:4.].” The obeying of Christ’s commandments is the only satisfactory evidence that he can give of his love to Christ. In fact, to his latest hour he must try himself by this test. All the professions in the world will be regarded as hypocrisy, if destitute of this evidence and this support. Obedience and love are inseparable from each other. Love without obedience is no better than dissimulation, as obedience without love is mere servile drudgery. The command therefore here given to the Disciples, must be considered as given to all the followers of Christ in all ages.]
To those who follow this injunction he gives the most encouraging of all promises—
[His Disciples were now about to lose his presence by reason of his removal to the worlds above. But he promised, that, “if they would obey his commandments, he would pray the Father for them, and that the Father would send them another Comforter to abide with them for ever.” And here let me observe, that the Holy Spirit is represented by him, not as a quality, or operation, but as a distinct Person: not as a Comfort, but a Comforter; who should come from the Father, in answer to the intercessions of the Son, and abide in the bosoms of God’s obedient people. Yes, as in the days of old, God, by the bright cloud, the Shechinah, the symbol of his presence, abode first in the tabernacle, and afterwards in the temple, so will the Spirit of God now descend and dwell in the hearts of Christ’s obedient followers, displaying before them his glory, and imparting to them his blessings to the full extent of all their diversified necessities. They, like the Apostles, are subjected to trials, and called both to act and suffer for their Lord: but the Holy Spirit shall give to them all needful succour and support, and make them more than conquerors over all their oppressors. Never for one moment will he leave them, till he has accomplished in them all that God of his unbounded love and mercy has ordained for them.]
Enlarging on this promise, our Lord shews his Disciples,
What a distinguished blessing they are privileged to enjoy—
This divine Comforter is known to none but Christ’s obedient followers—
[“The world knows him not, nor can, in fact, receive him.” As “the Spirit of truth” he spake in all the prophets: but the ungodly world cast his word behind their backs. In the days of our Lord they did the same. The same also they did when he spake by the Apostles. And the same they do at this day. For want of a spiritual discernment, “they see him not:” for want of an enlightened understanding, “they know him not:” and for want of holy dispositions, they neither do, “nor can receive him.” Their hearts are closed against him: and are so full of corrupt affections, that he could not endure to make his abode with them. If for a moment he enter as a Spirit of conviction, he cannot possibly abide there as a Spirit of consolation. But to the obedient followers of Christ he comes with all his glorious manifestations and endearments. In their hearts he “sheds abroad the love of God:” to them he “witnesses their adoption into God’s family:” and he is in them “an earnest of their eternal inheritance.”]
In all this the distinction between them and the ungodly world is incalculably great—
[Mark the contrast as it is here drawn by our Lord himself, between the obedient and the disobedient Christian. The one is benefited by the Saviour’s intercession; the other not. The one has received the Holy Ghost; the other not. The one has an experimental acquaintance with the Spirit of truth; the other scarcely “knows whether there be any Holy Ghost,” or, if he do, he has no delight in any thing that he knows respecting him. The one has the Spirit dwelling in him as a Comforter; the other, instead of experiencing the Spirit’s consolations, cannot so much as know or receive them. The one has all the persons of the ever-blessed Trinity interesting themselves in his behalf; the other has God, even the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, for his enemy. The world may ridicule these things as enthusiasm, if they will: but they are the true sayings of God. And I pray God, that these thoughts may be laid to heart by every one here present: for, as God is true, no man shall dwell with God in heaven, who has not first had the Spirit of God dwelling in him on earth [Note: Romans 8:9.].]
See then here,
The importance of consistency—
[A man professes to love the Saviour, and rests his pretensions on some internal feelings and conceits of his own, whilst by his life and conversation he dishonours and denies his Lord. But to every such person our Lord will say, “Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” Beloved brethren, whatever ye may profess, as to Christian principles, or pretend, as to Christian experience, you shall find that saying verified at the last, “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord” — — — Look into the text, I pray you, and see, that our Lord gave these promises on purpose to encourage your obedience. If then you would be partakers of them, treasure them up in your minds, and say, ‘How highly are we privileged! How wonderfully are we made to differ from the world around us! Is there no less than a divine Person sent down to dwell in us as our Comforter? Have we a Comforter, whom none but a chosen few are qualified to receive? And is this marvellous gift bestowed upon us in answer to our Saviour’s intercessions? Shall we not then testify in every possible way our love to him? Has he done such things for us, unasked, and shall we not do for him the things which he commands?’ This is the consistency that he requires: and this alone will be accepted as any proof of your love to him.]
The benefit of self-devotion—
[We suppose that some of you at least are giving up yourselves to the Lord in a way of holy and unreserved obedience: look up then to heaven, and there you may see the Saviour interceding for you. There too you may see the Holy Spirit of God just ready to come down at the very first intimation of the Father’s will, to take possession of your bosom, and to make your soul his habitation. From thence will he come with all his consolations and supports, so that there shall be nothing in the whole universe able to depress you, or to stop your progress in the divine life. With him shall you enjoy the sweetest fellowship, such as no worldly man can have the least idea of; and by him you shall be progressively prepared for the enjoyment of your God in heaven. Only wait on the Saviour in the way of his appointment; and his promises shall he fulfilled to you in all their boundless extent. You have seen how they were accomplished to the Apostles, and in what felicity they issued: and to those who trust in them, not one jot or tittle of them shall ever fail.]
OUR LIFE DEPENDENT ON THE LIFE OF CHRIST
John 14:19. Because I live, ye shall live also.
AMONGST the various sources of consolation which our Lord opened to his Disciples, to support them under the disappointment that would be occasioned by his death, a very principal one seems to have been, that they themselves would be greatly benefited by his departure: for that he would send to them his Spirit, who should more than supply the want of his bodily presence; and that he himself would more effectually advance their eternal interests than he could do if he were to continue upon earth. He assures them, that though dead as to the body, he would still live; and that, “because he lived, they should live also.”
From this declaration of his we shall make two inquiries;
What connexion has the life of Christ with his people’s life—
Those who are not altogether ignorant of Christ are yet more apt to think of him as a dying, than as a risen Saviour; whereas his life is not at all less connected with our salvation than his death.
His life is the ground and confirmation of all our hopes—
[What do we most wish to be assured of, in reference to Christ? We wish to know that he was indeed the Son of God, and not a common man—that he was sent of God on purpose to redeem a ruined world—and that what he did and suffered for us has been accepted in our behalf. These are points of infinite importance, and that lie at the foundation of all our hopes. But by the resurrection of Christ they are all clearly and satisfactorily ascertained: “By that he was declared to be the Son of God with power [Note: Romans 1:4.]:” by that was the sign, which above all others he himself appealed to in proof of his divine mission, fulfilled [Note: Matthew 12:38; Matthew 12:40.]: and by that is the acceptance of his sacrifice made known, since the release of our Surety is an undeniable evidence that our debt is paid [Note: Romans 4:25.].
Hence the testimony borne by the Apostles to the resurrection of Christ, was considered as a complete and sufficient proof of every thing that they asserted respecting him.”]
It is also a pledge and earnest of all our joys—
[Do we feel happiness in the thought of our being made partakers of eternal life, and in the prospect of a speedy possession of it? Behold him risen, him ascended, him seated at the right hand of God: in what capacity enjoys he all this exaltation? As a mere individual? No: but as the Head and Representative of all his people: in his resurrection, he is “the first-fruits” of which there remains a whole harvest to be gathered [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:20.]: in his ascension, he is gone as “our Forerunner,” “to prepare a place for us [Note: Hebrews 6:20. John 14:2.]:” and even enthroned as he is at the right hand of the Majesty on high, he sits not there alone; for we, though personally on earth, are mystically “made at this very hour, to sit with him in heavenly places in Christ Jesus [Note: Ephesians 2:6.].”
What then is his life but a pledge of ours, or rather an earnest? since it not only assures to us a future blessedness, but is itself the very commencement of our bliss?]
But the expression in our text intimates, that the life of Christ is not merely intimately but also inseparably, connected with the life of his people.
Let us proceed therefore to notice,
What security it affords them that they shall live— Here let it be considered how our Lord is occupied, and what he has engaged to do for his believing people:
He intercedes for them—
[As the high-priest, after offering his sacrifice, went within the vail to sprinkle the blood upon the mercy-seat, and to burn incense before it, so did our Lord ascend to heaven on purpose to complete the work he had begun, and to offer continual intercession for us at the right hand of God. Now we are assured that “him the Father heareth always;” and consequently the benefits of his intercession cannot but be poured out on all his people. Hence there is peculiar stress laid on this act of his, as ensuring to us the benefits of his death [Note: Hebrews 7:25.Romans 8:34; Romans 8:34.]. His death indeed is represented as making the atonement for our sins, and reconciling us to God; but it is his resurrection to a life of glory in heaven, that completes our justification, and perfects our salvation [Note: Romans 4:25; Romans 5:10; Romans 8:34.].]
He works effectually in them—
[By his Spirit he yet dwells in all his saints [Note: See ver. 17, 18.]: and he has engaged that “his grace shall be sufficient for them,” so that the weakest of them all shall be “enabled to do all things through his strength” communicated to them [Note: Philippians 4:13.]. It is this which renders them invincible: “their life is hid with Christ in God;” yea, “Christ himself is their life;” and therefore, when he shall appear in his glory, they will assuredly appear there with him [Note: Colossians 3:3-4.].]
He will come at last, and take them to himself—
[When they shall have fought the good fight of faith, and gained the victory over all their spiritual enemies, they will not be forgotten of him: he will send his angels to bear up their spirits to the realms of bliss; and in due time he will restore also their bodies to life; that, in a re-embodied state, they may inherit the kingdom prepared for them. This assurance he gave to his Disciples in the preceding context [Note: ver. 3.]; and when, by that event, death shall be swallowed up in victory, then will the promise in our text be finally accomplished; and their life of grace will be completed in a life of glory.]
Behold what encouragement this subject affords to all;
To believe on Christ—
[Were Christ unconnected with us in his present state, we might well doubt the expediency of putting our trust in him: but when we are informed that his almighty power is always occupied in forwarding our salvation, we should instantly commit ourselves into his hands, and expect from him all that our necessities can require. Do we, as creatures dead in sin, desire life? or, as persons quickened from the dead, do we desire more life? or, being possessed of life, do we desire an assurance that we shall never lose it? Behold, Jesus, who “came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly,” meets your case with exactly such a promise as you want [Note: John 10:10; John 11:25-26.]—Let me then put the question to you, “Believest thou this?” O beg of God that he would enable you so to do: say, “Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief!”]
To suffer for him—
[Sufferings of some kind you must expect: there is not one of his people but has some cross to bear. You will find too at times that your trials are heavy: but the heavier they are, the more will his power be magnified in you. This thought afforded inexpressible consolation to the Apostle Paul [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:8-10.], and made him even “take pleasure” in his multiplied afflictions [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.]. Your enemies think little respecting Christ as actively engaged in behalf of his people: but in you they shall see his power and grace: and, whilst his death is exhibited in your sufferings, his life shall be manifested in your support [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:11.]. Only take the promise in the text, and you need fear nothing.]
To press forward for universal holiness—
[You are not called to beat the air, or to engage either in an uncertain or an unproductive contest: you have a living Saviour, that is pledged both to give you the victory, and to reward your conflicts. Will you not then fight? Will you leave a sin unmortified, an enemy unsubdued? Gird you to the combat: put on the whole armour of God: quit yourselves like men: and know assuredly, that “your labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.”]
OBEDIENCE THE TEST OF OUR LOVE TO CHRIST
John 14:21. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father; and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
IT is supposed by many, that to profess an assurance of our acceptance with God is the very height of presumption. But, whilst we acknowledge that such a profession may be made very erroneously, and by persons who deceive their own souls, we cannot admit that no such thing as a scriptural assurance exists: on the contrary, we affirm, that a consciousness of so great a change as takes place in conversion cannot but exist in some degree; and that our blessed Lord has taught all his people to expect it: “In that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you [Note: ver. 20.].” If indeed such a persuasion were to be entertained without being subjected to any test, then would it be the most enthusiastic, and most dangerous: but, if we have an infallible rule whereby to try it, then have we no reason to feel that jealousy respecting it, which so generally prevails. The truth is, that in this very passage where our Lord has sanctioned an assurance of our state, he has established a criterion whereby all our professions must be judged: nor, till our experience has been found to accord with that standard, have we any right to expect the rewards and consolations of his Gospel: “He that,” &c.
Now in these words we may see,
How to judge of our love to Christ—
We must not imagine that the adoption of certain sentiments, or the joining of ourselves to a particular set of people, or the manifesting of a regard for public or social ordinances, or the having had great exercises of mind in reference to religion, with many hopes or fears, or joys or sorrows, or the feeling a strong confidence about the safety of our own state, are any certain proofs of love to Christ: these things not only may, but often do, exist, where there is no real love to Christ in the soul. There is one mark, and one only, whereby we can form any decided judgment about the states of men; and that is, “By their fruits ye shall know them:” they alone truly love the Lord Jesus Christ, who manifest a due regard for his commandments:
Who “have them” in their hearts—
[Those who “love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity,” desire a perfect conformity to his mind and will. With this view they study his commandments: they do not read them in a cursory way, but meditate on them, and search into them, and beg of God to open them to their view, and are thankful for any light that may be cast upon them, even though their own conduct should thereby be condemned. Having obtained a deeper insight into them, they treasure up the welcome truth in their minds, and “hide it in their hearts,” as a rule of their conduct, “that they may no longer sin against him.” “They account not any one of them grievous,” but approve of them in their utmost extent, and “pant” after a more entire conformity to them, and long to “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God [Note: Psalms 119:127-128; Psalms 119:131. This last verse beautifully expresses the ardent longing of his soul to be conformed to them.].” They would not willingly have “a thought, that should not be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”]
Who “keep them” in their lives—
[Those who truly love Christ will be always “walking in the way of his commandments.” Do you inquire into their general conduct? you will find them “labouring, not so much for the meat that perisheth, as for that which endureth unto everlasting life:” they will “not be taking thought what they shall eat and drink, and be clothed with, as the poor ignorant Gentiles do; but will seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness;” “not laying up treasures upon earth, but laying them up in heaven.” In “love to the world and the things thereof, they will form a contrast with the ungodly world [Note: 1 John 2:15-16. Romans 12:2.].”
In like manner, if you inquire into their conduct under any particular circumstances, you will know beforehand where to find them: you need only examine the commandments in relation to that subject, and you will know how they will act. You will not expect to find them conceited, selfish, querulous: because they are commanded to “prefer others in honour before themselves;” to “mind, not their own things, but also the things of others;” and “in whatsoever state they are, therewith to be content.” Nor will you expect to find them censorious, passionate, unforgiving, or vindictive; because Christ has bidden them “not to judge others,” or “to say to any one, Thou fool;” but rather to “turn the left cheek to any one that smites them on the right,” and to “forgive him not only seven times, but seventy times seven.”
They are not unlike a mariner that is ordered to cruize in a given latitude. There is no visible object in the ocean to which he directs his way; but he consults his chart, and his compass, and the heavenly bodies, and then makes his observations with all the accuracy that he can. The spot is not so defined, but that a difference of opinion may exist respecting its precise situation: but a skilful mariner will not be far wrong; or, if for a moment he be driven by a storm from the place he should occupy, he will be sensible of his departure, and will make every effort to return to his post again as soon as possible. Thus it is with all that truly love Christ: they have in their hands the means of ascertaining the way that they should walk in: and they use those means with diligence, knowing that any considerable and habitual departure from it will be an impeachment of the sincerity of their love. The commandments indeed, especially in circumstances of expediency, are not always so defined, but that there may be room for difference of opinion respecting the precise line of conduct prescribed by them: but, in relation to the spirit in which we should act, they leave nothing doubtful; they are as clear as the light at noon-day: so that, though a difference of opinion may exist, it never can be such as to occasion any great departure from the path of duty: and as a man, who, being ordered to cruise in a northern latitude, should go to the southern hemisphere, and then maintain that he was in his proper place, would be justly deemed unworthy of any credit as a mariner; so the man who justifies himself in the indulgence of any evil tempers, is unworthy of the name of a Christian: a proud Christian, a passionate Christian, a covetous Christian, a lewd Christian, is as much a contradiction in terms, as an infidel, an idolatrous, or a murderous Christian.]
This is the criterion whereby every man must be judged: and though there are imperfections even in the best, yet this on the whole is the true, the manifest, and the uniform character of all who really love Christ: all others, whatever they may be, only deceive their own souls [Note: 1Jn 5:3 and 1 Corinthians 7:19.].
Our Lord having thus accurately drawn the character of his people, shews us,
What to expect, if we do truly love him—
It is not possible to enlarge our expectations too much, if only we confine them within the promises of God. As surely as we attain this character,
We shall possess his favour—
[Much as “he abhors all the workers of iniquity,” he will retain no unkind thought towards us: on the contrary, “he will love us,” approving our spirit, accepting our services, and “rejoicing over us to do us good [Note: Jeremiah 32:41.Zephaniah 3:17; Zephaniah 3:17.].” The Lord Jesus Christ also says, “And I will love you.” A love of benevolence he felt towards us when we were yet enemies; but now he will feel a love of complacency, even such a love as shall make him attentive to our every want, our every concern — — —
Of course, it must here be supposed, that our obedience to his commandments proceeds from proper principles; not from a desire of establishing a righteousness of our own, but from a grateful sense of his redeeming love, and from a zeal for his glory: if this be not the case, our best efforts will be even hateful both to the Father and to Christ, inasmuch as they are substituted in the place of that atoning blood of Christ, which alone can cleanse us from all sin: but if our obedience be pure in its principle, uniform in its tenour, and impartial in its extent, then shall it surely be accepted for Christ’s sake, and be rewarded with the everlasting favour of our God [Note: See John 16:27.].]
We shall have the present manifestations of it to our souls—
[There are manifestations of God to the soul, which the world have no idea of. In reading of the word, in prayer, in meditating on the promises, God will take away the veil from our hearts, and discover himself to us, and lift up the light of his countenance upon us, and “shed abroad his love in our hearts.” By the communications of his Spirit to us, he will enable us to cry, Abba, Father; he will witness with our spirits that we are his children; he will give us an earnest of our inheritance, even the present foretaste of heaven itself in our souls.
Our Lord, when interrogated by Judas, confirmed this truth by repeated asseverations, and repeatedly also confirmed what he had spoken respecting the character of those to whom these blessings should be vouchsafed [Note: ver. 22–24.]. We may be assured therefore, that to expect these manifestations is no presumption; but, on the contrary, they are the proper portion of all who love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.]
From this subject we may clearly see, that religion is,
A holy thing—
[That there are those who profess religion and yet grievously dishonour it by their conduct, is a melancholy truth; and that the prejudices of many against religion are hereby greatly strengthened, is also true: but religion is no more accountable for the inconsistencies of those who profess it, than reason is for the follies of those who pervert it. What is the true tendency of love to Christ, has already appeared: and every one must try his professions by that test.
I would solemnly call upon all those who are habitually violating any one commandment, to remember, that all their pretended love to Christ is mere hypocrisy and delusion: and the more confident they are of their own acceptance with him, the more they deceive their own souls [Note: 1 John 2:3-4. Who would have thought that such persons as are here described, exist? Yet they do exist. Compare the concluding words of this passage with the words immediately preceding the text. See also Jam 1:26 and Matthew 7:16-23.].
And all who are in a measure shewing forth their faith by their works, I would exhort to abound more and more; that, “making their light to shine more bright, they may constrain all around them to glorify their heavenly Father.”]
A happy thing—
[As there are unholy, so are there also unhappy professors of religion. But shall we therefore conclude, that Christ will not fulfil his promises to his loving and obedient people; or that there are any circumstances under which his presence with the soul cannot make it happy?]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on John 14". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
Eve of Ascension