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CHRISTIANS BRANCHES OF THE TRUE VINE
John 15:1-2. I am the vine, and my Father is the husband-man. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
THE union which subsists between Christ and his Church is mysterious: the Scripture sets it forth both in figurative and plain expressions. It is spoken of not as a speculative or doubtful point, but as well known [Note: John 14:20.]. It is declared in the text under a beautiful similitude:
Christ is the vine—
If this was a continuation of our Lord’s discourse, the idea of a vine might arise from what he had just before said respecting the fruit of the vine [Note: Luke 22:18.]: if it was spoken in his way to the Mount of Olives, it might be suggested by his passing through a vineyard. The representation respects Christ not personally, but as united to his Church.
In this view it fitly exhibits our union with him—
[This union is not natural to any. We are, by nature, plants of a degenerate vine [Note: Jeremiah 2:21.]: we are, however, separated from it by Almighty power [Note: Ephesians 1:19-20.], and are made willing to be united to Christ [Note: Psalms 110:3.]: we are then engrafted into Christ by the Spirit on God’s part, and by faith on ours [Note: Ephesians 3:16-17.]. Thus we become branches of the true vine; and the union, when formed, is intimate and inseparable [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:17. Romans 8:35; Romans 8:39.].]
It expresses, moreover, our dependence on him—
[A branch derives all its fructifying power from the root: so believers receive all their grace out of Christ’s fulness [Note: John 1:16.]. Hence it is that Christ is so precious to them [Note: 1 Peter 2:7.]: hence, too, they determine to live entirely by faith on him [Note: Galatians 2:20.].]
The Father is the husbandman—
The husbandman has many offices to perform—
[He engrafts the scions, digs about them and dungs them, guards them from the weather, prunes the luxuriant branches, &c.]
The Father performs these offices—
[He chooses (but not for their superior goodness) what scions he will: he separates them from their stock by the means he judges best: he engrafts them, in his own time and manner, into the new stock: he continues to promote their good by his word, his Spirit, and his providence: he separates or combines, renews or changes, the various means of culture, as he sees occasion.]
His treatment of the branches is suited to their state—
There are “branches in Christ,” which are so only in appearance—
[They have never been thoroughly separated from their old stock: they have never been truly engrafted into Christ. The change wrought in them has been only partial: they bring not forth such fruit as the living branches do.]
These the Father “taketh away”—
[They are a disgrace to the vine, and to the husbandman himself: he, however, exercises forbearance towards them [Note: Luke 13:8-9.]. His culture of them, in the meantime, shews their unfruitfulness to be of themselves [Note: Isaiah 5:4.]; but he will ere long separate them from the others. He will take them away, in order to burn them [Note: ver. 6.]. How fearful should we be lest we be found such branches at last! And how carefully should we examine our fruit, in order that we may not be self-deceived [Note: Matthew 7:17-20.]!]
There are other branches, which are vitally united to Christ—
[They manifest that they are so, by the fruits which they produce.]
These the husbandman purges and prunes—
[Notwithstanding their fruitfulness, they need the pruning-knife. Afflictions have a tendency to make them more fruitful. God therefore sends them afflictions of various kinds. This he does to “every one of them [Note: Hebrews 12:6-8.]:” he even promises affliction to them as a blessing [Note: Jeremiah 30:11. with Hebrews 12:10-11.].]
Let us then INQUIRE whether we be living branches of the true vine—
[Let us study to answer the ends of all his care. If we be indeed fruitful branches, let us welcome affliction as a blessing in disguise. Let us, above all, seek to be confirmed in our union to Christ, and our dependence on him [Note: Colossians 2:6-7.].]
OUR IMPOTENCY WITHOUT CHRIST
John 15:5. Without me ye can do nothing.
THE various systems of heathen philosophers were all calculated to confirm the pride of man: the tendency of the Gospel, on the contrary, is to humble and abase the soul. Its sublimest doctrines are by far the most humiliating. The sovereignty of God, for instance, annihilates, as it were, our fancied greatness; and the atonement of Christ brings to naught our boasted goodness. Thus the mysterious doctrine of union with Christ proclaims our insufficiency for any thing that is good. Our blessed Lord declares this, first by a comparison [Note: ver. 4.], and then in plain terms, “Without me ye can do nothing.”
In discoursing upon this assertion, I will,
In explaining the words of Scripture we must take care not to strain them beyond their obvious meaning. These must evidently be understood in a qualified sense:
They must not be understood in reference to things which come within the province of the natural man—
[A natural man has the same faculties and powers as a spiritual man: his understanding is as capable of comprehending common subjects, or of investigating the depths of human sciences: his will and affections are as capable of being exercised on objects according to their quality, as much as ever they will be when he shall be converted to God: and his memory is as retentive as that of any other man. A spiritual man has no advantage over him in these respects. Consequently, our Saviour’s assertion must not be interpreted as extending to things purely intellectual, or even moral: since, beyond a doubt, a natural man may either do or forbear many things which come under the designation of morals.]
They refer exclusively to what is spiritual—
[There are different gradations or different kinds, of life, if I may so speak: there is a vegetative life, an animal life, a rational life, and a spiritual life: and the powers of each are limited to its own order: a thing which vegetates, is not capable of animal exertion; nor is an animal capable of exercising the faculties of reason; nor does the rational man comprehend or enjoy what is spiritual. If any one order of being will affect the offices of that above it, it must first attain the powers of that superior order: for without the powers suited to the object, its efforts will be in vain. There is indeed this point of difference between the different kinds of life. The three first differ in their nature: but the last differs only in the application of powers previously possessed. Yet is the last called a new nature, because it is produced in the soul by the Spirit of God, who “opens the eyes of the understanding,” constrains the will, and purifies the affections, and thus, in fact, makes the person so changed, “a new creature [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:17. with 2 Peter 1:4.].”
But our Lord’s illustration will place the matter in the clearest light.
“Christ is a vine: his people are the branches;” and by virtue derived from him they are enabled to bear fruit. If a branch be broken off from a vine, it can no more bear fruit: it has nothing in itself independent of the stem; and, if separated from the stem, it must wither and die. So we, if separated from, or not united with, the Lord Jesus Christ, are incapable of bearing fruit; because we have nothing in ourselves independent of him, and have no means of deriving grace and strength from him. In respect of natural actions, we can effect all which nature qualifies us to effect: but in respect of spiritual exertions, we are incapable of them; because, in consequence of our separation from Him, we are destitute of all spiritual life and power.]
This is, as clearly as I can state it, the import of our Lord’s assertion, I shall now proceed to,
I grant, that in itself the assertion is very broad and unqualified: but in the sense in which it has been explained, it may be fully vindicated:
[Throughout all the Holy Scriptures man is represented as dependent upon God for the communications of his grace. In himself he has nothing but evil [Note: Genesis 6:5.]: his whole soul is corrupt [Note: Jeremiah 17:9.]: and he must have “the heart of stone taken away, and an heart of flesh given him,” before he can keep the commandments of his God [Note: Ezekiel 36:26-27.]. So far is this carried, that the natural man is declared to be incapable of performing a good act [Note: Jeremiah 13:23.], or uttering in a becoming manner a good word [Note: 1 Corinthians 12:3.Matthew 12:34; Matthew 12:34.], or entertaining with real approbation a good thought [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:5. with 2 Corinthians 8:16.]. And with this statement our Church fully accords, when, in addressing Jehovah, it says, “O God, from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed.” As far as the Scripture testimony therefore is admitted, the point is clear; and our Saviour’s declaration is fully justified.]
[Where shall we find one from the beginning of the world to this hour, who ever served God but by a power derived immediately from God [Note: Hosea 14:8.]? If any one think he have a power in himself to do good works, let him consult the tenth Article of our Church, which says, “The grace of God by Christ prevents us, that we may have a good will; and worketh with us when we have that good will.” Or let him rather try what he can effect by any power of his own. Go, and get your soul filled with love to God; or with hatred of sin; or with a contempt for this present evil world and all that is in it: go, determine to do these things; and then carry them into effect: and then we will confess that what our Saviour has affirmed is not true. There is not any one, I apprehend, who will not acknowledge three things necessary to the salvation of his soul; namely, repentance, faith, and obedience. Go then, and repent with real contrition, and unfeigned self-lothing and self-abhorrence. Go, and work up your soul also to faith in Christ, so as to flee to him, and rely upon him, and cleave to him, and glory in him as all your salvation and all your desire. Go too, and get your whole soul cast into the mould of the Gospel, so as to delight in every part of God’s revealed will, and to and all your happiness in the performance of it. Do anyone of these things, and we will confess, either that the word of God is altogether false, or at least that it is so expressed, as to mislead every person who endeavours to understand it. But I will not require so much at your hands. Only go home from this place, and fall upon your knees in your secret chamber before God, and for one half hour pour out your soul before him in fervent supplications for mercy, and in devout thanksgivings for all the blessings of redemption as set before you in the Gospel. Put this matter to a trial: see whether you can effect even this small matter by any power of your own. I am not afraid to abide the test of this experiment, and to constitute this whole assembly judges in their own cause. If then not so much as one amongst you is able to do this small thing, know every one of you that the declaration in my text is true.]
Those who are yet without Christ—
[Truly, whilst you are “without Christ,” you are “without any scriptural hope” of salvation [Note: Ephesians 2:12.]. Renounce therefore, I pray you, brethren, all confidence in yourselves. That you have brought forth fruit, I confess; but it has been “only wild grapes [Note: Isaiah 5:2-4.].” But it is a far different fruit that God looks for: and in order to bring forth that, you must be cut off from the stock on which you have hitherto grown, and be graffed into Christ [Note: Romans 11:24.]. Seek then to become living branches of the living vine: seek an union with the Lord Jesus Christ by faith: so shall you be enabled to bring forth fruit to his glory, and be approved by the Great Husbandman in the day that he shall come to inspect his vineyard [Note: ver. 1, 2, 6, 8.] — — —]
Those who by faith are united to him—
[Happy, happy are ye: for, as “those who are separate from him can do nothing,” you, on the contrary, by virtue of your union with him can do every thing; as St. Paul has said, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengtheneth me [Note: Philippians 4:13.].” In order to this however you must “abide in him,” just as the branch abideth in the vine. You must be continually “receiving out of his fulness the grace” which your necessities require [Note: John 1:16.]. This life of faith is your wisdom, your happiness, your security [Note: Galatians 2:20.]: and the more entire is your affiance in him, the more will you “be filled with all the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.”]
FRUITFULNESS IN GOOD WORKS
John 15:8. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my Disciples.
IT is not uncommon to hear those who preach or profess the Gospel spoken of as depreciating and disregarding good works. But this is nothing more than what the Gospel itself teaches us to expect: and, if we be not spoken of in a greater or less degree as undervaluing good works, there is reason to fear that we have not yet fully embraced that Gospel which Paul preached. We see it was the objection raised against him, when he proclaimed salvation by faith in Christ; and therefore he took frequent occasion to obviate it, and to shew that it had no real foundation. He abhorred the idea of such a consequence being deduced from the doctrines of grace, and therefore shuddered at the very mention of it: “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid! how shall we, who are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” Yea, he affirms, that however salvation by faith alone may appear to ignorant or prejudiced minds to supersede the necessity of good works, it has directly the opposite tendency: “Do we then make void the law through faith?” says he; “yea, we establish the law.” If the objectors understood aright the nature and office of faith, they would see that nothing but that would secure the performance of good works; since it is by that only that we are united to Christ; and it is only in virtue of that union that we can perform any good work whatever. But, in various other respects, also, is faith favourable to good works. To go no further than the text, we see in these few words two of the strongest inducements to Christian practice that can possibly be imagined; namely, that it conduces most eminently to the glory of God, and evidences most decisively the sincerity of our own souls.
Let fruitfulness in good works be considered then by us in both these points of view:
As glorifying God—
We are not to imagine that any act of ours can really add any thing to the Divine glory: for “our goodness, however it may benefit our fellow-creatures, can never extend to him [Note: Psalms 16:2-3.].” But, as God is pleased frequently to speak of our conduct as reflecting glory upon him, we also may with propriety adopt that language, and say, that our fruitfulness in good works glorifies him; in that it shews,
The proper scope of his Gospel—
[His Gospel was never revealed for the mere purpose of informing our understandings in relation to mysteries which we could never otherwise have known: nor was it revealed for the mere purpose of saving man from perdition. It had a higher and nobler end in view: namely, the destroying of sin, and the restoring of sinners to the Divine image; “The grace of God, which bringeth salvation,” was revealed to “teach us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live righteously, soberly, and godly, in this present world [Note: Titus 2:11-12.].” The gift of Christ as a Saviour was “to save us from our sins [Note: Matthew 1:21.];” delivering us from the present evil world; and purifying unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works [Note: Titus 2:14.].” The gift of the Holy Spirit, also, was “to convince us of the evil and bitterness of sin [Note: John 16:8.];” and to “sanctify us throughout, in body, soul, and spirit [Note: 1 Thessalonians 5:23.].” There is not a promise belonging to it which had not this direct aim in view, that, by laying hold of it, we might “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness, both of flesh and spirit, and perfect holiness in the fear of God [Note: 2 Corinthians 7:1.].”
It is clear, therefore, that the Gospel, as being altogether designed to restore men to the Divine image, does and must reflect the highest glory on Him from whom it proceeds.]
The efficacy of his grace—
[Whatever we had been, even though we had been as perfect as when we first came out of our Creator’s hands, the practice of universal holiness would have been honourable to Him from whom our powers had proceeded; but, considering what creatures we really are, how corrupt and sinful in all our parts, the change wrought in us displays the marvellous efficacy of God’s grace. If a husbandman take good scions, and they all prove fruitful, his skill is displayed and honoured in the estimation of all who behold it. But, suppose he were to take none but dry and withered sticks, and to make all of them fruitful, his honour would be the more exalted, in that he should be able to educe fruits from dead sticks, which in themselves were incapable of producing any. Such honour is the Lord’s when we dead and barren creatures are enabled to bring forth any fruit unto our God. Such “trees of righteousness of the Lord’s planting” do indeed reflect the highest glory upon him [Note: Isaiah 61:3.].]
The blessedness of his salvation—
[Let any one behold a “wilderness made to blossom as the rose, and a desert to become, like Eden, the garden of the Lord;” then he will have some little idea of what is wrought upon the soul by the grace of Christ. See, on the day of Pentecost, the change wrought by a single discourse upon three thousand murderers, whose hands were yet reeking with the Saviour’s blood: Was God not glorified in that? Or let us look amongst ourselves: Are there none of us, who, previous to our reception of the Gospel, were left to shew what was in our hearts, and to manifest that we were altogether “led captive by the devil at his will?” Compare those persons now with their former state of folly and wickedness; and will any one say that the change, though still very imperfect, reflects no glory on the Lord? Let the persons themselves judge: Are ye not happier now than in the days of your unregeneracy? Would ye willingly go back to your former state? Does not every day evince to you the blessedness of the change that has taken place? and can you forbear to honour Him who, by the mighty working of his power, has wrought it in you?]
But let us contemplate fruitfulness in that other view; namely,
As an evidence of our own sincerity—
Our blessed Lord told his Disciples, that “if they should continue in his word, then they should be his Disciples indeed [Note: John 8:31.]. In truth, fruitfulness in good works is that test of sincerity which is,
[All professions without this are vain: “Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things that I say?” “Not every one that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” But if a person manifest a great zeal for divine ordinances, will not that suffice? No: God, speaking by the Prophet Isaiah, says of many of his professing people, “They seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinances of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God. Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? Wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge [Note: Isaiah 58:2-3.]?” Yet these people he proves to have been immersed in the vilest wickedness. By the Prophet Ezekiel, also, he describes the same kind of professors in very striking terms: “Son of man, the children of thy people speak one to another, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the Lord. And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not [Note: Ezekiel 33:30-32.].” Take the favourable part of this description, and you would suppose them all to be very eminent saints: but see the dark part of their character, and they are most detestable hypocrites. In the parable of the sower we have the same truth yet more fully delineated; for persons may bring forth fruit for a season, and prove apostates at last; yea, they may continue to bring forth fruit to the very end of life, and be found at last to have brought forth no such fruit as God will approve; the briers and thorns having so choked the corn, that “it brought forth no fruit to perfection [Note: Matthew 13:20-22.].”
Hence it is clear, that nothing short of “a patient continuance in well-doing” can ever prove us to be truly upright before God. If we would be acknowledged by Christ as his, we must be “Israelites indeed, in whom there is no guile.”]
[Shew me a fruitful Christian, and I inquire not to what Church he belongs, or what be the subordinate tenets of his creed. I know full well that nothing but an union with the Lord Jesus Christ can ever render a man fruitful in good works. Philosophy never could accomplish this; no, nor could the law of Moses, with all its precepts, and promises, and threatenings, effect it. An outward form of religion was all that the law could give: the Gospel alone could supply the power. Hence St. Paul says, “What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin [did; that is, he] condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit [Note: Romans 8:3-4.].” “The law made nothing perfect; but the bringing in of a better hope did [Note: Hebrews 7:11.];.” Yes, the Gospel sanctifies us throughout, in body, soul and spirit, and transforms us altogether into the Divine image in righteousness and true holiness: and that image, enstamped upon the soul, proves to demonstration whose we are. To ourselves it is “an evidence that we have passed from death unto life:” and “by it all others, also, know us to be Christ’s Disciples.”]
You will now be anxious to ASK,
What are those particular fruits, by which we are to judge of our state before God?
[It is not by any particular class of fruits, but by fruits of every kind, that we should judge of our state. There must be “no partiality” in God’s law; “nor any hypocrisy,” in preferring one part of it before another. In all that relates to God, we must be upright; humbling ourselves before him, embracing the salvation he has offered us in Christ Jesus, and devoting ourselves unreservedly to his service — — — In all that relates to our neighbour, we must do unto him exactly as we, in a change of circumstances, should think it right for him to do unto us — — — In all that relates to ourselves, there must be a subjugation of our own passions, a government of our tempers, and an habitual exercise of all holy and heavenly affections — — — The whole circle of the Divine commandments must be our rule of duty; and superadded, as it were, to them must be the whole life of faith on the Son of God, and the whole life of love to him and to his people for his sake. In a word, see what were the fruits which the Vine itself, the Lord Jesus bare; and then you will see what is expected from the branches, and what will prove you to be vitally united to him. Set “Christ before you as an example, and follow his steps;” and you will need no other directory whereby to prove you are his Disciples.]
What encouragement have I to address myself to this laborious undertaking?
[If I were to say, that in so doing you will save your souls alive, I should speak what would be amply sufficient to encourage you. But what if I should say, that God would be glorified in you? Would you need more than that, to animate your endeavours? I do say it then, yes, and declare it most confidently, that in proportion as you are fruitful in good works, you will glorify your God. This is the uniform declaration of the inspired volume [Note: Ephesians 2:10.] — — — and on this is grounded that exhortation of our blessed Lord, “So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven [Note: Matthew 5:16.].”]
THE FATHER’S LOVE TO CHRIST, AND CHRIST’S TO US
John 15:9. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
REASON could never suggest motives sufficient to counteract the passions: the law of God itself, with all its sanctions, could not change the heart. The Gospel alone can make sin odious, and holiness delightful. It effects this by revealing to us the love of Christ [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:14.]. Hence our Lord reminds us of his love in order to confirm our love to him.
The nature and extent of Christ’s love to us—
The comparison in the text denotes not equality, but resemblance [Note: Matthew 5:48.]. The love of Christ to us, like that of his Father to him, is,
There never was a period when the Father first began to love his Son—
[He loved him before his entrance on his ministry [Note: Matthew 3:17.], before his existence in the world [Note: John 1:18.], before Isaiah’s time [Note: Isaiah 42:1.], from all eternity [Note: In this sense many commentators explain Proverbs 8:22-23; Proverbs 8:30 : and if that interpretation be admitted, the eternity of Christ’s love may be confirmed by ver. 9. But, however this passage be interpreted, the fact itself stands on the most unquestionable authority. John 17:24.].]
There never was a period when Christ first began to love us—
[His love is first manifested when we believe in him. But our faith in him is the effect, not the cause, of his love to us. This is affirmed by the prophets [Note: Jeremiah 31:3.Ezekiel 16:6; Ezekiel 16:6.], and by Christ himself [Note: John 15:16.].]
The Father’s love to Christ was unbounded—
[He is one with Christ in nature, and therefore in affection [Note: John 10:30.]. He has shewn the greatness of his love to him, in the gifts bestowed upon him [Note: John 3:35.Colossians 1:19; Colossians 1:19.], and in his constant co-operation with him [Note: John 5:19-20.].]
Christ’s love to us is also boundless—
[It produces most astonishing acts of kindness towards us [Note: Ephesians 5:25.Revelation 1:5-6; Revelation 1:5-6.]. Human affections fall far short of it [Note: Isaiah 49:15-16.]. It “passess all knowledge,” whether of men or angels.]
The Father’s love to Christ was unchangeable—
[His love seems to have been withdrawn for a season [Note: Matthew 27:46.]: he seemed not to answer his prayers [Note: Luke 22:42; Luke 22:44.]: but he heard him always [Note: John 11:42.], and loved him always. The apparent suspensions of his love were the necessary means of accomplishing the purposes of his love even towards Christ himself [Note: Hebrews 2:10.].]
Christ’s love to us also is unchangeable—
[There are seasons when he seems to withdraw his love. But his chastisements are tokens of his love [Note: Hebrews 12:6.]. He hates sin indeed, and will correct his people till they put it away: but he will not withdraw his love from them [Note: Psalms 89:31-33.]. Wherever he fixes his love, he rests unalterably in it [Note: Zephaniah 3:17.].]
The Father’s love to Christ shall endure for ever—
[He has given him a pledge of this in his exaltation to heaven.]
Christ’s love to us shall also be everlasting—
[He knows no change of mind with respect to what He has bestowed [Note: Romans 11:29.]. Whomsoever he loves he continues to love [Note: John 13:1.]. This truth is a just ground of joy and confidence [Note: Romans 8:35; Romans 8:38-39.].]
What returns can we ever make to Christ for such amazing love?
The duty resulting from it—
This part of the text requires application rather than discussion—
It sets before us, not merely our privilege (which is, to continue in a sense of Christ’s love to us) but our duty;
To love Christ—
[This would have been our duty, though he had not so loved us. But the obligation to it is greatly increased by his love. Let him then he exceeding precious to us. Let us despise every thing in comparison of him [Note: Philippians 3:8.].]
To continue in love to him—
[We are too apt to decline in our love [Note: Matthew 24:12.]. But declensions, however secret, are very offensive [Note: Revelation 2:4.]. They will, if continued in, disqualify us for heaven [Note: Luke 9:62.]: they will reduce us to a worse situation than ever [Note: 2 Peter 2:22.]. Let us therefore cleave to the Lord with full purpose of heart [Note: Acts 11:23.].]
To abound in all acts and offices of love to him—
[In secret, let us contemplate, admire, and adore his excellencies: in public, let us confess, honour, and obey him [Note: Matthew 10:32. Joh 14:21.].]
It commends to us that duty as resulting from the declaration that precedes it—
[The love of Christ towards us is the strongest of all motives to the love of him. Was Christ’s love to us so unmerited, unbounded, invariable, and lasting? and shall ours to him be weak and transient? Let it operate then suitably on all our hearts. Let us not rest satisfied with what we have attained [Note: Philippians 3:12-13.]. Let us meditate on his love as the means of increasing ours [Note: Ephesians 3:18-19.].]
CHRISTIANITY INTENDED TO PROMOTE OUR HAPPINESS
John 15:11. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
THOUGH every possible perfection was exhibited in its brightest colours in the person of our Lord, yet the most striking feature of his character was benevolence. Like the sun in its course, he diffused blessings wherever he went, and laboured with indefatigable zeal to promote the good of mankind. By his discourses as well as by his miracles he sought to advance the happiness of his followers. In the passage before us he assures his Disciples that this was the one end of the instructions he had given them. That we may improve this gracious declaration, let us inquire,
What things he had spoken to them—
We do not apprehend that he refers to his discourses in general, but to the things which he had been just uttering—
The doctrinal part of what he had spoken related to their union with him—
[He illustrates their union with him by the similitude of a vine and its branches; and informs them that their fruitfulness in good works depended entirely upon their receiving of grace from him [Note: ver. 1–6.]. This is the most sublime, and the most important doctrine of our holy religion. It is, alas! too commonly overlooked, even by those who think themselves well versed in the truths of Christianity. It does not so much as enter into the mind of Christians in general. They have no idea what is meant by an union with the Lord Jesus Christ. They have some general notion that we are to be saved by him; but, in what manner, they know not. But this doctrine cannot be too attentively considered, seeing that it is the very corner-stone of our religion — — — the one means of procuring us an interest in Christ — — — and the only method by which we can derive any blessings from him — — —]
The preceptive part directed them how to secure the full advantages of that union—
[Some might possibly infer from the foregoing representation, that the Disciples of Christ were secure by virtue of their union with him, even though they should not exert themselves at all in the way of duty. He therefore cautions his Disciples against any such mistake. He bids them to “abide” in him by the continual exercise of faith, and to approve themselves to him by a diligent observance of his commandments [Note: ver. 4, 10.]. These injunctions mark the duty of all his followers. If on the one hand we must not depend on ourselves, but receive continual supplies of grace out of his fulness; so neither on the other hand are we to be supine as though we had nothing to do. We must go to him in fervent prayer — — — rely upon him with unshaken affiance — — — and labour to serve him with our whole hearts — — —]
After having delivered these instructions our Lord condescended to declare,
For what end he spake them—
The slightest alteration in our translation of the text will both remove an appearance of tautology, and suggest some very important reflections [Note: Construe ἐν ὑμῖν with ἡ χαρὰ ἡ ἐμὴ—“My joy in you.”]—
Our Lord desired to confirm the joy that he and his Disciples mutually communicated and received—
[Our Lord rejoiced exceedingly in his Disciples, even as a bridegroom over his bride [Note: See the figurative representations, Luke 15:4; Luke 15:9; Luke 15:24. but especially Isaiah 62:5.]. His delight in all his people is as great as language can possibly express [Note: Isaiah 65:18-19. Zephaniah 3:17.]. As a mother forgets her pangs when she beholds her first-born, so is our Lord satisfied with the travail of his soul, when he beholds those whom he has redeemed with his blood [Note: Isaiah 53:11.]. The prospect of saving them was his great support when he endured all the shame and misery of crucifixion [Note: Hebrews 12:2.]. Now, if his Disciples should turn back from the faith, his soul can have no more pleasure in them [Note: Hebrews 10:38.]. But he is not willing to resign this happiness, and to feel all the painful sensations which their apostasy would occasion. He wept even over his blood-thirsty enemies: how much more would his soul be filled with anguish if any of his elect were left to perish! To guard effectually against this calamity, he shewed to his Disciples, and left on record for our instruction, both the privilege and the duty of all his followers; the privilege, to “abide in him;” the duty, to “obey his commandments.”
As he rejoices in his Disciples, so do they in him. It is the most distinguishing feature of true “Christians, that they rejoice in Christ Jesus [Note: Philippians 3:3.].” Some are so highly favoured that they rejoice in him with an unspeakable and glorified joy [Note: 1 Peter 1:8.]. Nor would Jesus wish them ever to lose that joy. He would rather that what they now possess should be perfected in heaven. But, alas! how would it all vanish in an instant, if by any means they should be “moved from their steadfastness!” That they might never thus “cast away the rejoicing of their hope,” but “hold it firm unto the end,” and finally “obtain a full reward,” he opened to them whatever might conduce to the comfort of their minds or the encouragement of their souls.]
His instructions were admirably calculated to promote this end—
[What could be more encouraging to his Disciples at that time, or indeed at any time, than to know that there was a fulness of grace treasured up for them in him? What more consoling than to know that they were united to him as branches to a vine? How trivial would they think any losses that they might sustain, or any trials they might endure, when they had such provision and security in Christ Jesus! The caution also that was given them would of necessity operate to make them watchful. Thus would they be preserved both from open and secret declensions, and “be to their Lord for a praise, and for an everlasting name that should not be cut off [Note: Isaiah 55:13.].”]
How erroneous is the idea that religion tends to make us melancholy!
[A religious person may have a constitution that inclines to melancholy as well as any other person; or he may he rendered melancholy by mistaken views of religion. But let not the blame in either of these cases attach to religion. We are assured that the Gospel, so far from producing such an effect, is “glad tidings of great joy to all people”—it enjoins us all to “rejoice in the Lord always;” and, where it is best understood, and most experienced, namely, in heaven, the most exalted joy abounds universally without the smallest intermission. Let then this prejudice be for ever banished; and let Christians be careful so to walk in delightful fellowship with Jesus, as to shew to the world that his yoke is easy and his burthen light.]
How precious ought the Scriptures to be in our eyes!
[It is in them that Jesus, being dead, yet speaketh to us; and if we will attend to his instructions, they will “make us wise unto salvation.” The intent of every word he there utters, is, to secure us to himself, and to make us eternally happy with himself in heaven. Why then do we not love the Scriptures more? Why do we give such a decided preference to books of human composition, yea, perhaps to plays, or novels, or the common publications of the day? Let us no longer treat with such indignity that sacred volume. “Let the word of Christ dwell in us richly in all wisdom [Note: Colossians 3:16.];” and let us, like the prophet, eat it, that it may be the joy and rejoicing of our heart [Note: Jeremiah 15:16.]. Especially let us regard what it speaks of our union with the living vine. Let us seek to be ingrafted into Christ; that, deriving sap and nourishment from him, we may be fitted for every good work, and bring forth fruit unto life eternal.]
LOVE TO THE BRETHREN
John 15:12. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
THE law and the Gospel are in perfect unison with each other: the law, as a covenant, sends us to the Gospel, that we may obtain mercy with God; and the Gospel sends us back again to the law, as a rule of life, that, by obeying its commands, we may honour and glorify our God. The loving our neighbour as ourselves was enjoined by the law, and indeed was a summary of all the duties of the second table [Note: Compare Leviticus 19:18. with Rom 13:8-10 and Galatians 5:14.]. Our blessed Lord, enjoining the same duty from new considerations, calls it “a new commandment,” and emphatically his commandment; that so we may be led to examine it with stricter attention, and to regard it with deeper reverence: he says, in effect, Labour constantly to fulfil that old commandment of the law; and, that you may never want either a directory to guide, or a motive to animate you in your exertions, take my love to you as the reason and pattern of your love to each other.
To elucidate his words, we shall shew,
How Christ has loved us—
We must, of course, content ourselves with a few hints only of a subject, which has a height and depth, and length and breadth that can never be comprehended, never explored. Consider then the love of Christ to us:
[Who ever did any thing to procure it? It exerted itself towards us long before we had any existence in the world. Who can do any thing now to merit it? We deserve to forfeit it every day and hour; but to earn an interest in it is beyond the power of man. We have nothing of our own but sin; and that would be a strange price to pay for the love of Christ. Indeed, if we deny the freeness of his grace, we rob him of the brightest jewel in his crown.]
[There is not one of his people, however weak and afflicted, whom he does not watch over with more than parental tenderness, “carrying the lambs in his bosom, and gently leading them that are with young.” Yes; “we have not an High-priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities:” “in all our afflictions He is afflicted:” if we are stricken by the hand of persecution, He feels the blow [Note: Acts 9:4.]: “Whoso toucheth us, toucheth the apple of his eye.” In every possible state he sympathizes with us, as a head with the members; and never fails to succour us with “grace sufficient for us.”]
[If we regarded only the temporal blessings we receive at his hands, we must confess his love to us to be very abundant. But who can contemplate his unwearied intercessions at the right hand of his Father, or the incessant communications of his Spirit to their souls, and not stand amazed at the exceeding riches of his grace and love? And besides all this, he is “preparing mansions for us in his Father’s house,” and training us up daily, that we may be counted worthy to inhabit them for ever and ever. Well is his love represented as “passing knowledge [Note: Ephesians 3:19.]!”]
[Free as his love was to us, it was not exercised by him but at an expense that exceeds all calculation. Before it could operate for our advantage, he must leave his heavenly glory, assume our fallen nature, endure the scoffs and insults of his own creatures, and “pour out his soul unto death” as a sacrifice for sin. And would he pay this amazing price, in order to redeem our souls from death and hell? Yes, he undertook and executed the mighty work; and never drew back till he could say, “It is finished.”]
From contemplating this stupendous mystery, let us proceed to inquire,
In what respects his love to us is a pattern for our love to each other—
The love which the saints should hear to each other is of a sublime nature, very different from that which they owe to the world around them [Note: The two are carefully distinguished from each other. Galatians 6:10. 1 Peter 2:17.]. To resemble that of Christ to us, it should be,
[Our love to the saints should not be confined to those of the same Church or party, nor should it have respect to any pleasure or advantage that we expect to derive from them; for this is only a refined species of self-love [Note: Matthew 5:46-47.]: it should respect them only as children of our heavenly Father, as members of Christ our living Head, and as joint-heirs of the same eternal glory. It should be proportioned to their piety, rather than to any other endowments; and be occupied in advancing their happiness, not only as much as our own, but oftentimes in preference to our own. It was thus that the love of Christ operated towards us; and it is proposed for our imitation more especially in this point of view; “Mind not every one his own things, but every one also the things of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus [Note: Philippians 2:4-5.].”]
[We are all passing through a vale of tears, “born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.” Hence we need each other’s care and assistance through the whole of our lives. The kindness of friendship is a remedy which God has put within our reach, to enhance our joys and to alleviate our sorrows: we should therefore enter into the concerns of others, and feel them as our own; “weeping with them that weep, and rejoicing with them that rejoice.” By this we are told, we shall more especially comply with the injunction in the text; “Bear ye one another’s burthens,” says the Apostle, “and so fulfil the law of Christ [Note: Galatians 6:2.].”]
[Love must not interest merely the feelings of the mind: it must exert itself in acts correspondent to the occasions on which it is exercised. Is our neighbour distressed? we must relieve him. Is he ignorant? we must instruct him. Is he weak? we must strengthen him. Is he fallen? we must raise him up. Has he shewn some infirmities? we must bear with him. Has he offended us? we must forgive him. Are there any opportunities whatever of doing him good? we must gladly and speedily embrace them. It is in this way also that the Apostle urges us to imitate our Lord and Saviour: “Put on, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye [Note: Colossians 3:12-13.].”]
[That love which will exert itself only in things that are easy and pleasing to oneself, is not worthy the name of love. A truly Christian affection will lead one to “condescend to men of low estate;” to visit the chambers of the sick; to enter into the dungeon of the prisoner; to cut off some of one’s superfluities, in order to supply the necessities of others; to do good in return for evil; to expose oneself to the derision of a thoughtless world, in order to be instrumental in turning some of them from the evil of their ways; and “to lay down, if need be, even our own lives for the brethren.” This was the way in which St. Paul manifested his love [Note: Philippians 2:17-18.]; and in which we also, after the example of our Lord, are called to manifest ours [Note: 1 John 3:16.].”]
This being the way in which our love may resemble his, we shall shew you,
The obligation we are under to follow that pattern—
Our blessed Lord has enjoined a conformity to him in these respects,
As an act of obedience to him—
[He does not recommend such love as decorous and beneficial, but commands it as a duty which he will on no account dispense with. He stamps his own authority upon it; intimating thereby, that he will make it a subject of particular inquiry in the day of judgment. Indeed The decision at the last day is represented as turning principally upon this point; they who for his sake have abounded in offices of love being made exclusively the objects of his favour, while they who have neglected them are marked as objects of his indignation and abhorrence. If therefore we have any regard to his authority, or any dread of his everlasting displeasure, we must see the importance of following the example of his love.]
As an evidence of our love to him—
[Having in another place enforced this duty in terms similar to the text, he adds, that the exercise of brotherly love is the distinctive badge of our profession, the habit whereby all his followers must be known [Note: John 13:34-35.].” To the same effect his loving and beloved Disciple also speaks, declaring that our profession of love to God is mere hypocrisy without this [Note: 1 John 4:20.]; and that without this we can have no assurance, no evidence, that we have passed from death unto life [Note: 1 John 3:14; 1 John 3:17; 1 John 3:19.]. Shall we then at once write ‘Hypocrite’ upon our foreheads? Shall we be contented to be ranked with “murderers, who certainly have not eternal life abiding in them [Note: 1 John 3:15.]?” If not, we must see the necessity of imitating Christ, who “has left us an example that we should follow his steps.”]
How little of true religion is there in the world!
[So far is love to the saints from being the common disposition of mankind, that almost all are rather filled with hatred against them: and where candour prevails over the enmity of the human heart so as to subdue its workings, there yet is a total want of that disinterested, sympathizing, beneficent, and self-denying love, which characterizes a true Christian — — —]
What reason have even the saints themselves to be ashamed before God!
[Let the most zealous and active Christian compare his love with that of Christ; how poor and defective will his best efforts appear! Alas! alas! how often are things found among professing Christians that are not only defective, but directly contrary to love! Beloved brethren, let us study more carefully St. Paul’s description of love [Note: 1 Corinthians 13:0.]: and above all, let us contemplate more the love of Christ to us: so shall we feel its constraining influence, and be stimulated to the exercise of this delightful duty.]
CHRIST’S FOLLOWERS HIS FRIENDS
John 15:15. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you [Note: See another Discourse on this text, made to illustrate a part of Claude’s Essay. Claude, p. 43, in the fifth and improved edition.].
KNOWLEDGE of every kind is excellent and useful; but that of religion far transcends all other. Hence we are commanded to pay a peculiar respect to those who labour in the word and doctrine [Note: 1 Thessalonians 5:12.]. Hence also our Lord himself, having revealed to his Disciples the whole will of God, adduces his fidelity in this respect as one of the strongest tokens of his affection for them.
In what light Christ regards his followers—
The state of believers under the Gospel differs widely from that of those under the Mosaic dispensation. They were in the condition of servants, but we of friends. Christ assures us that from “henceforth” his people should be regarded by him in that light.
He has taken away from us the yoke of the ceremonial law—
[This was an exceedingly heavy burthen [Note: Acts 15:10.]; but Christ has delivered his people from it [Note: Galatians 5:1.]. He has imposed only two rites, and those easy and instructive [Note: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.]: his service is perfect freedom [Note: 1 John 5:3.Matthew 11:30; Matthew 11:30.].]
He has delivered us from a sense of guilt—
[The offerings of a Jew afforded no assurance that God had accepted him [Note: Hebrews 9:9.]; they were rather so many remembrances of his sin [Note: Hebrews 10:1-3.]: but Christ has freed us from the pains of a guilty conscience [Note: Hebrews 10:14.].]
He has set us at liberty also from a servile spirit—
[The Jews could not enter into the most holy place; none could go there but the high-priest, and he only on one day in the year, and then not without blood [Note: Hebrews 9:7.]: but now all believers are priests [Note: Revelation 1:6.]. The vail which separated the most holy place was rent at the death of Christ [Note: It was rent in twain from the top to the bottom at the very time of the evening sacrifice, by means of which it was opened to the view of all the worshippers in the temple.]: all therefore may enter thither without fear [Note: Hebrews 10:19-22.].]
He has put us into the state of adult sons—
[Believers under the law were like minors, or children under age [Note: Galatians 4:1-3.]; but we are brought to the full possession of our privileges [Note: Galatians 4:6-7.].]
Our Lord proceeds to prove his assertion:
What evidence we have that he does so regard us—
He still carries on the comparison between servants and friends. He points out one particular wherein he has eminently distinguished us, and exalted us above all the Jewish saints.
He has revealed to us the perfections of God—
[These were but little known to the Jews; but Christ has more clearly revealed them. He has declared them to us in his discourses [Note: John 1:18.]: he has exhibited them in his life [Note: Hebrews 1:3.].]
He has shewn us the way of acceptance with him—
[This was but obscurely shadowed under the law. Many even rested in the ceremonies themselves; but Christ has plainly declared himself to be the way to the Father [Note: John 14:6.]. He has expressly told us that we have acceptance through his blood [Note: Matthew 20:28; Matthew 26:28.].]
He has unfolded to us the privileges of God’s people—
[The Jews were encouraged by temporal promises; but “life and immortality are brought to light by the Gospel.” Christ has fully opened to us our present privileges [Note: John 14:23.], and our future prospects [Note: John 17:24.].]
He has “made known all which he himself had heard of the Father”—
[At that time he had not absolutely revealed all [Note: John 16:12.]: but he had declared all which he had been commissioned to reveal, or was necessary for them to know; and he completed his revelation soon afterwards.]
This was a most undeniable evidence of his friendship—
[Servants are not admitted to the secret views and designs of their masters; but Christ has made known to us all the mysteries of his Father’s counsels [Note: Colossians 1:26-27.]. What abundant evidence of his friendship does this afford!]
How should we esteem the Holy Scriptures!
[It is by the Scriptures that Christ declares to us the Father’s will. In them therefore we see the strongest testimony of his love. The written memorials even of a creature’s love are dear to us. Of what inestimable value then should we account the word of Christ! Let us regard it with the same affection as David did [Note: Psalms 19:10.]: let it “dwell richly in us in all wisdom [Note: Colossians 3:16.].”]
What love and honour should we shew to Christ!
[We should not consider him merely as a lord and master: we should rather view him as our dearest friend. Let us then delight ourselves in communion with him: let us open to him all our cares, wants, fears, &c.: let us give him that best proof of our regard, a willing and unreserved obedience [Note: John 15:14.].]
THE DOCTRINE OF ELECTION EXPLAINED
John 15:16. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain.
IT is of great importance to have a just view of the doctrines contained in Scripture. There are many passages which at first sight appear to contradict each other; but they are all true and consistent when properly explained. The assertions respecting the freedom of our will, and our proneness to apostasy, are true, and necessary to excite us to care and watchfulness: nor are those that respect our election of God, and our assured perseverance in his ways, less true, or less conducive to our spiritual welfare. They have a strong tendency to produce in us humility and a dependence on God. All these passages therefore ought to be insisted on in their season. That which now demands our attention is a part of our Lord’s farewell address to his Disciples. It naturally leads us to consider,
The doctrine of election—
This being frequently misrepresented, it will be proper to state what we mean by the doctrine of election—
[It imports, that “that we have not chosen God.” No man by nature does choose him. The carnal mind is enmity against him [Note: Romans 8:7.], and prefers the vanities of time and sense before him: nor is any man ever brought to choose him without having discovered much reluctance, and been overcome by the constraining influence of Divine grace [Note: Psalms 110:3.]. It imports, moreover, that “God has chosen us.” He from eternity chose some to life. This choice of his was free and sovereign, without any respect whatever to works either done, or to be done, by us. In due time, God manifests his election, by sending his grace into our hearts: nor does any man differ from another, but in consequence of grace thus derived from God [Note: 1 Corinthians 4:7.]. Hence every saint on earth or in heaven must say, “By the grace of God I am what I am [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:10.].”]
The doctrine thus stated is capable of the fullest proof,
[God is a Being of infinite perfection. But he could not be independent if the accomplishment of his purposes depended on our free-will; nor omniscient, if he did not know how we should act; nor immutable, because his knowledge must increase with a succession of events [Note: It is not sufficient to say that He foresees every thing, though he has not fore-ordained it; for if things be uncertain, they cannot be foreseen; and if they be certain, they cannot but be fore-ordained, since the certain operation of every distinct cause must be traced up to the first great Cause of all.]. Again, It is ordained, that man shall never have whereof to boast before God [Note: Romans 3:27. 1 Corinthians 1:31.]. But if the doctrine of election be not true, man may boast that he has made himself to differ [Note: Contrary to 1 Corinthians 4:7. before quoted.]. Again, Jesus Christ must have a seed to serve him. But if none are elected of God, it may happen that none will choose God; and thus Christ may have shed his blood in vain.]
[In the Old Testament we find that God had a peculiar people, and that some from among them were chosen by him to particular stations [Note: Levi to the priesthood, David to the throne, &c.]. Nor can any argument be brought against God’s election of men to eternal life, which will not be equally valid against the right he has confessedly exercised in choosing them to the enjoyment of the means of grace. In the New Testament, we are plainly told that some of the Jews were chosen to special and saving mercies [Note: Romans 11:5; Romans 11:7.]: they were called in time, in consequence of having been predestinated from eternity [Note: Rom 8:30]. God had no respect to any works of theirs, either done by them, or foreseen by him; but simply to his own eternal purpose [Note: 2 Timothy 1:9.]. St. Paul not only argues this point at large, but, conceiving that he has fully established it, he lays it down as an incontrovertible truth, that the salvation of every man is entirely owing to the grace and mercy of God [Note: Romans 9:16.].]
[Whence is it that so small a part of the world is evangelized? or that the persons who, according to human appearance, are least likely to receive the Gospel, are still, as in the early ages, the first to embrace it? Whence is it too that all the godly, not excepting even those who are most prejudiced against the word Election, are yet ready to ascribe their own salvation to the unmerited grace of God? These things strongly corroborate the testimonies of reason and Scripture; and though there are difficulties attending this doctrine, yet are there much greater difficulties attending the denial of it. And since God has affirmed it to be true, we should say to all objectors, Who art thou that repliest against God [Note: Romans 9:20.]?]
The principal objection against this doctrine will be obviated, if we consider,
The ends to which we are elected—
There is no reason to think this doctrine injurious to morality. Indeed there is no other doctrine that secures morality on so firm a basis—
We are chosen expressly to good works—
[Our Lord might refer in part to the labours of his Disciples, and to their consequent success in them. But he certainly had a further view also to the fruits of righteousness which they should bring forth. In this sense his words are applicable to all believers. God has ordained holiness as the way to heaven [Note: Hebrews 12:14.Ephesians 2:10; Ephesians 2:10. Romans 8:29.] — — — and has appointed the means no less than the end [Note: 1 Peter 1:2.Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 1:4.] — — — yea, he has decreed the end to be obtained only in and by the means [Note: 2 Thessalonians 2:13.] — — — Hence the performance of good works is secured by that same decree which secures the salvation of God’s elect.]
We are chosen also to persevere in them—
[God does not leave us at liberty to return to sin: on the contrary, he will have no pleasure in those who do [Note: Hebrews 10:38.]. He will regard all the righteousness which they have wrought as though it had never been [Note: Ezekiel 18:24.]: and their latter end will be worse than their beginning [Note: 2 Peter 2:20-21.]. But against such apostasy God will secure his own elect. He has given them a new heart, that they may fear him for ever [Note: Jeremiah 32:39.]. He has promised, that their path shall be steadfast [Note: Job 17:9.], and progressive [Note: Proverbs 4:18.]. And every saint may indulge a humble confidence that it will be so [Note: Philippians 1:6.].]
Those who object to this doctrine—
[For argument sake, we will give up the doctrine, and allow the first choice to arise from ourselves. Have ye then chosen Christ? Have ye chosen him as your almighty Saviour and your rightful Lord? If you think you have, consider how much is implied in such a choice. If you acknowledge you have not, “out of your own mouth shall ye be judged.”]
Those who doubt their own election—
[You are too apt to perplex yourselves with unprofitable inquiries. You should rather examine whether ye have been called. It is by your vocation that you are to know your election [Note: 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5.]. Keep your evidences of conversion clear, and they will be indisputable proofs that you have been chosen to life.]
Those who have good reason to hope that they have been elected of God—
[Never can you sufficiently admire the goodness of God to you. Well may you say, Why was I taken, while so many better than myself were left? But at the same time remember to what ye are chosen. Never attempt to separate the end from the means. If ye have this hope, ye are bound to purify yourselves, even as God is pure [Note: 1 John 3:3.].]
CONSOLATION TO THE PERSECUTED
John 15:18-20. If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep your s also.
WELL might our Lord enjoin his Disciples to love one another; for, if they be not united in affection towards each other, they will in vain look for any love in the world. They are “as sheep in the midst of wolves:” the wolves indeed are kept from devouring now, as they have done in former times; but the disposition to devour still remains in the minds of ungodly men, and the godly are still regarded as their legitimate prey [Note: Isaiah 59:15.]. Our Lord may be considered as addressing his own immediate Disciples in the first place: but the grounds on which he teaches them to expect hatred from the world, are such as apply equally to all his people in every age; and consequently we may consider the words as addressed to all his followers.
We shall take occasion from them to consider,
What it is in Christians that calls forth the enmity of the world—
The reasons usually assigned are, that they are enthusiasts, and hypocrites, and disturbers of the peace of mankind: but the true reasons are those which our Lord assigns in the text, namely,
Their election out of the world—
[“The whole world lieth in wickedness,” all being equally alienated from God, however they may differ from each other in their moral conduct. But God has from eternity chosen a people, whom he has given to his dear Son, and whom in due time he calls by his grace, and brings out of nature’s “darkness into the marvellous light” of his Gospel. These, when called, are made sensible that they owe the change, not to any merit or power in themselves, but altogether to the effectual working of his grace: and they acknowledge thankfully their obligations to him, saying, “By the grace of God I am what I am [Note: See 2 Timothy 1:9. Romans 11:5.].”
This acknowledgment is very offensive to the world. They cannot endure to hear of the sovereignty of God: they think that God cannot choose some to be objects of his favour without being unjust to others. Though they cannot but see that God has exercised his sovereignty in every age, in the case of Abraham, for instance, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, and of the Jewish nation, and of those nations that now enjoy the light of his Gospel, yea, in the redemption of fallen man when he never provided such a remedy for the fallen angels, yet they will not allow him to do so now: and every person who ascribes his conversion to the distinguishing grace of God, they consider as actuated by consummate pride; when, in fact, the doctrine of election is the most humiliating that can be imagined, and the denial of it is the fruit of ignorance and presumption — — —
That this is a principal ground of men’s enmity against the people of God is asserted by our Lord: and it is confirmed by every part of the sacred records. Why did Cain hate Abel, but for the distinguishing favour shewn him by God [Note: Genesis 4:4-5. 1 John 3:12.]? In like manner Esau hated Jacob, not merely for the manner in which he had gained the blessing, but because the birthright was transferred to him. Thus Saul hated David also, because he saw that God was with him: and the Jews sought to destroy our Lord for no other reason than because he had brought to their recollection some instances wherein God had imparted to Gentiles favours which he had withheld from his own peculiar people [Note: Luke 4:25-29.].]
Their separation from the world—
[When once the Christian sees the sin and danger of a carnal life, he will of necessity depart from it. He not only desires to obey the command which says, “Come out from among them and be separate,” but he perceives, that, with his new views and principles, he can no more maintain communion with the world than light can with darkness, or Christ with Belial [Note: 2 Corinthians 6:14-17.]. Hence he no longer walks in “the broad road that leadeth to destruction, but in the narrow path that leadeth unto life.”
This is another great occasion of offence to the ungodly world; for in departing from the pursuits and vanities of the world, the Christian does, in effect, declare the danger of those who still adhere to them; just as “Noah condemned the world” by building the ark, and Lot condemned Sodom by fleeing from it [Note: Proverbs 28:4.]. “Those who are of the world, the world will approve and love;” because their spirit and conduct have a direct tendency to justify the world in all its proceedings: but “those who, like their Lord, are not of the world,” and refuse to be conformed to its maxims and ways, will assuredly become objects of the world’s displeasure; for though their testimony be never audibly delivered, it will be seen and felt; and every effort will be made on the part of the world to bring back those who have deserted its standard and enlisted themselves under the banners of the Lord Jesus [Note: Psalms 38:20. Galatians 4:29.].]
That there is, however, no cause for alarm, will appear, if we consider,
What are those considerations which Christ has suggested for their support—
We confine ourselves to those mentioned in the text—
Our Lord himself was so treated—
[For the truth of this he appeals to his own Disciples: they had seen how justly he was characterized by the prophet, as “one whom man despised, and whom the nation abhorred [Note: Isaiah 49:7.].” They had seen how ill he had been treated, notwithstanding his unerring wisdom, his spotless piety, his unbounded benevolence.
Now, if He, our Head and Chief, was so hated by an ungodly world, how can we hope to escape their enmity? We have in him an indisputable proof, that no wisdom, no prudence, no perfection of character, can enable us to obtain the approbation of worldly men: on the contrary, the more entirely we resemble him, the more shall we be hated by his enemies.
And may we not find in this abundant consolation? If we were not so treated, we should have reason to doubt whether we were “walking as he walked:” but if we are reviled and persecuted as he was, then have we an evidence that we belong to him; and we have reason to “rejoice, inasmuch as we are partakers of his sufferings [Note: 1 Peter 4:12-13.].”]
He has forewarned us to expect no other treatment than that which he himself received—
[We might well suppose, that, if he was so treated, we should meet with similar treatment: for reason itself teaches us that the servant ought not to expect a better reception than his lord. But our Saviour himself also has told us this [Note: Mat 10:22-26], and particularly calls upon us to “remember” his words. Indeed, if we only remembered what he has spoken to us, we should never be surprised at any thing that we meet with; seeing that he has so plainly forewarned us of it. He has even told us, that the persecutions we meet with shall “turn unto us for a testimony.” Being then forewarned, we should be forearmed. This was the consideration with which St. Paul endeavoured to comfort the Thessalonians, when they were startled at the greatness and multitude of his afflictions [Note: 1 Thessalonians 3:4.]: and, in truth, if the Scriptures be fulfilled in us, as they were in Christ, we may well be reconciled to whatever an ungodly world may inflict upon us.]
Those who are afraid of incurring the hatred of the world—
[Doubtless the hatred of the world is not to be desired: we should rather, if it could be, that they should love us: but, if the friendship of the world be incompatible with fidelity to God [Note: James 4:4.], then may we very cheerfully forego it. If we be apprehensive of consequences, what is there to fear [Note: Isaiah 51:12-13.]? Man, at the utmost, can only kill the body; whereas God can kill the soul: and therefore God only and exclusively should be the object of our fear [Note: Luke 12:4-5.].]
Those who have braved and borne the enmity of the world—
[Do you repent of what you have done? Has not God made up to you all that you ever suffered for his sake? Do you think that you will ever feel regret, when you come to heaven, that you suffered so much in your way thither? Are you not even ashamed that you ever for a moment accounted the cross of Christ heavy, or that you groaned under its weight? Sure I am, that “you shall receive an hundredfold even in this life, with persecutions;” and that one moment’s enjoyment of your Saviour’s presence will abundantly repay all that you endured for his sake. Be not careful then what men may do against you: only seek to cut off occasion from those who seek occasion; and determine through grace, that they “shall find no occasion against you, except concerning the law of your God.”]
THE GREAT SIN OF REJECTING CHRIST
John 15:22. If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin.
EVERY sin is committed against an infinitely good and gracious God: yet the stoical doctrine of the equality of sins is not therefore true. Guilt may be aggravated or diminished by a variety of circumstances. Hence our Lord denounced peculiar woe against Chorazin and Bethsaida. To the same effect he speaks concerning the Jews in the text.
How greatly aggravated the sin of the Jews was in rejecting Christ—
Sin admits of so many degrees of malignity, that one may be considered as no sin in comparison of another; not that any man can be absolutely without sin [Note: 1 John 1:8.], nor is any man really excusable in the sight of God [Note: Romans 1:19-21.]; but comparatively some may be said to “have no sin [Note: John 9:41.].” Thus it was with those of whom our Lord spake. If he had not come to them, they might have pleaded a want of the necessary means of salvation: but our Lord’s preaching rendered them wholly inexcusable. They could not plead any want of
[Our Lord often spake in parables. This was the means of inflicting judicial blindness on the proud [Note: Luke 8:10.]; but it was well calculated for the instruction of the humble. Besides, he delivered many things in the simplest terms.]
[Our Lord wrought many and stupendous miracles. He performed them by a touch, a word, and even at a distance. His miracles were as benevolent as they were open and undeniable. Those who wished to discredit them, imputed them to the agency of Satan. Our Lord mentions them as aggravating the guilt of those who rejected him [Note: ver. 24.].]
[There was no want of fidelity on our Lord’s part. He warned the people in the plainest and most awful manner [Note: John 8:21; John 8:24.].]
[Every one that thirsted for his benefits was invited by him [Note: Revelation 22:17.]. He offered to give spiritual life to all who would come to him [Note: John 7:37-38.]. He promised also to crown them with eternal happiness and glory [Note: John 12:26.].]
If they were thus without excuse, it becomes us to consider,
How much more inexcusable we are if we reject him—
Christ has come and preached to us by his word and ministers, and many reject him after the example of the unbelieving Jews. Though we be not avowed infidels, we practically reject Christ, when we do not receive him for all the ends and purposes for which he was sent; and if we do so, our guilt is peculiarly aggravated.
We have not any Jewish prejudices to encounter—
[The Jews had received their law from God; they had been accustomed to expect a temporal Messiah, yet they saw a man altogether destitute and despised, and beheld the law of Moses superseded by a new religion. His works indeed should have obviated all these difficulties: but we have not these difficulties to contend with. We profess that the Gospel is from God. We profess that Christ’s kingdom is of a spiritual nature. We profess that his cross is his own glory, and his Church’s hope.]
We see the whole design of God unfolded—
[The Jews had only partial and contracted views: they could not reconcile many seeming contrarieties. The Disciples, even after Christ’s resurrection, were at a loss to account for the occurrences they had seen [Note: Luke 24:21.]. But we behold the counsels of God completed; the various prophecies are all accomplished; the characters and offices of Christ are opened; the great ends of his incarnation and death are effected; the glory of God, as shining in his face, is fully displayed.]
We have witnessed the success of the Gospel—
[Those to whom our Lord spake, saw his ministry despised: the great and learned of their nation rejected him. His followers were only a few, and those of the lowest class: but we have seen the “grain of mustard become a large tree:” the Gospel has spread to the remotest corners of the earth; it has triumphed over the prejudices and passions, the interests and powers, of the world; its influence is yet daily exhibited before our eyes.]
How heinous then must be our guilt if we reject him! Surely our “sin must be of a crimson or a scarlet die.”
Those who make excuses for their neglect of Christ—
[With what foolish and weak excuses do men deceive themselves [Note: We may notice a few: “I have not time.” For what is time given?—“I am not able.” Do you do what you can?—“It is time enough yet.” Shall you certainly live, and have the grace you now slight offered you again?—“I have the majority on my side.” Are you not then in the broad road? and will associates mitigate your pain?—“Professors are hypocrites.” Is that a reason you should not be sincere?—“God is merciful.” To whom? the impenitent?]! Surely God will not be deceived by these. What cloak for your sin will you find when he shall call you to account? Will you plead a want of instruction, evidence, warning, or encouragement? Know that in that day you will be speechless [Note: Matthew 22:12.]. Your love of sin and hatred of the light are the true causes of your rejecting Christ [Note: John 5:40.], and this will be the ground of a more aggravated condemnation [Note: John 3:19.].]
Those who desire to attain the saving knowledge of him—
[It is a great mercy to have such a desire formed in the heart; but beware of cloking or extenuating your sin. Remember that awful yet encouraging declaration [Note: Proverbs 28:13.]—Confess your sin with all its aggravations. There is a virtue in the blood of Jesus to cleanse you from it all [Note: 1 John 1:7.].]
HATRED OF CHRIST IS HATRED OF THE FATHER
John 15:23. He that hateth me hateth my Father also.
MEN are ever disposed to palliate their sins, and, by representing them under some specious name, to conceal their real enormity; but God calls every sin by its proper name, and speaks of it with just abhorrence. Covetousness in his eyes is not prudence, but idolatry [Note: Ephesians 5:5.]: a disregard of his presence is not mere inadvertence, but a denial of his most essential attributes [Note: Psalms 10:11; Psalms 10:13.]: and a contempt of his Gospel is not a venial ignorance or inattention, but an absolute hatred both of Christ and of the Father. To confirm this truth we will endeavour to shew,
Who they are that hate Christ—
It may be thought that none but Jews can be guilty of hating Christ, and that the bearing of his name is a sufficient testimony of our regard for him. But there are too many who, notwithstanding they have been baptized into his name, are yet “enemies to him in their minds.” Certainly we must number among his enemies,
Those who disregard his Gospel—
[The Gospel of Christ ought to be universally received as “glad tidings of great joy:” but the greater part of mankind feel an aversion to it. Some dislike its fundamental doctrine of salvation by faith, and represent it as injurious to the interests of morality. Others hate the duties it enjoins, and traduce it as requiring a state of mind totally incompatible with the discharge of our offices in social and civil life. Many even of those who approve of the Gospel in their judgment, are yet very far from experiencing its power in their souls. They enjoy not its promises, they fulfil not its precepts, they know not its renovating, sanctifying effects. It may be asked, Are all these persons haters of Christ? Let Christ himself answer that question. He states, that a practical renunciation of his authority is a proof, that they are enemies to him in their hearts, and will cause them to be treated as his enemies in the day that he shall judge the world [Note: Luke 19:14; Luke 19:27.].]
Those who neglect his ordinances—
[Our Lord has promised his peculiar presence to us while we seek him in the ordinances of his own appointment. Should not then the hope of enjoying his presence endear the ordinances to us, and make us regard them as our most inestimable privilege? But how are they regarded by the generality amongst us? Does not worldly business or pleasure often detain us needlessly from the house of God? And when we are assembled for worship, do not our thoughts rove to the very ends of the earth, so that, though we “draw nigh to God with our lips, our hearts are far from him?” Are not almost all persons cold and remiss in secret prayer? And is not family religion either banished altogether, or conducted with such formality as to render it irksome and unprofitable? Our Lord left it as his dying command that we should often partake of bread and wine in remembrance of his body broken and his blood shed for us. Yet is not his table either shamefully deserted, or else profaned by impenitent, unsanctified communicants? And what construction must we put on such conduct? Our Lord plainly tells us, that he considers them as his enemies, and that none of those who thus despise his invitations, shall ever taste of his supper [Note: Luke 14:18; Luke 14:24.].]
Those who persecute his people—
[Persecution is not carried now to the same extent that it has been in former ages. But has it ceased? Experience proves that there is the same enmity in the hearts of men against the faithful servants of God as ever there was. There are many at this day who are true descendants of Cain and Ishmael; and, as long as there shall be an unconverted man upon earth, it will be found, that they, who are born after the flesh, will persecute those who are born after the Spirit [Note: Galatians 4:29.]. If they do not kill the saints, they will “revile them, and separate them from their company, and say all manner of evil against them falsely for Christ’s sake.” And are not such persons enemies to Christ? Yes; he considers himself as the real butt of their malice. Saul thought he was justly punishing some wild fanatics when he dragged the Christians to prison and to death; but Jesus said to him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me [Note: Acts 9:4.]? And the prophet tells us that whosoever toucheth the Lord’s people, toucheth the apple of his eye [Note: Zechariah 2:8.].]
The extreme enormity of their conduct appears in this,
That the hatred of Christ is, in fact, a hatred of the Father also—
Christ is essentially “one with the Father;” and as “whosoever had seen Christ, had seen the Father,” so, “whosoever hateth Christ must of necessity hate the Father also.” But it is evident in other points of view that they hate the Father; for they hate,
[God commands all men to believe in his Son, to “kiss him” with holy reverence, and to honour him even as they honour the Father [Note: 2 John 1:5; 2 John 1:52 John 1:5:23.]. But the unequivocal language of those who comply not with his command is, “We will not have this man to reign over us;” “Who is the Lord that we should obey him? we know not the Lord, neither will we obey his voice.” Whatever they may pretend, they are not deceived through unavoidable ignorance, or impelled by irresistible force to reject Christ; they do it from a rooted aversion to the Father himself, and evince by their conduct the truth of that declaration, “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be [Note: Romans 8:7.].”]
[The word, the ordinances, and the people of God, all bear upon them the impression of God’s holiness: and this is the very ground of that aversion which rises against them in the hearts of the ungodly. The Gospel is disliked as requiring so much purity and self-denial. The worship of God could be easily tolerated, if an outward form would suffice; but the spirituality and devotion necessary to an acceptable performance of this duty, causes the carnal heart to revolt from it as irksome. If the saints too would countenance the world in its sinful practices, the offence of the cross would cease: but they “make their light to shine before men;” and on this account they, whose deeds are evil, hate, revile, and persecute them. Now this clearly proves, that holiness itself is their aversion, and consequently that the image of God, which principally consists in holiness, is hateful to them. Will any say, It is hypocrisy that they hate, and not holiness? Wherefore then were Christ and his Apostles so universally the objects of cruel persecution? Was there any guile in him? Was he not “the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person?” and walked not his Disciples in his steps? It is certain, not only that the image of God is hated by the enemies of Christ, but that every thing that bears his image is hated by them on that very account, and in proportion as it exhibits a resemblance of him.]
His very existence—
[It is vain indeed to entertain the thought that God could be annihilated: but, if we could suppose for a moment that it were declared from heaven, “There is no God;” would not the tidings excite a general satisfaction? Would not all the haters of Christ congratulate themselves that there was no God to call them to an account, none to punish them for their iniquities? Would they not look forward to an unrestrained indulgence of their lusts with pleasure, instead of weeping for the loss of their best and dearest Friend? Yes; as the enemies of Christ exulted in his crucifixion, so would all who hate him rejoice, if the Father also were utterly extinct. That this is no fanciful idea will appear from the declaration of God himself, “The fool hath said in his heart, No God [Note: Psalms 14:1.]!”]
How desperate is the wickedness of the human heart!
[Wherefore is it that men are so full of enmity against Christ and his Father? Is it for having given us his dear Son that they hate the Father; or do they hate Christ for laying down his life for us? Many good things has he done; for which of them do we reject him? O let “the haters of God,” as the Apostle calls all of us in our unconverted state [Note: Romans 1:30.], blush and be confounded; let them abhor themselves for all their iniquities and abominations: for what our Lord says of us is strictly true, “We have hated both him and his Father [Note: ver. 24.].”]
What a dreadful place must hell be!
[Here the wickedness of men is restrained by the preventing grace of God: but in hell it will rage without controul. How will all the miserable spirits then vent their malice! How will they gnaw their tongues, and blaspheme their God [Note: Revelation 16:9.]! May we never know this by bitter experience!]
How astonishing is the tender mercy of our God!
[One would suppose that God should feel nothing but indignation against such an ungrateful world. But behold! he “waiteth to be gracious unto them;” he sends them offers of pardon; he even entreats and “beseeches them to be reconciled to him [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:20.]. O let his goodness lead us to repentance! Let us cast away the weapons of our rebellion, and bow to the sceptre of his grace. So shall we yet be numbered among the friends of God, and be lively monuments of his mercy to all eternity.]
THE PERSONALITY AND OFFICE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
John 15:26. When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.
THE characters of the most holy men may suffer from envy and malevolence; but their righteousness often shines forth the brighter afterwards, as the sun obscured for awhile by an intervening cloud. According to all human appearances, our Lord’s name must either have sunk into speedy oblivion, or been handed down with infamy to the latest posterity. It scarcely seemed possible that the ignominy of his cross could ever be so obliterated as to be succeeded by respect and honour: but our Lord knew that the testimony of the Spirit would assuredly effect this. While therefore he consoled both himself and his Disciples with the reflection, that the causeless enmity of his countrymen was nothing more than a completion of the prophecies, he taught them to look forward to the time, when the Spirit of God should come down visibly from heaven, and by the most indubitable testimony efface every stain, and rectify the mistaken apprehensions of the world respecting him.
Let us consider,
Our Lord’s description of his promised messenger—
In speaking of the inscrutable mysteries of our religion, we are constrained to represent, heavenly things in terms, not strictly just perhaps, but such as are best accommodated to our own feeble apprehensions. We observe then respecting the messenger whom Jesus undertook to send, that,
He is a distinct person—
[Many deny the distinct personality of the Spirit, and affirm that he is only a virtue or quality belonging to the Father: but our text clearly shews, that this is not a just and scriptural idea: the names here given to the Spirit, as “the Comforter,” and “the Spirit of Truth,” import that he is a distinct person. And the circumstance of his mission leaves no doubt upon the subject; for he “proceeds from the Father,” is “sent” by the Son, and comes down to us. Besides, the very end of his mission implies the same; for he comes to “testify,” that is, to be a witness.]
Yet, though distinct from the Father, he is, in his essential properties, equal to him—
[He is sent to testify to all persons, in all places, at the very same instant of time: and does not the execution of such an office require both omnipresence and omniscience? Must he not know what every person needs to be instructed in, and be every where present to hear and grant their requests? And are there any attributes more appropriate to the Deity than these? Yet these the Spirit has in common with the Father: David says respecting him, “Whither shall I go then from thy Spirit? If I go up to heaven, thou art there; if I go down to hell, thou art there also [Note: Psalms 139:6-7.]:” and St. Paul observes that “the Spirit searcheth all things, even the deep things of God [Note: 1 Corinthians 2:10.].” Nor are these testimonies unsupported by others that are yet more direct and clear: for the Spirit is constantly joined both with the Father and the Son as equally worthy of the highest honour [Note: Matthew 28:19.], and equally a source of the richest blessings [Note: 2 Corinthians 13:14.]. Indeed he is expressly and repeatedly called God. They who lied unto him, were therefore guilty of lying unto God [Note: Acts 5:3-4.]; and they who had him dwelling in them, were therefore the temples of the living God [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:16-17.].]
Nevertheless in some respects he is subordinate both to the Father and the Son—
[In the order of subsistence, as the Father is not of the Son, but the Son of the Father, so neither the Father nor the Son proceeds from the Spirit, but the Spirit from them, inasmuch as he proceeds from the Father, and is sent by the Son. In the order of operation also the Spirit is inferior: the Father is represented as the fountain of authority and of blessings: the Son acts as his servant [Note: Isaiah 42:1.]: and the Spirit acts under Christ, being sent or deputed by him, (according as it was determined in the eternal counsels of the Father,) to apply to men that redemption, which was procured for them by his death. The Spirit acted in this subordinate capacity before the time of Christ’s incarnation: it was by him that Christ went and preached to the antediluvian world [Note: 1 Peter 3:18-19.]: by him also he inspired the prophets to foretel the things relating to his sufferings and glory [Note: 1 Peter 1:11.]. During the days of our Lord’s ministry on earth the Spirit still acted in subserviency to him; it was by the Spirit that Christ cast out devils [Note: Matthew 12:28.], and performed his other miracles. In a more especial manner did the Spirit exert himself in subserviency to Christ after he had ascended to heaven; it was then that the Spirit began fully to execute the office assigned him, and to “glorify Christ” before an ungodly and unbelieving world [Note: John 16:14.]. To this very hour does the Spirit bear the same part, “convincing the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment [Note: John 16:8.],” in order to magnify Christ, and to enlarge his kingdom.]
As our attention is principally directed to the Holy Spirit, we shall proceed to state,
The particular office committed to him—
The Father, Son, and Spirit, have distinct and different offices in the economy of redemption. That of the Spirit is twofold:
To be a witness for Christ—
[Our blessed Lord died under circumstances of the deepest ignominy and reproach; being treated by his whole nation as the vilest of malefactors. Nor could it be conceived that one, who under such circumstances saved not himself, should be constituted by God the Saviour of others. This was, to all appearance, so absurd an idea that it never could have gained any credit in the world, if it had not been confirmed by the most unquestionable testimony. To overcome these obstacles, the Holy Spirit testified of two things, namely, the righteousness of his person, and the sufficiency of his salvation. While the Apostles testified of these things to the ears of men, the Spirit confirmed their word with visible signs [Note: Hebrews 2:4.], and sealed it on men’s hearts by his invisible, but effectual, influence [Note: 1 Thessalonians 1:5.]. This he did, not only on the day of Pentecost, when three thousand were converted at once, but on many other occasions. It is worthy of remark, that when he visibly descended on the Gentiles in confirmation of the word that was delivered by Peter, he descended at the very instant that the Apostle began to speak of the fulness and excellency of Christ’s salvation [Note: Acts 10:43-44.]; as though he designed to intimate, that this was the great truth which he came to attest, and which we ought to receive with our whole hearts.]
To be a Comforter to us—
[When a soul begins to feel its guilty and undone state, it needs a comforter: but there is no creature in heaven or earth that can administer effectual consolation; none but the Holy Spirit is sufficient for so great a work: if he reveal Christ to the soul, all tears will instantly be wiped away; but if he withhold his influence, sorrow and despondency will overwhelm it utterly. Thus also in all subsequent trials and temptations, it is the Holy Ghost alone that can heal the wounded spirit, or bind up the broken and contrite heart. And it must further be noticed, that the principal, if not the only, way, in which he administers consolation to us, is by testifying of Christ; it is by shewing to us his beauty, his sufficiency, his truth and faithfulness, and by enabling us to rest entirely on him: and as there can be no comfort till this be done, so there can be nothing but joy and exultation arising from it.]
This subject naturally leads us to reflect,
How great and glorious a person Christ is!
[It has been already shewn that the Holy Spirit is God equal with the Father: yet has Christ authority to send him into our hearts. If Christ say, Go, my Spirit, and quicken that dead sinner; go and dwell in that polluted heart; go and comfort that drooping and desponding soul; in short, whatever commission Jesus gives to the ever-blessed Spirit, it is executed instantly, and to its utmost extent. No unworthiness in us excites any reluctance in the mind of the Spirit; if Jesus do but speak, it is done. Who then would not wish to have this glorious person for his friend? Who does not desire an interest in him? Who would not seek him who is so able and willing to save? Blessed Lord, send thy Spirit now to testify of thee, and to glorify thee in all our hearts!]
How unspeakable is the happiness of Christ’s faithful people!
[These enjoy the witness of the Spirit in their own hearts [Note: 1 John 5:10.]. The Spirit not only testifies to them that Jesus is the Saviour of believers in general, but their Saviour in particular: he witnesses to, and with, their spirits, that they are children of God; and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ [Note: Romans 8:16-17.]. Can we conceive any greater happiness than this? Surely not in this present world. Let every one then aspire after this honour; let every one seek the Spirit, not merely as an instructor, but a comforter. Thus shall we be filled with consolation, even under the most afflictive circumstances; and his testimonies shall prove to us an earnest, and a foretaste, of our heavenly inheritance.]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on John 15". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany