« السابقةمتابعة »
design of his coming into the world, namely, to destroy the works of the devil," 1 John iii. 8. On the cross it was that Jesus Christ poured out the precious blood which was going to become the true seed of the church. On the cross it was that he dashed down to the ground the trophies of idolatry, and there he "spoiled principalities and powers, and made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it," Col. ii. 15.
3. The third buckler against the offence of the cross-The sovereign command of his heavenly Father: "the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me. But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do," chap. xiv. 30, 31. What was the commandment given of the Father to Jesus Christ? You know it, my brethren; the commission which he had given him, was to deliver from the dreadful abysses of hell a world of miserable wretches, whom divine justice had there doomed to undergo the punishment of everlasting fire. This was the supreme will which the Redeemer had continually before his eyes. For this it was that he says, when he cometh into the world: "sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire: but a body hast thou prepared for me; burnt-offering and sin-offering hast thou not required: then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me: I delight to do thy will, O my God," Ps. xl. 6-8. For this it was that, dismayed, and cast down, as it were to the ground at Gethsemane, at the bare apprehension of approaching sufferings, he prayed, saying: "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me," but immediately added, " nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt," Matt. xxvi. 39.
your children," Luke xxiii. 28. You shall behold the Jews driven to desperation, imploring assistance from the rocks and from the mountains, to shelter them from the strokes of that divine vengeance which pursues them: you shall behold that Jerusalem, that murderess of the prophets, deluged with her own blood: two millions of Jews offered in sacrifice to the justice of that God, who requires at their hands the blood of the Messiah.
4. The fourth buckler against the offence of the cross-The idea of the storm which was ready to burst on the authors of those sufferings, and upon a whole guilty nation which had obstinately rejected his ministry: "If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin. He that hateth me, hateth my Father also," chap. xv. 22, 23. This parricide filled up the measure of the incredulity and barbarity of the Jews: it was going to put the last hand to an accumulation of criminality. But let not the impatience of the flesh hurry the spirit into the formation of precipitate judgment: let not the libertine and the profane here display their abominable system; let them not say, as they point to the cross of the Saviour, on which innocence is immolated to iniquity, where is that Providence which guides the helm of the universe? Where are those eyes which go up and down through the earth, to contemplate the actions of men? Where is that righteous judge of all the earth, ever ready to administer justice? Have a little patience, and you shall see, that as this parricide constituted the most atrocious of all crimes, it was likewise speedily followed by the most tremendous of all punishments. You shall behold the accomplishment of that prophetic denunciation: "Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and for
5. The fifth buckler against the offence of the cross-The spectacle of charity which Jesus Christ presents to his disciples: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends," chap. xv. 13. Accordingly, when this divine Saviour had arrived at the period of his death, and had formed, if I may use the expression, the ultimate resolution to die, every flood-gate of his charity is set open: from this fountain of love, whence emanated the heroic purpose of immolating himself for his disciples, we behold every other proof of affection gushing out in copious streams: "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," chap. xv. 15. If you have been faithful to me while I was giving you strong proofs of my tenderness, is it possible you should be unfaithful, now that I am preparing to give you a demonstration of it still more irresistible? Is it possible you should choose the time of my crucifixion to betray me? Is it possible you should deny your Redeemer, precisely at the moment when he is dying to accomplish the work of your redemption?
II. Our blessed Lord having spoken to the disciples, of the cross which he was about to suffer, and this is the second article of mediation, proceeds to speak to them concerning their own. He disguises not either the horror or the weight of it: "These things I have spoken unto you, that you should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service," chap. xvi. 1, 2. But while he utters a prediction so melancholy and discouraging, he softens it, and supplies them with motives the best adapted to fortify and sustain them against the fearful accomplishment of it. The objects which Jesus Christ presents to the eyes of his disciples, in the three chapters which we are attempting to analyze, are the same which have supported our own martyrs and confessors in this age of fire and blood, when the enemies of religion have taken for their models the persecutors of Christ and of his apostles.
I suffer, I die for the gospel, said each of our confessors and martyrs within themselves, in the extremity of their sufferings: I suffer, I die for the gospel: it is my highest glory; it is my badge of conformity to my adorable Saviour: "I fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh," Col. i. 24. "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus," Gal. vi. 17. It is one of the motives which our Lord himself proposes to the apostles: "if the world hate you, you know that it hated me before it hated you. The servant is
not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you," chap. xv. 18. 20.
I suffer, I die for the gospel. The world places before me a theatre of misery and persecution only: but it is because I am not of this world I am looking and longing for another establishment of things, and every stroke aimed at me by the men of the world, is a pledge of my being a citizen of another, of a heavenly country. This is a farther motive suggested by Jesus Christ to the disciples: "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," chap. xv. 19.
I suffer, I die for the gospel. How glorious it is for a man to devote himself in such a cause! How glorious it is to be the martyr of truth and of virtue! Our Lord suggests this likewise as a motive to his disciples: "all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him who sent me," chap. xv. 21.
I suffer, I die for the gospel; but God is witness of my sufferings and death: he feels every stroke which falls upon me: he who toucheth me, toucheth the apple of his eye," Zech. ii. 8. And as he is the witness of the barbarity of my tormentors, he will likewise be the judge and the avenger. This likewise is a motive suggested by our Lord to his disciples: "he that hateth me hateth my father also," chap. xv. 23.
I suffer, I die for the gospel: but I have before my eyes the great pattern of patience and fortitude. derive the support which I need from the same source whence my Saviour derived his: I look to "the author and finisher of my faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame," Heb. xii. 2, and I aspire after the same triumph. This is a motive suggested by Jesus Christ to his disciples; "in the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world," chap. xvi. 33. What cross would not appear light, when the mind is supported by motives so powerful?
III. We observed, in the third place, that our blessed Lord is, in this address cautioning his disciples against forgetfulness of his commandments. The presence of a good pastor is a bulwark against error and vice. The respect which he commands by his exemplary conduct, and the lustre which his superior intelligence diffuses, impress truth upon the understanding, and transfuse virtue into the heart. He has his eyes ever open upon the various avenues through which the enemy could find admission into the field of the Lord, to sow it with tares, and by the exercise of constant vigilance defeats the cunning of the wicked one.
hold Moses approaching the last closing scene of life: "Take this book of the law," says he to the Levites, "and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee, for I know thy rebellion and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the Lord; and how much more after my death?" Deut. xxxi. 26, 27. Behold St. Paul: consider the terrors which he feels as he prepares to go up to Jerusalem: it is not that of being made a partaker of his master's sufferings: "no," says he, "the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying, that bonds and afflictions abide me at Jerusalem. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God," Acts xx. 23, 24. But that which fills him with painful apprehension is the danger of apostatizing, to which his beloved Ephesians, among whom he has been so successful, were going to be exposed after he had left them: for this reason it is, that in bidding them a final adieu, he expresses an ardent wish that a last effort should indelibly impress on their hearts the great truths which had been the subject of his ministry among them; "I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men: for I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock," Acts xx. 26-29.
Jesus Christ, in like manner, is ready to finish the work which his heavenly Father has given him to do: he shrinks from it no longer: he advances forward, braving the cross, being
now ready to be offered," 2 Tim. iv. 6. "Arise," says he to them, arise," (he was still in the house where he had just eaten the passover, when he pronounced the discourse which we are endeavouring to explain) "let us go hence," chap. xiv. 31. I must pass no more time with my beloved disciples; I am going to be delivered up to my executioners; I must "no more drink" with you "of the fruit of the vine," Luke xxii. 18, in a feast of love; it is time for me to go and drink to the very dregs the cup which the justice of my Father is putting into my hands: "let us go hence:" let us go to Gethsemane: let us ascend to Golgotha. But, "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat," Luke xxii. 31. But, "all ye shall be offended because of me this night," Matt. xxvi. 31. But, the devil, and the world, and all hell, are going to unite their efforts to dissolve your communion with me. What does he oppose to danger so threatening? What means does he employ to prevent it? What ought to be done by a good pastor when stretched on a death-bed; not only earnest prayers addressed to heaven, but also tender exhortations addressed to men. He gives them an abridgment of the sermons
Conformably to this idea, one of the most grievous solicitudes which, at a dying hour, have oppressed the minds of those extraordinary men to whom God committed the oversight of his church, proceeded from the apprehension of that corruption into which their charge was in danger of falling after their own departure; and the object of their most anxious concern has been to prevent this. Be
which, during the period of his intercourse with them, had been the subject of his ministrations: "if ye love me, keep my commandments," chap. xiv. 15.
But what merits especial attention in the last address of Jesus Christ to his apostles, is the precept on which he particularly insists; and the subject of that precept is charity: "by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another," chap. xiii. 35. "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another," ver. 34; a precept which they were bound to observe as Christians, and more especially as ministers of his gospel.
1. As Christians: without charity Christianity cannot possibly subsist. A society, the individuals of which do not love each other, cannot be a society of the disciples of Jesus Christ. Tell me not of your passing whole days and nights in meditation and reading the Scriptures; of your uninterrupted assiduity in exercises of devotion; of your fervour and frequency of attendance at the table of the Lord. The question still recurs, where is thy charity? Lovest thou thy neighbour? Makest thou his interest thy own? Is his prosperity a source of satisfaction to thee? Canst thou bear with and overlook his infirmities? Respectest thou, recommendest thou his excellencies? Defendest thou his reputation? Labourest thou to promote his salvation? Such questions are so many touchstones to assist us in attaining the knowledge of ourselves: so many articles of condemnation to multitudes who bear the Christian name. Of charity, alas, little more is known than the name: and the whole amount of the practice of it is reduced to a few of the functions altogether inseparable from mere humanity: when a man has given away a small portion of his superfluity to relieve the poor; when he has bestowed a morsel of bread to feed that starving wretch; when he has covered those shivering limbs from the inclemency of the air, he considers himself as having satisfied the demands of charity: he founds, shall I venture to say it, he founds on this symptom of love a title to warrant his indifference, his vengeance, his hatred: he backbites without control, he caluminates without hesitation, he plunges the dagger without remorse: he pines at the prosperity of another, and his neighbour's glory clothes him with shame.
2. But if the disciples of Jesus Christ are engaged as Christians to love one another, they more especially are so as ministers of the gospel. Where are we to look for charity, if not in the heart of those who are the heralds of charity? What monster so detestable as a minister destitute of charity! The more that charity is inculcated by the religion which he professes to teach, the more it must expose him as a most unnatural being, if he is capable of resisting the power of motives so tender. The more venerable that his ministry is, the more liable must it be to suspicion and contempt, when exercised by a man who is himself a stranger to charity. He will warp the truths of religion according to seasons and circumstances; he will accommodate his
preaching to his interest; he will carry his passions with him into the pulpit; he will conceal the heart of a wolf under the clothing of a sheep, and will avail himself of the law of charity itself, to diffuse through the whole church the pestilential air of that hatred, animosity, and envy, which torment and prey upon his own mind.
It was, in a peculiar manner, the desire of Jesus Christ, that charity should be the reigning principle in the college of the apostles, that united together in bands of the tenderest affection, they might lend each other effectual support in the great work of publishing the gospel. Never does the devil labour with more success against a church, than when he acquires the power of disuniting the ministers who have the oversight of it. Call to the pastoral charge of a flock persons of the greatest celebrity, preachers the most eloquent, geniuses the most transcendant, unless they are closely united in the bands of charity, small will be their progress; they will separate the hearts which they were bound to unite; they will foster the spirit of party; they will encourage the fomenters of discord; they will instruct one to say, "I am of Paul;" and another, "I am of Cephas;" and another, "I am of Apollos," 1 Cor. iii. 4. They will be in constant mutual opposition. Apollos will do his utmost to pull down what Cephas has built up; Cephas will attempt to rear what Paul had demolished. Discover the art, on the contrary, of uniting the hearts of those who have the care of a flock, and you ensure their success; they will strengthen each other's hands; they will attack the common enemy with concentrated force; they will concur in pursuing the same object. "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." O charity! the livery of the disciples of Jesus Christ, must it needs be that thou shouldst be as rare as thou art indispensable! Banished from the rest of the universe, flee for refuge to the church. Exert thy sovereign power at least in the sanctuary. Bind together in bands of indissoluble affection the shepherds of this flock. Let all animosity, let discord, let envy, be for ever banished from the midst of us, my beloved companions "in the work of the ministry," Eph. iv. 12.
CHRIST'S VALEDICTORY ADDRESS TO HIS DISCIPLES.
JOHN xiv. 1.
Let not your hearts be troubled: ye believe in God;
believe also in me.
IV. THE fourth and last great end which our blessed Lord had in view, in addressing this farewell discourse to his disciples, was to furnish them with supplies of consolation under the sorrow which his absence was going to excite in them. This sorrow is one of those
dispositions of the soul which no powers of language are capable of expressing. The apostles tenderly loved their master. Though the history of their life had not conveyed to us this idea of them; though the gospel had not traced, for our information, certain particular traits of their affection; had nothing been mentioned of the tenderness of the disciple whom Jesus loved, nothing of the vehemence of St. Peter, always ready to kindle into a flame when the glory and the life of his master were concerned, the very nature of the thing would be sufficient to give us the assurance of it. Who could have known Jesus Christ without loving him?
Is it possible to conceive the idea of a character more amiable? Have you found in the history of those excellent ones, who were the delight of mankind; or even in the productions of those who have communicated to us imaginary ideas of excellency and perfection, have you found in these higher instances of delicacy, of magnanimity, of cordial affection? If it be impossible for you to apply your thoughts to this great object without being transported, what must have been the feelings of the disciples? Continual hearers of the gracious words which fell from the lips of the blessed Jesus, the constant witnesses of his virtues, the spectators of his wonderful works, admitted to the most intimate familiarity with him, and honoured with the most unbounded confidence, what must have been the love to him which inflamed their hearts? Now this is the gracious Master, this the delicious intercourse, this the tender-hearted friend whom they are going to lose.
What charm can the world possess after we have had the infelicity of surviving certain persons who were dear to us? No, neither the mourning of Joseph, when he accompanied with tears to "the threshing floor of Atad" the coffin of Jacob his father, Gen. i. 10; no, nor the loud lamentation of David, when he exclaimed, in an agony of wo, "O my son Absalom; my son, my son Absalom, would God I had died for thee: O Absalom, my son, my son!" 2 Sam. xviii. 33; no, nor the anguish of Rachel weeping for her children, and refusing to be comforted because they are not," Matt. ii. 18. No, nothing is capable of conveying an idea of the condition to which the disciples were going to be reduced on beholding their Master expire. One must have survived Jesus Christ in order to be sensible what it is to survive Jesus Christ. This fatal stroke was to become to them an inexhaustible fountain of tears. This death appeared to them the utter annihilation of all things: it seemed as if the whole universe were dying together with him. "Now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? but because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your hearts," chap. xvi. 5, 6. "A little while and ye shall not see me," ver. 16. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice; and ye shall be sorrowful," ver. 20.
participated in their sorrow. As the loss, which they were about to sustain, was the deepest wound in their soul, he pours into it the most powerful balm of divine consolation. And here, my dearly beloved brethren, here it is that I stand in need of, not all the attention of your intellectual powers, but of all the sensibility of which your heart is susceptible, that while you partake in the sorrow of the apostles, you may likewise partake with them in the consolation which their Lord and ours was pleased to administer.
There can be no room to doubt that Jesus Christ, who himself loves with so much delicacy of affection, and who was animated with such a predilection in behalf of his disciples, tenderly
I shall sometimes turn aside from those holy men, my dear hearers, to address myself to you, and to supply you with abundant consolation, under the most oppressive ills which you may be called to endure on the earth; I mean under the loss of those who were most dear to you in life. I could wish to convince you, that the Christian religion is "profitable for all things:" that it will serve us as a bulwark and a refuge in our greatest sorrows, if we have but the wis dom to resort to it. Only take care to apply, every one to his own particular situation, the truth which I am going to propose to you. Derive your consolations from the same sources which Jesus Christ opened to his disciples, and to a participation of which we now, after his example, cordially invite you: prayer, the mission of the Comforter, the place to which your Redeemer is gone, the foretastes of the glory which he is there preparing for you, his spiritual presence in the midst of you, and the certainty and nearness of his return.
1. In all your distresses have recourse to prayer. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father, in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name: ask and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full," chap. xvi. 23, 24. This ought to be adopted as a new form of prayer in the Christian world. Scarcely do we find any trace of it in the devotions of the faithful of ancient times. They indeed sometimes introduce the names of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob; but nowhere, except in the prophecy of Daniel, do we find a prayer put up in the name of the Messiah. This at least is the sense which may be assigned to those words of that prophet: "Now, therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplication, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary, that is desolate, for the Lord's sake," Dan. ix. 17.
But this unexampled form, or of which there is at most so few examples in the ancient church, was to be henceforward adopted by all Christians: it is the first source of consolation which Christ opened to his disciples, and it is likewise the first which we, after him, would propose to you. Perhaps there may be many among us to whom Jesus might still say, as formerly to his disciples, "hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name." To pray, and to pray in the name of Christ, is the Christian's grand resource. Resort to it in all your tribulations. Have you reason to apprehend that some stroke from the hand of God is going to fall heavy upon you? Do you believe yourself on the eve of hearing some melancholy tidings? Are you called to undergo some painful and dangerous operation on your person? And, to say every thing in one word, are you threatened
with the loss of the most valuable, the most generous, the most tender friend that Heaven could bestow? Have recourse to prayer: God still subsists when all things else have become dead to thee. God continues to hear thee, when death has reduced to a state of insensibility all that was dear to thee. Retire to thy closet; prostrate thyself at the footstool of the throne of the Father of mercies. Pour out your heart into his bosom: say to him, "O Lord, my strength, teach my hands to war, and my fingers to fight," Ps. cxliv. 1. Lord, take pity on thy creature; Lord, proportion my trials to the strength thou shalt be pleased to administer sustain them; "O my God, hear the prayer of thy servant; cause thy face to shine upon me, for the Lord's sake," Dan. ix. 17. This exercise, my friend, will render thee invulnerable: this exercise will communicate strength on which thou mayest, with confidence, rely, far beyond what thou durst have expected: it will place thee under the shadow of the Almighty, and will establish thee "as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever," Ps. CXXV. 1.
2. In all your distresses call to remembrance the promise of the Comforter, which Jesus Christ gave to his disciples: "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter; that he may abide with you for ever," chap. xiv. 16. This promise contained something peculiar, relatively to the apostles, and to the then state of the infant church. It denoted the economy of miracles, which was not to commence till Jesus Christ had reascended into heaven; and this is precisely the meaning of these words: "If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you," chap. xvi. 7; it is likewise the meaning to be assigned to that passage, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father," chap. xiv. By the works which the apostles were to do, we are to understand miracles. Those works were to be greater than the works of Jesus Christ, with respect to their duration, and with respect to the number of witnesses in whose presence they were to be performed.
This is, farther, the idea which we are to affix to those other words of our Saviour: "I have yet many things to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now. Howbeit, when he, the Spirit of Truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth," chap. xvi. 12, 13. This refers to those extraordinary gifts which the Holy Spirit was to pour down upon the apostles, the aid of inspiration, and the grace of infallibility, which were going to be communicated to them. It is likewise of these peculiar circumstances, that we must explain the effects which Jesus Christ ascribes to that Spirit whom he promises to send to his disciples: "And when he the Comforter is come, he will reprove the world of sin, because they believe not on me," chap. xvi. 8, 9; or, as it might have been translated, "he shall convince them of their criminality in refusing to believe on me:" in other words, that the mission of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus Christ had promised to his disciples, should be a new proof of the divinity of his own mission, VOL. II.-20
and should render those persons inexcusable who presumed to call it in question.
Again, "he shall reprove them of righteousness, because I go to my Father," ver. 10, that is, the miraculous gifts communicated to the first heralds of the gospel should demonstrate, in a sensible manner, that Jesus Christ was in heaven, and should, from that very circumstance, evince that he was perfectly righteous, although he had been condemned as an impostor, seeing God had thus exalted him to the highest pinnacle of glory. Once more, "he shall reprove them of judgment, because the prince of this world is judg ed," ver. 11; in other words, that the triumphs which the Christian religion was about to obtain, through the miraculous endowments of its ministers, were to be an awful forerunner of the judgments which should overtake those who persisted in their unbelief. All this is peculiar to the apostles; all this relates to the circumstances of the primitive church.
But this promise, my beloved brethren, has a reference to us also; and let it be our support in the midst of tribulation. Jesus Christ has promised to us also, the Comforter. His Spirit is within us: "Greater is he that is in us, than he that is in the world," 1 John iv. 4. Let us yield ourselves to the guidance of this Spirit: he will not grant us to exercise authority over insensible beings, to control the powers of nature, and to rule the elements; but he will exalt us to a glorious superiority over flesh and blood; he will support us under every pressure of calamity, and make us more than conquerors" over every foe.
3. In all your distresses, call to remembrance the place to which Jesus Christ is gone. "If ye love me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father," chap. xiv. 28. It is the desire of Jesus Christ, that his disciples, on being separated from him, should not confine their thoughts to their own interest merely. It is his wish, that the glory to which he was about to be exalted, should sweeten to them the bitterness of separation. Jesus Christ teaches us how to love. We frequently imagine, that we are inspired with love to a person excruciated with agonizing pains, whereas it only selflove in disguise. When death has removed a person, who was justly dear to us, we dwell only on the loss which we have sustained, but make no account of what our friend has gained. Whence proceed those tears which stream from your eyes? Whence these sighs and sobbings? What dreadful event can thus have rent your heart, and excited those piercing shrieks which rend the air? You have just beheld one who was the object of your tenderest affection depart out of this valley of tears; he has breathed out his soul into the hands of his Creator, and the blessed "angels, who rejoice over a sinner that repenteth," Luke xv. 10, experience new transports of delight, when a believer who had been combating under the banner of the cross of Christ, comes to be admitted to a participation in his triumph: and can you consider this as a ground of affliction to you? Do you call this love? No, you know not how to love.
Ah! if the departed could see what is passing below the sun! if the supreme order of the Al