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in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me," Rev. iii. 20.
But after all, it is not during the course of a transitory life, at least it is not while you consider death as still remote, that you are capable of knowing the pleasure there is in being a Christian. No, it is neither in the retirement of the closet, nor seated at the table of the Lord: it is not in your solemn feasts, that you are capable of relishing the sweetness which is to be found in beholding Jesus Christ, in embracing him, in believing on him: it is in the last moments of life; it is when stretched on a death-bed. Till then, your passions will sometimes call it in question, whether the man of the world does not actually enjoy more happiness than the Christian; whether the commerce of society, whether spectacles, plays, the splendour of a court, do not confer more real pleasure than that which flows from communion with Jesus Christ.
But when you shall find yourselves, like Simeon, in a state of universal dereliction; but when you shall behold nothing around you save unavailing solicitudes, save ineffectual medicines, save fruitless tears, then you will know what the religion of Jesus Christ is; then, my brethren, you will taste the delight of being a Christian; then you will feel all the powerful attraction of that peace which is mentioned in the text: "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation."
May these ideas of the Christian religion attach us inviolably unto it. Let us, with Simeon, embrace the Saviour of the world; let us, with the wise men of the East, present unto him our gold, and frankincense, and myrrh: or rather, let us present unto him hearts penetrated with admiration, with gratitude, with love. Yes, divine infant, desire of all nations, glory of Israel, Saviour of mankind! divine infant, whom so many oracles have predicted, whom so many prophets have announced, whom so many types have represented, and whose radiant day so many kings and prophets were desirous to behold: my faith pierces through all those veils which overspread and conceal thee; I behold, in the person of a creature feeble and humbled, my God, and my Redeemer: I contemplate thee not only as born a few days ago at Bethlehem of Judah, but subsisting "before the mountains were brought forth, before the earth was formed, even from everlasting to everlasting," Ps. xc. 2. I behold thee not only lying in a manger, wrapped in swaddling cloths, but I behold thee seated on a throne of glory, "highly exalted," having a name that is above every name," adored by angels and seraphim, encircled with rays of divinity.
Every power of my understanding shall henceforth be devoted to the knowledge of thee: it shall be my constant endeavour to please thee, my supreme delight to possess thee; and it shall be my noblest ambition to prostrate myself one day before thy throne, and to sing with the innumerable multitudes of the redeemed of every nation, and people, and tongue: "Unto him who sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, be honour and glory, and power, for ever and ever. Amen."
CHRIST'S VALEDICTORY ADDRESS TO HIS DISCIPLES.
JOHN XIV. XV. xvi.
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me,* &c.
WE begin, this morning, with explaining to you the texts which refer to our blessed Saviour's passion. If the knowledge of the Christian be all reducible to this, "to know Jesus Christ, and him crucified," 1 Cor. ii. 2, it is impossible to fix your eyes too frequently on the mysteries of the cross. Very few discourses, accordingly, are addressed to you, in which these great objects are not brought forward to view. Nay, more; it is the pleasure of this church, that, at certain stated seasons, the doctrine of the cross, to the exclusion of every other, should be the subject of our preaching: that all the circumstances attending it should be detailed, and every view of it displayed. But whatever powers may be applied to the execution of this work, it cannot possibly be accomplished within the space of a few weeks. We have especially had to lament that our Saviour's last address to his disciples should be omitted: I mean the discourse which he addressed to them, a little while before he retired into the garden of Gethsemane, and which St. John has preserved to us in the xiv. xv. and xvi. chapters of his gospel. This part of the history of the passion is, unquestionably, one of the most tender and most interesting. We propose to make it pass in review before you this day, as far as the bounds prescribed to us will permit.
Were it proper to make the place where I stand a vehicle for communications of this kind, I am ready ingenuously to acknowledge, that a particular circumstance determined my choice on this occasion. A few days only have elapsed since I was called to be witness of the dying agonies of a valuable minister,† whom Providence has just removed from the superintendence of a neighbouring church. God was pleased to visit him for some months past, if we may presume to speak so, with a "temptation," more than "is common to man," 1 Cor. x. 13; but he granted him a fortitude more than human to support it. I was filled with astonishment at the violence of his sufferings; and still more at the patience with which he endured them; I could not help expressing a wish to know, what particular article of religion had contributed the most to produce in him that prodigy of resolution: "Have you ever paid a close attention, my dear brother," said he to me, "to the last address of Jesus Christ to his disciples? My God," exclaimed he, "what charity! what tenderness! but above all, what an inexhaustible source of consolation in the extremity of distress!" His words
Those who wish to derive benefit from the following xv. and xvi. chapters of John's gospel. discourse, must previously peruse, with attention, the xiv
Mr. Begnon, pastor of the church at Leyden.
filled me with astonishment: my thoughts were immediately turned towards you, my dearly beloved brethren; and I said within myself, I must furnish my hearers with this powerful defence against suffering and death. I enter this day on the execution of my design. Con descend to concur with me in it. Come and meditate on the last expressions which fell from the lips of a dying Saviour; let us penetrate into the very centre of that heart which the sacred flame of charity animated.
wherefore trust no longer? Whence then arises this diffidence? Wherein has his promise failed? What oracle of the prophets has he neglected to fulfil? "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?" ver. 25, 26.
Taking it for granted, then, that the apostles had but confused ideas of the mystery of the cross, what offence must they not have taken when they were called to be witnesses of that fearful spectacle! From our being accustomed to hear the punishment of crucifixion spoken of in terms of high dignity, we lose sight of what was ignominious and humiliat
I must proceed on the supposition that your minds are impressed with the subject of the three chapters of which I am going to attempt an analysis. The great object which our Lord proposes to himself, in this address, is to fortifying in it. Represent to yourself a man whom his disciples against the temptations to which they were about to be exposed. And, in order to reduce our reflections to distinct classes, Jesus Christ means to fortify his disciples,
I. Against the offence of his cross. II. Against the persecution which his doctrine was going to excite.
III. Against forgetfulness of his precepts. IV. Against sorrow for his absence.
I. First, Jesus Christ means to fortify his disciples against the offence of the cross. A man must be a mere novice in the history of the gospel if he know not how extremely confused their ideas were with respect to the mystery of redemption. Those who ascribe to them superior illumination are mistaken, both in the principle, and in the consequences which they deduce from it. Their principle is, that the Jewish church was perfectly well acquainted with the whole mystery of the cross; an opinion supported by no historical monument what
But granting we were to admit this principle, we must of necessity resist the consequences deduced from it, with respect to the apostles. It is very possible to have a clouded understanding amidst a luminous dispensation, and to grovel in ignorance be the age ever so enlightened. Had we a mind to demonstrate to what a degree the age in which we live surpasses those which preceded it, whether in physical discovery, or in metaphysical and theological speculation, would we go to collect our proofs among our common mechanics, or from among the fishermen who inhabit our seaports?
Let us call to remembrance the indiscreet zeal of Peter, when Jesus Christ declared to him, "How he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things-and be killed," Matt. xvi. 21, "Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee," ver. 22. Recollect the reply which Jesus made to that disciple: "Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence to me," ver. 23. Recollect farther the question which the apostles put to their master some time before his ascension: "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" Acts i. 6. Above all, recollect the conversation which passed between certain of them immediately after his resurrection: "we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and besides all this, to-day is the third day since these things were done," Luke xxiv. 21. "You trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel!" Well! and
you had made the centre, the fixed point of all your hopes. Represent to yourself a man, a God-man, to whom you had been accustomed to yield all the homage of adoration: represent to yourself this divine personage, whom you believed to have descended from heaven to remedy the woes of mankind; to remove your private distresses; to re-establish your credit, and to restore to your country all its splendour and all its importance: represent to yourself this divine personage bound by the hands of an insolent rabble; dragged along from one tribunal to another; condemned as a felon, and nailed to a tree. Can this be that Messiah, into whose hand God was to put a "rod of iron to break the nations, and to dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel" Ps. ii. 9. Can this be that Messiah who should "have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth?" Ps. lxxii. S. Can this be the Messiah who was to make us "sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel?" Luke xxii. 30. As this was the grand offence with the apostles, their Master supplies them with more than one buckler to repel it.
1. The first buckler for repelling the offence of the cross-The miserable condition of a lost world. "I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you," ch. xvi. 7. Had not Jesus Christ been offered in sacrifice, there had been no Comforter, and no consolation for the wretched posterity of Adam. The anger of a righteous God was kindled against them. They had nothing to look for from heaven, but thunderbolts and horrible tempest," to crush their guilty heads. On the cross it was that Jesus Christ restored a blessed correspondence between heaven and earth; "for it pleased the Father, that in him should all fulness dwell; and, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven," Col. i. 19, 20.
2. The second buckler against the offence of the cross-The downfall of the enemy of mankind, I mean the devil and his angels: "the prince of this world is judged," ch. xiv. 30, xvi. 11. The crucifixion of the Redeemer of the world, it is true, seemed to complete the triumph of Satan, but it was, in reality, precisely the point of his decline and fall. He "bruised the heel" of the promised seed, but Jesus Christ "bruised his head," Gen. iii. 15. On the cross it was that Jesus executed the
TO HIS DISCIPLES.
design of his coming into the world, namely, to
3. The third buckler against the offence of
4. The fourth buckler against the offence of
your children," Luke xxiii. 28. You shall be-
5. The fifth buckler against the offence of
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. secuted me, they will also chap. xv. 18. 20.
If they have perpersecute you,"
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.
Í 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. I 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 overWhat cross come the world," chap. xvi. 33. 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.
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
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.
66 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
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.
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.
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 Let not your hearts be troubled: ye believe in God; 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
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