Love to the Uttermost - Expositions of John XIII.-XXI.
by F. B. Meyer
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

(3) Note how the Saviour lives for the promotion of His Father's glory. How often, during His earthly ministry, He declared that He was desiring and seeking this beyond all else! Though His prayer could only be granted by His falling into the ground to die, He never flinched from saying, "Father, glorify Thy Name." But here He tells us that through the ages as they pass He will still be set on the same quest. By all means He must glorify His Father; and if, in any prayer of ours, we can show that what we ask will augment the Father's glory, we are certain to obtain His concurrence and glad acquiescence. "That," He says, "will I do."

(4) We must pray "in His Name." As the ambassador speaks in the name of queen and country; as the tax-collector appeals in the name of the authorities; both deriving from their identification with their superiors an authority they could not otherwise exercise; so our words become weighted with a great importance when we can say to our Father, "We are so one with Jesus that He is asking in and through us; these words are His; these desires His; these objects those on which His heart is set. We have His sanction and authority to use His name." When we ask a favor in the name of another, that other is the petitioner, through us; so when we approach God in the Name of Jesus, it is not enough to append His sacred name as a formula, but we must see to it that Jesus is pleading in us, asking through our lips, as He is asking through His own in the heart of the sapphire throne.

III. THE LINK BETWEEN THESE TWO.—"He will give you another Comforter." The word Comforter might be rendered Advocate. We have two Advocates; one with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous, and one with us. As the one went up, the other came down. As the one sat down at the right hand of God, the other rested on the heads and hearts of the company in the upper room. As the one has compassion on our infirmities, so the other helps our infirmities. As the one ever liveth to intercede for us in heaven, so the other maketh intercession in us for the saints with groanings that cannot be uttered.

This is the clue to the mystery of prayer. It is all-important that the Church on earth should be in accord with its Head in His petitions before the Throne. Of what avail is it for a client and advocate to enter an earthly court of justice unless they are in agreement? Of what use is it to have two instruments in an orchestra which are not perfectly in tune? And how can we expect that God will hear us unless we ask what is according to His will, and, therefore, what is in the heart and thought of Jesus?

This, then, is the problem that confronts us. How can we ascertain what Jesus is pleading for? We may guess it generally, but how be assured of it particularly? Who will tell us the direction in which the current of His mighty pleadings is setting, that we may take the same direction? These inquiries are answered in the ministry of the Holy Spirit. On the one hand, He fills and moves the Head, and on the other, His members. There is one Spirit of life between Jesus in the glory and His believing people everywhere. One ocean washes the shores of all natures in which the life of God is found.

Be still, therefore, and listen carefully to the voice of the Spirit of God speaking in thine heart, as thou turnest from all other sounds toward His still small whisper, and He will tell thee all. Coming, as He does, from the heart of Jesus, He will tell thee His latest thought. In Him we have the mind of Christ. Then, sure that we are one with Him, and therefore with the Father, we shall ask what is according to His will to give. Prayer goes in an eternal circle. It begins in the heart of God, comes to us through the Saviour and by the Spirit, and returns through us again to its source. It is the teaching of the raindrops, of the tides, of the procession of the year; but wrought out and exemplified in the practice of holy hearts.


The Other Paraclete

"He shall give you another Comforter."—JOHN xiv. 16.

There was no doubt in our Lord's mind that His asking would be at once followed by the Father's giving. Indeed, the two actions seemed, in His judgment, indissolubly connected—"I will ask, and He shall give." From which we learn that prayer is a necessary link in the order of the Divine government. Though we are assured that what we ask is in God's purpose to communicate—that it lies in the heart of a promise, or in the line of the Divine procedure, yet we must nevertheless make request. "Ye have not," said the Apostle James, "because ye ask not." "Ask," said the Master, His eye being open to the laws of the spiritual world, "and it shall be given you."

The prayer of the Head of the Church was heard, and He received the Holy Spirit to bestow Him again. "Having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit," said the Apostle Peter, "He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear." Thus the Holy Spirit is the gift of the Father, through the Son, though He is equal with each of the blessed Persons in the Trinity, and is with them to be worshipped and glorified.

I. THE PERSONALITY OF THE HOLY GHOST.—That word, "another"—"He shall give you another Comforter"—is in itself sufficient to prove the Divinity and Personality of the Holy Ghost. If a man promises to send another as his substitute, we naturally expect to see a man like himself, occupying his place, and doing his work. And when Jesus foreannounced another Comforter, He must have intended a Person as distinct and helpful as He had been. A breath, an afflatus, an impersonal influence could not have stood in the same category with Himself.

There are those who think that the Holy Spirit is to the Lord Jesus what a man's spirit is to his body; and imagine that our Lord simply intended that the spirit of His life-teaching and self-sacrifice would brood over and inspire His followers; but this could not have fulfilled the promise of "the other Comforter." It would simply have been Himself over again, though no longer as a living Person; rather as the momentum and energy of a receding force which gets weaker and ever weaker as the ages pass. Thus the spirit of Napoleon or of Caesar is becoming little more than a dim faint echo of footsteps that once shook the world.

Jesus knew how real and helpful He had been to His followers—the centre around which they had rallied; their Teacher, Brother, Master; and He would not have tantalized them by promising another Paraclete, unless He had intended to announce the advent of One who would adjust Himself to their needs with that quickness of perception, and sufficiency of resource, which characterize a personal Leader and Administrator. There were times approaching when the little band would need counsel, direction, sympathy, the interposition of a strong wise Hand—qualities which could not be furnished by the remembrance of the past, fading like the colors on clouds when the sun has set; and which could only be secured by the presence of a strong, wise, ever-present Personality. "I have been one Paraclete," said the Lord in effect; "but I am now going to plead your cause with the Father, that another Paraclete may take My place, to be My other self, and to abide with you forever."

There is no adequate translation for that word Paraclete. It may be rendered Comforter, Helper, Advocate, Interpreter; but no one word suffices. The Greek simply means one whom you call to your side, in a battle, or a law-court, to assist you by word or act. Such a One is Christ; such a One is the Holy Spirit. He is a definite Person whom you can call to, and lean on, and work with. If a man were drowning, he would not call to the wandering breath of the wind; but to any person who might be on the bank. The Spirit is One whom you can summon to your side; and it is therefore quite in keeping with Scripture to pray to the Holy Spirit. On the whole we are taught to direct prayer to the Father, through the Son, and as prompted by the Holy Spirit; but as a matter of practice and habit, it is indifferent which Person in the Holy Trinity we address, for each is equally God. As the Father is God, so also is the Son, and so the Holy Spirit. In her hymns and liturgies the Church has never hesitated to summon the Holy Spirit to her help.

It is in recognition of the Personality of the Holy Spirit that the historian of the Acts of the Apostles quotes His solemn words, "Separate Me Barnabas and Saul"; tells us that Ananias and Sapphira lied to Him; and records that the Church at Jerusalem commenced its encyclical letter with the words, "It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us." Happy that body of Christians which has come to realize that the Holy Ghost is as certainly, literally, and personally present in its midst, as Jesus Christ was present when, in the days of His flesh, He tarried among men!

II. A SEVENFOLD PARALLEL BETWEEN THE ADVENTS OF THE TWO PARACLETES.—(1) Each was in the world before His specific advent.—Long before His incarnation the delights of the Son of God were with men. In Angel-form, He visited their tents, spoke with them face to face, calmed their fears, and fought on their behalf. He trod the holy fields of Palestine with noiseless footfall that left no impress on the lightest sands, long before He learned to walk with baby-feet, or bore His cross up Calvary.

So with the Holy Spirit. He brooded over chaos, strove with men before the deluge, moved holy men to write the Scriptures, foreshadowed the advent of the Messiah, equipped prophets and kings for their special mission. In restraining evil, urging to good, preparing the way for Christ, the Holy Spirit found abundant scope for His energies. But His influence was rather external than internal; savored rather of gift than grace; and dealt more often with the few than with the many—with the great souls that reared themselves to heaven like Alpine summits touched with the fires of dawn, rather than with the generality of men, who dwelt in the valley of daily commonplace, enwrapped in the mists of ignorance and unbelief. It was to be the special prerogative of this age, that He should be poured out on all flesh, so that sons and daughters should prophesy, whilst servants and handmaidens participated in His gracious influences.

(2) The advent of each was previously announced.—From the Fall, the coming of the great Deliverer was foretold in type and sign, in speech and act, in history and prophecy. Indeed, as the time of the Incarnation drew nigh, as Milton tells us in his sublime ode on the Incarnation, surrounding nations had caught from the chosen people the spirit of expectancy, and the world was in feverish anticipation of the coming of its Redeemer. He was the Desire of all nations. All the ages, and all the family of man, accompanied Mary to Bethlehem, and worshipped with the Magi.

So with the Holy Spirit. Joel distinctly foretold that in the last days of that dispensation. God would pour out of His Spirit; and His message is echoed by Isaiah, Zechariah, Ezekiel, and others; till Jesus came, who more specifically and circumstantially led the thoughts of His disciples forward to the new age then dawning, which should be introduced and signalized by the coming and ministry of the Spirit.

(3) Each was manifested in a body.—The Lord Jesus in that which was prepared for Him by the Father, and born of a pure Virgin. We are told, that He took on Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of man. Similarly the Holy Spirit became, so to speak, incorporate in that mystical Body, the Church, of which Jesus is the Head.

On the day of Pentecost, the hundred and twenty who were gathered in the upper room, and who, up to that time, had had no corporate existence, were suddenly constituted a Church, the habitation and home of the Divine Spirit. What the human body of Jesus was to the second Person of the Holy Trinity, that the infant Church was to the third; though it did not represent the whole body, since we must add to those gathered in the upper room many more in heaven and on earth, who by virtue of their union with the risen Christ constituted with them the Holy Catholic Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who filleth all in all. "This," said the Blessed Spirit, "is My rest forever; here will I dwell, for I have desired it."

(4) Each was named before His advent.—"Thou shalt call His name Emmanuel." "His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." Thus was the Lord Jesus designated to loving hearts before His birth.

So also with the Holy Spirit. The last discourses of Jesus are full of appellatives, each setting forth some new phase of the Holy Spirit's ministry; some freshly-cut facet of His character. The Spirit of Truth; the Holy Spirit; the Paraclete; the Spirit of Conviction—such are some of the names by which He was to be known.

(5) Each was dependent on another.—Our Lord said distinctly, "The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do"; and He said of the Holy Spirit, using the same preposition, "He shall not speak of Himself, but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak."

What a conception is here! It is as though the Holy Spirit were ever listening to the Divine colloquy and communion between the Father and the Son, and communicating to receptive hearts disclosures of the secrets of the Deity. The things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, God hath revealed unto us by His Spirit; "for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God."

(6) Each received witness.—The Father bore witness to His Son on three separate occasions. On the first, at His baptism, He said, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased"; on the second, when the three apostles were with Him on the holy mount, and He received from the Father glory and honor; and on the third, when the inquiry of the Greeks reminded Him of His approaching death, and the voice from heaven assured Him that glory would accrue to the Father through His falling into the ground to die.

So in regard to the Holy Spirit. Seven times from the throne the ascended Lord summons those that have ears, to hear what the Spirit saith to the churches; as though to emphasize the urgent importance of His message, and the necessity of giving it our most earnest heed, lest we should drift past it.

(7) The presence of each is guaranteed during the present age.—"I am with you," saith the Lord, and they were among the closing words of His posthumous ministry, "all the days, even unto the end of the age"; and here it is foretold that the Comforter would abide during the age, for so the phrase might more accurately be rendered.

This is specially the age of the Holy Spirit. He may be grieved, ignored, and rejected; but He will not cease His blessed ministry to the bride, till the Bridegroom comes to claim her for Himself. Oh, let us avail ourselves of His gracious presence to the utmost of our opportunity, that He may realize in us the full purpose of His ministry. Let us not pray for Him, as if in any degree He had been withdrawn, but as believing that He is as much with the Church of to-day as on the day of Pentecost; as near us as when awe-struck eyes beheld Him settling in flame on each meekly-bowed head.

The Lord said, "He shall remain with you to the end of the age." The age is not closed, therefore He must be with us here and now. There can be no waning of His grace or power. The pot of oil is in the Church, only she has ceased to bring her empty vessels. The mine is beneath our feet, but we do not work it as of yore. The electric current is vibrating around, but we have lost the art of switching ourselves on to its flow. It is not necessary then for us to pray the Father that He should give the Holy Paraclete in the sense in which He bestowed Him on the Day of Pentecost in answer to the request of our Lord. That prayer has been answered: the Paraclete is here; but we need to have the eyes of our heart opened to perceive, and the hand of our faith strengthened that we may receive, Him.

The work of the Holy Spirit in and through us is conditioned by certain great laws, which call for our definite and accurate obedience. Not on emotion, nor on hysteric appeals, nor on excitement, but on obedience, does the power of God's Spirit pass into human hearts and lives. Therefore, let us walk in the Paracletism of the Paraclete, continually in the current of His gracious influences, which will bear us on their bosom ever nearer to our Lord. Oh to glorify Him; to know and love Him; to become passionately eager that all hearts should enthrone Him regardless of the personal cost it may involve! Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be forevermore. Amen.


The Three Dispensations

"The Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you."—JOHN xiv. 17.

They are lofty themes which we have been discussing in the foregoing pages; and just because they touch the highest matters of the spiritual life, they involve us in profound responsibility. It was because Capernaum had been exalted to heaven in privilege, that she could be cast down to hell. Of those to whom much is given, much is required. Better not to have known these truths of the inner life, if we are content to know them only by an intellectual apprehension, and make no effort to incorporate them into the texture of our character. Few things harden more certainly than to delight in the presentation of the mysteries of the kingdom, without becoming the child of the kingdom.

The object, therefore, which now engages us is less one of elucidation than of self-examination. Let us discern ourselves. Let us see whether we be in the faith. Let us expose soul and spirit to the discrimination of the Word of God, which is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

I. THERE ARE TWO AVENUES OF KNOWLEDGE.—"Whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him." Three things are specified as beyond the range of the world's power: it does not receive, it does not know, it does not see, the things of the unseen and eternal world. It cannot see them, therefore it does not know them, and therefore does not receive them, and this is especially true of its attitude toward the Holy Ghost.

When the world hears talk of the Holy Spirit it brings to bear upon Him those organs of cognition which it has been accustomed to apply to the objects of the natural world, and even to the human life of Christ. But, as might have been expected, these are altogether useless. It is as absurd to endeavor to detect the presence of the spiritual and eternal by the faculties with which we discern what is seen and temporal, as it would be to attempt to receive the impression of a noble painting by the sense of taste, or to deal with the problems of astronomy by the tests that are employed in chemical analysis. The world, however, does not realize its mistake. It persists in applying tests to the Spirit of God which may be well enough in other regions of discovery, but which are worse than useless here. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." "Whom the world cannot receive, for it beholdeth Him not, neither knoweth Him."

There was a touch of this worldly spirit even in Thomas, when he said, "Except I see in His hand the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe"; and in so far as the world-spirit is permitted to hold sway within us, our powers of spiritual perception will be blunted, and become infected with the tendency to make our intellect or imagination our sole means of apprehending Divine truth.

There is a better way than this; and our Lord indicates it when He says, "Ye know Him, for He abideth with you, and shall be in you." Pascal said, "The world knows in order to love: the Christian loves, in order to know." The same thought underlies these words of Christ. The world attempts to see the Spirit, that it may know and receive Him; the child of God receives Him by an act of faith that he may know Him.

An illustration of this habit is given in the story of Naaman. The spirit of the world whispered to him of the desirability of knowing that the waters of Israel possessed curative properties, before he committed himself absolutely to the prophet's directions; and if he had waited to know before bathing in them, he would have remained a helpless leper to the end of his days. His servants, however, had a clearer perception of the way of faith, and persuaded him to dip seven times in the Jordan. He acted on the suggestion, dipped seven times, and his flesh came as that of a little child. Similarly we are called to act upon grounds which the world would hold to be inadequate. We hear the testimony of another; we recognize a suitability in the promise of the Scripture to meet the deep yearnings of our soul; we feel that the words and works of Jesus Christ constitute a unique claim for Him, and we open our hearts toward Him. In absolute humility and perfect obedience we yield to Him our whole nature. Though the night be yet dark, we fling wide our windows to the warm southwest wind coming over the sea. The result is that we begin to know, with an intuitive knowledge that cannot be shaken by the pronouncements of the higher criticism. We have received the Spirit, and our after life is too short to unfold all that is involved in that unspeakable gift. We know Him because He abideth with us, and is in us. No man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him; and we can only know the Spirit of God when He has taken up His residence within us, and witnesses with our spirit, as One who is interwoven with the very texture of the inner life.

Consecration is therefore the key to this higher knowledge, and if any who read this page are yearning after a discernment of the things of God on which they may build the house of their faith amid the swirl of the storm and the beat of the wave of modern doubt, let them open their entire nature, humbly to receive, diligently to obey that Spirit whom Christ waits to give to all who seek.

II. THE CHARACTERISTIC OF THIS DISPENSATION.—"He shall be in you." It has been repeatedly said that creation is the work of the Father, redemption of the Son, and regeneration of the Holy Spirit. It may also be said, that there are three dispensations: that of the Father, in the earlier history of mankind; that of the Son, culminating in our Lord's ascension; and that of the Holy Spirit, in which we are now living. In the history of the world these were successive. In the history of souls they may be the contemporaneous. In the same house one member may be in the dispensation of the Father, another in that of the Son, and a third in that of the Holy Ghost. It is highly necessary, says the saintly Fletcher, that every good steward of the mysteries of God should be well acquainted with this fact, otherwise he will not rightly divide the word of life. There is peril lest we should give the truth of one order of dispensation to those who are living on another level of experience.

There is a remarkable illustration of this in the life of John the Baptist, who clearly realized the distinction on which we are dwelling, and used it with remarkable nicety, when approached by various classes of character. When Gentile soldiers came to him, in Roman regimentals, he merely bade them do violence to no man, and be content with their wages. When Jews came he said, "Behold the Lamb of God!" To his eagle eye a further dispensation was unveiled to which he alluded when he said, "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire." Similarly they to whom inquirers address themselves should diagnose their spiritual standing, that they may lovingly and wisely administer the truth suitable to their condition.

The dispensation of the Father includes those who hope that He has accepted and forgiven them, but have no clear perception of the atoning work of Christ; are governed rather by fear than love; tremble beneath the thunders of Sinai more often than they rejoice at the spectacle of Calvary; are tossed to and fro between hope and despair; desire the favor of God, but hesitate to speak confidently of having attained it. Such are to be found in churches where the Gospel is veiled beneath heavy curtains of misconception and formalism. In the same class we might put men like Cornelius, who in every nation fear God and work righteousness.

The dispensation of the Son includes those who clearly perceive His Divine nature, and rejoice in His finished propitiation; they know that they are accepted in the Beloved; they receive His teachings about the Father; they submit to the rule of life which He has laid down; but they know comparatively little of the inner life, or of their oneness with Christ in resurrection and ascension; they understand little of what the apostle meant by speaking of Christ being formed in the soul; and like the disciples at Ephesus they know but little of the mission and in-filling of the Holy Spirit.

The dispensation of the Holy Spirit includes those who have claimed their share in Pentecost. In their hearts the Paraclete dwells in sanctifying grace, on their heads He rests in mighty anointing. The previous class resemble Ruth the gleaner; the latter, Ruth the bride. The one dwells in Romans vii. and Hebrews iii.; the other in Romans viii. and Hebrews iv. For those the water has to be drawn from the well, in these it springs up to everlasting life. Oh to know the "in-ness" of the Holy Ghost. Know ye not that Jesus Christ is in you by the Spirit, unless ye be reprobate!

III. THE SYMPTOMS OF THE INDWELLING.—We must distinguish here, as Dr. Steele suggests, between what is variable, and what is constant.

These vary—(1) The joy of realization, which is sometimes overpowering in its intensity, at other times like the ebbing tide.

(2) Agony for souls, which would be insupportable if it were permanent. Christ only asks us to watch in Gethsemane for one hour.

(3) Access in prayer. Sometimes the vision is face to face; at others, though we grasp as in Jacob's night-wrestle, we cannot behold. Like Esther, we seem to wait in the ante-chamber. As the lark of which Jeremy Taylor speaks, we rise against the east wind.

(4) The openings of Scripture. The Bible does not seem to be always equally interesting. At times it is like the scented letter paper, smelling of aloes and cassia, bearing the handwriting we love; at others it resembles the reading book of the blind man, the characters in which, by constant use, have become almost obliterated, so as hardly to awake answering thought.

(5) The pressure of temptation. We sometimes think that we are getting out of the zone of temptation. The pressure is so reduced that we think we shall never suffer again as we have done. Then, all suddenly, it bursts upon us, as the fury of the storm, when, after an hour's cessation, it takes the mariner unawares.

All these symptoms are too variable to be relied upon for a diagnosis of our spiritual condition, or an evidence of the dispensation to which we belong.

These are constant—(1) The consciousness of being God's. This is to be distinguished from the outgoing of our faith and love toward God. At the beginning of our experience we hold Him, but as the Holy Spirit dwells more fully we realize that we are held by Him. It is not our love to God, but His love to us; not our faith, but His faithfulness; not the sheep keeping near the Shepherd, but the Shepherd keeping the sheep near to Himself. A happy sense steals over the heart, as over the spouse, "I am my Beloved's, and His desire is toward me."

(2) The supremacy of Jesus in the heart. There is no longer a double empire of self and Christ, as in the poor Indian who said to the missionary, "I am two Indians, good and bad"; but there is the undivided reign of Christ, who has put down all rule and authority and power—as in the case of Martin Luther, who said, "If any one should ask of my heart, who dwells here, I should reply, not Martin Luther, but Christ."

(3) Peace, which looks out upon the future without alarm, because so sure that Christ will do His very best in every day that lies hidden beneath the haze of the future; which forbears to press its will too vehemently, or proffer its request too eagerly, because so absolutely certain that Jesus will secure the highest happiness possible, consistently with His glory and our usefulness to men.

(4) Love. When the Spirit of God really dwells within, there is a baptism of love which evinces itself not only in the household, and to those naturally lovable, but goes out to all the world, and embraces in its tenderness such as have no natural traits of beauty. Thus the soft waters of the Southern Ocean lap against unsightly rocks and stretches of bare shingle.

Where love reigns in the inner chamber of the soul, doors do not slam, bells are not jerked violently, soft tones modulate the speech, gentle steps tread the highways of the world, bent on the beautiful work of the messengers of peace, and the very atmosphere of the life is warm and sunny as an aureole. There is no doubt of the indwelling Spirit where there is this outgoing love.

(5) Deliverance from the love and power of sin, so that it becomes growingly distasteful, and the soul turns with loathing from the carrion on which it once fed contentedly. This begets a sense of purity, robed in which the soul claims kinship to the white-robed saints of the presence-chamber, and reaches out toward the blessedness of the pure in heart who see God. There is still a positive rain of smut and filth in the world around; there is a recognition of the evil tendencies of the self-life, which will assert themselves unless graciously restrained; but triumphing above all is the purity of the indwelling Lord, who Himself becomes in us the quality for which holy souls eagerly long.


Three Paradoxes

"I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you."

"The world seeth Me no more; but ye see Me."

"Because I live, ye shall live also."—JOHN xiv. 18, 19.

The Bible and Christian life are full of paradoxes. Paul loved to enumerate them; they abound also in the discourses of our Lord. Here are three.

The Master had declared His purpose of leaving His apostles and friends and returning to His Father: but in the same breath He says, "I will not leave you desolate; I come to you."

Again, He had forewarned them that He would be hidden from them; yet now He tells them that they would still behold Him.

Further, with growing emphasis and clearness, He had unfolded His approaching death by the cruel Roman method of the cross; yet He claims the timeless life of an ever-present tense and insists that their life will depend on His.

Absent, yet present; hidden, yet visible; dying, yet living and life-giving—such are the paradoxes of this paragraph in His marvellous farewell discourse; and they reveal three facts of which we may live in perpetual cognizance.

I. WE MAY ENJOY THE PERPETUAL RECOGNITION OF THE ADVENT OF CHRIST.—"I will not leave you orphans, or desolate, I come unto you" (R. V.). Note the majesty of those last words; they are worthy of Deity; He speaks as though He were always drawing nigh those He loves: "I come unto you."

Christ is always present, yet He comes.—The Creator had been always immanent in His universe, but He came in each creative act; the Lawgiver had been ever-present in the Church in the wilderness, but He came down on Sinai, and His glory lit up the peaks of sandstone rock; the Deliverer was never for a moment absent from the side of the Shepherd-King, but in answer to His cry for help He came down riding upon a cherub, flying on the wings Of wind; the Holy Spirit had been in the world from the earliest days of prayer and inspired speech, but He came down from the throne to sit on each bowed head in lambent flame. So Christ is with us all the days, yet He comes. He will come at last to receive His own to Himself, and to judge the world; but He comes in dark and lonely hours that we may not be desolate.

"For warm, sweet, tender, even yet A present help is He; And faith has yet its Olivet And love its Galilee. The heeling of His seamless dress Is by our beds of pain; We touch Him in life's throng and press, And we are whole again."

He comes when we need Him most.—When the storm is high, and the water is pouring into the boat; when the house is empty because the life that made it home has fled; when Jericho has to be attacked on the morrow, and the Jordan crossed; when lover and friend stand aloof; when light is fading before dimming eyes, and names and faces elude the grasp of the aged mind; when the last coal is turning to grey ash; when the rush of the river is heard in the valley below—Jesus says, I come. It is in the hour of desolation, when Lazarus has been in the grave four days already, that the glad tidings are whispered in the ear of the mourner, "The Master is come." "I will not leave you orphans," He said, "I come unto you." Oh, blessed orphanhood, it were well to be bereaved, to have such comforting!

He pays surprise visits.—He does not always wait to be invited; but sometimes, when we lie sleeping with wakeful hearts, we hear His gentle voice calling to us, "Arise, My love, and come away." Then as we lift the door-latch, our hand drops with the sweet-smelling myrrh which betrays His presence. How often when we have been losing ground, getting lukewarm and worldly, we have suddenly been made aware of His reviving presence, and He has said, I come. He comes, as the wood-anemones and snowdrops (the most fragile and tender flowerets of spring) penetrate the hard ground to announce that the winter is over and gone, and that the time of the singing of birds is come.

It is well to put ourselves in His way.—There are certain beaten tracks well-worn by His feet, and if we would meet Him we must frequent their neighborhood. Olivet, where He used to pray; Calvary, where He died; Joseph's garden, where He rose, are dear to Him yet. When we pray or meditate; when we commemorate His dying love at the memorial feast; when we realize our union with Him in death and resurrection; when we open our hearts to the breathing of the Holy Spirit—we put ourselves in His way, and are more likely to encounter Him when He comes. "To them that look for Him shall He appear." "Behold the Bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet Him"—but take the path by which He is sure to travel. Be in the upper room, with the rest of the disciples, so that you may not, like Thomas, miss Him when He comes.

His footsteps are noiseless.—It is said of old, "Thy footsteps are not known," therefore we need not be surprised if He steal in upon us as a thief in the night, or as spring over the wolds. There is no blare of trumpet or voice of herald; we cannot say, Lo here, or Lo there; when the King comes there is no outward show; "He does not strive, nor cry, nor lift up, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street."

"He entered not by the eyes," says St. Bernard, "for His presence was not marked by color; nor by the ears, for there was no sound; nor by the touch, for He was impalpable. How then did I know that He was present? Because He was a quickening power. As soon as He entered He awoke my slumbering soul. He moved and pierced my heart, which before was stony, hard, and sick. He began also to pluck up and destroy, to build and plant, to freshen the inner drought, to enlighten the darkness, to open the prison-house, to make the crooked straight and the rough smooth; so that my heart could bless the Lord with all that was within me."

Oh, lonely, desolate soul, open thy door to Him; wait not on the alert to detect His entrance, only believe that He is there; and presently, and before ever thou art aware, thou wilt find a new fragrance distilling through the heart-chamber, a new power throbbing in thy pulse.

II. WE MAY ENJOY THE PERPETUAL RECOGNITION OF THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST.—"The world beholdeth Me no more, but ye behold Me." Nothing makes men so humble and yet so strong as the vision of Christ.

It induces humility.—When Isaiah beheld His glory more resplendent than the sheen of the sapphire throne, he cried that he was undone; when Peter caught the first flash of His miraculous power gleaming across the waves of Galilee, just when the fish were struggling in the full net, he besought Him to depart, because he felt himself a sinful man; and when John saw Him on the Isle of Patmos, he fell at His feet as dead, though, surely, if any of the apostles could have faced Him unabashed, it had been he.

This is specially noticeable in the Book of Job. Few books are so misunderstood. It is supposed to contain the description of the victory of Job's patience; in reality it delineates its testing and failure. It shows how he who was perfect, according to the measure of his light, broke down in the fiery ordeal to which he was exposed; and finally was forced to cry, "I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth Thee; wherefore I abhor myself and repent, in dust and ashes."

Wouldst thou be humble, wouldst thou know thyself a worm and no man, wouldst thou see that thou art verily undone, defiled, and helpless? Then ask the blessed Spirit to reveal Jesus in all His matchless beauty and holiness, eliciting the confession that thou are the least of saints and the chief of sinners. This is no forced estimate, when we take into account the opportunities we have missed, the gifts we have misused, the time we have wasted, the light which we have resisted, the love which we have requited with neglect.

It produces strength.—See that man of God prone on the floor of his chamber, shedding bitter tears of godly sorrow, not forgiving himself, albeit that he knows himself forgiven; bowing his head as a bulrush, crying that he is helpless, broken, and at the end of himself—Will he be able to stand as a rock against the beat of temptation, and the assault of the foe? Yes, verily, for the same presence which is a source of humility in private, will inspire to great deeds of faith and heroism when he is called to stand in the breach or lead the assault.

It is this vision of the present Lord that, in every age of the Church, has made sufferers strong. "The Lord is on my right hand, I shall not be moved," said one. "The Lord stood by me, and strengthened me," said another. In many a dark day of suffering and persecution; in the catacombs; in the dens and caves where Waldenses hid; on the hillsides where the Covenanters met to pray; in the beleaguered cities of the Netherlands; in prison and at the stake—God's saints have looked to Him, and been lightened, and their faces have not been ashamed. "Behold," said the first martyr, "I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God."

Oh for more of the open vision of Jesus, ministered to us by the gracious Spirit! Would that His words were oftener verified in our experience: "Ye behold Me!" He is always with us; and if only our eyes were not holden, we should behold Him with the quick perception of the heart. Indeed, the race can only be rightly run by those who have learned the blessed secret of looking off unto Him. "We see Jesus."

It is a most salutary habit to say often, when one is alone, "Thou art near, O Lord." "Behold, the Lord is in this place." We may not at first realize the truth of what we are saying. His presence may be veiled, as the forms of mountains swathed in morning cloud. But as we persist in our quest, putting away from us all that would grieve Him, and cultivating the attitude of pure devotion, we shall become aware of a Divine presence which shall be more to us than a voice speaking from out the Infinite.

III. WE MAY ENJOY THE PERPETUAL RECOGNITION OF THE LIVING CHRIST.—"Because I live, ye shall live also." There are many life-verses in this Gospel which shine like stars in the firmament of Scripture. Amongst them, in the first chapter, that, in the Word as manifested to men, was life; and in the fifth chapter, that, "as the Father had life in Himself He gave to the Son to have life also in Himself." The Father is the fountain of life. Eternal life is ever rising up in His infinite Being with perennial vigor; and all things living, from the tiny humming-birds in the tropical forest to the strongest archangel beside the sapphire throne, derive their being from Him. Thus we have seen ferns around a fountain, nourishing their fronds on its spray. All things owe their existence and continued being to the unmeasured life, which has been from all eternity treasured up in God, and is ever flowing out from God.

This life was Christ's, in the mystery of the eternal Trinity, before the worlds were made; but it was necessary that He should receive it into His human nature, so as to become the reservoir and storehouse from which all who were one with Him might receive grace on grace. "I am come," He said, "that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." This life dwelt in Him during His earthly ministry, though comparatively few availed themselves of it; His death set it abroach for all the world; the smitten rock yielded streams of living water; the last Adam became a life-giving Spirit; from His throne He proclaimed Himself as He that liveth, though He became dead, and is alive forevermore.

We live by His life.—Our life is as dependent upon Him as a babe's on its mother. Could ought happen to Him, we should instantly feel the effect. Long before He succumbed, we must. We have no independent, self-derived, or self-sustained life. Apart from Him we wither.

We live in His life.—The tiny streamlet of our being has joined His, is merged in it, and flows on together with it, to the great ocean of eternity. To us to live is Christ, both here and hereafter. Our aims and purposes are merged in His; we are enriched in all that enriches Him; gladdened by all that promotes His happiness and glory; made more than conquerors through our oneness with Him, in the victory that has overcome the world.

We live because He lives in us.—At the moment of regeneration He came to indwell. He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath life hath the Son. It has pleased God to reveal His Son in us. We have found Him of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write, and we have found Him in our hearts. Where dwellest Thou? we asked Him; and He replied, Come and see; and He manifested Himself as having become to us the inward principle of an endless life. Christ dwells deep in our heart, and we are beginning to comprehend the immensity of the Divine love of which He is the exponent.

Let us draw on this life more confidently, availing ourselves of it perpetually in all our time of need—in all time of our sickness and of our wealth, in adversity and prosperity, in the hour of mortal anguish and the day of judgment; and finding what we could not do or bear or encounter, Jesus can do and bear and meet in and through us, to the Father's eternal glory.

"Lord Jesus Christ, grow Thou in me, And all things else recede."


Many Mansions for God

"If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him; and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him."—JOHN xiv. 23.

The Immanence of God! That God should be willing to make His home with man is much; but that He should be willing to come in—to indwell, occupy, and possess our nature—this is incomprehensible to the intellect, though it may be received and rejoiced in by the heart. This is no subject for light and thoughtless speech. We touch on the profoundest mysteries of the Being of the Infinite, and the capacity of human nature. Be reverent, O my soul, in the consideration of such a theme, and take the shoes from off thy feet, for the Bush burns with fire!

It was owing to the question of Jude, that the universal application of our Master's words is so clear. A day or two before, our Lord had entered Jerusalem amid the enthusiasm of the crowds, and the disciples fondly thought the long-expected time had arrived when He would manifest Himself to the world as the Messiah. "This is the beginning of the Messianic reign," said each apostle in his secret heart, as the great procession passed over the shoulder of Olivet; and each began to wonder what special post would be allotted to him in the new empire that seemed so close at hand. These nascent hopes, however, had been rudely dissipated by our Lord's declaration that the world was to see Him no more, accompanied by the promise, "But ye see Me."

The apostles therefore were inclined to think that in some special form the manifestations of His grace and glory would be confined to them. Hence Jude's question, "What is come to pass, Master, that Thou wilt manifest Thyself unto us, and not unto the world?" Jesus answered in effect, "Think not that thou and thy fellows are to have the exclusive right of beholding and communing with Me. What I offer to you is open to all who believe, love, and obey. The gate which I throw open shall stand wide for all who choose to enter. The veil shall be rent, that any who fulfill the spiritual conditions may see the light, and hear the voice, and stand in the inner court. If a man love Me . . ." Note those emphatic words, "a man,"—any man; thou and I.

I. THE DIVINE IMMANENCE.—"We will make our abode." The word "abode" is here a translation of the Greek word which is rendered "mansions" in a former part of this chapter. "We will make our mansion with Him." God is willing to become the mansion of the soul that believes in Christ, but asks in return that such a one should prepare a guest-chamber, and become a mansion in which He may dwell. As He steals with noiseless tread into the loving, believing heart, I hear Him say, "This is My rest forever; here will I dwell, for I have desired it."

(1) It is the Immanence of the Father.—Consider who this is of whom the Saviour speaks. The infinite God! Time with all its ages is but the flash of a moment in His eternity! Space, "beyond the soar of angel wings," is but a corner in His dwelling-place; matter, with its ponderous mass, but the light dust that will not affect the level of the scale! The mighty sun, which is the centre of all worlds, but a mote floating in the beam of His being! All the gathered wisdom of man, stored in the libraries of the world, but as a glow-worm's spark compared with the meridian light of His wisdom! O souls of men, consider how marvellous that such a One, whom the heavens cannot contain, who overflows their limits, asking for room that He may dwell, will yet become the resident of our nature!

Its motive is Love.—"The Father will love him." This is wonderful! The more so as we are told that His love toward us is identical with that which He has toward our Lord. Speaking of those who shall believe through His apostles' words, Jesus said, "That the world may know that Thou lovest them even as Thou lovest Me." That God should condescend to think about our planet, which is as a leaf in the forest of being! That He should deign to regard mankind, who, in size at least, are less than a colony of ants that may have built their home at the foot of the Himalaya! That He should pity our race! This were much. But that He should love the world, that He should love individuals belonging to our race, that He should love them with the love He has toward the Only-begotten—we could not have believed this unless we had been assured by the lips of infallible Truth. But the supreme revelation which towers above the rest, like some great banyan tree amid the slender growth of the Indian forest, is that the Creator should indwell and find a mansion in the heart of His creatures.

It is dual, yet one.—"We will come." We! Then, is there more than One? Who is this who dares class Himself with the supreme God within the limits of a common pronoun, that challenges the love and trust and obedience of man, that poses as King? The meekest and humblest of men. The One who, above all others of the human family, seemed to have least to disturb or darken the incidence of the rays of truth upon His soul; who has cast a light on all the dark problems of human life, and could not possibly have been deceived in respect to His own nature. His conceptions of the holiness, greatness, and purity of God have stood out in unrivalled magnificence from all others whatsoever; yet it is He who couples in one small word His humanity with Deity, His meekness with the Infinite Majesty, His personality with God's. Is not this proof enough that He was conscious of His Divine nature? Is not the fact of His not counting it robbery to be equal with God evidence that He was God? What can they make of this We, who hold that He was only a good man and a great teacher? Good men are humble men, great teachers know best their own limitations!

It is in, and with, and through the Son, and by the Spirit, that the Father comes to indwell.

(2) It is the Immanence of the Son. To be loved by Him were much!—"I will love Him." His love is of the rarest quality. Most free of the soil of selfishness, of any human love. True and tender, strong and sweet, inexorable in its demands upon Himself, inexhaustible in its outflow toward the objects of His affectionate regard. Such love as He gave to John, who grew like Him beneath the magic power of that environment; as He gave to Mary, who perhaps most deeply understood Him; as He gave to Peter, winning him back from his waywardness—brings with it a heaven of bliss, for which a man may well be prepared to count all things but loss. But there is a bliss beyond all this. The Lover of men would indwell them.

It were much that He should seek our love.—"He that loveth Me." We might have supposed that He would have been satisfied with the vastness of His dominion, and the myriad bright spirits that wait on His word! But no, the thirst for love cannot be satisfied with gold, or bright angelic servants. As Isaac could not find a companion among those who tended the cattle that browsed over the wolds of Canaan, or the troops of slaves that gathered round his father's tents, but Eliezer must bring a bride from across the desert; so the Son of God must needs come as a suitor to our world to find His Bride, who can share His inner thoughts and purposes. Here is a marvel indeed. As the village becomes famous which provides the emperor's bride, so earth, though it be least among her sister-spheres, shall have the proud preeminence of having furnished from her population the Spouse of the Lamb. But, great as this marvel is, it is followed by the greater, that the Immortal Lover is willing to tenant the poor hearts, whose love at the best is so faint and cold.

It were much that He should give us manifestations of His love.—"I will manifest Myself unto him." Have you not sometimes taken up a daisy, and looked into its little upturned eye, and thought and thought again, till through the gate of the flower you have passed into an infinite world of life, beauty, and mystery? There are moments when even a flower is transfigured before us, and manifests itself to us as a thought of God, a ray of His glory, the frail product of His infinite mind, the wick around which trembles the fire of the Shekinah! Have you not sometimes stood alone amid mountains, glaciers, wooded valleys, and rushing streamlets, till nature has dropped her veil, and revealed herself in a phase of beauty and a depth of meaning which struck you as altogether unique and singular? So there are moments in the life of the believer, when Christ, who is ever with us, manifests Himself as He does not to the world. There is borne in upon the spirit a consciousness that He is near; there is a waft of His breath, a savor of His fragrant dress, fresh from the ivory palaces.

All this is much: but how much more to be told that this glorious Christ, the Fellow of Jehovah, who with the Father and the Spirit is God; the Organ of creation; the Mouthpiece of the Godhead; the Mediator of Redemption; the Monarch of all worlds; the Supreme Teacher, Guide, and Saviour of men—is prepared to repeat the experiences of Bethlehem, and make His abode in man! "We will come unto Him, and make our abode with Him."

(3) Learn to revere the work of God in the souls of others.—"For thy meat," said the apostle, "destroy not the soul for whom Christ died." He might have added, "and in whom Christ lives." Weak and erring, trying and vexatious, that fellow-believer may be, yet there is a chamber in his nature in which God has already taken up His abode. The conflict between the light and darkness, the Christ-spirit and the self-spirit, may be long and arduous, but the issue is certain. Help, but do not hinder the process. Be reverent, careful, mindful of the presence of God.

Be hopeful for thyself.—When an art-student asked Mr. Ruskin whether he would ever be able to paint like Turner, the great critic replied, "It is more likely that you will become Emperor of all the Russias!" But God never daunts a soul with such discouragement. He first sets before it a great ideal—the faith of Abraham, the meekness of Moses, the prayer of an Elijah, the love of a John—and then, as the source of all perfection, enters the soul, to be in it all that He has taught it to desire.

Count on the indwelling of His power.—The merchant of to-day has facilities granted to no previous age. The cablegram, telegram, and telephone put him in communication with the markets of the world: steam and electricity are his willing slaves in manufacture: machinery with its unwearying iron fingers toils for him. A single human brain, which knows how to avail itself of these resources, can multiply its conceptions indefinitely. How vast the space between the untutored savage, doing everything with his hands, and the merchant prince, who has but to press the ivory-plated pushes fixed upon the walls of his room! But not less is the difference between the work we can accomplish by our natural resources, and that which we achieve when we recognize that what is impossible to us is possible to Him who has come in to abide. I cannot; but God is within me, and He can.

II. THE CONDITIONS OF THE DIVINE IMMANENCE.—(1) Love to Christ.—"He that loveth Me shall. . . ." We would love Him, but how? Do not think of your love, but of His. "Love is of God." Open the shutters of your being toward the love of God; we love because He first loves. Love is the reflection from us of what we have first received from God.

Love is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is Love. Seek the in-filling and in-working of the Spirit; be careful to obey His promptings to love; avoid grieving Him by bitterness, wrath, or evil speaking; sit as His willing pupil in the school of love; cast on Him the responsibility of securing in your nature obedience to the primal law which is fulfilled in the one word, "Thou shalt love."

Beneath the nurturing grace of the Spirit, we shall be led to meditate much on the love of Jesus to us, especially as manifested in the death of the cross; and as we muse, the fire will burn, love will glow, and afford the condition of soul which is infinitely attractive to the Divine Lover, who requires our love, and produces the love which He requires.

(2) Obedience to Christ.—Where there is true love, there will be obedience. This rather than emotion. Many a sincere soul who questions its love, because its emotions are low or fluctuating, would rather die than disobey the least jot or tittle of His commandments. Such a one loves. "He that hath My commandments" (treasured in memory and heart), "he it is that loveth Me." Why do ye call Him, Lord, Lord, and do not the things that He says? There may be the luscious language of the lip, but it does not deceive Him. He looks under the leaves for fruit.

Disobedience robs the soul of the sweet sense of Christ's indwelling. Nothing can compensate for failure to obey. Whatever the protestations, there is no real love to Christ where His commands are knowingly disregarded and set at nought. But each time we dare to step out in simple obedience to His will, it seems as though the inner light shines deeper down into the hidden places of our being, and the residence of Christ extends to new chambers of the heart.


Christ's Legacy and Gift of Peace

"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."—JOHN xiv. 27.

It seems a little anomalous to talk of peace at a time when the war-clouds are being swiftly blown up from the horizon, the sea roaring, and men's hearts failing them for fear: and yet, in the deepest aspects, this is of all times the most suitable. It is when the storm rattles on the window-panes that the family draws closer round the fire, and the mother clasps her babe to her breast.

The word Peace is the Eastern salutation and benediction. When one stranger encounters another, as they meet and part, they wish each other peace. It was befitting, therefore, that at Christ's entrance into our world, the first salutation to men, as conveyed by the angels, should be, "Peace on earth"; and that His parting words should be, "Peace be unto you." But with what a wealth of meaning does the Lord invest familiar words when they issue from His lips! Let us draw nigh, and allow His sweet and soothing consolations to have their full effect.

I. LET US DISTINGUISH BETWEEN "PEACE" AND "MY PEACE."—"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you." There is a distinction between these two. The former refers to the result of His work for us on the cross: "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ"; the latter refers to His indwelling, who is our Peace. The one He has bequeathed as a legacy to all men: the testator died, and left in His will a perfect reconciliation between God and man, which is for all who are willing to avail themselves of it; the other is a gift, which must be appropriated and used, or it will be ineffectual.

The order of these two varieties of peace is invariable.—We must have peace with God before we can enjoy the peace of God. We must receive the atonement, with all its blessed comfort, before we can enter upon our heritage in Christ Jesus. A believer, whose feet were dipping in the chill waters of the river, said to me recently, when speaking of her enjoyment of some of the deeper aspects of Christian experience, "I am afraid I have been building from the top. I see now, as I come near eternity, that one's foundations must be strong and sure before one can build on them. I need now more than ever the blood of Christ." This, perhaps, is one of the perils of the present day. The Church is arraying herself in her beautiful garments. The gold pieces of Christian thought and life are becoming current coin, taken from the coffers, where they have too long lain, and distributed broadcast. Treatises and tractlets on the innermost aspects of the blessed life are plentiful as flowers in May. There is a danger, therefore, of young converts and others occupying themselves with such themes, and not paying sufficient attention to the Divine order.

Christ dying for us on the cross must precede Christ living in us by His Spirit; justification with its evidences must be well apprehended before sanctification with its fruits; the peace with God must shed its benediction over the soul before it can enter upon the peace of God. Ah soul! thou hast experienced the former; dost thou know the latter? Dost thou know what it is for Christ to enter into the closed doors of the inner chamber of the heart, and say, "Peace be unto thee"? what it is to hear His voice speaking above the tumult of the inland lake of thy soul, and making a great calm? what it is for Him to deal with the springs of the inner life, which lie deeper than emotion or fancy, and pour in His infinite serenity, so that the outflow may be pellucid and tranquil?

Christ lays stress on His peace. He must mean the very peace that filled His own heart; not something like it, but the same, always keeping the heart with the affections, and the mind with its thoughts. This being so, we infer—

That His peace is consistent with a perfect knowledge of coming sorrow.—He knew all things that awaited Him (John xviii. 4): the treachery of Judas, the denial by Peter, the forsaking by all, the shame and spitting, the cross and grave; and yet He spoke serenely of His peace. It is therefore consistent with the certain outlook toward darkness and the shadow of death. You may know from certain symptoms that cancer has struck its fangs into your flesh, and that paralysis has begun to creep along your spine, that your dearest is barked by the Woodsman for felling, that your means of subsistence will inevitably dry up; but, facing all these, as Jesus faced the cross, you may still be conscious of a peace that passeth understanding.

That it is consistent with energetic action.—Men are disposed to think that peace is one of the last fruits of the tree of life, which drops into the hand of the aged. A man says to himself, I shall have to relinquish this active life, to settle in some quiet country home in the midst of nature, and then perhaps I shall know what peace means. A snug home and a competence, the culture of flowers, the slow march of the seasons, tender home-love, far away from the hustling throng of the world—these are the conditions of peace. Not so, says Christ: "Arise, let us go hence." Let us leave this quiet harbor, and launch out into the stormy deep. Let us leave this still chamber, around the windows of which the vines cling, and go forth into the garden where the cedars fight with the tempest, and amidst it all we shall find it possible to enjoy the peace that passeth knowledge. Let men and women immersed in the throng of daily toil, young men, busy men, understand that Christ's peace is for those who hear the bugle note of duty summoning them to arise, and go hence.

That the chief evidence of this peace is in the leisureliness of the heart.—Christ's possession of peace was very evident through all the stormy scenes that followed. With perfect composure He could heal the ear of Malchus, and stay the impetuosity of Peter; could reason quietly with the slave that smote Him, and bid the daughters of Jerusalem not to weep; could open paradise to the dying thief, and the door of John's home to the reception of His mother. Few things betray the presence of His peace more than the absence of irritability, fretfulness, and feverish haste, which expend the tissues of life.

Oh that you may now receive from Christ this blessed gift! Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart; it is your high privilege, be not backward in availing yourself of it. It will be as oil to the machinery of life.

II. THE SOURCES OF CHRIST'S PEACE.—(1) The vision of the Father.—"If ye loved Me, ye would rejoice because I said, I go unto the Father."

Throughout these closing chapters He seems able to speak of nothing else. His mind ranges from the disciples whom He was leaving to the Father to whom He was going. Almost unconsciously He gives us a glimpse of His self-repression in staying so long away from His Father's manifested presence, when He says that if we loved Him we would be glad to lose His bodily presence because He had gone to be with the Father. He gives us to understand how real and near the Father was to Him, and how He longed to be again in His bosom! He was so occupied with this thought, that He reckoned little of what lay between. Hail! ye stormy waters of death, stormy winds, and boisterous waves, ye do but waft my soul nearer its haven in the Father's love!

It is the thought of the Father that gives peace, because it robs life of its terrors and death of its sting. Why fear what life may bring when the Father has arranged each successive step of its pathway! Why dread Judas or Caiaphas, Herod or Pilate since the Father lies between the soul and them as a rampart of rock! Why lose heart amid the perplexities and discouragements, whose dark shadows lie heavily on the hills, when in the green pastures of the valley the Father's love tends the sheep! Ask Christ to reveal the Father to you. Live in His everlasting love, and learn what He can be amid the storm and tumult as a very present help.

(2) Disentanglement from the world.—"The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me." He came first at the beginning of the Saviour's life, with temptations to his ambitions; he came again at its close, with temptations to that natural shrinking from pain which is characteristic of a highly organized nature. "Back, Son of Man! Thou canst not bear the cross and spear, the nail and thorn! Thy tender flesh will ill sustain Thee when the sorrows of death and the pains of hell get hold upon Thee!" So Satan came; but there was no response in the heart of Christ, no answering voice from the depths of His soul, no traitor within to join hands with the tempter without. There was no square inch of territory in all Christ's nature which the devil could claim, or from which he could operate.

This is a clue to Christ's peace, which we do well to follow till it lead us out into the open. As long as we are entangled with this world, peace evades us, just as sleep, which comes easily to the laboring man who has nothing beyond his daily wage, vanishes from the pillow of the merchant, who on stormy nights thinks uneasily of the vessels which carry his wealth far out at sea. We must stand clear of the ambitions of the world, of the fear or favor of man, of the avaricious craving for wealth, or the fear of poverty. We must put the cross of Christ between us and the world, which was judged at Calvary. We must be able to say truly that our treasure is in heaven and our heart also, and that we seek the things where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. Then the stock-market may fluctuate, riches go or come, men praise or hate, nought will affect our peace, any more than the tumults of a continental city, in which we are spending a night in transit, can cause us serious disturbance.

(3) Supreme love.—"I love the Father." I have so often noticed how a supreme love in a young girl's life seems to calm and quiet her, because it draws the whole of her nature in one strong flow toward the man of her choice. Before that, there was a waywardness, a vacillation, a nervous excitement, which passed away as soon as love dawned upon her soul. So long as the heart is subject to every influence, it quivers and wavers as the magnet needle when swept by streams of electricity. A strong uniting love does for us what the strong attraction of the pole does for the needle. Christ loved the Father. There was no difficulty in bearing what He sent, or doing what He bade. There were no rival claimants, no questionings or debate within the palace of His heart. Every passion and emotion of His human nature was quieted and stilled in the set of His whole being toward the Father. If you too would have peace, you must love; you must love supremely Him who alone is worthy, who can never disappoint or fail. And in proportion as you love God, you will find pleasure in all beautiful things, in all lovely persons, in all the fair gifts of nature and life. Oh, love the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, love His holy name!

(4) A supreme source of authority.—"As the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do." Every soul must have a supreme source of authority in its life, if it is to have peace. Its own whim, the suggestion of passion, the vagrant impulse of the moment, are inconsistent with tranquillity. There must be for each of us one voice which is imperative, one command which is indisputable, one authority which admits of no gainsaying. If you will search your heart you will see that this is so. Compare the restlessness of the Book of Judges with the tranquillity of the reign of Solomon, and you will have an apt illustration of your own experience before consecration put Christ on His throne, and afterward. When the true Melchizedek established his reign within you, at once your heart became Salem, the city of peace. When you put the government upon His shoulder, He set up His reign within you as the Prince of Peace. Happy for you, if to the increase of His government there is no end; for of the increase of your peace there will be no end either.

Combine these four—the sense of God's presence and providence in the details of life; detachment from the world; a supreme love to God; the recognition in everything that you are His slave—and you will comply with the conditions of participating in the peace of Christ which He offers. Some persons have a marvellous faculty of imparting their own tranquillity in an accident, a storm, an illness; their aspect, tones, manner, are like the repose of a summer's evening after a sultry day: so shall Christ be to you, and you to others.

III. CHRIST'S GIVING CONTRASTED WITH THE WORLD'S.—"Not as the world giveth, give I unto you."

The world wishes peace, but lightly speaks the word; frequently wishing it when there is least warrant for it; wishing it without doing anything to produce it; wishing it whilst glorying over a wrong, healing slightly a wound, covering with the turf the crater of a volcano. Christ, on the other hand, lays the foundations of peace in suitable conditions of a holy and healthy life.

With the world, peace is a passing emotion; with Christ, a settled principle of action—the perfect balance and equilibrium of the soul, out of which comes all that is fair, strong, wholesome.

The world's peace consists in the absence of untoward circumstances; Christ's is altogether independent of circumstances, and consists in the state of the heart. It matters nothing to Him that in the world we have tribulation. He bids us be of good cheer, because in Him we shall have peace. The wildest conjunction of outward things cannot break the perfect peace which nestles to His heart, as Noah's dove to the hand which plucked it in from the weltering waters.

"Let not your heart be troubled," the Master says again. You may be troubled on every side, but be not troubled. Do not let the trouble come inside. Watch carefully against its intrusion, as you would against that of any other form of temptation. Let My peace, like a sentinel, keep you; and as you look forward to the unknown future, out of which spectral figures emerge, do not be afraid. There is a part for you to do, as well as for Me. I can give you My peace, but you must avoid any and everything that will militate against its possession and growth.


The Story of the Vine

"I am the true Vine, and My Father is the Husbandman."—JOHN xv. I.

We have now a story to tell which, in the eye of heaven, will make our world forever memorable and wonderful among her sister spheres. It is the story of the Vine, and how it was the Divine purpose our earth should be its fruitful soil, and our race intimately associated with its growth and history.

"I am the true Vine," said our Lord. Not improbably, as He was passing forth with His disciples into the moonlit air, He perceived a vine clustering around the window or door; and with an eye ever awake to each touch of natural beauty, and a heart always alert for spiritual lessons, He turned to them and said, What that vine is in the world of nature I am in relation to all true and faithful souls. I am the true Vine—true, not as opposed to false, but true in the sense of real, substantial, and enduring. The essential, as distinguished from the circumstantial; the eternal, as distinct from the temporary and transient.

Nature is a parable of God. In each of her forms we have a revelation of God. Not so complete as that given through the mind of prophets, or the life of Jesus Christ, but still a revelation of the Divine. Each natural object, as it stood in Eden's untainted beauty, displayed some aspect of Him, whom no man can see and live. The apple-tree among the trees of the wood; the rose of Sharon: the lily of the vale; the cedar, with its dark green foliage; the rock for strength; the sea for multitudinousness; the heaven with its limpid blue, like the Divine compassion, overarching all—these are some of the forthshadowings in the natural world of spiritual qualities in the nature of God. The vine was made the clinging, helpless plant it is, that it might forever remind men of certain deep characteristics of the Divine nature.

I. THE VINE AND ITS BRANCHES.—The unity of the vine. The vine and its branches constitute one plant. Some branches may be trailed along the trellis-work outside the cottage door, others conducted through hothouse after hothouse; yet one life, one stream of sap, one essential quality and character pervades them all, from the dark root, buried in the soil, to the furthest twig or leaf. Yonder branch, waving its fronds high up against the hothouse glass, cannot say to that long leafless branch hidden beneath the shelf, You do not belong to me, nor I to you. No twig is independent of another twig. However different the functions, root and branches, leaves and cluster, all together make one composite but organic whole. So is it with Christ. All who are one with Him are one with each other. The branches that were nearest the root in the days of Pentecost are incomplete without the last converts that shall be added in the old age of the world. Those without these will not be made perfect.

This is the underlying truth of the holy Catholic Church. Men have tried to show that it must be an outward and visible organization, consisting of those who had received, through a long line of apostolical succession, some mystic power for administering rites and conferring absolution, together with those who came beneath the touch of their priestly hands. That theory has notoriously broken down. But the truth of which it is a grotesque travesty is presented in our Lord's conception of the vine, deeply planted in the dark grave of Joseph's garden, which had reached down its branches through the ages, and in which every believing soul has a part. Touch Christ, become one with Him in living union, abide in Him, and you are one with the glorious company of the apostles, the goodly fellowship of the prophets, the noble army of martyrs and the Church of the First-born, whose names are written in heaven.

The pliancy of the vine.—More than most plants it needs a husbandman. It cannot stand upright like other fruit-trees, but requires a skillful hand to guide its pliant branches along the espaliers, or to entwine them in the trellis-work. It suggests a true thought of the appearance presented to the world by Christ and His Church.

Mrs. Hamilton King, in her description of the sermon preached in the hospital by Ugo Bassi, on the eve of the great movement which, by the expulsion of the Austrians, gave Italy to the Italians, specially dwells on this. Down five wards the prisoners are lying on the hospital-beds from which they will never rise again. To them the deep voice of the hero-preacher tells the story of the vine: how "it is tied to a stake, and if its arms stretch out, it is but cross-wise; they are also forced and bound."

Thus it was with Christ. Never following His own way; always bound to the imperative must of the Father's will; yielded to the cross as a willing Sufferer. And so it has been with His followers. Not strong to stand alone, but always yielded to the Father's will, that He should lead them whither He would—to a cross, if needs were; to persecution and shame, if this would better serve His purpose; to a Gethsemane, if that were the only gate to life.

Yield thyself to those loving hands. They may lead thee afar from thy original purpose—twisting thee in and out with many a contortion; fixing thee with nail and fastening; trailing thee over the wall, to droop thy clusters to the hands of strangers. Nevertheless, be sure to let Him have His way with thee; this is necessary for the accomplishment of His purpose.

The suffering of the vine.—When, in the spring, "the grace of the green vine makes all the land lovely, and the shoots begin to wind and wave in the blue air," the husbandman comes in with pruning-hook and shears, and strips it bare of all its innocent pride. Nor is this all. Even in the vintage it is not allowed to glory in the results of the year, "the branches are torn down and trodden in the wine-press, while the vine stands stripped and desolate."

So it has always been. The well-being of the world has been greatly promoted through the Church, but always at an infinite cost to herself. Christ's people have always been a suffering people, and it is in exact proportion to their anguish that they have enriched mankind. They have saved others, but not themselves. The red stream of blood that has vitalized the world, has flowed from broken hearts.

"Measure thy life by loss instead of gain, Not by the wine drunk, but by the wine poured forth; For Love's strength standeth in Love's sacrifice, And whoso suffers most hath most to give."

The interdependence of vine and branches.—In God from eternity dwelt a wealth of love, pity, and yearning over the souls of men, that could not express themselves directly. There was no language for the infinite passion of the Divine heart. Hence the gift of the Son, through whom, when He had become flesh, the Infinite might express Himself. But even this was not sufficient. The vine-root is not enough in itself, it must have branches to carry its rich juices to the clusters, so that these may hang free of each other in the sun and air. Christ must have branches—long lines of saved souls extending down the centuries—through which to communicate Himself to men.

We have seen how necessary the root is to the branches. Only from it can our fruit be found. But let us humbly, yet gladly, believe that we are also necessary to Christ. He cannot do without us. The Son wants sons; angels will not suffice. Through redeemed men alone can He achieve His eternal purpose. I hear the Root pleading for more and yet more branch-life, that it may cover the world with goodly shadow and fruit.

II. FRUIT OR NO FRUIT.—From all that has been said, it is clear that the one purpose in the vine is fruit-bearing. See, here, how the Divine Teacher accentuates it. "Fruit," "much fruit," "more fruit." Nothing less will content Him in any one of us. For this we were taken out of the wild vine in which we were by nature, and grafted into Him; for this the regeneration of the Holy Ghost, and the discipline of life; for this the sunshine of His love, and the dew of the Holy Ghost. It becomes each seriously to ask, "Am I bringing forth fruit unto God? There may be orthodoxy of doctrine, correctness in life, and even heartiness of service; but is there fruit, much fruit, more fruit?"

Fruit!—This is the only condition of being retained in living union with the Vine.

Much fruit!—Only thus will the Father be glorified.

More fruit.—Otherwise there must be the repeated use of the knife.

Nowhere does the Lord contemplate a little fruit. A berry here and there! A thin bunch of sour, unripened grapes! Yet it is too true that many believers yield no more than this. He comes to us hungry for grapes, but behold a few mildewed bunches, not fit to eat!

Where there is no fruit, there has been no real union with the Vine. Probably you are a professor, but not a possessor; a nominal Christian, an attendant at church or chapel, but not really one with Christ. True union with Him produces a temper, a disposition, a ripe and mellow experience which certainly indicates that Christ is within. You cannot simulate the holy joy, the thoughtful love, the tranquil serenity, the strong self-control, which mark the soul which is in real union with Jesus; but where there is real abiding, these things will be in us and abound, and we shall be neither barren, nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

III. THE KNIFE AND THE FIRE.—"Every branch in Me that beareth fruit," the Father who is the Husbandman "purgeth it that it may bring forth more fruit." Too many children of God, when passing through great physical and other suffering, account it punishment. Nay, it is not punitive, but purgative. This is the pruning-knife, cutting away the shoots of the self-life, that the whole energy of the soul may be directed to the manifesting of the life of the Lord Jesus. It may seem a grievous waste to see the floor of the hothouse or vineyard littered with fronds and shoots and leaves, but there need be no lament: the branches of the autumn will well repay each stroke of that keen edge with fuller, richer fruit. So we gain by loss, we live as we die, the inward man is renewed as the outer decays.

The knife is in the Father's hand; let us never forget that. He will not intrust this delicate and difficult work to man or angel. Shall we not be in subjection to the Father of our spirits and live? Blessed be the Father of our Lord Jesus, and our Father in Him. He that spared not Christ may be trusted to do the best for us.

Employing the same word, the Master said, "Now ye have been pruned through the word that I have spoken to you." Perhaps if we were more often to yield ourselves to the pruning of the Word, we should escape the pruning of sore pain and trial. If the work were done by the golden edge of Scripture, it might make the iron edge of chastisement needless. Therefore, when we take the Word of God in hand, let us ask the great Husbandman to use it for the pruning away of all that is carnal or evil, so that His life may have unhindered sway.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse