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CHRIST'S SACERDOTAL PRAYER.
JOHN xvii. 18-21.
As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them
into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one ; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us : that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
E have seen the relation which subsists be
tween Jesus Christ and his heavenly Father. 1. A relation of nature, implied in that glory which he had with the Father before the world was. 2. There is a relation of economy: Jesus Christ as Mediator, is one with God. And this relation consists of three particulars: (1) Unity of idea : (2) Unity of will : (3) Unity of dominion.
II. Consider the relation subsisting between Jesus Christ and his apostles, not in their character,
simply, of believers of Christ, but principally in the view of their public character as apostles. Let us inquire, in what sense it is that Jesus Christ makes it his request, that they may be one with the Father and himself, as he was one with the Father. This is the second object, this the second mystery, to which we now call upon you to direct your serious attention.
Weigh the import of these remarkable words : As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world : and for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Jesus Christ had entered into the plan of the eternal Father, respecting the salvation of the human race; and had come into the world to put it in execution. It was necessary, in like manner, that the apostles should enter into the plan of this divine Saviour, and, to the utmost extent of their ability, should labor, together with hiin, in executing the merciful design. And as Jesus Christ, in order to acquit himself, with success, of this mystery which was committed unto him, must have possessed, with the Father, a unity of idea, of will, and of dominion, it was likewise necessary that the apostles should possess this threefold unity with Jesus Christ; and this precisely is the substance of what Jesus Christ prays for in their behalf.
1. In order to acquit themselves successfully of the functions of their ministry, it was necessary that the apostles should participate in the ideas of Jesus Christ, and in the infallibility of his doctrine. He had himself said to them, he that heareth you, heareth me, Luke x. 16. He had given them this commission : Go ye, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit : and, lo, I am with you
always, even to the end of the world, Matt. xxvii. 19, 20.
How could they possibly have executed this commission, to any advantage, unless they had participated in the ideas of Jesus Christ, and in the infallibility of his decisions ? What dependance could we repose on their testimony had it been liable to error? How should we implicitly admit the oracles which emanated from the apostolic college, if they were to be subjected to examination at the tribunal of human reason, as those of mere human teachers ? The slightest alteration affecting the assertion of the infallibility of the doctrine of those boly men, subverts it from the very foundation. The moment that human reason assumes a right to appeal from their decisions, it is all over, and we are at once brought back to the religion of nature. And the moment we are brought back to the religion of nature, we are bewildered in all the uncertainty of the human understanding: we are still seeking the Lord, if haply we might feel after him, and find him, Acts xvii. 27. as did the Pagan world. We are still saying, as did the greatest philosophers of the Gentile nations, respecting inquiries of the highest importance to mankind : Who can tell ? Peradventure. We are treating St. Peter and St. Paul, as we do Socrates and Se
Now, if such be our condition, what advantage has the Christian over the Pagan? Wherein consists the superiority of the gospel over the systems of mere human philosophy ? Away with a suspicion so injurious to the great Author and Finisher of our faith. He has supplied his church with every thing necessary to a clear knowledge, and a well grounded belief of all needful truth. When he committed to the hands of his disciples, the ministry of his
gospel, he obtained for them, in substance, the illumination which he himself possessed, for the successful exercise of it.
2. But is it sufficient to possess superior illumination, in order to the honorable and useful exercise of the Christian ministry? Is it sufficient to speak with the tongues of men and of angels ? Is it sufficient to be endowed with the gift of prophecy; to understand all mysteries ; to have all knowledge, 1 Cor. xiii. 1. Ah ! how fruitless are the most pathetic sermons, if the preacher himself pretends to exemption from the obligations which he would impose upon other men ! Ah ! how the most dazzling and sublime eloquence languishes, when tarnished by the vices of the orator!. This position, my brethren, admits not of a doubt; and let the reflection, however humiliating, be ever present to our thoughts; one of the most insurmountable obstacles to the efficacy of preaching, is the irregular life of preachers.
If this reflection, at all times, rests on a solid foundation, it was particularly the case with regard to those ministers whom God set apart to the office of laying the very first foundations of his church, , and to be themselves the pillar and ground of the truth, 1 Tim. iii. 15. With what dreadful suspicions must not our minds have been perplexed, had we seen in the persons whom Jesus Christ himself immediately chose to be his successors, the abominations which are visible in many of those who, at this day, pretend to fill his place in the church? What dreadful suspicions would agitate our minds, had St. Peter lived in the manner of some of those who have called themselves the successors of St. Peter? If out of the same mouth, from which issued those gracious maxims which the Holy Spirit has preserved for our instruction, there
had proceeded, at the same time, those iniquitous sentences, those sanguinary decrees, those insolent decisions, which have fulminated from the mouths of certain pontiffs bearing the Christian name? If these same apostles, who preached nothing but superiority to the world: nothing but humility, but charity, but patience, but chastity, had been, like some of their pretended successors, addicted to the spirit and practice of revenge, of ambition, of simony; magicians, fornicators; men polluted with abominations, which the majesty of this place, and the sanctity of the pulpit, hardly permit me to insinuate? What must not have been the infamy of committing such things, when the bare idea of them puts modesty to the blush?
O how much better has Jesus Christ, our great leader and commander, provided whatever was necessary for the good of his church! During the whole course of his life, he presented a model of the most pure and consummate virtue. One of the great ends of his devotedness to death, was to engage his beloved disciples thence to derive motives to the practice of holiness. This is the sense which may be assigned to that expression in the prayer, which he here addresses to his Father: For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they may be sanctified, ver. 19. For then 1 sanctify myself : The meaning may be: “ I labor incessantly to excite thy love within me to a brighter and a brighter flame, not only because it is a disposition of soul the most becoming and intelligent creature, but that I may serve as a model to them who are to diffuse the knowledge of my gospel over the world.”
Or, according to the interpretation of others : for them I sanctify myself, that they may be sanctified: that is, I devote myself to death for my disciples, to the end that, beholding in my sacrifice