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CHRIST'S VALEDICTORY ADDRESS TO HIS DISCIPLES.
JOHN xiv. 1.
Let not your heart be troubled : ye believe in God, be
lieve also in me.
IV. THE fourth and last great end which our blessed Lord
in his disciples, was to furnish them with supplies of consolation under the sorrow which is abscence was going to excite in them. This sorrow is one of those dispositions of the soul which no powers of language are capable of expressing. The apostles tenderly loved their Master. Though the history of their life had not conveyed to us this idea of them ; though the gospel had not traced, for our information, certain particular traits of their affection; had nothing been mentioned of the tenderness of the disciple whom Jesus loved, nothing of the vehemence of St. Peter, always ready to kindle into a flame, when the glory and the life of his Master were concerned, the very nature of the thing would be sufficient to give us the assurance of it. Who could have known Jesus Christ without loving him?
Is it possible to conceive the idea of a character more amiahle? Have you found in the history of those excellent ones, who were the delight of mankind; or even in the productions of those who have communicated to us imaginary ideas of excellency and perfection, have you found, in these, higher instances of delicacy, of magnanimity, -of cordial affection ? If it be impossible for you to apply your thoughts to this great object without being transported, what must have been the feelings of the disciples ? Continual hearers of the gracious words which fell from the lips of 'the blessed Jesus, the constant witnesses of his virtues, the spectators of his wonderful VOL. VI.
works, adınitted to the most intimate familiarity with him, and honoured with the most unbounded confidence, What must have been the love to him which enflamed their hearts ? Now this is the gracious Master, this the delicious intercourse, this the tender-hearted Friend whom they are going to lose.
What charm can the world possess after we have had the infelicity of surviving certain persons who were dear to us. No, neither the mourning of Joseph, when he accompanied with tears, to the treshing-floor of Atad, the coffin of Jacob his father, Gen. 1. 10. no, nor the loud lamentation of David, when he exclaiined in an agony of woe: O my son Absalom, my son, my son absalom, would God I had died for thee : 0·Absalom, my son, my son ! 2 Sam. xviii. 33. no, nor the anguish of Rachel weeping for her children, and refusing to be comforted because they are not, Matt. ii. 18. No, nothing is capable of conveying an idea of the condition to which the disciples were going to be reduced on beholding their Master expire. One must have survived Jesus Christ in order to besensible what it is to survive Jesus Christ. This fatal stroke was to become to them an inexhaustible fountain of tears. This dcath appeared to them the utter annihilation of all things: it seems as if the whole universe were dying together with him. Now I go my way to him that sent me ; and none of you
asketh me, IVhither goest thou? but because I have said these things unto you sorrow hath filled your hearts, ch. xvi. 5, 6. A little while and
shall not see me, ver. 16. Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice : and ye shall be sorrowful, ver. 20.
There can be no room to doubt that Jesus Christ, who himself loves with so much delicacy of affection, and who was animated with such a predilection in behalf of his disciples, tenderly participated in their sorrow. As the loss; which they were about to sustain, was the deepest wound in their soul, he pours into it the most powerful balm of divine consolation. And here, my dearly beloved brethren, here it is that I stand in need of not all the attention of your intellectual powers, but of all the sensibility of whichi your heart is susceptible, that while you partake in the sorrow of the apostles, you may likewise partake with them in the consolation which their Lord and ours was pleased to administer.
I shall sometimes turn aside from those holy men, my dear hearers, to address inyself to you, and to supply you with abundant consolation, under the most oppressive ills which you may be called to endure on the earth, I mean, under the loss
of those who were most dear to you in life. I could wish to convince you that the Christian religion is profitable for all thing's : that it will serve us as a bulwark and a refuge in our greatest sorrows, if we have but the wisdom to resort to it. Only take care to apply, every one to his own particular situation, the truths which I am going to propose to you. Derive your consolations from the same sources which Jesus Christ opened to his disciples, and to a participation of which we now, after his example, cordially invite you: prayer; the mission of the Comforter ; the place to which your Redeemer is gone ; the foretastes of the glory which he is there preparing for you; his spiritual presence in the midst of you ; and the certainty and nearness of his return. ,1. In all your distresses have recourse to prayer. Verily, . verily, I say unto you, whatsoerer ye shall ask the Father, in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name : ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy · may be full, ch. xvi. 23, 24. This ought to be adopted as a new form of prayer in the Christian world. Scarcely do we find any trace of it in the devotions of the faithful of ancient times. They indeed sometimes introduced the names of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob: but no where except in - the prophecy of Daniel do we find a prayer put up in the name of the Messiah. This at least is the sense which may be assigned to those words of that prophet: now, therefore, o our Goil, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplication, and cause they face to shine upon thy sanctuary, that is desolate, for the Lord's sake, Dan. ix. 17.
But this unexampled form, or of which there is, at most, so few examples in the ancient church, was to be henceforward adopted by all Christians: it is the first source of conso. lation which Christ opened to his disciples, and it is likewise the first which we, after him, would propose to you. Perhaps there may be many among us, to whom Jesus might still say, as formerly to his disciples; hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name. To pray, and to pray in the name of Christ, is the Christian's grand resource. Resort to it in all your tribulations. Have you reason to apprehend that some stroke from the hand of God is going to fall heavy upon you? Do you believe yourself, on the eve of hearing some inelancholiy tidings ? Are you called to undergo some painfùl and dangerous operation on your person? And, to say every thing in one word, Are you threatened with the loss of the most valuable, the most generous, the most tender Friend F 2
that heaven could bestow ? Have recourse to prayer: God still subsists when all things else have become dead to thee. God continueth to hear thee, when death has reduced to a state of insensibility all that was dear to thee. Retire to thy closet: prostrate thyself at the footstool of the throne of the Father of mercies. Pour out your heart into his bosom: say to him: 0 Lord my strength, teach my hands to war, und my fingers to fight, Psa. cxliv. 1. Lord, take pity on thy creature : Lord, proportion my trials to the strength thou shall be pleased to administer, to sustain them: O my God, hear the prayer of thy servant; cause thy face to shine upon nie, for the Lord's sake. Dan. ix. 17. This exercise, my friends will render thee invulnerable: this exercise will communicate strength on which thou mayest, with confidence, rely, far beyond what thou durst have expected : it will place thee under the shadow of the Almighty, and will establish thee as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever, Psa. cxxv. 1.
2. In all your distresses call to remembrance the promise of the Comforter, which Jesus Christ gave to his disciples : I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter; that he may abide with you for ever, chap. xiv. 16, This promise contained something peculiar, relatively to the apostles, and to the then state of the infant church. It de. noted the economy of miracles, which was not to com mence till Jesus Christ had re-ascended into heaven; and this is precisely the meaning of these words : if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you, ch. xvi. 7, it is likewise tħe meaning to be assigned to that passage : verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also ; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto iny Father, ch. xiv. 12, By the works which the apostles were to do, we are to understand miracles. Those works were to be greater than the works of Jesus Christ, with respect to their duration, and with Țespect to the number of witnesses in whose presence they were to be performed.
This is, farther, the idea which we are to affix to those other words of our Saviour : I have yet many things to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now. Howbrit, when lie, the Spirit of (ruth, is come, he will guide you into all truth, chap. xvi, 12, 13. This refers to those extraordinary gifts which the Holy Spirit was to pour down upon the apostles, the aid of inspiration, and the grace of infallibility, which
were going to be communicated to them. It is likewise of those peculiar circumstances, that we must explain the effects which Jesus Christ ascribes to that Spirit whom he promises to send to his disciples : and, when he, the Comforter, is come, he will reprove the world of sin, because they believe not on me, chap. xvi. 8, 9, or, as it might have been translated, he shall convince them of their criminality in refusing to believe on me : in other words, that the mission of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus Christ had proinised to his disciples, should be a new proof of the divinity of his own mission, and should render those persons inexcusable who presumed to call it in question.
Again, he shall reprove them of righteousness, because. I go to my Father, ver. 10. that is, the miraculous gifts com. municated to the first heralds of the gospel, should demon. strate, in a sensible manner, that Jesus Christ was in heaven,, and should, from that very circumstance, evince that he was perfectly righteous, although he had been condemned as an impostor, seeing God had thus exalted him to the highest pinnacle of glory.
Once inore, he shall reprove then of judgment, because the prince of this world is judgeil, ver. 11. in other words, that the triumphs which the Christian religion was about to obtain, through the miraculous endowments of its ministers, were to be an awful forerunner of the judgments which should overtake those who persisted in their unbelief. All this is peculiar to the apostles; all this relates to the circumstances of the primitive church. .
But this proinise, my beloved brethren, has a reference to us also ; and let it be our support in the midst of tribulation, Jesus Christ has promised to us also the Comforter. His spirit is within us : greater is he that is in us, than he that is in the world, 1 John iv, 4. Let us yield ourselves to the guidance of this spirit: he will not grant us to exercise au.. thority over-insensible beings, to controul the powers of Nature, and to rule the elements : but he will exalt us to a glo. rious superiority over flesh and blood; he will support us under every pressure of calamity, and make us more than conquerers over every foe.
3. In all your distresses, call to remembrance the place to which Jesus Christ is gone. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father, chap. xiv. 28. "It is the desire of Jesus Christ, that is disciples, on being separated from him, should not confine their thoughts to their