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III. His further explanation of the promise
Our Lord expatiates upon the character of the promised Comforter
[Without fuller information, the disciples would have been utterly at a loss: for who could compensate to them the loss of their Master's presence? Where could they find a creature in earth or heaven that was possessed of half his qualities? To remove their difficulties our Lord tells them, that the Comforter was none other than “ the Spirit of truth, who had spoken in all the prophets, and who was, together with himself and his heavenly Father, the true and living God. He informs them also that the gift of this Comforter was a peculiar and most distinguished privilege; for that "the world neither knew him, nor were able to receive him:” yea, further, that this gift was not external or perishable, like the gifts of providence, but internal, dwelling in them, and everlastingly abiding with them.
This shews us the extent of our privileges also, and the distinguishing favours, which, as believers, we enjoy. The world neither sees nor knows the Holy Ghost: they doubt perhaps whether there be any Holy Ghost, or at least, whether we are ever to expect his influences on our souls. Moreover, as they are destitute of humility and faith, they are under a moral incapacity to receive this Comforter; if not, in the more ordinary influences of conviction, yet certainly in the sublimer influences of consolation and joy. But we must deny the Bible itself, and contradict the prayers which we offer daily in the liturgy, if we deny the indwelling of the Spirit in the hearts of believers. The miraculous operations of the Spirit havė ceased long ago: but his comforting and sanctifying operations are as much to be expected now, as at any period since his descent on the day of Pentecost.]
Nor is this explanation destitute of considerable weight as enforcing the injunction before given
[What must the disciples say in the midst of any trials or difficulties? Could they for one moment repine? Surely they would rather glory in tribulations for Christ's sake. They would necessarily argue thus: “How highly are we privileged! how wonderfully are we made to differ from the world around us! Is there no less than a divine Person sent down to dwell in us as our Comforter? Have we a Comforter, whom none but a chosen few are qualified to receive? Is this mar
• He does not speak here of the Holy Ghost as a mere quality, or operation; but as a distinct person: he calls him, not a Comfort, but a Comforter; and yet more fully characterizes him as a person in the Words following Vol. V.
vellous gift bestowed upon us in answer to our Lord's prevailing intercessions? And shall we not testify our love to him? Has he done such things for us unasked; and shall we not do for him the things which he commands?”
Such then are the sentiments which we should adopt, and such the conduct we should pursue. Nor can we fail to do so, if we only bear in mind, that, though our obedience cannot merit the divine favour, it is necessary to the enjoyment of it: and that the consolations of the Spirit will ever be proportioned to the practical regard we shew to Christ.] INFER
1 How wide is the difference between the believing and the unbelieving world!
[Many think that there is little difference between the followers of Christ, and others, except as it may be manifested in a foolish and needless singularity. But, if there be any truth in the promise before us, there is a most tremendous difference between the two characters: the one is benefitted by the Saviour's intercession; the other not: the one has received the Holy Ghost; the other not: the one has an experimental acquaintance with the Spirit of truth; the other knows scarcely any thing about the Spirit, and even feels averse to what he does know: the one has the Spirit dwelling in him as a comforter; the other, instead of experiencing his consolations, cannot even receive them: the one has all the persons of the ever-blessed Trinity interesting themselves on his behalf; the other has God, even Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for his enemy. The world may ridicule these things as enthusiasm if they will; but they are the true sayings of God. Nor can we hope ever to dwell with God in heaven, unless he first dwell in us, by his Spirit, on earth. The Lord grant that we may all lay to heart, and improve, these momentous truths!)
2. How vain are all professions of love to Christ, if we do not manifest our love by our works!
[It is to little purpose that we profess to rely on Christ's death and intercession, or to have experienced the consolations of God's Spirit, if our lives correspond not with our professions. That word of God will most assuredly be found true at last, “ Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” Let all then, whether professors or profane, consider this, and seek to have the very thoughts of their hearts captivated to the obedience of Christ.]
DXXX. CHRIST'S WILLINGNESS TO RECEIVE
John vi. 37. Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.
IT is a pleasing reflection that there is a people secured to Christ, who, having been given to him by the Father, shall, each in his appointed time, “be gathered unto Shiloh,” to be the fruits of his travail, and the spoils of his victory. This pleasure however would be greatly damped, if we believed, that there were any infallibly, and from eternity, given over to perdition, who should be sent into the world for no other purpose than to fill up the measure of their iniquities, and to fit themselves for the place, to which they had been doomed by an eternal and irreversible decree. We confess that we cannot so draw the line between præterition and predestination, as to satisfy in all cases a cavilling, or perhaps a scrupulous, mind: but the same difficulties occur, if we attempt to mark the distinct boundaries of free will, and free grace; or to shew how the existence of sin couldever consist with the holiness of God. This however is not our province: we must leave to God to reconcile the difficulties that occur; and receive the truths he declares, not because we can comprehend every thing respecting them, but because they are revealed by an unerring God. That some are secured to Christ appears from hence, that, if they were not, it might eventually happen, that none might come to him, and consequently, that he might shed his blood in vain. We are not however left to found this sentiment on any uncertain reasonings of our own; since our Lord himself, in the very words before the text, says, “ All that the Father hath given me, shall come to me.” But are all others therefore of necessity sealed up unto perdition? No; for he adds, “ And him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out."
To improve this blessed declaration, let us consider 1. What we should come to Christ for
[In general, we answer, that we must come to him for every thing; since all fulness is treasured up in him, on purpose that we may receive out of it according to our necessities. But more particularly, we must come to him for pardon, which we all need which we cannot otherwise obtain-and which he is exalted to givea_We must come for peace, since all peace, derived from other quarters, is delusive--and he, as the Prince of peace, has promised to bestow ith-We must come for strength, since without him we can do nothing, and by him, every thing;d and St. Paul himself applied to him in prayer, and obtained from him, as we also shall do, grace sufficient for him—Lastly, we must come to him for eternal life and glory; since he frequently claims it as his prerogative to give it,' and will surely be the author of it to all them that obey him.s] II, In what manner we should come to him
[Of course, our Lord meant not that we were to approach him with our bodies; since many thronged him, and pressed upon him, who nevertheless were cast out. It is therefore, not to the motion of our bodies, but to the frame of our minds, that we are to have respect, when we come unto him. We must come unto him empty. If like the Laodiceans, we think ourselves rich and increased with goods, our application to Christ will be vain and fruitless-We must be deeply convinced of our own guilt and helplessness; and be thoroughly persuaded that we must perish if he receive us not. We must be like the prodigal, when dying with hunger, or like the disciples in jeopardy, crying, Save, Lord, or we perishk-Moreover we must come believing. This is more particularly intended by our Lord, the words “coming" and “ believing," being perfectly synonymous. To come filled with unbelief, would be to insult, rather than to honour him. We should be convinced of his suitableness to our necessities, his sufficiency for our relief, and his willingness to receive us. We must regard him as the only way to life, the only door of hope. We must believe in him as appointed of God to be our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption;" and then we shall find by happy experience that he is “able to save us to the uttermost.”] III. The encouragement we have to come to him
[Though our Lord sometimes delayed answering the requests of those who came to him in the days of his fesh, he never finally refused any. Thus, though he may not instantly manifest his acceptance of us, he will not reject any who thus
a Acts v. 31.
b (sai. ix. 6. John xiv. 27. Eph. ii. 17. c John xv. 5. 2 Cor. iii, 5.
d Phil. iy. 13. r 2 Cor. xii. 9,
f John x. 28.
8 Heb. v. 9. # Rev. iii. 17.
i Luke i. 53. k Matt. viii. 25. I Ver. 35.
in John xiv. 6. and s.9. 1 Cor. i. 30.
come unto him. No past iniquities shall cause him to rejact us. This is evident from many strong and express declarations of prophets,' of apostles, of Christ himself.9 If it be thought that the sin against the Holy Ghost is an exception, let it suffice to say, that no man, who desires to find acceptance through Christ, can possibly have committed that; since he would in that case have been given over to judicial blindness and obduracy, and consequently, would have continued altogether regardless of his eternal welfare. The same may be proved from manifold instances, wherein the vilest of the human race have found acceptance with him. We need only look at Manasseh, David, and above all at the apostle Paul, who was in this particular intended for a pattern, and this blessed truth will be established beyond a possibility of doubt. Nor will any present infirmities cause our Lord to reject us. For his disciples, long after they had found acceptance with him betrayed manifest symptoms of pride," revenge,* and cowardice;' and Peter, whose misconduct was by far the most glaring, received by far the most striking tokens of our Lord's regard. We say not this to encourage sin, but to illustrate the tender mercies of him, who carries the Lambs in his bosom, and who, instead of breaking the bruised reed, will bring forth from it the sweetest melody.a] ADDRESS 1. Those that are afar off from Christ
[Can it be supposed, that, if we will not go to Christ, we can ever participate his benefits? Doubtless we cannot: if we keep at a distance from him in this world, there will be an “impassable gulph between us” in the world to come. Let us remember then, that we must go to him or perish. Let not any one object, I cannot go: for the truth is, we will not.b Yet, notwithstanding our past obstinacy Je may go to him, with a full assurance that he will in no wise cast us out. Let us not then delay, lest death seize us, and the door of mercy be shut for ever.] 2. Those who are coming to him
[We are told of one in the gospel, whom, when coming to our Lord, the devil cast down, and tare, and left to appearance, dead. Such enmity will Satan discover against
P Acts x. 43. and 1 John. i. 7. a Matt. xii. 31. r 2 Kin. xxi. 16, with 2 Chron. xxxii. 9, 12, 13, : 2. Sam. xii. 9, 13. 11 Tim. i. 16. u Mark ix. 33, 34. * Luke ix. 54.
y Malt. xxvi. 56. 2 Mark xvi. 7.& a Isai. xl. I I. and xlii. 3,
John xxi. 15-17. John y. 40.
c Mark ix. 20, 26.