John 14Our blessed Saviour in the foregoing chapter, having acquainted his disciples with his approaching death, by the treachery of Judas, their hearts were thereupon overwhelmed with grief and trouble. Accordingly in this chapter, by sundry arguments, he comforts his disciples against the perplexity of their fears and sorrows.
Observe, 1. How Christ addresses himself to his disciples in a very endearing and affectionate manner; Let not your hearts be troubled.
Whence learn, 1. That the best and holiest of God's children and servants, whilst here in an imperfect state, are subject to desponding, and disquieting and distrustful fears.
2. That no work is more delightful to our Saviour, than to comfort the troubled and perplexed spirits of his servants.
Observe, 2. The remedy which Christ prescribes for the calming their present fears, and for arming them against future troubles, and present fears, and for arming them against future troubles, and that is, Faith in the Father and in himself: Ye believe in God, believe also in me.
Observe next, The arguments of consolation which Christ propounds for the support of his disciples, under the sorrow which they had conceived for his approaching departure.
1. He tells them, That heaven, whither he was now going, was his Father's house, a place of happiness, not designed for himself also, but for many more to enjoy perpetual rest and abode in, as in everlasting mansions: In my Father's house are many mansions.
Heaven is God's house, in which he will freely convese with his domestics, his children and servants, and they shall enjoy full glory there, as in a quiet and capacious habitation.
A second ground of comfort is, that he assures them, he will come again and receive them to himself, that they may live together with him in the heavenly mansions. This promise Christ makes good to his saints, partly at the day of their death, and perfectly at the day of judgment, when he shall make one errand for all, and take up all is children to himself, and make them completely happy, both in soul and body, with himself.
Learn hence, That though Christ has removed his bodily presence from his friends on earth, yet his love to them is not ceased, nor will he rest satisfied till he and they meet again, eternally to solace themselves in each other's company: I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.
A third argument for consolation is, that, notwithstanding Christ was to leave them, yet they knew whither he went: namely, to heaven, and which was the way thither; Whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.
It contributes much to the comfort of believers, as to know God and heaven, so to know the way that leads thither, that so they may be armed against all the difficulties of that way.
Observe here, 1. How Thomas, and probably divers others of the apostles, notwithstanding all that Christ had said to the contrary, did still dream of a temporal kingdom, and supposed him to speak of some earthly palace which he was going to, and therefore he tells our Saviour, he knew not whither he was going; but Christ meaning not a temporal, but a heavenly kingdom, tells them, that if they intends to follow him, and be with him in heaven, he himself was the only way thither; I am the way, and the truth, and the life; that is, I am the true and living way to the Father; And no man cometh to the Father but by me! that is, no man can have any access to God by prayer, or any other act of religious worship here on earth, or any access to God by prayer, or any other act of religious worship here on earth, or any access to God in heaven, but by me, as Mediator. As if Christ had said, "I am the Author of the way that leadeth unto life, that Teacher of the truth which directs to it, and the Giver of that life which is to be obtained by walking in it: I am the way, and the truth, and the life.
Observe here, 1. What a gross conception the apostles had, and St. Philip in particular, of the divine nature and being, as if God the Father could be seen with mortal eyes. Shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. It is not easy to determine what degrees of ignorance may consist with saving grace; doubtless, as the degrees of revelation and means of knowledge are more or less, so a person's ignorance is more or less excusable before God.
Observe, 2. How meekly our Saviour reproves their ignorance, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? and then proceeds to instruct them in, and farther acquaint them with, the oneness of himself with the Father, and the personal union of the divine and human nature in himself.
Learn hence, That the Father being invisible in his essence, to know or see him with mortal, bodily eyes is impossible; but he was seen in his Son, who is the express image of the Father, being one in essence with him, and one in operation also: He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father.
Here Christ gives his disciples a promise of enduing them with power after his departure to work miracles in some respects greater than what he wrought himself; not greater in regard of the manner, for he wrought by his own power, and they wrought all in his name, but greater in regard of the matter of them; particularly, their speaking with strange tongues, their giving the Holy Ghost by laying on of hands, their healing diseases by the very shadow of their bodies, but especially by their wonderful conversion of the Gentiles from idolatry to serve the living God.
When St. Peter converted three thousand at one sermon, then Christ made good his promise; the disciple at that time appeared to be above his Master: Christ all this time was angling for a few fishes, and catched but an hundred and twenty, Acts 1:15 whilst Peter comes with his drag net, and catches three thousand at one cast; the reason might be, because Christ was not properly to be the builder, but the foundation itself. He subjoins the reason of all this: Because I go unto my Father: that is, to send down, and pour forth upon you my apostles, the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost which was the great cause of the apostles miraculous operations.
Hence learn, That it pleased the wisdom of Christ to do greater things by the hands of his weak servants here in the world, than he was pleased to do himself, who was God over all, blessed for evermore.
In these words our Saviour produces another argument to quiet his disciples's hearts under their perplexity and trouble for the loss of his bodily presence; he assures them, that whatever comforts they enjoyed by his presence, they shall obtain by their prayers.
Observe here, 1. The qualification requisite in prayer: we must pray in Christ's name, that is, for the sake of his merits and mediation, in obedience to God's command, and with an eye to his glory, and for things agreeable to his will, and for things which his wisdom sees good for us.
To pray in Christ's name, is more than to name Christ in prayer. It implies three things:
1. To look up unto Christ as having purchased for us this privilege that we may pray: for it is by the blood of Christ that we draw near to God, and that a throne of grace is open for us.
2. To pray in the name of Christ, is to pray in the strength of Christ, and by the assistance of the Holy Spirit of Christ.
3. To pray in the name of Christ, is to pray in the virtue of the present mediation of Christ; believing that what we ask on earth, Christ obtains in heaven.
To pray thus is no easy matter; yet unless we do pray thus, we do not pray at all.
Observe, 2. The promise made to such prayers: Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do. He saith not, That will my Father do; but that will I do, to testify his divine power and oneness with the Father. This evidently proves him to be God.
Observe, 3. The repetition of the promise for the further confirmation of it: If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it. The promise is doubled for the confirmation of it, so that we might be free from all doubts and fears of being heard, when we put up our prayers to God, in the name and mediation of Jesus Christ, for things agreeable to his will.
Learn hence, That although the children of God have sometimes many jealousies and fears arising in their mind concerning the answer of their prayers, yet they are altogether groundless; for it is most certain their desires shall be granted them, so far as the wisdom of God sees fit and convenient for them; and for that reason our Saviour redoubles the promise, If ye will ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
In these words our Saviour implicitly reproves his disciples for their fond way of expressing their love to him, by doating upon his bodily presence, and sorrowing immoderately for his absence and he expressly warns them to evidence their love to him by their obedience to his commands; If ye love me, keep my commandments.
Where observe, Christ requires an obedient love, and loving obedience.
Love without obedience is but dissimulation: obedience without love is but drudgery and slavery. Such a love as produces obedience, must be a dutiful love; a love of reverence and honour to him as a commander, and an operative and working love, a labour of love, as the apostle calls it; Not waiters, but workers, are the best servants in Christ's esteem.
And such an obedience as is the product of love, will be a willing, easy, and cheerful obedience a pleasing and an acceptable obedience, a constant and abiding obedience; all other motives without love are servile and base, and beget in us the drudgery of a slave, but not the duty of a son: He that fears God only, is afraid of smarting: but he that loves God, is afraid of offending.
Learn hence, That the best and surest evidence we can have of our love to the Lord Jesus Christ, is an humble, cheerful, universal, and perservering obedience, to his commands: Keep my commandments: that is, endeavour it without reserve; for though we cannot keep the commandments to a just satisfaction, yet we may perform them to a gracious acceptation.
And the word My, my commandments, is a sweetening and alleviating word. Moses's law, an unsupportable load, but Christ's law an easy burthen. The law from Sinai, dreadful; the law from Sion, gracious; it pardons weakness, and accepts sincerity.
Christ comforteth his disciples here, with a promise of the mission of the Holy Spirit, to supply the want of his bodily presence.
Where observe, 1. The procurer of this blessing, and that is Christ, by his prevailing prayer, and powerful intercession; I will pray: it runs in the future tense; and so it is a promise of Christ's continual intercession. As long as Christ is in heaven, a Christian shall not want a supply of comfort and consolation here on earth.
Observe 2, The author and donor of the blessing, and that is, God himself; I will pray the Father, and he shall give. The Father, that is, my Father, your Father, and he that is the Father of comfort and consolation; I will pray, and he will give. It is an expression of great assurance.
Observe, 3. The blessing itself, the Holy Ghost, called here, Another Comforter.
Where note, 1. The divinity of the Holy Ghost; he that will supply the comforts of Christ's presence, must be as Christ is, the God of all comfort.
Note, 2. The person of the Holy Ghost; he is a divine person, not a divine quality or operation; then we might call him a comfort, but not a comforter.
Note, 3. The office and employment of the Holy Ghost; He is a Comforter; that is, an advocate, an intercessor to sue for us; an encourager, and one that administers consolation to us; and as he is an Holy Spirit, so are his comforts holy comforts.
Observe, 4. The stability of this blessing; That he may abide with you for ever. The best of our outward comforts are sudden flashes, not lasting flames: but the consolations of the Holy Spirit are strong consolations, they are abounding consolations, and everlasting consolations; especially the Holy Spirit will be the comforter of good men in the day of affliciton, in the day of temptation, and at the hour of death, when all other comforts flag and fail.
Observe lastly, The additional title given to the Holy Ghost, he is called the Spirit of truth; partly in opposition to Satan, who is called a lying spirit, partly because he teacheth and revealeth the truth, leadeth his people into all truth, and sealeth and confirmeth truth to the souls of believers: he is the spirit of truth, both in his essence and in his operations.
Learn hence, That as the Holy Spirit is true in his essence and nature, so is he true in his office as a comforter to good men; all his consolations being real and solid, and free from imposture and delusion.
Here observe, 1. The condition which the disciples were in upon the account of Christ's removal from them, and that was sad and comfortless: fatherless or orphans, as the word signifies.
Learn hence, That Christ's departure, or the loss of his gracious presence, is very sad and comfortless to a pious soul; well might the disciples here lament and mourn upon the occasion of Christ; leaving of them, seeing thereby they should be deprived of his doctrine and instructions, of his advice and counsel, and of the benefit of his holy and instructive example.
Observe, 2. The care of Christ for his disciples, in reference to this their sad and disconsolate condition; He would not leave them comfortless.
Where note, He doth not say, I will not suffer you to be comfortless, but I will not leave you so; that is, he will not desert or disown them in their comfortless condition: he will not leave them, either in point of affection, or in point of activity; he will not cease to love them, nor cease to bestir himself for them.
Learn hence, That Christ will not leave his friends in a sad and comnfortless state and condition, though for a time they may be brought into it: I will not leave you comfortless, I will come unto you. Christ's coming here unto them, is to be understood of his coming to them by his Holy Spirit; in the gifts of it, in the graces of it, and in the comforts of it: thus he did not long leave them comfortless, but at the feast of Pentecost came to them again.
Here our Saviour foretells his approaching death, that within a little time the men of the world should see him no more; for though he rose again, the world saw him no more after his death; for we read of no appearance of him after his resurrection to any, but to his disciples only. Indeed his resurrection to any, but to his disciples only. Indeed the hour is coming when the world shall see him again: namely, at the day of judgment, when every eye shall behold him with terror and amazement.
Observe farther, The consolation given to his disciples, Ye shall see me; and because I live, ye shall live also. Because I am raised from the grave, I will quicken your dead bodies in the grave, and ye shall live also: and as I live by my ascension into heaven, so shall you my disciples live a life of grace here, and a life of glory with myself hereafter.
Learn hence, That a believer's spiritual life is derived from Christ, who, by his spirit, communicates a quickening virtue to all his members; Because he lives, they shall live also. See how Christ binds up their life together with his own! As if he had said, "Whilst there is vital sap in the root, you that are branches in me shall not wither and die."
Observe lastly, A farther privilege insured to believers after Christ's ascension, and the spirit's mission; they should more perfectly understand the essential union betwixt Christ and his members!
At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, &c. The knowledge which the saints now have of the mysterious and mystical union, is but dark and imperfect; but in heaven they shall understand these things clearly; then and there the essential union of Christ and his Father, and the mystical union between Christ and believers, will be more clearly understood, than we are capable to understand them in this our imperfect state.
Our blessed Saviour in these words repeats what he had before enjoined at verse 15, namely, to evidence the sincerity of our love to him, by the universality of our obedience to his commands: He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.
Where note, 1. The necessity of knowledge in order unto practice.
2. The necessity of practice in order unto happiness. We must first have Christ's commandments, before we can keep them: we must have them in our understandings and judgments, in our wills and affections; not have them only in our eyes to read, in our ears to hear, or in our mouths to talk of them but to hide them in our hearts, that we may not sin against Christ, in the willful violation of them.
Farther, we must keep, as well as have, these commandments. This denotes an universal, diligent, and pesevering obedience to them.
Hence learn, That although many loose professors pretend love to Christ, because they hear, read, know, and can talk of, his commandments; yet in Christ's account none do truly love him, but those who make conscience of their obedience to him: He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.
Observe next, The gracious promise of Christ to such as thus express their love unto him.
1. He shall be loved of my Father, and of myself.
And shall he not be loved of the Holy Ghost too? Yes, no doubt. But why is he not named then? Because the Son dwelleth in us by the Spirit, and shed his love abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost.
2., I will manifest myself unto him: that is, such obedient Christians shall not only enjoy the fruit and benefit of my love, but they shall enjoy the sense of my love, and experience the sensible manifestations and inward diffusions of my love in their own souls.
Learn hence, That the only way to have Christ love us, and to let out his love upon us, and to know that he loves us is to look diligently to our obediential walking with him and before him. We may as rationally think to nourish our bodies with poison, as to enjoy the manifestation of Christ's love in a way of sin.
Some understand these words of a temporal manifestation, and thing that Judas the brother of James, who spake them, still expected that Christ should be a temporal prince, and have such a kingdom as should be conspicuous to all the world, and therefore puts the question. How he could possibly shew himself to his disciples, and the world not see him? Others understand it of a spiritual manifestation; as if he had said, "Lord! who or what are thy disciples, that we should enjoy more special manifestations of thy love to us, than to the rest of the world? Why should we be dignified by such distinguishing favours above others?"
Learn hence, 1. That there is a real difference put by Christ betwixt his own children and the world, in the matter of special manifestations.
2. That there being no cause from the creature why Christ should make this difference, his discrimination grace is matter of just and great admiration. Well might the apostle out of a deep admiration say, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?
Observe here, How our Saviour still goes on to direct and encourage his disciples to evidence the sincerity of their love to his person, but the universality of their obedience to his commands; and tells them how great their advantage would be by so doing.
For first, The Father would love them; that is, manifest his favour to them in farther dispensations of grace and comfort.
Learn thence, That all the manifestations of divine love to the souls of believers, depend upon their close walking with God in the paths of holiness and strict obedience.
Secondly, We will make our abode with him. He shall have Father and Son's company. An illusion to a parent that has many children; he will be sure to live with them that are most dutiful to him, and most observant of him. The expression of making their abode with us, denotes that sweet and intimate fellowship which shall be betwixt God and us, and the perpetuity and constancy of it at all times; till we are taken up by him into heaven, he will make his abode with us, by the indwelling presence of his Holy Spirit, the graces and comforts whereof shall abide with us for ever.
Here we have a repeated promise of the mission of the Holy Ghost, called The Comforter, and his special office declared; namely, to teach, and to bring to remembrance what Christ had taught; He shall teach you all things. As the Spirit of God is the great Comforter, so he is the Special Teacher, of his children; he teacheth condescendingly, stooping to the meanest capacities; he teacheth efficaciously, inclinging the heart to receive instruction, as well as opening the ear to hear it: he teacheth plainly and clearly, unerringly and infallibly; he is truth itself, and therefore his teachings are most true.
And as the Holy Spirit is the saint's Teacher, so is he also their Remembrancer: He shall bring all things to your remembrance; that is, all truths needful to be known, and necessary to salvation.
Here note, That the Holy Spirit teaches nothing but what Christ himself taught; the Spirit teaches in the word, and by the word, but never teaches any thing contrary to the word: He shall teach and bring to remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you.
As if our Lord had said, "Whatever outward trouble the world gives you, be not afraid of it before it comes, nor troubled at it when it is come, for I will give you inward peace in the midst of all your outward troubles. Not as the world giveth, give I unto you."
Where note, That Christ's peace is vastly different from that peace which is given or enjoyed by the world; the world may wish peace, yet never intend it; or they may wish it, yet not be able to give it: but Christ's peace is real and effectual, solid and substantial; the world's peace is only a freedom from outward trouble, but Christ's peace is a deliverance from inward guilt: and though it doth not give us an exemption from outward trouble, yet it gives us a sanctified use and improvement of them, and assures us of a joyful issue and deliverance out of them.
That the disciples of Christ might neither be overset with fears, not overwhelmed with grief, he tells them that they ought to entertain the news of his departure rather with joy and exultation, than with sorrow and dejection: If ye loved me, ye would rejoice because I go to the Father. True love to Christ will make us rejoice in his advancement and exaltation, although it be to our own disadvantage. These words My Father is greater than I, must be understood with reference to his human nature, as mediator; for so he was the Father's servant, and the Father, as God, was greater than he, as man.
Again the Father may be said to be greater than Christ in regard of his paternity, as being the fountain of the deity the Father is of himself, but the Son is begotten of the Father: but being of the same substance with the Father, he is consequently God, as the Father is God: for the inequality arises not from the essence, but from the order and manner of subsistence.
Thus the Father was greater than he: greater and greater is he that gives, than he that receives, but, as to his essence, they are both one God, and so equal.
Three ways the Father was greater than Christ;
1. With respect to his human nature. Who can doubt but a dependent creature is inferior to that Almighty Being that made him?
2. With respect to the eternal generation of his divine person; as he was begotten of the Father, who is therefore called the fountain of the deity.
3. With respect to his office as Mediator, for thus he was the Father's servant. O wonderful condescension! that the eternal word, who, as such, was equal with the Father, should, in compassion to us, accept a station, and sustain a character, in which the Father was greater than he!
Now though under each of these considerations, God the Father is greater than the Son, yet none of them are inconsistent with the Son's being God by nature.
The time of our Saviour's death now nearer and nearer approaching, he prepares the expectation of his disciples for it, because evils that surprize us suddenly, do sink our spirits sadly: whereas what we fear, for that we prepare.
Accordingly our Lord arms his disciples against all disquietude, and overwhelming sorrow for his departure from them: I have told you before, that when it comes to pass, ye might believe; that is, be assured that I am not mere man, but truly and really God, and depend upon me for life and salvation.
Observe, 2. How our Saviour points out the cause of his suffering; namely, Satan and his instruments; The prince of this world cometh; that is, by Judas, the soldiers, and the high priests: But he hath nothing in me: that is, "He will find no sin or corruption in men to side with his temptation, or no guilt upon me to give him any advantage against me, for I shall die as a perfectly innocent person." Christ, in suffering for our sins, did not only conflict with the wrath of God, but with the rage of men and devils; yet all the power and policy, all the malice and cruelty, of Satan, cannot prevail against Christ, any farther than he voluntarily yields and submits himself unto it. The prince of this world cometh, but hath nothing in me.
Observe, 3. That it was Christ's love and obedience to his Father that carried him forth so cheerfully to the work of sufferings, supported him under it, and carried him through it: That the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. True love to God will draw all men to obedience in the hardest service and sufferings: the grand motive of commands, and a regard to his glory.
Lord, let thy love and obedience to thy Father, in all thy sufferings, be the subject of our admiration, and the matter of our imitation also. As the Father gives us commandment, so let us always do.
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