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the sacrifices that must be made before we can be religious. Better far to imitate our Blessed Lord, who first taught His disciples so to love Him, that with forward hearts they were ready "to go to prison, and to death with Him." Love, real love, delights in self-sacrifice for the object beloved; but to begin with requiring self-sacrifice before the heart is won, is to nip religion in the very bud.
bud. Let the small seed grow, it will become a tree, and will bear the goodly fruit of self-denial for Christ's sake; but to seek for the fruits of autumn in the season of spring, would be labour in vain ; and could you succeed, you would but destroy the plant.
The disciples had, while the Bridegroom was with them, their days of joy. He was about to depart, and tbey must mourn ; * but their mourning should be but as the clouds that gather round at sunset. Their departing Lord shed a glory upon it, a short night of darkness would follow, and then the rising sun of the resurrection-morn, would shed its brightness upon the world, and they, the disciples, would find their sorrow tụrned into joy. Let them rouse themselves now ; they had been forward enough to question before, will they now let their Lord depart, so stupified by grief, as not even in the last moment to ask where He was going ? Jesus said to them,
go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou ? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth, it is expedient for you that I go away : for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you ; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.”
It is plain from this, that the return of Jesus to His Father's throne was necessary before the Holy Ghost the Comforter
* Matthew ix. 15.
could descend from thence to earth. Why was this ? great is the mystery of godliness! Perfect and lovely the work of our Three in One, God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
When Adam sinned, his whole race became the bond-slaves of sin, ruined, and disgraced. With such the Holy Spirit could not dwell. Can light abide in darkness ? the Spirit of truth in a world of lies, fallen under the dominion of the father of lies? Impossible ! but blessed be God, He has made known to us that before the evil came, the remedy was provided.
Solemn council had been held in heaven, that man might be rescued from Satan's snare. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost together wrought out the mighty plan.
We may weary ourselves in vain to know why God permitted Satan to approach this world at all ; why Adam was not shielded from his temptation. No doubt it will be one of the brightest joys of the redeemed, in the glorious light of eternity, to see and understand all that is now dark to us; but it is enough for us now to know that the malady of sin, the curse of death was foreseen, and the cure and the escape provided.
The escape was by the death of Christ—the cure by the descent of the Holy Ghost. Therefore it was expedient that Christ should depart. He had taken upon Himself to be the Second Adam. He had clothed Himself in humanity for awhile-He had compelled man's nature to obey all God's laws, and yet had suffered in it all that it ought to suffer for the broken law. Now He must in it break the yoke of Satan, burst the prison of the grave, and rise to the right hand of the Father's throne, proclaiming, amidst the hosannas of heaven, to principalities and powers, “ that man was the accepted Son of God.”* Then, and not till then, would the Lord the Spirit descend upon the world redeemed.
But was there no light in the Church of Israel ? Were not “ holy men of old inspired of God ?" They were; for the glorious plan, though slowly working out in the course of time, had been decreed from the beginning; therefore in the counsels of God, it was as already accomplished; and for the sake of Christ the Second Adam, the children of the first Adam were not left to wander in hopeless darkness. The Holy Spirit might not indeed descend till all was finished; but, even as the moon shining through the night sheds a clear, pale light reflected from the unseen sun; so the Church of Israel lighted up the midnight of the world.
* Colossians ii. 15.
The Holy Spirit the Comforter, yet unrevealed, was the hidden source of Israel's light.
Who can read the histories in the Old Testament of those ancient prophets who, from the midst of heathen darkness, poured forth those burning words that fell like a stream of fire on prince and people, lighting up the present and the future, without feeling that they were inspired by the Spirit of God ?
Thus may we see in mountain lands, before the dawn of day, thick darkness brooding on the valleys; when lo! somie mountain-top, some lofty peak is lighted up in sudden splendour ; one and another catches the glittering light; but all below is solemn darkness. No sign as yet of the unseen sun, except the purpling of the east, and those flashes of living gold that with such mysterious glory light up the distant mountain-tops. They foretel the coming of the Lord of day, and all nature feels that he is near. There is a sound of rustling leaves, and of awakening birds ; darkness and silence will soon give way before the glorious morning, and life and light pervade the world.
So in times of old, the light of God's Spirit broke through heathen darkness. First one, and then another, inspired by God, shone out in sudden light. These were prophets of the coming day, and they roused the minds of men to expectation ; but not till Jesus the Son of God threw open the gates of heaven, would the full brightness of the Holy Spirit dawn upon the world.
Therefore, said our Saviour to His disciples, “It is expedient that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
Verse 8. "And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”
When the sun arises, many things that lay hid in darkness are brought to light. Under cover of the night fearful crimes have too often been committed. In the light of day they can no more be bid, and men are startled from their security by the signs of crime. Thus the full light of the Spirit would reprove, or rather convince mankind of many things they had not before suspected. The law had already convinced man of sin in the outward act, but the work of the Spirit is to shew the root of sin, which is unbelief.
When the Spirit is come, said the Saviour, He will convince the world
Verses 9, 10. "Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more.”
It is only in the light which the Holy Spirit sheds upon our hearts, that we discover how averse we are by nature to the pure righteousness of Christ. It is His office not only to convince us what sin really is, and what is the righteousness which the finished work of Christ has accomplished, and will give to those who believe in Him, working it out in their hearts and in their lives; but it is also the office of the Holy Spirit, Our Lord tells His disciples, to convince the world
Verse 11. "Of judgment, because the Prince of this world is judged.”
The return of Christ to His Father's throne, bearing with Him human nature redeemed, upset the kingdom of Satan, and restored to men their freedom. No longer the bond-slaves of sin, they can judge between good and evil. Taught by the Spirit, they can see that out of Christ there is no righteousness, that in Christ there is all righteousness, that there is not only a future judgment between good and evil, but (and this seems to be chiefly intended here) a judgment which is going on continually in the minds of believers, and by which they learn to discern evil, and to separate themselves from it.
Thus would the coming of the Holy Ghost accomplish all things necessary for the spread of the kingdom of God. He would convince the world of sin, shewing that unbelief is the ground of all sin ; and of the only true righteousness that man can have, which is being justified by Christ, whose finished work was sealed by His return to His Father's throne.
So would the Holy Ghost also gradually convince the world of judgment; that Satan, so long ruler of the world, has been judged ; that evil has lost its sway, and therefore can cause no fear to such as hold communion with Christ.
“And to be conscious of sin; to know Christ as the Holy Redeemer; and the kingdom of God as the conqueror of evil, which shall finally subdue all things to itself; this is the whole essence of Christianity.” *
Verses 12, 13. “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth : for he shall not speak of himself ; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak : and he will show you things to come.”
Christ had yet many things to say of His doctrine, which the disciples were not then able to understand. He was about to leave them, and they were yet untaught ; for they were not yet able to learn ; but He took comfort from the certainty that the Spirit of Truth would lead them into the full truth of which
Neander's Life of Christ, p. 444.