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the smallest act of kindness, shown in his name even to the least of these his brethren, as a favour done unto himself. The character most honourable in the sight of God, is a man distinguished by devotedness to the truth, disinterested good-will, and friendly serviceableness exercised towards all men; “especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” In these qualities the Apostles shone: their character, through the grace of the indwelling Spirit, was godlike. When others, falsely called great, the worlds' heroes, shall awake to shame and everlasting contempt, in that day will Christ be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe. Then they “that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever."
JESUS PRAYS THAT THE DISCIPLES MAY BE
KEPT UNITED AND REJOICING.
JOHN xvii. 11-13.
And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as
While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.
And now come I to thee ; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
The Saviour, contemplating his ascension to heaven, might well rejoice in the thought of quitting a scene of sorrow, humiliation and pain, to sit down in triumph on the throne of his Father. 66 Now I am no more in the world; now come I to thee" -are words, that denote an exchange inconceivably glorious and blissful. A joy like this, though in humbler measure, may be cherished by every member of Christ, as death approaches; when, having " a desire to depart and to be with Christ,” the believer may thankfully exclaim, “ Now am I no more in the world; Holy Father, I come to Thee! Farewell, vain earth; and welcome heaven!”
Yet any one thus departing, would naturally be concerned for those whom he leaves ; especially for those dependent on him. The disciples bad rested entirely on the grace and guidance of Jesus. Our Lord therefore now consults for their benefit, and pleads for them with his Eternal Father. He says, “ Keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me.” This again gives us a distinct view of his office as our Advocate with the Father. Whilst we hear these words, they seem like the voice of the Great Intercessor, sounding audibly in our ears.
In this passage, Jesus first speaks of his former care for his disciples: then, commends them to the Father : and afterwards implores special blessings on their behalf.
1. First, He declares with what tender care he had watched over these disciples which the Father had given him. In the name of the Father, (that is, through the Father's power, and in his truth, and for his glory,) Jesus had kept the Eleven; faithful, and free from harm. One of the twelve was excepted from this gracious security; a wilful and desperate sinner; a servant of Satan, a child of wrath, an heir of perdition. Prophecy had branded him, as one who had Satan standing at his right hand (Psalm cix. 6.): he was in league with the prince of darkness. Jesus does not name him: but the eleven could have no doubt, to whom Christ made allusion. And yet, little did they anticipate, that within a short hour Jesus would have again to announce him in these terrible words, “Lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand !”
The Eleven, however, had been, and still were safe. They were near the good Shepherd, within the hearing of his voice, and the shelter of his arm. “I kept them * -I have guarded them." From their own frail hearts, and from their subtle enemies, have I alike preserved them.--This little company had been to Jesus as an inclosed vineyard : “ I the Lord do keep it: I will water it every moment : lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.” (Isaiah xxvii. 3.)
It is impossible, reading the four Gospels, not to observe, bow tenderly and watchfully our Lord had protected this chosen band of disciples.
2. But now, being on the point of leaving them, he commends them to the Father. He addresses God by the title, “Holy Father:" that is, he invokes in favour of his disciples, all the holy perfections, the immutability, truth, mercy and love of the Father. It was a solemn plea: but Jesus knew its power.—The same force he knew to be in this petition, “ Keep through thine own name those, whom thou hast given me.” They were thy gift to me: they were thine before they were mine. Surely thou wilt not have less care for them, than I have manifested !
How greatly the eleven needed the protection of the Most High, may be understood from those startling words of Christ — 6 These are in the world !” It is a fearful place to be in: especially for those who are devoted to the service of Christ, and who are 6 valiant for the truth upon the earth.”
3. Jesus then particularizes the blessings, which he desired of his father for the disciples. They are two; Unity, and Joy.
(1) The Unity implored is of the highest kind; of a quality far above man’s natural thoughts : such as none can impart, but God only: though men, bad men, can speak of it, and even counterfeit it.
The Unity is this : “ that they may be one, as we are.” The perfect, indissoluble union subsisting between the Father and the Son, is the type of that unity, which binds together all the members of Christ's mystical Body. The true Church, (not the visible, but the invisible, spiritual Church, known only to the Omniscient God), is built upon a principle of lively faith, by which believers are united to Christ. Being in Him-however diversified their natural tempers, tastes and habits may be-yet are they truly one. They merge their separate inclinations in the one great principle of Christian love: “endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
(2) Jesus prayed also that his disciples might have Joy; even “ his joy,” perfected in them. In that hour, when danger so near at hand would have extinguished, in a less powerful mind, all thought of happiness, yet Jesus calmly says, “ These things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves." For their sakes he gave utterance to his feelings. The joy of Christ was full, springing from hope and confidence; a joy, which no fear of suffering could abate ! also a pattern for our imitation. Let us labour and suffer, “rejoicing in hope !”
These are deeply affecting and instructive lessons, to be gathered from our Saviour's words. We are reminded by them, that we too are constantly passing through scenes of trial and temptation, in the midst of which we cannot of ourselves stand upright :—who then shall uphold us? We cannot keep ourselves : who shall preserve us ?