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what agonies I have to endure, and to what glories I am going, ye would willingly part with me, and exult in my ascension to a state of unchangeable bliss. Ye would rejoice on my account, as well as on your own.
While thus contemplating Christ our Head, it is not inappropriate to apply this reflection to dying believers also: for they are members of Christ ; and at their death, joy ought to be mingled with our grief. With what calm, submissive, holy gratitude ought we to contemplate the removal of those who sleep in Jesus ! To part with them, may be very painful and distressing to us : but when we remember that they are translated from a world of temptation, sin, and suffering, to an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away; surely we ought not to be swallowed up of over-much sorrow. If we loved them, we should give God thanks for their perfect bliss. We cannot indeed help shedding natural tears: but let some of our tears be tears of holy joy!
2. Our Saviour mentions also his approaching Conflict with the great enemy. « The prince of this world cometh !” Tremendous thought, even to a spotless and almighty Redeemer ! Satan, who lords it over the whole human race, is now about putting forth all his strength, aiming to frustrate the redemption of his unhappy slaves.
But, saith Jesus, he “ hath nothing in me:" no sin, whereof to accuse; no weakness, whereby to foil me. The Captain of our salvation goes forth
to meet him, sure of victory: and on his conquest depends ours.
Believers are safe only in Christ: but in Christ they are perfectly safe. When the prince of this world cometh out against us, we must be very careful not to give him any advantage, by trusting to our own strength, and forgetting our only Refuge and Helper.
If for a moment, or in the least degree, we look off from Christ, then Satan will thrust sore at us, that we may fall. And how can we expect to stand up against his accusations, by pretending that there is any merit or goodness in us? How can we hope to endure his sifting-time, if we trust to our own vows, purposes, and resolutions ?
Believers are constrained to feel their frailty, in every hour of temptation; still more so, in seasons of depressing sickness; and most of all in the prospect of death. These are their times of infirmity; and then it is that Satan comes to harrass them. If, in such circumstances, we had only ourselves to depend on, we should be overwhelmed with despair. But in Christ we have a full security. He says to the believer, “I have prayed for thee !” The feeblest believer may put the prince of this world to flight, if only he knows how to plead the name of Jesus. “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died; yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us."
Our Lord, having thus far warned and comforted the disciples, invites them to rise from the table, and leave the guest-chamber where they had supped. But first they sing the accustomed hymn; which is generally supposed to have been Psalms cxiii. to cxviii. inclusive. Two verses of this hymn (Psalm cxviii. 22, 23.) are peculiarly applicable to the Meek Sufferer, and would help to strengthen him for the approaching hour of trial. 6 The stone which the builders refused, is become the headstone of the corner. This is the Lord's doing: it is marvellous in our eyes."
CHRIST, THE TRUE VINE.
John xv. 1—10.
Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine ; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
I am the vine, ye are the branches : He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered ; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you : continue ye in my love.
If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.
Our Lord having now gone forth, and being on his way toward the mount of Olives, the eleven also following him, it is natural to suppose that he stopped for some little time; and drawing his disciples around him, made the observations contained in this and the next chapter: closing with the prayer which we have in chapter xvii. As they went forth, they beheld a vine, a very common fruit-tree in that country. And as the thoughts of Jesus were deeply fixed on the subject of the union of believers with Himself, he took occasion hence to illustrate his doctrine by this beautiful and simple emblem. Many points in it require distinct notice: let us search them out in their natural order.
1. First, Christ compares himself to a Vine. “I am the vine.” He is moreover called in Scripture, 6 the Root of David ;" and, “the Stem of Jesse.” These two principal parts of the vine, the root and the stem, very aptly represent Jesus as the source of all blessings to his Church; and as the stay and support of it.
2. Christ is also the 66 true” vine. The emblem of a vine had been frequently used to represent the people of Israel in their best days: but that Church
and nation had declined from their high character. “I had planted thee,” (says the Lord, in Jeremiah ii. 21.) “ a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?” In our Lord Jesus Christ there is no such falling away from truth and perfectness. He is unchangeable. He is, and ever will continue, the “true” vine. “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.”
3. Again, he says, “My Father is the husbandman.” It was the Eternal Father who gave his Son to be Head over all things to his Church : and that Church, consequently, as united to Christ, may be considered to have been planted by the Father. And as he planted it, so does he constantly watch over it. As it is said in the prophecy of Isaiah, “I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment; lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.”
4. In this vine, the disciples of Christ are the Branches. Having sprung from Christ, to him they are united. And on him they continually depend for their life and fruitfulness.
5. Yet here it is to be observed, that as, in a vine, some may be living branches, and others dead ones; so likewise in the visible Church of Christ there may be, and there actually are, some disciples who have life, and others who are dead. For the convenience of the description, even the dead ones are called Branches: but what their present state is, and what their future doom will be, is clearly shown by our Lord.