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2. As Jesus himself condescends to derive pleasure from the prosperity of his servants, so should the supreme delight of his servants be in him.
They should rejoice, first and chiefly, in being made partakers of his saving grace, and consequently permitted to hope, through his mercy, that their names are written in heaven. They may and they ought to rejoice, further, because they are called to help forward the salvation of others. This was the sole work of the Apostles: for this they lived, and in doing it they jeoparded their lives even unto the death. “ Neither count I my life dear unto myself,” said St. Paul, who received the same commission, from the same Redeemer), “so that I may finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God.” And do any of them now repent of having laboured and suffered for the name of Christ? They sowed in tears, but they now reap in joy. Their light affliction was but for a moment: but it wrought out for them an exceeding and eternal weight of glory. And not for them only; but also for countless myriads out of all nations, kindreds, tribes, and tongues. The great multitude, which no man can number, who shall stand at Christ's right hand in the last day, will be the glorious reward of Apostles, Martyrs, Pastors, Evangelists, and of all who have laboured much in the Lord. The joy of Christ will be theirs. When surrounded by many, who were brought to Christ through their labours,
their preaching, their writings, and in answer to their prayers, they will exclaim, “ Ye, through the rich mercy of our Saviour, ye are our glory and joy!” Oh, what fulness of joy will there then be for all the saints, assembled in the presence of God! What pleasures at his right hand, for evermore!
THE FRIENDS OF CHRIST.
John xv. 12–17. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth : but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain : that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
These things I command you, that ye love one another. In Scripture various titles are given to those, who fear and love God. Sometimes they are called servants of the Lord; sometimes his people, his heritage, his children, his flock. In the New Testament we read of them as saints, brethren beloved, disciples and followers of Christ. But in this passage a new title is adopted, conveying an idea of peculiar intimacy and attachment: “Ye (saith Christ to the eleven) are my friends:” and we may
consider him as saying the same to all his faithful followers. There is a mutual friendship between Christ and our souls, if we walk as becometh the disciples of the Lord.
It will be encouraging to consider in what respects the friendship of Christ is manifested towards believers: and then, what is the character of believers, viewed as the friends of Christ.
1. The friendship of our Saviour is manifested in several respects; especially the following:
(1) He chooses and appoints his friends. To the eleven he expressly says, “ Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain.” He chose them, when he said, “ Follow me:” whereupon they arose, left all, and followed bim. He ordained them, when he sent them forth to preach, and to heal all manner of sicknesses. But, in truth, all believers are chosen of God: so St. Peter describes them; “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter i. 2.)
(2) But Jesus further manifests his love toward them, by laying down his life for their salvation. 6 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” It is true that he died for all: but believers alone accept the benefit of his death. It was not, because we were his friends, that Christ died for us: for we were his enemies: but he died to make us friends. “If then, when we were enemies, we were reconciled unto God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”
(3) Jesus further marks his friendship, by revealing to his disciples the secrets of heaven. Not ALL mysteries: for doubtless there are many divine truths, which we could not comprehend in our present state: but all things which Jesus, as Mediator, had heard of his Father, these he freely makes known. We observe many such revelations in this Gospel, and more particularly in this last discourse. Herein Christ speaks of his twofold Nature; his oneness with the Father; his obtaining the gift of the Spirit; and his victory over sin, the world and Satan: and all this with a freedom which he did not use towards the world. He speaks also more clearly than the writers of the Old Testament were enabled to do. His disciples, moreover, had precedence of all others, in their full understanding of the doctrines of the Gospel. They were treated, (not as servants, who carry a letter from their master, without knowing any of its contents); but as friends, who were in their master's confidence, and knew his secret counsels. And, in like manner, every converted person understands the Gospel experimentally; which an unconverted person does not. For “ the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” When Christ
opens our understandings to understand the Scriptures, he deals with us as friends: he makes us intimately acquainted with his will : he reveals to us the counsels of his Father, and the things of the Spirit.
(4) And yet again, Christ shows his friendship, by pleading our cause, in the presence of his Father in heaven. He is our Advocate with the Father : 6 that whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he may give it you.” It is considered a great advantage on earth, to have a friend at court: what an unspeakable privilege must it be, then, to have Jesus as our Advocate, always ready to present our petitions at the throne of grace! If we ask in faith, nothing wavering, we cannot fail to obtain a favourable answer.
2. But let us consider on the other hand, what are the characteristics of those, who may justly regard themselves as friends of Jesus.
(1) First, they are True-hearted. This is the very basis of friendship. Without sincerity, there can be no durable friendship. Among men, indeed, it is possible to keep up appearances for a time: but Christ cannot for one moment be deceived in this matter. He sees whether we follow Him with a whole heart; or whether there be some flaw in our sincerity. This spirit of genuineness and faithfulness he discerned in his Eleven, but not in Judas. He said therefore, “ Have not I chosen you twelve; and one of you is a devil ?”—The spirit of truth, however, is not natural to man: it