« AnteriorContinuar »
ST. JOHN Xv. 7, 8.
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.
THIS chapter affords us another instance of the recourse which our Lord had to every object that could assist his disciples, in forming any conception of the various offices which he filled, and the various relations in which he stood towards them, in the great work of their salvation. In the last chapter which came before our notice, he spoke of himself as "the light of the world," and in this he speaks of himself as the vine, "the true vine; to which illustration he was probably led, as I suggested on the former occasion, by some passing circumstances, of which we always find him availing himself, to open spiritual truths to the minds of his disciples. And as they had recently been seated at the paschal supper, of the cup of which they had partaken, containing the fruit of the vine; this circumstance may have suggested this beautiful figure,
which is the subject of the present chapter; a figure which is not perhaps equalled for the singular felicity with which it sets before the mind some of the most important truths of the gospel. In this he represents himself as the vine; professors as the branches; their Father as the husbandman: under one or other of which ideas almost every point of Christian doctrine might be brought; and from which could be shown the several offices of Father, Son, and Spirit, in the economy of man's salvation. The lost state of mankind, their hopeless and barren condition, dead in trespasses and sins, alienated from the life of God; their utter impotency to any thing good of themselves; Christ as the only source of life and fruitfulness; the Father's appointment of him to that mediatorial office to which he voluntarily submitted; his selecting him as the branch which he had made so strong for himself, and his grafting of believers into him, joining them to his Son, and cultivating this vine for his own glory; again his cutting off the dead and unproductive branches, the mere nominal Christian, who has a name to live but is dead; and pruning and purging the fruitful branches, by afflictions or other chastening dispensations, and by the removal from them of what would otherwise engross their affections and turn their hearts from God and holiness ;-all this is placed distinctly before us in this simple figure, and each portion would in itself afford us sufficient matter for a discourse. But it is not my present intention to enter into the consideration of it. I
rather propose to confine myself to the Lord's improvement of it. The leading feature of this is the natural impotency of man as regards any thing good, and the consequent necessity of union with Christ as the only source of salvation and life and fruitfulness. Abiding, therefore, in him is the improvement; in other words the necessity of maintaining that union. And, therefore, we find our Lord concluding the parable, if such it may be "IF YE abide in me, anD MY
called, in these words,
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."
The point enforced is our ABIDING IN CHRIST. I need not remind you that there are but two great divisions of mankind; they that are in Christ and they that are not. Our Lord is represented as the great head of a body, or as the great stem of a tree, and all that are united to him are spoken of as partakers with him in every thing. Thus to be "in Christ," is to be delivered in him from wrath to come. The whole world lieth in wickedness and under sentence, and if they die in unbelief die in their sins, but "there is no longer any condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus;" these are made partakers in his righteousness and in his sufferings, their debt is paid, and their penalty undergone in his person, In fact, all who thus belong to him, and are made one with him, are by imputation interested in every thing that he has
done or suffered or obtained. This is very forcibly set forth in the second of Colossians, in which believers are said to be "complete in him," partakers with him in his baptism, in his resurrection, in the payment of the debt of sin, and in the overthrow of all spiritual enemies. Now into that union we are introduced by believing. We are made one with Christ when the Holy Spirit who carries the Father's purposes into effect, opens the Scripture to our minds, convinces us of sin through the instrumentality of the word, for by the law is the knowledge of sin ;" and, through the same word, convinces us of righteousness, opens to us the Saviour's fulness, and leads us to trust to him for justification, to believe what the Scriptures tell us of him, that he is "made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption," and to commit ourselves to him as able to answer for us. ABIDING in Christ signifies, therefore, nothing more than the continued exercise of this faith; the steadfast adherence to him for salvation, to the rejection of every other dependence; the unreserved reliance upon him, to the exclusion of every other hope; knowing no other name but his, and making mention of his righteousness, and of his only. Now the exhortation thus to abide in Christ, is not to be taken as if it implied, that one in the faith might fall away from it, or that one actually in Christ might hereafter cease to be so. The parable, indeed, might seem to countenance this idea, because it adopts the same expres
1 Ps. lxxi. 16.
sion with regard to all professors, and speaks of the branch that bears no fruit, (and which the husbandman removes,) as having been in the vine, in the same terms in which it speaks of the fruitful branch. But that there must have been an essential difference in the manner in which each was fixed in the vine is obvious, since the one was evidently so united as to partake of the nature of the tree, while the other was only as it were externally and superficially joined to it. And so with regard to those who call themselves by the name of Christ, there is a real difference between those who are only such in name and appearance, and those who are such in deed and in truth; and from the fact of the former easily dropping off it would be unfair to argue against the stability and permanence of the latter. This indeed is all that can be inferred from the use of the same expression, that it behoves all men seriously and carefully to "examine themselves whether they be in the faith," and that "every one that thinketh he standeth, should take heed lest he fall." The removal of such nominal Christians cannot weaken the security of the true believer in Christ; for St. John, when he speaks of the removal of such, shows at the same time how certainly the true believer will abide. "They went out," he says, "from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest that they were not of us.”1 But does the idea of the believer's perseverance
11 John ii. 19.