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for ours? By one of his last acts on earth he would show us how he is occupied in heaven. He would animate us with the assurance that "he ever liveth to make intercession for us," that he is now engaged watching over our dangers, noticing our infirmities; and, as every occasion arises, interceding for us. He would lead us to full dependence upon him, "who in the days of his flesh, (that is, of his humiliation,) when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;" and assure us that he is now not less able or less willing to intercede for us in the day of his exaltation; and that however tried by our own hearts, by the devices of Satan, by the persecution of man, or by the allurements of the world, if we are his, depending on him for all things, he will be careful to provide all things for us; that he can and will pray to the Father for us, and that the Father will hear and answer his supplication, and
KEEP US THUOUGH HIS OWN NAME.
1 Heb. vii. 25.
2 Heb. v. 7.
JOHN xvi. 20, 21, 22.
VERILY, VERILY, I SAY UNTO YOU, THAT YE SHALL WEEP AND LAMENT, BUT THE WORLD SHALL REJOICE; AND YE SHALL BE SORROWFUL, BUT YOUR SORROW SHALL BE TURNED INTO JOY. A WOMAN, WHEN SHE IS IN TRAVAIL, HATH SORROW, BECAUSE HER HOUR IS COME; BUT AS SOON AS SHE IS DELIVERED OF THE CHILD SHE REMEMBERETH NO MORE THE ANGUISH, FOR JOY THAT A MAN IS BORN INTO The world. AND YE NOW THEREFORE HAVE SORROW; BUT I WILL SEE YOU AGAIN, AND YOUR HEART SHALL REJOICE, AND YOUR JOY NO MAN TAKETH FROM YOU.
I NEED not remind you that these words form a part of that discourse which our Lord addressed to his disciples preparatory to his death. It is given at length in this gospel, from the 13th to the 17th chapter. It is a most precious portion of God's word; and one with which sincere Christians are, perhaps, more conversant than with any other, from the many exhilarating views which it opens, and which are eminently calculated to encourage the drooping soul. It was indeed for this purpose that it was addressed to the first disciples. Our Lord had two great points in view; the one was to prepare them for his death, the other to show them what
blessed things were connected with it, by which they might be reconciled to it. And this is his particular object in that portion appointed for the gospel for the day. He there speaks of his approaching death, and of his approaching return, and points out that they would be in close and immediate succession. "A little while," he says, "and ye shall not see me, and again a little while and ye shall see me."1 A little while only was to intervene between that moment in which he was addressing them, and the hour of his death; and again a little while only was to elapse between the hour of his death and the period of his resurrection. And it was with the speedy approach of the last-mentioned event that he continued to cheer them. That event was about to take place which should fill them with sorrow, while the world would rejoice at it. His death, even now at hand, would be received by them with dismay, while all the enemies of God would triumph in it. But the reverse of this would speedily appear; and as the birth of a child, after the severe pains and illness of the mother, more than compensates her for all her sorrows, so would his resurrection be more than an equivalent for all their preceding gloom. He may allude, perhaps, in the first place, to the mere event of his resurrection, as the seal of the truth of all his declarations, and as the pledge and earnest of all their desires. But it is not likely that he confines himself to this; but that, connected with his return, he refers to the outpouring of the Spirit,
1 Ver. 16.
which depended upon his resurrection and ascension; and which was to be the great means of gladdening their hearts: for he speaks of that inward joy and peace which the Spirit alone can bestow, and which, as it is beyond that which man or outward things can reach, he here pronounces, NO MAN
SHOULD TAKE FROM THEM.
This I have no doubt is the primary application of the passage, and that it was designed to comfort his disciples under the prospect of their immediate bereavement, with the promise of the remedy for it almost as immediate; and that by his "seeing them again," must be intended his appearance to them, and among them, immediately on his resurrection, rather than the more remote event of his final return. I think it necessary to mention this, as I propose speaking of that final return in this discourse; and I consider it to be a point of the first importance, that in every explanation of a passage of scripture, that explanation should be preceded by a direct and clear statement of what the intention of the Spirit is, (so far as we can ascertain it,) in the passage itself. With these preparatory remarks, then, I shall feel no hesitation in drawing these Two GENERAL OBSERVATIONS from the words before us; they contain, as I conceive, the principle embodied in the text.
I. THAT THE ABSENCE OF CHRIST IS THE BELIEVER'S SORROW, BUT THE WORLD'S JOY.
II. THAT THE RETURN OF CHRIST WILL BE THE WORLD'S SORROW, but the BELIEVER'S JOY.
I. Our Lord, speaking of his own departure, says, "VERILY, VERILY, I SAY UNTO YOU, THAT YE SHALL WEEP AND LAMENT." As concerned the minds of his own disciples it is evident that this would be the natural effect of it. We can, perhaps, enter little into the blessedness of that intercourse and communion which existed between him and his disciples. We know, as we have it recorded, the loveliness of his character, but we can hardly estimate what it was to have been continual witnesses of it. We know likewise something of their helplessness, by comparing it with the weakness and ignorance of our own hearts; and that he was upon every occasion their guide and their protector, their counsellor and their friend. But nothing can enable us fully to realize the peculiarities of their connexion with him. Imagination may form some idea of it, but it will only be a vague one. They had now been during three years his constant companions. The discourses which he delivered publicly in the audience of the people, he was accustomed to expound more fully unto them; as we know from the explanations of several of the parables which, at their request, he gave them. All the wonderful works that he had done in their presence, tended to fill them with confidence, and his every action, nay, every word, tended to assure them of his love. But now all this was to be taken from them; and they, poor, weak, helpless creatures, who had, for his sake, separated themselves from friends, and had given up all worldly prospects and worldly hopes, were to be left, as they imagined, to their