Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.Christ's Appropriations
We shall find some jewel sentences in the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel according to John. The expressions shortly to be quoted may be designated the Appropriations of Christ. He seemed to c aim certain things, ideas, principles, emotions, as peculiarly His own. Christ may be said to be before us now as a great proprietor, talking so clearly, though not too loudly, of the things which belong to Himself. The governing word is 'My'. He goes as it were around the whole circle and places His claiming finger upon all the riches and all the greatnesses, including the comforts, of the whole heaven.
I. 'My Father' (ver. 8). What a personal appropriation, what a claim to the whole fatherhood of God! Has this any natural similitude? Each little playing child on the roadside might say, 'My sun,' because the sun is so big and so impartial. I have seen the sun kissing a weed. Jesus said that God poured out His rain upon the just and the unjust, and His sunshine upon those who were far from Him. So He is Christ's Father, that He may be our Father.
II. 'My commandments' (ver. 10). That is a different tone. We never thought of commandments in connection with Jesus Christ. But when we really look into the whole matter we find that Jesus Christ spake more commandments than ten. We misinterpret the Christ; we think that He dealt only in benedictions and comforting assurances; we do not sufficiently realise that Jesus Christ really delivered the ten commandments with additions. This Man is not other than a King. He says, My kingdom, The kingdom of God, The kingdom of heaven; and 'kingdom' means order, law, unity, responsibility. Who ever thinks of the Church as a kingdom, a government, having a King, a throne, a law? Yet that is the right conception of the Christian idea III. 'My joy' (ver. 11). Why, He looks so sad! It is only the sad man that can be really happy; the lightsome, frivolous creature, all froth, never knew what happiness was.—cannot know. Effervescence grows nothing. He looks so sad. That is because He is so loving, because He has such a quick and complete apprehension of all the conditions under which man lives. Look how He looks. He pities plenteousness more than He pities poverty; He loves humility, He hates pride. To enter into Christ's joy is the great purpose of the ministry of the Holy Ghost in the heart. There is nothing superficial in the joy of Christ; it is as a spring that comes up out of the rocks, a tonic handed to us from the fountain of blessedness.
IV. 'My name' (ver. 16). 'Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name.' That is the way to open the Father's heart; there is no other way. Not to bathe our prayer in the name of Jesus is to forget the true nature of prayer; it is to come with wild cries and ungoverned and undisciplined desires of our own. The Priest's name makes the prayer; we have an High Priest. Priest is a great word in human language; priest is a term filled with noble ideas; we may have perverted and degraded the name, but that is our doing. Man degraded Eden; sin degrades everything. But the word priest, taken out of its history in which it has become impaired and debased, is a great word, and Jesus Christ is not ashamed to wear the title; it becomes Him as a diadem.
V. 'My name's sake '(ver. 21). The disciples were to be persecuted for Christ's name's sake, because the persecutors knew not Him that sent the Son of God. But there is another use of the word which is most edifying and most pathetic. 'My name's sake;' in another case He says, 'For My sake'. Here we come upon the supreme motive of spiritual action. If we were doing things for Christ's sake, all things would be under our feet, and we would have to stoop to touch the dignities of earth. We do not realise our privileges, we forget that we are sons of God; it has escaped our memory that we are a royal generation and a nation of priests unto God.
—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. v. p. 127.
References.—XV. 1.—C. Stanford, The Evening of our Lord's Ministry, p. 133. XV. 1, 2.—G. Body, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lv. p. 171. S. H. Fleming, Fifteen Minute Sermons for the People, p. 40. XV. 1-4.—C. Bickersteth, The Gospel of Incarnate Love, p. 181. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. John, p. 1. XV. 1-5.—D. Fraser, Metaphors in the Gospels, p. 347. XV. 1-7.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. x. p. 369. XV. 1-8.—Ibid. vol. vi. p. 405. XV. 2.—G. Bellett, Parochial Sermons, p. 110. S. H. Fleming, Fifteen Minute Sermons for the People, p. 44. S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for Saints' Days, p. 100. H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. ii. p. 247. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiii. No. 774. Expositor (7th Series), vol. v. p. 4. XV. 3.—Ibid. (5th Series), vol. ii. p. 24. XV. 3, 4.—J. Keble, Village Sermons on the Baptismal Service, p. 272. XV. 4.—Archbishop Temple, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lii. p. 88. F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. v. p. 249. H. Arnold Thomas, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lv. p. 328. XV. 4, 5.—G. Body, ibid. vol. lv. p. 134. XV. 4-7.—Ibid. vol. lv. p. 179.
Nothing or Everything
John 15:5; Php 4:13
Both these passages deal with the same theme. The one gives us the pregnant words of the Master to His disciples, the other the words of a great and abundantly useful disciple and apostle concerning his Master. The one in a negative form, the other in a positive, gives us the secret of the Christian's power. The one tells us that, apart from a certain experience, nothing is possible to us. The other, that in that experience there has been discovered and proved the fact that all things can be done.
I. We can do a great many things apart from Christ and that vital union with Him of which this chapter treats; indeed we could do some things, perhaps, better and more easily apart from this condition than if we fulfilled it. But if we are to keep strictly to the word of the Lord, we are compelled to say of all the things that we could do thus, 'they are nothing'. For example, I suppose it is possible for us to achieve what is generally recognised as success in life apart from Christ. A man might even make a large fortune, and, in certain circumstances, it would be easier to make a fortune severed from Christ than united to Him. And in the same way, men might make a great reputation apart from Christ; all the honour which the world has to give it might bring and lay at their feet. And yet we must say, if we are to stick to the text, that under those circumstances fortune and honour and reputation are nothing, and the man who holds them holds nothing. A man might also acquire a vast amount of knowledge apart from Christ. But having in view God's conception of human life and the Divine purpose respecting it, we are led irresistibly to the conclusion that that which he has acquired through years of study, all his store of learning, is nothing. Life has failed of its purpose, it has been lived in vain. That is to say, the purpose of our being here is that we shall be fitted for living with God for ever; and none of the things that I have mentioned can give any of us that fitness. They all fade into nothingness compared with holiness. That is the supreme end of life, and 'without holiness no man shall see the Lord'.
II. Coming a little nearer to the heart of things, we shall recognise the truth of these words. Take two of the things on which, perhaps, our hearts are set (1) First the conquest of sin and selfishness. The secret of failure in many cases, where people sincerely strive against selfish and sinful habits, is that they strive by themselves, and as a matter of self-interest.
When men can think of Jesus Christ as being a perfectly real person, looking with holy mercy on sinful men, stretching out His hands to help them, taking some of those who were reputed to be the worst to His heart; when they can think of Him as the Friend of sinners, and strive against selfishness for His sake and in the assurance of His knowledge and sympathy, the striving becomes a different thing, more thorough, more hearty, and far more effectual.
(2) Take a second Christian ambition—to do good. We are here to do good. To exercise a holy influence over those around us, to lead some of them into the new life. It is difficult to see how any one can possess spiritual life in the smallest degree without cherishing this ambition. There is hardly so great a joy on earth, even if there is anything half so precious, as the consciousness that you have' helped men to a better life; just as there is no greater remorse, when the conscience is awakened, than the conviction that you have led others astray. But that great happiness, the happiness of leading people from the darkness into the light, from carelessness and unbelief into a living and earnest faith, is impossible apart from Christ. It is not the clever people, nor people in high station, as such, that exert the greatest influence for good over their fellows, it is the good people, and the good people are those who live in fellowship with Christ.
To sum up: there are things which we think we can do apart from Christ. According to His teaching, they amount to nothing. There are other things which we know cannot be done apart from Him. There is nothing that ought to be done, that is worth doing, that cannot by fellowship with Him be accomplished.
—Charles Brown, Light and Life, p.
The Union of Christ and the Believer
The vine was a national emblem, like our rose, thistle, or shamrock, or like the lily of France. One of Isaiah's most striking parables was the Parable of the Vineyard. He compared Israel to a vineyard planted by the Lord, protected and cultivated, but which brought forth only wild grapes, and was condemned and destroyed. Now Jesus takes up the old parable to make it a parable of the new covenant with heaven. It was just His way of teaching, and must have reminded the disciples of the days when they walked with Him in Galilee and heard Him endow with spiritual meanings the corn and the mustard seed. And then from the window of that upper room, made sacred for ever by the institution of the Sacrament of the new Church, Jesus shows them this vine planted in the city, and assures them that although Israel has failed, and as a nation must fail, yet the sympathy of God's protecting love for His people holds good.
I. The Union of Christ and the Believer.—The great thought here is perhaps the deepest thought of all the Christian religion: the most essential truth of the reality of the union of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, with His believers, called Christians. He is the vine—and the vine is no good without the branches—and we are the branches. The anxious disciples may say, 'We cannot live without Thee'; and He answers, 'But ye shall not live without Me. As the branches of that climbing tree live by the life that springs from its root, so shall you live by My life in you. Ye cannot see the sap that flows from the stem into the branches, neither shall ye see Me with your eyes, but yet shall feel the power of My life. Your union shall be closer than ever; a vital union. But oh, beware! lest you be separated from Me in spirit like that dead branch. Let not the world tear you from Me, for then you would be as that branch that dies.'
II. The Branches bear Fruit.—The full beauty of this paragraph appears when we realise that the branches are as necessary to the stem as the stem is to the branches. The branches bear fruit, so that from Christ grew the Church. Your faith and life spring from His life, your Divine power to do good comes from Him, and God proves His confidence in us by entrusting to us, wholly and entirely without any reservation, the fulfilment of His purpose on earth. He bids us do the work that Jesus did in the world, aye! and greater work, because Jesus could only do them one at a time in one country. We can do them always, everywhere. Each of us is then the appointed minister of Christ.
Thus the parable is complete, for it shows us God planting Christ in the world, and bringing forth from Christ His Church and giving to His Church the Divine life of His Son, and training the Church to do His work; and it shows us ourselves having the Divine life abiding in Christ, enabled to work out God's purposes and to attain, at last, His ends. There cannot be any fruit unless He sends it.
During a recent visit to the Benedictine Monastery of Beuron, the German Emperor told the abbot how he had answered Prof. Delitzsch of Berlin, who had endeavoured for an hour to demonstrate that Christ was not Divine. After he had finished, the Emperor said: 'Professor, have you ever said to your students, "I am the vine, you are the branches"?' 'No, your majesty.' 'Do you think that before your time a professor ever said it?' 'No, your majesty.' 'In future, will professors ever address their students in such a way.' 'Assuredly not.' 'Well, professor, because no teacher can or will speak as Christ spoke, I believe that Christ was not merely a man, but the true God.'
If He is sought, not as a residuary solace because life has failed, or only as holding the keys of a dim and distant future, but as Himself the Life and eternal life, He will open hidden springs of life in the desert within and the deserts around, that what remains of the three-score years and ten may be moulded into a living form, fair in His eyes and fit for His service
Christ never regarded Himself as a representative exhibition of human triumph. He never said or implied: 'See what I have done; you can do it too'. That is foreign to His whole utterance. What He did say was, 'without Me ye can do nothing'.
—T. J. Hardy, The Gospel of Pain, p. 183.
A Christ not in us is the same thing as a Christ not ours.
References.—XV. 5.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vi. No. 345, and vol. xxvii. No. 1625. D. G. Davies, Sermons by Welshmen, p. 236. F. A. Noble, Christian World Pulpit, vol. 1. p. 152, and vol. lv. p. 121. W. L. Alexander, Sermons, p. 25. G. Jackson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lix. p. 59. Expositor, (4th Series), vol. ix. p. 42.
Abiding in Christ
'Abide in Me.' The words proclaim a warning against spiritual vagrancy, against intermittent consecration, against a spasmodic religious life. There are some people who visit Christ. There are others who abide in Him. To the one class religion is a temporary expedient: to the other it is a permanent principle. 'Abide in Me.' What is meant by abiding in Christ?
I. To abide in Christ is to maintain our belief in Him. I am to take the claims of Christ: His statements concerning His prerogatives and rights; His teachings concerning God and man, and life and duty; His Gospel concerning sin and forgiveness, and the dynamics of holiness; His warning concerning the direful issues of unrepented wrong;—I am to take them and exalt them into the dignity of beliefs, immediate and operative factors in my daily life. It is belief that creates 'abiding'; mere opinion consorts with vagrancy. Opinion is a mental judgment; belief is mental judgment applied. To believe in Christ is the secret of abiding.
II. To abide in Christ we must preserve the means of our attachment. There are certain ministries which have been appointed as channels of grace, through which man's fellowship with God may be strengthened and enriched. (1) The ministry of prayer. (2) The ministry of public worship.
III. What would be the fruits of 'abiding'? (1) Fullness of living. 'The same beareth much fruit.' When the Divine and the human interpenetrate, the fructifying powers are enormously increased, and the tree of the individual bears all manner of fruits. (2) 'Ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you.' 'Whatsoever ye will.' A thoughtless interpretation of that great word has plunged many souls into profound bewilderment and pain. Things have been asked, and they have not been given. What is the explanation? The offer has been seized, but the conditions ignored. What are the conditions? 'If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you.' What shall be the practical outcome of this meditation? Let us begin the 'abiding'. In his Novum Organum Bacon gives utterance to a conviction which shall express the purpose of this concluding appeal: 'The question whether anything can be known is to be settled not by arguing but by trying'. 'Abide in Me.' Try it; try it; and you shall find the issue in fruitful and abundant life.
—J. H. Jowett, Apostolic Optimism, p. 225.
References.—XV. 5-8.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. John, p. 10. XV. 6.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. x. p. 445. XV. 7.—E. H. Eland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lii. p. 357. J. Keble, Sermons for Easter to Ascension Day, p. 474. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxiv. No. 2002. R. J. Campbell, City Temple Sermons, p. 185. Phillips Brooks, The Mystery of Iniquity, p. 296. Alfred Rowland, The Exchanged Crowns, p. 165. Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. p. 41. XV. 8.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlv. No. 2650. XV. 9.—Ibid. vol. xxxiii.,No. 1982, and vol. xli. No. 2444. XV. 9-11.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. John, p. 20. XV. 10.—F. C. Spurr, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvii. p. 203. Expositor (6th Series), vol. ix. p. 37.
There is something touching in the words 'My joy,' as in the parallel words of the same address 'My peace'. They shed a light upon His Divine life. That joy of which the Saviour spoke was like the echo of the joy of heaven, and He wished it to remain with His disciples.
I. Christian Joy is Grateful.—Let me indicate two or three elements of this joy which the Saviour willed, as His last boon, to give to His disciples. The first of them shall be that Christian joy is ever grateful. Nothing is more striking, I had almost said more saddening, than to see how the children of the world enjoy themselves in their dissipations, and never once stay to inquire by Whom it is, or for what purpose, that so much happiness is vouchsafed to them; but in the Bible it is ever gratitude which appears as a mark of the Christian character. 'Be ye thankful' 'In everything give thanks.' 'Would you know,' says William Law, the author of The Serious Call,' who is the greatest saint? It is not he who prays most or fasts most; not he who gives most alms or is most eminent for temperance, chastity, or justice. He it is who is always thankful to God, who wills everything that God willeth, who receives everything as an instance of God's goodness, and has a heart always to praise God for it.'
II. Christian Joy is Diffusive.—Again, Christian joy—sanctified joy—is and must ever be diffusive. The Saviour Himself would not keep His joy to Himself. 'That My joy,' He says,' might remain in you.' The Christian character is like the candle that sheds light around it even though it be wasted in the shedding.
III. Christian Joy is Solemnising.—Once again, Christian sanctified joy is a solemnising thing. We are apt to think of joy as if it were something to be used in mere wanton merriment, but in truth as there is nothing to the devout soul more humbling than success, so there is nothing more solemnising than joy. 'Take my word,' says St Augustine, 'true joy is a serious matter.' It is serious because of its contrast with the distress of the many thousands of people who are God's children as surely as we are. And joy, Christian joy, is serious too, because the root of it is submission to the holy will of God. We receive at His hands what we call good; shall we not also receive what we call evil? After all, He who knows best will give the best And the joy is serious, I think, because of its proximity to that sorrow which, like joy itself, perhaps even more than joy itself, is an abiding feature of human life. But in the sorrows and bereavements of life we are not as those who have no hope. And ever for the Christian soul there springs up light in the darkness. His joy is eternal, as Christ Himself is eternal. It transcends even the sorrow of the grave.
The Joy of Christ
John 15:11I. Abiding in Christ gives us His joy for ours.
II. His joy in us abides.
III. His abiding joy grows in us.
References.—XV. 11.—J. Clifford, The Secret of Jesus, p. 133. Newman Smyth, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvi. p. 134. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. li. No. 2935. H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. ii. p. 280. J. T. Stannard, The Divine Humanity, p. 72. G. Body, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lv. p. 200. Expositor (6th Series), vol. i. p. 193; ibid. vol. iv. p. 8.
The Great Love of Christ
Let us consider Jesus Christ as the perfect example of human love.
I. The love of Christ is shown in His perfect Self-forgetfulness. (1) Love to men made Him forget His own bodily necessities. (2) Love made Him forget His own sorrows. (3) Love made Him forget His own agonies.
II. The love of Christ is shown in His perfect lowliness.
III. The love of Christ 'is shown in His long-suffering bearing of men's offences against His love.
IV. Christ's love is shown in His persistent efforts to raise and save the worst.
References.—XV. 12.—Bishop King, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvii. p. 69. Expositor (4th Series), vol. x. p. 48; ibid. (6th Series), vol. ix. p. 227 XV. 12, 13.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. John, p. 28. XV. 12-14.__ R. W. Church, Village Sermons, p. 85.
Compare Landor's remarks on Byron. 'He could comprehend nothing heroic, nothing disinterested. Shelley, at the gates of Pisa, threw himself between him and the dragoon, whose sword in his indignation was lifted and about to strike. Byron told a common, some time afterwards, that he could not conceive how any man living should act so. "Do you know, he might have been killed! and there was every appearance that he would be!" The answer was, "Between you and Shelley there is but little similarity, and perhaps but little sympathy; yet what Shelley did then, he would do again, and always. There is not a human creature, not even the most hostile, that he would hesitate to protect from injury at the imminent hazard of life." "I cannot understand it," cried Byron. "A man to run on a naked sword for another!"'
There are a hundred thousand Malays in Perak, and some more in other parts of the Peninsula; and the white man whose interest in the race is strong enough, may not only win confidence but the devotion that is ready to give life itself in the cause of friendship. The Scripture says, 'There is no greater thing than this'; and in the end of the nineteenth century that is a form of friendship all too rare. Fortunately this is a thing you cannot buy, but to gain it is worth some effort.
—F. A. Swettenham, Malay Sketches, chap. 1.
References.—XV. 13.—W. B. Barton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lii. p. 307. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix. No. 1128, and vol. lii. No. 2986. Expositor (4th Series), vol. x. p. 134.
Friendship with God
I. Let us think of the significance of this word friendship as describing the central fact of the religious life. We are more accustomed to use the word fatherhood as describing the relation between God and man, and the ideas connoted by that word are large and precious. Yet fatherhood carries with it some ideas which gradually fade out as the spiritual relation becomes more perfect. The idea of authority and submission are suggested by it. The father naturally and rightfully commands, and the child obeys. The relation may not be servile, but it is one of recognised inequality. It is this to which Jesus refers when He says: 'No longer do I call you servants; for the servant knoweth not what his master doeth: but I have called you friends'. How often is it necessary for the wisest parents to adopt courses of conduct which their children cannot fully understand! But the right relation between parents and children always steadily and rapidly progresses toward the mutuality of friendship, and is completed and perfected in friendship. The crown of love is a genuine friendship. The essence of the Christian revelation is the friendship of God for men and the infinite desire on the part of God for the friendship of men.
II. If this is the whole of the religious life—to know God as our friend and the friend of all men—and to enter into that mutual friendship with which He evermore seeks to bless us—then other things will surely follow. We cannot be friends with Him who is the friend of all, unless we are friends with all. 'To come into friendship with God,' says Prof. King, 'is really to share His life: but the very life of God is love, self-giving, pouring Himself out into like loving relations to all men. The Second Commandment thus inevitably grows out of the first. A deepening friendship with God, therefore, includes right relations with men: the religious life is ethical in its very nature and from the start. And thus, once more, it is seen to be impossible to come into right personal relation to God, and not at the same time to come into right relation to all moral beings.' No friendship can be of any great value to us unless it is a mutual friendship.
—Washington Gladden, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxi. p. 278.
Jesus Our Example: In Friendship
What sacred thoughts are bound up in that word 'friendship'! Friendship is one of the great powers which God has given us to meet the storms of life, to stimulate us to effort in the path of duty. And yet, friendship often has its dangers.
I. Let us look at some of the ways in which friendship is helpful, see how they are illustrated in our blessed Lord's life, and then examine how far they may be found in our own friendships. (1) And first the sympathy of friendship: how sweet it is! what a marvellous power, enabling men to face the difficulties and to endure the trials of life. (2) And then there is not only sympathy, but the encouragement of friendship. (3) Then the stimulating power of friendship, of fellowship in thought and work!
II. Then there is another side of life—the sorrows and difficulties of life—in which friendship helps to comfort and to console us. (1) In the hour of bereavement, when all life seems dark, when our affections are bleeding from the wounds they have received, how great is the comfort of the friend, who says but little, but shows by the pressure of the hand, by the tone of the voice, by the look of the eye, that he realises our sorrow and suffers with us. We find something like this in our Lord's life when they came and told Him and His Apostles of the death of John the Baptist, then our Lord shows His sympathy with their sorrow and says, 'Come ye apart into a desert place and rest awhile'. (2) Again, in matters of difficulty, how often we need advice! and whose advice are we so likely to seek as the advice of a good friend? (3) Again there are times in friendship when we not only have to give advice which is unpalatable, but when we have even to rebuke. When our Lord helped Peter as he was sinking beneath the waves, when He calmed the storm at His Apostle's prayer—He rebuked them.
III. But what is the power on which all friendship is based?—love! that Divine power which is the salvation of society, of the world; that power which holds society together in its lawful relationships; and one of these relationships is friendship—unselfish love, self-sacrificing love; as our Lord said, 'Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend'.
—A. G. Mortimer, Lenten Preaching, p. 130.
References.—XV. 14.—W. J. Hills, Sermons and Addresses, p. 55. R. W. Church, Village Sermons (2nd Series), p. 110. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi. No. 1552.
The Friends of Christ
Can Christ have friends? Is he not lifted so absolutely above us as to make all talk of friendship impossible? And the question brings us face to face with the whole difficulty of the conditions of our Lord's life on earth.
I. Was He a real man, as well as God? Had He a man's heart—not only a man's sympathy, but a man's need of sympathy; did He have friendship and value it, and return it as we do? Look at three points only. (1) His real growth in wisdom. How keen we have often been to explain away all the Bible language which speaks of Him as acquiring knowledge by His use of human faculties—'coming to know this,' 'asking this,' 'looking round in the press'—how unreal it all is if it was only a kind of drama he was acting! (2) And so again with the Temptation. Make Him a real man and you have a fight going on before your eyes which should hearten the most depressed man or woman in their most besetting temptation. (3) Consider His need of sympathy. Surely there is only one possible answer to our first question. Christ was a real man as well as God; it is a really human life we are watching: He was a real boy, a real young working man, a real son to His mother, a real friend to His friends.
II. Then is He the same today? And in answer we hear the dear saying which has cheered thousands down the ages through weeks of suffering and years of temptation, 'Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and for ever'. (1) Take first His work in our own souls. He wants us to enter into what He is doing. (2) He would like to make us friends in His plans for the advance of His kingdom. (3) Christ has today as profound a pity for suffering as He ever had.
III. What difference does it make to our religious lite today? What has all this to say to us? We are to aim at growing more into sympathy with Jesus Christ. We are to try and enter into the mind of Christ on different points. (1) What does He think of sin? He hates it, He loathes it as something horrible, unnatural, offensive to God; and yet how familiar we get with it, by what soft names we call it; let us try to gain our Friend's point of view of sin. (2) We must try to gain our Friend's passion for holiness. (3) Let us aim at true sympathy with Jesus Christ by sharing His cross. (4) Let us show that we are not ashamed to follow a crucified Saviour.
—Bishop Winnington-Ingram, Christ and His Friends, p. 1.
References.—XV. 14, 15.—G. W. Brameld, Practical Sermons, p. 195. XV. 14-17.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. John, p. 38.
The Friends of Christ
John 15:15I. Without Christ men are slaves.
II. Christ makes us friends instead of slaves.
III. Christ's friends are also His slaves. Love makes us belong to Him. Love yields a more implicit obedience than aught besides.
IV. Christ's slaves are free from all other bondage.
References.—XV. 15.—Lyman Abbott, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvi. p. 125. W. L. Alexander, Sermons, p. 102. C. Bradley, The Christian Life, p. 223.
The Purpose of Friendship with Christ
John 15:16I. We have here the foundation of the friendship between Christ and His people. He begins the Friendship. 'We love Him because He first loved us.'
II. The purpose of this friendship. The great end of Christianity is to make us fruitful.
III. The great gift by which the purpose of the Friendship is secured. The friends of Christ are fitted to bring forth fruit because they have the privilege of prayer.
In the mystery of that eternal marriage by which Jesus and we become as one soul, who made the first advances? Who took the first steps? Who was always constant in His longing, I might almost say in His wooing? Who never grew weary of loving with an infinite delicacy and also with an infinite patience? Who, but Jesus Christ, our Master and Lord? It was not we who chose Him, but He Himself chose us. He preserved us, followed us on the paths where our hearts often strayed; His hand was ever ready where there was a precipice, or where death was lurking. To what can we compare this excess of love? What possible image can we form of this generosity. Would the King who sought a wife among the daughters of the poor, attain to the summit-height of this truth?
—Lettres de l'Abbé Perreyve (edition of 1903), pp. 245, 246.
The Christian prays 'in the name of Jesus'. The authority of Jesus moves him to prayer.... Three things are comprised in this. In the first place, the object of prayer is determined. I pray for what communion with Jesus brings ma It brings me faith and love. That is really the chief object of prayer.... Prayer in the name of Jesus renders intelligible to us, secondly, that we should pray together and work together for each other. Christ worked for His Church; so he who lives in communion with Him prays for the Church of Jesus Christ, for all the individuals who belong or should belong to it Here, too, faith and love are the real object of His prayer. Thirdly, prayer in Jesus' name assures us that our prayer is heard. Christ wills that faith and love exist, and Christ is almighty.
—R. Seeberg, Fundamental Truths of the Christian Religion, pp. 296-298.
References.—XV. 16.—J. E. Page, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xvii. p. 466. W. H. Evans, Sermons for the Church's Year, p. 155. J. Martineau, Endeavours After the Christian Life, p. 34. Bishop E. King, The Love and Wisdom of God, p. 230. XV. 18-20.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. John, p. 49.
Compare the closing words of Dante's fourth epistle to Cino da Pistoia: 'I entreat thee, dearest brother, to exercise patience against the darts of Nemesis. Read, I pray thee, the remedies for fortuitous circumstances that are provided us as by a father to his sons by that most famous of philosophers, Seneca; and of a truth, let not that slip from your memory, "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own".'
References.—XV. 20.—Expositor (7th Series), vol. vi. p. 286. XV. 21-25.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. John, p. 58.
In the eighth circle of the Inferno, Dante sees Caiaphas and the rest of the Sanhedrim being trampled on by hypocrites (23:109 f.). 'In every age since the crucifixion the hypocrites of the Christian religion have trampled in contempt on Caiaphas and his companions in this crime, not knowing that they themselves are partakers of the self-same spirit... That those arch-hypocrites have no mantles may mean that as they crucified Christ naked, in like nakedness they are themselves crucified; and perhaps also it has some reference to our Lord's own words on the eve of His death: "If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin; but now they have no cloak for their sin." Probably it is this which constitutes the special heinousness of the hypocrisy of Caiaphas and his accomplices—it was hypocrisy naked and undisguised. Christ seems to indicate in more places than one that His enemies knew the justice of His claims, and their special guilt was that they had deliberately sinned against this knowledge.'
—J. S. Carroll, Exiles of Eternity, pp. 837, 338.
References.—XV. 22.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iv. No. 194. J. Keble, Sermons for the Sundays After Trinity, p. 385. XV. 25.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ii. No. 89.
The Testimony of His Enemies
I want to look at Jesus Christ, not through His friends' eyes, but through the eyes of enemies and ill-wishers. I want to ask what qualities arrested them, no matter how they were travestied or torn, as they saw the deeds, or listened to the words, of this perplexing personage from Galilee.
I. Well, the first thing the enemies bear witnesses to is the reality and courage of His comradeship They looked on Jesus as an enemy, and they have taught the world He was a brother. 'He is the friend of publicans and sinners'—that was the charge which they were always hurling.
II. Then once again we gather from His enemies that He impressed them as a genial man. For you remember another charge they hurled at Him, 'Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber'. Any charge more villainously false it would be impossible for malice to conceive. Probably they only half-believed it, although they used it in their campaign of calumny. Yet am I thankful it has been preserved, and preserved, too, by the lips of Christ Himself, for through the vileness of it we discern a truth that is far too precious to let die. It is this that the enemies have borne their witness to—that Jesus was not ascetic and austere. He was no Baptist in his robe of hair shunning the pleasant intercourse of men. He was genial. He loved a kindly company. He sat and was happy at the social board. He moved among them not with a face of gloom. He moved among them with a face of gladness. The bitterest foe would never have said that about Isaiah or about Jeremiah. The vilest slanderer would have been laughed at had he ventured so to speak of John the Baptist. And the very fact that men so spake of Jesus, and found an audience who would listen to them, is a witness of unequalled value to His gladness and His geniality.
III. Once more, we have the testimony of His enemies to the reality of His power in working miracles. To me there is nothing more significant than that in the whole record of the Gospel. There is a deal of talk on the miracles today. There are many to whom the miracles are stumbling-blocks. There is something lawless in these displays of power to many who have been trained as we have been. Now I am not going to-night into that subject. It is too great to be treated by the way; but I want to suggest to you two considerations which seem to me of singular importance.
(1) The first is that those who knew Christ best never express amazement at a miracle. It is always the people who are amazed at miracles, never any of the twelve disciples.
(2) Christ's enemies did not deny His miracles. They never said, 'He does not cast out devils'. They said, 'He casteth out devils by Beelzebub'. Now, would not they have denied them if they could? Were not the miracles a mighty trumpet-blast? Cannot you image how the news would spread, and be the talk beside a hundred hearths? And yet these miracles that drew the crowd, and awed the reckless, and thrilled a thousand hearts, these never once in the whole Gospel-story were denied by the bitterest enemy of Christ. He casteth out devils by Beelzebub. They had to admit, you see, the casting out. It would have been their triumph to dispute it. There is not a trace they ever tried to do so. And what I say is, that that bitter taunt, which blights the motive yet cannot touch the fact, is one of the strongest of all the lesser arguments that the miracles of Jesus Christ were real.
IV. Then once again I gather from His enemies something of the intensity of Christ. They went to see Him, and they went to listen to Him, and they said, 'He hath a devil, and is mad'. There are two charges the enthusiast has to bear. Sometimes he is drunk, and sometimes mad. On the day of Pentecost it was the one. With Paul as he stood before Festus it was the other. And so when the enemies of Christ stood by, and smiled and shrugged, and said, 'The man is mad,' it only tells us what a fire was burning, and what an intensity was glowing there.
V. His enemies witness to His trust in God. That was the last taunt they flung at Him. It was the bitterest, and it was the truest. 'He trusted in God,' they cried when He was crucified.
—G. H. Morrison, The Return of the Angels, p. 245.
References.—XV. 26.—Bishop Winnington-Ingram, Under the Dome, p. 172. E. W. Attwood, Sermons for Clergy and Laity, p. 192. R. Allen, The Words of Christ, p. 12. E. Bayley, Sermons on the Work and Person of the Holy Spirit, pp. 139, 201, 241. S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year (2nd Series), vol. i. p. 261. XV. 26, 27.—J. J. Blunt, Plain Sermons (2nd Series), p. 290. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. John, p. 67. J. Stuart Holden, The Pre-Eminent Lord, p. 205. Expositor (6th Series), vol. iv. p. 20.
The Head Corner-stone
The significance of the choice of this passage from St. John as the Gospel for this day can hardly be mistaken. The Collect speaks of God having built His Church upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, 'Jesus Christ Himself being the head corner-stone'; and in our text our Lord distinctly assures us that it is the work of the Spirit of Truth to testify of Him. Christianity centres in a Person—Jesus Christ Himself. We need on this day to think of these great doctrinal questions.
I. Our Lord's Testimony to the Holy Ghost.—He speaks of Him as a Person. He is 'the Comforter' Who is to come; He is One 'sent' and 'proceeding'; He is One Whose office it is to 'testify'. These are not words that can be used of a mere influence or inward feeling. So to interpret them is to contradict common sense, and to strain the meaning of plain language. Reason and fairness require us to understand that it is a personal Being Who is here mentioned, even He Whom we are justly taught to adore as the Third Person in the blessed Trinity. Again, our Lord speaks of the Holy Ghost as One Whom He 'will send from the Father,' and One 'Who proceedeth from the Father'. These are deep sayings, no doubt, so deep that we have no line to fathom them. The mere fact that for centuries the Eastern and Western Churches of Christendom have been divided about their meaning should teach us to handle them with modesty and reverence. One thing, at all events, is very clear and plain. There is a close and intimate connection between the Spirit, the Father, and the Son. Why the Holy Ghost should be said to be sent by the Son, and to proceed from the Father, in this verse, we cannot tell. But we may quietly repose our minds in the thought expressed in the Athanasian Creed that 'in this Trinity none is afore or after other: none is greater or less than another'. 'Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost.' Above all, we may rest in the comfortable truth that in the salvation of our souls all three Persons in the Trinity equally co-operate. It was God in Trinity Who said, 'Let Us create,' and it is God in Trinity Who says, 'Let Us save'.
II. The Witness of the Apostles.—Just as the Holy Ghost was to testify of Christ, so also the Apostles were to 'bear witness,' and as we think of the lives of St. Simon and St. Jude we see how thoroughly they fulfilled their work. It is St. Jude who, in his impressive Epistle, bids us contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, and let us remember that the position of the Apostles is that which, in a certain sense, every true Christian must fill as long as the world stands. We must all be witnesses for Christ We must not be ashamed to stand up for Christ's cause, to speak out for Christ, and to 'contend earnestly' for the truth of Christ's Gospel. We must boldly confess our Master on every opportunity. So doing, we shall walk in the steps of the Apostles; so doing we shall be 'joined together in unity of spirit by their doctrine,' and become, by God's good grace, 'an holy temple, acceptable unto' Him.
References.—XV. 27.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlvii. No. 2709. Bishop Westcott, Disciplined Life, No. 9; ibid. The Incarnation and Common Life, p. 209. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 111; ibid. (6th Series), vol. i. p. 391. XVI. 1.—E. M. Geldart, Faith and Freedom, p. 71. XVI. 1-6.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. John, p. 78. XVI. 2.—E. J. Boyce, Parochial Sermons, p. 157. XVI. 5.—S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year (2nd Series), vol. i. p. 233. R. J. Campbell, Sermons Addressed to Individuals, p. 5. XVI. 6.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. ix. p. 136.
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 you.
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.
These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
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.
If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me.
If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin.
He that hateth me hateth my Father also.
If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.
But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.
But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:
And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.