The men for whom Christ prayed were converted men, and were living in justified relation to God. In proof of this statement, let the reader study the context carefully.
A CLOUDLESS SKY.
In the sixteenth chapter of St. John, the one immediately preceding the sacerdotal prayer, the conversation which is recorded would be impossible were the disciples conscious of guilt. One can not read those sublime verses without the irresistible conviction that the disciples' sky of soul-consciousness was blue and cloudless. There is no hint in Christ's discourse that these men are "of the world," but rather it is taken for granted that they are children of God and heirs of the kingdom.
A SPECIFIC STATEMENT.
It is the sheerest folly for one to maintain that the conversion of the disciples did not occur prior to Pentecost. If words mean anything, Jesus made a specific statement to the contrary. "Rejoice," says He, "that your names are written in heaven." In His prayer He says to His Father: "They have kept Thy word"; "they are Thine"; "I pray for them, I pray not for the world." Notice the distinction which He makes between "them" and "the world." These men are picked men. They are very different from the great unpardoned, sinful throng outside the kingdom -- they are CHRISTIANS.
THE CHAMBER OF BLESSING.
A very good evidence of the genuineness of the conversion of the disciples was their painstaking care to follow out minutely the directions of their ascended Lord. He had prayed for their sanctification; they desired it. He had spoken of a coming Comforter, and they eagerly awaited His advent. He had said, "Tarry in Jerusalem until" His arrival, and they conscientiously met in an "upper room" for a ten-day prayer-meeting. "Farewell! friends; farewell! memory-haunted synagogues; farewell! sacred temple; farewell! long-bearded priests; farewell all! we must go to prayer: our Lord said that we should be sanctified." And thus in long line the one hundred and twenty file up the stairs to the Chamber of Blessing. There is no lightness, no jesting, no quibbling, no bickering; all are serious, terribly in earnest, intent on "the promise of the Father." There is Peter, impulsive and eager, whole-hearted and enthusiastic; there is the meek and quiet Mary, who sat at Jesus' feet at the old home in Bethany; there is the child-like saint, the devout and spiritual John; there is the repentant woman of Magdala; and there are many others who betake themselves to that sacred place -- "the upper room." One all-engrossing thought fills their minds. "The promise of the Father which ye have heard of me. The promise of the Father! The promise of the Father! O, when will He come? We would know more about our departed Lord. He is gone from us. Our hearts are torn and bleeding and lonely. Jesus said, 'He shall testify of me.' Would that He would come now!"
WHY ONLY THE FEW?
But why are there only one hundred and twenty? Was it not into Jerusalem that Christ entered riding over a cloak-carpeted way amid the deafening shouts of "Hosanna"? Did He not teach and instruct and heal hundreds, if not thousands, in and about Jerusalem? Was He not lionized at times by an admiring public? Yea, truly; but one may admire Christ and yet not love Him. There are many who at some "hard saying" refuse to walk with Him. Thousands who have a keen appreciation of "loaves and fishes" shrink from "leaving all" and following Jesus. A great concourse is drawn and held spell-bound by a naive, graceful, eloquent, artless preacher who uses "lilies," and the "grass of the field," and the "sower" of seed, and the "sparrow" in the air to enforce his truth. But one may be interested, and yet not be saved.
THE AESTHETIC ELEMENT.
In some people religion appeals to the aesthetic nature, and to that only. They festoon the cross with flowers, but never think of dying on it. They are charmed by Gothic churches filled with "dim, religious light." The waves of music from the great; sounding organ awe their souls and fill them with a pensiveness which they mistake for repentance. Pointed arches, sculptured capitals, fretted altars, swinging censers, burning candles, white-robed choir-boys, errorless order in church service -- these auxiliaries influence them so strongly in their sense of the beautiful that they think, "Surely I love God. Why, of course I love God." But to love God involves something practical. It means something more than mere profession. It means rugged self-denial, Spartan heroism, perhaps the loss of an "arm" or the "plucking out of an eye." Base must have been the soul which was not attracted by One who "spake as never man spake"; low-minded the man who did not see in Him imperishable beauty and refinement of soul; but ah! discipleship means far more than that. Christ had flown up to heaven. Who now will prove his love for Him by obeying His commands? Who will tarry in Jerusalem awaiting the coming Spirit, and then, the Comforter having come, be ready to "Go into all the world, discipling all nations"? Answer: All who are truly children of God. The preaching of sanctification is the touchstone by which the genuineness of conversions can be tested. The truly living "hunger and thirst after righteousness"; the dead do not "bother their heads about a second blessing."
THE STEAMER "PURITAN."
Let us illustrate: It was fifteen minutes until the schedule time for the "Puritan" of the "Fall River Line" to leave her New York pier. The evening was warm, and the usual crowd filled the decks. Many had come on board to see their friends off for Newport, Bar Harbor and "the Pier." Passengers and their friends sat in groups and chatted, talked about the trip, the weather, the situation at Santiago, the flowers they held, the concert by the orchestra. It was impossible for an observer to determine just who were passengers and held tickets, and who were merely bidding farewell to their friends. Suddenly an officer in gold-braided cap and blue uniform appeared, and cried out with an authoritative voice and a look of command, "All ashore who are going ashore! All ashore who are going ashore!" Immediately there were hasty hand-clasps and hasty good-byes, and a large part of the company marched quickly down the stairs and across the gang-plank. Those who were left held tickets and were "going through."
THE STAMPEDE FOR SHORE.
In a revival of religion it is often a matter of considerable difficulty to determine the genuinely converted. In the confusion of large altar services, and the crush of great congregations, who are the saved? No man can tell. Many are moved by sympathy for their friends. Others are charmed by the congregational singing and the music of the organ. Many see that the revival is bound to go, and, like Pliable, they are swept along for a time with it. But there appears in this mixed company a man with the stamp of divine authority upon his brow, the gold braid of full salvation on his helmet, the dialect of Canaan on his tongue and the air of official appointment about his person: "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord! All ashore who are going ashore! All ashore who are going ashore!" Immediately "there is no small stir." Some leave the boat by way of the gang-plank carping at the words of the officer and arguing as they go; some in great haste vault the balustrades and railings and leap for the pier; still others climb out the windows of staterooms and run screaming toward the nearest ladder which will enable them to leave the "good ship Zion." Gradually quiet is restored. The company is smaller, and of whom is it composed? The genuinely converted. What are they doing? They are asking the nearest officer how soon the boat leaves for New England. "When can I be sanctified wholly? O, pray for me! I want the blessing now!" They are "going through."