These things have I spoken to you, being yet present with you.…
I. THE HOLY GHOST TEACHES US, IN A GREAT MEASURE, NOT AT THE MOMENT, BUT IN AND BY THE MEMORY. None of the faculties of the human soul have been given it in vain. Every endowment has its office; and in working out salvation, man may find his whole intellectual and moral nature brought into play. It is so with fear, with hope, with love; so also with memory.
1. There is a very remarkable instance of this in the case of the apostles. Nothing is clearer than that the twelve disciples, at the time, did not and could not comprehend the nature or the teaching of their Lord. When the Holy Ghost came down, then, as He revived in their minds the memory of all that Christ had done and said, they began to see, more and more, who He was.
2. And thus also is it with ourselves. We interpret God's dealings with us, not at the moment, but as we go over them again in memory. Is it not the case that in every man's life occur critical periods, upon which the whole after existence turns, and which yet at the time he understands not? The becoming acquainted with a certain individual, the going for a few weeks to a certain place, have often fixed a man's whole after destiny. You knew not at the time how important the step was; but when you look back, you are able to discern in it the hand of God. It is in memory, that is, that you can trace God's dealings with your soul.
3. In the history of Churches and nations, the same rule will be noticed. How frequently in the progress of a kingdom has the history of centuries turned upon an infant's death, upon a bow drawn at a venture. "If the king had acted otherwise," says the annalist, "the history of the country from that hour would have had to be written differently." Yet to contemporaries it seemed of no consequence which course was taken. What a difference again does the moment of acting make. The same political conduct at one period stops, at another hurries on a revolution; yet the acutest human intellect at the instant discerns not the crisis. By and by a child can often appreciate the error, and trace its results. Nor is it hard to assign a reason why God should thus leave us blind at the moment, and allow us to be enlightened afterwards. It is evident that if, whilst an event was happening, we could see palpably God's hand in it, our freedom of will would be interfered with.
II. LET US PASS ON TO OTHER ILLUSTRATIONS.
1. It is a common observation, that argument does no good. All a man's good opinion of himself is armed against you when you try to convince him that he is wrong. And perhaps if the truth is really on your side, there is yet another profounder cause why you are not heard. But you may also have noticed how in after years the same reasoning has made itself felt. When the excitement of the moment is over, the words of wisdom which we put from us will often return to the mind, and force conviction of themselves.
2. Take the case of a young man who laughs to scorn the remonstrances of a father, and pursues headlong his career of sin and self-pleasing. He has always an answer satisfactory to himself, if not to others. Life ebbs away, and those remonstrances seem to be wasted breath; yet not so. Again and again has it happened, that in distant lands and remote years, the reproof of a father and the sighs of a mother have echoed in the silent soul, and, like one risen from the dead, spoken with power. And what is this but the Holy Ghost acting upon the memory, to teach and convert the sinner.
3. And we may not pass over here the strange power which the dead possess in memory. Why should a person exercise an influence when departed out of this world which he did not exercise whilst alive? How many a wayward boy weeps bitter tears, as he recollects by a mother's grave, her earnest longings for his well-doing, her prayers and warnings against sin, and vows amendment which is often the beginning of a saintly life. The meaning of this is the Holy Ghost using the power of memory to check man's sin, and stir him to repentance.
4. And there is a darker hour yet, when the Holy Ghost turns the faculty of memory to a terrible yet blessed account, when He causes the dying man to see with a fearful distinctness all the lapses of his life past.Conclusion:
1. Memory has no power to convert. It only preserves or recalls the past. But God the Holy Ghost lays hold of man's memory and turns souls unto righteousness.
2. It is on this peculiar working of God the Holy Ghost as a Remembrancer, that may be founded one main argument for early Christian education. "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it."
3. There remaineth yet a nobler accomplishment of the promise than any yet seen below. The work of the Holy Ghost as a regenerating sanctifying Spirit, will be past and over; but tits work as a Remembrancer shall never cease. For in the courts of the heavenly city there shall be a perpetual recurrence of the souls of the redeemed to all that Christ said unto them and did for them on earth. If the thunder of their song shall ever roll with a mightier volume at one time than another, it will be, methinks, as the Eternal Spirit brings to the remembrance of each saved soul, the wonders of the way in which the Lord God led it.
Parallel VersesKJV: These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.