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again the Lord adverts to the coming of the Comforter. For hitherto He had been predicting persecutions; but lest their hearts should droop under the heavy prospect, He encourages them again with the promise of Divine help. They were to testify to the nations what things they had seen and heard all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and
out among them.' With great power should they bear witness. They are not alone, He tells them, in this testimony. The Spirit witnesses with them.3 Truth shall prevail.
St. John xvi. 1-6.
These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you. But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me,
phetically by the inspired Psalmist." -A Plain Commentary. In v. 25 there seems to be a sort of aposiopesis, as in St. John xiv. 31.
1 Acts i. 21, 22; iv. 20; 1 St. John i. 1-3.
2 Acts i. 8; iv. 33.
3 St. Matt. x. 17-20; St. Luke xii. 11, 12; Acts v. 32; Rom. viii. 16. Note the He of v. 26, and its correlation with the ye of the next verse, in proof of the personality of the Holy Spirit. Upon another point touching which there has been much needless
disputation, we may note that here is no reason for that repulsion between East and West which once convulsed all Christendom. He who here tells us that the Spirit proceedeth from the Father, says in the same place that He will send Him. See Gal. iv. 6. "Indeed," as Bp. Tomline says, "the union between the Father and the Son is such, that we cannot conceive how the Spirit can proceed from the one, without at the same time proceeding from the other."
41 St. John v. 6.
Whither goest thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart.
The Lord, who had spoken generally of the hatred of the world to the Church, proceeds now to speak of this more particularly; sketching the future fortunes of His Church, foretelling that first chapter of its early history. But first He tells them why He tells them. One reason is (another He gives presently 1) that they should not be scandalized, or stumble, as over something for which they were not prepared; but be fore warned, and so fore-armed. To be "put out of the synagogue was much more than simply to be excluded from the place of public worship. It cut a man off from the society of his former associates, and from all the privileges of his people. It was a moral outlawry. All men shunned him on whom this mark was set. He was virtually an outcast. Those familiar with the history of the dark ages, or who are acquainted with the effect of losing caste among the Hindoos, will be able to realize the terrors of this excommunication. The Jews, who, since their subjection to the Romans, had lost the power of putting to death, thought it meritorious even by irregular means to compass the destruction of any who were obnoxious; and the men who, in however clandestine a manner, carried out the secret sentence of their displeasure, were regarded by the rulers. with approbation.3 So that there grew up a desperate and
Acts xxiii. 12-15, 20, 21. Jeremy Taylor (Ser. on The Gunpowder Treason) speaks of those "with whom excommunication not only drives from spirituals, but deprives of temporals; and is not to mend our lives, but to take them away." He had said before, "Men care not how far they go, if they do but once think they can make God a party of their quarrel . . . As it is ordinary for charity to be called coldness in religion, so is it as ordinary for a pretence of religion to make cold charity . . . God's
anathemas post not so fast as ours do." The following observations of Bp. Patrick (Parable of the Pilgrim, ch. ii.) made with reference to the Puritan fanatics of his day, describe a spirit not yet extinct: "There seemed no difference between them and the prophets, but only that they could not prove their mission . . . That which was but the love of their own opinion, they constantly miscalled the love of God and of His truth . . . God's enemies they thought they opposed in their own . . . There was no heat but they took it for divine, though it were of their own kindling; and so they were but all
fanatical party among them, which went by a name which in our adopted term of zealot has a very mitigated meaning. Such conduct, the Lord here says, proves the ignorance and self-conceit of those who manifest it. He had before spoken of their sin as at once a consequence and a proof of their ignorance of the Father. Here He conjoins Himself. Had they known the Father, as they vainly boasted, they would have recognized and acknowledged Him. The Lord proceeds to give this additional reason for these predictions, that their faith in Him might be increased when the event should confirm the prophecy.3 He tells them also why He had not told them at the first. The full revelation was more than their weak hearts could bear. They must be gradually trained to this. Not all at once, but by little and little, as they are able to bear it, He unfolds the scheme of His Cross and Passion, of their duty and their dangers. He has milk for His babes, and meat for His strong men. As time goes on, we see Him unfolding page after page of the volume of His secret Providence to their opening minds, till finally, as here, He tells them plainly of extremest trials. But not now do we find any asking, as before, "Whither goest Thou?" Is there not implied in this something of gentle reproof,-that they should be so absorbed in their grief as not to look beyond the cloud which seems to overshadow them; that they are more concerned for their own future than for His? Yet we may observe that the Lord speaks of Here was a combut one heart among these faithful ones.5 munity of interest and of sorrow.
on fire, they never doubted but it was from heaven. For there was no sin in those days like moderation, and no virtue comparable to a furious and headlong zeal . . . But that any man that knows God to be love, should imagine that He will dwell in a mind where there is nothing but hatred to be found, seemed a kind of prodigy." 1 St. John xv. 21.
2 It is the same word variously
rendered in vv. 1, 4, 6," spoken," and "told," and "said." So that there are not here, as we might have imagined, any various shades of meaning.
3 The pronoun in v. 4 is emphatically expressed, as also in v. 7, below.
4 St. John xiii. 36; xiv. 5.
THE MISSION OF THE COMFORTER.
St. John xvi. 7.
Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
Strange as it might seem, it was nevertheless nothing but the truth, that their Lord's departure was expedient for His Disciples. He not only assures them earnestly of the fact, but condescends to give them the loving reason.1 And He adds further that this mission of the Comforter is the very object of His approaching departure. There is something emphatic in this "I." 3 I tell you, who cannot deceive you, that it is expedient for you that even I go away. It is no feigned, no false consolation, to cheat you into submission, but only the simple truth. The coming of the Comforter is suspended upon the withdrawal of the Christ. It is as though He said (in the words of one of the old Fathers), "If I withdraw not the milk on which I have nourished you, you will not hunger after stronger meat. If you continue to cleave to the flesh, you will never be capable of the Spirit."4 "It seems to me," he says in another place, "that the Disciples were altogether taken up with the human form of their Master Christ, were bound to Him with the affection of a man. Now then He would have them learn to regard Him also as God, with a Divine affection. . . . But spiritual, He says, ye cannot become until ye cease to be carnal; and carnal ye will only cease to
· Depart and go would be better: the first expressing merely the leaving them, the second the going up to the Father."
The pronoun in each case is expressed in the original.
↑ Aug. in S. Jo. Tr. xciv. 4.
be when my incarnate form is withdrawn from your eyes. So shall my Divine presence be engrafted in your hearts." When in their calamity men look for comfort, they can commonly think of it in only one way; and if it come not so, they think that it can never come at all. But here the Lord assures His sorrowful friends, that what seemed to be most contrary to their comfort, should be the very means to promote it. "It is expedient for you that I go away." With these words we may comfort ourselves, and one another, in our seasons of imaginary desertion; when the eye of faith, from whatever cause, is dim; when the Lord seems to have left us, and the Comforter is not yet come unto us. We may apply it, in a lower sense, to our own bereavements. Day by day nearest and dearest are being called away from those who fain would hold them fast. Could we hear them speak, when death like a cloud has come between, if we knew all instead of only a part, would not their voice to us from the eternal world be but the humble echo of our Lord's to His own, "It is expedient for you that I go away." We know not how this presence might have hindered another; how this absence was the necessary step to our final and complete blessedness. This consolation we may apply in the case, not of persons only, but of things. It is the legacy bequeathed to us by our creature comforts as they pass. We thought that our happiness could consist only in the presence with us of this thing on which our hearts was set, and we learn that our highest happiness must come from its withdrawal. So was it with the Disciples of old in the seeming loss of their Lord. How otherwise might they reap the results of His Incarnation? Only so of old could the Church which mourned the withdrawal of her Lord, be really set on the way to the complete triumphs of the Holy Ghost. And so with us. What we call our losses may come to be reckoned among our gains. Only let us confide in Him who comforts us no less than those first Disciples with such words as these; praying Him always, as the Church teaches us, echoing His Divine words, to fulfil the desires and petitions of His servants "as may be most expedient for The idea is exquisitely applied in Wordsworth's Laodamia.