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immediate cause, so must it be traced to the electing love of God, as its primary and original sourced. And it is of great importance, both for our humiliation and for God's glory, that this matter should be clearly known and understood.]
It was for these more especially that Jesus interceded
[We apprehend that the apparent exclusion of the world from his intercessions is not to be understood strictly and positively, but only in a comparative sensef: but certainly the saints were the objects whom, both in this and all other intercessions, he had principally in view. The high-priest, in bearing the names of the twelve tribes upon his breast-plate whenever he went within the vail, was a type of Christ in this particular. Christ would not be a high-priest, if he omitted this part of his office; since intercession was no less necessary to that office than oblation: but he does intercede for his people, and lives in heaven, as it were, for that very purpose h. Yes; He that formed the universe, and upholds it by his power, and whose petitions are commands, says, "I pray for them." And the petitions he then offered for his living disciples had respect to all his believing people, even to the end of the world'.]
This distinguishing favour, however, was not conferred without reason
II. Why he interceded for them in particular
The reasons of the Divine procedure are in many cases inscrutable; but our Lord condescended to state some on this occasion—
1. Believers are the Father's property, "They are thine"
[All things belong to God as his creatures; but believers. are his in a far higher sense. He has made them his by adoption: he has confirmed his interest in them by regeneration: he esteems them as his peculiar treasure, in comparison of
d Eph. i. 4, 5.
c 1 Cor. iv. 7. Gal. v. 22. e This description of God's people is repeated five times in seven verses. See ver. 6-12. Was there no design in this? and is there nothing to be gathered from it?
f In this respect it resembles Hos. vi. 6: for our Lord did pray for the ungodly world, Luke xxiii. 34. and had their good in view even in this very prayer, ver. 21.
g Exod. xxviii. 9-12, 29, 30. ver. 20.
h Heb. ix. 24. and vii. 25.
k Ps. cxxxv. 4.
whom the whole universe is as nothing in his eyes. Hence our Lord interested himself more particularly on their behalf. His zeal for his Father's glory would not suffer him to be for one moment unmindful of their interests.]
2. Christ himself has an equal propriety in them, "All mine," &c.
[They belong to Christ by the Father's donation, by his own purchase, and by the closest possible union' Will he then be regardless of this precious gift, and lose the purchase of his blood, and suffer his own members to perish, for want of his continual intercession? Surely his interest in them is a very sufficient reason for his unwearied solicitude respecting them.]
3. Christ is glorified in them
[The ungodly world bring no glory to Christ; but it is the labour and delight of his people to glorify him. He is glorified now in their faith, love, worship, and obedience: he will be glorified and admired in them at his second comingm: he will be glorified by them to all eternity. While therefore he has any concern for his own glory, he cannot but be studious of their welfare.]
1. How honourable a character is the true Christian! [The Christian is eminently distinguished from all the rest of the world. He is highly esteemed both by the Father and by Christ, who equally claim him as their property," He is mine;" "he is mine.' He is interested in all which Christ has done or is now doing. How infinitely does this honour exceed that which cometh of man! Let every one be ambitious to attain it: nor let any earthly attainments whatever satisfy our desires.] 2. How secure and blessed is his state!
[There may be some who shall never be benefited by the Saviour's intercession; but Christ's people are continually remembered by him before the throne. They therefore are sure to have every want supplied; nor can any defeat the purposes of their blessed Lord. Let therefore every Christian rejoice and glory in the Lord: let the thought of Christ's intercession dissipate all fears of condemnation : let Christ be viewed as an Advocate under every fresh-contracted guilt: let every one seek to glorify him, and to be glorified with him.]
They are one body with him, Eph. v. 30. and one Spirit, 1 Cor. vi. 17. • 1 John ii. 1.
m 2 Thess. i. 10.
n Rom. viii. 34.
PRESERVATION FROM SIN MORE DESIRABLE THAN DELIVERANCE FROM AFFLICTION.
John xvii. 15. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
WE admire the solicitude which a dying parent expresses for the future and eternal welfare of his children; nor can we easily shake off the concern which such a spectacle creates in our minds. Such a scene, but incomparably more affecting, is here presented to our view. The Saviour of the world was unmindful of his own impending sorrows, and was altogether occupied with the concerns of his Church and people. Having given his last instructions to his Disciples, he poured out his soul in prayer for them. One of the principal subjects of his prayer is specified in the text.
We shall consider,
I. What our Lord prayed for on behalf of his Disciples-
He prayed "not that they should be taken out of the world"
[He had just declared that the world hated his Disciples. Hence we might suppose that he should wish them to be taken out of the world; and many reasons might have been urged by him to enforce such a request. God had often taken away his beloved people in a signal manner: he speaks of a sudden removal in evil times as a favour to them. He would hereby manifest his indignation against the world for crucifying his Son; and our Lord might then have carried his Disciples with him as trophies. Nor can we doubt but that such a measure would have been extremely pleasing to his Disciples.
But on the whole such a petition would have been inexpedient; first, on account of the world. The Disciples were to be the instructors of mankind, and to be living examples of true piety. They were also to intercede on behalf of their fellowcreatures; but, if they were taken away together with our Lord, their commission could not be executed, and the world
a Heb. xi. 5. 2 Kings ii. 11.
b Isai. lvii. 1.
d Matt. v. 14.
would lose the benefit of their instructions and prayers. What an inconceivable loss would this have been both to Jews and Gentiles! Yea, in what a state of ignorance should we ourselves have been at this moment!
Next, it would have been inexpedient on God's account, if I may so speak. The Disciples were to be, like the dispossessed Gadarene, monuments of God's mercy. They were to exemplify in their own persons the all-sufficiency of Divine grace under every situation. They were to be instruments also whereby the eternal counsels of the Deity were to be accomplished: their removal therefore would have robbed God himself of his glory.
Lastly, it would have been inexpedient on account of the Disciples themselves. They would have been glad to have accompanied their Lord; but it would not have been for their advantage at that time. Their reward was to be proportioned to their labours and sufferings. If they had been taken away at that time they had done but little for God; consequently they would not have possessed so bright a crown as they now do. How glad are they now that their abode on earth was prolonged!]
The request which our Lord offered for them was far better
[He prayed that they might be kept from the evil of it. Satan is by way of eminence called "the evil one." He is incessantly plotting the destruction of God's chosen people", and our Lord might have respect to their preservation from himh; but he rather refers to the moral evil that is in the world. And there was good reason why he should pray for their deliverance from that.
The temptations they would have to encounter were innumerable. Their poverty might beget impatience and discontent; their persecutions might provoke them to retaliation and revenge; their incessant danger of a violent death might tempt them to apostasy. They were to have innumerable trials from without and from within: how needful then was it that they should have an almighty Keeper!
They were utterly unable of themselves to withstand the smallest temptation. The Disciples were altogether men of like passions with ourselves; nor had they any more sufficiency in themselves than the weakest of us. The most confident of them fell, as soon as he boasted of his strength. Almighty
e Luke viii. 39. Ἡ Ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ· and 1 John v. 18.
i 2 Cor. iii. 5.
f 1 Cor. iii. 8.
g 1 Pet. v. 8. Satan is often called & πovnpòc. Eph. vi. 16.
* Matt. xxvi. 33, 35, 74.
power was then, as well as now, necessary to keep any man from falling. How kind then was our Lord's solicitude to interest his Father in their behalf!
Their fall would be attended with the most pernicious consequences. It would open the mouths of their adversaries, and cause them to blasphemem. It would utterly destroy all hopes of success in their own ministry; and, even if they should be recovered, and saved at last, they would be deprived of a great part of their reward". Hence our Lord's request was the best that could be offered for them.]
Hence we may see,
II. What we should mainly desire for ourselves
An exemption from the troubles and calamities of life, however desirable in some points of view, is not greatly to be coveted. St. Paul, it is true, "desired to depart and to be with Christ:" but it was not in order to get rid of his trials, but that he might have full possession of the glory which awaited him; not that he, his earthly tabernacle, might be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life"." But
To be preserved from "the corruptions that are in the world through lust" is most desirable
[The snares with which we are surrounded in this vain world are very many, and replete with danger. "The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life," are soliciting us continually, and presenting temptations to us exceeding difficult to be withstood-Even though we may have withstood them manfully for a season, we are yet in danger of being overcome by them at last, and of perishing thereby with an aggravated weight of guilt and condemnation. So eminent a character was Demas, that St. Paul himself, a good judge of characters, twice united him with St. Luke in his salutations to the Churches: yet of him it is said, "Demas hath forsaken us, having loved this present world." Who then can hope to stand, if he be not upheld by the Almighty power of God? Truly it is God alone who is "able to keep us from fallings:" and therefore we should make our supplications to him continually for that end.]
For the obtaining of this mercy it is not possible for us to be too importunate
1 Jude, ver. 24, 25.
o 2 Cor. v. 4.
2 Tim. iv. 10.
m 2 Sam. xii. 14.
n 1 Cor. iii. 15.
q 2 Pet. ii. 20.
P 2 Pet. i. 4.
s Jude, ver. 24.