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And now observe what our Lord declares is connected with this knowledge—“ This is life eternal, to know thee,” &c. There is no escape for man from the deep and fathomless abyss of everlasting death, except by this knowledge ; every other knowledge may be expedient, this alone is absolutely necessary. We may by our knowledge measure the heavens, and calculate with precision the course of those glorious worlds which light up the regions of space—we may discover some of those wondrous laws which God has provided, to regulate and restrain and order the movements of the heavenly bodies—we may by our knowledge dive into the bowels of the earth, and by dexterous combinations of diverse materials, produce results at once wonderful, beautiful and stupendous—or we may lift part of the veil which hides the working of the human mind, and be able to display some of the most remarkable phenomena connected with the powers of thought; or still farther, we may argue well and truly on the existence and character of a God. We
may reason closely and write forcibly on all the varied truths of natural theology-we may bring the whole store of varied erudition to bear on the single fact, the existence of a God. We may concentrate the tale of history upon it—we may collect the wonders of the natural world, to prove convincingly the existence of a Great First Cause—we may penetrate the dwellings of the dead, and from the records of past ages, draw forth arguments forcibly proving the existence not only of a God, but of the God of Revelation. Still further, we may exhibit in all its extent and harmony the Christian system; we may arrange with the utmost skill and correctness the various parts, so as to blend with Scriptural force all the doctrinal and the practical portions together, and prove them to be all perfectly consistent with the rerealed character, dealings and designs of God :—and yet all this profound, extensive, useful and varied knowledge can never save a soul! With all this light of reason and learning, there is not necessarily flowing from it the least stream of spiritual life; amid all the quickness and bustle of the intellectual faculties, there is the stillness of the grave over the soul.
It is that knowledge alone of which we have already spoken that can avail here. This alone brings spiritual life, the knowledge of the true God and Jesus Christ,the bowing down of the heart, under the deep and piercing convictions of his word, the shrinking of the soul, under the bright discoveries of his great and holy character,-the recognizing in the man Christ Jesus, that salvation which is exactly suitable, as it is all sufficient to meet the wants and to still the trouble of an awakened and newly enlightened conscience,-the entering into the fulness of the apostle's heartfelt declaration, “My Lord, and my God." This alone is saving knowledge, knowledge which will give eternal life ; and it is knowledge which can alone be received from heaven; of which God alone can be the teacher. It is he alone who can make us thus "wise unto salvation,” can so open the Scriptures to our understandings as to make them “able to save our souls."
It was this eternal life, to be obtained through the knowledge of himself as the Son of God, that was the work our beloved Lord undertook to perform, and in which the glory of God was concerned ; and therefore he adds, “I have glorified thee on earth, I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." “The hour" had already come, which he had longed for, and hasted unto, and therefore he counted his labour over, and his work done. He had formerly said, “I have a baptism to be baptized withal,
and how am I straitened until it be accomplished.” But now the moment bad arrived of its accomplishment, and though one fearful pang, one terrible struggle, one awful conflict was before him, yet he seemed already to consider no more the anguish, for joy of the completion of his work. “I have finished the work thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was."
Only glancing at the direct assumption of Divine Glory on the part of our Lord in this latter clause, let me endeavour very briefly to hold up his bright and blessed example before us in the performance of the work given him by the Father. Oh what zeal, what constancy, what patient continuance, what pressing forwards in his work did he manifest. The crowding around of thousands who were “very attentive to hear him," did not satisfy him. The expression of great and general wonder at his mighty works; “ We have seen great things to-day," did not lead him for a moment to pause, as if he had attained. The hosannahs and the shouts of the thronging multitude who accompanied him to Jerusalem, and hailed him as their king, could not move him from the completion of his work. He allowed nothing to interfere between him and this end.
Would that we might have zeal like his, in the work of the Lord! If we are God's people, then is a labour required at our hands; we have been called from standing all the day idle, to go and work in our Master's vineyard. Oh, for a heart to work earnestly, for wisdom to work prudently, for patience to work constantly, for honesty to work faithfully, and for love to work zealously. But alas ! which of us shall, at the close of our earthly day, be able to declare, “I have finished the work thou gavest me to do."
Oh how much shall we all have left undone—how many seasons of doing good shall we have passed unimprovedhow many opportunities of promoting the glory of God shall we have neglected-how many and grievous shall our short-comings be, in spirit, in faith, in love. Truly when the Christian looks back from the flood of Jordan upon the wilderness he is leaving, far from thinking that he has finished his work, he will feel as if he had scarcely begun it; if he has laboured, he will only wonder why he has not “laboured more abundantly,"—if he has made some sacrifices, he will only see cause to grieve that he has not “ left all,”-if his light has shone in the least, he will only mourn that it has been dim and flickering, not a burning and glorious light, as it ought to have been. And thus instead of rising like his glorious Master into the elevation of complacency at a finished work, he will be constrained to bow down his head, even as he enters the gates of heaven, and the deep consciousness of self-abasement will rest upon him, even as his spirit rises into the brightness of the skies, “I am an unprofitable servant."
JOHN XVII. 6-14.
I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the
world : thine they were, and thou gavest them me ; and they have kept thy word. Now they have known that all things, whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee : For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them : I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me ; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine ; and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name : those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition ; that the scripture might be fulfilled. And now come I to thee : and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them thy word : and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
Our Lord continues his supplication. “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gavest them me ; and they have kept thy word.” It is an ordinary phrase among men, when, we wish to mark the character of an individual, to say that such a person has a good or a bad name, and