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JOHN XIII. 1-12.
EVERY thing connected with the earthly sojourn of the Lord from Heaven," is fraught with the deepest interest to the child of God. Whether Jesus is led up of the Spirit into the wilderness, or in the midst of thousands in the Temple at Jerusalem-whether he is in the villages of Galilee, or the country of the Samaritans-whether the voice of the celestial choir is heard announcing his arrival, or the same glorious beings attend to solemnize his departure from this world to the bosom of the Father-whether we wait with tenderest emotion among his faithful followers, to listen to his private admonitions, and to the expressions of his tender love towards "his own," or hang with wonder on the wisdom and power with which He who spake as never man spake, addressed himself to the assembled thousands of Israel, or to the compact and malicious band of his deadly foes :-in all these places, and at all these times, there is indeed rich and copious matter for
"doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness," into which the child of God may well "desire to look," and, like the humble and submissive Mary, to "keep all these sayings, and ponder them in his heart."
But I think we do not err in saying, that towards the evening of Christ's earthly day the brightness of his glory becomes brighter still, the excellence and grace and loveliness of his character comes more wonderfully forth, and the heart is won by the unutterable fulness of his love. There is indeed an intensity of interest which gathers round the soul as we approach the termination of his life of sorrow, where the simple narrative of the inspired Evangelist brings us to the "holy ground" of the Saviour's cross and passion, where the astonished soul beholds Him, "by whom are all things," suspended on the fatal tree between heaven and earth, apparently as much forsaken by the one as he was certainly rejected by the other. But while the external circumstances of his last days rivet the attention, the wondrous glory and beauty of his character, the graciousness of his spirit, captivate the heart. The inspired Evangelist John has left this rich inheritance to the Church, while the others have necessarily dwelt more upon the facts at the close of our Lord's history. He has described to us His heart,—not indeed in his own words, glowing as these might have been with the fire of a heaven-taught spirit, and tinged as they might have been with the colours of the skies, but in the language of our Lord himself. He has gathered the flowers of sweet fragrance from the very lips of Jesus, and thus leaves God's people to extract from the words of the sufferer the fervency, the beauty, the mightiness of his love.
It is this circumstance which has ever made the
Gospel of St. John so unctional, so delightful, so profitable to the saint. The historical framework is most necessary to build up his faith, and to confirm his confidence; but the treasures of his Redeemer's heart, opened in all their rich store before him, is that which especially opens his own soul, and causes his faith to glow with the ardour of devoted love, and his confidence to be gilded with the joy of hope. Just as of old, while the people in the temple were engaged in earnest contemplation on the sacrifice consuming on the altar, the High Priest within the veil was irradiated with the Shekinah over the mercy-seat; so under the Gospel economy, while we must pass through the outer temple with holy awe, and deep emotion, and fervent interest, yet it is when in the Holy of Holies; when, as it were,
hid with Christ in God," that the soul becomes full of light, the heart touched with ethereal fire, and the whole being exults with a "joy unspeakable and full of glory."
And much as St. John presents to us throughout his Gospel, of the inmost thoughts and feelings of our Lord, in the last few days of his ministry there seems concentrated an eternity of interest. When the mind follows this inspired record, into the last discourses of our Lord with his beloved disciples, it is like entering upon the regions of space, peopled as they are with myriads of glorious shining worlds. On every side the soul may take eternal wing, and sport itself in the endless glories of its way, and the higher, the deeper, and the wider the research, the more expanded does the view become, the more transcendant the everlasting glory; and yet wherever it is led, whatever new beauty it discovers, whatever gem of grace sparkles in its way, the deep consciousness is never lost of the great centre of
the system-the "fulness of him who filleth all in all."
How gorgeous, how glorious the setting sun, as he lights up the clouds of heaven, with every rainbow-tint of splendour, and sheds their softened influence in empurpled light upon this beauteous world. Even so it is with the Sun of Righteousness, as the inspired Apostle exhibits him to the enraptured gaze in his setting glory; with this mighty difference, that while He paints the firmament of grace with varied and celestial glory, his beams are those which shall never sink beneath the hills, or be extinguished in the ocean. The colouring is eternal, the splendour for ever; there is no declining radiance; but ever as the eye of the believer is attracted towards the glories which shine forth from Him who is all his salvation and all his desire, he rejoices in the strong conviction, that the brightness which has opened before his soul is none other than the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever."
Now before the
How beautifully, and yet with what artless simplicity, does the Evangelist introduce, in the commencement of his 13th chapter, the interesting incidents and discourses which he intends to relate, connected with the closing part of our Lord's history. Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end." What a portrait is given us here, at a single glance, of our beloved Lord. The Feast of the Passover is at hand. He knew whence the Lamb was to be provided. The antitype of Isaac was now to be slain by the will of the Father; he knew that his hour was come-he was on the eve of his tremendous sufferings-the darkness was
closing in on every side: he also knew that it was the last step before he should again ascend where he was before ; one hour more of unutterable agony, one draught of sorrow, though deep and bitter indeed, and he should be again in the bosom of the Father. Yet neither the pressing sorrow, nor the approaching joy, held the uppermost place in his thoughts and feelings. His own" were lodged deep within the recesses of his soul, and neither present humiliation nor future glory could for a moment draw the veil of forgetfulness over them. "His own," his people, his sheep, his children, were engraven on the palms of his hands, and continually before him. There was not only no power in heaven or earth which could destroy his love towards them; there was nothing which could cause even a temporary cessation of that love; " Having loved his own, which were in the world, he loved them unto the end."
Having loved his own which were in the world! loved them before the world was, yea from all eternity; not with a passive fruitless emotion, but with a love which rested not until in the counsels of Infinite wisdom he resolved to "bow the heavens and come down"
to save. In the fulness of time, he appeared to carry forward this resolution of love; and now the strength and endurance of this eternal principle was manifested. The glorious gem had never from eternity been lacking in that perfect and unfading crown of glory which sparkles from the throne of God; but now some of the brightest flashes of its heavenly light were to be directed to the habitations of man; the sin-darkened eye of man was to be enlightened by its radiance, and his heart cheered by the warmth of its beams. The Son of God became the Son of Man, and brought this