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BY REV. D. B. COE,
GAIN FROM CHRIST'S EXALTATION.
“ And greater works than these shall he do, because I go unto my Father." Joux 14 : 12.
The great crisis of our Saviour's bistory has at length arived. His enemies have bribed one of his professional friends to deliver his Master into their hands, and under cover of night they have already assembled, with the traitor at their head, to arrest the innocent victim. He well knows their designs, and sees that " the hour has come." But while his enemies are preparing their torches and arms, determined that he shall escape their hands no longer, bow is the Saviour himself occupied ? In arming his friends to resist the expected assault? No! Iu planning measures for his escape? No! He is administering comfort and encouragement to his disconsolate followers. For the last time he had eaten with them the feast of the passover, and had in. stituted an ordinance to commemorate his death. He had then announced distinctly his approaching departure. They are overwhelmed with sorrow. What can they do without their beloved master ? They are few in number, humble in rank, despised and persecuted by their countrymen ; and if their Saviour is taken away, the shout of triumph will be raised over his grave, and his cause will be buried with him. No wonder they are disconsolate, for they cannot comprehend the meaning of this unexpected bereavement. Christ, therefore, though in full view of his coming agonies, proceeds kindly to impart consolation to them : Let not your heart be troubled.”
He first points to the mansions in heaven which he is going to prepare for them, and then assures them, that though he is about to depart, his cause shall survive. Nay, by the fact of his departure his cause shall gain new strength. I go to do more for it in heaven than I could do on earth; and through the aid which I will impart, each one of my followers shall be able to accomplish more than I should do if I should remain. “He that believeth on me, the works which I do sball he do also ; and greater works than these shall he do, because I go unto my Father."
Wonderful words! Some have not dared to believe them in
their plain and obvious meaning, and therefore have restricted their application to the working of miracles. They would have as believe that Christ meant simply to assure his disciples that they should work greater miracles than he had wreught. But the promise in this sense was not fulfilled. No miracles were or could be greater than those which Jesus wrought. “He made the dumb to sing his praises, the lame to leap for joy, the deaf to hear his wonders, the blind to see his glory." "The winde were lushed, the sea was calmed, demons fled, water became wine, the hungry were filled, the trees withered, the dead revived, at his omnipotent word. And when he is laid in the grave, where, to mere mortals, there is no more work, he per. forms his crowning wonder. He throws off the cerements of the tomb, bursts away the barricade of rock, and walks forth a conqueror. What mightier works than these did his disciples perform? But it is said that, while Jesus wrought his miracles by words, Peter's shadow was made to heal the sick, and Paul's handkerchief to cast out devils. So, I answer, the Saviour's touch, and even the hem of his garment, did the same things.
But that Christ did not refer to the working of miracles by his disciples, is evident also from the fact that this was not the comfort they sought. What they wanted most of all, was the assurance of the success of the Saviour's cause, and of his presence and aid for that end. Whether this aid were afforded in the form of miraculous gifts, or of strength to endure temptation and to resist enemies, they cared not, if only the cause of their blessed Master might triumph. It was in reference to this, doubtless, that Christ meant to comfort and encourage them. He would have them understand that his death would be no detriment to his cause. On the contrary, from that moment its greatest triumphs should commence. They should be able to do more without his personal presence than they had done with it. Even the humblest believer in him should have greater success in the work of saving lost men than had attended his own labors. Does any one say that the expression, "greater works,” is more descriptive of the working of miracles than of the conversion of sinners? I answer, No. It was a great work to stop the orbs of heaven in their course, as did Joshut; but it is a greater work to arrest in his career of guilt a self-destroying sinner. It is a great work to kindle a fire from heaven upon an altar of wood, as did Elijah; but it is a greater work to kindle
; the fire of Christian love upon a sinner's heart. It is a great work to raise a dead body to life, as Christ raised Lazarus; but it is a greater work to quicken with spiritual life a soul dead in trespasses and sing. There is no greater work on earth or in heaven than the conversion of a soul.
If this be the import of Christ's promise, then it was most
signally fulfilled. The narrative of his personal ministry is remarkable. Though he spake as never man spake; though the most sublime aud affecting truths were continually falling from his lips; thouglı he opened to the world exhaustless treasures of spiritual knowledge ; yet how few seem to have been converted under his ministry! His sermons often excited wonder and admiration, but oftener the rage and abuse of his hearers. His first public discourse, in the synagogue of his native town, roused the fury of his fellow-townsmen, and they strove to kill him. His sublime and wonderful Sermon on the Mount excited much astonishment, but we know not that any were converted under it. Matthew concludes his record of the discourse with this single remark ; " The people were astonished at his doctrine ; for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes." You may examine the record of all our Saviour's teachings, and you will find that those truths which, in modern times, have proved the power of God to the salvation of multiudes, produced, when first announced from the Saviour's own lips, almost ao effect. His public ministry continued about three years. Dur. ing this time lie labored incessantly; preached frequently, and to vast multitudes; and enforced his doctrines by his many miracles of mercy, and his spotless life. Besides this, his twelve disciples and the seventy other brethren had been preaching and working miracles through the country. And yet, at the time of his ascension, the number of believers seems to have been small. For on so important an occasion as the election of an apostle, and afterwards at the pentecostal prayer.meeting, only one hun. dred and twenty disciples assembled at Jerusalem, though it was at one of the great festival gatherings of the Jewish nation. This seems to indicate that the number of Christ's followers was not yet large.
But he has now ascended to the Father, and behold the fulfillment of the promise. Behold the "greater works" which he foretold. Peter stiinds up on the very spot where Christ had often preached in vain, and his words are "fire and hammer.” The stubborn hearts of the Saviour's murderers melt beneath the burning words of the preacher, like wax before the flame. Three thousand-a greater number probably than Christ and his eighty-two assistant preachers had gathered during their whole ministry--three thousand souls were converted under that one sermon; and in a very short time the number was increased to five thousand. Surely these were greater works than Christ performed.
So it was afterwards ; till, within thirty years, the standard of Christianity had been planted in almost every province of the then known world. So has it been from that day to this. Wit. ness the glorious results which have ever attended the dispen
sation of the pure Word of God. Witness the achievements of the Reformers. Luther drays forth the Bible from the dusty alcoves of the cloister, proclaims its truths in his native tongue, and all Europe starts from its sleep of ages. In later years, Whitefield and Wesley blew the trumpet of the gospel with a distincter sound, and with glorious success. In our own country, the preaching of Davies, Edwards, and the Tennents produced such results, that the world cried, in amazement, “ Who are these that fly as a cloud and as doves to their windows ?' Witness, too, the results of revivals in our own day, and the wonderful success of missions in pagan lands. Surely Christ never produced results like these. His promise to his disciples has been signally fulblled. They have achieved, and are des. tined ret to achieve, in his viuevard, greater works than bis.
II. Now let us examine the reason which Christ gives for this remark:ible declaration : " Because I go unto my Father." What connection had this exaltation with the performance of these greater works by his followers? I answer:
1. It afforded additional evidence of his lessiahship.
The Jews expected that, by putting Christ to a violent death, they should convince all that he was a mere min and in impo-tor ; that he was not therefore the expected Messiah. Hence their desperate determination to murder him. They did murder him; and in that sealed and barricaded sepulchre, where they thought to bury with him every vestige of his claim to the Mesa sialıship, they beheld the crowning proof of liis divinity. He bursts his tomb, and walks forth, death's conqueror, and therefore heaven's King and earth's Redeemer. He appears to many, instructs and counsels his disciples, then vanishes before their eyes in the clouds of heaven. Here is a new truth, it new argument, a new weapon.
Christ liveth ; therefore he is the Messiah, and you, his murderers, bave crucified the Lord of glory. Christ liveth; therefore his glorious promises and terrific threatenings are true; he liveth to execute them. Crist liveti ; therefore we shall live and rise to meet him. “Behold, he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him.” These were the new and victorious truilis with which the apostles went forth to the conquest of the world. With tremendous effect did they wield them. Jesus Christ was declared, says Paul, to be the Son of God, with power, by the resurrection from the dead : and ibis mighty truh, the Request of the risen and ascended Saviour, has ever been an im ;) irtant element of the power and instrument of the success of his gospel, from that day to this.
2. Christ's followers were enabled to do greater works than his, through aid of his interression.
He alluded to this, among the words of comfort which ac
Spirit in her hand, how little has she done! Here and there one, conscious of his power, or of God's power in him, has done battle gloriously in this cause ; but, as it whole, how little has the Church accomplished! How little is she doing now! Now and then a scattered few in the ranks arouse themselves, and strive maufully for a season, and hundreds flock to the standard of the cross, showing what " mighty works" they can do if they will; but then they drop to sleep again, and the enemy prevails.
Look at the Church at the present moment. She has wealth, talent, numbers, the Saviour's cominission and iustructions, the Spirit's presence and aid,--all that Christ has promised, all she will ever have ; and yet, is she fulfilling her mission? Is she doing her work? Is she hastening to take possession of the earth for her King ? No! she is standing nearly still. In some portions of the field she is even going backward, and the enemy is gaining ground upon her. Shame, shaine on the soldiers who retreat, with such a Leader and in such a cause! Why should it be so? Why should the head clad with the helmet of salvation droop and nod at the post of duty ? Why should the hands that bear the shield of faith hang down in apathy? Why should the feet shod with the preparation of the gospel retreat before its foes ? Are we not faithless to our Leader, and recreant to our high trust? How can the Saviour ever fulfill his glorious design with such followers? Were it not for his immutible promise, we should expect that he would drive us all from the field, and from the very stones raise up children unto Abraham. Oh! it is a fearful thing to enjoy such privileges, to possess such resources, to be intrusted with such in. terexts, and yet to be accomplishing so little for Christ and a dying world i
Finally, In the promise of Christ to his followers, they may find unfailing ground of encouragement.
Amid the dust and heat of the conflict in the Church militant, we are too apt to look down to earth, and, seeing so many enemies, and difficulties, and hardships, so much work to be done, and so few coming to our help, to become discouraged, and faint. This we must not do. And that we may not do it, we should look up-up to the throne of our risen and exalted
vivur, our Captain, our Intercessor, our conquering King. wll
This the great apostle did, and it nerved him anew for his conthat Theo This he exhorts others to do, and it will have the same increas them. After enumerating that glorious constellathan CN sorted wortbies, who, from their high seats, are wit
So it wa un conflict,- Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Christianity Moses, Rabab, Gideon, Barek, Samson, Jephthah, then known w and the prophets,--he exclaims : "Wherefore, ness the glorious se spassed about with so great a cloud of wit