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SECTION X.

THE EPILOGUE.—THE POST-HISTORICAL ETERNAL ADMINI

STRATION OF CHRIST. HIS CONTINUOUS ADMINISTRATION IN THIS PRESENT WORLD, IN HIS CHURCH GENERALLY, AND IN THE PETRINE AND JOHANNEAN TYPES OF HIS CHURCH IN PARTICULAR, UNTIL THE COMPLETION OF THE GLORIFYING OF HIS KINGDOM IN HIS SECOND COMING.

(Chap. xxi.)

As the Evangelist presented us with a delineation of the pre-historical administration of Christ in the faith of the children of God, who received Him in the olden time, and more especially in the testimony of John the Baptist; he now gives us a picture of His post-historical, perpetual operations to the end of the world, or to the end of the world's transformation, by describing their manifestation in the company of His disciples within the period of the forty days, as being peculiarly fitted symbolically to illustrate their character subsequent to the ascension.

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First he represents the post-historical operations of Christ in the world, in general, as an administration exercised by the Lord in heaven over the Church on earth, with a view to conduct her forward to the kingdom of glory in the world above.

After these things, Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias ; and in the following manner did He show Himself.—In this remark the Evangelist indicates that he saw in this appearance a very special significance.

There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called the Twin, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of His disciples.—The number of the disciples is the sacred number seven, and might here designate the Church in her collective spiritual development, to the consummation of her glory. Peter stands at their head, as the representative of the legal aspect of the Church ; at his side is placed the inquiring and doubting Thomas.

Simon Peter saith unto them, “I go a-fishing. They say

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unto him, “We also go with thee.' They went forth, and entered straightway into the ship. And that night they caught nothing. This is the picture of the Church in the legal commencements of her operations, especially in her wilful running and toil. It is a long, anxious period of apparently fruitless trouble—a labouring by night, in which the visible sensible presence of the Lord is wanting, and the true draughts of fishes fail.

But when the morning now began to dawn, Jesus stood on the shore. But the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. Then Jesus saith unto them, “Children (maidia)," have ye nothing to eat ?' They answered Him, 'No!' And He said unto them, Cast the net out on the right side of the ship, and ye

shall find. They cast it, therefore; and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.—This is the morning twilight of Gospel times in the Church. The Lord begins to make Himself known to His people in this world, and to direct their fishing operations. They see Him from a distance; and although they do not yet clearly recognise Him, they yet act in trust on His word, and now the blessing begins to flow. At this moment also they begin to recognise Him clearly.

Then saith the disciple whom Jesus loved unto Peter, · It is the Lord. Now, when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his overcoat (fisher's smock) about him (for he was naked), and cast himself into the sea. But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from land, but as it were about two hundred cubits, and dragged the net with the fishes.—Thus at length is matured the consciousness of the most intimate co-operation between the Lord in heaven and His Church below,--the sense of His spiritual presence, the clear, believing sight of His form. The contemplative disciples first recognise His nearness and operation. The energetic disciples then hasten to meet Him in heroic undertakings. The Church steers steadily towards Him with its abundant draught of fishes, which is too large for them to draw the heavy net out of the sea—of the world, and to bring it into the little ship of the Church in a narrower sense—of a sharply-defined Church communion.

When they were now come to land, they saw a fire of coals laid, and fish thereon, and bread. Jesus saith unto them, “Bring

1 See above, vol. v. p. 94, note.

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of the fishes which ye have now caught.' Then Simon Peter went down, and drew the net to land full of large fishes, an hundred, fifty, and three-in number. And for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken. Jesus saith unto them, Come and partake of the meal.' And none of the disciples durst ask Him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. Then cometh Jesus, and taketh bread and giveth them, and fish likewise.—Manifestly this history is a picture of the commencement of the heavenly Church in its essential features. The spiritual feast of blessedness is in part provided for the disciples on their arrival in the triumphant Church, already established in heaven ; in part, however, it is prepared from the

!; draught of souls which they bring with them. The Lord forthwith invites them, Come and partake of the feast! without its being necessary to exchange solemn or formal greetings with them. Has He not indeed long already led a life of communion with them in the Spirit? Therefore also would each one feel it to be an infringement of the confidence of the sure, infallible feast of spiritual recognition, were they still to ask Him, Who art thou? They all know right well that it is the Lord. Thus does He dispense to them the feast of blessedness.

This history has, as history, its full truth and reality, and possesses in all its features the most beautiful and festive characteristics of an Easter celebration. It is, however, at the same time, through and through a symbol of the post-historical administration of Christ-symbol, not allegory. The Evangelist adds : This is now the third time that Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after that He was risen from the dead.—He speaks of the manifestations of Jesus in the midst of the larger company of the disciples.

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After this practical illustration of the post-historical administration of Christ in the history of His disciples in general, this administration is now depicted in the contrast of its two chief characteristics, as it is typically represented in a predominantly legal form in the future of Peter, in a predominantly spiritual form in the future of John.

The question first concerns the future mission of Peter, considered as a symbol of the Petrine characteristic and stage of the Church.

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When they had now partaken of the meal, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me (in deeds also) more than these ?' He saith unto Him, ‘Yea, Lord; Thou knowest that I love Thee.' He saith unto him, “Feed My lambs. Again the second time He saith to him, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me-practically ?' He saith unto Him, • Yea, Lord ; Thou knowest that I love Thee.' He saith unto him, Tend My sheep.' He saith unto him the third time,

Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me ?' Peter was grieved that He said unto him the third time, Lovest thou Me? And he said unto Him, "Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee.' Jesus saith unto him, Feed My sheep::—Thus was Peter solemnly restored again to his office by a threefold dealing of the Lord with him, which had reference to his threefold denial. In the questions of Christ there was a distinct gradation, and so that He always demanded less. First, Lovest thou Me? more than all these? Then, Lovest thou Me? without addition. Finally, Dost thou entertain love for Me ?? On the other hand, the prerogatives are always greater. First, He gives him the commission, to feed His lambs; i.e., to provide with true spiritual nourishment the little ones in the Church, the beginners in the Christian life. He then gives him the commission, to tend His sheep-advanced Christians; as a shepherd, to guide them. Finally, the commission, these also to feed—to

— supply them with spiritual nourishment. This is the official mission of Peter. Next follows the execution of it.

• Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast younger, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest. But when thou art old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.? This spake He, remarks the Evangelist, to signify by what death he should glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He saith unto him, “Follow Me.'-—The period of the disciple's youth, of which the Lord speaks, is also the period of wilfulness, of his own choice. The period of His age, on the other hand, designates the period of his maturity in the Christian life. Now he

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1 αγαπάς με και

Φιλείς με. Peter answered from the beginning with φιλώ σε. 8 First, Βόσκε τα αρνία μου; then, πoίμαινε τα πρόβατά μου; finally, βόσκε τα πρόβατά μου.

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stretches out his hands like an old man ; under a sense of his weakness, he gives himself over, in the full obedience of faith, to the guidance of the Lord. He girds him, and leads him in a way appointed for him, which does not accord with his natural will—the way of a martyr's death. Thus is he called to follow Christ in the most special sense, in the way of martyrdom, nay, of death on the cross. It was quite in harmony with the character of this announcement, that the Lord gave it to him in the form of an obscure intimation. Peter does not seem at first to have so rightly apprehended the meaning of the words as John.

The Lord, namely, in addressing the last word to him, Follow Me! had begun to withdraw from the midst of the disciples. Peter therefore believed that he was called immediately to follow Him, in an entirely peculiar sense, into the realms of the dead, perhaps as an expiation of his former fault. For he knew well that Jesus now properly belonged to the other world. A command thus to follow the Lord at once into the solitude of His new world, appeared to him to mean nothing else than an entirely peculiar change now impending over him. The awe of the world of spirits, nay, the awe of death, must have fallen on his mind at the thought of thus following Christ. He knew not but that Jesus was about to conduct him into the other world through the darkness of death itself. Nevertheless he followed Him; and with this courageous act of devoted fidelity he first exhibited the full contrast between his new obedience of faith and his former denial of his Lord.

These features of the future of Peter are features of the future of the Church in her first, predominantly legal form. Her calling is based on love to the Lord. Love to the Lord is the first requirement, and the second, and the third. This calling, however, is exhibited in its official character by the formal consecrations which have been instituted by Christ. The work of the Church then unfolds itself in three gradations. It begins with offering spiritual nourishment to the lambs, to the beginners in the Christian life, of every kind. It advances by forming a government, which guides the full-grown Christians. It is completed by her being enabled to offer to these also true spiritual nutriment. This is the Petrine calling of the Church ; and with it corresponds her Petrine destiny. A strong, selfwilled youth, in which she unfolds an extraordinary amount of

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