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Where a system of truth is to be communicated, he will begin with simple principles, before he proceed to those which are more complicated; with what is easy to be understood, before what is difficult, and with what is least objectionable, before he ventures to propose what is most obnoxious. In this manner the mind may be gradually brought to make the most important conclusions, which it would have rejected without hesitation, had they been proposed in the first instance.
But because Christ instructed his disciples gradually, and deferred some things till after his death, because his disciples were not able to bear them, some persons have strangely inferred that they might hold themselves excused from teaching the truth at all, where it is obnoxious, asserting that men are not prepared to bear it: but the two cases, I apprehend, are not parallel. What Christ deferred to teach, were such things only as, if taught at that time, might have occasioned apostacy from the Christian religion : but what they conceal might indeed, if disclosed, give offence, and procure them the ill will of many persons, but is not likely to shake their Christian faith. What he kept back was only kept for a few weeks, or a few months at most, till a time when he was certain that there would be an opportunity of teaching it to more advantage; but they defer for imaginary contingencies, which may never happen, or which, if they do take place, will afford no better opportunity than the present. Christ was afraid of injuring his disciples by a hasty communication of the truth. They are only concerned for their own peace and quiet. From a regard to this they ungenerously throw the whole burden of teaching obnoxious truths upon posterity, and leave to them all the odium and danger of maintaining an unpopular cause. The discoveries which he delayed were then communicated to the world for the first time; what they conceal was long since made known by divine wisdom, but lost by the folly of mankind. In cases which are so dissimilar, I must leave you to determine whether the same conduct is justifiable, and to judge, whether the one be not the wise precaution of a person who had a perfect acquaintance with the human heart, and a supernatural knowledge of future events; and the other, the affected prudence of an interested selfishness.
John xvi. 16. to the end. Jesus, in endeavouring to console his disciples, who were overwhelmed with grief at the prospect of losing their master, assures them that his absence would be only for a short season.
16. A little while and ye shall not see me, and on the contrary, a little while and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father. - What Christ means by this language is, that in a short time he should be taken from them, by being put to death, but that, very soon afterwards, he should be restored to them, as he was to rise from the dead within three days, in order to ascend to God. But as his disciples did not expect the death of their master, or, if he was to die, his immediate resurrection from the dead, they did not understand his language.
17. Then said some of his disciples among themselves, What is this that he saith unto uș, a little while and ye shall not see me; and on the contrary, a little while and ye shall see me; and, Because I go to the Father?
18. They said therefore, What is this that he saith, A little while ? We cannot tell what he saith.
What perplexed them most was that these changes were to take place so soon, of which they saw no prospect. They wished to ask their master to explain his meaning, but they were afraid to confess their igriorance, lest he should reprove them for it, as he had done in former instances. Christ, perceiving it, addressed them himself, in order to explain his meaning more fully and satisfy their wishes.
19. Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, Do ye enquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while and ye shall not see me, and on the contrary, a little while and ye shall see me?
20. Verily, verily I say unto you that ye shall weep and lament; but the world shall rejoice; and ye shall be sorrowful; but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.
That they night understand to what kind of event he referred, when he spake of leaving them and returning again, he tells them that it was such as would give great joy to his enemies, the unbelieving part of the Jewish nation, while it excited the deepest sorrow in their own breasts. It should afford them comfort, however, to think that their sorrow would be but of short continuance, and would be followed by joy which would more than compensate for what they had previously suffered. So that their case would resemble that of a woman, who suffers the pains of child birth, whose joy at the birth of a child more than rewards her for the sufferings which she has endured.
21. A woman, when she is in travail, hath sorrow, because her hour is come ; but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for the joy that a man, “ a human being,” is born into the world.
22. And ye now likewise have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy shall no man take from you.
As Christ, when he rose from the dead, was to die no more, the joy which his disciples felt at seeing him again, and beholding him rewarded by the Divine Being, would never from that time be interrupted. He was to be with them also by his miraculous powers to the end of the age; that is, as long as they lived in the world; a circumstance which could not fail to give them the highest satisfaction.
23. And in that day ye shall ask me nothing.
That is, at the time when I am no longer present with you. When the disciples were in danger or wanted information, they applied to their master for help and instruction ; and what filled them with sorrow at the prospect of his absence, was the apprehension of no longer enjoying his assistance, and of not being able to have recourse to him in all their straits · and difficulties. To appease their fears, Christ tells them that they will now have no occasion to apply to him for any thing: for that there was another friend, who would be ready to afford them all the assistance which they might want.
Verily, verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name he will give it you.
To ask for any thing in the name of Christ, is to ask for it as his disciples, as those who profess his religion, and are employed, by his direction, upon a mission for propagating it in the world. Petitions presented by such persons, and for carrying on such a work, could not fail to be answered. It is not to be supposed, however, that the express mention of the name of Christ was necessary for the success of their prayers. It would be sufficient, no doubt, if they regarded themselves as his disciples. The promise of Christ is accompanied with no limitation; but it is necessary to confine it to such things as were agreeable to the will of the Father, and necessary for accomplishing their mission. Paul, we find, prayed for the removal of the thorn in the flesh without success.
24. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name; ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.
The disciples had hitherto applied to Jesus, their master, in their difficulties; but as he was now about to leave them, he directs them to apply to God as his disciples, and assures them of success. To have their prayers answered, by the grant of miraculous assistance, and to find themselves hereby qualified for encountering all difficulties in the execution of their office, could not fail to afford them the highest satisfaction and joy.
25. These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs, “ in dark speeches:" the time cometh when I shall no more speak unto you in dark speeches, but I will show you plainly of the Father.
As these discourses of Christ refer to events which had not yet taken place, and of which his disciples had very imperfect conceptions, his language was ne