- Bible Verse – The Excellency of the Divine Law – Psalms 19:8
- The Passover, the Offering of First-Fruits – Leviticus 23:4-14
- The Feasts of the Lord, the Sabbath – Leviticus 23:1-3
- God Overruled the Jews Unbelief by Making the Gentiles Partakers of Gospel Privileges – Romans 11:11-21
- Christ’s Prayer for Those that are His – John 17:11-23
- The Bible
- Israel in Prophecy
The feast of the Passover was to continue seven days; not idle days, spent in sport, as many that are called Christians spend their holy-days. Offerings were made to the Lord at his altar; and the people were taught to employ their time in prayer, and praise, and godly meditation. The sheaf of first-fruits was typical of the Lord Jesus, who is risen from the dead as the First-fruits of them that slept. Our Lord Jesus rose from the dead on the very day that the first-fruits were offered. We are taught by this law to honour the Lord with our substance, and with the first-fruits of all our increase, Proverbs 3:9 KJV Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: They were not to eat of their new corn, till God’s part was offered to him out of it; and we must always begin with God: begin every day with him, begin every meal with him, begin every affair and business with him; seek first the kingdom of God.
Leviticus 23:4-14 KJV These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons. (5) In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’S passover. (6) And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread. (7) In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. (8) But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. (9) And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, (10) Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: (11) And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it. (12) And ye shall offer that day when ye wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the LORD. (13) And the meat offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the LORD for a sweet savour: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin. (14) And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your God: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
The yearly feasts, the passover, and the feast of unleavened bread, to which was annexed the offering of the sheaf of firstfruits.
Here again the feasts are called the feasts of the Lord, because he appointed them. Jeroboam’s feast, which he devised of his own heart, 1 Kings 12:33 KJV So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense. was an affront to God, and a reproach upon the people. These feasts were to be proclaimed in their seasons, Leviticus 23:4 KJV These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons. and the seasons God chose for them were in March, May and September (according to our present computation), not in winter, because travelling would then be uncomfortable, when the days were short, and the ways foul; not in the middle of summer, because then in those countries they were gathering in their harvest and vintage, and could be ill spared from their country business. Thus graciously does God consult our comfort in his appointments, obliging us thereby religiously to regard his glory in our observance of them, and not to complain of them as a burden.
The solemnities appointed them were, many and returned frequently, which was intended to preserve in them a deep sense of God and religion, and to prevent their inclining to the superstitions of the heathen. God kept them fully employed in his service, that they might not have time to hearken to the temptations of the idolatrous neighbourhood they lived in. They were most of them times of joy and rejoicing. The weekly sabbath is so, and all their yearly solemnities, except the day of atonement. God would thus teach them that wisdom’s ways are pleasantness, and engage them to his service by encouraging them to be cheerful in it and to sing at their work. Seven days were days of strict rest and holy convocations; the first day and the seventh of the feast of unleavened bread, the day of pentecost, the day of the feast of trumpets, the first day and the eighth of the feast of tabernacles, and the day of atonement: here were six for holy joy and one only for holy mourning. We are commanded to rejoice evermore, but not to be evermore weeping.
Here is, a repetition of the law of the passover, which was to be observed on the fourteenth day of the first month, in remembrance of their deliverance out of Egypt and the distinguishing preservation of their first-born, mercies never to be forgotten. This feast was to begin with the killing of the paschal lamb, Leviticus 23:5 KJV In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’S passover. It was to continue seven days, during all which time they were to eat sad bread, that was unleavened, Leviticus 23:6 KJV And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread. and the first and last day of the seven were to be days of holy rest and holy convocations, Leviticus 23:7-8 KJV In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. (8) But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. They were not idle days spent in sport and recreation (as many that are called Christians spend their holy days), but offerings were made by fire unto the Lord at his altar; and we have reason to think that the people were taught to employ their time in prayer, and praise, and godly meditation.
An order for the offering of a sheaf of the first-fruits, upon the second day of the feast of unleavened bread; the first is called the sabbath, because it was observed as a sabbath, Leviticus 23:11 KJV And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it. and, on the morrow after, they had this solemnity. A sheaf or handful of new corn was brought to the priest, who was to heave it up, in token of his presenting it to the God of Heaven, and to wave it to and fro before the Lord, as the Lord of the whole earth, and this should be accepted for them as a thankful acknowledgment of God’s mercy to them in clothing their fields with corn, and of their dependence upon God, and desire towards him, for the preserving of it to their use. For it was the expression both of prayer and praise, Leviticus 23:11 KJV And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it. A lamb for a burnt-offering was to be offered with it, Leviticus 23:12 KJV And ye shall offer that day when ye wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the LORD.
As the sacrifice of animals was generally attended with meat-offerings, so this sacrifice of corn was attended with a burnt-offering, that bread and flesh might be set together on God’s table. They are forbidden to eat of their new corn till this handful was offered to God; for it was fit, if God and Israel feast together, that he should be served first. And the offering of this sheaf of first-fruits in the name of the whole congregation did, as it were, sanctify to them their whole harvest, and give them a comfortable use of all the rest; for then we may eat our bread with joy when we have, in some measure, performed our duty to God, and God has accepted our works, for thus all our enjoyments become clean to us.
Now, this law was given now, though there was no occasion for putting it in execution till they came to Canaan: in the wilderness they sowed no corn; but God’s feeding them there with bread from heaven obliged them hereafter not to grudge him his share of their bread out of the earth. We find that when they came into Canaan the manna ceased upon the very day that the sheaf of first-fruits was offered; they had eaten of the old corn the day before, Joshua 5:11 KJV And they did eat of the old corn of the land on the morrow after the passover, unleavened cakes, and parched corn in the selfsame day. and then on this day they offered the first-fruits, by which they became entitled to the new corn too, Leviticus 23:12 KJV And ye shall offer that day when ye wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the LORD. so that there was no more occasion for manna.
This sheaf of first-fruits was typical of our Lord Jesus, who has risen from the dead as the first-fruits of those that slept, 1 Corinthians 15:20 KJV But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. That branch of the Lord Isaiah 4:2 KJV In that day shall the branch of the LORD be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel. was then presented to him, in virtue of the sacrifice of himself, the Lamb of God, and it was accepted for us. It is very observable that our Lord Jesus rose from the dead on the very day that the first-fruits were offered, to show that he was the substance of this shadow.
We are taught by this law to honour the Lord with our substance, and with the first-fruits of all our increase, Proverbs 3:9 KJV Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: They were not to eat of their new corn till God’s part was offered to him out of it, Leviticus 23:14 KJV And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your God: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. for we must always begin with God, begin our lives with him, begin every day with him, begin every meal with him, begin every affair and business with him; seek first the kingdom of God.
In this Leviticus chapter 23 we have the institution of holy times; many of which have been mentioned before. Though the yearly feasts were made more remarkable by general attendance at the sanctuary, yet these must not be observed more than the Sabbath. On that day they must withdraw from all business of the world. It is a Sabbath of rest, typifying spiritual rest from sin, and rest in God. God's Sabbaths are to be religiously observed in every private house, by every family apart, as well as by families together, in holy assemblies. The Sabbath of the Lord in our dwellings will be their beauty, strength, and safety; it will sanctify, build up, and glorify them.
Leviticus 23:1-3 KJV And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, (2) Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts. (3) Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings.
Hitherto the levitical law had been chiefly conversant about holy persons, holy things, and holy places; in this chapter we have the institution of holy times, many of which had been mentioned occasionally before, but here they are all put together, only the new moons are not mentioned. The first of feasts of the Lord is, the weekly feast of the Sabbath.
Here is, a general account of the holy times which God appointed, Leviticus 23:2 KJV Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts. and it is only his appointment that can make time holy; for he is the Lord of time, and as soon as ever he had set its wheels a-going it was he that sanctified and blessed one day above the rest, Genesis 2:3 KJV And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.
Man may by his appointment make a good day, Esther 9:19 KJV Therefore the Jews of the villages, that dwelt in the unwalled towns, made the fourteenth day of the month Adar a day of gladness and feasting, and a good day, and of sending portions one to another. but it is God's prerogative to make a holy day; nor is any thing sanctified but by the stamp of his institution. As all inherent holiness comes from his special grace, so all adherent holiness from his special appointment.
Now, concerning the holy times here ordained, observe, they are called feasts. The day of atonement, which was one of them, was a fast; yet, because most of them were appointed for joy and rejoicing, they are in the general called feasts. Some read it, These are my assemblies, but that is co-incident with convocations. I would rather read it, These are my solemnities; so the word here used is translated, Isaiah 33:20 KJV Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken. where Zion is called the city of our solemnities: and, reading it so here, the day of atonement was as great a solemnity as any of them.
They are the feasts of the Lord (my feasts), observed to the honour of his name, and in obedience to his command.
They were proclaimed; for they were not to be observed by the priests only that attended the sanctuary, but by all the people. And this proclamation was the joyful sound concerning which we read, Blessed are the people that know it, Psalms 89:15 KJV Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of thy countenance.
They were to be sanctified and solemnized with holy convocations, that the services of these feasts might appear the more honourable and august, and the people the more unanimous in the performance of them; it was for the honour of God and his institutions, which sought not corners and the purity of which would be best preserved by the public administration of them; it was also for the edification of the people in love that the feasts were to be observed as holy convocations.
A repetition of the law of the Sabbath in the first place. Though the annual feasts were made more remarkable by the general attendance at the sanctuary, yet these must not eclipse the brightness of the Sabbath, Leviticus 23:3 KJV Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings. They are here told, that on that day they must withdraw themselves from all the affairs and business of the world. It is a Sabbath of rest, typifying our spiritual rest from sin, and in God: You shall do no work therein. On other holy days they were forbidden to do any servile work, Leviticus 23:7 KJV In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. but on the Sabbath, and the day of atonement (which is also called a Sabbath), they were to do no work at all, no, not the dressing of meat.
On that day they must employ themselves in the service of God.
It is a holy convocation; that is, “If it lie within your reach, you shall sanctify it in a religious assembly: let as many as can come to the door of the tabernacle, and let others meet elsewhere for prayer, and praise, and the reading of the law,” as in the schools of the prophets, while prophecy continued, and afterwards in the synagogues. Christ appointed the New Testament Sabbath to be a holy convocation, by meeting his disciples once and again (and perhaps oftener) on the first day of the week.
“Whether you have opportunity of sanctifying it in a holy convocation or not, yet let it be the Sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings. Put a difference between that day and other days in your families. It is the Sabbath of the Lord, the day on which he rested from the work of creation, and on which he has appointed us to rest; let it be observed in all your dwellings, even now that you dwell in tents.”
Note, God's Sabbaths are to be religiously observed in every private house, by every family apart, as well as by many families together in holy convocations. The Sabbath of the Lord in our dwellings will be their beauty, strength, and safety; it will sanctify, edify, and glorify them.
God Overruled the Jews Unbelief by Making the Gentiles Partakers of Gospel Privileges – Romans 11:11-21
The gospel is the greatest riches of every place where it is. As therefore the righteous rejection of the unbelieving Jews, was the occasion of so large a multitude of the Gentiles being reconciled to God, and at peace with him; the future receiving of the Jews into the church would be such a change, as would resemble a general resurrection of the dead in sin to a life of righteousness. Abraham was as the root of the church. The Jews continued branches of this tree till, as a nation, they rejected the Messiah; after that, their relation to Abraham and to God was, as it were, cut off. The Gentiles were grafted into this tree in their room; being admitted into the
Romans 11:11-21 KJV I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. (12) Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? (13) For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: (14) If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. (15) For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? (16) For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. (17) And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; (18) Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. (19) Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. (20) Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: (21) For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.
Another thing which qualified this doctrine of the rejection of the Jews was that though they were cast off and unchurched, yet the Gentiles were taken in, which he applies by way of caution to the Gentiles.
The rejection of the Jews made room for the reception of the Gentiles. The Jews' leavings were a feast for the poor Gentiles: Romans 11:11 KJV I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. “Have they stumbled that they should fall? Had God no other end in forsaking and rejecting them than their destruction?” He startles at this, rejecting the thought with abhorrence, as usually he does when any thing is suggested which seems to reflect upon the wisdom, or righteousness, or goodness of God: God forbid! no, through their fall salvation is come to the Gentiles. Not but that salvation might have come to the Gentiles if they had stood; but by the divine appointment it was so ordered that the gospel should be preached to the Gentiles upon the Jews' refusal of it. Thus in the parable, Matthew 22:8-9 KJV Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. (9) Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. Those that were first bidden were not worthy – Go ye therefore into the highways, Luke 14:21 KJV So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.
And so it was in the history: Acts 13:46 KJV Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you; but, seeing you put it from you, lo, we turn to the Gentiles; so Acts 18:6 KJV And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.
God will have a church in the world, will have the wedding furnished with guests; and, if one will not come, another will, or why was the offer made? The Jews had the refusal, and so the tender came to the Gentiles. See how Infinite Wisdom brings light out of darkness, good out of evil, meat out of the eater, and sweetness out of the strong. To the same purport he says, Romans 11:12 KJV Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? The fall of them was the riches of the world, that is, it hastened the gospel so much the sooner into the Gentile world. The gospel is the greatest riches of the place where it is; it is better than thousands of gold and silver. Or, The riches of the Gentiles was the multitude of converts among them. True believers are God's jewels. To the same purport: Romans 11:15 KJV For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? The casting away of them is the reconciling of the world. God's displeasure towards them made way for his favour towards the Gentiles. God was in Christ reconciling the world, 2 Corinthians 5:19 KJV To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
And therefore he took occasion from the unbelief of the Jews openly to disavow and disown them, though they had been his peculiar favourites, to show that in dispensing his favours he would now no longer act in such a way of peculiarity and restriction, but that in every nation he that feared God and wrought righteousness should be accepted of him, Acts 10:34-35 KJV Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: (35) But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
The use that the apostle makes of this doctrine concerning the substitution of the Gentiles in the room of the Jews.
As a kinsman to the Jews, here is a word of excitement and exhortation to them, to stir them up to receive and embrace the gospel-offer. This God intended in his favour to the Gentiles, to provoke the Jews to jealousy, Romans 11:11 KJV I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. and Paul endeavours to enforce it accordingly: Romans 11:14 KJV If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. If by any means I might provoke to emulation those who are my flesh. “Shall the despised Gentiles run away with all the comforts and privileges of the gospel, and shall not we repent of our refusal, and now at last put in for a share? Shall not we believe and obey, and be pardoned and saved, as well as the Gentiles?” See an instance of such an emulation in Esau, Genesis 28:6-9 KJV When Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob, and sent him away to Padanaram, to take him a wife from thence; and that as he blessed him he gave him a charge, saying, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan; (7) And that Jacob obeyed his father and his mother, and was gone to Padanaram; (8) And Esau seeing that the daughters of Canaan pleased not Isaac his father; (9) Then went Esau unto Ishmael, and took unto the wives which he had Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael Abraham's son, the sister of Nebajoth, to be his wife.
There is a commendable emulation in the affairs of our souls: why should not we be as holy and happy as any of our neighbours? In this emulation there needs no suspicion, undermining or countermining; for the church has room enough, and the new covenant grace and comfort enough, for us all. The blessings are not lessened by the multitudes of the sharers. – And might save some of them. See what was Paul's business, to save souls; and yet the utmost he promises himself is but to save some. Though he was such a powerful preacher, spoke and wrote with such evidence and demonstration of the Spirit, yet of the many he dealt with he could but save some. Ministers must think their pains well bestowed if they can but be instrumental to save some.
As an apostle to the Gentiles, here is a word of caution for them: “I speak to you Gentiles. You believing Romans, you hear what riches of salvation are come to you by the fall of the Jews, but take heed lest you do any thing to forfeit it.” Paul takes this, as other occasions, to apply his discourse to the Gentiles, because he was the apostle of the Gentiles, appointed for the service of their faith, to plant and water churches in the Gentile nations. This was the purport of his extraordinary mission, Acts 22:21 KJV And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles. I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles; compare, Acts 9:15 KJV But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:
It was likewise the intention of his ordination, Galatians 2:9 KJV And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. Compare Acts 13:2 KJV As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
It ought to be our great and special care to do good to those that are under our charge: we must particularly mind that which is our own work. It was an instance of God's great love to the poor Gentiles that he appointed Paul, who in gifts and graces excelled all the apostles, to be the apostle of the Gentiles. The Gentile world was a wider province; and the work to be done in it required a very able, skilful, zealous, courageous workman: such a one was Paul. God calls those to special work whom he either sees or makes fit for it. – I magnify my office. There were those that vilified it, and him because of it. It was because he was the apostle of the Gentiles that the Jews were so outrageous against him, Acts 22:21-22 KJV And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles. (22) And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live. and yet he thought never the worse of it, though it set him up as the butt of all the Jewish rage and malice. It is a sign of true love to Jesus Christ to reckon that service and work for him truly honourable which the world looks upon with scorn, as mean and contemptible. The office of the ministry is an office to be magnified. Ministers are ambassadors for Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God, and for their work's sake are to be esteemed highly in love. – My office; tēn diakonian mou – my ministry, my service, not my lordship and dominion. It was not the dignity and power, but the duty and work, of an apostle, that Paul was so much in love with.
Now two things he exhorts the Gentiles to, with reference to the rejected Jews:
To have a respect for the Jews, notwithstanding, and to desire their conversion. This is intimated in the prospect he gives them of the advantage that would accrue to the church by their conversion, Romans 11:12 KJV Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? Romans 11:15 KJV For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? It would be as life from the dead; and therefore they must not insult and triumph over those poor Jews, but rather pity them, and desire their welfare, and long for the receiving of them in again.
To take heed to themselves, lest they should stumble and fall, as they Jews had done.
Here observe, First, The privilege which the Gentiles had by being taken into the church. They were grafted in, Romans 11:17 KJV And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; as a branch of a wild olive into a good olive, which is contrary to the way and custom of the husbandman, who grafts the good olive into the bad; but those that God grafts into the church he finds wild and barren, and good for nothing. Men graft to mend the tree; but God grafts to mend the branch.
Those that are out of the church are as wild olive-trees, not only useless, but what they do produce is sour and unsavoury: Wild by nature, Romans 11:24 KJV For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree? This was the state of the poor Gentiles, that wanted church privileges, and in respect of real sanctification; and it is the natural state of every one of us, to be wild by nature.
Conversion is the grafting in of wild branches into the good olive. We must be cut off from the old stock, and be brought into union with a new root.
Those that are grafted into the good olive-tree partake of the root and fatness of the olive. It is applicable to a saving union with Christ; all that are by a lively faith grafted into Christ partake of him as the branches of the root – receive from his fulness. But it is here spoken of a visible church-membership, from which the Jews were as branches broken off; and so the Gentiles were grafted in, autois – among those that continued, or in the room of those that were broken off. The Gentiles, being grafted into the church, partake of the same privileges that the Jews did, the root and fatness. The olive-tree is the visible church (called so Jeremiah 11:16 KJV The LORD called thy name, A green olive tree, fair, and of goodly fruit: with the noise of a great tumult he hath kindled fire upon it, and the branches of it are broken.); the root of this tree was Abraham, not the root of communication, so Christ only is the root, but the root of administration, he being the first with whom the covenant was so solemnly made. Now the believing Gentiles partake of this root: he also is a son of Abraham, Luke 19:9 KJV And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. the blessing of Abraham comes upon the Gentiles, Galatians 3:14 KJV That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. the same fatness of the olive-tree, the same for substance, special protection, lively oracles, means of salvation, a standing ministry, instituted ordinances; and, among the rest, the visible church-membership of their infant seed, which was part of the fatness of the olive-tree that the Jews had, and cannot be imagined to be denied to the Gentiles.
Secondly,“Be not proud: Romans 11:18 KJV Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Boast not against the branches. Do not therefore trample upon the Jews as a reprobate people, nor insult over those that are broken off, much less over those that do continue.” Grace is given, not to make us proud, but to make us thankful. The law of faith excludes all boasting either of ourselves or against others. “Do not say: Romans 11:19 KJV Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. They were broken off that I might be grafted in; that is, do not think that thou didst merit more at the hand of God than they, or didst stand higher in his favour.” “But remember, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Though thou art grafted in, thou art still but a branch borne by the root; nay, and an engrafted branch, brought into the good olive contrary to nature, Romans 11:24 KJV For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree? not free-born, but by an act of grace enfranchised and naturalized. Abraham, the root of the Jewish church, is not beholden to thee; but thou art greatly obliged to him, as the trustee of the covenant and the father of many nations. Therefore, if thou boast, know (this word must be supplied to clear the sense) thou bearest not the root but the root thee.”
“Be not secure: Romans 11:20 KJV Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: Be not high-minded, but fear. Be not too confident of your own strength and standing.” A holy fear is an excellent preservative against high-mindedness: happy is the man that thus feareth always. We need not fear but God will be true to his word; all the danger is lest we be false to ours. Let us therefore fear, Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. The church of Rome now boasts of a patent of perpetual preservation; but the apostle here, in his epistle to that church when she was in her infancy and integrity, enters an express caveat against that boast, and all claims of that kind. – Fear what? “Why fear lest thou commit a forfeiture as they have done, lest thou lose the privileges thou now enjoyest, as they have lost theirs.” The evils that befall others should be warnings to us. Go (saith God to Jerusalem Jeremiah 7:12 KJV But go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel.), and see what I did to Shiloh; so now, let all the churches of God go and see what he did to Jerusalem, and what is become of the day of their visitation, that we may hear and fear, and take heed of Jerusalem's sin. The patent which churches have of their privileges is not for a certain term, nor entailed upon them and their heirs; but it runs as long as they carry themselves well, and no longer.
Consider, “How they were broken off. It was not undeservedly, by an act of absolute sovereignty and prerogative, but because of unbelief.” It seems, then, it is possible for churches that have long stood by faith to fall into such a state of infidelity as may be their ruin. Their unbelief did not only provoke God to cut them off, but they did by this cut themselves off; it was not only the meritorious, but the formal cause of their separation. “Now, thou art liable to the same infirmity and corruption that they fell by.” Further observe, They were natural branches, Romans 11:21 KJV For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. not only interested in Abraham's covenant, but descending from Abraham's loins, and so born upon the premises, and thence had a kind of tenant-right: yet, when they sunk into unbelief, God did not spare them. Prescription, long usage, the faithfulness of their ancestors, would not secure them. It was in vain to plead, though they insisted much upon it, that they were Abraham's seed, Matthew 3:9 KJV And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. John 8:33 KJV They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?
It is true they were the husbandmen to whom the vineyard was first let out; but, when they forfeited it, it was justly taken from them, Matthew 21:41 KJV They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. Matthew 21:43 KJV Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. This is called here severity, Romans 11:22 KJV Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.
God laid righteousness to the line and judgment to the plummet, and dealt with them according to their sins. Severity is a word that sounds harshly; and I do not remember that it is any where else in scripture ascribed to God; and it is here applied to the unchurching of the Jews. God is most severe towards those that have been in profession nearest to him, if they rebel against him, Amos 3:2 KJV You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities. Patience and privileges abused turn to the greatest wrath. Of all judgments, spiritual judgments are the sorest; for of these he is here speaking, Romans 11:8 KJV (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.
“How thou standest, thou that art engrafted in.” He speaks to the Gentile churches in general, though perhaps tacitly reflecting on some particular person, who might have expressed some such pride and triumph in the Jews' rejection.
“Consider then,” “By what means thou standest: By faith, which is a depending grace, and fetches in strength from heaven. Thou dost not stand in any strength of thy own, of which thou mightest be confident: thou art no more than the free grace of God makes thee, and his grace is his own, which he gives or withholds at pleasure. That which ruined them was unbelief, and by faith thou standest; therefore thou hast no faster hold than they had, thou standest on no firmer foundation than they did.”
Christ does not pray that they might be rich and great in the world, but that they might be kept from sin, strengthened for their duty, and brought safe to heaven. The prosperity of the soul is the best prosperity. He pleaded with his holy Father, that he would keep them by his power and for his glory, that they might be united in affection and labours, even according to the union of the Father and the Son. He did not pray that his disciples should be removed out of the world, that they might escape the rage of men, for they had a great work to do for the glory of God, and the benefit of mankind. But he prayed that the Father would keep them from the evil, from being corrupted by the world, the remains of sin in their hearts, and from the power and craft of Satan. So that they might pass through the world as through an enemy's country, as he had done. They are not left here to pursue the same objects as the men around them, but to glorify God, and to serve their generation. The Spirit of God in true Christians is opposed to the spirit of the world.
Christ next prayed for the disciples, that they might not only be kept from evil, but made good. It is the prayer of Jesus for all that are his, that they may be made holy. Even disciples must pray for sanctifying grace. The means of giving this grace is, “through thy truth, thy word is truth.” Sanctify them, set them apart for thyself and thy service. Own them in the office; let thy hand go with them. Jesus entirely devoted himself to his undertaking, and all the parts of it, especially the offering up himself without spot unto God, by the eternal Spirit. The real holiness of all true Christians is the fruit of Christ's death, by which the gift of the Holy Ghost was purchased; he gave himself for his church, to sanctify it. If our views have not this effect on us, they are not Divine truth, or we do not receive them by a living and a working faith, but as mere notions.
Our Lord especially prayed, that all believers might be as one body under one head, animated by one soul, by their union with Christ and the Father in him, through the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. The more they dispute about lesser things, the more they throw doubts upon Christianity. Let us endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, praying that all believers may be more and more united in one mind and one judgment. Thus shall we convince the world of the truth and excellence of our religion, and find more sweet communion with God and his saints.
John 17:11-23 KJV 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. (12) 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. (13) And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. (14) 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. (15) I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. (16) They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. (17) Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. (18) As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. (19) And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. (20) Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; (21) That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. (22) And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: (23) I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
And in this see, the particular petitions he puts up for them that they might be kept; that they might be sanctified; and that they might be united.
After the general pleas with which Christ recommended his disciples to his Father's care follow the particular petitions he puts up for them; and, they all relate to spiritual blessings in heavenly things. He does not pray that they might be rich and great in the world, that they might raise estates and get preferments, but that they might be kept from sin, and furnished for their duty, and brought safely to heaven.
Note, The prosperity of the soul is the best prosperity; for what relates to this Christ came to purchase and bestow, and so teaches us to seek, in the first place, both for others and for ourselves.
They are such blessings as were suited to their present state and case, and their various exigencies and occasions.
Note, Christ's intercession is always pertinent. Our advocate with the Father is acquainted with all the particulars of our wants and burdens, our dangers and difficulties, and knows how to accommodate his intercession to each, as to Peter's peril, which he himself was not aware of, Luke 22:32 KJV But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. I have prayed for thee.
He is large and full in the petitions, orders them before his Father, and fills his mouth with arguments, to teach us fervency and importunity in prayer, to be large in prayer, and dwell upon our errands at the throne of grace, wrestling as Jacob, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.
Now the first thing Christ prays for, for his disciples, is their preservation, in these verses, in order to which he commits them all to his Father's custody. Keeping supposes danger, and their danger arose from the world, the world wherein they were, the evil of this he begs they might be kept from.
Now observe, the request itself: Keep them from the world. There were two ways of their being delivered from the world:
By taking them out of it; and he does not pray that they might be so delivered: I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world; that is, “I pray not that they may be speedily removed by death.” If the world will be vexatious to them, the readiest way to secure them would be to hasten them out of it to a better world, that will give them better treatment. Send chariots and horses of fire for them, to fetch them to heaven; Job, Elijah, Jonah, Moses, when that occurred which fretted them, prayed that they might be taken out of the world; but Christ would not pray so for his disciples, for two reasons: Because he came to conquer, not to countenance, those intemperate heats and passions which make men impatient of life, and importunate for death. It is his will that we should take up our cross, and not outrun it. Because he had work for them to do in the world; the world, though sick of them, Acts 22:22 KJV And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live. and therefore not worthy of them, Hebrews 11:38 KJV (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. yet could ill spare them. In pity therefore to this dark world, Christ would not have these lights removed out of it, but continued in it, especially for the sake of those in the world that were to believe in him through their word. Let not them be taken out of the world when their Master is; they must each in his own order die a martyr, but not till they have finished their testimony.
Note, First, The taking of good people out of the world is a thing by no means to be desired, but rather dreaded and laid to heart, Isaiah 57:1 KJV The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come. Secondly, Though Christ loves his disciples, he does not presently send for them to heaven, as soon as they are effectually called, but leaves them for some time in this world, that they may do good and glorify God upon earth, and be ripened for heaven. Many good people are spared to live, because they can ill be spared to die.
“I pray not that they may be totally freed and exempted from the troubles of this world, and taken out of the toil and terror of it into some place of ease and safety, there to live undisturbed; this is not the preservation I desire for them.” Non ut omni molestia liberati otium et delicias colant, sed ut inter media pericula salvi tamen maneant Dei auxilio – Not that, being freed from all trouble, they may bask in luxurious ease, but that by the help of God they may be preserved in a scene of danger; so Calvin. Not that they may be kept from all conflict with the world, but that they may not be overcome by it; not that, as Jeremiah wished, they might leave their people, and go from them, Jeremiah 9:2 KJV Oh that I had in the wilderness a lodging place of wayfaring men; that I might leave my people, and go from them! for they be all adulterers, an assembly of treacherous men. but that, like Ezekiel, their faces may be strong against the faces of wicked men, Ezekiel 3:8 KJV Behold, I have made thy face strong against their faces, and thy forehead strong against their foreheads. It is more the honour of a Christian soldier by faith to overcome the world than by a monastical vow to retreat from it; and more for the honour of Christ to serve him in a city than to serve him in a cell.
Another way is by keeping them from the corruption that is in the world; and he prays they may be thus kept, John 17:11 KJV 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. John 17:15 KJV I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
Here are three branches of this petition: Holy Father, keep those whom thou hast given me. Christ was now leaving them; but let them not think that their defence was departed from them; no, he does here, in their hearing, commit them to the custody of his Father and their Father.
Note, It is the unspeakable comfort of all believers that Christ himself has committed them to the care of God. Those cannot but be safe whom the almighty God keeps, and he cannot but keep those whom the Son of his love commits to him, in the virtue of which we may by faith commit the keeping of our souls to God, 1 Peter 4:19 KJV Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator. 2 Timothy 1:12 KJV For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.
First, He here puts them under the divine protection, that they may not be run down by the malice of their enemies; that they and all their concerns may be the particular care of the divine Providence: “Keep their lives, till they have done their work; keep their comforts, and let them not be broken in upon by the hardships they meet with; keep up their interest in the world, and let it not sink.” To this prayer is owing the wonderful preservation of the gospel ministry and gospel church in the world unto this day; if God had not graciously kept both, and kept up both, they had been extinguished and lost long ago.
Secondly, He puts them under the divine tuition, that they may not themselves run away from their duty, nor be led aside by the treachery of their own hearts: “Keep them in their integrity, keep them disciples, keep them close to their duty.” We need God's power not only to put us into a state of grace, but to keep us in it. See, John 10:28-29 KJV And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. (29) My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. 1 Peter 1:5 KJV Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
The titles he gives to him he prays to, and them he prays for, enforce the petition.
First, He speaks to God as a holy Father. In committing ourselves and others to the divine care, we may take encouragement, 1. From the attribute of his holiness, for this is engaged for the preservation of his holy ones; he hath sworn by his holiness, Psalms 89:35 KJV Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. If he be a holy God and hate sin, he will make those holy that are his, and keep them from sin, which they also hate and dread as the greatest evil. From this relation of a Father, wherein he stands to us through Christ. If he be a Father, he will take care of his own children, will teach them and keep them; who else should?
Secondly, He speaks of them as those whom the Father had given him. What we receive as our Father's gifts, we may comfortably remit to our Father's care. “Father, keep the graces and comforts thou hast given me; the children thou hast given me; the ministry I have received.”
Keep them through thine own name. That is, keep them for thy name's sake; so some. “Thy name and honour are concerned in their preservation as well as mine, for both will suffer by it if they either revolt or sink.” The Old Testament saints often pleaded, for thy name's sake; and those may with comfort plead it that are indeed more concerned for the honour of God's name than for any interest of their own.
Keep them in thy name; so others; the original is so, en tō onomati. “Keep them in the knowledge and fear of thy name; keep them in the profession and service of thy name, whatever it cost them. Keep them in the interest of thy name, and let them ever be faithful to this; keep them in thy truths, in thine ordinances, in the way of thy commandments.”
Keep them by or through thy name; so others. “Keep them by thine own power, in thine own hand; keep them thyself, undertake for them, let them be thine own immediate care. Keep them by those means of preservation which thou hast thyself appointed, and by which thou hast made thyself known. Keep them by thy word and ordinances; let thy name be their strong tower, thy tabernacle their pavilion.”
Keep them from the evil, or out of the evil. He had taught them to pray daily, Deliver us from evil, and this would encourage them to pray. “Keep them from the evil one, the devil and all his instruments; that wicked one and all his children. Keep them from Satan as a tempter, that either he may not have leave to sift them, or that their faith may not fail. Keep them from him as a destroyer, that he may not drive them to despair.” “Keep them from the evil thing, that is sin; from every thing that looks like it, or leads to it. Keep them, that they do no evil,” 2 Corinthians 13:7 KJV Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates. Sin is that evil which, above any other, we should dread and deprecate.
“Keep them from the evil of the world, and of their tribulation in it, so that it may have no sting in it, no malignity;” not that they might be kept from affliction, but kept through it, that the property of their afflictions might be so altered as that there might be no evil in them, nothing to them any harm.
The reasons with which he enforces these requests for their preservation, which are five:
He pleads that hitherto he had kept them: John 17:12 KJV 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. “While I was with them in the world, I have kept them in thy name, in the true faith of the gospel and the service of God; those that thou gavest me for my constant attendants I have kept, they are all safe, and none of them missing, none of them revolted nor ruined, but the son of perdition; he is lost, that the scripture might be fulfilled.”
Observe, Christ's faithful discharge of his undertaking concerning his disciples: While he was with them, he kept them, and his care concerning them was not in vain. He kept them in God's name, preserved them from falling into any dangerous errors or sins, from striking in with the Pharisees, who would have compassed sea and land to make proselytes of them; he kept them from deserting him, and returning to the little all they had left for him; he had them still under his eye and care when he sent them to peach; went not his heart with them? Many that followed him awhile took offence at something or other, and went off; but he kept the twelve that they should not go away. He kept them from falling into the hands of persecuting enemies that sought their lives; kept them when he surrendered himself, John 18:9 KJV That the saying might be fulfilled, which he spake, Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none. While he was with them he kept them in a visible manner by instructions till sounding in their ears, miracles still done before their eyes; when he was gone from them, they must be kept in a more spiritual manner. Sensible comforts and supports are sometimes given and sometimes withheld; but, when they are withdrawn, yet they are not left comfortless. What Christ here says of his immediate followers is true of all the saints while they are here in this world; Christ keeps them in God's name.
It is implied, that they are weak, and cannot keep themselves; their own hands are not sufficient for them. That they are, in God's account, valuable and worth the keeping; precious in his sight and honourable; his treasure, his jewels. That their salvation is designed, for to this it is that they are kept, 1 Peter 1:5 KJV Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. As the wicked are reserved for the day of evil, so the righteous are preserved for the day of bliss. That they are the charge of the Lord Jesus; for as his charge he keeps them, and exposed himself like the good shepherd for the preservation of the sheep.
The comfortable account he gives of his undertaking: None of them is lost.
Note, Jesus Christ will certainly keep all that were given to him, so that none of them shall be totally and finally lost; they may think themselves lost, and may be nearly lost (in imminent peril); but it is the Father's will that he should lose none, and none he will lose; John 6:39 KJV And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. so it will appear when they come all together, and none of them shall be wanting.
A brand put upon Judas, as none of those whom he had undertaken to keep. He was among those that were given to Christ, but not of them. He speaks of Judas as already lost, for he had abandoned the society of his Master and his fellow-disciples, and abandoned himself to the devil's guidance, and in a little time would go to his own place; he is as good as lost. But the apostasy and ruin of Judas were no reproach at all to his Master, or his family; for, he was the son of perdition, and therefore not one of those that were given to Christ to be kept. He deserved perdition, and God left him to throw himself headlong into it. He was the son of the destroyer, as Cain, who was of that wicked one. That great enemy whom the Lord will consume is called a son of perdition, because he is a man of sin, 2 Thessalonians 2:3 KJV Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; It is an awful consideration that one of the apostles proved a son of perdition. No man's place or name in the church, no man's privileges or opportunities of getting grace, no man's profession or external performances, will secure him from ruin, if his heart be not right with God; nor are any more likely to prove sons of perdition at last, after a plausible course of profession, than those that like Judas love the bag; but Christ's distinguishing Judas from those that were given him (for ei mē is adversative, not exceptive) intimates that the truth and true religion ought not to suffer for the treachery of those that are false to it, 1 John 2:19 KJV They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
The scripture was fulfilled; the sin of Judas was foreseen of God's counsel and foretold in his word, and the event would certainly follow after the prediction as a consequent, though it cannot be said necessarily to follow from it as an effect. See Psalms 41:9 KJV Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me. Psalms 69:25 KJV Let their habitation be desolate; and let none dwell in their tents. Psalms 109:8 KJV Let his days be few; and let another take his office. We should be amazed at the treachery of apostates, were we not told of it before.
He pleads that he was now under a necessity of leaving them, and could no longer watch over them in the way that he had hitherto done: John 17:11 KJV 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. “Keep them now, that I may not lose the labour I bestowed upon them while I was with them. Keep them, that they may be one with us as we are with each other.” We shall have occasion to speak of this, John 17:21 KJV That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
But see here, with what pleasure he speaks of his own departure. He expresses himself concerning it with an air of triumph and exultation, with reference both to the world he left and the world he removed to. “Now I am no more in the world. Now farewell to this provoking troublesome world. I have had enough of it, and now the welcome hour is at hand when I shall be no more in it. Now that I have finished the work I had to do in it, I have done with it; nothing remains now but to hasten out of it as fast as I can.”
Note, It should be a pleasure to those that have their home in the other world to think of being no more in this world; for when we have done what we have to do in this world, and are made meet for that, what is there here that should court our stay? When we receive a sentence of death within ourselves, with what a holy triumph should we say, “Now I am no more in this world, this dark deceitful world, this poor empty world, this tempting defiling world; no more vexed with its thorns and briars, no more endangered by its nets and snares; now I shall wander no more in this howling wilderness, be tossed no more on this stormy sea; now I am no more in this world, but can cheerfully quit it, and give it a final farewell.”
Now I come to thee. To get clear of the world is but the one half of the comfort of a dying Christ, of a dying Christian; the far better half is to think of going to the Father, to sit down in the immediate, uninterrupted, and everlasting enjoyment of him.
Note, Those who love God cannot but be pleased to think of coming to him, though it be through the valley of the shadow of death. When we go, to be absent from the body, it is to be present with the Lord, like children fetched home from school to their father's house. “Now come I to thee whom I have chosen and served, and whom my soul thirsteth after; to thee the fountain of light and life, the crown and centre of bliss and joy; now my longings shall be satisfied, my hopes accomplished, my happiness completed, for now come I to thee.”
With what a tender concern he speaks of those whom he left behind: “But these are in the world. I have found what an evil world it is, what will become of these dear little ones that must stay in it? Holy Father, keep them; they will want my presence, let them have thine. They have now more need than ever to be kept, for I am sending them out further into the world than they have yet ventured; they must launch forth into the deep, and have business to do in these great waters, and will be lost if thou do not keep them.”
Observe here, that, when our Lord Jesus was going to the Father, he carried with him a tender concern for his own that are in the world; and continued to compassionate them. He bears their names upon his breast-plate, nay, upon his heart, and has graven them with the nails of his cross upon the palms of his hands; and when he is out of their sight they are not out of his, much less out of his mind. We should have such a pity for those that are launching out into the world when we are got almost through it, and for those that are left behind in it when we are leaving it.
That, when Christ would express the utmost need his disciples had of divine preservation, he only says, They are in the world; this bespeaks danger enough to those who are bound for heaven, whom a flattering world would divert and seduce, and a malignant world would hate and persecute.
He pleads what a satisfaction it would be to them to know themselves safe, and what a satisfaction it would be to him to see them easy: I speak this, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves, John 17:13 KJV And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
Observe, Christ earnestly desired the fulness of the joy of his disciples, for it is his will that they should rejoice evermore. He was leaving them in tears and troubles, and yet took effectual care to fulfil their joy. When they thought their joy in him was brought to an end, then was it advanced nearer to perfection than ever it had been, and they were fuller of it.
We are here taught, to found our joy in Christ: “It is my joy, joy of my giving, or rather joy that I am the matter of.” Christ is a Christian's joy, his chief joy. Joy in the world is withering with it; joy in Christ is everlasting, like him. To build up our joy with diligence; for it is the duty as well as privilege of all true believers; no part of the Christian life is pressed upon us more earnestly, Philippians 3:1 KJV Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. Philippians 4:4 KJV Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. To aim at the perfection of this joy, that we may have it fulfilled in us, for this Christ would have.
In order hereunto, he did thus solemnly commit them to his Father's care and keeping and took them for witnesses that he did so: These things I speak in the world, while I am yet with them in the world. His intercession in heaven for their preservation would have been as effectual in itself; but saying this in the world would be a greater satisfaction and encouragement to them, and would enable them to rejoice in tribulation.
Note, Christ has not only treasured up comforts for his people, in providing for their future welfare, but has given out comforts to them, and said that which will be for their present satisfaction. He here condescended in the presence of his disciples to publish his last will and testament, and (which many a testator is shy of) lets them know what legacies he had left them, and how well they were secured, that they might have strong consolation. Christ's intercession for us is enough to fulfil or joy in him; nothing more effectual to silence all our fears and mistrusts, and to furnish us with strong consolation, than this, that he always appears in the presence of God for us; therefore the apostle puts a yea rather upon this, Romans 8:34 KJV Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. And see Hebrews 7:25 KJV Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
He pleads the ill usage they were likely to meet with in the world, for his sake: John 17:14 KJV 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. “I have given them thy word to be published to the world, and they have received it, have believed it themselves, and accepted the trust of transmitting it to the world; and therefore the world hath hated them, as also because they are not of the world, any more than I.”
Here we have, the world's enmity to Christ's followers. While Christ was with them, though as yet they had given but little opposition to the world, yet it hates them, much more would it do so when by their more extensive preaching of the gospel they would turn the world upside down. “Father, stand their friend,” says Christ, “for they are likely to have many enemies; let them have thy love, for the world's hatred is entailed upon them. In the midst of those fiery darts, let them be compassed with thy favour as with a shield.” It is God's honour to take part with the weaker side, and to help the helpless. Lord, be merciful to them, for men would swallow them up.
The reasons of this enmity, which strengthen the plea. It is implied that one reason is because they had received the word of God as it was sent them by the hand of Christ, when the greatest part of the world rejected it, and set themselves against those who were the preachers and professors of it.
Note, Those that receive Christ's good will and good word must expect the world's ill will and ill word. Gospel ministers have been in a particular manner hated by the world, because they call men out of the world, and separate them from it, and teach them not to conform to it, and so condemn the world. “Father, keep them for it is for thy sake that they are exposed; they are sufferers for thee.” Thus the psalmist pleads, For thy sake I have borne reproach, Psalms 69:7 KJV Because for thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face.
Note, Those that keep the word of Christ's patience are entitled to special protection in the hour of temptation, Revelation 3:10 KJV Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. That cause which makes a martyr may well make a joyful sufferer.
Another reason is more express; the world hates them, because they are not of the world. Those to whom the word of Christ comes in power are not of the world, for it has this effect upon all that receive it in the love of it that it weans them from the wealth of the world, and turns them against the wickedness of the world, and therefore the world bears them a grudge.
He pleads their conformity to himself in a holy non-conformity to the world: John 17:16 KJV They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. “Father, keep them, for they are of my spirit and mind, they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” Those may in faith commit themselves to God's custody, who are as Christ was in this world, and tread in his steps. God will love those that are like Christ. Who do not engage themselves in the world's interest, nor devote themselves to its service.
Observe, that Jesus Christ was not of this world; he never had been of it, and least of all now that he was upon the point of leaving it. This intimates, First, His state; he was none of the world's favourites nor darlings, none of its princes nor grandees; worldly possessions he had none, not even where to lay his head; nor worldly power, he was no judge nor divider. Secondly, His Spirit; he was perfectly dead to the world, the prince of this world had nothing in him, the things of this world were nothing to him; not honour, for he made himself of no reputation; not riches, for, for our sakes he became poor; not pleasures, for he acquainted himself with grief. See John 8:23 KJV And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.
That therefore true Christians are not of this world. The Spirit of Christ in them is opposite to the spirit of the world. First, It is their lot to be despised by the world; they are not in favour with the world any more than their Master before them was. Secondly, It is their privilege to be delivered from the world; as Abraham out of the land of his nativity. Thirdly, It is their duty and character to be dead to the world. Their most pleasing converse is, and should be, with another world, and their prevailing concern about the business of that world, not of this. Christ's disciples were weak, and had many infirmities; yet this he could say for them, They were not of the world, not of the earth, and therefore he recommends them to the care of Heaven.
The next thing he prayed for; for them was that they might be sanctified; not only kept from evil, but made good.
Here is the petition: John 17:17 KJV Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. Sanctify them through thy truth, through thy word, for thy word is truth; it is true – it is truth itself. He desires they may be sanctified, as Christians. Father, make them holy, and this will be their preservation, 1 Thessalonians 5:23 KJV And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Observe here, the grace desired – sanctification. The disciples were sanctified, for they were not of the world; yet he prays, Father sanctify them, that is, “Confirm the work of sanctification in them, strengthen their faith, inflame their good affections, rivet their good resolutions.” “Carry on that good work in them, and continue it; let the light shine more and more.” “Complete it, crown it with the perfection of holiness; sanctify them throughout and to the end.”
Note, First, It is the prayer of Christ for all that are his that they may be sanctified; because he cannot for shame own them as his, either here or hereafter, either employ them in his work or present them to his Father, if they be not sanctified. Secondly, Those that through grace are sanctified have need to be sanctified more and more. Even disciples must pray for sanctifying grace; for, if he that was the author of the good work be not the finisher of it, we are undone. Not to go forward is to go backward; he that is holy must be holy still, more holy still, pressing forward, soaring upward, as those that have not attained. Thirdly, It is God that sanctifies as well as God that justified, 2 Corinthians 5:5 KJV Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. Fourthly, It is an encouragement to us, in our prayers for sanctifying grace, that it is what Christ intercedes for; for us.
The means of conferring this grace – through thy truth, thy word is truth. Not that the Holy One of Israel is hereby limited to means, but in the counsel of peace among other things it was settled and agreed, that all needful truth should be comprised and summed up in the word of God. Divine revelation, as it now stands in the written word, is not only pure truth without mixture, but entire truth without deficiency. That this word of truth should be the outward and ordinary means of our sanctification; not of itself, for then it would always sanctify, but as the instrument which the Spirit commonly uses in beginning and carrying on that good work; it is the seed of the new birth, 1 Peter 1:23 KJV Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. and the food of the new life, 1 Peter 2:1-2 KJV Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, (2) As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:
As ministers. “Sanctify them, set them apart for thyself and service; let their call to the apostleship be ratified in heaven.” Prophets were said to be sanctified, Jeremiah 1:5 KJV Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
Priests and Levites were so. Sanctify them; that is, “Qualify them for the office, with Christian graces and ministerial gifts, to make them able ministers of the New Testament.” “Separate them to the office, Romans 1:1 KJV Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, I have called them, they have consented; Father, say Amen to it.” “Own them in the office; let thy hand go along with them; sanctify them by or in thy truth, as truth is opposed to figure and shadow; sanctify them really, not ritually and ceremonially, as the Levitical priests were, by anointing and sacrifice. Sanctify them to thy truth, the word of thy truth, to be the preachers of thy truth to the world; as the priests were sanctified to serve at the altar, so let them be to preach the gospel.” 1 Corinthians 9:13-14 KJV Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? (14) Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.
Note, Jesus Christ intercedes for his ministers with a particular concern, and recommends to his Father's grace those stars he carries in his right hand. The great thing to be asked of God for gospel ministers is that they may be sanctified, effectually separated from the world, entirely devoted to God, and experimentally acquainted with the influence of that word upon their own hearts which they preach to others. Let them have the Urim and Thummim, light and integrity.
We have here two pleas or arguments to enforce the petition for the disciples' sanctification:
The mission they had from him: John 17:18 KJV As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. “As thou hast sent me into the world, to be thine ambassador to the children of men, so now that I am recalled have I sent them into the world, as my delegates.”
Now here, Christ speaks with great assurance of his own mission: Thou hast sent me into the world. The great author of the Christian religion had his commission and instructions from him who is the origin and object of all religion. He was sent of God to say what he said, and do what he did, and be what he is to those that believe on him; which was his comfort in his undertaking, and may be ours abundantly in our dependence upon him; his record was on high, for thence his mission was.
He speaks with great satisfaction of the commission he had given his disciples “So have I sent them on the same errand, and to carry on the same design;” to preach the same doctrine that he preached, and to confirm it with the same proofs, with a charge likewise to commit to other faithful men that which was committed to them. He gave them their commission John 20:21 KJV Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. with a reference to his own, and it magnifies their office that it comes from Christ, and that there is some affinity between the commission given to the ministers of reconciliation and that given to the Mediator; he is called an apostle, Hebrews 3:1 KJV Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; a minister, Romans 15:8 KJV Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: a messenger, Malachi 3:1 KJV Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts. Only they are sent as servants, he as a Son. Now this comes in here as a reason, why Christ was concerned so much for them, and laid their case so near his heart; because he had himself put them into a difficult office, which required great abilities for the due discharge of it.
Note, Whom Christ sends he will stand by, and interest himself in those that are employed for him; what he calls us out to he will fit us out for, and bear us up in.
Why he committed them to his Father; because he was concerned in their cause, their mission being in prosecution of his, and as it were an assignment out of it. Christ received gifts for men, Psalms 68:18 KJV Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them. and then gave them to men, Ephesians 4:8 KJV Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. and therefore prays aid of his Father to warrant and uphold those gifts, and confirm his grant of them. The Father sanctified him when he sent him into the world, John 10:36 KJV Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? Now, they being sent as he was, let them also be sanctified.
The merit he had for them is another thing here pleaded: John 17:19 KJV And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. For their sakes I sanctify myself. Here is, Christ's designation of himself to the work and office of Mediator: I sanctified myself. He entirely devoted himself to the undertaking, and all the parts of it, especially that which he was now going about – the offering up of himself without spot unto God, by the eternal Spirit. He, as the priest and altar, sanctified himself as the sacrifice. When he said, Father, glorify thy name – Father, thy will be done – Father, I commit my spirit into thy hands, he paid down the satisfaction he had engaged to make, and so sanctified himself. This he pleads with his Father, for his intercession is made in the virtue of his satisfaction; by his own blood he entered into the holy place, Hebrews 9:12 KJV Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. as the high priest, on the day of atonement, sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice at the same time that he burnt incense within the veil, Leviticus 16:12 KJV And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the LORD, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the vail: Leviticus 16:14 KJV And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times.
Christ's design of kindness to his disciples herein; it is for their sakes, that they may be sanctified, that is, that they may be martyrs; so some. “I sacrifice myself, that they may be sacrificed to the glory of God and the church's good.” Paul speaks of his being offered, Philippians 2:17 KJV Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. 2 Timothy 4:6 KJV For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. Whatever there is in the death of the saints that is precious in the sight of the Lord, it is owing to the death of the Lord Jesus.
But I rather take it more generally, that they may be saints and ministers, duly qualified and accepted of God. The office of the ministry is the purchase of Christ's blood, and one of the blessed fruits of his satisfaction, and owes its virtue and value to Christ's merit. The priests under the law were consecrated with the blood of bulls and goats, but gospel ministers with the blood of Jesus. The real holiness of all good Christians is the fruit of Christ's death, by which the gift of the Holy Ghost was purchased; he gave himself for his church, to sanctify it, Ephesians 5:25-26 KJV Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (26) That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, And he that designed the end designed also the means, that they might be sanctified by the truth, the truth which Christ came into the world to bear witness to and died to confirm. The word of truth receives its sanctifying virtue and power from the death of Christ. Some read it, that they may be sanctified in truth, that is, truly; for as God must be served, so, in order to this, we must be sanctified, in the spirit, and in truth. And this Christ has prayed for, for all that are his; for this is his will, even their sanctification, which encourages them to pray for it,
Next to their purity he prays for their unity; for the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable; and amity is amiable indeed when it is like the ointment on Aaron's holy head, and the dew on Zion's holy hill.
Observe, who are included in this prayer: John 17:20 KJV Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; “Not these only, not these only that are now my disciples” (the eleven, the seventy, with others, men and women that followed him when he was here on earth), “but for those also who shall believe on me through their word, either preached by them in their own day or written by them for the generations to come; I pray for them all, that they all may be one in their interest in this prayer, and may all receive benefit by it.”
Those, and those only, are interested in the mediation of Christ, that do, or shall, believe in him. This is that by which they are described, and it comprehends all the character and duty of a Christian. They that lived then, saw and believed, but they in after ages have not seen, and yet have believed.
It is through the word that souls are brought to believe on Christ, and it is for this end that Christ appointed the scriptures to be written, and a standing ministry to continue in the church, while the church stands, that is, while the world stands, for the raising up of a seed.
It is certainly and infallibly known to Christ who shall believe on him. He does not here pray at a venture, upon a contingency depending on the treacherous will of man, which pretends to be free, but by reason of sin is in bondage with its children; no, Christ knew very well whom he prayed for, the matter was reduced to a certainty by the divine prescience and purpose; he knew who were given him, who being ordained to eternal life, were entered in the Lamb's book, and should undoubtedly believe, Acts 13:48 KJV And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.
Jesus Christ intercedes not only for great and eminent believers, but for the meanest and weakest; not for those only that are to be employed in the highest post of trust and honour in his kingdom, but for all, even those that in the eye of the world are inconsiderable. As the divine providence extends itself to the meanest creature, so does the divine grace to the meanest Christian. The good Shepherd has an eye even to the poor of the flock.
Jesus Christ in his mediation had an actual regard to those of the chosen remnant that were yet unborn, the people that should be created, Psalms 22:31 KJV They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this. the other sheep which he must yet bring. Before they are formed in the womb he knows them, Jeremiah 1:5 KJV Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. and prayers are filed in heaven for them beforehand, by him who declareth the end from the beginning, and calleth things that are not as though they were.
What is intended in this prayer: John 17:21 KJV That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. That they all may be one. The same was said before, John 17:11 KJV 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. that they may be one as we are, and again, John 17:22 KJV And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
The heart of Christ was much upon this. Some think that the oneness prayed for in John 17:11 KJV 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. has special reference to the disciples as ministers and apostles, that they might be one in their testimony to Christ; and that the harmony of the evangelists, and concurrence of the first preachers of the gospel, are owing to this prayer. Let them be not only of one heart, but of one mouth, speaking the same thing. The unity of the gospel ministers is both the beauty and strength of the gospel interest. But it is certain that the oneness prayed for in John 17:21 KJV That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. respects all believers. It is the prayer of Christ for all that are his, and we may be sure it is an answered prayer – that they all may be one, one in us, John 17:21 KJV That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. one as e are one, John 17:22 KJV And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: made perfect in one, John 17:23 KJV I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
It includes three things: That they might all be incorporated in one body. “Father, look upon them all as one, and ratify that great charter by which they are embodied as one church. Though they live in distant places, from one end of heaven to the other, and in several ages, from the beginning to the close of time, and so cannot have any personal acquaintance or correspondence with each other, yet let them be united in me their common head.” As Christ died, so he prayed, to gather them all in one, John 11:52 KJV And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. Ephesians 1:10 KJV That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
That they might all be animated by one Spirit. This is plainly implied in this – that they may be one in us. Union with the Father and Son is obtained and kept up only by the Holy Ghost. He that is joined to the Lord in one spirit, 1 Corinthians 6:17 KJV But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Let them all be stamped with the same image and superscription, and influenced by the same power.
That they might all be knit together in the bond of love and charity, all of one heart. That they all may be one, in judgment and sentiment; not in every little thing – this is neither possible nor needful, but in the great things of God, and in them, by the virtue of this prayer, they are all agreed – that God's favour is better than life – that sin is the worst of evils, Christ the best of friends – that there is another life after this, and the like. In disposition and inclination. All that are sanctified have the same divine nature and image; they have all a new heart, and it is one heart. They are all one in their designs and aims. Every true Christian, as far as he is so, eyes the glory of God as his highest end, and the glory of heaven as his chief good. They are all one in their desires and prayers; though they differ in words and the manner of expressions, yet, having received the same spirit of adoption, and observing the same rule, they pray for the same things in effect. All one in love and affection. Every true Christian has that in him which inclines him to love all true Christians as such. That which Christ here prays for is that communion of saints which we profess to believe; the fellowship which all believers have with God, and their intimate union with all the saints in heaven and earth, 1 John 1:3 KJV That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. But this prayer of Christ will not have its complete answer till all the saints come to heaven, for then, and not till then, they shall be perfect in one, John 17:23 KJV I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. Ephesians 4:13 KJV Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
What is intimated by way of plea or argument to enforce this petition; three things:
The oneness that is between the Father and the Son, which is mentioned again and again, John 17:11 KJV 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. John 17:21-23 KJV That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. (22) And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: (23) I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
It is taken for granted that the Father and Son are one, one in nature and essence, equal in power and glory, one in mutual endearments. The Father loveth the Son, and the Son always pleased the Father. They are one in design, and one in operation. The intimacy of this oneness is expressed in these words, thou in me, and I in thee. This he often mentions for his support under his present sufferings, when his enemies were ready to fall upon him, and his friends to fall off from him; yet he was in the Father, and the Father in him. This is insisted on in Christ's prayer for his disciples' oneness, as the pattern of that oneness, showing how he desired they might be one.
Believers are one in some measure as God and Christ are one; for, First, The union of believers is a strict and close union; they are united by a divine nature, by the power of divine grace, in pursuance of the divine counsels. Secondly, It is a holy union, in the Holy Spirit, for holy ends; not a body politic for any secular purpose. Thirdly, It is, and will be at last, a complete union. Father and Son have the same attributes, properties, and perfections; so have believers now, as far as they are sanctified, and when grace shall be perfected in glory they will be exactly consonant to each other, all changed into the same image.
As the centre of that oneness; that they may be one in us, all meeting here. There is one God and one Mediator; and herein believers are one, that they all agree to depend upon the favour of this one God as their felicity and the merit of this one Mediator as their righteousness. That is a conspiracy, not a union, which doth not centre in God as the end, and Christ as the way. All who are truly united to God and Christ, who are one, will soon be united one to another.
As a plea for that oneness. The Creator and Redeemer are one in interest and design; but to what purpose are they so, if all believers be not one body with Christ, and do not jointly receive grace for grace from him, as he has received it for them? Christ's design was to reduce revolted mankind to God: “Father,” says he, “let all that believe be one, that in one body they may be reconciled”, Ephesians 2:15-16 KJV Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; (16) And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: which speaks of the uniting of Jews and Gentiles in the church; that great mystery, that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, Ephesians 3:6 KJV That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: to which I think this prayer of Christ principally refers, it being one great thing he aimed at in his dying; and I wonder none of the expositors I have met with should so apply it. “Father, let the Gentiles that believe be incorporated with the believing Jews, and make of twain one new man.” Those words, I in them, and thou in me, show what that union is which is so necessary, not only to the beauty, but to the very being, of his church. First, Union with Christ: I in them. Christ dwelling in the hearts of believers is the life and soul of the new man. Secondly, Union with God through him: Thou in me, so as by me to be in them. Thirdly, Union with each other, resulting from these: that they hereby may be made perfect in one. We are complete in him.
The design of Christ in all his communications of light and grace to them: John 17:22 KJV And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: “The glory which thou gavest me, as the trustee or channel of conveyance, I have accordingly given them, to this intent, that they may be one, as we are one; so that those gifts will be in vain, if they be not one.”
Now these gifts are either, those that were conferred upon the apostles, and first planters of the church. The glory of being God's ambassadors to the world – the glory of working miracles – the glory of gathering a church out of the world, and erecting the throne of God's kingdom among men – this glory was given to Christ, and some of the honour he put upon them when he sent them to disciple all nations. Or, those that are given in common to all believers. The glory of being in covenant with the Father, and accepted of him, of being laid in his bosom, and designed for a place at his right hand, was the glory which the Father gave to the Redeemer, and he has confirmed it to the redeemed. This honour he says he hath given them, because he hath intended it for them, settled it upon them, and secured it to them upon their believing Christ's promises to be real gifts. This was given to him to give to them; it was conveyed to him in trust for them, and he was faithful to him that appointed him.
He gave it to them, that they might be one. First, to entitle them to the privilege of unity, that by virtue of their common relation to one God the Father, and one Lord Jesus Christ, they might be truly denominated one. The gift of the Spirit, that great glory which the Father gave to the Son, by him to be given to all believers, makes them one, for he works all in all, 1 Corinthians 12:4 KJV Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. Secondly, To engage them to the duty of unity. That in consideration of their agreement and communion in one creed and one covenant, one Spirit and one Bible – in consideration of what they have in one God and one Christ, and of what they hope for in one heaven, they may be of one mind and one mouth. Worldly glory sets men at variance; for if some be advanced others are eclipsed, and therefore, while the disciples dreamed of a temporal kingdom, they were ever and anon quarrelling; but spiritual honours being conferred alike upon all Christ's subjects, they being all made to our God kings and priests, there is no occasion for contest nor emulation. The more Christians are taken up with the glory Christ has given them, the less desirous they will be of vain-glory, and, consequently, the less disposed to quarrel.
He pleads the happy influence their oneness would have upon others, and the furtherance it would give to the public good. This is twice urged: John 17:21 KJV That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. That the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And again: John 17:23 KJV I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. That the world may know it, for without knowledge there can be no true faith. Believers must know what they believe, and why and wherefore they believe it. Those who believe at a venture, venture too far.
Now Christ here shows, His good-will to the world of mankind in general. Herein he is of his Father's mind, as we are sure he is in every thing, that he would have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth, 1 Timothy 2:4 KJV Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. Therefore it is his will that all means possible should be used, and no stone left unturned, for the conviction and conversion of the world. We know not who are chosen, but we must in our places do our utmost to further men's salvation, and take heed of doing any thing to hinder it.
The good fruit of the church's oneness; it will be an evidence of the truth of Christianity, and a means of bringing many to embrace it.
In general, it will recommend Christianity to the world, and to the good opinion of those that are without. First, The embodying of Christians in one society by the gospel charter will greatly promote Christianity. When the world shall see so many of those that were its children called out of its family, distinguished from others, and changed from what they themselves sometimes were, – when they shall see this society raised by the foolishness of preaching, and kept up by miracles of divine providence and grace, and how admirably well it is modelled and constituted, they will be ready to say, We will go with you, for we see that God is with you. Secondly, The uniting of Christians in love and charity is the beauty of their profession, and invites others to join with them, as the love that was among those primo-primitive Christians, Acts 2:42-43 KJV And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. (43) And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. Acts 4:32-33 KJV And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. (33) And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.
When Christianity, instead of causing quarrels about itself, makes all other strifes to cease, – when it cools the fiery, smooths the rugged, and disposes men to be kind and loving, courteous and beneficent, to all men, studious to preserve and promote peace in all relations and societies, this will recommend it to all that have any thing either of natural religion or natural affection in them.
In particular, it will beget in men good thoughts, First, Of Christ: They will know and believe that thou hast sent me, By this it will appear that Christ was sent of God, and that his doctrine was divine, in that his religion prevails to join so many of different capacities, tempers, and interests in other things, in one body by faith, with one heart by love. Certainly he was sent by the God of power, who fashions men's hearts alike, and the God of love and peace; when the worshippers of God are one, he is one, and his name one. Secondly, Of Christians: They will know that thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me.
Here is, the privilege of believers: the Father himself loveth them with a love resembling his love to his Son, for they are loved in him with an everlasting love. The evidence of their interest in this privilege, and that is their being one. By this it will appear that God loves us, if we love one another with a pure heart; for wherever the love of God is shed abroad in the heart it will change it into the same image. See how much good it would do to the world to know better how dear to God all good Christians are. The Jews had a saying, If the world did but know the worth of good men, they would hedge them about with pearls. Those that have so much of God's love should have more of ours.
Unbelief often suggests things to discourage believers, against which God has expressly guarded. Spiritual blessings are unspeakably better than having sons and daughters; for children are a care, and may prove a grief and shame, but the blessings we partake of in God's house, are comforts which cannot be made bitter. Those who love the Lord truly, will serve him faithfully, and then his commandments are not grievous. Three things are promised. Assistance: I will not only bid them welcome, but incline them to come. Acceptance, and comfort: though they came mourning to the house of prayer, they shall go away rejoicing. They shall find ease by casting their cares and burdens upon God. Many a sorrowful spirit has been made joyful in the house of prayer. The Gentiles shall be one body with the Jews, that, as Christ says, John 10:16 KJV And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. there may be one fold and one Shepherd. Thanks be to God that none are separated from him except by wilful sin and unbelief; and if we come to him, we shall be accepted through the sacrifice of our great High Priest.
Isaiah 56:3-8 KJV Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree. (4) For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant; (5) Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off. (6) Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; (7) Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people. (8) The Lord GOD which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him.
Great encouragement given to strangers that were wiling to come under the bonds of the covenant, assuring them of the blessings of the covenant.
The prophet is here, in God's name, encouraging those that were hearty in joining themselves to God and yet laboured under great discouragements.
Some were discouraged because they were not of the seed of Abraham. They had joined themselves to the Lord, and bound their souls with a bond to be his for ever (this is the root and life of religion, to break off from the world and the flesh, and devote ourselves entirely to the service and honour of God); but they questioned whether God would accept them, because they were of the sons of the stranger, Isaiah 56:3 KJV Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree. They were Gentiles, strangers to the commonwealth of Israel and aliens from the covenants of promise, and therefore feared they had no part nor lot in the matter. They said, “The Lord has utterly separated me from his people, and will not own me as one of them, nor admit me to their privileges.” It was often said that there should be one law for the stranger and for him that was born in the land, Exodus 12:49 KJV One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you. and yet they came to this melancholy conclusion.
Note, Unbelief often suggests things to the discouragement of good people which are directly contrary to what God himself has said, things which he has expressly guarded against.
Let not the sons of the stranger therefore say thus, for they have no reason to say it.
Note, Ministers must have answers ready for the disquieting fears and jealousies of weak Christians, which, how unreasonable soever, they must take notice of.
Others were discouraged because they were not fathers in Israel. The eunuch said, Behold, I am a dry tree. So he looked upon himself, and it was his grief; so others looked upon him, and it was his reproach. He was thought to be of no use because he had no children, nor was ever likely to have any. This was then the more grievous because eunuchs were not admitted to be priests, Leviticus 21:20 KJV Or crookbackt, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken; nor to enter into the congregation, Deuteronomy 23:1 KJV He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD. and because the promise of a numerous posterity was the particular blessing of Israel and the more valuable because from among them the Messiah was to come. Yet God would not have the eunuchs to make the worst of their case, nor to think that they should be excluded from the gospel church, and from being spiritual priests, because they were shut out from the congregation of Israel and the Levitical priesthood; no, as the taking down of the partition wall, contained in ordinances, admitted the Gentiles, so it let in likewise those that had been kept out by ceremonial pollutions. Yet, by the reply here given to this suggestion, it should seem the chief thing which the eunuch laments in his case is his being written childless.
Now suitable encouragements are given to each of these.
To those who have no children of their own, who, though they had the honour to be the children of the church and the covenant themselves, yet had none to whom they might transmit that honour, none to receive the sign of circumcision and the privileges secured by that sign.
Now observe, what a good character they have, though they lie under this ignominy and affliction; and those only are entitled to the following comforts who in some measure answer to these characters.
They keep God's sabbaths as he has appointed them to be kept. In the primitive times, if a Christian were asked, “Hast thou kept holy the Lord's day?” He would readily answer, “I am a Christian, and dare not do otherwise.”
In their whole conversation they choose those things that please God. They do that which is good; they do it with a sincere design to please God in it; they do it of choice, and with delight. If sometimes, through infirmity, they come short in doing that which pleases God, yet they choose it, they endeavour after it, and aim at it. Note, Whatever is God's pleasure should without dispute be our choice.
They take hold of his covenant, and that is a thing that pleases God as much as any thing. The covenant of grace is proposed and proffered to us in the gospel; to take hold of it is to consent to it, to accept the offer and come up to the terms, deliberately and sincerely to take God to be to us a God and to give up ourselves to him to be to him a people. Taking hold of the covenant denotes an entire and resolute consent to it, taking hold as those that are afraid of coming short, catching at it as a good bargain, and as those that are resolved never to let it go, for it is our life: and we take hold of it as a criminal took hold of the horns of the altar to which he fled for refuge.
What a great deal of comfort they may have if they answer to this character, though they are not built up into families: Isaiah 56:5 KJV Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off. Unto them will I give a better place and name. It is supposed that there is a place and a name, which we have from sons and daughters, that is valuable and desirable. It is a pleasing notion we have that we live in our children when we are dead. But there is a better place, and a better name, which those have that are in covenant with God, and it is sufficient to counterbalance the want of the former. A place and a name denote rest and reputation; a place to live comfortably in themselves, and a name to live creditably with among their neighbours; they shall be happy, and may be easy both at home and abroad. Though they have not children to be the music of their house, or arrows in their quiver, to keep them in countenance when they speak with their enemies in the gate, yet they shall have a place and a name more than equivalent.
For, God will give it to them, will give it to them by promise; he will himself be both their habitation and their glory, their place and their name.
He will give it to them in his house, and within his walls; there they shall have a place, shall be planted so as to take root, Psalms 92:13 KJV Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. shall dwell all the days of their life, Psalms 27:4 KJV One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple. They shall be at home in communion with God, as Anna, that departed not from the temple night nor day. There they shall have a name. A name for the good things with God and good people is a name better than that of sons and daughters. Our relation to God, our interest in Christ, our title to the blessings of the covenant, and our hopes of eternal life, are things that give us in God's house a blessed place and a blessed name.
It shall be an everlasting name, that shall never be extinct, shall never be cut off; like the place and name of angels, who therefore marry not, because they die not. Spiritual blessings are unspeakably better than those of sons and daughters; for children are a certain care and may prove the greatest grief and shame of a man's life, but the blessings we partake of in God's house are a sure and constant joy and honour, comforts which cannot be embittered.
To those that are themselves the children of strangers.
It is here promised that they shall now be welcome to the church, Isaiah 56:6-7 KJV Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; (7) Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people. When God's Israel come out of Babylon, let them bring as many of their neighbours along with them as they can persuade to come, and God will find room enough for them all in his house.
And here, (as before) we may observe, upon what terms they shall be welcome. Let them know that God's Israel, when they come out of Babylon, will not be plagued, as they were when they came out of Egypt, with a mixed multitude, that went with them, but were not cordially for them; no, the sons of the strangers shall have a place and a name in God's house provided, that they forsake other gods, all rivals and pretenders whatsoever, and join themselves to the Lord, so as to become one spirit, 1 Corinthians 6:17 KJV But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.
That they join themselves to him as subjects to their prince and soldiers to their general, by an oath of fidelity and obedience, to serve him, not occasionally, as one would serve a turn, but to be constantly his servants, entirely subject to his command, and devoted to his interest.
That they join themselves to him as friends to his honour and the interests of his kingdom in the world, to love the name of the Lord, to be well pleased with all the discoveries he has made of himself and all the memorials they make of him. Observe, Serving him and loving him go together; for those that love him truly will serve him faithfully, and that obedience is most acceptable to him, as well as most pleasant to us, which flows from a principle of love, for then his commandments are not grievous, 1 John 5:3 KJV For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
That they keep the sabbath from polluting it; for the stranger that is within thy gates is particularly required to do that.
That they take hold of the covenant, that is, that they come under the bonds of it, and put in for the benefits of it.
To what privileges they shall be welcome, Isaiah 56:7 KJV Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people. Three things are here promised them, in their coming to God:
Assistance: “I will bring them to my holy mountain, not only bid them welcome when they come, but incline them to come, will show them the way, and lead them in it.” David himself prays that God by his light and truth would bring them to his holy hill, Psalms 43:3 KJV O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles. And the sons of the stranger shall be under the same guidance. The church is God's holy hill, on which he hath set his King, and, in bringing them to Zion Hill, he brings them to be subjects to Zion's King, as well as worshippers in Zion's holy temple.
Acceptance: “Their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted on my altar, and be never the less acceptable for being theirs, though they are sons of the stranger.” The prayers and praises (those spiritual sacrifices) of devout Gentiles shall be as pleasing to God as those of the pious Jews, and no difference shall be made between them; for, though they are Gentiles by birth, yet through grace they shall be looked upon as the believing seed of faithful Abraham and the praying seed of wrestling Jacob, for in Christ Jesus there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision.
Comfort. They shall not only be accepted, but they themselves shall have the pleasure of it: I will make them joyful in my house of prayer. They shall have grace, not only to serve God, but to serve him cheerfully and with gladness, and that shall make the service the more acceptable to him; for, when we sing in the ways of the Lord, then great is the glory of our God. They shall go away and eat their bread with joy, because God now accepts their works, Ecclesiastes 9:7 KJV Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works. Nay, though they came mourning to the house of prayer, they shall go away rejoicing, for they shall there find such ease, by casting their cares and burdens upon God, and referring themselves to him, that, like Hannah, they shall go away and their countenance shall be no more sad. Many a sorrowful spirit has been made joyful in the house of prayer.
It is here promised that multitudes of the Gentiles shall come to the church, not only that the few who come dropping in shall be made welcome, but that great numbers shall come in, and the door be thrown open to them: My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people. The temple was then God's house, and to that Christ applies these words, Matthew 21:13 KJV And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. but with an eye to it as a type of the gospel church, Hebrews 9:8-9 KJV The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: (9) Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; For Christ calls it his house, Hebrews 3:6 KJV But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.
Now concerning this house it is promised, that it shall not be a house of sacrifice, but a house of prayer. The religious meetings of God's people shall be meetings for prayer, in which they shall join together, as a token of their united faith and mutual love.
That it shall be a house of prayer, not for the people of the Jews only, but for all people. This was fulfilled when Peter was made, not only to perceive it himself, but to tell it to the world, that in every nation he that fears God and works righteousness is accepted of him, Acts 10:35 KJV But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
It had been declared again and again that the stranger that comes nigh shall be put to death, but Gentiles shall now be looked upon no longer as strangers and foreigners, Ephesians 2:19 KJV Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
And it appears by Solomon's prayer, at the dedication of the temple, both that it was primarily intended for a house of prayer and that strangers should be welcome to it, 1 Kings 8:30 KJV And hearken thou to the supplication of thy servant, and of thy people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place: and hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place: and when thou hearest, forgive. 1 Kings 8:41 KJV Moreover concerning a stranger, that is not of thy people Israel, but cometh out of a far country for thy name's sake; 1 Kings 8:43 KJV Hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth to thee for: that all people of the earth may know thy name, to fear thee, as do thy people Israel; and that they may know that this house, which I have builded, is called by thy name.
And it is intimated here Isaiah 56:8 KJV The Lord GOD which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him. that when the Gentiles are called in they shall be incorporated into one body with the Jews, that (as Christ says, John 10:16 KJV And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.) there may be one fold and one Shepherd; for, God will gather the outcasts of Israel. Many of the Jews that had by their unbelief cast themselves out shall by faith be brought in again, a remnant according to the election of grace,Romans 11:5 KJV Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
Christ came to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, Matthew 15:24 KJV But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. to gather their outcasts, Psalms 147:2 KJV The LORD doth build up Jerusalem: he gathereth together the outcasts of Israel. to restore their preserved, Isaiah 49:6 KJV And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth. and to be their glory, Luke 2:32 KJV A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
He will gather others also to him, besides his own outcasts that are gathered to him. Or, though some of the Gentiles have come over now and then into the church, that shall not serve (as some may think) to answer the extent of these promises; no, there are still more and more to be brought in: “I will gather others to him besides these; these are but the first-fruits in comparison with the harvest that shall be gathered for Christ in the nations of the earth, when the fulness of the Gentiles shall come in.”
Note, The church is a growing body: when some are gathered to it we may still hope there shall be more, till the mystical body be completed. Other sheep I have.
The disciples wondered that Christ talked thus with a Samaritan. Yet they knew it was for some good reason, and for some good end. Thus when particular difficulties occur in the word and providence of God, it is good to satisfy ourselves that all is well that Jesus Christ says and does. Two things affected the woman. The extent of his knowledge. Christ knows all the thoughts, words, and actions, of all the children of men. And the power of his word. He told her secret sins with power. She fastened upon that part of Christ's discourse, many would think she would have been most shy of repeating; but the knowledge of Christ, into which we are led by conviction of sin, is most likely to be sound and saving. They came to him: those who would know Christ, must meet him where he records his name.
Our Master has left us an example, that we may learn to do the will of God as he did; with diligence, as those that make a business of it; with delight and pleasure in it. Christ compares his work to harvest-work. The harvest is appointed and looked for before it comes; so was the gospel. Harvest-time is busy time; all must be then at work. Harvest-time is a short time, and harvest-work must be done then, or not at all; so the time of the gospel is a season, which if once past, cannot be recalled. God sometimes uses very weak and unlikely instruments for beginning and carrying on a good work. Our Saviour, by teaching one poor woman, spread knowledge to a whole town. Blessed are those who are not offended at Christ. Those taught of God, are truly desirous to learn more. It adds much to the praise of our love to Christ and his word, if it conquers prejudices. Their faith grew. In the matter of it: they believed him to be the Saviour, not only of the Jews but of the world. In the certainty of it: we know that this is indeed the Christ. And in the ground of it, for we have heard him ourselves.
John 4:27-42 KJV And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her? (28) The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, (29) Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? (30) Then they went out of the city, and came unto him. (31) In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat. (32) But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. (33) Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat? (34) Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. (35) Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. (36) And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. (37) And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. (38) I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours. (39) And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did. (40) So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days. (41) And many more believed because of his own word; (42) And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.
The notice which the woman gave of him to the city. Christ's talk with his disciples in the meantime. The good effect of this among the Samaritans.
We have here the remainder of the story of what happened when Christ was in Samaria, after the long conference he had with the woman.
The interruption given to this discourse by the disciples' coming. It is probable that much more was said than is recorded; but just when the discourse was brought to a head, when Christ had made himself known to her as the true Messiah, then came the disciples. The daughters of Jerusalem shall not stir up nor awake my love till he please.
They wondered at Christ's converse with this woman, marvelled that he talked thus earnestly (as perhaps they observed at a distance) with a woman, a strange woman alone (he used to be more reserved), especially with a Samaritan woman, that was not of the lost sheep of the house of Israel; they thought their Master should be as shy of the Samaritans as the other Jews were, at least that he should not preach the gospel to them. They wondered he should condescend to talk with such a poor contemptible woman, forgetting what despicable men they themselves were when Christ first called them into fellowship with himself.
Yet they acquiesced in it; they knew it was for some good reason, and some good end, of which he was not bound to give them an account, and therefore none of them asked, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her? Thus, when particular difficulties occur in the word and providence of God, it is good to satisfy ourselves with this in general, that all is well which Jesus Christ saith and doeth. Perhaps there was something amiss in their marveling that Christ talked with the woman: it was something like the Pharisees being offended at his eating with publicans and sinners. But, whatever they thought, they said nothing. If thou hast thought evil at any time, lay thy hand upon thy mouth, to keep that evil thought from turning into an evil word, Proverbs 30:32 KJV If thou hast done foolishly in lifting up thyself, or if thou hast thought evil, lay thine hand upon thy mouth. Psalms 39:1-3 KJV I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me. (2) I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred. (3) My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue, The notice which the woman gave to her neighbours of the extraordinary person she had happily met with, John 4:28-29 KJV The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, (29) Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?
Observe here, how she forgot her errand to the well, John 4:28 KJV The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Therefore, because the disciples were come, and broke up the discourse, and perhaps she observed they were not pleased with it, she went her way. She withdrew, in civility to Christ, that he might have leisure to eat his dinner. She delighted in his discourse, but would not be rude; every thing is beautiful in its season. She supposed that Jesus, when he had dined, would go forward in his journey, and therefore hastened to tell her neighbours, that they might come quickly. Yet a little while is the light with you. See how she improved time; when one good work was done, she applied herself to another. When opportunities of getting good cease, or are interrupted, we should seek opportunities of doing good; when we have done hearing the word, then is a time to be speaking of it. Notice is taken of her leaving her water-pot or pail.
She left it in kindness to Christ, that he might have water to drink; he turned water into wine for others, but not for himself. Compare this with Rebecca's civility to Abraham's servant, Genesis 24:18 KJV And she said, Drink, my lord: and she hasted, and let down her pitcher upon her hand, and gave him drink. and see that promise, Matthew 10:42 KJV And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.
She left it that she might make the more haste into the city, to carry thither these good tidings. Those whose business it is to publish the name of Christ must not encumber or entangle themselves with any thing that will retard or hinder them therein. When the disciples are to be made fishers of men they must forsake all.
She left her water-pot, as one careless of it, being wholly taken up with better things.
Note, Those who are brought to the knowledge of Christ will show it by a holy contempt of this world and the things of it. And those who are newly acquainted with the things of God must be excused, if at first they be so taken up with the new world into which they are brought that the things of this world seem to be for a time wholly neglected. Mr. Arthur Hildersham (1563-1631), in one of his sermons on this verse, from this instance largely justifies those who leave their worldly business on week-days to go to hear sermons.
How she minded her errand to the town, for her heart was upon it. She went into the city, and said to the men, probably the aldermen, the men in authority, whom, it may be, she found met together upon some public business; or to the men, that is, to every man she met in the streets; she proclaimed it in the chief places of concourse: Come, see a man who told me all things that ever I did. Is not this the Christ?
Observe, how solicitous she was to have her friends and neighbours acquainted with Christ. When she had found that treasure, she called together her friends and neighbours (as Luke 15:9 KJV And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.), not only to rejoice with her, but to share with her, knowing there was enough to enrich herself and all that would partake with her.
Note, They that have been themselves with Jesus, and have found comfort in him, should do all they can to bring others to him. Has he done us the honour to make himself known to us? Let us do him the honour to make him known to others; nor can we do ourselves a greater honour. This woman becomes an apostle. Quae scortum fuerat egressa, regreditur magistra evangelica – She who went forth a specimen of impurity returns a teacher of evangelical truth, saith Aretius. Christ had told her to call her husband, which she thought was warrant enough to call every body. She went into the city, the city where she dwelt, among her kinsfolks and acquaintance. Though every man is my neighbour that I have opportunity of doing good to, yet I have most opportunity, and therefore lie under the greatest obligations, to do good to those that live near me. Where the tree falls, there let it be made useful.
How fair and ingenuous she was in the notice she gave them concerning this stranger she had met with.
She tells them plainly what induced her to admire him: He has told me all things that ever I did. No more is recorded than what he told her of her husbands; but it is not improbable that he had told her of more of her faults. Or, his telling her that which she knew he could not by any ordinary means come to the knowledge of convinced her that he could have told her all that she ever did. If he has a divine knowledge, it must be omniscience. He told her that which none knew but God and her own conscience. Two things affected her: – First, the extent of his knowledge. We ourselves cannot tell all things that ever we did (many things pass unheeded, and more pass away and are forgotten); but Jesus Christ knows all the thoughts, words, and actions, of all the children of men; see Hebrews 4:13 KJV Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. He hath said, I know thy works. Secondly, The power of his word. This made a great impression upon her, that he told her, her secret sins with such an unaccountable power and energy that, being told of one, she is convinced of all, and judged of all. She does not say, “Come, see a man that has told me strange things concerning religious worship, and the laws of it, that has decided the controversy between this mountain and Jerusalem, a man that calls himself the Messias;” but, “Come see a man that has told me of my sins.” She fastens upon that part of Christ's discourse which one would think she would have been most shy of repeating; but experimental proofs of the power of Christ's word and Spirit are of all others the most cogent and convincing; and that knowledge of Christ into which we are led by the conviction of sin and humiliation is most likely to be sound and saving.
She invites them to come and see him of whom she had conceived so high an opinion. Not barely, “Come and look upon him” (she does not invite them to him as a show), but, “Come and converse with him; come and hear his wisdom, as I have done, and you will be of my mind.” She would not undertake to manage the arguments which had convinced her, in such a manner as to convince others; all that see the evidence of truth themselves are not able to make others see it; but, “Come, and talk with him, and you will find such a power in his word as far exceeds all other evidence.”
Note, Those who can do little else towards the conviction and conversion of others may and should bring them to those means of grace which they themselves have found effectual. Jesus was now at the town's end. “Now come see him.” When opportunities of getting the knowledge of God are brought to our doors we are inexcusable if we neglect them; shall we not go over the threshold to see him whose day prophets and kings desired to see?
She resolves to appeal to themselves, and their own sentiments upon the trial. Is not this the Christ? She does not peremptorily say, “He is the Messiah,” how clear soever she was in her own mind, and yet she very prudently mentions the Messiah, of whom otherwise they would not have thought, and then refers it to themselves; she will not impose her faith upon them, but only propose it to them. By such fair but forcible appeals as these men's judgments and consciences are sometimes taken hold of ere they are aware.
What success she had in this invitation: They went out of the city, and came to him, John 4:30 KJV Then they went out of the city, and came unto him. Though it might seem very improbable that a woman of so small a figure, and so ill a character, should have the honour of the first discovery of the Messiah among the Samaritans, yet it pleased God to incline their hearts to take notice of her report, and not to slight it as an idle tale. Time was when lepers were the first that brought tidings to Samaria of a great deliverance, 2 Kings 7:3 KJV And there were four leprous men at the entering in of the gate: and they said one to another, Why sit we here until we die? They came unto him; did not send for him into the city to them, but in token of their respect to him, and the earnestness of their desire to see him, they went out to him. Those that would know Christ must meet him where he records his name.
Christ's discourse with his disciples while the woman was absent. See how industrious our Lord Jesus was to redeem time, to husband every minute of it, and to fill up the vacancies of it. When the disciples were gone into the town, his discourse with the woman was edifying, and suited to her case; when she was gone into the town, his discourse with them was no less edifying, and suited to their case; it were well if we could thus gather up the fragments of time, that none of it may be lost. Two things are observable in this discourse:
How Christ expresses the delight which he himself had in his work. His work was to seek and save that which was lost, to go about doing good. Now with this work we here find him wholly taken up.
For, He neglected his meat and drink for his work. When he sat down upon the well, he was weary, and needed refreshment; but this opportunity of saving souls made him forget his weariness and hunger. And he minded his food so little that, His disciples were forced to invite him to it: They prayed him, they pressed him, saying, Master, eat. It was an instance of their love to him that they invited him, lest he should be faint and sick for want of some support; but it was a greater instance of his love to souls that he needed invitation. Let us learn hence a holy indifference even to the needful supports of life, in comparison with spiritual things. He minded it so little that they suspected he had had meat brought him in their absence: John 4:33 KJV Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat? Has any man brought him aught to eat? He had so little appetite for his dinner that they were ready to think he had dined already. Those that make religion their business will, when any of its affairs are to be attended, prefer them before their food; as Abraham's servant, that would not eat till he had told his errand, Genesis 24:33 KJV And there was set meat before him to eat: but he said, I will not eat, until I have told mine errand. And he said, Speak on. and Samuel, that would not sit down till David was anointed, 1 Samuel 16:11 KJV And Samuel said unto Jesse, Are here all thy children? And he said, There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Send and fetch him: for we will not sit down till he come hither.
He made his work his meat and drink. The work he had to do among the Samaritans, the prospect he now had of doing good to many, this was meat and drink to him; it was the greatest pleasure and satisfaction imaginable. Never did a hungry man, or an epicure, expect a plentiful feast with so much desire, nor feed upon its dainties with so much delight, as our Lord Jesus expected and improved an opportunity of doing good to souls. Concerning this he saith, That it was such meat as the disciples knew not of. They did not imagine that he had any design or prospect of planting his gospel among the Samaritans; this was a piece of usefulness they never thought of.
Note, Christ by his gospel and Spirit does more good to the souls of men than his own disciples know of or expect. This may be said of good Christians too, who live by faith, that they have meat to eat which others know not of, joy with which a stranger does not intermeddle. Now this word made them ask, Has any man brought him aught to eat? so apt were even his own disciples to understand him after a corporal and carnal manner when he used similitudes.
That the reason why his work was his meat and drink was because it was his Father's work, his Father's will: My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, John 4:34 KJV Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.
Note, First, The salvation of sinners is the will of God, and the instruction of them in order thereunto is his work. See 1 Timothy 2:4 KJV Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. There is a chosen remnant whose salvation is in a particular manner his will. Secondly, Christ was sent into the world on this errand, to bring people to God, to know him and to be happy in him. Thirdly, He made this work his business and delight. When his body needed food, his mind was so taken up with this that he forgot both hunger and thirst, both meat and drink. Nothing could be more grateful to him than doing good; when he was invited to meat he went, that he might do good, for that was his meat always. Fourthly, He was not only ready upon all occasions to go to his work, but he was earnest and in care to go through it, and to finish his work in all the parts of it. He resolved never to quit it, nor lay it down, till he could say, It is finished. Many have zeal to carry them out at first, but not zeal to carry them on to the last; but our Lord Jesus was intent upon finishing his work. Our Master has herein left us an example, that we may learn to do the will of God as he did; With diligence and close application, as those that make a business of it. With delight and pleasure in it, as in our element. With constancy and perseverance; not only minding to do, but aiming to finish, our work.
See here how Christ, having expressed his delight in his work, excites his disciples to diligence in their work; they were workers with him, and therefore should be workers like him, and make their work their meat, as he did. The work they had to do was to preach the gospel, and to set up the kingdom of the Messiah. Now this work he here compares to harvest work, the gathering in of the fruits of the earth; and this similitude he prosecutes throughout the discourse.
Note, gospel time is harvest time, and gospel work harvest work. The harvest is before appointed and expected; so was the gospel. Harvest time is busy time; all hands must be then at work: every one must work for himself, that he may reap of the graces and comforts of the gospel: ministers must work for God, to gather in souls to him. Harvest time is opportunity, a short and limited time, which will not last always; and harvest work is work that must be done then or not at all; so the time of the enjoyment of the gospel is a particular season, which must be improved for its proper purposes; for, once past, it cannot be recalled.
The disciples were to gather in a harvest of souls for Christ. Now he here suggests three things to them to quicken them to diligence:
That it was necessary work, and the occasion for it very urgent and pressing: John 4:35 KJV Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. You say, It is four months to harvest; but I say, The fields are already white. Here is, a saying of Christ's disciples concerning the corn-harvest; there are yet four months, and then comes harvest, which may be taken either generally – “You say, for the encouragement of the sower at seed-time, that it will be but four months to the harvest.” With us it is but about four months between the barley-sowing and the barley-harvest, probably it was so with them as to other grain; or, “Particularly, now at this time you reckon it will be four months to next harvest, according to the ordinary course of providence.” The Jews' harvest began at the Passover, about Easter, much earlier in the year than ours, by which it appears that this journey of Christ from Judea to Galilee was in the winter, about the end of November, for he travelled all weathers to do good. God has not only promised us a harvest every year, but has appointed the weeks of harvest; so that we know when to expect it, and take our measures accordingly.
A saying of Christ's concerning the gospel harvest; his heart was as much upon the fruits of his gospel as the hearts of others were upon the fruits of the earth; and to this he would lead the thoughts of his disciples: Look, the fields are already white unto the harvest. First, Here in this place, where they now were, there was harvest work for him to do. They would have him to eat, John 4:31 KJV In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat. “Eat!” saith he, “I have other work to do, that is more needful; look what crowds of Samaritans are coming out of the town over the fields that are ready to receive the gospel;” probably there were many now in view. People's forwardness to hear the word is a great excitement to ministers' diligence and liveliness in preaching it. Secondly, In other places, all the country over, there was harvest work enough for them all to do. “Consider the regions, think of the state of the country, and you will find there are multitudes as ready to receive the gospel as a field of corn that is fully ripe is ready to be reaped.” The fields were now made white to the harvest, by the decree of God revealed in the prophecies of the Old Testament. Now was the time when the gathering of the people should be to Christ, Genesis 49:10 KJV The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. when great accessions should be made to the church and the bounds of it should be enlarged, and therefore it was time for them to be busy. It is a great encouragement to us to engage in any work for God, if we understand by the signs of the times that this is the proper season for that work, for then it will prosper.
By the disposition of men. John Baptist had made ready a people prepared for the Lord, Luke 1:17 KJV And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. Since he began to preach the kingdom of God every man pressed into it, Luke 16:16 KJV The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. This, therefore, was a time for the preachers of the gospel to apply themselves to their work with the utmost vigour, to thrust in their sickle, when the harvest was ripe, Revelation 14:15 KJV And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. It was necessary to work now, pity that such a season should be let slip. If the corn that is ripe be not reaped, it will shed and be lost, and the fowls will pick it up. If souls that are under convictions, and have some good inclinations, be not helped now, their hopeful beginnings will come to nothing, and they will be a prey to pretenders. It was also easy to work now; when the people's hearts are prepared the work will be done suddenly, 2 Chronicles 29:36 KJV And Hezekiah rejoiced, and all the people, that God had prepared the people: for the thing was done suddenly. It cannot but quicken ministers to take pains in preaching the word when they observe that people take pleasure in hearing it.
That it was profitable and advantageous work, which they themselves would be gainers by: John 4:36 KJV And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. “He that reapeth receiveth wages, and so shall you.” Christ has undertaken to pay those well whom he employs in his work; for he will never do as Jehoiakim did, who used his neighbour's service without wages, Jeremiah 22:13 KJV Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that useth his neighbour's service without wages, and giveth him not for his work; or those who by fraud kept back the hire of those particularly who reaped their corn-fields, James 5:4 KJV Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. Christ's reapers, though they cry to him day and night, shall never have cause to cry against him, nor to say they served a hard Master. He that reapeth, not only shall but does receive wages. There is a present reward in the service of Christ, and his work is its own wages. Christ's reapers have fruit: He gathereth fruit unto life eternal; that is, he shall both save himself and those that hear him, 1 Timothy 4:16 KJV Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. If the faithful reaper save his own soul, that is fruit abounding to his account, it is fruit gathered to life eternal; and if, over and above this, he be instrumental to save the souls of others too, there is fruit gathered. Souls gathered to Christ are fruit, good fruit, the fruit that Christ seeks for; Romans 1:13 KJV Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles. it is gathered for Christ; Song of Solomon 8:11-12 KJV Solomon had a vineyard at Baalhamon; he let out the vineyard unto keepers; every one for the fruit thereof was to bring a thousand pieces of silver. (12) My vineyard, which is mine, is before me: thou, O Solomon, must have a thousand, and those that keep the fruit thereof two hundred. it is gathered to life eternal. This is the comfort of faithful ministers, that their work has a tendency to the eternal salvation of precious souls. They have joy: That he that sows and they that reap may rejoice together. The minister who is the happy instrument of beginning a good work is he that sows, as John Baptist; he that is employed to carry it on and perfect it is he that reaps: and both shall rejoice together.
Note, First, Though God is to have all the glory of the success of the gospel, yet faithful ministers may themselves take the comfort of it. The reapers share in the joy of harvest, though the profits belong to the master, 1 Thessalonians 2:19 KJV For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?
Secondly, Those ministers who are variously gifted and employed should be so far from envying one another that they should rather mutually rejoice in each other's success and usefulness. Though all Christ's ministers are not alike serviceable, nor alike successful, yet, if they have obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful, they shall all enter together into the joy of their Lord at last.
That it was easy work, and work that was half done to their hands by those that were gone before them: One soweth, and another reapeth, John 4:37-38 KJV And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. (38) I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours. This sometimes denotes a grievous judgment upon him that sows, Micah 6:15 KJV Thou shalt sow, but thou shalt not reap; thou shalt tread the olives, but thou shalt not anoint thee with oil; and sweet wine, but shalt not drink wine. Deuteronomy 28:30 KJV Thou shalt betroth a wife, and another man shall lie with her: thou shalt build an house, and thou shalt not dwell therein: thou shalt plant a vineyard, and shalt not gather the grapes thereof. Thou shalt sow, and another shall reap; as Deuteronomy 6:11 KJV And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full; Houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not. So here. Moses, and the prophets, and John Baptist, had paved the way to the gospel, had sown the good seed which the New Testament ministers did in effect but gather the fruit of. I send you to reap that whereon you bestowed, in comparison, no labour. Isaiah 40:3-5 KJV The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (4) Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: (5) And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
This intimates two things concerning the Old Testament ministry: – First, That it was very much short of the New Testament ministry. Moses and the prophets sowed, but they could not be said to reap, so little did they see of the fruit of their labours. Their writings have done much more good since they left us than ever their preaching did. Secondly, That it was very serviceable to the New Testament ministry, and made way for it. The writings of the prophets, which were read in the synagogues every sabbath day, raised people's expectations of the Messiah, and so prepared them to bid him welcome. Had it not been for the seed sown by the prophets, this Samaritan woman could not have said, We know that Messias cometh. The writings of the Old Testament are in some respects more useful to us than they could be to those to whom they were first written, because better understood by the accomplishment of them. See 1 Peter 1:12 KJV Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into. Hebrews 4:2 KJV For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. Romans 16:25-26 KJV Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, (26) But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:
This also intimates two things concerning the ministry of the apostles of Christ. First, That it was a fruitful ministry: they were reapers that gathered in a great harvest of souls to Jesus Christ, and did more in seven years towards the setting up of the kingdom of God among men than the prophets of the Old Testament had done in twice so many ages. Secondly, That it was much facilitated, especially among the Jews, to whom they were first sent, by the writings of the prophets. The prophets sowed in tears, crying out, We have laboured in vain; the apostles reaped in joy, saying, Thanks be to God, who always causeth us to triumph.
Note, From the labours of ministers that are dead and gone much good fruit may be reaped by the people that survive them and the ministers that succeed them. John Baptist, and those that assisted him, had laboured, and the disciples of Christ entered into their labours, built upon their foundation, and reaped the fruit of what they sowed. See what reason we have to bless God for those that are gone before us, for their preaching and their writing, for what they did and suffered in their day, for we are entered into their labours; their studies and services have made our work the easier. And when the ancient and modern labourers, those that came into the vineyard at the third hour and those that came in at the eleventh, meet in the day of account, they will be so far from envying one another the honour of their respective services that both they that sowed and they that reaped shall rejoice together; and the great Lord of thee harvest shall have the glory of all.
The good effect which this visit Christ made to the Samaritans (en passant) had upon them, and the fruit which was now presently gathered among them. See what impressions were made on them, By the woman's testimony concerning Christ; though a single testimony, and of one of no good report, and the testimony no more than this, He told me all that ever I did, yet it had a good influence upon many. One would have thought that his telling the woman of her secret sins would have made them afraid of coming to him, lest he should tell them also of their faults; but they will venture that rather than not be acquainted with one who they had reason to think was a prophet.
And two things they were brought to: To credit Christ's word: John 4:39 KJV And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did. Many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman. So far they believed on him that they took him for a prophet, and were desirous to know the mind of God from him; this is favourably interpreted as believing on him. Now observe, Who they were that believed: Many of the Samaritans, who were not of the house of Israel. Their faith was not only an aggravation of the unbelief of the Jews, from whom better might have been expected, but an earnest of the faith of the Gentiles, who would welcome that which the Jews rejected.
Upon what inducement they believed: For the saying of the woman. See here, First, How God is sometimes pleased to use very weak and unlikely instruments for the beginning and carrying on of a good work. A little maid directed a great prince to Elisha, 2 Kings 5:2 KJV And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman's wife. Secondly, How great a matter a little fire kindles. Our Saviour, by instructing one poor woman, spread instruction to a whole town. Let not ministers be either careless in their preaching, or discouraged in it, because their hearers are few and mean; for, by doing good to them, good may be conveyed to more, and those that are more considerable. If they teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, a great number may learn at second hand. Philip preached the gospel to a single gentleman in his chariot upon the road, and he not only received it himself, but carried it into his country, and propagated it there. Thirdly, See how good it is to speak experimentally of Christ and the things of God. This woman could say little of Christ, but what she did say she spoke feelingly: He told me all that ever I did. Those are most likely to do good that can tell what God has done for their souls, Psalms 66:16 KJV Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul.
They were brought to court his stay among them: John 4:40 KJV So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days. When they were come to him they besought him that he would tarry with them. Upon the woman's report, they believed him to be a prophet, and came to him; and, when they saw him, the meanness of his appearance and the manifest poverty of his outward condition did not lessen their esteem of him and expectations from him, but still they respected him as a prophet.
Note, There is hope of those who are got over the vulgar prejudices that men have against true worth in a low estate. Blessed are they that are not offended in Christ at the first sight.
So far were they from being offended in him that they begged he would tarry with them; that they might testify their respect to him, and treat him with the honour and kindness due to his character. God's prophets and ministers are welcome guests to all those who sincerely embrace the gospel; as to Lydia, Acts 16:15 KJV And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.
That they might receive instruction from him. Those that are taught of God are truly desirous to learn more, and to be better acquainted with Christ. Many would have flocked to one that would tell them their fortune, but these flocked to one that would tell them their faults, tell them of their sin and duty. The historian seems to lay an emphasis upon their being Samaritans; as Luke 10:33 KJV But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, Luke 17:16 KJV And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. The Samaritans had not that reputation for religion which the Jews had; yet the Jews, who saw Christ's miracles, drove him from them: while the Samaritans, who saw not his miracles, nor shared in his favours, invited him to them. The proof of the gospel's success is not always according to the probability, nor what is experienced according to what is expected either way. The Samaritans were taught by the custom of their country to be shy of conversation with the Jews. There were Samaritans that refused to let Christ go through their town, Luke 9:53 KJV And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. but these begged him to tarry with them.
Note, It adds much to the praise of our love to Christ and his word if it conquers the prejudices of education and custom, and sets light by the censures of men. Now we are told that Christ granted their request.
First, He abode there. Though it was a city of the Samaritans nearly adjoining to their temple, yet, when he was invited, he tarried there; though he was upon a journey, and had further to go, yet, when he had an opportunity of doing good, he abode there. That is no real hindrance which will further our account. Yet he abode there but two days, because he had other places to visit and other work to do, and those two days were as many as came to the share of this city, out of the few days of our Saviour's sojourning upon earth.
Secondly, We are told what impressions were made upon them by Christ's own word, and his personal converse with them; what he said and did there is not related, whether he healed their sick or no; but it is intimated, in the effect, that he said and did that which convinced them that he was the Christ; and the labours of a minister are best told by the good fruit of them. Their hearing of him had a good effect, but now their eyes saw him; and the effect was, that their number grew: John 4:41 KJV And many more believed because of his own word; Many more believed: many that would not be persuaded to go out of the town to him were yet wrought upon, when he came among them, to believe in him.
Note, It is comfortable to see the number of believers; and sometimes the zeal and forwardness of some may be a means to provoke many, and to stir them up to a holy emulation, Romans 11:14 KJV If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.
That their faith grew. Those who had been wrought upon by the report of the woman now saw cause to say, Now we believe, not because of thy saying, John 4:42 KJV And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.
Here are three things in which their faith grew: In the matter of it, or that which they did believe. Upon the testimony of the woman, they believed him to be a prophet, or some extraordinary messenger from heaven; but now that they have conversed with him they believe that he is the Christ, the Anointed One, the very same that was promised to the fathers and expected by them, and that, being the Christ, he is the Saviour of the world; for the work to which he was anointed was to save his people from their sins. They believed him to be the Saviour not only of the Jews, but of the world, which they hoped would take them in, though Samaritans, for it was promised that he should be Salvation to the ends of the earth, Isaiah 49:6 KJV And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.
In the certainty of it; their faith now grew up to a full assurance: We know that this is indeed the Christ; alēthōs – truly; not a pretended Christ, but a real one; not a typical Saviour, as many under the Old Testament, but truly one. Such an assurance as this of divine truths is what we should labour after; not only, We think it probable, and are willing to suppose that Jesus may be the Christ, but, We know that he is indeed the Christ.
In the ground of it, which was a kind of spiritual sensation and experience: Now we believe, not because of thy saying, for we have heard him ourselves. They had before believed for her saying, and it was well, it was a good step; but now they find further and much firmer footing for their faith: “Now we believe because we have heard him ourselves, and have heard such excellent and divine truths, accompanied with such commanding power and evidence, that we are abundantly satisfied and assured that this is the Christ.” This is like what the queen of Sheba said of Solomon: 1 Kings 10:6-7 KJV And she said to the king, It was a true report that I heard in mine own land of thy acts and of thy wisdom. (7) Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the half was not told me: thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard. The one half was not told me. The Samaritans, who believed for the woman's saying, now gained further light; for to him that hath shall be given; he that is faithful in a little shall be trusted with more. In this instance we may see how faith comes by hearing.
Faith comes to the birth by hearing the report of men. These Samaritans, for the sake of the woman's saying, believed so far as to come and see, to come and make trial. Thus the instructions of parents and preachers, and the testimony of the church and our experienced neighbours, recommend the doctrine of Christ to our acquaintance, and incline us to entertain it as highly probable.
But, Faith comes to its growth, strength, and maturity, by hearing the testimony of Christ himself; and this goes further, and recommends his doctrine to our acceptance, and obliges us to believe it as undoubtedly certain. We were induced to look into the scriptures by the saying of those who told us that in them they had found eternal life; but when we ourselves have found it in them too, have experienced the enlightening, convincing, regenerating, sanctifying, comforting, power of the word, now we believe, not for their saying, but because we have searched them ourselves: and our faith stands not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God, 1 Corinthians 2:5 KJV That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. 1 John 5:9-10 KJV If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. (10) He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.
The nations have not yet so submitted to the Prince of Peace, as to beat their swords into ploughshares, nor has war ceased. But very precious promises these are, relating to the gospel church, which will be more and more fulfilled, for He is faithful that has promised. There shall be a glorious church for God set up in the world, in the last days, in the days of the Messiah. Christ himself will build it upon a rock. The Gentiles worshipped their idol gods; but in the period spoken of, the people will cleave to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and delight in doing his will. The word “halteth,” describes those who walk not according to the Divine word. The collecting the captives from Babylon was an earnest of healing, purifying, and prospering the church; and the reign of Christ shall continue till succeeded by the everlasting kingdom of heaven. Let us stir up each other to attend the ordinances of God, that we may learn his holy ways, and walk in them, receiving the law from his hands, which, being written in our hearts by his Spirit, may show our interest in the Redeemer's righteousness.
Micah 4:1-8 KJV But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. (2) And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. (3) And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (4) But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it. (5) For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever. (6) In that day, saith the LORD, will I assemble her that halteth, and I will gather her that is driven out, and her that I have afflicted; (7) And I will make her that halted a remnant, and her that was cast far off a strong nation: and the LORD shall reign over them in mount Zion from henceforth, even for ever. (8) And thou, O tower of the flock, the strong hold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem.
Comparing this chapter with the close of the foregoing chapter, the comfortable promises here with the terrible threatenings there, we may, with the apostle, “behold the goodness and severity of God,” Romans 11:22 KJV Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. towards the Jewish church which fell, severity when Zion was ploughed as a field, but towards the Christian church, which was built upon the ruins of it, goodness, great goodness; for it is here promised, that it shall be advanced and enlarged by the accession of the nations to it. That it shall be protected in tranquility and peace. That it shall be kept close, and constant, and faithful to God. That under Christ's government, all its grievances shall be redressed. That it shall have an ample and flourishing dominion.
It is a very comfortable but with which this chapter begins, and very reviving to those who lay the interests of God's church near their heart and are concerned for the welfare of it. When we sometimes see the corruptions of the church, especially of church-rulers, princes, priests, and prophets, seeking their own things and not the things of God, and when we soon after see the desolations of the church, Zion for their sakes ploughed as a field, we are ready to fear that it will one day perish between both, that the name of Israel shall be no more in remembrance; we are ready to give up all for gone, and to conclude the church will have neither root not branch upon earth. But let not our faith fail in this matter; out of the ashes of the church another phoenix shall arise. In the last words of the foregoing chapter we left the mountain of the house as desolate and waste as the high places of the forest; and is it possible that such a wilderness should ever become a fruitful field again? Yes, the first words of this chapter bring in the mountain of the Lord's house as much dignified by being frequented as ever it had been disgraced by being deserted. Though Zion be ploughed as a field, yet God has not cast off his people, but by the fall of the Jews salvation has come to the Gentiles, so that it proves to be the riches of the world, Romans 11:11-12 KJV I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. (12) Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? This is the mystery which God by the prophet here shows us, and he says the very same in the first three verses of this chapter which another prophet said by the word of the Lord at the same time, Isaiah 2:2-4 KJV And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. (3) And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. (4) And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. that out of the mouth of these two witnesses these promises might be established; and very precious promises they are, relating to the gospel-church, which have been in part accomplished, and will be yet more and more, for he is faithful that has promised.
That there shall be a church for God set up in the world, after the defection and destruction of the Jewish church, and this in the last days; that is, as some of the rabbin themselves acknowledge, in the days of the Messiah. The people of God shall be incorporated by a new charter, a new spiritual way of worship shall be enacted, and a new institution of offices to attend it; better privileges shall be granted by this new charter, and better provision made for enlarging and establishing the kingdom of God among men than had been made by the Old Testament constitution: The mountain of the house of the Lord shall again appear firm ground for God's faithful worshippers to stand, and go, and build upon, in their attendance on him, Micah 4:1 KJV But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And it shall be a centre of unity to them; a church shall be set up in the world, to which the Lord will be daily adding such as shall be saved.
That this church shall be firmly founded and well-built: It shall be established in the top of the mountains; Christ himself will build it upon a rock; it shall be an impregnable fort upon an immovable foundation, so that the gates of hell shall neither overthrow the one nor undermine the other; Matthew 16:18 KJV And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. its foundations are still in the holy mountains, Psalms 87:1 KJV His foundation is in the holy mountains. the everlasting mountains, which cannot, which shall not, be removed. It shall be established, not as the temple, upon one mountain, but upon many; for the foundations of the church, as they are sure, so they are large.
That it shall be highly advanced, and become eminent and conspicuous: It shall be exalted above the hills, observed with wonder for its growing greatness from small beginnings. The kingdom of Christ shall shine with greater lustre than ever any of the kingdoms of the earth did. It shall be as a city on a hill, which cannot be hid, Matthew 5:14 KJV Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. The glory of this latter house is greater than that of the former, Haggai 2:9 KJV The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts. See 2 Corinthians 3:7-8 KJV But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: (8) How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?
That there shall be a great accession of converts to it and succession of converts in it. People shall flow unto it as the waters of a river are continually flowing; there shall be a constant stream of believers flowing in from all parts into the church, as the people of the Jews flowed into the temple, while it was standing, to worship there. Then many tribes came to the mountain of the house, to enquire of God's temple; but in gospel-times many nations shall flow into the church, shall fly like a cloud and as the doves to their windows. Ministers shall be sent forth to disciple all nations, and they shall not labour in vain; for, multitudes being wrought upon to believe the gospel and embrace the Christian religion, they shall excite and encourage one another, and shall say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord now raised among us, even to the house of the God of Jacob, the spiritual temple which we need not travel far to, for it is brought to our doors and set up in the midst of us.” Thus shall people be made willing in the day of his power, Psalms 110:3 KJV Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth. and shall do what they can to make others willing, as Andrew invited Peter, and Philip Nathanael, to be acquainted with Christ. They shall call the people to the mountain, Deuteronomy 33:19 KJV They shall call the people unto the mountain; there they shall offer sacrifices of righteousness: for they shall suck of the abundance of the seas, and of treasures hid in the sand. for there is in Christ enough for all, enough for each.
Now observe what it is, which these converts expect to find in the house of the God of Jacob. They come thither for instruction: “He will teach us of his ways, what is the way in which he would have us to walk with him and in which we may depend upon him to meet us graciously.”
Note, Where we come to worship God we come to be taught of him.
Which they engage to do when they are thus taught of God: We will walk in his paths.
Note, Those may comfortably expect that God will teach them who are firmly resolved by his grace to do as they are taught.
That, in order to this, a new revelation shall be published to the world, on which the church shall be founded, and by which multitudes shall be brought into it: For the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. The gospel is here called the word of the Lord, for the Lord gave the word, and great was the company of those that published it, Psalms 68:11 KJV The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it. It was of a divine original, a divine authority; it began to be spoken by the Lord Christ himself, Hebrews 2:3 KJV How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; And it is a law, a law of faith; we are under the law to Christ. This was to go forth from Jerusalem, from Zion, the metropolis of the Old Testament dispensation, where the temple, and altars, and oracles were, and whither the Jews went to worship from all parts; thence the gospel must take rise, to show the connexion between the Old Testament and the New, that the gospel is not set up in opposition to the law, but is an explication and illustration of it, and a branch growing out of its roots. It was in Jerusalem that Christ preached and wrought miracles; there he died, rose again, and ascended; there the Spirit was poured out; and those that were to preach repentance and remission of sins to all nations were ordered to begin at Jerusalem, so that thence flowed the streams that were to water the desert world.
That a convincing power should go along with the gospel of Christ, in all places where it should be preached: Micah 4:3 KJV And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. He shall judge among many people. Messiah, the lawgiver, Micah 4:2 KJV And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. is here the judge, for to him the Father committed all judgment, and for judgment he came into this world; his word, the word of his gospel, that was to go forth from Jerusalem, was the golden sceptre by which he shall rule and judge when he sits as king on the holy hill of Zion, Psalms 2:6 KJV Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. By it he shall rebuke strong nations afar off; for the Spirit working with the word shall reprove the world, John 16:8 KJV And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: It is promised to the Son of David that he shall judge among the heathen, Psalms 110:6 KJV He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries. which he does when in the chariot of his everlasting gospel he goes forth, and goes on, conquering and to conquer.
That a disposition to mutual peace and love shall be the happy effect of the setting up of the kingdom of the Messiah: They shall beat their swords into plough-shares; that is, angry passionate men, that have been fierce and furious, shall be wonderfully sweetened, and made mild and meek, Titus 3:2-3 KJV To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. (3) For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. Those who, before their conversion, did injuries, and would bear none, after their conversion can bear injuries, but will do none. As far as the gospel prevails it makes men peaceable, for such is the wisdom from above; it is gentle and easy to be entreated; and if nations were but leavened by it, there would be universal peace. When Christ was born there was universal peace in the Roman empire; those that were first brought into the gospel church were all of one heart and of one soul; Acts 4:32 KJV And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. and it was observed of the primitive Christians how well they loved one another. In heaven this will have its full accomplishment.
It is promised, that none shall be quarrelsome. The art of war, instead of being improved (which some reckon the glory of a kingdom), shall be forgotten and laid aside as useless. They shall not learn war any more as they have done, for they shall have no need to defend themselves nor any inclination to offend their neighbours. Nation shall no longer lift up sword against nation; not that the gospel will make men cowards, but it will make men peaceable.
That all shall be quiet, both from evil and from the fear of evil: Micah 4:4 KJV But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it. They shall sit safely, and none shall disturb them; they shall sit securely, and shall not disturb themselves, every man under his vine and under his fig-tree, enjoying the fruit of them, and needing no other shelter than the leaves of them. None shall make them afraid; not only there shall be nothing that is likely to frighten them, but they shall not be disposed to fear. under the dominion of Christ, as that of Solomon, there shall be abundance of peace. Though his followers have trouble in the world, in him they enjoy great tranquillity. If this seems unlikely, yet we may depend upon it, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it, and no word of his shall fall to the ground; what he has spoken by his word he will do by his providence and grace. He that is the Lord of hosts will be the God of peace; and those may well be easy whom the Lord of hosts, of all hosts, undertakes the protection of.
That the churches shall be constant in their duty, and so shall make a good use of their tranquillity and shall not provoke the Lord to deprive them of it, Micah 4:5 KJV For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever. When the churches have rest they shall be edified, and confirmed, and comforted, and shall resolve to be as firm to their God as other nations are to theirs, though they be no gods. Where we find the foregoing promises, Isaiah 2:2 KJV And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. it follows, Micah 4:5 KJV For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever. O house of Jacob! come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord; and here, We will walk in the name of the Lord our God. Note, Peace is a blessing indeed when it strengthens our resolutions to cleave to the Lord.
Observe, how constant other nations were to their gods: All people will walk every one in the name of his god, will own their god and cleave to him, will worship their god and serve him, will depend upon him and put confidence in him. Whatever men make a god of they will make use of, and take his name along with them in all their actions and affairs. The mariners, in a storm, cried every man to his god, Jonah 1:5 KJV Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep. And no instance could be found of a nation's changing its gods, Jeremiah 2:11 KJV Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit. If the hosts of heaven were their gods, they loved them, and served them, and walked after them, Jeremiah 8:2 KJV And they shall spread them before the sun, and the moon, and all the host of heaven, whom they have loved, and whom they have served, and after whom they have walked, and whom they have sought, and whom they have worshipped: they shall not be gathered, nor be buried; they shall be for dung upon the face of the earth.
How constant God's people now resolve to be to him: “We will walk in the name of the Lord our God, will acknowledge him in all our ways, and govern ourselves by a continual regard to him, doing nothing but what we have warrant from him for, and openly professing our relation to him.” Observe, Their resolution is peremptory; it is not a thing that needs be disputed: “We will walk in the name of the Lord our God.” It is just and reasonable: He is our God. And it is a resolution for a perpetuity: “We will do it for ever and ever, and will never leave him. He will be ours for ever, and therefore so we will be his, and never repent our choice.”
That notwithstanding the dispersions, distress, and infirmities of the church, it shall be formed and established, and made very considerable, Micah 4:6-7 KJV In that day, saith the LORD, will I assemble her that halteth, and I will gather her that is driven out, and her that I have afflicted; (7) And I will make her that halted a remnant, and her that was cast far off a strong nation: and the LORD shall reign over them in mount Zion from henceforth, even for ever.
The state of the church had been low, and weak, and very helpless, in the latter times of the Old Testament, partly through the corruptions of the Jewish nation, and partly through the oppressions under which they groaned. They were like a flock of sheep that were maimed, worried, and scattered, Ezekiel 34:16 KJV I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment. Jeremiah 50:6 KJV My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their restingplace. Jeremiah 50:17 KJV Israel is a scattered sheep; the lions have driven him away: first the king of Assyria hath devoured him; and last this Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon hath broken his bones. The good people among them, and in other places, that were well inclined, were dispersed, were very infirm, and in a manner lost and cast far off.
It is promised that all these grievances shall be redressed and the distemper healed. Christ will come himself, Matthew 15:24 KJV But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. and send his apostles to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, Matthew 10:6 KJV But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. From among the Jews that halted, or that for want of strength, could not go upright, God gathered a remnant, Micah 4:7 KJV And I will make her that halted a remnant, and her that was cast far off a strong nation: and the LORD shall reign over them in mount Zion from henceforth, even for ever. that remnant according to the election of grace which is spoken of in, Romans 11:7 KJV What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded which embraced the gospel of Christ. And from among the Gentiles that were cast far off (so the Gentiles are described to be, Ephesians 2:13 KJV But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. Acts 2:39 KJV For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.) he raised a strong nation; greater numbers of them were brought into the church than of the Jews, Galatians 4:27 KJV For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. And such a strong nation the gospel-church is that the gates of hell shall never be able to prevail against it. The church of Christ is more numerous than any other nation, and strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.
That the Messiah shall be the king of this kingdom, shall protect and govern it, and order all the affairs of it for the best, and this to the end of time. The Lord Jesus shall reign over them in Mount Zion by his word and Spirit in his ordinances, and this henceforth and for ever, for of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.
This verse relates to Zion and Jerusalem, Micah 4:8 KJV And thou, O tower of the flock, the strong hold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem. here called the tower of the flock or the tower of Edor; we read of such a place Genesis 35:21 KJV And Israel journeyed, and spread his tent beyond the tower of Edar. near Bethlehem; and some conjecture it is the same place where the shepherds were keeping their flocks when the angels brought them tidings of the birth of Christ, and some think Bethlehem itself is here spoken of, as Micah 5:2 KJV But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. Some think it is a tower at that gate of Jerusalem which is called the sheep-gate, Nehemiah 3:32 KJV And between the going up of the corner unto the sheep gate repaired the goldsmiths and the merchants. and conjecture that through that gate Christ rode in triumph into Jerusalem. However, it seems to be put for Jerusalem itself, or for Zion the tower of David. All the sheep of Israel flocked thither three times a year; it was the stronghold (Ophel, which is also a name of a place in Jerusalem, Nehemiah 3:27 KJV After them the Tekoites repaired another piece, over against the great tower that lieth out, even unto the wall of Ophel.), or castle, of the daughter of Zion.
Now here, we have a promise of the glories of the spiritual Jerusalem, the gospel-church, which is; the tower of the flock, that one fold in which all the sheep of Christ are protected under one Shepherd: “Unto thee shall it come; that which thou hast long wanted and wished for, even the first dominion, a dignity and power equal to that of David and Solomon, by whom Jerusalem was first raised, that kingdom shall again come to the daughter of Jerusalem, which it was deprived of at the captivity. It shall make as great a figure and shine with as much lustre among the nations, and have as much influence upon them, as ever it had; this is the first or chief dominion.” Now this had by no means its accomplishment in Zerubbabel; his was nothing like the first dominion either in respect of splendour and sovereignty at home or the extent of power abroad; and therefore it must refer to the kingdom of the Messiah (and to that the Chaldee-paraphrase refers it) and had its accomplishment when God gave to our Lord Jesus the throne of his father David, Luke 1:32 KJV He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: set him king upon the holy hill of Zion and gave him the heathen for his inheritance, Psalms 2:6 KJV Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. made him, his first-born, higher than the kings of the earth, Psalms 89:27 KJV Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. Daniel 7:14 KJV And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. David, in spirit, called him Lord, and (as Dr. Edward Pocock, 1604-1691 observes) he witnessed of himself, and his witness was true, that he was greater than Solomon, none of their dominions being like his for extent and duration. The common people welcomed Christ into Jerusalem with hosannas to the son of David, to show that it was the first dominion that came to the daughter of Zion; and the evangelist applies it to the promise of Zion's king coming to her, Matthew 21:5 KJV Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. Zechariah 9:9 KJV Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. Some give this sense of the words: To Zion, and Jerusalem that tower of the flock, to the nation of the Jews, came the first dominion; that is, there the kingdom of Christ was first set up, the gospel of the kingdom was first preached, Luke 24:47 KJV And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. there Christ was first called king of the Jews.
Every Enemy of the Church shall be Destroyed, and the Final Ruin of Ungodly Men shall be Seen – Isaiah 66:15-24
A prophetic declaration is given of the Lord's vengeance on all enemies of his church, especially that of all antichristian opposers of the gospel in the latter days. Isaiah 66:19-20 KJV And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal, and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles. (20) And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the LORD out of all nations upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the LORD, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the LORD. set forth the abundance of means for conversion of sinners. These expressions are figurative, and express the plentiful and gracious helps for bringing God's elect home to Christ. All shall be welcome; and nothing shall be wanting for their assistance and encouragement. A gospel ministry shall be set up in the church; they would have solemn worship before the Lord. In the last verse the nature of the punishment of sinners in the world to come is represented. Then shall the righteous and wicked be separated. Our Saviour applies this to the everlasting misery and torment of impenitent sinners in the future state. To the honour of that free grace which thus distinguishes them, let the redeemed of the Lord, with humility, and not without holy trembling, sing triumphant songs. With this affecting representation of the opposite states of the righteous and wicked, characters which include the whole human race, Isaiah concludes his prophecies. May God grant, for Christ's sake, that our portion may be with those who fear and love his name, who cleave to his truths, and persevere in every good work, looking to receive from the Lord Jesus Christ the gracious invitation, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
Isaiah 66:15-24 KJV For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. (16) For by fire and by his sword will the LORD plead with all flesh: and the slain of the LORD shall be many. (17) They that sanctify themselves, and purify themselves in the gardens behind one tree in the midst, eating swine's flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, saith the LORD. (18) For I know their works and their thoughts: it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see my glory. (19) And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal, and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles. (20) And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the LORD out of all nations upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the LORD, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the LORD. (21) And I will also take of them for priests and for Levites, saith the LORD. (22) For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain. (23) And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD. (24) And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.
The terrible vengeance which God will bring upon the enemies of his church and people. The happy establishment of the church upon large and sure foundations, its constant attendance on God and triumph over its enemies. And we may well expect that this evangelical prophet, here, in the close of his prophecy, should (as he does) look as far forward as to the latter days, to the last day, to the days of eternity.
These verses, like the pillar of cloud and fire, have a dark side towards the enemies of God's kingdom and all that are rebels against his crown, and a bright side towards his faithful loyal subjects. Probably they refer to the Jews in captivity in Babylon, of whom some are said to have been sent thither for their hurt, and with them God here threatens to proceed in his controversy; they hated to be reformed, and therefore should be ruined by the calamity; Jeremiah 24:9 KJV And I will deliver them to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth for their hurt, to be a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse, in all places whither I shall drive them. others were sent thither for their good, and they should have the trouble sanctified to them, should in due time get well through it and see many a good day after it. Many of the expressions here used are accommodated to that glorious dispensation; but doubtless the prophecy looks further, to the judgment for which Christ did come once, and will come again, into this world, and to the distinction which his word in both makes between the precious and the vile.
Christ will appear to the confusion and terror of all those that stand it out against him. Sometimes he will appear in temporal judgments. The Jews that persisted in infidelity were cut off by fire and by his sword. The ruin was very extensive; the Lord then pleaded with all flesh; and, it being his sword with which they are cut off, they are called his slain, sacrificed to his justice, and they shall be many. In the great day the wrath of God will be his fire and sword, with which he will cut off and consume all the impenitent; and his word, when it takes hold of sinners' consciences, burns like fire, and is sharper than any two-edged sword. Idolaters will especially be contended with in the day of wrath, Isaiah 66:17 KJV They that sanctify themselves, and purify themselves in the gardens behind one tree in the midst, eating swine's flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, saith the LORD.
Perhaps some of those who returned out of Babylon retained such instances of idolatry and superstition as are here mentioned, had their idols in their gardens (not daring to set them up publicly in the high places) and there purified themselves (as the worshippers of the true God used to do) when they went about their idolatrous rites, one after another, or, as we read it, behind one tree in the midst, behind Ahad or Ehad, some idol that they worshipped by that name and in honour of which they ate swine's flesh (which was expressly forbidden by the law of God), and other abominations, as the mouse, or some other like animal.
But the prophecy may refer to all those judgments which the wrath of God, according to the word of God, will bring upon provoking sinners, that live in contempt of God and are devoted to the world and the flesh: They shall be consumed together. From the happiness of heaven we find expressly excluded all idolaters, and whosoever worketh abomination, Revelation 21:27 KJV And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life. Revelation 22:15 KJV For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. In the day of vengeance secret wickedness will be brought to light and brought to the account; for, Isaiah 66:18 KJV For I know their works and their thoughts: it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see my glory. I know their works and their thoughts. God knows both what men do and from what principle and with what design they do it; and therefore is fit to judge the world, because he can judge the secrets of men, Romans 2:16 KJV In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.
He will appear to the comfort and joy of all that are faithful to him in the setting up of his kingdom in this world, the kingdom of grace, the earnest and first-fruits of the kingdom of glory. The time shall come that he will gather all nations and tongues to himself, that they may come and see his glory as it shines in the face of Jesus Christ, Isaiah 66:18 KJV For I know their works and their thoughts: it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see my glory. This was fulfilled when all nations were to be discipled and the gift of tongues was bestowed in order thereunto. The church had hitherto been confined to one nation and in one tongue only God was worshipped; but in the days of the Messiah the partition-wall should be taken down, and those that had been strangers to God should be brought acquainted with him and should see his glory in the gospel, as the Jews had seen it in the sanctuary.
As to this, it is here promised, that some of the Jewish nation should, by the grace of God, be distinguished form the rest, and marked for salvation: I will not only set up a gathering ensign among them, to which the Gentiles shall seek (as is promised, Isaiah 11:12 KJV And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.), but there shall be those among them on whom I will set a differencing sign; for so the word signifies. Though they are a corrupt degenerate nation, yet God will set apart a remnant of them, that shall be devoted to him and employed for him, and a mark shall be set upon them, with such certainty will God own them, Ezekiel 9:4 KJV And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. The servants of God shall be sealed in their foreheads, Revelation 7:3 KJV Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. The Lord knows those that are his. Christ's sheep are marked.
That those who are themselves distinguished thus by the grace of God shall be commissioned to invite others to come and take the benefit of that grace. Those that escape the power of those prejudices by which the generality of that nation is kept in unbelief shall be sent to the nations to carry the gospel among them, and preach it to every creature.
Note, Those who themselves have escaped the wrath to come should do all they can to snatch others also as brands out of the burning. God chooses to send those on his errands that can deliver their message feelingly and experimentally, and warn people of their danger by sin as those who have themselves narrowly escaped the danger.
They shall be sent to the nations, several of which are here named, Tarshish, and Pul, and Lud, etc. It is uncertain, nor are interpreters agreed, what countries are here intended. Tarshish signifies in general the sea, yet some take it for Tarsus in Cilicia. Pul is mentioned sometimes as the name of one of the kings of Assyria; perhaps some part of that country might likewise bear that name. Lud is supposed to be Lydia, a warlike nation, famed for archers: the Lydians are said to handle and bend the bow, Jeremiah 46:9 KJV Come up, ye horses; and rage, ye chariots; and let the mighty men come forth; the Ethiopians and the Libyans, that handle the shield; and the Lydians, that handle and bend the bow. Tubal, some think, is Italy or Spain; and Javan most agree to be Greece, the Iones; and the isles of the Gentiles, that were peopled by the posterity of Japhet, Genesis 10:5 KJV By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations. probably are here meant by the isles afar off, that have not heard my name, neither have seen my glory. In Judah only was God known, and there only his name was great for many ages. Other countries sat in darkness, heard no the joyful sound, saw not the joyful light. This deplorable state of theirs seems to be spoken of here with compassion; for it is a pity that any of the children of men should be at such a distance from their Maker as not to hear his name and see his glory.
In consideration of this, those that are sent to the nations shall go upon God's errand, to declare his glory among the Gentiles. The Jews that shall be dispersed among the nations shall declare the glory of God's providence concerning their nation all along, by which many shall be invited to join with them, as also by the appearances of God's glory among them in his ordinances. Some out of all languages of the nations shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, entreating him to take notice of them, to admit them into his company, and to stay a little while for them, till they are ready, “for we will go with you, having heard that God is with you,” Zechariah 8:23 KJV Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you. Thus the glory of God was in part declared among the Gentiles; but more clearly and fully by the apostles and early preachers of the gospel, who were sent into all the world, even to the isles afar off, to publish the glorious gospel of the blessed God. They went forth and preached every where, the Lord working with them, Mark 16:20 KJV And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.
That many converts shall hereby be made, Isaiah 66:20 KJV And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the LORD out of all nations upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the LORD, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the LORD.
They shall bring all your brethren (for proselytes ought to be owned and embraced as brethren) for an offering unto the Lord. God's glory shall not be in vain declared to them, but they shall be both invited and directed to join themselves to the Lord. Those that are sent to them shall succeed so well in their negotiation that thereupon there shall be as great flocking to Jerusalem as used to be at the time of a solemn feast, when all the males from all parts of the country were to attend there, and not to appear empty.
Observe, the conveniences that they shall be furnished with for their coming. Some shall come upon horses, because they came from far and the journey was too long to travel on foot, as the Jews usually did to their feasts. Persons of quality shall come in chariots, and the aged, and sickly, and little children, shall be brought in litters or covered wagons, and the young men on mules and swift beasts. This intimates their zeal and forwardness to come. They shall spare no trouble nor charge to get to Jerusalem. Those that cannot ride on horseback shall come in litters; and in such haste shall they be, and so impatient of delay, that those that can shall ride upon mules and swift beasts. These expressions are figurative, and these various means of conveyance are heaped up to intimate (says the learned Mr. Thomas Gataker, divine, died 1593) the abundant provision of all those gracious helps requisite for the bringing of God's elect home to Christ. All shall be welcome, and nothing shall be wanting for their assistance and encouragement.
The character under which they shall be brought. They shall come, not as formerly they used to come to Jerusalem, to be offerers, but to be themselves an offering unto the Lord, which must be understood spiritually, of their being presented to God as living sacrifices, Romans 12:1 KJV I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. The apostle explains this, and perhaps refers to it, Romans 15:16 KJV That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost. where he speaks of his ministering the gospel to the Gentiles, that the offering up, or sacrificing, of the Gentiles might be acceptable. They shall offer themselves, and those who are the instruments of their conversion shall offer them, as the spoils which they have taken for Christ and which are devoted to his service and honour. They shall be brought as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel, with great care that they be holy, purified from sin, and sanctified to God. It is said of the converted Gentiles Acts 15:9 KJV And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. that their hearts were purified by faith. Whatever was brought to God was brought in a clean vessel, a vessel appropriated to religious uses. God will be served and honoured in the way that he has appointed, in the ordinances of his own institution, which are the proper vehicles for these spiritual offerings. When the soul is offered up to God the body must be a clean vessel for it, possessed in sanctification and honour, and not in the lusts of uncleanness; 1 Thessalonians 4:4-5 KJV That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; (5) Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: and converts to Christ are not only purged from an evil conscience, but have their bodies also washed with pure water, Hebrews 10:22 KJV Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
Now, this may refer, to the Jews, devout men, and proselytes out of every nation under heaven, that flocked together to Jerusalem, expecting the kingdom of the Messiah to appear, Acts 2:5-6 KJV And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. (6) Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. Acts 2:10 KJV Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, They came from all parts to the holy mountain of Jerusalem, as an offering to the Lord, and there many of them were brought to the faith of Christ by the gift of tongues poured out on the apostles. Methinks there is some correspondence between that history and this prophecy. The eunuch some time after came to worship at Jerusalem in his chariot and took home with him the knowledge of Christ and his holy religion.
To the Gentiles, some of all nations, that should be converted to Christ, and so added to his church, which, though a spiritual accession, is often in prophecy represented by a local motion. The apostle says of all true Christians that they have come to Mount Zion, and the heavenly Jerusalem, Hebrews 12:22 KJV But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, which explains this passage, and shows that the meaning of all this parade is only that they shall be brought into the church by the grace of God, and in the use of the means of that grace, as carefully, safely, and comfortably, as if they were carried in chariots and litters. Thus God shall persuade Japhet and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem, Genesis 9:27 KJV God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
That a gospel ministry shall be set up in the church, it being thus enlarged by the addition of such a multitude of members to it: Isaiah 66:21 KJV And I will also take of them for priests and for Levites, saith the LORD. I will take of them (of the proselytes, of the Gentile converts) for priests and for Levites, to minister in holy things and to preside in their religious assemblies, which is very necessary for doctrine, worship, and discipline. Hitherto the priests and Levites were all taken from among the Jews and were all of one tribe; but in gospel times God will take of the converted Gentiles to minister to him in holy things, to teach the people, to bless them in the name of the Lord, to be the stewards of the mysteries of God as the priests and Levites were under the law, to be pastors and teachers (or bishops), to give themselves to the word and prayer, and deacons to serve tables, and, as the Levites, to take care of the outward business of the house of God, Philippians 1:1 KJV Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Acts 6:2 KJV Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. The apostles were all Jews, and so were the seventy disciples; the great apostle of the Gentiles was himself a Hebrew of the Hebrews; but, when churches were planted among the Gentiles, they had ministers settled who were of themselves, elders in every church, Acts 14:23 KJV And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. Titus 1:5 KJV For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: which made the ministry to spread the more easily, and to be the more familiar, and, if not the more venerable, yet the more acceptable; gospel grace, it might be hoped, would cure people of those corruptions which kept a prophet from having honour in his own country. God says, I will take, not all of them, though they are all in a spiritual sense made to our God kings and priests, but of them, some of them. It is God's work originally to choose ministers by qualifying them for and inclining them to the service, as well as to make ministers by giving them their commission. I will take them, that is, I will admit them, though Gentiles, and will accept of them and their ministrations. This is a great honour and advantage to the Gentile church, as it was to the Jewish church that God raised up of their sons for prophets and their young men for Nazarites, Amos 2:11 KJV And I raised up of your sons for prophets, and of your young men for Nazarites. Is it not even thus, O ye children of Israel? saith the LORD.
That the church and ministry, being thus settled, shall continue and be kept up in a succession from one generation to another, Isaiah 66:22 KJV For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain.
The change that will be made by the setting up of the kingdom of the Messiah is here described to be, a very great and universal change; it shall be a new world, the new heavens and the new earth promised before, Isaiah 65:17 KJV For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. Old things have passed away, behold all things have become new, 2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. the old covenant of peculiarity is set aside, and a new covenant, a covenant of grace, established, Hebrews 8:13 KJV In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away. We are now to serve in newness of the spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter, Romans 7:6 KJV But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. New commandments are given relating both to heaven and earth, and new promises relating to both, and both together make a New Testament; so that they are new heavens and a new earth that God will create, and these a preparative for the new heavens and new earth designed at the end of time, 2 Peter 3:13 KJV Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
A change of God's own making; he will create the new heavens and the new earth. The change was made by him that had authority to make new ordinances, as well as power to make new worlds.
It will be an abiding lasting change, a change never to be changed, a new world that will be always new, and never wax old, as that does which is ready to vanish away: It shall remain before me unalterable; for the gospel dispensation is to continue to the end of time and not to be succeeded by any other. The kingdom of Christ is a kingdom that cannot be moved; the laws and privileges of it are things that cannot be shaken, but shall for ever remain, Hebrews 12:27-28 KJV And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. (28) Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: It shall therefore remain, because it is before God; it is under his eye, and care, and special protection.
It will be maintained in a seed that shall serve Christ: Your seed, and in them your name, shall remain – a seed of ministers, a seed of Christians; as one generation of both passes away, another generation shall come; and thus the name of Christ, with that of Christians, shall continue on earth while the earth remains, and his throne as the days of heaven. The gates of hell, though they fight against the church, shall not prevail, nor wear out the saints of the Most High.
That the public worship of God in religious assemblies shall be carefully and constantly attended upon by all that are thus brought as an offering to the Lord, Isaiah 66:23 KJV And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD. This is described in expressions suited to the Old Testament dispensation, to show that though the ceremonial law should be abolished, and the temple service should come to an end, yet God should be still as regularly, constantly, and acceptably worshipped as ever. Heretofore only Jews went up to appear before God, and they were bound to attend only three times a year, and the males only; but now all flesh, Gentiles as well as Jews, women as well as men, shall come and worship before God, in his presence, though not in his temple at Jerusalem, but in religious assemblies dispersed all the world over, which shall be to them as the tabernacle of meeting was to the Jews. God will in them record his name, and, though but two or three come together, he will be among them, will meet them, and bless them. And they shall have the benefit of these holy convocations frequently, every new moon and every sabbath, not, as formerly, at the three annual feasts only. There is no necessity of one certain place, as the temple was of old. Christ is our temple, in whom by faith all believers meet, and now that the church is so far extended it is impossible that all should meet at one place; but it is fit that there should be a certain time appointed, that the service may be done certainly and frequently, and a token thereby given of the spiritual communion which all Christian assemblies have with each other by faith, hope, and holy love. The new moons and the sabbaths are mentioned because, under the law, though the yearly feasts were to be celebrated at Jerusalem, yet the new moons and the sabbaths were religiously observed all the country over, in the schools of the prophets first and afterwards in the synagogues, 2 Kings 4:23 KJV And he said, Wherefore wilt thou go to him to day? it is neither new moon, nor sabbath. And she said, It shall be well. Amos 8:5 KJV Saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit? Acts 15:21 KJV For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day. according to the model of which Christian assemblies seem to be formed. Where the Lord's day is weekly sanctified, and the Lord's supper monthly celebrated, and both are duly attended on, there this promise is fulfilled, there the Christian new moons and sabbaths are observed.
See, here, that God is to be worshipped in solemn assemblies, and that it is the duty of all, as they have opportunity, to wait upon God in those assemblies: All flesh must come; though flesh, weak, corrupt, and sinful, let them come that the flesh may be mortified. In worshipping God we present ourselves before him, and are in a special manner in his presence. For doing this there ought to be stated times, and are so; and we must see that it is our interest as well as our duty constantly and conscientiously to observe these times.
That their thankful sense of God's distinguishing favour to them should be very much increased by the consideration of the fearful doom and destruction of those that persist and perish in their infidelity and impiety, Isaiah 66:24 KJV And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh. Those that have been worshipping the Lord of hosts, and rejoicing before him in the goodness of his house, shall, in order to affect themselves the more with their own happiness, take a view of the misery of the wicked.
Observe, who they are whose misery is here described. They are men that have transgressed against God, not only broken his laws, but broken covenant with him, and thought themselves able to contend with him. It may be meant especially of the unbelieving Jews that rejected the gospel of Christ.
What their misery is. It is here represented by the frightful spectacle of a field of battle, covered with the carcases of the slain, that lie rotting above ground, full of worms crawling about them and feeding on them; and, if you go to burn them, they are so scattered, and it is such a noisome piece of work to get them together, that it would be endless, and the fire would never be quenched; so that they are an abhorring to all flesh, nobody cares to come near them. Now this is sometimes accomplished in temporal judgments, and perhaps never nearer the letter than in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish nation by the Romans, in which destruction it is computed that above two millions, first and last, were cut off by the sword, besides what perished by famine and pestilence. It may refer likewise to the spiritual judgments that came upon the unbelieving Jews, which St. Paul looks upon, and shows us, Romans 11:8 KJV (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. They became dead in sins, twice dead. The church of the Jews was a carcase of a church; all its members were putrid carcases; their worm died not, their own consciences made them continually uneasy, and the fire of their rage against the gospel was not quenched, which was their punishment as well as their sin; and they became, more than ever any nation under the sun, an abhorring to all flesh. But our Saviour applies it to the everlasting misery and torment of impenitent sinners in the future state, where their worm dies not, and their fire is not quenched; Mark 9:44 KJV Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. for the soul, whose conscience is its constant tormentor, is immortal, and God, whose wrath is its constant terror, is eternal.
What notice shall be taken of it. Those that worship God shall go forth and look upon them, to affect their own hearts with the love of their Redeemer, when they see what misery they are redeemed from. As it will aggravate the miseries of the damned to see others in the kingdom of heaven and themselves thrust out, Luke 13:28 KJV There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. so it will illustrate the joys and glories of the blessed to see what becomes of those that died in their transgression, and it will elevate their praises to think that they were themselves as brands plucked out of that burning. To the honour of that free grace which thus distinguished them let the redeemed of the Lord with all humility, and not without a holy trembling, sing their triumphant songs.