JOHN xvii. 24.
PETER gives a good testimony to Jesus Christ, in John vi. 68. Thou hast the words of eternal life. And here these words are eminently. Christ himself is eternal life, 1 John i. 2. And in this text we have him that was and is essential, eternal life, praying for and willing of communicated eternal life to all his people.
The first thing I took up in the matter of Christís prayer in this verse, was the name and description of them he prays for; they whom thou hast given me. From this part of the verse I named three doctrines.
1. That there was a select company of mankind given by the Father to the Son, to be redeemed and saved. On this I spoke last day.
OBSERV. 2. This company given to Christ, are best known to him. Christ knows them all, particularly, fully, exactly. Christ doth not here pray, as we ought, for the elect, on the general truth revealed in the word, that there is a body of the elect, though we know not who they be; but Christ hath them all now as in his eye and heart particularly. Paul was in his eye, and all that were to believe on him through grace. Why are we commanded to pray for all men, though Christ did not, John xvii. 9, 10.? Because we know not particularly who are the elect, but Christ did.
On this truth I would offer a few things in proof of it, and then apply it. For this doctrine looks like a deep and barren point; yet it is profitable.
1. For proof of this, that the elect are known to Jesus Christ. Let us see what he himself speaks of it, John x. Once in that parable, ver. 3. He calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. You will never believe, till Christ call you by name. Again, in the doctrine taught by him on the parable. ver. 14. I am the good Shepherd, (O how well doth it become Christ to commend himself! You will never love him, till Christ himself commend himself to you), and know my sheep. And ver. 27. My sheep hear my voice; and I know them, and they follow me. Ver. 28. And I give unto, them eternal life. Well doth Christ know to whom he gives eternal life. Woe to them to whom he will say, I never knew you, Matt. vii. 28. Little better is that word in John x. 26. But ye believe not; because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. Christ knew who were his sheep, and who not; who were gathered into his fold, and who were yet straying as lost sheep on the mountains: verse 16. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice. The grounds of this truth are,
1st, Christ, as God, knoweth all things, and therefore knows who are given to him. It is a pity, that when the Godhead of the Son shines so very brightly in the New Testament, any should doubt and deny it. And it is pity also, that the deniers of this rock of the church of Christ should not renounce the name of Christians; or that any true Christian should afford this honourable name to such apostates. Peter, when asked by his Master about his love to him, John xxi. 17. answers by a humble appeal to his all-knowing. He that knows all things, must know who were given him by the Father.
2dly, The Sort of God was a party concerned in this transaction. As the Father was the giver of the elect, the Son was the receiver of them. Will any say, that the Father knew not whom he gave, when his foreknowledge is so expressly told in Rom. viii. 29.? It is equally absurd to say, that the Son knew not whom he received. And as the Fatherís giving was of particular, distinct, and distinguished persons; so was the Sonís receiving of such persons. Hence our Lord says of them in his prayer, ver. 9, 10. I pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me, for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine, and I am glorified in them. This transaction betwixt the Father and. Son, was a business, as of high sovereignty about mankind, and of infinite love to the given, so was it passed in infinite wisdom. The manifold wisdom of God is in the, eternal purpose which he purchased in Christ Jesus our Lord, Eph. iii. 9, 10, 11. It is a high reflection on all the glory of God in this transaction, to say, that the Father knew not particularly whom he gave to the Son, or that the Son knew not who were given to him.
3dly, Christís knowing who were given to him, is the ground of his undertaking and dispatching the work of redemption. This work he undertook in love; this love is still acted on persons, Gal. ii. 20. Rev. i. 5. These persons must be known to Christ, if so beloved by him.
4thly, It is this knowledge in Christ that is the ground of Christís patience and pains on the elect. If any will say, that Christ, in dying, designed no more for Peter than, for Judas, (God forgive them, and open their eyes); I hope they will not say, but Christ did more for Peter than for Judas. The visible difference that is betwixt Christís way of dealing with men, flows from his knowing of them that are given to him. There are some that Christ deals with in and by the gospel; and, upon their first refusal, he leaves them, and Christ and they never meet till the last day: others, he waits long upon, and yet he leaves them at last. But there are some that Christ deals with; and though they refuse him again and again, yet he will never leave them, till he hath gained their hearts, and saved them. Paul thought that he was the rarest instance of this, I Tim. 1. 16. Howbeit, for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first (in me the chief sinner) Jesus Christ might shew forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting, let we may say, that there are some in heaven, and some on earth, that have been as great patterns as Paul; though they were not so filled with the Holy Ghost as he; nor Christís grace in calling them set so on a candlestick for all ages, as it was in his case. It may be Paul never heard Christ preach, nor saw his face, though he was brought up at Jerusalem in Christís time, Acts xxii. 3. and xxvi. 4. It is like he heard no more of him, but by the common report, and by the slanders of the Pharisees, Christís constant enemies. It was but blind, zeal of the law that locked him up in unbelief, and made him hate Christís name and people. But how many have been since Paul, that have lived long under the light of the gospel, whom the Lord hath striven long with, and they, have as long striven against him, whom yet he hath subdued at last? Blessed be his name; and may such instances be multiplied to his praise. This way is taken by Christ with some, according to his charge from his Father, John vi. 39. And this is the Fatherís 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.
5thly, This knowing of them who are given to him, is the ground of the confidence of Christ as Mediator, as to the success of his work; both of his work of redemption of them by his blood, and of the work of his Spirit, in applying it to the souls and consciences of the redeemed. So he proclaims it, John vi. 37. All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me. ďI am sure, would he say, of every one of them, sooner or later.Ē As long as there is one given, not yet come to Christ, there is one yet to believe on him. Christ might well promise this to himself; for the Father had promised it, Isa. liii. 10, 11. He shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. The latter part of John vi. 37. is Christís promise to us, Him that cometh to me, I will in nowise cast out. Why do none but the given come to Christ? Because none can come unless they be drawn by the Father, John vi. 44, 45. Behold this blessed order. The Father gives the elect to his Son, to be redeemed; the Son, in love, lays down his life for them, and redeems them. The Father draws them to Christ, and makes them believers; Christ receives them as given, redeemed, and drawn; and thus are they saved. Christ knows them well, and therefore welcomes them.
APPLICATION, 1. This truth, That Christ knows all that are given to him, should feed and strengthen our faith, as to all the elect. Christ knows them; therefore they shall be saved. The apostle, 2 Tim. ii. 18, 19. brings in this as a ground of faith, even when damnable errors creep in, and overthrow the faith of some: Nevertheless, the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. The Lord-giver knows who are his, and whom he gives; and the Lord-receiver knows who are his, and whom he receives. The Lord knows better who are his, than the devil knows who are his, for many that the devil had as his (as all natural men are, Eph. ii. 2, 5.), and thought he was sure of as his, have been rescued by the Lord. But never did the devil prevail fully against any that are Christís. It is a happy parenthesis in Matth. xxiv. 24. when our Lord is warning of dangerous times, by false christs, and of their great success in deceiving, he saith, that they shall deceive (if it were possible) the very elect. But it is impossible, because they are elect. There are two cases of the elect that this truth should strengthen our faith in. 1. As to the uncalled elect. Many of them are yet uncalled, and lying in the common pit of naure; but they shall be called. The gospel will be taken away from that place where none such are. All Godís pains in the gospel are taken for the electís sakes, as Paulís pains were, 2 Tim. ii. 10. The Lord encouraged Paul to stay and labour in Corinth, by this argument, For I have much people in this city, Acts xviii. 9, 10. Some are converted already, and many more are to be converted, 2. In case of backsliding and apostasy: a sad, but no very rare case. Some that have given great witness of the truth of the grace of God in them, have, through the power of corruption, the prevalency of temptation, and the Lordís leaving of them, fallen foully, and lain long. Yet, if they be Christís, his mark is on them, and they shall be recovered.
2. Believers, from this truth, have ground of strong consolation, both in praising and in praying: Heb, vi. 17, 18. The immutability of his counsel is declared, that we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge, to lay hold upon the hope set before us. Have you fled for refuge to Jesus Christ? Do you know it? Hath the Lord revealed it to you, that you have sought your only refuge in the shadow of Christís wings? Then how should you rejoice and give thanks for your election? Thus the apostle did usually, Eph. i. 3, 4. 2 Thess. 13. I dare not say, that no believer can be heartily thankful for Christís grace, before he fully and surely know its highest spring: but I am sure that that believer praiseth best, that knows best that he was given to the Son. The receivings of the glorified will be the greatest; their praises will be the highest; and their knowledge of eternal love as the spring of all their grace and glory, will be the clearest. And as this doth raise praise, so doth it raise mighty prayer. Our Lord prays for his people under this name, Thine and mine, John xvii. 9, 10. David prays for himself, under this name, Psal. cxix. 94. I am thine, save me. The clearer your knowledge be of your interest in God, and in his love, the more mighty will your pleadings with him be.
And so much for the second point.
OBSERV. 3. Christís heart is set on the bliss of all that the Father hath given to him. And this he expresseth in this desire.
On this point; I would, I. Give some proofs of this truth. II. Show whence this heart-concern for their bliss doth flow.
I. Proofs of this truth, That Christís heart is set on the bliss and eternal salvation of his people, are these five :ó
1. Christís covenanting for them proves this. In that day, (if a day may be talked of in eternity; but we are time-creatures, and have no fit words for eternity) when this blessed company were given by the Father to the Son, the Son did undertake to do all things needful to be one, to bring them to eternal glory. He undertook and promised to take on him their nature; and in that nature to bear their sins, and, by the sacrifice of that nature for their sins, to make an expiation of their sins. In a word, he promised to do all he was required to do, and he did all he promised to the Father, for the salvation of his people. Whenever we look to this treaty, we must gather, Surely the Son of God had a great mind to the happiness of his people.
2. Christís cheerful laying down his life for their redemption, proves how his heart was set on their salvation. It was his errand in coming into the world: John x. 10. I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. Believers get a greater, higher, and more noble life by the second Adam, than they lost by the first Adam. This is the meaning of that much more twice mentioned by the apostle when comparing these two heads, Rom. v. 15, 17. But how doth Christ give, and his people receive this life? Even by his death. He laid down his life for his sheep, John x. 11, 15. Therefore his Father loved him, ver. 17. And thereby he proved his love to the salvation of his people, John xv. 13.
3. He proves his love to their salvation, by his sealing and confirming the covenant, the charter of their salvation, with his own blood. Compare Gal. iii. 15, 16, 17. with Heb. ix. 15, 16, 17. It is called the blood of the everlasting covenant, Heb. xiii. 20. Christís blood was not only redeeming and purchasing blood, a just and full price both for the heirs and. for the inheritance; but it was sealing blood, and confirming of that covenant, in and by which the inheritance was secured to the heirs, and the heirs secured for the inheritance. Alas many have the Bible, and use it but little; and many use it amiss, because they know not its right name. It is well and, warrantably, from its contents, called, in its title paged in all languages, and translations, The Old and New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. But how few, in reading this title, mind the use and virtue of the blood of Jesus, which turned the covenant of Godís grace into the testament of Christ, and thereby sealed and confirmed all the good words and good things in that covenant? It was a happy word we find in the Book of Martyrs, that some in the dawning of the light of the gospel in this land, near two hundred years ago, used, in calling the New Testament (a great rarity in those days) The blood of Christ. You never rightly read the gospel, nor do you understand the design of it, nor rightly believe one promise in it, till in heart you can say, ďThis gospel is the only charter of my salvation, sealed with the blood of my only Saviour.Ē If any be for another Saviour than Christ, and for another security and charter for salvation than his thus sealed testament, on their eternal peril be it. Let them try, and perish. For, as God is true, perish they shall, even all that take that course, Acts iv. 12.
4. Christ proves his love to his peopleís salvation by his intercession for them. Of which this chapter is a great instance. And whereof we have so much spoke in Rom. viii. 34. Heb. vii. 25. and ix. 24. and 1 John ii. 1. This is his business in heaven. By this he prepares their place for them, John xiv. 2, 3.; and on it assures them of their possessing of it.
5. Christ gives his Spirit to his people, to prove his concern about their salvation. And we may allude to Isa. v. 4, What could have been done more? He covenanted with the Father from eternity about their salvation. He bought it for them, and them for it, in the fulness of time. The day of Christís redeeming his people, was the flower of time, the greatest and noblest thing done since God set the clock of time a-going; for his glorious return is to be at the end of time. He turned the covenant of their salvation into a testament by his blood; and did in that testament leave all the grace and glory bought by his blood as a legacy to his people. He, when he had done this, Went to heaven with his blood, Heb. ix. 12. that it might speak before God, Heb. xii. 24. for all blessings to his people. And till they get full possession of glory, he gives to them his Spirit. All that are his have his Spirit, as surely as it is, that if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his, Rom. viii. 9, 15. Gal. iv.
6. This gift of the Spirit is a marvellous gift. None can know it, but they that receive it: John xiv. 17.: The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I John iv. 13. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. This gift is always given in mere love and grace, and is a sure proof of Godís special love. This gift of the Spirit is an earnest of heaven, 2 Cor. i. 22. God hath sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts; and 2 Cor. v. 5. And Eph.. i. 13, 14. he is called that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. He is called the first-fruits of the Spirit, Rom. viii. 23. This gift is an enriching gift. How great things doth he in and on the man! How much good doth he bring along with himself! He reveals Christ to the soul, John xvi. 14, 15. draws the soul to Christ, unites him with Christ; dwells in the believer, and seals him to the day of redemption, Ephesians iv. 30.; comforts him till that day comes. Hence called the Comforter by our Lord, John xiv. 16, 26. xv. 26. and xvi. 7. Yet for all the richness of this gift of the Spirit, this you must know, that as soon as a man receives this gift, he sees and finds himself to be a poor, empty, and needy creature. When this eye-salve of Christ anoints a manís eyes, then he seeth what he did not before; that he is wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked, Rev. iii. 17, 18. Therefore is the Spirit of Christ in believers a Spirit of grace and of supplication, Zech. xiii. 10.; a Spirit of adoption, crying, Abba, Father, Rom. viii. 15. and Galatians iv. 6. If no man can say, that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost, 1 Cor. xii. 3.; surely no man can call the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Abba, Father, but by the Holy Ghost. The first word of the new creature is Abba. But many believers live long ere they can say Abba confidently. They do not consider duly, that as this relation is granted by the Lord; so it should be pleaded by believers, without any regard to worth in us, but only to his own free grace and love in Jesus Christ. The Spirit of Christ in believers is a Spirit of prayer, a Spirit of begging in a child at its heavenly Fatherís door. The believer finds manifold daily wants; he knows none can relieve and supply his wanes, but his God by Jesus Christ, Phil.. iv. 19. He hath an instinct, and some ability by the Spirit to beg and wait. The operation of the Spirit in believers, the communion of the Holy Ghost, is a great mystery. He works more on them, than they feel and know.; and they feel more than they can express in words; and they express more than any that have not received the same Spirit of faith (2 Cor. iv. 13.) can understand: But this we know, that whensoever the Spirit of Christ applies his grace and power to the heart of a sinner, there is something wrought that day, that shall last to eternity. There is, by that linger of God, that impression made upon the soul, and that mark left upon it, that shall never wear out, and that sin and Satan shall never be able to blot out again; but it shall remain,, and grow, and be seen at the coming. of Christ at the last day, Phil. 1. 6.
II. Why is Christís heart so set upon his peopleís glory in heaven?
1. Because of his near interest in them, His interest in his church and people, is greater and closer than we can conceive. The Holy Ghost useth many similitudes to help our thoughts. Of them I would name only two of the plainest and most common. One is, of Christís being the head, and the church his body and members; Eph. i. 22, 23. and iv. 15, 16. and Col. ii. 19. Another is, the marriage-union of man and wife; and especially of the first married couple, Adam and Eve, our first parents, Eph. v. 25, 32. And you may well think, that it was a fit match. When the first man was made, God took a part of this manís body, and made of it a woman to be a wife to him. So is the church, Christís bride, taken out of Christís side; not in a sleep (as it was with the first Adam, Gen. ii. 21, 22.) but in and by his death. As Eve was made a most excellent woman, both for the endowments of body and mind; so Adam in innocency did doubtless love her perfectly. She was of him, from him, for him, and made to be with him. All this is but a shadow of the church, Christís bride. The first Adamís love to his rare wife, was nothing to Christís love to his bride. Yea, Christ is not only the head of the body, and the husband thereof; but Christ is to the church, as our souls are to our bodies, 1 Cor. vi. 17. All the life, power, and ability of our bodies, naturally flows from the soul dwelling in it. If the soul be never so happy, (as the spirits of just men made perfect are, Heb. xii. 23.), yet it hath a happy longing in its glorified state for its reunion with the body. So Christ, the quickening Spirit, (as Paul calls him, 1 Cor. xv. 45.), hath a great happy desire of having his glorified body with him where he is.
2. Christ is much concerned about glory to his people, because of his engagements for and to his people. There is a treble engagement of Christ that he lieth under for bringing his people to heaven. 1. The command of his Father, John vi. 58, 59, 40. And this commandment is eternal life, and this Christ knew, and revealed it, John xii. 49, 50.
2. His promise to his Father, in the everlasting covenant.
3. His promise to us in the gospel, 1 John ii. 25. He hath engaged to his Father, that none that are given to him shall ever perish; and he hath promised often and plainly to us in the gospel, that none that believe on him shall ever be ashamed. And woefully would a believer in Christ be ashamed, if he came short of heaven.
3. The greatness of Christís love to his people, makes him so much concerned about, their complete salvation. Christís love is so great, that it passeth knowledge; and some Christians love to Christ is so weak, that it is hardly seen and felt by them. It is not every one that can give Peterís answer unto Christís question, John xxi. 15, 16, 17. Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee. Now, we know concerning love, that it natively lieth in wishing well to the beloved. Doth Christ love his people? How can he but wish them well? And how can he wish them better, than to be with him where he is?
APPLICATION. 1. Is Jesus Christ so much concerned for the glory and blessedness of his people? Then see how sweetly we come to heaven. It is by Christís blessed will; his blood paying the price, and giving us the right and title to glory; and his heart and good-will giving possession of it. Thus are we saved, both surely and sweetly.
2. How firmly should we believe on Jesus Christ, and trust him for salvation? It is no small reproach to him, that is so often done by that unbelief and doubting that is so usual to some Christians. Christ minds our salvation heartily, and we believe feebly; he saying, I will have them with me where I am; and we often saying, Lord, thou wilt not bring me where thou art. Is it not sinful in us, and dishonourable to Christ, for us to be saying, Thou wilt not, when he is saying, I will? We should trust our salvation on Jesus Christ, not only as on him that only can save, and that is able to save perfectly; but as on him that hath more good-will to save, than we can have willingness to be saved by him. None had ever been saved by him, none had ever been brought to heaven, unless Christ had had more willingness to bring them thither, than they had to be led thither by him. He must in all things have the pre-eminence, Col. i. 18. and in this especially. Unbelief is in all doubtings of Christís good-will to save. Whatever may be said ofí the leperís faith, in Matth. viii. 2. Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean; no perishing sinner can be quite excused, that shall put an if on Christís willingness to save one that employs him in his office of saving, wherein his glory is so concerned, and his heart so deeply engaged. We should give him the glory that is due to him; to believe, that the willingness to save is greater in the Saviour, than willingness to be saved is in the sinner. For Christís good-will to save, is the cause of any desire of salvation in any: Psalm cx. 3. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power. When he hath a mind to save, he doth work this willingness in men to be saved by him: and they will own it to proceed from his willingness, when they become strong believers; and will see it and know it perfectly, when they get full salvation.
3. How strongly should believers love the Lord Jesus Christ? Is his heart so set on thy heaven? How filled with love to him ought thy heart to be? Woe to them that love him not, 1 Cor. xvi. 22. And in no better case are they that think they love him enough; and such as love any thing as well, and that hate not all things in comparison with him, Luke xiv. 26. To love Christ as thou dost thy life, will not be enough. It is higher and greater love that Christ doth deserve and require, and will only accept.
4. How patiently and quietly should we submit to Christís conduct and guiding us in the way to heaven? Is his heart set on bringing you thither? Let him guide you in the way as he pleaseth. Doth he say peremptorily, I will have them with me where I am? Let him guide you as he will, while you are in the world. When a believer is satisfied by faith, that Christ wills glory to him in the end, he will find it easy to submit to Christís conduct by the way. He may indeed, in some trials of his faith, be put to say, ďThis is a dark path I am led to walk in:Ē but faith will say, ďBut I am in Christís hand; this is his way of leading me; every step that Christ leads the believing traveller in, must lead to heaven.Ē He best knows the way; and the wisdom of the Christian lieth in following Christ whithersoever he goeth, and leadeth him. Though thou seest not heaven, the end; though thou knowest not the path he leads thee in; though the path, to thy sense, looks liker the way to hell, than to heaven: yet if Christ leadeth thee, and if thou be in his hand, it is impossible, but that Christ thy guide will bring thee to heaven, as thy home.
Robert Traill (1642-1716): Friend of William Guthrie of Fenwick, attendant of James Guthrie of Stirling on the scaffold, son of the Greyfriars Church manse where the 1638 Covenant was signed, Scot ordained in England, exile in Holland, prisoner on the Bass Rock, scholar, preacher and saint ó Robert Traill lived to span the ripest period of the Puritan age. Distinguished in the classes at Edinburgh University, Traill early felt the inner constraint to preach Christ. Too intimate an association with the younger John Welsh drew the swift displeasure of the civil arm upon him. Denounced as a ĎPentland Rebelí he fled to join the bright galaxy of British divines weathering the storm of Stuart Absolutism in the Low Countries (1667).
Traillís literary output began there. As assistant to Nethenus, professor at Utrecht, he prepared Samuel Rutherford's Examination of Arminianism for the press. Back in London in 1692 he took up his pen, as Isaac Chancy (Owenís successor) and the younger Thomas Goodwin were having to do, to defend the doctrine of Justification against the new Legalism. After serving Presbyterian charges in Kent and London he died at the age of 74.
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