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Whither he went, or was to go, was a question that had been often started in the course of his ministry: and it was a tender and affecting point. If he had left Judea, provided he would have set up a kingdom and government full of splendour, ease and riches, men would have followed him, though to the greatest distance. To have left the land of Israel, to go and teach Gentiles, and Jews dispersed among Gentiles, in the same way that he had taught men in Judea, would have been offensive and disagreeable to many. But for him, who took upon himself the character of the Messiah, to speak of leaving this earth, and be no longer visible here, was exceeding discouraging; for it overthrew all hopes of a life in worldly ease and prosperity under him; which had been the expectation of carnal minds.
Let us observe the passages of St. John's gospel, where this enquiry appears; and we shall find, that our Lord himself gave occasion to it, and endeavoured by what he said of his going away, to destroy that expectation which was so prejudicial to just sentiments concerning himself and the things of religion.
John vii. 32-36. "The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him and the Pharisees and chief priests sent officers to take him. Then said Jesus unto them: Yet a little while I am with you: and then I go unto him that sent me. Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come. Then said the Jews among themselves, whither will he go, that we shall not find him? Will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles? What manner of saying is this that he said: Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come ?"
And ch. viii. 20-23. "These things spake Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the temple -Then said Jesus again unto them: I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins. Whither I go ye cannot come. And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath. I am from above. Ye are of this world. I am not of this world.” Ch. xiii. 33. "Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me. And as I said unto the Jews, whither I go, ye cannot come so now say I unto you."-Ver.36. "Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards."
Ch. xiv. 1-6. "Let not your hearts be troubled.-In my Father's house are many mansions. -I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go, and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to myself, that where I am, there ye may be also: and whither I go, ye know: and the way you know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest: and how can we know the way?" Such was their remaining ignorance, occasioned by the prejudices which they laboured under. "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life :" and what there follows.
Once more, ch. xvi. 5, 6. "But now I go my way unto him that sent me: and none of you asketh me, whither goest thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart." They had sometimes before put that question to him. But they did not yet fully comprehend his answers. And it would have been agreeable to him, if they had now given him occasion to speak again of the place whither he was going; especially if they had by their inquiries manifested an increase of knowledge, and a growing esteem and affection for heavenly things.
This message therefore our Lord sends to his disciples immediately after his resurrection, before he shewed himself personally to any of them. I am indeed risen from the dead. I who * was dead, am alive again. But let not therefore any fond thoughts arise in the minds of any of you. I am soon to leave this world, and go to him that sent me, as I often told you formerly. "I ascend to my Father, and your Father: to my God, and your God."
This message was altogether worthy of our Lord. And it was exceedingly suited to produce a serious and attentive frame in the minds of his disciples, and to carry their thoughts from the things of this world, however engaging to those of another.
3. Our blessed Lord intended by this message to comfort and strengthen his disciples by assurances of a like glory and happiness with what was allotted to himself.
"I go to my Father," says he," and to your Father, to my God, and your God." I am raised up to life. So likewise shall all they be in due time who believe in me, and follow, and obey me. To all such the Father will by me give eternal life.'
Our Lord proved a resurrection to the Pharisees from God's having called himself "the God of Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob."
Our Lord had been now declared to be the Son of God by his resurrection. Herein God had shewn himself a Father to him. He here says to his disciples, that God is not only his God and Father, but theirs also. Thereby he assures them of a resurrection to life, to die no more, and of their partaking of glory and happiness like his. Then their sonship, and God's fatherly love and care for them, will be manifest. So says our Lord. "Neither can they die any more. For they are equal unto the angels, and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection," Luke xx. 36.
Whilst our Lord was yet with the disciples, and before he took his leave of them, he said: go to prepare a place for you. If I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to myself: that where I am, there ye may be also," John xiv. 2, 3; and afterwards, ver. 19. "Because I live, ye shall live also."
Thus we see at once how God is not only the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, but also how he is the God and Father of his disciples and people. He is the Son of God, and God is his Father, in a sense peculiar to himself. He is their elder brother, and the first-born from the dead, and has in all things the pre-eminence. They likewise are dear to God, as children they have been born of God, they are heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ. And they have an inheritance. It is in the heavenly mansions of their Father's house with Christ, who is their head and Lord.
4. In this message to the disciples our Lord might intend to encourage their expectation of the fulfilment of the promise of the gift of the Spirit, to enlighten them, and qualify them for the difficult work to which he had called and appointed them: a thing which he had often spoken of, especially when he discoursed of his leaving them. "Nevertheless, I tell you the truth. It is expedient that I go away: for if I go not away the Comforter will not come. if I depart I will send him unto you," John xvi. 7, 8.
APPLICATION. I shall add a thought or two by way of reflection.
Admirable are the condescension and the goodness of the Lord Jesus. "Go to my brethren, and say unto them: I ascend unto my Father, and your Father, to my God, and your God. Jesus is risen from the dead to die no more. He nevertheless calls his disciples, as yet in a state of affliction and trial, brethren. They had accompanied him in his temptation. And he still calls them brethren. We therefore need not scruple to esteem and call them our brethren, who in some respects are inferior to us.
The goodness of Jesus is also very admirable. The disciples had lately failed in their regard to him, and left him alone in his hour of disgrace. Nevertheless, when risen from the dead, and death hai no longer any power over him, nor are any of the afflictions of this life able to reach him, he sends them this message full of affection and tenderness. It is not a threatening, it is not an upbraiding message, but encouraging and cheering.
We should not abuse his goodness. But if we are sincere, let us hope that Jesus, who knows all things, will not reject us for unallowed failings and neglects.
And let us also be willing to own others for our brethren, who are not perfect, but are defective, and fail, though sincere, in an hour of temptation: and let us do what we can to strengthen and comfort them.
CHRIST'S POVERTY OUR RICHES.
For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich. 2 Cor. viii. 9.
THESE words lie among divers arguments, which the apostle offers to the Corinthians, to induce them to a liberal contribution for the relief of the poor saints in Judea. And these words may be considered as containing an argument to generosity therein. Or, whilst they contain indeed
a very powerful motive to liberality, and to every good work, they may be considered as exhibiting to these Christians a reason why the apostle need not press their liberality to the utmost, by the use of many arguments, they being already acquainted with a very forcible inducement. "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ."
However, it is not my design at this time to consider the words, particularly with regard to their connection, or to excite your liberality to any contribution. I now treat of them, as a remarkable and distinguished part of the portion of scripture read this morning in our ordinary course, and as likely to furnish meditations suitable to the solemnity of the Lord's supper to be this day administered among us.
In the words are several things observable.
I. The riches of Christ.
II. His poverty.
III. The moving cause and consideration of his " becoming poor," which was our benefit: or" that by his poverty we might be rich."
IV. How Christ's poverty conduces to our riches.
V. "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in becoming poor, that we might be rich."
I. In the first place we are to observe the riches of Christ. Hereby is meant the great dig nity of the Lord Jesus Christ, the mighty power which he was possessed of, and his command over all things. In a text very parallel with this the apostle speaks of Christ being "in the form of God," Philip. ii. 6. In another place he says, " in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily," Col. ii. 9; that is, really; not as in the temple of old at Jerusalem, in a bright flame, or resplendent glory, a visible outward symbol of the divine presence. But in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Deity really. He has divine knowledge, wisdom and power. In Matt. i. 23, is applied to Jesus the prophecy of Isaiah concerning the birth of a child, of whom it was foretold: "they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is God with us." And St. John at the beginning of his gospel says: "The Word was made flesh," or took human nature," and dwelled among us. And we saw his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."
This is great riches. Let us also observe some of the proofs hereof. They are very evident in the life of Jesus. In him appeared the knowledge of all things, of the thoughts and designs of men, things done formerly, in private, and things future. He had likewise all power for healing diseases, raising the dead, and for restraining his enemies when he saw fit. He commanded the winds and the waves, and they obeyed him. He multiplied small provisions for the supply of great multitudes: and he spake as man never spake, with perspicuity and true sublimity, to the admiration of the people, to the conviction of some of his enemies, and the surprise of others of them.
II. The next particular is our Lord's poverty." He became poor." In this expression two things are implied: first that he was poor, and then, that he was so willingly, and with his own
First, Jesus Christ was poor. Hereby is meant by the apostle not only the being destitute of a large patrimony, or plentiful income, and many accommodations, but all the mean circumstances of our Lord's outward condition.
However, he was poor in the literal sense of the word. He descended from the family of David, when it was in a low estate; and when he appeared in his public character, he had no settled habitation of his own. When one of the Jewish scribes came to him, making an offer to follow him whithersoever he went, our Lord recommended to him to consider the consequence of such a resolution; for, says he, "the Son of man hath not where to lay his head," Matt. viii. 20. There are many evidences of our Lord's poverty; for he subsisted chiefly by the contributions of a few zealous friends and followers. When they came to him for the tribute-money, or the annual offering for the use of the temple at Jerusalem, he seems not to have had of his own wherewith to pay it; and therefore rather than give offence by not paying it, he wrought a miracle for a supply.
But by the poverty mentioned in the text, we are farther to understand all the many sufferings and inconveniences to which our Lord was exposed in this world, as a person in mean circumstances: the ingratitude of some, whom he had obliged by very valuable benefits, the neglect of many, who pay regard not to merit, but to wealth and outward show and appear
ance: the scorn of the great and powerful, the frequent contradictions and continual oppositions which he met with from the scribes and pharisees, and the chief priests, and the rulers, and all the pain and ignominy of his death.
That all this may be justly understood to be comprised in this expression of the text, may be concluded from the parallel place before referred to. "Who being in the form of God, made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross," Philip. ii. 6-8.
Secondly, All this poverty was free and voluntary. Though he was rich, "for your sakes he became poor:" or, in the words just cited, "he made himself of no reputation."
That our Lord's poverty, and all the inconveniences attending it, and all the sufferings he underwent, as a man, mean, and despised of the people, were freely submitted to, is apparent. When he wrought a miracle for the sake of the tribute-money, he carried it no farther than an immediate supply for that one particular exigence; though he therein showed a command over all nature. The two miracles of the loaves, when he multiplied small provisions, are another clear demonstration that he could have abounded in all good things if he had pleased. How he declined all worldly power and splendour, is evident from his shunning, and disappointing those who would have had him assume regal state and authority. "When Jesus therefore perceived," says the Evangelist, "that they would come and take him by force to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone," John vi. 18. And when, for the good of his disciples, he spake to them beforehand of his last sufferings, and Peter said, "Be it far from thee, Lord, this shall not be unto thee," Matt. xvi. 22, he repressed that apostle, as a seducer and tempter, with marks of great displeasure and resentment. "He turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan, thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men," ver. 23. And when those sufferings were near at hand, and Peter began to make resistance, that he might not be apprehended by the Jewish officers, he said unto him: "The cup, which my Father has given me to drink, shall I not drink it ?" John xviii. 11. And, "Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he should presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?" Matt. xxvi. 53.
That is the second thing, Christ's poverty, and the cheerfulness with which he submitted to it, and to all the inconveniences attending it.
III. The next thing observable in the words of the text is the moving cause of it, or the end aimed at and proposed in this poverty, which is our benefit, that we might be rich.
I need not say, that hereby is not particularly intended earthly riches: that the persons, to whom St. Paul is writing, or others, followers of Jesus, might have a great deal of wealth, or large estates, and worldly pomp and honour. There is no reason to doubt, that usually, or however very frequently, good Christians may have an equal share of worldly good things with other men, by the practice of the virtues of sobriety, diligence, prudence and moderation, which his doctrine recommends: nevertheless that is not what is here particularly intended, but somewhat higher. Any thing that is valuable may be represented by riches, for which men ordinarily have a great esteem. This language is common in profane authors of the best note, as well as in the sacred writings. They who are wise, whatever is their outward condition, are reckoned rich in some sense by the judicious. In the figurative stile of Solomon, in the book of Proverbs, Wisdom there says: "Riches and honour are with me, yea durable riches and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, yea than fine gold, and my revenue than choice silver. I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment: that I may cause those that love me to inherit substance: and I will fill their treasures," Prov. viii. 18, 19. It is in this sublime and exalted sense, that the apostle ought to be here understood, when
he says, "for your sakes Christ became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich." For this is agreeable to his stile in other places. So he says to the Corinthians, "I thank my God always in your behalf, that in every thing ye are enriched by him in all utterance, and in all knowledge," 1 Cor. i. 4, 5. In like manner in the seventh verse of this chapter, wherein is the text: "Therefore as ye abound in every thing, in faith, in utterance, and in knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also."
There are several branches of this kind of riches, with which Christians are enriched by Jesus Christ, and which he proposed to enrich them with. There are riches of knowledge and
understanding in divine things, riches of virtue and holiness, riches of good works, riches of inheritance, riches of comfort, and riches of future glory and happiness.
First, there are the riches of knowledge and understanding in divine things. This is a fundamental blessing, on which many others depend. "In Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," Col. ii. 3. From his fulness Christians have received. They gain by him a clearer knowledge of God, and the way of serving him, and approving themselves to him, than others have, or than they had, before they had heard of him and learned of him. Says the apostle to the Galatians: "But now after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements?" Gal. iv. 9. They have juster notions of the future state of recompenses, than others. Through Christ, these Corinthians, and other Gentiles, had gained a clearer and more delightful knowledge, and fuller assurances concerning the wisdom, goodness and mercy of God, and many other religious truths, than they had before.
Secondly, There are also the riches of graces or virtues, the truest riches in the world, and the most valuable of all attainments. Such as the love of God and our neighbour, moderation for earthly things, meekness, patience, gentleness, long-suffering, the government of ourselves and all our passions. To have these virtuous dispositions, especially to excel in them, is great riches. St. James speaks of some, who were "rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to them that love him," Jam. ii. 5. Christ has become poor, and has given himself for us, that we might have these riches of virtue and holiness, and that we might abound therein, excelling in love, meekness, patience, zeal, and fortitude of mind in the profession of truth, and the practice of virtue.
Farther, thirdly, There are the riches of good works, when the virtuous dispositions, just mentioned, are exercised, and show themselves in their proper fruits. St. Paul requires Timothy to "charge them that are rich in this world, that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate," 1 Tim. vi. 17, 18. He himself is here exhorting the Corinthians to be rich in that way. And at the beginning of this chapter he commends the churches of Macedonia for the riches of their liberality.
4. There are also the riches of inheritance, or expectation. And Christ became poor for this end, that we might be entitled to a glorious and heavenly inheritance. Though Gentiles, once afar off, we through Christ have been brought nigh unto God, and admitted into his family, and made children. "And if children, then heirs," says St. Paul," and joint heirs with Christ," Rom. viii. 17. And St. James: "Has not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to them that love him?" Jam. ii. 5. So Christians are rich in hope and expectation.
5. Consequently, they are likely to be rich in comforts. Since their expectations are vast, and also well founded, they have sources of consolation which cannot easily fail. In every condition, whether they want, or abound, as to earthly goods, they will enjoy contentment, and in all their tribulations have peace and comfort. As St. Paul says: "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. By whom also we have access into this grace and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also," Rom. v. beg. especially when they happen on account of services for the interest of true religion: "knowing, that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope. And hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given to us."
6. The riches, which the apostle here speaks of, must include also the riches of future glory and happiness. And that is true riches, a treasure laid up in heaven, liable to no violence, nor accidents, nor decays. They, who according to the directions of Christ, and his apostles, seek the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness in the first place, who rightly improve their present advantages, doing good, and being rich in good works, lay up for themselves in store a good foundation," or a good treasure, "against the time to come, and will obtain eternal life.” 1 Tim. vi. 18, 19.
Thus Christ" became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich," in religious knowledge, in virtue, in good works, in the hope and expectation of a heavenly inheritance, in contentment, peace and comfort of mind now, and at length in glory, the perfection of holiness and happiness.