The Glory, Unity, and Triumphs of the Church
“And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may he one, even as we are one: 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.” — John xvii. 22— 3.
SOME words serve diverse uses and have many meanings. We are very apt to make mistakes if we give the same sense in all places to the same word. The word “world” throughout Scripture is used with a very remarkable variety of meaning, and one had need to have his wits about him, and to read carefully, in order to know what is the precise force of the term in each place where it occurs. In the text before us it is evident that Christ had a view to the world: he desired that the world might know that the Father had sent him, and might also know that God had loved his people even as he had loved his Son. From the somewhat altered expression in the twenty-first verse we feel convinced that our Lord did not limit his desires for the world to its having a bare knowledge of these facts, but wished that it should also believe them, for thus runs the verse– “That the world may believe that thou hast elsewhere says his own disciples had already done: “O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.” Certainly there is a world for which Jesus did not pray, for he said, “I pray for them: I pray not for the world”; yet here there is a world for which if he does not actually pray, he yet prays that certain gracious events may occur, in order that certain results may be produced upon that world. I say again, the word “world” therefore has many shades of meaning, ranging from that jet-black meaning in which the world lieth in the wicked one,” and that other, “love not the world, neither the things that are in the world,” upward to the milder senses in John i. 10, “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not”; and yet higher to the brighter meaning, “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ.” It is not in the worst sense that our text speaks of the world, but the same manner as we find it used in such passage as these, “The Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them”; and again in 1 John ii., “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” It is certain that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” and we cannot suppose that the great Redeemer would refuse to pray for those for whom he was given. I understand in this particular place by the word “world” the whole mass of mankind upon the face of the earth who are not as yet converted; among them there is an elect part, for our Lord speaks of some men who shall yet believe on him through the word of his servants, but these at this present moment are undistinguished from the rest. I understand here by the word “world” all as yet unrenewed out of the whole living family of man; and on account of these our Lord would have his believing people brought into that admirable condition which we shall now attempt to describe. For the sake of the world he would have the church in a high state of holy beauty and strength. May his gracious prayer be answered in all of us by the working of the Holy Ghost.
I trust that I may say of all of you, my beloved in Christ, that you are living with this object: at any rate, I know that you desire to live for the glory of our Lord Jesus and the salvation of men. We would make all men see what is the fellowship of this mystery; for we would have all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Our wish is to bring multitudes to the Saviour, and to conquer province after province of this revolted world for King Jesus. “Let the whole earth be filled with his glory” is a prayer which we cannot, dare not, would not, straiten. Half the world would be a poor reward for the Redeemer’s travail — “The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof.” Even here, where he was despised and rejected of men, our Lord must reign with fulness of glory, having dominion from sea to sea and from the river even to the ends of the earth. This is the consummation towards which we are tending by the grace of God, striving earnestly for it, according to his working, which worketh in us mightily. Daily we labour to bring others into subjection to that blessed sovereignty under which we delight to dwell.
In this place our Lord tells us that this desirable end is to be brought about by a marvellous unity which is described in our text— a unity of men with Christ, a unity of these men in Christ with one another, and the unity of Christ himself with the eternal Father. “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one.” Let us speak about this unity this morning, always keeping in mind the drift, end, and object of it, namely, that the world may believe that God has sent the Lord Jesus.
First, then, let us think upon the great means of that unity, and then, secondly, upon the unity itself. Lastly, let us more fully consider the effect to be produced by it.
I. First, then, let us reflect upon THE GREAT MEANS OF THE UNITY which Christ proposes here. It lies in a nutshell— “The glory which thou gavest me I have given them;” with this object, “that they may be one, even as we are one.” Here our blessed Lord does not speak of what he will give to his disciples, though there is a glory which is laid up for them which the faithful shall receive at the last; but he mentions a glory which he has already given them. This could not be the incommunicable glory of his Godhead, for that was his by nature, and not by the Father’s gift. He speaks throughout the whole of his prayer in the capacity of the Mediator, who is both God and man in one person; and the glory which he says he had given to his people is a glory which the Father had given to him in his complex person as incarnate God. We are to regard, therefore, our Lord Jesus Christ as speaking here as Immanuel, God with us, who, though he counted it no robbery to be equal with God, had made himself of no reputation, and taken upon himself the form of a servant. He appeared on earth as the Son of man, the Son of God; but even in that condescending capacity he was surrounded with a glory of which John speaks in his first chapter, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” As the Word made flesh the Father has given our Lord an exceeding glory.
The explanations of the words before us are as many as the words themselves, and I suppose there is a measure of truth in each of them. I do not think it possible in one sermon, perhaps not in a hundred, nor even in a thousand, to bring out all that is intended here; therefore I shall not attempt any such a task, but shall only follow one narrow track of practical thought, even as one passes through a field of coni along a narrow pathway, gathering a few ears as he moves along. It seems to me that a main part of the glory of our Lord when on earth lay in the moral and spiritual glory of his character. He was indeed glorious in holiness, and this is evidently the glory which he transfers to us. See the second epistle to the Corinthians, the third chapter and eighteenth verse, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” To the like effect are Peter’s words in his first epistle, “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you.”
The essence and cause of the glory which the Father gave the Son, was first of all that He endowed him with the Holy Spirit. “God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him; the Father loveth the Son and hath given all things into his hand.” (John iii. 34, 35.) The Holy Ghost descended upon our Lord in his baptism and abode upon him, so that in the power of the indwelling Spirit he lived, and spake, and acted, and in all that he did the Spirit of God was manifest. In him was fulfilled the word of the Lord by the prophet Isaiah, “And there shall come forth a Rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord; and shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord.” In this Spirit there is glory, for the prophet further says, “his rest shall be glorious.” Now this glory our Lord Jesus has given to all his disciples. Upon each true disciple the Spirit of God rests according to his measure. If we have not the anointing to the full it is either from want of capacity or by reason of our own sin, for the Spirit of God is given to the saints: he dwelleth with us and shall be in us evermore. My brethren, I would to God we realized this, that the glory of the Holy Ghost which was given unto Christ is also given unto us, so that it is ours to think, to feel, to speak, to act under his guiding influence and supernatural power. What are we of ourselves apart from the Holy Spirit? How can we hope to convince even one man, much less the world, that God hath sent his Son, apart from the Holy Spirit being with us? But if he will come, and I trust he has come upon many of us; if he will take possession of every faculty, and rule and reign in us in all the splendour of his holiness, then we shall indeed become a power for the conversion of mankind. Behold the Lord Jesus has given us this Spirit, and in that power let us henceforth live.
Owing to this endowment of the Holy Spirit there rested upon Jesus Christ a wondrous glory in many respects. One of his first glories was that as man he knew the name and character of God. He knew what no man knoweth, unless it be revealed unto him of the Holy Spirit, namely, the nature, attributes, and mind of God. “The pure in heart shall see God,” and those pure eyes of his had seen God to the full. Has he not given us that same vision of the Father? Yes, for he tells us, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father”; and again in the sixth verse, “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world.” Our eyes have been opened by the blessed Spirit of God to see the invisible, and our understandings have been strengthened to know the incomprehensible. Now, according to the language of the apostle, we “know God, or rather are known of God.” “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” Not to the full have we beheld the Father, but still, according as we have received this glory which rested upon Christ we have been made to know the Father, and now we have access to the heavenly, we are familiar with the divine, we speak with the Most High, and delight ourselves in the Lord. As we gaze into the unspeakable glory we discern something of the holiness, the justice, and the wisdom of Jehovah; and we behold yet more of his great mercy and abounding love. We were once blinded, but now it is our glory that we see and know the Lord our God. Henceforth we become like our Lord in another beam of his glory: for we also begin to manifest the divine name unto the sons of men who dwell around us. The church, like the moon, reflects the glory of the great Father of lights, and so is glorious with the borrowed splendour which her Lord puts upon her. Christ’s knowledge of the Father is given to us, and we endeavour to make it known to others. If men would see God let them look at Jesus, for there is he to be seen; and, with bated breath, we add, let them look at Christ’s people, for there also is God revealed. It is the glory of the saints that they are the mirrors of the divine character, and when they wear the glory which Jesus has given them they manifest the eternal name unto those whom the Lord has ordained to bless by their means.
The glory of our Lord consisted next in the power of the Spirit in his receiving, keeping, and giving forth the word of God. Our Lord Jesus was a full revelation of the mind of God. “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” He knew the plan of God, that blessed method of infinite love; and he imparted it to his followers,— “I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them.” The depository of the divine word was Christ, and this was greatly to his glory. Is not the logos, THE WORD, one of the brightest of his titles? But now this day he hath given- unto us the word, speaking it unto our souls, and henceforth we are to hold forth the word of life in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. Would you know the mind of God? It is not merely in a book, it is still incarnated in men in whom the Spirit of the Lord is present. Still doth the Lord make known his mind and will by the earnest, fervent teachings, pleadings, and lives of those in whom the Spirit of God dwells. Do you think this to be a small glory? Why, my beloved, the glory of possessing the Spirit of God, the glory of knowing the eternal God, the glory of having received his word is such as distinguishes the chosen man above his fellows infinitely more than all the crowns, and titles, and decorations which monarchs can bestow. Tell me not of your stars and garters, your ribbons and your crosses, to be made partakers of the Holy Ghost and guardians of the truth of God is a greater glory than the princes of this world can so much as imagine.
This glory of the Lord Jesus lay also in the sanctification of his blessed person. He saith, “For their sakes I sanctify myself.” Look at him how consecrated to God he was from his childhood till he said, “It is finished!” What holiness shone upon his very brow, where a guileless soul unveiled itself in brave sincerity! You could not have been with him at a funeral or at a marriage banquet, in a sick chamber or in the midst of a crowd, in the presence of carping adversaries or in the bosom of his family of twelve, without being charmed by that divinity of holiness which hedged him round about. There was about him a sweetness of unspeakable affection and a majesty of unsullied purity which made him glorious above all the sons of men. His enemies spat upon him, but that very spittle was the unconscious homage which malignant evil pays to conquering goodness. The ungodly crucified him, but even in that very act there was a sort of confession that they were baffled and confounded, and could not stand before him. They cried, “Crucify him, crucify him,” because his perfect purity rendered their own wickedness inexcusable, and lashed their conscience with reflections which could not be borne. Our Lord’s moral glory was great, for he was the pattern and paragon of everything that is lovely and of good repute, and he was wholly sanctified unto God. This is the glory which he gives to us. His prayer is, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” His disciples live unto holiness, and are known as a people zealous of good works. I have to speak as I find matters laid down in the word of God, and if you do not find them to be so in yourselves, my brothers and sisters, then you must judge yourselves by the word, that ye be not judged at the last and condemned. So it is that those who have truly received Christ become a special, marked, and separated people. They are as much consecrated to God as the priests were under the old dispensation, and henceforth they live for God, they live unto God, and their whole being is subjected to the mind of God. This is a high state of grace, but nothing less than this ought to content any Christian man. The glory of sanctity Christ has given to his people with an eye to the convincement of the world.
Well, then, our great Master gives us next the glory of his own mission. “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.” It is the glory of Jesus that he is the Messiah— the sent one; and now, behold, he sends all his servants to be messiahs or missionaries to mankind. Christ Jesus was sent to reveal the Father, sent to reclaim the wandering souls of men, sent to seek and to save the lost: and this is exactly what every true Christian is sent into the world to do; he is commissioned to reveal God in his every act and word, commissioned to win back rebellious hearts, commissioned to save the sons of men, and bring them up out of the horrible pit into which their sins have cast them. This is a glory indeed, for they that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever and ever. What a promise is that, “And saviours shall come up on mount Zion, and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s.” Every Christian man, according to his measure, becomes among his race what Jesus was when he was here below, the friend of men, the seeker of the lost.
Again, I say I trust your glad hearts appreciate this glory, for let me say it is such a glory that if it involves much strictness of living, and much self-denial, if it involves much obloquy, misrepresentation, and reproach, and even should it involve death by martyrdom, blessed is the man upon whom all these things come, because the spirit of glory and of Christ doth rest upon him. The true glory of any man is the man himself,— the character which he bears, and not the estate which he possess. My brother, can I hope that you have a resplendent spiritual character? Dare I hope to win the same myself? Let us look again at this glory of the Son of God. Christ Jesus was the man of men, the model man, the most manly man in all respects, and yet he was of all men the most fully subordinated to the divine law, and the most obedient in all things to the Father’s will. See your calling, my brethren! You, too, are not to be common men, nor to belong to the herd that run foolishly after their own lusts; but you are to be model men, manly and brave, yet always submissive to the great Father of your spirits. We are to be such men that those who look upon us may wish that there were more such as we are.
Jesus especially was a model in his perfect self abnegation. What did he seek for himself? — a kingdom? Yes, but a kingdom whose crown was made of thorns — a kingdom of suffering love. What did he live for? — that he might be glorified?— Ay, but that he might be glorified by saving others while refusing to save himself. His crowning glory is that he humbled himself, and made himself of no reputation, and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross. Such shall you and I be, if we have the glory of Christ resting upon us: we shall give up for ever all self-seeking, all desire to shine, all wish to be great, all craving to be rich; and we shall live henceforth not unto ourselves, but unto him that died for us. For God’s glory, and for Christ’s purpose in the convincement of the world, we are to live, and if we do so the spirit of glory will be resting upon us.
The matchless Man of Nazareth had this glory, that he was one with God: the objects, and aims, and thoughts of God were his objects, and aims, and thoughts. His life ran parallel with the path of the Most High. This man was accepted of God; the love of God ever rested upon him, He had access to God; he could speak with the Father when he would, and answers out of the excellent glory were vouchsafed him. He was prevalent with God, for his prayers brought down, and still bring down, countless blessings upon the sons of men. He was the Son of God, and he overcame the world in the power of his sonship. Now, this glory which the Father gave him he has given us, that we, too, may be accepted; that we, too, may have access; that we, too, may have prevalence in prayer; that we, too, may have the spirit of adoption; and that we, too, may trample upon sin and overcome the hosts of darkness. This is the glory which rests upon all the faithful.
Mark you well, that wherever this glory is seen true unity is developed. Suppose I were to find a man, living in the likeness of Christ, with this spiritual glory conspicuous upon him, it may be that he would be poor and illiterate, but what of that? Suppose he is a coalheaver, the glory of his character will be none the less conspicuous amid the dust. Then, let us find another man on whom the same spiritual glory rests, and we will suppose that he is an earl, a supposition which, thank God, is not an impossible one; the glory will be none the more dim because of the good man’s honours. There then are the two— coalheaver and coroneted earl: does it need half an eye to see that the glory of each is one? The holy consecration in each case is the same, and the degrees of rank do not affect the essential beauty of either. Is it not the same life which dwells in all saintly bosoms, and the same love which prompts each holy deed? In a princess or in a dairyman’s daughter, in a scholar or in a peasant, the glory of a high character is one. If you found among a savage tribe a single convert, truly consecrated to Christ, and living unto God according to the measure of his light, his manners might be rude and his knowledge slender, but there would be upon him the same kind of glory which you would mark as adorning a polished, educated Christian lady who in the midst of her circle spends a lovely life for Jesus. Should the untutored convert die by the spear of the savage whose soul he sought to bless, he is written in the same bead-roll of martyrs as that which bears the names of bishops and apostles. Holiness is everywhere most precious; unselfishness is in any instance beyond all price. Give us to see love to God and love to men, and they are everywhere alike, and reveal a oneness of inward life, in fact, oneness with him who is the true life of men.
If you bring a company of common Christians together and they begin discoursing and discussing, I dare say they will jangle and debate world without end; but if you could select a number of those upon whom the glory rests which the Father gave to his Son, I will warrant you this, that within a short time they will be all on their knees together, or singing together, or engaged in some form of loving fellowship. The people who are not one with each other are those who are not one with Christ; but once filled with his Spirit we are one of necessity. You cannot help it, it is scarcely a matter of duty, it becomes a matter of necessity, that you who have the love of Christ within you should love the brotherhood. Spiritual men are so essentially one that like two drops which he close together they have an increasing tendency to unite. Spiritual men may wear different denominational names, and may differ in their conscientions convictions on some matters, but these things do not hinder union, but give a zest to it. If the glory which the Father gave to Christ is resting upon these they have discerned the mystical unity which encompasses them all, and they are delighted to acknowledge it by deeds of brotherly love, rendered with spontaneous alacrity, blessing him who performs them and those who receive the benefits.
Beloved, those in whom Christ fives are not uniform, but one. Uniformity may be found in death, but this unity is fife. Those who are quite uniform may yet have no love to each other, while those who differ widely may still be truly and intensely one. Our children are not uniform, but they make one family. Sons born at the same birth may exhibit a remarkable divergence of character, and yet the father may be seen in both, and they may be equally one in the family circle, and in all the love which makes home the abode of happiness. So it is with all believers: born of the same everlasting Father, they are one in spirit, one in character, one in object, one in aim, yea, one in the fullest sense. At this moment, despite apparent differences, the whole host of the spiritual are one, and they press forward as with the tramp of one man against the common foe. I speak not of professors, I speak not of the external church, I speak not of the mixed multitude that come up out of Egypt and debase the character of our Israel; but I speak of those of whom Christ could say to his Father, “The glory which thou hast given me I have given them”: these are one as the Father and the Son are one, but mere professors are not so.
II. Time flies too rapidly, alas, and therefore we must with great brevity think upon the second point, namely, THE UNITY ITSELF. AS I have remarked, it is not uniformity. This our Lord says nothing of. Though we are one body in him, yet all the members have not the same office; the eye is very different from the ear, and the foot has not the same form as the hand. Neither does he speak of any formal organization by which unity is to be secured. How many have tried to create a mechanical union and have made confusion worse confounded. Their eagerness for unity has threatened to dash everything to shivers. The very first step towards a visible unity of the church is with most men that they shall fix a standard of what the church ought to be, and cut off everybody who will not conform thereto. See how certain brethren, to show how they hate sectarianism, invent a new sect and diligently earn from their fellow-believers the character of being more bitter and bigoted than any other professors. The vagaries of non-sectarians are the scandal of the age. They have talked of union and scattered the saints right and left. Let us follow practical methods, and we shall find them in the unity which the text describes.
First, it is written— “I in them.” Christ lives in his people, and we are so to act, in the power of the Holy Ghost, that onlookers shall say, “Surely Christ lives again in that man, for he acts out the precepts of Jesus. Did you notice how he bore the insult? Did you notice how he laid himself out to oblige and to serve? Did you observe how, without introducing religious talk, he gradually steered the conversation towards that which is to edification? Do you see how if he stays in a hotel, or if he sojourns in a family, or if he sits in a work-room, his presence is soon felt by the pleasure which he diffuses, the confidence which he inspires?” He is everyone’s friend when he is needed: the servant of all, the example of all. His voice is ever for peace, and if he does now and then speak upbraidingly men’s consciences admit that he is just. Such a man honours his Lord by reminding men of him. Our first consideration should not be, “Now I am here, how can I be comfortable?” but “I am here, how can I please others for their good? How can I relieve the distressed, help the weary, or cheer the sad?” It is a grand thing to do good in little ways. It is a glory to be the sweetener of life at home, the self-forgetting friend of all around. The world ere long confesses that Christ is in such a man. The true Christian is Jesus Redivivus. His name implies this,— how is he a Christian who is not like Christ? We commonly say that the oil upon the head runs down to the skirts of the garment: is it so? Is the love of Jesus, the generosity of Jesus, the zeal of Jesus, the gentleness of Jesus, the consecration of Jesus to be seen in us? for if so the glory of Jesus rests on us; and if not we have need to begin again and do our first works.
The next point of the union is— “Thou in me.” That is, God is in Christ. This is manifestly true, for you cannot read the life of Christ without seeing God in him. “Come, now,” said one to an unbeliever, “what think you of the life of Christ?” “I am free to confess,” said the other, “that it seems to me to be a very marvellous life, and in every way worthy of praise.” “You do not, however, think Jesus Christ to be God?” “No, I do not.” “But suppose,” said the Christian, “that God had been here among men in human form, could he have acted more purely or more benevolently?” “No,” said the other, “if I admit the possibility of such a thing, I am not able to conceive of anything more divinely good.” “Why, then,” said the Christian, “do you not see that in very deed God was in Christ Jesus and he was one with God?” So we believe, and we rejoice greatly to hear our Lord say, “I and my Father are one.” See, then, the unity of Christ in us and God in Christ Jesus.
This brings about the union of believers with the Father: being one with Christ, and Christ being one with the Father, the point is reached for which our Lord prayed, “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.” Couple this with believers being one with each other and you get the being “made perfect in one” of which our text speaks. If you and I are one in Christ, and one with Christ, then are we one with God, seeing Christ is one with God; and thus not in some few characteristics are we alike and one in name, but in life, in aim, and in desire we are one. Brethren, if you and I are living for the same design which our Lord lived for, and if the very life which quickens us is the life of Jesus, then since Jesus lives evermore for the self-same thing which God purposes and works out, then surely there is a grand unity, the like of which is not found in the universe. This has great depths in it, which is grounded upon a mystical, spiritual union, but I leave the depths of doctrine, just now, to speak upon the experimental and practical truths, which grow out of the matter of fact. Moved by the same love of holiness, inspired by the same spirit of love, and tenderness, and kindness, the eternal Father’s will is the will of the Son, and the Spirit worketh in us also to will and to do according to the good pleasure of the Lord. According to the measure of grace the members of the body feel and move in union with the Head, who also is in union with the Father. “Thy kingdom come” is God’s will thrilling through all the members of the body of Christ. Death to sin, destruction of strife, the ending of injustice, the chasing away of every form of error— these are the common objects of the Father, and of all those whom he has begotten. The propagation of truth, the increase of love, the reign of gentleness and peace among men— these are the mind of God, the mind of Christ, and the mind of all the saints, and so are we one with each other by ties spiritual and divine.
III. I could not enlarge upon that subject though I wished to do so, for I must now notice THE EFFECT WHICH THIS PRODUCES, according to our Lord’s prophecy and prayer.
First, it will convince the world of the truth of Christ’s mission:– “That the world may know that thou hast sent me.” How will they know it? Why, when they see such characters as I have so feeble tried to paint; when they see men who are no longer selfish, hard, ungenerous, men no longer governed by their passions, men no longer earth-bound,– when they see loving men, men who desire that which is holy, just, and good, men living to God.” Such men as these, alas are so uncommon, and they are so precious when we find them, that if the Lord Jesus has created such by his teaching and his Spirit, by his fruits may we know him, even as we know his people, and he is manifestly sent of God.
And then, brethren, not only will their characters convince, but their unity will convince, because the ungodly world will say, “We see the glory of Christianity in the poor man, and we see the same in the rich man. We see a glory about a Christian prince, and we see the like glory about a Christian needlewoman; and we observe that when these people meet each other there is a divine freemasonry among them, for they are one. Surely their Master must be sent of God.” Christian people have things to talk about which others do not understand, and they pursue one common object which others disregard; whether they have little or much they yield their all to one common cause and object; whether possessed of little ability or great ability they are alike consecrated. One spirit breathes in them. See how they love one another! Even the world can see that, while its great ones are always contending, these dwell in love; while common men emulate each other and strive as to who shall be the greatest, these only strive to serve the common cause, to help each other and to stoop for their fellows’ good. The world cannot help perceiving the divinity of the mission of Christ which has produced this perfect love and union among his followers. Then do they say, “assuredly God must have sent their leader, Christ Jesus, or he could not have produced such results.” Do you ask me where we see this? I reply that it is far too little seen, but when we shall see it in the whole church then will the world be convinced. Oh, my brethren, only fancy a church of the size of this, put down in this south of London, made up of holy men and holy women like Christ, who, with all their imperfections, as to the general bent and current of their lives are living unto God and for the glory of Christ, and for the good of their fellow-men ; picture such a church in perfect unity, and I tell you it would present an argument for Christianity which would infinitely surpass all the books of analogy and evidence which have ever been written. This would be a nut which the adversary could not crack: it would baffle all his criticisms and syllogisms. One individual Christian has often presented to the most desperate unbeliever a difficulty which has staggered him. “I could be altogether an atheist,” said one, “if it were not for my aged mother, but while I see her peace of mind, her holy living, her gentle, quiet temper, I cannot but believe that there is a power in religion which I cannot understand.” If we would convince the world, my brethren, it must be by the glory which God has given to his Son resting upon each and all of us and so compacting us together, fusing us into one mass of living union. By the phalanx of unity in Christ the battle must be won.
But the world is also to be convinced of the Father’s love to us: — “And hast loved them as thou hast loved me.” Shall we ever convince them of that? Yes, when the world sees bodies of truly consecrated men and women living together in holy love, then they will also see much joy, much peace, much mutual consolation, and they will perceive that the very stars in heaven fight for them, that the providence of God makes all things work together for their good, and that the Lord has a special care over them as a shepherd hath over his flock. Then will they say, “These are the people that God has blessed. See how he loves them.” They perceive, however, that they have to suffer, and that they are afflicted and despised, and so they come to say— “God seems to love them just as he loved his Son, whom he did not spare from suffering and pain and grief, but whom he upheld under all”; so that they learn that God has the same special regard for those Christlike ones that he has for their Master and Lord. They shall be made to see this, it will be forced upon them. Moreover, as these men and women grow more and more like Jesus the world will conclude that since God loved Jesus, he must love those who are like him. Why, do not even the ungodly, though they would be loath to confess it, take a kind of delight in a high and noble character? They have an admiration for it, and their conscience tells them that God admires those in whom his Christ has produced it. They cannot avoid the feeling that God does love holy and loving people, and that it is great love on his part to make them what they are. So far the world becomes convinced.
But somebody may say, “What does our Lord mean by the world’s knowing and believing this?” I answer that doubtless a part of the world will be convinced that Christ was sent of God, and convinced that God loves his people, and yet they will stand out in obstinacy against God, for to the end even the gospel itself will be a savour of death unto death to some. Well, you and I have answered the purpose of God even upon such characters when it comes to pass that they are without excuse. But it is evident from this chapter that there is another part of the world who will not only know and believe historically, but will do this spiritually,— that part of the world comprehended in our Lord’s prayer,— “Neither pray I for those alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word.” And I take it, brethren, that when the day shall come that Christians are Christians, then we shall see great masses of the world convinced of the truth of Christianity and large numbers of the world suppliant at Jesu’s feet. The Christianity which is presented to the public gaze— I would not be unduly censorious, but I fear it is often a Christianity which the world does well to despise. When the Jew went to Rome and asked for Christianity, he saw the Christians, so called, worshipping the Virgin Mary, and images of saints, and relics and bones, and I know not what; and he justly said— “The Lord hath said to Israel, ‘The Lord thy God is one God,’ and ‘thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven image, nor the likeness of anything that is in heaven above nor in the earth beneath; thou shalt not bow down to them nor worship them.’” On the strength of such revelation the Jew rejected the Christianity of Rome, and he did well. Say you not so? Now, here comes another Christianity which has lately displayed itself to many heathen nations. It comes with the Bible in its knapsack, and the Martini-Henry rifle in its hand. Is not this a fine combination for conversion? Jesus comes before the Zulu riding upon a Gatling gun. Of course, these poor heathen know nothing about our political combinations, but they suppose that Christians are invading their land— will they, therefore, love Christ? Missionaries, here is a difficulty for you to explain, how will you deal with it? You come from a Christian nation, a nation which enjoys the unspeakable privilege of a national church, a nation which salutes the savages in Christ’s name with shot and shell! Will they receive Christianity coming in such guise? If they do not, small blame can we pour upon them, they will be only acting according to the light of reason and common sense.
If there shall ever come a Christianity which suffereth long and is kind, which doeth no evil but seeketh good to its neighbour, which teacheth love to God and love to man; which seeketh not its own, but lays itself out for others, then I do not say that an ungodly world will be enamoured of it if left to itself, but I do believe that the Spirit of God will go forth with it, and will convince men of sin and of righteousness and of judgment, and then shall the scattered family of Adam accept the one true faith, and enter into a league of amity with each other, and there shall be glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good-will towards men.
Love conquers all. Love is the logic which convinces. Notice two passages of Scripture with which I finish. One thing you want the world to know is that you are the disciples of Christ. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Does our Lord wish the world to be convinced, how does he himself act? Hear him — “But that the world may know that I love the Father; and ns the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence.” Love, you see again, proves the unity of the Son with the Father; and here again in this second text it is the love of the Father to the chosen which is to be the sign unto the world. Therefore, let love abound. Let it be all the weapons of our war.
I know I have preached very feebly to you this morning upon such a theme. The subject is a great deal too much for my limited capacity, but it is good for us to feel how little we are, how low we are. It is good to look above our struggling selves to something much beyond our present attainments. I lie prostrate on my face before the Lord, and confess that I have not yet attained all that I have set forth to you, and, I suspect, that your confession is very like my own. Let us not be discouraged, for by grace we are on the way, and we will not rest till we reach the goal. O for grace so to live unto God in Christ Jesus that the world shall never be able to answer the argument of our lives. Help us, O Spirit of the Lord.