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assured you that goodness and mercy must be at the foundation of all things, must hold the sovereignty of the world; their smile a manifestation of the divine purity and benignity which formed them, their voice an utterance from the depths of the tenderness which is eternal.
And when such saints as these have been taken away, the strong and the gentle, according to their worthiness has been the vacancy which they left behind. What, then, must have been the sense of vacancy caused by the departure of Jesus Christ ? What was the sense of impending loss when it was the Son of God who was to die, to rise again, and soar away to worlds unknown? It was such a feeling as would be caused when the strongest and the gentlest are both taken away at once. Far more; for we must add together many indeed of our losses to make up that of one Jesus Christ. Probably His presence produced a sensation of life never experienced by any on earth except by His companions and apostles. We know very well what a different thing life is according to its companionships. But can we even imagine what was the charm of a life spent under the beam of that dazzling yet compassionate eye, -of a life spent under the glow of that countenance which seemed always ready to shine forth “like the sun in its strength,”—of a life warmed by the fires of a heart which burned like a furnace with love to God and man,-a nature so great and so holy that it lifted you beyond the stars into communion with the third heavens, so calm that it seemed to spread around it the repose of eternity, and stilled the very winds and the waves with a word,
yet so affectionate that it seemed to find no rest for itself but in works of healing or in words of love ? Looking back upon that life, what was there that was not beautiful? What week or day had not its record of deeds or sayings which broke up the fountains of the great deep, and made you think of Him with inexpressible tenderness and affection? If other natures, to which infirmity clung, have possessed the divine gift of winning all hearts, of old men and children, of young men and maidens, of making goodness appear irresistibly beautiful, what must have been the effect of the presence of Jesus Christ, and what the sorrow at His going away? Yes, the apostles were about to pass under the shadows of a true Gethsemane, and when Jesus told them that He was to leave them, all their hearts sank as it were to the very ground
, Life without Him seemed scarcely worth having.
“Let us go and die with Him," said they one and all. It is no slight testimony to the worth and moral refinement of these disciples that they were capable of such a sorrow, capable of grieving so bitterly over the
prospect of losing Him, to accomplish whose death was the chief object of the majority of the educated classes of the
nation. Men who were capable of grieving over the departure of such a person as Jesus Christ were incapable of deliberate falsehood. Untruthfulness does not dwell so deep down in the soul. Those who were capable of a friendship so divine were not capable of collusion. The love that bound Jesus and His disciples together is a sufficient evidence that God was “with them” all.
And now mark the comfort that He gives them. He says, " Trust ye in God; trust also in me.” In the original, the forms of the second person plural of the indicative and of the imperative moods are alike, and hence has arisen a doubt as to the proper way of translating this passage. Tholuck, in his elaborate commentary, prefers to adopt the two imperatives here, and indeed this affords by far the most natural and pathetic significance to our Saviour's words. “Here is the remedy for your distress at my departure. Let your faith unite you with the invisible regions, whither I am going, by taking hold of that Divine Presence which is common to all worlds, by resting under that “shadow of the Almighty,' which is as near to the saints on earth as to the saints in heaven; and by firmly grasping that Divine purpose of grace which will never rest until it has fixed you as stars to shine in the firmament for ever and ever. Believe also in me.' You have had sufficient proof that my word is the word of God; gather up all that confidence in my love which now fills you with sorrow at losing me, and direct it to trusting in my distinct assurance that this is not the only inhabited world, that the universe of God is, at it were, a vast Palace with many chambers, and that the object of my departure from the earth is to prepare' for you a place in the heavens, in the city of the Great King. At a certain fixed period I shall return, and, raising you from the dead, receive you to myself, amidst the visible splendours of God's manifested reign. Let this trust in your Father's unchanging presence, providence, and grace, and your equal trust in my solemn word of promise, stay the trouble of your hearts and support you under thedreadful approaching scenes of my death, and the saddening prospect of my departure.”
Truly these are the words of the one and only voice in the world to which we can turn with any hope of comfort in the hick darkness which sometimes overshadows us.
When to the verge we follow what we love,
And stretch in the abyss the unclasped hand, 3 there any answer from the darkness except the voice of Tesus ? that voice which John heard in Patmos, saying, “I am
He that liveth, and was dead ; and, behold, I am alive for evermore." No, there is no other! But how distinct does that awful yet loving voice become amidst such tempests. When all else is breaking up, His form appears radiant in the storm. If this does not prove that He “proceeded forth and came from God," nothing will prove it.
Jesus says, TRUST YE IN GOD. He knew then of nothing in the world which need shake the heart's reliance on the mercy of God. Around Him in that age was the whole scene of “Providence,” which now so often troubles us, and endangers our faith; all the severities were there, “great plagues and of long continuance,” diseases, deaths, losses, disappointments, bitter bereavements, “mysterious providences," as we call them, the “one event,” that happeneth to all, the good taken first, the most precious lives shipwrecked in a storm, while wicked doers flourish even to hoary hairs; yet, amidst it all, He spake with unbroken assurance of the Eternal Wisdom and Love, which were at the centre of the universal government. There was never a word about Fate, or Destiny, or Chance, or of the overlooking of the sparrow's fall. All things were ordered, and everything happened as it was foreordained. His own history was a type of the general system. Suffering was His; He was acquainted with grief. But it was because it pleased the Lord to bruise Him. The reins of government were in His Father's hands. Nothing was unforeseen. The world, the devil, and death, and sin, were all under control, the control of Him who had sworn by Himself, “I will never leave you.” “I have graven thee on the palms of mine hands; thou art mine." He knew that trial, separation, tragical providences, were part of the system of discipline, and that a world of pain was the necessary vestibule to a Heaven of eternal repose.
“Trust then in God.” “Let not your heart be troubled.” The storm may rage, but there is a conductor which will avert from your head the violence of the lightning. Let your hearts rest on the all-embracing Will, and Power, and Love, for the "end of the Lord is merciful and very gracious.” If night overshadows you, it is then that the stars appear; the nearer light is eclipsed or goes down in thick darkness; but one by one the promises shine forth amidst the gloom till the whole firmament is shining with consolation, and the galaxy of eternal glory overarches the midnight sky. Yes; surely He who in a world of so much suffering has created so many loving and sympathizing hearts, must be Himself the Supreme Comforter, and looks down upon them that trust in Him with a most compas
Our Lord then adds, “ Trust ye also in me.” Wonderful, and,
indeed, impossible language if he were only a Man, but appropriate if he were the Incarnate Word, who “upholds all things by the word of His power.” Imagine Isaiah or St. Paul saying, "Trust in the Lord for ever; trust also in me.” Thus, the clearest evidences of Christ's personal Deity are not even those passages which most expressly attest it, but those which imply it
. Trust also in me. The whole of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ had for their object to produce this trust in a truthfulness which would never deceive, and in a grace which would never forsake them. “You have been able to trust me up till now, and now trust me when I am going away. My departure is part of the plan of redeeming mercy, of which you have seen in my life only the opening scenes. It is expedient for you that I go away.” It is hard to believe this, but sometimes it is doubtless true that the ends of the spiritual providence are best answered by such removals. If by a sudden termination to a beautiful life and a holy, more attention can be drawn to its principles than even by its utmost prolongation; if those principles can be rendered dearer to many by the tenderness which apparent calamity awakens; if some wanderers can be softened into repentance by the thought of a life which disarms the hostile criticism of irreligion, and renders the thought of heaven itself more delightful, and of the "tabernacles of the Lord of Hosts” more "amiable” as the home of the saints,—then it is worth while for any one to die. The departure of Jesus was the highest example of these expedient removals. He drew after him to the heavens myriads of hearts who otherwise would have rested in earthly things. “They gazed steadfastly as He went up. No cloud could receive him out of the sight of the spiritual eye. To that eye He was still visible, and their hearts felt the abiding influence of the Comforter whom He sent down. He did not leave them orphans. He came to them by a spiritual visitation, and in a joy which the world could not
take away :
An inner light, an inner calm,
And, hearing, do His will;
So faith is conqueror still.* Let us end this meditation by noting the son-like familiar tone of Christ's reference to the Infinite Realms. "In my Father's house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you.” This was the utterance of a living Word who was " for ever settled in heaven," of one who rejoiced in the presence of the Eternal Cause of all things before the morning stars sang for joy; of a Spirit which was diffused throughout nature in all its heights and depths, of a Mind whose comprehensive knowledge encircled and pervaded the “heaven of heavens." "If it were not so, I would have told you." This earth is not alone in space. It is but one of innumerable" places" of God's dominion. There are “ many mansions,” and some of them far better than this one. This one is not without its excellence. Here there are scenes on which the eye lingers with speechless joy; here there are sunrises among the mountains where the brotherly summits seem to rise above sea of glory, and the snowy crest of Lebanon burns like a furnace against the opal firmament; here are flowers which beam almost with the beauty of the lost paradise; and here are sunsets where the sail-covered lakes and oceans and the green pasture-lands gleam under a sky of purple and gold in a light so tender that it might seem as if God Himself were already unfolding the hidden beauties of Beulah ; but there are brighter mansions than these; there are worlds where “their sun shall no more go down, nor their moon withdraw her shining," where the Eternal Beauty shines through the material vail of nature, and the brightest suns grow dim under the noon of the Divine Glory. There are mansions where souls refined by sorrow and by heavenly grace shall find "all they desired or wished below;" where souls that have tasted the bitter waters of the desert shall drink their fill from Heaven's central spring of water turned into wine of Paradise; where wearied hearts shall rest in the embrace of the Everlasting Arms; and the affectionate spirit that panted after the Living God, and mourned over an imperfect revelation of His countenance, shall bathe itself in the ocean tide of everlasting Love. There are mansions where there is “no more curse," " no more pain,” “no more night," " no more death,” where “the griefs of God's sending” have all “found an ending," where “faith is lost in vision," and "hope in fruition," and “sorrow and sighing have fled away.”
* The “Rivulet."
" Trust thou in me." "I go to prepare a place for you.” The final destiny of redeemed man is beyond the firmament. The heavens have not been shown to the senses, only to mock the soul with distant gleams of a glory from which it is debarred. All your highest thoughts of glorious life shall be exceeded by the reality, all your aspirations after an undying existence injoy and strength and holy service shall be answered by the revelation of the “fulness of God.” There are many mansions there, for there are many inhabitants. The creation is alive with spirits everywhere, and above these innumerable companies are good, are angelic, are divine. Now, often you see angels in