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prefigured by the high priest among the Jews, here pleads with God for the completion of the blessings which had been covenanted for those who believe in him, and for which his death upon the cross was now so soon to pay the purchase.
And he has carefully pointed out to us, who those are for whom he specially intercedes :—those whom God has given him. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, the unbelieving, unrepenting world : but for them which thou hast given me ; for they are thine.
Here then a fearful, anxious, soul might naturally say–Could I but feel that these words applied to myself, and to a case like mine, I should be happy. Could I but believe that God had separated me out of the world, and given me to Christ, I should be at ease.
The Lord, however, has not been inattentive to minds which might be thus perplexed, and has provided for them a sufficient comfort and assurance. At the same moment that he has limited his prayer to certain objects—I pray for them—He has also described the objects of his preference, and recorded the grounds of their high privilege. I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me: and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. This is Christian faith ; and Christian faith is the same, whether in an apostle, or in the humblest disciple. To receive his words, as the words of God, to receive his redemption, as provided of God for a lost and
sinful race, is to “ receive him :” and to as many as receive him,-in whatever age they live, and to whatever duties they are called, -" to them gives he power to become the sons of God.” They are his; and his are God's : and he is glorified in them.
Look then, not to the secret choice, or to the mysterious gift : but look to the signs and tokens : if these are with you, the rest follows. All who come to Christ, and receive the word of God from him, and keep it, are given him of the Father, and are the subjects of this prayer. They are the fruit of his travail, the recompense of his suffering. “ For this is the will of him that sent him, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life : and he will raise him up at the last day.” 1
We must not suppose, however, that Christ has no concern for the world at large, because he confines this prayer to those who had received him, and says, I pray for them; I pray not for the world. We are assured by the apostle, that “ God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself :" we are assured by our Lord's declaration, that he “ came not to judge the world, but that the world through him might be saved :” and before the conclusion of this very prayer he expresses a desire, that “the world may believe that he came forth from God.” But although he is “ the Saviour of all men,” he is “ especially” the Saviour “ of those that believe.”? It is by receiving him,
1 John vi. 40. 2 1 Tim. iv. 10.
by entering within his fold, and becoming part of his flock, and united with him in covenant; it is thus that men must secure his spiritual intercession. By that covenant they are one with him and he with them : he takes them under his care; and as a part of that protection he prays the Father for them, that he may be glorified in their everlasting salvation. For these he pleads, as we have read; I pray for them which thou hast given me. They are not of the world; but they are those whom thou gavest me out of the world. They have not rejected my offer of mercy : they have not denied the authority in which I came; and therefore I pray for them, that they may “keep the beginning of their confidence stedfast unto the end,” and be “ counted worthy to attain that world, and the resurrection of the dead.”
Who would not desire to have a place in this prayer? What blessing can be so great, as to enjoy an interest in the intercession of the Son of God ? To whom, then, is such blessing given ? He invites every individual to the full enjoyment of it. “Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.” But, let it be remembered, we must come unto him, that we may possess it. He prays not for the world, but for those who are separate from the world ; who have left its service and withdrawn themselves from its dominion, that they may serve a better master, be safe under his protection, and be blessed by his reward.
CONTINUATION OF THE PRAYER OF CHRIST
FOR HIS APOSTLES.
John xvii. 11–13.
11. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
12. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name : those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition ; that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
13. And now come I to thee ; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
We see here the care of a tender parent, who remembers the children whom he is leaving, and provides for their comfort and security when he is gone. The disciples were to continue in this world. The purposes of God required it. And being in the world, they would be exposed to the temptations connected with the world : subject to all the evils into which corrupt nature is liable to fall, according to the circumstances in which it is placed. And how many and various the snares to which the apostles would be exposed! First, re
proach and obloquy : as Peter soon experienced, when questioned in the high priest's palace : “ Art not thou also one of this man's disciples ?” “Did I not see thee in the garden with him ?” Then persecution and danger; the being brought before kings and councils, and “straitly threatened, that they speak at all no more, nor teach in the name of Jesus.”1 Great therefore was the danger from without; lest some of those chains with which the world lays hold upon the heart—the fear of man, the love of earthly things, or the attachment of relations and friends — should entangle them as they entangle others, and draw them back from the service of Christ and of God. But there was another danger within themselves ; the danger of pride, envy; emulation, strife, variance. Their peculiar vocation made the apostles more liable to these evils, than any other men : and they are evils into which other men in somewhat similar circumstances, but with far less temptation, fall too commonly. This seems to be the especial danger which their Lord had now in view : for his prayer is, Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. That none may separate themselves from the chosen band, like Demas afterwards, “ having loved this present world :”? and that there be no divisions amongst them, no jealousies, no heartburnings : but that they may be one, as we are. One in will, and one in action : one in interests and one in counsels. Thus, Holy Father, keep through thine own
1 Acts iv. 17, 18. 2 2 Tim. iv. 10.