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have a song as in the night when a holy solemnity is kept, and lift up your heads, 'for your redemption draweth nigh’Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness before Him in the day of judgment.'
THE GUIDE INTO ALL TRUTH
'I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. How. beit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come. He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father hath are Mine: therefore said I, that He shall take of Mine, and shall show it unto you.'--JOHN xvi, 12-15.
This is our Lord's last expansion, in these discourses, of the great promise of the Comforter which has appeared so often in them. First, He was spoken of simply as dwelling in Christ's servants, without any more special designation of His work than was involved in the
Then, His aid was promised, to remind the Apostles of the facts of Christ's life, especially of His words; and so the inspiration and authority of the four Gospels were certified for us. Then He was further promised as the witness in the disciples to Jesus Christ. And, finally, in the immediately preceding context, we have His office of 'convincing,' or convicting, 'the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. And now we come to that gracious and gentle work which that divine Spirit is declared by Christ to do, not only for that little group gathered round Him then, but for all those who trust themselves to His guidance. He is to be the ‘Spirit of truth' to all the ages, who in simple verity will help true hearts to know and love the truth. There are three things in the words before us-first, the avowed incompleteness
of Christ's own teaching; second, the completeness of the truth into which the Spirit of truth guides; and, last, the unity of these two.
I. First, then, we have here the avowed incompleteness of Christ's own teaching,
*I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.' Now in an earlier portion of these great discourses, we have our Lord asserting that all things whatsoever He had heard of the Father He had made known' unto His servants. How do these two representations harmonise? Is it possible to make them agree? Surely, yes. There is a difference between the germ and the unfolded flower. There is a difference between principles and the complete development of these. I suppose you may say that all Euclid is in the axioms and definitions. I suppose you may also say that when you have learned the axioms and definitions, there are many things yet to be said, of which you have not grown to the apprehension. And so our Lord, as far as His frankness was concerned, and as far as the fundamental and seminal principles of all religious truth were concerned, had even then declared all that He had heard of the Father. But yet, in so far as the unfolding of these was concerned, the tracing of their consequences, the exhibition of their harmonies, the weaving of them into an ordered whole in which a man's understanding could lodge, there were many things yet to be said, which that handful of men were not able to bear.
our Lord Himself here declares that His words spoken on earth are not His completed revelation.
Of course we find in them, as I believe, hints profound and pregnant, which only need to be unfolded
and smoothed out, as it were, and their depths fathomed, in order to lead to all that is worthy of being called Christian truth. But upon many points we cannot but contrast the desultory, brief, obscure references which came from the Master's lips with the more systematised, full, and accurate teaching which came from the servants. The great crucial instance of all is the comparative reticence which our Lord observed in reference to His sacrificial death, and the atoning character of His sufferings for the world. I do not admit that the silence of the Gospels upon that subject is fairly represented when it is said to be absolute. I believe that that silence has been exaggerated by those who have no desire to accept that teaching. But the distinction is plain and obvious, not to be ignored, rather to be marked as being fruitful of blessed teaching, between the way in which Christ speaks about His Cross, and the way in which the Apostles speak about it after Pentecost.
What then? My text gives us the reason. "You cannot bear them now.' Now the word rendered bear' here does not mean "bear' in the sense of endure, or tolerate, or suffer, but bear' in the sense of carry. And the metaphor is that of some weightit may be gold, but still it is a weight-laid upon a man whose muscles are not strong enough to sustain it. It crushes rather than gladdens. So because they had not strength enough to carry, had not capacity to receive, our Lord was lovingly reticent.
There is a great principle involved in this sayingthat revelation is measured by the moral and spiritual capacities of the men who receive it.
The light is graduated for the diseased eye. A wise oculist does not flood that eye with full sunshine, but he puts on
veils and bandages, and closes the shutters, and lets a stray beam, ever growing as the curve is perfected, fall upon it. So from the beginning until the end of the process of revelation there was a correspondence between men's capacity to receive the light and the light that was granted; and the faithful use of the less made them capable of receiving the greater, and as soon as they were capable of receiving it, it came. To him that hath shall be given.' In His love, then, Christ did not load these men with principles that they could not carry, nor feed them with strong meat' instead of 'milk,' until they were able to bear it. Revelation is progressive, and Christ is reticent, from regard to the feebleness of His listeners.
Now that same principle is true in a modified form about us. How many things there are which we sometimes feel we should like to know, that God has not told us, because we have not yet grown up to the point at which we could apprehend them! Compassed with these veils of flesh and weakness, groping amidst the shadows of time, bewildered by the cross-lights that fall upon us from so many surrounding objects, we have not yet eyes able to behold the ineffable glory. He has many things to say to us about that blessed future, and that strange and awful life into which we are to step when we leave this poor world, but 'ye cannot bear them now. Let us wait with patience until we are ready for the illumination. For two things go to make revelation, the light that reveals and the eye that beholds.
Now one remark before I go further. People tell us, 'Your modern theology is not in the Gospels.' And they say to us, as if they had administered a knockdown blow, 'We stick by Jesus, not Paul.' Well, as I
said, I do not admit that there is no · Pauline' teaching in the Gospels, but I do confess there is not much. And I say, 'What then?' Why, this, then-it is exactly what we were to expect; and people who reject the apostolic form of Christian teaching because it is not found in the Gospels are flying in the face of Christ's own teaching. You say you will take His words as the only source of religious truth. You are going clean contrary to His own words in saying so. Remember that He proclaimed their incompleteness, and referred us, for the fuller knowledge of the truth of God, to a subsequent Teacher.
II. So, secondly, mark here the completeness of the truth into which the Spirit guides.
I must trouble you with just a word or two of remark as to the language of our text. Note the personality, designation, and office of this new Teacher. *He,' not it,' He, is the Spirit of truth whose characteristic and weapon is truth. *He will guide you'suggesting a loving hand put out to lead; suggesting the graciousness, the gentleness, the gradualness of the teaching. 'Into all truth'-that is no promise of omniscience, but it is the assurance of gradual and growing acquaintance with the spiritual and moral truth which is revealed, such as may be fitly paralleled by the metaphor of men passing into some broad land, of which there is much still to be possessed and explored. Not to-day, nor to-morrow, will all the truth belong to those whom the Spirit guides; but if they are true to His guidance, “to-morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant,' and the land will all be raversed at the last. He shall not speak of Himself, but whatsoever He shall hear that shall He speak.' Mark the parallel between the relation of the Spirit