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CHRIST'S SUMMARY OF HIS WORK
'I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them.'-JOHN xvii. 26.
This is the solemn and calm close of Christ's great High-priestly prayer; the very last words that He spoke before Gethsemane and His passion. In it He sums up both the purpose of His life and the petitions of His prayer, and presents the perfect fulfilment of the former as the ground on which He asks the fulfilment of the latter. There is a singular correspondence and contrast between these last words to God and the last words to the disciples, which immediately preceded them. These were, 'In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.' In both He sums up His life, in both He is unconscious of flaw, imperfection, or limitation;, in both He shares His own possessions among His followers. But His words to men carry a trace of His own conflict and a foreboding of theirs. For Him life had been, and for them it was to be, tribulation and a battle, and the highest thing that He could promise them was victory won by conflict. But from the serene elevation of the prayer all such thoughts disappear. Unbroken calm lies over it. His life has been one continual manifestation of the name of God; and the portion that He promises to His followers is not victory won by strife, but the participation with Himself in the love of God.
Both views are true-true to His experience, true to ours. The difference between them lies in the eleva
tion of the beholder's eye. Looked at on the outward side, His life and ours must be always a battle and often a sorrow. Looked at from within, His life was an unbroken abiding in the love of God, and a continual impartation of the name of God, and our lives may be an ever growing knowledge of God, leading to and being a fuller and fuller possession of His love, and of a present Christ. So let us ponder these deep words : our Lord's own summing up of His work and aims; His statement of what we may hope to attain; and the path by which we may attain it. I shall best bring out the whole fullness of their meaning if I simply follow them word by word.
I. Note, first, the backward look of the revealing Son.
*I have declared Thy name.'
The first thing that strikes one about these words is their boldness. Remember that they are spoken to God, at the close of a life the heights and depths of which they sum up. They are an appeal to God's righteous judgment of the whole character of the
Do they breathe the tone that we might expect? Surely the prophet or teacher who has most earnestly tried to make himself a mirror, without spot to darken and without dint to distort the divine ray, will be the first to feel, as he looks back, the imperfections of his repetition of his message. But Jesus Christ, when He looks back over His life, has no flaw, limitation, incompleteness, to record or to confess. As always so here, He is absolutely unconscious of anything in the nature of weakness, error, or sin. As when He looked back upon His life as a conflict, He had no defeats to remember with shame, so here, when He looks upon it as the revelation of God He feels that
everything which He has received of the Father He has made known unto men.
And the strange thing is that we admit the claim, and have become so accustomed to regard it as being perfectly legitimate that we forget how enormous it is. He takes an attitude here which in
other would be repulsive, but in Him is supremely natural. We criticise other people, we outgrow their teachings, we see where their doctrines have deviated from truth by excess or defect, or disproportion; but when He says 'I have declared Thy name,' we feel that He says nothing more than the simple facts of His life vindicate and confirm.
Not less remarkable is the implication in these words, not only of the completeness of His message, but of the fullness of His knowledge of God, and its entirely underived nature. So He claims for Himself an altogether special and unique position here: He has learned God from none; He teaches God to all. That was the true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.'
Looking a little more closely at these words before us, we have here Christ's own account of His whole life. The meaning of it all is the revelation of the heart of God. Not by words, of course; not by words only, but far more by deeds. And I would have you ask yourselves this question-If the deeds of a man are a declaration of the name of God, what sort of a man is He rrho thus declares Him? Must we not feel that if these words, or anything like them, really came from the lips of Jesus Christ, we are here in the presence of something other than a holy life of a simple humanity, which might help men to climb to the apprehension of a God who was perfect love; and that when He says
He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father,' we stand before. God manifest in the flesh.'
What is that name of God which the revealing Son declares ? Not the mere syllables by which we call Him, but the manifested character of the Father. That one name, in the narrower sense of the word, carries the whole revelation that Jesus Christ has to make; for it speaks of tenderness, of kindred, of paternal care, of the transmission of a nature, of the embrace of a divine love. And it delivers men from all their creeping dreads, from all their dark peradventures, from all their stinging fears, from all the paralysing uncertainties which, like clouds, always misty and often thunder-bearing, have shut out the sight of the divine face. If this Christ, in His weakness and humanity, with pity welling from His eyes, and making music of His voice, with the swift help streaming from His finger-tips to every pain and weariness, and the gracious righteousness that drew little children and did not repel publicans and harlots, is our best image of God, then love is the centre of divinity, and all the rest that we call God is but circumference and fringe of that central brightness.
.So through the thunder comes a human voice
He has declared God's name, His last best name of Love.
Need I dwell for one moment on the fact that that name is only declared by this Son? There is no need to deny the presence of manifold other precious sources in men's experience and lives from which something
may be inferred of what God truly is. But all these, rich 'and manifold as they are, fall into nothingness before the life of Jesus Christ, considered as the making visible of God. For all the rest are partial and incomplete. At sundry times and in divers manners' God flung forth syllables of the name, and 'fragments of that mighty voice came rolling down the wind.' But in Jesus Christ the whole name, in all its syllables, is spoken. Other sources of knowledge are ambiguous, and need the interpretation of Christ's life and Cross ere they can be construed into a harmonious whole. Life, nature, our inmost being, history, all these sources speak with two voices; and it is only when we hear the deep note that underlies them in the word of Christ that their discord becomes a harmony. Other sources lack authority. They come at the most with a 'may be.' He comes with a Verily, verily. Other sources speak to the understanding, or the conscience, or to fear. Christ speaks to the heart. Other sources leave the man who accepts them unaffected. Christ's message penetrates to the transforming and assimilation of the whole being.
So, dear brethren! for all generations, and for this generation most of all, the plain alternative lies between the declaration of the name of God in Jesus Christ and a godless and orphan world. Modern thought will make short work of all other sources of certitude about the character of God, and will leave men alone in the dark. Christ, the historical fact of the life and death of Jesus Christ, is the sole surviving source of certitude, which is blessedness, as to whether there is a God, and what sort of a God He is.
II. Secondly, note here that strange forward look of