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harmony of will, and the bowing of the whole nature. It is, in fact, the same thing (though considered under a different aspect, and from a somewhat different point of view), as He has already been speaking about as the 'fruit' of the vine, by the bearing of which the Father is glorified. And this obedience, the obedience of the hands because the heart obeys, and does so because it loves, the bowing of the will in glad submission to the loved and holy will of the heavens-this obedience is the condition of our continuing in Christ's love.
He will love us better, the more we obey His commandments, for although His tender heart is charged towards all, even the disobedient, with the love of pity and of desire to help, He cannot but feel a growing thrill of satisfied and gratified affection towards us, in the measure in which we become like Himself. The love that wept over us, when we were enemies, will rejoice over us with singing,' when we are friends. The love that sought the sheep when it was wandering will pour itself yet more tenderly and with selecter gifts upon it when it follows in the footsteps of the flock, and keeps close at the heels of the Good Shepherd. •If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love, so we will put nothing between us and Him which will make it impossible for the tenderest tenderness of that holy love to come to your hearts.
The obedience which we render for love's sake will make us more capable of receiving, and more blessedly conscious of possessing, the love of Jesus Christ. The lightest cloud before the sun will prevent it from focussing its rays to a burning point on the convex glass. And the small, thin, fleeting, scarcely visible acts of self-will that sometimes pass across our skies
will prevent our feeling the warmth of that love upon our shrouded hearts. Every known piece of rebellion against Christ will shatter all true enjoyment of His favour, unless we are hopeless hypocrites or selfdeceived. The condition of knowing and feeling the warmth and blessedness of Christ's love to me is the honest submission of my nature to His commandments. You cannot rejoice in Jesus Christ unless you do His will. You will have no real comfort and blessedness in your religion unless it works itself out in your daily lives. That is why so many of you know nothing, or next to nothing, about the joy of Christ's felt presence, because you do not, for all your professions, hourly and momentarily regulate and submit your wills to His commandments. Do what He wants, and do it because He wants it, if you wish that His love should fill your hearts.
. And, further, we shall continue in His love by obedience, inasmuch as every emotion which finds expression in our daily life is strengthened by the fact that it is expressed. The love which works is love which grows, and the tree that bears fruit is the tree that is healthy and increases. So note how all these deepest things of Christian teaching come at last to a plain piece of practical duty. We talk about the mysticism of John's Gospel, about the depth of these last sayings of Jesus Christ. Yes! they are mystical, they are deep-unfathomably deep, thank God!—but connected by the shortest possible road with the plainest possible duties. •Let no man deceive you. He that doeth righteousness is righteous. It is of no use to talk about communion with Jesus Christ, and abiding in Him, in possession of His love, and all those other properly mystical sides of Christian experience,
unless you verify them for yourselves by the plain way of practice. Doing as Christ bids us, and doing that habitually, and doing it gladly, then, and only then, are we in no danger of losing ourselves on the heights, or of forgetting that Christ's mission has for its last result the influencing of character and of conduct. 'If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love, even as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love.'
III. Lastly, note the joy which follows on this practical obedience. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain,' (or 'might be')'in you, and that your joy might be full.'
My joy might be in you'—a strange time to talk of His “joy.' In half an hour he would be in Gethsemane, and we know what happened there. Was Christ a joyful man? He was a Man of sorrows,' but one of the old Psalms says, Thou hast loved righteousness ... therefore God hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows.' The deep truth that lies there is the same that He here claims as being fulfilled in His own experience, that absolute surrender and submission in love to the beloved commands of a loving Father made Him-in spite of sorrows, in spite of the baptism with which He was baptized, in spite of all the burden and the weight of our sins—the most joyful of men.
This joy He offers to us, a joy coming from perfect obedience, a joy coming from a surrender of self at the bidding of love, to a love that to us seems absolutely good and sweet. There is no joy that humanity is capable of to compare for a moment with that bright, warm, continuous sunshine which floods the soul, that is freed from all the clouds and mists of self and the
darkness of sin. Self-sacrifice at the bidding of Jesus Christ is the recipe for the highest, the most exquisite, the most godlike gladnesses of which the human heart is capable. Our joy will remain if His joy is ours. Then our joy will be, up to the measure of its capacity, ennobled, and filled, and progressive, advancing ever towards a fuller possession of His joy, and a deeper calm of that pure and perennial rapture, which makes the settled and celestial bliss of those who have 'entered into the joy of their Lord.'
Brother! there is only one gladness that is worth calling so—and that is, that which comes to us, when we give ourselves utterly away to Jesus Christ, and let Him do with us as He will. It is better to have a joy that is central and perennial—though there may be, as there will be, a surface of sorrow and carethan to have the converse, a surface of joy, and a black, unsympathetic kernel of aching unrest and sadness. In one or other of these two states we all live. Either we have to say, ' as sorrowful yet always rejoicing,' or we have to feel that even in laughter the heart is sorrowful, and the end of that mirth is heaviness. Let us choose for ourselves, and let us choose aright, the gladness which coils round the heart, and endures for ever, and is found in submission to Jesus Christ, rather than the superficial, fleeting joys which are rooted on earth and perish with time.
THE ONENESS OF THE BRANCHES
This is My commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.'-JOHN xv, 12, 13. The union between Christ and His disciples has been tenderly set forth in the parable of the Vine and
the branches. We now turn to the union between the disciples, which is the consequence of their common union to the Lord. The branches are parts of one whole, and necessarily bear a relation to each other. We may modify for our present purpose the analogous statement of the Apostle in reference to the Lord's Supper, and as He says, 'We being many, are one body, for we are all partakers of that one bread, so we may say-The branches, being many, are one Vine, for they are all partakers of that one Vine. Of this union amongst the branches, which results from their common inherence in the Vine, the natural expression and manifestation is the mutual love, which Christ here gives as the commandment, and commends to us all by His own solemn example.
There are four things suggested to me by the words of our text—the Obligation, the Sufficiency, the Pattern, and the Motive, of Christian love.
I. First, the Obligation of love.
The two ideas of commandment and love do not go well together. You cannot pump up love to order, and if you try you generally produce, what we see in abundance in the world and in the Church, sentimental hypocrisy, hollow and unreal. But whilst that is true, and whilst it seems strange to say that we are commanded to love, still we can do a great deal, directly and indirectly, for the cultivation and strengthening of any emotion. We can either cast ourselves into the attitude which is favourable or unfavourable to it. We can either look at the facts which will create it or at those who will check it. We can go about with a sharp eye for the lovable or for the unlovable in man. We can either consciously war against or lazily acquiesce in our own predominant