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real meaning ! Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die.
So careful should we be to examine into the justice of traditional opinions, and see that they stand upon a firm foundation. In every age there has been a disposition to receive religious notions and sentiments from the prevailing belief, rather than from the fountain-head of truth. Perhaps this early error is recorded to warn later ages against the danger of similar evils : and to show us, as it is here shown, the remedy. The remedy, the security, is to apply at once “ to the law and to the testimony." How is it written? Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die : but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Our business is with what is plainly and authoritatively declared. “ The secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.” 1
The Evangelist concludes by saying that the providential care of God had watched over the records of the life and ministry of Jesus, and directed that nothing superfluous should be preserved, nothing important omitted. Had all the things which Jesus did, all the signs of power which he gave, all the prayers which he offered, all the discourses which he uttered, been handed down in writing, the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Certainly the world could not receive them, to any profitable purpose. The
i Deut. xxix. 29.
simple would have been bewildered, and the learned overburthened. “But these are written,” as he had said before, “ that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God : and that believing, ye might have life through his name.”2
These are written, that ye might believe. cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” This is the beginning; but who shall describe the end ? That believing, ye might have life through his name. Might have that life here, which deserves to be called life; when the soul which actuates the man, is itself actuated by God, directed by his Spirit: and might have that life hereafter, which man must come to, before he can justly conceive or duly prize it; but which those to whom the most has been revealed of its nature, have been the most afraid of forfeiting, most eager to secure by the practice of their lives, or, if needful, by the constancy of their deaths.
And of that everlasting happiness it may form some share, to know those things which here cannot be known : those which the present world could not contain or receive : but which may be the grateful contemplation through eternity, of that
great multitude, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues,"3 who have been delivered by them from this present evil world, and brought to “ know the only true God,” through “ Jesus Christ whom he hath sent.” The secrets of redemption, we are assured, are a wonder even to beings who are not individually concerned in “ the . ch. xx. 31.
3 Rev. vii. 9.
mystery of godliness.
“ These things the angels desire to look into.” How astonishing will all the things which Jesus did, all that relates to that hidden mystery, - appear to those who have been thus
brought from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God !"
Let every individual make it sure that such is their own case. Let us not be satisfied, till by self-inquiry, and reflection, and prayer, by comparing our lives and our thoughts with the word of God, we can render it plain to ourselves that we are amongst those who “ believe in Jesus Christ, and have life through his name.”
4 1 Pet. i. 12.
5 See Eph. iii. 5 and 9.
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