RPM, Volume 18, Number 7, February 7 to February 13, 2016

Sermons on John 17

Sermon VII

By Thomas Manton

"I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word." John 17:6.

We have now ended the first paragraph of this chapter, Christ's prayer for himself. Here he cometh to pray for others, the disciples of that age. When Jacob is about to die, he blesseth his sons; so doth Christ his disciples. Christ representeth their case with as much vehemency as he doth his own.

In this verse he useth three arguments�"they were acquainted with his Father's name, belonged to his grace, and were obedient to his will. Or, if you will, you may observe�"

1. The persons for whom he prayeth.

2. The reasons why he prayeth for them; which are three: �"(1.) What Christ had done; (2.) What the Father himself had done; (3.) What they had done.

First, The persons for whom he prayeth, "The men which thou hast given me out of the world." Who are these? I answer�"The disciples or believers of that age; not only the eleven apostles are intended, though chiefly; but it is not to be restrained to the apostles only.

1. Because the description is common to other believers; others were given him besides the eleven apostles. It is the usual description of the elect in this chapter, "That he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him," (v. 2). So "I pray for them whom thou hast given me, for they are thine," (v. 9); and "Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am," (v. 24); and in other chapters of this Gospel.

2. Because Christ had made known the name of God to more than the apostles; many of the Jews and Samaritans had received the faith. There a hundred and twenty met together in a church assembly presently after Christ's death (Acts 1:15).

3. Otherwise they had been forgotten in Christ's prayer; for afterwards he prayeth only for future believers: "Neither pray I for them only, but for those that shall believe on me through their word," (v. 20). Mark, "that shall believe." But though the apostles are not only intended, yet they are chiefly intended, as appeareth by that expression, "through their word." We have seen who are the persons.

Now they are described to be "the men which the Father hath given me out of the world." "Men," to note the greatness of the blessing; though they were frail, miserable men, corrupt by nature, as others are, yet by singular mercy they are made familiar friends of Christ, and some of them doctors of the world. "Which thou hast given me" by way of special charge. There is a double giving to Christ�"by way of reward, by way of charge: these were given to him as a peculiar charge. "Out of the world;" that is, out of the whole mass of mankind: when others were left and passed by, God singled them out, and gave them to Christ.

I shall open the phrase more fully in the next clause.

The points of doctrine are these:�"

1. Observe, in the business of salvation Christ would deal with us not by angels, but by men given him out of the world, that is the description of the apostles and doctors of the church in the text. "To us he hath committed the word of reconciliation." God could teach us without pastors, and manifest himself unto us by inward and secret illapses into the heart; but he useth the ministry of men, and that not out of indigence, but indulgence; not for any efficacy in the preacher, but for congruence to the hearer, as a means most agreeable to our frail state. There is mercy in this appointment.

[1.] It is most for the glory of God. God's honor cometh freely from us when the instruments are vile and despicable. We are apt to sacrifice to the next hand�"they brought oxen and garlands to sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas, (Acts 14). "We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us," (2 Cor. 4:7). These are most apt to rival God, as children thank the tailor.

[2.] It trieth our obedience. We look for extraordinary miracles ways of revelation; God would see if we can love truth for truth's sake, rather than for the teacher's sake, and take it from the meanest hand. It is not who, but what is delivered. Foolish man would give laws to God. Christ impersonateth our thoughts: "If one went to them from the dead, they will believe," (Luke 16:30). Had Christ come in person, spake to us in an audible voice, or sent an angel, they would believe. Foolish thoughts. God trieth you by Moses and the prophets. It is a deceit to think if we had more glorious means it would be otherwise with us. Christ came in disguise: "He came unto his own, and his own received him not," (John 1.11); and the word is brought to us in earthen vessels. It is merited by God for man, it is dispensed by the power of God by man.

[3.] It is the most rational way. He doth not rule us with a rod of iron, by mere power and majesty, but draweth us by the cords of a man, by counsels and exhortations. He dealeth with us by those with whom we have ordinary converse, "as a man with his friend," (Ex. 33:11). What should sinners do if God should come and thunder to them in majesty and glory? "Let not the Lord speak to us," (Ex. 20:19). He veileth it under the cloud of human weakness. There is no conversing with the terribleness of majesty but by intermediate persons. Men speak to us that have a feeling of our infirmities. Prophets are "men of like passions with ourselves," (Jam. 5:17). If angels should teach us, we would think the precepts too strict for men. Men know how to speak to us by speaking from the heart to the heart: "As face answereth face in a glass, so doth the heart of man to man," (Prov. 27:19). There may be lesser differences in regard of complexion and constitution, but they know the general nature of man.

[4.] It is the surest way. If men deceive us, they deceive themselves; we have experience of their fidelity in other things, and they confirm it by their own practice. They are subjected to the law of the same duties and necessities, sometimes seal the truth with their blood.

[5.] It is a comfortable way. Paul, a great sinner before conversion, Peter, a great instance of the infirmities and falls of the saints, yet, from their own experience of the power and comfort of the gospel, preach it to us. Well, then, scorn not God's institution, but admire the wisdom of it. We are bound to submit, though we could see nothing but folly: "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe," (1 Cor. 1:21).

2. Observe, again, it is a special privilege to be chosen to privileges of grace when others are passed by: "Given me out of the world."

[1.] There is a world of others, and they are left to themselves. Christ hath not the tithe of mankind: "One of a city, and two of a tribe," (Jer. 3:14). Christ doth not take them by dozens or hundreds, but by ones and twos. Grace falls on few. Christ seeketh out the elect, if but one in a town.

[2.] They were as eligible as we, only we were singled out by mere grace. The lot might have fallen upon them as well as upon you; thousands in the world were as eligible: "Behold all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine," (Ezek. 18:4). All were made by the same God out of the same mass of nothing: he is equally judge of all; all had sinned. Thy soul was as polluted as theirs, as liable to God's judgment, as deep in the same condemnation; yet such was his good-will and pleasure, to single us out. This is the glory of his grace, miserabor cujus misertus fuero: "Was not Esau Jacob's brother? saith the Lord, yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau," (Mal. 1:2,3). Though all men be equal in themselves, yet mercy can make a distinction. The best reason is God's good pleasure. Well, then, apply this.

(1.) Look to the distinction. How many steps of election may we walk up? That we were not toads and serpents, but men, the same nothing was as pliable; not men only, but Christians, within the pale of the church; not Christians at large, but born there, where the mist and fogs of popery were dispelled; nor Protestants at large, but called to a stricter profession; still in every degree multitudes were cut off. That I was not a Christian, but a minister, an officer in the church: "He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry," (1 Tim. 1:12). Plato gave thanks for three things�"that he was a man, not a woman; a Grecian, not a barbarian; not an ordinary Greek, but a philosopher. A Christian may much more give thanks.

(2.) To the reason of this distinction: "How is it that thou wilt manifest thyself to us, and not unto the world?" (John 14:22). "And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come unto me?" (Luke 1:43). When you have searched all you can, you must rest in Christ's reason: "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight," (Matt. 11:26). God's supremacy over all things in heaven and in earth maketh him free to choose or refuse whom he pleaseth. It is not because you were better disposed than others; many of a better temper were passed by: God raised up a habitation to the Spirit out of crabbed knotty pieces. A man in a wood leaveth the crooked timber for fuel. The young man that went away sad was of such a sweet natural temper, that it is said, Christ loved him.

Secondly, Let us now come to the reasons why he prayeth for them.

First, What he did: "I have manifested thy name to them;" in which Christ intimateth his own faithfulness and their future usefulness. His own faithfulness; for this was one way of Christ's glorifying his Father on earth, by communicating the tenor of the Christian doctrine to the disciples; so that some of them by the light received were to be special instruments of converting the world. "I have manifested;" by outward teaching, and inward illumination. Outward teaching was necessary; the mystery of the gospel was but sparingly revealed by former prophets; but Christ, who was in the bosom of the Father, knew the depth and bottom of it. "No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him," (John 1:18); and accordingly he revealed it to the disciples. And besides, by an inward light he gave them to understand it; for Christ preached publicly, but all did not understand him, but those to whom "it was given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God," (Matt. 13:11). So much is intimated in the word. And herein Christ fulfilled that prophecy, "I will declare thy name unto my brethren," (Ps. 22:22). The disciples of Christ, especially the apostles, are adopted into the privileges of co-heirs with Christ, and therefore to them he declared his Father's name, than which there could not be a greater privilege. Now by the name of God, some understand one thing, some another, according to the different acceptations of the word name. Largely, and more generally, we may understand, whatever is necessary to be known and believed to salvation concerning God's will and essence; that, is his name; all by which the Father might be known, us men are known and distinguished by their names. The meaning is, that he had made known to them the whole doctrine concerning God's will and essence, teaching them that in one essence of God there are three distinct persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; that the Father begot the Son, his substantial image, by eternal generation, and sent him in time, that he might take a true human nature on him, that so he might become a mediator between God and us, by whom alone we have access to God, that we may obtain grace and life eternal. Now this he manifested in his doctrine, in the course of his life, and by the light of the Spirit, freeing them from all prejudices, contracted by their own darkness, or the obscure doctrine that was then taught in the church.

1. Observe Christ's faithfulness to his own charge. He opened all the mysteries of God's name, that is, of the true religion to them. We that are ministers, and you that are masters of families, should learn of him. It is our duty to teach the flock committed to our charge: "I kept back nothing that was profitable to you, teaching you publicly, and from house to house," (Acts 20:20). We are to draw out all the truths necessary to salvation. It is not enough that ministers live honestly and unblamably, that they are hospitable and kind, but they must teach the people to read God's name. If you hire a man to prune the vineyard and he diggeth in the field, to fight in the battle and he watcheth the stuff, it is not the work you set him about. So to you that are masters of families; the apostles were Christ's own family; God expecteth it from you: "I know him, that he will command his children, and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord," (Gen. 18:19). Do not disappoint the Lord; he reckoneth upon it; your family should be a little flock, a little church. Families are the fountains of church and commonwealth. Oh! how sweet will it be when we come to die, if we could say, as Christ, we concerning our flock, you concerning your families, "I have manifested thy name to them that thou gavest me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gavest them me, and they have kept thy word."

2. Observe the earnest desire Christ had to glorify his Father, by living, teaching, dying;�"thy name, thy word. Oh! that we would learn of our Lord to glorify our Father which is in heaven; to be contented to do anything, to be anything, so we might be to the glory of God!

3. Observe the excellency of the doctrine of the gospel; its certainty, its clearness.

[1.] Its certainty. It is not a doctrine forged in the brain of men, but brought out of the bosom of God into the breasts of the apostles, and from them conveyed to us. In this word you have the Father's heart; Christ told it the apostles: "I have manifested thy name to them," &c. Christ is the original author: "In those last times he hath spoken to us by his Son," (Heb. 1:2). The Son of God is the first man in the roll of the New Testament prophets; the first was not an angel, but God's own Son, the messenger of the covenant, the apostle of our confession. Though Christ doth not speak to us immediately in person, yet he spake to us by the apostles; they have their light from Christ. Therefore he that readeth the word should seem to hear Christ speak. This was that which he whispered to the apostles in secret.

[2.] The clearness of the scriptures. Christ knew all the counsels of God, and he hath manifested his name to the apostles. There is a light shining; if we see it not, it is a sign we are lost: "If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost; in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them," (2 Cor. 4:3,4), What an advantage have we above the Gentiles and above the Jews!

(1.) Above the Gentiles. The doctrine of the essence and will of God cannot be known by the light of nature. Somewhat of his glory shineth in the creatures: "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and godhead," (Rom. 1:20). Some characters there are in conscience, though horribly defaced; but alas! the furthest reach of nature cometh short of salvation. Nature is blind as well as lame in things supernatural; there are some few remains of light to keep the law of nature alive in the soul, for the advantage of civil society and moral business. When nature putteth on the spectacles of art, still she is blind. There are many inventions to polish reason; to sharpen discourse, there is logic; for language, rhetoric; for government and equity, laws; for health, physic; for manners, ethics; for societies of men, politics; for families, economics; but for worship, nothing; their piercing wits were there blunt. Man is naturally wise for everything but to maintain a respect between him and God. They knew there was a God, and that this God ought to be worshipped; but what he was, and how he should be worshipped, they knew not; their knowledge was rather a mist than a light. His works told them that he was wise, powerful, and good; but they were unhappy in their determination of his worship; they sat abrood, and proved but fools: "They professed themselves to be wise, but became fools," (Rom. 1:22). While they intended him honor, they carved to him the greatest contempt; whilst they would express him in the image of the creatures, they dishonored him. Natural light is but small in itself, and corruption maketh it less. They knew nothing of the misery of man and the remedy by Christ; our fall in Adam, original sin, and the work of redemption were mysteries to them; they could not dream of these things; when they were revealed they counted them foolishness. They spoke of virtue as a moral perfection; of vice, as a stain of nature; but nothing of righteousness and sin, as relative to the covenant of God. God used the heathen as instruments to put nature to the highest extent. How may we pity them that they could go no further, and admire God's mercy to us that we, being weaker than they in natural gifts, are yet stronger in grace; that a boy out of a catechism should know more than they! Their misery was great in abusing the light of nature; our misery will be greater, and damnation double, if we abuse the light of nature and grace.

(2.) Above the Jews, whom God acquainted with his statutes above all other nations. They knew little of the name of God in comparison of what we know. Therefore Moses desires to know God's name, (Ex. 3:13); and it is said, "Why askest thou after my name, seeing it is secret?" (Judges 13:18). The divine glory was hidden and under a veil. In those appearances of Christ little was known in respect of what was known at his incarnation. It is spoken in reference to the present dispensation. Some notice they had of this mystery. God acquainted them with his name by degrees: as "I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty; but by my name Jehovah was I not known to them," (Ex. 6:3). God had made himself known by other names; to the fathers by the name of God Almighty; the name Jehovah, that should be an appellation among his gathered people, giving a being to his people, and making good his promises. Afterwards, "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob," as more relating to the covenant. Afterwards, "I will raise up to David a righteous branch, this is the name whereby he shall be called, the lord our RIGHTEOUSNESS," (Jer. 23:5,6). Then God will be known by his grace, justifying his people, and accepting them for Christ's sake. But in the New Testament all is open and clear; he is called "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," (Eph. 1:5). Then God the Father and the mediator were clearly made known. Alas! the Jewish church knew little of the doctrine of the Trinity, the distinction of the persons, the quality of the mediator, the way of salvation. What they knew was obscured, and the doctrine of the Messiah horribly depraved.

Use. Let us bless God for the word, and take heed unto it, as to a light shining in a dark place. What would be our condition if we had not the scriptures among us? We should be no better than savages in the wilderness, or as the body without the soul, the earth without the sun. God might immediately have revealed himself to man; he that made the heart can enstamp it with the knowledge of his will; but he would state his doctrine into a settled course, that we might not coin oracles to ourselves, or obtrude fancies on others: "We have a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that take heed, as to a light that shineth in a dark place," (2 Pet. 1:19). I knoweth to what liberty we incline in preaching divine things. No more of those divers ways and manners, wherewith God spake in times past to our fathers by the prophets, (Heb. 1:1). After the closing of a perfect canon there needed nothing but ordinary revelation. This is sufficient to salvation, if there were no book else; if the world were full of books, and this only were wanting, there were no certain way nor rule to heaven. Here is God's heart discovered to us, and our hearts to ourselves; it is a ray of the face of God in Christ: "No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son of God, that lay in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him," (John 1:18). Satan hath been ever maligning this light, that he might more securely domineer in the world. Christ undertook he would declare God's name to his brethren, and here he hath done it. Oh! let it come with divine authority upon your hearts, in all the precepts, promises, threatenings of it, that you may come to a nearer sight of God and yourselves.

4. Observe the necessity of a divine light before we can understand the things of God: "I have manifested thy name," &c.;

[1.] There must not only be an outward sure rule of doctrine, but an inward light. We can have no savory apprehensions of the things of God till Christ himself become our teacher; the Son of God must always be the interpreter of his Father's will; he is the Word that speaketh to the heart All men by nature are ignorant of the name of God, without any saving knowledge: "Ye were sometimes darkness," (Eph. 5:8); not only in the dark, but darkness itself; "but now ye are light in the Lord;" that is, enlightened by his Spirit This is proper to the elect, those who are given to him. The church is Christ's open school, the scriptures our book, the ministers are the ushers, and Christ is the inward teacher. Some are only taught by the ministers, others are taken aside and taught by Christ himself in private. His public lectures are read to all hearers, but the elect are taught of God: "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life," (John. 6:68). Others may hear the word, but they perish in their own blindness and unbelief. Some play the truants in Christ's school; they will not hear, they pass judgment on themselves: "As many as were ordained to eternal life believed," (Acts 13:48). The whole city was met to hear, but none believed but the elect; and the apostle doth not say, "As many as believed were ordained to eternal life," but "as many as were ordained believed." It is not given to all: "It is given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given," (Matt. 13:11). All the difference is in the will of God; so that the scholars in this kind are "the called according to his purpose." Christ's teaching is of no larger extent than his Father's election. Some schoolmasters, besides their common care, do teach such children apart as they love most, they take them and point with the finger; so doth Christ manifest himself to those that are given him out of the world by the inward work of his grace. Moral suasion is common to all, but he taketh some aside and worketh on their hearts.

[2.] For the manner of this teaching; it is accompanied with force and power. There is always an operation that goeth along with this teaching: "No man can come to me except the Father that hath sent me draw him. It is written in the prophets, They shall be all taught of God," (John 6:44,45). There is teaching and drawing; the inspira­tion and the impression go together. He is an incomparable teacher; he giveth the lesson, and a heart to learn it; with information he reformeth, and with the knowledge of our duty he giveth a will and power to do it He teacheth the promise so as to make us believe it; the commandment so as to make us obey it The soul is God's echo: "When thou sayest, Seek ye my face, my heart said unto thee, thy face, Lord, will I seek," (Ps. 27:8). He reformeth by his light, and exciteth by the power of his grace. In short, it is a powerful teaching, joined with an inward working. His scholars are sure of proficiency, for he hath their hearts in his hands, and can move them according to his own pleasure. There is not only an illumination of the mind, but a bowing of the will. Corrupt nature in man is strong enough to resist anything of man, as he is man.

[3.] The necessity of this inward light; without it the word will not work. Many hear outwardly that are never the better: "No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him," (John 6:44). There must be an inward light, an inward operation on the soul, or the word is without effect; the heart must be opened as well us the scriptures. As all the multitude that thronged on Christ did not touch him as the diseased woman did, who touched the hem of his garment: "Who touched me?" saith Christ, "knowing that virtue had gone out of him," (Mark 5:30). Many may come to an ordinance, but virtue passeth out to few. The outward minister can but speak to the ear; it is Christ works grace in the heart: unless the Holy Ghost come down, and open the mouths of preachers to speak, and the hearts of people to hear, all is to no purpose.

Use. Well, then, every time you come to the opening of the scriptures, look for this inward light to shine into your hearts, that you may have a saving knowledge of God in Christ. Remember you come to hear that doctrine which Christ hath brought down from the bosom of the Father, and he must bring it into your bosoms. There are two sorts of hearers:

1. Some are careless, that come hither, but scarce hear the minister; their bodies are in the sanctuary, but their spirits are in the corners of the earth. Their coming is made fruitless by the wandering of their hearts; they have experience of the power of Satan, not of Christ. The devil presenteth to their fancy such objects as carry their spirits from God and his work: "They come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness," (Ezek. 33:31). Carcasses without a spirit are but carrion; clothes stuffed with straw, that were a mocking; so is a body present at hearing the word without a soul. What is the difference between an absent body and a wandering spirit? God knocketh at the heart, but there is none within to hear him.

2. Some hear the minister, but do not wait for the illumination of Christ, which sometimes God grants to us in the hearing of the word: "As I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them," (Acts 11:15); this is to draw us to attention: "Whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended to those things that were spoken by Paul," (Acts 16:14). When God disposeth us to hear his word attentively, he approacheth to us in mercy.

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