RPM, Volume 18, Number 9, February 21 to February 27, 2016

Sermons on John 17

Sermon IX

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.

Secondly, They are committed to him by way of charge

In opening this I shall inquire

1. Who are the persons that are thus given to Christ?

I answer—The elect, and no other. They are given to him out of the world, a selected company; as in the text,' Those whom thou hast given me;' such as shall surely and infallibly be brought to grace, and conducted to glory: John vi. 37, 'All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me; and ver. 39, 40, 'This is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth, on him, may have everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day.' And can the Father's will be disappointed? (I wonder what can men object against so plain a scripture!) And when they are come [Pg. 211] they cannot miscarry: 'This is the will of him that sent me, that of all that he hath given me, I should lose nothing;' not a leg, not a piece of an ear. Christ hath received a special charge.

But you will say, It is said, John xvii. 12, 'Those which thou hast given me I have kept, and none of them is lost but the son of perdi­tion.' So it seemeth some may be lost which are given to Christ.

[1.] I answer—The word given is there used indefinitely, for those given to Christ by way of reward, as well as those given to him by way of charge. Hypocrites, because of their external vocation, are said to be given to Christ by way of ministry and service, but not by way of special charge. That is notable which Christ saith, John xiii. 18, 'I speak not of you all, I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth with me hath lift up his heel against me.' Where he showeth plainly that one of them was not of the number of the elect, and should not receive the privileges of his especial charge; though he was chosen to the calling of an apostle, yet not to eternal life. Christ knoweth the number of the heirs of salvation, and who only are given him by way of ministry and service of the church.

[2.] I may answer by interpreting the phrase \~ei mh o uiov thv apoleiav\~. The words are not exceptive, but adversative; none of them is lost, but the son of perdition is lost; the words are not rendered 'except the son of perdition,' but 'but the son of perdition;' it is not nisi, but sed. There is no exception made of Judas, as if he had been given to Christ, and afterward had fallen away. It is not nemo nisi filius perditionis\~ei mh\~, where the words are not exceptive; for then it would follow that some which work abomination should enter into the kingdom of heaven; but adversative, these shall not enter, but others shall enter. So Mat. xii. 4,' It was not lawful for him to eat, neither for those which were with him, but only for the priests;' \~ei mh\~, it is not exceptive, as if the priests were of David's com­pany.

2. What was this charge? It will be opened by considering what the Father proposed concerning the elect, and what the Son under­took.

[1.] What the Father proposed. The words of Heaven are \~arrhta rhmata\~, unutterable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter, 2 Cor. xii. 4. Those secret ways of discourse and communication between the Father and the Son are to be adored with reverence and deep silence, were it not that the Spirit of God hath put them into» such forms as are suitable to those transactions and intercourses which are between man and man. It is usual in scripture to put the passages between God and Christ into speeches: Ps. xl. 6-8, 'Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt-offering and sin-offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come; in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do [Pg. 212] thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart;' Ps. ii. 8, 'Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thy inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for thy possession;' Ps. cx. 1,' The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.' The Father came to Christ, and did, as it were, say to him, Son, I am loath that all mankind should be lost, and left under condemnation; there are some whom I have chosen to be vessels and receptacles of my mercy and goodness; and because I am resolved that my justice shall be no loser, you must take a body and die for them, and afterward you must see that they be converted to grace, justified, sanctified, guided to glory, and that not one of them should miscarry; for I will take an account of you at the last day. It is easy to prove all these things out of scripture. That there are a certain definite number, see 2 Tim. ii. 19, 'The foundation of the Lord standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth those that are his.' There is no lottery nor uncertainty in the divine decrees; the number is stated, sealed; none can add to it, or detract any one person that Christ received a command to lay down his life for: John x. 18, 'This commandment have I received of my Father;' for them only I lay down my life, viz., for my sheep. That Christ is to see them converted to grace: John vi. 37, 'All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.' And without miscarrying, guided to glory: John x. 28, 29,' I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and none is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.' That Christ is to give an account of bodies and souls: John vi 39, 'And this is the Father's will that hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.' Which accordingly he doth: Heb. ii. 13, 'Behold, I and the children which God hath given me.'

[2.] What Christ undertook. The whole proposal of the Father: Ps. xi. 8, 'Lo, I come to do thy will, O God.' Christ consented to all the articles of the eternal covenant; not only to take a body to die, but to take a particular charge of all the elect; as Judah interposed for Benjamin, so doth Christ for the souls committed to him: Gen. xliii. 9,' I will be surety for him; of my hand shalt thou require him: if I bring him not to thee, and set him safe in thy presence, let me bear the blame for ever.' So doth Christ say concerning all the per­sons that fall under his charge. If I do not see them converted, jus­tified, sanctified, conducted to glory, count me an unfaithful undertaker, and let me bear the blame for ever.

3. The ground of this charge, why the Father doth not save them by his own power, but committed them to the Son ? I answer—

[l.] Partly in majesty; God would not pass out grace but by a mediator; and therefore, when he was resolved that he would not lose the whole race of mankind, but repair his image in some of them, and had selected whom he pleased out of the mass, yet in majesty he would not immediately communicate grace to them but by Christ. There is a difference between man in innocency and man fallen. Man in innocency had immediate communion with God; God was present with, [Pg. 213] his image: but now man fallen needeth a mediator; our approaches to God are unhallowed, his presence to us is dreadful: 1 Cor. i. 30, 'Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made to us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.' The heathens were sensible of the necessity of intermediate powers (it is strange, you will say), or else what shall we make of that, 1 Cor. viii. 5,6,' For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth (as there be gods many, and lords many): but unto us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.'

[2.] In justice. Though God were resolved to show mercy to the fallen creature, yet he would carry on his act of grace in such a way that justice might be satisfied for sin: Rom. iii. 25, 26, 'Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness; that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.' Therefore, for satisfaction of his justice, he sent his Son into the world, that, taking our nature on him, he might therein suffer for our offences, and mediate a peace between God and fallen man; and that not by bare entreaty, but by satisfaction; therefore we are given to Christ. I confess it is hard to say that God by any necessity of nature required this satisfaction; the exercise of his justice is free, and falleth under no laws; but it was most convenient to preserve a due sense and apprehension of the Godhead.

[3.] In love and mercy. God was resolved that the heirs of salva­tion should infallibly be conducted to everlasting life; he would not be defeated of his purpose, and therefore would have them quickened by virtue of that power and life that was given to Christ. God would now deal with us upon sure terms, and take order sufficient for attain­ing his end, and therefore he would not trust us with any but his own eternal Son, that nothing might be wanting. There is not only a command laid upon us, but a command and a charge laid upon Christ. Christ is a good depository; of such care and faithfulness, that he will not neglect his Father's pledge; of such strength and ability, that nothing is able to wrest it out of his hands; of such love, that no work can be more willing to him; he loveth us far better than we do our­selves, or else he had never come from heaven for our sakes; of such watchfulness and care, that' his eyes do always run to and fro through­out the earth, that he may show himself strong in the behalf of them that trust in him.' Providence is full of eyes, as well as strong of hand. Were we our own keepers we should soon perish; but Christ is charged, who is a loving, faithful, able keeper, who is resolved to preserve us safe, till he doth at the last day present us to the Father.

Use. 1. It informeth us of two things:

1. Of the certainty of the elect's salvation. If the elect should not be saved, Christ should neither do his work nor receive his wages. How can they miscarry that are Christ's own charge? He hath such power that' none can pluck them out of his hands,' John x. 28. He had need of a stronger arm than Christ that must do it When you can pluck him out of the throne then he may lose his flock. He hath [Pg. 214] grace enough to convert them: John x. 10, 'I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly;' and he hath power enough to keep them; John x. 28, 'I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand.' Shall we say that the Son, though he hath power, wants will? This is blasphemy. He came down from heaven with this resolution: John vi. 38, 'I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me.' Now, this is the Father's will, that they should come, and that they should not be lost; and it is meat to Christ to accomplish it: John iv. 34, 'My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.' Now it is a rule, Quipotest et vuli, facit. He that can do, and will do, doth it undoubtedly.

2. It informeth us of Christ's distinct and explicit notice of the elect

[1.] Of their persons, he knoweth the definite number, all their names; he lieth in the Father's bosom, knoweth his secrets: 'He is worthy to open the book,' Rev. v. 4, 5; and he hath a register of his own, wherein their names are recorded: Rev. xiii. 8,' Whose names are not written in the Lamb's book of life.' Man by man, name by name, they are all written there; as the high priest carried their names in his breast, so doth Christ; thy name is engraven on his heart: John x. 3,' He calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.' 'Clement also, with other my fellow-labourers, whose names are in the book of life,' Phil. iv. 3. John, Anna, Thomas, Clement, they are recorded; and Christ takes such special notice of them as if there were none other in the world.

[2.] Their condition and necessities, how obscure and poor soever they be in the account and reckoning of the world: Ps. xxxiv. 6, 'This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him!' Poor soul I he is liable to such temptations, overwhelmed with such troubles, he crieth to me to help him. It was the theology of the Gentiles, dii magna curant, parva negligent—that the divine powers did only take care of the great and weighty concernments of the world, but neglected the lesser: Isa. xi. 27,' Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from any God?'

Use 2. It persuadeth us wholly and absolutely to resign up our­selves into Christ's hands. The Father is wiser than we; he knoweth well enough what he did, when he commendeth us to his Son. Let us give up bodies and souls to Christ, all that we have. Faith is often expressed by committing ourselves to Christ; it answereth the trust the Father reposed in him: 1 Peter iv. 19,' Wherefore, let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well-doing, as unto a faithful creator.' The apostle knew what he did when he trusted Christ with his soul: 2 Tim. i. 12, 'I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.' Is thy soul laid a pledge in Christ's hands? It is no easy work. That we may know what it is, let me open it a little.

[l.] You must chiefly commit your souls to him. Most men lose [Pg. 215] their souls to keep the body. That which a man chiefly looketh after is his jewels and precious things, in a dangerous time, to commit them to the custody of a friend. So a Christian, whatever becometh of him in the world, he is careful to lay up his soul in Christ's hands, that it may be kept from sin and the consequents of sin. Alas! while we have it in our own keeping it will soon miscarry. Now concerning this committing the soul to Christ, let me observe:

(1.) That this act is most sensible in time of deep troubles and death, when we carry our lives in our hands, trust Christ with your souls: Ps. xxxi. 5, 'Into thy hands I commit my spirit: thou-hast redeemed me, 0 Lord God of truth.' So Christ: Luke xxiii. 46, 'Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit' Can we trust Christ, upon the warrant of the gospel, when troubles are nigh and fears of death? Lord, take my spirit; as Stephen, Acts vii. 59,' Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' We must do it in our life, especially as often as we renew covenant; but then most sensibly when we come to die. Jesus Christ is always the depository of souls; but when we come to die, or are in special troubles, then we are chiefly solicitous about our souls; as when a house is a-burning we are not careful about our lumber, but run to fetch our jewels to put them in a safe hand.

(2.) Whenever we do it, it must be an advised act. A man must be sensible of the danger he is in, of the many temptations to which he is exposed, what a sorry keeper he is of his own heart (Satan could fetch a prey out of paradise, Judas out of Christ's company), what Abilities Christ hath: 2 Tim. i. 12, 'I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have com­mitted to him against that day.' Presumption is a child of darkness; it cometh from ignorance and incogitancy. Faith is deliberate and advised; a Christian can venture his soul upon Christ's grace notwith­standing infirmities, upon Christ's power notwithstanding temptations; this precious thing is daily in danger, yet I can trust it in Christ's hands; he that made it can best keep it, and guide us by his grace, and direct us in this dangerous passage.

(3.) It must still be accompanied with some confidence. We must be quieted: 'I am persuaded he is able to keep that which I have committed to him.' We should not distrust when we have resigned ourselves to the care and tuition of his Spirit. Christ's charge will be safe from danger. It is our weakness to be full of doubts and fears. We may be assaulted, but we are safe in t(3.) It must still be accompanied with some confidence. We must be quieted: 'I am persuaded he is able to keep that which I have committed to him.' We should not distrust when we have resigned ourselves to the care and tuition of his Spirit. Christ's charge will be safe from danger. It is our weakness to be full of doubts and fears. We may be assaulted, but we are safe in the Father's purpose and the Son's protection. Too much confidence in sanctification, and too little in justification, will unsettle us.

(4.) There must be a care of obedience: 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' 'Commit your souls to him in well-doing,' 1 Peter iv. 19. Sins will weaken trust; an impure soul cannot be committed to Christ's custody. Would we commit dung to a friend to keep? There must be a giving up ourselves to him in love, as well as com­mitting ourselves to him in faith: John xii. 26,' If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be.'

(5.) It must arise from a chief care of your souls. Most men are negligent herein; they watch over their goods, but neglect their souls, and lose their souls to keep these trifles. What account can they [Pg. 216] make to God at the last day? These live as if they had no souls, and can they be said to commit their souls to God?

2. We must give up our bodies to him, and the conveniences of the body, to let him dispose of us according to his pleasure. We shall have a body at the last day, and that body will have glory enough; that falleth under Christ's charge: John vi. 39, 'This is the Father's will that hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.' He that cannot do the lesser, it is impossible he should do the greater; he that will not trust God with his earthly existence, credit, estate, how will he trust God with his soul for eternal salvation? 'Which is easier to say, Thy sins are forgiven thee, or to say, Arise, and walk?' Mark ii. 9. It is more difficult to believe for salvation, but bodily incon­veniences are more pressing and sensible. The welfare of the body must not be committed to wealth or wit, but to Christ. A Christian is not troubled what shall become of him; he leaveth himself to Christ's disposal, which is the way to allay his cares and fears.

Thirdly, The third argument is what they had done, in the next clause, 'They have kept thy word.' Here is another reason, their obedience. He had mentioned what the Father had done, now what they had done. His ministry with them was not without success and fruit This phrase, 'kept thy word,' is very significant; it implieth not only outward hearing, but knowledge: Mat xiii. 23, 'He that receiveth the seed into good ground, is he that heareth the word and underetandeth it,' &c. Nay, not only knowledge, but assent and believing, embracing the promises of the gospel: Luke viii. 15, 'Hav­ing heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.' Not only absent, but the fruits of love and obedience: 1 John ii. 4,' He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.' Not only single obedience, but constant profession and perseverance: Prov. xvi. 20, 'My son; keep thy father's commandments, and forsake not the law of thy mother.' They have not failed as Judas. Now there is a twofold keeping of the word—a legal keeping and evangelical. The legal keeping is absolute and perfect obedience; if there be but the least failing, Moses accuseth and condemneth you. The evangelical keeping is filial and sincere obedience. Those imperfections Christ pardoneth, when he looketh back and seeth many errors and defects in life, as long as we bewail sin, seek remission, strive to attain perfection. All the command­ments are accounted kept when that which is not done is pardoned.

'Thy word.'—He doth not say my word, but thing. He elsewhere referreth his doctrine to the Father: John vii. 16, 'My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.' So here he mentioneth the divine autho­rity of his doctrine.

1. Observe, Christ speaketh good of his people to his Father.' Satan is an accuser, he loveth to speak ill of believers; but Christ telleth his Father how his lambs thrive. It is a grief to your advo­cate when he cannot speak well of you in heaven, and say,' They have kept thy word, I am glorified in them.' How grievous is it when your very advocate is forced .to be an accuser I Isa. xlix. 4, 'I have laboured in vain, and spent my strength for nought' I have sent my gospel, [Pg. 217] and it doth no good. It is Christ's complaint against the obstinacy of the Jews. Again, whom will you imitate, Christ or Satan? To slander and accuse is the devil's property; we should be more tender in divulging the infirmities of the saints; it is the devil's work. Christ, when he prayeth for his enemies, he mollifieth their crime, and softeneth it with a gentle interpretation: Luke xxiii. 34,' Father, for­give them; they know not what they do.' Christ excuseth, Satan accuseth.

2. Observe again, 'They have kept thy word.' Christ speaketh good of them, though they had many failings. The disciples often miscarried, were of weak faith, passionate when they met with dis­respect: Luke ix. 54, 'Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?' But Christ returneth this general issue, 'They have kept thy word;' so James v. 11, 'Ye have heard of the patience of Job;' yea, and of his impatience too, when he cursed the day of his birth; but the Spirit of God putteth a finger on the scar. It is a ground of hope, notwithstanding many weak­nesses and failings, Christ loveth not to upbraid us with infirmities. We commend with exceptions, and when we seem to praise we come in with a but, like a stab under the fifth rib; yea, we blast much good with a little evil, as flies only go to a sore place.

3. Observe, it is the duty of God's people to keep his word. It is the greatest commendation Christ could give his disciples, 'They have kept thy word.' Mark, Christians, it is not your duty to hear the word only, but to keep it; not to know the word only, but to keep it. Rickets cause great heads and weak feet. We are not only to dispute of the word, and talk of it, but to keep it. We must neither be all ear, nor all head, nor all tongue, but the feet must be exercised. Now, what is it to keep the word? We are said to keep it when we watch over it, that it be not lost by ourselves, nor taken away by others. It noteth three things—that it must be impressed on our hearts, expressed in our lives, retained in our conversations.

[1.] To keep the word is to feel the force of it in our hearts, that oar hearts may be more bent and set towards God, for else the word is lost to ourselves. A man may better his knowledge by the word, but yet he doth not keep it, nor feel the virtue and force of it. The brains may be warmed when the heart is not, and we may keep the notion when the motion is gone and lost. Oh! consider, we know God as we love him, we know him aright when we know him as we are known; he knoweth us to love us, to choose us, to gain us to himself and to Christ So should we know him for our portion, to have no rest till we have an interest in Christ.

[2.] It must be expressed in our life: Luke xi. 28, 'Blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.' To keep the law is to live according to the prescript of it.

[3.] There must be a perseverance to retain it in our conversations: Rom. iii. 18, 'Thou hast Kept my word, and hast not denied my name.' Do we thus keep the word? All dependeth on it: John xiv. 15, 'If ye love me, keep my commandments.' Christ conjureth us by all the love we bear to him, ver. 23, 'If any man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and [Pg. 218] make our abode with him.' If there be any faith in the heart, by which we esteem Christ, we must not only keep it in memory, but keep it in faith. Do you honour him in your lives. Can we venture anything to keep the word when the world would take our crown from us?

Use. We may know when Christ will speak good of us; not when we hear, and when we are taught, but when we keep the word: yet this we must do, understand and keep his word, not customs, not tra­ditions of ancestors, nor fancies; we must receive his word as his word: 1 Thes. ii. 13, 'For this cause thank we God without ceasing, because when ye received the word of God, which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but (as it is in truth) the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.'

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