John XV. 26, 27.
1. The Lord Jesus, in the discourse which He addressed to His disciples after the supper, when Himself in immediate proximity to His passion, and, as it were, on the eve of departure, and of depriving them of His bodily presence while continuing His spiritual presence to all His disciples till the very end of the world, exhorted them to endure the persecutions of the wicked, whom He distinguished by the name of the world: and from which He also told them that He had chosen, the disciples themselves, that they might know it was by the grace of God they were what they were, and by their own vices they had been what they had been. And then His own persecutors and theirs He clearly signified to be the Jews, that it might be perfectly apparent that they also were included in the appellation of that damnable world that persecuteth the saints. And when He had said of them that they knew not Him that sent Him, and yet hated both the Son and the Father, that is, both Him who was sent and Him who sent Him,-of all which we have already treated in previous discourses,-He reached the place where it is said, "This cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause." And then He added, as if by way of consequence, the words whereon we have undertaken at present to discourse: "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceedeth from the Father, He shall bear witness of me: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning." But what connection has this with what He had just said, "But now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father: but that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause"? Was it that the Comforter, when He came, even the Spirit of truth, convicted those, who thus saw and hated, by a still clearer testimony? Yea, verily, some even of those who saw, and still hated, He did convert, by this manifestation of Himself, to the faith that worketh by love.1 To make this view of the passage intelligible, we recall to your mind that so it actually befell. For when on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit fell upon an assembly of one hundred and twenty men, among whom were all the apostles; and when they, filled therewith were speaking in the language of every nation; a goodly number of those who had hated, amazed at the magnitude of the miracle (especially when they perceived in Peter's address so great and divine a testimony borne in behalf of Christ, as that He, who was slain by them and accounted amongst the dead, was proved to have risen again, and to be now alive), were pricked in their hearts and converted; and so became aware of the beneficent character of that precious blood which had been so impiously and cruelly shed, because themselves redeemed by the very blood which they had shed.2 For the blood of Christ was shed so efficaciously for the remission of all sins, that it could wipe out even the very sin of shedding it. With this therefore in His eye, the Lord said, "They hated me without a cause: but when the Comforter is come, He shall bear witness of me;" saying, as it were, They hated me, and slew me when I stood visibly before their eyes; but such shall be the testimony borne in my behalf by the Comforter, that He will bring them to believe in me when I am no longer visible to their sight.
2. "And ye also," He says," shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning." The Holy Spirit shall bear witness, and so also shall ye. For, just because ye have been with me from the beginning, they can preach what ye know; which ye cannot do at present, because the fullness of that Spirit is not yet present within you. "He therefore shall testify of me, and ye also shall bear witness:" for the love of God shed abroad in your hearts by the Holy Spirit, who shall be given unto you,3 will give you the confidence needful for such witness-bearing. And that certainly was still wanting to Peter, when, terrified by the question of a lady's maid, he could give no true testimony; but, contrary to his own promise, was driven by the greatness of his fear thrice to deny Him.4 But there is no such fear in love, for perfect love casteth out fear.5 In fine, before the Lord's passion, his slavish fear was questioned by a bond-woman; but after the Lord's resurrection, his free love by the very Lord of freedom:6 and so on the one occasion he was troubled, on the other tranquillized; there he denied the One he had loved, here he loved the One he had denied. But still even then that very love was weak and straitened, till strengthened and expanded by the Holy Spirit. And then that Spirit, pervading him thus with the fullness of richer grace, kindled his hitherto frigid heart to such a witness-bearing for Christ, and unlocked those lips that in their previous tremor had suppressed the truth, that, when all on whom the Holy Spirit had descended were speaking in the tongues of all nations to the crowds of Jews collected around, he alone broke forth before the others in the promptitude of his testimony in behalf of the Christ, and con-rounded His murderers with the account of His resurrection. And if any one would enjoy the pleasure of gazing on a sight so charming in its holiness, let him read the Acts of the Apostles:7 and there let him be filled with amazement at the preaching of the blessed Peter, over whose denial of his Master he had just been mourning; there let him behold that tongue, itself translated from diffidence to confidence, from bondage to liberty, converting to the confession of Christ the tongues of so many of His enemies, riot one of which he could bear when lapsing himself into denial. And what shall I say more? In him there shone forth such an effulgence of grace, and such a fullness of the Holy Spirit, and such a weight of most precious truth poured from the lips of the preacher, that he transformed that vast multitude of Jews who were the adversaries and murderers of Christ into men that were ready to die for His name, at whose hands he himself was formerly afraid to die with his Master. All this did that Holy Spirit when sent, who had previously only been promised. And it was these great and marvellous gifts of His own that the Lord foresaw, when He said, "They have both seen and hated both me and my Father: that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause. But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness." For He, in bearing witness Himself, and inspiring such witnesses with invincible courage, divested Christ's friends of their fear, and transformed into love the hatred of His enemies.