The Comforter Announced.
26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from
the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father,
he shall testify of me: 27 And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have
been with me from the beginning.
Christ having spoken of the great opposition which his gospel was likely
to meet with in the world, and the hardships that would be put upon the
preachers of it, lest any should fear that they and it would be run down
by that violent torrent, he here intimates to all those that were well-wishers
to his cause and interest what effectual provision was made for supporting
it, both by the principal testimony of the Spirit (v. 26), and the subordinate
testimony of the apostles (v. 27), and testimonies are the proper supports
I. It is here promised that the blessed Spirit shall maintain the cause
of Christ in the world, notwithstanding the opposition it should meet with.
Christ, when he was reviled, committed his injured cause to his Father,
and did not lose by his silence, for the Comforter came, pleaded it powerfully,
and carried it triumphantly. "When the Comforter or Advocate is come, who
proceedeth from the Father, and whom I will send to supply the want of
my bodily presence, he shall testify of me against those that hate me without
cause." We have more in this verse concerning the Holy Ghost than in any
one verse besides in the Bible; and, being baptized into his name, we are
concerned to acquaint ourselves with him as far as he is revealed.
1. Here is an account of him in his essence, or subsistence rather.
He is the Spirit of truth, who proceedeth from the Father. Here, (1.) He
is spoken of as a distinct person; not a quality or property, but a person
under the proper name of a Spirit, and proper title of the Spirit of truth,
a title fitly given him where he is brought in testifying. (2.) As a divine
person, that proceedeth from the Father, by out-goings that were of old,
from everlasting. The spirit or breath of man, called the breath of life,
proceeds from the man, and by it modified he delivers his mind, by it invigorated
he sometimes exerts his strength to blow out what he would extinguish,
and blow up what he would excite. Thus the blessed Spirit is the emanation
of divine light, and the energy of divine power. The rays of the sun, by
which it dispenses and diffuses its light, heat, and influence, proceed
from the sun, and yet are one with it. The Nicene Creed says, The Spirit
proceedeth from the Father and the Son, for he is called the Spirit of
the Son, Gal. iv. 6. And the Son is here said to send him. The Greek church
chose rather to say, from the Father by the Son.
2. In his mission. (1.) He will come in a more plentiful effusion of
his gifts, graces, and powers, than had ever yet been. Christ had been
long the ho erchomenos--he that should come; now the blessed Spirit is
so. (2.) I will send him to you from the Father. He had said (ch. xiv.
16), I will pray the Father, and he shall send you the Comforter, which
bespeaks the Spirit to be the fruit of the intercession Christ makes within
the veil: here he says, I will send him, which bespeaks him to be the fruit
of his dominion within the veil. The Spirit was sent, [1.] By Christ as
Mediator, now ascended on high to give gifts unto men, and all power being
given to him. [2.] From the Father: "Not only from heaven, my Father's
house" (the Spirit was given in a sound from heaven, Acts ii. 2), "but
according to my Father's will and appointment, and with his concurring
power and authority." [3.] To the apostles to instruct them in their preaching,
enable them for working, and carry them through their sufferings. He was
given to them and their successors, both in Christianity and in the ministry;
to them and their seed, and their seed's seed, according to that promise,
Isa. lix. 21.
3. In his office and operations, which are two:-- (1.) One implied in
the title given to him; he is the Comforter, or Advocate. An advocate for
Christ, to maintain his cause against the world's infidelity, a comforter
to the saints against the world's hatred. (2.) Another expressed: He shall
testify of me. He is not only an advocate, but a witness for Jesus Christ;
he is one of the three that bear record in heaven, and the first of the
three that bear witness on earth. 1 John v. 7, 8. He instructed the apostles,
and enabled them to work miracles; he indited the scriptures, which are
the standing witnesses that testify of Christ, ch. v. 39. The power of
the ministry is derived from the Spirit, for he qualifies ministers; and
the power of Christianity too, for he sanctifies Christians, and in both
testifies of Christ.
II. It is here promised that the apostles also, by the Spirit's assistance,
should have the honour of being Christ's witnesses (v. 27): And you also
shall bear witness of me, being competent witnesses, for you have been
with me from the beginning of my ministry. Observe here,
1. That the apostles were appointed to be witnesses for Christ in the
world. When he had said, The Spirit shall testify, he adds, And you also
shall bear witness. Note, The Spirit's working is not to supersede, but
to engage and encourage ours. Though the Spirit testify, ministers also
must bear their testimony, and people attend to it; for the Spirit of grace
witnesses and works by the means of grace. The apostles were the first
witnesses that were called in the famous trial between Christ and the prince
of this world, which issued in the ejectment of the intruder. This intimates,
(1.) The work cut out for them; they were to attest the truth, the whole
truth, and nothing but the truth, concerning Christ, for the recovering
of his just right, and the maintaining of his crown and dignity. Though
Christ's disciples fled when they should have been witnesses for him upon
his trial before the high priest and Pilate, yet after the Spirit was poured
out upon them they appeared courageous in vindication of the cause of Christ
against the accusations it was loaded with. The truth of the Christian
religion was to be proved very much by the evidence of matter of fact,
especially Christ's resurrection, of which the apostles were in a particular
manner chosen witnesses (Acts x. 41), and they bore their testimony accordingly,
Acts iii. 15; v. 32. Christ's ministers are his witnesses. (2.) The honour
put upon them hereby--that they should be workers together with God. "The
Spirit shall testify of me, and you also, under the conduct of the Spirit,
and in concurrence with the Spirit (who will preserve you from mistaking
in that which you relate on your own knowledge, and will inform you of
that which you cannot know but by revelation), shall bear witness." This
might encourage them against the hatred and contempt of the world, that
Christ had honoured them, and would own them.
2. That they were qualified to be so: You have been with me from the
beginning. They not only heard his public sermons, but had constant private
converse with him. He went about doing good, and, while others saw the
wonderful and merciful works that he did in their own town and country
only, those that went about with him were witnesses of them all. They had
likewise opportunity of observing the unspotted purity of his conversation,
and could witness for him that they never saw in him, nor heard from him,
any thing that had the least tincture of human frailty. Note. (1.) We have
great reason to receive the record which the apostles gave of Christ, for
they did not speak by hearsay, but what they had the greatest assurance
of imaginable, 2 Pet. i. 16; 1 John i. 1, 3. (2.) Those are best able to
bear witness for Christ that have themselves been with him, by faith, hope,
and love, and by living a life of communion with God in him. Ministers
must first learn Christ, and then preach him. Those speak best of the things
of God that speak experimentally. It is particularly a great advantage
to have been acquainted with Christ from the beginning, to understand all
things from the very first, Luke i. 3. To have been with him from the beginning
of our days. An early acquaintance and constant converse with the gospel
of Christ will make a man like a good householder.
Persecution Foretold; The Expediency of Christ's Departure.
1 These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended.
2 They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that
whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. 3 And these
things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor
me. 4 But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come,
ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto
you at the beginning, because I was with you.
Christ dealt faithfully with his disciples when he sent them forth on
his errands, for he told them the worst of it, that they might sit down
and count the cost. He had told them in the chapter before to expect the
world's hatred; now here in these verses,
I. He gives them a reason why he alarmed them thus with the expectation
of trouble: These things have I spoken unto you, that you should not be
offended, or scandalized, v. 1. 1. The disciples of Christ are apt to be
offended at the cross; and the offence of the cross is a dangerous temptation,
even to good men, to turn back from the ways of God, or turn aside out
of them, or drive on heavily in them; to quit either their integrity or
their comfort. It is not for nothing that a suffering time is called an
hour of temptation. 2. Our Lord Jesus, by giving us notice of trouble,
designed to take off the terror of it, that it might not be a surprise
to us. Of all the adversaries of our peace, in this world of troubles,
none insult us more violently, nor put our troops more into disorder, than
disappointment does; but we can easily welcome a guest we expect, and being
fore-warned are fore-armed--Præmoniti, præmuniti.
II. He foretels particularly what they should suffer (v. 2): "Those
that have power to do it shall put you out of their synagogues; and this
is not the worst, they shall kill you." Ecce duo-gladii--Behold two swords
drawn against the followers of the Lord Jesus.
1. The sword of ecclesiastical censure; this is drawn against them by
the Jews, for they were the only pretenders to church-power. They shall
cast you out of their synagogues; aposynagogous poiesousin hymas--they
shall make you excommunicates. (1.) "They shall cast you out of the particular
synagogues you were members of." At first, they scourged them in their
synagogues as contemners of the law (Matt. x. 17), and at length cast them
out as incorrigible. (2.) "They shall cast you out of the congregation
of Israel in general, the national church of the Jews; shall debar you
from the privileges of that, put you into the condition of an outlaw,"
qui caput gerit lupinum--to be knocked on the head, like another wolf;
"they will look upon you as Samaritans, as heathen men and publicans."
Interdico tibi aqua et igne--I forbid you the use of water and fire. And
were it not for the penalties, forfeitures, and incapacities, incurred
hereby, it would be no injury to be thus driven out of a house infected
and falling. Note, It has often been the lot of Christ's disciples to be
unjustly excommunicated. Many a good truth has been branded with an anathema,
and many a child of God delivered to Satan.
2. The sword of civil power: "The time cometh, the hour is come; now
things are likely to be worse with you than hitherto they have been; when
you are expelled as heretics, they will kill you, and think they do God
service, and others will think so too." (1.) You will find them really
cruel: They will kill you. Christ's sheep have been accounted as sheep
for the slaughter; the twelve apostles (we are told) were all put to death,
except John. Christ had said (ch. xv. 27), You shall bear witness, martyreite--you
shall be martyrs, shall seal the truth with your blood, your heart's blood.
(2.) You will find them seemingly conscientious; they will think they do
God service; they will seem latreian prospherein--to offer a good sacrifice
to God; as those that cast out God's servants of old, and said, Let the
Lord be glorified, Isa. lxvi. 5. Note, [1.] It is possible for those that
are real enemies to God's service to pretend a mighty zeal for it. The
devil's work has many a time been done in God's livery, and one of the
most mischievous enemies Christianity ever had sits in the temple of God.
Nay, [2.] It is common to patronise an enmity to religion with a color
of duty to God, and service to his church. God's people have suffered the
greatest hardships from conscientious persecutors. Paul verily thought
he ought to do what he did against the name of Jesus. This does not at
all lessen the sin of the persecutors, for villanies will never be consecrated
by putting the name of God to them; but it does enhance the sufferings
of the persecuted, to die under the character of being enemies to God;
but there will be a resurrection of names as well as of bodies at the great
III. He gives them the true reason of the world's enmity and rage against
them (v. 3): "These things will they do unto you, not because you have
done them any harm, but because they have not known the Father, nor me.
Let this comfort you, that none will be your enemies but the worst of men."
Note, 1. Many that pretend to know God are wretchedly ignorant of him.
Those that pretend to do him service thought they knew him, but it was
a wrong notion they had of him. Israel transgressed the covenant, and yet
cried, My God, we know thee. Hos. viii. 1, 2. 2. Those that are ignorant
of Christ cannot have any right knowledge of God. In vain do men pretend
to know God and religion, while they slight Christ and Christianity. 3.
Those are very ignorant indeed of God and Christ that think it an acceptable
piece of service to persecute good people. Those that know Christ know
that he came not into the world to destroy men's lives, but to save them;
that he rules by the power of truth and love, not of fire and sword. Never
was such a persecuting church as that which makes ignorance the mother
IV. He tells them why he gave them notice of this now, and why not sooner.
1. Why he told them of it now (v. 4), not to discourage them, or add
to their present sorrow; nor did he tell them of their danger that they
might contrive how to avoid it, but that "when the time shall come (and
you may be sure it will come), you may remember that I told you." Note,
When suffering times come it will be of use to us to remember what Christ
has told us of sufferings. (1.) That our belief of Christ's foresight and
faithfulness may be confirmed; and, (2.) That the trouble may be the less
grievous, for we were told of it before, and we took up our profession
in expectation of it, so that it ought not to be a surprise to us, nor
looked upon as a wrong to us. As Christ in his sufferings, so his followers
in theirs, should have an eye to the fulfilling of the scripture.
2. Why he did not tell them of it sooner: "I spoke not this to you from
the beginning when you and I came to be first acquainted, because I was
with you." (1.) While he was with them, he bore the shock of the world's
malice, and stood in the front of the battle; against him the powers of
darkness levelled all their force, not against small or great, but only
against the king of Israel, and therefore he did not need to say so much
to them of suffering, because it did not fall much to their share; but
we do find that from the beginning he bade them prepare for sufferings;
and therefore, (2.) It seems rather to be meant of the promise of another
comforter. This he had said little of to them at the beginning, because
he was himself with them to instruct, guide, and comfort them, and then
they needed not the promise of the Spirit's extraordinary presence. The
children of the bride-chamber would not have so much need of a comforter
till the bridegroom should be taken away.