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They Shall Walk with Me in White.
by Isaac Williams

from Sermons on the Epistles and Gospels for the Sundays and Holy Days

throughout the Year, Vol. I. Advent to Tuesday in Whitsun Week

Rivingtons, London, 1875, pp. 505, 509-518.
Second part of Sermon XLIV. for Whit-Sunday.
(for the first part, on the Lesson.)
The Spirit of Truth, Whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. - ST. JOHN xiv. 17. 

...Such is the outward manifestation which attends the coming of the Comforter, and may well serve as a preparation of our hearts for those gracious words with which our Lord Himself promises the unspeakable Gift.  Jesus said unto His disciples; If ye love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father.  As your Advocate with God, as your High Priest, offering up His own Blood, and pleading His own Sacrifice; "I will pray the Father.”  And He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever.  Keep My commandments, and He shall be given you Who shall enable you to keep them better; “another Comforter,” “another Advocate” with the Father, for Christ Himself was one; and He will not leave you, as I Myself now am about to do, but will continue with you unto the end. “If ye love Me,” the condition and the covenant was of love; if they had love, He would send the Comforter; and the Comforter Himself is Love.  “To desire to love God is to love Him,” says St. Gregory, “and to love God is to have Him Whom we love.”  Love is itself the keeping of the commandments, the new law, and the true Pentecost of Mount Sion, which is engraven on the affections of the new man, fulfils the law which it gives, and in so doing is a law unto itself.

He will give you the Comforter, even the Spirit of truth, Whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him.  The world without, and the world within: what is the meaning of this word, “the world”? it is an awful word, for it is something which can neither see nor know God, and may be in our hearts putting out the eye of the soul.  The pure in heart alone shall see Him; without holiness none shall know Him; and therefore it must be everything that is impure and unholy.  But ye know Him.  Yet surely these lowly disciples, to whom our Lord spake, little thought at that time that they could know Him; but they had His assurance, “Ye know Him.”  For He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.  He was with them, and about to be with them and in them more abundantly; and what they could better understand, it was, with their Lord Himself He would come, or as Himself.  I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you.  I Myself the Comforter, and with Me “another Comforter.”

Yet a little while, and the world seeth Me no more; I shall soon be no more visible upon earth, being removed from the eye of flesh; but ye see Me: because I live, ye shall live also. But in the Spirit ye shall still behold Me, in the Spirit shall live that life which is in Me; a new life which is bound up in My life, “because I live.”  Even after He was risen from the dead, while He stayed on earth, He was not beheld by the world, but by disciples only, as in pledge of this His secret manifestation of Himself at all times to them that love Him; and of that beholding Him in faith, to which this Divine life is promised.

And ye yourselves shall be conscious of that life, when that time shall come.  At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you.  As St. Paul testifies so often, “our life is hid with Christ in God ;“ “the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me.”  And if this be in the experience of St. Paul, it will be so in the experience of all His saints unto the end; they will come to know of the doctrine of the unity in Trinity; of our life in the Incarnate Word; of Himself by His Spirit coming to be within us.

And all this, not by learning, not by zeal, not by party, but by obedience, and by love, the crown of obedience, and which bringeth to the vision and the fruition of God.  He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me; and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him. I will fill his heart and affections; I will fill his understanding and thoughts with Myself.  It was the joy of Abraham to see the day of Christ afar off; it was the prayer of Moses to see His glory; and His goodness was made to pass before him, but he could not see His face and live; but now He says, “I will manifest Myself unto him;" and that manifestation is not death, but everlasting life.

Judas saith unto Him (not Iscariot), Lord, how is it that Thou wilt manifest Thyself unto us, and not unto the world ?  St. Jude could not yet understand what a spiritual manifestation was, which the bodily eyes could not behold, for they who had been used to the Jewish law were slow to comprehend what is spiritual and Divine.  And, indeed, it is so still in great measure with us all; how little do we reflect or realize the fact, that in one parish, in one family, in the small society in which we may live, there may be to one person this manifestation of Christ, which others have not, and know not of ?  And yet surely it must be so.  In what manifold ways does our Lord speak of it, singling out one among many, whom, on account of his obedience, He will thus honour and bless ?  I will come unto him.  I will abide with him.  I will give him to eat of the hidden manna.  I will give him the Morning Star.  I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with Me.  These words must mean something; they must have some fulfillment worthy of them; some inestimable secret which God reveals by His Spirit; something real, although beyond what the senses can reach, or the mental faculties explain, which Scripture expresses by saying, “such as eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath entered into the heart of man,” except as it is so by His Spirit revealed.  We think much of the joys of Heaven which will be hereafter, of that bliss unutterable, those pleasures at God’s right hand for evermore, for those who shall be thought worthy to inherit that Kingdom; how inconceivably great they must be; but oh, what promises are there, even in this life, to the meek and obedient Christian!  Are they ours ?  are they yours, my brother?  are they mine?  Are they, indeed, ours in fulness? or, if not, do we press after them? do we seek after them as for hidden treasure?  And yet we have not to go to the end of the world to seek for them, nor to rise on high, nor to dive to the bottom of the deep.  It is very simple and very near.  Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love Me, he will keep My words; he will treasure them, he ‘will act upon them, they will be as seed within his heart, cherished, enfolded there from every enemy, and bearing fruit.  And My Father will love him, and We will come unto him and make Our abode with him. It is a great unspeakable mystery.  The high and lofty One That inhabiteth eternity, can thus make His abode in one meek and contrite soul, as the circuit of the starry Heaven is mirrored in the apple of the eye that gazes on it without hindrance.  He that loveth Me not keepeth not My sayings, and the Word which ye hear is not Mine, but the Father’s Which sent Me. All is order, all obedience and union.  By keeping His sayings we love Him; by loving Him we obtain His abode within us; and His Word which we keep is not His own, but His Father’s Word; and by keeping His Father’s Word, we obtain His Father’s love and His indwelling also; and all this is with the promised gift of the Spirit Which He will send.  The Holy Ghost, the bond between the Father and the Son; the bond of the Godhead and the Manhood in Christ; this golden bond must also unite us unto Him; the Spirit must mould us into His one living Body, and make us to keep His Word.

We may observe how our Blessed Lord continues to dwell upon this subject, of the coming of the Comforter.  He returns to it; He repeats it with every variety of expression; He unfolds it with all fulness, lingers on it, and under other names again impresses on them the same source of consolation—one indeed on which a human preacher has little to say, for he understands but little of its unspeakable weight of goodness.

These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.  But the Comforter, Which is the Holy Ghost, Whom the Father will send in My Name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.  We know what Christ is, a living Person of Whom we read, and reading cannot but love; we see and hear Him as clothed with all the attributes of man, like ourselves; and there can be nothing good in us, nothing Divine, nothing human, if we love not Him thus manifested in our flesh.  And here He assures us that the Comforter also, Whom we cannot thus see and know, is like Himself, will be sent in His Name, will teach us of Himself will bring Himself to remembrance, will set the seal to His own words.

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you; no idle wish, no vain promise, no false peace.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Where that peace is no trouble, no fear can come nigh: he that hath this peace is “not afraid of any evil tidings, for his heart standeth fast, and believeth in the Lord.”

Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved Me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for My Father is greater than I. These are wonderful words.  He would have His disciples to share in His joy, even as friend with friend: the Almighty God seems to descend, and ask for the sympathy of His poor creatures, that in His joy they may be glad and forget their sorrows.  He asks this proof of their love, that in their own bereavement they should rejoice in His joy.  O amazing lowliness, and tenderness of human, indeed, yet of more than human, affection!  Nor is this all, for He covers with a cloud His sorrows; He hides from their view the sad scene of His approaching agonies, and talks to them of “the joy that was set before Him,” that of that they might be partakers with Him; that this His last parting supper might be refreshed throughout with the cup of consolation.  “If ye loved Me ye would rejoice.” O blessed love, which can even now “enter into the joy of thy Lord !“

And now I have told you before it come to pass, that when it is come to pass, ye might believe. With what force do these words come to us on this day; when as with twofold power we have the promise of the Comforter in the Gospel for the day, and in the Epistle the fulfillment of that promise in His coming.  And now, when our Lord warns them of His approaching trial and conflict, with what gentleness and forbearance does He allude to it; speaking rather of release and of victory, than of those inexpressible sorrows by which that victory was bought! Hereafter I will not talk much with you; for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me.  This was the power of darkness; the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: to all he comes, none shall escape the trial; and henceforth he shall find nothing in those that are in Christ.  “Thanks be to God Which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  He “cometh” bringing death, but “hath nothing in Me” worthy of death, and I shall again arise.

But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do. Where love is there is obedience; where there is submission there is order: and thus is wrought throughout the bond of Divine union and concord.

And surely, my brethren, nothing ever written by the pen of man can equal what is spoken of in the Gospel for this Sunday; which no tongue on earth could have recorded but such as came on this day in fire from Heaven; full of matter so infinitely sublime and great that no thought of man can reach, yet withal so gracious and condescending; speaking of mysteries which angels desire to look into, yet at the same time so simple and plain as to be received by babes. Where else is truth so vast to be found? where else is love so tender expressed?  This teaching is the well-spring and fountain-head which may replenish the whole of our life on earth; nothing is wanting in it; and it well might be the measure of every part from childhood to old age.  Nothing is wanting in it for the comfort of the penitent, or for the perfection of the highest saint.  Accept and embrace what here is written; let the Finger of God write on the heart this law of love, and all will be well.  Let this Gospel as a Divine light be in the heart, and that heart will be the House of Prayer; let it be in the understanding, and there will be no more disputes and controversies in religion; let it be in the affections, and there will be an end to envy and ill-will, and all that is engendered by the love of this world; let it be on the daily actions and conduct, and all will be to the glory of God.

And now, dear Christians, as the Gospel for this day contains in it such doctrines as render it more worthy of being written than all else which the world contains, so in like manner does the Epistle for this day record an event which is as great in importance as anything which has occurred since the foundation of the world. It is indeed the new making of the world—the coming in of the “new heavens and the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”  As it would have been better for man not to be born unless he be born again, and better were it that the world should not have been made unless it were made anew; so the Light of this day’s Creation is better than the light of the first.

Thus the Scriptural narrative appointed for the Epistle on this Sunday is but the account of that which St. John in other language describes, saying, “I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of Heaven.”  “And I heard a great voice out of Heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people.”

The promise contained in the Gospel is in the Epistle fulfilled; and the fulfillment which the Epistle records is a pledge and assurance to us, that the heavenly truths spoken of in the Gospel may be in like manner fulfilled in us.

Christ had promised that if they kept His words and loved one another, He would send to them the Comforter.  In obedience to His words, they were assembled together “with one accord in one place” when the Comforter came.  He told them that He should bring knowledge and love, and in token of these in light and fire He came.  He said, that though manifested to them, the world should not know Him; and when He came with miraculous power, the multitude were confounded, for they knew Him not.

And what if the Church be now so broken that this Apostolic unity of mind and place is not to be found?  Inconceivably great, doubtless, is the loss; yet shall the mantle of His power, the coat without seam or rent, the Spirit of love, no longer descend on us ?  Let us labour after that union, nor harbour so unloving a thought.  If we fail not Him, He will not fail us.  Where the doctrine and fellowship of Apostles is; “where two or three are gathered together” in Christ’s Name, there is “the one mind and the one place ;” and He that “maketh men to be of one mind in an house” is there in the midst of them.