JOHN xvii. 24.
THOSE great and saving words of our Lord Jesus Christ, have been taken up into two heads.
1. The manner of Christís praying I will. Of this last day.
HEAD II. The matter of Christís prayer. And therein I took up four things. 1. The persons he prays for; they whom thou hast given me. 2. The blessing he prays for to them that they may be with me where I am. 3. The end our Lord prays for this blessing to them for; that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me. 4. The argument our Lord presseth this suit by for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.
The first of these I would now speak to: The designation and name of the persons Christ here pray: for; They whom thou host givest me. No man but Jesus Christ, who is more than a man, dare say in prayer, I will, nor pray for persons under this name as Christ did. All our prayers are to be out of one book; and we pray without book in a bad sense, when we go beyond it. The only book I mean, is Godís written will in the holy scriptures. By this we are taught what to pray for, and how we should pray; and beyond this we cannot lawfully ask any thing; neither need we more for direction, but only the same Spirit that writ them, to assist us in the using of them, Rom. viii. 26.; that we may pray in the Holy Ghost, Jude, ver. 20. and in the Spirit, Eph. vi. 18. But our Lord Jesus Christ could not only pray out of Godís revealed will in the scriptures, (for he testified of the scriptures, as they do of him, John v. 59.); but he could, and did pray out of the book of Godís secret will. He prayed out of the book of life, and was acquainted with the original of the covenant. And thus he prays here for them that were given him.
From this I would raise three doctrines, and speak to one of them at this time.
OBS. 1. There is a select company of the children of men given by the Father to the Son.
OBS. 1. There was a select company of mankind given by the Father to his Son Jesus Christ, to be saved by him.
This truth is several ways declared to us in the word; and yet more by Jesus Christ himself, than by any other; and yet more in this prayer, than any where else by him. And, if we may so conceive, this great depth of God was specially fit to mentioned, when the receiver of them is speaking his heart about them to the giver of them. This is named six times in this short chapter. In ver. 2. As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. In ver. 6. we have it twice: 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. In verse 9. I pray not for the world, but for them which thou host given me, for they are thine. Ver. 11. Holy Father, keep through Mine own name, those whom thou hast given me. And here again in ver. 24. They whom thou hast given me. There is a twofold giving of men to the Son by the Father. One is eternal, in the purpose of his grace; and this is mainly meant here. The other is in time; when the Father by his Spirit draws men to Christ, John vi. 44, 45. All the elect are given from eternity to the Son, to be redeemed by his blood; all the redeemed are in due time drawn by the Father to the Son, to be kept to eternal life.
On this giving of men to Christ, I would speak a little.
I. As to the nature of it. This giving of men to the Son to be redeemed and saved, is the same thing with election and predestination, Eph. i. 4. He hath chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world. Ver. 5. Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself. And ver. 11. In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will. The difference betwixt these words is very small. Election points at the distinction of the persons on whom this grace fell from eternity. Predestination fixeth the end they were appointed to, I Thess. v. 9. Giving them to Christ, points forth the grand trustee with this great charge. The meaning of this word, giving of men to Christ, so oft used by our Lord, and hallowed by his using of it, hath these five things in it :ó
1. That there were divine transactions between the Father and Son about the saving of men. There was a counsel of peace between them both, Zech. vi. 13.; oft and plainly revealed in the word, yet a mystery unsearchable to all men, but firmly to be believed, reverently to be adored, and cautiously to be improved by us.
2. That there was but a select company of mankind that this counsel was about. Our Lord, who knew them best, still speaks thus of them, especially in this prayer; as hath been declared. He still speaks of them by way of distinction from the world. Whatever men may say of universal redemption, surely universal election is a contradiction in words. Election must be of a fixed determinate number. There is no election, if there be no passing by. If all be taken, there are none chosen. If there be an election, there is a rest, a remnant (and this rest is a multitude), Rom. xi. 7. How great this number of the elect is, Christ and his Father knew; and the last day will declare, when they shall be brought all together, and obtain the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world, and be adjudged to it by Christ, as they are the blessed of his Father, Matth. xxv. 34.
3. That this counsel about their salvation was from eternity. Time-election is as great a blunder as universal election. How oft is the eternity of it asserted in the word? Eph. i. 4. 2 Thess. ii. 13. 2 Tim. i. 9. Election is an immanent act of God about creatures; not on them, nor with them. It is in a transaction betwixt the Father and the Son, about men that were not, but were only to be; and to reap the benefit of it in time and to eternity.
4. It follows, that this grace of election must be unchangeable, immutable, and unalterable. It never changeth, it never fails of its designed effect. All Godís counsels are so: Isa. xxv. 1. Thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth. His counsel stands for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generation:, Psal. xxxiii. 11. He is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doth. For he performeth the thing which is appointed for me, Job xxiii. 13, 14. Now, of this number of the elect given by the Father to the Son, there is no paring from it, no adding to it. The book of life admits of no corrections, blotting out; no additions, no new editions.
5. It is also implied, that in this giving of men to the Son, the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, hath a special interest. Thereby they are made his charge; and he the Captain of their salvation, to bring these sons of election-grace to eternal glory, Heb. ii. 10.
II. Of the ends of this giving of men thus to Christ by the Father. It is a glorious act of God, and it is on glorious designs and ends. Of some of these, from the word, I would speak in these four particulars :ó
1. Herein is a most clear displaying of absolute sovereignty in Jehovah. The glorious God is most zealous for the glory of this name of his sovereignty, as what most nearly concerns the glory of his Godhead; and proud vain men are most averse to the owning of it. The apostle Paul is on this same doctrine in Rom. ix. and builds it on this same foundation, ver. 11-19. He starts two strong objections against it; as carnal minds are fertile in vain arguings against divine counsels. And O that all advocates for them had been satisfied with Paulís answers, which are the only and strongest bulwarks of the Holy Ghost about this doctrine! Object. 1. is in ver. 14. Is there unrighteousness with God? Did God love Jacob, and hate Esau, before they had either done good or evil? ver. 11, 12, 13. Where is the righteousness of this? Jacob had done no good to deserve love; Esau had done no evil to deserve hatred. How does the apostle answer it? 1. By an abhorrence of the charge: God forbid. If we cannot see into the depth of Godís counsels, let us still justify God, as Jer. xii. 1.; and admire and adore the depth we cannot fathom, Rom. xi. 33. 2. He answers with a reason taken from Godís old saying to Moses, ver. 15. Now, if Paul had been of some menís mind, he would have answered, That God foresaw, that though Jacob had done no good when he was in the womb, yet that in time he would be a holy man, a wrestler with God, and a great believer; and therefore God loved him, and therefore there was no unrighteousness with God. And so as to Esau, he would have said, God foresaw that he would prove a profane man, would sell his birth-right for a mess of pottage, grieve the hearts of his godly father and mother by his marriage, and hate to the death his godly brother Jacob, and therefore God hated Esau, and therefore there was no unrighteousness with God. But Paul, instead of hinting any thing like this, gives an answer inconsistent with, and subversive of this notion. In ver. 15. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. See the apostleís inference from, and application of this word of God, ver. 16. So then, it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. And on the case of reprobate Pharaoh, ver. 17. he again infers, ver. 18. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy; and whom he will, he hardeneth. He plainly layeth the sovereign will and pleasure of God, as the fixed foundation of the counsels of God about menís eternal state. Object. 2. In ver. 19. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why hath he yet find fault? for who hath resisted his will? A plausible strong-like objection, in every natural manís heart. How doth he answer it? ver. 20. Nay, but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? he calls it, ver. 19. a saying to Paul; here in ver. 20. he calls it a replying against God. But is challenging the objector, an answer to the objection? Yes, in part it is; as if Paul had said, ďDost thou know neither God nor thyself, that thou cavillest against his will and counsels?Ē Thus Elihu answered Job, chap. xxxii. 12, 13, Behold, in this thou art not just I will answer thee, that God is greater than man. Why dost thou strive against him? for he giveth not account (or he answereth not) of any of his matters. And after Paul had checked the arrogance of the objector, he again lays the same ground of Godís absolute sovereignty, ver. 20-33 with many scriptures brought to the same purpose.
2. The second end of Godís giving men to Jesus Christ is to glorify his free, infinite, and everlasting love to them that he gives. So in Eph. i. 4, 5, 6. The love of the Father shines, in giving us to Christ to be redeemed; the love of the Son shines in his receiving of us; and these two loves (if I may call them so) do not eclipse, but enlighten one another, and make a glorious light to the eye of a believer. Election is always in love, and from it, or with it. And this love hath no cause, but in the heart of the lover: He lovers because he loves, Deut. vii. 7, 8, It had no beginning, it hath no intermission, and it shall have no ending. It is from everlasting to everlasting, Psal. ciii. 17. It is an everlasting love, Jer. xxxi. 3.; therefore he draws with loving-kindness, (or extended loving-kindness unto thee.) And he never leaves off to draw thus, till he hath drawn them to heaven, and till he hath crowned them with loving-kindness and tender mercies, Psal. ciii. 4. Here doth this blessed love shine, in giving men to Christ; and here believers should behold it.
3. Another end of God the Fatherís giving of men to his Son, is, that there may be a glorious and sure salvation brought about for them that are thus given in sovereign pleasure and love. If Adam had stood in that state wherein he was created, (I know not if it be allowable to wish that had been so), it would have been but a poor low happiness that he would have conveyed to his posterity, in regard, of what comes by the second Adam to his offspring. That it was uncertain, is evident by the issue. The first Adam was intrusted with his own and all his natural posterityís happiness, as with this charge, ďSo shall it fare with thee and all thine, as thy behaviour is.Ē In this behaviour commanded, he failed, fell himself, and dragged us all with him into the same pit of sin and misery. But now it hath pleased the Father to lodge the happiness of his elect in his Sonís hand, where it is both more sure and more glorious than the former.
4. This giving of men to the Son, is in order to the raising up a great name of glory and honour to Jesus Christ.. Great is his glory in being the repairer of this greatest breach which sin made betwixt God and man. This the apostle remarks in Rom. viii. 29. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren. Of this further when we come to speak of Christís glory, in this text; and shall now only mention a little of Christís concern in them that are given to him.
1. All the redeemed, and all their concerns for their salvation, are lodged in Christís hand, and in his only. Their persons, and every thing that pertains to them, are given to him.
2. All the impediments of their salvation are laid on Christ, that by him they may be removed. These are many and great, as you know. There is sin, and the law with its curse for sin, and the holy justice and wrath of God, and the power of hell and death. When a sinnerís eyes are opened to see those impediments of salvation, it is no wonder he say with the disciples, Who then can be saved? All these impediments Christ did remove. But how? By taking them on himself, and removing them out of our way. For all the impediments of our salvation were impediments laid in Christís way to his glory. He must not enter into his own glory; till he had removed the impediments of the electís salvation. There could be no impediments in Christís way to his glory, without his relation to his people. As he was the Son of God, eternal glory was his natural right and possession; but when he comes to be Surety and Mediator, he must first suffer, ere he enter into his glory, Luke xxiv. 26, 46. He must purge our sins by himself, Heb. i. 3. He must put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, Heb. ix. 26. He must through death destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, Heb. ii. 14. He must be made under the law, that he may redeem them that were under the law, Gal. iv. 4, 5. He redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, Gal. iii. 13. He must make on entrance to the holiest of all for us, by his blood; he must consecrate the way for us by his flesh, Heb. x. 19, 20. He must enter into the holy place by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption for us, Heb. ix. 12. Thus, by our Lord Jesus Christ, all the gates of hell are shut on the elect, and none can open them; and all the gates of heaven are opened, and none can shut them on them that are given him.
3. All the parts and pieces of salvation are in Christís hand, and do come to us by him. The acceptance of our persons, is in and through this beloved, Eph. i. 6. The forgiveness of our sins is through his blood, Eph. i. 7. Our quickening, when dead in sins, our rising, and sitting in heavenly places, is with Christ and in him, Eph. ii. 4, 5, 6. Our title and right to heaven is singly owing to him. What right hath a sinner to heaven? No more, and no other, than he hath to Jesus Christ. If he be united to Christ by faith in him, he is an heir of God, an heir of glory, and joint heir with Christ, Rom. viii. 17. Nay, our sanctification, which is begun glory, 2 Cor. iii. 18. is but a beam of this Sun of Righteousness darted in upon our souls. Unless Christ had been made sanctification to us, there had never been a sanctified man or woman in the world.
4. The actual possession of the kingdom is owing to Jesus Christ. We have a right to it in him; our charter for it is sealed by his blood; we have the earnest of it by his Spirit; we are kept to it, and it kept for us, by his power; and at last we receive it out of his own hand, John x. 28. I give unto them eternal life. It is too great, and too good a gift, to be given by any but blessed Jesus.
I would conclude with a few words of APPLICATION.
1. Learn to see with wonder and adoration the high spring of the well of life and salvation for poor men. It is in the Fatherís giving of men to the Son. Nothing is before it, and all the blessings of grace and glory flow from it. From hence is the creating of the world, that these men might be born in it; from hence came the permitting and ordering of Adamís fall, that the Redeemer might be needful; from this Christ comes into the world, to redeem them; from this comes the gospel, as a light to seek those lost ones; from this cometh the Spirit, to make the gospel effectual, that they who are ordained to eternal life, may believe, Acts xiii. 48.
2. Labour to see your own concern in this giving to the Son. It is but a deep and dangerous speculation without this care. Many poor questions are in peopleís heads, and many poor ways of answering them are in menís hearts. Some would fain know if they have any grace and true holiness; others go farther, and they would fain know if they have faith, the spring of holiness; some would fain know their title and right to heaven. There is an allowed room and place for these inquiries, and the like. But how few, even of true Christians, ask this question, Was I given by the Father to the Son? It is a question that may be made, and may be answered to satisfaction. Christ tells his disciples it, Luke x. 20. Paul knew it, 1 Thess. v. 9. Peter bids us give diligence to make our calling and election sure, 2 Pet. i. 10. But because there is some difficulty and danger in managing this inquiry, I would offer a few things about it.
Advice 1. Lay it down as a fixed persuasion in your heart, that satisfaction in this matter would be of great advantage to your souls. 1. This would bring you to the top of the mount. As Moses on the top of Pisgah saw the earthly Canaan; so you, from the sight of your election-grace, may find it both an easy and a comfortable thing, to view all the streams of grace and mercy towards you. You would then see whence they spring, and whither they run. 2. This sight would keep you low and humble. The most humbling thought is this, ďI was of mere sovereign grace given by the Father to the Son.Ē A false pretender to this blessing may be proud; but the true believer of it is always humbled by it. Whence is it that there is so much pride amongst Christians? why are they puffed up so soon and so much? Is it not always on the account of what they do, are, or receive? Here is a blessing, where none of those puffing-up things are; a blessing that hath no sort of respect to what we are, have, or do.
3. The knowledge of this blessing of electing love, is of great use in extreme trials. We are called to lay our account with them; the Lord brings them on us; and we need all the armour of God against them, Eph. vi. 10.; and the hope of salvation is a helmet in the evil day, 1 Thess. v. 8, 9. And this knowledge that we are appointed to salvation, is the ground of this hope. Christ comforts the hearts of his people with this, Luke xii. 32. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Fatherís good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Christ tells Ananias, that Paul was a chosen vessel, who was to do and suffer much for his name, Acts ix. 15, 16.; Ananias tells it Paul; and Paul repeats it, in the midst of his sufferings, in a great assembly, Acts xxii. 14, 15.
Advice 2. For as great advantages as this knowledge hath in it; think not, attempt not the attaining of it by a sudden leap; but you must ascend to it by degrees. It was a good saying, I think, of the blessed martyr Mr. Bradford, ďNo man should go to the university of predestination, till he be well trained up in the grammar-school of faith and repentance.Ē If this, or the like method, be neglected, no good can, but much hurt will ensue. Godís decrees are some way like the mount that must not be touched; but you must first worship at a distance, and then make a reverend and awful approach. This is not only holy ground, but it is unsearchable by us. Now know, that though electing love hath no cause nor ground for it without God himself, yet it hath great and noble fruits; and in the decree of the end, salvation, there is a wise design of fit means and ways to compass this end 2 Thess. ii. 3. But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord,: because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through the sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth; and I Pet. i. 2. Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience, and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. There is a work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope, whereby the election of God may be known, I Thess. i. 3, 4.; You must not leap immediately up to the purpose of God, but climb up thereto by the steps he hath prescribed in his revealed will.
Advice 3. You must be at great pains about this. This knowledge of your own concern in this giving to the Son, is not easily acquired; wherefore the apostle saith, 2 Pet. i. 10. Give diligence (and verse 5. Give all diligence) to make your calling and election sure. Godís part in your calling and election is sure enough; and needs none of your labour to make it surer. But to make it sure to yourselves, and to make the knowledge thereof sure and clear to you, diligence is needful, and diligence will do it. Alas! who bestow any diligence about this greatest concern? Search out the fruits and marks of election: and when you find any of them, then, and not before, climb up this high tree of the Fatherís giving you to Jesus Christ.
Advice 4. Be not discouraged if, it doth not yet appear to you, that you were given by the Father to the Son. It may be, though you do not see it. Many of the given do not for a long time know it; yea, I see no great danger in saying, that not a few of the given to the Son may be in darkness, and doubts, and fears about it, till the last and brightest day declare it, and till the last sentence proclaims it, Come, ye blessed of my Father, (blessed by this giving), inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, Matth. xxv. 34. It is wisely ordered by the Lord, that all that are given to the Son, do not (though they should endeavour it) know that they were given; and that they that are not given, cannot know it; that the book of life is not always legible to all believers, and that the book of death cannot be read by any unbeliever. It would be a miserable world, if the reprobate could be as sure of their being past by, as the elect may be of their being chosen to salvation If therefore any of you be in the dark about your own election, be not discouraged; it may be, though you do not know it. And to such discouraged souls, I would speak a few words.
Object. It may be some of you may say, that this is strange doctrine.
Ans. I am sorry that this doctrine is so rarely taught; and I am sure, that it is not only the doctrine of Christ, and of his apostles; but that the work of the gospel in conversion of sinners, and in the edification, growth, and holiness of saints, did prosper more, when such doctrine was more commonly taught than now. Discouraged souls about this doctrine, answer these :ó
1. Can you hear of this giving of some by the Father to the Son, and bless the giver, the Father; and the receiver, the Son; and count all the given a happy remnant? A heart grumbling and replying against this sovereign grace of God, I dare not say is a sure token of one not given, but it is surely a very bad thing. But, on the contrary, it is a hopeful sign of an interest in this great blessing, when a poor creature, in his deepest distress and fears about his own salvation, hath a high value for electing love, and reckons them blessed indeed that are sharers thereof. He admires and adores this design, even when doubtful of his own interest therein.
2. Can you be sure that you were not given to the Son? No, surely. God hath not, will not reveal it. Thy heart is blind and deceitful; do not trust it. Satan knows it not, and is a lyar, especially he pretends to teach thee Godís secret purposes. The devil was never on Godís counsel; why should you regard his whispers? He is a reprobate, condemned spirit, raging against God, and strives to infuse his own spirit and temper into sinners. Say then, ďIf I know not that I was given to the Son, I cannot know, I should not conclude, none can prove, that I was not given to him.Ē
3. Is Christ as Godís gift precious to you? 1 Pet. ii. 6, 7, 8. Then it is sure you were given to Christ. It is a deep secret, who are given by the Father to the Son; but it is an open plain truth, that the Father hath sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world, 1 John iv. 14. How do you like him; how do you esteem and love him? Say then, ďAlthough I am not sure that I was given to Christ, I am sure that Christ is come as a Saviour, just such a one as I need.Ē
4. Can you give yourselves to Jesus Christ to be saved by him? Then were you given to him, to be redeemed by him. Your faith on him, speaks your election in him. True faith is the faith of Godís elect, Tit. i. 1. Why so called, but because all, and only Godís elect, get it, and have it; and because election may be known by it; because faith flows from electing love, and should lead the believer up to this love as its original and spring? Answer then, thou that knows not that thou wast given to Christ by the Father, dost thou give thyself to Christ? Seest thou no hand in heaven nor earth, to intrust thy soul in, but Christís? Hast thou so seen him in his skill and good-will to save lost sinners, that thou hast, daily dost, and resolvest still to bring, and lay, and leave thy perishing soul on Jesus Christ, as on him that speaketh in righteousness mighty to save? Isa. lxiii. 1. Then thou wast given to Jesus Christ. Go on in trusting him, and in living by faith on him; and he will make you know, that he loved you, and gave himself for you, Gal, ii. 20. And if thou knowest that he gave himself for thee in time, conclude, that thou wast given to him by the Father from eternity, and that thou shalt to eternity be with him where he is.
Robert Traill (1642-1716): Friend of William Guthrie of Fenwick, attendant of James Guthrie of Stirling on the scaffold, son of the Greyfriars Church manse where the 1638 Covenant was signed, Scot ordained in England, exile in Holland, prisoner on the Bass Rock, scholar, preacher and saint ó Robert Traill lived to span the ripest period of the Puritan age. Distinguished in the classes at Edinburgh University, Traill early felt the inner constraint to preach Christ. Too intimate an association with the younger John Welsh drew the swift displeasure of the civil arm upon him. Denounced as a ĎPentland Rebelí he fled to join the bright galaxy of British divines weathering the storm of Stuart Absolutism in the Low Countries (1667).
Traillís literary output began there. As assistant to Nethenus, professor at Utrecht, he prepared Samuel Rutherford's Examination of Arminianism for the press. Back in London in 1692 he took up his pen, as Isaac Chancy (Owenís successor) and the younger Thomas Goodwin were having to do, to defend the doctrine of Justification against the new Legalism. After serving Presbyterian charges in Kent and London he died at the age of 74.
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