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"Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip?" — John 14:9

He had been with Philip and his fellow-disciples corporeally; for the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among them, and they beheld his glory. But his bodily presence was confined to Judea, and few knew him after the flesh. And soon he was known so no more for he was received up into heaven. But it is remarkable, that while on earth, he evinced that his efficiency was not dependent on his bodily presence; for he performed cures at a distance, as we see in the case of the nobleman's son, and the centurion's servant, who were healed by no application, but simply by his volition, as if to encourage the belief, that when removed hence, he could still operate in our world.

And if his word is to be relied upon, he is with his people now. What was his promise to his ministers? to his churches? to individuals? "Lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." "Where two or three are gathered together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them." "If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." Therefore he has either given promises which he is unable to fulfil, or, though now in heaven, he is with his disciples on earth — with them specially, graciously, spiritually. Effects prove the existence of the cause. The operation of the workman shows his presence. And that "his Name is near, his wondrous works declare." He has done enough in the Christian, to demonstrate that he is with him, and he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

Yet he says to Philip, "Hast thou not known me?" Philip was not entirely ignorant of him. But he knew him not sufficiently; he knew him not comparatively; he knew him not, considering how he might have known him. And is not this the case with us? Some have very little knowledge of any kind. They never guide even the common affairs of this life with discretion. They seem incapable of improvement. Even suffering does not teach them wisdom. "Experience," says Franklin, "is a dear school; yet fools will learn in no other." And they do not learn even in this. Yet the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light. We live in a land of vision; we have Sabbaths and Bibles, and religious ordinances and teachers. Yet as to a knowledge of the peculiar truths of the Gospel, and the reality of Christian experience, numbers are as ignorant as heathens: "The light shineth in darkness, but the darkness comprehendeth it not." Must we go on? What do many Christians, real Christians, who have long had the great Teacher with them, what do even they know? What do they know of their own interest in him? Are they not yet unable to determine what their spiritual condition is, and to say, with Thomas, My Lord and my God? How little do they know of his salvation! How little of the glories of his person! How little of the nature of his dispensations towards them; so that they are confounded with the fresh discoveries they make of the evils of their own hearts, perplexed with their afflictions, desponding if difficulties multiply, and they see no means or way of escape, and ready to conclude that he has shut out their prayers, because he does not immediately and sensibly answer them; and all this from their knowing so little of the manner in which he deals with his people.

Yet the defectiveness of their knowledge is very censurable, especially after long intimacy with him. Hence the Apostle reproaches the Hebrews : "When for the time ye ought to have been teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God." Hence our Lord said to his disciples on another occasion, "Are ye also yet without understanding?" And here again he says, "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip?" He had scarcely been three years with them then, and he had very gradually developed himself, and kept back many things for a future communication. Yet it was a long period, considering its importance and privileges. And always having access to him, with their inquiries, and hearing his discourses, and witnessing all his conduct, they ought to have gained much more than they did. But they were slow of heart, and made very little progress, as we see by their various mistakes and embarrassments. Yet what right have we to cast a stone at them? How few, how poor, how wretched have been our attainments! And yet he has been much longer with many of us; ten, twenty, forty years — years, too, abounding with every assistance. Four things ought to make us blush at the thought of this.

First, the necessity and value of the knowledge that we have made so little proficiency in. How much depends upon it — our usefulness, our preservation from error, our peace and comfort, and our progress in the divine life. For though we may grow in knowledge without growing in grace, we cannot grow in grace without growing in knowledge. Religion does not act upon us mechanically, but morally; that is, through the influence of just views and motives.

Secondly, some have made far greater advancement in much less time, and with very inferior advantages. They set out long after us, but they soon passed us on the road. They have had very little pious intercourse, and have seldom heard a Gospel sermon. Yet when we converse with them, and observe them in the relations, duties, and trials of life, how much below them must we feel ourselves to be.

Thirdly, our obligations and responsibility rise with our means and opportunities. What an advantage are pious relations. What a privilege is a Gospel ministry. What a precious talent is time. Where is conscience, while we look at our slender improvement of all these? Where much is given, much will be required.

Lastly, our unprofitableness is the subject of divine disappointment and complaint. "What could have been done more to my vineyard that I have not done in it? Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?" The thought of displeasing and dishonouring him is nothing to some people. But shall we provoke, and grieve, his Holy Spirit? Can we who love him and know what he has done for us, can we be insensible to the Saviour's decision, "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples?"

What remains but that we admire and adore the patience of him who still bears with us, though we have so often constrained him to ask, "How long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you?" And let us search and try our ways, and turn again unto the Lord. Let us guard against indecision and sloth. Let us be diligent in the use of all the means of religious improvement. Let us not cease to pray that we may be "filled with the knowledge of his will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. That we may walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God."

"Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord. His going forth is prepared as the morning. And he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth."

Morning Exercises For Everyday In The Year
By Rev. William Jay

 
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