"Lord! no guardian to defend me
In the world I have like Thee;
None so willing to befriend me:
You are all in all to me!
What is life! a scene of troubles
Following swiftly one by one;
Phantom visions—airy bubbles,
Which appear, and then are gone.
What at best the world's vain fashion!
Quickly it must pass away;
Vexing care and whirlwind passion,
Surging like the angry spray.
One brief moment, Lord, may sever
All that earth can 'friendship' call;
But Your friendship is for ever—
It outlives the wreck of all."
"Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the
mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw Him, they worshiped
Him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in
heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of
all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of
the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew
We have now reached the last of Gennesaret's Sacred
Memories. The time has come when the Savior is to take a final
farewell of its shores. In the two previous chapters, we found Him
by the Lake side, holding, in a quiet morning hour, a private and
confidential meeting with His Apostles. A more numerous gathering is now
appointed, that He may publicly bid adieu to the many devoted disciples
scattered throughout Galilee, among whom He had longest lived and labored.
The place of assemblage was "a mountain," most probably
the Mount of Beatitudes—the spot hallowed by former burning words of warning
and mercy, and which more than any other overlooked the scenes of His
ministry and miracle. We have every reason, moreover, to believe that this
was the same memorable Convocation to which Paul refers when he speaks of
Christ having been "seen by five hundred brethren at once"—the greater part
of whom were still alive when he wrote, though a few had "fallen asleep."
As Jesus afterwards, on the summit of Olivet, took
farewell of the scenes of His ministry in Judea, so now, in presence of a
larger throng, he closes His ministry in Galilee, and upon the shores of its
The Roman hero of old, at the close of his
victorious campaign, used to address his soldiers before being conducted to
the Capitol to be crowned. The Prince of the Kings of the Earth, before
ascending the Hill of God, to receive the reward of His triumphs, assembles
together His faithful followers, to convey to them words of encouragement
and directions for duty, when His own visible presence would be withdrawn.
As the Great High Priest of His Church, He had recently entered within the
veil with the offering of His own blood. Now, the curtain being torn, He,
the true Aaron, comes forth to pour His benediction on the waiting people;
or, like a fond father, who, before he sets forth to a distant land, gathers
his family around him, to breathe upon them farewell accents of comfort and
The Evangelists give us no particulars regarding the
interesting transaction here referred to. It is but the dim outline of a
picture which we long to have filled in. May we not, however, so far
venture to realize it? With the local Scene we are already familiar. Few
hamlets would there be on the Lake that would not probably send a believing
delegate to the solemn assembly. Conspicuous among the band of five hundred,
would there not be the Centurion of Capernaum, with his restored
servant—The Leper, now purged of his uncleanness, no longer an alien
from the commonwealth of Israel, but a fellow-citizen with the saints and of
the household of God—The Widow of Nain, with the tear of gratitude in
her eye, as she first gazed on a restored son at her side, and then upon the
face of the Great Restorer—The Paralytic, standing upright, with
vigorous limb and gleaming eye—The Maniac of Gadara, now the calm and
loving believer—Jairus, also, with the living trophy of redeeming
power leaning gently on his arm—Mary of Magdala, Joanna, and Susanna,
no longer ashamed to mingle in the same group with another (once outcast)
sister, who had testified, at their common Master's feet, by tears of
anguish, the depth and intensity of her sorrow and love?
If we could have wished an ampler description of the
Scene and its Convocation, still more could we have desired that the
memorable farewell address of the Great Redeemer had been fully given to us.
It has, however, for wise reasons been withheld. All that is recorded is the
briefest of outlines; but that outline is, nevertheless, precious and
significant. It embraces three statements, to each of which we would now
Conscious that for the last time they were standing in
the presence of their Divine Master, the multitude would doubtless listen in
breathless silence as they heard the farewell tones of the Voice they loved
so well. Let it be with something of the same feelings that, in this closing
chapter, we gather in thought around the feet of Jesus, and hear the parting
word He has to say to our souls!
The three recorded assertions of our Lord consist
I. A PARTING ASSURANCE.
II. A PARTING COMMISSION.
III. A PARTING PROMISE.
I. There is A PARTING ASSURANCE—"All power has
been given to Me in heaven and in earth."
What more precious farewell truth, what more blessed
Keepsake, could the Savior have confided to these waiting hundreds, than
this—that to Him has been committed the Scepter of universal Empire!
Many there had witnessed His poverty, His humiliation, His cruel buffetings,
His bitter death. But now these were all past. His head was about to be
"crowned with many crowns." As King and Head of His Church, "All things had
been delivered to him by his Father." He knew that "the Father had given all
things into His hands." He would impart the comfort of this ennobling truth
to the orphaned Church He was to leave behind Him—when the chariots of God
had borne Him away from their sight, they could still think of the Christ
of Galilee as boundless in His resources; that He who so often had
spoken to them "in righteousness," was still "mighty to save"—"The Prince
who had power with God," and must "prevail"—"the Wonderful, the Counselor,
the MIGHTY GOD."
This "prophecy" was of no "private interpretation,"
intended merely for the ears of this mountain auditory. These five hundred
formed the representatives of the Church of Christ in every
age—whatever truths were soothing and consolatory to them, may be equally so
to us. And who will not exult in the glorious assurance, that to these very
hands, that were pierced on Calvary's Cross, has been confided the
Sovereignty of the Universe!
John, sixty years later, beheld in striking vision, in
Patmos, a book or roll "sealed with seven seals." Tears came to the aged
eyes of the Evangelist, because no one in heaven or in earth was found
"worthy to take the book" and unloose its mysteries. All at once, one of the
redeemed from the earth conveys to him the joyous assurance, that he need no
longer "weep," for the "Lion of the tribe of Judah had prevailed to open the
book" and unloose its mystic seals. What was this, but the announcement in
significant figure of the Savior's own last utterance, that He has had
committed to His keeping the roll of Providence—that roll in which is
inscribed not only the fate of kingdoms, the destinies of nations—but all
that concerns the humblest and lowliest member of His Church on earth—with
Him rests the unfolding of the roll—the breaking of the seals—the pouring
out of the vials—the bursting of the thunders. Need we wonder that in taking
the book into His hands, the ransomed myriads in the Apocalyptic vision
should be seen falling down at the feet of the LAMB, with their harps and
golden vials full of incense; and, exulting in the thought that the Great
Ruler of all was a Brother of the human race, they should attune their
lips to the lofty ascription, "You are worthy to take the book, and to open
the seals thereof, FOR You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your
blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation!"
Yes, I repeat, who will not exult in the thought, that
this vast world of ours is committed to the rule of Jesus—that it was
"created by Him," that it was created "for Him," that "by Him all things are
held together?" I look up to the spangled dome of Heaven with its
myriad constellations. I am told these lamps, hung in the sky, are burning
incense-fires to His glory—that they march at His word, and their eternal
music is an anthem to His praise. I look to the landscape beneath—all
that vast furniture in the Palace of Nature is His providing. It is He who
covers it in its robe of light, who wreathes the brow of Spring in living
green, and decks the valleys in Summer glory. Not a breeze murmurs through
the forest, nor a dewdrop sparkles on its leaves, the sun shoots not one
golden arrow through its glades, but by His permission. It is He who pencils
the flower, and intones the thunder with its loud peals, and gives voice to
the tempest, and wings to the lightning.
But these manifestations of His power in nature are
subordinate to a nobler sovereignty with which He is invested in the moral
and spiritual world. There, too, nothing can happen but by His direction;
nothing can befall us but what is the dictate and result of His loving
wisdom. Often, indeed, that wisdom and love are veiled behind gigantic
clouds of permitted evil. "Truly, You are a God who hides Yourself"—"Your
judgments are a great deep"—is often all the explanation which our finite
minds can offer. But when we remember the pledge, in His own life's blood,
which He has Himself given of His love to His people, dare we impugn the
rectitude of His dealings, or arraign the wisdom of His ways? No! This
Savior-God reigns, "let the earth be glad." From the heart stripped of its
beloved gourd by the gentle hand of death, to the more terrible cry of
perishing thousands in a revolted empire or beleaguered capital—what truth
more sublime, what syllables fall with more soothing music on the soul than
these—"HE" (the Savior who died for me, who now lives for me) "does
according to His will in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of
Conscious that the Lord has set Him as "King on His holy
hill of Zion," we may well take up that triumphant Psalm, which to hundreds
of bleeding hearts will ever have a memorable significance—that Psalm which
speaks pre-eminently of the ascension glories of a reigning Redeemer.
In one of the world's very darkest hours, when the last vestige of the
footsteps of a God of Love seemed obliterated—when, man-forsaken and
God-forsaken, the hapless innocents were about to go down into darkness,
tempted to cry out in frantic unbelief, "Is there a God on the earth?" the
glorious truth of the text was made to fringe the edges of the threatening
cloud—a blood-stained leaf floating on the crimson deluge pointed to the
all-power of Jesus as the alone sheet-anchor in the maddening storm. "The
Lord has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet. Sing
praises to our God, sing praises: sing praises to our King, sing praises.
God reigns over the heathen; God sits on the throne of his holiness. The
shields of the earth belong unto our God: He is greatly exalted."
II. We have here A PARTING COMMISSION. "Therefore,
go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the
Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them to obey
everything I have commanded you."
Appropriate seemed the spot where Jesus now stood
to issue this great commission. It was on the frontier land of
Judea—"Galilee of the Gentiles"—almost within sight of Heathendom.
At an earlier period of His public ministry the command
had been very different—"Do NOT go into the way of the Gentiles, and into
any city of the Samaritans do not enter; but go rather to the lost sheep of
the house of Israel." A new dispensation, however, with the rending of the
old temple veil, had now dawned on the world—the brotherhood of the human
family was boldly announced; the leaves of the tree of life were no longer
to be for the healing of Judea, but for "the healing of the nations."
The announcement of Christ's investiture with "all power"
is beautifully connected with this missionary injunction—"All power," says
He, "is given to Me," THEREFORE, "go and make disciples of all nations"—as
if the first use He would make of this Mediatorial rule and sovereignty was
to break down the barriers that had so long separated race from race, and
make the waters of salvation roll round the globe, and, like its own oceans,
touch every shore. Seated as King in the citadel of Zion, He had examined
its armory, inspected its treasures, and the first use He makes of these is
to armor His Disciples, and send them forth as the conquerors of the world.
What a startling commission! what a gigantic undertaking!
Had the wise of this world been of the listening throng on that Galilee
mountain, how would they have laughed it to scorn! What! that handful of
Galilean barbarians and fishermen to go forth on the conquest of the human
race?—men devoid of learning, polish, worldly tact, worldly wisdom, to
proclaim a lowly Jew, who lived a lowly life and died an ignominious death,
Lord of all? To undertake, moreover, to wage war with lust, and
passion, and self in every shape—to proclaim that there was sin
against high Heaven, not in the word and deed only, but in the secret
thought of revenge, the rising passion, the unclean look—to hurl the
venerated religious systems of ages from their thrones—to dethrone
Jupiter from the Capitol, Minerva from the Acropolis, and erect in their
place the pure, self-denying doctrines of the Cross, and the worship of an
Invisible God! It seemed the ravings of childish enthusiasm, the boldness of
ignorant and infatuated dreamers.
And what were to be their weapons? The battle of the
world's warriors is "with confused noise and garments rolled in blood."
The secret of Mohammedan triumph was the power of the sword. But the
commission is not "go and subdue," "go and conquer"—but go and teach,
go "make disciples." It was to be a moral victory over Mind, Conscience,
Will, a debased Nature, groveling Passions. It was by a few scrolls written
by Hebrew prophets, and Jewish fishermen and publicans, that the world was
to be "turned upside down!" The unlettered listeners, with nothing but the
simple sling of faith and the smooth pebbles from the brook
of eternal Truth, were to go forth on their apparently hopeless
If those localities are sacred in the world which are
associated with the first plannings and conception of a great enterprise,
where originated some grand thought or purpose which has had a powerful
influence for good on mankind—if that spot is memorable where Columbus first
dreamed of his unknown western world—or where Newton sat under his
garden-bough and grasped the law which molds the raindrop and gives the
planet its pathway—or the library where Luther found the dusty volume which
gave birth to the Reformation, and emancipated the human mind from the
despotism of ages—how illustrious and hallowed surely must ever be that
mountain scene in Galilee where the simple Jew listened with startled ears
to the strange command, that "Repentance and remission of sins" were now to
be preached, in the name of Jesus, "to all nations"—that henceforth there
was to be "neither Jew nor Greek, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free"—that
the Angel of the Jewish Church had now folded his wings, and that
"another Angel" was about to "fly in the midst of Heaven, having the
Everlasting Gospel, to preach to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and
What a sacred trust was here confided to us! Woe to that
Church which neglects so hallowed a commission and selfishly appropriates
its spiritual blessings without one effort to convey them to others.
If farewell words are ever solemn and binding
ones, let the Church of Christ come to this Mountain of Galilee, and listen
to the parting command and injunction of her Great Lord. Striking surely,
and significant it was, that, before He ascended, one of His last farewell
looks should have been turned towards the nations yet sitting in darkness;
that His last utterances were burdened with a solemn charge to the Church of
the future to "go far hence unto the Gentiles." The wailing cry of unhappy
Heathendom was doubtless, at that moment, borne to His ear from all coming
ages. The wild shriek that has risen in our own age may have mingled in the
terrible appeal. Well He knew that nothing would tame savage hearts but
the regenerating power of His own blessed Gospel; and, therefore, before
He bids the world farewell, and allows the chariot-cloud to descend, He
utters, with heathen mountain-peaks in view, and half heathen villages at
His feet, the ever memorable command, "Go and teach all nations, baptizing
them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
III. We have finally, the PARTING PROMISE.
The Savior's discourse is drawing to a close; a few more
utterances and He will vanish from sight never again to be seen by His
Church on earth, until the Great Day of His appearing.
Sorrow was doubtless filling their hearts at the thought
of His departure, when the most sacred and joyous of friendships seemed
about to be dissolved for ever. But by one glorious promise He turns their
sorrow into joy—"I go," He seems to say, "and yet I will never leave you.
These heavens are about to receive Me, but though My personal
presence be withdrawn—though this Risen Body is soon to be screened from
view behind the veiled glories of the Holiest of all, do not think that in
reality My Presence is gone, for Lo! I am with you always, even to the end
of the world."
There is a beautiful connection and contrast between the
first and the last assertions of this farewell discourse. The assertion of
His unlimited sovereign Dominion was a cheering and gladdening one.
It was the announcement that the garnered riches of the Universe were in His
possession, and that all these would be used in behalf of His people. He
seems in it to take the telescope and sweep the boundless skies of
His power, proclaiming His kingdom to be an everlasting kingdom, and His
dominion enduring throughout all generations.
But now is the telescope laid aside and the microscope
is turned to every atom of redeemed dust! He leaves the symbols of His might
in the Heavens above—His regal sway over "thrones, dominions,
principalities, powers"—and turning to every single individual member of His
Church on earth, the feeblest, the poorest, the lowliest, the most
desolate—He says, Lo! I am with You always, even to the end of the world!
The splendors of His mediatorial throne were at that moment in view. The
harps of Heaven were sounding in His ear. But He assures them, when standing
on the very threshold of all this glory, that His heart of love would
still continue with the Pilgrim Church He was to leave in a Pilgrim World.
"All power is given to Me in Heaven;" YET, "Lo! I am with you!"
That farewell saying has lost none of its comfort.
"You"—that little word embraced every one of His redeemed people! YOU—Jesus
looked down the vista of eighteen centuries, His eye, perhaps was on some
lone spirit now reading these pages who thinks he has been left to the mercy
of the storm, and still He says, "O you of little faith, why are you
downcast? Dispel your tears, dispel Your misgivings, 'Lo! I am with YOU!'"
Yes, Blessed assurance amid much that is changing here!
Heart and flesh faint and fail! Often our cisterns are scarcely
filled when they break in pieces—our suns have scarcely climbed the
meridian when they set in weeping clouds—our fondest schemes are
blown upon—our most cherished gourds withered. We seat ourselves in
our homes, but there are blanks there—vacant seats tell the too truthful
tale of severed links, and blighted hopes, and early graves. As old-age
creeps on, we look around us, but the companions of our pilgrimage are
gone—noble forest trees, one by one, have bowed to the axe; "the place that
once knew them, knows them no more." BUT there is ONE surviving the wreck
and ruin of all sublunary joys, changeless among the changeable—"Lo! I am
with you"—and "the wilderness and the solitary place" are by that presence
Amid sacred musings over departed friends—when visions of
"the loved and lost" come flitting before us like shadows on the wall, how
often do we indulge the pleasing imagination of their still mingling with us
in mysterious communion; their wings of light and smiles of love hovering
over us; delighting to frequent with us hallowed haunts, and reparticipate
with our spirits in hallowed joys. This may perchance be but a fond
delusion regarding others—but it is sublimely true regarding JESUS!
When the gates of the morning are opened, swifter than
the arrowy light His footstep of love is at our threshold, and His
voice is heard saying, "Lo! I am with you!" When the glow of health has left
our cheek, and the dim nightlight casts its flickering gleam on our pillow,
His unslumbering eye is watching us, and His lips gently whisper, "Lo! I am
When the King of Terrors has entered our
dwellings—when we are seated amid the dreadful stillness of the death
chamber, gazing on the shroud which covers the hope of our hearts and the
pride of our lives; oh! amid that prostration of earthly hopes—when unable
to glance one thought on a dark future—when the stricken spirit, like a
wounded bird, lies struggling in the dust with broken wing and wailing
cry—longing only for pinions to flee away from a weary world to the quiet
rest of the grave—in that hour of earthly desolation, He who has the Keys
of death at His belt—more, who has tasted death Himself, and,
better still, who has conquered it—draws near in touching tenderness,
saying, "Lo! I am with you!" I will come in the place of your beloved ones.
I am with you to cheer you, to comfort you, to support and sustain you. I,
who once wept at a grave, am here to weep with you—I will be at your side in
all that trying future—I will make My grace sufficient for you, and My
promises precious to you, and My love better than all earthly affection. All
others are changeable, I am unchangeable! Others must perish; I am the
strength of your heart and your portion forever!
Mark the word in this parting Promise, "Lo! I am with you
ALWAYS." In the original it is more expressive; it means All THE days"—(all
the appointed days). Our times are in the hands of Jesus—He counts not our
years, but our DAYS—and He promises to be with us every day to the last day
of all; and when that last day comes, He does not withdraw His Presence, but
changes the Scene of it, and says, "TODAY you shall be with Me in PARADISE."
Reader! cling to this glorious farewell promise. Rejoice
in Christ's fidelity to it. The natural world never belies her promises; we
can calculate with unfailing accuracy on her unvarying sequences. The sun
that sets today behind the western hills, will rise tomorrow. The trees
which in the waning year are bared of their foliage, will be clothed with
verdure in returning spring. The farmer, casting his seed in the prepared
furrow, sees afar off Autumn with her joyous sickle coming to bear the
harvest treasure home.
And if the natural world be thus scrupulously truthful
and unerring—"He is faithful who promised, I will never leave you, nor
forsake you." True, we may not, and do not, witness, in visible
manifestation, the Savior's power or presence. But as the mightiest agencies
in the natural world—gravitation, heat, electricity—are hidden and
impalpable, yet constant in their influence, and stupendous in their
effects; so it is with this ever-present Savior.
We see Him not—we hear not His voice—we cannot touch,
like the believing suppliant of old, the hem of His outer garment. But it is
the mission of Faith to rise above the impalpable and intangible, and
to hold converse with the UNSEEN. The Believer, planting his footsteps on
the Rock of Ages, can say, with triumphant joy, "the Lord lives, and
blessed be my Rock, and let the God of my salvation be exalted." Mounting
with Paul on soaring pinions, he can challenge the Heavens above and the
Earth beneath, legions of Angels and hosts of devils, ever to separate him
from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus his Lord!