Christ’s Departure

Sacramental Meditation XXII

By John Willison, Practical Works (London: Blackie & Son, 1844), 274-6; minimally edited


“It is expedient for you that I go away” (John 16:7b).

No wonder that sorrow filled the disciples’ hearts at the intimation of Christ’s departure from them. They had enjoyed a sweet time with Him at the communion table; His presence with them was their heaven, and they cannot think of parting with Him. They are greatly troubled, that He will neither stay with them, nor take them away with Him. “Nevertheless,” says He, “it is expedient for you that I go away.” Lord, says the soul, how is it expedient for me to be left behind Thee in a state of corruption, with indwelling sin that darkens my mind, deadens my heart, disorders my affections, and indisposes me for spiritual work? How shall I stay behind Thee, amidst Satan’s temptations and fiery darts, flying thick about me? Lord, either stay with me or take me up with Thee. Oh, must I stay behind thee amidst the infectious defilements and ensnaring examples of an ungodly world! When I open my eyes here, what will meet them but multitudes wallowing in pride, covetousness, malice, envy, drunkenness, gluttony, uncleanness, contempt of God and religion! Must I stay to see this horrible sight, the whole world lying in wickedness? Must I stay to hear God daily dishonoured by the tongues of the ungodly? Must I stay to see Christ slighted, wounded, and crucified afresh by wicked men? Oh what danger will I be in, of being infected by their examples! But, Lord, if I could wing away with Thee, I would be quite out of hazard, and out of sight of the wickedness of the world. How shall I stay behind thee in such an earthly tabernacle, to be burdened with bodily distresses, sickness, pains, and manifold complaints, and amidst innumerable losses, crosses, and disappointments from the creature! How shall I stay to see such melancholy divisions, contentions, debates, and separations, as fall out among the people of God in Christ’s absence? Mast I stay behind Thee to suffer injuries, cruel mockings, and persecutions, both from the tongues and hands of men and sometimes to be torn as with the teeth of wild beasts? Hence this world is called “a den of lions and mountain of leopards” (cf. SS 4:8). Oh, could I wing away to heaven with Christ, I would see no lion nor leopard there. There is none to hurt or destroy in all God’s holy mountain above.

 

Have I seen the King in His beauty, and must I be left behind Him? Hath the communion table been like Mount Tabor, where He was transfigured before my eyes, with His countenance shining, and His raiment white as light? And must I go down from the Mount again to a land of darkness, of drought, and of perplexing doubts and fears, where I shall sometimes go mourning without the sun; yea, neither sun nor stars appearing to me for many days? Must I be put to walk without the light of God’s countenance, and without the food of my soul, communion with my God? After I have been lifted up, must I lay my account with being cast down again, perhaps into depths like those of Asaph (Ps 72), or like those of Heman (Ps 88), with fears of falling short of heaven forever? Could I win away with Christ, I would be at once delivered from all these fears. Here my knowledge of God is small, and oft obscured with darkness; my faith is weak, and oft in hazard of being overcome with unbelief; here my love is cold, and oft chilled with frosty winds from Satan and the world; my prayers oft are formal and wandering, my praises low and flat; here my best wishes are attended with many short-comings and defects. But, oh! if I could wing to heaven with Christ, where grace and holiness are in perfection, I would praise Him without wandering, and serve Him without sin forever! Here sin still cleaves to my nature, mixes itself with my services, and denies my best duties. Here I still carry about with me a deceitful and treacherous heart, whereby I am in hazard of backsliding from God, and miscarrying forever. But, oh! were I with Christ, I would be free from all these anxious thoughts and fears. Lord, stay here with me, or take me up to thee.

But Thou sayest, it is expedient for me to stay behind for a time. Why, Lord? Must I stay that my faith, hope, and patience, may be tried and exercised here below, and thereby gradually strengthened and ripened for the perfect state? Must I stay that thy wisdom, power, and mercy may be glorified in conducting and preserving me through all the difficulties and dangers of this wilderness? “Thy will, Lord, be done;” only leave me not alone; but “for Thy name’s sake lead me and guide me.” Or, is it thy pleasure to suspend my heaven for a while, that I may promote Thy glory on earth, be useful to the souls of others, and recommend my dear Redeemer to those who know Him not, which is a work I cannot do in heaven? Oh fit me for it by Thy grace, and fill me with zeal for Thy glory. Oh let Thy kingdom come upon earth, that the kingdom of glory may be hastened.

Thou sayest, it is expedient for thee to go away. Why? Lord, must thou thyself be Thy people’s forerunner to carry tidings to heaven of their complete redemption, and of their coming after Thee in their several generations? Must Thou go to open the passage and pave the way for access to their persons and duties, and prepare rooms and lodgings for them against the time they come home? Must Thou go away to be a public agent and intercessor for Thy people under all their trials and tossings here below, and likewise to provide and furnish a rich and glorious communion table for them in Thy Father’s house above? Lord, send Thy Holy Spirit to fit and prepare me and many others for that blessed entertainment. Lord, when thou saidst, “It is expedient for you that I go away,” thou didst add, for “if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you!” Why? it was so agreed in the council of the Trinity, that the sending of the Spirit in His plentiful effusion, which was to be the purchase of Christ’s death, should be given in answer to His intercession, when He entered within the veil (Jn 14:16). And the Spirit was to make use of it as an argument for convincing the world of the perfection and acceptableness of Christ’s sacrifice, that Christ was now received and welcomed into heaven. Likewise the Spirit was to be given only upon Christ’s ascension to supply the want of His bodily presence. May the church have this fruit of Christ’s ascension still more and more!

Lord, though Thou hast gone away for necessary ends, yet Thy marriage contract with Thy people, and the love-tokens Thou givest them in the sacrament, are a sure pledge of Thy returning to pay them a comfortable visit at last, according to that sweet word, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (Jn 14:3). Oh that I may be one of those to whom Christ’s visit at His second coming will be joyful and comfortable! Let me examine myself before the sacrament, if I have the marks of such. Am I espoused to Christ? Have I a high esteem of the bridegroom? Have I subscribed the marriage contract and gone into Christ’s terms? Do I heartily approve the whole contrivance of redemption, through the suretyship and righteousness of Christ? Have I renounced my own righteousness, my beloved sins, and all Christ’s enemies? Do I mourn for the injuries done to Christ by myself and others, and rejoice when His interest and kingdom prosper in the world? Do I mourn for Christ’s departure and the withdrawing of His Spirit from ordinances, or from my own soul? Do I thirst for more holiness in heart and life, and for greater conformity and likeness to the glorious bridegroom? Then I may expect His visit and return will be comfortable to me, and I may rejoice in the view and expectation of it, and answer Christ when He says “Surely I come quickly. Amen, even so, come Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:20). W