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The circumstance of John's leaning on his Lord's bosom at supper, is several times mentioned, and may be supposed to import something worthy of our notice. Surely it was not by accident that he sat in that posture, nor without design that it is so often marked in the history.
It will doubtless suggest to us some thoughts pertinent to the similar occasion now before us : And happy the disciple, who, at this supper, shall by faith and love, lean on the breast of his Redeem
1. Christ, by admitting this disciple to lean on his bosom, shewed a special and peculiar affection for him.
It is observed in the text, that he who leaned on his breast, was the one whom he loved. He loved the others; but this he loved with superiour affection. In the temper and behaviour of John, there was something which recommended him to his Lord's particular esteem, and entitled him to this endearing appellation, the disciple whom Jesus loved.
The writings of this Apostle shew him to have been a man of a warm and affectionate turn of mind. This sensibility of his heart, and his constancy and fidelity in duty, pointed him out as a person capable of the strictest and most endearing friendship. None of the sacred writers dwell so much on beney. olence and brotherly love ; introduce the subject so often, or urge the temper with so much earnest. ness. The argument from which he principally deduces our obligation to love one another, is the wonderful example of love exhibited by Jesus Christ, in giving himself for our sins. As this argument seems ever to be uppermost in his mind, we may conclude, that he felt it to an uncommon degree. None were more strongly affected with a sense of the love of Christ, or had more of the same mind which was in him. That benevolence which ope:
him than slove. But ristian is ange.
rated so powerfully in his own breast, he wished to see transfused through the hearts of all.
As he was distinguished by a kind and friendly disposition, so he shared largely in the love of Christ, and was admitted to special intimacy with him. He was one of the three disciples, who accompanied Jesus, when he went to heal the ruler's daughterwhen he ascended into the mountain to display the glory of his transfiguration—when he retired to the garden for prayer, just before his crucifixion. This was the disciple to whom he, on the cross, committed the care of his aged mother. He placed particular confidence in John, as one who would faithfully execute the tender charge.
Every sincere Christian is an object of the Redeemer's love. But some are admitted nearer to him than others. His love is not, like human affec. tion, arbitrary and capricious; it is guided by a clear discernment of the comparative degrees of holiness in his different disciples. As the graces of religion, especially the more amiable graces of humility, meekness, condescension, constancy, fi. delity and benevolence, abound in them, they share more largely in his approbation and regard. We are often attached to persons by things foreign to their character; by the comeliness of their form, the dignity of their station, the politeness of their manners, the brilliancy of their wit, the pleasantness of their natural temper, or the elegance of their dress and appearance. But these are cir. cumstances on which the love of Christ will never turn. It is real virtue and righteousness, rectitude of heart, and purity of life, which entitle us to his esteem. The more we have of that mind which was in him, the greater and stronger interest have we in his friendship and regard.
John was highly honoured in being the disciple whom Jesus loved. But let us remember, that the same temper which was so pleasing to Jesus in this
disciple, will equally meet his approbation whereever it is found.
2. John's leaning on Jesus's bosom, denotes intimacy and familiarity.
Between Christ and his other disciples there was an endearing friendship. He allowed them near access to him, and communicated to them many things, which he imparted not to the world. He says, I call you not servants, for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doth ; but I have called you friends, for all things which I have heard of my Father, I have made known unto you. To them he expounded in private many things, which he had publicly delivered in parables. To them he foretold many events, of which he gave no general notice. To them he opened the mysteries of the kingdom of God, before he saw fit to reveal them to the multitude. He admitted them to join with him in his prayers. He often retired with them for devotion, and they well knew the place whither he usually resorted. With them he celebrated the last passover, and the first supper. He conversed with them freely, attended to their inquiries, and resolved their doubts. Thus familiar was he with them all. But John enjoyed a peculiar intimacy. While they sat at the passover, he took his seat by Jesus's side, and reclined on his bosom : And in this nearness to his Lord, he enjoyed a converse which was unknown to his brethren.
When Christ testified to them, saying, One of you shall betray me, they knew not whom he meant. Peter beckoned to John, to ask him who the traitor was. His beckoning to John on this occasion, is an evidence that John had, before now, enjoyed special intimacy and freedom with his master. John asked him, of whom he spake this. Jesus said, It is he to whom I shall give the sop, when I have dipped it. This conversation was not heard by the other disci. ples. John was the first who knew Judas to be the traitor—the first who was relieved from the torturing anxiety, lest he himself were the unhappy man. When Christ had given Judas the sop, he said to him. What thou dost, do quickly. To what intent he spake this, none at the table knew, except John. Some of them thought, that, because Judas had the bag, Christ meant that he should go and buy the things which were necessary for the seven ensuing days of the feast ; or that he should give something to the poor, as was customary at the time of the passover. As Christ's general premonition had pointed out no particular person, they were exceeding sorrowful, and began, each for himself, to inquire, Lord, Is it I?-Lord, Is it I ? Jesus now distinguishes the traitor. Judas's hand was in the same dish, out of which Jesus was eating : At this instant Christ says, It is he, who is dipping his hand with me in the dish. This was the first sign, · by which they knew who should betray their Lord. John only knew this before, by the token of the sop.
We see, that Christ's beloved disciples enjoy the privilege of intimate communion with him. All sincere Christians have this privilege ; but some have it in a more sensible manner than others. John, in this respect, was privileged above his brethren. The greater is our love and fidelity to Christ, the nearer access may we find. How happy is the de. vout, humble, fervent Christian ! Whatever are bis burdens, he may lean on Christ's bosom-may whisper to him his inward sorrows and secret de. sires, and may receive from him kind and seasonable answers, in a manner unobserved by others. This intimacy with the Saviour depends much on our likeness to him. If we have in us that temper of love and goodness, humility and meekness, de-' votion and heavenliness, which was in him, we shall know where to find him—we may come even to his Vol. I,
seat-we may express our desires in groans and aspirations, which cannot be uttered—we may hear his still small voice, and feel the gentle illapses of his grace ; while those around us, know not what is passing between us and our heavenly friend.
We think John was highly privileged in being ad. mitted so near to Christ. But our Lord can hear us, as easily as he heard him. From his throne in the heavens, he bends down his gracious ear to receive our prayers. He attends to the sincere, though silent language of the heart. His love to pious souls he manifests by the secret communications of comfort, strength and peace. The secret of the Lord is with them who fear him, and he will shew them his covenant.
3. John, by leaning on Jesus's bosom, expressed his love to his Saviour. He chose to be as near him as possible; not only to take a seat by his side, but to recline on his breast.
In the writings of this Apostle, love to Christ is characteristick of a sincere disciple. Saint Peter, writing to believers, many of whom had not seen Christ in the flesh, says, Though ye have not seen him, yet ye love him, and though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice in him. Those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, are, by Saint Paul, pronounced the subjects of his grace.
This love is not a sensitive passion, awakened by the imaginary view of a beautiful form, or of some resplendent external glory. It is a calm, rational approbation of that holy character in which the gospel represents the redeemerIt is a deliberate choice of his doctrines, precepts and example-a grateful sense of his goodness and compassion to a perishing world-an esteem of him, and complacence in him, as the image of the invisible God, the only Mediator, an allsufficient and most suitable Saviour.