John 8The foregoing chapter gave us an account of a most excellent sermon, which our Saviour preached in the temple, at the feast of tabernacles. Now the feast being ended, Jesus did not tarry in the city all night, but went out of it two miles, as he frequently used to do, to the mount of Olives. Although it was so dangerous for him to be seen any more in Jerusalem, yet early the next morning he returns again to the city, enters the temple, and falls upon his work of preaching without fear and with indefatigable diligence.
O what a busy, useful life was this of our Saviour's! He spent the day in preaching in the temple, the night in privacy and prayer on the mount of Olives; and the next morning he returns to his work of preaching again. Thus was he always holily and painfully employed. To glorfiy his Father, and to be useful and beneficial to mankind, was his food by day, and his rest by night.
Lord, how little do we resemble thee, if, when thy life was all pain and labour, ours be all pastime, pleasure, and recreation.
Our Saviour early in the morning entering upon the work of preaching;
Observe, 1. What a mixed auditory he had, of scribes, and Pharisees, and common people. All sorts of persons came to hear him, but not all with the same intentions. The common people came to learn, but the scribes and Pharisees came to cavil and carp; the latter came to tempt and ensnare him, the former to be taught and instructed by him.
It is not our bare attendance upon ordinances, but the purity of our aim, and the sincerity of our intentions, in waiting upon God in them, that is an evidence of our sincerity.
Observe, 2. How the hypocrisy of these Pharisees was gilded over with an appearance of sanctity: as if they were great lovers of chastity, and haters of uncleanness, they bring to Christ a woman taken in adultery, to be censured by him. One that had not known these Pharisees, would have concluded them very holy and honest, very conscionable and conscientious persons; but Christ, who saw into their bosoms, soon found that all this was done only to tempt him. Thus a smooth tongue and a false heart often accompany one another: when we see a glittering appearance, we have reason to suspect the inside.
Observe, 3. The punishment which the Pharisees sought to have inflicted on this adulteress: it is death: Let her be stoned. Sometimes the punishment of adultery was burning, sometimes stoning, always death.
Lord! how ought Christians to blush, who have slight thoughts of the sin of adultery, which both Jews and pagans held ever deadly!
Observe, 4. Their ensnaring question: Moses commanded that such should be stoned; but what sayest thou? The Pharisees desire no better advantage against Christ, than a contradiction to Moses their lawgiver: it has been an old strategem to set Moses and Christ at variance; but they are fast friends; they are subordinate one to another, not opposed one against another. Moses brings us to Christ, and Christ to glory; fain would these colleaguing adversasries draw Christ to contradict Moses, that they might take advantage of the contradiction to condemn Christ.
Observe, 5. The wisdom and caution of our Lord's answer: he doth not excuse her crime, but bids her accusers look at home, and examine their own consciences, whether they were not guilty of the like, or as great a sin. He doth not say, "Let her be stoned;" this had been against the course of his mercy: he doth not say, "Let her not be stoned;" this had been against the law of Moses; but he so answers, that both his justice and his mercy are entire; she dismissed, and they ashamed. It is a false zeal that is eagle-eyed abroad, and blind at home. Such as are most wicked themselves, are oft-times most ready and skillful to spy out the faults and failings of others: we stand too near ourselves to discern our own miscarriages. The eye that sees every thing, sees not itself.
Observe, 6. Though Christ abhorred the sin, yet he does not condemn the sinner. Hath no man condemned thee? neither do I condemn thee, says Christ. This Christ said, not to excuse the woman, or to connive at her offence; but to show that he declined the office of a civil judge, which was to pass sentencce on criminals. He therefore doth not say, No man ought to condemn thee, but Hath no man condemned thee? Christ doth not execute the office of a magistrate in judging her to death; but of a minister in calling her to repentance and reformation.
How ought every one of us to keep within the bounds of our calling, when our Saviour himself will not entrench upon the office and functions of others!
Observe, lastly, our Saviour's cautionary direction to this adulteress: Go, and sin no more.
Where note, Christ doth not say, Go, and commit adultery no more; but, Go, and sin no more. It is not a partial repentance, or a turning away from this or that particular sin, which will denominate us true penitents, or entitle us to the pardoning mercy of God, but a leaving off all sin of what kind soever; therefore says Christ, Go, and sin no more.
Our blessed Saviour having baffled the design which the Pharisees had upon him, and showed a spirit of divine wisdom, in delivering himself from that snare which they had laid for him, he returns to instruct the people in the treasury.
And here note, 1. He instructs them in the nature of his office, which was to enlighten all men with the knowledge of divine truth; so that they should not walk in darkness, either of sin or error, but be led to eternal life.
Learn hence, That the great end and errand of Christ's coming into the world, was to give light unto poor souls that sat in darkness.
Observe, 2. The exception which the Pharisees made against our Saviour's testimony of himself: Thou barest record of thyself: thy record is not true. Indeed, such is the corrupt nature of man, which is prone to seek itself, and hunt after vain-glory, that it may render a person's testimony of himself suspected; but Christ being true God, that cannot lie, and coming out of the bosom of his Father, as his ambassador, his testimony of himself is above all exception, and ought to be credited without further proof.
Observe, 3. How Christ challenges his enemies the Pharisees for judging carnally of him, and according to the meanness of his outward appearance, whereas he judged no man; that is, 1st, No man, as they judged, according to outward show.
Or, 2ndly, I judge no man; that is, at present. My proper work is not to condemn any, but to teach all; and my present office is that of a prophet, not of a judge. My coming now is to instruct and save the world; my next coming will be to judge and condemn it.
Observe, 4. Christ declares that he is not alone in the testimony given of himself, but that the Father did also testify and bear witness of him, and that according to their own law, the testimony of two was always accounted and esteemed valid. "Now, says Christ, if so much weihgt be to be laid upon the testimony of two men, how much more forcible should the testimony of the Father, and of him whom the Father hath sent, be, to satisfy you, that what I say of myself is true?"
Learn hence, 1. That the Father and the Son, though one in essence and operation, yet are distinct persons.
2. That these distinct persons did bear joint witness concerning Christ. God the Father testified of him by a voice from heaven; and Christ, as God, bare witness of himself as man, and as Mediator. Surely out of the mouth of two such witnesses, the truth of Christ's divine mission is sufficiently established.
Observe here, A dreadful threatening denounced by Christ against the obstinate and unbelieving Jews. Ye shall die in your sins; that is, in the guilt of your sins, under the power, and undergoing the punishment of your sins:
Lord! what a sad word is this, Ye shall die in your sins. O better is it a thousand times to die in a ditch; for they that die in their sins, shall rise in their sins and stand before Christ in their sins; such as lie down in sin in the grave, shall have sin lie down with them in hell to all eternity. The sins of believers go to the grave before them; sin dieth while they live; but the sins of unbelievers go to the grave with them. While they live they are dead in sin: and by sin they fall into death; from which there is no recovery unto life.
Observe, 2. The grand sin for which this great punishment is threatened, and that is the sin of unbelief: If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.
Plainly intimating, that, of all sin, infidelity or unbelief is the grand damning sin under the gospel. The devil hath as great an advantage upon men, by making them strong in unbelief, as God hath by making his people strong in faith? Unbelief renders a sinner's case desperate and incurable; it doth not only procure damnation, but no damnation like it.
The Jews hearing our Saviour denouncing such a terrible threatening against them, because they believed not on him in the foregoing verses; here they perversely ask him, Who he was? Our Saviour replies, That he was the same that he was from the beginning, even the very Christ; and that they were the very same, they were also the mortal enemies and opposers of the truth. But that the time was hastening, when they should be fully convinced who he was; namely, when they had lifted him up upon his cross, when he was risen again, and ascended into heaven, and brought that destruction upon them, which he had so often threatened.
Learn hence, That the sufferings of Christ were clear and convincing demonstrations, both who he was, and what he was. The darkening of the sun, the quaking of the earth, the rending of the rocks, the opening of the graves, were such convincing proofs of his deity, that they could not but say, Verily, this was the Son of God.
That is, he that sent and commissioned me for the great work of redemption, he is continually with me, both to assist and to accept me, I doing every thing that is agreeable to his holy will and pleasure.
Hence learn, 1. That the work of redemption in the hands of Jesus Christ, was a work well-pleasing to God the Father; the work itself was highly pleasing to him; and Christ's way of managing it was well-pleasing also.
2. That the reason why it was thus well-pleasing to God, was, because he acted in a constant conformity to his Father's will, kept to his Father's commission, and executed his Father's commands, doing always those things that pleaseth him.
Learn, 3. That as the Father and Christ were inseparable in respect of the unity of the divine essence; so the Father was always with Christ as Mediator, both to support and uphold him, to accept and reward him. The Father hath not left me alone, either in the doing of his will, or in the suffering of his pleasure.
Learn, 4. That those who desire the gracious and special presence of God with them in all conditions, particularly in times of sufferings and trouble; they must make it their care and study to please God, and to observe his will in all things: then God will be with them in his guiding presence, in his strengthening presence, in his comforting, in his quickening, in his sanctifying, sympathizing, and accepting, presence.
Observe here, 1. The blessed fruit and success of our Saviour's foregiong discourse concerning his person anad office. As he spake these words, many believed on him: not at their own natural power and ability, but by Christ's omnipotent and efficacious grace: he that spake to the ear, caused his word to reach the heart; Christ himself that planted and watered, gave also the increase.
Observe, 2. The love and care of Christ mentioned to these new converts; he watereth immediately these plants with wholesome advice and counsel. If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed.
Where note, It must be Christ's word, the true doctrine of the gospel; and this abided and continued in, which will evince our discipleship.
Observe, 3. A special privilege which shall follow upon abiding in the doctrine of Christ; they shall increase in the knowledge of it, and be made free by it. Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
Where note, 1. That man is naturally in bondage and captivity, by blindness of mind, by hardness of heart, by rebellion of will.
2. That the means appointed by God for setting him at liberty from this captivity and bondage, is the word of Christ, and the doctrine of the gospel. The truth shall make you free.
Observe here, How these carnal Jews understand all that our Saviour said, to be spoken in and after a carnal manner; when he spoke to them before, of eating his flesh and drinking his blood, they understood it grossly of his natural body.
When he speaks to them here of a spiritual freedom from sin, they understand it of a civil freedom from servile bondage and subjection: alledging, They were Abraham's seed, and never in bondage to any man: which was a manifest untruth, having been in bondage, in their ancestors, to the Egyptians and Babylonians: and in their own persons to the Romans.
But this was not the bondage that Christ meant: but a spiritual slavery and thraldom under the dominion of sin, and power of Satan; for he that committed sin, is the servant of sin: that is, whosoever doth habitually, willfully, deliberately, and constantly, allow and tolerate himself in a sinful course, he is under the servitude and thraldom of sin. Every sinner is a bond-slave; and to live in sin is to live in slavery. And this every man doth till the Son makes him free; then, and not till then, is he freed indeed.
Learn hence, That interest in Christ, and continuance in his doctrine, sets the souls at liberty from all that bondage whereunto it was subject in its natural and sinful state.
O happy exchange, from being the devil's slaves, to become Christ's freemen! and also freed from the rigorous exactions and terrible maledictions of the law.
The Jews boasting again that they were Abraham's seed, and bearing themselves much upon it: our Saviour tells them, He knew they were so, his natural children according to the flesh: but not his genuine children according to the Spirit: this he proves, because they did not tread in Abraham's steps, and do his works; for if either the temper of their minds, or the actions of their lives were agreeable to Abraham, they would not seek as they did, to destroy and kill him, only for bringing the doctrine of salvation to them, which he had heard and learned of the father.
Thence learn, 1. How prone we are to glory in our outward privileges, and to rely upon them. Whereas these are arguments of God's goodness towards us, but no evidence of our goodness towards him.
2. That it is very dangerous and unsafe to pride ourselves in, and depend upon, any external privileges and prerogatives whatsoever: as our being born within the pale of the visible church, our descending from pious parents and holy progenitors; for unless we be followers of their faith, admirers of their piety, and imitate their example, we are none of their children; but belong to another father, as our Saviour tells the Jews in the other verses.
In the former verses the Jews made their boast that they were the children of Abraham: in these that they are the children of God. We have one Father, even God. This our Saviour disproves, telling them, that if God were their Father, they would love him, as proceeding from him by eternal generation; and in his office employed by him as Mediator. Also, if God were their father, they would understand him speaking from God; whereas now they were so transported with malice, that they could not endure his doctrine with patience, though it came from God. All which were undeniable proofs, that they were not the children of God.
Hence learn, That none can justly pretend any interest in God as his children, but they that love Christ, as being the express image of his Father's person, and do hear and receive his doctrine, as coming from God: this the Jews did not do; therefore, says Christ, they are not the children of God.
Observe farther, Having told them whose children they are not, our Saviour tells them plainly whose children they were, Ye are of your Father, the devil. This appears by their being actuated by him, by their resembling and imitating of him; their inclinations, dispositions, and actions, being all to fullfil the lusts of the devil. Now, as his servants we are, whom we obey; so his children we are, whom we resemble.
Learn hence, That men's sinful practices will prove them to be Satan's children, let their profession be what it will; if in the temper of their minds, and in the actions of their lives, there by a conformity to Satan's disposition, and a ready compliance with his temptations, they are certainly his children, what pretensions soever they make of being the children of God. None could pretend higher to the relation of God's children than the Jews did: yet, says Christ, Ye are the children of the devil, for his works ye do.
Note hence, That the devil hath the relation of a father to all wicked men: and this fatherhood doth not proceed from the act of the father, but of the children; for the devil doth not make wicked men his children by begetting them: but they make the devil their father, by imitating of him.
Here observe, 1. The free reproof which Christ gave the Jews for their obstinate unbelief; because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.
Observe, 2. The challenge which he gives the worst of his adversaries: Which of you convinceth me of sin? So perfectly pure, innocent, and spotless, was the doctrine and life of Christ, that although his enemies loaded him with slander and false accusation, yet none of them could justly convict of, much less condemn him for, the least known sin.
Observe, 3. The Jews being enraged at this free reproof, fell a railing at his person, charging him with being a Samaritan, possessed with an evil spirit. Our Saviour meekly replies, That he did not deal with the devil; but was honouring his Father in what he did, and said; and therefore his Father would take care of his honour, and judge between him and them.
Here note, That though Christ used some sharpness in reproving the Jews and representing them to themselves; yet he answers with wonderful mildness and meekness, when he discovers his resentments of his own reproaches: how cool was Christ in his own cause; but warm enough in God's!
Observe here, 1. The blessed fruit and effect of observing our Saviour's doctrine: He that keeps my sayings shall never see death; that is, shall be secured from eternal misery, and enjoy eternal life.
Observe, 2. How the Jews misunderstood our Saviour's words. He that keeps my saying shall never see death; as if he meant a freedom from temporal death, and hereupon they looked upon him as beside himself, to promise a privilige which neither Abraham, nor the prophets did ever enjoy. Whereas it was not exemption from temporal death, but freedom from eternal destruction, which our Saviour promised to them that keep his saying.
Hence learn, That the misunderstanding of Christ's doctrine, and taking it in a carnal sense, has given occasion for the many cavils and objections made against it.
Observe, 3. How Christ clears himself of all ambition in this matter, and shews that he did not make this promise of delivering his followers from death vain-gloriously, but that God, whom they called their father had honoured him with power, to make good whatever he had promised to them that keep his saying.
Learn hence, That as Christ entirely sought his Father's glory; so the Father conferred all honour and glory upon Christ as Mediator: thereby testifying, how infinitely pleased he was with the redemption of mankind performed by him. If I honour myself, my honour is nothing; it is my Father that honoureth me.
That is, "Abraham having received a promise, that the Messias should come of his seed, he exceedingly rejoiced to see the day of my coming in the flesh, though afar off, with the eye of his faith, and in a figure, in his sacrificed son Isaac: and this sight of his faith was so transporting, that he leaped for joy."
Learn hence, That a strong faith gives such a clear sight of Christ (though at a distance) as produceth an holy delight and rejoicing in him.
Observe here, 1. What a false and ridiculous construction the Jews make of our Saviour's words, as if he had affirmed that he had seen Abraham, and Abraham him, with bodily eyes: whereas Christ only asserted, that Abraham had seen his day: that is, he foresaw by faith the day of his incarnation, and coming in the flesh.
Observe, 2. Our Saviour's positive asserting of his divinity, or that he had a being as God from all eternity: for, says he, Before Abraham was, I am.
Where note, That Christ does not say, Before Abraham was, I was: but, before Abraham was, I am; which is the proper name of God, thereby is signified the eternal duration and permanency of his being. The adversaries of Christ's divinity say, that before Abraham was, Christ was: that is, in God's fore-knowledge or decree; but this may be said of any other person as well as Chirst, that he was in the fore-knowledge of God before Abraham was born. Whereas undoubtedly it was Christ's design in these words, to give himself some preference and advantage above Abraham, which this interpretation doth not in the least do.
Observe lastly, how the Jews looking upon Christ as a blasphemer, for making himself equal with God, and for asserting his eternal existence, they make a furious attempt upon his life, by taking up stones to cast at him, as the Jews used to deal with blasphemers: but our Saviour delivers himself miraculously from their fury, and escapes untouched.
Hence learn, That when arguments fail, the enemies of truth betake themselves to force and violence: They took up stones to cast at him.
2. That as Christ disappointed his own persecutors, so he can and will deliver his people in their greatest extremity from their persecutor's rage and fury. The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to reserve the unjust to the day of judgment to be punished. 2Pe 2:9
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