This chapter contains the account of another and interesting miracle and the record of a most important discourse of our Lord, which arose out of it. Interesting and important as these are in their literal sense, they are much more so in their spiritual meaning, for this reveals divine truths immediately applicable to our regeneration, which is the work and state of salvation.
1 When Jesus performed the miracle of curing the nobleman’s son, he had just come from Jerusalem to Galilee ; and the present chapter begins with saying, that after this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. It is not known how long this second journey wasafter the first, nor what feast was there celebrated. Spiritually considered, it is enough to know the sequence of the events, and there being a feast at the centre of the Jewish worship. ” After this ” is expressive of a new state, succeeding and connected with the former, and a further manifestation of the divine love and wisdom in the cure of spiritual disease, and in the communication of spiritual truth; while “a feast of the Jews” is expressive of the worship of the Lord from, love and faith, and the sanctification of the heart and mind by its means. In the supreme sense, the Jewish feasts, like all other acts of ceremonial or sacrificial worship, represented the Lord’s sacrifice, that is, his glorification; and, in a secondary sense, man’s regeneration. Hence the reason of Jesus attending these feasts. His going up to them is expressive of an elevation of state, or, what is the same, an entering more interiorly into the mind of the regenerate man, that he may keep with him the feast of love and wisdom. These feasts, in relation to the church and men, are the spiritual states of love and faith, into which the Lord enters, that he may sup with us, and we with him.
2. It was when the Lord was in Jerusalem at the feast that he performed one of those miraculous cures which symbolized the healing of the spiritual maladies of the soul. Now there is at Jerusalem, by the sheep-market, a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue, Bethesda, having five porches. This pool represented the Word of God. Bethesda, which means the “house ofmercy,” is eminently expressive of the Divine Word, as a revelation of God’s will, and an offer of his mercy to afflicted and perishing sinners. The pool was at Jerusalem, by the sheep-market, to signify that the Holy Word, while committed to the care of the church, which is Jerusalem, is practically with those who are principled in spiritual love or charity, these being spiritually meant by sheep. But the pool of Bethesda is a symbol of the Word, not only as it exists as a book, but as it exists by the knowledge of its truths in our minds. It is especially a pool when its truths are in the memory, for there they are collected together, and there they lie motionless, unable to effect a cure.
3 As the pool is in the mind itself, so are the multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. These sick persons are the multitude of disordered affections and thoughts, that are in every yet unregenerated, or partially regenerated, mind. In the blind, we may see the ignorance that hinders and the errors that pervert our intellectual perception of truth and goodness; in the halt we may see the unequal manifestation of these principles in our life and conversation; and in the withered, the enfeeblement of some or all the powers of active life in the will, which produces incapacity for moral action. Every one of us is thus infirm by nature, and more or less by practice. But the scene at the sheep-market represents the condition of one who has discovered Ids spiritual infirmities, and, earnestly desiring to have them removed, has entered the porch of introductory knowledge, and waits patiently and prayerfully for deliverance, which comes by the moving of the waters, the means and meaning of which are next to be considered.
4 For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first, after the troubling of the water, stepped in, was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. As the waters of the pool are the truths which have been acquired from the Word, and laid upas knowledge in the memory, the angel is the Spirit of truth which descends from heaven, and enters the mind, quickening the truths that had lain dead and inactive there. The angel went down only at a certain season. The reason of this is to be sought, not in God or his angels, but in ourselves. The Lord has no times or seasons for descending with his blessings to mankind. His time is always ready. “With him this is the day of salvation. While we seem to wait for grace, he is waiting to be gracious. Our state to receive is his time to give. The season in which the angel descends is determined by us; the gift comes when we are prepared to receive it. Even after we have discovered our infir-mities, and have become earnestly desirous of having them removed, we often have to wait, and sometimes long, before the desired deliverance comes. Many prayers and many efforts are needed to effect their removal. The reason of this is not difficult to discover. The desire is a newly-conceived affection, the infirmity is an ingenerate lust or confirmed habit. The period of our waiting and the season of our deliverance are determined by the relative strength of our desire and of our infirmity. But another singular circumstance in the case was, that when the angel had moved the waters, the first only that stepped in was made whole. Why was there such a seeming parsimony in dispensing so great a gift? Might not the whole multitude have plunged into the pool, and risen from its waters restored to the blessing of health ? The greater miracle would have been as easy to omnipotence as the less. But divine Wisdom designed the circumstance to convey a spiritual lesson. Our spiritual infirmities are not Removed at once, but by degrees. The whole multitude of our evils are not wiped away in a Moment, by a single act of grace through a single act of Faith. Our evils are removed, as the infirm persons at the pool of Bethesda were cured, one by one. The cure was experienced by the first that stepped in after the troubling of the waters. First as to time, spiritually means first as to state, or that which is the principal object of our thoughts and desires. The first that steps in is the infirmity that has been brought most under our notice and control, and is therefore most ready to yield to the influence that is brought to act upon the mind.
5 But amongst the great multitude lying waiting at the pool of Bethesda, there was a certain man which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. If the multitude of impotent folk are types of our numerous infirmities, what infirmity does this man represent ? He represents that infirmity which is the greatest of all our infirmities, our ruling love, our dominant evil, the sin that doth so easily beset us. This love, as the thirty-eight years’ duration of the poor man’s malady implies, contains in itself the conjunction of what is evil and false, and has its root both in the will and understanding. It forms our very self, that which forms the root of our unregenerate nature. And long and painful is the struggle before it is removed.
6 But deliverance from this evil comes at length to those who patiently strive and wait. When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? When the Scripture speaks of the Lord seeing and knowing what is in or of us, the spiritual meaning is, that we see and know from the Lord what is in or of ourselves. This is the highest kind or degree of knowledge, and is inward perception. The voice of the Lord speaks inwardly in the heart, saying, Wilt thou be made whole ?
7. To the Lord’s question, the man gives not a direct answer, but says, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. The predominant feeling and idea in the mind, which has a’ perception of its own sinful state, is that of its own inability and helplessness, and even of its being left unaided. He had no man to put him into the pool. He knew not as yet that in Jesus he at last had found the Man for whom ho had so long waited and so often sighed—the Divine Man, in whom is all help. But this sense of his own helplessness and destitution prepared the way for his deliverance. He had often, unaided, attempted to reach the pool; but while he was coming, another stepped down before him. Feeble and without help, he would, but for the Lord’s coming to his relief, have remained uncured. We can hardly fail to notice in this miracle a feature which is common to many, and is perhaps to be understood of all, that the Lord performed cures which others had been unable to effect. He came to do for mankind what they had been unable to do for themselves or for each other. He came to do for them, as their Redeemer, even what he had been unable to do for them as their Creator. He came to bring down to their necessities that power and those virtues which could find no adequate channel but in a human nature like their own. This now manifestation of the divine power and virtue was especially needed, to enable men to conquer and remove their deeper evils, as maladies beyond the reach of all human physicians. And such was tho malady with which this man was afflicted.
8 Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and, walk. A deep sense of our own helplessness is the very means of opening the heart for the reception of help from the Lord—help that comes to us rather in deed than in word, for it comes to our experience. This manner of showing his power is not uncommon, but most interesting. Understood of the soul instead of the body, to rise is to rise above earthly into heavenly states of thought and affection; to take up the bed, is to raise doctrine and faith from a persuasion to a principle; and to walk, is to live according to the divine commandments from charity and faith united.
9 And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked. The performance of the acts commanded signify effect, which makes the command a deed, and thus a blessing; but it adds, that on the same day was the Sabbath. The Sabbath was a day on which Jesus performed many beneficent works, because it represented a state of spiritual rest after states of conflict and labour, peace after warfare, joy after suffering. It was the type of salvation and heaven. The Lord’s performing so many of His works of mercy on the Sabbath, is an evidence that even the Jewish Sabbath was never intended as a day of absolute inactivity, but was rather a day in which cessation from servile and interested labour should give time and opportunity for free and disinterested work, or works of love and mercy. More important still is it as a testimony to the truth, that the Christian Sabbath is a day for works of spiritual love and mercy; and that the Sabbath of eternal rest which remains for the people of God, is nob a monotonous life of vocal praise and thanksgiving, but is a life of tho most active love to one another, and to all the children of God, as they exist in the unnumbered worlds which the Lord created and has redeemed.
10 The other and negative side of the subject now presents itself. The Jews made the carrying of the bed, and the performance of this cure on the Sabbath, a ground of persecution. To the man they objected, It is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. This act would seem, indeed, to have been inconsistent with the Jewish law, which prohibited the carrying of a burden on the Sabbath day (Jer. xvii. 21). As Lord of the Sabbath, and on the principle that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath, Jesus had told the man to carry his bed. We see the difference here between acts that proceed from the newness of the Spirit, and acts that proceed from the oldness of the letter; and the truth of the declaration, that the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life. Not only does this contrariety exist in the church in an imperfect or degenerate state, but in ourselves as imperfect and degenerate beings. Our own natural minds are opposed to the principles of heaven, even after those principles have obtained the consent of the inner man. It may, however, be useful to look at the subject, in what now follows, as it relates to individuals rather than to principles. The Jews had come to regard the letter of the law, not only without, but in opposition to, its spirit. Zealous for the outward observance of the Sabbath, they violated the sanctity of which the Sabbath was instituted to be the means and the type. The Sabbath is most honoured when it is employed in works of mercy, especially when done in the highest interests of humanity. This did our Lord. This should the disciple do. “We have seen there is a spiritual meaning in the act which the Jews condemned. To take up the bed and walk, means to elevate doctrine out of the understanding into the will, and live according to it. This is the same as raising it out of the letter into the spirit. The doctrine respecting the Sabbath, for example, is a bed on. which we lie, while that day is considered to be holy in itself, and to be sanctified by our outward observance. But this doctrine is elevated into the will—the bed is taken up—when the Sabbath is regarded and used for exercising the graces of mercy and charity for the elevation of the prostrate faculties of ourselves and others j when, in fact, worship becomes an act of life and not merely of devotion. To carry the bed on the Sabbath, in the Christian and spiritual sense, is lawful, and is in fact involved in the command to keep it holy, because there is still more sanctity in mercy than in piety. I will have mercy, and not sacrifice.” ” To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” If we view this subject still more interiorly, and take the antitype—the holy state which the Sabbath typifies—then we may see still more clearly that taking up and carrying that whereon we previously lay, bearing that which had borne us, is one of the deeds and signs of our having entered on the higher and better state.
11, 12. The all-sufficient reason for this, and answer to all objections and suggestions against it are contained in the man’s answer to his Jewish objectors: He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. He who gives health and strength must be best able to direct us how to use them. The ability to do the greater implies the right to do the less. He who restores my sou], shall lie not direct my steps? Those who have received inward grace look at the law from within, and act according to it as interpreted by the spirit; but those who are under the law look at it from without, and act according to the dead letter. The Jews who did nob enter into the spirit of the law, demanded of the restored invalid, What man is he that said unto thee, Take up thy bed and walk? This expresses the condition of the natural man: not principle but authority ishis guide. How much are all under this servitude to personalities and names. But the Jews did not accept the authority of Jesus, and wished to know who had done the miracle, only that they might accuse and condemn Him. They made no account of the beneficent work which the Lord had performed; all its worth was lost to them by the circumstance, that it was done on the Sabbath-day. ” Is it not lawful to do well on the Sabbath-days’?” This is a question which Christians as well as Jews should be prepared to answer. The Sabbath, under the Jewish economy, was more typical than real. “We observe it most worthily when we use it, as our Lord did, in works of mercy to the bodies, and especially to the souls of men.
13 And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jews had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place. This circumstance, which is not the only one of the kind in the gospel, has several important points. How beautiful are the facts and the lesson, in Jesus bestowing his blessings, as it were, with an unseen hand, withdrawing himself from the multitude of spectators, and leaving even the object of his mercy without the knowledge of his benefactor! How great a lesson is this, to do good for its own sake. But the manner of his leaving the scene of his great miracle is deserving of attention. The difference in the manner of his withdrawing himself from the sensible presence of men, before and after his resurrection, is vary striking. The relation gives us the idea of his removal being, before his glorification, natural; of being, after his glorification, supernatural. After his resurrection he appears in an instant in the midst of his disciples, the doors being shut; and in breaking bread with his disciples at Emmaus, he vanishes out of their sight, or ceases in a moment to be seen of them. These simple relations show how different was his humanity, before and after he had passed through death, His resurrection body being no longer material, but Divine. But to return to the spiritual lesson which the present circumstance teaches, The man knew not that it was Jesus who had healed him, Jesus having conveyed himself away through the multitude. The state here represented is that of one who has received new health, but whose natural thoughts and feelings are not yet in harmony with his spiritual affections and perceptions. Those are the multitude; and like the multitude they are disposed to tumult and opposition. There is a law in the members warring against the law of the mind. The Lord therefore conveys himself away: he retires from the crowd of dissentient and turbulent feelings into the interiors of the mind, till he can manifest himself to the restored faculties of the regenerated man.
14 The opportunity of doing this in due time comes. Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple. The object and the Author of the miracle meet in the temple; a holy state of worship opens the mind for the manifestation of the Divine Restorer of our mercies, and enables us to connect the gift with the Giver. Jesus revealed himself in delivering to the man a great lesson: Thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. Any one who returns to sins, after having been delivered from them, profanes the holy gifts he has received, and falls into a deeper state of evil and guilt than before. This does not arise from the fact, important as it is, that we sin presumptuously against the great and good Being who delivered us, but because, by returning to a sin which had been forsaken, we wilfully destroy the good that had taken its place, and cause the evil to take deeper root than it previously had in the mind. This, indeed, is the sin of profanation, which, in its worst form, cannot be forgiven, not because the Lord is unwilling to forgive, but because he is unable to remove it. The Lord removes evil in us by means of good—good which he himself has implanted in our hearts; but if we destroy that good, nothing remains by which his saving power can work salvation in us. We may think that free grace and omnipotence can do any thing. They can do anything that is consistent with divine order, but nothing that is inconsistent with the eternal laws that govern and uphold the worlds of mind and matter. In saying there are some things God cannot do, it may seem that we deny his omnipotence. If we say that he can and does not, do we not impeach his goodness?
15 The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus which had made him whole. We cannot suppose that the man told the Jews for the purpose of enabling them to direct their enmity against Jesus, but rather to proclaim his power, and advance his glory. But the natural mind and the natural man are ever disposed and ready to pervert knowledge and influx into compliance with its own ends.
16.Therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to kill him, because he had done these things on the Sabbath-day. On another similar occasion Jesus appealed to their own practice, in justification of his doing such deeds of mercy and goodness on the Sabbath-day. If a sheep fell into a pit they would pull him out on the Sabbath? How much is a man better than a sheep ? They were like natural zealots in all ages, whose practice it has ever been to persecute for nonconformity to their own dogmas and superstitions, good being no protection to him who does it out of the dogmatic way, but rather the ground of greater hatred and opposition. The opposition here represented is that of evil against good: for the ” Jews ” are the types of evil, and ” Jesus” is a name for the Divine Good. The opposition here described proceeds both from evil and its falsity, and is directed against both good and its truth, for falsehood persecutes truth, and evil seeks to slay goodness.
17 The Lord’s answer to these enemies of him and his works leads us into some of the highest truths that the gospel contains, which teach the relation of Jesus to the Father. The Lord meets their opposition to him as the worker of this miracle on the Sabbath, by saying, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. The great truth which the Lord here delivered demands our serious attention. The nature of the distinction which exists between the Father and the Son, and the work in which they, first the Father and then the Son, had engaged, it is most important we should understand. The truth may best be conveyed by a simple statement. The Father and the Son are the divine and the human natures in the person of the Lord. This is the simplest idea of the subject. It involves another—that the Father is the principle of divine love, and the Son is the principle of divine wisdom. When the Lord said ” The Father worketh hitherto,” he asserts that God had hitherto operated in his divine character of Creator and Preserver, but that now he operated in his human character of Redeemer and Saviour. The language of the Lord is very striking in one respect. He speaks of his own and his Father’s work as being on a perfect equality; of the one as being a continuation of the other. This teaches us that the Lord’s work in the flesh was a divine work, and that it was necessary, in order to complete the circle of divine operations required for the eternal welfare of the human race. And, indeed, the incarnation was simply a means for God doing for his creatures what he could no longer do without it. They forsook him, and he followed them. They became captives, and he came to deliver them. “He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head \ and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak ” (Isa. lix. 17). Jehovah put on all these when he put on humanity, and when he thus became the Divine Truth in ultimates, to redeem men from the powers of hell, and from the powers of evil. There is another sphere of this divine operation. The Father is the divine love, and the Son is the divine wisdom. In the work of human regeneration, which is the epitome and the realization of all the other divine works, the divine love performs the early part, and the divine wisdom performs the later part. The remains of love are first implanted in the_mind; and these remains or germs of love are derived from, and implanted by, the divine love, through the agency of angels, who are distinguished forms of love. This is the work of the Father. And when the mind becomes fit for the reception of wisdom, the Son takes up the work, and communicates the germs of wisdom. And these two operations, which are first successive, become eventually simultaneous, and love and wisdom become united in good works. Love and wisdom thus become one, even as the Father and the Son are one.
18. The Lord’s declaration still further exasperated the Jews. They sought the more to kill him, because he had not only broken the Sabbath, but said that God was his Father, making himself equal with God. Spiritually, in saying that God was his Father, the Lord asserted the divinity of his humanity : for the human became fully the Son of the divine by glorification. This truth is opposed to every thought and feeling of the natural man, because it is itself the opposite of all naturalism. It was to make man spiritual that the Lord made his humanity divine; and they who are opposed to spirituality in themselves, must be still more opposed to divinity in Jesus. The deadly enmity of the Jews against Jesus, is that which every natural man has against the Lord, as the supreme good as well as the supreme truth. Even in the minds of the faithful this enmity of the Jews is realized during the progress of regeneration. The reception of the Lord’s goodness in his truth, which is the practical acknowledgment of the Father in the Son, is most opposed to the evil of our nature, and cannot be effected without temptation, by which these evils are removed.
19 The Lord proceeds to show the necessity of acknowledging the Father in the Son. Verily, I say unto you, the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever the Father doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. This language clearly evinces, that the Father and the Son are not two persons, equal in power and authority. Indeed, the language seems designed to prevent such an idea being entertained. How can we understand the Son doing what he sees the Father do ; and the Father showing the Son all things that he does, that the Son may do likewise 1 These words must express another and a higher sense than that of the letter, except as explained by true doctrine. When we understand the Lord’s human nature to be the Son, which it really was, having been begotten of God, we can see it to be certainly and necessarily true, that the Son could do nothing of himself, just as the body can do nothing without the soul. Or, when we understand the Son to mean the divine truth, we can see it to be certainly and necessarily true, that this can do nothing of itself, for truth derives all its power from goodness, or, what is the same, wisdom derives all its power from love, just as the understanding derives all its power from the will, and light all its power, and indeed its very existence, from heat. But the Lord speaks of the Son seeing what the Father does, and then doing like him. Seeing signifies perception. The Lord’s human perceptions were derived from his indwelling divinity, and were the divine perceptions in the humanity, just as the body sees, and hears, and feels, from the soul, or the soul by the body. On the same principle the perceptions of truth are from goodness, as those of wisdom are from love: indeed wisdom is love seeing j divine wisdom is the all-seeing power of divine love. It appears further, from the Lord’s words, that the Son does only what he sees the Father do ; his works are a repetition of the Father’s works. Beautifully and edifyingly true is this. The human nature of the Lord did nothing but what was first done in his divine nature; just as the human body does nothing but what is first done in the mind ; for the acts of the body are a copy, a repetition, in a lower sphere, of the acts of the mind. They are different, it is true, in their form: the acts of the mind are volitions and thoughts, the acts of the body are deeds and words; yet these are nothing but the acts of the mind reproduced. It is the same with the understanding and the will. The understanding does nothing but what it sees the will do. Every act of thought is but the perception and repetition in the intellect of some act of affection which has been done in the will. Such, both in God and in his image, man, are the powers from which, and the .order according to which, all action proceeds.
20 Having spoken of the Son seeing what the Father does, the Lord now speaks of the Father, from his love for the Son, showing him whatever things he does. The Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater things than these, that ye may marvel. The Father is the divine love itself, and the divine wisdom is the object of that love. Wisdom is the offspring of love, as thought is of affection, and light of heat. But when divine inspiration says that the Father loves the Son, it not only means that wisdom is the object, but that it is the subject, of love; that the divine love dwells in the divine wisdom, and is the very love and life of that wisdom. For love is wisdom’s and wisdom is love’s. In the language of the Word, the Son is in the Father and the Father in the Son. And as the Father loves the Son, he shews him all that he himself doeth. Love communicates to wisdom the perception of all its ends and purposes, that wisdom may work them out. For God’s love does nothing but by his wisdom, as his wisdom does nothing but from his love. Love and wisdom are distinct in God, but they cannot be separated, either in essence or in act. The Lord proceeds to say to the Jews that, besides shewing the Son the works which they saw him do, the Father would shew him still greater works, that they might marvel. The Lord did afterwards perform greater works than these, including that of his own resurrection; but the greater works which he promised were the divine and spiritual works, of which these were the types or the signs; first, the stupendous work of Ms own glorification, as completed in his resurrection, and, secondly, the regeneration or spiritual resurrection of man.
21 The works of which the Lord spoke he proceeds to mention. For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; ever so the Son quickeneth whom he will. It is hardly necessary to say that our Lord speaks of the resurrection of souls, not of bodies, of souls dead in trespasses and sins. Two distinct acts are mentioned; and of these, the first is, drawing men away from evil, which is spiritually to raise them from the dead; the second is, to lead them into good, which is to quicken them, or make them alive; for evil is spiritual death, and good is spiritual life. There is another truth contained in this declaration. In. the supreme sense, the Father raised up the dead, when the divinity raised up the humanity from the dead, at the Lord’s resurrection \ and by this finished work, the Son can now quicken whom he will. In this quickening work both Father and Son are still engaged \ for divine love works in the heart, which is the will, giving life to the affections, and divine wisdom works in the understanding, giving life to the thoughts; thus bestowing the new life of charity and faith.
22 Although the Father as well as the Son raiseth up the dead, yet the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son. Another proof have we here that the Father and Son are not separate persons, but distinct essentials of the divine nature. We cannot, consistently with the unity of God, think of one divine person judging, while another has no share in the work. His judging makes it evident, indeed, that Jesus is divine; for who but the omniscient can judge mankind’? But it equally shews, that judgment is the function of a peculiar essential of the deity, of which the Son is the name. All judgment is performed by divine truth or wisdom, not by divine good or love. Love judges no man. Love is never absent from divine judgment, for all judgment is tempered with mercy; but truth is that which judges; truth it is which discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart, and is sharper than a two-edged sword, to separate even to the dividing asunder of the joints and marrows. But the Lord’s work of judgment includes the whole work of redemption. It relates especially to the separation of the good and the evil, and the adjustment of the balance between heaven and hell, and the consequent restoration of freedom to the human will, so as to enable man to choose between them. It is only necessary to add that judgment is a work effected in every regenerate mind, and consists in discerning and separating evil from good, and falsehood from truth. This act is not done by the judge alone. He judges us when we, by his truth, judge ourselves. Thus judgment is not a sentence pronounced upon us, but a work of decision and separation effected in us, a separation between good and evil, truth and error.
23 And now comes the purpose of this judgment, which is, That all men should honour the Son even as they honour the Father. Equal honour implies equal dignity, and equal dignity implies equal divinity. Supposing the Father and the Son to be two distinct persons, but equal as to divinity, how would it be possible to honour one more or less than another ? In honouring one, we should honour the other, for the honour we render to God, if it be true honour, is not, properly speaking, rendered to his person, but to his nature, thus to his attributes and character. But when we understand the Father and the Son to be the Lord’s Divinity and Humanity, and his Love and Wisdom, we can see how it is possible to honour one more and another less, and how necessary it is to honour the Son as we honour the Father. The Lord’s humanity is to be honoured with the honour due to his divinity.
Jesus is to be honoured as Jehovah; God is to be worshipped in Jesus Christ; the Creator in the Redeemer. It is only in his humanity that God can be worshipped and honoured. There is no God out of Christ. ” I am in the Father and the Father in me.” By glorification the divine became human, and the human divine. All judgment is exercised by the humanity—the Word made flesh, and divine honour is to be rendered to him. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him. The human came forth from the Divine, and is the Divine made accessible to man. Those who approach and worship the Divine out of or without the Human, are they who climb up another than the true way to God and heaven.
24. The Lord still further presses this great truth on the attention of his hearers. Verily, verily, I say unto you. He that heareth my word and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. To hear the word of Jesus is to receive his truth into the heart; thence conies true and living faith j for belief in the Father is belief in which the Father is—faith grounded in love. This is the faith that saves, for it has everlasting life or heavenly goodness in it, and is opposed to evil as the cause of condemnation. This state of goodness has been acquired by overcoming and renouncing evil, and such a one has passed from death unto life.
25 The blessed effect of the Lord’s redemption in giving life is now described. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. The spiritually dead are here evidently meant, and spiritual life is that which they were about to receive. It does not relate to a universal resurrection, for not all, but they only that hear the Lord’s voice shall live, that is, those who receive the Lord’s truth in love and faith shall have eternal life. This raising of the dead was, in the historical sense, the general revival which was to be the result of the Lord’s work of redemption. Humanity was, by the power of the Lord’s resurrection, to rise from the state of spiritual death in which it had for long ages been lying. But this is only part of a restoration which is spoken of further on, where it will be more fully considered.
26 27 And here again a reason, but a different one from the former, is given. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself. This is a remarkable declaration. Life in himself is underived and independent life. But how could such life be given and received ? Not certainly by one person and to another. Nor could it be given by an infinite to a finite nature. Had the humanity of Jesus been the same as that of another man, he could not have received, because he could not have contained, infinite life. The infinite capacity of the humanity was a consequence of its having been begotten by the infinite. The human body can fully receive the life of the human soul, because both are finite. The Humanity of the Lord could fully receive the life of his Divinity, because by birth it was inwardly, and by glorification it was made fully, divine. And when the Father gave his life to the Son, he gave himself also. The divine essence is indivisible. It could only have been given in such a way as to preserve its unity. The divine life could only be given by the Father to the Son, and received by the Son from the Father, as the soul communicates its life to the body, and as the body receives life from the soul. Life is not transferred from the one to the other. It is as much the property of the soul, after the body is quickened by it, as it was before; the body lives by virtue of its connection with the soul. In man’s case the life both of soul and body is finite. With the Lord, life was infinite. When this life was communicated to the humanity, in the humanity it was infinite also. ” God gave not the Spirit by measure unto him.” There can be no clearer evidence of the divinity of the Lord’s humanity than this. Nor is there any difficulty in understanding so high a subject with sufficient clearness to form the ground of a reasonable faith, for we have its finite image in ourselves. The power to execute judgment is derived from this life. In bringing them together the Lord shows their connection; for life is of love, and judgment is of truth. When Jesus declares that the Father had given him life and power to execute judgment also, he teaches us that his humanity received from his divinity both infinite love and infinite wisdom, and thus the power of giving both life to the human will and faith to the human understanding.
28, 29. A further effect of his redeeming work is described. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in their graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation. This does not refer to a resurrection of the material bodies of mankind at the end of the world, but to a resurrection of the spiritual bodies of men at the end of the Church. In the internal historical sense, these words, and those in the twenty-fifth verse, relate to the general judgment in the spiritual world, which the Lord performed after his resurrection. This judgment was performed on all who had died during the dispensation which preceded the Lord’s Advent, and who were reserved in the world of spirits, or intermediate state, till the time of decision. These are meant by the dead and by those in the graves to whom, the Lord’s voice was to be addressed. These could hear the voice of the Lord, and rise up and come forth ; but can the same be said of the scattered dust of earthly tabernacles? Those who were to come forth from their graves, as mentioned here, are the same as the saints that slept, who arose and came out of their opened graves after the Lord’s resurrection (Matt. xxvii.). That was a transaction which took place in the spiritual world, where all the dead are, and where all judgment takes place. It is true that not only the dead, but the buried are spoken of. But why should this distinction be made 1 It is considered by some that the dead spoken of at verse 25 mean the spiritually dead, while those here mentioned as being in their graves mean the naturally dead. This is hardly consistent. The dead and the buried are but two classes of the same persons, in the same place ; the persons being those who had died on earth, and the place being the spiritual world, where all the dead are raised, and where all assemble for judgment. The grave is frequently mentioned in Scripture in a figurative sense, to describe the state of those who are in bondage and wait for deliverance. Such are the dead and the buried of whom the Lord speaks in the present instance. The dead are those who were of a more spiritual character, while those in the grave are as men in a more natural or sensual state. Both classes consisted of good and bad ; for the salvation of both is spoken of as partial ; but a larger proportion was saved of the first than the second. That the first were of a more spiritual character than the second, appears also from the circumstance that the Lord, when he speaks of addressing the first, calls himself the Son of God, but in respect to the last he calls himself the Son of Man. And these names are expressive of the Lord’s spiritual and natural truth, the voice of the Son of God being the utterance and operation of truth, such as it is in the spiritual sense of the word, and the voice of the Son of Man. being the utterance and operation of truth, such as it is in the literal sense. These two statements respecting those who are dead and those who are in their graves have also reference, like every part of the Word, to the regeneration of man, and to the regeneration of every man in particular. The first relates to the regeneration of the internal, the second to that of the external. In this application, those to whom the voice is addressed are not persons but principles, the thoughts and affections of the mind. The thoughts and affections of the internal man, which receive the Lord’s truth and love, are those who hear the voice of the Son of God and live ; and those of the external man which receive His truth and bring it forth into act, are they who hear the voice of the Son of Man and come forth unto the resurrection o( life; while those who do not bring forth the Lord’s truth into act are they who come forth unto the resurrection of condemnation. More interiorly and strictly understood, those to whom the Lord’s voice is addressed are the truths that have been received by men from the written Word. When man is about to be regenerated, the Lord calls forth these truths, in order to inspire them with the life of love. Such as admit love are made alive, and are raised up; but such as do not admit love remain dead, and are cast out. But truths are not only vivified, they are arranged, and brought into a harmonious relation to each other, so as to be in heavenly order. This arrangement of truths is included in judgment. There is thus a double gift and a double work of which the Lord speaks, both with reference to himself and his Church—the gift of life and the gift of judgment which he had received from the Father, his work of vivifying and judging the people.
30. The distinction which the Lord makes in the words we have just considered, he now states in another way. I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I doeth not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. What the Lord here says again, can only be understood when the Father and Son are seen to be the human and the divine nature, the divine truth, and the divine good. The human could do nothing of itself without the divine, as the body can do nothing of itself without the soul : truth can do nothing of itself without good, as the understanding can do nothing of itself without the will. When Jesus says, ” As I hear, I judge,” can we understand him to speak of hearing and judging in the ordinary sense? There is a difference between this and a former declaration, which deserves our attention. At verse 19, Jesus says, ” The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do:” here he says that he judges as he hears. Seeing has more relation to the understanding, hearing to the will; in respect to the Lord, seeing relates to his wisdom, hearing to his love. Now, doing is an act of the will, judging is an act of the understanding. But that the will may act rightly, it must be guided by the understanding, or, that love may act rightly, it must be guided by wisdom; therefore Jesus acts as he sees the Father act. On the other hand, that wisdom may judge justly, it must be influenced by love; therefore the Lord Jesus judges as he hears, that is, hears the Father. The Lord, for this reason, proceeds to say, ” My judgment is just, because I seek not mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” The divine will is the divine love; and wisdom judges justly, because it judges from love. Truth or intellect is indeed that which judges, but truth or intellect alone is the unjust judge. Justice belongs to love and goodness; and unless this enters into and presides over judgment, there can be no just decision. The Lord several times speaks of his own will as distinct from, and even opposed to, the Father’s will. So far as his human nature was unglorified, its will was opposed to the will of his divine nature. But, even, during this state, the human will always submitted itself to the divine. “Not my will but thine be done,” was the language of the Saviour. But this was the case also with the Lord, considered as divine Truth. He came not to do as Truth willed, but as Good willed. Truth, too, can do nothing without Good; nor judge justly alone. Truth condemns all men to hell, good raises all men to heaven. It is on this ground that the Lord came not to do his own will, but the will of him that sent him. He came not to condemn, but to save, not to judge, but to have mercy. He came not to do. his own will, but the will of the Father. The hereditary will of his maternal humanity was of the same nature as the natural will of another man; and this will must have submitted itself to the will of the Father, since without this there could be no salvation.
31, 32. Not only is truth alone incapable of judging justly, but it is incapable of testifying truly. It cannot by itself witness of itself; which our Lord declared when he said, If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. We have had occasion to speak of this subject, and have remarked, that truth is its own witness, and carries its own testimony with it. There are, however, two witnesses to all truth, the intellectual and the moral. Intellectual testimony is that which the truth bears to itself, moral testimony is that which good bears to the truth. Intellectual testimony appeals to the understanding, moral testimony appeals to the heart. The first is the witness of the Son, the second is the witness of the Father ; the first is the witness of truth, the second is the witness of love. Therefore, said our Lord, There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true.
33-35. The Lord says to the Jews, Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth. But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved. He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. John testified of Jesus, that being from above, he was above all. Eminent as John was, Jesus did not rest his claim upon John’s testimony. But how is this to be understood with respect to the Word, which John represented ? The Word, like the Lord, is sometimes-spoken of not as it is in itself, but as it is, and is understood, in the minds of men. Not the Word, but the human conception of what it reveals and testifies, is that which the Lord here speaks of. Therefore, he says, ” I receive not testimony from man.” What is of man, or what is derived from man’s own intelligence, contributes nothing to the testimony of the truth. Only that which is divine can testify of the Divine. What is merely human, in our conception of Truth divine, lends no support to the Lord’s kingdom within us. The Lord does not therefore mean that all human testimony respecting him is to be rejected ; he means that what is divine carries its own testimony with it, and that man, from himself, can add nothing to its fulness and perfection. This may be said of the letter of the Word, which John specifically represented. Not the letter, but the spirit in the letter, is the living and convincing witness of the truth. And as the Lord himself is that spirit, he is the living and true witness. The written word teaches the truth, the incarnate word convinces of the truth. Knowledge comes by an external way, conviction by an internal. ” It is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh proflteth nothing.” The Jews themselves were witnesses to the truth of this. They sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth; yet these very persons were now seeking to kill Jesus, because he had healed a man on the Sabbath-day, and now said that God was his Father. While the Lord reproved the Jews because they thus rejected the testimony of John, he told them these things respecting himself, that they might believe?. None can be forced to believe, but the means of belief, both by the teaching of the Word and the influence of the Spirit, are mercifully provided. The Word is ever teaching, the Spirit is ever striving; but where the heart is hardened by hypocrisy or sin, even these may fail to convince. Early and partial impressions may be made, only to be followed by a more complete rejection and bitter hatred of the truth. So the Lord says to the Jews, ” John was a burning and a shining light;” for both the love and the truth of God are revealed in the Word, and were shown by John—although we are here reminded that, compared with him who is the light of the world, John was but a lamp, not the author of light, but the instrument, by whom it was revealed. The Jews were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. But as the seed sown in stony ground, where there is not much deepness of earth, suddenly springs up and as suddenly dies away; even so, many who rejoiced in John’s light, were now desirous to as manifested in the person of Jesus. And thus it is spiritually with those who, like them, love themselves and the world as the supreme and only good of life.
36 But the Lord said, I have greater witness than that of John : for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me that the Father hath sent me. The Lord justly appealed to his works, in evidence of his having proceeded from the Father, and of being himself the Father, clothed in human nature; for, as he declared, ” the. Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.” The mighty works which the Lord performed were the manifestations, and therefore the evidences, of his eternal power and Godhead. But there are works of which these were but the symbols, works of which the soul is the subject, and salvation the fruit. And these are evidences of the power of the Father in the Son, or of divine love being manifested and operative in divine truth. And these works, by producing new life in the soul, carry their own internal evidence with them; for new life is the ground of new and saving faith.
37 Besides the evidence of the works performed from the Father, the Father himself hath borne witness of Jesus. This is supposed to refer to the Father’s testimony at the Lord’s baptism. If so, it is singular that the Lord should add; Ye have neither heard his voice at any time nor seen his shape. This has been felt to be a difficult passage. It has been supposed to mean that the Jews had not hearkened to and obeyed the voice of God, as uttered in the Scriptures. But this is inconsistent with the next part of the statement, that they had not seen his shape. The voice and the shape are connected as of like nature. The Lord’s words are no doubt to be understood like similar records in the Old Testament. There we read of their seeing God face to face, and yet are told that no one can see God and live. Israel saw God, but they saw him, not as he is in himself, but as he made himself visible to them in the person of an angel, who is hence called the angel of his presence. So with the voice of God; it came, and must have come, to men, through a finite medium. The grand medium through which the Father was seen and heard was the Son— the humanity he assumed. Those who saw and heard him saw and heard the Father. No man hath seen God at any time: the only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” Spiritually understood the Lord’s words contain a spiritual lesson. The divine love never comes or can come directly to the perceptions of the human mind; it can only reach our faculties in and through the divine truth; this alone gives it the voice and shape that make it visible to men. Jesus is at, once the form and the voice of God. The Lord speaks of his works being those which the Father had given him to finish. When Jesus said, ” The Father worketh hitherto and I work,” he intimated that the Incarnation was for the purpose of finishing divine works, which had been begun before the manifestation of God in the flesh. The Lord can never have been but a Saviour and Redeemer, as he is frequently called in the Old Testament, in reference to the people, then and previously existing. The works which the Lord performed in the flesh, were the completion of works, which had been in progress since the fall of man. The Word which was then made flesh had been not only the creative, but the enlightening power of the Deity. Many, who had died in the faith, were in the world of spirits, as prisoners of hope, waiting for the finishing of that work by which they had been saved, that they might obtain deliverance, through the power of the Lord’s resurrection, and ascend with him, at his ascension into heaven.
38 The Lord states to the Jews the real cause of their conduct towards him—Ye have not his word abiding in you. They had not the inward witness, therefore whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. How necessary to have the word of the Father abiding in us, the living word dwelling in our hearts ! Without this there can be no living faith in the truth which is ever proceeding from his love to bring us to himself. ” No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him:” no one comes believingly to the truth of God, unless he is drawn to it by the love of God.
39-42. How is this love to be obtained? how is the word of the Father to be acquired1? We cannot answer these questions till we know the meaning of the words which the Lord now addresses to the Jews. We are accustomed to understand the Lord’s words as a command when he says, Search the Scriptures. This is not considered by the best critics as the necessary or proper meaning. It is understood to be a statement that the Jews did search the Scriptures, and yet could not or would not see the testimony of Jesus in them. It is considered that the passage should be read thus : Ye search the Scriptures, and in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. I receive not honour from men. But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. This want of the love of God in their hearts was the cause of their rejection of Jesus as the Messiah, the Truth of Love. So it is with others who search the Scriptures, and do not find a Saviour in them. Although they think they have in the sacred writings eternal life, yet unless they bring a loving heart to the investigation, their minds will receive no light on the subject which concerns their salvation and eternal life. The Scriptures testify of Jesus. The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy; and in the large sense all Scripture is prophetic of him, for he is the subject of its inmost sense. But we do not here speak so much of the mere knowledge of the Lord. Christians who have found the personal Christ, may yet search and yet not find the living and saving Christ. It is indeed most necessary and useful to search the Scriptures, for what can we know of the Lord without them *? But we may search with no more real success than the Jews, if we are liable to the same terrible accusation: ” But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you.” This is the cause of our ” ever searching and never coming to the saving knowledge of the truth.”
43 When such is the state of the heart, it rejects the true Christ and accepts the false. I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. It is evident from this that ” name ” has a larger and deeper signification than we are accustomed to give it. The name of a person in authority is often, indeed, used to express the authority which belongs to his office; and one who comes and speaks in his name, is one who, for the time, is invested with his authority. Viewed in this light, Jesus may be considered as having come invested with the authority of his Father. The prophets thus came in the name of God. Was Jesus only a prophet ? He was the Son of God. As such he was God. And being God, he was God alone; for God is one. But there is a more certain way to this conclusion, than through the forms of school logic. Truth is light, and enables the mind to see; and love is heat, and gives the heart to feel. The Father and the Son are the divine love and the divine wisdom. In Jesus, divine wisdom came with the authority and power of divine love. But men did not receive him. Why 1 Because they had in them and among them none of that love which disposes the mind to receive wisdom. In Scripture, a name means more than the authority of the person to whom it belongs; it means his spirit and power, his nature and character. Jesus came in his Father’s name, because he came as the divine wisdom of divine love. He came to exhibit the divine character before men. His words of wisdom were filled with the spirit of love; his works of power with the spirit of benevolence. His Father’s name, the spirit of love, was manifest in all his teaching, and in his whole life. His life was evidently one of pure disinterestedness. The men of that age no doubt praised such qualities. Why then did they’ not gather around one who exhibited them in such perfection 1 Because they had an abstract admiration for such qualities, but had no practical sympathy with them. There was no similarity of mind, no conformity of character, between them and Jesus. His Father was not their Father. Coming in his Father’s name, they did not receive him. If another shall come in his own name, him will they receive. One comes in his own name, who comes not in the love of God, but in the love of himself. As those receive the teaching of divine love who are influenced by that love, those receive the teaching of human love, which is self-love, who are influenced by it. These come in a character with which they can sympathize, and whose objects they can approve. So has it ever been with fallen man, and so will it be while men are corrupt. ” All people will walk every one in the name of his god” (Micah iv. 4). Whatever men worship they will follow. If the object of their idolatry be self, the world, or the llesh, they will listen, as to an oracle, to whoever will preach their gospel. Nor is it necessary that these gods should be preached openly. Among nominal Christians, as among the Jews, teachers may come in their own name, even when they claim to come in the name of Christ. Bat doctrines are teachers, as well as men; and these may indirectly inculcate the spirit of earthly instead of heavenly love and goodness.
44 The Lord comes to the root of their rejection of him. How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only ? Here the moral ground of unbelief is said to be self-exaltation. Self-exaltation, is the opposite of humility ; and humility is the soil in which every Christian grace, and therefore the grace of faith, is implanted and grows. Men are not blamed ibr receiving honour one of another, but for receiving it to the exclusion of that which comes from God only. Eeligioii requires that we render honour to whom honour is due. Wise men render and receive honour as a means to a useful end; unwise men, as an end, and one which resides in themselves. God is the author of all true honour. The honour that comes from God is the honour of virtue and sincerity, received through the approval of a good conscience. This is the only honour that is to be desired here, or that will avail us hereafter. And the only true honour that we can render to, or receive from each other, is honour for what is of God in us; so that the Lord is in truth the object as well as the author of all true honour.
45, 46. Severe as are the Lord’s judgments on. the Jewish persecutors, yet the tenderness of his love is not less than the severity of his truth. Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. O divine forbearance and forgiveness! How true the inspired words : ” If thou shouldest mark iniquity, who, 0 Lord, should stand?” Yet it does not follow, that the wicked can altogether escape. When the Lord proclaimed himself merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abundant in goodness and truth, he yet declared that he would by no means clear the guilty. Guilt cannot escape all penalty; even infinite mercy cannot separate guilt and punishment. Although the Lord would not accuse his enemies, but would pray for them, as he did upon the cross, still he gave them the solemn warning, There is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. The Lord gives them the reason for this : Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. They professed to be the disciples of Moses, and trusted in him, yet did not believe the greatest message he had delivered to them— the coming of a prophet like unto himself, whom they were to hear. Moses, therefore, would be their accuser. Here we learn a law of judgment, which includes all. We are judged by what we know, and especially by what we believe. Our condemnation arises from not believing what we know/ or not doing what we believe. Our witness is within us, either for justification or condemnation. Moses is a witness for Christ, and his testimony will be against the Jew who refuses to acknowledge the Saviour. It is, therefore, because the Jews do not believe Moses, that they do not believe Christ.
47 The Lord ends his discourse to the Jews with this decisive conclusion : But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words ? How indeed 1 If they believed not the prediction, how could they believe its fulfilment ? And here we find what belief really is. The Jews believed in Moses as their prophet, their lawgiver; but they believed in him after their own fashion. They really believed not in the writings of Moses, but in their own interpretations of them. And they so construed them, that they made the very commandments, which those writings contained, of none effect by their traditions. And, as a consequence, they rejected him who was the Divine Love itself in person. As every truth is in harmony with every other, so, eminently, must the truths of the Old and New Testaments—the writings of Moses and the words of Christ—harmonize together. He, therefore, who believes or denies the one, cannot but believe or deny the other. ” If ye believe not his writings, how can ye believe my words ?”
Author: William Bruce –1870
Pictures: James Tissot—-Courtesy of the Brooklyn museum