<< John IX: Spiritual Meaning and Commentary >>
1 We have remarked in speaking of the last verse of the preceding chapter, that, in the internal historical sense, the Lord’s going out of the temple through the multitude, represents his departure from, the Jewish church. His corning to the Gentiles, and his reception by them when rejected by the Jews, are described representatively by what is now related of his connection with the man, the history of whose case occupies the. whole of this chapter. The narrative reads as if the Lord’s coming upon this man had been accidental. Passing by he saw a blind man, which had been blind from his birth. Passing by means presence and influx. The Lord’s seeing this man does not mean that he perceived for the first time the presence, in that place, of this distressed object; for he who knew all things, knew who was there before he came to him. When it is said that the Lord sees any one, the spiritual meaning is, that the person sees him, that is, that the influx of the Lord’s truth into the mind is so far received into the understanding as to make man, not the object but the subject of the Lord’s truth. The Lord sees men spiritually, especially savingly, through his light shining in them. The man whom the Lord then saw had been blind from his birth. This is exceedingly expressive when understood in reference to the Gentiles. They had never seen the truth, not having possessed the Word, as an immediate revelation from God; though they possessed some knowledge of divine things by tradition, and by indirect information from Scripture through the Jews. Blindness in the simplest sense is the symbol of ignorance, and this is especially meant by blindness from birth. This was the blindness of the Gentiles. They were in the blindness of ignorance. This is their condition, so often spoken of in the prophets; and the Lord’s communicating to them, at his coming, the light of his truth, and opening their understandings to receive it, are described prophetically by his opening the blind eyes, and giving light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. This blessed work of mercy was not, indeed, confined to the people who received sight and light at his coming. It is applicable to all. men individually who are in similar states. Therefore, the present relation is descriptive of the state of all who are in ignorance of the truth? and who are in the way of the Lord’s providence, and ready to accept his saving grace.
2 When, we may suppose, the Lord stopped to regard this object, the disciples inquired of him, Who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind ? We need not dwell on the well- known opinion then prevalent among the Jews, that pre-existent souls were incarcerated in diseased bodies, as a punishment for sin. We may consider the question as expressive of a doubt or difficulty that is often felt, and sometimes expressed, about the Gentiles and those in Gentile states. For what fault of theirs, of their parents and progenitors, are nations and individuals born under such circumstances, that they live in ignorance of the truth ? The Bible is known but to a comparatively, small portion of the inhabitants of the globe; and many who live where it is recognised as the teacher of truth, know little of its teaching. These are solemn questions which have disturbed the minds of conscientious ” disciples,” and may be reverently proposed to him whom they are taught to acknowledge as Rabbi, as a teacher & me from God. Let us, as humble disciples, listen to the answer of him who spake as never man spake.
3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. The Lord did not teach that the man or his parents were sinless, or that disease did not owe its origin to sin; but that the man’s particular affliction was not the effect of his own or his parents’ particular sinfulness. The Lord had taught the same thing regarding the Jews and the Gentiles. Not for their worth were the Israelites chosen as the visible church; not for their unworthiness were the Gentiles excluded, for the Israelites were a stiff-necked people, and were no better than the nations around them. The Lord’s providence is regulated by the principle of final results. Nations are born blind that the work of God may be made manifest in them. The darkness in which the nations are allowed to remain is a wise permission for a wise and beneficent end. The light of the gospel has been withheld, because they were not in a condition to profit by it. But the time will come when the work of God shall be made manifest in them; and very probably those nations that have so long sat in darkness, will become more eminent subjects of the Lord’s saving operations than the visible church, through whose instrumentality the knowledge of the Scriptures has been propagated through all regions. To consider this subject individually, every one is now born in ignorance, which is mental blindness. And every one remains blind, however much he knows even of spiritual things, till Jesus opens the eyes of his understanding, that he may understand the Scriptures. It is not knowledge but faith that opens the spiritual understanding, and gives us to see light in the Lord’s light.
4 The works of God, which were to be made manifest in restoring the blind man to sight, must be wrought in the day. I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day; the night cometh, when no man can work. The general meaning of this, in reference to the Lord, is no doubt similar to that of the Lord’s exhortation to men : ” work while it is day.” Probationary work can only be done during the probationary day. The Lord had a work to perform, not for his own salvation, but for that of his creatures. But the day of which our Lord spoke had a more extensive meaning. It had also reference to that day which was then rapidly passing away, the day of the Jewish church, which, had it been allowed to close in night before the Lord’s advent, could never have been restored. It was necessary that while this day lasted the Lord should work the works of him that sent him; nor had the Lord more than ” finished” his divine work before ” there was darkness over all the land;” and only with his resurrection was there the dawn of a new day of hope and light for the human race.
5 When the Lord added, As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world, he could not mean that his departure, as to the body, would leave the world in darkness; for the light of his Spirit and of his truth shone after his ascension with greater effulgence than before it. The Lord is in the world when he is acknowledged in it. In the purely spiritual sense, his presence in the rational mind, by the practice of his truth, makes him its guide and instructor. And it is this which prepares the way for the opening of the understanding, which now comes to be treated of.
6 When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made day of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. Why did he, who so often performed such wonderful cures with a word, now proceed so indirectly, and with such simple means, to restore this man to sight 1 Could there be any other reason than that all his acts were symbolized ? It is because this blindness was peculiar that he used peculiar means. This man represents, we have said, those who have never been instructed in the truth, such as the Gentiles. They are, therefore, such as have never had their rational faculty cultivated by instruction in the doctrines of the church; and being in an external or sensual state, they require the truth brought down to their sensual apprehension. This bringing down of the Lord’s truth to the level of their senses, or their merely sensual apprehension, is signified by the Lord spitting on the ground, the ground signifying the natural mind itself, as to its faculty of reception; and the union of the Lord’s truth with natural or- sensuous good there, is meant by his making clay of the spittle. This was spread upon the eyes of the blind man, to represent further, that simple truth united to simple good becomes instrumental in opening the understanding, being applied during the exercise of faith, by the Lord, as the author of faith.
7. A further means is, however, required, which is now described. The Lord said to him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing. The pool of Siloam was a type of the Word, and especially the Word as to its literal sense; and washing in its waters signifies purification by its truths. The name of the pool signifies Sent, a name applied to the Lord himself. Sent is expressive of truth as an emanation from goodness, and therefore of truth in which there is goodness, for sender and sent are one, like a fountain and its stream. The man was therefore commanded to go, because going signifies progression in holiness, or living in obedience to the Lord’s commands. Having gone and washed, he came seeing. His eyes were opened to “see the light of this world.” What a blessed change. ‘Not less blessed is that change which the willing and obedient experience when they have come under the influence of the blessed Saviour, and have submitted to his wonder-working power, and followed his divine directions, going and washing in the pool of Siloam. Those who go blind come seeing.
8 In this and the following verses to the twelfth, we have an account of the impression which this miracle had upon the man’s neighbours. When the man is considered as representing the church among the Gentiles, his neighbours denote those who are in a semi-Gentile state, and who are connected with the Gentiles on the one hand, and with the professing church on the other. Considered as representing those who are in a state of ignorance of the truth, and whose minds are little elevated above the senses, his neighbours denote those who are in natural good, for good is the neighbour of truth. We read, however, of his neighbours and they who beforetime had seen him that he was blind, by which two classes of persons are described, those who regard the “blind “from the will and from the understanding. They said, Is not this he that sat and begged ? This condition, like the man’s blindness, is peculiarly expressive of the condition of the Gentiles, in relation to those who form the church. A beggar is one who craves from others what he is unable to provide for himself. So the Gentiles were represented by the beggar who was laid at the rich man’s gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs that fell from his table; and the elevation of the Gentiles to the privileges of church membership is described by the Lord lifting up the beggar from the dunghill to set him among princes (1 Sam. ii. 8). Begging is expressive at once of destitution and a desire to be relieved, the desire to receive of the truths of the church being one of the qualities which prepared the Gentiles for being the recipients of the principles of the gospel dispensation, when the Lord came. So is their state described by sitting and begging : just as it is by sitting in darkness, which is another way of expressing blindness, for though the cause is different, the effect is the same. Sitting relates to the state of the will, and begging to the state of the understanding. But there is a change of which we may not only be the witnesses but the subjects. We are all born blind. Ignorance is our hereditary state. This is our case both naturally and spiritually. Nor does spiritual sight come by simple knowledge, but by faith in what it teaches, especially by faith in him who is its highest object. He it is who, while we are in our earthly and sensual state, makes and applies that eye salve which, though it does not open our understanding, gives it the means and prepares it for being opened. This the Lord does, especially during early life, when we are in a great measure passive. When we become active, and cooperate with him, by obeying his commands, and go to the Word as to the fountain of living waters, and apply its truths for the purposes of regulating our life, then do we acquire sight, that is, an enlightened faith in the truths of his Word. This new state differs much from the old. It opens in us a new sense, and reveals to us a new world.
9 His neighbours and they who had seen the man blind having asked if this were not he that begged, Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he. The question here is between identity and likeness. Those who recognised in the man restored to sight the same man they had known as a blind beggar, are they who can trace the progress of reformation from its beginning, and see the difference of the two states and the identity of the subject of them; while those who could only recognise a likeness, are they who cannot trace the progress of reformation, nor see through the two states the same groundwork that divine mercy has operated upon. But the man himself knew what others regarded with doubt, which was rather the doubt of wonder than of scepticism. The knowledge of what we have been and what we are, impresses the mind with a sense of the divine goodness and power, in having brought us out of darkness into light. “I who now see am he that was blind” is an acknowledgment that comprehends in it many holy and happy sentiments.
10 Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened ? It is remarkable that we seldom see or hear of any striking phenomenon without desiring to know its cause; even the common accidents of life almost always suggest the inquiry, How did it happen? It is because God has implanted in our nature a rational faculty, which is intended to lead us to trace everything through its proximate to its first cause. The present inquiry is, How were thine eyes opened? And this is capable of more than one answer. In his case there were both the proximate and the first cause. The proximate cause was the water of Siloam: the first cause was the Lord Jesus. So is there in every event of life, rational and spiritual. And the inquiry is always a necessary and may be made a useful one, How were thine eyes opened? whence this great mercy?
11 The man enumerated the secondary causes but did not forget the first. A man named Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight. He regarded Jesus only as a man; but this spiritually is not inconsistent with the acknowledgment of Jesus as a Divine Man. And indeed this is a form of expression admitted into the Word, because it can be filled with the true idea respecting the Lord, that he is Man in the supreme sense and in a super-eminent degree, he being the Divine Man, the Author and the Pattern of all that makes us truly human. The other particulars have already been considered. It is only requisite to state, that when a thing is repeated, as having been done as directed, it is expressive of effect and confirmation.
12 The man having answered the question, Who opened thine eyes: is now asked, Where is he ? The question Who ? is an inquiry respecting one’s nature, and the question Where? is an inquiry respecting one’s state.
13 They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind. We here enter on a new phase of the history of this case, and one that extends to nearly the end of the chapter. The Pharisees constituted that extreme Jewish element in the church, which was concentrated in the person of Judas. It was the opposite of Jesus—the evil united with cunning and deceit, which is the opposite of the good united with wisdom and sincerity. The man whom Jesus had cured they brought to the Pharisees. Do not our own faculties sometimes lead us into the presence of the enemies of our Saviour and benefactor, to try us and to tempt us, and see whether we will not prove faithless to him, by denying him the merit that belongs to him, as the opener of our understandings to behold the light of truth ? We may read, therefore, in this part of the narrative an account of what has been or will be our own experience.
14 And it was the sabbath-day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. This forms the ground of the accusation against Jesus. It is remarkable that our Lord, knowing the prejudice of the Jews in general and of the Pharisees in particular in favour of a rigid ceremonial observance of the Sabbath, should yet perform so many of his miracles on that day. Our Lord’s conduct shews this remarkable fact, that he was tender to such of their prejudices as leaned to virtue’s side, but showed no respect for those that were opposed to righteousness and mercy. The conflict here, as in some other cases, is between the essential and the formal in religion. In a true church these make one. In a corrupt church they often come into conflict-The church is corrupt, and even consummated, when it has a holy external without a corresponding internal, when it has the form of godliness without the power. When the church is in this state, its holy external is opposed to true inward holiness; for the holy outside covers and conceals an internal full of all uncleanness. If anything of true essential holiness be introduced into the church when in this state, it is sure to meet with determined opposition, just as the Lord’s works of holiness and mercy performed on the Sabbath, were met with hatred by those who held that day in outward veneration. The very sanctity in which they held it became an obstruction to its being sanctified by works of divine mercy. This opposition and conflict take place in our own minds, when divine mercy has introduced by regeneration a principle of vital holiness into the outward sanctity of our formal religion. Then it is that the Pharisee in our heart rises up against Jesus and his divine work, even when he has opened the eyes of our understanding. This introduction of a new and vital principle of holiness into the mind is the Lord’s curing the blind on the Sabbath-day. . .
15. The Pharisaic principle in the heart creates doubts in the understanding. Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. The mind is appealed to from the negative side, to question the truth of the divine origin of its enlightenment. But this temptation is met with the testimony of experience: He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see. Are not the facts sufficient to set the question at rest?
16 But if the fact cannot be denied, the character of him who performed the work may be called in question. Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath-day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles ? And there was a division among them. Singularly clear is the distinction between the true and the formal member of the church. The formalist entirely overlooks the beneficence of the miracle, and condemns it as sinful because performed on the Sabbath day.; the true man justly regards the miracle itself as a convincing proof that he who performed it could not be a sinner. This division among the Pharisees suggests a practical reflection. So far as we regard the Lord and his works from the apparent truths of the Word, we have an unworthy view of both; it is only as we regard them from its genuine truths that we see them in their true character. There is often a division in our own minds even on the greatest questions. When by the grace of God there is a division in the council of our own mind, the false and the evil of the self-hood do not hold undisputed way, but are counterbalanced and held in check by something of the good and true.
17, 18. Divided among themselves respecting the character of Jesus, the Pharisees appeal to the man himself, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes ? Possibly those on the negative side only wished to see whether he would confess Jesus to be the Christ or not, that they might retain or excommunicate him. And this was perhaps the reason that the man did not express his belief in Jesus as the Messiah, but only as a prophet. But the spiritual sense teaches another lesson. The Pharisees are those whom unbelief has blinded, the man represents those who through faith have come to see. The Lord is the author and the supreme Object of faith. Being so, he is the Rock on which the faithful build, and on which the unfaithful fall and are broken. The treatment which Jesus received at the hands of men was an exhibition of the treatment of his divine truth in all ages. Unbelievers try to extinguish faith in others. They neither believe in the Lord nor believe those who do. We see this manifested throughout in the conduct of the unbelieving Jews. The present is an instance. When the man declared that he regarded Jesus as a prophet, which, means the acknowledgment of his divine truth in doctrine, the Jews not only denied the truth of his opinion, but denied the fact of his having ever been blind. They did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and had received his sight. Does not the natural man still act in this way? He does not believe that man is naturally blind, and remains so till the Lord opens his eyes, but that he is naturally as able to understand spiritual as natural truth. The only reason, as he thinks, that he does not understand or believe them, is that they are neither deserving of study nor worthy of credit. It is but another phase of this negative state that some regard truth, not as an object of intelligent belief but of blind faith,—a faith that looks backwards to tradition and authority, not forward to reason and experience. The Jews would not believe that the man was born blind until they called his parents. The parents of the blind are the man’s hereditary nature, which in itself is in darkness respecting the things of heaven and eternal life.
19 The Jews asked his parents, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind ? how then doth he now see ? This questioning of the parents by the Jews is interrogating nature to testify respecting spirit —asking the natural man to explain how the spiritual man has become spiritual. Let us hear the reply.
20, 21. His parents answered them, and said. We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: but by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not; he is of age, ask him ; he shall speak for himself. The natural man knows his own offspring,” and can testify to its hereditary condition; but the means and power of its restoration he knows not. He knows, however, that the rational, when it has attained maturity and become independent of the natural, can testify of itself.
22, 23. These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews : for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. Therefore said his parents, He is of age, ask him. Thus the natural principle is prevented from uniting its testimany with that of the rational by evils that obtrude themselves into the natural mind, and threaten to separate acknowledged divine truth from the doctrine of the church—meant by the Jews putting out of the synagogue all who confessed Jesus to be the Christ.
24 These opposing evils in the natural mind apply themselves directly to the rational, with a view of falsifying its testimony, Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner. They did not ask him to give praise or glory to God for his restoration to sight, for they did not believe that he had been blind and been cured; they administered this form of words as a solemn injunction to him to confess that Jesus was, what they believed or affected to believe him to be, a sinner. They knew ” this man to be a sinner,” and they wanted to extort from the beggar a confession that would confirm this point, which they had settled in their own minds.
25 The man, in answer to this demand, placed his knowledge by the side of their assertion, leaving them to draw the conclusion. Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see. This was an excellent answer, and it teaches an excellent lesson. The experimental knowledge, that we have been brought out of darkness into marvellous light, is an unanswerable refutation of all objections against the power of working the miracle, or the reality of the miracle itself, of opening our eyes. Let my soul know this, and all the cavils of unbelievers are, so far as respects me practically, at an end; and this argument is equally efficacious against all such suggestions arising from unbelief in my own naturally depraved heart.
26 But there is still another ground of outward or in ward assault against the truth. The previous objection related to the power, there is another which relates to the means. They demand again, What did he to thee ? How opened he thine eyes ? This in itself was a natural inquiry. As already remarked, our rational nature prompts us to inquire into the causes of things. We are not content to know that a thing has been done or has happened; we wish to know how, and often ask the question at strangely unseasonable times, and when the information can be of no practical avail. But the Jews, besides having a sinister object in view, had asked the question before. They, like many other negative men, return to the attack on the very ground they had taken before, and lost. So, evil in our own hearts recurs again and again to the same point, in the hope of ultimate success.
27 The man answered their question, I have told you already, and ye did not hear. The former answer produced no conviction. Wherefore, would ye hear it again? And as if they could only be expected to ask an “already answered question, that they might reconsider their decision, he asks them in return, Will ye also be his disciples? “Ye did not hear.” How can those hear who have not ears to hear? This is the ground of just accusation. Evil has no ears for truth; and when it demands the explanation or reason again, the true answer is, Wherefore ? what is your purpose in asking ? Would you be his disciple? But the Jews here do not represent the openly wicked and unbelieving, for these have no concern about such questions ; they represent those unrighteous and narrow-minded professors, who see no further than their creed, and who would sacrifice truth and virtue at the shrine of sectarianism. Christ, as the truth, must conform to their notions and ends, not they to his principles and practice.
28 How ready are these blind worshippers of use and wont to fall back upon established forms and authority, and to banter those who adopt and adhere to anything that seems to encroach upon what has the mould of antiquity upon it. Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that they could not be disciples of Moses and enemies of him of whom Moses wrote. But we may be disciples of the letter of the Word, which is Moses, and yet be at enmity with its spirit, which is Christ. The letter killeth, unless held in connection with the spirit, which giveth life. ” Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Eom. x. 4). How can any one be a lover of the law who hates and denies the righteous one, who is the end of the law, and reviles those who believe in him ? To revile is to be in an affection opposed to whatever does not favour oneself. Under this vilifying of the truth in its disciple lurks the love of self, which is the enemy of love to him who is love itself.
29 The Jews give, it is true, a reason for their belief in Moses, and their unbelief in Jesus. We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this man, we know not from whence he is. They knew that God spake unto Moses, because many generations of their fathers had shown them the example. It is easy to believe in what others have believed, and what it has become the custom and an honour and advantage to believe. The case greatly changes when anything demands our faith that has none of these recommendations. But after all, it is a question how far disbelievers in the new truth are believers in the old. In this case, the new had always been contained in the old, and was now brought forth from it. ” For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me” (John v. 46). Besides, the Jews might have known that God had spoken to Jesus as well as to Moses. But the real test is internal. God must speak with Moses and with Christ in our own hearts and minds. And in us he may speak with Moses and not with Christ. For Moses, as natural truth, dwells in the natural mind, and Christ, as spiritual truth, dwells in the spiritual mind. And God, as the living and the true, can only speak to that which we possess and acknowledge. And how many acknowledge natural truth outwardly, who know not whence spiritual truth is ?
30 Yet how inconsistent is this conduct. Herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes. If the tree is known by its fruit, Jesus may be known by his works; and their origin may be known by their nature. The ” whence” is expressive of good as the origin of truth. That truth is derived from good we know by the beneficent results of its operation. Among these is the opening of the understanding. Christianity has opened the eyes of many nations; it has brought them out of spiritual and natural ignorance into the knowledge of heaven and the world, foi religion and science go hand in hand. And yet some, like the Jews, refuse to acknowledge whence it is.
31 The poor beggar seems to have known no better than that Jesus was a holy man, who had done this miracle by a divine power imparted to him. And on this simple ground he reasons justly. We know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. On the teaching of their own law, Jesus was a righteous man. ” If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me: but verily God hath heard me” (Ps. lxvi. 18). The work of Jesus declared that this was his ease. God had heard him. But the Jews would not hear. How strikingly does this show that belief and unbelief have their root in the heart. Here is a case where the understanding had all the evidence required to convince it, and yet the obdurate heart resisted faith in Jesus as the Saviour, or even as a man of God.
32 The work which the Lord had wrought was no ordinary one. Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. Great as this truth is literally, it is still more so spiritually. Man’s being born mentally and spiritually blind is a consequence of the fall/ Had man remained in his integrity, he would, like the inferior creatures, have been born into all knowledge which his nature and necessity required. Being now born blind, no one since the world began has ever been spiritually delivered from his blindness. The Lord Jesus was the first, and the only one, who opened the eyes of any of the sons of Adam who were born blind; as he was the only one who raised the spiritually dead to life. This poor man was typically the first-fruits of the Lord’s work of restoring sight to the spiritually blind. ~No power but his could do this great miracle.
33 The beggar continued, If this man were not of God, he could do nothing. A greater truth than this speaker understood lies concealed in his words. Unless Jesus had been divine as well as human, he could have done no work of restoration such as that symbolized by the work he performed on the blind man. He could have done nothing for the salvation of the human race, who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death.
34 To the unanswerable argument of the poor man, the Pharisees gave the reply of men who are unable to deny the truth, and yet are determined not to believe it. Thou wast altogether born in sins: and dost thou teach us ? And they cast him out. The accusation may be supposed to express the prevailing opinion, which even the disciples themselves as yet held, that the man’s blindness had been the result of the special sins of his parents, or of his own. The Pharisees judged of truth by the authority of the teacher. How much in all ages has this same spirit prevailed, and this same rule been followed by the timeserving in the church. And how much influence do the same spirit and rule exert over all of us. Passion, prejudice, and self-interest, more or less, warp our judgment. And too often do we resist the fact, the thought, the testimony, that comes against what we ourselves profess. The synagogue of our traditional faith and sectarian charity is often found too narrow for containing a new truth, even when it has shown its efficacy by opening the eyes of the blind.
35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God ? When we read of Jesus hearing what by his omniscience he previously knew, we are to understand it in reference to the Lord in us, indicating a perception from him in the mind which is in connection with him and subject to him. This perception is in the interior of the mind, and comes through the will, into which what is heard more directly enters. The Lord afterwards found the man he had cured, which implies that this perception found its object, and operated upon it so as to produce in, it a corresponding perception and reciprocal action. The Lord asks of the man, Dost thou believe on the Son of God ? Important question. The Lord is called the Son of man as to the Word, the Son of God as to the Divine Humanity. To acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God is to acknowledge the Lord’s humanity to be divine. Through belief in him as the Son of man, the Lord produces belief in him as the Son of God. This higher belief is the fruit of the regeneration which all lower means conspire to begin and carry forward. Belief in the Son of God is the rock on which the Lord builds his church, against which no power can prevail ; for a living faith in the Lord’s glorified humanity implies that humanity has been glorified in us.
36 To the Lord’s question, “Dost thou believe in the Son of God?” the man answered Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? The man had not before seen, and therefore did not know, his Benefactor. He had heard him by the hearing of the ear, but now his eyes saw him. In this we see the distinction between hearing and sight exemplified. Hearing, we have remarked, is a sense that communicates more directly with the will; sight with the understanding. Sight gives completeness and distinction to perception. A truth may be felt to be true, but it needs also to be seen to be true, before it comes under the full intuition or perception of the mind. So is it in respect to the Lord as an object of perception. We must not only hear his voice but see his shape. The beggar knew that a man called Jesus had opened his eyes; but he knew him not as the Son of God. That higher truth ho was now prepared to accept, and only required to bo directed to the Lord, to whom the title belonged. The principle of faith already existed in his mind, and was ready to be fixed on its true object, when declared and manifested to him.
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. Hearing and sight, which had succeeded each other, now met together. He who had said ” Go wash in the pool ol Siloam,” now stood before him as the Son of God—as Jehovah manifested in human nature, claiming belief as his Saviour.
38 How ready and earnest was his response. He said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him. But here we have to consider the spiritual origin of this acknowledgment. It is the offspring of experience. The soul knows its own plague and sorrow; and deliverance from its evils and its ignorance open the mind to the perception and the acknowledgment of its Deliverer and Saviour. And this leads to worship. The reverence paid on this occasion may not have had much of the character of spiritual worship : but it was enough to represent it. Those who receive from the Lord that much greater blessing, the opening the eyes of the spirit, and the ability to see the light of heavenly truth, are able and should be willing to oifer a correspondingly higher worship, the worship of love and faith, addressed to the Lord as God over all, and also to render him the worship of a loving heart in an obedient life.
39 The lesson which the Lord deduced from the two opposite manifestations of human character, in the relation which occupies the greater part of this chapter, is solemn and instructive. For judgment I am come into this world ; that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind. It is very evident that the Lord here refers solely to intellectual blindness and sight, showing that in his divine thought the blind man was a representative of the intellectually blind, and that the persecuting Jews were representatives of those who have intellectual sight, but abuse that divine gift. The Lord’s coming had both the purpose and the effect of leading the simple-minded into the truth, and hiding it from the wise and prudent. Those who see only from themselves see only for themselves; and the more they see, the more they pervert the truth to their own aggrandisement and exaltation. Those, on the other hand, who see not, but desire to see, that they may do, are led of the Lord, and follow him. Judgment is one of the divine works connected with every coming of the Lord. The separation of the evil and the good in the spiritual world has its corresponding effects in the church, and in the minds of the regenerate individually. Discrimination and separation between evil and good, falsehood and truth, is the work of judgment. We shall see the beneficent purpose of this in the Lord’s concluding words to the Pharisees.
40. Some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also ? These men understood the nature of the blindness of which the Lord spake. But they seem to have taken offence at the supposed implication that they were among the blind, who needed to have their eyes opened. The ” blind Pharisee” supposes himself to be the most clear-sighted. Cunning always imagines itself to be wisdom; falsehood claims to be truth.
41 Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth. Sin is the transgression of the law. ” “Where no law is, there is no transgression.” What amounts to the same, where there is no knowledge of law there is no transgression. And this is indeed the true state of the case with regard to the divine law. That law, though eternal and immutable, exists to us only when we know it. Ignorance, which exists in its absolute state only in infancy, is sinless. Comparative ignorance gives comparative immunity from blame. True and consolatory it is, that ” if ye were blind ye would have no sin.” The blind know something of their want of sight, and do not boast of seeing. Those who say they see are not less blind, but theirs is the guilty blindness of self-conceit. They, seeing, see not, neither understand. They have science, but no wisdom. They see the faults of others, but are blind to their own. They have the knowledge that would enable them to see their own sins if they were willing to see them. And having this knowledge of sin, their sin remaineth, for they make no effort to remove it by repentance and self-denial.
Author: William Bruce –1870
Pictures: James Tissot—-Courtesy of the Brooklyn museum