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and did His pleasure.
Nor was it possible or conceivable that He who is one with the Father could do otherwise. At this stage in the hitherto gloomy scene comes in as it were a little gleam of sunshine, a glimpse of heaven, the dawning of a brighter day. There was something so convincing in His words, that the minds of many were persuaded that this could be no impostor, that He must be even what He claimed to be.
St. John viii. 31-36.
Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
However imperfect, however long delayed the faith of those Jews which believed on Him, the Lord, we find, rejected it not; but turning now from those who were yet rebellious, to those who at length seemed ready to surrender themselves to Him, He addresses to them words of encouragement and counsel. Yet forasmuch as some who had before professed
v. 28. There we have the result of hearing, simple testimony; here, the fuller word, signifying the effect of teaching, communication, intimacy. Compare ch. xii. 49.
1 The Lord refers both to His sayings and to His doings, to His words and to His works; especially to His claim to be the Son of God, and to
His working on the Sabbath-day; the two subjects of their especial indignation. One or other of these appears to be ever in their thoughts, rankling in their minds; and the allusions to these, as perpetually recurring to them, are frequent in our Lord's answers and observations. Ch. v. 18; vii. 23; ix. 16, 24; x. 33.
themselves disciples "murmured," and "went back," and "walked no more with Him," ," therefore He urges them to continue in the faith.2 This endurance is a sign of true discipleship, and leads to further discoveries in divine knowledge, even to freedom of the soul. The Lord had spoken of spiritual freedom; the Jews, as usual, understood Him literally. He spake of the soul; they can think of nothing but the body. Of what advantage, they ask, this offer of freedom to those who were never in bondage? They are not slaves either by birth or conquest. They judged indeed as erroneously concerning themselves as concerning Him. The Lord replies calmly to their boastful question. It is one of His solemn sayings, ushered in with redoubled asseveration. Whatever a man may boast himself, whatever his parentage,' whatever his privileges, the commission of sin undoes him. The son of Abraham becomes the slave of sin. He is thereby degraded from the state of sonship to a state of servitude. He is heir no longer; not now Isaac who shall inherit, but Ishmael who is cast out. The Lord, it would seem, was referring to the typical teaching of these Scripture characters, to that allegory which His Apostle afterwards draws out. Thus He leads them to Himself, of whom in a special sense Isaac was the type; who had the power of translating them from the one condition to the other, from a state of degrading servitude to a state of essential freedom. Above He said, "The truth shall make you
1 St. John vi. 60, 61, 66.
2 Col. i. 23; Acts xiii. 43; xiv. 22; St. John xv. 4-7, 9, 10; 1 St. John ii. 28.
3 There is a paronomasia in the original which may be preserved by rendering the original word in v. 31 truly instead of indeed, and by rendering the words in vv. 34, 35, bondservant.
St. John viii. 17; xiv. 21, 23; Hos. vi. 3.
5 We can only understand their saying of the then generation. Those who understand it of the race must account for the manifest historical
benefit the Lord offers, and they declare themselves in no condition to require it. They were speaking of themselves, not of their fathers. And their subjection to the Romans could hardly be called bondage. It was certainly very different to being carried away captive into a strange land; very different to the condition of their fathers in Babylon.
6 v. 48 below. The Lord gives them the truer pedigree. They were the aliens, v. 44.
St. Matt. iii. 9; Rom. ix. 6-8.
See the original word in v. 36.
falsehood. Moreover it is a present In v. 31 it is another word.
free." Here He says, "The Son shall make you free." For He is "the Truth." Every one that committeth sin.3 He makes it singular. We may not merge ourselves in the crowd of sinners, and so think to escape the righteous judgment of God. Thus too we are unmoved by the delirious dreams of those who in their wild schemes for the world's freedom leave Christ out of the question. "While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the slaves of corruption." The first French Revolution, with its wild age of reason," was a signal instance of this."
1 St John xiv. 6; xviii. 37 :
"He is a freeman whom the Truth makes free,
And all are slaves besides."
Cowper, The Task, 733.
2 So in the original. Rom. ii. 6, 12. "That Lord who in so many gracious ways has sought to scare and separate us from evil, does so here by setting forth to us that it is a slavery; that howsoever men may think and fancy at the beginning that their sins shall be servants to them, it is never long before they inevitably become servants to their sins.”—Abp. Trench, Sermons in Westminster Abbey, p. 58.
The liberty to which we are called in Christ is not the liberty of devils, the liberty of doing what we will, but the blessed liberty of being on the side of the law, and therefore unrestrained by it in doing right.”Sermons by F. W. Robertson, Third Series.
"The persons who are to be judged; even you and I and all the world; kings and priests, nobles and learned, the crafty and the easy, the wise and the foolish, the rich and the poor, the prevailing tyrant and the oppressed party, shall all appear to
receive their symbol. And this so far from abating anything of its terror or dear concernment, that it much increases it. . . . He that stands in a churchyard in the time of a great plague, and hears the passing bell perpetually telling the sad stories of death, and sees crowds of infected bodies pressing to their graves, and others sick and tremulous, and death dressed up in all the images of sorrow round about him, is not supported in his spirit by the variety of his sorrow." -Jer. Taylor, Christ's Advent to Judgment.
St. John viii. 37-41.
I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father. They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. Ye do the deeds of your father.
The Jews boasted that they were descendants of Abraham, and so had no need of the freedom the Lord offered. The Lord shows how little it would avail them to be of the seed of Abraham, while they were so far from doing the works of Abraham. Sons should bear some resemblance to their father. If they indulged that murderous disposition, manifested in their desire to kill Him, they were so far from being true children of Abraham, or, as they proceed to boast, of God, that they were rather children of the devil. The seed of Abraham according to the flesh they might be, but the children of Abraham according to the spirit they were not.2 Spiritually they could only be sons of him whose spirit they followed. The Lord admits their pedigree, but that proved nothing. How inconsistent their conduct with their ancestry! How different their disposition to that of their great forefather! 3 Then He shows the real reason of their baseness. It was not that there was anything false in His doctrine, but that their minds were prejudiced against
1 Aug. de Ser. Domini in Monte, i. 8.
2 There is a contrast between the seed of v. 37 and the children of v. 39. The latter imports more than the former; even as Isaac was, typically,
greater than Ishmael. See Gen. xxi. 12, 13, and Rom. ix. 6-8, where the same distinction obtains.
3 The stress here seems rather on the act, afterwards (v. 40) on the person. Rom. iv. 11, 12; Gal. iii. 7, 9.
it. Yet every reason had they to receive His words, for He spake not merely what was agreeable to the will of God, but what He had seen, as an eye-witness, as a Son with His Father. And very plainly did they prove by their works what manner of spirit they were of. Evil deeds manifested an evil origin. He speaks the truth of God, and they therefore seek to slay Him with a malice worthy of the devil. As truly as His words were divine, so truly were their deeds devilish. From this mention of the word "father," they take occasion to reiterate in another shape their former statement. Still they harp upon the same string. But how far they were from doing the works of Abraham, the Lord proceeds to show. The messenger of the truth,3 whom he made welcome, they sought to kill. Such murderous, truth-hating disposition argued a very different paternity.
THE SAME SUBJECT-continued.
St. John viii. 41-43.
Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God. Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.
These men so gross and dull of hearing, now begin to get some glimpse of our Lord's meaning. At length it begins to dawn on their carnal mind that He was speaking after a spiritual manner. So, beaten from one fancied stronghold,
1 St. John iii. 32–35; xiv. 10–24. v. 33.
' Bengel explains the use of the word man in this 40th verse by reference to the term manslayer applied
to the devil in ver. 44. They sought to kill Him, and they succeeded in killing Him, in so far as He was man. The antecedent to the who is rather me than man.