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THE SAME SUBJECT-continued.
St. John viii. 56-59.
Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.
As the Jews had again brought Abraham upon the scene, the Lord again alludes to the difference between that Patriarch and his degenerate posterity. It was of spiritual sight the Lord was speaking. By faith Abraham saw "afar off" the day of Christ and rejoiced in the prospect; but his degenerate seed discerned it not, nor bade it welcome when it came. They, as usual, understood our Lord literally, and imagined that He, who as man had not yet reached His climacteric, claimed to have seen in the flesh one who had been dead for well-nigh two thousand years. The Lord answers, again with solemn asseveration, that He existed before Abraham was born; using the very form of expression which God used when He sent Moses to their fathers.3 It signifies His eternal existence. It is nothing short of a claim to Divinity. And so the Jews understood it. For, as though He had claimed that which He had no right to claim, they proceed summarily to execute upon Him the punishment of blasphemy. There were, it has been supposed, stones for the purpose of building or repairs lying about in that outer court of the Temple. These, in hot haste, they take up to cast at and kill Him, without even the
1 Heb. xi. 13.
2 His jubilee or year of superannuation, Num. iv. 23; an adagial number. He was neither so old, nor yet so young, as they imagined.
3 Exod. iii. 14.
Ps. xc. 2; St. John xvii. 5,
5 St. John x. 33.
6 St. Mark xiii. 1.
form of trial. And He who, when the fulness of time was come, surrendered Himself, now withdraws Himself. He retired into the surrounding multitude, and so was lost in the crowd; and departing unobserved among the stream of people, for this time escaped the fury of His enemies; going through the midst of them, as the chosen people through the midst of the sea.
SIGHT GIVEN TO ONE BORN BLIND.
St. John ix. 1-3.
And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
He did not as He "passed by," as that Priest in the Parable,' pass by on the other side. Neither did He, like that Levite, content Himself with coming and looking on Him. The good Samaritan 2 “ saw him to some purpose.3 This poor man was stationed probably in the neighbourhood of the Temple to excite the charity of the passers-by,* and, it would seem, proclaiming the fact (for how otherwise would the Disciples have known it?) of his life-long malady. And as He paused in His deep compassion to contemplate him, the Disciples who had probably been separated from their Lord during that tumult in the Temple, and now seem
1 St. Luke x. 25-37.
2 St. John viii. 48.
3 "O Saviour, why should we not imitate Thee in this merciful improvement of our senses? Woe to those eyes that care only to gaze upon their own beauty, bravery, wealth; not abiding to glance upon the sores
of Lazarus, the sorrows of Joseph, the dungeon of Jeremy, the blind beggar at the gate of the Temple."-Bp. Hall.
Acts iii. 2; v. 8 below.
5 "The Disciples see the blind mau too, but with different eyes: our Saviour for pity and cure, they for expostulation."—Bp. Hall.
to have come up and rejoined Him outside, ask Him their seemingly strange question. Among the nations of the East there was a prevalent opinion, which obtained with certain also among the Jews,' as to the transmigration of souls; that is, the existence of the soul in some former state, in which it may have been guilty of sin, of which in a subsequent birth it may be suffering the penal consequences. Looking upon bodily suffering, as the Jews almost invariably did, as the penalty of particular sin, whether of the person himself or of his progenitors, the Disciples expect their Master to pronounce in which of these two ways guilt was attaching to this man; whether the fault was with his parents, or with the man himself. The Lord directs their attention rather to what was much more desirable for them to dwell upon, the high end for which suffering is sometimes permitted in the world; namely, for the benefit of the sufferer, and for the manifestation of the mighty works of God. Providential visitations are not always to be looked upon as judgments and penalties of sin.
Observe the compellation Rabbi of v. 2, and compare ch. iii. 2, where the same mode of address is observed by another inquirer. Jeremy Taylor, in his "Sermon preached at the funeral of that worthy Knight, Sir George Dalston," observes, "This fancy of theirs prevailed much among the common people, and the uninstructed among the Jews; for when Christ appeared so glorious in miracle, Herod presently fancied Him to be the soul of John the Baptist in another body." -See Wisd. viii. 20, and v. 34 below. Compare Wordsworth:
"Our birth is but a sleep and a forgeting:
The soul that rises with us, our life's
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
Gibbon (ch. xlvii.) states that the
THE SAME SUBJECT-continued,
St. John ix. 4-7.
As long as I am When he had thus
I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. in the world, I am the light of the world. spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, and said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam (which is by interpretation, Sent). He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.
Alluding not only to the work before Him, but to His own great work in the world; with some reference also, it might be, to the day, which, Sabbath though it be, is not to be let slip for such a work of mercy,'-the Lord proceeds to heal this poor blind man. The peril He has come from escaping, so far from hindering Him in His works of mercy, does but remind Him how little of His day for such is left; that the malice of His enemies will soon bring it to a close; will shortly bring on the night that shall shut in His day for going about doing good. His mission has its limit. So when He here says, "As long as I am in the world," He intimates that He shall not be in the world long. Here before giving light to one who from his birth had been in darkness, we behold Him again proclaiming Himself "The Light of the World;"3 as in like manner before. raising Lazarus from the dead, He proclaims Himself "The Resurrection and the Life." He who could say in the beginning of creation, "Let there be light, and there was light" over all the hitherto dark face of the deep, could with a like word of power have dispelled the darkness from this man's sightless eyes. He could have given him sight
1 Vv. 14, 16 below. Compare our Lord's words before a similar work on another Sabbath, ch. v. 9-18.
Ps. civ. 23; St. John xi. 8-10;
xii. 35, 36, 46.
with a touch. But He magnified "His power in making a blind man to see by that method which one would think more likely to make a seeing man blind." It seems a part of the economy of His grace to employ signs and symbols, in themselves of no value, but to which He links and annexes healing virtue. As in the Sacraments which he has ordained in His Church, outward visible signs become by His appointment the channels of inward spiritual grace; "howbeit, grace proceeding not from the visible sign, but from His invisible power."2 So in this case, the cure was wrought, not by the means employed, but by Him who so thought fit to employ them. Nor could the waters of Siloam have removed this man's blindness, any more than the waters of Jordan could have washed away the leprosy of Naaman the Syrian, but by a Divine direction. The employment of such a medium as clay, dust moulded by the moisture of His mouth, in now first creating for this born-blind the faculty of sight, seems to have a suitableness of its own, when we call to mind that it was out of the dust of the ground man was created at the first, and into his nostrils the breath of life was breathed.3 Nor was this, as in the case of some other miracles, an instantaneous cure; but there was a delay, both to try and to strengthen the man's faith; serving also to teach us that we be not impatient with regard to any hoped-for good, but that we proceed patiently as the Lord appoints.
Henry. Compare the similar employment of one of these media by our Lord in two other cases, St. Mark vii. 32-35; viii. 22-25. In Story's Roba di Roma, v. ii. ch. 9, there is a collection of curious learning on the subject; more reliable than the same author's unworthy burlesque of Baptism.
2 "All things derive their virtue from Divine institution. How else should a piece of wheaten bread nourish the soul? How should spring water wash off spiritual filthiness? How should the foolishness of preach ing save souls? How should the Absolution of God's minister be more