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THE SAME SUBJECT-continued.
St. John ix. 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.
We are told the reason of this cowardly caution on the part of the parents. Hitherto the policy of the rulers had been to treat Jesus with contempt, expecting that this new light would soon blaze out. But they begin to think that they have left Him alone too long. So they had now 2 agreed to take some decisive steps. They had come to the conclusion summarily to punish any one who dared to confess Him. There were among the Jews three degrees of excommunication. The first shut out the offender from the synagogue, with all the privileges (and they were many) included in that term, for the space of thirty days. The second prolonged the sentence, and an awful anathema or curse was added. And now the offender's household were forbidden from holding communication with him, if haply he might be forced into submission. The third cut him off from his people. He was made an outcast and an alien. Even the first and mildest of these was not to be lightly encountered. The Lord, when He bids His disciples count the cost of attaching themselves to Him, forewarns them of this. It may not fall to us to stand before rulers and kings for His name's sake. We may not be brought before councils, nor be called to a crown of martyrdom. Yet are we called to confess Him; sometimes it may be by refusal to comply with an evil custom, at all times it must be by resolving to do the right thing; sometimes openly by word of mouth, at all times by the silent testimony of a godly and Christian life. We must
St. John xi. 47, 48.
3 St. John xvi. 2. See also ch. xii.
2 So the word rendered "already" 42, 43. in the E. V. of v. 22 may mean.
of course see to it that what we make a stand for is indeed His will. We are not to be eccentric, and stand out for a mere trifle; nor expend a martyr's zeal in anything short of a martyr's cause. A man may be absurdly and dangerously scrupulous. He may fancy he is contending for the truth, when he is really doing his utmost to prejudice the cause of truth. But where it is a point of plain Christian faith and practice, then die we rather than deny our Lord.
THE SAME SUBJECT- continued.
St. John ix. 24-29.
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. He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see. Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes? He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples? Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses' disciples. We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is.
The man that had been blind, to whom the faculty of sight was so miraculously imparted, had been removed out of court while the examination of his timorous parents was going on. He is now called in again. That examination had signally failed to produce any discrepancy between the statements of the two, or to bring out any fact against the Author of the miracle. Nevertheless, when the man is
again brought in, these shameless inquisitors pretend that, during his absence, they had discovered something to the utter discredit of Jesus. Things had come to light, so they feigned, that proved Him to be a more than ordinarily bad character. And so, conscience-seared and regardless of the fearful blasphemy, they address the man in a solemn formula; the same that Joshua used to Achan2 under very different circumstances, They adjure him by the living God 3 to tell the whole truth. Such is the import of the phrase. In other words, they require him to forswear himself, and to join with them in some statement to the discredit of Jesus and His signal work. It was a daring attempt at intimidation. But in no way can they succeed in shaking the man's testimony. As to the character of the Author of the miracle, he will not enter into a controversy with them on that point. He has indeed his own opinion upon it, as breaks forth presently.^ But now he prefers to let the miracle speak for itself. The honest intrepidity of the man, whose plain tale can in no way be shaken, confounds his inquisitors. Finding it useless to persevere in the incredulity they had affected, they repeat in rather an unmeaning way, a former and long since answered question. Like hounds that have long since lost the scent, they go beating about the bush in a random way, in the vague hope of somehow lighting upon it again. They hoped, it might be, to get him in some way to contradict himself, or "to make him state something which should bring out some stronger violation of the Sabbath." The man's courage seems to rise as the inquiry proceeds. Their spirit in prolonging it is evident. To his natural sense of honesty it becomes more and more repulsive. He refuses stoutly to answer any more such questions. And then he suddenly turns round upon them, and in his turn asks them
1 St. Luke vii. 34, 37, 39; xv. 2; xix. 7.
2 Josh. vii. 19. Compare 1 Sa. vi. 5; Jer. xiii. 16; Rev. xiv. 7; xvi. 9; 1 Esdras ix. 8.
3 St. Matt. xxvi. 63.
4 V. 33 below.
5 It is Chrysostom's comparison, in
S. Jo. Hom. lviii. It is curious to compare with this some Rabbinical sayings cited by Drusius, "No animal more sharp-sighted than a dog. . . . The judges of Israel are more sharpsighted than dogs."
a question, in a stern irony. They withdraw under the shelter of authority, whence they discharge a shower of abuse, loading the man with undignified and unmeaning reproaches. Again, with less reason than ever, they cite Moses. They are always trying to awe the common people by a pretence of antagonism between our Lord and Moses.3 It is remarkable that here they affect to be ignorant of the origin of Jesus, while the Jews had before declared their knowledge of this to be a reason for rejecting His claims.*
THE SAME SUBJECT-continued.
St. John ix. 30-34.
The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes. Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing. They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.
The Pharisees had been very confident. They had been largely indulging in their favourite formula, "We know.” But they had made an admission, which this man, evidently endowed with a ready wit, was not slow to avail himself of. They present a vulnerable point, at which he aims an unerring shaft. In their haste they had said, "As for this fellow we know not whence He is." So first, this ready
The "Thou art His disciple” was only another senseless tu quoque, though it may have had a deeper meaning than they intended. The contemptuous contrast is in the original very strong.
2 St. John v. 46.
3 "Using truth to subvert truth; yea, Scriptures themselves to subvert Scriptures."-Hooker, Ser. v.
St. John vii. 27. 24, 29 below.
man expresses ironical surprise that they who professed themselves "guides of the blind, lights of them which are in darkness," should confess themselves at fault, and admit ignorance on such a point as this. It seemed marvellous as the miracle itself that they should be thus in doubt regarding its Author. And now in the next place he proceeds to prove to them that this can only be of God. Adopting their own formal phraseology, taking for granted what they cannot but admit, that God hears not sinners,-he proves that, God having so signally heard Jesus, He could be no sinner, as they had stated. Nay, since it is the devout and the doers of His will alone whom God heareth, and since God hath thus heard Jesus, it is plain that He must be such, devout and a doer of His will. The whole process of the argument is not expressed, but it was evident enough. Enough of the premises had been given to justify the general conclusion, "If this man were not of God, He could do nothing; "nothing of this kind, much less such a thing as this."" The answer of the Pharisees shows but too plainly that his argument was unanswerable. Inhumanly taunting him with his infirmity, as if he must needs have been "altogether born in sins" because "born blind," they are indignant that such an one should presume to instruct them, the rulers of the Jews and masters of Israel. So they thrust him forth from their place of assembly, an act symbolical of the sentence of excommunication. This man's saying, "God heareth not sinners," must remind us of that of the Psalmist, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me."s
1 Rom. ii. 17-20.
2 In the original the pronoun is emphatically expressed.
St. John iii. 10. Compare St. Matt. xxi. 23-27. The same confession as here. Abp. Trench compares the "whence" of v. 25 there, with that of v. 29 here. He also cites Pilate's question in St. John xix. 9. "We know." Compare vv. 24,
God hath heard Jesus:
Therefore Jesus is not a sinner."
• Alford. See v. 16 above; ch. x. 20, 21; Deut. xviii. 22; Acts ii. 22; x. 38.
"It is characteristic enough that they forget that the two charges, one that he had never been blind, and so was an impostor,-the other that he bore the mark of God's anger in a blindness which reached back to his
It may be expressed in a syllo- birth,-will not agree together."gism, thus: Abp. Trench.
"God heareth not sinners:
8 Ps. lxvi. 18. And Jesus might