Page images

interrupted by the Scribes and Pharisees, who " tempting him," brought a guilty adulteress before him, taken in the fact; and not improbably, in the courts of the temple itself, which were usually converted into a scene of revelry, the last night of the feast of Tabernacles; respectfully in appearance, requesting his decision as "a teacher," whether she should be stoned, in obedience to the law of Moses, or not? Deut. xxii. 22-24; designing, if he condemned her, to accuse him to the Roman government, for invading their prerogative of inflicting capital punishment, which was now taken away from the Jews, John xviii. 31; or if he declined, to injure his character with the people, as encouraging a breach of the law.

From this dangerous dilemma, our Saviour extricated himself with wonderful address, and to the utter confusion of his adversaries. Giving them no answer, He stooped down, and wrote with his finger on the ground; and when they pressed him for a decision, he raised himself up, and pronounced, Let him that is guiltless among you cast the first stone at her. And again he stooped down and wrote on the ground; but they, when they heard, being convicted by their own consciences, withdrew one by one, beginning from the eldest to the last; until JESUS was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When JESUS had raised himself up, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no one [legally] condemned thee? She said, No one, LORD. He saith unto her, Neither do I [legally] condemn thee. Go, and sin no more, John viii. 1-11.

This mysterious action of OUR LORD, twice repeated, was designed, perhaps, the first time, to record the sins of the woman, and afterwards, the sins of her accusers, in the symbolical language of prophecy:

"O LORD, all that forsake THEE shall be ashamed,

They that depart from THEE shall be written in the earth;

Because they have forsaken THe Lord,

The fountain of living waters," Jer. xvii. 13.

To be "written in the earth,” denotes, not to be registered in heaven, nor in the book of life, like his true disciples, Luke x. 20. Nothing, surely, could be more apposite to both, than such

This reading, instead of "Me," and the rendering of the whole passage, is supported by all the ancient versions, and required by the context.

an awful prophecy; which, like the hand writing on the wall, if traced in the dust, might well confound and appal the guilty readers. The former writing on the ground, might have recorded the woman's guilt, as explained by our Lord's decision, Let him that is without sin, &c. while the latter writing might have recorded that of the informers themselves; as interpreted by their conduct in retiring. Indeed, if we suppose that the writing, in the latter case, especially, was legible to them, which is not improbable, no wonder that "they were ashamed," and "convicted by their own consciences," when thus probed to the quick, and standing in the presence of HIM who had declared himself, the day before," the fountain of living waters;" whom they had so grievously and notoriously "forsaken” and apostatized from. Our gracious LORD, however, finding that the woman had not been legally condemned, did not assume the office of a judge, which he elsewhere declined, Luke xii. 14; "Neither do I condemn thee;" but he recognized her crime in her dismissal; Go, and sin no more." Never was there a triumph more complete; these sanctified sinners and hypocrites were self-convicted, confounded, and disgraced before the multitude.


It is truly remarkable, that at this period adulterers were become so numerous, that by the advice of Rabban Johanan ben Zaccai, the practice of trying women suspected of adultery, by the waters of jealousy, according to the law, Numb. v. 12-31, was abolished; the trial being only effectual when the husband was guiltless himself; according to the rabbinical comment *. And the abolition was grounded upon a perversion of prophecy : “I will not punish your daughters when they commit whoredom, nor your spouses when they commit adultery," Hos. iv. 14. See Lightfoot's Works, Vol. II. p. 563, 1080. When our Lord, therefore, styled the Jews of his age "an adulterous generation," it was true both carnally and spiritually.

In a subsequent conversation in the temple, OUR LORD asserted still more plainly, 1. His descent from heaven, and return to GOD, his Father, after they should set up, or crucify him. 2. His spotless purity, in doing always those things that please GOD; and indignant appeal to his innocence, and de

"If ye be adulterers yourselves, the bitter waters will not try your wives." Bemid bar Rabba, p. 235.

fiance of his accusers, which of you convicteth me of sin? 3. That they were of their father the Devil, whose works they did and would do, as murderers, liars, and unbelievers; and unlike Abraham, in whom they boasted as their father, who believed in CHRIST, longed to see his day, and saw it in prophetic vision, and was glad. 4. He stated his own pre-existence as "THE GOD of Abraham," Exod. iii. 14-16, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was born, I AM." Then they attempted to stone him for his supposed blasphemy; but he made himself invisible, and went out of the temple, passing through the midst of them, John viii. 12-59.


This most significant and characteristic miracle, and the most fully examined and authenticated by his enemies, the Jewish council, demonstrated their blindness and infatuation, in the strongest light, and left them without excuse for their obstinate rejection of CHRIST. It is therefore detailed most circumstantially by the Evangelist, chap. ix.

1. The inquiry of the disciples, "Rabbi, which sinned, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?" was founded on their prejudices, that disease of every kind was intended as a punishment of sin: which indeed, OUR LORD himself seemed to have supported, in remitting the sins of the cripple at Bethesda, John v. 14; he might, they thought, have been punished either for the sins of "his parents," or for "his own,” in a former body; for that they held the transmigration of souls, is evident from Herod's supposition, that John the Baptist, whom he slew, might have revived in JESUS, Matt. xiv. 2. But our LORD corrected their mistake, by stating that this man's malady was not designed as a punishment for either, but as an instrument of God's glory in the hands of CHRIST, who was sent into the world for that purpose, during the short period of his mission, ver. 1-5. And the giving sight to the blind, was one of the characteristic miracles of CHRIST, Isai. xxxv. 5, which made the Pharisees so desirous of disproving it, and denying its


2. The circumstances of the miracle were also remarkably significant; 1. the anointing his eyes with clay, of the MESSIAH, or CHRIST, (signifying "anointed;") 2. sending him to the Pool of Siloam, signifying “ sent," which was emblematical

also of CHRIST, as the SHILOH of Jacob's prophecy, the peculiar " APOSTLE of the Hebrews;" and "the fountain of living waters," Gen. xlix. 10, Heb. iii. 1, Isai. ix. 6, Jer. xvii. 13. The account of the cure is remarkable for its energetic brevity. "He departed, and washed, and returned, seeing," ver. 6, 7.

2. This miracle was performed on the sabbath day. And the supposed breach of the sabbath, counteracting the natural operation of the stupendous miracle, produced a schism among the Pharisees respecting JESUS; some believing his divine mission, others not. But the latter party, the bigots, prevailed in the council. So after they had repeatedly examined the man himself respecting his cure, and also his parents, to prove his identity; when the man would not "glorify God," as they required him, by ingenuously confessing the truth, (like Achan, Josh. vii. 18, 19,) and admitting that JESUS was a sinner, for this supposed breach of the sabbath; but full of that noble and undaunted spirit, which truth and gratitude inspire, boldly answered, "Herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not whence he is; and yet he opened mine eyes! we know that GOD heareth not sinners; but if any one be a worshipper of God, and do his will, him he heareth. From the beginning of the world was it not heard, that any one opened the eyes of one born blind. If this person was not from GOD, he could do nothing."

What answer did the council make to this honest and spirited reply? That which bigotry and prejudice always oppose when confuted; "Thou wast altogether born in sin †, and dost thou teach us! and they excommunicated him," ver. 13-34.

JESUS hearing this, found the man, and asked him, Dost thou believe in the SON of GOD? He answered, Who is he, LORD, that I might believe in Him? Jesus said, I, your benefactor, am he ‡. Then he answered, I do believe, LORD, and he worshipped him. Here was a remarkable instance of religious worship, given to, and accepted by CHRIST, ver. 35—38.

In a subsequent conversation with the Jews, JESUS said,

• The man's description of the rapidity of his cure, in the original, añɛλ0wv de kat viyaμɛvoc, aveßλɛa, ver. 11, rivals Caesar's, of the rapidity of his victory, so admired by classical readers, veni, vidi, vici.

This reproach proceeded from the same general principle that occasioned the enquiry of the disciples before, ver. 2.

So Gilpin excellently explains our Lord's answer: "Thou hast both seen him, and the person speaking with thee is he," John ix. 37.

evidently alluding to this miracle, and its different effects on the people, and on their rulers; "For discrimination (Koua,) am I come into this world, that they who see not, [through ignorance,] might see; and that they who see, [or think they see, through pride or prejudice,] might become blind." Some of the Pharisees who heard these words, immediately applied them to themselves, and said, Are we blind also? JESUS answered, "If ye were blind, [through ignorance,] ye would not have sin; but now ye say, We see, [blinded by your pride and prejudice,] therefore your sin remaineth," because ye wilfully shut your eyes against the light of Truth, ver. 39–41.

OUR LORD then proceeded, with severity, to contrast his teaching with former pretenders, Judas of Galilee, &c. calling himself the good Shepherd, the true door of admittance into the sheepfold, or the only way to salvation; while they were no better than false shepherds, hirelings, thieves, and robbers, who neglected, or pillaged the flock, or basely left it to be destroyed by wolves. 2. That he came freely to lay down his life for the sheep, [and to resume it again, by the divine grant,] and 3. not only for this fold, but also for other folds, the Gentiles; that all, in the fulness of time, might become one fold, under one Shepherd, Himself, John x. 1-18.

This enigmatical speech was not understood at that time by the people, among whom the schism respecting him still continued, ver. 19-21.

Shortly after this feast of Tabernacles, JESUS returned again to Galilee, about autumn.


JESUS did not long remain in Galilee after his return. Having completed his ministry there, when the days of his ascension drew nigh, he devoted the remainder of his time to the instruction of Samaria and Judea, and the rest of the Holy Land; and steadily set his face to quit Galilee, where he had


This passage may be more closely rendered thus: "I am the good shepherd: I both know my own, and am known by them: (even as the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father,) and I lay down my life for the sheep," John x. 14, 15. The English Testament has given an incorrect and disjointed rendering: separating the illustration from the 14th verse, to which it belonged, and attaching it to the 15th. Perperam antea distinctus fuit hic versiculus. Beza. The translators should here have followed



« PreviousContinue »