« PreviousContinue »
and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash; and I went and washed, and I received sight. They then asked him where the person was, who had performed so great a work: to which the man answered, I know not. For Jesus had retired while the man went to wash his eyes in the pool of Siloam, probably, as was his general custom, to avoid the applauses which would naturally have been given him by the multitude.
The neighbors, either stimulated by envy, or excited by a desire of having the truth of this extraordinary event searched to the bottom, took the man before the council, thinking them the proper judges of so mysterious a circumstance. No sooner was the man placed before the assembly, and the particulars related of what had passed, than the Pharisees began to question him, how he had recovered his sight. To which the man boldly answered, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see. On hearing this, and knowing the day on which the miracle was performed, the Pharisees declared that the Author of it could not be a prophet sent from God, because he violated the sabbath; but others gave it as their opinion that no deceiver could possibly work a miracle of that kind, because it was too great and beneficial for any evil person to have either the inclination or power to perform.
The courcil being thus divided in their opinion with regard to the character of Jesus, they asked the man him. self what he thought of the person who had conferred on him the blessing of sight? To which he boldly and plainly answered, He is a prophet. Such of the council who were averse to believe the miracle, or in hopes of making the affair look intricate, now sent for the parents of the man, and asked them these three questions: Whether he was their son? Whether he was born blind? And whether they knew how, and by whom he was cured? To the two first questions they answered directly that he was their son, and was born blind; but, as to the last, they referred them to him, who (as they told them) was of age to answer for bimself; not daring to say any more for fear of the Sanhedrim, who had made an order to excommunicate any person who should acknowledge Jesus to be Christ.
The Pharisees, finding that all attempts either to discredit, or disprove the fact, useless, bad recourse to their usual method of calumniating the author of it. After repeating the questions they had before asked the man, and received the like answers, in order to draw him from the good opinion he had conceived of his benefactor, they bade him ascribe the glory of his cure to God, and not to look upon Jesus with any veneration, because he was a sinner and a sabbath-breaker, and consequently could not be a prophet sent from God. In answer to this the poor man told them, that it was very strange they should not perceive from whence the person was, whom God had endued with such a miraculous power as that of opening the eyes of one born blind, a thing that was never heard of before since the world began; and that therefore it must be evidently manifest to every impartial person that if he were not sent, and Divinely inspired, he could never have done such wonderful cures.
The Pharisees were not ignorant that this argument was conclusive; they felt its whole force, and well knew that it could not be resisted. Accordingly they did not attempt to answer it, but had recourse to abusive language and panishment. Thou wast altogether born in sins (said they to the poor man) and doest thou teach us? Dost thou pretend to instruct, in a matter of this kind, the guides of the people, and those who have rendered themselves eminent for their knowledge in the law? After having thus upbraided him, they cast him out; that is, they passed on him the sentence of excommunication, which, was the highest punishment they had power to inflict.
But though the poor man was cut off from the Jewish society, yet he was soon made ample amends by being admitted into one where no unjust sentences can ever be passed, nor any member separated from it, namely, the church of Christ. Soon after his being excommunicated from the synagogue, his Divine benefactor, meeting him in the street, declared himself to him to be the Messiah; upon which the poor man, believing on him, immediately fell prostrate at his feet, and worshipped him.
After our Blessed Lord had received the poor man's homage, he directed bis discourse to the people, in which (under the allegory of a shepherd and his sheep) he proved the Pharisees to be no better than blind guides, nay, than thieves and robbers, who had climbed up into the sheepfold, or made themselves rulers and governors in God's church, without any proper commission from him. Upon the same grounds he condemned all those false Christs, who before him bad usurped the title of the Messiah, and asserted his own right to it by an argument that no other shepherd durst produce, viz. his laying down his life for his sheep, which he said, were to consist of Gientiles* as well as Jews, and all together make up one flock under one shepherd.
Before the Feast of Dedication was concluded, as our Lord was walking Solomon's Porch,t several of the Jews went to him, desiring that he would tell them, in positive terms, whether or not he was the Messiah? Our Lord, knowing they did not ask this question for information, but to gain an opportunity of accusing him to the Romans as a seditious person, told them that they must form a judgment of him from his actions. I told ye believed not; the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep. Your unbelief is the effect of your attachment to this world, being unwilling to receive the doctrine of the kingdom of heaven; because you must
* These our Saviour calls his other sheep (John X. 16.) by way of anticipation, because he foreknew that many of the Gentiles (when once his Gospel came to be tendered to them) would give it à ready reception, be converted, and be baptized; and because the ceremonial law (which was as it were, the partition wall between the Jews and Gentiles) was shortly to be broken down, and the Gentiles admitted to the same privileges with those Jews who believed in his name.
† This porch consisted of some stately cloisters on the east side of the temple, and not far from the Court of the Gentiles. It was called Solomon's, either to preserve the memory of that great prince, or because it was built according to the order of that which he erect. ed. In this porch our Saviour was walking, because, at that time, it was winter, and, therefore, he here found a covering from the inelemency of the weather; whereas, in the summer season, it was customary for the Jews to walk in the open courts of the temple. VOL. ii.
then renounce all your fond hopes of temporal power and · advantages. But, on the contrary, those wbo are of a mcek and humble disposition, and their minds free from worldly passions, easily perceive the truth of my
doctrine and miracles, and consequently are readily disposed to become my disciples. Nor shall such persons lose their reward; for I will willingly receive them, and make them partakers of eternal life in my Father's kingdom. And however assiduous malicious men may be, in endeavoring to binder others from believing on me, they shall never be able to effect their purpose, though assisted by all the powers of darkness. For my heavenly Father, who hath given them to me, is far greater than them all; nor is any able to contend with him; and this powerful, this Almighty Being, and I are one. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one."
The Jews were so incensed at this last expression, which they considered as blasphemous, that they took up stones to cast at him, in conformity to the Mosaic law, which commands all blasphemers to be stoned. Our Lord seeing this, asked them, which of the beneficent miracles he had wrought in confirmation of his mission deserved such treatment? Many good works (said he) have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do you stone me? As if he had said, I have fed the hungry in the desert, I have healed the lame, I have cleansed the leper, I have cured the-sick, I have given sight to the blind, I have cast out devils, and I have raised the dead : for which of these works are ye going to stone me? The Jews answered, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy, and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. We are far from thinking that thou deservest punishment for any good work thou hast done in favor of the afflicted and distressed; the punishment is intended to chastise thee for thy blasphemous speeches: for thou, though a weak mortal like ourselves, arrogantly assumest the power and majesty of the Most High, and by elaiming the incommunicable attributes of the Deity, makest thyself God.
The reply our Blessed Lord made to this was to the following effect: Has not the scriptures expressly called those gods who were commissioned to govern God's people, on account of their high office, and the inspiration of the Spirit, which was, though sparingly, bestowed upon them? Can you, therefore, impute to that person whom the Almighty hath sanctified and sent into the world to save lost mankind, and pay the price of redemption for all the sons of men; Can you impute blasphemy unto him, for taking upon himself the title of the Son of God? If my own assertion be not sufficient to convince you of my personal dignity, you must surely think that the many miracles I have wrought abundantly prove that they are the works of the Most High, as Omnipotence alone could perform them; and, therefore, that the Father and I are so united, that whatever I say or do, is ap. proved of by the Almighty. “Is it not written in your « law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, upon 66 whom the word of God eame, and the Scriptures can“ not be broken; say ye of him, whom the Father hath 6 sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; 66 because I said I am the Son of God? If I do not the “ works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, 6 though ye believe not me, believe the works; that ye 6 may know and believe, that the Father is in me, and I 6 in him."
This reply, instead of satisfying the Jews, rather tended to enrage them the more; upon which our Lord, pot thinking proper to hold any farther argument with so obstinate and head-strong a people, miraculously got from them, and thereby escaped that punishment they intended to inflict on him. Therefore they sought again to take him ; but he escaped out of their hands.
As soon as the Feast of Dedication was over, our Lord left Jerusalem, and, crossing the river Jordan, retired to Bethabara, where great multitudes resorted to him both to hear his instructions, and to be healed of their diseases. Here his ministry was attended with very great success;