Sinner Or Saviour?
Why did he pass that way? Could he not have gone by some other path? The answer Isaiah, No. Grace has its necessities; love has its predestinations. Jesus Christ always looked out for opportunities of doing good. He knew which road to take; he said, The blind man is down this road, therefore this is the road along which I am about to travel. This is how he came to find so many opportunities of doing good: he sought for them. We never see any openings for doing good: how can we? we do not look for them. Jesus Christ made it his business to find out who wanted him. He even stands at the door sometimes, and knocks. In a sense, does he not thrust himself upon men who need him? so graciously and quietly that it has no appearance of obtrusiveness or aggression; still he makes himself felt by events, by appeals, by sudden recollections, by suggestions from friends, by Church service and sacrament,—yea, a thousand ways he sends us hints that he is there, and has with him all the resources which are needed for our redemption, purification, and final coronation in heaven. When you felt inclined to pray it was Jesus Christ who moved you in that direction. When you said, I think I see more clearly today; truth seems to be enlarging,—it was Christ who was performing a miracle upon you. Trace all happy impulse, all sacred inspiration, all ennobling influence, to the touch, the glance, the benediction of Christ He undertook work of the kind described in this chapter simply as introductory. Physical miracles were not worth doing if there had not been something more important to follow. The prologue was too sublime for the little drama if Christ came only to heal diseases, and to relocate broken joints, and to give eyes to the blind or hearing to the deaf. All this was symbolic, introductory, and was intended merely to secure a kind of foothold for him, standing on which he might do his larger, nobler work. That is the reason he gives us bread in the morning. The bread is nothing and the body is nothing. Bread is only a kind of bribe to hunger, at best a species of compromise or truce; for the wolf comes back again with wider mouth and sharper teeth. But he gives the bread that he may give his flesh himself.
What an advantage he had in performing physical miracles compared with the delivery of his profound—yea, his unfathomable—discourses. Everybody could see a miracle: only a man in a multitude of instances could understand a discourse. The vulgarest onlooker knew when a miracle was wrought: it took an almost-angel to catch the first hint of the meaning of the Beatitudes. This is Christ"s opportunity, therefore; he says in effect, This man wants sight; having given him sight I shall call attention to the work, I shall start a process of inquiry and thought in this man"s mind at least; and who can tell but that an opened eye may mean an opened soul? let me, therefore, continued the blessed tender-hearted Messiah, begin where men will allow me to begin: they want their bodies healed; perhaps having felt my touch in that direction they may ask me to heal their souls. A medicine man has an infinite advantage over a gospel speaker, if he succeed in his work; and he is more likely to succeed, in some degree at least, than is the spiritual thinker and reformer. Who cares for a thought? There are men who have succeeded in allowing ten thousand jewel sentences to pass before them without seizing any one of them and keeping it as property. There are men who have seen perfect Niagaras of jewels rolling over the cataract who have never yet seized any one of them and taken it home as a treasure and a pledge of better things. There are souls on which—I will not say on whom, for I will not put grammar to base uses—all Shakespeare and Milton would be lost; they would as soon hear some street ballad with nothing in it but a running jingle, as the music of Eternity. But because it is the music of Eternity it can wait. Its opportunity will come. There are some enjoyments we get through; they perish in the using; they amuse, they excite, they please, they gratify for the moment, but there is no wearing in them, they cannot bear stress; they are good as the climate is good, as the immediate health of the possessor is good; but they abide not day and night, ever and ever, in the soul, friends that can charm darkness and assure continual day and peace.
Christ excited surprise by his works more than by his thoughts, yea more than by his personality. The neighbours said, Is not this he that sat and begged? They would have cared nothing about him if he had received a new idea into his soul. The moment he began to worship he was forgotten. As long as he was a curiosity men came around him and asked him questions, and endeavoured to provoke and exasperate him, so that he might deny the very hand that had touched his sightless eyeballs. Providence excites more attention than theology. Understand by "providence" great historic movements, the events of the day, the miracles of the transient hour. Men make their fortunes by telling lies about these things. They publish in the evening what has to be contradicted in the morning; they misreport everything they hear in order that they may work out some ulterior purpose, as a felon only can work on stealthy feet and with velveted fingers. There are men who can create wars, who can bring messages from foreign courts without the slightest authority for doing Song of Solomon, and who can send the business of the world into tremor and panic by a lie. Men are more sensitive about their money than about their souls, their thoughts, their hopes of future life, their aspirations after God, You could take away any man"s sleep to-night by telling him that by to-morrow morning all his property will have fled away like a frightened bird. Jesus Christ excited attention by his miracles, his works, his wonderful signs and tokens. The people ran away and talked about them. One woman left her water-pot and fled away in the greatest haste to say that she had met a man who had told her all the things she ever did in her life. We never heard of any one running down the mountain to report a single beatitude. It is infinitely difficult to get attention to spiritual thinking and spiritual inspiration. A story will scatter an argument. Yet Jesus Christ worked on, doing the miracles, and hoping that some opportunity would occur through them of doing his greater work.
We find Christ enriching the Sabbath with holiest memories. This was a complaint that was made against him: "And it was the Sabbath Day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes,"—and gave him two Sabbaths for one, a whole heaven in exchange for a little cold earth. How many men can gratefully say, "and it was the Sabbath Day when Jesus—" then comes the particular incident, the personal recollection, the tender memory, the blessed thought! Who may not make music out of this or turn it into a refrain charged with pathos? It was the Sabbath Day—when Jesus touched my heart, opened the eyes of my soul, gave me a new view of truth, charmed me out of my despondency, lifted me out of the darkness and set me on a hill bathed in morning light. It was the Sabbath Day when Jesus opened heaven, so that I saw him standing at the right hand of God. This is the kind of Sabbath that legislation can never protect, and that iniquity can never put down. What is your Sabbath? If it is only3set of hours, then it may be handled by men, it may be ordered to begin at a certain time and close at a certain hour; the law may step in and meddle with it; but if it be a Sabbath of real piety, of real sympathy with goodness, an opportunity of prayer, an opportunity for deeper study of the Word,—if it be a time in which great miracles were wrought in the soul, a time when tears were dried, and bonds relaxed, and heavy burdens were lifted from the trembling back, then there is no need to protect this Sabbath; the heart knows when it comes, the heart knows how long it continues, the heart knows with what worship to mark the blessed gift. Entrust the keeping of religion to the heart of the people. It cannot be written in a statute book; it cannot be a supplement to an Act of Parliament; it cannot be regulated by men who know nothing about it: religion, true, pure, before God and the Father, undefiled as untrodden snow—this must be in the keeping of the renewed heart; and this must be the fountain of the Church, its daily inspiration and nourishment, its establishment and its endowment; and if there be not this to begin with, to build upon, and to give assurance of security, then all patronage is burdensome, all protection is but violent weakness. Religion is of the heart, or it has no assured existence in the world. Could the restored blind ever forget the Sabbath Day? It came back week by week, and there needed no church bell to call the man to the renewal of that sacred memory; he understood the time; it quieted him like a mother"s blessing; it opened some unsuspected door in the sky, and brought the glory upon him from uncalculated quarters. Never profess to keep the Sabbath if you do not keep it in reality. If you have nothing to keep, say Song of Solomon, and be good plain infidels, definite and estimable liars. Those men who have memories of the Sabbath Day ought to embalm those memories, sanctify them by enlargement of worship, by increasing publicity, and ought to make the name of Jesus known wherever there is another blind man. Tell who healed—his address—his name in full—abbreviate it not. Let it be, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, the Man of the Cross, the Conqueror of the tomb.
Here we have Jesus Christ dividing the thoughts of men:—
"Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them" ( John 9:16)—
Here is Christ creating personal witnesses. The man said, "Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not,"—I am not a metaphysician,—"one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see,"—I—the very man—myself: look at me: I am not speaking about some man a thousand miles off. There are some persons who are very much afraid of egotism—they are the greatest egptists in the world. You find a man who writes in the newspaper about some other man that he is "awfully egotistic," and you may be sure he dipped his pen in the inkhorn of his own infirmity. This man said—"I was blind, now I see." There is a heroic egotism, there is a grateful egotism, there is an egotism of pure sincerest thankfulness for blessings received, and if a man should prove himself to be awfully humble by speaking of himself in the plural number, let him do it. It is a singular pride that gives a man the right of plurality, talking about himself under the nomenclature "we." A suspicious humility! Suspicious? Let that word be withdrawn, and another take its place—a proved hypocrisy!
Christ completes his own work:—"Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him "—how did he happen to go that way? For the same reason that he went the way in the first instance. He knows all the roads—the little cross-road that runs up to yonder farm; that little well-hedged path in which you walk at eventide to meditate; the back way, the front way: he knows all the roads to human dwellings and human halting-places. "Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?" He had a right to ask the question. He who has done good to the body has established a right to ask about the soul. He may do so without affront or roughness. The largeness of the first miracle is an introduction to any mind that remembers the wonder that was done. Now we come to the real pith and purpose of Jesus Christ"s mission—"Dost thou believe on the Son of God?" Was it not enough that the man could see, that one of the senses had been brought back again or had actually been created for the occasion? Was it not enough that the man had a sound body? He had eyes, and ears, and hands; he could smell the flowers, he could touch the very bloom of creation—was it not enough? Jesus Christ must needs go to the inner Prayer of Manasseh, and ask the all-involving question—"Dost thou believe on the Son of God?" O Prayer of Manasseh, if thou dost not so believe thou art not a man in the full sense of the term; thou hast not yet begun to live. It is in this belief we see and feel and realise our life. Without faith we cannot fly, we cannot be in heaven, we cannot get past the black horrible tomb, we cannot cope with death and throw the monster in the last wrestle. "Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is Hebrews, Lord, that I might believe on him?" We know some men by their tone, by their touch. This man seemed to realise already in whose presence he was. We sometimes speak with men from whom we expect the veil to fall any moment, that we may see the revealed angel. Sometimes we feel in talking to certain men that if they went one sentence further they would go beyond the common boundary and speak to us from another world. They are magnetic men, inspired men, men of sympathy and enthusiasm; men who know the mystery of the over-soul, and touch all other men as by a miracle of sympathy. "Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen,"—how appropriately that word occurs in this interview—"Thou hast both seen "—to this use have thine eyes been put; thou hast seen the figure, the body, the open and patent reality—"and it is he that talketh with thee." Oh, sweetest words! He might have known who it was: never man spake like this man. What a voice! what subdued thunder! what tender sympathy! what suggestion! what music about to utter itself! "it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe,"—and he stood there—a man!
Almighty God, do thou always show us to what higher height we may climb, in what brighter light we may live our day, and what purer joy we may realise in all the wondrous ways of life. Forbid that we should look down; enable us evermore to look unto the hills, whence cometh our help. Thou hast made the high places of the earth as altars; men worship there, they begin in wonder, they end in praise. They say, Lo, God is here; we knew it not. This is none other than the house of God, though in the open air, and this is the gate of heaven, made without hands. If thou wilt show us these higher heights and brighter glories, and fill our souls with the Holy Ghost, we shall go on from one degree to another of quality and of life, until we shall hardly regard heaven itself as a great surprise. Enoch walked with God, and he was not: without sound or violence or rush of whirlwind, he passed into his proper place. May we so live that we shall not die. When we come to what men call death may we know that it is but an ascension, a rising into the land of morning and the city of peace. We have learned these things at Bethlehem, we have seen Christ"s star, and have been led to worship him; we have seen Christ"s Cross, and have been led to cry out, God be merciful to me a sinner! May the star and the Cross always be before the vision of our hearts, then there shall be no darkness, and there shall be no despair. We bless thee every day and every moment for the Cross: ft is heaven"s gift, it is the gate of heaven, it is the answer of God to himself, it is eternity revealed in all its higher thought and issues. God forbid that we should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are there now; our arms are round about it in the embrace of love; our eyes are fixed upon the Victim and the Priest, and we find in the Lamb of God the Saviour that we need. Help us to be wise readers of all things; may we read one another clearly, may we read all nature and gather learning, may we read thy Book, and see that it is all good books in one. Help us to read Providence, and redemption, and inner ministries, and all the mysteries which make up the secret of life, and may we so read as to be masters of Israel. Pity the heavy laden; give the weary rest That is all they ask for; they ask, not for riches, but for rest. Oh sweet, sweet rest! Not sleep, but rest; not unconsciousness, but rest. Give them such rest as Christ only can give. Amen.
"And as Jesus passed by." The eighth chapter closed with the words "and so passed by"; the ninth chapter, therefore, had better open with the expression—"And as Jesus was passing by." Was this a casualty, something that happened, but might not have happened; quite an uncalculated and incalculable event in life; what we should denominate a chance, a singular circumstance, or a peculiar coincidence? Nothing of the kind. That is vain talk; it is not so written in the books of heaven. Everything is foreseen, foreknown; no revelation can be made to God, no surprise can be inflicted upon God. Wherever Jesus Christ went he went on purpose; whenever Jesus Christ was found in difficulty it was not because of love of difficulty, but because there was some battle to be fought, some extrication to be completed, some act of mercy to be done. Why do we not rest in his peace? Why do we not say, The enemy can only come the length of his chain? Why should we fret ourselves in any wise to do evil? If we are poor, God knows it, and before the last piece of bread is swallowed another loaf will be provided; we do not know how, but there is the bread. Why go into the metaphysics of the theology, or into the mystery of the providence? Bless the bread, and eat it as God"s gift. Jesus Christ went that way because there was a man born blind who was awaiting his ministry. Jesus Christ did not happen one day in the eternal duration to see the earth, and then form the idea that he would go down and heal the little wandering rebel. He came on purpose. He knew the whole case from eternity; yea, from eternity he himself was slain on account of this very earth. He was not passing by on some kingly procession through the constellations, and happened to see this little leper. Nothing happens to God in that accidental, riotous, shapeless way. The very hairs of your head are all numbered. God knows how many sparrows there are, and not one of them falleth to the ground without your Father. If we could seize this truth and live it, there would be no infidels.
The incident is infinitely significant, because it brings Jesus Christ face to face with a vital and positive necessity. We have some six instances of blindness recorded in the New Testament, but this is the only case in which the man was born blind. We wanted to see our Saviour face to face with a case of this particular sort; we should have been uneasy, because the evidence would have been incomplete without it. The other men might only have been partially blind; very little assistance might have been needed in their case just to open the eyelids and restore vision to the fulness of its function and utility. What would he do if he met a man who was born blind? When did Jesus ever shrink from the occasion because it was great? Did he not, to our poor senses, enlarge himself as the occasion expanded? He overtopped every stature. He overflowed every channel; he "is able to do exceeding abundantly above "—how the language quakes under the apostolic assurance and under the apostolic inability to say the whole thought that glows in his imagination and in his recollection. It is recorded that Vespasian once cured a man who was born blind; but there soon arose an historian of the very nation of Vespasian who said that the lives of the emperors were studied lies. We are born blind. Every man who today sees is a man who was blind from his birth. It would appear, difficult as explanation may be, as if sin did not come upon mankind after birth, inflicting its disadvantages and its penalties; we feel that we are born disabled and mutilated; that we are, so to say, born dead. "You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins." This we cannot understand. If any man should ask us to explain human depravity or original sin, we can no more explain it fully than we can explain the origin of evil. We must deal with facts. If any man was not born spiritually blind let him rise and say so. If any man was born wholly morally beautiful, stainless, pure, let us see him. The world awaits great sights, and will pay for great shows: what could be more attractive than the spectacle of a man who was born as good as God? There is an argument of consciousness, as well as a declaration of revealed truth. Men can go into their own innermost heart, and settle this vital question for themselves.
Why is it so? The answer is given, "That the works of God should be made manifest in him"—that God may have all the field to himself. God addresses himself to this disastrous condition of affairs, that he has only to deal with men who are born blind. If there are any cases of temporary blindness, accidental loss of vision, let the empirics get what fame and money they can from these. God addresses himself to the born blind, where he cannot have any help, where the work must be his alone, where the action must be sovereign, undivided, and the glory incommunicable. There are some things we can do, and some that it would be folly to attempt. We cannot light the sun, but we can go forth into the meadows when the sunshine glorifies them, or we can accept the light as an opportunity for service. We cannot control the sea; no man has the key of the Atlantic; the Pacific is not locked up in some man"s iron safe; yet there are uses to which the sea may be put. We cannot hasten the summer. We complain of the late snow; we speak with significant tone and expression of face about the biting wind: why not change it? There would be an opportunity for genius? Why not attemper the wind? Why not melt the snow? Why not kindle an artificial fire and warm the landscape? Able men, with a peculiar bent of mind, can calculate an eclipse, but not one of them can create one. Let us see what we can do; for the moment we step beyond the line we become trespassers or spies: within our limit we are giants; beyond it our iron muscles melt and our tones of thunder are choked into whispers of feebleness and humiliation. God himself alone will heal the born-blind. If any man is going to any other to have his born-blindness cured he will never see the light of day.
We see Jesus Christ working from the consciousness of his own authority: "As long as I am in the world, I am the Light of the world." That is not the word of a weak man; that is not the word of a man who is going to fail in a miracle. Men ought to be very careful how they address themselves to great events, because they may fail in the very middle of the process, and their boasting will be reckoned against them, and will increase the completeness of their humiliation. But Omniscience need not calculate, for it knows all things; Omnipotence need not pause, for it can do all things. He speaks himself God. Why did not some other man arise and say, "No; I equally with thyself am the light of the world"? These words cannot be interpreted on the theory that Jesus Christ was only an excellent young man. He would have destroyed his own excellence by his blasphemy. In the fourth verse he says, "I must work the works of him that sent me." It is singular to notice that all the best manuscripts have a change of grammar in this verse; for they read thus, according to the most established criticism: "We must work the works of him that sent me," as if there were co-operation, fellowship, in these processes that lie round about us as indicative of our sphere of labour. Some other manuscripts read, "We must work the works of him that sent us." But no manuscript ever changes the singularity of the fifth verse: "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." What is this claim, being interpreted in plain terms? It is this: All blind men are in my charge; they are my parishioners; they are the souls that I must look after. If any men say they see, I have nothing to do with them. The Son of man is not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance: all the hungry people are mine; make them sit down, the feast shall be spread, this miracle shall certainly be wrought. All the ignorant are mine; enlarge the school, make it a night school as well as a day school, bring the most backward scholar in, yea, the man who is no scholar, not having seen one little letter in all his life; he belongs to me by the right of ignorance." It is our weakness that gives us our right to pray; it is our sin, rightly comprehended, that is our letter of introduction to the Cross. Righteous men, snow-covered men, away! ye have no invitation to Calvary. All the lost are mine. How he flushes with a consciousness of power when he is face to face with a case of indisputable necessity! He is as a warrior who sees the victory ere the battle is begun. This is precisely what the Church ought to do and ought to say. Here comes in the operation of the plural term: "We must work the works of him that sent us, while it is day." There may be both a singularity and a plurality of action in this divine beneficence. If we are called to partnership in the divine mystery of sacrifice, it is of God that we are called; he permits us to glorify ourselves through suffering. The Church should say, My programme is this: wherever there is a blind Prayer of Manasseh, I claim him; a hungry Prayer of Manasseh, he is mine; a poor child, that child belongs to me; a poor lost wandering one, that creature, homeless, destitute, friendless, is mine. If the Church could speak Song of Solomon, there would be nobody to speak against it. It is when the Church speaks metaphysics that the infidel has his turn. It is when the Church becomes inexplicably profound that the sceptic gets up a rival institution. That is his only chance. Let the Church talk polysyllables, and infidelity will have a field-day; but let the Church do good, and talk sense, and claim the poor, the lost, the blind, the hungry, and insist upon having them, and treat them as nobody else can treat them; then might the Church extend her space, because her hospitality is good, large as the need of life.
Jesus Christ next comes face to face with popular judgment. The miracle has been wrought: now comes the criticism that was passed upon it. "Is not this he that sat and begged?" Otherwise, "Is not this he that sits and begs?" "Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he." Thus we have the criticism of the world to deal with. We cannot have an honest judgment pronounced, because of infinite and unmanageable prejudices. We do not like to confess the supernatural. It pleases us, because we are sensuous and vulgar, to say that the house was actually built with our own hands; the king likes to say, "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built?" But when a thing is done without us, done whilst we are asleep or abroad, actually accomplished in all its fulness and utility without our being consulted, our pride does not like it. So we cast about upon the identity of the Prayer of Manasseh, upon the reality of the work, upon the accuracy of the report; we are prepared to say that by-and-by the whole thing will be explained upon another basis: instead of simply and directly accepting the miracle, and blessing God for his interposition in life. The Pharisees proceeded upon another line. They began by taking away the character of the man who had done the miracle. "This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the Sabbath day." They will start their argument from the doctrinal point. Why not start it from the beneficent side, and say—This man must be of God, because he heals other men? Some minds cannot be taken away from the metaphysical centre. Only say the very words they say, and you are right, no matter if you pass all the blind men in creation seven times a week, and never speak to one of them, Other men will start their whole thinking from the beneficent side, and say, That Church must be good, there must be a blessed spirit in it, because she is always doing good, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, teaching the ignorant, blessing the unblessed, and turning human houses into human homes. These latter are not metaphysical, therefore it is impossible for them to be orthodox; their words are too short for their doctrines to be right; they go too immediately to the mark to be really what they ought to be. The Pharisees denied his power; they did not believe concerning the man that he had been blind and that he had received his sight. Not only did they take away the character of the Healer, they took away the character of the healed, and practically they called that man a false witness. He had distinctly said, "I am Hebrews," but they would not believe it. What said they then, those pious men? They said, "Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner." Often this passage is misunderstood. We should collate it with the words which were addressed to Achan, who had stolen the garment and the wedge. The leader said to him, "My Song of Solomon, give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession unto him;" a form of objurgation which meant: Confess, speak the truth to God, forget all popular impression, and all selfish prejudice, and give God the praise; stand up and confess that you have been telling lies, and be faithful to God. Thus we make hypocrisy.
Here we have Jesus Christ in the hands of an honest straightforward man. What does the man say? "I am he." That is what we will not say. "Let bygones be bygones" is our poor proverb, our mean and ungrateful policy. Once a man forgets the hole out of which he was dug, all his testimony evaporates. We are only right in our elevation in proportion as we remember the degradation out of which we came. Keep the pit in view; keep the hole in sight; then go up to heaven, and your foothold is perfectly secure. "I am he." We want the reformed drunkard to stand up and say, "I am a sober Prayer of Manasseh, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ." We want the worldly man to say, "I am he": once I was a miser, a worldling, a mere grubber in the earth, piling soil and stones, and glorying in the accumulation; now I see that the world is nothing, that time is nothing, that the reality is to come; I seek a country out of sight: I am he. We do not want indirect witness; oblique testimony is of very little consequence in this great argument: produce the living Prayer of Manasseh, the actual soul. But there were metaphysical difficulties about it. The Pharisees knew that the Healer was a sinner. The man said, "Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not"—I cannot go into those questions—"one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see." That settles the whole case. Produce one converted Prayer of Manasseh, and Christ has won the battle. Has there ever been one genuine conversion? Do you know of any man who once was as bad as he could be, and who is now by the power of God endeavouring with an honest heart to lead a better life? That miracle is the miracle of God the Holy Ghost. But why seek these miracles in reports of other men? Why not be the miracle yourself? If you are building your theology upon anecdotes, your theology will be consumed and destroyed. If you are building your confidence upon the reality of your own consciousness and experience, no man can take away from you the testimony of your own heart. The man might have been born blind, but he certainly was not born dumb. He was a man who was on every side of the case too strong for his antagonists. He was a witty man; he had a shrewd, keen, piercing tongue; his voice no doubt was resilient, telling, carrying its emphasis right through to the last syllable and breath. "Why, herein," said Hebrews, "is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he Isaiah, and yet he hath opened mine eyes." You ought to have known about a man of this quality; this is not a mere cipher that society could do without: "we know that God heareth not sinners"; that is acknowledged on every hand—"The prayer of the wicked is an abomination unto the Lord"—"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." So the man added to a fact an argument; but the fact came first, then the argument. Do not lie your facts on your arguments; lie your arguments on your facts, and then build up heaven-high.
How did the Pharisees answer him? As honest, straightforward men are always answered—they abused him. That is the trick of all time; that is the unchangeable ingenuity of moral insanity. Sometimes it is done in Parliament; it has been done in the Church; but it is a continual fact in history—abuse the man you cannot answer. "They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us?" Impertinent fool! Who art thou? We had to call thy parents to identify thee, and now there is a mystery about thy birth! "They cast him out." "Jesus heard that they had cast him out." When did he not hear that? He has heard that about us all. He heard that they had cast him out; he was watching the case; he did not complete the miracle and then leave it; he knew that certain issues would flow from this interposition. "And when he had found him,"—for he knew exactly where he was, and went immediately to the spot,—"he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he. Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him,"—he first gives the faculty, then the vision; the eye, then the landscape; the power of sight, and then the beautiful picture,—"Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee;" thou knowest his voice, thou hast not forgotten the music. "And he said, Lord, I believe," that is the sentence that makes history; that is the declaration that indicates regeneration. "I believe"; then there is no more selfishness, no more self-trust, but a continual outgoing towards the object of faith. This was clear. "And he worshipped him"—went out to him, in trust, and homage, and love. It is in vain that we say we believe Jesus if we do not worship him. This is the testimony we want today. This man is a model witness. He spoke for himself; he went to the point; he stood by the history; he planted himself on the fact. "And they cast him out"—just what should and must happen to us if we would be really found of God. God will not find us until we are cast out. So long as we have one foot in the house of our respectability he does not know us, but as soon as we are "cast out" we are taken in, received, and welcomed.
Almighty God, we bless thee for Jesus Christ as a Teacher sent from heaven. His words are words of life and power; they search the heart, they try the reins, of the children of men; they are sharper than a two-edged sword. We rejoice that thou dost enable us to submit ourselves to the searching criticism of Jesus Christ"s word. We have been false to ourselves; we have concealed our true nature even from our own eyes; we have looked on the outside only; we have forgotten our inner life, the life of motive, of secret impulse, of purposes we dare not explain; we have looked only to our hand, when we ought to have examined the very life of our heart. But Jesus Christ, thy Song of Solomon, doth not spare us; he searcheth us as with a candle; he kindleth upon us the flame of the Lord, and in the light of that fire he searches and tries us, and sees if there be any wicked way in us. We rejoice in the plainness and the vigour of his speech. We thank thee that Jesus Christ layeth the axe to the root of the tree; we bless thee for his radical teaching, for his going to the roots of all evil things, for his making the tree good that the fruit may be good, for his purifying the fountain that the stream may be pure. May we learn of Jesus Christ in these things, and seek to do thy will, not as Prayer of Manasseh -pleasers, not with eye-service, but with all the simplicity of love, with all the strength of entire trust, honouring goodness for its own sake, and loving truth because it is the speech of God! Deliver us from all deceitfulness, all falsehood, all pretence, and enable us to serve thee in spirit and in truth; and out of a life based on godly sincerity, may there come works of love, pity, charity, and beneficence which shall bless all with whom we come in contact! Have mercy upon us wherein we have sinned. We have done the things we ought not to have done; we have left undone the things that we ought to have done. We accuse ourselves. If the surface has been right the motive has been wrong if our hand has been clean our heart has been leprous. Do thou wash us in the blood of Jesus Christ, shed for the sins of men,—the sacrificial blood which is our propitiation our plea, and our answer before God! Let thine own people glory in the truth, feel its power, acknowledge its sovereignty, bless its giver. If there be before thee, or shall come within the influence of our word, any man who is hypocritical, who seeks to cover up his real state from the eye of society and from the eye of his own conscience, apply thy word to such as a flame of fire, finding its way into the secret chambers of the soul and lighting up the darkest recesses of the life. Make us glad in the Lord! In the world we have mortification, disappointment, tears, broken staves piercing our hands, much sorrow, great difficulty. But in God"s house, on God"s day, gathered as we are around God"s book, surely thy children shall not plead in vain for the gladness which comes of thy presence! Amen.
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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on John 9". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany