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by Robert Hawker
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. JOHN
The Gospel according to St. John, comes home endeared to the Church of God in such a fulness of blessings, as cannot fail, under divine teaching, to call forth from every heart of the redeemed, unceasing praises to the Almighty Author of every good, and every perfect gift, for so precious a treasure given to his people. Some of the ancient Fathers, in their warmth of affection to this part of the inspired writings, were accustomed to call it a spiritual Gospel And such it certainly is; for God the Spirit is the Author of it. But then it should at the same time be remembered, that such are all the Gospels. For the Lord Jesus saith, The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life, John 6:63 . And these divine and spiritual words of the Lord Jesus, are in the writings of all the Evangelists. But, perhaps the beloved Apostle, (for such John was specially called,) was led by the Holy Ghost to dwell more largely on the discourses of the Lord Jesus than the other inspired writers of the Gospel; and therefore as the early saints of God, under divine teaching, felt the blessedness of his spiritual and heavenly writings on these subjects, they were prompted thus to distinguish them.
We cannot sufficiently bless God the Holy Ghost for the ministry of this man, in all his writings, and eminently on account of this most blessed portion of the word of God. Here we have not only more contained in it of our Lord's divine discourses than the other Evangelists were commissioned to deliver, but we have also, both in relation to Christ's sermons and miracles, many glorious truths which were not noticed by the other Evangelists. And what tends, if possible, yet more to endear the Gospel according to St. John to the Church, is, that by this man's ministry herein, we have preserved to us those most blessed discourses of Christ, concerning the Person, Work, Offices, and Character of God the Holy Ghost, without whose soul-quickening, and life-giving operations, none can be brought forth into spiritual apprehensions of union with Christ; and be made wise unto salvation, through the faith which is in Christ Jesus. Every child of God, who is conscious of the great work of regeneration having passed upon him, and hath felt in his own soul the renewing influences of God the Holy Ghost's sovereign and Almighty power, will clasp this blessed Gospel of the ever blessed God in his arms, and press it to his heart, crying out in words like those of the Apostles, Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift!
It were needless to tell the Reader what were the plain designs of God the Spirit, in commissioning his servant John to give those records of the Lord Jesus Christ to his Church. They are made manifest in every chapter. The Apostle opens with the fullest declaration to the Godhead of Christ; and then proceeds to make manifest, in equal terms of plainness, the Manhood of our Lord; and, from the most ample demonstrations of the union of both, he shews what all the Scriptures of God blessedly harmonize in to confirm, that Christ is the power of God, and the wisdom of God, for salvation to everyone that believeth. These glorious truths the Reader will meet in every part of the Gospel according to St. John, if the Lord the Holy Ghost be his teacher.
I shall not think it necessary to detain him any longer by way of Preface. John hath not related to us in this Gospel, any circumstances of his own history, but confined himself wholly to the one momentous subject for which he wrote, and which seems to have fully occupied his mind. The Lord Jesus, and Him alone, swallowed up the Apostle's sole attention. John hath not so much as dated the time of writing his Gospel; neither hath he made mention of the place from whence it was written. Various dates have been given to it by others. Some make it as early as about thirty years after our Lord's ascension. And some place it so late as sixty years from that glorious event. But the whole is conjecture, It is our happiness that this is of no moment That the penman of it was John, the beloved Apostle, who lay in Christ's bosom; that he was inspired in the writing of it; that God the Holy Ghost hath blessed it in all ages of the Church; that He doth bless it, and will continue to bless it in the Church of God to the latest ages, while she remains in her present time-state, until the Lord Jesus, as her bridegroom, comes to take her home to glory; these are the grand points with which we are chiefly concerned, and these, blessed be our covenant-God in Christ, are abundantly confirmed and assured. May the Lord the Holy Ghost grant to both Writer and Reader his blessed teachings in the perusal of this, and every other part of the word of God, that as John himself said, so we may find, we have an unction from the Holy One, and know all things. 1 John 2:20 . Amen.
the Seventh Week after Easter