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THE NEED OF WORKING WHILST IT IS DAY
John 9:4. I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
IN the circumstances of mankind we behold an inequality, which, at first sight, appears strange and unaccountable. One is born possessed of all the faculties that can conduce to his welfare: another is brought into the world deformed in body, defective in intellect, and, on the whole, in a state scarcely superior to the brute creation. This must certainly, in the first instance, be traced to the sovereignty of God; who has a right to give to his creatures, or withhold from them, whatsoever he shall see fit. He has not injured us by making us inferior to the angels; nor does he injure any one, if he make him inferior to the beasts also. But, in these sovereign exercises of his will, he often has a special view to his own glory. Perhaps, at no period of the world did he ever give Satan liberty to exert his power over the bodies of men to so great an extent as during the time of our Lord’s ministry upon earth. In this dispensation, he gave to the Lord an opportunity of displaying, to a greater degree than he could otherwise have done, his power over Satan and all his hosts. We know, from authority, that this was the reason of our Lord’s not interposing to heal Lazarus, as soon as the application was made to him. In staying two whole days after he was informed of the dying state of Lazarus, he appeared regardless of the requests which had been sent to him by his much-loved friends, Mary and Martha. But he assigned as the reason of that delay, that, from the state of Lazarus, it was intended to bring glory both to God the Father, and to himself, as his Father’s agent [Note: John 11:3-4; John 11:14-15.]. In like manner we are informed, that, for a similar end, a man was born into the world blind. A notion having obtained amongst the Jews, that there was a state of existence previous to that which men now have on earth, and that they were either rewarded or punished in this world, according as they had conducted themselves in that from whence they had come; and that God also recompensed in men the good or evil that had been done by their parents; the Disciples asked our Lord, which of these two things had occasioned to the poor man this great calamity. Our Lord told them, that the calamity was not to be traced either to any evil that the man had committed in a preexistent state, or to any that had been committed by his parents; but that it had been sent by God, for the furtherance of his own glory, in giving sight to the blind. It had been ordained of God, that the Messiah should evince the truth of his mission by opening the eyes of the blind: and the opening of this man’s eyes was a work especially assigned to the Lord Jesus for that very end. Hence, instead of entering into a distinct consideration of the questions proposed to him, he contents himself with negativing both alternatives, and with intimating, that he must address himself without delay to the work before him; the work of giving sight to this blind man.
But though the words of our text have a particular reference to our blessed Lord, they must not be confined to him; since they are equally applicable to every child of man, and declare to all of us,
We all have a great work to do—
[As far as our blessed Lord acted as a Mediator between God and man, his work was peculiar to himself: but, as far as he was engaged in “fulfilling all righteousness [Note: Matthew 3:15.],” he was a pattern to us. He acted as his Father’s servant, “sent [Note: Text, with John 9:7.]” to perform a work: and we, in like manner, are servants of the Living God: only, being sinners, we have the duty of sinners; which Jesus, by reason of his innocence, could not have. As having offended Almighty God, our first duty is, to humble ourselves before him, and to seek for mercy at his hands. Our next duty is, to implore help from him, that we may be able to fulfil his will in future, and, by a holy life and conversation to advance to the uttermost the glory of his name: for “herein is our Father glorified, when we bring forth much fruit [Note: John 15:8.].” This is the duty of every man, without exception. Men’s duties, in reference to society, differ according to the rank and station which they hold: the prince and the peasant, the parent and the child, have different offices to perform: but towards God we all stand in the same relation; and all have to render the same services — — —]
For the performance of this work, we are “sent” into the world—
[We are not sent here to eat, and to drink, and to pass our time in pleasure; but to do the work assigned to us. Every moment of our time is given us for that purpose, and should be employed for that end. When we rise in the morning, we should inquire, What duties have I to perform this day? And, when we lie down again at night, we should inquire, how far we have executed the will of our heavenly Master. The performance of our work should supersede every thing else. Nothing should occupy our mind in comparison of it. To every one who would call us from our duty, we should reply with Nehemiah, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you [Note: Nehemiah 6:3.]?” The conduct of Abraham’s servant, when ordered to seek out from amongst the family of Abraham a wife for his son Isaac, will admirably illustrate our duty towards God. Having received his instructions relative to the conduct he should pursue, he implored of God his unerring guidance, that so he might be led to a successful issue. And when, by Divine Providence, he seemed to have attained his end, having been led to the very house of Abraham’s own nephew, Bethuel, he was desired to refresh himself after his long journey. But what was his reply? It was truly memorable; and shewed how much he had at heart the execution of the trust committed to him: “There was set meat before him to eat: but he said, I will not eat, until I have told mine errand [Note: Genesis 24:33.].” Here, we see, he preferred his duty “before his necessary food [Note: Job 23:12.].” This is exactly what we should do. Our blessed Lord has set us the example: and, like him, we should be able to say, “My meat is, to do the will of Him that sent me [Note: John 4:34.].”]
With our duty, our blessed Lord sets forth also,
The urgency of it—
We have but a “day” to do it in—
[A day is given us; and that is little enough for so great a work: yet it is time enough, if duly and diligently improved. It is, however, of very uncertain continuance. The sun of many goes down at noon; and often without the slightest warning. Yea, scarcely is the sun risen with many, ere it sets. This is a truth known to all; but considered by few: else, how earnest should we be in doing the work assigned us. We should not be putting it off till “a more convenient season;” but should improve the present hour, “not knowing what a day or an hour may bring forth.” We should “walk, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time [Note: Ephesians 5:15-16.].”]
Our day being closed, our work is closed with it—
[“There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave [Note: Ecclesiastes 9:10.].” “When the night is once come, we can work no more.” Our good purposes, if not carried into effect before, will then fail, and our best resolutions prove abortive. If we have lived impenitent to that hour, or have only felt remorse, without carrying our sins to Jesus, and washing them in the fountain of his blood, we shall continue impenitent and unforgiven to all eternity. “As the tree falleth, so it will lie [Note: Ecclesiastes 11:3.]:” We may then weep for our sins; but our tears will be unavailing: we may even “wail and gnash our teeth for anguish:” but the door of mercy will be closed. We may cry, “Lord, Lord, open unto us!” but God will be deaf to our entreaties. We may even call upon the rocks and mountains to fall upon us, and to hide us from the wrath of the Lamb: but they cannot perform for us that friendly office; nor can so much as a drop of water be obtained, to soothe the anguish of our bodies and our souls [Note: Luke 16:24-25.]. We may then wish, ‘O, that I had another day, or even another hour! how would I work then!’ But our day is for ever closed; and nothing but everlasting “night” remains; even “the blackness of darkness for ever [Note: Jude, ver. 13.].”]
Those who are more advanced in years—
[Much of your day is obviously gone: and little, according to the course of nature, remains. Your glass is well nigh run down. Is it not then time for you to awake, and to begin the work which God has sent you to perform? Should you not be engaged in penitential sorrow for your past sins; in crying earnestly to Almighty God for mercy; in fleeing to the Lord Jesus Christ as to the hope set before you? Should you not be seeking the renovation of your souls after the Divine image? Should you not be daily “preparing to meet your God” in judgment? Yes, indeed: but it is a sad and melancholy truth, that few who have advanced beyond the middle term of life impenitent, are brought to repentance afterwards. Their habits are fixed; their conceit of their own safety is become inveterate; and their very consciences, as far as it respects every thing but gross sin, are seared. I thank God, however, that there are instances of persons entering into the service of their God even at the tenth or eleventh hour! Let me entreat you, beloved brethren, to be of that happy number; that, when you come to die, you may be able to adopt the words of our blessed Lord, and say, “Father, I have glorified thee on earth; I have finished the work which thou hast given me to do [Note: John 17:4.].”]
Those who are yet in early life—
[It can never be too early for you to begin this necessary work. The lambs which were appointed to be offered unto God in sacrifice, every morning and evening throughout the year, were to be “of the first year [Note: Exodus 29:38.]:” and it is in the earliest period of your lives that you should “offer yourselves living sacrifices to the Lord [Note: Romans 12:1.].” You will remember, that the first fruits of every thing were to be offered to God: and of the corn, they were to be of “full ears” indeed; for God must have every thing of the most perfect kind; but they were to be “green ears,” green ears “dried by fire,” and beaten out [Note: Leviticus 2:14.]. And what can this import, but that, before you have attained that measure of maturity which is required for the service of man, you may, and must, be rendering service to your God? You have examples of this in Samuel, Obadiah, Timothy; and, above all, in our blessed Lord himself, who, at the age of twelve years, willingly devoted himself to his God and Father, in his temple [Note: Luke 2:42; Luke 2:49.]. Let me prevail on you to follow these examples; and now, ere sin has hardened your hearts, and Satan has drawn you fully into his snares, to devote yourselves to God. And know, for your encouragement, that a special promise is given you of the Lord, “They that seek me early, shall find me [Note: Proverbs 8:17.].”]
All of you without exception—
[Through the mercy of our God the day is yet continued to you; that day, which, within the last year, has closed on thousands, who, humanly speaking, were as likely to live as you. And, to multitudes of them, how dreary a night has commenced! and how thankful would they be, if they were permitted once more to hear the tidings of salvation which yet sound in your ears! Be thankful, I pray you, for this distinguishing grace which has been vouchsafed to you: and increase not your guilt by a further continuance in sin. What a fearful reflection will it be at a future period, that you lived but to “add sin to sin,” and to “treasure up wrath against the day of wrath!” If you live to repent of it, what anguish of mind will you suffer, ere you obtain forgiveness! And, if you live not to repent of it, what infinitely sorer anguish will you sustain to all eternity! And why should you defer the work to which God is calling you? Suppose ye that it is a state of melancholy, that shall embitter the whole remainder of your days? No: “The work of righteousness is peace: and the effect of righteousness is quietness and assurance for ever [Note: Isaiah 32:17.].” Indeed you all know, in your hearts, that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom:” and that “in keeping of God’s commandments there is great reward [Note: Psalms 19:11.].”]
THE BLIND MAN HEALED AT THE POOL OF SILOAM
John 9:6-7. When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, and said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent). He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.
THERE is reason to think that all the miracles of our Lord were intended as emblems of the spiritual blessings which he came to bestow. But in interpreting Scripture it is better to assign to every passage a sense which is clear and determinate, than to wander into the regions of conjecture. In some places however the mystical meaning is pointed out by the inspired writers themselves; and then we may follow them without doubt or fear. Such is the case with respect to the miracle before us; in considering which it will be proper to notice,
The historical fact—
[The Disciples seeing a man that had been blind from his birth, inquired of our Lord whether the sins of his parents, or any sins of his own in a former state of existence [Note: It should seem that the Pythagorean notion of the transmigration of souls, prevailed among the Jews of that day.], had been the occasion of that calamity being inflicted on him? Our Lord informed them, that it was owing to a far different cause: that it had been ordained of God on purpose “that the works of God might be made manifest in him,” and that in him the Messiah might be glorified. What a consoling thought is this to those who have endured long and heavy afflictions, that God perhaps has sent those afflictions on purpose to glorify the riches of his grace and love by means of them! Who would not submit to be reduced to the state of this blind beggar, in order to be made the honoured instrument of glorifying God, and the happy monument of his power and grace?
Our blessed Lord, determining to heal him, made clay of his own spittle, and put it on his eyes, and bade him wash in the pool of Siloam. How strange a remedy was this! In itself, it was more calculated to put out the eyes of one that could see, than to give sight to one that was blind. Whether the Lord Jesus intended by this act to shew, that men who are born blind are, as it were, still farther blinded by their intercourse with this present world, and that no power but his could remove this double veil from their eyes, I cannot say: but this is clear, that he did it, to shew, that he can work by any means, however inadequate; that we must submit to use the means which he prescribes; and that in the use of his instituted ordinances, of whatever kind they be, we may expect his blessings.
The man complied with the injunctions given him, and found the desired blessing. One would suppose that the sight of this stupendous miracle must have convinced all, that Jesus was the Messiah: but a determined infidel nothing will convince. The Pharisees were determined not to believe in Jesus: they therefore endeavoured at first to disprove the miracle. When that was established beyond a possibility of doubt, they made the performing of the miracle on the Sabbath-day a ground of accusation against Jesus, and cried out against it as a scandalous violation of the Sabbath. When they saw the conviction that was fastened on the minds of the more ingenuous, they enacted a law, that every one who should confess Jesus to be the Messiah, should be excommunicated. Such are the weapons with which ungodly men have ever combated the truth of God: when they fail in argument, they have recourse to authority, and establish that by pains and penalties, which they have in vain laboured to maintain by an appeal to reason or Scripture.
The parents of the man were intimidated and silenced; but the man that had received the benefit, boldly vindicated the character of his benefactor. His arguments were irresistible: but they served only to incense the haughty Pharisees, and to bring upon himself the sentence of excommunication. Thus will every truly enlightened man confess his Saviour; and, when called to suffer for him, will take up his cross with cheerful resignation, yea, and rejoice that he is counted worthy to bear it.
Our blessed Lord soon found his faithful confessor, and amply rewarded his fidelity by a fuller manifestation of himself, and a more abundant communication of grace to his soul. And thus will he recompense all who suffer for his sake: they shall have a hundredfold now in this present life, and “in the world to come life everlasting [Note: Mark 10:29-30.].”]
Forbearing to notice the more minute incidents, we pass on to,
The typical interpretation—
We cannot conceive why the Evangelist should give the typical import of the word Siloam, unless to intimate, that the whole miracle had a typical reference. The word Siloam means, Sent; and was intended to prefigure the true “Shiloh [Note: Genesis 49:10.],” “the messenger of the covenant [Note: Malachi 3:1.],” the sent of God [Note: John 10:36.], the Messiah that should come into the world; and the miracle wrought there typically represents,
The state of mankind by nature—
[The man by the special providence of God was born blind, in order that he might more fitly characterize the state and condition of unregenerate men. They are universally blind by nature, and as blind with respect to spiritual things as this poor man was with respect to all the objects around him. He could form some crude notions about them by means of feeling; but he could discern no one thing aright: so the men of this world may, by reading, obtain some faint idea of spiritual things; but they have no just apprehension of them at all. To prove that all natural men are blind, we need not descend to particulars, or shew that they cannot discern this and that particular truth; there is one question that may determine the point at once; Do all, or do any of those who are in the broad road, see whither they are going? do they not universally think, or hope at least, that notwithstanding all which God has spoken [Note: Matthew 7:13-14.], they shall go to heaven when they die? If further proof be wanted, let an appeal be made to Scripture, and God himself will put the matter beyond dispute [Note: Revelation 3:16-17. 1 Corinthians 2:14.]. Nothing can more justly represent our state than the man on whom this miracle was wrought.]
The end for which Christ came into the world—
[Our Lord himself gave this exposition to the miracle, at the very time he wrought it [Note: ver. 5.]; and enforced it afterwards by more express declarations. He was not only to be a light to lighten the world [Note: Luke 2:32.], but was to open the eyes of the blind [Note: Isaiah 42:6-7.]. He was not only to set before men truths which they were unacquainted with before, but to open their hearts, that they might give attention to them [Note: Acts 16:14.], and their understandings, that they might understand them [Note: Luke 24:45.].
The very manner in which he imparts his blessings, is also not obscurely intimated in the miracle before us. As the means he used were very inadequate to the end proposed, so, for the advancement of his own glory, he uses the ministry of weak and sinful men, and by their word he turns men from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God [Note: Acts 26:17-18.]. Even supposing that we were able of ourselves to convince the judgments of men, we can no more give them spiritual discernment, than the clay and water could give organs of vision to the blind beggar. But, as an ordinance appointed by Jesus, and accompanied with his Spirit, our preaching is made instrumental to the enlightening and saving of many souls. And the weakness of the instruments used by him, is rendered subservient to his more abundant honour [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:7.].]
Our blessed Lord has given us a yet further insight into the miracle, by suggesting to us,
The spiritual improvement—
[There was to be a judicial discrimination in the ministry of our Lord for the purpose of encouraging the humble, and confounding the proud [Note: ver. 39.]. The great line of distinction between men is this; some are sensible of their blindness, and desire to be divinely enlightened; and others imagine that they already see, and therefore disregard all offers of spiritual illumination.
With respect to the former, Christ came to give them sight: and, if they will apply to him in the use of his appointed ordinances, he will assuredly vouchsafe to them the benefit they desire. He declares that this was the very intent of his coming into the world [Note: Luke 4:18.]: and he counsels all to apply to him for the eye-salve that shall effectually remedy their wants [Note: Revelation 3:18.]. If they do this, their want of education, or even weakness of intellect, shall be no obstacle in their way; he will “reveal to babes and sucklings the things which are hid from the wise and prudent [Note: Matthew 11:25.].”
With respect to the latter, he will leave them to the operation of their own minds, and give them up to their own delusions. He will not actively mislead them; nor is there any need that he should in order to produce the increase of blindness in them: for if left to themselves, they will bewilder themselves in their own reasonings, and confirm themselves more and more in their own errors. Their prejudices, their passions, and their interests, will concur to lead them astray, and their great adversary the devil, will obstruct the entrance of light into their minds [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:4.]; and thus they will eventually be “taken in their own craftiness [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:19.],” and “utterly perish in their own corruptions [Note: 2 Peter 2:12.].”
The improvement then which our Lord himself teaches us to make of this miracle is, to cultivate a sense of our own blindness, and to “become fools in order that we may be wise [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:18.].” If we be “wise in our own conceits, there is more hope of a fool [Note: Proverbs 26:12.],” or of any other character in the universe, than of us. On the contrary, if we be deeply humbled before God as destitute of all spiritual discernment, the “scales shall soon be made to fall from our eyes,” and the “Spirit of the living God will guide us into all truth.”]
[All of us must of necessity resemble the man while his blindness continued, or after it had been removed. Let us then inquire whether we can say with him, “This I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see [Note: ver. 25.]?” If we cannot, let us remember, that the Saviour is nigh at hand, and that the means used for our illumination, weak as they are, are quite sufficient, if accompanied with his power. Let us take encouragement to ask the influences of his good Spirit, and to pray with David, “Open thou mine eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law [Note: Psalms 119:18.].” On the other hand, if our eyes have been opened, let us boldly confess our benefactor, and willingly bear whatever infidel rulers or persecuting bigots may inflict upon us for his sake. Let us, like Christ himself, endure the cross, and despise the shame. Let us “be faithful unto death, and he will give us a crown of life.”]
DISPOSITION TO BE EXERCISED TOWARDS THE GOSPEL
John 9:35-38. 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 answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.
NO man that ever suffered for righteousness’ sake found, in the issue, that he had any reason to complain: for, sooner or later, God has recompensed his sufferings into his bosom a hundred-fold, even in this present life: and assuredly a most glorious recompence awaits him in the world to come [Note: Mark 10:29-30.]. A remarkable instance of God’s special favour to his suffering people is recorded in the passage before us. A man, who had been born blind, had been restored to sight. The Pharisees, being averse to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, would not believe that the miracle had been wrought: but, being compelled at last to acknowledge that, they persisted that Jesus, in working this miracle on the Sabbath-day, had violated the Sabbath, and unequivocally proved himself to be a sinner. But the man, on whom the miracle had been wrought, very justly observed to them, that God would never have set his seal, in so public and wonderful a manner, to the pretensions of an impostor; and that, consequently, the miracle must be considered as a decisive proof that Jesus was both sent of God, and approved of God. The Pharisees, unable to withstand the force of his reasoning, had recourse to persecution, and “cast him out of the synagogue.” But his fidelity did not long remain unnoticed or unrewarded: for our blessed Lord soon found him, and poured into his soul all the blessings of salvation.
In considering the case of this blind man, I propose to notice,
The disposition exercised by him—
We cannot but observe, that, to the question put to him by our Lord, there was something very remarkable in his reply: “Dost thou believe in the Son of God?” “Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?” Now,
In this he manifested a singular degree of candour—
[The question, as applied to him, might appear almost unreasonable: for he had been blind from his birth; and therefore had been cut off, in a measure, from many sources of information which were open to persons of his own age and rank in society. It is true, that the Messiah was generally expected among his countrymen, and that he was expected as “the Son of God:” but, from the obstacles which had obstructed his enjoyment of social converse, it could scarcely be hoped that he had collected much information on the subject: and, as for the benefit arising from ocular testimony, he was altogether, by his blindness, precluded from it. Yet, no complaint was made by him on these grounds, nor any excuse offered for his own ignorance; but a desire was expressed to obtain information, and a willingness was declared to act upon it. The excellence of this disposition will best appear, by contrasting it with others which are generally exercised on similar occasions.
Contrast it with prejudice; of which the Pharisees exhibited a striking example on this occasion. They could not deny that the miracle had been wrought: yet they were not at all the more disposed to receive the testimony of Jesus. As those, who saw that devils were cast out by him, would rather account for it by a supposed confederacy with the prince of the devils, than confess the Messiahship of Jesus [Note: Matthew 9:34.]; and, as those who saw Lazarus after his restoration to life plotted to kill him, lest the sight of him should fasten conviction on the minds of any, and induce them to believe in Jesus; so, in the passage before us, the Pharisees determined to resist all evidence, however strong, and to reject the Saviour, whatever proofs he might give of his Divine mission [Note: John 12:10-11.]. But against such perverseness, the man, of whom my text speaks, bore, both in word and deed, a most decisive testimony.
Contrast it with indifference; of which we have a deplorable instance in Pilate. Our Lord had told him plainly, “For this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Every one that is of the truth, heareth my voice.” On hearing this, Pilate asked, “What is truth [Note: John 18:38.]?” But he waited not for an answer; and thereby discovered that he had no desire to be informed. Not so the man before us: he really wished to be informed, that he might conduct himself as it became him towards the person after whom he inquired.
Contrast it with scepticism. Of the great mass of the Jews who had followed Jesus, it is said, that, “though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him [Note: John 12:37.].” Not contented with such miracles as he saw fit to work, and which left no room for doubt, they would have signs of their own choosing [Note: Matthew 12:38-39.]. Even Thomas, one of his own Disciples, (when he had the fullest testimony of all the other Apostles, who had themselves been by no means forward to believe, and had yielded only to evidence that was irresistible,) declared, that, unless he should put his fingers into the very print of the nails in his Saviour’s hands, and thrust his hand into his side, he would not believe [Note: John 20:25.]. This was decidedly wrong. We are bound to yield to evidence, provided that evidence be sufficient to convince us on ordinary occasions: and a readiness to act upon the testimony of him who had opened his eyes was a very commendable trait in the character before us.
Contrast it, lastly, with credulity. This is an error on the contrary side; but extremely common, when falsehood is proposed for our belief. In every age, the Jews were prone to it. Whatever impostor arose, professing himself to be the Christ, he was sure enough to find many followers. He needed only to “come in his own name,” and very little would suffice to satisfy the minds of the deluded multitude [Note: John 5:43.]. Against this we should be on our guard, no less than against excessive incredulity: for St. John says, “Believe not every spirit; but try the spirits, whether they are of God [Note: 1 John 4:1.].” But of this there was no trace in the spirit of this man: for, though he expressed a readiness to believe, he had abundant reason to rely on the testimony of Him who had so miraculously opened his eyes: in him, therefore, this readiness was not credulity, but piety.]
This is the precise disposition which becomes us all—
[In a matter purely speculative, the mind should have no bias at all; no leaning towards one side of the question, any more than towards the other. But the Gospel is not a speculative doctrine; nor are we in a condition to speculate upon it. We have an interest in believing it: and we act most irrationally if we do not feel a wish that the evidences for it may be found true. We are sinners; and, as sinners, under the displeasure of Almighty God. The Gospel purports to be a revelation from heaven, declaring a way for our reconciliation with God. It announces to us a Saviour, even the only-begotten Son of God, as becoming incarnate, and dying upon the cross for our sins; that, through Him, all that believe may be justified from all the sins that ever they have committed. Will any one then say, that we ought not to wish this revelation to be true? or is it a subject on which we ought to speculate, as if we had no interest whatever in it? If a number of rebels, under sentence of death, were informed that the king had sent a free pardon to them, would it become them to receive the tidings with perfect indifference, and to amuse themselves with abstract speculations about the nature and degrees of evidence, without any concern about the proffered benefit? No man would for a moment approve of such apathy; no man would blame a wish to ascertain the truth of such a report, or a readiness to credit it on sufficient evidence. And precisely in that situation do we stand; and such should be the disposition of our minds towards the Gospel of Christ.]
To this we are greatly encouraged by,
The benefit he derived from it—
Two things we behold, as immediately resulting from it:
Christ’s manifestation of himself to him—
[To no one, except the Samaritan woman, did our Lord so frankly and so fully declare his own Messiahship, as to this man. To her, upon her saying, “I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ; when He is come, he will tell us all things;” he plainly replied, “I, that speak unto thee am He [Note: John 4:25-26.].” So, to this persecuted man he also, with the same frankness, proclaimed his divine mission: “Dost thou ask who the Son of God is? Thou hast both seen him; and he it is that talketh with thee.” I say not but that, on some occasions, both to his Disciples and to Pilate, he acknowledged himself to be the Messiah: but to no person did he give so direct, and full, and positive an assurance, as to these two most favoured people: to the woman, in order to shew, to all future generations, that “where sin has abounded, his grace shall much more abound [Note: Romans 5:20.]:” and to the man, that he might encourage all to take up their cross boldly, and follow him.
But does this instance encourage any hope in us? Yes, assuredly it does: for, if we really desire to embrace the Lord Jesus Christ, and to cleave unto him, “he will come to us, and manifest himself unto us, as he does not unto the world.” And to those who questioned his doctrines, he said, “If any man will do God’s will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself [Note: John 7:17.]:” so, to those who would approve themselves to him, he says, “If a man love me, my Father will love him; and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him [Note: John 14:23.].” A docility of mind, and a readiness to follow the dictates of an enlightened conscience, are the distinguishing features of “an Israelite indeed,” and shall never fail of being honoured with testimonies of his special approbation [Note: John 1:47.].]
His dedication of himself to Christ—
[No sooner did the Lord Jesus profess himself to be the Messiah, than this man acknowledged him under that character, and paid him that “worship” which was due to him as God’s only dear Son.
Now, whence had he power to do this? Was not this faith the gift of God [Note: Acts 18:27. Philippians 1:29.]? And was not this act of adoration the fruit of the Spirit, even of the Holy Ghost “working mightily in him” as “a Spirit of grace and of supplication [Note: Zechariah 12:10. with John 6:44.]?” Yes: the Lord Jesus, who had restored the organs of vision to his body, “gave light also to his soul,” and enabled him to exercise these sublime graces: for we know, assuredly, that “without Christ he could have done nothing [Note: John 15:5.].”
And will He not do as much for us, if we manifest the same child-like spirit? He will: he will remove all doubts from our minds, and enable us to exclaim, with Thomas, “My Lord, and my God!”
And here let me observe, that our Lord did not decline these expressions of his adoring love. When such were offered by Cornelius to Peter [Note: Acts 10:25-26.], and by John to an angel [Note: Revelation 22:9.], they were rejected instantly, as an invasion of the divine prerogative: but to Jesus they were properly offered, because he was the Son of God; and therefore he accepted them; and has thereby taught us, that all men are to “honour the Son, even as they honour the Father; and that he who honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father who hath sent him [Note: John 5:23.].”]
Behold then, I say, the rewards conferred upon the disposition that was exercised. In an instant, as it were, this man was brought “from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God.”]
Let me, in conclusion,
Propose to you the inquiry—
[To every individual amongst you would I propose the question, “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” And let no one imagine, that it is an unnecessary inquiry. This man had argued well on the subject of evidences, and yet needed to have the question put to him. And many amongst ourselves may be able to defend the outworks of Christianity, whilst yet they have no personal acquaintance with the Lord Jesus. If we would determine this point aright, let us see how this man acted: the very instant that he was enabled to say with truth, “Lord, I believe,” he fell down and “worshipped” his heavenly Benefactor. And will not true faith produce the same effect on. us? Shall not we feel delight in prostrating ourselves at the Saviour’s feet, and in acknowledging our obligations to him? Beyond a doubt, this effect must and will follow. Ask then yourselves, whether this be the habit of your minds from day to day? Has it been so this very day? Has it been so during the past week? Is there in your souls such an overwhelming sense of gratitude to him, as constrains you to revert to him, and fix your thoughts on him, as soon as ever the occasions which have caused a momentary diversion have passed away? Are you touched, as it were, with a magnetic power, that draws you to him, as the needle to the pole? This, I say again, is the invariable effect of true faith; and the resolution of this question will furnish you with the true answer to the inquiry in the text.]
Commend to you the example—
[In reference to every part of God’s word should the same disposition be exercised. I say not, that an attentive examination of evidences is not good: for we are bound to “prove all things, and then to hold fast that only which is good [Note: 1 Thessalonians 5:21.].” But a critical spirit, a disputatious spirit, a sceptical spirit, are not favourable to the reception of divine truth. They may be proper enough in reference to things which are purely intellectual; but not so in reference to things which are altogether spiritual. For a just discernment of these things we need the teachings of God’s Holy Spirit [Note: 1 Corinthians 2:14.]: and with childlike simplicity of mind we should ever pray with Job, “What I see not, teach thou me [Note: Job 34:32.];” and with David, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law [Note: Psalms 119:18.].” Were such a spirit exercised by us, we should find, in ten thousand instances, that the difficulties of Scripture would vanish; what was “crooked becoming straight, and what was rough, being smoothed to a plain.” An obediential spirit would make the whole book of God both luminous and easy to be received. Let me then recommend, that you regard the sacred volume as “a mould, into which your soul is to be poured [Note: Romans 6:17. the Greek.],” and by which its every feature must be formed. Be ready to “obey it from the heart;” and it shall be as effectual to create your souls anew, as the command of heaven was to bring forth the universe into existence, and to reduce the chaos to that order and beauty which entitled it to the commendation of Jehovah, as “very good [Note: John 15:3. with Genesis 1:3; Genesis 1:31.].” In a word, cultivate the spirit which displayed itself so eminently in this man; and, with a readiness to receive instruction and embrace the truth, let there be in you a determination of heart to follow your convictions, without hesitation and without reserve.]
DISCRIMINATING EFFECTS OF THE GOSPEL
John 9:39. Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they who see might be made blind.
THE miracles of our blessed Lord were, as is well known, testimonies from God to his divine mission. But they were also intended as emblems of that spiritual work which he was sent to accomplish. In the former view, he appealed to them for the conviction of John the Baptist, and of those who had been sent by John to inquire respecting his Messiahship: “Go, and shew John those things which ye do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up: and blessed is he who shall not be offended in me [Note: Matthew 11:4-6.].” In the latter view, he refers to them in the passage before us. He had healed a man who was born blind. This having been done on the Sabbath-day, his obstinate and unbelieving enemies imputed it to him as a crime, rather than as any proof of his Messiahship: but the man who was healed, knowing that “no man could do such miracles unless God were with him,” believed in Jesus, and confessed him openly as the Saviour of the world. From the division thus caused, our Lord took occasion to declare, in reference to the souls of men, the intent, and certain effect, of his advent: “For judgment am I come into this world; that they who see not, might see; and that they who see, might be made blind.”
The true import of this passage will not be seen by a superficial observer. It needs much consideration: but it will amply repay all the labour which we can bestow in the investigation of it.
To assist you in apprehending it aright, I will shew,
The need there was of Christ for the developing and disclosing the characters of men—
The judgment which was universally formed of men’s characters was extremely erroneous—
[Men had no other test, whereby to try the human character, than that of moral virtue. If a person had such a respect for the Supreme Being as to be observant of external duties towards him, and such a disposition towards his fellow-creatures as prompted him to acts of benevolence towards them, he was approved, and regarded as a pattern of all that was good. Hence it was that the Scribes and Pharisees were held in such high esteem. Humility, as a grace, was not inquired after; nor indeed was it at all necessary to the discharge of those offices which alone were deemed obligatory in the service of God. On the contrary, the fulfilment of religious duties was considered as a just ground for self-admiration and self-applause. Such men, indeed, as David, who were inspired of God, had the same ideas of it as we have: but, as among the Greeks and Romans, so also amongst the Jews themselves, it was rather reckoned as a mean and base feeling, than as the summit of human excellence. Nor, if it had entered into the composition of virtue in their minds, were there any means of discovering its existence. The submission of human wisdom to that which is divine was not called for to any great extent: nor was a renunciation of a man’s own righteousness demanded, in order to his acceptance through a righteousness provided for him by God. General obedience to acknowledged laws constituted the chief excellence of every man; and beyond that nothing was looked for, in order to secure the approbation of God. But all this was erroneous: yea, in relation to it all, it may be said, that “that which was highly esteemed amongst men was an abomination in the sight of God [Note: Luke 16:15.].”]
Hence arose a necessity for our blessed Lord to come into the world—
[Doubtless, the first ground of his advent was to make reconciliation for the sins of men, and to work out a righteousness for them by his own obedience unto death. But subordinate to this was the purpose specified in our text: “For judgment came I into this world.” To understand this expression aright, we must call to mind the office of a Judge. He inquires into the particular facts which are brought before him, and determines the characters of men according to those facts. Now, what an earthly judge does in reference to overt acts, that the Lord Jesus Christ does in reference to secret dispositions. He brings with him a revelation calculated to elicit the dispositions of the heart, and to shew what men really are in the sight of God. Hence, at the time when his parents brought him to the temple, to do for him after the custom of the law, it was said concerning him, “This child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign that shall be spoken against, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed [Note: Luke 2:34-35.].”]
But I will proceed to mark more distinctly,
The suitableness of his appearance to produce that discovery—
The whole of his appearance, from the first to the latest hour of his existence upon earth, was calculated to offend the pride of man—
[See him at his birth. Behold him born in the family of a poor carpenter; and laid in a manger, because there was no better accommodation for his mother, under circumstances which, it might have been supposed, would have called forth sympathy and liberality from ten thousand bosoms. Is this the Son of God? Impossible: it can never be, that Almighty God should suffer him to come into the world under circumstances of such unparalleled degradation.
See him, too, in his life. Behold him still so poor, as not to have a place where to lay his head: a few poor fishermen for his followers; and an object of scorn and derision to all the higher parts of the community. Were I to give a just description of him, I could not do it in more appropriate terms than in those of prophecy itself: “He shall be as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness: and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him: he was despised, and we esteemed him not [Note: Isaiah 53:2-3.].” Yet this is the person who offers himself to me as the Saviour of the world!
See him, finally, in his death. This completes the scene. He is sentenced to death, both by the men of his own nation and by the Roman governor; and, by universal consent, is executed as a malefactor; a murderer being preferred before him, as a fitter object of mercy than he. And is He to save me, when he did not save himself? Is He to deliver me from the wrath of God, who himself fell under the wrath of man? I wonder not that such an idea was a ground of offence; for throughout the whole there was an apparent inconsistency with all his own professions, and an absolute contrariety to all the expectations that were formed concerning him. Is this the person that came from God, and “made himself equal with God,” and through whom alone any child of man can come to God, or find acceptance with him? Unenlightened reason discards at once such pretensions as these, and rejects them utterly as irrational and absurd. And this is exactly what the prophet has foretold: “He, the Lord Jesus, shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem: and many among them shall stumble and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken [Note: Isaiah 8:14-15.].”]
On the other hand, he gave sufficient evidence of his Messiahship to convince any humble inquirer—
[The testimony borne to him by angels at his birth, the descent of the Holy Ghost upon him at his baptism, the numberless miracles wrought by him in his life, the wonders attendant on his death, his resurrection from the dead, his ascension to heaven, his sending of the Holy Ghost on his Disciples, and all the miracles wrought by them in his name, these were evidences which an humble mind could not withstand. Besides, to those who felt their need of a Saviour, there was every thing which was suited to their necessities. A mere man would not have sufficed for them: they needed a Saviour who was God as well as man: they needed an atonement of infinite value; a righteousness fully adequate to all the demands of God’s holy law, and capable of being imputed to them for their acceptance before God. They needed not only the sacrifice of Christ on earth, but also his intercession in heaven; yea, and his all-powerful agency, too, as the Head of vital influence to his Church and people: in a word, they needed precisely such a Saviour as he had represented himself to be: and, though the whole relating to him was involved in mystery which they could not comprehend, they saw in it nothing but what was honourable to the character of God, and nothing but what was conducive to the happiness of man. Hence they were content to receive the Lord Jesus as their Saviour, and to found all their hopes of happiness on him alone.
Thus in him was found precisely such a test as the world needed: and]
The use of this test was seen in,
The actual effect of his advent—
Mark the effect of his advent:
Whilst he himself was on earth—
[This discrimination of character was seen from the first moment that he entered on his ministry. Never did more gracious words proceed from the lips of man, than those which were uttered by him in his first public discourse at Nazareth; insomuch, that “all who heard them bare him witness, and wondered [Note: Luke 4:18-22.]:” yet, upon his reminding them of two events in their history, the sending of the Prophet Elijah to be supported by a Sidonian (a heathen), and not an Israelitish widow; and the healing of a leprosy, by the Prophet Elisha, in the person of Naaman, a Syrian, and not of any of the lepers that were in Israel; they were instantly fired with such indignation and wrath, that “they thrust him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong,” and destroy him [Note: Luke 4:25-29.]. Now, what was there in his discourse to produce so instantaneous a change? The Jews considered themselves as exclusively the objects of God’s regard; and they could not endure the thought that he should have mercy in reserve for the Gentiles: and the suggestion of this was in their minds an evil worthy of death. Again: when our blessed Lord wrought miracles in confirmation of his word, many, instead of yielding to conviction, took occasion, from the very works which they could not but acknowledge to be miraculous, to accuse him of a confederacy with the devil: and, in the very passage before us, they made his restoring a man to sight on the Sabbath-day a ground rather of accusation against him, as a sinner, than of acknowledging him to be, what he really was, the true Messiah. And to his latest hour they evinced the same spirit, calling out for a sentence of death against him; when his very Judge declared him innocent, and not a person upon earth could be found to convict him of the slightest sin. Nor was it the mere populace who thus persecuted him: they were only instruments in the hands of their superiors: it was the act of the Scribes and Pharisees, and of all who presided in their nation, whether in the Ecclesiastical or Civil department: and this shewed how, by his ministry, their hypocrisy was detected: and that, in the midst of all their pretended piety, they were decided enemies to God in their hearts.]
In the whole of the apostolic age—
[The preaching of his name was productive of the very same effect as his personal ministry had produced. It was universally “to the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:23.].” If we except the instance of the Saviour himself, there never existed, from the foundation of the world, such a contest as that which was maintained by the Apostle Paul; he doing every thing that man could do, and suffering every thing that man could suffer, for the salvation of a perishing world; and they, whether Jews or Gentiles, uniformly and universally seeking his destruction. The same treatment was shewn to all the Apostles, and to all the followers of Christ, in proportion as they, by their activity and zeal, drew the attention of those to whom they ministered; insomuch that, with the exception of John, not one of the Apostles was suffered to die a natural death.
On the other hand, there were many to whom the mystery of the Gospel was “the wisdom of God and the power of God [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:24.].” In all its provisions they beheld an excellency and glory: and they found, by experience, that it was “the power of God to the salvation of their souls [Note: Romans 1:16.].” And who were they that thus displayed its energy? Were they the great, the wise, the moral? No: “ye see your calling,” says St. Paul, “how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world, to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are; that no flesh should glory in his presence [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:26-29.]:” so fully did the Gospel answer the end predicted by the prophet; “Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed [Note: Isaiah 6:9-10.].”]
At the present hour—
[No where is Christ faithfully preached, but “a division” is made among the people: and in all the families where his truth prevails, “a sword” is introduced, even amongst the nearest and dearest relatives [Note: Mat 10:34-36 and Luke 12:51-53.]. No caution in the preacher will suffice to abate the enmity of the heart against God. Only let Christ be exalted, and some will call the preacher an enthusiast and deceiver, whilst others will “regard him as an angel of God, or even as Christ Jesus himself [Note: Galatians 4:14-15.].” The very same word is still, as in the days of old, “a savour of life to the salvation of some, and a savour of death to the condemnation of others [Note: 2 Corinthians 2:16.].” And so far are the admired characters of the world from being most favourable to the truth, that even “publicans and harlots enter into heaven before them:” so true is it still, as in the days of old, that “the last are first, and the first last.”]
And now let me address myself,
To those who are unconscious of their own blindness—
[This was the state of the Pharisees, to whom our Lord addressed the words of my text. Perceiving that he had in his mind a reference to them, they confidently and indignantly asked, “Are we blind also?” But our blessed Lord told them that their conceit only tended to enhance and aggravate their guilt. If they had, indeed, never been favoured with means of instruction, they would have had the less to answer for: but, in proportion as they supposed themselves already informed, they shewed their impiety in rejecting him [Note: ver. 40, 41.]. Now this is the very caution which I would give to you: The more confident you are that you are already in possession of the truth, the more you make it manifest that “Satan hath blinded your eyes:” for to make you reject Christ, is the work in which that subtle adversary is incessantly engaged [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 4:6.]. O! learn this humiliating truth, that you “are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked;” and you will then have no difficulty in discovering the excellency of Christ, who offers to you “gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich; and eye-salve, that you may see; and raiment, that you may be clothed, and that the shame of your nakedness may not appear [Note: Revelation 3:18.].” Only resemble the man who was willing and desirous to believe, and Christ will soon make himself known to you, in all his excellency, and in all his glory [Note: ver. 35–38.].]
To those who are willing to be taught of God—
[The docility of a little child is one of the choicest gifts that can possibly be bestowed upon you. It is a certain prelude to divine instruction, and the best preparative for all the blessings of the Gospel. You need not be discouraged at the thought of your own weakness: for “what God has hid from the wise and prudent, it is his delight to reveal to babes [Note: Matthew 11:25-26.].” “The wise he will leave to be taken in their own craftiness [Note: Isaiah 29:14. with 1 Cor. 19, 20.]:” but the more you are “a fool” in your own estimation, the more certainly and effectually shall you be made truly wise [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:18-20.]. The Holy Spirit is promised to you, as “a Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ [Note: Ephesians 1:17-18.]:” and though the Gospel must ever remain to you an unfathomable mystery, you shall have such an insight into it as no unenlightened man can have [Note: Matthew 13:11.], and by means of it be “guided safely into the way of peace.”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on John 9". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11