And as Jesus passed by He saw a man which was blind from his birth
Jesus and the blind man
1. A type of spiritual need (John 9:1; Ephesians 4:18; 2Co Luke 2:34; Isaiah 59:9; Proverbs 4:19; Isaiah 59:10).
2. Common to the human race (John 9:2; Romans 3:23; Psalms 14:3; 1 John 5:19; Romans 5:12; Rom_5:14; Rom_5:21).
II. HELP GRANTED.
1. For the glory of God (John 9:3; John 7:18; Joh_8:49-50; Joh_11:4; Joh_14:13).
2. Because the time was short (John 9:4; John 12:35; Joh_13:1; Joh_14:12; Matthew 26:24; Luke 12:50).
3. To show Christ’s errand on earth (John 9:4; John 3:17; Joh_4:34; Joh_6:38; Luke 2:49; Psalms 40:7; 1 John 4:14).
4. To fulfil prophecy.
5. To reward faith (John 9:7; Matthew 9:22; Mat_9:29; Mat_13:58; Mat_15:28; Acts 3:16).
III. DOUBTS OF UNBELIEVERS.
1. As to the reality of the miracle (John 9:9; John 7:12; Matthew 9:3; Mat_9:24; Mat_28:15; Acts 1:13).
2. As to the fitness of the time (John 9:14; Matthew 12:2; Mat_12:10; John 5:16; Joh_5:18; Luke 6:7).
3. As to the character of Jesus (John 9:16; John 7:20; Joh_9:24; Joh_9:29; Lu Matthew 11:19; Mark 3:22). (S. S. Times.)
Jesus and the blind man
Here are three distinct types of character all seeking for information.
1. The gossip-loving neighbours whose sole desire seems to have been to see or hear some new thing.
2. The prejudiced Pharisees who are bound not to know anything that conflicts with their cherished views.
3. The parents who are afraid that they know too much.
4. The one man who did know something and was not afraid to own it.
I. THERE WERE MANY THINGS THE BLIND MAN DID NOT KNOW. He had never till now seen the light of day. Objects familiar to a child, grass, trees, sun, moon, etc., were unknown to him. His creed was very short and contained but one article, but this was the most important because containing that rarest of all knowledge--self-knowledge. What do you know, boy or girl? Something about grammar, arithmetic, geography, etc.? But do you know something about yourself? Here you are in the world; you know that in some sense, but do you realize it as the man did his blindness, so that it affects every action and thought? Do you know that you will not stay in the flesh forever? “Yes, ever since I wrote in my copybook, ‘All men are mortal.’” But do you know it as the man knew that he was blind, so that you are willing to accept the gift of heaven through Christ?
II. WHAT THE BLIND MAN KNEW HE KNEW THOROUGHLY. About this one article he had no question. There was no “if” or “perhaps” about it, no room for Agnosticism in it. He had only one answer for his neighbours and the Pharisees, and could not be cajoled or frightened out of what he knew. It is best to believe a little thoroughly than much superficially. Not that creeds are to be despised, but as a matter of fact every man has his own private creed which does not coincide with all the creed of his church, but which is a matter of experience. This man’s creed was, “One thing I know; whereas I was blind,” etc. The deaf mute’s creed was, “One thing I know, whereas I was dumb,” etc. So with the cleansed leper. These creeds differed in their premises, but they all led to the same conclusion, that there was one Healer. We may have been brought to our belief through different doors--one through that of sorrow, another through that of providential deliverance, etc., yet there is one conclusion, that Jesus is the only Saviour of sinners.
III. THE GRADUAL WAY IN WHICH HE APPROACHED TO A KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST.
1. He is only conscious of an unusual presence in the throng about him who exerts a strange influence over him, then stops and anoints his eyes, commands him to wash, which doing he sees. At once he says, “A man that is called Jesus,” etc. That is something. He has time to think the matter over.
2. When the next questioner asks, “What sayest thou of Him”? he answers unhesitatingly, “He is a prophet.” He is getting on rapidly now. Not more quickly do his newly-opened eyes take in the marvels of nature than his newly-awakened spiritual vision takes in the glories of Christ’s character.
3. Next he hears them call Jesus a sinner. Nay, he says, “God heareth not sinners”--a further step. The healer is a sinless one.
4. A moment later he avers that Jesus comes from God.
5. A little later comes worship of and faith in Christ as the Son of God, where he reaches the limit of knowledge.
IV. NOTE THAT VERY LITTLE KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST IS SUFFICIENT FOR SALVATION. A child knows more than that beggar did of Christ, but he knew enough to do as he was bidden, and that was enough to save him. Christ did not wait until he fully apprehended His character before He healed him. “He that willeth to do His will shall know,” etc.
V. THERE IS ONE CLASS IN THIS STORY WHO MADE THEMSELVES THE WORLD’S LAUGHING STOCK--the Pharisees. They would not believe their own eyes. They were so eager to establish their point that they made themselves ridiculous. There are many people now who disbelieve in the face of stronger evidence, and who do not believe for the same reason as the Pharisees--because they will not.
VI. AN OUNCE OF EXPERIENCE IS WORTH A TON OF THEORY. The blind man, alone and ignorant, had the advantage of the whole college of rabbis because he had experience on his side. He could establish a fact when they could only ask questions. It is better to know one thing than to guess a good many. (Sermons by the Monday Club.)
The history of the man who was born blind
1. The miracle, or the power of the love of Christ.
2. The trial, or the power of upright simplicity and gratitude.
3. The issue, or the victory of faith over the strongest temptation.
4. The profound interpretation and lofty significances of the event. (J. P.Lange, D. D.)
The healing of the man born blind
I. THE GREATNESS OF HIS AFFLICTION. His blindness
1. Deprived him of an important means of knowledge. The blind may acquire a word knowledge of men and things, but he is powerless to form any corresponding mental picture. Locke speaks of one who, after listening to an explanation of scarlet, thought it resembled the blast of a trumpet; and so of the man here. There he stands at the gate of the Temple; his features familiar to the worshippers, but the gorgeous service within, and all the life and beauty without, he had never beheld, and as he now stood beneath the Redeemer’s gaze he was unconscious whose pitying look rested on him. We are all born blind. The eyes of the soul are there, but they see not. For many years some have heard the disfiguration our moral visage described and the beauty of Jesus depicted, and are as insensible to both as this blind man.
2. Denied him a grand source of enjoyment. The eye is the channel of some of our purest pleasures. The blind know nothing of the beauties of nature, art, literature, friendship; and the spiritually blind are dead to the perception of a Father’s presence and a Father’s love.
3. Unfitted him for the discharge of life’s duties. Instead of being able to care for others, he needed others to care for him. He whose mind is blinded by unbelief, prejudice, or passion can never rightly discharge his duty. The light of God’s renewing grace within is the only sufficient qualification for doing the works of righteousness.
II. THE MANNER OF HIS CURE.
1. There was the Divine employment of a material element. A medicinal value was attributed to the saliva, but the clay could only have further injured the eyes. So that the ointment was not an assistance to Divine power but only to human faith.
2. There was implicit obedience to the Divine command. Without question or debate, and actuated only by hope of cure, the man did as he was told. Whatever God appoints as a condition of blessing we are bound to instantly accept. If He commands us wash in the Saviour’s blood, and move with the feet of prayer to the place of healing, it is for us not to question but to obey.
3. There was the evident operation of Divine power. The clay and Siloam were only outward and visible signs of Christ’s curative energy. The cure of spiritual blindness is possible only to the power of God. Neither priestly incantations nor clay-cold creeds can make the blind to see.
III. THE CHARACTER OF HIS TESTIMONY.
1. It was the embodiment of personal experience. He does not attempt to explain the how of the cure, nor does he allow himself to be shaken by the Pharisees’ objection to the Author of his cure. He keeps to the one thing he knows. There is no evidence so valuable as experimental. If we have been brought out of darkness into marvellous light no objector can destroy that fact of consciousness.
2. It was sustained by visible proof. His neighbours could not at first agree as to his identity, there was so great a change. So by their fruits regenerate Christians are known.
3. It was borne with unflinching boldness. He dared and suffered that which a Jew dreaded most. It is an easy thing to confess Christ when the confession involves no sacrifice. But to witness for Him when convenience and custom would counsel silence; to lose a good situation rather than deny our Lord--that requires courage. But Christ made up to the man more than he had lost, and so He will do to us. (W. Kirkman.)
Opening the eyes of one blind from his birth
I. THE PRELIMINARIES OF THIS MEMORABLE MIRACLE.
1. A strange question (John 9:2).
2. A conclusive reply (John 9:3).
3. A solemn reflection (John 9:4).
4. A glorious announcement (John 9:5).
II. THE PECULIAR MANNER IN WHICH IT WAS WROUGHT.
1. The action (John 9:6).
2. The command, “Go” (John 9:6) The design of which was
3. the result, “Came seeing” (John 9:7).
III. THE VARIOUS DISPUTES AND ENQUIRIES WHICH THE MIRACLE OCCASIONED. Several parties are introduced.
1. The man’s neighbours and casual acquaintances (John 9:8-12).
2. The Pharisees (John 9:13, etc.).
3. Our Lord (John 9:35, etc.).
While I was living in Geneva I became acquainted with Dr. Dufour of Lausanne, just after his successful operation on a patient blind from birth. The case is by no means unprecedented, but it is not common, and when it occurs, the study of the processes by which one thus put in possession of a new sense comes to the intelligent use of it, and to the power of apprehending anything in the mind by means of it, is a study of the profoundest interest both to the physician and to the mental philosopher. There are very apt to he circumstances unfavourable to such study. The form of blindness from birth which is susceptible of cure is that of “congenital cataract;” and this is often so complicated with other defects of the organ of vision that even after it is removed the patient cannot see distinctly; or there is a deficiency of the intellectual faculties; or the original blindness was not complete, so that the ease does not furnish an example of the actual beginning of vision; or the operation is effected at an age at which the child cannot give a full and intelligent account of his sensations. The case which Dr. Dufour treated was that of a man of twenty, both whose eyes had been covered from birth by an opaque chalky deposit which barely permitted him to perceive a difference between light and darkness; only when a strong colour was made to shine obliquely into the pupil he had been able to recognize the difference between red, yellow, and blue. But he had never seen the form of anything, a surface, or an outline. After the operation the patient was kept for a considerable time in a dark room with the eyes bandaged; and at last when the healing was sufficiently advanced, he was brought to the light. He groped, and sought for leading, and behaved so like a blind man that the doctor began to doubt whether there was not a deeper seated blindness that would defeat the effect of his operation. The patient was seated with his back to the window, and the doctor, in front, moved his hand to and fro over his black coat. “Do you see anything?” he asked. “Yes,” said the patient; “I see something light.” (He already knew the difference between light and darkness). “What is it?” “It’s--it’s--it’s--” This is all that could be got from him. The doctor tried once more, putting his hand before the patient, sometimes at rest, sometimes in motion. “Do you see anything move?” “Move?” The doctor kept trying, and the patient gazed intently; but the most of an answer that could be got from the young man was that he saw “something white.” The next day the patient was seated again as before, and the doctor showed him a watch. He said at once, I see something bright. Is it round or square. No answer. “Do you know what square means?” He made the shape with his hands, and likewise a circle. But all the time, looking eagerly at the watch, he was totally unable to tell whether it was round or square. The next day the same question was put, with the same failure to answer. At length the doctor let him touch the watch. Instantly he spoke up: “It’s round! It’s a watch!” Two strips of paper were shown him. He could not tell by the eye which was the longer, or whether they were of equal length, until he was allowed to touch them. He was shown two pieces of paper, one square, the other round. “Do you see any difference between these papers?” “Yes.” “What is the difference?” No answer. “Well, one of them is round and the other square; which is the square?” He hesitated awhile, and being told to touch them, he laid his hand on the square piece, and, feeling the corner of it, exclaimed, “This is the square!” Then he handled the round piece attentively, and from that time forth had no difficulty in distinguishing round objects by the eye. The results of a long series of careful experiments with this patient is thus summed up: His visual sensations were clear and definite enough, but he had no power of interpreting them. Each sensation required a special intellectual act of comparing the impression on the eye with the impression on the touch. The image of external objects impressed on his retina was nothing to him but an assemblage of outlines and colours, in which he perceived no order, and from which he derived no notion, whether of form, or of distance, or of motion. This result corresponds to the result reached in the half-dozen like cases that have been studied and recorded, beginning with Cheselden’s famous case in 1728. The incident of restoration of sight to the blind has been used in modern fiction by Wilkie Collins in “Poor Miss Finch,” and by Bulwer in “The Pilgrims of the Rhine,” and used in a way utterly irreconcilable with fact or possibility, Shakespeare, as might be expected, deals more shrewdly with the subject (“King Henry VI,” part 2). Now, it is a very notable fact, that in the gospel accounts of the healing of the blind, written in an age when “it had not been heard since the world began that anyone had opened the eyes of a man born blind,” there is not a syllable that is inconsistent with the facts of psycho-physiology as they have been demonstrated so many centuries later. The most ingenious tale writers of our own day fall inadvertently into such inconsistencies. These plain narrators of eighteen hundred years ago avoid them. How? They must have been going by facts that they had seen. It was in my thought to speak of the paedagogic interest of the case. Dr. Dufour was so unprepared for the incapacity of perception in his patient, that he was ready to believe his operation a failure, because of the slenderness of the first results. Is there any commoner source of discouragement to teachers than their own mistake in taking too much for granted? Is it easy to underestimate the acquired knowledge of a little child? A careful statistical study of “The Contents of a Child’s Mind,” lately made by the examination of candidates for the primary schools of Boston, yielded results of a sort most instructive to the teachers of primary classes, as showing how often those notions which we should assume as a matter of course as being part of the mental furniture of the least and dullest, are lacking in the minds even of bright children. (L. W. Bacon, D. D.)
Characteristics of blindness
I knew such a blind man once--sharp, shrewd, clever. I was staying on the Cornish coast and the good man of the house sat in the settle by the fire. I was anxious to make his acquaintance and seeing he was blind, I said, with as much sympathy as I could, “Yours is a great affliction, my friend.” To my astonishment he got up and turned upon me angrily, and denied it utterly. “No, it is not,” said he--“not a bit.” And he groped his way out. His wife hurried in to apologise and explain. “Oh, sir, I am so sorry; I meant to have asked you not to say anything about my husband’s blindness. He always gets so angry. You know, he thinks eyes are such stupid things. And he can do a great deal more without his eyes than many men can do with them.” That blind man opened my eyes. I watched henceforth most carefully, and I think I learned this--that, generally speaking, a blind man is not conscious of his infirmity. A deaf man sees that he is deaf, but a blind man cannot see that he is blind. As the result of my altered manner I got an invitation to address some two or three hundred blind people. I was almost shocked at the reason given for asking me. “He won’t pity us.” Not pity the poor blind!--why, it was the appeal that had often diverted my earliest pence from some indulgence. But I knew what they meant, and was glad that they had discerned my knowledge--the blind only know that they are blind by being pitied. (M. G. Pearse.)
Characteristics of the miracle
1. It is only related by St. John.
2. Like each of the few miracles in St. John, it is described with great minuteness and particularity.
3. It is one of the four miracles wrought in Judaea, or near Jerusalem, mentioned in St. John. He records eight great miracles together: four in Galilee--turning the water into wine, healing the nobleman’s son, feeding the multitude, and walking on the water (chaps. 2, 4, and 6); and four in Judaea--purifying the Temple, healing the impotent man, restoring sight to the blind, and raising Lazarus (chaps. 2; 5; 6; and 9).
4. It is one of those miracles which the Jews were especially taught to expect in Messiah’s time: “In that day shall the eyes of the blind see out of obscurity” (Isaiah 29:18).
5. It is one of those signs of Messiah having come, to which Jesus particularly directed John the Baptist’s attention: “The blind receive their sight” (Matthew 11:5).
6. It was a miracle worked in so public a place, and on a man so well known, that it was impossible for the Jerusalem Jews to deny it. It is hardly necessary, perhaps, to bid any well-instructed Christian observe the singularly instructive and typical character of each of the eight miracles which John was inspired to record. Each was a vivid picture of spiritual things. Hengstenberg observes, that three of the four great miracles wrought by Christ in Judaea, exactly represent the three classes of works referred to in Matthew 11:5 : “The lame walk, the blind see, the dead are raised up” (John 5:1-47; Joh_9:1-41; Joh_11:1-57). (Bp. Ryle.)
General remarks on the miracle
More miracles are recorded as to the blind than any other disease. One of palsy, one of dropsy, two of leprosy, two of fever. Three dead were raised, but four blind were restored to sight. Some writers extend the number to six (Matthew 12:22). Isaiah alludes oftener to curing the blind than to the removal of any other form of misery. This miracle strikes us with the greater power--the only one born blind (verse 82). (W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)
Renan declared himself ready to believe a miracle in case it be examined and established by a committee especially nominated and authorized beforehand for that purpose. Should we not be almost tempted to speak of a holy irony of history, which has already fulfilled this arbitrary demand many centuries before it was uttered? For, in truth, an examination is here conducted by the most acute and hostile eyes, the witnesses are called, opinions are heard, and the various possibilities are weighed against each other as though on gold scales--and what is the result? It is this. While the miracle remains incomprehensible, its invention is inconceivable. I know what your answer will be when I ask you, whether you regard these particulars as invented--the astonishment of the neighbours; the diversity of opinions; the dissention of the Pharisees; the cunning and forbearance of the parents; the immovable calmness, the increasing frankness, the confidence of the man in presenting the knowledge of his experience as of equal weight with the knowledge of the Pharisees; and that humble confession of his faith in our Lord. We are no more surprised that the restored blind man was cast out than we hear him confessing after this event that Christ is the Son of God. It would excite our wonder more if one or the other of these circumstances had not been mentioned. In fact, as we look at the critical objections that are presented with the most important air imaginable, we can hardly refrain from asking, “Are these men serious or jesting?” (J. J. Van Oosterzee, D. D.)
Instances of blindness
Homer, Ossian, Milton, Blacklock (only saw the light five months, yet linguist and poet), Sanderson, celebrated Mathematician and Lucasian Professor at Cambridge (blind before one year old); Euler, mathematician; Huber (Nat. Hist., “Habits of Bees”); Holman, traveller round the world; William Metcalf, builder of roads and bridges; John Metcalf (Manchester), guide to those travelling through intricate roads by night, when covered with snow, afterwards a projector and surveyor of roads in different mountainous parts, most of the roads about the Peak, and near Buxton, were altered by his direction; Laura Bridgman, neither sight, hearing, nor speech, yet learned to know herself a sinner, and Christ a Saviour; Milburn, the blind American preacher; Prescot, the historian; Goodrich (“Peter Parley”); Rev. J. Crosse, Vicar of Bradford. Hence learn
1. God’s sovereignty in creation: Why were you born blind? Matthew 11:26).
2. God’s goodness in providence: that blind men so often see more than those who have sight. The blind are proverbially cheerful.
3. God’s riches in grace.
A gentleman, in passing a coal mine in Pennsylvania, saw a field full of mules. In answer to his inquiry a boy told him: “These are the mules that work all the week down in the mine; but on Sunday they have to come up to the light, or else in a little while they go blind.” So with men. Keep them delving and digging in dust and darkness seven days in a week, and all the days of the fifty-two weeks in a year, and how long can they be expected to have any discernment for Divine things? The eyes of their understandings are necessarily bedimmed.
Christ’s sight of sinners
This man could not see Jesus, but, what was better, Jesus could see him; and we read, “As Jesus passed by, He saw a man which was blind from his birth.” Many other blind men there were in Israel, but Jesus saw this man with a special eye. I think I see the Saviour standing still, and looking at him, taking stock of him, listening to his quaint speeches, noting what kind of man he is, and exhibiting special interest in him. This morning there is one in the Tabernacle who cannot see Jesus, for he has no spiritual eyes; but I am convinced that my Master is now looking at him, searching him from head to foot, and reading him with discerning eye. He is considering what he will make of him by-and-by, for he has the great and gracious intent that He will take this sinner, who is spiritually like the blind beggar, and enlighten him, and give him to behold His glory. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The compassion of Christ
“He saw,” etc. This was enough to move Christ to mercy, the sight of a fit object. (J. Trapp.)
Types of character in relation to Christ's work
As this chapter is the history of one event, its several sections may be thus treated;--Those who consciously need the work of Christ; those who are speculatively interested in it; those who are malignantly prejudiced against it; those who are heartily interested in it; and those who are experimentally restored by it. Looking at the blind man as representing the consciously needy class note
I. THE WRETCHEDNESS OF THEIR CONDITION.
1. This man was afflicted with blindness. Those windows through which the soul looks out upon, and which the soul lets in the beauty of God’s creation, had never been opened.
2. He was afflicted with beggary. He lived perhaps all his life on the precarious charity of those who visited the temple.
3. He was afflicted with social heartlessness. With what pain must he have heard the question of John 9:2. This was a common error among the Jews; but the whole book of Job seems to have been written to correct it, and Christ Himself exposed it (Luke 13:1-4). The sufferings of individuals are no just criterion of moral character. Spiritually all in their unregenerate condition are as needy as this man. Alas! but few realize it.
II. THE NATURE OF THEIR DELIVERANCE. This is
1. The predetermined work of God (verse 3). Christ does not mean that either was free from sin, but that sin was not the cause of the blindness, but that the blindness was to afford scope for His remedial agency. God’s restorative agency reveals Him often in more striking aspects than even His creative and preserving.
2. Was effected by Christ (verse 4). This He did
(a) There is a Divine purpose in every man’s life.
(b) A Divine work.
(c) A Divine limit.
Christ and the blind man
I. INFIRMITIES AND DISABILITIES MAY BE THE OCCASIONS FOR SHOWING THE DIVINE POWER AND GRACE. “But that the works of God should be made manifest in him” was the infallible solution of this trouble. The calamities and penalties under which multitudes lie are clearly of their own intelligent seeking. If the works of God are made manifest in them, it is but the stern and startling exhibition of the fact that “he is not mocked,” and that “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Here we have illustration of how small and empty our measures and judgments are apt to be, when they would gauge the purposes and deeds of the Infinite. What confusion and rebuke when he stoops to offer the true explanation! In a flash, as it were, he solves much of the mystery of the existence of evil and sorrow in the world. He does not deny the means by which they have appeared. Adam or one’s parents may have violated some beneficent rule of life and the child comes into being, having the marks of it, the curse of it. A remote or near offender may have doomed Byron to the clubfoot, and Cowper to melancholia, and the Emperor William to a withered arm. The keenest experts are often baffled in tracing the genesis of disease. All agree that “affliction cometh not forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground.” Here God has prepared the ground on which to display the marvels of his power. Beautiful characters may appear, as the brilliant blossom on the ugly and thorny cactus. And not for the observers’ sake simply, but chiefly for those subject to infirmity is it laid upon them. If patience and restfulness of spirit and self-forgetfulness can be thus developed, it is well. These are God’s works. “Philosophy may infuse stubbornness,” said Cecil, “but religion only can give patience.” If correct estimates of worldly and unworldly treasures can be gained only in the white heats of furnace pains, then these are well. Every untoward condition of our human life has some beneficent and glorious possibility in it. God only knows what that is. He only can bring it out.
II. DILIGENCE IS IMPROVING OPPORTUNITIES.
III. OUTWARD MEANS THE TEST OF FAITH. Some ignore His Church, its ordinances and methods, as needless in the regeneration of society or of the individual. But some movement must be made to catch its message; some step toward its cleansing pools; some regard for its simplest rites there must be before any who have “closed their eyes lest haply they should perceive” can obtain the Christly healing.
IV. JESUS REVEALS HIMSELF TO THOSE WHO SUFFER FOR HIS SAKE AND CONFIRMS THEIR FAITH. They who escape the great fight of affliction because they are Christ’s do it perhaps to their own loss. Not so real, so vivid, is He to those who have much beside. Fame and ease and abundance may dull that strong and saving sense of His presence which is the disciple’s chief need. (De Witt S. Clark.)
Christ and the blind man
Wherever help was most needed thither His merciful heart drew Him, and whoever craved pity and succour gravitated to Him as streams to the sea. Others, who are immersed in their own satisfactions, may find this a very comfortable and happy world. They do not see the sorrows for which they have no sympathy, and pass by the griefs which they do not feel. In their presence the wounded instinctively hide themselves away, and the eloquence of want is suppressed and silent. While the gardener is bending over the prone and helpless plant, seeking how he may lift it up and restore it to bloom and beauty, wise botanists begin to botanize--“Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?”
I. THE PROBLEM. Here is a problem, old as man is old, and wide as the world is wide, the vast problem of evil--the existence of pain in the universe of a good God. Jesus does not say that this man or his parents had never sinned. All pain is not penal. Pain may be remedial, medicinal--a means of grace, a surgery of soul--a crucible of character, a revelation of the Divine goodness, an ultimate disclosure of the Divine glory. His blindness is an infirmity, not a punishment. It is something given, and not something inflicted.
II. THE MIRACLE. The works of God are at last to be made manifest. The method of the miracle here as everywhere is a method which keeps the miraculous as close as possible to ordinary means and agencies. He always sought some fulcrum in nature on which to rest the leverage of supernatural power. He startles with results, never with processes. He honours nature even when He would transcend nature. But the works of God are made manifest in no startling and spectacular way. As the dawn widens into the day, so this child of darkness is led into the marvellous light. Having anointed the blind man’s eyes, Jesus said, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” He sends him away from Himself, away from His own ministry, to the ministry of nature, to the recuperative energies which are beating in every pulse of creation. There is a human as well as a Divine side in all this great mystery of human healing and human redemption. The man is a small but necessary factor in the redemptive process, in the ultimate result. When Jesus would test our faith He gives us not merely something to believe but something to do. Action is the ultimate speech of conviction, the measure of its strength, the test of its sincerity. The faith that worketh is a faith which may be counted on. The test of a locomotive is not the noise in the whistle, but the pull in the cylinders. Every escape from ignorance into intelligence, from weakness into power, from savagery into civilization, from darkness into the light, is by way of the Pool of Siloam--is a salvation by faith.
III. THE TESTIMONY. The return of this man, radiant in the joy of vision, was the sensation of the hour. He was not overawed by their authority, nor deceived by their sophistry. He could not be coerced into suppression nor corrupted into a lie. Against all blandishment and all abuse that indomitable man was loyal to his benefactor and true to himself.
IV. THE RECOGNITION. Such fidelity was too rare and too precious to fail of its reward. (Boston Homilies.)
The opening of the eyes of a man born blind
Even amid the fury of the crowd Christ was entirely self-possessed, and the incident here recorded may have been introduced by the Evangelist for this, among other reasons, that he might bring out, by the force of the contrast that is here suggested between the excited violence of a multitude and the calmness of Christ, the vast, nay, infinite, superiority of Jesus to all other men. He was not excited. The beginning of all good to the sinner is when Jesus sees him thus; even as it was His perception of the ruined state of man, at first, that moved Him to become the Redeemer of the race. Now here we have a great general law pervading the Providence of God. It does not explain the origin of evil, but it shows how God brings good out of evil, and therefore helps to reconcile us to its existence. The anointing of the eyes with clay formed in the manner here described, was better calculated to make a seeing man blind, than to make a blind man see. Why, then, was such an application made? Perhaps to help the faith of the man who was to be cured. It gave him something to build upon. It gave him something to build upon. It raised his hope--nay, it led him to expect a cure; and that helps to account for the promptitude of his obedience. Then the command, “Go, wash in Siloam,” suggests that in spiritual operations God has His work, and we have ours. Now let us observe two things in this brief account of a great miracle. The first is, the promptitude of the man’s obedience. “He went away, therefore, and washed.” Without any delay; without any reluctance; probably, also, without any misgiving--he went and did what he was told. Then observe also the perfection of the cure, “He came seeing.” Seeing is a thing which, in all ordinary cases, needs to be learned. What Jesus did for him, He did perfectly; and when He opens the soul’s eyes, they see clearly and correctly “wonderful things out of God’s law,” I have time now for only two practical lessons and to get them we shall go back to the very beginning of this remarkable chapter.
I. The first is, THAT THE MAINTENANCE OF A CALM AND UNTROUBLED SPIRIT IS ESSENTIAL BOTH TO THE PERCEPTION AND PERFORMANCE OF THE WORKS WHICH OUR FATHER HAS GIVEN US TO DO. Peace of spirit is essential if we would keep ourselves abreast of our opportunities and do each work at its own hour. Let us try to imitate the Saviour here; and to this end let us cultivate entire confidence in God, for trust in Him is peace.
II. The second practical lesson is, THAT THE RAISING OF QUESTIONS IN THE DOMAIN OF MERE SPECULATION INTERFERES WITH THE PERFORMANCE OF THE PRESSING DUTIES OF PRACTICAL LIFE. Not the speculative, but the practical, demands our care. (W. M. Taylor.)
The Saviour and the sufferer
I. THE SAVIOUR. What He was then in giving sight, He is still in giving salvation. Notice His peculiar traits in this miracle.
1. Compassion. Christ saw the blind man before His disciples saw him, and His look awakened their interest. Everywhere we read of His sympathy with those in trouble. He saw what others would gladly refrain from seeing--the woes of men (John 9:1).
2. Omniscience. He saw the past history of this man and His parents; and saw, too, his future history, how boldly, nay, how doggedly he would confess Christ, and how abundantly he would glorify God. He saw in this blind beggar splendid possibilities. So He saw Paul in the persecuting Saul, the reformer in the monk Martin Luther. So He sees what every man may become under Divine grace (John 9:2-3).
3. Activity. Seeing these possibilities in this man He set at work to bring them out. His aim was to make out of this beggar a man of God. Toward this all instrumentalities combined--the clay, the pool, the tests to the man’s character from neighbours and rulers. Do we realize that Jesus is taking the same pains to bring out of us the best that is in us (verse 4-7)?
4. Kingly authority. He gave His command like a king, “Go, wash.” There were man-made customs in the way, but He brushed them aside as one who spoke with authority. The hearts of men need just such a Master as this (John 9:7).
6. Divine power. Only the Divine physician could give sight to the blind-born. And only the Son of God has the right to claim the faith and worship of men (John 9:7; Joh_9:35-38).
II. Turn we now to THE SUFFERER: A most interesting character, as unfolded by the Gospel writer. Note his condition, and his steps from darkness to light.
1. His darkness. He was like the sinner, who cannot see God; whose nature is undeveloped, and who gropes in ignorance. Note texts showing blindness as a type of sin (John 11:10; Joh_12:35; Revelation 3:17; Isaiah 60:2; Ephesians 4:18; 1 Corinthians 2:14).
2. His opportunity. One day Jesus of Nazareth passed by, looked upon him, and called to him. This was the opportunity of his life. Such an opportunity comes to every soul when God’s Spirit strives within him, or God’s Church invites him to salvation.
3. His obedience. This was the obedience of faith.
4. His transformation. A wonderful change, from darkness to light, placing the man in new relations with the universe. But it is a greater change when God converts a soul and makes all things new.
5. His testimony. Notice how positive, how repeated, how consistent was this man’s testimony to the work wrought in him. He did not falter when his witnessing cost him expulsion from the synagogue. So should everyone tell his experience of salvation. (J. L. Hurlbut.)
The Light of the world
Jesus was passing out to avoid stoning; but without fear or hurry. An object of misery arrests His attention, and in spite of danger He stops.
I. A SAD CASE. The blind man had never seen father, mother, friend, books, landscape. As the miracle was a “sign” of salvation, blindness is typical of the condition of the sinner.
1. The blind man was reduced to the necessity of guiding himself through the lower sense of touch. He picked his way through the streets with the point of his staff or the instinct of his dog. So the sinner guides himself by merely earthly considerations. He feels his way by the staff of interest, pleasure, opinions of others, etc.
2. The blind man has no idea of distance or of the relation of one object to another. He knows only those things he can feel all over. He may grope round a tree, but he can form no idea of its position in the landscape; he may have some idea of the earth he treads on, but none of its relation to the heavenly bodies. So the sinner has no proper notion of the connection between this life and the next, or of the relation of spiritual things to God. He may be more than usually expert in other departments, even as a blind man may have a more delicate touch; but in this region he is helpless.
3. One point of difference is to be noted. This man’s blindness was a misfortune (John 9:2-3). He was not to blame for it; but the sinner’s blindness is culpable. He has kept his eyes shut so long that the capacity for seeing has gone. Satan blinds the sinner, it is true, as the Philistines blinded Samson; but as Samson was to blame for letting himself fall into the enemies’ hands, so is the sinner.
II. A SINGULAR SAYING (John 9:4-5).
1. An essential dignity. These are strange words if Jesus was a mere man. Had He been insane we could have put them aside; but He had a mind of exquisite balance. Had He been a vain man, we might have set them down to vanity, but we know He was humble. Had He been untruthful, we might have pronounced them false; but we know that He was incapable of a lie. Therefore we can explain them in harmony with His general character only when we understand them as used by one who was God.
2. An official subjection. Though God, Jesus as incarnate was in a condition of voluntary humiliation. Yet the “must” refers not to external compulsion, but to an inner impulse; it was the language of love within.
3. A limited opportunity. His work was to be done in a given time. This would elapse when His “hour” was come, and He would say, “It is finished.”
III. A GRACIOUS CURE. Christ had no stereotyped method. He varied the accessories, probably from so, me reference to the character of the individuals (Matthew 9:1-38; Mark 8:23). It seems strange that He should seal up the man’s eyes into a blinder darkness; but sometimes He acts in this way (e.g., Saul)
when He opens the eyes of the soul. In any case, the whole procedure was a trial of the man’s faith, for there was nothing in the means.
IV. A SIMPLE TESTIMONY (John 9:11), which was consistently maintained, and was impregnable because experimental. He was not to be argued or bullied out of it. So with the convert. When men ask How? He cannot tell; he only says, “I went and heard such a sermon, etc., and I came away and believed, and now I am a new man.” There is no evidence like this. Lessons:
1. Let us beware of uncharitable judgments, and guard against supposing that uncommon suffering indicates uncommon sin. Job was not a sinner above others, but God was glorified in him above many.
2. Let us work while the day lasts. Dr. Johnson had “the night cometh” engraved on the dial of his watch; let us have the truths they teach written on our hearts.
3. Let us have compassion on the blind; and if we cannot open their eyes, let us, at least, seek to mitigate their misery.
4. Let us tell simply and eagerly what Christ has done for us. (Christian Age.)
Who did sin, this man, or his parents?
What the Master and what the disciples saw
At such a time it was very wonderful that He should see anything but the way out. His life was in peril. The plot was thickening, the pursuers were more than ever determined to murder Him. At such times men are likely to see only what concerns themselves and their own safety. It is a blessed proof of the way in which that most gracious heart lay open to all the sorrow and needs of men. Find out what people see, and you will know what they are. People mostly see what they look for; and they look for what they want. It is curious to listen to the account of what people have seen; how some saw a dress, and some a face, and some saw nothing. “He looked for the worms, I for the gods,” was the complaint of a certain stager. Jesus saw a blind man. Some people are very blind to blind men. There is, you know, a colour blindness, that cannot discern certain colours. There is, too, an inner colour blindness, that never sees sorrow, need, sickness, or any other adversity. It looks on the bright side of things by looking away from all that is wretched. Ah, never was there such an eye for sad hearts as Jesus Christ’s. Once seeing the blind man, He can go no further. Pharisees and perils are alike forgotten. Pity saw her opportunity, and she could not be denied. Oh, what a Christ is this! Well may His name be called wonderful. And the only Christianity that is worth the name is that which makes us like Him. So that however we be driven, harassed, threatened, there is within the soul a great atmosphere where love dwelleth. In this great London of ours, with its turmoil of the streets, the hurry of the thousands on its pavements, the roll and rumble of its traffic--yet you know how God’s sky bends over it, and God’s great sun shines upon it, and God’s kindly stars do look down upon it. That is the very purpose of Christ’s coming--to open up in our narrow, little, earthly, busy lives a whole heaven of pity, of love, of gracious help. The Master saw a blind man. What did the disciples see? His lace was full of pity only; theirs was full of a curious prying. With them is was a case for dissection, a poor body for their anatomy, and they began at once with the scalpel knife. “Master, who did sin,” etc.? Alas! how full the world is of people who are ready to cast stones at those who are down--stones that may break no bones, but that do bruise spirits and break hearts! What a strange lack of feeling! And what an extraordinary notion! Bad enough to be blind, and bad enough to be poor; but to be both might well move our pity. But no; to be poor shows that he is bad; to be blind shows that he must be very bad. It is a horrible notion! Yet it lives and thrives today. Would not any stranger coming into our midst suppose that the rich people must be good--born good? It is the poor who are so bad--so very bad. Who are city missionaries for, and tract distributors, and district visitors, and Bible women? All for the poor; until one might think that the Scripture, which says that the poor have the gospel preached to them, implies that the rich do not need it. Has it not been said in scores of good books that the subject was born of “poor but pious parents”? Why, indeed, the but? “Of rich but pious parents” is a phrase I never heard, and yet it were the greater wonder. Cold-blooded discussion of great social problems that involve the lives of men and women and little children is bad enough, but ten thousand times worse is it when good people stand tip-toe and look down from their lofty superiority with cold, steel eyes and lips of scorn and talk of the poor as a “drunken, lazy lot.” It is enough to provoke men and women to curse the very name of religion. Nothing could be more unlike that blessed Saviour who saved the world by loving it. What a gulf is there oftentimes between the Master and His followers! Very notable is the answer of Jesus. “This blindness has not come from sin, but for your sakes, that His blindness may open your eyes; for you are blind except this blind man give you sight.” A Divine homoeopathy, like curing like. I constantly have my eyes opened by blind men. I never know, indeed, that I have any eyes until I see a blind man; then I go on my way thanking God for this wondrous gift of sight. That he may show forth the works of God. Who most enriched the world when Christ was upon earth--the rich man or the beggars? Think how infinitely poorer all the ages had been if, when Christ came, there had been no sick, no suffering, no need in the world. What depths of tenderness, what hope for all men, what mighty helpfulness, what revelations of Christ are ours today, because there sat of old blind beggars and such needy sufferers l Surely when men are rewarded according to their service, these shall have great recompense. (M. G. Pearse.)
The purpose of chronic suffering
While our Lord perceived only another opportunity of lifting a shadow, the disciples caught a new chance of repeating the weary and worn question of the ages as to the source of the shadow. Christ did not find any fault with His followers for inquiring; only He asserted that they had entirely misapprehended the philosophy of the poor creature’s history. And then He immediately put forth His almighty power, and bestowed upon him his sight as a new sense. Note
I. THE PATIENCE OF JESUS IN BEARING WITH HUMAN MISCONCEPTIONS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE. It would be unfair for one to indulge in any sharp comment upon the ignorance of the disciples. For other explanations of the origin of evil are in vogue and have continually been offered quite as wild as that which they proposed.
II. THE DISPOSITION OF SOME MEN TO INTERPOSE IN THE GOVERNMENT OF GOD’S WORLD. One of the ancient theories employed to reconcile suffering with benevolence, and relieve its mystery, has kept its place till our day--the existence of two spirits or principles of good and ill, warring with each other. The classic notion was that the jealous deities antagonized each other’s plans on Olympus. Wrathful gods and goddesses cut at those who confronted them, and men sometimes were caught on both sides, like unfortunate cloth between the shears. There were furies as well as fates; and it was the elements of disturbance in heaven which stirred up the affairs of mortals so on the earth. This story corrects everything in such a heathen mistake.
III. THE RECORD OF FOOLISH JUDGMENTS IN THE BIBLE IS NOT TO RE TAKEN AS AN INSPIRED DECISION. Some island people, when Paul was shipwrecked, openly stated that the reason why a viper fastened on his hand was because he was in all likelihood a murderer. When Job’s trials were at the highest, his miserable comforters accused him of sin, and that he had been in some way a hypocrite. It is an old and common insinuation which interprets misfortunes very much as Jesus’ followers did on this occasion and it is to be feared that this ungenerous world will never admit its mistakes in such particulars. Men call other people’s troubles judgments; and their own calamities.
IV. SUFFERING HAS SOME UNMISTAKABLE CONNECTION WITH SIN SOMEWHERE. For when our Lord told His disciples that neither this man nor his parents had sinned, we are not to understand Him as pronouncing them sinless. What He intended was that it was in no sense either a reckless calamity or a righteous retribution; for he was blind his whole life. And yet, we are not at liberty to pass by the warning which Christ gave, when the surmise was made concerning some on whom the tower of Siloam fell. A real connection must be admitted between the guilt of the race and the pain of the race. The conscientious conviction of mankind has a basis of truth. The wisest man there ever was on earth was inspired to say: “As the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come.”
V. ALL CHRONIC PAIN IN ANY LIFE IS PART OF THE WISE PLAN OF GOD. Such a life, which, no doubt, had to himself seemed restrictive when men talked about the beauties that never gleamed in on his soul, was one definite part of the Divine purpose in the plan of redemption. And so in that splendid flash of vast disclosure, it was revealed that the eventful history of those darkened eyes was just a piece of God’s biography, rather than of man’s--a chapter in the book that records the dealings of our Maker with His creatures. And all this worried existence on earth was already written on the luminous pages of a volume of annals in heaven, before the blind baby was born in Judaea.
VI. SUFFERING IN THIS WORLD, IN ALMOST EVERY INSTANCE, MAY BE ASSUMED TO HAVE A VICARIOUS REACH. There is in it an element hearing outwardly on others. Some trials are the direct punishment of personal transgression; and others are the hereditary consequences of parental wickedness. But there is a class of chronic disabilities which seem beyond any reference to sin. Such may have in them a discipline for those nearest the sufferer. Who shall say how much this blind man’s darkness may have been instrumental in mellowing the tempers and softening the hearts of his family? Hardly any household can be found now in which there is not some victim of pain; and those who are watching and waiting are likely to grow gentle and considerate, and ingenious with expedients of alleviation, under the long scholarship.
VII. THOSE WHO ARE UNDER SUCH DISABILITIES ARE MOST OFTEN THE BRAVEST. Generally the bystanders put the questions, rather than those who are under the infliction. It was the disciples, and not the blind man, who raised the inquiry. For the poor groper never really knew what he lacked in his senses; he was only like a man who is told that it is a pity he has no ear for music; he cannot be made to appreciate the symphony the musicians give him. Possibly he had borne the life into which his deprivation drove him so long that he had become quite tame about it. There is nothing more beautiful or helpful than the cheer of some who are shadowed by great trials.
VIII. UNDERLYING EVERY GIFT OF OUR LOVING SAVIOUR IS A SUPREME SPIRITUAL GRACE. When the wonder of healing had been wrought, was the final cause of the man’s blindness reached? Had he served but the same purpose as the jars of water, the fish with the coin, the barren fig tree, the barley loaves? Had he groped around all these years in order to be ready when Christ wanted a thing to work a miracle upon? And had he when he had become an evidence of Christianity, and when he had humbled a few Pharisees to there vanish? No, indeed! He was looked up in the Temple, where he was using his new eyes, and there a fresh benediction met his believing soul. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
Blindness a talent to be used for God’s glory
The excellent Mr. Moon, of Brighton, the blind friend of the blind, was present at a recent meeting of blind people at Manchester, and among the remarks he made was this: “When I became blind, as a young boy, people condoled with my mother on the heavy dispensation with which I was afflicted. They were wrong, my friends. God gave me blindness as a talent to be used for His glory. Without blindness I should never have been able to see the needs of the blind.” It is worthy of note that this excellent man, Mr. Moon, as one of the uses of this “talent,” has given the gospel published, in raised type, in nearly two hundred different languages and dialects to the blind throughout the world!
Blindness leading to Spiritual sight
“Bob Roy” says in his description of Mr. Moon’s mission to the blind at Beyrout: “That poor fellow who sits on the form there was utterly ignorant. See how his delicate fingers run over the raised types of his Bible; and he reads aloud, and blesses God in his heart for the precious news, and for those who gave him the avenue for truth to his heart. ‘Jesus Christ will be the first person I shall ever see,’ he says; ‘for my eyes will be opened in heaven.’ Thus even this men becomes a missionary. At the annum examination of this school one of the scholars said, ‘I am a little blind boy. Once I could see; but then I fell asleep--a long, long sleep--I thought I should never wake. And I slept till a kind gentleman, called Mr. Mort, came and opened my eyes; not these eyes,’ pointing to his sightless eyeballs, ‘but these,’ lifting up his tiny fingers; these eyes. And, oh! they see such sweet words of Jesus, and how He loved the blind.’”
Who did sin, this man, or his parents?
Explanations of the disciples’ question
1. Some think that the Jews had imbibed the common Oriental notion of the pre-existence and transmigration of souls from one body to another, and that the disciples supposed that in some previous state of existence this blind man must have committed some great sin, for which he was now punished.
2. Some think that the question refers to a strange notion current among some Jews, that infants might sin before they were born. In support of this view they quote Genesis 25:22 and Genesis 38:28-29.
3. The most probable view is, that the question arose from a misapplication of such passages of Scripture as the second commandment, where God speaks of “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children” Exodus 20:5), and from a forgetfulness of Ezekiel 18:20, etc. There are few notions that men seem to cling to so naturally, as the notion that bodily sufferings, and all affliction, are the direct consequences of sin, and that a diseased or afflicted person must necessarily be a very wicked man. This was precisely the short-sighted view that Job’s three friends took up when they came to visit him, and against which Job contended. This was the idea of the people at Melita, when Paul was bitten by the viper, after the shipwreck: “This man is a murderer.” (Acts 28:4). This appears to have been at the bottom of the question of the disciples. There is suffering; then there must have been sin. Whose sin was it?” (Bishop Ryle.)
Suffering: its causes and privileges
There was no special connection between the parents’ sin in this instance and the blindness of their offspring. “On the contrary,” Christ seems to say, “great sufferers are not always or of necessity great sinners, or the children of great sinners. Far otherwise. There is pain and suffering caused by no vice in the sufferer, inherited from no transgressions of their parents: pain and suffering, not indeed created by God, but allowed by God, allowed in mercy as a favour, and in proof of love. The natal blindness of this afflicted man was for the glory of God.” And to suffer for such a purpose and with such a result is not a punishment but a privilege--a distinct and honourable privilege. This Divine philosophy of suffering was a new revelation given to the world by Jesus Christ. It was a revelation which apparelled suffering in robes of attractiveness, and turned the murmurs of lamentation into songs of rejoicing. The apostles gloried in suffering, directly the purpose of it had been unfolded and interpreted by their Lord. When they understood that the cause of suffering lay sometimes in the privilege of the sufferer to be the means of the manifestation, through his sufferings, of the Divine glory, they “rejoiced in their infirmities, if so be the power of God might be manifested in them.” They “counted it all joy” when it pleased God to let them fall into manifold trials, inasmuch as their trials afforded an opportunity for the glorification of God. Many other acknowledged advantages flow from suffering. It tends to wean men from the world, to purge away the dross of selfishness and strip off the tinsel from conceit. There is nothing like an abundance of trouble for keeping a man straight and helping him to remember his prayers. Suffering is not seldom thus its own reward Yet it is one thing to realize the benefits of suffering, another and far higher thing to realize its privilege. Think, e.g., of the man blind from his birth. How many long and weary hours he had sat near the Temple Gate, dark, lonely, miserable! How dreary his existence had been--sightless and hopeless, a stranger to the sense of beauty, looking onlythrough the deep darkness of life to the still deeper darkness of death! And yet how truly privileged he was! What a recompense after all those years of weary blindness to be permitted to be the instrument for “showing forth the glory of God!” It was worth being a blind and desolate beggar for! We, of this latter day, are not permitted to be the instruments for showing forth the glory of God miraculously. Our blind do not receive their sight, our dead are not raised, our lepers are not cleansed. But none the less truly does every Christian glorify God in his suffering body and his suffering spirit, whenever, by sweet holiness of patience, and heavenly-minded rejoicing in tribulation, he convinces the world that though the cause of all suffering is sin, yet no Christian suffering is without privilege. (J. W.Diggle, M. A.)
Blindness not judgment
A German pastor had made an engagement to preach before a meeting of the Gustavus Adolphus Society, at a distance of eighteen miles from his village. He had to walk all the way. The weather, which was fine at first, changed to violent rain, so that after walking half way with great difficulty, it seemed hopeless to proceed, as he could hardly drag his feet out of the mire. Greatly cast down, he found himself impatiently asking why it should rain so just that day, when he espied a solitary cottage, and gladly sought shelter in it. A young and sad looking woman was nursing her babe. Being invited to rest and dry himself, the pastor soon found that the beautiful babe was the cause of the mother’s sorrow, for he had been born blind. “The worst of it is,” said the poor woman, “no doubt it is all my fault; such a misfortune could only befall a child on account of its parents, for the poor dear children are innocent enough. For the last four months I have been tormenting myself to discover by what sin I can have brought upon it such a calamity.” Her tears choked her voice, and she sobbed convulsively. The poor creature was quite ignorant of this beautiful story, but the pastor read it and expounded it. When he prepared to resume his toilsome walk, it was with feelings of joy and gratitude not unmingled with shame. He confessed how the rain had vexed him, and that he had repeatedly asked “Why it must fall just today.” “Oh, my dear sir” she replied joyfully, “I know very well!” (J. F. B. Tinling, B. A.)
Neither hath this man sinned nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him
Christ’s explanation of suffering
1. The man was sitting near to the Temple. It has been the custom in all ages for the needy of all kinds to get as near as they can to God’s house. It is on their part an instinctive homage to religion. Ii any man become known as professing religion he will have many applications for his pity. A congregational collection is the resort of every charitable institution.
2. If Jesus had seen this man on His way to or from worship, His conduct would not have excited special wonder. But it was when driven from the Temple and with His life in peril. But He forgot His danger in the fulness of His pity.
3. The disciples supposed that by making the man a subject for pity, Christ made him a fit subject for speculation. Some thought this calamity a fruit of parental sin, others a punishment for prospective guilt. They were wrong, but not so wrong as those who believe that sin will never be punished at all.
4. Christ’s solution of their difficulties suggests some important reflections.
I. THAT SUFFERING IS THE FRUIT OF SIN. Our Lord did not deny this incontestible principle in general, but only in this particular case. God’s laws in relation to the body, those of chastity, sobriety, industry and cleanliness, cannot be broken with impunity. If drunkenness and debauchery were checked the welfare of the country would be promoted and pestilence confined to a narrower region. If our great cities were governed with wisdom, if they were properly drained, the poor properly housed, the water pure and abundant, disease would be checked and good morals and happiness promoted. Asylums for the destitute, and hospitals for the sick are great necessities and embodiments of Christian loving kindness; but there wants something more than grappling with results, a grappling with the prolific cause. The great work of the Christian Church then is to deal with sin. Without sin our gaols would be superfluous, our workhouses not one tithe of their present magnitude, and half our hospitable beds empty.
II. THAT A GOOD DEAL OF SUFFERING IS NOT THE FRUIT OF SIN. People sometimes say “had there been no sin there had been no sorrow.” But where does the Bible say so? It is true that in heaven there is no sorrow, but then float is a place of rest and recompense, whereas earth is a place of trial and discipline. But there is this startling fact that the only sinless Being the world ever saw “learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” Don’t then say in the case of a given sufferer “Here is the wrath of God,” for the varied forms of affliction are often Divine appliances for testing our principles, developing our graces and practising our virtues.
III. PERSONAL SUFFERING IS SOMETIMES FOR THE SAKE OF OTHERS, that their patience may be disciplined, their sympathy elicited, their character get its necessary training. It was so in the case of Lazarus--“I am glad I was not there,” etc. But some may ask, “What is to become of the people who bear the cross that others may have these opportunities?” Leave them with God. He has a vast universe and long ages to recompense them in. Jesus wore a crown of thorns, how glad today He is that He wore it! Mary and Martha were glad after he was raised that their brother died. Look at some of the sorrows of life. Why do the thorns grow? That you may have to pull them up and get improvement of character from the weeding. Why are children born ignorant and helpless? That you may care for them and teach them. Why do accidents happen? That you may minister. (C. Vince.)
Our proper attitude towards mysteries
Before a confessed and unconquerable difficulty (such as the origin and extent of evil) my mind reposes as quietly as in possession of a discovered truth. (T. Arnold, D. D.)
Origin of evil
Wise men will regard the entrance of evil as a man views a fire already begun in his house: it is too late to ask “How came this?” or “Where did the fire begin?” His single question will be, how he and his family and property can be secured. (R. Cecil, M. A.)
Christ and the blind man
1. We may learn from it to abstain from those superficial and dogmatic judgments on human life which, seeming to honour God with ready explanations of evil, really dishonour Him, and which are often cruelly unjust to men. Evil is in the world, and man is sinful as well as unfortunate. Wickedness works wretchedness, and penalty follows iniquity as echo follows voice, or pain the incision of the knife. But not all pains are punishments. Let despairing as well as cynical doubt be silent. Great as sin is, God is greater. Where sin abounds, grace superabounds. This is not the devil’s world, but God’s.
2. Let us learn that the supreme business of life is unselfish service, and that the time for service is now.
3. Let us learn the wisdom and power of Jesus’ method in reaching men. He authenticates Himself to men by His works as well as by His word--not merely by miraculous works, but by works that are Divine in their goodness. The Healer and Helper of men thus convincingly justifies His claim of Divine kinship. Bring men face to face with Jesus; then they too, like the blind man who was healed, will at last say, “Lord, I believe,” and their faith will express itself in homage and service.
4. Finally, let us learn the true nature of faith. Faith is not mere credulity, it is an attitude and an act of the soul. Its object is not a proposition, but a person. It reposes not on greatness or power alone, but on goodness. (History, Prophecy, and Gospel.)
The blind man’s eyes opened; or, practical Christianity
Observe how little disconcerted our Lord was by the most violent enmity. Almost the moment after He had escaped stoning, He paused before and healed the blind man. One of His most noticeable characteristics was His marvellous calmness in the presence of His foes. The reasons were
1. He was never elated by the praise of men.
2. His unbroken communion with the Father.
3. His heart was so set upon His work that He would not be turned from it. Note
I. THE WORKER--a well-earned title.
1. There are many who ignore sorrow. The easiest thing to do with wicked London is not to know much about it. There are sights which might melt a heart of steel and make a nabob generous. But it is an easy way of escaping from the exercise of benevolence to shut your eyes. It is not so with Jesus. He has a quick eye to see the blind beggar if He sees nothing else.
2. There are others who see misery but instead of diminishing it, increase it by cold logical conclusions. Poverty they say is brought on by drunkenness, laziness, etc. Sickness is caused by wicked habits and neglect of sanitary laws. This may be true, but don’t teach it till you are ill yourself. The disciples held this view and Job’s comforters. Cheap moral observations steeped in vinegar make a poor dish for an invalid. But Christ “Upbraided not.”
2. Others, who if not indifferent or cruel to sorrow, speculate where speculation is worthless. There is the question of the origin of evil. Such was the subject here proposed--foreseen guilt or hereditary taint? The master breaks up the fine speculation by practical service. “Father,” said a boy, “the cows are in the corn. How ever did they get in?” “Boy,” said the father, “never mind how they got in, let us hurry to get them out.” Postpone the inquiries till after the day of judgment, just now our business is to get evil out of the world. A man saw a boy drowning and lectured him on the imprudence of bathing out of his depth. Let us rescue him and tell him not to go there again.
3. In this nonspeculating, kind, helpful spirit, let us imitate the Master. What have we done to bless our fellow men? But if Jesus be such a worker what hope there is for us who need His services!
II. THE WORKROOM. Every worker needs a place to work in. Christ selected the fittest place.
1. One of the works of God is creation, and if Jesus is to perform it He must find out where something is missing which He can supply. The blind man gave occasion for Christ to give sight. If there is anything wanting in you there is room for Christ to work; if you are perfect there is no room.
2. This man’s ignorance required almighty aid. God can not only create, He can illuminate. This man was as dark in mind as in body. He did not know the Son of God. Is that your case? Are you converted? Then there is space in you for Christ to work by converting grace. If you were not lost, you could not be saved.
3. All affliction may be regarded as affording opportunity for the mercy work of God. Whenever you see a man in trouble, do not blame him and ask how he came there, but say “He is an opening for God’s almighty love.” And do not kick at or be east down by your own afflictions, regard them as openings for mercy, and the valley of Achor shall be a door of hope. Sin itself makes room for God’s mercy. How could the unspeakable gift have been bestowed if there had been no sinners.
III. THE WORK BELL. You hear in early morning a bell which arouses the workers from their beds. Christ’s work bell was the sight of the blind man. Then he said “I must work.” The man had not said anything, but his sightless eyeballs spoke eloquently to the heart of Jesus.
1. Why must He work? Because
2. Let us learn this lesson. Wherever we see suffering, feel “I must work.”
3. What a blessing if you want to be saved to know that there is an impulse on Jesus to save!
IV. THE WORK DAY.
1. This is meant of our Lord’s earthly life. There was a certain day on which He could bless men, and that over He would be gone. He occupied thirty years in getting ready for it, and then in three years it was done. And how much He crowded into them! Some of us have had thirty years of work and have done very little; what if we have only three more. It we omit any part of our life work we can never make up the omission. No appendix is possible to the book of life.
2. If our Lord was so diligent to bless men while here, He is not less diligent now. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
I must work the works of Him that sent Me while it is day.
--When the Master (Him who sent) who has entrusted a task to the worker gives the signal, the latter must continue to work as long as the hours of labour last. This signal Jesus had just recognized; and even though it was the Sabbath He could not delay obeying it till tomorrow. He might perhaps at this moment have been contemplating the sun descending towards the horizon. “When the night comes” said He, “the workman’s labour ceases.
My work is to enlighten the world as the sun does; but in a short time I, like him, shall disappear, and my work will cease. Hence I have not a moment to lose.” (F. Godet, D. D.)
1. Nothing could discourage Christ from doing His work (Luke 13:32).
2. All Christ’s works were the works of God (John 4:34; Joh_5:30-36; Joh_6:38; Luke 22:42).
3. Christ was obliged to do what He did--“I must.”
4. Christ had His time limited wherein to do His work (Acts 2:23).
5. Christ in that time did finish His work (John 17:4). Which was
(a) The Son of God.
(b) Sent from the Father (John 5:36).
(c) The true Messiah (John 20:31).
I. WE OUGHT TO DO THE WORKS OF HIM THAT SENT US.
1. Works of piety (1 Corinthians 6:20).
2. Works of equity to our neighbours
3. Works of charity to the poor (1 Timothy 6:17-19).
(2) Proportionably to our means (1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 1Co_16:17).
4. Works of sobriety.
II. WE ARE TO DO THESE WORKS WHILE IT IS DAY.
1. What is meant by day?
2. “Why should we do these works presently. Consider
(a) Of life (Isaiah 2:22).
(b) Of your senses and reason (Daniel 4:32; Dan_4:22).
(c) Of the gospel (Revelation 2:5).
(d) Of the motions of God’s Spirit (Genesis 6:8).
3. The longer you procrastinate the harder it will be.
4. You cannot do it in the world to come (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
5. You are in continual danger till the work be done.
Day and night
To speak of life and death as day and night is so natural that one does not think of it as a metaphor. Every man has his day. One longer, another shorter; one bright, another shaded and even stormy. Then night falls perhaps suddenly, as in the tropics, where there is no twilight; perhaps with a gentle descent as in the north or south.
I. THE BREVITY OF THE DAY. Christ would impress us with the value of time and opportunity and to lay out our short day to good account. How brief His was, yet in calm trust He worked on and found it long enough in which to finish His work; and the Jews with all their craft could not shorten it by one hour.
II. THE WORK OF THE DAY. Christ’s was to open the blind man’s eyes. In this we cannot follow Him, but in the general direction and use of life we must.
1. We must work in order to live. Idlers are few, and are not to be envied. Jesus did not claim exemption from this rule. In his obscurity at Nazareth He earned the plain bread of a carpenter’s table, and afterwards only accepted the ministrations of others as a recognition of His public work. Thus He would have us industrious in our daily callings.
2. Our first work is to believe on Him (John 6:28-29). This excludesworking for justification. Our good works cannot obliterate our misdeeds. Divine grace is our only refuge. Yet this must not be turned into a bed of sloth. The law said--Do and live! The gospel says--Live and do!
3. There is the obligation to do good unto all men, etc. The care of our own spiritual life is apt to become morbid unless accompanied by unselfish exertion for others.
III. FOR ALL THERE IS BUT A DAY. The time is long enough for the work but too short to allow trifling. It is well when men begin early. Alas, some are no more than morning Christians. They promise well in childhood, but as morning passes on to noon they fall away (Hosea 6:4). Others postpone their religion till the evening. This is to run a dreadful risk, for the night may come suddenly; and even if they do find time it is a poor homage to God to offer the dregs of life.
IV. DAY IS FOLLOWED BY NIGHT. In western countries, through the exigencies of trade, night is often turned into day. But in the East when the sun goes down work closes (Psalms 104:20-28). Here part of the thought is that rest follows toil. How welcome is night to those who have spent a long and busy day, when “He gives His beloved sleep.” But this night is brief and is only a prelude to the eternal morning. (D. Fraser, D. D.)
The day and its toil
1. The works of God mean
2. Making allowance for the difference of power and vocation, the works of the servant should possess the same two-fold character as those of the master. Here we have the Christian theory of work. Much is said about work now-a-days. But work for work’s sake is a doubtful evangel to preach. Inactivity has its sins, but so has work. Some work till they are carnalised. Wrong work may be done, and right work wrongly. Let us illustrate the rule as it runs through a three-fold relationship.
(a) God assigned. Our daily callings, however worldly or menial, can be conscientiously regarded as the appointment of God. But here inclination, parental wishes, advantageous prospects, etc. often hold sway. There are few things more critical than the choice of a profession, and one may miss one’s way grievously. But let us feel “This is the task appointed me,” and then we may regard it as sacred, and among the works of Him who hath sent us.
(b) God revealing. Your faithfulness will be a miniature of Him who is faithful in all things; your punctuality will be God-like because a reflection of Him who is true to His promises; your patience under business provocations will resemble His longsuffering, who is slow to wrath; your conscientiousness will be the reflection of Him who never begins but He finishes. Nor will any vocation be too mean for this from the statesman down to the shop lad the principle is the same.
(a) Must be God appointed. “But,” some say, “I have no special sphere in the Church. Beyond the fact that I avail myself of its privileges Church life has no interest for me. What was assigned to me as my work I found unsuitable or too taxing.” The excuse will hardly pass muster. Christ “is as one taking a far journey, and left His house, and gave every man his work.” That house is the Church. “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a husbandman who went out … to hire labourers for his vineyard.” That vineyard is the Church; and it can scarcely be argued that they who enjoy the shelter of the one and the fruits of the other can absolve themselves from the duty of serving in them. More generous and consistent is the spirit which says, “Give me some door to keep, some plot to till. Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?”
(b) When once we feel our work God appointed we shall try to make it God revealing in its thoroughness, for the God we represent is a God of order; in its perseverance because we testify to a God who faints not, neither is weary; in its humility, not losing interest in a work because others are preferred in it, realizing that I bear witness to a God who “humbled Himself.”
II. THE MOTIVE. If Christ kept before Him a coming night much more should we. For Christ knew the length of His day, and could have told how many hours were left, but we are ignorant here. We know what lies behind, and how we have cheated ourselves with purposes and dreamings, but we cannot cheat time. With some the freshness and dew of the morning have given place to the burden and dust of the mid-day; with some that is succeeded by a grey and monotonous afternoon; while others are passing on amidst the frosts and dreariness of the fast falling twilight. And the thought may never have been faced, yet “the night is coming to me.” What shall we say to these things? “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do,” etc. (W. A. Gray.)
A speculative question was put to Christ, and this is His answer, “You may think, talk, argue, I must work.” The Saviour has a greater respect for work than for speculation.
I. A NECESSITY TO LABOUR. With Christ it was not “I may if I will,” “I can if I like,” but “I must.” The cords which bound Him, however, were the cords of duty--the cords of love bound Him who is love.
1. It was because He loved them so well that He could not sit down still and see them perish.
2. The sorrow without compelled Him. That blind man had touched the secret chord that set His soul on work.
3. He had come into this world with an aim that was not to be achieved without work; and therefore He must work because He desired to achieve His end. The salvation of the many the Father had given Him; the finding of the lost sheep, etc.
He must accomplish all this.
4. Do we feel that we must work?
Christian or else give up being called one!
II. A SPECIALITY OF WORK. There are plenty who say, “I must work” to get rich, to support a family, to become famous. Christ did not pick or choose. He worked the “works,” not some but all, whether of drudgery or honour, suffering or relief from suffering, prayer or preaching. It is easy to work our own works, even in spiritual things, but difficult to be brought to this “I must work,” etc. Many think it their business to preach who had much better hear a little longer. Others think their work the headship of a class, whereas they would be useful in giving away tracts. Our prayer should be, “Show me in particular what Thou wouldst have me to do.” All Christians have not yet learned that each is personally to do the will of Him that sent him. We cannot work by proxy.
III. A LIMITATION OF TIME. Christ the immortal says this. If anyone could have postponed work it was He. Work
1. While it is day to you. Some days are very short. Young brother or sister, your sun may go down ere it reaches noon. Mother, if you knew you had only another month, how you would pray with your children! So Sunday school teacher.
2. While it is day with the objects of your care. You will not have the opportunity of speaking to some in London tomorrow, for they will die tonight. With some their “day” is brief although they may live long; it is only the one occasion when they go to a place of worship, when there is sickness in the house and the missionary enters, when a Christian comes across their path.
IV. A REMEMBRANCER OF OUR MORTALITY. “The night cometh.” You cannot put it off, however much you may dread it. It comes for the pastor, missionary, father, mother, etc. The warrior who loses a battle may yet live to win the campaign; the bankrupt may yet be rich; but if you lose the battle of life you shall never have it to fight again, and bankruptcy in spiritual service is bankruptcy forever. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The work of life
I. THAT TO EVERY MAN A WORK IS GIVEN. What is it?
1. Negatively: Not
2. Positively: to “work out our own salvation,” etc. This as a work
3. Without Christ in this great work we can do nothing; but His grace is sufficient for us.
II. THAT A PERIOD OF TIME IN WHICH THE PERFORMANCE OF THIS WORK MAY BE ACCOMPLISHED IS ASSIGNED TO EVERY MAN. Within the day of life there are days specially favourable.
1. The day of youth.
2. The day of health.
3. The day of religious opportunity.
4. The day of spiritual influence.
III. THAT AT THE EXPIRATION OF THE ALLOTTED SEASON THE PERFORMANCE OF THIS WORK IS IMPOSSIBLE. “The night cometh”
1. Of affliction.
2. Of religious abandonment.
3. Of death--“when no man can work.” (J. Bowers.)
Work, and work rightly
It is not enough to work, we must work in the right way. To do this
I. WE MUST BE PREPARED FOR THE WORK, and since it is Divine, by God Himself. It is not by might nor by power, physical or intellectual. There is no tendency in the unconverted to seek the Father’s glory, and therefore we must be regenerated by the Spirit. Excitement may press us into the field, an anxious feeling may give us a momentary energy, but a few cold blasts from the world, and a little of the irksomeness of the task will soon extinguish the flame and drive us from the field.
II. WE MUST WORK WITH ALL OUR HEART. God’s demand is not “Give me thy body or thine intellect” but “thy heart.” Half-heartedness in His cause is an abomination in His sight. God will not have a man swing between the world and Himself, halting between two opinions. And surely the character of the Master, the nature of the work and its reward, are enough to engage the energies of the whole soul.
III. WE MUST WORK EXPECTING SUCCESS. We are not to imagine that we embark on an impossibility; if we do we shall lose nerve and fail in application. We must be buoyed up by the conviction that God will bless us in our labour of love. This He pledges Himself to do, and this should stimulate us, especially when we remember that success means the salvation of souls, and that God has granted this to other labourers.
IV. WE MUST WORK AND NOT BE ASHAMED OF IT. There is a good deal of cowardice in religious work which contrasts strangely with the courage we display in business, etc. And yet if manliness be demanded in anything it is in this. We are to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ, witnesses for God, and are to act in capacities where boldness is the one thing needful. And what is there to be ashamed of?--the Master? the work? the fellow workmen? the reward? Remember
1. The object you have in view. Would you be ashamed to awaken the sleeper in the burning house, to cry to the foundering sailor to grasp the rope?
2. That if you are ashamed of Christ here, He will be ashamed of you at the Judgment.
V. WE MUST WORK THOUGH WE SEE NO PROSPECT OF SUCCESS. Duty is ours, results are God’s. But we have room for encouragement, for the unlikeliest field has often become the most prolific. Remember Mary Magdalene, the dying thief, Saul of Tarsus. But, whatever the likelihood or otherwise of success, we must work. We must realize that we are our brother’s keeper, and not wait to inquire about his characteristics, but acquaint him with his want and bring the supply. If he rejects it that is his responsibility, not ours.
VI. WE MUST WORK HARD
1. Because the adversary is active.
2. Because our time is drawing to a close. (J. McConnell Hussey, D. D.)
The Divine dignity of work
I. WE HAVE EACH OUR MISSION. We are Divinely sent. It is by no act of ours that we are here, by no migration from a pre-existent life, still less did we construct this abode of ours. Yet here we are on the theatre of this particular world, and as its lords to replenish and subdue it, but confined to it. Whence have we this range, so large and yet so defined? Because we have a definite mission, which missed or marred, the result is tragic.
II. WE HAVE EACH A PRACTICAL MISSION. We are sent to “work.” There are some nobles who are sent on mere missions of pageantry or pleasure; one as ambassador, to gratify at some refined court his taste for music and the fine arts. Another, fond of travel, contrives in this way to see classic or romantic lands. But man’s mission from the King of kings is sternly practical. Had he kept his first estate it would have been so, for work is Divine and older than the fall. All legitimate work is
1. Productive. Other is not so--the thief, e.g., the marauding conqueror, the publican. But the mechanic, merchant, explorer, etc., are productive, whether of food, comforts, wealth, or knowledge, which is power.
2. Ennobling, directly contributing to the decencies and moralities of life as may be seen when we contrast the condition of the poorest in this city with that of the savage. The Jews had an excellent proverb: “He that has not learned to work, is brother to him that is a thief.” From this let every man learn to honour productive and useful work wherever found. Let not the operative refuse the name of workman to the thinker, because the fabric of his thoughts cannot be seen; for our manufactures, buildings, machines are but the vesture of previous thought. And let not the non-manual class look down on the brawny arm and horny hand! for they are the solid basis of the social pyramid.
III. WE HAVE A MISSION TO DIVINE AND GOD-LIKE WORKS.
1. Our daily callings, if they are honest and honourable, and done inside our Father’s vineyard, and for Him, and not outside the sacred ground as done for man merely or self. “I have not time to serve God” was once said to an evangelist. “God wants no more of your time than you give to the devil,” was the reply.
2. The more special works God has laid upon us in the culture of personal religion and in the works of philanthropy. We need but read the context to find out what works Christ meant, such works as are grouped in the formula, “He went about doing good.”
3. The bulk of these works is individually not great but little. The entire pyramid of human progress is made up of littles. The vast ocean is made up of drops, and the great globe of atoms; and just so in the intellectual, moral, and spiritual world life is made up of little duties. Great and brilliant services are possible only to a few, and in rare emergencies, and weighed against the ordinary, they are but of small account. What keeps the world moving is not the great deeds of kings, conquerors, etc., but the brave, patient, prayerful work of fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, etc.
4. In order to these little works being good works there is a previous work, viz., believing in Jesus and being reconciled to God.
IV. WE HAVE A MISSION THAT IS URGENT.
1. Beware of the many things that seek to rob us of one day.
2. Time lost can never be retrieved.
3. Time is inestimably precious for all our interests, but infinitely more as involving our eternity.
4. Flee to Jesus without delay, for “now is the accepted time,” etc. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)
The benefit of work
In seeking others’ good we achieve good ourselves. I know of no way to get rid of a good deal of the prevalent dulness and drowsiness and spiritual ennui with which many Christians are afflicted than by shaking it off like cobwebs and going to work. Work is the pre-requisite of growth, and exercise of health and development. When good people tell me about being in a saddened condition, and confess to spiritual stagnation, it does not seem wonderful at all. The man who does not work has no right to expect anything but distrust, dissatisfaction, and ultimate degradation, and he will get it. For any Christian man to suppose that he is simply a sanctified sponge, to continuously absorb the light and life of others and grow, is sheer nonsense. He will by and by rot! He will not be able to keep even with salt. If you would be healthily developed, work. If there is a single organ in the body that is weak, use it well, and strength will come to it. So with regard to your spiritual life. There is no such beneficent arrangement for spiritual growth, like the effort to prove a blessing to mankind. (Family Churchman.)
The work of life
I. OUR HEAVENLY FATHER SENT US INTO THIS WORLD TO DO HIS WORK AND TO LIVE FOR HIS GLORY. We are bidden to “replenish the earth and subdue it”; fill it, that is, with all things right and good, and bound to do our best to make ourselves and all men more like the true image of the Holy God, and to leave the world better than we found it.
II. OUR LIFE ON EARTH IS AS A DAY, AND NO MORE THAN A DAY. It has its morning, for preparation; its sunny hours, for labour; its evening, for meditation; and then the night cometh, when all is over. Life is but as a day; no more. Wherefore it is folly and madness to indulge ourselves in the fancy that we have time to loiter, a time to be idle. No. The longest day is short enough for all that a wise man wishes to put into it; and the longest life is not too long to spend in the earnest seeking after God. For the soul of man is like some primeval forest, which contains in itself a glorious fertility, and an almost boundless capacity for bearing fruitful harvests for the careful tiller of the soil; but until it is tilled and tended, it is but the haunt of wild beasts--it is but a rank, dark, silent, wilderness, where the ranker and more noxious the weed, the stronger and ruder is its growth; but if the brave husbandman begins to labour, if the sun of heaven shines through the sullen gloom, and the winds of God blow softly through the branches, and the watchful eye seeks out the poisonous plants, and the careful hand fosters the fruitful soil, then, by and by, but only after a long time of travail, the wilderness and the solitary place will be glad, and the desert will rejoice and blossom as the rose. (A. Jessop, D. D.)
Earnest views of life
Christian earnestness has for its elements
I. A CONSCIENTIOUS ESTIMATE OF THE WORTH OF TIME. Life is not a day too long. Go into the Mint, and you will find the gold room constructed with double floors. The upper one acts like a sieve, and the lower one catches and retains the infinitesimal particles of gold which are sifted through. Every human life needs some such contrivance for the economy of fragments of time. Lord Nelson said: “I have always been fifteen minutes before the time, and it has made a man of me.” Napoleon said: “Remember, that every lost moment is a chance of future misfortune.” Sir Walter Scott, when asked what was the secret of the marvellous fertility of his pen, replied: “I have always made it a rule never to be doing nothing.” An intruder upon the morning study hours of Baxter apologized: “Perhaps I interrupt you.” Baxter answered rudely, but honestly: “To be sure you do.” The spirit of such men, refined by Christian culture, is the spirit with which, in the Christian view of life, time is to be valued. Every life is made of moments; a kingdom could not purchase one of them. An earnest man will often reckon time as if he were on a death bed. There are hours in every man’s life in which the tick of a watch is more thrilling to an earnest spirit than the roll of thunder. There come moments in which the beat of a pulse is more awful than the roar of Niagara.
II. ABSTINENCE FROM FRIVOLITY OF SPEECH. Do we adequately revere the sacredness of language? All nations have a tradition that it came down from heaven. We all have respect for a man of reticent speech. If a man talks twaddle, there is more hope of a fool than of him. The Scriptures pronounce him a great man who can rule his own spirit; but the chief element in that power is the power to govern his tongue. Many times one word has saved life. Peace and war between rival nations have often trembled in scales which the utterance of one word has decided. A certain man attributed his salvation to one word in a sermon preached by Whitefield. “A word spoken in season, how good is it!” There are men who specially need to correct the overgrowth of risibility in their habits. They make a pet of frivolous speech. There are men whose reputation for levity was so great that their very rising in a public assembly set going a ripple of laughter before they had opened their lips. There are worse things in the world than a laugh, but no earnest man will make a business of it. Men of frivolous tongue are apt to have a frisky intellect. That is worse than St. Vitus’s dance. A certain nervous disease relaxes the risible muscles from control, and gives to the countenance the smile of idiocy. So are there certain minds which by habitual levity of tongue become morally idiotic. They cannot think intensely, nor feel profoundly. In God’s estimate of things, what must be the verdict when such a debilitated mind is weighed in the balances! What must be the ending of such an impoverished and wasted life? “The wicked is snared by the transgression of his lips.”
III. THE CONSECRATION OF LIFE TO GREAT DESIGNS. Aurungzebe, an Indian prince, had lived, as other Oriental monarchs do, in selfish and sensual indulgences. In a farewell letter to his son he says: “I came a stranger into the world, and a stranger I go out of it. I know nothing about myself, what I am or what is my destiny. My life has been passed vainly, and now the breath which rose is gone, and has left not even a hope behind.” This is in every respect just what the Christian idea of life is not. A Christian life in its true conception is a great and a good one. It is devoted to objects worthy of a man. Dr. Arnold expresses it in brief when he says: “I feel more and more the need of intercourse with men who take life in earnest. It is painful to me to be always on the surface of things. Not that I wish for much of what is called religious conversation. That is often apt to be on the surface. But I want a sign which one catches by a sort of masonry, that a man knows what he is about in life. When I find this, it opens my heart with as fresh a sympathy as when I was twenty years younger.” One of the merchant princes of Philadelphia made it a rule to build at his own cost one church every year. When he began his career he was a mechanic, engaged in making trinkets. But one day the thought came to him: “This is a small business; I am manufacturing little things, and things useless to the world.” It was no sin, but it did not seem to him a man’s work. It made him restless till he changed his trade, and became as expert in the manufacture of locomotives as he had been before in that of earrings and gewgaws. The Christian spirit in the very germ of it is essentially a great spirit, an ambitious spirit, which is not content till it identifies life with great and commanding objects. It puts into a man the will to do, and so develops in him the power to do grand things, in which the doing shall be as grand as the thing done. Christianity has bestowed on the world a magnificent gift in the single principle of the dignity of labour. It is a sublime thing to work for one’s living. To do well the thing a man is created for is a splendid achievement. A rich fool once said to a rising lawyer: “I remember the time when you had to black my father’s boots, sir.” “Did I not do them well?” was the reply, and it spoke inborn greatness. Our Lord disclosed the same spirit when in His early boyhood He said: “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” Every Christian young man has his Father’s business to attend to, and he is not a full-grown man till he gets about it.
IV. THE RESOLVE TO GIVE LIFE TO THE SAME OBJECTS FOR WHICH CHRIST LIVED. Trades and professions, and recreations even, can be made Christlike. He was a mistaken and untrained Christian who gave up a large practice at the bar, because, he said, a man could not be a Christian lawyer. A man can be a Christian in anything that is necessary to the welfare of mankind. Everything in this world belongs to Christ, and can be used for Him. One of the humblest of the mechanical trades has been glorified by the fact that Jesus of Nazareth was a carpenter. Making money is a Christian thing, if a man will do it in Christian ways. If it is some men’s duty to be poor, it is other men’s duty to be rich. Both should identify life with Christ’s life. This was Paul’s ambition: “To me to live is Christ.” Let a man once get thoroughly wrought into and through his whole being the fact that this world is to be converted to Jesus Christ, and that his own business here is to work into line with God’s enterprize in this thing, and he cannot help realizing in his own person the Christian theory of living. He will meditate on it, he will study it, he will inform himself about it, he will talk of it, he will work for it, he will dream of it, he will give his money to it, if need be he will suffer for it and die for it. Such a life of active thoughtful sympathy with Christ will make a man of anybody. No matter who or what he is, no matter how poor, how ignorant, how small in the world’s esteem, such a life will make him a great man. Angels will respect him. God will own him. (A. Phelps, D. D.)
Two ways of lengthening life
An eminent divine suffering from a chronic disease, consulted three physicians, who declared, on being questioned by the sick man, that his disease would be followed by death in a shorter or longer time, according to the manner in which he lived; but they unanimously advised him to give up his office, because, in his situation, mental agitation would be fatal to him. “If I give myself to repose,” inquired the divine, “how long will you guarantee my life?” “Six years,” answered the doctors. “And if I should continue in office?” “Three years at most.” “Thank you, gentlemen,” he replied; “I should prefer living two or three years in doing some good to living six in idleness.” (Whitecross.)
I. THE GREAT MASTER WORKER.
1. He takes His own share in the work, “I.” How encouraging! It is enough for the general if he directs the battle, but Jesus fought in the ranks. As the great Architect He supervises all, yet He helps to build the Spiritual Temple with His own hands. It made Alexander’s soldiers valiant, because, when they were wearied with long marches, he dismounted and walked with them; and if a river had to be crossed in the teeth of opposition, foremost amidst all the risk was the general.
2. He laid great stress on the gracious work which was laid upon Him. There were some things He would not do--dividing inheritances, etc. But when it came to the work of blessing souls, this He must do, and He did it with all His might. The unity of His purpose was never broken.
3. He rightly describes this work as the work of God. If ever there was one who might have taken the honour to himself it was Jesus; yet He ever says, “The Father doeth the works.” He sets us the example of confessing that whatever we do God does it and should have the glory.
4. He owned His true position. He had not come forth on His own account. He was not here as a principal, but as a subordinate, an ambassador sent by the king. God gave Him a commission and the grace to carry it out.
5. He threw a hearty earnestness into the work He undertook. Though sent, the commission was so genial to His nature that He worked with all the alacrity of a volunteer. He was commissioned, but His own will was the main compulsion.
6. He clearly saw that there was a fitting time to work, and that this time would have an end. He called his lifetime a day: to show us that He was impressed with the shortness of it. Thou hast but a day--youth is the morning, manhood the noon, old age the evening. Be up and doing, for beyond that is night. But as with Christ, so with us. We cannot die till our day is over.
II. OURSELVES AS WORKERS UNDER HIM.
1. On us there rests personal obligation. We are in danger of losing ourselves in societies and associations. The old histories are rich in records of personal daring. There is little of that now because fighting is done so much by masses and machinery. So our Christian work is in danger of getting mechanical, so much en masse that there is barely room for singular deeds of valour. Yet the success of the Church will lie in this last. Each man should feel “I have something to do for Christ which an angel could not do for me.”
2. Our personal obligation compels us to just such work as Christ did. We are not called meritoriously to save souls, for He is the only Saviour, but we are called to enlighten them. This work must be done, whatever else is left undone. And how paltry is every other gain compared with that of a saved soul! We have our secular callings and ought to have them, but we have a high calling of God in Christ, and while other things may be this must be.
3. It is God’s work we are called upon to do. What greater motive can we have than to have a Divine work and Divine strength to do it? Your mission is not less honourable than that of angels, and how blessed it is! How desperate the case of those we are sent to save, and how short the time in which to save them! (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The night cometh when no man can work.--Although our Lord’s ministry began late, it was marked by incessant activity. His disciples marvelled at it, and Be accounts for it by the fact that He had much to do and but little time to do it in. This declaration is worth attention. It is not wise to dwell in a cold sense of death. Dying need not be gloomy; but life has a certain duration, and there is allotted to every man a certain round of duties; and as in a journey a man divides the distance into stages according to the time he has to accomplish it, so a man ought to look forward to death in order to accomplish in life the things that are to be done. The husbandman says, “If my ground does not receive the seed early in the spring, I shall have no harvest in the autumn. I know the measure of the summer and labour accordingly.”
I. I address THOSE WHO LIVE AIMLESS LIVES. Many of you will not live long, and yet there are incumbent upon you great duties toward God, man, yourselves. You may not be stained with vice; but there is great wrong done by every man who in life has no plan but that of idly floating out of one day into another. That is to surrender the dignity of life and to make yourselves like the gauzy ephemerides that float in the air. But you are not born to be insects, and however cheerful you may be you ought to answer the great questions: “What am I born for? how long have I to stay here?”
II. I also address THOSE WHO ARE ALWAYS INTENDING TO DO THE THINGS THEY ADMIRE. How many are saying, “When there is a more convenient season it is my purpose to reform.” But no man is wise who does not say day by day, “What I do I must hasten to do, for life is not very long for me.” For whatever you mean to do you have no time to spare. Putting off till prosperity is established is substantially putting off forever. They who late in life attain to any considerable excellence are rare exceptions. Men usually plant in childhood the seeds which blossom and bear the fruits on which they feed in later years.
III. IS THE SPIRIT OF THIS TEACHING MAN SHOULD MEASURE CERTAIN PRACTICAL DUTIES.
1. It is part of a Christian man’s duty to make provision for his household. No man has a right to leave out of view the fact that he may be taken away, and when that is the case the breadwinner is gone. It is wicked therefore for a man, because he admires his wife and loves his children, to live beyond his means to gratify their tastes or whims. Where a man does this, when the collapse comes there is nothing but misery.
2. It is a Christian man’s duty to secure the provision he has made. There are many men whose business is in such a state that if they were to die their affairs would be like a ship from whose rudder the pilot has been shot down. “Set thy house in order,” then. Make your will, and have your affairs so straight that it will be easy to wind them up and dispose them according to your wishes.
IV. THE SENTIMENT OF THE TEXT RULES IN THE RELIGIOUS SPHERE.
1. In personal spiritual growth. The time for the development of the graces, the acquisition of knowledge, the contraction of good habits is brief--make the most of it.
2. In Christian work. If you have anything to do for the poor, for the Church, for the world’s purity and happiness, you have no time to lose. And yet how few, however active, are using the whole economy of their natures according to the power that is in them? (H. W. Beecher.)
The night cometh
I. DO NOT SET YOUR AFFECTIONS ON EARTHLY THINGS. Wealth, reputation, pleasure, etc., will then perish. You would not tie your earthly happiness to a flower that is to fade at sunset; and is it more reasonable for a being who is to live forever to choose for his portion what must pass from his grasp whenever the sun of this short life goes down?
II. DO NOT REPINE AND LOSE HEART AMID YOUR CARE AND SORROWS. The occasions of these last only for life’s little day, and dark as that day may be, it will drag through at last. And sweet as is the evening hour of rest for the labourer, that is nothing to the rest that remaineth for the people of God. Let this prospect infuse courage and hope to endure our loss and to bear our cross.
III. DO NOT WEARY OF YOUR DUTIES. Some of them are delightful enough, but others are burdensome; but the time is coming when both will be laid aside and the reward bestowed.
IV. WORK OUT YOUR OWN SALVATION, for that can only be accomplished during the day. And who knows how many hours remain and what accident may not cut it short? (A. K. H. Boyd, D. D.)
The night cometh
There is a difference between the ancient Oriental and the modem Occidental idea of night, owing to the comparative security of life and property in modern times. In the ancient East (and it is so still in the modem East), the man who camped outside of the city walls was liable to attack from prowling Bedouins, from professional thieves, and from wild animals; while he who slept within city walls hardly dared to venture out of doors by night, for fear of the troops of half-savage dogs that scoured through the narrow streets, fighting each other for the offal which they found there. The darkness was also the time when evil spirits had most power: Lilith, the female demon, and Asmodai, and other evil spirits, hid in dark places during the day; but during the night they issued forth to prey upon mankind. A certain trace of this same feeling is seen in the evil epithets applied to night by the classical writers. The night is “terrible,” “destructive.” To these writers, as well as to the Orientals, the night was the time of peril and of enforced cessation from work. To us, night is the period of repose and safety. (S. S. Times.)
Diligence in the work of religion
I. THERE IS A WORK ALLOTTED TO EVERY MAN TO BE PERFORMED WHILE HE LIVES IN THE WORLD.
1. As he is a member of the body politic, he is obliged to contribute his proportion of help to the public as sharing the benefits of society.
2. As he is a subject of a spiritual kingdom, he is to pursue the interest of his salvation. He is sent into this world to make sure of a better. These two capacities are very different: by the former a man is to approve himself a good citizen; by the latter a good Christian. The former too is subordinate to the latter, and when it clashes with it must give way. According to these capacities there is a double work.
1. Temporal, by which a man is to fill some place in the commonwealth by the exercise of some useful profession; and God, who has ordained society and order accounts Himself served by each man’s diligent pursuit, though of the meanest trade, and requires no man to be praying or reading when he ought to be hammering or sewing. The great Master is still calling upon all His servants to work: a thing so much disdained by the gallant and epicure, is yet the price which God and Nature has set upon every enjoyment (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
2. Spiritual. This is threefold.
II. THE TIME OF THIS LIFE BEING EXPIRED, THERE IS NO POSSIBILITY OF PERFORMING THIS WORK. There is no repenting, believing, doing the works of charity in the grave. A day notes
1. The shortness of it. What is a day but a few minutes’ sunshine, an indiscernible shred of that life which is itself but a span. God allows us but one day, which shows what value He puts on our opportunities by dispensing them so sparingly. Our life is a day’s journey, therefore it concerns us to manage it so that we may have comfort at our journey’s end.
2. Its sufficiency. A day, short as it is, equals the business of the day; and he that repents not during his short life would not were it prolonged five hundred years.
3. Its determinate limitation. As after a number of hours it will unavoidably be night, and there is no stopping the setting sun, so after we have passed such a measure of our time, our season has its period--we are benighted, and must bid adieu to our opportunities.
III. THE CONSIDERATION OF THIS OUGHT TO BE THE MOST PRESSING ARGUMENT TO EVERY MAN TO USE HIS UTMOST DILIGENCE IN THE DISCHARGE OF THIS WORE.
1. The work is most difficult. It is “warfare,” “wrestling,” “resisting the devil,” and “unto blood.” “Agonizing” before the doer is closed to enter in. Hard work, and little time to do it in. He that has far to go and much to do should rise early, and mate the difficulty of the business with the diligence of the prosecution.
2. It is necessary, in so far as it is necessary for a man to be saved; which argument will be heightened by comparing this necessity with the limitation of time. There is no tomorrow in a Christian’s calendar. (R. South, D. D.)
Time cannot be lengthened out by man
As the light was fading away on the evening before the battle of Waterloo, Napoleon, pointing towards the setting sun, said, “What would I not give to be this day possessed of the power of Joshua--enabled to retard thy march for two hours!” (J. Abbott.)
The inevitableness of death
“The time is short”--or as we might perhaps render it, so as to give the full force of the metaphor, “the time is pressed together.” It is being squeezed into narrower compass, like a sponge in a strong hand. There is an old story of a prisoner in a cell with contractile walls. Day by day his space lessens. He saw the whole of that window yesterday; he sees only half of it today. Nearer and nearer the walls are drawn together, till they meet and crush him between them. So the wails of our home, which we have made our prison, are closing in upon us. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The need of preparation for death
A young prince asked his tutor to give him some instruction about preparing for death. “Plenty of time for that when you are older,” was the reply. “No,” said the child; “I have been to the churchyard and measured the graves, and there are many shorter than I am.” A courtier, who had passed his life in the service of his prince, having fallen dangerously ill, the prince went to visit him, accompanied by his other courtiers. He found him in an agony of suffering, and at the point of death. Touched with the sad spectacle, he said, “Is there anything I can do for you? Ask unhesitatingly, and fear not that you will be refused. Prince, replied the sufferer, in the sad situation in which you see me, I have but one thing to ask of you; give me a quarter of an hour of life.” “Alas!” said the prince, “what you demand is not in my, power, to give;, ask something else, if you wish me to aid you.” “Oh, what!” said the dying man, “I have served you for fifty years, and you cannot give me a quarter of an hour of life! Ah! if I had served the Lord thus faithfully, He would have given me, not a quarter of an hour of life, but an eternity of happiness.” Very soon after he died. Happy it he himself profited by the lesson which he gave to others on the nothingness of human life and the necessity of working out one’s own salvation. (Ponder and Pray.)
The folly of delay
After the battle of Chancellorsville, General Hooker, instead of quickly following up his victory with another attack, delayed it for a day. The golden moment was thus lost, and it never afterwards appeared to the same extent. Soldiers’ legs have as much to do with winning great victories as their arms. (H. O. Mackey.)
Generalities in religion are always to be avoided, more especially generalities in service. If a man waits upon you for a situation, and you say to him, “What are you?” if he replies, “I am a painter,” or “a carpenter,” you can find him work perhaps; but if he says, “Oh! I can do anything,” you understand that he can do nothing. So it is with a sort of spiritual jobbers who profess to be able to do anything in the Church, but who really do nothing. I want my conscript brethren tonight to consider what they are henceforth going to do, and I beg them to consider it with such deliberation, that when once they have come to a conclusion that they will not need to change it, for changes involve losses. What can you do? What is your calling? Ragged schools? Sunday schools? Street preaching? Tract distribution? Here is a choice for you; which do you select? Waste no time, but say, “This is my calling, and by God’s grace I will give myself up to it, meaning to do it as well as any man ever did do it.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
“Ah! Mr. Hervey,” said a dying man, “the day in which I ought to have worked is over, and I now see a horrible night approaching, bringing with it the blackness of darkness forever. Woe is me! When God called, I refused. Now I am in sore anguish; and yet this is but the beginning of sorrows. I shall be destroyed with an everlasting destruction.”
A motive for diligence
The old naturalists, who tell us a good many things which are not true, as well as some which are, say that the birds of Norway always fly more swiftly than any others, because the summer days are so short, and therefore they have so much to do in such a little time. Surely we should fly more swiftly to do our Lord’s work if we would only meditate upon the fact that the day is so short, and that the night is so near at hand. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
All must work
Oh! I could not do much, says one. Then do what you can. No one flower makes a garden, but altogether the fair blossoms of spring create a paradise of beauty. Let all the Lord’s flowers contribute in their proportion to the beauty of the garden of the Lord. “But I am so unused to it.” Then, my brother, that is a very powerful reason why you should do twice as much, so as to make up for your past idleness. “Oh! but I am afraid nothing would come of it.” What has that to do with you? God has promised a blessing, and if the blessing should not come in your day, yet, if you have done what the Master bade you, you will not be blamed for want of success. “Sir,” asks another, “will you give me some work to do?” “No, I will not; for if you are good for anything, you will find it for yourself.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Work while it is day
In the Californian bee pastures, on the sun days of summer, one may readily infer the time of day from the comparative energy of bee movements alone: drowsy and moderate in the cool of the morning, increasing in energy with the ascending sun, and at high noon thrilling and quivering in wild ecstasy, then gradually declining again to the stillness of night. Is it not, or should it not be, a picture of our life? (H. O. Mackey.)
Responsibility to God
Daniel Webster was present one day at a dinner party given at Astor House by some New York friends, and, in order to draw him out, one of the company put to him the following question: “Would you please tell us, bit. Webster, what was the most important thought that ever occupied your mind?” Mr. Webster merely raised his head, and passing his hand slowly over his forehead, said, “Is there anyone here who doesn’t know me?” “No, sir,” was the reply; “we all know you, and are your friends.” “Then,” said he, looking over the table, “the most important thought that ever occupied my mind was that of my individual responsibility to God.” Upon which subject he then spoke for twenty minutes. (H. O. Mackey.)
Work while it is day
When someone expostulated with Duncan Matheson, the evangelist, that he was killing himself with his labours, and ought to have rest, he replied: “I cannot rest while souls are being lost; there is all eternity in which to rest after life is done.” (H. O. Mackey.)
Life a sphere of work
We are not sent into life as a butterfly is sent into summer, gorgeously hovering over the flowers, as if the interior spirits of the rainbow had come down to greet these kisses of the season upon the ground; but to labour for the world’s advancement, and to mould our characters into God’s likeness, and so, through toil and achievement, to gain happiness. I would rather break stones upon the road, if it were not for the disgrace of being in a chain gang, than to be one of those contemptible joy mongers, who are so rich and so empty that they are continually going about to find something to make them happy. (H. W.Beecher.)
We must work with our whole heart
It is one of the first and last qualifications of good workman for God that he should put his heart into his work. I have heard mistresses tell servants when polishing tables that elbow-grease was a fine thing for such work; and so it is. Hard work is a splendid thing. It will make a way under a river, or through an Alp. Hard work will do almost everything; but in God’s service it must not only be hard work, but hot work. The heart must be on fire. The heart must be set upon its design. See how a child cries! Though I am not fond of hearing it, yet I note that some children cry all over; when they want a thing, they cry from the tips of their toes to the last hair of their heads. That is the way to preach, and that is the way to pray, and that is the way to live: the whole man must be heartily engaged in holy work. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Christians feel that they must work
When I have been unable to preach through physical pain, I have taken my pen to write, and found much joy in making books for Jesus; and when my hand has been unable to wield the pen, I have wanted to talk about my master to somebody or other, and I have tried to do so. I remember that David Brainerd, when he was very ill, and could not preach to the Indians, was found sitting up in bed, teaching a little Indian boy his letters, that he might read the Bible; and so he said, “If I cannot serve God one way, I will another. I will never leave off this blessed service.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Work is healthful
On one occasion a neighbouring minister warned Dr. Morison, of Chelsea, that he was doing too much work. “Depend upon it,” said Dr. Morison, “the lazy minister dies first.” Six months afterwards he was sent for by his friendly monitor, and found him dying. “Do you remember what you once said to me?” inquired the dying man. Stunned by finding his words so vividly remembered at this time, he replied, “Oh, don’t speak of that.” “Yes, I must speak of it,” said his friend. “It was the truth! Work, work while it is called day; for now the night is coming, when I cannot work.”
Soul winning is our work
I like that expression of Mr. Wesley’s preachers, when they were asked to interfere in this or that political struggle, they replied, “Our work is to win souls, and we give ourselves to it.” Oh, that churches would listen to this just now! (C. H. Spurgeon.)
We must do God’s work
There are men, there are women--men and women of high capacities, of great mental endowment--who, in every division of human thought and human labour, have furrowed their track deep in the fields of history. There are men, as you all know, of scientific attainments, who have been powerful in illuminating the meaning of the laws of God with regard to the physical creation before the minds of their fellow men; men who have drawn out the secrets from this world, who have exposed to us the meaning of much that once we believed to be almost magical, and now is known to be only natural. There are men of historical power, who have been able to co-ordinate the various human motives and thoughts which have gone to form the springs of history, until they have succeeded, in part at least, in reading some of those general laws of our Great Creator, even in fields belonging not strictly to His divine revelation. There are, again, men of artistic faculties, who have been able--in throwing out thoughts upon canvas, which have startled us,sometimes with the beauty of execution, and always with the wonderful mystery of various colourings, combining into one picture before the eye--have been able, I say, thereby to exhibit to us things that all mankind,more or less, have dreamed of, but that all mankind found themselves incapable to express. There have been men--as you and I, who live in this great city, know--who, by the mere activity of their life, have left a very deep impress upon their generation. But, after all, when we turn to the Christian life, we have to acknowledge, even without the divine revelation, that all that kind of work, all that outcome of what is mere human activity, is not at all work in the sense in which Christ means it, as becoming and glorifying an immortal. Not at all! (Knox Little.)
We must do our work promptly
In the private journal of a lady in New York, recently deceased, were found these words: “I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good thing, therefore, that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”
To every man his work
We have all of us special endowments; each has got some place in the providential ordering of God; not one soul but has his or her place. God has given each a work. His will for you is to be measured by the capabilities that you have. Some have power of brain, some of heart, some of hand. Some can illuminate a quiet home by the tender brightness of a holy life; some can lead vast masses of their fellow creatures by a splendid example of energetic and determined fixity of purpose; some can think of God with peculiar depth and power in quiet times, when alone with Him. They can so meditate that the meditation of their soul is felt, rather than heard, by those who associate with them in life. Some can go forth into the great working world, and speak or do a work for God amongst those around them. But for each one, old or young--O loved of God! O child of Jesus! O turned to the Master with a wholeheart and a loving determination!--for each, therefore for you, there is a special work in the history of this universe. (Knox Little.)
Signs of night
You will find within your breast the waning power of the exercise of influence you had in your home; you find the difficulty, mere than ever, of fighting down some wretched habit for which not only do you want forgiveness, but which, too, you desire to conquer for the love of Jesus; you find, perhaps the witness of a failing memory, or of failing health; you find that in some way or other the finger of God is touching you. The world may not see it; friends may not read it; those who are dear to you may not tell it; but you know it--the witness, whatever it is, is come--is coming. It speaks to you in the silence of the night. It wakens with you when you waken in the morning; it travels with you as a settled consciousness, when you are going about the world; it is the whisper of that unrelenting law of unchanging changefulness--“the night is coming.” (Knox Little.)
The works of God
The utter restfulness which filled the heart of the Lord Jesus is beautifully manifested in the introductory verses of this chapter.
I. THE CONDITIONS IN WHICH GOD’S WORKS ARE DONE. The phrase, “works of God,” is a familiar one throughout this Gospel. To do them fed the Redeemer’s soul (John 4:34); they were in an ever ascending scale John 5:20); they were of a certain definite number, given Him to finish John 5:36); they were the signs and seals of His mission (John 10:38); they were not His own, but wrought through Him by the Father John 14:10); they were unique in the history of the world (John 16:24); they were definitely finished ere He left it (John 17:4). But it becomes us to learn the conditions under which they were wrought, that we may be able to do those greater works of which He spoke.
1. His heart was at rest in God. Nature herself teaches the need of repose for the putting forth of her mightiest efforts. It is in the closet, the study, the cave, the woodland retreat that problems have been solved, resolves formed, and schemes matured. It is not possible for us all to have a life of outward calm. But beneath all the heart may keep its Sabbath.
2. He was specially endued with the Holy Spirit.
3. He was willing that the Father should work through Him.
II. THE NEED FOR THESE WORKS. “A man blind from his birth.” If there is need for the works of God to be manifested, we must be at hand, and willing at all costs to manifest them. If there is the opportunity for the glorifying of Christ, we must not be slow to seize it. Make haste, the night is coming, in which no man can work. What works await us yonder we cannot tell. But the unique work of healing blindness and enriching beggary is confined to earth, and we must hasten to do all of this allotted to us before the nightfall. He lives intensely whose eye is fixed on the fingers of the dial, as the poor seamstress works swiftly whose last small wick of candle is rapidly burning down in its socket.
III. THE SUBJECT OF THESE WORKS. What a contrast between the opening and the close of the chapter. The soul ignorant of Christ owns Him as Son of God. And all this because of the individual interest our Lord took in him.
1. He detected what was working in his mind. Beneath that unpromising exterior were the elements of a noble character.
2. He developed the latent power of faith. It was there, but it had nothing to evoke it, and yet it must be evoked ere Christ could give him sight. He could feel, though he could not see.
3. He found him when cast out by all besides. Does not Jesus always steal to our side when we are cast out, or deserted by our friends?
4. He answered his hunger for faith. “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” If we live up to what we know, at all costs, we shall most certainly be led into further discoveries of truth. We think we are going to plough a field, and we suddenly come on a box of treasure, struck by our plough, which makes us independent of work for the rest of our lives. And so obedience passes into worship, and we see that He who has made our life His care, tending us when we knew Him not, is the Christ of God, in whom are hid all the riches of time, all the treasures of eternity: and we worship Him. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
We must not trifle
Rev. Charles Simeon kept the picture of Henry Martyn in his study. Move where he would through the apartment, it seemed to keep its eyes upon him, and ever to say to him, “Be earnest, be earnest! don’t trifle, don’t trifle!” And the good Simeon would gently bow to the speaking picture, and, with a smile, reply, “Yes, I will be in earnest; I will, I will be in earnest; I will not trifle; for souls are perishing, and Jesus is to be glorified.” O Christian! look away to Martyn’s Master, to Simeon’s Saviour, to the Omniscient One. Ever realize the inspection of His eye, and hear His voice. (S. J. Moore.)
As long as I am in the world I am the Light of the world.
--The Word as Light visited men before the Incarnation (John 1:9, etc.; John 5:38; Romans 2:15, etc.); at the Incarnation (John 8:12; Joh_12:46; Joh_3:19-21; comp. John 11:9, etc.); and He still comes (John 14:21); even as the Spirit who still interprets His “name” (John 14:25; Joh_16:13; comp. 1 John 2:20-27). St. John draws no distinction in essence between these three different forms of revelation, in nature, in conscience, and in history; all alike are natural or supernatural, parts of the same harmonious plan. But man has not independently light in himself. The understanding of the outward revelation depends upon the abiding of the Divine Word within (John 5:37, etc.). Love is the condition of illumination (John 14:22, etc.). And the end of Christ’s coming was that those who believe in Him may move in a new region of life (John 12:46), and themselves become sons of light (John 12:35, etc.), and so in the last issue of faith have the light of life (John 8:12).(Bp. Westcott.)
Christ, the Light
Among all created excellencies, none can be borrowed more fitly representing Christ, than that of light.
1. Light is primum visibile, the first object of sight: and Jesus Christ, whom the apostle styles “God over all, Blessed forever,” is primum intelligibile.
2. Light being the first thing visible, all things are seen by it, and it by itself. Thus is Christ among spiritual things, in the elect world of His Church Ephesians 5:13-14; 2 Corinthians 4:3). The rays of Christ’s light are displayed through both His Testaments, and in them we see Him Psalms 36:9).
3. No one is ignorant there is light; yet what light is few know (Job 38:19). The “generation” of Christ “who shall declare?” (Isaiah 53:8).
4. Light resembles Christ in purity: it visits many impure places, and lights upon the basest parts of the earth, and yet remains most pure and undefiled. Though Christ was conversant with sinners, to communicate to them His goodness, yet He was “separate from sinners,” in immunity from their evil (Hebrews 7:26).
5. The light of the sun is neither parted nor diminished, by being imparted to many several people and nations, that behold it at one time: nor is the righteousness of this Sun of Righteousness either lessened to Himself or to individual believers, by many partaking of it at once: it is wholly conferred upon each one of them, and remains whole in itself.
6. The sun hath a vivifying power, a special influence in the generation of man. The sun we speak of is the proper and principal instrument in man’s regeneration (John 1:4).
7. The sun drives away the sharp frosts and the heavy fogs of winter, it clears the heavens, decks the saith with variety of plants and flowers, and awakes the birds to the pleasant strains of their natural music. When Christ, after a kind of wintry absence, returns to visit a declining Church, or a deserted forsaken soul, admirable is the change that He produces, etc. Isaiah 55:12-13; Song of Solomon 2:10-17).
8. All darkness flies before light: so Christ arising in the world made the day break, and the shadows flee away, the types and shadows of the law, ignorance, idolatry, the night of sin, misery, etc. All the stars, and the moon with them, cannot make it day in the world: this is the sun’s peculiar: nor can nature’s highest light, the most refined science and morality, make it day in the soul; for this is Christ’s (John 8:12; Joh_12:35; Psalms 19:1-14; Wisdom of Solomon 7:26-27; Luke 1:78-79; Ephesians 5:8). (Abp. Leighton.)
The Light of the world
I. CHRIST THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD.
1. I am the Light of the world (John 9:5).
2. That was the true Light (John 1:9).
3. For a Light of the Gentiles (Isaiah 13:6).
4. A Light to lighten the Gentiles (Luke 2:32).
5. He that followeth Me … shall have the Light (John 8:12).
6. I am come a Light into the world (John 12:46).
7. The Sun of righteousness (Malachi 4:2).
8. The Dayspring from on high (Luke 1:78).
9. The Bright and Morning Star (Revelation 22:16).
10. The Daystar (2 Peter 1:19).
II. CHRISTIANS THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD.
1. Walk as children of light (Ephesians 5:8).
2. Ye are all the children of light (1 Thessalonians 5:5).
3. Ye are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).
4. That ye may be the children of light (John 12:36).
5. Let your light so shine (Matthew 5:16).
6. The path of the just is as the shining light (Proverbs 4:18).
7. He [John] was a burning and a shining light (John 5:35).
8. Among whom ye shine as lights in the world (Php
9. Let us put on the armour of light (Romans 13:12).
10. They that be wise shall shine (Daniel 12:3). (S. S. Times.)
Light in death
For the last day or two he (Sir D. Brewster) was attended by his friend, Sir James Simpson, a man of kindred genius and of kindred Christian hopes. “The like of this I never saw,” he said, as we met him coming fresh from the dying chamber. “There is Sir David resting like a little child on Jesus, and speaking as if in a few hours he will get all his problems solved by Him.” For in that supreme hour of dawning immortality his past studies were all associated with the name and person of the Redeemer. “I shall see Jesus,” he said; “and that will be grand. I shall see Him who made the worlds,” with allusion to those wonderful verses in Hebrews which had formed the subject of the last sermon he ever heard, a few weeks before. Thus, tracing all to the Creator-Redeemer, he felt no incongruity even in these hours in describing to Sir James Simpson, in a “fluent stream of well chosen words,” some beautiful phenomena in his favourite science. Reference was made to the privilege he had enjoyed in throwing light upon the “great and marvellous works of God.” “Yes,” he said, “I found them to be great and marvellous, and I felt them to be His.” He had little pain but such as came from intense weakness. The light was with him all through the valley. “I have had the light for many years,” he whispered slowly, and with emphasis; “and oh, how bright it is! I feel so safe, so satisfied!” And so, in childlike reliance and adoring love, he gently fell asleep in Jesus on the evening of Monday, February 10th, 1868. On the Saturday following he was laid beside kindred dust. (Sunday at Home.)
He spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and He anointed the eyes
The blind made to see, and the seeing made blind
We have here OUR LORD UNVEILING HIS DEEPEST MOTIVES FOR BESTOWING AN UNSOUGHT BLESSING. It is remarkable that out of the eight miracles recorded in this Gospel, there is only one in which our Lord responds to a request to manifest His miraculous power; the others are all spontaneous. In the other Gospels He heals sometimes because of the pleading of the sufferer; sometimes because of the request of the compassionate friends or bystanders; sometimes unasked, because His own heart went out to those that were in pain and sickness. But in John’s Gospel, predominantly we have the Son of God, who acts throughout as moved by His own deep heart. That view of Christ reaches its climax in His own profound words about His own laying down of His life: “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go unto the Father.” So, not so much influenced by others as deriving motive and impulse and law from Himself, He moves upon earth a fountain and not a reservoir, the Originator and Beginner of the blessings that He bears. Thus, moved by sorrow, recognizing in man’s misery the dumb cry for help, seeing in it the opportunity for the manifestation of the higher mercy of God; taking all evil to be the occasion for a brighter display of the love and the good which are Divine; feeling that His one purpose on earth was to crowd the moments with obedience to the will, and with the doing of the works of Him that sent Him; and possessing the sole and strange consciousness that from His person streams out all the light which illuminates the world--the Christ pauses before the unconscious blind man, and looking upon the poor, useless eyeballs, unaware how near light and sight stood, obeys the impulse that shapes His whole life. “And when He had spoken thus” proceeds to the strange cure.
II. So we come, in the next place, to consider CHRIST AS VEILING HIS POWER UNDER MATERIAL MEANS. This healing by material means in order to accommodate Himself to the weak faith which He seeks to evoke, and to strengthen thereby, is parallel, in principles, to His own incarnation, and to His appointment of external rites and ordinances. Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, a visible Church, outward means of worship, and so on, all these come under the same category. There is no life nor power in them except His will works through them, but they are crutches and helps for a weak and sense-bound faith to climb to the apprehension of the spiritual reality. It is not the clay, it is not the water, it is not the Church, the ordinances, the outward worship, the form of prayer, the Sacrament--it is none of these things that have the healing and the grace in them. They are only ladders by which we may ascend to Him.
III. Then, still farther, WE HAVE HERE OUR LORD SUSPENDING HEALING ON OBEDIENCE. “Go and wash.” As He said to the impotent man: “Stretch forth thine hand”; as He said to the paralytic in this Gospel: “Take up thy bed and walk”; so here He says, “Go and wash.” And some friendly hand being stretched out to the blind man, or he himself feeling his way over the familiar path, he comes to the pool and washes, and returns seeing. There is, first, the general truth that healing is suspended by Christ on the compliance with His conditions. He does not simply say to any man, Be whole. He could and did say so sometimes in regard to bodily healing. But He cannot do so as regards the cure of our blind souls. To the sin-sick and sin-blinded man He says, “Thou shalt be whole, if”--or “I will make thee whole, provided that”--what?--provided that thou goest to the fountain where He has lodged the healing power. The condition on which sight comes to the blind is compliance with Christ’s invitation, “Come to Me; trust in Me; and thou shalt be whole.” Then there is a second lesson here, and that is, Obedience brings sight. “If any man will do His will he shall know of the doctrine.” Are there any of you groping in darkness, compassed about with theological perplexities and religious doubts? Bow your wills to the recognized truth. He who has made all his knowledge into action will get more knowledge as soon as he needs it. “Go and wash; and he went, and came seeing.”
IV. And now, lastly, we have here our LORD SHADOWING HIS HIGHEST WORK AS THE HEALER OF BLIND SOULS. The blind man stands for an example of honest ignorance, knowing itself ignorant, and not to be coaxed or frightened or in any way provoked to pretending to knowledge which it does not possess, firmly holding by what it does know, and because conscious of its little knowledge, therefore waiting for light and willing to be led. Hence he is at once humble and sturdy, docile and independent, ready to listen to any voice which can really teach, and formidably quick to prick with wholesome sarcasm the inflated claims of mere official pretenders. The Pharisees, on the other hand, are sure that they know everything that can be known about anything in the region of religion and morality, and in their absolute confidence in their absolute possession of the truth, in their blank unconsciousness that it was more than their official property and stock-in-trade, in their complete incapacity to discern the glory of a miracle which contravened ecclesiastical proprieties and conventionalities, in their contempt for the ignorance which they were responsible for and never thought of enlightening, in their cruel taunt directed against the man’s calamity, and in their swift resort to the weapon of excommunication of one whom it was much easier to cast out than to answer, are but too plain a type of a character which is as ready to corrupt the teachers of the Church as of the synagogue. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The use of means
Our Lord would teach us, by His peculiar mode of proceeding here, that He is not tied to any one means of doing good, and that we may expect to find variety in His methods of dealing with souls as well as with bodies. May He not also wish to teach us that He can, when He thinks fit, invest material things with an efficacy which is not inherent in them? We are not to despise Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, because water, bread, and wine are mere material elements. To many who use them, no doubt they are nothing more than mere material things, and never do them the slightest good. But to those who use the sacraments rightly, worthily, and with faith, Christ can make water, bread, and wine, instruments of doing real good. He that was pleased to use clay in healing a blind man may surely use material things, if He thinks fit, in His own ordinances. The water in Baptism, and the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper, while they are not to be treated as idols, ought not to be treated with irreverence and contempt. It was, of course, not the clay that healed the blind man, but Christ’s word and power. Nevertheless the clay was used. So the brazen serpent in itself had no medicinal power to cure the bitten Israelites. But without it they were not cured. The selection of clay for anointing the blind man’s eyes is thought by some to be significant, and to contain a possible reference to the original formation of man out of the dust. He that formed man with all his bodily faculties out of the dust could easily restore one of those lost faculties, even sight, when He thought fit. He that healed these blind eyes with clay was the same Being who originally formed man out of the clay. (Bp. Ryle.)
The use of common agencies
This cure is distinguished from most others by the careful use in it of intermediate agencies. Christ does not merely speak the word; there is a process of healing, and the use of these agencies is part of the sign to which St. John wishes to draw our attention. If the other signs testified that there is an invisible power at work in all the springs of our life--that there is a Fountain of life from which these springs are continually renewed--did not this testify that there is a potency and virtue in the commonest things; that God has stored all nature with instruments for the blessing and healing of His creatures? The mere miracle worker who draws glory to himself wishes to dispense with these things lest he should be confounded with the ordinary physician. The Great Physician, who works because His Father works, puts an honour on earth and water as well as upon all art which has true observation and knowledge for its basis. He only distinguishes Himself from other healers by showing that the source of their healing and renovating power is in Him. We have put our faith and our science at an immeasurable distance from each other. May not the separation lead to the ruin of both. (F. D. Maurice, M. A.)
The meaning of Christ’s action
Jesus would not try weak faith too sternly. Just as you would not give a little child the moral law in all its baldness and harshness to keep, but first sweeten the way of obedience by little rewards and promises which become helps to the doing of right, so the kindly Healer of all deals with the people, who were as little children in faith and spiritual insight. He knew a medicinal value was attributed to saliva for diseases of the eye. It was a little harmless giving way to superstition to let the man have the help of his old belief, such as it was. If you could heal a child’s hurt by the magic of a word, the child would not feel half as cured as if you had applied some salve. Jesus applies harmless salve that the man might be helped to believe by having something external done to him. Your straitlaced dogmatists will never see the kindly spirit of such action as this. They would see the man blind all his days before they would “pander” to such notions. Theirs are the unkindly hands which try to make the child climb to heaven by, first of all knocking down the ladders of childish fancy which its untaught thinking has reared, instead of fixing their ladder to the end of the child’s. Jesus is more kindly reasonable. He does not attempt to argue the notion out of the man’s mind. He simply lets it alone, and helps the man through his grandmotherly beliefs to healing, and finally to a strong faith in the Divine power. If my child believed that the Heavenly Father came down to the park every night to wrap up the birds in their nests I would not destroy that idea of Providence till I could graft a richer one upon it. Let us learn the Christlike lesson of being weak to the weak and ignorant to the ignorant. (E. H. Higgins.)
The way of faith criticised by the world
It meets with many modern criticisms. In the first place, the mode of cure seems very eccentric. Spat and made clay with the spittle and the dust! Very singular! Very odd! Thus odd and singular is the gospel in the judgment of the worldly wise. “Why,” saith one, “it seems such a strange thing that we are to be saved by believing.” Men think it so odd that fifty other ways are invented straightway. Though the new methods are not one of them worth describing, yet everybody seems to think that the old-fashioned way of “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” might have been greatly improved upon. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The way of faith glorifies Christ
Suppose, instead thereof, He had put His hand into His pocket and had taken out a gold or ivory box, and out of this box He had taken a little crystal bottle. Suppose He had taken out the stopper, and then had poured a drop on each of those blind eyes, and they had been opened, what would have been the result? Everybody would have said, “What a wonderful medicine! I wonder what it was! How was it compounded? Who wrote the prescription? Perhaps He found the charm in the writings of Solomon, and so He learned to distil the matchless drops.” Thus you see the attention would have been fixed on the means used, and the cure would have been ascribed to the medicine rather than to God. Our Saviour used no such rare oils or choice spirits, but simply spat and made clay of the spittle; for He knew that nobody would say, “The spittle did it,” or “It was the clay that did it.” No, if our Lord seems to be eccentric in the choice of means, yet is He eminently prudent. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Go wash in the pool of Siloam.
--Rounding the southern end of Ophel, the southeast span of Moriah, you reach this famous pool. It is fifty-two feet long and eighteen feet wide, some piers, like flying buttresses, standing on its north side, while part of a column rises in the middle of it. These are the remains of an old church, built over it 1,300 years ago, or a monastery of the twelfth century. The miracle invested the pool with such peculiar sacredness that baths were erected under the ancient church, to let the sick have the benefit of the wondrous stream. You go down eight ancient stone steps to reach the water, which is used by the people for drinking, washing their not over clean linen, and for bathing. Everything around is dilapidated. At the north end a small tunnel opens in the rock, bringing the water from the spring of the Virgin, which lies 1,700 feet higher up the valley. This ancient engineering work is about two feet wide, and from two to sixteen feet in height, with a branch cut due west from it to a shallow basin within the line of the ancient walls, where a round shaft more than forty feet deep has been sunk to reach it. On the top of this a great chamber hewn in the rock, with a flight of steps leading down to it, made it possible for the citizens, by covering and hiding the spring outside, to cut off the supply of water from an enemy, while themselves, by means of this striking arrangement, enjoying it in safety without leaving their defences. A notable discovery connected with the cutting of the main tunnel was made in 1880 by a youth while wading up its mouth. Losing his footing, he noticed, as he was picking himself up, some letters cut in the rocky side, which proved to be an inscription left by the workmen when they had finished their great undertaking. From this it appears that they began at both ends, but as engineering was hardly at its best 3,000 years ago their course was very far from being exactly straight, windings of more than two hundred yards, like the course of a river, marking their work. There are several short branches showing where the excavators found themselves going in a wrong direction, and abruptly stopped, to resume work in a truer line, when at last they met they proved to be a little on one side of each other and had to connect their excavations by a short side cutting. Prof. Sayce thinks that this undertaking dates from about the eight century B.C., and Prof. Muhlan refers it to the time of Hezekiah, while others think it in part, at least, a relic of the early inhabitants of Jerusalem before David. The depth of the tunnel below the surface, at its lowest, is one hundred and fifty feet. The slope is very small, so that the water must always have flowed with a gentle leisure from the spring to the pool Isaiah 8:6). The remains of four other basins have been discovered, which were apparently once connected with the pool, and a little way from it down the valley, is an ancient “Lower Pool,” but now has its bottom overgrown with trees, the overflow from the higher pool having for centuries trickled past it instead of filling it. This is known as the Red Pool--from the colour of its soil--and is famous for an old mulberry tree saidto mark the spot where Isaiah was sawn asunder by Manasseh. The Virgin’s Well, from which the whole supply comes, lies at the bottom of two flights of broken stone steps--thirty in all--and has the glory of being the only spring rising in the Temple Mount. The taste of the water is very unpleasant, from its having filtered through the vast mass of foul rubbish on which the city stands, and which has been soaked by the sewage of many centuries. The sides of the tunnel are covered to a height of about three feet with thin red cement, very hard and full of pounded potsherds. The bed is covered with a black slimy deposit two or three inches thick, which makes the water still worse at Siloam than at the Virgin’s Well. Still from time to time water carriers come to fill their skins, and women with their great jars on their shoulders. Yet Siloam must have been far livelier than now in olden times, when a fine church rose over the spring and pilgrims bathed in the great tank beneath it. Already in the days of Christ, perhaps from the thought of the healing powers of the pool as issuing from Moriah, it must have been the custom to wash in it, else the blind man would hardly have been directed in so few words to do so. (C. Geikie, D. D.)
Which is by interpretation, Sent.--By a solemn and daily libation, the fount of Siloam had figured during the recent feast as the emblem of theocratic favours and the pledge of all Messianic blessings. This rite harmonized with the Old Testament, which had already contrasted this humble fountain with the brute force of the foes of the theocracy Isaiah 8:7). We have seen that Jesus applied to Himself the theocratic symbols of the feast; why should He not in the present instance also express by an act what He had hitherto declared in words. By adding to the real blindness, which He alone could cure, that artificial and symbolic blindness which the waters of Siloam were to remove, He declared in fact: What Siloam effects typically I accomplish in reality. Perhaps it is by the symbolic part given to Siloam that the explanation “Sent” of the Evangelist must be explained. In a philologic point of view, the correctness of John’s translation is not disputed, and the origin of the name has been explained by the circumstance that the water of the pool was “sent” from the distant spring of the Virgin, or because springs are regarded in the East as gifts of God. In any case, Israelite consciousness was struck by the fact that the spring flowed from the Temple hill, the residence of Jehovah, and had from the prophetic era attached to this water, a Messianic signification. It was undoubtedly this relation, with which the mind of the whole nation was penetrated, that John meant to bring forward in the parenthesis. Go to Siloam (the typically sent), to cleanse thyself from what causes thine artificial blindness; come by faith to He (the really Sent), who alone can cure thy blindness, both physical and moral. (F. Godet, D. D.)
The way of faith is simple
“Go wash in the pool.” Go to the pool, and wash the clay into it. Any boy can wash his eyes. The task was simplicity itself. So is the gospel as plain as a pikestaff. You have not to perform twenty genuflections or posturings, each one peculiar, nor have you to go to school to learn a dozen languages, each one more difficult than the other. No, the saving deed is one and simple. “Believe and live.” Trust, trust Christ; rely upon Him, rest in Him. Accept His work upon the cross as the atonement for your sin, His righteousness as your acceptance before God, His person as the delight of your soul. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Faith and obedience
He obeyed Christ blindly. He looked not upon Siloam with Syrian eyes as Naaman did upon Jordan, but, passing by the unlikelihood of a cure by such means, he believeth and doth as he was bidden. His blind obedience made him see. Let God be obeyed readily without reasoning or wrangling, and success shall not be wanting. (J. Tramp.)
The neighbours, therefore … said, Is not this he that sat and begged
Types of character in relation to Christ’s work--Those who are only speculatively interested in the work
As a stone cast into a lake throws the whole mass of water into agitation, producing circle after circle to its utmost bounds, this healing threw into excitement the whole social sphere in which it occurred.
“No man liveth unto himself.” What affects one will affect many. Society is a chain of which every man is a link, and the motion of one link may vibrate through the whole chain. Society is a body of which every man is a member; the pulsation of one heart will throb through every limb. The feelings produced in this case were various. Note, concerning inquiries of the class we here deal with
I. THEIR LACK OF EARNESTNESS. They related
1. To the identity of the man. The question (John 9:8) seems to have been asked out of mere curiosity. Their difficulty (John 9:9) arose partly from the change the opened eye would make in his countenance, giving it a new character; and partly from the unaccountableness of the result.
2. To the method of his restoration (John 9:10). In this there is no ring of earnestness, only curiosity.
3. To the whereabouts of the Restorer (John 9:12). But what is He? All they meant was we should like to see this wonder worker. Those who have a mere speculative interest in Christianity are constantly asking such questions with no genuine thirst for truth.
II. THEIR LACK OF GENEROSITY. They utter no congratulatory word. Had they been true men, the event would have touched them into the enthusiasm of social affection. But there is not one spark of it. Their intellect seems to move in ice. So is it ever with this class. There is no heart exultation over the millions Christianity has blessed, only a cold inquiry about details.
III. THEIR LACK OF INDEPENDENCY (John 9:13). They brought Him to the judicial court to try the question of His identity. They were not in earnest enough to reach a conclusion that would satisfy themselves. Conclusion: How lamentable that there should be a class only speculatively interested in the wonderful works of Christ. What then men saw should have led them to hearty acceptance and consecration. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
The change effected in the man
The want or the sudden presence of an eye, much more of both, must needs make a great change in the face; those little balls of light, which no doubt were more clear than nature could have made them, could not but give a new life to the countenance. I marvel not if the neighbours, who had wont to see this dark visage led by a guide, and supported by a staff, seeing him now walking confidently alone out of his own inward light, and looking them cheerfully in the face, doubted whether this were he. The miraculous cures of God work a sensible alteration in men, not more in their own apprehension than in the judgment of others. So, in the redress of the spiritual blindness, the whole habit of the man is changed. Where before his face looked dull and earthly, now there is a sprightly cheerfulness in it, through the comfortable knowledge of God and heavenly things. (Bishop Hall.)
I am the man myself
In a town filled with Romanists, Gideon Ouseley, as was his custom, hired the bellman to announce through the streets the preaching in the evening. The man, afraid of opposition, uttered the announcement timidly and indistinctly. Ouseley, passing in the street, heard him, and taking the bell, rang it himself, proclaiming aloud, “This is to give notice, that Gideon Ouseley, the Irish Missionary, is to preach this evening in such a place, and at such an hour. And I am the man myself?” (Stevens’ “History of Methodism.”)
We ought boldly to confess Ghost
We do not bear enough testimony for our Lord. I am sure I felt quite taken aback the other day when a flyman said to me, “You believe that the Lord directs the way of His people, don’t you, sir?” I said, “That I do. Do you know anything about it?” “Why,” he said, “Yes. This morning I was praying the Lord to direct my way, and you engaged me; and I felt that it was a good beginning for the day.” We began talking about the things of God directly. That flyman ought not to have been the first to speak: as a minister of the gospel I ought to have had the first word. We have much to blame ourselves for in this respect. We hold our tongues because we do not know how a word might be received; but we might as well make the experiment. No harm could come of trying. Suppose you were to go into a place where persons were sick and dying, and you have medicine about you which would heal them, would you not be anxious to give them some of it? Would you say nothing about it because you could not tell how it might be received? How could you know how it would be received except by making this offer? Tell poor souls about Jesus. Tell them how His grace healed you, and perhaps they will answer, “You are the very person I need; you have brought me the news I have longed to hear.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
How Christian lost his burden.
He ran thus till he came to a place somewhat ascending, and upon that place stood a cross, and a little below in the bottom a sepulchre. So I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up with the cross his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from his back, and began to tumble, and so continued to do till it came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in and I saw it no more. Then was Christian glad and lightsome and said with a merry heart,” He hath given me rest by His sorrows and life by His death.” (J. Bunyan.)
Jesus all in all to new converts
In this man’s mind, as soon as ever he received sight, “a man that was named Jesus” came to the forefront. Jesus was to him the most important person in existence. All that he knew of Him at first was, that He was a man that was named Jesus; and under that character Jesus filled the whole horizon of His vision. He was more to him than those learned Pharisees, or than all his neighbours put together. Jesus was exceeding great, for He had opened his eyes. By-and-by, fixing his mind upon that figure, he saw more in it, and he declared, “He is a prophet.” He boldly said this when he was running great risks by doing so. To their faces he told the carping Pharisees “He is a prophet.” A little further on he came to this, that he believed Him to be the Son of God, and worshipped Him. Now, my dear friend, if you are saved by Jesus your star must set, but the star of Jesus must rise and increase in brilliance till it becomes no more a star, but a sun, making your day, and flooding your whole soul with light. If we are saved Christ Jesus must and will have the glory. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Converts must testify of Christ
After this man had received sight his testimony was all of Jesus. It was Jesus that spat, it was Jesus that made the clay, it was Jesus that anointed his eyes. So will it be in your mind with the gospel of your salvation: it will be “Jesus only.” It is Jesus who became the surety of the covenant, Jesus who became the atoning Sacrifice, Jesus is the Priest, the Interposer, the Mediator, the Redeemer. We know Jesus as Alpha, and Jesus as Omega. He is the first, and He is the last. In your salvation there will be no mistake about it, and no mixture in it; you will have nothing to say about man, or man’s merit, or man’s will; but on the head which once was wounded with the thorns, you will put all your crowns. Jesus did it, did it all, and He must be praised. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
They brought to the Pharisees him
The first examination of the Man
AN IMPORTANT ADMISSION. The Pharisees recognized that the man saw (John 9:13). If therefore he had been previously blind, there must have been a miracle.
II. AN IRRELEVANT QUESTION. They wished to know how the man had received his sight (John 9:15), when all that they had to determine was whether he had received his sight.
III. A STRAIGHTFORWARD ANSWER. The man having nothing to conceal, gave a simple recitation of what had taken place (John 9:15).
IV. A PALPABLE EVASION. Some of the Pharisees attempted to avoid giving judgment as to the miracle by pronouncing on a question that was not before them, viz., the character of Christ, whom they declared could not be “from God,” because He kept not the Sabbath (John 9:16).
V. A SOUND CONCLUSION. Others reasoned that the miracle had been proved, and decided that the worker of such a “sign” could not be a sinner, and therefore could not have really violated the Sabbath law (John 9:16).
VI. A SAFE DEDUCTION. The healed man inferred, as Nicodemus had done John 3:2), that the Physician who had cured him was a prophet (John 3:17).
VII. A DISINGENUOUS PROCEDURE. The matter seemed settled and the miracle made out; but the hostile party, unwilling to allow a verdict so favourable for Jesus to go forth, determined to hold the man an impostor, or at least to suspend their judgment until they had heard the man’s parents. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
Types of character in relation to Christ’s work--Those who are bitterly prejudiced against it
Four things marked the character of these Pharisees.
I. THEY WERE TECHNICAL RATHER THAN MORAL IN THEIR STANDARD OF JUDGMENT (John 9:16). Christ, in performing the miracle on the Sabbath, struck a blow at their prejudices, and declared “The Sabbath was made for man.” Instead of thanking God that their poor brother had been healed, and seeking acquaintance with the Healer, they endeavour to make the whole thing a ceremonial crime. They had more respect for ceremonies than for souls. They exalted the letter above the spirit, the ritual above the moral.
II. THEY WERE BIASSED RATHER THAN CANDID IN THEIR EXAMINATION OF EVIDENCE. They had made up their minds not to believe, and all their questionings and cross questionings were intended to throw discredit on the fact. They did not want evidence, and if it came up they would suppress or misinterpret it. This spirit is too common in every age, and shows the blindness of prejudice and the heartlessness of technical religion.
III. THEY WERE DIVIDED RATHER THAN UNITED IN THEIR CONCLUSIONS. “There was a division,” There were some, perhaps Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, touched with candour, who could not but see the Divinity of the act. Infidels ridicule Christians for their divisions, whilst they themselves are never agreed. Error is necessarily schismatic; evil has no power to unite.
IV. THEY WERE MALIGNANT RATHER THAN GENEROUS IN THEIR AIMS. Had they been generous they would have been disposed to believe in the mission of the Divine Restorer. Instead of that they repudiate the fact. Their browbeating of the young man, their accusation that Christ was a sinner, and their excommunication of those who behoved on Him show that the malign not the benign was their inspiration. Conclusion: This class is not extinct. There are those who are bitterly prejudiced against Christianity everywhere. They are proof against all evidence and argument. Prejudice turns a man’s heart into stone. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
Power of prejudice
Voltaire once said, “If in the market of Paris, before the eyes of a thousand men, and before my own eyes a miracle should be performed, I would much rather disbelieve the two thousand eyes and my own too, than believe it.” So here, these men, fleeing as they do from the light and choosing the darkness, take up the matter over again, in the hope of being able to detect some traces of fraud. (R. Besser, D. D.)
What will not prejudice do? It was that which made the Jews call Christ a Samaritan, a devil, a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. It was that which made them hale the apostles to their governors, and cry out, “Away with them! it is not fit that they should live.” It was this made Ahab hate the upright Micaiah, and the Athenian condemn the just Aristides, though he had never seen him. It was this made the poor man, who knew not what John Huss’s doctrine was, so busy and industrious to carry wood for his funeral pile, and as zealous to kindle it, inasmuch that the martyr could not but cry out, “O holy simplicity!” It is this sets men against consideration of their ways, and makes them give out that it will crack their brains and disorder their understanding. (Anthony Horneck.)
True conversion evident to all
None of the Pharisees said to him, “Are you sure you can see?” Those twinkling eyes of his, so full of fun and wit, and sarcasm, were proofs most plain that he could see. Ah! your friends at home will know that you are converted if it is really so; they will hardly want telling, they will find it out. The very way you eat your dinner will show it. It will! You eat it with gratitude, and seek a blessing on it. The way you will go to bed will show it. I remember a poor man who was converted, but he was dreadfully afraid of his wife--not the only man in the world that is in that rear--and therefore he was fearful that she would ridicule him if he knelt to pray. He crept upstairs in his stockings that he might not be heard, but might have a few minutes’ prayer before she knew he was there. His scheme broke down. His wife soon found him out. Genuine conversion is no more to be hidden than a candle in a dark room. You cannot hide a cough. If a man has a cough, he must cough; and if a man has grace in his heart, he will show grace in his life. Why should we wish to hide it? Oh, may the Lord give you such an eye opening this day that friends and relatives shall know that your eyes have been opened! (C. H.Spurgeon.)
This Man is not of God because He keepeth not the Sabbath day.
It is interesting to note that one of the things which is specially forbidden in the Talmudic law of the Sabbath is the application of saliva to the eyes on that day. It was not permissible to anoint the eye itself with wine on the Sabbath; but one might, without guilt, wash his eyebrows in wine. In the case of saliva, however, it was not permissible to anoint even the outside of the eyes on the Sabbath. Jesus, in the mode of cure which He adopted, infringed one of the rules of the Talmud; probably with the very purpose of showing his contempt for the traditions of man by which the word of God was made void. (S. S. Times.)
There is no word or action but may be taken with two hands; either with the right hand of charitable construction, or the sinister interpretation of malice and suspicion; and all things do succeed as they are taken. To construe an evil action well is but a pleasing and profitable deceit to myself; but to misconstrue a good thing is a treble wrong to myself, the action, and the author (Romans 14:10). (Bp. Hall.)
There is an odious spirit in many men, who are better pleased to detect a fault than commend a virtue. (Lord Capel.)
Is this your son?
The testimony of the man’s parents
I. JOYFUL RECOGNITION. They identified him as their son. The neighbours could only say he was like the beggar they had known (John 9:9): the man’s parents had no doubt.
II. SORROWFUL CONCESSION. The son’s report as to his blindness was correct. He had never known the light of day.
III. CAUTIOUS NEGATION. They declared ignorance of how the miracle had been wrought; so far, at least as their own observation went.
IV. PRUDENT SUGGESTION. The questioners might inquire of their son, who was responsible and was able to answer for himself. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
Types of character in relation to Christ’s work--Those who practically ignore it
The parents who instead of avowing that Christ had healed their son, evaded the question for fear of the Jews. That they felt some interest in one who had conferred such a benefit on their son can scarcely be doubted, but it was not enough to make them courageous for the truth. The great majority now belong to this class. They have no prejudice against Christ, but they have not sufficient interest in Him to avow Him. The parents ignored Christ’s work
I. ALTHOUGH THEY HAD EVERY OPPORTUNITY OF KNOWING IT. This is the case with millions--wherever they look there are monuments of Christ’s beneficent operations. In every social circle is some faithful disciple ready to proclaim Him.
II. WHEN GRATITUDE SHOULD HAVE URGED THEM TO ACKNOWLEDGE IT. Christ had given their son a capacity to contribute to their interests. All that is solutary in government, ennobling in literature, fair in commerce, loving in friendship, progressive in intelligence, morality and happiness must be ascribed to Christ. Take from England all she owes to Christ and you leave her in all the confusion, horrors and cruelties of heathenism.
III. FROM COWARDLY MEANNESS OF SOUL (John 9:22). Is not Christ ignored today from the fear of losing property, sacrificing friendships, etc. Strange that thousands who have the courage to confront an army are too cowardly to avow Christ. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
Cowardly testimony is despicable
They answered obliquely and over warily; but Christ deserved better of them. Squirrels ever set their holes to the sunny side. Politic professors, neuter-passive Christians will be sure to keep on the warmer side of the hedge; neither will they launch farther into the sea than they may be sure to return safely to the shore. (J. Trapp.)
By what means ha now seeth we know not
This means Not-know-ism, or Know-nothing-ism, and describes the state of mind of those who say about God, the Bible, and the spiritual world, that they do not know anything. They do not deny, are not profane atheists, they occupy a negative position. Amongst them are distinguished men to whom we are much indebted; but if they are right, we are fatally wrong. We ought, therefore, to find out what foothold we have.
1. There is a Book which professes to tell us about God, the spiritual world and the future. They ignore its testimony, saying they do not know who wrote it, or by what authority it was written. This is a very serious responsibility in relation to such a Book--a Book so distinctively moral in its tone.
2. If we are at liberty to ignore such evidence as is tendered without giving our reason, there is no ground for believing anything in history. I do not know that geology has made any progress. But there are the books which prove it; but I ignore them; they may be corrected; I know nothing of the men who wrote them, or their qualifications. If you tell me they do not claim infallibility, I reply that fallibility constitutes no claim on my confidence. Suppose I say that I cannot be troubled with the examination of fallible theories, and that I will wait until some theory is finally established; then that very theory would bring upon it the identical charge brought against the Bible, viz., that it staggers mankind by the supremacy of its claim.
3. Now the Bible is as positive in its statements as possible. “Thus saith the Lord.” This fact increases the responsibility of those who ignore the Book. The mere claim of course settles nothing, nor does ignoring the claim. Our object is to ascertain with all the positiveness of positive science what we unquestionably know about the Bible. If certain facts are established we are entitled to say to agnostics, “Why herein is a marvellous thing,” etc. (John 9:30).
I. It is a fact THAT BAD MEN DISLIKE IT, AVOID IT, AND ARE AFRAID OF IT. As a practical argument this amounts to a great deal. No unrighteousness can be vindicated by Christian revelation; not only so; no unholy thought or dishonourable motive is tolerated by it. For these reasons bad men do not consult it, guilty men flee from its judgments, mean men shrink from its standards. If a ruler is a terror to evil doers, the presumption is that he represents the spirit of justice; and if the Bible is avoided by bad men the presumption is that its moral tone is intolerable to their reproachful consciences.
II. It is a fact THAT WHERE IT IS RECEIVED AND THOROUGHLY ACTED UPON THE RESULT IS A PURIFIED MORALITY. You will find the proof of this alike in the humblest and loftiest circles. When men stand up in the court of this world and give their histories, names, and addresses, you are bound either to accept their evidence or disprove it. It is trifling with a great question simply to ignore it. The change they attribute to Christianity is a fact or not a fact; and if it be scientific to mark the progress of a horse’s development, it cannot be despicable to trace the advances of a human mind.
III. It is a fact THAT IT COMPELS THOSE WHO REALLY BELIEVE IT TO EXERT THEMSELVES IN EVERY POSSIBLE WAY FOR THE GOOD OF MANKIND. It does not leave this an open question. It allows no ignoble ease, smites every self-indulgent excuse, and approves all labour for others. If a man falls below this standard he brings upon himself unsparing condemnation.
IV. It is a fact THAT IN THOSE COUNTRIES THAT ARE NOTED FOR ALLOWING THE FREE USE OF THE BIBLE, LIBERTY, EDUCATION, SCIENCE, ARE HELD IN THE HIGHEST HONOUR. This is not a matter of speculation. It is proved in England, Germany, and America. (J. Parker, D. D.)
He is of age; ask him; he shall speak for himself
Speak for yourself. A challenge
I. THERE ARE TIMES WHEN SAVED MEN ARE COMPELLED TO SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES.
1. When their friends desert them. These parents were willing to own that the young man was their son, and that he was born blind; but they would not go any further for fear of excommunication. So, declining any responsibility, for they had a well-founded confidence in their son’s power to take care of himself, they threw upon him the onus of giving an answer likely to incur obloquy, and backed out of it. There are times with young people when their parents turn the cold shoulder to them, and some who hold back suspiciously, leaving others to champion the Master’s cause when it comes to a hard push, quietly observing something about casting pearls before swine. But the most likely explanation of such cowardice is that they have no pearls to cast. It is lamentable how many seem afraid to compromise themselves. But whenever a man finds himself thus deserted, let him say gallantly, “I am of age; I will speak for myself.”
2. When they are much pressed. The Pharisees question the man very closely, and he does not seem to have been disconcerted, but acquitted himself grandly. When we are brought to book, let us not be ashamed to own our Lord. If it comes to a challenge, let us say boldly, “I am on the side of Christ.”
3. When others revile and slander our Lord. When they said “This man is a sinner,” “He hath opened mine eyes,” was the response; and when they averred that they knew not whence Christ was, the man twitted them on their marvellous ignorance, and fought for his Healer so trenchantly that they threw away the weapons of debate and took up stones of abuse. When men speak ill of Christ, shall we be quiet? No! let us throw the gauntlet down for Him. Christian people do not take half the liberty they might. If we speak of religion, or open our Bibles in a railway carriage, it is “cant.” They may play cards, and utter all sorts of profanity with impunity. In the name of everything that is free we will have our turn. So we see that there are times when men, however quiet and reserved, must speak.
II. IT IS ALWAYS WELL TO BE PREPARED TO SPEAK FOR YOURSELF. When the parents said, “Ask him,” there was a little twinkle in their eye as much as to say, “You will catch a Tartar.” He can speak for himself. We want Christians of this sort who, when asked about their faith, can so answer as to be more than a match for their adversaries.
1. Cultivate a general habit of open heartedness and boldness. We have no need to push ourselves and so become a nuisance and a bore; but let us walk through the world as those who have nothing to conceal.
2. Be sure of your ground. “Whether He be a sinner or no I know not.” So he offered no opinion on a subject on which he could not be positive. But when he had a hard fact there was nothing vague in his statement (John 9:25). And there are some of you in whom such a change has taken place. Put your foot down, then, and say, “You cannot misjudge this.”
3. Have the facts ready to adduce (John 9:11). Let them have the plan of salvation, as you first perceived it, very plainly put before them. “Be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in you.”
4. Be prepared to bear abuse (John 9:28; Joh_9:34). The man cared not an atom for their insinuations. Their scorn could not deprive him of his sight. He merely shook his head and said, “I can see.” Some people are very sensitive of “chaff”; but what a baby a man is who cannot brave a fool’s laugh! What does it matter if you are twitted with being a Methodist if you are saved? They will be tired of teasing when they find that our temper triumphs over their senseless tricks.
5. Feel intense gratitude to the Saviour for what He has done.
III. EVERY SAVED MAN SHOULD WILLINGLY SPEAK FOR HIMSELF ABOUT CHRIST.
1. Are we not all debtors to Christ if, indeed, He has saved us? How can we acknowledge the debt if we are ashamed of Him?
2. We each of us know most about what He has done for us. No one else can know so much.
3. The more individual testimonies are borne to Christ the more weight there is in the accumulated force of the great aggregate. A sceptical lawyer attended an experience meeting amongst his neighbours and took notes. When he reviewed the evidence he said, “If I had these persons in the witness box on my side, I should feel quite sure of carrying my case. Though each has told his own tale, they all bear witness to the power of God’s grace to change the heart. I am bound to believe after this testimony.” And he did, and became a Christian. Do you say, “They can do without my story.” Nay, it has its own special interest, and may touch the heart of somebody like yourself.
IV. AS EVERY CHRISTIAN, BEING OF AGE, HAS TO SPEAK FOR HIMSELF, WE MEAN TO DO IT. You cannot all preach, and should not try; if you all did, what a tumult there be! And there would be no hearers left if all were preachers. Your work is to speak and to let your influence be felt among your servants, children, trades people. You say “I am so retiring.” Well, then drop a little of your modesty, and distinguish yourself a little more for your manliness. A soldier who was retiring in the day of battle they shot for a coward. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNTABILITY. The Bible lays down no clearly defined line between the ages when God does and does not regard the child morally accountable for sinful actions. This must depend on the varying circumstances of intelligence, temperament, and social surroundings of the child. But the time does come when with no hesitation we can throw upon the youth’s conscience the full weight of his individual responsibility, saying with emphasis: “He is of age.” He must answer “for himself.”
II. PARENTAL ACCOUNTABILITY. Up to a certain age the parent has no doubt of the salvation of the child. The Saviour’s atonement satisfies the requirements of every child dying at an early age. Nevertheless, during this tender age character is being formed for future development; and God holds the parents accountable for the manifold influences that are affecting the child’s mental and moral vision, saying to them: “Is this your son?” “How then doth he now see?” Does your child “see” kindly glances, Christ-like actions, devout conduct, devotional observances, etc.
III. MUTUAL ACCOUNTABILITY The spirit of Cain has impregnated human history. “Am I my brother’s keeper” is still largely the covert of a mean soul that wants to shirk the duty of fraternal help and counsel, or defence. The fear that here padlocked the parents’ lips is a sin that thrives in too many hearts. How often has an accused one gone to the grave under a dark cloud that might have been dispersed, if friends had been found of sufficient courage to contradict patronizing accusers. But no! Speaking the truth would have damaged the selfish interests of those who said: “Let him speak for himself.”
IV. THE PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY OF CHURCH RELATIONS. Our knowledge of each other is very limited. Large significance belongs to the apostle’s words: “We know in part.” An individual presents himself for Church membership. The question goes round, and very properly so, “What do you know of him?” But our knowledge here often proves strangely false, whether the testimony is pro or con. The voice of God is, “Let him speak for himself.” Take the applicant on personal confession, unless his or her life is palpably false. Was not even Judas admitted on personal confession? When the falsity of character is seen then is the time for unchurching. We are familiar with the account of the poor Scotch woman, who, on applying for church membership, was so ignorant of the theological queries put to her by her pastor, that she was sent away as temporarily disqualified. On leaving, she said, with deep emotion: “I canna speak for Him, but I could die for Him.” (The Study.)
Speak for Christ
A Christian man (Mr. Moody) in a Western city resolved that he would never allow a day to pass without speaking to someone on the subject of personal salvation. He was returning home late one evening, burdened with the thought that the day had gone by, and no one had been invited to Christ. He saw a man leaning against a lamp post, put his hand gently on the shoulder of the stranger, and said, “May I ask you if you love the Lord Jesus Christ?” The stranger resented the freedom and replied curtly, that that was a personal matter in which nobody else had any concern. But the Christian replied kindly, that they were fellow travellers to another world, and one could not be indifferent whether others had a good hope of entering heaven. After a few more words had passed between them, they parted, the Christian fearing that he had given offence, but carrying the matter to the closet for earnest prayer. Three months after, just as he had retired for the night, a knock was heard at the door. He inquired what was wanted; and a gentleman replied he would like to see him. On opening the door, he recognized the stranger met at the lamp post. The latter grasped him convulsively by the hand, and said, “The question you put to me, ‘Do you love the Lord Jesus Christ?’ has been ringing ever since in my ear; and I have come to ask you what I must do to be saved.” They prayed and talked together; and in a few days the stranger was rejoicing in the hope of pardon. He became an earnest and devoted Christian. (E. Foster.)
If any man did confess that he was Christ
Confession of Christ
Confession, ὁμολογε͂ιν, is
2. To confess Christ is therefore to acknowledge Him to be what He really is and declares Himself to be.
I. The NATURE of this confession.
1. It is not enough that we cherish the conviction in our hearts, or confess it to ourselves, to God, or to friends who agree with us.
2. It must be done publicly, or before men, friends and foes: amid good and evil report; when it brings reproach and danger as well as when it incurs no risk.
3. It must be with the mouth. It is not enough that men may infer from our conduct that we are Christians. We must audibly declare it.
4. This must be done
5. It must be sincere. “Not everyone that saith Lord, Lord,” etc. It is only when the outward act is a revelation of the heart that it has any value.
II. ITS ADVANTAGES.
1. It strengthens faith.
2. It is a proof of regeneration, because it supposes the apprehension of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
3. It is an indispensable condition of salvation. Because
4. Christ will acknowledge them who acknowledge Him--publicly, before the angels, and to our eternal salvation.
III. ITS DUTY.
1. It is not merely a commandment.
2. It is the highest moral duty to acknowledge the truth, and especially to acknowledge God to be God.
3. It is the most direct means we can take to honour Christ, and to bring others to acknowledge Him (see Matthew 10:32; Luke 12:8; Mark 8:38; Romans 10:9-10; 2 Timothy 2:12; 1 John 4:2; 1Jn_4:15). (C. Hodge, D. D.)
He should be put out of the synagogue
(cf. John 16:2; Luke 6:22)
1. The lightest kind of excommunication continued for thirty days and prescribed four cubits as a distance within which the person may not approach anyone, not even wife and children; with this limitation it did not make exclusion from the synagogue necessary.
2. The severer included absolute banishment from all religious meetings, and absolute giving up of intercourse with all persons, and was formally pronounced with curses.
3. The severest was a perpetual banishment from all meetings and a practical exclusion from the fellowship of God’s people. It has been sometimes supposed that the words of Luke 6:22
Then again called they the man
The second examination of the man
INTIMIDATION. The hostile section sought to overbear the man’s judgment by their superior knowledge and position. They, the heaven-appointed leaders of the people and guardians of morality, were satisfied that Christ was a sinner. He had broken the Sabbath by manufacturing clay and spreading it over the man’s eyes as an artizan might have plastered it upon a wall. Consequently there could have been no such thing as a miracle; and he had better confess himself a deceiver and Christ an impostor (John 9:24). To all this the man opposes his personal experience (John 9:25).
II. ENTANGLEMENT. By cross-examination they hoped to make him contradict himself (John 9:26). But the man, too clever to be caught by such an artifice (Proverbs 1:17), declined their invitation, reminding them that he had supplied all the information he possessed, and inquiring, with fine irony, if they desired to become Christ’s disciples (John 9:27).
III. REPROACH. They reviled Him as the follower, not of Moses, the great commissioner of Jehovah, but of a nameless fellow about whom no one knew anything (John 9:29). To this the man replied with crushing logic how no honest mind could evade the conclusion that Christ must at least be a prophet no less than Moses (John 9:30-33).
IV. EXPULSION. They could not answer the man’s syllogism, but they could do what foiled controversialists commonly do (John 9:34). Lessons:
1. The danger of approaching religious questions with pro-conceived notions.
2. The power Christianity has to convince all sincere inquirers of its heavenly origin.
3. The duty of standing true to Christ in the face of all opposition.
4. The certainty that Christ’s witnesses will suffer persecution.
5. The helplessness of man’s wisdom in opposing the truth. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
Types of character in relation to Christ’s work--Those who are consciously restored by it
We find the man doing two things which are done by all who are spiritually restored by Christ.
I. MAINTAINING TRUTH IN THE FACE OF FIERCE OPPOSITION. See how he holds his own.
1. In a noble spirit. His conduct stands in sublime contrast to that of his parents and others concerned. Mark
2. By sound argument.
3. His argument was formulated by common sense. When his judges pressed him (verse 26) he reproves them for repeating questions already answered and with withering irony asks (verse 27). He states his argument thus: that his cure, of which he was conscious, was a miracle (verse 30), which they could not deny. Is it not a doctrine with you that no one without Divine authority can perform miracles? Why ask such questions? And not only has the Healer Divine authority but a holy character (verse 31).
II. FOLLOWING CHRIST WHEN CAST OUT FROM MEN. The best men in every age are “cast out” by the ungodly. But, when cast out, what became of him?
1. Christ sought him (verse 35), and found him out. Sometimes men have found Christ out by their own searching, e.g., Zacchaeus and Bartimaeus. But here Christ finds the man out, as He did the woman of Samaria, irrespective of His search.
2. Christ revealed Himself to him (verse 35-37).
3. Christ was followed by him (verse 38). (D. Thomas, D. D.)
My hearers, this was a wretched business, was it not? It was a very poor business to go to the house of God to criticize a fellow mortal who is sincerely trying to do us good. Was it Carlyle who spoke of the cricket as chirping amid the crack of doom? I am apt to think that many people are like that cricket; they go on with their idle chit-chat when Christ Himself is set before them on the cross. Assuredly this is poor work. I am hungry; I come to a banquet; but instead of feasting upon the viands I begin to criticize the dress of the waiters, abuse the arrangements of the banqueting-hall, and vilify the provisions. I shall go home as hungry as I came; and who will be blamed for it? The best criticism that you can possibly give of your friend’s entertainment is to be hearty in partaking of it. The greatest honour that we can do to Christ Jesus is to feed upon Him, to receive Him, to trust Him, to live upon Him. Merely to carp and to question will bring no good to the most clever of you. How can it? It is a pitiful waste of time for yourself, and a trial of temper to others. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.
Truly did Christ say, “I came not to send peace on the earth.” Little did the man dream of the stir the miracle would make. So our blessings often get us into trouble, and become tests of character. The man here was tested as to whether he would stand by the truth. Let us not imagine that we can travel through life unchallenged. All the circumstances here are of a deeply interesting character.
1. Look at the parents. Sometimes you will find character transmitted with marvellous accuracy. “Like parents, like children.” Occasionally children degenerate from the type of their parents, and in others are a manifest improvement. This seems to have been the case with this young man. His parents were timid. This fear of man always brings a snare. What multitudes there are who dare not tell the truth or do the right for fear of the Gentiles, or the Church, society, or clique. There is no hope for them but in that perfect love which “casteth out fear.”
2. Look at the Pharisees. They heard enough, surely, for conviction, but they were afraid of the conclusion, and hence sought to terrify the parents and extract a contradiction from the young man. Then they reviled him. Men must have keen eyes who can detect in these men any of that instinctive love of truth which is vaunted as the glorious attribute of humanity. “Men love darkness,” etc., is the testimony alike of Scripture and experience. Men are much more anxious to have the truth on their side than to be on the side of truth. The mind does not turn to the truth as the flower turns to the sun. No one is very sanguine of dislodging men from a theology which screens them in their sins, or in separating them from an iniquitous traffic in which they are gaining wealth; and the more truth you put before them, the more they will hate both you and it.
3. Note, as in the case of the young man, that experimental evidence of religion is marked by
I. ITS CERTAINTY. “One thing I know.”
1. It is too common to imagine that the term knowledge ought to be restricted to science, and is too strong to be introduced into the realm of religion, where we can only expect strong probability. But it would be strange if the greatest and most essential realities were the most doubtful.
Men think of religion as something shadowy and impalpable. They can understand what can be placed on a table and seen and fingered, but to talk of strong and weak faith, high and low hopes, knowing whom you have believed, etc., as fanaticism.
2. It must be acknowledged that religious assurance does not rest on precisely the same grounds as in other relations. From the fact that religion involves the exercise of the moral faculties, its evidence must not be such as to overbear irresistibly these moral conditions. A religion that should make its evidence glare upon us like the sun would be no religion at all. If religion be the willing service of the soul, the soul must be left free in its exercise. To leave no room for doubt would be to reduce religion to the low level of material things. God is not as visible as His universe; but those who are willing to see Him come at length to believe in Him as firmly as in the universe, and just as they say every house is built by some man, whether they have seen him or not, so they exclaim, “He that built all things is God.”
3. With this exclamation we affirm that the evidence which God has supplied to give the soul religious assurance is as abundant as any that He has given us on any matter. There is in the Word of God, and may be in our life, enough evidence to make our salvation the most assured thing in the universe. Other evidences are of great value. When men are showing the actual rooting of Christianity in the soil of history, it is for us to welcome their efforts. But this sort of evidence must be inaccessible to many. “To the poor the gospel is preached,” and this preaching was meant to be its own light and proof, so that men should say, “One thing I know,” etc.
4. When one carries his evidence within him he is thrice armed. Not that every strong feeling indicates faith. We may have a fanatical joy, and be the dupes of sentimentalisms and early prejudices. But where we can distinctly recognize that we are not what we once were; that God, who was scarcely at the circumference of our life, is now its centre; that Christ, who was once a root out of a dry ground, is not the altogether lovely, etc., this is evidence that can withstand the assaults of men and devils.
II. ITS MODESTY. “One thing.” He strictly stated the facts as he knew them. What is required of a witness is to testify what he knows, and no more. His thoughts and speculations will compromise his evidence and render it worthless. Had the man reasoned with the learned Pharisees they would have worsted him. He did not philosophize about the mode of his cure, because he knew nothing about it. And so with spiritual illumination. We can form no philosophy of salvation. It transcends our reason. It is accomplished in different ways, as in the case of Lydia and the jailor. Sometimes men know the time and instrumentality; sometimes they do not. The main thing is, Am I saved? Are these doctrines you cannot comprehend? Do men puzzle you with the mysteries of the Trinity, the origin of evil, Providence, prophecy? Oppose to them the one thing you know.
1. “One thing.” It might seem a scanty knowledge, but it is with knowledge, as other things, its value is determined by what constitutes its object matter. You might possess a thousand jewels, but one Kohinoor would outweigh them all.
2. “One thing,” but what a thing--the one thing needful. (E. Mellor, D. D.)
The blind man’s creed
1. A whole chapter is taken up with this poor man. This is unusual. Though an author be inspired, we can tell what he enjoys. An evangelist, as well as a Gibbon, betrays his interest and his sympathies.
2. In some unusual way the blind man was wrought into the plan of Christ’s ministry. He had been born blind, and remained so that when Jesus passed by he might be ready to be healed by Him. All lives and events are wrought into that scheme.
3. The blind man was the first confessor. He was the sort of person that our Lord found it pleasant to do something for. He was ready to do what he could for himself, and what he could not do the Lord would do for him. Unlike Naaman, willingness was one characteristic of him, sturdiness was another. He spoke his mind at the risk of excommunication. His thoughts were distinct, and therefore his utterances were so. Crisp thinking makes crisp speaking. Let us look at his creed.
I. IT WAS SHORT. A creed with one article. Soon it enlarged, but it all developed out of this “one thing,” etc. It is no matter whether a creed be long or short, provided a man believes it as this man believes his. What would a Christian be capable of if he so believed the Apostles’ Creed? If a creed is believed, the longer it is the better; otherwise the shorter the better. Creed is like stature, it has to be reached by the individual, by slow growth from a small beginning. The vitality of a seed will determine how much will come out of it. Every fire begins with a spark. Some of us are trying to believe too much; not more than is true, or more than we ought, but more than we have at present inward strength for. We may extinguish a fire by putting on too much fuel.
II. IT WAS FOUNDED IN EXPERIENCE. “I know I see.” You notice how close the connection between the creed and the confessor. His creed was not separable from himself. It was wrought in him, and so was one he could not forget. Whenever the sun shone or a star twinkled, he would feel his creed over again. We might be perplexed to tell what we believe if we had it not in print to refer to; but experience can dispense with type. We used to hear a good deal about experiencing religion: is the expression going because the thing is going? Christ works a work in me and I feel it. That is experiencing religion, although the feeling may be differently marked in different people. Even the truths of God to become my true creed have got to be reproduced in the soil of my own thinking and feeling. Faith is languid because experience is languid. The creed of our confessor began in one article, but it did not end there. Soon we hear him saying he believed that Christ was the Son of God. Our creeds have got to come out of our experience of God, and not out of our Prayer Book. That is a poor tree that looks and measures as it did a year ago. He is a poor believer who believes exactly as he did a year ago.
III. IT WAS PERSONAL AND PECULIAR. Two living Christians cannot believe alike any more than two trees can grow alike. Two posts may. Two men only think alike, as they think not at all, but leave it to a third party to do it in their stead. Excessive doctrinal quietness implies lethargy. It is only dead men who never turn over. In nothing does a man need to be loyal to his individuality as in his religion. This is what makes the Bible so rich. The inspired writers did not throw away their peculiarities. Each man’s experience will be characteristic, and so, then, must his creed be that grows out of it. A man’s proper creed is the name we give to his individuality, when inspired by the Holy Ghost. Is it not a splendid tribute to Jesus that we can each of us come to Him with our peculiarity and find exactly that in Him which will meet and satisfy it? There is only one Christ, but He is like the sun, which shines on all objects and gives to each what helps it to be at its best. No two alike, the sea not the forest, etc., but each finding in the sun that which helps it to be itself perfectly. The poor man obtains from Him just what he needs, and the rich man, the Fijian, and the Greek, etc.
IV. IT DID NOT EMBARRASS ITSELF WITH MATTER FOREIGN TO THE MAIN POINT. “Whether He be a sinner or no, I know not.” The point with him was that he could see, not how he could see. Sight does not consist in understanding how we see, nor health in understanding the organs of the body, nor salvation in knowing how we are saved. The physician can cure an ignorant man as readily as a scholar, because his medicine does not depend on the intelligence of the patient; so Christ can be the physician of all, because salvation consists just simply in being saved. (C. H.Parkhurst, D. D.)
There is a man who is enjoying his food. He seems healthy and strong. He says he is so. You assure him, however, that his mode of life is wholly wrong. You have been reading some learned work on dietetics, and, full of theoretic wisdom, and you warn him that he is not observing the due proportions of nitrogen and carbon and the other elements, and that, according to your principles, he ought to be out of health and ready to perish. With what calmness he listens to your serious homily, and smiles as he finishes his repast! He is but an ignorant man, knows nothing about the high-sounding names you have used to denote the chemical constituents of food, tells you that whether he is eating according to learned books or not he knows not, but one thing he knows, that what he does eat agrees with him, strengthens him, and enables him to do his work; and so he lets learned men and books talk on. A friend has been sick, and is now recovering. You ask him what medicine he has been taking, and on learning it you are astonished. On hearing who his physician is, you venture a doubt as to his qualifications, whereon the valetudinarian says, “Well, I know nothing about the properties of medicine, or the technical qualifications of the physician; but one thing I know, that every dose of the medicine has been to me like life from the dead.” This was the spirit of the reply of the healed man. (E. Mellor, D. D.)
One cannot but notice how constantly the phrase “we know” occurs. The parents of the man used it thrice. The Pharisees have it on their lips in their first interview with him--“We know that this man is a sinner.” He answers, declining to affirm anything about the character of the Man Jesus, because he, for his part, “knows not,” but standing firmly by the solid reality which he “knows” in a very solid fashion, that his eyes have been opened. So we have the first encounter between knowledge which is ignorant and ignorance that knows, to the manifest victory of the latter. Again, in the second round, they try to overbear the cool sarcasm with their vehement assertion of knowledge that God spake to Moses, but by the admission that even their knowledge did not reach to the determination of the question of the origin of Jesus’ mission, lay themselves open to the sudden trust of keen-eyed, honest humility’s sharp rapier-like retort. “Herein is a marvellous thing,” that you know-alls, whose business it is to know where a professed miracle-worker comes from, “know not from whence He is, and yet He hath opened mine eyes.” “Now we know” (to use your own words) “that God heareth not sinners, but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth His will, him He heareth.” Then observe how, on both sides, a process is going on. The man is getting more and more light at each step. He begins with “A Man which is called Jesus.” Then he gets to a “prophet,” then he comes to “a worshipper of God, and one that does His will.” Then he comes to “If this man were not of God,” in some very special sense, “He can do nothing.” These are his own reflections, the working out of the impression made by the fact on an honest mind, and because he had so used the light which he had, therefore Jesus gives him more, and finds him with the question, “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” Then the man who had shown himself so strong in his own convictions, so independent, and hard to cajole or coerce, shows himself now all docile and submissive, and ready to accept whatever Jesus says--“Lord, who is He, that I might believe on Him?” That was not credulity. He already knew enough of Christ to know that he ought to trust Him. And to his docility there is given the full revelation; and he hears the words which Pharisees and unrighteous men were not worthy to hear: “Thou hast both seen Him--with these eyes to which I have given sight--and it is He that talketh with thee.” Then intellectual conviction, moral reliance, and the utter prostration and devotion of the whole man bow him at Christ’s feet. “Lord, I believe; and he worshipped Him.” There is the story of the progress of an honest, ignorant soul that knew itself blind, into the illumination of perfect vision. And as He went upwards, so steadily and tragically, downwards went the others. For they had light, and they would not look at it; and it blasted and blinded them. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The power of a fact
This man, who is released from his native blindness by Christ, is one of the strongest characters which the Gospels paint for us about the person of our Lord. Follow him through the chapter, and through all its various situations and discussions, and you feel that he is the man of the most real manhood among them all--disciples, neighbours, parents, and Pharisees. Wherein does his great strength lie? What is it that makes him so real and firm a man? It is, I believe, the consciousness of a fact, a great fact, in his life’s history. “One thing I know,” he says, “that whereas I was blind, now I see. That is the great, wonderful event which has happened to me, which fills all my consciousness, before which everything else is little, which influences and colours everything, and the remembrance of which rules me.” In every knot of men which clusters around him, with their little wondering questions of curiosity or malice, he simply tells his one great fact. We can hardly think of him as the former beggar. He is too imperious for a beggar now.
1. See how this man first appears after his cure by Christ. The neighbours and his former acquaintance gather around him, and begin to question as to his identity: “Is not this he that sat and begged?” Some said, “Yes, this is he.” Others, “He is like him.” But he said, “I am he.” There is the first effect of the coming of this great fact into his life, to make him honest in regard to self. It is as if he had said, “Here is a great event that has happened to me, unprecedented and marvellous. I am its subject. Such an attention has been bestowed upon me and my wants and my condition as I never heard of, as shows that I am the object of care to a Divine mind and power. A new value has been given to my nature. I have a new, stronger sense of self. Yes, I am he. I was blind, and now I see. I will not leave you to dispute my identity.” That is the first great value of the consciousness of a fact in one’s life history, the new honest view of self and its value. Oh, my friends, the system which teaches us to know ourselves the best is that which brings the greatest fact into our history--the gospel and its fact. And yet multitudes of us go through life, while all about us, above us, and beneath us point to us, “Is not this one for whom Christ died? Is not this one of those wonderful saved human natures?” and we practically deny ourselves, because our consciousness is so dead.
2. Go on in the chapter to the next appearance of this man who knows one thing--the critical event of life. See how concentrated it makes him! They ask him, “Where is He, your healer?” He says, “I know not. All I know is this.” To know one great fact and to be full of it makes him unwilling to guess a conjecture about other things. He either knows or he knows not. He has learnt what true knowledge is. We should save much stumbling and sorrow in life if we would not so often build the air castles of conjecture and live in them as though their walls were of the solid masonry of real knowledge. The disaster is most serious in the spiritual sphere, when one does not know where to say, “I know,” and where “I know not,” when religion is only a broad field of conjecture. Many are anxious concerning such unessentials as the origin of evil, predestination, spiritualism, the exact nature of the future life, etc.; forgetful that, the one fact of practical religion--man’s salvation and purification by Christ--being known, you may for the present safely say, “I know not,” to other items which cannot be yet known in the same personal way.
3. The chapter goes on to furnish another instance of the strengthening value of this one possession of the healed man. It makes him a messenger, a continual repeater of his wonderful story, as often as he can relate it. Any man, however ignorant and humble, is listened to if he have a genuine event of life to tell. Facts never grow old. This man, the relater of a fact, represents Christianity. Christianity has gone on from age to age, from circle to circle, giving its simple, solid, eventful message--human redemption and enlightenment by Christ.
4. But, still again, as this man so full of his story tells it, the Pharisee says to him, “Give God the glory. Do not ascribe it to this Man. He is a sinner.” They endeavour to hush his statement by a command, “Do not say, He (Jesus) opened mine eyes.” That is to say, these men were striving to do what has been a very usual human infatuation--to legislate against events, by simple authority, as when the old Saxon king sat by the water’s edge and with his kingly decree forbad the sea to come nearer or its tide to rise higher. These men did not appreciate the firmness of a fact. They did not know that commands were merely pebbles that rebounded shattered from its rocky undisturbed surface. All men fall into this error--good men legislating against an evil fact, evil men legislating against a good fact. To bid it be different is nothing at all. This is another value of the blind man’s possession. He was instantly above all mere commands, all mere human assertion of power. This is the value of Christianity always--its exaltation of a man above earthly power. The world, by its persecution or force and might, says, “Deny Christ.” But if you conceive of Christ and His gospel as the world’s great fact, if His influence is an event in your own life, you will be able to answer, “How can I deny a fact? I should only stultify myself to do that. One thing I know, I was blind, and now I see. That will last after your command has been forgotten.” There is no fear, no servility in this man, who is armed with his great conscious fact of life, beggar as he had been of old. The Pharisees cast him out. Ay, and the worse for them. They east out the only man resting on solid truth, and remained upon their fictions.
5. Once more, as this man goes out into the outer cold solitariness of excommunication, yet happy and warm in the garment of the consciousness of that wonderful miracle, Christ meets him, and says, “Now you must believe on Me, for you have seen Me.” Think how it must have sounded, how the warm heart must have been doubly grateful for that word “seen.” “Yes I see at last, I see, I who was blind.” It is as if Christ were echoing his own thoughts, his own one piece of all-absorbing knowledge. Now, that piece of knowledge must lead to belief. Fact must lead to faith. A fact merely means a thing done, and there must be a doer, greater in his invisibility than the great thing itself in its visibility. That is the faith of Christianity; it rests on real events, on actual things done. It does not ask faith with no basis. But it furnishes the greatest event of history as a foundation, an event happening to us and yet not through our means; and any man full of that great event will say, “I will and must believe in its doer.” Just as the building which has the broadest base upon the ground can rise to the highest upward point in safety, so he who is fullest of the greatest seen fact of life is fullest also of the richest, most aspiring, most practical and most spiritual faith. (Fred Brooks.)
The experimental evidence of Christianity
Here we see a practical conviction of the claims of Christ set against speculative doubts of those claims; and so this dispute between the restored blind man and the Pharisees is a symbol of what often happens in the world. It would be easy to find men now who have doubts concerning Christianity born of intellectual inquiry, which they find it impossible to appease; while there is another class of persons who feel a confidence in Christianity born of inward experience, which it would be impossible to overthrow. And if two persons representing these two classes should meet and attempt a discussion, they could not understand each other, for their souls would not touch. The believing man could not confute nor dispel the doubts that would be reported to him by his opponent, because he had never felt those doubts, and could not judge of their validity. The sceptical man could receive no immediate aid from the practical conviction of the believer, for that conviction could not be translated from feeling into effective statement in words. One is troubled with doubts about the miracles; the other can tell only of the sweet peace of Christian duty and a sense of pardoned sin. One cannot see that the links are complete in the historical chain of evidence for the authenticity of the four Gospels; the other can only answer that the words of those Gospels have nourished his soul, and made life a more noble experience, and bereavement less painful, and the tomb less dark. One cannot be entirely sure that such a person as Christ ever lived; the other feels that it is his highest privilege to follow the spirit of the recorded Christ and to be a disciple of His published temper. One may anxiously be waiting for the last book by some great German theological scholar, to settle or confirm his wavering mind upon some point of the evidence; the other strengthens his faith by the daily responses that are vouchsafed to Christian prayers. One questions from a darkened intellect; the other answers from a sunlit soul. One cannot but say, from the force of the doubts which his philosophy has started, “As for this Man Jesus, I know not from whence He is”; the other replies, “Why, herein is a marvellous thing, that you know not from whence He is, and yet He hath opened mine eyes!” A truly Christian man, although he may never have looked into a volume of the evidence for the genuineness of the Christian records, feels a testimony for the Christian religion in his own heart which raises him above scepticism about the record. Jesus referred to this proof when He said John 7:17). Perhaps such a man had long been wholly selfish and worldly. But by being brought within the circle of Christian influences his best faculties have been awakened and developed. And now he sees life in a different light. The wisdom and goodness of God are suggested to him from every side of nature; it is a delight to cherish a sense of reliance upon the Deity and to feel at all times that God is the Father; the darkness of selfishness is exchanged for the deep satisfaction of devotion to duty, the slavery of passion for the peace of purity, the misery of fear for the joy of love, the fever thirst after worldly goods for the serene bliss of faith, and holy longings for the favour of God and the perfectness of Christ; existence is recognized as a spiritual privilege, death regarded as the door to immortality, and the universe becomes a temple for the worship of the Almighty. Find a heart in which this conversion of principles, feelings, and aims has been experienced, and you find a heart that feels an immovable conviction of the truth of Christianity. Its peace, its joys, its consciousness of spiritual health, its insight into a new world of which before it had no conception, all bear testimony to the reality of Christ’s religion. (T. Starr King.)
Experience the condition of Church membership
When Moody, the great evangelist, wanted to join the Church in Boston, under the pastor of which he had been awakened, he was questioned about doctrines, and seemed to know nothing about them.. He could only say, “Whereas I was blind, now I see.” He applied to this Church three times before he could get in. (J. F. B. Tinling, B. A.)
An undoubted cure
George Moore once dislocated his shoulder, and after suffering great agony for weeks, all the surgeons failing to relieve him, he went to Mr. Hutton, the bone setter, who in a few minutes gave him lasting relief. He was much taken to task then by his professional friends for going to a quack. “Well,” said he, “quack or no quack, he cured me, and that was what I wanted. Whereas I was blind, now I see.” (S. Smiles.)
Living Christians an argument for Christianity
An unhappy woman who has associated herself with a notorious atheist in this country, went down to a great northern city in England to deliver a lecture against Christianity, and the object of her able deliverance was to prove that Christ was a myth. A great crowd of working men assembled to hear her, drawn together, as I believe they often are on such occasions, a good deal more by curiosity than by sympathy with the lecturer. When the lady had finished, a man got up at the other end of the room and said, “My friends, you know me. I have lived among you for twenty-five years. Twenty-five years ago I was a drunken brute. I used to beat my wife and make my home a hell upon earth. Now, this lady says that Jesus of Nazareth is a myth. I am not quite sure that I know what a myth is, but I suppose that she means that He never existed, or, at any rate, is not what we declare Him to be. Now, my friends, twenty-five years ago, when I was a drunken, wife-beating rascal, Jesus of Nazareth met me and opened my eyes, and I saw that I was a sinner, and He forgave my sins; and you know what a change took place in me then, and you know what sort of a man I have been for the last twenty-five years. Perhaps the lady will be kind enough to explain me.” Down he sat. The lady said that she could not explain him, and she did not deliver the two other lectures in that course, I have no doubt that she was perfectly familiar with all that Strauss has written, and with what Renan says, and with the difficulties which the great men of science have suggested, and she went down to that northern city flushed with the anticipation of victory; but there was one very awkward fact which she had overlooked--that there happened to be living in that very city a well-known man whose eyes Jesus of Nazareth had opened twenty-five years ago. What is the use of making most difficult and endless inquiries into the origin of ancient documents until you have explained me? And standing here addressing some whom I shall never meet again until we meet at the judgment seat, I present myself as a living witness. What you have to explain is me. My mind goes back twenty-three years, when, in a beautiful little village in Wales, Jesus of Nazareth opened my eyes, and I saw that He was my Saviour, and that God was my Father; and in that light I have been walking with perfect happiness for twenty-three years. That is what you have to explain, and you are in a very great difficulty, because there are so many of us. Two thousand years ago there was only one at Jerusalem, and they were able to dispose of him pretty quickly. They lost their tempers; and bullied him, and finally excommunicated him. But you cannot excommunicate us all. Let every man speak of that which he knows. (H. P. Hughes, M. A.)
Agnosticism and Christian experience
Is there a God? Don’t know! Is the soul immortal? Don’t know! If we should meet each other in the future world will we recognize each other? Don’t know! This man proposes to substitute the religion of “Don’t know” for the religion of “I know.” “I know whom I have believed.” “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” Infidelity proposes to substitute a religion of awful negatives for our religion of glorious positives, showing right before us a world of reunion and ecstasy, and high companionship, and glorious worship, and stupendous victory; the mightiest joy of earth not high enough to reach to the base of the Himalaya of uplifted splendour awaiting all those who on the wings of Christian faith will soar toward it. (T. De Witt Talmage.)
Conversion a real experience
This man knew that he could see. Possibly some of you have been decent people all your lives, and yet you do not know whether you are saved or not. This is poor religion. Cold comfort! Saved, and not know it! Surely it must be as lean a salvation as that man’s breakfast when he did not know whether he had eaten it or not. The salvation which comes of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is conscious salvation. Your eyes shall be so opened that you shall no longer question whether you can see. He could see, and he knew that he could see. Oh, that you would believe in Jesus, and know that you have believed and are saved! Oh, that you might get into a new world, and enter upon a new state of things altogether! May that which was totally unknown to you before be made known to you at this hour by Almighty grace. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
Value of a personal knowledge of salvation
I recollect the lesson which I learned from my Sunday school class: I was taught, if the other boys were not. Though yet a youth, I was teaching the gospel to boys, and I said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” One of them asked somewhat earnestly, “Teacher, are you saved?” I answered, “I hope so.” The boy replied, “Teacher, don’t you know?” As if he had been sent to push the matter home to me, he further inquired, “Teacher, have you believed?” I said, “Yes.” “Well, then,” he argued, “you are saved.” I was happy to answer, “Yes, I am”; but I had hardly dared to say that before. I found that if I had to teach other people the truth I must know and believe its sweet result upon myself. I believe, dear friends, that you will seldom comfort others except it be by the comfort with which you yourself are comforted of God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The value of experience
A hundred thousand tongues may discourse to you about the sweetness of honey, but you can never have such knowledge of it as by taste. So a word full of books may tell you wonders of the things of God in religion, but you can never understand them exactly but by the taste of experience. (N. Caussin.)
Personas knowledge valuable
The first qualification, then, of a faithful witness is a personal knowledge of the facts to which he witnesses. If a witness in a court of justice begins to talk of what he thinks, feels, and believes, “Oh! hush, hush,” says the judge, “we can’t have that; we want to know what you know--what you have seen, heard, and felt of this case;” and these are the sort of witnesses Jesus Christ wants, who get up and say, “I know!” That is what the Lord Jesus Christ wants--people who know, who experience, who realize, who live the things they witness to. This is what the world is dying for--people who can get up and say, “I know.”
What did He to thee
The quibbles of infidelity
Pertness and ignorance may ask a question in three lines, which it will cost learning and ingenuity thirty pages to answer. When this is done the same question will be triumphantly asked again next year, as if nothing had ever been written on the subject; and as people in general, for one reason or other, like short objections better than long answers, in this mode of disputation, if it can be styled such, the odds must ever be against us; and we must be content with those of our friends, who have honesty and erudition, candour and patience, to study both sides of the question (chap. 10:25). (Bp. Horne.)
Infidelity can only go round and round the same topics in an eternal circle, without advancing one step further. It produces no new forces: it only brings those again into the field which have been so often baffled, maimed, and disabled, that in pity to them they ought to be dismissed, and discharged from any further service (Acts 19:28; Act_19:34). (J. Seed.)
Will ye also be His disciples?--Bold irony this--to ask these stately, ruffled, scrupulous Sanhedrists. Whether he was really to regard them as anxious and sincere inquirers about the claims of the Nazarene prophet! Clearly here was a man whose presumptuous honesty would neither be bullied into suppression, or corrupted into a lie. He was quite impracticable. So, since authority, threats, blandishments had all failed, they broke into abuse, “Thou art His disciple,” etc. “Strange,” he replied, “that you should know nothing of a man who has wrought such a miracle as not even Moses wrought; and we know that neither he nor anyone else could have done it unless he was from God.” What! Shades of Hillel and Shammai! Was a mere blind beggar, a natural ignorant heretic, altogether born in sins, to be teaching them? Unable to control any longer their transport of indignation, they flung him out of the hall, and out of the synagogue. (Archdeacon Farrar.)
Thou art His disciple
I. THE CHARACTER OF A TRUE DISCIPLE. This was the first name attached to Christ’s followers. It is a correlative to His title, “Teacher”: hence they who received His instructions were His disciples. And when they obtained the more distinctive name of their Master, this was recognized, “The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.” Names are but arbitrary signs of things, and are really characteristic no further than as the things themselves exist. The Christians were no worse for being called Nazarenes, and Judas was no better for being called an apostle. Hence the necessity of distinguishing between the proper and the lax use of words. A man may be a disciple universally or really. Such a distinction is coeval with the use of the term. “Many of His disciples went back,” “Ye are My disciples indeed.” A true disciple
1. Believingly embraces the doctrines of Christ. They are received into His heart as the basis of conduct; they are the mould which gives its impression to the character. Such doctrines as credible, require faith; as authoritative, bind; as graciously given, are to be used for the benefit of a guilty and erring mind. So close is the affinity between Christ and His truth, that believing His Word is believing in Him. But it is one thing to believe the gospel to be true, and another to believe its necessity to our own wellbeing; the former will make a man a disciple in name, the latter in truth.
2. Cherishes an ardent affection for Christ’s person. Faith is His word by realizing to the mind His great excellencies and gifts, engages its esteem, desire, and delight. It opens the springs of gratitude and awakens the purest sensibilities. This love is a master grace, leading a train of other virtues, which receive their highest worth from it.
3. Devotes himself to the cause of Christ--giving himself up to Christ’s disposal--living or dying. This devotedness includes self-denial, confession of Christ before men, lively activity in extending His kingdom.
II. THE NECESSITY AND IMPORTANCE OF BEING A TRUE DISCIPLE.
1. From the absolute requirement of God, “My son give me thy heart.” Everything short of this is robbery. He who delays obedience holds out his enmity against God; and can this succeed?
2. From a principle of consistency. Shall God be treated as we deem it base for man to be treated? In common affairs mere outward respect is insulting. With whom do men trifle when they assume the form of godliness without a care of the power.
3. From a regard to our safety and peace. (Congregational Remembrancer.)
Now we know that God heareth not sinners
True and not true
It is ill to wrench passages of the Bible out of their context, and treat them as infallible scripture when they are only sayings of men. By acting thus foolishly we could prove that there is no God (Psalms 14:1), that God hath forgotten His people (Isaiah 49:14), that Christ was a winebibber (Matthew 9:19), and that we ought to worship the devil Matthew 4:19). This will never do. We must inquire who uttered the sentence before we venture to preach from it.
2. Our text is the saying of a shrewd blind man who was far from being well instructed. It is to be taken for what it is worth; but by no means to be regarded as Christ’s teaching. The Pharisees evidently admitted its force, and were puzzled by it. It was good argument as against them. It is true or false as we may happen to view it.
I. IT IS NOT TRUE IN SOME SENSES. We could not say absolutely that God heareth not sinners, for
1. God does hear men who sin, or else He would hear no one: for there is no man that sinneth not (1 Kings 8:46); not a saint would be heard, for even saints are sinners.
2. God does sometimes hear and answer unregenerate men.
3. God does graciously hear sinners when they cry for mercy. Not to believe this were
II. IT IS TRUE IN OTHER SENSES. The Lord does not hear sinners as He hears His own people.
1. He hears no sinner’s prayer apart from the mediation of our Lord Jesus 1 Timothy 2:5; Ephesians 2:18).
2. He will not hear a wicked, formal, heartless prayer (Proverbs 15:29).
3. He will not hear the man who wilfully continues in sin, and abides in unbelief (Jeremiah 14:12; Isaiah 1:15).
4. He will not hear the hypocrite’s mockery of prayer (Job 27:9).
5. He will not hear the unforgiving (Mark 11:25-26).
6. He will not hear even His people when sin is wilfully indulged, and entertained in their hearts (Psalms 66:18).
7. He will not hear those who refuse to hear His Word, or to regard His ordinances (Proverbs 28:9).
8. He will not hear those who harden their hearts against the monitions of His Spirit, the warnings of His providence, the appeals of His ministers, the strivings of conscience, and so forth.
9. He will not hear those who refuse to be saved by grace, or who trust in their own prayers as the cause of salvation.
10. He will not hear sinners who die impenitent. At the last He will close His ear to them, as to the foolish virgins, who cried, “Lord, Lord, open to Matthew 25:11).
Conclusion: One or two things are very clear and sure.
1. He cannot hear those who never speak to Him.
2. He has never yet given any one of us a fiat refusal.
3. He permits us at this moment to pray, and it will be well for us to do so, and see if He does not hear us. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The return of prayers
It is difficult to determine which is the greater wonder, that prayer should produce such vast and blessed effects, or that we should be unwilling to use such an instrument for procuring them. The first declares God’s goodness, the second our folly and weakness. That “God heareth not sinners” was a proverbial saying and supported by Scripture (Job 27:9; Psalms 66:18; Proverbs 1:28; IsaJe 14:10, 12). The proposition may be considered
1. According to the purpose of the blind man: God heareth not sinners in that they are sinners, though a sinner may be heard in his prayer to confirm his faith. God hears him not at all in that wherein he sins; for God is truth and cannot confirm a lie.
2. In a manner that concerns us more nearly; i.e., if we be not good men, our prayers will do us no good. God turns away from the unwholesome breathings of corruption.
I. WHOSOEVER PRAYS WHILE HE IS IN A STATE OF SIN, HIS PRAYER IS AN ABOMINATION TO GOD. This truth was believed by the ancient world; hence the appointment of baptisms and ceremonial expiations.
1. It is an act of profanation for an unholy person to handle holy things and offices.
2. A wicked person, while he remains in that condition, is not a natural object of pity.
3. Purity is recommended by the necessary appendages of prayer
4. After these evidences of Scripture and reason there is less necessity to take notice of those objections derived from the prosperity of evil persons. If such ask things hurtful and sinful if God hears them not it is in mercy; but there are many instances of success in improper prayers which have turned out to the disadvantage of the petitioners.
II. MANY TIMES GOOD MEN PRAY, AND NOT SINFULLY, BUT IT RETURNS EMPTY. Because although the man may be, yet the prayer is not in proper disposition. Prayers are hindered
1. By anger, or a storm in the spirit of him who prays. Prayer is an action or state of intercourse exactly contrary to the character of anger, its spirit being gentle and meek, and its influences calm and soothing.
2. By indifference and easiness of desire. He that is cold and tame in his prayers has not tasted the delight of religion and the goodness of God; he is a stranger to the secrets of His kingdom. What examples we have of fervency in Scripture, more particularly in the case of Christ and St. Paul! Under this head may be placed cautions against
3. By the want of their being put up in good company. For sometimes an obnoxious person has so secured a mischief that those who stay with him share his punishment as the sailors did Jonah’s. But when good men pray with one heart, and in a holy assembly, when they are holy in their desires and lawful in their authority, then their prayers ascend like the hymns of angels.
III. WHAT DEGREES AND CIRCUMSTANCES OF PIETY ARE REQUIRED TO MAKE US FIT TO BE INTERCESSORS FOR OTHERS AND TO PRAY FOR THEM WITH PROBABLE EFFECT. No prayers, of course, can prevail with regard to an indisposed person; as the sun cannot enlighten a blind eye.
1. Those who pray for others should be persons of extraordinary piety. This is exemplified in the case of Job (Job 42:7-8) and Phinehas. It was also a vast blessing entailed on the posterity of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; because they had great religion they had great power with God. A man of little piety cannot water another man’s garden and bless it with a gracious shower; he must look to himself. But what an encouragement this is to a holy life; what an advantage it may be to our relatives, country, etc. How useless and vile the man whose prayers avail not for the meanest person! And yet everyone in a state of grace may intercede for others, a duty prescribed throughout Scripture.
2. We must take care that as our piety, so also our offices be extraordinary. He that prays to reverse a sentence of God, etc., must not expect great effects from a morning or evening collect, or from an honest wish. But in our importunity we must not make our account by a multitude of words, but by measures of the spirit, holiness of soul, justness of the desire, and the usefulness of the request to God’s glory. We must not be ashamed or backward in asking, but our modesty to God in prayer has no measures but these--self-distrust, confidence in God, humility, reverence and submission to God’s will. These being observed our importunity should be as great as possible, and it will be likely to prevail.
3. It is another great advantage that he who prays be a person of superior dignity or employment. For God has appointed some person by their callings to pray for others, as fathers for their children, ministers for their flocks, kings for their subjects. And it is well this is so, since so few understand their duties to themselves and others. But if God heareth not princes, of what necessity is it that such should be holy.
IV. THE SIGNS OF OUR PRAYERS BEING HEARD. This requires little observation; for if our prayers be according to the warrant of God’s Word, and if we ask according to God’s will what is right and profitable, we may rely on the promises, and be sure that our prayers are heard. (Jeremy Taylor.)
Since the world began it was not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind.
--This was quite true at the time.
In 1728, Dr. Cheselden, of St. Thomas’s Hospital, for the first time gave sight to a man who had been blind from his youth up, and since then couching has been several times performed on those who were born blind. With regard to this man note
I. THE PECULIARITY OF HIS CASE.
1. It was not the case of want of light; that might have been remedied. There are millions who have no light, and while we cannot give men eyes we can give them light. There are children of God who walk in darkness and are immured in Doubting Castle. May it be ours by explanation and example to illumine them.
2. This was not a case of accidental blindness. Here again man’s help might have been of service. Persons who have been struck with blindness have been recovered. We can do much in cases where blindness is traceable to circumstances, e.g., to prejudice, which might be removed by a wise and tender statement of the truth.
3. The man was blind from his birth. His was a blindness of nature which, therefore, baffled all surgical skill.
(a) His whole nature is disordered. His other faculties act upon his mind and prevent it operating in a proper manner.
(b) His natural pride and self-reliance revolt against the gospel.
(c) He judges spiritual things by the senses, and with as much success as a man who measures the heavens with a foot rule.
(d) He is at a distance from God and consequently does not believe in Him. If we lived near to God our understanding would be clarified by its contact with truth.
(a) By rhetoric. As well hope of sing a stone into sensibility. Sinners have been dazzled a thousand times by the pyrotechnics of oratory and have remained as blind as ever.
(b) By argument; but reason alone gives no man the power to see the light of heaven.
(c) By earnest gospel appeals; but how many in our congregations are proof against these!
II. THE SPECIALTIES OF THE CURE. Not of this man’s only.
1. It is usually accomplished by the most simple means. It is very humbling to a preacher to find that God cares little for him or his sermon, and that a stray remark of his in the street is what God has blessed. Souls are not usually converted by bodies of divinity and theological discussions. When David put off Saul’s armour and took the sling and the stone he slew the giant. We must keep to the simple gospel plainly preached. The clay and the spittle were not an artistic combination, yet by these and a wash in Siloam eyes were opened.
2. In every case it is a Divine work. No eye is ever opened to see Jesus except by Jesus. Blindness of soul yields only to the voice which said, “Let there be light.”
3. It is often instantaneous, and when the eye is opened it frequently sees as perfectly as if it had been always seeing, though in other cases it is gradual.
4. It brings new sensations, and therefore should surprise us. Do you remember the first sight you had of Christ? There is fixed in the memories of some of us the first time we saw the sea, or the Alps, but these were nothing, It is not surprising that young converts should get excited.
5. It is very clear to the man himself. Others may doubt but not he.
6. The restored faculty is capable of abundant use. The man who could see the Pharisees could by and by see Jesus. Once give a man spiritual sight and he has a capacity to see Divine mysteries.
III. THE CONDITION OF THE HEALED MAN.
1. He had strong impressions in favour of his Healer. First He was a prophet, then the object of worship. No man has his eyes opened without intense love for Jesus, and without believing in His Deity, and worshipping Him as the Son of God.
2. He becomes from that moment a confessor of Christ, the first of his class. If the Lord has opened our eyes we shall not hesitate to say so.
3. He became an advocate for Christ, and an able one, for the facts which were his arguments baffled his adversaries. You will never meet infidelity except with such facts.
4. He was driven out of the synagogue. One of the worst things that can happen as far as this world is concerned is to know too much. If you will bravely keep abreast of the times you may be tolerated, but if you get ahead of it you must expect ill-treatment.
5. Christ found him. What a blessing to lose the Pharisees and to find the Saviour! What a mercy when the world casts us out! (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Jesus heard that they had cast him out and … said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?
The verdict of Christ on the whole case
I. THE DEMAND CHRIST MAKES UPON THE HUMAN HEART--Faith (John 9:35).
1. Personal. It must be the trust of the individual soul.
2. Immediate. It must be exercised now without delay.
3. Intelligent. It must be directed to the right object--the Son of God.
II. THE HOMAGE CHRIST ACCEPTS FROM THE HUMAN HEART--Worship (John 9:38).
1. Adoring: more than outward courtesy and formal obeisance--even the prostration of the spirit.
2. Believing: rooted in and proceeding from the soul’s faith in Christ.
III. THE WORK CHRIST PERFORMS ON THE HUMAN HEART--Judgment (verse 39-41).
1. Indirect. It follows as an inevitable result of His presenting Himself as the Light of the World.
2. Real. It infallibly results in
3. Progressive. This work is going on as truly and efficiently as when Christ was upon earth.
4. Permanent. Lessons:
1. The importance of ascertaining in which group one is placed by Christ’s judicial work.
2. The necessity of faith corresponding in fulness to the revelation of Himself which Christ has given.
3. The propriety of making Christ the object as well as the ground and medium of our worship. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
The excommunicated man
I. THE AFFLICTIVE SITUATION OF THIS MAN--cast out. When he was a blind beggar he was an object of compassion; but much more now. At that time he would have the favour of friends and the advantage of religion--but he was now an outcast from society and the Church.
II. THE ATTENTIVE REGARD OF CHRIST.
1. Jesus heard. His ear is always open to cases of distress.
2. Jesus found. “The Lord knoweth them that are His,” and where they are, and how they are.
III. THE INTERESTING CONVERSATION WHICH PASSED BETWEEN THEM.
1. The question implying the indispensableness of faith.
2. The reply.
3. The response suggesting the proper object for restored vision.
IV. THE PLEASING RESULT.
1. The man’s faith.
2. His open declaration of his faith.
3. His worship. Reflections.
1. Men may suffer for the sake of Christ.
2. Those who do suffer lose nothing by it.
3. To act honestly according to the light we have is the way to be favoured with greater illumination.
4. When we are most earnest in our inquiries after Christ, then He is nearest to us. (F. Kidd.)
The important question
I. THE IMPORTANCE OF THE QUESTION.
1. It is of great extent and includes things of the highest moment. It is not am I a Churchman or a Dissenter, etc., but am I a believer in Christ, regenerate or unregenerate? a friend of God or His enemy? on my way to heaven or hell?
2. We are apt to take it for granted that we believe in Christ without sufficient evidence. But if we hate to be imposed upon in little matters let us not impose upon ourselves in this. Is it a thing of inheritance or of conscious exercise?
3. The decision of this question can be in no way hurtful to us, but may be much to our advantage. If we do not believe and are not saved, now is the accepted time, believe now.
4. The question will be decided some day. Whether a believer or not will be ascertained at the judgment seat.
II. ITS APPLICATION.
1. Have we ever been convinced of sin? We must know that we are diseased ere we trust the physician.
2. Have we ever been stripped of our vain hopes and carnal confidences? Till we have we shall not see the necessity of Christ.
3. What is our disposition with respect to real godliness? If we do not love holiness we shall not believe (1 Timothy 1:15).
4. Is Christ exceedingly precious to our esteem? An infallible evidence of saving faith (1 Peter 2:7).
5. Have we peace (Romans 5:1). (B. Beddome, M. A.)
The test question
I. THE QUESTION IN RELATION TO CHRIST.
1. We have before us a distinct personality.
2. The Divinity of Christ is the resting place of faith. How miserable the attempts to reduce Him to a teacher or martyr!
II. THE QUESTION IN RELATION TO OURSELVES. It is here
1. We resolve all doubts and find a firm foundation for our faith.
2. We find relief and rest.
3. We commune with God.
4. We advance towards the consummation of our life.
The supreme inquiry
I. THE NATURE OF THE BELIEF. Not mere intellectual assent to some truth; not belief requiring learning or research. Jesus addressed a blind beggar.
II. THE IMPORTANCE OF THE QUESTION. The Jews affirmed that the man was “born in his sins,” Jesus asked nothing about his pedigree, creed, or past life.
1. He requires only an answer to this one question.
2. It is a question that must be answered prior to any progress in spiritual life. It is life’s watershed.
3. On its answer hangs the fate of eternity.
III. THE PERSONAL CHARACTER OF THE QUESTION.
1. Every man must have it.
2. Each man must answer it for himself.
IV. BUT ONE OF TWO ANSWERS CAN BE GIVEN. Yes or no. You cannot evade it. (Homiletic Monthly.)
Believing on the Son of God
This question was addressed to one solitary man. Jesus comes into personal contact with single individuals. “Thou.” “Whom?” It was a largo question, especially when the man was smarting under a bitter penalty. Yet Jesus knew his want and met him at the point of conscious need, ready to more than compensate him.
I. WHAT IS FAITH? Note
1. Its simplicity. Whatever mysteries there may be in the Bible, this about believing is very plain. A converted Hindoo when asked what it was, replied, “The heart clasping Jesus Christ.”
2. Complete surrender to Christ. The frank simplicity of a little child, giving itself entirely into the hands of the Father, full dependence in the Father’s power and love, a simple trusting and resting without concern about the next step, and the next. But people say that this is an irrational thing and altogether unmanning. Not so; you invest your money in the Government Funds, and would be surprised at any question of the reasonableness of the act, and yet you do not think about the nature of those funds. You hold a Government security, and feel perfectly safe in trusting the source of your income in the hands of the State. You decide to cross the Atlantic; the sea-worthiness of the vessel and the skill of the captain are the only matters of concern. Assured of these you give yourselves entirely into the hands of the officer. But is not this irrational. Ought you not first to study ship building and navigation, and then, standing on your manliness, persist in taking a share in the management of the vessel? Now this surrendering of self to Christ is God’s plan of saving humanity and conveying it to heaven.
3. This believing in the Son of God is a saving act. Not that faith itself saves, however. It is the link that connects to Christ, who saves. It is not the door but the hand that knocks; not the sun but the eye that sees the sun.
4. This faith is elevating in its tendency. There is, first of all, a breaking down of poor, proud self, and then a giving back, not of the old self in its original impurity, but renewed, cleansed and arrayed in the robe of righteousness. And in answer to this faith a tide of gracious influences sets in which gives the soul beauty, richness, expansion, dignity, making the believer a citizen of the kingdom of heaven.
5. This faith is life--the highest thing that can be said about it. This life is a conscious, healthy, happy, ever-growing life.
II. THE OBJECT OF FAITH--“The Son of God.”
1. A person, not a system. Jesus did not ask the man about his former life or religious whereabouts, nor did He inform him about His doctrines or the nature of His kingdom. One thing only is of moment--faith in Him. All else will follow from that. And the man was concerned about nothing else. “Who is He?” One may have a clear belief in Christianity and yet be devoid of saving faith. He may be able to prove it Divine and yet know nothing of its salvation, Notice the “on,” suggesting dependence, trust, reliance, which is something more than “in.”
2. Christ is every way adapted as the object of faith. One with the Father and yet submissive as a Son. We must keep close to this truth, or Christ’s sacrifice is deprived of its power. If Christ is not Divine, He is a sinner, and if a sinner, in the least degree, He cannot atone for others, but needs atonement for Himself. When a great good is promised, the question is, Has the promiser the power and will to redeem his engagement? The New Testament is emphatic on these two qualities in the Son of God. All power is given unto Him, and He says to the wide world, “Come unto Me.”
III. CHRIST IS THE APPOINTED AND ONLY OBJECT OF FAITH. “There remaineth no more sacrifice for sin,” and what need we of any other? for the claims of heaven and needs of earth are met.
1. This faith is the only source of life to the Church. Architecture, music, wealth, fashion, talent, etc., will not keep a church alive.
2. This faith is the secret of Church aggression.
3. This faith is the spring of the Church’s beauty. (J. H. Higgins.)
Faith is a plant which is intended to rise upward by twining round the pillar of evidence. (Bp. Alexander.)
An important question
I. THE NATURE OF THIS QUESTION. Faith implies
1. Implicitly to credit the records of God concerning His Son.
2. Genuine trust in Him, sealed by the Holy Spirit.
3. Divine reception of Him.
4. It is also to realize His gracious presence in the soul in the lively exercise of every Christian duty.
II. HELPS TOWARDS ANSWERING THIS QUESTION.
1. Faith is a Divine principle, and is Divinely bestowed.
2. Faith is a self-evident principle, and if you believe on Christ you are assured of it.
3. Faith is a victorious principle, and conquers all adverse powers.
4. Faith is a practical principle, and evinces itself in believers.
III. REASONS WHY AN ANSWER SHOULD BE RETURNED TO THIS QUESTION.
1. This question is most important, both from the person proposing it, and the tremendous consequences connected therewith.
2. This question is personal.
3. This question is simple, and not complex; so that under the Divine and covenant teaching of the Holy Ghost, a child may understand it.
4. This question is doubtful, because all men have not faith. (T. B. Baker, M. A.)
A vital question
I. THE QUESTION PROPOSED
1. Relates to Christ as the eternal Son of God.
2. Refers to faith in Christ as the Son of God.
3. Relates to each individually.
II. SOME EVIDENCES OF BEING ENABLED TO ANSWER THE QUESTION. If we really believe we shall
1. Remember the means of bringing us into faith.
2. Have the Spirit in our souls.
3. Highly esteem and value Christ.
4. Enjoy peace and comfort of mind.
5. Be filled with love to God and the Church.
6. Be subject to the authority of Christ.
III. THE PERSONS TO WHOM THE WORDS MAY BE ADDRESSED.
1. To all who have been baptized in the name of Christ.
2. To all who only profess Christianity.
3. To all who manifest much zeal in the cause of Christ.
4. Let Christians inquire after the evidences of their faith.
5. Let Christians pray to grow in faith.
6. He that hath not faith must perish.
7. All the blessings of the gospel are given to faith. Improvement:
Faith in Christ
A Christian merchant had in his employ a man awakened to a sense of sin, and earnestly desiring salvation, but stumbled at this believing on the Son of God--its very simplicity was a problem. His employer sent him a note, asking him to his office on a certain day, at a given hour. Promptly, at the specified time, the man appeared at the office. His master looked up in feigned surprise, and said, “Well, James, did you want to see me?” “Your note, sir,” said the servant, showing him the missive. “Oh, yes, my note, then you really believed I was sincere when I sent you that?” “Of course I did,” said James emphatically, but with surprise. “Then you really thought I would keep this appointment.” “I had no doubt about it,” again with surprise. “Well, here is a strange thing,” said the merchant, “I sent you this one short note asking for this interview, and you promptly respond with the utmost confidence, and yet Jesus Christ has given you so many invitations to go to Him, and accept His pardon, and you will not, because of unbelief.” “Is it like that?” said the man, light breaking in upon his mind. “Just like that, James. Go to Christ as promptly and as trustingly as you have come to me, and pardon and peace are yours;” and, acting on this simple plan, the servant found the Son of God as his Saviour. (J. H. Higgins.)
The unknown Christ
1. The man is cast out, but he carries with him the immovable conviction of John 9:33. Every power for good in this world is of God, whether in the form of material science, conquering disease, and lightening labour; or in that of political and social reform, purifying the polity of nations and making the brotherhood of man more real; or in that of spiritual teaching, stirring deeper fountains and casting higher lights. Let us believe that “every good and perfect gift cometh from God.”
2. The rumour of his expulsion reaches Christ, and indignation at the injustice done, and yearnings after a soul so true and simple, unite in urging Him instantly to seek the despised outcast. And so through the great Jerusalem of the world Christ is still passing, seeking every brave and honest witness to the vision he as yet sees. Be faithful to your sense of duty at whatever cost, and Christ, though unseen, is following you to find you.
3. Christ perceived that the man was able to bear a purer light than that of nature, that his trust in divine goodness had prepared him for the manifestation of the life of God. So He puts the question, “Dost thou believe,” etc., and lifts the man’s thoughts above the circumstances of the hour. There is no dwelling on the recent miracle, no indulgence in invective against the Pharisees, no discussion of the man’s prospects. It was as if a little crowded, noisy room were changed for the vastness and hush of a great cathedral. Let us be thankful to the Master who is still arresting us as we go on our selfish, earthly way with the same tranquilizing, purifying question.
4. Certain underlying beliefs are assumed in the words of our Lord.
5. Spiritually the man was in a quickened state. His fidelity to truth had been manifested amidst sore temptations. His religious convictions had been forced into practical assertion. And now, whilst his ears are yet ringing with the taunts of sacerdotal pride, and whilst he is trembling with righteous indignation against those who blasphemed goodness, this wondrous stranger demands faith in Him for whose coming every pious Israelite yearned. All that the man had ever believed and felt now welled up into that “Who is He.” Have we not here the attitude of many honest and reverent thinkers today in the presence of the great problems of religion and life? The great question now is, “What think ye of Christ?” And the answer is gathering volume and distinctness which confesses Him the Son of God and the Son of Man. The inspiring purpose of the man was “that I may believe,” and the same purpose underlies much of modern intellectual restlessness.
6. “Thou hast both seen Him,” etc., was the reply of Christ. It is possible then to be in the presence of Christ, and yet not know Him to be the Son of God. The world is full of Christ’s presence.
7. But there are grounds for the hope that all who approach in the spirit of the man born blind, evidences of Christ’s power and presence, will say with him, “Lord, I believe.” (J. R. S. Harrington.)
Relationship with Christ and its obligations
I. THOSE WHO ARE IN ANY WAY CONNECTED WITH CHRIST ARE UNDER OBLIGATIONS TO FAITH IN HIM WHICH CORRESPOND WITH THAT CONNECTION. This man was connected with Christ
1. There are those who possess temporal advantages which may be traced directly to Christ.
2. There are those who identify themselves with the kingdom of Christ. This man might have enjoyed the miracle, and yet never have defended Christ and brought trouble upon himself. But he could not do this, and so was identified by the Pharisees with the cause of Christ. On this ground Christ made His appeal. “The Pharisees by your conduct imagine you have this faith; have you?” And are there not men who defend Christianity against the infidel and the scoffer, Christ’s Deity against the Socinian, spiritual Christianity against Popery, who are not yet connected by the faith which saves to Christ? To such, therefore, we appeal. If gratitude would seem in one case consistency in the other should constrain. Is it consistent to be mixed up with Christianity nominally? Is it right to be thought a disciple of Christ without believing on Him?
II. THE COURSE WHICH THOSE WHO ARE EXTERNALLY CONNECTED WITH CHRIST SHOULD PURSUE.
1. The man began to inquire, and inquiry is the course for those to whom the narrative applies. For what? not for a creed, an ism, ordinances, church government, but for Christ. We may know the former which will not save, and not know the latter who will.
2. For what end are we to inquire? Not for the qualification of curiosity or so as to be able to dispute about theology. All truth is revealed not to be speculated upon, not to be judged by reason and be either rejected or received; but for faith “that I might believe.”
III. THE FACILITIES WHICH SUCH POSSESS IN THE PURSUIT OF THIS COURSE. “Thou hast seen Him,” etc. We have present access to Christ, not, it is true, as this man had, but He is here as really in His spiritual presence.
1. He is here in the testimony we have in the Bible concerning Him. You may find patriarchs, prophets, evangelists, and apostles revealing Christ.
2. Go to converted men, there you have Christ’s image, faint and imperfect, it is true, but real; ask them what they have tasted and felt concerning Christ.
3. You have access to the ministry of the gospel which is the ministry of Christ, “for we preach not ourselves,” etc.
4. The Holy Ghost was given to testify of Christ. You have not to cry, “O! that I knew where I might find Him.” In all these ways “Thou hast both seen Him,” etc.
IV. THE END WHICH THOSE WHO PURSUE THIS COURSE WILL ATTAIN.
1. Faith in Christ must follow this inquiry, “Lord, I believe.” “Faith cometh by hearing.” He who is a sincere inquirer will be guided; God never left such to wander. Listen not to those who say ‘tis no use to seek: God has said that those who seek shall find.
2. Faith in Christ will never be a secret. The soul that regards Christ as the Son of God must at once tell Him so. “He worshipped Him.” Conclusion: There is a day coming when all must hear this question put to them. You may put off the answer to it now but not then. Answer it now. (S. Martin.)
True Christians will learn of any one
A mortified man will yield to learn of anyone. A little child shall “lead them.” Learned Apollos was instructed by a couple of poor tentmakers. (J. Trapp.)
Faithfulness not unnoticed by God
The pious Lutheran minister at Berlin, Paul Gerhard, was deposed from his office, and banished the country in 1666 by the elector, Frederick William the Great, on account of the faithful discharge of his ministerial duties. Not knowing whither to go, he and his wife passed out of the city, and finally stopped at a tavern, oppressed with care and grief. Gerhard endeavoured to comfort his partner by the text, “Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass.” Then he wrote a hymn embodying this sentiment. Before he had finished its perusal, the agents of Duke Christian of Mersburg invited him to an interview with that prince, by whom he was appointed Archdeacon at Luebben.
The importance of believing
The root of a tree is a ragged and a jagged thing--no shape, no proportion, no comeliness in it, and therefore keeps itself in the earth, as unwilling to be seen; yet all the beauty that is in the tree--the straightness of the bulk and body, the spreading fairness of the branches, the glory of the leaves and flowers, the commodity of the fruits--proceed from the root: by that the whole subsisteth. So faith seems to be but a sorry grace, a virtue of no regard; devotion is acceptable, for it honours God; charity is noble, for it does good to men; holiness is the image of heaven, therefore beauteous; thankfulness is the tune of angels, therefore melodious. But what is faith good for? Yes: it is good for every good purpose--the foundation and root of all graces. All the prayers made by devotion, all the good works done by charity, all the actual expressions of holiness, all the praises sounded forth by thankfulness, come from the root of faith, that is the life of them all. Faith doth animate works, as the body lives by the soul. (J. Spencer.)
The importance of self-examination
It is a great deal better to sift an affair to the bottom than it is to be always tormented by suspicion. If I must go to sea, and I suspect the soundness of the vessel, I shall demand that the ship be surveyed, and that I know whether it is a rotten old coffin, or whether it is a good substantial ship.. I do not think it is a healthy state of things for man to be always singing--“‘Tis a point I long to know.” Brother, you ought to know whether you love the Lord or no. Your love must be very cold and feeble if it be a matter of question. Warmth of love proves its own existence in many ways. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Faith must lay hold on Christ
Look at that locomotive as it snorts like a giant war horse to its place in the station at head of the train. You have in that engine power of amplest capacity to drag at swiftest pace the far-stretching carriages. Boiler, tubes, pistons, fire, steam--all are in perfect order; and that broad-browed man gives assurance of tried ability to guide the charge committed to him. You look: carriage after carriage is filled, the hour has struck, the bell rung; and yet there is no departure, no movement, nor would be till “crack of doom,” if one thing remained as it now is. Aha! the lack is discovered: the uniting hooks that bind engine and train together were wanting. They have been supplied. Like two great hands, they have clasped; and a screw has so riveted engine and carriage, that they form, as it were, one thing, one whole; and away through the dark sweeps the heavy-laden train with its freight of immortals. Mark! no one ever supposes that it is the uniting hook, or link, or coupling that draws the train. A child knows that it is the engine that draws it. Nevertheless, without that hook, or link, or coupling, all the power of the engine were of no avail; the train would stand still forever. Exactly so is it in the relation of faith to Christ. It is not our faith that saves us, but Christ. (A. B. Grosart.)
For judgment I have come into the world
Christ’s mission to the world
HAS TWO APPARENTLY OPPOSITE RESULTS.
1. Of these
2. Of these
II. IS MISINTERPRETED AND ABUSED.
1. Misinterpreted (John 9:40). Dost thou mean that we, educated men, trained in the laws and religion of our forefathers, and devoted to the work of teaching the nation, are blind? They would not understand that our Lord meant blindness of heart. So the great purpose of Christ’s mission has ever been misinterpreted. Some treat the gospel as if its object were to give a speculative creed, an ecclesiastical polity, a civil government, a social order, while they practically ignore that its grand object is to open the spiritual eyes of men, so that they may see, not men’s forms and phenomena, but spiritual realities.
2. Abused (John 9:41). Notwithstanding My mission, “Ye say, We see.” With Me you have the opportunity of illumination; without that your blindness would be a calamity, but now it is a crime. “Therefore your sin remaineth.” If, like this man, you were without the power of seeing, and had no opportunity of cure, you would have no sin; for no man is required to use a power he has not. What should we think of a man living in the midst of beautiful scenery but refusing to open his eyes? But the case of the spiritually blind, with the faculties of reason and conscience and the sun of the gospel streaming on them, is worse than this. “Men love darkness rather than light,” etc. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
The opening of the eyes
The man had been blind all his life; he was blind that morning; now, at night, he saw. The wonderful beauty of the world had burst upon him. The greatest luxury of sense that man enjoys was his, and he was revelling in its new-found enjoyment. He was intensely grateful to the Friend who had given it to him. He loved Him and thanked Him with his whole heart. And just then Jesus steps in and questions him; not, “Are you glad and grateful?” but, “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” It is a new thought, a new view altogether. We can almost see the surprise and bewilderment creep over his glad face. He had it on his lips to thank his Friend, and lo! suddenly he was dealing with God, and with the infinite relations between God and man.
I. THE LORD’S QUESTION. What does it mean? This: Are you glad and grateful for these things as little separate sensations of pleasure? That amounts to nothing. Or are you thankful for them as manifestations of the Divine life to yours, as tokens of that fatherhood of God which found its great utterance, including all others, in the Incarnation of His Son? That is everything. No wonder that such a question brings surprise. It is so much more than you expected. It is like the poor Neapolitan peasant, who struck his spade into the soil to dig a well, and the spade went through into free space, and he had discovered all the hidden wealth of Herculaneum. No wonder there is surprise at first; but afterward you see that in the belief in a manifested Son of God, if you could gain it, you would have just the principle of spiritual unity in which your life is wanting, and the lack of which makes so much of its very best so valueless. If you could believe in one great utterance of God, one incarnate word, the manifested pity of God, and the illustrated possibility of man at once--then, with such a central point, there could be no more fragmentariness anywhere. All must fall into its relation to it, to Him, and so the unity of life show forth.
II. THE MAN’S ANSWER. “I do not know,” he seems to say, “I did not mean anything like that; I did not seem to believe, but yet I have not evidently exhausted or fathomed my own thought. There is something below that I have not realized. Perhaps I do believe. At any rate I should like to. The vague notion attracts me. I will believe if I can. Who is He, Lord, that I might believe on Him?” The simplicity and frankness, the guilelessness and openness of the man makes us like him more than ever. There is evidently for him a chance, nay, a certainty, that he will be greater, fuller, better than he is. Some natures are inclusive; some are exclusive. Some men seem to be always asking, “How much can I take in?” and some are always asking, “How much can I shut out?” One man wants to believe; he welcomes evidence. He asks, “Who is He, that I may believe on Him?” Another man seems to dread to believe; he has ingenuity in discovering the flaws of proof. If he asks for more information, it is because he is sure that some objection or discrepancy will appear which will release him from the unwelcome duty of believing. We see the two tendencies, all of us, in people that we know. Carried to their extremes, they develop on one side the superstitious, on the other the sceptical spirit. More than we think, far more, depends upon this first attitude of the whole nature--upon whether we want to believe or to disbelieve. To one who finds the forces of this life sufficient, an incarnation, a supernatural salvation, is incredible. To one who, looking deeper, knows there must be some infinite force which it has not found yet--some loving, living force of Emmanuel, of God with man--the Son of God is waiting OH the threshold and will immediately come.
III. How will He come? Read THE LORD’S REPLY. “Thou hast both seen Him, and it is He that talketh with thee.” The teaching that seems to me to be here for us is this--that when Christ “comes,” as we say, to a human soul, it is only to the consciousness of the soul that He is introduced, not to the soul itself; He has been at the doors of that from its very beginning. We live in a redeemed world--a world full of the Holy Ghost forever doing Christ’s work, forever taking of the things of Christ and showing them to us. That Christ so shown is the most real, most present power in this new Christian world. Men see Him, talk with Him continually. They do not recognize Him; they do not know what lofty converse they are holding; but some day when a man has become really earnest and wants to believe in the Son of God, and is asking, “Who is He that I may believe on Him?” then that Son of God comes to him--not as a new guest from the lofty heaven, but as the familiar and slighted Friend, who has waited and watched at the doorstep, who has already from the very first filled the soul’s house with such measure of His influence as the soul’s obstinacy of indifference would allow, and who now, as He steps in at the soul’s eager call to take complete and final possession of its life, does not proclaim His coming in awful, new, unfamiliar words, but says in tones which the soul recognizes and wonders that it has not known long before, “Thou hast seen Me, I have talked with thee.” (Phillips Brooks, D. D.)
Sight for those who see not
Jesus has come into the world for judgment, but not for the last and unchangeable judgment. “His fan is in His hand.” He sits as a refiner. His cross has revealed the thoughts of many hearts, and everywhere His gospel acts as a discoverer, a separator, a test by which men may judge themselves if they will. Light no sooner comes than it begins to judge the darkness. When the gospel comes, some hearts receive it at once, and are judged to be “honest and good ground,” and “come to the light, that their deeds may be made manifest,” etc. Other hearts at once hate the truth, because their deeds are evil. Observe
1. Wherever Christ comes the most decided effects will follow. Whoever you are, the gospel must be to you a savour of life or of death, antidote or poison, curing or killing. It will make you see, or else, because you fancy you see, its very brightness will make you blind. If you live without it, you will die; if you feel that you are dead without it, it will make you live.
2. Christ has come that those who see not may see.
3. Let us take the blind man for a model.
I. HE KNEW THAT HE WAS BLIND, and took up his proper position as a beggar. Many of you are too high, and must come down. You fancy that you have kept the law from your youth, are and all that you ought to be. As long as you think thus the blessing is delayed. But some of you say: “I scarcely know my condition. I am not right, I know; I feel so blind.” You are on your way to a cure.
II. HE HAD A SINCERE DESIRE TO BE ENLIGHTENED. Christ heals no one who evinces no desire to be healed.
III. HE WAS VERY OBEDIENT. As soon as the Lord said, “Go, wash,” he went; he had no Abana and Pharpar which he preferred to the pool. That is a good word in the prophet, “O Lord, Thou art the Potter and we are the clay.” What can the clay do to help the potter? Be pliable.
IV. WHEN HE SAW, HE OWNED IT. The least that you can do for your Healer is to confess Him.
V. HE BEGAN TO DEFEND THE MAN WHO OPENED HIS EYES. When the Lord opened the eyes of a great blind sinner, that man will not have Him spoken against. Some of your genteel Christians do not speak for Christ above once in six months.
VI. WHEN HIS EYES WERE OPENED, HE WISHED TO KNOW MORE. “Who is He?” And when he found that He was the Son of God, he worshipped Him. If you have not seen Jesus of Nazareth to be “very God of very God,” you have seen nothing. VII. HOW IS IT THAT SUCH BLIND MEN COME TO SEE?
1. They have no conceit to hinder Christ. It is easier to save us from our sins than from our righteousness.
2. They refuse to speculate; they want certainties. When a man feels his blindness, if you discuss before him the five nothings of modern theology, he says: “I do not want them: there is no comfort in them to a lost soul.”
3. They are glad to lean on God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Are we blind also?--All quarrelling is about the application of general granted rules to personal private cases. (Epictetus.)
There is no such hindrance to proficiency as too timely a conceit of knowledge (Revelation 3:17; Luke 8:13; Luk_8:15). (Dr. Hammond.)
I suppose that many might have attained to wisdom had they not thought they had already attained to it (Jeremiah 8:8-9; Isaiah 42:18-20). (Seneca.)
It is a woeful condition of a Church when no man will allow himself to be ignorant (Psalms 12:4). (Bp. Hall.)
If ye were blind, ye should have no sin
The sense of sin leads to holiness and the conceit of holiness to sin
Some of the most significant of Christ’s teachings are put in the form of a verbal contradiction: “He that findeth his life shaft lose it,” etc.; “Whosoever hath not from him shall be taken,” etc. But the impressiveness of the truth taught is all the greater from being couched in terms that would nonplus a mere verbal critic. It is so with regard to John 9:39 and the text.
I. THE SENSE OF SIN CONDUCTS TO HOLINESS upon the general principle of supply and demand. This law holds good
1. In our earthly affairs. If one nation requires grain from abroad, another will sow and reap to meet the requisition. If our country requires fabrics it cannot well produce, another will toil to furnish them. From year to year the wants of mankind are thus met.
2. In the operations of Providence. God’s goodness is over all His works. He opens His hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing. Famines are the exception and not the rule. Seedtime and harvest fail not from century to century, and there is no surplus to be wanted.
3. In the kingdom of grace. If God is ready to feed the ravens, He is more ready to supply the spiritual wants of His sinful creatures. He takes more pleasure in filling the hungry soul than the hungry mouth. “If ye, being evil,” etc. If there were only a demand for heavenly food as importunate as there is for earthly, the supply would be at once forthcoming in infinite abundance. For no sinful creature can know his religious necessities without crying out for a supply. Can a man hunger without begging food? No more can a conscious sinner without crying, “Create in me a clean heart,” etc. And the promises are more explicit in respect to heavenly blessings. You may beg God to restore you to health, to give you a competence, and He may not see fit to grant your prayer. But if you say, “God be merciful to me, a sinner,” you will certainly obtain an answer, for this will not injure you as the other may; and God has expressly said that it is always His will that man should seek mercy, and always His delight to grant it. Come, then, for all things are now ready (1 John 5:14-15).
II. THE CONCEIT OF HOLINESS LEADS TO SIN. We are met at the very outset with the fact that a conceit is in its own nature sin. It is self-deception. The disposition of the Pharisee to say, “We see,” is an insuperable obstacle to every gracious affection. Christianity is a religion for the poor in spirit. Conceit opposes this, and puffs up a man with pride and fills him with sin.
1. Religion is a matter of the understanding, and consists in a true knowledge of Divine things. Self-flattery is fatal to all spiritual discernment
2. Religion is a matter of the affections, and the injurious influence of a conceit of holiness in these is even more apparent. Nothing is more deadening to emotion than pride. If you would extinguish all religious sensibility within yourself, become a Pharisee.
1. The practical lesson is the necessity of obtaining a sense of sin. So long as we think or say that we “see” we are out of all saving relations to the gospel. The foundation of true science is willingness to be ignorant, and so it is in religion. The instant a vacuum is produced the air will rush into it, and the instant any soul becomes emptied of its conceit of holiness, and becomes an aching void, and reaches out after something purer and better, it is filled with what it wants.
2. As an encouragement to this we may depend on the aid of the Holy Spirit. (Prof. Shedd.)
Blind yet seeing
A blind boy, that had suffered imprisonment at Gloucester not long before, was brought to Bishop Hooper the day before his death. Mr. Hooper, after he had examined of his faith and the cause of his imprisonment, beheld him steadfastly, and the water appearing in his eyes, said unto him, “Ah! poor boy, God hath taken from thee thy outward sight, but hath given thee another sight much more precious; for He hath endued thy soul with the eye of knowledge and faith.” (J. Trapp.)
Help for the needy
I have felt a wonderful satisfaction in feeding a poor half-starved dog that had no master and nothing to eat. How he has looked up with pleasure in my face when he has been fed to the full! Depend upon it the Lord Jesus Christ will take delight in feeding a poor hungry sinner. You feel like a poor dog, do you not? Then Jesus cares for you. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
The emptiness of self-righteous boasting
The governor of a besieged city threw loaves of bread over the wall to the besiegers, to make them believe that the citizens had such large supplies that they could afford to throw them away; yet they were starving all the while. There are some men of like manners; they have nothing that they can offer unto God, but yet they exhibit a glittering self-righteousness. Oh! they have been so good, such superior people, so praiseworthy from their youth up; they never did anything much amiss; there may be a little speck here and there upon their garments, but that will brush off when it is dry. They make a fair show in the flesh with morality and formality, and a smattering of generosity. Besides, they profess to be religious: they attend Divine service, and pay their quota of the expenses. Who could find any fault with such good people? Just so; this profession is the fine horse and trap with which they too are cutting a dash just before going through the court. There is nothing at all in you, and there never was. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Misery of unconscious blindness
In this unconsciousness lies the heart of the mischief. Helpless man is unconscious of his own helplessness. Because they say, “We see,” therefore their sin remaineth. If they were blind and knew it, it were another matter, and signs of hope would be visible; but to be blind and yet to boast of having superior sight, and to ridicule those who see, is the lamentable condition of not a few. They will not thank us for our pity, but much they need it. Eyes have they, but they see not, and yet they glory in their far-sightedness. Multitudes around us are in this plight. When the prophet says, “Bring forth the blind people that have eyes,” we can only wonder where we should put them all if they were willing to assemble in one place. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The occasion of Christ’s teaching
The special form which the discourse here takes is probably and almost certainly due to the actual presence of a sheepfold with the shepherds and their flocks. We know that Bethesda was near the “sheepgate,” which is possibly to be identified with a covered portion of the pool of Siloam. We have, in any case, to think of an open fold surrounded by a wall or railing, into which, at eventide, the shepherds lead their flocks, committing them, during the night, to the care of an under-shepherd, who guards the door. In the morning they knock and the porter opens the door, which has been securely fastened, and each shepherd calls his own sheep, who know his voice and follow him. But we must remember that our Lord’s mind and theirs was full of thoughts ready to pass into a train like this. “Thy servants are shepherds, both we and also our fathers” (Genesis 47:3), was the statement of the first sons of Israel, and it was true of their descendants. Their greatest heroes--Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Daniel--had all been shepherds, and no imagery is more frequent in psalm or prophecy than that drawn from the shepherd’s work. We must fill our minds with these Old Testament thoughts if we would understand the chapter. Let anyone before commencing it read thoughtfully Psalms 23:1-6; Isaiah 40:11; Jeremiah 33:1-4; Ezekiel 34:1-31; and especially Zechariah 11:4-17, and he will have the key which unlocks most of its difficulties. We have, then, the scene passing before their eyes, and the Old Testament thoughts of the shepherd connected as they were, on the one hand with Jehovah and the Messiah, and on the other with the careless shepherds of Israel, dwelling in their minds; and we have in the events which have just taken place, that which furnishes the starting point and gives to what follows its fulness of meaning. The Pharisees claimed to be shepherds of Israel. They decreed who should be admitted to and cast out from the fold. They professed to be interpreters of God’s truth, and with it to feed His flock. Pharisees, shepherds! What did they, with their curses and excommunications, know of the tenderness of the Shepherd, “who shall gather the lambs with His arm,” etc.? Pharisees, feed the flock of God! What had they, with their pride and self-righteousness, ever known of the infinite love and mercy of God; or what had their hearts ever felt of the wants and woes of the masses of mankind? This blind beggar was an example of their treatment of the weaker ones of the flock. The true Shepherd had sought and found this lost sheep, who is now standing near, in His presence and that of the false shepherds. He teaches who the shepherd is and what the flock of God really are. (Archdeacon Watkins.)
The pastoral similitudes
I. FOUR ARE ON THE SIDE OF GOOD and in all these may be various manifestations of Christ.
1. The door, as affording the sole admission to the Father.
2. The porter as bearing the keys of David, the keys of death and of hell.
3. The shepherd as the guide and guardian of the sheep.
4. And Himself the sheep also, as being made one with them, in order that He might be a sacrifice for them.
II. FOUR ARE ON THE SIDE OF EVIL.
1. The thieves.
2. The robbers; both such as enter not by the door, but prey upon the flock, whether Pharisees, infidels, or heretics.
3. The mercenary, who, though he may enter by the door, is of those who “seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.”
4. The wolf, which is the enemy of the sheep, under whatsoever form he may assume. (I. Williams, B. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "John 9". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Easter