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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
John 20

 

 

Verse 8-9

DISCOURSE: 1730

THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST

John 20:8-9. Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the Scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.

ON this day was fulfilled that prophecy, which is so often quoted in the New Testament, “The stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner.” Yes, “this is the day which the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it [Note: Psalms 118:22-24.].” It is true, the arrival of it in the first instance afforded no satisfaction either to the friends or enemies of our Lord. The earthquake that attended his resurrection filled the soldiers with consternation and dismay; insomuch that, when they saw “the angel who rolled away the stone from his sepulchre, they shook, and became as dead men:” and all the heads of the Jewish nation, when they saw how ineffectual their precautions had been, were mad with disappointment. The Disciples too were overwhelmed with grief: they had been taught to expect the resurrection of their Lord; yet they seemed to have really less expectation of it than his very enemies; so wholly were they absorbed in grief, and given up to despondency. At last, however, their sorrow was turned into joy; and they were constrained to believe, when they found it no longer possible to doubt.

We will endeavour to shew,

I. The reason of their unbelief—

Our text informs us, that “they knew not the Scripture”—

[Our Lord had often told them, that “he must be killed, and on the third day rise again.” He had spoken of it figuratively [Note: John 2:19; John 2:21.]; he had declared it plainly [Note: Matthew 20:19.]; he had laid the whole stress of his religion upon it [Note: Matthew 12:39-40.]: and his very enemies considered that on this point depended either the proof of his Messiahship, or a decisive evidence of his imposture [Note: Matthew 27:63-64.]. But his Disciples never understood him [Note: Mark 9:9-10; Mark 9:31-32.]: one of them had even presumed “to rebuke him,” as though to talk of his death and resurrection was the result of needless fear or gloomy superstition [Note: Matthew 16:21-22.]. Thus, for want of considering what the Holy Scriptures, and their Lord, had spoken on this subject, they could not conceive that such an event as his resurrection should ever take place.]

To the same source must be traced the unbelief that generally prevails—

[The Scriptures speak plainly respecting our undone state by nature, and our recovery through Christ alone — — — But when we declare these things to men, they are ready to reply, “Doth he not speak parables [Note: Ezekiel 20:49.]?” — — — “They know not the Scripture;” they do not understand it; they do not regard it; they form their own opinions without any reference to it; and therefore they neither will, nor can, receive its decisions — — —]

But as their unbelief was at last vanquished, we proceed to inquire into,

II. The means by which it was overcome—

The Apostles diligently investigated the subject proposed to them—

[They were informed by Mary Magdalen, that the body of our Lord was removed from the sepulchre. Without loss of time they set out, as expeditiously as possible, to investigate the point. John being the younger man, and not, like Peter, oppressed with a load of guilt, arrived first at the place, and looked into the sepulchre: but Peter, being the more intrepid character, as soon as he arrived, went directly, and without hesitation, into the sepulchre, and saw the careful manner in which the linen and the napkin were folded up and laid in separate places, evidently showing that the body had not been taken away, nor had escaped but with the utmost calmness and composure. John, emboldened by his example, used the same means of ascertaining the fact; and, on discovering it, “believed” that Christ was indeed risen; whilst Peter, though “wondering at the things that had come to pass,” still retained some doubts respecting them. Still, however, the measure of conviction which was wrought in both their minds, was produced by the same means: but it was strongest on him, whose mind was most under the influence of love.]

In a similar way must all unbelief be vanquished—

[We must search and examine for ourselves: we must also vie with each other, as it were, in the pursuit of truth, animating and encouraging one another both by testimony and example — — — To such diligent and candid exertions is the faith of the Ber ζans ascribed [Note: Acts 17:11-12.]: and wherever they are used, with prayer to God for the illumination of his Spirit, they will sooner or later assuredly succeed — — —]

From the circumstance of their not yielding an easy assent to what was told them, we shall be led to notice,

III. The grounds which are hereby afforded for our faith—

The Apostles were very slow to believe the fact of Christ’s resurrection—

[They would not believe the woman that had seen a vision [Note: Luke 24:4-11.]: nor even when Mary had had a personal interview with him, would they believe [Note: Mark 16:9-11.]; nor even when two of their own body had conversed with him [Note: Mark 16:12-13.]. They would scarcely believe the evidence of their own senses [Note: Luke 24:36-41.]. Nor, when all the others had been overpowered with the weight of evidence, would Thomas yield assent, till, by feeling the very wounds which had been made in the hands and side of Christ, he had a testimony which he could no longer doubt [Note: John 20:24-27.].]

But all this tends exceedingly to confirm our faith—

[Had the Disciples yielded an easy assent, their report had been the less worthy of credit: but when they were so incredulous, as to bring on themselves a severe rebuke from Christ for “their unbelief and hardness of heart [Note: Mark 16:14.],” their testimony may be relied upon; because they asserted nothing which they had not ascertained to be true by evidence the most solid and incontrovertible. In this view their word may be implicitly received: but when, in addition to all this, their testimony was confirmed by the visible descent of the Holy Ghost, and by miracles without number, and, lastly, by their willingness at all times to seal it with their blood, there can be no room to entertain a doubt respecting it; nor can any testimony whatever be worthy of the smallest credit, if theirs be not considered as beyond the reach of doubt.]

Assuming then the doctrine of Christ’s resurrection as proved, let us contemplate,

1. The benefits dependent on it—

[Every part of our salvation depends on this, even more than on his death itself [Note: Romans 8:34. “rather;” and Romans 4:25; Romans 5:10.] — — — O learn to see this, as the Apostles, when fully instructed, saw it! and rejoice in seeing every thing secured to you both for time and eternity [Note: Colossians 3:3-4.] — — —]

2. The duties arising from it—

[Your great duty is, to be conformed to his resurrection; dying to sin, as he died for it, and living to God, even as he does — — — All the affections of your soul must follow him [Note: Colossians 3:1-2.]; and the renovation of your life correspond in all things with the pattern which his resurrection exhibits to your view — — — Remember however to look to him for strength; for “without him you can do nothing,” but “through his strength you can do all things” — — —]


Verses 21-23

DISCOURSE: 1731

INSPIRATION AND AUTHORITY OF THE APOSTLES

John 20:21-23. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so I send you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.

IT is not easy to conceive what disappointment our Lord’s Disciples must have felt, when they found that he was dead upon the cross, and committed to the silent tomb. “They had expected that he was the person who should redeem Israel:” and the wonderful works which he had done, had appeared to justify that expectation [Note: Luke 24:19-21.]: but, behold, his enemies had prevailed against him, and the hopes which they had entertained were altogether frustrated. But our blessed Lord left them not long in this disconsolate condition. He soon gave them evidences that he was risen from the dead. To some he appeared on the morning of his resurrection: and “in the evening of that day” he came to them all, whilst they were assembled, with closed doors, for fear of the Jews; and both spake peace to their troubled minds, and renewed to them the commission which he had given them to preach his Gospel to the world; enduing them, at the same time, with a more abundant measure of qualifications for their ministry than he had hitherto conferred; and assuring them, that all which they either said, or did, on earth, under the influence of his good Spirit, should be confirmed and ratified in heaven.

Interested as we are in the office which was here assigned them, it will be well for us to ascertain, with some precision,

I. The measure of inspiration given them—

The commission which the Apostles now received from Christ resembled that which Christ himself had received from the Father—

[Christ was furnished by the Father for the office that was assigned him. “The Spirit of the Lord God was upon him [Note: Isaiah 61:1.],” yea, and “was given to him without measure [Note: John 3:34.].” “The Spirit of the Lord rested upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord, and made him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord [Note: Isaiah 11:2-3.].” At the time of his baptism, the Holy Spirit was sent down in a visible manner, both to attest his mission, and to qualify him for it [Note: Matthew 3:16-17.]. And this was the way chosen by God for manifesting to the world the commission given to the Apostles, and for imparting to them, at the same time, the qualifications necessary for the discharge of their high office.]

On them the Lord Jesus poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit, to fit and qualify them for their work—

[His “breathing on them” was merely an emblematic sign, to shew them that he was empowered to communicate the Holy Spirit to whomsoever he would. He had before told them, that “he would send unto them the Holy Spirit from the Father [Note: John 15:26; John 16:7.]:” and he now imparted to them that heavenly gift; and assured them, that, within the space of a few days, they should be baptized with the Holy Ghost [Note: Acts 1:5.],” and receive him in that abundant measure which would be necessary for the perfect execution of the various duties to which they would be called.

But there was, doubtless, an infinite disparity between our Lord and his Disciples, both as to the measure of inspiration with which they were endued, and as to the perfection of holiness which they possessed. The knowledge of our blessed Saviour was co-extensive with the knowledge of his heavenly Father [Note: John 5:20; John 10:15; John 16:30.]; and in him was not the smallest possible imperfection [Note: Hebrews 7:26.]: but they were still weak and sinful, and liable to err, except when under the immediate guidance of the Holy Spirit. In acting, we know, in the instance of St. Peter, how fallible they were: and in recording what they had been commissioned to declare, they were left to themselves, to use their own language, and to report what they knew: they were indeed assisted by the Holy Spirit, who “brought all things to their remembrance;” and by the Spirit they were instructed in things which they could not otherwise have known: and by the same Spirit they were kept from error of every kind: so that all which they have spoken must be regarded as the word of God, no less than if their very words had been dictated from above: for though, I say again, they were left to record every thing in their own language, yet, in all that they stated, and in all that they revealed, they were kept from error of every kind and every degree. If, on some occasions, they delivered any thing from their own minds, as matters of opinion, and not as divine authority, they failed not to inform the reader in what light he was to regard that particular sentiment which was so delivered [Note: 1 Corinthians 7:6; 1 Corinthians 7:10; 1 Corinthians 7:25; 1 Corinthians 7:40.]: but in all other matters they claimed the authority of God himself, as sanctioning and confirming all that they uttered in his name [Note: 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:8.].]

This will yet more fully appear, whilst we consider,

II. The authority committed to them—

The words in which this authority was conveyed have been grievously misinterpreted and perverted—

[The ministers of the Church of Rome found on this, and other similar passages of Holy Writ, a claim to the power of forgiving sins. When, indeed, they are accused of this, they will deny it, and will endeavour to explain away their arrogant assertions. But it is a fact, that they teach their people to conceive of them as possessing this power: and their people do entertain this opinion, and do look to them to exercise this power; and do submit to their unscriptural impositions, under this fallacious hope; aye, and do pay them, too, for administering to them this indulgence. This power, say they, was given to St. Peter [Note: Matthew 16:19.]; and therefore the Pope, as the successor of St. Peter, possesses it. This power too, say they, was given to the Church; and therefore they, as constituting the Church, possess it [Note: Matthew 18:18.]. And again: this power was given to all the Apostles; and therefore they, as descendants of the Apostles, possess it [Note: The text.]. But when did Peter ever exercise this power? Did he, when he first preached to the Jews? When, under great agony of mind, they cried, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” did he say, “I, I Peter, forgive you?” No: he assumed no such power to himself; but said, “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins [Note: Acts 2:37-38.].” Did he arrogate to himself any such power, when he opened the kingdom of heaven to the Gentiles? No: when they would have been ready enough to yield him even divine honours, he forbad them [Note: Acts 10:25-26.]; and, instead of saying “I forgive you,” he referred Cornelius and his company to the Lord Jesus Christ, as the only source of hope and peace; saying, “To him give all the prophets witness, that, through his name, whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins [Note: Acts 10:43.].” When our blessed Lord himself forgave sins, the surrounding Jews, conceiving of him as a mere man, accused him of blasphemy. And their accusation was just, if he was not God; for, “who can forgive sins, but God only [Note: Mark 2:7.]?”]

What, then, is the true import of the passage?

[The authority vested in the Apostles was not personal, but official; or rather, I should say, did not exist at all in themselves, but only as declaring the character of those whom God would accept or reject in the day of judgment. So far as this power was exercised in inflicting or removing censures from any members of the Church, it had relation only to this world. So far as it related to the eternal world, it was altogether declarative, and in no respect judicial. It accorded exactly with the authority of the priests under the law, when they were called upon to judge respecting lepers: there were given marks, whereby they were to try every case that came before them: where those marks were found, they pronounced the person leprous: and where they were not found, they absolved him from the charge of leprosy [Note: Leviticus 13:38-46.]. So the Apostles have laid down, with the utmost clearness, the marks whereby a child of God may be discerned, and be distinguished from an hypocritical professor: and according to what they have declared shall every case be decided in the day of judgment: those whom they have pronounced forgiven, shall be forgiven; and those to whom they have assigned a sentence of condemnation, shall assuredly be condemned. This was the power which they exercised: and this power still resides in those who, as God’s ambassadors, are authorised by him to declare his will to men. So far as they judge according to the written word, the sins of men, as remitted or retained by them, shall be remitted or retained in heaven.]

That we may bring this subject home for more general use, I would call you to notice from it,

1. What aid is reserved for you in the discharge of your duties—

[You need, in your respective callings, the influence of the Holy Spirit, as much as ever the Apostles did. And to you shall it be given, as freely as ever it was conferred on them — — — The Lord Jesus Christ has “the residue of the Spirit” still abiding in him [Note: Malachi 2:15.]: and if you pray, “Lord Jesus, breathe on me!” he will in no wise refuse your request [Note: Luke 11:13.].]

2. How to judge of your state before God—

[Men will pretend to declare, with great confidence, that such and such characters, which they account good, have nothing to fear. You yourselves, too, may have formed a strong opinion on such points. But I warn you, that whatever you or the world may think, God’s judgment shall stand; and his final sentence shall be in exact accordance with his written word. Your one inquiry therefore must be, “What saith the Scripture?” for assuredly those whom the Scripture acquits, shall be acquitted; and those whom the Scripture condemns, shall be condemned. “To the word, therefore, and to the testimony. Whoever they be that speak not according to this word, there is no light in them.”]


Verse 27-28

DISCOURSE: 1732

THOMAS’S UNBELIEF REPROVED

John 20:27-28. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.

IT is worthy of observation, that the inspired writers shew no solicitude to conceal their own faults, or the faults of each other; but that they relate every thing with artless simplicity, precisely as it occurred. The Disciples were all, without exception, reproved as “fools, and slow of heart to believe what had been written by the prophets” of old. But Thomas in particular gave way to unbelief, and would not credit the resurrection of his Lord, even after all the others were convinced of it. This, however, was overruled by his Divine Master, for the good of the Church in all ages: for, whilst it was an occasion of a particular manifestation of Christ to him, it brought forth from him as glorious a confession of Christ, as any we find in the inspired volume.

From that manifestation, and that confession, we shall be led to shew,

I. The evidence we have of the truth of Christianity—

Of course we cannot enter now into the consideration of the evidences at large: we must confine our attention to the two which are mentioned in the passage before us;

1. The testimony of the Apostles in general—

[They had no expectation that their Lord and Master would rise again: and when they were informed that he was risen, they knew not how to believe it. However, the numerous proofs which they had of it on the very day on which he rose, and particularly his presence with them all on the close of that day, convinced them fully that he was indeed risen, and that the same body which had been crucified was restored to life [Note: Luke 24:39-40.]. From that time they entertained no doubt respecting this fundamental article of their faith. On the contrary, as soon as ever the Holy Ghost had descended on them on the day of Pentecost, they spake of it with great boldness, and urged it as a decisive proof that Jesus was the true Messiah. In this testimony they all concurred; nor could the most cruel menaces or persecutions at all abate their confidence in maintaining it. Having themselves had such abundant opportunities of ascertaining the truth of his resurrection during the forty days that he continued upon earth, they were ready to seal their testimony with their own blood, and did actually lay down their lives in confirmation of it. To this conduct they had no temptation whatever; for they knew that nothing but trials and persecutions, imprisonments and death, would be their portion in this world. With what confidence they themselves relied upon this truth, may be seen from their writings [Note: Acts 1:3; Acts 10:41. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8. 1 John 1:1-3.]: and, if we receive not their testimony, there must be an end of all testimony whatever; since nothing ever was, or can be, so incontrovertibly established, as this fact.]

2. The testimony of Thomas in particular—

[His doubts might seem to justify a suspicion of the veracity, or at least of the judgment, of all the other Apostles: but it rather adds weight to their testimony; since it shews his absolute determination never to acknowledge that fact to have taken place, till it should be proved to him by such evidence as it would be impossible to withstand. Indeed the proof which he required was most unreasonable; for, if our Lord was to submit his wounds to be inspected by all mankind, in order to gain their assent to the truth of his resurrection, he must never go up to heaven at all, but continue on earth to the very end of the world, in order that every person in every successive generation might have the evidence here required. For, if Thomas could not credit the other Apostles who had touched and handled their Lord’s body, why should he expect others to credit him? And why should not every one to the end of time demand for himself the same evidence that he did? But our Lord was pleased to gratify his unreasonable desire; and by thus extorting from him an acknowledgment of his resurrection, he has given to the world such a proof of it as incredulity itself can now no longer withstand.]

Thomas, overcome by this evidence, shews in his acknowledgment,

II. The faith it should produce in us—

It is not an assent to the mere fact of Christ’s resurrection that is required of us, but,

1. An assent to all those truths which the resurrection of Christ was intended to confirm—

[Our Lord referred men to his resurrection as the proof of his Messiahship, and as the evidence that the religion which he established was of God. Accordingly, we must consider every word of Christ as confirmed beyond all doubt, the very moment we acknowledge the truth of his resurrection. The divinity of his person, as “Emmanuel, God with us;” the nature of his death, as “a propitiation for the sins of the whole world;” the certainty of acceptance to all that should believe in him; together with the whole plan of the Gospel salvation; must be regarded as inseparably connected with that event, and infallibly established by it — — —]

2. A cordial approbation of them—

[To suppose that the words of Thomas were a mere exclamation, only shews to what miserable shifts Socinians are reduced, in order to maintain their views of Christianity. For, not to mention that such an horrible profanation of God’s holy name could not be supposed to issue from an Apostle, in the very presence of his Lord, under such peculiar circumstances, we are expressly told that Thomas addressed those words to our Lord himself; and consequently they can be interpreted in no other way than an acknowledgment of Christ as “his Lord and his God.” And here we may observe, that Thomas does not merely acknowledge Christ from the conviction of his mind, in the same way as the worshippers of Baal acknowledged the supremacy of Jehovah, “The Lord, He is the God; the Lord, He is the God [Note: 1 Kings 18:39.];” but with most affectionate endearment claims him as his Lord, and his God. Thus must we do: we must receive him as our God and Saviour, determining to rely on him alone, to confess him before the whole world, to consecrate to him all our powers both of body and soul, and to glory in him as “all our salvation and all our desire.” The language of our hearts must be, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee [Note: Song of Solomon 5:16. Psalms 73:25.].”]

From a more particular view of this narrative, we may learn—

1. The evil of unbelief—

[Infidels pretend that their doubts arise from a want of evidence: but they in reality arise from an indisposition of heart to weigh with candour the evidence before them. This was the fault which Thomas now committed. He did not dispassionately consider the testimony of the other Apostles, but determinately set himself against it; and would admit of no proof, except such as he himself should presume to dictate. And justly might he have been left for ever to perish in his unbelief, because he would not receive a testimony that was decisive of the point. It is precisely thus also with nominal Christians, who, while they admit the truth of Christianity in general, deny every truth that presses on their consciences, and will receive nothing that does not accord with their own preconceived notions. But, as they who came out of Egypt, as the Lord’s people, perished in the wilderness through their unbelief, so will these never enter into the heavenly Canaan, unless they receive, and act upon, the whole “truth as it is in Christ Jesus.” There is quite evidence enough to satisfy the humble inquirer: there is no real ground for doubt, either respecting the way of salvation through a crucified Redeemer, or respecting that holiness of heart and life which he requires: and if men will not “receive the truth in the love of it,” they must expect that “God will give them up to believe a lie,” to the everlasting ruin of their souls [Note: 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12.].]

2. The folly of neglecting ordinances—

[Thomas was not with the other Apostles on the evening when our Lord first appeared to them; if he had, there is reason to suppose that he would have been satisfied of the truth of Christ’s resurrection, as well as they. But, through his absence, he lost that opportunity of beholding his risen Lord; and thus continued in a state of anxious suspense for a whole week, after the rest were “filled with joy and peace in believing.” As we know not the reason of his absence, we do not condemn him for it: but his loss was the same, by whatever it might be occasioned. And have not many of us suffered loss through our absence from the house of God, or the neglect of private ordinances? It is highly probable that the doubts and fears of many are to be traced to this source: they live without the light of God’s countenance, because they are not careful “to walk with God:” they neglect him; and then he hides himself from them [Note: 2 Chronicles 15:2.]. We can scarcely doubt but that all of us might have enjoyed far richer manifestations of the Saviour’s love, if we had been more diligent and watchful in our performance of religious duties. “Let us not then forsake the assembling of ourselves together (as the manner of some is),” or intermit our exertions in our secret chamber: but, if we should even wait without a blessing as long as the cripple waited at Bethesda’s pool, let us at least secure this consolation, that we have not lost it through our own neglect; and expect assuredly, that, if we are “steadfast and immoveable in waiting upon God, our labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.”]

3. The wonderful condescension of the Lord Jesus—

[Notwithstanding the obstinate unbelief of Thomas, our Lord did not cast him off, but even appeared a second time to his Disciples, on purpose to grant him the evidence he desired. What amazing condescension was this! Yet it is precisely such as all of us experience at his hands. “He is not extreme to mark what is done amiss” by any of us: He bears with our infirmities, “not breaking the bruised reed nor quenching the smoking flax, but bringing forth judgment unto truth.” We, alas! are too often unreasonably dictating to him, when we should rather be meekly submitting to his providence and grace: we refuse to rest upon his promises, unless they be applied to us in such a particular way, or we be enabled to find in ourselves some particular warrant for our faith. But we should take his promises simply as they are given; and expect the accomplishment of them, not because we are worthy, but “because He is faithful who has promised.” We do not mean that we are to expect him to save us whilst we are living in sin; for he has not anywhere promised any such thing: but we would have all to “walk by faith, and not by sight;” for it is still as true as ever, that “blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”]


Verse 30-31

DISCOURSE: 1733

THE USE AND INTENT OF OUR LORD’S MIRACLES

John 20:30-31. And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

THOUGH the miracles which are recorded in the Gospel are very numerous, yet are they few in comparison of those which were wrought by our blessed Lord. If all that he performed were distinctly related with all their attendant circumstances, St. John tells us, in the hyperbolical language of the east, that the whole world would scarcely be able to contain the books that would be written [Note: John 21:25.]. Some however are transmitted to posterity as a specimen of the rest, in order that we may be assured of Christ’s divine mission, and be led to believe in him to the salvation of our souls.

The evangelist, stating both the immediate and the ultimate end for which his Gospel was written, declares, that the assuring us of Christ’s divine mission was,

I. The immediate end—

Our blessed Lord declared himself to be “the Christ, the Son of God”—

[It was not in the character of a common prophet that our Lord appeared; he assumed to himself titles to which no human being had aspired, and declared himself to be the Son of God, the incarnate Deity, the Saviour of the world [Note: His enemies themselves accused him of affecting equality with God: and finding, from the very defence that he made, that they were right in their conjecture, they again sought to put him to death as a blasphemer. John 5:18; John 10:33; John 10:37-39.] — — —]

For the conviction of the people of that day he wrought unnumbered miracles—

[Miracles are works contrary to the common course of nature, works which God alone is able to perform. Hence, when wrought in confirmation of any point, they are justly considered as authenticating that which they are intended to support; because they prove a divine concurrence; and we cannot suppose that God should enable any man to work miracles merely to establish falsehood, and to deceive his people.

There have indeed been sorceries and enchantments practised, perhaps also miracles, in support of error [Note: Exodus 7:10-11.]. But, in the case alluded to, God suffered Satan to exercise extraordinary powers in order to harden him who obstinately opposed his will, and to confirm him in the delusions which he had chosen for himself [Note: Isaiah 66:4. Psalms 9:16. Exodus 7:3; Exodus 7:13-14.]. Yet in those instances did he give abundant proof of his own superiority, and leave the confounded monarch without excuse [Note: Aaron’s rod swallowed up all the rods of the sorcerers, Exodus 7:12. The sorcerers were permitted to bring calamities on the land, hut not to remove them, Exodus 7:21-22; Exodus 8:6-7. And they themselves were constrained to acknowledge a divine power working by Moses and Aaron, when they could no longer imitate the miracles wrought by them, Exodus 8:18-19.].

That the miracles which Jesus did, were intended to convince the Jews of his Divine mission, and that they were sufficient for that end, is manifest from the appeal which he himself repeatedly made to them in this very view [Note: John 5:36; John 14:11.]. The completion of prophecy was indeed a decisive proof of his Messiahship to those who could compare the prophecies with the events; but that was a long and arduous process; a work which but few were competent to undertake: whereas the working of miracles afforded a short, compendious, and incontestible evidence to the eyes of all who beheld them.]

For the conviction of future ages these miracles were recorded

[If there had been no written documents of the things that were transacted, we could not have been sure that our information respecting them was correct; seeing that many variations must inevitably happen in traditions handed down through so many succeeding ages. But when the miracles of our Lord were recorded by persons who were eye-witnesses of the same, and these records were speedily circulated amongst myriads who also had been spectators of them; and when in these very writings an appeal was made to the bitterest enemies of our Lord, who would have been glad enough to contradict the assertions of the Evangelists on a supposition that they could have been disproved; these records come down to us with an evidence not at all inferior to ocular demonstration: and if any man reject the testimony which is thus sanctioned both by friends and enemies, he is wilfully blind, and would reject any other evidence that could be given him [Note: Luke 16:31.].]

But though this was the immediate intent of these written memorials, the salvation of our souls was,

II. The ultimate end—

Merely to prove to us that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, would have been a fruitless task, unless our believing of that record would conduce to our benefit. But the Apostle knew, that our whole salvation depends upon it; and therefore, in transmitting an account of our Saviour’s miracles, he sought to bring us to the enjoyment of life;

1. Of spiritual life—

[The unbeliever is “dead in trespasses and sins [Note: Ephesians 2:1.]:” he is as incapable of spiritual exertion, as dry bones, that have been entombed for many years, are of exercising the functions belonging to the body [Note: Ezekiel 37:4.]. Nor is it by working, that he is to obtain life (for he must have life before he can work aright] but by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. By believing, he becomes united to Christ, as a scion that is grafted into a new stock; and he derives life from him, as a branch does from the tree, or as a member from the head [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:17. Ephesians 4:15-16.]. No sooner is that union formed, than he becomes a new creature [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:17.]; “he is passed from death unto life [Note: John 5:24.];” and is “purged from dead works to serve the living God.” For the sake of Christ he is made “a partaker of the Divine nature [Note: 2 Peter 1:4.]:” “Christ himself lives in him,” and “is that very life [Note: Galatians 2:20. Colossians 3:4.],” whereby he is enabled to live to God.]

2. Of eternal life—

[The life begun on earth, is not like the natural life that shall soon expire; it is an incorruptible seed, an immortal principle, which, when watered and invigorated by continued supplies of grace, shall flourish in heaven for evermore. The soul that is quickened by faith in the Lord Jesus, has also its iniquities forgiven. It stands immediately in the nearest relation to the Deity. The believer is a child of God, an heir of God, a joint-heir with Christ [Note: John 1:12.]. A throne is prepared for him in heaven: and, on his dismission from the body, he shall be exalted to an eternal participation of the Divine glory.

Now this is the object which the Evangelists had in view, when they recorded the miracles of our Lord. They endeavoured to convince us, that Jesus was the Christ; yet not merely to extort from us a speculative assent to this truth, but to make us rely on him as our Saviour, that we might experience the true “end of our faith, even the salvation of our souls.” This was an end worthy the inspired writers, an end, which has in myriads of instances already been accomplished, though its success hitherto has been only as the drop before the shower.]

Infer—

1. How should we value the Holy Scriptures!

[All the books that ever were written are of no value when compared with the sacred volume. In the Scriptures, we not only think, but know, that we have eternal life [Note: John 5:39.]. They testify of Christ: they declare him to be our incarnate God, our all-sufficient propitiation, our ever-living advocate, our Almighty friend. He is no longer sojourning with us on earth; but we may see him, hear him, converse with him, and enjoy the most intimate fellowship with him, in his word. In that word we may find abundance to confirm our faith, to enliven our hope, to direct our feet, to answer every purpose which our hearts can wish. Let us then “search the Scriptures:” let our meditation be upon them: let them be “sweeter to us than honey and the honey-comb:” let them be “esteemed by us more than our necessary food.”]

2. How careful should we be to exercise faith on Christ!

[All our knowledge even of the Scriptures themselves will be of little use to us, unless we be possessed of a living faith: they will indeed “make us wise unto salvation;” but then it is “through faith in Christ Jesus [Note: 2 Timothy 3:15.].” More can not be said, and less must not, respecting the excellency of faith, than what is spoken in the words of our text. Every thing relating to spiritual or eternal life must be received by faith, and maintained by faith. In heaven this principle will be superseded; but till we arrive at those happy mansions, we must “walk by faith,” and “live altogether by faith on the Son of God, who loved us, and gave himself for us.”

Let us then read the Scriptures, in order to increase and confirm our faith: let even the strongest believer improve them to this end [Note: 1 John 5:13.]; and in due time he shall be where faith is lost in sight, and hope in enjoyment.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on John 20:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/john-20.html. 1832.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, September 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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