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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
John 8

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. VIII.

Christ delivereth the woman taken in adultery: he preacheth himself the light of the world, and justifieth his doctrine; answereth the Jews, who boasted of Abraham, and conveyeth himself from their cruelty.

Anno Domini 32.


Verse 5

John 8:5. Now Moses in the law commanded The law, Leviticus 20:10. Deuteronomy 22:22 required in the general, that adultery should be punished with death, but did not determine the kind of it: only because it is ordered, Deuteronomy 22:23-24 that the betrothed damsel guilty of adultery should be stoned, it is supposed that in process of time this kind of death was appropriated to such offenders; and that the punishment of the married adulteress, Leviticus 20:10 was interpreted to mean strangling: agreeably to these suppositions, it has been conjectured, that the woman now before Jesus was only betrothed; but the distinction has no foundation; for it is evident from Ezekiel 16 that the proper punishment of all kinds of adultery was stoning, John 8:38. I will judge thee as women that break wedlock are judged; and John 8:40. They shall stone thee with stones. Besides this, we find Philo, and the ancient Christian fathers, using the phrases, "those that were stoned," and "those that were punished for adultery," as synonymous terms.


Verse 6

John 8:6. This they said, tempting him, &c.— The reason upon which they grounded their insidious intention was, that had he declared against stoning the adulterers, they certainly would have represented him to the people, as contradicting Moses, and favouringadultery; hoping by that means to have lessened his authority with them. On the other hand, had he ordered her to be stoned, it would have afforded a plausible pretence for accusing him to the governor, as a person who stirred up the people to rebellion; the Romans, who had now taken the determination of life and death into their own hands, having new-modelled the laws of Judea according to their own jurisprudence; and, in particular, not exercising such severity of punishment upon the women who were guilty of adultery. We may observe further, that the Jewish sanhedrim sat by licence from the Roman governor; and though they had a right to try capital causes, it was necessary that the sentence which they passed should be recognized and allowed by the Roman governor, before it could be carried into execution. See Ch. John 19:10 and Matthew 27:2. For Christ, therefore, to have undertaken the decision of this case, would have rendered him immediately obnoxious to the Romans, as well as to the sanhedrim; and, had he condemned her, a new occasion of offence must have arisen to Pilate in consequence of that, if execution had been ordered without application to him; and to the Jews, if Christ had directed such an application to be made; so that the snare here was much the same with that afterwards laid for him, in the question about the lawfulness of paying the tribute, Matthew 22:17; Matthew 22:46. Jesus fully knew their craft and wickedness, and regulated his conduct toward these depraved hypocrites accordingly; for he made them no answer. He also now, as on other occasions, declined assuming the character and office of a civil magistrate. Besides, the persons who demanded his opinion, were by no means the judges to whom the execution of the law was committed; but Pharisees who at bottom were gross hypocrites, notwithstanding they expressed the greatest concern for the honour of the divine law. But whatever was the reason, Jesus did not encourage this prosecution, but stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground as though he heard, or regarded, them not. There was most probably a language in the action itself, either to intimate that thesehypocritical Pharisees should be themselves, as the prophet expresses it, Jeremiah 17:13 written in the earth, or that they were to attend to what is written. But we do not pretend to determine any thing on this point; saying only with a great critic on these words, Nescire velle quae magister optimus nescire nos vult, erudite inscitia est: "To be willing to continue ignorant of what our great Master has thought fit to conceal, is no inconsiderable part of Christian learning."


Verse 7

John 8:7. He that is without sin among you, &c.— Alluding to the law, Deuteronomy 17:7 which ordered that the hands of the witnesses, by whose testimony an idolater was convicted, should be first upon him, and afterwards the hands of all the people. We learn from the Mischna, that the first stone, which was usually large and fatal, was always thrown by the witness who had been instrumental to the conviction of a person. Itis evident that the accusers shewed great partiality, from their apprehending the woman only, and not the man also, when the law condemned both; and they must have favoured his escape, as it is said they were both taken in the fact. It is plain, however, that our Lord's certain knowledge of what the effect would be, at once vindicated the wisdom of his putting the matter upon this issue, and freed him from the snare which was laid for him.


Verse 9

John 8:9. And they which heard it, &c.— "And as all their consciences were struck with horror by a secret power which set these words home upon them, and they thereupon could not but accuse themselves of one heinous crime or another, they were ashamed to plead innocence, or to proceed in a demand of justice against her; and were afraid, lest, if Jesus spoke again, he would say to them some severer thing: and therefore, instead of applying to him, as they ought, for cleansing from their own sins, they silently slipped away from him one after another; the eldest, who might be conscious of most guilt, going out first, and the younger following them, till they were all gone, and there was no one left with him, except the woman, and the people who, with his disciples, were there before attending on his ministry."


Verse 10-11

John 8:10-11. Hath no man condemned thee? Hath no man punished thee, in casting the first stone at thee? For the critics observe, that the words κρινω and κατακρινω are frequently used in the sense of chastising and punishing. "Neither do I condemn thee: I do not order that thou shouldst be now punished; go, and sin no more. Though I do not order thee to be punished at this time, thou must not think that I approve of thy conduct. Thou hast committed a great sin; and therefore I warn thee, that thou beware of committing it any more; for such enormous practices must subject thee to a severer judgment than any human laws can inflict." It does not appear to me that this woman was a penitent, or that Christ forgave her sin; but only that he dismissed her, as not thinking it proper to take upon himself the office of the civil magistrate in condemning her.


Verse 12

John 8:12. I am the light of the world: In the transaction above related, Jesus appears unspeakably great, having displayed on the occasion a degree of wisdom, knowledge,goodness,andpower,evidentlymorethanhuman—wisdom,indefending himself against the malicious attacks of his enemies; knowledge, in discovering the invisible state of their mind; power, in making use of their own secret thoughts and convictions to disappoint their crafty intentions; and goodness, in pitying and not punishing instantly one who had been guilty of an atrocious act of wickedness; wherefore it was with singular propriety that, after this remarkable decision, addressinghimself to his disciples and the multitude, he called himself the Light of the world; in allusion either to Malachi 4:2 or the bright shining of the sun lately risen, and now darting his beams with great lustre and beauty upon them. "I am the Light of the world; I am the spiritual Sun, that dispels the darkness of ignorance and superstition, with which the minds of men are overcast: for by my doctrine and example I shew clearly every where the will of God, and the way of salvation. But observe, this sun arises in a few hours to descend again, and may fail many of you before your intended journey is dispatched: whereas he that perseveringly follows me, and governs himself by the dictates of my word and spirit, shall not be left to walk in the darkness of ignorance, error, and sin, but shall have the light of life continually shining upon him, to diffuse over his soul knowledge, holiness, and joy, tillhe is guided by it to eternal happiness." The reader will just recollect, to enter the better into the proprietyand spirit of our Lord's words, that this was the morning after the conclusion of the feast of tabernacles. See John 8:2.; and this discourse probably might have been delivered before the morning sacrifice; after which, no doubt, many would be setting out for their habitations in the country. Compare Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6. Malachi 4:2. Luke 2:32 and the passages in the margin.


Verse 14-15

John 8:14-15. Though I bear record of myself, "Though I call myself the Light of the world, ye are not to imagine that I do it from a spirit of pride and falsehood. I give myself the title for no other reason but because it truly belongs to me: and that it does so, you yourselves would acknowledge, if you knew as well as I do by what authority I act, for what end I am come, and to whom I must return after I have executed my divine commission. But of these things you are entirely ignorant; nor can be otherwise, in regard that you judge after the flesh. You judge of me according to outward appearances, and condemn me for this, among other things, that I judge no man. You think that I cannot be the Messiah, because I do not destroy those who oppose me, as you imagine the Messiah will do; but in this you are altogether mistaken; for the design of the Messiah's coming is not to destroy, but to save mankind." See Ch. John 3:17. It is to be observed, that the same carnal prejudices still prevail in the minds of the Jews, and prevent their reception of Christ; they layingit down as a first principle, that he is to be a great temporal prince and deliverer; and the admissionof false principles, which are constantly taken for granted, and never examined, will, it is to be feared, be attended with fatal consequences to myriads more.


Verses 16-18

John 8:16-18. And yet if I judge, At the same time our Lord told them, that if he should condemn any person for unbelief, such condemnation would be just, because his divine mission was true; being confirmed, not by his own testimony only, but by the Father's also; and because every sentence of that kind which he should pass, would be pronounced by the authority, and agreeably to the will of his Father. "Yet if I judge, my judgment is true, that is, just and equitable; for I am not alone; nor do I expect that you should believe me solely on my own testimony, but me, and the Father that sent me concurring in the same testimony." This led him to speak of the testimony which the Father bare to his divine mission. It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true; "you could not justly complain, if I should punish you for your unbelief in such a case as this, since your own law directs you to believe every matter confirmed by the concurrent testimony of two witnesses, as my divine mission evidently is; for I am one that bear witness of myself, John 8:18 not by words only, but by all the actions of my life, which are perfectly agreeable to the character of the Messiah; and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me; that is, by the voice of his prophets, and by a voice from heaven; as well as by other means."


Verse 19

John 8:19. If ye had known me, &c.— "If you had any just notions of me, you would know who it is that I call my Father; that is to say, if you knew me to be the Messiah, you would know that my Father is God."


Verse 20

John 8:20. These words spake Jesus in the treasury, The treasury was that part of the women's court, where the chests were placed for receiving the offerings of those who came to worship, (see Mark 12:41.) and consequently was a place of great concourse, being resorted unto even by the priests and rulers. Wherefore, the evangelist's remark, that the preceding conversation happened in the treasury, gives us a great idea of our Lord's intrepidity: though he was in the midst of his enemies, he spake boldly, not fearing them in the least. It seems, his divine providence so over-ruled the spirits of these wicked men, that none of them attempted to seize him, because the time of his sufferings was not yet come.


Verse 21

John 8:21. I go my way, and ye shall seek me, &c.— Our Lord had said this to them in a former discourse, Ch. John 7:34 and repeated it now, that it might make the deeper impression upon them: his meaning here seems to be, that "after his ascension into heaven, when the Roman armieswere spreading desolation and death in every corner of the land, they would earnestly desire the coming of the Messiah, in expectation of deliverance; but should die for their sins, and under the guilt of them, without any Saviour whatsoever, and be excluded for ever from heaven." Perhaps in this our Lord opposed a common error of the Jews, who imagined that by death they made atonement for all their sins. Instead of in your sins, some render the original εν τη αμαρτια, in your sin, that is, of unbelief, see Ezekiel 3:19.


Verse 22-23

John 8:22-23. Will he kill himself, &c.— Our Lord's answer to this question is, Ye are from beneath: "Such a vile insinuation evidently shews what sort of persons you are, and whence you have derived your original: being from the earth, you are the slaves of earth and heirs of hell, obnoxious to all the evil passions wherewith human nature is infested; and from what you feel in yourselves, you fancy that I am capable of murdering myself; but your thought is foolish, as is evident from hence, that, being actuated by no evil passion, I cannot have the least temptation to commit so gross an act of wickedness. My extraction is heavenly, and my mind pure; and therefore I cannot be guilty of self-murder, or of any other sin."


Verse 24

John 8:24. If ye believe not that I am he, &c.— That is, "The person whom I have represented myself to be." There is evidently in the original an ellipsis here to be supplied by comparing the passage with John 8:12. See Ch. John 13:19. Mark 13:6. Acts 13:25. "If ye do not believe that I am the bread of life, the heavenly manna, the light of theworld, the Messiah, you shall die in your sins." The repetition of the threatening here from John 8:21 is an awful rebuke to the folly of their answer, John 8:22 as if our Lord had said, "It very ill becomes you to trifle and amuse yourselves with such silly and spiteful turns, when your life, even the life of your souls, is at stake; and to talk of mykilling myself, when by your unbelief and impenitence you are plunging yourselves into death eternal." Thus do those passages in our Lord's discourses, which to a careless reader might seem flat tautologies, appear, on an attentive review, to be animated with a most penetrating spirit, and full of adivine dignity; a remark which will frequentlyoccur, especially in reading those important discourses of Christ, which St. John, through the infinite goodness of God to his church, has recorded after they had been omitted by the other evangelists.


Verse 25-26

John 8:25-26. Even the same that I said unto you, &c.— On supposition that this is the proper translation of the passage, our Lord's meaning was, "I am that which I said to you at the beginning of this discourse, namely, the Light of the world." But Raphelius, who is followed by Doddridge and many others, proposes to point the sentence in such a manner, as to give the following translation: Truly because I am speaking to you, I have many things to say and judge concerning you. It is well known, that the term την αρχην in the Greek frequently signifies indeed, or truly. According to this translation, the meaning is, "Because I have long exercised my ministry among you, and you have not profited by it as you ought, I have many reproofs to give you, and a severe sentence of condemnation to pass upon you. Nevertheless, I shall wave them all at present, and tell you only one thing, that you may think upon it seriously, namely, that he who sent me is Truth and goodness itself; and that I speak to the world nothing but what I have received from him, however dark or disagreeable these things may be to persons of your dispositions."


Verse 28-29

John 8:28-29. When ye have lifted up the Son of man, "When you have crucified me, you shall know both who I am, and who my Father is. The miracles accompanying my death, my resurrection from the dead, the effusion of the Spirit on my disciples, and the destruction of your nation, shall demonstrate that I am the Light of the world, the Messiah; and that I do nothing merely by my own authority, but by my Father's direction, speaking such doctrines only as he has commissioned me to teach. Besides, my Father is always with me; John 8:29 for though I shall be crucified as a malefactor, that disaster will not come upon me because he has deserted me. In no period of my ministry, not even at my death, will my Father leave me; for I always act agreeably to his will."


Verse 30

John 8:30. As he spake these words, many believed on him. It seems probable, that by the phrase of lifting up, the Jews did not understand our Lord's crucifixion, but his exaltation to the throne and kingdom of David. Hearing him, therefore, speak of a temporal kingdom, as they supposed, they began now to think that he entertained sentiments worthy of the Messiah; and on that account acknowledged him as such, believing the doctrine that he had delivered concerning his divine mission. Or, if this supposition be not admitted, and it be thought that they understood him in the proper sense, we may reasonably believe, that through grace they felt their hearts impressed with what they heard from him in the whole preceding discourse, as well as by observing his temper and conduct; seeing him bear the perverseness of his enemies with so much patience; hearing him speak of an ignominious and painful death with such holy composure, and expressing so genuine and lively a sense of his Father's approbation, and so sweet a complacency in it.


Verse 31-32

John 8:31-32. If ye continue in my word, &c.— "If you persevere in the belief and practice of my word, you are really my disciples, and have a just title to that honourable appellation. Moreover, you shall be fully instructed in every doctrine of the gospel, called here and elsewhere, by way of eminence, Truth; see Ch. John 1:17 and so being related to me as my disciples, and experimentally understanding my gospel, you shall be made free, not only from the slavery of sin, and all its consequences, but from the ceremonial observances enjoined by Moses; nay, you shall be fixed in that state of glorious liberty, that constant access to God, and that free and continual enjoyment of his favour and love, which is the privilege of my disciples alone


Verse 33

John 8:33. We be Abraham's seed, &c.— "Then some of those who had professed to believe in him taking it as a high affront, that he should speak as if he thought them to be slaves, said to him in a vaunting manner, We are the descendants of the celebrated patriarch Abraham, who, being a sovereign prince, and a man in covenant with God, entailed all civil and religious freedom upon us, as our birthright; and we never lost it bybeing enslaved to any foreign power, (which was a most gross falsity,) or governed by any laws but our own. What therefore can you mean by pretending to make us free, who are in right and fact so free already?"


Verse 34

John 8:34. Whosoever committeth sin, &c.— Ποιει αμαρτιαν, doeth, or practiseth sin: to do, in the Hebrew dialect, imports not the present act only, but the habit of doing. Hence some render this, Whosoever practises sin, is the servant, Δουλος, the slave of sin.—There are no greater slaves than those who give themselves up to a vicious kind of life, and to the gratification of their sinful appetites. See Romans 6:16. 2 Peter 2:19.


Verse 35

John 8:35. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: "As a slave cannot be so assured of his master's favour, as to depend upon it that he shall never be turned out of the family, since he is always his master's property, and in his power, to sell or keep him as he shall think fit; so my Father can, when he pleases, turn you, who are habitual sinners, out of his family, and deprive you of the outward economy of religion in which you glory; because through sin you have made yourselves bondmen to his justice; whereas, if you will become God's faithful persevering children, you shall remain in his family for ever."


Verse 36

John 8:36. If the Son therefore shall make you free, "The only way to arrive at the relationship above mentioned,—to become children of God, is to believe in and submit to the authority of his Son; in which case the Son will adopt you as co-heirs with himself. If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed; free from the slavery of sin, free to do good; free in respect of your right to the inheritance, and free in your possession of present privileges and present blessing."


Verse 37

John 8:37. I know that ye are Abraham's seed; "I know that ye are the seed of Abraham by natural descent, as Ishmael also was; but morally ye are the offspring of the devil; and in every respect unlike Abraham in your temper and disposition; as is plain from hence, that many of you are endeavouring to kill me, because I enjoin a sanctity of soul which you are not willing to acquire." The original, which we render, hath no place in you, signifies, profits you not,—hath no weight or influence upon you. Heylin renders it, has not admittance. Our Lord spoke this, not to those who believed on him, but to some others of the company; and the phrase, they answered him, John 8:33 must only signify, that some of those who were present made such a reply.


Verse 40

John 8:40. Now ye seek to kill me, &c.— "If ye were the spiritual progeny of Abraham, ye would resemble that great and good man in his righteousness; and therefore instead of seeking to take away the life of any one who is come to you from God with a revelation of his will, much less that of the true Messiah, you would believe on him in imitation of Abraham; who for his faith in all the divine revelations, and his obedience to all the divine commands, however hard they were to flesh and blood, was ennobled with those most illustrious of all titles, the father of the faithful, and the friend of God."


Verse 41

John 8:41. We be not born of fornication, &c.— The Jews, it seems, perceived at length that Jesus talked not so much of natural, as of spiritual bondage; and replied, "In that respect undoubtedly we are the children of God, as we are not born of fornication;" alluding to the marriage covenant, which in scripture is represented to have subsisted between God and the Jewish nation; and by which their obligation to reverence, love, and obey him, was held forth to them in a lively manner, "We are neither idolaters ourselves, nor are we sprung of idolatrous ancestors; and therefore, in respect of spiritual descent, we are, without dispute, the children of God." Accordingly, God himself calls all the Jewish males his sons, because he was the husband of their parents. See Ezekiel 23:37. Jeremiah 3:4. Hosea 2:4.


Verse 42

John 8:42. I proceeded forth and came from God; "I originally proceeded from God the Father as his only-begotten Son, partaker of the same nature with him, and am come into the world immediately from him: I did not come merely of myself, like a false prophet, but by commission from him, who sent me, as the Messiah, to make known the way of salvation, and to do his will upon earth." We must observe the difference between what Christ here says of himself, and what is ever said of any other: believers are said to be of God, John 8:47 and 1 John 4:4 and to be born and begotten of God, 1 John 5:1 and the prophets were said to be sent of God, as John the Baptist also was, John 1:6. But it is peculiar to Christ, that he proceeded forth, and came from God, which intimates his divine original, as well as mission; that he is of the Father as a Son of his own essence, proceeding from him; as well as that he came from the Father, as a divine messenger: for the form of expression, εγω εκ του Θεου εξηλθον, here rendered I proceeded forth from God, is often used by the LXX to signify a proper birth, when applied to man; as in Genesis 15:4 it is said, he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels, shall be thine heir: also Genesis 35:11. Kings shall come out of thy loins. And it is said of Christ with respect to his human birth, Isaiah 11:1 there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesus. The phraseology is the same in all these places, with that which is here rendered proceeding forth.


Verse 43

John 8:43. Why do ye not understand my speech, &c.?— The latter clause of this verse may likewise be translated and pointed interrogatively; Why do ye not understand my speech, λαλιαν,— the spiritual stile that I make use of? Is it because you cannot hear my word? cannot give obedience thereto, it being contrary to your lusts? Or, can you pretend to say,that I decline giving you the most public and frequent instructions, or that those instructions are unintelligible and obscure? Your consciences in general know the contrary.


Verse 44

John 8:44. Ye are of your father the devil, "You inherit the nature of your father, the devil; and therefore you are determined to gratify the lusts which you have derived from him. He was the enemy and murderer of mankind, and ever since has endeavoured to work their ruin; sometimes by seducing them into sin by his lies, and sometimes by instigating them to murder those whom God sends to reclaim them. Withal, having wholly departed from holiness and truth, the habit of lying is become perfectly natural to him: wherefore, being a liar, and the father of it, that is, the first and greatest liar, when he speaketh a lie, he speaketh what is proper to himself." The words θελετε ποιειν, rendered ye will do, imply a resolute and obstinate persisting in any habit or action, Ch. John 1:43. The account which Josephus, their own historian, gives of the wickedness of the Jews about this time, comes up fully to the assertion of our Lord in this verse. See his Jewish War, B. 5: Ch. 10, &c.


Verse 45

John 8:45. And because I tell you the truth, "True children of your Father, John 8:44 you disbelieve me, because, instead of soothing you in your sins, and flattering you with lies, I tell you the truth; to which, like your father, you are utterly averse.


Verse 46-47

John 8:46-47. Which of you convinceth me of sin? Can convict me of sin? Heylin. The only reason for refusing assent to a person is, either because he is not deserving of credit, or because what he asserts is improbable. Our Lord shews that they could not object to him for either of these reasons, particularly the first; they could not convince him of sin; they could not shew that his conduct and life were reproachable; they could notprove that his doctrine was false; they could not say, that he reproved them unjustly for their actions; and as therefore they could not but acknowledge that his doctrine and life were such as became a divine messenger from God, he might well ask them what was the reason why they did not believe on him?—a question, indeed, to which he gives a full reply in John 8:47. See also John 8:41.


Verse 48-49

John 8:48-49. Thou art a Samaritan, &c.— The Jews and Samaritans bore a mortal hatred to each other on account of religion, as we have frequently observed: hence it came to pass, that in common language, Couthi, or Samaritan, was used to signify not merely a Samaritan, but a bad man by principle and disposition; and so denoted frequentlyan inveterate enemy to the Jewish nation and religion, and a man of wicked morals. Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil. As it was highly provoking to the Israelites to be told that they were not the children of God, and as Jesus had often in the course of this conversation divested them of that glory, nay, had expressly called them the children of the devil, it is no wonder, considering the passions of evil men, that they now fell into a downright rage, and reviled him with the most opprobrious language. Disregarding the reproach which they passed upon him in calling him a Samaritan, our Lord meekly answers, John 8:49 to the latter part of their charge, that he was neither a lunatic, nor actuated by a devil: that he honoured his Father, by delivering what he revealed, and by bearing a steady and consistent testimony to the truth. Whereas they robbed him of that honour which belonged to him, by casting such opprobrious reflections upon him, and rejecting his doctrine. See Ch. 7:


Verse 51

John 8:51. If a man keep my saying, Our Lord, having before observed that there is one who seeketh his glory, goes on to declare, that God the Father will not only finally glorify him as the Son ofman, but will confer the highest honours and rewards on all his faithful persevering servants. Verily, verily, I say unto you, if any one KEEP my word, he shall never see death, or shall not fall under eternal damnation. Christ is elsewhere said to have abolished death, having destroyed the works of the devil, and raised up the believer with himself, and made him fit with him in heavenly places. Death, being thus overcome by the Captain of ourfaith, cannot long retain his faithful persevering disciples: as for the second death, it can have no power over them. See 2 Timothy 1:10. Hebrews 2:14. Ephesians 2:6.


Verse 52-53

John 8:52-53. Now we know that thou hast a devil. "We know now for certain that thou art under diabolic influences; for the most righteous persons that ever lived, are dead; even Abraham and the prophets: yet thou hast hardiness enough to say, If a man keep my saying, he shall never die." There is a great emphasis on the word my in this place; the Jews using it to insinuate both the folly and the fault of Christ's boasting, as intimating that his word was more efficacious than that of God himself, which Abraham and the prophets heard, and yet were not able to procure an immunity from death for themselves, far less for their followers. Many of the best copies read the last clause of the 52nd verse interrogatively: "Dost thou, who art not to be compared with Abraham and the prophets, say, If a man keep my saying, &c.?"


Verse 55

John 8:55. Yet ye have not known him, &c.— Though you profess to worship my Father as your God, you are ignorant of him: you neither form right conceptions of him, nor acknowledge him in the manner you ought to do; so that you give a lie to your profession: and though you may think it vain glory, yet I must tell you, that if I should say, I do notthink justly of him, nor acknowledge him as he deserves, I should be a liar like unto you; for I am acquainted with his most intimate counsels, and in every thing most perfectly know and do his will.


Verse 56

John 8:56. Your Father Abraham rejoiced, &c.— When the figurative word day is used not to express the period of any one's existence, but to denote his peculiar office and employment, it must needs signify that very circumstance in his life which is the characteristic of such office or employment: but Jesus is here speaking of his peculiar office and employment, as appears from the occasion of the debate, which was his saying, if any man keep my commandments, he shall never taste of death; intimating thereby the virtue of his office as Redeemer. Therefore, by the word day, must needs be meant that characteristic circumstance of his life; but that circumstance was the laying it down for the redemption of mankind; consequently, by the word day, is meant the great sacrifice of Christ. But not only the matter, but the manner likewise of this great revelation, is delivered in the text; Abraham rejoiced to SEE my day: this evidently shews it to have been made not merely by revelation in words, but by representation in action. The Greek word rendered to see, is frequently used in the New Testament in its proper signification, for to see sensibly; but whether used literallyor figuratively, it always denotes a full intention. That the expression was as strong in the Syriac language, as in the Greek of this inspired historian, appears from the reply which the Jews made to our Lord; Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou SEEN Abraham? which plainly intimated, that theyunderstood the assertion of Abraham's seeing Christ's day, to mean a real beholding him in person. We may therefore conclude from the words of the text, that the redemption of mankind was not only revealed to Abraham, but revealed likewise by representation: and we have shewn in the notes on Genesis 22 that the command to offer up Isaac was the very revelation of Christ's day, or of the redemption of mankind by his death and sufferings. St. Chrysostom, in his comment on this place, says, "Christ, by the word day, seems to signify that of his crucifixion, which was typified in the offering up of Isaac and the ram." Erasmus says likewise, "Jesus meant, by these dark passages, that Abraham, when he was preparing to offer up his son Isaac, saw our Lord's being delivered up to the death of the cross for the redemption of mankind." We are sure that Abraham had in fact this desire highly raised in him: the verb ηγαλλιαστατο signifies to leap forward with joy to meet the object of one's wishes, as well as to exult in the possession thereof. Accordingly, the ancient versions, particularly the Syriac, render it by words which express earnest desire; and after them the best critics translate it, earnestly desired ινα ιδη, that he might see; which implies, that the period of his desires was in the space between the promise made, and the actual performance of it by the delivery of the command; consequently, that it was granted at his request. The text plainly distinguishes two different periods of joy; the first, when it was promised that he should see; the second, when he actually saw: and it is to be observed, that according to the exact use of the word rendered rejoiced, which is noted above, it implies that tumultuous pleasure which the certain expectation of an approaching blessing, understood only in thegross, occasions; and the word rendered was glad, that calm and settled joy which arises from our knowledge and acquiescence in the possession of it: but the translators, perhaps, not apprehending that there was any time between the grant to see, and the act of seeing, turned it, he rejoiced to see. From the following words of this verse it will appear, that Abraham, at the time when the command to sacrifice his son was given, knew it to be that revelation which he had so earnestly requested. He saw it and was glad. Thus our Lord plainly and peremptorily assumed the character of the Messiah.


Verse 57

John 8:57. Thou art not yet fifty yearn old, Understanding what our Lord laid in a natural sense, the Jews thought he affirmed that he lived as man in the days of Abraham; which they considered as ridiculous, he not being yet fifty years of age: for they had no conception of his Divinity, though he had told them several times that he was the Son of God. Christ was not now five and thirty; but Erasmus thinks, that, worn with labours, he might appear older than he was. Lightfoot imagines, that as the Levites were discharged from the temple service at fifty, (Numbers 4:3; Numbers 4:23.) that age was proverbially used; as it certainly might have been without any such institution relating to them, it being usual among most nations to express themselves on such occasions by some round number.


Verse 58

John 8:58. Before Abraham was, I am. "Before Abraham was born, I had a glorious existence with the Father; and I am still invariably the same, and one with him." Our Lord here, in the strongest terms, asserts his proper Divinity, declaring himself to be what St. John more largely expresses, Revelation 1:8 the alpha and omega, the beginning and the ending, who is, and who was, and who is to come; the Almighty. See also Exodus 3:14. Hebrews 1:12. Erasmus and Raphelius would have this clause translated, Before Abraham was born, I was, εγω ειμι : but, notwithstanding the nicest critical distinctions, it must be acknowledged, that this is a very unusual sense of the words εγω ειμι, and the less necessary, as the proper and common translation affords us a just and important sense, and one to which none but the bitter enemies of our Lord's Divinity can object. It is indeed striking to observe the unnatural sense to which they have recourse, who stumble at this text. The Socinians, with the most perverse impropriety, render the passage thus: "Before Abraham was made Abraham, that is to say, the father of many nations, in the spiritual sense of the promise, I amthe Messiah." That our Lord did truly exist at the time mentioned in the text, is plain likewise from Ch. John 17:5 and many other passages in the divine oracles. Nor is it to be imagined, that if our Lord had been a mere creature, he would have ventured to express himself in a manner so nearly bordering on blasphemy, refine upon this text as they please; or have permitted his beloved disciple so dangerously to disguise his meaning; a meaningindisputably clear to every plain and unprejudiced reader; a full proof whereof is the manner in which his hearers now received it: for, filledwithrageupontheblasphemy,astheythought,ofhisclaimingDivinitytohimself, they immediately prepare to inflict the punishment of a blasphemer upon him, by stoning him.


Verse 59

John 8:59. Then took they up stones The Jews, thinking the Lord Jesus a blasphemer, because he made himself not only greater than Abraham, but equal with God, Ch. John 5:18 fell into a violent rage, as Dr. Clagett expresses it, reckoning him not worthyto be answered any other way than by an immediate and zealous attempt upon his life. They took up some of the stones which happened to be lying thereabouts for the reparation of the temple, and, being in a great fury, were going with one accord to rush on him, and murder him. But Jesus, making himself invisible, passed through the crowd, and so escaped safe.

Inferences.—While Jesus is teaching, his enemies, in the case of the adulteress, address him not only as an instructor, but a judge; and yet by this specious form of honour and respect, they sought only to ensnare and destroy him: so unsafe would it be always to judge of men's intentions by the first appearances of their actions. But our Lord, in his answer, united, as usual, the wisdom of the serpent with the innocence and gentleness of the dove; and, in his conduct to the criminal before him, shewed at once that tenderness and faithfulness, which might most effectually conduce to impress and reclaim her, Go thy way, and sin no more. How should all learn hence to improve their escapes from danger, and the continual exercise of divine patience towards men, as an engagement to speedy and thorough reformation!

The force of conscience, and the power of Christ over it, both so evidently conspicuous in the present instance, teach us to reverence the dictates of our own minds, and to do nothing to bring them under a sense of guilt. Through the secret energy of our Redeemer, they wrought so powerfully on those Pharisees, that, hypocritical and vain-glorious as they were, they could not so far command themselves, as even to save appearances; but the eldest and gravest among them were the first to confess their guilt, by withdrawing from the presence of so holy a prophet, from the temple of God, and from the criminal whom they came to prosecute. A like consciousness of being ourselves to blame, will abate the boldness and freedom of our proceedings with others for their faults, if, while we judge others, we are self-condemned. Nor will the authority of a superior age, or station of life, bear us out against these inward reproaches.

Our blessed Redeemer is the light of the world. With how much pleasure should we behold his rays! With how much cheerfulness should we follow, whithersoever he leads us! as well knowing that we shall not then walk in darkness!—and God forbid we should ever choose to continue in it, as the shelter and screen of wicked works.

It is our duty, with all humility, to regard and submit to the testimony which the Father hath borne to the Son in so clear and express a manner. Dreadful would be the consequence of our refusing to do it! The doom of these wretched Jews would be ours,—to die in our sins. And oh! how insupportable will that guilty burden prove in a dying hour, and before the tribunal of God! How will it sink us into condemnation and despair!—In vain shall those who now despise him, then seek admittance to the world where he is, whither they cannot come; and, excluded from him, they must be excluded from happiness.

This might justly have been our case long since; for surely he has many things to say of us, and to judge concerning us, should he lay judgment to the line, and righteousness to the plummet. After his having been so long with us; yea, after we have, as it were, seen him lifted up, and set forth as crucified among us; would to God his faithful admonition, John 8:28 might prevail to our conviction and reformation, that our everlasting condemnation may not further illustrate the reasonableness, nay, the necessity of it, and the madness of hardening our hearts against it! May we approve ourselves the sincere disciples of Jesus, by continuing in his word, and being faithful unto death, as ever we expect a crown of life.

Without this, external privileges will turn to but little account. The children of Abraham may be the children of Satan; and they are so, if they imitate the temper and works of the accursed fiend, rather than of the holy patriarch. The devil was a liar and a murderer from the beginning, and all falsehood and malice are from him. It is our duty to pray earnestly that we may be freed from them, and from the tyranny of every other sin to which we have been enslaved; that Christ the Son may make us free of his Father's family, and of his heavenly kingdom; then shall we be free indeed, and delivered from all spiritual bondage.

To prove ourselves the children of God, we must be ready to hear and receive the words of our blessed Redeemer; the words of incarnate truth, and wisdom, and love; whom none of his enemies could ever convict of sin, nor ever accused him of it but to their own confusion. Resembling him in the innocence and holiness of his life, we shall the more easily and gracefully imitate that courage and zeal with which he reproved the haughtiest sinners; and bore his testimony against the errors and vices of that degenerate age and nation in which he lived.

Christ honoured his Father, and sought not his own glory: so should we be careful of the honour of God, and then cheerfully commit to him the guardianship and care of our reputation: we shall then certainly find that there is one who seeketh and judgeth in our favour.

It is a great and important promise which our Lord makes, John 8:51. If any one keep my word, he shall never see death. He is the resurrection and the life; and is no less able than willing to make good what he has here assured us to all his faithful saints. Strong therefore in the faith, let us give glory to God; though not only Abraham and the prophets, but Peter and Paul, and the other apostles, are dead, yet this word shall be gloriously accomplished. Still they live to him, and shortly shall they be for ever recovered from the power of the grave. With them may our final portion be: and, in the triumphant hope hereof, we may well set light by reproaches, clamours, and accusations of prejudiced, ignorant, and sinful men.

Adored be that gracious Providence which determined our existence to begin in that happy day, which prophets and patriarchs desired to see, and, in the distant view of which Abraham exulted. Let it be also our joy: for Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever; the great and immutable I AM: nor could the heart of those holy men fully conceive those things which God had prepared for them that love him, and which he has now revealed unto us by his Spirit.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, According to his usual custom, our Lord at evening went to the mount of Olives; perhaps to the house of his friend Lazarus; or to retire for communion with his Heavenly Father; or to avoid the danger of some popular tumult, which his implacable enemies might attempt to raise against him in the night. In the morning early he returned to the temple and sat down, as one having authority, to preach the gospel to the multitudes who crowded around him. Note; Early rising to wait upon God, is a gracious presage of a happy day.

While Christ was engaged in this blessed employment, we are informed of the interruption that he met with from his envenomed enemies.

1. They proposed a case to him, the decision of which they flattered themselves would either bring him into disgrace with the people, or embroil him with the government. They bring a woman, taken in adultery, in the very act; for though such deeds of darkness usually are concealed with deepest cunning, God is sometimes pleased strangely to bring to light such deadly works, and to export to the infamy of the world those who were emboldened to transgress in the foolish confidence that no eye seeth me. The proof was evident, the law express; but, as he assumed authority to make alterations therein, they desire to know what was his judgment on the case, hoping to get some matter of accusation against him. On the one hand, if he should command the law to be put in force, they would accuse him to the Roman government as pronouncing sentence of death, and assuming judicial authority; and to the people, as acting inconsistent with himself, who invited publicans and sinners to come to him, and willingly conversed, and ate and drank with them. On the other, if he should acquit her, refuse to confirm the sentence which the law had pronounced, they would brand him as an enemy to the divine institutions, a violator of the law, and a patron of the most scandalous enormities.

2. Christ, who knew their wickedness, seemed to pay no regard to the case which they proposed; stooping down and writing on the ground, as though he heard them not. But, as they now thought he was in a dilemma from which he could not disentangle himself, they urged him vehemently to answer their question. When, raising himself with a majesty and wisdom which confounded his enemies, he bids him that was without sin cast the first stone at her. Since the hands of the witnesses should be first upon the criminals, it became them who appeared so zealous in punishing the sins of others, to see that they were themselves free from the like or other infamous crimes; else it would be strangely absurd in them to execute the sentence, however just. Thus he testified his approbation of the law, without encouraging their prosecution; and effectually saved his own reputation, without any express condemnation of the poor criminal. Note; (1.) When we have to deal with crafty foes, a cautious answer is but needful prudence. (2.) Before we condemn others, we should first take care that we are not chargeable with the same or greater evils than we censure in them.

3. While he stooped again to the ground, to give them a moment's time to pause, reflect, and retire; they, convicted by their consciences, slunk away, fearing lest their own sins should be brought to light, to their confusion. The eldest led the way, and the younger followed: so that, all these malignant accusers being fled, the woman was left alone with Jesus and those who before had been attending his ministry. Note; (1.) Many are more afraid of being shamed for their sins than of being damned. (2.) They, who, under convictions, fly from Christ, to get rid of them, instead of coming to him with humble confusion to obtain pardon, wilfully destroy themselves.

4. The trembling criminal still stood at his bar; when, lifting up himself, the merciful Judge questions her, Where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? nor offered to cast a stone at thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: Go, and sin no more. As he came not upon earth to be a temporal judge, he left the sword of magistracy to the powers that ruled; and dismissed her, with a solemn warning to beware of returning again unto wickedness, lest a more dreadful punishment than the civil magistrate could inflict, should be her portion in the last great day. Note; (1.) Jesus is now a merciful Saviour: he will shortly be an inexorable Judge. Wise and happy are they who improve the moment of opportunity, and seek to him for mercy while mercy may be found. (2.) The greatest crimes, even adultery, may be forgiven to those who come by faith to a dying Redeemer, and wash their polluted souls in the fountain of his blood. (3.) Those whom Jesus pardons, he saves, not in their sins, but from them: they go to lead a new life, whose sentence of death he reverses. A measure of sanctification always accompanies justifying grace.

2nd, Though the Pharisaical accusers of the adulteress had been confounded, some of their brethren remained to cavil at the gracious words which proceeded from the Saviour's lips.

1. Christ, re-assuming his discourse to the people, took occasion to speak of himself under the glorious character of the Sun of righteousness, saying, I am the light of the world. What the sun is to the world, that Christ must be to the soul. Without him, universal spiritual darkness spreads over us its dreadful, baleful influence. But he that followeth me, receives my gospel, and treads in my steps, shall not walk in darkness; the eyes of his mind shall be enlightened to know the truth, and his soul enabled for, and directed in the practice of it; so that the darkness of error and sin shall not deceive and mislead him; but he shall have the light of life, the saving light of gospel grace here, and, if faithful to that light, the eternal life of glory hereafter. Blessed and happy are they who walk in this light of the Lord.

2. He vindicates himself from the objection which the Pharisees made, who said, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true: as if, in his own cause, those assertions were the mere boasts of self-commendation; overlooking the testimony which John bore to his character, and the evidence which all the miracles that Christ did, brought along with them. He answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true. If, in ordinary cases, a man's own testimony concerning himself may be well called in question, yet, in the case of messengers sent from God, the matter is otherwise. The message that he brought was itself a proof of his mission, considering the circumstances in which he appeared. For I know whence I came, and whither I go. He knew his own divine mission, and that, as he came from the Father, he must shortly return to him again; of which he had given them striking evidence in the miracles that he had wrought. But ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go, wilfully blind to the truths that he brought, and rejecting the credentials which he produced. Ye judge after the flesh, and, from the meanness of his outward appearance, concluded, it was impossible that this should be he who should redeem Israel: and they who thus judge after the flesh in spiritual matters, are sure to be in the wrong. I judge no man, not at all intermeddling in acts of judicial power, nor assuming any authority; nor was it his office at present to condemn any, but to seek and save that which was lost. And yet, if I judge, my judgment is true, as being the Searcher of all hearts, and beholding all things naked and open before him: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me; such an inseparable union subsisting between us, as that my judgment is according to his, and all I speak is in express conformity with his will, who gave me my mission. It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men, credible witnesses, is true, and sufficient for the proof of any matter of the greatest consequence. I am one that bear witness of myself, as the Messiah, which my doctrine and works declare me to be; and the Father that sent me, beareth witness of me, not only in all the prophesies of old, but in repeated voices heard from heaven. Here therefore are two witnesses, of divine authority, to prove the truth.

3. The Pharisees, with contempt of his pretensions, replied, Where is thy Father? what, Joseph the carpenter? is he the witness? Jesus answered, Ye neither know me nor my Father; are not acquainted with my divine original: if ye had known me, as the Son of God, ye should have known my Father also, as we are one in nature, counsel, and operation: the knowledge of me includes the knowledge of my Father, as I am the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person. Thus freely and fully does Jesus assert his eternal power, godhead, and unity with the Father. These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the temple: and no man laid hands on him, for his hour was not yet come; the true reason why they did not seize him, was, that the hour in which, by divine permission, he was to be delivered into their hands, had not arrived.

3rdly, Words of terror to awaken their consciences, as well as words of grace to engage their hearts, did the Redeemer employ, if any thing might at last effectually work upon them.

1. He warns them of their approaching ruin, and the cause of it. Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, to the Father; and ye shall seek me, when your calamities overtake you; and shall long for the Messiah to save you from them; and shall die in your sins, or your sin, under the guilt of all your iniquities, and especially that capital one of unbelief, and rejection of me and my gospel: whither I go, ye cannot come; the gates of eternal life and glory will be for ever barred against you, and no entrance permitted you into those regions of blessedness, where I shall shortly be. Note; (1.) Unbelief is the damning evil. It is the sin against our remedy, and necessarily leads men to destruction. (2.) They who refuse to embrace the Saviour in faith and love, and to follow him in holy obedience here, must never expect admission into his eternal kingdom of glory hereafter.

2. The Jews, indeed of trembling before the warnings of Jesus, treated them with derision, saying, Will he kill himself? to get rid of his enemies, and be out of their reach?

3. In reply to their malicious suggestions he answers, Ye are from beneath, earthly and sensual in your spirit and temper, and therefore cannot understand and follow me; I am from above, celestial in my original, and my conversation in heaven: ye are of this world, affecting and pursuing its honours, interests, pleasures, and esteem; I am not of this world, dead to it in my affections, and looking forward to that blessed world, to which I go. I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins, as you must infallibly do, if you continue in your present state of impenitence, worldly-mindedness, and unbelief: for if ye believe not that I am he, the eternal, unchangeable Jehovah, or the Messiah, the light of the world, the Saviour of the miserable, ye shall die in your sins, no pardon or redemption being possible for those who reject the grace of the gospel. Jesus alone can deliver the soul from the guilt, power, and punishment of sin; and out of him there is no help or hope of salvation.

4. With a repetition of the like taunt as before, they replied, Who art thou? that talkest such great things, and threatenest so highly? Jesus saith unto them, Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning, the great object of faith since the first promise was given, and the same Messiah whom, from the beginning of my ministry, I have proved myself to be. I have many things to say, and to judge of you, to upbraid your infidelity, and prove the inexcusableness of your impenitence; these are reserved for an after-reckoning: but he that sent me, is true, both in fulfilling his promises, and his threatenings; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him, both the purposes of his grace to his faithful people, and the inevitable ruin which will attend those who reject his Christ, and which the issue will infallibly prove to be a true testimony. They understood not that he spake to them of the Father; their hearts were hardened in sin, and their minds blinded by prejudice. Note; The plainest truths of God, the most solemn warnings of danger, are not apprehended nor understood by the obstinately wicked or self-righteous. The God of this world hath blinded their minds, and they wilfully continue stupid and insensible.

5. Christ refers them to a future day for a full conviction of what at present they will not believe. When ye have lifted up the Son of man upon a cross, as the brazen serpent, in consequence of which sufferings his exaltation to glory would follow, then shall ye know that I am he, the true Messiah, as the wonders which happened during his hanging upon the cross bespoke him to be; and as was proved by his resurrection and ascension to glory; as many of them, to their eternal comfort, perceived, when, by his Spirit, their souls were converted, and turned to him whom they had pierced; and as the rest would terribly feel, when shortly he should take vengeance on their nation, cut them off by the Roman sword, and doom them to eternal misery. Then will ye be convinced, says he, that I do nothing of myself, without divine authority; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things, in exact correspondence with the instructions that, as man and Mediator, I have received from him; and he that sent me, is with me, Christ being in nature and essence one with the Father, and having his presence, power, and Spirit, to enable him for, and encourage him in, the great work of redemption. The Father hath not left me alone, without the clearest demonstrations of his favour and regard; for I do always those things that please him; and therefore he cannot but take the highest complacency in me and my undertaking, which is in exact conformity to his will, and ultimately tends so highly to advance his glory. Note; (1.) All must know, by happy or dreadful experience, that Jesus is the Christ: they who are not convinced of it by his word and Spirit, will prove it in the judgment and punishments that he will inflict upon them. (2.) However much we may be deserted of the world, God will not leave nor forsake his faithful servants; and we can want neither company nor comfort, if his blessed presence be with us.

6. Great was the effect produced by these words. As he spake them, many believed on him, as come with a divine commission from God, and the true Messiah.

4thly, We have,

1. Christ's address to those Jews who believed on him. If ye continue in my word, faithfully adhere to the gospel and the profession of it, unmoved with any opposition, and cordially prove your obedience to it in all holy conversation and godliness; then are ye my disciples indeed: I will own and accept you as such: and ye shall know the truth, obtain deeper and clearer discoveries of it; and the truth shall make you free, free from guilt, through the knowledge of the virtue of the Redeemer's blood and intercession; free from the dominion of sin and Satan, through the powerful operations of the Spirit; free from ignorance and error, through divine teachings; free from the bondage of the law and corruption, and brought into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. Note; (1.) We have need to be looking up continually for supplies of divine light and love; and Christ's faithful followers shall find both abundantly dispensed to them from on high. (2.) That is true liberty, when our souls are brought to God's happy service, and delivered from the servitude of sin and Satan.

2. The Jews who heard him, felt their pride hurt by the insinuation of their subjection, which Christ intimated, and, with indignation, replied, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? They boast of their descent from that patriarch as their great honour, and, with the strongest effrontery, to have enjoyed uninterrupted liberty as their birthright and privilege; when it was so notorious, that, under a multitude of enemies, they had suffered the most afflictive servitude and captivity, and formed now a conquered province of the Roman empire.

3. Waving the discussion of the point relative to their civil liberty, concerning which he spake not, he lets them know that there is a more dreadful servitude than that of the body, even of the immortal soul, under the yoke of sin and Satan. Whosoever committeth sin, is the servant of sin; he that makes a practice of sin, and lives habitually under the power of it, is the worst of slaves, whatever his civil liberties may be, however noble his descent, or high his church privileges. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever; but as the son of the bondwoman was cast out of Abraham's family, so would all the impenitent and unbelieving among the Jews be cut off from the church of God; as every unfaithful professor will be, who continues to live in his sins, however high an opinion he may have entertained of himself, or however respectfully others may have thought of him: but the Son abideth ever; he who is Abraham's promised Seed emphatically, the true Isaac, his is the inheritance; and all who claim under him, as the sons of God by faith, have a title to a place among the household of God. If the Son therefore shall make you free, the Son of God, the Lord of the house, where Moses himself was but a servant, ye shall be free indeed; not with that imaginary freedom, of which the Jews boasted, but ( οντως ) with that real liberty which only Jesus can give to the fallen, corrupt, and guilty soul (1.) He makes his people free from corruption; his Spirit both delivers them from the blindness of error, and from the power of sin. (2.) As free-born sons, they are adopted into God's family, have a title to the eternal kingdom, and, if through the power of grace they preserve themselves in this liberty, shall be put in possession of that kingdom.

4. He applies the case to them. I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but, very unlike that patriarch in your spirit and temper, ye seek to kill me; and the reason is, because my word hath no place in you; your hearts are steeled against it; you cannot bear the humbling truths that I deliver; and your pride, prejudices, and self-righteousness, effectually prevent their influence; and where this is the case with any soul, there the gospel is as water spilt on the ground, utterly unprofitable.

5thly, Christ proceeds in his discourse.

1. He points out the cause of the contrariety of sentiment which subsisted between them. I speak that which I have seen with my Father, as perfectly knowing his mind and will, and from eternity acquainted with all his counsels and designs; and ye do that which ye have seen with your father; your works shew whose children you are, whose example you imitate, and under what father's tuition you have been brought up.

2. Fired with resentment, as if he reflected upon their pedigree, they boasted their descent from Abraham, the friend of God, of whom they could surely learn nothing that was evil. Jesus answered them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works Abraham; but, very opposite to his faith and obedience is your conduct, ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God,—a truth so needful to be known, that I am the very promised Messiah, the eternal Son of the Father: this did not Abraham; his submission to the first notice of God's will was eminent; and such a murderous spirit, as to contrive the death of any man, much less of a messenger sent from heaven, never dwelt in his bosom; therefore it is sufficiently evident, that your relation to him can never be proved by your temper; for ye do the deeds of your father; and who that is, let your conduct tell. Note; It is often prudent, in conveying unpleasing truths, to state the premises, and let the persons themselves draw the conclusion.

3. With indignation they replied, perceiving that he spoke not in a liberal but a figurative sense, We be not born of fornication; are not idolaters, nor their descendants; we have one Father, whom we worship and adore, even Jehovah, the one living and true God. But alas, they who flatter themselves that they have the true religion, because they make profession of it, while their practice is utterly contradictory to sound godliness, deceive their own souls.

4. Christ shews them their fatal mistake. God could not be their Father, while their ways were so perverse before him: If God were your Father, ye would love me, and embrace the truth that I deliver to you; for I proceeded forth, and came from God, as my Father, and one in nature with him: neither came I of myself but he sent me, to accomplish the great designs of his grace. Why do ye not understand my speech? The reason is, because ye cannot hear my word; you are wilfully averse to the truth, and prejudiced against me; and how then can God be your Father? Ye are of your father the devil; he is the spirit which worketh in you; and the lusts of your father ye will do; obstinately bent on following the dictates of pride, malice, and envy, the grand characteristics of this foul fiend. He was a murderer from the beginning: seducing man in paradise from his allegiance to God, he thereby exposed the whole human race to death spiritual, temporal, and eternal; and ever since, from the days of righteous Abel, at his instigation, have those horrid deeds of bloodshed and murder been committed, under which the earth groans. And he abode not in the truth; he lost the purity and rectitude of his own nature; and then, by a daring lie, he tempted man to disbelieve the divine commination respecting the forbidden fruit; because there is no truth in him; his kingdom is supported by falsehood and delusion; all the errors and heresies which rend the church, and all the vain hopes that lull sinners to ruin, derive from him their origin. When he speaketh a lie he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it: all his temptations from the beginning have been, and are, a tissue of falsehood; his own devising; the genuine offspring of his apostate spirit; and as he is in himself faithless in his nature, so is he the father of all lies and liars; they are his children; they bear his strong and striking lineaments, and evince clearly from whom they are descended; they obey his commands, and follow his example. And because I tell you the truth, the truth of my gospel, mission, and divine character, ye believe me not: such is your wilful and miserable infatuation and delusion, that you are more disposed to believe the devil's lie, than God's truth; so enslaved are you by this wicked spirit. Which of you convinceth me of sin? either of immorality in conduct, or unsoundness in doctrine? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? When every circumstance conspires to prove my mission divine, how inexcusable is your obstinacy? He that is of God, as you pretend to be, heareth God's words; desirous to know, and willing to obey them; ye therefore hear them not, and pay no regard to what I declare to you, because ye are not of God; are not his children, nor influenced by his Spirit, but under the power and dominion of the god of this world, the Spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience. Note; (1.) They who have God for their Father, will shew it by an unfeigned love to the Lord Jesus Christ; by a solemn attention to his word, and faithful obedience to his will. (2.) They who do the devil's works, are infallibly the devil's children. By their fruit ye shall know them: pride, envy, malice, enmity against those that are good, lying, rage, &c. these are the features of Satan, and mark his genuine offspring. (3.) Christ's ministers and people, like their master, must give diligence to keep a conscience void of offence, that their most envenomed enemies may have no evil thing justly to say of them. (4.) They who slight and disregard the Redeemer's gospel and his ministers, despise not men, but God, and therein prove the unsubdued enmity and apostacy of their hearts.

6thly, The Jews, cut to the heart at this sharp rebuke, were exceedingly exasperated.

1. They began to abuse him with the most virulent language. Say we not well, that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? They would represent him as an enemy to their religion and nation; as one in league with Satan, to whose influence they ascribed the miracles which Christ performed; or as a lunatic and madman, possessed by this spirit, thus to call the children of Abraham the children of the devil. Note; It is no uncommon thing to hear the best of men branded with the most opprobrious names, abused as satanical, or treated with contempt as madmen; but wisdom is justified in all her children.

2. Christ meekly replies to so unjust and malicious an accusation, I have not a devil; neither act in concert with him, nor am possessed by him: but I honour my Father; far from derogating from his honour, as you would infer from my pretensions, the great end that I propose in all my words and works is to advance it; and I seek not mine own glory, in contradistinction to his; there is one that seeketh and judgeth, who will secure me an interest in the hearts of his faithful people, will vindicate my injured character, and avenge the contempt and indignity which you cast upon me. But, however slightly and meanly you may think of me, verily, verily, I say unto you, as the most assured truth, If a man keep my saying, really and perseveringly believe, embrace, and obey my gospel, he shall never see death, the second, the eternal death, the wages of sin. Note; (1.) The most unprovoked abuse must be returned with mildness; the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. (2.) When we are conscious that our design is the advancement of the divine glory, we need not be concerned about any malignant interpretations put on our conduct. (3.) They are disciples indeed, who hear the word of God and keep it, embracing the promises as the most invaluable treasure, and obedient to the commands as the approved rule of duty. (4.) They who thus walk, have nothing to fear from death; the sting of it is taken away; the power of spiritual death is destroyed; and the grave is now become the gate of eternal life and glory to their faithful souls.

3. More confirmed in their prejudices, instead of embracing the glorious privilege to which Christ invited them, they said, Now we know that thou hast a devil, and art stark mad to talk at so strange a rate. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death. Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? though so eminently the friend of God; and the prophets are dead, who were so highly favoured of him; whom makest thou thyself? what insufferable arrogance, to pretend a power of bestowing that immortality upon thy followers, which God himself never vouchsafed to his most eminent saints and servants?

4. Christ answers their cavil, and vindicates what he had asserted. If I honour myself, and assume a character which I cannot support with the most powerful evidence, my honour is nothing, and you might treat it as an empty boast: but it is my Father that honoureth me, bearing witness to my divine mission and authority, and expressing his full approbation of me as his Son, of whom ye say that he is your God; glorying as descendants from the patriarchs, in your covenant relation to him. Yet ye have not known him, his nature and perfections, his mind and will; but I know him, am most intimately acquainted with his person and counsels; and if I should say I know him not, and should retract ought that I have advanced concerning the perfect knowledge I have of him from eternity, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying; always doing the things which please him, and acting in exact conformity with his mind and will. Your father Abraham rejoiced, or was very desirous, to see my day, and longed for my coming in the human nature to redeem the world: and he saw it by faith, though distant, yet surely approaching. He beheld in Isaac born; in the promise made to his seed; in Melchizedeck; in the sacrifice of his son, and the ram provided in his stead; and in the visible appearance of the Lord himself, Genesis 18:2; Genesis 18:33 in all these he beheld the incarnate Saviour, and was glad, exulted in the glorious hope of my appearing in the fulness of time. (See the Annotations.) Note; (1.) The affectation of honour, and courting men's admiration, are the sure evidences of not deserving it. (2.) What was Christ's labour, must be ours, to advance not our own, but God's glory. (3.) Many profess to know God, who in works deny him, and against whom their very privileges and opportunities of knowing him well rise up to their greater condemnation. (4.) The surest evidence of a right knowledge of God is our practical improvement of his sayings, and submitting to his blessed word and will. (5.) The appearing of Christ is the desire and delight of the faithful, as it will be the terror of the wicked; and he will come, and will not tarry. The Lord is at hand. (6.) They who by faith now look to Jesus, and perseveringly wait for him, shall soon see him face to face, and rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

5. With sovereign contempt do the Jews treat this declaration, perverting his words, as if he had asserted, that Abraham saw him in the flesh. Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? or he thee; when he has been dead above two thousand years? How ridiculous the pretension! They judged of Christ's age probably by his look: incessant labour perhaps had marred his visage, and brought on, before their time, the wrinkles of age.

6. He plainly asserts to them his eternal self-existence, as an answer to their objection. Verily, verily I say unto you, as the most certain and undoubted truth, Before Abraham was born, or had a being, I am, the same unchangeable Jehovah, who by this name made myself known to Moses in the bush, Exodus 3:14 and therefore must be infinitely superior and prior to Abraham.

7. Enraged beyond all bounds of forbearance at such an assertion, which they regarded as the most impudent blasphemy, the Jews took up stones to cast at him, intending to murder him on the spot: but Jesus hid himself, by his divine power probably withholding their eyes from perceiving him, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by, escaping their fury, because his hour was not yet come. Note; (1.) It is frequently prudent to hide ourselves when we see the approaching danger, unless duty or conscience clearly calls us to put on the crown of martyrdom. (2.) They who drive Christ from them, are but justly treated, when they are abandoned by him to judicial blindness and hardness of heart.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on John 8:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/john-8.html. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, November 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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