<< John VII: Spiritual Meaning and Commentary >>

1. This chapter begins by informing us that, After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him. It is almost needless to say that the Lord, whose moral power, as exemplified in the preceding chapter, was itself a protection to him, and who had all power at his command, could not be in fear of the wrath or machination of the Jews. He walked in Galilee, and not in Jewry, to represent as well as to exemplify, that his truth and love find acceptance with the simple-minded out of the church, when they are hated and refused by the wise and prudent within it; and that these principles have their active presence where there is goodness, even when accompanied with comparative ignorance, and not where there is knowledge without it. This is especially meant by his "walking" in Galilee, and not in Jewry; to walk meaning to live. The Lord walks among those who live according to his precepts.

2. Now the Jews' feast of tabernacles was at hand. This was the greatest of the three annual festivals of the Jewish Church. It was instituted in memory of the most holy worship of the Lord in tabernacles by the most ancient people, and of their conjunction with him by love. As typical of the last stage of the regenerate life, it signified the implantation of good, and thus full deliverance from evil. These feasts describe the regeneration of man, and the glorification of the Lord. The attendance of Jesus at these feasts involves both these meanings. The feast of tabernacles is said to have been nigh at hand, to signify the approach of the state it represented, and the certainty of its accomplishment in the completion of the Lord's glorifying and saving work; for nearness, in the spiritual sense, signifies certainty and proximity of state.

3. His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judea, that thy disciples may see the works that thou doest. As this feast represents the highest state, it is connected with a circumstance that represents the Lord's being tempted to enter it from the lowest motives. The Lord's brethren, according to the flesh, represented the principle of the flesh itself, as it existed in the Lord's maternal humanity. His brethren, it is observable, demanded what he himself intended to do in going up to the feast; but their demand differed from the Lord's intention as to the time, manner, and purpose, Their demand represented a temptation of the Lord to do from natural love and according to natural prudence, what should he done from Divine love according to Divine wisdom.

4. The ground on which they urged Jesus to go to Judea, was that no man doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. But Jesus did not seek notoriety. The works that he did made his name widely known; yet not only did he never seek publicity, but often enjoined silence respecting him on others, and frequently sought retirement. The reason that he had never acted on the principles of his brethren, as expressed in their saying, If thou doest these things, shew thyself to the world, no doubt was, because the desire to be known, or, as the word means, talked of, is a natural and selfish desire. A good man may have to submit to publicity, but that is not his object in doing good. Besides, " the world," as it is in itself, and as mentioned in Scripture, is opposite to heaven; and on this account, the Lord never sought to be the object of its observation or its praise.

5. That this demand did not originate in any true perception of the Lord's purpose, or any real conviction of the efficacy of the course they recommended, appears from the fact that neither did his brethren believe in him. The Lord was the very Divine Truth, and to this the maternal element in his humanity was in its very nature opposed in all its ends, and in the means of their accomplishment. So, in those who are following the Lord in the regeneration, the natural man is opposed to the spiritual.

6. This is further declared by the Lord himself : My time is not yet come: but your time is always ready. The spiritual man goes on unto perfection, but the natural man knows no change for the better. Even in the Lord, the Son of man had a progression in which the son of Mary had no share. The proper state of the Son of man was future, that of the son of Mary was present. The Lord's time was his state of glorification, which had not yet arrived ; his brethren's time was their state of confirmed natural-niindedness, which was present. Time means state. The state of the Lord's glorification was not yet fulfilled; the state of his natural-minded brethren was already confirmed. The worship of the spiritual man is from spiritual love, and is therefore in correspondence with it; the worship of the natural man is from natural love, which has no harmony with his act, and is not changed by it.

7. Our Lord reveals the ground of this difference. The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the deeds thereof are evil. In the mind of the natural man there is no conflict with the world; thus no temptation. In the mind of the spiritual man there is ; as in the mind of the Lord, far more than in all mere men, there was. But a time of temptation is a time of fasting, for fasting corresponds to self-denial. In such a state, the spiritual man cannot go up unto the feast, cannot relish and appropriate good and truth, which feasts and festivals signify. The natural man has no such temptations ; his fasts and his feasts are both equally formal, and may, therefore, be entered on at any time ; his state is always ready. The declaration of Jesus to his brethren, that the world hated him because lie testified of it that its works are evil, reveals the true ground of all the hatred and opposition which Jesus ever has received, and which he ever will receive, from the world. Truth is hated by the natural man and by the natural mind, because it testifies of their inherent corruption and evil deeds. Yet this is one of the great uses, and is indeed the ultimate use of Divine Truth, both as revealed and manifested. So that the function of the Truth, for which the natural man hates it, is that for which the spiritual man most prizes it. He desires to know the truth, because he knows that the truth will make him free from bondage and sin.

8. The Lord therefore said, Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come. The Lord's counselling his brethren to go up unto the feast indicates that even natural men learn from the Word to engage in some kind of religious worship. Besides, as it was the duty of every Israelite to attend the feast instituted by Moses, the Lord only counselled his brethren to render obedience to the law. He himself attended them in order to fulfil the law, but he had a much higher purpose than the Jews who went up to Jerusalem. He had a work to accomplish in connection with them as their antitype, which others knew not of. His time for going up was not yet come.

9. When he had said these things unto them, he abode still in Galilee. The Lord abides with those who are in receptive states, especially is he present with those who are in good, even when they may have less of the intelligence of truth than others.

10. But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. The Lord's going up as it were in secret describes that state of the regenerate mind in which there is a hidden operation and an imperceptible progress of divine and heavenly truth. What is present or takes place in the internal man is unperceived; it is only when it comes into the external that it becomes manifest. This imperceptible presence and operation of the Lord in the internal is meant by his going up as if in secret. It is not indeed absolutely unknown, for it is revealed to faith, but it is unknown to consciousness; therefore it is said that Jesus went up as if; were in secret.

11. The reason that this presence and operation are as it were secret or hidden is, lest divine truth should be so opposed by the evils of the external man as to destroy it. These evils are the Jews who sought Jesus at the feast, and said, Where is he ?

The natural mind is not however wholly possessed by those evils. There was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceives the people. This conflict of opinion is not only in the world but in the mind itself, and is between the good and the evil, the true and the false, that have place in every one during his progress in the spiritual life. And such a conflict is the experience even of the best, for man is permitted to come into a state of doubt before he affirms, that his reception of the truth may be more interior, and, by triumphing over doubt, may afterwards be undisturbed by it.

13. These conflicting states of doubt are not, however, always outward and open, but are often the internal workings of the yet divided mind. And this is meant by the record that no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews. The fear of the Jews implies that there is in such cases a fear of the opposing evil; and as this fear must have been felt by those who spoke well of him, it implies a fear lest the truth should suffer through the influence and opposition of evil and falsity. One class of the people favoured Jesus because he was a good man, while another concluded that he deceived the people. Yet goodness is the best test of truth. "What is the practical tendency of a doctrine ? This ought to be a primary question in deciding on its merits. We are all too ready to raise the cry against any new development of religious truth, He deceiveth the people. Let us never forget that every doctrine has a moral as well as an intellectual side, and that this is the golden side of the shield.

JTP737 14. Jesus, who was the subject of those disputations, about the midst of the feast, went up into the temple, and taught. The midst of the feast is spiritually the inmost of the good which it represented, and the temple is the divine truth, which is the temple of the Lord's Body and of his Word. This signifies that the Lord from the inmost of his love, by means of his truth, teaches the way of eternal life. This appearance of the Lord in the midst of his avowed enemies and secret friends is remarkable in itself, but still more so in its spiritual signification. For when the mind is agitated by conflicting vie^s of the truth, the Lord appears, and finds his opportunity of strengthening the good and overcoming the evil, by manifesting the beauty and power of truth.

15. The Jews wondered, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned ? Well might they wonder that he, not one of the doctors of the law, yet enunciated wisdom, which even his opponents felt to be marvellous, and far beyond the lifeless and trifling speculations of the schools. Useful as human knowledge is, there is a learning that goes beyond it all, and is as much superior to it as the wisdom of angels is to the intelligence of men, and as Divine wisdom is to human truth.

16. Our Lord himself teaches this. My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. His doctrine was not human but- divine in its origin; spiritually understood, his doctrine was not the doctrine of truuh alone, but of love and goodness; not of the Son only but of the Father. This was the secret of his wisdom, and of his influence and power with the good.

17. As the Lord's doctrine originated in his love, so it can only be appreciated and even apprehended by love. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. He who does the will of the Lord, he it is that loves him (xiv. 21). ALL divine doctrine has good as its first and last end; and cannot be known without regard to it. Truth indeed is an instrument by which infinite goodness in God takes hold of finite goodness in man. True it is that goodness in man comes from God; but something of goodness from the Lord is insinuated into the mind of every human being, and the Lord's truth is designed to call it out and perfect it. Although the Lord's doctrine is truth, still more is it good; it is truth in its form, but it is good in its essence.

18. 19. As a proof that the Lord did not speak of himself, he tells us, He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh the glory of him that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him. Spiritually understood, this teaches us that if the Lord's doctrine were of truth alone, it would find its result in intellectual glory: it would teach men to exalt God on account of his wisdom rather than of his goodness, and would lead man to glory in himself on account of his own intelligence. But truth does not seek its own glory, but the glory of love and goodness. That which does so is alone true, and no unrighteousness is in it. For what is righteousness but the good which truth teaches, and to which it leads'? Men practically regard God's truth as seeking its own glory, when they hate or persecute one another for the sake of what they call the truth; for in doing so, they place truth above goodness, and employ it, not to glorify goodness, but to debase it. Those also who maintain that God condemns human beings for ignorance or error, however righteous their lives may be, seek the glory of truth, and not of the love which sends it. What would truth among men be if it were not the messenger and the medium of goodness? Does not moral and political and scientific truth find its glory in its useful application and results—that is, in the good to which it may be applied? What is physiology without regard to health? What is civil law without regard to order and security? Therefore our Lord says to the Jews, Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law ? Why go ye about to kill me. The Jews professed great veneration for the truth, and they sought its glory; but they sought not the glory of the goodness which sent it, and which it enjoined. They gloried in the law, but none of them obeyed the law. They therefore in reality sought to destroy the law, which they indeed did in seeking to kill Jesus, who was the law personified.

20. But so far were the Jews from acknowledging him as the law, and thus the divine good in which the law originated, that they said unto him, Thou hast a devil. They thus accused him of being the opposite of good, or the very evil in which falsity has its origin, and which justifies the evil that produces it. They also demanded, Who goeth about to kill thee? thus denying the truth which he uttered, because it was against themselves, and so perverting both his goodness and his truth. Those who are evil never think or admit, even where divine truth accuses them, that they are, either in intention or in act, the destroyers of goodness or truth ; for a man calls that good which he loves, and that true which he believes.

21. Jesus answers, as he always does, without returning the railing accusation of his enemies: I have done one work, and ye all marvel. He alludes to the cure (v. 8) of the man at the pool of Bethesda. This work itself produced wonder; but its performance on the Sabbath excited wrath. This shows how little effect miracles have on negative minds. Miracles are not indeed intended to convince, but only to impress the mind with a certain sense of awe and reverence, that may influence the moral nature, and through it, the intellectual. In those, however, who are morally and thence intellectually opposed, the effect of miracles is to harden and exasperate, rather than to soften and conciliate.

Fot827 22, 23. Jesus, while he appeals to the miracle as causing them all to marvel, adduces a reason which ought to have had great weight with his Jewish audience, why its being performed on the Sabbath-day should have been to them no cause of offence. Moses gave unto you circumcision ; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath-day circumcise a man. If a man on the sabbath-day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath-day ? Circumcision was commanded by God to Abraham, and was the seal of the covenant he made with him. (Gen. xvii. 10). It signified the purification of the mind from impure loves, or fleshly lusts, and represented introduction into the Church and newness of life through that purification. Circumcision is said to be from the fathers, who spiritually mean the ancient Church, in which, not the rite but the doctrine of purification had its origin. A similar purification is represented by baptism, which is the sign of introduction into the Christian church, and signifies purification of the heart and life, by which man becomes a new creature. The Lord's miraculous healings had a similar spiritual meaning, for removal of diseases signified the removal of sins and introduction into a life of righteousness. The Jews circumcised on the Sabbath-day without breaking the law of Moses; but although 'they would not neglect a ceremonial on the Sabbath, they were mad against the Lord for doing on that day a great work of benevolence. Yet while these works of mercy were suitable to the holy day on which they were performed, it was a part of their holy and blessed significance, that they should be done on the day which was a type of the holy state which was to be introduced by the Lord's coming. The Sabbath is said to have been instituted to commemorate the Lord's rest after the six days work in creation. But the creation there means spiritual creation, which is the Lord's glorification and man's regeneration. And these being life and health, are rest and peace. In fact, the union of the divine and the human in the Lord is a perpetual and eternal Sabbath; and salvation, which is the union of the good and the true in man, is the rest which remaineth for the people of God, of which heaven is the crowning condition.

24. After having reasoned them into silence, Jesus concluded his address to them on this subject by this exhortation, Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. This was most necessary and wholesome advice to those external people, and is useful to all. It is another way of saying, Judge not by the letter but by the spirit of the law. Slaves to the letter of the law, the Jews neglected and violated its spirit, and most of all in condemning the beneficent works of Jesus, in that they were done on the Sabbath-day. The letter contains little more than appearances of truth ; righteousness or justice, even in judging, can only be found in the spirit of the divine Word. But even this will not ensure our judging justly, unless our own spirit is conformed to the spirit of the Word. To judge righteous judgment we must ourselves be righteous. To be righteous we must have both good and truth, or both charity and faith, and to judge righteously we must judge from both. Judgment from truths alone is judgment from appearances, but judgment from good and truth united is righteous judgment.

25. The overawing and convicting effect of the Lord's words drew from them of Jerusalem the inquiry, Is not this he whom they seek to kill ? Well might they express astonishment at the circumstance of men seeking to kill one from whose lips proceeded such words of wisdom. But why should this be said by them of Jerusalem 1 Because Jerusalem represented the church, especially the doctrine of tho church; and true doctrine recognises the Lord's good and truth, and the unreasonableness of the deadly hatred of falsity and evil against them.

26. They remark further, Lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing against him. The Lord's speaking boldly or freely, unmolested by those who were seeking for him to kill him, shows the mysterious power.which his presence and address sometimes exercised over minds which yet resisted conversion and even conviction. The charm of his speech was like the fabled music of Orpheus, which for the moment tamed the listening beasts, without changing their savage nature. Thus does the divine power and influence still prevent many acts of evil, that would otherwise destroy order, and take peace from the earth, and happiness from heaven. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ? This question appears to have originated half in doubt of Jesus being the Christ; yet spiritually it signifies an inquiry excited in the mind, as to whether its ruing thoughts and affections have yet become subject to the truths of love, which make the Lord the supreme Governor of the soul. The Christ, or the anointed, is the divine truth in which is divine love; and to know this indeed is to know practically that the Lord is our Saviour.

27. Now comes the doubt of which we have spoken: Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is. This expresses the perplexity of the natural man respecting the humanity of Jesus. How many continue to think of Jesus as a mere man, because, in their own opinion, they know whence he is. They think of him as the son of Mary, and some even as the son of Joseph, and so, thinking they know whence he is, they conclude that he cannot be what the Christ truly implies—man in whom is God, the human in which is the divine, the light in which is the life. As to the Jews themselves, there may seem some inconsistency between their statement that, when Christ should come, no one would know from whence, and the declaration of the chief priests and scribes to Herod, that Christ would be born in Bethlehem. But it seems that there was a theory among the Jews that Christ, after he was born, would disappear, as Moses did when he fled from Egypt, and would afterwards reappear among his people, no one knowing whence. Jesus, indeed, after the sensation caused by his birth, had disappeared from public notice, but when he came before the world again, at the end of about thirty years, it was well known whence he came.

28, 29. Then cried Jesus in the temple, as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not. In this the Lord admits that they know both whence he was and who he was, but intimates that they knew neither in the true sense. They knew he had come out of Nazareth, but they knew not that he had come down from heaven; they knew his human mother, but they knew not his divine Father, nor his descent from him. This is the knowledge of Christ—of the human as coming forth from the divine, and therefore as being itself divine; for the human from the mother was but the material covering of the humanity from the Father, as the body of man is a covering for his soul, which is the real man. The Lord again tells them that he came not of himself, but that he that is true, whom they knew not, sent him. Spiritually, he that is true is the true Good, as distinguished from every false good. It is indeed the same whether we say the true Good or the true God; for as God is Goodness itself, he who knows God as Goodness knows him as the true God, or as the Truth itself. All essential opposition to the truth respecting God is opposition to the Goodness of God, which his truth teaches. Hence our Lord so often declared that the reason men did not come to him was because they were not drawn by the Father. Men know not Christ, or the divine Truth, because they know not the Father or the divine Good. But the Lord knew him, because he was from him, and was sent by him. It is a great truth that " no one knoweth the Son but the 'Father, and no one knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him." Love only knows wisdom, and wisdom only knows love; the Divine only knows the Human, the Human only knows the Divine. And so is it in us. The Lord's love in us is that from which we know his -wisdom; his wisdom in us is that by which we know his love. But still further, according to the Lord's words, wisdom knows love because it is from it, and is sent by it. The Lord had said before that he came not of himself, but was sent. The ardency of divine love, as fire, sends out divine wisdom, as light. Wisdom does not come of itself nor by itself. It is the Sent, and the revealer of the Sender. So in us. God's love in the heart, as fire, sends out his wisdom, as light, into the understanding. We may learn many things about love and wisdom, and lay them up in our memory, but living light comes only from living love. And so also we may learn from the case of the Jews, that if we know not the true love we cannot and will not know the true wisdom.

NHT736 30, 31. The truth of what we have now said is practically shown both negatively and affirmatively, by the result of the Lord's address. Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come. The truth produces opposite effects on the evil and on the good. With the evil, in this instance, the opposition was in will, but did not proceed to act. This was entirely owing to that extraordinary moral influence which the divine Saviour exercised over the minds even of his enemies. This influence was but a restraining power. And we here see what is but too true, that even divine power cannot change the will, although it lays restraint upon the actions of the wicked, not only in this world but in the other also. Even this is not absolute, for the will, being free, in some instances breaks all bonds, and rushes into actual evil. The reason they did not lay hands on Jesus was, that his hour was not yet come. When the time did come, the Lord said to his enemies, " This is your hour and the power of darkness." One cause of the present restraint and of the subsequent licence, was the less and greater putting forth of power by the kingdom of evil, and the different degrees of co-operation with it by man. This also depended upon and corresponded to the state of the Lord's humanity. His own temptations were as yet comparatively internal; but when his hour was come, these temptations came into their fullest condition, acting at once upon the inmost and the outermost of the Lord's hereditary life, resulting in the death and putting off of all that was imperfect and finite, and ending in the temporary triumph, but in the eternal conquest, of the kingdom of darkness. The hands signify the ultimate of power; and the opposing Jews did not " lay hands upon him," because the power of evil and temptation had not yet developed itself into its last degree of activity and power. While the Lord's words thus provoked the wrath of the wicked among the Jews, they produced belief among those who were open to conviction. And many of the people believed on him, and said. When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man doeth ? They accepted these marvellous works as proof of his Messiahship. They accepted the Lord's miracles as signs, which the word for miracles here means. A miracle becomes a sign, when it acts upon the understanding through the will.

32. The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him. The murmurs that arise from the multitude of the natural thoughts and feelings call the higher powers of the mind into action, and the understanding and will unite in aiming to accomplish what the crowd of principles in the natural mind dares not attempt to effect. The Pharisees and chief priests sent officers to take him. When evil seeks to injure or destroy good, it does so by the instrumentality of something that has the appearance of truth or of goodness. When the evil attempt to invalidate the genuine truths of the Word, they do so by means of its apparent truths, as the devil attempted to draw Jesus under his power by means of his own Word. The reason of this is, that mere falsity, having not even a seeming affinity with truth, has nothing by which it can lay hold of it and bring it under its power. In the other life, when the evil infest the good, they can only do it by means of those who are in simple good. The evil use the apparent truths of the Word against its genuine truths, as the Jewish sanhedrim employed its officers against Jesus to take him. And we shall see in the conduct of these officers a singularly exact representation of the different character and conduct of apparent truth, when it acts under the influence of evil and under the influence of good. The officers went out from the Pharisees with the purpose of taking Jesus, and went out from the presence of Jesus without either the power or the disposition to take him.

33, 34. When these messengers arrived, they found Jesus teaching, and were constrained to listen. Then said Jesus unto them. Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me. The Lord here speaks of his visible presence with the Jews, and the near approach of his death and resurrection. But the Lord spoke for us as well as for the Jews. He spoke in these same terms to his disciples, with this momentous difference, that to them he was to come again and abide with them for ever. The Lord is with the evil and the good during this life, for here his Word is present with all. The good strive to understand and do its truth, and the evil labour to pervert it. When this short life is gone, the evil who have lived within the church will still desire and seek the truth, but as they seek it only to pervert it, it is in mercy hid from them, while on the other hand it is manifested to the true disciple in greater fulness and perfection. Indeed, the evil cannot then find the Lord as the truth; for in the other life truth dwells only with love, and cannot be found by any but by those who seek it and are desirous to receive it in love. It was in reference to this that the Lord said, I go to him that sent me. In this world truth has a seeming existence separate from love ; but at death it goes to him that sent it; it returns into the bosom of love. And although, in the other life, the evil still seek and knock, they cannot find. Where the truth then is the evil cannot come, because they will not come to the love in which it dwells. What in the particular sense applies to individuals, in the general sense applies to dispensations. That which was addressed to the Jewish people applies to the Jewish Church. The Lord was about to depart from that church; it died when he died ; his rising was into a new church, which was established among those who had received him as the Truth of Love.

35, 36. The Jews themselves expressed what was really about to take place in regard to the Lord. Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will he go, that we shall not find him ? will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles? The Jews meant by the dispersed the ten tribes which had been carried into captivity, and the children of Judah who had not returned from Babylon. The church of the Lord was about to be transferred to the Gentiles, both Greeks and barbarians, while the children were to be left. The dispersed among the Gentiles also were to be gathered in, according to the often repeated promise in the Old Testament. For the dispersed among the Gentiles were spiritually the receivers of truth and goodness preserved among the Gentiles, and which they, unlike the Jews, through whom they received them, had not perverted and profaned. And so is it with individuals. The Gentile principle is that in us which is receptive of the Lord, who is first accepted by the truths and goods which have been dispersed in it, and exist there as remains. These are they of whom Isaiah speaks, when he says, " In that day there shall be a root of Jesse : and he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth " (xi. 10, 12). The Jews who suggested this meaning of our Lord's words were not, indeed, aware that they were uttering a truth, but Providence bends the ideas and the words of the natural to a use which they themselves intend not. The Jews were in gross darkness as to the Lord's future operations ; and they understood nothing of the meaning of his words, which they continued to repeat—What manner of saying is this that he said, Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me : and where I am, thither ye cannot come ? To the natural man these things are utter darkness. What can he know of the Lord's glorification, when he knows nothing of regeneration, which is the only sign that can be given of its truth ?

Jst737 37. In the last great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. It has, not unreasonably, been supposed that the form of the Lord's address had reference to an- act which the priest performed on this, as on other days of the feast—pouring upon the altar, from a golden vessel, water drawn from the stream of Shiloah, which flowed under the temple mountain, when the prophetic words of Isaiah were sung : " With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells or fountains of salvation " (xii. 3). To himself, as the Fountain of living water, he now invited all who desired to receive it. Desire for truth is the soul's thirst. And expressive and instructive the analogy is. Thirst is a natural craving caused by a demand of the system for that which it needs. It is entirely different from artificial or morbid craving for drinks which nature neither asks nor supplies. So is the real desire for truth expressive of a want of the soul—a craving for what it feels to be necessary for its spiritual and eternal life. To Jesus we must go for the supply of this want. He only can give us to drink of the water of life. His invitation to come to him is worthy of the last day of the feast; and its reception is the crowning gift of his finished work of redemption, which the last day of the feast expressed.

38. But how are we to come to him and receive and use this gift ? We are to come to the Lord by faith. He that believeth on me, as the Scriptures have said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. Faith, in its scriptural sense, is a living confidence and trust in the Lord, as the Author of salvation, that is, of regeneration. Belief is that state in the disciple which brings him, as the receiver, into connection with the Lord, as the giver of the graces of the Christian life ; and which makes him not only their recipient, but the channel through which they flow to others. Truth, in the believer, is not only a fountain but a stream. In the unbeliever the truth is a standing pool, which may be stirred into artificial motion by vanity or contention, but can never gush forth spontaneously in a living stream from the heart. In the believer truth is living water, and it flows out living, as intelligence, which is a river, and through the thought, which is here meant by the belly.

39. All this is shewn in the words that follow. This he spake of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified. The impassable line between the real and formal believer is this : the believer receives the Spirit of the Lord as well as his truth; the non-believer receives the truth but not the Spirit. Truth is learnt through the senses from the Scriptures, either directly or indirectly, but the Spirit comes through the soul, and, entering into the truths learnt from the Scriptures, converts the truths of a dead into those of a living faith. This is done by the Spirit of Jesus. The Spirit of Jesus, spoken of in the New Testament, is not the Spirit of Jehovah mentioned in the Old. The Spirit of Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, is the divine influence that proceeds from the Lord's glorified Humanity, conveying to believers all the virtues of the Lord's work in the flesh, the righteousness and merit of the Lord's redemption and salvation, acquired by the subjugation of the powers of darkness and the glorification of his human nature. To mark the difference of the spirit of regeneration from that of preservation, it is said that the Holy Spirit was not yet (the word " given" being an interpolation), because that Jesus was not yet glorified; teaching us that the Holy Spirit which the believers in Jesus receive, is the Spirit of his Divine Humanity, the Spirit of the second Adam, which alone is able to quicken those who have become dead through the first.

40, 41. The enunciation of this truth seems to have wrought its promised effect. Many of the people, when they heard this saying, said. Of a truth this is the Prophet. Others said, This is the Christ. The prophet meant was the one who was expected as the forerunner of Christ, or him promised by Moses; some, therefore, considered the Lord as that messenger, others that he was the Messiah himself. A prophet signifies the doctrine of truth, Christ the truth itself. The Lord is the prophet to us when we receive him in doctrine \ he is the Christ whom we receive as the Truth. The Lord is doctrine itself as well as truth itself; for all doctrine proceeds from him and treats of him. He is doctrine in the rational mind, and truth in the spiritual mind; he is doctrine in us when his Word is understood, he is truth in us when it is perceived. Doctrine is therefore the forerunner of truth; it prepares the way for its acknowledgment. There will, therefore, always be, even in the church, those who spiritually receive the Lord as a Prophet, and those who receive him as the Christ; for every regenerating man receives him in the one character before he receives him in the other. But there is a third class, who are in doubt as to whether the Lord is either the Prophet or the Christ. As the human mind, especially on the greatest of truths, is subject to doubts, there are always doubters. Doubt precedes acknowledgment; and we may read the nature of our doubts in those, which some of the people, who heard Jesus, entertained respecting him as the Messiah. To those who said, This is the Christ, some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee ? Yet the doubt or objection in this case, as in the case of all other doubts or objections against the truth, is grounded in error.

42-44. The people who objected to Jesus being the Christ, objected because he came out of Galilee; and they said, Hath not the Scriptures said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was? But the Lord did come of the seed of David, according to the flesh, and was born in Bethlehem. The real and the seeming origin of Christ have for us a deep spiritual meaning, and convey a great spiritual lesson. Truth in man, like the Incarnate Word in the world, has an apparent origin or beginning different from its real one. Truth is really born, not in the senses, but in the soul, although it first makes its appearance in and to the senses; as the Lord was born in Bethlehem, but was first known as coming out of Galilee. Religion has its first beginning in the inner man, not only in the remains of good and truth which are there stored up by the Lord's mercy in early life, but in the first moving of the Spirit upon these, when regeneration commences in mature life. This is, indeed, unknown to the regenerate themselves, because it does not reveal itself to their consciousness. The beginning seems to be in the truths we learn, the lessons and the warnings we hear. These are no doubt the first religious impressions that come to our knowledge, and produce sensible effects; but if it were not for the inner life, that stirs the affections of the heart, these outward agencies would have no effect upon us. Were it not for the inward Christ, who is born in the Bethlehem within us, the outward Christ, who comes out of Galilee, could neither move nor convince us. Hence there are two kinds of these doubters or objectors; those who doubt before they believe, and those who doubt before they deny. Those with whom belief follows doubt, are they who have the Saviour born in them; those who doubt and deny, are they who have not. We see this exemplified, or at least represented, in that there was a division among the people because of him. And the objectors carried their opposition so far, that some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him. How many in the world, like these Jews, deny in their hearts, but fear to put forth their hands. They are also restrained, though less directly, by the same power; what men fear to do because of their reputation, or some other similar motive, they fear to do because of the truth, lest they suffer for it in the estimation of those who profess the truth; the truth, therefore, restrains them. And so much, even in this way, does society gain by the power and influence of the truth.

45. We come now to another class. There are elements in human nature, as there are human acquisitions, which are neither good nor evil in themselves, but become good or evil in the using. They nevei act a principal but only an instrumental part, and take their character from the power which governs their action. Such are the appetites and the senses, or what may be called the sensual principle, as that which feels and thinks from sensation. These are the officers sent out by the chief priests and Pharisees, which are ready to do their will while under their immediate influence, but are turned from their purpose when brought under an influence of an opposite kind. They had been sent out to take Jesus; but they now return without him to those who sent them. And on its being demanded of them, Why have ye not brought him? The officers answer; Never man spake like this man. In itself what a testimony is this to the power which the words of Jesus exercised over minds not entirely poisoned by the serpent of an obdurate heart and perverse understanding ! True it is, in many respects, that never man spake like this man; never so wisely, never so lovingly. How powerful must his words have been, when eternal love was their origin, and eternal life their end. This was no doubt the secret of the Lord's persuasive and overawing power. The wisdom that flows from love is true eloquence. Other eloquence may dazzle and inflame, this only can carry conviction and life to the mind.

47, 48. When the officers made this remarkable declaration, Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived? Strange perversion, that the truth itself should be considered to be falsehood, and belief in it an evidence of deception. But evil inverts order, putting light for darkness, and darkness for light. Do not many seriously believe that all religion is deception, and that nothing is real but the world's honour and wealth, and nothing true but the science of acquiring greatness and riches ? Those men who, like the Pharisees, make religion a stepping-stone to these as their supreme good, are in their hearts as much enemies to the truth as avowed and shameless unbelievers. And have we not all something of the Pharisee within us, that prompts, if it does not produce, enmity to the eternal truth, and contempt for the weakness that yields to it ? What the Christian sees to be the practice in the world without, he sometimes feels as a temptation in his own heart within. Much as the Pharisees must have felt the defection of their officers, there was one that they dreaded still more, as betrayed by their inquiry, Have any of the rulers, or of the Pharisees, believed on him ? While the rulers were steadfast, their cause might be doubtful, but could not be hopeless. And so spiritually with ourselves, while the ruling principles remain firm, we do not greatly fear the result of the failing of inferior elements, although this is not so insignificant as we sometimes suppose. The Christian sometimes thinks there is not much danger to be apprehended from a little indulgence of the natural man beyond what conscience sanctions; yet this may be the letting in of water, that may increase till it ultimately becomes a flood, that rises till it covers the tops of the highest mountains , for in all men there is a natural proneness to evil.

49. The Pharisees seemed little disposed to yield to the influence which prevailed, not only with their own officers, but with many of the people. They despised the defection of numbers of the people, so long as the rulers remained unbelieving. They declared that this people (or rather multitude), who knoweth not the law, are cursed. The knowledge of the law, with these speakers, was the professional knowledge which was cultivated by them as religious teachers. We are all too like the Pharisees, in placing much reliance on this theological knowledge, and thinking that a religious teacher must be a better man, because he devotes much time and labour to the study of the Scriptures. If a man is really spiritual and good, this will help to exalt his spirituality and goodness ; but this professional knowledge is entirely distinct from saving knowledge. Professional knowledge may lead to self-exaltation, but saving knowledge ever produces self-abasement. He who understands all mysteries and all knowledge, and has not charity, is nothing ; while any one of the multitude, who is distinguished by nothing but poverty of spirit, is akin to the angels, and in the way to become one. Lazarus, starving and full of sores at the gate, was greater than the rich man who inhabited the mansion, and was clothed in purple, and fared sumptuously every day. Not he who knows the law, but he who does it, is blessed.

50, 51. Amidst this general condemnation one solitary voice was raised in behalf of truth and virtue. Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them?) doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth ? As there was a Judas among the Lord's friends, there was a Nicodemus among his enemies ; a secret foe in the council of his followers, and a secret friend in the council of his persecutors. This holds good in regard to other times and to all persons. The good are not all clean, the wicked are not wholly corrupt. Some secret evil lurks in every human heart, some fugitive good is preserved in every human conscience. The Lord has a witness in every land, in every religion, in every sect, and in every individual mind. " Except the Lord of hosts had left in each of us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah." Nicodemus, though secretly a disciple, does not directly or openly vindicate the character and claims of Jesus, but only urges the employment of the proper manner of deciding on their merits. "Doth our law judge any man before it hear him, and know what he doeth ? " The laws of justice are universal laws, being founded upon the great law of equity, that we should do to others as we would that others should do to us. Every one can recognise the rectitude of this law, and one must be utterly depraved before he can entirely efface it from his conscience. Every one knows how to measure out justice to another, by what he insists upon as due to himself. There is ever, therefore, a monitor, like the good Nicodemus, to call the mind, even in its violent moods, not to decide by passion, but by reason, and so make knowledge the basis, and law the rule, of judgment. And this monitor tells us that we should hear before we judge, and know before we condemn.

52. How did the Jewish conclave receive this wise admonition of Nicodemus? They did not dispute the propriety of the course suggested, but declared the case of Jesus as prejudged by the circumstance of his origin. They answered him, Art thou also of Galilee ? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet. Their argument was that, being a Galilean, Jesus could not be a prophet; and not being a prophet, his claim was not entitled to be heard. The assumed fact-was not indeed true. Jonah and Elijah were Galileans ; but, even had it been true, it had nothing to do with the question. Such, however, is human blindness and inconsistency. When we have no reasons, we assume facts, and make them the bases of our judgments. " Can any good thing come out of Nazareth ?" " No prophet arises in Galilee !", These are sectarian cries, by which truth is denied, and condemned without a hearing. We are all inclined to believe that nothing can be either true in itself, or in favour of the trutn, which does not originate with, or belong to, ourselves. Such was the ground on which the Truth himself was rejected and condemned. But the secret of their conduct is, that men hate the light, because it testifies against them that their deeds are evil.

53. After the conclusion of the consultation, Every man went unto his own house. They separated, after the testimony of the officers and the counsel of Nicodemus, unmoved in favour of the holy Saviour. This teaches us how important it is that the end by which we are actuated be a good one. We are what our ends are. We think and judge and act from them. Our ends are the roots from which our thoughts and affections, words and actions, spring. When our ends are evil all these are evil; when our ends are good all are good.

Author: William Bruce --1870

Pictures: James Tissot----Courtesy of the Brooklyn museum

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