<< John VIII: Spiritual Meaning and Commentary >>

The first eleven verses of this chapter, with the last verse of the preceding one, are considered by the most eminent critics as forming no part of this gospel, as it came from the hand of the evangelist. As this is a point of great importance, we have thought it the proper course to state the grounds on which this conclusion rests. For these we are indebted to a friend, who is an authority in all questions of textual criticism.

The question as to the genuineness of this whole passage, when estimated by mere documentary evidence, is of such importance in the criticism of the New Testament, that it demands some notice here. The weight of external evidence is decidedly unfavourable to its genuineness; and these are briefly the main arguments on which that decision rests. First, this passage is omitted in the great majority, both of the MSS. of the first-class, and of the most ancient versions, and is ignored by the chief ancient Greek Fathers, and even by the Latin ones up to the time of St. Ambrose (A.D. 370). Secondly, its phraseology is unlike that of John, and exhibits several words not elsewhere occurring in his gospel (as, for instance, the Scribes, the Mount of Olives, &c.); whereas it strongly resembles the style of the Synoptical Gospels. Some MSS. even place it after Luke xxi. 38; while others remove it to the end of John's gospel. Thirdly, the MSS. which do contain this passage exhibit a greater diversity of reading than is found in any other passage of the same length in the entire New Testament. Fourthly, it seems to interrupt the coherence of the text where it stands ; hence most MSS. that have this passage also modify the last clause of the preceding chapter, to make an easy transition. Fifthly, almost all critics agree in rejecting its claims to stand where it does, as an integral part of John's Gospel. For all this, the passage may belong to the authentic Word, and be merely misplaced. There may also be other intrinsic signs of genuineness than those dreamt of by mere verbal critics.

While we are bound to pay due regard to the weight of external evidence, we are not to overlook that true internal evidence which comes through a perception of the internal sense. Swedenborg seems to have entertained no suspicion of the spuriousness of the passage. True, his attention may never have been directed to the question of its genuineness. On the other hand, he has not overlooked the passage, and does not appear to have perceived any want of the characteristics of inspiration, either in the narrative itself, or in the place it occupies. Moreover, he has explained it, so far as to show that he regarded it as having a regular spiritual sense, which distinguishes inspired from uninspired compositions. Believing the passage to be genuine, though possibly misplaced, we will embody his views in our explanation.

1, 2. After the circumstances recorded in the last chapter, Jesus went unto the mount of Olives; and early in the morning he came again into the temple. The mount of Olives and the temple are the Lord's divine love and his divine wisdom. His retiring into that holy mount means his entering into the sanctuary of his own pure love; and his coming thence into the temple to teach, represented his love teaching by wisdom. He came into the temple early in the morning. Jeremiah (vii. 13) speaks of the Lord rising up early to teach his people. His coming into the world is called both evening and morning, because then was the end of the old dispensation, and the beginning of the new. The Lord's coming is called a morning without clouds ; and himself is called the bright and morning star, as ushering in by his advent the day of salvation. His humanity is indeed both the morning and the morning star, for the glory of the indwelling divinity shone and still shines in it, to give light and life to the world. The Lord's coming early in the morning into the temple, symbolized his coming in the dawn of the day of salvation to the temple of his body, to manifest his glory, unfold the mysteries of his kingdom, and display the splendour of his wisdom, of which the morning is also eminently significative. When in the temple, all the people came unto him—all who were in the love of truth, which " people" in the favourable sense signifies. As on some other occasions, Jesus sat down, and taught them, representing again, that he taught them truth from love; sitting being expressive of a state of repose, indicative of a state of love.

awm783 3, 4. While seated in the temple, the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery: and when they had set her in the midst, they say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. The principal lesson we are to draw from the historical sense of this circumstance is the tenderness with which the Lord deals with the guilty woman; and the means which her case becomes in his hand of convicting her accusers. Without undervaluing the moral instruction it contains, we will attend to the spiritual meaning, which is at the same time the most highly moral; for spiritual is the soul of moral wisdom. In the spiritual sense, the woman's sin represented the profaning of the principle of good in the church, so frequently described by the same sin charged against the church, as figured by the daughter of Jerusalem and Zion. Marriage is the union of goodness and truth, the wife being the type of'the principle of goodness and the husband of truth. In the true order and the spiritual sense, marriage constitutes the church and heaven; and adultery constitutes the world and hell. In the highest sense, a chaste wife is a type of the church, as the pure and faithful wife of the Lord, and an unchaste wife is an emblem of the church corrupted by the love of the world and of the flesh. In the lower analogous sense, a chaste wife represents the principle of goodness united to the principle of truth, or the grace of love united to that of faith. But an unchaste wife, who admits another man than her own husband, represents the principle of goodness united to and corrupted by falsehood, and the grace of love corrupted by union with falsehood and unbelief, or, what is the same thing, the union of a corrupt will with a corrupt understanding. The woman taken in adultery represents the Jewish church, as devoted to and corrupted by the world; and, individually applied, represents the good of the principles of the church perverted by false doctrines, In the internal historical sense, the woman represents the Gentile church, and those who accused her represented the Jewish church. It is not to be supposed that she was accused falsely; for both Jews and Gentiles ware included under sin. Yet the sins of the Gentiles, though in some respects more outwardly glaring than those of the Jews, were less heinous, because committed in comparative ignorance, and not, as were those of the Jews, against light. On this principle the Lord said to the self-righteous Jews, that the publicans went into the kingdom of heaven before them. By possessing the Word, which contains in fulness the knowledge of sin, the Jews were able to discern the sins of the Gentiles, and they indeed called them sinners, as compared with themselves, because of their being without the law. The scribes and Pharisees bringing the woman to Jesus and accusing her of adultery, is descriptive of their readiness to detect sin in others, especially the Gentiles, and their disposition to punish it. It is indeed remarkable that the evil are more keen in detecting, and more severe in punishing, acts of wickedness than the righteous, except, of course, when their interest or inclination blinds or softens them.

5-9. When they submitted the woman's case to Jesus, the scribes and Pharisees said, Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned. Jesus answered them not, but stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground. When they continued asking him, he lifted himself up, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest even unto the last. In this we see the wisdom of Jesus displayed in defeating the machinations of his enemies. But the circumstances themselves command our attention. Every act which Jesus did, every word he spoke, is significant. His writing on the ground reminds us of the words of Jeremiah: "They that depart from me shall be written in the earth " (xvii. 13). The Lord's act, which was a symbolical answer to the accusation and appeal of the Jews, told them that they were written in the earth. And when an act or a speech is repeated, it is always, in the "Word, expressive of a double application—to the intellectual and moral nature, or the inner and outer man; the repetition of the act in this instance signifying, that the Jews were both malevolent and deceitful, both morally and intellectually debased, and thus wholly of the earth, earthly. They did not accuse the woman from any hatred of the sin she had committed, nor bring her to Jesus to have her case righteously judged. It was not with the view of the Lord's condemning the woman, but of his condemning himself, that they brought her to him. Instead of this, they were made to pronounce their own condemnation. Little conscience as these hypocrites had, they had sufficient discernment to drive them from the presence of him who so unexpectedly and so completely discomfited them. No doubt the holy influence of Jesus had a considerable share in the effect which his words produced upon them. It was like that judgment of which the evil are the subjects in the other world. It is a law of that world, that no one shall be cast into hell, until he is convicted in his own conscience, -that he is so great a sinner, as to be unworthy and unfit for a place in the kingdom of heaven. Conscience among the wicked acts but negatively ; it convicts them of evil, but does not prevent them from committing it. With the good, conscience is a safeguard against sin, and a prompting cause of goodness.

GSnm83810, 11. When Jesus has lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers ? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. The Lord's conduct on this occasion is not to be understood as affording any countenance to the notion, that he acquits the guilty. He acted in conformity with his own merciful declaration, that he came, not to condemn the the world, but to save the world, and in conformity with his answer to the young man who wished him. to make his brother divide the inheritance with him, " Who made me a judge and a divider over you?" But there is a still more comprehensive principle on which the Lord's conduct is to be explained. This he stated, when he said, " I judge no man : the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him at the last day." Besides, the Lord himself never accuses any. And where there are no accusers, there can be no condemnation. The Lord desires to condemn none, but to save and bless all. Where there are none to condemn, it is the blessed prerogative of his divine mercy to say, "Neither do I condemn thee : go, and sin no more." This the Lord desires every one should do. He wishes every sinner to forsake sin. And if any commit sin, the Lord does not condemn, so as to close against them the door of repentance and forgiveness, but, so long as they are in this world, preserves them in the capacity of forsaking sin and learning righteousness. There is one other consideration on this subject, which it is important should be attended to. It is a law of sacred ethics, that blame is proportionate to knowledge. He that knew his Lord's will, and did it not, shall be beaten with many stripes ; but he who knew not his Lord's will, and did things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few. This does not arise from any arbitrary appointment, but from the circumstance, that sin against light deeply corrupts the soul, while sin without light leaves the soul comparatively free from confirmed evil. The evil of the natural will is not sin till it has obtained the consent of the understanding. Now, if we consider the woman as the type of the Gentile will among the Gentiles, either within or out of the church, her having no accusers is expressive of this state; that evil exists, indeed, in the will and comes into act, but is without an accuser in the understanding. When this is the case, evil has no moral quality; for inclinations and acts derive their moral quality from their being done with knowledge of the moral law. No one of a sound mind and of a sufficient age can love or commit evil without some degree of blame, because none are utterly ignorant of the distinction between good and evil. We only speak of Gentile minds being sinless or blameless comparatively. Very young children who are entirely ignorant, are indeed entirely sinless ; and only so far as adults are near their intellectual condition, are they near their sinless state. Such in the days of our Lord were the Gentiles in comparison with the Jews; and such are all who are in a Gentile state, compared with those who have been instructed in the nature of sin, and especially of those who think themselves righteous and despise others, and still more of those who accuse them. " If ye were blind, ye would have no sin, but now ye say ye see, therefore your sin remaineth."

12. In accordance with the view we have presented of the meaning of the woman, as representing those who sin through ignorance, the Lord no sooner dismisses her, uncondemned but not unwarned, than he addresses himself to the people, saying unto them, I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. The Light is the Truth. The Lord is the light of the world, as the truth by which the world is enlightened and directed in the way of eternal life. He existed indeed in the beginning—from eternity—as the Light, the divine wisdom; but he is especially the light of the world, the divine wisdom in its adaptation to erring and sinful men, as God manifest in the flesh, that is, God made man, and through his manhood brought near to men, in a way that makes him a lamp unto their feet, and a light unto their path. The Lord, as thus manifested, is the light of the world. Eor the world means not only the men of the world, but that part of the human mind which is analogous to the world, its external or natural degree. This was that part of man, for the illumination of which the Lord assumed human nature. The Lord was Man from eternity, the Archetype of finite man, who was created in his image and likeness. And during the first church he was the One into whose image man was regenerated. It was man's fall, which eventually closed up the higher degrees of his mind, through which he had been regenerated, and left open only the natural degree, which the Eternal Word could not savingly affect, that rendered Incarnation a necessity; since by no other medium than the Lord's humanity could man be reached, so as to be enlightened by the divine light. Thus did the Lord become the light of the world. And thus the Saviour could say, " he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness." He who follows the light which the Lord has shed on the path of life by his teaching and example, follows the Lord. But to follow the Lord is to follow him in the regeneration, by doing as he has done, and being what he is, so far as the saved can be as the Saviour. Those who walk thus shall not walk in darkness—neither in the darkness of ignorance, of error, nor of unbelief. Those who follow the Lord shall have the Light of Me, light in the intellect guiding the will to the attainment of love which is life.

13. When they heard the Lord utter this saying, The Pharisees said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true. The Jews, like all external people, wanted external evidence of the truth; they were not disposed to accept truth on its own testimony; they could not admit that the record which truth bears of itself is true.

14. The Lord, however, answered, Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true. The ground of the truths of his testimony of himself, and of their denial of it was this : for I know whence I come, and whither I go ; but ye cannot tell whence I come and whither I go. Truth is the form and the revealer of goodness. Without relation to goodness truth is nothing; it is a form without an essence, a means without an end. Truth knows whence it is, and this is the cause of its testimony being true. Those who know truth, but do not receive the good from which it proceeds, and to which it points and leads, know not whence it is. Truth comes to us as the messenger of goodness, as the offspring of love; and the purpose of its coming is to lead us with it to that love and goodness whence it came and whither it goes.

15. 16. One cause that the Jews knew not the Lord's record to be true was that stated by Jesus : Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man. Those who judge not spiritually, nor even rationally, can have no true knowledge of the Lord, or of his word, or even of themselves. They judge according to the appearance. Yet such persons are the readiest to judge, and the most confident in the soundness of their judgments. But judgment is here used in the sense of condemnation. And those who judge according to the flesh condemn everything relating to the spirit, and sometimes even deny the existence of the spirit itself. The Lord " judges no man." This is a declaration that the Lord makes more than once. It does not mean that he absolutely does not judge. He said that the Father had committed all judgment unto the Son. The Lord does not judge in the sense of condemning. Man is judged to condemnation by the truth itself which he has received, but from which he has separated goodness. Every one is judged either to heaven or to hell by that which is in him. Truth without good is that which condemns, and truth with good is that which justifies. This is easily seen. Why are the evil condemned? Because they know their duty and do it not. They have the truth, but they have not the good which it teaches. This is their condemnation. Why are the righteous justified? Because they not only know their duty, but do it. They have the truth and the good which it teaches. Now when the Lord says " I judge no man," he means that he judges no one from truth alone; therefore he condemns no one, for he " came not into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved." The truth condemns those who know it, and violate it; " the word which I have spoken the same shall judge you in the last day." But when the Lord says, Yet if I judge, my judgment is true; because I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me; he means that when he does judge, it is not by truth alone, but by truth in union with goodness, or by wisdom in union with love. For the Son is Truth or Wisdom, and the Father is Goodness or Love.

17, 18. The Lord appeals for a confirmation and illustration of the rectitude of his judgments to the law which the Pharisees recognised. It is also written in your law, the testimony of two men is true. I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me. The two witnesses are the principles of goodness and truth on the one hand, and of evil and falsity on the other. The Father and the Son are these two witnesses in the divine sense, the " two men" are the same witness. The testimony of these two witnesses is analogous to that of the Son, because they are types of the same principles; the Father and the Son being the principles of Good and Truth in the Lord, and the two men the principles of goodness and truth in man. The law itself, as it stands in the Mosaic code, has reference to the testimony which proves guilt as well as innocence; for as goodness and truth are both required to justify, evil and falsity are both required to condemn. As neither good nor truth alone justifies, so neither evil alone nor falsity alone condemns. One witness establishes nothing: " at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses every matter shall be established" (Deut. xix. 15). We have said indeed that truth alone condemns. But he who has the truth which condemns him, is himself an enemy to the truth; and if not openly, yet in his heart, he believes what is opposite to the truth. Truth condemns, not actively but passively, not because it acts against the sinner, but because the sinner acts against it. If he would only be loyal to the truth, the truth would make him free : his disloyalty to the truth is the cause of his being the bondman of Satan. Evil which hates truth loves falsity, and is united to it, even while an evil man makes profession of the truth. It is this union of the evil and the false which constitutes the infernal marriage, which is hell, considered as a state, as the union of the good and the true constitutes the heavenly marriage, which is the state of heaven.

19. When the Lord had appealed to the testimony of the Father as uniting with his own, to show that his word was true, the Jews demanded, Where is thy Father ? The question is similar to the demand of Philip, " Lord, shew us the Father ?" And it might receive the same answer, " Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip ? He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father. How sayest thou then shew us the Father ? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me ?" The demand was made by a believer, and therefore received an answer. This question was asked by unbelievers, and therefore remained unanswered. He who knows what is in man saw, no doubt, that the answer would have produced no conviction, and only added to condemnation. We learn from it, that not the formal demand, but the rooted inclination, is that which secures or prevents an answer to our religious inquiries. We learn further that the knowledge of the humanity includes the knowledge of the divinity, for the Lord says to his interrogators, If ye had known me, you should have known my Father also. This shows that they who judge according to the flesh, know not the Lord even as to his humanity, and they who know not the origin and nature of his humanity, cannot know, and do not acknowledge, his divinity. They are like the Jews to whom the Lord also said, " Te neither know me nor my Father." This accusation may therefore be made as truly now as it was then. And as the Lord's humanity is the very Divine Truth, and his divinity is the very Divine Good, we learn that unless we know the truth as the power and manifestation of goodness, we are ignorant of both.

JTRS837 20. These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the temple. The words he uttered came forth from the treasury of his wisdom, the temple being the symbol of his humanity. In relation to us, the treasury is our human understanding, spiritual knowledge being symbolized by the money which the coffers in the temple contained. Notwithstanding the enmity of the Jews, no man laid hands on him, for his hour was not yet come. This wonderful circumstance shows the extraordinary influence which the Lord exercised over men. But there is something more wonderful still. It teaches us what enables the evil spiritually to lay hands on the good. The evil can only lay hands on the good, or, to view the subject abstractly, evil can only lay hands on good by means of some perversion of good; and so also falsity can only lay hands on truth by means of some perversion of truth Pure truth and good and mere falsity and evil do not touch ; there is s great gulf "between them. They require some intermediate to bring them into any connection. Evil desires to come into contact with good, and falsity with truth, only to destroy them ; and therefore they ardently desire to have truth and good that they may pervert them, this being the only way to effect their destruction. This desire is expressed spiritually in the entreaty of the rich man in hell to Abraham in heaven, that he would send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water, to cool his tongue and allay his torment. The evil, even in hell, desire truth to falsify it; and for this reason only is it denied them. It is because the evil desire truth to pervert it, that the Lord did not comply with the request of the Pharisees, to tell them where his Father was. It was because truth and good cannot be brought under the power of falsity and evil without being first perverted, and because this perversion of good and truth must take place with, or by means of, those who know them, that the Jews could not take Jesus till they got one of his own disciples to betray him. This perversion existed in, and was represented by Judas. It did not exist to such a degree, as to enable the enemies of Jesus to take him, at the time he spake these words in the treasury; his hour was not yet come, therefore no man laid hands on him.

21. Jesus again addresses himself to the people. There was some interval between the preceding and the present address, indicating a distinction in the truths uttered, and a change of state in those addressed. In the preceding part of his address, the Lord tells the Jews that they knew not whence he came or whither he went; here he speaks of his approaching departure. I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come. The Lord alludes to his death, which was his going away from the Jewish church, and from those who were of its character. The Lord of himself never leaves any church, or any sinner, however depraved. So long as the Lord had anything of the " flesh " or the infirm humanity derived from Mary, he was with the Jewish church, but when this was put off, there was no longer any element of sympathy between him and that carnal dispensation, and all connection between them was severed. But why then did the Lord say, " Ye shall seek me ?" Did not this indicate a desire on their part to find him whom they had despised, after they had lost him ? It certainly does. But what was their object in seeking him ? The Lord cannot deny himself to any who seek him sincerely ; he cannot refuse life to any who desire and ask it. Of the Jews he said they should seek him, and yet die in their sins. This could only be because they sought him for an end different from that for which he came and died. They sought a Messiah who would restore again the temporal kingdom to Israel. If they sought the Lord, it was only to kill him. Therefore it may truly be said of the church, which so sought the Messiah, and of those who so seek Christ, Ye shall die in your sins. The dispensation perished in its own iniquity, the measure of which it filled by crucifying the Lord. To have continued to exist, the church must have not only acknowledged the Lord as the Messiah, but have followed him whither he was going, and confessed him as the glorified Saviour. " But whither I go, ye cannot come," said the Lord. When, after he had died in the flesh, he arose and ascended in a deified humanity, the Jewish church and people could not come to him.

22. Then said the Jews, Will he kill himself? because he saith, Whither I go, ye cannot come. As suicide was considered by the Jews a crime which sent the soul to perdition, it has been supposed that these unprincipled men meant to insinuate, that Jesus meditated an act which would send him to a place where no son of Abraham would follow him. This, or even a simple imputation of a probable intention of self-murder, was interring from the words of Jesus the very opposite of their true meaning. To kill himself would indeed have been to contradict all he had said and done, and destroy the whole work of human redemption. The insinuation was therefore a diabolical perversion of his love and truth, and was in reality a killing in themselves of every vestige of these saving principles.

23. Well, therefore, might the Lord say, Ye are from beneath ; I am fom above: ye are of this world, I am not of this world. Their sentiments and his were diametrically opposite in their origin, and so were those who uttered them. He and his words were divine and heavenly, they and theirs were infernal and worldly.

24. I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins. Belief in the Lord is the means of righteousness, and thence of life. The Lord being Righteousness itself and Life itself, he is the author of them to men; and unless we come to him in faith, we cannot receive them. That of which the Lord as our Saviour is the author is what is called eternal life, not life as existence, for this every soul has, but life as love and blessedness. Existence without these is death; and those who die in their sins have only a living death. We must die to sin if we would escape dying in sin.

25. When the Lord declared belief in him to be necessary to save from death, it was natural they should ask him, Who art thou ? This question does not express desire but contempt. The Lord is made to answer, The same that I said unto you from the beginning. The true sense of this passage is much debated. Clowes, after Augustine, gives, "The Beginning, which thing I also said unto you," making the Lord tell the Jews that he was the Beginning or Origin of all things. There are objections to both renderings. In the first, the case of the answer is different from that of the question, instead of being, as they should be, the same ; in both, the verb is in the past tense, " I said," whereas in the original it is in the present, " I say." Olshausen takes the word arche adverbially, and reads the passage thus, First, I tell you, I have many things to say and to judge of you: but he that sent me is true ; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him. The many things which the Lord had to say and to judge of the Jews were the evils and falsities which the divine truth was about to lay open in the Jewish church; for to say has relation to the exposing of evil, and to judge has relation to the exposing of falsity. But the Lord's saying and judging were unerringly just, for " he that sent me is true." If he that sent Jesus was true, Jesus himself must have been true also ; therefore there could be no escape from his pronounced decision. Spiritually, there is a much more impressive lesson. The Father who sent Jesus is always sending him; the divine Love is always sending forth the divine Wisdom. Whatever wisdom or truth says and judges, it says and judges from love. Therefore the Lord, as an assurance that what he says is true, tells us that he always speaks to the world those things which he heard from the Father that sent him. We cannot, of course, understand what the Lord says about the Father speaking and the Son hearing, in the simplest literal sense. The Lord, as to his humanity, heard the spirit of the divinity within him as internal revelation—the divine flowing down into the human, the divine love in the Lord's interior will becoming divine truth in his interior understanding, and thence coming forth in words of wisdom, and deeds of beneficence.

27. When the Lord had said these things respecting him that sent him, They understood not that he spake to them of the Father. The knowledge of the Father being the knowledge of the Lord's divinity and of the divine love, as manifested in the person of the Lord, and displayed in his works of redemption and salvation, none can understand the language in which he describes the Fatherly principle in himself, but those in whom the divine humanity or the divine truth obtains an elevation into the thought and affection of the inner man, and who are treated of in the words that now follow.

28. Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself: but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. Literally, this lifting up of the Son of Man is his crucifixion, and those who lifted him up were those who crucified him. But the Lord's crucifixion was also his glorification; and this is the event of which, in the spiritual sense, the Lord speaks. It was to this the Lord referred when he said, " And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me." His divine humanity is the centre of spiritual attraction, to which willing souls are drawn. In the individual application of the subject, the lifting up of the Son of man is the elevation of the Lord's holy truth into the interior thoughts and affections. Only this lifting up of the Lord can give us experimentally to know that he is the Saviour, and that his humanity does nothing of itself but from the indwelling divinity, or that his truth does no things of itself, but acts entirely and constantly from love. And it must act from love in us before we can know its saving power. Thus it is that truth is taught of love, and speaks the language of love.

Phrs816 29. The divine and the human, love and truth, cannot be separated, either in the Lord as he is in himself, or in the Lord as he is in us. He that sent me is with, me : the Father hath not left me alone ; for I do always those things that please him. Plainly and strikingly does this teach the oneness of the Father and the Son. They are indeed the Sender and the Sent, yet they are not separate. To be sent is to proceed. But to proceed, spiritually, is not to depart, or to advance through space; it is to proceed as thought proceeds from love, or speech from thought, or as light proceeds from the sun. In all these cases the sender and the sent are connected; their separation would be extinction. " He that sent me is with me j the Father hath not left me alone." This is a momentous truth, practically as well as doctrinally. The Father and the Son cannot be separated in us any more than in the Godhead. If we have not both we have neither. Love without wisdom is not love, and wisdom without love is not wisdom. It may seem as if we could have wisdom without love, or truth without goodness, but it is not so. Knowledge is sometimes alone; truth never. How may we distinguish between them ? Knowledge is the science of goodness, truth is the form of goodness. Love is not in theory, but in practice; not in truth, but in the good of truth. The Lord said, The Father hath not left me alone, "for I do always those things that please him." Truth is known by this,—that it always does those things that are in agreement with love. This is the reason it is not left alone. Practice unites love and truth, or charity and faith.

30. As he spake these words, many believed on him. The truth which the Lord's words to the Jews involve comes now to be exemplified. His wisdom and love exercise a power over the minds of some. They believe' on him. But there are as many grounds of belief as there are of soil on which the seeds of the sower fell. Belief, in its first moments, may be fervid as well as intellectual, but its final state depends on the quality of the ground on which it falls. Practice is the test by which its sincerity is tried, and its endurance or dissipation is determined. Let us see how this operates here.

31. Jesus said to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed. In chap. ii. 23, we read of some who believed in the Lord's name because they saw the miracles he did, but to whom he did not commit himself because he knew them. So in this case, the Lord evidently regards these as nominal disciples, and therefore tells them how they may become disciples indeed—by continuing in his word. Continuance in the Lord's word is not possible without doing what his word teaches and requires—it implies perseverance in opposing evil and in doing good. Continuance or perseverance in faith and holiness is one of the most necessary conditions of success in religion, as in. every thing else. Numerous are the exhortations, solemn are the warnings, given in the Scriptures on this subject. The fact of their abundance is proof of their necessity, arising from the tendency, which exists in all, to fall away, or to become lukewarm.

32. The Lord gives this encouraging promise to those who continue : And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. The knowledge of the truth of which Jesus here speaks is practical knowledge, that which is acquired by continuing in his word. The freedom which the truth conquers for us is, as the Lord's subsequent teaching shows, freedom from sin. This includes every other kind of freedom—freedom from ignorance, from error, from doubt; and the still more precious freedom which succeeds it, freedom from the thraldom of our appetites and passions, and from distrust in the providence of God.

33. Yet some of those who had "believed" could not endure this doctrine. They considered themselves already free, and would not hear of a doctrine that implied they were in bondage. They understood not the nature of the bondage and freedom of which Jesus spake They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free ? These Jews were at that very time in bondage to the Romans, and yet were indignant at the idea of their being made free. In this they well represented the natural man, who, while the slave of his passions, boasts of his freedom, because he is uncontrolled by the restraints of religion. The Jews grounded their claim of being free on their being the children of Abraham. Had they been spiritually the children of Abraham, they might have claimed the possession of spiritual freedom. But to be sons of Abraham according to the flesh gave no true liberty. We are all the children of God by creation, or according to the flesh, but to be free, we must be his children by regeneration, by being born from above.

34. Our Lord proceeds to explain the true nature of bondage and of freedom. Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. This is bondage, and that only which is deserving of the name. It is the parent of all other bondage. Sin first makes us slaves to avarice or ambition, and then prompts us. to reduce others to the bondage of subserviency to ourselves. There is this difference between spiritual and natural bondage; spiritual bondage is voluntary, natural bondage is sometimes involuntary. Yet sin is the great slave master. Self-love, which is the master sin, is the great enemy of freedom, both of soul and body. But whatever be men's outward condition, whether it be that of the oppressed or the oppressor, this condition is common to them all—"he that committeth sin is the servant of sin." This is the bondage from which the truth of Christ will make us free.

35. The results of servitude and freedom are, that the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. The house is heaven, which is the Lord's dwelling-place, and also the principle of goodness, which is his habitation in the human mind. The servant of sin does not enter there; but he that is born again, and is a child of God, abideth there for ever. Abstractly, a servant of sin is the falsity of evil, and a son is the truth of good; in the supreme sense the Son is Divine Truth, and thus the Lord himself as the Truth. He it is eminently who abideth in the house for ever. By the Lord's incarnation and glorification that sublime declaration of the Psalmist has received its verification and confirmation: " For ever, O Lord, thy Word is settled in heaven." The divine Truth is there eternally fixed as in its own tabernacle, descending thence into the church on earth and into the hearts of men.

36. And it abides there, and descends thence, that it may make angels and men truly free. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. Freedom consists in being led of God, servitude consists in being led of oneself. The natural man's notion of freedom is the very opposite of this. He supposes it to be freedom from all restraint. There is no such state as this. We must either be led of heaven or hell, be the servants of God or the servants of sin. Which is the best guide ? The one leads us by virtue to happiness, the other leads us by vice to misery. There is another lesson which the Lord teaches us here. He no doubt drew his imagery from the Old Testament economy, with which his auditors were familiar. The Hebrew servant was not always the property of his master, but served him for a term of years, after which he was discharged. But the son who was always free, was the heir, and abode in the house.

37. The Lord reverts to what the Jews had said about being the children of Abraham. I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. They were Abraham's seed only according to the flesh. Spiritually, they were the seed of Abraham in possessing the "Word: for Abraham was a type of the Lord, and his seed are the truths of his Word. These the Jews possessed, though they perverted them, as they themselves were the perverted children of their temporal father. As they perverted the truths of the Word which they had received from the Lord, they desired to destroy the Word, and therefore the Lord, from whom these truths proceeded, and of whom they treat in their highest sense. " Ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you." True is this still. The mind in which the Lord's Word has no place, is at enmity against him, and is ever seeking to kill him, or what is the same, is ever seeking to destroy, in itself and in others, every thing good and true, which is seeking to kill the Lord, who is Good itself and Truth itself.

38. The tendency of opposites is to destroy each other. The truth of good and the falsity of evil are such opposites. Their opposition was exemplified in the case of the Lord and the Jews. I speak that which I have seen with my Father; and ye do that which ye have seen with your father. Truth is the offspring of goodness; falsity of evil. Truth speaks what it sees—what it perceives from goodness, for truth is the expression of goodness; and falsity does what it sees from evil, for falsity is the expression of evil. This was exemplified as well as represented by the Lord and the Jews. He was the Truth of Goodness, they were forms of falsity from evil.

39. The Jews answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham. The Jews spoke of Abraham as the father of their race, Jesus spoke of him as the father of the faithful. They were Abraham's children according to the flesh, but were not according to the spirit. Abraham was a type of the Lord as to his love, and the children of Abraham are those who are regenerated or born of God. But in the abstract sense, Abraham is the principle of love from the Lord in the heart, and his children, are the truths that proceed from that love in the understanding, When there is love in the heart and truth in the understanding, good works will follow: these are the works of Abraham, because they are works of love, for love worketh by truth. The Jews were not the children of the faithful Abraham; nor are any others spiritually so who act like them.

40. While claiming to be the children of Abraham, the Lord said Ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. Good loves truth. Desire for truth and readiness ta receive it are the prevailing signs of the existence of good in the heart. But where men seek to destroy truth, they give unmistakable evidence of their want of goodness. The Lord's teaching was the truth of love, and all who had any similar state in themselves—all who were really the children of Abraham, must have heard him gladly, and have found a witness in themselves that his words were true. Abraham, as a principle in us, is the good of early life, which is intended by Providence to dispose and prepare the mind for the reception of the higher good of mature life. The simple truths of this good are intended to enable the mind to apprehend the higher truths of the Christian life. When however men have destroyed these states in themselves, they will ever seek to destroy the higher one offered to them, as beings created for heaven. This is seeking to kill Jesus. This do not the children of Abraham.

41. Deeds indicate their origin. Our motives are the parents of our works. Ye do the deeds of your father. And what the Lord said to his bitter enemies, he says still to all who are actuated by the same diabolical motives. Our deeds are indeed our own, and they ever proceed from the springs of action, that are seated deep in the ends of our inner life. We ought, therefore, to examine ourselves, that we may trace our deeds to the motive, secret and remote it may be, from which they spring. To the Lord's declaration, that the Jews did the deeds of their father, they answered, We be not born of fornication ; we have one Father, even God. The Jews used this language figuratively. By fornication they meant idolatry; they asserted that they were not idolators, but worshippers of Jehovah; children of God, not of idols. Spiritually, fornication is the falsification of truth, and to be born of fornication is to be confirmed in such falsification, and to live and act from it. To have God for our Father is to be confirmed in pure divine truth, and to live and act from it. This is the opposite to being born of spiritual fornication.

42. The Lord gives a test which will always enable us to determine whether we are in the one state or the other. Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and, came from God ; neither come I of myself, but he sent me. Those who 'are born of God love whatever comes from God. This is self-evident. To have God for our Father is to have his love abiding in us; and if we have God's love in us, we cannot but love the Truth that proceeds from him. The truth is that which make love manifest. The Lord was the Divine Truth that manifested the Divine Love. In the Lord's concluding words, " neither came I of myself, but he sent me," must be some deep and instructive meaning. If the Lord was truly God, even supposing there were another equal with him, this could not have been literally the case. By the Lord's statement we are instructed, that love in the Deity was the moving cause of the Incarnation and of human redemption. The Word, the Eternal Truth, came not of itself, it was sent by Eternal Love, to accomplish the purposes of saving mercy. And so it is still. Truth is still sent by love; it comes neither of itself nor by itself. It comes not of itself, it seeks not its own; it seeks to lead men up into the heaven of unchangeable love. Truth, we have had occasion to remark, is that which judges. Had the Lord come of himself, or as truth alone, he would have come as a judge; and if he had come as a judge, his coming would have involved sinners, and thus the human race, in universal condemnation. But the Lord came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He came, not solely to manifest himself in the majesty and power of truth, but in the benignity and tenderness of love. " God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life." And thus " in his love and in his pity he redeemed " mankind. In his often repeated declaration, that he was sent by the Father, that he came not to do his own will, but the will of him that sent him—that of himself he did and said nothing, there is thus a profound significance, expressing the blessed assurance that the great work of redemption, which the Lord came on the earth to accomplish, had its origin in infinite love, and that this love was the moving cause in all the redeeming operations of the Lord's eternal truth.

43. The Lord asks, Why do ye not understand my speech ? and he answers, Even because ye cannot hear my word. To understand, in Scripture, does not mean to understand with the intellect only, but to understand with the heart: that is, to receive truth into the understanding under the influence of love. We believe from the heart by the understanding. This our Lord teaches when he says to the Jews that they did not understand his speech, because they could not hear his Word. Hearing is a sense which has more immediate connection with the will, as seeing has with the understanding. When the Scriptures speak of hearing, they mean perception from the will. The reason, therefore, why we do not understand is because we do not hear. There is a difference also between speech and word, or between the utterance of a thing and the thing uttered, which is as the difference between the form and the essence. We do not understand the divine speech, which comes by an external way, because we do not hear the divine word, which comes by an internal way. We do not understand external truth because we do not love internal truth.

Fot827 44. And what is the reason we do not ? Because Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. Jesus had already told them they did the deeds of their father; he now tells them who their father is. The devil signifies the principle of evil, as Satan signifies the principle of what is false. The devil and Satan are not indeed abstractions. Personally, they are the powers of darkness, consisting of innumerable evil spirits. And these act upon the human mind; but they act through the evils and falsities which a man loves and believes; therefore the evils arid falsities themselves are signified by them. Evil in the heart is the devil; and when the ruling love is evil, the affections are lusts; and these lusts are what the children of the devil do. In all evil there is the lust of destroying good. This is spiritual murder. And of evil it may be said, " He was a murderer from the beginning." A murderer is literally a manslayer, and as a man signifies the principle of charity, the extinction of that heavenly principle is meant by the devil being a homicide. This, indeed, was an act that was committed at the beginning or in primeval times, being described by Cain slaying Abel. In itself evil is murder, both spiritual and natural: this is its character, its inmost nature, its beginning, which it is ever in the intention, often in the effort, to make its ending. But evil effects its purposes by means of falsehood, which it often frames by the perversion of truth, and is therefore called the father of lies. Its enmity against truth arises from the circumstance that truth exposes and condemns evil. " He abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him.'' This does not mean, even in the literal sense, that the devil was once in the truth and fell from it ; but that he never had the truth, but was always its enemy. This is true of evil: it stood not at any time in the truth, because there is no truth in it. Good has truth in it, and evil has falsehood in it. When evil " speaketh a lie, he speaketh his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it." How true, yet fearful, a description of evil! It is a murderer and a liar— a destroyer of all that is good, a falsifier of all that is true. Evil is the great antagonist of God himself; for God in his essence is Goodness, to whom evil is diametrically opposed in its nature and in its operations. What is called here " his own" is in the plural, and means his own things —-that is, the loves of self and the world, which are the roots of evil deeds and falsehoods, which are spiritual murders and lies, or destructions of charity and faith.

45. Such being the nature of evil, it follows, as our Lord says, And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. That which in its nature speaketh a lie cannot believe the truth. And for this reason it rejects Jesus, because he is the truth itself.

46. The great cause of men rejecting the truth is, that it convicts them of sin. Our Lord challenged even his enemies to convince or convict Mm of sin. Which of you convinceth me of sin ? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me ? What an appeal was this to those who were seeking his destruction, and watching for anything in Ms words or conduct that might be construed into a ground of accusation 1 He did not, as in the case of the adulterous woman, seek a tender judgment, by appealing to their own consciousness of sin; but he placed himself before them, in the plenitude of their malignity and falsehood, as Ms judges, to condemn him if they could. 0 immaculate Son of man ! Inheritor of our frail, fallen nature; yet so entirely sinless, that even thine enemies were struck dumb when asked to convince thee of sin! So are evil men, or the evil that is in them, unable to trace sin to Eighteousness or falsehood to Truth. Can we trace darkness to light, or cold to heat ? If, then, he who is good, without any mixture of evil, " speaks the truth, why do ye not believe him 1" The reason is given in what now follows.

47. He that is of God heareth God's words. The truth here enunciated is evident and is most momentous. He who is influenced by the Spirit of God listens to the truth of God. Spiritual truth is unlike natural truth; science, or the knowledge of nature, may be as grateful and therefore as perceptible, to an evil as to a good man. Spiritual truth is grateful only to one who is good, or has so much good as to desire to have still more. Indeed, good loves truth; evil hates it. He that is of God heareth God's words. To others it must be said, as Jesus said to the Jews, Ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God. That which makes us the people of God is goodness and love ; those who are destitute of this have no sympathy with the truth; they hear it not because they love it not.

48. The truth, to such as are opposed to it, is only the more hated the more it testifies against them that they are evil. Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil. Arch-heresy and wickedness are included in this accusation; and it spiritually implies the imputation of falsity and evil to Truth itself, and Goodness itself. This is putting evil for good and darkness for light. Although the Jews could not convince the Lord of sin, they accuse him of being a Samaritan and of having a devil. And they even justify themselves in doing so: " Say we not well?" Their conduct was inconsistent, but not unaccountable. Some, when they cannot condemn acts, impute motives. There are some religions and religious persons who impute even to God himself motives and acts which are unworthy of Ms character; but they do not impute them to him as evil, but attribute them to him as good. But however much men may, either by mistake or from inclination, impute wrong motives or acts to the Lord or to his Word, none can convince or convict either of sin.

49. To the Jews who made these wicked charges against him, Jesus answered, I have not a devil: but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me. Truth has but one answer to such a charge, the meek answer which Jesus gave, whether he speaks now in Ms Word, or in the conscience. But the truth not only repudiates the charge of proceeding from evil, but it claims the merit of teaching and leading to goodness. " I honour my Father." Truth honours goodness by doing its will. TMs Jesus did. And men should honour him as the Truth, by following his teaching and obeying his commands. The Lord prayed that his Father and he and Ms disciples might all be one, " thou in me and I in them." We must honour the Father in the Son. When the Son is dishonoured the Father is dishonoured, for the Father is in the Son. It is, therefore, a double dishonour to dishonour the Son. We do not know the truth, if we do not see that it honours goodness. For this it deserves our honour. The truth ever shows us that it pays homage to goodness; and it claims our homage for goodness' sake.

50. Our Lord therefore says, I seek not mine own glory. Truth seeks not its own glory. Truth is not the end but the means; it seeks not its own glory, by drawing men's attention to itself; it points perpetually to that higher principle, in the bosom of which it dwells, and into which it seeks to bring every human soul. There is one that seeketh and judgeth. The Father seeks that glory of the Son and judg-eth by him. To seek is predicated of love, and to judge of wisdom. Love seeks, wisdom judges. His Divine glory is manifested in the salvation of men, and his judgment in vindicating them from the power of their enemies.

51. Although the Son does not seek his own glory, yet his Word has life-giving power. Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my sayings, he shall never see death. The Lord's sayings are his precepts, and it is the keeping of these that saves from death. Spiritual life is a state of heavenly love and faith; the extinction of these is death; and such a state is condemnation. In one sense all are dead, for all by nature are destitute of goodness and truth, and inclined to what is evil and false; but death, which brings condemnation, is a state of confirmed evil and falsity. This is the death that the righteous never see ; they never come into condemnation; they are passed from death unto life.

52. The Jews did not understand this death or immunity from it. They said, Now we know that thou hast a, devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets ; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death. How natural was this remark by those who understood the Lord's words naturally! But although the result of pure misapprehension in them, it is spiritually expressive of a particular state in those whom they represented. These Jews represent those in whom Abraham, and the prophets are spiritually dead; those in whom the love of goodness and the perception of truth, signified by Abraham and the prophets, are extinct. These truly must regard such a teacher and such teaching as demoniacal and false.
53. The Jews further said, Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself? The Jews naturally thought it presumptuous and false to promise immunity from a fate which these holy men had not escaped. To pass to the spiritual meaning: it is just those in whom Abraham and the prophets are. dead, that are disposed to reject the Lord and his Word, and to think that any assertion they make of their own greatness and importance is an assumption of superiority that belongs not to them. Many think of the Word as a dead letter, and regard Jesus as nothing more than a man, and his gospel as having no claim to more than human excellence and authority.

54. But the Lord does not claim human faith on his own word only. He answered the Jews, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing : it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God. The Jews claimed to be the worshippers of God, and yet refused to believe him of whom God had testified that he was his Son. What is here rendered honour is more properly glory; and is used here because honour, already spoken of (v. 49), has relation to good, while glory, here mentioned, has relation to truth. In the former case, Jesus speaks of honouring his Father, here he speaks of his Father glorifying him. Wisdom honours love, and love glorifies wisdom. Without wisdom love would have no honour, without love wisdom would have no glory. These essential attributes, even in the Deity, receive, as it were, their qualities from each other. Love is love by virtue of its union with wisdom, and wisdom is wisdom by virtue of its union with love. Neither could be anything without the other. This is equally true of love and wisdom in the human as in the Divine mind. We have no true love but that which is united with wisdom, and no true wisdom but that which is united with love. These are each other's mutually and reciprocally. This mysterious but beautiful relation of love and wisdom, and the reflection of their qualities back upon each other—perhaps we should say their mutual interpenetration —is involved in the relationship of the Father and the Son, and is revealed in what is taught in the New Testament respecting them. When the Lord here says, " If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing," he instructs us, that wisdom derives not its glory from itself; and when he says further, "it is my Father that glorifieth me," he instructs us, that it is love that imparts to wisdom all the glory it possesses. This is true of those principles in us; and we can see it more clearly in ourselves, because we can, as it were, separate in ourselves attributes which are inseparable in God. If wisdom or truth alone in the mind glorify itself, its glory is nothing. If wisdom could only speak of, or exalt, or glorify itself, its glory would be nothing. If wisdom had no end or object higher than itself, it would be worthless. It is because the end of wisdom is love, or because the end of truth is goodness, that it is precious and glorious. It is the end which is in it from love that gives it all its lustre, that sheds around it true glory. Great talents undirected by noble ends have no true glory. If they only glorify themselves, their glory is nothing; love and goodness alone can glorify them. Such is the order of life in God and man.

55. While the Jews said that he by whom Jesus was glorified was their God, the Lord said unto them, Yet ye have not known him ; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like, unto you: but I know him, and keep his sayings. The Jews knew the name of God, but were ignorant of his true nature, and ascribed to him a character opposite to the truth, making him altogether such a one as themselves. They thus falsified or perverted the truths of the Word respecting God, which made them spiritually liars, for to lie is to falsity the truth. On the other hand, if Jesus, knowing God, had said he did not know him, he would have been a liar like unto them. But in the spiritual view, what the Lord says respecting himself is to be understood respecting Truth, or the Word, of which he was the impersonation. If the Word, which is the revelation of God, is so interpreted, or its truths are so perverted, as to be made to destroy the true knowledge of God, it is made to declare a lie, or to teach what is false instead of what is true. The Lord not only taught the truth respecting God, but he did the truth. So is truth ever distinguished, by not only knowing but doing the divine will.

56. Although those who claimed to be the children of Abraham refused Jesus as their Messiah, Yet the Lords tells them, Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad. It may be useful to consider these words and those which immediately follow according to their literal sense. Thus regarded, they teach us some important truths, relating to the Lord as the Saviour. They tell us that the Lord had been the desire and the hope of ages, the holy one to whom the faithful in all ages had looked forward as the Redeemer of a captive race, the Saviour of a lost world. Abraham is called the father of the faithful; and he may justly be regarded as standing here as the representative of those who " died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth" (Heb. xi. 13). This faith sustained them, and secured for them, when the Lord came, the benefits of his redemption. The patriarchs were not, however, left to rest on the promise of a coming Saviour : it was given them to see him with. their eyes, as he manifested himself to them in the person of an jingo], whom he filled with his spirit. " The angel of his presence" saved them in their troubles; and was a temporary humanity, in and through which he visited men, for the support of their faith, till the fulness of times for his incarnation. Spiritually, Abraham represents those who are in the love of truth, and who already receive and perceive it in the inner man, and to whom this reception is a source of joy. There are two expressions : " Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad." This expresses reception both in the will and in the understanding. Gladness and rejoicing should here be reversed, as the original requires, for gladness is expressive of an affection of the will and joy of an affection of the understanding.

57. To the Lord's declaration the Jews answered, Thou art not yet fifty years old: and hast thou seen Abraham? A very natural question, as they understood the words of Jesus. Surprise has been expressed why the Jews should have named fifty years. The words of even his enemies are over-ruled or recorded for the sake of a higher meaning than their own. Fifty signifies a state in which truths are filled with goodness. This is a state which the Lord had not yet perfected in himself by glorification; but has not commenced in those whom the Jews represented. They represent those who possess the Word, and know the truths relating to the Lord, but who have no good in their truths, and therefore have neither the faith nor the joy of Abraham, and regard all such faith and joy as fabulous.

58. Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. This great truth has unhappily acquired a controversial importance, from the pre-existence of Jesus being denied by some professing Christians, as well as by the Jews, to whom these words were addressed. Perhaps they were providentially drawn from the Lord by the denial of his divinity and pre-existence, for the purpose of establishing the faithful in the belief of the eternity and divinity of their Saviour. They will ever remain as a divine enunciation of this great truth. They evince not only that the Lord existed before Abraham, but that he existed as the I AM, the self-existent and self-essence; He who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty. But when all controversy shall have for ever ceased on this point, the declaration will still remain to teach a great spiritual truth, in which all have an eternal interest. Jesus is before Abraham, as well as after him, in the experience of the individual mind, as he was in the history of the world, and in the progress of the church. Jesus is the First and the Last. He is the inmost life in every soul, and the moving cause in every spiritual activity of the mind, and he is the ultimate good in which life is embodied and activity is fixed in use. He is both the Archetype and the Antitype of all the principles and states of our spiritual life. Things truly human in us shadow and foreshadow things divine. The humanity of the Lord is the origin and the perfection of humanity, as it exists finitely on earth and in heaven. Man was created in the image of the perfect God, and God appeared in the likeness of sinful man. So is it in the order of spiritual creation, which is regeneration. The rational principle in us, that lies between the spirit and the flesh, is that which the spiritual produces, and that by which it unfolds itself in the natural, that the spiritual may be all in all—the I AM in the whole man.

59. This is a truth, both doctrinally and practically considered, which none but the spiritual can truly receive. In the natural man it will ever find determined opposition. When the Jews heard the Lord's declaration, Then took they up stones to cast at him. So will the natural man ever take up false reasonings and false principles, to cast them against the great truth, that the Son of man is the Infinite and Eternal clothed in Humanity; for the natural man is inherently disposed to assail this most essential principle of the church, in order to destroy it. But Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by. There is evidently something miraculous in this, as in some other instances of the Lord's disappearing from the midst of his enemies. They represent the providential removal or withdrawal of his divine truth from the sight and power of those who, being in the opposite false persuasion, desire and even attempt to do violence to it, and so do the most serious spiritual and eternal injury to themselves. In the internal historical sense, they represent the Lord's departure from, the Jewish church, which is especially meant by his going out of the temple, and going, as he is represented coming, as a thief in the night, unperceived because unacknowledged. So does he pass away from the minds of those who believe and live contrary to his holy teaching; and especially is this the case when the time of decision comes, when the false principles come forth in their malignity, and when the soul is left without the living presence of the blessed Saviour.

Author: William Bruce --1870

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

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