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OUR LORD'S DEBATES WITH THE JEWS. THAT RECORDED IN ST. JOHN'S EIGHTH CHAPTER CONSIDERED IN THE COURSE OF WHICH OUR LORD SPECIFIES THE PERIOD AT WHICH THE EVIDENCE OF HIS MESSIAHSHIP WOULD BE COMPLETE; APPEALS TO THE PURITY OF HIS LIFE, AND OF HIS DOCTRINE; HINTS AT THE FULFILMENT IN HIM OF THE PROMISE ΤΟ ABRAHAM; AND ASSERTS
St. JOHN VIII. 28, 29, 45-47.
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. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.
And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God, heareth God's words; ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.
THE arguments of our Lord before the Sanhedrim having been considered in our former Lectures, and also such other arguments as were immediately referable to the same general heads, we shall proceed, in this and the three following Lectures, to discuss such as remain unnoticed.
The subject of our next Lecture will be, our Lord's reference to his own prophecies as furnishing an evidence of his character. We shall afterwards notice his sayings at his apprehension, at his trial, and at his crucifixion. And our review of his statements on the subject of evidence will then be completed, by considering the manner in which he proved the reality of his resurrection, and his reasonings upon the prophecies after that event.—Our attention will be directed, in this Lecture, to the debates which our Lord held with the Jews at an advanced period of his ministry. They are recorded in the sixth and following chapters of St. John; and we have selected, as a specimen, that which occupies a large portion of the eighth chapter. We find in this debate the same kind of instruction, argument, and expostulation as in the others. And in the words of our text, which are extracted from it, three distinct heads of evidence are noticed, which we have not yet considered in the same point of view, and in the same connection ; viz., his death as supplying the complete and convincing demonstration of his character; and the purity of his life, and of his doctrine, as also claiming the confidence of all candid and devout inquirers. Our Lord concluded the debate with a significant intimation, that in him was accomplished the promise made to Abraham.
And as he had, on other occasions, advanced a claim to divinity, had reasoned upon it, and had given evidence of it, so he here repeated the same claim, by the declaration of his existence before Abraham. These various topics must be noticed in a very brief and cursory manner. But it is observable, that in these debates, as well as in those set discourses, to which the subject of these Lectures had led us to advert, our Lord ever combined with the statement of evidence, declarations respecting the character and design of his mission, and forcible addresses to the conscience of his hearers.
It will be expedient, with reference to the first topic which will offer itself, to renew our recollection of the state of opinion, which existed among the Jews at Jerusalem at the time when this debate took place.
For some time after the cure of the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda, and his arraignment before the Sanhedrim in consequence of it, "Jesus walked in Galilee; for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him," offended by his supposed disregard of the sabbath, and still more, because "he called God his own proper Father, making himself equal with God." His brethren in Galilee were anxious that he should
See John, chapters vi. and vii.
go into Judea at the approaching feast of tabernacles, and "shew himself to the world." Jesus declined for a time; stating that "the world hated him, because he testified concerning it, that the works thereof are evil." About the midst of the feast, however, "Jesus went up into the temple, and taught." There had previously been much murmuring among the people concerning him for some said, He is a good man; others said, Nay, but he deceiveth the people." They were however astonished that, "having never learned,” he was able to deliver such instructions; and were, therefore, not a little divided in their opinions respecting him. Jesus himself in several instances adapted his remarks to their own difficulties and objections; and, more than once, alluded to their murderous wishes against him. "Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he whom they seek to kill? But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ? Howbeit we know this man whence he is; but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is." Upon his repetition of the supposed blasphemy, in noticing these their doubts, "they sought to take him." But "many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than this man doeth?" And on the last day of the feast, after Jesus had spoken, under
the metaphor of water, of the future gifts of the Spirit, "many of the people when they heard that saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet. Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? Hath not the Scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was? So there was a division among the people because of him. And some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him.” Even these officers of the chief priests gave this reason for not bringing him, "Never man spake like this man."
Thus deeply had the people been impressed in favour of Jesus by his miracles and doctrine. Nay, so strongly were they disposed even to confess him to be the Christ, that the Pharisees, as we read in the following chapter, at this time deemed it necessary to denounce the penalty of excommunication from the synagogue, against all who made such a confession. Yet even the doubts which they entertained proceeded upon erroneous suppositions. And Jesus, as we shall see, at this season endeavoured to assist their inquiries, and to strengthen and direct their faith, at the same time that he avoided every thing that might encourage the carnal and worldly views of such, as dreamt only of the restoration of a temporal kingdom to Israel.