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receive nothing from heaven, except it be given to him thence.”
That is, no man can exercise those miraculous powers which ye see Jesus possess, unless he receive them from God, whose gift alone they are. I therefore acquiesce in the superiority which he assumes over me, because it is evidently given to him by God. The Baptist then appeals to themselves, that he had never pretended to be the Messiah.
28. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him, or, “before his face."
I precede him, as a herald precedes a prince, to announce his approach, or a servant, his master. If before be supposed to refer to priority of time, it must be admitted to be true in respect to John, who began his ministry before Christ; but it is no proof of inferiority, which is what he is attempting to show.
29. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly, because of the bridegroom's voice. This my joy therefore is fulfilled.
We have here a comparison, the general design of which is pretty obvious, although the terins of comparison are not formally expressed. “ Jesus is like a bridegroom, and I am like a friend of the bridegroom, who rejoices in his happiness: for so it is that I rejoice to hear that he baptizeth, and that all men come unto hiin.”
30. He must increase, but I must decrease, or, “ he will increase, but I shall decrease."
As his character and miracles come to be known; men will entertain a much higher opinion of him than they entertained of me; in consequence of which the number of his disciples will increase, while that of mine diminishes. Here it is that the reply of the Baptist to the question proposed to him ends. The words which fol. low to the end of the chapter seem to be the language not of John the Baptist, but of John the evangelist.
31. He that cometh from above is above all; he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth; he that cometh from heaven is above all.
It has been already shown, in the explanation which was given of the thirteenth verse of this chapter, that to ascend up into heaven and to be in heaven, signified no more, in the figurative language of Christ, than being intimately acquainted with the divine counsels; and, consequently, to come down from heaven, is to come with a commission to reveal these counsels to the world. When, therefore, the person who delivered the words contained in this verse, whether we suppose him to be the Baptist or the evangelist, says of Jesus, He came from above, and came from heaven, he asserts no more of him than he had already asserted of himself. This is very properly assigned as a reason of his superiority to John, as well as to all the other prophets. So much inferior was John to Christ, in regard to divine knowledge, that the one might be considered as speaking earthly things, the other, heavenly things. There appears to be a considerable resemblance between the language of this verse and that of the eighteenth verse of the first chapter, which, it has been already observed, contains the words of the apostle: “ No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” In each the superiority of Christ to the prophets that went before him is asserted, and, upon the same grounds--his intimate acquaintance with the divine counsels.
32. And what he hath seen and heard that he testifieth.
What men learn from the sense of sight or hearing they know with certainty: when, therefore, it is said here of Christ that he testifieth what he hath seen and heard, we are to understand the apostle as intending to say that he testifies nothing but what he knows to be true, Or the words may be understood literally, and be supposed to refer to the different methods in which Christ was made acquainted with the divine will, which might be visions and audible words. Christ tells the Jews, in more than one place, that he declared to them what he had heard from his father. See John xviii. 26. xv. 15.
And no man receiveth his testimony. That is, few receive it, in comparison with those who reject it, or with the number that might be expected to receive it. That it was not rejected by all appears from the next verse. That the Baptist should use this language, just after he had heard that all men came to Christ, is not very likely. It is rather the language of the apostle, complaining of the unbelief of the world at the time when he wrote.
33. He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal, or, “ hath set his seal to this,” that God is true.
34. For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God.
God speaketh so evidently to mankind by Jesus Christ, that to believe in Christ, is to believe God; and he who does this, declares thereby that God is true; in the same manner as a man makes a writing his own by setting his seal to it. The evangelist in his first epistle, v. 10, delivers the same sentiment, in a different form: " He that believeth not God hath made him a lyar, because he believeth not the record that God gave of his son.”
For God giveth not the spirit by measure unto him.
That is, he gives it plentifully. By Spirit we are here to understand miraculous powers. These were communicated to Christ in a fuller manner than to any other prophet or divine messenger that went before him, or came after him.
35. The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.
He hath 'communicated to him all the mysteries relating to the kingdom of God, which had been concealed from former prophets; in which sense the words are parallel to Matt. xi. 27, “All things are delivered to me of my Father;" or they may be thus interpreted; God has so well loved his son, as to give him all power, that is, the power of working miracles now, and of bestowing eternal life hereafter. From the mention of a future life in the next verse, it would seem as if this were one of the things which he had conferred upon him a power of giving
36. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.'
To his son God has given a power of raising from the dead all those that believe in and obey his gospel, and of bestowing upon them eternal life; but those who obstinately reject it, after having the evidence of its divine origin plainly set before them, shall not see this future life, that is, shall not enjoy this happiness, but feel the effects of the divine displeasure. Not to see life, is not to live; just as not seeing death is not to die. These words seem more like the language of the apostle, who had heard Christ repeatedly declare that whosoever believeth in him should have eternal life, than that of the Baptist, who had no opportunity of knowing his doctrine.
1. The conduct of John, in the present instance, affords an excellent example to the preachers of the gospel. 'They are often inclined to envy and oppose one another, on account of superior talents and popularity; and it happens not unfrequently that false or weak friends, by mischievous insinuations and suggestions, blow the flame of jealousy, already burning with too much ardour. In circumstances so trying to their virtue, let such ministers reflect upon the behaviour of this divine messenger, and truly upright man: when reminded of the growing fame and success of the Messiah, and called upon to oppose him, he frankly ac-: knowledges his inferiority, and declares his persuasion that the fame which had given so much alarm to his friends would still increase, while his own would be obscured by it, and expresses the highest joy in what had already taken place, as well as in the prospect of what would ensue. In this conduct there was much magnanimity of mind and genuine philanthropy, not unworthy of the imitation of those who call themselves the disciples of a better master. The motive by which John reconciles his mind to these events is particularly deserving of notice. No man can receive any thing from heaven except it be given him from thence. If your successors or partners in the work have superior endowments, they were given them by God; why therefore should you be displeased with his will, or vainly maintain a contest which Heaven has already decided? If it be your desire to do good, you will rejoice that others are better qualified for it than yourself, and remove with pleasure into obscurity and retirement, to make way for the display of more useful talents. From a regard to men, therefore, as well as to God, it is your duty to acquiesce.
How much is it to be lamented that, for want of