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2. What Christ says of those who in his own time were most likely to be successful inquirers after the divine origin of Christianity, is equally just in the present times. Those who are inclined to do the will of God in general, will easily discover whether it come from heaven: for it is accompanied with such a mass of evidence, as can hardly fail to satisfy a virtuous mind, not rendered averse from the truth by practising vices which it condemns and threatens to punish. This has always been a principal obstacle to the reception of the gospel, and has made more unbelievers than any other cause. Christianity is still what it was in the beginning, a test of men's characters; by the vicious it is rejected, but by the virtuous and good cordially embraced; I mean not, however, to say that cases may not occur in which the friends of virtue and piety are placed in such difficult and trying circumstances, as not to be able to discern the truth. And in such cases, no cloubt, a merciful judge will make allowance for their unavoidable infirmities.
S. Let those who call themselves the disciples of Jesus remember the high authority under which he acts. The doctrine which he teaches is not of human origin: it came not from man but from God. To the decisions of Christ, then, in matters of religion, let them implicitly submit, as to the decrees of Heaven; and if men should at any time require them to believe doctrines, or practice rites, which Christ hath not enjoined, let them be rejected without hesitation : for they are not supported by proper authority. To com- : ply with such would be high treason against the government of Heaven.
4. The advice which Christ gives to his adversaries, for their direction in forming their judgment of his actions, “ Judge not according to appearance," ought to be carefully remembered by his followers. When they see actions performed which are new and singular, contrary to established usage, and to the practice of those who are esteemed wise and learned, and which apparently proceed from improper motives, and have
an evil tendency, let them not be hasty in concluding that they are really criminal. Upon a more careful examination of the subject, upon weighing all the circumstances of the action; the motives from which it proceeds, as well as the external appearance, they may find it not to be so reprehensible as at the first view it appeared. Nay, upon further reflection, they may see reason to admire and praise what they were once inclined to condemn. Let the errors into which they have fallen in judging others already, teach them caution on every future occasion,
John vii. 32. to the end. 32. The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him, they heard these private debatings of the multitude; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him.
Leading men of these two classes of people prevailed upon the Sanhedrim to pass a resolution for apprehend, ing Jesus, and for authorizing them to execute it. They were both alarmed to find that the common people began to suppose him to be the Messiah, well knowing that their own character must sink, in proportion as that of Jesus rose in estimation. They resolved, therefore, to secure their power and influence · by taking away his life. Jesus, knowing the resolution they had taken, was aware that he had not long to live, and therefore throws out obscure hints respecting his speedy departure from the world, and his exaltation after death; which his adversaries did not uncierstand.
33. Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, “but
a little while longer shall I be with you," and then I go unto him that sent me.
34. Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me; and where I am thither ye cannot come.
When I have left the world and am ascended on high, you will earnestly look for the Messiah, when overtaken with the troubles which are coming upon you; but I shall be removed to a place whither you cannot come to me. These last words were intended to reproach them for their folly, in resoiving to put to death one whom they would so soon wish to have among them. This reference to his speedy removal to heaven the Jews did not understand.
35. 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 dispersed among the Gentiles, or Greeks, were Jews who lived in heathen countries for the sake of trade or commerce, or other purposes, but followed the institutions of Moses. That after having instructed the inhabitants of Judæa, Christ should go abroad into foreign countries to instruct his dispersed countrymen, was a thing in itself not highly improbable. ACcordingly the Jews put this construction upon his language, when he spoke of going whither they could not follow him; but it could never enter into their thoughts, that a Jew would travel into foreign countries for the sake of communicating instruction to Gentiles, persons whom they considered as cast out of the favour of the Divine Being, and as unworthy of divine revelation. Bishop Pearce, therefore, with much reason, concludes that the words in the original manuscript of this gospel were not as we have them now, to teach the Gentiles, but, to teach them, that is,
the dispersed abroad among the Gentiles just mens tioned, and that the text has been by some means altered.
36. 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?
Although the above construction of his words appeared the most probable, they were not perfectly, satisfied with it.
37. In the last, that great day of the festival, Jesus stood, and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.
It does not appear from the law which enjoined the observance of this festival, which you have Num. xxix. that the eighth day of the feast, which was the last, was intended to be more solemn or sacred than the rest; but it seems the Jews esteemed it so. One of the ceremonies which, we are told, they performed on this day, was that of taking water from the brook of Siloam, and pouring it out, with great form, in the temple, in commemoration of their ancestors having been supported by a stream of water from a rock in the wilderness; and accompanied with prayers for a supply of rain at the approaching seed-time. Upon this custom Christ's metaphorical language in this and the next verse is supposed to be founded; it being usual with him to suggest instructions to his followers from events, as they occurred. In saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink, his meaning seems to be, if any man wish for happiness, let him believe in me, and I will supply him with what he wants; but the benefit shall not be confined to himself; for he adds,
38. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, rather, 6 as the scripture hath commanded,” out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
The allusion seems to be to a cistern, which, when full, overflows: in this manner the person who be. lieved in Christ would be filled; that is, would not only receive the Holy Spirit himself, but communicate it freely to others. The passage of scripture referred to is supposed to be Deut. xviii. 15, “ The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken."
39. But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost, « the Holy Spirit,” was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified.
These are the words of the evangelist, explaining the language of Christ, where it would otherwise be unintelligible to the reader ; as he has done in several other instances. He informs us that it referred to the iniraculous powers afterwards bestowed upon the apostles and first Christians, when Christ had ascended up on high. These powers he calls the Holy Spirit, and not, as we have improperly translated it, Holy Ghost, because they proceeded from the spirit of God, that is, from God himself, who is holy. This passage, as well as many others, affords us a proof that by Holy Spirit, when it occurs in the New Testament, was intended, not a distinct being, but certain divine qualities and powers. For the passage, if literally translated, would be thus; “for the Holy Spirit was not yet :" which could not be true of a Being supposed to exist from eternity, but is very proper language when applied to powers which had not yet been manifested. It was in this sense that the Ephesians spoke, when asked by Paul whether they had received the Holy Spirit, Acts xix. 2, “ We have not so much as heard whether there be a Holy Spirit.” Such powers had been communi.