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opportunities of knowing, know this.' They will overbear him with the authority of their place and station, and with their confident assertion,
The man, whom we must recognize throughout as readywitted, genial, and brave, declines altogether to enter on a question which was plainly beyond his knowledge ; . Whether He be a sinner or no, I know not;' yet, as Chrysostom observes, not in the least allowing the alternative that He was
This is a matter which he knows not; be will speak, however, the thing wbich he does know, and they may draw their own conclusions; "One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.' They perceive that they can gain nothing in this way, and they require him to tell over again the manner of his cure; · Then said they to him again, What did He to thee? how opened He thine eyes ?' hoping either to detect on a second repetition some contradictions in his story, or to find something which they can better lay hold on, and wrest into a charge against the Lord; or perhaps, utterly perplexed how to escape from their present entanglement, they ask for this repetition to gain time, and in the hope that some light may break upon them presently.
But the man has grown weary of the examinations to which they are submitting him anew, and there is something of defiance in his answer: 'I have told you already, and ye did not hear : wherefore would ye hear it again?'—and then, with an evident irony, ' Will ye also be his disciples ?' It is clear that these words cut them to the quick, though it is not so clear what exactly is the taunt conveyed by them. Is it this ? 'How idle to tell you over again, when there is that deep-rooted enmity in your hearts against this man, that, though convinced a hundred times, you would yet never
1 In this kai ipeic may lie, as Chrysostom suggests, a confession that he was, or intended to be, a follower of this prophet. Bengel : Jucunde observari potest fides apud hunc hominem, dum Pharisæi contradicunt, paullatim exoriens.
acknowledge it, or sit as learners at his feet. Will
Will ye also become his disciples? I trow not.' This is the commonest explanation of the words; but does not, however, agree perfectly with their reply. In that they earnestly repel the indignity of being, or intending to be, disciples of his. Such a disclaimer would have been beside the mark, if he, so far from accusing them of any such intention, had on the contrary laid to their charge, that no evidence, no force of truth, could win them to this. More probably then the man, in this last clause of his answer, affects to misunderstand their purpose in asking a repetition of his story: 'Is it then, indeed, that the truth is at length winning you also to its side, so that you too would fain find my story true, and yourselves sit as disciples at this man's feet?'
With this the angry rejoinder of the Pharisees will exactly correspond. Nothing could have stung them more than the bare suggestion of such a discipleship on their parts: They reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple,' or “ Thou art that man's disciple,"3 .but we are Moses' disciples'-setting, as was their wont, Moses against the Lord, and contrasting their claims: "we know that God spake unto Moses;' he had a commission and an authority; but ‘as for this fellow, we know not from whence He is ;' all is obscure, uncertain about Him; there is no proof that God has given Him a commission, no one can certainly affirm whether He be from above or from beneath.
This confession of their inability to explain this new and wonderful appearance, this acknowledgment that they were at fault, emboldens the man yet further. They had left a blot, and this plain yet quick-witted man fails not to take instant advantage of it. There is an irony keener yet in his
· Calvin : Significat, quamvis centies convicti fuerint, maligno hostilique affectu sic esse occupatos ut nunquam cessuri sint.
? Maledixerunt in the Latin; on which Augustine exclaims: Tale maledictum sit super nos, et super filios nostros——this, and not that which the Jews desired on themselves (Matt. xxvii. 25).
3 ei palntiis ékeivou. Bengel well : Hoc verbo removent Jesum
present retort than in his last : Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence He is, and yet He hath opened mine eyes. This is wonderful; here is one evidently clothed with powers mightier than man's, able to accomplish a work like this; and you, the spiritual rulers of our nation, you that should try the spirits, should be able to pronounce of each new appearance whether it be of God or not, here acknowledge your ignorance, and cannot decide whence He is, whether of earth or of heaven.' But I know, for you have yourselves declared the same (see ver. 24), that God heareth not sinners; now this man He hath heard, and enabled Him to do a work without parallel; therefore I know whence He is; He is of God; for were He otherwise He could have never done the things which He has done.'
It is interesting to observe how rapidly the man's faith and insight and courage have grown during this very examination. He who had said a little while before,. Whether He be a sinner or no, I know not,' avoiding the answer, now declares boldly, We know that God heareth not sinners.' Nor need we take exception, as many have taken, at his maxim, nor urge, as they have thought it needful to do, that this saying has no scriptural authority,” being the utterance
Compare our Lord's question to his adversaries, Matt. xxi. 25: “The baptism of John whence was it (rófev iv)? from heaven or of men?' which best explains the róbev ( = įv hoia iEnvoiş, ver. 24) here. In the same way Pilate's question to our Lord, 'Whence art Thou?' (John xix. 9) is to be explained, "To what world dost Thou belong?'
Thus Origen (In Esai. Hom. v.): Peccatores exaudit Deus. Quod si timetis illud quod in Evangelio dicitur, Scimus quia peccatores non exaudiat Deus, nolite pertimescere, nolite credere. Cæcus erat qui hoc dixit. Magis autem credite ei qui dicit, et non mentitur, Etsi fuerint peccata vestra ut coccinum, ut lanam dealbabo. But elsewhere rightly (Comm. in Rom. v. 18): Aliud est peccare, aliud peccatorem esse. Peccator dicitur is, qui multa delinquendo in consuetudinem, et, ut ita dicam, in studium peccandi jam venit. Augustine (Serm. cxxxvi.): Si peccatores Deus non exaudit, quam spem habemus ? Si peccatores Dens non exaudit, ut quid oramus et testimonium peccati nostri tunsione pectoris dicimus (Luke xviii. 10]? Certe peccatores Deus exaudit. Sed ille qui ista dixit, nondum laverat faciem cordis de Siloâ. In oculis ejus præcesserat sacramentum : sed in corde nondum erat effectum gratiæ beneficium.
neither of Christ nor of one of his inspired servants, but only of a man not wholly enlightened yet, in whose mind truth and error were yet struggling. That the words have in themselves no authority is most true; still they may well be allowed to stand, and that in the intention of the speaker. For the term sinner' has more than one application in Scripture. Sometimes it is applied to all men, as they are the fallen guilty children of Adam. If, taking the word in this sense, it were affirmed, 'God heareth not sinners,' such were indeed a terrible announcement; nothing short of this, God heareth not any man; or if by 'sinners' were understood those who have been in time past more than ordinary transgressors, and it were implied that such therefore would not be heard, though they truly turned, this too would be an impeaching of God's grace. But the Scripture knows another and emphatic use of the term sinners,'—men in their sins, and not desiring to be delivered out of them? (Isai. xxxiii. 14; Gal. ii. 15); and in this, which is the sense
Quando lavit faciem cordis sui cæcus iste? Quando eum Dominus foras missum a Judæis, intromisit ad se. Cf. Serm. cxxxv. 5. Elsewhere (Con. Lit. Parmen. ii. 8) he shows that his main desire is to rescue the passage from Donatist abuses. These last, true to their plan of making the sacraments of the Church to rest on the subjective sanctity of those through whose hands they passed, and not on the sure promise of Him from whose hands they came, misapplied these words. * God heareth not sinners ;' how then, they asked, can these minister blessings to others? It would be enough to answer that it is not them whom God hears, but the Church which speaks through them; nor did it need, because of this abuse of the words, to except against the statement itself, as smacking of errors from which the man was not yet wholly delivered. Calvin better: Falluntur qui cæcum ex vulgi opinione sic loquutum esse putant. Nam peccator hic quoque ut paulo ante impium et sceleratum significat (ver. 24). Est autem hæc perpetua Scripturæ doctrina, quod Deus non exaudiat nisi a quibus vere et sincero corde vocatur. . . Ideo non male ratiocinatur cæcus, Christum a Deo profectum esse, quem suis votis ita propitium habet.
1 Thus Augustine (Enarr. in Ps. cvi. 18): Non est hoc nomen (peccatores) in Scripturis usitatum eorum, qui licet juste ac laudabiliter vivant, non sunt sine peccato. Magis enim, sicut interest inter irridentes et irrisores, inter murmurantes et murmuratores, inter scribentes et scriptores, et cetera similia : ita Scriptura peccatores appellare consuevit valde iniquos, et grandibus peccatorum sarcinis onerosos.
of the speaker bere, as of the better among the Pharisees, who a little earlier in the day had asked, 'How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles?' (ver. 16; cf. x. 21), it is most true that God heareth not sinners;' their prayer is an abomination; and even if they ask, they obtain not their petitions (Isai. i. 11-15; lix. 1, 2; Prov. i. 28; xv. 8, 29; xxi. 27; xxviii. 9; Ps. I. 16; lxvi. 18; cix. 7; Job xiii. 16; xxvii.
9; XXXV. 13; Jer. xiv. 12; Amos v. 21-23; Mic. iii. 4; Jam. iv. 3).
This was what least of all the Pharisees could endure, that the whole relations between themselves and this man should tbus be reversed,--that he should thus be their teacher; and while it was now plain that he could neither be cajoled nor terrified from his simple yet bold avowal of the truth, their hatred and scorn break forth without any restraint : • Thou wast altogether born in sins,—not imperfect in body only, but, as we now perceive, maimed and deformed in soul also, that birth-sin, which is common to all (Ps. li. 5), assuming a far worse than common malignity in thee'--for so much their words would say—“and dost thou teach us ?Thou that camest forth from thy mother's womb with the note of thy wickedness upon thee, dost thou school us, presuming to meddle and be a judge in such matters as these?' They take the same view of his calamity, namely, that it was the note of a more than ordinary sinfulness, which the disciples had suggested; but make hateful application of it. Characteristically enough they forget that the two charges, one that he had never been blind, and so was an impostor,-the other that he bore the mark of God's anger in a blindness which reached back to his birth,—will not agree together, but mutually exclude one another. “And they cast him out,
1 The words are so true that Jeremy Taylor has made them the text of three among his noblest sermons, The return of Prayers, or the conditions of a prevailing Prayer.
* Bengel : Exprobrant de cæcitate pristinâ. Calvin : Perinde illi insultant, acsi ab utero matris cum scelerum suorum notâ prodiisset.