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soon as the Lord was “come into the ship.” St. Mark, however, relates how this and all which they had witnessed called forth the infinite asto. nishment of his disciples: “they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered;” and St. Matthew tells us how the impression was not confined to them alone: but others who were sailing with them, probably the crew,” and it may be some other passengers in the same vessel, described generally as “they that were in the ship,”—these also caught a glimpse, a momentary one it may have been, of him with whom they had to do, and “came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God;” (cf. John i. 49;) for they felt more or less clearly that they had to do with one who stood in wonderful relation with him of whom it is written, “Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known;” (Ps. lxxvii. 19;) “Thou didst walk through the sea with thine horses, through the heap of great waters;” (Hab. iii. 15;) “Which alone spreadeth out the heav. ens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea.” (Job ix. 8.4) It is a docetic view of the person of Christ, which conceives of his body as permanently exempt from the laws of gravity, and thus explains the miracle; a hard and mechanical view, which makes the seat of the miracle to have been in the waters rendered solid under his feet. For rather was it the will of Christ which bore him triumphantly above those waters; even as it was to have been the will of Peter, that will indeed made in the highest degree energetic by faith on the Son of God, which should in like manner have enabled him to walk on the great deep, and, though with partial and transient failure, did so enable him. It has been already observed that the miracle, according to its true idea, is not the violation, nor yet the suspension of law, but the incoming of a higher law, as of a spiritual in the midst of natural laws, and the momentary asserting for that higher law, the predominance which it was intended to have, and but for man's fall it would always have had, over the lower; and with this a prophecy of the prevalence which it shall one day recover. So was there here a sign of the lordship of man's will, when that will is in absolute harmony with God's will, over external nature. In regard of this very law of gravity, a feeble, and for the most part unconsciously possessed, remnant of his power survives to man in the well-attested fact that his body is lighter when he is awake than sleeping;” from whence we conclude that the human consciousness, as an inner centre, works as an opposing force to the attraction of the earth and the centripetal force of gravity, however unable now to overbear it.}
* Jerome: Nauta atque vectores.
+ "O reputatów, &c or 86400wc, or flažácanc. Eusebius (Dem. Evang, l. 9, c. 12) finds a special fulfilment of these words of Job in this miracle of our Lord, as also he finds in these waves the symbol of a mightier and wilder sea, even that of sin and death, which Christ trod under his feet when he, in a far higher sense than that in which the words were first spoken,
- ... metus omnes et inexorabile fatum
and he quotes Ps. lxxiv. 13, 14, “Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength, thou
* It was noticed long ago by PLINY, H. N., l. 7, c. 18. Every nurse that has carried a child would bear witness to the fact. + Prudentius (Apotheosis, 655) has some sounding lines upon this miracle:—
Ipse super fluidas plantis nitentibus undas
THE OPENING THE EYES OF ONE BORN BLINI).
It appears upon the whole most probable that this work of power was wrought upon the same day on which the memorable discourse was spoken, beginning at John vii. 34, and continuing to the end of the viiith chapter—a discourse of which the history of the woman taken in adultery is only an interruption, and an intercalation which easily betrays itself as such. In this case it will be, that as our Lord was passing through the city from the temple, to escape the sudden outbreak of Jewish anger, he paused to accomplish this miracle—probably in the immediate neighborhood of the temple, which we know was oftentimes the place where beggars, cripples, and other such sufferers, took their station. (Acts iii. 1, 2.) There is nothing in the narrative to mark a break; on the contrary, the “passed by” of the final verse of chapter viii. seems taken up by the same word in the first verse of this.” It is an additional argument in favor of this view, that we know that other discourse to have been spoken on a Sabbath: for it was spoken on the last day of the feast of tabernacles, (vii. 37.) which was always such, and this healing took place also on a Sabbath. (ix. 14.) Moved by these reasons, the ancient interpreters would not see here any break in the narrative, and with them most of the moderns consent.: It has been objected against this, that on that day he evidently departed alone from the temple; while here his disciples are with him. But it is easy to suppose that they also extricated themselves, though not
* Unless indeed viii. 59 is spurious. It is wanting in many authorities, and in others great variations of the reading, always a suspicious circumstance, occur.
+ As Maldonatus, Tittman, Tholuck, Olshausen.
in the same wonderful manner as he did, from the excited multitude, and joined their Lord without. It has been objected, too. that Christ appears to have wrought this work more leisurely, more without fear of interruption, than well could have been, immediately after the moment when he had been compelled to withdraw from the fury of his enemies. Yet this circumstance should be rather taken as affording a beautiful picture of his calmness in the midst of his enemies, who found no time unfit for a work of mercy and love; who even at the moment when he had hardly escaped the stones of the Jews, paused to accomplish this work of grace. There seems, indeed, as we shall see, allusion to something of the kind at ver. 4, 5. “There is need,” our Lord would say, “that I should work this work now, however out of season it may seem : for this ‘night, which the hatred of the Jews is bringing on, is near, and then the time for working will be over.” (Compare the exactly parallel passage, John xi. 7–10.)
The sad history of this man “blind from his birth,” may have been already familiar to his disciples, as he was evidently a well-known beggar in Jerusalem, one with whose story many were acquainted; (ver. 8;) or it may have been one of his ways of stirring pity and compas. sion in the passers by, to announce that his calamity reached back so far, and thus it may have come to the knowledge of the disciples, and proved the occasion of their question. They would fain learn from their Master, who was able to solve every difficulty which rose up in their minds. “Who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind * But what they could have meant by this latter alternative, when they supposed as possible that it was for his own sins that the man was born blind, has naturally been the source of much perplexity.
Three or four explanations have been offered: the first, that the Jews believed in a transmigration of souls; and that these sins which the disciples assumed as possible causes of his blindness, were those of some anterior life, sins which were being punished and expiated now. This, as is well known, is the Buddhist doctrine; and not an accident, but belonging to the centre of their religious convictions; but it cannot be proved that there was any such faith among the Jews. It may have been the dream of a few philosophic Jews, but was never the faith of plain and simple men: so that this explanation may be regarded, as Olshausen declares it, altogether as antiquated, and not worthy even to be considered.
* 'Ek yeweric – £k kotziac untpác, Acts iii. 2. The healing of the blind man here, and the lame man there, have this point of resemblance, that in each a life-long defect is removed.
Lightfoot adduces passages to show that the Jews believed a child might sin in its mother's womb, in proof of which they referred to the struggle between Jacob and Esau; (Gen. xxv.22;) and he, and others after him, think that out of this popular belief the question grew. Tholuck, following an earlier interpreter, supposes that the theory of the apostles was, that God had foreknown some great sin which this man would commit, and so by anticipation had punished him. But as such a dealing on God's part is altogether without analogy in Scripture, so is there not the slightest hint that men had ever fallen on it as an explanation of the suffering.in the world;—and, indeed, they could not: for while the idea of retribution is one of the deepest in the human heart, this of punishment which runs before the crime which it punishes, is not one in which it would easily find itself. Chrysostom imagines that it was upon their part a reductio ad absurdum of the argument which connected sin and suffering together. It could not be this man that brought this penalty on himself—for he was born with it. It could not be the sin of his parents that brought it on him; for we know that each man shall bear his own burden;–that the children's teeth are not set on edge because the parents ate sour grapes. But this is very artificial, and with little of likelihood in it. Honest and simple-hearted men, like the apostles, would have been the last to try and escape a truth, to which the deepest things in their own hearts bore witness, by an ingenious dilemma. For myself. I am rather inclined to think that they did not see, at the moment when they asked the question, the self-contradiction, as far at least as words go, which was involved in one side of the question —in the form at least in which they presented it to their Master; that, while they rightly, and by a most true moral instinct, discerned the links which unite the sin and suffering of the world together, yet in this case they did not see how it must have been the sin and suffering, not of this man as an individual, but of him as making part of a great whole, which were thus connected together: how the fact of this calamity reaching back to his birth excluded the uncharitable suspicion, that wherever there was a more than ordinary sufferer, there was a more than ordinary sinner-leaving only the most true thought, that a great sin must be cleaving to a race of which any member could so suffer. This, as it is continually affirmed in Scripture, so it cannot be denied in Christ's answer, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents,” —to which words must be added, “that he should be born blind.” The Lord neither denies their sin nor his : all that he does is to turn away his disciples from that most harmful practice of diving down with cruel