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THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE,
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THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE.
"I AM THE WAY, AND THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE.” – John, xiv. 6.
When Jesus calls himself the Way, the Truth, and the Life, he is considered by the most exact of the commentators as speaking in a Hebrew idiom, which occurs often in the New Testament, as well as in the Old, and by virtue of which the qualities ascribed to any subject for the purpose of strengthening it, in a word, the adjectives of a sentence, instead of being attached to the principal thing spoken of, so as to show that they simply qualify, are spread out as so many separate and additional things, following each other in a climax of importance and intensity. Thus, to quote two instances out of many, besides our text, one from the Old Testament and the other from the New, when David speaks of " the valley and shadow of death," he is supposed to mean the shadowy valley of death, and when Jesus Christ is spoken of as being “anointed with the Holy Ghost and with power," the meaning is, say these critics, a powerful Holy Spirit. Accordingly, they would understand our Savior, in the
case before us, to declare simply and strongly that he is the true and living way,
the only way by which any man can come to the Father. And this in. terpretation, (or rather this paraphrase, for it does not affect the essential meaning of the passage,) would agree well with a passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews, where the writer speaks of Jesus as introducing us to God " by a new and living way, which he has consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh.” It may be added, also, that this version of our Savior's words corresponds more precisely to the actual circumstances of the
For the great, and we may say the only difficulty in the minds of the disciples, was that want of faith which kept them in a state of perplexity and dissatisfaction at the thought of their Master going away from them, they knew not whither. “We know not," said they, “ whither thou goest, and how can we know the way?" This was the feeling which Jesus had immediately to meet and satisfy. And certainly his reply looks, at first sight, more suitable and natural, if we read it: “I am the way, the true way, the living way, and the only way of access to the Father," because the idea of his being himself the way for his dis. ciples, is thus kept before the mind as the prominent and all-absorbing one.
And yet it must have been remarked by every thoughtful reader of the New Testament, that our Savior, in his answers to actual questions, as well as in many of the. declarations which particular occasions led him to address to particular audiences, evidently so frames his utter. ance, as if he were not speaking to his hearers, or to their present selves, alone, but speaking also to them as they would be in future days, and through them to future ages,
even tò as many (according to his own expression) as should believe on him through their word. In this view, the idea of a double meaning in Scripture, liable as it may be to abuse, and much as it has been abused, seems to have a reasonable foundation ; at all events, we can hardly suppose our Savior not to have had often in mind the fact, that he was speaking words which should be handed down through time; we can hardly suppose him, in other words, not to have felt as if he had the hu. man race for an audience; and accordingly we ought not to feel any scruple in attributing to his responses, and declarations, and oracles, a larger and more extensive meaning, and general application than the actual circum. stances under which they were delivered would require. Nothing can well be considered more natural, in view of what Jesus was, and knew himself to be, than that, when called upon by persons, or circumstances, to speak to any particular point of doubt, distress, or difficulty of any kind, he should look beyond the particular case to the general state of mind out of which it arose, and address himself to that, and in such a way that his words might suit and satisfy such states of mind whenever and wherever they should in future present themselves.
We should, therefore, I think, not be careful so to limit the language of Jesus as to make it answer the precise case, and that only which is before us, but consider him as taking occasion, from a particular call, to unfold truth which should always be valuable to all souls.
But, without stopping to discuss any farther the necessity or probability of that idea respecting the form of the sentence selected for our text, which the commentators have started for us, I prefer to consider it, (which there
- NO. 205. 1*