« PreviousContinue »
his name;" but this object was common to him with the other evangelists, Matthew, Mark and Luke, whơ all wrote their respective histories to prove that Jesus was the Messiah." He, therefore, must have some secondary design in view, more especially as ecclesiastical writers of the best credit inform us that John had seen the histories of the other three evangelists, before he wrote his own, and the same thing is pretty evident from the gospel itself; for we find comparatively few things in John the same as in the other writers, although these coincidences are very common in Mata thew, Mark and Luke. As what they have written was sufficient to prove Jesus to be the Messiah, he would probably have rested satisfied with what they had done, unless he had some other object in view, which has with much probability been supposed to be to show the guilt of the Jews in rejecting Christ, and to justify the conduct of Providence in the sufferings now inflicting, or about to be inflicted, upon them on that account. For, according to Dr. Lardner, John published his gospel not later than the year sixty-eight of the Christian æra, or about thirty-eight years after the ascension of Christ; and a year or two after the other evangelists wrote; and the Jewish war 'began in the year sixty-six of that period, and terminated in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in the year seventy. This time, therefore, when the prophecies of Christ began to be fulfilled, was a very proper season for writing a history with the design before mentioned. The particular passages upon which the preceding supposition is founded, are too numerous to be here repeated; but they may be seen by consulting the writer to whom I have just referred. If we keep this idea in our minds, it will show us the reason why many things onnitted by the other evangelists are introduced into his history by John, and particularly why he begins his gospel with the introduction which follows.
John i. 1-14. Two different interpretations of this passage have at different times been given by those who believe Christ to be a man. I shall lay thein both before the reader, and leave him to determine which appears more agreeable to truth. I begin with that which has been suggested last, and which has of late been more generally embraced. The advocates for this interpretation maintain that John, intending to point out the guilt of the Jews in rejecting Christ, begins his gospel with declaring that the wisdom of God, which belonged to him from everlasting, and which they had been used to revere as the cause of all things in the external world, dwelt in the man Christ Jesus, working the miracles which he performed and suggesting the doctrines which he delivered. According to them, therefore, the words of the apostle are to be thus translated and explained:
1. In the beginning was wisdom, and wisdom was with God, and wisdom was God.
In favour of this translation, they observe that the term Logos, which we have in the original, had been used in Greek to signify sometimes reason, and sometimes a word; but that they who first translated the gospel into Latin, translated it word, and all the European languages followed the Latin, as being the oldest translation, and among the rest the English, rendering the passage, in the beginning was the word; but that 'Tertullian and some few of those who understood Greek as well as Latin, have thought that the reason of God, or the wisdom of God, is a fitter translation of the term Logos; in which case wisdom is personified, that is, represented not as a quality of the divise mind, but as a separate being; that this circumstance, however, ought to create no difficulty; since
such personifications are very frequent in scripture, and we have, in particular, à similar one of wisdom in the book of Proverbs, viii. 22—31 verses, to which the apostle is here supposed to allude, where wisdom is represented as saying, “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, or ever the earth was, &c.” Lest, however, it should be imagined that Jolin inte tended to speak of a distinct intelligent being, by personifying wisdom, he takes care to tell us that lie meant nothing more than God himself: for after saying that " in the beginning was wisdoin, and that wisdom was with God," he adds, “and wisdoin was God." Those then who recollect that it is said God is love, and God is light, will not think it a harsh expression, we are told, to say God is wisdom, or, which is the same thing, wisdom is God.
2. The same, that is, wisdom, was in the beginning with God.
That is, God was complete in wisdom and all per fections, before he made any manifestation of himself to his creatures.
3. All things were made by it, and without it was not any thing made that was made.
All things were made according to the most perfect wisdom.
4. In it was life, and the life was the light of men.
Divine wisdom that made all things and gave life to mankind, hath taught them the way, and furnished them with the means, to attain everlasting life.
5. And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness hath not comprehended it.
The way to eternal life has been made known to men, but many, through their blindness and obstinacy, lose the benefit of it. Darkness is here put for men of dark and prejudiced minds; in the same manner as in Ephes. v. 8. “Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are light in the Lord." This remark primarily respected the bulk of the Jewish nation and its rulers, who had rejected Jesus, the light of the world.
6. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
The first opening of this plan of divine wisdom for the salvation of men, was made by John the Baptist. We see hence, that to be sent from God signifies not coming down from heaven, but receiving an extraordinary commission from God: for no one supposes that John existed in any state prior to the present. In like manner Moses said, Numb. xvi. 28, 29. * Hereby ye shall know that the Lord hath sent me to do all these works: for I have not done them of my own mind.” When, therefore, Christ appeals, near thirty tiines, to his being sent by the father, he must be understood to mean thereby his receiving a commission from him.
7. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the light, that all men through him might believe.
8. He was not that light, but was sent to bear witness of that light.
John the Baptist, although an extraordinary person and eminent prophet, was not that great prophet and divine teacher, as some supposed; but was commissioned to point him out, and lead men to him.
9. That was the true light, which lighteth every one that cometh into the world.
That is, it was designed to be an universal blessing, and has done all that was fit to be done, to enlighten all men, Gentiles as well as Jews, with the knowledge of God and of true religion. There was a propriety in describing Christ as the light of the world, not only because Jesus speaks of himself under that character, but likewise because the old prophets had used the same imagery in speaking of him. Thus Isaiah says, in the name of God, “I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the ends of the earth.” xlix. 6. At this ninth verse the apostle is supposed to drop the personification of the divine wisdom, with which he set out, and to speak of God in person directly.
10. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
From the beginning of the world, by his ordinary providence and by many extraordinary interpositions, God was constantly present among men, who are the especial creatures of his love, and it was their fault that they knew him not.
11. He came to his own, and his own received him not.
God came in the person of Jesus to his own people the Jews, but they received him not.
12. But as many as received him to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.
All have not rejeeted this last revelation of divine wisdom, and those who have embraced it, of whatever nation they be, are taken into the number of the children of God, and are heirs of eternal life, equally with Jews.
13. Which were born not of blood,