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[The people.] This word in the Greek is in the plural, and evidently means the multitude, or crowd of persons who were gathered at Jerusalem on account of the feast, in contradistinction to the rulers who were called “the Jews.”
[Some...good man: others... deceiveth...people.] These expressions show the feeling of the common people towards our Lord, and are doubtless indicative of the classes from which the two opinions came. The class of simple-minded, true-hearted Israelites, who had sufficient independence to think for themselves, would say of our Lord, “He is a good man.” So also would the Galileans, probably, who had seen and heard most of our Lord's ministry. On the other hand, the class of carnal Jews who thought nothing of true religion, and were led like a mob at the beck of the priests and Pharisees, would probably take their cue from the Rulers, and say, “He deceiveth the people,” simply because they were told so. Such, probably, was the feeling of the lower orders at Jerusalem.
Let it be noted that Christ is, and always has been, the cause of division of opinion, wherever He has come or has been preached. To some He is a savour of “life," and to others of “death.” (2 Cor. ii. 16.) He draws out the true character of mankind. They either like Him or dislike Him. Strife and conflict of opinion are the certain consequences of the Gospel really coming among men with power. The fault is not in the Gospel but in human nature. Still. ness and quiet are signs not of life but of death. The sun calls forth miasma and malaria from the swamps it shines upon ; but the fault is not in the sun, but in the land. The very same rays
call forth fertility and abundance from the corn field. 13.-[Howbeit no man...openly...fear...Jews.] This expression of
course applies specially to those who favoured our Lord. Those who hated Him would not fear to say so openly. This verse shows the length to which the enmity of the Jewish rulers against our Lord had already gone. It was a notorious fact among the lower orders that the heads of the nation hated Jesus, and that it was a dangerous thing to talk favourably of Him, or to manifest any interest in Him. The fear of man is a powerful principle among most people. Rulers have little idea how many things are secretly talked of sometimes among subjects, and kept back from them. Two hundred years ago, the Stuarts could persecute all open and out-spoken favourers of the English Puritans ; but they could not prevent the lower orders secretly talking of them, and imbibing prejudices in their favour.
JOHN VII. 14—24.
14 | Now about the midst of the | Why go ye about to kill me? feast Jesus went up into the temple, 20 The people answered and said, and taught.
Thou hast a devil : who goeth about to 15 And the Jews marvelled, saying, kill thee? How knoweth this man letters, having 21 Jesus answered and said unto never learned ?
them, I have done one work, and ye all 16 Jesus answered them, and said, marvel. My doctrine is not mine, but his that 22 Moses therefore gave unto you sent me.
circumcision; (not because it is of Mo17 If any man will do his will, he ses, but of the fathers); and ye on the shall know of the doctrine, whether it sabbath day circumcise a man. be of God, or whether I speak of myself. 23 If a man on the sabbath day re
18 He that speaketh of himself seek ceive circumcision, that the law of eth his own glory: but he that seeketh Moses should not be broken ; are ye his glory that sent him, the same is angry at me, because I have made a man true, and no unrighteousness is in him. every whit whole on the sabbath day ?
19 Did not Moses give you the law, 24 Judge not according to the appearand yet none of you keepeth the law? | ance, but judge righteous judgment.
WE learn first in this passage, that honest obedience to God's will is one way to obtain clear spiritual knowledge. Our Lord says, “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”
The difficulty of finding out “what is truth” in religion, is a common subject of complaint among men. They point to the many differences which prevail among Christians on matters of doctrine, and profess to be unable to decide who is right. In thousands of cases this professed inability to find out truth becomes an excuse for living without any religion at all.
The saying of our Lord before us is one that demands the serious attention of persons in this state of mind. It supplies an argument whose edge and point they will find it hard to evade. It teaches that one secret of getting the key of knowledge, is to practise honestly what we know, and that if we conscientiously use the light that we now have, we shall soon find more light
coming down into our minds.—In short, there is a sense in which it is true, that by doing we shall come to knowing.
There is a mine of truth in this principle. Well would it be for men if they would act upon it. Instead of saying, as some do,-“I must first know everything clearly, and than I will act,”—we should say,—“I will diligently use such knowledge as I possess, and believe that in the using fresh kpowledge will be given to me." How many mysteries this simple plan would solve ! How many hard things would soon become plain if men would honestly live up to their light, and “follow on to know the Lord !” (Hosea vi. 3.)
It should never be forgotten that God deals with us as moral beings, and not as beasts or stones. He loves to encourage us to self-exertion and diligent use of such means as we have in our hands. The plain things in religion are undeniably very many. Let a man honestly attend to them, and he shall be taught the deep things of God. Whatever some may say about their inability to find out truth, you will rarely find one of them who does not know better than he practises. Then if he is sincere, let him begin here at once. Let him humbly use what little knowledge he has got, and God will soon give him more.—“ If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.” (Matt. vi. 22.)
We learn, secondly, in this passage, that a self-exalting spirit in ministers of religion is entirely opposed to the mind of Christ. Our Lord says, “He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory; but he that seeketh His glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.”
The wisdom and truth of this sentence will be evident at once to any reflecting mind. The minister truly called of God will be deeply sensible of His Master's majesty and his own infirmity, and will see in himself nothing but unworthiness. He, on the other hand, who knows that he is not “inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost," will try to cover over his defects by magnifying himself and his office. The very desire to exalt ourselves is a bad symptom. It is a sure sign of something wrong within.
Does any one ask illustrations of the truth before us? He will find them, on the one side, in the Scribes and Pharisees of our Lord's times. If one thing more than another distinguished these unhappy men, it was their desire to get praise for themselves.—He will find them, on the other side, in the character of the Apostle St. Paul. The keynote that runs through all his Epistles is personal humility and zeal for Christ's glory :“I am less than the least of all saints—I am not meet to be called an Apostle—I am chief of sinners--we preach not ourselves but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.” (Ephes. iii. 8; 1 Cor. xv. 9; 1 Tim. i. 15; 2 Cor. iv. 5.)
Does any one ask for a test by which he may discern the real man of God from the false shepherd in the present day? Let him remember our Lord's weighty words, and notice carefully what is the main object that a minister loves to exalt. Not he who is ever crying, -“Behold the Church! behold the Sacraments ! behold the ministry !” but he who says,—“Behold the Lamb!"
-is the pastor after God's own heart. Happy indeed is that minister who forgets self in his pulpit, and desires to be hid behind the cross. This man shall be blessed in his work, and be a blessing.
We learn, lastly, in this passage, the danger of forming a hasty judgment. The Jews at Jerusalem were ready to condemn our Lord as a sinner against the law of Moses, because He had done a miracle of healing on the Sabbath-day. They forgot in their blind enmity that the fourth commandment was not meant to prevent works of necessity or works of mercy. A work on the Sabbath our Lord had done, no doubt, but not a work forbidden by the law. And hence they drew down on themselves the rebuke, “ Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”
The practical value of the lesson before us is very great. We shall do well to remember it as we travel through life, and to correct our estimate of people and things by the light which it supplies.
We are often too ready to be deceived by an appearance of good. We are in danger of rating some men as very good Christians, because of a little outward profession of religion, and a decent Sunday formality, because, in short, they talk the language of Canaan, and wear the garb of pilgrims. We forget that all is not good that appears good, even as all is not gold that glitters, and that daily practice, choice, tastes, habits, conduct, private character, are the true evidence of