Page images

asked to give the reason why they despised it, would have answered that Paul had not made out the proof that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah of the prophets. But the Searcher of hearts saw the true reason, and has recorded it for our instruction ;-their expectations of happiness were founded on the present life, and therefore a Saviour who required the laying down of the present life, was no Saviour for them. And as in their history He has taught us what the true root of unbelief is, so He has, in a parallel instance, taught us what the true root of faith is, by recording what that preparation of the heart was, which led others to welcome a Saviour whom these had rejected. “ All who were seeking after eternal life, believed.” All who were hearing the voice of an unseen God, calling them out into an unseen world, welcomed Jesus.

No one can deny that the words of the passage perfectly admit of the interpretation here given, and surely no one will deny its harmony with the general tenor of Scripture, and the importance of the instruction contained in it. It is a farther illustration and exemplification of the principle expounded in John vi.-teaching us that faith and un

[ocr errors]

belief are not the results of intellectual processes, but are the indications of previously cherished or allowed conditions of the heart, which we all feel and acknowledge to be under our own control, and as such, to be the proper objects of approbation or blame—80 that faith is commanded as a duty, and unbelief rebuked and forbidden as a sin, in the same way as we are commanded to love God, and forbidden to set our affections on the things of the world. Every one feels in his conscience, that he ought to seek the will of God, rather than his own will, and that he ought to seek the eternal life, which lies in His favour, rather than the present life. Now, this passage teaches us that those who faithfully follow this inward voice in conscience, do put themselves in a condition truly to believe in Jesus, and to profit by the outward word, when they meet it; whilst those who disregard this inward voice, and continue to seek their own will and the things of the present life, cannot truly believe in Jesus, and cannot profit by the outward word, whatever their profession may be, or however they may deceive their own soul, by their intellectual assent to it. This word, then, is the true call to the unconverted—because it shows conversion to be within the reach of every man, and lays it as a personal duty upon every man's conscience. I feel that this preparation of the heart, as a primary moral duty, binding every man's conscience, is a most important, as it has been a most neglected part of Christianity.

It must be obvious to every one, that the common English version of this passage, throws no light, but rather darkness, on the character of God, and, therefore, contains nothing which can help man on his way to God;—that it leaves him at gaze, as it were, wishing, perhaps, that he may himself turn out to be one of those who are ordained unto eternal life, but, at the same time, reflecting that that point is already determined by an eternal decree, altogether independent of, and irrespective of, any efforts and acts of his, so that it must be vain to think of attempting now to bring himself within the limits of that ordination. I am sure that the substantial instruction contained in this view of the passage, can bear no comparison with that of the view which I have been contending for; and I do hope, that the reader will agree with me in the conviction, that the authorized version, however good in general, is, in this instance,

as incorrect as it is uninstructive, leaving, as it does, unnoticed, the real object of the passage, which is to teach that those who seek the will of God and eternal life, are prepared to believe in Jesus, when He is presented to them ; whilst those who seek the will of man and the things of the present life, cannot believe in Him: according to that word, “Whosoever he be of you, that forsaketh not all that he hath, (whose desires are not directed away from this present life,) cannot be my disciple.” Luke xiv. 33. And it not only passes over the true meaning of the passage, but conveys an opposite meaning, by referring that to God's appointment, which in the original is really referred to the state of man's heart.

This same principle also, is the key to the history of Lydia, in Acts xvi. 14. “She worshipped God,” it is said; that is, she was one of those whom the Searcher of hearts, in His search for spiritual worshippers, had found hearing and learning of the word, which He had sown in her, and following its drawing;—and so He gave her to the Son; “He opened her heart, to attend to the things which were spoken of Paul.”

This same principle also gives the expla

nation of any difficulties connected with our subject in John x. All who were faithful to the inward teaching of God, were prepared to know and acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, when they met him or heard him preached. They were prepared to hear that a salvation from sin could only come to man from the love of God, and that the only way by which that love could lead them to it, lay through sorrow, and humiliation, and death. And all such were his sheep. And thus he had, even then, other sheep who were not of the Jewish fold, and who had never seen him, nor heard his outward voice, nor known his name ;-but who from hearing and learning of the Father, were drawn to the son-ship, and thus knew the Son when they met Him, recognizing his oneness with that word within them, with which they were already acquainted, and which they already honoured as the word of God. The connecting link between this chapter and the 6th, will be found in verse 29; The Father who gave them me, is greater than all," &c. Now we have seen in chap. vi. that the Father gives to the Son, all who are « labouring for the meat that endureth unto eternal life," and who are “ hearing and learning of Him." These,

« PreviousContinue »