Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.The Birth-mark
The text is 'from his birth'; that is to say, from the very moment of his first breathing; something he brought into the world with him and which is, so to say, part of him, is the very signature of Providence upon his personality. Let us get to these fundamental realities and regions, and we may go away from God's altar quiet, calm, confident; because we recognise that the Divine sceptre is over us, the Divine Spirit is in us, the cloud of indication marks the midday, and the fire of indication makes the night glow with strange gleaming.
I. 'From his birth'. This applies to all talents. It is said, we brought nothing into this world. We know the rough outward sense in which these words are perfectly true; and yet we brought everything with us, we brought the germ, the plasm of everything we are and have. That would be the deeper meaning of the text We repeat the words, we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry nothing out. Only in their external and passing sense are these words true. We also could say, we brought everything we have into this world, and we cany out or this world everything we have made of them according to the grace and providence of God or our own misbehaviour. The reference in the first literal sense of the term is to mere clothing. But really and truly we were clothed, not by the clothier, but by God. We accept the resurrection in the very death. Let me repeat, this applies to all talents. The painter was born a painter, the preacher was a preacher before he fully looked his mother in the face, he began before he slept in the cradle. We are all, as to our members, faculties, destinies, written in the book of God away ages and centuries before arithmetic mumbled her poor figures. In proportion as we realise this thought we become strong men, so strong as to be tranquil, so strong as to live outside the line of panic. If we realised that we are what we are from birth, we should begin to pray, we should begin to know the joy and the music of thankfulness; we should get rid of all envy and murmuring and discontent If you made yourself, well, you are entitled to complain because some man had more skill than you had in making himself; you may jostle him, and sneer at him, and disparage him; but if God made you, if you are part of a great scheme of things, if individuality is to be wrought up into multitudinous-ness and harmony, then let us be quiet and accept God's destiny. Repose upon the great doctrine of Divine election and call. God sends no man into the world without something to begin with. The talents were distributed in eternity; we open our eyes to read in the blue heavens our destiny. If you were not born to be a great merchant, accept the position into which you can throw your energies, and be as great as you can within your own limitations.
II. 'From his birth,' Our daily life was fixed before we breathed. We say this or that man has great success in daily life; we must inquire further into the meaning of these terms. It may be that the man is working out some deep scheme of providence. That scheme may go in one of two ways, upward or downward; it may be a sign of God's approval, or it may be a method of Divine testing, that the quality of the man may be revealed to himself. I do not treat daily success in life from an atheistic point of view. Depend upon it, if any man is in a great position in any section of life there is something behind him, if that position be enduring, which accounts for it. You see the great Prime Minister of your country, whatever politics his may be, and you instantly think that the man put himself into that position, and you sing out of hymn books and go to churches and make them empty by your very presence; you exclude God from the State, from the great fabric of civilisation. And every man knows that the Prime Minister who is not of his own politics is a fool and a criminal; of course everybody knows that But if the Prime Minister is of the critic's own politics he is about the divinest creature the Lord ever created. Poor souls! we have no God, but an image on the open and soiled page. We do not recognise that all men, except in cases of obvious self-degradation, are under the Divine government and benediction. If they would but accept what they are from birth!
What a thing it is, as I have just said, to have such a conception of life as to be saved from envy, from murmuring, and bitter complaining! The Bible addresses itself to that possibility. Once a sweet voice wholly musical said to the ages, 'Fret not thyself because of evildoers'. 'I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree; yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not, yea, I sought him, but he could not be found.' Why murmur? What has the man you envy got? He has got strong-rooms paved up to the very roof with gold, and every sovereign is set on edge. Is he happy? To that inquiry I cannot return a very definite answer. He certainly does not look happy. What about his sons? One of them rotted away before his very eyes; another of them he sent abroad, and he limits the expatriated prodigal to a few shillings a week. Ah, there is more in that strong-room than gold, there is a worm between each of the two sovereigns, a poisonous, undying, gnawing worm; and you are happier, though you buy your bread by the loaf and hail the travelling man that you may purchase your daily fire from his waggon. Until we know all things we know nothing; we must know the whole before we can know the part. Things are variously distributed. I am told by botanists that some flowers have their fragrance, not in the flower but in the root. Until, therefore, I know the root I cannot pronounce any sound judgment about the blossom or the flower. Some trees have their fragrance, the same botanist tells me, not in their foliage but in their bark; there, by that nostril into which God breathed the breath of life, you can detect the election and purpose of God, He made the bark odorous, and He made some flowers almost wholly fragrant—a fragrance that gives itself away to the toiling winds and floats off to make others happy and hopeful.
III. The thought that we are what we are from birth, and that God is behind all things, is the true secret of fortitude and patience. It is not the secret of fatalism. Fatalism is dead, inert, careless; fortitude is alert, alive, sensitive, feeling everything, and feeling God most of all. 'Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.' But there are some deep graves, there are great gashes across the heart; there is bitterness in the water, there is a kind of poison in the bread: what is your answer to that? The answer is, 'Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid'. If God says that, through his Son, to the living suffering human heart, that heart at once is mailed, protected, secured from the enemy. Lord, increase our faith!
God works vital changes in us. Here is a man who says, 'Once I was blind, now I see'. You were blind from birth? Quite true, and I was also dead in trespasses and sins, but God has intervened, something has happened, the greater law has involved the lesser law, and behold it reigns in grace and is as the chief blossom in the garden of God. By the grace of Christ we take new views, we share new responsibilities, we are new men; we only do new works because we are new workers. If this doctrine could be instilled into us it would make us new in every relation of life It will be difficult for any preacher, I care not what his age or his power, to convince some people that they cannot do anything for themselves in this matter of regeneration and the new manhood in Christ Jesus. There is nothing so difficult to get rid of as a prejudice, except it be a superstition, which indeed is another form of prejudice. The man thinks that he can do something for himself; then he cannot really be in God. 'Just as I am without one plea;' that must be my condition if I am to be received truly into the household of God. I was not born in the household of faith, but I can be adopted into that household by the miracle of the cross. That is the Gospel we have to preach to every creature; it is adapted to the necessity of every creature, it appeals to the experience of every creature, it receives the confirmation of every creature who has entered into this mystery of transformation, not a mere metamorphosis as to form, but a new creation by an inward and spiritual force. How the man blind from his birth forgets the darkness of the past? and revels in the coming summer! Let us talk for a moment to the man who was blind from his birth. What do you remember of the past? we may ask him. His answer is: 'I remember nothing; darkness has no record, chaos has no history'. What do you remember since you came into the light of Christ? may be our second question. Then with what spiritual animation is His face alight; His memory is full of the holiest, sweetest reminiscences; they are His property, His treasure, the bank He keeps in heaven. You are not to grieve yourself over what you used to be in your old days. Remember, that where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. You are not to be always introspecting in relation to your own spiritual condition; you are to be looking unto the hills whence your help came, and every now and then in the soft light clouds you will see an image like unto the Son of man.
References.—IX. 1.—J. Keble, Miscellaneous Sermons, p. 475. Expositor (5th Series), vol. i. p. 230. IX. 1-3.—A. Ainger, Sermons Preached in the Temple Church, p. 153. IX. 2.—R. J. Campbell, British Congregationalist, 5th September, 1907, p. 195. IX. 2-3.—C. Vince, The Unchanging Saviour, p. 178. IX. 3.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxix. No. 2309. IX. 3-4.—Ibid. vol. xxix. No. 1754.
Jesus Our Example—In Work
I. In studying our Lord's life we cannot but be struck with the fact that it was a life of work; that He Who came into this world, not only to redeem us, but to be our example, recognises both in word and deed the duty of labour. (1) The first lesson these words teach us is, surely, the dignity of labour. Work belongs not only to our fallen state, not only to man in his state of innocency, but even to the life of God. 'My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.' (2) Then following close upon this first thought, and indeed flowing from it, is another—the difficulties of work in our life on earth. This indeed is the result of sin. Our Lord teaches us not only that work now is difficult, but that the difficulties must be met, the cross must be borne; for our Lord knew what it was to work and to see no fruit of His labour. (3) To take only one more lesson in regard to work from our Lord's life—the importance of preparation, or the relation between preparation and the result of labour.
II. And, now to apply some lessons of our Lord's life to our own work. (1) We learn from our last point the need of discipline as a preparation for all effective work—the instrument needs to be prepared, the tool to be sharpened; and when the instrument has been rendered perfect, the tool keen, every touch works wonders. (2) Another lesson, scarcely less important—the need of thoroughness in our work. One great lesson Ruskin has tried to teach, that good work is 'work that tells the truth'.
III. There are three principles of work which we may especially learn from our Lord's example. (1) The motive of work. A man's work will be judged by its motive. What was the motive of our Lord's work? We have just heard—'to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work'. (2) The spirit of work. The secret of our Lord's work, of our Lord's life, humanly speaking, was the life of prayer which He led. Do your work in the spirit of prayer. (3) And then lastly the end of work. Work which is done for an earthly end will pass away with the world; work which is done for God and for eternity will follow us into the world beyond, will follow us to the Judgment Seat of Christ, where we shall give account of how we have used the talents committed to our charge.
How short is our work-time in this world!
—A. G. Mortimer, Lenten Preaching, p. 118.
Christ and the Man Born Blind
Sharp, clear, and well defined, five characters stand out before us in this chapter.
I. In the first place, we have our blessed Lord Himself. He stands before us as a worker, as a model for all workers. (1) Mark His majesty. (2) His devotion to His work. His whole soul yearned to benefit His fellow-men, and therefore 'I must work'. (3) And then, thirdly, see His love. How glorious is the King of Israel today! How grandly majestic! How devotedly loyal to Him that sent Him! And how gently loving to the outcast and to the sad!
II. Very different is the next character in the chapter. His disciples! Oh, how far short they fall of the Master! As soon as they saw the blind man they turned to the Master and said, 'Who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?' They thought here was an excellent opportunity of getting some information on a very difficult subject. There is such a thing as religious curiosity. The devil says: Here is a blind man, let us speculate. Jesus Christ said: Here is a blind man, let us work.
III. In the third character is brought before us poor, miserable, shuffling characters, the parents of this man. They knew that he now saw, but instead of giving the praise of their devotion to Emmanuel who had healed him, they tried to shuffle out of all responsibility, and they said: 'We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but by what means he now seeth we know not: or who hath opened his eyes, we know not; he is of age, ask him'. Ah, do we not sometimes see this? Instead of boldly standing up for what we know is right and true, we try to shuffle off the responsibility on others' shoulders.
IV. The fourth character need not detain us long. It is one we all scorn and despise. These hypocrites who, although a manifest miracle had been wrought in their midst, were so prejudiced that they would not enter into faith by this door which had been opened for them.
V. Last of all, there is the blind man himself. Here we have a symbolical picture put before us—but a picture which we have every right to treat as symbolical—of spiritual blessing, for our Lord takes advantage of the healing of this blind man to speak about spiritual blindness and about spiritual sight. The blind man is symbolical of the unbelief that is produced by sin—he cannot see. The Lord could heal the man born blind, and He can heal you. But He will heal you by very simple means.
—E. A. Stuart, His Dear Son, and other Sermons, vol. v. p. 9.
Dr. Annesley, one of whose daughters was the mother of John Wesley, entered his pulpit for the last time, saying, 'I must work while it is day,' and died with ecstatic exclamations on his lips. 'I have no doubt nor shadow of doubt—all is clear between God and my soul. He chains up Satan; he cannot trouble me. Come, dear Jesus! the nearer the more precious and the more welcome. What manner of love is this to a poor worm! I cannot express a thousandth part of what praise is due to Thee. We know what we do when we aim at praising God for His mercies. It is but little I can give, but Lord help me to give Thee my all. I will die praising Thee, and rejoice that there are others that can praise Thee better. I shall be satisfied with Thy likeness—satisfied, satisfied. Oh, my dearest Jesus, I come.' The old register of St. Leonard's, Shoreditch, for December, 1696, has this entry: 'Samuel Annesley was buried the seventh day, from Spittle Yard'.
Compare the closing words of A Candid Examination of Theism, written by Mr. G. J. Romanes in 1876 during his agnostic phase: 'Forasmuch as I am far from being able to agree with those who affirm that the twilight doctrine of the "new faith" is a desirable substitute for the waning splendour or the "old," I am not ashamed to confess that with this virtual negation of God the universe to me has lost its soul of loveliness; and although from henceforth the precept to "work while it is day," will doubtless but gain an intensified force from the terribly intensified meaning of the words that "the night cometh when no man can work," yet when at times I think, as I must think at times, of the appalling contrast between the hallowed glory of that creed, which once was mine, and the lonely mystery of existence as now I find it, at such times I shall ever feel it impossible to avoid the sharpest pang of which my nature is susceptible.'
I must home to work while it is called day; for the night cometh when no man can work. I put that text, many a year ago, on my dial-stone, but it often preached in vain.
—Sir Walter Scott.
At this time I observed upon the dial-plate of his watch a short Greek inscription, taken from the New Testament, νὺξ γὰρ ἔρχεται, being the first words of our Saviour's solemn admonition to the improvement of that time which it allowed us to prepare for eternity: 'The night cometh when no man can work'.
—Boswell's Life of Johnson.
In life we are strangled between two doors, of which the one is labelled Too Soon, the other Too Late.
References.—IX. 4—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiii. No 766, and vol. xvi. No. 943. W. S. Perry, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lii. p. 214. R. Allen, The Words of Christ, p. 149. J. R. Miller, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xviii. p. 369. J. T. Bramston, Fratribus, p. 60. J. C. M. Bellew, Sermons, vol. i. pp. 63 and 73. R. Flint, Sermons and Addresses, p. 264. E. B. Pusey, Oxford Lent Sermons, 1868, p. 69. J. Keble, Sermons for Lent to Passion-tide, p. 367. C. D. Bell, The Power of God, p. 184. T. Arnold, The Interpretation of Scripture, p. 164. J. J. Blunt, Plain Sermons (2nd Series), p. 142. W. J. E. Bennett, Sermons Preached at the London Mission, 1869, p. 167. D. Fraser, Metaphors in the Gospels, p. 305. Expositor (6th Series), vol. vi. p. 442. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. John, p. 1. IX. 5.—Ibid. (7th Series), vol. v. p. 12. IX. 6-7.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxiii. No. 1977. IX. 6.—A. G. Mortimer, The Church's Lessons for the Christian Year, pt. iv. p. 316. IX. 6, 7-—W. Friend, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liv. p. 314. J. R. Miller, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xviii. p. 369. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. John, p. 11. IX. 19-24.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. v. p. 295. IX. 21.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiv. No. 1393. W. Brock, Midsimmer Morning Sermons, p. 110. IX. 22-41.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. vi. p- 35.
Such was the answer returned by the man who had been blind from his birth to the Pharisees before whom the excited neighbours had dragged him to give an account of his cure.
The whole of this scene, the cure itself and the debate which followed it, is full of spiritual meaning.
I. As to the Cure.—It was avowedly wrought with a spiritual object, intended to be typical, prophetic, for our Lord prefaced it with that great utterance which went far beyond the immediate case, 'I am the Light of the World,' and He followed it up by not less significant words, 'For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind'. The spiritual, not the physical, was uppermost in His mind. The bestowal of sight was indeed to the man a priceless boon, but the immediate boon, the gift of a faculty hitherto withheld, was, after all, secondary and subordinate. It was the token of a deeper benefit, the sign and token of a greater illumination, to proclaim to the world the reality of that virtue which can come forth from Christ alone to pour light divine on the darkened soul. In that man, the enemies of Christ were confronted with a witness whom they could indeed insult and excommunicate to their hearts' content, but could not explain away, and we behold in him the witness of a far higher influence than that which those gainsayers called in question.
II. The Absolute Certainty of this Man.—We know that when the eye is sound, when it is properly sensitive to light, so that wherever there is light you can see, no demonstration is needed to prove that light is light. Nothing can add to the evidence of the senses. Given light and the seeing eye, and in the outer world of sense you have at once certainty. And in the spiritual world, when the light of Divine truth falls upon the single eye there is certainty True, there is also mystery. We cannot comprehend the very nature of Him from Whom the light comes. We may not understand the mechanism of the secret process by which we see light and the object on which it falls, but the act of vision admits of no doubt. We are certain that the light is light, we are certain that we see it, and that is all that is needed for action.
III. It has often been said of other Evidences that their Value is Variable.—That which satisfies one age, that which appeals to one type of intellect, cannot be trusted to satisfy another. There are volumes of apologetics which in their day did good service but are now quite out of date, theological curiosities laid up on unvisited shelves, and as useless in present controversies as the artillery of the Middle Ages would be upon the modern field of battle.
IV. But there is one Line of Defence which can never be Antiquated, and for this reason, that Christianity is not a philosophy to be commended and proved to the intellect, but a life to be lived. Therefore it is that the evidence of the healed man is the same for all time. So stupendous a spiritual revolution as that which the Church of Christ brought about is not to be explained like the spread of a philosophy. It must have been due to a Power which is not of this world.
References.—IX. 25.—C. H. Kelly, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lix. p. 176. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. li. No. 2955. IX. 29.—T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iv. p. 250. IX. 30.—J. Clifford, The Christian Certainties, p. 201. C. Perren, Sermon Outlines, p. 278. IX. 30-34.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 449. IX. 31.—J. Keble, Sermons for Sundays after Trinity, pt. i. p. 468. E. A. Bray, Sermons, vol. i. p. 341. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. li. No. 2950. IX. 32.—Ibid. vol. xviii. No. 1065. Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. p. 31.
A Vital Question
What is it to believe on the Son of God? It just consists in hearing God's testimony, receiving God's gift, and living on Him from day to day.
I. Seeing that God's Word bears testimony to His Son Jesus Christ, receive that testimony: for 'he that hath received His testimony hath set to his seal that God is true' (John 3:33). Now, what is the testimony? See 1 John 5:10-11 : 'He that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.'
II. The next matter is to receive Him as the gift of God.
III. Then go on from day to day living on Christ, whom you have received, and in whom you have believed, confiding to Him all your troubles, leaning on Him in all your difficulties, coming to Him in every time of need, trusting in Him always.
IV. Now faith in the Son of God cannot be too simple, definite, individual, and childlike. People make great mistakes on this subject. (1) To believe that you love the Lord Jesus Christ very much is not to believe on the Son of God. (2) To believe that Christ died for you personally is not to believe on the Son of God. (3) There are those who argue thus: 'I cannot see clearly in the Bible that I have an interest in Christ'. To believe in your interest in Christ is one thing, to believe on. the Son of God on the warrant of God's testimony is quite another. It is as you believe on the Son of God you will come into the enjoyment of realising your interest in Him. It is by believing the fact of His interest in me I come to realise that I have an interest in Him.
—Marcus Rainsford, The Fullness of God, p. 193.
Dost Thou Believe?
This is a very grave and solemn question, which it would be well for every man to answer for Himself. It was asked of the man that was born blind, whose eyes our Lord had opened miraculously. The answer of the man was in the form of another question: 'Who is He, Lord, that I may believe?'
I. It is a Vital Question.—It is a vital question because 'What think ye of Christ? 'is the question which God asks, and it comes sooner or later to us all. When our Lord came into this world, the Jews came to Him and said, 'What must we do to work the works of God?' and He said: 'This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him Whom He hath sent'. This, then, is the first step; this is the first requirement. I can never be a Christian until, coming to God, I believe.
II. It is a Personal Question.—'Dost thou believe on the Son of God'? Religion is altogether a personal thing. If he believes he believes in his soul, and the soul is the man. Therefore it is his own affair. Religion is his own personal question with God, and this, as when our Lord asked it, is the great personal question with the soul and the conscience: 'Dost thou believe on the Son of God?' Note what George Whitefield wrote once, long ago, upon the window pane with a diamond ring. He had been staying in the house of a rich man over night, but he recognised that there was no Saviour acknowledged in that house of wealth and luxury. In the morning he was a very early riser, and before he left his room he wrote in large characters upon the centre pane of glass in the bedroom these four words, one above the other: 'One thing thou lackest!' And when the guest was gone the wife came along the corridor off which all the beautiful bedrooms opened, and the door of this bedroom was open. It was a beautiful room. The rooms had names: there was the white room, for a bride when she came; there was the green room and the red room, and this was the blue room in which George Whitefield had slept. She went in at the open door and looked around at the splendid furniture—everything in keeping, everything in good taste. She looked at the window. She read on the window, 'One thing thou lackest!' She was transfixed; she read it again and again. She was glued to the ground, and at last she went for her husband. He went up to the window and read it. Then she called her two daughters—beautiful girls, twins—and it was read by both. They all read it—the father, the mother, and the twin sisters—'One thing thou lackest!' And God through that window pane brought them all to Christ. That window pane was the book through which their hearts were all touched and changed, and they were brought to believe in Jesus Christ.
References.—IX. 36.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxvi. No. 2141, and vol. lii. No. 3008. Expositor (6th Series), vol. xii. p. 246. IX. 35, 36.—T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. i. p. 146. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xviii. No. 1088. IX. 35-38.—Ibid. vol. xlvi. No. 2667.
The Soul's Vision and Hearing of Jesus
We have, in our Lord's interview with this sturdy blind man, a very remarkable exception to His usual methods. Generally, He was Himself reticent about His Messiahship, and enjoined silence concerning it on those who believed it. Here He devotes Himself to bringing this man up to the confession that He is the Christ, and makes to him one of the only two articulate utterances claiming Messiahship which fell from His lips, in addition to those confided to the immediate circle of His disciples.
I. We see here the kind of people to whom Christ delights to make frank revelations of Himself. Take this man before us as an illustration. (1) He is sturdy, absolutely sincere, not to be cajoled, or brow-beaten, or tempted, or coaxed into saying a single word beyond what He knew, but standing firmly, on bis own two feet, on the solid basis of experienced fact, and refusing to be tempted one hair's-breadth beyond that. (2) Note again, how this man was faithful to the growing light as it dawned upon him. He passed through three stages in his notions about Jesus Christ. 'The man called Jesus'—'a prophet'—one 'from God'—on these convictions he stands, and nothing will shake him.
The lesson from these facts is that, if we want Christ to be on frank, confidential terms with us, we must hold faithfully by whatsoever we already see to be the will and the message of God, and we must be lovingly prepared to accept whatever Jesus Christ says, whether it confirms or contradicts our present prejudices or opinions, and to 'follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth'.
II. How does Christ show Himself to such people? (1) 'Thou hast seen Him.' He gave you the eyes to see; now He has given you the Christ to look at. He gives us eyes to see, and He gives us Himself to behold. (2) Further, 'Thou hast both seen Him, and it is He that talketh with thee'. The word that is used here in the original conveys not only the idea of speech, but of familiar, frank conversation, such as two friends might have with one another. Christ has not fallen dumb, He is still the Incarnate Word, and His very life's energy, so to speak, is to impart Himself.
III. The glad certitude and deepened faith that result from Christ's speech and the sight of Him. Get, as we all may if we like, that first-hand familiarity of personal intercourse with Christ, and see Him, as we may if we will, and we shall not want any more arguments and logical defences of our faith.
—A. Maclaren, Triumphant Certainties, p. 119.
Blindness and Judgment
That is the comment which presents itself to Jesus, as He thinks over this episode of the healing of the blind man. While the blind man had reached belief, the Pharisees had become hardened in unbelief. Christ's words still remain true, and have a meaning for us now.
I. The Pharisees and the man whom they cast out may alike be taken as exemplifying at the present day the strange paradox of Jesus, which still holds good about blindness and sight in things spiritual, that those who see not eventually see, while those who see are made blind. It still remains true that in respect of our reception or rejection of His message our Lord came into this world for judgment. Christ's object in coming was not to judge but to save. But though judgment was not a motive, it was a necessary result of His coming. Do not let us suppose that we can altogether escape responsibility for our beliefs on the ground of the difficulty which we feel about the evidence. Christ says, 'If thou canst believe'. He does not wish us to force ourselves to believe against the protests of our reason. It is with the heart that man believeth unto righteousness. The contrite heart, the purified affections, the spirit of unselfishness, the struggle against evil, the consecration of the will, the longing for goodness and God—these are the gifts which we must have before we can attain true spiritual insight. The judgment, as He describes it, turns entirely on the distinction between loving good and loving evil.
II. It is not difficult nowadays to find examples of both these classes of people. (1) There are still people who in some respects resemble the Pharisees. Like the Pharisees they feel a pride in their intellectual superiority to the average man. Like the Pharisees, they say, We see. But is it uncharitable to suggest that in some respects they are all the while really blind? Blind because the organ of the spiritual vision has become impaired in them. (2) What a contrast it is to turn to the opposite type of character, which begins by not seeing and eventually comes to see. Still there are in the world simple, humble-minded natures, the little children whom our Saviour bids us resemble, the babes to whom the Father reveals those things which He has hidden from the wise and prudent.
—H. G. Woods (Master of the Temple), Church Family Newspaper, vol. xv. p. 492.
References.—IX. 39.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxx. No. 1798. W. R. Inge, All Saints' Sermons, 1905-1907, p. 1. Expositor (5th Series), vol. vi. p. 328.
'Spain sleeps on,' says Buckle, 'untroubled, unheeding, impassive, receiving no impressions from the rest of the world, and making no impressions upon it. There she lies.... And what is the worst symptom of all; she is satisfied with her own condition. Though she is the most backward country in Europe, she believes herself to be the foremost-References.—IX. 41.—Expositor (5th Series), vol. vi. p. 230. X. 1-10.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. vi. p. 33. X. 1-16.—Ibid. vol. i. p. 466; ibid. vol. xi. p. 60. X. 1-18.—Ibid. vol. iii. p. 471.
And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,
And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.
The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged?
Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he.
Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened?
He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight.
Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not.
They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind.
And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes.
Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see.
Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.
They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet.
But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight.
And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see?
His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind:
But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself.
These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.
Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him.
Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner.
He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.
Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes?
He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples?
Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses' disciples.
We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is.
The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes.
Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.
Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind.
If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.
They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.
Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?
He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?
And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.
And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.
And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.
And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also?
Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.