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they “ would not come to him that they
might have life°;" and that they “ loved “ darkness rather than light, because their “ deeds were evil d.” In the words of the text he virtually conveys a similar reproof; intimating that their ignorance of the justness of his pretensions (if ignorance it might be called,) proceeded from an indisposition to do the will of God.
The Jewish Scribes and Pharisees de spised our Lord for the want of those attainments in religious learning, which they arrogated to themselves ; and they alleged this supposed deficiency on his part as the ground of their unbelief: “ How knoweth “ this man letters, having never learned • ?” An objection, the same in substance with that, of which we read in another part of the Evangelical history, “ Is not this the
carpenter's son ? is not his mother called
Mary? and his brethren, James, and “ Joses, and Simon, and Judas ? and his “ sisters, are not they all with us ? Whence
d John iii, 19.
c John v. 40.
" then hath this man all these things '?” With such contempt did they regard that lowly station which seemed to have precluded him from the advantages of a superior education !
To these cavils our Lord replies, that his pretensions were not founded on any such advantages, but depended on testimonies of a very different description ; on proofs of a much higher nature, and such as they were well able to appreciate, if disposed to receive them. My doctrine," says he, “ is not mine, but his that sent " me 8.” “ His word was with power 4." It was accompanied with incontrovertible evidences of its Divine original : and so clear were those evidences, that he adds, without reserve, “ If any man will do His will,” that is, the will of God, “ he shall know “ of the doctrine, whether it be of God, " or whether I speak of myself.” He then proceeds to shew their perverseness in submitting to the Law, and to the authority of
& John vii. 16.
f Matth. xiii. 55, 56.
Moses, and yet rejecting His claims, founded upon
similar and even stronger grounds of acceptance: and he closes the conference with declaring, that, notwithstanding their pretended doubts, they “ both knew him, “ and knew from whence he camel.”
The words of the text, then, were addressed immediately to the Jews, and had especial reference to their peculiar case. The Jews had advantages above other persons, for trying the validity of our Lord's pretensions and the truth of his doctrine. To them had been committed the ancient oracles of God, " the law and the testimonyk," which were to form the criterion of every subsequent revelation, Our Lord declared, that “ not one tittle of that law “ should pass away till all had, been ful“ filled!." His appeal therefore was made to their own Scriptures : and had they been sincerely desirous of conforming to the will of God, as set forth in those Scriptures, they would have found no difficulty in acknowledging his claims. But having per
i John vii, 28.
k Isaiah viii. 20.
1 Matth. v. 18.
diversely corrupted their own Law, and being asi obstinately prejudiced against every thing met interfering with their secular views, the her light of preceding revelations shone upon zim.
them in vain, and their understandings were darkened, that they could not discern the truth.
But though this censure, was specially af applied to the Jews, it is not to be rebe stricted to them alone. It is couched in
general terms, and expressed as if intended to be taken in a more enlarged signification. It is not said, If ye will do his will, ye
shall know of the doctrine ; but, If any man will do it ;-any one who investigates the subject with a disposition to attain to such knowledge. Whence an inference appears to be deducible, that every error respecting the Christian Faith proceeds, more or less, from some perverseness in the mind;
or, at least, that an earnest desire to know res
and to do the will of God, is so far a necessary preparative for a right understanding of its doctrines, that without it no proficiency in that respect is reasonably to be expected. Caution, however, is necessary,
that while we maintain the general importance of this maxim, we do not strain it beyond its probable intent; lest, in regarding every deviation from the standard of perfect truth as chargeable upon the will, rather than upon the understanding of man, and ascribing it to an intentional disregard of the will of God, we should seem unmindful of that Christian charity, which “ beareth all things, believeth all “ things, hopeth all things, endureth all
Endeavouring then to divest ourselves of any undue bias in this discussion, let us proceed to a more pariicular examination of the text, with reference both to its precise signification, and to the application of which it is capable to our general subject.
The disposition to do the will of God appears to be the point on which the great stress of our Lord's observation is laid : εαν τις θελη, if any man be willing to do the will of God, “ he shall know of the doc“ trine whether it be of God.” This will
m 1 Cor. xiii. 7.