He answered, "Whether He is a sinner I do not know. There is one thing I do know: I was blind, but now I see!"
experience, witness which none other was so competent to bear as he. All who have felt Christ's spiritual power will adopt this language. Whatever they know not, this they know, that, whereas they were blind, now they see.
I. THE SPIRITUAL BLINDNESS OF SINFUL MEN.
1. This is compatible with keenness of natural vision and of intellectual discernment. Men "having eyes, see not." It is marvelous how far-sighted people may be in worldly affairs, and yet may lack spiritual vision.
2. It evinces itself in privation:
(1) Of true knowledge - the knowledge of self, and, above all, the knowledge of God.
(2) Of Divine guidance. In great darkness the blind man is led, not knowing whither he goeth. The spiritually unenlightened sees not the way of life, of safety.
(3) Of heavenly joys. Sight is the occasion of much natural pleasure; and they who see not Divine realities know nothing of the highest delights of which the soul is capable.
3. It is unconscious of its own loss. As the blind from birth are, whilst in their blindness, utterly unable to conceive how much they lose, so those whom the god of this world hath blinded say, "We see," and know not that they are blind and miserable.
II. THE MISSION OF CHRIST TO GIVE SIGHT TO THE SPIRITUALLY BLIND.
1. Observe the motive which animated him in the fulfillment of this beneficent work. It was pity. Common humanity pities the naturally blind; Divine love commiserates those who lack spiritual vision.
2. The power that effects this marvelous change. The poor man upon whom Christ wrought this miracle justly argued that his Benefactor must possess Divine authority. Spiritual enlightenment is the prerogative of God. He "hath shined into our hearts." And we are justified in attributing to a Divine Savior the many glorious miracles of spiritual illumination which our Lord has wrought for men.
3. The means by which Christ works. The provision of the gospel dispensation is all-sufficient for this purpose. On the side of man, there is faith exercised by the sufferer in the Healer, without which no soul is opened to the heavenly rays. On the side of God, there is the illumining Spirit, whose agency is indispensable, who sheds forth the light, and who cleanses the spiritual organ, and renders it susceptible to the quickening, celestial beams.
4. The manner of this enlightenment. It is immediate, thorough, and enduring.
III. THE SPIRITUAL SIGHT WHICH CHRIST CONFERS. The exclamation, "Now I see!" was an indication of present experience, and an earnest of future development. Christ, in bestowing the gift of spiritual vision, opens the eyes:
1. To self and sin.
2. To God himself - his attributes and his purposes.
3. To the meaning of life - its realities and opportunities.
4. To the unspeakable privileges of the Christian calling.
5. To the unseen realities of eternity.
APPLICATION. The language of the man who received his' sight is especially encouraging to those who are troubled in their mind because they have not consciously undergone changes of which others speak with confidence. It is neither the process, nor the time, nor the mode of enlightenment, which is of supreme importance. It is the fact that the change has taken place. Our natural state is one of spiritual blindness. If "now we see," then we have reason for rejoicing, and for grateful acknowledgment of our Savior's healing mercy. - T.
One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.1. A whole chapter is taken up with this poor man. This is unusual. Though an author be inspired, we can tell what he enjoys. An evangelist, as well as a Gibbon, betrays his interest and his sympathies.
2. In some unusual way the blind man was wrought into the plan of Christ's ministry. He had been born blind, and remained so that when Jesus passed by he might be ready to be healed by Him. All lives and events are wrought into that scheme.
3. The blind man was the first confessor. He was the sort of person that our Lord found it pleasant to do something for. He was ready to do what he could for himself, and what he could not do the Lord would do for him. Unlike Naaman, willingness was one characteristic of him, sturdiness was another. He spoke his mind at the risk of excommunication. His thoughts were distinct, and therefore his utterances were so. Crisp thinking makes crisp speaking. Let us look at his creed.
I. IT WAS SHORT. A creed with one article. Soon it enlarged, but it all developed out of this "one thing," etc. It is no matter whether a creed be long or short, provided a man believes it as this man believes his. What would a Christian be capable of if he so believed the Apostles' Creed? If a creed is believed, the longer it is the better; otherwise the shorter the better. Creed is like stature, it has to be reached by the individual, by slow growth from a small beginning. The vitality of a seed will determine how much will come out of it. Every fire begins with a spark. Some of us are trying to believe too much; not more than is true, or more than we ought, but more than we have at present inward strength for. We may extinguish a fire by putting on too much fuel.
II. IT WAS FOUNDED IN EXPERIENCE. "I know I see." You notice how close the connection between the creed and the confessor. His creed was not separable from himself. It was wrought in him, and so was one he could not forget. Whenever the sun shone or a star twinkled, he would feel his creed over again. We might be perplexed to tell what we believe if we had it not in print to refer to; but experience can dispense with type. We used to hear a good deal about experiencing religion: is the expression going because the thing is going? Christ works a work in me and I feel it. That is experiencing religion, although the feeling may be differently marked in different people. Even the truths of God to become my true creed have got to be reproduced in the soil of my own thinking and feeling. Faith is languid because experience is languid. The creed of our confessor began in one article, but it did not end there. Soon we hear him saying he believed that Christ was the Son of God. Our creeds have got to come out of our experience of God, and not out of our Prayer Book. That is a poor tree that looks and measures as it did a year ago. He is a poor believer who believes exactly as he did a year ago.
III. IT WAS PERSONAL AND PECULIAR. Two living Christians cannot believe alike any more than two trees can grow alike. Two posts may. Two men only think alike, as they think not at all, but leave it to a third party to do it in their stead. Excessive doctrinal quietness implies lethargy. It is only dead men who never turn over. In nothing does a man need to be loyal to his individuality as in his religion. This is what makes the Bible so rich. The inspired writers did not throw away their peculiarities. Each man's experience will be characteristic, and so, then, must his creed be that grows out of it. A man's proper creed is the name we give to his individuality, when inspired by the Holy Ghost. Is it not a splendid tribute to Jesus that we can each of us come to Him with our peculiarity and find exactly that in Him which will meet and satisfy it? There is only one Christ, but He is like the sun, which shines on all objects and gives to each what helps it to be at its best. No two alike, the sea not the forest, etc., but each finding in the sun that which helps it to be itself perfectly. The poor man obtains from Him just what he needs, and the rich man, the Fijian, and the Greek, etc.
IV. IT DID NOT EMBARRASS ITSELF WITH MATTER FOREIGN TO THE MAIN POINT. "Whether He be a sinner or no, I know not." The point with him was that he could see, not how he could see. Sight does not consist in understanding how we see, nor health in understanding the organs of the body, nor salvation in knowing how we are saved. The physician can cure an ignorant man as readily as a scholar, because his medicine does not depend on the intelligence of the patient; so Christ can be the physician of all, because salvation consists just simply in being saved.
(C. H. Parkhurst, D. D.)
(E. Mellor, D. D.)know-alls, whose business it is to know where a professed miracle-worker comes from, "know not from whence He is, and yet He hath opened mine eyes." "Now we know (to use your own words) that God heareth not sinners, but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth His will, him He heareth." Then observe how, on both sides, a process is going on. The man is getting more and more light at each step. He begins with "A Man which is called Jesus." Then he gets to a "prophet," then he comes to "a worshipper of God, and one that does His will." Then he comes to "If this man were not of God," in some very special sense, "He can do nothing." These are his own reflections, the working out of the impression made by the fact on an honest mind, and because he had so used the light which he had, therefore Jesus gives him more, and finds him with the question, "Dost thou believe on the Son of God?" Then the man who had shown himself so strong in his own convictions, so independent, and hard to cajole or coerce, shows himself now all docile and submissive, and ready to accept whatever Jesus says — "Lord, who is He, that I might believe on Him?" That was not credulity. He already knew enough of Christ to know that he ought to trust Him. And to his docility there is given the full revelation; and he hears the words which Pharisees and unrighteous men were not worthy to hear: "Thou hast both seen Him — with these eyes to which I have given sight — and it is He that talketh with thee." Then intellectual conviction, moral reliance, and the utter prostration and devotion of the whole man bow him at Christ's feet. "Lord, I believe; and he worshipped Him." There is the story of the progress of an honest, ignorant soul that knew itself blind, into the illumination of perfect vision. And as He went upwards, so steadily and tragically, downwards went the others. For they had light, and they would not look at it; and it blasted and blinded them.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
1. See how this man first appears after his cure by Christ. The neighbours and his former acquaintance gather around him, and begin to question as to his identity: "Is not this he that sat and begged?" Some said, "Yes, this is he." Others, "He is like him." But he said, "I am he." There is the first effect of the coming of this great fact into his life, to make him honest in regard to self. It is as if he had said, "Here is a great event that has happened to me, unprecedented and marvellous. I am its subject. Such an attention has been bestowed upon me and my wants and my condition as I never heard of, as shows that I am the object of care to a Divine mind and power. A new value has been given to my nature. I have a new, stronger sense of self. Yes, I am he. I was blind, and now I see. I will not leave you to dispute my identity." That is the first great value of the consciousness of a fact in one's life history, the new honest view of self and its value. Oh, my friends, the system which teaches us to know ourselves the best is that which brings the greatest fact into our history — the gospel and its fact. And yet multitudes of us go through life, while all about us, above us, and beneath us point to us, "Is not this one for whom Christ died? Is not this one of those wonderful saved human natures?" and we practically deny ourselves, because our consciousness is so dead.
2. Go on in the chapter to the next appearance of this man who knows one thing — the critical event of life. See how concentrated it makes him! They ask him, "Where is He, your healer?" He says, "I know not. All I know is this." To know one great fact and to be full of it makes him unwilling to guess a conjecture about other things. He either knows or he knows not. He has learnt what true knowledge is. We should save much stumbling and sorrow in life if we would not so often build the air castles of conjecture and live in them as though their walls were of the solid masonry of real knowledge. The disaster is most serious in the spiritual sphere, when one does not know where to say, "I know," and where "I know not," when religion is only a broad field of conjecture. Many are anxious concerning such unessentials as the origin of evil, predestination, spiritualism, the exact nature of the future life, etc.; forgetful that, the one fact of practical religion — man's salvation and purification by Christ — being known, you may for the present safely say, "I know not," to other items which cannot be yet known in the same personal way.
3. The chapter goes on to furnish another instance of the strengthening value of this one possession of the healed man. It makes him a messenger, a continual repeater of his wonderful story, as often as he can relate it. Any man, however ignorant and humble, is listened to if he have a genuine event of life to tell. Facts never grow old. This man, the relater of a fact, represents Christianity. Christianity has gone on from age to age, from circle to circle, giving its simple, solid, eventful message — human redemption and enlightenment by Christ.
4. But, still again, as this man so full of his story tells it, the Pharisee says to him, "Give God the glory. Do not ascribe it to this Man. He is a sinner." They endeavour to hush his statement by a command, "Do not say, He (Jesus) opened mine eyes." That is to say, these men were striving to do what has been a very usual human infatuation — to legislate against events, by simple authority, as when the old Saxon king sat by the water's edge and with his kingly decree forbad the sea to come nearer or its tide to rise higher. These men did not appreciate the firmness of a fact. They did not know that commands were merely pebbles that rebounded shattered from its rocky undisturbed surface. All men fall into this error — good men legislating against an evil fact, evil men legislating against a good fact. To bid it be different is nothing at all. This is another value of the blind man's possession. He was instantly above all mere commands, all mere human assertion of power. This is the value of Christianity always — its exaltation of a man above earthly power. The world, by its persecution or force and might, says, "Deny Christ." But if you conceive of Christ and His gospel as the world's great fact, if His influence is an event in your own life, you will be able to answer, "How can I deny a fact? I should only stultify myself to do that. One thing I know, I was blind, and now I see. That will last after your command has been forgotten." There is no fear, no servility in this man, who is armed with his great conscious fact of life, beggar as he had been of old. The Pharisees cast him out. Ay, and the worse for them. They east out the only man resting on solid truth, and remained upon their fictions.
5. Once more, as this man goes out into the outer cold solitariness of excommunication, yet happy and warm in the garment of the consciousness of that wonderful miracle, Christ meets him, and says, "Now you must believe on Me, for you have seen Me." Think how it must have sounded, how the warm heart must have been doubly grateful for that word "seen." "Yes I see at last, I see, I who was blind." It is as if Christ were echoing his own thoughts, his own one piece of all-absorbing knowledge. Now, that piece of knowledge must lead to belief. Fact must lead to faith. A fact merely means a thing done, and there must be a doer, greater in his invisibility than the great thing itself in its visibility. That is the faith of Christianity; it rests on real events, on actual things done. It does not ask faith with no basis. But it furnishes the greatest event of history as a foundation, an event happening to us and yet not through our means; and any man full of that great event will say, "I will and must believe in its doer." Just as the building which has the broadest base upon the ground can rise to the highest upward point in safety, so he who is fullest of the greatest seen fact of life is fullest also of the richest, most aspiring, most practical and most spiritual faith.
(Fred Brooks.)John 7:17). Perhaps such a man had long been wholly selfish and worldly. But by being brought within the circle of Christian influences his best faculties have been awakened and developed. And now he sees life in a different light. The wisdom and goodness of God are suggested to him from every side of nature; it is a delight to cherish a sense of reliance upon the Deity and to feel at all times that God is the Father; the darkness of selfishness is exchanged for the deep satisfaction of devotion to duty, the slavery of passion for the peace of purity, the misery of fear for the joy of love, the fever thirst after worldly goods for the serene bliss of faith, and holy longings for the favour of God and the perfectness of Christ; existence is recognized as a spiritual privilege, death regarded as the door to immortality, and the universe becomes a temple for the worship of the Almighty. Find a heart in which this conversion of principles, feelings, and aims has been experienced, and you find a heart that feels an immovable conviction of the truth of Christianity. Its peace, its joys, its consciousness of spiritual health, its insight into a new world of which before it had no conception, all bear testimony to the reality of Christ's religion.
(T. Starr King.)
(J. F. B. Tinling, B. A.)
(H. P. Hughes, M. A.)
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
What did He to thee.
(Bp. Horne.)Infidelity can only go round and round the same topics in an eternal circle, without advancing one step further. It produces no new forces: it only brings those again into the field which have been so often baffled, maimed, and disabled, that in pity to them they ought to be dismissed, and discharged from any further service (Acts 19:28, 34).
Will ye also be His disciples? — Bold irony this — to ask these stately, ruffled, scrupulous Sanhedrists. Whether he was really to regard them as anxious and sincere inquirers about the claims of the Nazarene prophet! Clearly here was a man whose presumptuous honesty would neither be bullied into suppression, or corrupted into a lie. He was quite impracticable. So, since authority, threats, blandishments had all failed, they broke into abuse, "Thou art His disciple," etc. "Strange," he replied, "that you should know nothing of a man who has wrought such a miracle as not even Moses wrought; and we know that neither he nor anyone else could have done it unless he was from God." What! Shades of Hillel and Shammai! Was a mere blind beggar, a natural ignorant heretic, altogether born in sins, to be teaching them? Unable to control any longer their transport of indignation, they flung him out of the hall, and out of the synagogue.
Thou art His disciple. —
I. THE CHARACTER OF A TRUE DISCIPLE. This was the first name attached to Christ's followers. It is a correlative to His title, "Teacher": hence they who received His instructions were His disciples. And when they obtained the more distinctive name of their Master, this was recognized, "The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch." Names are but arbitrary signs of things, and are really characteristic no further than as the things themselves exist. The Christians were no worse for being called Nazarenes, and Judas was no better for being called an apostle. Hence the necessity of distinguishing between the proper and the lax use of words. A man may be a disciple universally or really. Such a distinction is coeval with the use of the term. "Many of His disciples went back," "Ye are My disciples indeed. A true disciple —
1. Believingly embraces the doctrines of Christ. They are received into His heart as the basis of conduct; they are the mould which gives its impression to the character. Such doctrines as credible, require faith; as authoritative, bind; as graciously given, are to be used for the benefit of a guilty and erring mind. So close is the affinity between Christ and His truth, that believing His Word is believing in Him. But it is one thing to believe the gospel to be true, and another to believe its necessity to our own well-being; the former will make a man a disciple in name, the latter in truth.
2. Cherishes an ardent affection for Christ's person. Faith is His word by realizing to the mind His great excellencies and gifts, engages its esteem, desire, and delight. It opens the springs of gratitude and awakens the purest sensibilities. This love is a master grace, leading a train of other virtues, which receive their highest worth from it.
3. Devotes himself to the cause of Christ — giving himself up to Christ's disposal — living or dying. This devotedness includes self-denial, confession of Christ before men, lively activity in extending His kingdom.
II. THE NECESSITY AND IMPORTANCE OF BEING A TRUE DISCIPLE.
1. From the absolute requirement of God, My son give me thy heart." Everything short of this is robbery. He who delays obedience holds out his enmity against God; and can this succeed?
2. From a principle of consistency. Shall God be treated as we deem it base for man to be treated? In common affairs mere outward respect is insulting. With whom do men trifle when they assume the form of godliness without a care of the power.
3. From a regard to our safety and peace.
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