1. There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
2. The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
3. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xi) He had said above that, when He was at Jerusalem—many believed in His Name, when they saw the miracles which He did. Of this number was Nicodemus, of whom we are told; There was a man of the Pharisees, Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.
BEDE. His rank is given, A ruler of the Jews; and then what he did, This man came to Jesus by night: hoping, that is, by so secret an interview, to learn more of the mysteries of the faith; the late public miracles having given him an elementary knowledge of them.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxiv. 1) As yet however he was withheld by Jewish infirmity: and therefore he came in the night, being afraid to come in the day. Of such the Evangelist speaks elsewhere, Nevertheless, among the chief rulers also many believed on Him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue. (John 12:42)
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xi. c. 3, 4) Nicodemus was one of the number who believed, but were not as yet born again. Wherefore he came to Jesus by night. Whereas those who are born of water and the Holy Ghost, are addressed by the Apostle, Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord. (Eph. 5:8)
HAYMO. (Hom. in Oct. Pent.) Or, well may it be said that he came in the night, enveloped, as he was, in the darkness of ignorance, and not yet come to the light, i. e. the belief that our Lord was very God. Night in the language of Holy Writ is put for ignorance. And said unto him, Rabbi, we know that Thou art a teacher come from God. The Hebrew Rabbi, has the meaning of Magister in Latin. He calls him, we see, a Master, but not God: he does not hint at that; he believes Him to be sent from God, but does not see that He is God.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xi. c. 3) What the ground of his belief was, is plain from what immediately follows: For no one can do these miracles that Thou doest, except God be with him. Nicodemus then was one of the many who believed in His Name, when they saw the signs that He did.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxiv. 2. in Joan) He did not however conceive any great idea of them from His miracles; and attributed to Him as yet only a human character, speaking of Him as a Prophet, sent to execute a commission, and standing in need of assistance to do His work; whereas the Father had begotten Him perfect, selfsufficient, and free from all defect. It being Christ’s design however for the present not so much to reveal His dignity, as to prove that He did nothing contrary to the Father; in words He is often humble, while His acts ever testify His power. And therefore to Nicodemus on this occasion He says nothing expressly to magnify Himself; but He imperceptibly corrects his low views of Him, and teaches him that He was Himself all-sufficient, and independent in His miraculous works. Hence He answers, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xi. c. 4) Those then are the persons to whom Jesus commits Himself, those born again, who come not in the night to Jesus, as Nicodemus did. Such persons immediately make professsion.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxiv. 2) He says therefore, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God: as if He said, Thou art not yet born again, i. e. of God, by a spiritual begetting; and therefore thy knowledge of Me is not spiritual, but carnal and human. But I say unto thee, that neither thou, nor any one, except he be born again of God, shall be able to see the glory which is around me, but shall be out of the kingdom: for it is the begetting by baptism, which enlightens the mind. Or the meaning is, Except thou art born from above, and hast received the certainty of my doctrines, thou wanderest out of the way, and art far from the kingdom of heaven. By which words our Lord discloses His nature, shewing that He is more than what He appears to the outward eye. The expression, From abovea, means, according to some, from heaven, according to others, from the beginning. Had the Jews heard it, they would have left Him in scorn; but Nicodemus shews the love of a disciple, by staying to ask more questions.
4. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
5. Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
6. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
7. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
8. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxiv. 3) Nicodemus coming to Jesus, as to a man, is startled on learning greater things than man could utter, things too lofty for him. His mind is darkened, and he does not stand firm, but reels like one on the point of falling away from the faith. Therefore he objects to the doctrine as being impossible, in order to call forth a fuller explanation. Two things there are which astonish him, such a birth, and such a kingdom; neither yet heard of among the Jews. First he urges the former difficulty, as being the greatest marvel. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
BEDE. (in loc.) The question put thus sounds as if a boy might enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born. But Nicodemus, we must remember, was an old man, and took his instance from himself; as if he said, I am an old man, and seek my salvation; how can I enter again into my mother’s womb, and be born?
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxiv. 2) Thou callest Him Rabbi, and sayest that He comes from God, and yet receivest not His sayings, but usest to thy master a word which brings in endless confusion; for that how, is the enquiry of a man who has no strong belief; and many who have so enquired, have fallen from the faith; some asking, how God became incarnate? others, how He was bornb? Nicodemus here asks from anxiety. But observe when a man trusts spiritual things to reasonings of his own, how ridiculously he talks.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xi. c. 6) It is the Spirit that speaketh, whereas he understandeth carnally; he knew of no birth save one, that from Adam and Eve; from God and the Church he knows of none. But do thou so understand the birth of the Spirit, as Nicodemus did the birth of the flesh; for as the entrance into the womb cannot be repeated, so neither can baptism.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxiv. 3) While Nicodemus stumbles, dwelling upon our birth here, Christ reveals more clearly the manner of our spiritual birth; Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xii. c. 5) As if He said, Thou understandest me to speak of a carnal birth; but a man must be born of water and of the Spirit, if he is to enter into the kingdom of God. If to obtain the temporal inheritance of his human father, a man must be born of the womb of his mother; to obtain the eternal inheritance of his heavenly Father, he must be born of the womb of the Church. And since man consists of two parts, body and soul, the mode even of this latter birth is twofold; water the visible part cleansing the body; the Spirit by His invisible cooperation, changing the invisible soul.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxv. 1) If any one asks how a man is born of water, I ask in return, how Adam was born from the ground. For as in the beginning though the element of earth was the subject-matter, the man was the work of the fashioner; so now too, though the element of water is the subject-matter, the whole work is done by the Spirit of grace. He then gave Paradise for a place to dwell in; now He hath opened heaven to us. (c. 2.). But what need is there of water, to those who receive the Holy Ghost? It carries out the divine symbols of burial, mortification, resurrection, and life. For by the immersion of our heads in the water, the old man disappears and is buried as it were in a sepulchre, whence he ascends a new man. Thus shouldest thou learn, that the virtue of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, filleth all things. For which reason also Christ lay three days in the grave before His resurrection. (Hom. xxvi. 1.). That then which the womb is to the offspring, water is to the believer; he is fashioned and formed in the water. But that which is fashioned in the womb needeth time; whereas the water all is done in an instant. For the nature of the body is such as to require time for its completion; but spiritual creations are perfect from the beginning. From the time that our Lord ascended out of the Jordan, water produces no longer reptiles, i. e. living souls; but souls rational and endued with the Spirit.
AUGUSTINE. (lib. i. de Bapt. per. c. 30) Because He does not say, Except a man be born again1 of water and of the Spirit, he shall not have salvation, or eternal life; but, he shall not enter into the kingdom of God; from this, some infer that children are to be baptized in order to be with Christ in the kingdom of God, where they would not be, were they not baptized; but that they will obtain salvation and eternal life even if they die without baptism, not being bound with any chain of sin. But why is a man born again, except to be changed from his old into a new state? Or why doth the image of God not enter into the kingdom of God, if it be not by reason of sin?
HAYMO. (Hom. in Oct. Pent.) But Nicodemus being unable to take in so great and deep mysteries, our Lord helps him by the analogy of our carnal birth, saying, That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. For as flesh generates flesh, so also doth spirit spirit.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxvi. in Joan. 1) Do not look then for any material production, or think that the Spirit generates flesh; for even the Lord’s flesh is generated not by the Spirit only, but also by the flesh. That which is born of the Spirit is spiritual. The birth here spoken of takes place not according to our substance, but according to honour and grace. But the birth of the Son of God is otherwise; for else what would He have been more than all who are born again? And He would be proved too inferior to the Spirit, inasmuch as His birth would be by the grace of the Spirit. How does this differ from the Jewish doctrine?—But mark next the part of the Holy Spirit, in the divine work. For whereas above some are said to be born of God, (c. 1:13.) here, we find, the Spirit generates them.—The wonder of Nicodemus being roused again by the words, He who is born of the Spirit is spirit, Christ meets him again with an instance from nature; Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The expression, Marvel not, shews that Nicodemus was surprised at His doctrine. He takes for this instance some thing, not of the grossness of other bodily things, but still removed from the incorporeal nature, the wind; The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. That is to say, if no one can restrain the wind from going where it will; much less can the laws of nature, whether the condition of our natural birth, or any other, restrain the action of the Spirit. That He speaks of the wind here is plain, from His saying, Thou hearest the sound thereof, i. e. its noise when it strikes objects. He would not in talking to an unbeliever and ignorant person, so describe the action of the Spirit. He says, Bloweth where it listethc; not meaning any power of choice in the wind, but only its natural movements, in their uncontrolled power. But canst not tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth; i. e. If thou canst not explain the action of this wind which comes under the cognizance both of thy feeling and hearing, why examine into the operation of the Divine Spirit? He adds, So is every one that is born of the Spirit.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xii. c. 7) But who of us does not see, for example, that the south wind blows from south to north, another wind from the east, another from the west? And how then do we not know whence the wind cometh, and whither it goeth?
BEDE. (in Hom. in part. Invent. S. Cruc. Ed. Nic.) It is the Holy Spirit therefore, Who bloweth where He listeth. It is in His own power to choose, whose heart to visit with His enlightening grace. And thou hearest the sound thereof. When one filled with the Holy Spirit is present with thee and speaks to thee.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xii. c. 5) The Psalm soundeth, the Gospel soundeth, the Divine Word soundeth; it is the sound of the Spirit. This means that the Holy Spirit is invisibly present in the Word and Sacrament, to accomplish our birth.
ALCUIN. Therefore, Thou knowest not whence it cometh, or whither it goeth; for, although the Spirit should possess a person in thy presence at a particular time, it could not be seen how He entered into him, or how He went away again, because He is invisible.
HAYMO. (Hom. in Oct. Pent.) Or, Thou canst not tell whence it cometh; i. e. thou knowest not how He brings believers to the faith; or whither it goeth, i. e. how He directs the faithful to their hope. And so is every one that is born of the Spirit; as if He said, The Holy Spirit is an invisible Spirit; and in like manner, every one who is born of the Spirit is born invisibly.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xii. c. 5) Or thus: If thou art born of the Spirit, thou wilt be such, that he, who is not yet born of the Spirit, will not know whence thou comest, or whither thou goest. For it follows, So is every one that is born of the Spirit.
THEOPHYLACT. (in loc.) This completely refutes Macedonius the impugner of the Spirit, who asserted that the Holy Ghost was a servant. The Holy Ghost, we find, works by His own power, where He will, and what He will.
9. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?
10. Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?
11. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.
12. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things.
HAYMO. Nicodemus cannot take in the mysteries of the Divine Majesty, which our Lord reveals, and therefore asks how it is, not denying the fact, not meaning any censure, but wishing to be informed: Nicodemus answered and said unto Him, How can these things be?
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxvi. 2) Forasmuch then as he still remains a Jew, and, after such clear evidence, persists in a low and carnal system, Christ addresses him henceforth with greater severity: Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master in Israel, and knowest not these things?
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xii. c. 6) What think we? that our Lord wished to insult this master in Israel? He wished him to be born of the Spirit: and no one is born of the Spirit except he is made humble; for this very humility it is, which makes us to be born of the Spirit. He however was inflated with his eminence as a master, and thought himself of importance because he was a doctor of the Jews. Our Lord then casts down his pride, in order that he may be born of the Spirit.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxvi. 2) Nevertheless He does not charge the man with wickedness, but only with want of wisdom, and enlightenment. But some one will say, What connexion hath this birth, of which Christ speaks, with Jewish doctrines? Thus much. The first man that was made, the woman that was made out of his rib, the barren that bare, the miracles which were worked by means of water, I mean, Elijah’s bringing up the iron from the river, the passage of the Red Sea, and Naaman the Syrian’s purification in the Jordan, were all types and figures of the spiritual birth, and of the purification which was to take place thereby. Many passages in the Prophets too have a hidden reference to this birth: as that in the Psalms, Making thee young and lusty as an eagle: (Ps. 102:5) and, Blessed is he whose unrighteousness is forgiven. (Ps. 31:1) And again, Isaac was a type of this birth. Referring to these passages, our Lord says, Art thou a master in Israel, and knowest not these things? A second time however He condescends to his infirmity, and makes use of a common argument to render what He has said credible: Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen, and ye receive not our testimony. (ver. 11) Sight we consider the most certain of all the senses; so that when we say, we saw such a thing with our eyes, we seem to compel men to believe us. In like manner Christ, speaking after the manner of men, does not indeed say that he has seen actually, i. e. with the bodily eye, the mysteries He reveals; but it is clear that He means it of the most certain absolute knowledge. This then, viz. That we do know, he asserts of Himself alone.
HAYMO. (Hom. in Oct. Pent.) Why, it is asked, does He speak in the plural number, We speak that we do know? Because the speaker being the Only-Begotten Son of God, He would shew that the Father was in the Son, and the Son in the Father, and the Holy Ghost from both, proceeding indivisibly.
ALCUIN. Or, the plural number may have this meaning; I, and they who are born again of the Spirit, alone understand what we speak; and having seen the Father in secret, this we testify openly to the world; and ye, who are carnal and proud, receive not our testimony.
THEOPHYLACT. This is not said of Nicodemus, but of the Jewish race, who to the very last persisted in unbelief.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxvi. 3) They are words of gentleness, not of anger; a lesson to us, when we: argue and cannot converse, not by sore and angry words, but by the absence of anger and clamour, (for clamour is the material of anger,) to prove the soundness of our views. Jesus in entering upon high doctrines, ever checks Himself in compassion to the weakness of His hearer: and does not dwell continuously on the most important truths, but turns to others more humble. Whence it follows: If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xii. in Joan. c. 7) That is: If ye do not believe that I can raise up a temple, which you have thrown down, how can ye believe that men can be regenerated by the Holy Ghost?
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxvii. 1) Or thus: Be not surprised at His calling Baptism earthly. It is performed upon earth, and is compared with that stupendous birth, which is of the substance of the Father, an earthly birth being one of mere grace. And well hath He said, not, Ye understand not, but, Ye believe not: for when the understanding cannot take in certain truths, we attribute it to natural deficiency or ignorance: but where that is not received which it belongs to faith only to receive, the fault is not deficiency, but unbelief. These truths, however, were revealed that posterity might believe and benefit by them, though the people of that age did not.
13. And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
AUGUSTINE. (De Pecc. mer. et remiss. c. xxxi) After taking notice of this lack of knowledge in a person, who, on the strength of his magisterial station, set himself above others, and blaming the unbelief of such men, our Lord says, that if such as these do not believe, others will: No one hath ascended into heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man who is in heaven. This may be rendered: The spiritual birth shall be of such sort, as that men from being earthly shall become heavenly: which will not be possible, except they are made members of Me; so that he who ascends, becomes one with Him who descended. Our Lord accounts His body, i. e. His Church, as Himself.
GREGORY. (xxvii. Mor. c. 8. al. 11.) For as much as we are made one with Him, to the place from which He came alone in Himself, thither He returns alone in us; and He who is ever in heaven, daily ascendeth to heaven.
AUGUSTINE. (ut sup.) Although He was made the Son of man upon earth, yet His Divinity with which, remaining in heaven, He descended to earth, He hath declared not to disagree with the title of Son of man, as He hath thought His flesh worthy the name of Son of God. For through the Unity of person, by which both substances are one Christ, He walked upon earth, being Son of God; and remained in heaven, being Son of man. And the belief of the greater, involves belief in the less. If then the Divine substance, which is so far more removed from us, and could for our sake take up the substance of man so as to unite them in one person; how much more easily may we believe, that the Saints united with the man Christ, become with Him one Christ; so that while it is true of all, that they ascend by grace, it is at the same time true, that He alone ascends to heaven, Who came down from heaven.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxvii. 1) Or thus: Nicodemus having said, We know that Thou art a teacher sent from God; our Lord says, And no man hath ascended, &c. in that He might not appear to be a teacher only like one of the Prophets.
THEOPHYLACT. But when thou hearest that the Son of man came down from heaven, think not that His flesh came down from heaven; for this is the doctrine of those heretics, who held that Christ took His Body from heaven, and only passed through the Virgin.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxvii. 1) By the title Son of man here, He does not mean His flesh, but Himself altogether; the lesser part of His nature being put to express the whole. It is not uncommon with Him to name Himself wholly from His humanity, or wholly from His divinity.
BEDE. If a man of set purpose descend naked to the valley, and there providing himself with clothes and armour, ascend the mountain again, he who ascended may be said to be the same with him who descended.
HILARY. (de Trin. c. 16.) Or, His descending from heaven is the source of His origin as conceived by the Spirit: Mary gave not His body its origin, though the natural qualities of her sex contributed its birth and increase. That He is the Son of man is from the birth of the flesh which was conceived in the Virgin. That He is in heaven is from the power of His everlasting nature, which did not contract the power of the Word of God, which is infinite, within the sphere of a finite body. Our Lord remaining in the form of a servant, far from the whole circle, inner and outer, of heaven and the world, yet as Lord of heaven and the world, was not absent therefrom. So then He came down from heaven because He was the Son of man; and He was in heaven, because the Word, which was made flesh, had not ceased to be the Word.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xii. c. 8) But thou wonderest that He was at once here, and in heaven. Yet such power hath He given to His disciples. Hear Paul, Our conversation is in heaven. (Phil. 3:20) If the man Paul walked upon earth, and had his conversation in heaven; shall not the God of heaven and earth be able to be in heaven and earth?
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom xxvii. 1) That too which seemeth very lofty is still unworthy of His vastness. For He is not in heaven only, but every where, and filleth all things. But for the present He accommodates Himself to the weakness of His hearer, that by degrees He may convert him.
14. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
15. That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxvii. 1) Having made mention of the gift of baptism, He proceeds to the. source of it, i. e. the cross: And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.
BEDE. He introduces the teacher of the Mosaic law, to the spiritual sense of that law; by a passage from the Old Testament history, which was intended to be a figure of His Passion, and of man’s salvation.
AUGUSTINE. (de Pecc. mer. et remiss. c. xxxii) Many dying in the wilderness from the attack of the serpents, Moses, by commandment of the Lord, lifted up a brazen serpent: and those who looked upon it were immediately healed. The lifting up of the serpent is the death of Christ; the cause, by a certain mode of construction, being put for the effect. The serpent was the cause of death, inasmuch as he persuaded man into that sin, by which he merited death. Our Lord, however, did not transfer sin, i. e. the poison of the serpent, to his flesh, but death; in order that in the likeness of sinful flesh, there might be punishment without sin, by virtue of which sinful flesh might be delivered both from punishment and from sin.
THEOPHYLACT. (in loc.) See then the aptness of the figure. The figure of the serpent has the appearance of the beast, but not its poison: in the same way Christ came in the likeness of sinful flesh, being free from sin. By Christ’s being lifted up, understand His being suspended on high, by which suspension He sanctified the air, even as He had sanctified the earth by walking upon it. Herein too is typified the glory of Christ: for the height of the cross was made His glory: for in that He submitted to be judged, He judged the prince of this world; for Adam died justly, because he sinned; our Lord unjustly, because He did no sin. So He overcame him, who delivered Him over to death, and thus delivered Adam from death. And in this the devil found himself vanquished, that he could not upon the cross torment our Lord into hating His murderers: but only made Him love and pray for them the more. In this way the cross of Christ was made His lifting up, and glory.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxvii. 2) Wherefore He does not say, ‘The Son of man must be suspended, but lifted up, a more honourable term, but coming near the figure. He uses the figure to shew that the old dispensation is akin to the new, and to shew on His hearers’ account that He suffered voluntarily; and that His death issued in life.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xii. c. 11) As then formerly he who looked to the serpent that was lifted up, was healed of its poison, and saved from death; so now he who is conformed to the likeness of Christ’s death by faith and the grace of baptism, is delivered both from sin by justification, and from death by the resurrection: as He Himself saith; That whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. What need then is there that the child should be conformed by baptism to the death of Christ, if he be not altogether tainted by the poisonous bite of the serpent?
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxvii. 2) Observe; He alludes to the Passion obscurely, in consideration to His hearer; but the fruit of the Passion He unfolds plainly; viz. that they who believe in the Crucified One should not perish. And if they who believe in the Crucified live, much more shall the Crucified One Himself.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xii. c. 11) But there is this difference between the figure and the reality, that the one recovered from temporal death, the other from eternal.
16. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
18. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
CHRYSOSTOM. Having said, Even so must the Son of man be lifted up, alluding to His death; lest His hearer should be cast down by His words, forming some human notion of Him, and thinking of His death as an evil1, He corrects this by saying, that He who was given up to death was the Son of God, and that His death would be the source of life eternal; So God loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life; as if He said, Marvel not that I must be lifted up, that you may be saved: for so it seemeth good to the Father, who hath so loved you, that He hath given His Son to suffer for ungrateful and careless servants. The text, God so loved the world, shews intensity of love. For great indeed and infinite is the distance between the two. He who is without end, or beginning of existence, Infinite Greatness, loved those who were of earth and ashes, creatures laden with sins innumerable. And the act which springs from the love is equally indicative of its vastness. For God gave not a servant, or an Angel, or an Archangel, but His Son. Again, had He had many sons, and given one, this would have been a very great gift; but new He hath given His Only Begotten Son.
HILARY. (vi. de Trin. c. 40) If it were only a creature given up for the sake of a creature, such a poor and insignificant loss were no great evidence of love. They must be precious things which prove our love, great things must evidence its greatness. God, in love to the world, gave His Son, not an adopted Son, but His own, even His Only Begotten. Here is proper Sonship, birth, truth: no creation, no adoption, no lie: here is the test of love and charity, that God sent His own and only begotten Son to save the world.
THEOPHYLACT. (in loc.) As He said above, that the Son of man came down from heaven, not meaning that His flesh did come down from heaven, on account of the unity of person in Christ, attributing to man what belonged to God: so now conversely what belongs to man, he assigns to God the Word. The Son of God was impassible; but being one in respect of person with man, who was passible, the Son is said to be given up to death; inasmuch as He truly suffered, not in His own nature, but in His own flesh. From this death follows an exceeding great and incomprehensible benefit: viz. that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. The Old Testament promised to those who obeyed it, length of days: the Gospel promises life eternal, and imperishable.
BEDE.1; Note here, that the same which he before said of the Son of man, lifted up on the cross, he repeats of the only begotten Son of God: viz. That whosoever believeth in Him, &c. For the same our Maker and Redeemer, who was Son of God before the world was, was made at the end of the world the Son of man; so that He who by the power of His Godhead had created us to enjoy the happiness of an endless life, the same restored us to the life we have lost by taking our human frailty upon Him.
ALCUIN. Truly through the Son of God shall the world have life; for for no other cause came He into the world, except to save the world. God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xii. c. 12) For why is He called the Saviour of the world, but because Ho saves the world? The physician, so far as his will is concerned, heals the sick. If the sick despises or will not observe the directions of the physician, he destroys himself.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxviii. 1) Because however He says this, slothful men in the multitude of their sins, and excess of carelessness, abuse God’s mercy, and say, There is no hell, no punishment; God remits us all our sins. But let us remember, that there are two advents of Christ; one past, the other to come. The former was, not to judge but to pardon us: the latter will be, not to pardon but to judge us. It is of the former that He says, I have not come to judge the world. Because He is merciful, instead of judgment, He grants an internal remission of all sins by baptism; and even after baptism opens to us the door of repentance, which had He not done all had been lost; for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. (Rom. 3:23) Afterwards, however, there follows something about the punishment of unbelievers, to warn us against flattering ourselves that we can sin with impunity. Of the unbeliever He says, ‘he is judged already.’—But first He says, He that believeth on Him is not judged. He who believeth, He says, not who enquires. But what if his life be impure? Paul very strongly declares that such are not believers: They confess, he says, that they know God, but in works deny Him. (Tit. 1:16) That is to say, Such will not be judged for their belief, but will receive a heavy punishment for their works, though unbelief will not be charged against them.
ALCUIN. He who believes on Him, and cleaves to Him as a member to the head, will not be condemned.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xii. c. 12) What didst thou expect Him to say of him who believed not, except that he is condemned. Yet mark His words: He that believeth not is condemned already. The Judgment hath not appeared, bat it is already given. For the Lord knows who are His; who are awaiting the crown, and who the fire.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxviii. 1) Or the meaning is, that disbelief itself is the punishment of the impenitent: inasmuch as that is to be without light, and to be without light is of itself the greatest punishment. Or He is announcing what is to be. Though a murderer be not yet sentenced by the Judge, still his crime has already condemned him. In like manner he who believes not, is dead, even as Adam, on the day that he ate of the tree, died.
GREGORY. (1. xxvi. Mor. c. xxvii. [50.]) Or thus: In the last judgment some perish without being judged, of whom it is here said, He that believeth not is condemned already. For the day of judgment does not try those who for unbelief are already banished from the sight of a discerning judge, are under sentence of damnation; but those, who retaining the profession of faith, have no works to shew suitable to that profession. For those who have not kept even the sacraments of faith, do not even hear the curse of the Judge at the last trial. They have already, in the darkness of their unbelief, received their sentence, and are not thought worthy of being convicted by the rebuke of Him whom they had despised Again; For an earthly sovereign, in the government of his state, has a different rule of punishment, in the case of the disaffected subject, and the foreign rebel. In the former case, he consults the civil law; but against the enemy he proceeds at once to war, and repays his malice with the punishment it deserves, without regard to law, inasmuch as he who never submitted to law, has no claim to suffer by the law.
ALCUIN. He then gives the reason why he who believeth not is condemned, viz. because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God. For in this name alone is there salvation. God hath not many sons who can save; He by whom He saves is the Only Begotten.
AUGUSTINE. (de Pecc. mer. et Rem. l. 1. c. 33) Where then do we place baptized children? Amongst those who believe? This is acquired for them by the virtue of the Sacrament, and the pledges of the sponsors. And by this same rule we reckon those who are not baptized, among those who believe not.
19. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
21. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
ALCUIN. Here is the reason why men believed not, and why they are justly condemned; This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxviii. 2) As if He said, So far from their having sought for it, or laboured to find it light itself hath come to them, and they have refused to admit it; Men loved darkness rather than light. Thus He leaves them no excuse. He came to rescue them from darkness, and bring them to light; who can pity him who does not choose to approach the light when it comes unto him?
BEDE. (in loc. c. 1) He calls Himself the light, whereof the Evangelist speaks, That was the true light; whereas sin He calls darkness.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxviii. 2) Then because it seemed incredible that man should prefer light to darkness, he gives the reason of the infatuation, viz. that their deeds were evil. And indeed had He come to Judgment, there had been some reason for not receiving Him; for he who is conscious of his crimes, naturally avoids the judge. But criminals are glad to meet one who brings them pardon. And therefore it might have been expected that men conscious of their sins would have gone to meet Christ, as many indeed did; for the publicans and sinners came and sat down with Jesus. But the greater part being too cowardly to undergo the toils of virtue for righteousness’ sake, persisted in their wickedness to the last; of whom our Lord says, Every one that doeth evil, hateth the light. He speaks of those who choose to remain in their wickedness.
ALCUIN. Every one that doeth evil, hateth the light; i. e. he who is resolved to sin, who delights in sin, hateth the light, which detects his sin.
AUGUSTINE. (Conf. l. x. c. xxiii. [34.]) Because they dislike being deceived, and like to deceive, they love light for discovering herself, and hate her for discovering them. Wherefore it shall be their punishment, that she shall manifest them against their will, and herself not be manifest unto them. They love the brightness of truth, they hate her discrimination; and therefore it follows, Neither cometh to the light, that his deeds should be reproved.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxvii. 2) No one reproves a Pagan, because his own practice agrees with the character of his gods; his life is in accordance with his doctrines. But a Christian who lives in wickedness all must condemn. If there are any Gentiles whose life is good, I know them not. But are there not Gentiles? it may be asked. For do not tell me of the naturally amiable and honest; this is not virtue. But shew me one who has strong passions, and lives with wisdom. You cannot. For if the announcement of a kingdom, and the threats of hell, and other inducements, hardly keep men virtuous when they are so, such calls will hardly rouse them to the attainment of virtue in the first instance. Pagans, if they do produce any thing which looks well, do it for vain-glory’s sake, and will therefore at the same time, if they can escape notice, gratify their evil desires as well. And what profit is a man’s sobriety and decency of conduct, if he is the slave of vain-glory? The slave of vain-glory is no less a sinner than a fornicator; nay, sins oven oftener, and more grievously. However, even supposing there are some few Gentiles of good lives, the exceptions so rare do not affect my argument.
BEDE. Morally too they love darkness rather than light, who when their preachers tell them their duty, assail them with calumny.
But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxviii. 3) He does not say this of those who are brought up under the Gospel, but of those who are converted to the true faith from Paganism or Judaism. He shews that no one will leave a false religion for the true faith, till he first resolve to follow a right course of life.
AUGUSTINE. (de Pecc. mer. et Remiss. l. i. c. 33) He calls the works of him who comes to the light, wrought in God; meaning that his justification is attributable not to his own merits, but to God’s grace.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xii. 13, 14) But if God hath discovered all men’s works to be evil, how is it that any have done the truth, and come to the light, i. e. to Christ? Now what He saith is, that they loved darkness rather than light; He lays the stress upon that. Many have loved their sins, many have confessed them. God accuseth thy sins; if thou accuse them too, thou art joined to God. Thou must hate thine own work, and love the work of God in thee. The beginning of good works, is the confession of evil works, and then thou doest the truth: not soothing, not flattering thyself. And thou art come to the light, because this very sin in thee, which displeaseth thee, would not displease thee, did not God shine upon thee, and His truth shew it unto thee. And let those even who have sinned only by word or thought, or who have only exceeded in things allowable, do the truth, by making confession, and come to the light by performing good works. For little sins, if suffered to accumulate, become mortal. Little drops swell the river: little grains of sand become an heap, which presses and weighs down. The sea coming in by little and little, unless it be pumped out, sinks the vessel. And what is to pump out, but by good works, mourning, fasting, giving and forgiving, to provide against our sins overwhelming us?
22. After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judæa; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.
23. And John also was baptizing in Ænon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized.
24. For John was not yet cast into prison.
25. Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying.
26. And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxix. 1) Nothing is more open than truth, nothing bolder; it neither seeks concealment, or avoids danger, or fears the snare, or cares for popularity. It is subject to no human weakness. Our Lord went up to Jerusalem at the feasts, not from ostentation or love of honour, but to teach the people His doctrines, and shew miracles of mercy. After the festival He visited the crowds who were collected at the Jordan. After these things came Jesus and His disciples into the land of Judæa; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.
BEDE. After these things, is not immediately after His dispute with Nicodemus, which took place at Jerusalem; but on His return to Jerusalem after some time spent in Galilee.
ALCUIN. By Judæa are meant those who confess, whom Christ visits; for wherever there is confession of sins, or the praise of God, thither cometh Christ and His disciples, i. e. His doctrine and enlightenment; and there He is known by His cleansing men from sin: And there He tarried with them, and baptized.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxix. 1) As the Evangelist says afterwards, that Jesus baptized not but His disciples, it is evident that he means the same here, i. e. that the disciples only baptized.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xiii. c. 4) Our Lord did not baptize with the baptism wherewith He had been baptized; for He was baptized by a servant, as a lesson of humility to us, and in order to bring us to the Lord’s baptism, i. e. His own; for Jesus baptized, as the Lord, the Son of God.
BEDE. John still continues baptizing, though Christ has begun; for the shadow remains still, nor must the forerunner cease, till the truth is manifested. And John also was baptizing in Ænon, near to Salim. Ænon is Hebrew for water; so that the Evangelist gives, as it were, the derivation of the name, when he adds, For there was much water there. Salim is a town on the Jordan, where Melchisedec once reigned.
JEROME. (Hierom. Ep. c. xxiii. ad Evag.) It matters not whether it is called Salem, or Salim; since the Jews very rarely use vowels in the middle of words; and the same words are pronounced with different vowels and accents, by different readers, and in different places.
And they came, and were baptized.
BEDE. The same kind of benefit which catechumens receive from instruction before they are baptized, the same did John’s baptism convey before Christ’s. As John preached repentance, announced Christ’s baptism, and drew all men to the knowledge of the truth now made manifest to the world: so the ministers of the Church first instruct those who come to the faith, then reprove their sins; and lastly, drawing them to the knowledge and love of the truth, offer them remission by Christ’s baptism.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxix. 1) Notwithstanding the disciples of Jesus baptized, John did not leave off till his imprisonment; as the Evangelist’s language intimates, For John was not yet cast into prison.
BEDE. He evidently here is relating what Christ did before John’s imprisonment; a part which has been passed over by the rest, who commence after John’s imprisonment.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xiii. c. 6) But why did John baptize? Because it was necessary that our Lord should be baptized. And why was it necessary that our Lord should be baptized? That no one might ever think himself at liberty to despise baptism.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xx. 1) But why did he go on baptizing now? Because, had he left off, it might have been attributed to envy or anger: whereas, continuing to baptize, he got no glory for himself, but sent hearers to Christ. And he was better able to do this service, than were Christ’s own disciples; his testimony being so free from suspicion, and his reputation with the people so much higher than theirs. He therefore continued to baptize, that he might not increase the envy felt by his disciples against our Lord’s baptism. Indeed, the reason, I think, why John’s death was permitted, and, in his room, Christ made the great preacher, was, that the people might transfer their affections wholly to Christ, and no longer be divided between the two. For the disciples of John did become so envious of Christ’s disciples, and even of Christ Himself, that when they saw the latter baptizing, they threw contempt upon their baptism, as being inferior to that of John’s; And there arose a question from some of John’s disciples with the Jews about purifying. That it was they who began the dispute, and not the Jews, the Evangelist implies by saying, that there arose a question from John’s disciples, whereas he might have said, The Jews put forth a question.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xiii. c. 8) The Jews then asserted Christ to be the greater person, and His baptism necessary to be received. But John’s disciples did not understand so much, and defended John’s baptism. At last they come to John, to solve the question: And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, He that was with thee beyond Jordan, behold, the Same baptizeth.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxix. 2) Meaning, He, Whom thou baptizedst, baptizeth. They did not say expressly, Whom thou baptizedst, for they did not wish to be reminded of the voice from heaven, but, He Who was with thee, i. e. Who was in the situation of a disciple, who was nothing more than any of us, He now separateth Himself from thee, and baptizeth. They add, To Whom thou barest witness; as if to say, Whom thou shewedst to the world, Whom thou madest renowned, He now dares to do as thou dost. Behold, the Same baptizeth. And in addition to this, they urge the probability that John’s doctrines would fall into discredit. All men come to Him.
ALCUIN. Meaning, Passing by thee, all men run to the baptism of Him Whom thou baptizedst.
27. John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.
28. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him.
29. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.
30. He must increase, but I must decrease.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxix. 2) John, on this question being raised, does not rebuke his disciples, for fear they might separate, and turn to some other school, but replies gently, John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven; as if he said, No wonder that Christ does such excellent works, and that all men come to Him; when He Who doeth it all is God. Human efforts are easily seen through, are feeble, and short-lived. These are not such: they are not therefore of human, but of divine originating. He seems however to speak somewhat humblyk of Christ, which will not surprise us, when we consider that it was not fitting to tell the whole truth, to minds prepossessed with such a passion as envy. He only tries for the present to alarm them, by shewing that they are attempting impossible things, and fighting against God.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xiii. c. 9) Or perhaps John is speaking here of himself: I am a mere man, and have received all from heaven, and therefore think not that, because it has been given me to be somewhat, I am so foolish as to speak against the truth.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxix. 2) And see; the very argument by which they thought to have overthrown Christ, To whom, thou barest witness, he turns against them; Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ; as if he said, If ye think my witness true, ye must acknowledge Him more worthy of honour than myself. He adds, But that I was sent before Him; that is to say, I am a servant, and perform the commission of the Father which sent me; my witness is not from favour or partiality; I say that which was given me to say.
BEDE. Who art thou then, since thou art not the Christ, and who is He to Whom thou bearest witness? John replies, He is the Bridegroom; I am the friend of the Bridegroom, sent to prepare the Bride for His approach: He that hath the Bride, is the Bridegroom. By the Bride he means the Church, gathered from amongst all nations; a Virgin in purity of heart, in perfection of love, in the bond of peace, in chastity of mind and body; in the unity of the Catholic faith; for in vain is she a virgin in body, who continueth not a virgin in mind. This Bride hath Christ joined unto Himself in marriage, and redeemed with the price of His own Blood.
THEOPHYLACT. Christ is the spouse of every soul; the wedlock, wherein they are joined, is baptism; the place of that wedlock is the Church; the pledge of it, remission of sins, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost; the consummation, eternal life; which those who are worthy shall receive. Christ alone is the Bridegroom: all other teachers are but the friends of the Bridegroom, as was the forerunner. The Lord is the giver of good; the rest are the despisers of His gifts.
BEDE. His Bride therefore our Lord committed to His friend, i. e. the order of preachers, who should be jealous of her, not for themselves, but for Christ; The friend of the Bridegroom which standeth and heareth Him, rejoiceth greatly because of the Bridegroom’s voice.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xiii. c. 12) As if He said, She is not My spouse. But dost thou therefore not rejoice in the marriage? Yea, I rejoice, he saith, because I am the friend of the Bridegroom.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxviii. 2) But how doth he who said above, Whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose, call himself a friend? As an expression not of equality, but of excess of joy: (for the friend of the Bridegroom is always more rejoiced than the servant,) and also, as a condescension to the weakness of his disciples, who thought that he was pained at Christ’s ascendancy. For he hereby assures them, that so far from being pained, he was right glad that the Bride recognised her Spouse.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xiii) But wherefore doth he stand? Because he falleth not, by reason of his humility. A sure ground this to stand upon, Whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. Again; He standeth, and heareth Him. So then if he falleth, he heareth Him not. Therefore the friend of the Bridegroom ought to stand and hear, i. e. to abide in the grace which he hath received, and to hear the voice in which he rejoiceth. I rejoice not, he saith, because of my own voice, but because of the Bridegroom’s voice. I rejoice; I in hearing, He in speaking; I am the ear, He the Word. For he who guards the bride or wife of his friend, takes care that she love none else; if he wish to be loved himself in the stead of his friend, and to enjoy her who was entrusted to him, how detestable doth he appear to the whole world? Yet many are the adulterers I see, who would fain possess themselves of the spouse who was bought at so great a price, and who aim by their words at being loved themselves instead of the Bridegroom.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxix. 3) Or thus; The expression, which standeth, is not without meaning, but indicates that his part is now over, and that for the future he must stand and listen. This is a transition from the parable to the real subject. For having introduced the figure of a bride and bridegroom, he shews how the marriage is consummated, viz. by word and doctrine. Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Rom. 10:17) And since the things he had hoped for had come to pass, he adds, This my joy therefore is fulfilled; i. e. The work which I had to do is finished, and nothing more is left, that I can do.
THEOPHYLACT. For which cause I rejoice now, that all men follow Him. For had the bride, i. e. the people, not come forth to meet the Bridegroom, then I, as the friend of the Bridegroom, should have grieved,
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xiv. c. 3) Or thus; This my Joy is fulfilled, i. e. my joy at hearing the Bridegroom’s voice. I have my gift; I claim no more, lest I lose that which I have received. He who would rejoice in himself, hath sorrow; but he who would rejoice in the Lord, shall ever rejoice, because God is everlasting.
BEDE. He rejoiceth at hearing the Bridegroom’s voice, who knows that he should not rejoice in his own wisdom, but in the wisdom which God giveth him. Whoever in his good works seeketh not his own glory, or praise, or earthly gain, but hath his affections set on heavenly things; this man is the friend of the Bridegroom.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxix. 3) He next dismisses the motions of envy, not only as regards the present, but also the future, saying, He must increase, but I must decrease: as if he said, My office hath ceased, and is ended; but His advanceth.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxv. c. 4, 5) What meaneth this, He must increase? God neither increases, nor decreases. And John and Jesus, according to the flesh, were of the same age: for the six months’ difference between them is of no consequence. This is a great mystery. Before our Lord came, men gloried in themselves; He came in no man’s nature, that the glory of man might be diminished, and the glory of God exalted. For He came to remit sins upon man’s confession: a man’s confession, a man’s humility, is God’s pity, God’s exaltation. This truth Christ and John proved, even by their modes of suffering: John was beheaded, Christ was lifted up on the cross. Then Christ was born, when the days begin to lengthen; John, when they begin to shorten. Let God’s glory then increase in us, and our own decrease, that ours also may increase in God. But it is because thou understandest God more and more, that He seemeth to increase in thee: for in His own nature He increaseth not, but is ever perfect: even as to a man cured of blindness, who beginneth to see a little, and daily seeth more, the light seemeth to increase, whereas it is in reality always at the fall, whether he seeth it or not. In like manner the inner man maketh advancement in God, and it seemeth as if God were increasing in Him; but it is He Himself that decreaseth, falling from the height of His own glory, and rising in the glory of God.
THEOPHYLACT. Or thus; As, on the sun rising, the light of the other heavenly bodies seems to be extinguished, though in reality it is only obscured by the greater light: thus the forerunner is said to decrease; as if he were a star hidden by the sun. Christ increases in proportion as he gradually discloses Himself by miracles; not in the sense of increase, or advancement in virtue, (the opinion of Nestorius,) but only as regards the manifestation of His divinity.
31. He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all.
32. And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth;
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxx. 1) As the worm gnaws wood, and rusts iron, so vainglory destroys the soul that cherishes it. But it is a most obstinate fault. John with all his arguments can hardly subdue it in his disciples: for after what he has said above, he saith yet again, He that cometh from above is above all: meaning, Ye extol my testimony, and say that the witness is more worthy to be believed, than He to whom he bears witness. Know this, that He who cometh from heaven, cannot be accredited by an earthly witness. He is above all; being perfect in Himself, and above comparison.
THEOPHYLACT. Christ cometh from above, as descending from the Father; and is above all, as being elected in preference to all.
ALCUIN. Or, cometh from above; i. e. from the height of that human nature which was before the sin of the first man. For it was that human nature which the Word of God assumed: He did not take upon Him man’s sin, as He did his punishment.
He that is of the earth is of the earth; i. e. is earthly, and speaketh of the earth, speaketh earthly things.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxx. 1) And yet he was not altogether of the earth; for he had a soul, and partook of a spirit, which was not of the earth. What means he then by saying that he is of the earth? Only to express his own worthlessness, that he is one born on the earth, creeping on the ground, and not to be compared with Christ, Who cometh from above. Speaketh of the earth, does not mean that he spoke from his own understanding; but that, in comparison with Christ’s doctrine, he spoke of the earth: as if he said, My doctrine is mean and humble, compared with Christ’s; as becometh an earthly teacher, compared with Him, (Col. 2:3) in Whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xiv. c. 6) Or, speaketh of the earth, he saith of the man, i. e. of himself, so far as he speaks merely humanly. If he says ought divine, he is enlightened by God to say it: as saith the Apostle; Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. (1 Cor. 15:10) John then, so far as pertains to John, is of the earth, and speaketh of the earth: if ye hear ought divine from him, attribute it to the Enlightener, not to him who hath received the light.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxx. 1) Having corrected the bad feeling of his disciples, he comes to discourse more deeply upon Christ. Before this it would have been useless to reveal the truths which could not yet gain a place in their minds. It follows therefore, He that cometh from heaven.
GLOSS. That is, from the Father. He is above all in two ways; first, in respect of His humanity, which was that of man before he sinned: secondly, in respect of the loftiness of the Father, to whom He is equal.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxx. 1) But after this high and solemn mention of Christ, his tone lowers: And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth. As our senses are our surest channels of knowledge, and teachers are most depended on who have apprehended by sight or hearing what they teach, John adds this argument in favour of Christ, that, what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; meaning that every thing which He saith is true. I want, saith John, to hear what things He, Who cometh from above, hath seen and heard, i. e. what He, and He alone, knows with certainty.
THEOPHYLACT. When ye hear then, that Christ speaketh what He saw and heard from the Father, do not suppose that He needs to be taught by the Father; but only that that knowledge, which He has naturally, is from the Father. For this reason He is said to have heard, whatever He knows, from the Father.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xiv. c. 7) But what is it, which the Son hath heard from the Father? Hath He heard the word of the Father? Yea, but He is the Word of the Father. When thou conceivest a word, wherewith to name a thing, the very conception of that thing in the mind is a word. Just then as thou hast in thy mind and with thee thy spoken word; even so God uttered the Word, i. e. begat the Son. Since then the Son is the Word of God, and the Son hath spoken the Word of God to us, He hath spoken to us the Father’s word. What John said is therefore true.
32. —and no man receiveth his testimony.
33. He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.
34. For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.
35. The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.
36. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxx. 1) Having said, And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth, to prevent any from supposing, that what he said was false, because only a few for the present believed, he adds, And no man receiveth his testimony; i. e. only a few; for he had disciples who received his testimony. John is alluding to the unbelief of his own disciples, and to the insensibility of the Jews, of whom we read in the beginning of the Gospel, He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xiv. c. 8) Or thus; There is a people reserved for the wrath of God, and to be condemned with the devil; of whom none receiveth the testimony of Christ. And others there are ordained to eternal life. Mark how mankind are divided spiritually, though as human beings they are mixed up together: and John separated them by the thoughts of their heart, though as yet they were not divided in respect of place, and looked on them as two classes, the unbelievers, and the believers. Looking to the unbelievers, he saith, No man receiveth his testimony. Then turning to those on the right hand he saith, He that hath received his testimony, hath set to his seal.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxx. 2) i. e. hath shewn that God is true. This is to alarm them: for it is as much as saying, no one can disbelieve Christ without convicting God, Who sent Him, of falsehood: inasmuch as He speaks nothing but what is of the Father. For He, it follows, Whom God hath sent, speaketh the words of God.
ALCUIN. Or, Hath put to his seal, i. e. hath put a seal on his heart, for a singular and special token, that this is the true God, Who suffered for the salvation of mankind.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xiv. c. 8) What is it, that God is true, except that God is true, and every man a liar? For no man can say what truth is, till he is enlightened by Him who cannot lie. God then is true, and Christ is God. Wouldest thou have proof? Hear His testimony, and thou wilt find it so. But if thou dost not yet understand God, thou hast not yet received His testimony. Christ then Himself is God the true, and God hath sent Him; God hath sent God, join both together; they are One God. For John saith, Whom God hath sent, to distinguish Christ from himself. What then, was not John himself sent by God? Yes; but mark what follows, For God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him. To men He giveth by measure, to His only Son He giveth not by measure. To one man is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge: one has one thing, another another; for measure implies a kind of division of gifts. But Christ did not receive by measure, though He gave by measure.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxx. 2) By Spirit here is meant the operation of the Holy Spirit. He wishes to shew that all of us have received the operation of the Spirit by measure, but that Christ contains within Himself the whole operation of the Spirit. How then shall He be suspected, Who saith nothing, but what is from God, and the Spirit? For He makes no mention yet of God the Word, but rests His doctrine on the authority of the Father and the Spirit. For men knew that there was God, and knew that there was the Spirit, (although they had not right belief about His nature;) but that there was the Son they did not know.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xiv. c. 11) Having said of the Son, God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him; he adds, The Father loveth the Son, and farther adds, and hath given all things into His hand; in order to shew that the Father loveth the Son, in a peculiar sense. For the Father loveth John, and Paul, and yet hath not given all things into their hands. But the Father loveth the Son, as the Son, not as a master his servant: as an only, not as an adopted, Son. Wherefore He hath given all things into His hand; so that, as great as the Father is, so great is the Son; let us not think then that, because He hath deigned to send the Son, any one inferior to the Father has been sent.
THEOPHYLACT. The Father then hath given all things to the Son in respect of His divinity; of right, not of grace. Or; He hath given all things into His hand, in respect of His humanity: inasmuch as He is made Lord of all things that are in heaven, and that are in earth.
ALCUIN. And because all things are in His hand, the life everlasting is too: and therefore it follows, He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.
BEDE. We must understand here not a faith in words only, but a faith which is developed in works.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxxi. 1) He means not here, that to believe on the Son is sufficient to gain everlasting life, for elsewhere He says, Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 7) And the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is of itself sufficient to send into hell. But we must not think that even a right belief on Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is sufficient for salvation; for we have need of a good life and conversation. Knowing then that the greater part are not moved so much by the promise of good, as by the threat of punishment, he concludes, But He that believeth not the Son, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. See how He refers to the Father again, when He speaketh of punishment. He saith not, the wrath of the Son, though the Son is judge; but maketh the Father the judge, in order to alarm men more. And He does not say, in Him, but on Him, meaning that it will never depart from Him; and for the same reason He says, shall not see life, i. e. to shew that He did not mean only a temporary death.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xiv. c. 13) Nor does He say, The wrath of God cometh to him, but, abideth on him. For all who are born, are under the wrath of God, which the first Adam incurred. The Son of God came without sin, and was clothed with mortality: He died that thou mightest live. Whosoever then will not believe on the Son, on him abideth the wrath of God, of which the Apostle speaks, We were by nature the children of wrath. (Eph. 2:3)