Exercitations upon the Evangelist St. John
Chapters 13-17 (there is nothing for chapter 17)
I. In the common language of the Jews, the whole festivity and time of Passover,
Pentecost, and Tabernacles, no part of that time being excepted; nor does the word feast,
occur anywhere throughout the whole Bible in another signification.
II. It is something harsh to exclude the paschal supper out of the title of the
feast of the Passover, because the name of the whole feast takes its original from it.
This they do who imagine this supper mentioned in this place to have been the paschal
supper, and yet it was before the feast of the Passover.
We have therefore shewn, by many arguments in our notes upon Matthew 26:2,6, that the
supper here mentioned was the same with that at Bethany, in the house of 'Simon the
leper,' two days before the Passover.
Let us join the full story together. While Jesus was at supper in the house of Simon
the leper two days before the Passover, a woman comes and pours very precious ointment
upon his head. When some murmured at the profuseness of the expense, he defends the woman
and the action by an apology: and having finished his apology, he rises immediately from
the table, as it were, in the very midst of supper, and girds himself to wash his
disciples' feet: so that while they are grumbling at the anointing of his head, he does
not disdain to wash their feet.
The reason of this extraordinary action of his we may in some measure spell out from
those little prefaces the evangelist uses before he tells the story.
I. "When Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this
world, &c." [There is an expression not unlike this in Bemidbar Rabba;
"Abraham said, 'I am flesh and blood, tomorrow I shall go out of this world.'"]
It had a little rubbed up the memory of his departure out of this world, that the woman
had as it were anointed him for his funeral: and therefore he riseth immediately from the
table, that he might give them some farewell token of his humility and charity, and leave
them an example for the practice of these virtues one amongst another.
II. "The devil having now put into the heart of Judas to betray him," it was
but seasonable for him to shew his disciples that he would strengthen and vindicate them
against the wolf who had now stolen, I will not say a sheep, but a goat, and
that out of his own flock. It must not pass unobserved, that 'his disciples' murmured at
the lavish use of the ointment, Matthew 26:8; as if the murmuring humour was crept in
amongst others also as well as Judas; which perhaps moved Christ the more earnestly to
meet the beginnings of that distemper by this action.
III. "Knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands," verse 3,
he gave the traitor over to Satan, and confirms the rest to himself: signifying, by the
external washing, that his should be secured from the devil by the washing of Christ.
Whosoever shall attempt the determination, whether he washed the feet of Judas or not, let
him see how he will free himself of this dilemma:
If he washed Judas' feet, why had not he his part in Christ, as well as the rest of his
disciples? For supposing that true, "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with
me," why should not this be so too, "If I do wash thee, thou hast a part with
If he did not wash Judas with the rest, but left him out, how could the rest be
ignorant who was the unclean person? verse 10, which they were altogether ignorant of.
I. It was an unusual thing for superiors to wash the feet of inferiors. Amongst
the duties required from a wife towards a husband this was one, that she should wash
his face, his hands, and his feet. The same was expected by a father from his son. The
same from a servant towards his master, but not vice versa. Nor, as I remember, was
it expected from the disciple towards his master, unless included in that rule, "That
the disciple is to honour his master more than his father."
II. The feet were never washed merely under the notion of legal
purification. The hands were wont to be washed by the Pharisees merely under
that notion, but not the feet: and the hands and the feet by the priests, but the
feet not merely upon that account. That what was said before, concerning the basin
wherein the feet were to be washed, must not be understood as if the feet were
to be washed upon any score of a legal cleansing; but only care was taken by that
tradition, lest through defect of a just quantity of water the feet and the person should
contract some sort of uncleanness whilst they were washing.
So that by how much distant this action of Christ's was from the common usage and
custom, by so much the more instructive was it to his followers, propounded to them not
only for example, but doctrine too.
III. As to the manner of the action. It is likely he washed their feet in the
same manner as his own were, Luke 7:38; viz. while they were leaning at the table (as the
Jewish custom of eating was) he washed their feet, as they were stretched out
behind them. And if he did observe any order, he began with Peter, who sat in the next
place immediately to himself. This Nonnus seems to believe; to which opinion also there
are others that seem inclined; and then the words he began to wash, must be taken
in some such sense as if he made ready and put himself into a posture to wash. But perhaps
this way of expression may intimate, as if he began to wash some of his disciples, but did
not wash them all; which for my own part I could easily enough close with. For whereas
Christ did this for example and instruction merely, and not with any design of cleansing
them, his end was answered in washing two or three of them, as well as all. And so
indeed I would avoid being entangled in the dilemma I lately mentioned, by saying, he did
not only leave Judas unwashed, but several others also. What if he washed Peter and
James and John only? And as he had before made some distinction betwixt these three and
the rest of his disciples by admitting them into his more inward privacies, so perhaps he
distinguisheth them no less in this action. These he foretold how they were to suffer
martyrdom: might he not, therefore, by this washing, prefigure to them that they
must be baptized with the same baptism that he himself was to be baptized with? and as the
woman had anointed him for his burial, so he, by this action, might have washed them for
So that while Christ and his disciples were eating together, Peter lay at the back of
Christ, and John in his bosom: John in the bosom of Christ, and Christ in the bosom of
Peter. Christ, therefore, could not readily talk with Peter in his ear (for all this
discourse was by way of whispering). Peter, therefore, looking over Christ's head towards
John, nods to him; and, by that, signs to him to ask Christ about this matter.
So the Gemara concerning the Persians (I suppose he means the Jews in Persia); when
they could not, because of their way of leaning at meals, discourse amongst themselves,
they talked by signs either with their hands or upon their fingers.
We must not omit what the Gloss said, that they were wont to sit at table leaning on
their left side, with their "feet upon the ground"; this is to be understood
when one sat alone, or two at the table only. And the Gemara tells us, that the order was
otherwise when but two sat down: for then he that was the second sat below him that was
the chief, and not at his pillow.
There was also a diversity of tables: for the ordinary table of the Pharisee, or one of
the disciples of the wise men, was but little, where three at most could sit down; and
there were tables which would hold more.
The Jewish doctors distinguished the cockcrowing into the first, second, and third. The
first they call the cockcrowing. The second, when he repeats it. The third, when
he does it a third time. The distinction also amongst other nations is not unknown.
When the time indeed was near, and the very night wherein this was to happen, then Christ
saith, This very night the cock shall not crow his second time, &c. But here,
two days before this night, he only saith, The cock shall not crow, that is, shall
not have done all his crowing, before thou deny me. And thus our Saviour meets with the
arrogance of Peter, foretelling him that he should not have the courage he so confidently
assumed to himself, but should within the time and space of cockcrowing deny him thrice.
1. Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
[Let not your heart be troubled.] They could not but be exceedingly concerned at
the departure of their Master drawing on so very near. But there were other things beside
his departure that grieved and perplexed their minds.
I. They had run along with their whole nation in that common expectation, that the
kingdom should be restored unto Israel through the Messiah, Acts 1:8. They had hoped to
have been rescued by him from the Gentile yoke, Luke 24:21. They had expected he would
have entertained his followers with all imaginable pomp and magnificence, splendour and
triumph, Matthew 20:20. But they found, alas! all things fall out directly contrary; they
had got little hitherto by following him but poverty, contempt, reproach, and persecution:
and now that their Master was to leave them so suddenly, they could have no prospect or
hope of better things. Is this the kingdom of the Messiah?
Against this depression and despondency of mind he endeavours to comfort them, by
letting them know that in his Father's house in heaven, not in these earthly regions
below, their mansions were prepared for them; and there it was that he would receive and
entertain them indeed.
II. Christ had introduced a new rule and face of religion, which his disciples
embracing did in a great measure renounce their old Judaism; and therefore they could not
but awaken the hatred of the Jews, and a great deal of danger to themselves, which now
(they thought) would fall severely upon them when left to themselves, and their Master was
snatched from them.
That was dreadful, if true, which we find denounced: "Epicurus" (that is, one
that despises the disciples and doctrine of the wise men) "has no part in the world
to come, and those that separate themselves from the customs of the synagogue go down into
hell, and are there condemned for all eternity."
These are direful things, and might strangely affright the minds of the disciples, who
had in so great a measure bid adieu to the customs of the synagogues and the whole Jewish
religion: and for him that had led them into all this now to leave them! What could they
think in this matter?
To support the disciples against discouragements of this nature:
I. He lays before them his authority, that they ought equally to believe in him as in
God himself: where he lays down two of the chief articles of the Christian faith: 1. Of
the divinity of the Messiah, which the Jews denied: 2. As to true and saving faith,
wherein they were blind and ignorant.
II. He tells them that in his Father's house were many mansions; and that there was
place and admission into heaven for all saints that had lived under different economies
and administrations of things. Let not your heart be troubled for this great change
brought upon the Judaic dispensation, nor let it disquiet you that you are putting
yourselves under a new economy of religion so contrary to what you have been hitherto bred
up in; for "in my Father's house are many mansions"; and you may expect
admission under this new administration of things, as well as any others, either before or
under the law.
2. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would
have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
[I go to prepare a place for you.] Compare this with Numbers 10:33; "And
the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them, to search out a resting place for
6. Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto
the Father, but by me.
[I am the way, the truth, and the life.] Why is this superadded of truth
and the life, when the question was only about the way?
I. It may be answered that this was perhaps by a Hebrew idiosyncrasy; by which the
way, the truth, and the life, may be the same with the true and living way.
Jeremiah 29:11: To give you an end and hope, or expectation: that is, a
hoped or expected end. So Kimchi in loc.; "A good end even as you expect."
II. Our Saviour seems to refute that opinion of the Jews concerning their law, as if it
were the way, the truth, and the life, and indeed every thing: and to assert his own
authority and power of introducing a new rule of religion, because himself is the way,
the truth, and the life, in a sense much more proper and more sublime than the
law could be said to be.
It had been happier for the Jew if he could have discerned more judiciously concerning
the law; if he could have distinguished between coming to God in the law and coming
to God by the law: as also between living in the law and living by
the law. It is beyond all doubt, there is no way of coming to God but in his law:
for what outlaw, or one that still wanders out of the paths of God's commandments, can
come unto him? So also it is impossible that any one should have life but in the
law of God. For who is it can have life that doth not walk according to the rule of his
laws? But to obtain admission to the favour of God by the law, and to have life by
the law; that is, to be justified by the works of the law; this sounds quite another
thing: for it is by Christ only that we live and are justified; by him alone that
we have access to God.
These are the fictions of the Rabbins: "There was one shewed a certain Rabbin the
place where Corah and his company were swallowed up, and, 'Listen,' saith he, 'what they
say.' So they heard them saying, Moses and his law are the truth. Upon the calends
of every month hell rolls them about, as flesh rolls in the caldron, hell still saying, Moses
and his law are truth."
It is, indeed, a great truth, what is uttered in this most false and ridiculous legend,
that "the law of Moses is truth." But the Jews might (if they would) attain to a
much more sound way of judging concerning the truth of it, and consider that the law is
not the sum and ultimate of all truth, but that Christ is the very truth of the truth of
Moses: John 1:17, "The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus
7. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye
know him, and have seen him.
[If ye had known me, &c.] It was a very difficult thing to spell out the
knowledge of the Messiah from the law and the prophets under the first Temple; but it was
doubly more difficult under the second. For, under the first Temple, Moses had only his
own veil over him, and the prophets only their own proper and original obscurity: but
under the second Temple, the obscurity is doubled by the darkness and smoke of traditions;
which had not only beclouded the true doctrines of faith and religion, but had also
brought in other doctrines diametrically contrary to the chief and principal articles of
faith: those for instance concerning justification, the person, reign, and office of the
With what measures of darkness these mists of tradition had covered the minds of the
apostles, it is both difficult, and might be presumptuous, to determine. They did indeed
own Jesus for the true Messiah, John 1:41; Matthew 16:16: but if in some things they
judged amiss concerning his office, undertaking, and government, we must put it upon the
score of that epidemical distemper of the whole nation which they still did in some
measure labour under. And to this may this clause have some reference, "If ye had
known me, and had judged aright concerning the office, undertaking, and authority of
the Messiah, ye would, in all these things which I teach and do, have known the will,
command, and authority of the Father."
[And from henceforth ye know him.] We may render it, Henceforward therefore
know him: "Henceforward acknowledge the Father in all that I have done, brought
in, and am to introduce still, and set your hearts to rest in it: believing that you see
the Father in me, and in the things that I do."
8. Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.
[Shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.] "When the law was given to
Moses, the Israelites saw God in his glory: do thou, therefore, now that thou art bringing
in a new law and economy amongst us, do thou shew us the Father, and his glory, and
it will suffice us; so that we will have no more doubt about it."
16. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may
abide with you for ever;
[He shall give you another Comforter.] I. Amongst all the names and titles given
to the Messiah in the Jewish writers, that of Menahem, or the Comforter,
hath chiefly obtained; and the days of the Messiah amongst them are styled the days of
'consolation.' The names of Messiah are reckoned up, viz. Shiloh, Jinnon, Chaninah,
Menahem. And in Jerusalem Berac. we are told how the Messiah had been born in
Bethlehem under the name of Menahem.
Luke 2:25; "Waiting for the consolation of Israel." Targumist upon Jeremiah
31:6: "Those that desire or long for the years of consolation to come." This
they were wont to swear by, viz. the desire they had of seeing this consolation. So let
me see the consolation.
Now, therefore, bring these words of our Saviour to what hath been said: q.d. "You
expect, with the rest of this nation, the consolation in the Messiah and in his presence.
Well; I must depart, and withdraw my presence from you; but I will send you in my stead
II. The minds of the disciples at present were greatly distressed and troubled, so that
the promise of a Comforter seems more suitable than that of an Advocate, to
their present state and circumstances.
17. Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth
him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in
[The Spirit of truth.] Let us but observe how the whole world at this time lay
in falsehood and error: the Gentiles under a spirit of delusion; the Jews under the cheat
and imposture of traditions: and then the reason of this title of the Spirit of truth
will appear; as also how seasonable and necessary a thing it was that such a Spirit
should be sent into the world.
26. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in
my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance,
whatsoever I have said unto you.
[He shall teach you all things.] So chapter 16:13: "He shall lead you into
all truth." Here it might be very fitly inquired, whether any ever, besides the
apostles themselves, were "taught all things," or "led into all
truth." It is no question but that every believer is led into all truth necessary for
himself and his own happiness; but it was the apostles' lot only to be led into all truth
necessary both for themselves and the whole church.
30. Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh,
and hath nothing in me.
[The prince of this world cometh.] Seeing this kind of phrase, the prince of
this world, was, in the common acceptation of the Jewish nation, expressive of the
devil ruling among the Gentiles, it may very well be understood so in these words; because
the very moment of time was almost come about, wherein Christ and the devil were to enter
the lists for the dominion and government, which of those two should have the rule over
31. But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me
commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence.
[Arise, let us go hence.] These words plainly set out the time and place wherein
our Saviour had the discourse which is contained in this fourteenth chapter. The place was
Bethany; the time, the very day of the Passover, when they were now about to walk to
Those things which Christ had discoursed in chapter 13 were said two nights before the
Passover; and that at Bethany, where Christ supped at the house of 'Simon the leper.' He
abode there the day following, and the night after; and now, when the feast day was come,
and it was time for them to be making towards Jerusalem to the Passover, he saith, Arise,
let us go hence. What he did or said the day before the Passover, while he stayed at
Bethany, the evangelist makes no mention. He only relates what was said in his last
farewell before the paschal supper, and upon his departure from Bethany. All that we have
recorded in chapters 15, 16, and 17, was discoursed to them after the paschal supper, and
after that he had instituted the holy eucharist.
1. I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
[I am the true vine.] We may take these words in opposition to what is spoken
concerning Israel. Israel is called a vine, Psalm 80:8; Isaiah 5:7; Jeremiah 2:21,
&c. In Vajicra Rabba, the parallel is drawn between Israel and a vine; and the
similitude is carried on to sixteen particulars, for the most part improper and unsuitable
But that which is principally to be regarded in this place is this, that hitherto,
indeed, Israel had been the vine, into which every one that would betake himself to
the worship of the true God was to be set and grafted in. But from henceforward they were
to be planted no more into the Jewish religion, but into the profession of Christ. To
which that in Acts 11:26 hath some reference, where the disciples were first called
'Christians,' that is, no longer Jews or Israelites.
Our Saviour, as we have said before, discoursed these things immediately after that he
had instituted the holy eucharist: while he was ordaining that holy sacrament he had said,
"This is the new testament in my blood"; and from thence immediately adds, I
am the true vine: so that for the future the church is to be under the administration
of a new testament, and not, as the Jewish church, under that of the old; and from
henceforward I am the true vine, into which all the branches of the church must be
ingrafted, and not into the Israelitish vine any more.
3. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
[Now ye are clean.] Christ having discoursed of the vine and of the branches,
these words seem to have an allusion to that law concerning the circumcision of the
tree when first planted, Leviticus 19:23. For the first three years the fruit was to be
accounted as uncircumcised, unclean, and not to be eaten; "But you, O my branches,
now are clean through my word; that word which I have been preaching to you for these
4. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it
abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
[Abide in me.] Indeed, a true fixing and abiding in Christ is by a true faith.
But may we not suppose our Saviour here more peculiarly warning them against apostasy, or
falling back from the gospel into Judaism, a plague likely to rage exceedingly in the
6. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men
gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
[As a branch.] See Ezekiel 15:2, where D. Kimchi paraphrases in this manner:
"O Son of man, I do not ask thee concerning the vine that beareth fruit (for so it
ought to be accounted), but concerning the branch which is amongst the trees of the
wood, unfruitful, even as the trees themselves are." Where, by branch (for so
it is commonly rendered), we are to understand the wild vine. So R. Solomon in
loc.: "I do not speak (saith God) of the vine in the vineyard that bears fruit, but
of the branch of the wild vine that grows in the woods." So that the sense of
the prophet is, "O son of man, what is the vine tree more than any tree?" viz. a
branch of the wild vine which grows amongst the trees of the forest, which is
unfruitful, even as they are.
And this is our Saviour's meaning; "Every branch in me that bringeth not
forth fruit is cast forth like the branch in the vine that grows wild in the
forest, which is good for nothing but to be burned"...
12. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
[That ye love one another.] "Every sabbath they added that blessing towards
that course of priests who, having performed their service the last week, were gone off.
Let him who dwells in this house plant among you brotherhood, love, peace, and
Our Saviour once and again repeats that command, "Love one another": he calls
it 'a new commandment,' chapter 13:34: for their traditions had in a great measure put
that command of loving one another out of date; and that particularly by very impious vows
they would be making. We have a little hint of it, Matthew 15:5, and more in the treatise Nedarim.
See also Matthew 5:43, "Thou shalt hate thine enemy": this rule obtained in the
Jewish schools. And upon that precept, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as
thyself," let us see the mighty charitable Gloss in Chetubb. "Thou shalt
love thy neighbour as thyself," that is, decree him to an easy death: namely,
when he is adjudged by the Sanhedrim to die.
When you consider the frequent repetition of this precept, "Love one
another," consider also that passage, Matthew 10:34, "I came not to send peace,
but a sword": and then having reflected on those horrid seditions and mutual
slaughters, wherewith the Jewish nation, raging with itself in most bloody discords and
intestine broils, was, even by itself, wasted and overwhelmed, you will more clearly see
the necessity and reasonableness of this command of loving one another, as also the
great truth of that expression, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples,
if ye have love one to another."
15. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord
doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have
made known unto you.
[But I have called you friends, for all things, &c.] Thus is it said of
Abraham the 'friend of God,' Genesis 18:17.
16. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should
go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye
shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
[Ye have not chosen me.] For it was a custom amongst the Jews that the disciple
should choose to himself his own master. "Joshua Ben Perachiah said, 'Choose to
thyself a master, and get a colleague.'"
22. If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have
no cloak for their sin.
[They had not had sin.] So also verse 24: in both places the passage is to be
understood of that peculiar sin of rejecting the Messiah: "If I had not spoken to
them, and done those things that made it demonstrably evident that I was the Messiah, they
had not had sin, that is, they had not been guilty of this sin of rejecting me. But when I
have done such things amongst them, it is but too plain that they do what they do in mere
hatred to me and to my Father." Our Saviour explains what sin he here meaneth in
2. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever
killeth you will think that he doeth God service.
[They shall put you out of the synagogues.] This, I presume, must be understood
of a casting out from the whole congregation of Israel, because I know the Jews always
proceeded in that manner against the Samaritans; and certainly the disciples of Jesus were
full as hateful to them as the Samaritans could be. Nay, they often call the Christians by
the name of Cuthites, as well as those.
Those that were cast out of the church they despoiled of all their goods, according to
Ezra 10:8: which they also did to those that were shammatized. Whence it may be a
question, whether shammatizing did not cast out of the whole congregation; and
again, whether one cast out of the whole congregation might be ever readmitted.
We may take notice of what is said in Avodah Zarah. No one that relapseth may be
received again for ever. The Gloss tells us that the passage concerns the plebeians or
laics, who having taken upon themselves any religious rule of life, go back again from
that profession: they do not admit them into that order and society again. Whether
therefore those that fell off from the gospel, returning to their Judaism again, were ever
admitted into the Jewish church after they had voluntarily forsaken it, might be an
inquiry. But these things only by the by.
There was, in truth, a twofold epocha of the persecution of the apostolical church,
namely, both before that apostasy of which we have such frequent mention, and also after
it. Our Saviour had foretold the apostasy in that tremendous parable about the unclean
spirit cast out, and returning again with seven worse. "So shall it be also (saith
he) unto this wicked generation," Matthew 12:45. The footsteps of this we may discern
almost in every epistle of the apostles.
It is worthy observation, that of 2 Thessalonians 2:3: "The day of the Lord shall
not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed."
The day of the Lord here spoken of was that wherein Christ should come and reveal himself
in that remarkable vengeance against Jerusalem and the Jewish nation, of which kind of
expression we shall say more on chapter 21:22. The 'apostasy' or 'falling away,' and
revelation of 'the man of sin,' was to precede that day: which might be easily made out by
a history of those times, if I were to do the business either of a historian or a
When therefore the severe and cruel persecution was first raised by the unbelieving
Jews before this falling away of Christians, it must needs be greatly increased afterward
by them and the apostates together: which distinction we may easily observe out of this
[Will think that he doeth God service.] So the zealots, of whom we have
mention in Sanhedrim; the zealots kill him. Gloss: "These are those good men
who are endued with zeal in the cause of God." Such who with their own hands
immediately slew the transgressor, not staying for the judgment of the Sanhedrim. So in
the place before quoted, "The priest that ministers at the altar in his uncleanness,
they do not bring before the Sanhedrim; but they bring him out into the court, and there
brain him with the pieces of wood" provided to maintain the fire upon the altar.
What infinite mischiefs and effusion of blood such pretexts of zeal towards God
might occasion, it is easy to imagine, and very direful instances have already witnessed
to the world. Hence was it that they so often went about to have stoned our Saviour. Hence
those forty and more that had conspired against St. Paul. And those zealots whose
butcherly cruelties are so infamous in the Jewish story took the occasion of their horrid
madness first from this liberty.
From such kind of villains as these the disciples of Christ could have little
safeguard: indeed, they were greatly endangered upon a threefold account: I. From the
stroke of excommunication, by which they were spoiled of their goods and estates, Hebrews
10:34. II. From the sentence of the Sanhedrim, dooming them either to be scourged or
slain. III. From these assassins; for by this name (a name too well known in
Europe) we will call them. We pronounce assassin and assassination; Gul.
Tyrius calls them assysins, whom it may be worth the while to consult about the
original of that name.
8. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and
[He will reprove the world of sin, &c.] The Holy Spirit had absented himself
from that nation now for the space of four hundred years, or thereabout: and therefore,
when he should be given and poured out in a way and in measures so very wonderful, he
could not but evince it to the world that "Jesus was the true Messiah," the Son
of God, who had so miraculously poured out the Holy Spirit amongst them; and consequently
could not but reprove and redargue the world of sin, because they believed
not in him.
10. Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;
[Of righteousness, &c.] That this righteousness here mentioned is to
be understood of the righteousness of Christ, hardly any but will readily enough grant:
but the question is, what sort of righteousness of his is here meant? whether his personal
and inherent, or his communicated and justifying righteousness? We may say that both may
be meant here.
I. Because he went to the Father, it abundantly argued him a just and righteous
person, held under no guilt at all, however condemned by men as a malefactor.
II. Because he poured out the Spirit, it argued the merit of his righteousness;
for otherwise he could not, in that manner, have given the Holy Spirit. And, indeed, that
what is chiefly meant here is that righteousness of his by which we are justified, this
may persuade us, that so many and so great things are spoken concerning it in the Holy
Scriptures. Isaiah 56:1, "My salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be
revealed": Daniel 9:29, "To bring in everlasting righteousness": Jeremiah
23:6, "This is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord our Righteousness."
And in the Epistles of the apostles, especially those of St. Paul, this righteousness is
frequently and highly celebrated, seeming, indeed, the main and principal subject of the
doctrines of the gospel.
In the stead of many others, let this serve for all; Romans 1:17, "For
therein" [viz. in the gospel] "is the righteousness of God revealed from
faith to faith": which words may be a good comment upon the foregoing clause.
I. The law teacheth faith; that is, that we believe in God. But the gospel directs us
to proceed 'from faith to faith,' viz. from faith in God to faith in Christ: for true and
saving faith is not a mere naked recumbency immediately upon God, which faith the Jews
were wont to profess, but faith in God by the mediation of faith in Christ.
II. In the law the righteousness of God was revealed condemning, but in the
gospel it was revealed justifying the sinner. And this is the great mystery of the
gospel, that sinners are justified not only through the grace and mere compassion and
mercy of God, but through divine justice and righteousness too, that is, through the
righteousness of Christ, who is Jehovah, "the Lord our Righteousness."
And the Spirit of truth when he came did reprove and instruct the world
concerning these two great articles of faith, wherein the Jews had so mischievously
deceived themselves; that is, concerning true saving faith, faith in Christ; and also
concerning the manner or formal cause of justification, viz. the righteousness of Christ.
But then, how can we form the argument? "I go unto the Father; therefore the world
shall be convinced of my justifying righteousness."
I. Let us consider that the expression, "I go unto the Father," hath
something more in it than "I go to heaven." So that by this kind of phrase our
Saviour seems to hint, "That work being now finished, for the doing of which my
Father sent me into the world, I am now returning to him again." Now the work which
Christ had to do for the Father was various: the manifestation of the Father; preaching
the gospel; vanquishing the enemies of God, sin, death, and the devil: but the main and
chief of all, and upon which all the rest did depend, was, that he might perform a perfect
obedience or obediential righteousness to God.
God had created man, that he might obey his Maker: which when he did not do, but being
led away by the devil grew disobedient, where was the Creator's glory? The devil triumphs
that the whole human race in Adam had kicked against God, proved a rebel, and warred under
the banners of Satan. It was necessary, therefore, that Christ, clothing himself in the
human nature, should come into the world and vindicate the glory of God, by performing an
entire obedience due from mankind and worthy of his Maker. He did what weighed down for
all the disobedience of all mankind, I may say, of the devil's too; for his obedience was
infinite. He fulfilled a righteousness by which sinners might be justified, which answered
that justice that would have condemned them; for the righteousness was infinite. This was
the great business he had to do in this world, to pay such an obedience, and to fulfil
such a righteousness; and this righteousness is the principal and noble theme and subject
of the evangelical doctrine, Romans 1:17: of this the world must primarily and of
necessity be convinced and instructed to the glory of him that justifieth, and the
declaration of the true doctrine of justification. And this righteousness of his was
abundantly evidenced by his going to the Father, because he could not have been received
there, if he had not fully accomplished that work for which he had been sent.
II. It is added, not without reason, "and ye see me no more"; i.e.
"Although you are my nearest and dearest friends, yet you shall no more enjoy my
presence on earth; by which may be evinced, that you shall partake of my merits;
especially when the world shall see you enriched so gloriously with the gifts of my
11. Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
[Of judgment, because the prince, &c.] It is well known that the prince
of this world was judged when our Saviour overcame him by the obedience of his death,
Hebrews 2:14: and the first instance of that judgment and victory was when he arose from
the dead: the next was when he loosed the Gentiles out of the chains and bondage of Satan
by the gospel, and bound him himself, Revelation 20:1,2: which place will be a very good
comment upon this passage.
And both do plainly enough evince that Christ will be capable of judging the whole
world, viz. all those that believe not on him, when he hath already judged the prince of
this world. This may call to mind the Jewish opinion concerning the judgment that should
be exercised under the Messiah, that he should not judge Israel at all, but the Gentiles
only; nay, that the Jews were themselves rather to judge the Gentiles, than that they were
to be judged. But he that hath judged the prince of this world, the author of all
unbelief, will also judge every unbeliever too.
12. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.
[Ye cannot bear them now.] Those things which he had to say, and they could
not bear yet, were the institution of the Christian sabbath, and the abolishing of the
Jewish (the reason and foundation of which, viz. his resurrection, they yet understood
not); the rejection of the Jewish nation, when they expected 'that the kingdom should be
restored to Israel,' Acts 1:6; the entire change of the whole Mosaic dispensation, and the
bringing in of all nations in common within the pale of the church: these and such like
things as these belonging to the kingdom of God, Acts 1:3, they could not yet bear. For
though he had plainly enough discoursed to them the destruction of Jerusalem, Matthew 24,
yet it is a question, whether they apprehended either that their whole nation must be
utterly cast off, or that the rites of Moses should be antiquated, although he had hinted
something of this nature to them more than once.
13. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth:
for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he
speak: and he will show you things to come.
[Whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak.] And verse 14, he shall
receive of mine. He speaks according to the dialect and custom of the nation, and so
to the capacity of his auditors: If they have heard, they teach: it is spoken of a
judge in the lower Sanhedrim consulting a higher court, first, that of the triumvir: and
if they hear, they teach; if not, then he goes to the supreme court of all.
The latter clause, he shall receive of mine, seems taken from Isaiah 11:2. And
it should seem he inclined rather to this sense, because he does not say, he shall
receive of mine and give; but he shall receive and shew it unto you: by which
the Jew would understand he shall receive of my doctrine, or from my
instructions. For the Holy Spirit is sent as an instructor from the Son, as the Son is
sent as a Redeemer from the Father.
16. A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall
see me, because I go to the Father.
[And ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.] "A little while, and ye
shall not see me, because I go to the Father; and ye shall see me, because I go to the
Father"; i.e. "Ye shall not see me personally, but virtually." It is true,
they did not see him when he lay in the grave; and they did see him when he rose again:
but I question whether these words ought to be taken in this sense, because it would sound
somewhat harshly here what is added, "Ye shall see me, because I go to the
Father." I would therefore rather understand it of his ascending into heaven; after
which they saw him, indeed, no more personally, but they did see him in the influences and
gift of his Holy Spirit. And so what follows agrees well enough with this sense of the
words, verse 23; "In that day ye shall ask me nothing" [as ye were now about to
inquire of me, verse 19]: "ask the Father in my name; and he shall reveal to you
whatever you shall ask of him."
24. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your
joy may be full.
[Hitherto have ye asked noting in my name.] Understand this clause of the
extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, and then all things will be easy. All the faithful did
pray in the name of the Messiah; and these disciples, acknowledging Jesus to be the
Messiah, did pray in the name of Jesus the Messiah. But hitherto they had asked nothing
extraordinary in his name: not the power of working miracles; not the revelation of
mysteries and of future things; not the spirit of prophecy, &c.: for it was not
necessary for them, as yet, to ask these things in his name whilst he was present with
them, who could dispense it to them according to their instant necessities; but for the
future, when himself should be gone from them, whatsoever they should ask the Father in
his name, he would give it them. That prayer of the apostle's, Acts 4:29,30, is a good
comment upon these words: "Ask such things as these in my name; and whatsoever you
ask you shall receive, that your joy may be full, when you shall find by experience that I
am still present with you when gone from you."
Those things which both here and elsewhere in the discourses of our Saviour might give
occasion for scholastical discussion, I leave wholly to the schools, omitting many
passages about which a great deal might be said, because they have been already the
labours of other pens. It was my design and undertaking only to note some things which
were not obvious, and which others had not yet taken notice of; and not forgetting the
title of this little work, I have the more sparingly run out into scholastic or