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will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done * John vii. 31.
The Scribes and Pharisees beheld the attachment of the common people to the Saviour of sinners, with the highest indignation and contempt, and were so provoked, that they could bear it no longer; and, accordingly, on the last and great day of the feast, they met in council to consider on some means to prevent his growing popularity : the result of their deliberations, was a determination to apprehend him ; and accordingly, the proper officers were dispatched from the council to arrest him, and bring him before them. While these things were in agitation in the council, JESUs was teaching in the temple, and he exhorted the people to give a diligent and unabating attention to his discourses; not only because the subject matter of them was of the utmost importance, but he informed them that their opportunity of hearing him would soon be over; Poet a little while, said he, am I wish you, and then I go unto him that sent me. I'e shalf seek one, and ye shall not find me; and where I am, thither ye cannot come.
Not understanding that our Saviour alluded to his death, resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of * God, whither no person in the body could follow him, the Jews were very much puzzled with this declaration, and could by no means understand the meaning of it : they could form no other conjecture concerning the meaning of these words, than that our Lord designed to leave Judea, and go amongst the Gentiles, to preach amongst their brethren who were dispersed in the neighbouring nations: but they were aware, that this conjecture did not answer to the latter part of our Lord's declaration: for though he should go amongst the Gentiles, it would not be impossible for them to follow him: they, therefore, in the utmost confusion, reasoned amongst themselves, and inquired, H hither will he go, that we shall not find him * Will
hego unto the dispersed amongst the Gentiles, and teach
the Gentiles 2 What manner of saying is this that he
said, Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me : and where I am, thither ye cannot come.
While our exalted Redeemer was teaching in the temple, according to the annual custom, the water of the pool of Siloam was brought in. Part of this was drank in the temple with loud acclamations, in commemoration of the great deliverance wrought for their fathers, who were miracuously relieved and preserved by a stream which flowed from a hard dry rock, and revived the nation which was fainting with thirst : the other part was poured out as a drink-offering, accompanied with their prayers to the Almighty, for the former and latter rain to fall in their season; which ceremony was concluded by the whole congregation, singing this passage out of the prophet Isaiah, With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation. chap. xii. 3.
It was the constant mode of instruction which our great Redeemer pursued, to accommodate his discour.* to the particular occasion and circumstances of his hearers, and to engage and fix their attention, by aljuding to occurrences aud objects actually in view ; and, accordingly, he took this opportunity of representing the rich blessings which sinful creatures would receive from him under the metaphor of water: and, in allusion to the ceremony which they had seen performed, In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
While our Lord was thus speaking to the people, witha beautiful simplicity, and heart-affecting strength and energy, such as never were joined before, the of. cers sent from the council to apprehend him, came
into the temple: before they proceeded to the execution of their mission, they staid a few moments to hear his discourse; to this they were excited by their curiosity, but his divine eloquence overcame their resentment, removed their prejudices, and melted away their rage: the harmony of his pronunciation, the beautiful simplicity, and plainness, and the amazing strength, energy, and clearness of his reasoning, displayed the beauties of divine truth, and caused them to shine on the understanding with resistless brightness; even his enemies who were sent from the council to apprehend him, were astonished and overcome: the greatness of the subject affected their minds, and its importance filled their understandings: the warmth and tenderness with which he delivered his discourses, fixed their attention and penetrated their hearts; they felt new and uncommon emotions, and overwhelmed with the greatness of their admiration, were fixed in silent astonishment; they were absolutely overcome, and could not think of executing the commission which brought them to the temple ; they blamed themselves for having undertaken it, and returned to the rulers of Israel without performing it.
If we consider the remorseless disposition of the persons who are usually sent about such business, and the nature of the subject which employed our great Redeemer's eloquence, we shall have reason to join the officers in their admirations, and to acknowledge that our great Redeemer's elocution was superior to all praise : such surely that discourse must be, which addressed to others, and on a divine subject, could disarm the resolution of the most determined enemy, and penetrate the recesses of the most unfeeling heart.
Nor were the officers the only persons who were affected with this divine discourse: for the surrounding multitude were sensible of very remarkable imPressions, and expressed their wonder in various conjectures; many of them declared he must certainly be one of the old prophets, and others, that he could be
no less than the Messiah himself; others, led away with the common mistake, that he was born at Nazareth, asked, with sneering disdain, if the Messiah was to come out of Galilee, when the scripture has absoJutely declared, that he was to be born in Bethlehem, the native town of his father David. Thus we are informed, Many of the people, therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth, this is the prophet ; others said, this is the Christ ; but some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee 2 IIath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was. This dispute was carried to such an height, that some of them, knowing that the officers were sent to apprehend our Redeemer, threatened to lay hands on him : but divine Providence would not permit them to execute their cruel design; for though some of them would have taken him, yet no man laid hands on him. The officers now returned to the council, and were asked with warmth, why they had not brought JEsus of Nazareth, whom they were sent to apprehend ? They endeavoured to excuse themselves, by relating the manner in which they were overcome, and disarmed by his eloquence : No man, said they, spake like this man. But if they thought to soften the resentment of the council, by declaring what a wonderful man JEst's CHRIST was, and what an heart-affecting strain of divine eloquence flowed from his lips, they were very much mistaken: the prejudices of the ruJers of Israel were too deep-rooted, and their rancour and malice too inveterate to be so easily overcome: their pride scorned to submit to the dictates of the unpopular and unlearned, and, with indignation and scorn, they replied, Are ye also deceived / Have any of the rulers, or of the Pharisees believed on him # But this people, who knoweth not the law, are cursed, They thought it a piece of the most unparalleled impudence, that the common people should presume to acknowledge JESUs to be the Messiah, when the great
doctors of the law, the chief priests and pharisees, and all the learned men of the nation, publicly opposed his preaching, defamed his character, and determined to destroy him.
But their pride and envy soon received a severe reprimand from Nicodemus, who had formerly attended on Jesus by night; and was convinced that he was the Messiah, though he did not openly confess him, for fear of the Jews. On this occasion he rebuked the pride and self-sufficiency of the enemies of JEsus, by inquiring, Does our law condemn any man before he is heard. They had just now condemned their of ficers for being ignorant of the law, when it appeared that themselves were more ignorant, by pretending to condemn a person before they had proved him guilty: they were acting directly contrary to the fundamental principles of the law of equity, at the same time that they boasted their superior knowledge of, and closest attachment to its precepts.
This sharp reproof of Nicodemus, so highly exasperated the whole council, that, with an air of indignation and contempt, they asked him, if he also was one of those mean persons who had joined together to support the pretensions of a Galilean, though the scriptures had plainly declared, that Bethlehem was the place of the Messiah's nativity: to which they added, that, if he refused to listen to them, he should search the scriptures, and he would soon be convinced, that the great prophet, mentioned by Moses, was not to be born in Galilee: Art thou also of Galilee 2 said they. Search and look : for out of Galilee ariseth no prophes. t
The council soon broke up, after making this answer to Nicodemus, and our Lord, well knowing their malicious intentions, retired to the Mount of Clives, where he spent the night with his disciples; but early the next morning he returned to the temple, and taught the people.