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John 19:23-24

23. Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to each soldier a part. They took also his coat. 170170     “(Ils preinrent) aussi le saye.” But the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. 24. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be; that the Scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They divided my garments among them, and cast lots on my vesture: these things therefore the soldiers did.

 

23. Then the soldiers. The other Evangelists also mention the parting of Christ’s garments among the soldiers, (Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34.) There were four soldiers who parted among themselves all his garments, except the coat, which, being without seam could not be divided, and therefore they cast lots on it. To fix our minds on the contemplation of the purpose of God, the Evangelists remind us that, in this occurrence also, there was a fulfillment of Scripture. It may be thought, however, that the passage, which they quote from Psalm 22:18, is inappropriately applied to the subject in hand; for, though David complains in it that he was exposed as a prey to his enemies, he makes use of the word garments to denote metaphorically all his property; as if he had said, in a single word, that “he had been stripped naked and bare by wicked men;” and, when the Evangelists disregard the figure, they depart from the natural meaning of the passage. But we ought to remember, in the first place, that the psalm ought not to be restricted to David, as is evident from many parts of it, and especially from a clause in which it is written, I will proclaim thy name among the Gentiles, (Psalm 22:22) which must be explained as referring to Christ. We need not wonder, therefore, if that which was faintly shadowed out in David is beheld in Christ with all that superior clearness which the truth ought to have, as compared with the figurative representation of it.

Let us also learn that. Christ was stripped of his garments, that he might clothe us with righteousness; that his naked body was exposed to the insults of men, that we may appear in glory before the judgment-seat of God. As to the allegorical meaning to which some men have tortured this passage, by making it mean, that heretics tear Scripture in pieces, it is too far-fetched; though I would not object to such a comparison as this, —that, as the garments of Christ were once divided by ungodly soldiers, so, in the present day, there are perverse men who, by foreign inventions, tear the whole of the Scripture, with which Christ is clothed, in order that he may be manifested to us. But the wickedness of the Papists, accompanied by shocking blasphemy against God, is intolerable. They tell us, that Scripture is torn to pieces by heretics, but that the coatthat is, the Church — remains entire; and thus they endeavor to prove that, without paying any attention to the authority of Scripture, the unity of faith consists in the mere title of the Church; as if the unity of the Church were itself founded on any thing else than the authority of Scripture. When, therefore, they separate faith from Scripture, so that it may continue to be attached to the Church alone, by such a divorce they not only strip Christ of his garments, but tear in pieces his body by shocking sacrilege. And though we should admit what they maintain, that the coat without seam is a figure of the Church, they will be very far from gaining their point: for it will still remain to be proved, that the Church is placed under their authority, of which they show no sign whatever.


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