22. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23. He who hateth me hateth my Father also. 24. If I had not done among them the works which no other man did, they would not have had sin; but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father. 25. But that the word may be fulfilled which is written in their law. They have hated me without a cause. 26. But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceedeth from the Father, will testify of me: 27. And you also will bear testimony, (or, are witnesses) because from the beginning you are with me.
22. If I had not come. He had said that the Jews regarded the Gospel with hatred, because they did not know God. Lest any one should think that this tended to alleviate their guilt, he adds, that it is through malice that they are blind, just as if one were to shut his eyes, that he might not be compelled to see the light. For otherwise it might have been brought as an objection against Christ. "If they do not know thy Father, how comes it that thou dost not cure their ignorance? Why didst thou not at least make trial whether they were altogether incapable of being taught, or not?" He replies, that he has performed the duty of a good and faithful Teacher, but without success, because their malice would not suffer them to acquire soundness of mind. In the person of those men he intended to strike terror into all who reject the truth of God, when it is offered to them, or intentionally fight against it, when it is known. And though a dreadful vengeance awaits them, still Christ, in this passage, looks chiefly to his own disciples, to animate them by the confident and well-grounded expectation of victory, lest, at any time, they should yield to the malice of wicked men; for when we learn that such will be the issue, we may already triumph, as if we were in the midst of the battle.
They would not have sin. It may be thought that Christ intended by these words to say, that there is no other sin but unbelief; and there are some who think so. Augustine speaks more soberly, but he approaches to that opinion; for, since faith forgives and blots out all sins, he says, that the only sin that damns a man is unbelief. This is true, for unbelief not only hinders men from being delivered from the condemnation of death, but is the source and cause of all evils. But the whole of that reasoning is inapplicable to the present passage; for the word sin is not taken in a general sense, but as related to the subject which is now under consideration; as if Christ had said, that their ignorance is utterly inexcusable, because in his person they maliciously rejected God; just as if we were to pronounce a person to be innocent, just, and pure, when we wished merely to acquit him of a single crime of which he had been accused. Christ's acquittal of them, therefore, is confined to one kind of sin, because it takes away from the Jews every pretense of ignorance in this sin, 1 of despising and hating the Gospel.
But there is still another question that arises: "Was not unbelief sufficient to condemn men before the coming of Christ?" There are fanatics who reason inconclusively from this passage, that all who died before the coming of Christ died without faith, and remained in a state of doubt and suspense till Christ manifested himself to them; as if there were not many passages of Scripture which testify that their conscience alone was sufficient to condemn them. Death, says Paul, reigned in the world even to Moses, (Romans 5:14.) And again he declares, that
they who have sinned without law shall perish without law, (Romans 2:12.)
What, then, does Christ mean? There is undoubtedly an admission made in these words, by which he means that the Jews have nothing more to offer in extenuation of their guilt, since they knowingly and willfully rejected the life which was offered to them. Thus the excuse which he makes for them does not free them from all blame, but only extenuates the heinousness of their crime, according to that saying, The servant, who knoweth the will of his master, and despiseth it, shall be severely punished? 2 For it was not the intention of Christ here to promise pardon to any, but to hold his enemies convicted, who had obstinately rejected the grace of God, that it might be fully evident that they were unworthy of all pardon and mercy.
If I had not come and SPOKEN TO THEM. It ought to be observed, that he does not speak of his coming, as viewed by itself, but as connected with his doctrine, for they would not have been held guilty of so great a crime on account of his bodily presence alone, but the contempt of the doctrine made them utterly inexcusable.
23. He who hateth me hateth my Father also. This is a remarkable passage, which teaches us that no man can hate the doctrine of the Gospel without manifesting his impiety against God. There are many, indeed, who profess differently in words; for, though they abhor the Gospel, still they wish to be thought very good servants of God; but it is false, for a contempt of God is concealed within. In this manner Christ discovers the hypocrisy of many by the light of his doctrine; and on this subject we have spoken more largely under that passage,
Whosoever doeth what is evil hateth the light 3 (John 3:20,)
and under that passage,
He who honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father, 4
24. If I had not done among them the works. Under the word works he includes, in my opinion, all the proofs which he gave of his Divine glory; for by miracles, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, and by other demonstrations, he clearly proved that he was the Son of God, so that in him was plainly seen the majesty of the Only-begotten Son, as we have seen under John 1:14. 5 It is commonly objected, that he did not perform more miracles or greater miracles than Moses and the Prophets. The answer is well known, that Christ is more eminent in miracles in this respect, that he was not merely a minister, like the rest, but was strictly the Author of them; for he employed his own name, his own authority, and his own power, in performing miracles. But, as I have said, he includes in general all the testimonies of heavenly and spiritual power by which his Divinity was displayed.
They have seen and hated. He concludes that his enemies cannot escape by any shifts to which they may have recourse, since they despised his power, which evidently was altogether Divine; for God had openly manifested his Divinity in the Son; and therefore it would serve no purpose for them to say that they had only to do with a mortal man. This passage reminds us to consider attentively the works of God, in which, by displaying his power, he wishes us to render the honor which is due to him. Hence it follows, that all who obscure the gifts of God, or who contemptuously overlook them, are ungrateful to God, and malicious.
25. But that the word may be fulfilled. What is contrary to nature appears to be incredible. But nothing is more contrary to reason than to hate God; and, therefore, Christ says that so great was the malice with which their minds were envenomed, that they hated him without a cause. Christ quotes a passage from Psalm 35:19, which, he says, is now fulfilled. Not that the same thing did not happen, formerly, to David, but to reprove the obstinate malice of the nation, which reigned perpetually from age to age, being continued from grandfathers to grandchildren in unbroken succession; as if he had said, that they were in no respect better than their fathers, who hated David without a cause.
Which is written in their Law. By the word Law, he means the Psalms; for the whole doctrine of the Prophets was nothing else than an appendage to the Law; and we know that the ministry of Moses lasted till the time of Christ. He calls it their Law, not as an expression of respect for them, but to wound them more deeply by a designation which was well known among them; as if he had said, "They have a Law transmitted to them by hereditary right, in which they see their morals painted to the life."
26. But when the Comforter is come. After having explained to the apostles that the Gospel ought not to be less highly valued by them, because it has many adversaries, even within the Church itself; Christ now, in opposition to the wicked fury of those men, produces the testimony of the Spirit, and if their consciences rest on this testimony, they will never be shaken; as if he had said, "True, the world will rage against you; some will mock, and others will curse your doctrine; but none of their attacks will be so violent as to shake the firmness of your faith, when the Holy Spirit shall have been given to you to establish you by his testimony." And, indeed, when the world rages on all sides, our only protection is, that the truth of God, scaled by the Holy Spirit on our hearts, despises and defies all that is in the world; for, if it were subject to the opinions of men, our faith would be overwhelmed a hundred times in a day.
We ought, therefore, to observe carefully in what manner we ought to remain firm among so many storms. It is because
we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we may know the things which have been given to us by God, (1 Corinthians 2:12.)
This single witness powerfully drives away, scatters, and overturns, all that the world rears up to obscure or crush the truth of God. All who are endued with this Spirit are so far from being in danger of falling into despondency on account of the hatred or contempt of the world, that every one of them will obtain glorious victory over the whole world. Yet we must beware of relying on the good opinion of men; for so long as faith shall wonder in this manner, or rather, as soon as it shall have gone out of the sanctuary of God, it must become involved in miserable uncertainty. It must, therefore, be brought back to the inward and secret testimony of the Spirit, which, believers know, has been given to them from heaven.
The Spirit is said to testify of Christ, because he retains and fixes our faith on him alone, that we may not seek elsewhere any part of our salvation. He calls him also the Comforter, that, relying on his protection, we may never be alarmed; for by this title Christ intended to fortify our faith, that it may not yield to any temptations. When he calls him the Spirit of truth, we must apply the term to the matter in hand; for we must presuppose a contrast to this effect, that, when they have not this Witness, men are carried about in various ways, and have no firm resting-place, but, wherever he speaks, he delivers the minds of men from all doubt and fear of being deceived.
When he says that he will send him from the Father, and, again, that he proceedeth from the Father, he does so in order to increase the weight of his authority; for the testimony of the Spirit would not be sufficient against attacks so powerful, and against efforts so numerous and fierce, if we were not convinced that he proceedeth from God. So then it is Christ who sends the Spirit, but it is from the heavenly glory, that we may know that it is not a gift of men, but a sure pledge of Divine grace. Hence it appears how idle was the subtlety of the Greeks, when they argued, on the ground of these words, that the Spirit does not proceed from the Son; for here Christ, according to his custom, mentions the Father in order to raise our eyes to the contemplation of his Divinity.
27. And you also bear testimony. Christ means that the testimony of the Spirit will not be of such a nature that the apostles shall have it for their private advantage, or that they alone shall enjoy it, but that by them it will be widely diffused, because they will be organs of the Holy Spirit, as indeed, he spoke by their mouth. We now see in what way faith is by hearing, (Romans 10:17,) and yet it derives its certainty from the seal and earnest of the Spirit, (Ephesians 1:13, 14.) Those who do not sufficiently know the darkness of the human mind imagine that faith is formed naturally by hearing and preaching alone;6 and there are many fanatics who disdain the outward preaching, and talk in lofty terms about secret revelations and inspirations, (ejnqousiasmou<v) But we see how Christ joins these two things together; and, therefore, though there is no faith till the Spirit of God seal our minds and hearts, still we must not go to seek visions or oracles in the clouds; but the word,
which is near us, in our mouth and heart, (Romans 10:8,)
must keep all our senses bound and fixed on itself, as Isaiah says beautifully:
My Spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever, (Isaiah 59:21.)
Because you are with me from the beginning. This clause was added in order to inform us that so much the greater credit is due to the apostles on this ground, that they were eye-witnesses of what they relate; as John says,
what we have heard, what we have seen, what our hands have handled, we declare to you; (1 John 1:1)
for thus the Lord intended to provide for our welfare in every possible way, that nothing might be wanting for a full confirmation of the Gospel.
"That servant, who knew his master's will, and did not make himself ready, nor did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes, (Luke 12:47.)