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« He", or the word of life, " was in the world;" that . is, in the world of mankind, among whoin he was sent for the most benevolent purposes, and through him the world was; that is, through him mankind had their new existence or new creation. “And the world knew him not”; by some he was received, and by them the world was put into a state of renovation; but the majority of the people of that age rejected him.
11. He came to his own country, and his own people received him not.
As Christ had been foretold under the character of a prince of the house of Israel, the Jews might, with propriety, be called his people, as those over whom he was one day destined to reign; but a majority of that generation rejected him.
12. But as many as received him, to them gave he a right to be children of God, to them who believe on his name;
The Jews were called the children of God, and that appellation was confined to them before the coming of Christ; but after they had rejected him, the Gentiles were invested with the same privilege, upon professing faith in Christ.
13. Who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
That is, as this verse was interpreted before, who obtain this privilege of being the children of God, not by birth as Jews, or by becoming such by marriage or proselyteship, but by the good pleasure of God, in consequence of a holy obedience to his will.
14. And the word was flesh, and ; dwelled among us, being full of grace and truth.
That is, Jesus Christ was a man, with all the infirmě ities and weaknesses of human nature, and lived not in a splendid manner, but with his apostles and disciples in the humblest circumstances : yet, in this meant and afflicted state, they perceived evident marks of his being the beloved son of God, in the extraordinary miracles which were wrought by or for him.
And we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten from the Father.
I have not set before the reader two interpretations of this much controverted passage. They are both recommended to us by containing in them nọ new and abstruse doctrine, and nothing which contradicts the express declarations of scripture in other instances, a charge to which the popular explanations are certainly liable. The second interpretation is particularly recommended, by being founded upon the apostle's own words in the beginning of his epistle, and by its uniformity and simplicity. According to this, the sacred historian, in the introduction to his narrative, gives us an abstract or outline of the history which he is about'. to write, as is usual with other historians in entering upon their work; or just in the same inanner as a painter first draws a sketch or outline of the picture which he afterwards fills up. How far it possesses the other characteristics or signs of the truth, I shall leave to the reader's judgment. To that I shall also leave the practical inferences to be derived from it, which must depend upon the sense in which the language is understood.
John i. 15–28. 15. John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred, or," was preferred,” before me:
for he was before me, rather, " for he was my chief," or 66 superior."
The word here rendered before, is translated chief, in Matt. xx. 27, “ He that will be chief among you, let him be your servant.”
The apostle John; having finished his introduction to his gospel, in which he speaks of Jesus under the character of the word, or the word of life, now proceeds, like the other evangelists; to give us the testimony of . John respecting him, and, like them, he represents him as acknowledging his superiority to himself. As the appearance of the Baptist preceded that of Christ, some might be inclined to think him the greater prophet; but he tells them, that he who came last in point of time was first in point of rank. The propriety of this explanation seems to be confirmed by what each of the other evangelists has reported of his language, Matt. iji. 11. Mark i. 7. Luke'iii. 16. “ There comethi one mightier than 1;" and by what the Baptist himself says, verse 27, where he declares that he is not worthy to perform for him the meanest office. If we suppose John to refer, in the last clause of the verse, to the prior existence of Christ to his own, there will be no force in his reasoning: for priority of existence could not be deemed a just ground for priority of rank, although su. periority of office and character may.
16. And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace, rather, “ even grace upon grace,” that is, one favour after another.
This verse is to be connected not with that which immediately precedes it, but with the fourteenth, in which the evangelist says of the word of life, or Jesus Christ, that he was full of grace and truth; and he now goes on to say that they had participated of this fulness in au abundant manner. The fifteenth verse, by the error of some transcriber, is put out of its place ;
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for it interrupts the sense where it occurs, and must, if we judge from the connection, have stood between the eighteenth and nineteenth verses, where it naturally connects itself with what follows.
17. For the law was given by, or, 66 through” Moses; but grace and truth, or, “ true grace," came by Jesus Christ.
Grace and truth is a Hebrew idiom for true grace, in the same manner as wien Christ says himself, that he was the way, the truth, and the life, John xiv. 6, he does not mean so many distinct things, but that he was the true way to eternal life. The gospel of Christ is stiled true grace, in opposition to other dispensations of a similar nature, which were certainly valuable fa. vours; but this was favour by way of eminence, so that, in comparison with it, no other deserved the name. The gospel of Christ is called the word of grace more than once in the Acts of the apostles: see xiv, 3, " Which gave testimony unto the word of his grace," speaking of God: xx. 32, “And now, brethren, I commend you to God and the word of his grace, whichi is able to build you up,” &c. But the language of Peter approaches still nearer to that which is used in this passage, and may be considered as fully illustrating its meaning: 1 Pet. v. 12, " Exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God, wherein ye stand;" meaning the gospel.
18. No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten, that is, best beloved, son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
The apostle John, in the preceding verse, had been comparing together the different communications of God to men, by Moses and Christ; and had given the preference to what came by the latter. He now proceeds to support his declarations by proof; saying that no one, not even Moses or any of the prophets, was fully acquainted with the divine purposes, but that his beloved son, who was admitted to the greatest intimacy with him, knew his most secret designs, and had manifested them to the world.
Seeing God with the bodily organs, is not what is .. here intended; for that is a favour, so far as it could be bestowed upon men, which has been enjoyed by many. Thus we read, Exod. xxiv. 9, 10, « Then went up Mases and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel;" that is, they saw some external symbol of his presence; the cloud or the light.
Seeing God, therefore, must signify knowing him, being acquainted with his designs. In this sense does this evangelist use the phrase in his third epistle, 11, “ He that doeth evil hath not seen God,” that is, hath not known him; and he means to assert that Moses had not such familiar intercourse with the Divine Being as to discern his designs; a favour which was however granted to his son Jesus.
To be in the bosom of God, is a figurative expression for being intimately acquainted with his designs, and borrowed from the manner in which the Jews lay or reclined together at feasts and entertainments, where it was usual for a man to lay himself on the same couch with an intimate friend, and before his breast, or bosom. This was the situation of John, the beloved disciple, at the last supper, when he leaned upon the bosom of his master; and in this manner are we to understand what is said of Lazarus being carried into Abraham's bosom; he was laid next to him, upon the same couch.
The term only-begotten has been supposed by some to refer to some peculiar mode in which Christ was produced by the Father, but really signifies no more than beloved, or, best beloved, as is evident from its being used on all occasions by John, where the other evangelists use beloved. In this verse there is no reference to any existence of Christ before he appeared in the world, but only to the knowledge which he had of God, from the familiar intercourse which he enjoyed with hiin after he came into it.