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Domitian, in the latter part of his reign. Domitian died A.D. 96. In that island he wrote the book of Revelation, Rev. i. 9. After his return from Patmos, he lived peaceably at Ephesus until his death, which is supposed to have occurred not long after. He was buried at Ephesus; and it has been thought that he was the only one of the apostles who did not suffer martyrdom. It is evident that he lived to a very advanced period of life. We know not his age, indeed, when Christ called him to follow him; but we cannot suppose it was less than twenty-five or thirty. If so, he must have been about one hundred years old when lie died,
Learned men have been much divided about the time when this Gospel was written. The common opinion is, that it was written at Ephesus, after his return from Patmos, and of course as late as the year 97, or 98. There is no doubt that it was written by John. This is abundantly confirmed by the ancient fathers, and was not questioned by Celsus, Porphyry, or Julian, the acutest enemies of revelation in the early ages.
John himself states the design of writing it, ch. xx. 31. It was to show that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, and that those who believed might have life throùgh his name. This de
whole Gospel, and should be remembered in our attempts to explain it. .
As he wrote after the other evangelists, he has recorded many things which they omitted. He dwells much more fully than they do on the Divine character of Jesus, relates many things pertaining to the early part of his ministry which they had omitted, records many more of his discourses than they had passed over, and particularly the interesting discourse at the institution of the last supper. See ch. xiv, xv. xvi. xvii.
It has been remarked that there are evidences in this Gospel that it was not written for the Jews. John explains words and customs which to a Jew would have needed no explanation. See ch. i. 38,41; v. 1, 2; vii. 2; iv. 9. The style indicates that he was an unlearned man. It is simple, plain, unpolished; such as we should suppose would be used by one in his circumstances, At the same time it contains pure and profound sentiments, and is on many accounts the most difficult of all the books of the New Testament to interpret. It contains more about Christ, his person, design, and work, than any of the other Gospels. The other evangelists were employed more in recording the miracles, and giving external evidence of the Divine mission of Jesus. John tells us what Christ was, and what was his peculiar doctrine. The other evangelists record his parables, his miracles, his debates with the scribes and pharisees; John records chiefly his discourses about himself. If any one wishes to learn the true doctrine respecting the Messiah, the Son of God, expressed in simple language, but with most sublime conceptions; or to learn the
true nature and character of God, and the way of approach to his mercy seat; or to see the true nature of christian piety, the source and character of religious consolation ; to have perpetually before him the purest model of character the world has seen, and to contemplate the purest precepts that have ever been delivered to man ; he cannot better do it than by a prayerful study of the Gospel by John. It may be added, that this Gospel is, of itself, proof that cannot be overthrown of the truth of revelation. John was a fisherman, unbonoured and unlearned, Acts iv. 13. What man in that rank of life now could compose a book like this? And can it be conceived that any man of that rank, unless under the influence of inspiration, could conceive such sublime notions of God, such pure views of morals, and draw a character so inimitably lovely as that of Jesus Christ? To ask these questions is to answer them. And this Gospel will stand to the end of time as an unanswerable demonstration that the fisherman who wrote it was under a more than human guidance, and was, according to the promise that he has recorded, (xvi. 13, compare xiv. 26) guided into all truth.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN.
CHAPTER 1. 1 IN the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
"In the beginning. This expression is used also in Gen. i. 1. To that place John evidently has allusion here, and means to apply here to the Word,' an expression which is there applied to God. In both places it clearly means 'before creation,"before the world was made,' 'when as yet there was nothing.' The Hebrews, by expressions like this, commonly denoted eternity. Thus the eternity of God is described, Ps.xc. 2: “Before the mountains were brought forth,” &c. And eternity is commonly expressed by the phrase, before the foundation of the world. It is clear that the Word’ had an existence before creation. It is not, then, a creature, or created being, and must be, therefore, uncreated and eternal. There is but one Being that is uncreated, and Jesus must be, therefore, Divine. Compare the Saviour's own declarations respecting himself in the following places : John viïi. 58; xvii. 5; vi. 46, 62; iii. 13; viii. 14; xvi. 28.
Was the Word. A word, or that which is spoken, is that by which we communicate our will, the medium of communication with others. The Son of God may be called ' the Word,' because he is the medium by which God promulgates his will, and issues his commandments. See Hebrews i. 1–3. This term was in use before the time of John. It was used in the Chaldee translation of the Old Testament. It was used by the Jews as applicable to the Messiah. In their writings he was commonly known by the term Word ;' and many of the interpositions of God in defence of the Jewish nation were declared to be by 'the Word of God.' It was important, therefore, that the meaning of the term should be settled by an inspired man; and accordingly John, in the commencement of his Gospel, is at much pains to state clearly what is the true doctrine respecting the Logos, or Word. "Was with God.' This expression denotes intimacy, friendship, John affirms that he was with God in the beginning, that is, before the world was made. It implies, therefore, that he was partaker of the Divine glory; that he was blessed and happy with God. It implies that he was intimately united with the Father, so as to partake of his glory, and to be appropriately called b
y the name God. He has himself explained it. See John xvii. 5; i, 18; iii. 13. Compare Phil. ii. 6, 7. 'Was God. In the previous phrase John had said that the Word was with God. Lest it should be supposed that he was a different and inferior being, he here states that he was God. There is no more unequivocal declaration in the Bible than this, and there could
be no stronger proof that the sacred writer meant to affirm that the Son of God was equal with the Father. He had just used the word God as evidently applying to Jehovah, the true God; and it is absurd to suppose that he would in the same verse, and without any indication that he was using the word in an inferior sense, employ it to denote a being altogether inferior to the true God.' The name God is elsew here given to him, showing that he is the supreme God. See Rom. ix, 5; Heb. j. 8–12; 1 John v. 20; John xx. 28.
2 The same was in the beginning with God. • The same.' The Word, or the Logos. “Was in the beginning with God.' He had said that he was before creation, and that he was with God. He now assures us that union was not commenced in time, and which might be, therefore, a mere union of feeling, or a compact, like that between any other beings, but was one which existed in eternity.
3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
All things. The universe; all the vast masses of material worlds; and all the animals and things, great or small, that compose those worlds. See Rev. iv. ll; Heb. i. 2; Col. i. 16. * Were made by him. In this place it is affirmed that creation was effected by the Word, or the Son of God. In Gen. i. l. it is said that the being who created the heavens and the earth was God. The Word, or the Son of God, is therefore, appropriately called God. The work of creation is ascribed in the scriptures to the second Person of the Trinity. See Col. i. 16; Heb. i. 2, 10. By this is meant, evidently, that he was the agent, or the efficient cause, by which the universe was made. There is no higher proof of Omnipotence than the work of creation; and hence God often appeals to that work to prove that he is the true God in opposition to idols. See Isa, xl. 18—28; Jer. x. 11-16. The work of creation is also ascribed to God, and is a work which can not be delegated to a creature, Ps. xxiv. 2; lxxxix. 11; civ. 5; cxix. 90; Job xxxviii. 4; Prov. üi. 19. The Being who created all things must be Divine; and as this work is ascribed to Jesus, and as it is uniformly in the scriptures declared to be the work of God, Jesus Christ is, therefore, equal with the Father. "Without him. Without his agency; his notice; the exertion of his power. Compare Matt. x. 29. This is a strong way of speaking, designed to confirm, beyond the possibility of doubt, what was just said in the first verse. Christ was not merely called God, but he did the works of God; and, therefore, the name is used in its proper sense as implying supreme divinity. To this same test Jesus himself appealed as proving that he was Divine, John x, 37 ; v. 17.
4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
In him was lise.' God is declared to be life, or the living God, because he is the source or fountain of life. This attribute is here ascribed to Jesus Christ. He not merely made the material worlds, but he also gave life. He was the agent by whom the vegetable world became animated; by whom brutes live; and by whom man became a living soul, or was endowed with immortality. This was a higher proof that the Word was God, than the creation of the material worlds. But there is another sense in which he was lise. The new creation, or the renovation of man, and restoration from a state of sin, is often compared to the first creation; and as the Logos was the source of life then, so in a similar, but higher sense, he is the source of life to the soul dead in irespasses and sins, Eph. ii. 1. And it is probably in reference to this, that he is so often called 'life’ in the writings of John. See Joho v, 26; vi. 33; xi. 25. 1 Johni. 1,2; v.11--20; Acts ii. 15; Col. iii. 4. The meaning is, that he is the source or the fountain of both natural and spiritual life. "The life was the light of men.' Light is that by which we see objects distinctly. It is in all languages, therefore, put for knowledge, for whatever enables us to discern our duty and the path of safety, and saves us from the evils of ignorance and error, Eph. v. 13; Isa. viii. 20. The Messiah was predicted as "the light of the church. Isa. ix. 2, compared with Matt. iv, 15, 16; Isa, Ix. 1; John viïi. 12; xii. 35, 36, 46. The meaning is, that the Logos or Word of God is the instructor or teacher of mankind; by his direct agency in giving inan reason or understanding; by his personal ministry when on earth, Heb. i. 1 ; by his Spirit, John xiv. 16, 26; and by his ministers since, Eph. iv. ll; I Cor. xii. 28.
5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
“The light shineth in darkness.' Darkness, in the Bible, constantly denotes ignorance, guilt, or misery. See Isa. ix. 1 2; Matt. iv. 16; Acts xxvi, 18; Eph. v. 8, 11; Rom. xii. 12. it refers here to a wicked and ignorant people. When it is said that the light shineth in darkness, it is nieant that the Lord Jesus came to teach an ignorant, benighted, and wicked world. “Comprehended it not. These words mean admitted it not, or received it not. The darkness did not receive or admit the rays of light; or, to drop the figure, men were so ignorant, so guilty, and debased, that they did not appreciate the value of his instructions ; they despised and rejected him. Sin always blinds the mind to the beauties and excellency of the character of the Lord Jesus. It indisposes the mind to his instructions, just as darkness has no affinity for light, and if the one exists, the other must be displaced.
6 9 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.