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that in order to prevent the introduction of similar errors at a future time, his Gospel is more copious in doctrine, than those of the other three Evangelists; that is, it has blended with the narrative a greater proportion of information relating to points of faith; such as the pre-existence of Christ; his divine and human nature; the union of the Father and the Son; the redemption of mankind; the mission of the Holy Spirit; and other truths calculated to raise our minds to the love and reverence of the divine economy; that “holding fast the form of sound words," we might avoid the danger of erroneous conceits, which he foresaw would arise in the Christian Church.
Ver. 1. St. John's Gospel opens with a concise account of the existence of Christ with God the Father, before the constitution of the world was formed. This was probably designed to correct certain false opinions, which had already been propagated by some vain and foolish persons, who would pry into things above human capacity, and unable to reach the heights of spiritual matters, wished to subject them to the crude conceptions of their own imagination. But “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned*." It is idle, therefore, to reason about such matters : it is our duty to receive them with reverence, and to humble ourselves before the wisdom of God. So, instead of presuming to comprehend the essence of the Godhead, and the mysterious union
. 1 Cor. ii. 14.
of the Trinity ; we shall do well to exercise our faith, rather than our reason; and, being satisfied that such things are revealed, to embrace the truth with gladness, nothing wavering.
By “the Word” is to be understood Jesus Christ in his divine capacity. He is probably called “the Word,” as conveying the expression of God's will. For as our sentiments are conveyed to each other by words; so are the sentiments of God the Father conveyed to mankind by Jesus Christ. This, which is supposed to have been the case in the delivery of the laws and communications recorded in the Old Testament, is more manifestly so in the establishment of the new covenant, when Jesus Christ came to dwell among men,
and to give unto them the words which the Father had given him *"
When it is said that the “ Word was with God,” it is to be understood, that before the foundation of the world, Christ was with God the Father. For though it immediately follows that “the Word was God,” that is, that Jesus Christ, the revealer of God's will to men, did himself partake of the divine nature, and is, indeed, both God and Lord; yet when the term God is put absolutely, and by itself, it is rightly interpreted of God the Father *.
* John xvii. 8.
Ver. 3. “All things were made by him,” by the Word, or by Jesus Christ. At other times it is said that God made the heavens, and the earth, and all things that are in them; but, so far as we are able to comprehend this, we may very well suppose that they were made by the appointment of God the Father, and nevertheless by the operation of God the Son. For “ there are diversities of gifts, but the same spirit; and there are differences of administration, but the same Lord; and there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God, which worketh all in all.” Therefore in the Nicene creed, when it is said, that Jesus Christ is of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made;" the words " by whom” apply not to the Father, but to the Son, and signify our belief that all things were made by Jesus Christ. Nor is this in any degree inconsistent with that first clause of the same creed, which asserts that God the Father is “the maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.” God the Father appointed that it should be so : God the Son executed it. For so likewise we read in the Epistle to the Hebrews, “by whom also (that is, by the Son) God made the worlds *.”
* Comparing the opening of St. John's Gospel, “In the beginning was “the Word, &c.” with the opening of the book of Genesis, “In the beginning God created, &c.-And God said,” it seems not improbable that St. John may thence have adopted the term loyog to express Him, through whom God the Father spake.
Ver. 4. “ In him was life.” Therefore in St. John's first Epistle, he is called the “word of life,” or, more properly," the living word.” “ For as the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself.” And Jesus has likewise declared, “I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die t." In him therefore may truly be said to have been life; not this short life only, which animates the body for a few years, after which the dust shall return to the earth as it was; but that, of which it is said, “This is everlasting life, that they should know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent." The revelation of this life was indeed a most brilliant light exhibiting to the world the appointed means of pardon and peace, of immortality * See also Col. i. 16.
+ John xi. 15.