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John 5:41-47

41. I receive not glory from men. 42. But I know you, that you have not the love of God in you. 43. I come in the name of my Father, and you do not receive me; if another come in his own name, him you will receive. 44. How can you believe, who receive glory from each other, and seek not the glory which cometh from God alone? 45. Think not that I shall accuse you to the Father; it is Moses in whom you trust, that accuseth you. 46. For if you believed Moses, you would also believe me; for he wrote concerning me. 47. But if you do not believe his writings, how shall you believe my words?


41. I receive not glory from men. He proceeds in his reproof; but that he may not be suspected of pleading his own cause, he begins by saying that he does not care for the glory of men, and that it gives him no concern or uneasiness to see himself despised; and, indeed, he is too great to depend on the opinions of men, for the malignity of the whole world can take nothing from him, or make the slightest infringement on his high rank. He is so eager to refute their calumny that he exalts himself above men. Afterwards, he enters freely into invectives against them, and charges them with contempt and hatred of God. And though, in regard to honorable rank, there is an immense distance between Christ and us, still we ought boldly to despise the opinions of men. We ought, at least, to guard most zealously against being excited to anger, when we are, despised; but, on the contrary, let us learn never to kindle into indignation, except when men do not render to God the honor due to Him. Let our souls be burned and tortured by this holy jealousy, whenever we see that the world is so ungrateful as to reject God.

42. That you have not the love of God in you. The love of God is here put for all religious feelings; for no man can love God without beholding him with admiration and submitting entirely to his authority; as, on the other hand, when the love of God does not prevail, there can be no desire to obey him. That is the reason why Moses gives this as the summary or recapitulation (ἀνακεφαλαίωσις) of the Law:

thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might,
(Deuteronomy 6:5.)

43. I have come in my Father’s name The false prophets do indeed boast of this title, as the Pope, in the present day, boasts with open mouth that he is Christ’s Deputy or Vicar; and under this very disguise has Satan deceived wretched men from the beginning. But Christ here means the reality, and not a hypocritical pretense; for when he testifies that he has come in his Fathers name, he means not only that the Father has sent him, but that he faithfully executes the commission which he has received. By this mark he distinguishes the lawful teachers of the Church from spurious and pretended teachers. This passage, therefore, teaches that we ought boldly to reject all who exalt themselves, and, in their own name, claim authority over souls; for he who is desirous to be reckoned a servant of God ought to have nothing separate from God. Now, if the whole doctrine of the Pope be examined, even the blind will see that he has come in his own name. 110110     In transposing the two portions of the exposition of this verse, I have followed the French version of our Author, who, having observed that his observations on the first clause of this verse were placed last, restored the clauses to their natural order. — Ed.

If another come in his own name, him you will receive. That the Jews do not love God, and have no reverence for him, Christ proves by this argument, that they will eagerly receive the false prophets, while they refuse to obey God; for he takes for granted, that it is a sign of a wicked and ungodly mind, when men disregard truth and willingly assent to falsehoods. If it be objected that this is generally done rather through ignorance than through malice, the answer is easy. No man is exposed to the impostures of Satan, except so far as, through some wicked disposition, he prefers falsehood to truth. For how comes it that we are deaf when God speaks, 111111     “Que nous sommes sourds quand Dieu parle.” and that Satan finds us ready and active, but because we are averse to righteousness, and of our own accord desire iniquity? Though it ought to be observed that here Christ speaks chiefly of those whom God peculiarly enlightened, as he bestowed on the Jews this privilege, that, having been instructed in his Law, they might keep the right way of salvation. It is certain that such persons lend an ear to false teachers for no other reason than because they wish to be deceived. Accordingly, Moses says that, when false prophets arise, this is intended to prove and try the people if they love the Lord their God, (Deuteronomy 13:3.) In many persons, no doubt, there appears to be an innocent and guileless simplicity, 112112     “Une simplicite innocente et sans malice.” but their eyes are undoubtedly blinded by the hypocrisy which lurks within their minds. For it is certain that God never shuts the door to those who knock, (Matthew 7:8,) never disappoints those who sincerely pray to him, (Isaiah 45:19.) Justly, therefore, does Paul ascribe it to the vengeance of God, when the power of deceiving is given to Satan,

that they who have rejected the truth, and taken pleasure in unrighteousness, may believe a lie, and says that they perish who did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved,
(2 Thessalonians 2:9, 12.)

In this manner is discovered the hypocrisy of many who, devoted to the impostures and wicked superstitions of the Pope, burn with envenomed rage against the Gospel; for if they had hearts disposed to the fear of God, that fear would likewise produce obedience.

44. How can you believe? As it might be thought harsh to say that those who were from their childhood the trained disciples of the Law and the Prophets, should be charged with such gross ignorance and declared to be enemies of the truth, and as this might even be thought to be incredible, Christ shows what it is that hinders them from believing. It is because ambition has deprived them of sound judgment; for he speaks, in a peculiar manner, to the priests and scribes, who, swelled with pride, could not obey God. This is a remarkable passage, which teaches that the gate of faith is shut against all whose hearts are preoccupied by a vain desire of earthly glory. For he who wishes to be somebody in the world must become wandering and unsteady, so that he will have no inclination towards God. Never is a man prepared to obey the heavenly doctrine, until he is convinced that his principal object, throughout his whole life, ought to be, that he may be approved by God.

But it may be thought that the wicked confidence, by which hypocrites exalt themselves in the presence of God, is a greater obstacle than worldly ambition; and we know that this was also a disease with which the scribes were deeply infected. The answer is easy; for Christ intended to tear from them the false mask of sanctity, by which they deceived the ignorant multitude. He therefore points, as with the finger, to the grosser vice, by which it may be made manifest to all that nothing is farther from their true character than what they wished to be reckoned. Besides, though hypocrisy exalts itself against God, still, in the world and before men, it is always ambitious; nay, more, it is this vanity alone that swells us with false presumption, when we rely more on our own judgment, and that of others, than on the judgment of God. He who in reality presents himself before God as his Judge, must, of necessity, fall down humbled and dismayed, and finding nothing in himself on which he can place reliance. 113113     “Et ne sentant rien en soy-mesme sur quoy il se puisse appuyer.” So, then, in order that any man may seek glory from God alone, he must be overwhelmed with shame, and flee to the undeserved mercy of God. And, indeed, they who look to God see that they are condemned and ruined, and that nothing is left to them in which they can glory but the grace of Christ. The desire of such glory will always be attended by humility.

So far as relates to the present passage, Christ’s meaning is, that there is no other way in which men can be prepared for receiving the doctrine of the Gospel, than by withdrawing all their senses from the world, and turning them to God alone, and seriously considering that it is with God that they have to do, that, forgetting the flatteries by which they are accustomed to deceive themselves, they may descend into their own consciences. We need not wonder, therefore, if the Gospel in the present day find so few persons willing to be taught, since all are carried away by ambition. Nor need we wonder if many apostatize from the profession of the Gospel, for they are hurried away by their own vanity and fly off. So much the more earnestly ought we to seek this one thing, that, while we are mean and despised in the eyes of the world, and even overwhelmed within ourselves, we may be reckoned among the children of God.

45. Think not that I shall accuse you to the Father. This is the way in which we ought to deal with obstinate and hardened persons, when they learn nothing by instruction and friendly warnings. They must be summoned to the judgment-seat of God. There are few persons, indeed, who openly mock God, but there are very many who, believing that God, whom they oppose as enemies, is gracious to them, amuse themselves at their ease with empty flatteries. Thus, in the present day, our Giants, 114114     The wars of the Giants held a conspicuous place in the ancient mythology, and in the popular belief. Not to mention the poets, whose imaginations were kindled by such topics, they are formally introduced by Cicero, in a philosophical treatise, though only for the purpose of instructing his readers to “despise and reject these fables.” “The gods,” says he, “as the fables relate, were not without wars and battles; and that not only as in those described by Homer, when some of the gods were ranged on the one side, and some on the other side, of two opposing armies; but even, as in the case of the Titans and Giants, they carried on their own battles. Such things (he adds) are said, and are very foolishly believed, and are full of absurdity and downright silliness.” — (De Nat. Deorum, lib. 2.) The daring presumption and utter discomfiture of the Giants, in their fabulous wars, are sometimes alluded to by Calvin, and other Christian writers, in describing the wickedness and folly of man, who stretcheth out his hand against God, and strengtheneth himself against the Almighty, (Job 15:25.) — Ed. though they wickedly trample under foot the whole doctrine of Christ, haughtily plume themselves on being the intimate friends of God. For who will persuade the Papists that Christianity exists anywhere else than among them? Such were the scribes, with whom Christ is here disputing. Though they were the greatest despisers of the Law, yet they boasted of Moses in lofty terms, so that they did not hesitate to make use of him as a shield in opposing Christ. If he had threatened that he would be a powerful and formidable adversary to them, he knew that this would have been treated with the utmost contempt; and, therefore, he threatens that an accusation, drawn up by Moses, will be preferred against them.

Moses, in whom you trust. There are some who think, that Christ here points out the distinction between his own office and that of Moses, because it belongs to the Law to convict men of being unbelievers. But this is a mistake; for Christ did not intend that, but only intended to shake off the confidence of hypocrites, who falsely boasted of entertaining reverence for Moses; just as if a person in the present day, in order to foil the Papists with their own weapon, 115115     “Pour rembarrer les Papistes de leur baston mesme.” were to say, that they will find no enemies more decidedly opposed to them than the holy doctors of the Church, under whose authority they falsely and wickedly take shelter. 116116     “Du titre desquels ils se couvrent faussement et meschamment.” Let us also learn from it, that we ought not to glory in the Scriptures without a good reason; for if we do not honor the Son of God by the true obedience of faith, all whom God hath raised up to be his witnesses will rise up against us as accusers at the last day. When he says, that they trust in Moses, he does not accuse them of superstition, as if they ascribed to Moses the cause of their salvation; but his meaning is, that they do wrong in relying on the protection of Moses, as if they had him to defend their wicked obstinacy.

46. For if you believed Moses, you would also believe me. He shows why Moses will be their accuser. It is because they do not reject his doctrine. We know that it is impossible to offer a greater insult to the servants of God than when their doctrine is despised or reproached. Besides, those whom the Lord has appointed to be ministers of his word, ought to be ready to defend it against despisers; 117117     “Contre contempteurs.” and therefore, he gave to all his prophets a twofold commission, that they might teach and instruct for the salvation of believers, and that, one day, they might confound the reprobate by their testimony.

For he wrote concerning me. When Christ says, that Moses wrote concerning him, this needs no long proof with those who acknowledge that Christ is the end and soul of the Law. But if any person be not satisfied with this, and desire to have the passages pointed out to him, I would advise him, first, to read carefully the Epistle to the Hebrews, with which also agrees Stephen’s sermon, in the seventh chapter of the Acts of the Apostles; and, next, to observe the quotations which Paul applies to his purpose. I acknowledge, indeed, that there are few in which Moses expressly mentions Christ; but what was the use of the tabernacle, and sacrifices, and all the ceremonies, but to be figures drawn in conformity to that first pattern which was showed to him in the mountain? (Exodus 25:40; Hebrews 8:5.) Thus, without Christ, the whole ministry of Christ vanishes. Again, we see how he continually reminds the people of the covenant of the Fathers which had been ratified in Christ, and even how he makes Christ to be the principal subject and foundation of the covenant. Nor was this unknown to the holy Fathers, who had always their eyes fixed on the Mediator. To treat the subject more largely, would be inconsistent with the brevity at which I aim.

47. But if you do not believe his writings. Christ appears here to claim less authority for himself than for Moses; and yet we know that heaven and earth have been shaken by the voice of the Gospel, (Hebrews 12:26.) But Christ accommodates his discourse to those to whom he speaks; for the authority of the Law was, beyond all controversy, held sacred among the Jews; and thus it was impossible that Christ should be inferior to Moses. To the same purpose is the contrast between writings and words; for he shows their unbelief to be more aggravated, because the truth of God, recorded in an authentic form, has no authority with them.

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