Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible
JOHN CHAPTER 9
John 9:1-7 A man that was born blind receiveth sight.
John 9:8-12 He relates to his neighbours the means of his cure.
John 9:13-33 He is brought to the Pharisees, who examine strictly
into the fact, and are offended with his
acknowledgment of the Divine mission of the author.
John 9:34 They excommunicate him.
John 9:35-38 He is received of Jesus, and confesseth him.
John 9:39-41 Christ taxes the Pharisees with spiritual blindness.
The evangelist doth not tell us where our Saviour was passing by, but the word seemeth to import a passing by the highway side, when he saw this poor man, who was born blind; which is particularly noted, because such blindness is judged incurable as to the art of man.
The disciples question supposed two things for truth:
1. That all bodily punishments and afflictions come upon men for sin.
2. That as some come upon them for personal sins, so others come upon them for the sins of their parents.
The latter is unquestionably true: so is the former, but not universally: as there are afflictions which are punishments of sin, so there are some that are trials.
Our Saviour must not be understood here, as either asserting the blind man or his parents free from sin, and a degree of sin deserving such a punishment; but as speaking to his disciples question strictly, and answering, that this affliction came not upon him, either for any personal sin of his own, (for he could not be guilty of any actual sin before he was born), nor yet for any sin that his parents had committed: but that the works of God might be made glorious in him; both his work of power in afflicting, and his work of mercy in healing him.
The Father, who sent Christ into the world, gave him work to do: his general work was, to glorify God upon the earth, John 17:4, as by working out the redemption of man, so by revealing his will to the sons of men, and working miracles for the glorifying the name of God. Saith Christ, I have a set time to work in; that is, that which he here calleth day, the time wherein Christ was to live upon the earth.
The night cometh, when no man can work; I am not to be here always, there will come a time when I must be absent from the earth, then none of this work can be done. A good argument to persuade every Christian to work while the time of his life lasts, for the night of death will come, when no man can any longer work out his salvation; but as the tree falleth, so it must lie, Ecclesiastes 9:10.
Those words, As long as I am in the world, let us know what our Saviour meant by the day, mentioned John 9:4, viz. the time he should be in the world. Saith he, So long as I am in the world, it is a part of my work to show light to the world. Christ indeed, though he hath left the world, is yet the light of the world; but he was the light of the world, that part of the world especially where he was, in a more eminent sense, so long as the world enjoyed his bodily presence in it.
Several mysterious allegories are found out by men of luxuriant fancies, with reference to the manner of our Saviour’s curing this blind man; as if our Saviour had made choice of clay, to show, that as he at first made man of the dust of the earth, so he could again cure him with dust; and that his spittle denoted the efficacy of Christ’s humanity, being now personally united to the Divine nature. Others think, he made use of spittle, because the Jews had a great opinion of the medicinal virtue of spittle; and, they say, forbade the medicinal use of it on the sabbath day, on which day this miracle was wrought. But all these things are great uncertainties, for which we want any guidance from holy writ. It is most probable, that our Saviour made use of the spittle in working this miracle because he had no water at hand, for water was a very scarce thing in those hot countries. That which we are chiefly to attend in this great miraculous operation is, Christ’s demonstration of his Divine nature, for the confirmation of the truth of which he doubtless wrought this great work, as well as to show his charity to this poor creature. To this purpose,
1. He maketh choice, not of a blind man only, but one who was born so, and so incurable according to all judgment of human art.
2. He maketh use of no means that had any appearance of a natural virtue in it; nay, which was more likely to put out the eyes of one that saw, than to give sight to one that was blind.
He doth not only anoint his eyes, but sendeth him also to wash in the pool of Siloam. We read of this pool, Nehemiah 3:15; and we are told, that it was a fountain which sprang out from Mount Zion. It should seem, that there was a brook of that name, which supplied part of the city with water, Isaiah 8:6. Some think they have also found a mystery in this name, because it signifieth
sent; and think that it hath an allusion to Shiloh, which was the Messias, mentioned Genesis 49:10. The name is plainly an old name, as appears from the place I noted out of Nehemiah; probably given to it anciently, in acknowledgment of the mercy of God given them, in sending them such a brook, or rivulet, from those mountains, so commodious for that great city: or, because (as some think) the water did not run always, but at certain times, as it were sent of God. We read of nothing medicinal in this water, only, as a probation of the blind man’s faith and obedience, it pleased our Lord to send the blind man to wash himself there; as of old Naaman the Syrian was sent to wash in Jordan. He went, and the evangelist, to let us see that true faith joined with sincere obedience never faileth the expectation of them that exercise it, lets us know that he returned seeing.
The evangelist now reports the consequence of this miracle. He, being cured, returneth to his friends: those who lived about that place, had taken notice of his ordinary sitting there, and begging; now, seeing him perfectly recovered, they ask one another, if this were not the blind beggar that used to sit there.
Some conclude it was he, others doubted, but did think he was like him: he puts it out of doubt, and saith that he was the man.
According as is the nature of most men upon the sight of any new and strange accident, they are curious to know how it came to pass, who did it, and where he was. The blind man tells them, that he was cured.
By one that was called Jesus; probably he had heard some of the people mention him by that name; and he describeth to them the manner how he did it.
They would know where he was; this he knows not.
Whether the neighbours, or his near relations, is not said. Nor is the place mentioned where this convention of Pharisees was, whether in the temple, or in some synagogue, or in the great court which they called the sanhedrim; nor is it material for us to inquire into.
It was observed before, that Christ made choice of the sabbath day, as the day wherein he did many of his mighty works. It was on the sabbath day that he cured the impotent man who lay at the pool of Bethesda, John 5:10; and upon the sabbath day that he cured him who had the withered hand, Matthew 12:10; and now again upon the sabbath day that he cured him who was born blind. Possibly he chose that day, because that was a day wherein he ordinarily preached that heavenly doctrine, which he confirmed by these miraculous works; or, perhaps, that he might take occasion from thence to instruct the Jews, if they would have received instruction, in the true doctrine of the sabbath, that they might not superstitiously think that it was not lawful to do acts of mercy on the sabbath day: certain it is, that himself maketh that improvement of it, Matthew 12:1-8. Or to show them, that he was the Lord of the sabbath; and that, as his Father by his works of providence worketh on the sabbath day, so did he, being equal with his Father: by which argument he before defended himself for the cure of the impotent man on the sabbath day, John 5:17.
The Pharisees asked him how he had received his sight; they had before heard it from others, but they now desire to hear it from himself; not (as appears) out of any good design, that they might be convinced of the truth of the thing, or that he who had wrought this miracle was the Son of God; but that they might have something to object against Christ, and to quarrel with him for, upon their traditions, with reference to the observation of the sabbath; of which we are told this was one. That it was unlawful for any to anoint their eyes with spittle on the sabbath day; they having a conceit that it was a medicinal application. The blind man is not ashamed to own the goodness of God to him to the Pharisees, but relates the same story which he before had related to the people.
They are so far from owning Christ as God, the eternal Son of God, and equal with his Father, that they will not allow him to have any relation to God, as one sent of him. It is true, the sanctification of the sabbath is so great a piece of religion, (the whole of which is sometimes expressed by it, Isaiah 56:4,6), that whoso maketh no conscience of it, may reasonably be concluded to have little or nothing of God in him: but we must rightly understand what the will of God is as to that sanctification, and not think that it lieth in a performance of some ritual services, while in the mean time we neglect moral duties. Christ had kept the sabbath, though not in that superstitious sense they thought it was to be observed, keeping to all their traditions about it. Others of the Pharisees had a something better opinion of Christ by reason of the miracles he had wrought; concluding, that if he had been so bad a man, as some of their brethren would have him taken to be. God would not have assisted him to the doing of such miraculous works as he had done. Thus the wise God made a division amongst the counsels of Christ’s enemies, his work being not yet finished, nor the time come when he was to die for the redemption of man.
What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? What opinion hast thou of this man, who hath opened thine eyes? To make the question perfect, interpreters think, there ought to be this supplement, on the sabbath day. What dost thou think of such a man as this, who would make clay, and apply it to thy cure upon the sabbath day? How can such a act be defended?
The blind man answered,
He is a prophet. It was taken for granted by the Jews, according to their traditions, that at the command of a prophet it was lawful to violate the sabbath; which indeed is no more than, that God hath not, in giving us a law, bound up himself, but he may dispense with his own law. Their prophets had an extraordinary mission from God, and immediately revealed the will of God; so as they looked upon what they said as spoken by God himself. The blind man declareth, that he believed that Christ was a prophet; and being so, his words and actions had an extraordinary warrant, and therefore were not to be judged by ordinary rules.
That is, the rulers of the Jews did not, or the multitude or rabble of the Jews did not; for we before heard that many of the common Jews did: they had seen him for a long time sit begging; (begging being allowed in that their corrupt and miserable state, they being tributary to the Romans; though in their settled, prosperous state, there was such a liberal provision made for their poor, that there was no beggar in Israel); besides, they had it from his own mouth, John 9:9: but the rulers had no mind to believe it; and many others of the Jews (possibly) had been no eyewitnesses of his begging, but had only heard the relation from others: the rulers therefore send for the parents of the blind man.
The parents of this man that was blind, in their answer show a great deal of discretion and prudence. Three things the Pharisees ask:
1. Whether this was their son?
2. Whether (as they said) he was indeed born blind?
3. How he came now to see?
The manner of the propounding their question,
who ye say, lets us know what answer they would have had, and that they did not send for the parents of this blind man out of a desire to know the naked truth of the thing, but hoping to fright them into a speaking doubtfully (at least) whether it was their son, yea or no; or whether he was stark blind when he was born, yea or no. But, alas! The providence of God ordering his condition to be so poor, that he was glad to beg for his livelihood, made this design vain, would his parents have gratified the Pharisees by any shuffling and indirect answer.
Ver. 20,21. But besides this, the parents of this man proved more honest and stouter than, it may be, the Pharisees did expect. They affirm, that they knew that he was their son, and that he was born blind. But for the third question, How he now saw? They avoid an answer to that, being possibly no eyewitnesses of Christ when he wrought the miracle. For this they refer them to their son, who was no babe, but a man grown, one of age, able to speak for himself; of whom they might inquire, and he was best able, as to this thing, to give them satisfaction.
See Poole on "John 9:20"
The reason why his parents answered so very warily, and avoided saying any thing to the Pharisees third question, which probably they could not go of their particular personal knowledge, was, that they were afraid of the rulers of the Jews. Solomon saith,
The fear of man bringeth a snare, Proverbs 29:25; it is often a temptation to men to deny the truth, or, at least, not to own and confess it when God calls to them for a public owning and confession of it: but nothing of that nature appeareth in this case; for it doth not appear that his parents were present when Christ wrought this great miracle; which if they were not, they were not obliged to tell the Pharisees what themselves had only received by rumour and hearsay: so that their answer seems but a prudential answer, to avoid an eminent danger. For they were not ignorant of a decree made by the Jewish sanhedrim. That if any did publicly say, or declare, that Jesus was Christ, he should be excommunicated; for that is meant by being
put out of the synagogue.
Ver. 23,24. They were not able to obtain their design from the parents of this poor man; now they again call him, and advise him to give glory to God. Thus far they spake well, if they had been hearty and serious in what they said; for the man indeed had great reason to give God the glory, by whose power alone, exerted by his Son Christ Jesus, he had received his sight: but moral actions are made good or bad by their ends; and if we consider the end of these wretched men in this action of theirs, wherein they persuaded the poor man to his duty, the words will appear to have been spoken from hearts minding nothing less than the glory of God, and out of a design to vilify and depreciate his Son; whereas God hath set up his rest in his Son, and cannot be glorified but with, in, and through him; whom in the next words they maliciously defame, not only speaking of him contemptuously, calling him
this man, but affirm him amartwlov, not
a sinner only, but a notorious, scandalous sinner, as that word imports.
See Poole on "John 4:23"
This poor man being of no higher quality than a beggar, can be presumed to have had no great education; yet his answer is as good as could be expected from one of the greatest breeding, both for security to himself, and his stout asserting what was truth. As to their charge upon our Saviour of his being a great sinner, he avoids it, telling them, as to that he knew nothing, nor was it his concern to inquire; but this he knew, that he had wrought a great work on him, for whereas he had been blind from his mother’s womb, he now had his sight by his means: so as all their frowns could not tempt him to deny the miracle wrought upon him, nor yet to speak the least in abatement of it.
They cannot frown him into a denial of the miracle wrought; he stood stoutly to affirm, that he was born blind, and that he was cured by Christ: now they put him to tell the story over again, either hoping they should entrap him, contradicting himself in his story; or, at least, find something, upon his repeating the story, for them to take advantage from, to persuade the people that it was but a cheat, and indeed there was no such miracle wrought upon him.
It is wonderful to see how the boldness and confidence of the poor man increased; God giving him that wisdom and courage which they were not able to resist. He refuseth to repeat the story to them, telling them he had once already told it them, but they would not give credit to him; and to what purpose was it for him to say it over again, unless they were inclined to be his disciples? Some think the form of speech implies a hearty wishing and desiring that they would be so: but others think he speaks ironically, as if he had said, I know my repeating again the story will not induce you to be his disciples, you are resolved against that, and therefore why do you put me upon a needless trouble? And this seemeth to have been his sense by what followeth in the Pharisees reply, full of indignation.
If this were all their reviling, for them to tell this poor man that he was Christ’s disciple, it was a very tolerable imputation, and what the blind man had reason to glory in: their guilt in reviling is to be judged not so much from what they spake, for there was nothing of greater honour, as from what heart and spirit they spake it. A disciple signifies, one that followeth another, and learns of him. To be a disciple of Christ indeed, was the greatest thing that any could glory in; yet the imputation of it to this blind man is here called a reviling: whence we may observe, that the guilt of reviling is to be judged not so much from the words which a man speaketh, as from the frame of his spirit, and design of that in the speaking of them. If a man speaketh that of another which is good and true, yet if he doth it out of a design to expose him, to do him mischief, and make him odious unto others, God doth account this reviling, because it proceedeth from the hatred of our brother in our heart, and a design to do him harm. Again, though indeed it was no reproach to be called Christ’s disciple, yet they affixed this term upon this poor man out of a design to reproach him, and to expose him to the hatred of others. We are in the government of our tongues not only obliged to take heed what we say, but with what heart, and out of what design we speak it. A malicious design turns terms of the greatest honour into terms of reviling. Besides, they here oppose Christ and Moses: whereas, Moses was but the type, Christ the antitype; Moses prophesied of Christ, Christ was that Prophet which God had promised to raise up like unto him; Moses but the school master, who led them unto Christ.
Concerning Moses indeed they speak honourably, and say, they knew God spake to him; yet did they know it no otherwise than by tradition, and the revelation of the will of God in the law and the prophets. For Christ, they call him touton,
this fellow; and say, they know not whence he was; that is, they know of no Divine authority that he had. They were blinded through malice and prejudice. Indeed they did know whence he was as to his human nature, for they often made that the cause of their stumbling at him; that he was of Galilee, that his father was a carpenter, and his mother called Mary: but they knew of no Divine mission or authority that he had: this they might have known also, for he did those things which no man ever did, nor could be effected by any thing less than a Divine power; but their eyes were blinded, and their hearts were judicially hardened; they studied to shut out the light by which they should have seen, and would not know whence he was.
The opening of the eyes of the blind without the application of means rationally probable for the producing such an effect, nay, by the application of means which to all human reason seemed of a quite contrary tendency; and this cure wrought upon one who was not blind by some accidental cause, but by some defect in nature, who had been so from his mother’s womb, was so manifest an effect of the Divine power, as this poor man was astonished at it, that they should not understand that it was done by such a power, either immediately or mediately; especially considering the prophecy concerning the Messias, Isaiah 35:5,6, to which Christ refers John and his disciples for an evidence of it, Matthew 11:5.
This poor man proveth that Christ was from heaven, because he had opened his eyes; not as yet apprehending that Christ did it by putting out an immediate Divine power for his healing; but as a great prophet, obtaining such a power from God for the confirmation of the things which he delivered.
Now (saith he) we know that God heareth not sinners. But the question is, what truth there is in this axiom, or proposition. Doth not God hear sinners? Then he can hear none; for who liveth, and sinneth not against God? How did he hear Ahab, and others who were notorious sinners?
1. By sinners here must be understood notorious and presumptuous sinners, that live and go on in courses of sin with hardened hearts: the word here used signifieth bold, presumptuous sinners; not such as sin merely through ignorance, weakness, or human infirmity.
2. God is under no covenant obligation to hear sinners; they can challenge no such favour upon the account of any promise: but God, out of the aboundings of his goodness, may hear them, as he heard Ahab and others; he may hear them as his creatures crying in their misery, though he hears them not as children, or upon the account of any covenant.
3. As to the sense of this maxim in this place, it seemeth to be particular and special; and the words seem to be restrained to that particular degree of favour here spoken of; God useth not to honour notorious and flagitious sinners, by giving them a power to work miracles, by which they should confirm any thing which they say.
This poor man bringeth this as an argument, why Christ should not be such a notorious sinner as they spake him, because it was not God’s way to honour such persons with his presence and assistance to the doing of those things which none could do but by a Divine power committed to him. Two things this man assumes, or taketh for granted:
1. That no man can work miracles, without a power obtained of by prayer, as we saw it was in the case of Elisha, 2 Kings 4:33.
2. That what Christ did, he did as a man.
The first is true, the second was false. He was not yet convinced of Christ’s Divine nature, nor looked upon him higher than as a prophet, one sent of God to reveal the will of God, and to work great works in the world by prayer; as to which he affirms, that if he were such a sinner as they clamoured, God would not hear him. So as the question, How far God may hear sinners, in giving them any thing they ask of him, seemeth not at all proper to this place; though it be enough clear from other scriptures, such as Psalms 66:18 Isaiah 1:5, that none that live in a course of sin can expect that God should hear or give answer to their prayers; and though God may give to such sinners such things as they ask him for, which are of a mere external concern, yet it is not with respect to any promise which he hath made to them, but out of the aboundings of his own goodness. But if a man feareth God, and worketh righteousness, him the Lord heareth, accepteth, and answereth. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, Psalms 25:14 Proverbs 3:32.
He proveth Christ to be sent from God, (though it appears by John 9:33 that he looked as yet upon him in no higher notion than a man), from the nature of the miracle that was wrought; which was not the recovery of a blind man’s sight only, but giving sight to one who was born blind. Now, saith this poor man, this is such a work as was never done by Moses, or by any of the prophets who have been since the creation of the world. Some who have been blind from some accidental cause, and something which hath befallen them, films and cataracts, &c., have been cured; and possibly God by his almighty power may have given sight to one born blind; but we never heard of any such thing done by Moses, whom we magnify; nor by the prophets, for whom we have the greatest veneration.
If therefore this man (for still he apprehended him no more) had not some special authority from God, and there were not some special presence of God with him, he could do nothing that is of this nature. It is a work beyond the power of man, and beyond that power first we read God did ever trust any man with.
The Pharisees seeing that they could by no arts bring this poor blind man to their lure, either to deny, or speak any thing in abatement of the miracle which Christ had wrought upon him; nor yet to agree with them, that Christ was a great sinner; fall at last to a downright railing; they tell him, he was
altogether born in sins. So were all of them. David had taught them, that there was none righteous, no not one; and confessed concerning himself, Psalms 51:5, that he was conceived in iniquity, and that in sin his mother had brought him forth. They had learned from Job, that none can bring a clean thing out of that which is unclean; nothing can be clean that is born of a woman, Job 14:4. Their meaning therefore in this phrase must be something more; and possibly the adjective olov, which signifieth whole, (we translate it as if it were olwv, altogether) doth import thus much. They do not only tell this man that he was born in sin, but that he was whole or altogether born in sin, that is, under the guilt of sin: nor do they mean only the common corruption and contagion of human nature, derived from the loss of God’s image in man upon the fall of Adam, but some notorious sin. If any say, How could they think that he was guilty of any such thing before he was born?
Answer. It was the opinion of Pythagoras, one of the heathen philosophers, that when men and women died their souls went into other bodies that were then born, and in those bodies often suffered punishment for those enormous acts which they had been guilty of in former bodies. It is apparent that the Jews were some of them tainted with this notion, from Herod’s saying, Matthew 14:2 Mark 6:14, when, after the beheading of John the Baptist, he heard what great works Christ did, that John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works did show forth themselves in him; by which the best interpreters think, that Herod meant no more than that John the Baptist’s soul was gone into another body, according to their notion borrowed from the heathens; for it had been easy for Herod by search to have found whether John the Baptist’s body was risen from the dead.
So it is thought that the Pharisees here saying,
Thou wast altogether born in sins, meant that his soul was a sordid, filthy soul, which in another body had committed vile and abominable things; and for those sins God set a mark upon him, even in his birth, and he was horn blind. Or perhaps this phrase signified no more than a term of reviling; of which no great account can be given, as passionate men in the madness of their passions oft throw out words of reproach, of which neither themselves nor others can give any just and reasonable account.
And dost thou teach us? Thou that art such a marked villain from thy mother’s womb, or that art such an ignorant idiot, dost thou think thyself fit to instruct us about true and false prophets, who are of God, and who are not? Surely we are to be thy teachers, and not thou ours.
And they cast him out: some think that casting out here signifieth no more than a turning him out of the place where they were; as the word signifieth, Acts 7:58 13:50. Others think its here to be understood of a judicial excommunication, or casting him out of communion with the Jewish church; which latter seemeth more probable, because of the notice or it brought to our Saviour, and the notice which he took of this poor man, upon this occasion. If it had been only a turning him out of the place where they were met, it is not probable that it would have made such a noise.
Jesus heard that they had cast him out, as was said in the former verse, probably by excommunication.
When he had found him, ( whether casually, or upon an industrious search for him, the Scripture doth not say), he said unto him,
Dost thou believe on the Son of God? Art thou one who art ready truly and seriously to embrace the Messiah and Saviour of the world, who must not be only the Son of man, but also the Son of God? Art thou willing to accept, receive, and close with him, and to give up thyself to his obedience?
It is as much as if he had said, Lord! How should I believe on him, of whom I have not heard? (So the disciples answered Paul, asking them whether they had received the Holy Ghost, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost, Acts 19:2). But, saith he, Lord, I am ready to believe on him, may I but know who he is. Our Lord had prepared this poor man’s heart for the receiving of him; there wanted now nothing but the due revelation of the Messiah unto him. This our Saviour giveth him.
This is as much as, I am he. Thou hast not only seen him with the eyes of thy body, but thou hast had experience of his Divine virtue and power, in giving thee sight who wert born blind: thus seeing also signifieth, John 14:9. It is very observable here, that miracles do not work faith, but confirm it. The blind man had experienced here a miracle wrought upon himself, but yet he is an unbeliever, until the Lord cometh to give him the revelation of his word: faith cometh by hearing: but together with this word we must also conceive a mighty power to have flowed from Christ, inwardly enlightening him, and enabling him to discern the truth of what he told him, and making him yet further willing to receive him, and close with him.
Now is the work of faith with power wrought in his soul: he saith, Lord, I do acknowledge and receive thee as the Son of God; I am fully persuaded that thou art more than what thou art in thy external form and appearance, more than a mere man, and I give up myself to thee, to be ruled and guided by thee. And as a testimony of this, he performed some act of external adoration to him. The word signifies prostration; he kneeled down to him, or he fell upon his face before him: we are not able to determine what particular act or posture of adoration he used; but there is nothing plainer, than that it is to be understood of such a Divine adoration and homage as is due unto God alone, for it was such as testified his faith in him as the Son of God, whom he had professed that he believed him to be, in the words immediately preceding: although therefore the word in the Greek be a word used sometimes to signify that civil respect which men show to their superiors, yet it cannot be so interpreted in this place, considering what went before.
There is a great variety in interpreters notions about the judgment here mentioned. Some think that by it is meant the Divine counsel and decree: I am come into the world, to execute the just will, and counsel, and pleasure of my Father: and the event of it is this, that some who saw not, see; and some who see, in a sense are made blind. Others understand it of condemnation; I am come to execute the judgment of condemnation: but thus it is hardly reconcilable to John 3:17, where it is said, that God sent not his Son to condemn the world. The best notion of it is theirs who interpret it of the spiritual government of the world, committed to Christ, and managed by him with perfect rectitude and equity. One eminent part of this was his publishing the gospel, the law of faith. The event of which is, that many spiritually blind, and utterly unable to see the way that leads to eternal life, might (as this person that was born blind is now clear sighted) be enlightened with the saving knowledge of the truth; and many that think they see, should by their obstinate infidelity be more blind than they were from their birth. Not that I cast any such ill influence upon them; but this happeneth through their own sore eyes. I am the light of the world; and as it is of the nature of light to make other things visible to men; and it hath its effect, and doth so, where men’s eyes are not ill affected with humours and the like; so the light of my gospel, by which I shine in the world, makes the way of salvation by me, ordained by my Father, Acts 3:18, evident and clear to many souls who are in darkness and the shadow of death: but it so happeneth, through the prejudices that others are prepossessed with against me, and the doctrine of my gospel by which I shine in the world, so full of ignorance, malice, and hatred against me and the doctrine which I bring; that through their own perverseness, and the righteous judgment of God, at last giving men over to their own delusions, they are made more blind. In this sense this scripture agreeth with what was prophesied by Isaiah 8:14, And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and the words of Simeon in Luke 2:34, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; as also with that of Paul, Romans 9:33.
The Pharisees attended our Saviour almost in all places where he went, to catch something from him whereof they might accuse him: they could not but understand, that the import of our Saviour’s last words was, that this poor blind man, now not only receiving bodily sight, (though born blind), but a spiritual illumination, by which he discerned that Christ was the Son of God, the true Messiah and Saviour of the world, was an instance of those mentioned, who, not seeing before, upon Christ’s coming saw; and that themselves and their masters were an instance of those whom he intended by such as saw, and by his coming were made blind; for our Saviour had often called them blind, and so represented them to the people to whom he preached, Matthew 15:14 Luke 6:39. They therefore grew very angry, being very proud, and not patient to be thought or called blind, looking upon themselves as the greatest lights of the Jewish church.
If ye were blind; if your ignorance were simple, and not affected, and you were sensible that your blindness were not incurable, and your sin might be pardoned. This appeareth to be the sense from the opposition of it, now ye say, We see, in the latter part of the verse. They were indeed blind, as to any true and saving sight of Christ, and of the true way of salvation by believing in him; seeing (as they apprehended) a way of salvation without Christ, by the works of the law, and wilfully shutting their eyes against the glorious light of the gospel shining on them.
Ye should have no sin; you should not have so much sin, so much guilt upon your souls, as you now have: though your ignorance had been sin, yet it had not been so great a sin as a wilful shutting your eyes against the light.
But now ye say, We see; now that you have an opinion that you see, and boast in your knowledge of the law, as if you were the only men that saw; and upon this presumption reject the doctrine of salvation; therefore your sin remaineth, by it you not only conclude yourselves under the guilt of sin, but your sin remaineth upon you, not pardoned to you: which teacheth us, that without a true and saving sight of sin, and such a one as carrieth the soul out of itself to Christ for pardon and remedy, there is no hope of pardon and forgiveness from all the mercy that is in God.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on John 9". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25