Jun 12, 2013

John 12:36 - William Button

Mr. F. having produced these two scriptures from the old testament, now proceeds to the new; and here expresses himself very positively, thus, “In the new testament we find true saving faith enjoined upon unregenerate sinners, as plain as words can possibly express it” (p. 40). The first words which are to him so very plain are in John 12:36, “While ye have the light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light.” But I think a little examination into the context, will shew these are not to the purpose, and demonstrate that Mr. F.’s misunderstanding and misapplication of these words, is owing to his not observing the distinct modes of speech made use of in holy writ. These are evidently words of direction to enquiring people. Our Lord is here speaking not as a lawgiver, but in a ministerial way. He had just entered Jerusalem: many attended him both Jews and Greeks: they made enquiries respecting his doctrine, and person. He had been speaking of his death: they were stumbled at it, and they said, v. 34, “we have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever,” referring, I suppose, to such passages that speak of the perpetuity of his priesthood, and the eternal duration of his kingdom; and so they ask; how sayest thou, the son of man must be lifted up? This seems inconsistent with scripture, and they further ask, “Who is this son of man?” In reply to the last question, he tells them, this son of man was the light of the world; and then goes on to shew them the importance of believing and walking in him. This light (says he) is for a little while with you, and this is what I have to say, and wish you to notice it, who are thus inquisitive for knowledge: that if ye would wish to be children of light, and to give evidence ye are so, it is absolutely necessary that ye believe in the light, and walk while ye have the light, otherwise darkness will certainly come upon you. Or if we consider it as an address to the audience in general, then viewing him as speaking in a ministerial way, his words were (as one expresses it) “persuasive, by way of admonition; to move his audience to make the best improvement in their power, of the opportunity they were favoured with. For they did enjoy his preference with them, who is the true light; and had the light of the gospel published amongst them. And then the admonition was, to receive Christ and his gospel, according to that light in which he had revealed himself to them: And not to believe in a light which God had not afforded them: or to receive Christ internally, while he had only been revealed externally. It was to believe in that light which they actually had; and had the Jewish nation taken that advice, they had (in a national way) continued to be the children of light. For God did not root them out of their habitation, because they were not blessed with saving faith; but because they rejected the Messiah, and despised the record which God gave of his Son” (Johnson’s Faith of God’s Elect, p. 145). If we take the words in the former sense, they appear to contain a ministerial admonition, and not a compulsive precept; a direction to enquiring persons, and not a command to the multitude in general; an information of what is essentially necessary to evidence them children of light, and not a command to make themselves so. If we take them in the latter sense, they only contain an exhortation to act agreeable to the light they had. View them in either way, they will not prove what Mr. F. wishes them to prove, the duty of all to believe with a special faith.—At present shall only add

I remain

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