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was most odious and despicable. And that was the word the bigoted Jews threw on our blameless Lord, "Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil!"
Jesus answered with calm dignity, "I have not a devil;" I am not an idolater; "but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me. And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth." And then having put away the notion of vain glory, He goes on to assert His claim to be heard, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying he shall never see death." What our Lord means was, not that he should not feel death in a temporal sense, but that if he kept Christ's saying he should not die eternally-should not be subject to the bitter pain of eternal death. The Jews took the words literally, as if He had asserted that He had power to save man from the grave. And they were still more annoyed at what they regarded as extreme presumption, and they renewed their clamour against Him, and repeated afresh their offensive charge that "He had a devil and was mad." "Now we know that Thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and Thou sayest, If a man keep my saying he shall never taste of death. Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets, which are dead? Whom makest Thou Thyself?" Jesus answered, still with all calmness, "If I honour myself, my
honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of Whom ye say that He is your God; yet ye have not known Him;" "but I know Him, and keep His saying." Having thus declared that He knew God and was known, and honoured of God, that He kept God's word, He goes on to a yet greater statement, even to declare superiority in order of existence over the Jews' great ancestor Abraham: "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad." At such an astonishing claim, the Jews burst out with renewed vehemence, "Thou art not yet fifty years old (he was only thirty-three), and hast Thou seen Abraham ?” They scorned it as an impossible thing. And how did our Lord meet their scorn? Why by a yet more startling announcement, introduced with that usual formula of solemn asseveration, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was (had any being), I am." This was quite intolerable to the Jews. Then, "They took up stones to cast at Him" (stoning being by the law the punishment of blasphemy). But Jesus hid Himself. Hid Himself, it is supposed by best commentators, in a supernatural way, "making darkness His pavilion round about Him" "and thick clouds to cover Him," and then, going through the midst of them unperceived, escaped their rage for the present, and so passed by.
So endeth the Gospel for this Sunday, a most noticeable part of the Scripture.
It is one of those rare passages in which Jesus Christ appears to stand upon His own dignity. In which the Lowly, the Humble, the Unresisting Son of Man asserts His high origin, claiming to be God, for it amounts to no less, God from everlasting. "Before Abraham was, I am." Now those are the two points which we have heard declared in this Gospel. I. Abraham rejoiced to see my day-the day of Christ-II. Jesus Christ Himself lived before Abraham was born. "Before Abraham was, I am." Now look on both these, for it is on both these that we build up the doctrine of our Lord. Pre-existence-His glory with the Father before the world was. "Your father rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad." The day of Christ can only mean the day of Christ's appearance in the flesh, when He took upon Him our nature and was made man. This day Abraham by faith saw.
Abraham had a glimpse of that day of the birth of Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, as he had a glimpse also of the manner in which Jesus Christ should work out our redemption. He took his son Isaac, his only son and offered him up on Mount Moriah. That Isaac so exceedingly dear, of whom it was said, That "in Isaac shall thy seed be called."
He offered him up, his one hope of being the Father of Many Nations!" "Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from whence also he received him in a figure." And that act of Abraham,-that act of faith, was counted unto him for righteousness; and he is held up for ever as the father of the faithful. The man who believed God! "They which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham." Gal. iii. 7.
Well, Abraham saw the day of Christ, saw the death of Christ, saw the resurrection of Christ, saw the introduction of the Gentiles into the Church of Christ. To him (Abraham) as St. Paul writes, "The scripture foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the Gospel, saying, in thee shall all nations be blessed."
Well might the Holy Patriarch rejoice and be glad, when such a vision of the far future was opened to his sight, well might he say, with the aged Simeon in the Gospel, "Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation."
This same great salvation was given one thousand nine hundred years before to him to look upon, to realize it with the eye of faith. He died not having received the promise but seeing it afar off, full of hope and trust. He died and was buried in the cave of
Macpelah, awaiting the day of resurrection-an example-the greatest of all examples,-of that faith, "without which it is impossible to please God."
So far then of the first point in our Lord's declaration, Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day and he saw it and was glad.
Let us now look on the second and more important, more awe-inspiring statement, that in the text.
When the Jews ridiculed the idea of His having seen their great ancestor Abraham :-" Thou art not yet fifty years old and hast Thou seen Abraham ?”— our Lord replied with the same solemnity of assertion as before, "Verily, verily, before Abraham was I Am." He declared you see not only that He was before Abraham, but that He always was. That He had neither beginning of days, nor end of years; that He existed from everlasting; always the same, alive for evermore; I AM. He uses of Himself the very words in which the voice out of the Burning Bush, the voice of the Supreme God, answered Moses, who had dared to ask by what Name he was to announce the God of their father to the Israelites? Thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, "I AM hath sent me unto you." Jesus Christ claims that title for Himself. I am as God is, without beginning or end, the same unchangeable, self-existing being. Before Abraham was, I AM. That is the claim not to be disputed by us who are Christians. May it be received with