John 5:44
Jesus deals with the numerous obstacles to faith one by one, as they rise up. And observe, too, that Jesus is here dealing, not only with unbelievers, but with mortal enemies. Some looked on Jesus and listened to him, and then went away, as little touched by hate as by love; others were so filled with falsehood and pride, and zeal of God not according to knowledge, that almost every word of Jesus caused a fresh and violent irritation. Such could do nothing but oppose Jesus, and make their unbelief hideously manifest in their works. And Jesus knows the reason for all this violence in unbelief. These opponents of his have wrong views as to the true glory of human nature. Jesus could never have a glory that would please them.

I. MAN'S TOUCHING CONSCIOUSNESS THAT HE COMES SHORT OF HIS GLORY. For it is glory rather than honour that Jesus is here speaking about. The word is δόξα, not τιμη. Glory is the manifestation, the full bringing out of what is inside. Honour is the value, the price, so to speak, which others put upon us. These enemies of Jesus, according to the judgment he expresses upon them, were men seeking a glory which would not come by any natural development. If it came, it had to come by their wishing and seeking. The glory of the lily in its clothing comes by the mystery of its creation; the glory of Solomon comes by what he gathers to himself. Jesus looked upon men, every one of whom was conscious he had done something, had achieved for himself a position of sanctity and success which made it right for others to honour him.

II. MAN LETTING HIS GLORY BE DETERMINED BY FRAIL HUMAN JUDGMENT. When ambition gets into our hearts, we crave for those eminences and splendours which the world, in its fondness for the outward and visible, will readily recognize. Jesus could not be recognized for what he was, because he could not be measured by the standard to which his enemies habitually appealed. It was not that he came short of the standard; he could not be measured by it at all. It was as if a man who had nothing but liquid measures should be asked to determine the length of a piece of cloth. These enemies of Jesus could not even understand him. He set at nought the glories, the aims, and the sanctities they held dearest. They let glory be determined by human traditions and the self-seeking notions of the natural heart.

III. HOW SEEKERS OF GLORY CAN COME TO A REAL FAITH IN JESUS. They must see how in Jesus there is the real, abiding, everlasting glory of humanity. In Jesus there was the glory that cometh from God - the glory of a pure heart, a gentle spirit, a perfect integrity; the glory of a life that best shows forth the glory of God. This was the glory of Jesus, that he glorified the Father. In the Son, those who had eyes to discern could see all of the eternal glory that was within the reach of human perceptions. As long as these enemies of Jesus remained in the same mind and clung to their cherished standards, so long Jesus would be impossible to their faith. Our attitude to Jesus infallibly determines our real worth. We are unconsciously judging ourselves in judging him. - Y.

How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another?
Something is lost in this rendering of "honour" in the place of glory. More is lost by the substitution of "from God only" for "from the only God." Glory is the forthshining of light, the manifestation of a perfection inherent in the person spoken of. What a rebuke, therefore, lies in the phrase "Receiving glory one from another," implying a claim of inherent excellence. To speak of it in connection with man is to deny creation and the fall, to deify man and to dethrone God. The other substitution is less excusable. The very object of the expression is to show that there is none good but One, that is God. There is but one Being who has any light to emit, any excellence to manifest. Any other glory must be counterfeit; to accept or profess to give it is an affront to the majesty of God as the one Being.

I. THE TENDENCY WHICH IS IN ALL OF US TO RECEIVE GLORY FROM ANOTHER. This is a different thing from that of which St. Paul says, "Render honour to whom honour is due," or St. Peter, "Honour all men." Honour is respect, recognition of the claims of position, character, humanity, not the impious flattery, for receiving which Herod was smitten. But much of that which men give to or expect from another is glory — the ascription of inherent excellence. We should call it cant to be reminded that God is the giver of that which makes a sagacious statesman or an eloquent orator. The thought, "What hast thou that thou didst not receive?" though it lies on our theological shelf, is not welcome as a monitor. We have borrowed the word "talent" from the parable, but we have divorced it from its context — as the memento of a Lord who will hold His servants in strict account.

II. In contrast with this habit OUR LORD SETS BEFORE US THE ALTERNATIVE OF SEEKING GLORY FROM THE ONLY GOD. It seems strange after the above definition of glory to seek it from God as something. He can communicate. Yet our Lord speaks of seeking from God that forthshining in ourselves The life to which Christ calls us is no tame monotony. It is a seeking of glory; the ambition to be accepted; an aspiration after an applause that the world wets not of. It is the desire for the approval of God Himself which attends upon the exercise of the Christ-like mind. Where this life is there is elevation above lying world-worship. Begin this ambition at once. If hitherto we have allowed the thought of other people to come in, let us do little acts of good which no one can discover, or form some in secret, some good habit hitherto falsely ascribed to us, and thus seek a glory that comes from the only God.


1. How can ye believe who seek the one glory? To believe is to realize the invisible. This is the direct opposite of the habit before us. To receive glory from another is to be deaf and blind to all but sense and time.

2. How can ye believe who seek not the other glory? Faith is a thing which presupposes a searching after, till it finds the God in whom man lives and moves and has his being: the half unconscious consciousness that there is a glory which God, the alone good and great and glorious, destines for and can alone bestow on man.

3. "How can ye believe?"(1) It is good for us to be sternly reminded that there are states of mind incapable of believing.(2) The gospel may be true all the time and you responsible for rejecting it. How can ye believe with your worldly lives and ambitious projects?(3) Lord, convince us of the shame and folly and wickedness of this earth-bounded, miserable creature worship, and draw our thoughts upwards to Thy glorious presence.

(Dean Vaughan.)

1. All its attendant circumstances add weight to this remarkable utterance. It is the statement of the hidden reasons for Jewish wilfulness. There was a deep moral incapacity which made Christ's words and works powerless.

2. That which made belief powerless in the Jews makes it powerless in us.

3. In a very few touches He shows the real character of this evil — the allowing man's estimate to become the measure of what is to be honoured.


1. Pride. Take, e.g., a man of high intellectual power. Poor as it is held by God's standard, yet when judged according to the low measures many propose to themselves, the man has a right to be proud. Accordingly, he becomes a law unto himself and looks on others with a calm sense of superiority. By degrees he has a secret pleasure in going against the common forms of belief. His greater acuteness shows him errors in creeds, and then perhaps he stoops to be a leader of babes and grows into a heresiarch, or sinks, if truth be too strong for him, into the sadder honours of a spurious martyrdom. But for some overpowering work of grace, belief is impossible to such a man. Wrapped up in the superiority cf a Pharisee, or embittered into a scoffing Sadducee, how can he believe?

2. Self-conceit — a bastard growth of the same evil root. There is scarcely any peculiarity on which such may not ground a high estimate of themselves. Singularities of dress, bodily defect, a lisp, etc., show the workings of this lesser devil. What is there in this empty, inflated, irritating soul on which the gospel can lay hold when a strange dress, etc., is enough to satisfy his desire for greatness?

3. Vanity — closely related to the two former and yet widely different. It is a diseased desire for the good opinion of others to mend or bolster up our good opinion of ourselves. There is no humiliation to which a vain man will not stoop; he would rather be laughed at than left unnoticed. His itching desire to bring himself into notice spreads into his religion, and shows itself in small instances of ridiculous manner or rite. How can such an one believe?

4. a struggling form of the same evil. The self-conscious man is ever tormented with an ever-present vision of self in what he is doing. He cannot confess sin without thinking how well he is doing it, nor pray without thinking how others, if they only saw him, would applaud. All of these forms have about them this deadly element, that they substitute some lower object for the one true end of a man's being — to do the will of God.


1. We cannot find it in ourselves. The proud man cannot reason himself out of his pride; self-conceit will survive all disgrace; vanity will go on all through life blemishing everything, and self-consciousness will poison a life of active exertion and contemplative piety.

2. Self in this deceitful form can only be cast out by our Maker. In His presence only can we see our littleness. There all self-delusions fade. It is well, then, to get there from time to time in a solemn and especial manner.

3. But then you must watch in detail against the temptation.(1) Think as little as possible about any good in yourself; turn your eyes from self and speak as little as possible about yourself, and specially be on your guard against the little tricks by which the vain man seeks to secure attention.(2) Take meekly the humiliations which God in His providence deals out to you.(3) Place yourself often beneath the Cross.

(Bp. S. Wilberforce.)


1. There is a proper regard which is useful and laudable. This Samuel and Paul had. We may value it —

(1)As a test of our own character, and as an instrument for doing good.

(2)But in a moderate manner, and

(3)Not as the main motive of our conduct.

2. There may be an undue regard in cases in which the opinion of the world seems to be entirely despised. An affectation of singularity, a contrariety to the maxims and conduct of the world, may spring from a desire of reputation.

3. In general, however, it is by the dread of singularity that this undue regard is evinced. We are anxious to follow the world. The evil of such a principle is great.(1) It robs God of His proper glory.(2) It is base and mean, therefore, and further because it is but the love of self.(3) It is highly prejudicial to others. For it will induce us to flatter them in order that they may be pleased with us.(4) It fails of its object. The world is a hard master. "Them that honour Me I will honour, but they that despise Me shall be lightly esteemed."


1. Its nature and advantages. The man who is guided by this motive —(1) Sets God ever before him as his supreme Lord whom he is bound by every obligation to obey.(2) He learns to attach little value to human approbation.(3) He obtains peace, and(4) The time is coming when he will enter upon eternal honour, while those who act from the opposite principle will be rewarded with shame and everlasting contempt.

2. Its excellence. It is —(1) Pure, unalloyed by any mixture of imperfection, and consists of regard for a Being infinitely pure.(2) Simple, because it has but one end in view.(3) Noble, because its end is the glory of God.(4) Fixed and permanent. The tastes of men vary, but the will of God is unchangeable.(5) Always productive of peace and happiness.

III. THE CONNECTION OF THESE PRINCIPLES WITH A READY RECEPTION OF THE DOCTRINES OF CHRIST. AS the understanding is biassed by the affections, it follows that when the love of reputation operates the mind is predisposed to believe that system which is fairest in human estimation. The man who follows the world has nothing to do with principle or truth. He is a slave to those whose opinion he courts. It is not to a character like this that it belongs to pursue the calm investigation of truth or to suffer for it. This requires independence and unselfishness only imparted by the influence of some great principle, such as a supreme desire for the favour of God. Hence Nicodemus, Joseph, Nathanael, Zacchaeus, etc., were already disposed by the fear of God to embrace the gospel, while in the Pharisees, whose religion was vanity and whose hearts thirsted for applause, rejected it.

(J. Venn, M. A.)


1. The mere fact of receiving honour, even if that honour be rightly rendered, may make faith a difficulty. He is in danger of being elevated above the conviction of sin and of the necessity of salvation.

2. It is still more perilous if, receiving honour, we come to expect it. Those who do are not in the condition which renders it easy to say, "God be merciful to me, a sinner."

3. The Pharisees received honour, but it was quite undeserved. They extolled one another for ostentatious religiousness, whereas they devoured widows' houses, etc. If a man has a fine character and doesn't deserve it, and allows it to go on, how can he believe in Christ whose light shows him in his true colours? How can the man who has lived in the dark love the light?

4. Always receiving this honour, they deceived themselves into believing that they deserved it. The deluded becomes self-deluded, and when the smoke of incense makes their eyes dim with self-conceit, it is not at all marvellous that they cannot believe in Christ.

5. The praise of men generally turns the receivers into great cowards. To believe in Jesus is to forfeit that. Men would no longer salute them as Rabbi, but turn them out of the synagogue. So a good many now cannot believe because they are afraid. The commercial traveller would be exposed to the chaff of the commercial room; the working man to the coarse remarks of the workshop. Some are afraid of the boon companions whom they have led. How many live on the breath of their fellow men!


1. Some are unable to believe because they have a very high opinion of themselves. They have never done anything amiss, or have good hearts at bottom.

2. In many cases there is a strong aversion to confession of sin and to approach to God.

3. In others the hindrance is indolence.

4. Many are too fond of pleasure to believe in Christ.

5. Habitual or occasional sin.

6. Love of gain.

7. An unforgiving temper; — all impede faith in Christ. But they all aggravate the sin. Dare you plead them before God?

(C. H. Spurgeon.)


1. The lowest and least sinful grade of it is when men value genius and do homage to it simply for its own sake, and apart from its uses. This evil is exemplified where men honour another, not for anything he has done, but simply because he has received from God some quality, intelligence, beyond that ordinarily bestowed. He may be a vain man, who is concerned chiefly to use his gifts for display; or an indolent man, who allows life to pass away without his doing any benefit; or a thoughtless man, who has never formed one worthy aim; or an irresolute man, who is driven through life as a mere waif.

2. A worse is reached when men suffer their admiration of genius to blind them to moral distortions. Sometimes the man is bold and wicked enough to employ, genius for feathering the poisoned arrows of vice, so that they may fly the surer and strike the deeper. At other times only the tendency of his writings saps the moral principle. In other cases the writer may have kept his page comparatively clean whilst he has been himself a man of notoriously flagitious life. Are such men worthy of being held up to admiration?

3. Another stage, more daring and wicked, is when men of superior powers are actually deified. This is exemplified in those forms of heathen hero-worship; and something not essentially different from this may be found in the saint-worship of the Romish Church. It may appear to some, however, that there is no risk of this species of idolatry attaching itself to mere literary genius. But what is to be said of the deliberate proposal of Comte — to revise the Calendar, and appoint days for the special worship of great men, gods, heroes, saints; in the first of which he would place such names as those of Moses, Homer, St. Paul, Shakespeare, Frederick the Great; in the second, Buddha and Confucius; and in the third, Hercules and Ovid?

II. THE EVIL AND DANGER OF SUCH A TENDENCY. The worship of genius is —

1. Irrational. The difference between one man's intellect and another's can never be so immense as to make it compatible with the dignity of a rational being for the less gifted to bow down in homage and reverence to his more richly endowed brother. Is it not a dereliction from our proper manhood? What would be thought of us were we to treat other gifts of God after the same fashion? Beauty, strength, etc.

2. Immoral. The first principle of morality is, that a man is neither to be praised nor blamed for what is merely physical and constitutional. The mere possession of a gift infers no excellence, implies no worthiness. It is as the possessor uses them that he becomes a fit subject for approbation or the opposite. The immorality is heightened when a man of genius is lauded, in spite of the impurity, blasphemy, or falsehood of his writings, or the crimes of his life.

3. Prejudicial to the moral interests of the youth of the community. "We must put an end," says the Platonic Socrates, speaking of the immortal stores of the Greek poets, "We must put an end to such stories in our State, lest they beget in the youth too great a facility for wickedness."

4. Idolatrous. You worship genius: Why? — Because it is the gift of God? So is nature. Because it is attractive and brilliant? So is the sun, so are the stars, the earth, the sea. Because it fills you with delight? So do the flowers. Where do you draw the distinction?

(W. L. Alexander, D. D.)

A certain king had a minstrel whom he commanded to play before him. It was a day of high feasting; the cups were flowing, and many great guests were assembled. The minstrel laid his fingers among the strings of his harp and woke them all to the sweetest melody, but the hymn was to the glory of himself. It was a celebration of the exploits of song which the bard had himself performed, and told how he had excelled high-born Hoel's harp, and emulated soft Llewellyn's lay. In high-sounding strains he sang himself and all his glories. When the feast was over, the harper said to the monarch, "O king, give me thy guerdon; let the minstrel's meed be paid." Then the monarch replied, "Thou hast sung unto thyself; pay thyself. Thine own praises were thy theme; be thyself the paymaster." The harper cried, "Did I not sing sweetly? O king, give me thy gold!" But the king said, "So much the worse for thy pride, that thou shouldst lavish such praise on thyself. Get thee gone, thou shalt not serve in my train."

(W. Baxendale.)

Some time since I took up a work purporting to be the lives of sundry characters as related by themselves. Two of those characters agreed in remarking that they were never happy until they ceased striving to be great men.

(E. Payson, D. D.)

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