34.But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear. When the soldier pierced Christ’ side with his spear, he did so for the purpose of ascertaining if he was dead; but God had a higher object in view, as we shall immediately see. It was a childish contrivance of the Papists, when, out of the Greek word
λόγχε, which means a spear, (186) they manufactured the proper name of a man, and called this soldier Longinus, and, to give an air of plausibility to their story, foolishly alleged that he had been formerly blind, and that, after having received his sight, he was converted to the faith. Thus they have placed him in the catalogue of the saints. (187) Since their prayers, whenever they call on God, rest on such intercessors, what, I ask, will they ever be able to obtain? But they who despise Christ, and seek the intercessions of the dead, deserve that the devil should drive them to ghosts and phantoms.
And immediately there came out blood and water. Some men have deceived themselves by imagining that this was a miracle; for it is natural that the blood, when it is congealed, should lose its red color, and come to resemble water. It is well known also that water is contained in the membrane which immediately adjoins the intestines. What has led them astray is, that the Evangelist takes so much pains to explain that blood flowed along with the water, as if he were relating something unusual and contrary to the order of nature. But he had quite a different intention; namely, to accommodate his narrative to the passages of Scripture which he immediately subjoins, and more especially that believers might infer from it what he states elsewhere, that Christ came with water and blood, (1Jo_5:6.) By these words he means that Christ brought the true atonement and the true washing; for, on the one hand, forgiveness of sins and justification, and, on the other hand, the sanctification of the soul, were prefigured in the Law by those two symbols, sacrifices and washings. In sacrifices, blood atoned for sins, and was the ransom for appeasing the wrath of God. Washings were the tokens of true holiness, and the remedies for taking away uncleanness and removing the pollutions of the flesh.
That faith may no longer rest on these elements, John declares that the fulfillment of both of these graces is in Christ; and here he presents to us a visible token of the same fact. The sacraments which Christ has left to his Church have the same design; for the purification and sanctification of the soul, which consists in newness of life, (Rom_6:4,) is pointed out to us in Baptism, and the Lord’ Supper is the pledge of a perfect atonement. But they differ widely from the ancient figures of the Law; for they exhibit Christ as being present, whereas the figures of the Law pointed out that he was still at a distance. For this reason I do not object to what Augustine says, that our sacraments have flowed from Christ’ side; for, when Baptism and the Lord’ Supper lead us to Christ’ side, that by faith we may draw from it, as from a fbuntain, what they represent, then are we truly washed from our pollutions, and renewed to a holy life, and then do we truly live before God, redeemed from death, and delivered from condemnation.
(186) “Du mot Gree lonchi, qui signifie une lance.”
(187) Dr Bloomfield subjoins the following note to this verse: — “ epitaph of this soldier, (if genuine,) said to be found in the Church of St Mary, at Lyons, is as follows: — Qui Salvatoris latus Cruce Cuspfdefixit, Lo,’ Mc jacet —’ Here lies Longinu’ who pierced the Savior’ side on the Cross with a spear.’” As the learned annotator has thus summarily adverted to this legendary tale, it is right that the reader should be briefly put in possession of the whole of it, as it has been collected by Moreri from Tillemont and other ecclesiastical writers, in his “” under the head, St Longin — (St Longinns.) This St Longinus is twofold: “ saying, that he was the soldier that pierced our Lord’ side with a spear; and some, that he was the centurion who commanded the guard at the cross. The legends report both these persons to have been converted to the Christian faith, to have suffered martyrdom, and to have been canonized.” Moreri, however, though an ecclesiastic of the Romish Church, was constrained to add, The acts of both Longinuses are manifestly false; and the circumstances they allege mutually refute each other.”
It would appear that the name Longinus has been formed from the Greek
λόγχη spear: Longinus being the Latin form of
λόγχιμνος — spear-man. Thus, St Longinus is found to be a similar saint to the Sancta Veronica, reported by Brydone. “ Greeks,” continues Moreri, celebrate the martyrdom of Longinus, the centurion, on the 16th of October, the Latins on the 15th of March, and the Copts on the 1st of November. The martyrdom of Longinus, the soldier, is not acknowledged by the Greeks; but the Latins commemorate it on different days; some on the 15th of March, some on the 1st of September, others on the 22nd of November; or 11th of December.” We thus see how little this offspring of credulity and superstition merits the attention of the readers of the Gospel. — Granville Penn’ Annotations.