17.If any man wish to do his will. He anticipates the objections that might be made. For since he had many adversaries in that place, some one might readily have murmured against him in this manner: “ dost thou boast to us of the name of God? For we do not know that thou hast proceeded from him. Why, then, dost thou press upon us that maxim, which we do not admit to thee, that thou teachest nothing but by the command of God?” Christ, therefore, replies that sound judgment flows from fear and reverence for God; so that, if their minds be well disposed to the fear of God, they will easily perceive if what he preaches be true or not. He likewise administers to them, by it, an indirect reproof; for how comes it that they cannot distinguish between falsehood and truth, (185) but because they want the principal requisite to sound understanding, namely, piety, and the earnest desire to obey God?
This statement is highly worthy of observation. Satan continually plots against us, and spreads his nets in every direction, that he may take us unawares by his delusions. Here Christ most excellently forewarns us to beware of exposing ourselves to any of his impostures, assuring us that if we are prepared to obey God, he will never fail to illuminate us by the light of his Spirit, so that we shall be able to distinguish between truth and falsehood. Nothing else, therefore, hinders us from judging aright, but that we are unruly and headstrong; and every time that Satan deceives us, we are justly punished for our hypocrisy. In like manner Moses gives warning that, when false prophets arise, we are tried and proved by God; for they whose hearts are right will never be deceived, (Deu_13:3.) Hence it is evident how wickedly and foolishly many persons in the present day, dreading the danger of falling into error, by that very dread shut the door against all desire to learn; as if our Savior had not good ground for saying,
Knock, and it shall be opened to you, (Mat_7:7.)
On the contrary, if we be entirely devoted to obedience to God, let us not doubt that He will give us the spirit of discernment, to be our continual director and guide. If others choose to waver, they will ultimately find how flimsy are the pretences for their ignorance. And, indeed, we see that all who now hesitate, and prefer to cherish their doubt rather than, by reading or hearing, to inquire earnestly where the truth of God is, have the hardihood to set God at defiance by general principles. One man will say that he prays for the dead, because, distrusting his own judgment, he cannot venture to condemn the false doctrines invented by wicked men about purgatory; and yet he will freely allow himself to commit fornication. Another will say that he has not so much acuteness as to be able to distinguish between the pure doctrine of Christ and the spurious contrivances of men, but yet he will have acuteness enough to steal or commit perjury. In short, all those doubters, who cover themselves with a veil of doubt in all those matters which are at present the subject of controversy, display a manifest contempt of God on subjects that are not at all obscure.
We need not wonder, therefore, that the doctrine of the Gospel is received by very few persons in the present day, since there is so little of the fear of God in the world. Besides, these words of Christ contain a definition of true religion; that is, when we are prepared heartily to follow the will of God, which no man can do, unless he has renounced his own views.
Or if I speak from myself. We ought to observe in what manner Christ wishes that a judgment should be formed about any doctrine whatever. He wishes that what is from God should be received without controversy, but freely allows us to reject whatever is from man; for this is the only distinction that he lays down, by which we ought to distinguish between doctrines.