33.We are Abraham’ seed. It is uncertain if the Evangelist here introduces the same persons who formerly spoke, (235) or others. My opinion is, that they replied to Christ in a confused manner, as usually happens in a promiscuous crowd; and that this reply was made rather by despisers than by those who believed. It is a mode of expression very customary in Scripture, whenever the body of a people is mentioned, to ascribe generally to all what belongs only to a part.
Those who object that they are Abraham ’s seed, and have always been free, easily inferred from the words of Christ that freedom was promised to them as to people who were slaves But they cannot endure to have it said that they, who are a holy and elect people, are reduced to slavery For of what avail was the adoption and the covenant, (Rom_9:4,) by which they were separated from other nations, but because they were accounted the children of God? They think, therefore, that they are insulted, when freedom is exhibited to them as a blessing which they do not yet possess. But it might be thought strange that they should maintain that they never were enslaved, since they had been so frequently oppressed by various tyrants, and at that time were subjected to the Roman yoke, and groaned under the heaviest burden of slavery; and hence it may be easily seen how foolish was their boasting.
Yet they had this plausible excuse, that the unjust sway of their enemies did not hinder them from continuing to be free by right. But they erred, first, in this respect, that they did not consider that the right of adoption was founded on the Mediator alone; for how comes it that Abraham’ seed is free, but because, by the extraordinary grace of the Redeemer, it is exempted from the general bondage of the human race? But there was another error less tolerable than the former, that, though they were altogether degenerate, yet they wished to be reckoned among the children of Abraham, and did not consider that it is nothing else than the regeneration of the Spirit that makes them lawful children of Abraham And indeed, it has been too common a vice in almost all ages, to refer to the origin of the flesh the extraordinary gifts of God, and to ascribe to nature those remedies which Christ bestows for correcting nature. Meanwhile, we see how all who, swelled with false confidence, flatter themselves on their condition drive away from them the grace of Christ. And yet this pride is spread over the whole world, so that there is scarcely one person in a hundred who feels that he needs the grace of God.
(235) “Ceux-la mesmes parlans, qui parloyent auparavant.”