By J.C. Ryle
I send forth the volume now in the reader's hands, with much reticence, and a very deep sense of responsibility. It is no light matter to publish an exposition of any book in the Bible. It is a peculiarly serious undertaking to attempt a Commentary on the Gospel of John.
I do not forget that we are all apt to exaggerate the difficulties of our own particular department of literary labor. But I think every intelligent student of Scripture will bear me out when I say, that John's Gospel is pre-eminently full of things "hard to be understood." (2 Pet. 3:16.) It contains a large portion of our Lord Jesus Christ's doctrinal teaching. It abounds in "deep things of God," and "sayings of the King," which we instinctively feel we have no line to fully fathom, no mind to fully comprehend, no words to fully explain. It must needs be that such a book of Scripture should be difficult. I can truly say that I have commented on many a verse in this Gospel with fear and trembling. I have often said to myself, "Who is sufficient for these things?"--"The place whereon you stands is holy ground." (2 Cor. 2:16; Exod. 3:5.)
The nature of the work now published, requires a few words of explanation. It is a continuation of the "Expository Thoughts on the Gospels," of which the first three Gospels, have been already sent forth. Like the previous volumes, the composition of this book is a continuous series of short expositions, intended for family or private reading, or for the use of those who visit the sick and the poor.
We live in a day of abounding vagueness and indistinctness on doctrinal subjects in religion. Now, if ever, it is the duty of all advocates of clear, well-defined, sharply-cut theology, to supply proof that their views are thoroughly borne out by Scripture. I have endeavored to do so in this Commentary. I hold that the Gospel of John, rightly interpreted, is the best and simplest answer to those who profess to admire a vague and indistinct Christianity.
The theological stand-point which the writer of this Commentary occupies will be obvious to any intelligent reader. Such an one will see at a glance that I belong to that school in the Church of England which, rightly or wrongly, is called "Evangelical." He will see that I have no sympathy whatever with either Romish or Neologian tendencies. He will see that I hold firmly the distinctive theological views of the Reformers and doctrinal Puritans, and that I totally disapprove the loose and broad theology of some modern schools of divines--But while I say all this, I must be allowed to add, that in interpreting Scripture, I "call no man master or father." I abhor the idea of twisting and warping God's Word in order to made it support party views. Throughout this Commentary I have endeavored honestly and conscientiously to find out the real meaning of every sentence on which I have commented. I have evaded no difficulty, and shrunk from no inference. I have simply followed Scripture wherever its words seemed to point, and accepted whatever they seemed to mean. I have never hesitated to express my disagreement from the views of other commentators if occasion required; but when I have done so I have tried to do it with courtesy and respect.
I now conclude this preface with an earnest prayer, that it may please God to pardon the many deficiencies of this volume, and to use it for His own glory and the good of souls. It has cost me a large amount of time and thought and labor. But if the Holy Spirit shall make it useful to the Church of Christ, I shall feel abundantly repaid.
Ignorance of Scripture is the root of every error in religion, and the source of every heresy. To be allowed to remove a few grains of ignorance, and to throw a few rays of light on God's precious word, is, in my opinion, the greatest honor that can be put on a Christian.