For this Amen has Himself uttered some memorable Amens. And of all His words none are perhaps more weighty than those which are thus prefaced by reiterated Amens, by which, as with a trumpet, He calls attention to the truths so introduced, as though He foresaw how slowly we should apprehend them. Of sayings thus distinguished, twelve have been recorded for us, all peculiar to the last Gospel. And if under the law the Amen could seal the judgment of the unfaithful wife, making the very water of sanctuary to become a curse, if she had played the harlot: (Numbers 5:22)–if the Amen of God’s people Israel could confirm their curse, should they depart from God and work abominations; (Deuteronomy 27:15-26) –if when in the Church men bless with the spirit (1st Cor. 14:16), the Amen closes the blessing;–if in the Book of Psalms, which belongs to both covenants, the first three volumes of its prayers are sealed and concluded by the same redoubled Amen; (Footnote: In the Hebrew the Psalms are divided into five books.
Of these the first three end with the double Amen, which the Septuagint translate [Greek characters] and the Vulgate, Fiat, Fiat. Our version keeps the Hebrew Amen. Amen. See Psalms 41:13; 72:19; 89:52. The fourth book ends with Amen, Hallelujah. See Psalm 106:48, where the Septuagint still keep the double [Greek]. The fifth with Hallelujah alone. See Psalm 150:6.)–what shall we think of those sayings of the Lord Himself, which He has thus specially marked with His reiterated affirmation? Can I serve my brethren better than by calling their attention to these Amens of the Amen, the faithful sayings of the faithful and true Witness.
But first a remark or two suggested by this form of words itself, and by the fact that in one only of the four Gospels is it recorded for us. As to the words, “Amen, Amen,” as our Version translates, “Verily, Verily,”–for Amen means simply “True” or “Truth,” (Footnote: See Isa. 65:16. “God of truth;” in the Hebrew, “God Amen.”)–does not the form of expression itself reveal something both as to our state, and the grace of Him, who, if we cannot hear the whispers of His love, will yet choose other and more unusual forms of address, if only He may arouse and bring us to communion with Him? “True, True, I say unto you,” says the Truth.
Does not the language imply that we need light, and are but dull hearers, who require something startling to awaken our attention? Is it not like saying, I must speak as to one who will not believe me but upon oath, or as a witness in a court of justice? For this is not the language of friend to friend. What friend need to say to another, Amen, Amen, Verily, Verily? It rather tells of distance,–that we know so little of Christ’s mind, and can learn so little from His example, that we need unusual and even repeated and solemn asseverations to make us listen to Him. It is as if His oath and bond were required by us, before we could believe Him! (S. Augustine, Tractal in Johan xli. § 3)
But it tells us also of Him, that He will stoop even to this,–that no false pride or shame will keep Him from exposing the true state of things, if there is any breach or distance between us,–that He will still meet us where we are,–and if indeed the whispers of His Spirit are drowned by the clamour and cravings of our flesh, He will not therefore leave us to ourselves, but will condescend to words, which, if not such as He would, or such as best become Him, are yet required by our necessity. Therefore He says “Amen, Amen,” that being roused by such a witness, and receiving His words at first simply on His authority and without any due sense of their eternal truth and blessedness, we may in due time come to know their power, that “they are spirit, and they are life,” (John 6:63) and prove in our experience that “he that believeth on the Son hath the witness in himself,” (1 John 5:10) and that “he that hath received His testimony can set to his seal that God is true.” (John 3:33).
This “Amen, Amen,” is only recorded in the Gospel of that Apostle, who describes himself as “the disciple which testifieth.” (John 21:24) And this fact may in some degree modify our thought as to the implied rebuke which the use of this peculiar form of speech appears at first to carry with it. It may be that the truth thus introduced, because it so much transcends our fleshly apprehensions, must ever be first received on testimony, before it can be seen or felt or lived in by us. Certain it is that St. John presents Christ to us in a relation far higher than that which is set forth by any of the other Evangelists. St. John tells us of the Word, who was with God and was God, the Only-Begotten Son, who brings again God’s own eternal life into our fleshly nature; in His own person first revealing and declaring it to men, that of His fullness we might receive and manifest the same.
Of such an One there must be much which will transcend man’s natural thoughts; which, therefore, if spoken here, must at first appear both dark and mystic; which can therefore only be declared to carnal men as a truth, the reason of which may be understood some day, but which will always have to be first received by faith upon authority. Such words as, “Ye must be born of water and of the Spirit,” and “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you,” though by long use we have become more or less accustomed to them, must have seemed like riddles to those who first heard them.