John 3* Christ's discourse with Nicodemus. (1-21) The baptism of Johnof Christ John's testimony. (22-36)1-8 Nicodemus was afraid, or ashamed to be seen with Christ,therefore came in the night. When religion is out of fashion,there are many Nicodemites. But though he came by night, Jesusbid him welcome, and hereby taught us to encourage goodbeginnings, although weak. And though now he came by night, yetafterward he owned Christ publicly. He did not talk with Christabout state affairs, though he was a ruler, but about theconcerns of his own soul and its salvation, and went at once tothem. Our Saviour spoke of the necessity and nature ofregeneration or the new birth, and at once directed Nicodemus tothe source of holiness of the heart. Birth is the beginning oflife; to be born again, is to begin to live anew, as those whohave lived much amiss, or to little purpose. We must have a newnature, new principles, new affections, new aims. By our firstbirth we were corrupt, shapen in sin; therefore we must be madenew creatures. No stronger expression could have been chosen tosignify a great and most remarkable change of state andcharacter. We must be entirely different from what we werebefore, as that which begins to be at any time, is not, andcannot be the same with that which was before. This new birth isfrom heaven, ch. #1:13|, and its tendency is to heaven. It is agreat change made in the heart of a sinner, by the power of theHoly Spirit. It means that something is done in us, and for us,which we cannot do for ourselves. Something is wrong, wherebysuch a life begins as shall last for ever. We cannot otherwiseexpect any benefit by Christ; it is necessary to our happinesshere and hereafter. What Christ speak, Nicodemus misunderstood,as if there had been no other way of regenerating andnew-moulding an immortal soul, than by new-framing the body. Buthe acknowledged his ignorance, which shows a desire to be betterinformed. It is then further explained by the Lord Jesus. Heshows the Author of this blessed change. It is not wrought byany wisdom or power of our own, but by the power of the blessedSpirit. We are shapen in iniquity, which makes it necessary thatour nature be changed. We are not to marvel at this; for, whenwe consider the holiness of God, the depravity of our nature,and the happiness set before us, we shall not think it strangethat so much stress is laid upon this. The regenerating work ofthe Holy Spirit is compared to water. It is also probable thatChrist had reference to the ordinance of baptism. Not that allthose, and those only, that are baptized, are saved; but withoutthat new birth which is wrought by the Spirit, and signified bybaptism, none shall be subjects of the kingdom of heaven. Thesame word signifies both the wind and the Spirit. The windbloweth where it listeth for us; God directs it. The Spiritsends his influences where, and when, on whom, and in whatmeasure and degree, he pleases. Though the causes are hidden,the effects are plain, when the soul is brought to mourn forsin, and to breathe after Christ. Christ's stating of thedoctrine and the necessity of regeneration, it should seem, madeit not clearer to Nicodemus. Thus the things of the Spirit ofGod are foolishness to the natural man. Many think that cannotbe proved, which they cannot believe. Christ's discourse ofgospel truths, ver. #11-13|, shows the folly of those who makethese things strange unto them; and it recommends us to searchthem out. Jesus Christ is every way able to reveal the will ofGod to us; for he came down from heaven, and yet is in heaven.We have here a notice of Christ's two distinct natures in oneperson, so that while he is the Son of man, yet he is in heaven.God is the "HE THAT IS," and heaven is the dwelling-place of hisholiness. The knowledge of this must be from above, and can bereceived by faith alone. Jesus Christ came to save us by healingus, as the children of Israel, stung with fiery serpents, werecured and lived by looking up to the brazen serpent, #Nu21:6-9|. In this observe the deadly and destructive nature ofsin. Ask awakened consciences, ask damned sinners, they willtell you, that how charming soever the allurements of sin maybe, at the last it bites like a serpent. See the powerful remedyagainst this fatal malady. Christ is plainly set forth to us inthe gospel. He whom we offended is our Peace, and the way ofapplying for a cure is by believing. If any so far slight eithertheir disease by sin, or the method of cure by Christ, as not toreceive Christ upon his own terms, their ruin is upon their ownheads. He has said, Look and be saved, look and live; lift upthe eyes of your faith to Christ crucified. And until we havegrace to do this, we shall not be cured, but still are woundedwith the stings of Satan, and in a dying state. Jesus Christcame to save us by pardoning us, that we might not die by thesentence of the law. Here is gospel, good news indeed. Here isGod's love in giving his Son for the world. God so loved theworld; so really, so richly. Behold and wonder, that the greatGod should love such a worthless world! Here, also, is the greatgospel duty, to believe in Jesus Christ. God having given him tobe our Prophet, Priest, and King, we must give up ourselves tobe ruled, and taught, and saved by him. And here is the greatgospel benefit, that whoever believes in Christ, shall notperish, but shall have everlasting life. God was in Christreconciling the world to himself, and so saving it. It could notbe saved, but through him; there is no salvation in any other.From all this is shown the happiness of true believers; he thatbelieveth in Christ is not condemned. Though he has been a greatsinner, yet he is not dealt with according to what his sinsdeserve. How great is the sin of unbelievers! God sent One tosave us, that was dearest to himself; and shall he not bedearest to us? How great is the misery of unbelievers! they arecondemned already; which speaks a certain condemnation; apresent condemnation. The wrath of God now fastens upon them;and their own hearts condemn them. There is also a condemnationgrounded on their former guilt; they are open to the law for alltheir sins; because they are not by faith interested in thegospel pardon. Unbelief is a sin against the remedy. It springsfrom the enmity of the heart of man to God, from love of sin insome form. Read also the doom of those that would not knowChrist. Sinful works are works of darkness. The wicked worldkeep as far from this light as they can, lest their deeds shouldbe reproved. Christ is hated, because sin is loved. If they hadnot hated saving knowledge, they would not sit down contentedlyin condemning ignorance. On the other hand, renewed hearts bidthis light welcome. A good man acts truly and sincerely in allhe does. He desires to know what the will of God is, and to doit, though against his own worldly interest. A change in hiswhole character and conduct has taken place. The love of God isshed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost, and is become thecommanding principle of his actions. So long as he continuesunder a load of unforgiven guilt, there can be little else thanslavish fear of God; but when his doubts are done away, when hesees the righteous ground whereon this forgiveness is built, herests on it as his own, and is united to God by unfeigned love.Our works are good when the will of God is the rule of them, andthe glory of God the end of them; when they are done in hisstrength, and for his sake; to him, and not to men.Regeneration, or the new birth, is a subject to which the worldis very averse; it is, however, the grand concern, in comparisonwith which every thing else is but trifling. What does itsignify though we have food to eat in plenty, and variety ofraiment to put on, if we are not born again? if after a fewmornings and evenings spent in unthinking mirth, carnalpleasure, and riot, we die in our sins, and lie down in sorrow?What does it signify though we are well able to act our parts inlife, in every other respect, if at last we hear from theSupreme Judge, "Depart from me, I know you not, ye workers ofiniquity?" 22-36 John was fully satisfied with the place and work assignedhim; but Jesus came on a more important work. He also knew thatJesus would increase in honour and influence, for of hisgovernment and peace there would be no end, while he himselfwould be less followed. John knew that Jesus came from heaven asthe Son of God, while he was a sinful, mortal man, who couldonly speak about the more plain subjects of religion. The wordsof Jesus were the words of God; he had the Spirit, not bymeasure, as the prophets, but in all fulness. Everlasting lifecould only be had by faith in Him, and might be thus obtained;whereas all those, who believe not in the Son of God, cannotpartake of salvation, but the wrath of God for ever rests uponthem.
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