« PreviousContinue »
do these miracles that thou doest, 3 Jesus answered and said unto except a God be with him.
him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee,'
b c.1.13 Ga.6.15. EF 2.1. Tit.3.5 ja 1. a Ac.10.38.
18. 1 Pe.. 13. 1 Jno.2.29. 3.9.
came to be more fully confirmed in the kingdom of God. It includes, therefore belief. 1 Come from God. Sent by God. men of every character, and rank, and This implies his readiness to hear him, nation, moral and immoral, rich and and his desire to be instructed. He poor, in office and out of office, old and acknowledges the divine mission of Je- young, bond and free, the slave and his sus, and delicately asks him to instruct master, Jew and Gentile. It is clear, him in the truth of religion. When we that our Saviour intended to convey to read the words of Jesus in the Bible, it Nicodemus the idea also that he must be should be with a belief that he came born again. It was not sufficient to be from God, and was therefore qualified a Jew, or to acknowledge him to be a and authorized to teach us the way of teacher sent by God, that is, the Meslife. I These miracles. The miracles siah; it was necessary, in addition to which he wrought in the temple and at this, to experience in his own soul that Jerusalem (ch. Ü. 23). TExcept God be great change called the new birth, or with him. Except God aid him, and regeneration. I Be born again. The except his instructions are approved by word translated here again, means also God. Miracles show that a prophet or from above, and is so rendered in the religious teacher comes from God, be margin. It is evident, however, that cause God would not work a' mi. Nicodemus understood it not as refer racle in attestation of a falsehood, or ring to a birth from above, for if he hao to encourage a false teacher. If God he would not have asked the question gives a man power to work a miracle, in verse 4. It is probable that in the it is proof that He approves the teaching language which he used, there was not of that man, and the miracle is the the same ambiguity that there is in the proof or the credential that he came Greek. The ancient versions all unfrom God.
derstood it as meaning again, or the 3. Verily, verily. Expressions of second time. Our natural birth introstrong affirmation, denoting the certain- duces us to light; is the commence. ty and the importance of what he was ment of life; throws us amidst the works about to say. Jesus proceeds to state to of God, and is the beginning of our ex: him one of the fundamental and indis- istence here. But it also introduces us pensable doctrines of his religion. It to a world of sin. We early go astray. may seem remarkable that he should All men transgress. The imagination introduce this subject in this manner. of the thoughts of the heart is evil from But it should be remembered that Nico- the youth up. We are conceived in demus acknowledged that he was a sin, and brought forth in iniquity; and teacher come from God; that he im- there is none that coeth good, no not plied by that his readiness and desire to one. The carnal mind is enmity against receive instruction; and that it is not God; and by nature we are dead in wonderful, therefore, that Jesus should trespasses and sins. Gen. viii. 21. Ps. commence with one of the fundamental xiv. 2, 3; li. 5. Rom. i. 29 — 32; ii. truths of his religion. It is no part of 10–20; viii. 7. This sin exposes men Christianity to conceal any thing. Je to misery here and hereafter. To essus declared to every man, high or low, cape from this sin, to be happy in the rich or poor, the most humbling truths world to come, it is necessary that man of the gospel. Nothing was kept back should be changed in his principles, his for fear of offending men of wealth or feelings, and his manner of life. This power; and for them, as well as the change, or the beginning of this new most poor and lowly, it was declared life, is called the new birth, or regenera. to be indispensable to experience a tion. It is so called because in many change of heart and of life. 1 Excopt a respects it has a striking analogy to the man. This is a universal form of ex- natural birth. It is the beginning of preşsion designed to include all raan- spiritual life. It introduces us to the kind. Of every man it is certain that light of the gospel. It is the moment unless he is born again he cannot see the when we really begin to live to any pur
Excep: a man be born again, he old? Can he enter the second time cannot see the kingdom of God. into his mother's womb, and be
4 Nicodemus saith unto him, born? "low can a man be born when he is 5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily,
! or, from above.
pose. It is the moment when God re- he was entitled to all the privileges of veals himself to us as our reconciled the people of God. When, therefore, Father, and we are adopted into his our Saviour used it of a Jew, when he family as his sons. And as every man affirmed its necessity of every man, Ni is a sinner, it is necessary that each one codemus supposed that there was an should experience this change, or he absurdity in the doctrine, something cannot be happy or saved. This doc- that surpassed his comprehension; and trine was not unknown to the Jews, he therefore asked whether it was pos. and was particularly predicted as a doc- sible that Jesus could teach so absurd a trine that would be taught in the times doctrineas he could conceive no other of the Messiah. See Deut. x. 16. Jer. sense as applicable to a Jew-as that he iv. 4, xxxi. 33. Eze. xi. 19; xxxvi. 25. should, when old, enter a second time Ps. li. 12. The change in the New into his mother's womb and be born. Testament is elsewhere called the new And we may learn from this: 1st. That creation (2 Cor. v. 17. Gal. vi. 15), and prejudice leads us to misunderstand the life from the dead, or a resurrection. plainest doctrines of religion. 2d. That Eph. ii. 1. John v. 21, 24. (He can- things which are at first incomprehen
To see, here, is put evidently sible, or apparently absurd, may wher for enjoying ; or he cannot be fitted for explained become clear. The doctrine it, and partake of it. . " The kingdom of regeneration, so difficult to Nicode. of God. Either in this world, or in mus, is plain to a child that is born of that which is to come, or heaven. See the Spirit. 3d. Those in high rank in Note, Matt. iii. 2. The meaning is, life, and who are learned, are often that the kingdom which Jesus was most ignorant about the plainest matters about to set up, was so pure and holy of religion. It is often wonderful that that it was indispensable that every man they exhibit so little acquaintance with should experience this change, or he the most simple subjects pertaining to could not partake of its blessings. This the soul, and so much absurdity in their is solemnly affirmed by the Son of God, views. 4th. A doctrine is not to be oy an affirmation equivalent to an oath, rejected because the rich and the great and there can be no possibility, there do not believe or understand it. The fore, of entering heaven without expe- doctrine of regeneration was no worse riencing the change which our Saviour because Nicodemus did not comprecontemplated by the new birth. And it hend it. becomes every man, as in the presence 5. Be born of water. By water here of a holy God before whom he must is evidently signified baptism. Thus the soon appear, to ask himself whether he word is used Eph. v. 26. Titus iii. 5. has experienced this change, and if he Baptism was practised by the Jews in has not, to give no rest to his eyes receiving a Gentile as a proselyte. It until he has sought the mercy of God, was practised by John among the Jews. and implored the aid of his Spirit thai And Jesus here says that it is an ordi. his ceart may be changed.
nance of his religion, and the sign and 4. How can a man, &c. It may seem seal of the renewing influences of his remarkable that Nicodemus understood Spirit. So he said (Mark xvi. 16), ho our Saviour literally, when the expres- that believeth and is baptized, shall be zion to be born again was in common saved. It is clear from these places, use among the Jews to denote a change and from the example of the apostles from Gentilism to Judaism by becoming (Acts ii. 38, 41; viii
. 12, 13, 36, 38; ix. a proselyte by baptism. The word with 18; X. 47, 48; xvi. 15, 33 ; xviii. 8. them meant a change from the state of xxii
. 16. Gal. iii. 27), that they consia heathen to that of a Jew. But they dered this ordinance as binding on all never used it as applicable to a Jew who professed to love the Lord Jesus. because they supposed t at ty zis birth | And though it perhaps cannot be said
I say unto thee, Except a man be flesh is flesh: and that which is born of water and of the Spirit, born of the Spirit is spirit. he cannot enter into the kingdom of ng Marvel not that I said unto God.
thee, Ye must be born again. 6 That C which is born of the 8 The wind bloweth where is a Mar.16.16. Ac.2.38. b Ro.8.2. 1 Co.2. c 1 Co.15.47–49. 2 Co.5.17. 1or, from 12.
that none who are not baptized can be the question asked by Nicodemus, saved, yet Jesus meant undoubtedly to whether a man could be born when he be understood as affirming that this was was old ? Jesus tells him that if this to be the regular and uniform way of could be, it would not answer any va entering into his church; that this was luable purpose. He would be still pos the appropriate mode of making a pro- sessed of the same propensities and fession of religion ; and that a man who passions. Another change was there. neglected this when the duty was made fore indispensable. · I Is flesh. Parknown to him, neglected a plain com- takes of the nature of the parent. mand of God. It is clear, also, that any Compare Gen. v. 3. As the parents other command of God might as well are corrupt and sinful, so will be their be neglected or violated as this, and descendants. See Job xiv. 4. that it is the duty of every one not only the parents are wholly corrupt by nature, to love the Saviour, but to make an so their children will be the same. The acknowledgment of that love by being word flesh here is used to denote cor baptized and devoted to his service. rupt, defiled, sinful. The flesh in the But lest Nicodemus should suppose scriptures is often used to denote the that this was all that was meant, he sinful propensities and passions of our added that it was necessary that he nature, as those propensities are sup, should be born of the Spirit also. This posed to have their seat in the animal was predicted of the Saviour that he nature. “ The works of the flesh are should baptize with the Holy Ghost and manifest, which are these : adultery, with fere. Matt. ii. 11. By this is fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousclearly intended that the heart must be ness," &c. Gal. v. 19, 20. See also changed by the agency of the Holy Eph. ii. 3. 1 Pet. jii. 21 ; q. 18. 1 John Ghost; that the love of sin must be ü. 16. Rom. vii. 5. Is born of the abandoned ; that man must repent of Spirit. Of the Spirit of God, or by the crime and turn to God; that he must agency of the Holy Ghost. I Is spirit. renounce all his native evil propensities, Is spiritual, like the spirit, that is, holy, and give himself to a life of prayer and pure. Here we learn : 1st. That all holiness, of meekness, purity, and be- men are by nature sinful. 2d. That nevolence. This great change is in the none are renewed but by the Spirit of scriptures ascribed uniformly to the God. If man did the work himself, it Holy Spirit. Titus ii. 5. 1 Thess. i. 6. would be still flesh, and impure. 3d. Rom. v. 5. 1 Pet. i. 22. Cannot enter That the effect of the new birth is to into. This is the way, the appropriate make men holy. And, 4th. That no way, of entering into the kingdom of man can have evidence that he is born the Messiah here and hereafter. He again who is not holy, and just in pro cannot enter into the true church here portion as he becomes pure in his life or in the world to come except in con- will be the evidence that he is born of nexion with a change of heart, and by the Spirit. the proper expression of that change in 7. Marvel not. Wonder rot. It is the ordinances appointed by the Saviour. possible that Nicodemus in some way
6. That which is born of the flesh. still expressed a doubt of the doctrine, To show the necessity of this change, and Jesus took occasion in a very strik. our Saviour directs the attention of Ni- ing manner to illustrate it. codemus to the natural condition of 8. The wind bloweth, &c. Nicode man. By that which is born of the flesh mus had cbjected to the doctrine be. he evidently intends man as he is by cause he did not understand how it nature, in the circumstances of his.na- could le. Jesus shows him that he tural birt Perhaps also he alludes to ought not to reject it on that account, listeth, and thou hearest the sound 9 Nicodemus answered and said thereof, but canst not tell whence it unto him, How can these things cometh, and whither it goeth : so a be? is every one that is born of the 10 Jesus answered and said unte Spirit.
him, Art thou a master of Israel a 1 Co.2.11
and knowest not these things ? for ne constantly believed things quite fore that it does exist and operate. es difficult. It might appear incompre- Nicodemus' objection was, that he could hensible, but it was to be judged of by not see this change, or perceive how it its effects. As in this case of the wind, could be. Jesus tells him that he the effects were seen, the sound was should not reject every doctrine which heard, important changes were pro he could not understand. Neither could duced by it, trees and clouds were the wind be seen, but its effects were moved, yet the wind is not seen, nor do well known, and no one doubted the we know whence it comes, nor by existence of the power of the agent, what laws it is governed. So it is with Compare Eccl. xi. 5. the operations of the Spirit. We see 9. How can these things be? Nico the changes produced. Men just now demus was still unwilling to admit the sinful, become holy; the thoughtless doctrine unless he understood it. And become serious; the licentious become we have here an instance of a man of pure; the vicious, moral; the moral, stumbling at one of the plainest religious; the prayerless, prayerful ; doctrines of religion, and unwilling to the rebellious and obstinate, meek, and admit a truth because he could not unmild, and gentle. When we see such derstand how it could be, when he daily changes, we ought no more to doubt admitted the truth of facts in other that they are produced by some cause, things which he could as little compreby some mighty agent, than when we hend. And we may learn : 1st. That see the trees moved, or the waters of men will often admit facts on other sub. the ocean piled on heaps, or feel the jects, and be greatly perplexed by cooling effects of a summer's breeze. similar facts in religion. "2d. That ng In those cases we attribute it to the small part of men's difficulties are be wind, though we see it not, and though cause they cannot understand how or we do not understand its operations. why a thing is. 3d. That men of rank We may learn hence: 1st. That the and office are as likely to be perplexed proper evidence of conversion is by these things as those in the obscurest effects on the life. 2d. That we are not and humblest walks of life. 4th. That too curiously to search for the cause or this is one reason why they so often re. manner of the change. 3d. That God ject the truths of the gospel. And, 5th. has power over the most hardened sin. That this is a very unwise treatment ner to change him, as he has power of truth, and a way which they do not pver the loftiest oak to bring it down apply to other things. If the wind. by a sweeping blast. 4th. That there cools and refreshes me in summer, it may be a great variety in the modes of matters little how it is. If it prostrates the operation of the Spirit. As the wind the oak, or lashes the sea into foam; if sometimes sweeps with a tempest, and it destroys my house or my grain, it prostrates all before it, and sometimes matters little how it is done. And so of breathes upon us in a mild evening the Spirit. If it renews my heart, zephyr, so it is with the operations of humbles my pride, subdues my sin the Spirit. The sinner sometimes trem- and comforts my soul, it is a matter o bles and is prostrate before the truth, little importance how it does all this did sometimes is sweetly and gently Sufficient for us is it to know that ii u drawn to the cross of Jesus. Where done, and to taste the blessings which il listeth. Where it wills or pleases. flow from the renewing and sancutying
So is every one, &c. Every one that grace of God. is born of the Spirit is, in some respects, 10. A muster of Israel. A teacher of like the effects of the wind. You see Israel : the same word that in the sec it not, you cannot discern its laws, but ond verse is translated teacher. As such you see il: effects, and you know there- a teacher, he ought to have inderstond
11 Verly, verily, I say unto thee, 12 If I have told you earthly • We speak that we do know, and things, and ye believe nut, how testify that we have seen; and ye shall ye believe if I tell you of receive not our witness.
heavenly things ? a 1 Jno.1.1-3.
this doctrine. It was not new, but was which he is communicating to others. clearly taught in the Old Testament. 3d. Every Sunday school teacher should See particularly Ps. li. 10, 16, 17. Eze. be able to say, 'I know what I am comxi. 19; xxxvi. 26. It may seem sur. municating ; I have experienced what prising that a man whose business it is meant by the new birth, and the love was to teach the people should be a of God, and the religion which I am stranger to so plain and important a doc- teaching. Testify. Bear witness t). trine. But when worldly-minded men [ That we have seen.
Jesus had seen are placed in offices of religion, when by his omniscient eye all the operations they seek those offices for the sake of of the Spirit on the heart. His minis. case or reputation, it is no wonder that ters have seen its effects as we see the hey are strangers to the plain truths of effects of the wind, and having seen he Bible. And there have been many, men changed from sin to holiness, they and there are still, who are in the min. are qualified to bear witness to the truth istry, to whom the plainest doctrines of and reality of the change. And every the gospel are obscure. No man can successful minister of the gospel thus understand the Bible fully unless he is becomes a witness of the saving power a humble Christian, and the easiest of the gospel. 1 Ye receive not. Ye way to comprehend the truths of• reli- Pharisees.' Though we give evidence gion is to give the heart to God, and of truth, though miracles are wrought, live to his glory. A child thus may and proof is given that this doctrine bave more real knowledge of the way came from heaven, yet you reject it. of salvation than many who are pre- T Our witness. Our testimony. The ended masters and teachers of Israel. evidence which is furnished by miracle, John vii. 17. Matt. xi. 25. Ps. viii. 2, and the saving power of the gospe! qompared with Matt. xxi. 16. TOf Men reject revelation though it is at, Israel. Of the Jews; of the Jewish tested by the strongest evidence, and aation.
though it is constantly producing chang 11. We speak. Jesus here speaks in es in the hearts and lives of men. che plural number, including himself 12. If I have told you. Things which and those engaged with him in preach occur on earth. Not sensual or worldly ing the gospel. Nicodemus had said things, for Jesus had said nothing of (ver. 2.) we know that thou art,” &c. these. But he had told him of opera including himself and those with whom tions of the Spirit which had occurred he acted. Jesus in reply said, we who on earth, whose effects were visible, are engaged in spreading the new doc- and which might be, therefore, betrines about which you have come to lieved. These were the plainest and inquire, speak what we know. We do most obvious of the doctrines of relinot deliver doctrines which we do not gion. 1 How shall ye believe. How. practically understand. This is a posi- will you believe. Is there any probalive affirmation of Jesus, which he had bility that you will understand them ? a right to make about his new doctrine. 1 Heavenly things. Things pertaining He knew its truth; and those who to the government of God, and his docame into his kingdom knew it also. ings in the heavens, whicli are removed We learn here : Ist. That the Pnari- from human view, and which cannot be secs taught doctrines which they did subjected to human sight. The more not practically understand. They taught profound and inscrutable things permuch truth (Matt. xxiii. 2); but they taining to the redemption of men. were deplorably ignorant of the plainest Learn hence, lst. The height and depth matters in their practical application. of the doctrines of religion. There is 2d. Every minister of the gospel ought much that we cannot yet understand. to be able to appeal to his own experi-2d. The obscurities of our minds; the ence, and say that he knuws the truth I feebleness of ur understandings; the