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in the other, he said he only projected to do. For which reason, we may suppose, if we please, that the Jews dated the rebuilding of the temple from Herod's proposal to repair it, rather than from his actually falling about the work. The proposal was made, probably, at the passover, in the eighteenth year of his reign, from the death of Antigonus, A. U. 734. And forty-six years, the time mentioned by the Jews, and it brings us to the passover, A. U. 780, A. D. 27, the year after John began his ministry, reckoning the fifteenth year of Tiberius from its commencement two years before the death of Augustus, as Suetonius has fixed it. Or, though the offer was made by Herod at any other of the great feasts that year, it will occasion a difference only of a few months. Herod finished what he proposed in about eight or nine years' time, for he reared the temple itself in the space of one year and an half, that is, made it fit for the sacred ministrations in that time, and the cloisters in eight years. But, it seems, a number of workmen had, for many years after, been constantly employed in beautifying and improving the buildings of the temple; for the whole was not finished before the arrival of the procurator Florus, A. D. 65, as Josephus expressly testifies, Antiq. xx. 8, where he also informs us, that the people employed in this work amounted to eighteen thousand, and that they were paid out of the sacred treasury. The saying, therefore, of the Jews to our Lord, [Jchn ii. 20.] is perfectly consistent with the account which Josephus has given; for though the reparation of the temple might, in so long a tract of years, meet with interruptions, it is probable they were short, and not worth mentioning.

During the whole of this passover our Lord performed many miracles, on purpose to engage the attention of the people. They read, every day, in their sacred books, astonishing accounts of miracles; but it was several ages since any thing supernatural had happened among them publicly. Wherefore, miracles being now revived again, they were beheld, no doubt, with great pleasure, and made a strong impression upon the spectators, leading many of them to believe in Jesus as the Messiah. Now, when he was at Jerusalem, at the passover, in the feast day, or rather during the feast, i. e. the whole days of the solemnity, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, did not discover himself to be the Messiah, because he knew all men, had perfect knowledge of their dispositions. And needed not that any should testify of man, for he knew what was in man: on the present occasion, he knew that the belief of many was not yet grown up to a full conviction, and foresaw that they would quickly fall off when they found he was rejected by the great men, and did not erect a secular empire.

Of his knowledge of men's minds our Lord gave a remarkable proof in a conversation he had, during this passover, with one Nicodemus, of the sect of the Pharisees, and a member of the council, or, as others suppose, a ruler of some synagogue. This doctor had heard our Lord's miracles much talked of, perhaps, had seen some of them, and, like many of his countrymen, was thinking that he who did such things must be Messiah. On the other hand, the meanness of his appearance occasioned scruples which he could not remove. In this state of doubtfulness he resolved to wait on Jesus, that, by conversing with him personally, he might find out the truth. [John iii. 1, 2.] He came to Jesus privately for fear of his brethren of the council, who, from the very beginning, were Christ's enemies, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God, for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Christ's miracles left Nicodemus. no room to doubt of his mission from God, yet they did not prove him to be the Messiah, because he had not as yet called himself by that name, at least, in the hearing of Nicodemus. Wherefore, when the latter told Jesus that he believed him to he a teacher come from God, he insinuated Q

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that, at present, he did not believe on him as Messiah, but that he would believe if he assumed that character; and, by these insinuations, modestly requested Jesus to explain himself with regard to his pretensions. It is remarkable that the evangelist introduces this passage of the history with observing, that Jesus knew the thoughts of all men. Probably, he meant to signify, that, in the course of the conversation, he prevented Nicodemus, by forming his discourse to him in such a manner as to obviate all the objections which his thoughts had suggested, without giving him time to propose them. This will appear the more forcibly if we consider the following brief statement of the subjects of this conversation, as given by Dr. Doddridge. Our Lord touches on the following grand points, in which it was of the utmost importance that Nicodemus and his brethren should be informed. That no external profession, nor any ceremonial observances or privileges of birth, could entitle any to the blessings of the Messiah's kingdom-that an entire change of heart and life was necessary to that purpose that this must be accomplished by a divine influence on the mind :that mankind were in a state of condemnation and misery :-that the free mercy of God had given his Son to deliver them from it, and to raise them to a blessed immortality, which was the great design and purpose of his coming-that all mankind, that is, Gentiles as well as Jews, were to share in the benefits of his undertaking that they were to be procured by his being lifted up on the cross, and to be received by faith in him but that if they rejected him there was no other remedy, and their eternal aggravated condemnation would be the certain consequence of it. Our Lord might enlarge more copiously on these heads, which it might be the more proper to do, as some of them were directly contrary to the notions commonly entertained by the Jews concerning the Messiah's kingdom. [John iii. 3.] Jesus answered and said unto him, verily, verily, I say unto thee, Exccpt a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God, i. e. cannot enter into it, just as to see death is to die. By the Jews being begotten and born again, our Lord meant that their notions of things should be rectified, and their inclinations changed, particularly the notions concerning the secular grandeur of the Messiah, and their passion for sensual enjoyments, their error concerning the immutability of the Mosaic law, and their hatred of heathens, more for their opposition to the Jewish institutions than for the wickedness of their lives. He meant, also, that their manners were to be greatly reformed, even in matters which, they pretended, were allowed by the law; for example, they were to abstain from all degrees of lust, profane swearing, revenge, and uncharitableness. Nor was this change of opinions, dispositions, and actions, necessary to the Jews only. The Gentiles, likewise, needed to be begotten and born again, in order to their entering into the kingdom of God; for they entertained very low and dishonourable sentiments of the perfections of God, of the worship that is due to him, and of the method of appeasing him, not to mention that they erred in many essential points of morality, and, in their practise, came far short of their own imperfect ideas of virtue. Nay, to make even them, who, from their infancy, have been blessed with the gospel, the true subjects of God's kingdom, there must be a total change of opinions, inclinations, and actions, wrought in them; for as the apostle tells us, Ï Cor. ii. 14. The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God. Conversion, therefore, has, in all ages, been a great and surprizing effect of the divine power upon the human mind, producing a change, the full extent of which cannot be better expressed than by the terms regeneration, begetting again, new birth, which import the communication of a new nature, And upon the diversity of men's dispositions before and after the change, are founded the names of old and new man, by which the apostle denominates our unconverted and converted states; as if, when converted, men obtained a nature es

sentially different from what they had before. Nicodemus hearing Jesus affirm that the posterity of Abraham needed a second generation and birth, to fit them for becoming the people of God, could not take his words in the sense which he, with other doctors, commonly affixed to them, when speaking of proselytes; because, so applied, they signified conversion to Judaism, a thing not applicable to Jews. Not doubting, therefore, that Jesus spake of a second natural generation and birth, he was exceedingly surprised. Nicodemus saith unto him, how can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water, and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God; or, in plain terms, whosoever would become a regular member of it, he must not only be baptized, but, as ever he desires to share in its spiritual and eternal blessings, he must experience the renewing and sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit on his soul, to cleanse it from the power of corruption, and to animate it to a divine and spiritual life. For, were it possible for a man to be born again, in the literal sense that you have mentioned, by entering a second time into his mother's womb, such a second birth would do no more to qualify him for the kingdom of God than the first; for that which is born of the flesh is only flesh, and what proceeds, and is produced from parents that are sinful and corrupt, is sinful and corrupt as they are; but that which is born of the Spirit is formed to a resemblance of that blessed Spirit, whose office it is to infuse a divine life into the soul.


Wonder not, therefore, that I said unto thee, and have declared it as a truth that you are concerned in, that you yourselves, although you are Jews, and Pharisees, and rulers of the people, yet must be born again, since the degeneracy of the human nature is of so universal an extent as to be common to you all. Nor have you any cause to be surprized if there be some things in this doctrine of regeneration which are of an obscure and unsearchable nature, for, even in the natural world, many things are so. The wind, for instance, bloweth where it will, sometimes one way, and sometimes another, and is not subject to the direction or command of men, and thou hearest the sound thereof, and feelest its sensible and powerful effects, yet thou canst not exactly tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth; for whatever general principles may be laid down concerning it, when you come to account for its particular variations, the greatest philosophers often find themselves at a loss and, in like manner, so it is with every one that is born of the Spirit; and you are so far from being capable of accounting for it, that it is easy to be seen there is a sovereign freedom in that divine agency, which makes it oftentimes impossible to say why it is imparted to one rather than to another; and there is a secret in the manner of its operation on the mind, which it is neither necessary to know, nor possible to explain. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, how can these things he? Jesus answered and said unto him, art thou a master in Israel, and knowest not these things? Our Lord having, all along, spoken to Nicodemus in the common dialect of the Jewish divinity schools, might justly express his surprize, that he, who was a doctor in Israel, did not understand him. For, though he affixed a meaning to the word regeneration a little different from what it bare in the mouths of the doctors, it was plainly analogous to their sense of it, and so might easily have been understood, even by a novice; the admission of a proselyte being looked on, by the Jews, as a second birth to him, his parents and relations were no longer reckoned such, and the proselyte himself was thought to have received a new soul by the change of his religion.

Farther, Jesus told Nicodemus he was to blame for rejecting the new birth, since the person who taught it was certain of its truth.

doctrine of the Verily, verily,

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