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gives reason for expecting good; and the honest mind is confirmed in its ideas, although we hear the great Master decidedly pronounce, in the language of reproof, to the inquirer who approached him with a complimentary address :-"Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? None is good, save one, that is,God." The Redeemer knew, that this ruler of the people, did not acknowledge him to be what he really was, Emmanuel, God with us, and, therefore, he said unto him, why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. But on this, and every similar occasion, we should do well to distinguish the species of excellence which we would imitate or describe. There is natural good, moral good, and spiritual good. This ruler of the people, attributed to our Saviour spiritual good, which could only belong to his divine Nature, which divine Nature was hidden from the view of the complimenter. How eager is our divine Master to set the inquirer right. "Why callest thou me good? Thou dost not know, that the Father and I are one. None is good save one, that is, God." Yet, there are who dare to affirm, that although the Redeemer was not the only wise God, he was, nevertheless, a very good man. Thus, they ignorantly make God, in our nature, a liar out of his own mouth.
Those who resemble this said ruler, are fond of conferring the character good, even in the superlative, upon sinful man; and it is in this spirit, they transfer the character, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile, from the Redeemer, the immaculate Redeemer, to whom only it properly belonged, to Nathanael! I regard this as an astonishing instance of the prevalence, and ascendency of the pharisaical spirit over the minds of our fellow men. Let me carefully analyze this passage. One of our LORD's disciples meeteth a friend, and eager to communicate unto him a piece of intelligence, by which he himself was greatly elevated, saith unto him, "We have found him of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph, and we believe, he is the long expected, the promised seed, the Shiloh, he who will restore Israel." Nazareth was a town in Galilce of no reputation; the Jews entertained great contempt for the Galileans; and hence the propriety of Nathanael's question, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" The Jews knew, that Messiah was to be that good
thing, without a shade of evil, that he was to be, agreeably to the prophecies of their inspired writers, the child born, the son given, the almighty Father, the mighty God, the Prince of peace. Nathanael therefore could hardly forbear questioning, Can this good thing, can any good come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see. Do not let prejudice so far tyrannise over your mind, as to prevent your seeing, examining and judging for yourself. The requst might have resulted from the soundest reasoning, and it was properly influential upon the simple, honest mind of Nathanael. He complied with the requisition of his friend, and immediately proceeded to visit the Nazarene, that he might by occular demonstration settle this important point, whether this Nazarene was indeed that perfect character, which they were taught to believe, would distinguish the expected Messiah, that from the testimony of his own eyes, he might form a judgment by the appearance, by the conduct, by the power of Jesus of Nazareth, whether he were indeed the Messiah. As they drew near the subject of their conversation, the Saviour, to whom the secret recesses of every heart is open, and who was consequently acquainted with the purpose for which they approached him, called to Nathanael in whose mind doubt predominated, to see and judge for himself. Behold your all perfect head, Behold an Israelite indeed in whom is no guile. Yea, a sinless, guileless Being, although proceeding out of Nazareth.
This observation forcibly struck the mind of this doubting man; but how the master should know, that such were his doubts, greatly perplexed him. Whence knowest thou me, said Nathanael, that calling me by name, you bid me behold precisely such a character, as I supposed could not come out of Nazareth. Whence comes your knowledge of me, of my conversation with Philip, and of my doubts? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig-tree, I saw thee. Thus was the whole soul of Nathanael interested and captivated. Had the conversation between Philip and Nathanael, turned on the character of Nathanael, and had this conversation convinced the Nazarene of the sanctity and guileless sincerity of the man, there would have been some rational ground for the idea, that the excellence spoken of was proper to Nathanael, and we might have conclud
ed, that although as a man, he was a sinner; yet like some others among his fellow mortals, he was at least a holy sinner, and that the great master was constrained in the face of his own testimony, to render to Nathanael this tribute of praise.
Had, I say, the conversation between him and Philip, turned upon the excellence of Nathanael's character, without reverting to the individual, whom the Jews expected as the promised Messiah, there would have been some resemblance of propriety in the generally received opinion; but not a single sentence of this sort is recorded. Philip conceived, and he conceived justly, that he had made a most important discovery, that he had found him of whom Moses and the Prophets had written. It is observable, that when Jesus gave this disciple to understand, that he saw him under the fig-tree, he was, with the women of Samaria, convinced of the truth of Philip's report, for he answered and said unto him, " Rabbi, thou art the Son of God, thou art the King of Israel. But Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig-tree, believest thou? Thou shalt see greater things than these; thou shalt have greater proofs of my divinity, thou shalt see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and decending upon the Son of man."
But Nathanael's goodness does not wound me; I am no more solicitous respecting him, than I am respecting any other individual among my fellow men. Yet it is of the last importance to me, that the excellence of his master's character should be established; because, upon the God-man, my life depends, and if it can be proved, that he has given a contradictory or variant report, before such a decision, my hopes of happiness would instantaneously vanish. Guile is guilt, sin. Jesus had said, there is none good but God. But if he said, Nathanael was guileless, he then said he was without sin; and what then becomes of the consistency of his testimony. But, if when he said, behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile; if we may venture to believe, that he then meant to correct the prejudices of Nathanael by a reference to himself, to call upon him, to acknowledge, that some good thing could come out of Nazareth, that he himself came out of Nazareth, although an Israelite indeed, in whom was no guile, then as our great high Priest was holy, harmless, and undefiled, the scriptures harmonize, the consistenVOL. III.
cy of the sacred volume is preserved, they are without contradiction.
It must be confessed, that the mistake which has obtained respecting this passage, is countenanced by the preposition of, in the text. Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, the him repeated, without attending to the previous conversation, would, to a mind predisposed to consider Jesus Christ as celebrating the praises of Nathanael, induce a conclusion in favour of the received opinion. However, let this disciple be as meritorious and as guileless as he may, it is for my happiness, that the being, whom he acknowledged to be the Son of Gody is the friend of sinners, and not in word only, but in deed and in truth. The friendship of Emmanuel is not like the friendship of the creature, it is powerful, it is life, it is godliness. In fact, Jesus is all-sufficient for me. Let but the teaching spirit take of the things of Jesus, and show them unto me, and I am completely blessed.
I should rejoice to see all the virtues, which either in fact or fancy, adorn human nature, continually increasing among mankind. But the virtues which adorn human nature in time or in eternity, are found in Christ Jesus, and, blessed be the name of my God, all that is found in Christ Jesus belongeth unto me, and all that is found in me belongeth unto him. The character of Nathanael is distinguished, yet he doubted, and he who doubteth, says the sacred volume, is damned. With all the excellence then, which is attributed to this character, he deserved damnation or condemnation; yet he was saved in and by the LORD with an everlasting salvation. Although mankind have no particular interest in Nathanael as an individual, yet they will defend his character, even at the risk of robbing the Redeemer of his triumphant crown.
But I am persuaded this is not the design of God's children, who receive their ideas from tradition, and having thus received them, they mistake them for their own, and cherish them as the most precious truths; nor can they forbear distinguishing between the interests of morality, and the interests of Christ Jesus. May the spirit of truth lead our minds into all truth.
Reflections upon JAMES v. 20, 21.
I HAVE often wondered, at the many attempts that have been made, both from the pulpit and the press, to set at odds the apostles, Paul and James. James, say they, is an Armenian, and Paul a Calvinist.
This subject formerly embarrassed me-but the spirit of peace, by pointing me to Jesus, hath led me into the knowledge of his truth. Paul and James were taught by the same spirit, but great confusion is made in the mind of professing christians for want of discrimination. The salvation begun, carried on, and completed by the Redeemer of the world, is one thing, it is the foundation-other foundation can no man lay; it is the rock of ages, upon which the church is built; but the salvation wrought in us, when we believe, that this foundation is laid in Zion; the salvation which exempts us from that fear, which hath torment, which fear is the portion of the unbeliever; this salvation is distinct from the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; it is the superstructure, which is reared upon the foundation.
I am, saith the Saviour, the truth and the fact is, there is no truth of permanent consequence, which is not found in the Redeemer. The truth as it is in Jesus is our life, our hope, our redemption. This truth is sufficient for every purpose, both for time and for eternity. In Christ Jesus all things consist; it pleased the Father that in him all fulness should dwell. Every one who is taught of God is acquainted with this truth, and it is therefore that as teachers of their fellow-men, they determine to know nothing among their fellow-men, save Christ Jesus, and him crucified.
This resolution becomes a fixed principle with every sent servant of the living God, and it is a fixed principle with every one that hath learned of the Father, to hear no other voice, than that of the good Shepherd.