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raise it up. 20 Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? 21 But he spake of the temple of his body. 22 When therefore, he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said,
Observe here, 1. How exceedingly offended the Jews were at the reformation which our Saviour had made in the house of God; they were awed indeed with the majesty of this great work, and durst not openly oppose, but secretly malign it. Thence note, That redress of abuses in God's worship, especially if it crosses our ease, and controls our profit, (as this did,) is usually distasted. Observe, 2. How these Jews discover their old inveterate disease of infidelity; they require a sign, and call for a miracle to justify Christ's commission. Why! had they not a miracle before their eyes? Was not the work of purging the temple a wonderful miracle? Yet they demanded another miracle to make this good. Learn thence, That obstinate infidelity will not be satisfied with the most sufficient means for satisfaction, but still object and oppose against the clearest, the fullest, and most convincing evidence. What sign sht~aest thou us? say the Jews, when they had so many signs and wonders daily before their eyes. Observe, 3. The Jews demanding a sign, our Saviour grants them one; he remits them to his death and resurrection, to prove that he was the true Messiah. Destroy this temple, and in thrie days I will raise it up. That is, " I know you will destroy this temple of my body, by putting me to death; but I will raise myself again from the grave the third day." Christ did not command them to destroy his body, but only foretold that llicy would do it. Hon est verbum Pracepti, sed Pradictionis: "The words are not imperative, but only predictive and permissive." Christ did not hid them destroy his body, but foretells what they would do. "Ye will destroy this temple, but after three days I will raise it up." Where note, That Christ asserts his own power in raising his own body from the dead. True! The Father is often said to raise him, and it is necessary that it be so said, that it might appear that divine justice
was fully satisfied for our sins, in that be was by him delivered from that death which he underwent for us. But yet it is often asserted, That Christ raised himself, and that he was quickened by the Spirit, which was as well the Spirit of the Son, as of the Father, dwelling essentially in him. Now from Christ's foretelling his passion and resurrection, learn thence, that all our Saviour's sufferings were foreknown unto him, were foretold by him; he would not prevent them, but willingly permitted them, and cheerfully underwent them. Destroy this temple. Note here, 1. The state and dignity of Christ's holy body: Tis a temple. He spake of the temple of his body. The saints' bodies are temples by special sanctification: Christ's body was a temple by substantial inhahitation. The divinity of Christ dwelt in his humanity personally and immediately. God dwells in saints by regal authority: he dwelt in Christ's humanity by personal residence. Note, 2. The violence and indignity ofiered lo this holy temple at our Saviour's death, it was pulled down and destroyed; death dissolved the union betwixt our Saviour's soul and body ; but there was a closer union, which no violence of death could dissolve: namely, the union of his godhead with his manhood; this was incapable either of dissolution or destruction. Note, 3. The repairing, restoring, and raising up of this temple out of the ruins of it, by our Saviour's resurrection. In three days lwill raise it up. Observe, A full proof of our Saviour's divinity. To raise a dead man exceeds the power of nature ; but for a dead man to raise himself, requires the power of God. We read of dead men rased by others; but none but Christ ever raised himself. The Jews could not say, he rased others from the grave, himself he could not raise. Inference, 1. Was Christ's body a temple? so shall ours be too; temples for the Holy Ghost to dwell in. Temples by special appropriation, temples by solemn consecration, temples by actual employment: If any man defile this temple, him sriV/ God destroy. 2. Was the temple of Christ's body pulled down by death, and destroyed; so must also the temples of our bodies ere long. The temple of his body was pulled down for our sm; the temples of our bodies ruined by our sin. Sin brought mortality into our natuies, and the wages of our sin is death. 3. Was the temple of Christ's body repaired in the morning of the resurrection? so shall the temple of our bodies also, if we be the members of Christ by a vital union. Thy dead men, O blessed Redeemer! shall live; together with thy dead body shall they arise. Awake then and sing, ye that dwell in the dust, for the dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead, Isa. xxvi. 19.
23 Now, when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feastday, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. '24 But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men.
Observe here, What influence the sight of our Saviour's miracles had upon many of the common people, They believed in his name, when they saw the miracles -which he did; that is, they were convinced by the works which our Saviour wrought that he came from God, and what he said and did was really true, and no imposture. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men. Our Saviour did not, and would not trust them who yet believed on his name. Thence note, That a naked assent to the history of the gospel is not sufficient to entitle us to saving faith. We may assent to the truth of all that we find there, and yet be far from the kingdom of God. Saving faith implies more than the assent of the understanding to the truths of the gospel. We cannot believe or disbelieve what we please, but must needs assent to what is evident to our understanding; so that it is possible for a man to assent to the truth of christianity and yet remain in a state of damnation. If he doth not embrace it as good, as well as assent to it as true; if ourfaith be not the parent and principle of obedience; if our belief doth not influence our practice; though we pass for believers amongst men, we are no better than unbelievers in the account of Christ. If we believe Jesus to be the true Messiah, and do not receive him in all his offices; if we commit ourselves to his saving mercy, but do not submit ourselves to his ruling power; if we desire him for our Saviour, but disown him for our sovereign; if we expect salvation by him, and do not yield subjection to hiai j we put a cheat upon ourselves: for he only believes as he should, that lives as he does believe.
25 And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.
St. John's design in writing of this gospel being to assert the divinity of Christ, he scatters evidences of it in almost every chapter. Here he declares his omniscience, lie knew what was in man; that is, being God blessed for ever, he had an exact knowledge of the hearts of men, not by any revelation of men's hearts from God, but by immediate intuition from himself. He knows all men, and all that is in men. See here an ample testimony of the divinity of Christ, his knowledge of the secrets of the hearts of all men, which is declared to be the undoubted property of God alone, 1 Kings viii. 39. Thou only knowest the hearts of all the children of men.
^HERE was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabhi, 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.
The former part of this chapter acquaints us with that famous conference which our blessed Saviour had with Nicodemus. This man was by sect a Pharisee; which signifies a person separated and set apart for the study of the law of God, and to teach it unto others; and by calling or profession a ruler of the Jews, that is probably one of the Jews' Sanhedrim, a chief person in their ecclesiastical court and council. Consider we Nicodemus first as a Pharisee, which sort of men were filled with inveterate prejudice and enmity against Christ: yet from hence we may gather, that such is the efficacy of divine grace, that it sometimes convinces and converts also those that are the greatest enemies to Christ, and fiercest opposers of him. No such hitter enemies to Christ as the Pharisees; yet behold Nicodemus, a Pharisee, coming to him, convinced and converted by him! Consider him, secondly, as a ruler of the Jews, as a person of place and power, making a figure in the world Though they were generally the poor which followed Christ, yet some of the great and rich men of the world, as Nicodemus, a master of Israel, and Joseph of Arimathea, an honourable counsellor, are called to Christ, and received by him: lest, if he had admitted illiterate and simple men only, the world might have thought that they were deceived through their simplicity. Observe farther, The time when- Nicodemus came to Christ: it was by night, partly out of shame, lest the world should think that such a knowing man as he was, wanted instruction; and partly out of fear; he had something to lose, and therefore durst not own Christ publicly. However, our dear Lord upbraids hini not with his timorousness, but graciously condescends to instruct him in the fundamental principle of christianity, the great doctrine of regeneration. Such is the tenderness of our compassionate Saviour, that he will not extinguish the least spark of holy fire, nor quench the smoking flax.
3 Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, be cannot see the kingdom of God.
Christ here acquaints Nicodemus, and in him all persons, That there must be a change from nature to grace, before there can be a change from grace to glory; for though he was a Jew, a doctor, and one that had good thoughts of Christ, looking upon him as an extraordinary person, one that had received power from God to work miracles; yet Christ assures him, that nothing short of the regenerating change would bring him to heaven. Tis not enough that we be new dressed, but we must be new made; that is, thoroughly and universally changed, the understanding by illumination, the will by renovation, the affections by sanctification, the life by reformation, or we can never come at heaven: we must be like God, or we can never live with him; -if we be not like' him in the temper of our minds or) earth, we can never be happy in the enjoyment of him in heaven; for heaven, which is a place of the greatest holiness, would be a place of the greatest uneasiness to an unregencrate and an unholy person: the contagion is universal, deep, and inward, therefore such must the change be.
4 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?
Two things are observable in this question of Nicodemus, How can a man he horn when he is old? 1. His iguoraace and weakness in propounding of such a question. So true is that of the apostle, 1. Cor. ii. 14. The natural man receivcth not the things of the Spirit of God. What a gross conception had this learned man of the notion of regeneration! How ignorant is nature of the workings of grace! Men of name and note, of great parts and profound learning, are very often much at a loss in spiritual matters. Yet, 2. In this- question of his, there is discovered a great deal of plainness and simplicity: he did not come, as usually the Pharisees did, with an ensnaring question in his mouth, but with a mind fairly disposed for information and conviction; with a pious desire to be instructed. Whatever ignorance we labour under, it is safest and best to discover it to our spiritual guide, that we may attain the mercy of a saving knowledge; but how many had rather carry their ignorance to hell with them, than discover it to then minister!
5 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.
Nicodemus not rightly understanding Christ's meaning in the former verse, our Saviour is pleased to explain himself in this, and tells him, That the hirth be spake of was not natural, but spiritual, wrought in the soul by the Spirit of God, wbtae working is like water, cleansing and purifying the soul from all sinful defilement. Learn hence, That the regenerating change a wrought in the soul by the Spirit of God, which purifies it from its natural defilement, and renews it after the divine likeness and image. We never understand divine truths aright, till Christ opens our understandings; till then they will be denied, nay perhaps derided, even by those that are profoundly learned.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
As if Christ had said, "As men generate men, and nature begets nature, so the Holy Spirit produceth holy inclmations , qualifications, and dispositions.'' uOT hence, That as original corruption is conveyed by natural generation, so saving regeneration is the effect and product of the Holy Spirit's operation.
7 Marvel not that 1 said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but caust not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
Nicodemus making an exception against our Saviour's notion of regeneration, from the absurdity and impossihility of it, (as he thought,) our Saviour therefore proceeds to clear the matter by a similitude taken from the wind, which at once declares the author and describes the manner of spiritual regeneration. The author of it is the Holy Spirit of God, compared to the wind; First, for the quality of its motion, // Hours ip/if n and where it listeth. Secondly, From the sensibleness of its effect, Thou nearest the sound thereof. Thirdly, From the intricacy or mysteriousness of its proceeding, Thou knowest not -whence it cometh, nor whither it goeth. As the natural wind is not under the power of man, either to send it out or restrain it; it bloweth where it listeth for all us, tho' not where it listeth in regard to God. In like manner, the Holy Spirit is as wind in the freeness of its motion, and in the variableness of its motion also. Learn hence, That the way and work of the Holy Spirit of God, in the soul's regeneration, is oft-times very secret, and usually exceedingly various. Various as to the time: some are wrought upon in youth, others in old age. Various in his methods of working; some are wrought upon by the corrosives of the law, others by the lenitives of the gospel. Various in the manner of his working, and in the means by which he works: upon some by a powerful ordinance, upon others by an awakening providence. But though there be such variety in the method of the Spirit's working, yet is the work in all still the same. There is no variety in the work wrought. The effect produced by the Holy Spirit in the work of regeneration is alike, and the same in all; namely, likeness to God; a conformity in our natures to the holy nature of God j and a conformity in our lives to the will of God. Again, It is .a very secret work, and therefore compared to the wind. We hear the wind blow, we feel it blow, we observe its mighty force, and admire its strange effects; but we can
not describe its nature, nor declare its original. Thus the Holy Spirit in a secret and hidden manner quickens and influences our souls. The effects of its operations we sensibly discern; but how and after what manner he doth it, we know no more than how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child. Therefore it is called an hidden life, Col. iii. 2. It is not only totally hidden from carnal men, but in part hidden and unknown to spiritual men, though they themselves are the subject of it.
0 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? 10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? 11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. 12 If 1 have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things.
Observe here, 1. How Nicodemus, consulting only with carnal reason, persists in his apprehension concerning the absurdity and impossihility of our Saviour's notion of regeneration, or being born of the Spirit. Nicodemus said, How can these things be .* Learn hence, That the great cause of men's ignorance in matters of salvation, and the mysteries of religion, is consulting their own natural reason without submitting their understandings to the authority ofdivine revelation. Till they can give a reason for every thing they believe, they cry out with Nicodemus, How can these things be? Whereas, though we cannot give a reason for all gospel mysteries which we believe, we can give a good reason why we believe them, namely, because God hath revealed them. No man can be a christian who refuses to submit his understanding to the authority of divine revelation. Observe, 2. How our Saviour reproves Nicodemus for, and upbraids him with, his ignorance, ver. 10. and his infidelity, ver. 12. First his ignorance is reproved, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? As if Christ had said, " Ignorance in any, as to the fundamentals of religion, is shameful, though but in a common learner, much more in a teacher and master, and he a teacher and master in Israel: now ihou art one of them, and yet knowest not these
things! Learn hence, 1. That a man may be very knowing himself, and take upon him to teach and instruct others, and yet be very ignorant of the nature, and much unacquamted with the work, of regeneration upon his own soul: a man may be very sharp-sighted, as the eagle, in the mysteries of art and nature, and yet blind as a mole in the things of God. 2. That ignorance, in the fundamentals of religion especially, is very culpable and shameful in any that enjoy the means of knowledge, but especially in those that undertake to teach and instruct others. Art thou a teacher, thou a master in Jsrael, and knowest not these things? Next, our Saviour upbraidshim for his infidelity, ver. 12. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not. This infidelity received its aggravation from the facility, and perspicuity of our Saviour's doctrine. I have told you earthly things; that is, I have set forth spiritual things by earthly similitudes, not in a style suitable to the sublimity of their own nature. Let the ministers of Christ learn from their master's example, in all their discourses to accommodate themselves, and descend as low as may be, to the capacities of their people: I have told you earthly things. 2. That even spiritual things, when they are shadowed forth by earthly similitudes, and brought down in the plainest manner to the capacities of their people, yet are they very slow to understand them, and very backward to believe them. I have told you of earthly things, and ye believe them not.
13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
Here our Saviour declares to Nicodemus, That none ever ascended up into heaven, to fetch down from thence the knowledge of divine mysteries, and to reveal the way of life and salvation to mankind by a Mediator, but only Christ himself; who, though he took upon him the human nature, and was then man upon earth, yet was he at the saijge,.tirne in his divine nature actually in heavtmjps God. This text evidently proves tvraEstinct natures in Christ; namely, a divine nature as he was God, and an human nature as man. In his human nature, he was then upon earth, when he spake these words; in his divine nature, he was at that instant in heaven. Here
observe, That the Son of God hath taken the human nature, into so close and intimate a union with bis godhead, and what is proper to either nature is ascribed unto the person of our Saviour. The same person who was on earth as the Son of man, who was then in heaven as God, and yet but one person still. Lord! what love hast thou shown to our human nature, that under that name thou ascribest to thyself what is proper to thy Godhead! The Son of man which is in heaven. The Socinians produce this text, to prove that Christ after his baptism was taken up into heaven, there to be made acquainted with the will of God, to fit him for the execution of his prophetical office here on earth, and that for this reason he was said to be in the beginning -with God, as Moses before him was taken up into the mount, and taught by God. But, 1. We have not the least word of any such thing in Scripture, though we have a particular account of our Saviour's birth, circumcision, baptism, doctrine, miracle?, death, resurrection, ascension, yea, of small things compared with this; as his flight into Egypt, his sitting on a pinnacle of the temple ; yet not a word of his assumption into heaven. 2. There was no need of it, because Almighty God could reveal himself to Christ, as well as to other prophets, out of heaven as well as in it: besides, Christ was fitted for his prophetic office by the unction of the Spirit he received here on earth; and therefore this assent was altogether needless.
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up; 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but hare eternal life.
Christ having instructed Nicodetmis in the doctrine of. regeneration in the former verses, here be instructs him in the death of the Messiah, and in the necessity of faith in his death. The Son of man must be lifted up; that is, upon the cross, and die: "that whosoever believeth in him should not perish. Observe here, 1. An Old Testament type which our Saviour refers to, and that is, the braien serpent in the wilderness, the history of which is recorded, Sumb. xxi. 7, 8. Obs. 2. The antitype, or the substance of what that type did shadow forth: the brazen serpent's lifting up upon the pole, prefiguring Christ's exaltation or