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After a thousand proofs of his Divine mission, the Jews were wicked and desperate enough, with sacrilegious hands to destroy the temple of Christ's body but let us be thankful for the undoubted evidence we have, that, as an everlasting monu. ment of his power and truth, he raised it again in three days!
Happy will it be for us if we cordially believe a gospel so gloriously attested; but most vain will that belief be which doth not penetrate and influence the heart. Let us remember that we have to do with him, that formed our nature and is most intimately acquainted with all its recesses. He knows what is in man; may he see nothing in us which shall not be thoroughly agreeable to the profession we make of being his faithful disciples !
To conclude; let us learn, from the caution which Jesus used, not rashly to put ourselves and our usefulness into the power of others; but to study a wise and happy medium between that universal prejudice and suspicion, which, while it wrongs the best and the most worthy characters, would deprive us of all the pleasures of an intimate friendship, and that undistinguishing easiness and openness of temper which might make us the property of every hypocritical pretender to kindness and respect.
THERE was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, 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. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 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. That which is born of the flesh, is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest
the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?
He that hath ears to hear, let him hear with attention what the blessed Redeemer said on this great occasion. It is surely a matter of universal concern: for who would not desire to enter into the kingdom of God? to be an acceptable member of Christ's church now, and an heir of glory beyond the grave?-But how is this blessing to be expected and secured? Thus saith the Lord himself, Unless a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.-Let us remember therefore that it is not enough that a new name be given us, or that a new profession be assumed; it is not enough that we are descended from the most pious ancestors, that we have been externally devoted to God by the early seal of his covenant, or that we openly have made a solemn and express profession of our own faith and obedience, and have been born of baptismal water in our riper years! There must be a new nature implanted, a new creation formed in our souls by the almighty energy of the eternal Spirit, or it had been better for us that we had never been born at all.
That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and as we all proceed from a corrupt original, we do not more evidently bear the image of the earthly Adam in the infirmities of a mortal body than in the degeneracy of a corrupt mind. Oh, let us earnestly intreat that being born of the sanctifying influences of the Spirit, we may bear the image of the heavenly! And to these influences let us with all humility and thankfulness be ready to yield up our souls, as remembering that they are of a free and sovereign nature, like the wind that bloweth where it will, and does not stay for the command of the children of men.
Let none of us indulge a vain and useless curiosity with respect to the manner of the Spirit's operations, or wonder that we meet with some things that are secret and unknown in matters of a spiritual nature, when we see daily there are so many things unknown in the common appearances of the natural world, and indeed so few that we can perfectly understand.
May the pride of a falsely pretended reason be subdued to the authority of faith. And more especially, may such as are teachers in Israel, or who are designed for that important office, take their instructions with all humility from this
teacher sent from God! For it must surely be not only their calamity, but that too of the church in general, if its guides continue ignorant of those sublime and spiritual truths which Christ came down from heaven to reveal, or are so biassed by the carnal reasonings of a depraved mind as to be indisposed and backward to receive them.
JOHN III. 12-21.
VERILY, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen: and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world: but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
How happy is it for us that, since none of the children of men ever ascended up into heaven to learn the mysteries of Divine knowledge there, the only begotten Son of God has been pleased to come down from thence that he might instruct us! He spake what he knew, and testified what he had seen; Oh
that men were so wise as to receive his testimony, be the discoveries ever so new or the doctrines ever so sublime!
Let us with peculiar pleasure attend unto that abstract of the gospel which he exhibited in this profitable and comprehensive discourse with Nicodemus.—It presents to our view Christ, and him crucified. It opens the treasures of Divine beneficence and compassion, and shews us the Father of mercies so loving a world, which he might justly have abhorred and destroyed, as to give his only begotten Son to be a ransom for it.
Let us behold him lifted up on the cross as the great attractive to whom all were to be drawn! In him shall we find the Divine cure for our souls, infected as they are with the poison of sin, if we behold him not merely with a curious but a believing eye. Whatever our wounds be, if in the exercise of faith we look to him, we shall not die of them; but it is owing to our own obstinacy and impenitence if we yet perish.
He might justly have appeared in a different form for the condemnation of sinners, rather than their salvation. The Son of God might have come into an apostate world armed with thunderbolts of flaming vengeance to punish the violation of his Father's law; but his hands are filled with eternal blessings.
As we love our own souls, let us apply to him in time for this salvation. Let us dread the aggravated condemnation of those who, when light is come into the world, prefer darkness to it, and obstinately shut their eyes against it, though it be the dawnings of an eternal day.
May integrity and uprightness preserve us! (Psalm xxv. 21.) And, conscious of a real desire to govern ourselves according to the light we have, may we cheerfully lay ourselves in the way of more; that in the last awful day, when the sentence of Divine wrath shall be executed on all the servants of sin, and their character shall stand disclosed in the most odious colours, ours may shine out beautiful and fair, and the good deeds that we have done, being now wrought in God, may then not only be accepted and applauded, but through the grace of the Redeemer abundantly rewarded by him!
JOHN III. 22-36.
AFTER these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judea, and there he tarried with them and baptized. And John also was baptizing in Enon near to Salim, because there was much water there and they came and were baptized. For John
was not yet cast into prison. Then there arose a question between some of John's disciples and the Jews, about purifying. And they came unto John and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou bearest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him. John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease. He that cometh from above, is above all: he that is of the earth, is earthly, and speaketh of the earth he that cometh from heaven is above all: And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth, and no man receiveth his testimony. He that hath received his testimony, hath set to his seal that God is true. For he whom God hath sent, speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him. The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life: but the wrath of God abideth on him.
It is indeed too true that the spirit which naturally dwelleth in us all lusteth to envy (James iv. 5,) and it is far from being a low attainment in religion to look with complacency and thankfulness on the superior abilities and acceptance of others, especially of those who once appeared in an inferior rank. But for the cure of this unreasonable and restless passion, so contrary to the true spirit of the gospel, let us remember that a man can receive nothing at all except it be given him from heaven. It is God that makes one man to differ from another; and surely nothing can be more unreasonable than that, when we ourselves have received all from his bounty, our eye should be evil because he is good. (Matt. xx. 15.)
If we are indeed the friends of Christ, we shall rejoice to see his interest advance, and especially to see souls espoused