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The former part of the 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' Sanhedrin, 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 bitter 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 him 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.
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 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 unregenerate and an unholy person: the contagin is universal, deep, and inward, therefore such must the change be.
Two things are observable in this question of Nicodemus, How can a man be born when he is old?
1. His ignorance and weakness in propounding of such a question. So true is that of the apostle, The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God 1 Corinthians 2:14
What a gross conception had this learned man of the notion of regeneration! How ingnorant 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 wwith them, than discover it to their minister!
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 birth he spake of was not natural, but spiritual, wrought in the soul by the Spirit of God, whose working is like water, cleansing and purifying the soul from all sinful defilement.
Learn hence, That the regenerating change is 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.
As if Christ had said, "As men generate men, and nature begets nature, so the Holy Spirit produceth holy inclinations, qualifications, and dispositions."
Learn hence, That as original corruption is conveyed by natural generation, so saving regeneration is the effect and product of the Holy Spirit's operation.
Nicodemus making an exception against our Saviour's notion of regeneration, from the absurdity and impossibility of it, (as he thought,) our Saviour therefore proceeds to clear the matter by a similtude 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, Its blows when and where it listeth.
Secondly, From the sensibleness of its effect, Thou hearest 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, though 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; 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 cannot describe its nature, nor declare its original.
Thus the Holy Spirit, in a secret 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, 1 Corinthians 2:7
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.
Observe here, 1. How Nicodemus, consulting only with carnal reason, persists in his apprehension concerning the absurdity and impossibility 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 of divine 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 thou 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 unacquainted 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 Israel, and knowest not these things?
Next, our Saviour upbraids him for his infideltiy, 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.
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 same time in his divine nature actually in heaven as God. This text evidently proves two distinct 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 his God-head, 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, miracles, 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 ascent was altogether needless.
Christ having instructed Nicodemus in the doctrine of regeneration in the former verses, here he 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 whosover believeth in him should not perish.
Observe here, 1. An Old Testament type which our Saviour refers to, and that is, the brazen serpent in the wilderness, the history of which is recorded, Numbers 21:8-9.
Observe, 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 lifting up upon the cross. So must the Son of man be lifted up.
Learn hence, That the Lord Jesus Christ is of the same use and office to a sin-stung soul, which the brazen serpent was of old to a serpent-stung Israelite.
Here observe, 1. Wherein the brazen serpent and Christ do agree.
And, 2. Wherein they differ. They agree thus: In the occasion of their institution; they were both apppointed for cure and healing.
Were they serpent-stung? we are sin-stung; devil--bitten. Was the sting of the fiery serpent inflaming? Was it spreading? Was it killing?
So is sin, which is the venom and poison of the old serpent. They agree in this; that they both must be lifted up before cure could be obtained; the brazen serpent upon the pole, Christ upon the cross.
They both must be looked unto before cure could be obtained; the looking up of the Israelites was as necessary unto healing, as the lifting up of the serpent.
Faith is as necessary to salvation as the death of Christ. The one renders God reconcilable unto sinners, the other renders him actually reconciled.
Again, did the brazen serpent heal all that looked upon it, and looked up unto it, though all had not eyes alike, some with a weak, others with a stronger eye? In like manner doth Christ justify and save all, that with a sincere faith, though weak, do rely upon him for salvation; Whosoever believeth in him shall not perish.
Further, the brazen serpemt was effectual for Israel's cure after many stingings; If after they were healed they were stung afresh, and did look up to it, they were healed by it. Thus the merit of Christ's death is not only effectual for our cure and healing at our first conversion, but after involuntary relapses and backslidings, if by faith we have recourse to the blood of Christ, we shall find it efficacious for our further benefit and future healing.
In a word, as the brazen serpent was effectual for Israel's cure after many stingings; If after they were healed they were stung afresh, and did look up to it, they were healed by it. Thus the merit of Christ's death is not only effectual for our cure and healing at our first conversion, but after involuntary relapses and backslidings, if by faith we have recourse to the blood of Christ, we shall find it efficacious for our further benefit and future healing.
In a word, as the brazen serpent had the likeness of a serpent, the form, the figure, the name, the colour of the serpent, but nothing of the venom and poison of the serpent in it; so Christ did take upon him our nature; but sin, the venom and poison of our nature, he had nothing to do with: though Christ loved souls with an invincible and insuperable love, yet he would not sin to save a soul. This was the similtude and resemblance between Christ and the brazen serpent.
The disparity or dissimiltude follows: The brazens serpent had no power in itself, or of itself, to heal and cure: but Christ has a power inherent in himself, for the curing and healing of all that do believe in him.
Again, The brazen serpent cured only one particular nation and people, Jews only; Christ is for the healing of all nations, and his salvation is to the end of the earth.
Farther, The brazen serpent cured only one particular disease; namely, the stinging of the fiery serpents; had a person been sick of the plague, or leprosy, he might have died for all the brazen serpent: but Christ pardons all the iniquities, and heals all the diseases, of his people, Psalms 103:3
Yet again, Though the brazen serpent healed all that looked up unto it, yet it gave an eye to none to look up unto it; whereas Christ doth not only heal them that look up to him, but bestows the eye of faith upon them, to enable them to look unto him that they may be saved.
In a word, the brazen serpent did not always retain its healing virtue, but in time lost it and was itself destroyed, 2 Kings 18:4 But now the healing virtue and efficacy of Christ's blood is eternal.
All believers have and shall experience the healing power of our Redeemer's death to the end of the world.
Lastly, The Israelites that were cured by looking up to the brazen serpent, died afterwards; some distemper or other soon carried them to their graves; but the soul of the believer that is healed by Christ shall never die more: Whosoever believeth in him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.
Here observe, 1. The original source and fountain of man's salvation; and that is, God's free and undeserved, his great and wonderful love. God so loved the world; he doth not say how much, but leaves it to our most solemn raised thoughts; it is rather to be conceived than declared; and admired rather than conceived. God so loved the world:
Hence note, That the original spring and first cause of our salvation is the free favour and mere love of God; a love worthy of God from whom it proceeds, even love inexpressible and inconceivable.
Observe, 2. The greatness of the gift by which God evidenced and demonstrated the greatness of his love to a lost world. He gave his only begotten Son: that is, he delivered him out of his own bosom and everlasting embraces. Now this will appear a stupendous expression of God's love, if we consider that God gave him who was not only the greatest, but the dearest person to him in the world, even his own Son: that he gave him for sinners; that he gave him for a world of sinners; that he gave him up to become a man for sinners; that he gave him up to be a sacrifice for the sin of sinners.
Observe, 3. The gracious end for which God gave this great gift of his love to lost sinners: That whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Where note, 1. The gentle and merciful condition upon which salvation depends; Whosoever believeth in Christ shall not perish.
2. The infinite goodness of God in proposing such a vast reward unto us, upon our performing of this condition; He shall have everlasting life.
Learn hence, That faith is the way which God hath appointed, and the conditon which God hath required, in order to our obtaining salvation by Jesus Christ. This faith consists in the assent of the understanding, that Jesus is the Saviour of the world; in the consent of the will, to accept of Jesus freely and voluntarily, deliberately, advisedly, and resolvedly, for our Saviour; in accepting the merit of his blood, and submitting to the authority of his laws; it being in vain to expect salvation by Christ, if we do not yield subjection to him; he that thus believes in Christ, that submits himself to his ruling power, as well as commits himself to his saving mercy, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.
Observe here, That the salvation of sinners was the intentional end, and the condemnation of them only the accidental event, of Christ's coming into the world. The design of Christ's first coming into the world. The design of Christ's first coming into the world was to save it. The end of his second coming will be to judge the unbelieving part of it.
Observe secondly, That unbelief is the cause of the sinner's damnation; it is that sin which doth bind all other sins upon the sinner, and consigns him over to damnation; it is that sin which doth not only procure damnation, but no damnation like it; which is intimated in the next verse.
Observe here, 1. The worth and dignity of a choice and invaluable privilege declared, Light is come into the world. A personal light, CHRIST; a doctrinal light, the Gospel.
Observe, 2. The unworthiness, abuse, and great indignity which the world, through infidelity, offers to this benefit: they reject it, and love darkness rather than light.
Observe, 3. The dreadful sentence of wrath which the rejection of this benefit, and the abuse of Christ, brings upon the impenitent and unbelieving world. It terminates in their full and final condemnation: This is the condemnation; that is, 'tis a just and righteous condemnation, 'tis an inevitable and unavoidable condemnation: 'tis an heightened and aggravated, 'tis an accelerated and hastened, an irrecoverable and eternal condemnation.
Learn hence, That the greater and clearer the light is, under which the unregenrated and impentient do live in this world, so much the heavier will their condemnation and misery be in the world to come, if they wilfully and finally reject it.
In these words our Saviour acquaints us with the different nature of sin and holiness. It is the nature of sin, and the property of sinners, to hate the light, because it discovers the evil and sinfulness of their ways unto them, and condemns them for them; as the Ethiopians are said to curse the sun for its bright and hot shining: whereas holy and gracious persons, that walk uprightly, do love the light; that is, they delight to have their thoughts, words, and actions, tried by the light of the word, because they are wrought in God; that is, performed as in the sight of God, according to the direction of the word of God, and with a single eye and sincere aim at the glory of God.
Learn hence, 1. That the word of God, or the gospel of Jesus Christ, has all the properties of a great and true light. It is of a pure and purifying nature, it is of a manifestive and discovering nature. It has a piercing power, and penetrating virtue; it enters the darkest recesses of the soul, and detects the errors of men's judgments, as well as discovers the enormities of their lives.
Learn, 2. That nothing is so hateful to, and hated by, a wicked man, as the discovering and reproving light of the word of God; for at the same time that it discovers the sin, it condemns the sinner.
Learn, 3. That a truly gracious person, who acteth agreeably to the will of God, is not afraid to examine his actions by the word of God; but desires and delights that what he doth may be made manifest both to God and man. He that doeth truth, cometh to the light, and rejoiceth, that his deeds may be made manifest, because they are wrought in God.
Our blessed Saviour having now finished his excellent sermon, preached to Nicodemus at Jerusalem, he departs thence with his disciples into the country of Judea, to make proselytes by the ordinance of Baptism.
Where note, 1. Our Lord's unwearied diligence in doing his Father's work and will. He goes from place to place, from city to country, preaching with, and baptizing by, his disciples; for Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples, John 4:2
Note, 2. That the enjoyment of Christ's bodily presence did not take away the use of his own ordinances. None are above ordinances, till they come to heaven. The ordinance of baptism is here administered by the disciples, even in the presence of Christ himself. This is called the baptism of repentance, of which children, as well as others, were capable subjects; because baptsim doth not require children's repentance at present, but engages them to repentance for time to come; as children that were circumcised were obliged to observe the whole law, but could not perform it till they came to understand it.
Note, 3. How John did go on with his work of baptizing, though Christ and his disciples did eclipse and obscure him; though the people now flocked after Christ, All men came unto him, ver 26. yet John kept to his duty. 'Tis the duty of God's ministers to continue in their diligence, and go on with their work, when God raises up others about them of greater parts and better success.
O! the admirable humility of that minister, who can say with John the Baptist, Let another increase, though I decrease.
Observe here, What a spirit of envy there was in John's disciples against Christ, upon account of the multitude of his followers: He that was with thee beyond Jordan, baptizeth, and all men come to him.
Where note, 1. How meanly John's disciples think and speak of our Saviour, compared with John their master. They do not so much as allow him a name, or give him any title, but He that was with thee beyond Jordan, the same baptizeth.
Observe, 2. How they intimate, as if Christ had received all his credit and reputation from their master John: He to whom thou bearest witness, baptizeth; as if they had said, "This man whom the people flock after, neglecting thee and thy disciples, is much inferior to thee; for he came to thee, thou didst not go to him; thou baptizedst him, he did not baptize thee; thou gavest testimony to him, he did not give testimony to thee."
Whence we observe, What a bitter spirit of envy and emulation there has always been amongst the ministers of the gospel, even from the very first plantation of the gospel, which causes them to look upon the exalted parts and gifts of others, as a diminution and debasing of their own; but why should as the prospering of the work of God, in one minister's hand, be matter of repining unto others? Shall not God honour what instruments he pleaseth? And will he not reward all his faithful labourers, according to their sincerity, not according to their success.
Observe here, How holily and wisely John the Baptist corrects the envy and jealousy of his own disciples, and endeavours to root out all prejudice out of their minds against Christ; in order to which, he shews them a five-fold difference betwixt Christ and himself.
1. He tells them Christ was the Master, John but his minister, and that he had told them so from the beginning. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ; but that I am sent before him. The faithful ministers of Christ think it honour enough to be servants to him, and would not have their followers attribute the least part of that honour and glory to them, which is due to Jesus Christ.
2. John acquaints his disciples, that Christ was the bridegroom of his Church, to whom the Christian church was to be solemnly espoused and married; and that he had honour enough in being one of the bridegroom's friends and servants; and accordingly, instead of envying, he rejoiced, at the success which the bridegroom had, and took great pleasure in it.
Learn, 1. That the relation betwixt Christ and his church is a conjugal relation, a relation of marriage; yet set forth under the name of bride and bridegroom, rather than under the notion of a complete marriage, because it is but begun here, and to be consummated in heaven. And also to shew that Christ's and his people's affections are as warm and fresh, as strong and vehement, towards each other, as the affections of espoused and newly married persons are to one another; Isaiah 62:5 As the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.
Learn, 2. It is honour sufficient to the ministers of Christ, that they, as friends of the bridegroom, are employed by him to further the marriage relation betwixt him and his spouse. Their office is to woo for Christ, to commend his person, and to invite all persons to accept of him for their head and husband, I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:2
Learn, 3. That there is no greater joy to the ministers of Christ, than to see themselves honoured by him, as his instruments, in preparing a people for Christ, and happily uniting them unto him.
Oh! how little do our people know, and less consider, how much of the comfort of their poor ministers lives lie at their mercy: we live as we see any of them stand fast in the Lord; we die as we see others stick fast in their sins. This was the second difference which John acquaints his disciples was found betwixt Christ and himself.
The third follows ver. 30. He must increase, but I must decrease. He must increase; that is, in honour and dignity, in esteem and reputation, in discovery and manifestation. He shall shine forth as the rising sun, and I must disappear as the morning-star. Not that John's light was diminished, but by a greater light obscured only; as all the stars disappear at the appearance of the sun.
Yet, Observe, What matter of joy it was to John to see himself out-shined by Christ; let him increase, tho' I decrease. That minister has true light in himself, that can rejoice when he is out-shined by others; who is content to be abased and obscured, if he may but see Christ dignified and exalted in the lives of his people, whosever the person is, whom God honours as his instrument in that service.
The fourth difference wherein Christ excels John and all his ministers, is in the divine original of his person, ver 31. He that cometh from above, is above all, says John. Now Christ is from above, his original is from heaven; I am from the earth (though I had my commission from heaven) and accordingly my words and actions are earthly. My Master therefore infinitely surpasseth and excels me in the dignity of his person, and in the sublimity of his knowledge.
From the whole, note, How much it is the desire and endeavour of every gospel minister to magnify Jesus Christ, to display his glorious excellencies and perfections before the people, that they may reverence his person, revere his authority, and respect his laws. This was the care of the holy Baptist here, and it will be the endeavour of every faithful minister of Christ that succeeds John, to the end of the world.
Observe, 1. Another great difference which John the Baptist teacheth his disciples to put betwixt his testimony and Christ's; to the intent that he might remove the prejustice which was upon his disciples minds against the Messiah, he shews them that his own testimony (which they so much admired) was by revelation only; Christ's by immediate intuition. John testified only what he had received; but Christ what he had seen; lying in the bosom of the Father: What he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth.
Learn hence, That it is Christ's (the great Prophet of his church) peculiar prerogrative, to have the knowledge of divine truths immediately from the Father, by special communication; and that all others receive their knowledge from him by gracious illumination only.
Observe, 2. How sadly and sorrowfully the Baptists resents it, that Christ's testimony was no better received and entertained by the world: He testifieth but no man receiveth his testimony. John's disciples murdered, That all men came unto Christ, verse 26. But John mourns that their came not more, and complains, that none, that is, very few, received his testimony.
Thence learn, That it ought and will be matter of great regret and sorrow to all the freinds of Jesus Christ, but especially to his faithful ministers and servants, that his doctrine is so ill received and entertained in the world. It greatly affects, and greviously afflicts them, that when they testify of Christ , no man, that is, comparatively, very few men , receive their testimony.
Observe, 3. The eulogy and high commendation given of all true believers, They receive Christ's testimony, and thereby set to their seal that God is true; that is, have subscribed to, and ratified the truth of God; that God in all his promises of the Messiah, under the Old Testament, is faithful and true.
Learn hence, The great honour that God puts upon the faith of believers. As unbelief defames God, and makes him a liar; so faith gives testimony to the truth of God, and setteth its seal that God is true: He that receiveth his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.
Observe, 4. The illustrious character which the holy Baptist gives of Christ, his Master; he is the person whom God hath sent, that is, immediately and extraordinarily from heaven: not as the prophets and apostles were sent, but in a way peculiar to himself; having authority for speaking, not only from God, but as being God himself.
And accordingly, it is added, that God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him; that is, the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit were poured forth upon Christ, in a measure far above and beyond all finite creatures; there being a double difference betwixt Christ's fulness of the Spirit, and all other persons whatsoever.
1. In the measure of it. God did not give out the Spirit to Christ sparingly, and with limitation, as he did to the former prophets and John the Baptist, in proportion to what their offices required; but he was anointed more plentifully and abundantly with the Holy Spirit above and beyond his fellows.
2. In the manner of its working. The holy prophets that were filled with the spirit (according to their measures) yet could not do or declare all things, nor act upon all occasions, but sometimes the Spirit restrained them, and sometimes departed from them. But Christ had no limits put upon the vigour of his Spirit, but his own will; therefore could work what, and when he pleased.
Learn from hence, That Christ had an abundant fitness from God for the discharge of his office, and an abundant fulness for his people. God did not measure to him a certain quantity and proportion of the gifts and graces of his spirit, but poured it forth upon him without measure.
The Father loved the Son from eternity, as he was his Son by eternal generation; and he loved by his Mediator by special constitution; he loves him as the brightness if his own glory, and the express image of his own person, with an essential, natural, and necessary love; and he loves him as Mediator, for undertaking our cause, and interposing for our peace.
Learn hence, That God the Father had a special love and affection to Christ, not only in regard of his eternal Sonship, but with respect to his office and Mediatorship; The Father loveth the Son. It follows, He hath given all things into his hand; that is, he hath intrusted him with all things necessary to our salvation.
Lord! what a privilege this, that our happiness is in Christ's hand, not in our own without his. O wonderful goodness, to put our concerns into the sure hands of his Son, which were lost by the weak hands of Adam!
Learn, 1. That though all power be given to Christ, to dispense grace here, and glory hereafter, yet none must expect to enjoy it, but upon condition of believing in him, and of obeying him, for the original word signifies both. No faith is acceptable to Christ, nor available to our salvation, but that which is the parent and principle of obedience.
Learn, 2. That the final unbelief renders a man infallibly an object of the eternal wrath of God; he that believeth not the Son, the wrath of God abideth on him. The unbeliever now lies under the sentence of God's wrath, hereafter he shall lie under the full and final execution of it.
Lord! how sad is it to be here in a state of condemnation! but how in tolerable will it be in hell, to continue eternally under the power of condemnation! To lie for ever in that mysterious fire of hell, whose strange property is always to torture, but never to kill; or always to kill, but never to consume: for after millions of years are expired, still it is a wrath to come; and though the unbeliever has felt and endured never so much, yet still the wrath of God abideth on him. Every word carries dread and terror with it.
The wrath, not the anger; and the wrath of God, not of man, at whose rebukes the devils tremble. And this wrath of God not only flashes out the lightening, but abides, dwells, and sticks fast upon him; that is, on his person, the whole man, soul and body.
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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on John 3". Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NT. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany