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which is in heaven. Perhaps Jesus mentioned his coming down from heaven, to put the Jewish doctor in mind of the acknow ledgment with which, at the beginning of their interview, he had addressed him, viz. that he was a teacher come from God. And by telling him, that the death of the Messiah was prefigured by types in the law, he shewed him that it was agreeable both to the doctrine of Moses, and to the counsels of heaven, that Messiah should be in a suffering state, consequently he insinuated that the meanness of his present appearance on earth, was no reason why Nicodemus should doubt of his having been in heaven. The type he mentioned as prefiguring his sufferings, both in their circumstances and consequences, was that of the brazen serpent, which though it represented a thing noxious in its nature, was so far from being so, that all who were poisoned by the stings of real serpents, obtained a perfect and speedy cure, if they but looked at it. In like manner, the Son of God, though made in the similitude of sinful flesh, would by his death on the cross heal all true penitents, even such as had been guilty of the greatest and most deadly sins. 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 have eternal life. This unspeakable happiness, he assured him, men owed to the free and immense love of God the Father, who desired their salvation with such ardency, that he sent his only begotten Son to bestow everlasting life on them; so far was he from sending him to condemn them, as they had reason to fear. 16. 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. 17. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. Hence he concluded, that they who believed on the Son of God were not condemned, whereas they who did not believe, were condemned already for that sin; and justly, because their unbelief was owing to their own wickedness, and not to any defect in the evidences of his mission, which were so full as to work conviction in every unprejudiced mind. 18. 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. The condemnation of such a person is not designed by God, for God did not
18xατaαs) who is commissioned by God in an extraordinary manner to reveal his will to men, and in respect of whose commission all the other messengers of God may be said to have been of the earth; (see John iii. 31. Heb. xi. 25.) he hath ascended up to heaven, hath received the clearest and most extensive views of spiritual things, hath penetrated into the recesses of the divine counsels; (see Prov. xxx. 3, 4.) nay is at present in heaven, is with God, is conscious of all his gracious purposes towards men, conse quently must be a messenger of much higher dignity than Moses, or Elijah, or any of the prophets for whom you entertain so great a regard.
send his son to condemn the world; but it is the natural effect of such a person's temper and conduct, which render him icapable of eternal life. For, 19. (And) this is the reason of that condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20. For every one that doth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. Wicked men who cleave to their sin because of the present pleasure they find in it, cannot endure true doctrine, for this reason, that it shews their actions in a proper light, condemns them, and raises qualms of conscience that are extremely painful. 21. But he that doth truth; he that is exercised to righteousness and goodness, (for so truth signifies, 2 Chron. xxxii. 1. Eph. v. 9.) cometh to the light; every good man desires, and rejoices in the knowledge of his duty, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God; every good man loves the knowledge of his duty, and receives it, being desirous always to behave in such a manner as to shew that his actions are agreeable to the divine will, and are performed by virtue of that union with God, which is the perfection and happiness of the rational nature. This discourse we may believe affected Nicodemus greatly; he perceived that Jesus saw into his heart, was convinced, and from that time forth became his disciple, defended him in the great council of which he was a member, and with Joseph of Arimathea, paid him the honours of a funeral, when all his bosom friends deserted him.
XXI. From Jerusalem Jesus goes into the country of Judea, and baptizes. John iii. 22,-36.
SOME time after the conference with Nicodemus, Jesus, and his disciples leaving Jerusalem went into the land of Judea, or those parts of Judea that were remote from Jerusalem. As he took this journey that he might have an opportunity of baptizing his disciples, i. e. the persons who believed him to be Messiah, John i. 41, 45. it is probable he went to Bethabara beyond Jordan, John having removed thence to Enon, a place in Samaria about eight miles south of Scythopolis, remarkable for its waters, and where he had great conveniency for baptizing. John iii. 22. After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judea, and there he tarried with them and baptized. 23. And John also was baptizing in Enon, near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came and were baptized; 24. For John was not yet cast into prison. Here Jesus tarried a long time. For the report of his baptizing spread through the country, and occasioned the dispute between John's disciples and the Jews, about purification. The Jews called all sorts of ablutions prescribed by their teachers, purifications. VOL. I.
- The subject therefore of this debate was, how Jesus, who had been himself baptized by John, came to re-baptize John's disciples, Acts xix. 4, 5. that is, assume greater authority than John, and virtually declare that his baptism was inefficacious for the purposes of purification. The Baptist's disciples, though they had often heard their master speak on the subject, not understanding the subserviency of his ministry to that of Jesus, were unable to give their antagonists a satisfactory answer, so came and proposed their question to John himself. 25. Then there arose a question betaveen some of John's disciples and the Jews about purifying. 26. And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him. 27. John answered and said, A man can receive nothing except it be given him from heaven: A man of God, or prophet, can assume no greater dignity and authority than God has thought fit to confer on him.--28. Ye yourselves bear me wit ness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him: I never pretended to be the Messiah, as you very well know; but when you asked me, I told you I was only his harbinger, sent before to give you notice of his coming, and to prepare you for receiving him.--So far therefore am I from envying his growing fame, or the number of his disciples, that I greatly rejoice in both; just as the bridegroom's friend who is appointed to stand and hear him converse with his bride, rejoices in the love she expresses to him; which love the friend forms an idea of likewise, by what he hears the bridegroom say to her in return. My highest joy therefore is, that men cheerfully submit to the Messiah, and pay him all due honour. 29. 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. Besides, I am not ignorant that his fame and the number of his disciples shall every day increase, while mine shall decrease; for he is a person of infinitely greater dignity than me, possesses far more intimate knowledge of the divine will, and the discoveries which he makes thereof, as far transcend mine as heaven exceeds earth.--30. He must increase, but I must decrease. 31. He that cometh from above (see ver. 13.) is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth; he that cometh from heaven is above all.—32. And what he hath seen and heard, in allusion to his being from above, where he enjoyed the most intimate communications of the divine counsels, that he testifieth, and no man receiveth his testimony, particularly concerning the spiritual nature of the kingdom of God, and the qualifications requisite in his subjects. There is a strong resemblance betwixt this, and what our Lord himself said to
Nicodemus, ver. 11, 12, 13. 33. He that hath received his testimony, hath set to his seal, that God is true; hath made a most becoming and substantial acknowledgement of the veracity of God, who by his prophets in ancient times foretold what the nature of his kingdom under the Messiah would be, and who speaketh now to men by his only begotten Son in such a manner as he never did by any other prophet. 34. For he whom God hath sent, his only begotten Son, speaketh the words of God; doctrines which by their own native light of truth, shew themselves to be the oracles of God, and which besides, have the confirmation of most extraordinary miracles: For God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him; God has given him the inspiration and assistance of the Spirit, without those limitations and interruptions wherewith they were given to all other prophets whatsoever. For, in scripture language, to do or give a thing by measure, is to do or give it sparingly. See Ezek. iv. 16. Jer. xlvi. 28,-35. The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. The affection which the Father bears, to his only begotten, is altogether different from the regard which he shewed to his other messengers. They were servants, and treated as such, being endued with scanty portions of the Spirit in comparison; whereas, this is God's Son, for which reason he has anointed him with the oil of gladness above his fellows, and made him not the greatest prophet and priest only, but the greatest king also that ever was; even king and judge universal, by whose laws men must govern their lives, and at whose bar they shall all be finally tried. Hence, 36. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; hath a right to it, and is as sure of obtaining it as if he had it already in possession: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. In scripture, the word abide has a particular signification, denoting the adhesion and permanency of the thing that is said to abide. Of this signification we have an example here, for there is a momentary wrath of God that quickly passeth, and which his own people are liable to; but his abiding wrath torments and does not kill, and bring once inflicted never draws to an end. Thus the Baptist bare testimony to Jesus anew, setting forth his dignity, in the plenitude of his commission, the excellency of his gifts, the nearness of his relation to the Deity as his only Son, and the greatness of his power as universal judge,
§ XXII. Jesus converses with a woman of Samaria.
HEROD the tetrarch of Galilee, entertaining an high opinion of John Baptist, on account of the efficacy of his sermons, and the uncommon sanctity of his life, took a pleasure in hearing him. It seems he sent for him often, and paid great regard to
3 G 2
his precepts, Mark vi. 19, 20. But the Baptist, in some of those private conferences, reproving Herod for keeping Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, and for all his other evil deeds, the king was so provoked that he cast him into prison.
These things happened while our Lord was in Judea. For he continued there till the fame of his doctrine, disciples, and miracles, reaching Jerusalem, gave umbrage to the Pharisees. These men, vain and conceited, claiming it as the privilege of their sect to direct the consciences of the people, were enraged to find numbers of them acknowledging as Messiah, one whose birth and fortune so little suited the notions which they had taught concerning the great deliverer of the nation. Wherefore, to shun the effects of their malice, Jesus who knew all that passed, retired with his disciples into Galilee. His presence it seems was necessary there, as the ministry of his forerunner in that country was now brought to a period. 1. When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, 2. (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples.) 3. He left Judea, and departed agaia into Galilee.
In his way to Galilee, Jesus passed through Samaria, where one evening (see Obs. V.) being wearied with his journey, he sat down by Jacob's well, not far from Sychar. To this town he would not go as yet, but sent his disciples to bring him meat. It seems the Jews might buy what they would of the Samaritans, as they might do likewise from heathens; but they were not to accept of any thing from them in the way of beneficence, (ver. 9) that being a crime in their opinion equal to the eating of swines flesh; so bitter was the animosity which subsisted between the two nations. (See John viii. 48.) 4. And he must needs go through Samaria. 5. Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called
Sychar, near to the parcel of ground
Ver. 2. Jesus himself baptized not.] Jesus did not baptize, perhaps be cause it was not proper to baptize in his own name, and because it was of more importance to preach than to bptize, 1 Cor. i. 17. Besides it might have given those who were baptized by him occasion to value themselves above others, as happened in the church of Corinth, where the brethren valued themselves upon the character of the persons who had baptized them. To conclude, the baptism properly bis was that of the Holy Ghost.
† Ver. 4. Go through Samaria.] Samaria was a province of Palestine, lying between Judea to the south, and Galilee to the north, and extending between the Mediterranean sea westwards, and the Jordan eastwards. I had its name from the city Samaria, which was once the capital of the ten tribes. See Jewish Antiq. Pisc. iii.
Ver. s. Sychar] The evangelist tells us that Sychar (see Jewish Ant, Disc. ii.) was nigh to the parcel of round that Jacob gave to his son Joseph, Now if, as Mr Maundrel conjectures, the plain beginning at Jacob's well was part of that parcel, Sychar night justly be said to be nigh to it, though it was as far distant as the present Naplosa, which is about a mile from it.