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to punish: for where men are guilty one is the consequence of the other. We are likewise informed what the phrase, God gave his Son, signifies; that it implies no more than sending him, or giving him a divine com* mission to teach mankind.
18. fie 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 onlybegotten Son of God.
Such are the testimonials to his divine mission, that he who is not convinced by them, and in consequence of this rejects his authority, is worthy of censure and condemnation, and is already censured and condemned in the divine judgment.
19. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
This is the ground of this condemnation, that he rejects such evidence of a divine mission as none could refuse to admit, but those who are wilfully blind, or under the influence of vicious prejudices. Men who thus reject the gospel, or the evidence with which it is accompanied, from attachment to their vices, are deserving of condemnation.
20. For every one that doth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved,
or, " discovered."
For we see that men who are conscious of guilt, are unwilling to admit the evidence by which their evil deeds would be discovered and exposed.
21. But he that doth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought^ rather, "because they are wroughtin God.
To do the truth is to act according to divine truth, particularly that of the gospel. In this sense is this phrase used by this evangelist, in his first epistle, i. 6, "If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth," that is, act not agreeably to the truth of the gospel. Of the same kind, also, is the phrase which occurs more than once in the epistles of this apostle, walking in truth, or the truth. "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth," that is, "walk according to the truth contained in the gospel. To be wrought in God, is to be wrought agreeably to his will. The sense of the passage then is this; He that acteth agreeably to the precepts of the gospel will be ready to embrace it, because it will afford him an opportunity of showing that his actions correspond with the will of God. The figures of light and darkness, which run through these last verses, were probably suggested to Christ by the circumstance of Nicodemus coming to him by night, and might be intended as a reflection upon his conduct in thus seeking concealment.
22. After these things came Jesus,
rather, "went Jesus," and his disciples
into the land of Judaea, and there he
tarried with them, and baptized.
The conversation between Christ and Nicodemus took place at Jerusalem: thence he went into the country of Judaea, in the midst of which the city stood, for the convenience of obtaining water for baptizing. The same distinction, between Judam and Jerusalem, is observed in other parts of the New Testament.
23. And John also was baptizing at ^Enon, near to Salim, because there was much water there; and they came and were baptized, that is, men from the neighbouring country,
24. For John was not yet cast into prison.
This event, however, took place very soon afterT wards.
1. Let us never forget the view here given of the importance of the blessings of the gospel, and of the Being to whom we are indebted for them. They are calculated not only to save us from perishing, but likewise to give eternal life. How great the evil from which we are delivered! How invaluable the benefit bestowed! To God let us ascribe all the praise of this wonderful act of benevolence j it originated in his councils, was contrived by his wisdom, and executed by his hands. Greatly are they mistaken, and very unr just are they to the goodness of the divine nature, who represent the scheme of redemption as originating with Jesus Christ, and as planned and conducted by him, for rescuing human beings from the destruction to which they were doomed by an offended and inexorable Creator. In contradiction to such representations, the scriptures declare not that Christ so loved the world as to give himself for them; but that God so loved the world as to give his Son, to send him into the world, and to abandon him into the hands of wicked men, that whosoever believeth in him, and particularly in his death and resurrection, might not perish but have everlasting life. While, therefore, we are grateful to Christ and his apostles, for the part which they voluntarily bore in executing this great design, let it only be to the subordinate agents and instruments of the Most High;
fiOr let us be so stupid or so unjust, when we receive a favour, as to direct our principal regards to the person who brings it, and to forget or overlook the Being by whom he is sent. This conduct cannot fail to be highly offensive to him, as well as dishonourable to ourselves. Let us follow the example of those who best understood the nature of this dispensation, when speak* ing of it, and not the fallible authorities of men of modern times, by saying, "Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly things, in Christ Jesus."
2. We have the authority of Christ for saying, that the gospel furnishes a test of the characters of men. In a period of time so far removed from the original publication of the gospel, and from those visible proofs of divine interposition, with which it was accompanied, and especially at a time when this institution has been so generally and grossly defaced, as scarcely to retain any lineaments of the divine original, it would be going further than we are warranted to do, to say that all those who reject it must be actuated by vicious prejudices or bad motives. Yet, as the gospel contains the purest system of morals, and, if believed, must lay a great restraint upon the evil passions of mankind, bad men must necessarily wish that it were not true, and be averse from receiving it; while the good will, for the same reason, be the more disposed to embrace a system which only recommends to them what they already approve. To this cause, therefore, we may venture to attribute much of the infidelity which prevails in the world, without incurring the charge of want of candour or of Christian charity.
Let those who feel themselves inclined to give up Christianity, seriously consider with themselves whether their dislike does not proceed from this source, and remember that to whatever indulgence errors, proceeding from the ignorance or weakness of the human understanding, may be entitled, none is due to those -which proceed from a corrupt heart, either in the judgment of reason or in the estimation of God.
John iii. 25. to the end.
25. Then there arose a question between some of John's disciples and the Jews, or, according to a better reading, and a Jew, about purifying.
We left John baptizing at vEnon, near to Salim: at the same time Jesus, or rather his disciples, was baptizing in another place, and were followed by much greater numbers. This gave rise to a dispute between the disciples of John and some one of those who had been baptized by Jesus, which baptism was to be preferred? For the Jews applied the term purifying, to washing the hands before meat, and would, therefore, necessarily apply it* to so solemn a service as that of baptism; John ii. 6.
26. And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, Teacher, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, rather, "by the side of Jordan,' to whom thou barest witness, behold the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.
They complain that his own baptism was deserted, and that all men flocked to Jesus; hoping that John would condemn this practice, and show that his own baptism was to be preferred. By referring to the circumstance of Jesus having been with him, and baptized by him, they intimate their opinion of his inferiority.
27. John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven; rather, "A man can