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and true believers.

24. But Jesus did not commit himself unlo them., because he
knew all men,

May not this be our case ? We may believe in him to a
degree, and own him to be a divine person, but not be such
as that he can commit, or give himself to us.

25. And needed not that any should testify of man : for he knew
what was in man.

He knew what a depth of wickedness there was in man.
To whom then must he, who knoweth all men, commit him-
self? To those who know themselves in some measure as
he does, and who commit themselves to him for a change of
their state.


Chap. iii. ver. 1 — 5.


1 . There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler
of the Jews :

2. 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.

It was cowardly in him to come to Jesus by night. How-
ever, he came, and God prospered his weak beginning. He
had boldness afterwards to stand the reproach of the Pha-
risees while he spoke for Christ. John vii. 50, 51. " Ni-

384 ST. JOHN. [chap. III.

codemus saitli unto them, Doth our law judge any man,
before it hear him, and know what he doeth ?"" He also
assisted at Christ's burial, when all the disciples had for-
saken him. John xix. 39. '' And there came also Nico-
demus (which at the first came to Jesus by night) and
brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred
pounds weight."

Nicodemus argued rightly respecting the miracles which
Christ wrought ; he inferred that they were a proof of
Christ's being sent of God ; and indeed they are a proof
which nothing can shake, and when duly considered, will
keep us close to him, and bear up the soul in all its
doubtings. Christ at this time had wrought but few of
his miracles, and yet Nicodemus could not withstand the
force of them. Only let us remember what he was sent for,
and that we believe on him in vain, if we do not come to
him for the miracle of our own conversion.

3. Jesus answered aud said unto him, Verily, verily, I say
unto thee. Except a man be burn again, be cannot see the king-
dom of God.

He cannot belong to his kingdom of grace here, or be
received into heaven hereafter. This was taking him into
the depth of divine knowledge at once, and showing indeed
that he was a teacher come from God, for no man upon
earth could have thought that this was the only way to
tlie kingdom of heaven. Did Christ know what was in
man, or not ? And what can more plainly intimate to us
that our first birth is impure and polluted, and that nature
however improved, without the grace of the new birth, can-
not be fit for heaven ?

4. Nicodemus sailh unto him. How can a man be born when
be is old ? can be enter the second time into bis mother's womb,
and be born ?

Here Nicodemus had forgotten the great end of Christ's
miracles, which is to teach us to believe without objecting-
When once we are convinced of them as being the words

VER. 6_15.] ST. JOHN. 385

of Christ, reason is struck dumb, and has nothing to do
but to submit. And let us observe withal, that which is
very common, that Nicodemus added to the words, and
choked his belief by a difficulty of his own making.
Christ said nothing of entering a second time into the

5. Jesus answered, Verily, verily, T say unto thee, Except a
man be born of water and of the Sj)irit, he cannot enter into the
kingdom of God.

He must be washed from the defilement of his birth, by
the remission of his sins, in baptism ; and made a new
man in holiness, and in the inward deep ground of his
heart, by the power of the Spirit. He now explains what
he meant by being born again ; and would not alter what
he had said of the necessity of it. Christ repeats for our
conviction, that " he cannot enter into the kingdom of
God." Do we never think of this matter with great con-
cern .'* Do we never inquire what the new birth is, how
it is to be attained, and that if we do not attain it, we
perish eternally ? The case is plain, we are still unregene-
rate, notwithstanding our baptism, and only in a fleshly
and natural state.


Chap. iii. vcr. 6 — 15.


6. That which is born of llic flesh is flesh ; and tliat which is
born of the Spirit is spirit.

That which is born of the flesh liath nothing but earthly
views, desires, and workings ; is too corrupt to enter into
the kingdom of God, and cannot mend itself; is blind to

VOL. II. c c

386 ST. JOHN. [chap. hi.

the great disorder, and averse to its cure. This is showing
why we must be born again.

" And that which is born of the Spirit is spirit :"" has a
new nature, with new feelings, appetites, powers, by a di-
vine operation. He can seek after God, live to him, and
be happy in him.

7. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

8. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the
sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it coraeth, and whither it
goeth : so is every one that is bovu of the Spirit.

This is said to show that the new birth may be, and that
it will prove itself, though we know not the manner of it,
namely, by its effects. Just as we know what the wind
does, though we neither see it, nor know where it begins
or ends.

9. Nicodemus answered and said unto him. How can these
things be ?

Nicodemus would never have said this, if he had taken
the new birth only for a figure, or getting a new name and
profession, as some do now. In truth, the reality of it is the
very thing we want, and nothing else will do us any

10. Jesus answered and said unto him. Art thou a master of
Israel, and knowest not these things ?

It is plain then that he might have known better from the
scriptures of the Old Testament, and what they testify of
Christ. Let each of us ask himself, art thou a Christian,
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.

Perhaps we can take Christ's word for this, and believe
that he knew what he said of the necessity of a new birth.
Let us beware, therefore, that the next words are not said
of us ; " and ye receive not our witness." Our doom is
here pronounced, if we do not ; and yet those who do, are

VER. IG— 24.] ST. .TOHN. 387

at all times comparatively few. When did we receive this
witness? When did this weighty passage of scripture come
home to us .''

12. If I have told you carlhly tilings, and ye believe not, how
shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things ?

Though what we are told is enough to try our belief,
and as much as we are able to bear, it is but low and
earthly in comparison of what might have been told us,
and we shall know hereafter.

13. And no man hath ascended u]) to heaven, but he that came
down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

No man hath ascended up to heaven to bring down the
knowledge we want ; and therefore we can have none, un-
less we receive it from him, who came from thence, and as
to his godhead, was, and is always there. O that we would
but know what w^e might, and know it as. we ought !

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.

Here Christ declares what is principally to be understood
by the new birth, and tells Nicodemus lioiv all are saved ;
even by looking to him, and believing in his name: as the
Israelites, who had been stung, were cured by looking at
the brazen serpent, and which we now understand to be
an exact type of our healing by Christ. In this place,
therefore, and in what follows, .Jesus preaches faiths and
also shows us precisely what it is.

Chap. iii. ver. 16 — 24.

If). For God so loved the world, that he iravc his onlv hesfotten

388 ST. JOHN. [chap, in

Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have
everlasting life.

Notwithstanding the hatred of the world to God, and
its enmity to him, he " so loved it that he gave his only
begotten Son," and he willingly offered himself to be made
a curse for sinners. O astonishing, and almost incredible
love !

" That whosoever believeth in him," as given for us.
Mistake not this. The great thing for salvation, from first
to last, is looking at Jesus, and trusting in him. And who-
soever does so truly, has Christ given unto him, is a new
man by a new birth, and shall not perish, but have ever-
lasting life.

17. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the
world \ but that the world through him might be saved.

Not to condemn it, according to its deserts, and at that
time: " but that the world through him might be saved;"
that is, all who pleased, and would receive the offer of sal-
vation, in the way marked out for them. But not other-

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.

He is in a state of condemnation, whoever he be, and
must continue in it, because he will not take the only way
to come out of it, by " believing in the name of the only
begotten Son of God."

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.

Light is come into the world, to see God, sin, ourselves,
and Christ. If we have not the necessary light, let us
look nowhere else for the reason of this deficiency but to
our evil deeds. It is the evil in ourselves which shuts it
out; and this is that which will justify God in our con-
demnation, and make it heavy.

VER. 16—24.] ST. joHx. 389

20. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither
Cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

All who will not be convinced of evil, nor cease from it
— all who will not come into the light of God's truth, as
revealed by Christ, have their true ground of conduct here
laid open ; whatever excuses they make, whatever they
think of themselves, in their hearts, they hate the light.

21. But he that doeth truth coineth to the light, that his deeds
may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

Who is he that doeth truth ? The regenerate man ;
who having come to Christ by faith, walks in the light of
it, as under the eye of God. Perhaps, too, here may be a
tacit reproof of Nicodemus, and others, for fearing men,
when they know the truth.

22. After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land
of Judeea ; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.

This is mentioned by St. John to connect the narrative.

23. And John also was baptizing in ^Enon near to Salim, be-
caiise there was much water there : and they came, and were bap-

24. For John was not yet cast into prison.

Nothing can be gathered from the Evangelist's remark,
that " there was much water there," as to the exclusive mode
of immersion, in baptism. The more useful remark will be,
that so long as John had his liberty he was indefatigable in
preaching repentance, baptizing, and preparing the way to
Jesus, whom he pointed out as the " Lamb of God that
taketh away tiie sin of the world." — Edit.

390 ST. JOHN. [CHA1>: IH.

Chap. iii. ver. 25 — 36.


25. Then there arose a question between some of John's disci-
ples and the Jews about purifying.

Probably, the dispute was whose baptism was the better,
that of John, or that of Jesus. John's disciples pleaded for
the former, and told him with some concern, that his fol-
lowers forsook him. Let us notice how, like a true servant,
he keeps within his own bounds, and sends all to Christ.

26. And they came unto John, and said unto him. Rabbi, he
that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, be-
hold, 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.

28. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the
Christ, but that I am sent before him.

His meaning was, that he must not go beyond his com-
mission ; and he had none to keep his disciples to him-

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.

His joy was to hear Christ, who is the bridegroom of the
church, and of every believer. What an honour is this,
and how can we think worthily of it ! What an endearing
relation is that in which he stands to us ! What care should
we take to preserve so happy a union ; to be the bride-
groom's friends, as John was, and to have no greater joy
than to hear him speaking to us in all the kindness of his
word, and warming our hearts with it !

VER. 25— 36.] ST. JOHN. 391

30. He must increase, but I must decrease.

Jolin was willing that it should be so. Christ's faithful
servants desire nothing but the increase of his power and
influence in the world. Let us see to it, that he increases
in us, as he will, when we are nothing in our own eyes.

31. He that cometh from above is above all : be that is of the
earth is earthly, and speaketb of the earth : he that cometh from
heaven is above all«

And therefore more especially to be attended to ; since
whatever he teaches is true, pure, iieavenly, and of his own
infallible knowledge, which is more than can be said of any
mere man. " They will reverence my Son." No such
thing. Behold, to the shame of mankind, what follows.

32. And what lie hath seen and beard, that be testifietb ; and
no man receiveth bis testimony.

That is, comparatively but few receive it. Let every
one put the question to himself, Lord, is it I ? Do I not
receive thee upon thy own testimony ?

The next words will tell us when we do.

33. He that bath received bis testimony luitli set to bis seal that
God is true.

That is, he hath a firm belief, and can seal to the truth
of his promises, from the life and power of a true faith in

34. For whom God bath sent speaketb the words of God :
for God givctb not the Spirit by measure unto him.

What is this to us, if we do not receive of his fulness."*

3.5. The Father lovetb the Son, and bath given all things into
bis band.

He hath given all into his hand, to give us, according to
our wants, which he is always ready to supply ; and if he
does not, it is because we are ignorant of them, and do not
desire his gifts.

Observe, God's giving all power to the Son, to govern
and bless us, is mentioned as the highest instance of his

392 ST. JOHN. [chap. IV.

love, and the greatest honour he can put upon him. How
dear is our salvation to God !

36. 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.

He that believeth on the Son of God for the remission of
sins, and a new will to please God in all holy obedience,
" hath everlasting" life already begun in him, and shall have
it more abundantly. " And he that believeth not the Son
shall not see life ; but the wrath of God abideth on him."
Here John the Baptist plainly implies that it is upon
every man in his natural state, and that it must abide on
him for evei-, if Christ does not remove it. It is not
without cause that so much is said in the gospel of the
greatness of the Person whose word we are to take.

Chap. iv. ver. 1 — 10.


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,)

There is a twofold work in baptism, outward, and in-
ward. The outward act of baptizing into him must be
performed by his ministers ; but he has a higher work,
namely, to baptize with the Holy Ghost ; and the former
is nothing without the latter.

3. He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee.

He did this to avoid danger from the Pharisees ; not
indeed that he feared it, but because he would not provoke
it, before the time.

VER. 1 — 10.] ST. JOHN. 393

4. And lie imist needs go through Samaria.

5. Then conielh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sy-
char, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son

6. Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied
with his journey, sat thus on the well : and it was about the sixth

Though Christ was so faint and weary that he could
go no further, yet he was patient and contented. This was
about the sixth hour, or noon, when probably Jesus was

7. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water : Jesus
saith unto her. Give me to druik.

Who can be in a poorer condition than Jesus was.''
AVhat did he not suffer for our imitation ? And how can
we complain when we are generally in better circumstances
than Christ was, and never in a worse condition ?

8. (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy

9. Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that
thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Sa-
maria ? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.

She wondered, either that he would ask ; or, how he
could expect to be gratified in his request. The cause was
an old grudge betwixt the two nations, on account of re-
h'gion : which to the shame of mankind, inflames their
hatred more than anything else. We shall perceive in
what follows, that Jesus brought the Samaritans to a better
temper. They forgot the Jew, when they found what he
was. And if Jesus does not reconcile us in himself to all
the world, we mistake him.

10. Jesus answered and said unto her. If thou knewest the
gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee. Give me to drink ;
thou wouldcst have asked of him, and he would have given thee liv-
ing water.

Let us mark the several particulars of this conversatiop

394 ST. JOHN. [chap. IV.

and, as we proceed, have an eye to ourselves. Happy shall
we be, if we see our own case in this woman, and fol-
lowing her step by step in the workings of her mind, come
to the same conclusion. She did not at first know what
a gift of God Christ was ; do we ? Let us not think
that we do, when we do not ; for then we shall never know.
Christ let the light of divine truth in upon her sweetly,
and by degrees, as she could bear it ; but then she was in-
quisitive, and willing to learn.

He tells her that on her asking, " he would have
given her living water;" that which refreshes, supports,
and comforts the spiritual life, as drink does the body.
This living water, is Christ and all his benefits. Thirst-
ing for him is all. Why do we not ask, but because
our souls are athirst for something else, and we feel no
want of him ?


Chap. iv. ver. 11 — 24.


1 1 . The woman saitb unto him. Sir, thou hast notbhig to draw
with, and the well is deep : from whence then hast thou that living
water ?

So the soul is apt to question with Christ, and to
doubt at first of his power.

12. Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the
well, and drank thereof himself, and bis children, and bis cattle ?

13. Jesus answered and said unto her. Whosoever drinketh of
this water shall thirst again :

That is, he shall thirst over and over again, and die
at last.

14. But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him

VEIL 11— 24.] ST. JOHN. 395

shall iievci- thirst ; but the water that I shall give him shall he in
hiin a well^of water springing up into everlasting life.

" Shall never thirst," that is, shall never want a supply
to quench his thirst ; or, he shall have a never-ending life
from it, which does not need to be supported with meat and
drink ; as those of whom St. John speaks. Rev. vii. 16,
" They shall hunger no more, neither shall they thirst any
more." Or perhaps the meaning may be, that he shall
thirst no more for worldly things and mere earthly com-
forts. Ease from that tormenting, perpetual thirst is
very desirable, and since Christ has it to bestow, we should
go to him for the blessing.

15. The woman saith unto him. Sir, give me this water, that 1
thirst not, neither come hither to draw.

She felt no want of the water of which Christ spoke,
and therefore did not understand him. Observe how he
brings her to a knowledge of herself, and opens a way into
her heart.

16. Jesus saith unto her. Go, call thy liusband, and come

This darted into her like lightning. Conscience was
alarmed, and would not let her shuffle with him, though she
did not know the person with whom she had to do. We
know, and yet do not suffer him to bring our secret sins to
light, by his word and Spirit.

17. The woman answered and said, I have no hnshand. Jesus
said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband :

The woman made a true confession. Now she was fvdly
in God's way. Jesus replies, thou hast spoken the truth,
most happily for thyself.

18. For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now
hast is not thy husband : in that saidst tliou truly.

It is our own fault if Christ does not tell us all. To
what purpose is it to think of hiding oiu'selves from him.

396 ST. JOHN. [CHAr. IV.

when he knows all? Let us ask ourselves, when did he tell
us anything ?

19. The woman saith unto him. Sir, I perceive that thou art a

This was the answer he expected. She did not fly in his
face for telling her a home truth ; but perceiving him to
be a prophet, she asks his opinion in a matter which seemed
to her of great importance. The Jews had a temple on
one mountain, the Samaritans on another, and she wished
to know who were in the right. In answer, he tells her
plainly, the latter were in the wrong ; and withal instructs
her how God is to be worshipped : not in one place only,
with outward ceremonies, but everywhere, with the heart.

20. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain ; and. ye say, that
in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.

21. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh,
when ye shall neither in ibis mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, wor-
ship the Father,

22. Ye worship ye know not what : we know what we worship ;
for salvation is of the Jews.

23. But the liour cometh, and now is, when the true worship-
pers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth : for the Father
seeketh such to worship him.

24. God is a spirit; and they that worship him must worship
him in spirit and in truth.

The meaning is not, that there is to be no outward wor-
ship under the gospel, but that it avails nothing without
the inward ; and that whenever we do worship God, it
must be as a spirit, with an awful sense of his presence, an
inward reverence of his perfections, and the offering up of
our hearts to him.

VER. 25—38.] ST. .lOHN. 397

Cliap. iv. ver. 25—38.


25. The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias conieth,
which is called Christ : when he is come, he will tell us all things.

26. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.

Do we say, we know that Christ is come and hath told us
all things, and if we are ignorant of anything which it be-
hoves us to know, it is our own fault ? — O Jesus ! say to
us, " I am he I" Speak this to all our hearts !

27. And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he
talked with tlic woman : yet no man said. What seekest thou ? or,
AVhy talkest thou with her?

They thought it wrong, she being a Samaritan. We
need not however marvel at her ; she had a soul to save.
The scripture is particularly careful to let us know, in
many instances, that the disciples at first were like other
men ; to the end that we may see in them how great a
change Christ can work in us.

28. The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into
the city, and saith to the men,

29. Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did ;
is not this the Christ ?

She was all on fire to carry the good news of the
Messiah to them. It is of the nature of christian know-
ledge to spread itself; and christian experience, when it
is lovingly communicated, has greater force upon others,
than argument.

It is Christ''s way at all times, first to make us know
what we are, before he can give himself to us, or make us

Online LibraryThomas AdamAn exposition of the four Gospels (Volume 2) → online text (page 28 of 39)