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seasoning mind of man, seduced mercy on all,") yet I may obtain from perhaps by the artifice of the ene- it a delightful view of the character my of souls, usually goes beyond of God. How should my heart be the simple specification of a doc- filled with love towards him while I trine to speculate concerning the receive in simple faith this consomanner and the cause; and if these latory declaration! However obform no part of the revelation, the score bis dispensations may appear speculatist is induced, in default of to my feeble reason, however difthis support, to work up a theory, ficult I may find it to reconcile the weak, inconclusive, and liable to the account given of them in bis word, well-founded objections of an ad- yet one point I can and do underverse theorist, whose system in its stand, that they are so ordered turn is not less vulnerable. Surely that God "might have mercy upon these cireumstances should teach all.” And by the reception of this us a lesson of diffidence in our own truth in faith, I shall find my heart powers; and lead us to rest con- well prepared to unite in the detented with whatever is necessary vout adoration of the Apostle in for us to know as revealed in the the concluding verses. Bible, though there should not be I have purposely mentioned a added such mioute explanations as part of Scripture which has prewould fully satisfy all the inquiries eminently given rise to speculaof a curious mind.
tions, to reasonings, and of course I think I read the Scriptures to to controversy. In arguing on such the greatest advantage, when in passages, each party says, and ofteu any difficult passage I neither con- troly, though there may not always ceal from myself its difficulty, nor be sufficient candour in the opattempt to bend it to my own ge- ponent to allow it-" It is not the neral view of the analogy of faith, declaration of Scripture that I opor to form a new hypothesis to pose, but your explanation of it, make a system apparently consist- and the consequences you draw ent in all its parts; but consider from it.” In the midst of the diswith myself whether, notwithstand- puted passages in the ninth and two ing the general obscurity of the following chapters of the Epistle passage, there is not some clear to the Romans, stands a and serviceable truth to be gained fraught with the utmost consolation from it. I would take as an illus- lo the sincere inquirer, and one to tration of my meaning the eleventh which I have turned, and found chapter of the Romans; respecting that rest I sought for in vain in wbich a Calvinist and an Arminian the endeavour clearly to understand might argue, as many have done, the more difficult passages : till ibeir temper and ibeir Chris- whosoever shall call upon the name tian affection were forgotten in the of the Lord shall be saved.” What contest. In the mode I propose, I need is salvation: mere knowwhile I pretend not to avoid every ledge, and in short every thing difficulty, I gain much useful infor. else besides tbis, is comparatively mation from what is obvious. Ilearn of no importance. I am informed the importance of faith, from ver. in these few words how I may ob20; the necessity of caution from tain that salvation. My conscience ver. 21; the great hope to be enter- will tell me whetner I call upon the tained by the Gentiles from the re- name of the Lord ; and if its restoration of the Jews, in ver. 12; and port be favourable, faith in this I bough I may not be able to fathom name will bring the peace atten- ver. 32, which is, as it were, the dant on justification, and Christ be summary of the Apostle's meaning, formed in my soul the hope of (" For God hath concluded them glory. all in uubelief, that he might have There are truths in Scripture,
which I think we may compare clearer discoveries of truth in the to the antagonist muscles of the revealed word of God, than all the human body; which being necessary boasted systems of mere theoloto give due motion to the limbs, the gians have e ver been able to effect. power and energy of the whole are
S. H. weakened, if any one be strengthened at the expense of another. The Tothe Editor of the Christian Observer. sacred writers, fearless of seeming contradiction, occasionally even The common interpretation of our bring these truths together in one
Lord's words (John iii. 5), view. Thus, in the well-known cept a man be born of water and passage, Pbil. ii. 12, 13;
" Work of the Spirit, he cannot enter into out your own salvation; for it is the kingdom of God," appearing God which worketh in you both to me both incorrect and liable to will and to do of his good plea- to misconception (witness the late sure;" and so again, 2 Pet. i. 10, controversy on baptism), I am in“ Give diligence to make your call- duced to offer a somewhat different ing and election sure."
view of the passage, which I would The late Mr. Cecil justly ob. convey
convey in the following observaserved ; “Some men get hold of an tions upon part of our Lord's disopinion, and push it so far that it course with Nicodemus. meets and contradicts other opi- It appears to me evident, that it nions fairly deducible from Scrip- was not the Saviour's design at the ture.” In order to avoid this error, commencement of his ministry ex-, it would be well to attend to an plicitly to declare himself to be the important suggestion of Mr. Venn: Messiab; but that He appeared as a “ To guard against dangerous per- Divine messenger, to whose preachversions, it may be laid down as a ing and doctrine the people were aumaxim in divioity, That it is ne- thoritatively called upon to attend. cessary not only to hold the doc.
“ The time is fulfilled, the king. trines of the Bible, but also to dom of God is at hand,-Repent ye, view those doctrines in the same and believe the Gospel,”-exhibit light in which the inspired writers the substance and manner of the viewed them, and to make only the Saviour's preaching. same inferences from them which The circumstances of his birth, they did. For there is scarcely and that of his precursor John the any truth which may not be held Baptist, in addition to the visit of in a partial manner, or seen through the wise men, and the notoriety a distorting medium ; so that we given to all these events by the then only believe as the Apostles slaughter of the infants at Bethledid, when we receive their tenets bem, probably led a large proporin the same full comprehensive tion of the nation at first to bemanner in which they delivered lieve that the Messiah was born them, dwell upon them in the same
about that time; but so many years proportion to other truths, and having elapsed without his making draw the same conclusions from a public appearance, it is probable them."-Simple faith in the word that they had at length come to of God, as we find it, and as far the conclusion that the person tben as we understand it, would, I ap- born was not the Messiah; and the prehend, lead to such a just view event, it is possible, especially of the Bible as Mr. Venu recom- considering the malignant perlurmends. It would also bring peace bations and awful visitations of the to the soul; it would tend to times, was almost entirely forgotallay controversial disputes; and, ten. But when Jesus appeared, like the study of nature from na- preaching and working miracles, lure herself, would lead to far inquiry concerning him would of course take place; and the learned the meek, and the lowly—that kept and leading men of the nation must them from coming to him. The spiconsequently have been fully in- ritual hopes which his preaching and formed of all the circumstances doctrine were calculated to excite, which had agitated the nation at were directly opposite to their the time of his birth, and must proud, revengeful, and secular exhave been convinced ibat he was pectations: they determined, therethe individual then born, though the fore, not to come to him (ver. 20.) wise men not having returned to But in the case of Nicodemus, though Herod left it uncertain where he he was grossly ignorant of spiritual was born : so that, in fact, he was things, and perhaps had been imsbortly afterwards almost univer- mersed in all the rabbinical presally considered to be a native of judices, yet the principle of maNazareth ; aud this, together with lignity, and many of his country. the circumstaoces of his appeari men's deeply rooted prejudices, ance and preaching, seemed to appear to have been dethroned; render it improbable that he was and his heart being brought by the actually the Messiah. It is evident, Holy Spirit to an obedient tempero, I tbink, from many passages, that and feeling a strong desire for an tbere was much uncertainty in the interest in the kingdom of God, general opinion as to the manner and his need of Divine illumination, in which the Messiah was to be in- he ventured to go to Jesus, frankly troduced, and the person or per- acknowledging bis own and his sons by whom he was 10 be pre. brethren's conviction, that he was ceded. It is clear that our Lord a Divine Teacher, and presenting treated it as a high altainment even himself before bim for instrucin St. Peter, a considerable time tion. Under these circumstances, after this period, that he was fully our Lord saw it right, in the most assured that Jesus was the Christ direct and impressive manner, to of God. The Jewish rulers must, inform him of the spiritual nature however, have been at least con- of the kingdom of God: “Verily, vinced that he was an extraordinary verily," &c.: as though he had said, messenger from Jehovah, and, con- “ This kingdom is a new world, sidering the time, that he was in which a man cannot perceive till some way connected with “ the be is born into it. The kingdom kingdom of God," and they could of God is not such a kingdom as the less doubt of the reality of bis the Jews have been looking for mission, and the greatness of his a secular kingdom. The kingdom character, from the testimony given of God cometh not by observation: to both by the Baptist'. It was no- it must be within you." The abthing iben but the spiritual and hum- ruptness and unexpected nature bling nature of his doctrine-bis of our Lord's answer, so utterly preaching the Gospel and opening at variance with his prejudices, the kingdom of heaven to the poor, amazed him; but his questions in
reply, though indicating gross igJohn, I presume, spake concern- norance, discovered neither cou. ing the Saviour under a Divine inspira - tempt por disgust. Though contion, something like that of the old founded, he does not evince any prophets-not enlightened perhaps him- disposition to take offence; and the self as to the full meaning of the pre majesty of our Lord's manner was dictions respecting Christ; for it is hardly to be supposed that he had at.
no doubt calculated to foster in tained to such a complete knowledge
him a submissive temper. The of the sacrifice and atonement, as our
more deeply to impress the mind of Lord's most intimate disciples did not This, I think, the Saviour meant to acquire till after the descent of the intimate, for his encouragement, in the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost. 21st verse.
Nicodemus that there was mean. have been his intention by allusions ing in what he had said, the Sa- familiar to Nicodemus, to explain viour reiterated and enlarged upon the meaning of what he had said ; his assertion in the most solemo and therefore he could not assume manner: Verily, verily, I say his knowledge of the personality unto you, Except a man be born of of the Holy Ghost. The expreswater and of the Spirit, he cannot sion," the spirit,” would naturally enter into the kingdom of God... be understood by a Jew as indicatthat which is born of the flesh is ing the Divine energy and source flesh, &c. :" which led Nicodemus of life; and I conceive this interto ask the question, “ How can pretation to be the more necessary, these things be ?" submissively because I apprehend there is no waiting an explanation. And then other instance in the whole Scripour Lord says, “ Art thou a master tures in wbich a Divine person and in Israel, and knowest not these a material agent are similarly asso. things ?" This appeal to him was, ciated, as they appear upon the I apprebend, intended to excite his supposition that the Holy Ghost is recollection of liis own Scriptures, personally intended. The words and the character of the servants of the Baptist, “ He shall baptize of God in every age : as though you with the Holy Ghost and with our Lord ad said, “ Art thou fire” (Matt. iii. 11), appear similar; ignorant that all the eminent but, if the interpretation of this men of your nation, in whom passage which I offered in your voyou glory, were regenerated cha- lume for 1820 (p. 728) be corracters-men inspired of God, rect, is not the true one. The and partakers of his holiness ? common interpretation proceeds up. And do you not recollect such on the supposition, that the meanpassages as Psalm li.; Jer. xxxiii. ing of that passage is, “ He shall 8. ; Ezek. xi. 19. ; Ezek. xxxvi. 25 baptize you with the Holy Ghost,
29 ?” I conceive our Lord's as with fire,” which is untenable question to have been especially without altering the sacred text. designed to bring to his recollec. But the interpretation offered in the tion these and similar passages of paper I have referred to isuot the Old Testament, in which al- liable to similar objection; and I lusion is doubtless made to the cere- humbly conceive it receives much monial ablutions of the Jews; and strength from a parallel converthat he used the terms water and sation of our Lord's, John vi. spirit, symbolically as they are 53–63 *; a passage in which it is used in those passages~the Spirit, curious to observe, that it has the to express the quickening influence same aspect with respect to the by which men are made partakers Lord's Supper, that the other has of a spiritual life ; and the water, with regard to baptism: and it to express that purifying and Di- seems as far-fetched to suppose that vine influence by which they are our Lord designed to intimate any nade partakers of God's holiness. thing respecting baptism in the one In this symbolical way only, as in case, as that he intended to intimate the 25th and 26th verses of the anything respecting the bolycommu36th chapter of Ezekiel, and in many nion in The other. It is observable olher passages, the terms spirit and that both the passages are accomwater seem to be used for the two panied by a similarity of remark, great characteristics of a regene- The allusion in this passage is, I rated man-divine life and purity. Doubtless the whole work of rege- the drinking of the blood, so contrary
presnme, to the paschal Jamb; though peration is by the power and grace to Jewish institutions and habits, ap. of the Holy Ghost; but in our pears, I confess, to present a considerLord's reply to Nicodemus, it mustable difficulty:
which tends very much to shew an continue in a station from which agreement in their character and his attachment to the rejected Mestendency. To Nicodemus, the Sa. siah we might have supposed would viour says, “ If I have told you necessarily have caused bim to be earthly things, and ye believe not, expelled. how shall ye believe if I tell you When the holy writers and of heavenly things ?" And, “ No speakers of the New Testament man hath ascended up to heaven, make use of the term baptism, they but he which came down from have frequently,"t conceive, a more heaven," &c. In the sixth chapter particular reference to the thing -lo a company composed partly signified, than to the outward and of affectionate disciples, parily of visible sign. Surely if it be true persons who, like Nicodemus, were of circumcision, it is not less true of disposed to receive explanatiou and baptism, that it is that of the heart, instruction, but partly and princi- in the Spirit, and not in the letter. pally of temporary followers, in- “ Baptism doth save us, not the clined to cavilaud to find excuses for putting away of the filth of the finally withdrawing from bim-he Aesh,” the external observance, but says, “Doth this offend you? What the spiritual baptism of the mind and if
ye shall see the Son of Man and heart, “ the answer of a ascend up where he was before ?” good conscience towards God.” And then he adds, what I con- (1 John iii. 21, and iv. 17.) That ceive perfectly explains his mean- is the letter killeib, but the Spirit ing in both cases; " It is the Spi- giveth life,” is a New Testament rit that quickeneth : the flesh pro- maxim which should never be forfiteth nothing: the words that I gotten, and a lively impression of speak unto you, they are spirit which would be of singular use in and they are life.” Here, I'ap- many controversies, and not least prehend, Scripture is its own in- so in that on the question of bapterpreter, and that a careful com- tismal regeneration. In proportion parison of the two passages, and as the nominal
became cor of the texts referred to, “compar- rupt and secular, this maxim was ing spiritual things with spiritual,” lost sight of; and external obser, will make the meaning sufficiently vances were magnified, till at length obvious,
transubstantiation and the opus After our Lord bad, in an abrupt operatum became triumphant. The but appropriate and most impres- bistory of many ages will shew how sive manner, fixed in the mind of awfully successful have been the Nicodemus the idea of spiritual labours of the unregenerate proregeneration, he advanced to an fessors of Christianity, in rendering exhibition of the glorious and cha- it a plastic secular concern, subserracteristic doctrines and mysteries vient to the purposes of human deof the kiogdom of God, knowing pravity. him now to be prepared to reverence I offer the above remarks with his words, and to meditate with profit humility and deference. If the upon his amazing declarations; thoughts are original and just, they and it is bighly probable, from may be of some value : if otherthe subsequent conduct of Nico- wise, I shall be glad to receive, and demus, that he became a bumble will candidly weigh, the objections and intelligent believer; and that of your biblical correspondents. he was eminent for his faith and To prevent any misapprehension affectionate attachment to the Re- of my meaning, I would add, in deemer; though, by the mysterious conclusion, that tbe doctrine of the overruling of Divine Providence, Trinity in Unity, and the Unity in and for unknown but certainly Trinity, seems to me to bave been, wise purposes, he was permitted to without doubt, the faith of the an