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Now as Nicodemus was thus offended at the Doctrine of the Baptismal Regeneration, because he could not fee how these things should be, tho he might daily fee and know it from the Doctrine of his own Church in the Case of Profelytes, so the Nicodemus's, or great Pretenders to Reason, in our days, deny the Doctrines of the Trinity, the Incarnation, and other Mysteries of the Gospel, because their shallow Reason is not able to fathom the Depth of them, nor their Senses show them how these things can be ; thó they have been receivid and own'd by the whole Christian Church throughout all Ages,
Hence we find the Scepticks and Sensualists often asking, how one should be three, and three one? How the same Person should be God and Man, finite and infinite, when to be finite is not to be infinite, and to be infinite is not to be finite?. Thus loading thefe Divine Doctrines with all the Absurdities and Contradictions they can, and so the Mysteries of the Trinity and Incarnation are Stumbling-blocks to the Socinians, and to the Deists Foolishness: and all becaufe their Reason cannot see the Way and Manner of their Existence.
But canst thou by searching find out God? (saith holy Job) Canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection. It is high as Heaven, what canst thou do? deeper than Helly what canft chou know? The Measure thereof is longer than the Earth, and broader than the Sea: Job 11.7,8,9. Canst thou mete out the Heavens with a Span, or fathom the Sea with a Bucket, or measure the Earth with a Compass? And yet these things are infinitely more easy, than tu comprehend him that is incomprehensible. Holy job elsewhere tells us, that God accuses the very Angels of Folly, in prying too far into things which they cannot fully understand: And how much more justly nay he condemn the Sons of Men of Madness, in searching too much into things that are un, searchable, and pait finding out by human Reason? Can a Worm know the Nature of Man, or can Man understand much of the Nature of Angels? And how then should we know much of God, between whom and us the distance is infinitely greater? Alas! all the Creatures of the World, in coniparison of him, are but as the small Drop of the Bucket; that diminishes not the Measure, or as the light Dust upon the Ballance, that alters not the Weight; yea, they are all nothing, less than nothing, and Vanity and how then can our short Sight penetrate into the Divine
Nature, and the Manner of its Existence? or our finite Understandings grasp Infinity? But to cure this Itch of Curiosity, or rather Scab of Infidelity, let us consider,
It, The Shortness of our Sight, even in natural things that lie more level to it: there are Mysteries in Nature, Art and Providence, that baffle and confound our Reason ; and many things which we daily behold and believe too, are above the reach of our Understanding. How shallow and imperfect is our Insight into many common and ordinary Matters ? Are not the wifett Philosophers puzzled about the Nature of Sounds and Colours, which are the daily and ordinary Objects of our Senses? Who can folve the Riddles of Sympathy and Antipathy ? or thew why the Loadstone draws Iron, when its Influence reaches not things of a more likely and eafy Attra&ion? Is not Reafon at a lofs about the ebbing and Howing of the Sea ? And can it tell why the Needle of the Conipafs should fo faithfully and conftantly observe the North Pole? Does not every little Fly or Worm puzzle us to find out the secret Springs of their Life and Motion? Who can tell what kind of Knot it is that ties our Soul and Body together? or explain that Sacred Band that unites Tinte to Eternity ? And is it reasonable to doubt or deny either, because we cannot know how they subsist and are united together? But if our Reason be thus short fighted in natural and common things, that daily occur to our senses, then consider,
2dly, How weak it must needs be in Divine and Spiritual Matters, wbich are so much above them; here certainly. our Candle must burn very dim, and stand in need of some brighter Light to illuminate and direct it: The natural Man discerns not the things of God (saith the Apostle) neither ina deed can be, because they are spiritually discern'd; 1 Cor. 2. 14. And therefore it must be great Folly and Presumption in any to reject the Mysteries of the Gospel, because their weak Reason cannot discover how these things should be. Does not the Splendor of fome Objects dazzle and confound the Sight? Can our weak Eyes stedfastly behold the Sun ? And if our shallow Understandings cannot comprehend natural and earthly Matters, why should we think them able to fathoın supernatural and heavenly Truths ? So our Sac viour here argues with Nicodemus ; If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, hum jhall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things?? Ver. 12. Moreover consider,
3dly, That these things are reveald from Heaven by hinz that is Truth it felf, and therefore there can be no reason to doubt or disbelieve them. We are exprefly told, thať there are three that bear Record in Heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghoft; and these three are one : 1 John 5.7. Where a Trinity of Persons is afferted in the Unity of the Godhead; and we may fafely build upon the Word of him, that can neither deceive or be deceiv'd. There are fome Truths in Religion that were never propounded to our Reason, being above the Ken and Discovery of it: such is this Doctrine of the Holy Trinity, which we are to take upon God's Word, and to believe without scanning. For to oppose our Reason to Revelation, is to set a Candle above the Sun; yea, 'tis to chuse Darkness rather than Light, and to follow a blind Guide before an infallible Director. Reason indeed is a good Guide, as far as it can reach ; but as the Eye is limited in its Prospect, and cannot see beyond its Sphere, so hath God set Bounds to our Reafon, saying, Hither shall it come, and no farther: it may see a great way in visible and corporeal Objects, but 'tis blind in Mysteries, and cannot look within the Veil ; here it must yield to Faith, and resign to Revelation. We know but in part here; and therefore in these sublime and mysterious Truths we must be content to be ignorant, and submit our Reason to Faith, without prying too far into the manner of them, or saying with Nicodemus, How can these things be?
But to go on with the Conference; our Saviour having acquainted Nicodemus with the great Mysteries of the Baptismal Regeneration, and the Holy Trinity, he proceeds to the Testimony given for the Proof of them, viz. the Teftimony of Miracles and Eye-witnesses, the best Evidence that can be given of any Truth; call'd therefore in Scripture, The Demonstration of the Spirit and Power. Now this Evidence we have in the next Verse; Verily, verily I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen, and ye receive not our Witness: that is, I and my Difciples teach you Doctrines that we know by Divine Revelation, and have been confirm'd to us by Miracles before our eyes. So St. John, That which we have seen with our Eyes, and our Hands have handled of the Word of Life, declare we into you, that ye may have Fellowship with us; and truly our Fellowship is with the Father, and with the Son, and with the Holy Ghost : 1 John 1.1. Yea, Christ here adds concerning himself, that no Man hath ascended up to Heaven, to gain
the Knowledg of these things, but he that came down from Heaven, to reveal his Father's Will, even the Son of Man who is in Heaven, by his Divine Nature ; even whilft in his Human Nature he converses with, and teaches us here upon Earth: And yet (faith he to Nicodemus and the rest of the Jews) ye receive not our Witness in these heavenly things, tho they stand so well confirm'd by Divine and Human Teftimony, which must render your Unbelief the more unreafonable and inexcufable.
But yet for all this, As Mofes. lifted up the Serpent in the Wilderness on a Pote, so must the Son of Man be lifted up on a Cross; to the end, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting Life: that is, as all that look'd up to the brazen Serpent were heal'd of all manner of Dif eases, so all that by an Eye of Faith look up to Jesus shall be freed from all the Maladies of the Soul, and made Partakers of eternal Life.
This is briefly the Substance of this Day's Gospel; which may serve,
1A, To convince us of the great and indispensable Necefsity of Baptism: for tho Nicodemus here made a good Confession, by owning Christ to be a Teacher come from God, and believing his Miracles to be such, as none could do except God were with him ; yet this was not sufficient without Baptism, for Christ tells him, that except a Man be born again : of Water, and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. Where, being born again of Water can be ineant only of Baptism, there being no New-Birth by that Element, but by that Sacrament. And this is here made fo neceffary, that there is no Admiflion into the Church here, or into Heaven hereafter without it. And therefore Christ gave a Commission to his Apostles, To go and baptize all Nations, in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost'; Mat. 28. signifying, that Disciples are to be receiv'd into the Church by the waters of Baptism. Aca cordingly we read, that all the Profely tes and Converts to Christianity, mention'd in the Acts of the Apostles, were admitted into it by this Ceremony; Repent and be baptized (faith St. Peter to the three thousand Converts) Acts 2. 38. Arise, why tarrieft thou and be baptized (faith Ananias to Saul upon his Conversion to Christianity) Ats 22. 16. Lydia and her House were admitted into the Church this
way; and so was the Jailor and his family, and so have all Christians been ever since. All which shew us what regard we are to have for this Sacrament, and what care Parents are to take to bring their Children to it; especially confidering, first, the great Benefits they receive by this Sacred Ordinance. This is the Door of Entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven, and therefore our Saviour would have Children brought to it, because theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven; Mark 10. 14. 'Tis the ordinary Means of Salvation ; for be that believeth and is baptized, Mall be saved; Mark 16. 16. The Spirit of God accompanying this Ordinance, gives the Remifiion of Sins, and feals to us the Promise of eternal Life. To this we may add, fecondly, the Confideration of the extreme Danger of denying or delaying of Baptism; for be that believeth not, and is unbaptiz’d, fall be damned. By omitting of this Sacrament, we do as it were shut the Gate of Heaven against Infants, and deprive them of the ordinary Way and Means of their Salvation; which should make all Parents afraid or asham'd of this Neglect,
2dly, From Nicodemus's denying the Baptismal Regeneration, and others denying the Doctrine of the Trinity, because their weak Reason cannot comprehend how these things should be; we may learn not to depend too much upon our own Reason, but to rely chiefly on Divine Reve. lation in such Mysteries: For the former, we fee, is a crooked, erring and uncertain Rule; the latter is a fure, fafe and infallible Guide. We know how the Gentiles lost their way, when they had no better Conduct than their own Reason; and how the Heathens were bewilder'd, when they follow'd only the blind and uncertain Guidance of natural Light; both which led them into many vain Superstitions and gross Idolatrys: but thanks be to God, we are not left to grope in the dark as they were, but are happily assisted by brighter Revelations. Let us not then prefer a Candle before the Sun, or set up our dim Reafon above the Light of Divine Revelations; that is, let us not scan Mysteries by our weak and shallow Apprehensions, but rather make them the Objects of our Admiration than Curiosity. Particularly in this of the Trinity, let us thankfully acquiesce in what God hath reveal'd to us of himfelf, evermore praising him, and saying, Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Sabbaoth.