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h Matt. xi. 27.
ch. 1. 18: vii. 16:
him, & How can these things be? 10 Jesus answered and sch. vi. 62, 60. said unto him, Art thou da master of Israel, and knowest not these things ? 11 h Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak f that we do know, and testify that we have vili.28 seen; and 'ye receive not our 8 witness.
12 If I have told ver. 32. you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you [of] heavenly things ? 13 And
e render, understandest. f that which. 8 render, testimony. pneuma is not the violent wind, which is and John the Baptist (Knapp);- of Teachotherwise expressed, but the gentle breath ers like Himself (Meyer);-of all the born of the wind;--and it is heard, not felt ;- of the Spirit (Lange, Wesley);—of the a case in which “ thou knowest not, fc." three Persons in the Holy Trinity (Stier); is more applicable than in that of a -or, the plural is only rhetorical (Lücke, violent wind steadily blowing. It is one De Wette). I had rather take it as a proof those sudden breezes springing up on a verbial saying ; q. d. “I am one of those calm day, which has no apparent direc- who," &c. Our Lord thereby brings out tion, but we hear it rustling in the leaves the unreasonableness of that unbelief which around. The where it listeth, in the ap- would not receive His witness, but made plication, implies the freedom (2 Cor. it an exception to the general proverbial jii. 17) and unrestrained working of the rule. ye receive not, addressed still Spirit (1 Cor. xii. 11).
every one to Nicodemus, and through him to the that is born of the Spirit] Our Lord can Jews : not to certain others who were prehardly, as Stier explains, mean Himself by sent, as Olshausen supposes. 12.] The these words; or if He does, only inclu. words receive our testimony prepared the sively, as being one born of the Spirit,- way for the new idea which is brought not principally. He describes the mystery forward in this verse— believing. Faith of the spiritual life: we see its effects, in is, in the most pregnant sense, the reourselves, and others who have it; but we ceiving of testimony;' because it is the cannot troce its beginnings, nor can we making subjectively real the contents of prescribe to the Holy Spirit His course: that testimony. So the believing in him He works in us and leads us on, accom. (see ver. 15) is, the full reception of the panying us with His witness,–His voice, Lord's testimony; because the burden of spiritually discerned. This saying of that testimony is, grace and truth and the Lord-in contradiction to all so-called salvation by Himself. This faith is neither Methodism, which prescribes the time and reasoning, nor knowledge, but a reception manner of the working of the Spirit of divine Truth declared by One who came assures us of the manifold and undefinable from God; and so it is far above reasonvariety of both these. "The physiognomies ing and knowledge :-we believe above of those who are born again, are as various as we know.
But what are the earthly those of natural men.' Draseke. 9.] The things! The matters relating to the new question of Nicodemus is evidently still one birth which have hitherto been spoken of; of unbelief, though no longer of frivolity: -called so because that side of them has see ver. 12. 11.] Henceforward the been exhibited which is upon earth, and discourse is an answer to the unbelief, and happens among men. That the parable in answering that, to the question (How about the wind is not intended, is evident can these things be ?) of Nicodemus : by from “and ye believe not,” which in that shewing him the appointed means of this case would be 'ye understand not.' And new birth, and of being upheld in the life the heavenly things are the things of to which it is the entrance, viz. faith in the which the discourse goes on to treat from Son of God. We speak that we do this point: viz. the heavenly side of the know...] Why these plurals ? Various new birth and salvation of man, in the interpretations have been given : “Either eternal counsels of God regarding His onlyHe speaks concerning Himself and the begotten Son. Stier supposes a referFather, or concerning Himself alone.” ence in this verse to Wisd. ix. 16, “Hardly Euthymius ;='He speaks of Himself and do we guess aright at things that are upon the Spirit' (Bengel) ;--of Himself and the the earth, and with labour do we find the Prophets (Beza, Tholuck);—of Himself things that are before us : but the things
k Province ano man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came
down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in 1 Cor. 1V. 47. heaven. 14 1 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the
88, 51, 63: xvi. 28. Acts ii. 34.
Eph. iv. 9, 10.
1 Num. xxi. 9.
that are in heaven who hath searched out ?” insight into divine truth :these words in
13.] The whole verse seems to have fact express the truths on which Hebrero intimate connexion with and reference to metaphors were constructed. Socinus is Prov. xxx. 4, “Who bath ascended up to quite right, when he says that those who heaven, or descended ?” and as spoken take hath ascended up into heaven' metuto a learned doctor of the law, would recall phorically, must in all consistency take that verse,-especially as the further ques. he that came down from heaven' metation is there asked, "Who hath gathered phorically also ; “ the descent and ascent the wind in His fists?' and “What is must be both of the same kind." 14.] His name, and what His Son's name?' From this point the discourse passes to the See also Deut. xxx. 12, and the citation, Person of Christ, and Redemption by His Rom. x. 6-8. All attempts to ex- Death. The Lord brings before this plain away the plain sense of this verse doctor of the Law the mention of Moses, are futile and ridiculous. The Son of Man, who in his day by divine command lifted the Lord Jesus, the Word made Flesh, was up a symbol of forgiveness and redemption in, came down from, heaven,—and was to Israel. In interpreting this comin heaven (heaven about Him, heaven parison, we must avoid all such ideas as dwelling on earth, ch. i. 52), while here, that our Lord merely compares His death and ascended up into heaven when He left to the elevation of the brazen serpent, as this earth;-—and by all these proofs, speak- if only a fortuitous likeness were laid hold ing in the prophetic language of accom- of by Him. This would leave the brazen plished Redemption, does the Lord esta- serpent itself meaningless, and is an exblish, that He alone can speak of heavenly planation which can only satisfy those who things to men, or convey the blessing do not discern the typical reference of all of the new birth to them. Be it remem- the ceremonial dispensation to the Rebered, that He is here speaking by anti- deemer. It is an important duty of cipation, of results of His course and suf. an expositor here, to defend the obvious ferings on earth,—of the way of regene- and only honest explanation of this comration and salvation which God has ap- parison against the tortuous and inadequate pointed by Him. He regards therefore interpretations of modern critics. The throughout the passage, the great facts of comparison lies between the exalted ser. redemption as accomplished, and makes pent of brass, and the exalted Son of announcements which could not be literally Man. The brazen serpent sets forth the acted upon till they had been so accom- Redeemer. This by recent commentators plished." See vv. 14 ff., whose sense will be (Lücke, De Wette, and others) is consi. altogether lost, unless this hath ascended dered impossible : and the thing compared up be understood of His exaltation to be a is held to be only the lifting up. But Prince and a Saviour. which is in this does not satisfy the construction of heaven] See ch. i. 18 and note. Doubt- the comparison. The brazen serpent was less the meaning involves 'whose place is lifted up: every one who looked on it, in heaven;' but it also asserts the being lived;' this sentence, in its terms, represents in heaven of the time then present : see this other,- The Son of Man must be ch. i. 52. Thus majestically does the Lord lifted up: every one who believes on Him, characterize His whole life of humiliation shall live.' The same thing is predicated in the flesh, between His descent and His of the two ;-both are lifted up; cognate ascent. As uniting in Himself God, whose consequences follow,-body-healing and dwelling is Heaven, with man, whose dwell. soul-healing (as Erskine, On the Brazen ing is on earth, He ever was in heaven. Serpent). There must then be some And nearly connected with this fact is the reason why the only two members of the transition to His being the fountain of comparison yet unaccounted for stand eternal life, in vv. 14 ff. : cf. 1 Cor. xv. where they do, - considering that the 47–50, where the same connexion is brazen serpent was lifted up not for any strikingly set forth. To explain such physical efficacy, but by command of God expressions as “to ascend up into heaven,” alone. Now on examination we find this &c., as mere Hebrew metaphors (Lücke, De correspondence fully established. The Wette, &c.) is no more than saying that “serpent' is in Scripture symbolism, the Hebrew metaphors were founded on deep devil, – from the historical temptation
n ver. 30.
ch. vi. 47.
wilderness, even so m must the Son of man be lifted up : m ch. viii
. 28: 15 that whosoever believeth in him i should not perish, but nk have eternal life. 16 • For God so loved the world, that he gave his only- ° Roehnis:
k better, may have. in Gen. ii. downwards. But why is the exaltation hath made Him to be, and being devil set forth by the serpent ? How
that TO ME. This involves, on the part of does the bite of the serpent operate ? It the believer, the anguish of the bite of the pervades with its poison the frame of its fiery serpent,—and the earnest looking on victim: that frame becomes poisoned :- Him in Whom sin is crucified, with the and death ensues. So sin, the poison of inner eye of faith. have eternal life] the devil, being instilled into our nature, Just as in the type, God did not remove that nature has become a poisoned nature, the fiery serpents,- or not all at once,-but - a flesh of sin (see Rom. viii. 3). Now healing was to be found in the midst of the brazen serpent was made in the like- them by looking to the brazen serpent ness of the serpents which had bitten the (' every one that is bitten, when he looketh children of Israel. It represented to them upon it shall live,' Num. xxi. 8),—so the the poison which had gone through their temptations and conflicts of sin shall not frames, and it was hung up there, on the leave the believer,—but in the midst of banner-staff
, as a trophy, to shew them these, with the Eye of Faith fixed on the that for the poison, there was healing ; uplifted Son of Man, he has eternal life; that the plague had been overcome. In perishes not of the bite, but shall live. it, there was no poison; only the likeness See on this verse the remarkable passage, of it. Now was not the Lord Jesus made Wisd. xvi. 5—13, where as much of the in the likeness of the flesh of sin, Rom. healing sign is opened as could be expected viii. 3 ? Was not He made · Sin for us, before the great Antitype Himselfappeared. roho knew no sin' (2 Cor. v. 21) ? Did 16.] Many Commentators-since the not He, on His Cross, make an open shew time of Erasmus, who first suggested the of, and triumph over, the Enemy, so that notion,-have maintained that the dis. it was as if the Enemy himself had been course of our Lord breaks off here, and the nailed to that Cross (Col. ii. 15) ? Were rest, to ver. 21, consists of the remarks of not Sin and Death and Satan crucified, the Evangelist. (So Tholuck, Olshausen, when He was crucified ? “In that case, Lücke, De Wette; which last attributes since the injury was by the serpent, by the vv. 13, 14 also to John.) But to those serpent was also the cure: and in this, who view these discourses of our Lord as since by man death came into the world, intimately connected wholes, this will be by man entered life also.” Euthymius. as inconceivable, as the idea of St. Mat.
must the Son of man be lifted up: thew having combined into one the insui. e. it is necessary, in the Father's coun- lated sayings of his Master. This discourse sel—it is decreed, but not arbitrarily; would be altogether fragmentary, and would the very necessity of things, which is in have left Nicodemus almost where he was fact but the evolution of the divine Will, before, had not this most weighty conmade it requisite that the pure and sinless cluding part been also spoken to him. This Son of Man should thus be uplifted and it is, which expands and explains the assersuffer; see Luke xxiv. 26. In the word tions of vv. 14, 15, and applies them to the lifted up there is more than the mere cru- present life and conduct of mankind. cifixion. It has respect in its double mean- The principal grounds alleged for supposing ing (of which see a remarkable instance in the discourse to break off' here seem to be Gen. xl. 13, 19) to the exaltation of the (a) that all allusion to Nicodemus is henceLord on the Cross, and through the Cross forth dropped. But this is not concluto His Kingdom; and refers back to “hath sive, for it is obvious that the natural proascended up into heaven" before. 15.] gress of such an interview on his part would The corresponding clause applying to the be from questioning to listening : and that type is left to be supplied— And as every even had he joined in the dialogue, the one who looked on it was healed, so .... Evangelist would not have been bound to
believeth in him] This expression, relate all his remarks, but only those which, here only used by John, implies his exalta. as vv. 2, 4, and 9, were important to bring tion,-see ch. xii. 32. It is a belief in out his mind and standing-point. (b) that (abiding in, see note on ver. 18) His Per. henceforth past tenses are used ; making son being what God by his sufferings and it more probable that the passage was
p Luke ix. 58.
ch. 5. 45: viii. 15 :
1 ch. v. 24 :
vi. 40, 47: I. 81.
begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him 1 should
not perish, but m have everlasting life. 17 p For God sent 1 John iv. 14. not his Son into the world to a condemn the world; but
that the world through him might be saved. 18 . He 1 render, might.
m better, might have. 1 render, judge.
added after the great events alluded to had represented by, and included in, man,taken place. But does not our Lord speak Gen. iii. 17, 18, and i. 28;—not, the elect, here, as in so many other cases, prolepti. which would utterly destroy the force of cally, of the fulness of the accomplishment the passage; see on ver. 18.
The of those designs, which in the divine coun- Lord here reveals Love as the one ground sels were accomplished ? Is not this way of the divine counsel in redemption,-sal. of speaking natural to a discourse which is vation of men, as its one purpose with retreating of the development of the new gard to them.
he gave his only. birth, itself not yet brought in till the begotten Son] These words seem to carry Spirit was given ? See a parallel instance, a reference to the offering of Isaac; and with the Evangelist's explanation, ch. vii. Nicodemus in that case would at once be 37—39. (c) on account of this use of only reminded by them of the love there rebegotten, verses 16, 18, which is peculiar quired, the substitution there made, and to John. But, as Stier well enquires, the prophecy there uttered to Abraham, to whence did John get this word, but from which the following words of our Lord so the lips of his divine Master ? Would he nearly correspond.
gave-absolute, have ventured on such an expression, ex- not merely to the world—gave up,-Rom. cept by an authorization from Him? (d) It viii. 32; where, as Stier remarks, we have is asserted that John often continues our again, in the “spared not,” an unmistakeLord's discourses with additions of his able allusion to the same words, said to own ;-and ver. 31, and ch. i. 16, are al- Abraham, Gen. xxii. 16. that wholeged as instances. Of these, ch. i. 16 is soever .] By the repetition of this final beside the question ;-for the whole pro- clause verbatim from ver. 15, we have the logue is spoken in the person of the Evan- identity of the former clauses established : gelist, and the Baptist's testimony in ver. i.e. the uplifting of the Son of Man like 15 is merely confirmatory of ver. 14, and the serpent in the wilderness is the manithen the connexion goes on with ver. 16. festation of the divine Love in the gift of On the untenableness of the view with re- the Son of God : "the Son of Man" of ver. gard to vv. 31 ff., see notes there. 14 is equivalent, in the strictest sense, to It would besides give us a very mean idea “his only-begotten Son" of ver. 16. of the honesty or reverence of one who sets 17.) the world,—the Gentile world, -was forth so sublime a view of the Divinity and according to Jewish ideas to be judged and Authority of our Lord, to suppose him condemned by the Messiah. This error our capable, in any place, of attributing to his Lord here removes. The assertion ch. is. Master words and sentiments of his own 39, “ for judgment (or, condemnation) invention. And that the charge amounts came I into this world,” is no contradicto this, every simple reader can bear testi- tion to this. The judgment there, as here, mony. The obvious intention of the Evan- results from the separation of mankind into gelist here is, that the Lord shall have two classes,—those who will and those who said these words. If our Lord did not say will not come to the light; and that result them, but the Evangelist, we cannot stop itself is not the purpose why the Son of with the view that he has added his own God came into the world, but is evolved in remarks to our Lord's discourse, but must the accomplishment of the higher purpose, at once pronounce him guilty of an im- viz. Love, and the salvation of men. Obposture and a forgery. I conclude there- serve, the latter clause does not correspond fore on all these grounds that the words to the former-it is not that He might following, to ver. 21, cannot be otherwise save the world, but that the world through regarded than as uttered by our Lord in Him might be saved :—the free will of the continuation of His discourse. loved] world is by this strikingly set forth, in The indefinite past tense, signifying the connexion with verses 19, 20. Not that universal and eternal existence of that love the Lord is not the Saviour of the world which God Himself is (1 John iv. 8). (ch. iv. 42), but that the peculiar cast of the world, in the most general sense, as this passage required the other side of the
that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is P condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the 9 condemnation, 'that r light is come into r ch. 1:4, 9, the world, and men loved * darkness rather than r light, viii. 12. because their deeds were evil. 20 For severy one that Job xiv. doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light,
Eph. v. 13. lest his deeds should be reproved. 21 But he that doeth
o render, cometh not into judgment. P render, judged.
9 render, judgment. r render, the light .. the darkness ....
the light. truth to be brought out. 18.] cometh
the verbs used in the original in the ex. not into judgment - see ch. v. 24, where the pressions doeth evil and doeth the truth, same assertion is made more fully; and note which is too remarkable to be passed over, there. is judged already, implying,—by - especially as the same distinction is obno positive act of judgment of Mine,-but served in ch. v. 29. I think the distincby the very nature of things themselves. tion is perhaps this,—that the first verb God has provided a remedy for the deadly represents more the habit of action ; so bite of sin; this remedy the man has not that we might say he that practises accepted, not taken: he must then perish evil;' but the second the true doing of in his sins : he is already judged and sen. good, good fruit, good that remains. He tenced. hath not believed] The per- who practises, has nothing but his practice, fect sets before us the deliberate choice which is an event, a thing of the past, a of the man, q. d. he hath not chosen to source to him only of condemnation; he believe:' see 2 Thess. ii. 11, 12. in the has nothing to shew for it, for it is also name-not without meaning: that name empty, worthless (which is the real primiwas “JESUS, for He shall save his people tive meaning of the adjective here rendered from their sins," Matt. i. 21.
The evil”); whereas he that does, makes, word only-begotten also here sets before us creates (for this is the force of the second the hopelessness of such a man's state : he verb), has his deed, or thing made,- he has has no other Saviour. 19.] The par- abiding fruit; his works do follow him. ticular nature of this decided judgment is So that the expressions will not perhaps now set forth,—that the light (see ch. i. 7, here admit of being interchanged. In the and notes) is come into the world, and allusion to darkness, there may possibly be men (men in general; an awful revelation a hint at the coming by night of Nicodeof the future reception of the Gospel) loved mus, but surely only by a distant implica(the perversion of the affections and will tion. He might gather this from what is the deepest ruin of mankind) the dark. was said, that it would have been better ness (see note on ch. i. 5; = the state of for him to make open confession of Jesus ; sin and unbelief) rather than (not to be but we can hardly say that our Lord reresolved into and not;' but, as Bengel proves him for coming even as he did. says,
“ The loveliness of the light struck 21.] Who is this doer of the truth? the them, but they persevered in the love of end of ch. i. will best explain to us,- in the darkness, see ch. v. 35; xii. 43; whom there is no guile, see also Luke viii. 2 Tim. ïïi. 4) the light, because their deeds 15, and Ps. xy. The practiser of wicked. were evil (their habits, thoughts, practices, ness is crooked and perverse ; he has a -all these are included,
-were perverted). light, which he does not follow; he knows loved and were are the indefinite the light, and avoids it; and so there is no past tense, implying the general usage and truth, singleness, in him; he is a man at state of men, when and after the light variance with himself. But the simple and came into the world. 20.] This verse single-minded is he who knowing and apanalyzes the psychological grounds of the proving the light, comes to it; and comes preceding. The light is not here the com- that he may be carried onward in this mon light of day,' nor light in general : spirit of truth and single-mindedness to but, as before, the Light; i. e. the Lord higher degrees of communion with and Jesus, and His salvation : see ver. 21 end. likeness to God. “The good man seeks the There is here a difference between light, and to place his works in the light, not