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him, he came to him by night. Doubtless he fully expected to receive some momentous and appropriate instruction from this “teacher come from “ God ;” and the manner in which the words of our Lord, and the answers and conduct of Nicodemus, are recorded by the evangelists, combine to shew that it was in the highest degree important, and to Nicodemus entirely new : but, if baptism, or any thing inseparably connected with baptism, were exclusively intended, what was there in it so peculiar and important; especially to one well acquainted with the“ divers baptisms"2 in use among the Jews, and fully informed concerning the baptism and ministry of John ?
The words with which our Lord, with apparent abruptness, introduced his first instruction, are used by none but himself. He “the Amen, the “ true and faithful witness,"3 alone says, “Verily, “Verily," ("Aparjo, eiusive) “I say unto you ;” and he only on most important occasions, and in respect of essential truths, not generally believed. This solemnity of introduction leads the reader to expeet something peculiarly momentous; something far remote from mere pharisaical instruction, and of a far higher and more spiritual nature. But let the words be rendered according to the sentiment that baptism is synonymous with regeneration : let them be read, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, ex“ cept a man be baptized, he cannot see the king“dom of God;" and to what do they amount beyond pharisaical instruction ? .
The divers baptisms of the law, with those skiperadded by “the traditions of the elders," and the baptism of John, were well known at that time : but Christian baptism, “in the name of the Father, “ and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," had not been instituted. Had Nicodemus therefore supposed that our Lord spoke of baptism exclusively; or indeed at all; his thoughts must necessarily have been led to some of these existing baptisms, and to the nature, necessity, and meaning of them; especially of John's baptism : and, as it is highly probable that he had been baptized by John, he might have been led to answer, All these I have attended to: “What lack I yet?” But how different an impression was made upon his mind will ere long be considered.
The words, “He cannot see the kingdom of " God,” must relate to something wholly inapplicable to baptism.-By “ the kingdom of God,” it is generally agreed that the kingdom of the Messiah was intended. This kingdom a man" cannot “see," (o dúvalós idźwy,)“ except he be born again.” But do not all who enter the Christian church by baptism, on an intelligent, and credible, and sincere profession of “repentance toward God; and faith “ toward our Lord Jesus Christ," see the kingdom of God before they are baptized : Do none“ see “ and enter into the kingdom of God," by genuine faith and conversion to God, who yet on one'aca count or otherdie unbaptized ? Must all be excluded from the kingdom of God in heaven, however in other respects entitled to it and made meet for it,
Mark vii. 8. Luke xi. 38. Gr.
who do not receive baptism ; or to whom it is not rightly administered ? But regeneration, as understood by us, is absolutely necessary, in order to “ seeing the kingdom of God:” for “the natural “ man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of “ God; for they are foolishness to him ; neither “ can he know them; because they are spiritually “ discerned.” Neither can any man enter either the “church of the first born, whose names are “ written in heaven,” or heaven itself, “except he “ be born again."
I desire profoundly to reverence the wisdom of my Lord and Saviour, and to be silent in humble submission, when he proposes instruction in language which I should not previously have expected; yet I can find no instance in which so plain and simple an observance as baptism is spoken of in language which is suited to lead every serious, unlettered reader, at least, to suppose that something vastly more spiritual, peculiar, and uniformly “accompanying salvation," was intended, than baptism however rightly administered is. If then our Lord designed merely to say, “Except a man “ be baptized, he cannot see the kingdom of God," I must think he would explicitly have said it.
The answer of Nicodemus confirms this reasoning.--"Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a “ man be born when he is old i Can he enter a “ second time into his mother's womb and be “ born :”—This is the language of ignorance and astonishment, and a disposition in some degree to cavil, or object, to what he had heard: but, had he
understood baptism to be spoken of, he might have desired further instruction concerning it, but he could not have made such a reply. He indisputably understood our Lord to mean a new birth, which he supposed must be like his birth of his mother, and he could not possibly imagine how this could be accomplished. Neither were our Lord's subsequent words 'at all suited to rectify his error; if merely baptism, and what inseparably accompanies it, was exclusively intended. “ Jesus “ answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except “a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he “ cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”—The word again (“ born again,") seems to be here briefly explained ; allowedly with reference to Christian baptism. As without external baptism,
(the outward visible sign' of regeneration,) which · was hereafter to be constituted the initiatory sacrament of Christianity, no one could be admitted into the visible kingdom of the Messiah; so, unless “born of the Spirit,” “the thing signified in bap'tism,' no man can become a true, and loyal, and accepted subject of that kingdom.
Further, our Lord adds, “That which is born of “the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit cs is spirit.” St. Paul's reasoning, in the former verses of the eighth chapter of Romans, must convince the attentive and impartial reader, that “ the flesh," as thus used, denotes human nature, as fallen in · Adam, and not “born again ;” and that “the “ spirit” signifies a new nature, or “spiritual mind," derived from Christ, “ the last Adam ;-the quick“ening Spirit.”_" That which is born of the flesh
' I Cor. xv. 45.
follow, and yet very seldom, alas, be visible in the conduct and character of those who are baptized ? --But, if the effect, or rather the inward and spiritual grace, be not inseparable from the right administration of baptism ; and depend entirely on the will of that God, “ who bringeth the wind "out of his treasures ;” whether " stormy winds “ fulfilling his word,” or the “ wind" (the milder wind) which “blows, and the waters to flow;"] then the illustration is most appropriate, and Nicodemus's amazement is satisfactorily accounted for. He was, however, still overwhelmed with wonder, and “answered and said unto Jesus, How " can these things be?” Let the reader again pause, and ask himself, what, on the ground of some modern expositions of our Lord's discourse, could give any adequate cause for this exclamation ? and let him ask of God that'" wisdom which “ is from above," and which is “ without partiality “ and without hypocrisy,” to enable him to return to himself the true answer.
Our Lord subjoined, “ Art thou a teacher" (sisáoxanos) “ of Israel, and knowest not these “ things?"2 Nicodemus, as “ a teacher of Israel," might, and no doubt did, know many things concerning “ the divers baptisms” of the Mosaic law, the traditionary baptisms of the Pharisees, and John's baptism : but how could this enable him to know, long before it was instituted, the nature, obligation, and benefits of Christian baptism, “in“ to the name of the Father, and of the Son, and “ of the Holy Ghost ;” or baptism in the name of
'Ps, cxlvii. 18. cxlviii. 8.
? John iii. 10.