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Julian Period, 4740.

Christ goes

down to Capernaum, and continues there some
short time.

JOHN ii. 12.

After this he went down to Capernaum, he, and his Capernaum. Vulgar Era, mother, and his brethren, and his disciples: and they continued there not many days 13.




The Buyers and Sellers driven from the Temple ".

JOHN ii. 13, to the end.

13 And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went Temple at up to Jerusalem,

13 The expression, not many days, is used in Acts i. 5. In that passage it denotes ten days only, being the interval between the Ascension and the day of Pentecost.

14 We are informed by Josephus (a), that a stranger was not allowed to pass into the holy place, that is, into the second court of the temple, where the Jews and circumcised proselytes, when not legally unclean, were admitted. The third court was without the sacred limits, and divided from the other by little pillars, or columns, with this inscription-Mý deïv áλλóquλov ἐντὸς τῷ ̔Αγία παριέναι, and the reason is assigned, τὸ γὰρ δευτερὸν ἵερον ̔́Αγιον ἐκαλεῖτο. This part of the temple was intended for the Jews who were unclean, and the devout Gentiles, the Proselytes of the Gate. Although the Jews held the Gentiles in the greatest contempt, stigmatizing them with the opprobrious epithet of "dogs," refusing all intercourse or familiarity with them, still we find them so inconsistent as to suffer them to carry on, even in the very precincts of their temple, in the courts appointed for the Gentiles, a traffic in oxen, sheep, and doves, which were required by the worshippers, for their sacrifices and purifications. In every age of the Jewish Church many proselytes of the Gate united themselves to the congregation of Israel: but in consequence of the constant merchandize going on, which must be attributed to the negligence of the governors of the temple, the devout Gentiles were at all times disturbed in their devotions, and at the greater festivals must have been nearly or altogether excluded from the place of worship. It was worthy then of the Messiah, to commence his public ministry, by cleansing the temple, by driving from it the profane and worldly; an action, by which he declared himself at once the Lord of the temple, and the protector of all those from among the mass of mankind, who sought him in the way he had appointed. It was impossible that the composure of spirit, and serenity of mind, which are necessary to the duty of prayer (b) could have been preserved among the loud talking and disputing of buyers and sellers, the jingling of money, the lowing of oxen, and the bleating of sheep. Yet it was among these only that the Gentile worshippers could find admission. Our Lord's motive, in the second instance, for thus cleansing the temple, is given by St. Mark, xi. 17. which passage, says the learned Mede,


Julian Period, 4740.

14 And found in the temple those that sold oxen and Temple at Vulgar Era, sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:


15 And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables;

16 And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandize.

17 And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.

18 Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou dost these things?

19 Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.

20 Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? 21 But he spake of the temple of his body.

22 When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.

23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover, in

ought to be translated-My house shall be called a house of
prayer to, or for, all nations-rãoɩ Tоiç ëOveσi (c). Though the
Jewish dispensation was not yet completed, the dawning of the
new dispensation had begun. It is in the plans of Providence, as it
is in the works of creation. The God of nature is the God of re-
velation. As in nature the seasons so beautifully and so gradually
blend with each other, as the closing day insensibly changes into
night, or the darkness of the night slowly gives place to the
dawn of the morning, and the splendours of the rising sun, so
do the various dispensations of au overruling and wise Provi-
dence, gradually and slowly accomplish his own prophecies,
appealing to our reason, as the visible creation appeals to our
senses. This action of our Lord was a visible and open mani-
festation of his claim to the character of the Messiah (d); and
it was the most significant proof that the temple of Jerusalem
must be purified or overthrown, and that the Gentiles should be
admitted into the Church of God his Father.

(a) De bello Judaico, lib. 6. chap. vi. Mede's works, p. 44. fol. Camb. 1677. (b) That great master of our noble language, Jeremy Taylor, in his second sermon on the return of prayers, has this beautiful passage:-Prayer is the peace of our spirit, the stillness of our thoughts, the evenness of recollection, the seat of meditation, the rest of our cares, and the calm of our tempest. Prayer is the issue of a quiet mind, and untroubled thoughts; it is the daughter of charity-it is the sister of meekness; and he that prays to God with a troubled and discomposed spirit, is like him that retires into a battle to meditate, or chooses a frontier garrison to indulge in contemplation.-Taylor's Discourses, &c. vol. i. p. 88. Longman's edit. 1807. (c) Vide Mede's sermon on this text-Works, fol. p. 44. (d) Vide Archbishop Newcome's notes to his Harmony of the New Testament, p. 7.


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Julian Pe- the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw Temple at riod, 4740. the miracles which he did.

Vulgar Æra,


The first

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

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


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

15 The conversation of our Lord with Nicodemus, has given rise to more discussion and controversy than any other passage of the New Testament. This circumstance, indeed, ought not to excite surprize. On the interpretation of this passage depend the most important decisions, which can engage the attention of a Christian. The questions how, or when, we are first admitted into covenant with God-the necessity of the means of grace-the efficacy and meaning of the sacramentswith many more interesting considerations, are essentially connected with the interpretation given to the conversation of our Lord with one of the heads of the Jewish Sanhedrim. The occason was such as to justify the expectation that some new and important doctrine would be revealed to the world; suited alike to the state of mind, the condition of the inquirer, and the sublimity of the Messiah's character and office. This doctrine was the absolute necessity of Regeneration, or being born again.

The various interpretations given to our Lord's address may be reduced to two principal divisions: one class of Christians believes that regeneration is a spiritual change wrought upon any person, whether an infant, or an adult, in the right use of baptism, whereby he is translated from a spiritual state in Adam, to a spiritual state in Christ. They believe that regeneration is so appropriated to baptism, as to exclude any other new birth, which is not considered in conjunction with that ordinance. They believe that the water is an outward and visible sign, of an inward and spiritual grace which attends the administration of the sacrament of baptism: and the consequence of baptism is, that the baptized person is taken into covenant with God, and is admitted into a different state with respect to God, than he was at his natural birth. He was born a child of wrath, he is now a child of God-he is washed and sanctified by the Holy Ghost, and obtains the privileges of an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.

Another class of Christians, on the contrary, believe that regeneration is a change which takes place at some uncertain period of life, when, by the mercy of God, the heart is changed, and the sinner becomes a new man, possessed of new perceptions, affections, and dispositions; and becomes capable of employments, and satisfactions, to which he was before a stranger. He can frequently, some assert that he can always tell, the very moment when the change was effected. This re

Julian Pe

2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Jerusalem. riod, 4740. Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: Vulgar Era,


The first

Passover. generation is supposed to be a general revolution in the moral
nature and reasonable faculties of man, effected by the power
of God's spirit in the way of creation, or miraculous opera-
tion; and as an implantation of motives or new qualities. It
is the turning point from evil to good, in which a radical change
of all the faculties of the soul takes place. It is as completely
a new birth of the moral or spiritual part of man, as the en-
trance of a child into the world is the birth of the body. It is
distinctly perceivable by the intellect when it commences.
is a restoration of the image of God in man, which can never
be again effaced: but the favoured sinner, to whom this great
blessing is imparted, is elected to holiness, as the means of
salvation; and though he may sometimes sin, he shall never
finally fall away and perish.


Such are the two divisions of opinion, which I have endea voured to represent with as much impartiality as possible. Before we go on to examine them, it will be advisable to see in what points the advocates of these opinions, which are apparently so entirely reconcileable, will be found to agree. Both will acknowledge that no impenitent or profligate man who dies in his sin can be admitted into the everlasting happiness of a higher state of existence-both will acknowledge that there is no physical efficiency in the sacrament itself, but that any change which may attend it is moral or spiritual, and effected by the mercy of a God, who being every where present, must also be present at the administration of this sacrament-both acknowledge the truth of this principal doctrine, the sum and substance of Christianity, that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord," whether he be baptized or unbaptized-both also will acknowledge, that while it has pleased God that grace should attend upon the means of grace, his power is not limited to those means. The question is, only whether the general law which God has revealed to man respecting the time of the new birth, is, that it takes place at baptism, or at any other period.

One chief cause of the difficulty which has attended the interpretation of this passage, is, the apparent abruptness of our Lord's address. Some suppose (a) that a part of the conversation is omitted. Others (b), that our Lord reproved the timidity of the Jewish teacher, by declaring immediately on the attempt of Nicodemus to begin a conversation, that whoever would be his disciple must come to his baptism, and publicly profess his religion. Others, that our Lord perceived at once the object of Nicodemus's visit, that it was to enquire concerning the Messiah's kingdom; and, in reference to this, immediately began his conversation, "Except a man be born again." -Another difficulty arises from the surprize of Nicodemus at the mention of the new birth; whereas this was a subject with which he must have been well acquainted, as the Jews were accustomed to call their proselytes, after they had been baptized, "new born children." On whatever account our Lord thus addressed Nicodemus, the purport of his conversation is evident. He relates the manner in which a man must enter the kindom of God. On such a subject the Jewish leader must have entertained the notions which were common to his countrymen. It will be necessary, then, to understand thoroughly the object which our Lord had in view, and to ascertain what were the previous ideas of Nicodemus, respecting that change by whichr a man was admitted into covenant with God. It must be con

Julian Period, 4740. Vulgar Æra,


The first

for no man can do these miracles that thou dost, except Jerusalem. God be with him.

cluded, that as Nicodemus was a master in Israel, he must have
had a thorough knowledge of the most common doctrines of his
faith. If we find these to be such as were erroneous, we may
conclude that our Lord would have corrected them-if imper-
fect, he would have pointed out their defects-if redundant or
extravagant, he would have simplified and purified them. If
then we can ascertain, from the decisions of the Jewish Church,
whether, under the Mosaic law, the spirit of God was supposed
to be separated from the means of grace, and was communicated
without the observance of those means, in such manner that a
man might be said to be born again, we shall have obtained
some foundation for the second opinion here mentioned respect-
ing baptism. If we find, on the contrary, that they uniformly
connected the idea of a new birth with the observance of some
appointed ordinance, and believed that infants were born again
by circumcision, and proselytes by baptism, we may conclude
the decision of the Jewish Church is in favour of the first
opinion. The Jews, as well as the Christians, believed in the
influences of the Holy Spirit, as firmly and implicitly as the
most humble and orthodox Christian: though no mistake is
more common, than the representing their belief in its influ-
ences as a new doctrine, unknown till the days of the Apostles.
The prayer of David, in the fifty-first Psalm, was the uniform
language of the pious Jews; and the most devout Christian could
not require a more fervent or expressive prayer, for the con-
tinued influences and daily renovation of the spiritual life, by
the Holy Spirit of God. It is certain also, and Nicodemus
must have been assured, that while the Spirit of God was the
agent which conferred the blessing on the worshippers of God;
yet it had pleased God that external ordinances should be
appointed under the law, as the means by which strength of
resolution, increased faith, true repentance, and all the graces
of spiritual life should be imparted. It was then, as now, that
he who bent his knees before God in private, offering up the
prayer of the heart, left his chamber a better man than if the
prayer had not been offered. Obedience produces blessing.
He who attends to the means of grace will become a better
Christian than he who hopes for the mercy of God, and disre-
gards his ordinances. These truths must have been known and
believed, though they were disregarded by every Jew. What
then was the opinion of Nicodemus respecting the beginning
of this spiritual life, and of a new birth, by which men were
admitted into the kingdom of God?

The Jews believed that Abraham before his call was an
idolator, but that when God called him from his Father's
house, it was said to him, I will make thee a new creature (c).

If any one shall persuade another to embrace the true religion, it is as if he had created him anew (d).

A priest was made a new creature, by the oil which was poured upon his head, at his inauguration into his office (e).

A man who is newly born does not immediately receive the spirit from above until he is circumcised. But when he is circumcised the spirit is poured upon him with a heavenly effusion. When he has become a youth, and studies the law, a greater effusion is poured out upon him. When he observes the precepts of the law, a greater effusion is poured out upon him. When he is established in life, and trains up his family in the

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