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difficult to him. We can easily understand worldly things, for they are agreeable to the temper of our minds, and suit the taste and relish of our hearts; but we are blind to things spiritual and divine; are slow of heart to understand them, they not suiting the temper and relish of our hearts, and we being in a disposition to disrelish things of such a nature: therefore, our Saviour observes to Nicodemus, (ver. 19.) This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, but men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil. We are in a state of rebellion; at enmity against God, and under his wrath; and yet ready, through our darkness, to flatter ourselves that all is well; and so are secure and at ease. Light is come into the world, discovering our disease and our remedy, but we love our disease, and loathe the remedy; and, therefore, hate the light, and will not come to it. And thus our Saviour teaches Nicodemus wherein true religion consists, and points out the aversion of mankind to it. Nor is there any thing that will discover our aversion so plainly as to set true religion in its own light; for when we see clearly what it is, we may perceive how we stand affected towards it; but otherwise we may be easily mistaken; may imagine that we love true religion, when, indeed, we only love the false image we have framed in our own fancy. Regeneration and faith, these two great essentials, wherein all religion, radically consists, are the things our Saviour inculcates upon his new disciple, Christ loved to lay the foundation well. He was not fond of converts, unless their conversion was sound. And indeed, all our religion is good for nothing, if our nature be not renewed: and all our communion with God is but fancy, if we are strangers to Christ: for he is the way, the truth, and the life, and no man comes to the Father but by him. But to proceed to the words of the text, God so loved the world, &c.
GOD, i, e. God the Father, the first person in the everblessed trinity, who sustains the dignity and majesty of Godhead, and is eminently Lord of heaven and earth, (Mat. xi. 25.) and prime agent in the works of creation and providence ; in governing the world; in redeeming, sanctifying, and saving of sinners. Rom. xi. 36. That there are three persons in the God-head, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and
that these three are one God, the scriptures do abundantly teach. (Mat. xxviii. 19. 2 Cor. xiii. 13. 1 John v. 7.) And this doctrine we must believe, or we cannot understand the gospel. How they are three, and how they are one, is not revealed, nor is it necessary for us to know; but that there are three persons in the God-head, and yet but one God, we must believe; and what characters they sustain, and what parts they act in the affair of our salvation, we must understand. The gospel represents God the Father as sovereign Lord of heaven and earth: as righteous Governor of the world: as giving laws to his creatures: as revealing his wrath against all transgressions. He is represented as being injured and offended by our sins, and concerned to maintain the honour of his majesty: of his law and government, and sacred authority. He is represented as having designs of mercy towards a sinful, guilty, rained world; and as contriving and proposing a method of recovery. He is represented as one seated on a throne of grace, reconcileable through Jesus Christ, and seeking to reconcile the world to himself by Christ, ordering pardon and peace to be proclaimed through a guilty world, to any and all who will return to him in the way prescribed. The gospel represents God the Son as being constituted Mediator by his Father, that, in and by him, he might open a way to accomplish his designs of mercy towards a guilty world, consistent with the honour of his majesty; of his holiness and justice; of his law and government. His Father appointed him to the office, and he freely undertook it. His Father sent him into this world. to enter upon the difficult work, and he willingly came. was made flesh, and dwelt among us. Here he lived, and here he died, in the capacity of a Mediator. He arose : he ascended into heaven, and sits now at his Father's right hand, GodMan Mediator, exalted to the highest honour; made Lord of all things, and Judge of the world. And now we are to have access to God by him, as our Mediator, High Priest, Intercessor, and Advocate, who has made complete atonement for sins in the days of his abasement, and has now sufficient interest in the court of heaven. The gospel represents God the Holy Ghost as being sent of the Father as prime agent, and by the Son as Mediator, in the character of an enlightener
and sanctifier, in order to bring sinners effectually to see and be sensible of their sin, guilt, and ruin: to believe the gospel to trust in Christ, and to return home to God through him. And it is his office to dwell in believers: to teach and lead them to sanctify, quicken, strengthen, and comfort them, and to keep them through faith unto salvation. The Father is God by nature, and God by office: The Son if God by nature, and Mediator by office. The Spirit is God by nature, and Sanctifier by office. The Father, as Governor, Law-giver, Judge, and Avenger, has all power in heaven and earth, in and of himself. Mat. xi. 25. The Son, as Mediator, derives all his authority from the Father. Mat. xi 27. The Holy Spirit acts as being sent by them both: by the Father, as supreme Governor, dealing with a sinful, guilty world, through a Mediator; by the Son as Mediator, negociating a reconciliation between God and man. John xiv. 16. The Father maintains the honour of the God-head, and of his goverment, and displays his grace, while he ordains that sin shall be punished, the sinner humbled, and brought back to God, and into a subjection to his will, and in that way be pardoned, and finally saved. Sin is punished, in the Son, as Mediator, standing in the room of the guilty: and the sinner is humbled, brought back to God, and into a subjection to his will, by the Holy Spirit; and, in this way is pardoned and saved. And thus the Son and the Spirit honour the Father, as supreme Governor, and all join in the same design to discountenance sin, humble the sinner, and glorify grace. Thus far briefly of the doctrine of the trinity. Right apprehensions of God help us to understand the law, and right apprehensions of the trinity, will help us to understand the gospel Not how they are three persons, and yet but one God, the manner of which is not needful to be known; but the offices and characters they sustain, and the different parts they act in the great affair of saving sinners. God (says the text) so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life : i. e. God the Father the great Governor of the world, whom we had offended by sin.
So LOVED the world; i. e. with a love of benevolence.— Esteem us he could not; for we were worthless and vile. To
delight in us it was impossible; for we were altogether odious and abominable. But to have a good will towards us, or a will to do us good, this he might have, although we were sinful and guilty. Not, indeed, from any motive in us; for if we were viewed, and our temper and circumstances considered, there was not to be seen one motive to pity, no, not the least; but every motive to indignation and wrath. However, from motives within himself, he might will to do us good, notwithstanding our sin and guilt. The self-moving goodness of his nature did excite him, from the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, to design mercy towards a sinful, guilty, ruined world. God so loved the world.
The WORLD, i. e. all mankind; all the posterity of Adam. For what follows, is evidently true, of every individual; That he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.
So loved, i. e. so inconceivably, so unspeakably,
That he GAVE his only begotten Son, i. e. of his mere, pure goodness, constituted him to be a Mediator; appointed him to be a Redeemer and Saviour, to make atonement for sin, and purchase divine favours, and so to open a way for sinners to return to God with safety, and for God to show mercy to them with honour. God so loved the world, i. e. all the race of Adam, that he gave his only begotten Son, immediately upon the apostacy of mankind; for then was this seed of the woman promised, (Gen. iii. 15.) that all, being by nature, children of wrath, might be prevented by divine goodness. God saw all involved in sin, and guilt, and ruin, by Adam's first sin. And so he provided a Saviour for all : that whosoever believes in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Should not PERISH. He viewed all mankind as sinful and guilty, lost, undone, and perishing; i. e. exposed to the wrath of God, and curse of the law, to all the miseries of this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell for ever. And he gave, his only begotten Son to be a Saviour;
That whosoever BELIEVETH in him, i. e. that ventures upon his atonement, his worth and merits, his mediation and in
tercession, for divine acceptance; so as to be thence emboldened to return home to God, upon the invitation of the gospel. That all such should not perish, but
Have EVERLASTING LIFE, i. e. the everlasting in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit, as a sanctifier and comforter, to be a never-failing spring of a new, a spiritual, and divine life; everlasting union and communion with Christ, and the everlasting favour and enjoyment of God through him.
Thus we have, in these words, a brief view of the glorious gospel of the blessed God. And from them we may learn, (1.) That God, the great Governor of the world, considered mankind as being in a perishing condition, i. e. sinful, guilty, justly condemned, helpless, and undone (2.) That it was merely from motives within himself, that he has done what he has for their recovery out of this state. (3.) That he has constituted his Son a Mediator, Redeemer, and Saviour, that through him sinners might be saved. (4.) That he has appointed faith in Christ, to be the condition of salvation.Here, therefore, I will endeavour to show,
I. Upon what grounds it was, that God, the great Governor of the world, did consider mankind as being in a perishing condition, i. e. sinful, guilty, justly condemned, helpless, and undone.
II. What were the motives which excited him to do what. he has done for their recovery.
III. What necessity there was of a Mediator and Redeemer, and how the way to life has been opened by him whom God has provided.
IV. What is the true nature of saving faith in him. And so, by the whole, to explain the nature of the gospel, and of a genuine compliance therewith. And in the last place,
V. Will consider the promise of everlasting life to those who believe.