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Abraham, is, and must be by baptism and a spiritual birth. That which is born of the flesh,' he adds, to illustrate and vindicate what he had said, 'is flesh; and that which is born of the spirit, is spirit;' they who are born by natural generation, are but flesh and blood, mortal men, and as such, without reference to moral distinctions, alike in the sight of God; they who are born in a spiritual sense, are men of spiritual minds and affections, the true qualifications for the favor of God, the Eternal Spirit, and a characteristic, independent of and superior to the outward, defective, and transient distinction of natural birth and lineage.

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The words of St Paul, Romans ii, 28, 29, are an excellent comment on the last cited passage: He is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God.' Again, Philippians iii, 3, arguing against the Judaizing teachers who gave himself and the infant church so much trouble, he says, 'We (Christians) are the (true) circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus (not in Moses or Abraham) and have no confidence in the flesh,' that is, as he explains it in verse fifth in reference to himself, in having been circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews.'

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But these views were above the comprehension, or contradicted too much the preconceived opinions and cherished prejudices, of Nicodemus, to be readily admitted. Jesus, perceiving probably his surprise and incredulity, continued, Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again,' and that in a spiritual sense, as though this was too far removed from the cognizance of the senses to be real, or to be the foundation of so important a distinction among men; 'the wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof,

but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the spirit;'* he becomes such by a process as invisible, under an influence as indiscernible, as various and unconfined in its operations as the wind; but as infallibly known and clearly traced by the evidence it carries with it, of its own existence and energy, in the effects it works,—as the reality and course of the wind are known by the audible and visible manifestations of its power.† Nicodemus, unconvinced, unsatisfied, could only reply, 'How can these things be?'

It is unnecessary to our present purpose to pursue the conversation. A few additional remarks upon the part of it reviewed, will help still farther to illustrate and justify the explanation we have given.

One of the most obvious features of the passage, is the characteristic Jewish phraseology pervading it. It is seldom that we meet with a passage of no greater length, in which this peculiarity is more. apparent. In these few verses we have these phrases, and some of them repeatedly; 'seeing the kingdom of God,'' entering into the kingdom of God,' born again,' 'born of water,' ,'born of flesh,' born of spirit;' the last two, if not common Jewish phrases, were obviously imitations of similar phrases by our Lord, with a view to insinuate into the mind of Nicodemus, the ideas he wished to convey. This peculiarity of language should prepare us to find in the sentiments expressed, corresponding allusions to Jewish opinions. Accordingly in that part of the conversation we have examined, we conceive the main design of our Saviour was, to correct certain opinions common to Nicodemus with his countrymen, and particularly that which respected their descent from Abraham. The idea, which was inwrought into the

*Not the Spirit.'

†The propriety and effect of this illustration are heightened in the original by the circumstance, that one and the same term is used both for spirit and wind,

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minds of Jews from their very childhood, and confirmed by their national customs and religious rites, and by their familiarity with the books of their law, and of their prophets, and with all the records of their history, that they, in consequence of their natural birth as the posterity of Israel, became thereby the children of God, and were fit and entitled to become subjects of the Messiah's kingdom, whenever he should appear,-this was at the very foundation of some of the most material errors of the Jewish nation; it was one of the most effectual obstacles to the reception of Jesus, and of his religion; and hence the correction of this fundainental error, of this inveterate prejudice, was one of the first steps, and a most necessary one, to the promulgation of the Gospel with success among the Jews. Accordingly we find direct or indirect references to this national prejudice continually occurring in the discourses of our Saviour. And in this interview with Nicodemus, we say it again, the particular point against which he directed the declaration made and repeated with so much solemnity, was this favorite notion of the Jews, that they were by birth the peculiar people of God; that by birth they were prepared for as well as entitled to an immediate reception into the kingdom of the Messiah; that they had nothing to do but to wait for his appearance, no condition to fulfil when he should appear, preparatory to becoming the happy subjects of his reign on earth. In opposition to these views, Jesus assured Nicodemus, that the being born a Jew, the being a descendant of Abraham, under the dispensation of Moses, was not all, nor the chief thing, that was necessary to qualify one for admission into the kingdom of the Mesiah; that it was not enough to have been born outwardly into the pale of the Jewish church; it was necessary, (borrowing the same phraseology, and adapting it to his purpose) it was necessary to be born inwardly, in a spiritual sense; the disciple of Moses must receive baptism outwardly at the hands of the Messiah in token of

adopting a new religious faith, and must conform inwardly, in his spirit, and not by external observances alone, to the principles of that new faith.

This explanation seems to give to this conversation the aspect of the circumstances out of which it grew; it imparts a pertinency to the language peculiar to the occasion; and accounts for the apparent abruptness with which this language, so dissimilar to that used on any other occasion, is introduced, and employed with seeming familiarity, an abruptness and a dissimilarity, which, I doubt not, are generally felt, and have operated to no inconsiderable degree as causes of perplexity in endeavoring to understand it.

If it be still asked, what our Saviour meant, and what Nicodemus understood by the phrases 'born again, born of spirit,' or spiritually born; I answer, the radical, substantial truth, relating to the Jews, conveyed in this figurative language, may be expressed plainly and in few words; viz. that in order to partake of the blessings to be conferred by the Messiah, they must become the disciples and subjects, not in name or form only, but in heart and life, of a new, pure, spiritual religion. This truth, so simple, intelligible, and even self-evident to us, appeared strange and mysterious, not to say, absurd and false, to the Jews; it was more repugnant to their expectations and prejudices, than we can well conceive. How far Nicodemus had any just conception of this truth, we know not. It is certain, if the whole conversation has been transmitted to us, that our Lord did not give a definite and particular explanation of what he meant by the phrases in question, any more than of the phrase, kingdom of God.' He left his declarations, expressed in phraseology best suited to his own purposes, to work gradually their intended effect upon the mind of his visiter.

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This mode of instruction was not unfrequently adopted by our Lord. A very remarkable instance of it occurs in the 6th chapter of John's Gospel, from the

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49th to the 58th verse, where, having alluded to the manna distilled from heaven, by which the ancient Israelites had been supported in the wilderness, he calls himself the living bread, which came down from heaven,' of which if any man eat, he shall live forever.' And when the Jews strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?' he repeated the substance of what he had said, with his usual emphatic affirmation, but without softening in any degree the metaphorical language he had employed, or giving any explanation of his meaning: Verily, verily I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.' He afterwards added indeed, to his disciples,' apart from the multitude, the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life,' they are spoken in a spiritual sense, and of a spiritual life. But I apprehend that even with this explanation, they had at that time but little clearer notions of the just import of these expressions, than Nicodemus had of being born in a spiritual

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The phrase, 'the kingdom of God,' was one in current use among the Jews at the time of our Lord's appearance on earth, and he adopted it in his public discourses; but we are not informed that he ever explained, definitely and at large, what he intended to denote by it; though he did by no means leave them in ignorance that he employed it in a sense different from its popular meaning. My kingdom,' he affirmed at his trial before Pilate, is not of this world;' and on a previous occasion, to the inquiry of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered, the kingdom of God cometh not with observation; the kingdom of God is within you.' It is not perhaps unworthy of notice, that the last expression, in the original, is ambiguous; it may be rendered, either within you,' or 'among you.' It is probable, notwithstanding this and other pacial explanations of our Lord, that very imper

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