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TO THE COMMENCEMENT OF JESUS' PUBLIC MINISTRY
CONVERSATION WITH NICODEMUS.
JOHN II. 13, AND III.
AND the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And he found in the temple those that sold oxen, and sheep, and doves, and the changers of money, sitting: 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; and said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence make not my Father's house a house of merchandize.
There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. The same came to him by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can
a man be born when he is old? 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. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 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. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man, which is in heaven.
Sects may differ in their speculative views of regeneration, but they agree far more nearly than many among their disputants imagine. Man, when left without religious impressions, is weak in character, subject to the influence of every passion; with all his hopes and fears engaged within the narrow limits of this life; selfish; not applying himself with any steadiness of purpose to his own improvement; living merely for the external world. The good seed of religion is sown in his mind, takes root and thrives there. The frailty of his character is changed to strength, and temptations formerly yielded to, are now resisted. The circle of his attention is no longer limited to earth, and to a short term of life here below; it embraces heaven, and ex
pands into eternity. Instead of living for himself alone, he now feels himself the brother and friend of mankind, and the child of God. The improvement of his own character becomes the chief object of his life; he lives in an internal, a spiritual world, conversant with things invisible. Has not such a man acquired a new life? Has he not indeed been "born again?” Thus may it appear, at the final day, that we have been "born of God!"
Sad is this narrow span,
This grant of fleeting years;
But, Father! thou hast given
A hope of rest on high;
Hast made the grave the path to heaven,
Children of thee, we own
A new and heavenly birth;
Kindred to spirits round thy throne,
Born of thy Spirit, Lord,
Thy Spirit may we share;
Deep in our hearts inscribe thy word,
Teach us to walk aright
On earth, as serving thee;
Then take us to thy realms of light,
WALK THROUGH THE CORNFIELDS.
AND it came to pass on the second Sabbath after the feast, that he went through the cornfields; and his disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands. And certain of the Pharisees said unto them, Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the Sabbath day? And Jesus answering them, said, Have ye not read so much as this, what David did, when himself was an hungered, and they which were with him; how he went into the house of God, and did take and eat the shew-bread, and gave also to them which were with him, which is not lawful to eat, but for the priests alone? And he said unto them, That the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath. And it came to pass also on another Sabbath, that he entered into the Synagogue, and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered. And the Scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the Sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him. But he knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up and stand forth in the midst. And he arose, and stood forth. Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you, What is lawful on the Sabbath day? To do good, or to do evil, to save life, or to kill? And looking round about upon them all, he said unto him, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so and his hand was restored whole as the other.
And they were filled with madness; and they communed one with another what they might do to Jesus.
To pluck ears of corn, in passing through a field, was in itself a lawful action, sanctioned by Deut. xxiii. 25. It was objected to by the Pharisees only as a breach of the Sabbath. But our Saviour would guard his followers against superstition, even in their veneration for the day of God's appointment. We must not neglect the means of religion, the Sabbath and its ordinances, prayer, public and private, and the reading of the Scriptures. But we must not mistake all these for Religion itself. Religion is of the heart, and of the life; and its forms are only useful, as they produce it, or manifest its existence in the heart and life. Most wisely and graciously has God provided the Sabbath for our use; and that man knows or thinks but little of his own spiritual wants, who perverts it from its true purposes, to make it a day of business, or of pleasure. But it "was made for man. In itself, apart from considerations of our improvement, it is like other days. On every day, as on that, is God near us; on every day let him be worshipped; worshipped in secret prayer, in the family circle, in honesty in our dealings, in all holiness of word, and deed, and thought. Thus shall the worship of the days of toil prepare us for the worship of the day of rest.
Hail to the Sabbath day!
The day divinely given,
When men to God their homage pay,
Lord, in thy sacred hour,
Within thy courts we bend,
And bless thy love, and own thy power,