|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
3:1-8 Nicodemus was afraid, or ashamed to be seen with Christ, therefore came in the night. When religion is out of fashion, there are many Nicodemites. But though he came by night, Jesus bid him welcome, and hereby taught us to encourage good beginnings, although weak. And though now he came by night, yet afterward he owned Christ publicly. He did not talk with Christ about state affairs, though he was a ruler, but about the concerns of his own soul and its salvation, and went at once to them. Our Saviour spoke of the necessity and nature of regeneration or the new birth, and at once directed Nicodemus to the source of holiness of the heart. Birth is the beginning of life; to be born again, is to begin to live anew, as those who have lived much amiss, or to little purpose. We must have a new nature, new principles, new affections, new aims. By our first birth we were corrupt, shapen in sin; therefore we must be made new creatures. No stronger expression could have been chosen to signify a great and most remarkable change of state and character. We must be entirely different from what we were before, as that which begins to be at any time, is not, and cannot be the same with that which was before. This new birth is from heaven, ch. 1:13, and its tendency is to heaven. It is a great change made in the heart of a sinner, by the power of the Holy Spirit. It means that something is done in us, and for us, which we cannot do for ourselves. Something is wrong, whereby such a life begins as shall last for ever. We cannot otherwise expect any benefit by Christ; it is necessary to our happiness here and hereafter. What Christ speak, Nicodemus misunderstood, as if there had been no other way of regenerating and new-moulding an immortal soul, than by new-framing the body. But he acknowledged his ignorance, which shows a desire to be better informed. It is then further explained by the Lord Jesus. He shows the Author of this blessed change. It is not wrought by any wisdom or power of our own, but by the power of the blessed Spirit. We are shapen in iniquity, which makes it necessary that our nature be changed. We are not to marvel at this; for, when we consider the holiness of God, the depravity of our nature, and the happiness set before us, we shall not think it strange that so much stress is laid upon this. The regenerating work of the Holy Spirit is compared to water. It is also probable that Christ had reference to the ordinance of baptism. Not that all those, and those only, that are baptized, are saved; but without that new birth which is wrought by the Spirit, and signified by baptism, none shall be subjects of the kingdom of heaven. The same word signifies both the wind and the Spirit. The wind bloweth where it listeth for us; God directs it. The Spirit sends his influences where, and when, on whom, and in what measure and degree, he pleases. Though the causes are hidden, the effects are plain, when the soul is brought to mourn for sin, and to breathe after Christ. Christ's stating of the doctrine and the necessity of regeneration, it should seem, made it not clearer to Nicodemus. Thus the things of the Spirit of God are foolishness to the natural man. Many think that cannot be proved, which they cannot believe. Christ's discourse of gospel truths, ver. 11-13, shows the folly of those who make these things strange unto them; and it recommends us to search them out. Jesus Christ is every way able to reveal the will of God to us; for he came down from heaven, and yet is in heaven. We have here a notice of Christ's two distinct natures in one person, so that while he is the Son of man, yet he is in heaven. God is the HE THAT IS, and heaven is the dwelling-place of his holiness. The knowledge of this must be from above, and can be received by faith alone. Jesus Christ came to save us by healing us, as the children of Israel, stung with fiery serpents, were cured and lived by looking up to the brazen serpent, Nu 21:6-9. In this observe the deadly and destructive nature of sin. Ask awakened consciences, ask damned sinners, they will tell you, that how charming soever the allurements of sin may be, at the last it bites like a serpent. See the powerful remedy against this fatal malady. Christ is plainly set forth to us in the gospel. He whom we offended is our Peace, and the way of applying for a cure is by believing. If any so far slight either their disease by sin, or the method of cure by Christ, as not to receive Christ upon his own terms, their ruin is upon their own heads. He has said, Look and be saved, look and live; lift up the eyes of your faith to Christ crucified. And until we have grace to do this, we shall not be cured, but still are wounded with the stings of Satan, and in a dying state. Jesus Christ came to save us by pardoning us, that we might not die by the sentence of the law. Here is gospel, good news indeed. Here is God's love in giving his Son for the world. God so loved the world; so really, so richly. Behold and wonder, that the great God should love such a worthless world! Here, also, is the great gospel duty, to believe in Jesus Christ. God having given him to be our Prophet, Priest, and King, we must give up ourselves to be ruled, and taught, and saved by him. And here is the great gospel benefit, that whoever believes in Christ, shall not perish, but shall have everlasting life. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, and so saving it. It could not be saved, but through him; there is no salvation in any other. From all this is shown the happiness of true believers; he that believeth in Christ is not condemned. Though he has been a great sinner, yet he is not dealt with according to what his sins deserve. How great is the sin of unbelievers! God sent One to save us, that was dearest to himself; and shall he not be dearest to us? How great is the misery of unbelievers! they are condemned already; which speaks a certain condemnation; a present condemnation. The wrath of God now fastens upon them; and their own hearts condemn them. There is also a condemnation grounded on their former guilt; they are open to the law for all their sins; because they are not by faith interested in the gospel pardon. Unbelief is a sin against the remedy. It springs from the enmity of the heart of man to God, from love of sin in some form. Read also the doom of those that would not know Christ. Sinful works are works of darkness. The wicked world keep as far from this light as they can, lest their deeds should be reproved. Christ is hated, because sin is loved. If they had not hated saving knowledge, they would not sit down contentedly in condemning ignorance. On the other hand, renewed hearts bid this light welcome. A good man acts truly and sincerely in all he does. He desires to know what the will of God is, and to do it, though against his own worldly interest. A change in his whole character and conduct has taken place. The love of God is shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost, and is become the commanding principle of his actions. So long as he continues under a load of unforgiven guilt, there can be little else than slavish fear of God; but when his doubts are done away, when he sees the righteous ground whereon this forgiveness is built, he rests on it as his own, and is united to God by unfeigned love. Our works are good when the will of God is the rule of them, and the glory of God the end of them; when they are done in his strength, and for his sake; to him, and not to men. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a subject to which the world is very averse; it is, however, the grand concern, in comparison with which every thing else is but trifling. What does it signify though we have food to eat in plenty, and variety of raiment to put on, if we are not born again? if after a few mornings and evenings spent in unthinking mirth, carnal pleasure, and riot, we die in our sins, and lie down in sorrow? What does it signify though we are well able to act our parts in life, in every other respect, if at last we hear from the Supreme Judge, Depart from me, I know you not, ye workers of iniquity?
Verses 14, 15. - And. Seeing that our Lord had claimed supreme right to speak of heavenly things, he proceeds at once to speak of them also. There may be many ways of taking the καὶ: supposing that it indicates a transition from the person of the Lord to his work. From his Divine and endowed humanity thus shown to be competent to explain and re veal heavenly things, he proceeds to his atoning sacrifice. These underlying links of connection are not mutually exclusive. Even as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must also the Son of man be lifted up. The narrative of Numbers 21:8, etc., is one of the most curious in Scripture, and it was a great puzzle to the Jewish commentators, who felt that it was in apparent violation of the second command of the Decalogue. Moreover, in the days of Hezekiah the reverence paid to the serpent led to disastrous consequences and puritanic removal of the idolatrous snare. The Jewish divines consulted by Trypho (see Justin Martyr, 'Dail.,' 94) were unable to explain it. Philo regarded it as a designed contrast to the serpent of the Book of Genesis, but he supposed the antithesis to be that between pleasure and righteousness or prudence ('De Leg. All.,' 2:1.80). The Book of Wisdom (Wisdom 16:6), "The murmuring people were troubled for a while for warning, having a symbol of salvation .... he that turned to it was saved, not by reason of that which he beheld, but by reason of the Saviour of all." Ferguson, in his 'Tree and Serpent Worship,' regards the narrative as an indication that within the bosom of Israel the worship of the serpent had been introduced and had left its traces. But the narrative itself shows that the serpent healing from the serpent bite was a Jehovistie symbol of Divine love and victory. The 'Test. XII. Patr. Benj.,' 9, refers to it as the type of the cross (cf. Philippians 2:9; Acts 2:33). "Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived." The fiery flying serpent, with its poisonous bite and its deadly malice, was the vivid type of the evil of disobedience to the Divine command, infusing its malign venom into the whole nature of its victim. The serpent of brass was not venomous, though it bore the likeness of the deadly plague. It was not flying, gliding from tent to tent, but captured, still, hoisted triumphantly upon the pole, a sign of its conquest. The serpent in Hebrew and Christian literature throughout was emblematic of evil, not as in many Oriental religions, of healing or deliverance (see Genesis 3:1; 2 Corinthians 11:3; Revelation 12:9; and, properly translated, Job 26:13, Revised Version); and it is possible to see in this type an anticipation of the "lifting up" of Jesus on the cross. There are several interpretations of the ὑψωθῆναι. Paulus urged that Jesus by it referred to the final glorification of himself; but if so, why was not the word δοξασθῆναι used? It may mean, with Bleek, Lechler, Godet, the exaltation upon the cross as the steppingstone to his glory, the way, not only to David's throne, but to the very throne of God - a conception profoundly different from the current Pharisaic notions concerning the Messiah. The word is used in John 8:28 and John 12:32, 34 for the passion of the cross, although Peter (Acts 2:33) and Paul (Philippians 2:9) used it for the glorification consequent upon the Passion. Surely the word does, if it is to correspond with Moses' exaltation of the serpent of brass, point to the exaltation of the cross, but to that as to the very throne of his power and glory. Tholuck says, "A word must have been used in Aramaic which admitted both ideas, and the word זְםקך means in Chaldee and Syriac to 'lift up' and 'crucify.'" Many striking relations thus present themselves.
(1) The Lord was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, though without sin.
(2) The evil of sin was seen in him conspicuously revealed, but conquered; not only conquered, but transformed into a remedy. The enemy of man, the world itself, was crucified on the cross of Christ. Sin was nailed to the cross when, in the likeness of sinful flesh, the eternal Son of God made flesh submitted to all the shame of the flesh. "The world is crucified unto me," says Paul ("in the cross of Christ"), "and I to the world." Jesus says, "Even so must the Son of man be lifted up." The Son of man here on earth, but having always a Divine life in heaven, when revealed in human nature, subject to the laws and destiny of the flesh, "must" be lifted up. This pathway to his glory must pass through the blood and agony of the Passion. There was a needs be in the Divine counsel, in the purposes of Divine love, in the fall measure of the grace which was welling from the heart of God.
(3) The comparison, however, and relation between type and antitype is more conspicuous still in the fifteenth verse, where Jesus added: In order that whosoever believeth might have in him eternal life. Granting that the above is the true text, in our translation an instance occurs of the frequent absolute usage of πιστεύειν (πιστεύειν ἐν αὐτῷ is not a Johannine phrase, while we do find (John 5:39; John 16:33; John 20:31) that "life," "peace," are "in him"). On this ground, if we retain the ἐν αὐτῷ, we translate it as above. The object of faith is not specified; but he who believes, who looks with God-taught longing to the Christ, to the Son of man uplifted to save, sees God at his greatest, his best, and discerns the fullest revelation of the redeeming love. "Believing" corresponds with "looking" in the narrative of Numbers 21. Whosoever "looked, lived." Such looking was an act of faith in the promise of Jehovah; the otherwise despairing, dying glance of poisoned men was a type of the possibility of a universal salvation for sin-envenomed, devil-bitten, perishing men. Let them believe, and there is life. Let them understand the meaning of the Son of man thus exhausting the curse, and enduring in love the burden and penalty of human transgression, and they have straightway a life that is spiritual, fundamentally and radically new, a life heavenly and eternal. Thus can this vast change of which he had spoken to Nicodemus supervene. "How," asks Nicodemus, "can this be?" "Thus may it be," answers the Son of man. It is not necessary that all the mystery of the cross should have been perceived by Nicodemus, yet the subsequent references to this man make it highly probable that, when he saw Jesus suspended on the cross, instead of giving way to unbelief and despair, he was stimulated to an act of lofty faith (John 19:39, and note). In this great utterance we have the answer which Paul addressed to the Philippian jailer, and we have the argument of Paul in Romans 1, 2, and we infer that the sources of the Pauline doctrine were to be found in the known teaching of the Lord himself. Many commentators, beginning with Erasmus, and followed by Neander, Tholuck, Lucke, Westcott, and Moulton, have supposed that our Lord's discourse with Nicodemus ended with ver. 15, and that thenceforward we have the reflections in after times made by the evangelist, in harmony with the teachings which he had received from the Lord. This is urged on the ground that in John 1:18, and at the close of the present chapter (vers. 31-36), when reciting the testimony of the Baptist, it appears to the commentators that John has blended his own reflections with the words of the Baptist, adding them without break to the sentences which he does record (see notes). I am not prepared to admit the analogy; there is nothing in these words, if attributed to the Baptist, incompatible with the purely Old Testament position and transition standpoint to which he adhered. The argument drawn from the past tenses, ἠγάπησεν and ἔδωκεν, is not incompatible with the large view of the whole transaction which the Son of God adopted, as though in the fulness of its infinite love it had already been consummated. We are told that there are certain phrases which nowhere else are ascribed to Jesus himself, such as "only begotten Son" - a term which is found in the prologue (John 1:14, 18) and First Epist. (1 John 4:9), i.e. in John's own composition. The reply is that John used this great word on the specified occasion because he had heard it on the lips of Jesus; that he would not have dared to use it if he had not had the justification of such use, the like to which he here recounts. The believing εἰς τὸ ὄνομά - "on the name of" - does not occur, it is said, in the recorded words of Jesus, though it is found in the discourse of the evangelist himself in ch. 1:12; 2:23; and 1 John 5:13. The same criticism applies. John used it because he had heard our Lord thus deign to express himself. Moreover, the commencement of the paragraph, by the use of the particle γὰρ, shows that no break has occurred, that a richer and fuller and more triumphant reason is to be given for the obtaining of life eternal than that which had already been advanced. He passes from the Son of man (who is in heaven, and came from heaven and God) to the Son of God, the only begotten of the Father. He speaks in more practical and explanatory form of the Object of faith, and the Divine source of the arrangement and its issues. A flood of new thoughts and some terms occur here for the first time; but they are no more startling than other words of Jesus, whose awful weight of meaning and rich originality gave to the evangelist all his power to teach. It is quite unnecessary to find fault with the abruptness of the close of this discourse, or the sudden cessation of the dialogue, or the disappearance of Nicodemus, or of any lack of affectionateness in the style of address. Christ is often abrupt, and in numerous replies which he gave to his interlocutors he prolongs the remarks as though they were addressed to the concealed mind of the speakers rather than to their uttered words. If there had been any hint or indication that these were John's reflections, we can only say that he who by the Holy Spirit penned the prologue was not incapable of these splendid and heart-searching generalizations of love, faith, judgment, and eternal life. But there does not appear to be any sufficient reason for such an hypothesis. Still, it must be admitted that we have not the whole of the former or the latter part of this wondrous discourse. Much has, without any doubt, been omitted. John has seized upon the most salient points and the loftiest thoughts. These stand out like mountain peaks above the glittering seas, indicating where the inner and hidden connections of their bases lie, but not unveiling them. We do not doubt that John's mind, by long pondering on the thoughts of Jesus and his words of profound significance, had acquired to some extent the method of his speech, and do not doubt that a certain subjective colouring affects his condensation of the discourses of Jesus. He was not a shorthand reporter, photographically or telephonically reproducing all that passed. He was a beloved disciple, who knew his Lord and lost himself in his Master. He seized with inspired and intuitive accuracy the root ideas of the Son of man, and reproduced them with the power of the true artist. It is incredible, even if we regard the entire paragraph (vers. 16-21) as the language of our Lord, that we have the whole of the discourse, or conversation, of the memorable night. Still less satisfactory is it to suppose that we have in it nothing more than an imaginary scone, an idealization of the bearing of Christian truth on Jewish prejudice. So vast a thought, though it be the burden of the New Testament, and because it is so, issued from the heart of Jesus.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,.... The history referred to is in Numbers 21:8. There is, in many things, an agreement between this serpent, and Jesus Christ: as in the matter of it, it was a brazen serpent; it was made not of gold, nor of silver, but of brass, the meaner metal, and was a very unlikely means, of itself, to heal the Israelites; and might be despised by many: this may denote the meanness of Christ in his human nature, in his birth and parentage, and place of education and converse; and especially in his crucifixion and death; and which, to an eye of carnal sense and reason, seemed a very improbable means of saving sinners; and therefore were to some a stumbling block, and to others foolishness: though on the other hand, as brass is a shining metal, and might be chose for the serpent in the wilderness to be made of, that by the lustre of it the eyes of the Israelites might be attracted and directed to it, who were at the greatest distance in the camp; so it may be expressive of the glory of Christ, as the only begotten of the Father, and who is the brightness of his Father's glory; and which is the great attractive, motive, and inducement to engage souls to look unto him, and believe in him, Isaiah 45:22; and whereas brass is both a strong and durable metal, it may signify the strength of Christ, who is the mighty God, and mighty to save; and his duration, as a Saviour, being the same today, yesterday, and for ever: likewise, the comparison between the serpent Moses lifted up, and Christ, may be observed in the form of it. The brazen serpent had the form of a serpent, but not the poison and venomous nature of one; so Christ was sent, in the likeness of sinful flesh, and was found in fashion as a man, as a sinful man, but was without sin, and was perfectly holy; and yet being in this form, was made both sin and a curse, that he might redeem his people both from sin, and from the curse of the law, by dying a death which denominated him accursed, of which the serpent was, an emblem: besides, this serpent was a fiery one; at least it looked like one of the fiery serpents, being of brass, which shone as though it burned in a furnace; and may be an emblem both of Christ's Father's wrath, which was poured out like fire upon him, and of his love to his people, which was like burning fire, the coals whereof gave a most vehement flame. Moreover, this serpent Moses made, and was ordered to make, was but "one", though the fiery serpents, with which the Israelites were bitten, were many; so there is but one Mediator between God and man; but one Saviour, in whom alone is salvation, and in no other, even Jesus Christ. To which may be added the "situation" in which this serpent was put: it was set by Moses on a pole; it was lifted up on high, that every one in the camp of Israel might see it; and may point out the ascension of Christ into heaven, and his exaltation at God's right hand there, as some think; or his being set up in the ministry of the word, and held forth and exalted there as the only Saviour of lost sinners; or rather his crucifixion, which is sometimes expressed by a lifting up, John 8:28. Once more, there is an agreement in the effect that followed upon the lifting up of the serpent; and which was the design of it, viz. the healing of such Israelites as were bitten by the fiery serpents, who looked to this: for as the Israelites were bitten by fiery serpents, with the poison of which they were infected, and were in danger of death, and to many of them their bitings were mortal; so men are poisoned with the venom of the old serpent the devil, by which they are subjected to a corporeal death, and are brought under a spiritual, or moral death, and are liable to an eternal one: and as these bitings were such as Moses could not cure; so the wounds of sin, through the old serpent, are such as cannot be healed by the law, moral or ceremonial, or by obedience to either; and as they were the Israelites who were convinced of their sin, and acknowledged it, and had a cure by looking to the brazen serpent; so such whom the Spirit of God convinces of sin, and to whom he gives the seeing eye of faith, these, through seeing, the Son, and looking to Jesus, as crucified and slain, receive healing by his stripes and wounds: and as those, who were ever so much bit and poisoned by the fiery serpents, or were at ever so great a distance from the pole, or had the weakest eye, yet if they could but discern the serpent on the pole, though it only appeared as a shining piece of brass, had a cure; so the greatest of sinners, and who are afar off from God, and all that is good, and who have faith but as a grain of mustard seed, or but glimmering view of Christ, of his glory, fulness, and suitableness, shall be saved by him. To add no more, this was done "in the wilderness": which may signify this world, Christ's coming into it, his crucifixion in it, and his going without the camp, bearing our reproach, or suffering without the gates of Jerusalem. It is certain, that the Jews had a notion that the brazen serpent was symbolical and figurative: Philo the Jew makes it to be a symbol of fortitude and temperance (t); and the author of the apocryphal book of Wisdom (u), calls it "a sign of salvation". They thought there was something mysterious in it: hence they say (w),
"in four places it is said, "make thee", &c. In three places it is explained, viz. Genesis 6:14, and one is not explained, Numbers 21:8, "make thee a fiery serpent", , is not explained.''
And elsewhere (x) they ask,
"and could the serpent kill, or make alive? But at the time that Israel looked up, and served with their hearts their Father which is in heaven, they were healed; but if not, they were brought low.''
So that the look was not merely to the brazen serpent, but to God in heaven; yea, to the word of God, his essential Logos, as say the Targumists on Numbers 21:9. The Jerusalem Targum paraphrases the words thus:
"and Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a high place, and whoever was bitten by the serpents, and lift up his face, in prayer, to his Father which is in heaven, and looked upon the serpent of brass, lived.''
And Jonathan ben Uzziel paraphrases them thus:
"and Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a high place; and it was, when a serpent had bitten any man, and he looked to the serpent of brass, "and directed his heart", , "to the name of the word of the Lord", he lived.''
And this healing they understand not only of bodily healing, but of the healing of the soul: for they observe (y), that
"as soon as they said, "we have sinned", immediately their iniquity was expiated; and they had the good news brought them "of the healing of the soul", as it is written, "make thee a seraph"; and he does not say a serpent; and this is it: "and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live", , "through the healing of the soul":''
yea, they compare the Messiah to a serpent; for so the Targum on Isaiah 14:29 paraphrases that passage:
"the Messiah shall come forth from Jesse's children's children; and his works shall be among you as a "flying serpent".''
And who else can be designed by the "other serpent of life" (z), and the "holy serpent" (a) they speak of, in opposition to the evil serpent that seduced Eve? And it is well known, that "a serpent", and "Messiah", are numerically, or by gematry, the same; a way of interpretation, and explanation, often in use with the Jews. Now, as this serpent was lifted up on a pole on high, that every one that was bitten with the fiery serpent might look to it, and be healed;
even so must the son of man be lifted up; upon the cross, and die: the crucifixion and death of Christ were necessary, and must be, because of the decrees and purposes of God, by which he was foreordained thereunto, and by which determinate counsel he was delivered, taken, crucified, and slain; and because of his own engagements as a surety, laying himself under obligations in the council and covenant of peace, to suffer, and die, in the room of his people; and because of the prophecies in the Old Testament, and his own predictions, that so it should be; as also, that the antitype might answer the type; and particularly, that he might be a suitable object of faith for wounded sinners, sensible of sin, to look unto.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
14-16. And as Moses, &c.—Here now we have the "heavenly things," as before the "earthly," but under a veil, for the reason mentioned in Joh 3:12. The crucifixion of Messiah is twice after this veiled under the same lively term—"uplifting," Joh 8:28; 12:32, 33. Here it is still further veiled—though to us who know what it means, rendered vastly more instructive—by reference to the brazen serpent. The venom of the fiery serpents, shooting through the veins of the rebellious Israelites, was spreading death through the camp—lively emblem of the perishing condition of men by reason of sin. In both cases the remedy was divinely provided. In both the way of cure strikingly resembled that of the disease. Stung by serpents, by a serpent they are healed. By "fiery serpents" bitten—serpents, probably, with skin spotted fiery red [Kurtz]—the instrument of cure is a serpent of brass or copper, having at a distance the same appearance. So in redemption, as by man came death, by Man also comes life—Man, too, "in the likeness of sinful flesh" (Ro 8:3), differing in nothing outward and apparent from those who, pervaded by the poison of the serpent, were ready to perish. But as the uplifted serpent had none of the venom of which the serpent-bitten people were dying, so while the whole human family were perishing of the deadly wound inflicted on it by the old serpent, "the Second Man," who arose over humanity with healing in His wings, was without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing. In both cases the remedy is conspicuously displayed; in the one case on a pole, in the other on the cross, to "draw all men unto Him" (Joh 12:32). In both cases it is by directing the eye to the uplifted Remedy that the cure is effected; in the one case the bodily eye, in the other the gaze of the soul by "believing in Him," as in that glorious ancient proclamation—"Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth," &c. (Isa 45:22). Both methods are stumbling to human reason. What, to any thinking Israelite, could seem more unlikely than that a deadly poison should be dried up in his body by simply looking on a reptile of brass? Such a stumbling-block to the Jews and to the Greeks foolishness was faith in the crucified Nazarene as a way of deliverance from eternal perdition. Yet was the warrant in both cases to expect a cure equally rational and well grounded. As the serpent was God's ordinance for the cure of every bitten Israelite, so is Christ for the salvation of every perishing sinner—the one however a purely arbitrary ordinance, the other divinely adapted to man's complicated maladies. In both cases the efficacy is the same. As one simple look at the serpent, however distant and however weak, brought an instantaneous cure, even so, real faith in the Lord Jesus, however tremulous, however distant—be it but real faith—brings certain and instant healing to the perishing soul. In a word, the consequences of disobedience are the same in both. Doubtless many bitten Israelites, galling as their case was, would reason rather than obey, would speculate on the absurdity of expecting the bite of a living serpent to be cured by looking at a piece of dead metal in the shape of one—speculate thus till they died. Alas! is not salvation by a crucified Redeemer subjected to like treatment? Has the offense of the cross" yet ceased? (Compare 2Ki 5:12).
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