There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:…
Every effect is to be traced up to some adequate cause, and the effect is in exact proportion to the cause. This is true —
1. In nature.
2. In providence.
3. In grace. Witness the case of Nicodemus here and in chaps, 7. and 19.
I. GRACE IN ITS FIRST COMMENCEMENT MAY BE VERY FEEBLE. Nicodemus was a timid man, and ignorant, and somewhat hard; yet he welcomed and employed the light, although not to the fullest extent. In his and in all other cases the beginnings of grace are feeble. Young believers are likened in Isaiah 40:11 to lambs; in Isaiah 42:3 to a bruised reed and smoking flax; in Matthew 13:31 to a mustard seed; in Mark 4. as a blade. Just as Christ in His natural body grew up from nothing as it were, so is Christ born in the heart.
II. ALTHOUGH GRACE IS THUS FEEBLE IN ITS COMMENCEMENT IT IS A REALITY. Though Nicodemus came as a coward, yet he came; though he was ignorant, yet he asked; though he was a ruler, yet he renounced his knowledge and inquired with all the simplicity of a child. If we had rescued some poor creature from the waves, not a breath stirring, apparently dead, we should use every means and go on in hope. At last we hear a feeble sigh, and the conclusion we draw is that he lives. His life is as real as if he walked. Look at the sinner dead in trespasses and sins. Nothing moves him; not the terrors of the law, nor the invitations of the gospel. But God sends forth His Spirit, the heart is touched, the conscience enlightened, and the effect is that He feels his sin and cries, "God be merciful," etc. We now find him pleading the atonement and finding mercy. He receives a new principle. This is a reality, and is so described in the terms new creation, new birth, resurrection. That it is real is proved by three things.
1. It abideth (Galatians 5:17).
2. It over cometh (1 John 3:9).
3. It still tendeth towards God (John 4:14).It came from God, it ascends to God. It longs to love Christ and holiness more, and is not satisfied till it reaches the bosom of its Father (Psalm 17:15).
III. WHEN GRACE IS REAL, HOWEVER WEAK, CHRIST DOES NOT DESPISE IT. He did not upbraid Nicodemus with coming by night, nor does He any one now.
1. His covenant engagements forbid it.
2. His love forbids it.
3. Beware, then, how you despise feeble grace
(1) in others;
(2) in yourself.Conclusion —
1. James 4:6.
2. Proverbs 13:4.
(J. H. Evans, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: