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3. If with these we connect those assertions found especially in John, it will be impossible for a doubt to remain that the kingdom which Jesus was establishing, and by which he intended to improve the condition of the whole world, was a kingdom of truth and morality. Soon after he entered upon his ministry he held a remarkable conversation with a Samaritan woman, in which he felt at liberty to express himself with far more freedom respecting his own particular views than he was accustomed to do in the presence of his countrymen, whose prejudices he was obliged to spare. On this occasion he entirely laid aside the Hebrew phrase, the kingdom of God, and instead of it, spoke of the worship of God in spirit and in truth as then about to be introduced into all parts of the world without regard to the distinctions of nation and country, John 4: 23, 24. The Jews expected of the Messiah the restoration of their freedom. Jesus promised freedom, but a freedom from the tyranny of 'vice, to be obtained by the power of the truth, John 8: 31-36. Shortly before his death he conversed with his friends respecting the great work for which he had selected them, and in which they were soon to engage. For their encouragement and support he promised them nothing but the Spirit of truth. This was not only to guide them, but through them to teach and reform the whole world, John 14: 17, 26. 15: 26. 16: 13. Whatever we understand by this Spirit of truth, we must admit it to have been given to the apostles to prepare them for the moral undertaking, the accomplishment of which had been intrusted to their hands. I have already observed that in the presence of Pilate, Jesus declared his kingdom to be a kingdom of truth and not of this world, nor intended to injure the power and authority of its rulers in the least degree. That it was his intention to benefit all men by laboring in the cause of morality, is a position fully confirmed by the fact that he speaks in express terms of a new birth, an entire reformation and renovation of the heart, and in the most direct and definite manner, declares his intention to create mankind anew and make them better. In Matt.
19: 28, he calls the new order of things which he had in contemplation, a regeneration, and that this regeneration was not to be a political change nor a resuscitation of the old national constitution, he asserted in a manner worthy of the deepest attention, in the well known dialogue which he held with Nicodemus, John 3: 1 seqq. He told the astonished scribe, with the dignity of an ambassador of God, who was conscious of being engaged in the most important business and felt his appropriate sphere of action to be without the bounds of the corporeal world, vs. 11-13, that a man must be renovated by the influences of a better religion before he could be admitted into the kingdom of God, v. 3; that indolent human nature, altogether sunk as it was in sensuality, must experience an entirely new birth in order to become spirit and awake to a higher moral life, vs. 4-6;* not that there was any lack of spiritual faculties, for they were every where in action, but that they were destitute of the proper direction. He told Nicodemus that they should now receive the proper direction by means of the new birth under the influences of this better religion, v. 8 ;† that though it would
[Comp. the author's sermon, J. 1799. I. am Feste der Dreyeinigkeit, nr. 22. S. 442 ff; "The intention of Jesus to improve mankind by means of a new moral creation."]
There is not the least reason for all at once giving the word TVεvua, a meaning, in this place, different from what it has at the end of the 6th verse. There it is used in reference to the moral powers of human nature, which by means of a higher influence in connexion with the religion, are put into appropriate action; by which means man is rendered a better being and exalted above the objects of sense. Now here in the 8th verse it is said that these same moral powers, capable of being animated and directed are every where in action, as well in the heathen world as among the Jews, and that their language and indications in human nature cannot possibly be mistaken; that these powers had hitherto been destitute of a definite direction, and not operated with the requisite regularity; and that the formation of these irregulated powers by means of the better religion, and the higher assistance connected with it, is the object now in view. Many ancient and modern interpreters have found it hard to understand the word vsμa of the wind, in opposition to the context and the usus loquendi of the N. T. in other places. Comp. Suicer's Thesaurus Eccles. Tom. II. p. 780 and Wolf's
cost him his life to effect this great and universal change, yet his death should result in the salvation of all mankind, v. 14, for that he came to make all happy who adhered to him and were willing to be improved; to do good to all mankind without exception, vs. 15-17, and hence, that none should remain miserable but those who hated the truth, and out of a love to vice, rejected it, vs. 18-21. Jesus therefore had a new moral creation in view. His object was to animate all mankind with better life;-to arouse, direct, and ennoble their spiritual faculties, and exalt the human race to a state of moral dignity and happiness. This was the kingdom of God which he had in view, the important work which occupied his
Curae, at this passage. They have not understood the connexion of thought however, as it must be understood, if we give that word its figurative meaning. [The old Lutheran rendering of vεUμα, however, by wind, derives firm support from the fact, that outws at the end of the verse, points to a preceding parable, or comparison. Comp. Knapp, 1. c. nr. VI. p. 224 seqq.. A meaning different from the Scriptural usage does seem to be here imputed to the word vεua, as it generally means the divine Spirit and its operations. That the comparison which Christ has chosen for an illustration, is a very striking one, has been clearly shown by Heinr. Müller in his Evangel. Hertzenspiegel, upon this portion of Scripture.] [The paraphrase which Reinhard has given of these verses may appear somewhat obscure. It is proper to observe, therefore, that in the 5th and the first instance of the 6th verse, he evidently understands
Vεμα, to mean the spirit of God, but in the last instance of the 6th and in the 8th, the moral powers of man. His views of regeneration are well expressed in his Dogmatik.The Scriptures clearly teach us,' says he in that work, that notwithstanding the possession of excellent faculties for doing good, we shall never be able to attain to that perfection which the Gospel requires, without the especial assistance of God, and attribute the whole work of regeneration to the gracious operations of the Holy Spirit. Tit. 3: 4--6. Gal. 6: 15. Rom. 8: 1-14 &c. We are authorized, therefore, to assert, that man can neither effect his own conversion, entirely by his own strength, according to the views of the Pelagians, nor commence it by his own strength, according to those of the Semi-Pelagians, and are constrained to admit, that every thing in this respect depends upon divine grace:' §§ 82, 83, 123, and 148, in the last of which, he has given a more particular explanation of these verses. For the various explanations that different interpreters have given of them, consult the commentaries of Paulus and Kuinoel, and Titt-. mann's Meletamata Sacra. TR.]
his mind. It is necessary still farther to explain the principal heads which Jesus included under this change agreeably to his own remarks.
18. Religion, morality, and society, are the three great topics which exert the most influence in the formation of character, and make men, what they are. Religion, when Jesus began his career, was, throughout the world, nothing but a miserable superstition. Morality was either neglected, or had been corrupted by principles which either relaxed or exaggerated its claims. Finally, the social relations were in the greatest disorder, and so unhappily regulated, as to evince a spirit of hostility in all their parts and appear to have been calculated for mutual subjugation. If then Jesus intended to create mankind anew, and radically improve the condition of the world; to establish a genuine kingdom of God upon earth and collect all nations into it, it was necessary for him to destroy superstition and substitute true religion in its stead ;—to purify morality, adapt it to human nature, and procure for it a universal influence ;-and finally, to act upon the social relations, and without directly attacking civil constitutions, diffuse a spirit over the earth, which should gradually rectify abuses, fill it with universal peace, and elevate human nature to the greatest perfection of which it is capable. -It can be shown that such was the undertaking which Jesus actually had in contemplation, and the particular character of his plan becomes perfectly obvious, as soon as we know his designs in reference to it, and what he intended to accomplish.
19. That the religion of the human race, when Jesus made his appearance upon earth, was in reality nothing better than a senseless superstition, hardly needs any proof. All mankind were then divided into Jews and gentiles. Among the heathen, the Greeks and Romans
were the only two nations of any considerable degree of cultivation. All, that were not under their control, or partakers of their sciences, regulations, and moral habits, were in a greater or less degree of barbarity. Now that what was called religion among the barbarous nations of that age, was incontestibly nothing but a senseless and false belief, prejudicial to morality and happiness, may be ascertained either from looking at the representations of which it was composed, or at the ceremonies and regulations connected with its practice. There is no kind of idolatry, which was not to be met with among these nations. Here Fetichism prevailed, there Sabianism; here the worship of the brute creation, there the worship of fire; here the adoration of heroes and demons, there the adoration of allegorical divinities. In most places, many of these errors were to be found at the same time, and in connexion with almost every degradation to which human nature is liable, and every species of cruelty and wild extravagance, that can be thought of. The public religion of the Greeks and Romans was not much better. It was Polytheism, under the oppressive dominion of which, the great mass of the people remained in total ignorance of every thing belonging to the true worship of God. True, there were philosophers in both nations who sought to break away from the senseless, though popular belief then prevalent, and aspired after better notions and more correct views. Many of them, however, wandered while they aspired, rejected all religion, and took up with comfortless infidelity. Others gave themselves up to skepticism, and declared the existence of a Supreme being, his influence in human affairs, and our existence after death, to be problems which man is wholly unable to solve. The best of them always retained errors which cannot be reconciled with a purified knowledge of religion, and which did not fail to produce injurious effects in regard to life and conduct. All without exception agreed that the prevailing religion should be respected, and its regulations and ceremonies attended to, for the honor of the civil constitution to which it belonged. Upon such principles it was impossible for