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ed—“Every man that hath heard and learned of the Father cometh unto me.” The use which Christ made of the prediction, in explaining what he had said, seems plainly to imply that “hearing and learning of the Father," "being taught of God," is of the same import as being drawn by the Father.
Besides, prior to closing his discourse Christ gave a reason for what he had said, verse 44. “ But there are some among you who believe not. Therefore I said unto you that no man can come to me except it be given him of my Father.” v. 64, 65. It is observable how Christ quoted or repeated what he had before said. In the first instance he used the phrase "except the Father draw him ;' but in the second he said — "except it be given him of my Father.” These two forms of speech are then of similar import. Christ has, therefore, furnished us with four forms of speech expressive of the same idea. To be drawn by the Father is to be taught of God, to learn of the Father, and to have it given of the Father.
Between the two clauses which I quoted from the 64th and 65th verses, John introduced an explanatory note after the clause, “ But there are some of you which believe not " - here John says -“ For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.” By this note it seems that John understood Jesus to have particular reference to Judas, when he said, “No man can come to me," &c. Though Judas had been in Christ's school, he had not so learned of the Father as to become a humble disciple of Christ.
I think I have shown that the words of Christ in verse 44th were not uttered by Christ to teach us the doctrine of inability, either natural or moral; and that they do not necessarily imply any thing more than man's entire dependence on God for, every good gift and every perfect gift - a dependence which is common to all created intelligences. It is, however, possible, and perhaps probable, that Christ had in view the prejudices and other obstacles which were to be overcome by those who embraced him as the Messiah, or became bis disciples. The Pharisees were at that time a powerful sect. Their influence was great; and many of them were a covetous and worldly-minded people, and their prejudices against Jesus were strong and violent. These facts occasioned great obstacles to the success of the Messiah's ministry. That Christ had such obstacles in view may appear probable from what he said on other occasions. The following passages were uttered by him probably on the same principle. “No man can serve two masters.” — “ Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Such language teaches indeed that it is impossible for a person truly to serve God while he prefers mammon or riches as his chief good. On the same principle Paul said — “ So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God:” that is, men who are carnally minded, who suffer themselves to live under the dominion of worldly and sensual appetites, cannot, in such a state of mind, please God. But such language does not imply that it is impossible for such persons to repent, to deny themselves, to change the objects of their preference, or cease to do evil and learn to do well.
In several parables Christ very plainly taught that love to worldly objects was what in a great degree rendered his preaching unsuccessful. This is taught in the parable of the sower, the parable of the great supper, and the parable of the marriage of the king's son. But he never intimated any disability or inability in mankind resulting to them from Adam's transgression, or from God's displeasure on account of that sin. He did not so much as name Adam, or allude to his fall, in the course of his ministry.
The Second Objection Examined - and further remarks on
the use of can and cannot.
What our Lord said to Nicodemus on regeneration has been supposed to furnish a strong argument in favor of the sinner's inability to obey the gospel. Of course the same thing will be supposed to furnish strong ground for an objection to the doctrine which I have attempted to establish. The following are the words which demand consideration.
« Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”. Except a man be born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” John iii. 3, 5.. .
I have not a doubt of the truth of these declarations; but whether they have in general been correctly understood, is another question. The same Messiah said — "my words they are spirit and they are life.” To be born or begotten by “the incorruptible seed, the word of God” - to be born of the spirit, and to be born of God, are, as I conceive, different forms of expressing the same change; and John says, “ Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” It hence appears that God, his spirit, his word, the preachers of the gospel, and he who becomes a believer in Jesus, have all an agency in the work of regeneration.
The language of Christ to Nicodemus was no stronger than what he used to his apostles, when they had been contending about which of them should be the greatest. Having placed a little child in the midst of them, he said — “ Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of God." This was said to the Twelve, after they had been a considerable time in the family of Christ, as his disciples; and probably, excepting Judas, they were true disciples—had been born of God. But they had indulged an aspiring and contentious spirit, which was the reverse of the meek and humble spirit of their Master. Hence they needed to be converted. This implied repentance for what they had done amiss — a return to the path of duty. For this purpose they needed the influence or aid of the same spirit which they had in their first exercises of regeneration, and the same kind of influence.
On another occasion Jesus said to them, “ Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew
v. 20. Again he said to them, “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” “ For without me ye can do nothing." John xv. 4, 5. To abide in Christ, was the same as to be led by the spirit, to walk as Christ walked.
The impenitent need to be born of God that they may have spiritual life — that the kingdom of God may be set up in their hearts, that kingdom which is “not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” If a person has once been converted, and subsequently indulges a worldly or a contentious spirit, he needs the same renovating influences for his recovery which he had formerly enjoyed. Hence, as Christ is the medium through which God communicates the lifegiving influence, the disciples were taught the necessity of their abiding in him, that they might bring forth fruit. As without Christ, or without the divine spirit the apostles themselves could " do nothing," we may feel assured that the penitent and the impenitent are alike dependent on the aids of the divine spirit for a capacity to obey. Hence the apostle Paul bowed his knees to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in behalf of the Christians at Ephesus, beseeching that they might be “strengthened with might by his spirit in the inner man.” Eph. iii. 14-16.
I shall now introduce other passages to show the scriptural use of the word cannot and can.
In characterizing a class of vile men, Peter says of them — “Having eyes full of adultery which