Part 2 Chapter 5

Section 4óJohn 3:6.

That which is born of the flesh is flesh.

These words are expressed by Christ to show that men, by their natural birth, are carnal, and stand in need of regeneration, In order to entrance into the kingdom of God; and the meaning of them is, that that which is born in a natural way, is not only corporeal, but corrupt and sinful; so the word flesh is often used (see Gen. 6:3; Rom. 8:1,5-8, Gal. 5:17,19). Hence man in his natural estate, can do nothing but what is carnal and sinful; and is wholly incapable of doing that which is spiritually good, until he is born of the Spirit. To which are excepted,

1. That[1] this "exposition renders it impossible for a man to do any thing toward his own conversion; and so renders all God's commands of it, exhortations to it, promises of pardon for it, threats of death if neglected, and complaints against those who would not do it, vain and absurd." To which I answer, that it is, indeed, impossible, considering the. state of men, and the nature of regeneration and conversion, that he should be able to do any thing more towards it, than to make use of means; such as prayer, hearing the word, etc., in which God oftentimes is pleased to effect it, by the mighty power of his Spirit and grace. And as for commands and exhortations to regeneration, or promises of pardon to such who regenerate themselves, or threats of death to those who neglect it, or complaints against those who would not do it, I know of none in the whole word of God; what is referred to, only regards an external reformation of life and manners, and not regeneration, or the first work of conversion.

2. It is said,[2] "that to be born of the flesh,here only signifies,that natural generation, by which a man is born into the world, of the vail of the flesh; and that this is the plain meaning of our Lord, that besides that natural birth, by which we receive only our flesh and body front our parents, there is need of a spiritual birth, to fit us for the kingdom of God." I reply, it will be allowed, that our Lord is speaking of natural generation by which a man is born into the world; though how that should be of the will of the flesh, if flesh stands only for body, is not very intelligible: but then he speaks of men being born into the world as corrupt and sinful, which appears from the opposite part of the text, that which is born of the Spirit is spirit,that is, that which is born of the Spirit of God is spiritual, as the new creature is; for by spirit, is not meant the soul, as is, when it is opposed to flesh, signifying the body, but that which is spiritual; and flesh being opposed to it, must signify that which is corrupt and sinful, as the nature of man is by his first birth: and therefore according to the plain meaning of our Lord, he must stand in need of a spiritual birth to fit him for the kingdom of God. And if man is not corrupt and sinful, what need would there be of regeneration? and since this is his case, though he does not lie under any force, or co-active necessity to do only that which is evil, to which his will is entirely free; yet he is in an utter incapacity to regenerate himself.


[1] Whitby, p. 329, 281; ed. 2.274.

[2] Ibid. p. 330; ed. 2.321.

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