Discourses on John 3:1-21


John 3:19

And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light,
because their deeds were evil.
Though all men by nature and practice are sinners before God, and justly obnoxious to the curse of the law, yet with respect to those of them, to whom the word of salvation is sent, the sentence of condemnation is not absolutely and irrevocably passed, till they have filled up the measure of their iniquities by wilfully rejecting the provision and tender of his grace in Christ Jesus. Alas that this should be so frequently the case, that perishing sinners should so generally put from them the only means of safety. This is the condemnation – God has visited them in their dark and lost estate, he has visited them with the light of his gospel, he has sent his Son Jesus to bless them in turning them from their iniquities, but instead of rejoicing in the light they hate it, and prefer darkness to it, because their deeds are evil, and the love of sin maintains a deep hold in their hearts. Therefore their condemnation is sealed and they must perish without mercy. For they refuse the great sacrifice, and there remaineth no other.
In the words we have:

1.      A character of the Gospel which reveals salvation by Christ. It is called light.
2.      The ungrateful returns made to God for this grace: Men love darkness rather than light.
3.      The true grounds of their refusal to receive the light: because their deeds are evil.
4.      The dreadful sin and punishment of this unbelief, implied in: This is the condemnation.
1. The Lord Jesus and the revelation of him by the Gospel is compared to light. He says of himself, I am the light of the world. John 8:12. The light of the natural world is the sun. Jesus is the Sun of the soul. Conceive the earth to be without the sun; the immediate effect would be black darkness, and utter extinction of comfort and life. Just so it is with the minds of men, where the gospel light does not shine – they are covered with gross darkness and know not whither they go, yea they are spiritually dead, destitute of all power and fruitfulness: Isaiah 60:2; John 12:35. [1] In the dark things that are nearest, plain in themselves, and necessary to us, are quite hid. While men sin in the dark night of nature, they are ignorant of spiritual truth. But now light is come into the world, to show us:
  1.1 Our true state
The first necessary step towards deliverance from our misery is to be made sensible of it.
  1.2 The God with whom we have to do, [2] who otherwise is not known or thought of
Though there are some imperfect apprehensions of a power above us, it has either no effect or no good effect till the light comes; witness the idolatry of all nations, and the lives and tempers of men till grace reaches their hearts.
  1.3 The way of acceptance and communion with [Him]
How our sins may be pardoned, our persons justified, and we enabled to walk in the light of His countenance.
  1.4 Life and immortality beyond the grave
O what a glorious prospect does this light afford into a future world – an inheritance undefiled, a kingdom that cannot be shaken.
  For these purposes Jesus arose with light and power upon a dark world by his incarnation, life, sufferings and doctrines. He has removed the cloud and shown us the path to happiness. And what he did in person to the Jews, he does by His Gospel and Spirit still. See His purpose: Acts 26:18. [3]
2. Now might it not be expected that the world would have welcomed such a messenger and such a message? That he should have been joyfully received. Yet we read he came to his own and his own received him not. Nor is his Gospel more generally received to this day. Men look at the light, but immediately turn their eyes from it and prefer their own darkness. They refuse his instruction and cast his words behind them. What treatment he met from the Jews we read, but many who blame the Jews act the same part still.
  2.1 Some give the Gospel a hearing, and then go directly into the world, as though it was not worth their notice – Matthew 22:5. [4]
  2.2 Some feel the force of it but stifle their convictions – Acts 26:28. [5]
  2.3 Some rage and revile – they hate the light and account those enemies who bring it.
3. The different effects are all owing to the same cause: their deeds are evil. They have chosen their own ways, they love sin and are determined not to forsake it. Romans 8:7. [6] The love of darkness prevails:
  3.1 They will not stoop to the mysteries of faith – their dark reason blinds them.
  3.2 The[They] cannot bear holiness. It appears a slavery and burden.
  3.3 They are possessed with an opinion of their own goodness, wisdom and strength and their pride swells against a free salvation.
4. This then is the condemnation. On this account they perish. This unbelief is the crowing, damning sin which makes their case hopeless. I do not mean that unbelief which is felt and mourned for by the awakened soul, but that which says, We will not have this man to reign over us. [7] Consider:
  4.1 What an affront this is to God,
to His wisdom
to His love.
  4.2 What a proof and discovery[revelation] this gives to the evil heart – if grace and mercy will make no impression, what can be done?
  4.3 This is the last dispensation of hope – God will, nay I speak it with reverence, he can do no more.
  4.4 The denunciation of his Word. Such sinners are accounted worse than Sodom and Gomorrah. [8] Their signal privileges shall issue in signal destruction.
Now who speak of this in this place with sufficient concern? Many in this town disdain to hear the Gospel, though it is brought to their doors. Many who hear though they come again and again, yet love darkness better than light. It is to be feared God will make some examples of those who despise His Gospel. There are complaints of the weather, but how justly might be[he] forbid his sun to shine any more upon us.

Series No. 22

[1] Isaiah 60:2 For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.
John 12:35 Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.
[2] Hebrews 4:13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
[3] Acts 26:18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
[4] Matthew 22:5 But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise:
[5] Acts 26:28 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.
[6] Romans 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
[7] Luke 19:14 But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us.
[8] Mark 6:11 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.

Cowper & Newton Museum, 714(2) No. 4

Marylynn Rouse, 28/10/2020