Discourses on John 3:1-21


John 3:20

For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
This with the foregoing and following verses is the application of our Lord's whole discourse. He is a proper pattern for ministers, and teaches us not to be content with displaying the precious doctrines of the Gospel, but to address ourselves to the consciences of hearers according to their different states. The light of truth discovers[exposes] the secret distinction between the characters of men, and the true motives upon which they act. Some will hate this light, but those only who do evil, that is, are deliberately determined to persist in their evil doers[doing]. Indeed the Light finds all in the love and practice of evil at first – but some are made sensible of the error of their ways and are desirous to be saved from sin. To these the Light is welcome. Others retain the love of their sin, and because the light bears hard upon their consciences, they hate, resist, stifle and avoid it. May the Light now shine and enable each one to know themselves. Speak of the clauses:
1. Every one that doeth evil
This taken strictly as I have said will include all – for the best must confess when I would do good evil is present with me. [1] It must therefore be restrained[limited] to those whose hearts are set upon the practice of evil. Of these there are two sorts:
  1.1 Those who live altogether according to their own wills, and make no conscience at all of the commands of God. Such are too common even when the Gospel is known. People live in defiance of it. The name of God is profaned, his Sabbaths broken – uncleanness, intemperance, oppression committed with greediness. What wonder that such should hate the light?
  1.2 Others there are who profess some regard to the Word of God, and abstain from many evils which it forbids, but they allow some one darling lust to prevail, and will not be persuaded to part from it. This one sin, whatever may be said in its behalf, will ruin the soul as effectively as a thousand. And will upon occasion draw forth to view that enmity to the light which lurks in the heart. An instance we have in Herod, notwithstanding he feared John, heard him gladly and did many things – yet when he urged him about Herodias, he cut off his head. If John would have spared him in this thing, he might have had his protection longer.
2. Hateth the light
It cannot be otherwise. Contraries as fire and water cannot agree. You must either hate yourselves or hate the light, which forces unwelcome truths upon you.
  2.1 The light discovers the extent of sin, by setting forth the spiritualities of the law. There are many things highly criminal in the sight of God, which are in good esteem amongst men: Revenge is called spirit – Covetousness, a prudent care – Prodigality, a generous temper. But the light calls things by their true names.
  2.2 The light discovers the consequences of sin, and denounces a curse upon every transgressor. It tells men whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, that those who do such things shall not see the kingdom of God. Now this sinners call uncharitable in preachers to insist upon. And they think it more charitable to suffer persons to go on in their sins.
  2.3 The Light discovers the only way of salvation, and exposes the insufficience of every other way. This is hated on two accounts:
    2.3.1 as it is a way of faith, depending entirely upon the Lord Jesus, and discountenancing all the pretended good works of men, as a sufficient ground of acceptance with God.
    2.3.2 as it is a way of holiness, necessarily requiring the renunciation of every evil practice and requiring a total change of heart.
3. Neither cometh to the light lest his deeds should be reproved
This is plainly and avowed the case with many. When they have heard the Gospel so long as to be acquainted with its design and tendency they resolve to hear it no more. They hate it as Ahab did Micaiah and for the same reason, because while they are resolved to continue in their sins, it speaketh to them not good but evil.
But the difficulty is to account for another appearance. Many who live in sin, are very constant in hearing. Can we say that these love the light? Yet they come to it daily, though their deeds are reproved by it. How often are they cut to the heart by it; we are ready to think, surely they now either see a necessity of forsaking their evil way, or they will forsake the ordinances and betake themselves to such as will prophecy smooth things to them, [2] and suffer them to go on in peace. Is it not strange to see those zealous for Gospel doctrines and ministers, who are convinced in their own minds, that these things make against them?
  3.1 This must be often ascribed to the power of God over the conscience. They know it is his Word, and therefore they cannot keep away. The Lord rules in the hearts of all, and for the glory of his truth, he extorts such a confession even from some who are far from being governed by his Word. The case of such is pitiable. While they halt between two opinions, they are neglected by both sides. They have nothing by their religion but terror; they shut themselves out from the comforts. The people of God can only pity them, and the world whom they serve, secretly and perhaps openly despises and laughs at them and make them double slaves in order to keep up terms with them. What an awful thing it is when a man who has been struck again and again with the power of God, is prevailed on in order to please his vain companions, to ridicule his own convictions, which conscience inwardly gives the lie to all they can say. This sufficiently shows that they hate the light, or they could not make it the subject of their jests.
  3.2 Some attend – by way of barter. They think that their owning the Gospel will make some sort of amends. But alas, so far from it – this will be an aggravation of their sins.
  3.3 But the most, having their understandings quite dark, only come to hear out of custom. They know not, regard not what they hear, and least of all how nearly they are concerned in it. And if perhaps they are sometimes startled, they show their hatred of the light, by their eagerness to shake off the conviction and by long struggling against the light, they are at length quite hardened, and can sleep secure with the thunder of God's word sounding in their ears.
What cause to adopt the pathetic[passionate] words of the prophet, O that my head was waters and mine eyes fountains of tears [3] – when I see sinners wilfully pressing on to destruction with the light of the Gospel shining around them. Methinks I am in the prophet's case, I am enabled in some measure plainly and faithfully to show you your danger, but alas, who has believed our report? [4] Shall I have no consolation but that of having delivered my own soul? What new way have I yet left untried, if neither the mercies nor the terrors of the Lord can prevail upon you? Why, O why will you die? [5] No, I have no new arguments but I must repeat the old ones, and if the Lord impresses them they will appear new to you. Think what a sting your light will be to you at last, if you still hate and resist it. Think what a way of escape this light makes known to you.
Let awakened souls praise God for the light. While you have it rejoice in it, and walk worthy of it.

Series No. 23

[1] Romans 7:21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
[2] Isaiah 30:10 Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits:
[3] Jeremiah 9:1 Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!
[4] Isaiah 53:1 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?
Romans 10:16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?
[5] Ezekiel 18:31 Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?
Ezekiel 33:11 Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

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

Marylynn Rouse, 28/10/2020