DEAR BRETHREN BEEBE: – Having noticed the views of other dear brethren on the words, “Born of water,” I will, with your kind permission, present a few reflections on this subject for the consideration of the brotherhood.
The first thing I would remark is, that the clause, “born of water,” should be considered, not alone, but in connection with the entire subject of which it is a part. Nicodemus, as a devout Jew, doubtless expected to enter into the kingdom of God through his moral excellence and obedience to the law; therefore Jesus, who knew his heart, said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” This is the prime point, or truth, and it runs through the whole subject, from the third verse to the eighth. All else bears, explains and confirms this. Now Nicodemus had been born once, and so he had entered into this world, but as such he was natural, and had entered a natural world only. But the kingdom of God is spiritual, therefore, except a man be born again he cannot see it. But Nicodemus supposed one could be born again in no other way only as at first, and therefore he marveled and questioned. Then Jesus answered, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Here are two births, of water and of the Spirit, each distinct, as in the first and main proposition; and in this, as in that, the first is natural, but the second is spiritual. And to show that this is so, and is the meaning, Jesus immediately adds, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” Therefore it is clear that but two births are spoken of in all this discourse; one is of the flesh, the other is of the Spirit; for the first and last propositions present only these two, and all the discourse was bearing upon and expounding these. The only conclusion, therefore, that I can come to is, that the middle proposition, contained in the words, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit,” precisely agrees in meaning with the first and last propositions, as shown at the third, sixth and seventh verses. This is the most evident, apparent and simple interpretation of this mooted scripture, and therefore the most likely to be the correct one. Do the scriptures anywhere duplicate the new birth, or divide it into two distinct parts and processes? Not at all. But this would have to be if the words “born of water and of the Spirit” all apply to being born again, instead of to the two births, the fleshly and the spiritual.
Dear editor, I have watched with interest the commencement of your labors as second editor of the SIGNS, and I must say I am highly pleased. I think I may safely say that no one appreciated your father’s editorial writings in general more than I did; but now that he rests from his labors, I believe that the good hand of the Lord is manifest in putting you in his place. May he sustain and bless you, dear brother.
In fervent love to all the saints, your afflicted and poor brother,
Signs of the Times,
Volume 49, No. 21,
November 1, 1881.