John 3:6

I. OBSERVE THE TRUE TEACHER. This verse is in answer to a question. The first word of Jesus to Nicodemus is a word that brings a question. The true teacher seeks to provoke activity of mind and curiosity in the learner. The question is certainly a most absurd one, but Nicodemus had no time to prepare a sensible one. It is easy for us to be wise over the introductory declaration of Jesus, because we look at it with plenty of illustrations and explanations shining upon it. But Nicodemus, in all his previous thinking, had nothing to make him expect Jesus would thus speak; and so it is little wonder to find him staggered, confused, utterly bewildered, to hear Jesus speaking thus calmly of such a wondrous experience. The question, however absurd, leads on to a piece of most practical information.

II. THE FURTHER EXPLANATION OF JESUS. We are not likely to suppose that being born again means to live natural life over again. Few would care for that, travelling over the old road, meeting the old difficulties, fighting the old battles. Jesus explains that to be born again is to be born of water and of the Spirit. Being born of water means, of course, passing through the experience of repentance. The true disciple of John the Baptist was born of water. He repented, changed from his old view of life, manifested that changed view by changed habits and practices, and, for sign of all this, was baptized with water. Nicodemus evidently had this experience still to go through. He had not been a disciple of John the Baptist. He had yet to see what a poor shallow affair an outward kingdom is. But being born of water takes us only a small way into the regeneration. Yon must follow up discipleship of John with discipleship of Jesus. You may cease to care for the old, and yet not have found your way to possession of the new. The only new creature worth calling such is the new creature in Christ Jesus. You must feel on your heart the breath of him who has eternal life. By repentance, old things pass away; by spiritual birth, all things become new. The spiritual man looks on a virtually new world. The precious becomes worthless, and the worthless precious; the once neglected is sought for, and the once sought for is neglected. - Y.







How can a man be born when he is old?
I. THE AMAZED INTERROGATION (ver. 4).

1. Its origination: astonishment and perplexity.

2. Its intention: investigation and inquiry.

3. Its explanation: the new birth an impossibility.

II. THE SUBLIME ELUCIDATION.

1. The exposition (ver. 5), in which are noticeable —(1) That the former truth is repeated with the old solemnity, authority, particularity, universality, certainty. Christ conceded nothing to the rank and character of His interlocutor.(2) That the hard truth is explained with much simplicity, fulness, kindness, and condescension, also furnishing a pattern for His followers in general and His official servants in particular.

2. The argumentation (ver. 6). The law of propagation is one throughout the realm of animated existence — every creature after its kind.

(1)In the sphere of matter like produces like (Matthew 7:16; Luke 6:44).

(2)In the loftier domain of man, nature can never rise higher than itself.

III. THE SUBLIME ILLUSTRATION.

1. The natural phenomenon: the wind, selected as an emblem of the Spirit, probably because of —

(1)Its etherial character;

(2)Its free motion;

(3)Its inscrutable mystery.

2. The spiritual interpretation (ver. 8). The Spirit's grace is like the wind in respect of —

(1)Its origin, coming from heaven.

(2)Its sovereignty, blowing where it listeth.

(3)Its movement, going softly.

(4)Its influence, penetrating and quickening.

(5)Its results.

1. The natural blindness of the understanding in the region of the Spirit.

2. The hopefulness of those who bring their intellectual and moral difficulties to Christ.

3. The danger of reasoning that what is impossible in nature must be impossible in grace.

4. The moral impotence of human nature.

5. The necessity of regeneration.

(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

I. A RE-ASSERTION OF THE PREVIOUS DOCTRINE WITH SOME CHANGE IN THE FORM OF EXPRESSION.

1. We must be born of water. This describes a change of condition, from guilt and condemnation to righteousness and acceptance. "Water" emblematically represents Christ's obedience as the substitute of those who are saved by Him, and to be "born" represents the application of that obedience for salvation. Baptism is the symbol el this change of condition.

2. We must be born of the Spirit, which describes a change of character as distinguished from a change in condition. This change may be small in its beginnings. It is the origin which has progress unto perfection for its completion. With this new life and its growth will come the gradual decay of all unholy principles, until they are wholly destroyed.

II. AN ARGUMENT IN SUPPORT OF THE NECESSITY OF REGENERATION.

1. That which is born of the flesh is flesh.(1) Flesh means our fallen nature — the source and seat of evil within the soul. The body is but the instrument through which the inherent corruption acts.(2) This nature can never be anything else than that which Scripture declares it to be. Treat it as you will, improve it by what cultivation you can, it is flesh still.

2. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.(1) This is to have a new life and a new nature, not to have some faculties set against others, but the possession of all the faculties by the Holy Spirit, and their renewal in the image of God.

(A. Beith, D. D.)

I. Nicodemus did not deny the doctrine of the new birth; he merely started a difficulty. He was a literalist, and doubted the exactness of the term born: it was too specific in its common meaning to be literally applied to anything else. Christ's answer was consistent with His whole method of teaching. The strangeness of His language excited attention, provoked thought, and awakened controversy, and so through a process of inquiry and strife men entered into the mystery of His rest. It seems as if every one must at some time have doubts and anguish of heart respecting Christ and His kingdom.

II. Nicodemus was one of those persons who always ground their course on facts. The facts which he had observed led to the conclusion that Christ was a teacher come from God, because of His miracles: an admission of the utmost importance. If the works are from God, what of the words? Yet important as the admission was, Christ returned an answer which apparently had no bearing on the subject of miracles; and yet He did not evade it. He showed incidentally the true position and value of His mighty works. They were symbolic of one great miracle, and unless a man is the subject of that miracle, his belief in other miracles will not admit him into the kingdom of heaven. Other miracles were to be looked at, were public, material, gave new views; the miracle of regeneration was to be felt, was personal, moral, and gave new life.

III. This call from outward circumstances to the deepest experience of the soul naturally suggested the question "How can these things be?" Christ's answer does not clear the original mystery. His meaning is that we are not to deny results because we cannot understand processes. We may see a renewed life, but cannot see the renewing spirit. In His metaphor Christ found a common law in nature and in grace; the Spirit is the same whether He direct the course of the wind or renew the springs of the heart. Man occupies an outside position. There are limitations to his knowledge. He does not understand himself; The atom baffles him. The wise man only knows his own folly.

IV. These considerations show the spirit in which the subject of the new birth should be approached — one of self-restraint, of conscious limitation of ability, of preparedness to receive not a confirmation of speculative opinion but a Divine revelation. The shock of this new life comes differently.

1. Sometimes on the intellectual side, as in the case of Nicodemus, throwing into confusion the theories of a lifetime.

2. Sometimes on the selfish instincts, as in the case of the rich young man who cannot give his possessions to the poor.

3. Sometimes on the natural sensibilities, as in the case of Bunyan. Hence the folly of setting up a common standard. A man only knows the agonies of the new birth by giving up what be prizes most.

V. What Jesus Christ has left a mystery it would be presumption to attempt to explain. We hear the sound of the wind, we cannot follow it all the way. Can we explain how a child is born? when the child is displaced by the man? the origin and succession of ideas? Yet as the sound of the wind is heard, so there are results which prove the fact of our regeneration. These of course may be simulated, just as a watch may be altered by the hands and not by the regulator, or as the ruddiness of the cheek may be artificial and not natural. The re-generate man is known by the spirit which animates his life.

1. He lives by rule, but it is the unwritten and unchanging rule of love.

2. He advances in orderliness, but it is the orderliness not of mechanical stipulation, but of vigorous and affluent life.

3. He is constantly strengthened and ennobled by an inextinguishable ambition to be filled with all the fulness of Christ.

(Joseph Parker, D. D.)

Water riseth no higher than the spring whence it came; so the natural man can ascend no higher than nature.

(J. Trapp.)

It is said that Robert Hall once visited a poor man in his sickness; and, during his conversation with him, the man every now and then knocked with a stick the board at the head of the bed. Mr. Hall, rather annoyed by this interruption, asked his reason for such strange conduct. The man replied, that the Bible commanded him to knock, and it should be opened unto him.

"I used frequently," says Cecil, "to visit Dr. Bacon at his living near Oxford. He would frequently say to me, 'What are you doing? What are your studies?' 'I am reading so-and-so.' 'You are quite wrong. When I was young I could turn any piece of Hebrew into Greek verse with ease. But when I came into this parish, and had to teach ignorant people, I was wholly at a loss; I had no furniture. They thought me a great man, but that was their ignorance, for I knew as little as they did of what it was most important for them to know. Study chiefly what you can turn to good account in your future life."

Samuel Wesley visited one of his parishioners as he was upon his dying bed — a man who had never missed going to church in forty years. "Thomas, where do you think your soul will go?" "Soul!, soul!" said Thomas. "Yes, sir," said Mr. Wesley, "do you not know what your soul is?" "Ay, surely," said Thomas; "why it is a little bone in the back that lives longer than the body." "So much," says John Wesley, who related it on the authority of Dr. Lupton, who had it from his father, "had Thomas learned from hearing sermons, and exceedingly good sermons, for forty years."

(Anecdotes of the Wesleys.)

Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit
The translation of the soul from "death to life," "from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God," is ascribed to the Holy Spirit.

I. Its necessity.

1. As natural birth is necessary to our present existence, so also is spiritual birth to our spiritual existence.

2. Unless we are born of the Spirit we "cannot see the kingdom of God." Spiritual things are spiritually discerned.

3. Without this birth no man "can enter the kingdom of God." Nominal membership in the Church will not save us. It is only as we are spiritually born that we may confidently hope to enter heaven.

II. ITS NATURE.

1. It is divine or spiritual in its origin: "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit."

2. It is a supernatural change, "Except a man be born again," or, as in the margin, "from above."

3. It is the impartation of a new principle of a spiritual life, "Whereas I was blind, now I see." Before the change we "were dead in trespasses and sins"; but after it we are "made alive unto God."

4. It is a cleansing of the soul from all sin in the blood of Jesus Christ.

(L. O. Thompson.)

I. WHAT WE WERE TO UNDERSTAND BY THE KINGDOM OF GOD. This expression seems to have been borrowed from the Book of Daniel (Daniel 2:44; 7:13,14), and hence it was in common use amongst the Jews (Luke 17:20; Luke 19:11), and they justly supposed it to mean, the kingdom of the Messiah; only imagining, in the pride and carnality of their hearts, and in direct opposition to many passages of their own Scriptures, that it would be of a temporal nature, established by human policy and power. The kingdom of the Messiah is termed the kingdom of God; because by Him the kingdom of Satan is overthrown, men are rescued from his power (Acts 26:18), and made the subjects of God, the kingdom of God is set up on earth, and displayed in power and glory. This kingdom is to be considered in two parts; in a state of infancy, imperfection, and warfare, on earth, in which it is continually receiving fresh subjects, making fresh conquests, and is enlarged more and more; and in a state of triumph and full perfection in heaven.

II. IN WHAT SENSE MUST WE BE BORN OF WATER AND OF THE SPIRIT THAT WE MAY ENTER THIS KINGDOM.

1. Birth by water implies baptism (Mark 16:16). When administered by the apostles to adults, it was only to such as repented and believed (Acts 2:38; Acts 8:36-37), and hence was considered an outward and visible sign of cleansing from past sin and pardon (Acts 22:16; Acts 13:8). This is a relative change, a change of state. But —

2. Birth of the Spirit is a real change; a change of nature (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; Ephesians 4:22-23).(1) It is not only an external but an internal change; not mere reformation of manners, but change of principles and dispositions (Psalm 51:10; Ezekiel 36:26).(2) It is not a partial but a universal change: "Old things have passed," etc.(3) It is a progressive change (Titus 3:5; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Colossians 2:19; Ephesians 4:15).

3. It is termed a birth because it may be illustrated by the natural birth.

III. THE GRAND NECESSITY, REASONABLENESS, AND HAPPY CONSEQUENCES OF THIS BIRTH.

1. Flesh means not so much our animal and mortal as our depraved nature (Genesis 6:3; Genesis 8:21; Romans 8:9; Galatians 5:16). Man has sunk under the dominion of his senses, appetites and passions. Men are therefore naturally unfit for the kingdom (Romans 8:5, 9; Ephesians 5:5). Hence arises the necessity of being born again.

2. The Spirit having begotten us again, and inwardly changed us, we become spiritual. Endued with the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9); with the life, light, power, purity, and comfort, which he imparts. Free from the dominion of the flesh, we become heavenly, overcoming the world (1 John 5:4, 5). Holy, not committing sin (1 John 3:9), having power over it, and over "the law in the members" (Romans 7:23); walking "not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Romans 8:1), "crucifying the flesh with its affections and lusts," and "led by the Spirit" (Galatians 5:16-25); divine, resembling God in love and in all its fruits (1 John 4:7, 8-16). We thus are made fit subjects for the kingdom of Christ on earth and in heaven.

IV. HOW WE MAY EXPERIENCE THIS NEW BIRTH. The Author of it is the Spirit of God; the means by which it is effected are the Word of God (John 17:17).

(J. Benson.)

I. IT IS CLEARLY OPPOSED TO THE SPIRIT AND DESIGN OF OUR LORD'S DISCOURSE TO NICODEMUS (cf. vers. 3, 6, 8; and Mark 16., where "believeth not" is disassociated from baptism).

II. IT IS OPPOSED TO THE DECLARATION AND PRACTICE OF ST. PAUL (1 Corinthians 1:14-18). Had it regenerated, his wisest method would have been to baptize.

III. It has AN AWFUL AND MOST UNSCRIPTURAL ASPECT ON THE DESTINY OF THE UNBAPTIZED. Think of the myriads infant and adult who on this hypothesis are lost, and contrast it with "Suffer little children," etc.

IV. IT OFFERS GREAT DISHONOUR TO THE HOLY SPIRIT, AND IS AT VARIANCE WITH SCRIPTURAL VIEWS OF THE NATURE AND EFFICACY OF HIS REGENERATING AND SANCTIFYING GRACE. Look at thousands who have been baptized. Have they fallen from grace? When did they ever evidence the possession of it?

V. IT IS CALCULATED TO PRODUCE THE MOST RUINOUS DELUSIONS, that a man is safe by a mere ceremonial without a moral change.

VI. IT DIVERTS THE MIND FROM THE TRANSCENDENT IMPORTANCE OF DIVINE TRUTH AND FIXES ITS ATTENTION ON EXTERNAL OBSERVANCES. The truth is the agency which the Scripture set forth of regeneration.

(H. F. Burder, D. D.)

I. THAT THERE SHOULD BE A CHANGE IN THE CONDITION OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE; that it was not sufficient for them to do the works of the law if they would be saved; and that with this change the old rites had passed away.

II. THAT FROM HENCEFORTH THE RELATIONSHIP OF MEN TO GOD WAS TO BE A NEAR RELATIONSHIP, for a new birth implies a new filiation, and that whereas they had been in the state of servants, this should pass away and they become sons.

III. THAT THE GATES OF HEAVEN, THE NEW JERUSALEM, WERE NOW THROUGH THE NEW BIRTH TO BE OPENED TO ALL MEN, both Jews and Gentiles, that none could see the kingdom of God without the new birth, but that the new born should see and enter that kingdom.

IV. THAT ALL THESE BLESSINGS SHOULD BE THROUGH CHRIST.

(Beaux Amis.)

The Spirit in regeneration worketh like water.

I. Water hath the property of ABLUTION, to wash away the filth of our bodies. So the Spirit —

1. Besprinkling us with the blood of Christ assureth us that the guilt of sin is taken away, and

2. Applying to us the virtue of Christ's death causes sin to die, and so washes away the filth of sin and sanctifies us. And this is the first degree of spiritual life, to have sin die and decay in us, as Paul (Galatians 2:20) joins his being crucified with Christ, and living by faith in Christ, together.

II. Water causes FRUITFULNESS, as drought does famine (Job 8:11). Hence was Egypt's fruitfulness, because of the Nile's inundations. And hence the regenerate man is compared to the trees planted by the rivers of water (Psalm 1.), because the presence of the Holy Ghost is the same to them, that waters to the willows (Isaiah 44:3-5).

III. Water cools and allays heat (Psalm 42:1). So the Spirit cools the heat of our raging and accusing consciences pursued by the law.

(J. Dyke.)

I. THE KINGDOM OF GOD. The expression was a Jewish one, and the Jew would understand by it society perfected. That domain on earth where God was visible and God ruled. The Jewish kingdom was a theocracy: a kingdom in which God's power was manifest by miracles, and in which His laws were promulgated. This was Nicodemus' conception. He saw that Christ fulfilled the two requisites of a Divine mission — asserting a living will ruling over the laws of nature. He had seen a society growing up in acknowledgment of the rule of a person. But Christ asserted the necessity that the subject should be prepared for the kingdom. He distinguished between the visible and the invisible kingdom — the presence that man can see, and the presence that man can feel. Nicodemus saw Christ first when he gazed on the miracles. Christ told him he could not see or enter the other save by being barn again.

II. THE ENTRANCE TO THIS KINGDOM. As there is a twofold kingdom, so a twofold entrance.

1. By the baptism of water. We enter the kingdom by our senses and our spirit. God's witness to our senses is baptism. This is not the fact of our regeneration, but it substantiates the fact. The right of a man to his ancestor's property is the will or intention of the ancestor. But because that will is invisible it is necessary that it should be made manifest in a visible symbol, viz., a "Will." So baptism is the Will of God, i.e, the instrument that declares His will. The will itself is invisible; verbally it runs, "It is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom"; the visible instrument equivalent to the parchment is baptism. And so baptism is regeneration only as the parchment is the will.

2. Entrance into the kingdom by a spiritual change. The ground on which our Lord states it is our twofold human nature — the nature of the animal and the nature of God. When these natures are exchanged is the moment of spiritual regeneration. Our Lord's phrase has been interpreted —(1) In a fanatical way. Men of enthusiastic temperament, whose lives have been irregular, and whose religion has come upon them suddenly, contend that if a man does not know the hour of his conversion he is no Christian.(2) Another class of persons, to whom enthusiasm is a crime, rationalize the change away, contending that it applies to Jews, and that to say that it is necessary to those brought up in the Church of England is to open the door to all fanaticism.(3) A third class confound it with baptism, which seems equally opposed to the text.(4) In our life there is a time when the Spirit has gained the mastery over the flesh. That time was the time of regeneration. There are those in whom this never takes place — grown men still having and indulging animal appetites. These may have been born of water but never of the Spirit.

(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

Our Lord's sermon was delivered —

1. Not to the multitude, as were His other discourses, but to an audience of one. But the smallness of the auditory did not affect the sublimity of what Christ said, or His earnestness. The elder Beecher was called upon to preach in a country chapel where, owing to the weather, he had but one hearer. Twenty years after Mr. Beecher met this person, then an eminently successful preacher, and the instrument of hundreds of conversions, as a result of this sermon. Preachers should never despair because of small audiences.

2. This solitary hearer lacked two very desirable qualities in an inquirer — boldness and quickness. Yet on the other hand he was teachable, and was convinced that Christ was qualified to teach.

I. THE NATURE OF REGENERATION. The figure indicates the radical character of the formative process of Christianity over the moral nature of its subject. There are other figures equally forcible: "Creation," "renewing," "workmanship." Our Lord's term had peculiar significance for a Jew, inasmuch as all His privileges were secured to Him by birth. The others are St. Paul's terms, who wrote to Gentiles, who would be more familiar with artistic and mechanical operations. Both describe the same process, but represent two distinct truths respecting it. Creation has a wider meaning than birth. Every new existence is a creation, but that of Adam, e.g., was immediate — but the production of a new man in Christ Jesus is mediate, viz., by birth.

II. ITS SPHERE "from above." The source of the new principle is outside the earthly. Natural birth ushers into a conscious life only on an earthly plane; but spiritual birth ushers into a conscious life on a heavenly plane. Its starting point is from above, and it maintains its spiritual elevation along its whole course.

III. ITS METHOD.

1. By the breathing of the Spirit. The same method is adopted to quicken the new man as was employed to quicken the old. "God breathed into his nostrils," etc., etc.

2. The breathing of the Spirit assumes the form of a voice. In Adam's case God breathed into his nostrils; in our case the Spirit breaths into the ear. "Of His own will begat He us," etc.

3. This exercise is —(1) Sovereign — not to justify arbitrary selection of subjects, but to show God's right and purpose to extend the exercise of His grace beyond the limits set down by the exclusive notions of self-righteous men (Romans 9:15). Our Lord was explaining the kingdom: one of its most glorious features is universality.(2) Mysterious. Life in its physical form has ever defied every attempt to solve the mystery of its origin. So with the life spiritual.

IV. ITS ESSENTIALNESS. The new birth is essential to seeing and to entering the kingdom. "Seeing" is that power of deep spiritual insight into spiritual things, the absence of which our Lord deplored (Matthew 13:13-17), and which Paul declares to be necessary to understand the deep things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14-16). To see the kingdom of God means to obtain a sympathetic apprehension of its nature and aim. To enter means actual participation in its blessedness. This entering, however, is conducive to the seeing. A building viewed externally is seen, but in a very incomplete sense. We must inhabit it to realize its use, comfort, and protection.

(A. J. Parry.)

Yonder is a cracked bell. How again to restore it? By one of two methods. The first is to repair the bell, to encompass it with hoops, to surround it with bands. Nevertheless you can easily discern the crack of the bell in the crack of the sound. The only effectual way is to remelt the bell, recast it, and make it all new; then it will ring clear, round, sonorous as ever. And human nature is a bell suspended high up in the steeple of the creation to ring forth the praises of the Almighty Creator. But in the Fall in Eden the bell cracked. How again to restore it? By one of two ways. One is to surround it with outward laws and regulations as with steel hoops. This is the method adopted by philosophy as embodied in practical statesmanship; and without doubt there is a marked improvement in the sound. Nevertheless the crack in the metal shows itself in the crack in the tone. The best way is to remelt it, recast it, remould it; and this is God's method in the gospel. He remelts our being, refashions us, creates us afresh from root to branch, makes us new creatures in Christ Jesus, zealous unto good works; and by and by we will sound forth His praises in a nobler, sweeter strain than ever we did before. Heaven's high arches will be made to echo our anthems of praise.

(J. C. Jones, D. D.)

A raw countryman having brought his gun to the gunsmith for repairs, the latter is reported to have examined it, and finding it to be almost too far gone for repairing, said, "Your gun is in a very worn-out, ruinous, good-fornothing condition, what sort of repairing do you want for it?" "Well," said the countryman, "I don't see as I can do with anything short of a new stock, lock, and barrel; that ought to set it up again." "Why," said the smith, "you had better have a new gun altogether." "Ah!" was the reply, "I never thought of that; and it strikes me that's just what I do want. A new stock, lock, and barrel; why that's about equal to a new gun altogether, and that's what I'll have." Just the sort of repairing that man's nature requires. The old nature cast aside as a complete wreck and good for nothing, and a new one imparted.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. Man in a state of nature, or MAN BEFORE REGENERATION. Christ nowhere inculcates the doctrine of the fall, but everywhere assumes it. His doctrine of regeneration presupposes it, "that which is born of the flesh is flesh."

1. This depravity is therefore innate — "born." In Psalm 51. David says, "In sin did my mother conceive me." No wonder therefore that he should pray, "Wash me throughly." Two words are used for "wash."(1) The cleansing of the surface, just as a man washes his face.(2) A washing that cleanses the inside as well, as a woman washes clothes. This David's word.

2. The turpitude is hereditary. This is a verity of science as well as of theology. Once degeneration enters a species, the process goes on from bad to worse unless a remedial check be applied. Adam begat a son in his own likeness. Like begets like. My personal sin grows out of an undercurrent of evil in the race.

3. Universal.

4. Total. Not that every man is as bad as he can be, but that every faculty is more or less tainted, that the bias of the soul, the whole trend of our being is in the direction of evil.

II. Man changed from a state of nature into a state of grace, or MAN BEING REGENERATED.

1. Godliness begins in life. It is not a thing of profession or acquisition, but of birth; not a trade, but a nature.

2. This life is new; not a continuation of the old, but a new creation. Human nature is too dilapidated to be repaired.

3. This life is heavenly: in origin, nature, and direction. Heavenly —

(1)In opposition to the life of the carnal man.

(2)In contradistinction from that which God bestowed on man at his first creation.

4. It is specifically a Divine life. Thus

(1)superior to the angelic;

(2)to Adamic life;

(3)for it is the life of God Himself.Consequently regeneration is a supernatural process; not a miraculous, for Christianity ceased to be miraculous in the first century. The miraculous is only accidental to it, but the supernatural belongs to its essence.

III. Man in a state of grace, or MAN AFTER REGENERATION. Once a man is born again —

1. He is able to understand the gospel in its spiritual significance and relations. He "sees" the kingdom. The natural man may receive the thoughts of the Spirit of God, but not the realities represented by the thoughts

2. He "enters" the kingdom, becomes a denizen of it, a naturalized subject enjoying its privileges and sharing its responsibilities. His "citizenship is in heaven."

3. Having entered the kingdom its duties and privileges afford keen enjoyment to the new man. He "sees," relishes the kingdom, tastes the heavenly gifts, and that the Lord is gracious.

(J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)

I. ITS NATURE.

1. What it is not.(1) Not the outward administration of baptism. Some we see piously disposed from their earliest years who might have had a holy bias imparted, but the great generality are void of gracious dispositions, and cannot have been born again.(2) Not reformation of life. Amendment is the effect, not the precedent of regeneration. The nature of the corrupt tree must be changed ere it can produce good fruits.(3) Not a profession of religion. This may exist when there is no participation in the spirit. Nicodemus was a professor and a distinguished teacher.

2. What it is.(1) A supernatural change above the power of nature. As man cannot create, he cannot recreate himself, cannot quicken himself any more than the buried dead.(2) An internal change. The doctrine of Ezekiel 36:26, 27 Christ perpetuates. As the heart is deceitful above all things so it must be changed ere the love of God reigns in it.(3) An universal change, co-extensive with our corruption, affecting all our powers, enlightening the understanding, subduing the will, biassing the disposition, purifying the heart, reforming the life.(4) A sensible change. Sometimes the change is unconscious, but generally sinners are aroused from their slumbers more or less violently (Acts 2:37). In either case it is in its progress and effects always sensible.(5) A visible change. We see the effects of the wind, although not its origin and operation.So a man's new birth is evident —

(1)To himself. He loves and seeks spiritual things, whereas formerly he disliked and avoided them.

(2)To others.

(a)To the regenerate who find a congeniality of taste and feeling with them.

(b)To the unregenerate, who marvel at the change.

II. ITS NECESSITY.

1. From the character of Him who declares it: Christ —

(1)The Divine Saviour.

(2)The Divine Teacher.

2. From its indispensableness to happiness.(1) Present. The world in itself is an unsatisfying, empty portion. The soul craves a higher joy than it can give. The new birth brings joy unspeakable and full of glory.(2) Eternal. Heaven would not be heaven to the unconverted. Its employments, etc., would be offensive. His nature and taste savour not of spiritual things.

III. ITS SIGNS. He that is born of God —

1. Overcometh the world.

2. Doth not commit sin.

3. Brings forth the fruits of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, etc.Application. If the new birth be —

1. A supernatural change, do not fancy you can renew yourself, but cry, "Create in me a clean heart," etc.

2. An internal change; do not think that the amendment will suffice, but pray that the axe may be laid at the root of the corrupt tree.

3. An universal change; no idol must be retained.

4. A sensible change; see that your acquaintance with truth is experimental, not theoretical.

5. A visible change; let your light shine.

(W. Mudge, B. A.)

What a meeting was this between Christ and Nicodemus!

1. The season was most solemn.

2. The theme the most momentous.

3. The hearer a ruler in Israel.

4. The Speaker the great Teacher sent from God.

I. THE NATURE OF THE NEW BIRTH. Altogether spiritual. Regeneration by water baptism is a dangerous fallacy.

(1)Thousands who have been baptized are unchanged.

(2)Christ who came to save the lost never baptized.

(3)Paul said, "I was not sent to baptize," etc. By baptism we enter the visible kingdom, but by spiritual regeneration the invisible.

1. The agent in this work is a Spirit-the Spirit of God. Some secondary agency is usually employed, the Word of God, etc., but that is only His instrument.

2. The subject is spirit — the soul of man. Regeneration is in its very nature a complete reorganization of the moral man.

(1)Correcting what is wrong.

(2)Supplying what is deficient.

(3)Removing what is superfluous. The works of the devil are destroyed, and the kingdom of righteousness established.

3. The immediate associations are spiritual. The signs may be evident, but the causes are unseen. Therefore the unregenerate cannot understand either spiritual mourning or spiritual joy, because there is nothing that they can see to occasion either.

II. ITS RESULTS.

1. It introduces a man into a new world. It seems as though he saw with new eyes, heard with new ears, enjoyed with new senses.

2. It introduces him into a new society where he forms more dignified companionships. Some imagine that to become a Christian is to lose caste. On the contrary it is to be elevated in the rank of being and to have God and the purest and best for friends.

3. It produces a new class of feelings, motives, and desires. Joy where once was sorrow; love of God where once was love of self; aspirations after heaven where once was worldly ambition.

4. It opens new sources of pleasure.

III. ITS NECESSITY.

1. From the moral condition of man which is depraved.

2. From the character of heaven, into which the undefiled cannot enter.

3. From the mediatorship of Jesus Christ, who came to bring about the great change.

(J. S. Jones.)

If any doctrines are fundamental they are those of justification and regeneration. The former is what God does for us in forgiving our sins, the latter what He does in us in renewing our fallen nature. They are concurrent, but in the order of thought we first conceive His wrath to be turned away and then His Spirit to enter our heart.

I. WHY MUST WE BE BORN AGAIN?

1. The foundation of this doctrine lies nearly as deep as the foundation of the world. God created man in His image.(1) Not barely in His natural image — immortal, spiritual, intelligent, freed etc.(2) Nor merely in His political image, as having dominion.(3) But chiefly in His moral image, in love, justice, mercy, truth, purity, and so very good.

2. But man was not made immutable, but placed in a state of trial, able to stand, liable to fall. God apprized him of the penalty of falling — death. Man fell and died — died to God. The body dies when separated from the soul; the soul when separated from God.

3. In Adam all died; so every one that is descended from him comes into the world spiritually dead. Hence the necessity of regeneration.

II. HOW MUST A MAN BE BORN AGAIN?

1. We are not to expect any minute, philosophical account of the manner (ver. 8).

2. The phrase was well known to Nicodemus as signifying the transformation of a Gentile proselyte into a son of Abraham.

3. Before a child is born into the world he has eyes, but sees not; senses which are not exercised; has no knowledge. To that manner of existence we do not give the name of life. Only when a man is born do we say he lives. Then his organs of sense are exercised on proper objects. The parallel holds good. Man's spiritual senses by nature are locked up. He has no knowledge of or intercourse with God. Only when born by the Spirit of God does he spiritually live. Then his spiritual senses find exercise. He knows God and enjoys Him.

4. From hence appears the nature of the new birth. It is the great change which God works in the soul when He brings it to life; when He raises it from the death of sin to the life of righteousness.

III. TO WHAT END IS IT NECESSARY TO BE BORN AGAIN?

1. In order to holiness, which is —

(1)Not an external religion, a round of outward duties.

(2)But the image of God stamped on the heart, which can have no existence till we are renewed in the image of our mind.

2. Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.

3. Without holiness no happiness.

IV. INFERENCES.

1. That baptism is not the new birth, but only the sign of it.

2. That it does not always accompany baptism.

3. That it is not sanctification, which is progressive, whereas regeneration, like generation, is instantaneous.

4. That it is a greater charity to tell a man he needs to be born again than to suppress it.

(John Wesley.)

As out of the dry wheat one mass or one loaf cannot be made without moisture, so neither could we be made one in Christ Jesus without the water of the Spirit which is from heaven. And as dry earth, except it receive moisture, bears no fruit, so we also, being in the first place a dry tree, could never have become fruitful of life without being watered by the Spirit from above.

(T. H. Leary, D. C. L.)

Thorwaldsen, who is said to have been born in Copenhagen, when questioned as to his birthplace, replied, "I don't know; but I arrived in Rome, March 8, 1797;" dating his birth, as it were, from the commencement of his artistic career. Shortly after Summerfield arrived in America he met with a distinguished doctor of divinity who asked him where he was born. "In Dublin and in Liverpool." "Oh I how can that be?" The boy-preacher paused a moment, and answered, "Art thou a master in Israel, and knowest not these things?"

(S. H. Tyng, D. D.)

A person came in the inquiry-room, and I (D.L. Moody) said, "Are you a Christian?" "Why," says she, "of course I am." "Well," I said, "how long have you been one? Oh, sir, I was born one!" "Oh! indeed, then I am very glad to take you by the hand; I congratulate you; you are the first woman I ever met who was born a Christian; you are more fortunate than others, they are born children of Adam." She hesitated a little, and then tried to make out that, because she was born in England, she was a Christian.

Feathers for Arrows.
Alphonse Karr heard a gardener ask his master permission to sleep for the future in the stable; "for," said he, " there is no possibility of sleeping in the chamber behind the greenhouse, sir; there are nightingales there which do nothing but guggle, and keep up a noise all the night." The sweetest sounds are but an annoyance to those who have no musical ear; doubtless the music of heaven would have no charms to carnal minds, certainly the joyful sound of the gospel is unappreciated so long as men's ears remain uncircumcised.

(Feathers for Arrows.)

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