John 3:8
The wind blows where it wishes. You hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."
Sermons
The Fruits of the SpiritCharles KingsleyJohn 3:8
The Marks of the New BirthJohn Wesley John 3:8
The Wind and the SpiritJ.R. Thomson John 3:8
Wind and SpiritAlexander MaclarenJohn 3:8
Amazing IgnoranceJohn 3:4-8
Baptismal RegenerationH. F. Burder, D. D.John 3:4-8
Born a ChristianJohn 3:4-8
Earthly Minds Love Only Earthly ThingsFeathers for ArrowsJohn 3:4-8
Ignorance in Learned MenJohn 3:4-8
Ignorance of ReligionAnecdotes of the Wesleys.John 3:4-8
LessonsT. Whitelaw, D. D.John 3:4-8
Natural IgnoranceJ. Trapp.John 3:4-8
NicodemusJoseph Parker, D. D.John 3:4-8
No Admission to Heaven But by the New BirthJ. Benson.John 3:4-8
RegenerationF. W. Robertson, M. A.John 3:4-8
Regeneration -- its Subjective AspectA. J. Parry.John 3:4-8
Spiritual BirthsS. H. Tyng, D. D.John 3:4-8
The Baptism of Water and of the SpiritJ. Dyke.John 3:4-8
The General Teaching of Our LordBeaux Amis.John 3:4-8
The Holy Spirit's WorkL. O. Thompson.John 3:4-8
The Incredulous ListenerJohn 3:4-8
The Nature and Process of RegenerationJ. C. Jones, D. D.John 3:4-8
The Need of RegenerationC. H. Spurgeon.John 3:4-8
The New BirthJ. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.John 3:4-8
The New BirthW. Mudge, B. A.John 3:4-8
The New BirthJ. S. Jones.John 3:4-8
The New BirthJohn Wesley.John 3:4-8
The New Birth of Water and the SpiritT. H. Leary, D. C. L.John 3:4-8
The Reasoning with NicodemusA. Beith, D. D.John 3:4-8
Things natural are the emblems of things spiritual. It is no accident that in this very verse the same word is used to designate the wind that blows upon the surface of the earth, and the Spirit that breathes over the souls of men. In many languages the breeze or the breath is the symbol of the unseen vital principle that distinguishes living beings from the material universe, and even of the higher and properly spiritual nature. Our Lord in this passage of his conversation with Nicodemus extends the symbolism from the principle to its agency, and illustrates the working of the Spirit of God by a reference to the mysterious movement of the wind. The parallelism appears in -

I. THE ORIGIN. Man is powerless to cause the wind to blow from one quarter or from another, for the wind is one of the great forces of nature, i.e. of the operation of God, the Maker and Lord of all. In like manner, the Spirit of truth and holiness is the Spirit of God. No man can claim credit for his influences; they belong to the superhuman system which is independent of human wisdom or skill. If the Church of Christ is the creation of the Spirit (ubi Spiritus, ibi Ecclesia), it is not an institution of human origin and device, but an organism into which God himself has breathed the breath of life.

II. THE CHARACTERISTICS.

1. The wind is invisible, and the same is the case with the Spirit of God, who is perceived by no one of the senses. Invisibility is no proof of the unreality of the breeze or the gale. The influence of the Spirit of God is upon human souls, and cannot be traced by the action of the senses; but that influence is as real as is that of any force, whether material or psychical.

2. The Spirit of God resembles the wind in the secret and inscrutable character of his operations. That there are meteorological laws is not questioned; but the forces that account for the wind are so many and so complicated, that they are even now only very partially understood. At all events, the variations of the atmosphere were altogether unknown to Nicodemus, and the argument was obviously effective for him. In like manner, the operations of God's Spirit are mysterious; they take place in the recesses of the soul; their method is often incomprehensible by us. Yet there is nothing arbitrary or capricious in these operations; they are all the manifestations of Divine wisdom and goodness. The workings of the Holy Ghost are present where we, perhaps, should little have expected them. Not only can we not prescribe to God how he should work; we cannot always tell how he has worked. He evidently has many direct channels by which his Spirit approaches the souls of men.

III. THE RESULTS. If we cannot see the wind or trace its modes of action, we are at no loss to understand and appreciate its effects. We hear its sound, we feel its force, we perceive its presence by its works. The Spirit makes his efficacy apparent by his fruits.

1. How powerful is the Spirit of God! The wind, by its steady blowing, turns the sails of the mill, propels the ship across the ocean; by its vehemence, in the form of a hurricane or a whirlwind, destroys great works, uproots trees, unroofs houses. But what is this, as evidence of power, compared with the effects wrought by the Holy Spirit in human hearts - in human society? Here we see the mightiest works of the Supreme.

2. How various are the tokens of the Spirit's working! The wind may be Boreas or Zephyr; may sink into a sigh or wax into a roar; may pile the clouds in masses, or drive the mists like sheep before it, or fling the hail abroad. And the Spirit of God is the Spirit of truth, of conviction, of holiness, of consolation. The same Spirit distributes varied gifts to men "severally as he will." None can limit, none can even trace out, the diversity of spiritual operations.

3. How beneficent is the Spirit of God in his working! The wind does harm; yet its action, on the whole, is advantageous. But the Holy Ghost not only works good; he works nothing but good. He who is "born of the Spirit" is born to a new, a holy, a Divine life. A spiritual dispensation is the occasion of hope to this humanity, imparts to it a prospect which otherwise the most sanguine would not venture to dream of. A ransomed humanity thus becomes a renewed humanity, and renewal is the pledge of glorification. From the four winds the breath comes and breathes upon the slain; and the dead. live, and "stand upon their feet, an exceeding great army." - T.







Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again
When men are perishing it would be cruel to interest their minds or amuse their fancies. We must give earnest heed to their necessities. Is it famine that slays them? We must give them food. Is it disease? Let us give the medicine. Now the spiritual needs of men are urgent, and the most pressing is their regeneration: they must be born again or lost. The change wrought in regeneration is —

I. Most THOROUGH.

1. It is more than reformation.

2. More than change of opinion even on the best topics. Notions may be altered again and again and yet a man be no nearer sonship with God.

3. More than priests can convey or ordinances effect.

4. It is a new creature created in us. At every birth a life comes into the world which was not there before,

5. A new experience. To the new-born child everything is new — pain and pleasure.

6. A new world. When a young girl found the Saviour, she said, "Either I am altogether changed or else the world is." In fact both are.

7. A new force. At every birth a new worker comes into the world. He is feeble at first, but those tiny hands and feet soon become dexterous. And so when a soul is born a power is put forth from it of which it was unconscious before.

II. Most WONDERFUL.

1. As to the manner of it.

2. As to the supernaturalness of its operation. No doubt moral suasion, influence of association, education, do much, and much may be developed in mankind that is admirable. But this is not what Christ meant. The Holy Spirit must come to .work upon us as God came forth to work on this world at creation.

3. As to the grandeur of the relationship to which it introduces us. To God as children, to Christ as brethren. What privileges spring out of this relationship? Paupers have mounted from the dunghill to the throne, but a stride from nothingness to greatness is trifling compared with rising from being a slave of Satan to become a son of God.

III. MOST MANIFEST. The house knows when a child is born. The birth may be mysterious, but the fact is apparent. So we know not how the Spirit works, but the change which comes over the subject shows that He has operated. Elstow knew when Bunyan had found the Saviour. Every soul that is born again —

1. Repents of his sin.

2. Has faith.

3. Prays.

4. Develops the spiritual power that has been imparted.

IV. MOST IMPERATIVE. You may be rich or poor, wise or ignorant-many things are desirable, one thing is needful "Ye must be born again." If you are not —

1. You have no spiritual life, and without that you are dead in trespasses and sins.

2. No spiritual capacity, and so no power to receive the blessing. When the gracious rain comes they are not like Gideon's fleece, ready to drink it in, but like a hard stone, neither saturated nor softened. No spiritual inheritance. None can come in for the eterna1 portion but such as are born in the house.

V. EMINENTLY PERSONAL. The idea of proxy is quite foreign. No other can be born for a man: so the great change must be individually experienced.

(C. H. Spurgeon.) (See Revelation 22:17 in connection with the text).

Homiletic Monthly.
I. MUST be born again, and MAY be born again, are truths which should never be separated.

II. MUST without MAY leads to despair.

III. MAY without MUST leads to presumption.

IV. We MUST, therefore we CAN be born again through the grace vouchsafed from heaven.

(Homiletic Monthly.)

Like the rocks which sometimes guard the entrance to a safe and spacious harbour, these words stand. A ship must enter here, or turn back to the wide ocean with no haven or home. "Ye must be born again." Of course this does not apply to a man unless he is going in. If any one is quite contented to stay without; if he is well pleased to sail up and down amid storm and calm, thinking that the end of his voyage is well enough attained without making for a port; rounding the world for ever, or at least until a grave shall open by land or sea, and end his travel in the waves or in the dust; if any man deliberately takes that view of his own life, then this law does not touch him. But if he desires to "see the kingdom of God," and enter in, he "must be born again." That law will not bend, it will not break, it will not stand out of the way. It is inexorable.

(A. Raleigh, D. D.)

I passed by a piece of common which some lord of the manor or other had been enclosing, as those rascals always will if they can, to rob the poor of their rights, and filch every morsel of green grass upon which we may freely plant our feet; but I noticed that the enclosers,had only railed it round, but had not dug it up, nor ploughed it, nor planted it; and though they had cut down the gorse, it was coming up again; of course it would, for it was common still, and a bit of fence or rail could not alter it; the furze would come peeping up, and ere long the enclosure would be as wild as the heath outside. But this is not God's way of working. When God encloseth a heart that has laid common with sin, does He cut down the thorns and the briars and then plant fir trees? (Isaiah 55:13). No, no; but He so changeth the soil, that from the ground itself, from its own vitality, there spontaneously starts up the fir tree and the myrtle. This is a most wonderful result.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

"Is not morality good aa far as it goes?" say you. "Yes, certainly, as far as it goes." "Isn't my cable as good as yours, as far as it goes?" says the sailor who has a short cable to him who has one very long. "Yes," says the other, "as far as it goes; but what of that, when it won't go within fifty fathoms of bottom?" And of what use, oh moralist, is your cable, when it will not go within fifty fathoms of the place where it can take hold upon the soul's anchorage?

(H. W. Beecher.)

You may put what you please on a wild colt, a fractious horse from the desert, and it will make no difference with his nature. Put a gold harness on him — a silver harness — a velvet harness. Does one subdue his spirit more than another? I tell you, the horse is mightier than the harness that you put on him. Cover it with ornaments, make it brilliant with rosettes, put on what you please — but there is the horse with his unsubdued nature. And human nature is a wild ass's colt. Now, the mere harness of the Church, its external framework, and its outward procedure, are good enough if the men that are under them are good, and they are bad if the men that are under them are bad. It is not anything outside of men, it is the Spirit of God in them — that is the only hope for any Church, sect, or community.

(H. W. Beecher.)

I've seen luxuriant grasses growing on the tops of graves; I've seen flowers springing from the crevices of tombs; and like these are the fair and lovely moralities, and the social virtues which adorn the character of him who is not born of God's Spirit. The corpse, with its corruptions, .its wasting flesh, and its decaying bones, is beneath the fragrant flowers.

(H. W. Beecher.)

As it would be impossible for the insect in its chrysalis state to observe the laws which are made for the transformed state — for the worm to know the laws which make the summer fly seek the sunshine and live upon the flower — as it must be "born again," and enter upon a new existence before it can keep the laws of that new existence; so only the new creature can keep a new commandment — love.

(C. Stanford.)

As a dead man cannot inherit an estate, no more can a dead soul (and every soul is spiritually dead until quickened and born again of the Holy Ghost) inherit the kingdom of God. Yet sanctification and holiness of life do not constitute any part of our title to the heavenly inheritance, any more than mere animal life entitles a man of fortune to the estate he enjoys. He could not, indeed, enjoy his estate if he did not live; but his claim to his estate arises from some other quarter. In like manner, it is not our holiness that entitles us to heaven; though no man can enter into heaven without holiness. The new birth a necessity: — Suppose a Red Indian should come to this country and should endeavour to obtain the privileges of citizenship, well knowing that a man must be a born subject or he cannot enjoy them. Suppose he says, "I will change my name, I will take up the name of an Englishman — I have been called the Son of the Great West Wind — but I will take an English name, I will be called a Christian man, an English subject." Will that admit him?

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

The wind bloweth where it listeth
Nicodemus was a member of the Jewish Church, and had participated in its rites. He had probably been a listener to John and possibly had been baptized by him. He came to Christ in the spirit of a man who should say, "What lack I yet?" In reply Christ puts no stress on baptism, because this was the ground on which Nicodemus stood, viz., that he was initiated and had observed the required ordinances of religion. So He said in effect, "Except a man baptized with water be likewise baptized with the Spirit," etc. The truth of the Divine influence enforced by Christ —

I. IS NOT UNSCIENTIFIC. Among modern discoveries nothing is more striking than the fact that there is a spiritual as well as a physical unity. Nothing is better attested than that upon the minds of men there are influences which spring from invisible sources. Nor is there anything which men more need, or aught so much to desire to be true and accept so willingly as this doctrine that there is a Divine power which wakes up the better part of man's nature. Then, again, we are conscious of its inspiring yearnings and longings which we know not how to locate or proportion.

II. IS UNIVERSAL. The fact that the universal tendency of the human mind has been away from the physical and toward the spiritual has to be accounted for. It is not to suffer doubt because fantastic notions have prevailed respecting it. Men sought chemistry through alchemy and astronomy through astrology. But the fact is that as far back as we have records there has been the conception of a free spirit. Where did it come from?

III. DOES NOT SUPERSEDE THE NATURAL FACULTIES. It is not an attempt of the Divine mind to put its action in the place of our action; but lifts our mind into a sphere of activity it has not known before, so changing its feelings and experiences that it is called a new birth. Society ministers to our social wants — but only the Spirit can lift our spirits toward the great realm of truth in which it is to develop and live. The physical globe makes provision for the body, but to rise to the invisible and infinite, we need the Spirit who gives vitality and force to all those elements which go with the moral sentiment.

IV. REQUIRES PREPARATION AND CO-OPERATION. Man may prepare himself for friendship and society according to the nature of the relations into which he is going. So may a man prepare his soul to be acted on by the Divine Spirit. There would be summer if there were no farmer; but the farmer knows how to make summer work to advantage for him as otherwise it would not have done. So there would be the universal influence of the Spirit of God if every human being were swept from the earth; but by meeting the Divine Spirit, by opening the soul to and co-operating with Him, men have made themselves the recipients of blessings they would not otherwise have known.

V. MAY BE RESISTED as well as co-operated with. It is not irresistible; where men set their wills against it, put themselves under antagonistic feelings, resist the tendencies it would have developed, they certainly can set it aside. The strivings of God's Spirit have proved futile in thousands of instances. How many have yearnings for something better, and sweep them away by social jollity!

VI. IS INSCRUTABLE. Every man is more or less the subject of it, but may not recognize it, and cannot analyse it. If you ask the flower, "How can you tell that which the sun does in you?" the flower cannot tell. The sun wakes it up, that is all.

VII. IS THE GREATEST BOON, AND ITS LOSS THE GREATEST MISFORTUNE.

VIII. WORKS CHIEFLY THROUGH GOD'S WORD.

(H. W. Beecher.)

This wind blows where it lists, as it lists, when it lists, as much as it lists, in what manner it lists, and on whom it lists. This Spirit is a gift, and gifts are free (1 Corinthians 41:1-11).

(Wm. Austin.)If the Spirit bloweth where it listeth, we are not certainly to exclude any place or nation from these blessed gales, or to the Church or congregation we are of; as if He could blow nowhere else. Learn charity.

1. If the Spirit bloweth how He listeth, we do but show our folly to prescribe to Him His way. He knows what best He has to do, how best to manage us to salvation. Learn discretion.

2. If it be as much too only as He lists, it is not sure our merit or desert, if we have more of Him than others, nor perhaps their demerit always, who have less. Whatever it is, it is more than we deserve, both they and we. Learn humility.

3. If it be only upon whom He pleases, it is certainly sometimes upon some we know not. So we have no reason to pass a censure upon any man's soul. Learn to think well of all And so much the rather, in that —

4. He bloweth when He will. If He has not already, He may hereafter breathe upon him or her thou doubtest most. If thou, perhaps thyself, feelest Him not within thee now, thou mayest ere long. Learn hence to despair, neither of thyself nor any one else (Psalm 139:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:5; Romans 11:33; Romans 9:18).

(Dr. Mark Frank.)

While Christ spoke, I imagine the spring night breeze, it might be the first air of dawn, came sighing up the Kedron glen below the city. It sighed among the young fig leaves; it made the olive branches toss and moan; it shook the casement, and the lamp-light flickered. Whence comes it? In what far-off land of the East did it first awake to run before the sunrise? Where will it die away in the West, over the hills, beyond the sea? Whence, oh viewless winds, and whither? Christ lets the emblem speak: what does it say? Like an atmosphere the Spirit of Divine life is everywhere. He envelopes the globes. He touches every man. He penetrates us. Why should not that living Spirit beget us, creating a Divine life within these ribs of carnal death? The manner of His working may be as untraceable as the path of free winds that blow about the mountain tops, and chase each other over the plain; but what of that? His results may be as unmistakable as theirs. The movements of a spiritual power among men, again, vary as the airs of heaven do. Alone in her closet, e.g., a girl is bending over her open Bible; and as she reads, her young face grows solemn, the full eyes gather, till the page is blurred with tears that are not wholly sad; and on her knees she weeps out her godly sorrow for little daily faults which the world would count trifles, till with sweet thankfulness in her purified spirit and all the peace of heaven within her bosom, she rises to go forth to her lowly day of toil and uncomplaining service. This is not the way of the flesh. It was the breath of God that stole into her heart, just as outside the summer air was stirring among the leaves of the garden. But also I have seen a strong man, hardened through thirty years of open reckless sin, kneel in another inner room by night crushed by the agony of an awakened conscience, and gasping forth unwonted confessions in a voice hoarse with suppressed emotion. This, too, is not the way of the flesh. There I saw the same breath of God, but strong this time, and loud as when on wintry Appenines the great north blast makes the pine trees writhe and creak before it tears them from the rock. clefts. Such things are, and they show that there is a Holy Ghost.

(J. Oswald Dykes, D. D.)

God hath divers ways into divers men. Into some He comes at noon, in the sunshine of prosperity; to some in the dark and heavy clouds of adversity. Some He affects with the music of the Church; some, with some particular collect or prayer; some, with some passage in a sermon, which takes no hold of him that stands next to him. Watch the way of the Spirit of God into thee; that way, which He makes His path, in which Be comes oftenest to thee, and by which thou findest thyself most affected and best disposed towards Him; and pervert not that path, foul not that way. "Make straight His paths;" that is, keep them straight; and when thou observest which is His path in thee (by what means especially He works upon thee), meet Him in that path; embrace Him in those means, and always bring a facile, a fusile, a ductile, a tractable soul to the offers of His grace in His way (Hebrews 1:1; Psalm 85:8).

(Dr. Donne.)

Just as when we see the leaves of a wood moved to and fro, we know the wind is there; so when we see a man moved out of the careless routine of a natural life and leading a new life, we may say the Spirit of God, the Spirit of life, is there.

(G. J. Brown, M. A.)

Here we have that aspect of regeneration which is so incomprehensible to the world. Men can understand reformation through fear of perdition and hope of immortality; but the great revolution of a new life inspired by God appears mystical and impossible. We speak of the age of inspiration being over. That of inspired writing is, but that of inspired living is not.

I. SPIRITUAL LIFE IS A DIRECT INSPIRATION FROM GOD.

1. That life is impossible without this inspiration. Spiritual life is an elevation above the natural will, inclination, tendency. Men have tried to reach this without the Spirit, by asceticism, but after all they have been still in the sphere of self. All they have done has been merely a self.culture which does not rise above the natural life. Try to change a man's character. Take a man worldly and selfish, and try to convince him by reasoning that his course is a wrong one. Perhaps he admits it: your logic has carried the outworks of intellect, but left the deeper nature untouched. Point out his degradation. He may admit that too, and hate you. Appeal to his interest with warnings of hell and promises of heaven. Suppose you have convinced him you have not elevated him — he is selfish still. Try another illustration. Men feel that they can do no great and noble deeds until raised above the natural level of life by a possessing Spirit. This is the great feature of all genius, poetic, artistic, political. So is Christian life. God's Spirit must enter us, or our endeavours will never raise us. We have instances of this in all ages, e.g., Jacob, Paul.

2. This inspiration enters man in mystery.(1) We cannot tell whence it cometh. We may trace the early signs of the Spirit's power, but cannot penetrate the mystery of its origin. Just as the spring is a revelation of the secret energies which have been working in darkness through the cold winter gloom, until under the influences of sun and air the hidden power bursts into leaf and flower; so is spiritual life.(2) Whither it goeth we cannot tell; its impulse ever advances amidst all impediments through the long, cold, dark watchings of life, waiting for the adoption.

II. THE RESULTS OF REALIZING THIS TRUST. It would work a mighty change.

1. In our faith.

2. In our prayers.

3. In the ease and joy it gives to the discharge of duty.

4. In the strength it imparts to manhood.

(E. L. Hull, B. A.)

I. INQUIRE WHAT IT IS TO BE BORN AGAIN.

1. It is a Divine and supernatural change, effected by the agency of the Holy Spirit.

2. It is an instantaneous change; and herein it differs from sanctification, which is a progressive work.

3. It is an internal and invisible change, yet may be known by its effects.

4. The change is universal, extending to the heart and life. Universal beauty spread over the whole man.

5. It is an abiding change.

II. NOTICE SOME OF THE EVIDENCES OF THE NEW BIRTH. These we shall chiefly select from the First Epistle of John.

1. Those who are born of God "do not commit sin; yea, they cannot sin, because they are born of God" (John 3:9; John 5:18). The principle of grace will be always rising up against sin, and at length will triumph over it (Romans 7:14-25).

2. They have "overcome the world" — its frowns and smiles, hopes and fears (1 John 5:4).

3. They have a sincere love to all the saints; for "every one that loveth is born of God" (1 John 4:7).

4. All their hope of salvation is founded on the meditation of Christ (1 John 5:1).

5. Their walk and conversation is holy and exemplary. "Every one that doeth righteousness is born of God" (1 John 2:29).

III. CONSIDER THE REASONABLENESS AND IMPORTANCE OF THIS CHANGE: "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again."

1. Do not marvel at it as if the doctrine were new and strange.

2. Marvel not as if the doctrine were unintelligible.

3. Do not consider this new birth to be impossible. With men, and with angels it may be so; but not with God.

4. Marvel not at this change as if it were unnecessary.

(B. Beddome, M. A.)

Christ taught Nicodemus that this new birth is not "a developing of some latent power;" it is not "bringing out the constitutional tendency," and guiding it. It is a new nature, a new level, a new plane, a new sphere, into which human nature is to be exalted by the power of God. It is a birth, with all which that implies. Just consider for a moment, in the light of this principle which Christ laid down, the much debated question of morality. A man says, "Are we to understand that a man is to substitute this," if I may so say, "second nature," which is born in him, or rather out of which he is born by the operation of the Holy Ghost, for morality? I answer that the point is here: That which is born of the flesh is flesh; a man is amiable from good digestion; a kind and generous friend from an active circulation and because he is successful in life. He is a temperate man because wine is distasteful to him; he is a chaste man because he has a phlegmatic, a cold nature. These things are matters of temperament, good, excellent, much to be desired. But often they are granted to people like their complexions and the shape of their hands and feet, while to others they are vouchsafed by the grace of God after the labour of the new birth. These moralities in either case bear the same relation to the after life which the lower leaves of a plant bear to its blossoming. "What is my morality worth, then?" you ask. The Indian in his wigwam knows a great many things, but he is not a civilized man. Suppose he should put this question, "What is all I do know worth, if this is not civilization? If I am brought out of this state, am I to leave all these things and count them as nothing?" Certainly he is not. Relatively to his condition, they are unspeakably important, but as compared with a higher development, they are of very little value. That is to say, if he should become noble and refined in civilized life, he would look back with pity upon the condition that he was in when wigwam and wampum were home and means. Not because they were in, and of themselves, bad, but because he was so far from having attained by growth and development that which was possible to him. When we began to learn to write, our letters were crooked enough, our sentences all went up-hill — the writing was a hideous scrawl. But would we say to our children, "It is good for nothing, your cramped and crude beginnings?" Not at all. They are good to commence with — and good to end with so soon as you can go on to perfection, making the lines of beauty and a fair page. Moralities are the embryo children — the ground leaves — the cramped writing — the wigwam and the wampum; but they must not be confounded with the higher developments of the new manhood which has its birth out of the water and the Spirit. When, therefore, our Lord says, that morality is not sufficient — and that is what He says, substantially, to Nicodemus — He is the truest friend of man; and among men, he is the most generous and kind who maintains that ideal and shows his fellow-men, not that the things which belong to the body are worthless, but that true manhood is far higher than the body can reach, and far higher than ordinary reason can attain — so high that it can only be groped after, like the newly-born infant stretches out its untried hands toward the first glimmering of the shaded light — only reached by the power of God developing the nascent nature of the new-born soul — a mystery no more profound than that which surrounds the entrance into the natural life which every one must concede. It is not that we have developed very much. It is not that we have a point of development established in us that determines our safety. It is that the Spirit of God has gained a lodgment in the soul; that the leaven is there; that the root is thrown down, and the germ is pointed up, that gives us ground for hope. That being secured, there is an infinite space, called "Eternity" for men to develop in. God has promised to give His Holy Spirit to them that simply ask for it. He has chosen, and that is enough for us; He has chosen to couple the gift with the baptism of water in the Triune name. The seed is sown then. How? I do not know, for God is silent there.

(F. L. Norton, D. D.)

The difficulties connected with the regenerating operation of the Spirit of God are —

I. ITS SUPERNATURALNESS. There is a certain shrinking from the supernatural, which renders such doctrines as this peculiarly distasteful.

1. If, for the ignorant and superstitious, the invisible world possess a strange attraction, there is an opposite class of minds in which the tendency is equally strong to explain everything by natural causes. It is the tendency of the religion of an unenlightened age to translate every unexplained fact or phenomenon into the immediate interposition of the Deity. But as society advances in knowledge, and as many of those events, formerly attributed to supernatural agency, are discovered to be the result of natural causes, it too often happens that, with the superstitious recognition, all practical acknowledgment of the Divine presence and agency is lost. The voice of God is no longer heard in the thunder when the laws of electricity begin to be known. The old gods of heathenism have long vanished from the woods and meadows and fountains; but it is not that the one living and true God, but only gravitation, light, heat, magnetism, may be recognized as reigning in their forsaken haunts.

2. And we carry the same tendency into the moral world. To the power of motives, the influence of education, etc., we are apt to trace changes of character, h child grows up gentle, amiable, pious; and when we say that he had the benefit of a careful and religious education, we seem to ourselves to have given the whole account of the matter. An irreligious man becomes devout, and the severe affliction, or the influence of a Christian friend, has made him a wiser and a better man. Seldom does the mind naturally turn to the thought — "the finger of God is here." The idea of a mysterious Holy Spirit working in the man's mind is too often regarded as a strange mystical notion, having nothing in common with the plain realities of every-day life.

3. It is to this habit of mind that the text suggests a most striking corrective. For it brings before us the consideration that the supernatural is not confined to religion; it bids us see in the most familiar processes of nature the proofs of a Divine agency as inexplicable as any to which religion appeals. Science, with all its triumphs, is compelled to admit the immediate presence of a supernatural power in the most ordinary movements of nature. Gravitation, light, heat, chemical affinity, are only abstractions; they are nothing without a living agent, whose mode of working they express. Dead matter, however arranged, can never act of itself. A human machinist may leave his machine to work alone, because when he leaves it God's laws take it up, and by their aid the materials retain their characteristics, the vapour keeps its expansive power. But when God has constructed His machine of the universe, He cannot so leave it; for, if He retire, there is no second God to take care of it. The signs of an all pervading supernatural energy meets us wherever we turn. If every echoing wind bespeak a-present Deity, shall it seem strange to appeal to His power in the regeneration of a soul? Each time the sail of the vessel expands the breeze, we call in the aid of a mysterious agency, without which human efforts were vain. Can it be a matter of surprise that the same mysterious agency must be invoked to communicate to the dull and moveless spirit an impulse towards a nobler than earthly destiny?

II. ITS SOVEREIGNTY.

1. How very much, to the human eye, have the relations of God with man, as a religious being, been characterized by an aspect of strange uncertainty! Religion has not been communicated indiscriminately. While a few favoured regions have felt its reviving presence, others, unvisited by its quickening power, remain from age to age moral wastes. Nor can human research discover any law by which this inequality is ordered. And as little in the case of individuals as of nations can we explain on what principle it is that the gracious influences of the Spirit are vouchsafed. In equal possession of the outward means of improvement some are benefited whilst others continue unaffected. A word, a mere look, will fly straight to the core of some human spirit; whilst, on others, all the strength of reason and the power of eloquence may be spent, only to recoil ineffective as arrows from proof-mail. From the furnace of affliction one heart will come forth softened, whilst others cool down into hardness and insensibility. Is the hand of Jehovah ever shortened that it cannot save? Or can we ascribe to Infinite Love the wayward fitfulness of earthly beneficence — to Infinite Wisdom the unreasoning favouritism of erring men? If grace be necessary to conversion, why — are we not tempted to ask — is not the Spirit of God poured forth without measure wherever unconverted souls are to be found? To all such questions we must reply in the words of the text.

2. The force of this illustration it will need little reflection to perceive.(1) For what so fitful, wayward, incalculable, as the operations of the wind? Who can for a single hour foresee what its course will be? And the argument is — If even this simple agent so baffle man's highest wisdom, shall it he thought strange that the ways of the unsearchable Spirit of God are governed by no rules which finite minds can discern?(2) But the illustration may suggest that the arbitrariness which characterizes the Spirit's work is, after all, only apparent, and that, beneath seeming irregularity, there is real and unvarying law. It is so with the material agent. The wind never does really act at random. Its unaccountable changes are the result of material laws as fixed and stable as that by which the planets revolve. Science has made hut slight progress in the attempt to trace out the laws of winds; but it is only because of the limits of our faculties. So, too, it is with that of which the wind is set forth as the type. In His most mysterious dealings with the souls of men God never acts without a reason. Where, to us, there seems inconstancy, to Him all is order. A time was when the firmament presented only the aspect of a maze of luminous points, scattered hap-hazard; but at length the great thought was struck out which evolved from all this seeming confusion the most perfect order and harmony. And so, perhaps, a time may come when light shall be thrown on many things that seem mysterious in the dispensation of grace. But meanwhile, in presence of the inscrutable order of God's government, it is the befitting attitude of a creature so weak and ignorant as man not to criticize, but to submit and to adore.

III. ITS SECRECY.

1. Momentous though the change be in regeneration, it is one of which we have no immediate evidence. We are accustomed to associate great events in man's history with outward stir and show, and we can scarcely divest ourselves of the notion that external significance is inseparable from real importance. When the heir to earthly wealth or grandeur is born, the earliest cry is the signal for loud and universal gratulation. How strange to be told that an event, infinitely more momentous than these in man's history, that a Child of the living God — the heir of an inheritance, before which earthly splendours pale — has been born, and yet the event been unnoticed and unknown!

2. But let us turn to the simple argument of the text; for here we are taught that the association on which all such incredulity is based is an altogether fallacious one. For the proof that visibility and greatness are far from inseparable we are pointed to one out of many similar phenomena which daily meet our observation. In nature greatest powers are invisible. When the magnet draws the iron, who sees the strange influence by which the attraction is effected? What keenest optics can see gravitation? So, too, the wind, visible in its manifold influences, it is in its essence and operation imperceptible. So it is with every one that is born of the Spirit. You cannot see this mysterious agent any more than those natural agents. But, as in the one case, so in the other, though the agent is invisible, the effects of his operation are manifest. You do not see the gale from heaven, wafted over any sinner's soul, but ever and anon, if you watch carefully the moral history of your fellow-men, you may perceive the visible witness of a hidden and invisible work. Conclusion: This is a doctrine fraught with many obvious practical lessons.

1. If the agency of the Spirit be supernatural, how urgent the necessity for securing the Spirit's intervention! What an arrest would be laid upon many of the works of man if that natural agent were suspended! If the wind of heaven ceased to blow, conceive how abortive, in many cases, would be all human industry and skill. But equally fatal, in the spiritual world, to the success of all human endeavours, would be the withholding of the supernatural grace of the Spirit of God. Pray, then, for the Spirit. Despair of success apart from it; rest not till you have obtained it. The wind comes not at the sailor's or the husbandman's call; but the believer is possessed of a spell that can summon the gracious aid of the Spirit in every time of need. And if the doctrine of the text furnishes us with a motive to prayer, not less suggestive is it of encouragement to effort. For whilst our natural powers soon reach their limit, to the supernatural aid on which we are encouraged to depend there is none. Self-reformation soon proves a vain attempt; but the effort to repent and turn to God cannot fail, when the very Power that fashioned our mysterious being prompts and aids in the work of restoration.

2. If the agency of the Spirit is sovereign, too, the subject is replete with practical significance, nor does not the very uncertainty of nature's influences act as a stimulus to the exertions of man? The fair wind that has long been waited for, and may speedily die away. And so if there is any similar variableness in the times and seasons of religious influence, how urgent the motive thus presented to Christian vigilance in waiting for every favourable opportunity, and to diligence in improving it!

3. If the Spirit's work be secret in itself, yet manifest by its effects, it suggests the important inquiry, Can I discern in my character and life the signs of the Spirit's presence?

(J. Caird, D. D.)

I. Take the text in reference to THE HOLY SPIRIT HIMSELF. The wind is an emblem of the Holy Ghost.

1. In its freeness. The wind is the very image of freedom. No one can fetter it. Caesar may decree what he pleases, but the wind will blow in his face if he looks that way. So the Spirit is most free and absolute. He visits one nation and not another. Of two men one receives His blessing and not another. One man wins souls, another seems to miss them. And the same minister will one day speak like the voice of God, and another be but a reed shaken by the wind. Yet while absolutely free He is not arbitrary.(1) The wind has a law of its own, and the Spirit is a law to Himself. He does as He wills, but He wills that which is best.(2) There are certain places where you will always find a breeze, on the mountains, in the morning or evening on the seashore. So in communion with God you will ever find the Spirit in motion.(3) The wind in some lands has its seasons. There are trade winds, etc., which may be counted on. So there are certain times in, and certain conditions under which He visits the Churches — times of mighty prayer and exceptional faithfulness in preaching,(4) The wind may blow, but the sailor may be asleep. Never suffer the Spirit to be with us and find us regardless of His presence. When the windmill was more in use than now, some parishes would be half starved when week after week there was no wind. The miller would look anxiously by day, and if the breezes stirred at dead of night, somebody would run and knock him up. Be on the look out. Hoist sail when the wind favours.

2. In its maul-festations — "Thou hearest," etc. Our Lord spoke of the gentle zephyr which is heard. The hearing ear is intended to be the disceruer of the Spirit. Faith cometh by hearing.(1) Many get no further than hearing.(2) Others hear the sound in their consciences and are disturbed.(3) The man who is saved hears

(a)The threatening wind.

(b)The destroying wind.

(c)The invigorating wind.

(d)The sound of a going in the mulberry trees which summons us to victory.

3. In its mystery — "Thou canst not tell." We may tell that the wind comes from a certain quarter, but we cannot tell at what point it begins or where it ends. So with the Spirit we cannot tell —(1) "Whence He cometh." His first movements are hidden in mystery. Why is it that you obtained a blessing under one sermon and not under another, and yet when you spoke to your sister she had been blessed under the other?(2) "Nor whither it goeth."(a) When we let loose the truth in the power of the Spirit we never know where it may fly. A child takes a downy seed, but who knows where it will settle? Whole continents have been covered with strange flowers simply by the Wind's wafting foreign seeds thither. Fling the truth, then, to the winds.(b) Nor can we tell whither it will carry us. When Carey gave his young heart to Christ, he never thought the Spirit would carry him to Serampore.

II. The text relates to THOSE WHO ARE BORN OF THE SPIRIT. The birth partakes of the nature of the parent.

1. As to freedom: where the Spirit is there is liberty from the bondage of the law, custom, sin, fear of death and dread of hell

2. As to manifestation. The regenerate are known by their sound. The secret life will speak by voice, action, influence.

3. As to mystery —

(1)Thou knowest not whence He cometh from the throne of grace.

(2)Thou knowest not whither He goeth — to the secret place of the Most High.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. The wind SOUNDS.

1. Sometimes it wails, and so the Spirit sets men mourning for sin.

2. Sometimes its sound is triumphant, and so the Spirit inspires in us the shout of victory over sin and death.

II. The wind is a great LEVELLER. It aims at things high. If you are down low in the street you escape its fury, but climb the height and you will scarcely stand. Even so the Spirit. He makes every high thought bow before the majesty of His might.

III. The wind PURFIES the atmosphere. In the Swiss valleys there is a heaviness which makes the inhabitants unhealthy. They take quinine and have big swellings in their necks. The air does not circulate; but if there is a great storm it is a great blessing to the people. So the Spirit cleanses out our evil and brings health to the soul.

IV. The wind is a GREAT TRIER OF THE NATURE OF THINGS. It sweeps over heaps of rubbish and scatters the dust, etc., but iron and stone remain unmoved. The Holy Ghost is similarly a testing power, both of men and doctrines.

V. The wind is HELPFUL. In Lincolnshire, where the country is flat and below the sea level, they are obliged to dry the land by means of windmills. In many parts all the corn is ground by means of the wind. The Spirit is also a mighty helper. You are inundated by a flood of iniquity which you can never bale out; or you need some power to prepare your spiritual food, and you will never find better help than that which the Spirit can give.

VI. MAN MUST CO-OPERATE WITH THE WIND, and so Christians with the Spirit.

1. In all spiritual work: as the sailor has to raise his sails.

2. In growth in grace. We are to work out what He works in.

VII. MEN ARE COMPLETELY DEPENDENT ON THE WIND. They are entirely at its mercy as to time, direction, and strength. So we are compelled to wait the pleasure of the Spirit. But just as the sailor anxiously looks up at the mast-head to see how the breeze is shifting, so should we look up to heaven and observe the movement of the Spirit of God.

(J. Caird, D. D.)

As oftentimes, when walking in a wood near sunset, though the sun himself be hid by the height and bushiness of the trees around, yet we know that he is still above the horizon, from seeing his beams in the open glades before us, illuming a thousand leaves, the several brightnesses of which are so many evidences of his presence. Thus it is with the Holy Spirit. He works in secret; but His work is manifest in the lives of all true Christians. Lamps so heavenly must have been lit from on high.

(J. C. Hare.)

Men's convictions of sin differ with their characters. One man says, "In such a sermon, a lion-like conviction sprang out upon me, and seized my soul in its grasp, and had nearly torn it asunder." And another says, "The twilight of God's love fell upon me; but when the eclipse was over, the sun shone out again, and I was happy." Terror, or only sadness, anguish, grief, and love, are all alike really conviction.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Watch, therefore, the gales of grace: we cannot purchase this wind for any money. This bird when flown will not easily be brought back again.

(J. Trapp.)

The work of the Spirit is compared —

I. To the BLOWING of the wind.

1. The wind blows vitally and refreshingly, causing the earth to fructify. So it is the Spirit of God who imparts vital grace and makes us bring forth fruit (Song of Solomon 4:16). When a man is drowsy a blast of wind freshens him: so doth the Spirit awaken us from our spiritual slumberings. As God used the wind to bring quails, and still does to bring in great tides of water; so by His Spirit doth He bring all blessings to us, and the tides of repenting tears. The wind from the bellows revives the fire — so does the Spirit the sparks of heavenly fire in us. How soon would the smoking flax be quenched but for this!

2. Winds dissolve the clouds and cause an irrigation of the earth; this spiritual wind causes rain also, even the tears of penitence.

3. Winds cause clearness and sereneness of the air: likewise the Spirit having dissolved our iniquities causes the beauty and sunshine of God's favour to cheer the believer.

4. Winds refrigerate. In the heat of summer how acceptable their comfort! So the Spirit allays the heat of our temptations and afflictions, that we may with patience endure and overcome them. How could the martyrs have so triumphed in the flames but for this?

5. Winds penetrate. So the Word of the Spirit (Hebrews 4:12).

6. Winds terrify by their destructive power. So under the power of the Spirit sinners tremble.

7. Winds carry all before them: with what ease doth the spirit perform its duties when under the power of the Spirit.

II. To the LIBERTY of the wind. No creature has any power to raise or check either.

1. In regard of the outward means of the ministry, for it is in that blessed trumpet that the Spirit commonly blows. Once this wind blew in the East, and how famous were those Churches i But it is now turned into the West.

2. In regard to the efficacy of the means.

3. In regard to the measure of the efficacy, piercing deeper, purging cleaner, acts more vitally in some than in others (1 Corinthians 12:11).

4. In regard to the manner of His working. Sometimes using means, sometimes not.

5. In regard of the time of working.

III. To the SENSIBLENESS of the wind. This voice is —

1. Secret, within the heart of the regenerate.

(1)Arousing, as in conviction of sin.

(2)Mild and sweet, alluring to holiness (Isaiah 30:31; Hosea 2:14).

(3)Comforting (Matthew 9:2; Romans 8:16).

(4)Fervent, as in prayer.

2. Open.

(J. Dyke.)

I. LET US FORM SOME PRECISE IDEA OF THE WIND; which is just the atmosphere in motion. The atmosphere is an envelopment of air that enwraps our globe and rises to the height of from forty to fifty miles. It gets lighter and thinner as we ascend, till it gradually disappears. The air consists chiefly of two gases in the proportion of about one-fourth of the one to three-fourths of the other. It is the element in which alone it is possible for us to live. It is just this air in motion that constitutes wind. As still water stagnates, so would still air. A benevolent Creator, therefore, has seen to it that it shall never be long still. And this motion is produced mainly by changes of temperature.

II. Let us now pass to THE REALITY ILLUSTRATED — the influences of the Divine Spirit in regeneration. These influences, like the wind, are —

1. Vital — absolutely essential to spiritual life (Genesis 1:2; Genesis 2:7; Psalm 104.29, 30; Ezekiel 38:8-10). But will the Spirit come to me? Do you ever ask, Will the vital air come?

2. Sovereign. For aught that we can do it bloweth where it listeth. Come on us where it may, when, whence, and with what result. It is absolutely beyond our control. We may indeed turn it to account, and ought; and this very sovereignty of it is the strongest reason why we should. Equally sovereign is the Spirit: "He divideth to every man severally as He will." Nevertheless, He is benignly here for us all. Though absolutely sovereign He is Love; and it sovereignly pleases Him to be here, striving at every heart. When sovereign love has done its best, vain will be our cries and tears.

3. Mysterious (Ecclesiastes 11:4-6). "Wind," "Spirit," "Birth," all are here. These strongly set forth that so far from discouraging action, they are strongest incentives to it. For the wind is not "mysterious" in any such sense as to mean causeless or capricious. It is not independent of law. Mathematicians can go far in describing the properties of curves; but fire a rifle, twirl a half-crown, or toss a ball into the air, which are the simplest and most familiar of acts, and though every convolution exactly obeys mathematical and physical laws, yet where is the Newton or the Leibnitz that could trace these in detail, and sum up for us so complex and intervolved a computation? So the Spirit's influences are inscrutable, in great part, from the nature of the case. They deal with the most involved and interwarped of all problems. They have to do with free agency, duty, destiny, and diversities of individual temperament and circumstances. How stumbling oftentimes to see some highly privileged one resisting to tim last the influences of the Spirit; while another, much less privileged, or a third, even openly profligate, is seen to surrender himself to the overpowering influence of gospel truth and love. But this is the time for such mysteries now that the mystery of iniquity doth work. Only the antagonistic mystery of godliness can counterwork it.

4. Discernible. With all its mystery there is no mystery about its presence. A regenerated man will not be able to veil off his character. Sound is itself a sort of wind, in its vibration on the auditory nerve: therefore genuine Christians will tell personally on others with the self-same influence in varying degrees that told on themselves.

5. Benignant (Psalm 135:7). The breeze is —

(1)Healthful and reviving.

(2)Purifying.

6. Universal — "where it listeth;" yes, but then it listeth to blow everywhere; not in short detached breaths, but in broad, boundless, interblending currents that benignly embrace, belt, and begirdle the globe. So is it with the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 3:7; Acts 2:17; Acts 7:51; Revelation 22:17).

(T. Guthrie, D. D.)

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