Page images

The Spirit's Influences Vindicated. From Objections by Their Analogy to the Wind





"The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou canst not tell whence it cometh nor whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit."-JOHN 3, 8.

What is the real nature of that subject to which our Lord here refers we are not left to question or to doubt. This is clear from the whole scope and bearing of the passage. Nicodemus was himself a ruler and instructor among the Jews, a member of the church, a man of wealth and influence, and high enrolled among the most worthy citizens of the Jewish commonwealth. When Christ therefore made known to him the true nature of the kingdom of God, the qualifications requisite for admission into it and the fitness necessary both for the discharge of its duties and the enjoyment of its privileges, and when He made it an indispensable prerequisite in order to this, that he, and every man, must be born again-we may be perfectly sure that Nicodemus did not misunderstand him. He could not think that our Saviour referred to any outward ordinances of the church for of all these Nicodemus had partaken; nor to any forms, rites and services of religion, for of all these Nicodemus was punctiliously and religiously observant; nor to any opus operatum efficacy connected with the orders and offices of a heaven-ordained ministry, all which Nicodemus had received; he must therefore have understood that Christ referred to an inward and spiritual change which bore the same relation to the soul that life does to the body—a change effected by the direct and immediate agency of the Holy Spirit and by which a principle of spiritual life, holiness and new obedience is implanted in the heart. "Marvel not," said Christ in reiterated earnestness, "that thou, even thou who art a Master in Israel and thyself an instructor and a guide to the souls of others, that even thou must thus be born again or otherwise be adjudged unfit to be a member of my spiritual kingdom, and a partaker of eternal life."

The truth of a new birth, a spiritual renovation, lies at the very foundation of the christian scheme as a system of doctrine, and of the christian character, which it is the great object of that system to produce. And the fact that many religionists now-a-days who claim to be par excellence, THE CHURCH, and the sanctimonious observers of every punctilio of the rubric and canon of superstitious and erring fathers, the very fact, I say, that these tell us that baptism is this regeneration in its beginning, and that confirmation and the eucharist constitute its perfection and continuance; and the very fact that others again tell us, as Nicodemus told Christ, that this whole doctrine is absurd, enthusiastic and fanatical; all this, I say, only proves that the Pharisees and the Sadducees, so far as their principle is concerned, are still standing sects. Like the one there are still found many prepared to believe every thing, and like the other many who will believe nothing; the one class grounding itself upon credulity, the other upon scepticism; the one making antiquity and tradition, and the other reason, the standard of revealed truth and duty. Brethren, let none of these things move you, for "verily, verily I say unto you, you must be born again," not of water, but of that spirit whose influences are symbolized by the water; and not by becoming fashionable members of a fashionable church, which may boast of including many wise men, and many men of taste, sentiment and philosophy, but by becoming members of the church of the living God, into which you can be introduced only by the lifegiving energy of that Almighty Being who first moved upon the surface of the great deep bringing order out of confusion, light out of darkness, fertility out of barrenness, and life out of death.

In the declaration of our Saviour quoted above we have an analogy drawn from the nature and operation of the wind by which this high and mysterious doctrine may be made more plain to our minds. This analogy which is very striking has ever been observed by reflecting minds, and is thus beautifully depicted by a recent poet:

Air! and thou Wind!

Which are the unseen similitude of God

The Spirit, His most meet and mightiest sign;
The earth with all her steadfastness and strength
Sustaining all, and bound about with chains

Of mountains, as if life with mercies, ranging round

With all her sister orbs the whole of heaven,

Is not so like the unlikenable one

As thou. Ocean is less divine than thee;
For although all but limitless, it is yet

Visible, many a land not visiting.

But thou art Love-like, every where, o'er earth,
O'er ocean triumphing; and aye, with clouds
That like the Ghost of oceans' billows roll,
Decking or darkening heaven. The sun's light
Floweth and ebbeth daily like the tides;
The moon's doth grow or lessen night by night;
The stirless stars shine forth by fits and hide,
And our companion planets come and go;—
And all are known, their laws and liberties.
But no man can foreset thy coming, none
Reason against thy going; thou art free,-
The type impalpable of spirit, thou.
Thunder is but a momentary thing,

Like a world's death-rattle, and is like death;
And lightning, like the blaze of sin, can blind
Only and slay. But what are all these to thee
In thine all present variousness? Now
So light as not to wake the snowiest down
Upon the dove's breast winning her bright way
Calm and sublime as grace unto the soul
Towards her native grove; now stern and strong
As ordnance, overturning tree and tower;
Cooling the white brows of the peaks of fire-
Turning the sea's broad furrows like a plough,
Fanning the fruitening plains, breathing the sweets
Of meadows, wandering o'er blinding snows,
And sands like sea-beds, and the streets of cities,
Where men as garnered grain lie heaped together.
Freshening the cheeks, and mingling oft the looks
Of youth and beauty 'neath star-speaking eve;
Swelling the pride of canvas, or, in wrath
Scattering the fleets of nations, like dead leaves;
In all the same overmastering, sightless force
Bowing the highest things of earth to earth,
And lifting up the dust unto the stars;
Fate-like confounding reason, and like God's
Spirit conferring life upon the world,-
Midst all corruption incorruptible.

Some would reject the doctrine of regeneration altogether because it implies a fact beyond the cognizance of our senses and the full comprehension of our reason. They cannot take knowledge of this alleged change by the help of any microscope or telescope, nor by the assistance of their eyes, their ears, their taste or their touch. It is a thing beyond their own experience, and as it regards others it is a thing within their own bosom and invisible to every mortal eye. Its external manifestations are also dubious since it may exist to a great extent without them while its internal workings are known only to the heart of its recipient and are often hypocritcally assumed and belied. How then such objectors triumphantly ask, can these thing be?

For modes of faith let fools and zealots fight-
He can't be wrong whose life is in the right.

But may not such self-applauding philisophers who think that they are the men and that wisdom dwells with them, find an answer to all their cavils in the phenomena of the external

« PreviousContinue »