A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, May 27, 1877, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *7/23/2012
The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but cannot
tell from where it comes, and where it goes: so is everyone who is
born of the Spirit. [Joh 3:8]
For other sermons on this text:
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 630, “Holy Spirit Compared to the Wind” 621]
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1356, “Heavenly Wind, The” 1347]
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2067, “Spirit and the Wind, The” 2068]
Exposition on Joh 3:1-18 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2339, “Baptism Essential to Obedience” 2340 @@ "Exposition"]
Exposition on Joh 3:1-18 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2663, “Leap Year Sermon, A” 2664 @@ "Exposition"]
Exposition on Joh 3:1-18 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3053, “Jesus Christ’s Idiom” 3054 @@ "Exposition"]
Exposition on Joh 3:1-21 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3095, “Faith in Christ” 3096 @@ "Exposition"]
Exposition on Joh 3:1-21 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3121, “Necessity of Regeneration, The” 3122 @@ "Exposition"]
Exposition on Joh 3:1-21 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3463, “Why Men Do Not Believe” 3465 @@ "Exposition"]
Exposition on Joh 3:1-24 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2463, “Why Men Reject Christ” 2464 @@ "Exposition"]
Exposition on Nu 21:1-9 Joh 3:1-15 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3214, “Two Wilderness Incidents” 3215 @@ "Exposition"]
1. The Holy Spirit is to be admired, not only for the great truths which he teaches us in Holy Scripture, but also for the wonderful manner in which those truths are balanced. The word of God never gives us too much of one thing or too little of another: it never carries a doctrine to an extreme, but tempers it with its corresponding doctrine. Truth seems to run at least in two parallel lines, if not in three, and when the Holy Spirit sets before us one line he wisely points out to us the other. The truth of divine sovereignty is qualified by human responsibility, and the teaching of abounding grace is seasoned by a remembrance of unflinching justice. Scripture gives us as it were the acid and the alkali; the rock and the oil which flows from it; the sword which cuts and the balm which heals. Just as our Lord sent out his evangelists two by two so he seems to send out his truths two by two, so that each may help the other, for the blessing of those who hear them. Now in this most notable third chapter of John you have two truths taught as plainly as if they were written with a sunbeam, and taught side by side. The one is the necessity of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the fact that whoever believes in him is not condemned. This is a vital doctrine, but there is a possibility of preaching it so baldly and so out of relationship to the rest of God’s word that men may be led into serious error. Justification by faith is a most precious truth, it is the very pith and heart of the gospel, and yet you can dwell so exclusively upon it that you cause many to forget other important practical and experiential truths, and so do them serious mischief. Salt is good, but it is not all that a man needs to live on, and even if people are fed on the best of dry bread and nothing else they do not thrive; every part of divine teaching is of practical value and must not be neglected. Hence the Holy Spirit in this chapter lays equal stress upon the necessity of the new birth or the work of the Holy Spirit, and he states it quite as plainly as the other grand truth. See how they blend — “You must be born again”; but “whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life”; “Unless a man is born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God”; but “he who believes on him is not condemned.” Two great truths are written in letters of light over the gate of heaven, as the prerequisites of all who enter there — Reconciliation by the blood of Jesus Christ; and Regeneration by the work of the Holy Spirit. We must not place one of these truths before the other, nor allow one to obliterate or hide the other: they are of equal importance, for they are revealed by the same divine Spirit, and are equally required for eternal salvation. He who cares to preach either of these ought also diligently to teach the other, lest he is found guilty of violating that salutary precept, “What God has joined together let no man put asunder.” Value faith but equally value the work of the Holy Spirit, so you shall find that narrow channel in which the way of truth lies. You must rest in Christ so that you may be accepted before God, but the work of the Holy Spirit within you is absolutely necessary so that you may be able to have communion with the pure and holy God. Faith gives us the rights of the children of God, but the new birth must be experienced so that we may have the nature of children: of what use would rights be if we did not have the capacity to exercise them?
2. Now it is concerning the work of the Spirit of God, and concerning the man in whom the Spirit of God has worked, that I shall speak this morning, according to the tenor of the text. The text may be read two ways. First it may evidently refer to the Holy Spirit himself. Do you not expect the text to run like this — “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but cannot tell from where it comes, and where it goes: so also is the Spirit of God?” Is that not the way in which you naturally expect the sentence to end? Yes, and I do not doubt that such was really the Saviour’s meaning; but frequently according to the New Testament idiom the truth is not stated as our English modes of speech would lead us to expect: for example, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his ground.” Now the kingdom is not like the man, but like the whole transaction of the parable in which the man is the principal actor. “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchantman seeking goodly pearls,” but the kingdom is not like the man, but the comparison runs into all that the man does. So here the Lord Jesus lays hold of one grand sphere of the Spirit’s operations and mentions it, intending, however, a wider sense. There are certain readings of our text which would make this more clear if we could think them to be allowable, as for example what does not render the Greek word by “wind” at all, but translates it “spirit,” and makes it say, “The Spirit blows where he wishes, and you hear his sound.” I do not adopt that reading, but there are several great authorities in its favour, and this tends to show that our first point is correct. When we have spoken upon that we will take the language in its second sense, in reference to the regenerate man, and then we read, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but cannot tell from where it comes, and where it goes: so is every man who is born of the Spirit”: he himself, like the Spirit of which he is born, is free, and is mysterious in his ways, but recognised by the sound of his works and life.
3. I. Take the text in reference to THE HOLY SPIRIT HIMSELF.
4. The metaphor is the wind, and, as most of you know, the Hebrew word for “wind” and for “spirit” is the same; and it is interesting to notice that the same is true with the Greek word “pneuma,” which means both “breath” and “spirit,” so that the metaphor which the Saviour used might very naturally grow out of the word which he employed. The wind is air in motion, and is, of course, physical; but air is apparently more spiritual than any of the other elements, except fire, since it is not to be grasped by the hand nor seen with the eye. It is certain that wind really exists, for we hear its sound and observe its various effects, but it is not to be touched, handled, or gazed upon; men cannot buy and sell it, or measure it in scales, or weigh it in balances. We may watch the clouds for as long as we wish, as they hasten along like winged fowl, but the wind which drives them is out of our sight; we observe the waves roused to fury in the tempest, but the breath which so excites them we cannot see. Hence the word becomes all the more excellent a metaphor of that mighty power, the Holy Spirit, of whose existence no man ever doubts who has come under his influence, but who, nevertheless, is not to be tracked in his movements, nor to be seen with respect to his divine person; for he is mysterious, incomprehensible, and divine.
5. The metaphor of the wind cannot fully illustrate the Holy Spirit, as you know; and, consequently, many other natural metaphors are employed, such as fire, dew, water, light, oil, and so on, in order to exhibit all the phases of his influence; but still the wind is a most instructive metaphor as far as it goes, and since we cannot draw out all its teaching in one sermon let us be content to keep as closely as we can to the text.
6. First, the wind is a metaphor of the Holy Spirit in its freeness — “the wind blows where it wishes.” We speak of the wind as the very image of freedom: we say to those who would enthral us, “Go bind the winds,” as for ourselves, we claim to be “free as the winds which roam at their own will.” No one can fetter the wind. Xerxes threw chains into the Hellespont to bind the sea, but even he was not fool enough to talk of forging fetters for the winds. The breezes are not to be dictated to. Caesar may decree what he pleases, but the wind will blow in his face if he looks that way. The Pope may command the gale to change its course, but it will still blow around the Vatican neither less nor more in spite of the holy father and the cardinals. A conference of potentates from all the nations of Europe may sit for a week and resolve unanimously that the east wind shall not blow for the next six months, but it will take no heed of the arrangement, and will cast dust into the counsellors’ eyes, and whistle at their wisdom. No proclamation nor purpose under heaven will be able to affect the wind by so much as half a point of the compass. It will blow according to its own sweet will, where it pleases, when it pleases, how it pleases, and as it pleases, for “the wind blows where it wishes.” So it is, only in a far higher and more emphatic sense, with the Holy Spirit, for he is most free and absolute. You know that the wind is in the hand of God, and that he ordains every zephyr and each tornado: winds arise and tempests blow by order from the supreme throne; but as for the Holy Spirit, he is God himself, and absolutely free, and works according to his own will and pleasure among the sons of men. One nation has been visited by the Holy Spirit and not another — who can tell me why? Why do the heathen lands lie in the dense darkness while the light is concentrated on Britain? Why has the Reformation taken root in England and among the northern nations of Europe, while in Spain and Italy it has left scarcely a trace? Why does the Holy Spirit blow here and not there? Is it not that he does as he wills? “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion” is the declaration of the divine sovereignty, and the Spirit of God in his movements confirms it. Among the nations where the Spirit of God is at work how is it that he blesses one man and not another? How is it that of two men hearing the same sermon, and subject to the same influences at home, one is taken and the other left? Two children nursed at the same breast, and trained by the same parents, grow up to be totally different. He who perishes in sin has no one to blame but himself, but he who is saved ascribes it all to grace — why did that grace come to him? We never dare to lay the fault of man’s not repenting and believing upon God — that rests with the evil will which refused to obey the gospel; but we dare not ascribe the saving difference in the case of the one who believes to any natural goodness in himself, but we attribute it all to the grace of God, and believe that the Holy Spirit works in such to will and to do according to his own good pleasure. But why does he work in us? Why does he work in any of the chosen? Ah, why? “The wind blows where it wishes.”
7. So, too, it is with the blessing which rests upon ministries. One man wins souls to God, and as a joyous reaper returns with full sheaves, but another who goes out with strong desires, and seems at least to be as earnest as his fellow, comes home with a scanty handful of ears, which he has painfully gleaned. Why is one man’s net full of fish and another’s utterly empty? One servant of the Lord seems, whenever he stands up to preach the gospel, to attract men to Jesus as though he had golden chains in his month which he cast around men’s hearts to draw them in joyful captivity to his Lord, while another cries in bitterness of soul, “Who has believed our report?” Truly, “the wind blows where it wishes.” Indeed, and these changes happen to each man individually: one day the preacher shall be all alive, his spirit shall be stirred within him, and he shall speak evidently with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven; and tomorrow he shall find himself dull and heavy, even to his own consciousness, and even more so to his people’s experience, for the power does not rest upon him. One day he speaks like the voice of God, and another day he is only like a reed shaken by the wind. His fat cattle of years gone by are devoured by the lean cattle of the present. He has his famine as well as his plenty. You shall see him come out today with the unction of the Lord upon him, and his face shining with the glory of fellowship with the Most High, and tomorrow he shall say, “Do not look upon me, for I am black,” for the glory shall have departed. We know what it is to come out like Samson when his locks were shorn; and to shake ourselves as at other times and discover that the Lord is not with us. Why is all this? Is it not because “the wind blows where it wishes?” The Holy Spirit, for his own wise reasons, does not exert an equal power upon any man at all times. We cannot control nor command the Spirit of the living God: he is in the highest sense a free agent. “Your free Spirit” is a name which David gave him, and a most appropriate name it is.
8. Yet, beloved, do not fall into a misapprehension. The Holy Spirit is absolutely free in his operations, but he is not arbitrary; he does as he wills, but his will is infallible wisdom. The wind, though we have no control over it, has a law of its own, and the Holy Spirit is a law to himself; he does as he wills, but he always wills to do what is for the best. Moreover, we know with regard to the wind that there are certain places where you will almost always find a breeze: not here, in the teeming city, nor down in the valley shut in by the mountains, nor on that steaming marsh; but lift up your eyes to the hills, and notice how the breeze courses along the valleys, and sweeps the summits of the mountain ranges. In the morning and the evening, when the inland air is hot as an oven, gentle winds come to and from the sea and fan the fisherman’s cheek: you may find places where the air seems always stagnant and men’s hearts grow heavy amid the feverish calm, but there are elevated hillsides where life is easy, for the air exhilarates by its perpetual freshness. Brethren, among lively saints, in the use of the means of grace, in private prayer, in communion with the Lord, you will find the wind that blows where it wishes always in motion.
9. The wind too has at least in some lands its times and seasons. We know that at certain times of the year we may expect winds, and if they do not come within a day or two, yet, as a rule, the month is stormy; and there are also trade-winds, monsoons which blow with remarkable regularity and are counted upon by mariners. And so it is with the Spirit of God. We know that at certain times he visits the churches, and under certain conditions exerts his power. If, for example, there is mighty prayer, you may be sure the Spirit of God is at work; if the people of God meet together and besiege the throne of grace with cries and tears, the spiritual barometer indicates that the blessed wind is rising. Besides, the Holy Spirit has graciously connected himself with two things, truth and prayer. Preach the truth, proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, and it is the habit of the Holy Spirit to make the word quick and powerful to the hearts of men. If we falsify his word, if we keep back part of the truth, if we become unfaithful, we cannot expect the Holy Spirit to bless us; but if our teaching is Christ crucified, lovingly proclaimed, and if the grace of God in its fulness is really declared, the Holy Spirit will attend the truth and make it the great power of God. I will not say that it is always so and without exception, but I think exceptions must be rare; almost invariably the Spirit bears witness with the truth in the conversion of men. So too with prayer, the Holy Spirit is pleased to connect himself with that also, if it is believing prayer. Here the connection is exceedingly intimate, because it is the Spirit of God who himself gives the believing prayer, and it is not only true that the Spirit will be given in answer to prayer, but the Spirit is already given or the believing prayer would never have been offered. The spirit of prayerfulness, the spirit of anxiety for the conversion of men is one of the surest indications that the Holy Spirit is already at work in the minds of his people.
10. Coming back, however, to the great fact that we cannot command the Holy Spirit, what influence ought that truth to have upon us? Should it not be just this? It should lead us to be very tender and jealous in our conduct towards the Holy Spirit, so that we do not grieve him and cause him to depart from us. Do not vex the Spirit. When you enjoy his gracious operations be devoutly grateful, and walk humbly before God, so that you may retain them; and when he is at work do not let negligence on your part cause you to receive the grace of God in vain. The wind blew, but the sailor was asleep; it was a favourable breeze, but he had cast anchor and his barque did not move. If he had only known it all through the night he would have spread his sail and have made good headway towards his port; but he slumbered, and the blessed wind whistled through the cordage and the ship lay idle at its moorings. Do not let it be so with us. Never allow the Spirit of God to be with us and find us unaware of his presence. In the olden times, when country people depended more than they do now on the use of the windmill to grind their grain, some parishes would be half-starved, when week after week there had been no wind. The miller would look up anxiously, and everyone in the parish would become a watchman for his sails, hoping that they would soon be set in motion. If the breeze stirred at the dead of night, and the miller was sound asleep, someone or other would run and wake him up. “The wind is blowing, the wind is blowing, grind our grain.” So it ought to be whenever the Spirit of God is vigorously working in his church, we should eagerly avail ourselves of his power. We should be so anxious for his divine operations that all should be on the watch, so that if some did not discover it others would, and observant ones would cry, “The Holy Spirit is working with us; let arise and labour more abundantly.” Hoist the sail when the wind favours; you cannot command it, therefore carefully value it.
11. But we must pass on. The Holy Spirit is described as being like the wind concerning his manifestations. “You hear,” says Jesus, “its sound.” It has been suggested, and some have enlarged upon it, that there are many other manifestations of the presence of wind: you can feel it, you can see its results upon the trees and the waves, and sometimes you can be sure that the wind has been at work by the devastation which it has caused: but in this place our Saviour was not so much alluding to a great wind as to the more gentle breezes. The Greek word “pneuma” is translated “breath,” and can hardly be made to mean a tempest. It was a gentle wind like a zephyr of which the Lord was speaking here. The great winds, as I have already said, are somewhat predictable, but if you sit in the garden in the cool of the evening it is utterly impossible for you to tell from where the zephyrs come and where they go; they are so volatile in their movements and untrackable in their course; here, there, everywhere the soft breezes of evening steal among the flowers. Our Lord tells us that such gentle zephyrs are heard: Nicodemus in the stillness of the night could hear them. “You hear its sound.” The leaves rustle, and that is all; you hear a gentle movement of branch and stem, and as it were the tinkling of flower bells, and so you discover that the wind is flitting among the flower beds and borders. Now, beloved, this shows us that the hearing ear is intended by God to be the discerner of the Spirit to men, for most men the only discerner that they have. “You hear its sound.” What a wonderful dignity the Lord has been pleased to put upon this little organ, the ear. The Roman Catholic church gives the preference always to the eye; her priests are always for astonishing men into grace with their wonderful performances; but God’s way is “Faith comes by hearing,” and the first detector of the Holy Spirit is the ear. To some men this is the only revealer of his mysterious presence, as I have already said: they hear its sound, that is to say, they hear the gospel preached, they hear the word of God read. Truth when it is couched in words is the rustling of the holy wind, it is the footstep of the Eternal Spirit as mysteriously he passes through a congregation. Oh, what grief it is that some never get any further than this, but remain where Nicodemus was at the first: they hear its sound and nothing more. Some of you are now daily hearing truth which has saved thousands, but it does not save you; you are hearing the very truth which populates heaven, but yet it leaves you without a hope of eternal life; yet be sure of this, the kingdom of God has come near to you. “You hear its sound,” and that wind whose whispers you hear is not far from your own cheek. When you hear the rustling among the boughs of the trees the breezes are not far away, nor is the Spirit of God far away when his sound is heard.
12. Some hearers, however, go further, for they hear the sound of the Spirit in their consciences and it disturbs them; they would sleep as others do, but just as the wind sometimes comes whistling through the keyhole or howls down the chimney and wakes the sluggard, or if the man is lying in a garden asleep the breezes play around his ears and face and startle him, so it is with many unconverted people; they cannot be quiet, for they hear the sound of the Holy Spirit in their consciences, and are troubled and perplexed. There is a revival and they are not saved, but they are startled and alarmed by it; their sister is converted, they are not, but still it comes very near to them, and they feel as if an arrow had gone whizzing by their own ear. It is hard living in a careless state in the midst of revival. “You hear its sound.” But some of you in your conscience are hearing the sound now in your family circle, from the fact that one after another of your relatives have been brought to know the Lord; you cannot avoid feeling that there is something powerful abroad, though it has not yet exerted its regenerating power upon you.
13. As for the man who is saved, he hears the Holy Spirit in the most emphatic sense, and with what variety that sound comes to him. At first he heard it as a threatening wind, which bowed him in sadness and seemed to sweep all his hopes to the ground, as the sere leaves of the forest are carried in the autumn’s wind. When the Spirit’s voice first sounded in my ears it was as a wail of woe, as a wind among the tombs, as a sigh among faded lilies. It seemed as if all my hopes were puffed away like smoke, or as the night mists in the morning breeze; nothing was left for me except to mourn my nothingness. Then I heard a sound like the hot sirocco [a] of the East, as if it issued from a burning oven. You know the text, “The grass withers and its flower fades away, because the Spirit of the Lord blows upon it: surely the people are grass.” In my soul there had bloomed a fair meadow of golden kingcups and fair flowers of many dainty colours, but the Spirit of God blew on it and withered it all, and left it as a dry, brown, rusty plain, where there was neither life nor beauty. So far the sacred wind destroys what is evil, but it does not end there, for we thank God we have heard the sound of the Spirit as a quickening wind. The prophet cried, “Come from the four winds, oh breath, and breathe upon these slain so that they may live”: the wind came and the dead arose into an exceedingly great army. The same miracle has been accomplished in us. The sere bones of our own death have crept together, bone to its bone, and flesh has come upon them, and now because of the divine breath we have begun to live. Now, also, when the Holy Spirit visits us he renews our life and energy, and we have life more abundantly. The Holy Spirit has since then been very often a melting wind for us, “He causes his wind to blow and the waters to flow.” Locked up in the chains of ice all through the winter the waters are still as a stone, but the spring winds come, the little brooks find liberty and leap away to the rivers, and the rivers flow in all their free force to add their volume to the sea. So the Spirit of God has often broken up our frost, and given our spirits joyful liberty. He melts the rocky heart and dissolves the iron spirit, at the sound of his goings men are moved to feeling. We know the sound of this wind also as a diffusive breath, drawing out and diffusing our slumbering graces. “Awake, oh north wind; and come, you south; blow upon my garden, so that its spices may flow out.” Oh, what a sweet releasing of holy gratitude, and love, and hope, and joy has there been in our heart when the Spirit of God has visited us. Just as sweet essences lie hidden in the flowers, and do not come out until the loving wind entices them to waft abroad, so sweet graces lie within renewed spirits until the Holy Spirit comes and speaks to them, and they know his voice and come out to meet him, and so sweet fragrances are shed abroad.
14. Yes, my brethren, we know all this and we have heard the sound of the Holy Spirit in another sense, namely, as marching out with us to the battle of the Lord. We have heard that sound of a marching in the tops of the mulberry trees which David heard, and we have bestirred ourselves, and victory has been ours. If we have not heard that rushing mighty wind which came at Pentecost, still we have felt its divine effect, which does not cease, but still brings life, power, energy, and all that is required for the conversion of the sons of men for us who are asked to go out and preach the gospel among the nations. In all these respects the Holy Spirit has revealed himself, as wind does, by his sound. “You hear its sound.” “Their sound went into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.”
15. A third similarity of the Spirit to the wind is illustrated for us in the point of mystery. “You cannot tell from where it comes nor where it goes.” Of the wind we may tell that it comes from such and such a quarter or point, but you cannot put your finger on the map and say, “The north wind began in this region,” or “here the west wind was born.” Indeed, we know very little about the winds, their origin, or their laws. One of the best and most accurate observers of the wind during thirty years recorded every wind in his region, until at the end of the term he abandoned the few rules which he had laid down during the first two or three years, for he found that no rule held good. No man can say from where the wind leaps out. The heathen dreamed of a certain cave where the winds were enclosed as in a prison, and allowed to go out one by one: it was only a fable; we do not know where the winds first spread their wings, or where they sleep when all is still. So it is with the Holy Spirit in the mind of man, his first movements are hidden in mystery. You know that you are converted, my dear friend, and you know somewhere about the time, and probably you remember something concerning the means which the Lord used for your salvation. You know those outward circumstances but how the Holy Spirit operated upon you, you do not and cannot tell any more than you can tell how the life swells within the seed until it springs up and becomes the full kernel in the ear, or how the sap in the trees first descends in the winter and afterwards climbs again in the spring. There are secrets which nature does not reveal, and the work of the Spirit is even more a secret, and assuredly no man can explain it to his companion or to himself. Why is it, my friend, that you obtained a blessing under one sermon but not under another, and yet when you spoke to your sister she had been more blessed under the second than the first? The power does not come from the preacher, then, it is clear, and “you cannot tell from where it comes.” There are times in which you feel not only that you can pray but that you must pray; how did you come to be in that state? I know what it is to feel in a very ecstasy of delight in the Lord, for which I can scarcely account, for at another time when I have been engaged in the same work, and I think with the same earnestness, I have not been conscious of any such exceeding delight in God. At one time the heart will be full of penitence as if it would break for sin, and at another time it will overflow with such delight in Christ that the sin seems almost forgotten in the pardoning sacrifice. Why are these diverse operations? We know what it is at times to feel such a sense of death upon us as to be earnestly preparing for our last hours; and at another time to be altogether forgetful of death, and to be living, as it were, the immortal life already, raised up together and made to sit together with Christ. But how these various modes and forms and workings of the Spirit come who among us can tell? Go trace the dewdrops, if you can, to the womb of the morning, and discover which way the lightning’s flash went, or how the thunder rolled along the mountain tops, but you cannot tell nor can you guess from where comes the Spirit of God into your souls.
Nor can we tell where it goes. Here, again, is another mystery. Oh,
it charms me to think that when we release the truth in the power of
the Spirit we never know where it will fly. A child takes a seed, one
of those little downy seeds which has its own parachute to bear it
through the air; the little one blows it into the air, but who knows
where that downy seed shall settle, and in whose garden it shall
grow? Such is truth, even from the mouths of babes and sucklings.
Whole continents have been covered with strange flowers simply by the
wind wafting foreign seeds there, and mariners have discovered sunny
isles out there in the Southern Sea, where the foot of man has never
trodden, covered with abundance of vegetation which the wind has by
degrees wafted there. Scatter the truth on all sides, for you cannot
tell where the Spirit will carry it. Fling it to the winds, and you
shall find it after many days. Scatter the living seed with both
hands, send it north, south, east, and west, and God will give it
Waft, waft ye winds the story,
And you, ye waters roll,
Till like a sea of glory
It spreads from pole to pole.
I had a letter only the other day when I was severely sick: it was
written by a sister in Christ in the very heart of the country of
Brazil. She said that she had received a copy of my “Morning
Readings,” and had found by it the way of peace, and, therefore, she
wrote me such a loving, touching letter, that, as I read it, it
brought tears to my eyes. There was something more affecting yet, for
at the end was written in another hand, some words to the effect that
his dear wife who had written the above letter had died soon after
finishing it, and with a bleeding heart the lone husband sent it on
to me, rejoicing that the word ever came to his wife’s soul in the
far-off land. Brethren, you do not know where the word will go and
the Spirit with it. In Bohemia the papists thought they had stamped
out the gospel, and with cruel edicts they kept down all thought of
Protestantism, but just recently, since the toleration, the gospel
has been preached in that country, and to the surprise of everyone
there have come forward men and women from lone cottages in the woods
and from different corners of the great cities of Bohemia, bringing
with them ancient copies of the word of God, themselves being eager
to know the precious truth for which they remember that their fathers
died. A truth will go down the centuries: like the river, it sings
Men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.
“You cannot tell where it goes,” it will travel on until the millennium. Send that saying abroad that the truth cannot die. The persecutor cannot kill it, it is immortal, like the God who sent it out; the persecutor cannot even stop its course, it is divine. Popery will always be in danger as long as there is one leaf of the Bible upon earth, or one man living who knows the Saviour. Antichrist cannot triumph; the Holy Spirit wars against it with the sword of the word, and you cannot tell how far into the heart of error any truth may be driven. To the overthrow of falsehood and the death of sin the Spirit speeds on, but you do not know how.
17. “You cannot tell where it goes” either in any one heart. If you have received the Holy Spirit into your heart, you cannot tell where he will carry you. I am sure that William Carey, when he gave his young heart to Christ never thought the Spirit of God would carry him to Serampore to preach the gospel to the Hindus; and when George Whitfield first drank of the life-giving Spirit it never occurred to him that the waiter at the Bell Inn at Gloucester would thunder the gospel over two continents and turn thousands to Christ. No! You do not know to what blessed end this wind will waft you. Commit yourselves to it: do not be disobedient to the heavenly vision; be ready to be borne along as the Spirit of God shall help you, even as the dust in the summer’s breeze. And oh child of God, you yourself do not know to what heights of holiness and degrees of knowledge and ecstasies of enjoyment the Spirit of God will bear you. “Eye has not seen nor ear heard the things which God has prepared for those who love him,” and though he has revealed them by his Spirit (for the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God), yet even to the best taught child of God it is not yet known to the full where the Spirit of God goes. “Trust in the Lord for ever, for in the Lord Jehovah there is everlasting strength,” and he will bear you onward and upward, even to perfection itself, and you shall be with Jesus, where he is, and behold his glory.
18. II. I have only a few minutes left for my second point, but I do not need many, since I do not wish to say much about it. The text relates TO THOSE WHO ARE BORN OF THE SPIRIT. “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its the sound, but cannot tell from where it comes, and where it goes: so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
19. The birth partakes of the nature of the parent. What is born of the Spirit is like the Spirit of which it is born, even as what is born of the flesh is flesh, and is similar to the flesh by which it is begotten. The twice-born man is like the Holy Spirit who produced him, and he is like him in each of the points which we have already dwelt upon. Concerning freedom, you may say of him, “He blows where he wishes.” The Spirit of God makes the believer a free man, bestows on him the freedom of his will which he never had before, and gives him a delightful consciousness of liberty. “If the Son makes you free you shall be free indeed.” I do not affirm that every spiritual man does as he wishes, because, alas, I see another law in our members warring against the law of our mind, and bringing us into captivity to the law of sin and death: but still, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” Now you can pray, which you could not do before; now you can praise, though you could not extract a note of praise from your ungrateful heart before; now you can cry, “Abba, Father”; now you can draw near to God. You are no longer under man’s control, you blow where you wish; you are not now ruled by priestcraft, nor domineered over by the opinion of your fellow man. The Lord has set you free, and you want to go where God’s word tells you to go, and you find the utmost liberty in going that way. Oh, brethren, I cannot tell you the change which is felt by a regenerate man in the matter of spiritual liberty. When you were under the bondage of the law, of custom and of sin, and of fear of death and dread of hell, you were like a man locked up in one of those cells in Venice which lie below the level of the water, where the air is foul, and the poor prisoner can only stir half-a-dozen feet and then walk back again in the darkness; but when the Spirit of God comes he brings the soul from darkness into light, from clammy dampness into the open air; he sets before you an open door, he helps you to run in the ways of God’s commands, and as if that were not enough, he even lends you wings, and invites you mount as the eagle, for he has set you free.
20. Again, the man who is born of the Spirit is somewhat revealed; and is known by his sound. “You hear its sound.” The most ungodly man if he lives near a Christian will hear the sound of him. The secret life within will speak; there will be words, for Christians are not dumb, but actions will still speak more loudly; and even apart from actions the very spirit and tone of the man who is really regenerated will speak, and the ungodly man will be compelled to hear it. “You hear its sound.”
And now notice the mystery there is about a Christian. You know
nothing, if you are unregenerate, about the life the believer leads,
for he is dead, and his life is hidden with Christ in God. You do not
know from where he comes out in the morning; you have not seen those
beds of spices which have made his garments fragrant; you know
nothing about that weeping in prayer or that rejoicing in fellowship
with which he opened the morning, and you cannot know until you
yourself are born of the Spirit. Neither can you tell where the
spiritual man goes. In the midst of his trouble you see him calm; do
you know where he went to win that rare tranquillity? In the hour of
death you see him triumphant; do you know where he has been to learn
to die so joyously? No, the unregenerate man does not know where the
believer goes. There is a secret place of the Most High, and they
shall remain under the shadow of the Almighty who have once learned
to enter there, but carnal men do not come into this secret place.
The Christian life is a mystery all the way through, from its
beginning to its end: to the worldling all a mystery, and to the
Christian himself a puzzle. He cannot read his own riddle, nor
understand himself. This one thing he knows, “Whereas I was once
blind, now I see”; also he knows this, “Oh Lord, I am your servant, I
am your servant, and the son of your handmaid: you have released my
bonds”; also he knows this, that when his Lord shall be revealed then
he will also shine out as the sun. The life within him in its coming
and going is all a mystery to him, but he blesses God that he has
fellowship in it. He goes on his way feeling that though men do not
know from where he comes, nor where he is going, yet the Lord knows
him, and he himself is sure that he is going to his Father and his
God. Oh that every one of you had so delightful a hope. May the Lord
grant it to you, for Jesus’ sake.
[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Joh 2:23-3:23]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Adorable Trinity in Unity, Doxology to the Trinity” 166]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Holy Spirit — The Promised Comforter” 445]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Holy Spirit — Regeneration” 448]
[a] Sirocco: An oppressively hot and blighting wind, blowing from the north coast of Africa over the Mediterranean and affecting parts of Southern Europe. OED.
The Adorable Trinity in Unity, Doxologies to the Trinity
1 Come, thou Almighty King,
Help us thy name to sing,
Help us to praise:
Father all glorious,
O’er all victorious,
Come and reign over us,
Ancient of days.
2 Jesus, our Lord, arise;
Scatter our enemies,
And make them fall:
Let thine Almighty aid
Our sure defence be made,
Our souls on thee be stay’d
Lord, hear our call.
3 Come, thou Incarnate Word,
Gird on thy mighty sword,
Our prayer attend:
Come and thy people bless,
And give thy word success;
Spirit of holiness,
On us descend.
4 Come, Holy Comforter,
Thy sacred witness bear
In this glad hour:
Thou, who almighty art,
Now rule in every heart,
And ne’er from us depart,
Spirit of power!
5 To the Great One in Three
Eternal praises be,
His sovereign majesty,
May we in glory see,
And to eternity
Love and adore.
Charles Wesley, 1757.
445 — The Promised Comforter
1 Our blest Redeemer, ere he breathed
His tender, last farewell,
Our Guide, a Comforter, bequeath’d
With us on earth to dwell.
2 He come, the mystic heavenly Dove,
With sheltering wings outspread,
The holy balm of peace and love
On chosen hearts to shed.
3 He comes, sweet influence to impart,
A gracious, willing guest,
Where he can find one humble heart
Wherein to make his rest.
4 And his that gentle voice we hear,
Soft as the breath of eve,
That checks each fault, that calms each fear,
And bids us cease to grieve.
5 And every virtue we possess,
And every victory won,
And every thought of holiness.
Are his, and his alone.
6 Spirit of purity and grace,
Our weakness, pitying, see:
Oh make our hearts thy dwelling place,
Yea, make them meet for thee.
Harriet Auber, 1829, a.
448 — Regeneration
1 Not all the outward forms on earth,
Nor rites that God has given,
Nor will of man, nor blood, nor birth,
Can raise a soul to heaven.
2 The sovereign will of God alone
Creates us heirs of grace;
Born in the image of his Son,
A new peculiar race.
3 The Spirit, like some heavenly wind,
Blows on the sons of flesh;
Creates a new — a heavenly mind,
And forms the man afresh.
4 Our quicken’d souls awake and rise
From the long sleep of death;
On heavenly things we fix our eyes,
And praise employs our breath.
Isaac Watts, 1709, a.