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an unseen might, marvel not that an invisible spirit should agitate and tovolutionise the soul of man. But there is something more in the words than an answer to an objection : Christ illustrates by them the manner in which the spirit works on the soul. As the wind blows through the world with its voice of power, so the Spirit of God breathes through-literally inspires man's nature, and by his touch creates it anew. Combining, therefore, both these purposes of the verse as an answer to the objection to its mystery, and as an explanation of the manner of the spiritual change t refers to its great lesson is this :- The mystery of regeneration rises from the fact that it is the actual contact of God with the soul of mail. Here, then, we have that aspect of regeneration which is so incomprehensible to the world. The old perplexity of Nicodemus is, in another form, the same mystery before which modern men stand in unbelief. They can understand the reformation of manifest vices through the fear of a tremendous perdition; they can understand even the adoption of a series of painful self-denials under the exciting motive of immortality ; but the great revolution of a new life inspired by God appears mystical and is possible ; for men have so forgotten the old truth, that God is here in his world, and have so thought that laws and forces of life were acting in his room, that the very idea of the real touch of the Almighty has become almost incredible. And the Christian Church has in a measure fallen into the same error. We speak of the days as passed for ever when God's prophets heard the voice speaking m them, and felt the rosh and flow of inspiration in their souls; and although Christ has brought u nearer to the spiritual world, we fancy that such direct converse with Goi is given to man no more. Hence Christian men have greatly lost the belief of the apostles, that God is speaking in us and witnessing in uz; that we have the anointing of the Holy One, ad speak instead of inpressions and motives and influences, as if God were not in close contact with us, but acted through these. And religious life has thus becomes matter of self-searching into experiences, as things to be produced by exciting impressions. We no longer act as from the inspiration of the Holy Ghost; we no longer live as looking into the spiritual world Christian life has thereby lost inuch of its ancient might, and become a fitful, unheroic thing. Now there is, of course, a broad difference between the inspiration given to Prophets and Apostles, and that which w enters the Christian : they were inspired to write, we are inspired to live. But I want to prove that God's spirit is equally close; his voies equally near, though in a different way. I shall try to show that regentration is impossible apart from the direct touch, the actual inspiration of God; that behind its mystery there are real proofs of his ini medista contact with the soul. All this we shall find in Christ's words~ Tha wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the spirit;" and then we shall see in closing how that truth believed in and lived will give us a power of prayer, and action, and hope which no other conviction can bestow. We notice first that,
1. Spiritual life is a direct inspiration from God.
Let us observe at the outset, that simple as that truth may seem in vorus, it is extremely difficult to realize it as a living fact. It is a truth uite out of the common range of man's everyday thinking. We occupy urselves so much with the human and outward aspects of life, that we seldom enter the secret chamber of the spirit to ask what divine agencies nay be in action there : or when we do enter that region we seem to ourelves so selfish and cold and insignificant, that we scarcely dare to say, - I am actually touched. moved, and inspired by the Alinighty.” Not
y so; we are so accustomed to regard God as dwelling in heaven, and our
haith as the medium by which we reach Him, that we forget the ther truth, that God's presence in the heart alone creates that faith
rough which He reveals his glory. It needs, therefore, determined and repeated thought in order to realize the truth we so easily utter in words, "We are born anew by the inspiration of the Infinite One."
Taking these words literally they suggest two thoughts. On the one hand, they imply that spiritual life is impossible apart from God's inspiration : as the wind blows through the world so God's spirit breathes into the soul ;-on the other, that this inspiration enters man in mystery ; as the wind is unseen, and its origin undiscovered-its path leading into the unknown spaces of heaven-so the incoming of the spirit to the heart is a mystery ; we only know that he is there. (1.) Spiritual life impossible apart from this inspiration. To see the ground for the proof of this we must grasp clearly the significance of the phrase, “born of the spirit.” This is given us in the contrast_“That which is born of the flesh is
nu that which is born of the spirit is spirit.” There is an earthly, geltish love in the natural man which enthralls under the tyranny of the 'the sensual, the sinful. To be born of the spirit is to have a
created within, overthrowing the tyranny of the fleshly, filling with heavenly hones and aspirations
evenly hopes and aspirations, raising lile above the downward, natural tend
tendency to a life whose whole world is God and God's Theaven. Now mark that spiritual life is an elevation above the natural
he natural inclination and tendency, and this can only be produced by the direct inspiration of the
the direct inspiration of the spirit of God; for man cannot, by mere effort of his own raise himself ab
of his own, raise himself above the natural life. Let him
he will, he is still within the circle of his own self, and can siever rise out of it have made.
make for instance.
Take, for instance, the mightiest endeavours men They have tried it in torturing the body, in keeping down The
Will of the flesh, in renouncing all the dearest relationships after all, they have
, in passing years in chosen poverty and misery; and, have been still in the sphere of self-all they have done
y a self culture, and does not rise one hair's breadth above soul. Or to use
because it is not elevated by the entrance of God into the Se a modern illustration : Try to change a man's character. lo is engrossed in the things of the world—whose ideas are
e horizon of the present, whose motives are selfish, who ings by a commercial standard - will you try to convince
him, by reasoning, that his course is a wrong one? Perhaps your logie is successful, and he admits it; after all you have carried but the outworks of his intellect, while his deeper nature is left untouched. Will you point out his moral degradation as compared to what he ought to be and might be? He may be forced to admit that, too, but he will pnbably hate you for the truth you have told him. Will you appeal to his interest-will you tell him of the miseries of sinfulness and the blessed. ness of holiness, the wretchedness of the lost and the glory of hearen ! Suppose you succeed in convincing him—have you really elevated his nature ? No; he may be intensely selfish still ! Or to employ another illustration : Men ordinarily feel that they can do no great and nobis deeds until they are raised above the natural level of life, by a spiri possessing them and raising them above themselves. This is the grea: feature in all genius of thought and action. The poet must be inspir! by a mighty emotion if his words are to sway men's hearts. The painter must catch the hidden harmony and wonder of nature if his works are so be really artistic; and the patriot must apprehend that which is divinas and noblest in the national life, and be inspired by that before he ci become worthy of the name. So in Christian life. It must be the result of God's inspiration or our efforts will be vain. His Spirit must enter us of our endeavours will never raise us. It is when before the cross of Christ weluse all thought of self in the greatness of that divine agony for sin, and tha love which inspired that sacrifice, that we begin to rise above ourselves, it is then that our human wills become subdued and our evil hearts broken ; it is then, when touched by the fire from that divine altar, the we are able to offer the heavenly sacrifice of the “ broken heart and cos trite spirit ;" therefore, the actual power of God must touch us ere can be spirit-born.
We have instances in all ages and all around us of how divine inspiraon raises men above themselves. Take three obvious ones from the Bible records. Look at Jacob, whose early characteristics were craft an cunning selfishness ; but the dream-vision opens upon hini at Bethel ; in the angels of God he sees heaven descending to earth, and becomes a nem man. Look at Saul, the zealous persecutor of the saints ; but on his car to Damascus the heavens are opened, the light pierces his soul, Gos" glory smites him, and he becomes the loving and earnest apostle. Lori at John wishing to call down fire from heaven to consuine those who sr. opposed to his Lord ; but he becomes inspired by the love of Christ, an. after that he writes, “He that hateth his brother is a murderer,”
(2.) That inspiration enters man in mytery. We may trace the early siga. of the Spirit's actual and present power in the heart, but we cannot perde trate the mystery which shrouds its origin. Man knows not when :: began to work, though he may be conscious of some time when its ener.) came forth in active development, for great revolutions in the socks history are almost always preceded by hidden trains of thought aud em. tion. Just as in those mysterious foretellings of the soul-of which at sont. "ime or in some way or other every man has been conscious-we know
not what has produced them; they seem to flash suddenly into existence but we fail to trace the hidden chains of thought, emotion, desire, or hope from which they have started forth into definite form; just as it is true that "the child is the father of the man," although we cannot track the subtle phases of development through which the germ of character has issued forth into full-grown strength; 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 forth into leaf and flower; so in spiritual life. What combienced the change? Not man himself, for he knew it not till he felt its power within. 6 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it Jeth : 80 is every one that is born of the spirit.”
Passing now to the first manifest development of this inspiration. How often do we find instances in man's history of the sudden flashings of new meanings into old truths—truths familiar from childhood, but which have vet been powerless to awaken any emotion ? But a time has come when tiey have broken in upon the spirit like revelations from the unseen world-have come unveiled, transfigured with a strange glory round them, and the soul has been possessed, constrained, overwhelmed! what made *nese truths thus suddenly dawn in irresistible power ?
Let a man appeal to the testimony of consciousness; he gets the same answer as before : Not by himself was the change wrought; not of himself did he set out on his pilgrim path. A hand touched him ; a voice
alled him. Sometimes the wind with its trumpet-call summons the ocean, and its armies crowned with foam dash on remote shores. Sometimes the breeze breaths mournfully among the leaves, and rises high and ret higher until the forest bends beneath the roaring gale. So, often, does the spirit rouse man's nature into a storm of emotion, before which strong habits of sin fall in ruin, and which, like the mighty, rushing, pentecostal wind, shake the very foundations of his being. But he knows not whence it cometh. “ Whither it goeth” he knows not either, except that its course is onward ; its impulse and its guidance ever advancing annidst all impediments; through the veiled and mysterious future, through the long, cold, dark watchings of life, yet onward still, for the *pirit ever breathes into the soul the music of aspiration “ waiting for the wdoption—to wit, the redemption of the body."
Thus the work of the spirit is not secondary. In it God is close to the Ileart. Inspiration is not dead. We are inspired by the living spirit of the Eternal.
II. Let us glance now at some of the results of realizing this truth.
We proceed to inquire what influence would be exerted on our life if we felt that we possessed the real inspiration of the Eternal Spirit ? Now observe, simple as it seems, it would inevitably work a mighty change ; te should no longer merely believe about believing, but live inore as men inspired by the Spirit of God.
It would increase the energy of prayer. Until we feel the Divine Inspi
ration there is an apparent distance between God and the soul. We try by intense effort to kindle the fire of emotion. We struggle with painful labour to cross the dreary chasm that appears to sense to separate us from God. But the consciousness of the divine inbreathing would make us feel that God is here-close to us--inspiring our prayers. We should then be able to look into the Infinite Presence and read the answer there Until we feel this, such slaves are we to the material and palpable, and so little do we realize the power of spiritual influence, that we lose that faith which is the essence of supplication and grow faint in asking; but if He is quickening us into devotion, is He not already answering? Are we not as much in communion with the Divine as if we felt the rush of inspiration and heard its mystic voice ?
It would strengthen spiritual manhood. Some men fancy that this doctrine enervates. They try to rouse themselves by proclaiming man's Own ability. They imagine that the doctrine of Divine Inspiration annihilates earnest activity. The very contrary is true. It inspires self-reverence, self-control, resistance of temptation ; reverence for the soul in which God is acting, reverence for the temple in which His mystic name is inscribed, and which has become a “habitation of God through the spirit." We must ever watch its altar flame to keep it bright and pure. It inspires us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in us. His might is pulsating in our nature; his spirit is helping our infirmities.
It imparts nobility to character.
The man who feels the Divine Spirit working within him will not waste power in multiplied professions, or in doing things to be seen of men. He will know the work that is given him to do, and do it whatever the consequences here. He will dare, if need be, to live alone-apart, and to be misunderstood by the world. In the depths of the soul he will hear the voice—“Be not afraid, for I am with you."
It gives power to our Christian hope.
All angelic possibilities lie in the fact that we have within us the Spirit of God; for to be inspired by Him, to be thus open to communion with his love, is to have the “power of an endless life" and the energy of an eternal growth. Then all our inner desires, unexpressed longings, unful. filled aspirations, become prophecies of what shall be when the temporal is changed for the eternal.
“WHAT WILT THOU HAVE ME TO DO?”
FOR THE YOUNG.
“What can I do?” thought Only the day before, timidly, yet Maggie to herself, rather despond- / joyfully, she had come forward in ingly, as she walked home from work the presence of a crowded congregaone summer evening.
| tion, and confessed Christ by bap