‘And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.’ Genesis 8:21
Suggested Further Reading: John 3:1–15
I cannot give myself a new nature. A crab tree cannot transform itself into an apple tree; if I am a wolf I cannot make myself a sheep; water can rise to its own proper level, but it cannot go beyond it without pressure. I must have, then, something wrought in me more than I can work in myself, and this indeed is good scriptural doctrine. ‘That which is born of the flesh’—what is it? When the flesh has done its very best—what is it? ‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh’—it is filthy to begin with and filth comes of it. Only ‘that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.’ My soul must come under the hand of the Spirit; just as a piece of clay is on the potter’s wheel and is made to revolve and is touched by the fingers of the potter and moulded into what he wishes it to be, so must I lie passively in the hand of the Spirit of God, and he must work in me to will and to do of his own good pleasure, and then I shall begin to work out my own salvation with fear and trembling, but never, never till then. I must have more than nature can give me, more than my mother gave me, more than my father gave me, more than flesh and blood can produce under the most favourable circumstances. I must have the Spirit of God from heaven. Then comes this enquiry, ‘Have I received him? What is the best evidence of it?’ The best evidence of it is this: am I resting upon Christ Jesus alone for salvation?
For meditation: In giving his Spirit to point us to the gift of his only-begotten Son, God has indeed given us far more than nature, parents, flesh and blood could ever give us. But have you received God’s gift? God’s children are only those who have received the Lord Jesus Christ by trusting in him (John 1:12–13).
Sermon no. 615
19 February (1865)