You Must Be Born Again
It is a very solemn question, then, that comes up before us; and would that every one should ask himself earnestly and faithfully: “Have I been born again? Have I been born of the Spirit? Have I passed from death unto life?” Now there is another class of men who say that these meetings are very good for a certain class of people. That they would be very good if you could get the drunkard here, or get the gambler here, or get other vicious people here; that would do a great deal of good. There are certain men that need to be converted, who say: “Who did Christ say this to? Who was Nicodemus? Was he a drunkard, a gambler, or a thief?” He was one of the very best men of Jerusalem; no doubt about that. He was an honorable Councillor; he belonged to the Sanhedrin; he held a very high position; he was one of the best men in the state; he was an orthodox man; he was one of the very soundest men. Why, if he were here today, he would be made a president of one of our colleges; he would be put at once into one of our seminaries, and have the ” Reverend” put before his name – “Reverend Nicodemus, D.D.,” or even “L.L.D.” And yet, what did Christ say to him? “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” So said he to the woman in the fourth chapter of St. John.
In the eighth chapter you see an example of self-righteousness, when the Pharisees were talking to him. Well, there are Pharisees at the present day, who rely upon their own merits and their own greatness. They say to you: “Oh, yes; these meetings are very good for the abandoned and the outcasts, and the unfortunate; they are very good for immoral men; but we are moral. Tell these things to men who are not moral.” They seem to think that when Jesus said, “Ye must be born again,” he meant some one else that must be born again – didn’t mean them at all. You see John the beloved when walking through the streets, and you say to him, “I met your Master last night – I went around to see him.” John would say, “How did you like him?” His friend would reply, “I never met such a person m my life; never heard a man talk as he did. What he told me has been ringing in my ears ever since. He told me that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believed on him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John, does your Master talk that way all the time?” “Yes, he always talks in that way.” That man will never forget that interview. He was found in the dark by Christ; he was directed into the right way; in that way he will ever continue, and there is not a thing he would not do for Jesus. See Nicodemus. He, with Joseph of Arimathea, took down the body of Jesus and brought it away, and stayed by Jesus to the last. I never knew a man that had a personal interview with Jesus that did not stay by him. Oh, make up your mind that you will seek him, and follow him until you have an interview with him; for never man spake as that man spake. He is just the man that every one wants.
But I can imagine some one say: “If that is to have a new birth, what am I to do? I can’t create life. I certainly can’t save myself.” You certainly can’t, and we don’t preach that you can. We tell you it is utterly impossible to make a man better without Christ, and that is what men are trying to do. They are trying to patch up this old Adam’s nature. There must be a new creation. Regeneration is a new creation; and if it is a new creation, it must be the work of God. In the 1st chapter of Genesis man doesn’t appear. There is no one there but God. Man is not there to help or take part. When God created the earth, he was alone. When God redeemed the world, he was alone. “That which was born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” A man might just as well try to leap over the moon as to serve God in the flesh. Therefore “that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
We may travel through the earth and see many countries; but there is one country – the land of Beulah, which John Bunyan saw in vision – that country we shall never see unless we are born again – regenerated by Christ. We look abroad and see many beautiful trees; but the tree of life we shall never see until our eyes are made clear by faith in the Savior. You may see the beautiful rivers of the earth – the Ohio, the Mississippi, the Hudson – you may ride upon their bosoms; but bear in mind that your eye will never rest upon the river which bursts out from the throne of God and flows through the upper kingdom. God has said it, and not man. You will never see the kingdom of God, except you are born again. You may see the kings and lords of the earth; but the King of kings and Lord of lords you will never see, except you are born again. When you are in London, you may go to the tower and see the crown of England, which is worth millions, and is guarded there by soldiers; but bear in mind that your eye will never rest upon the crown of life, except you are born again. You may come to these meetings and hear the songs of Zion which are sung here; but one song – that of Moses and the Lamb – the uncircumcised ear shall never hear that song, unless you are born again. We may see the beautiful mansions of New York and the Hudson; but bear in mind that the mansions which Christ has gone to prepare you shall never see, unless you are born again. It is God who says it. You may see ten thousand beautiful things in this world; but the city that Abraham caught sight of – and from that time he became a pilgrim and a sojourner – you shall never see, unless you are born again. Many of you may be invited to marriage feasts here; but you will never attend the marriage supper of the Lamb, except you are born again. It is God who says it, dear friend. You may be looking on the face of your sainted mother tonight, and feel that she is praying for you; but the time will come when you shall never see her again, except you are born again. I may be speaking to a young man or a young lady who has recently stood by the bedside of a dying mother, and she said to you, “Be sure and meet me in heaven;” and you made the promise. Ah! You shall never see her again, except you are born again. I believe Jesus of Nazareth sooner than those infidels, who say you do not have to be born again. If you see your children who have gone before, you must be born of the Spirit. I may be speaking tonight to a father and mother who have recently borne a loved one to the grave; and how dark your home seems! You will never see her again, except you are born again. If you wish to meet your loved ones, you must be born again.
~ This is from “The Second Birth” in The Gospel Awakening