HH Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
The 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–John 3:8
The Night Wind
This is one of the profoundest sayings that ever fell upon a listening ear, and yet it bears to us every mark of being occasional and unpremeditated. The time was night–the place some quiet cottage–the theme the regeneration of the Spirit. And then it may be, right across the talk, there came the sighing of the night wind around the cottage. And Jesus, whose ear was ever quick to catch and use the parables of nature, said, “Hark, Nicodemus, don’t you hear it? The wind bloweth where it listeth.” It is Christ’s parable, infinitely beautiful, of the life not of the flesh but of the spirit. It is Christ’s picture of certain large realities in the experience of the regenerate. And the question which I wish to ask is what features of the breeze does our Lord seize upon as illustrative of the spiritual life?
As the Wind Blows Freely, So Does the Spirit
The first feature which our Lord selects is liberty–the wind bloweth where it listeth. In every literature and for every man the wind is the emblem of glad and glorious liberty. You may tell its direction, whether east or west; you may devise instruments to measure its velocity; you may watch its path across the field of corn or where the giants of the forest bow before it; but in spite of the minutest observation and all the imprisoning energies of science, the breeze still is gloriously free. You can raise no barriers that will block its progress. You can forge no chains that will confine it. You cannot divert it as it crosses the ocean, or bid it halt in its hurrying fox an hour. Tonight, as long centuries ago, the wind bloweth where it listeth.
Freedom Governed by Laws
Now there are two elements of this liberty which science has made very plain to us, and the first is that it is not a lawless liberty. I do not say that we understand its laws yet as we understand the laws of light, for instance. There is much that is obscure and very baffling in the origin and travelling of the wind. Yet for every zephyr of the summer evening and for every storm that whistles through the islands, there are adequate causes known to the Creator and gradually becoming known to us. The wind bloweth where it listeth, but it is never a lawless or capricious liberty. It is not the child of any sudden fury, irresponsible, arbitrary, uncontrolled. It is a liberty based upon a reign of law–enjoyed in harmony with the whole scheme of nature–obedient to the great Creator’s purpose, no less than the seraphim around the throne.
Liberty of Services
But not only is it a liberty of law, but it is also a liberty of service. There are few services more rich and wonderful than the service of the freedom of the wind. We never talk of the wind working, it is true; we talk of the wind playing in the forest. But sometimes, when our children are at play, they are working for manhood better than they know. And so when the wind, rejoicing in its freedom, is so happy that we say it plays, it is working magnificently all the time. It is ripening the seeds within a million flowers; it is filling the ears of corn across the field. It is building the cones of every Scotch fir tree; it is preparing for another harvest time. It is carrying a thousand ships across the sea and cleansing away the vapours of impurity, and coming to many a slum in the great cities as the angel of purity and health.
The wind bloweth where it listeth, and so is everyone that is born of the Spirit. Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made you free: where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. And it is not freedom from the Law of God–it is not free to follow every passion–it is not free to do just as we please when hands are beckoning and voices calling. It is the freedom of an indwelling spirit poured into our hearts by Jesus Christ so that we are no longer in bondage to the outward, but moved by a principle of life within. And it, too, issues in unequalled service, for there is no service in the world like that which Christ inspires. It is the service of the son who loves and not the service of the slave who fears. And it thinks no toil too great to be attempted–and none so trifling that it may be despised–just as the wind that carries the great argosy carries also the pollen of the willow.
As the Wind Is Heard, So Is the Spirit
The next feature which our Lord chooses is its utterance–the wind bloweth, and thou hearest the sound thereof. And as He spoke, He said, “Hark” to Nicodemus, and they heard it sighing down the village street. Listening, they heard the nightingale calling as it winged its way in the darkness to the hills. Listening, they heard in yonder tavern the boisterous laughter of the village prodigals. And then there came a pause, and riot ceased, and the dogs out in the street were quietly eating, and Christ said, “Hark,” and Nicodemus hearkened, and round the cottage, they heard the sound thereof. It was a peculiar and distinctive music. There was no mistaking it for any other–no mistaking it for any sound of riot, not for the crying of any fevered child. And Christ–I fancy with that smile of His which must so often have lit up His words–said, “So is every one that is born of the Spirit.”