On Regeneration/True Conversion 3

This week, the JC Ryle Quote blog, has been going through Bishop Ryle’s6 Marks of Regenerationbased on 1 John:

 

1st Mark of Regeneration: A Deep Hatred For Sin

“No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.” “We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning.” (1 John 3:9; 5:18.)

A Regenerate man does not commit sin as a habit.

“He no longer sins with his heart and will, and whole inclination, as an unregenerate man does. There was probably a time when he did not think whether his actions were sinful or not, and never felt grieved after doing evil. There was no quarrel between him and sin—they were friends. Now he hates sin, flees from it, fights against it, counts it his greatest plague, groans under the burden of its presence, mourns when he falls under its influence, and longs to be delivered from it altogether. In one word, sin no longer pleases him, nor is even a matter of indifference—it has become the abominable thing which he hates. He cannot prevent it dwelling within him. “If he said he had no sin, there would be no truth in him” (1 John 1:8)—but he can say that he keenly abhors it, and the great desire of his soul is not to commit sin at all.

He cannot prevent bad thoughts arising within him, and shortcomings, omissions, and defects appearing, both in his words and actions. He knows, as James says, that “In many things we offend all.” (James 3:2.) But he can say truly, and as in the sight of God, that these things are a daily grief and sorrow to him, and that his whole nature does not consent unto them, as that of the unregenerate man does.

Reader, I place this mark before you. What would the Apostle say about you? Are you born of God?”

2nd Mark of Regeneration: Exclusivity of Christ

“Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” (1 John 5:1.)

A Regenerate man believes that Jesus Christ is the only Savior by whom his soul can be pardoned and redeemed; that He is the divine person appointed and anointed by God the Father for this very purpose, and that beside Him there is no Savior at all.

In himself he sees nothing but unworthiness—but in Christ he sees ground for the fullest confidence, and trusting in Him, he believes that his sins are all forgiven and his iniquities all put away. He believes that for the sake of Christ’s finished work and death upon the cross, he is reckoned righteous in God’s sight, and may look forward to death and judgment without alarm. He may have his doubts and fears. He may sometimes tell you he feels as if he had no faith at all. But ask him whether he is willing to trust in anything instead of Christ, and see what he will say.

Ask him whether he will rest his hopes of eternal life on his own goodness, his own amendments, his prayers, his minister, his doings in Church and out of Church, either in whole or in part, and see what he will reply. Ask him whether he will give up Christ, and place his confidence in any other way of salvation. Depend upon it he would say, that though he does feel weak and bad, he would not give up Christ for all the world. Depend upon it—he would say he found a preciousness in Christ, a suitableness to his own soul in Christ, that he found no where else, and that he must cling to Him.

Reader, I place this mark also before you. What would the Apostle say about you? Are you born of God?

3rd Mark of Regeneration: Habits of Holiness

“Everyone that does righteousness is born of Him.” (1 John 2:29.)

The Regenerate man is a holy man.

He endeavors to live according to God’s will, to do the things that please God, to avoid the things that God hates. His aim and desire is to love God with heart and soul, and mind and strength, and to love his neighbor as himself. His wish is to be continually looking to Christ as his example as well as his Savior, and to show himself Christ’s friend by doing whatever Christ commands. No doubt he is not perfect. None will tell you that sooner than himself. He groans under the burden of indwelling corruption cleaving to him. He finds an evil principle within him constantly warring against grace, and trying to draw him away from God. But he does not consent to it, though he cannot prevent its presence.

In spite of all short-comings, the average bent and bias of his ways is holy—his doings holy—his tastes holy—and his habits holy. In spite of all his swerving and turning aside, like a ship going against a contrary wind, the general course of his life is in one direction—toward God and for God. And though he may sometimes feel so low that he questions whether he is a Christian at all, in his calmer moments he will generally be able to say, with old John Newton, “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world—but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.”

4th Mark of Regeneration: Love For Other Christians

“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” (1 John 3:14.)

A Regenerate man has a special love for all true disciples of Christ.

Like his Father in heaven, he loves all men with a genuine general love—but he has a special love for those who are of one mind with himself. Like his Lord and Savior, he loves the worst of sinners, and could weep over them—but he has a peculiar love for those who are believers. He is never so much at home as when he is in their company. He is never so happy as when he is among the saints and the excellent of the earth. Others may value learning, or cleverness, or agreeableness, or riches, or rank—in the society they choose.

The Regenerate man values grace. Those who have most grace, and are most like Christ, are those he loves most. He feels that they are members of the same family with himself, his brethren, his sisters, children of the same Father. He feels that they are fellow-soldiers fighting under the same captain, warring against the same enemy. He feels that they are his fellow-travelers, journeying along the same road, tried by the same difficulties, and soon about to rest with him in the same eternal home. He understands them, and they understand him. There is a kind of spiritual brotherhood between them. He and they may be very different in many ways—in rank, in station, in wealth. What does it matter? They are Jesus Christ’s people. They are his Father’s sons and daughters. Then he cannot help loving them.

Reader, I place this mark also before you. What would the Apostle say about you? Are you born of God?

5th Mark of Regeneration: Overcomes the Love of the World

“Whoever is born of God overcomes the world.” (1 John 5:4.)

A Regenerate man does not make the world’s opinion his rule of right and wrong.

He goes against the stream of the world’s ways, notions, and customs. “What will men say?” is no longer a turning point with him. He overcomes the love of the world. He finds no pleasure in things which most around him call happiness. He cannot enjoy their enjoyments—they weary him; they appear to him vain, unprofitable, and unworthy of an immortal being. He overcomes the fear of the world. He is content to do many things which all around him think unnecessary, to say the least. They find fault with him—it does not move him. They ridicule him—he does not give way. He loves the praise of God more than the praise of man. He fears offending Him more than giving offence to man.

He has counted the cost. He has taken his stand. It is a small thing with him now whether he is blamed or praised. His eye is upon Him who is invisible. He is resolved to follow Jesus wherever he goes. It may be necessary in this following to come out from the world and be separate. The Regenerate man will not shrink from doing so. Tell him that he is unlike other people, that his views are not the views of society generally, and that he is making himself singular and peculiar—you will not shake him. He is no longer the servant of fashion and custom. To please the world is quite a secondary consideration with him. His first aim is to please God.

Reader, I place this mark also before you. What would the Apostle say about you? Are you born of God?

6th Mark of Regeneration: Watchful Over Their Soul

“He who was born of God keeps himself.” (1 John 5:18.)

A Regenerate man is very careful of his own soul.

He endeavors not only to keep clear of sin—but also to keep clear of everything which may lead to it. He is careful about the company he keeps. He feels that evil communications corrupt the heart, and that evil is far more catching than good, just as disease is more infectious than health. He is careful about the employment of his time—his chief desire about it is to spend it profitably. He is careful about the books he reads—he fears getting his mind poisoned by mischievous writings. He is careful about the friendships he forms—it is not enough for him that people are kind, and amiable, and good-natured—all this is very well—but will they do good to his soul?

He is careful over his own daily habits and behavior—he tries to recollect that his own heart is deceitful, and that the world is full of wickedness, that the devil is always laboring to do him harm, and therefore he would sincerely be always on his guard. He desires to live like a soldier in an enemy’s country, to wear his armor continually, and to be prepared for temptation. He finds by experience that his soul is ever among enemies, and he studies to be a watchful, humble, prayerful man.

Reader, I place this mark also before you. What would the Apostle say of you? Are you born of God?

Summarizing the 6 Marks of Regeneration

I know there is a vast difference in the depth and distinctness of these marks among those who are Regenerate. In some people they are faint, dim, feeble, and hardly to be discerned. You almost need a microscope to make them out. In others they are bold, sharp, clear, plain, and unmistakable, so that he who runs may read them. Some of these marks are more visible in some people, and others are more visible in others. It seldom happens that all are equally manifest in one and the same soul. All this I am quite ready to allow.

But still, after every allowance, here we find boldly painted the six marks of being born of God. Here are certain positive things laid down by John, as parts of the Regenerate man’s character, as plainly and distinctly as the features of a man’s face. Here is an inspired Apostle writing one of the last general Epistles to the Church of Christ, telling us that a man born of God—

  • does not commit sin;
  • believes that Jesus is the Christ;
  • does righteousness;
  • loves the brethren;
  • overcomes the world;
  • and keeps himself.

Reader, if you have NOT these marks…

Awake to a sense of your danger. Arise from your sleep of indifference and unconcern. Know the immense peril of hell and eternal misery in which you stand. Begin to use diligently every means by which God is ordinarily pleased to give grace to men’s hearts, when they have not received it in their youth. Be diligent in hearing the Gospel preached. Be diligent in reading the Bible. Be diligent, above all, in prayer to the Lord Jesus Christ for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

If you take this course, I have every hope for you. None ever sought the Lord Jesus Christ in simplicity and sincerity—and sought in vain.

If, on the contrary, you refuse to take this course, and will continue as you are, I have little hope for you, and many fears. If the Bible be true, you are not yet born again. You will not use the most likely means to obtain this mighty blessing. What can I say but this, “the Lord have mercy upon your soul!”

Reader, if you HAVE these marks I have been speaking of…

Be advised, and strive every year to make them more clear and plain. Let your repentance be a growing habit—your faith an increasing faith—your holiness a progressive holiness—your victory over the world a more decided victory—your love to the brethren a more hearty love—your watchfulness over yourself a more jealous watchfulness. Take this advice, and you will never repent of it. This is the way to be useful and happy in your religion. This is the way to put to silence the opposition of the enemies of truth. Let others, if they will, have Regeneration on their tongues, and nowhere else. Let it be your care to have it shining forth in your life, and to feel it in your heart.

~ J.C. Ryle

Regeneration, [Ross-shire, UK: Christian Focus, 2003], 39-42.

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