Regeneration by J.C. Ryle

Definition of Regenerate:
1 : formed or created again
2 : spiritually reborn or converted
3 : restored to a better, higher, or more worthy state

The following blockquote excerpts are taken from JC Ryle’s work, “Regeneration, Being Born Again: What it means and why it’s necessary”

“This change of heart in a true Christian is so complete that no word could be chosen more fitting to express it than that word ‘regeneration’ or new birth. Doubtless it is no outward, bodily alteration, but undoubtedly it is an entire alteration of the inner man. It adds no new faculties to a man’s mind, but it certainly gives an entirely new bent and bias to all his old ones. His will is so new, his taste so new, his opinions so new, his views of sin, the world, the Bible, and Chrsit so new, that he is to all intents and purposes a new man. The change seems to bring a new being into existence. It may well be called being born again.”

When does it take place?

“This change is not always given to believers at the same time in their lives. Some are born again when they are infants, and seem, like Jeremiah and John the Baptist, filled with the Holy Ghost even from their mother’s womb. Some few are born again in old age. The great majority of true Christians probably are born again after they grow up. A vast multitude of persons, it is to be feared, go down to the grave without having been born again at all.”

How does it occur?

“This change of heart does not always begin in the same way in those who go through it after they have grown up. with some, like the Apostle Paul, and the jailer at Philippi, it is a sudden and violent change, attended with much distress of mind. With others, like Lydia of Thyatira, it is more gentle and gradual: their winter becomes spring almost without their knowing how. With some the change is brought about by the Spirit working through afflictions or providential visitiations. With others, and probably the greater number of true Christians, the word of God preached, or written, is the means of effecting it.”

How do we obtain it?

“This change is one which no man can give to himself, nor yet to another. It would be as reasonable to expect the dead to raise themselves, or to require an artist to give a marble statue life. The sons of God are ‘born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God’ (John 1:13).”

So who gives it to us?

“Sometimes the change is ascribed to God the Father, ‘The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…hath begotten us again unto a lively hope’ (I Peter 1:3). Sometimes it is ascribed to God the Son, ‘The Son quickeneth whom he will’ (John 5:21). ‘If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him’ (1 John 2:29). Sometimes it is ascribed to the Spirit, and He in fact is the great agent by whom it is always effected. ‘That which is born of the Spirit is spirit’ (John 3:6).”

Isn’t it something I can choose of my own free will?

“But man has no power to work the change. It is something far, far beyond his reach. ‘The condidtion of man after the fall of Adam,’ says the tenth Article, ‘is such that he cannot turn and prepare himself by his own natural strength and good works, to faith and calling upon God.’

To conclude;

“Reader, I lay before you the foregoing account of regeneration. I say it is that change of heart which is the distinguishing mark of a true Christian man, the invariable companion of a justifying faith in Christ, the inseparable consequence of vital union with Him, and the root and beginning of inward sanctification. I ask you to ponder it well before you go any further. It is of the utmost importance that your views should be clear upon this point – what regeneration really is.”

Some of my own thoughts on these quotes:
I am fascinated with the examples of those men in Scripture who were filled with the Spirit from birth that Ryle mentions. I also am considering the possibility of regeneration in infants. What does that look like as the infant grows? Some of you have this idea nailed down and I would love any comments. And finally, I do believe that a number of believers are regnerated as children. Ryle doesn’t include the age between infants and adults, but my own experience and testimony is one of childhood conversion. More to come…

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