Have You Been
From the Free Presbyterian Tract Society
This is one of the most important questions in religion.
Jesus Christ says, "Except a man be born again, he cannot
see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). It is not enough to
reply, "I belong to the church; and I suppose I am."
Thousands of nominal Christians have none of the marks and
signs of being born again which the Scripture has given us.
Would you like to know the marks and signs of being born
again? Give me your attention, and I will show them to you
out of the first epistle of John.
First of all, John says, "Whosoever is born of God
doth not commit sin;" and again, "Whosoever is born
of God sinneth not." (I John 3:9; 5:18). A
man born again 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. It has become the
abominable thing which he hates. He cannot prevent its
dwelling within him. If he said he had no sin, there would
be no truth in him (I John 1:8).
But he can say that he 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 short-comings, 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, 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. I place this
mark before you. What would the Apostle say about you?
Are you born again?
Secondly, John says, "Whosoever believeth that Jesus
is the Christ, is born of God" (I John 5:1). A man
born again, or regenerate, then, believes that Jesus Christ
is the only Saviour by whom his soul can be pardoned; that
He is the divine person appointed by God the Father for this
very purpose, and that beside Him there is no Saviour 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.
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 fears and doubts. He may sometimes
tell you he feels as if he had not faith at all.
But ask him whether he will rest his hopes of eternal life
on his own goodness, his own amendments, his prayers, his
minister, or his church, and see what he will reply. Ask him
whether he will give up Christ, and place his confidence in
any other way of religion. 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 preciousness in Christ, a suitableness to his own soul
in Christ, that he found nowhere else, and that he must
cling to him. I place this mark before you. What would the
Apostle say about you? Are you born again?
Thirdly, John says, "Every one that doeth
righteousness is born of Him" (I John 2:29). The man
born again, or regenerate, then 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 Saviour, and to show himself Christ’s friend by doing
whatsoever 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
shortcomings, the average bent and bias of his way is
holy–his doings are holy, his tastes holy, and his habits
holy. In spite of all this swerving and turning aside, like
a ship beating up 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, 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."
I place this mark also before you. What would the Apostle
say about you? Are you born again?
Fourthly, John says, "We know that we have passed from
death unto life, because we love the brethren" (I
A man born again, or regenerate, then, has a special love
for all true disciples of Christ. Like his Father in heaven,
he loves all men with a great general love, but he has a
special love for those who are of one mind with himself.
Like his Lord and Saviour, 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 most loves. He feels that
they are members of the same family with himself. He feels
that they are his fellow-soldiers, warring against the same
enemy. He feels that they are his fellow-travelers,
journeying along the same road. He understands them, and
they understand him. He and they may be very different in
many ways–in rank, in station, in wealth. What matter? They
are Jesus Christ’s people. They are his Father’s sons and
daughters. Then he cannot help loving them. I place this
mark also before you. What would the Apostle say about you?
Are you born again?
Fifthly, John says, "Whatsoever is born of God
overcometh the world" (I John 5:4). A man born
again, or regenerate, does not make the world’s opinion his
rule of right and wrong. He does not mind going against the
stream of the world’s way, notions and customs. "What man
will 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
They blame 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 men. He fears offending Him more than giving
offense to man. He has counted the cost. It is a small thing
with him no whether he is blamed or praised. He is no longer
the servantof fashion and custom. To please the world is
quite a secondary consideration with him. His first aim is
to please God. I place this mark also before you. What would
the Apostle say about you? Are you born again?
Sixthly, John says, "He that is begotten of God
keepeth himself" (I John 5:18). A man born again, or
regenerate, 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 for more catching than good,
just as disease is more infectious than health. 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 desires to live like a solider 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 watchful, humble, and
prayerful man. I place this mark also before you. What would
the Apostle say about you? Are you born again?
Such are the six great marks of being born again. Let every
one who has gone so far with me, read them over with
attention, and lay them to heart. I know there is a vast
difference in the depth and distinctness of these marks in
different people. In some they are faint, dim, feeble, and
hardly to be discerned. In others they are bold, sharp,
clear, plain, and unmistakable, so that any one may read
them. Some of these marks are more visible in some, 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
six marks of being born of God. 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. I ask the reader to observe all this.
Now what shall we say to these things? What they can say who
hold that regeneration is only an admission to outward
church privileges, I am sure I do not know. For myself I say
boldly, I can only come to one conclusion. That conclusion
is, that only those persons are born again who have these
six marks about them; and that all men and women who have
not these marks, are not born again. And I firmly believe
that this is the conclusion to which the Apostle wished us
to come. Reader, have you these marks? Are you born
— J. C. Ryle
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