Book Review: Regeneration – J.C. Ryle

What does it mean to be “born again”? Does it matter if I am regenerate or not? How does one become born again? There is confusion on this topic still today. In his clear, straightforward bible exposition, J.C. Ryle answers these questions from Scripture in his book, Regeneration. In addition to answering these vital questions, he draws from the book of First John to give six marks of those who are born of the Spirit. Here are the marks:

1. A regenerate person does not commit sin as a habit.

2. A regenerate person believes that Jesus Christ is the only Savior by whom their soul can be pardoned and redeemed.

3. A regenerate person is a holy person.

4. A regenerate person has a special love for all true disciples of Christ.

5. A regenerate person does not make the world’s opinion their rule of right and wrong.

6. A regenerate person is very careful of their own soul.

He asks the reader to evaluate himself/herself in light of these characteristics. He encourages regenerate to grow in these all the more and warns the unregenerate to pray and ask the Spirit for the gift of a new heart and new nature. In the last chapter Bishop Ryle answers various objections in his day to his convictions on regeneration.

Overall, this was an edifying read. The first three chapters were concise, solid biblical teaching. In the last chapter on answering various objections, which was about half the book (over 50 pages!), he answers some interesting objections, but they mainly refer to the doctrine of baptismal regeneration and specifically how the Church of England adheres to it. (If you don’t know what baptismal regeneration is, it’s the doctrine that teaches that baptism is necessary for salvation.) I could see why some people might want to skip this chapter because it’s just some theological debate, but I thought it was helpful to see how Ryle interpreted and used Scripture to come to his sound, logical conclusions.

I would recommend this book to Christians and non-Christians alike. Regardless of your theological background, Ryle is very readable and I think this would be a good, short book to get a introduction to his writing.

If you are curious to get more excepts of this book, I don’t have too many quotes from this book on my blog, but you can find some here (and many other encouraging J.C. Ryle quotes).

How to Start a Heresy

“It is a most unsound method of reasoning to take one or two expressions out of a book which has been written as one great whole, place a certain meaning upon those expressions, and then refuse to inquire whether that meaning can be reconciled with the general spirit of the rest of the book. The beginning of every heresy and erroneous tenet in religion may be traced up to this kind of reasoning, and to unfair and partial quotations.

This is precisely the Roman Catholic’s argument, when he wants to prove the doctrine f transubstantiation. ‘I read,’ he says, ‘these plain words, “This is my body, this is my blood.” I want no more. I have nothing to do with your explanations and quotations from other parts of the Bible. Here is quite enough for me. The Lord Jesus Christ says, “This is my body.” This settles the question.’

This again is precisely the Arian’s argument, when he wants to prove that the Lord Jesus Christ is inferior to the Father. ‘I read,’ he says, ‘ these plain words, “My Father is greater than I.”‘ It is in vain you tell him that there other text which show the Son to be equal with the Father, and give a different meaning to the one he has quoted. It matters not. He rests on the one single text that he has chosen to rest on, and he will hear nothing further.”

– J.C. Ryle, Regeneration, p.74-75