Category Archives: Regeneration

“The conversion of Luke Short” by Michael Boland

“Even a brief glance at Flavel’s history gives some indication of his outstanding character. Of his influence, Wood, the Royalist historian, observes that he had more disciples than either John Owen or Richard Baxter.

One who was intimately acquainted with him, John Galpine of Totnes, draws attention in his memoir of Flavel to three characteristics: his diligence, his longing for the conversion of souls, and his peaceable and healing spirit.

In addition to the incidents recorded in his own writings, there are some remarkable examples of the effects of Flavel’s ministry. Luke Short was a farmer in New England who attained his hundredth year in exceptional vigour though without having sought peace with God.

One day as he sat in his fields reflecting upon his long life, he recalled a sermon he had heard in Dartmouth as a boy before he sailed to America.

The horror of dying under the curse of God was impressed upon him as he meditated on the words he had heard so long ago and he was converted to Christ– eighty-five years after hearing John Flavel preach.”

–Michael Boland, “Introduction” in John Flavel, The Mystery of Providence (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1678/2002), 11.

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“We reexist” by Jonathan Edwards

“By the new creation, or new birth, we reexist.”

–Jonathan Edwards, “Entry 171: New Birth and New Covenant” in The “Miscellanies”: Entry Nos. a-z, aa-zz, 1-500, in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 13, Ed. Harry S. Stout (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994), 324. This entry may be read here in its entirety.

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“God alone opens the heart” by Richard Sibbes

“As our hearts are shut and closed up naturally, so God, and God alone, opens the heart, by His Spirit in the use of the means. God opened Lydia’s heart.

God hath many keys. He hath the key of heaven to command the rain to come down. He hath the key of the womb; the key of hell and the grave; and the key of the heart especially. ‘He opens, and no man shuts; and shuts and no man opens,’ Rev. 3:7.

He hath the key of the heart to open the understanding, the memory, the will, and affections. God, and God only, hath the key of the heart to open that. It is His prerogative.

He made the heart, and He only hath to do with the heart. He can unmake it, and make it new again, as those that make locks can do. And if the heart be in ill temper, He can take it in pieces, and bring it to nothing as it were, as it must be before conversion.

And He can make it a new heart again. It is God that opens the heart, and God only. All the angels in heaven cannot give one grace, not the least grace. Grace comes altogether from God. It is altogether from God.

All the creatures in the world cannot open the heart, but God only by His Holy Spirit. For nature cannot do above its sphere, as we say, above its own power. Natural things can do but natural things.

For nature to raise itself up to believe heavenly things, it cannot be. Therefore as you see vapours go as high as the sun draws them up, and no higher, so the soul of man is lift up to heavenly things by the power of God’s Spirit.

God draws us and then we follow. God, I say, only openeth the heart.”

–Richard Sibbes, “Lydia’s Conversion,” in The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes, Volume 6, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; W. Robertson, 1863), 524.

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“You pierced my heart” by Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430)

“With Your word You pierced my heart, and I loved You.”

–Augustine of Hippo, St. Augustine Confessions, Trans. Henry Chadwick (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), X.vi.8, p. 183.

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“Late have I loved You” by Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430)

“Late have I loved You, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved You. And see, You were within and I was in the external world and sought You there, and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely created things which You made. You were with me, and I was not with You.

The lovely things kept me far from You, though if they did not have their existence in You, they had no existence at all. You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, You put to flight my blindness.

You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after You. I tasted You, and I feel but hunger and thirst for You. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is Yours.”

–Augustine of Hippo, St. Augustine Confessions, Trans. Henry Chadwick (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), X.xxvii.38, p. 201.

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“This mighty change” by J.C. Ryle

“To possess the privileges of Christ’s kingdom, a man must be born again of the Holy Ghost. The change which our Lord here declares needful to salvation is evidently no slight or superficial one. It is not merely reformation, or amendment, or moral change, or outward alteration of life.

It is a thorough change of heart, will, and character. It is a resurrection. It is a new creation. It is a passing from death to life. It is the implanting in our dead hearts of a new principle from above.

It is the calling into existence of a new creature, with a new nature, new habits of life, new tastes, new desires, new appetites, new judgments, new opinions, new hopes, and new fears. All this, and nothing less than this is implied, when our Lord declares that we all need a ‘new birth.’

This change of heart is rendered absolutely necessary to salvation by the corrupt condition in which we are all, without exception, born. ‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh.’ Our nature is thoroughly fallen.

The carnal mind is enmity against God. (Rom. 8:7.) We come into the world without faith, or love, or fear toward God. We have no natural inclination to serve Him or obey Him, and no natural pleasure in doing His will.

Left to himself, no child of Adam would ever turn to God. The truest description of the change which we all need in order to make us real Christians, is the expression, ‘new birth.’

This mighty change, it must never be forgotten, we cannot give to ourselves. The very name which our Lord gives to it is a convincing proof of this. He calls it ‘a birth.’ No man is the author of his own existence, and no man can quicken his own soul.

We might as well expect a dead man to give himself life, as expect a natural man to make himself spiritual. A power from above must be put in exercise, even that same power which created the world. (2 Cor. 4:6.) Man can do many things; but he cannot give life either to himself or to others.

To give life is the peculiar prerogative of God. Well may our Lord declare that we need to be ‘born again!’ This mighty change, we must, above all, remember, is a thing without which we cannot go to heaven, and could not enjoy heaven if we went there.

Our Lord’s words on this point are distinct and express. ‘Except a man be born again, he can neither see nor enter the kingdom of God.’ Heaven may be reached without money, or rank, or learning.

But it is clear as daylight, if words have any meaning, that nobody can enter heaven without a ‘new birth.’ A day will come when those who are not born again will wish that they had never been born at all.”

–J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John, Vol. 1 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1869/2012), 86-87, 88. Ryle is commenting on John 3:1-8.

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“What does a spiritually dead man need?” by J.C. Ryle

“Man naturally has no sense of spiritual things. In vain the sun of righteousness shines before him: the eyes of his soul are blind, and cannot see.

In vain the music of Christ’s invitations sound around him: the ears of his soul are deaf, and cannot hear it. In vain the wrath of God against sin is set forth: the perceptions of his soul are stopped up;—like the sleeping traveller, he does not perceive the coming storm.

In vain the bread and water of life are offered to him: his soul is neither hungry for the one, nor thirsty for the other. In vain he is advised to flee to the Great Physician: his soul is unconscious of its disease;—why should he go?

In vain you put a price into his hand to buy wisdom: the mind of his soul wanders,—he is like the lunatic, who calls straws a crown, and dust diamonds; he says, ‘I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.’ Alas, there is nothing so sad as the utter corruption of our nature!

There is nothing so painful as the anatomy of a dead soul. Now what does such a man need? He needs to be born again, and made a new creature. He needs a complete putting off the old man, and a complete putting on the new.

We do not live our natural life till we are born into the world, and we do not live our spiritual life till we are born of the Spirit.”

–J. C. Ryle, “Regeneration” in Knots Untied: Being Plain Statements on Disputed Points in Religion (London: William Hunt and Company, 1885), 120.

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