The following is condensed from “The New Birth,” Sermon 45 among Mr. Wesley’s standard sermons. For easier reading, some of the wording in this condensation has been slightly updated, based on the adaptation found in Renew My Heart (Barbour Books, 2011).
A link to the full text of the original sermon is included in the links below.
|You should not be surprised at my saying, “You must be born again.”
(Jesus in John 3:7)
Baptism and the new birth are not one and the same. Baptism is a sign and seal of regeneration by His Holy Spirit — a death unto sin and a new birth unto righteousness.
Baptism, the outward sign, is distinct from regeneration, the inner grace being signified. The one is visible, the other invisible. The one is an act of man; the other is a change wrought by God in the soul.
Just as the new birth and baptism are not the same, they do not always accompany each other. One may possibly be “born of water” and yet not be “born of the Spirit.” There may sometimes be the outward sign where there is no inward grace. I do not now speak with regard to infants. Whatever is the case with infants, it is sure that all of mature years who are baptized are not the same as born again.
“The tree is known by its fruits,” and it is too plain to be denied that many of those who were children of the devil before they were baptized continue the same afterward. They continue to be servants of sin with no pretense to either inward or outward holiness.
What must one say who loves the souls of men and women? We see them living in willful sin, and we are grieved. What can one say — other than, “You must be born again.”
“No!” says another. “That cannot be. How can you speak so uncharitably to people. Have they not already been baptized? They cannot be born again now.”
Can they not? Do you really affirm this? Then they cannot be saved. In saying, “They cannot be born again,” you, in effect, deliver them over to damnation.
Where is the uncharitableness now? On my side or yours? You block their way to salvation and send them to hell, out of mere charity!
Perhaps it is the sinner himself — to whom in real charity we say, “You must be born again” — who responds, “I need not be born again. I was born again when I was baptized. Would you deny me my baptism?”
I answer, you have already denied it by every willful sin you have done. I say to that one, if you have been baptized, do not admit it. For how highly it aggravates your guilt, and how it will increase your damnation! For in your baptism you renounced the devil and all his works. Whenever, therefore, you do any of the works of the devil, then you deny your baptism.
Never boast again of what ought to make you ashamed.
Whether you are baptized or unbaptized, you must be born again.
If you have not already experienced this inward work of God, let this be your continual prayer: “Lord, add this to all your blessings — let me be born again. Take away whatever seems good to You — reputation, fortune, friends, health — only give me this, to be born of the Spirit. And then let me daily ‘grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ'” (2 Peter 3:18).
Adapted from Renew My Heart,
published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.
|•||A word from Mr. Wesley: Holiness in singleness|
|•||A word from Mr. Wesley: The sure cornerstone of our faith|
|•||A word from Mr. Wesley: ‘The way to the kingdom’|
|•||A word from Mr. Wesley: ‘Salvation by faith’|
|•||A word from Mr. Wesley: ‘The first doctrine’|
|•||Podcast: John Wesley on ‘The new birth’|
|•||Podcast: Donald English — Aldersgate Day address, 1988|
|•||Podcast: Bishop Gerald Kennedy on ‘The Marks of a Methodist’|
|•||Podcast: Billy Abraham on ‘Connecting Doctrine and Evangelism’|
|•||The New Birth (full text) | The Rev. John Wesley (from The Sermons of John Wesley, 1872 Edition — Thomas Jackson, editor)|