Summary – The Marks of the New Birth by John Wesley

Rev. John Wesley (1703-1791) used this text for his sermon:

“So is every one that is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8

Wesley begins with these rhetorical questions:

What is meant by the being born again, the being born of God, or being born of the Spirit? What is implied in the being a son or a child of God, or having the Spirit of adoption?…What is the new birth?

The first mark is faith. (Gal. 3:26; John 1:12, 13; 1 John 5:1.) This is not a faith of devils, intellectual assent, but a work of God wrought in the heart of man.

“A sure trust and confidence in God, that, through the merits of Christ, his sins are forgiven, and he reconciled to the favour of God.”

Thus man comes to God denying his confidence in the flesh and confessing he is “guilty before God”….He must have “such a sense of sin, (commonly called despair, by those who speak evil of the things they know not,) together with a full conviction, such as no words can express, that of Christ only cometh our salvation, and an earnest desire of that salvation, must precede a living faith, a trust in him, who “for us paid our ransom by his death, and fulfilled the law of his life.” This faith then, whereby we are born of God, is “not only a belief of all the articles of our faith, but also a true confidence of the mercy of God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Thus Wesley says there is power over sin, “power over outward sin of every kind; over every evil word and work; for wheresoever the blood of Christ is thus applied, it “purgeth the conscience from dead works;” and over inward sin; for it purifieth the heart from every unholy desire and temper.” (see Romans 6)

Wesley adds, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God! Beloved, now are we the sons of God: And it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know, that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is;” (1 John 3:1)—he soon adds, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: And he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (1 John 3:9.)

Wesley is promoting sinlessness per the specific reading of the text. He renounces the implication that we don’t sin habitually because he doesn’t see that in the text. Frankly it appears Wesley himself doesn’t want to sin and finds in Christ the power to not sin.

Another fruit of living faith is peace (Romans 5:1; John 14:27; John 16:33).

The second mark of the new birth is hope. Hope implies that in the testimony of our conscience we walk  “in simplicity and godly sincerity” and that the testimony that the spirit of God bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God and if children then heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.

A Third scriptural mark of those who are born of God, and the greatest of all, is love. (Romans 5:5; Gal 4:6; 1 John 5:1,15; Psalm 45:2, 63:5). The fruit of the love of God is the love of our neighbor. (1 John 3:14, 16, 4:7, 13).

A Second fruit of the love of God is universal obedience to him we love, and conformity to his will. (I John 5:3).

In summary, from Wesley these are the marks of the new birth:

“It is, so to believe in God, through Christ, as “not to commit sin,” and to enjoy at all times, and in all places, that “peace of God which passeth all understanding.” It is, so to hope in God through the Son of his love, as to have not only the “testimony of a good conscience,” but also the Spirit of God “bearing witness with your spirits, that ye are the children of God;” whence cannot but spring the rejoicing in Him, through whom ye “have received the atonement.” It is, so to love God, who hath thus loved you, as you never did love any creature: So that ye are constrained to love all men as yourselves; with a love not only ever burning in your hearts, but flaming out in all your actions and conversations, and making your whole life one “labour of love,” one continued obedience to those commands, “Be ye merciful, as God is merciful;” “Be ye holy, as I the Lord am holy:” “Be ye perfect, as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”’

Wesley ends his sermon with a call to believe. He challenges his hearers who believe they were born again in baptism but demonstrate not his marks of the new birth. Many of his hearers reared in the Church of England would have been baptized as Article XXVII says,


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