J.C. Ryle

Recommendation:  2/5

Description of author:  J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) was a bishop in the Anglican Church.  He was a prolific writer and a defender of the evangelical faith.

Comments:  Although Ryle is one of my favorite authors, I must admit I was a little disappointed in this book.  The first third of the book is excellent.  He explains Biblically what regeneration is (chapter 1), why it is necessary (chapter 2), and what are the marks of regeneration (chapter 3).  The final two-thirds of the book is made up of answers to objections (chapter 4).  All of the objections have to do with the relationship between baptism and regeneration.  For example, the first objection he deals with is stated on page 44:  Many hold that regeneration is always given in baptism, and that we ought to look on every baptized person as born again. And the sixth objection:  It is said by many that the Church of England holds that all infants are invariably regenerated and born again in baptism (p. 74).  Although, on the whole, Ryle answers these objections well, the whole discussion exemplifies the confusion brought about by sacramentalism in general and infant baptism in particular.  If infants are not regenerated at baptism, then what is actually, sacramentally, accomplished at baptism?  Along the way, Ryle makes some very unfortunate statements:  That the grace of regeneration may, and in many cases does, accompany the baptism of an infant, I, for one, never think of disputing (p. 56);  The principle which the [Anglican] Church lays down abstractedly is this, that baptism when rightly and worthily received, is a means whereby we receive inward and spiritual grace, even a death unto sin and a new birth unto righteousness.  But the Church cannot take upon herself to decide particularly when baptism is rightly and worthily received by an infant and when it is not.  That an infant may receive baptism rightly the Church of England unquestionably holds . . . (p. 79); They [those who drew up the baptismal service] knew that God might of His sovereign mercy give grace to any child before, or in, or at, or by the act of baptism (p. 80).  Of course if one takes the Biblical position, that a genuine profession of faith must precede water baptism, these objections disappear.  In no sense does regeneration come in, at, by, or through water baptism.  Water baptism is merely a symbol or a picture of Spirit baptism (i.e. regeneration; cf. Romans 6:1-9; 1 Cor. 12:13).