YE MUST BE BORN AGAIN
William T. Sleeper, 1819–1904
In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, unless a man is born again, [born from above] he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)
Jesus made it clear that to be a member of His heavenly Kingdom, people must be twice-born—recipients of God’s Spirit and possessors of eternal life. Such a person then begins to live by a new dimension and a new direction. He has a new disposition, a new nature, a new commitment, and a new purpose for living. A so-called Christianity that does not involve a personal conversion and change is not an authentic Christianity in the New Testament sense. Eternal life is a quality of life that begins with the new birth experience and continues in daily fellowship with God and His people both now and forever. But the new birth experience can never be adequately explained. It is more than knowledge and mental assent. To be understood, it must ultimately be experienced.
The composer of this hymn, George C. Stebbins, tells in his Memoirs and Reminiscences about the time he was assisting Dr. George F. Pentecost in an evangelistic crusade in Worcester, Massachusetts, when Dr. Pentecost one night preached on Christ’s statement to Nicodemus in John 3:3 about the need of being born again. With the strong impression of this sermon still in his mind, Stebbins contacted one of the pastors in the city, William Sleeper, and asked his assistance in writing verses for the musical ideas he had for this text. “He acted at once upon my suggestion,” said Stebbins, “and soon after came to me with the hymn that bears his name.
And another hymn was born that has since been used to confront individuals with the necessity of a new birth if they are ever to “see the kingdom of God.”
A ruler once came to Jesus by night to ask Him the way of salvation and light; the Master made answer in words true and plain, “Ye must be born again.”
Ye children of men, attend to the word so solemnly uttered by Jesus the Lord; and let not this message to you be in vain, “Ye must be born again”
O ye who would enter that glorious rest and sing with the ransomed the song of the blest, the life everlasting if ye would obtain, “Ye must be born again.”
A dear one in heaven thy heart yearns to see, at the beautiful gate may be watching for thee; then list to the note of this solemn refrain, “Ye must be born again.”
Chorus: Ye must be born again; I verily, verily say unto thee, “Ye must be born again.”
For Today: John 3:1–21; 17:3; Romans 8:16; 1 Peter 1:23
Share this truth with another who needs to hear and respond to the urgency of this message—