Tag Archives: J. C. Ryle

The sin before us is a very old one!

Grace logoThe sin before us is a very old one!

(J.C. Ryle, “The Gospel of Luke” 1858)

“Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them.” Luke 22:24¬†

We see in¬†this passage how firmly¬†pride¬†and¬†love of preeminence¬†can stick to the hearts of Christian men. The strife was one which had been rebuked by our Lord on a former occasion. The Lord’s Supper which the disciples had just been receiving, and the circumstances under which they were assembled–made the strife particularly inappropriate.¬†

And yet at this very season, the last quiet time they could spend with their Master before His death–this little flock begins to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest!¬†

Such is the heart of man–ever weak, ever prideful, ever ready, even at its best times, to turn aside to what is evil!

The sin before us is a very old one. Ambition, self-esteem, and self-conceit–lie deep at the bottom of all men’s hearts, and often in the hearts where they are least suspected! Thousands imagine that they are humble, who cannot bear to see an equal more honored and favored than themselves. Few indeed can be found who rejoice heartily in another’s promotion over themselves.

If we make any profession of serving Christ, then let us live on our guard against this great evil. The harm that it has done to the Church of Christ, is far beyond calculation. Let us learn to take pleasure in the prosperity of others, and to be content with the lowest place for ourselves. The rule given to the Philippians should be often before our eyes, “In lowliness of mind–let each esteem others better than themselves.” The example of John the Baptist is a bright instance of the spirit at which we should aim. He said of our Lord, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”¬†

Some benefits of sickness and affliction

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Some benefits of sickness and affliction

(J.C. Ryle)

Sickness helps . . .
  to remind men of death,
  to make men think seriously of God, and their souls, and the world to come,
¬† to soften men’s hearts, and teach them wisdom,¬†
  to abase and humble us, 
¬† to try men’s religion, of what sort it is.

The¬†storms of winter¬†often bring out the defects in a man’s dwelling. In the same way, sickness often exposes the gracelessness of a man’s soul. Surely anything that makes us find out the real character of our faith, is a good thing.

Sicknesses, losses, crosses, anxieties and disappointments–seem absolutely needful to keep us humble, watchful and spiritual-minded. They are as needful as the pruning knife to the vine; and the refiner’s furnace to the gold.

There is no commentary that opens up the Bible, so much as sickness and sorrow!

There are no lessons so useful–as those learned in the¬†school of affliction.¬†

By affliction, God . . .
  shows us our emptiness and weakness, 
  draws us to the throne of grace, 
  purifies our affections, 
  weans us from the world, 
  and makes us long for Heaven!

Christian Love Part 4 Of 4 By J. C. Ryle

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IV. Let me show, lastly–why¬†love is called the “greatest” of the graces.

The words of Paul, on this subject, are distinct and unmistakable. He winds up his wonderful chapter on love in the following manner: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the¬†greatest¬†of these is love!” 1 Corinthians 13:13¬†

This expression is very remarkable. Of all the writers in the New Testament, none, certainly, exalts “faith” so highly as Paul. The Epistles to the Romans and Galatians abound in sentences showing its vast importance. By faith, the sinner lays hold on Christ and is saved. Through faith, we are justified, and have peace with God. Yet here the same Paul speaks of something which is even¬†greater than faith!¬†He puts before us the three leading Christian graces, and pronounces the following judgment on them, “The greatest is love!” Such a¬†sentence¬†from such a¬†writer¬†demands special attention. What are we to understand, when we hear of love being greater than faith and hope?

We are not to suppose, for a moment, that love can¬†atone¬†for our sins, or make our¬†peace¬†with God. Nothing can do that for us, but the blood of Christ; and nothing can give us a saving interest in Christ’s blood, but faith. It is Scriptural ignorance not to know this. The office of justifying and joining the soul to Christ, belongs to¬†faith alone. Our love, and all our other graces, are all more or less imperfect, and could not stand the severity of God’s judgment. When we have done all–we are “unprofitable servants.” (Luke 17:10.)

We are not to suppose that Christian love can exist independently of faith. Paul did not intend to set up one grace in¬†rivalry¬†to the other. He did not mean that one man might have faith, another hope, and another love–and that the best of these, was the man who had love.¬†The three graces are inseparably joined together.¬†Where there is faith, there will always be love; and where there is love, there will be faith. Sun and light, fire and heat, ice and cold, are not more intimately united than faith and love!

The reasons why love is called the greatest of the three graces, appear to me plain and simple. Let me show what they are.

(a)¬†Love is called the greatest of graces, because it is the one in which there is some¬†likeness between the believer and his God. God has no need of faith. He is dependent on no one. There is none superior to Him in whom He must trust. God has no need of hope. To Him all things are certain, whether past, present, or to come. But “God is love” and the more love His people have–the more similar they are to their Father in Heaven.

(b)¬†Love, for another thing, is called the greatest of the graces, because it is most¬†useful to others. Faith and hope, beyond doubt, however precious, have special reference to a believer’s own private individual benefit.¬†Faith¬†unites the soul to Christ, brings peace with God, and opens the way to Heaven.¬†Hope¬†fills the soul with cheerful expectation of things to come, and, amid the many discouragements of things seen, comforts with visions of the things unseen.¬†

But¬†love¬†is pre-eminently the grace which makes a man useful. It is the¬†spring¬†of good works and kindnesses. It is the¬†root¬†of missions, schools, and hospitals. Love made apostles spend and be spent for souls. Love raises up workers for Christ, and keeps them working. Love smooths quarrels, and stops strife–and in this sense, “covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8.) Love adorns Christianity, and recommends it to the world. A man may have real faith, and feel it–and yet his faith may be invisible to others. But a man’s love cannot be hidden.

(c)¬†Love, in the last place, is the greatest of the graces, because it is the one which¬†endures the longest. In fact, it will never die.¬†Faith¬†will one day be swallowed up in sight–and¬†hope¬†in certainty. Their office will be useless in the morning of the resurrection; and, like old almanacs, they will be laid aside. But love will live on through the endless ages of eternity! Heaven will be the abode of love. The inhabitants of Heaven will be full of love. One¬†common feeling¬†will be in all their hearts, and that will be¬†love.

I leave this part of my subject here, and pass on to a¬†CONCLUSION. On each of the three points of comparison I have just named, between love and the other graces, it would be easy to enlarge. But time and space both forbid me to do so. If I have said enough to guard men against mistakes about the¬†right meaning, of the¬†greatness¬†of love–I am content. Love, be it ever remembered, cannot justify and put away our sins. It is neither Christ, nor faith.¬†
But love makes us somewhat like God. 
Love is of mighty use to the world. 
Love will live and flourish when faith’s work is done.¬†
Surely, in these points of view–love well deserves the crown!

(1) And now let me ask every one into whose hands this paper may come a simple question. Let me press home on your conscience the whole subject of this paper. Do you know anything of the grace of which I have been speaking? Do you have Christian love?

The strong language of the Apostle Paul must surely convince you that the inquiry is not one that ought to be lightly put aside. The grace, without which that holy man could say, “I am nothing,” the grace which the Lord Jesus says expressly is the great mark of being His disciple–such a grace as this, demands the serious consideration of every one who is in earnest about the salvation of his soul. It should set him thinking, “How does this affect me? Do I have Christian love?”

You have some¬†knowledge, it may be, of religion. You know the difference between true and false doctrine. You can, perhaps, even quote texts, and defend the opinions you hold. But, remember the knowledge which is barren of practical results in life and temper–is a useless possession! The words of the Apostle are very plain: “If I can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge–but have not love, I am nothing!” (1 Corinthians 13:3.)

You think you have¬†faith, perhaps. You trust you are one of God’s elect, and rest in that. But surely you should remember that there is a faith of¬†devils, which is utterly unprofitable–and that the faith of God’s elect is a “faith which works by love.” It was when Paul remembered the “love” of the Thessalonians, as well as their faith and hope, that he said, “I know your election of God.” (1 Thessalonians 1:4.)

Look at your own¬†daily life, both at home and abroad, and consider what place Christian love has in it. What is your temper? What are your ways of¬†behaving¬†toward all around you in your own family? What is your manner of¬†speaking, especially in seasons of vexation and provocation? Where is your good-nature, your courtesy, your patience, your meekness, your gentleness, your forbearance? Where are your¬†practical actions of love¬†in your dealing with others? What do you know of the mind of Him who “went about doing good”–who loved all, though specially His disciples–who returned good for evil, and kindness for hatred, and had a heart wide enough to feel for all?

What would you do in Heaven, I wonder, if you got there without love? What comfort could you have in an abode where love was the law, and selfishness and ill-nature completely shut out? Alas! I fear that Heaven would be no place for an uncharitable and ill-tempered man! A little boy said, “If¬†grandfather¬†goes to Heaven–I hope my brother and I will not go there.” “Why do you say that?” he was asked. He replied, “If he sees us there, I am sure he will say, as he does now–‘What are these boys doing here? Get them get out of the way!’ He does not like to see us on earth, and I suppose he would not like to see us in Heaven!”

Give yourself no rest, until you know something by experience of real Christian love. Go and learn of Him who is meek and lowly of heart, and ask Him to teach you how to love. Ask the Lord Jesus to put His Spirit within you, to take away the old heart, to give you a new nature, to make you know something of His mind. Cry to Him night and day for grace, and give Him no rest until you feel something of what I have been describing in this paper. Happy indeed will your life be, when you really understand “walking in love.”

(2) But I do not forget that I am writing to some who are not ignorant of the love of Scripture, and who long to feel more of it every year. I will give you two simple words of exhortation. They are these:

Practice love diligently.¬†It is one of those graces, above all, which¬†grow¬†by constant¬†exercise. Strive more and more to carry it into every little detail of daily life. Watch over your own tongue and temper throughout every hour of the day, and especially in your dealings with children and spouse. Remember the character of the excellent woman: “In her tongue is the¬†law of kindness.” (Proverbs 31:26.)¬†

Remember the words of Paul: “Let ALL your things be done with love.” (1 Corinthians 16:14.) Love should be seen in¬†little¬†things, as well as in great ones.¬†

Remember, not least, the words of Peter: “Have fervent love among yourselves;” not a love which just keeps alight, but a burning shining fire, which all around can see! (1 Peter 4:8.) It may cost pains and trouble to keep these things in mind. There may be little encouragement from the example of others. But persevere. Love like this brings its own reward!

Finally,¬†teach love to others. Press it continually on your¬†children. Tell them the great duty of kindness, helpfulness, and considerateness, one for another. Remind them constantly that kindness, good nature, and good temper, are among the first¬†evidences¬†which Christ requires in children. If they cannot know much, or explain doctrines–they can understand love. A child’s religion is worth very little if it only consists in repeating texts and hymns. As useful as they are, they are often . . .
learned without thought, 
remembered without feeling, 
repeated without consideration of their meaning, 
and forgotten when childhood is gone!

By all means let children be taught texts and hymns; but let not such teaching be made¬†everything¬†in their religion. Teach them to keep their tempers, to be kind one to another, to be unselfish, good-natured, obliging, patient, gentle, forgiving. Tell them never to forget to their dying day, if they live as long as Methuselah, that¬†without love, the Holy Spirit says, “we are nothing.” Tell them “above all things–to put on love, which is the bond of perfectness.” (Colos. 3:14.)

Christian Love Part 3 Of 4 By J. C. Ryle

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III. Let me show, thirdly–where¬†the love of the Bible comes from.

Love, such as I have described, is certainly not¬†natural¬†to man. Naturally, we are all more or less selfish, envious, ill-tempered, spiteful, ill-natured, and unkind! We have only to observe children, when left to themselves, to see the proof of this. Let boys and girls grow up without proper training and education–and you will not see one of them possessing Christian love! Mark how some of them think first of themselves, and their own comfort and advantage! Mark how others are full of pride, passion, and evil tempers! How can we account for it? There is but one reply. The¬†natural heart¬†knows nothing of true love.

Christian love will never be found except in a heart prepared by the Holy Spirit. It is a tender plant, and will never grow except in one soil. You may as well expect grapes on thorns, or figs on thistles–as look for love when the heart is not right.

The heart in which love grows, is a heart changed, renewed, and transformed by the Holy Spirit. The image and likeness of God, which Adam lost at the fall, has been restored to it, however feeble and imperfect the restoration may appear. It is a “partaker of the Divine nature,” by union with Christ and sonship to God; and one of the first features of that nature is¬†love. (2 Peter I. 4.)

Such a heart is deeply convinced of¬†sin–hates it, flees from it, and fights with it from day to day. And one of the prime motions of sin which it daily labors to overcome, is¬†selfishness¬†and¬†lack of love.

Such a heart is deeply sensible of its¬†mighty debt to our Lord Jesus Christ. It feels continually that it owes to Him who died for us on the cross, all its present comfort, hope, and peace. How can it show forth its gratitude? What can it render to its Redeemer? If it can do nothing else, it strives to be like Him, to drink into His spirit, to walk in His footsteps, and, like Him–to be full of love. “The love of Christ shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit” is the surest¬†fountain¬†of Christian love. Love will produce love.

I ask my reader’s special attention to this point. It is one of great importance in the present day. There are many who profess to admire love–while they care nothing about¬†vital Christianity. They like some of the¬†fruits¬†and results of the Gospel–but not the¬†root¬†from which these fruits alone can grow, or the doctrines with which they are inseparably connected.

Hundreds will praise love–who hate to be told of man’s corruption, of the blood of Christ, and of the inward work of the Holy Spirit. Many a parent would like his children to grow up unselfish and good tempered–who would not be much pleased if conversion, and repentance, and faith, were pressed home on their attention.

Now I desire to protest against this notion, that you can have the¬†fruits¬†of Christianity, without the¬†roots–that you can produce Christian tempers, without teaching Christian doctrines–that you can have love which will wear and endure, without grace in the heart.

I grant, most freely, that every now and then one sees a person who seems very charitable and amiable, without any distinctive Christian religion. But such cases are so rare and remarkable, that, like¬†exceptions–they only prove the truth of the general rule. And often, too often, it may be feared in such cases the love is only¬†apparent, and in private it completely fails. I firmly believe, as a general rule, you will not find such love as the Bible describes, except in the¬†soil¬†of a heart thoroughly imbued with Bible religion. Holy¬†practice¬†will not flourish without sound¬†doctrine. What God has joined together, it is useless to expect to have separate.

The delusion which I am trying to combat, is helped forward to a most mischievous degree by the vast majority of novels, romances, and tales of fiction. Who does not know that the heroes and heroines of these works are constantly described as patterns of perfection? They are always doing the right thing, saying the right thing, and showing the right temper! They are always kind, and amiable, and unselfish, and forgiving! And yet you never hear a word about their religion! In short, to judge by the generality of works of fiction, it is possible to have . . . 
excellent practical religion–without doctrine,¬†
the¬†fruits¬†of the Spirit–without the¬†grace¬†of the Spirit,¬†
and the¬†mind¬†of Christ–without¬†union¬†with Christ!

Here, in short, is the great danger of reading most novels, romances, and works of fiction. The greater part of them give a false or incorrect view of human nature. They paint their model men and women as they¬†ought¬†to be, and not as they¬†really are. The readers of such writings get their minds filled with wrong conceptions of what the world is. Their notions of mankind become¬†visionary¬†and¬†unreal. They are constantly looking for men and women such as they never meet–and expecting what they never find.

Let me entreat my readers, once for all, to draw their ideas of human nature from the Bible, and not from novels. Settle it down in your mind, that there cannot be true love without a heart renewed by grace. A certain degree of kindness, courtesy, amiability, good nature–may undoubtedly be seen in many who have no vital religion. But the glorious plant of¬†Bible love, in all its fullness and perfection, will never be found without union with Christ, and the work of the Holy Spirit. Teach this to your children, if you have any. Hold it up in schools, if you are connected with any. Lift up love. Make much of love. Give place to none in exalting the grace of kindness, love, good nature, unselfishness, good temper.¬†

But never, never forget, that there is but one¬†school¬†in which these things can be thoroughly learned–and that is the school of Christ. Real love comes down from above. True love is the¬†fruit of the Spirit. He who would have it–must sit at Christ’s feet, and learn of Him.

Christian Love Part 2 Of 4 By J. C. Ryle

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II. Let me show, secondly, WHAT the love of the Bible really is.

I think it of great importance to have clear views on this point. It is precisely here that mistakes about love begin. Thousands delude themselves with the idea that they have “love,” when they have not, from downright ignorance of Scripture. Their love is not the love described in the Bible.

(a) The love of the Bible does not consist in¬†giving to the poor.¬†It is a common delusion to suppose that it does. Yet Paul tells us plainly, that a man may “bestow all his goods to feed the poor “(1 Corinthians 13:8)–and not have love! That a charitable man will “remember the poor,” there can be no question. (Galatians 2:10.) That he will do all he can to assist them, relieve them, and lighten their burdens–I do not for a moment deny. All I say is, that this does not make up “love.” It is easy to spend a fortune in giving away money, and soup, and milk, and and bread, and coals, and blankets, and clothing–and yet to be utterly destitute of Bible love!

(b) The love of the Bible does not consist in never disapproving anybody’s conduct.¬†Here is another very common delusion! Thousands pride themselves on never¬†condemning¬†others, or calling them¬†wrong, whatever they may do. They convert the precept of our Lord, “do not judge,” into an excuse for having no unfavorable opinion at all of anybody! They pervert His prohibition of¬†rash¬†and¬†censorious¬†judgments, into a prohibition of¬†all¬†judgment whatever.¬†

Your neighbor may be a drunkard, a liar, and a violent man. Never mind! “It is not love,” they tell you, “to pronounce him, wrong!” You are to believe that he has a¬†good heart at the bottom!¬†This idea of love is, unhappily, a very common one. It is full of mischief. To¬†throw a veil over sin, and to refuse to call things by their right names, to talk of “hearts” being good, when “lives” are flatly wrong, to shut our eyes against wickedness, and say smooth things of immorality–this is not Scriptural love!

(c) The love of the Bible does not consist in never¬†disapproving anybody’s religious opinions.¬†Here is another most serious and growing delusion. There are many who pride themselves on never pronouncing others mistaken, whatever views they may hold. Your neighbor may be an Atheist, or a Buddhist, or a Roman Catholic, or a Mormonite, a Deist, or a Skeptic, a mere Formalist, or a thorough Antinomian. But the “love” of many says that you have no right to think him wrong! “If he is sincere, it is uncharitable to think unfavorably of his spiritual condition!”

From such love–may I ever be delivered!

At this rate, the Apostles were wrong in going out to preach to the Gentiles!

At this rate, there is no use in missions!

At this rate, we had better close our Bibles, and shut up our churches!

At this rate, everybody is right–and nobody is wrong!

At this rate, everybody is going to Heaven–and nobody is going to Hell!¬†

Such¬†love¬†is a monstrous caricature! To say that all are equally right in their opinions–though their opinions flatly contradict one another; to say that all are equally in the way to Heaven–though their doctrinal sentiments are as opposite as black and white–this is not Scriptural love. Love like this, pours contempt on the Bible, and talks as if God had not given us a written standard of truth. Love like this, confuses all our notions of Heaven, and would fill it with a discordant inharmonious rabble. True love does not think everybody right in doctrine. True love cries, “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world!” 1 John 4:1. “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him!” 2 John 1:10¬†

I leave the negative side of the question here. I have dwelt upon it at some length because of the days in which we live and the strange notions which abound. Let me now turn to the positive side. Having shown what love is not, let me now show what it is.

Christian love is that “love,” which Paul places first among those fruits which the Spirit causes to be brought forth in the heart of a believer. “The fruit of the Spirit is love.” (Galatians 5:22.)¬†

Love to God, such as Adam had before the fall, is its first feature. He who has love, desires to love God with heart, and soul and mind, and strength. 

Love to man is its second feature. He who has Christian love, desires to love his neighbor as himself.

Christian love will show itself in a believer’s¬†doings. It will make him ready to do kind acts to everyone within his reach, “both to their bodies and souls. It will not let him be content with soft words and kind wishes. It will make him diligent in doing all that lies in his power to lessen the sorrow and increase the happiness of others. Like his Master, he will care more for ministering than for being ministered to, and will look for nothing in return. Like his Master’s great apostle, he will very willingly “spend and be spent” for others, even though they repay him with hatred, and not with love. True love does not want¬†wages. Its work is its reward.¬†

Christian love will show itself in a believer’s¬†readiness to bear evil¬†as well as to do good. It will make him . . .
patient under provocation, 
forgiving when injured, 
meek when unjustly attacked, 
quiet when slandered. 

It will make him bear much and forbear much, put up with much and look over much, submit often and deny himself often–all for the sake of peace. It will make him put a strong¬†bit¬†on his temper, and a strong¬†bridle¬†on his tongue.

True love is not always asking, “What are¬†my¬†rights? Am¬†I¬†treated as I deserve?” but, “How can I best promote peace? How can I do that which is most edifying to others?”

Christian love will show itself in the general spirit and demeanor of a believer. It will make him kind, unselfish, good-natured, good-tempered, and considerate for others. It will make him gentle, affable, and courteous, in all the daily relations of private life. It will make him thoughtful for others’ comfort, tender for others’ feelings, and more anxious to give pleasure than to receive.¬†

True love never¬†envies¬†others when they prosper, nor rejoices in the calamities of others when they are in trouble. At all times, it will believe, and hope, and try to put a good construction on others’ actions. And even at the worst, it will be full of pity, mercy, and compassion.

Would we like to know where the¬†true Pattern¬†of love like this can be found? We have only to look at the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, as described in the Gospels, and we shall see it perfectly exemplified. Love shone forth in all His¬†doings. His¬†daily life¬†was an incessant “going about” doing good. Love shone forth in all His¬†bearing. He was continually hated, persecuted, slandered, misrepresented. But He patiently endured it all. No angry word ever fell from His lips. No ill-temper ever appeared in His demeanor. “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats.” (1 Peter 2:23.) Love shone forth in all His¬†spirit¬†anddeportment. The¬†law of kindness¬†was ever on His lips. Among weak and ignorant disciples, among sick and sorrowful petitioners for help and relief, among publicans and sinners, among Pharisees and Sadducees–He was always one and the same–kind and patient to all.

And yet, be it remembered, our blessed Master never¬†flattered sinners,¬†or¬†connived at sin. He never shrank from¬†exposing wickedness¬†in its true colors, or from rebuking those who would cleave to it. He never hesitated to¬†denounce false doctrine, by whoever it might be held, or to exhibit¬†false practice¬†in its true colors, and the certain end to which it tends. He called things by their right names. He spoke as freely of Hell and the fire that is never quenched, as of Heaven and the kingdom of glory. He has left on record an everlasting proof that perfect love does not require us to approve everybody’s life or opinions, and that it is quite possible to condemn false doctrine and wicked practice–and yet to be full of love at the same time.

I have now set before my readers the true nature of Christian love. I have given a slight and very brief account of what it is not, and what it is. I cannot pass on without suggesting two practical thoughts, which press home on my mind with weighty force, and I hope may press home on others.

Think, for a moment, how deplorably little love there is upon earth!¬†How w conspicuous is the absence of true love among professing Christians! I speak not of¬†heathen¬†now, I speak of professing Christians! What angry tempers, what passions, what selfishness, what bitter tongues–are to be found in private families! What strifes, what quarrels, what spitefulness, what malice, what revenge, what envy between neighbors and fellow-parishioners! What jealousies and contentions between Churchmen and Dissenters, Calvinists and Arminians, High Churchmen and Low Churchmen! “Where is love?” we may well ask, “Where is love? Where is the mind of Christ?”–when we look at the spirit which reigns in the world. No wonder that Christ’s cause stands still, and infidelity abounds–when men’s hearts know so little of love! Surely, we may well say, “When the Son of man comes, shall He find¬†love¬†upon earth?”

Think, for another thing, what a happy world this would be–if there was more love.¬†It is the lack of love which causes half the misery which there is upon earth. Sickness, and death, and poverty, will not account for more than half the sorrows. The rest come from ill- temper, ill-nature, strifes, quarrels, lawsuits, malice, envy, revenge, frauds, violence, wars, and the like. It would be one great step towards doubling the happiness of mankind, and halving their sorrows–if all men and women were full of Scriptural love.

Christian Love Part 1 Of 4 By J. C. Ryle

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“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the¬†greatest¬†of these is love!” 1 Corinthians 13:13

“The end of the commandment is love.” 1 Timothy 1:5¬†

Love is rightly called “the Queen of Christian graces.” It is a grace which all people profess to admire. It seems a plain practical thing which everybody can understand. It is none of “those troublesome doctrinal points” about which Christians are disagreed. Thousands, I suspect, would not be ashamed to tell you that they knew nothing about justification or regeneration, about the work of Christ or the Holy Spirit. But nobody, I believe, would like to say that he knew nothing about “love!” If men possess nothing else in religion, they always flatter themselves that they possess “love.”

A few plain thoughts about love may not be without use. There are false notions abroad about it which require to be dispelled. There are mistakes about it which require to be rectified. In my admiration of love, I yield to none. But I am bold to say that in many minds, the whole subject seems completely misunderstood.

I. Let me show, firstly, the place which the Bible gives to love.

II. Let me show, secondly, what the love of the Bible really is.

III. Let me show, thirdly, where true love comes from.

IV. Let me show, lastly, why love is “the greatest” of the graces.

I ask the best attention of my readers to the subject. My heart’s desire and prayer to God is, that the growth of love may be promoted in this sin-burdened world. In nothing does the fallen condition of man show itself so strongly, as in the¬†scarcity of Christian love. There is little¬†faith¬†on earth, little¬†hope, little¬†knowledge¬†of Divine things. But nothing, after all, is so¬†scarce¬†as real love!
 

I. Let me show the PLACE which the Bible gives to love.

I begin with this point in order to establish the¬†immense practical importance¬†of my subject. I do not forget that there are many high-flying Christians in this present day, who almost refuse to look at anything¬†practical¬†in Christianity. They can talk of nothing but two or three favorite doctrines. Now I want to remind my readers that the Bible contains much about¬†practice¬†as well as about¬†doctrine, and that one thing to which it attaches great weight, is “love.”

I turn to the New Testament, and ask men to observe what it says about love. In all religious inquiries there is nothing like letting the Scripture speak for itself. There is no surer way of finding out truth, than the old way of¬†turning to plain texts. Texts were our Lord’s¬†weapons, both in answering Satan, and in arguing with the Jews. Texts are the¬†guides¬†we must never be ashamed to refer to in the present day. “What do the Scriptures say? What is written? How do you read?”

Let us hear what Paul says to the Corinthians: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love–I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love–I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love–I gain nothing!” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3¬†

Let us hear what Paul says to the Colossians: “Above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness.” (Colossians 3:14.)

Let us hear what Paul says to Timothy: “The end of the commandment is love out of a pure heart” (1 Timothy 1:5.)

Let us hear what Peter says: “Above all things, have fervent love among yourselves: for love shall cover the multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8.)

Let us hear what our Lord Jesus Christ Himself says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34, 35.)¬†

Above all, let us read our Lord’s account of the last judgment, and mark that lack of love will condemn millions. “Then He will say to those on the left: Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels! For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in; I was naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not take care of Me.” (Matthew 25:41-43.)

Let us hear what Paul says to the Romans: “Owe no man anything–but to love another: for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:9.)

Let us hear what Paul says to the Ephesians: “Walk is love, as Christ also has loved us.” (Ephesians 5:2.)

Let us hear what John says: “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7, 8.)

I shall make¬†no comment¬†upon these texts. I think it better to place them before my readers in their¬†naked simplicity, and to let them speak for themselves. If anyone is disposed to think the subject of this paper a matter of light importance, I will only ask him to look at these texts, and to think again. He who would take down “love” from the high and holy place which it occupies in the Bible, and treat it as a matter of¬†secondary¬†consequence, must settle his account with God’s Word. I certainly shall not waste time in arguing with him.

To my own mind, the evidence of these texts appears clear, plain, and incontrovertible. They show the¬†immense importance¬†of love, as one of the “things that accompany salvation.” They prove that it has a right to demand the serious attention of all who call themselves Christians, and that those who despise the subject are only exposing their own ignorance of Scripture.

A holy man!

Grace logoA holy man!

(J.C. Ryle)

Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture. It is the habit of . . .
¬† agreeing with God’s judgment,
  hating what He hates,
  loving what He loves, and
  measuring everything in this world by the standard of His Word. 

A holy man will strive to be like our Lord Jesus Christ. He will not only live a life of faith in Him and draw from Him all his daily peace and strength, but he will also labor to have the mind that was in Him and to be conformed to His image!

Let us beware of the love of money!

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Let us beware of the love of money! 

(J.C. Ryle)

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21¬†

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God!” Mark 10:25¬†

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” 1 Timothy 6:10¬†

Let us beware of the love of money! It is possible to use money well, and do good with it. But for each one who makes a right use of money, there are thousands who make a wrong use of it, and do harm both to themselves and others. 

Let the worldly man, if he will, make an idol of money, and count him happiest who has most of it. 

But let the Christian, who professes to have “treasure in Heaven,” set his face like a flint against the spirit of the world in this matter. Let him not worship gold. He is not the best man in God’s eyes who has most money, but he who has most grace and likeness to Jesus.

“Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.” Proverbs 30:8¬†

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said: Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5¬†

People never reject the Bible because they cannot understand it

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People never reject the Bible because they cannot understand it

(J.C. Ryle, Thoughts For Young Men)

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed!” John 3:19-20¬†

Be very sure of this–people never reject the Bible because they cannot understand it.¬†

They understand it only too well! They understand that it condemns their own behavior. They understand that it witnesses against their own sins, and summons them to judgment! They try to believe it is false and useless–because they don’t like to believe it is true.

An evil lifestyle must always raise an objection to this holy book. 

Men question the¬†truth¬†of Christianity–because they hate the¬†practice¬†of it!

“For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie, and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.” 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12¬†

The line between the Church and the world seems completely effaced and forgotten!

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The line between the Church and the world seems completely effaced and forgotten!

(J.C. Ryle, 1884)

“For if the trumpet makes an¬†uncertain sound, who will prepare himself for battle?” 1 Corinthians 14:8¬†

We need a more certain sound about personal holiness. I fear that the standard of holy living is lower just now than it has been for many years. Professing Christians seem unable to realize that there is anything inconsistent in ball-going, theater-going, gambling, card-playing, excessive dressing, novel-reading, and an incessant round of gaiety and amusements! 

The line between the Church and the world seems completely effaced and forgotten!

A crucified life of self-denial and close walking with God, a life of real devotedness and zeal for holy living–is hardly ever to be seen!¬†

Yet surely our Lord meant something when He spoke of “taking up the cross!”¬†

Surely Paul meant something when he said, 
¬† “Come out from among them and be separate!”¬†
¬† “Be not conformed to this world!”¬†
¬† “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord!”¬†

If Christ returns the second time in this generation, we shall find His words about the days of Noah and Lot fully verified. Those days are upon us!

“Just as it was in the days of¬†Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all!”
“It was the same in the days of¬†Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all!” Luke 17:26-29¬†

“Ask for the¬†old paths, where the good way is–and walk in it. Then you will find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16

A crucified Savior will never be content to have a self-pleasing, self-indulging, worldly-minded people!

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A crucified Savior will never be content to have a self-pleasing, self-indulging, worldly-minded people!

(J.C. Ryle, “The Gospel of Luke” 1858)

“If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it–but whoever loses his life for Me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world–and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” Luke 9:23-25¬†

We learn here, the absolute necessity of daily self-denial. Every day we ought . . .
  to crucify the flesh,
  to overcome the world,
  and to resist the devil. 

We ought to keep our bodies under control, and bring them into subjection. We ought to be on our guard, like soldiers in an enemy’s country. We ought to fight a daily battle–and war a daily warfare. The command of our Master is clear and plain, “If any man will come after Me–let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”

Now what do we know of all this? Surely this is a question which ought to be asked. A little formal church-going, and a decent attendance at a place of worship–can never be the Christianity of which Christ speaks in this place.¬†

Where is our self-denial? 

Where is our daily carrying of the cross? 

Where is our following of Christ? 

Without a religion of this kind–we shall never be saved.¬†

A crucified Savior will never be content to have a self-pleasing, self-indulging, worldly-minded people!

No self-denial–no real grace!¬†

No cross–no crown!¬†

True Christianity!

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True Christianity!

(J.C. Ryle)

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain!” Philippians 1:21¬†

True Christianity is not merely the believing a certain set of theological propositions.

It is to live in daily personal communication with an actual living person–Jesus the Son of God!

“The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me!” Galatians 2:20¬†

They have often destroyed, by their daily lives–the whole work of their lips!

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They have often destroyed, by their daily lives–the whole work of their lips!

(J.C. Ryle, “The Gospel of Luke” 1858)

“He told them: Take nothing for the journey–no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town.” Luke 9:3-4¬†

Let us observe that our Lord charges His apostles, when He sends them forth–to study¬†simplicity of habits, and¬†contentment¬†with such things as they have.¬†

These instructions contain a lesson for all time. The spirit of these verses is meant to be remembered by all¬†ministers¬†of the Gospel. The leading idea which the words convey–is a warning against¬†worldliness¬†and¬†luxurious habits.¬†

Well would it be for the world and the Church, if the warning had been more carefully heeded! From no quarter has Christianity received such damage–as it has from the hands of its own ministers! On no point have its ministers erred so much, and so often–as in the matter of personal¬†worldliness, and¬†luxury of life.¬†They have often destroyed, by their daily lives–the whole work of their lips!¬†They have given occasion to the enemies of religion to say that they love ease, and money, and earthly things–far more than souls.¬†

From such ministers, may we pray daily that the Church may be delivered! They are a living stumbling-block in the way to Heaven. They are helpers to the cause of the devil–and not of God. The preacher whose affections are set on money, and finery and feasting, and pleasure-seeking–has clearly mistaken his vocation. He has forgotten his Master’s instructions. He is not an apostolic man!

Your daughter is dead!

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Your daughter is dead!

(J.C. Ryle, “The Gospel of Luke” 1858)

“While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. ‘Your daughter is dead!‘ he said.” Luke 8:49¬†

Let us notice in this verse–how¬†universal¬†is the dominion which¬†death¬†holds over mankind. We see death coming to a rich man’s house, and tearing from him¬†the desire of his eyes¬†with a stroke!¬†

Such tidings as these, are¬†the bitterest cups¬†which we have to drink in this world. Nothing cuts so deeply into man’s heart–as to part with beloved ones, and lay them in the grave. Few griefs are so crushing and heavy–as the grief of a parent over the death of an only child.

Death is indeed a cruel enemy! He makes no distinction in his attacks. He comes to the rich man’s mansion–as well as to the poor man’s cottage. He does not spare the young, the strong, and the beautiful–any more than the old, the infirm, and the grey-haired. Not all the gold of Australia, nor all the skill of doctors–can keep the hand of death from our bodies, in the day of his power. When the appointed hour comes, and God permits him to smite–then our worldly schemes must be broken off, and our¬†darlings¬†must be taken away and buried out of our sight.

These thoughts are melancholy, and few like to hear of them. The subject of death is one that men shut their eyes at, and refuse to look at.¬†“All men think all men mortal, but themselves!”¬†But why should we treat this great reality in this way? Why should we not rather look the subject of death in the face, in order that¬†when our turn comes–we may be prepared to die?¬†

Death will come to our houses, whether we like it or not. Death will take each of us away–despite our dislike to hearing about it. Surely it is the part of a wise man to get ready for this great change.¬†

Why should we not be ready? There is one who can deliver us from the fear of death. Christ has overcome death, and “brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.” He who believes on Him, has everlasting life. Though he dies–yet shall he live.

Let us believe in the Lord Jesus–and then death will lose his sting. We shall then be able to say with Paul,¬†“To me, to die is gain!”Philippians 1:21

The characteristics of the modern Christian pulpit!

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The characteristics of the modern Christian pulpit!

(J.C. Ryle)

John¬†said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him:¬†You brood of vipers!¬†Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath! Produce¬†fruit¬†in keeping with repentance!” Luke 3:7-8

Well would it be for the Church of Christ, if it possessed more plain-speaking ministers like John the Baptist.
  A morbid dislike to strong language;
  an excessive fear of giving offence;
¬† a constant flinching from directness and plain speaking–
are, unhappily, too much the characteristics of the modern Christian pulpit!

Uncharitable¬†language is no doubt always to be deprecated. But there is no ‘charity’ in¬†flattering unconverted people–by abstaining from any mention of their vices, or in applying smooth names to their damnable sins!

There are¬†two texts which are too much forgotten by Christian preachers. In one it is written, “Woe unto you–when all men shall¬†speak well¬†of you!” (Luke 6:26)

In the other it is written, “Obviously, I’m not trying to be a¬†people pleaser!¬†No, I am trying to please God. If I were still trying to please people–I would not be Christ’s servant.” (Galatians 1:10)

You have a heart fit to do the deed!

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You have a heart fit to do the deed!

(J.C. Ryle, “The Gospel of Luke” 1858)

“But they kept shouting:¬†Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”¬†Luke 23:21¬†

Let us often pray that we may thoroughly understand the sinfulness of man’s heart.¬†

Christ is never fully valued–until sin is clearly seen.¬†

We must know the depth and malignity of our disease–in order to appreciate the great Physician.

Few of us, it may be feared, have the least conception of the strength and virulence of the spiritual disease with which we are born! Few entirely realize that “the carnal mind is enmity against God,” and that unconverted human nature, if it had the power–would cast its Maker down from His throne and crucify Him!¬†

The behavior of the Jews before us–is only a picture of what every natural man would do to God, if he only could!¬†

If the bosom of God were within the reach of men, it would be stabbed a million of times in one moment! If the bosom of God were now within your reach, and one blow would rid the universe of God–you have a heart fit to do the deed!”¬†Robert Murray M’Cheyne

How kind and merciful Christ is to dull and slow believers

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How kind and merciful Christ is to dull and slow believers

(J.C. Ryle)

“Then He said to Thomas:¬†Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.”¬†John 20:27¬†

We should mark in this verse,¬†how kind and merciful Christ is to dull and slow believers.¬†Nowhere, perhaps, in all the four Gospels, do we find this part of our Lord’s character so beautifully illustrated as in the story before our eyes.

It is hard to imagine anything more tiresome and provoking than the conduct of¬†Thomas, when even the testimony of ten faithful brethren had no effect on him, and he doggedly declared, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side–I will not believe!”¬†John 20:25

But it is impossible to imagine anything more patient and compassionate, than our Lord’s treatment of this weak disciple. He does not reject him, or dismiss him, or excommunicate him. He comes again at the end of a week, and apparently for the special benefit of¬†Thomas. He deals with him according to his weakness, like a gentle nurse dealing with a froward child, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side.” If nothing but the plainest, coarsest, most material evidence could satisfy him–even that evidence was supplied. Surely this was a¬†love¬†that surpasses knowledge, and a¬†patience¬†that passes understanding.

A passage of Scripture like this, we need not doubt, was written for the special comfort of all true believers. The Holy Spirit knew well that the¬†dull, and the¬†slow, and the¬†stupid, and the¬†doubting–are by far the commonest type of disciples in this evil world. The Holy Spirit has taken care to supply abundant evidence that Jesus is rich in patience as well as compassion, and that He bears with the infirmities of all His people.¬†

Let us take care that we drink into our Lord’s spirit, and copy His example. Let us never set down men as godless, because their faith is feeble and their love is cold. Let us remember the case of¬†Thomas–and be very compassionate and of tender mercy.¬†

Our Lord has . . .
  many weak children in His family,
  many dull pupils in His school,
  many raw soldiers in His army,
  many lame sheep in His flock.
Yet He bears with them all, and casts none away. 

Happy is that Christian who has learned to deal likewise with his brethren. There are many in the Church, who, like Thomas, are dull and slow–but for all that, like Thomas, are real and true believers.

An excessive anxiety about the innocent things of this life

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An excessive anxiety about the innocent things of this life

(J.C. Ryle, “The Gospel of Luke” 1858)

“Be on your guard, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and¬†the cares of life–or that day will come on you unexpectedly like a trap!” Luke 21:34-35¬†

The exhortation before us should teach us¬†the great importance of an unworldly heart. The “cares of this life” are placed side by side with carousing and drunkenness.¬†

Excess in eating and drinking, is not the only excess which injures the soul. There is¬†an excessive anxiety about the innocent things of this life–which is just as ruinous to our spiritual prosperity, and just as poisonous to the soul.¬†

Never, never let us forget–that¬†we may make spiritual shipwreck on lawful things–as really and truly as on open vices! Happy is he who has learned to hold the things of this world with a loose hand, and to believe that seeking first the kingdom of God, “all other things shall be added to him!” Matthew 6:33

We find that they are empty bubbles!

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We find that they are empty bubbles!

(J.C. Ryle)

“Do not love the¬†world¬†or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world!” 1 John 2:15-16¬†

The possession of the whole world and all that it contains, will never make a person happy. Its¬†pleasures¬†are false and deceptive! Its¬†riches,¬†rank, and¬†honors, have no power to satisfy the heart! So long as we have¬†not¬†got them–they glitter, sparkle, and seem desirable. The moment we have them–we find that they are empty bubbles, and cannot make us feel content!¬†

And, worst of all, when we possess this world’s good things to the utmost bound of our desire–we cannot keep them!¬†Deathcomes in and separates us from all our property forever! Naked we came upon earth, and naked we go forth–and of all our possessions, we can carry¬†nothing¬†with us.¬†

Such is the world, which occupies the whole attention of thousands! 

Such is the world, for the sake of which millions are every year destroying their souls!

“This world is¬†fading away, along with everything that people crave!” 1 John 2:17

The very first letter in the alphabet of Christianity!

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The very first letter in the alphabet of Christianity!

(J.C. Ryle)

“Blessed are the¬†poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 5:3

The Lord Jesus calls those blessed, who are¬†poor in spirit. He means the humble, and lowly-minded, and self-abased. He means those who are deeply convinced of their own sinfulness in God’s sight. These are those who are not “wise in their own eyes and holy in their own sight.” They are not “rich and increased with goods.” They do not imagine that they need nothing. They regard themselves as “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” Blessed are all such! Humility is¬†the very first letter in the alphabet of Christianity!¬†We must begin low, if we would build high.

Blessed are those who mourn,¬†for they will be comforted.”¬†Matthew 5:4

The Lord Jesus calls those blessed, who¬†mourn.¬†He means those who sorrow for sin, and grieve daily over their own short-comings. These are they who trouble themselves more about sin than about anything on earth. The remembrance of it is grievous to them. The burden of it is intolerable. Blessed are all such! “The sacrifices of God are a broken and contrite spirit.” One day they shall weep no more! “They shall be comforted.”

Let us learn how entirely contrary are the principles of Christ–to the principles of the world. It is vain to deny it. They are almost diametrically opposed! The very characters which the Lord Jesus praises–the world despises. The very pride, and thoughtlessness, and high tempers, and worldliness, and selfishness, and formality, and unlovingness, which abound everywhere–the Lord Jesus condemns!

Let us learn how unhappily different is the teaching of Christ from the practice of many professing Christians. Where shall we find men and women among those who go to churches and chapels, who are striving to live up to the pattern we have read of today? Alas! there is much reason to fear, that many baptized people are utterly ignorant of what the New Testament contains!

Above all let us learn how holy and spiritual-minded all believers should be. They should never aim at any standard lower than that of the Beatitudes. Christianity is eminently a practical religion. Sound doctrine is its¬†root¬†and foundation–but holy living should always be its¬†fruit. And if we would know what holy living is, let us often think who they are that Jesus calls “blessed.”¬†

He answers these many fears with a single golden sentence!

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He answers these many fears with a single golden sentence!

(J.C. Ryle, “The Gospel of Luke” 1858)

“Fear not, little flock–it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom!” Luke 12:32

Let us mark what a gracious word of consolation this passage contains for all true believers. The Lord Jesus well knew the hearts of His disciples. He knew how ready they were to be filled with fears of every description:
  fears because of the fewness of their number,
  fears because of the multitude of their enemies, 
  fears because of the many difficulties in their way,
  fears because of their sense of weakness and unworthiness. 
He answers these many fears with a single golden sentence, “Fear not, little flock–it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom!”¬†

Believers are a “little flock.” They always have been, ever since the world began.¬†
Professing Christians, have sometimes been very many. 
Baptized people at the present day, are a great company. 
But true Christians, have always been very few. 

It is foolish to be surprised at this. It is vain to expect that it will be otherwise. Our Lord has plainly told us, “But¬†small¬†is the gate and¬†narrow¬†is the road that leads to life–and only a¬†few¬†find it.” Matthew 7:14¬†

All true believers have a glorious “kingdom” awaiting them! Here upon earth–they are often mocked, and ridiculed, and persecuted–and, like their Master, despised and rejected by men. But “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us!” “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear–then shall you also appear with Him in glory!”¬†

Believers are tenderly loved by God the Father. It is His good pleasure to give them the kingdom. He does not receive them grudgingly, unwillingly or coldly. He rejoices over them, as members of His beloved Son in whom He is well pleased. He regards them as His dear children in Christ. He sees¬†no spot¬†in them. Even now, when He looks down on them from Heaven, in the midst of their infirmities–He is well pleased. And hereafter, when presented before His glory–He will welcome them with exceeding joy! Jude 24

Let this little sentence be continually before the eyes of our minds!

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Let this little sentence be continually before the eyes of our minds! 

(J.C. Ryle)

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things–but¬†only one thing is needed!” Luke 10:41-42

Let us observe what a solemn rebuke our Lord Jesus Christ gave to His servant Martha.¬†Like a¬†wise physician–He saw the disease which was preying upon her, and at once applied the remedy. Like a¬†tender parent–He exposed the fault into which His erring child had fallen, and did not spare the chastening which was required.¬†

“Martha, Martha,” He said, “you are worried and upset about many things–but¬†only one thing is needed!”¬†Faithful are the wounds of a friend! That little sentence was a¬†precious balm¬†indeed! It contained¬†a volume of practical divinity in a few words!

“Only one thing is needed!” How true that saying! The longer we live in the world, the more true it will appear. The nearer we come to the grave, the more thoroughly we shall assent to it. Health, and money, and lands, and rank, and honors, and prosperity, are all well in their way. But they cannot be called¬†needful. Without them thousands are happy in this world, and reach glory in the world to come. The “many things” which men and women are continually struggling for, are not really¬†necessities. The grace of God which brings salvation, is the one thing needful.

Let this little sentence be continually before the eyes of our minds! 
Let it check us when we are ready to murmur at earthly trials. 
Let it strengthen us when we are tempted to deny our Master on account of persecution. 
Let it caution us when we begin to think too much of the things of this world. 
Let it¬†quicken¬†us when we are disposed to look back, like Lot’s wife.¬†
In all such seasons, let the words of our Lord ring in our ears like a trumpet, and bring us to a right mind!¬†“Only one thing is needed!”¬†

If Christ is ours–then we have all and abound!

Poison!

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Poison!

(J.C. Ryle)

“But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked: Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” Luke 10:40¬†

Let us observe what a snare to our souls the cares of this world may be–if allowed to take up too much attention.¬†It is plain from the tone of the passage before us, that Martha allowed her anxiety to provide a suitable entertainment for the Lord, to carry her away. Her excessive zeal for temporal provisions–made her forget, for a time, the things of her soul.¬†

She brought down on herself a solemn rebuke, and had to learn a lesson which probably made a lasting impression. Alas! how great a matter is kindled by a little fire! The beginning of all this, was a little over-anxiety about the innocent household affairs of this world!

The fault of Martha should be¬†a perpetual warning¬†to all Christians. If we desire to grow in grace, and to enjoy soul-prosperity–then we must beware of the cares of this world. Unless we watch and pray, they will insensibly eat up our spirituality, and bring leanness on our souls.¬†

It is not open sin, or flagrant breaches of God’s commandments alone, which lead men to eternal ruin. It is far more frequently¬†an excessive attention to things which are in themselves lawful. It seems so right to provide for our own! It seems so proper to attend to the duties of our station! It is just here that our danger lies! Our families, our business, our daily callings, our household affairs, our interaction with society–all, all may become snares to our hearts, and may draw us away from God.¬†We may go down to the pit of Hell from the very midst of lawful things!

Let us take heed to ourselves in this matter. Let us watch our habits of mind jealously, lest we fall into sin unawares. If we love life–then we must hold the things of this world with a very loose hand, and beware of allowing anything to have the first place in our hearts, excepting God. Let us mentally write “Poison!” on all temporal good things. Used in moderation they are blessings, for which we ought to be thankful. But permitted to fill our minds, and trample upon holy things–they become an inevitable curse. Profits and pleasures are dearly purchased–if in order to obtain them we thrust aside eternity from our thoughts, abridge our Bible-reading, become careless hearers of the Gospel, and shorten our prayers.¬†

A little¬†earth¬†upon the fire within us–will soon make that fire burn low.

The family disease!

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The family disease!

(J.C. Ryle)

“He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves, that they were righteous.” Luke 18:9¬†

The sin which our Lord here denounces, is “self-righteousness.”

We are all naturally self-righteous. It is¬†the family disease¬†of all the children of Adam. From the highest to the lowest–we think more highly of ourselves than we ought to. We secretly flatter ourselves that we are not as bad as some, and that we have something to¬†merit¬†the favor of God.

We forget the plain testimony of Scripture:
¬† “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.”
¬† “What is man, that he could be pure; or one born of woman, that he could be righteous?”
¬† “There is no one righteous, not even one!”

The true cure for self-righteousness, is self-knowledge.¬†Once let the eyes of our understanding be opened by the Spirit–and we shall talk no more of our own goodness. Once let us see what sin there is in our own hearts, and what the holy law of God requires–and self-conceit will die. We shall lay our hand on our mouths, and cry with the leper,¬†“Unclean, unclean!”¬†Leviticus¬† 13:45

“I have not come to call the righteous, but¬†sinners¬†to repentance.” Luke 5:32

Christ died for the¬†ungodly!”¬†Romans 5:6

True Christianity is a fight!

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True Christianity is a fight!

(J.C. Ryle, “Holiness“)

“Fight the good fight of faith!”¬†1 Timothy 6:12

True Christianity! Let us mind that word “true.” There is a vast quantity of religion current in the world which is not true, genuine Christianity. There are thousands of men and women who go to churches and chapels every Sunday and call themselves Christians. They make a “profession” of faith in Christ. Their names are on the baptismal register. They are reckoned Christians while they live. They are married with a Christian marriage service. They mean to be buried as Christians when they die.¬†

But you never see any “fight” about their religion! Of spiritual¬†strife¬†and¬†exertion¬†and¬†conflict¬†and¬†self-denial¬†and¬†watching¬†and¬†warring–they know literally nothing at all. Such Christianity may satisfy¬†man, and those who say anything against it may be thought very hard and uncharitable–but it certainly is not the Christianity of the Bible. It is not the religion which the Lord Jesus founded, and His apostles preached. It is not the religion which produces real holiness.¬†True Christianity is a fight!

The true Christian is called to be a¬†soldier,¬†and must behave as such from the day of his conversion to the day of his death. He is not meant to live a life of pious ease, indolence and security. He must never imagine for a moment, that he can sleep and doze along the way to Heaven, like one traveling in an easy carriage. If he takes his standard of Christianity from the people of this world, he may be content with such vain notions–but he will find no countenance for them in the Word of God. If the Bible is the rule of his faith and practice, he will find his course laid down very plainly in this matter. He must fight!

The principal fight of the Christian is with . . .
  the world,
  the flesh,
  and the devil. 

These are his never-dying foes! These are the three chief enemies against whom he must wage war. Unless he gets the victory over these three, all other victories are useless and vain. If he had a nature like an angel, and were not a fallen creature–the warfare would not be so essential. But with¬†a corrupt heart, a busy devil and an ensnaring world, he must either fight–or be lost.

He must fight the¬†WORLD. The subtle influence of that mighty enemy must be daily resisted–and without a daily battle, it can never be overcome.¬†

The love of the world’s good things,¬†
the fear of the world’s laughter or blame,¬†
the secret desire to keep in with the world, 
the secret wish to do as others in the world do–
all these are spiritual foes which beset the Christian continually on his way to Heaven, and must be conquered. 
“If any man loves the world–the love of the Father is not in him.” 1 John 2:15
“The world is crucified to me–and I unto the world.” Galatians 6:14
“Whoever is born of God, overcomes the world.” 1 John 5:4
“Do not be conformed to this world.” Romans 12:2
“Friendship with the world is enmity with God. Whoever therefore will be a friend of the world, is the enemy of God.” James 4:4

He must fight the FLESH. Even after conversion, he carries within him a nature prone to evil and a heart as weak and unstable as water! That heart will never be free from imperfection in this world, and it is a miserable delusion to expect it.

He must fight the¬†DEVIL. That¬†old enemy of mankind¬†is not dead. Ever since the Fall of Adam and Eve, he has been “going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it,” and striving to compass one great end–the ruin of man’s soul. Never slumbering and never sleeping–he is always going about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. An¬†unseen¬†enemy, he is always near us, about our path and about our bed, and spying out all our ways! A murderer and a liar from the beginning–he labors night and day to cast us down to Hell. Sometimes by leading into superstition, sometimes by suggesting infidelity, sometimes by one kind of tactics and sometimes by another–he is always carrying on a campaign against our souls. This mighty adversary must be¬†daily resisted¬†if we wish to be saved.

Some may think these statements too strong. You imagine that I am going too far, and laying on the colors too thickly. But the Christian warfare is no light matter! What do the Scriptures say? 
¬† “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life.”¬†
¬† “Endure hardship, as a¬†good soldier¬†of Jesus Christ.”¬†
¬† “Put on the¬†full armor¬†of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes!”¬†
¬† “Strive¬†to enter in at the strait gate.”¬†
¬† “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong!”¬†

Words such as these appear to me as clear, plain and unmistakable. They all teach one and the same great lesson, if we are willing to receive it. That lesson is, that true Christianity is a struggle, a fight and a warfare!

Clear views of Christ’s priestly office and intercession

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Clear views of Christ’s priestly office and intercession

(J.C. Ryle, “The Gospel of Luke” 1858)

“But I have¬†prayed¬†for you Simon, that your faith may not fail.” Luke 22:32¬†

We see in this verse–one great secret of a believer’s perseverance in the faith.¬†
It was owing to Christ’s intercession–that Peter did not entirely fall away.

The continued existence of grace in a believer’s heart, is a great standing miracle. His enemies are so mighty–and his strength is so small; the world is so full of snares–and his heart is so weak; that it seems at first sight impossible for him to reach Heaven.¬†

The passage before us explains his safety. He has a mighty Friend at the right hand of God, who ever lives to make intercession for him. There is a watchful Advocate, who is daily pleading for him–seeing all his daily necessities, and obtaining daily supplies of mercy and grace for his soul. His grace never altogether dies–because Christ always lives to intercede for him! (Hebrews 7:25.)

If we are true Christians, we shall find it essential to our comfort in religion–to have¬†clear views of Christ’s priestly office and intercession. Christ lives–and therefore our faith shall not fail. Let us beware of regarding Jesus only as one who¬†died¬†for us. Let us never forget that He is¬†alive¬†for evermore. Paul bids us to especially remember that He is risen again, and is at the right hand of God, and also makes intercession for us. Romans 8:34
 
The work that He does for His people, is not yet over. He is still appearing in the presence of God for them, and doing for their souls, what He did for Peter. His present life for them–is just as important as His death on the cross eighteen hundred years ago! Christ lives–and therefore true Christians “shall live also.”

I cannot think little of sin, when . . .

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I cannot think little of sin, when . . .

(J.C. Ryle)

“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”¬†Matthew 27:46

Would I know how exceedingly sinful and abominable sin is in the sight of God? Where shall I see sin most fully brought out? 

Shall I turn to the history of the flood, and read how sin drowned the world? 

Shall I go to the shore of the Dead Sea, and mark what sin brought on Sodom and Gomorrah? 

No! I can find a clearer proof still! I look at the cross of Christ!

There I see that sin is so filthy and damnable, that nothing but the blood of God’s own Son can wash it away!¬†

There I see that sin has so separated me from my holy Maker, that all the angels in Heaven could never have made peace between us. Nothing could reconcile us, short of the death of Christ. 

If I listened to the wretched talk of proud people, I might sometimes imagine that sin was not so very sinful! But I cannot think little of sin, when I look at the cross of Christ! 

“A bleeding Savior I have viewed–and now I hate my sin!”¬†John Newton

A book full of Christ!

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A book full of Christ!

(J.C. Ryle)

“Everything must be fulfilled that is written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Luke 24:44¬†

We have probably little idea how much deep truth is contained in the book of Psalms. No part of the Bible perhaps is better known in the letter–and none so little understood in the spirit. We err greatly if we suppose that it is nothing but a record of David’s feelings, of David’s experience, David’s praises, and David’s prayers. The hand that held the pen was generally David’s. But the subject matter was often something far deeper and higher than the history of the son of Jesse.¬†

The book of Psalms, in a word, is a book full of Christ:
  Christ in humiliation,
  Christ suffering,
  Christ dying,
  Christ rising again,
  Christ coming the second time,
  Christ reigning over all. 

Both of Christ’s advents are here: His coming in suffering to bear the¬†cross–and His second coming in power to wear the¬†crown.¬†

Both of Christ’s kingdoms are here–His kingdom of¬†grace, during which the elect are gathered–and His kingdom of glory, when every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord.¬†

Let us always read the Psalms with a peculiar reverence. Let us say to ourselves as we read, “A greater than David is here!”

Let us abhor the very idea of play-acting and mask-wearing in our Christianity!

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Let us abhor the very idea of play-acting and mask-wearing in our Christianity!

(J.C. Ryle, “The Gospel of Luke” 1858)

Let us observe how abominable¬†hypocrisy¬†is in the eyes of Christ. We are told that in the presence of all the people, Jesus said unto His disciples, “Beware of the teachers of the law! They like to walk around in flowing robes–and love to be greeted in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues, and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses–and¬†pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public.” Luke 20:46-47

This was a bold and remarkable warning. It was a public denunciation, we must remember, of men who were the recognized teachers of the Jewish people. 

No sin seems to be regarded by Christ as more wicked, than hypocrisy. None certainly drew forth from His lips such frequent, strong and withering condemnation, during the whole course of His ministry. 

He was ever full of mercy and compassion for the chief of sinners. “Fury was not in Him” when He saw Zacchaeus; the penitent thief; Matthew the tax-collector; Saul the persecutor; and the sinful woman in Simon’s house.¬†

But when He saw Scribes and Pharisees wearing a¬†mere cloak of religion, and pretending to great outward sanctity, while their hearts were full of wickedness–His righteous soul seems to have been full of indignation. Eight times in one chapter (Matthew 23) we find Him saying,¬†“Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees! You hypocrites!”

Whatever else we are in religion–let us be true. However feeble our faith, and hope, and love, and obedience may be–let us see to it that they are real, genuine, and sincere.¬†Let us abhor the very idea of play-acting and mask-wearing in our Christianity. At any rate, let us be genuine.¬†

The¬†hypocrite¬†will have the lowest place in Hell! “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape the damnation of Hell?” Matthew 23:33

The fruits and effects He produces

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The fruits and effects He produces

(J.C. Ryle, “The Holy Spirit“)

“When He comes, He will convict the world about¬†sin, righteousness, and judgment.” (John 16:8)

Where the Holy Spirit is, there will always be deep conviction of sin ‚ÄĒ and true repentance for it. It is His special office to convict of sin.¬†

He shows the exceeding holiness of God. 

He teaches the exceeding corruption and infirmity of our nature. 

He strips us of our blind self-righteousness. 

He opens our eyes to our awful guilt, folly and danger. 

He fills the heart with sorrow, contrition, and abhorrence for sin ‚ÄĒ as the abominable thing which God hates.¬†

He who knows nothing of all this, and saunters carelessly through life, thoughtless about sin, and indifferent and unconcerned about his soul ‚ÄĒ is a dead man before God! He has not the Holy Spirit.¬†

The presence of the Holy Spirit in a man’s heart can only be known by¬†the fruits and effects He produces. Mysterious and invisible to mortal eye as His operations are ‚ÄĒ they always lead to certain visible and tangible results.

Just as you know there is life in a tree by its sap, buds, leaves and fruits ‚ÄĒ just so you may know the Spirit to be in a man’s heart by the influence He exercises over his thoughts, affections, opinions, habits, and life. I lay this down broadly and unhesitatingly. I see it clearly marked out in our Lord Jesus Christ’s words, “Every tree is known by his own fruit.” Luke 6:44


NEVER!

NEVER! 
The following is by J. C. Ryle 

“I will NEVER leave you nor forsake you.”¬† Hebrews 13:5¬†

Let every believer grasp these words 
and store them up in his heart. 

Keep them ready, and have them fresh in your memory; 
  you will need them one day. 

The Philistines will be upon you, 
the hand of sickness will lay you low, 
the king of terrors will draw near, 
the valley of the shadow of death 
 will open up before your eyes. 

Then comes the hour when you will find nothing so 
comforting as a text like this, nothing so cheering 
as a real sense of God’s companionship.¬†

Stick to that word, “never”.¬†
It is worth its weight in gold. 
Cling to it as a drowning man clings to a rope. 
Grasp it firmly, as a soldier attacked on all sides grasps 
his sword. God has said, and He will stand to it, 
¬† “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”¬†

NEVER! Though YOUR HEART be often faint, and you are sick 
of self, and your many failures and infirmities overwhelm you- 
even then the promise will not fail. 

NEVER! Though THE DEVIL whispers, “I shall have you at last;¬†
yet a little time and your faith will fail, and you will be mine.”¬†
Even then the Word of God will stand. 

NEVER! When the cold chill of DEATH is creeping over you, 
and friends can do no more, and you are starting on that 
journey from which there is no return- 
even then Christ will not forsake you. 

NEVER! When the day of JUDGMENT comes, and the books are 
opened, and the dead are rising from their graves, and eternity 
is beginning- even then the promise will bear all your weight; 
Christ will not leave His hold on your soul. 

Oh believing reader, trust in the Lord for ever, 
for He says, “I will never leave you.”¬†

Lean back all your weight upon Him, do not be afraid. 
Glory in His promise. 
Rejoice in the strength of your consolation. 

You may say boldly, “The Lord is my Helper, I will not fear.”¬†

Taken from GraceGems

From such love ‚ÄĒ may I ever be delivered!

From such love ‚ÄĒ may I ever be delivered!

(J.C. Ryle, “Christian Love” 1878)

Christian love does not consist in approving everybody’s religious opinions. Here is another most serious and growing delusion. There are many who pride themselves on never pronouncing others mistaken ‚ÄĒ whatever views they may hold. Your neighbor may be an Atheist, or a Buddhist, or a Roman Catholic, or a Mormonite, a Deist, or a Skeptic, a mere Formalist, or a thorough Antinomian. But the “love” of many says that you have no right to think him wrong! “If he is sincere ‚ÄĒ then it is uncharitable to think unfavorably of his spiritual condition!”

From such love ‚ÄĒ may I ever be delivered!

At this rate, the Apostles were wrong in going out to preach to the Gentiles!

At this rate, there is no use in missions!

At this rate, we had better close our Bibles, and shut up our churches!

At this rate, everybody is right ‚ÄĒ and nobody is wrong!

At this rate, everybody is going to Heaven ‚ÄĒ and nobody is going to Hell!

Such love is a monstrous caricature! To say that all are equally right in their opinions ‚ÄĒ though their opinions flatly contradict one another; to say that all are equally in the way to Heaven ‚ÄĒ though their doctrinal sentiments are as opposite as black and white ‚ÄĒ this is not Scriptural love. Love like this pours contempt on the Bible, and talks as if God had not given us a written standard of truth. Love like this, confuses all our notions of Heaven, and would fill it with a discordant inharmonious rabble.

True love does not think everybody right in doctrine. True love cries, “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world!” 1 John 4:1. “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching ‚ÄĒ do not take him into your house or welcome him!” 2 John 1:10

She left her heart behind her!

“Remember Lot’s wife!” Luke 17:32

We should observe in these verses–what a solemn warning our Lord gives us against unsound profession.

Lot’s wife went far in religious profession. She was the wife of a “righteous man.” She was connected through him with Abraham, the father of the faithful. She fled with her husband from Sodom, in the day when he escaped for his life by God’s command.

But Lot’s wife was not really like her husband. Though she fled with him–she left her heart behind her! She willfully disobeyed the strict injunction which the angel had laid upon her. She looked back towards Sodom–and was at once struck dead! She was turned into a pillar of salt, and perished in her sins! Remember her–says our Lord, “Remember Lot’s wife!”

Lot’s wife is meant to be a beacon and a warning to all professing Christians. It may be feared that many will be found like her, in the day of Christ’s second coming. There are many in the present day, who go a certain length in religion. They speak the “language of Canaan.” They use all the outward ordinances of religion. But all this time, their souls are not right in the sight of God. The world is in their hearts–and their hearts are in the world. And by and bye, in the day of sifting–their unsoundness will be exposed. Their Christianity will prove rotten at the core! The case of Lot’s wife will not stand alone.

Let us remember Lot’s wife, and resolve to be real in our religion. Let us never rest until we have the true grace of God in our hearts–and have no desire to look back to the world.

(J.C. Ryle, “The Gospel of Luke” 1858)

The transforming power of the Spirit!

The transforming power of the Spirit!

(J. C. Ryle, “The Lord’s Garden”)

“To all those in Rome who are loved by God¬†and called to be saints.” Romans 1:7

Believers are separated from the world by the effectual working of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit calls them out from the world, and separates them as effectually as if a wall were built between them and it. He puts in them . . .

new hearts,
new minds,
new tastes,
new desires,
new sorrows,
new joys,
new wishes,
new pleasures,
new longings.

He gives them . . .

new eyes,
new ears,
new affections,
new opinions.

He makes them new creatures. They are born again–and with a new birth they begin a new existence. Mighty indeed is the transforming power of the Spirit!

The fruits and effects He produces

The fruits and effects He produces

(J.C. Ryle, “The Holy Spirit”)

“When He comes, He will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment.” (John 16:8)

Where the Holy Spirit is, there will always be deep conviction of sin ‚ÄĒ and true repentance for it. It is His special office to convict of sin.

He shows the exceeding holiness of God.

He teaches the exceeding corruption and infirmity of our nature.

He strips us of our blind self-righteousness.

He opens our eyes to our awful guilt, folly and danger.

He fills the heart with sorrow, contrition, and abhorrence for sin ‚ÄĒ as the abominable thing which God hates.

He who knows nothing of all this, and saunters carelessly through life, thoughtless about sin, and indifferent and unconcerned about his soul ‚ÄĒ is a dead man before God! He has not the Holy Spirit.

The presence of the Holy Spirit in a man’s heart can only be known by the fruits and effects He produces. Mysterious and invisible to mortal eye as His operations are ‚ÄĒ they always lead to certain visible and tangible results.

Just as you know there is life in a tree by its sap, buds, leaves and fruits ‚ÄĒ just so you may know the Spirit to be in a man’s heart by the influence He exercises over his thoughts, affections, opinions, habits, and life. I lay this down broadly and unhesitatingly. I see it clearly marked out in our Lord Jesus Christ’s words,

“Every tree is known by his own fruit.” Luke 6:44

Everybody is going to be saved–and nobody is going to be lost!

Everybody is going to be saved–and nobody is going to be lost!

(J.C. Ryle, 1884)

One great danger of the church today, consists in the rise and progress of a spirit of indifference to all doctrines and opinions in religion. A wave of latitudinarianism about theology, appears to be passing over the land. The minds of many seem utterly incapable of discerning any difference between . . .

one belief–and another belief,
one creed–and another creed,
one tenet–and another tenet,
one opinion–and another opinion,
one thought–and another thought,
however diverse and mutually contrary they may be!
Everything is true–and nothing is false.
Everything is right–and nothing is wrong.
Everything is good–and nothing is bad–if only it comes to us under the garb and name of religion. Most think that it is kind and liberal, to maintain that we have no right to think that anyone is wrong, who is in earnest about his creed.

We are not allowed to ask what is God’s truth–but what is liberal, and generous, and charitable.

Most professing Christians make cleverness and earnestness the only tests of orthodoxy in religion. Thousands nowadays seem utterly unable to distinguish things that differ. If a preacher is only clever and eloquent and earnest–they think that he is all right, however strange and heterodox his sermons may be.

Popery–or Protestantism,
an atonement–or no atonement,
a personal Holy Spirit–or no Holy Spirit,
future punishment–or no future punishment

–they swallow all! Carried away by an imagined liberality and charity, they seem to regard doctrine as a matter of no importance, and to think that everybody is going to be saved–and nobody is going to be lost! They dislike distinctness, and think that all decided views are very wrong!

These people live in a kind of mist or fog! They see nothing clearly, and do not know what they believe. They have not made up their minds about any great point in the Gospel, and seem content to be honorary members of all schools of thought. For their lives–they could not tell you what they think is truth about . . .

forgiveness of sins,
or justification,
or regeneration,
or sanctification,
or saving faith,
or conversion,
or inspiration,
or the future state.

They are eaten up with a morbid dread of doctrine. And so they live on undecided, and too often undecided they drift down to the grave, on the broad way which leads to eternal destruction.

They are content to shovel aside all disputed points as rubbish, and will tell you, “I do not pretend to understand doctrine. I dare say that it is all the same in the long run.” They are for a general policy of universal toleration and forbearance of every doctrine. Every school of false teaching, however extreme, is to be tolerated. They desire the Church to be a kind of Noah’s Ark, within which every kind of opinion and creed shall dwell safely and undisturbed, and the only terms of admittance are a willingness to come inside, and let your neighbor alone. Nothing is too absurd to concede and allow into the church, in the present mania for complete freedom of thought, and absolute liberty of opinion.

The explanation of this boneless, nerveless condition of soul, is perhaps not difficult to find. The heart of man is naturally in the dark about religion–has no intuitive sense of truth–and really needs divine instruction and illumination. Besides this, the natural heart in most men hates exertion in religion. Above all, the natural heart generally likes the praise of others, shrinks from collision, and loves to be thought charitable and liberal. The whole result is that a kind of broad religious anythingism just suits an immense number of professors.

Ignorance, I am compelled to say, is one of the grand dangers of professors of religion in the present day.

Who does not know that such people swarm and abound everywhere? And who does not know that anyone who denounces this state of things, and insists that we should be loyal to Scripture truth–is regarded as a narrow, bigoted, intolerant person, quite unsuited to our times?

When there is no creed or standard of doctrine, there can be no church, but a Babel. Let me venture to advise all true Christians to never to be ashamed of holding Evangelical views. Those views, I am quite aware, are not fashionable nowadays. They are ridiculed as old-fashioned, narrow, defective, and out of date–and those who hold them, are regarded as illiberal, impracticable old fossils!

What the final result of the present state of things will be, I do not pretend to predict.

“Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths!” 2 Timothy 4:2-4

Do not be led astray by all kinds of strange teachings!

Do not be led astray by all kinds of strange teachings!

(J.C. Ryle, 1816-1900)

“Do not be led astray by all kinds of strange teachings!” Hebrews 13:9

Many things combine to make the present inroad of false doctrine peculiarly dangerous.

There is an undeniable zeal in some of the teachers of error–and their ‘earnestness’ makes many think they must be right.

There is a great appearance of learning and theological knowledge–and many imagine that such clever and intellectual men must surely be safe guides.

There is a general tendency to free thought in these latter days–many like to prove their independence of judgment, by believing novelties.

There is a wide-spread desire to appear tolerant and liberal-minded–many seem half ashamed of saying that anybody can be in the wrong.

There is a quantity of half-truth taught by the modern false teachers–they are incessantly using Scriptural terms and phrases in an unscriptural sense.

There is a morbid craving in the public mind for the more sensational and showy–men are impatient of inward, invisible heart-work.

There is a silly readiness in every direction to believe everybody who talks cleverly and earnestly–and a determination to forget that Satan is often “transformed into an angel of light.” 2 Corinthians 2:14

There is a wide-spread ‘gullibility’ among professing Christians–every heretic who tells his story plausibly, is sure to be believed. Anyone who questions him, is called a bigot and a narrow-minded man.

All these things are peculiar symptoms of our times. I defy any observing man to deny them. They tend to make the assaults of false doctrine in our day peculiarly dangerous. They make it more than ever needful to cry aloud, “Do not be led astray by all kinds of strange teachings!”

An ignorant laity will always be the bane of a Church! A Bible-reading laity may save a Church from ruin.

Let us read the Bible regularly, daily, and with fervent prayer, and become familiar with its contents.

Let us receive nothing, believe nothing, follow nothing–which is not in the Bible, nor can be proved by the Bible.

Let our rule of faith, our touchstone of all teaching–be the written Word of God!

“To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this Word–it is because there is no light in them!” Isaiah 8:20

Jelly-Fish Christianity

Jelly-Fish Christianity 

(J.C. Ryle)

The consequences of this widespread dislike to distinct biblical doctrine are very serious. Whether we like it or not, it is an epidemic which is doing great harm, and especially among young people. It creates, fosters, and keeps up an immense amount of instability in religion. It produces what I must venture to call, if I may coin the phrase, a ‘jelly-fish’ Christianity in the land ‚ÄĒ that is, a Christianity without bone, or muscle, or power.

A jelly-fish, as everyone who has been much by the seaside knows, is a pretty and graceful object when it floats in the sea, contracting and expanding like a little delicate transparent umbrella. Yet the same jelly-fish, when cast on the shore, is a mere helpless lump, without capacity for movement, self-defense, or self-preservation.

Alas! it is a vivid type of much of the religion of this day, of which the leading principle is, ‘No dogma, no distinct beliefs, no doctrine.’ We have hundreds of ministers who seem not to have a single bone in their body of divinity! They have no definite opinions; they are so afraid of ‘extreme views,’ that they have no views at all. We have thousands of sermons preached every year, which are without an edge or a point or a corner ‚ÄĒ they are as smooth as marble balls, awakening no sinner, and edifying no saint!

We have legions of young men annually turned out from our universities, armed with a few scraps of second-hand philosophy, who think it a mark of cleverness and intellect to have no decided opinions about anything in religion ‚ÄĒ and to be utterly unable to make up their minds as to what is Christian truth. Their only creed, is a kind of ‘nothingism.’ They are sure and positive about nothing!

And last, and worst of all, we have myriads of respectable church-going people, who have no distinct and definite views about any point in theology. They cannot discern things that differ, any more than color-blind people can distinguish colors. They think . . .

everybody is right ‚ÄĒ and nobody is wrong,
everything is true ‚ÄĒ and nothing is false,
all sermons are good ‚ÄĒ and none are bad,
every clergyman is sound ‚ÄĒ and no clergyman unsound.

They are ‘tossed to and fro, like children, by every wind of doctrine;’ often carried away by some new excitement and sensational movement; ever ready for new things, because they have no firm grasp on the old; and utterly unable to ‘render a reason of the hope that is in them.’

All this, and much more, is the result of that effeminate dread of distinct doctrine which has been so strongly developed, and has laid such hold on many pastors in these days.

I turn from the picture I have exhibited with a sorrowful heart. I grant it is a gloomy one; but I am afraid it is only too accurate and true. Let us not deceive ourselves. Distinct and definitive doctrine is at a premium just now. Instability and unsettled notions are the natural result, and meet us in every direction.

Cleverness and earnestness are the favorite idols of the age!

What a man says matters nothing ‚ÄĒ however strange and heterogeneous are the opinions he expresses! If he is only brilliant and ‘earnest’ ‚ÄĒ he cannot be wrong! Never was it so important for believers to hold sound systematic views of truth, and for ministers to ‘enunciate doctrine’ very clearly and distinctly in their teaching.

Live To Preach Christ

ūü§ĒMy Thoughts…¬†

After just finishing my audiobook of¬†“The Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield” by Steven .J. Lawson i stumbled on this quote. I had a little chuckle too as i‚Äôm currently in a ‚ÄúMethodist‚ÄĚ church and it seems to be drifting far away from Biblical preaching like this.

‚ÄúThere are Lutherans and Wesleyans in the present day, but there are no Whitefieldites. No! The great evangelist of last century was a simple, guileless man, who lived for one thing only, and that was to preach Christ.‚ÄĚ

J.C. Ryle, Christian Leaders Of The 18th Century

He is not the God of the Bible

‚ÄúBeware of manufacturing a God of your own: a God who is all mercy, but not just; a God who is all love, but not holy; a God who as a heaven for every body, but a hell for none; a God who can allow good and bad to be side by side in time, but will make no distinction between good and broad in eternity. Such a God is an idol of your own, as truly an idol as any snake or crocodile in an Egyptian temple. The hands of your own fancy and sentimentality have made him. He is not the God of the Bible, and beside the God of the Bible there is no God at all.‚ÄĚ

J.C. Ryle

A Cheap, Easy Christianity

A cheap, easy Christianity

“Any of you who does not give up everything he has, cannot be My disciple.” Luke 14:33

What does it cost to be a Christian?

I grant freely that it costs little to be a mere outward Christian. A man has only got to attend a place of worship twice on Sunday, and to be tolerably moral during the week ‚ÄĒ and he has gone as far as thousands around him ever go in religion. All this is cheap and easy work ‚ÄĒ it entails no self-denial or self-sacrifice. If this is saving Christianity and will take us to Heaven when we die ‚ÄĒ we must alter the description of the way of life, and write, “Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to Heaven!”

But it does cost something to be a real Christian, according to the standard of the Bible. There are . . .

enemies to be overcome,
battles to be fought,
sacrifices to be made,
an Egypt to be forsaken,
a wilderness to be passed through,
a cross to be carried,
a race to be run.

Conversion is not putting a man in a soft armchair, and taking him pleasantly to Heaven. It is the beginning of a mighty conflict, in which it costs much to win the victory. Hence arises the unspeakable importance of “counting the cost.”

True Christianity will cost a man . . .

his self-righteousness,
his sins,
his love of ease, and
the favor of the world.

A religion which costs nothing ‚ÄĒ is worth nothing!

A cheap, easy Christianity, without a cross ‚ÄĒ will prove in the end a useless Christianity, without a crown!

(J.C. Ryle, “The Cost!”)

The characteristics of the modern Christian pulpit!

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“John said to the crowds coming out to be baptised by him: You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath! Produce fruit in keeping with repentance!” Luke 3:7-8

Well would it be for the Church of Christ, if it possessed more plain-speaking ministers like John the Baptist.

A morbid dislike to strong language;
an excessive fear of giving offence;
a constant flinching from directness and plain speaking;

are, unhappily, too much the characteristics of the modern Christian pulpit!

Uncharitable language is no doubt always to be deprecated. But there is no ‘charity’ in flattering unconverted people ‚ÄĒ by abstaining from any mention of their vices, or in applying smooth names to their damnable sins!

There are two texts which are too much forgotten by Christian preachers. In one it is written, “Woe unto you ‚ÄĒ when all men shall speak well of you!” (Luke 6:26)

In the other it is written, “Obviously, I’m not trying to be a people pleaser! No, I am trying to please God. If I were still trying to please people ‚ÄĒ I would not be Christ’s servant.” (Galatians 1:10)

(J.C. Ryle)

Are you manufacturing a God of your own?

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‚ÄúBeware of manufacturing a God of your own: a God who is all mercy, but not just; a God who is all love, but not holy; a God who as a heaven for every body, but a hell for none; a God who can allow good and bad to be side by side in time, but will make no distinction between good and broad in eternity. Such a God is an idol of your own, as truly an idol as any snake or crocodile in an Egyptian temple. The hands of your own fancy and sentimentality have made him. He is not the God of the Bible, and beside the God of the Bible there is no God at all.‚ÄĚ

J.C. Ryle


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