“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches.” — Revelation 3:22
Of all sights in the Church of Christ, I know none more painful to my own eyes than a Christian contented and satisfied with a little grace, a little repentance, a little faith, a little knowledge, a little charity, and a little holiness. I do beseech and entreat every believing soul that reads this tract not to be that kind of man. If you have any desires after usefulness—if you have any wishes to promote your Lord’s glory—if you have any longings after much inward peace—be not content with a little religion.
Let us rather seek, every year we live, to make more spiritual progress than we have done—to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus—to grow in humility and self-acquaintance—to grow in spirituality and heavenly-mindedness—to grow in conformity to the image of our Lord.
Let us beware of leaving our first love like Ephesus—of becoming lukewarm like Laodicea—of tolerating false practices like Pergamos—of tampering with false doctrine like Thyatira—of becoming half dead, ready to die, like Sardis.
Let us rather covet the best gifts. Let us aim at eminent holiness. Let us endeavour to be like Smyrna and Philadelphia. Let us hold fast what we have already, and continually seek to have more. Let us labour to be unmistakable Christians. Let it not be our distinctive character that we are men of science—or men of literary attainments—or men of the world—or men of pleasure, or men of business—but “men of God.” Let us so live that all may see that to us the things of God are the first things, and the glory of God the first aim in our lives—to follow Christ our grand object in time present—to be with Christ our grand
desire in time to come.
Let us live in this way, and we shall be happy. Let us live in this way, and we shall do good to the world. Let us live in this way, and we shall leave good evidence behind us when we are buried. Let us live in this way, and the Spirit’s word to the Churches will not have been spoken to us in vain. (excerpted from: Chapter XIV: Visible Churches Warned in Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots, J.C. Ryle)
Sobering and convicting words from J.C. Ryle,
Humility may well be called the queen of the Christian graces. To know our own sinfulness and weakness, and to feel our need of Christ, is the very beginning of saving religion. It is a grace which has always been the distinguishing feature in the character of the holiest saints in every age. Abraham, and Moses, and Job, and David, and Daniel, and Paul, were all eminently humble men. Above all, it is a grace within the reach of every true Christian. All have not money to give away. All have not time and opportunities for working directly for Christ. All have not gifts of speech, and tact, and knowledge, in order to do good in the world. But all converted men should labor to adorn the doctrine they profess by humility. If they can do nothing else, they can strive to be humble.
Would we know the root and spring of humility? One word describes it. The root of humility is right knowledge. The man who really knows himself and his own heart–who knows God and His infinite majesty and holiness–who knows Christ, and the price at which he was redeemed–that man will never be a proud man. He will count himself, like Jacob, unworthy of the least of all God’s mercies. He will say of himself, like Job, “I am vile.” He will cry, like Paul, “I am chief of sinners.” (Genes. 32:10; Job 40:4; 1 Tim. 1:15.) He will think anything good enough for him. In lowliness of mind be will esteem every one else to be better than himself. (Philip. 2:3.) Ignorance–nothing but sheer ignorance–ignorance of self, of God, and of Christ, is the real secret of pride. From that miserable self-ignorance may we daily pray to be delivered! He is the wise man who knows himself–and he who knows himself, will find nothing within to make him proud. (via: Grace Gems)
That there is a vast difference between one degree of grace and another–that spiritual life admits of growth, and that believers should be continually urged on every account to grow in grace–all this I fully concede. But the theory of a sudden, mysterious transition of a believer into a state of blessedness and entire consecration, at one mighty bound, I cannot receive. It appears to me to be a man made invention; and I do not see a single plain text to prove it in Scripture. Gradual growth in grace, growth in knowledge, growth in faith, growth in love, growth in holiness, growth in humility, growth in spiritual-mindedness–all this I see clearly taught and urged in Scripture, and clearly exemplified in the lives of many of God’s saints. But sudden, instantaneous leaps from conversion to consecration I fail to see in the Bible. I doubt, indeed, whether we have any warrant for saying that a man can possibly be converted without being consecrated to God! More consecrated he doubtless can be, and will be as his grace increases; but if he was not consecrated to God in the very day that he was converted and born again, I do not know what conversion means. Are not men in danger of undervaluing and underrating the immense blessedness of conversion? Are they not, when they urge on believers the “higher life” as a second conversion, underrating the length, and breadth, and depth, and height, of that great first change which Scripture calls the new birth, the new creation, the spiritual resurrection? I may be mistaken. But I have sometimes thought, while reading the strong language used by many about “consecration,” in the last few years, that those who use it must have had previously a singularly low and inadequate view of “conversion,” if indeed they knew anything about conversion at all. In short, I have almost suspected that when they were consecrated, they were in reality converted for the first time!
I frankly confess I prefer the old paths. I think it wiser and safer to press on all converted people the possibility of continual growth in grace, and the absolute necessity of going forward, increasing more and more, and in every year dedicating and consecrating themselves more, in spirit, soul, and body to Christ. By all means let us teach that there is more holiness to be attained, and more of heaven to be enjoyed upon earth then most believers now experience. But I decline to tell any converted man that he needs a second conversion, and that he may some day or other pass by one enormous step into a state of entire consecration. I decline to teach it, because I think the tendency of the doctrine is thoroughly mischievous, depressing the humble-minded and meek, and puffing up the shallow, the ignorant, and the self-conceited, to a most dangerous extent. (from: Introduction to Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots, J.C. Ryle)
It is easy to get crowds together for what are called “higher life” and “consecration” meetings. Anyone knows that, who has watched human nature and read descriptions of American camp–meetings and studied the curious phenomena of the “religious affections.” Sensational and exciting addresses by strange preachers or by women, loud singing, hot rooms, crowded tents, the constant sight of strong semi–religious feeling in the faces of all around you for several days, late hours, long protracted meetings, public profession of experience—all this kind of thing is very interesting at the time and seems to do good. But is the good real, deeply–rooted, solid, lasting? That is the point. And I should like to ask a few questions about it.
Do those who attend these meetings become more holy, meek, unselfish, kind, good–tempered, self–denying and Christ–like at home? Do they become more content with their position in life, and more free from restless craving after something different from that which God has given them? Do fathers, mothers, husbands and other relatives and friends find them more pleasant and easy to live with? Can they enjoy a quiet Sunday and quiet means of grace without noise, heat and excitement? Above all, do they grow in charity, and especially in charity towards those who do not agree with them in every jot and tittle of their religion?
These are serious and searching questions and deserve serious consideration. I hope I am as anxious to promote real practical holiness in the land as anyone. I admire and willingly acknowledge the zeal and earnestness of many with whom I cannot cooperate who are trying to promote it. But I cannot withhold a growing suspicion that the great “mass–meetings” of the present day, for the ostensible object of promoting spiritual life, do not tend to promote private home religion, private Bible reading, private prayer, private usefulness and private walking with God. If they are of any real value, they ought to make people better husbands and wives and fathers and mothers and sons and daughters and brothers and sisters and masters and mistresses and servants. But I should like to have clear proofs that they do. I only know it is far easier to be a Christian among singing, praying, sympathizing Christians in a public room, than to be a consistent Christian in a quiet, retired, out–of–the–way, uncongenial home. The first position is one in which there is a deal of nature to help us: the second is one which cannot be well filled without grace. But, alas, many talk nowadays about “consecration,” who seem to be ignorant of the “first principles of the oracles of God” about “conversion.” (from: Extract from Ryle’s Preface to the 1879 Enlarged Edition of Holiness in Faithfulness and Holiness: The Witness of J.C. Ryle, An Appreciation by J.I. Packer, pp.91-92)
Not Corrupting the Word was an address given by J.C. Ryle to a gathering of ministers in England in August of 1858,
“For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.” — 2 Corinthians 2:17
“…we corrupt the Word of God when we make defective statements of doctrine. We do so when we add to the Bible—the opinions of the Church, or of the Church Fathers, as if they were of equal authority. We do so when we take away from the Bible, for the sake of pleasing men. We do so when from a feeling of false liberality, keep back any statement which seems narrow, and harsh, or hard. We do so when we try to soften down anything that is taught about eternal punishment, or the reality of hell. We do so when we bring forward doctrines in their wrong proportions. We all have our favorite doctrines, and our minds are so constituted that it is hard to see one truth very clearly without forgetting that there are other truths equally important. We must not forget the exhortation of Paul, to minister “according to the proportion of faith.”
We do so when we exhibit an excessive concern to fence, and guard, and qualify such doctrines as justification by faith without the deeds of the law, for fear of the charge of antinomianism; or when we flinch from strong statements about holiness, for fear of being thought legal. We also do this when we shrink back from the use of Bible language in giving an account of doctrines. We are apt to keep back such expressions as “born again,” “election,” “adoption,” “conversion,” “assurance,” and to use a roundabout phraseology, as if we were ashamed of plain Bible words. I cannot expand these statements because we are short of time. I am content with mentioning them and leave them to your private thought…” — J.C. Ryle
Entire address may be listened to below:
You may spoil the Gospel by substitution. You have only to withdraw from the eyes of the sinner the grand object which the Bible proposes to faith,—Jesus Christ; and to substitute another object in His place,—the Church, the Ministry, the Confessional, Baptism, or the Lord’s Supper, and the mischief is done. Substitute anything for Christ, and the Gospel is totally
spoiled! Do this, either directly or indirectly, and your religion ceases to be Evangelical.
You may spoil the Gospel by addition. You have only to add to Christ, the grand object of faith, some other objects as equally worthy of honour, and the mischief is done. Add anything to Christ, and the Gospel ceases to be a pure Gospel! Do this, either directly or indirectly, and your religion ceases to be Evangelical.
You may spoil the Gospel by interposition. You have only to push something between Christ and the eye of the soul, to draw away the sinner’s attention from the Saviour, and the mischief is done. Interpose anything between man and Christ, and man will neglect Christ for the thing interposed! Do this, either directly or indirectly, and your religion ceases to be Evangelical.
You may spoil the Gospel by disproportion. You have only to attach an exaggerated importance to the secondary things of Christianity, and a diminished importance to the first things, and the mischief is done. Once alter the proportion of the parts of truth, and truth soon becomes downright error! Do this, either directly or indirectly, and your religion ceases to be Evangelical. (from: Evangelical Religion, J.C. Ryle)
“And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’ Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace, be still!’ And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, ‘Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?'” — Mark 4:37-40
Here are the chosen disciples of the Lord Jesus in great anxiety. The faithful little flock, which believed when priests and scribes and Pharisees were all alike unbelieving, is allowed by the Shepherd to be much disturbed. The fear of death breaks in upon them like an armed man. The deep water seems likely to go over their souls. Peter, James and John, the pillars of the Church about to be planted in the world, are much distressed.
Perhaps they had not reckoned on all this. Perhaps they had expected that Christ’s service would at any rate lift them above the reach of earthly trials. Perhaps they thought that He, who could raise the dead and heal the sick and feed multitudes with a few loaves and cast out devils with a word, He would never allow His servants to be sufferers upon earth. Perhaps they had supposed He would always grant them smooth journeys, fine weather, an easy course and freedom from trouble and care.
If the disciples thought so, they were much mistaken. The Lord Jesus taught them that a man may be one of His chosen servants, and yet have to go through many an anxiety, and endure many a pain.
It is good to understand this clearly. It is good to understand that Christ’s service never did secure a man from all the ills that flesh is heir to, and never will. If you are a believer, you must reckon on having your share of sickness and pain, of sorrow and tears, of losses and crosses, of deaths and bereavements, of partings and separations, of vexations and disappointments, so long as you are in the body. Christ never undertakes that you shall get to heaven without these. He has undertaken that all who come to Him shall have all things pertaining to life and godliness; but He has never undertaken that He will make them prosperous, or rich, or healthy, and that death and sorrow shall never come to their family.
I have the privilege of being one of Christ’s ambassadors. In His name I can offer eternal life to any man, woman or child who is willing to have it. In His name I do offer pardon, peace, grace, glory, to any son or daughter of Adam who reads this message. But I dare not offer that person worldly prosperity as part and parcel of the Gospel. I dare not offer him long life, an increased income and freedom from pain. I dare not promise the man who takes up the cross and follows Christ that in following Him he shall never meet with a storm.
I know well that many do not like these terms. They would prefer having Christ and good health, Christ and plenty of money, Christ and no deaths in their family, Christ and no wearing cares, Christ and a perpetual morning without clouds. But they do not like Christ and the cross, Christ and tribulation, Christ and the conflict, Christ and the howling wind, Christ and the storm.
Is this the secret thought of anyone who is reading this message? Believe me, if it is, you are very wrong. Listen to me, and I will try to show you have yet much to learn.
How should you know who are true Christians, if following Christ was the way to be free from trouble? How should we discern the wheat from the chaff, if it were not for the winnowing of trial? How should we know whether men served Christ for His own sake or from selfish motives, if His service brought health and wealth with it as a matter of course? The winds of winter soon show us which of the trees are evergreen and which are not. The storms of affliction and care are useful in the same way. They discover whose faith is real and whose is nothing but profession and form. (excerpted from: The Ruler of the Waves in Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots, J.C. Ryle)
“…every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” — John 15:2b
God will often increase the holiness of true Christians by His providential dealings with them. “Every branch,” it is written, “that bears fruit, He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
The meaning of this language is clear and plain. Just as the gardener prunes and cuts back the branches of a fruitful vine, in order to make them more fruitful, so does God purify and sanctify believers by the circumstances of life in which He places them.
Trial, to speak plainly, is the instrument by which our Father in heaven makes Christians more holy. By trial He calls out their passive graces, and proves whether they can suffer His will as well as do it. By trial He weans them from the world, draws them to Christ, drives them to the Bible and prayer, shows them their own hearts, and makes them humble. This is the process by which He “prunes” them, and makes them more fruitful. The lives of the saints in every age, are the best and truest comment on the text. Never, hardly, do we find an eminent saint, either in the Old Testament or the New, who was not purified by suffering, and, like His Master, a “man of sorrows.”
Let us learn to be patient in the days of darkness, if we know anything of vital union with Christ. Let us remember the doctrine of the passage before us, and not murmur and complain because of trials. Our trials are not meant to do us harm, but good. God chastens us “for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.” (Heb. 12:10.) Fruit is the thing that our Master desires to see in us, and He will not spare the pruning knife if He sees we need it. In the last day we shall see that all was well done. (excerpted from: commentary on John 15:1-6 in Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: St. John by J.C. Ryle)
“When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.'” — Matthew 3:16-17
We are told of the presence of all three people of the blessed Trinity. God the Son, manifest in the flesh, is baptized. God the Spirit descends like a dove, and lights upon Him. God the Father speaks from heaven with a voice. In a word we have the manifested presence of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Surely we may regard this as a public announcement, that the work of Christ was the result of the eternal counsels of all the Three. It was the whole Trinity, which at the beginning of creation said, “let us make man.” It was the whole Trinity again, which at the beginning of the Gospel seemed to say, “let us save man.” (excerpted from Commentary on Matthew 3:13-17 in Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Matthew, J.C. Ryle)
That great divine, John Owen, the Dean of Christ Church, used to say, more than two hundred years ago, that there were people whose whole religion seemed to consist in going about complaining of their own corruptions and telling everyone that they could do nothing of themselves. I am afraid that after two centuries the same thing might be said with truth of some of Christ’s professing people in this day. I know there are texts in Scripture which warrant such complaints. I do not object to them when they come from men who walk in the steps of the apostle Paul and fight a good fight, as he did, against sin, the devil and the world. But I never like such complaints when I see ground for suspecting, as I often do, that they are only a cloak to cover spiritual laziness and an excuse for spiritual sloth. If we say with Paul, “O wretched man that I am,” let us also be able to say with him, “I press toward the mark.” Let us not quote his example in one thing, while we do not follow him in another (Rom. 7:24; Phil. 3:14).
I do not set up myself to be better than other people; and if anyone asks, “What are you, that you write in this way?” I answer, “I am a very poor creature indeed.” But I say that I cannot read the Bible without desiring to see many believers more spiritual, more holy, more single–eyed, more heavenly–minded, more whole–hearted than they are in the nineteenth century. I want to see among believers more of a pilgrim spirit, a more decided separation from the world, a conversation more evidently in heaven, a closer walk with God; and therefore I have written as I have.
Is it not true that we need a higher standard of personal holiness in this day? Where is our patience? Where is our zeal? Where is our love? Where are our works? Where is the power of religion to be seen, as it was in times gone by? Where is that unmistakable tone which used to distinguish the saints of old and shake the world? Truly our silver has become dross, our wine mixed with water, and our salt has very little savor. We are all more than half asleep. The night is far spent, and the day is at hand. Let us awake and sleep no more. Let us open our eyes more widely than we have done up to this time. “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset us.” “Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, and perfect holiness in the fear of God” (Heb. 12:1; 2 Cor. 7:1). “Did Christ die,” says Owen, “and shall sin live? Was He crucified in the world, and shall our affections to the world be quick and lively? Oh, where is the spirit of him, who by the cross of Christ was crucified to the world, and the world to him?” (excerpted from: Chapter 3: Holiness in Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots, J.C. Ryle)
♦ The First Step Towards Heaven Is to See Clearly That We Deserve Hell — J.C. Ryle
♦ Faith Alone Justifies, But Faith Alone Does Not Sanctify — J.C. Ryle
♦ God Glorified in the Nobodies by John MacArthur
♦ God Justifies The Ungodly — Charles Spurgeon
♦ Solus Christus: Only One Way of Salvation — J.C. Ryle
♦ A Weak Faith Receives A Strong Christ — Thomas Watson (c.1620-1686)
Very helpful distinction by J.C. Ryle,
That faith in Christ is the root of all holiness—that the first step towards a holy life is to believe on Christ—that until we believe we have not a jot of holiness—that union with Christ by faith is the secret of both beginning to be holy and continuing holy—that the life that we live in the flesh we must live by the faith of the Son of God—that faith purifies the heart—that faith is the victory that overcomes the world—that by faith the elders obtained a good report—all these are truths which no well-instructed Christian will ever think of denying. But surely the Scriptures teach us that in following holiness the true Christian needs personal exertion and work as well as faith. The very same Apostle who says in one place, “The life that I live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God,” says in another place, “I fight—I run—I keep under my body;” and in other places, “Let us cleanse ourselves—let us labor, let us lay aside every weight.” (Gal. 2:20; 1 Cor. 9:26; 2 Cor. 7:1; Heb. 4:11; Heb. 12:1.) Moreover, the Scriptures nowhere teach us that faith sanctifies us in the same sense, and in the same manner, that faith justifies us! Justifying faith is a grace that “works not,” but simply trusts, rests, and leans on Christ. (Romans 4:5) Sanctifying faith is a grace of which the very life is action: it “works by love,” and, like a main-spring, moves the whole inward man. (Galatians 5:6) After all, the precise phrase “sanctified by faith” is only found once in the New Testament. The Lord Jesus said to Saul, “I send thee, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Me.” Yet even there I agree with Alford that “by faith” belongs to the whole sentence, and must not be tied to the word “sanctified.” The true sense is, “that by faith in Me they may receive forgiveness of sins and inheritance among them that are sanctified.” (compare Acts 26:18 with Acts 20:32.)
As to the phrase “holiness by faith,” I find it nowhere in the New Testament. Without controversy, in the matter of our justification before God, faith in Christ is the one thing needful. All that simply believe are justified. Righteousness is imputed “to him that works not but believes.” (Romans 4:5) It is thoroughly Scriptural and right to say “faith alone justifies.” But it is not equally Scriptural and right to say “faith alone sanctifies.” The saying requires very large qualification. Let one fact suffice. We are frequently told that a man is “justified by faith without the works of the law,” by St. Paul. But not once are we told that we are “sanctified by faith without the deeds of the law.” On the contrary, we are expressly told by St. James that the faith whereby we are visibly and demonstratively justified before man, is a faith which “if it has not works is dead, being alone.” (James 2:17) I may be told, in reply, that no one of course means to disparage “works” as an essential part of a holy life. It would be well, however, to make this more plain than many seem to make it in these days. (excerpted from: Introduction to Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots, J.C. Ryle, )
“Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.” — 2 Peter 3:18
I believe that no man will ever grow in grace who does not know something experimentally of the habit of “communion.” We must not be content with a general orthodox knowledge that Christ is the Mediator between God and man, and that justification is by faith and not by works, and that we put our trust in Christ. We must go further than this. We must seek to have personal intimacy with the Lord Jesus, and to deal with Him as a man deals with a loving friend. We must realize what it is to turn to Him first in every need, to talk to Him about every difficulty, to consult Him about every step, to spread before Him all our sorrows, to get Him to share in all our joys, to do all as in His sight, and to go through every day leaning on and looking to Him. This is the way that St. Paul lived “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God.” “To me to live is Christ” (Gal. 2:20; Phil. 1:21). It is ignorance of this way of living that makes so many see no beauty in the book of Canticles. But it is the man who lives in this way, who keeps up constant communion with Christ—this is the man, I say emphatically, whose soul will grow. (excerpted from: Chapter VI: Growth from Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots, J.C. Ryle, )
“At that time Jesus answered and said, ‘I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight…” — Matthew 11:25-26
It is not for us to attempt to explain why some receive and believe the Gospel, while others do not. The sovereignty of God in this matter is a deep mystery–we cannot fathom it. But one thing, at all events, stands out in Scripture, as a great practical truth to be had in everlasting remembrance. Those from whom the Gospel is hidden are generally “the wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight.” Those to whom the Gospel is revealed are generally humble, simpleminded, and willing to learn. The words of the Virgin Mary are continually being fulfilled, “He has filled the hungry with good things. He has sent the rich away empty.” (Luke 1:53.)
Let us watch against PRIDE in every shape–pride of intellect, pride of wealth, pride in our own goodness, pride in our own deserts. Nothing is so likely to keep a man out of heaven, and prevent him seeing Christ, as pride. So long as we think we are something, we shall never be saved. Let us pray for and cultivate humility. Let us seek to know ourselves aright, and to find out our place in the sight of a holy God. The beginning of the way to heaven, is to feel that we are in the way to hell, and to be willing to be taught of the Spirit. One of the first steps in saving Christianity is to be able to say with Saul, “Lord, what will you have me to do?” (Acts 9:6.) There is hardly a sentence of our Lord’s so frequently repeated as this, “He who humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 18:14.) (excerpted from commentary on Matthew 11:25-30, Expository Thoughts on Matthew, J.C. Ryle, 1856)
“By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.” — Hebrews 11:24–26
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.'”
— Matthew 16:24
“Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” — James 4:4
If you would ever be saved, you must make the choice that Moses made—you must choose God before the world.
Mark well what I say. Do not overlook this, though all the rest be forgotten. I do not say that the statesman must throw up his office, and the rich man forsake his property. Let no one fancy that I mean this. But I say, if a man would be saved, whatever be his rank in life, he must be prepared for tribulation…There is a common worldly kind of Christianity in this day, which many have and think they have enough—a cheap Christianity which offends nobody and requires no sacrifice, which costs nothing, and is worth nothing.
The world in the nineteenth century is what it always was. The hearts of men are still the same. The offense of the cross is not ceased. God’s true people are still a despised little flock. True evangelical religion still brings with it reproach and scorn. A real servant of God will still be thought by many a weak enthusiast and a fool.
But the matter comes to this. Do you wish your soul to be saved? Then remember, you must choose whom you will serve. You cannot serve God and mammon. You cannot be on two sides at once. You cannot be a friend of Christ and a friend of the world at the same time. You must come out from the children of this world and be separate; you must put up with much ridicule, trouble and opposition, or you will be lost forever. You must be willing to think and do things which the world considers foolish and to hold opinions which are held by only a few. It will cost you something. The stream is strong, and you have to stem it. The way is narrow and steep, and it is no use saying it is not. But, depend on it, there can be no saving religion without sacrifices and self–denial.
Now are you making any sacrifices? Does your religion cost you anything? I put it to your conscience in all affection and tenderness. Are you, like Moses, preferring God to the world, or not? I beseech you not to take shelter under that dangerous word “we”—”we ought,” and “we hope,” and “we mean,” and the like. I ask you plainly, what are you doing yourself? Are you willing to give up anything which keeps you back from God; or are you clinging to the Egypt of the world and saying to yourself, “I must have it, I must have it: I cannot tear myself away”? Is there any cross in your Christianity? Are there any sharp corners in your religion, anything that ever jars and comes in collision with the earthly–mindedness around you? Or is all smooth and rounded off and comfortably fitted into custom and fashion? Do you know anything of the afflictions of the gospel? Is your faith and practice ever a subject of scorn and reproach? Are you thought a fool by anyone because of your soul? Have you left Pharaoh’s daughter and heartily joined the people of God? Are you venturing all on Christ? Search and see. (excerpted from Moses—An Example in Holiness by J.C. Ryle)
“Men that had understanding of the times” — 1 Chronicles 12:32
The times require at our hands distinct and decided views of Christian doctrine. I cannot withhold my conviction that the professing church is as much damaged by laxity and indistinctness about matters of doctrine within, as it is by skeptics and unbelievers without. Myriads of professing Christians nowadays seem utterly unable to distinguish things that differ. Like people afflicted with color blindness, they are incapable of discerning what is true and what is false, what is sound and what is unsound. If a preacher of religion is only clever and eloquent and earnest, they appear to think he is all right, however strange and heterogeneous his sermons may be. They are destitute of spiritual sense, apparently, and cannot detect error. Popery or Protestantism, an atonement or no atonement, a personal Holy Spirit or no Holy Spirit, future punishment or no future punishment, “high” church or “low” church or “broad” church, Trinitarianism, Arianism, or Unitarianism, nothing comes amiss to them: they can swallow all, if they cannot digest it! Carried away by a fancied liberality and charity, they seem to think everybody is right and nobody is wrong, every clergyman is sound and none are unsound, everybody is going to be saved and nobody is going to be lost. Their religion is made up of negatives; and the only positive thing about them is, that they dislike distinctness, and think all extreme and decided and positive views are very naughty and 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 justification or regeneration or sanctification or the Lord’s Supper or baptism or faith or conversion or inspiration or the future state. They are eaten up with a morbid dread of controversy and an ignorant dislike of “party spirit,” and yet they really cannot define what they mean by these phrases. The only point you can make out is that they admire earnestness and cleverness and charity, and cannot believe that any clever, earnest, charitable man can ever be in the wrong! And so they live on undecided; and too often undecided they drift down to the grave, without comfort in their religion and, I am afraid, often without hope…..For your own soul’s sake dare to make up your mind what you believe, and dare to have positive distinct views of truth and error. Never, never be afraid to hold decided doctrinal opinions; and let no fear of man and no morbid dread of being thought party–spirited, narrow or controversial, make you rest contented with a bloodless, boneless, tasteless, colorless, lukewarm, undogmatic Christianity.
Mark what I say. If you want to do good in these times, you must throw aside indecision, and take up a distinct, sharply cut, doctrinal religion. If you believe little, those to whom you try to do good will believe nothing. (excerpted from: Needs of the Times, Holiness, J.C. Ryle)
Surely we ought all to cease from proud thoughts about ourselves. We ought to lay our hands upon our mouths, and say with Abraham, “I am dust and ashes;” and with Job, “I am vile;” and with Isaiah, “We are all as an unclean thing;” and with John, “If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (Gen. 18:27; Job 40:4; Isaiah 64:6; 1 John 1:8.) Where is the man or woman in the whole catalogue of the Book of Life, that will ever be able to say more than this, “I obtained mercy”? What is the glorious company of the apostles, the goodly fellowship of the prophets, the noble army of martyrs—what are they all but pardoned sinners? Surely there is but one conclusion to be arrived at—We are all great sinners, and we all need a great forgiveness.
See now what just cause I have to say that to know our need of forgiveness is the first thing in true religion. Sin is a burden, and must be taken off. Sin is a defilement, and must be cleansed away. Sin is a mighty debt, and must be paid. Sin is a mountain standing between us and heaven, and must be removed. The first step towards heaven is to see clearly that we deserve hell.
(excerpted from: Forgiveness, J. C. Ryle, emphasis added)
“The Withering Work of The Spirit” — Charles Spurgeon
Believe the Gospel, Preach the Gospel, and Leave the Results To God — B.B. Warfield
The Christian’s Sufficiency In Christ — John Calvin
“We Do Not ‘Make’ Christ Lord; He Is Lord!” — John MacArthur
Christian: Never Doubt God’s Love For You — Thomas Vincent (1634-1678)
Submit To Christ As Lord Or He Will Not Be Your Savior — Charles Spurgeon
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” — Acts 4:12
I dare be sure these consequences sound very unpleasant to the minds of some who may read them. But I tell you of them advisedly and deliberately. I say calmly that a religion without Christ, a religion that takes away from Christ, a religion that adds anything to Christ, a religion that puts sincerity in the place of Christ,—all are dangerous: all are to be avoided, and all are alike contrary to the doctrine of our text.
You may not like this: I am sorry for it. You think me uncharitable, illiberal, narrow-minded, bigoted, and so forth: be it so. But you will not tell me my doctrine is not that of the Word of God, and of the Church of England whose minister I am. That doctrine is, salvation in Christ to the very uttermost,—but out of Christ no salvation at all.
I feel it a duty to bear my solemn testimony against the spirit of the day you live in; to warn you against its infection. It is not Atheism I fear so much, in the present times, as Pantheism. It is not the system which says nothing is true, so much as the system which says everything is true; it is not the system which says there is no Saviour, so much as the system which says there are many saviours and many ways to peace. It is the system which is so liberal that it dares not say anything is false; it is the system which is so charitable that it will allow everything to be true; it is the system which seems ready to honour others as well as our Lord Jesus Christ, class them all together, and hope well of all. Confucius and Zoroaster, Socrates and Mahomet, the Indian Brahmins and the African devilworshippers, Arius and Pelagius, Ignatius Loyola and Socinus,—all are to be treated respectfully: none are to be condemned. It is the system which bids us smile complacently on all creeds and systems of religion: the Bible and the Koran, the Hindu Vedus and the Persian Zendavesta, the old wives’ fables of Rabbinical writers and the rubbish of Patristic traditions, the Racovian catechism and the thirty-nine Articles, the revelations of Emanuel Swedenborg and the book of Mormon of Joseph Smith,—all are to be listened to: none are to be denounced as lies. It is the system which is so scrupulous about the feelings of others, that we are never to say they are wrong; it is the system which is so liberal that it calls a man a bigot if he dares to say, “I know my views are right.” This is the system, this is the tone of feeling which I fear in this day. This is the system which I desire emphatically to testify against and denounce.
What is it but a bowing down before a great idol specially called liberality? What is it all but a sacrificing of truth upon the altar of a caricature of charity? Beware of it, reader, beware that the rushing stream of public opinion does not carry you away. Beware of it, if you believe the Bible…Has the Lord God spoken to us in the Bible, or has He not? Has He shown us the way of salvation plainly in that Bible, or has He not? Has He declared to us the dangerous state of all out of that way, or has He not? Gird up the loins of your mind, and look these questions fairly in the face, and give them an honest answer. Tell us that there is some other inspired book beside the Bible, and then we shall know what you mean; tell us that the whole Bible is not inspired, and then we shall know where to meet you: but grant for a moment that the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible, is God’s truth., and then I know not in what way you can escape the doctrine of the text. From the liberality which says everybody is right, from the charity which forbids you to say anybody is wrong, from the peace which is bought at the expense of truth,—may the good Lord deliver you! (excerpted from: Only One Way of Salvation, in Knots untied: Being Plain Statements On Disputed Points In Religion From the Standpoint of An Evangelical Churchman, J.C. Ryle)
….Read the Bible fairly and honestly. Determine to take everything in its plain, obvious meaning, and regard all forced interpretations with great suspicion. As a general rule, whatever a verse of the Bible seems to mean, it does mean. Cecil’s rule is a very valuable one, “The right way of interpreting Scripture is to take it as we find it, without any attempt to force it into any particular system.” Well said Hooker, “I hold it for a most infallible rule in the exposition of Scripture, that when a literal construction will stand, the furthest from the literal is commonly the worst”
….Read the Bible with Christ continually in view. The grand primary object of all Scripture is to testify of Jesus. Old Testament ceremonies are shadows of Christ. Old Testament judges and deliverers are types of Christ. Old Testament prophecies are full of Christ’s sufferings, and of Christ’s glory yet to come. The first advent and the second,—the Lord’s humiliation and the Lord’s kingdom,—the cross and the crown, shine forth everywhere in the Bible. Keep fast hold on this clue, if you would read the Bible aright. (excerpted from: Practical Religion: Bible Reading, J.C. Ryle)
Christians: Let Us Meditate On, Talk About, And Live By The Bible — J.C. Ryle
How to Get the Most from God’s Word by John MacArthur (AUDIO SERIES)
“The Authority of Scripture” by Martyn Lloyd-Jones
The preaching of the pure Word of God is the first mark of a healthy Church. It is sound doctrine taught and preached, and not ritual, which in every age the Holy Spirit has used for awakening sleeping human consciences, building up the cause of Christ, and saving souls. The dens and caves and upper rooms in which the primitive Christians used to meet were doubtless very rough and unadorned. They had no carved wood or stone, no stained glass, no costly vestments, no organs, and no surpliced choirs. But these primitive worshipers were the men who ‘turned the world upside down,’ and I doubt not that their places of worship were far more honorable in God’s sight. It was well and truly said that in those ancient days ‘the Church had wooden communion vessels–but golden ministers,’ and it was this which gave the primitive Church its power. And when religion began to decay, it was said that the conditions were reversed; the ministers became wooden–and the communion plate golden…
…I long to have everywhere golden ministers, golden worship, golden preaching, golden praying, and golden praise. I want everything in the service of God to be done as perfectly as possible, and no part of it to be scamped, slurred over, done carelessly, and left out in the cold. I charge you affectionately, my reverend brethren, to make this your aim. Let the best, brightest, and heartiest services be always accompanied by the best and ablest sermons that your minds can produce and your tongues deliver. Let your sermons be addresses in which Christ’s blood, mediation, and intercession; Christ’s love, power, and willingness to save; the real work of the Holy Spirit, repentance, faith, and holiness; are never lacking—sermons full of life, and fire, and power; sermons which set hearers thinking, and make them go home to pray. Then, and then only will the Church have its just influence, and God will open the windows of heaven and give us a blessing.
The very best and most elaborate services are only means to an end, and that end should be the salvation of souls. All is not done when people have heard beautiful music and singing, and seen the most ornamental ceremonial. Are their hearts and consciences better? Is sin more hateful? Is Christ more precious? Is holiness more desired? Are they becoming more ready for death, judgment, and eternity every week that they live? These are the grand ends which every clergyman should set before him in every service which he conducts. He should strive to conduct it with an abiding recollection of the eye of God, the sound of the last trumpet, the resurrection of the dead, and the final judgment–and not with the petty thought, ‘Is my service bright, hearty, and well done?’ That these may be more and more the aims of every clergyman in the present day, is my earnest prayer. (excerpted from: Signs of the Times, October 21, 1884)
God Speaks Through His Word — B.B. Warfield
“The Authority of Scripture” by Martyn Lloyd-Jones
A Warning To Those Bringing Supposed New Revelation — Charles Spurgeon
“The Final Authority, Period.” – John MacArthur