The following passage from J.C. Ryle’s Holiness is sweetly refreshing:
If we desire to do good, let us never be ashamed of walking in the steps of our Lord Jesus Christ. Work hard if you will, and have the opportunity, for the souls of others. Press them to consider their ways. Compel them with holy violence to come in, to lay down their arms, and to yield themselves to God. Offer them salvation, ready, free, full, immediate salvation. Press Christ and all His benefits on their acceptance. But in all your work tell the truth, and the whole truth. Be ashamed to use the vulgar arts of a recruiting serjeant [sic]. Do not speak only of the uniform, the pay, and the glory; speak also of the enemies, the battle, the armour, the watching, the marching, and the drill. Do not present only one side of Christianity. Do not keep back “the cross” of self-denial that must be carried, when you speak of the cross on which Christ died for our redemption. Explain fully what Christianity entails. Entreat men to repent and come to Christ; but bid them at the same time to “count the cost.”
J.C. Ryle, Holiness (as published in Faithfulness and Holiness: The Witness of J. C. Ryle, p. 181)
By Charles Spurgeon.
“Our heart shall rejoice in Him.”
Blessed is the fact that Christians can rejoice even in the deepest distress; although trouble may surround them, they still sing; and, like many birds, they sing best in their cages.
The waves may roll over them, but their souls soon rise to the surface and see the light of God’s countenance; they have a buoyancy about them which keeps their head always above the water, and helps them to sing amid the tempest, “God is with me still.”
To whom shall the glory be given? Oh! to Jesus—it is all by Jesus.
Trouble does not necessarily bring consolation with it to the believer, but the presence of the Son of God in the fiery furnace with him fills his heart with joy. He is sick and suffering, but Jesus visits him and makes his bed for him. He is dying, and the cold chilly waters of Jordan are gathering about him up to the neck, but Jesus puts His arms around him, and cries, “Fear not, beloved; to die is to be blessed; the waters of death have their fountain-head in heaven; they are not bitter, they are sweet as nectar, for they flow from the throne of God.”
As the departing saint wades through the stream, and the billows gather around him, and heart and flesh fail him, the same voice sounds in his ears, “Fear not; I am with thee; be not dismayed; I am thy God.” As he nears the borders of the infinite unknown, and is almost affrighted to enter the realm of shades, Jesus says, “Fear not, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Thus strengthened and consoled, the believer is not afraid to die; nay, he is even willing to depart, for since he has seen Jesus as the morning star, he longs to gaze upon Him as the sun in his strength.
Truly, the presence of Jesus is all the heaven we desire. He is at once “The glory of our brightest days; The comfort of our nights.”
The following is taken from Spurgeon’s classic book All of Grace—an earnest word for those seeking salvation and God
A wonderful thing it is, this being justified, or made just. If we had never broken the laws of God we should not have needed it, for we should have been just in ourselves. He who has all his life done the things which he ought to have done, and has never done anything which he ought not to have done, is justified by the law. But you, dear reader, are not of that sort, I am quite sure. You have too much honesty to pretend to be without sin, and therefore you need to be justified. Now, if you justify yourself, you will simply be a self-deceiver. Therefore do not attempt it. It is never worth while.
If you ask your fellow mortals to justify you, what can they do? You can make some of them speak well of you for small favors, and others will backbite you for less. Their judgment is not worth much.
Our text says, “It is God who justifies,” and this is a deal more to the point. It is an astonishing fact, and one that we ought to consider with care. Come and see.
In the first place, nobody else but God would ever have thought of justifying those who are guilty. They have lived in open rebellion; they have done evil with both hands; they have gone from bad to worse; they have turned back to sin even after they have smarted for it, and have therefore for a while been forced to leave it. They have broken the law, and trampled on the gospel. They have refused proclamations of mercy, and have persisted in ungodliness. How can they be forgiven and justified? Their fellowmen, despairing of them, say, “They are hopeless cases.” Even Christians look upon them with sorrow rather than with hope. But not so their God. He, in the splendor of his electing grace having chosen some of them before the foundation of the world, will not rest till He has justified them, and made them to be accepted in the Beloved. Is it not written, Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (Romans 8:30)? Thus you see there are some whom the Lord resolves to justify: why should not you and I be of the number?
None but God would ever have thought of justifying me. I am a wonder to myself. None but God would have ever thought of justifying such a man as Saul the persecutor; but the Lord God is glorious in grace.
But, even if anybody had thought of justifying the ungodly, none but God could have done it. It is quite impossible for any person to forgive offenses which have not been committed against himself. A person has greatly injured you; you can forgive him, and I hope you will; but no third person can forgive him apart from you. If the wrong is done to you, the pardon must come from you. If we have sinned against God, it is in God’s power to forgive; for the sin is against Himself. That is why David says, in the fifty-first Psalm: “Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight”; for then God, against whom the offense is committed, can put the offense away. None but the great God, against whom we have committed the sin, can blot out that sin; let us, therefore, see that we go to Him and seek mercy at His hands.
Only God can justify the ungodly; but He can do it to perfection. He casts our sins behind His back, He blots them out; He says that though they be sought for, they shall not be found. With no other reason for it but His own infinite goodness, He has prepared a glorious way by which He can make scarlet sins as white as snow, and remove our transgressions from us as far as the east is from the west. He says, “I will not remember your sins. ” He goes the length of making an end of sin. One of old called out in amazement, “Who is a God like You, Pardoning iniquity And passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, Because He delights in mercy” (Micah 7:18).
Friend, the Lord can blot out all your sins. I make no shot in the dark when I say this. “All manner of sin and of blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men.” Though you are steeped up to your throat in crime, He can with a word remove the defilement, and say, “I will, be thou clean.” The Lord is a great forgiver.
“I believe in the Forgiveness of Sins.” Do You? He can even at this hour pronounce the sentence, “Thy sins be forgiven thee; go in peace;” and if He do this, no power in Heaven, or earth, or under the earth, can put you under suspicion, much less under wrath. Do not doubt the power of Almighty love. You could not forgive your fellow man had he offended you as you have offended God; but you must not measure God’s corn with your bushel; His thoughts and ways are as much above yours as the heavens are high above the earth.
“Well,” say you, “it would be a great miracle if the Lord were to pardon me.” Just so. It would be a supreme miracle, and therefore He is likely to do it; for He does “great things and unsearchable” which we looked not for.
I venture to say that a sinner justified by God stands on even a surer footing than a righteous man justified by his works, if such there be. We could never be surer that we had done enough works; conscience would always be uneasy lest, after all, we should come short, and we could only have the trembling verdict of a fallible judgment to rely upon; but when God himself justifies, and the Holy Spirit bears witness thereto by giving us peace with God, why then we feel that the matter is sure and settled, and we enter into rest. No tongue can tell the depth of that calm which comes over the soul which has received the peace of God which passes all understanding.
“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”
The apostle Paul was a very learned man, but not the least among his manifold acquisitions in science was this: he had learned to be content in any situation. Such learning is far better than much that is acquired in the schools.
Do not indulge, any of you, the silly notion that you can be contented without learning, or learn without discipline. It is not a power that may be exercised naturally, but a science to be acquired gradually. The very words of the next text might suggest this, even if we did not know it from experience. We need not be taught to murmur, but we must be taught to acquiesce in the will and good pleasure of the Lord our God.
Notice first that the apostle said he knew how to be “brought low.” A wonderful knowledge this. When all men honor us, then we may very well be content; but when the finger of scorn is pointed, at us, when our character is held in ill repute, and men hiss us by the wayside, it requires much gospel knowledge to be able to endure that with patience and with cheerfulness. We must be able to give up everything for him. We must be willing to go downwards, in order that Christ’s name may ascend upwards, and be the better known and glorified among men. “I know how to be brought low,” says the apostle.
Paul’s second piece of knowledge is equally valuable, “I know how to abound.” There are a great many men that know a little how to be brought low, that do not know at all how to abound. When they are put down in the pit with Joseph, they look up and see the starry promise, and the hope for an escape. But when they are put on the top of a pinnacle, their heads grow dizzy, and they are ready to fall. When men have too much of God’s mercies-strange that we should have to say this, and yet it is a great fact-when men have much of God’s providential mercies, it often happens that they have but little of God’s grace, and little gratitude for the bounties they have received. They are full, and they forget God; satisfied with earth, they are content to do without heaven. Rest assured, my dear hearers, it is harder to know how to be full than it is to know how to be hungry. To know how to be hungry is a sharp lesson, but to know how to be full is the harder lesson after all. So desperate is the tendency of human nature to pride and forgetfulness of God! As soon as ever we have a double stock of manna, and begin to hoard it, it breeds worms and becomes a stench in the nostrils of God. Take care that you ask in your prayers that God would teach you how to be full.
Remember, that if you are poor in this world so was your Lord. A Christian is a believer who hath fellowship with Christ; but a poor Christian hath in his poverty a special vein of fellowship with Christ opened up to him. Your Master wore a peasant’s garb, and spoke a peasant’s brogue. His companions were the toiling fishermen. He was not one who was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day. He knew what it was to be hungry and thirsty, nay, he was poorer than you, for he had not where to lay his head. Let this console you. Why should a disciple be above his Master, or a servant above his Lord? In your poverty, moreover, you are capable of communion with Christ. You can say, “Was Christ poor? Now can I sympathize with him in his poverty. Was he weary, and did he sit thus on the well? I am weary too, and I can have fellowship with Christ in that sweat which he wiped from his brow.” Some of you brethren cannot go the length you can; it were wrong of them to attempt to do it, for voluntary poverty is voluntary wickedness. But inasmuch as God hath made you poor, you have a facility for walking with Christ, where others cannot. You can go with him through all the depths of care and woe, and follow him almost into the wilderness of temptation, when you are in your straits and difficulties for lack of bread. Let this always cheer and comfort you, and make you happy in your poverty, because your Lord and Master is able to sympathize as well as to succour.
And surely, my dear brethren, if I need to add another argument why you should be content, it were this: whatever your trouble, it is not for long; you may have no estate on earth, but you have a large one in heaven, and perhaps that estate in heaven will be all the larger by reason of the poverty you have had to endure here below. You may have scarcely a house to cover your head, but you have a mansion in heaven,-a house not made with hands. Your head may often lie without a pillow, but it shall one day wear a crown. Your hands may be blistered with toil, but they shall sweep the strings of golden harps. You may have to go home often to dinner of herbs, but there you shall eat bread in the kingdom of God, and sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb.
Yet a little while, the painful conflict will be over. Courage, comrades, courage,-glittering robes for conquerors. Courage, my brother, courage, thou mayest sooner become rich than thou dreamest of; perhaps there is e’en now, but a step between thee and thine inheritance. Thou mayest go home, peradventure, shivering in the cold March wind; but ere morning dawneth thou mayest be in thy Master’s bosom. Bear up with thy lot then, bear up with it. Let not the child of a king, who has an estate beyond the stars, murmur as others. You are not so poor after all, as they are who have no hope; though you may seem poor, you are rich. Do not let your poor neighbours see you disconsolate, but let them see in you that holy calmness, that sweet resignation, that gracious submission, which makes the poor man more glorious than he that wears a coronet, and lifts the son of the soil up from his rustic habitation, and sets him among the princes of the blood-royal of heaven. Be happy, brethren, be satisfied and content. God will have you to learn, in whatever state you may be, therewith to be content.
“We live unto the Lord.”
If God had willed it, each of us might have entered heaven at the moment of conversion.
It was not absolutely necessary for our preparation for immortality that we should tarry here. It is possible for a man to be taken to heaven, and to be found meet to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light, though he has but just believed in Jesus.
It is true that our sanctification is a long and continued process, and we shall not be perfected till we lay aside our bodies and enter within the veil; but nevertheless, had the Lord so willed it, He might have changed us from imperfection to perfection, and have taken us to heaven at once.
Why then are we here?
Would God keep His children out of paradise a single moment longer than was necessary?
Why is the army of the living God still on the battle-field when one charge might give them the victory?
Why are His children still wandering hither and thither through a maze, when a solitary word from His lips would bring them into the center of their hopes in heaven?
The answer is this: they are here that they may “live unto the Lord,” and may bring others to know His love. We remain on earth as sowers to scatter good seed; as ploughmen to break up the fallow ground; as heralds publishing salvation. We are here as the “salt of the earth,” to be a blessing to the world. We are here to glorify Christ in our daily life. We are here as workers for Him, and as “workers together with Him.” Let us see that our life answereth its end. Let us live earnest, useful, holy lives, to “the praise of the glory of His grace.” Meanwhile we long to be with Him, and daily sing:
“My heart is with Him on His throne,
And ill can brook delay;
Each moment listening for the voice,
‘Rise up, and come away.’”