Grace Gems for MAY 2008

Humbling, cheering, sanctifying, restraining

(J. C. Ryle, "The Lord's Supper")

(1) Right reception of the Lord's Supper has a "humbling"
effect on the soul. The sight of the bread and wine as
emblems of Christ's body and blood, reminds us how
sinful sin must be—if nothing less than the death of God's
own Son could make satisfaction for it, or redeem us from
its guilt! Never should we be so "clothed with humility,"
as when we receive the Lord's Supper.

(2) Right reception of the Lord's Supper has a "cheering"
effect on the soul. The sight of the bread broken, and the
wine poured out—reminds us how full, perfect, and
complete is our salvation! Those vivid emblems remind us
what an enormous price has been paid for our redemption.
They press on us the mighty truth—that believing on Christ,
we have nothing to fear, because a sufficient payment has
been made for our sin debt. The "precious blood of Christ"
answers every charge that can be brought against us. God
can be "just and the one who justifies, those who have
faith in Jesus" (Romans 3:26).

(3) Right reception of the Lord's Supper has a "sanctifying"
effect on the soul. The bread and wine remind us how great
is our debt of gratitude to our Lord, and how thoroughly we
are bound to live for Him who died for our sins. They seem
to say to us, "Remember what Christ has done for you—and
ask yourself whether there is anything too great to do for Him!"

(4) Right reception of the Lord's Supper into hearts, has
a "restraining" effect on the soul. Every time a believer
receives the bread and the wine, he is reminded what a
serious thing it is to be a Christian, and what an obligation
is laid on him to lead a consistent life. Bought with such a
great price, as that which the bread and wine call to his
recollection, ought he not to glorify Christ in body and spirit,
which are His? The man who goes regularly and intelligently
to the Lord's Table finds it increasingly hard to yield to sin
and conform to the world.

Such is a brief account of the benefits which a right-hearted
Christian may expect to receive from the Lord's Supper. In
eating that bread and drinking that cup, such a man will have . . .
  his repentance deepened,
  his faith increased,
  his knowledge enlarged,
  his habit of holy living strengthened.
He will see more clearly what Christ is to him—and what
he is to Christ. He will feel the roots of his soul's spiritual
life watered, and the work of grace in his heart established,
built up, and carried forward. No wonder that a true
Christian finds the Lord's Supper a source of blessing!

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Our chief standard of holy living

(J. C. Ryle, "Looking Unto Jesus!")

"Looking unto Jesus." Hebrews 12:2

If we would look rightly to Jesus—we must look daily
at His example, as our chief standard of holy living.
We must all feel, I suspect, and often feel—how hard it
is to live a Christian life, by mere rules and regulations.
Scores of circumstances will continually cross our path,
in which we find it difficult to see the line of duty, and
we become perplexed. Prayer for the guidance of the
Holy Spirit, and attention to the practical part of the
Epistles, are, undoubtedly, primary resources. But
surely it would cut many a knot, and solve many a
problem—if we would cultivate the habit of studying
the daily behavior of our Lord Jesus, as recorded in
the four Gospels, and strive to shape our own
behavior by His pattern!

This must have been what our Lord meant when He
said, "I have given you an example—that you should
do as I have done to you." (John 13:15). And this is
what Peter meant, when he wrote, "Leaving you an
example, so that you should follow in His steps."
(1 Peter 2:21). And this is what John meant when
he said, "The one who says he abides in Him, should
walk just as He walked." (1 John 2:6).

Our "look" to Jesus is very imperfect—if we do not
look at His example, and strive to follow it. Let us
cultivate the daily habit of "looking to Christ as our
," as well as our salvation. We can never look
too steadily at Christ's death and intercession. But
we may easily look too little at the blessed steps of
His most holy life. Let all men see that we love to
follow Him whom we profess to love. "How would
my Master have behaved in my position?"
be our constant concern.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Kings in disguise!

(Thomas Watson, "The Great Gain of Godliness")

"They will be Mine!" says the Lord Almighty, "in
the day when I make up My jewels!" Malachi 3:17

What a comfort is this—in respect of our present
poverty! Believers are married to the King of heaven
—and all that is in God is theirs! Though we have no
earthly riches—yet if God is ours and we are His—this
creates joy in the most impoverished condition!

And that which may raise the comfort of the godly
higher, and cause a jubilation of spirit, is that shortly
God will own His people before all the world, and say,
"These are mine!" At present the elect are not known:
"It does not yet appear what we shall be" 1 John 3:2.
The saints are like kings in disguise; but how will
their hearts leap for joy—when God shall pronounce
these words, "These are Mine! The lot of free grace
has fallen upon them! These shall lie forever in the
bosom of My love!"

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

That Almighty Friend, Advocate and Physician

(J. C. Ryle, "Do You Believe?")

Christ is that brazen serpent which God has set up
in the world, for the healing of all sin-bitten souls who
desire to be cured. The believer looks to Him by faith
—and receives life, health, and spiritual strength!

Christ is that true city of refuge, to which the man
fleeing from the avenger of blood runs, and in which
he is safe.

Christ is that altar which provided a sanctuary to him
who laid hold on its horns. Christ is that almighty hand
of mercy
, which God holds out from heaven to lost and
drowning sinners. The believer lays hold on this hand
by faith—and is delivered from the pit of hell.

The Lord Jesus says, "My flesh is food indeed. He who
eats of this bread shall live forever" (John 6:55, 58).
Christ is that divine food which God has provided for
starving sinners! He is that divine bread which is at
the same time—life, nourishment and medicine! The
believer feeds on this bread of life by faith. His hunger
is relieved. His soul is delivered from damnation!

The Lord Jesus says, "My blood is drink indeed" (John
6:55). Christ is that fountain of living water which God
has opened for the use of all thirsty and sin-defiled
sinners, proclaiming, "Whoever will, let him take the
water of life freely!" (Rev. 22:17). The believer drinks
of this  living water—and his thirst is quenched.

Christ is the appointed keeper and guardian of His
people. It is His office to preserve from sin, death, hell,
and the devil—any who are committed to His charge.
The believer places his soul in the hands of this Almighty
, and is insured against loss to all eternity.
He trusts himself to Christ—and is safe.

Christ is that Almighty Friend, Advocate and
—to whom all sinners, needing help, are
commanded to apply. The believer comes to Him
by faith—and is relieved.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

If a Christian could have his choice

(Thomas Brooks, "A Cabinet of Choice Jewels" 1669)

If a Christian could have his choice, he would be . . .
  the most humble,
  the most holy,
  the most heavenly,
  the most mortified,
  the most patient,
  the most contented,
  the most thankful,
  the most fruitful,
  the most active,
  the most zealous, and
  the most self-denying Christian in the world.

If he could have his choice, he would be as holy as
God is holy; and as perfect as his heavenly Father
is perfect; he would do the will of God on earth, as
the angels do it now in heaven, namely—freely,
readily, cheerfully, delightfully, universally,
reverentially and unweariedly.

If he could have his choice, he would exercise
every grace, and perform every duty, with all
his might.

He sees so much excellency and beauty in God and
Christ, that he cannot be at rest until he is swallowed
up in the enjoyment of them. He sees so much excellency
in grace, that nothing but perfection of grace will satisfy
him. He makes perfection not only his utmost end—but
he also labors after perfection with his utmost strength
and endeavors.

"One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining
 toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win
 the prize for which God has called me heavenward in
 Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13-14

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

will dry your tears!

(Octavius Winslow, "Day Breaking")

"God will wipe every tear from their eyes.
 There will be no more death or mourning
 or crying or pain." Revelation 21:4

What a cluster of sweet hopes is here! What
a collection of bright beams throwing, in focal
power, their splendor over that cloudless day.

Child of solitude and sorrow! sick ones dear to
Christ! bereaved mourners! hear these precious
words—and let music break from your lips!

You know how the mother comforts her sorrowing
babe. See how God will comfort His. God will dry
your tears!

Will God Himself wipe my tears away?

Yes, child of grief, there will be no more weeping
then, for, O ecstatic thought! "
God will wipe every
tear from their eyes!" O kind and condescending 

No more frustrated plans,
no more bitter disappointments,
no more withered hopes,
no more corroding cares,
will mingle with the deep sea of bliss, now
pouring its tide of joyousness over the soul.

"God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
    Revelation 7:17

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

The arm of grace is very long

(J. C. Ryle, "Many Shall Come")

Let us learn never to despair of the salvation of
anyone—as long as he lives. Fathers ought never
to despair of prodigal sons. Mothers ought never
to despair of self-willed, headstrong daughters.
Husbands should never despair of wives, nor
wives of husbands. There is nothing impossible
with God. The arm of grace is very long, and
can reach those who seem very far off. Let us pray
on, and hope on, for others—however unlikely
their salvation may appear to be at present.

The Holy Spirit can change any heart!

The blood of Christ can cleanse away any sin!

We shall see many in heaven, whom we never
expected to see there. Grimshaw, the famous
pastor of Yorkshire, when he died, left his only
son unconverted, careless, thoughtless, and
indifferent to true religion. The day came when
the young man’s heart was changed, and he
walked in the steps of his holy father. And
when he lay upon his deathbed, one of his
last words was, "What will my old father
say—when he sees me in heaven!"

"Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short
 to save!" Isaiah 59:1

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

But a flea-bite!

("The Mute Christian Under the Smarting Rod"
 or, "The Silent Soul with Sovereign Antidotes"
 by Thomas Brooks, 1659, London.)

Christian! Your present afflictions are not great—if compared
with the afflictions and torments of many of the damned, who
when they were it this world, never sinned at so high a rate
as you have done! There are many now in hell, who never
sinned against such clear light as you have done, nor against
such special love as you have done, nor against such precious
as you have done! Certainly there are many now
a-roaring in everlasting burnings—who never sinned as you
have done!

What are your present afflictions and troubles—compared
to the torments of the damned, whose torments are . . .
  without intermission,
  without mitigation,
  and endless!
Who have . . .
  weeping served for the first course, and
  gnashing of teeth for the second course, and
  the gnawing worm for the third course, and
  intolerable pain for the fourth course!
Yet the pain of the body is least part of pain. The very soul of
sorrow and pain—is the soul's sorrow and pain! The everlasting
alienation and separation from God is served for the fifth course!

Ah, Christian! how can you seriously think on these things and
not lay your hand upon your mouth—even when you are under
the greatest temporal sufferings? Your sins have been far greater
than many of those who are now in hell, and your great afflictions
are but a flea-bite compared to theirs! Therefore hush your
murmuring, and be silent before the Lord!

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth
 comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us!"
    Romans 8:18

"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving
 for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all!"
    2 Corinthians 4:17-18

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

If you would live gloriously

(Brooks, "The Glorious Day of the Saints Appearance")

Professors look far too much upon the tempting world,
when she smiles and holds forth her beautiful breasts!
If you would live gloriously
, look away from the
tempting world: it is a plague and a snare! Look away
from it—whether it smiles or whether it frowns.

Remember you have a God to look at, a Christ to look
at, and an unfading crown of glory to look at; which is
better than all—which is more than all other things to
your souls!

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Amid all the confusion and tangle

(J. R. Miller, "The Beauty of Self-control")

"Hold me up—and I shall be safe!" Psalm 119:117

Certain ancient mariners were accustomed to say, as
they put out to sea, "Keep me, O God, for my boat is
so small—and the ocean is so great and stormy!"

There could not be a fitter prayer for a Christian—as
he sets out in life. The world is vast and full of perils,
and a Christian, even the best, is very weak and frail.
He has no ability to face the difficulties, the obstacles,
the hardships he must face, if he is to pass successfully
through life. The world is large, and full of storm and
struggle—and only a few get through it safely.

If there were no one greater and stronger than ourselves,
into whose keeping we may commit our lives, as we go
out to meet the perils—what hope could we have of ever
getting through safely?

The Christian cannot guide himself. He cannot master the
storms. He cannot shelter himself. "Keep of me safe, O God,
for in You I take refuge!"
(Psalm 16:1) should be his prayer,
not only once when he launches his barque—but daily, hourly.

Christ alone, is able to keep our lives. But does Jesus really
care for our little individual lives? Yes! The very thing that
Jesus does for us—is to be the keeper of our lives as we
pass through the world with its storms and dangers.

Christ alone, is able to guide us. The world is a great mass
of tangled paths. They run everywhere, crossing each other
in all directions. Hands are forever beckoning us here and
there—and we know not which beckoning to follow. Even
friendship, loyal as it may be, sincere and sympathetic as
it is—lacks wisdom and may guide us mistakenly.

But there is One only whose wisdom is infallible, whose
advice never errs—and He is our Guide! There is a little
prayer in Psalm 143 which pleads: "Let the morning bring
me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in
You. Show me the way I should go, for to You I lift up
my soul." This prayer, if sincere, will always be answered.
We may see no hand leading us. We may hear no voice
saying, as we walk in the darkness, "This is the way—walk
in it."
Yet if we seek divine guidance and accept it implicitly
—we shall always have it.

Not only do we have keeping and guidance in Christ—but
everything we need on the way—and then eternal blessedness!
We may commit our lives into His hands with absolute confidence.
He will take us with all our faults and our sins—and will keep us
from hurt in all the perils of the way. He will lead us in the right
path amid all the confusion and tangle—and then He will
bring us to glory!

"To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you
 before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to
 the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority,
 through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and
 forevermore!" Jude 1:24-25

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

The devil's daring falsehood

J. C. Ryle)

I can imagine nothing so pleasant to men, as the
fallacious theory that we may live in sin—and yet
escape eternal perdition; that although we "are
slaves to many wicked desires and evil pleasures"
while we are here in this world, we shall somehow
or other, all get to heaven hereafter! Only tell the
young man who is "wasting his substance in riotous
living," that there is a heaven at last, even for those
who live and die in sin—and he is never likely to turn
from evil. What does it signify how he lives, if there
is no "future eternal punishment?" Why should he
repent and take up the cross—if he can get to
heaven at last without trouble?

Six thousand years ago, sin entered into the
world by the devil's daring falsehood, "You
shall not surely die!" (Genesis 3:4) At the end
of six thousand years, the great enemy of
mankind is still using his old weapon, and
trying to persuade men that they may live
and die in sin—and yet at some distant period
may be finally saved! Let us not be ignorant
of his devices. Let us walk steadily in the old
paths. Let us hold fast the old truth, and
believe that, as the happiness of the saved
is eternal—so also the misery of the lost is

Unrepented sin is an eternal evil—and can
never cease to be sin; and He with whom
we have to do—is an eternal God!

"Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked.
 A man reaps what he sows. The one who
 sows to please his sinful nature, from that
 nature will reap destruction; the one who
 sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit
 will reap eternal life." Galatians 6:7-8

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Creature comforts

(John Newton, author of "Amazing Grace")

All the temporal blessings and accommodations
God provides to sweeten life, and make our passage
through this wilderness more agreeable, will fail and
disappoint us, and produce us more thorns than roses
—unless we can keep sight of His hand in bestowing
them, and hold and use the gifts in some due
subservience to what we owe to the Giver.

But, alas! we are poor creatures, prone to wander,
prone to admire our gourds, cleave to our cisterns,
and think of building tabernacles, and taking our
rest in this polluted world.

Hence the Lord often sees it necessary,
in mercy to His children . . .
  to embitter their sweets,
  to break their cisterns,
  send a worm to their gourds, and
  draw a dark cloud over their pleasing prospects.

His Word tells us, that all here is vanity, compared
with the light of his countenance. And if we cannot
or will not believe it upon the authority of His Word
—we must learn it by experience.

May He enable you to settle it in your hearts, that
'creature comforts' are precarious, insufficient,
and ensnaring
; that all good comes from His hand;
and that nothing can do us good—but so far as He is
pleased to make it the instrument of communicating,
as a stream, that goodness which is in Him as a fountain.

Even the bread which we eat, without the influence
of His promise and blessing, would no more support
us than a stone. But His blessing makes everything
good, gives a tenfold value to our comforts, and
greatly diminishes the weight of every cross.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Nothing can tame savage hearts!

(John MacDuff)

Oh, the human heart is deep in its corruptions,
deep in its self-deceptions. "The human heart
is most deceitful and desperately wicked. Who
really knows how bad it is?" Jeremiah 17:9

Nothing can tame savage hearts but the
regenerating power of the blessed Gospel.

"I will cleanse you from all your impurities
 and from all your idols. I will give you a
 new heart and put a new spirit in you; I
 will remove from you your heart of stone
 and give you a heart of flesh. And I will
 put My Spirit in you and cause you to
 follow My decrees and be careful to
 keep My laws." Ezekiel 36:25-27

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Ask what you will, O Christian

(Thomas Brooks, "A Cabinet of Choice Jewels" 1669)

"Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin."
     Psalm 51:2

If the Lord would say to a gracious Christian: "Ask what
you will, O Christian
—and it shall be granted to you."
The answer would be: "Lord, rid me of my sins! Lord, take
away my iniquities! Lord, mortify my corruptions! Lord,
whoever lives—let these lusts die! Lord, drown these
Egyptians in the red sea of your Son's blood, who have
so violently and unweariedly pursued after the blood of
my precious soul! Lord, kill and crucify all these sinful evils
which have killed and crucified the Lord of life and glory!
Lord, my carnal reason, and flesh and blood, would gladly
have such and such pleasurable sins, and such and such
profitable sins, indulged and spared. But, Lord, the earnest,
the ardent desires of my soul, are that I may be rid of them!"

And thus, every gracious soul is more willing to be rid of
his sins—than he is to keep his sins.

A sick man is not more willing to be rid of his disease,
nor a beggar of his nasty lousy rags, nor a prisoner
of his chains—than a gracious soul is willing to be rid
of his lusts!

"Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity."
    Psalm 51:9

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

What man needs

(Horatius Bonar)

It is not 'opinions' which man needs—it is TRUTH!

It is not 'theology' which man needs—it is GOD!

It is not 'religion' which man needs—it is CHRIST!

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Suppose an unholy man went to heaven

by J. C. Ryle

"Every man who has his hope in Christ, purifies himself." 1 John 3:3

Suppose for a moment, that you were allowed to enter heaven without holiness. What would you do? What possible enjoyment could you feel there? To which of all the saints would you join yourself—and by whose side would you sit? Their pleasures are not your pleasures, their tastes are not your tastes, their character not your character. How could you possibly be happy in heaven—if you had not been holy on earth?

Now you love the company of the frivolous and careless, the worldly-minded and the covetous, the reveler and the pleasure-seeker, the ungodly and the profane. There will be none such in heaven! Now you think that the people of God are too strict and particular and serious. You rather avoid them. You have no delight in their society. But remember, there will be no other company in heaven.

Now you think that praying and Scripture reading, and hymn singing, are dull and melancholy and stupid work. But remember, the inhabitants of heaven rest not day and night, saying, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty!" and singing the praise of the Lamb! How could an unholy man find pleasure in such an environment as this?

An unholy man would feel like a stranger in a land he knew not, a black sheep amid Christ's pure flock. The song of angels and archangels, and all the company of heaven—would be a language he could not understand! The very air would seem an air he could not breathe! I know not what others may think, but to me it does seem clear—that heaven would be a miserable place to an unholy man! It cannot be otherwise.

People may say, in a vague way—that they "hope to go to heaven after they die." But surely, they do not consider what they say. We must be heavenly-minded, and have heavenly tastes, in the present life—or else we shall never find ourselves in heaven, in the life to come.

Are you holy? I do not ask whether you attend your church regularly, whether you have been baptized, or whether you profess to be a Christian. Are you yourself holy this very day—or are you not? Why do I ask so straightly, and press the question so strongly? I do it because the Scripture says, "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord." It is written—it is not my imagination; it is the Bible—not my private opinion; it is the Word of God—not of man: "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord." (Heb. 12:14).

Alas, what searching, sifting words are these! I look at the world—and see the greater part of it lying in wickedness. I look at professing Christians—and see the vast majority having nothing of Christianity, but the mere name. I turn to the Bible and I hear the Spirit saying, "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord." Surely it is a text which ought to make us solemnly consider our ways, and search our heart.

You may say, that "if you were so holy—you would be unlike other people." I answer, "I know it well. It is just what you ought to be. Christ's true servants were always unlike the world around them—a holy nation, a separate people—and you must be so too, if you would be saved!" You may say, "at this rate very few will be saved!" I answer, "I know it. It is precisely what Jesus told us in His sermon on the mount—Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there are who find it!" Few will be saved, because few will take the trouble to seek salvation—men will not deny themselves the pleasures of sin for a little season.

You may say, "these are hard sayings; the way is very narrow!" I know it is. The Lord Jesus said so eighteen hundred years ago. He always said that men must take up the cross daily, and that they must be ready to cut off hand or foot, if they would be His disciples. That religion which costs nothing—is worth nothing!

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

That hand can never smite you

(J. C. Ryle, "Do You Believe?")

"God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son." John 3:16

Reader, if God has given you His only begotten Son, beware of doubting His kindness and love, in any painful providence of your daily life! Never allow yourself to think hard thoughts of God. Never suppose that He can give you anything which is not really for your good. Remember the words of Paul: "He who spared not His own Son—but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things" (Romans 8:32)

See in every sorrow and trouble of your earthly pilgrimage—the hand of Him who gave Christ to die for your sins! That hand can never smite you—except in love! He who gave His only begotten Son for you, will never withhold anything from you which is really for your good. Lean back on this thought and be content. Say to yourself in the darkest hour of trial, "This also is ordered by Him who gave Christ to die for my sins. It cannot be wrong. It is done in love. It must be well."

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

He who truly believes in Christ

(J. C. Ryle, "Do You Believe?")

There is a dead faith as well as a living one. There is a faith of devils as well as a faith of God's elect. There is a faith which is vain and useless, as well as a faith which justifies and saves. How shall a man know whether he has true saving faith? The thing may be found out! The Ethiopian may be known by the color of his skin; and the leopard may be known by his spots. True faith may always be known by certain marks. These marks are laid down unmistakably in Scripture. Reader, let me endeavor to set these marks plainly before you. Look at them carefully—and test your own soul by what I am going to say.

He who truly believes in Christ—has a NEW HEART. It is written, "If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature—old things are passed away; behold, all things have become new." (2 Cor. 5:17.) A believer has no longer the same nature with which he was born. He is changed, renewed, and transformed after the image of his Lord and Savior. He who minds first, the things of the flesh—has no saving faith. True faith, and spiritual regeneration, are inseparable companions. An unconverted person—is not a genuine believer!

He who truly believes in Christ—is a HOLY person in heart and life. It is written that God "purifies the heart by faith," and that Christians are "sanctified by faith." "Whoever has this hope in him, purifies himself." (Acts 15:9; 26:18; 1 John 3:3.). A believer loves what God loves—and hates what God hates. His heart's desire is to walk in the way of God's commandments, and to abstain from all manner of evil. His wish is to follow after the things which are just, and pure, and honest, and lovely—and to cleanse himself from all filthiness of flesh and spirit. He falls far short of his aim, in many things. He finds his daily life, a constant fight with indwelling corruption. But he fights on—and resolutely refuses to serve sin. Where there is no holiness, we may be sure there is no saving faith! An unholy man is not a genuine believer!

He who truly believes in Christ—works godly WORKS. It is written, that "faith works by love" (Gal. 5:6). True belief will never make a man idle, or allow him to sit still, contented with his own religion. It will stir him to do acts of love, kindness, and charity, according as he sees opportunity. It will constrain him to walk in the steps of his Master, who "went about doing good." In one way or another, it will make him work. The works that he does may attract no notice from the world. They may seem trifling and insignificant to many people. But they are not forgotten by Him who notices a cup of cold water given for His sake. Where there is no working love—there is no faith. A lazy, selfish professing Christian—has no right to regard himself as a genuine believer!

He who truly believes in Christ—overcomes the WORLD. It is written, that "whoever is born of God, overcomes the world—and this is the victory which overcomes the world—even our faith" (1 John 5:4). A true believer is not ruled by the world's standard of right or wrong, of truth or error. He is independent of the world's opinion. He cares little for the world's praise. He is not moved by the world's censure. He does not seek for the world's pleasures. He is not ambitious of the world's rewards. He looks at things unseen—he sees an invisible Savior, a coming judgment, and a crown of glory which never fades away. The sight of these objects, makes him think comparatively little of this present world. Where the world reigns in the heart—there is no genuine faith. A man who is habitually conformed to the world—is not a genuine believer!

He who truly believes in Christ—has the witness of the Holy Spirit. He has hopes, joys, fears, sorrows, consolations, expectations, of which he knew nothing before he believed. He has internal evidences which the world cannot understand. Where there are no inward pious feelings—there is no faith. A man who knows nothing of an inward, spiritual, experimental religion—is not a genuine believer!

He who truly believes in Christ—has a special regard to the person of CHRIST Himself. It is written, "Unto you who believe—Christ is precious" (1 Peter 2:7). That text deserves especial notice. It does not say "Christianity" is precious, or the "Gospel" is precious, or "salvation" is precious—but Christ Himself! A true believer's religion, does not consist in mere intellectual assent to a certain set of propositions and doctrines. It is not a mere cold belief of a certain set of truths and facts concerning Christ. It consists in union, communion, and fellowship with an actual living Person, even Jesus the Son of God. It is a life of . . .
  faith in Jesus,
  confidence in Jesus,
  leaning on Jesus,
  drawing out of the fullness of Jesus,
  speaking to Jesus,
  working for Jesus,
  loving Jesus, and
  looking for Jesus to come again.
Such life may sound like enthusiasm to many. But where there is true faith, Christ will always be known and realized, as an actual living personal Friend! He who knows nothing of Christ as his own Priest, Physician, Redeemer, Advocate, Friend, Teacher, and Shepherd—knows nothing yet of genuine believing!

Where these marks of which I have been speaking, are utterly lacking, I dare not tell a man that he is a true believer. He may be called a Christian, and attend a Christian church. But if he knows nothing of these marks—I dare not pronounce him a believer. He is yet dead in trespasses and sins. Except he awakes to newness of life, he will perish everlastingly.

Show me a man who has these marks—and I feel a strong confidence about the state of his soul. He may be poor and needy in this world—but he is rich in the sight of God. He may be despised and sneered at by man—but he is honorable in the sight of the King of kings. He is traveling towards heaven! He has a mansion ready for him in the Father's house. He is cared for by Christ, while on earth. He will be owned by Christ before assembled worlds, in the life which is to come!

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Secretly, quietly, insidiously, plausibly

(J. C. Ryle, "Pharisees and Sadducees")

"Watch out for false prophets! They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves!" Matthew 7:15

"For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light!" 2 Corinthians 11:13-14

False doctrine does not meet us face to face, and proclaim that it is false. It does not blow a trumpet before it, and endeavor openly to turn us away from the truth as it is in Jesus. It does not come before us in broad day, and summon us to surrender. It approaches us secretly, quietly, insidiously, plausibly, and in such a way as to disarm our suspicion, and throw us off our guard. It is the wolf in sheep's clothing, and Satan in the garb of an angel of light—who have always proved the most dangerous foes of the church of Christ.

Let us be on our guard against the "insidiousness" of false doctrine. Like the fruit of which Eve and Adam ate—at first sight it looks pleasant and good, and a thing to be desired. "Poison" is not written upon it, and so people are not afraid. Like counterfeit coin, it is not stamped "bad." It passes for the real thing, because of the very likeness it bears to the truth.

Let us be on our guard against the "very small beginnings" of false doctrine. Every heresy began at one time, with some little departure from the truth. There is only "a little seed of error" needed to create "a great tree of heresy!" It is the little stones, which make up the mighty building. It was the little pieces of lumber, which made the great ark that carried Noah and his family over a deluged world. It is the little leaven, which infiltrated the whole lump. It is the little flaw in one link of the chain cable, which wrecks the gallant ship, and drowns the crew. It is the omission or addition of one little item in the doctor's prescription, which spoils the whole medicine, and turns it into poison!

Let us never allow a little false doctrine to ruin us, by thinking it is "but a little one," and can do us no harm.

There are three things which we never ought to trifle with:
    a little poison,
    a little sin, and
    a little false doctrine.

Let us read the Bible regularly, daily, and with fervent prayer. Let us receive nothing, believe nothing, follow nothing—which is not in 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

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Ignorant formal Christianity

(J. C. Ryle,  "What Is Needed?" 1895)

I am convinced that one of our grave defects today, is a most serious diminishing of the good old custom of private reading of the Bible. Between the growth of Christian periodicals and books, I have a strong impression that Bibles are not read as much and as carefully as they were two hundred years ago.

I am well aware that there are more Bibles in Great Britain at this moment, than there ever were since the world began! There is more Bible-buying and Bible-selling, more Bible-printing and Bible-distributing, than there ever was! But all this time, I fear we are in danger of forgetting—that to have the Bible is one thing—and to read it privately ourselves quite another!

I am afraid that the Bible of many a man and woman in Great Britain is never read at all. In one house, it lies in a corner—as stiff, cold, glossy and fresh as it was, when it came from the bookseller's shop! In another house, it lies on a table, with its owner's name written in it—a silent witness against him day after day! In another house, it lies on some high shelf, neglected and dusty—to be brought down only on grand occasions, such as a birth in the family—like a heathen idol at its yearly festival. In another house, it lies deep down at the bottom of some box or drawer, among the things not wanted, and is never dragged forth into the light of day—until the arrival of sickness, or death! These things are sad and solemn. But they are true.

I am afraid that many in Great Britain who do read the Bible—yet do not read it aright. One man looks over a chapter on Sunday evening—but that is all. Another reads a chapter every day at family prayers—but that is all. A third goes a step further, and hastily reads a verse or two in private every morning, before he goes out of his house. A fourth goes further still, and reads as much as a chapter or two every day, though he does it in a great hurry, and omits reading it on the smallest inconvenience. But each and every one of these men does what he does—in a heartless, scrambling, formal kind of way. He does it coldly, as a duty. He does not do it with appetite and pleasure. He is glad when the task is over. And when the book is shut—he forgets it all! This is a sad picture. But in multitudes of cases—oh, how true!

But why do I think all this? What makes me speak so confidently? Listen to me a few moments, and I will lay before you some evidence. Neglect of the Bible, is like disease of the body—it shows itself in the face of a man's conduct. It tells its own tale. It cannot be hidden.

I fear that many neglect the Bible—because of the enormous ignorance of true religion which everywhere prevails. There are thousands of professing Christians in this country, who know literally nothing about the Gospel. They could not give you the slightest account of its distinctive doctrines. They have no more idea of the true meaning of conversion, grace, faith, justification, and sanctification—than of so many words and names written in Arabic! And can I suppose that such people search the Scriptures? I cannot suppose it. I do not believe they do!

I fear that many neglect the Bible—because of the utter indifference with which they regard false doctrine—as if it did not signify much, and was all the same thing in the long run—whether one was a Roman Catholic, or a Socinian, or a Mormonite, or a Deist, or an Agnostic. And can I suppose that such people search the Scriptures? I cannot suppose it. I do not believe they do!

I fear that many neglect the Bible—because of the readiness with which they receive false teaching. They are led astray by the first false prophet they meet with, who "comes in sheep's clothing," and has a pleasant voice, a nice manner, and a gift of eloquent speech! They swallow all that he says without inquiry, and believe him as implicitly as papists believe the Pope! And can I suppose that such people search the Scriptures? I cannot suppose it. I do not believe they do!

I declare my firm conviction, that an idle neglect of the Bible is one cause of the ignorant formal Christianity which is so widely prevalent in these latter days!

Brethren! We are drifting, drifting, drifting—and what the end will be—no man can tell.

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I dislike square pews, and bad music

(J. C. Ryle, "The Outlook" 1886)

The worst cloud which I see in our Church's outlook, is the widespread disposition to regard religious externalism, as a substitute for vital soul-saving Christianity.

When I speak of externalism, let me explain what I mean. We all know that the external part of religion has received a large amount of new attention during the last forty years. All over the land it has become the fashion to restore churches, to get rid of old square pews, to improve the singing and music, to have a well-adorned choir, to decorate the church-building in a most elaborate style, and, in one word, to adorn, beautify, and improve the whole exterior of Church Christianity. Do I say there is anything sinful in all this? Nothing of the kind! I abhor everything like slovenliness in the ceremonials of worship. I dislike square pews, and bad music, and bad singing as much as anyone! But I do say, that I fear an external improvement often takes place in a church—without the slightest corresponding increase of godliness in the worshipers! No doubt there is a far more show of religion in our Churches—but it is very doubtful whether there is more vital Christianity, more presence of the Holy Spirit, more heart and conscience work, in the private lives and the homes of our people. I fear that in hundreds of cases, men have rested content with having secured a handsome church and a 'bright and hearty service,' and have forgotten that what God looks at—is the hearts of the worshipers, and the quantity of grace to be found among them.

This is a very delicate subject, and I would be sorry to be misunderstood, or to give pain to anyone in handling it. But I am obliged to say plainly, that I fail to see that all the external improvement of the last forty years, is accompanied by any corresponding growth of practical holiness! There is no decrease in the total idolatry of recreations, or the extravagant expenditure of money, or self-indulgence of all kinds. On the contrary, there is far less repentance, faith, holiness, Bible-reading, and family religion! If this state of things is not a most unhealthy symptom in the condition of a Church, I know not what is!

We may depend upon it—that knowledge of Christ, obedience to Christ, and the fruits of the Spirit—are the only tests by which God weighs and measures any Church. If these are absent, He cares nothing for beautiful buildings, fine singing, and a pompous ceremonial. These are 'leaves,' and He desires to see not leaves only, but 'fruit'. The tree of the Church of England perhaps never had so many leaves on it, as it has just now. I wish there was a corresponding quantity of fruit!

We must never forget that the Temple service at Jerusalem in the day of our Lord's crucifixion was the most perfect ceremonial that ever was—whether for singing, order, vestments, or general magnificence and beauty. Yet we all know that at this very time, the Jewish Church was thoroughly rotten at heart, and after forty years was swept away! Who can doubt that the little upper chamber, where the apostles met on the day of our Lord's ascension, was far more beautiful in God's sight, than the beautiful temple which our Master Himself called 'a den of thieves'? I heartily wish that we would remember this, more than we appear to do. The disposition to make an idol of externals, and to sacrifice the inside of religion to the outside, is, in my judgment, the darkest cloud on our ecclesiastical horizon! Of this we may be quite certain—that God will never bless a Church which is content with such a low standard of practical piety.

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence! Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like white-washed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous, but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness!" Matthew 23:25-28

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

His life is the text book

(J. R. Miller, "In His Steps" 1897)

"Leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps." 1 Peter 2:21

Jesus took His first disciples into His school and for three years taught and trained them. He made known to them the great truths of Christianity, which He had come to reveal. Then He taught them how to live.

Bible knowledge alone, does not alone make one a godly Christian. One might know all the great facts and doctrines of the Word of God, might be a profound Bible scholar and a wise theologian—and yet not be an advanced or even a growing Christian! We are to learn to live Christ as well as to know the truths about Christ. Jesus in His teachings makes a great deal of obedience. We are His friends—if we do whatever He commands us. We are to learn to be patient, meek, gentle, long suffering, compassionate. We are to learn to be humble, kindly affectioned, unselfish, truthful, sincere.

We enter Christ's school, to be trained in all the qualities which make up the true Christian life. Jesus is not only the teacher—His life is the text book which we are to study. Part of His mission to this world, was to show us in Himself—a pattern of a godly life. We are to look to His life to learn just how to live, the kind of character we are to seek to have, the meaning of the lessons which His words set for us. We are in the school of Christ—to be trained in all Christian life and duty.

The lessons the Bible sets for us—we are to learn to live out in common life. Every word of Christ sets a copy for us, as it were—and we are to learn to write it in fair and beautiful lines. For example, it is not enough to learn from the Beatitudes, that certain qualities are praised by the great Teacher; we are to get the Beatitudes into our own life as quickly and as perfectly as we can. Just so of all the teachings of Christ—they are not for knowing merely, as one learns the fine sayings of favorite literary writers; they are for living! They are to become lamps to our feet and lights to our path—and they are to be wrought into the web of our character.

In the school of Christ, we are not to expect perfection—but we have a right to expect an increasing knowledge of spiritual things, and also spiritual growth in all the qualities which belong to Christian character. We should become . . .
  more patient,
  more loving,
  more unselfish,
  more helpful,
  more faithful in all duty,
  more like Christ!

The ideal Christian life—is a growing likeness to Christ. Christ is the pattern after which we are to strive to fashion our life. As we study Christ in the Gospels, there rises up before us, the vision of His matchless beauty. We go over the chapters, and we find one fragment of His loveliness here, and another there. And as we read the story through to the end—beauty after beauty appears, until at length we see a full vision of our blessed Redeemer. This is the pattern we are to follow in fashioning our lives. This is the vision we are to seek to carve into reality in our own character. All our acts we are to bring to the example of Christ, testing each one by that infallible standard.

The Gospels should be studied by the Christian, as a builder studies the architect's drawings—that every minutest detail may be exactly reproduced; so far as in a faulty and sinful human life, the character and conduct of the faultless and sinless Jesus can be reproduced. The perfect pattern is ever to be held before us for imitation, and as we look at it glowing in all its marvelous beauty—yet far above us and beyond our present reach—we are to comfort ourselves and stir our hearts to the noblest efforts and highest attainments by the thought, "That is what I shall one day be!" However slow may be our progress toward that perfect ideal; however sore the struggles with weakness and sin; however often we fail—we are never to lose sight of the distant goal, nor cease to strive and press toward the mark. Some day, if we are faithful to the end and faint not—we shall emerge out of all failure and struggle, and, seeing Jesus as He is—we shall be fully transformed into His blessed image!

Such is the aim of the Christian life. "We shall be like Him!"—that is the final destiny of every redeemed life. This should be inspiration enough, to arouse in the dullest Christian, every sluggish hope and every slumbering energy—and to impel to the highest effort and the most heroic struggle.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

The cause of all the miseries in the world!

J. C. Ryle, 1890)

It is my firm conviction, that a right knowledge of sin lies at the root of all saving religion. The first thing that God does when He makes man a new creature in Christ—is to send light into his heart, and show him that he is a guilty sinner.

I have an equally firm conviction, that a low and imperfect view of sin—is the origin of most of the errors, heresies, and false doctrines of the present day. If a man does not realize the extent and dangerous nature of his soul's disease—you cannot wonder if he is content with false or imperfect remedies. I believe that one of the chief needs of the Church, is for clearer and fuller teaching about sin.

Sin is the corruption of the nature of every man. Therefore, every person born into the world, deserves God's wrath and damnation! Once let a man see his sin, and he must see his Savior—in order to obtain rest for his soul. He feels stricken with a deadly disease—and nothing will satisfy him but the Great Physician. He hungers and thirsts—and he must have nothing less than the Bread of Life.

Sin, in short, is that vast moral disease which affects the whole human race—of every rank and class and name and nation and people and tongue! Sin is the plague of nations, the divider of churches, the destroyer of family happiness, the cause of all the miseries in the world!

It is my thorough conviction, that the extent and vileness and deceitfulness of sin—are a subject which is not sufficiently brought forward in the religious teaching of these days. It is not pressed on congregations in its Scriptural proportion. The consequences are very serious!

We may depend upon it—men will never truly come to Christ, and stay with Christ, and live for Christ—unless they feel their sins, and know their need of a Savior. Those whom the Holy Spirit draws to Christ—are those whom the Spirit has convinced of sin. Without real conviction of sin, men may seem to come to Christ and follow Him for a season—but they will soon fall away and return to the world. The words of one are most deeply true, "The consciousness of sin is the true pathway to heaven."

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

The everlasting arms

(J. R. Miller, "In Perfect Peace")

So frail is human strength, though behind it is tenderest, truest love. All that love can do, all that money can do, all that skill can do—avail nothing. Human arms may clasp us very firmly, yet their clasp cannot keep us from the power of disease—or from the cold hand of death.

But the love and strength of God are everlasting. Nothing can ever separate us from Him! An Old Testament promise reads: "The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms." Deuteronomy 33:27. If we are stayed upon the eternal God, nothing ever can disturb us—for nothing can disturb Him on whom we are reposing. If we are held in the clasp of His everlasting arms—we need not fear that we shall ever be separated from the enfolding.

The position of the everlasting arms in this picture is suggestive—"Underneath." They are always underneath us. No matter how low we sink—in weakness, in faintness, in pain, in sorrow—we never can sink below these everlasting arms! We never can drop out of their clasp!

A father tried to save his child in the waves—frantically clasping his arms around the beloved child. But his arms, though nerved by most passionate love, were too weak, and the child slipped away from them, and sank down in the dark waters.

But evermore, in the deepest floods, the everlasting arms will be underneath the feeblest, most imperiled child of God. Sorrow is very deep—but in the greatest grief, these everlasting arms of love are underneath the sufferer. Then when death comes, and every earthly support is gone from beneath us, when every human arm unclasps, and every face of love fades from before our eyes, and we sink away into what seems darkness and the shadow of death—we shall only sink into the everlasting arms underneath us!

The word "are," must not be overlooked—"Underneath are the everlasting arms." This is one of the wonderful present tenses of the Bible. To every trusting believer, to you who today are reading these words and trying to learn the lesson, God says, "Underneath you are now, this moment, every moment, the everlasting arms!"

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Nothing which is done for Christ is lost!

(J. R. Miller, "In His Steps" 1897)

Every truly consecrated life, with all its faculties, has been given over to Christ. Faith implies full surrender. "You are not your own." "You are Christ's." Christ owns us first by right of creation, then by right of purchase. We acknowledge His ownership and all that it includes, when we receive Him as our Savior and Lord. The first question, therefore, of the new believer is, "What will you have me to do, Lord?" We want to begin to work for our new Master. A heart of love for Christ, makes the sweeping of a room, the plowing of a field, the sawing of a board, the making of a garment, the selling of a piece of goods, the minding of a baby—as acceptable to God, as the ministry of angels!

One way of working for Christ, therefore, is to be diligent in the doing of life's common daily tasks. The true giving of ourselves to God, exalts all of life into divine honor and sacredness. Nothing is trivial or indifferent, which it is our duty to do. We are never to neglect any work, however secular it may seem—in order to do something else which appears to be more religious. There are some people who would be better Christians, if they paid more heed to their own daily business, attended fewer church meetings and did less religious gossiping.

We need a religion which puts itself into everything we do! The old shoemaker was right, when he said that when he stands before the great white throne, God will ask, "What kind of shoes did you make down on the earth?" We must do all our work for the judgment day—our common everyday tasks—as well as our religious duties. The carpenter must get his religion into the houses he builds; the plumber must get his religion into his plumbing; the tailor must get his religion into his seams; the merchant must get his religion into his sales. All our work—we must do for God's eye!

It is the little things which all of us can do in Christ's name, which in the end leave the largest aggregate of blessing in the world. We need not wait to do great and conspicuous things. A life that every day gives its blessing to another, and adds to the happiness of some fellow being, by only a word of kindness, a thoughtful act, a cheering look, or a hearty hand grasp—does more for the world than he who but once in a lifetime does some great thing which fills a land with his praise. Nothing which is done for Christ is lost! The smallest acts, the quietest words, the gentlest inspirations which touch human souls, leave their impress for eternity! "If you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of My followers, you will surely be rewarded." Matthew 10:42

A young girl was asked what it meant for her to be a Christian. She replied, "I suppose it is to do what Jesus would do—and behave as Jesus would behave—if He were a young girl and lived at our house." No better answer could have been given! The greatest duty of a Christian, is to do what Jesus would do—and to behave as He would behave—if He were precisely in our place, and our circumstances.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Building their nests in our hair!

(J. R. Miller, "In His Steps" 1897)

The experience of temptation is universal. Every life must grow up amid unfriendly and opposing influences. Some of them are subtle and insidious, like a pestilence in the air. Some of them fierce and wild, like the blast of storm, or the rush of battle.

The question in life is not how to escape temptation—but how to pass through it so as not to be harmed by it. Christ's way of helping us, is not by keeping us out of the conflicts. This would leave us forever weak, untried, and undisciplined. The price of spiritual attainment and culture, is struggle. Jesus Himself was made perfect through suffering.

All the best things in life—the only things worth obtaining—lie beyond fields of battle, and we can get them only by overcoming. It would be no kindness to us—were God to withdraw us into some sheltered spot whenever there is danger; or if He were to fight our battles for us, thus freeing us from all necessity to struggle.

Yet there is a way of so living in this world—as not to suffer harm in even the fiercest temptations—to pass through them and not be damaged by them. There is even a way of so meeting temptations as to get benefit and blessing from them! "Blessed is the man who endures temptation—for when he has been approved, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to those who love Him."

Rightly meeting and victoriously resisting temptation, puts new fiber into the soul. The Indians say that when a warrior kills a foe—the spirit of the vanquished enemy enters the victor's heart and adds to his own strength. This is true in spiritual warfare. We grow stronger through our struggles and victories! Each lust conquered, each evil subdued—adds to the strength of our soul.

The question, then—is how to meet temptation so as to overcome it, and thus win the blessing there is in it. We must remember, first of all, that we are not able in ourselves successfully to fight our battles. If we think we are, and go forth in our own name and strength, we shall utterly fail. Life is too large, and its struggles and conflicts are too great—for the strongest human, unaided by divine power.

We must settle it once for all—that we can conquer only in the name and by the help of the strong Son of God. We may come off the field more than conquerors—but only through him who loved us. We can pass safely through all the fierce dangers of this world and be kept unspotted amid its sin and foulness—but only if we have with us, Him who is able to keep us from stumbling, and set us before the presence of His glory without blemish in exceeding joy. Self-confidence in our own ability to overcome temptation—is fatal folly!

Men and devils may tempt us—but men and devils cannot force us to yield! Others may seek to influence us—they may plead, entreat and persuade—but they cannot compel us.

We cannot avoid being tempted—but we ought to avoid yielding to temptation. Luther used to say, "We cannot keep the birds from flying over our heads—but we can prevent them from building their nests in our hair!" Just so, we cannot keep temptations away from our ears, nor prevent them whispering their seductive words close by us—but we can hinder them making their nests in our hearts!

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True Christianity

(J. C. Ryle,  "What Is Needed?" 1895)

(1) True Christianity has always taught the inspiration, sufficiency, and supremacy of Holy Scripture. It has told men that "God's written Word" is the only trustworthy rule of faith and practice in religion; that God requires nothing to be believed that is not in this Word; and that nothing is right which contradicts it. It has never allowed reason,  or the voice of the Church, to be placed above, or on a level with Scripture. It has steadily maintained that, however imperfectly we may understand it, the Old Book is meant to be the only standard of life and doctrine.

(2) True Christianity has always taught fully the sinfulness, guilt and corruption of human nature. It has told men, that they are born in sin, deserve God's wrath and condemnation, and are naturally inclined to do evil. It has never allowed that men and women are only weak and pitiable creatures, who can become good when they please, and make their own peace with God. On the contrary, it has steadily declared man's danger and vileness, and his pressing need of a Divine forgiveness and atonement for his sins, a new birth or conversion, and an entire change of heart.

(3) True Christianity has always set before men, the Lord Jesus Christ as the chief object of faith and hope in religion—as the Divine Mediator between God and men, the only source of peace of conscience, and the root of all spiritual life. The main things it has ever insisted on about Christ, are—the atonement for sin He made by His death, His sacrifice on the cross, the complete redemption from guilt and condemnation by His blood, His victory over the grave by His resurrection, His active life of intercession at God's right hand, and the absolute necessity of simple faith in Him. In short, it has made Christ the Alpha and the Omega in Christian theology.

(4) True Christianity has always honored the Person of God the Holy Spirit, and magnified His work. It has never taught that all professing Christians have the grace of the Spirit in their hearts, as a matter of course—because they are baptized, or because they belong to a Church. It has steadily maintained that the fruits of the Spirit are the only evidence of having the Spirit, and that those fruits must be seen! It has always taught, that we must be born of the Spirit, led by the Spirit, sanctified by the Spirit, and feel the operations of the Spirit—and that a close walk with God in the path of His commandments, a life of holiness, love, self-denial, purity, and zeal to do good—are the only satisfactory marks of the Holy Spirit.

Such is true Christianity. Well would it have been for the world, if there had been more of it during the last nineteen centuries! Too often, and in too many parts of Christendom, there has been so little of it—that Christ's religion has seemed extinct, and has fallen into utter contempt!

This is the Christianity which, in the days of the Apostles, "turned the world upside down!" It was this which emptied the idol temples of their worshipers, routed the Greek and Roman philosophers, and obliged even heathen writers to confess that the followers of the "new superstition," as they called it, were people who loved one another, and lived very pure and holy lives!

Let it never be forgotten, that its leading principles are those which are least likely to please the natural man. On the contrary, they are precisely those which are calculated to be unpopular and to give offense. Proud man does not like to be told that he is a weak, guilty sinner—that he cannot save his own soul, and must trust in the work of another—that he must be converted and have a new heart—that he must live a holy, self-denying life, and come out from the world.

Yet, this is the Christianity which is doing good at this day, wherever real good is done. The only religious teaching which can show solid, positive results—is that which gives prominence to the doctrines which I have endeavored to describe. Wherever they are rightly taught, Christianity can point to fruits which are an unanswerable proof of its Divine origin. There are myriads of professing Christians who have no life or reality in their religion—and are only nominal members of Christ's Church. Except for going to church on Sundays, they give no evidence of true Christianity. If you mark their daily life—they seem neither to think, nor feel, nor care for their souls, or God, or eternity. Men and women who crowd churches on Sundays—and then live worldly selfish lives all the week—are the best and most efficient allies of the devil.

True faith
is not a mere "mental assent" to certain theological propositions—but a living, burning, active principle—which works by love, purifies the heart, overcomes the world, and brings forth much fruit of holiness and good works. Let us live as if we really believed every jot and tittle of Scripture—and as if a dying, risen, interceding, and coming Christ, were continually before our eyes!

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Our daily employment of time

(J. C. Ryle, "Occupy Until I Come")

"Occupy until I come." Luke 19:13

How instructive are these words to all who are troubled by doubts about mingling with the world, and taking part in its vain amusements. It is obvious that races, and balls, and theaters, and operas, and cards—are not forbidden by name in Scripture. The question which we should ask ourselves is simply this—"Am I occupying, as one who looks for Christ's return—when I take part in these things? Would I like Jesus to return suddenly—and find me on the race-course, or in the ball-room, or at the theater, or at the card-table?"

Oh, dear reader, this is the true test by which to try our daily employment of time! That thing which we would not do, if we thought Jesus was coming tonight—that thing we ought not to do at all! That place to which we would not go, if we thought Jesus was coming this day—that place we ought to avoid. That company in which we would not like Jesus to find us—in that company we ought never to sit down. Oh, that we would live as in the sight of Christ!

"Redeeming the time, because the days are evil." Ephesians 5:16

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God has two hedges

(Matthew Mead, "The Power of Grace
in Weaning the Heart from the World")

God is never better to us—than when the creature is most bitter to us!

Thus God dealt with Israel, "She said, 'I will go after my lovers, who give me my food and my water, my wool and my linen, my oil and my drink.' Therefore I will hedge up her path with thorns; I will wall her in—so that she cannot find her way. She will chase after her lovers but not catch them; she will look for them but not find them. Then she will say, 'I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now.'" Hosea 2:6-8.

God has two hedges which the Scripture takes notice of:

1. The hedge of his protection, which you read of Job 1:10, "Haven't You placed a hedge around him, his household, and everything he owns?"
2. The hedge of affliction, which you read of here: "I will hedge up her path with thorns."

Now the Lord make use of both these hedges:

The hedge of protection—is to keep His people from danger.
The hedge of affliction—is to stop His people from wandering.

The hedge of protection—is to keep them in God's way.
The hedge of affliction—is to keep them out of sin's way.

The hedge of protection—is to keep them from suffering.
The hedge of affliction—is to keep then from sinning,
        and to put them upon returning to God.

So it was with Israel here—when God had hedged up her way, that she could not find her paths, nor overtake her lovers—then she cries out, "I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now!"

It is a great mercy for God to wean a soul from the world; for it never suffers greater—than when it forsakes God to live upon the creature! "Those who cling to lying vanities—turn their backs on all God's mercies!" Jonah 2:8. It is forsaking the living fountain—to quench our thirst from a broken cistern! Jeremiah 2:13.

When the Lord weans a soul from the world—He embitters the world to the soul; either by some affliction, or by some disappointment in the creature—which makes the soul look out for the more pure and lasting satisfactions, which are in Christ.

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Jesus Christ Himself!

(J. C. Ryle, "The Real Presence")

There is a real "spiritual presence" of Christ, wherever His believing people meet together in His name. This is the plain meaning of His famous saying, "Wherever two or three are gathered together in My name—there I am in the midst of them!" (Matthew 18:20). The smallest gathering of true Christians for the purposes of prayer or praise, or holy conference, or reading God's Word—is sanctified by the best of company! The great or rich or noble may not be there—but the King of kings Himself is present—and angels look on with reverence!

The grandest buildings which men have reared for religious uses, are often no better than whitened sepulchers—destitute of any holy influence—because they are given up to superstitious ceremonies, and filled to no purpose with crowds of formal worshipers, who come unfeeling, and go unfeeling away. No worship is of any use to souls—at which Christ is not present! Incense, banners, pictures, flowers, crucifixes, and long processions of richly dressed ecclesiastics—are a poor substitute for the great High Priest Himself!

The poorest room where a few penitent believers assemble in the name of Jesus—is a consecrated and most holy place in the sight of God! Those who worship God in spirit and truth—never draw near to Him in vain. Often they go home from such meetings warmed, cheered, established, strengthened, comforted and refreshed. And what is the secret of their feelings? They have had with them the great Master of assemblies, Jesus Christ Himself!

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Where is your God, my boy?

(J. C. Ryle, "The Real Presence")

"Where is your God, my boy?" said an infidel to a child whom he saw coming out of a church. "Where is your God, about whom you have been reading? Show Him to me, and I will give you a treat!" "Show me where He is not," was the answer, "and I will give you two! My God is everywhere!"

"The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good!" (Proverbs 15:3)

The teaching of the Bible on this point—is clear, plain, and unmistakable. God is everywhere! There is no place in heaven or earth, where He is not. There is no place in air or land or sea, no place above ground or under ground, no place in town or country, no place in Europe, Asia, Africa, or America—where God is not always present.

Enter into your room and lock the door—God is there. Climb to the top of the highest mountain, where not even an insect moves—God is there. Sail to the most remote island in the Pacific Ocean, where the foot of man never trod—God is there. He is always near us—seeing, hearing, observing; knowing every action, and deed, and word, and whisper, and look, and thought, and motive, and secret of everyone of us—wherever we are.

"His eyes watch  over a man’s ways, and He observes all his steps. There is no darkness, no deep darkness, where evildoers can hide themselves!" (Job 34:21, 22)

One half the sin committed by mankind, arises from wrong views of their Maker and Judge! Men are reckless and wicked, because they do not think that God sees them! They do things they would never do—if they really believed that they were under the eyes of the Almighty God! "They say, 'The Lord doesn't see it! The God of Jacob doesn't pay attention!' Is the One who made your ears deaf? Is the One who formed your eyes blind? He punishes the nations—won't he also punish you? He knows everything; doesn't He also know what you are doing?" (Psalm 94:7-10)

However hard it is to comprehend this doctrine—it is one which is most useful and wholesome for our souls. To keep continually in mind—that God is always present with us; to live always as in God's sight; to act and speak and think as always under His eye—all this is eminently calculated to have a good effect upon our souls. Wide, and deep, and searching, and piercing—is the influence of that one thought, "You are the God who sees me!" (Genesis 16:13)

(1) The thought of God's presence—is a loud call to humility. How much which is evil and defective, must the all-seeing eye—see in everyone of us! How small a part of our character is really known by man! "Man looks on the outward appearance—but the Lord looks on the heart!" (1 Sam. 16:7). Man does not always see us—but the Lord is always looking at us—morning, noon, and night! Who has not need to say, "God be merciful to me a sinner!"

(2) The thought of God's presence—is a crushing proof of our need of Jesus Christ. What hope of salvation could we have, if there was not a Mediator between God and man? Before the eye of the ever-present God—our best righteousness is filthy rags—and our best doings are full of imperfection! Where would we be—if there was not a fountain open for all sin—even the blood of Christ! Without Christ—the prospect of death, judgment, and eternity would drive us to despair!

(3) The thought of God's presence—teaches the folly of hypocrisy in religion. What can be more silly and childish—than to wear a mere cloak of Christianity, while we inwardly cleave to sin, when God is ever looking at us and sees us through and through! It is easy to deceive ministers and fellow-Christians, because they often see us only upon Sundays. But God sees us morning, noon, and night—and cannot be deceived. Oh, whatever we are in religion—let us be real and true!

(4) The thought of God's presence—is a check and curb on the inclination to sin. The recollection that there is One who is always near us and observing us, who will one day have a reckoning with all mankind—may well keep us back from evil! Happy are those sons and daughters who, when they leave the family home, and launch forth into the world, carry with them the abiding remembrance of God's eye. "My father and mother do not see me—but God does!" This was the feeling which preserved Joseph when tempted in a foreign land: "How can I do this great wickedness—and sin against God!" (Gen. 39:9)

(5) The thought of God's presence—is a spur to the pursuit of true holiness. The highest standard of sanctification is to "walk with God" as Enoch did, and to "walk before God" as Abraham did. Where is the man who would not strive to live so as to please God—if he realized that God was always standing at his elbow! To get away from God—is the secret aim of the sinner. To get nearer to God—is the longing desire of the saint. The real servants of the Lord are "a people near unto Him." (Psalm 148:14)

(6) The thought of God's presence—is a comfort in time of public calamity. When war and famine and pestilence break in upon a land; when the nations are torn by inward divisions, and all order seems in peril—it is cheering to reflect that God sees and knows and is close at hand—that the King of kings is near, and is not asleep.

(7) The thought of God's presence—is a strong consolation in private trial. We may be driven from home and native land—and placed at the other side of the world; we may be bereaved of wife and children and friends—and left alone, like the last tree in a forest. But we can never go to any place where God is not; and under no circumstances can we be left entirely alone.

Such thoughts as these, are useful and profitable for us all. That man must be in a poor state of soul, who does not feel them to be so. Let it be a settled principle in our religion—never to forget that in every condition and place—that we are under the eye of God! It need not frighten us—if we are true believers. The sins of all believers are cast behind God's back—and even the all-seeing God sees no spot in them! It ought to cheer us—if our Christianity is genuine and sincere. We can then appeal to God with confidence, like David, and say, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends You—and lead me along the path of everlasting life!" (Psalm 139:23, 24). Great is the mystery of God's omnipresence; but the true man of God can look at it without fear.