This is my third and final 'journal entry' for J.C. Ryle's incredible collection of sermons on Holiness. The first entry. The second entry.
Since July 4th, I've read these chapters: "The Church Which Christ Builds," "Visible Churches Warned," "Do You Love Me?", "Without Christ," "Thirst Relieved," "Unsearchable Riches!", "Needs of the Times," and "Christ is All!".
From "The Church Which Christ Builds"
The true Church of Christ is tenderly cared for by all the three Persons of the blessed Trinity. In the plan of salvation revealed in the Bible God the Father chooses, God the Son redeems and God the Holy Spirit sanctifies every member of Christ's mystical body. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, three Persons and one God, cooperate for the salvation of every saved soul. This is truth, which ought never to be forgotten.
The foundation of the true Church was laid at a mighty cost. It was necessary that the Son of God should take our nature upon Him, and in that nature live, suffer and die, not for His own sins — but for ours. It was necessary that in that nature Christ should go to the grave, and rise again. It was necessary that in that nature Christ should go up to Heaven, to sit at the right hand of God, having obtained eternal redemption for all His people. No other foundation could have met the necessities of lost, guilty, corrupt, weak, helpless sinners. That foundation, once obtained, is very strong. It can bear the weight of the sins of all the world. It has borne the weight of all the sins of all the believers who have built on it.
So long as the world is the world, and the devil the devil — so long there must be warfare, and believers in Christ must be soldiers. The world hated Christ — and the world will hate true Christians, as long as the earth stands.
From "Visible Churches Warned"
You never did an action, however private — but Jesus saw it. You never spoke a word, no, not even in a whisper — but Jesus heard it. You never wrote a letter, even to your dearest friend — but Jesus read it. You never thought a thought, however secret — but Jesus was familiar with it.
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.
From "Do You Love Me?"
The true Christian is one whose religion is in his heart and life. It is felt by himself in his heart. It is seen by others in his conduct and life. He feels his sinfulness, guilt and badness — and repents. He sees Jesus Christ to be that divine Savior whom his soul needs — and commits himself to Him. He puts off the old man with his corrupt and carnal habits — and puts on the new man. He lives a new and holy life — fighting habitually against the world, the flesh and the devil. Christ Himself is the cornerstone of his Christianity. Ask him in what he trusts for the forgiveness of his many sins, and he will tell you — in the death of Christ. Ask him in what righteousness he hopes to stand innocent at the judgment day, and he will tell you it is the righteousness of Christ. Ask him by what pattern he tries to frame his life, and he will tell you that it is the example of Christ. But, beside all this, there is one thing in a true Christian which is eminently peculiar to him. That thing is love to Christ. Knowledge, faith, hope, reverence, obedience — are all marked features in a true Christian's character. But his picture would be very imperfect, if you omitted his "love" to his divine Master. He not only knows, trusts and obeys. He goes further than this — he loves.
If a man has no love to Christ — you may be sure he has no saving faith.
The true Christian does not need to be reminded that he has a crucified Master. He often thinks of Him. He never forgets that He has a cause and a people. Affection is the real secret of a good memory in religion. No worldly man can think much about Christ, unless Christ is pressed upon his notice, because he has no affection for Him. The true Christian has thoughts about Christ every day that he lives, for this one simple reason — that he loves Him.
The true Christian finds no difficulty in speaking to his Savior. Every day he has something to tell Him, and he is not happy unless he tells it. He speaks to Him in prayer every morning and night. He tells Him his needs and desires, his feelings and his fears. He asks counsel of Him in difficulty. He asks comfort of Him in trouble. He cannot help it. He must converse with his Savior continually, or he would faint by the way. And why is this? Simply because he loves Him.
The heart of a true Christian longs for that blessed day when he will see his Master face to face, and go out no more. He longs to be done with sinning and repenting and believing — and to begin that endless life when he shall see as he has been seen, and sin no more. He has found it sweet to live by faith — and he feels it will be sweeter still to live by sight. He has found it pleasant to hear of Christ and talk of Christ and read of Christ. How much more pleasant will it be to see Christ with his own eyes, and never to leave him any more!
May we never think that we can love Christ too well, live to Him too thoroughly, confess Him too boldly, lay ourselves out for Him too heartily!
From "Without Christ"
An unknown Christ is no Savior.
There must be a mediator between God and man, and there is but one that can fill the office. That One is Christ. Who are you to talk of God's mercy and God's love — separate from and independent of Christ? There is no such love and mercy recorded in Scripture. Know this day that God out of Christ is "a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:29). Merciful He is, beyond all question rich in mercy, plenteous in mercy. But His mercy is inseparably connected with the mediation of His beloved Son Jesus Christ. It must flow through Him as the appointed channel, or it cannot flow at all. It is written "He who honors not the Son, honors not the Father who has sent Him." "I am the way, the truth and the life no man comes unto the Father — but by Me" (John 5:23; 14:6). "Without Christ" we are without God.
There is only one thing can give peace to the conscience, and that is the blood of Jesus Christ sprinkled on it. A clear understanding that Christ's death was an actual payment of our debt to God, and that the merit of that death is made over to man when he believes — is the grand secret of inward peace. It meets every craving of conscience. It answers every accusation. It calms every fear.
From "Thirst Relieved"
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God; but that heart must indeed be cold and dull, which does not feel that some verses are peculiarly rich and full.
From "Unsearchable Riches!"
The more real grace men have in their hearts — the deeper is their sense of sin. The more light the Holy Spirit pours into their souls — the more they discern their own infirmities, defilements and darkness. The dead soul feels and sees nothing; with spiritual life comes clear vision, a tender conscience and spiritual sensibility.
Infinite power and infinite sympathy are met together and combined in our Savior. If He had been only Man, He could not have saved us. If He had been only God (I speak with reverence), He could not have been "touched with the feeling of our infirmities," nor "suffered Himself being tempted." (Hebrews 4:15; 2:18). As God, He is mighty to save; as Man, He is exactly suited to be our Head, Representative and Friend. Let those who never think deeply, taunt us, if they will, with squabbling about creeds and dogmatic theology. But let thoughtful Christians never be ashamed to believe and hold fast the neglected doctrine of the Incarnation, and the union of two natures in our Savior. It is a rich and precious truth that our Lord Jesus Christ is both "God and Man."
From "Needs of the Times!"
The explanation of this boneless, nerveless, jellyfish condition of soul is not difficult to find. To begin with, the heart of man is naturally in the dark about religion, has no intuitive sense of truth — and really needs instruction and illumination. Beside this, the natural heart in most men hates exertion in religion, and cordially dislikes patient painstaking inquiry. Above all, the natural heart generally likes the praise of others, shrinks from collision, and loves to be thought charitable and liberal. The whole result is that a kind of broad religious "agnosticism" just suits an immense number of people, and specially suits young people.
It is a lazy, idle frame of soul which, doubtless, saves men the trouble of thought and investigation; but it is a frame of soul for which there is no warrant in the Bible. 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.
Ignorance of Scripture is the root of all error, and makes a man helpless in the hand of the devil.
From "Christ is All!"
Christ is the mainspring both of doctrinal and practical Christianity. A right knowledge of Christ is essential to a right knowledge of sanctification as well as justification. He who follows after holiness will make no progress unless he gives to Christ His rightful place. I began the volume with a plain statement about sin. Let me end it with an equally plain statement about Christ.
Can we wonder that the Lord Jesus, in His preaching, should continually draw lessons from the book of nature? When He spoke of the sheep, the fish, the ravens, the corn, the lilies, the fig tree, the vine, He spoke of things which He Himself had made.
There came a day when sin entered the world. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, and fell. They lost that holy nature in which they were first formed. They forfeited the friendship and favor of God — and became guilty, corrupt, helpless, hopeless sinners. Sin came as a barrier between themselves and their holy Father in Heaven. Had He dealt with them according to their deserts, there would have been been nothing before them but death, Hell and everlasting ruin. And where was Christ then? In that very day He was revealed to our trembling parents as the only hope of salvation. The very day they fell, they were told that the seed of the woman would yet bruise the serpent's head, that a Savior born of a woman would overcome the devil, and win for sinful man, an entrance to eternal life (Genesis 3:15). Christ was held up as the true light of the world, in the very day of the Fall; and never has any name been made known from that day by which souls could be saved, excepting His. By Him, all saved souls have entered Heaven, from Adam downwards; and without Him, none have ever escaped Hell.
There came a time when the world seemed sunk and buried in ignorance of God. After four thousand years, the nations of the earth appeared to have clean forgotten the God who made them. Egyptian, Assyrian, Persian, Grecian and Roman empires had done nothing but spread superstition and idolatry. Poets, historians, philosophers had proved that, with all their intellectual powers, they had no right knowledge of God, and that man, left to himself, was utterly corrupt. "The world, by wisdom, knew not God" (1 Corinthians 1:21). Excepting a few despised Jews in a corner of the earth, the whole world was dead in ignorance and sin. And what did Christ do then? He left the glory He had had from all eternity with the Father, and came down into the world to provide a salvation. He took our nature upon Him, and was born as a man. As a man He did the will of God perfectly, which we all had left undone; as a man He suffered on the cross the wrath of God which we ought to have suffered. He brought in everlasting righteousness for us. He redeemed us from the curse of a broken law. He opened a fountain for all sin and uncleanness. He died for our sins. He rose again for our justification. He ascended to God's right hand, and there sat down, waiting until His enemies would be made His footstool. And there He sits now, offering salvation to all who will come to Him, interceding for all who believe in Him, and managing by God's appointment, all that concerns the salvation of souls.
In every part of both Testaments Christ is to be found — dimly and indistinctly at the beginning, more clearly and plainly in the middle, fully and completely at the end — but really and substantially everywhere. Christ's sacrifice and death for sinners, and Christ's kingdom and future glory, are the light we must bring to bear on any book of Scripture we read. Christ's cross and Christ's crown are the clue we must hold fast — if we would find our way through Scripture difficulties. Christ is the only key which will unlock many of the dark places of the Word. Some people complain that they do not understand the Bible. And the reason is very simple. They do not use the key. To them the Bible is like the hieroglyphics in Egypt. It is a mystery, just because they do not know and employ the key.
The Father is merciful, the Son is merciful, the Holy Spirit is merciful. The same Three who said at the beginning, "Let us create," said also, "Let us redeem and save." I hold that everyone who reaches Heaven will ascribe all the glory of his salvation to Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three Persons in one God. But, at the same time, I see clear proof in Scripture, that it is the mind of the blessed Trinity that Christ should be prominently and distinctly exalted, in the matter of saving souls. Christ is set forth as the Word, through whom God's love to sinners is made known. Christ's incarnation and atoning death on the cross are the great corner-stone on which the whole plan of salvation rests. Christ is the way and door, by which alone approaches to God are to be made. Christ is the root into which all elect sinners must be grafted. Christ is the only meeting-place between God and man, between Heaven and earth, between the Holy Trinity and the poor sinful child of Adam. It is Christ whom God the Father has sealed and appointed to convey life to a dead world (John 6:27). It is Christ to whom the Father has given a people to be brought to glory. It is Christ of whom the Spirit testifies, and to whom He always leads a soul for pardon and peace. In short, it has "pleased the Father than in Christ all fullness should dwell" (Colossians 1:19). What the sun is in the skies of Heaven — that Christ is in true Christianity.
We must come in the name of Jesus, standing on no other ground, pleading no other plea than this: "Christ died on the cross for the ungodly, and I trust in Him. Christ died for me, and I believe on Him." The garment of our Elder Brother, the righteousness of Christ, this is the only robe which can cover us, and enable us to stand in the light of Heaven without shame. The name of Jesus is the only name by which we shall obtain an entrance through the gate of eternal glory. If we come to that gate in our own names, we are lost, we shall not be admitted, we shall knock in vain. If we come in the name of Jesus, it is a passport and shibboleth, and we shall enter and live. The mark of the blood of Christ is the only mark that can save us from destruction. When the angels are separating the children of Adam in the last day, if we are not found marked with that atoning blood — we had better never have been born. Oh, let us never forget that Christ must be all to that soul who would be justified! We must be content to go to Heaven as beggars, saved by free grace, simply as believers in Jesus, or we shall never be saved at all.
The true way to be strong — is to realize our weakness, and to feel that Christ must be all. The true way to grow in grace — is to make use of Christ as a fountain for every minute's necessities. We ought to employ Him as the prophet's wife employed the oil — not only to pay our debts — but to live on also. We should strive to be able to say, "The life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me" (2 Kings 4:7; Galatians 2:20).
But alas, how little fit for Heaven are many who talk of going to Heaven when they die — while they manifestly have no saving faith and no real acquaintance with Christ. You give Christ no honor here. You have no communion with Him. You do not love Him. Alas, what could you do in Heaven? It would be no place for you. Its joys would be no joys for you. Its happiness would be a happiness into which you could not enter. Its employments would be a weariness and a burden to your heart. Oh, repent and change before it be too late!
The God of Heaven has sealed and appointed Christ as the one only Savior and way of life, and all who would be saved must be content to be saved by Him, or they will never be saved at all.
Learn, I entreat you, to look more and more at the great object of faith, Jesus Christ, and to keep your mind dwelling on Him. So doing you would find faith and all the other graces grow, though the growth at the time might be imperceptible to yourself.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible