Thursday, January 4, 2018

Book Review: Coming Events and Present Duties

Coming Events and Present Duties. J.C. Ryle. 1879. 150 pages. [Source: Bought]

In 1879, Ryle published a theme collection of sermons and tracts about 'coming events and present duties' (aka end times prophecy). In his preface, he makes a great point, one that we'd all do well to remember. "I judge nobody. I only ask liberty to hold and state distinctly my own views. The day will decide who is right. It is the new heart, and faith in Christ’s blood — which are absolutely necessary to salvation. The man who knows these two things experimentally, may be wrong about prophecy—but he will not miss Heaven." He goes on to state eleven articles of his prophetic creed. Of those eleven, I find myself mostly in agreement.
1. I believe that the world will never be completely converted to Christianity by any existing agency, before the end comes. In spite of all that can be done by ministers, churches, schools, and missions —the wheat and the tares will grow together until the harvest; and when the end comes, it will find the earth in much the same state that it was when the flood came in the days of Noah.(Matthew 13:24-30; 24:37-39.)
2. I believe that the wide-spread unbelief, indifference, formalism, and wickedness, which are to be seen throughout Christendom —are only what we are taught to expect in God's Word. Troublous times, departures from the faith, evil men waxing worse and worse, love waxing cold —are things distinctly predicted. So far from making me doubt the truth of Christianity, they help to confirm my faith.
3. I believe that the grand purpose of the present dispensation is to gather out of the world an elect people —and not to convert all mankind. It does not surprise me at all to hear that the heathen are not all converted when missionaries preach, and that believers are but a little flock in any congregation in my own land. It is precisely the state of things which I expect to find.
4. I believe that the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ is the great event which will wind up the present dispensation, and for which we ought daily to long and pray. "May Your kingdom come!" "Come, Lord Jesus!" should be our daily prayer. We look  backward, if we have faith, to Christ dying on the cross; and we ought to look forward no less, if we have hope, to Christ coming again.
5. I believe that the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ will be a real, literal, personal, bodily coming; and that as He went away in the clouds of Heaven with His body, before the eyes of men —so in like manner He will return.
6. I believe that after our Lord Jesus Christ comes again, the earth shall be renewed, and the curse removed; the devil shall be bound, the godly shall be rewarded, the wicked shall be punished; and that before He comes, there shall be neither resurrection, judgment, nor millennium, and that not until after He comes, shall the earth be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord.
7. I believe that the Jews shall ultimately be gathered again as a separate nation, restored to their own land, and converted to the faith of Christ, after going through great tribulation.
8. I believe that the literal sense of Old Testament prophecies has been far too much neglected by the Churches, and is far too much neglected at the present day, and that under the mistaken system of spiritualizing and accommodating Bible language, Christians have too often completely missed its meaning.
9. I do not believe that the preterist scheme of interpreting the Apocalypse, which regards the book as almost entirely fulfilled; or the futurist scheme, which regards it as almost entirely unfulfilled —are either of them to be implicitly followed. The truth, I expect, will be found to lie between the two.
10. I believe that the Roman Catholic Church is the great predicted apostasy from the faith, and is Babylon and Antichrist; although I think it highly probable that a more complete development of Antichrist will yet be exhibited to the world.
11. Finally, I believe that it is for the safety, happiness, and comfort of all true Christians, to expect as little as possible from Churches or Governments under the present dispensation —to hold themselves ready for tremendous convulsions and changes of all things established —and to expect their good things only from Christ's second advent. 
This one includes the following sermons: "Watch!" "What Time Is It?" "Idolatry!" "The Reading Which is Blessed" "Occupy Until I Come" and "Scattered Israel to Be Gathered."

Each sermon has a scriptural basis. "Watch!" is expository preaching on Matthew 25:1-13, "What Time Is It?" is expository preaching on Romans 13:12. "Idolatry" is expository preaching on 1 Corinthians 10:14. "The Reading Which Is Blessed" is expository preaching on Revelation 1:1-3. "Occupy Until I Come" is expository preaching on Luke 19:11-13. "Scattered Israel to Be Gathered" is expository preaching on Jeremiah 31:10. Most--if not all--sermons have application and invitation built right in.

I shared quotes from the first two sermons in my Happy New Year post.

Favorite quotes from "Idolatry":
It is not necessary for a man formally to deny God and Christ, in order to be an idolator. Far from it. Professed reverence for the God of the Bible, and actual idolatry, are perfectly compatible! They have often gone side by side — and they still do so!
In one word, idolatry is a natural product of man’s heart. It is a weed which, like the uncultivated earth — the heart is always ready to bring forth.
In fact, idolatry is all natural, downhill, and easy — like the broad way. Spiritual worship is all grace — all uphill, and all against the grain. Any worship whatever is more pleasing to the natural heart, than worshiping God in the way which our Lord Christ describes, “in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23.)
Unity in the abstract is no doubt an excellent thing: but unity without truth is useless. Peace and uniformity are beautiful and valuable: but peace without the Gospel — peace not based on a common faith, is a worthless peace, not deserving of the name.
Let us arm ourselves, then, for one thing, with a thorough knowledge of the Word of God. Let us read our Bibles more diligently than ever, and become familiar with every part of them. Let the Word dwell in us richly. Let us beware of anything which would make us give less time, and less heart — to the perusal of its sacred pages. The Bible is the sword of the Spirit — let it never be laid aside. The Bible is the true lantern for a dark and cloudy time — let us beware of traveling without its light.
Let us arm ourselves, in the second place, with a godly jealousy about the least portion of the Gospel. Let us beware of sanctioning the slightest attempt to keep back any jot or tittle of it, or to throw any part of it into the shade by exalting subordinate matters in religion. 
Let us count nothing little which concerns our souls. Let us be very particular whom we hear, where we go, and what we do — in all the matters of our own particular worship.
Let us arm ourselves, last of all, with clear sound views of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the salvation that is in Him. He is the “image of the invisible God,” — the express “image of His person,” — and the true preservative against all idolatry, when truly known. Let us build ourselves deep down on the strong foundation of His finished work upon the cross.
Let us settle it firmly in our minds, that Christ Jesus has done everything needful in order to present us without spot before the throne of God, and that simple childlike faith on our part, is the only thing required to give us a saving interest in the work of Christ.
Above all, let us keep up continual communion with the Lord Jesus! Let us abide in Him daily, feed on Him daily, look to Him daily, lean on Him daily, live upon Him daily, draw from His fullness daily. Let us realize this, and the idea of other mediators, other comforters, other intercessors — will seem utterly absurd. 
Favorite quotes from "The Reading Which is Blessed":
Wise mercy showed the early Christians a light in the distance — but did not tell them how far it was away. Wise mercy pointed out the far off harbor lights — but not the miles of stormy sea between. Wise mercy revealed enough to make them work, and hope, and wait. But wise mercy did not tell all that was yet to be fulfilled before the end.
I say, then, that there are many blessed and comfortable truths scattered up and down, all over the Book of Revelation, which are intelligible to the simplest comprehension — and yet full of food for the most spiritual mind. God has mercifully so ordered the composition of the book, that there is hardly a chapter from which a man may not draw some striking and edifying thought.
There is much about the Lord Jesus Christ in the book of Revelation. There are names, and titles, and expressions about Him there, which we find nowhere else. There is new light thrown on His offices, His power, His care for His people. Surely this alone is no small matter. To know Jesus, is life eternal. To abide in Jesus, is to be fruitful. If we are indeed born of the Spirit — we can never hear too much about our Savior, our Shepherd, our High Priest and Physician! If our hearts are right in the sight of God — we can never hear too much about our Savior-King! Like snow in summer and good news from a far country, so are any fresh tidings about Christ.
There is much about the desperate corruption of human nature in the book of Revelation. There is evidence on this subject in the Epistles to the Seven Churches, and the repeated accounts of the incorrigibleness and impenitence of the nations of the earth under judgments, which we shall all do well to lay to heart. We can never be too well acquainted with our own sinfulness and weakness. The spring of all humility, thankfulness, grateful love to Christ, and close walk with God — is real, thorough, scriptural knowledge of the wickedness of our own hearts. None will ever build high — who does not begin low. The soul that loves much — is the soul that feels its debt is great, and that much has been forgiven.
There is much about Hell in the book of Revelation. There are many fearful expressions which show its reality, its misery, its eternity, its certainty. How deeply important is it to have clear views on this solemn subject in the present day!
There is much about Heaven in the book of Revelation. I speak of Heaven in the common acceptance of the word. I mean the future abode of the people of God. And I say that no book in God’s Word tells us so much about Heaven as the Apocalypse. If there was nothing else to be learned from the book beside this, we ought to be most thankful.
There is much about the prospects of the Church of Christ in the book of Revelation. When I speak of the Church, I mean the Church of the elect, the living body of Christ, whose members are all holy. The pages of the Apocalypse show plainly that the triumphs, and rest, and ease, and peace of that Church, are not in this world.
Its members must make up their minds to battles and fightings, to trial and persecution, to cross and affliction. They must be content to be a little flock, a poor and despised people, until the advent of Christ. Their good things are yet to come.
There is much, in the last place, in the book of Revelation to show the safety of all true believers in Christ, whatever may come upon the world.
You may reach Heaven without knowing much about the deep things of the Apocalypse — but you will never get their without the saving knowledge of Christ and a new heart. You must be born again. You must renounce your own righteousness and acknowledge yourself to be a sinner. You must wash in the fountain of Christ’s blood. You must be clothed in the garment of Christ’s righteousness. You must take up the cross of Christ and follow Him. These are the things absolutely needful. These are the things without which no man, learned or unlearned, high or low — can ever be saved.
Favorite quotes from "Occupy Until I Come":
If the Jew thought too exclusively of Christ reigning — has not the Gentile thought too exclusively of Christ suffering? If the Jew could see nothing in Old Testament prophecy but Christ’s exaltation and final power — has not the Gentile often seen nothing but Christ’s humiliation and the preaching of the Gospel? If the Jew dwelt too much on Christ’s second advent — has not the Gentile dwelt too exclusively on the first?
If the Jew ignored the cross — has not the Gentile ignored the crown?
After 1900 years of Bibles and Gospel preaching, there is not a nation, or a country, or a town — where the devil has not more subjects than Christ. So fearfully true is it, that the world is not yet the kingdom of Christ.
The Lord Jesus bids you “occupy.” By that He means that you are to be “a doer” in your Christianity, and not merely a hearer and professor. He wants His servants not only to receive His wages, and eat His bread, and dwell in His house, and belong to His family — but also to do His work.
What has your Christianity done for you if it has not made you fit for the kingdom of Christ. Nothing — nothing! Nothing at all! Oh, that you may think on this matter, and never rest until you are ready to meet Christ!
Favorite quotes from "Scattered Israel to Be Gathered":
For many centuries there has prevailed in the Churches of Christ a strange, and to my mind, an unwarrantable mode of dealing with this word “Israel.” It has been interpreted in many passages of the Psalms and Prophets, as if it meant nothing more than Christian believers. Have promises been held out to Israel? Men have been told continually that they are addressed to Gentile saints. Have glorious things been described as laid up in store for Israel? Men have been incessantly told that they describe the victories and triumphs of the Gospel in Christian Churches.
Cleave to the literal sense of Bible words and beware of departing from it — except in cases of absolute necessity. Beware of that system of allegorizing and spiritualizing and accommodating, which the school of Origen first brought in, and which has found such an unfortunate degree of favor in the Church. 
Settle it in your mind, in the reading the Psalms and Prophets, that Israel means Israel; and Zion means Zion; and Jerusalem means Jerusalem.
And, finally, whatever edification you derive from applying to your own soul the words which God addresses to His ancient people — never lose sight of the primary sense of the text. 
I ask you, then, to settle it firmly in your mind that when God says a thing shall be done — we ought to believe it. We have no right to begin talking of probable and improbable, likely and unlikely, possible and impossible, reasonable and unreasonable. What is all this but veiled scepticism and infidelity in disguise? What has the Lord said? What has the Lord spoken? What says the Scriptures? What is written in the Word? These are the only questions we have a right to ask; and when the answer to them is plain — we have nothing to do but believe. We must abide by Scripture, or be of all men most miserable. At any cost, let us cling to the Word. “Let God be true and every man a liar.” I am determined to believe everything that God says. I know it will all prove true at the last day.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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