“Never be ashamed of being a learner” by J.C. Ryle

“Humility was the beginning of Solomon’s wisdom. He writes it down as his own experience, “Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him” (Prov. 26:12).

Young men, lay to heart the Scriptures here quoted. Do not be too confident in your own judgment.

Cease to be sure that you are always right, and others wrong. Be distrustful of your own opinion, when you find it contrary to that of older men than yourselves, and specially to that of your own parents.

Age gives experience, and therefore deserves respect. It is a mark of Elihu’s wisdom, in the book of Job, that “he waited till Job had spoken, because they were older than himself” (Job 32:4).

And afterwards he said, “I am young, and you are very old; wherefore I was afraid, and durst not show you mine opinion. I said, Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom” (Job 32:6, 7).

Modesty and silence are beautiful graces in young people.

Never be ashamed of being a learner. Jesus was one at twelve years; when He was found in the temple, He was “sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions” (Luke 2:46).

The wisest men would tell you they are always learners, and are humbled to find after all how little they know. The great Sir Isaac Newton used to say that he felt himself no better than a little child, who had picked up a few precious stones on the shore of the sea of knowledge.

Young men, if you would be wise, if you would be happy, remember the warning I give you,—Beware of pride.”

–J.C. Ryle, Thoughts for Young Men (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1888/2018), 22-23.

 

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“The Lord Jesus is as compassionate now as He was then” by Wilhelmus à Brakel

“Do your sins weigh you down and do you go bowed down because of them? ‘He is the propitiation for our sins’ (1 John 2:2).

Is the soul ashamed because of its nakedness? He is ‘THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS’ (Jer. 23:6). He will clothe them with the garments of salvation, and will cover them with the robe of righteousness (Isa. 61:10).

Is the soul troubled by the wrath of God? He delivers him ‘from the wrath to come’ (1 Th. 1:10).

Do you fear eternal condemnation? ‘There is therefore no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus’ (Rom. 8:1).

Does the soul long for communion with God? He will bring him to God (1 Pet. 3:18).

Is the soul experiencing desertion, sorrow, and grieving as a lonely sparrow? Is it discouraged and at wit’s end? Do bodily troubles afflict such a soul—being numerous, heavy, and of long duration?

In all these things great comfort is to be obtained from this High Priest. He is a Priest in name and in deed. He is the great High Priest, who is moreover a faithful and a merciful High Priest.

Consider this attentively in these two texts:

‘Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted’ (Heb. 2:17–18);

‘For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin’ (Heb. 4:15).

If one believes Christ to be such as He is, why would we not take refuge with Him, and in taking refuge, not believe that He can be touched with our infirmities, will receive us, and will grant us the desire of our hearts?

Many who are weak in faith are of the opinion that the Lord Jesus is not as easily moved as when He sojourned upon earth.

They reason that if they could but interact with Him as the disciples and the women did, enter a home in which He was present, converse with Him as familiarly as Mary and Martha did, or be in His company, then they would touch the hem of His garment, would wet His feet with tears, make their needs known to Him and beseech Him to have mercy upon them, to take away their sins, to give them another heart, and to cause them to feel His love.

Then they would have hope that He would have compassion upon them and help them. But now He is so far away, so high in the heavens, and in such great glory, that they cannot address Him as it were in immediate proximity, nor will He allow Himself to be moved by the prayer of such insignificant persons as they are.

Know, however, that such thoughts are earthly, proceeding from ignorance and a feeble faith. I assure you out of the Word of God that the Lord Jesus is as compassionate now as He was then, taking note of the misery and desires of man as carefully now as He did then.

Therefore, also now one may speak to Him as freely and familiarly as then. It grieves me that one impugns the compassion of the Lord Jesus.

Oh, that one would know Him as He is! How many a weak believer would then have bold access, pour out his heart with tears and supplications, and have confidence that He would help!

Take note therefore that the Lord Jesus, now being in heaven, is not only compassionate as God—that is, in a manner which is natural to His divinity, proceeding from eternal and infinite love, by which He observes and takes to heart the grievous and sinful miseries of His children and is willing and ready to help them—but He is also compassionate as man.

In order to be able to be compassionate, He had to assume the human nature, which is evident from Hebrews 2:14–17ff. For this reason He was tempted with many tribulations and was subject to anxiety and suffering, in order that He would know by experience how grievous suffering is and understand the frame of mind of the one who is in misery.

He would thus be all the more able to have compassion on them (Heb. 4:15). Now consider both natures together, and view Him as God and man, as Mediator and as high priest. This high-priestly office requires compassion of the most sensitive sort.

‘For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God … who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity’ (Heb. 5:1–2).

Since Christ is High Priest, He has the special quality which belongs to this office: compassion. How compassionate He was when He was upon earth! Repeatedly we read, “And Jesus was moved with compassion.”

Not only does the Lord Jesus have this same compassionate nature in heaven (for if a perfect nature can be compassionate, this is likewise true for a glorified nature), but since there is perfection in a larger measure, the quality of compassion must be even more excellent since it flows forth out of love.

The Lord Jesus being also High Priest in heaven, now ministers in this office with superlative excellence. Consequently, He possesses the quality of the High Priest, that is, compassion of the highest excellence.

Take note also of how intimately the Lord Jesus is united to His elect. They have been given to Him by the Father, in order that, as His children, He would deliver, preserve, and lead them to felicity.

Would He then not exercise tender care over them, and be compassionate towards them when they are in distress? They are His bride, children, and members. He has their very own nature—’for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren’ (Heb. 2:11).

When they are in misery and sorrow, they weep and long for Him, and cry out to Him for help and comfort. How can it be any different but that the Lord Jesus is greatly moved to compassion, especially since He is experientially acquainted with the feeling of their suffering?

Perhaps you say, ‘I grieve over sin. This is a grief which the Lord Jesus has never experienced, and thus sin cannot move Him to compassion, but will rather provoke Him to anger.’

I respond to this that it is true that Jesus was holy, and neither knew sin nor committed it. He tasted, however, all the bitter fruits of sin in such a manner as if He Himself had committed them.

He experienced the hiding of God’s countenance, the wrath of God, sorrow unto death, curse and condemnation. He suffered all of this in a measure which exceeds our comprehension.

He knows the soul’s disposition toward the commission of sin, and thus is able to and does have compassion by virtue of experience.

It is true that sin itself is hateful, but He already has fully atoned for it, so that instead of wrath, only compassion remains.

Consider all this together, believing that the Lord Jesus has such compassion for you, and seek to have a lively impression of Him as such. Would not this strengthen you in all your distress?

Lament about your sorrow to Him in a filial manner, and comfort yourself in His compassion, knowing that He has been afflicted in all your affliction (Isa. 63:9).

You may say, ‘Why then does He not help, considering He is able?’

My answer is, ‘It is not the time, and this is to your benefit. He is preparing you to be the recipient of additional grace, because it will be to the honor of God. Even if you have not been delivered as yet, the compassion of a Friend—of such a beloved Lord, High Priest, and Friend—nevertheless comforts. Therefore, await your deliverance with anticipation and in quietness.'”

–Wilhelmus à Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, Volume 1 (God, Man, and Christ), Ed. Joel Beeke, Trans. Bartel Elshout (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 1700/1992), 1: 556–559.

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“Christ is the sun; the individual words of God are His rays” by Herman Bavinck

“Finally the designation ‘word of God’ is used for Christ Himself. He is the Logos in an utterly unique sense: Revealer and revelation at the same time.

All the revelations and words of God, in nature and history, in creation and re-creation, both in the Old and the New Testament, have their ground, unity, and center in Him.

He is the sun; the individual words of God are His rays.

The word of God in nature, in Israel, in the NT, in Scripture may never even for a moment be separated and abstracted from him. God’s revelation exists only because He is the Logos.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Prolegomena (Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend; vol. 1; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 1: 402.

[HT: Nick Gardner]

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“Pure grace clothed with our nature” by Richard Sibbes

“Grace is no enemy to good works. It is no enemy to diligence and to good works; nay, it is the foundation of them.

The Apostle doth not use it here as an argument to neglect good works. (Titus 2:11-14) No. He stirs them up by it.

If anything in the world will work upon a heart,  it is the love, and favour, and grace of God. ‘The love of Christ constraineth,’ (2 Cor. 5:14).

The love of Christ, as known, melts the heart. The knowledge of the grace of Christ is very effectual to stir us up, as to all duties, so especially to the duty of bounty and mercy. For experience of grace will make us gracious, and kind, and loving, and sweet to others.

Those who have felt mercy will be ready to show mercy. Those who have felt grace and love, will be ready to reflect, and show grace and love to others.

Those who are hard-hearted and barren in their lives and conversations, it is a sign that the Sun of righteousness never yet shined on them.

There is a power in grace, and grace known, to assimilate the soul to be like unto Christ. It hath a force to stir us up to that which is good, (Titus 2:11- 12).

The Apostle enforceth self-denial, a hard lesson; and holiness to God, justice to others, and sobriety to ourselves. What is the argument he useth?

‘The grace of God hath appeared.’ (Titus 2:11) The grace of God hath shined, as the word signifieth.

He means Christ appeared, but he saith, ‘The grace of God hath appeared.’ When Christ appeared, grace appeared. Christ is nothing but pure grace clothed with our nature.

What doth this appearing of grace teach us? ‘To deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live holily, and righteously, and soberly.” Holily and religiously in regard of God; justly in regard of men, and not only justly, but bountifully, for bounty is justice.

It is justice to give to the poor. ‘Withhold not good from the owners.’ (Prov. 3:27) They have right to what we have.

Grace, when it appears in any soul, is a teacher; it teacheth to deny all that is naught, and it teacheth to practice all that is good. It teacheth to live holily and righteously in this present evil world.

Many men like the text thus far, ‘The grace of God bringeth salvation.’ Oh it is a sweet text!

Ay, but what follows? What doth that grace teach thee? It teacheth to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts; it doth not teach men to follow and set themselves upon the works of the devil, but to live soberly and justly and righteously in this present evil world.”

–Richard Sibbes, “The Church’s Riches By Christ’s Poverty,” The Works of Richard Sibbes, Volume 4 (ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1639/2001), 4: 518-519.

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“This is our pattern when we speak and write for God” by John Newton

“Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines, as well as upon works; and a man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace.

Yea, I would add, the best of men are not wholly free from this leaven; and therefore are too apt to be pleased with such representations as hold up our adversaries to ridicule, and by consequence flatter our own superior judgments.

Controversies, for the most part, are so managed as to indulge rather than to repress this wrong disposition; and therefore, generally speaking, they are productive of little good. They provoke those whom they should convince, and puff up those whom they should edify.

I hope your performance will savour of a spirit of true humility, and be a means of promoting it in others.

This leads me, in the last place, to consider your own concern in your present undertaking. It seems a laudable service to defend the faith once delivered to the saints; we are commanded to contend earnestly for it, and to convince gainsayers.

If ever such defences were seasonable and expedient, they appear to be so in our day, when errors abound on all sides, and every truth of the Gospel is either directly denied, or grossly misrepresented. And yet we find but very few writers of controversy who have not been manifestly hurt by it.

Either they grow in a sense of their own importance, or imbibe an angry contentious spirit, or they insensibly withdraw their attention from those things which are the food and immediate support of the life of faith, and spend their time and strength upon matters which at most are but of a secondary value.

This shews, that, if the service is honourable, it is dangerous. What will it profit a man if he gains his cause, and silences his adversary, if at the same time he loses that humble, tender frame of spirit in which the Lord delights, and to which the promise of His presence is made!

Your aim, I doubt not, is good. But you have need to watch and pray, for you will find Satan at your right hand to resist you: he will try to debase your views; and though you set out in defence of the cause of God, if you are not continually looking to the Lord to keep you, it may become your own cause, and awaken in you those tempers which are inconsistent with true peace of mind, and will surely obstruct communion with God.

Be upon your guard against admitting anything personal into the debate.

If you think you have been ill treated, you will have an opportunity of showing that you are a disciple of Jesus, who, ‘when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not.’ (1 Pet. 2:23) This is our pattern, thus we are to speak and write for God, ‘not rendering railing for railing, but, contrariwise, blessing; knowing that hereunto we are called.’ (1 Pet. 3:9)

The wisdom that is from above is not only pure, but peaceable and gentle; and the want of these qualifications, like the dead fly in the pot of ointment, will spoil the savour and efficacy of our labours. If we act in a wrong spirit, we shall bring little glory to God, do little good to our fellow-creatures, and procure neither honour nor comfort to ourselves.

If you can be content with shewing your wit, and gaining the laugh on your side, you have an easy task. But I hope you have a far nobler aim, and that, sensible of the solemn importance of Gospel truths, and the compassion due to the souls of men, you would rather be a means of removing prejudices in a single instance, than obtain the empty applause of thousands.

Go forth, therefore, in the name and strength of the Lord of Hosts, speaking the truth in love; and may He give you a witness in many hearts, that you are taught of God, and favoured with the unction of His Holy Spirit.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 1 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 1: 272-274.

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“Christ’s loving kindness to His people never changes” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us never forget this part of our Lord’s character: Christ’s loving kindness to His people never changes, and never fails.

It is a deep well of which no one ever found the bottom. It began from all eternity, before they were born.

It chose, called, and quickened them when they were dead in trespasses and sins. It drew them to God and changed their character, and put a new will in their minds, and a new song in their mouths.

It has borne with them in all their waywardness and shortcomings. It will never allow them to be separated from God.

It will flow ever forward, like a mighty river, through the endless ages of eternity.

Christ’s love and mercy must be a sinner’s plea when he first begins his journey. Christ’s love and mercy will be his only plea when he crosses the dark river and enters home.

Let us seek to know this love by inward experience, and prize it more. Let it constrain us more continually to live, not to ourselves, but to Him who died for us and rose again.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 111. Ryle is commenting on Luke 5:17-26.

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“Christ is above all a head to His church” by Thomas Goodwin

“Oh, my brethren, when you are in heaven and when sin shall be forgotten,—you love Christ now because He saveth you, justifieth you, and cleanseth you, and you will love Him at the latter day because He pronounceth you blessed, forgiveth you all sins, and suffereth you not to enter into condemnation.

But when all these shall be over, what will be the sweetness forever? That He is your head. ‘Above all He gave Him to be a head to His church.’ (Eph. 1:22-23)

And do you but consider what a head you have? There is I know not how many alls in Him.

In His person there dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. (Col. 2:9)

In His relation to you He is all, and He is in all. (Col. 3:11)

In His power for you He is above all; so saith the text. (Eph. 1:21)

In His communicating His goodness, ‘He filleth all in all;’ so saith the text too. (Eph. 1:23)

He is one that hath all the Godhead; that is all in all, that is above all, that filleth all in all.

What would you have more? Here are alls enough for you. Value this gift: that Jesus Christ is your head.

Last of all; take that other sense, that of all relations else He is above all a head, performeth that part the best, and nothing is more comfortable to His church.

He is not only above all other heads, above husband, above the natural head of the body, puts them all down, they are but shadows to Him; but above all offices belonging to Himself He is above all a head to His church.

It is as if a wife should say of her husband, ‘He is the best warrior in the world, he is a king, he hath the power and command of all the world, he is wise, he is rich, he is above all in everything, and he hath all sorts of excellencies in him. But above all he is the best husband in the world. He acts that part the best.’

So it is with Jesus Christ. He is the king of all the world, He is wise, He is rich, He is above all in everything, and He hath all sorts of excellencies in Him.

But above all He is a head, He excelleth in that above all things else.”

–Thomas Goodwin, “Sermon 36: Ephesians 1:22-23,” The Works of Thomas Goodwin, Volume 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage, 1861/2006), 1: 554-555.

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