Category Archives: grace

“The love of Christ to sinners is the very essence and marrow of the Gospel” by J.C. Ryle

“The passage we have now read begins one of the most interesting portions of St. John’s Gospel. For five consecutive chapters we find the Evangelist recording matters which are not mentioned by Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

We can never be thankful enough that the Holy Ghost has caused them to be written for our learning! In every age the contents of these chapters have been justly regarded as one of the most precious parts of the Bible.

They have been the meat and drink, the strength and comfort of all true-hearted Christians. Let us ever approach them with peculiar reverence. The place whereon we stand is holy ground.

We learn, for one thing, from these verses, what patient and continuing love there is in Christ’s heart towards His people. It is written that “having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end.” (John 13:1)

Knowing perfectly well that they were about to forsake Him shamefully in a very few hours, in full view of their approaching display of weakness and infirmity, our blessed Master did not cease to have loving thoughts of His disciples.

He was not weary of them: He loved them to the last.

The love of Christ to sinners is the very essence and marrow of the Gospel.

That He should love us at all, and care for our souls,—that He should love us before we love Him, or even know anything about Him,—that He should love us so much as to come into the world to save us, take our nature on Him, bear our sins, and die for us on the cross,—all this is wonderful indeed!

It is a kind of love to which there is nothing like among men. The narrow selfishness of human nature cannot fully comprehend it.

It is one of those things which even the angels of God “desire to look into”. (1 Peter 1:12) It is a truth which Christian preachers and teachers should proclaim incessantly, and never be weary of proclaiming.

But the love of Christ to saints is no less wonderful, in its way, than His love to sinners, though far less considered.

That He should bear with all their countless infirmities from grace to glory,—that He should never be tired of their endless inconsistencies and petty provocations,—that He should go on forgiving and forgetting incessantly, and never be provoked to cast them off and give them up,—all this is marvellous indeed!

No mother watching over the waywardness of her feeble babe, in the days of its infancy, has her patience so thoroughly tried, as the patience of Christ is tried by Christians.

Yet His longsuffering is infinite. His compassions are a well that is never exhausted. His love is “a love that passeth knowledge”.

Let no man be afraid of beginning with Christ, if he desires to be saved. The chief of sinners may come to Him with boldness, and trust Him for pardon with confidence. This loving Saviour is One who delights to “receive sinners.” (Luke 15:2)

Let no man be afraid of going on with Christ after he has once come to Him and believed.

Let him not fancy that Christ will cast him off because of failures, and dismiss him into his former hopelessness on account of infirmities. Such thoughts are entirely unwarranted by anything in the Scriptures.

Jesus will never reject any servant because of feeble service and weak performance. Those whom He receives He always keeps.

Those whom He loves at first He loves at last. His promise shall never be broken, and it is for saints as well as sinners: ‘Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out.’ (John 6:37)”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John, vol. 3 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1879/2012), 3: 1-2. Ryle is commenting on John 13:1-5.

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“Gratitude echoes grace” by John Webster

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 1:2–3)

Like nearly all the other letters of Paul that we have in the New Testament canon, 1 Thessalonians starts with thanksgiving. It’s relatively easy to breeze through these sections of thanksgiving at the beginning of Paul’s letters without really paying attention to the fact that something of importance is happening in them.

All too easily we can think of them as just courtesies that Paul goes through before getting on with the real business of his letters, or perhaps we may read them as if Paul were engaging in a bit of flattery, winning his readers over before he has a go at them on some issue that’s troubling him. But if we pause over them and ponder a little, we soon come to see that something else is going on.

Far from being mere civil preliminaries, these introductory thanksgivings tell us something very profound. They signal to us the kind of existence in which both Paul and his readers are caught up. Paul gives thanks because, for him, Christian life, life in Christ and life in the church of Christ, is a life in which thanksgiving is a fundamental dynamic.

Thanksgiving isn’t just decoration; it’s primary. Basic to the whole pattern of living in which Paul and his readers share is the giving and receiving of thanks.

Thanksgiving in the church of Jesus Christ is a deep reality. It’s not just a sign that Christians are a well-mannered lot who say nice things about one another and are suitably grateful to God for their blessings.

Thanksgiving is one of the signs of convertedness—that is, it’s a mark of the fact that those who live in Christ have been remade, transplanted out of one way of living into another, new way. This is because, as Paul puts it, the gospel has come to them in power and the Holy Spirit.

Because they have turned to God from idols—because under the impulse of God they have abandoned an entire way of living—their mode of existence has been turned inside-out. One of the essential aspects of that conversion and renewal of human life is the move from ingratitude to thanksgiving.

Christian life is new life because it transforms us out of our refusal to live thankfully to a life which acknowledges, celebrates, and lives from the grace of God.

Part of what makes the church such a strange reality in the world is that it’s a place where callousness and ingratitude are being set aside and human beings are beginning to learn one of the fundamental things we must learn if we are to be healed—namely, how to say those words which can chase away an entire army of demons: we give thanks to God always.

So thanksgiving is one of the chief fruits of that complete reorientation of human life that Christian faith is all about: to be in the church is to rediscover gratitude to God.

Thanksgiving is thus rooted in grace: to live in gratitude to God is to live out of God’s grace. And grace is not a thing but a person and an action. It’s the personal presence and action of God; it’s God giving to us wretched and convoluted creatures everything we need to rescue us from our wretchedness and set our lives straight.

Who is this grace-filled God whose goodness sets us free for thanksgiving? For Paul in 1 Thessalonians, it is God who is Father, Son, and Spirit, the merciful three-in-one.

The God who sets us free for thanksgiving is, Paul tells us, “God the Father” or “our God and Father”; He is “the Lord Jesus Christ,” equal to Him in majesty and grace; and He is God “the Holy Spirit,” the life-giver.

This God, in his threefold work of grace, is the one who comes to us in His great act of friendship, wiping out our sins, reconciling us to Himself, restoring us to fellowship, and setting us free to be who we are made to be: God’s thankful people.

Gratitude, we might say, echoes grace; the giving of thanks flows from God’s supreme gift of fellowship with Himself.”

–John Webster, Christ Our Salvation: Expositions and Proclamations, ed. Daniel J. Bush (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2020), 121–123.

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“Thanksgiving Day Proclamation (1936)” by Wilbur L. Cross

“Time out of mind at this turn of the seasons when the hardy oak leaves rustle in the wind and the frost gives a tang to the air and the dusk falls early and the friendly evenings lengthen under the heel of Orion, it has seemed good to our people to join together in praising the Creator and Preserver, who has brought us by a way that we did not know to the end of another year.”

–Wilbur L. Cross, “Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, 1936,” in Proclamations of His Excellency Wilbur L. Cross Governor of the State of Connecticut (Hartford: Lockwood and Brainerd Co., 1937), 16.

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“When He comes again” by J.C. Ryle

“The second miracle which our Lord is recorded to have wrought demands our attention in these verses.

Like the first miracle at Cana, it is eminently typical and significant of things yet to come.

To attend a marriage feast (John 2:1-11), and cleanse the temple (John 2:12-25) from profanation were among the first acts of our Lord’s ministry at His first coming.

To purify the whole visible Church, and hold a marriage supper, will be amongst His first acts, when He comes again.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John, vol. 1 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1879/2012), 1: 73-74. Ryle is commenting on John 2:12-25.

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“There is an eternal holiday yet to begin” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us learn, in the second place, that God’s children must not look for their reward in this world.

If ever there was a case of godliness unrewarded in this life, it was that of John the Baptist.

Think for a moment what a man he was during his short career, and then think to what an end he came.

Behold him, that was the Prophet of the Highest, and greater than any born of woman, imprisoned like a malefactor!

Behold him cut off by a violent death, before the age of thirty-four—the burning light quenched—the faithful preacher murdered for doing his duty,—and this to gratify the hatred of an adulterous woman, and at the command of a capricious tyrant!

Truly there was an event here, if there ever was one in the world, which might make an ignorant man say, “What profit is it to serve God?”

But these are the sort of things which show us, that there will one day be a judgment.

The God of the spirits of all flesh shall at last set up an assize, and reward every one according to his works.

The blood of John the Baptist, and James the apostle, and Stephen—the blood of Polycarp, and Huss, and Ridley, and Latimer, shall yet be required.

It is all written in God’s book. “The earth shall disclose her blood, and no more cover her slain.” (Isaiah 26:21)

The world shall yet know, that there is a God that judgeth the earth.

“If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter, for he that is higher than the highest regardeth: and there be higher than they.” (Eccles. 5:8)

Let all true Christians remember, that their best things are yet to come.

Let us count it no strange thing, if we have sufferings in this present time. It is a season of probation. We are yet at school.

We are learning patience, longsuffering, gentleness, and meekness, which we could hardly learn if we had our good things now.

But there is an eternal holiday yet to begin.

For this let us wait quietly. It will make amends for all.

‘Our light affliction which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.’ (2 Cor. 4:17)”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Matthew (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1856/2012), 130. Ryle is commenting on Matthew 14:1-12.

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“There was one there far greater than Moses or Elijah” by J.C. Ryle

“In the last place, we have in these verses a remarkable testimony to Christ’s infinite superiority over all that are born of woman.

This is a point which is brought out strongly by the voice from heaven, which the disciples heard.

Peter, bewildered by the heavenly vision, and not knowing what to say, proposed to build three tabernacles, one for Christ, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.

He seemed in fact to place the law-giver and the prophet side by side with his divine Master, as if all three were equal. At once, we are told, the proposal was rebuked in a marked manner.

A cloud covered Moses and Elijah, and they were no more seen.

A voice at the same time came forth from the cloud, repeating the solemn words, made use of at our Lord’s baptism, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye Him.’

That voice was meant to teach Peter, that there was one there far greater than Moses or Elijah.

Moses was a faithful servant of God. Elijah was a bold witness for the truth. But Christ was far above either one or the other.

He was the Saviour to whom law and prophets were continually pointing.

He was the true Prophet, whom all were commanded to hear. (Deut. 18:15)

Moses and Elijah were great men in their day. But Peter and his companions were to remember, that in nature, dignity, and office, they were far below Christ.

He was the true sun: they were the stars depending daily on His light.

He was the root: they were the branches. He was the Master: they were the servants.

Their goodness was all derived: His was original and His own.

Let them honor Moses and the prophets, as holy men. But if they would be saved, they must take Christ alone for their Master, and glory only in Him. ‘Hear ye Him.’

Let us see in these words a striking lesson to the whole Church of Christ. There is a constant tendency in human nature to ‘hear man.’

Bishops, priests, deacons, popes, cardinals, councils, presbyterian preachers, and independent ministers, are continually exalted to a place which God never intended them to fill, and made practically to usurp the honor of Christ.

Against this tendency let us all watch, and be on our guard. Let these solemn words of the vision ever ring in our ears, ‘Hear ye Christ.’

The best of men are only men at their very best.

Patriarchs, prophets, and apostles—martyrs, fathers, reformers, puritans– all, all are sinners, who need a Saviour– holy, useful, honorable in their place—but sinners after all.

They must never be allowed to stand between us and Christ.

He alone is ‘the Son, in whom the Father is well pleased.’

He alone is sealed and appointed to give the bread of life.

He alone has the keys in His hands, ‘God over all, blessed forever.’

Let us take heed that we hear His voice, and follow Him.

Let us value all religious teaching just in proportion as it leads us to Jesus.

The sum and substance of saving religion is to ‘hear Christ.'”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Matthew (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1856/2012), 167-168. Ryle is commenting on Matthew 17:1-13.

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“There is an inexhaustible fullness in Scripture” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us ponder these things well. There are great depths in all our Lord Jesus Christ’s recorded dealings upon earth, which no one has ever fully fathomed.

There are mines of rich instruction in all His words and ways, which no one has thoroughly explored.

Many a passage of the Gospels is like the cloud which Elijah’s servant saw. (1 Kings 18:44) The more we look at it, the greater it will appear.

There is an inexhaustible fullness in Scripture.

Other writings seem comparatively threadbare when we become familiar with them. But as to Scripture, the more we read it, the richer we shall find it.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Matthew (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1856/2012), 133-134. Ryle is commenting on Matthew 14:13-21.

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“Clad in His own promises” by John Calvin

“We enjoy Christ only as we embrace Christ clad in His own promises.

Thus it comes to pass that he indeed dwells in our hearts [cf. Eph. 3:17], and yet: “We are absent from him. For we walk by faith, not by sight” [2 Cor. 5:5–7].

Now these two things agree rather well with each other: we possess in Christ all that pertains to the perfection of heavenly life, and yet faith is the vision of good things not seen [cf. Heb. 11:1].

Only, we must note a difference in the nature or quality of the promises: the gospel points out with the finger what the law foreshadowed under types.”

–John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, vol. 1, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 2.9.3., 426.

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“The infinite love of the Lord Jesus Christ towards sinners” by J.C. Ryle

We see, fifthly, in this parable, the penitent man received readily, pardoned freely, and completely accepted with God.

Our Lord shows us this, in this part of the younger son’s history, in the most touching manner. We read:

“When he was yet a long way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found. And they began to be merry.”

More deeply affecting words than these, perhaps, were never written. To comment on them seems almost needless.

It is like gilding refined gold, and painting the lily. They show us in great broad letters the infinite love of the Lord Jesus Christ towards sinners.

They teach how infinitely willing He is to receive all who come to Him, and how complete, and full, and immediate is the pardon which He is ready to bestow.

“By Him all that believe are justified from all things.”—“He is plenteous in mercy.” (Acts 13:39; Psalm 86:5)

Let this boundless mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ be graven deeply in our memories, and sink into our minds. Let us never forget that He is One “that receiveth sinners.”

With Him and His mercy sinners ought to begin, when they first begin to desire salvation. On Him and His mercy saints must live, when they have been taught to repent and believe.

‘The life which I live in the flesh,’ says St. Paul, ‘I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.’ (Gal. 2:20)”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke, Vol. 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1879/2012), 2: 138. Ryle is commenting on Luke 15:11-24.

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“The formal and principal act of justifying faith” by Francis Turretin

“The nature of faith cannot be rightly perceived unless these two things are known: (1) of what acts it consists; (2) what is its object…

The fifth is the act of reception of Christ or of adhesion and union, by which we not only seek Christ through a desire of the soul and fly to Him, but apprehend and receive Him offered, embrace Him found, apply Him to ourselves and adhere to and unite ourselves to Him.

For as God freely offers His own Son in the gospel to the sinful soul, burdened and cast down and broken by a sense of his sins, and Christ offers Himself with all His benefits and the fulness of salvation residing in Him, so the soul (firmly persuaded of the fulness of salvation in Christ, seriously flying to Him and earnestly desiring communion with Him) cannot help embracing with the highest freedom of the will that supreme good offered, and the inestimable treasure, selling all for Him (Mt. 13:44), resting upon Christ as the sole Redeemer and delivering and making himself over, and so firmly retaining Him that he is prepared to lose anything else rather than reject Him.

This is the formal and principal act of justifying faith, usually termed “reception”:

“As many as received Him” (i.e., “who believed on His name,” Jn. 1:12); believers are said “to receive the gift of righteousness” (Rom. 5:17); “to receive Christ” (Col. 2:6); “I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go” (Cant. 3:4); sometimes “meat and drink” (Mt. 5:6; Jn 6:51); the “putting on of Christ” (Gal. 3:27).

And because the soul thus apprehending Christ reclines upon Him and rests upon and cleaves to Him, faith is also sometimes described as an act of “reclining” (Ps. 71:5; Isa. 10:20; 48:2; 50:10; Mic. 3:11); as also an act of adhesion and binding closely, and of the most strict union by which we are bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh and one with him; and Christ Himself dwells in us (Eph. 3:17) and we in Him (Jn. 15:5).

From this union of persons arises the participation in the blessings of Christ, to which (by union with Him) we acquire a right (to wit, justification, adoption, sanctification and glorification).”

–Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, ed. James T. Dennison Jr., trans. George Musgrave Giger, vol. 2 (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1992–1997), 2: 560, 563.

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