Category Archives: Sanctification

“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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“An hour’s enjoyment of the light of His countenance” by John Newton

“Saturday evening has returned again. How quickly the time flies!

O that we may have grace to number our days, and to begin to view the things of this world in that light which they will, doubtless, appear in when we are are upon the point of leaving them.

How many things which are too apt to appear important now and to engross too much of our time, and thoughts, and strength, will then be acknowledged as vain and trivial as the imperfect recollection of a morning dream?

The Lord help us to judge now as we shall judge then, that all things on this side of the grave are of no real value further than they are improved in subservience to the will and glory of God, and that an hour’s enjoyment of the light of His countenance is worth more than the wealth of the Indies and the power of Kings.

How often are we, like Martha, cumbered about many things, though we say, and I hope at the bottom believe, that one thing alone is needful.

The Lord give us a believing, humble, spiritual frame of mind, and make it our earnest desire and prayer, that we may be more like the angels of God, who are always employed, and always happy, in doing His will and beholding His glory.

The rest we may be content to leave to those who are strangers to the love of Jesus and the foretastes of Heaven.

I have been attempting to pray that you and our friends in London may, together with us, behold the KING in His beauty tomorrow– that we may, like David, be satisfied in our souls as with marrow and fatness, and feel something of what Thomas felt, when he put his finger upon the print of His nails, and cried out with transport, ‘My Lord and my God!’

With dear love to you and all friends, I remain,

John Newton”

–John Newton, The Christian Correspondent: Or a Series of Religious Letters Written by the Rev. John Newton to Alexander Clunie (Hull: George Prince, 1790), 171-175. This letter was written from Olney on April 1, 1769.

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“The hope to which God has called us” by John Newton

“What shall it be, ‘ere long, when the Lord shall call us up to join with those who are now singing before the throne?

What shall it be, when all the children of God, who in different ages and countries have been scattered abroad, shall be all gathered together, and enter into that glorious and eternal rest provided for them– when there shall not be one trace of sin or sorrow remaining, not one discordant note be heard, nothing to disturb, or defile, or lighten the never-ceasing joy!

Such is the hope to which God has called us: that day will surely come, as the present day is already arrived– every moment brings on its approach.

While I am writing and you are reading, we may say, ‘Now is our full salvation nearer.’ (Romans 13:11)

Many a weary step we have taken since the Lord first gave us to believe in His name; but we shall not have to tread the past way over again– some difficulties yet remain, but we know not how few.

Perhaps before we are aware, the Lord may cut short our conflict and say, ‘Come up hither.’

Or at the most it cannot be very long, and He who has been with us thus far, will be with us to the end.

He knows how to manifest Himself even here, to give more than He takes away, and to cause our consolations to exceed our greatest afflictions.

And when we get safely home, we shall not complain that we have suffered too much in the way.

We shall not say, ‘Is this all I must expect after so much trouble?’

No, when we awake into that glorious world, we shall in an instant be satisfied with His likeness. One sight of Jesus as He is will fill our hearts and dry up all our tears.

Let us then resign ourselves into His hands.

Let us gird up the loins of our minds, be sober, and hope to the end.

Let us, like faithful servants, watch for our Lord’s appearance, and pray earnestly that we may be found ready at His coming.

Jesus is able to keep us from falling.

Let us be steady in the use of His instituted means, and sincerely desirous to abstain from all appearance of evil.

The rest we may confidently leave to Him, in whom, whosoever trusts, shall never be ashamed.”

–John Newton, The Christian Correspondent: Or a Series of Religious Letters Written by the Rev. John Newton to Alexander Clunie (Hull: George Prince, 1790), 19-22. This letter was written from Liverpool on May 21, 1763.

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“This, my friend, is blessed learning indeed” by John Newton

“I find no reading or writing so profitable and refreshing to me, as a correspondence with my Christian friends.

I get more warmth and light sometimes by a letter from a plain person who loves the Lord Jesus, though perhaps a fervent maid, than from some whole volumes put forth by learned Doctors.

I speak not this out of disrespect either to Doctors or to learning; but there is a coldness creeping into the churches, of which I would warn my friends as earnestly as of a fire that was breaking out next door.

Blessed be God, we still have some among the learned, who are content to become fools for the Gospel’s sake, and fools I dare say they are and will be thought of by their brethren.

For though I do not deny that learning, when it falls in good hands, and is employed by a spiritual and humble man to prosper purposes and occasions, may be, through a divine blessing, greatly useful.

Yet I dare affirm that an over attachment to human learning, and an unjust contempt of those who have it not, has been formerly, and in many instances is at present, the very bane of vital, spiritual, experimental godliness.

This, my friend, is blessed learning indeed, to be taught of God— to be under the influence of the holy and heavenly Spirit.

Yea, blessed is the man whom Thou chooses, O Lord, and teachest out of Thy law!

May you and I, my friend, know more of that divine Teacher, who can not only reveal truth to our minds, but enlighten and enlarge our understanding to receive it.

Suppose a man blind, and desirous to know the nature of light and color, and suppose a philosopher gravely reading lectures to him upon these subjects; and you have an emblem of what human learning can do in spiritual things.

But suppose the blind man suddenly possessed of sight, and enabled to see the sun and the skies, the land and water with his own eyes; this may represent the teaching of God.

Be this my school, by frequent prayer and constant meditation on the word of God, to wait and improve the visits of the great Teacher!

Then I shall be wise unto salvation myself, and fitted, if the Lord please, to assist as an instrument, in the instruction and edification of others.”

–John Newton, The Christian Correspondent: Or a Series of Religious Letters Written by the Rev. John Newton to Alexander Clunie (Hull: George Prince, 1790), 10-12.

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“My heart is like a country but half subdued” by John Newton

“We are all well as usual, surrounded with mercies on every side, and want nothing to make us more happy than we are, but a warmer sense of redeeming love.

Blessed be God we are not altogether asleep, though too drowsy.

All my plantations flourish. The prayer meeting is well attended, and in general, I hope, proves a time of refreshment; so that some of the younger, and more lively sort, are encouraged to attempt another on Sunday mornings at six o’clock, to pray for their poor Minister, and for a blessing on the ordinances. My children now exceed two hundred, as I expected.

I shall be obliged to you to procure me what accounts you can, printed or otherwise, of the Lord’s work in America. I have had some imperfect hints, but want to know more.

I have heard of something remarkable in and about Long Island– likewise a schoolmaster, that has had remarkable success among the Indian children.

Such as this is the news I want. I am little concerned with the treaties and policies of the kings of the earth; but I long to hear of the victories and triumphs of our King Jesus, and that the trophies of His grace are multiplied.

I want more experience in my soul, of that spiritual energy which is mighty to pull down strongholds, to lay every imagination and high thing low in the dust, and bring every roving thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.

My heart is like a country but half subdued, where all things are in an unsettled state, and mutinies and insurrections are daily happening.

I hope I hate the rebels that disturb the King’s peace. I am glad when I can point them out, lay hold of them, and bring them to him for justice.

But they have many lurking-holes, and sometimes they come disguised like friends, so that I do not know them, till their works discover them.

What a quiet posture Job’s affairs were in. The oxen were ploughing, and the asses were feeding besides them– all in peace, and no danger near.

Who would have thought of the Sabeans coming to carry all away?

So it is sometimes in my experience. The bands of the enemy break in, hinder my plowing, spoil my pastures, and rob me of my store.

But the mercy is, that there are infinite resources in the name of Jesus.

One act of lively faith in Him sets all the rights, heals every breach, and makes up every loss.”

–John Newton, The Christian Correspondent: Or a Series of Religious Letters Written by the Rev. John Newton to Alexander Clunie (Hull: George Prince, 1790), 76-79.

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“A doctrine of the church” by John Webster

“A doctrine of the church is only as good as the doctrine of God which underlies it.”

–John Webster, Confessing God: Essays in Christian Dogmatics II, The Cornerstones Series (London; New Delhi; New York; Sydney: Bloomsbury T&T Clark: An Imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc; Bloomsbury, 2016), 156.

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“From the cradle to the cross He obeyed the will of God from the heart” by Robert Murray M’Cheyne

Inquiry: What good is it to me that Christ is free from guilt?

Answer: Christ is offered to you as your Saviour.

There is perfect obedience in Christ, because He hath gone to the Father, and we see Him no more.

When He came to this world, He came not only to suffer, but to do— not only to be a dying Saviour, but also a doing Saviour— not only to suffer the curse which the first Adam had brought upon the world, but to render the obedience which the first Adam had left undone.

From the cradle to the cross He obeyed the will of God from the heart.

When He came into the world, His word was: “Lo! I come; in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O God; yea, thy law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40:6-8)

When He was in the midst of His obedience, still He did not change His mind. He says: “I have meat to eat that ye know not of: my meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” (John 4:32)

And when He was going out of the world, still His word was: “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” (John 17:4)

So that it is true what an apostle says; that He was “obedient even unto death.” The whole law is summed up in these two commands—that we love God and our neighbor. Christ did both.

(1.) He loved God perfectly, as God says in Psalm 91:14:“Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him; I will set him on high.”

(2.) He loved His neighbor as Himself. It was out of love to men that he came into the world at all; and everything he did and everything he suffered in the world, was out of love to his neighbor.

It was out of love to men that he performed the greatest part of his obedience, namely, the laying down his life. This was the principal errand upon which he came into the world.

This was the most dreadful and difficult command which God laid upon him, and yet he obeyed. But a short while before he was betrayed, God gave him an awful view of his coming wrath, in the garden of Gethsemane.

He set down the cup before him, and showed that it was a cup without any mixture of mercy in it; and yet Christ obeyed: his human nature shrank back from it, and he prayed: “If it be possible let this cup pass from me;” but he did not waver one moment from complete obedience for he adds: “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”

Now this is the obedience of Christ, and we know that it is perfect.

(1.) Because he was the Son of God, and all that he did must be perfect.

(2.) Because he is gone to the Father. He is ascended into the presence of God. And how did the Father receive him?

We are told in the 110th Psalm. A door is opened in heaven, and we are suffered to hear the very words with which God receives his Son: “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies my footstool.” (Psalm 110)

So, then, God did not send him back, as one who had not obeyed perfectly enough. God did not forbid him his presence, as one unworthy to be accepted; but God highly exalted him—looked upon him as worthy of much honor—worthy of a seat on the throne at his right hand.

Oh! how plain that Christ is accepted with the Father! how plain that his righteousness is most lovely and all divine in the sight of God the Father.

Hearken, then, trembling sinner! this righteousness is offered to you.

It was wrought just for sinners like you, and for none else; it is for no other use but just to cover naked sinners. This is the clothing of wrought gold and the raiment of needlework. This is the wedding-garment—the fine linen, white and clean.

Oh! put ye on the Lord Jesus. Why should you refuse your own mercies?

Become one with Christ, by believing, and you are not only pardoned, as I showed before, but you are righteous in the sight of God; not only shall you never be cast into hell, but you shall surely be carried into heaven—as surely as Christ is now there.

Become one with Christ, and even this moment you are lovely in the sight of God—comely, through his comeliness put upon you. You are as much accepted in the sight of God as is the Son of Man, the Beloved, that sits on his right hand.

The Spirit shall be given you, as surely as he is given to Christ. He is given to Christ as the oil of gladness, wherewith he is anointed above his fellows. You are as sure to wear a crown of glory, as that Christ is now wearing his.

You are as sure to sit upon Christ’s throne, as that Christ is now sitting on his Father’s throne. O weep for joy, happy believer!

O sing for gladness of heart: “For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ (Romans 8:38:39)”

–Robert Murray M’Cheyne, “Sermon LXXI,” The Works of the Late Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne, vol. 2 (New York: Robert Carter, 1847), 2: 418–419.

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“I am swallowed up in God” by Thomas Goodwin

Thomas Goodwin died in London at age eighty. His son wrote this about his father’s final days:

“In February 1679, a fever seized my dear father, which in a few days put an end to his life.

In all the violence of it, he discoursed with that strength of faith and assurance of Christ’s love, with that holy admiration of free grace, with that joy in believing, and such thanksgivings and praises, as he extremely moved and affected all that heard him.

He rejoiced in the thoughts that he was dying, and going to have a full and uninterrupted communion with God.

‘I am going,’ said he, ‘to the three Persons, with whom I have had communion: they have taken me; I did not take them. I shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye; all my lusts and corruptions I shall be rid of, which I could not be here; those croaking toads will fall off in a moment.’

And mentioning those great examples of faith, Heb. 11,

‘All these,’ said he, ‘died in faith. I could not have imagined I should ever have had such a measure of faith in this hour; no, I could never have imagined it. My bow abides in strength.

Is Christ divided? No, I have the whole of His righteousness; I am found in Him, not in my own righteousness, which is of the law, but in the righteousness which is of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.

Christ cannot love me better than He doth; I think I cannot love Christ better than I do; I am swallowed up in God.’

Directing his speech to his two sons, he exhorted them to value the privilege of the covenant. ‘Now,’ said he, ‘I shall be ever with the Lord.’

With this assurance of faith and fulness of joy, his soul left this world, and went to see and enjoy the reality of that blessed state of glory, which in a discourse on that subject he had so well demonstrated.

He died February 1679, and in the eightieth year of his age.”

–Thomas Goodwin, Memoir of Thomas Goodwin, D.D., Composed Out of His Own Papers and Memoirs, By His Son, The Works of Thomas Goodwin, Volume 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage, 1861/2006), 2: lxxiv–lxxv.

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“The Spirit prays in you, because Christ prays for you” by Thomas Goodwin

“Let us consider what Christ did when He was come to heaven and exalted there: how abundantly did He there make good all that He had promised in His last sermon!

For, first, He instantly poured out His Spirit, and that ‘richly’ (as the apostle to Titus speaks), and He ‘being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this which you now see and hear,’ says the apostle in his first sermon after, Acts 2:33.

He then received it, and visibly poured Him out. So Eph. 4:8, it is said, ‘He ascended up on high, and gave gifts unto men … for the work of the ministry (4:15), and for the jointing in of the saints to the increase of the body of Christ’ (4:16), that is, for the converting of elect sinners, and making them saints.

And the gifts there mentioned (some of them) remain into this day, in ‘pastors and teachers,’ &c. And this Spirit is still in our preaching and in your hearts, in hearing, in praying, and He persuades you of Christ’s love to this very day; and is in all these the pledge of the continuance of Christ’s love still in heaven unto sinners.

All our sermons and your prayers are evidences to you, that Christ’s heart is still the same towards sinners that ever it was, for the Spirit that assists in all these comes in His name, and in His stead, and works all by commission from Him.

And do none of you feel your hearts moved in the preaching of these things, at this and other times? And who is it that moves you?

It is the Spirit who speaks in Christ’s name from heaven, even as Himself is said to ‘speak from heaven,’ Heb. 12:25.

And when you pray, it is the Spirit that indites your prayers, and that ‘makes intercession for you’ in your own hearts, Rom. 8:26, which intercession of His is but the evidence and echo of Christ’s intercession in heaven.

The Spirit prays in you, because Christ prays for you. He is an intercessor on earth, because Christ is an intercessor in heaven.

As He did take off Christ’s words, and used the same that He before had uttered, when He spake in and to the disciples the words of life, so He takes off Christ’s prayers also when He prays in us; He takes but the words as it were out of Christ’s mouth, or heart rather, and directs our hearts to offer them up to God.

He also follows us to the sacrament, and in that glass shews us Christ’s face smiling on us, and through His face His heart; and thus helping of us to a sight of Him, we go away rejoicing that we saw our Saviour that day.”

–Thomas Goodwin, The Heart of Christ in Heaven, The Works of Thomas Goodwin, Volume 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage, 1861/2006), 4: 107-108.

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