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“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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“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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“The Word of God is a deep mine of costly treasure” by George Swinnock

“Out of His infinite favour God is pleased to give some— in those places where He intendeth to gather a people to Himself, for His eternal praise— beside the twinkling starlight of nature, the clear and perfect sunlight of Scripture, to ‘guide their feet in the ways of peace.’

This Word is one of the most signal mercies that ever He bestowed upon the sons of men, the whole world without it being but a barren and rude wilderness.

The Word of God is a spring of living water, a deep mine of costly treasure, a table furnished with all sorts of food, a garden wherein is variety of pleasant fruits, the church’s charter, containing all her privileges and her deeds, manifesting her title to the purchased possession.

It hath pious precepts for the Christian’s reformation, and precious promises for his consolation.

If the saint be afflicted, it can hold his head above water, and keep him from sinking when the billows go over his soul; there are cordials in it rich enough to revive the most fainting spirit.

If the saint be assaulted, the word is armour of proof, whereby he may defend himself manfully, and wound his foes mortally.

If the soul be unholy, this word can sanctify it; ‘Ye are clean through the word which I have spoken to you,’ (John 15:3). This water can wash out all the spots and stains.

If the soul be an heir of hell, this word can save it: ‘From a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise to salvation,’ (2 Tim. 3:15). Other writings may make a man wise to admiration, but this only can make him wise to salvation.

This word, which is of such unspeakable worth, God hath deposited as a special treasure into the hands of the children of men, that they might ‘obey His will, and know the just one.’

And, reader, it is thy duty to search and study this book. When kings send out their proclamations, either concerning acts of grace, or some law which their subjects ought to obey, they expect that all should take notice of them, and give them the reading and hearing.

What an affront dost thou offer to the King of the whole world, if thou turnest thy back upon His word! I must tell thee it is no less than crimen lœsœ majestatis. (‘the crime of injured sovereignty‘)

‘He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me,’ (Luke 10:16).

Thou mayest think, possibly, that by neglecting to hear, thou dost only contemn the preacher; but believe me, it is a contempt of thy Maker—ministers are God’s ambassadors.

Now to deny an ambassador audience, is one of the greatest disrespects which can possibly be offered him, nay, it is an affront to his prince, on whose errand he cometh, and whose person he representeth; and what is the conclusion usually of such bad premises, but a bloody war?

Consider what thou dost, when thou ‘refusest Him that speaketh from heaven;’ for if thou shuttest the windows of thine eyes from reading, and the door of thine ears from hearing, God may clap such a padlock of a judiciary curse upon them both, that thou shalt never open thine eyes nor ears, till thou comest, as the rich glutton, to see Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom, and to hear and bear thy part in those dreadful screechings and howlings which are in hell.

It is a mercy that the tree of knowledge, the word of God, is not forbidden, but commanded fruit; nay, that it groweth in the very path to the tree of life.

Oh, why shouldst thou then, like the pharisees, ‘reject the counsel of God against thy own soul’? If thou art a child of Adam, I am sure thou hast thy death’s wound; now by neglecting the word, thou, like a frantic patient, throwest away that medicine which only can cure thee.

Do not say thou wast not warned of thy danger and duty. I do here show thee the hand and seal of the King of kings to that warrant to which I require thy obedience.

The Scripture is the word of Christ, and God commandeth thee upon thine allegiance to hear him, (Col. 3:16; Matt. 3:17).

The Word is the cabinet in which thy Saviour, that pearl of infinite price, is laid up; and therefore thou art commanded to look into it for this jewel: ‘Search the Scriptures, for they are they which testify of Me,’ (John 5:39).

The word is ἐρευνᾶτε (search), and speaketh such a diligent search as covetous men make for silver; they spare no labour, that they may attain their deified treasure. What shouldst not thou do for ‘durable riches and righteousness’?

But, reader, if thou art a child of God, I doubt not but thou delightest to look into thy Father’s will, and weighest every word in it, as knowing that in his testament there is a great charge committed, and a great legacy bequeathed, to thee.

It is thy daily companion and counsellor; thou darest not go without thy cordial, being liable every day to faint; nor without thy weapons, being called every hour to fight.

The Scriptures are the light by which thou walkest, and the tools with which thou workest.

Let me persuade thee to persevere in this gracious practice; take the counsel of the author of it, who is fittest to give laws for thy carriage towards it: ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,’ (Col. 3:16).

The word is ἐνοικέτω (dwell), and signifieth to keep house with you. Do not leave thy Bible, as some do, at church, and hear nothing of it all the week long; but bring it home to thy house, let it dwell with thee.

Let not the word be ‘as a wayfaring man, to tarry with thee but for a night,’ and so begone; but let it be an inhabitant, one that accompanieth thee to bed and board, and with whom thou conversest continually as thy familiar and intimate friend.

Make thine heart, as Jerome saith of Nepotianus, by his assiduous reading and hearing the Scriptures, Bibliothecam Christi, the library of Jesus Christ.

I cannot but think that thou hast found the Bible so bountiful a guest, to pay thee so liberally for its board, that thou hast bid it heartily welcome, and wouldst not part with it for the whole world.”

–George Swinnock, “The Christian Man’s Calling,” The Works of George Swinnock, Volume 1 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1992), 1: 141-143.

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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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“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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“Even till the moss shall grow on mine eyebrows” by John Bunyan

“I have determined, the Almighty God being my help and shield, yet to suffer, if frail life might continue so long, even till the moss shall grow on mine eyebrows, rather than thus to violate my faith and principles.”

–John Bunyan, A Confession of My Faith, The Works of John Bunyan, Volume 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1692/1991), 2: 594. John Bunyan died on August 31, 1688.

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“His love cost Him dearly” by John Owen

“They know nothing of the life and power of the gospel, nothing of the reality of the grace of God, nor do they believe aright one article of the Christian faith, whose hearts are not sensible of the love of Christ.

The Lord Christ placed His love on us, that love from whence He died for us, when we were sinners and ungodly; that is, everything which might render us unamiable and undeserving.

Though we were as deformed as sin could render us, and more deeply indebted than the whole creation could pay or answer, yet did He fix His love upon us, to free us from that condition, and to render us meet for the most intimate society with Himself.

Never was there love which had such effects— which cost Him so dear in whom it was, and proved so advantageous unto them on whom it was placed.

In the pursuit of it He underwent everything that is evil in His own person, and we receive everything that is good in the favor of God and eternal blessedness.”

–John Owen, “Χριστολογια: A Declaration of the Glorious Mystery of the Person of Christ,” The Works of John Owen, Volume 1 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1684/2000), 1: 166-167, 168.

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“Christ prizeth him more than all the world besides” by John Owen

“All the world is nothing to Him in comparison with believers.

They are His garden; the rest of the world, wilderness. Cant. 4:12, ‘A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.’

They are His inheritance; the rest, His enemies, of no regard with him. So Isa. 43:3-4, “I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.”

The reason of this dealing of Christ with His church, in parting with all others for them, is, because He loves her. She is precious and honourable in His sight; thence He puts this great esteem upon her.

Indeed, He disposeth of all nations and their interests according as is for the good of believers. Amos 9:9, in all the siftings of the nations, the eye of God is upon the house of Israel; not a grain of them shall perish.

Look to heaven; angels are appointed to minister for them, Heb. 1:14.

Look into the world; the nations in general are either blessed for their sakes, or destroyed on their account,—preserved to try them, or rejected for their cruelty towards them; and will receive from Christ their final doom according to their deportment towards these despised ones.

On this account are the pillars of the earth borne up, and patience is exercised towards the perishing world.

In a word, there is not the meanest, the weakest, the poorest believer on the earth, but Christ prizeth him more than all the world besides.

Were our hearts filled much with thoughts hereof, it would tend much to our consolation.

To answer this, believers also value Jesus Christ; they have an esteem of Him above all the world, and all things in the world.

You have been in part acquainted with this before, in the account that was given of their delight in Him, and inquiry after Him.

They say of Him in their hearts continually, as David, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and none upon earth I desire beside thee.” Ps. 73:25.

Neither heaven nor earth will yield them an object any way comparable to him, that they can delight in.”

–John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Volume 2: Communion With God (ed. William H. Goold; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1850-53/1997), 2: 136-137.

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