“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.

“We have more mercies than we deserve” by J.C. Ryle

“Cultivate a thankful spirit.

It has ever been a mark of God’s most distinguished saints in every age (David, in the Old Testament, and St. Paul, in the New), are remarkable for their thankfulness.

We seldom read much of their writings without finding them blessing and praising God.

Let us rise from our beds every morning with a deep conviction that we are debtors, and that every day we have more mercies than we deserve.

Let us look around us every week, as we travel through the world, and see whether we have not much to thank God for.

If our hearts are in the right place, we shall never find any difficulty in building an Ebenezer.

Well would it be if our prayers and supplications were more mingled with thanksgiving. (1 Sam. 7:12. Phil. 4:6.)”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke, Vol. 1 (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 36-37. Ryle is commenting on Luke 1:46-56.

“He loved them to the last” by J.C. Ryle

“We learn 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.’

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.’ 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 Jesus 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, 1880/2012), 1-3. Ryle is commenting on John 13:1-5.

“Christ’s death is the Christian’s life” by J.C. Ryle

“These verses show us the peculiar plan by which the love of God has provided salvation for sinners. That plan is the atoning death of Christ on the cross.

Our Lord says to Nicodemus, ‘As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.’

By being ‘lifted up,’ our Lord meant nothing less than His own death upon the cross. That death, He would have us know, was appointed by God to be ‘the life of the world.’ (John 6:51.) It was ordained from all eternity to be the great propitiation and satisfaction for man’s sin.

It was the payment, by an Almighty Substitute and Representative, of man’s enormous debt to God. When Christ died upon the cross, our many sins were laid upon Him.

He was made ‘sin’ for us. He was made ‘a curse’ for us. (2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13.) By His death He purchased pardon and complete redemption for sinners.

The brazen serpent, lifted up in the camp of Israel, brought health and cure within the reach of all who were bitten by serpents. Christ crucified, in like manner, brought eternal life within reach of lost mankind.

Christ has been lifted up on the cross, and man looking to Him by faith may be saved. The truth before us is the very foundation-stone of the Christian religion.

Christ’s death is the Christian’s life. Christ’s cross is the Christian’s title to heaven. Christ ‘lifted up’ and put to shame on Calvary is the ladder by which Christians ‘enter into the holiest,’ and are at length landed in glory.

It is true that we are sinners—but Christ has suffered for us.

It is true that we deserve death—but Christ has died for us.

It is true that we are guilty debtors—but Christ has paid our debts with His own blood.

This is the real Gospel! This is the good news! On this let us lean while we live.

To this let us cling when we die. Christ has been ‘lifted up’ on the cross, and has thrown open the gates of heaven to all believers.”

–J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John, Vol. 1 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1869/2012), 141-143. Ryle is commenting on John 3:9-21.

“They will bear all the weight we can lay on them” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us mark, lastly, the firm grasp which the Virgin Mary had of Bible promises. She ends her hymn of praise by declaring that God has ‘blessed Israel in remembrance of His mercy,’ and that He has done ‘as He spake to our fathers, to Abraham and his seed forever.’

These words show clearly that she remembered the old promise made to Abraham, ‘In thee shall all nations of the earth be blessed.’ And it is evident that in the approaching birth of her Son she regarded this promise as about to be fulfilled.

Let us learn from this holy woman’s example, to lay firm hold on Bible promises. It is of the deepest importance to our peace to do so.

Promises are, in fact, the manna that we should daily eat, and the water that we should daily drink, as we travel through the wilderness of this world. We see not yet all things put under us. We see not Christ, and heaven, and the book of life and the mansions prepared for us.

We walk by faith, and this faith leans on promises. But on those promises we may lean confidently. They will bear all the weight we can lay on them.

We shall find one day, like the Virgin Mary, that God keeps His word, and that what He has spoken, so He will always in due time perform.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke, Vol. 1 (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 38. Ryle is commenting on Luke 1:46-56.

“Regular and daily study” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us strive, every year we live, to become more deeply acquainted with Scripture. Let us study it, search into it, dig into it, meditate on it, until it dwell in us richly. (Coloss. 2:16.)

In particular, let us labor to make ourselves familiar with those parts of the Bible which, like the book of Psalms, describe the experience of the saints of old. We shall find it most helpful to us in all our approaches to God.

It will supply us with the best and most suitable language both for the expression of our wants and thanksgivings. Such knowledge of the Bible can doubtless never be attained without regular, daily study.

But the time spent on such study is never misspent. It will bear fruit after many days.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke, Vol. 1 (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 35. Ryle is commenting on Luke 1:46-56.

“Greater love than this cannot be shown” by J.C. Ryle

Christ’s love is an active, working love. Just as the shepherd did not sit still bewailing his lost sheep, and the woman did not sit still bewailing her lost money, so our blessed Lord did not sit still in heaven pitying sinners.

He left the glory which He had with the Father, and humbled Himself to be made in the likeness of man. He came down into the world to seek and save that which was lost.

He never rested till He had made atonement for our transgressions, brought in everlasting righteousness, provided eternal redemption, and opened a door of life to all who are willing to be saved.

Christ’s love is a self-denying love. The shepherd brought his lost sheep home on his own shoulders rather than leave it in the wilderness.

The woman lighted a candle, and swept the house, and searched diligently, and spared no pains, till she found her lost money.

And just so did Christ not spare Himself, when he undertook to save sinners. ‘He endured the cross, despising the shame.’ He ‘laid down His life for His friends.’ Greater love than this cannot be shown. (John 15:13. Heb. 12:2.)

Christ’s love is a deep and mighty love. Just as the shepherd rejoiced to find his sheep, and the woman to find her money, so does the Lord Jesus rejoice to save sinners. It is a real pleasure to Him to pluck them as brands from the burning.

It was His ‘meat and drink,’ when upon earth, to finish the work which He came to do. He felt straitened in spirit till it was accomplished. It is still His delight to show mercy. He is far more willing to save sinners than sinners are to be saved.

Let us strive to know something of this love of Christ. It is a love that truly passeth knowledge. It is unspeakable and unsearchable. It is that on which we must wholly rest our souls, if we would have peace in time and glory in eternity.

If we take comfort in our own love to Christ, we are building on a sandy foundation. But if we lean on Christ’s love to us, we are on a rock.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke, Vol. 2 (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 175-76. Ryle is commenting on Luke 15:1-10.

“We can talk with Him” by J.C. Ryle

“While Christ is absent believers must ask much in prayer. It is written, ‘Hitherto have ye asked nothing in My name: ask and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.’

We may well believe that up to this time the disciples had never realized their Master’s full dignity. They had certainly never understood that He was the one Mediator between God and man, in whose name and for whose sake they were to put up their prayers. Here they are distinctly told that henceforward they are to ‘ask in His name.’

Nor can we doubt that our Lord would have all His people, in every age, understand that the secret of comfort during His absence is to be instant in prayer. He would have us know that if we cannot see Him with our bodily eyes any longer, we can talk with Him, and through Him have special access to God.

‘Ask and ye shall receive,’ He proclaims to all His people in every age; ‘and your joy shall be full.’

Let the lesson sink down deeply into our hearts. Of all the list of Christian duties there is none to which there is such abounding encouragement as prayer. It is a duty which concerns all. High and low, rich and poor, learned and unlearned,—all must pray. It is a duty for which all are accountable.

All cannot read, or hear, or sing; but all who have the spirit of adoption can pray. Above all, it is a duty in which everything depends on the heart and motive within. Our words may be feeble and ill-chosen, and our language broken and ungrammatical, and unworthy to be written down.

But if the heart be right, it matters not. He that sits in heaven can spell out the meaning of every petition sent up in the name of Jesus, and can make the asker know and feel that he receives.

‘If we know these things, happy are we if we do them.’ Let prayer in the name of Jesus be a daily habit with us every morning and evening of our lives. Keeping up that habit, we shall find strength for duty, comfort in trouble, guidance in perplexity, hope in sickness, and support in death.

Faithful is He that promised, ‘Your joy shall be full;’ and He will keep His word, if we ask in prayer.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John, Vol. 3 (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1880), 151-152.

“The peace which Christ gives” by J.C. Ryle

“‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth give I unto you.’ Peace is Christ’s peculiar gift: not money, not worldly ease, not temporal prosperity. These are at best very questionable possessions. They often do more harm than good to the soul.

They act as clogs and weights to our spiritual life. Inward peace of conscience, arising from a sense of pardoned sin and reconciliation with God, is a far greater blessing. This peace is the property of all believers, whether high or low, rich or poor.

The peace which Christ gives He calls ‘My peace.’ It is specially His own to give, because He bought it by His own blood, purchased it by His own substitution, and is appointed by the Father to dispense it to a perishing world.

Just as Joseph was sealed and commissioned to give corn to the starving Egyptians, so is Christ specially commissioned, in the counsels of the Eternal Trinity, to give peace to mankind.

The peace that Christ gives is not given as the world gives. What He gives the world cannot give at all, and what He gives is given neither unwillingly, nor sparingly, nor for a little time. Christ is far more willing to give than the world is to receive.

What He gives He gives to all eternity, and never takes away. He is ready to give abundantly above all that we can ask or think. ‘Open thy mouth wide,’ He says, ‘and I will fill it.’ (Psalm 81:10.)

Who can wonder that a legacy like this should be backed by the renewed emphatic charge, ‘Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid?’ There is nothing lacking on Christ’s part for our comfort, if we will only come to Him, believe, and receive.

The chief of sinners has no cause to be afraid. If we will only look to the one true Saviour, there is medicine for every trouble of heart. Half our doubts and fears arise from dim perceptions of the real nature of Christ’s Gospel.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John, Vol. 3 (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1880), 87-88. Ryle is commenting on John 14:27-31.

“The Friend of sinners” by J.C. Ryle

“We should notice how tenderly Christ speaks of the death of believers. He announces the fact of Lazarus being dead in language of singular beauty and gentleness: ‘Our friend Lazarus sleepeth.’ Every true Christian has a Friend in heaven, of almighty power and boundless love.

He is thought of, cared for, provided for, defended by God’s eternal Son. He has an unfailing Protector, who never slumbers or sleeps, and watches continually over his interests.

The world may despise him, but he has no cause to be ashamed. Father and mother even may cast him out, but Christ having once taken him up will never let him go. He is the ‘friend of Christ’ even after he is dead!

The friendships of this world are often fair-weather friendships, and fail us like summer-dried fountains, when our need is the sorest; but the friendship of the Son of God is stronger than death, and goes beyond the grave. The Friend of sinners is a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

The death of true Christians is ‘sleep,’ and not annihilation. It is a solemn and miraculous change, no doubt, but not a change to be regarded with alarm. They have nothing to fear for their souls in the change, for their sins are washed away in Christ’s blood.

The sharpest sting of death is the sense of unpardoned sin. Christians have nothing to fear for their bodies in the change; they will rise again by and by, refreshed and renewed, after the image of the Lord. The grave itself is a conquered enemy. It must render back its tenants safe and sound, the very moment that Christ calls for them at the last day.

Let us remember these things when those whom we love fall asleep in Christ, or when we ourselves receive our notice to quit this world. Let us call to mind, in such an hour, that our great Friend takes thought for our bodies as well as for our souls, and that He will not allow one hair of our heads to perish.

Let us never forget that the grave is the place where the Lord Himself lay, and that as He rose again triumphant from that cold bed, so also shall all His people.

To a mere worldly man death must needs be a terrible thing; but he that has Christian faith may boldly say, as he lays down life, ‘I will lay me down in peace, and take my rest: for it is Thou, Lord, that makest me dwell in safety.'”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John, Vol. 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1869/2012), 178-179. Ryle is commenting on John 11:7-16.