“The head may be very dull when the heart is right” by J.C. Ryle

“We have, lastly, in these verses, an example of the spiritual ignorance which may be found even in the hearts of good men.

We are told that our Lord said to His disciples, “The Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men.”

They had heard the same thing from His lips little more than a week before. But now, as then, the words seemed lost upon them. They heard as though they heard not.

They could not realize the fact that their Master was to die. They could not realize the great truth that Christ was to be “cut off” before He was to reign, and that this cutting off was a literal death upon the cross.

It is written, “They understood not this saying,”—“it was hid from them,”—“they perceived it not.”

Such slowness of understanding may surprise us much at this period of the world. We are apt to forget the power of early habits of thought, and national prejudices, in the midst of which the disciples had been trained.

“The throne of David,” says a great divine, “did so fill their eyes that they could not see the cross.”

Above all, we forget the enormous difference between the position we occupy who know the history of the crucifixion and the Scriptures which it fulfilled, and the position of a believing Jew who lived before Christ died and the veil was rent in twain.

Whatever we may think of it, the ignorance of the disciples should teach us two useful lessons, which we shall all do well to learn.

For one thing, let us learn that men may understand spiritual things very feebly, and yet be true children of God. The head may be very dull when the heart is right.

Grace is far better than gifts, and faith than knowledge.

If a man has faith and grace enough to give up all for Christ’s sake, and to take up the cross and follow Him, he shall be saved in spite of much ignorance. Christ shall own him at the last day.

Finally, let us learn to bear with ignorance in others, and to deal patiently with beginners in religion. Let us not make men offenders for a word.

Let us not set our brother down as having no grace, because he does not exhibit clear knowledge.

Has he faith in Christ? Does he love Christ? These are the principal things.

If Jesus could endure so much weakness in His disciples, we may surely do likewise.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 247-248. Ryle is commenting on Luke 9:37-45.

“As we ripen in grace, we shall have greater sweetness towards our fellow Christians” by Charles Spurgeon

“As we grow in grace, we are sure to grow in charity, sympathy, and love; we shall have greater and more intense affection for the person of ‘Him whom having not seen we love.’

We shall have greater delight in the precious things of His gospel. The doctrine which perhaps we did not understand at first, will become marrow and fatness to us as we advance in grace.

We shall feel that there is honey dropping from the honey-comb in the deeper truths of our religion.

We shall, as we ripen in grace, have greater sweetness towards our fellow Christians.

Bitter-spirited Christians may know a great deal, but they are immature. Those who are quick to censure may be very acute in judgment, but they are as yet very immature in heart.

He who grows in grace remembers that he is but dust, and he therefore does not expect his fellow Christians to be anything more. He overlooks ten thousand of their faults, because he knows his God overlooks twenty thousand in his own case.

He does not expect perfection in the creature, and, therefore, he is not disappointed when he does not find it.

As he has sometimes to say of himself, ‘This is my infirmity,’ so he often says of his brethren, ‘This is their infirmity,’ and he does not judge them as he once did.

I know we who are young beginners in grace think ourselves qualified to reform the whole Christian church. We drag her before us, and condemn her straightway.

But when our virtues become more mature, I trust we shall not be more tolerant of evil, but we shall be more tolerant of infirmity, more hopeful for the people of God, and certainly less arrogant in our criticisms.

Sweetness towards sinners is another sign of ripeness.

When the Christian loves the souls of men, when he feels that there is nothing in the world which he cares for so much as endeavouring to bring others to a knowledge of the saving truth, when he can lay himself out for sinners, bear with their ill-manners, bear with anything, so that he might but lead them to the Saviour– then is the man mature in grace.

God grant this sweetness to us all.

A holy calm, cheerfulness, patience, a walk with God, fellowship with Jesus, an anointing from the Holy One– I put all these together, and I call them sweetness, heavenly lusciousness, full-flavouredness of Christ.

May this be in you and abound.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “Ripe Fruit,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons (vol. 16; London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1870), 16: 448–449.

“The long-suffering of God is very wonderful” by Jonathan Edwards

“Love to God disposes men to imitate God and therefore disposes them to such long-suffering as He manifests. Long-suffering is often spoken of as one of the attributes of God.

Ex. 34:6: ‘And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.’ Num. 14:18: ‘The Lord is long-suffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression,’ Rom. 2:4: ‘Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering?’

The long-suffering of God is very wonderful. He bears innumerable injuries from men, and those which are very great.

If we consider the wickedness there is in the world, and then consider how God continues the world, does not destroy it, but is continually blessing it with innumerable streams of good, and supplying and supporting the world, how rich His daily bounties are to it, how He causes the sun to rise and shed forth his beams on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

And if we consider the goodness of God to some particular populous cities, how vast the quantity of the fruits of God’s goodness is which is daily spent upon them, and consumed by them, and then consider what wickedness there was in these very cities, it will show us how amazingly great is His long-suffering.

And if we consider the same long-suffering has been manifest to very many particular persons, in all ages of the world. He is long-suffering to the sinners that He spares, and to whom He offers His mercy, even while they are rebelling against Him.

And especially if we consider God’s long-suffering towards His elect, many of whom live long in sin, and are great sinners, and God bears with them, yea, bears to the end, and finally is pleased to forgive, and never punishes them, but makes them the vessels of mercy and glory, and shows mercy to them even while enemies, as the apostle Paul takes notice it was with himself.

1 Tim. 1:13–16: ‘Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering for a pattern, to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.’

A child’s love to his father disposes him to imitate his father, and especially does the love of God’s children dispose them to imitate their Heavenly Father.”

–Jonathan Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits in Ethical Writings (ed. Paul Ramsey and John E. Smith; vol. 8; The Works of Jonathan Edwards; New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 1989), 8: 192–194.