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“He humbled Himself to become man” by J.C. Ryle

“The New Testament begins with the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. No part of the Bible is so important as this, and no part is so full and complete.

Four distinct Gospels tell us the story of Christ’s doing and dying. Four times over we read the precious account of His works and words.

How thankful we ought to be for this! To know Christ is life eternal. To believe in Christ is to have peace with God. To follow Christ is to be a true Christian.

To be with Christ will be heaven itself. We can never hear too much about Jesus Christ.

The Gospel of St. Matthew begins with a long list of names. Sixteen verses are taken up with tracing a pedigree from Abraham to David, and from David to the family in which Jesus was born.

Let no one think that these verses are useless. Nothing is useless in creation. The least mosses, and the smallest insects, serve some good end. Nothing is useless in the Bible.

Every word of it is inspired. The chapters and verses which seem at first sight unprofitable, are all given for some good purpose, Look again at these sixteen verses, and you will see in them useful and instructive lessons.

Learn from this list of names, that God always keeps His word. He had promised, that in Abraham’s seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed. He had promised to raise up a Saviour of the family of David. (Gen. 12:3; Isaiah 11:1.)

These sixteen verses prove, that Jesus was the son of David and the son of Abraham, and that God’s promise was fulfilled.—Thoughtless and ungodly people should remember this lesson, and be afraid. Whatever they may think, God will keep His word.

If they repent not, they will surely perish.—True Christians should remember this lesson, and take comfort. Their Father in heaven will be true to all His engagements.

He has said, that He will save all believers in Christ. If He has said it, He will certainly do it. “He is not a man that He should lie.” “He abideth faithful: He can not deny Himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13.)

Learn next from this list of names the sinfulness and corruption of human nature. Observe how many godly parents in this catalogue had wicked and ungodly sons.

The names of Roboam, and Joram, and Amon, and Jechonias, should teach us humbling lessons. They had all pious fathers. But they were all wicked men.

Grace does not run in families. It needs something more than good examples and good advice to make us children of God.

They that are born again are not born of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:13.) Praying parents should pray night and day, that their children may be born of the Spirit.

Learn lastly from this list of names, how great is the mercy and compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Think how defiled and unclean our nature is; and then think what a condescension it was in Him to be born of a woman, and “made in the likeness of men.”

Some of the names we read in this catalogue remind us of shameful and sad histories. Some of the names are those of persons never mentioned elsewhere in the Bible. But at the end of all comes the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Though He is the eternal God, He humbled Himself to become man, in order to provide salvation for sinners. “Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor.”

We should always read this catalogue with thankful feelings. We see here that no one who partakes of human nature can be beyond the reach of Christ’s sympathy and compassion.

Our sins may have been as black and great as those of any whom St. Matthew names. But they can not shut us out of heaven, if we repent and believe the gospel.

If Jesus was not ashamed to be born of a woman, whose pedigree contained such names as those we have read today, we need not think that He will be ashamed to call us brethren, and to give us eternal life.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Matthew (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1856/2012), 2-3. Ryle is commenting on Matthew 1:1-17.

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“Jesus has all power in heaven and earth” by J.C. Ryle

“The miracle before us is one among many proofs that with Christ nothing is impossible.

The Saviour of sinners is Almighty. He “calleth those things which be not as though they were.” (Rom. 4:17)

When He wills a thing, it shall be done. When He commands a thing, it shall come to pass.

He can create light out of darkness, order out of disorder, strength out of weakness, joy out of sorrow, and food out of nothing at all. Forever let us bless God that it is so!

We might well despair, when we see the corruption of human nature, and the desperate hardness and unbelief of man’s heart, if we did not know the power of Christ.

‘Can these dry bones live? Can any man or woman be saved? Can any child, or friend of ours ever become a true Christian? Can we ourselves ever win our way through to heaven?’

Questions like these could never be answered, if Jesus was not Almighty.

But thanks be to God, Jesus has all power in heaven and earth.

He lives in heaven for us, able to save to the uttermost, and therefore we may hope.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 229-230. Ryle is commenting on Luke 9:12-17.

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“Be careful to make time for being alone with God” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us mark, secondly, the importance to Christians of occasional privacy and retirement.

We are told, that when the apostles returned from their first ministerial work, our Lord ‘took them and went aside privately into a desert place.’ (Luke 9:10) We cannot doubt that this was done with a deep meaning.

It was meant to teach the great lesson that those who do public work for the souls of others, must be careful to make time for being alone with God.

The lesson is one which many Christians would do well to remember.

Occasional retirement, self-inquiry, meditation, and secret communion with God, are absolutely essential to spiritual health. The man who neglects them is in great danger of a fall.

To be always preaching, teaching, speaking, writing, and working public works, is, unquestionably, a sign of zeal. But it is not always a sign of zeal according to knowledge.

It often leads to untoward consequences. We must make time occasionally for sitting down and calmly looking within, and examining how matters stand between our own selves and Christ.

The omission of the practice is the true account of many a backsliding which shocks the Church, and gives occasion to the world to blaspheme.

Many could say with sorrow, in the words of Canticles, “They made me keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard have I not kept.’ (Song of Solomon 1:6)”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 226-227. Ryle is commenting on Luke 9:7-11.

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“Ministers should burn with unquenched love for Christ and the church” by Rudolf Gwalther

“Just as a mother’s love conquers everything and turns sorrow and trouble into joy, sustaining her through the birth process and the education of her children, so ministers should burn with unquenched love for Christ and the church, so that however hard the going may be, nothing will overpower the joy and delight that they get from fulfilling their ministry.”

—Rudolf Gwalther, “Sermons on Galatians,” commenting on Galatians 4:19, Galatians, Ephesians: New Testament, ed. Gerald L. Bray and Scott M. Manetsch, vol. 10, Reformation Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011), 10: 154.

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“God’s chosen instrument for doing good to souls” by J.C. Ryle

One of the principal works which the apostles were commissioned to take up was preaching.

We read that our Lord ‘sent them to preach the kingdom of God,” and that “they went through the towns preaching the Gospel.’ (Luke 9:6)

The importance of preaching, as a means of grace, might easily be gathered from this passage, even if it stood alone. But it is but one instance, among many, of the high value which the Bible everywhere sets upon preaching.

It is, in fact, God’s chosen instrument for doing good to souls. By it sinners are converted, inquirers led on, and saints built up.

A preaching ministry is absolutely essential to the health and prosperity of a visible church.

The pulpit is the place where the chief victories of the Gospel have always been won, and no Church has ever done much for the advancement of true religion in which the pulpit has been neglected.

Would we know whether a minister is a truly apostolical man? If he is, he will give the best of his attention to his sermons.

He will labor and pray to make his preaching effective, and he will tell his congregation that he looks to preaching for the chief results on souls.

The minister who exalts the sacraments, or forms of the Church, above preaching, may be a zealous, earnest, conscientious, and respectable minister; but his zeal is not according to knowledge. (Romans 10:2)

He is not a follower of the apostles.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 222-223. Ryle is commenting on Luke 9:1-6.

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“The gentleness and condescension of Christ” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us mark, lastly, in this passage, our Lord Jesus Christ’s readiness to receive all who come to Him.

We are told, that when the multitude followed Him into the desert, whither He had retired, ‘He received them, and spoke unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing.’ (Luke 9:11)

Unmannerly and uninvited as this intrusion on His privacy seems to have been, it met with no rebuff from our Lord. He was always more ready to give instruction than people were to ask it, and more willing to teach than people were to be taught.

But the incident, trifling as it may seem, exactly tallies with all that we read in the Gospels of the gentleness and condescension of Christ.

We never see Him dealing with people according to their deserts.

We never find Him scrutinizing the motives of His hearers, or refusing to allow them to learn of Him, because their hearts were not right in the sight of God.

His ear was always ready to hear, and His hand was always ready to work, and His tongue was always ready to preach.

None that came to Him were ever cast out. Whatever they might think of His doctrine, they could never say that Jesus of Nazareth was “an austere man.”

Let us remember this in all our dealings with Christ about our own souls. We may draw near to Him with boldness, and open our hearts to Him with confidence.

He is a Saviour of infinite compassion and lovingkindness. He will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax. (Isaiah 42:3)

The secrets of our spiritual life may be such as we would not have our dearest friends know. The wounds of our consciences may be deep and sore, and require most delicate handling.

But we need not fear anything, if we commit all to Jesus, the Son of God.

We shall find that His kindness is unbounded. His own words shall be found abundantly true: ‘I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest to your souls.’ (Matthew 11:29)

Let us remember this, finally, in our dealing with other people, if we are called upon to give them help about their souls.

Let us strive to walk in the steps of Christ’s example, and, like Him, to be kind, and patient, and always willing to aid.

The ignorance of young beginners in religion is sometimes very provoking. We are apt to be wearied of their instability, and fickleness, and halting between two opinions.

But let us remember Jesus, and not be weary. He received all, spoke to all, and did good to all.

Let us go and do likewise. As Christ deals with us, so let us deal one with another.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 227-228. Ryle is commenting on Luke 9:7-11.

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“When Christ is the physician nothing is impossible” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us mark, in these verses, the absolute power which the Lord Jesus Christ possesses over Satan. We are told that he “commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man,” whose miserable condition we have just head described.

At once the unhappy sufferer was healed. The “many devils” by whom he had been possessed were compelled to leave him. Nor is this all.

Cast forth from their abode in the man’s heart, we see these malignant spirits beseeching our Lord that He would “not torment” them, or “command them to go out into the deep,” and so confessing His supremacy over them.

Mighty as they were, they plainly felt themselves in the presence of One mightier than themselves. Full of malice as they were, they could not even hurt the “swine” of the Gadarenes until our Lord granted them permission.

Our Lord Jesus Christ’s dominion over the devil should be a cheering thought to all true Christians. Without it, indeed, we might well despair of salvation.

To feel that we have ever near us an invisible spiritual enemy, laboring night and day to compass our destruction, would be enough to crush out every hope, if we did not know a Friend and Protector.

Blessed be God! The Gospel reveals such an One. The Lord Jesus is stronger than that “strong man armed,” who is ever warring against our souls. The Lord Jesus is able to deliver us from the devil.

He proved his power over him frequently when upon earth. He triumphed over him gloriously on the cross. He will never let him pluck any of His sheep out of His hand. He will one day bruise him under our feet, and bind him in the prison of hell. (Rom. 16:20; Rev. 20:1-2)

Happy are they who hear Christ’s voice and follow Him! Satan may vex them, but he cannot really hurt them! He may bruise their heel, but he cannot destroy their souls. They shall be “more than conquerors” through Him who loved them. (Rom. 8:37)

Let us mark, finally, the wonderful change which Christ can work in Satan’s slaves. We are told that the Gadarenes “found the man out of whom the devil was departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind.”

That sight must indeed have been strange and astonishing! The man’s past history and condition, no doubt, were well known. He had probably been a nuisance and a terror to all the neighborhood.

Yet here, in one moment, a complete change had come over him. Old things had passed away, and all things had become new. The power by which such a cure was wrought must indeed have been almighty.

When Christ is the physician nothing is impossible.

One thing, however, must never be forgotten. Striking and miraculous as this cure was, it is not really more wonderful than every case of decided conversion to God.

Marvellous as the change was which appeared in this demoniac’s condition when healed, it is not one whit more marvellous than the change which passes over every one who is born again, and turned from the power of Satan to God.

Never is a man in his right mind till he is converted, or in his right place till he sits by faith at the feet of Jesus, or rightly clothed till he has put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Have we ever considered what real conversion to God is?

It is nothing else than the miraculous release of a captive, the miraculous restoration of a man to his right mind, the miraculous deliverance of a soul from the devil.

What are we ourselves? This, after all, is the grand question which concerns us. Are we bondsmen of Satan or servants of God? Has Christ made us free, or does she devil yet reign in our hearts? Do we sit at the feet of Jesus daily? Are we in our right minds?

May the Lord help us to answer these questions aright!”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 205-207. Ryle is commenting on Luke 8:26-36.

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