Fire in the Mouth

Confessional Presbyterian ♠️ Reader of Ryle Co-Founder & President of Christian Worldview Discipleship (CWD) Full Time Evangelist w/ Reformed Evangelistic Fellowship (REF) Pursuing M.Div @ Heidelberg Theological Seminary (HTS) 🎧 CWD Podcasts ⤵️

the courtesies of life an idol

The third point in our Lord's charge to the seventy disciples is, the thorough devotion to their work which He enjoined upon them. They were to abstain even from the appearance of covetousness, or love of money, or luxury--"Carry neither purse, nor bag, nor shoes." They were to behave like men who had no time to waste on the empty compliments and conventional courtesies of the world--"Salute no man by the way." [Luke 10:4]

These remarkable words must, doubtless be interpreted with some qualification. The time came when our Lord Himself, at the end of His ministry, said to the disciples, "He that has a purse let him take it, and likewise his bag." (Luke 22:36.) The apostle Paul was not ashamed to use salutations. The apostle Peter expressly commands us to "be courteous." (1 Pet. 3:8.) But still, after every deduction and qualification, there remains a deep lesson beneath these words of our Lord, which ought not to be overlooked. They teach us that ministers and teachers of the Gospel should beware of allowing the world to eat up their time and thoughts, and to hinder them in their spiritual work. They teach us that care about money, and excessive attention to what are called "the courtesies of life," are mighty snares in the way of Christ's laborers, and snares into which they must take heed lest they fall.

Let us consider these things. They concern ministers especially, but they concern all Christians more or less. Let us strive to show the men of the world that we have no time for their mode of living. Let us show them that we find life too precious to be spent in perpetual feasting, and visiting, and calling, and the like, as if there were no death, or judgment, or life to come. By all means let us be courteous. But let us not make the courtesies of life an idol, before which everything else must bow down. Let us declare plainly that we seek a country beyond the grave, and that we have no time for that incessant round of eating, and drinking, and dressing, and civility, and exchange of compliments, in which so many try to find their happiness, but evidently try in vain. Let our principle be that of Nehemiah, "I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down." (Neh. 6:3.)

—J.C. Ryle, 'Expository Thoughts on Luke’

Sent forth as lambs among wolves

The second point in our Lord's charge to the seventy disciples, is the perilous nature of the work in which they were about to be engaged.He does not keep back from them the dangers and trials which are before them. He does not enlist them under false pretenses, or prophesy smooth things, or promise them unvarying success. He tells them plainly what they must expect. "Behold," He says, "I send you forth as lambs among wolves." [Luke 10:3]

These words, no doubt, had a special reference to the life-time of those to whom they were spoken. We see their fulfillment in the many persecutions described in the Acts of the Apostles. But we must not conceal from ourselves that the words describe a state of things which may be seen at this very day. So long as the Church stands believers must expect to be like "lambs among wolves." They must make up their minds to be hated, and persecuted, and ill treated, by those who have no real religion. They must look for no favor from unconverted people, for they will find none. It was a strong but a true saying of Martin Luther, that "Cain will murder Abel, if he can, to the very end of the world." "Marvel not," says John, "if the world hates you." "All that will live godly in Jesus Christ," says Paul, "shall suffer persecution." (1 John 3:13; 2 Tim. 3:12.)

—J.C. Ryle, 'Expository Thoughts on Luke’

pray for the success of the Gospel

Prayer is one of the best and most powerful means of helping forward the cause of Christ in the world. It is a means within the reach of all who have the Spirit of adoption. Not all believers have money to give to missions. Very few have great intellectual gifts, or extensive influence among men. But all believers can pray for the success of the Gospel--and they ought to pray for it daily. Many and marvelous are the answers to prayer which are recorded for our learning in the Bible. "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." (James 5:16.) Prayer is one of the principal weapons which the minister of the Gospel ought to use. To be a true successor of the apostles, he must give himself to prayer as well as to the ministry of the word. (Acts 6:4.) He must not only use the sword of the Spirit, but pray always, with all prayer and supplication. (Eph. 6:17,18.) This is the way to win a blessing on his own ministry. This, above all, is the way to procure helpers to carry on Christ's work. Colleges may educate men. Bishops may ordain them. Patrons may give them livings. But God alone can raise up and send forth "laborers" who will do work among souls. For a constant supply of such laborers let us daily pray.

—J.C. Ryle, 'Expository Thoughts on Luke’

Sincereity does not save

Let us beware, if we love life, of supposing that mere earnestness will take a man to heaven, though he knows nothing of Christ. The idea is a deadly and ruinous error. Sincerity will never wipe away our sins. It is not true that every man will be saved by his own religion, no matter what he believes, so long as he is diligent and sincere. We must not pretend to be wiser than God. Christ has said, and Christ will stand to it, "No man comes unto the Father but by Me." [John 14:6]

—J.C. Ryle, 'Expository Thoughts on John’

There is only one way

It avails nothing that a man is clever, learned, highly gifted, amiable, charitable, kind-hearted, and zealous about some sort of religion. All this will not save his soul if he does not draw near to God by Christ's atonement, and make use of God's own Son as his Mediator and Savior. God is so holy that all men are guilty and debtors in His sight. Sin is so sinful that no mortal man can make satisfaction for it. There must be a mediator, a ransom-payer, a redeemer, between ourselves and God, or else we can never be saved. There is only one door, one bridge, one ladder, between earth and heaven--the crucified Son of God. Whoever will enter in by that door may be saved; but to him who refuses to use that door the Bible holds out, no hope at all. Without shedding of blood there is no remission.

—J.C. Ryle, 'Expository Thoughts on John’

the relationship of marriage

. . . the relationship of marriage ought to be highly reverenced and honored among Christians. It is a relationship which was instituted in Paradise, in the time of man's innocency, and is a chosen figure of the mystical union between Christ and His Church. It is a relationship which nothing but death ought to terminate. It is a relationship which is sure to have the greatest influence on those whom it brings together, for happiness, or for misery, for good, or for evil. Such a relationship ought never to be taken in hand unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly; but soberly, discreetly, and with due consideration. It is only too true, that thoughtlessly entering into marriage is one of the most fertile causes of unhappiness, and too often, it may be feared, of sin.

—J.C. Ryle, 'Expository Thoughts on Matthew’

Are images necessary in congregations?

. . . two questions are here resolved. The first is, whether images be necessary in the congregations of the people of God? Answer. There are Christian images and pictures, and they are very necessary. And these images are sermons of Christ and the right administration of the sacraments. For in them Christ is described and painted out unto us. As for the painted and carved images of the papists, we utterly detest them as idols. They allege that they are laymen's books, but Habakkuk says, "they are doctors of lies" (Hab. 2:18). And where the lively preaching of the word is, there is no need of them. And therefore images were not established in churches in these West parts till after seven hundred years. As long as the church had golden teachers, there were no wooden images; but when golden teachers did degenerate and become wooden teachers, then came both golden and wooden images. It is further said, why may we not paint Christ in our churches with colors, as with words in sermons? Answer. The one the Lord allows, namely, the description of Christ in speech. But the carving or painting of images in churches, and that for religious use, He condemns (Ex. 20:4–6).

—William Perkins, ‘Commentary on Galatians’

properties of the ministry of the word

“O foolish Galatians, who bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?”
(Galatians 3:1 LSB)

Here first, we are to observe the properties of the ministry of the word. The first, that it must be plain, perspicuous, and evident, as if the doctrine were pictured and painted out before the eyes of men. Therefore the Church of Rome deals wickedly in keeping the Scriptures in an unknown tongue. For this is to cover that from the people, which is to be painted before the eyes of their minds. Again, that kind of preaching is to be blamed in which there is used a mixed kind of variety of languages before the unlearned. For this is a sign to the unbelievers (1 Cor. 14:22). And in this kind of preaching we do not paint Christ, but we paint out our own selves. It is a by-word among us: "It was a very plain sermon." And I say again, the plainer, the better.

The second property of the ministry of the word is that it must be powerful and lively in operation, and as it were crucifying Christ within us, and causing us to feel the virtue of His passion. The word preached must pierce into the heart like a two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12). True prophecy judges men, discovers the things of the heart, and causes men to say: "The Lord is within you" (1 Cor. 14:25). The scepter of Christ whereby He smites the nations is in His mouth (Isa. 11:4), that is, in the ministry of the word (Jer. 15:19). And it is the same ministry which shakes heaven and earth (Hag. 2:5–6). By this it appears that to take a text, and to make a discourse upon something in the said text, showing much invention of wit and much reading and human learning, is not to preach Christ in a lively manner. It will be said: what then? I answer with Paul, "Who is sufficient" either for the speaking or doing of "these things?" Yet something may be shown. Know therefore that the effectual and powerful preaching of the word stands in three things. The first is true and proper interpretation of the Scripture, and that by itself. For Scripture is both the gloss and the text. The second is savory and wholesome doctrine, gathered out of the Scriptures truly expounded. The third is the application of the said doctrine, either to the information of the judgment or to the reformation of the life. This is the preaching that is of power. Let all the sons of the prophets think upon these things and study to be doers of them.

—William Perkins, ‘Commentary on Galatians’

self-ignorance there may be in the heart of a true believer.

We see Simon Peter declaring that he was ready to lay down his life for his Master. We see his Master telling him that in that very night he would "deny Him three times." [John 13:38] And we all know how the matter ended. The Master was right, and Peter was wrong.

Let it be a settled principle in our religion, that there is an amount of weakness in all our hearts, of which we have no adequate conception, and that we never know how far we might fall if we were tempted. We fancy sometimes, like Peter, that there are some things we could not possibly do. We look pitifully upon others who fall, and please ourselves in the thought that at any rate we would not have done so. We know nothing at all. The seeds of every sin are latent in our hearts, even when renewed, and they only need occasion, or carelessness and the withdrawal of God's grace for a season, to put forth an abundant crop. Like Peter, we may think we can do wonders for Christ, and like Peter, we may learn by bitter experience that we have no power and might at all.

The servant of Christ will do wisely to remember these things. "Let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall." (1 Cor. 10:12.) A humble sense of our own innate weakness, a constant dependence on the Strong for strength, a daily prayer to be held up, because we cannot hold up ourselves--these are the true secrets of safety. The great Apostle of the Gentiles said, "When I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Cor. 12:10.)

—J.C. Ryle, 'Expository Thoughts on John’

the reality of future punishment after death.

Two strong expressions are used by our Lord on this point. He speaks of being "cast into everlasting fire." [Matt. 18:8] He speaks of being "cast into hell fire." [v. 9]

The meaning of these words is clear and unmistakable. There is a place of unspeakable misery in the world to come, to which all who die impenitent and unbelieving, must ultimately be consigned. There is revealed in Scripture a "fiery indignation," which sooner or later will devour all God's adversaries. (Heb. 10:27.) The same sure word which holds out a heaven to all who repent and are converted, declares plainly that there will be a hell for all the ungodly.

Let no man deceive us with vain words upon this dreadful subject. Men have arisen in these latter days, who profess to deny the eternity of future punishment, and repeat the devil's old argument, that we "shall not surely die." (Gen. 3:4.) Let none of their reasonings move us, however plausible they may sound. Let us stand fast in the old paths. The God of love and mercy, is also a God of justice. He will surely requite. The flood in Noah's day, and the burning of Sodom, were meant to show us what He will one day do. No lips have ever spoken so clearly about hell as those of Christ Himself. Hardened sinners will find out, to their cost, that there is such a thing as the "wrath of the Lamb." (Rev. 6:17.)

—J.C. Ryle, 'Expository Thoughts on Matthew’

the true dignity of Christ's disciples

The world may despise and ridicule the Apostles because they care more for works of love and humility than the pursuits of the world. But the Master bids them remember their commission, and not be ashamed. They are God's ambassadors, and have no cause to be cast down. "Verily, verily," He declares, "He that receives whomsoever I send receives Me; and he that receives Me receives Him that sent Me." [John 13:20]

The doctrine here laid down is full of encouragement. It ought to cheer and hearten all who lay themselves out to do good, and specially to do good to the fallen and the poor. Work of this kind gets little praise from men, and they who give themselves up to it are often regarded as miserable enthusiasts, and meet with much opposition. Let them however work on, and take comfort in the words of Christ which we are now considering. To spend and be spent in trying to do good, makes a man far more honorable in the eyes of Jesus than to command armies or amass a fortune. The few who work for God in Christ's way have no cause to be ashamed. Let them not be cast down if the children of the world laugh and sneer and despise them. A day comes when they will hear the words, "Come you blessed children of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you." (Matt. 25:34.)

—J.C. Ryle, 'Expository Thoughts on John’

Foot Washing

John 13: 15, "For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you."

“I have, in my own person, given you a pattern of what your own conduct should be. The duty I want you to learn is of such vast importance that I have not left it to a general precept but have given you an example of my meaning.” Of course, the question at once rises, What did our Lord really mean? Did he mean that we all ought literally to do the very same thing that He did?  Or did he only mean that we are to imitate the spirit of this action?  The Church of Rome, it is well known, puts a literal sense on our Lord’s language. Once every year, about Easter, the head of the Romish Church publicly washes the feet of certain poor persons got ready for the occasion. The absurdity, to say the least, of this view is evident on a moment’s reflection.

It seems absurd to take our Lord’s words literally and to suppose that the Pope’s literal washing of a few feet at Easter can supersede the duty of all Christians to do the same. Yet it is only fair to remember that the Moravians to this day take a literal view of those words and have a custom called “pedilavium.”

It is, in any case, absurd to suppose that our Lord would require His disciples to perform a duty which the young and the feeble would be physically unable to do. It is inconsistent with the general tenor of our Lord’s teaching to suppose that He would ever attach so much importance to a mere bodily action.  “Bodily exercise profits little” (1 Tim. 4:8). A formal performance of bodily acts of religion is just the easiest thing that can be imposed on people. The thing that is really hard, and yet always required, is the service of the heart.

—J.C. Ryle, 'Expository Thoughts on John’

God's Word Supplanted by Man's Traditions

The last thing that demands our attention in these verses is the tendency of man’s inventions in religion to supplant God’s Word. Three times we find this charge brought forward by our Lord against the Pharisees. “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” “Setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.” “Invalidating the word of God by your tradition.” [Mark 7:8, 9, 13] The first step of the Pharisees was to add their traditions to the Scriptures as useful supplements. The second was to place them on a level with the Word of God and give them equal authority. The last was to honor them above the Scriptures and to degrade Scripture from its lawful position. This was the state of things which our Lord found when He was upon earth. Practically, the traditions of man were everything, and the Word of God was nothing at all. Obedience to the traditions constituted true religion. Obedience to the Scriptures was lost sight of altogether.

It is a mournful fact that Christians have far too often walked in the steps of Pharisees in this matter. The very same process has taken place over and over again. The very same consequences have resulted. Religious observances of man’s inventions have been pressed on the acceptance of Christians – observances to all appearances useful and at all events well-meant, but observances nowhere commanded in the Word of God. These very observances have by and by been required with more vigor than God’s own commandments and defended with more zeal than the authority of God’s own Word.

—J.C. Ryle, 'Expository Thoughts on Mark’

The Love of Man's Praise

We read that “among the chief rulers many believed on Christ; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue. For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” [John 12:42–43]

These unhappy men were evidently convinced that Jesus was the true Messiah. Reason, and intellect, and mind, and conscience, obliged them secretly to admit that no one could do the miracles which He did, unless God was with Him, and that the preacher of Nazareth really was the Christ of God. But they had not courage to confess it. They dared not face the storm of ridicule, if not persecution, which confession would have entailed. And so, like cowards, they held their peace and kept their convictions to themselves.

Their case, it may be feared, is a sadly common one. There are thousands of people who know far more in religion than they act up to. They know they ought to come forward as decided Christians. They know that they are not living up to their light. But the fear of man keeps them back. They are afraid of being laughed at, jeered at, and despised by the world. They dread losing the good opinion of society and the favorable judgment of men and women like themselves. And so they go on from year to year, secretly ill at ease and dissatisfied with themselves – knowing too much of religion to be happy in the world and clinging too much to the world to enjoy any religion.

Faith is the only cure for soul ailments like this. A believing view of an unseen God, an unseen Christ, an unseen heaven, and an unseen judgment-day – this is the grand secret of overcoming the fear of man. The expulsive power of a new principle is required to heal the disease. “This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4). Let us pray for faith, if we would conquer that deadly enemy of souls, the fear of man, and the love of man’s praise. And if we have any faith, let us pray for more. Let our daily cry be, “Lord, increase our faith.” We may easily have too much money or too much worldly prosperity; but we can never have too much faith.

—J.C. Ryle, 'Expository Thoughts on John'

the duty of using present opportunities

The Lord Jesus says to us all, “Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you. While ye have light believe in the light.” [John 12:35–36] Let us not think that these things were only spoken for the sake of the Jews. They were written for us also, upon whom the ends of the world are come.

The lesson of the words is generally applicable to the whole professing Church of Christ. Its time for doing good in the world is short and limited. The throne of grace will not always be standing – it will be removed one day, and the throne of judgment will be set up in its place. The door of salvation by faith in Christ will not always be open – it will be shut one day forever, and the number of God’s elect will be completed. The fountain for all sin and uncleanness will not always be accessible; the way to it will one day be barred, and there will remain nothing but the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.

These are solemn thoughts; but they are true. They cry aloud to sleeping Churchmen and drowsy congregations and ought to arouse great searchings of heart. “Can nothing more be done to spread the Gospel at home and abroad? Has every means been tried for extending the knowledge of Christ crucified? Can we lay our hands on our hearts, and say that the Churches have left nothing undone in the matter of missions? Can we look forward to the Second Advent with no feelings of humiliation, and say that the talents of wealth, and influence, and opportunities have not been buried in the ground?” Such questions may well humble us, when we look, on one side, at the state of professing Christendom, and on the other, at the state of the heathen world. We must confess with shame that the Church is not walking worthy of its light.

But the lesson of the words is specially applicable to ourselves as individuals. Our own time for getting good is short and limited; let us take heed that we make good use of it. Let us “walk while we have the light.” Have we Bibles? Let us not neglect to read them. Have we heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Let us not linger halting between two opinions, but believe to the saving of our souls. Have we Sabbaths? Let us not waste them in idleness, carelessness, and indifference, but throw our whole hearts into their sacred employments and turn them to good account. Light is about us and around us and near us on every side. Let us each resolve to walk in the light while we have it, lest we find ourselves at length cast out into outer darkness forever. It is a true saying of an old divine, that the recollection of lost and misspent opportunities will be the very essence of hell.

—J.C. Ryle, 'Expository Thoughts on John'

fear God more than man

Those who try to do good must fear God more than man. Man can hurt the body, but there his enmity must stop. He can go no further. God is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [Matt. 10:28]. We may be threatened with the loss of character, property, and all that makes life enjoyable if we go on in the path of Christian duty. We must not heed such threats when our course is plain. Like Daniel and the three Hebrew young men, we must submit to anything rather than displease God and wound our consciences. The anger of man may be hard to bear, but the anger of God is much harder. The fear of man does indeed bring a snare, but we must make it give way to the expulsive power of a stronger principle – even the fear of God. It was a fine saying of good Colonel Gardiner’s: “I fear God, and therefore there is none else that I need fear.”

—J.C. Ryle, 'Expository Thoughts on Matthew'