Confessional Presbyterian ♠️ Reader of Ryle
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Diligently Labor

. . . diligently we ought to persevere in well doing, notwithstanding discouragements. We are doubtless meant to draw this lesson from the conduct of our Lord after His rejection at Nazareth. Not moved by the harsh treatment He received, He patiently works on. Thrust out of one place, He passes on to another. Cast forth from Nazareth, He comes to Capernaum and there teaches on the Sabbath.

Such ought to be the conduct of all the people of Christ. Whatever the work they are called to do, they should patiently continue in it and not give up for lack of success. Whether preachers, or teachers, or visitors, or missionaries, they must labor on and not faint. There is often more stirring in the hearts and consciences of people than those who teach and preach to them are at all aware of. There is preparatory work to be done in many a part of God’s vineyard which is just as needful as any other work, though not so agreeable to flesh and blood. There must be sowers as well as reapers. There must be some to break up the ground and pick out the stones as well as some to gather in the harvest.

Let each labor on in his own place. The day is coming when each shall be rewarded according to his work. The very discouragements we meet with enable us to show the world that there are such things as faith and patience. When men see us working on, in spite of treatment like that which Jesus received at Nazareth, it makes them think. It convinces them that, at all events, we are persuaded that we have truth on our side.

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

Disregarding the Sabbath

We must distinctly understand that neither here nor elsewhere does the Lord Jesus overthrow the obligation of the fourth commandment. Neither here nor elsewhere is there a word to justify the vague assertions of some modern teachers that “Christians ought not to keep a Sabbath” and that it is “a Jewish institution which has passed away.” The utmost that our Lord does is to place the claims of the Sabbath on the right foundation. He clears the day of rest from the false and superstitious teaching of the Jews about the right way of observing it. He shows us clearly that works of necessity and works of mercy are no breach of the fourth commandment.

After all, the errors of Christians on this subject, in these latter days, are of a very different kind from those of the Jews. There is little danger of men keeping the Sabbath too strictly. The thing to be feared is the disposition to keep it loosely and partially, or not to keep it at all. The tendency of the age is not to exaggerate the fourth commandment but to cut it out of the Decalogue and throw it aside altogether. Against this tendency it becomes us all to be on our guard. The experience of eighteen centuries supplies abundant proofs that vital religion never flourishes when the Sabbath is not well kept.

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

Judge Not

“Judge not” (Matthew 7:1)

These words of Christ do not contain an absolute prohibition from judging, but are intended to cure a disease, which appears to be natural to us all. We see how all flatter themselves, and every man passes a severe censure on others. This vice is attended by some strange enjoyment: for there is hardly any person who is not tickled with the desire of inquiring into other people's faults. All acknowledge, indeed, that it is an intolerable evil, that those who   overlook their own vices are so inveterate against their brethren. . .

This depraved eagerness for biting, censuring, and slandering, is restrained by Christ, when he says, Judge not. It is not necessary that believers should become blind, and perceive nothing, but only that they should refrain from an undue eagerness to judge: for otherwise the proper bounds of rigor will be exceeded by every man who desires to pass sentence on his brethren. . .

We now see, that the design of Christ was to guard us against indulging excessive eagerness, or peevishness, or malignity, or even curiosity, in judging our neighbors. He who judges according to the word and law of the Lord, and forms his judgment by the rule of charity, always begins with subjecting himself to examination, and preserves a proper medium and order in his judgments. Hence it is evident, that this passage is altogether misapplied by those persons who would desire to make that moderation, which Christ recommends, a pretence for setting aside all distinction between good and evil. We are not only permitted, but are even bound, to condemn all sins; unless we choose to rebel against God himself,—nay, to repeal his laws, to reverse his decisions, and to overturn his judgment-seat.

—John Calvin

No More Sickness

Well may we be told to pray for the coming of God’s kingdom! Well may we be told to long for the second advent of Jesus Christ! Then, and not until then, shall there be no more curse on the earth, no more suffering, no more sorrow, and no more sin. Tears shall be wiped from the faces of all who love Christ’s appearing, when their Master returns. Weakness and infirmity shall all pass away. Hope deferred shall no longer make hearts sick. There will be no chronic invalids and incurable cases, when Christ has renewed this earth.

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

Affliction is one of God’s medicines.

Affliction is one of God’s medicines. By it He often teaches lessons which would be learned in no other way. By it He often draws souls away from sin and the world, which would otherwise have perished everlastingly. Health is a great blessing, but sanctified disease is a greater. Prosperity and worldly comfort are what all naturally desire, but losses and crosses are far better for us, if they lead us to Christ. Thousands at the last day, will testify with David and the nobleman before us, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted” (Psalm. 119:71).

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

sickness and death come to the young

We learn, secondly, in this passage that sickness and death come to the young as well as to the old. We read of a son sick unto death and a father in trouble about him. We see the natural order of things inverted. The elder is obliged to minister to the younger, and not the younger to the elder. The child draws near to the grave before the parent, and not the parent before the child.

The lesson is one which we are all slow to learn. We are apt to shut our eyes to plain facts and to speak and act as if young people, as a matter of course, never died when young. And yet the gravestones in every churchyard would tell us that few people out of a hundred ever live to be fifty years old, while many never grow up to man’s estate at all. The first grave that ever was dug on this earth was that of a young man. The first person who ever died was not a father but a son. Aaron lost two sons at a stroke. David, the man after God’s own heart, lived long enough to see three children buried. Job was deprived of all his children in one day. These things were carefully recorded for our learning.

He that is wise, will never consider long life as a certainty. We never know what a day may bring forth. The strongest and fairest are often cut down and hurried away in a few hours, while the old and feeble linger on for many years. The only true wisdom is to be always prepared to meet God, to put nothing off which concerns eternity, and to live like men ready to depart at any moment. So living, it matters little whether we die young or old. Joined to the Lord Jesus, we are safe in any event.

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

Our Lord declares that He came to be a preacher

We see, for another thing in this passage [Mark 1:35–39], a remarkable saying of our Lord as to the purpose for which He came into the world. We find Him saying, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.”

The meaning of these words is plain and unmistakable. Our Lord declares that He came on earth to be a preacher and a teacher. He came to fulfill the prophetical office, to be the prophet greater than Moses who had been so long foretold (Deuteronomy 18:15). He left the glory which He had from all eternity with the Father to do the work of an evangelist. He came down to earth to show to man the way of peace, to proclaim deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind. One principal part of His work on earth was to go up and down and publish glad tidings, and to offer healing to the brokenhearted, light to those who sat in darkness, and pardon to the chief of sinners. He says, “That is what I came for.”

We ought to observe here what infinite honor the Lord Jesus puts on the office of the preacher. It is an office which the eternal Son of God Himself undertook. He might have spent His earthly ministry in instituting and keeping up ceremonies like Aaron. He might have ruled and reigned as a king like David. But He chose a different calling. Until the time when He died as a sacrifice for our sins, His daily and almost hourly work was to preach. He says, “That is what I came for.”

Let us never be moved by those who cry down the preacher’s office and tell us that sacraments and other ordinances are of more importance than sermons. Let us give to every part of God’s public worship its proper place and honor, but let us beware of placing any part of it above preaching. By preaching, the church of Christ was first gathered together, and by preaching, it has ever been maintained in health and prosperity. By preaching, sinners are awakened. By preaching, inquirers are led on. By preaching, saints are built up. By preaching, Christianity is being carried to the heathen world. There are many now who sneer at missionaries and mock those who go out into the highways of our own land to preach to crowds in the open air. But such persons would do well to pause and consider calmly what they are doing. The very work which they ridicule is the work which turned the world upside down and cast heathenism to the ground. Above all, it is the very work which Christ Himself undertook. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords Himself was once a preacher. For three long years He went to and fro proclaiming the gospel. Sometimes we see Him in a house, sometimes on the mountainside, sometimes in a Jewish synagogue, sometimes in a boat on the sea. But the great work He took up was always one and the same. He came always preaching and teaching. He says, “That is what I came for.”

Let us leave the passage with a solemn resolution never to despise prophetic utterances (1 Thessalonians 5:20). The minister we hear may not be highly gifted. The sermons that we listen to may be weak and poor. But after all, preaching is God’s grand ordinance for converting and saving souls. The faithful preacher of the gospel is handling the very weapon which the Son of God was not ashamed to employ. This is the work of which Christ has said, “That is what I came for.”

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

biblical ethics

If ethics is concerned with manner of life and behaviour, biblical ethics is concerned with the manner of life and behaviour which the Bible requires and which the faith of the Bible produces.

—John Murray, 'Principles of Conduct'

Principles of Conduct

Principles of Conduct, first published in 1957, is in fact Murray's masterpiece. It is best read as an exploring and fleshing out, and thereby a testing and verifying, of three hermeneutical hypotheses: (1) that single, perfectly coherent divine-command ethic (the law of God) is taught from Genesis to Revelation, and thus remains in force from history's beginning to its anticipated end; (2) that the grace of God is intended not to lead away from, or beyond, a life of law-keeping, but precisely to enable sinners for it; (3) that law-keeping belongs to the purest expression of pure religion.

—J.I. Packer, Foreword to 'Principles of Conduct: Aspects of Biblical Ethics' by John Murray

Do we do any work for God?

Do we do any work for God? Do we try, however feebly, to set forward His cause on earth – to check that which is evil, to promote that which is good? If we do, let us never be ashamed of doing it with all our heart, and soul, and mind, and strength. Whatever our hand finds to do for the souls of others, let us do it with our might (Ecclesiastes 9:10). The world may mock and sneer, and call us enthusiasts. The world can admire zeal in any service but that of God and can praise enthusiasm on any subject but that of religion. Let us work on unmoved. Whatever men may say and think, we are walking in the steps of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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

The mere belief of the facts and doctrines of Christianity will never save our souls.

Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, saying, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are⁠—the Holy One of God!”
—Mark 1:23–24

We learn, in the first place from these verses, the uselessness of a mere intellectual knowledge of religion. Twice we are specially told that the unclean spirits know our Lord. In one place it says they knew who He was. In another, the devil cries out, “I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” They knew Christ when the scribes were ignorant of Him and the Pharisees would not acknowledge Him. And yet their knowledge was not unto salvation.

The mere belief of the facts and doctrines of Christianity will never save our souls. Such belief is no better than the belief of devils. They all believe and know that Jesus is the Christ. They believe that He will one day judge the world and cast them down to endless torment in hell. It is a solemn and sorrowful thought that on these points some professing Christians have even less faith than the devil. There are some who doubt the reality of hell and the eternity of punishment. Such doubts as these find no place except in the hearts of self-willed men and women. There is no infidelity among devils. The demons also believe, and shudder (James 2:19).

. . . Let us see that our knowledge has a sanctifying influence on our affections and our lives. Let us not only know Christ but also love Him from a sense of actual benefit received from Him. Let us not only believe that He is the Son of God and the Savior of the world but also rejoice in Him and cleave to Him with purpose of heart. Let us not only be acquainted with Him by the hearing of the ear but also by daily personal application to Him for mercy and grace. “The life of Christianity,” says Luther, “consists in possessive pronouns.” It is one thing to say, “Christ is a Savior.” It is quite another to say, “He is my Savior and my Lord.” The devil can say the first. The true Christian alone can say the second.

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

“No prophet is welcome in his hometown.”

J.C. Ryle, 'Expository Thoughts on Luke'—Luke 4:23-32

We learn, for one thing, how apt men are to despise the highest privileges when they are familiar with them. We see it in the conduct of the men of Nazareth when they had heard the Lord Jesus preach. They could find no fault in His sermon. They could point to no inconsistency in His past life. But because the preacher had dwelt among them thirty years, and His face, and voice, and appearance were familiar to them, they would not receive His doctrine. They said to one another, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” Is it possible that one so well known as this man can be the Christ? And they drew from our Lord’s lips the solemn saying, “No prophet is welcome in his hometown.”

We shall do well to remember this lesson in the matter of ordinances and means of grace. We are always in danger of undervaluing them when we have them in abundance. We are apt to think lightly of the privilege of an open Bible, a preached gospel, and the liberty of meeting together for public worship. We grow up in the midst of these things and are accustomed to having them without trouble. And the consequence is that we often hold them very cheaply and underrate the extent of our mercies.

Let us take heed to our own heart in the use of sacred things. As often as we may read the Bible, let us never read it without deep reverence. As often as we hear the name of Christ, let us never forget that He is the one Mediator in whom is life.

Even the manna that came down from heaven was at length scorned by Israel as miserable food (Numbers 21:5). It is an evil day with our souls when Christ is in the midst of us and yet, because of our familiarity with His name, is lightly esteemed.

Never does a soul value the Gospel medicine until it feels its disease.

The Samaritan woman seems to have been comparatively unmoved until our Lord exposed her breach of the seventh commandment. Those heart-searching words, “Go, call your husband,” appear to have pierced her conscience like an arrow. From that moment, however ignorant, she speaks like an earnest, sincere inquirer after truth. And the reason is evident. She felt that her spiritual disease was discovered. For the first time in her life, she saw herself.

To bring thoughtless people to this state of mind should be the principal aim of all teachers and ministers of the Gospel. They should carefully copy their Master’s example in this place. Until men and women are brought to feel their sinfulness and need, no real good is ever done to their souls. Until a sinner sees himself as God sees him, he will continue careless, trifling, and unmoved. By all means we must labor to convince the unconverted man of sin, to pierce his conscience, to open his eyes, to show him himself. To this end we must expound the length and breadth of God’s holy law. To this end we must denounce every practice contrary to that law, however fashionable and customary. This is the only way to do good. Never does a soul value the Gospel medicine until it feels its disease. Never does a man see any beauty in Christ as a Savior, until he discovers that he is himself a lost and ruined sinner. Ignorance of sin is invariably attended by neglect of Christ.

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

gross spiritual ignorance in the mind of great and learned men

These verses show us, firstly, what gross spiritual ignorance there may be in the mind of a great and learned man. We see a “master of Israel” unacquainted with the first elements of saving religion. Nicodemus is told about the new birth and at once exclaims, “How can these things be?” When such was the darkness of a Jewish teacher, what must have been the state of the Jewish people? It was indeed due time for Christ to appear! The pastors of Israel had ceased to feed the people with knowledge. The blind were leading the blind, and both were falling into the ditch (Matthew 15:14).

Ignorance like that of Nicodemus is unhappily far too common in the Church of Christ. We must never be surprised if we find it in quarters where we might reasonably expect knowledge. Learning, and rank, and high ecclesiastical office are no proof that a minister is taught by the Spirit. The successors of Nicodemus, in every age, are far more numerous than the successors of Peter.

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

man’s inability to understand zeal in religion

Few things show the corruption of human nature more clearly than man’s inability to understand zeal in religion. Zeal about money, or science, or war, or commerce, or business is intelligible to the world. But zeal about religion is too often reckoned foolishness, fanaticism, and the sign of a weak mind. If a man injures his health by study or excessive attention to business, no fault is found; it is said, “He is a diligent man.” But if he wears himself out with preaching or spends his whole time in doing good to souls, the cry is raised, “He is an enthusiast and overly righteous.” The world has not changed. The things of the Spirit are always foolishness to the natural man (1 Corinthians 2:14).

—J.C. Ryle