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 ⤵️

Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed.

Nothing is more common now-a-days than to hear people say that they “decline to believe things above their reason, that they cannot believe what they cannot entirely understand in religion, that they must see everything clearly before they can believe.” Such talk as this sounds very fine, and is very taking with young persons and superficially educated people, because it supplies a convenient reason for neglecting vital religion altogether. But it is a style of talking which shows a mind either proud, or foolish, or inconsistent.  In matters of science, what sensible man does not know that we must begin by believing much that we do not understand, taking many positions on trust, and accepting many things on the testimony of others? Even in the most exact science the scholar must begin with axioms and postulates.  Faith and trust in our teachers is the very first condition of acquiring knowledge. He who begins his studies by saying “I shall not believe anything which I do not see clearly demonstrated from the very first,” will make very little progress.

In the daily business of life, what sensible man does not know that we take many important steps on no other ground than the testimony of others?  Parents send sons to Australia, New Zealand, China, and India without ever having seen these countries, in faith that the report about them is dependable and true. Probability, in fact, is the only guide of most parts of our life.

In the face of such facts as these, where is the common sense of saying, as many rationalists and skeptics now do, that in such a mysterious matter as the concern of our souls we ought to believe nothing that we do not see, and ought to receive nothing as true that will not admit of mathematical demonstration? Christianity does not at all refuse to appeal to our intellects, and does not require of us a blind, unreasoning faith. But Christianity does ask us to begin by believing many things that are above our reason, and promises us that, so beginning, we shall have more light and see all things clearly. The would-be wise man of modern times says, “I dislike any religion that contains any mystery. I must first see and then I will believe.” Christianity replies, “You cannot avoid mystery, unless you go out of the world. You are only asked to do with religion what you are always doing with science. You must first believe and then you will see.” The cry of the modern skeptic is, “If I could see I would believe.” The answer of the Christian ought to be, “If you would only believe and humbly ask for Divine teaching, you would soon see.” The plain truth is that modern freethinkers are like the Jews, who were always demanding some visible sign that our Lord was the Messiah, and pretended that they would believe if they only saw it. Just in the same way there are hundreds of people in this latter age of the world who tell us they can believe nothing which is above their reason, and that they want stronger evidences of the truth of the doctrine and fact of Christianity than probability. Like Thomas, they must first see before they believe.  But what an extraordinary fact it is that the very men who say all this are continually acting all their lives on no better evidence than probability!  They are continually doing things on no other ground than the report of others and their own belief that this report is probably true. The very principle on which they are incessantly acting, in the affairs of their bodies, their families, and their money, is the principle on which they refuse to act in the affairs of their souls! In the things of this world they believe all sorts of things which they have not seen and only know to be probable, and act on their belief. In the things of the eternal world they say they can believe nothing which they do not see, and refuse the argument of probability altogether. Never, in fact, was there anything so unreasonable and inconsistent as rationalism, so called! No wonder that our Lord laid down, for the benefit of Thomas and the whole Church, that mighty principle, “Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed.” [John 20:29]

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

things concerning himself in all the Scriptures

In what way did our Lord show "things concerning himself," in every part of the Old Testament field? The answer to these questions is short and simple. Christ was the substance of every Old Testament sacrifice, ordained in the law of Moses. Christ was the true Deliverer and King, of whom all the judges and deliverers in Jewish history were types. Christ was the coming Prophet greater than Moses, whose glorious advent filled the pages of prophets. Christ was the true seed of the woman who was to bruise the serpent's head--the true seed in whom all nations were to be blessed--the true Shiloh to whom the people were to be gathered, the true scape-goat--the true bronze serpent--the true Lamb to which every daily offering pointed--the true High Priest of whom every descendant of Aaron was a figure. These things, or something like them, we need not doubt, were some of the things which our Lord expounded in the way to Emmaus.

Let it be a settled principle in our minds, in reading the Bible, that Christ is the central sun of the whole book. So long as we keep Him in view, we shall never greatly err in our search for spiritual knowledge. Once losing sight of Christ, we shall find the whole Bible dark and full of difficulty. The key of Bible knowledge is Jesus Christ.

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

spiritual conversation

Conference on spiritual subjects is a most important means of grace. As iron sharpens iron, so does exchange of thoughts with brethren sharpen a believer's soul. It brings down a special blessing on all who make a practice of it. The striking words of Malachi were meant for the Church in every age --"Then those who feared the Lord spoke often one to another--and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for those who feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name. And they shall be mine says the Lord, in that day when I make up my jewels." (Mal. 3:16, 17.)

What do we know ourselves of spiritual conversation with other Christians? Perhaps we read our Bibles, and pray in private, and use public means of grace. It is all well, very well. But if we stop short here we neglect a great privilege and have yet much to learn. We ought to "consider one another to provoke to love and good works." We ought to "exhort" and "edify one another." (Heb. 10:24; 1 Thess. 5:11.) Have we no time for spiritual conversation? Let us think again. The quantity of time wasted on frivolous, trifling, and unprofitable talk, is fearfully great. Do we find nothing to say on spiritual subjects? Do we feel tongue-tied and speechless on the things of Christ? Surely if this is the case, there must be something wrong within. A heart right in the sight of God will generally find words. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." (Matt. 12:34.)

Let us learn a lesson from the two travelers to Emmaus. Let us speak of Jesus, when we are sitting in our houses and when we are walking by the way, whenever we can find a disciple to speak to. (Deut. 6:7.) If we believe we are journeying to a heaven where Christ will be the central object of every mind, let us begin to learn the manners of heaven, while we are yet upon earth. So doing we shall often have One with us whom our eyes will not see, but One who will make our hearts "burn within us" by blessing the conversation.

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

The unbelief of Thomas

The unbelief of Thomas, expressed in this famous sentence, was a sad fault in a good man, which cannot be explained away. He refused to believe the testimony of ten competent witnesses who had seen Christ in the body with their own eyes. He refused to believe the testimony of ten true friends and brethren who could have no object in deceiving him. He passionately declares that he will not believe unless he himself sees and touches our Lord’s body. He presumes to prescribe certain conditions that must be fulfilled before he can credit the report of his brethren. He uses singularly emphatic language to express his skepticism: “Others may believe if they like, but I shall not and will not believe until I see and touch for myself.” All this was very sad and very sinful.  Thomas might have remembered that at this rate nothing could ever be proved by witnesses; and that he himself, as a teacher, could never expect men to believe him. His case shows us how foolishly and weakly a believer may speak sometimes, and how, under the influence of depression and doubt, he may say things of which afterwards he is heartily ashamed. 

After all, the case of Thomas is not an uncommon one. Some people are so strangely constituted that they distrust everybody, regard all men as liars, and will believe nothing except they can see it all and work it all out for themselves. They have a rooted dislike to receive anything on trust or from the testimony of others, and must always go over the ground for themselves. In people of this kind, though they know it not, there is often a vast amount of latent pride and self-conceit; and it is almost ludicrous to observe how entirely they forget that the business of daily life could never go on if we were always doubting everything which we could not see for ourselves. Nevertheless, they exist in the Church and always will exist; and the case of Thomas shows what trouble they bring on themselves.

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

Resurrection

Let us not fail to see in the manner of our Lord's resurrection, a type and pledge of the resurrection of His believing people. The grave could not hold Him beyond the appointed time, and it shall not be able to hold them. A glorious angel was a witness of His rising, and glorious angels shall be the messengers who shall gather believers when they rise again. He rose with a renewed body, and yet a body, real, true, and material, and so also shall His people have a glorious body, and be like their Head. "When we see Him we shall be like Him." (1 John 3:2.)

Let us take comfort in this thought. Trial, sorrow, and persecution are often the portion of God's people. Sickness, weakness, and pain often hurt and wear their poor earthly body. But their good time is yet to come. Let them wait patiently, and they shall have a glorious resurrection. When we die, and where we are buried, and what kind of a funeral we have, matters little. The great question to be asked is this, "How shall we rise again?"

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

Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together

We shall all do well to remember the charge of the Apostle Paul--"Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is." (Heb. 10:25.) Never to be absent from God's house on Sundays, without good reason--never to miss the Lord's Supper when administered in our own congregation--never to let our place be empty when means of grace are going on, this is one way to be a growing and prosperous Christian. The very sermon that we needlessly miss, may contain a precious word in season for our souls. The very assembly for prayer and praise from which we stay away, may be the very gathering that would have cheered, and established, and quickened our hearts. We little know how dependent our spiritual health is on little, regular, habitual helps, and how much we suffer if we miss our medicine. The wretched argument that many attend means of grace and are no better for them, should be no argument to a Christian. It may satisfy those who are blind to their own state, and destitute of grace, but it should never satisfy a real servant of Christ. Such an one should remember the words of Solomon--"Blessed is the man that hears me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors." (Prov. 8:34.)

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

commission of the Apostles

verses,the remarkable commission which our Lord conferred upon His eleven Apostles. We are told that He said, "Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you. And after he said this, he breathed on them and said, Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained." It is vain to deny that the true sense of these solemn words has been for centuries a subject of controversy and dispute. It is useless perhaps to expect that the controversy will ever be closed. The utmost that we can hope to do with the passage is to supply a probable exposition.

It seems then highly probable that our Lord in this place solemnly commissioned His Apostles to go into all the world, and preach the Gospel as He had preached it. He also conferred on them the power of declaring with peculiar authority whose sins were forgiven, and whose sins were not forgiven. That this is precisely what the Apostles did is a simple matter of fact, which any one may verify for himself by reading the book of the Acts. When Peter proclaimed to the Jews, "Repent, and be converted,"--and when Paul declared at Antioch of Iconium--"to you is the word of this salvation sent"--"Through this man is preached the forgiveness of sins, and by Him all that believe are justified"--they were doing what this passage commissioned the Apostles to do. They were opening with authority the door of salvation, and inviting with authority all sinners to enter in by it and be saved. (Acts 3:19; 13:26-38.)

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

The Wicked Hate the Righteous

And what had our Lord done, that the Jews should hate Him so? He was no robber, or murderer. He was no blasphemer of their God, or reviler of their prophets. He was one whose life was love. He was one who "went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil." (Acts 10:38.) He was innocent of any transgression against the law of God or man. And yet the Jews hated Him, and never rested until He was slain! They hated Him, because He told them the truth. They hated Him, because He testified of their works that they were evil. They hated the light, because it made their own darkness visible. In a word, they hated Christ, because He was righteous and they were wicked, because He was holy and they were unholy--because He testified against sin, and they were determined to keep their sins and not let them go.

Let us observe this. There are few things so little believed and realized as the corruption of human nature. Men imagine that if they saw a perfect person, they would love and admire him. They flatter themselves that it is the inconsistency of professing Christians which they dislike, and not their religion. They forget that when a really perfect man was on earth, in the person of the Son of God, He was hated and put to death. That single fact goes far to prove the truth of Edwards' remark--"unconverted men would kill God, if they could get at Him."

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

Pity great men

Let us learn from Herod's case to PITY great men. With all their greatness and apparent splendor, they are often thoroughly miserable within. Silks and satins and official robes, often cover hearts which are utter strangers to peace. That man knows not what he is wishing, who wishes to be a rich man. Let us PRAY for rich men, as well as pity them. They carry weight in the race for eternal life. If they are saved, it can only be by the greatest miracles of God's grace. Our Lord's words are very solemn, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Matt. 19:24.)

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

False witness and slander

False witness and slander are two favorite weapons of the devil. He was a liar from the beginning, and is still the father of lies. (John 8:44.) When he finds that he cannot stop God's work, his next device is to blacken the character of God's servants, and to destroy the value of their testimony. With this weapon he assaulted David--"False witnesses," he says, "did rise against me--they laid to my charge things that I knew not." With this weapon he assaulted the prophets. Elijah was a "troubler of Israel!" Jeremiah was a man who "sought not the welfare of the people but the hurt!" (Psalm 35:11; 1 Kings 18:17; Jer. 38:4.) With this weapon he assaulted the apostles. They were "pestilent fellows," and men who "turned the world upside down." (Acts 24:5; 17:6.) With this weapon he assaulted our Lord all through His ministry. He stirred up his agents to call Him a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a Samaritan and a devil. (Luke 7:34; John 8:48.) And here, in the verses before us [Luke 23:1–5], we find him plying his old weapon to the very last. Jesus is arraigned before Pilate upon charges which are utterly untrue.

The servant of Christ must never be surprised if he has to drink of the same cup with his Lord. When He who was holy, harmless, and undefiled, was foully slandered, who can expect to escape? "If they called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call them of his household?" (Matt. 10:25.) Nothing is too bad to be reported against a saint. Perfect innocence is no fence against enormous lying, calumny, and misrepresentation. The most blameless character will not secure us against false tongues. We must bear the trial patiently. It is part of the cross of Christ. We must sit still, lean back on God's promises, and believe that in the long run truth will prevail. "Rest in the Lord," says David, "and wait patiently for Him." "He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your judgment as the noonday." (Psalm 37:6, 7.)

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

Sin is the hardest of all masters

We are told that [Judas] cast down the thirty pieces of silver for which he had sold his Master, in the temple, and went away in bitterness of soul [Matthew 27:3–5]. That money was dearly earned. It brought him no pleasure, even when he had it. The "treasures of wickedness profit nothing." (Prov. 10:2.)

Sin is, in truth, the hardest of all masters. In its service there is plenty of fair promises, but an utter dearth of performance. Its pleasures are but for a season. Its wages are sorrow, remorse, self-accusation, and too often death. Those who sow to the flesh, do indeed reap corruption.

Are we tempted to commit sin? Let us remember the words of Scripture, "Your sin will find you out," and resist the temptation. Let us be sure that sooner or later, in this life or in the life to come, in this world or in the judgment-day, sin and the sinner will meet face to face, and have a bitter reckoning. Let us be sure that of all trades, sin is the most unprofitable. Judas, Achan, Gehazi, Ananias and Sapphira, all found it so to their cost. Well might Paul say, "What fruit had you in those things whereof you are now ashamed?" (Rom. 6:21.)

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

importance of Jesus Christ’s resurrection

Concerning the importance of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead, it would be hard to speak too strongly. It is a cardinal article of the Christian faith, second to none in value. It is the grand proof that He was the promised Messiah whom the Prophets had foretold. It is the one great sign which He named to the Jews when asked to give convincing evidence of His Divine mission—the sign of the Prophet Jonah, the rebuilding of the temple after destruction. (Matt. 12:39, John 2:19-21.) If He did not rise again after three days, they were not to believe Him.  It is the completion of the work of redemption which He came into the world to accomplish. It proved that the ransom was accepted and the victory over sin and death obtained. Christ “was delivered for our offenses, and raised again for our justification.” “We are begotten again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (Rom. 4:25, 1 Pet.  1:3.) If He had not risen again, our hope would have been a huge uncertainty. It is a fact which has the closest connection with the spiritual life and position before God of all believers. They are counted by God as “risen with Christ,” and they should regard themselves as partakers of Christ’s resurrection life and sitting in heavenly places.  Not least, it is the pledge and assurance of our own resurrection at the last day. We need not fear death and look at the grave with despair, when we remember that Jesus Christ rose again in the body. As surely as the Head rose, so shall the members be raised. Let these points never be forgotten. When we think of them we may understand why the Apostles, in their preaching and Epistles, dwell so much upon the resurrection. Well would it be if modern Christians thought more about it. Myriads seem unable to look at anything in the Gospel except the sacrifice and death of Christ, and altogether pass over His resurrection.

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

servants of Christ whose latter end is better than their beginning

The case of Nicodemus teaches that lesson very plainly. The only man who dared to help Joseph in his holy work of burying our Lord, was one who at first "came to Jesus by night," and was nothing better than an ignorant inquirer after truth. At a later period in our Lord's ministry we find this same Nicodemus coming forward with somewhat more boldness, and raising in the Council of the Pharisees the question, "Does our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he does?" (John 7:51.) Finally, we see him in the passage before us [John 19:39], ministering to our Lord's dead body, and not ashamed to take an active part in giving to the despised Nazarene an honorable burial. How great the contrast between the man who timidly crept into the Lord's lodging to ask a question, and the man who brought a hundred pounds weight of myrrh and aloes to anoint His dead body! Yet it was the same Nicodemus. How great may be a man's growth in grace, and faith, and knowledge, and courage, in the short space of three years.

We shall do well to store up these things in our minds, and to remember the case of Nicodemus, in forming our estimate of other people's religion. We must not condemn others as graceless and godless, because they do not see the whole truth at once, and only reach decided Christianity by slow degrees. The Holy Spirit always leads believers to the same foundation truths, and into the same highway to heaven. In these there is invariable uniformity. But the Holy Spirit does not always lead believers through the same experience, or at the same rate of speed. In this there is much diversity in His operations.

He that says conversion is a needless thing, and that an unconverted man may be saved, is undoubtedly under a strange delusion. But he that says that no one is converted except he becomes a full-blown and established Christian in a single day, is no less under a delusion. Let us not judge others rashly and hastily. Let us believe that a man's beginnings in religion may be very small, and yet his latter end may greatly increase. Has a man real grace? Has he within him the genuine work of the Spirit? This is the grand question. If he has, we may safely hope that his grace will grow, and we should deal with him gently, and bear with him charitably, though at present he may be a mere babe in spiritual attainments. The life in a helpless infant is as real and true a thing as the life in a full-grown man--the difference is only one of degree. "Who has despised the day of small things?" (Zech. 4:10.) The very Christian who begins his religion with a timid night-visit, and an ignorant inquiry, may stand forward alone one day, and confess Christ boldly in the full light of the sun.

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

how small and gradual are the steps by which men may go down into great sins

The various steps in Peter's fall are clearly marked out by the Gospel-writers [Luke 22:54–62]. They ought always to be observed in reading this part of the apostle's history. The first step was proud self-confidence. Though all men denied Christ, yet he never would! He was ready to go with Him both to prison and to death! The second step was indolent neglect of prayer. When his Master told him to pray, lest he should enter into temptation, he gave way to drowsiness, and was found asleep. The third step was vacillating indecision. When the enemies of Christ came upon Him, Peter first fought, then ran away, then turned again, and finally "followed afar off." The fourth step was mingling with bad company. He went into the high priest's house and sat among the servants by the fire, trying to conceal his religion, and hearing and seeing all manner of evil. The fifth and last step was the natural consequence of the preceding four. He was overwhelmed with fear when suddenly charged with being a disciple. The snare was round his neck. He could not escape. He plunged deeper into error than ever. He denied his blessed Master three times. The mischief, be it remembered, had been done before. The denial was only the disease coming to a head.

Let us beware of the beginnings of backsliding, however small. We never know what we may come to, if we once leave the king's high-way. The professing Christian who begins to say of any sin or evil habit, "it is but a little one," is in imminent danger. He is sowing seeds in his heart, which will one day spring up and bear bitter fruit. It is a homely saying, that "if men take care of the pence the pounds will take care of themselves." We may borrow a good spiritual lesson from the saying. The Christian who keeps his heart diligently in little things shall be kept from great falls.

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

Mary was only a woman

We should observe, lastly, in these verses, how tenderly our Lord took thought for Mary, His mother. We are told that even in the dreadful agonies of body and mind which our Lord endured, He did not forget her of whom He was born. He mercifully remembered her desolate condition, and the crushing effect of the sorrowful sight before her. He knew that, holy as she was, she was only a woman, and that, as a woman, she must deeply feel the death of such a Son. He therefore commended her to the protection of His best-loved and best-loving disciple, in brief and touching words--"Woman," He said, "behold your son! Then He said to the disciple, Behold your mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home."

We surely need no stronger proof than we have here, that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was never meant to be honored as divine, or to be prayed to, worshiped, and trusted in, as the friend and patroness of sinners. Common sense points out that she who needed the care and protection of another, was never likely to help men and women to heaven, or to be in any sense a mediator between God and man! It is not too much to say, however painful the assertion, that of all the inventions of the Church of Rome, there never was one more utterly devoid of foundation, both in Scripture and reason, than the doctrine of Mary-worship.

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

a compassionate and tender Master

Let us observe, thirdly, in this passage, our Lord's gracious commendation of His disciples. He said to them, "You have remained true to me in my time of trial." [Luke 22:28] There is something very striking in these words of praise. We know the weakness and infirmity of our Lord's disciples during the whole period of His earthly ministry. We find Him frequently reproving their ignorance and lack of faith. He knew full well that within a few hours they were all going to forsake Him. But here we find Him graciously dwelling on one good point in their conduct, and holding it up to the perpetual notice of His Church. They had been faithful to their Master, notwithstanding all their faults. Their hearts had been right, whatever had been their mistakes. They had clung to Him in the day of His humiliation, when the great and noble were against Him. They had "remained true to Him in His time of trial."

Let us rest our souls on the comfortable thought that the mind of Christ is always the same. If we are true believers, let us know that He looks at our graces more than at our faults, that He pities our infirmities, and that He will not deal with us according to our sins. Never had a master such poor, weak servants as believers are to Christ--but never had servants such a compassionate and tender Master as Christ is to believers! Surely we cannot love Him too well. We may come short in many things. We may fail in knowledge and courage, and faith, and patience. We may stumble many times. But one thing let us always do. Let us love the Lord Jesus with heart, and soul, and mind, and strength. Whatever others do, let us "remain true to Him," and cleave to Him with purpose of heart. Happy is he who can say with Peter, however humbled and ashamed, "Lord, you know that I love you." (John 21:15.)

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