Sickness by J.C. Ryle…

jcryle12Good words from J.C. Ryle on the benefits of sickness…

He whom thou lovest is sick. — John 11:3

The chapter from which this text is taken is well known to all Bible readers. In life-like description, in touching interest, in sublime simplicity, there is no writing in existence that will bear comparison with that chapter. A narrative like this is to my own mind one of the great proofs of the inspiration of Scripture. When I read the story of Bethany, I feel “There is something here which the infidel can never account for.” — “This is nothing else but the finger of God.”

The words which I specially dwell upon in this chapter are singularly affecting and instructive. They record the message which Martha and Mary sent to Jesus when their brother Lazarus was sick: “Lord, behold he whom Thou lovest is sick,” That message was short and simple. Yet almost every word is deeply suggestive.

Mark the child-like faith of these holy women. They turned to the Lord Jesus in their hour of need, as the frightened infant turns to its mother, or the compass-needle turns to the Pole. They turned to Him as their Shepherd, their almighty Friend, their Brother born for adversity. Different as they were in natural temperament, the two sisters in this matter were entirely agreed. Christ’s help was their first thought in the day of trouble. Christ was the refuge to which they fled in the hour of need. Blessed are all they that do likewise!

Mark the simple humility of their language about Lazarus. They call Him “He whom Thou lovest.” They do not say, “He who loves Thee, believes in Thee, serves Thee,” but “He whom Thou lovest.” Martha and Mary were deeply taught of God. They had learned that Christ’s love towards us, and not our love towards Christ, is the true ground of expectation, and true foundation of hope. Blessed, again, are all they that are taught likewise! To look inward to our love towards Christ is painfully unsatisfying: to look outward to Christ’s love towards us is peace.

Mark, lastly, the touching circumstance which the message of Martha and Mary reveals: “He whom Thou lovest is sick.” Lazarus was a good man, converted, believing, renewed, sanctified, a friend of Christ, and an heir of glory. And yet Lazarus was sick! Then sickness is no sign that God is displeased. Sickness is intended to be a blessing to us, and not a curse. “All things work together for good to them that love God, and are called according to His purpose.” “All things are yours,—life, death, things present, or things to come: for ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.” (Rom. 8:28; 1 Cor. 3:22-23). Blessed, I say again, are they that have learned this! Happy are they who can say, when they are ill, “This is my Father’s doing. It must be well.”

I invite the attention of my readers to the subject of sickness. The subject is one which we ought frequently to look in the face. We cannot avoid it. It needs no prophet’s eye to see sickness coming to each of us in turn one day. “In the midst of life we are in death.” Let us turn aside for a few moments, and consider sickness as Christians. The consideration will not hasten its coming, and by God’s blessing may teach us wisdom.

In considering the subject of sickness, three points appear to me to demand attention. On each I shall say a few words.

  1. The universal prevalence of sickness and disease.
  2. The general benefits which sickness confers on mankind.
  3. The special duties to which sickness calls us.

Continue reading

Some good $0.99 ebooks on Amazon…

…although many of the below can be had for free in html or pdf format at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, an excellent resource.

Augustine: City of God and Christian Doctrine

Baxter: The Reformed Pastor

Baxter: Saints’ Everlasting Rest

Berkhof: Summary of Christian Doctrine

Chesterton: The Complete Father Brown Mysteries Collection

Chesterton: Orthodoxy (annotated)

Edwards: The Freedom of the Will

Edwards: The Life and Diary of David Brainerd

Edwards: Religious Affections

Hodge: Systematic Theology Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3

Kuyper: Lectures on Calvinism

Lewis: The Abolition of Man

Luther: Bondage of the Will

Machen: Christianity and Liberalism

Owen: Sermons

Rutherford: Lex Rex

Ryle: Holiness

Spurgeon: The Beatitudes

Warfield: Augustine and the Pelagian Controversy

Watson: Beatitudes: An Exposition of Matthew 5:1-12

Watson: The Doctrine of Repentance

Watson: The Godly Man’s Picture

Free print booklets of sermons by old dead guys…

bookletcoverFor many years now I’ve been on the mailing list of The Inheritance Publishers. About three times a year they send out a free booklet containing an old Reformed sermon. As they say on their website, they hope to publish “out-of-print sermons from old books that are difficult to locate.” You can be added to their mailing list by emailing your postal address here. There are also a number of PDFs of the booklets posted on their website.

Currently I’m reading one of those booklets—a sermon by J. C. Ryle entitled “The World.” Here’s the beginning…

Come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord (2 Corinthians 6:17).

The text which heads these pages touches a subject of vast importance in religion. That subject is the great duty of separation from the world. This is the point which Paul had in view when he wrote to the Corinthians, “Come out…be separate.”

The subject is one which demands the best attention of all who profess and call themselves Christians. In every age of the church, separation from the world has always been one of the grand evidences of a work of grace in the heart. He that has been really born of the Spirit, and made a new creature in Christ Jesus, has always endeavored to “come out from the world” and live a separate life. They who have only had the name of Christian, without the reality, have always refused to “come out” and “be separate” from the world.

 

Good books for nothing…

51x+ZB+3PLL._SL160_Looking around on the Amazon website for free stuff this morning, came across these free Kindle books. Not the best editions of these works out there…but at least you’ll have the text. If you don’t have a Kindle machine, you can use the Kindle app on many other devices…

Augustine: Confessions

Bunyan: The Pilgrim’s Progress

Bunyan: The Works of John Bunyan

Chesterton: What’s Wrong with the World?

Chesterton: Orthodoxy

Edwards: Selected Sermons of Jonathan Edwards

Fox’s Book of Martyrs

Josephus: The Wars of the Jews; or the History of the Destruction of Jerusalem

Knox: First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women

Luther: Selections from the Table Talk of Martin Luther

Milton: Paradise Lost

Ryle: Practical Religion Being Plain Papers on the Daily Duties, Experience, Dangers, and Privileges of Professing Christians

Ryle: Sketch of the Life and Labors of George Whitefield

 

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit…

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God (Luke 1:34-35).

What does one say about such glorious events? How did the Holy Spirit work with Mary’s egg? Do we, like Mary, desire a mechanistic explanation of what was going to happen to her? How did the Son of God make “choice of the Virgin’s womb as a temple in which He might dwell” (Calvin) and move there? To seek answers to these questions is to pry too deep:

“We shall do well to follow the example of the angel in all our reflections on this deep subject. Let us ever regard it with holy reverence, and abstain from those unseemly and unprofitable speculations upon it, in which some have unhappily indulged. Enough for us to know that ‘the Word was made flesh,’ and that when the Son of God came into the world, a real ‘body was prepared for Him,’ so that He ‘took part of our flesh and blood,’ and was ‘made of a woman.’ (Joh_1:14; Heb_10:5; Heb_2:14; Gal_4:4.) Here we must stop. The manner in which all this was effected is wisely hidden from us. If we attempt to pry beyond this point, we shall but darken counsel by words without knowledge, and rush in where angels fear to tread. In a religion which really comes down from heaven there must needs be mysteries. Of such mysteries in Christianity, the incarnation is one.” (J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke)

We learn that the Holy Spirit’s power would overshadow Mary. The operation of the Spirit would be secret and, just like other miracles, we would see the result but lack a detailed explanation. We are told Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and we believe. To want more of an answer is to delve into mystery and, therefore, to pursue unbelief.

 

Striving for righteousness…

For this purpose also I labor, agonizing according to His power, which mightily works within me (Col. 1:29).

J.C. Ryle in his book Holiness (written about 135 years ago) lamented the state of the Church during his age. His main critique was that there was very little pursuit of righteousness to be found in her. His words are only more apropos today…

That a life of daily self-consecration and daily communion with God should be aimed at by everyone who professes to be a believer—that we should strive to attain the habit of going to the Lord Jesus Christ with everything we find a burden, whether great or small, and casting it upon Him—all this, I repeat, no well taught child of God will dream of disputing. But surely the New Testament teaches us that we want something more than generalities about holy living, which often prick no conscience and give no offence. The details and particular ingredients of which holiness is composed in daily life, ought to be fully set forth and pressed on believers by all who profess to handle the subject. True holiness does not consist merely of believing and feeling, but of doing and bearing, and a practical exhibition of active and passive grace. Our tongues, our tempers, our natural passions and inclinations—our conduct as parents and children, masters and servants, husbands and wives, rulers and subjects—our dress, our employment of time, our behaviour in business, our demeanour in sickness and health, in riches and in poverty—all, all these are matters which are fully treated by inspired writers. They are not content with a general statement of what we should believe and feel, and how we are to have the roots of holiness planted in our hearts. They dig down lower. They go into particulars. They specify minutely what a holy man ought to do and be in his own family, and by his own fireside, if he abides in Christ. I doubt whether this sort of teaching is sufficiently attended to in the movement of the present day. When people talk of having received “such a blessing,” and of having found “the higher life,” after hearing some earnest advocate of “holiness by faith and self-consecration,” while their families and friends see no improvement and no increased sanctity in their daily tempers and behaviour, immense harm is done to the cause of Christ. True holiness, we surely ought to remember, does not consist merely of inward sensations and impressions. It is much more than tears, and sighs, and bodily excitement, and a quickened pulse, and a passionate feeling of attachment to our own favourite preachers and our own religious party, and a readiness to quarrel with everyone who does not agree with us. It is something of “the image of Christ,” which can be seen and observed by others in our private life, and habits, and character, and doings.

Today, pastors make apologies and a thousand qualifications when calling their flocks to holiness—to a holiness beyond the shallow holiness of their pet legalisms. Pastors are scorned for saying we have actual sins for which we must repent. And if the pastor is bold enough to talk of his own sins in the pulpit—his own personal battles in his striving to be holy—he’s denounced as a hypocrite and a twisted embarassment.

It has become very clear to me that those who appear most holy in the church, and those churches that appear most squeaky clean, are those which are most dead, most ravaged with sin—all of it nicely tucked away out of sight. Here’s the thing: those who are most alive are those who are striving, and fighting, and grappling with their sins. A man or woman who is striving for righteousness is continually confessing sins, and repenting, and asking for accountability, and calling someone up when tempted, and searching God’s Word for just exactly how to get control of the tongue set on fire by hell or those lusts for romance that leave every woman a hopeless pile of bitterness or those anxieties that cause a godless trust in money or the gossip that fuels self-justifying pride.

Ironically, those churches which are most holy are those which often appear most dirty—because those bodies are actually grappling with the sins of incest and fornication and adultery and hatred and racism and the love of money and gossip and slander which do occur in her midst. In those squeaky-clean, tall-steepled, Presbyterian & Reformed, high-pulpited, high-liturgied, high-salaried, high-degreed churches those same sins occur but tragically are seldom mentioned from the pulpit, during the casual conversations of the pastors and elders, or when the session is convened.

Our suits and bow-ties do have a look of holiness about them, though. We like our machines clean—clean like the Pharisees’ cups.