February 24, 2009

The Cross - Section II

Here is section II of Bishop Ryle's The Cross.

II. Let me explain, in the second place, what you are to understand by the cross of Christ.

The cross is an expression that is used in more than one meaning in the Bible. What did St. Paul mean when he said, "I glory in the cross of Christ," in the Epistle to the Galatians? This is the point I now wish to make clear.

The cross sometimes means that wooden cross, on which the Lord Jesus was nailed and put to death on Mount Calvary. This is what St. Paul had in his mind's eye, when he told the Philippians that Christ "became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." (Phi_2:8.) This is not the cross in which St. Paul gloried. He would have shrunk with horror from the idea of glorying in a mere piece of wood. I have no doubt he would have denounced the Roman Catholic adoration of the crucifix, as profane, blasphemous, and idolatrous. The cross sometimes means the afflictions and trials which believers in Christ have to go through if they follow Christ faithfully, for their religion's sake. This is the sense in which our Lord uses the word when He says, "He that taketh not his cross and followeth after me, cannot be my disciple." (Mat_10:38.) This also is not the sense in which Paul uses the word when he writes to the Galatians. He knew that cross well. He carried it patiently. But he is not speaking of it here.

But the cross also means in some places the doctrine that Christ died for sinner upon the cross--the atonement that He made for sinners by his suffering for them on the cross--the complete and perfect sacrifice for sin which He offered up when he gave His own body to be crucified. In short, this one word, "the cross," stands for Christ crucified, the only Saviour. This is the meaning in which Paul uses the expression, when he tells the Corinthians, "the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness." (1Co_1:18.) This is the meaning in which he wrote to the Galatians, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross." He simply meant, "I glory in nothing but Christ crucified, as the salvation of my soul."

Jesus Christ crucified was the joy and delight, the comfort and the peace, the hope and the confidence, the foundation and the resting place, the ark and the refuge, the food and the medicine of Paul's soul. He did not think of what he had done himself, and suffered himself. He did not meditate on his own goodness, and his own righteousness. He loved to think of what Christ had done, and Christ had suffered,--of the death of Christ, the righteousness of Christ, the atonement of Christ, the blood of Christ the finished work of Christ. In this he did glory. This was the sun of his soul.

This is the subject he loved to preach about. He was a man who went to and fro on the earth, proclaiming to sinners that the Son of God had shed His own heart's blood to save their souls. He walked up and down the world, telling people that Jesus Christ had loved them, and died for their sins upon the cross. Mark how he says to the Corinthians, "I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins." (1Co_15:3.) "I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified." (1Co_2:2.) He, a blaspheming, persecuting Pharisee, had been washed in Christ's blood. He could not hold his peace about it. He was never weary of telling the story of the cross.

This is the subject he loved to dwell upon when he wrote to believers. It is wonderful to observe how full his epistles generally are of the sufferings and death of Christ,--how they run over with "thoughts that breathe, and words that burn," about Christ's dying love and power. His heart seems full of the subject. He enlarges on it constantly. He returns to it continually. It is the golden thread that runs through all his doctrinal teaching and practical exhortations. He seems to think that the most advanced Christian can here, hear too much about the cross. This is what he lived upon all his life, from the time of his conversion. He tells the Galatians, "The life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Gal_2:20.) What made him so strong to labor? What made him so willing to work? What made him so unwearied in endeavors to save some? What made him so persevering and patient? I will tell you the secret of it all. He was always feeding by faith on Christ's body and Christ's blood. Jesus, crucified, was the meat and drink of his soul.

And, reader, you may rest assured that Paul was right. Depend upon it, the cross of Christ;--the death of Christ on the cross to make atonement for sinners is the centre truth in the whole Bible. This is the truth we begin with when we open Genesis. The seed of the woman bruising the serpent's head, is nothing else but a prophecy of Christ crucified. This is the truth that shines out, though veiled, all through the law of Moses and the history of the Jews. The daily sacrifice, the Passover lamb, the continual shedding of blood in the tabernacle and temple,--all these were emblems of Christ crucified. This is the truth that we see honored in the vision of heaven before we close the book of Revelation. "In the midst of the throne and of die four beasts," we are told, "and in the midst of the elders, stood a lamb as it had been slain." (Rev_5:6.) Even in the midst of heavenly glory we get a view of Christ crucified. Take away the cross of Christ, and the Bible is a dark book. It is like the Egyptian hieroglyphics, without the key that interprets their meaning, --curious and wonderful, but of no real use.'

February 19, 2009

The Cross - Section I part 2

Here is the second portion of section I in dear Ryle's The Cross.

And now, reader, mark what I say. If the apostle Paul never gloried in any of these things, who in all the world, from one end to the other, has any right to glory in them in our day? If Paul said, "God forbid that I should glory in anything whatever except the cross," who shall dare to say, "I have something to glory of; I am a better man than Paul?"

Who is there among the readers of this tract, that trusts in any goodness of his own? Who is there that is resting on his own amendments, his own morality, his own performances of any kind whatever? Who is there that is leaning the weight of his soul on anything whatever of his own in the smallest possible degree? Learn, I say, that you are very unlike the Apostle Paul. Learn that your religion is not apostolical religion.

Who is there among the readers of this tract that trusts in his churchmanship for salvation? Who is there that is valuing himself on his baptism, or his attendance at the Lord's Table--his church-going on Sundays, or his daily services during the week--and saying to himself, what lack I yet? Learn, I say, this day, that you are very unlike Paul. Your Christianity is not the Christianity of the New Testament. Paul would not glory in anything but the cross. Neither ought you.

Oh! Reader, beware of self-righteousness. Open sin kills its thousands of souls. Self-righteousness kills its tens of thousands. Go and study humility with the great apostle of the Gentiles. Go and sit with Paul at the foot of the cross. Give up your secret pride. Cast away your vain ideas of your own goodness. Be thankful if you have grace, but never glory in it for a moment. Work for God and Christ with heart and soul, and mind and strength, but never dream for a second of placing confidence in any work of your own.

Think, you who take comfort in some fancied ideas of your own goodness --think, you who wrap up yourselves in the notion, "all must be right, if I keep to my church," --think for a moment what a sandy foundation you are building upon! Think for a moment how miserably defective your hopes and pleas will look in the hour of death, and in the Day of Judgment! Whatever men may say of their own goodness while they are strong and healthy, they will find but little to say of it, when they are sick and dying. Whatever merit they may see in their own works here in this world, they will discover none in them when they stand before the bar of Christ. The light of that great day of assize will make a wonderful difference in the appearance of all their doings It will strip off the tinsel, shrivel up the complexion, expose the rottenness, of many a deed that is now called good. Their wheat will prove nothing but chaff. Their gold will be found nothing but dross. Millions of so-called Christian actions will turn out to have been utterly defective and graceless. They passed current, and were valued among men. They will prove light and worthless in the balance of God. They will be found to have been like the whitened sepulchers of old, fair and beautiful without, but full of corruption within. Alas! For the man who can look forward to the Day of Judgment, and lean his soul in the smallest degree on anything of his own!

Reader, once more I say, beware of self-righteousness in every possible shape and form. Some people get as much harm from their fancied virtues as others do from their sins. Take heed, lest you be one. Rest not; rest not till your heart beats in tune with St. Paul's. Rest not till you can say with him, "God forbid that I should glory it, anything but the cross."

February 10, 2009

The Cross - Section I

We continue on in our reading of Bishop Ryle's The Cross. Here is section I. What did Paul not glory in? Plenty.

I. What did the Apostle Paul not glory in?

There are many things that Paul might have gloried in, if he had thought as some do in this day. If ever there was one on earth who had something to boast of in himself, that man was the great apostle of the Gentiles. Now, if he did not dare to glory, who shall?

He never" gloried in his national privileges. He was a Jew by birth, and as he tells us himself, "An Hebrew of the Hebrews." He might have said, like many of his brethren, "I have Abraham for my forefather. I am not a dark, unenlightened heathen. I am one of the favored people of God. I have been admitted into covenant with God by circumcision. I am a far better man than the ignorant Gentiles." But he never said so. He never gloried in anything of this kind. Never for one moment!

He never gloried in his own works. None ever worked so hard for God as he did. He was more abundant in labors than any of the apostles. No living man ever preached so much, traveled so much, and endured so many hardships for Christ's cause. None ever converted so many souls, did so much good to the world, and made himself so useful to mankind. No father of the early Church, no Reformer, no Missionary, no Minister, no Layman--no one man could ever be named, who did so many good works as the Apostle Paul. But did he ever glory in them, as if they were in the least meritorious, and could save his soul? Never! Never for one moment!

He never gloried in his knowledge. He was a man of great gifts naturally, and after he was convened, the Holy Spirit gave him greater gifts still. He was a mighty preacher, and a mighty speaker, and a mighty writer. He was as great with his pen as he was with his tongue. He could reason equally well with Jews and Gentiles. He could argue with infidels at Corinth, or Pharisee, at Jerusalem, or self-righteous people in Galatia. He knew many deep things. He had been in the third heaven, and heard unspeakable words. He had received the spirit of prophecy, and could foretell things yet to come. But did he ever glory in his knowledge, as if it could justify him before God? Never! Never! Never for one moment!

He never gloried in his graces. If ever there was one who abounded in graces, that man was Paul. He was full of love. How tenderly and affectionately he used to write! He could feel for souls like a mother or a nurse feeling for her child. He was a bold man. He cared not whom he opposed when truth was at stake. He cared not what risks he ran when souls were to be won. He was a self-denying man, in hunger and thirst often, in cold and nakedness, in watchings and lastings. He was a humble man. He thought himself less than the least of all saints, and the chief of sinners. He was a prayerful man. See how it comes out at the beginning of all his Epistles. He was a thankful man. His thanksgivings and his prayers walked side by side. But he never gloried in all this, never valued himself on it, and never rested his soul's hopes on it. Oh! No! Never for a moment!

He never gloried in his churchmanship. If ever there was a good churchman, that man was Paul. He was himself a chosen apostle. He was a founder of churches, and an ordainer of ministers. Timothy and Titus, and many elders, received their first commission from his hands. He was the beginner of services and sacraments in many a dark place. Many a one did he baptize. Many a one did he receive to the Lord's Table. Many a meeting for prayer, and praise, and preaching, did he begin and carry on. He was the setter up of discipline in many a young church. Whatever ordinances, and rules, and ceremonies were observed in them, were first recommended by him. But did he ever glory in his office and church standing? Does he ever speak as if his churchmanship would save him, justify him, put away his sins, and make him acceptable before God? Oh! No! Never! Never! Never for a moment!

February 4, 2009

The Cross - Introduction

I was inspired and encouraged recently by reading Bishop Ryle's litte treatise The Cross. If you could use a fresh dose of 'get up and go' for your faith, it's worth your time to read it. You can get it all at once here or read it in sections on this blog. I'll be posting it occasionally over the next few weeks. Let's start at the beginning.

The Cross

A Call to the Fundamentals of Religion

by J. C. Ryle


What do you think and feel about the cross of Christ? You live in a Christian land. You probably attend the worship of a Christian Church. You have perhaps been baptized in the name of Christ. You profess and call yourself a Christian. All this is well. It is more than can be said of millions in the world. But all this is no answer to my question, "What do you think and feel about the cross of Christ?"

I want to tell you what the greatest Christian that ever lived thought of the cross of Christ. He has written down his opinion. He has given his judgment in words that cannot be mistaken. The man I mean is the Apostle Paul. The place where you will find his opinion is in the letter which the Holy Ghost inspired him to write to the Galatians. And the words in which his judgment is set down, are these, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Now what did Paul mean by saying this? He meant to declare strongly, that he trusted in nothing but Jesus Christ crucified for the pardon of his sins and the salvation of his soul. Let others, if they would, look elsewhere for salvation. Let others, if they were so disposed, trust in other things for pardon and peace. For his part, the apostle was determined to rest on nothing, lean on nothing, build his hope on nothing, place confidence in nothing, glory in nothing, except "the cross of Jesus Christ."

Reader, let me talk to you about this subject. Believe me, it is one of the deepest importance. This is no mere question of controversy. This is not one of those points on which men may agree to differ, and feel that differences will not shut them out of heaven. A man must be right on this subject, or he is lost forever. Heaven or hell, happiness or misery, life or death, blessing or cursing in the last day,--all hinges on the answer to this question, "What do you think about the cross of Christ?"

February 3, 2009

Follow the Lamb - Section XV

We now come to the conclusion of Pastor Bonar's work Follow the Lamb. Do not lose heart in the midst of your Christian duties, dear brothers and sisters. Do what you are called to do, with all your heart!


A revival time is one of blessing, but it is one of peril. The running well and the going back, the flocking to the cross and the turning away from it, the warm confession and the subsequent silence,--these are things which have been witnessed in other times, and may be witnessed again. Hence our anxiety to give all the guidance and the counsel that we can. Let the young listen. Let them humble themselves to Christian counsel. Let them take heed and watch narrowly their own footsteps.

But still we would not dishearten any. Be not discouraged, we say; but be of good cheer. Faint not, though you may often be weary. Though we bid you count the cost, yet we say to you, as God said to Israel, 'Behold, the Lord your God hath set the land before thee: go up and possess it, as the Lord God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged' (Deut 1:21). We would not be of those to whom God spoke, and said, 'Why discourage ye the hearts of the people?' (Num 32:7). We remember it is said that 'the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way' (Num 21:4); and that this discouragement led to sin. We would not discourage the weakest; for we call to mind Him who 'breaks not the bruised reed, nor quenches the smoking flax' (Isa 42:3); who 'gathers the lambs with His arms, who carries them in His bosom, and who gently leads those that are with young' (Isa 40:11). We say to 'those who are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not' (Isa 35:4); and we would 'strengthen the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees' (Isa 35:3). You say the 'fearful' are among those who are cast into the lake of fire, and you fear you are one of them. Not so. The 'fearful' specified in the Book of Revelation (Rev 21:8), are the cowards who have refused to confess to Christ, who have turned their back on Christ; and they are very different from the 'fearful' spoken of in Isaiah.

Be of good courage. You have God upon your side. You have Christ to fight for you. You have the Holy Spirit to sustain and comfort you. You have more encouragements than discouragements. You have the example of millions that have gone before you. You have exceeding great and precious promises (2 Pet 1:4). You have many fellow-travellers and fellow-soldiers on the right hand and on the left. You have a bright kingdom in view which will compensate for all triaI and conflict here. And then, the way is short. The toil will soon be over. The battle will not last for ever. Greater is He that is with you than all that can be against you. Be strong in the Lord. Be strong in His love and in His power. Take to you the whole armour of God (Eph 6:10,11).

Do you say that you are in Christ, and that you are abiding in Him? Then you ought to walk as He walked. You are bound to follow His footsteps; and if you say that you are not bound to do so, you set aside the divine teaching of the apostle here given us.

The man who says, 'I am Christ's,' is under obligations to imitate Him. Duty and love alike constrain him to do so; not duty without love, nor yet love without duty. Duty without love would mean reluctance and compulsion; love without duty would mean love fixed upon an unlawful object, whom it was not right to love. Duty and love going together mean that our love is fixed upon a worthy and lawful object; in loving whom we are feeling what is right, and in obeying whom we are doing what is right.

If I love that which it is not my duty to love, I sin. If I love that which it is my duty to love, I am doing the right thing,--the thing which God delights in. If I honour my parents, I do so for two reasons: (1) Because God has said, 'Honour thy father and thy mother'; (2) Because I love them. The two things, the duty and the love, are in perfect harmony with each other. It is a dutiful thing to love, and it is a loving thing to be dutiful. Suppose you have a mother in Scotland and a father in India. You love both of them as truly as a son can love. But the question may arise as to which of them you are to visit or to stay with. Are you to remain in Scotland or go to India? Love cannot determine this question, for you love both equally. How is it to be decided? By duty. You ask, Is it my duty to go to my father, or to remain with my mother? If you decided to leave your mother, from a sense of duty, would she doubt your love, and say, I want none of your professions of it? And when you went to India, and told your father that it was a sense of duty that brought you to him, would he scorn you, and say, I want none of your duty, give me your love? Duty is a right and proper motive. It is again and again referred to in Scripture, as the words 'ought,' 'are bound,' 'must,' 'debtor,' 'owe,' and the like abundantly show. 'He that saith he abideth in Him, ought himself so to walk even as He walked' (1 John 2:6).

We read such passages as the following:--'Ye also ought to wash one another's feet' (John 13:14); 'We have done that which was our duty to do' (Luke 17:10);--'We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak' (Rom 15:1);--'So ought men to love their wives' (Eph 5:28);--'We are bound to thank God' (2 Thess 1:3);--'We are bound to give thanks' (2 Thess 2:13);--'We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren' (1 John 3:16);-- 'We ought to love one another' (1 John 4:11). These are a few out of many passages in which duty is spoken of in very plain terms. That duty and love should go together, is no proof that there is no such thing as duty, or that a Christian should rise above it into the region of 'pure love,' as Romish mystics have held. Duty means the thing that is due; are we not to do it because it is due, because it is the right and proper thing? Let us exercise our common sense, and understand the meaning of words, whether Greek or English, before soaring into transcendental regions, into which neither prophets nor apostles have gone before us.

There is a danger of running to excess in our day, of attempting the superfine in religion; of soaring too high, of getting away from both Scripture and common sense; of indulging in a sentimentalism, which looks very spiritual, but which, when analysed, is simply absurdity, or, at best, a one-sided exaggeration of some isolated truth. There is great danger, in a time of spiritual quickening, of being carried about with diverse and strange doctrines. Let us cleave to the word. Only thus can we find steadfastness and sobriety. Only by feeding on it, and being guided by it, can we maintain a manly and healthy religion,--free from error, yet devoid of effeminacy, following out the old paths of reformers, apostles, prophets, and patriarchs, unshaken by novelties, yet unfettered by bigotry or self-will.

'He that is dead,' says the apostle, 'is freed from sin' (Rom 6:7); or more exactly, 'He that has died is justified from sin.' Death was the penalty, and he who has paid the penalty is legally justified. There is no further claim against him. We pay the penalty when we take the death of the Substitute as ours, and God reckons the penalty paid when He obtains our consent to the exchange. It is the thought of having paid the penalty that pacifies the conscience; and it is the thought of God reckoning it paid that gives us peace with Him. When we come to understand the meaning and value of the work upon the cross; when we accept what God has declared concerning all who believe His testimony to that work, the burden drops, and we enter into liberty.

With that liberty comes holiness. We seek henceforth conformity to Him who has set us free, and who bids us follow Him in the path of conformity to the Father's will. With that liberty comes love,--love to Him who hath brought our souls out of prison by going into prison for us.

With that love comes zeal,--the zeal of Him who followed after His lost ones till He had recovered them,--of Him it is said, 'The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.'

With this love and zeal there comes self-denial, the self-denial of Him who 'pleased not Himself,' who lived on earth solely for others; though rich, for our sakes becoming poor.

Of all this be it ever remembered, that the root is 'peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ'; and that this peace comes from the knowledge of the peace-making blood, the blood of the one divine peace offering, whom to know is peace! It is out of the sacrificial blood that we extract the peace which is the beginning of all service, all religion, all uprightness of walk. 'No condemnation' commences the life of freedom and self-denial and zeal. We cease to know the law as our enemy, and begin to know it as our friend; for that which is 'holy, and just, and good' must ever be our delight, our joy, our guide. 'I delight in the law of God after the inner man' (Rom 7:22) is one of our truest watchwords; for we were set free from the law just in order that we might delight in the law and in order that 'the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us' (Rom 8:4). With law satisfied,--nay, transformed into a friend, and speaking not condemnation, but pardon, not wrath, but love, we walk onwards and upwards, realizing in that blessed law what David did when he said, 'The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. (Psa 19:8-10).