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Saturday, July 21, 2018

What Is A Successful Ministry? (and more)

What Is A Successful Ministry? (and more)

"Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful" (1 Corinthians 4:2).

The desperate need of the hour is faithful men in the pulpits of our churches. We have an over-abundance of preachers. We do not need any more slick, polished, well-educated professionals in "the ministry". But we do, most desperately, need some faithful men - pastors after God's own heart, who feed His people with knowledge and understanding. Thank God, we have a few!

In this day of big business religion, when churches are measured not by their orthodoxy, but by the opinions of men, when a preacher's success is measured not by his faithfulness, but by the number of names added to the church roll - it might be wise to consider what a successful ministry is according to the measure of Holy Scripture.

According to the Word of God, those preachers and churches are successful who are faithful to the work to which God has called them. Never in the Old Testament or in the New was a prophet, apostle, or preacher measured by the opinions of men. God's servants never courted the favor of men, and were never favored by the majority of the people. The church of God has always been out of step with society. The servants of God have always been looked upon as peculiar, bigoted dogmatists, intolerant and incapable of compromise. But they were faithful - faithful to God, faithful to His truth, and faithful to the souls of men.

Do not be so foolish as to measure God's work by man's yardstick! Do not measure the success or failure of preachers and churches by men, by numbers, or by popular opinion. The only measure of success for churches and preachers is faithfulness. Those who faithfully seek and promote the glory of God, who faithfully proclaim the truth of God, and who faithfully serve the eternal interests of immortal souls are successful. Those who are not failures - the one will stand the fire of judgment. The others will not.

The greatest blessing God can ever bestow upon any people in this world is to establish in their midst a faithful Gospel church with a faithful Gospel preacher as His messenger.

"Tychicus .... is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord" (Colossians 4:7).

~Don Fortner~
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The Unfaithful Preacher

Ministers of the gospel hold a place of immense responsibility to God and the souls of men. If they suppress the truth as it is in Jesus, for fear of offending their hearers; if they substitute laxness of principle, for the doctrines of the Cross; dry external morality for practical godliness - they do it at an awful peril. They are not placed on Jerusalem's wall to amuse the multitude with a mock religion in human attire. They are not sent forth to fabricate new theories, or gloss the truth, to render it less offensive to the carnal heart. For no such end was the Christian ministry instituted. The gospel heralds are not at liberty thus to aspire. They are ambassadors from God to deliver His message in its true spirit and genuine simplicity. If they depart from this, through cowardice or thirst for popular applause, they are no longer ambassadors of Christ - but traitors to His cause. And can there be a higher crime committed against the Supreme Majesty, than coming out under a cloak of friendship for Christ - and then aiming destruction at His Throne? Verily God will not hold them guiltless. Such treachery will not escape with impunity!

And with what face will the unfaithful preacher meet his hearers at the judgment bar? He had taught his hearers - but had taught them to disbelieve. He had confirmed them in their guilt - by refusing to expose it. He had blinded their eyes about God - by keeping His character out of sight. He had feasted their pride - when they needed humbling. He had pleased their fancies - at the expense of their souls. He had inflated them with expectations of heaven - when on the brink of destruction; and closed their eyes, giving them God-speed with a lie in their right hand! And how is he to settle this account on the day of final reckoning! How is he to clear himself from the blood of souls!

With what will he frame his plea in self-defense, against his flock thus accusing and upbraiding him? "We were your flock - and you were our shepherd. With you were the treasures of knowledge and truth. And why did you withhold from us the message you were sent to deliver? We are undone forever through your unfaithfulness. You never taught us the character of our Judge - nor the truth of His Word. The doctrines you taught us to despise - we find to be the truth of God. You allowed us to sport with His sovereignty and decrees, and in this you did awfully deceive us. You reproved us politely for disgraceful crimes, but never described to us the sin of our nature. When we were sometimes alarmed at our state and prospects, you hushed our fears by crying "peace, peace", whereas God had said, there is no peace to the wicked!" How overwhelmed with guilt and horror, will such preachers be with their deceived hearers - on the great day of account!

~David Porter~

The devil's Old Delusion!!

The devil's Old Delusion!

"John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him: You broad of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire!" (Luke 3).

We have, in these verses, a specimen of John the Baptist's ministry. It is a portion of Scripture which should always be especially interesting to a Christian mind.

We should first mark the holy boldness with which John addresses the multitudes who came to his baptism. He speaks to them as a "broad of vipers!" He saw the rottenness and hypocrisy of the profession which the crowd around him were making, and uses language descriptive of their case. His head was not turned by popularity. He did not care who was offended by his words. The spiritual disease of those before him was desperate, and of long-standing - and he knew that desperate diseases need strong remedies!

Well would it be for the Church of Christ, if it possessed more plain speaking ministers in our days - like John the Baptist. A morbid dislike to strong language; an excessive fear of giving offence; a constant flinching from directness and plain speaking are, unhappily, too much the characteristics of the modern Christian pulpit.

Uncharitable language is no doubt always to be deprecated. But there is no charity in flattering unconverted people, in abstaining from any mention of their vices, or in applying smooth names to damnable sins!

There are two texts  which are too much forgotten by Christian preachers. In one it is written, "Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you," (Luke 6:26). In the other it is written, "Am I now trying to win the approval of men - or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were trying to please men - I would not be Christ's servant." (Galatians 1:10).

We should mark, also - how plainly John Speaks to his hearers about HELL and danger! He tells them that there is a "coming wrath!" He speaks of "the ax" of God's judgment - and of unfruitful trees being "thrown into the fire!"

The subject of HELL is always offensive to human nature. The minister who dwells much upon it - must expect to find himself regarded as barbaric, violent, unfeeling and narrow-minded!

Men love to hear "smooth things," and to be told of peace, and not of danger (Isaiah 30:10).

But the subject of hell is one that ought not to be kept back, if we desire to do good to souls. It is one that our Lord Jesus Christ brought forward frequently in His public teachings. That loving Saviour, who spoke so graciously of the way to Heaven - has also used the plainest language about the way to hell.

Let us beware of being wise above that which is written, and more charitable than Scripture itself. Let the language of John the Baptist be deeply engraved on our hearts. Let us never be ashamed to avow our firm belief, that there is a "coming wrath" for the impenitent; and that it is possible fora man to be lost, as well as to be saved.

To be silent on the subject - is dreadful treachery to men's souls. It only encourages them to persevere in wickedness,and fosters the devil's old delusion in their minds, "You shall not surely die!" (Genesis 3:4).

That minister is surely our best friend - who tells us honestly of danger, and warns us, like John the Baptist, to "flee from the wrath to come!"

Never will a man flee - until he sees he sees that there is real cause to be afraid. Never will he seek Heaven - until he is convinced that he is on his way to hell.

The religion in which there is no mention of hell - is not the religion of John the Baptist, or of our Lord Jesus and His Apostles!

~J. C. Ryle~
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As He Snuffs The Gale of Popular Applause!

"In all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God" (2 Corinthians 6:4).

This verse implies that ministers are to labor for God - surely not for the preacher's fame! SELF is an old idol which has been worshiped by far greater multitudes than any other deity of either ancient or modern heathenism. A minister is the last man in the world who should be seen at the altar of this vile abomination - SELF. And yet without great care he is likely to be the first one there, to linger there the longest, to bow the lowest, and to express his devotion by the costliest sacrifices!

Many become ministers merely to acquire popular applause. FAME is their motive and their aim. To commend themselves, is the secret but powerful spring of all they do. SELF is with them in the study directing their reading, selecting their texts, arranging their thoughts, forming their illustrations - and all with a view to 'shine in public.' Thus prepared, they ascend the pulpit with the same object which conducts the actor to the stage - to secure the applause of approving spectators. Every tone is modulated, every emphasis laid, every attitude regulated - to please the audience, rather than to profit their souls; to commend themselves, and not Jesus Christ! The service ended, this bosom idol returns with them to their own abode, and renders them restless and uneasy to know how they have succeeded. If they are admired, they receive their reward; if not, the first prize is lost!

It is nothing in abatement of the sin, that all this while evangelical sentiments are uttered. Orthodoxy is the most direct road to popularity. Christ may be text - when SELF is the sermon! And dreadful as it seems, it is to be feared that many have elevated the Cross only to suspend upon the  'sacred tree' their own honors! and have employed all the glories of redemption - merely to emblazon their own name!

The ministry is not intended to be a platform, whee the petty manufacturer of 'tinsel eloquence' and 'rhetorical flowers' shall display to a gaping crowd his gaudy wares!

When  carried to this height, this is the direct, deepest tragedy that was ever performed by man, since it ends in the actual and eternal death of the performer, who forgets, as he snuffs the gale of popular applause, that it bears the vapors of damnation!

"The Spirit took me to the north gate of the temple's inner courtyard, where there was an idol that disgusted the Lord and made Him furious!" (Ezekiel 8:3).

~J. A. James~

The Marks of a True Shepherd (and others)

The Marks of a True Shepherd (and others)

How diligently should they scrutinize their motives, who think of entering the ministry; for thousands have abused this Divine institution through love of ease, desire for authority and reputation, or love of money - and brought upon themselves "greater damnation" (James 3:1). Thousands have invaded the pastoral office in an unauthorized manner, to fleece sheep rather than feed them, robbing Christ of His honor and starving His people.

Solemn beyond words is it to observe how sternly our Lord denounced these false shepherds of His day (Matthew 23). As J. C. Ryle rightly said, "Nothing seemed to offensive to Christ as a false teacher of religion, a false prophet, or a false shepherd. Nothing ought Tobe so much feared by the Church, be so plainly rebuked, opposed and exposed!"

What are the marks of a true shepherd? How are God's people to identify those called and qualified by Him to minister unto His people?

First, the genuine pastor has the doctrine of Christ on his LIPS. The ministers of the new covenant are described as those who had "renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness." Christendom today is infested with men who are full of deceit and hypocrisy, trimming their sails according to whatever direction the breeze of public opinion is blowing.

"We have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the Word of God." (2 Cor. 4:2). The true servant of Christ holds back nothing which is profitable, no matter how unpalatable it may be unto his hearers. He is one who magnifies not himself, nor his denomination, but Christ - His wondrous Person, His atoning blood, His exacting claims.

Second, the genuine pastor has the Spirit of Christ in his HEART. It is the Spirit who opens to him the mysteries of the Gospel, so that he is "the faithful and wise servant" (Matt. 24:45). It is the Spirit of Christ who gives him a love for His sheep, so that it is his greatest delight to lead them into the green pastures of His Word. It is the Spirit of Christ who enables him to use "great boldness of speech" (2 Cor. 3:12), so that he shuns not to declare all the counsel of God. It is the Spirit of Christ who makes him to be "prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction" (2 Tim. 4:2). It is the Spirit of Christ who gives efficacy to his ministry, making it fruitful according to the sovereign pleasure of God.

Third, the genuine pastor has the example of Christ in his LIFE, which is a conforming of him to the image of his Master. It is true, sadly true, that there is not one of them who does not fall far short both of the inward and outward image of Christ. Yet there are some faint tracings of His image visible in all His true servants. The image of Christ is seen in their words, spirit, actions; otherwise we have no warrant to receive them as God's servants.

Find a man (no easy task today!) who has the doctrine of Christ on his lips, the Spirit of Christ in his heart, and the example of Christ in his life - and you find one of His genuine ministers - all others are but "thieves and robbers."

~A. W. Pink~
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The Best Sermons!

The best sermons are the sermons which are most full of Christ.

A sermon without Christ - it is an awful, a horrible thing; it is an empty well; it is a cloud without rain; it is a tree twice dead, plucked by the roots.

It is an abominable thing to give men stones for bread, and scorpions for eggs, and yet they do so who preach not Jesus.

A sermon with Christ! As well talk of a loaf of bread without any flour in it. How can it feed the soul?

Men die and perish because Christ is not there, and yet His glorious gospel is the easiest thing to preach,and the sweetest thing to preach; there is most variety in it, there is more attractiveness in it than in all the world besides!

~Charles Hadden Spurgeon~
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Where, O Where?

At the end of the seven days, the Lord gave me a message. He said, "Son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman for Israel. Whenever you receive a message from Me, pass it on to the people immediately. If I warn the wicked, saying, "You will surely die," but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible, demanding your blood for theirs" (Ezekiel 3:16-18).

Where are the ministers who will rouse this sleeping generation to the solemn realities of the eternal world, the shortness of time, and the certainties of judgment?

Where are the preachers who are weighed down with the interests of immortal souls, the difficulties of dealing faithfully with them, and the solemn account that is to be rendered for them?

Where, O Where?

~J. R. Anderson ~

Justification # 5

Justification # 5

If you love life cling with a fast hold to the doctrine of justification by faith. If you love inward peace, let your views of faith be very simple. Honor every part of the Christian religion. Contend to the death for the necessity of holiness. Use diligently and reverently every appointed means of grace - but do not give to these things the office of justifying your soul in the slightest degree. If you would have peace, and keep peace, remember that faith alone, justifies, and that not as a meritorious work - but as the act that joins the soul to Christ. Believe me, the crown and glory of the Gospel is justification by faith, without deeds of the law.

No doctrine can be imagined so beautifully simple as justification by faith. It is not a dark mysterious truth, intelligible to none but the great, the rich, and the learned. It places eternal life within the reach of the most unlearned; and the poorest in the land. It must be of God.

No doctrine can be imagined so glorifying to God. It honors all His attributes, His justice, mercy, and holiness. It gives the whole credit of the sinner's salvation to the Saviour He has appointed. It honors the Son, and so honors the Father who sent Him. (John 5:25). It gives man no partnership in his redemption - but makes salvation to be wholly of the Lord. It must be of God.

No doctrine can be imagined so calculated to put man in his right place. It shows him his own sinfulness, and weakness, and inability to save his soul by his own works. It leaves him without excuse if he is not saved at last. It offers to him peace and pardon "without money and without price." It must be of God. (Isa. 55:1).

No doctrine can be imagines so comforting to a brokenhearted and penitent sinner. It brings to such an one glad tidings. It shows him that there is hope even for him. It tells him, though he is a great sinner, there is ready for him a great Saviour; and though he cannot justify himself, God an and will justify him for the sake of Christ. It must be of God.

No doctrine can be imagined so satisfying to a true Christian. It supplies him with a solid ground of comfort - the finished work of Christ. If anything was left for the Christian to do, where would his comfort be? He would never know that he had done enough, and was really safe. But the doctrine that Christ undertakes all, and that we have only to believe and receive peace, meets every fear. It must be of God.

No doctrine can be imagined so sanctifying. It draws people by the strongest of all cords - the cord of love. It makes them feel they are debtors, and in gratitude bound to love much, when much has been forgiven. Preaching up works never produces such fruit - as preaching them down. Exalting man's goodness and merits never makes people so holy as exalting Christ. The fiercest lunatics at Paris became gentle, mild, and obedient when Abbe Pinel gave them liberty and hope. The free grace of Christ will produce far greater effects on men's lives than the sternest commands of law. Surely the doctrine must be of God.

No doctrine can be imagined so strengthening to the hands of a minister.It enables him to come to the vilest of people, and say, "There is a door of hope even for you!" It enables him to feel, "While life lasts there are no incurable cases among the souls under my charge." Many a minister by the use of this doctrine can say of souls, "I found them in the state of nature. I beheld them pass into the state of grace. I watched them moving into the state of glory." Truly this doctrine must be of God.

No doctrine can be imagined that wears so well. it suits people when they first begin, like the Philippians jailer, crying, "What shall I do to be saved?" It suits them when they fight in the forefront of the battle. Like the apostle Paul, they say, "The life I live, I live by the faith of the Son of God." (Gal. 2:20). It suits them when they die, as it did Stephen when he cried, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." (Acts 7:59). Yes - many a one has opposed the doctrine fiercely while he lived, and yet on his death bed has gladly embraced justification by faith, and departed saying that "he trusted in nothing but Christ." It must be of God.

Have you this faith? Do you know anything of simple child-like confidence in Jesus? Do you know what it is to rest your soul's hopes wholly on Christ? Oh, remember that where there is no faith, there is no saving interest in Christ. Where there is no saving interest in Christ, there is no justification. Where there is no justification, there can be no peace with God. Where there is no peace with God, there is no heaven! And what then?

And now, let me commend the solemn matters we have been considering to the serious and prayerful attention of all who read this paper. I invite you to begin by meditating calmly on peace with God - on justification - on Christ - on faith. These are not mere speculative subjects, fit for none but retired students. They lie at the very roots of Christianity. They are bound up with life eternal. Bear with me for a few moments, while I add a few words in order to bring them home more closely to your heart and conscience.

1. Let me, then, for one thing, request every reader of this paper to put a plain QUESTION to himself.

Have you peace with God? You have heard of it. You have read of it. You know there is such a thing. You know where it is to be found. But do you possess it yourself? Oh, deal honestly with yourself, and do not evade my question! Have you peace with God?

2. In the next place, let me offer s solemn WARNING to every reader of this paper who knows that he has not peace with God.

You have not peace with God! Consider for a moment how fearfully great is your danger! You and God are not friends. The wrath of God abides on you. God is angry with you every day. Your ways, your words, your thoughts, your actions, are a continual offence to Him. They are unpardoned and unforgiven. They cover you from head to foot. They provoke Him every day to cut you off. The sword that the reveler of old saw hanging over his head by a single hair, is but a faint emblem of the danger of your soul. 

You have not peace with God! Consider for a moment how fearfully great is your folly! There sits at the right hand of God a mighty Saviour able and willing to give you peace, and you do not seek Him. For ten, twenty, thirty, and perhaps forty years He has called to you, and you have refused His counsel. You have practically replied, "I will not." He has said, "My ways are ways of pleasantness," and you have constantly said, "I like my own sinful ways far better."

And after all, for what have you refused Christ? For worldly riches, which cannot heal a broken heart; for worldly business, which you must one day leave; for worldly pleasures, which do not really satisfy; for these things, and such as these, you have refused Christ! It this wisdom? Is this fairness, is this kindness to your soul?

I beseech you to consider your ways. I mourn over your present condition with special sorrow. I grieve to think how many are within a hair's breadth of some crushing affliction, and yet utterly unprepared to meet it. Gladly would I persuade every anxious parent and wife and child to become acquainted with Christ, who is a brother born for adversity, and the Prince of peace - a friend who never fails nor forsakes, and a husband who never dies!

~J. C. Ryle~

(continued with # 6)

Saturday, July 14, 2018

satanic Temptations # 4

satanic Temptations # 4

By faith, we are assured of the truth, excellence, and importance of God's Word, and thus oppose the whole Bible to satan's darts. The doctrines and duties, the invitations and promises, the warnings and threatenings, are all useful by turns. Are we tempted by the difficulties and mysteries of some of the doctrines - to disbelief, and error? Faith fixes her powerful eye upon the evidence of the truth, and with a powerful eye upon the evidence of the truth, and with a "Thus says the Lord," to depend upon, receives the truth on the authority of Him who reveals it, and at the same time, conscious of its inability to comprehend even the most common matters in their full extent, bows the intellect into submission to the Scriptures, and admits, without gainsayig, whatever Divine wisdom has revealed.

It is one of satan's masterpieces to induce men to take some one truth of Scripture, and to magnify its importance beyond all due bounds, and to exalt it not only above all other truths - but to the utter exclusion of them, thus founding error upon truth, and heresies upon the sacred Scriptures. Socinianism takes the humanity and example of Christ - but leaves out His Divinity and atonement. Mysticism, perverting the indwelling of the Spirit, insists on the inward light, to the neglect of the work of Christ, and the outward revelation. Antinomianism triumphs in free grace and justification by faith - but is negligent of good works; while self-righteousness is proud of good works to the neglect of faith. Rigid predestinarianism asserts the sovereignty of God to the subversion of man's freedom; while Pelagianism boasts of man's own sufficiency, to the denial of God's decrees and human dependence. But a simple faith takes the whole Word and thus repels the wiles of the tempter.

In like manner, when the temptation is to sinful indulgence, and when the father of lies urges all kinds of arguments, and furnishes all kinds of excuses for sin, that it is but a little offence, or a common one; that repentance can soon follow it; that there is no perfection here; that it is a part of the conflict for us to be occasionally defeated; that it need not be repeated - then faith meets the whole, by this one declaration, "It is still sin! God has forbidden it. How can I do this wickedness, and sin against the Lord?" Thus, as Christ Himself overcame the tempter by quoting Scripture, so does the believer.

The apostle Paul exhorts us to be sober and vigilant, because our adversary the devil goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Sobriety means not merely a restraint upon our fleshly appetite, so as not to be intoxicated with strong drink - but a restraint also upon the lusts of the mind, so as not to have the soul intoxicated with the love of the world.  Many a man has a drunken soul, who never had a drink in his life. Beware of spiritual inebriety. What can an intoxicated man do against a roaring lion? He can neither fight nor flee.

And we must add vigilance to sobriety. Watchfulness is an essential duty of the Christian life; none is more necessary; none more frequently or more solemnly enjoined. Who that is asleep can defend himself against a lion? How cautiously, how circumspectly should we walk, if we were in a country where wild beasts are common, and saw the footprints, and actually heard the roar of a lion. Such is our situation. See to it, then, that you do walk circumspectly - looking all around, watching every object, lest it conceal the enemy; your trials, your comforts, your occupations, your tastes, your pleasures, your thoughts, your desires, your besetting sins - and especially watch your hearts with all diligence. An unwatchful Christian is sure to be an unsuccessful one.

To sum up all that I would inculcate on this awful subject, I would remark:

It is a mysterious one, and we should not allow a restless and unwholesome curiosity to pry further into it than God has seen fit to reveal. It is a solemn one, and should never be spoken of lightly or irreverently. it is a scriptural one, and should not be viewed with skepticism and distrust.

We should never allow ourselves to throw the blame of our sins upon satan, nor in the smallest degree plead the strength and subtlety of his temptations, as an excuse for our guilt in complying with them; for though he may entice, he cannot compel. 

John Angell James~

(The End)

Evidences and Results of Sanctified Afflictions # 4

Evidences and Results of Sanctified Affliction # 4

6. A clearer view of the glory of Christ, and a deeper sense of His inestimable preciousness, are an evidence of growth of grace in affliction. The design of all God's dealings in His providential dispensations, in the scheme of redemption, and in the work of His Holy Spirit - is to bring us to Christ, to enlighten our minds in the knowledge of Him, and to endear Him more and more to our hearts! If, then, amidst the 'decays of health' we have learned to feel His value more, as the Physician of souls; if amidst the 'loss of property', the worth of His unsearchable riches has been more correctly estimated; if at the 'grave of earthly friends', we have been drawn closer to Him the Friend of sinners; if amidst the gloom and desolation of earthly scenes, the glory of the Cross has shone forth with a new and surpassing luster; if amidst privations and losses, otherwise trying and distressing, we are brought to adopt the language of the apostle, "I have all things, and abound. All things are mine; for I am Christ's!" In this case, also, the affliction has answered its end; for that trial cannot have been in vain, which has revealed to us the glory of the Saviour, and made us more Christlike, both in our sentiments, feelings and life. Clearer views of the importance of gospel truths, and a richer unction from them resting upon the heart, acquired by sorrow - are a convincing proof of benefit from God's chastening hand.

7. Less dread pf future trials, with a stronger trust in God for support under them - is another evidence of sanctified trial. There is about most of us, until it is removed by God's grace, a timidity, dread, and desponding feeling about afflictions, which make us afraid to encounter them. We turn away from them with dismay, as if there were no power which could support us under them, no wisdom to guide us through them, and no grace to comfort us in the midst of them. The very shadow of an approaching affliction makes our coward hearts to tremble, and causes us to cry out in unbelief, "How can I endure it?" We thus dishonor God by our guilty fears, and show a weakness of faith exceedingly dishonorable to us. To be cured of this weakness by affliction, and to rise out of it strong in faith, and firm in trust; to feel our fears subsiding, and our confidence in God established; to see new chastisements preparing for us, to be endured as soon as the present ones have ceased; to behold storm clouds returning after the rain, and gathering to beat upon us, when those which have lately spent their fury upon us retire - and yet to be able to say, "I will trust and not be afraid - for with the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength, and He will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed upon Him, because he trusts in Him" - is a genuine mark of improvement by afflictive dispensations. God's design in chastening us - is to bring us to confide in Him. He demands our trust, and is honored by it, and it is really no small part of our sanctification. And he that goes forward from one cross to another, strengthened by the past to meet with greater courage the future; who can trust himself and all he has with greater calmness to the disposal of God, with less apprehension for the result, has not been visited in vain by the afflictive hand of God.

8. A more entire consecration of the soul to God's service in general, and to some special service in particular, is also a proof of sanctified affliction. How delightful a spectacle is it to God, to angels, and to men - to see a Christian rising from the bed of his own sickness, or returning from the grave of a near relative, in the spirit of the hundred and sixteenth Psalm - and while the eyes are yet moistened with tears, and the heart soft with sorrow, yielding up himself afresh to the claims, the service, and the glory of God; and instead of being paralyzed with grief, or taken up with enjoyment, setting himself apart by a new dedication to God. How beautiful is the language of the Psalmist in the review of his deliverance, "I love the Lord because He has heard my appeal for mercy. Because He has turned His ear to me, I will call out to Him as long as I live. The ropes of death were wrapped around me, and the horrors of the grave overcame me; I encountered trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: "Lord, save me!" The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is compassionate. The Lord guards the simple; I was helpless, and He saved me. Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. For You, Lord, rescued me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living. I believed, even when I said, "I am severely afflicted." How can I repay the Lord all the good He has done for me? I will take the cup of salvation and worship the Lord. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people. Lord, I am indeed Your servant; I am Your servant! You have loosened my bonds. I will offer You a sacrifice of thanksgiving and will worship the Lord. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord, in the very presence of all His people, in the courts of the Lord's house. Hallelujah!"

This is the language of sanctified affliction. Then when the Christian is seen giving himself afresh to the service of God, in a more devoted attendance upon all the means of grace, private, domestic, and public; when his liberality is more diffusive, and his zeal more ardent; when he seems concerned, inventive, and laborious to show his gratitude and love by new acts of devotedness, and former measures of service will not content him - it is a convincing evidence that he has derived benefit from tribulation.

9. Increased sympathy for others in their affliction, is a proof that our own affliction has done us good. In some cases sorrow has hardened the heart, and made men selfish; it has drawn off all their attention from others, and concentrated it on themselves. This is a dark sign; nothing can be a stronger proof that trials have done us harm, instead of good - than when they have blunted our susceptibilities, hardened our hearts, and put all our tears in reserve for ourselves! Nor, on the contrary, can there be a more convincing evidence that they have benefited us, than an increase of sympathy, and a greater readiness to weep with those who weep. It is a delightful exhibition of a mind softened and sanctified by affliction, to see a person, on recovering from it, still holding in remembrance the wormwood and the gall - and instead of giving himself to selfish enjoyment, going forth with quickened sensibilities to support and comfort the distressed.

Such are the proofs, evidences and results of sanctified affliction.

May they be found in you, my dear friends; and in your pastor. Trials abound in this world - it is a valley of tears. happy will it be for us, if we shall emerge from it at length into that blessed region, where God shall wipe away all tears from every eye. "I reckon," said the blessed Paul, "that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us!" Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory!" "We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, and are called according to His purpose." With such internal consolations as the gospel affords, and with such a peace as passes understanding - what external tribulation may we not endure, and endure not only with all patience, but with joyfulness?

Be much in prayer for the presence and help of the Spirit of God as a Comforter. Without His aid the least trial will distress you - and with it the greatest cannot crush you! God is able to support and comfort - as well as save - to the uttermost! And none of us an tell what, in either case - the uttermost of God can do!

~J. C. Ryle~

(The End)

Justification # 4

Justification # 4

Oh, believe me, there is no peace with God except through Christ!  Peace is His peculiar gift. Peace is that legacy which He alone had power to leave behind Him when He left the world. All other peace beside this, is a mockery and a delusion. When hunger can be relieved without food, and thirst quenched without drink, and weariness removed without rest - then, and not until then, will people find peace without Christ.

Now, is this peace your own? Bought by Christ with His own blood, offered by Christ freely to all who are willing to receive it - is this peace your own? Oh, rest not - rest not until you can give a satisfactory answer to my question, have you true peace with God? 

4. Let me show you, in the last place, the HAND by which the privilege of peace is received - FAITH.

I ask special attention of all who read these pages to this part of our subject. There is scarcely any point in Christianity so important as the means by which Christ, justification, and peace, become the property of a man's soul. Many, I fear, would go with me so far as I have gone in this paper - but would part company here. Let us endeavor to lay hold firmly on the truth.

The means by which a man obtains an interest in Christ and all His benefits is simple faith. There is but one thing needful in order to be justified by His blood, and have peace with God. That one thing is to believe on Him. This is the peculiar mark of a true Christian. He believes on the Lord Jesus for his salvation. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved." "Whosoever believes in Him shall not perish - but have eternal life" (Acts 16:31; John 3:16).

Without this faith it is impossible to be saved. A man may be moral, amiable, good-natured, and respectable. But if he does not believe on Christ, he has no pardon, no justification, no title to heaven. "He who believes not, is condemned already." "He who believes not the Son shall not see life - but the wrath of God abides on him." "He who believes not, shall be damned." (John 3:18,36; Mark 16:16).

Beside this faith nothing whatever is needed for a man's justification. Beyond doubt, repentance, holiness, love, humility, prayerfulness - will always be seen in the justified man. But they do not in the smallest degree justify him in the sight of God. Nothing joins a man to Christ - nothing justifies - but simple faith. "To him who works not - but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." "We conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." (Romans 4:5; 3:28).

Having this faith, a man is at once completely justified. His sins are at once removed. His iniquities are at once put away.The very hour that he believes he is reckoned by God entirely pardoned, forgiven, and a righteous man. His justification is not a future  privilege, to be obtained after a long time and great pains. It is an immediate present possession. Jesus says, "He who believes on Me has everlasting life." Paul says, "By Him all who believe are justified from all things." (John 6:47; Acts 13:39).

I need hardly say that it is of the utmost importance to have clear views about the nature of true SAVING FAITH. It is constantly spoken of as the distinguishing characteristic of New Testament Christians. They are called "believers." In the single Gospel of John, "believing" is mentioned eighty or ninety times. There is hardly any subject about which so many mistakes are made. There is none about which mistakes are so injurious to the soul. The darkness of many a sincere inquirer may be traced up to confused views about faith. Let us try to get a distinct idea of its real nature.

True saving faith is not the possession of everybody. The opinion that all who are called Christians are, as a matter of course, believers, is a most mischievous delusion. A man may be baptized, like Simon Magus, and yet have "no part or lot" in Christ. The visible Church contains unbelievers as well as believers. "All people have not faith" (2 Thess. 3:2).

True saving faith is not a mere matter of FEELING. A man may have many good feelings and desires in his mind towards Christ, and yet they may all prove as temporary and short-lived as the morning cloud and the early dew. Many are like the stoney-ground hearers, and "receive the word with joy." Many will say under momentary excitement, "I will follow You wherever You go," and yet return to the world. (Matt. 8:19; 13:20).

True saving faith is not a bare assent of the intellect to the fact that Christ died for sinners. This is not a jot better than the faith of devils. They know who Jesus is. "They believe," and they do more, "they tremble." (James 2:19).

True saving faith is an act of the whole inner man. It is an act of the head, heart, and will, all united and combined. It is an act of the soul, in which - seeing his own guilt, danger, and hopelessness - and seeing at the same time Christ offering to save him - a man ventures on Christ - flees to Christ - receives Christ as his only hope, and becomes a willing dependent on Him for salvation. It is an act which becomes at once the parent or a habit. He who has it may not always be equally sensible of his own faith; but in the main he lives by faith, and walks by faith.

True faith has nothing whatever of merit about it, and in the highest sense cannot be called "a work." It is but laying hold of a Saviour's hand, leaning on a husband's arm, and receiving a physician's medicine. It brings with it nothing to Christ, but a sinful man's soul. It gives nothing, contributes nothing, pays nothing, performs nothing. It only receives, takes, accepts, grasps, and embraces the glorious gift of justification which Christ bestows, and by renewed daily acts enjoys that gift.

Of all Christian graces, faith is the most important. Of all, it is the simplest in reality. Of all, it is the most difficult to make people understand in practice. The mistakes into which people fall about it are endless. Some who have no faith never doubt for a moment that they are believers. Others, who have real faith, can never be persuaded that they are believers at all. But nearly every mistake about faith may be traced up to the old root of natural pride. People will persist in sticking to the idea that they are to pay something of their own in order to be saved. As to a faith which consists in receiving only, and paying nothing at all, it seems as if they could not understand it.

Saving faith is the hand of the soul. The sinner is like a drowning man at the point of sinking. He sees the Lord Jesus Christ holding out help to him. He grasps it and is saved. This is faith. (Hebrews 6:18).

Saving faith is the eye of the soul. The sinner is like the Israelite bitten by the fiery serpent in the wilderness, and at the point of death. The Lord Jesus Christ is offered to him as the brazen serpent, set up for his cure. He looks and is healed. This is faith. (John 3:14, 15).

Saving faith is the mouth of the soul. The sinner is starving for lack of food, and sick of a severe disease. The Lord Jesus Christ is set before him as the bread of life, and the universal medicine. He receives it, and is made well and strong. This is faith. (John 6:35).

Saving faith is the foot of the soul. The sinner is pursued by a deadly enemy, and is in fear of being overtaken. The Lord Jesus Christ is put before him as a strong tower, a hiding place, and a refuge. He runs into it and is safe. This is faith. (Prov. 18:10).

~J. C. Ryle~

(continued with # 5)