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J.C. Ryle: The Faith of Simeon and Anna

October 6, 2011 Leave a comment

The words of old Simeon, let us remember, will yet receive a fuller accomplishment. The “light” which he saw by faith, as he held the child Jesus in his arms, shall yet shine so brightly that all the nations of the Gentile world shall see it. The “glory” of that Jesus whom Israel crucified, shall one day be revealed so clearly to the scattered Jews, that they shall look on Him whom they pierced, and repent, and be converted. The day shall come when the veil shall be taken from the heart of Israel, and all shall “glory in the Lord.” (Isaiah. 45:25.) For that day let us wait, and watch, and pray. If Christ be the light and glory of our souls, that day cannot come too soon.

Faith, we shall always find, is the universal character of God’s elect. These men and women here described, dwelling in the midst of a wicked city, walked by faith, and not by sight. They were not carried away by the flood of worldliness, formality, and self-righteousness around them. They were not infected by the carnal expectations of a mere worldly Messiah, in which most Jews indulged. They lived in the faith of patriarchs and prophets, that the coming Redeemer would bring in holiness and righteousness, and that His principal victory would be over sin and the devil. For such a Redeemer they waited patiently. For such a victory they earnestly longed.

Let us learn a lesson from these good people. If they, with so few helps and so many discouragements, lived such a life of faith, how much more ought we with a finished Bible and a full Gospel. Let us strive, like them, to walk by faith and look forward. The second advent of Christ is yet to come. The complete “redemption” of this earth from sin, and Satan, and the curse, is yet to take place. Let us declare plainly by our lives and conduct, that for this second advent we look and long. We may be sure that the highest style of Christianity even now, is to “wait for redemption,” and to love the Lord’s appearing. (Rom. 8:23; 2 Tim. 4:8.)

Why The Bible Does Not Have A Simple Blueprint

June 23, 2011 Leave a comment

From S. Lewis Johnson, as to why God’s word does not provide simple passages that explain everything we want to know about a particular doctrine

You might wish that the Bible did contain one little blueprint that you could turn to that would answer all of the questions, but it seems to me that one of the reasons why this is not so is that God evidently has thought that it was necessary for us to ponder and study the Scriptures in order that through the pondering and study of the word of God, we might come ultimately to the knowledge of the truth.  In other words, it’s necessary to do what the Reformers used to do when they spoke about the Analogy of Faith:  compare Scripture with Scripture, because this is a good test of one’s desire to know the truth.

Incidentally, it’s not simply concerning the doctrine of the second coming that these comments could be made.  They could be made concerning most of the doctrines of the word of God.  If we wish to have a full understanding of all aspects of them, it’s necessary to look at a number of passages in the word of God.  And the very fact that we are willing to do this is some evidence of a desire to know, and it seems to me, that one of the reasons that God has not given us one passage that answers all of our questions concerning each doctrine, is that he does want to test our desire to know holy Scripture.

Now theologians speak of normative passages, and by that, they mean the central passage, the one passage that one turns to, first of all, to gain the major outlines of the teaching of a particular doctrine.  We don’t deny that there are normative passages—there are—but there are, for most of the major doctrines of the word of God, no one passage that answers all of our questions.  I do think that that is something for each of us to think about.  It means that if we are really to know the teaching of the word of God, it is necessary that we ponder and reflect a lot more deeply than simply looking at the word in a surface kind of way.

I think there’s another reason why the Bible does not contain an organized obviously plain statement concerning the second coming doctrine.  We might be so pleased with this blueprint that we discover in the word of God that we forget that the truth concerning the second coming is designed to change our lives.  You may remember that in almost all of the passages of the Bible in which the Second Advent, or the second coming of the Lord Jesus, is referred to, there is a statement in which that truth is made applicational.  That is, it has to do with ethical or moral issues that are to flow out of it.

Charles Spurgeon: The Spiritual Restoration / Conversion of the Jews

June 11, 2011 2 comments

From Sermon #582, June 16, 1864:  The Restoration and Conversion of the Jews

ISRAEL IS TO HAVE A SPIRITUAL RESTORATION OR A CONVERSION. Both the text and the context teach this. The promise is that they shall renounce their idols and, behold, they have already done so! “Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols.” Whatever faults the Jew may have, he certainly has not idolatry. “The Lord your God is one God,” is a Truth far better conceived by the Jew than by any other man on earth except the Christian. Weaned forever from the worship of all images of any sort, the Jewish nation has now become infatuated with traditions or duped by philosophy.

She is to have, however, instead of these delusions, a spiritual religion—she is to love her God. “They shall be My people and I will be their God.” The unseen but Omnipotent Jehovah is to be worshipped in spirit and in truth by His ancient people. They are to come before Him in His own appointed way, accepting the Mediator whom their sires rejected. They will come into Covenant relation with God, for so our text tells us— “I will make a Covenant of peace with them,” and Jesus is our peace—therefore we gather that Jehovah shall enter into the Covenant of Grace with them—that Covenant of which Christ is the federal Head, the Substance and the Surety.

They are to walk in God’s ordinances and statutes and so exhibit the practical effects of being united to Christ who has given them peace. All these promises certainly imply that the people of Israel are to be converted to God and that this conversion is to be permanent. The tabernacle of God is to be with them! The Most High is, in a special manner, to have His sanctuary in the midst of them forever more so that whatever nations may apostatize and turn from the Lord in these latter days, the nation of Israel never can, for she shall be effectually and permanently converted.

The hearts of the fathers shall be turned with the hearts of the children unto the Lord their God and they shall be the people of God, world without end.

We look forward, then, for these two things. I am not going to theorize upon which of them will come first—whether they shall be restored first, and converted afterwards—or converted first and then restored. They are to be restored and they are to be converted, too. Let the Lord send these blessings in His own order and we shall be well content whichever way they shall come. We take this for our joy and our comfort that this thing shall be and that both in the spiritual and in the temporal throne, the King Messiah shall sit and reign among His people gloriously.

Charles Spurgeon: The Political Restoration of the Jews

May 28, 2011 1 comment

From Sermon #582, from June 16, 1864: The Restoration and Conversion of the Jews.

First, THERE IS TO BE A POLITICAL RESTORATION OF THE JEWS. Israel is now blotted out from the map of nations. Her sons are scattered far and wide. Her daughters mourn beside all the rivers of the earth. Her sacred song is hushed—no king reigns in Jerusalem! She brings forth no governors among her tribes. But she is to be restored! She is to be restored “as from the dead.” When her own sons have given up all hope of her, then is God to appear for her. She is to be reorganized—her scattered bones are to be brought together. There will be a native government again. There will again be the form of a political body.

A State shall be incorporated and a king shall reign. Israel has now become alienated from her own land. Her sons, though they can never forget the sacred dust of Palestine, yet die at a hopeless distance from her consecrated shores. But it shall not be so forever, for her sons shall again rejoice in her—her land shall be called Beulah—for as a young man marries a virgin so shall her sons marry her. “I will place you in your own land,” is God’s promise to them. They shall again walk upon her mountains, shall once more sit under her vines and rejoice under her fig trees!

And they are also to be reunited. There shall not be two, nor ten, nor twelve, but one—one Israel praising one God—serving one king and that one King the Son of David, the descended Messiah! They are to have a national prosperity which shall make them famous. No, so glorious shall they be that Egypt and Tyre and Greece and Rome shall all forget their glory in the greater splendor of the throne of David! The day shall yet come when all the high hills shall leap with envy because this is the hill which God has chosen! The time shall come when Zion’s shrine shall again be visited by the constant feet of the pilgrim—when her valleys shall echo with songs and her hilltops shall drop with wine and oil.

If there is meaning in words this must be the meaning of this chapter! I wish never to learn the art of tearing God’s meaning out of His own Words. If there is anything clear and plain, the literal sense and meaning of this passage—a meaning not to be spirited or spiritualized away—it must be evident that both the two and the ten tribes of Israel are to be restored to their own land and that a king is to rule over them. “Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen where they are gone and will gather them on every side and bring them into their own land: and I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel. And one king shall be king to them all.

J.C. Ryle: Our Talent On Loan From God

May 21, 2011 Leave a comment

From “Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Matthew.” Text:  Matthew 25:14-30

Anything whereby we may glorify God is a talent. Our gifts, our influence, our money, our knowledge, our health, our strength, our time, our senses, our reason, our intellect, our memory, our affections, our privileges as members of Christ’s Church, our advantages as possessors of the Bible–all, all are talents. Whence came these things? What hand bestowed them? Why are we what we are? Why are we not the worms that crawl on the earth? There is only one answer to these questions. All that we have is a loan from God. We are God’s stewards. We are God’s debtors. Let this thought sink deeply into our hearts.

Spurgeon: The Christian Duty to Praise God

May 14, 2011 Leave a comment

From Spurgeon sermon #205, A Lecture For Little Faith:

“We are bound to thank God always for you, Brethren, as it is fitting.” Whether we shall praise God or not, is not left to our opinion. Although the Commandments say not, “You shall praise the Lord,” yet praise is God’s most righteous due and every man, as a partaker of God’s bounty, and especially every Christian, is bound to praise God, as it is fitting. It is true we have no authoritative rubric for daily praise. We have no commandment left on record especially prescribing certain hours of song and thanksgiving. But still the law written upon the heart teaches us with Divine Authority that it is right to praise God. And this unwritten mandate has as much power and authority about it as if it had been recorded on the tablets of stone, or handed to us from the top of thundering Sinai! The Christian’s duty is to praise God.

Think not, you who are always mourning, that you are guiltless in that respect! Imagine not that you can discharge your duty to your God without songs of praise. It is your duty to praise Him! You are bound by the bonds of His love as long as you live to bless His name! It is fitting and comely that you should do so. It is not only a pleasurable exercise, but it is the absolute duty of the Christian life to praise God! This is taught us in the text—“We are bound to thank God always for you, Brethren, as it is fitting.” Let not your harps, then, hang upon the willows, you mourning children of the Lord. It is your duty to strike them and bring forth their loudest music. It is sinful if you cease from praising God—you are blessed in order that you may bless Him! And if you do not praise God, you are not bringing forth the fruit which He, as the Divine Husbandman, may well expect at your hands. Go forth then, you sons of God, and chant His praise! With every morning’s dawn lift up your notes of thanksgiving—and every evening let the setting sun be followed with your song! Girdle the earth with your praises! Surround it with an atmosphere of melody. So shall God Himself look down from Heaven and accept your praises as like in kind, though not equal in degree, to the praises of cherubim and seraphim.

How to Keep the Heart: Lessons From Charles Spurgeon

May 9, 2011 Leave a comment

Proverbs 4:23 is often mentioned as one of the key verses in Proverbs:  Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.  Dan Philips at the Pyromaniacs blog, for instance, has noted that the real issue isn’t necessarily our mouth and our speech, but the heart and what flows out from it.

Some of my recent Spurgeon reading included a set of two sermons delivered on the same day in 1858 (the morning and evening services), “The Great Reservoir” and “How to Keep the Heart.”    In the first of these messages Spurgeon used a metaphor of the city’s waterwork system, a great way to illustrate the important things necessary for London’s 19th century public water system — and needful in our own lives as well.  Following are the ways to keep the heart:

I.  Keep the Heart Full:  continually draw your life and whole being from God, in communion with him:

A full-hearted man is always a powerful man—if he is erroneous, then he is powerful for error. If the thing is in his heart, he is sure to make it notorious even though it may be a downright lie! Let a man be ever so ignorant, still if his heart is full of love to a cause, he becomes a powerful man for that objective because he has got heart-power, heart-force! … Let him have a heart that is right full up to the brim with an objective and that man will do the thing, or else he will die gloriously defeated and will glory in his defeat! HEART IS POWER. It is the emptiness of men’s hearts that makes them so feeble. But the man in business that goes heart and soul into his business is more likely to prosper than anybody else.

How are we to do this?  Spurgeon includes the following advice:

If you continually draw your impulse, your life—the whole of your being from the Holy Spirit, without whom you can do nothing—and if you live in close communion with Christ—there will be no fear of your having a dry heart! He who lives without prayer—he who lives with little prayer—he who seldom reads the Word—he who seldom looks up to Heaven for a fresh influence from on high—he will be the man whose heart will become dry and barren! But he who calls in secret on his God—who spends much time in holy retirement—who delights to meditate on the Words of the Most High—whose soul is given up to Christ—who delights in His fullness, rejoices in His all-sufficiency, prays for His second coming and delights in the thought of His glorious advent—such a man, I say, must have an overflowing heart!

II.  Keep the Heart Pure:  the cross is what keeps our hearts pure.

Love your Savior more! Cry to the Holy Spirit that you may have more affection for Jesus! And then, however terrible may be your sin, you will say with the poet,  “Now for the love I bear His name, What was my gain I count my loss.  My former pride I call my shame, And nail my glory to His Cross.”

III. Keep Your Heart Peaceable and Quiet

Keep your heart in good temper. Do not let that get to fighting with you. Seek that the peace of God which passes all understanding may keep your heart and mind through Christ Jesus. Bend your knees at night and with a full confession of sin express your faith in Christ. Then you may “dread the grave as little as your bed.” Rise in the morning and give your heart to God and put the sweet angels of perfect love and holy faith therein and you may go into the world and were it full of lions and of tigers, you would no more need to dread it than Daniel when he was cast into the lion’s den! Keep the heart peaceable and your life will be happy.

Peaceable:  we must ask the Holy Spirit to pacify the heart. No voice but that which on Galilee’s lake said to the storm, “Be still,” can ever lay the troubled waters of a stormy heart. No strength but Omnipotence can still the tempest of human nature.

IV.  Keep Your Heart Undivided:

You must not give half your love to Christ and the other half to the world. No man can serve God and mammon because there is not enough life in the heart to serve the two. Alas, many people try this and they fail both ways. … Give yourself unreservedly to Him! Keep not back part of the price. Make a full surrender of every motion of your heart—labor to have but one objective and one aim. And for this purpose give God the keeping of your heart. Cry out for more of the Divine influences of the Holy Spirit so that when your soul is preserved and protected by Him, it may be directed into one channel and only one —that your life may run deep and pure and clear and peaceful—its only banks being God’s will, its only channel the love of Christ and a desire to please Him!

V.  Keep Your Heart Full of Rich Things:

Never, never neglect the Word of God that will make your heart rich with precept, rich with understanding! And then your conversation, when it flows from your month, will be like your heart—rich and savory. Make your heart full of rich, generous love and then the stream that flows from your hands will be just as rich and generous as your heart. Above all, get Jesus to live in your heart and then out of your belly shall flow rivers of living water—more rich, more satisfying than the water of the well of Sychar of which Jacob drank. Oh, go, Christian, to the great mine of riches and cry unto the Holy Spirit to make your heart rich unto salvation! So shall your life and conversation be a gift to your fellows.

J.C. Ryle: Taking Up Your Cross

May 7, 2011 Leave a comment

From J.C. Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Matthew, text:  Matthew 16:24-28:

Let us learn, in the last place, that the second coming of Christ is the time when His people shall receive their rewards. “The Son of Man will come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then he will render to everyone according to his deeds.”

There is deep wisdom in this saying of our Lord’s, when viewed in connection with the preceding verses. He knows the heart of a man. He knows how soon we are ready to be cast down, and like Israel of old to be “discouraged by the difficulties of the way.” He therefore holds out to us a gracious promise. He reminds us that He has yet to come a second time, as surely as He came the first time. He tells us that this is the time when His disciples shall receive their good things. There will be glory, honor, and reward in abundance one day for all who have served and loved Jesus. But it is to be in the dispensation of the second advent, and not of the first. The bitter must come before the sweet, the cross before the crown. The first advent is the dispensation of the crucifixion. The second advent is the dispensation of the kingdom. We must submit to take part with our Lord in His humiliation, if we mean ever to share in his glory.

We have heard of the necessity of taking up the cross, and denying ourselves. Have we taken it up, and are we carrying it daily? We have heard of the value of the soul. Do we live as if we believed it? We have heard of Christ’s second advent. Do we look forward to it with hope and joy? Happy is that man who can give a satisfactory answer to these questions.

Spurgeon: What is Done on Earth is Known in Heaven

April 30, 2011 Leave a comment

From Spurgeon sermon #203, The Sympathy of the Two Worlds:

But I have no doubt, Beloved, the thought has sometimes struck us that our praise does not go far enough. We seem as if we dwelt in an isle cut off from the mainland. This world, like a fair planet, swims in a sea of ether unnavigated by mortal ship. We have sometimes thought that surely our praise was confined to the shores of this poor narrow world— that it was impossible for us to pull the ropes which might ring the bells of Heaven—that we could by no means whatever reach our hands so high as to sweep the celestial chords of angelic harps! We have said to ourselves there is no connection between earth and Heaven. A huge black wall divides us. A strait of unnavigable waters shuts us out. Our prayers cannot reach to Heaven, neither can our praises affect the celestials. Let us learn from our text how mistaken we are! We are, after all, however much we seem to be shut out from Heaven and from the great universe but a province of God’s vast united empire and what is done on earth is known in Heaven! What is sung on earth is sung in Heaven! And there is a sense in which it is true that the tears of earth are wept again in Paradise and the sorrows of mankind are felt again, even on the Throne of the Most High.

J.C. Ryle: The Workers in the Vineyard

April 23, 2011 Leave a comment

J.C. Ryle, from Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Matthew.

Text:  Matthew 20:1-16  (The parable of the workers in the vineyard hired at different hours of the day.)

Let us beware of supposing, from this parable, that the distinction between Jews and Gentiles is entirely done away by the Gospel. To suppose this is to contradict many plain prophecies, both of the Old Testament and New. In the matter of justification, there is no distinction between the believing Jew and the Greek. Yet Israel is still a special people, and not “numbered among the nations.” God has many purposes concerning the Jews, which are yet to be fulfilled.

Let us beware of supposing, from this parable, that all saved souls will have the same degree of glory. To suppose this, is to contradict many plain texts of Scripture. The title of all believers no doubt is the same–the righteousness of Christ. But all will not have the same place in heaven. “Every man shall receive his own reward, according to his own labor.” (1 Cor. 3:8.)