“Rejoice continually in Jesus” by John Newton

“Blessed be God, though we must feel hourly cause for shame and humiliation for what we are in ourselves, we have cause to rejoice continually in Christ Jesus.

He is revealed unto us under the various names, characters, relations, and offices, which He bears in the Scripture, and He holds out to our faith a balm for every wound, a cordial for every discouragement, and a sufficient answer to every objection which sin or Satan can suggest against our peace.

If we are guilty, He is our Righteousness. If we are sick, He is our infallible Physician. If we are weak, helpless, and defenceless, He is the compassionate and faithful Shepherd who has taken charge of us. And He will not suffer any thing to disappoint our hopes, or to separate us from His love.

He knows our frame, He remembers that we are but dust, and He has engaged to guide us by His counsel, support us by His power, and at length, to receive us to His glory, that we may be with Him for ever.”

–John Newton, “Letter III,” in The Works of the John Newton, Volume 1, Ed. Richard Cecil (London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1824), 439.

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“God’s goodness is His glory” by Stephen Charnock

“The goodness of God is the most pleasant perfection of the Divine nature.

His creating power amazes us. His conducting wisdom astonisheth us. His goodness, as furnishing us with all conveniences, delights us and renders both His amazing power, and astonishing wisdom, delightful to us.

Just as the sun, by effecting things, is an emblem of God’s power, so also by discovering things to us, it is an emblem of His wisdom. But by refreshing and comforting us, the sun is an emblem of His goodness.

And without this refreshing virtue it communicates to us, we should take no pleasure in the creatures it produceth, nor in the beauties it discovers.

As God is great and powerful, He is the object of our understanding. But as good and bountiful, He is the object of our love and desire.

The goodness of God comprehends all His attributes. All the acts of God are nothing else but the streams of His goodness, distinguished by several names, according to the objects it is exercised about.

As the sea, though it be one mass of water, yet we distinguish it by several names, according to the shores it washeth, and beats upon. When Moses longed to see His glory, God tells him, He would give him a prospect of His goodness (Ex. 33:19): ‘I will make all My goodness to pass before thee.’

His goodness is His glory and Godhead, as much as is delightfully visible to His creatures, and whereby He doth benefit man: ‘I will cause My goodness,’ or ‘comeliness,’ as Calvin renders it, ‘to pass before thee.’

What is this, but the train of all His lovely perfections springing from His goodness? The whole catalogue of mercy, grace, long-suffering, abundance of truth, summed up in this one word (Ex. 34:6). All are streams from this fountain. He could be none of this, were He not first good.

When it confers happiness without merit, it is grace.

When it bestows happiness against merit, it is mercy.

When he bears with provoking rebels, it is long-suffering.

When he performs His promise, it is truth.

When it meets with a person to whom it is not obliged, it is grace.

When He meets with a person in the world, to which He hath obliged himself by promise, it is truth.

When it commiserates a distressed person, it is pity.

When it supplies an indigent person, it is bounty.

When it succors an innocent person, it is righteousness.

And when it pardons a penitent person, it is mercy. All summed up in this one name of goodness.

And the Psalmist expresseth the same sentiment in the same words (Psalm 145:7, 8): ‘They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy righteousness. The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger, and of great mercy; the Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over his works.’

He is first good, and then compasssionate. Righteousness is often in Scripture taken, not for justice, but charitableness. This attribute, saith one, is so full of God, that it doth deify all the rest, and verify the adorableness of Him.

His wisdom might contrive against us, His power bear too hard upon us. One might be too hard for an ignorant, and the other too mighty for an impotent creature.

His holiness would scare an impure and guilty creature, but His goodness conducts them all for us, and makes them all amiable to us.

Whatever comeliness they have in the eye of a creature, whatever comfort they afford to the heart of a creature, we are obliged for all to His goodness. This puts all the rest upon a delightful exercise.

This makes His wisdom design for us, and this makes His power to act for us. This veils His holiness from affrighting us, and this spirits His mercy to relieve us.

All His acts towards man, are but the workmanship of this. What moved Him at first to create the world out of nothing, and erect so noble a creature as man, endowed with such excellent gifts? Was it not His goodness?

What made Him separate His Son to be a sacrifice for us, after we had endeavored to erase the first marks of His favor? Was it not a strong bubbling of goodness?

What moves Him to reduce a fallen creature to the due sense of his duty, and at last bring him to an eternal felicity? Is it not, only His goodness?

This is the captain attribute that leads the rest to act. This attends them, and spirits them in all His ways of acting. This is the complement and perfection of all His works.

Had it not been for this, which set all the rest on work, nothing of His wonders would have been seen in creation, nothing of His compassions would have been seen in redemption.”

–Stephen Charnock, “Discourse XII: On the Goodness of God,” in The Existence and Attributes of God, Vol. 2 (Robert Carter & Brothers, 1853), 219-220.

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“Don’t be like a block of wood” by John Calvin

“It was very suitable for Solomon, who was endued with the spirit of wisdom in the affairs of government, to discourse of things which he knew and had experience about. In affirming that God governs the world and the life of man, he does so for two reasons.

First, whatever prosperous event may fall out to men, their ingratitude is instantly manifested by their ascribing it wholly to themselves. And thus God is defrauded of the honor which is His due.

Solomon, to correct such a perverse error, declares, that nothing happens prosperously to us except in so far as God blesses our proceedings.

Secondly, his purpose was to beat down the foolish presumption of men, who, setting God aside, are not afraid to undertake to do anything, whatever it may be, in exclusive reliance upon their own wisdom and strength.

Stripping them, therefore, of that which they groundlessly arrogate to themselves, he exhorts them to modesty and the invocation of God. He does not, however, reject either the labor, the enterprises, or the counsels of men. For it is a praiseworthy virtue diligently to discharge the duties of our office.

It is not the will of the Lord that we should be like blocks of wood, or that we should keep our arms folded without doing anything, but that we should apply to use all the talents and advantages which he has conferred upon us.

It is indeed true that the greatest part of our labors proceeds from the curse of God. And yet although men had still retained the integrity of their primitive state, God would have had us to be employed, even as we see how Adam was placed in the garden of Eden to dress it. (Genesis 2:15.)

Solomon, therefore, does not condemn watchfulness, a thing which God approves. He does not codemn men’s labor, by which when they undertake it willingly, according to the commandment of God, they offer to Him all acceptable sacrifice.

But lest, blinded by presumption, they should forcibly appropriate to themselves that which belongs to God, he admonishes them that their being busily occupied will profit them nothing, except in so far as God blesses their exertions.”

–John Calvin, Commentary on the Psalms, Volume 5 in Calvin’s Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 104-105. Calvin is commenting on Psalm 127:1.

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“A sympathizing Saviour” by J.C. Ryle

“A special faith in our Lord Jesus Christ’s person, work, and office, is the life, heart, and mainspring of the Christian soldier’s character.

He sees by faith an unseen Saviour, who loved him, gave Himself for him, paid his debts for him, bore his sins, carried his transgressions, rose again for him, and appears in heaven for him as his Advocate at the right hand of God.

He sees Jesus, and clings to Him. Seeing this Saviour and trusting in Him, he feels peace and hope, and willingly does battle against the foes of his soul.

He sees his own many sins,—his weak heart, a tempting world, a busy devil; and if he looked only at them he might well despair.

But he sees also a mighty Saviour, an interceding Saviour, a sympathizing Saviour,—His blood, His righteousness, His everlasting priesthood,—and he believes that all this is his own.

He sees Jesus, and casts his whole weight on Him. Seeing Him he cheerfully fights on, with a full confidence that he will prove ‘more than conqueror through Him that loved him.’ (Rom. 8:37)”

–J.C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots (London: William Hunt and Company, 1889), 84.

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“Become a disciple first” by Martin Luther

“In holy and divine matters one must first hear rather than see, first believe rather than understand, first be grasped rather than grasp, first be captured rather than capture, first learn rather than teach, first be a disciple rather than a teacher and master of his own.

We have an ear so that we may submit to others, and eyes that we may take care of others. Therefore, whoever in the church wants to become an eye and a leader and master of others, let him become an ear and a disciple first. This first.

The one who has not been tempted, what kind of things does he know? One who has not had experience, what kind of things does he know?

One who does not from experience know what temptations are like, will transmit not things that are known, but either things that are heard or seen, or, what is more dangerous, his own thoughts.

Therefore let him who wants to be sure and wants to counsel others faithfully first have some experience himself, first carry the cross himself and lead the way by his example, and so he will be made certain that he can also be of service to others.”

–Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 11: First Lectures on the Psalms II: Psalms 76-126, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1955), 245-246. Luther is commenting on Psalm 94:8.

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“Greater love than this cannot be shown” by J.C. Ryle

Christ’s love is an active, working love. Just as the shepherd did not sit still bewailing his lost sheep, and the woman did not sit still bewailing her lost money, so our blessed Lord did not sit still in heaven pitying sinners.

He left the glory which He had with the Father, and humbled Himself to be made in the likeness of man. He came down into the world to seek and save that which was lost.

He never rested till He had made atonement for our transgressions, brought in everlasting righteousness, provided eternal redemption, and opened a door of life to all who are willing to be saved.

Christ’s love is a self-denying love. The shepherd brought his lost sheep home on his own shoulders rather than leave it in the wilderness.

The woman lighted a candle, and swept the house, and searched diligently, and spared no pains, till she found her lost money.

And just so did Christ not spare Himself, when he undertook to save sinners. ‘He endured the cross, despising the shame.’ He ‘laid down His life for His friends.’ Greater love than this cannot be shown. (John 15:13. Heb. 12:2.)

Christ’s love is a deep and mighty love. Just as the shepherd rejoiced to find his sheep, and the woman to find her money, so does the Lord Jesus rejoice to save sinners. It is a real pleasure to Him to pluck them as brands from the burning.

It was His ‘meat and drink,’ when upon earth, to finish the work which He came to do. He felt straitened in spirit till it was accomplished. It is still His delight to show mercy. He is far more willing to save sinners than sinners are to be saved.

Let us strive to know something of this love of Christ. It is a love that truly passeth knowledge. It is unspeakable and unsearchable. It is that on which we must wholly rest our souls, if we would have peace in time and glory in eternity.

If we take comfort in our own love to Christ, we are building on a sandy foundation. But if we lean on Christ’s love to us, we are on a rock.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke, Vol. 2 (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 175-76. Ryle is commenting on Luke 15:1-10.

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“The almighty sympathy of Jesus” by J.C. Ryle

“We learn from this passage, that our Lord Jesus Christ is exceedingly patient and pitiful in dealing with His own people. We see the disciples on this occasion showing great want of faith, and giving way to most unseemly fears.

They forgot their Master’s miracles and care for them in days gone by. They thought of nothing but their present peril. They awoke our Lord hastily, and cried, ‘carest thou not that we perish?’

We see our Lord dealing most gently and tenderly with them. He gives them no sharp reproof. He makes no threat of casting them off, because of their unbelief. He simply asks the touching question, ‘Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?’

Let us mark well this lesson. The Lord Jesus is very pitiful and full of tender mercy. ‘As a father pitieth his children, even so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him.’ (Psalm 103:13)

He does not deal with believers according to their sins, nor reward them according to their iniquities. He sees their weakness. He is aware of their short-comings. He knows all the defects of their faith, and hope, and love, and courage.

And yet He will not cast them off. He bears with them continually. He loves them even to the end. He raises them when they fall. He restores them when they err.

His patience, like His love, is a patience that passeth knowledge. When He sees a heart right, it is His glory to pass over many a short-coming.

Let us leave these verses with the comfortable recollection that Jesus is not changed. His heart is still the same that it was when He crossed the sea of Galilee and stilled the storm.

High in heaven at the right hand of God, Jesus is still sympathizing,—still almighty,—still pitiful and still patient towards His people.

Let us be more charitable and patient towards our brethren in the faith. They may err in many things, but if Jesus has received them and can bear with them, surely we may bear with them too.

Let us be more hopeful about ourselves. We may be very weak, and frail, and unstable; but if we can truly say that we do come to Christ and believe on Him, we may take comfort.

The question for conscience to answer is not, ‘Are we like the angels? are we perfect as we shall be in heaven?’ The question is, ‘Are we real and true in our approaches to Christ? Do we truly repent and believe?’”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Mark (London: William Hunt, 1859), 85-87. Ryle is commenting on Mark 4:35-41. [HT: Nick Gardner]

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