“These things are inseparable. Gospel truth is the only root whereon gospel holiness will grow.”
–John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Volume 7: Sin and Grace (ed. William H. Goold; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1850-53/1997), 7: 188.
“Let us settle deeply in our minds this great truth, that Jesus Christ was verily and indeed Man. He was equal to the Father in all things, and the eternal God.
But He was also Man, and took part of flesh and blood, and was made like unto us in all things, sin only excepted. He had a body like our own. Like us, He was born of a woman. Like us, He grew and increased in stature. Like us, He was often hungry and thirsty, and faint and weary. Like us, He ate and drank, rested and slept. Like us, He sorrowed, and wept, and felt. It is all very wonderful, but so it is.
He that made the heavens went to and fro as a poor weary Man on earth! He that ruled over principalities and powers in heavenly places, took on Him a frail body like our own. He that might have dwelt forever in the glory which He had with the Father, amidst the praises of legions of angels, came down to earth and dwelt as a Man among sinful men. Surely this fact alone is an amazing miracle of condescension, grace, pity, and love.
I find a deep mine of comfort in this thought, that Jesus is perfect Man no less than perfect God. He in whom I am told by Scripture to trust is not only a great High Priest, but a feeling High Priest. He is not only a powerful Saviour, but a sympathizing Saviour. He is not only the Son of God, mighty to save, but the Son of man, able to feel.
Who does not know that sympathy is one of the sweetest things left to us in this sinful world? It is one of the bright seasons in our dark journey here below, when we can find a person who enters into our troubles, and goes along with us in our anxieties,—who can weep when we weep, and rejoice when we rejoice. Sympathy is far better than money, and far rarer too.
Thousands can give who know not what it is to feel. Sympathy has the greatest power to draw us and to open our hearts. Proper and correct counsel often falls dead and useless on a heavy heart. Cold advice often makes us shut up, shrink, and withdraw into ourselves, when tendered in the day of trouble.
But genuine sympathy in such a day will call out all our better feelings, if we have any, and obtain an influence over us when nothing else can. Give me the friend who, though poor in gold and silver, has always ready a sympathizing heart.
Our God knows all this well. He knows the very secrets of man’s heart. He knows the ways by which that heart is most easily approached, and the springs by which that heart is most readily moved. He has wisely provided that the Saviour of the Gospel should be feeling as well as mighty.
He has given us one who has not only a strong hand to pluck us as brands from the burning, but a sympathizing heart on which the labouring and heavy laden may find rest. I see a marvellous proof of love and wisdom in the union of two natures in Christ’s person.
It was marvellous love in our Saviour to condescend to go through weakness and humiliation for our sakes, ungodly rebels as we are. It was marvellous wisdom to fit Himself in this way to be the very Friend of friends, who could not only save man, but meet him on his own ground.
I want one able to perform all things needful to redeem my soul. This Jesus can do, for He is the eternal Son of God. I want one able to understand my weakness and infirmities, and to deal gently with my soul, while tied to a body of death. This again Jesus can do, for He was the Son of man, and had flesh and blood like my own.
Had my Saviour been God only, I might perhaps have trusted Him, but I never could have come near to Him without fear. Had my Saviour been Man only, I might have loved Him, but I never could have felt sure that He was able to take away my sins. But, blessed be God, my Saviour is God as well as Man, and Man, as well as God,—God, and so able to deliver me,—Man, and so able to feel with me.
Almighty power and deepest sympathy meet together in one glorious person, Jesus Christ, my Lord. Surely a believer in Christ has a strong consolation. He may well trust, and not be afraid.
If any reader of this paper knows what it is to go to the throne of grace for mercy and pardon, let him never forget that the Mediator by whom he draws near to God is the Man Christ Jesus.”
–J.C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots (Moscow, ID: Charles Nolan Publishers, 1877/2001), 238-239.
“The more the Church is distinct from the world in her acts and in her maxims, the more true is her testimony for Christ, and the more potent is her witness against sin.
We are sent into this world to testify against evils; but if we dabble in them ourselves, where is our testimony? If we ourselves be found faulty, we are false witnesses; we are not sent of God; our testimony is of none effect.
I do not hesitate to say there are tens of thousands of professing Christians, whose testimony before the world is rather injurious than beneficial. The world looks at them, and says, ‘Well, I see: you can be a Christian, and yet remain a rogue.’
‘Ah!’ says another, ‘you can be a Christian, I perceive; but then you will have to be doleful and miserable.’
‘Ah!’ cries another, ‘these Christians like to drink sin in secret behind the door. Their Christianity lies in not liking to sin openly; but they can devour a widow’s house when nobody is looking on; they can be drunkards, only it must be in a very small party; they would not like to be discovered tipsy where there were a hundred eyes to look at them.’
Now, what is all that? It is just this,—that the world has found out that the Church visible is not the unmixed Church of Christ, since it is not true to its principles, and does not stand up for the uprightness and integrity which are the marks of the genuine church of God.
Many Christians forget that they are bearing a testimony: they do not think that anybody notices them. Ay, but they do. There are no people so much watched as Christians.
The world reads us up, from the first letter of our lives to the end; and if they can find a flaw—and, God forgive us, they may find very many—they are sure to magnify the flaw as much as ever they can.
Let us therefore be very watchful, that we live close to Christ, that we walk in his commandments always, that the world may see that the Lord hath put a difference.
But now I have a very sad thing to say—I wish that I could withhold it, but I cannot. Unless, brothers and sisters, you make it your daily business to see that there is a difference between you and the world, you will do more hurt than you can possibly do good.
The Church of Christ is at this day accountable for many fearful sins. Let me mention one which is but the type of others.
By what means think you were the fetters rivetted on the wrist of our friend who sits there, a man like ourselves, though of a black skin?
It is the Church of Christ that keeps his brethren under bondage; if it were not for that Church, the system of slavery would go back to the hell from which it sprung.
If there were no slave floggers but men who are fit for so degrading an office, if there were not found Christian ministers who can apologise for slavery from the pulpit, and church members who sell the children of nobler beings than themselves, if it were not for this, then Africa would be free.
Albert Barnes spoke right truly when he said slavery could not exist for an hour if it were not for the countenance of the Christian Church.
But what does the slaveholder say when you tell him that to hold our fellow-creatures in bondage is a sin, and a damnable one, inconsistent with grace?
He replies, ‘I do not believe your slanders; look at the Bishop of So-and-so, or the minister of such-and-such a place, is not he a good man, and does not he whine out ‘Cursed be Canaan?’ Does not he quote Philemon and Onesimus? Does he not go and talk Bible, and tell his slaves that they ought to feel very grateful for being his slaves, for God Almighty made them on purpose that they might enjoy the rare privilege of being cowhided by a Christian master. Don’t tell me,’ he says, ‘if the thing were wrong, it would not have the Church on its side.’
And so Christ’s free Church bought with His blood, must bear the shame of cursing Africa, and keeping her sons in bondage.
From this evil, good Lord deliver us.
If Manchester merchants and Liverpool traders have a share in this guilt, at least let the Church be free of this hell-filling crime.
Men have tried hard to make the Bible support this sum of all villanies, but slavery, the thing which defiles the Great Republic, such slavery is quite unknown to the Word of God, and by the laws of the Jews it was impossible that it ever could exist.
I have known men quote texts as excuses for being damned, and I do not wonder that men can find Scripture to justify them in buying and selling the souls of men.
And what think you is it, to come home to our own land, that props up the system of trade that is carried on among us?
I would not speak too severely of Christ’s Church, for I love her; but because I love her I must therefore utter this.
Our being so much like the world, our trading as the world trades, our talking as the world talks, our always insisting upon it that we must do as other people do, this is doing more mischief to the world, than all our preachers can hope to effect good.
‘Come ye out from among them; touch not the unclean thing, be ye separate, saith the Lord, and I will be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters.'”