Category Archives: Repentance

“At the time when He Himself was dying, He conferred on a sinner eternal life” by J.C. Ryle

“First of all you are meant to learn from these verses Christ’s power and willingness to save sinners. This is the main doctrine to be gathered from the history of the penitent thief. It teaches you that which ought to be music in the ears of all who hear it,—it teaches you that Jesus Christ is mighty to save.

I ask you if any man’s case could look more hopeless and desperate, than that of this penitent thief once did?

He was a wicked man—a malefactor,—a thief, if not a murderer. We know this, for such only were crucified. He was suffering a just punishment for breaking the laws. And as he had lived wicked, so he seemed determined to die wicked,—for when he first was crucified he railed on our Lord.

And he was a dying man. He hung there, nailed to a cross, from which he was never to come down alive. He had no longer power to stir hand or foot. His hours were numbered. The grave was ready for him. There was but a step between him and death.

If ever there was a soul hovering on the brink of hell, it was the soul of this thief. If ever there was a case that seemed lost, gone, and past recovery, it was his. If ever there was a child of Adam whom the devil made sure of as his own, it was this man.

But see now what happened. He ceased to rail and blaspheme, as he had done at the first. He began to speak in another manner altogether. He turned to our blessed Lord in prayer. He prayed Jesus to ‘remember him when He came into His kingdom.’ He asked that his soul might be cared for, his sins pardoned, and himself thought of in another world. Truly this was a wonderful change.

And then mark what kind of answer he received. Some would have said he was too wicked a man to be saved. But it was not so. Some would have fancied it was too late, the door was shut, and there was no room for mercy. But it proved not too late at all.

The Lord Jesus returned him an immediate answer,—spoke kindly to him,—assured him he should be with Him that day in paradise,—pardoned him completely—cleansed him thoroughly from his sins—received him graciously—justified him freely—raised him from the gates of hell,—gave him a title to glory.

Of all the multitude of saved souls, none ever received so glorious an assurance of his own salvation, as did this penitent thief. Go over the whole list from Genesis to Revelation, and you will find none who had such words spoken to them as these, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

Reader, the Lord Jesus never gave so complete a proof of His power and will to save, as He did upon this occasion. In the day when He seemed most weak, He showed that he was a strong deliverer. In the hour when his body was racked with pain, He showed that He could feel tenderly for others. At the time when He Himself was dying, he conferred on a sinner eternal life.

Now have I not a right to say, “Jesus is able to save to the uttermost all them that come unto God through Him?” Behold the proof of it. If ever sinner was too far gone to be saved, it was this thief. Yet he was plucked as a brand from the fire.

Have I not a right to say. “Christ will receive any poor sinner who comes to Him with the prayer of faith, and cast out none?” Behold the proof of it. If ever there was one that seemed too bad to be received, this was the man. Yet the door of mercy was wide open even for him.

Have I not a right to say, “By grace ye may be saved through faith, not of works,—fear not, only believe?” Behold the proof of it. This thief was never baptized. He belonged to no visible church. He never received the Lord’s Supper. He never did any work for Christ. He never gave money to Christ’s cause,—But he had faith, and so he was saved.

Have I not a right to say, “The youngest faith will save a man’s soul, if it only be true?” Behold the proof of it. This man’s faith was only one day old, but it led him to Christ, and preserved him from hell.

Why then should any man or woman despair with such a passage as this in the Bible? Jesus is a physician who can cure hopeless cases. He can quicken dead souls, and call the things which be not as though they were.

Never should any man or woman despair! Jesus is still the same now that He was eighteen hundred years ago. The keys of death and hell are in His hand. When He opens none can shut.*

What though your sins be more in number than the hairs of your head? What though your evil habits have grown with your growth, and strengthened with your strength? What though you have hitherto hated good, and loved evil, all the days of your life?

These things are sad indeed; but there is hope even for you. Christ can heal you. Christ can cleanse you. Christ can raise you from your low estate. Heaven is not shut against you. Christ is able to admit you, if you will humbly commit your soul into His hands.

Reader, are your sins forgiven? If not, I set before you this day a full and free salvation. I invite you to follow the steps of the penitent thief,—come to Christ, and live. I tell you that Jesus is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. I tell you He can do everything that your soul requires. Though your sins be as scarlet, He can make them white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. Why should you not be saved as well as another? Come unto Christ by faith, and live.

Reader, are you a true believer? If you are, you ought to glory in Christ. Glory not in your own faith, your own feelings, your own knowledge, your own prayers, your own amendment, your own diligence. Glory in nothing but Christ. Alas! the best of us knows but little of that merciful and mighty Saviour. We do not exalt Him and glory in Him enough. Let us pray that we may see more of the fulness there is in Him.

Reader, do you ever try to do good to others? If you do, remember to tell them about Christ. Tell the young, tell the poor, tell the aged, tell the ignorant, tell the sick, tell the dying,—tell them all about Christ. Tell them of His power, and tell them of His love. Tell them of His doings, and tell them of His feelings. Tell them of what He has done for the chief of sinners. Tell them what He is willing to do to the last day of time. Tell it them over and over again.

Never be tired of speaking of Christ. Say to them broadly and fully, freely and unconditionally, unreservedly and undoubtingly, ‘Come unto Christ as the penitent thief did,—come unto Christ, and you shall be saved.'”

–J.C. Ryle, Living or Dead? A Series of Home Truths (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1851), 258–265.

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“Look for Christ and you will find Him” by C.S. Lewis

“Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life.

Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead.

Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ, and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

–C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Harper Collins, 1952/2001), 226-227.

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“Jesus can understand you” by J.C. Ryle

“If any reader of this paper desires salvation, and wants to know what to do, I advise him to go this very day to the Lord Jesus Christ, in the first private place he can find, and entreat Him in prayer to save his soul.

Tell Him that you have heard that He receives sinners, and has said, ‘Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out.’ (John 6:37.)

Tell Him that you are a poor vile sinner, and that you come to Him on the faith of His own invitation.

Tell Him you put yourself wholly and entirely in His hands,—that you feel vile and helpless, and hopeless in yourself,—and that except He saves you, you have no hope to be saved at all.

Beseech Him to deliver you from the guilt, the power, and the consequences of sin.

Beseech Him to pardon you and wash you in His own blood.

Beseech Him to give you a new heart, and plant the Holy Spirit in your soul.

Beseech Him to give you grace, and faith, and will, and power to be His disciple and servant from this day for ever.

Yes: go this very day, and tell these things to the Lord Jesus Christ, if you really are in earnest about your soul.

Tell Him in your own way and your own words. If a doctor came to see you when sick you could tell him where you felt pain. If your soul really feels its disease you can surely find something to tell Christ.

Doubt not His willingness to save you, because you are a sinner. It is Christ’s office to save sinners. He says Himself, ‘I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’ (Luke 5:32.)

Wait not, because you feel unworthy. Wait for nothing: wait for nobody. Waiting comes from the devil.

Just as you are, go to Christ. The worse you are, the more need you have to apply to Him. You will never mend yourself by staying away.

Fear not because your prayer is stammering, your words feeble, and your language poor. Jesus can understand you.

Just as a mother understands the first babblings of her infant, so does the blessed Saviour understand sinners. He can read a sigh, and see a meaning in a groan.

Despair not, because you do not get an answer immediately. While you are speaking, Jesus is listening. If He delays an answer, it is only for wise reasons, and to try if you are in earnest.

Pray on, and the answer will surely come. Though it tarry, wait for it: it will surely come at last.

If you have any desire to be saved, remember the advice I have given you this day. Act upon it honestly and heartily, and you shall be saved.”

–J.C. Ryle, Practical Religion: Being Plain Papers on the Daily Duties, Experience, Dangers, and Privileges of Professing Christians (London: Charles Murray, 1900), 85–86.

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“Beware of the cares of this world” by J.C. Ryle

“The third caution contained in the parable of the sower is to beware of the cares of this world. Our Lord tells us that the hearts of many hearers of the word are like thorny ground. The seed of the word, when sown upon them, is choked by the multitude of other things, by which their affections are occupied.

They have no objection to the doctrines and requirements of the Gospel. They even wish to believe and obey them. But they allow the things of earth to get such hold upon their minds, that they leave no room for the word of God to do its work.

And hence it follows that however many sermons they hear, they seem nothing bettered by them. A weekly process of truth-stifling goes on within. They bring no fruit to perfection.

The things of this life form one of the greatest dangers which beset a Christian’s path. The money, the pleasures, the daily business of the world, are so many traps to catch souls.

Thousands of things, which in themselves are innocent, become, when followed to excess, little better than soul-poisons, and helps to hell. Open sin is not the only thing that ruins souls.

In the midst of our families, and in the pursuit of our lawful callings, we have need to be on our guard. Except we watch and pray, these temporal things may rob us of heaven, and smother every sermon we hear. We may live and die thorny-ground hearers.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (vol. 1; New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 1: 252–253. Ryle is commenting on Luke 8:4-15.

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“Let us pray for our children” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us see, furthermore, in this mighty miracle, a lively emblem of Christ’s power to quicken the dead in sins. In Him is life. He quickeneth whom He will. (John 5:21.)

He can raise to a new life souls that now seem dead in worldliness and sin. He can say to hearts that now appear corrupt and lifeless, ‘Arise to repentance, and live in the service of God.’

Let us never despair of any soul. Let us pray for our children, and faint not. Our young men and our young women may long seem travelling on the way to ruin.

But let us pray on. Who can tell but He that met the funeral at the gates of Nain may yet meet our unconverted children, and say with almighty power, ‘Young man, arise.’

With Christ nothing is impossible.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 1: 211. Ryle is commenting on Luke 7:11-17.

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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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“He is worth more than a thousand worlds” by Thomas Brooks

“Sinners, don’t you deceive your own souls: sin and your souls must part, or Christ and your souls can never meet. Sin and your souls must be two, or Christ and your souls can never be one.

Christ is a most precious commodity; He is better than rubies, Prov. 8:11, or the most costly pearls. And you must part with your old gold, with your shining gold, your old sins, your most shining sins, or you must perish forever.

Christ is to be sought and bought with any pains, at any price. We cannot buy this gold too dear. He is a jewel worth more than a thousand worlds, as all know that have Him. Get Him, and get all; miss Him and miss all.”

–Thomas Brooks, “The Unsearchable Riches of Christ,” in The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 3, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1866), 203.

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