Category Archives: Worldliness

“We are not many miles from home” by Samuel Rutherford

“Be not cast down in heart to hear that the world barketh at Christ’s strangers, both in Ireland and in this land; they do it because their Lord hath chosen them out of this world.

And this is one of our Lord’s reproaches, to be hated and ill-entreated by men. The silly stranger, in an uncouth country, must put up with a smoky inn and coarse cheer, a hard bed, and a barking, ill-tongued host.

It is not long to the day, and he will continue his journey upon the morrow, and leave them all. Indeed our fair morning is at hand, the day-star is near the rising, and we are not many miles from home.

What does it matter if we are mistreated in the smoky inns of this miserable life? We are not to stay here, and we will be dearly welcomed by Him to whom we go.

And I hope, when I shall see you clothed in white raiment, washed in the blood of the Lamb, and shall see you even at the elbow of your dearest Lord and Redeemer, and a crown upon your head, and following our Lamb and lovely Lord whithersoever He goeth,—you will think nothing of all these days.

And you shall then rejoice, and no man shall take your joy from you.”

–Samuel Rutherford, “Letter XXVI,” Letters of Samuel Rutherford (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1664/2012), 83-84.

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“The greatest evil” by C.S. Lewis

“I like bats much better than bureaucrats. I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of ‘Admin.’ The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid ‘dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint.

It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result.

But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice.

Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the offices of a thoroughly nasty business con­cern.”

–C.S. Lewis, “Preface to the 1961 Edition,” in The Screwtape Letters: Annotated Edition (New York: HarperCollins, 1942/1996), xxxvii.

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“Rejoice that your names are written heaven” by D.A. Carson

“The story is told of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, one of the most influential preachers of the twentieth century.

When he was dying of cancer, one of his friends and former associates asked him, in effect, ‘How are you managing to bear up? You have been accustomed to preaching several times a week. You have begun important Christian enterprises; your influence has extended through tapes and books to Christians on five continents. And now you have been put on the shelf. You are reduced to sitting quietly, sometimes managing a little editing. I am not so much asking therefore how you are coping with the disease itself. Rather, how are you coping with the stress of being out of the swim of things?’

Lloyd-Jones responded in the words of Luke 10: ‘[D]o not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven’ (10:20—though of course Lloyd-Jones would have cited the King James Version).

The quotation was remarkably apposite. The disciples have just returned from a trainee mission, and marvel that ‘even the demons submit to us in your name’ (10:17).

At one level, Jesus encourages them. He assures them that (in some visionary experience?) he has seen Satan fall like lightning from heaven (10:18). Apparently Jesus understands this trainee mission by his disciples as a sign, a way-stage, of Satan’s overthrow, accomplished in principle at the cross (cf. Rev. 12:9–12).

He tells his disciples that they will witness yet more astonishing things than these (Luke 10:18–19). ‘However,’ he adds (and then come the words quoted by Lloyd-Jones), ‘do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven’ (10:20).

It is so easy to rejoice in success. Our self-identity may become entangled with the fruitfulness of our ministry. Of course, that is dangerous when the success turns sour—but that is not the problem here.

Things could not be going better for Jesus’ disciples. And then the danger, of course, is that it is not God who is being worshiped. Our own wonderful acceptance by God himself no longer moves us, but only our apparent success.

This has been the sin of more than a few ‘successful’ pastors, and of no fewer ‘successful’ lay people. While proud of their orthodoxy and while entrusted with a valid mission, they have surreptitiously turned to idolizing something different: success.

Few false gods are so deceitful. When faced with such temptations, it is desperately important to rejoice for the best reasons—and there is none better than that our sins are forgiven, and that by God’s own gracious initiative our names have been written in heaven.”

–D.A. Carson, “February 24” in For the Love of God: a Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word (vol. 1; Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998), 55.

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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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“Bloodless, boneless, tasteless, colourless, lukewarm, undogmatic Christianity” by J.C. Ryle

“The times require at our hands distinct and decided views of Christian doctrine. I cannot withhold my conviction that the professing Church of the nineteenth century is as much damaged by laxity and indistinctness about matters of doctrine within, as it is by skeptics and unbelievers without.

Myriads of professing Christians now-a-days seem utterly unable to distinguish things that differ. Like people afflicted with colour-blindness, they are incapable of discerning what is true and what is false, what is sound and what is unsound.

If a preacher of religion is only clever and eloquent and earnest, they appear to think he is all right, however strange and heterogeneous his sermons may be. They are destitute of spiritual sense, apparently, and cannot detect error.

Popery or Protestantism, an atonement or no atonement, a personal Holy Ghost or no Holy Ghost, future punishment or no future punishment, High Church or Low Church or Broad Church, Trinitarianism, Arianism, or Unitarianism, nothing comes amiss to them: they can swallow all, if they cannot digest it!

Carried away by a fancied liberality and charity, they seem to think everybody is right and nobody is wrong, every clergyman is sound and none are unsound, everybody is going to be saved and nobody going to be lost.

Their religion is made up of negatives; and the only positive thing about them is, that they dislike distinctness, and think all extreme and decided and positive views are very naughty and very wrong!

These people live in a kind of mist or fog. They see nothing clearly, and do not know what they believe. They have not made up their minds about any great point in the Gospel, and seem content to be honorary members of all schools of thought.

For their lives they could not tell you what they think is truth about justification, or regeneration, or sanctification, or the Lord’s Supper, or baptism, or faith, or conversion, or inspiration, or the future state. They are eaten up with a morbid dread of CONTROVERSY and an ignorant dislike of PARTY SPIRIT.

And yet they really cannot define what they mean by these phrases. The only point you can make out is that they admire earnestness and cleverness and charity, and cannot believe that any clever, earnest, charitable man can ever be in the wrong!

And so they live on undecided; and too often undecided they drift down to the grave, without comfort in their religion, and, I am afraid, often without hope.
The explanation of this boneless, nerveless, jelly-fish condition of soul is not difficult to find.

To begin with, the heart of man is naturally in the dark about religion,—has no intuitive sense of truth,—and really NEEDS instruction and illumination. Besides this, the natural heart in most men hates exertion in religion, and cordially dislikes patient painstaking inquiry.

Above all, the natural heart generally likes the praise of others, shrinks from collision, and loves to be thought charitable and liberal. The whole result is that a kind of broad religious “agnosticism” just suits an immense number of people, and specially suits young persons.

They are content to shovel aside all disputed points as rubbish, and if you charge them with indecision, they will tell you,—“I do not pretend to understand controversy; I decline to examine controverted points. I daresay it is all the same in the long run.”

Who does not know that such people swarm and abound everywhere? Now I do beseech all who read this paper to beware of this undecided state of mind in religion. It is a pestilence which walketh in darkness, and a destruction that killeth in noon-day.

It is a lazy, idle frame of soul, which, doubtless, saves men the trouble of thought and investigation; but it is a frame of soul for which there is no warrant in the Bible, nor yet in the Articles or Prayer-book of the Church of England.

For your own soul’s sake dare to make up your mind what you believe, and dare to have positive distinct views of truth and error. Never, never be afraid to hold decided doctrinal opinions.

And let no fear of man and no morbid dread of being thought party-spirited, narrow, or controversial, make you rest contented with a bloodless, boneless, tasteless, colourless, lukewarm, undogmatic Christianity.

Mark what I say. If you want to do good in these times, you must throw aside indecision, and take up a distinct, sharply-cut, doctrinal religion. If you believe little, those to whom you try to do good will believe nothing.

The victories of Christianity, wherever they have been won, have been won by distinct doctrinal theology:

  • by telling men roundly of Christ’s vicarious death and sacrifice
  • by showing them Christ’s substitution on the cross, and His precious blood
  • by teaching them justification by faith, and bidding them believe on a crucified Saviour
  • by preaching ruin by sin, redemption by Christ, regeneration by the Spirit
  • by lifting up the brazen serpent
  • by telling men to look and live,—to believe, repent, and be converted.

This,—this is the only teaching which for eighteen centuries God has honoured with success, and is honouring at the present day both at home and abroad.

Let the clever advocates of a broad and undogmatic theology,—the preachers of the Gospel of earnestness, and sincerity and cold morality,—let them, I say, show us at this day any English village or parish, or city, or town, or district, which has been evangelized without ‘dogma,’ by their principles.

They cannot do it, and they never will. Christianity without distinct doctrine is a powerless thing. It may be beautiful to some minds, but it is childless and barren. There is no getting over facts. The good that is done in the earth may be comparatively small.

Evil may abound, and ignorant impatience may murmur, and cry out that Christianity has failed. But, depend on it, if we want to ‘do good’ and shake the world, we must fight with the old apostolic weapons, and stick to ‘dogma.’ No dogma, no fruits! No positive Evangelical doctrine, no evangelization!”

–J.C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots (London: William Hunt and Company, 1889), 416–419.

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“Prosperity knits a man to the World” by C.S. Lewis

“The Enemy has guarded him from you through the first great wave of temptations. But, if he can be kept alive, you have time itself for your ally. The long, dull monotonous years of middle-aged prosperity or middle-aged adversity are excellent campaigning weather. You see, it is so hard for these creatures to persevere.

The routine of adversity, the gradual decay of youthful loves and youthful hopes, the quiet despair (hardly felt as pain) of ever overcoming the chronic temptations with which we have again and again defeated them, the drabness which we create in their lives and the inarticulate resentment with which we teach them to respond to it– all this provides admirable opportunities of wearing out a soul by attrition.

If, on the other hand, the middle years prove prosperous, our position is even stronger. Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is ‘finding his place in it’, while really it is finding its place in him.

His increasing reputation, his widening circle of acquaintances, his sense of importance, the growing pressure of absorbing and agreeable work, build up in him a sense of being really at home in earth which is just what we want.

You will notice that the young are generally less unwilling to die than the middle-aged and the old. The truth is that the Enemy, having oddly destined these mere animals to life in His own eternal world, has guarded them pretty effectively from the danger of feeling at home anywhere else.

This is why we must often wish long life to our patients; seventy years is not a day too much for the difficult task of unravelling their souls from Heaven and building up a firm attachment to the earth. While they are young we find them always shooting off at a tangent.

Even if we contrive to keep them ignorant of explicit religion, the incalculable winds of fantasy and music and poetry— the mere face of a girl, the song of a bird, or the sight of a horizon– are always blowing our whole structure away.

They will not apply themselves steadily to worldly advancement, prudent connections, and the policy of safety first. So inveterate is their appetite for Heaven that our best method, at this stage, of attaching them to earth is to make them believe that earth can be turned into Heaven at some future date by politics or eugenics or ‘science’ or psychology, or what not.

Real worldliness is a work of time– assisted, of course, by pride, for we teach them to describe the creeping death as good sense or Maturity or Experience… Whatever you do, keep your patient as safe as you possibly can,

Your affectionate uncle,

SCREWTAPE”

–C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York: Macmillian, 1950), 143-145.

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“Our Master is holy” by John Owen

Explication XV. Holiness becometh the house of the Lord for ever; without it none shall see God. Christ died to wash His church, to present it before His Father without spot or blemish; to purchase unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

It is the kingdom of God within us, and by which it appeareth unto all that we are the children of the kingdom. Let this, then, be the great discriminating character of the church from the world, that they are a holy, humble, self-denying people.

Our Master is holy; His doctrine and worship are holy: let us strive that our hearts may also be holy. This is our wisdom towards them that are without, whereby they may be guided or convinced; this is the means whereby we build up one another most effectually.”

–John Owen, “Eschol: A Cluster of the Fruit of Canaan; Or Rules of Walking in Fellowship, With Reference to the Pastor or Minister That Watcheth For Our Souls,” in The Works of John Owen, ed. William Goold, 24 vols. (Edinburgh: Johnson & Hunter; 1850-1855; reprint by Banner of Truth, 1965), 13:86.

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