“Sin is a matter of life and death. We cannot toss God a little bribe to forget the whole thing. When a Hebrew brought an offering, he put his hands on that perfect, innocent lamb’s head, and said over and over, ‘My sin costs a life, an innocent, spotless life.’
Across the centuries, how much innocent blood has cascaded down that altar onto the temple pavement! Morning and evening on normal days, and ever so much more on feast days, it poured down. Josephus, the Jewish historian, tells us that in Roman times up to 250,000 lambs were slain on Passover Day! There had to be special gutters to carry the blood away into the Kidron Brook. Jesus waded through that bloody stream on His way to Gethsemane. And through the pre-Christian years, as sensitive Jews viewed the endless parade of doomed animals, some of them must have cried out, ‘How can an animal carry my sins? Oh, what can wash away my sins?’ And the voice of God whispered across eternity, ‘He is coming!’” (Oswalt, John. Where are You, God? 53-54)
Jesus has Come!
"Undoubtedly the Hebrew people considered the Assyrians to be the most “godless” and “profane” people they knew. Yet, Isaiah has the audacity to say that the Assyrians are God’s tool to punish them and that they are the godless and profane ones! How could this be? First, it is plain that the prophet considers all peoples to be instruments of the Sovereign. Even the vilest of persons is serving God’s purposes, if only to illustrate the ultimate results of evil. This is not to say that God manipulates people in a cynical way. It is to say that God is present in and through the processes of history, bringing out of them that which will most effectively serve goodness and truth. But second, there is a relativity of accountability. Relatively speaking, Israel is more profane and godless than Assyria because she has had more light to reject. If her moral state is still higher than Assyria’s, it is also true that she has fallen the farther distance. So Jesus’ words, “To whom much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48), apply to Israel and Assyria; they also apply to the modern West."
(Oswalt, John N. The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1–39. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1986, 263.)
"In reality, there is, perhaps, no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself; you will see it perhaps often in my history; for even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility." (Benjamin Franklin)
"Great falls seldom happen to a saint, without a previous course of secret backsliding. The church and the world are sometimes shocked by the sudden misconduct of some great professor of religion. Believers are discouraged and stumbled by it. The enemies of God rejoice and blaspheme. But if the truth could be known, the explanation of such cases would generally be found to have been private departure from God. Men fall in private, long before they fall in public."
"Men take readily to 'a sensuous, histrionic [theatrical, melodramatic] religion.' 'It is the religion that the natural heart likes, but it is not the religion of God.'
There is a natural proneness and tendency in us all to give God a sensual, carnal worship, and not that which is commanded in His Word. We are ever ready, by reason of our sloth and unbelief, to devise visible helps and stepping-stones in our approaches to Him ... Any worship whatsoever is more pleasing to the natural heart, than worshipping God in the way which our Lord Jesus Christ describes, 'in spirit and in truth' (John 4:23)."
(Iain Murray, J.C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone, 226)
J.C. Ryle spent a significant portion of his adult life paying off his bankrupt father's debts. He would later write, "I felt most acutely my father's ruin, my exile from Cheshire with the destruction of all my worldly prospects, and I have never ceased to feel them from that day to this." That statement was 32 years after the fact. The excellent instruction in holiness Ryle learned in Christ can be seen in the following quotation.
"I believe that God never expects us to feel no suffering or pain when it pleases Him to visit us with affliction. There are great mistakes upon this point. Submission to God's will is perfectly compatible with intense and keen suffering under the chastisements of that will."
(Iain Murray, J.C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone, 56)
"There was another conjunction of truths in Ryle's ministry which was being downgraded in the nineteenth century. 'Behold the goodness and severity of God', we are commanded in Scripture. But increasingly it was the 'goodness' alone which was heard from pulpits, love but not wrath, heaven but not hell. Yet no one spoke more often and painly of hell than the Lord Jesus Christ. ...
Ryle viewed with dismay how too many were condoning the omission of plain, New Testament language, and never warned their hearers:
Beware of manufacturing a God of your own, –a God who is all mercy, but not just, –a God who is all love, but not holy, –a God who has a heaven for everybody, but a hell for none, –a God who can allow good and bad to be side by side in time, but will make no distinction between good and bad in eternity." (Iain Murray, J.C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone, 138, 139)
Upon a pastoral visit in 1829, Samuel and Emily Wilberforce visited the sick-bed of "a poor girl of 15" years of age. She was dying from pulmonary tuberculosis [consumption]. Emily wrote of this visit to her father, William.
"I have been with Sam to-day to the sick bed of a poor girl of 15, who is dying of a consumption. She is a most humble sincere and patient Christian wishing to be at rest with her Lord but quite willing to wait His good pleasure and her only anxiety seems how to comfort her poor heartbroken mother. It is quite a lesson to see her. ... Sam asked her if she felt to love her Saviour and she answered with the greatest earnestness 'As much as ever I can love, Sir'. What should you be without Him? 'Most miserable.' 'Do you feel very sorry when you grieve this Saviour?' 'I always felt very sorry for my sins, but now I feel doubly sorry.' I saw she had her Bible in bed and I asked her what text she felt most comfort in. She said 'There is one I love more than all others, Jesus Christ came into the World to save sinners and so He came to save me. No one has sinned so much.'"
This testimony reminded me of this word from Solomon. The words of the wise heard in quietness are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools (Ecc 9:17). There is enough burdensome, tiring shouting in our world today. Let us hear the voice of true faith in quietness.
From a letter to J.C. Ryle from William Marsh.
"The great enemy is awake and astir; if we sleep, the land will be sown with tares. May truth conquer among our Suffolk brethren, and the wheat they sow producce an abundant harvest. Controversy, 'with meekness and wisdom', in the present day is a bounden duty; silence would be too like neutrality, and neutrality is treason. Yours most truly, William Marsh."
(Iain Murray, J.C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone, 111)
"It is not Atheism I fear so much in the present times as Pantheism. It is not the system which says nothing is true, so much as the system which says everything is true. It is the system which is so liberal, that it dares not say anything is false. It is the system which is so charitable, that it will allow everything to be true. It is the system which is so scrupulous about the feelings of others that we are never to say they are wrong ... What is it but a bowing down before a great idol speciously called liberality? What is it all but a sacrificing of truth upon the altar of a caricature of charity? Beware of it if you believe the Bible." (Iain Murray, J.C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone, 140-141)
"Who does not know that spiritual religion never brings a man the world's praise? It never has done, and it never does. It entails the world's disapprobation, the world's persecution, the world's ridicule, the world's sneers. The world will let a man go to hell quietly, and never try to stop him. The world will never let a man go to heaven quietly --they will do all they can to turn him back. Who has not heard of nicknames in plenty bestowed on all who faithfully follow Christ? --Pietist, Methodist, saint, fanatic, enthusiast, righteous overmuch, and many more. ... Let a young person go to every ball and theatre and race course, and utterly neglect his soul, and no one interferes ... But let him begin to read his Bible and be diligent in prayers, let him decline worldly amusements and be particular in his employment of time, let him seek an evangelical ministry and live as if he had an immortal soul, --let him do this, and the probability is all his relations and friends will be up in arms. 'You are going too far', 'You need not be so very good', 'You are taking up extreme lines,'-- this is the least that he will hear. ... If a man will become a decided evangelical Christian he must make up his mind to lose the world's favors; he must be content to be thought by many a perfect fool." (Iain Murray , J.C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone, 67)