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6 Marks of the Believers’ Growth in Grace – JC Ryle

June 23, 2016 Comments off

Let me take it for granted that we do not question the reality of growth in grace, and its vast importance. So far so good. But you now want to know how anyone may find out whether he is growing in grace or not? I answer that question, in the first place, by observing that we are very poor judges of our own condition — and that bystanders often know us better than we know ourselves. But I answer further that there are undoubtedly certain great marks and signs of growth in grace — and that wherever you see these marks — you see a growing soul. I will now proceed to place some of these marks before you in order.

1. One mark of growth in grace, is increased HUMILITY. The man whose soul is growing, feels his own sinfulness and unworthiness more every year.

He is ready to say with Job, “I am vile!”
And with Abraham, “I am dust and ashes!”
And with Jacob, “I am not worthy of the least of all Your mercies!”
And with David, “I am a worm!”
And with Isaiah, “I am a man of unclean lips!”

And with Peter, “I am a sinful man, O Lord!”
(Job 40:4; Genesis 18:27; 32:10; Psalm 22:6; Isaiah 6:5; Luke 5:8). The nearer he draws to God, and the more he sees of God’s holiness and perfections — the more thoroughly is he sensible of his own countless sins and imperfections. The further he journeys in the way to Heaven — the more he understands what Paul meant when he says,

“I am not already perfect!”
“I am not fit to be called an apostle!”
“I am less than the least of all saints!”
“I am the chief of sinners!”
(Philippians 3:12; 1 Corinthians 15:9; Ephesians 3:8; 1 Timothy 1:15).

The riper he is for glory, the more, like the ripe corn — he hangs down his head. The brighter and clearer is his gospel light — the more he sees of the shortcomings and infirmities of his own heart. When first converted, he would tell you he saw but little of them — compared to what he sees now. Would anyone know whether he is growing in grace? Be sure that you look within for increased humility.

2. Another mark of growth in grace, is increased FAITH and LOVE towards our Lord Jesus Christ. The man whose soul is growing, finds more in Christ to rest upon every year, and rejoices more that he has such a Savior. No doubt he saw much in Him, when first he believed. His faith laid hold on the atonement of Christ, and gave him hope. But as he grows in grace, he sees a thousand things in Christ of which at first he never dreamed!

His love and power,
His heart and His intentions,
His offices as Substitute, Intercessor, Priest, Advocate, Physician, Shepherd and Friend

— unfold themselves to a growing soul in an unspeakable manner. In short, he discovers a suitableness in Christ to the needs of his soul, of which the half was once not known to him! Would anyone know if he is growing in grace? Then let him look within for increased knowledge of, and love to Christ.

3. Another mark of growth in grace, is increased HOLINESS of life and conduct. The man whose soul is growing, gets more dominion over sin, the world and the devil every year. He becomes more careful about . . .
his temper,
his words and
his actions. He is more watchful over his conduct in every relation of life. He strives more to be conformed to the image of Christ in all things, and to follow Him as his example — as well as to trust in Him as his Savior. He is not content with old attainments and former grace. He forgets the things that are behind, and reaches forth unto those things which are before, making “Higher!” “Upward!” “Forward!” “Onward!” his continual motto (Philippians 3:13). On earth, he thirsts and longs to have a will more entirely in unison with God’s will. In Heaven, the chief thing that he looks for, next to the presence of Christ — is complete separation from all sin. Would anyone know if he is growing in grace? Then let him look within for increased holiness.

4. Another mark of growth in grace, is increased SPIRITUALITY of taste and mind. The man whose soul is growing, takes more interest in spiritual things every year. He does not neglect his duty in the world. He discharges faithfully, diligently and conscientiously — every relation of life, whether at home or abroad. But the things he loves best are spiritual things. The amusements and recreations of the world, have a continually decreasing place in his heart. He does not condemn them as downright sinful, nor say that those who have anything to do with them are going to Hell. He only feels that they have a constantly diminishing hold on his own affections — and gradually seem smaller and more trifling in his eyes. Spiritual companions, spiritual occupations, spiritual conversation — are of ever-increasing value to him. Would anyone know if he is growing in grace? Then let him look within for increasing spirituality of taste.

5. Another mark of growth in grace, is increase in LOVE to others. The man whose soul is growing, is more full of love every year — of love to all men — but especially of love towards the brethren.

His love will show itself actively — in a growing disposition to do kindnesses, to take trouble for others, to be good-natured to everybody, to be generous, sympathizing, thoughtful, tender-hearted and considerate.

His love will show itself passively — in a growing disposition to be meek and patient towards all men, to put up with provocation and not stand upon his rights, to bear and forbear much rather than quarrel. A growing soul will try to put the best construction on other people’s conduct, and to believe all things and hope all things, even to the end. There is no surer mark of backsliding and falling off in grace — than an increasing disposition to find fault, pick holes, and see weak points in others. Would anyone know if he is growing in grace? Then let him look within for increasing love to others.

6. One more mark of growth in grace, is increased ZEAL and diligence in trying to do good to souls. The man who is really growing, will take greater interest in the salvation of sinners every year. Missions at home and abroad, efforts of every kind to spread the gospel, attempts of any sort to increase gospel light and diminish gospel darkness — all these things will every year have a greater place in his attention.

He will not become “weary in well-doing,” just because he does not see every effort succeed. He will not care less for the progress of Christ’s cause on earth, as he grows older, though he will learn to expect less. He will just work on, whatever the result may be — giving, praying, speaking, visiting, according to his position — and count his work its own reward. One of the surest marks of spiritual decline — is a decreased interest about the souls of others, and the growth of Christ’s kingdom. Would anyone know whether he is growing in grace? Then let him look within for increased concern about the salvation of souls.

Those high-flying religionists, whose only notion of Christianity is that of a state of perpetual joy and ecstasy, who tell you that they have got far beyond the region of conflict and soul-humiliation — such people no doubt will regard the marks I have laid down as “legal,” “carnal” and “tending to bondage.” I cannot help that. I call no man master in these things. I only wish my statements to be tried in the balance of Scripture.

And I firmly believe that what I have said is not only Scriptural — but agreeable to the experience of the most eminent saints in every age. Show me a man in whom the six marks I have mentioned can be found. He is the man who can give a satisfactory answer to the question: “Do we grow?” Such are the most trustworthy marks of growth in grace. Let us examine them carefully and consider what we ourselves know about them.

Excerpt from the free eBook Holiness by J. C. Ryle

Source: https://www.monergism.com/6-marks-believers-growth-grace

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Calvin commentary – John 20:27 – Doubting Thomas

March 20, 2013 Comments off

John 20:27

27.Reach hither thy finger.

We have already spoken once about Christ’s entrance, and the form of salutation which he employed. When Christ so readily yields to the improper request of Thomas, (218) and, of his own accord, invites him to feel his hands, and touch the wound of his side, we learn from this how earnestly desirous he was to promote our faith and that of Thomas; for it was not to Thomas only, but to us also, that he looked, that nothing might be wanting which was necessary for confirming our faith.

The stupidity of Thomas was astonishing and monstrous; for he was not satisfied with merely beholding Christ out wished to have his hands also as witnesses of Christ’s resurrection. Thus he was not only obstinate, but also proud and contemptuous in his treatment of Christ. Now, at least, when he saw Christ, he ought to have been overwhelmed with shame and amazement; but, on the contrary, he boldly and fearlessly stretches forth his hand, as if he were not conscious of any guilt; for it may be readily inferred from the words of the Evangelist, that he did not repent before that he had convinced himself by touching. Thus it happens that, when we render to the word of God less honor than is due to it, there steals upon us, without our knowledge, a glowing obstinacy, which brings along with it a contempt of the word of God, and makes us lose all reverence for it. So much the more earnestly should we labor to restrain the wantonness of our mind, that none of us, by improperly indulging in contradiction, and extinguishing, as it were, the feeling of piety, may block up against ourselves the gate of faith.

My Lord and my God! Thomas awakes at length, though late, and as persons who have been mentally deranged commonly do when they come to themselves, exclaims, in astonishment, My Lord and my God! For the abruptness of the language has great vehemence; nor can it be doubted that shame compelled him to break out into this expression, in order to condemn his own stupidity. Besides, so sudden an exclamation shows that faith was not wholly extinguished in him, though it had been choked; for in the side or hands of Christ he does not handle Christ’s Divinity, but from those signs he infers much more than they exhibited. Whence comes this, but because, after forgetfulness and deep sleep, he suddenly comes to himself? This shows, therefore, the truth of what I said a little ago, that the faith which appeared to be destroyed was, as it were, concealed and buried in his heart.

The same thing happens sometimes with many persons; for they grow wanton for a time, as if they had cast off all fear of God, so that there appears to be no longer any faith in them; but as soon as God has chastised them with a rod, the rebellion of their flesh is subdued, and they return to their right senses. It is certain that disease would not, of itself, be sufficient to teach piety; and hence we infer, that, when the obstructions have been removed, the good seed, which had been concealed and crushed, springs up. We have a striking instance of this in David; for, so long as he is permitted to gratify his lust, we see how he indulges without restraint. Every person would have thought that, at that time, faith had been altogether banished from his mind; and yet, by a short exhortation of the Prophet, he is so suddenly recalled to life, that it may easily be inferred, that some spark, though it had been choked, still remained in his mind, and speedily burst into a flame. So far as relates to the men themselves, they are as guilty as if’ they had renounced faith and all the grace of the Holy Spirit; but the infinite goodness of God prevents the elect from falling so low as to be entirely alienated from God. We ought, therefore, to be most zealously on our guard not to fall from faith; and yet we ought to believe that God restrains his elect by secret bridle, that they may not fall to their destruction, and that He always cherishes miraculously in their hearts some sparks of faith, which he afterwards, at the proper time, kindles anew by the breath of his Spirit.

There are two clauses in this confession. Thomas acknowledges that Christ is his Lord, and then, in the second clauses, (219) he ascends higher, and calls him also his God. We know in what sense Scripture gives to Christ the name of Lord. It is, because the rather hath appointed him to be the highest governor, that he may hold all things under his dominion., that every knee may bow before him, (Phi_2:10,) and., in short, that he may be the Father’s vicegerent in governing the world. Thus the name Lord properly belongs to him, so far as he is the Mediator manifested in the flesh, and the Head of the Church. But Thomas, having acknowledged him to be Lord, is immediately carried upwards to his eternal Divinity, and justly; for the reason why Christ descended to us, and first was humbled, and afterwards was placed at the Father’s right hand, and obtained dominion over heaven and earth, was, that he might exalt us to his own Divine glory, and to the glory of the Father. That our faith may arrive at the eternal Divinity of Christ., we must begin with that knowledge which is nearer and more easily acquired. Thus it has been justly said by some, that by Christ Man we are conducted to Christ God, because our faith makes such gradual progress that, perceiving Christ on earth, born in a stable, and hanging on a cross., it rises to the glory of his resurrection, and, proceeding onwards, comes at length to his eternal life and power, in which his Divine Majesty is gloriously displayed.

Yet we ought to believe, that we cannot know Christ as our Lord, in a proper manner, without immediately obtaining also a knowledge of his Divinity. Nor is there any room to doubt that this ought to be a confession common to all believers., when we perceive that it is approved by Christ. He certainly would never have endured that the Father should be robbed of the honour due to him, and that this honor should be falsely and groundlessly conveyed to himself. But he plainly ratifies what Thomas said; and, therefore, this passage is abundantly sufficient for refuting the madness of Arius; for it is not lawful to imagine two Gods. Here also is declared the unity of person in Christ; for the same Jesus Christ (220) is called both God and Lord. Emphatically, to, he twice calls him his own, MYLord and MY God! declaring, that he speaks in earnest, and with a lively sentiment of faith.

Being Patient With Weaker Christians — J.C. Ryle

March 20, 2013 Comments off

[Thomas] said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” – John 20:25-29

J.C. Ryle (1816-1900)

We should mark…how kind and merciful Christ is to dull and slow believers. Nowhere, perhaps, in all the four Gospels, do we find this part of our Lord’s character so beautifully illustrated as in the story before our eyes. It is hard to imagine anything more tiresome and provoking than the conduct of Thomas, when even the testimony of ten faithful brethren had no effect on him, and he doggedly declared, “Except I see with my own eyes and touch with my own hands, I will not believe.”

But it is impossible to imagine anything more patient and compassionate, than our Lord’s treatment of this weak disciple. He does not reject him, or dismiss him, or excommunicate him. He comes again at the end of a week, and apparently for the special benefit of Thomas. He deals with him according to his weakness, like a gentle nurse dealing with a froward child:—”Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side.” If nothing but the grossest, coarsest, most material evidence could satisfy him, even that evidence was supplied. Surely this was a love that passeth knowledge, and a patience that passeth understanding.

A passage of Scripture like this, we need not doubt, was written for the special comfort of all true believers. The Holy Ghost knew well that the dull, and the slow, and the stupid, and the doubting, are by far the commonest type of disciples in this evil world. The Holy Ghost has taken care to supply abundant evidence that Jesus is rich in patience as well as compassion, and that He bears with the infirmities of all His people. Let us take care that we drink into our Lord’s spirit, and copy His example.

Let us never set down men in a low place, as gracious and godless, because their faith is feeble and their love is cold. Let us remember the case of Thomas, and be very pitiful and of tender mercy. Our Lord has many weak children in His family, many dull pupils in His school, many raw soldiers in His army, many lame sheep in His flock. Yet He bears with them all, and casts none away. Happy is that Christian who has learned to deal likewise with his brethren. There are many in the Church, who, like Thomas, are dull and slow, but for all that, like Thomas, are real and true believers.

 

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Henry commentary Isaiah 50:10-11 – Walking in darkness

March 2, 2013 Comments off

Isa 50:10  Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God.
Isa 50:11  Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.

The prophet, having the tongue of the learned given him, that he might give to every one his portion, here makes use of it, rightly dividing the word of truth. It is the summary of the gospel. He that believes shall be saved (he that trusts in the name of the Lord shall be comforted, though for a while he walk in darkness and have no light), but he that believes not shall be damned; though for a while he walk in the light of his own fire, yet he shall lie down in sorrow.
I. Comfort is here spoken to disconsolate saints, and they are encouraged to trust in God’s grace, Isa_50:10. Here observe, 1. What is always the character of a child of God. He is one that fears the Lord with a filial fear, that stands in awe of his majesty and is afraid of incurring his displeasure. This is a grace that usually appears most in good people when they walk in darkness, when other graces appear not. They then tremble at his word (Isa_66:2) and are afraid of his judgments, Psa_119:120. He is one that obeys the voice of God’s servant, is willing to be ruled by the Lord Jesus, as God’s servant in the great work of man’s redemption, one that yields a sincere obedience to the law of Christ and cheerfully comes up to the terms of his covenant. Those that truly fear God will obey the voice of Christ. 2. What is sometimes the case of a child of God. It is supposed that though he has in his heart the fear of God, and faith in Christ, yet for a time he walks in darkness and has no light, is disquieted and has little or no comfort. Who is there that does so? This intimates that it is a case which sometimes happens among the professors of religion, yet not very often; but, whenever it happens, God takes notice of it. It is no new thing for the children and heirs of light sometimes to walk in darkness, and for a time not to have any glimpse or gleam of light. This is not meant so much of the comforts of this life (those that fear God, when they have ever so great an abundance of them, do not walk in them as their light) as of their spiritual comforts, which relate to their souls. They walk in darkness when their evidences for heaven are clouded, their joy in God is interrupted, the testimony of the Spirit is suspended, and the light of God’s countenance is eclipsed. Pensive Christians are apt to be melancholy, and those who fear always are apt to fear too much. 3. What is likely to be an effectual cure in this sad case. He that is thus in the dark, (1.) Let him trust in the name of the Lord, in the goodness of his nature, and that which he has made known of himself, his wisdom, power, and goodness. The name of the Lord is a strong tower, let his run into that. Let him depend upon it that if he walk before God, which a man may do though he walk in the dark, he shall find God all-sufficient to him. (2.) Let him stay himself upon his God, his in covenant; let him keep hold of his covenant-relation to God, and call God his God, as Christ on the cross, My God, My God. Let him stay himself upon the promises of the covenant, and build his hopes on them. When a child of God is ready to sink he will find enough in God to stay himself upon. Let him trust in Christ, for God’s name is in him (Exo_23:21), trust in that name of his, The Lord our righteousness, and stay himself upon God as his God, in and through a Mediator.
II. Conviction is here spoken to presuming sinners, and they are warned not to trust in themselves, Isa_50:11. Observe, 1. The description given of them. They kindle a fire, and walk in the light of that fire. They depend upon their own righteousness, offer all their sacrifices, and burn all their incense, with that fire (as Nadab and Abihu) and not with the fire from heaven. In their hope of acceptance with God they have no regard to the righteousness of Christ. They refresh and please themselves with a conceit of their own merit and sufficiency, and warm themselves with that. It is both light and heat to them. They compass themselves about with sparks of their own kindling. As they trust in their own righteousness, and not in the righteousness of Christ, so they place their happiness in their worldly possessions and enjoyments, and not in the favour of God. Creature-comforts are as sparks, short-lived and soon gone; yet the children of this world, while they last, warm themselves by them, and walk with pride and pleasure in the light of them. 2. The doom passed upon them. They are ironically told to walk in the light of their own fire. “Make your best of it, while it lasts. But what will be in the end thereof, what will it come to at last? This shall you have of my hand (says Christ, for to him the judgment is committed), you shall lie down in sorrow, shall go to bed in the dark.” See Job_18:5, Job_18:6. His candle shall be put out with him. Those that make the world their comfort, and their own righteousness their confidence, will certainly meet with a fatal disappointment, which will be bitterness in the end. A godly man’s way may be melancholy, but his end shall be peace and everlasting light. A wicked man’s way may be pleasant, but his end and endless abode will be utter darkness.

Asking “Do I believe?” rather than “Am I elect?” – R Scott Clark

January 12, 2013 Comments off

[W]hat theologians in church history do you recommend reading to better understand the doctrine of election?

Among the Fathers, Augustine’s On the Predestination of the Saints is essential. Gottschalk’s little treatise, On Predestination witnesses to the vitality of doctrine in the early middle ages. Thomas’ discussion in Summa Theologica 1a 23.1 is masterful. My favorites, however, are Calvin’s exegetical treatment in his commentary on Romans (1539, 1551) chapter 9 because of its strong commitment to understanding the passage in its redemptive-historical context and his doctrinal treatment in the 1559 Institutes(3.21-24) because there he helps us address it a posteriori by asking not, ‘Am I elect?’ but rather, ‘Do I believe?’ Herman Witsius’ 1677 treatment of election relative to the covenant of grace (Economy of the Covenants 3.4.) is encouraging as he points to the spiritual benefits the doctrine brings to the believer.

[H]ow might a Reformed understanding of the doctrine of election help the Christian who struggles with issues of assurance of salvation?

One of the more unfortunate facts in the history of Protestant piety is that the doctrines of election, and reprobation (predestination) have sometimes become a source of doubt and spiritual uncertainty. It is unfortunate and perverse because, understood properly, the doctrine of predestination should be a source of comfort and encouragement. Perhaps the single greatest reason that Christians have found the doctrine of predestination spiritually troubling is that they have often asked the wrong question: “Am I elect?” This is the wrong question first because it is not a question that Scripture ever encourages us to ask. It is the wrong question because it seeks to know things in a way that has not been revealed to us. We might call this the medieval question.

One result of asking the question this way is that one could never know with certainty if one is elect and any claim to know, with certainty, that one is elect, would be regarded as presumption. The question that the Scriptures teach us to ask is quite different: “Do I believe?” Let us call this the Protestant question. It is a question that we can answer, and by doing so, find comfort and certainty.

The Apostle Paul used the doctrine of election to encourage the Ephesian church. Writing to them on the basis of their profession of faith in Christ, he explained that the Father has “blessed us in Christ” and “chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world” and that “in love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will… (Eph 1:3–6).

Paul’s point was to remind helpless sinners, whose state, outside of Christ, he described as “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1), of God’s free, unconditional favor in Christ. His reasoning works this way: After the fall, under Adam’s headship (Rom 5:12–21), we are spiritually corrupt and at war with God. We have no inclination to believe. If we believe, it is because “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him…” (Eph 2:4–6).

In other words, God’s free election of his people to spiritual life, true faith, and union with Christ means that salvation and righteousness are his free gifts to his people. They were given unconditionally and they are received, through faith alone (Eph 2:8). If you believe, it is because God loved you, in Christ, and willed from all eternity to bring you to life, to give you the gift of faith and through it all of Christ’s benefits. This way of thinking about God’s election gives us firm, unshakeable ground on which to stand. It means that believers belong, body and soul, in life and in death, to their faithful Savior Jesus and that no one can snatch us out of his hand (John 6:40, 10:28; Heidelberg Catechism, Q. 1). It is not only medieval Christians who have asked the wrong question. Since the Reformation evangelical Christians have often been tempted to ask the medieval question and have reached the same troubling conclusion. As a result they have made uncertainty of the essence of faith. We see none of this, however, in Paul. Even when he thinks about his struggle with sin in the Christian life (Romans 7) he finds certainty on the basis of God’s free, electing grace and promises in Christ (Rom 8-10). Let us follow Paul, and his followers, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and countless other evangelical Protestants before us and do the same.

Believers are what they are by God’s grace and his promise is as sure as God is immoveable and faithful. We should not ask whether we are good enough (we are not) or whether we might fall (we shall) but whether God is faithful (he is) and whether he has sealed his promises with Christ’s obedient life, bloody death, and resurrection (he has), and whether we believe: by God’s grace we do.

Source: Credomag

Christ’s greatest trophy – JC Ryle

October 3, 2012 Comments off

With Him [Jesus] they also crucified two robbers, one on His right and the other on His left. Mark 15:27

“Then one of the criminals [robbers] who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”
But the other [robber], answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?
And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.”
Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
Luke 23:39-43

There are few passages in the New Testament which are more familiar to men’s ears than the verses which head this chapter. They contain the well-known story of “the penitent thief.”

And it is right and good that these verses should be well known. They have comforted many troubled minds; they have brought peace to many uneasy consciences; they have been a healing balm to many wounded hearts; they have been a medicine to many sin sick souls; they have smoothed down not a few dying pillows. Wherever the Gospel of Christ is preached, they will always be honoured, loved, and had in remembrance.

I wish to say something about these verses. I will try to unfold the leading lessons which they are meant to teach. I cannot see the peculiar mental state of anyone into whose hands this paper may fall. But I can see truths in this passage which no man can ever know too well. Here is the greatest trophy which Christ ever won.

First of all, we 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 us that which ought to be music in the ears of all who hear it–it teaches us that Jesus Christ is “mighty to save.” (Isa. Ixill. i.)

I ask anyone to say whether a 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 at first, when he 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 him as these––” To-day shalt thou be with Me in paradise.”

I believe 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, Christ is “able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by Him”? (Heb. vii. 25.) Behold the proof of it. If ever a 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 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.

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 and live.

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 know 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 fullness there is in Him.

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 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.”

Source

Bunyan’s inward man faint, but revived by Jesus Christ – Grace abounding exerpt

March 23, 2012 Comments off

255. Upon a time I was something inclining to a consumption, wherewith about the spring I was suddenly and violently seized, with much weakness in my outward man; insomuch that I thought I could not live. Now began I afresh to give myself up to a serious examination after my state and condition for the future, and of my evidences for that blessed world to come: for it hath, I bless the name of God, been my usual course, as always, so especially in the day of affliction, to endeavour to keep my interest in the life to come, clear before mine eyes.

256. But I had no sooner began to recall to mind my former experience of the goodness of God to my soul, but there came flocking into my mind an innumerable company of my sins and transgressions; amongst which these were at this time most to my affliction; namely, my deadness, dulness, and coldness in holy duties; my wanderings of heart, of my wearisomeness in all good things, my want of love to God, His ways and people, with this at the end of all, Are these the fruits of Christianity? Are these tokens of a blessed man?

257. At the apprehensions of these things my sickness was doubled upon me; for now I was sick in my inward man, my soul was clogged with guilt; now also was my former experience of God’s goodness to me, quite taken out of my mind, and hid as if they had never been, or seen: now was my soul greatly pinched between these two considerations, Live I must not, die I dare not. Now I sunk and fell in my spirit, and was giving up all for lost; but as I was walking up and down in the house as a man in a most woeful state, that word of God took hold of my heart, Ye are justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Rom. iii. 24. But oh! what a turn it made upon me!

258. Now was I as one awaked out of some troublesome sleep and dream; and listening to this heavenly sentence, I was as if I had heard it thus expounded to me: Sinner, thou thinkest, that because thy sins and infirmities, I cannot save thy soul; but behold My Son is by me, and upon Him I look, and not on thee, and shall deal with thee according as I am pleased with Him. At this I was greatly lightened in my mind, and made to understand, that God could justify a sinner at any time; it was but His looking upon Christ, and imputing His benefits to us, and the work was forthwith done.

259. And as I was thus in a muse, that scripture also came with great power upon my spirit, Not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to His mercy He hath saved us, etc. 2 Tim. i. 9; Tit. iii. 5. Now was I got on high, I saw myself within the arms of grace and mercy; and though I was before afraid to think of a dying hour, yet, now I cried, Let me die: Now death was lovely and beautiful in my sight, for I saw We shall never live indeed, till we be gone to the other world. Oh! methought this life is but a slumber, in comparison with that above. At this time also I saw more in these words, Heirs of God, Rom. viii. 17, than ever I shall be able to express while I live in this world: Heirs of God! God Himself is the portion of the saints. This I saw and wondered at, but cannot tell you what I saw.

Source: Grace abounding to the chief of sinners, by John Bunyan