Why sit we here until we die?” C. H. Spurgeon Devotional

Morning and evening Devotional

“Why sit we here until we die?” — 2 Kings 7:3

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Dear reader, this little book was mainly intended for the edification of believers, but if you are yet unsaved, our heart yearns over you: and we would fain say a word which may be blessed to you. Open your Bible, and read the story of the lepers, and mark their position, which was much the same as yours. If you remain where you are you must perish; if you go to Jesus you can but die. “Nothing venture, nothing win,” is the old proverb, and in your case the venture is no great one. If you sit still in sullen despair, no one can pity you when your ruin comes; but if you die with mercy sought, if such a thing were possible, you would be the object of universal sympathy. None escape who refuse to look to Jesus; but you know that, at any rate, some are saved who believe in him, for certain of your own acquaintances have received mercy: then why not you? The Ninevites said, “Who can tell?” Act upon the same hope, and try the Lord’s mercy. To perish is so awful, that if there were but a straw to catch at, the instinct of self-preservation should lead you to stretch out your hand. We have thus been talking to you on your own unbelieving ground, we would now assure you, as from the Lord, that if you seek him he will be found of you. Jesus casts out none who come unto him. You shall not perish if you trust him; on the contrary, you shall find treasure far richer than the poor lepers gathered in Syria’s deserted camp. May the Holy Spirit embolden you to go at once, and you shall not believe in vain. When you are saved yourself, publish the good news to others. Hold not your peace; tell the King’s household first, and unite with them in fellowship; let the porter of the city, the minister, be informed of your discovery, and then proclaim the good news in every place. The Lord save thee ere the sun goes down this day.

Devotional Classics by C. H. Spurgeon

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Horatius Bonar – Religion Without the Holy Spirit

“They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them” Matthew 25.3

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This parable has many sides and aspects. It is prophetical; it is also practical. It suits all ages, but especially the last days. It suits the world, but specially the church of God; “if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear.” It is searching and sifting; it is also quickening and comforting. It suits us well in these days of profession and fashionable religion and religiousness.

It divides the church into two classes,—the wise and the foolish wise in God’s sight, not man’s; foolish in God’s sight, not man’s. Thus it is not a parable for the heathen, as if they only were foolish; nor for the profligate, as if they only were foolish; nor for the infidels, as if they only were foolish. But for the church. It comes in to the inner circle of Christian profession, and sifts it, divides it. Let it sift us and test us. Better to be weighed and found wanting now than hereafter. Better to be undeceived now than when it is too late. Let us notice,

I. The points of likeness between the two classes. (1.) They get the same name, virgins; (2.) they wear the same dress; (3.) they are on the same errand; (4.) they have both lamps; (5.) they have both vessels; (6.) they both slumber and sleep. They have thus many features in common. Man could not discern the difference, at least for the time. The peril of mere externalism is that which our Lord points out here. No doubt there must be externalism. Religion must have an outside as well as an inside. The lamp must not only have oil, but it must burn: the external must indicate the internal. And we may say that our Lord intimated the necessity of a thorough consistency and completeness in the outward religious life of a man, so that as a fair external is no excuse for internal unsoundness or incompleteness, so a sound internal is no excuse for an inconsistent life. Our Lord, then, here depicts, (1.) a complete externalism; (2.) a beautiful externalism; (3.) a deceptive externalism; (4.) a prolonged externalism; (5.) an unavailing externalism. Up to a certain point in a man’s life, or character, or religion, externalism may avail; but beyond that it gives way; it breaks down; it exhibits its unprofitableness. This externalism may not always be hypocrisy, but it is imitation. It is not the flower in its natural color and growth, but painted, artificial. Let us watch against an artificial life, and an artificial religion. What does it profit now? what will it profit in the day of wrath? The name, the dress, the lamp, the outward show, will all go for nothing in that day of universal discovery and detection.

II. The points of unlikeness. Though in most respects they were all alike, yet there was a difference. It was within; it was imperceptible from without; it could only be discovered when the bridegroom came. Up till then all were completely similar. Only then the want came out in the foolish. There was it seen who were wise, and who were foolish. That day is the day of certain and unerring detection. It is the day of weighing in the balances! It is the separation of the false from the true.

The difference was confined to a single point, the lack of oil. Some have supposed that the foolish took oil in their lamps, but not in their vessels. It appears, however, that they did neither. The lamps were not required to be lighted till the bridegroom came; and so the oil was not poured in, nor the wick inserted till then. For it was at midnight that the cry was made, and then all the virgins arose and trimmed their lamps, that is, supplied them with the wick and oil, and lighted them. Then it was that the foolish discovered (1) their need of oil; (2) their lack of it. Then they went to the wise to beg for a supply; then they (being wisely refused) went to buy, and returned too late. There was “oil in the dwelling of the wise ” (Proverbs 21:20), but the foolish were without it.

The oil is the Holy Spirit. To oil He is likened throughout all Scripture, though in some places to fire, and to water, and to wind or air. There is the oil of consecration (Exodus 30:25); of daily food (1 Kings 17:12); of fragrance (Esther 2:12); of joy (Psalm 47, Isaiah 61:3); of healing (Luke 10:34); of light (Zechariah 4:12). The Holy Spirit is all these. But it is as the light-giving oil that He is specially spoken of here; and the lack of Him as such makes the difference between the foolish and the wise. “Having not the Spirit” (Jude 19).

Thus a man may be very like a Christian, and yet not be one. He may come very near the kingdom, and yet not enter in. He may have all the outward features of a Christian, and yet be lacking in the main one. He may have the complete dress of the saint, and yet not be one. He may have a good life, a sound creed, a strict profession; he may be one who says and does many things excellent; he may be a subscriber to all the religious societies in the land, a member of all their committees, or a speaker at all their meetings, and supporter of all their plans; he may profess to be looking for Christ’s coming, and going forth to meet the bridegroom, yet not necessarily a Christian! He may lack the oil, the Holy Spirit.

A religion without the Holy Ghost profiteth nothing. There is the religion of the intellect, of the sense, of the fancy, of the flesh, of the creed, of the liturgy, of the catechism, of nature, of poetry, of sentiment, of mysticism, of humanity. But what are these without the Spirit? Christianity without Christ, what would that be? Worship without God, what would that be? So religion without the Holy Spirit, what would that be?

Yet is there not much of this among us? Is there not much of dry formalism, lifeless doctrine, sapless routine? I do not call it hypocrisy; I simply call it unreal religion.

And what can unreal religion do for a man? Will it not prove irksome and vain? Will it make him happy and free, or liberal, or zealous, or holy? No. It can do none of these things. It is bondage, and darkness, and weariness.

Yet here is the Holy Spirit in the hands of Christ for you. Go to them that sell, and buy for your selves. Not to men, or churches, or creeds, or ministers, but to Christ. Go to Him. He is exalted to give it; and He will. Apply to Him ere it be too late.

Horatius Bonar (1808 – 1889)

THE GLORY OF GOD – John MacDuff

THE GLORY OF GOD

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“Before the mountains were born or You brought forth the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, you are God!” — Psalm 90:2

O My Soul! Seek to fill yourself with thoughts of the Almighty. Lose yourself in the impenetrable tracts of His Glory!

“Can you by searching find out God?” Can the insect fathom the ocean, or the worm scale the skies? Can the finite comprehend the Infinite? Can the mortal grasp Immortality? We can do no more than stand on the brink of the shoreless sea, and cry, “Oh the depth!”

“From everlasting!” — shrouded in the great and amazing mystery of eternity! Before one star revolved in its sphere — before one angel moved his wing — God was! His own infinite presence filling all space. All time, to Him, is but as the heaving of a breath — the beat of a pulse — the twinkling of an eye!

The Eternity of bliss, which is the noblest heritage of the creature, is in its nature progressive. It admits of advance in degrees of happiness and glory. Not so the Eternity of the Great Creator; He was as perfect before the birth of time — as He will be when “time shall be no longer!” He was as infinitely glorious when He inhabited the solitudes of immensity alone — as He is now with the songs of angel and archangel sounding in His ear! But “who can show forth all His praise?” We can at best but lisp the alphabet of His glory. Moses, who saw more of God than most, makes it still his prayer, “I beseech You, show me Your glory!” Paul, who knew more of God than other men, prays still, “that I may know Him.” “Our safest eloquence concerning Him,” says Hooker, “is our silence, when we confess that His glory is inexplicable.”

And is this the Being to whom I can look up with sweetest confidence — and call “My Father”? Is it this Infinite One, whom “the Heaven of Heavens cannot contain,” I can call “My God”?

Believer, contemplate the medium through which it is you can see the glory of God, and yet live. “No man has seen God at any time, the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has revealed Him.” He who dwells in inaccessible light, comes forth from the pavilion of His glory in the person of “Immanuel, God with us.” In Christ, “the Image of the invisible God,” the creature — yes, sinners — can gaze unconsumed on the lusters of Deity! Be it yours to glorify Him. Seek thus to fulfill the great design of your being. Let all your words and ways, your actions and purposes, your crosses and losses, redound to His praise. The highest seraph can have no higher or nobler end than this — the glory of the God before whom he casts his crown.

But He has a claim on you, which He has not on the unredeemed angels. “He gave Himself for you!” This mightiest of all boons which Omnipotence could give, is the guarantee for the bestowment of all lesser necessary blessings, and for the withholding of all unnecessary trials. While you are called to behold “His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father,” remember its characteristic; it is not a glory to appall you by its splendors — but to win and captivate you by its beauties — it is “full of grace and truth.” He is your God in covenant. “Underneath are the everlasting arms.” You may compose yourself on your nightly pillow, with the sweet pledge of security, and say,

“I will both lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O Lord, make me live in safety!” — Psalm 4:8

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John MacDuff – THE NIGHT WATCHES

THE ONLY WAY TO GOD By J.C. Ryle

THE ONLY WAY TO GOD.

JOHN XIV. 4—11.

“And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.

“Thomas saith unto Him, Lord, we know not whither Thou goest; and how can we know the way?

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.

“If ye had known Me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know Him, and have seen Him.

“Philip saith unto Him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it stifficeth us.

“Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? he that hath seen Me liath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?

“Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father thatdwelleth in Me, He doeth the works.

“Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me: or else believe Me for the very works’ sake.”

We should mark, in these verses, what glorious names the Lord Jesus gives to Himself. He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” The fulness of these precious words can probably never be taken in by man. He that attempts to unfold them does little more than scratch the surface of a rich soil.

Christ is “the way,“—the way to heaven and peace with God. He is not only the guide, and teacher, and lawgiver, like Moses; He is Himself the door, the ladder, and the road, through whom we must draw near to God. He has opened the way to the tree of life, which was closed when Adam and Eve fell, by the satisfaction He made for us on the cross. Through His blood we may draw near with boldness, and have access with confidence into God’s presence. (Ephes. iii. 12.)

Christ is “the truth,“—the whole substance of true religion which the mind of man requires. Without Him the wisest heathen groped in gross darkness, and knew nothing rightly about God. Before He came even the Jews saw “through a glass darkly,” and discerned nothing distinctly under the types, figures, and ceremonies of the Mosaic law. Christ is the whole truth, and meets and satisfies every desire of the human mind.

Christ is “the life,“—the sinner’s title to eternal life and pardon, the believer’s root of spiritual life and holiness, the surety of the Christian’s resurrection life. He that believeth on Christ hath everlasting life. He that abideth in Him, as the branch abides in the vine, shall bring forth much fruit. He that believeth on Him, though he were dead, yet shall he live. The root of all life, for soul and for body, is Christ.

For ever let us grasp and hold fast these truths. To use Christ daily as the way,—to believe Christ daily as the truth,—to live on Christ daily as the life,—this is to be a well-informed, a thoroughly furnished, and an established Christian.

We should mark, again, in these verses, how expressly the Lord Jesus shuts out all ways’of salvation but Himself. “No man,” He declares, “No mancometh unto the Father but by Me.”

It avails nothing that a man is clever, learned, highly gifted, amiable, charitable, kind-hearted, and zealous about some sort of religion. All this will not save his soul, if he does not draw near to God by Christ’s atonement, and make use of God’s own Son as his Mediator and Saviour. God isso holy that all men are guilty and debtors in His sight. Sin is so sinful that no mortal man can make satisfaction for it. There must be a mediator, aransom-payer, a redeemer, between ourselves and God, or else we can never be saved.

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There is only one door, one bridge, one ladder, between earth and heaven,—the crucified Son of God. Whosoever will enter in by that door may be saved; but to him who refuses to use that door the Bible holds out no hope at all. “Without shedding of blood there is no remission.” (Heb. ix. 22.)

Let us beware, if we love life, of supposing that mere earnestness will take a man to heaven, though he know nothing of Christ. The idea is a deadly and ruinous error. Sincerity will never wipe away our sins. It is not true that every man will be saved by his own religion, no matter what he believes, provided he is diligent and sincere. We must not pretend to be wiser than God. Christ has said, and Christ will stand to it, “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.”

Short expository readings on the Gospel of John

By John Charles Ryle (bishop. of Liverpool)

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THE WORD OF GOD by James Smith

THE WORD OF GOD

James Smith, New Park Street Church, London, 1849

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

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The Bible is God’s book, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and therefore free from error; “Holy men of God wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”

It contains God’s law, the church’s history, and Christ’s gospel.

It reveals God, opens heaven, and directs man.

It makes known God’s thoughts, the world’s doom, and the church’s blessedness.

It unfolds eternity to time, brings heaven to earth, and makes invisible realities known.

It was written for sinners, has been preserved by a special providence, and is the godly man’s treasure.

Infidels scorn it, angels study it with wonder, and the saints delight in it.

It is a token of God’s love, a proof of his regard, and a display of his concern for our welfare.

This Word of God contains . . .
the Law—commanding, condemning, and cursing;
the Psalms—disclosing, elevating, and praising;
the Gospel—unfolding, inviting, and directing;
the Prophets—predicting, exhorting, and denouncing.

It contains a rich variety, a divine fullness, and is exactly adapted to meet the case and condition of sinners.

Its histories are true, instructive, and impartial.
Its precepts are just, holy, and good.
Its cautions are beneficial, wise, and useful.
Its exhortations are judicious, adapted, and profitable.
Its reproofs are kind, solemn, and suitable.
Its directions are merciful, practical, and plain.
Its instructions are deep, spiritual, and extensive.
Its corrections are loving, just, and judicious.
Its doctrines are divine, sublime, and glorious.
Its descriptions are vivid, correct, and impartial.
Its invitations are general, attractive, and gracious.
Its promises are great, numerous, and invaluable.
Its warnings are solemn, preventing, and tender.
Its threatenings are dreadful, alarming, and just.
Its parables are simple, instructive, and edifying.
Its types are significant, impressive, and suitable.
Its examples are bright, winning, and worthy.
It is in every part, and every way, worthy of a God!

We have this blessed book as God’s free gift, procured for us by our adorable Redeemer, and bestowed upon us through the Holy Spirit. Its revelations were delivered, first orally, then written, then printed: first given to a few, then written for many, then printed for all: first freely bestowed, then hard to be obtained and now easily to be gotten. Given by God, opposed by the devil, blasphemed by many, rejected by more, unknown to thousands—but highly prized by a few. It is suited to youth, adapted to manhood—but peculiarly applicable to old age. It is the child’s lesson book, the learner’s class book, and the scholar’s text book. Many study it, all Christians believe it—but none fully comprehend it.

This divine testimony is exceedingly useful; for it produces morality in the world, spirituality in the church, and good in all who believe it. It . . .
enlightens the dark,
instructs the ignorant,
comforts the desponding,
directs the lost,
encourages the seeking,
assures the waiting soul,
warns the wayward,
threatens the unruly,
condemns the impenitent,
invites the weary,
strengthens the weak,
consoles the dejected,
alarms the careless,
accuses the indifferent,
confounds the worldly-wise,
cautions the venturesome,
reproves the heedless,
gives promises to the diligent,
frowns on the thoughtless,
curses the profane,
damns the hypocrite,
urges the halting,
exhorts the obedient,
rewards the persevering,
debases man,
exalts the Savior,
glorifies God,
astonishes angels,
confounds infidels,
delights perishing sinners.

The Bible is God’s will, the saints’ treasure and the devils’ eye-sore!

This holy writing is intended for earth, it is placed before our eyes, to be copied into our memories, and observed in our lives. The world has it, the church owns it, and every part of God’s family may equally enjoy it. It is intended for the whole of this life, to be used through our entire journey—but will be dispensed with when we get home. It is here in written characters, there in substance, and both here and their prized and enjoyed. It is here to be read, believed, and tasted; but its fullest blessings are reserved for that better land. Now we need it, while on earth we cannot dispense with it—but in heaven we shall be able to do without it.

This book is pure—unmixed with error, untainted by sin, and worthy of a holy God.

This book is true—and may therefore be firmly believed, implicitly trusted, and unreservedly depended upon.

This book is sure—and cannot possibly deceive, lead astray, or sanction a mistake.

This book is right—being in perfect accordance with the holiness, justice, and grace of God.

This book is assimilating—he who believes it, loves it, and obeys it—must resemble it.

This book is divine—the offspring of God, bearing the impress of divinity, and is always acknowledged by Jehovah when pleaded at his throne.

This book is spiritual—and therefore cannot be understood by the carnal, the worldly wise, or anyone who is untaught of God.

This book is mysterious—containing mysteries which are to be believed, reverenced, and acknowledged, though never in this world to be fully comprehended.

This book is excellent—in its matter, style, and design.

This book is extensive—embracing more than the human mind can contain, than any creature could invent, or the whole of time will unfold.

This book is firm—and cannot be removed, driven out of the world, or destroyed.

This book is full—containing all that is necessary, ornamental, or useful.

This book is feeding—it feeds the memory, the intellect, and the heart.

This book is filling—it satisfies the illiterate, the learner, and the scholar.

This book is glorious—and glorifies God, the Savior, and the church.

This book is harmonious—every part accords, harmonizes, and agrees.

This book is honest—it exposes, commends, and reproves, as the case may be.

This book is immutable—it can undergo no change in its doctrines, requirements, or promises.

This book is irrevocable—heaven and earth may pass away, but its predictions, threatenings, and promises shall stand forever.

This book is inviting—for God stoops to write, instruct, and give wisdom to worms.

This book is incomparable—it never had, has not now, nor ever will have—an equal.

This book is infallible—here are no mistakes, misquotations, or exceptions, all is the word of God, and worthy of a God.

This book is lively—it gives life, quickens the dull and sleepy, and preserves the life given.

This book is ministerial—being the seed of God, the scepter of the Messiah, and the sword of the Spirit.

This book is necessary—for our information, consolation, and establishment.

This book is nourishing—it strengthens our faith, animates our hope, and quickens our love.

This book is conquering—it overcomes Satan, destroys sin, and leads sinners as willing captives to the Prince of peace.

This book is original—nothing is borrowed, stolen, or altered—all is of divine origin.

This book is penetrating—it wounds the heart, pierces the conscience, and divides between soul and spirit.

This book is perfect—as a whole, and in every part; it contains a perfect system of doctrine, a perfect code of precepts, and a perfect variety of truth to meet every possible case.

The Bible is compared to . . .
a fire, that burns;
a hammer, that breaks;
a sword, that pierces and slays;
a light, that shines in a dark place;
a lantern, that guides the feet;
milk, which nourishes and feeds;
a suit of armor, which protects the person;
incorruptible seed, which always brings forth fruit.
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It is called . . .
the word of God,
the word of righteousness,
the word of reconciliation,
the word of life,
the word of faith,
the word of salvation,
the word of grace,
the word of truth,
the faithful word,
a more sure word of prophecy,
the word of the saint’s testimony,
and the word of Christ.

Of this word, Job could say, “I have esteemed the words of his mouth, more than my necessary food.”

Jeremiah exclaims, “Your words were found, and I ate them; and your word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart!”

David appeals to the Lord and says, “Your word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against you. I will delight myself in your statutes, I will not forget your word. Your word is very pure, therefore your servant loves it. My eyes stay open through the watches of the night—that I may meditate on your word.”

Jesus said, “The Scriptures testify of Me.”

Paul insists, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

O, for greater love to the Scriptures—that we may know them, enjoy them, conform to them, exercise faith in them, and make them our delight! May we read them daily, pray over them constantly, meditate on them frequently, and manifest their holy tendency in life and death. May our memories be stored with them, our hearts be sanctified by them, and our lives correspond with them.

O may these heavenly pages be
My ever dear delight;
And still new beauties may I see,
And still increasing light!

James Smith, New Park Street Church, London, 1849

The Lord is on my side Octavius Winslow

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The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?” Psalm 118:6

God must be on the side of His people, since He has, in an everlasting covenant, made Himself over to be their God. In an especial manner, and in the highest degree, He is the God of His people. In the most comprehensive meaning of the words, He is for us. His love is for us—His perfections are for us—His covenant is for us—His government, extending over all the world, and His power over all flesh, is for us. There is nothing in God, nothing in His dealings, nothing in His providences, but what is on the side of His people. Enshrined in His heart, engraved on His hand, kept as the apple of His eye, God forms a mighty bulwark for His church. “As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about His people from henceforth even forever.” In Christ Jesus, holiness, justice, and truth, unite with mercy, grace, and love, in weaving an invincible shield around each believer. There is not a purpose of His mind, nor a feeling of His heart, nor an event of His providence, nor an act of His government, that is not pledged to the happiness, the security, the well-being of His people. What Joshua said to the children of Israel, trembling to encounter the giants of Anak, may be truly said to every believer in view of his foes, “The Lord is with us, fear them not.”

Not the Father only, but the Son of God, is also on our side. Has He not amply proved it? Who, when there was no eye to pity, and no arm to save, undertook our cause, and embarked all His grace and glory in our salvation? Who slew our great Goliath, and rescued us from Pharaoh, discharged our debt, and released us from prison? Who extinguished the fires of our hell, and kindled the glories of our heaven? Who did all this by the sacrifice of Himself? Oh, it was Jesus! Need we further proof that He is for us? Who appears on our behalf within the veil? Who sits for us as a priest upon His throne? Whose blood, first shed on Calvary, now sprinkles the mercy-seat? Who pleads, and argues, and intercedes, and prays for us in the high court of heaven? Whose human sympathy flows down in one continuous stream from that abode of glory, blending with our every trial, and suffering, and sorrow? Who is ever near to thwart our foes, and to pluck our feet from the snare of the fowler? Oh, it is Christ! And there is not a moment of time, nor a circumstance of life, in which He does not show Himself strong in behalf of His people.

And so of the Holy Spirit. Who quickened us when we were dead in trespasses and in sins? Who taught us when we were ignorant, enlightened us when we were dark, comforted us when we were distressed; and when wounded and bleeding, and ready to die, led us, all oppressed with guilt and sorrow as we were, to Jesus? Who inspired the first pulsation of life, and lighted the first spark of love; who created the first ray of hope in our soul, and dried the first tear of godly grief from our eye? Oh, it was the eternal Spirit, and He, too, is for us. Survey the record of your own history, dear reader. What a chequered life yours, perhaps, has been! How dotted the map of your journeyings, how many-colored the stones that have paved your path, how varied and blended the hues that compose the picture of your life! And yet, God constructed that map, God laid those stones, God pencilled and painted that picture. God went before you, God is with you, and God is for you. He was in the dark cloud that enshrouded all with gloom, and He was in the sunshine that gilded all with beauty. “I will sing of mercy and of judgment; unto You, O Lord, will I sing.” Who has carried forward the work of grace in our souls—checking our feet, restoring our wanderings, holding up our goings, raising us when we had fallen, and establishing our feet more firmly upon the rock? Who has befriended us when men rose up against us? Who has healed all our diseases, and has filled our mouths with good things, so that our youth has been renewed like the eagle’s? It was the Lord who was on our side, and not one good thing of all that He has promised has failed.

Octavius Winslow

J. C. Ryle : Repentance

“Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” Luke 13:3

Repentance is a thorough change of man’s natural heart on the subject of sin. It is a fact that, being born in sin, everyone takes naturally to it. No child ever needed schooling in doing wrong! The seeds are naturally in the heart, and the aptitude of children to do wrong is an unanswerable proof of the corruption and fall of man. When the heart is changed by the Holy Spirit and this natural love of sin is cast out, then the change, called in the Bible “repentance”, takes place. A person in whom the change takes place is said to “repent”, and he may be called a penitent man. But, in fact, repentance is far more than this, and we must examine it closely.

a) A knowledge of sin.
Repentance begins with a knowledge of sin. The penitent man realises the length and breadth of God’s law, and the extent of his own transgressions. Far from being a “decent sort of fellow”, he realises that he is, in fact, wicked, guilty, corrupt and bad in the sight of God. To realise that one is nothing more or less than a great sinner is the first step in true repentance.

b) Sorrow for sin.
The next step is a real sorrow for sin. The penitent person is filled with remorse because of past sin, and grieves through remembering time wasted, talents mis-spent, God dishonoured, and his own soul injured. The burden of these sometimes becomes almost unbearable.

c) Confession of sin.
A penitent person realises that he must speak to God against whom he has sinned, and talk with Him concerning the state of his soul. His sins are heavy and he cannot keep quiet. He is willing to plead, “I have sinned against heaven and before Thee; my iniquity is great. God be merciful to me a sinner”. This is the third step in true repentance.

d) Breaking off from sin.
The whole life of a penitent person is altered. With a new King in his heart the “old man” is put away. He seeks to do God’s will and to keep clear of sin. He breaks away from bad ways and companions, and tries to live a new life.

e) Deep hatred of all sin.
True repentance produces a deep hatred of all sin. The penitent person abhors evil and delights in the law of the Lord. Of course, he frequently falls short of his own standards, and is conscious of his shortcomings. But, for all that, his general tendency is towards God and away from evil. With David, he says, “I count all Thy precepts concerning all things to be right, and I hate every false way” (Ps. 119, 128). This is indeed the crowning step of true repentance.

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But yet this is not a complete picture of repentance. One further thing must be mentioned, for without it, there must be a barrier between men’s souls and heaven. True repentance is never alone; it is always accompanied by lively faith in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith must go together. It cannot be said which comes first—it may be either. But you cannot have one, without the other—true repentance and lively faith.

The experience of all truly penitent people does not necessarily tally exactly. Nor does any man know, mourn, confess or forsake sin perfectly. But all true Christians will recognise something of these matters, and repentance such as this will be, generally, the experience of every true believer.

It is easy to be mistaken over repentance, for the Devil, knowing its value, always produces spurious imitations. Let everyone examine his own heart and be sure that he is not mistaken, but does know true repentance. It must be a business of your heart and not of outward expression in any form. Ahab, remember, could put on sackcloth and ashes when he felt like it, but he never repented in his heart.

Then repentance must include a turning to God. Felix trembled when Paul preached, but that was not true repentance. Repentance must turn a man to God, and make him go to God as his best friend. There must also be a thorough forsaking of sin. Herod liked to hear John preach, but he continued in sin. Feelings in religion are useless, unless accompanied by practice. God does not approve of mere sentimental excitement.

Lastly, repentance must be closely allied with faith in Christ. Judas Iscariot said “I have sinned”, but he never turned to Christ and so he died in his sins. There must be such conviction of sin that it sends us to Christ. Hearing about the Ten Commandments, looking at hell, and thinking about damnation may make people afraid, and they have their use. But repentance is at Calvary, not Sinai, and such repentance starts from heaven, planted in men’s hearts by the Holy Ghost.
THE NECESSITY FOR REPENTANCE

We must now consider why repentance is necessary; and, in fact, the text at the beginning gives a clear answer, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish”. Notice that it says all, without exception, need repentance towards God. Everyone, whoever and whatever they may be, is born in sin and must repent and be converted if they would be saved. But why is such strong language used about this necessity—why is repentance so needful?

a) There is no forgiveness of sins without repentance.
Firstly, it must be clearly understood that repentance itself does not clear sins. That is the work of the blood of Christ. “We are counted righteous before God only for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works or deservings”.

But it is no less true that justified people are always penitent people, and that a forgiven sinner will always be a man who loathes his sin. Without repentance there is no forgiveness of sin.

b) There is no happiness in life without repentance.
Secondly, it is impossible to be really happy in this life unless one is repentant. There may be excitement and merriment so long as health is good and money is in the pocket. But these are not solid happiness. Conscience must be satisfied, and so long as conscience feels that sin has not been really forsaken, it will not be quiet.

Conscience—the inner man—unknown to the outside world, has a burden upon it, and until that burden is removed and repentance made, it has no real comfort. No one can be comfortable unless he is in the right position, and man’s right position is facing God with his back to sin. Until God is King in a person’s life, there can be no peace within and no true happiness. There must be true repentance in all who want to be really happy.

c) There is no preparedness for heaven without repentance.
Heaven is a prepared place for prepared people, and in order that we may be in harmony with the inhabitants of heaven, we need to repent now. An unconverted impenitent man just could not be happy in heaven. There is nothing in heaven for a heart that loves sin, and further, such a heart has no faculties for enjoying the blessings of heaven. We must repent if we want to go to heaven (Col. 1, 12).

Everyone ought to think about this matter most seriously. It is true that many things which we have in this world are not absolutely essential; things like wealth, health, decent clothes, friends and education. Many have reached heaven without these. But no one ever got to heaven without “repentance towards God and faith towards Jesus Christ”. Would that professing Christians realised the absolute necessity of true repentance towards God.

Repentance towards God has a most prominent place in the Gospel, and any teaching which does not give it a principle place is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A person may talk as much as he likes about the Gospel, but while he hangs on to his sins, they are not forgiven. It may be said that God is loving and merciful, and that all will be well in the end. But this idea tramples underfoot the blood of atonement. So long as a person does not repent of sin, then the Gospel of Christ is no Gospel to his soul. Christ is a saviour from sin; not a saviour for man in sin. If a man will stick to his sins, then one day that merciful Saviour will say, “Depart from me, thou worker of iniquity” (Matt. 25, 41).

Some may try to say that it is possible to be happy in this world without repentance. You may laugh and joke and say, “There’s a good time coming”, but this is no proof of true happiness. Many carry on like this, but carry a sorrow in their hearts, and they do not like being alone, for then they are low and miserable. They are always looking for new pleasures and new excitements, and since they do not seek happiness in God, they need
greater excitement all the time. Further, the longer they go without repentance, the more unhappy the heart becomes; and in old age the time will come when conscience will speak and bring unhappiness to the soul.

Above all, some may think there is a possibility of reaching heaven without repentance towards God. Everyone wants to go to heaven—only a madman would wish otherwise. But only those prepared by the Holy Ghost ever do go. The Bible flatly contradicts the modern idea that everyone will eventually go to heaven. The inhabitants of heaven are people of one mind—they are God’s people and they do not include the unrepentant. For these, says the Bible, there is only hell.

It is a solemn thought that an impenitent man is unfit for heaven. It would not be merciful to put him there for he just would not be happy. There will be many wonders at the last day. We shall see many enter heaven whom we had thought would never be there. But one thing is certain; there will be not one unrepentant person amongst them. Those who, following the final judgment day of God, go on to enjoy His presence for eternity, will all be of like mind; men and women who have hated, confessed and forsaken sin, who have repented as well as believed; and who will say, “By the grace of God, I am where I am”, as well as “By the grace of God, I am what I am”.
ENCOURAGEMENTS TO REPENTANCE

It is important now to point out that there are many things which will encourage a person to repent. Many difficulties arise when this subject is brought before us, for every man is very slow to give up sin. Most would rather cut off a right hand than give up their sins, for sins begin like cobwebs, but become iron clamps. Then too, there is a dislike of being thought a saint, and one who is concerned about religious matters. There is a fear of being laughed at because of a care for the soul. Further, the Devil himself will never part with those who are his captives, without a fight. He is indeed the “roaring lion that walketh about seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5, 8). He will never let a man repent without a struggle.

In the face of all this, men need many encouragements to make them repent. And there are indeed many great and free encouragements. There are things in the Bible which ought to move everyone to repentance, and as these are examined it will be seen that there is hope; that it is possible; that by the grace of God a man may repent.

a) The Lord Jesus Christ is a Gracious Saviour.
Christ Himself is the first and great argument to encourage a man to repent. If any doubt concerning repentance, let them look at Christ. He is one “able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him”. He “came to seek and to save that which is lost”. It is written concerning Him that “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name”. Here is the simple answer to doubt and fears. Consider Christ, and doubt about repentance no more. (Study Heb. 7, 25; Acts 5, 31; Luke 19, 10; Mark 2, 17; Matt. 11, 28; John 6, 37; John 1, 12.)

b) The promises in the Word of God.
The Bible contains many glorious promises concerning repentance. “Whosoever confesseth and forsaketh his sins shall find mercy.” “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” “Blessed are the poor in spirit for their’s is the kingdom of God.” Surely these are encouragements which mean there need be no doubt about repentance. (Study Prov. 28, 13; 1 John 1, 9; Matt. 5, 3, 4, 6.)

c) The declarations in the Word of God.

The Bible contains many gracious declarations which certainly encourage repentance. “When the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive.” “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.” “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” Surely these words are encouraging and mean there is no need to doubt about repentance any more. (Study Ezek. 18, 27; Ps. 51, 17; II Pet. 3, 9; Ezek. 33, 11; Luke 15, 10.)

d) Christ’s parables on the subject.

I would particularly draw your attention to two parables which Christ spoke on this subject. Firstly, the parable of the pharisee and the publican (Luke 18, 10-14), and secondly, the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15, 11-24). Both of these parables show how receptive is the Father to those who come to Him in penitence, and mean that we have no need to doubt concerning repentance.

e) The examples of God’s mercy and kindness to penitent men.

The Bible has many examples of God’s mercy and kindness. David’s sin was great, but when he acknowledged that he had “sinned against the Lord”, the reply came, “The Lord hath put away thy sin”. Manasseh killed his own children and turned his back upon God. He even put idols in the Temple. But when he humbled himself, in prison, the Lord answered and released him.

Peter denied his Master three times; but when he wept over his sin, there was mercy, and he was restored to his Master’s favour. And what case could be more desperate than the penitent thief—a dying man on the brink of hell. But when he called on Christ the answer came immediately. (Study II Sam. 12, 13; II Chron. 33, 1-19; Mark 16, 7; Luke 23, 39-43.)

These cases are recorded for our learning, and no greater encouragement to repentance can be imagined. They are proofs of what God’s grace can do, and are intended to lead men to repentance. God is ready at any time to receive anyone who returns to Him. Any man, no matter what he may have been, will find God willing to receive him, to pardon him and glad to have him “home”.

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Every year, thousands of people repent of their sins, but none of these ever regrets his decision. Many repent concerning time misspent and opportunities neglected. But no one has ever declared that he repents of repenting, and turning towards God. No one was ever sorry that he served the Lord. No man ever said, at the end of his days, “I have read my Bible too much, I have thought of God too much, I have prayed too much, I have been too careful about my soul”. Rather, a Christian will say, “Had I my life again, I would walk more closely with God. The way of Christ may have its cross, but it is a pleasant and peaceful path.”

This is a fact which speaks volumes, and shows that it is worth while for a man to repent. The impenitent man is without excuse.

PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS

Having seen the nature of, the necessity for, and the encouragements to repentance, it remains to give some practical applications for all who read this paper.

a) A warning.
It cannot really be supposed that all who read this paper are repentant and lively believers in Christ. For those who have not repented, there can be no more solemn warning than the words of Christ Himself, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish”. These words should come powerfully to anyone who is not really at peace with God, and who is undecided in religion. They are a terrible warning and no one can describe fully their meaning. “Shall perish”—perish in body and soul; and in hell. Let it never be forgotten that everyone, of whatever background or education, is travelling towards hell, and unless they repent, they will certainly arrive in hell.

Think for a moment of the danger which you are in, if you have never repented. You are a sinner—you cannot pretend that you have never sinned. And if you have never repented and found pardon through Christ, then hell must be your destination. Remember Christ’s words, “Except thou repent, thou wilt certainly perish”.

Secondly, think of your guilt. It is guilt when a man does not repent, for we are all responsible to God for repentance. It is the express testimony of Christ that anyone who has been called to repentance and refuses to obey, is more guilty than the man who has never been urged to repent.

Thirdly, remember how foolish it is not to repent. Most people spend their time trying to get on in the world, or trying to obtain more money—more wealth. But without the grace of God, and true repentance everyone is a very poor man in the eyes of God. Time will come when everything of this world will have to be left behind—it is of no use in eternity. Only repentance now will be of use then. It is folly to ignore Christ’s words— “Except you repent you will likewise perish”.

b) An invitation.
The second practical application is an invitation to all who feel their sins, and desire to repent, but yet are not sure what to do. There is only one answer; Repent without delay.

The apostle Paul continually commanded the unconverted to repent; I can only do the same. If a person wants to go to heaven, he must act; he must break off from his sins and turn to Christ. Otherwise, he will perish. The best time to do this is now! Repent without delay.

This means pouring out your heart to Christ; tell Him you are a sinner and want to be saved. He will hear you, give you His power and grace and pour out His Spirit on you. He will listen and save you. He died for everyone, so you only need to approach Him humbly and He will grant you pardon, peace and everlasting life.

Then resolve to break away from every known sin. Cease to do evil (Is. 1, 16). Determine that by God’s grace you will have no more to do with your besetting and favourite sins.

Some may be ashamed of the idea of repentance. But there is no need to be. Ashamed of sin, yes; but not of repentance. Never be ashamed of seeking God; nor is there any need to be afraid to repent. No one is so bad that Christ will not have him. There is no need for any intermediary to bring a person to Him. Anyone can come directly to Christ, and He, loving as He is, will give the absolution and peace of mind you need.

c) An exhortation.
Lastly, to all who know repentance by experience, I would give this exhortation. Keep up your repentance. Whenever you feel slack or dull and are careless about even little sins, look to your own heart and take heed that you do not fall. There will always be sins to deplore and confess. Take them daily to Christ and receive His mercy and grace every day.

Let repentance towards God and faith towards the Lord Jesus Christ be the great pillars of our religion. May we, while we repent, believe; and while we believe, repent. May these be uppermost in the creed of our souls.

 

John Charles Ryle, the first Bishop of Liverpool, lived from 1816-1900. He was a prolific writer of both Devotional and Doctrinal books and tracts. This present booklet is an edited version of his pamphlet, originally published as a tract, but later included in his collection of tracts, entitled “Old Paths”, published in 1897. This book was sub-titled, “Plain Statements on some of the Weightier Matters of Christianity.” The preface begins, “This volume consists of a series of papers, systematically arranged, on the leading truths of Christianity which are ‘necessary to salvation’.”