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Monday, November 20, 2006

How J.C. Ryle shook my heart

J.C. Ryle, in his essay on self-inquiry, asks "whether we know anything of enjoying the means of grace." By "means of grace" he refers to reading the Bible, private prayer, public worship, the "Lord's supper," and "the rest of the Lord's day." He says:

They are means which God has graciously appointed, in order to convey grace to man's heart by the Holy Ghost, or to keep up the spiritual life after it has begun. As long as the world stands, the state of a man's soul will always depend greatly on the manner and spirit in which he uses means of grace. The manner and spirit, I say deliberately and of purpose. Many English people use the means of grace regularly and formally, but know nothing of enjoying them: they attend to them as a matter of duty, but without a jot of feeling, interest, or affection. Yet even common sense might tell us that this formal mechanical use of holy things, is utterly worthless and unprofitable. The feeling about them is just one the many tests of the state of our souls. How can that man be thought to love God who reads about him and his Christ, as a mere matter of duy, content and satisfied if he has just moved his mark onward over so many chapters?--How can that man suppose he is ready to meet Christ, who never takes any trouble to pour out his heart to Him in private as a friend, and is satisfied with saying over a string of words every morning and evening, under the name of "prayer," scarcely thinking what he is about?--How could that man be happy in heaven forever, who finds the Sunday a dull, gloomy, tiresome day,-- who knows nothing of hearty prayer and praise, and cares nothing whether he hears truth or error from the pulpit, or scarcely listens to the sermon?--What can be the spiritual condition of that man whose heart never "burns within him," when he receives the bread and wine which specially remind us of Christ's death on the cross, and the atonement for sin?

These inquiries are very serious and important. If means of grace had no other use, and were not mighty helps toward heaven, they would be useful in supplying a test of our real state in the sight of God. Tell me what a man does in the matter of Bible-reading and praying, in the matter of Sunday, public worship, and the Lord's supper, and I will soon tell you what he is, and on which road he is travelling.

How is it with ourselves? Once more let us ask,--In the matter of means of grace, "How do we do?
- Taken from Practical Religion by J. C. Ryle, 1878, pp. 13-14.

I think we need to be blunt with ourselves and with others. These days, the worst possible thing you can do is judge someone else. I love how, no matter what is said, one can always reply by saying, "it is not your place to judge." Paul and Paul reminded us on Sunday, that we must not condemn or despise, but that we MUST judge rightly. My father is a great judge of character. I think he has a gift. He has often said, "Give me an hour with some one and I will 'soon tell you what he is, and on which road he is travelling.'" The reasoning is that someone who loves the Lord, loves speaking his name, and about the forgiveness of sin, and loves meeting with God's people, and so on.

I ask, does one know, from spending time with you (me), "what you are, and on which road you travel?"


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're a wild olive shoot, grafted in to Christ's church. You love to speak of the things of Christ to everyone you meet. Keep at it!

5:06 AM  

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