Thoughts on Public Worship
By J.C. Ryle
"God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24).
"For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh" (Phil. 3:3).
"And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" (Matt. 15:9).
“How do we worship?” This question is of great importance today, particularly remembering that many people who attend church do so very infrequently; and that many who do attend regularly are not concerned about how the worship should be carried out. It needs to be remembered that the Bible points out that not all worship is right in the sight of God.
So it is important for those who are professedly Christians to understand the essence of worship. But it must be stated that we are considering only public worship, and not private worship, which includes prayer and Bible-reading. Such does lie at the root of personal Christianity, and in fact, without these private religious activities, public worship is really of little use. But it is solely public worship which is the subject here.
THE GENERAL IMPORTANCE OF PUBLIC WORSHIP
There are few who call themselves Christians who would deny that we ought to make some public profession of religion, and unite with others to worship God. Public worship has always been a mark of God’s servants. From the earliest Biblical times, right through to the present day, God’s people have met to worship. However few, and whatever the difficulties, they have met together for many other reasons, besides offering worship to God. For example, gathering for worship gives public testimony to the world; it is an encouragement, comfort and strength to those who join together, and it trains and prepares them for the worship of eternity.
Right through the Old Testament there are many examples of public worship – from the Patriarchs to the time of Christ. The Jew who was not a public worshipper would have been cut off from the congregation of Israel. In the New Testament, we find that Jesus Christ gave a special promise of His presence whenever two or three are assembled in His name. The Apostles, wherever they founded churches, made the duty of assembling together one of the first principles. It is an undeniable fact that where there is no private prayer, there is no grace in a man’s heart; equally, where there is no public worship there is no Church of God and no profession of Christianity.
This same thing can be seen in Church History. Public worship has always been one of God’s great instruments in doing good to the souls of men. Preventing public worship causes great spiritual injury to people. Only removal of the Bible itself could do greater harm.
It is true that public worship can become a merely formal act, and many do attend and get no benefit. But misuse is no argument against proper use, and people who attend in this frame of mind become, if anything, rather more impenitent and hardened. Further, if comparison is made between worshippers and non-worshippers it will be found that there is, on average, far more good amongst those who worship than amongst those who do not. Whatever may be said, worship does in fact make a difference to the individual.
We should never forget the exhortation in the Epistle to the Hebrews, “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhort one another” (Heb. 10, 25). We should act upon this exhortation and go on worshipping in spite of every discouragement. Let us say with David, “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord”; and “I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness” (Ps. 122, 1; 84, 10).
THE LEADING PRINCIPLES OF PUBLIC WORSHIP
The leading principles of public worship can be found by a thoughtful reading of the Bible, and so here they will be set out only briefly.
1) True worship must be directed to the Right Object.
The Bible is adamant that God alone should be the object of worship. Prayers and adoration to anything or anyone else are unwarranted by Scripture, a waste of time and most offensive to God. God is a jealous God, and He has declared that He will not give His glory to another. It is well to remember that the second commandment forbids us not only to worship, but even to “bow down” to anything besides God.
2) True worship must be through the mediation of Christ.
This again is fully commanded in Scripture. “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me” (John 14, 6). Christians are a people who “come unto God by Christ” (Heb. 7, 25). It is true that God is love, but He is also the God of infinite justice, purity and holiness, Who hates sin. Anyone who presumes to come to Him without an atonement and the Mediator whom He has appointed will find his worship unacceptable.
3) True worship must be wholly Scriptural.
We read concerning the Jews, “In vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15, 9). Thus, anyone who says that a man-made ordinance is as binding on conscience and as needful to salvation as anything appointed by Christ is saying something he has no right to say. Paul tells us that there is such a thing as “will-worship”, which has a “show of wisdom”, but is in fact useless because it only “satisfies the flesh” (Col. 2, 23).
4) True worship must be Intelligent.
Worshippers must know what they are doing. It is completely false to say that ignorance is the mother of devotion. The charge against the Samaritans was, “Ye worship ye know not what” (John 4, 22). God made man an intelligent being with mind as well as body. Worship in which the mind takes no part is useless and unprofitable, and would be as suitable for animals as for man.
5) True worship must be from the Heart.
Our affections as well as our intellect must be employed in worship; our inner man must serve God as well as our body. Many times in the Old Testament we read that the lip worship of the Jews was unacceptable to God (for example, Isaiah 29, 13; Ezekiel 33, 31). But God asks principally for the heart in worship, whether it be public or private worship. God is a Spirit, and He cares nothing for man’s bodily service, no matter how devout it may appear, nor how organised it may be, if it is not accompanied by heart service as well. The Bible tells us that man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart, and that He will not despise a broken and a contrite heart (1 Sam. 16, 7; Psa. 51, 7).
6) True worship must be Reverent.
Our Lord began and ended His ministry with practical protests against irreverent worship. Twice He drove out from the Temple those who were profaning its courts. So called Christians who spend their time in Church staring about, whispering, fidgeting and so on, but not really praying or listening, are no better than those cast out by Christ. Admittedly “bodily service” alone is useless, but there is a proper way to behave when we come near to God. If it is worth while to attend worship at all, then it is worth while to do it properly, carefully and well. “Let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Hebrews 12, 28-29).
These principles show that there are many in our churches who are worshipping in an utterly useless way; in a way that is without Scripture, without Christ, without the Holy Spirit, without knowledge, without heart and without benefit to the worshipper. Anyone trying to worship in this way might just as well not be in the congregation. Every Christian must always be on guard that his worship does not fall short in any way. It is worth remembering that God looks for the quality of worship and not quantity. The inward and spiritual character of the congregation is of far more importance in His sight than the number of worshippers, or the outward signs of devotion which they show.
1. Substitute anything for Christ, and the Gospel is totally spoiled!
2. Add anything to Christ, and the Gospel ceases to be a pure Gospel!
3. Put anything between a person and Christ, and that person will neglect Christ for that very thing!
4. Spoil the proportions of Christ’s Gospel, and you spoil its effectiveness!
5. Evangelical religion must be the Gospel, the whole Gospel and nothing but the Gospel!
~ J.C. Ryle
Tract: Evangelical Religion
Justification and Sanctification
By J.C. Ryle
I now propose to consider, in the last place, the distinction between justification and sanctification. Wherein do they agree, and wherein do they differ?
This branch of our subject is one of great importance, though I fear it will not seem so to all my readers. I shall handle it briefly, but I dare not pass it over altogether. Too many are apt to look at nothing but the surface of things in religion, and regard nice distinctions in theology as questions of” words and names,” which are of little real value. But I warn all who are in earnest about their souls, that the discomfort which arises from not” distinguishing things that differ” in Christian doctrine is very great indeed;and I especially advise them, if they love peace, to seek clear views about the matter before us. Justification and sanctification are two distinct things we must always remember. Yet there are points in which they agree and points in which they differ. Let us try to find out what they are.
In what, then, are justification and sanctification alike?
(a) Both proceed originally from the free grace of God. It is of His gift alone that believers are justified or sanctified at all.
(b) Both are part of that great work of salvation which Christ, in the eternal covenant, has undertaken on behalf of His people. Christ is the fountain of life, from which pardon and holiness both flow. The root of each is Christ.
(c) Both are to be found in the same persons. Those who are justified are always sanctified, and those who are sanctified are always justified. God has joined them together, and they cannot be put asunder.
(d) Both begin at the same time. The moment a person begins to be a justified person; he also begins to be a sanctified person. He may not feel it, but it is a fact.
(e) Both are alike necessary to salvation. No one ever reached heaven without a renewed heart as well as forgiveness, without the Spirit's grace as well as the blood of Christ, without a meetness for eternal glory as well as a title. The one is just as necessary as the other.
Such are the points on which justification and sanctification agree. Let us now reverse the picture, and see wherein they differ.
(a) Justification is the reckoning and counting a man to be righteous for the sake of another, even Jesus Christ the Lord. Sanctification is the actual making a man inwardly righteous, though it may be in a very feeble degree.
(b) The righteousness we have by our justification is not our own, but the everlasting perfect righteousness of our great Mediator Christ, imputed to us, and made our own by faith. The righteousness we have by sanctification is our own righteousness, imparted, inherent, and wrought in us by the Holy Spirit, but mingled with much infirmity and imperfection.
(c) In justification our own works have no place at all, and simple faith in Christ is the one thing needful.
(d) In sanctification our own works are of vast importance and God bids us fight, and watch, and pray, and strive, and take pains, and labour Justification is a finished and complete work, and a man is perfectly justified the moment he believes. Sanctification is an imperfect work, comparatively, and will never be perfected until we reach heaven.
(e) Justification admits of no growth or increase: a man is as much justified the hour he first comes to Christ by faith as he will be to all eternity. Sanctification is eminently a progressive work, and admits of continual growth and enlargement so long as a man lives.
(f) Justification has special reference to our persons, our standing in God's sight, and our deliverance from guilt. Sanctification has special reference to our natures, and the moral renewal of our hearts.
(g) Justification gives us our title to heaven, and boldness to enter in. Sanctification gives us our meetness for heaven, and prepares us to enjoy it when we dwell there.
(h) Justification is the act of God about us, and is not easily discerned by others. Sanctification is the work of God within us, and cannot be hid in its outward manifestation from the eyes of men.
I commend these distinctions to the attention of all my readers, and I ask them to ponder them well. I am persuaded that one great cause of the darkness and uncomfortable feelings of many well-meaning people in the matter of religion is their habit of confounding, and not distinguishing, justification and sanctification. It can never be too strongly impressed on our minds that they are two separate things. No doubt they cannot be divided, and everyone that is a partaker of either is a partaker of both. But never, never ought they to be confounded, and never ought the distinction between them to be forgotten. It only remains for me now to bring this subject to a conclusion by a few plain words of application. The nature and visible marks of sanctification have been brought before us. What practical reflections ought the whole matter to raise in our minds?
(1) For one thing, let us all awake to a sense of the perilous state of many professing Christians.”Without holiness no man shall see the Lord”; without sanctification there is no salvation. (Heb. xii. 14.) Then what an enormous amount of so-called religion there is which is perfectly useless! What an immense proportion of church-goers and chapel-goers are in the broad road that leadeth to destruction! The thought is awful, crushing, and overwhelming.Oh, that preachers and teachers would open their eyes and realize the condition of souls around them! Oh, that man could be persuaded to”flee from the wrath to come”I If unsanctified souls can be saved and go to heaven, the Bible is not true. Yet the Bible is true and cannot lie! What must the end be!
(2) For another thing, let us make sure work of our own condition, and never rest till we feel and know that we are” sanctified” ourselves. What are our tastes, and choices, and likings, and in clinations? This is the great testing question. It matters little what we wish, and what we hope, and what we desire to be before we die. Where are we now? What are we doing? Are we sanctified or not? If not, the fault is all our own.
(3) For another thing, if we would be sanctified, our course is clear and plain— we must begin with Christ. We must go to Him as sinners, with no plea but that of utter need, and cast our souls on Him by faith, for peace and reconciliation with God. We must place ourselves in His hands, as in the hands of a good physician, and cry to Him for mercy and grace. We must wait for nothing to bring with us as a recommendation. The very first step towards sanctification, no less than justification, is to come with faith to Christ. We must first live and then work.
(4) For another thing, if we would grow in holiness and become more sanctified, we must continually go on as we began,, and be ever making fresh applications to Christ. He is the Head from which every member must be supplied. (Ephes. iv. 16.) To live the life of daily faith in the Son of God, and to be daily drawing out of His fulness the promised grace and strength which He has laid up for His people—this is the grand secret of progressive sanctification. Believers who seem at a standstill are generally neglecting close communion with Jesus, and so grieving the Spirit. He that prayed,”Sanctify them,” the last night before His crucifixion, is infinitely willing to help everyone who by faith applies to Him for help, and desires to be made more holy.
(5) For another thing, let us not expect too much from our own hearts here below. At our best we shall find in ourselves daily cause for humiliation, and discover that we are needy debtors to mercy and grace every hour. The more light we have, the more we shall see our own imperfection. Sinners we were when we began, sinners we shall find ourselves as we go on; renewed, pardoned, justified—yet sinners to the very last. Our absolute perfection is yet to come, and the expectation of it is one reason why we should long for heaven.
(6) Finally, let us never be ashamed of making much of sanctification,, and contending for a high standard of holiness. While some are satisfied with a miserably low degree of attainment, and others are not ashamed to live on without any holiness at all—content with a mere round of church-going and chapel-going, but never getting on, like a horse in a mill—let us stand fast in the old paths, follow after eminent holiness ourselves, and recommend it boldly to others. This is the only way to be really happy.
Let us feel convinced, whatever others may say, that holiness is happiness, and that the man who gets through life most comfortably is the sanctified man. No doubt there are some true Christians who from ill-health, or family trials, or other secret causes, enjoy little sensible comfort, and go mourning all their days on the way to heaven. But these are exceptional cases. As a general rule, in the long run of life, it will be found true that”sanctified people are the happiest people on earth. They have solid comforts which the world can neither give nor take away.”The ways of wisdom are ways of pleasantness.”--” Great peace has they that love Thy law.”—It was said by One who cannot lie,”My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”—But it is also written,”There isno peace unto the wicked.” (Prov iii. 17; Ps. cxix. 165; Matt, xi. 30; Is. xlviii. 22.)
P. S. THE subject of sanctification is of such deep importance, and the mistakes made about it so many and great, that I make no apology for strongly recommending” Owen on the Holy Spirit” to all who want to study more thoroughly the whole doctrine of sanctification. No single paper like this can embrace it all. I am quite aware that Owen's writings are not fashionable in the present day, and that many think fit to neglect and sneer at him as a Puritan! Yet the great divine who in Commonwealth times was Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, does not deserve to be treated in this way. He had more learning and sound knowledge of Scripture in his little finger than many who depreciate him have in their whole bodies. I assert unhesitatingly that the man who wants to study experimental theology will find no books equal to those of Owen and some of his contemporaries, for complete, Scriptural, and exhaustive treatment of the subjects they handle.
Nine Lessons from God Concerning Sickness
By J.C. Ryle
Sickness is meant…
1. To make us think, to remind us that we have a soul as well as a body – an immortal soul, a soul that will live forever in happiness or in misery – and that if this soul is not saved we had better never have been born.
2. To teach us that there is a world beyond the grave, and that the world we now live in is only a training place for another dwelling, where there will be no decay, no sorrow, no tears, no misery, and no sin.
3. To make us look at our past lives honestly, fairly, and conscientiously. Am I ready for my great change if I should not get better? Do I repent truly of my sins? Are my sins forgiven and washed away in Christ’s blood? Am I prepared to meet God?
4. To make us see the emptiness of the world and its utter inability to satisfy the highest and deepest needs of the soul.
5. To send us to our Bibles. That blessed Book, in the days of health, is too often left on the shelf, becomes the safest place in which to put a bank-note, and is never opened from January to December. But sickness often brings it down from the shelf and throws new light on its pages.
6. To make us pray. Too many, I fear, never pray at all, or they only rattle over a few hurried words morning and evening without thinking what they do. But prayer often becomes a reality when the valley of the shadow of death is in sight.
7. To make us repent and break off our sins. If we will not hear the voice of mercies, God sometimes makes us “hear the rod.”
8. To draw us to Christ. Naturally we do not see the full value of that blessed Savior. We secretly imagine that our prayers, good deeds, and sacrament-receiving will save our souls. But when flesh begins to fail, the absolute necessity of a Redeemer, a Mediator, and an Advocate with the Father, stands out before men’s eyes like fire, and makes them understand those words, “Simply to Your cross I cling,” as they never did before. Sickness has done this for many – they have found Christ in the sick room.
9. To make us feeling and sympathizing towards others. By nature we are all far below our blessed Master’s example, who had not only a hand to help all, but a heart to feel for all. None, I suspect, are so unable to sympathize as those who have never had trouble themselves – and none are so able to feel as those who have drunk most deeply the cup of pain and sorrow.
Summary: Beware of fretting, murmuring, complaining, and giving way to an impatient spirit. Regard your sickness as a blessing in disguise – a good and not an evil – a friend and not an enemy. No doubt we should all prefer to learn spiritual lessons in the school of ease and not under the rod. But rest assured that God knows better than we do how to teach us. The light of the last day will show you that there was a meaning and a “need be” in all your bodily ailments. The lessons that we learn on a sick-bed, when we are shut out from the world, are often lessons which we should never learn elsewhere.
3 Simple Rules for Listening to a Sermon
It is not enough that we go to church and hear sermons. We may do so for fifty years, and be nothing better, but rather worse. “Take heed,” says our Lord, “how you hear.” Would any one know how to hear properly? Then let them lay to heart three simple rules.
1) We must hear with FAITH, believing implicitly that every word of God is true, and shall stand. The word in old time did not profit the Jews, since it was “not mixed with faith in those who heard it” (Heb. 4:2).
2) We must hear with REVERENCE, remembering constantly that the Bible is the book of God. This was the habit of the Thessalonians. They received Paul’s message, “not as the word of men, but the word of God” (1 Thess. 2:13).
3) We must hear with PRAYER, praying for God’s blessing before the sermon is preached, praying for God’s blessing again when the sermon is over. Here lies the grand defect of the hearing of many. They ask no blessing, and so they have none. The sermon passes through their minds like water through a leaky vessel, and leaves nothing behind.
Let us bear these rules in mind every Sunday morning, before we go to hear the Word of God preached. Let us not rush into God’s presence careless, reckless, and unprepared, as if it mattered not in what way such work was done. Let us carry with us faith, reverence, and prayer. If these three are our companions, we will hear with profit, and return with praise.
~ J.C. Ryle
The Reality of Eternal Hell
There is such a place as hell. Let no one deceive you with vain words. What people do not like, they try hard not to believe. When the Lord Jesus Christ comes to judge the world, He will punish all who are not His disciples with a fearful punishment:
all who are found unrepentant and unbelieving, all who have clung to sin, all who are stuck to the world, and all who have set their affections on things below. All who are without Christ shall come to an awful end. Whosoever is not written in the book of life shall be “cast into the lake of fire.” [Rev 20:15]
I call on all who profess to believe the Bible, to be on their guard.
1) Some do not believe there is any hell at all. They think it impossible there can be such a place. They call it inconsistent with the mercy of God. They say it is too awful an idea to be really true. The devil of course, rejoices in the views of such people. They help his kingdom mightily. They are preaching up his old favorite doctrine, “You shall not surely die.”
2) Some do not believe that hell is eternal. They tell us it is incredible that a compassionate God will punish people forever. He will surely open the prison doors at last. This also is a mighty help to the devil’s cause.
3) Some believe there is a hell, but never allow that anybody is going there. All people with them are good. As soon as they die, all were sincere, all meant well, and all, they hope, got to heaven. Alas! what a common delusion this is!
Summary: If I never spoke of hell, I should think I had kept back something that was profitable, and should look on myself as an accomplice of the devil. Beware of new and strange doctrines about hell and the eternity of punishment. Beware of manufacturing a God of your own: a God who is all mercy, but not just; a God who is all love, but not holy; a God who has a heaven for everybody, but a hell for none; a God who can allow good and bad to be side by side in time, but will make no distinction between good and bad in eternity. Such a God is an idol of your own. ~ J.C. Ryle
1. Read the Bible with an EARNEST desire to understand it. Do not be content to just read the words of Scripture. Seek to grasp the message they contain.
2. Read the Scriptures with a SIMPLE, CHILDLIKE faith and humility. Believe what God reveals. Reason must bow to God's revelation.
3. Read the Word with a spirit of OBEDIENCE and SELF-APPLICATION. Apply what God says to yourself and obey His will in ALL things.
4. Read the Holy Scriptures EVERY day. We quickly lose the nourishment and strength of yesterday's bread. We must feed our souls daily upon the manna God has given us.
5. Read the WHOLE bible and read it in an ORDERLY way. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable." I know of no better way to read the Bible than to start at the beginning and read straight through to the end, a portion every day, comparing Scripture with Scripture.
6. Read the Word of God FAIRLY and HONESTLY. As a general rule, any passage of Scripture means what it appears to mean. Interpret every passage in this simple manner, in its context.
7. Read the Bible with CHRIST constantly in view. The whole Book is about Him. Look for Him on every page. He is there. If you fail to see Him there, you need to read that page again.
~ J.C. Ryle
1. The Spirit awakens a person’s heart.
2. The Spirit teaches a person’s mind.
3. The Spirit leads to the Word.
4. The Spirit convinces of sin.
5. The Spirit draws to Christ.
6. The Spirit sanctifies.
7. The Spirit makes a person spiritually minded.
8. The Spirit produces inward conflict.
9. The Spirit makes a person love the brethren.
10. The Spirit teaches a person to pray.
These are the great marks of the Holy Spirit’s presence. Put the question to your conscience and ask: Has the Spirit done anything of this kind for your soul?
~ J.C. Ryle
Tract: Having the Spirit