Bishop J. C. Ryle
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones once wrote about Bishop J. C. Ryle: “In his day he was famous, outstanding and beloved as a champion and exponent of the evangelical and reformed faith. For some reason or other, however, his name and his works are not familiar to modern evangelicals. . . . The characteristics of Bishop Ryle’s method and style are obvious. He is pre-eminently and always scriptural and expository. He never starts with a theory into which he tries to fit various scriptures. He always starts with the Word and expounds it. It is exposition at its very best and highest. It is always clear and logical and invariably leads to a clear enunciation of doctrine.” In the sermon excerpt below Ryle helps us to understand how the spiritually dead are brought to life:
“And He has made you alive, who were once dead in trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1)
By God’s help, I will set before you the full provision there is made for dead souls. Listen to me a little longer, and I will once more show you what is written in the Scripture of truth.
One thing is very clear—we cannot work this mighty change ourselves. It is not in us. We have no strength or power to do it. We may change our sins—but we cannot change our hearts. We may take up a new way—but not a new nature. We may make considerable reforms and alterations. We may lay aside many outward bad habits, and begin to do many outward duties. But we cannot create a new principle within us. We cannot bring something out of nothing. The Ethiopian cannot change his skin, nor the leopard his spots. No more can we put life into our own souls. (Jeremiah 13:23.)
“There is not one good duty which the natural man can do. If it should be said to him, Think but one good thought, and for it you shall go to heaven, he could not think it. Until God raises him from the stink of sin, as He did Lazarus from the grave, he cannot do anything that is well pleasing to God. He may do the works of a moral man—but to do the works of a man quickened and enlightened is beyond his power.”—Usher’s Sermons.
“Nature can no more cast out nature, than Satan can cast out Satan.”—Thomas Watson, 1653.
“Nature cannot raise itself to this, any more than a man can give natural being to himself.”—Leighton.
Another thing is equally clear; no other man can do it for us. Ministers may preach to us, and pray with us—receive us at the font in baptism, admit us at the Lord’s Table, and give us the bread and wine—but they cannot bestow spiritual life. They may bring in regularity in the place of disorder, and outward decency in the place of open sin. But they cannot go below the surface. They cannot reach our hearts. Paul may plant and Apollos water—but God alone can give the increase. (1 Cor. 3:6.) Who then can make a dead soul alive? No one can do it but God. He only, who breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life, can ever make a dead sinner—a living Christian. He only, who formed the world out of nothing in the day of creation, can make man a new creature. He only who said, “Let there be light, and there was light,” can cause spiritual light to shine into man’s heart. He only who formed man out of the dust and gave life to his body can ever give life to his soul. His is the special office to do it by His Spirit, and His also is the power. (Gen. 1:2, 3.)
“To create or bring something out of nothing is beyond the power of the strongest creature. It is above the strength of all people and angels to create the least blade of grass; God challenges this as His prerogative royal. (Isaiah 40:26.) Augustine said truly, To convert the little world ‘man’ is more than to create the great world.”—George Swinnock, 1660.
The glorious Gospel contains provision for our spiritual, as well as our eternal life. The Lord Jesus is a complete Savior. That mighty living Head has no dead members. His people are not only justified and pardoned—but quickened together with Him, and made partakers of His resurrection. To Him the Spirit joins the sinner, and raises him by that union from death to life. In Him the sinner lives after he has believed. The spring of all his vitality is the union between Christ and his soul, which the Spirit begins and keeps up. Christ is the appointed fountain of all spiritual life, and the Holy Spirit the appointed agent who conveys that life to our souls. (“Alive or Dead”)
Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Faith, Grace, Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, Prayer, Theology | Tagged: Christ, God, Holy Spirit, J. C. Ryle, Jesus, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Satan, Sermon, Usher | Comments Off