• Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

  • Blog Stats

    • 1,396,282 Visits
  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,269 other subscribers
  • June 2023
    M T W T F S S
  • Recommended Reading


Bishop J. C. RyleJ.C. Ryle:

The love of the bible will show itself in a believer’s readiness to bear evil as well as to do good. It will make him patient under provocation, forgiving when injured, meek when unjustly attacked, and quiet when slandered. It will make him hear much, put up with much and look over much, submit often and deny himself often, all for the sake of peace. (Practical Religion)


Bishop J. C. RyleJ.C. Ryle:

“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 as 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 broad in eternity. Such a God is an idol of your own, as truly an idol as any snake or crocodile in an Egyptian temple. The hands of your own fancy and sentimentality have made him. He is not the God of the Bible, and beside the God of the Bible there is no God at all.”


He Rose Again!

J.C.-RyleJ. C. Ryle:

Reader, beware of regarding the Lord Jesus Christ only as one that is dead. Here, I believe, many greatly err. They think much of His death, and it is right that they should do so. But we ought not to stop short there. We ought to remember that He not only died and went to the grave, but that He rose again, and ascended up on high, leading captivity captive. We ought to remember that He is now sitting on the right hand of God, to do a work as real, as true, as important to our souls, as the work which He did when He shed His blood. Christ lives, and is not dead. He lives as truly as any one of ourselves. Christ sees us, hears us, knows us, and is acting as a Priest in heaven on behalf of His believing people. The thought of His life ought to have as great and important a place in our souls as the thought of His death upon the cross.

Zeal is Good for the Christian’s Soul

Bishop J. C. RyleIf you wish to make a difference in the cause of Christ in this world, you must hunger for zeal. Whom do we know of the great Christians we could mention who did not possess a great zeal to honor Christ? According to J. C. Ryle:

“It is always good to be zealous in a good cause.” (Galatians 4:18)

It is certain that God never gave a man a commandment, which it was not man’s interest, as well as duty, to obey. He never set a grace before His believing people, which His people will not find it their highest happiness to follow after. This is true of all the graces of the Christian character. Perhaps it is pre-eminently true in the case of zeal.

Zeal is good for a Christian’s own soul. We all know that exercise is good for the health, and that regular employment of our muscles and limbs promotes our bodily comfort, and increases our bodily vigor. Now that which exercise does for our bodies, zeal will do for our souls. It will help mightily to promote inward feelings of joy, peace, comfort, and happiness. None have so much enjoyment of Christ as those who are ever zealous for His glory—jealous over their own walk—tender over their own consciences—full of anxiety about the souls of others—and ever watching, working, laboring, striving, and toiling to extend the knowledge of Jesus Christ upon earth. Such men live in the full light of the sun, and therefore their hearts are always warm. Such men water others, and therefore they are watered themselves. Their hearts are like a garden daily refreshed by the dew of the Holy Spirit. They honor God, and so God honors them.

I would not be mistaken in saying this. I would not appear to speak slightingly of any believer. I know that the Lord takes pleasure in all His people. There is not one, from the least to the greatest—from the smallest child in the kingdom of God, to the oldest warrior in the battle against Satan—there is not one in whom the Lord Jesus Christ does not take great pleasure. We are all His children—and however weak and feeble some of us may be, as a father pities his children, so does the Lord pity those who love and fear Him. We are all plants of His own planting—and though many of us are poor, weakly exotics, scarcely keeping life together in a foreign soil—yet as the gardener loves that which his hands have raised, so does the Lord Jesus love the poor sinners who trust in Him.

But while I say this, I do also believe that the Lord takes special pleasure in those who are zealous for Him—in those who give themselves, body, soul and spirit, to extend His glory in this world. To them He reveals Himself, as He does not to others. To them He shows things that other men never see. He blesses the work of their hands. He cheers them with spiritual consolations, which others only know by the hearing of the ear. They are men after His own heart; for they are men more like Himself than others. None has such joy and peace in believing—none has such sensible comfort in their religion, none have so much of heaven upon earth—none see and feel so much of the consolations of the Gospel as those who are zealous, earnest, thoroughgoing, devoted Christians. For the sake of our own souls, if there were no other reason, it is good to be zealous—to be very zealous in our religion. (“Be Zealous”)


Bishop J. C. RyleJ.C. Ryle:

Let us learn wisdom from our Savior’s example. We are far too ready to “seek great things” in this world. Let us seek them not. To have a place, and a title, and a position in society, is not nearly as important as people think. It is a great sin to be covetous, and worldly, and proud, and carnal-minded. But it is no sin to be poor. It matters not so much, where we live, as what we are in the sight of God. Where are we going when we die? Shall we live forever in heaven? These are the main things to which we should attend.

Above all, let us daily strive to copy our Savior’s humility. Pride is the oldest and commonest of sins. Humility is the rarest and most beautiful of graces. For humility, let us labor. For humility, let us pray. Our knowledge may be scanty. Our faith may be weak. Our strength may be small. But if we are, disciples of Him who “lived in Nazareth,” let us at any rate be humble. (Expository Thoughts on Matthew)

Making an Idol of Earnestness

Bishop J. C. RyleFalse doctrines are often allowed to infest our churches and families without an effort to correct them. True Christians often look on and content themselves with wishing it was not so. Here is no zeal for Christ! Do you think the Apostles would not have spoken out? We know they would! According to J. C. Ryle:

“It is always good to be zealous in a good cause.” (Galatians 4:18)

There is a generation in these days, which makes an idol of what it is pleased to call “earnestness” [sincerity] in religion. These men will allow no fault to be found with a [sincere] “earnest man.” Whatever his theological opinions may be – if he be but an earnest man, that is enough for these people, and we are to ask no more. They tell you we have nothing to do with minute points of doctrine, and with questions of words and names, about which Christians are not agreed. Is the man an earnest man? If he is, we ought to be satisfied. Earnestness [sincerity] in their eyes covers over a multitude of sins. I warn you solemnly to beware of this specious doctrine. In the name of the Gospel, and in the name of the Bible, I enter my protest against the theory, that mere earnestness can make a man a truly zealous and pious man in the sight of God.

These idolaters of earnestness would make out that God has given us no standard of truth and error, or that the true standard, the Bible, is so obscure, that no man can find out what truth is by simply going to it. They pour contempt upon the Word, the written Word, and therefore they must be wrong.

These idolaters of earnestness would make us condemn every witness for the truth, and every opponent of false teaching, from the time of the Lord Jesus down to this day. The Scribes and Pharisees were in earnest, and yet our Lord opposed them. And shall we dare even to hint a Bishop J. C. Rylesuspicion that they ought to have been let alone? … Devil-worshipers and idolaters at this day are in earnest, and yet our missionaries labor to expose their errors. And shall we dare to say that earnestness [sincerity] would take them to heaven, and that missionaries to heathen … had better stay at home? Are we really going to admit that the Bible does not show us what truth is? Are we really going to put a mere vague thing called “earnestness,” in the place of Christ, and to maintain that no earnest man can be wrong? God forbid that we should give place to such doctrine! I shrink with horror from such theology. I warn you solemnly to beware of being carried away by it, for it is common and most seductive in this day. … Admire zeal. Seek after zeal. Encourage zeal. But see that your own zeal be true. See that the zeal, which you admire in others, be a zeal “according to knowledge,” – a zeal from right motives – a zeal that can bring chapter and verse out of the Bible for its foundation. Any zeal but this is but a false fire. It is not lighted by the Holy Spirit. (“Be Zealous”)

Zeal According to God’s Mind

Bishop J. C. RyleAre you mindful of personal holiness? J. C. Ryle teaches that that if we are to understand zeal, we must see it according to God’s mind:

“It is always good to be zealous in a good cause.” (Galatians 4:18)

[I]f zeal be true, it will be a zeal about things according to God’s mind, and sanctioned by plain examples in God’s Word. Take, for one instance, that highest and best kind of zeal—I mean zeal for our own growth in personal holiness. Such zeal will make a man feel incessantly that sin is the mightiest of all evils, and conformity to Christ the greatest of all blessings. It will make him feel that there is nothing which ought not to be done, in order to keep up a close walk with God. It will make him willing to cut off the right hand, or pluck out the right eye, or make any sacrifice if only he can attain a closer communion with Jesus. Is not this just what you see in the Apostle Paul? He says, “I keep under my body and bring it into subjection — lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” “I count not myself to have apprehended—but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark.” (1 Cor. 9:27; Phil. 3:13, 14.)

Take, for another instance, zeal for the salvation of souls. Such zeal will make a man burn with desire to enlighten the darkness which covers the souls of multitudes, and to bring every man, woman, and child he sees to the knowledge of the Gospel. Is not this what you see in the Lord Jesus? It is said that He neither gave Himself, nor His disciples, leisure so much as to eat. (Mark 6:31.) Is not this what you see in the Apostle Paul? He says, “I am made all things to all men that I might by all means save some.” (1 Cor. 9:22.)

Take, for another instance, zeal against evil practices. Such zeal will make a man hate everything which God hates, and long to sweep it from the face of the earth. It will make him jealous of God’s honor and glory, and look on everything which robs Him of it as an offence. Is not this what you see in Phineas, the son of Eleazar? or in Hezekiah and Josiah, when they put down idolatry?

Take, for another instance, zeal for maintaining the doctrines of the Gospel. Such zeal will make a man hate unscriptural teaching, just as he hates sin. It will make him regard religious error as a pestilence which must be checked, whatever may be the cost. It will make him scrupulously careful about every jot and tittle of the counsel of God, lest by some omission the whole Gospel should be spoiled. Is not this what you see in Paul at Antioch, when he withstood Peter to the face, and said he was to be blamed? (Gal. 2:11.) These are the kind of things about which true zeal is employed. Such zeal, let us understand, is honorable before God.

Zeal Tempered with Love

Bishop J. C. RyleIt is good that a man should be zealous for the Christian faith, but what are the signs of this zeal? According to J. C. Ryle:

“It is always good to be zealous in a good cause.” Galatians 4:18

[I]f zeal be true, it will be a zeal tempered with charity and love. It will not be a bitter zeal. It will not be a fierce enmity against people. It will not be a zeal ready to take the sword, and to smite with carnal weapons. The weapons of true zeal are not carnal—but spiritual. True zeal will hate sin—and yet love the sinner. True zeal will hate heresy—and yet love the heretic. True zeal will long to break the idol—but deeply pity the idolater. True zeal will abhor every kind of wickedness—but labor to do good, even to the vilest of transgressors. True zeal will warn as Paul warned the Galatians—and yet feel tenderly as a nurse or a mother over erring children. It will expose false teachers, as Jesus did the Scribes and Pharisees—and yet weep tenderly, as Jesus did over Jerusalem, when He came near to it for the last time. True zeal will be decided as a surgeon dealing with a diseased limb—but true zeal will be gentle as one that is dressing the wounds of a brother. True zeal will speak truth boldly, like Athanasius, against the world, and not care who is offended—but true zeal will endeavor in all its speaking, to speak the truth in love.

Furthermore, if zeal be true, it will be joined to a deep humility. A truly zealous man will be the last to discover the greatness of his own attainments. All that he is and does will come so immensely short of his own desires that he will be filled with a sense of his own unprofitableness, and amazed to think that God should work by him at all. Like Moses, when he came down from the mount, he will not know that his face shines. Like the righteous, in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, he will not be aware of his own good works. (“Be Zealous”)

Examples of Christian Zeal

Bishop J. C. RyleIt is true that zeal may be badly directed in such a manner that it becomes a curse, but it may also be turned to the highest and best ends to become a mighty blessing. If fire is not well directed, it may become a curse, but fire also – if well directed – is one of the best servants. J. C. Ryle writes:

“It is always good to be zealous in a good cause.” (Galatians 4:18)

[Martin Luther] boldly defied the most powerful hierarchy that the world has ever seen. He unveiled its corruptions with an unflinching hand. He preached the long-neglected truth of justification by faith, in spite of anathemas and excommunications, fast and thickly poured upon him. See him going to the Diet at Worms, and pleading his cause before the Emperor, and the Martin Luther Nailing His 95 Theses on the Wittenberg Door October 31, 1517Legate, and a army of the children of this world. Hear him saying, when men were dissuading him from going, and reminding him of the fate of John Huss, “Though there were a devil under every tile on the roofs of Worms, in the name of the Lord I shall go forward.” This was true zeal.

This again was the characteristic of our own English Reformers. You have it in our first Reformer, Wycliffe, when he rose up on his sick bed, and said to the friars, who wanted him to retract all he had said against the Pope, “I shall not die—but live to declare the villainies of the friars.” You have it in Cranmer, content to die at the John Hussstake rather than deny Christ’s Gospel, holding forth that hand to be first burned, which in a moment of weakness had signed a recantation, and saying as he held it in the flames, “This unworthy hand!” You have it in old father Latimer, standing boldly on his faggot, at the age of seventy years, and saying to Ridley, “Courage, brother Ridley! We shall light such a candle this day, as, by God’s grace, shall never be put out.” This was zeal.

This again has been the characteristic of all the greatest Missionaries. You see it in Mrs. Judson, in Carey, in Morrison, in Schwartz, in Williams, in Brainerd, in Elliott. You see it in none more brightly than in Henry Martyn. This was a man who had reached the highest John Wycliffeacademic honors that Cambridge could bestow. Whatever profession he chose to follow, he had the most dazzling prospects of success. He turned his back upon it all. He chose to preach the Gospel to poor benighted heathen. He went forth to an early grave, in a foreign land. He said when he got there, and saw the condition of the people, “I could bear to be torn in pieces, if I could but hear the sobs of penitence—if I could but see the eyes of faith directed to the Redeemer!” This was zeal.

But, reader, to look away from all earthly examples—this, remember, is pre-eminently the characteristic of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ Himself. Of Him, it was written hundreds of years before He came upon earth David Brainerdthat He was “clad with zeal as with a cloak,” and “the zeal of your house has consumed me.” And his own words were, “My food is to do my Father’s will, and to finish His work.” (Psalm 66:9; Isaiah 59:17; John 4:34.)

Where shall we begin, if we try to give examples of his zeal? Where should we end, if we once began? Trace all the narratives of His life in the four Gospels. Read all the history of what He was from the beginning of his ministry to the end. Surely if there ever was one who was all zeal, it was our great Example—our Head—our High Priest—the great Shepherd of our Profession, the Lord Jesus Christ. (“Be Zealous”)

False Zeal

J. C. RyleA man may be long-suffering in promoting the interests of his own beliefs or church, and be ready to die for the peculiar opinions of his own religious denomination, and yet have no real love for Christ. Such was the zeal of the Pharisees. This is a false zeal. J. C. Ryle explains:

“It is always good to be zealous in a good cause.” (Galatians 4:18)

Alas, I fear there are many professing Christians who if they had lived in the days when our Lord and His apostles walked upon earth, would have called Him and all His followers enthusiasts and fanatics. There are many, I fear, who have more in common with Annas and Caiaphas—with Pilate and Herod—with Festus and Agrippa—with Felix and Gallio—than with Paul and the Lord Jesus Christ. . . .

There never was a grace of which Satan has not made a counterfeit. There never was a good coin issued from the mint—but forgers at once have coined something very like it. It is one of Satan’s devices to place distorted copies of the believer’s graces before the eyes of men, and so to bring the true graces into contempt. No grace has suffered so much in this way as zeal. Of none perhaps are there so many shams and counterfeits abroad. We must therefore clear the ground of all rubbish on this question. We must find out when zeal in religion is really good, and true, and of God.

Reader, if zeal be true, it will be a zeal according to knowledge. It must not be a blind, ignorant zeal. It must be a calm, reasonable, intelligent principle, which can show the warrant of Scripture for every step it takes. The unconverted Jews had zeal. Paul says, “I bear them record that they have a zeal of God—but not according to knowledge.” (Rom. 10:21) Saul had zeal when he was a persecuting Pharisee. He says himself, in one of his addresses to the Jews, “I was zealous toward God, as you all are this day.” (Acts 22:3) … They were all zealous. They were all in earnest. But their zeal was not such zeal as God approves—it was not a “zeal according to knowledge.”

Furthermore, if zeal be true, it will be a zeal from true motives. Such is the subtlety of the heart, that men will often do right things from wrong motives. Amaziah and Joash, kings of Judah, are striking proofs of this. Just so, a man may have zeal about things that are good and right—but from ulterior motives, and not from a desire to please God. And such zeal is worth nothing. It is reprobate silver. It is utterly lacking when placed in the balance of God. Man looks only at the actions. God looks at the motives. Man only thinks of the quantity of work done. God considers the doer’s heart. (“Be Zealous”)

Counting All Lost for the Sake of Christ

Bishop J. C. RyleThe early Christians often lost everything in the world for Christ’s sake. They generally gained nothing but the cross and persecution. If they did not convince their adversaries by argument, they could die, and prove that they were earnest. According to J. C. Ryle:

“It is always good to be zealous in a good cause.” (Galatians 4:18)

You know the habit of mind that makes men great in the sciences of this world—that makes such men as Archimedes, or Sir Isaac Newton, or Galileo, or Ferguson the astronomer, or James Watt. All these were men of one thing. They brought the powers of their minds into one single focus. They cared for nothing else beside. And this was the secret of their success. I say that this same habit consecrated to the service of God, becomes religious zeal.

You know the habit of mind that makes men rich—that makes men amass mighty fortunes, and leave millions behind them. What kind of people were many of the bankers, and merchants, and tradesmen, who have left a name behind them, as men who acquired immense wealth, and out of poverty, became rich? They were all men that threw themselves entirely into their business, and neglected everything else for the sake of that business. They gave their first attention, their first thoughts, the best of their time, and the best part of their mind, to pushing forward the transactions in which they were engaged. They were men of one thing. Their hearts were not divided. They devoted themselves, body, soul, and mind, to their business. They seemed to live for nothing else. I say that, if you turn that habit of mind to the service of God and His Christ, it makes religious zeal.

Now, reader, this habit of mind—this zeal was the characteristic of all the Apostles. See for example the Apostle Paul. Hear him when he speaks to the Ephesian elders for the last time, “In town after town the Holy Spirit assures me that imprisonment and suffering are waiting for me. But I don’t place any value on my life, if only I can finish my race and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:23-24)

Hear him again, when he writes to the Philippians, “Brothers, I do not consider myself to have embraced it. But this one thing I do: Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I keep pursuing the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14). See him from the day of his conversion, giving up his brilliant prospects—forsaking all for Christ’s sake—and going forth to preach that very Jesus whom he had once despised. See him going to and fro throughout the world from that time—through persecution—through oppression—through opposition—through prisons—through bonds—through afflictions—through things next to death itself, up to the very day when he sealed his faith with his blood, and died at Rome, a martyr for that Gospel which he had so long proclaimed. This was true religious zeal. (Be Zealous)

Zeal for Christ

Bishop J. C. RyleMen and women with zeal throw themselves into one grand pursuit. They put everything else aside. They count everything else as inferior in importance. J. C. Ryle tells us that the same habit of mind must be applied to the service of the Lord Jesus Christ:

“It is always good to be zealous in a good cause.” (Galatians 4:18)

Come now, and give me your attention, while I tell you something about zeal. Listen to me for your own sake—for the sake of the world—for the sake of the Church of Christ. Listen to me, and by God’s help, I will show you that to be zealous—is to be wise.

Zeal in religion is a burning desire to please God, to do His will, and to advance His glory in the world in every possible way. It is a desire which no man feels by nature—which the Spirit puts into the heart of every believer when he is converted—but which some believers feel so much more strongly than others, that they alone deserve to be called zealous men.

This desire is so strong when it really reigns in a man, that it impels him to make any sacrifice—to go through any trouble, to deny himself to any amount—to suffer, to work, to labor, to toil—to spend himself and be spent, and even to die—if only he can please God and honor Christ.

A zealous man is pre-eminently a man of one thing. It is not enough to say that he is earnest, hearty, uncompromising, thorough-going, whole-hearted, and fervent in spirit. He only sees one thing—he cares for one thing—he lives for one thing—he is swallowed up in one thing—and that one thing is to please God. Whether he lives—or whether he dies; whether he has health—or whether he has sickness; whether he is rich—or whether he is poor; whether he pleases man—or whether he gives offense; whether he is thought wise—or whether he is thought foolish; whether he gets blame—or whether he gets praise; whether he gets honor—or whether he gets shame—for all this, the zealous man cares nothing at all. He burns for one thing, and that one thing is to please God, and to advance God’s glory. (“Be Zealous”)

Spiritual Disciplines

Transforming GraceJerry Bridges:

Spiritual disciplines are provided for our good, not for our bondage. They are privileges to be used, not duties to be performed. To take off on a familiar quotation from Jesus, “Spiritual disciplines were made for man, not man for spiritual disciplines” (see Mark 2:27).

We must remember that the methods of spiritual disciplines are a means to the end, not the end themselves. (Transforming Grace, pp. 127-128)

The Zealous Christian

J. C. RyleZeal may be defined as “being ardent, fervent; or exhibiting enthusiasm or strong passion.” However, modern men have attached a negative connotation to it that implies that to be zealous is to be a lunatic. According to J. C. Ryle:

“It is always good to be zealous in a good cause.” (Galatians 4:18)

There is a subject before your eyes of vast importance. I mean the subject of religious zeal.

It is a subject, like many others in religion, most sadly misunderstood. Many would be ashamed to be thought “zealous.” Many are ready to say of zealous people what Festus said of Paul, “Paul, you are crazy! Your great learning is driving you insane!” (Acts 26:24)

But it is a subject which no reader of the Bible has any right to pass over. If we make the Bible our rule of faith and practice, we cannot turn away from it. We must look it in the face. What does the Apostle Paul say to Titus? “Christ gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” (Titus 2:14.) What does the Lord Jesus say to the Laodicean Church? “Be zealous and repent.” (Rev.3:19)

Reader, I say plainly, I want to plead the cause of zeal in religion. I am not afraid of it. I love it. I admire it. I believe it to be a mighty blessing. I want to strike a blow at the lazy, easy, sleepy Christianity of these latter days, which can see no beauty in zeal, and only uses the word “zealot” as a word of reproach. (“Be Zealous”)

Fear of Man’s Opinion

Quoting J. C. Ryle

“It is terrible to observe the power which the fear of man has over most minds, and especially over the minds of the young. Few seem to have any opinions of their own, or to think for themselves. Like dead fish, they go with the stream and tide. What others think is right, they think is right; and what others call wrong, they call wrong too. There are not many original thinkers in the world. Most men are like sheep, they follow a leader. If it was the fashion of the day to be Roman Catholics, they would be Roman Catholics, if it was to be Islamic, they would be Islamic. They dread the idea of going against the current of the times. In a word, the opinion of the day becomes their religion, their creed, their Bible, and their God.”

%d bloggers like this: