SIN, HOLINESS AND THE SAVIOUR
J. C. Ryle
Extracted from “Holiness”
A Scriptural view of sin is one of the best antidotes to that vague, dim, misty, hazy kind of theology which is so painfully current in the present age. It is vain to shut our eyes to the fact that there is a vast quantity of so-called Christianity nowadays which you cannot declare positively unsound, but which, nevertheless, is not full measure,- good weight, and sixteen ounces to the pound. It is a Christianity in which there is undeniably something about Christ, and something about grace, and something about faith, and something about repentance, and something about holiness; but it is not the real thing as it is in the Bible. Things are out of place, and out of proportion. As old Latimer would have said, it is a kind of “mingle-mangle,” and does no good. It neither exercises influence on daily conduct, nor comforts in life, nor gives peace in death; and those who hold it often awake too late to find that they have got nothing solid under their feet. Now I believe the likeliest way to cure and mend this defective kind of religion is to bring forward more prominently the old Scriptural truth about the sinfulness of sin. People will never set their faces decidedly towards heaven and live like pilgrims until they really feel that they are in danger of hell. Let us all try to revive the old teaching about sin, in nurseries, in schools, in training colleges, in Universities. Let us not forget that “the law is good, if a man use it lawfully;” and that “by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (I Tim. 1, 8; “Rom. 3, 20; 7, 7.) Let us bring the law to the front and press it on men’s attention. Let us expound and beat out the Ten Commandments, and show the length, and breadth, and depth, and height of their requirements. This is the way of our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount. We cannot do better than follow His plan. We may depend upon it, men will never come to Jesus, and stay with Jesus, and live for Jesus, unless they really know why they are to come and what is their need. Those whom the Spirit draws to Jesus are those whom the Spirit has convinced of sin. Without thorough conviction of sin men may seem to come to Jesus and follow Him for a season but they will soon fall away and return to the world.
In the next place, a Scriptural view of sin is one of the best antidotes to the extravagantly broad and liberal theology which is so much in vogue at the present time. The tendency of modern thought is to reject dogmas, creeds, and every kind of bound in religion. It is thought grand and wise to condemn no opinion whatsoever, and to pronounce all earnest and clever teachers to be trustworthy however heterogeneous and mutually destructive their opinions may be.Â—Everything forsooth is true, and nothing is false! Everybody is right, and nobody is wrong! Everybody is
likely to be saved, and nobody is to be lost?Â—The Atonement and Substitution of Christ, the personality of the devil, the miraculous element in Scripture, the reality and eternity of future punishment, all these mighty foundation-stones are coolly tossed overboard, like lumber, in order to lighten the ship of Christianity and enable it to keep pace with modern science.Â—Stand up for these great verities, and you are called narrow, illiberal, old-fashioned, and a theological fossil! Quote a text, and you are told that all truth is not confined to the pages of an ancient Jewish Book, and that free inquiry has found out many things since the Book was completed!Â—Now, I know nothing so likely to counteract this modern plague as constant clear statements about the nature, reality, vileness, power, and guilt of sin. We must charge sin home into the consciences of these men of broad views and demand a plain answer to some plain questions. We must ask them to lay their hands on their hearts, and tell us whether their favourite opinions comfort them in the day of sickness, in the hour of death, by the bedside of dying parents, by the grave of a beloved wife or child. We must ask them whether a vague earnestness, without definite doctrine, gives them peace at seasons like these. We must challenge them to tell us whether they do not sometimes feel a gnawing “something” within, which all the free inquiry and philosophy and science in the world cannot satisfy. And then we must tell them that this gnawing “something” is the sense of sin, guilt, and corruption, which they are leaving out in their calculations. And, above all. we must tell them that nothing will ever make them feel rest, but submission to the old doctrines of man’s ruin and Christ’s redemption and simple childlike faith in Jesus.
In the next place, a right view of sin is the best antidote to that sensuous, ceremonial, formal kind of Christianity, which has swept over England like a flood and carried away so many before it. I can well believe that there is much that is attractive in this system of religion, to a certain order of minds, so long as the conscience is not fully enlightened. But when that wonderful part of our constitution called conscience is really awake and alive I find it hard to believe that a sensuous ceremonial Christianity will thoroughly satisfy us. A little child is easily quieted and amused with gaudy toys, and dolls, and rattles, so long as it is not hungry;
but once let it feel the cravings of nature within, and we know that nothing will satisfy it but food. Just so it is with man in the matter of his soul. Music, and flowers, and candles, and incense, and banners, and processions, and beautiful vestments, and confessionals, and man-made ceremonies of a semi-Romish character, may do well enough for him under certain conditions. But once let him “awake and arise from the dead,” and he will not rest content with these things. They will seem to him mere solemn triflings, and a waste of time. Once let him see his sin, and he must see his Saviour. He feels stricken with a deadly disease, and nothing will satisfy him but the great Physician. He
hungers and thirsts and he must have nothing less than the bread of life. I may seem bold in what I am about to say; but I fearlessly venture the assertion, that four-fifths of the semi-Romanism of the last century would never have existed if English people had been taught more fully and clearly the nature, vileness, and sinfulness of sin.
In the next place, a right view of sin is one of the best antidotes to the overstrained theories of Perfection, of which we hear so much in these times. I shall say but little about this, and in saying it I trust I shall not give offence. If those who press on us perfection mean nothing more than an all round consistency, and a careful attention to all the graces which make up the l Christian character, reason would that we should not only bear with them but agree with them entirely. By all means let us aim high. But if men really mean to tell us that here in this world a believer can attain to entire freedom from sin, live for years in unbroken and uninterrupted communion with God, and feel for months together not so much as one evil thought, I must honestly say that such an opinion appears to me very unscriptural. I go even further. I say that the opinion is very dangerous to him that holds it, and very likely to depress, discourage, and keep back inquirers after salvation. I cannot find the slightest warrant in God’s Word for expecting such perfection as this while we are in the body. I believe the words of our Fifteenth Article are strictly true, that “Christ alone is without sin; and that all we, the rest, though baptized and born again in Christ, offend in many things; and if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” To use the language of our first Homily, “There be imperfections in our best works:
we do not love God so much as we are bound to do, with all our heart, mind, and power; we do not fear God so much as we ought to do; we do not pray to God but with many and great imperfections. We give, forgive, believe, live, and hope imperfectly; we speak, think, and do imperfectly; we fight against the devil, the world, and the flesh imperfectly. Let us, therefore, not be ashamed to confess plainly our state of imperfection.” Once more I repeat what I have said, the best preservative against this temporary delusion about perfection which clouds some mindsÂ—for such I hope I may call itÂ—is a clear, full. distinct understanding of the nature, sinfulness, and deceitfulness of sin.
In the last place, a Scriptural view of sin will prove an admirable antidote to the low views of personal holiness, which are so painfully prevalent in these last days of the Church. This is a very painful and delicate subject, I know; but I dare not turn away from it. It has long been my sorrowful conviction that the standard of daily life among professing Christians in this country has been gradually falling. I am afraid that Christlike charity, kindness, good-temper, unselfishness, meekness, gentleness, good-nature, self-denial, zeal to do good, and separation from the world,
are far less appreciated than they ought to be, and than they used to be in the days of our fathers.
Into the causes of this state of things I cannot pretend to enter fully, and can only suggest conjectures for consideration. It may be that a certain profession of religion has become so fashionable and comparatively easy in the present age, that the streams which were once narrow and deep have become wide and shallow, and what we have gained in outward show we have lost in quality. It may be that the vast increase of wealth in recent years has insensibly introduced a plague of worldliness, and self-indulgence, and love of ease into social life. What were once called luxuries are now comforts and necessaries, and self-denial and “enduring hardness” are consequently little known. It may be that the enormous amount of controversy which marks this age has insensibly dried up our spiritual life. We have too often been content with zeal for orthodoxy, and have neglected the sober realities of daily practical godliness. Be the causes what
-they may, I must declare my own belief that the result remains. There has been of late years a lower standard of personal holiness among believers than there used to be in the days of our fathers. The whole result is that the Spirit is grieved! and the matter calls for much humiliation and searching of heart.*
Can holiness save us? Can holiness put away sin, cover iniquities, make satisfaction for transgressions, pay our debt to God? No: not a whit. God forbid that I should ever say so. Holiness can do none of these things. The brightest saints are all “unprofitable servants”. Our purest works are no better than filthy rags, when tried by the light of God’s holy law. The white robe which Jesus gives and faith puts on, must be our only righteousness, the name of Christ our only confidence, the Lamb’s book of life our only title to heaven. With all our holiness we are no better than sinners. Our best things are stained and tainted with imperfection. They are all more or less incomplete, wrong in the motive or defective in the performance. By the deeds of the law shall no child of Adam ever be justified. “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephes. 2, 8, 9.)
Why then is holiness so important? Why does the apostle-say, without it no man shall see the Lord? Let me set out in order a few reasons.
(a) For one thing, we must be holy, because the voice of God in Scripture plainly commands it. The Lord Jesus says to His people, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” CMatt. 5. 20.) “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5, 48.) Paul
tells the Thessalonians, “This is the will of God, even your sancti-fication.” (1 Thess. 4, 3.) And Peter says, “As he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written. Be ye holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1, 15, 16.) “In this,” says Leighton, “law and Gospel agree.”
(b) We must be holy, because this is one grand end and purpose for which Christ came into the world. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.” (2 Cor. 5, 15.) And to the Ephesians, “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it.” (Ephes. 5, 25, 26.) And to Titus, He “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.) In short, to talk of men being saved from the guilt of sin without being at the same time saved from its dominion in their hearts is to contradict the witness of all Scripture. Are believers said to be elect?Â—it is “through sanctification of the Spirit”. Are they predestinated?Â—it is “to be conformed to’ the image of God’s Son.” Are they chosen?Â—it is “that they may be holy.” Are they called?Â—it is “with a holy calling.” Are they afflicted?Â—it is that they may be “partakers of holiness.” Jesus is a complete Saviour. He does not merely take away the guilt of a believer’s sin. He does more. He breaks its power. (1 Peter 1, 2; Rom. 8, 29; Eph. 1, 4; Heb. 12, 10.)
(c) We must be holy, because this is the only sound evidence that we have a saving faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. The Twelfth Article of our Church says truly, that “Although good works cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God’s judgment, yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively faith; insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by its fruits.” James warns us there is such a thing as a dead faith, a faith which goes no further than the profession of the lips, and has no influence on a man’s character (James 2, 17.) True saving faith is a very different kind of thing. True faith will always show itself by its fruits, it will sanctify, it will work by love, it will overcome the world, it will purify the heart I know that people are fond of talking about death-bed evidences. They will rest on words spoken in the hours of fear, and pain, and weakness, as if they might take comfort in them about the friends they lose. But I am afraid in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred such evidences are not to be depended on. I suspect that, with rare exceptions, men die just as they have lived. The only safe evidence that we are one with Christ and Christ is in us is holy life. They that live unto the Lord are generally the only people who die in the Lord. If we would die the death of the righteous let us not rest in slothful desires only; let us seek to live His life. It is a true saying of Train’s, “That man’s state is
naught and his faith unsound that finds not his hopes of glory purifying to his heart and life.”
(d) We must be holy, because this is the only proof that we love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. This is a point on which He has spoken most plainly in the fourteenth and fifteenth chapters of John. “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”Â—”He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.”Â—”If a man love me, he will keep my words.”Â—”Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” (John 14, 15, 21, 23; 15, 14.) Plainer words than these it would be difficult to find and woe to those who neglect them! Surely that man must be in an unhealthy state of soul who can think of all that Jesus suffered and yet cling to those sins for which that suffering was undergone. It was sin that wove the crown of thorns, it was sin that pierced our Lord’s hands, and feet, and side, it was sin that brought Him to Gethsemane and Calvary, to the cross and to the grave. Cold must our hearts be if we do not hate sin and labour to get rid of it though we may have to cut off the right hand and pluck out the right eye in doing it.
(e) We must be holy, because this is the only sound evidence that we are true children of God. Children in this world are generally like their parents. Some, doubtless, are more so and some less,Â—but it is seldom indeed that you cannot trace a kind of family likeness. And it is much the same with the children of God. The Lord Jesus says, “If ye were Abraham’s children ye would do the works of Abraham.”Â—”If God were your Father, ye would love me.” (John 8. 39, 42.) If men have no likeness to the Father in heaven it is vain to talk of their being His “sons.”. If we know nothing of holiness we may flatter ourselves as we please but we have not got the Holy Spirit dwelling in us: we are dead and must be brought to life again, we are lost, and must be found. “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they,” and they only, “are the sons of God.” (Rom. 8. 14.) We must show by our lives the family we belong to. We must let men see by our good conversation that we are indeed the children of the Holy One, or our sonship is but an empty name. “Say not,” says Gurnall, “that thou hast royal blood in thy veins, and art born of God, except thou canst prove thy pedigree by daring to be holy.”
(f) We must be holy, because this is the most likely way to do good to others. We cannot live to ourselves only in this world. Our lives will always be doing either good or harm to those who see them. They are a silent sermon which all can read. It is sad indeed when they are a sermon for the devil’s cause, and not for God’s. I believe that far more is done for Christ’s kingdom by the holy living of believers than we are at all aware of. There is a reality about such living which makes men feel, and obliges them to think. It carries a weight and influence with it which nothing else can give. It makes religion beautiful, and draws men to
consider it, like a lighthouse seen afar off. The day of judgment will prove that many besides husbands have been won “without the word” by a holy life. (1 Pet. 3. 1.) You may talk to persons about the doctrines of the Gospel, and few will listen, and still fewer understand. But your life is an argument that none can escape. There is a meaning about holiness which not even the most unlearned can help taking in. They may not understand justification, but they can understand charity.
I believe there is far more harm done by unholy and inconsistent Christians than we are at all aware of. Such men are among Satan’s best allies. They pull down by their lives what ministers build with their lips. They cause the chariot wheels of the Gospel to drive heavily. They supply the children of this world with a never ending excuse for remaining as they are. “I cannot see the use of so much religion,” said an irreligious tradesman not long ago; “I observe that some of my customers are always talking about the Gospel, and faith, and election, and the blessed promises, and so forth; and yet these very people think nothing of cheating me of pence and halfpence, when they have an opportunity. Now, if religious persons can do such things, I do not see what good there is in religion.” I grieve to be obliged to write such things, but I fear that Christ’s name is too often blasphemed because of the lives of Christians. Let us take heed lest the blood of souls should be required at our hands. From murder of souls by inconsistency and loose walking, good Lord, deliver us! Oh, for the sake of others, if for no other reason, let us strive to be holy!
(g) We must be holy, because our present comfort depends
much upon it. We cannot be too often reminded of this. We are sadly apt to forget that there is a close connection between sin and sorrow; holiness and happiness, sanctification and consolation. God has so wisely ordered it, that our well-being and our welldoing are linked together. He has mercifully provided that even in this world it shall be man’s interest to be holy. Our justification is not by works,Â—our calling and election are not according to our works,Â—but it is vain for any one to suppose that he will have a lively sense of his justification, or an assurance of his calling, so long as he neglects good works, or does not strive to live a holy life. “Hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” “Hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts.” (1 John 2. 3; 3, 19.) A believer may as soon expect to feel the sun’s rays upon a dark and cloudy day, as to feel strong consolation in Christ while he does not follow Him fully. When the disciples forsook the Lord and fled, they escaped danger, but they were miserable and sad. When, shortly after they confessed Him boldly before men, they were cast into prison and beaten; but we are told they rejoiced “that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” (Acts 5. 41.) Oh, for our own sakes, if there were no other reason, let us strive
to be holy! He that follows Jesus most fully will always follow Him most comfortably.
(h) Lastly, we must be holy, because without holiness on earth we shall never be prepared to enjoy heaven. Heaven is a holy place. The Lord of heaven is a holy Being. The angels are holy creatures. Holiness is written on everything in heaven. The book of Revelation says expressly, “There shall in no wise enter
into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie.” (Rev. 21. 27.)
“Christ is all” in the religion of all true Christians on earth.
In saying this, I wish to guard myself against being misunderstood. I hold the absolute necessity of the election of God the Father, and the sanctification of God the Spirit, in order to effect the salvation of every one that is saved. I hold that there is a perfect harmony and unison in the action of the three Persons of the Trinity, in bringing any man to glory, and that all three co-operate and work a joint work in his deliverance from sin and hell. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father is merciful, the Son is merciful, the Holy Ghost is merciful. The same Three who said at the beginning, “Let us create,” said also, “Let us redeem and save.” I hold that every one who reaches heaven will ascribe all the glory of his
salvation to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, three Persons in one God.
But, at the same time, I see clear proof in Scripture, that it is the mind of the blessed Trinity that Christ should be prominently and distinctly exalted, in the matter of saving souls. Christ is set forth as the “Word,” through whom God’s love to sinners is made known. Christ’s incarnation and atoning death on the cross are the great corner-stone on which the whole plan of salvation rests. Christ is the way and door, by which alone approaches to God are to be made. Christ is the root into which all elect sinners must be grafted. Christ is the only meeting-place between God and man, between heaven and earth, between the Holy Trinity and the poor sinful child of Adam. It is Christ whom God the Father has “sealed” and appointed to convey life to a dead world. (John 6, 27.) It is Christ to whom the Father has given a people to be brought to glory. It is Christ of whom the Spirit testifies, and to whom He always leads a soul for pardon and peace. In short, it has “pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell.” (Col. 1, 19.) What the sun is in the firmament of heaven, that Christ is in true Christianity.
I say these things by way of explanation. I want my readers clearly to understand, that in saying “Christ is all,” I do not mean
to shut out the work of the Father and of the Spirit. Now let me show what I do mean.
(a) Christ is all in a sinner’s justification before God.
Through Him alone we can have peace with a holy God. By Him alone we can have admission into the presence of the
Most High, and stand there without fear. “We have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.” In Him alone can God be just, and justify the ungodly. (Eph. 3, 12; Rom. 3, 26.)
Wherewith can any mortal man come before God? What can we bring as a plea for acquittal before that glorious Being, in whose eyes the very heavens are not clean?
Shall we say that we have done our duty to God? Shall we say that we have done our duty to our neighbour? Shall we bring forward our prayers?Â—our regularity?Â—our morality?Â—our amendments?Â—our church-going? Shall we ask to be accepted because of any of these?
Which of these things will stand the searching inspection of God’s eye? Which of them will actually justify us? Which of them will carry us clear through judgment, and land us safe in glory?
None, none, none! Take any commandment of the ten, and let us examine ourselves by it. We have broken it repeatedly. We cannot answer God one of a thousand. Take any of us, and look narrowly into our ways, and we are nothing but sinners. There is but one verdict: we are all guilty; all deserve hell; all ought to die. Wherewith can we come before God?
We must come in the name of Jesus; standing on no other ground; pleading no other plea than this, “Christ died on the cross for the ungodly, and I trust in Him. Christ died for me, and I believe on Him.”
The garment of our Elder Brother, the righteousness of Christ, this is the only robe which can cover us, and enable us to stand in the light of heaven without shame.
The name of Jesus is the only name by which we shall o .ain an entrance through the gate of eternal glory. If we come to .’iat gate in our own names, we are lost, we shall not be admitted, we shall knock in vain. If we come in the name of Jesus, it is a passport and Shibboleth, and we shall enter and live.
The mark of the blood of Christ is the only mark that can save us from destruction. When the angels are separating the children of Adam in the last day, if we are not found marked with that atoning blood, we had better never have been born.
Oh, let us never forget that Christ must be “all” to that soul who would be justified’ We must be content to go to heaven as beggars, saved by free grace, simply as believers in Jesus, or we shall never be saved at all.
Is there a thoughtless, wordly soul among the readers of these pages? Is there one who thinks to reach heaven by saying hastily at the last, “Lord have mercy on me,” without Christ? Friend, you are sowing misery for yourself, and unless you alter, you will awake to endless woe.
Is there a proud, formal soul among the readers of this book? Is there any one thinking to make himself fit for heaven, and good enough to pass muster by his own doings? Brother, you are
building a Babel, and you will never reach heaven in your present state.
But is there a labouring, heavy-laden one among the readers of this book? Is there one who wants to be saved and feels a vile sinner? I say to such an one, “Come to Christ, and He shall
save you. Come to Christ, and cast the burden of your soul on Him. Fear not: only believe.”
Do you fear wrath? Christ can deliver you from the wrath to come. Do you feel the curse of a broken law? Christ can redeem you from the curse of the law. Do you feel far away? Christ has suffered, to bring you nigh to God. Do you feel unclean? Christ’s blood can cleanse all sin away. Do you feel imperfect? You shall be complete in Christ. Do you feel as if you were nothing? Christ shall be “all in all” to your soul. Never did saint reach heaven with any tale but this, I was washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb. (Rev. 7, 14.)
(b) But again, Christ is not only all in the justification of a true Christian, but He is also all in his sanctification.
I would not have anyone misunderstand me. I do not mean for a moment to undervalue the work of the Spirit. But this I say, that no man is ever holy till he comes to Christ and is united to Him. Till then his works are dead works, and he has no holiness at all. First you must be joined to Christ, and then you shall be holy. Without Him, separate from Him, you can do nothing. (John 15, 5.)
And no man can grow in holiness except he abides in Christ. Christ is the great root from which every believer must draw his strength to go forward. The Spirit is His special gift. His purchased gift for His people. A believer must not only receive Christ Jesus
the Lord, but walk in Him, and be rooted and built up in Him. (Col. 2. 6-7.)
Would you be holy? Then Christ is the manna you must daily eat, like Israel in the wilderness of old. Would you be holy? Then Christ must be the rock from which you must daily drink the living water. Would you be holy? Then you must be ever looking unto Jesus; looking at His cross, and learning fresh motives for a closer walk with God; looking at His example, and taking Him for your pattern. Looking at Him, you would become like Him. Looking at Him, your face would shine without your knowing it. Look less at yourself and more at Christ, and you will find besetting sins dropping off and leaving you, and your eyes enlightened more and more every day. (Heb. 12, 2; 2 Cor. 3, 18.)
The true secret of coming up out of the wilderness is to come up “leaning upon her beloved.” (Cant. 8, 5.) The true way to be strong is to realize our weakness, and to feel that Christ must be all. The true way to grow in grace is to make use of Christ as a fountain for every minute’s necessities. We ought to employ Him as the prophet’s wife employed the oil, not only to pay our debts, but to live on also. (2 Kings 4, 7.) We should
strive to be able to say, “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2, 20.)
I pity those who try to be holy without Christ! Your labour is all in vain. You are putting money in a bag with holes. You are pouring water into a sieve. You are rolling a huge, round stone uphill. You are building up a wall with untempered mortar. Believe me, you are beginning at the wrong end. You must come to Christ first, and He shall give you His sanctifying Spirit. You must learn to say with Paul, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Phil. 4, 13.)
(c) But again, Christ is not only all in the sanctification of a true Christian, but all in his comfort in time present.
A saved soul has many sorrows. He has a body like other men, weak and frail. He has a heart like other men, and often a more sensitive one too. He has trials and losses to bear like others, and often more. He has his share of bereavements, deaths, disappointments, crosses. He has the world to oppose, a place in life to fill blamelessly, unconverted relatives to bear with patiently, persecutions to endure, and a death to die.
And who is sufficient for these things? What shall enable a believer to bear all this? Nothing but the consolation there is in Christ. (Phil. 2, 1.)
Jesus is indeed the brother born for adversity. He is the friend that sticketh closer than a brother, and He alone can comfort His people. He can be touched with the feeling of their infirmities, for He suffered Himself. (Heb. 4, 15.) He knows what sorrow is, for He was a Man of sorrows. He knows what an aching body is, for His body was racked with pain. He cried. “All my bones are out of joint.” (Ps. 22, 14.) He knows what poverty and weariness are, for He was often wearied and had not where to lay his head. He knows what family unkindness is, for even His brethren did not believe Him. He had no honour in His own house.
And Jesus knows exactly how to comfort His afflicted people. He knows how to pour oil and wine into the wounds of the spirit, how to fill up gaps in empty hearts, how to speak a word in season to the weary, how to heal the broken heart, how to make all our bed in sickness, how to draw nigh when we are faint, and say, “Fear not.” (Lam. 3, 57.)
We talk of sympathy being pleasant. There is no sympathy like that of Christ. In all our afflictions He is afflicted. He knows our sorrows. In all our pain He is pained, and like the good Physician, He will not measure out to us one drop of sorrow too much. David once said, “In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.” (Ps. 94. 19.) Many a believer, I am sure, could say as much. If the Lord Himself had not stood by me, “the proud waters had gone over our soul” (Ps. 124, 5.)