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Lords Day 1, 2010

I was glad when they said to me, Let us go to the house of the Lord.

Petitionary Hymns
Poem XXI.

Augustus Toplady (1740–1778)


Chaind to the world, to sin tyd down,

In darkness still I lie;
Lord, break my bonds, Lord give me wings,

And teach me how to fly.

Instruct my feeble hands to war,
   In me thy strength reveal,
To put my evry lust to death,
   And fight thy battles well.

Rend evry veil that shades thy face,
   Put on thine helmet, Lord;
My sin shall fall, my guilt expire,
   Beneath thy conquring sword.

Thou art the mighty God of hosts,
   Whose counsels never fail;
Be thou my glorious chief, and then
   I cannot but prevail.

The Complete Works of Augustus Toplady (Sprinkle Publications, 1987).


John 6:6065

Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it? 61 But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, Does this cause you to stumble? 62 What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. 65 And He was saying, For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.

imageWe learn from these verses that some of Christs sayings seem hard to flesh and blood. We are told that many who had followed our Lord for a season, were offended when He spoke of eating his flesh and drinking his blood. They murmured and said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?

Murmurs and complaints of this kind are very common. It must never surprise us to hear them. They have been, they are, they will be as long as the world stands. To some Christs sayings appear hard to understand. To others, as in the present case, they appear hard to believe, and harder still to obey. It is just one of the many ways in which the natural corruption of man shows itself. So long as the heart is naturally proud, worldly, unbelieving, and fond of self-indulgence, if not of sin, so long there will never be lacking people who will say of Christian doctrines and precepts, These are hard sayings; who can hear them?

Humility is the frame of mind which we should labour and pray for, if we would not be offended by scriptural teaching. If we find any of Christs sayings hard to understand, we should humbly remember our present ignorance, and believe that we shall know more by and bye. If we find any of His sayings difficult to obey, we should humbly recollect that He will never require of us impossibilities, and that what He bids us do, He will give us grace to perform.

We learn, secondly, from these verses, that we must beware of putting a carnal meaning on spiritual words. We read that our Lord said to the murmuring Jews who stumbled at the idea of eating His flesh and drinking His blood, It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.

It is useless to deny that this verse is full of difficulties. It contains expressions hard to be understood. It is far more easy to have a general impression of the meaning of the whole sentence, than to explain it word by word. Some things nevertheless we can see clearly and grasp firmly. Let us consider what they are.

Our Lord says, It is the Spirit that quickeneth. By this He means that it is the Holy Ghost who is the special author of spiritual life in mans soul. By His agency it is first imparted, and afterwards sustained and kept up. If the Jews thought He meant that man could have spiritual life by bodily eating or drinking, they were greatly mistaken.

Our Lord says, The flesh profiteth nothing. By this He means that neither His flesh nor any other flesh, literally eaten, can do good to the soul. Spiritual benefit is not to be had through the mouth, but through the heart. The soul is not a material thing, and cannot therefore be nourished by material food.

Our Lord says, the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life. By this He signifies that His words and teachings, applied to the heart by the Holy Spirit, are the true means of producing spiritual influence and conveying spiritual life. By words thoughts are begotten and aroused. By words mind and conscience are stirred. And Christs words especially are spirit-stirring and life-giving.

The principle contained in this verse, however faintly we may grasp its full meaning, deserves peculiar attention in these times. There is a tendency in many minds to attach an excessive importance to the outward and visible or doing part of religion. They seem to think that the sum and substance of Christianity consists in Baptism and the Supper of the Lord, in public ceremonies and forms, in appeals to the eye and ear and bodily excitement. Surely they forget that it is the Spirit that quickeneth, and that the flesh profiteth nothing. It is not so much by noisy public demonstrations, as by the still quiet work of the Holy Spirit on hearts that Gods cause prospers. It is Christs words entering into consciences, which are spirit and life.

We learn, lastly, from these verses, that Christ has a perfect knowledge of the hearts of men. We read that He knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.

Sentences like this are found so frequently in the Gospels that we are apt to underrate their importance. Yet there are few truths which we shall find it so good for our souls to remember as that which is contained in the sentence before us. The Saviour with whom we have to do is one who knows all things!

What light this throws on the marvelous patience of the Lord Jesus in the days of His earthly ministry! He knew the sorrow and humiliation before Him, and the manner of His death. He knew the unbelief and treachery of some who professed to be His familiar friends. But for the joy that was set before Him he endured it all. (Heb. xii. 2.)

What light this throws on the folly of hypocrisy and false profession in religion! Let those who are guilty of it recollect that they cannot deceive Christ. He sees them, knows them, and will expose them at the last day, except they repent. Whatever we are as Christians, and however weak, let us be real, true, and sincere.

Finally, what light this throws on the daily pilgrimage of all true Christians! Let them take comfort in the thought that their Master knows them. However much unknown and misunderstood by the world, their Master knows their hearts, and will comfort them at the last day. Happy is he who, in spite of many infirmities, can say with Peter: Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. (John xxi. 17.)

J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (Baker Books, 2007) [Westminster (PB) | Amazon (HC)].

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation
if you can possibly help it.
But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these.

Posted 2010·01·03 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Augustus Toplady · Complete Works of Augustus Toplady · Expository Thoughts on the Gospels · J C Ryle · Lord’s Day
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