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Lord’s Day 15, 2010

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

The Devil defeated by Faith,
Well Fixed and Furnished

Ralph Erskine (1685–1752)

Be sober, vigilant, and stout;
For every day and hour,
Your foe, the devil, walks about,
Still seeking to devour.

Whom, by a steady faith resist,
In Christ, the Captain’s name;
Knowing your fellow-soldiers blessed,
Your welfare is the same.

But may the God, and source of all,
Your grace and warlike store,
Who did by Jesus Christ you call,
To his eternal glore.

After your short while’s suff’ring now,
May he perfect you all,
Establish, strengthen, settle you,
Firm like a brazen wall.

To him whose all-sufficiency,
Alone can thus sustain;
All glory and dominion be
Forevermore. Amen.

Worthy Is the Lamb (Soli Deo Gloria, 2004).


John 9:13–25

They brought to the Pharisees the man who was formerly blind. 14 Now it was a Sabbath on the day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also were asking him again how he received his sight. And he said to them, “He applied clay to my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16 Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, “This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath “ But others were saying, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And there was a division among them. 17 So they said to the blind man again, “What do you say about Him, since He opened your eyes?” And he said, “He is a prophet.”
   18 The Jews then did not believe it of him, that he had been blind and had received sight, until they called the parents of the very one who had received his sight, 19 and questioned them, saying, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? Then how does he now see?” 20 His parents answered them and said, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but how he now sees, we do not know; or who opened his eyes, we do not know. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. 23 For this reason his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” 24 So a second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, “Give glory to God; we know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He then answered, “Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

imgThese verses show us how little the Jews of our Lord’s time understood the right use of the Sabbath day. We read that some of the Pharisees found fault because a blind man was miraculously healed on the Sabbath. They said, “This man is not of God, because He keeps not the Sabbath day.” A good work had manifestly been done to a helpless fellow-creature. A heavy bodily infirmity had been removed. A mighty act of mercy had been performed. But the blind-hearted enemies of Christ could see no beauty in the act. They called it a breach of the Fourth Commandment!
   These would-be wise men completely mistook the intention of the Sabbath. They did not see that it was “made for man,” and meant for the good of man’s body, mind, and soul. It was a day to be set apart from others, no doubt, and to be carefully sanctified and kept holy. But its sanctification was never intended to prevent works of necessity and acts of mercy. To heal a sick man was no breach of the Sabbath day. In finding fault with our Lord for so doing, the Jews only exposed their ignorance of their own law. They had forgotten that it is as great a sin to add to a commandment, as to take it away.
   Here, as in other places, we must take care that we do not put a wrong meaning on our Lord’s conduct. We must not for a moment suppose that the Sabbath is no longer binding on Christians, and that they have nothing to do with the Fourth Commandment. This is a great mistake, and the root of great evil. Not one of the ten commandments has ever been repealed or put aside. Our Lord never meant the Sabbath to become a day of pleasure, or a day of business, or a day of traveling and idle dissipation. He meant it to be “kept holy” as long as the world stands. It is one thing to employ the Sabbath in works of mercy, in ministering to the sick, and doing good to the distressed. It is quite another thing to spend the day in visiting, feasting, and self-indulgence. Whatever men may please to say, the way in which we use the Sabbath a sure test of the state of our religion. By the Sabbath may be found out whether we love communion with God. By the Sabbath may be found out whether we are in tune for heaven. By the Sabbath, in short, the secrets of many hearts are revealed. There are only too many of whom we may say with sorrow, “These men are not of God, because they keep not the Sabbath day.” *
   These verses show us, secondly, the desperate lengths to which prejudice will sometimes carry wicked men. We read that the “Jews agreed that if any man did confess that Jesus was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.” They were determined not to believe. They were resolved that no evidence should change their minds, and no proofs influence their will. They were like men who shut their eyes and tie a bandage over them, and refuse to have it untied. Just as in after times they stopped their ears when Stephen preached, and refused to listen when Paul made his defense, so they behaved at this period of our Lord’s ministry.
   Of all states of mind into which unconverted men can fall, this is by far the most dangerous to the soul. So long as a person is open, fair, and honest-minded, there is hope for him, however ignorant he may be. He may be much in the dark at present. But is he willing to follow the light, if set before him? He may be walking in the broad road with all his might. But is he ready to listen to any one who will show him a more excellent way? In a word, is he teachable, childlike, and unfettered by prejudice? If these questions can be answered satisfactorily, we never need despair about the man’s soul.
   The state of mind we should always desire to possess is that of the noble-minded Bereans. When they first heard the Apostle Paul preach, they listened with attention. They received the Word “with all readiness of mind.” They “searched the Scriptures,” and compared what they heard with God’s Word. “And therefore,” we are told, “many of them believed.” Happy are those who go and do likewise! (Acts xvii. 11, 12.)
   These verses show us, lastly, that nothing convinces a man so thoroughly as his own senses and feelings. We read that the unbelieving Jews tried in vain to persuade the blind man whom Jesus healed, that nothing had been done for him. They only got from him one plain answer: “One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see.” How the miracle had been worked, he did not pretend to explain. Whether the person who had healed him was a sinner, he did not profess to know. But that something had been done for him he stoutly maintained. He was not to be reasoned out of his senses. Whatever the Jews might think, there were two distinct facts of which he was conscious: “I was blind: now I see.”
   There is no kind of evidence so satisfactory as this to the heart of a real Christian. His knowledge may be small. His faith may be feeble. His doctrinal views may be at present confused and indistinct. But if Christ has really wrought a work of grace in his heart by His Spirit, he feels within him something that you cannot overthrow. “I was dark, and now I have light. I was afraid of God, and now I love Him. I was fond of sin, and now I hate it. I was blind, and now I see.” Let us never rest until we know and feel within us some real work of the Holy Ghost. Let us not be content with the name and form of Christianity. Let us desire to have true experimental acquaintance with it. Feelings no doubt, are deceitful, and are not everything in religion. But if we have no inward feelings about spiritual matters, it is a very bad sign. The hungry man eats, and feels strengthened; the thirsty man drinks, and feels refreshed. Surely the man who has within him the grace of God, ought to be able to say, “I feel its power.”

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

* Once again, Ryle’s sabbatarianism comes through, and, as noted before, I disagree.

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

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Posted  in: Expository Thoughts on the Gospels · Gospel of John · J C Ryle · Lord’s Day · Ralph Erskine · Worthy Is the Lamb
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