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Saturday, July 21, 2018

Half the Diseases of Christianity

Half the Diseases of Christianity

"These are the names of the twelve apostles ... and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him" (Matt. 10:2-4).

We are taught here, that all ministers are NOT necessarily saved men. We see our Lord choosing a Judas Iscariot to be one of His apostles. We cannot doubt that He who knew all hearts, knew will the characters of the men whom He chose. And He includes in the list of apostles one who was a traitor!

We shall do well to bear in mind this fact.

Ordination does not confer the saving grace of the Holy Spirit. Ordained men are NOT necessarily converted. We are not to regard them as infallible, either in doctrine or in practice.

We are NOT to make popes or idols of them, and insensibly put them in Christ's place. We are to regard them as "men of like passions" with ourselves, liable to the same infirmities and daily requiring the same grace.

We are NOT to think it impossible for them to do very bad things, or to expect them to be above the reach of harm from flattery, covetousness,and the world.

We are to prove their teaching by the Word of God, and follow them so far as they follow Christ, but no further.

Above all, we ought to pray for them, that they may be successors not of Judas Iscariot; but of James and John. It is a dreadful thing to be a minister of the Gospel!  Ministers need many prayers.

It is plain that the life of a faithful minister of Christ cannot be one of ease. He must be ready to spend body and mind, time and strength, in the work of His calling. Laziness and frivolity are bad enough in any profession, but worse of all in that of a watchman for souls.

It is plain, for another thing, that the position of the ministers of Christ is not that which ignorant people sometimes ascribe to them, and which they unhappily sometimes claim for themselves. They are not so much ordained to rule as to serve. They are not intended so much to have dominion over the Church, as to supply its needs, and serve its members.

Happy would it be for the cause of true religion,if these things were better understood! Half the diseases of Christianity have arisen from mistaken notions about the pastor's office.

Money can hire workers. Universities can give learning. Congregations may elect. Bishops may ordain. But the Holy Spirit alone can make ministers of the Gospel!

~J. C. Ryle~




The Characteristics of the Modern Christian Pulpit

The Characteristics of the Modern Christian Pulpit

"John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him: You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath! Produce fruit in keeping with repentance!" (Luke 3:7-8).

Well would it be for the Church of Christ, if it possessed more plain-speaking ministers like John the Baptist. 

A morbid dislike to strong language; an excessive fear of giving offence; a constant flinching from directness and plain speaking - are unhappily, too much the characteristics of the modern Christian pulpit!

Uncharitable language is no doubt always to be deprecated. But there is no "charity" in flattering unconverted people - by abstaining from any mention of their vices, or in applying smooth names to their damnable sins!

There are two texts which are too much forgotten by Christian preachers. In  one it is written, "Woe unto you - when all men shall speak well of you!" (Luke 6:26).

In the other it is written, "Obviously, I'm not trying to be a people pleaser! No, I am trying to please God! If I were still trying to please people - I would not be Christ's servant" (Galatians 1:10).

~Richard Baxter~
_________________________

Flesh-pleasing Pulpit Opiates!

They are a rebellious people, deceptive children, children who do not obey the Lord's instruction. They say to the seers, "Do not see," and to the prophets, "Do not prophesy the truth to us. Tell us flattering things! Prophesy illusions! Get out of the way! Leave the pathway. Rid us of the Holy One of Israel!" (Is. 30:9-11).

It is a striking fact, that He who was love incarnate; who was mercy's messenger to our lost world; who was named Jesus, because He was to be the Saviour of His people; who was the manifestation of God's love to man - delivered, during the course of His personal ministry, more fearful descriptions of Divine justice and the punishment of the wicked, than are to be found in any other part of the Word of God! What can exceed the solemn scene of the parable of the rich man in torments?  the bottomless pit and destruction are there set openly before us.l

No man can fulfill his ministry, therefore, without frequently alluding to the justice of God in the punishment of sin. He must seek to alarm the fears of the unconverted by a representation of the consequences that will follow a state of final repentance.

Such a subject frequently calls up all the enmity of the carnal mind. To be told, not only that they are sinners - which all will admit in general terms - but that their sins are such a to deserve the wrath of God, such as to expose them to the torments of perdition, and such as will infallibly bring them to the bottomless pit - unless they truly repent; to be told again and again that they are hastening to perdition; to have the rod of Divine vengeance shaken over their heads; to have all the dreadful curses of the violated law analyzed, ascertained and announced; to have this done in their hearing, and done frequently; to be made to sit and hear their future eternal doom, and thus to be tormented before their time - is what they cannot, and will not endure! Unable to bear any longer his pointed addresses to the conscience, they will leave his ministry - for the flesh-pleasing pulpit opiates of some flatter of men's souls,who is too cowardly to trouble the minds, or alarm the conscience of those who love smooth, flattering and delusive preaching.

To be publicly denounced as deserving Divine wrath; to be told that they are sinners to such a degree as to merit the eternal punishment of a holy God; to be reminded that, instead of their fancied good heart, depraved in every faculty and polluted in every part; to be represented as unfit for communion with God here, and for His presence hereafter - all this is so opposed to all their notions, so mortifying to their vain pride, so degrading to their dignity, that they cannot but dislike it. To such a debasement they would not willingly descend; and hence their demand for the teaching of deceit, and the smooth speech of falsehood. What they want is to be flattered into a good opinion of themselves. They hate the doctrine which disturbs their self-delight, and revile the man who attempts to tell them the solemn reality of how vile they are!

~J. A. James~
________________________

Christ, the Example of Ministers

It is not only our great duty, but will be our greatest honor, to imitate Christ, and do the work that He has done - and so act as co-workers with Him.

The ministers of Christ should be persons of the same spirit that their Lord was of - the same spirit of humility and lowliness of heart; for the servant is not greater than his Lord.

They should be of the same spirit of heavenly-mindedness, and contempt of the glory, wealth, and pleasures of this world.

They should be of the same spirit of devotion and fervent love to God.

They should follow the example of His prayerfulness; of whom we read from time to time of His retiring from the world, away from the noise and applause of the multitudes, into mountains and solitary places, for secret prayer, and holy converse with His Father.

Ministers should be persons:
of the same quiet, lamb-like spirit that Christ was of;
of the same spirit of submission to God's will;
of the same patience under afflictions, and meekness towards men;
of the same calmness and composure of spirit under sufferings from the malignity of evil men;
of the same spirit of forgiveness of injuries;
of the same spirit of charity, of fervent love and extensive benevolence;
of the same disposition to pity the miserable, and to weep with those who weep;
of the same spirit of condescension to the poor and lowly, tenderness and gentleness toward the weak, and great and sincere love to enemies.

They should also be of the same spirit of zeal, diligence, and self-denial for the glory of God, and advancement for His kingdom, and for the good of mankind; for which things sake Christ went through the greatest labors, and endured the most extreme sufferings.

And in order to our imitating Christ in the work of the ministry, in any tolerable degree - we should not have our hearts weighted down, and time filled up with worldly affections, cares, and pursuits. 

The duties of a minister that have been recommended, are absolutely inconsistent with a mind much taken up with worldly profit, glory, amusements and entertainments.

~Jonathan Edwards~

Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats?

Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats?

An evil is in the "professed" camp of the Lord, so gross in its impudence, that the most short-sighted Christian can hardly ail to notice it. During the past few years this evil has developed at an alarming rate. It has worked like leaven, until the whole lump ferments!

The devil has seldom done a more clever thing, than hinting to the Church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them. From speaking out the gospel, the Church has gradually toned down her testimony - then winked at and excused the frivolities of the day. Then she tolerated them in her borders. Now she has adopted them under the plea of reaching the masses! 

My first contention is that providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the Church. If it is a Christian work, then why did not Christ speak of it? "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" - and provide amusements for those who do not relish the gospel. 

No such words, however, are to be found. It did not seem to occur to Him. Where do entertainers come in? The Holy Spirit is silent concerning them. Were the prophets persecuted because they amused the people - or because they confronted them? The "concert" has no martyr roll.

Again, providing amusement is in direct antagonism to the teaching and life of Christ and all His apostles. What was the attitude of the apostolic Church to the world? "You are the salt of the world" - not the sugar candy; something the world will spit out - not swallow.

Had Jesus introduced more of the bright and pleasant elements into His teaching, He would have been more popular. When "many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him," I do not hear Him say: "Run after these people, Peter, and tell them we will have a different style of service tomorrow; something short and attractive with little preaching. We will have a pleasant evening for the people. Tell them they will be sure to enjoy it! Be quick, Peter, we must get the people somehow!" 

No! Jesus pitied sinners, sighed and wept over them - but never sought to amuse them! 

In vain will the epistles be searched to find any trace of the "gospel of amusement." Their message is, "Therefore, come out from them and separate yourselves from them...Don't touch their filthy things...".  Anything approaching amusement is conspicuous by its absence. They had boundless confidence in the gospel, and employed no other weapon.

After Peter and John were locked up for preaching, the Church had a prayer meeting, but they did not pray, "Lord, grant unto your servants that by a wise and discriminating use of innocent recreation we may show these people how happy we are!" 

 No!  They did not cease from preaching Christ. They had no time for arranging entertainments. Scattered by persecution, they went everywhere preaching the gospel. They turned the world upside down - that is the only difference from today's church.

Lastly, amusement fails to effect the end desired. Let the heavy-laden who found peace through the concert not keep silent! Let the drunkard to whom the dramatic entertainment had been God's link in the chain of their conversion, stand up! There are none to answer! The mission of amusement produces no converts!

The need of the hour for today's ministry is earnest spirituality joined with Biblical doctrine, so understood and felt, that it sets men on fire.

Lord, clear the Church of all the rot and rubbish the devil has imposed on her, and bring us back to apostolic methods! Amen

~Archibald Brown~

(The End)




Saturday, July 14, 2018

Confession # 5

Confession # 5

[I goofed!! I said, "(the End) on the last post of this series on Confession. There is more finishing here!]

Of all practises that were ever devised by man in the name of religion, I firmly believe that none was ever devised so mischievous and objectionable as the confessional! It overthrows Christ's office, and places man in the seat which should only be occupied by the Son of God. It puts two sinners in a thoroughly wrong position: it exalts the confessor far too high; and it places those who confess far too low. It gives the confessor a place which it is not safe for any child of Adam to occupy. It imposes on those who confess, a bondage to which it is not safe for any child of Adam to submit. It sinks one poor sinner into the degrading attitude of serf - it raises another poor sinner into a dangerous mastery over his brother's soul. It make the confessor little less than a God. It makes those who confess little better than slaves.

If we love Christian liberty, and value inward peace, let us beware of the slightest approach to the Romish confessional. Those who tell us that Christian ministers were intended to receive confessions, and that Evangelical teaching makes light of the ministerial office, and strips it of all authority and power - are making assertions which they cannot prove. We honor the minister's office highly, but we refuse to give it a hair's breadth more dignity than we find given in the Word of God! We honor ministers as Christ's ambassadors, Christ's messengers, Christ's watchmen, helpers of believers' joy, preachers of the Word, and stewards of the mysteries of God. But we decline to regard them as priests, mediators, confessors, and rulers over men's faith - both for the sake of their souls and of our own.

The vulgar notion that Evangelical teaching is opposed to the exercise of soul-discipline, or heart-examination, or self-humiliation, or mortification of the flesh, or true contrition - is a mere invention of man's. Opposed to it! There was never a more baseless assertion. We are entirely favorable to it. This only we require - but that it shall be carried on in the right way. We approve of a confessional - but it must be the only true one - but the throne of grace. We approve of going to a confessor - but it must be the true One - Christ the Lord. We approve of submitting consciences to a priest - but it must be to the great High Priest - Jesus the Son of God. We approve of unbosoming our secret sins, and seeking absolution - but it must be at the feet of the great Head of the Church, and not at the feet of one of His weak members. We approve of kneeling to receive godly counsel - but it must be at the feet of Christ, and not at the feet of man.

Let us beware of ever losing sight of Christ's priestly office. Let us glory in His atoning death, honor Him as our Substitute and Surety on the Cross, hear His voice as our Prophet, and obey Him as our King.

I shall conclude this paper with two words of PRACTICAL APPLICATION

(a) We have seen who ought to  confess sin.

(b) We have seen to WHOM confession ought to be made.

Let us try to bring the subject nearer to our hearts and consciences. Times flies very fast. Writing and preaching - reading and working - doubting and speculating - discussion and controversy - all, all will soon be past and gone forever! Yet a little while and there will remain nothing but certainties, realities and eternity!

Let us then ask ourselves honestly and conscientiously, Do we confess?

1. If we never confessed sin before, let us go this very day to the throne of grace, and speak to the great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, about our souls. Let us pour out our heart before Him, and keep nothing back from Him. Let us acknowledge our iniquities to Him, and entreat Him to cleanse them away. Let us say to Him, in David's words, "For Your name's sake - pardon my iniquity, for it is great." "Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities." Let us cry to Him as the publican did in the parable, "God be merciful to me a sinner." (Ps. 25:11, 51:9; Luke 18:13).

Are we afraid to do this? Do we feel unworthy and unfit to begin? Let us resist such feelings, and begin without delay. There are glorious Bible examples to encourage us - there are rich Bible promises to lure us on. In all the volume of Scripture there are no passages so encouraging as those which are about confession of sin. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:8). "If any say: I have sinned, and perverted that which is right, and it profited me not; He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light" (Job 33:27). "Father, said the prodigal son, "I have sinned against Heaven and in your sight, and am no more worthy to be called your son. But the Father said to his servant: Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring in his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and be merry." (Luke 15:21-23).

If Christ had never died for sinners, there might be some excuse for doubting. But Christ having suffered for sin, there is nothing that need keep us back.

(2) If we have been taught by the Holy Spirit to confess our sins, and know the subject of this paper by inward experience - then let us keep up the habit of confession to the last day of our lives.

May every day find us more humble - and yet more hopeful; more sensible of our own unworthiness - and yet more ready to rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh!

May our prayers become every day more fervent;
our confessions of sin more real;
our eye more single;
our walk with God more close;
our knowledge of Jesus more clear;
our love to Jesus more deep;
our citizenship in Heaven more manifest; and
our separation from the world more distinct!

So living - we shall cross the waves of this troublesome world with comfort, and have an abundant entrance into God's kingdom. So living - we shall find that our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Yet a few more years, and our prayers and confessions shall cease forever. We shall begin an endless life of praise. We shall exchange our daily confessions for eternal thanksgivings!

~J. C. Ryle~

(The End)

Confession # 4

Confession # 4

Facts, stubborn facts, abound to show that the practice of confessing to ministers has often led to the grossest and most disgusting unmorality. A living writer has truly said, "There is no worse school of wickedness on earth, than the confessional. History testifies that for every offender whom the confessional has reclaimed - it has hardened thousands; for one it may have saved - it has destroyed millions."

The man who turns away from Christ to confess his sins to ministers, is like a man who chooses to live in prison when he may walk at liberty; or to starve and go in rags, in the midst of riches and plenty; or to cringe for favors at the feet of a servant, when he may go boldly to the Master and ask what he will.

A mighty and sinless High Priest is provided for him - and yet he prefers to employ the aid of mere fellow-sinners like himself! He is trying to fill his purse with rubbish - when he may have fine gold for the asking. He is insisting on lighting a candle - when he may enjoy the noonday light of God's sun!

If we love our souls, let us beware of giving to ministers the honor that belongs to Christ alone - He is the true High Priest of the Christians' profession. He ever lives to receive confessions, and to absolve sinners. Why should we turn away from Him to man? Above all, let us beware of the whole system of the Romish confessional.

~J. C. Ryle~

(continued with # 5)




Confession # 3

Confession # 3

Christ is a High Priest of infinite WILLINGNESS to receive confession of sin.

He invites all who feel their guilt, to come to Him for relief. "Come unto Me," He says, "all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." "If any man thirsts - let him come unto Me and drink." When the penitent thief cried to Him on the Cross - He at once absolved him fully, and gave him an answer of peace. (Matt. 11:28; John 7:37).

Christ is a High Priest of perfect KNOWLEDGE.

He knows exactly the whole history of all who confess to Him - no secrets are hidden from Him. He never errs in judgment - He makes no mistakes. It is written that "With righteousness He will judge." (Isaiah 11:4).  He can discern the difference between the hypocritical professor who is full of words - and the broken-hearted sinner who can scarce stammer out his confession. People may deceive ministers by "good words and fair speeches," but they will never deceive Christ!

Christ is a High Priest of matchless TENDERNESS.

He will not afflict willingly, or grieve any soul that comes to Him. He will handle delicately, every wound that is exposed to Him. He will deal tenderly even with the vilest sinners, as He did with the Samaritan woman. Confidence reposed in Him is never abused - secrets confided to Him are completely safe. Of Him it is written, that "He will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax." He is one who "despises none." (Isaiah 42:3; Job 36:5).

Christ is a High Priest who can SYMPATHIZE with all who confess to Him.

He knows the heart of a man by experience, for He had a body like our own, and was made in the likeness of man. "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin." (Hebrews 4:15). To Him the words can most truly be applied, which Elihu applied to himself, "I am just like you before God; I too have been taken from clay. No fear of me should alarm you." (Job 33:6-7).

This great High Priest of the gospel is the person whom we ought specially to employ in our confession of sin. It is only through Him and by Him, that we should make all our approaches to God. In Him we may draw near to God with boldness, and have access with confidence. (Eph. 3:12). Laying our hand on Him and His atonement, we may "come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16). We need no other mediator or priest. We can find no better High Priest.

Why should we confess our sins to angels and dead saints - while we have Christ for a High Priest? Why should we confess to the Virgin Mary, Michael the Archangel, John the Baptist, Paul, or any other creature in the unseen world? The Church of Rome enjoins such confession as this on her millions of members, and many members of the Church of England seem half-disposed to think the Church of Rome is right! But when we ask a Scriptural reason for the practice, we may ask long without getting an answer.

There is no need for such a confession. Christ has not given up His office, and ceased to be our great High Priest. The saints and angels cannot possibly do more for us than Christ can. They certainly have not more pity or compassion, or more good will towards our souls. There is no warrant of Scripture for such a confession. There is not a text in the Bible that bids confess to dead saints angels. There is not an instance in Scripture of any living believer taking his sins to them.

There is not the slightest proof that there is any use in such a confession. We do not even know that the saints in glory can hear what we say, much less do we know that they could help us if they heard. They were all sinners saved by grace themselves - where is the likelihood that they could do anything to aid our souls?

The man who turns away from Christ to confess to saints and angels, is a deluded robber of his own soul. He is following a shadow - and forsaking the substance. He is rejecting the bread of life, and trying to satisfy his spiritual with sand.

But why again, should be confess our sins to living priest or ministers - while we have Christ for a High Priest? The Church of Rome commands her members to do so. A party within the Church of England approves the practice as useful, helpful, and almost needful to the soul. But, again, when we ask for Scripture and reason in support of the practice, we receive no satisfactory answer.

There is not any need for confessing to priests or ministers! There is none! There is nothing they can do for a sinner that Christ cannot do a thousand times better! 

Is there any Scriptural warrant for confessing to priests or ministers? There is NONE. There is NOT a passage in the New Testament which commands it. Paul writes three Epistles to Timothy and Titus about ministerial duty. But he says nothing about receiving confessions. James bids us "confess our faults to one another," but he says nothing about confessing to ministers. Above all, there is not a single example in Scripture of any one confessing to a minister and receiving absolution. We see the Apostles often declaring plainly the way of forgiveness, and pointing men to Christ. But we nowhere find them telling men to confess to them, and offering to absolve them after confession.

Finally, is any good likely to result from confessing to priests or ministers? I answer boldly, there is none. Ministers can never know that those who confess to them are telling the truth. Those who confess to them will never feel their consciences really satisfied, and will never feel certain that what they confess will not be improperly used. Above all, the experience of former times is enough to condemn "auricular confession" forever, as a practice of most vile and evil tendency!

~J. C. Ryle~

(continued with # 4)

Confession # 2

Confession # 2

Man is naturally asleep - and must be awakened.

He is blind - and must be made to see.

He is dead - and must be made alive.

If this was not the case, then there would be no need for our pressing the duty of confession. Scripture commands it. Reason assents to it. Conscience, in its best moments, approves of it. And yet, notwithstanding this, the vast majority of men have no practical acquaintance with confession of sin! No disease of body is so desperate as mortification. No heart is in so bad a state as the heart that does not feel sin.

Shall I say what is my first and foremost wish for wise souls, if they are yet unconverted? I can wish them nothing better than thorough self-knowledge. Ignorance of self and sin are the root of all mischief to the soul. There is hardly a religious error or a false doctrine that may not be traced to it. Light was the first thing called into being. When God created the world, He said, "Let there be light." (Genesis 1:3). Light is the first thing that the Holy Spirit creates in a man's heart, when He awakens, converts, and makes him a true Christian (2 Cor. 4:6). For lack of seeing sin men do not value salvation. Once let a man get a sight of his own heart, and he will begin to cry, "God be merciful to me a sinner!"

If a man has learned to feel and acknowledge his sinfulness, he has great reason to thank God. It is a real symptom of health in the inward man. It is a might token for good. To know our spiritual disease - is one step towards a cure. To feel bad and wicked is the first beginning of being really holy.

What though we feel ashamed and confounded at the sight of our own transgressions! What though we are humbled to the dust, and cry, "Lord, I am vile! Lord, I am the very chief of sinners!" It is better a thousand times to have these feelings and be miserable under them - than to have no feelings at all. Anything is better than a dead conscience, and a cold heart, and a prayer-less tongue!

If we have learned to feel and confess sin, we may well thank God and take courage. Whence came those feelings? Who told you that you were a guilty sinner? What moved you to begin acknowledging your transgressions? How was it that you first found sin to be a burden, and longed to be set free from it?

These feelings do not come from man's natural heart. The devil does not teach such lessons. The schools of this world have no power to impart them. These feelings come down from above. They are the precious gift of God the Holy Spirit. It is His special office to convince of sin. The man who has really learned to feel and confess his sins, has learned that which millions never learn, and for lack of which millions die in their sins, and are lost to all eternity.

2. I now turn to the second branch of my subject. To whom ought confession of sin be made?

I enter on this branch of the subject with sorrowful feelings. I approach it as a sailor would approach some rock on which many gallant ships have made shipwreck. I cannot forget that I have arrived at a point on which millions of so-called Christians have erred greatly - and millions are erring at the present day. But I dare not keep back anything that is Scriptural, for fear of giving offence. The errors of millions must not prevent a minister of the Gospel speaking the truth. If multitudes are hewing our broken cisterns that an hold no water - then it becomes the more needful to point out the true fountain. If countless souls are turning aside from the right way - then it becomes the more important to show clearly to whom confession ought to be made.

Sin, to speak generally, ought to be confessed to God.

He it is whom we have chiefly offended.

His are the laws which we have broken.

To Him it is that all men and women will one day give account.

His displeasure is that which sinners have principally to fear.

This is what David felt:"Against You, only have I sinned and done this evil in Your sight." (Psalm 51:4). This is what David practiced: "I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord." (Psalm 12:5). This is what Joshua advised Achan to do: "My son, give glory to God, and make confession to Him." (Joshua 7:19). The Jews were right when they said, "Who can forgive sins, but God alone?" (Mark 2:7).

But must we leave the matter here? Can vile sinners like us ever dare to confess our sins to a holy God? Will not the thought of His infinite purity shut our mouths and make us afraid? Must not the remembrance of His holiness make us afraid? Is it not written of God, that He is "of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity!" (Habakkuk 1:13). Is it not said, that He "hates all workers of iniquity!" (Psalm 5:5). Did He not say to Moses, "No man shall see my face and live"? (Exodus 33:20). Did not Israel say of old, "Let not God speak with us, lest we die!" (Exodus 20:19). Did not Daniel say, "How can the servant of my Lord talk with my Lord?" (Daniel 10:17). Did not Job say, "When I consider, I am afraid of Him!" (Job 23:15). Did not Isaiah say, "Woe is me, for I am undone - for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty!" (Is. 6:5). Does not Elihu say, "Shall it be told Him that I speak? If a man speaks - then surely he shall be swallowed up"? (Job 37:20).

These are serious questions. They are questions which must and will occur to thoughtful minds. There are many who know what Luther meant when he said, "I dare not have anything to do with an absolutely holy God!" But I thank God they are questions to which the gospel supplies a full and satisfactory answer. The gospel reveals One who is exactly suited to the needs of souls which desire to confess sin.

I say then, that sin ought to be confessed to God in Christ. I say that sin ought especially to be confessed to God manifest in the flesh - to Jesus Christ the Lord - to that Jesus who came into the world to save sinners - to that Jesus who died for sinners, and rose again for our justification, and now lives at the right hand of God to intercede for all who come to God by Him. He who desires to confess sin, should apply directly to Christ.

Christ is our great High Priest. Let that truth sink down into our hearts, and never be forgotten. He is sealed and appointed by God the Father for that very purpose, to be the Priest for Christians. It is His peculiar office to receive, and hear, and pardon, and absolve sinners. It is His place to receive confessions, and to grant full absolutions. It is written in Scripture, "You are a Priest forever!" "We have a great High Priest who has passed into the heavens." "Having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith" (Hebrews 4:14, 5:6, 6:20, 10:21-22).

Christ is a High Priest of Almighty power. There is no sin that He cannot pardon - and no sinner that He cannot absolve. He is very God of very God. He is "over all, God blessed forever." He says Himself, "I and my Father are one." He has "all power in heaven and earth." He has "power on earth to forgive sins." He has complete authority to say to the chief of sinners, "Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace." He has "the keys of death and the bottomless pit." When He opens, no one can shut. (Romans 9:5; John 10:30; Matt. 28:18, 9:6; Luke 7:48-50; Revelation 1:18, 3:7).

~J. C. Ryle~

(continued with # 3)