The Godly Man – Psalm 112

Call to Worship March 10 2019

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke

J.C. Ryle Luke 23:26-38

“We ought to notice, in this passage — our Lord’s words of prophetic warning. We read that He said to the women who followed Him, as He was being led away to Calvary, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me — but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed indeed are the women who are childless, the wombs that have not borne a child and the breasts that have never nursed.’

These words must have sounded particularly terrible to the ears of a Jewish woman. To her, it was always a disgrace to be childless. The idea of a time coming when it would be a blessing to have no children — must have been a strange and fearsome thought to her mind. And yet within fifty years, this prediction of Christ was literally fulfilled!

The siege of Jerusalem by the Roman army under Titus, brought down on all the inhabitants of the city the most horrible sufferings from famine and pestilence that can be conceived. Women are reported to have actually eaten their own children during the siege for lack of food. Upon none did the last judgments sent upon the Jewish nation fall so heavily, as upon the wives, the mothers, and the little children.

Let us beware of supposing that the Lord Jesus holds out to man nothing but mercy, pardon, love, and forgiveness. Beyond all doubt, He is plenteous in mercy. His mercy is like a mighty stream. He ‘delights in mercy.’ But we must never forget that there is justice with Him — as well as mercy. He is preparing punishments for the impenitent and the unbelieving. There is wrath revealed in the Gospel, for those who harden themselves in wickedness.

The same cloud which was bright to Israel — was dark to the Egyptians. The same Lord Jesus who invites the laboring and heavy-laden to come to Him and rest — declares most plainly that unless a man repents — he will certainly perish; and that he who does not believe — shall be damned. (Luke 13:3; Mark 16:16.)

The same Savior who now holds out His hands to the disobedient and rebellious — will come one day ‘from Heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God, and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction, and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power!’ (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9.)

Let these things sink down into our hearts. Christ is indeed most gracious. But the day of grace must come to an end at last. An unbelieving world will find at length, as Jerusalem did — that there is judgment with God, as well as mercy. No wrath will fall so heavily — as that which has been long accumulating and storing up.

We ought to notice, for another thing, in this passage — our Lord’s words of gracious intercession. We read that when He was crucified, His first words were, ‘Father, forgive them — for they do not know what they are doing.’ His own racking agony of body, did not make Him forget others. The first of His seven sayings on the cross was a prayer for the souls of His murderers!

He had just exhibited His prophetic office by a remarkable prediction. He was about to exhibit His kingly office soon — by opening the door of paradise to the penitent thief. His priestly office He now exhibited — by interceding for those who crucified Him. ‘Father,’ He said, ‘forgive them!’

The fruits of this wonderful prayer will never be fully seen, until the day when the books are opened, and the secrets of all hearts are revealed. We have probably not the least idea how many of the conversions at Jerusalem, which took place during the first six months after the crucifixion — were the direct reply to this marvelous prayer.

Perhaps this prayer was the first step towards the penitent thief’s repentance. Perhaps it was one means of affecting the centurion, who declared our Lord to be ‘a righteous man’ — and the people who ‘returned home, beating their breasts.’ Perhaps the three thousand converted on the day of Pentecost, were among our Lord’s murderers — and owed their conversion to this very prayer.

The day will manifest it. There is nothing secret, which shall not be revealed. This alone we know, that ‘the Father always hears the Son.’ (John 11:42.) We may be sure that this wondrous prayer was indeed heard.

Let us see in our Lord’s intercession for those who crucified Him — one more proof of Christ’s infinite love to sinners. The Lord Jesus is indeed most pitiful, most compassionate, and most gracious. None are too wicked, for Him to care for. None are too far gone in sin, for his almighty heart to take interest about their souls. He wept over unbelieving Jerusalem. He heard the prayer of the dying thief. He stopped under the tree to call the tax-collector Zaccheus. He came down from Heaven to turn the heart of the persecutor Saul. He found time to pray for His murderers, even on the cross.

Love like this is a love which surpasses knowledge. The vilest of sinners, have no cause to be afraid of applying to a Savior like this. If we desire warrant and encouragement to repent and believe — the passage before us surely supplies enough.

Finally, let us see in our Lord’s intercession — a striking example of the spirit which should reign in the hearts of all His people. Like Him, let us return good for evil, and blessing for cursing. Like Him, let us pray for those who do evil against us and persecute us. The pride of our hearts may often rebel against the idea. The proud world may call it foolish to behave in such a way. But let us never be ashamed to imitate our divine Master. The man who prays for his enemies, shows the mind that was in Christ — and will have his reward.”

The Apostle Paul Contends for Doctrinal Consistency

Call to Worship March 3 2019

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke

J.C. Ryle Luke 23:13-25

“We should observe, for one thing, in this passage — what striking testimony was borne to our Lord Jesus Christ’s perfect innocence by His judges.
We are told that Pilate said to the Jews, ‘You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence, and have found no basis for your charges against him. Neither has Herod — for he sent him back to us; as you can see — he has done nothing to deserve death.’ The Roman and the Galilean governors were both of one mind. Both agreed in pronouncing our Lord not guilty of the things laid to His charge.
There was a peculiar fitness in this public declaration of Christ’s innocence. Our Lord, we must remember, was about to be offered up as a sacrifice for our sins. It was proper and right that those who examined Him should formally pronounce Him to be an innocent and blameless person. It was fit and right that the Lamb of God should be found by those who slew Him, to be ‘a Lamb without blemish and without spot.’ (1 Peter 1:19.) The over-ruling hand of God so ordered the events of His trial, that even when His enemies were judges — they could find no fault with Him, nor prove any charge against Him.
The circumstance before us, may seem of trifling importance to a careless Bible reader. It ought however to commend itself to the heart of every well-instructed Christian. We ought to be daily thankful that our great Substitute was in all respects perfect — and that our Surety was a complete and faultless Surety.
What man can count the number of his sins? We leave undone, things which we should do; and we do things which we ought not to do — every day we live. But this must be our comfort, that Christ the Righteous One has undertaken to stand in our place, to pay the debt we all owe, and to fulfill the law we have all broken. He did fulfill that law completely. He satisfied all its demands. He accomplished all its requirements. He was the second Adam, who had ‘clean hands and a pure heart’ — and could therefore enter with boldness into God’s holy hill. (Psalm 24:4.)
He is the righteousness of all sinners who believe in Him. (Romans 10:4.) In Him, all believers are counted perfect fulfillers of the law. The eyes of a holy God behold them in Christ — clothed with Christ’s perfect righteousness. For Christ’s sake, God can now say of the believer, ‘I find no fault at all in him.’
Let us learn for another thing, in this passage — how thoroughly the Jews took on themselves the whole responsibility of our Lord Jesus Christ’s death. We are told that when Pilate was ‘willing to release Jesus’ — the Jews kept shouting, ‘Crucify Him! Crucify Him!’ Again, we are told that ‘with loud shouts they insistently demanded that He be crucified — and their shouts prevailed.’
This fact in the history of our Lord’s passion deserves particular notice. It shows the strict accuracy of the words of the apostles in after times, when speaking of Christ’s death. They speak of it as the act of the Jewish nation — and not of the Romans. ‘You killed the Prince of life,’ says Peter to the Jews at Jerusalem. ‘You killed Him by hanging Him on a tree!’ (Acts 3:15; 5:30.) ‘The Jews have both killed the Lord Jesus and their own prophets,’ says Paul to the Thessalonians. (1 Thessalonians 2:15.)
So long as the world stands, the fact before us is a memorial of man’s natural hatred against God. When the Son of God came down to earth and dwelt among His own chosen people — they despised Him, rejected Him, and murdered Him.
The fearful responsibility which the Jews took on themselves in the matter of our Lord’s death, was not forgotten by God. The righteous blood which they shed has been crying against them as a people, for eighteen hundred years.
Scattered all over the earth, wanderers among the nations, without a land, without a government, without a home — the Jews show to this day that their own words have been terribly fulfilled. The blood of their slain Messiah ‘is upon them and upon their children!’
They are a standing warning to the world, that it is a fearful thing to reject the Lord Christ, and that the nation which speaks stoutly against God, must not be surprised if God deals with it according to its words. Marvelous indeed is the thought that there is mercy in store for Israel, notwithstanding all its sins and unbelief! The nation which pierced and murdered Him — shall yet look to Him by faith and be restored to favor. (Zechariah 12:10.)
We should observe, lastly, in this passage — the remarkable circumstances connected with the release of Barabbas. We are told that Pilate ‘released Barabbas, the man in prison for insurrection and murder. But he delivered Jesus over to them to do as they wished.’
Two people were before Pilate — and he must needs release one of the two. The one was a sinner against God and man, a criminal stained with many crimes. The other was the holy, harmless, and undefiled Son of God, in whom there was no fault at all. And yet Pilate condemns the innocent prisoner — and acquits the guilty! He orders Barabbas to be set free — and delivers Jesus to be crucified! The circumstance before us is very instructive.
It shows the bitter malice of the Jews against our Lord. To use the words of Peter, ‘You disowned the Holy and Righteous One — and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life — but God raised him from the dead.’ (Acts 3:14, 15.)
It shows the deep humiliation to which our Lord submitted, in order to procure our redemption. He allowed Himself to be reckoned lighter in the balance than a murderer, and to be counted more guilty than the chief of sinners!
But there is a deeper meaning yet beneath the circumstance before us, which we must not fail to observe. The whole transaction is a lively emblem of that wondrous exchange that takes place between Christ and the sinner, when a sinner is justified in the sight of God. ‘God made him who had no sin — to be sin for us; so that in him — we might become the righteousness of God.’ (2 Corinthians 5:21.) Christ the innocent, has been reckoned guilty before God — that we the guilty, might be reckoned innocent, and be set free from condemnation.
If we are true Christians, let us daily lean our souls on the wondrous thought that Christ has really been our Substitute, and has been punished in our stead. Let us freely confess that, like Barabbas — we deserve death, judgment, and Hell. But let us cling firmly to the glorious truth that a sinless Savior has suffered in our stead — and that believing in Him, the guilty may go free.”

Paul Confronts the Fear of Man

Call to Worship February 24 2019

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke

J.C. Ryle Luke 23:1-12

“Let us observe, for one thing, in this passage — what false accusations were laid to our Lord Jesus Christ’s charge. We are told that the Jews accused Him of ‘subverting the nation, forbidding to give taxes to Caesar, and stirring up the people.’ In all this indictment, we know, there was not a word of truth. It was nothing but a devious attempt to enlist the Roman governor against our Lord.

Lying and slander are two favorite weapons of the devil. He was a liar from the beginning, and is still the father of lies. (John 8:44.) When he finds that he cannot stop God’s work — his next device is to blacken the character of God’s servants, and to destroy the value of their testimony.

With this weapon, he assaulted David, ‘False witnesses,’ he says, ‘testify against me. They accuse me of crimes I know nothing about.’

With this weapon, he assaulted the prophets. Elijah was accused of being a ‘troubler of Israel!’ Jeremiah was accused of undermining the nation, and being a traitor!

With this weapon Satan assaulted the apostles. They were ‘pestilent fellows,’ and men who ‘turned the world upside down.’

With this weapon he assaulted our Lord all through His ministry. He stirred up his agents to call Him a glutton and a drunkard, a Samaritan and a devil! (Luke 7:34; John 8:48.)

And here, in the verses before us, we find Satan plying his old weapon to the very last. Jesus is arraigned before Pilate upon charges which are utterly untrue.

The servant of Christ must never be surprised if he has to drink of the same cup with his Lord. When He who was holy, harmless, and undefiled, was foully slandered — then who can expect to escape? ‘If they called the master of the house Beelzebub — then how much more will they call those of his household?’ (Matthew 10:25.)

Nothing is too evil to slander a saint with. Perfect innocence is no fence against enormous lying, calumny, and misrepresentation. The most blameless character, will not secure us against false tongues. We must bear the trial patiently. It is part of the cross of Christ. We must sit still, lean back on God’s promises, and believe that in the long run truth will prevail. ‘Rest in the Lord,’ says David, ‘and wait patiently for Him.’ ‘He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your judgment as the noonday.’ (Psalm 37:6, 7.)

Let us observe, for another thing, in this passage — the strange and mingled motives which influence the hearts of unconverted great men. We are told that when our Lord was sent by Pilate to Herod, king of Galilee, ‘Herod was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see Him. From what he had heard about Him, he hoped to see Him perform some miracle.’

These words are remarkable. Herod was a sensual, worldly man, the murderer of John the Baptist — a man living in foul adultery with his brother’s wife. Such a man, we might have supposed, would have had no desire to see Christ. But Herod had an uneasy conscience. The blood of God’s murdered saints, no doubt, rose often before his eyes, and destroyed his peace. The fame of our Lord’s preaching and miracles had penetrated even into his court. It was said that another witness against sin had risen up, who was even more faithful and bold than John the Baptist; and who confirmed his teaching by miracles!

These rumors made Herod restless and uncomfortable. No wonder that his curiosity was stirred, and he wanted to see Christ.

It may be feared that there are many great and rich men like Herod in every age of the church — men without God, without faith, and living only for themselves. They generally live in an atmosphere of their own — flattered, fawned upon, and never told the truth about their souls — haughty, tyrannical, and knowing no will but their own. Yet even these men are sometimes conscience-stricken and afraid.

God raises up some bold witness against their sins, whose testimony reaches their ears. At once their curiosity is stirred. They feel ‘found out,’ and are ill at ease. They flutter around his ministry, like the moth round the candle, and seem unable to keep away from it, even while they do not obey it. They praise his talents and openly profess their admiration of his power. But they never get any further.

Like Herod, their conscience produces within them a morbid curiosity to see and hear God’s witnesses. But, like Herod, their heart is linked to the world by chains of iron. Tossed to and fro by storms of lust or ungovernable passions — they are never at rest while they live; and after all their fitful struggles of conscience — they die at length in their sins. This is a painful history. But it is the history of many rich men’s souls.

Let us learn from Herod’s case, to pity great men. With all their greatness and apparent splendor — they are often thoroughly miserable within. Silks and satins and official robes, often cover hearts which are utter strangers to peace. That man does not understand what he is wishing for — who wishes to be a rich man.

Let us pray for rich men — as well as pity them. They carry a heavy weight in the race for eternal life. If they are saved, it can only be by the greatest miracles of God’s grace. Our Lord’s words are very solemn, ‘It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle — than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ (Matthew 19:24.)

Let us observe, finally, in this passage — how easily and readily, unconverted men can agree in disliking Christ. We are told that when Pilate sent our Lord a prisoner to Herod, ‘That day Herod and Pilate became friends; before this they had been enemies.’ We know not the cause of their enmity. It was probably some petty quarrel, such as will arise among great as well as small. But whatever the cause of enmity — it was laid aside when a common object of contempt, fear, or hatred was brought before them. Whatever else they disagreed about — Pilate and Herod could agree to despise and persecute Christ.

The incident before us is a striking emblem of a state of things which may always be seen in the world. Men of the most discordant opinions — can unite in opposing truth. Teachers of the most opposite doctrines — can make common cause in fighting against the Gospel.

In the days of our Lord, the Pharisees and the Sadducees might be seen combining their forces to entrap Jesus of Nazareth and put Him to death.

In our own times, we sometimes see Romanists — and Socinians; infidels — and idolaters; worldly pleasure-lovers — and bigoted moralists; the friends of so-called liberal views — and the most determined opponents of all changes — all ranked together against evangelical religion. One common hatred binds them together. They hate the cross of Christ!

To use the words of the apostles in the Acts, ‘Against your holy child Jesus, whom you have anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, are gathered together.’ (Acts 4:27.) All hate each other very much — but all hate Christ much more!

The true Christian must not count the enmity of the world to be a strange thing. He must not marvel, if like Paul at Rome, he finds the Way of Life, a ‘way everywhere spoken against,’ and if all around him agree in disliking his religion. (Acts 28:22.) If he expects that by any concession, he can win the favor of man — then he will be greatly deceived.

Let not his heart be troubled. He must only expect the praise of God. The saying of his Master should often come across his mind, ‘If you belonged to the world — then it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you!’ (John 15:19.)”

Personal Belief and Testamony

Call to Worship February 17 2019

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke
J.C. Ryle Luke 22:63-71
“We should notice, firstly, in these verses — the shameful treatment that our Lord Jesus Christ underwent at the hands of His enemies. We read that the guards ‘mocked’ Him, ‘beat’ Him, ‘blindfolded’ Him, and ‘struck Him in the face.’ It was not enough to have taken a prisoner a person of most blameless and charitable life — they must needs add insult to injury.

Conduct like this shows the desperate corruption of human nature. The excesses of savage malice to which unconverted men will sometimes go, and the fierce delight with which they will sometimes trample on the most holy and the most pure — almost justify the strong saying of an old divine, that ‘man left to himself — is half-beast and half-devil!’ He hates God, and all who bear anything of God’s image. ‘The carnal mind is enmity against God.’ (Romans 8:7.)

We have probably a very faint idea of what the world would become, if it were not for the constant restraint that God mercifully puts upon evil. It is not too much to say that if unconverted men had their own way entirely — the earth would soon be little better than a Hell!

Our Lord’s calm submission to insults like those here described, shows the depth of His love towards sinners. Had He so willed, He could have stopped the insolence of His enemies in a moment. He who could cast out devils with a word, could have summoned legions of angels to His side, and scattered those wretched tools of Satan to the winds.

But our Lord’s heart was set on the great work he had come on earth to do. He had undertaken to purchase our redemption by His own humiliation — and He did not flinch from paying the uttermost farthing of the price. He had undertaken to drink the bitter cup of vicarious suffering to save sinners — and ‘for the joy set before Him, He despised the shame,’ and drank the cup to the very dregs! (Hebrews 12:2.)

Patience like that which our blessed Lord exhibited on this occasion should teach His professing people a mighty lesson. We should forbear all murmuring and complaining, and irritation of spirit — when we are ill-treated by the world. What are the occasional insults to which we have to submit — compared to the insults which were heaped on our Master? Yet ‘When they hurled their insults at Him — He did not retaliate. When He suffered — He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted himself to Him who judges justly.’ He left us an example, that we should walk in His steps. Let us go and do likewise. (1 Peter 2:21-23.)

We should notice, secondly, in these verses — the striking prophecy which our Lord delivers about His own coming glory. He says to His insulting enemies, ‘Hereafter the Son of man shall sit on the right hand of the power of God.’ Did they find fault with His lowly appearance, and want a glorious Messiah? They would see Him in glory one day. Did they think He was weak, powerless, and contemptible, because at present there was no outward majesty about Him? They would behold Him one day in the most honorable position in Heaven, fulfilling the well-known prophecy of Daniel, with all judgment committed to His hands. (Daniel 7:9, 10.)

Let us take heed that the future glory of Christ forms a part of our creed — as much as Christ’s cross and passion. Let it be a first principle in our religion, that the same Jesus who was mocked, despised, and crucified — is He who has now ‘all power in Heaven and earth, and will one day come again in His Father’s glory with all His angels.’

We see but half the truth — if we see nothing but the cross and the first coming. It is essential to our own comfort — to see also the second coming, and the crown. That same Jesus who stood before the bar of the high priest and of Pilate — will one day sit upon a throne of glory and summon all His enemies to appear before Him! Happy is that Christian who keeps steadily before his mind, that word ‘hereafter!’

Now in this present time believers must be content to take part in their Master’s sufferings. ‘Hereafter’ they shall share in His glory! Now like their Lord, they must not be surprised if they are mocked, despised, and disbelieved. ‘Hereafter’ they shall sit with Him on His throne at the right hand of God! (Revelation 3:21.)

We should notice, lastly, in these verses — what a full and bold confession our Lord makes of His own Messiahship and divinity. We read that in answer to this question of His enemies, ‘Then you claim you are the Son of God?’ Jesus replied, ‘You are right in saying that I am.’ The meaning of this short sentence may not be clear at first sight to an English reader. It signifies in other words, ‘You speak the truth. I am, as you say, the Son of God.’

Our Lord’s confession deprived His enemies of all excuse for unbelief. The Jews can never plead that our Lord left their forefathers in ignorance of His mission, and kept them in doubt and suspense. Here we see our Lord telling them plainly who He was, and telling them in words which would convey even more to a Jewish mind than they do to ours. And yet the confession had not the least good effect upon the Jews! Their hearts were hardened by prejudice. Their minds were darkened by judicial blindness. The veil was over the eyes of their inward man. They heard our Lord’s confession unmoved — and only plunged deeper into the most dreadful sin!

The bold confession of our Master upon this occasion, is intended to be an example to all His believing people. Like Him, we must not shrink from speaking out when occasion requires our testimony. The fear of man, and the presence of a multitude — must not silence us. (Job 31:34.)
We need not blow a trumpet before us, and go out of our way — to proclaim our own religion. Opportunities are sure to occur in the daily path of duty, when, like Paul on board ship, we may show ‘whose we are — and whom we serve.’ (Acts 27:23.) At such opportunities, if we have the mind of Christ — let us not be afraid to show our colors.

A confessing Master — loves bold, uncompromising, and confessing disciples. Those who honor Him by an outspoken, courageous testimony — He will honor, because they are walking in His steps. ‘Whoever,’ He says, ‘shall confess Me before men — I will confess him before My Father in Heaven.’ (Matthew 10:32.)”

The Same Message

Call to Worship February 10 2019

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke

J.C. Ryle Luke 22:54-62

“The story of Peter’s fall teaches us, firstly — how small and gradual are the steps by which men may go down into great sins. The various steps in Peter’s fall, are clearly marked out by the Gospel-writers. They ought always to be observed in reading this part of the apostle’s history.

The first step was proud self-confidence. Though all denied Christ — yet he never would! He was ready to go with Him both to prison and to death!

The second step was indolent neglect of prayer. When his Master told him to pray, lest he should enter into temptation — he gave way to drowsiness, and was found asleep.

The third step was vacillating indecision. When the enemies of Christ came upon Him, Peter first fought, then ran away, then turned again, and finally ‘followed afar off.’

The fourth step was mingling with bad company. He went into the high priest’s house and sat among the servants by the fire, trying to conceal his religion, and hearing and seeing all kinds of evil.

The fifth and last step was the natural consequence of the preceding four. He was overwhelmed with fear when suddenly charged with being a disciple. The snare was round his neck. He could not escape. He plunged deeper into error than ever. He denied his blessed Master three times. The mischief, be it remembered, had been done before — the denial was only the disease coming to a head.

Let us beware of the beginnings of backsliding, however small. We never know what we may come to — if we once leave the king’s high-way. The professing Christian who begins to say of any sin or evil habit, ‘it is but a little one’ — is in imminent danger. He is sowing seeds in his heart, which will one day spring up and bear bitter fruit. It is a homely saying, that ‘if men take care of the pence — then the pounds will take care of themselves.’ We may borrow a good spiritual lesson from the saying. The Christian who keeps his heart diligently in little things — shall be kept from great falls!

The story of Peter’s fall teaches us, secondly — how very far a true believer may backslide.

In order to see this lesson clearly, the whole circumstances of Peter’s case ought to be fully weighed. He was a chosen apostle of Christ. He had enjoyed many and great spiritual privileges. He had just received the Lord’s supper. He had just heard that wonderful discourse recorded in the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth chapters of John. He had been most plainly warned of his own danger. He had boasted most loudly, that he was ready for anything that might come upon him. And yet this very man denies his gracious Master, and that repeatedly — and after intervals giving him space for reflection. He denies Him once, twice, and three times!

The best and highest believer, is a poor weak creature — even at his best times. Whether he knows it or not, he carries within him an almost boundless capacity of wickedness — however fair and decent his outward conduct may seem. There is no enormity of sin into which he may not run — if he does not watch and pray, and if the grace of God does not hold him up.

When we read the falls of Noah, Lot, and Peter — we only read what might possibly befall any of ourselves. Let us never presume. Let us never indulge in high thoughts about our own strength, or look down upon others. Whatever else we pray for, let us daily pray that we may ‘Walk humbly with God.’ (Micah 6:8.)

The story of Peter’s fall teaches us, thirdly — the infinite mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is a lesson which is brought out most forcibly by a fact which is only recorded in Luke’s Gospel. We are told that when Peter denied Christ the third time, and the rooster crowed, ‘the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.’

Those words are deeply touching! Surrounded by blood-thirsty and insulting enemies, in the full anticipation of horrible outrages, an unjust trial, and a agonizing sin-atoning death — the Lord Jesus yet found time to think kindly of His poor erring disciple. Even then He would have Peter know, that He did not forget him. Sorrowfully no doubt, but not angrily, He ‘turned and looked straight at Peter.’ There was a deep meaning in that look. It was a sermon which Peter never forgot.

The love of Christ toward His people, is a deep well which has no bottom. Let us never measure it by comparison with any kind of human love. It exceeds all other love — as far as the sunlight exceeds the candle-light. There is about it, a mine of compassion, and patience, and readiness to forgive sin — of whose riches we have but a faint conception.

Let us not be afraid to trust that love, when we first feel our sins. Let us never be afraid to go on trusting it after we have once believed. No man need despair, however far he may have fallen — if he will only repent and turn to Christ. If the heart of Jesus was so gracious when He was a prisoner in the judgment hall — then we surely need not think that He is less gracious, when He sits in glory at the right hand of God.

The story of Peter’s fall teaches us, lastly — how bitter sin is to believers, when they have fallen into it and discovered their fall.

This is a lesson which stands out plainly on the face of the verses before us. We are told that when Peter remembered the warning he had received, and saw how far he had fallen, ‘he went out and wept bitterly.’ He found out by experience, the truth of Jeremiah’s words, ‘It is an evil and a bitter thing to have forsaken the Lord.’ (Jeremiah 2:19.) He felt keenly the truth of Solomon’s saying, ‘The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways.’ (Proverbs 14:14.) No doubt he could have said with Job, ‘I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes!’ (Job 42:6.)

Sorrow like this, let us always remember, is an inseparable companion of true repentance. Here lies the grand distinction between ‘repentance unto salvation’ — and unavailing remorse.

Remorse can make a man miserable, like Judas Iscariot — but it can do no more. It does not lead him to God.

Repentance makes a man’s heart soft and his conscience tender — and manifests itself in sincerely turning back to his heavenly Father.

The falls of a graceless professor are falls from which there is no rising again. But the fall of a true saint always ends in deep contrition, self-abasement, and amendment of life.

Let us take heed, before we leave this passage, that we always make a right use of Peter’s fall. Let us never make it an excuse for sin. Let us learn from his sad experience, to watch and pray — lest we fall into temptation. If we do fall, let us believe that there is hope for us — just as there was for him. But above all, let us remember, that if we fall as Peter fell — then we must repent as Peter repented, or else we shall never be saved.”