May 14, 2010

J. C. Ryle (1816–1900) on Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34

On Matthew 23:37:
We learn, in the last place, from these verses, that those who are lost forever, are lost through their own fault.

The words of our Lord Jesus Christ are very remarkable. He says, "I would have gathered thy children together,--and ye would not,"

There is something peculiarly deserving of notice in this expression. It throws light on a mysterious subject, and one which is often darkened by human explanations. It shows that Christ has feelings of pity and mercy for many who are not saved, and that the grand secret of man's ruin is his want of will. Impotent as man is by nature,--unable to think a good thought of himself,--without power to turn himself to faith and calling upon God,--he still appears to have a mighty ability to ruin his own soul. Powerless as he is to good, he is still powerful to evil. We say rightly that a man can do nothing of himself, but we must always remember that the seat of impotence is his will. A will to repent and believe no man can give himself, but a will to reject Christ and have his own way, every man possesses by nature, and if not saved at last, that will shall prove to have been his destruction. "Ye will not come to me," says Christ, "that ye might have life." (John v. 40)

Let us leave the subject with the comfortable reflection, that with Christ nothing is impossible. The hardest heart can be made willing in the day of His power. Grace beyond doubt is irresistable. But never let us forget, that the Bible speaks of man as a responsible being, and that it says of some, "ye do always resist the Holy Ghost." (Acts vii. 51.) Let us understand that the ruin of those who are lost, is not because Christ was not willing to save them--nor yet because they wanted to be saved, but could not--but because they would not come to Christ. Let the ground we take up be always that of the passage we are not considering--Christ would gather men, but they will not to be gathered; Christ would save men, but they will not to be saved. Let it be a settled principle in our religion, that men's salvation, if saved, is wholly of God; and that man's ruin, if lost, is wholly of himself. the evil that is in us is all our own. The good, if we have any, is all of God. The saved in the next world will give God all the glory. The lost in the next world will find that they have destroyed themselves. (Hosea xiii. 9.)
J. C. Ryle, Ryle's Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Matthew–Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1982), I:310–311.

On Luke 13:34:
Let us learn, for another thing, from these verses, how great is the compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ towards sinners. We see this brought out in a most forcible manner by our Lord's language about Jerusalem. He knew well the wickedness of that city. He knew what crimes has been committed there in times past. He knew what was coming on Himself, at the time of His crucifixion. Yet even to Jerusalem He says, "How often would I have gathered thy children together as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not."

It grieves the Lord Jesus Christ to see sinners going on still in their wickedness. "As I live," are His words, "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked." (Ezek. xxxiii. 11.) Let all unconverted people remember this. It is not enough that they grieve parents, and ministers, and neighbors, and friends. There is one higher than all these, whom they deeply grieve by their conduct. They are daily grieving Christ.

The Lord Jesus is willing to save sinners. "He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." "He would have all men saved and come to the knowledge of the truth." (2 Pet. iii. 9; 1 Tim. ii. 4.) This is a mighty principle of the Gospel, and one which sorely perplexes narrow-minded and shallow theologians. But what says the Scripture? The words before us, no less than the texts just quoted, are distinct and express. "I would have gathered they children," says Christ, "and ye would not." The will of poor hardened unbelieving man, and not the will of Christ, is the cause why sinners are lost forevermore. Christ "would" save them, but they will "not be" saved.

Let the truth before us sink down into our hearts, and bear fruit in our lives. Let us thoroughly understand that if we die in our sins and go to hell, our blood will be upon our own heads. We cannot lay the blame on God the Father, nor on Jesus Christ the Redeemer, nor on the Holy Ghost the Comforter. The promises of the Gospel are wide, broad, and general. The readiness of Christ to save sinners is unmistakeably declared. If we are lost, we shall have none to find fault with but ourselves. The words of Christ will be our condemnation: "Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life." (John v. 40.)

Let us take heed, with such a passage as this before us, that we are not more systematic than Scripture. It is a serious thing to be "wise above that which is written." Our salvation is wholly of God. Let that never be forgotten. None but the elect shall be finally saved. "No man can come unto Christ except the Father draw him." (John vi. 44.) But our ruin, if we are lost, will be wholly of ourselves. We shall reap the fruit of our own choice. We shall find that we have lost our own souls. Linked between these two principles lies truth which we must maintain firmly, and never let go. There is doubtless deep mystery about it. Our minds are too feeble to understand it now. But we shall understand it all hereafter. God's sovereignty and man's responsibility shall appear perfectly harmonious one day. In the meantime, whatever we doubt, let us never doubt Christ's infinite willingness to save.
J. C. Ryle, Ryle's Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1979), II:140–142.

From the notes on verses 31–35:
34--[O Jerusalem, &c.] This remarkable passage is found in St. Matthew's Gospel, (Matt. xxiii. 37,) at the very end of our Lord's ministry, in almost the same words. I cannot see any satisfactory explanation of this circumstance excepting that our Lord must have twice used the same expression about Jerusalem in the course of His ministry on earth.

To suppose that our Lord was at the end of His ministry in this part of St. Luke's Gospel is, on the face of the narrative, utterly improbable. To suppose that St. Luke thrust in this remarkable saying about Jerusalem at this particular point of his Gospel, out of its place and order, and without any connection with the context, is equally improbable.

I see on the other hand no improbability whatever in the supposition that our Lord made use of this remarkable saying about Jerusalem on two distinct occasions during His ministry. I can quite understand that His mighty and feeling heart was deeply touched with sorrow for the sin and hardness of that wicked but privileged city. And it seems to me both likely and natural that language like that before us would fall from His lips on more than one occasion.

[How often.] I cannot think, as some do, that this expression refers to many visits which our Lord had made to Jerusalem, during His ministry. I rather refer it to all the messages and invitations which for many centuries He had sent to Jerusalem by His servants, the prophets.

[Would would not!] The Greek word in both these phrases is stronger than appears from our English translation. It is literally, "I willed, and ye willed not."

Few passages in the Bible throw the responsibility of the loss of the soul so distinctly on those who are lost.--"I would," "ye would not."--Two wills are expressly mentioned, the will of Christ to do good, and the will of man to refuse good when offered.

Let it be noted that our Lord does not say, "thou wouldest not," but "ye would not."--By this mode of speaking, He makes it plain, that He charges the guilt of Jerusalem on its inhabitants, the men and women who dwelt there, and specially on the priests, and Scribes and Pharisees who governed the city. They were neither willing to be gathered themselves, nor to let others round them be gathered. They neither entered in themselves into the kingdom, nor allowed others to enter. Christ was willing, but they were unwilling.

We must be careful, however, not to confine "ye would not," to the Scribes, Pharisees, and rulers. The verse which follows shows clearly that our Lord includes all the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
Ibid., II:144–145.

Howard Vos said:
Into the context of stern denunciation Jesus introduced a note of tenderness. With a breaking heart He lamented over the city and nation that refused Him and His message.
Howard F. Vos, Matthew: A Bible Study Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1979), 159.

No comments: