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J C Ryle on Christian Assembly

13/04/2013

JC Ryle, commenting on the characteristics of the Christian in a sermon on   “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”  John 10:27

Ryle remarks on how this sheep-like comparison applies in the true Christian’s love of assembling together in Christ’s Name…

Sheep love to be together; they do not like being alone; there are no animals which seem to take such pleasure in being in a flock, and cling to each other’s company so faithfully. And so is it with true Christians: it is their delight to meet each other and be together, if possible. It is their continual sorrow and complaint that far too often they have to journey on alone, without any who are like-minded to commune with, about the things which their souls love most; and this is a very sore trial. Friends and relations may be kind and affectionate, they may have everything to make this world enjoyable—but what Christ’s sheep sigh and crave after is to have with them people who can enter into their secret feelings, who understand the unseen workings of their inward man, who can comprehend the hidden warfare which goes on in their hearts—people with whom they can take sweet counsel about their souls’ health and souls’ trials, with whom they can converse freely and unreservedly about their Lord and Master and their hopes of forgiveness through His name.

Who, indeed, can describe the pleasure with which the members of Christ’s flock do meet each other face to face? They may have been strangers before; they may have lived apart, and never been in company—but it is wonderful to observe how soon they seem to understand each other, there seems a thorough oneness of opinion, and taste and judgment, so that a man would think they had known each other for years; they seem, indeed, to feel they are servants of one and the same Master, members of the same family, and have been converted by one and the same Spirit; they have one Lord, one faith, one baptism; they have the same trials, the same fears, the same doubts, the same temptations, the same faintings of heart, the same dread of sin, the same sense of unworthiness, the same love of their Savior. Oh—but there is a mystical union between true believers, which they only know who have experienced it; the world cannot understand it—it is all foolishness to them. “Whatever can you find,” they say, “to make you take such interest in each other’s society?” But that union does really exist, and a most blessed thing it is; for it is like a little foretaste of heaven.

Beloved, this loving to be together is a special mark of Christ’s flock—nor is it strange if we consider they are walking in the same narrow way, and fighting against the same deadly enemies—and never are they so happy as when they are in company. The unconverted know nothing of such happiness; they meet each other, and are civil and polite, and even kind in their way—but how seldom do they open their whole hearts, how much of jealousy and cold suspicion there is about their very friendships, how much they conceal from their nearest acquaintances! The sheep of Christ know nothing of all this; it is their hearts’ desire to be together, and when together they have all their thoughts in common, there is no reserve, no keeping back.

From → Preachers

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