Taken and adapted from, “JUSTIFIED!”
Written by J.C. Ryle
Let me offer some counsel to all who have peace with God, and desire to keep up a living sense of Justification.
It must never be forgotten that a believer’s sense of his own justification and acceptance with God admits of many degrees and variations. At one time it may be bright and clear; at another dull and dim. At one time it may be high and full, like the flood tide; at another low, like the ebb. Our justification is a fixed, changeless, immovable thing. But our sense of justification is liable to many changes.
What, then, are the best means of preserving in a believer’s heart the living sense of justification which is so precious to the soul that knows it? I offer a few hints to believers. But such as they are I offer them, though I lay no claim to infallibility.
To keep up a living sense of peace, there must be constant looking to Jesus. As the pilot keeps his eye on the mark by which he steers, so must we keep our eye on Christ.
There must be constant communion with Jesus. We must use Him daily as our soul’s Physician and High Priest. There must be daily conference, daily confession, and daily absolution.
There must be constant watchfulness against the enemies of your soul. He that would have peace must be always prepared for war.
There must be a constant following after holiness in every relation of life—in our tempers, in our tongues, abroad and at home. A small speck on the lens of a telescope is enough to prevent our seeing distant objects clearly. A little dust will soon make a watch go incorrectly.
There must be a constant labouring after humility. Pride goes before a fall. Self-confidence is often the mother of sloth, of hurried Bible reading, and sleepy prayers. Peter first said he would never forsake his Lord, though all others did; then he slept when he should have prayed; then He denied Him three times, and only found wisdom after bitter weeping.
There must be constant boldness in confessing our Lord before men. Them that honour Christ, Christ will honour with much of His company. When the disciples forsook our Lord they were wretched and miserable. When they confessed Him before the Council, they were filled with “joy and the Holy Ghost.”
There must be constant diligence about means of grace, and good works. Here are the ways in which Jesus loves to walk. No disciple must expect to see much of his Master, who does not delight in public worship, Bible reading, private prayer, and constant efforts to mend the world.
Lastly, there must be constant jealousy over our own souls, and frequent self-examination. We must be careful to distinguish between justification and sanctification. We must beware that we do not make a Christ of holiness.
I lay these hints before you. I might easily add to them. But I am sure they are among the first things to be attended to by believers, if they wish to keep up a living sense of their own justification and acceptance with God.
I conclude all by expressing my heart’s desire and prayer that you may know what it is to have true peace in your soul. If you never had peace yet, may it be recorded in the book of God that this year you sought peace in Christ and found it! If you have tasted peace already, may your sense of peace mightily increase!
The following passage from a direction for the visitation of the sick, composed by Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, about the year 1093, will probably be interesting to many readers, “Dost thou believe that thou canst not be saved but by the death of Christ? The sick man answers, Yes. Then let it be said unto him, Go to then, and whilst thy soul abides in thee, put all thy confidence in this death alone. Place thy trust in no other thing. Commit thyself wholly to this death. Cover thyself wholly with this alone. Cast thyself wholly on this death. Wrap thyself wholly in this death. And if God would judge thee, say, ‘Lord, I place the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between me and Thy judgment; and otherwise I will not contend with Thee.’ And if He shall say unto thee that thou art a sinner, say, ‘I place the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between me and my sins.’ If He shall say unto thee that thou hast deserved damnation, say, ‘Lord, I put the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between Thee and all my sins; and I offer His merits for my own, which I should have, and have not.’ If He say that He is angry with thee, say, ‘Lord, I place the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between me and Thy anger.”—Quoted by Owen in his Treatise on Justification.—JOHNSTONE’S EDITION OF OWEN’S WORK. Vol. v. p. 37.
PEACE, perfect peace? in this dark world of sin!
The blood of Jesus whispers peace within.
Peace, perfect peace? by thronging duties pressed!
To do the will of Jesus, this is rest.
Peace, perfect peace? with sorrows surging round!
On Jesus’ bosom nought but calm is found.
Peace, perfect peace? with loved ones far away!
In Jesus’ keeping we are safe, and they.
Peace, perfect peace? our future all unknown!
Jesus we know, and He is on the throne.
Peace, perfect peace? death shadowing us and ours!
Jesus has vanquished death and all its powers.
It is enough: earth’s struggles soon shall cease,
And Jesus call us to heaven’s perfect peace.
–E. H. Bickersteth.