We should like to point out to our readers the new page on this blog dedicated to John Collett Ryland Snr., the father of our subject. We have discovered 2 volumes of his works available in pdf format- sadly produced in many parts- but we are delighted to have access to the works all the same. These can be downloaded by right clicking each file and choosing the “save target as” option.
Judas saith unto him, (not Iscariot,) Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the World? JOHN xiv, 22
THESE words of the apostle Jude, may be considered as either the language of inquiry or of admiration; or probably of both. He wondered at the condescension of our Lord, in the promise, (ver, 21.) though he did not already understand how it should be fulfilled, and begged some further explanation. As all who truly love Christ, are equally concerned in the subject, it must be highly worthy of our attention and careful investigation, being very wonderful and affecting. Let us accordingly endeavour to examine, the nature and evidences of diivine manifestations.
FIRSTLY: The nature of divine manifestations.
Let us inquire, What is it for Christ to manifest himself unto us, as he does not unto the world? We observe, NEGATIVELY,
First, A spiritual manifestation of Christ is here intended, and not merely an acquaintance with our Lord’s humanity on earth. Judas Iscariot had the latter equally with the eleven. But the privilege in the text is common to saints in all ages.
Secondly: It implies much more than the manifestation of his natural perfections in the works of creation and providence.
Thirdly: It is more than the discovery he has made of’ himself to all under the sound of the gospel, by the bare letter of the word. It is not a speculative acquaintance, without an answerable frame of heart.
Fourthly: It is not any merely rational operation of his power or spirit upon the natural conscience of men in general. What some call the light within is not this manifestation of Christ.
Fifthly: It is far from consisting in any imaginary appearance, or fanciful view of Christ’s human nature now, as if on the cross, or surrounded with a kind of glory.
Sixthly: It does not chiefly consist in a discovery of personal interest in his benefits, or the manifestation of his love to an individual.
CONCESSION.-First: Every spiritual manifestation of Christ will produce an earnest desire of interest in him, and appropriation. of him.
Secondly: Spiritual manifestations are often attended with a high degree of assurance of interest in him.
Thirdly: All spiritual manifestations afford some evidence, that those who enjoy them are interested in Christ Jesus.
Yet the following ASSERTIONS appear well founded :
First: A mere persuasion of interest, (without any spiritual manifestation accompanying it) has nothing gracious in it.
Secondly: Some true Christians may possibly retain some persuasion of interest in Christ, when grace is very little in exercise, though they have at that time, no remarkable or fresh manifestations of Christ to their souls. But real Christians cannot be satisfied in such a, frame, much less willing to abide in it.
Thirdly: Many of the worst of hypocrites may have a strong confidence of their being in a happy state, favorites of God, (John viii, 41.) and interested in Christ; though they never had any spiritual manifestations.
Fourthly: Christ has truly manifested himself to many, who yet, through doctrinal ignorance, temptation &c. have not yet been assured of their interest in him. Nevertheless, they have seen his glory, as of the only-begotten of the Father; admired him; panted after him; resolved to die at his feet; would not willingly offend him in anything; loved him for his own excellence, and for his goodness, and wonderful grace in saving others.
Fifthly: Some, under very great manifestations of Christ to their souls, (though assured of interest,) have been raised above the consideration of their own safe state. Their sweetest, most spiritual, and refined joys have arisen from somewhat higher than any selfish considerations! They have at such times, as it were, forgot themselves, and could not bear to withdraw their eyes from Christ’s .own glory, to consider themselves, or dwell on their own safety.
Sixthly: For Christ to manifest himself unto us; as he does not unto the world, is for him so to enlighten the mind by his Spirit, as that the spiritual beauty, excellence and glory of Christ, as displayed in the written word, shall be realized, and make an answerable impression on the heart: even the glory of his divine perfections, power, mediatorial offices, vicarious obedience and death, is so manifested as to produce a heartfelt sense of his excellence, loveliness; and worthiness; and the wonderful glory and love of the whole trinity, as displayed in his mediatorial work. 1 Cor: ii. 9, lO.12. 2 Cor.iii.17,18. iv.6.
So then, this manifestation of Christ to the soul, is not by the discovery of new truths concerning him, not before contained in his word; but by impressing the heart with a lively sense of the excellence of discoveries already made in the Sacred Scriptures, the foundation for which was laid by regenerating grace; and which inward sense of the Saviour’s excellence and glory is revived, and increased from time to time, by the influence of the Holy Spirit on the soul.
Nothing can be more free and undeserved than this divine influence; but it will be best known if we have been made partakers of it, by considering its evidences and effects.
SECONDLY: The effects and evidences of divine manifestations.
First: A deep conviction (proportioned to the manifestation) of the meanness, unworthiness, guilt, past and present sinfulness of the soul thus favored; humbling its pride, and filling it with self-abasement. This is exemplified in the language of Old-testament saints. Thus Jacob, “I am less than the least of thy mercies.” Job, “Now I repent and abhor myself.” David, “Who am I, and what is my father’s house?” Isaiah, “Woe is me, I am a man of unclean lips.” Daniel, “My comeliness is turned into corruption.” And Jude, in the text, How is it, that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?
Secondly: A conviction of our entire dependence on Christ, both for righteousness and strength; thankfully falling in with the design of his redemption; resting with complacency in his plan of salvation; feeling our need of his mediation; and sensible of our weakness and insufficiency to follow the Lord, except continually upheld.
Thirdly: An assurance of the reality and excellence of the objects manifested; i. e. the person and grace of Christ, They shine with such a divine glory, that, they needs must be realized.
Fourthly: A conviction that there is much more to be seen and admired in Christ, than has yet been manifested to the soul; and consequently an earnest increasing desire, to know, love, and enjoy more, which prevents resting in present attainments, and induces the soul to resolve never to stop its pursuit, till it shall enjoy all it wants, and awake in the complete likeness of Christ.
Fifthly: A glorying in this salvation, renouncing all other Saviours, and all other portions; as seeing that there is enough in him to satisfy, though in the want of all things; and that all other things are nothing without him.
Sixthly: A concern to honor and glorify, in all possible ways this blessed Redeemer; never thinking he can be exalted enough; longing that others may see, admire, love, and be devoted to him.
Seventhly: Tenderness of conscience, fearing the least sin, or rather looking on none as little; with a jealousy of our own hearts, and a holy fear of dishonoring God our Saviour.
Eighthly: Not only a spirit of devotion towards God, and peculiar complacency in his people; but universal benevolence, or a spirit of pure, gentle, humble, meek, patient, forgiving, disinterested love towards all mankind.
Ninthly: The transforming efficacy of these manifestations, producing universal holiness and love to all God’s commandments.
Tenthly: Preparation for heaven, anticipating both its enjoyments and employments; drawing off the affections from the world, and causing them to be set on things above.
That God has a peculiar people, who are the objects of his sovereign, distinguishing love. Can any of you, who have seen his glory, account for it in any other way?
The unspeakable excellence of true religion. How far are its pleasures preferable to all others!
We may hence learn, The nature of vital faith.
1. That it is somewhat more than a bare assent to the truth of speculative notions.
2. That it is somewhat better than a ·bare assurance of interest in God’s love, or that Christ died for me. And that the essence of faith, and especially the first act of faith, does not consist in believing that Christ is mine, or that he died for me in particular, For, (1.) There is no such proposition in scripture, as that Christ died for anyone in particular, except such as answer to gospel descriptions; or otherwise for the elect, who cannot be known till they are made to answer these descriptions. (2.) Nor could this be true faith, upon the plan of general redemption; for then every one who admitted that sentiment would be saved, which no sober Arminian would assert. (3.) If there were such a proposition in scripture, it would require no change of nature to believe it; nor would there be any thing gracious in the belief of it. Suppose God should tell an unconverted man that Christ died for him, that his sins were forgiven him, or that he was elected, without a spiritual manifestation, he would only be the same or worse than ever.
3. True faith is a high and exalted thought of Christ, the testimony of God concerning him being received as true, and good as well as true, so that he is accounted altogether lovely, and, his salvation worthy of all acceptation. He is considered worthy that God should intrust his glory, and we our immortal souls, in his hands. Thus they who applied to Christ when he was upon earth, came with a confidence in his power, and a high opinion of his goodness, tenderness, and willingness to relieve; but without an assurance of his goodwill to them in particular.
Learn, how Christians should judge of their experiences. Not by manner, impulses, &c. but by their nature and effects.
What a gift is Christ! What a blessing is his mediation!
(1.) Without a Mediator, we should have had no such glorious manifestations of God. He has revealed him. “He that has seen me, has seen the Father.”
(2.) Without a Mediator, it would not have been consistent with God’s dignity and purity to have manifested himself to us.
(3.) No discovery of God, without Christ, could have afforded any relief or consolation to such sinners as we are.
ROM. viii, 9.
But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you: now, if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
Nothing, my beloved friends, can be of greater importance to each of us, than a diligent enquiry into the real state of our souls. I suppose it is almost universally admitted, by those who attend statedly on the preaching of the word in this place, that mankind is by nature in a fallen, degenerate state, and that it is absolutely necessary that every one should be regenerated, or renewed in the spirit of his mind, who would see the kingdom of God. These humbling, but important truths, are clearly taught in the divine word, and evidently taught in the text and context. Herein it is repeatedly mentioned as the peculiar character of the saved, that they walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Yet it is strongly implied, they were once otherwise minded; and that all are still so, except those who are truly renewed. While it is asserted, that to be carnally minded is death. It renders the soul spiritually dead, dead to God, and liable to eternal death most justly; for it is enmity against God, and cannot bear subjection to his law; so that, those who are in the flesh cannot please God, for he cannot be pleased with that which is enmity against his nature and government. With. respect to the words of the text, I would endeavor,
FIRST, To elucidate them by a few explanatory observations.
By the flesh, is to be understood, that sinful, corrupt state of mind, of which men are the subjects, as they come into this world, and which is prevalent in all mankind till they are born of the Spirit. John iii. 6. All unrenewed men are in the flesh, whether they live in grosser indulgences or not. So, hatred, variance, wrath, envy, heresies, are styled works of the flesh, as well as adultery, drunkenness, &c. It is common, indeed, for the external objects, which strike our senses, and for corporeal appetites to have a very undue influence on unregenerate persons; but the other reason seems to be the chief, why they are said to be in the flesh - because they have no higher principles of action, than what fallen men bring into the world with them, which are wholly selfish and corrupt.
By the Spirit, is to be understood the Holy Spirit, the third person in the ever blessed Trinity; to whom, in the economy of redemption, the application of salvation is allotted; and who alone is the author of all that is truly holy, right, and good, in the disposition of a saved sinner. He is here styled, both the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of Christ: (a strong evidence of the divinity of Christ, that God’s Spirit should be called his Spirit too.) The latter title seems given, not only on account of his intimate relation to both the Father and the Son, as one with them in essence and glory; but also, because it is through Christ’s mediation that the blessed Spirit is communicated to lost sinners; and because he invariably leads all those who are taught by him, to Christ.
The blessed Spirit is here said to dwell in all real Christians, who are therefore said to be not in the flesh, but in the Spirit. They are not, indeed, exempt from all the workings of the flesh, but they are not under its dominion as heretofore. They mind, saver, or relish the things of the Spirit, in preference to the things of the flesh. The flesh has not the ascendancy as formerly; but through the Spirit they mortify the deeds of the body. Whoever are made partakers of the special influences of the Holy Spirit, he dwells in them, he abides in them, he is in them as a well-spring of living water. He does not merely act upon them occasionally, as in his extraordinary influences. As the Spirit of prophecy, he came occasionally on some that never were possessed of true holiness: as Balaam, &c. But as the Spirit of grace, he resides in the soul: though it may be more strongly influenced by him at one time than another, yet it is never wholly left by him. If the Spirit of God dwell in us, we are his children. But if we have not the Spirit of Christ, we are none of his. No name, form, profession, creed, ordinances, or connexion with others, can avail us. This leads, therefore,
SECONDLY, To attend to the main inquiry I have in view viz. How may we know that we have the Spirit of Christ ?
Neither a plausible exterior conduct, on the one hand, nor a mere confident persuasion of our own safety, on the other, will sufficiently prove that we have the Spirit of Christ. An evangelical profession, and an ornamental deportment united, will lay a proper foundation for Christian charity towards one another. But God only can search the heart, and we may be mistaken in others, or deceive ourselves. Each, however, may have better opportunity of knowing his own state, than of deciding upon others. But it becomes us to be more rigorous in our application of scripture rules to ourselves, than to anyone else.
Some formal professors deny that there is any special operation of the Holy Spirit, or at least that it can be known. While deluded enthusiasts boast of having the Spirit, though they make nearly the whole of his work to consist in a secret suggestion of their safety; which fills them with pride, conceit, and bitter zeal, while destitute of the fruits of righteousness.
But the scriptures teach that a Christian maybe fully assured that he is a partaker of the Holy Spirit. 1 John iv. 13. And doubtless, grace may be raised to so high an exercise, as that a believer may enjoy assurance at times; without any long previous deduction of particulars: still, however, if it be indeed well founded, it will bear strict examination, The best evidences that we have the Spirit of Christ, which I can mention, are such as follow:
A spiritual and endearing discovery of Christ to the soul. producing an abiding sense of his excellence and glory, so that the way of salvation by him appears divinely excellent and worthy of all acceptation, A spiritual conviction of the reality and certainty of the divine testimony concerning Christ and the gospel. John vi. 69. 1 John i. 1-3.
A union of heart with the Redeemer, acquiescing in the glorious ends of his mediation; entering into his views of the controversy between God and man, resting satisfied with his decision; glad that God is justified, his law magnified, justice secured, and grace delightfully displayed. An habitual regard to Christ in our daily walk with God; not only acknowledging our need of his mediation at our
first return to God, but from day to day looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, unto eternal life; loving to draw nigh unto God by him, through the assistance of the Spirit of grace.
A true conformity of temper and disposition to our blessed Lord, and to the genuine tendency of his gospel. How Iovely was the whole of his temper and conduct! How impossible it is, we should discern its beauty, and not be concerned to imbibe and imitate it.
A spirit of love, ardent zeal, genuine philanthropy, activity for God, and resignation to God, meekness, gentleness, self-denial, and love to enemies. He could not, indeed, set us an example of repentance. But his gospel tends to inspire and increase it, all through life, and to promote tenderness of conscience.
It is a strong evidence that we have the Spirit of Christ, when we have a proportionate regard to the different branches of evangelical religion, both towards God and man: having respect to all his commandments, and not being partial in his law. Christ’s was an obedient spirit.
The continual tendency of all discoveries from the Holy Spirit will be to strengthen us in holy practice and to excite an irreconcilable hatred of all sin, and an insatiable thirst after perfect conformity to the Saviour.
John Ryland D.D. was born Jan. 29, 1753, at Warwick, England, where his father, the able and scholarly John Collett Ryland, was pastor of the Baptist church.
The study of Hebrew was his father’s ruling passion as a teacher, and Mr Ryland was not a little elated at his child’s early proficiency in the language, for when only five years old he was able to read and translate the twenty third psalm to the celebrated Hervey, with whom his father was intimately acquainted.
When he was about fourteen years old his religious impressions became fixed, and he was baptized by his father on Sept. 13, 1767. He was recommended to preach by vote of the church at Northampton, to which his father had removed from Warwick, when he was about eighteen years of age, and was fully engaged in the villages around for several years. During this time he assisted his father in his private school, which had stood high under Mr Ryland’s management.
In 1781 the church invited him to become co-pastor with his father, and five years later sole pastor, Mr. Ryland, Sr., having removed to the neighbourhood of London. His labours at Northampton were greatly blessed.
He took a deep interest and a leading part in the formation of the Missionary Society, and at the close of his life he became its secretary. In April 1792, he received a unanimous invitation to the two offices of pastor of the Broadmead church, Bristol, and president of the Baptist college in that city. After prolonged consideration he at length decided to accept the call, and entered upon his duties at Bristol at the beginning of 1794. For upwards of thirty years he was the most eminent Baptist minister in the west of England, and was greatly esteemed by men of all ranks and denominations. The college flourished under his presidency, and for a long time he exercised by common consent a kind of Episcopal supervision over a large number of churches.
His correspondence was extensive. An ardent Liberal in political and ecclesiastical principles, he felt a lively interest in American matters, and had frequent communications with American correspondents respecting them, and also concerning missionary work. He wrote and published a considerable number of special discourses and tractates on important subjects, and also several hymns now in general use in public worship.
John Foster says of him, that as a preacher “he excelled very many deservedly esteemed preachers in variety of topics and ideas. To the end of his life he was a great reader, and very far from being confined to one order of subjects, and he would freely avail himself of these resources for diversifying and illustrating the subjects of his sermons. The readers of the printed sketches of his sermons, who never heard him, can have no adequate idea of the spirit, force, and compulsion on the hearer’s attention with which the sermons were delivered”.
He died at Bristol on May 25, 1825, in his seventy-third year. The funeral sermon, preached by Robert Hall, is well known as one of the choicest specimens of pulpit eloquence in our literature.
Source: William Cathcart’s “The Baptist Encyclopedia”