J.C. Ryle (1816-1900): We are all born Pharisees


“It is an awful fact, whether we like to allow it or not, that pride is one of the commonest sins which beset human nature. We are all born Pharisees.

We all naturally think far better of ourselves than we ought. We all naturally fancy that we deserve something better than we have. It is an old sin. It began in the garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve thought they had not got everything that their merits deserved.

It is a subtle sin. It rules and reigns in many a heart without being detected, and can even wear the garb of humility.

It is a most soul-ruining sin. It prevents repentance, keeps men back from Christ, checks brotherly love, and nips in the bud spiritual anxiety. Let us watch against it, and be on our guard. Of all garments, none is so graceful, none wears so well, and none is so rare, as true humility.”

– J.C. Ryle (1816-1900), Expository Thoughts on Mark, p.186

John Ball (1585-1640) on catechising and its benefits

John Ball

Q. What is Catechising?

A. Catechising is an introduction of people in the chief grounds of Christian Religion. 1 Cor. 2:4; 1 Cor. 3:1; 1 Pet. 3:15; Heb. 6:1, 2; Rom. 6:17.

Q. What are the properties of it?

A. It must be, 1. Pure, 2. Plain, 3. Brief, 4. And orderly.

Q. What is the end of Catechising?

A. 1. That the people may clearly and manifestly see the way unto salvation, 2. That they may know how to make use both of the Law and of the Gospel, for their humiliation and comfort, 3. And understand how one thing dependeth upon an other, goeth before, or followeth after.

Q. What are the special benefits of Catechising?

A. Hereby Christians are enabled (1) To refer that which they read to some [doctrinal] head, (2) Readily to apply what they hear to fit purpose, (3) To try [i.e. test] it, (4) To have it in readiness in the time of need, (5) To profit by the publique Ministery, Heb. 5:11, 12, (6) To know how to go forward in godliness, in an holy method, (7) It is profitable to inform the judgment, (8) To reform the affection, (9) And to quicken to the duties of a godly life.

– John Ball (1585-1640), A Short Treatise Containing All the Principal Grounds of Christian Religion, p. 149-150

John Arrowsmith (1602-1659): None can make our souls happy but God who made them

John Arrowsmith

We must not expect more [satisfaction] from a thing than the Creator hath put into it. He never intended to put the virtue of soul-satisfying into any mere creature, but hath reserved to himself, Son and Spirit the contenting of spirits as a principal part of divine prerogative…

Certain it is that none can make our souls happy but God who made them, nor any give satisfaction to them but Christ who gave satisfaction for them. They were fashioned at first according to the image of God, and nothing short of him who is stiled the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person, can replenish them. As when there is a curious impression left upon wax, nothing can adequately fill the dimensions and lineaments of it but the seal that stamped it. Other things may cumber the mind, but not content it. As soon may a trunk be filled with wisdom as a soul with wealth; and bodily substances nourished with shadows, as rational spirits fed with bodies.

Whatsoever goodness creatures have is derivative, whatsoever happiness they enjoy stands in reduction to the original of their being. The motion of immortal souls is like that of celestial bodies purely circular. They rest not without returning back to the same point whence they issued, which is the bosom of God himself. Fishes are said to visit the place of their spawning yearly, as finding it most commodious for them; and sick patients are usually sent by physicians to their native soil, for the sucking in of that air from which their first breath was received. Heaven is the place where souls were produced; the spirit of man was at first breathed in by the Father of spirits, and cannot acquiesce till he be enjoyed, and heaven in him.

– John Arrowsmith (1602-1659), Armilla Catechetica: A Chain of Principles, Aphorism I, Exercitation II, 1 & 2, p. 15-16

John Donne (1572-1631): Holy Sonnet IV


Oh my black Soul! now art thou summoned

By sickness, death’s herald, and champion;

Thou art like a pilgrim, which abroad hath done

Treason, and durst not turn to whence he is fled;

Or like a thief, which till death’s doom be read,

Wisheth himself delivered from prison,

But damn’d and hal’d to execution,

Wisheth that still he might be imprisoned.

Yet grace, if thou repent, thou canst not lack;

But who shall give thee that grace to begin?

Oh make thy self with holy mourning black,

And red with blushing, as thou art with sin;

Or wash thee in Christ’s blood, which hath this might

That being red, it dyes red souls to white.

– John Donne (1572-1631), Holy Sonnet IV

Alexander Pope (1688-1744): The Dying Christian to his Soul

Alexander Pope

Vital spark of heav’nly flame!
Quit, oh quit this mortal frame:
Trembling, hoping, ling’ring, flying,
Oh, the pain, the bliss of dying!
Cease, fond nature, cease thy strife,
And let me languish into life.

Hark! they whisper; angels say,
“Sister spirit, come away!”
What is this absorbs me quite?
Steals my senses, shuts my sight,
Drowns my spirits, draws my breath?
Tell me, my soul, can this be death?

The world recedes; it disappears!
Heav’n opens on my eyes! my ears
With sounds seraphic ring:
Lend, lend your wings! I mount! I fly!
O grave! where is thy victory?
O death! where is thy sting?

– Alexander Pope (1688-1744), “The Dying Christian to his Soul,” Pope’s Poetical Works, p. 386

Prosper of Aquitaine (c. 390-455): Would it not be a debasement of redemption in Christ’s blood?

Prosper of Aquitaine


And just as there are no crimes so detestable that they can prevent the gift of grace, so too there can be no works so eminent that they are owed in condign [deserved] judgment that which is given freely. Would it not be a debasement of redemption in Christ’s blood, and would not God’s mercy be made secondary to human works, if justification, which is through grace, were owed in view of preceding merits, so that it were not the gift of a Donor, but the wages of a laborer?”

– Prosper of Aquitaine (c. 390-455), De vocatione omnium gentium, 1.17

Origen (185-254) on justification by faith



“For God is just, and therefore he could not justify the unjust. Therefore he required the intervention of a propitiator, so that by having faith in Him those who could not be justified by their own works might be justified.”

“A man is justified by faith. The works of the law can make no contribution to this. Where there is no faith which might justify the believer, even if there are works of the law these are not based on the foundation of faith. Even if they are good in themselves they cannot justify the one who does them, because faith is lacking, and faith is the mark of those who are justified by God.”

– Origen (185-254), Commentary on Romans, 2.112; 2.136

Epistle to Diognetus (2nd century) on penal substitutionary atonement: O sweet exchange!



“[W]hen our wickedness had reached its height, and it had been clearly shown that its reward, punishment and death, was impending over us; and when the time had come which God had before appointed for manifesting His own kindness and power, how the one love of God, through exceeding regard for men, did not regard us with hatred, nor thrust us away, nor remember our iniquity against us, but showed great long-suffering, and bore with us, He Himself took on Him the burden of our iniquities, He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for those who are mortal. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! That the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors!”

– Epistle to Diognetus (2nd century), ix

Gregory of Nazianzus (c. 329-389/390): Let us become like Christ, since Christ became like us



“Yesterday I was crucified with Him; today I am glorified with Him; yesterday I died with Him; today I am quickened with Him; yesterday I was buried with Him; today I rise with Him. But let us offer to Him Who suffered and rose again for us—you will think perhaps that I am going to say gold, or silver, or woven work or transparent and costly stones, the mere passing material of earth, that remains here below, and is for the most part always possessed by bad men, slaves of the world and of the Prince of the world. Let us offer ourselves, the possession most precious to God, and most fitting; let us give back to the Image what is made after the Image. Let us recognize our Dignity; let us honour our Archetype; let us know the power of the Mystery, and for what Christ died.

Let us become like Christ, since Christ became like us. Let us become God’s for His sake, since He for ours became Man. He assumed the worse that He might give us the better; He became poor that we through His poverty might be rich; He took upon Him the form of a servant that we might receive back our liberty; He came down that we might be exalted; He was tempted that we might conquer; He was dishonoured that He might glorify us; He died that He might save us; He ascended that He might draw to Himself us, who were lying low in the fall of sin.  Let us give all, offer all, to Him Who gave Himself a Ransom and a Reconciliation for us.”

– Gregory of Nazianzus (c. 329-389/390), Oration I, ch. IV & V