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