by J. C. Ryle
“What think ye of Christ?” Let us consider: (1) Why all men ought to think of Christ; (2) the common thoughts of many about Christ; (3) the thoughts of true Christians about Christ.
Why All Men Ought to Think of Christ
All men ought to think of Christ because of the office Christ fills between God and man. He is the eternal Son of God through whom alone the Father can be known, approached, and served. He is the appointed Mediator between God and man through whom alone we can be reconciled to God, pardoned, justified, and saved. He is the divine person whom God the Father hath sealed to be the giver of everything that man requires for his soul. To Him are committed the keys of death and Hades. In His favor is life. In Him alone there is hope of salvation for mankind. Without Him no child of Adam can be saved. There is no person living or dead of such immense importance to all men as Christ.
All men ought to think of Christ because of what Christ has done for all men. He thought upon man when man was lost, bankrupt, and helpless by the Fall and undertook to come into the world to save sinners. In the fullness of time He was born of the virgin Mary and lived thirty-three years in this evil world. At the end of that time He shed His own life blood to pay man’s debt to God. He was made a curse for man that man might be blessed. He died for man that man might live. He was counted a sinner for man that man might be counted righteous. If Christ had not died for us, we might all of us, for anything we know, be enduring at this moment the wrath of God.
But time would fail me if I were to set down all the reasons why men ought to think of Christ. Christ is the grand subject of the Bible; Christ is the great object to whom all Christians give honor; Christ is the end and substance of the ordinances; Christ is the great source of light and peace and hope. There is not a spark of spiritual comfort that has ever illumined a sinner’s heart that has not come from Christ. There is no one in whom the world has such a deep interest. There is no one to whom all the world owes so much—high and low, rich and poor, old and young, gentle and simple—all ought to think about Christ!
The Common Thoughts of Many about Christ
There were many strange thoughts about Christ when He was on earth. There are many strange and wrong thoughts about Christ now when He is in heaven.
The thoughts of some people about Christ are simply blasphemous. They are not ashamed to deny His divinity. They refuse to believe the miracles recorded of Him. They tell us that He ought to be ranked with great reformers and philosophers like Socrates, Seneca, and Confucius, but no higher. There is not the slightest comparison to be made between Christ and any other teacher of mankind that ever lived. The difference between Him and others is a gulf that cannot be spanned, a height that cannot be measured. It is the difference between gold and clay, between the sun and a candle. Nothing can account for Christ and Christianity but the old belief that Christ is very God.
The thoughts of some men about Christ are mean and low. They consider that if they do their best and live moral lives and go to church pretty regularly, Christ will deal mercifully with them at last and make up any deficiencies. Thoughts such as these utterly fail to explain why Christ died on the cross. They take the crown off Christ’s head and degrade Him into a kind of make-weight to a man’s soul. They overthrow the whole system of the gospel and pull up all its leading doctrines by the roots. They exalt man to an absurdly high position, as if he could pay some part of the price of his soul. They rob man of all the comforts of the gospel. They make Christ a sort of judge far more than a Savior and place the cross and the atonement in a degraded and inferior position.
The Thoughts of True Christians about Christ
True Christians have high thoughts about Christ. They see in Him a wondrous person, far above all other beings in His nature—a person who is at one and the same time perfect God, mighty to save; and perfect man, able to feel. They see in Him an all-powerful Redeemer who has paid their countless debts to God and delivered their souls from guilt and hell. They see in Him an Almighty Friend who left heaven for them, died for them, rose again for them that He might save them forevermore. They see in Him an Almighty Physician who washed away their sins in His own blood, put His own Spirit in their hearts, delivered them from the power of sin, and gave them power to become God’s children. Happy are they who have such thoughts!
True Christians have:
Trustful Thoughts of Christ. They daily lean the weight of their souls upon Him by faith for pardon and peace. They daily commit the care of their souls to Him as a man commits a treasure to a safe keeper. They daily cling to Him by faith as a child in a crowd clings to its mother’s hand. They daily look to Him for mercy, grace, comfort, help, and strength as Israel looked to the pillar of cloud and fire in the wilderness for guidance. Christ is the Rock under their feet and the staff in their hand, their ark and their city of refuge, their sun and their shield, their health and their light, their life, their hope, and their all. Happy are they who have such thoughts!
Experiential Thoughts of Christ. The things that they think of Him, they do not merely think with their heads. They have not learned them from schools or picked them up from others. They think them because they have found them true by their own hearts’ experience. They have proved them and tasted them and tried them. They think what they have felt out for themselves. There is all the difference in the world between knowing that a man is a doctor or a lawyer while we never have occasion to employ him and knowing him as “our own” because we have gone to him for medicine or law. Just the same, there is a wide difference between head knowledge and experiential thoughts about Christ. Happy are they who have such thoughts.
Hopeful Thoughts about Christ. They expect to receive from Him far more than they have ever yet received. They look forward to Christ’s Second Coming and expect that then they will see far more than they have seen and enjoy far more than they have yet enjoyed. They have the earnest of an inheritance now in the Spirit dwelling in their heart. But they hope for a far fuller possession when this world has passed away. Some of them know more of them and some of them know less. But all true Christians know something about them. They do not always feel them equally at all times. They do not always find such thoughts equally fresh and green in their minds. They have their winter as well as their summer and their low tide as well as their high water. In other things they may be unable to agree and see alike. But they all agree in their thoughts about Christ. One word they can all say, which is the same in every tongue: that word is “hallelujah!” Praise to the Lord Christ! One answer they can all make, which in every tongue is equally the same: that word is “amen!”—so be it.
By J. C. Ryle (1816-1900)