This is a guest post by Brandon D. Myers (@brandon_myers).
J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) was a faithful pastor of another generation in the Church of England. He lived in a time when death and sickness was something a person could not avoid or sanitize as we try to conveniently do today. Ryle’s message Sickness became a short booklet that is well worth reading in its entirety. Here are 10 quotes to give you a taste:
- “The subject [sickness] is one which we ought to frequently look in the face. We cannot avoid it. It needs no prophet’s eye to see sickness coming to each of us in turn one day. ‘In the midst of life we are in death.’ Let us turn aside for a few moments, and consider sickness as Christians. The consideration will not hasten its coming, and by God’s blessing may teach us wisdom.”
- “Sickness is everywhere. Sickness is among all classes. Grace does not lift a believer above the reach of it. Riches will not buy exemption from it. Rank cannot prevent its assaults. Kings and their subjects, masters and servants, rich men and poor, learned and unlearned, teachers and scholars, doctors and patients, ministers and hearers, all alike go down before this foe. ‘The rich man’s wealth is his strong city’ (Prov. 18:11). The Englishman’s house is called his castle; but there are no doors and bars which can keep out disease and death.”
- “Sickness is often one of the most humbling and distressing trials that can come upon a man. It can turn the strongest into a child, and make him feel ‘the grasshopper a burden’ (Eccl. 12:5). It can unnerve the boldest, and make him tremble at the fall of a pin. We are fearfully and wonderfully made’ (Ps. 139:14). The connection between body and mind is curiously close.”
- “What answer shall we give to our inquiring children when they as us, ‘Father why do people get ill and die?’ These are grave questions. Can we suppose for a moment God created sickness and disease at the beginning? Can we imagine that He who formed our world in such perfect order was the Former of needless suffering and pain? Can we think that He who made all things ‘very good,’ made Adam’s race to sicken and to die? The idea is, to my mind, revolting. It introduces a grand imperfection into the midst of God’s perfect works…The only explanation that satisfies me is that which the Bible gives. Something has come into the world which has dethroned man from his original position , and stripped him of his original privileges…Sin is the cause of all the sickness, and disease, and pain, and suffering, which prevail on the earth. They are all part of that curse which came into the world when Adam and Even ate the forbidden fruit and fell. There would have been no sickness, if there had been no Fall. There would have been no disease, if there had been no sin.“
- “I ask them to believe that God allows pain, sickness, and disease, not because He loves to vex man, but because He desires the benefit man’s heart, and mind, and conscience, and soul, to all eternity.”
- “Sickness helps to remind men of death. The most live as if they were never going to die. Sickness awakens men from their day-dreams, and reminds them that they have to die as well as to live. Now this I say emphatically is a mighty good.”
- “Sickness helps to make men think seriously about God, their souls and the world to come. The most in their days of health can find no time for such thoughts. They dislike them….Even heathen sailors, when death was in sight, were afraid, and ‘cried every man to his god’ (Jonah 1:5).”
- “Sickness helps to soften men’s hearts, and teach them wisdom. The natural heart is as hard as a stone. It can see no good in anything which is not of this life, and no happiness excepting this world. A long illness sometimes goes far to correct these ideas. It exposes the emptiness and hollowness of what the world calls ‘good’ things, and teaches us to hold them with a loose hand.”
- “Sickness helps to try men’s religion, of what sort it is. Now disease is sometimes most useful to a man in exposing the utter worthlessness of his soul’s foundation. It often shows him that he has nothing solid under his feet and nothing firm under his hand…Many a creed looks well on the smooth waters of health, which turns out utterly unsound and useless on the rough waves of the wick bed.”
- “Of all gambling in the world, there is none so reckless as that of the man who lives unprepared to meet God. Either you need a Savior or you do not. If you do, flee to the only Saviour this very day, and cry mightily to Him to save your soul. Apply to Christ at once. Seek Him by faith. Commit your soul into His Keeping…He will not refuse your prayer. He has said, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out (John 6:37)…Put repentance off no longer. Beware, I beseech you, of a vague and indefinite Christianity…rest not, rest not till without personal union with Christ himself.”
Read Ryle’s whole short booklet free here.