Benhar Evangelical Church
THE BENHAR BANNER
‘Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it
may be displayed because of the truth. Selah.’
Previous Banners are available here
A CALL TO PRAYER
We would ask God’s people to pray for the revival of His church, and the awakening of the lost, and a merciful deliverance from the Coronavirus Pandemic, in their own homes at 3 pm on the Lord’s Day.
SERMON FOR SUNDAY
The following is the final part of the Rev. Dr. J.C. Ryle’s paper on sickness.
‘…he whom thou lovest is sick.’ (John 11:3)
III. THE SPECIAL DUTIES WHICH THE PREVALENCE OF SICKNESS ENTAILS ON EACH ONE OF OURSELVES
The third and last point which I propose to consider, is the special duties which the prevalence of sickness entails on each one of ourselves.
I should be sorry to leave the subject of sickness without saying something on this point. I hold it to be of cardinal importance not to be content with generalities in delivering God’s message to souls. I am anxious to impress on each one into whose hands this paper may fall, his own personal responsibility in connection with the subject. I would fain have no one lay down this paper unable to answer the questions, "What practical lesson have I learned? What, in a world of disease and death, what ought I to do?"
A – One paramount duty which the prevalence of sickness entails on man, is that of LIVING HABITUALLY PREPARED TO MEET GOD. Sickness is a remembrancer of death. Death is the door through which we must all pass to judgment. Judgment is the time when we must at last see God face to face. Surely the first lesson which the inhabitant of a sick and dying world should learn should be to prepare to meet his God.
When are you prepared to meet God? Never till your iniquities are forgiven, and your sin covered! Never till your heart is renewed, and your will taught to delight in the will of God! You have many sins. If you go to church, your own mouth is taught to confess this every Sunday. The blood of Jesus Christ can alone cleanse those sins away. The righteousness of Christ can alone make you acceptable in the sight of God. Faith, simple childlike faith, can alone give you an interest in Christ and His benefits. Would you know whether you are prepared to meet God? Then where is your faith? Your heart is naturally unmeet for God's company. You have no real pleasure in doing His will. The Holy Ghost must transform you after the image of Christ. Old things must pass away. All things must become new. Would you know whether you are prepared to meet God? Then, where is your grace? Where are the evidences of your conversion and sanctification?
I believe that this, and nothing less than this, is preparedness to meet God. Pardon of sin and meetness for God’s presence – justification by faith and sanctification of the heart – the blood of Christ sprinkled on us, and the Spirit of Christ dwelling in us – these are the grand essentials of the Christian religion. These are no mere words and names to furnish bones of contention for wrangling theologians. These are sober, solid, substantial realities. To live in the actual possession of these things, in a world full of sickness and death, is the first duty which I press home upon your soul.
B – Another paramount duty which the prevalence of sickness entails on you, is that of LIVING HABITUALLY READY TO BEAR IT PATIENTLY. Sickness is no doubt a trying thing to flesh and blood. To feel our nerves unstrung, and our natural force abated – to be obliged to sit still and be cut off from all our usual avocations – to see our plans broken off and our purposes disappointed – to endure long hours, and days, and nights of weariness and pain – all this is a severe strain on poor sinful human nature. What wonder if peevishness and impatience are brought out by disease! Surely in such a dying world as this we should study patience.
How shall we learn to bear sickness patiently, when sickness comes to our turn? We must lay up stores of grace in the time of health. We must seek for the sanctifying influence of the Holy Ghost over our unruly tempers and dispositions. We must make a real business of our prayers, and regularly ask for strength to endure God’s will as well as to do it. Such strength is to be had for the asking: ‘If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.’ (John 14:14).
I cannot think it needless to dwell on this point. I believe the passive graces of Christianity receive far less notice than they deserve. Meekness, gentleness, longsuffering, faith, patience, are all mentioned in the Word of God as fruit of the Spirit. They are passive graces which specially glorify God. They often make men think, who despise the active side of the Christian character. Never do these graces shine so brightly as they do in the sick room. They enable many a sick person to preach a silent sermon, which those around him never forget. Would you adorn the doctrine you profess? Would you make your Christianity beautiful in the eyes of others? Then take the hint I give you this day. Lay up a store of patience against the time of illness. Then, though your sickness be not to death, it shall be ‘…for the glory of God…’ (John 11:4).
C – One more paramount duty which the prevalence of sickness entails on you, is that of HABITUAL READINESS TO FEEL WITH AND HELP YOUR FELLOW-MEN. Sickness is never very far from us. Few are the families who have not some sick relative. Few are the parishes where you will not find someone ill. But wherever there is sickness, there is a call to duty. A little timely assistance in some cases – a kindly visit in others – a friendly inquiry – a mere expression of sympathy, may do a vast good. These are the sort of things which soften asperities, and bring men together, and promote good feeling. These are ways by which you may ultimately lead men to Christ and save their souls. These are good works to which every professing Christian should be ready. In a world full of sickness and disease we ought to ‘Bear ye one another’s burdens…’ ‘And be ye kind one to another…’ (Galatians 6:2; Ephesians 4:32).
These things, I dare say, may appear to some little and trifling. They must needs be doing something great, and grand, and striking, and heroic! I take leave to say that conscientious attention to these little acts of brotherly-kindness is one of the clearest evidences of having "the mind of Christ." They are acts in which our blessed Master Himself was abundant. He was ever going ‘…about doing good…’ to the sick and sorrowful. (Acts 10:38). They are acts to which He attaches great importance in that most solemn passage of Scripture, the description of the last judgment. He says there: ‘I was sick, and ye visited me…’ (Matt. 25:36).
Have you any desire to prove the reality of your charity – that blessed grace which so many talk of, and so few practice? If you have, beware of unfeeling selfishness and neglect of your sick brethren. Search them out. Assist them if they need aid. Show your sympathy with them. Try to lighten their burdens. Above all, strive to do good to their souls. It will do you good if it does no good to them. It will keep your heart from murmuring. It may prove a blessing to your own soul. I firmly believe that God is testing and proving us by every case of sickness within our reach. By permitting suffering, He tries whether Christians have any feeling. Beware, lest you be weighed in the balances and found wanting. If you can live in a sick and dying world and not feel for others, you have yet much to learn.
I leave this branch of my subject here. I throw out the points I have named as suggestions, and I pray God that they may work in many minds. I repeat, that habitual preparedness to meet God – habitual readiness to suffer patiently – habitual willingness to sympathise heartily – are plain duties which sickness entails on all. They are duties within the reach of everyone. In naming them I ask nothing extravagant or unreasonable. I bid no man retire into a monastery and ignore the duties of his station. I only want men to realise that they live in a sick and dying world, and to live accordingly. And, I say boldly, that the man who lives the life of faith, and holiness, and patience, and charity, is not only the most true Christian, but the most wise and reasonable man.
And now I conclude all with four words of practical application. I want the subject of this paper to be turned to some spiritual use. My heart’s desire and prayer to God in placing it in this volume is to do good to souls.
(1) In the first place, I offer a QUESTION to all who read this paper, to which, as God’s ambassador, I entreat their serious attention. It is a question which grows naturally out of the subject on which I have been writing. It is a question which concerns all, of every rank, and class, and condition. I ask you, what will you do when you are ill? The time must come when you, as well as others, must go down the dark valley of the shadow of death. The hour must come when you, like all your forefathers, must get sick and die. The time may be near or far off. God only knows. But whenever the time may be, I ask again, what are you going to do? Where do you mean to turn for comfort? On what do you mean to rest your soul? On what do you mean to build your hope? From where will you fetch your consolations?
I do entreat you not to put these questions away. Suffer them to work on your conscience, and rest not until you can give them a satisfactory answer. Trifle not with that precious gift, an immortal soul. Defer not the consideration of the matter to a more convenient season. Presume not on a death-bed repentance. The greatest business ought surely not to be left to the last. One dying thief was saved that men might not despair, but only one that none might presume. I repeat the question. I am sure it deserves an answer. "What will you do when you are ill?"
If you were going to live for ever in this world, I would not address you as I do. But it cannot be. There is no escaping the common lot of all mankind. Nobody can die in our stead. The day must come when we must each go to our long home. Against that day I want you to be prepared. The body which now takes up so much of your attention – the body which you now clothe, and feed, and warm with so much care – that body must return again to the dust. Oh, think what an awful thing it would prove at last to have provided for everything except the one thing needful – to have provided for the body, but to have neglected the soul – to die, in fact, like Cardinal Beaufort, and "give no sign" of being saved! Once more I press my question on your conscience: "What will you do when you are ill?"
(2) In the next place, I offer COUNSEL to all who feel they need it and are willing to take it – to all who feel they are not yet prepared to meet God. That counsel is short and simple. Acquaint yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ without delay. Repent, be converted, flee to Christ, and be saved.
you have a soul or you have not. You will surely never deny that you have. Then
if you have a soul, seek that soul’s salvation. Of all gambling in the world,
there is none so reckless as that of the man who lives unprepared to meet God,
and yet puts off repentance. Either you have sins or you have not. If you have
(and who will dare to deny it?), break off from those sins, cast away your
transgressions, and turn away from them without delay. Either you need a
Saviour 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. Cry mightily to Him for pardon and
peace with God. Ask Him to pour down the Holy Spirit upon you and make you a
thorough Christian. He will hear you. No matter what you have been, He will not
refuse your prayer. He has said, ‘…him that cometh to me I will in no wise
cast out.’ (John 6:37).
Beware, I beseech you, of a vague and indefinite Christianity. Be not content with a general hope that all is right because you belong to the old Church of England, and that all will be well at last because God is merciful. Rest not, rest not without personal union with Christ Himself. Rest not, rest not until you have the witness of the Spirit in your heart, that you are washed, and sanctified, and justified, and one with Christ, and Christ in you. Rest not until you can say with the apostle, ‘…I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.’ (2nd Timothy 1:12).
Vague, and indefinite, and indistinct religion may do very well in time of health. It will never do in the day of sickness. A mere formal, perfunctory Church membership may carry a man through the sunshine of youth and prosperity. It will break down entirely when death is in sight. Nothing will do then but real heart-union with Christ. Christ interceding for us at God’s right hand – Christ known and believed as our Priest, our Physician, our Friend – Christ alone can rob death of its sting and enable us to face sickness without fear. He alone can deliver those who through fear of death are in bondage. I say to everyone who wants advice, be acquainted with Christ. As ever you would have hope and comfort on the bed of sickness, be acquainted with Christ. Seek Christ. Apply to Christ.
Take every care and trouble to Him when you are acquainted with Him. He will keep you and carry you through all. Pour out your heart before Him, when your conscience is burdened. He is the true Confessor. He alone can absolve you and take the burden away. Turn to Him first in the day of sickness, like Martha and Mary. Keep on looking to Him to the last breath of your life. Christ is worth knowing. The more you know Him the better you will love Him. Then be acquainted with Jesus Christ.
(3) In the third place, I exhort all true Christians who read this paper to remember how much they may glorify God in the time of sickness, and to LIE QUIET IN GOD’S HAND WHEN THEY ARE ILL.
I feel it very important to touch on this point. I know how ready the heart of a believer is to faint, and how busy Satan is in suggesting doubts and questionings, when the body of a Christian is weak. I have seen something of the depression and melancholy which sometimes comes upon the children of God when they are suddenly laid aside by disease and obliged to sit still. I have marked how prone some good people are to torment themselves with morbid thoughts at such seasons, and to say in their hearts, "God has forsaken me: I am cast out of His sight."
I earnestly entreat all sick believers to remember that they may honour God as much by patient suffering as they can by active work. It often shows more grace to sit still than it does to go to and fro and perform great exploits. I entreat them to remember that Christ cares for them as much when they are sick as He does when they are well, and that the very chastisement they feel so acutely is sent in love, and not in anger. Above all, I entreat them to recollect the sympathy of Jesus for all His weak members. They are always tenderly cared for by Him, but never so much as in their time of need. Christ has had great experience of sickness. He knows the heart of a sick man. He used to see ‘…all manner of sickness and all manner of disease…’, (Matthew 4:32; 10:1), when He was upon earth. He felt specially for the sick in the days of His flesh. He feels for them specially still. Sickness and suffering, I often think, make believers more like their Lord in experience, than health. ‘…Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.’ (Matthew 8:17). The Lord Jesus was a ‘…man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…’ (Isaiah 53:3). None have such an opportunity of learning the mind of a suffering Saviour as suffering disciples.
(4) I conclude with a word of EXHORTATION to all believers, which I heartily pray God to impress upon their souls. I exhort you to keep up a habit of close communion with Christ, and never to be afraid of "going too far" in your religion. Remember this, if you wish to have "great peace" in your times of sickness.
I observe with regret a tendency in some quarters to lower the standard of practical Christianity, and to denounce what are called "extreme views" about a Christian’s daily walk in life. I remark with pain that even religious people will sometimes look coldly on those who withdraw from worldly society, and will censure them as "exclusive, narrow–minded, illiberal, uncharitable, sour-spirited," and the like. I warn every believer in Christ who reads this paper to beware of being influenced by such censures. I entreat him, if he wants light in the valley of death, to ‘…keep himself unspotted from the world’ to follow the Lord ‘…fully…’ and to walk very closely with God. (James 1:27; Numbers 14:24).
I believe that the want of "thoroughness" about many people’s Christianity is one secret of their little comfort, both in health and sickness. I believe that the "half-and-half" – "keep–in–with everybody" religion, which satisfies many in the present day, is offensive to God, and sows thorns in dying pillows, which hundreds never discover till too late. I believe that the weakness and feebleness of such a religion never comes out so much as it does upon a sick bed.
If you and I want ‘…strong consolation…’ in our time of need, we must not be content with a bare union with Christ. (Hebrews 6:18). We must seek to know something of heart-felt, experimental communion with Him. Never, never let us forget, that "union" is one thing, and "communion" another. Thousands, I fear, who know what "union" with Christ is, know nothing of "communion."
The day may come when after a long fight with disease, we shall feel that medicine can do no more, and that nothing remains but to die. Friends will be standing by, unable to help us. Hearing, eyesight, even the power of praying, will be fast failing us. The world and its shadows will be melting beneath our feet. Eternity, with its realities, will be looming large before our minds. What shall support us in that trying hour? What shall enable us to feel, ‘…I fear no evil…’? (Psalm 23:4). Nothing, nothing can do it but close communion with Christ. Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith – Christ putting His right arm under our heads – Christ felt to be sitting by our side – Christ can alone give us the complete victory in the last struggle.
Let us cleave to Christ more closely, love Him more heartily, live to Him more thoroughly, copy Him more exactly, confess Him more boldly, follow Him more fully. Religion like this will always bring its own reward. Worldly people may laugh at it. Weak brethren may think it extreme. But it will wear well. At even time it will bring us light. In sickness it will bring us peace. In the world to come it will give us a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
The time is short. The fashion of this world passeth away. A few more sicknesses, and all will be over. A few more funerals, and our own funeral will take place. A few more storms and tossings, and we shall be safe in harbour. We travel towards a world where there is no more sickness – where parting, and pain, and crying, and mourning, are done with for evermore. Heaven is becoming every year more full, and earth more empty. The friends ahead are becoming more numerous than the friends astern. ‘…yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.’ (Hebrews 10:37). In His presence shall be fullness of joy. Christ shall wipe away all tears from His people’s eyes. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is Death. But he shall be destroyed. Death himself shall one day die. (Revelation 20:14)
In the meantime, let us live the life of faith in the Son of God. Let us lean all our weight on Christ and rejoice in the thought that He lives for evermore.
Yes, blessed be God! Christ lives, though we may die. Christ lives, though friends and families are carried to the grave. He lives who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light by the Gospel. He lives who said, ‘…O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction…’ (Hosea 13:14). He lives who will one day change our vile body, and make it like unto His glorious body. In sickness and in health, in life and in death, let us lean confidently on Him. Surely, we ought to say daily with one of old, "Blessed be God for Jesus Christ!"
A HYMN OF HOPE - tune
The head that once was crowned with
Is crowned with glory now;
A royal diadem adorns
The mighty victor’s brow.
The highest place that Heaven affords
Belongs to Him by right;
The King of kings and Lord of lords,
And Heaven’s eternal Light.
The joy of all who dwell above,
The joy of all below,
To whom He manifests His love,
And grants His name to know.
To them the cross with all its shame,
With all its grace, is given;
Their name an everlasting name,
Their joy the joy of Heaven.
They suffer with their Lord below;
They reign with Him above;
Their profit and their joy to know
The mystery of His love.
The cross He bore is life and health,
Though shame and death to Him,
His people’s hope, His people’s wealth,
Their everlasting theme.
POINTS FOR PRAYER
Pray for the Prime Minister, asking God to restore his physical and spiritual health.
Pray for the government, the National Health Service, the sick, and the sorrowing.
While we are unable to meet in our church building for our weekly prayer meeting and Bible study, each Wednesday at 7:30 pm, let us give the same time to prayer and Bible reading.
Let me know of any prayer requests you would like brought to the attention of our church members and adherents.
‘Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:’ (John 11:25)
3. What do the Scriptures principally
The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man (2nd Timothy 1:13; Ecclesiastes 12:13).
QUESTIONS FROM THE BOOK OF EXODUS
1. What was the name of Moses’ wife?
2. What age was Aaron when he came before Pharaoh?
3. What was the eighth plague?
4. What sex was the Passover lamb to be?
5. Where was the blood of the lamb to be applied?
6. On what month did the Exodus took place?
7. Where were the bitter waters made sweet?
ANSWERS FOR LAST WEEK’S QUIZ
1. The Ishmaelites (Genesis 37:27)
2. He would be restored to his former position (Genesis 40:13)
3. Store food for the future (Genesis 41:35)
4. He wept (Genesis 43:30)
5. Goshen (Genesis 45:10)
6. What age are you? (Genesis 47:8)
7. 110 (Genesis 50:22; 26)
THE STORM IS BEHIND
Crossing the Atlantic, a lady asked the Captain, as she pointed to a storm-cloud in the horizon, if there was danger of a storm. Smiling, he remarked, “Not from that cloud, madam, because it is behind us.” So is judgment to the believer.
Jesus said, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.’ (John 5:24)
 Ryle, J.C. Practical Religion
 Kelly, T. The Head That Once Was Crowned
 Ritchie, J. 500 Gospel Incidents
Rev. Ian S.D. Loughrin
The Evangelical Manse, 59 Baillie Avenue, Harthill, North Lanarkshire, ML7 5SY