Articles by J C Ryle
( John Charles Ryle 1816-1900)
Are you born again? This is one of life's most important questions. Jesus Christ said, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). It is not enough to reply, "I belong to the church; I suppose I'm a Christian."
But, reader, there is another warfare of far greater importance than any war that was ever waged by man. It is a warfare which concerns not two or three nations only, but every Christian man and woman born into the world. The warfare I speak of is the spiritual warfare. It is the fight which every one who would be saved must fight about his soul.
If we profess to have any religion at all, let us be careful that it is authentic. I say it emphatically, and I repeat the saying: Let us be careful that our religion is authentic. What do I mean when I use the word "authentic." I mean that which is genuine, and sincere, and honest, and thorough. I mean that which is not inferior, and hollow, and formal, and false, and counterfeit, and sham, and nominal. "Authentic" religion is not mere show, and pretense, and skin-deep feeling, and temporary profession, and works only on the outside. It is something inward, solid, substantial, intrinsic, living, lasting.
"God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."- JOHN III. 16. Look at the well-known text which heads this page. Its words are probably familiar to your ears. You have very likely heard them, or read them, or quoted them, a hundred times. But have you ever considered what a vast amount of divinity this text contains? No wonder that Luther called it "the Bible in miniature!" -and have you ever considered what an immensely solemn question arises out of this text? The Lord Jesus says, "Whosoever believeth shall not perish." Now, reader, DO YOU BELIEVE?
Reader, I desire in this tract to lay down a few plain Scriptural principles about "confession of sin." I would fain guide you to some clear and decided conclusions on this important subject. Let us beware, in the din of controversy and discussion, that we do not lose sight of the mind of the Spirit, and injure our own souls. There is a confession which is needful.
I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing. (2 TIM. iv. 6, 7, 8.)
“By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; “Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; “Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.” HEBREWS XI. 24-26. I shall only try to enforce upon you the greatness of the things Moses did, and the principle on which he did them. And then perhaps you will be better prepared for the practical instruction which the verses appear to hold out to every one who will receive it.
These three words are the essence and substance of Christianity. If our hearts can really go along with them, it is well with our souls; if not, we may be sure we have yet much to learn. Christ is the mainspring both of doctrinal and practical Christianity. A right knowledge of Christ is essential to a right knowledge of sancti?cation as well as justi?cation.
The subject of Scripture promises is a vast and most interesting one. I doubt whether it receives the attention which it deserves in the present day. Clarkes Scripture Promises is an old book which is far less studied now, I suspect than it was in the days of our fathers. Few Christians realize the number, and length, and breadth, and depth, and height, and variety of the precious shalls and wills laid up in the Bible for the special benefit and encouragement of all who will use them.
Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.2 Peter iii. 18.
THE subject of the text which heads this page is one which I dare not omit in this volume about Holiness. It is one that ought to be deeply interesting to every true Christian. It naturally raises the questions, Do we grow in grace? Do we get on in our religion? Do we make progress?
“Without holiness no one will see the Lord.”--Hebrews 12:14 Our text for today opens up a subject of deep importance. That subject is practical holiness. It suggests a question that demands the attention of all professing Christians-Are we holy? Will we see the Lord? That question can never be out of season. The wise man tells us, there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to be silent and a time to speak,” (Ecclesiastes 3:4, 7) but there is no time, no, not a day, in which a man ought not to be holy. Are we?
Would you be holy? Would you become a new creature? Then you must begin with Christ. You will do just nothing at all, and make no progress till you feel your sin and weakness, and flee to Him. He is the root and beginning of all holiness, and the way to be holy is to come to Him by faith and be joined to Him. Christ is not wisdom and righteousness only to His people, but sanctification also. Men sometimes try to make themselves holy first of all, and sad work they make of it.
How was the Bible written?-“Whence is it? From heaven, or of men?”-Had the writers of the Bible any special or peculiar help in doing their work?-Is there anything in the Bible which makes it unlike all other books, and therefore demands our respectful attention? These are questions of vast importance. They are questions to which I wish to offer an answer in this paper. To speak plainly, the subject I propose to examine is that deep one, the inspiration of Scripture. I believe the Bible to have been written by inspiration of God, and I want others to be of the same belief.
Come now, and let us see what account the Bible gives of a really "good heart." Let us "search the Scriptures," and see if we can find the picture drawn by the unerring hand of the Holy Spirit. I invite every reader of this paper to sit down quietly with me for a few minutes, and hear what God says in "the Word" about the whole question of the heart.
I desire, however, to call the attention of all who read this paper to the best of all peace—even peace with God. I would gladly speak to you of a peace which this world can neither give nor take away—a peace which depends on no earthly governments, and needs no carnal weapons, either to win it or preserve it—a peace which is freely offered by the King of kings, and is within the reach of all who are willing to receive it.
The Christianity which the world requires is a Christianity for everyday life. No other religion will ever receive much heart-felt attention from mankind. It may exist; but it will never strike deep root, and satisfy souls. A mere Sunday religion is not enough. A daily round of forms and ceremonies within consecrated buildings is not enough. A religion of spasmodic and hysterical excitement will not do.
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”—Acts 4:12 They were spoken by a poor and unpopular Christian, in the midst of a persecuting Jewish Council and it was a wonderful confession about Christ. These words were spoken by the lips of the Apostle Peter. This is the man who, a few weeks before, abandoned Jesus and fled: this is the very man who three times denied his Lord. There is another spirit in him now. He now stands up boldly before priests and Sadducees, and tells them the truth to their face, saying: “[Jesus] is the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name in heaven given to men by which we must be saved”
There are probably very few readers of the Bible who are not familiar with the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. It is one of those passages of Scripture, which leaves an indelible impression on the mind. Like the parable of the Prodigal Son, once read it is never forgotten. I invite you today to consider the leading truths, which this parable is meant to teach us. I purposely avoid discussing any part of it but that, which is the title of this message: “Riches and Poverty.” May the Holy Spirit give us a teachable spirit, and an understanding heart, and therefore produce lasting impressions on our souls!
“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification.”—1 Thess 4:3 The subject of sanctification is one which many, I fear, dislike exceedingly. Some even turn from it with scorn and disdain. The very last thing they would like is to be a “saint,” or a “sanctified” man. Yet the subject does not deserve to be treated in this way. It is not an enemy, but a friend.
He that wishes to attain right views about Christian holiness, must begin by examining the vast and solemn subject of sin. He must dig down very low if he would build high. A mistake here is most mischievous. Wrong views about holiness are generally traceable to wrong views about human corruption. I make no apology for beginning this volume of papers about holiness by making some plain statements about sin.
I want to tell you what the greatest Christian that ever lived thought of the cross of Christ. He has written down his opinion: he has given his judgment in words that cannot be mistaken. The man I mean is the Apostle Paul. The place where you will find his opinion, is in the letter which the Holy Ghost inspired him to write to the Galatians; and the words in which his judgement is set down, are these : "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Prov. XXII. 6. It is a subject that concerns almost all. There is hardly a household that it does not touch. Parents, nurses, teachers, godfathers, godmothers, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, all have an interest in it. Few can be found, I think, who might not influence some parent in the management of his family, or affect the training of some child by suggestion or advice. All of us, I suspect, can do something here, either directly or indirectly, and I wish to stir up all to bear this in remembrance.
Every professing Christian is the soldier of Christ. He is bound by his baptism to fight Christ's battle against sin, the world, and the devil. The man that does not do this, breaks his vow: he is a spiritual defaulter; he does not fulfil the engagement made for him. The man that does not do this, is practically renouncing his Christianity. The very fact that he belongs to a Church, attends a Christian place of worship, and calls himself a Christian, is a public declaration that he desires to be reckoned a soldier of Jesus Christ.
Reader, I say again, while there is life there is hope. The oldest, the vilest, the worst of sinners may be saved. Only let him come to Christ, confess his sin, and cry to Him for pardon,—only let him cast his soul on Christ, and he shall be cured. The Holy Spirit shall be sent down on his heart, according to Christ's promise, and he shall be changed by His Almighty power into a new creature.
In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.-John vii. 37. 38. THE text which heads this chapter contains one of those mighty sayings of Christ which deserve to be printed in letters of gold. All the stars in heaven are bright and beautiful; yet even a child can see that one star excelleth another in glory.
Now, my simple object in this paper is to point out the unreasonableness, not to say dishonesty, of ignoring the enormous results and effects which Christianity has produced in the world. I ask the sceptic and the agnostic to try Christianity by its fruits. I defy them to deny the existence of those fruits. I say that mankind owes a huge debt to Christianity, whether mankind knows it or not, of which the amount can never be calculated.
We must be holy on earth before we die, if we desire to go to heaven after death. If we hope to dwell with God for ever in the life to come, we must endeavour to be like Him in the life that now is. We must not only admire holiness, and wish for holiness: we must be holy. Holiness cannot justify and save us: holiness cannot cover our iniquities, make satisfaction for transgressions, pay our debts to God. Our best works are no better than filthy rags, when tried by the light of God's law. The righteousness which Jesus Christ brought in must be our only confidence,—the blood of atonement our only hope. All this is perfectly true, and yet we must be holy.
“Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him.” ACTS XVII. 16, 17.