J. C. (John Charles) Ryle.

Living or dead? : a series of home truths online

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part of it lying in wickedness. I look at pro-
fessing Christians, and see the vast majority
having nothing of Christianity but the name.
I turn to the Bible, and I hear the Spirit say-
ing, ** Without holiness no man shall see the

Surely it is a text that ought to make you
consider your ways, and search your hearts.
Surely it should raise within you solemn
thoughts, and send you to prayer.

You may try and put me off. by saying,
"you feel much, and think much, about these
things, far more than many suppose." 1 an-
swer, This is not the point. The poor lost
souls in hell do as much as this. The great
question is, not what you think, and what you
feel, but what you do.

You may say, " it was never meant that all
Christians should be holy, and that holiness,


such as I have descrihed, is only for great
saints, and people of uncommon gifts." I
answer, I cannot see that in Scripture. I read
that ''every man who has hope in Christ, puri-
fieth himself" (1 John iii. 3.)—" Without holi-
ness no man shall see the Lord."

You may say, " it is impossible to be so holy,
and to do our duty in this life at the same time:
the thing cannot be done." I answer, You are
mistaken. It can be done. With God on your
side nothing is impossible. It has been done
by many. David, and Obadiah, and Daniel,
and the servants of Nero's household, are all
examples that go to prove it.

You may say, " if you were so holy, you
would be unlike other people." I answer, I
know it well. It is just what I want you to
be. Christ's true servants always were unlike
the world around them, a separate nation, a
peculiar people, and you must be so too, if you
would be saved.

You may say, " at this rate very few will be
saved." I answer, I know it. Jesus said so
1800 years ago. Few will be saved, because


few will take the trouble to seek salvation.
Men will not deny themselves the pleasure of
sin, and their own way for a season. For this
they turn their backs on an inheritance incor-
ruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.
" Ye will not come unto me," says Jesus, " that
ye might have life." (John v. 40.)

You may say, " These are hard sayings,
the way is very narrow." I answer, I know it.
Jesus said so 1800 years ago. He always said
that men must take up the cross daily, that
they must be ready to cut off hand or foot, if
they would be His disciples. It is in religion
as it is in other things, "there are no gains
without pains." That which costs nothing is
worth nothing.

Reader, whatever you may think or say,
you must be holy, if you would see the Lord.
Where is your Christianity, if you are not ?
Show it to me without holiness, if you can.
You must not merely have a Christian name,
and Christian knowledge, you must have a
Christian character also. You must be a saint
on earth, if ever you mean to be a saint in


heaven. God has said it, and He will not go
back, — " Without holiness no man shall see
the Lord." " The Pope's calendar," says Jen-
kyn, " only makes saints of the dead, but Scrip-
ture requires sanctity in the living.'' " Let
not men deceive themselves," says Owen,
" sanctification is a qualification indispensably
necessary unto those who will be under the
conduct of the Lord Christ unto salvation : He
leads none to heaven, but whom He sanctifies
on the earth. This living Head will not admit
of dead members."

Surely you w^ill not wonder that Scripture
says, " Ye must be born again." (John iii. 7.)
Surely it is clear as noon-day that many a
man needs a complete change, — a new heart,
— a new nature, — if ever he is to be saved.
Old things must pass away, — he must become
a new creature. Without holiness no man,
be he who he may, no man shall see the Lord.

2. Let me, for another thing, speak a little
to every believer who reads these pages. I ask
you this question, " Do you think you feel the
importance of holiness as much as you should?"


I own I fear the temper of the times about
this subject. I doubt exceedingly whether it
holds that place which it deserves in the
thoughts and attention of some of the Lord's
people. I would humbly suggest that we are
apt to overlook the doctrine of growth in
grace, and that we do not sufficiently con-
sider how very far a person may go in a pro-
fession of religion, and yet have no grace,
and be dead in God's sight after all. *I be-
lieve that Judas Iscariot seemed very like
the other apostles. When the Lord warned
them one would betray Him, no one said, "Is
it Judas ?" We had better think more about
Sardis and Laodicea than we do.

I have no desire to make an idol of holiness.
I do not wish to dethrone Christ, and put
holiness in His place. But I must candidly
say, I wish sanctification was more thought of
in this day than it seems to be, and I therefore
take occasion to press the subject on all be-
lievers into vvhose hands this paper may fall.

I fear it is sometimes forgotten, that God has
married together justification and sanctifica-


tion. They are distinct and different things
beyond question, but one is never found with-
out the other. All justified people are sancti-
fied, and all sanctified are justified. What God
has joined together let no man dare put asun-
der. Tell me not of your justification, unless
you have also some marks of sanctification.
Boast not of Christ's work for you, unless you
can show us the Spirit's work in you. Think
not that Christ and the Spirit can ever be di-

Reader, if you are a believer, I doubt not
you know these things, but I think it good to
put you in remembrance of them. Prove that
you know them by your life. Try to keep in
view this text more continually, " Follow
holiness, without which no man shall see the

I must frankly say, I wish there was not
such an excessive sensitiveness on the subject
of holiness as I sometimes perceive in the
minds of believers. A man might really think
it was a dangerous subject to handle, so cau-
tiously is it touched. Yet surely when we have


exalted Christ as the way, the truth, and the
life, we cannot err in speaking strongly about
what should be the character of His people.
Well says Rutherford, " The way that crieth
down duties and sanctification, is not the way
of grace. Believing and doing are blood

There is a thing I would say with reverence,
— but say it I must, — I sometimes fear if Christ
were on earth now, there are not a few who
would think His preaching legal ; and if Paul
were writing his Epistles, there are those who
would think he had better not write the latter
part of most of them as he did. But let us
remember that the Lord Jesus did speak the
Sermon on the Mount, and that the Epistle
to the Ephesians contains six chapters, and not
four. I grieve to feel obliged to speak in this
way, but I am sure there is a cause.

The great divine, Owen, said some two hun-
dred years ago, that there were people whose
whole religion seemed to consist in going about
complaining of their own corruptions, and telling
every one they could do nothing of themselves.


Reader, I put it to yourself, — might not the
same thing be said with truth of some of
Christ's professing people in this day ?

I know there are texts in Scripture that war-
rant such complaints. I do not object to them
when they come from men who walk in the
steps of the apostle Paul, and fight a good fight,
as he did, against sin, the devil, and the world.
But I never like such complaints when I see
grounds for suspecting, as I often do, that they
are only a cloak to cover spiritual laziness, and
an excuse for spiritual sloth. If we say with
Paul, " O wretched man that I am," let us also
be able to say with him, " I press toward the
mark." Let us not quote his example in one
thing, while we do not follow him in another.
(Rom. vii. 24. Phil. iii. 14.)

I do not set up myself to be better than other
people, and if any one asks, " What are you,
that you talk in this way ?" I answer, " I am a
very poor creature indeed." But I tell you
I cannot read the Bible without desiring to
see many believers more spiritual, more holy,
more single-eyed, more heavenly-minded, more


whole-hearted than they are. I want to see
among us more of a pilgrim spirit, a more de-
cided separation from the world, a conversa-
tion more evidently in heaven, a closer walk
with God, — and therefore I have spoken as I

Is it not true that we need a higher standard
of personal holiness in this day? Where is
our patience ? Where is our zeal ? Where
is our love ? Where are our w^orks ? Where is
the power of religion to be seen, as it was in
times gone by ? Where is that unmistakable
tone that used to distinguish the saints of old,
and shake the world ? Verily our silver has
become dross, our wine mixed with water.
We are all more than half asleep. The night
is far spent, and the day is at hand. Let us
awake and sleep no more. Let us open our
eyes more widely than we have done hitherto.
Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that
doth so easily beset us. Let us cleanse our-
selves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, and
perfect holiness in the fear of God. "Did
Christ die," says Owen, "and shall sin live?


Was He crucified in the world, and shall our
affections to the world be quick and lively ?
Oh ! where is the spirit of Him, who by the
cross of Christ was crucified to the world, and
the world to him ?"

3. Let me, in the last place, offer a word of
advice to all who desire to be holy.

Would you be holy ? Would you become
new creatures ? Then begin with Christ. You
will do just nothing till you feel your sin and
weakness, and flee to Him. He is the begin-
ning of all holiness. He is not wisdom and right-
eousness only to His people, but sanctification
also. Men sometimes try to make themselves
hoXy first of all, and sad work they make of it.
They toil and labor, and turn over many new
leaves, and make many changes, and yet, like
the woman with the issue of blood before she
came to Christ, they feel nothing bettered, but
rather worse. They run in vain, and labor in
vain, and little wonder, for they are beginning
at the wrong end. They are building up a wall
of sand ; their work runs down as fast as they
throw it up. They are baling water out of a


leaky vessel ; the leak gains on them, not they
on the leak. Other foundation of holiness can
no man lay than that which Paul laid, even
Christ Jesus. Without Christ we can do noth-
ing. It is a strong but tine saying of Traill's,
" Wisdom out of Christ is damning folly ; —
righteousness out of Christ is guilt and con-
demnation ; — sanctification out of Christ is filth
and sin ; — redemption out of Christ is bondage
and slavery."

Would you be holy? Would you be par-
takers of the divine nature ? Then go to Christ.
Wait for nothing. Wait for nobody. Linger
not. Think not to make yourself ready. Go
and say to Him, in the words of that beautiful
hymn, —

" N'othing in my hand I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling ;
Naked, flee to thee for dress ;
Helpless, look to thee for grace."

There is not a brick nor a stone laid in thp
work of our sanctification, till we go to ChrJw
Holiness is His special gift to His bel- live,
people. Holiness is the work He caruther we


their hearts by the Spirit whom He puts within
them. He is anointed a Prince and a Saviour,
to give repentance as well as remission of sins.
To as many as receive Him He gives power to
become sons of God. (John i. 12.)

Holiness comes not of blood, — parents cannot
give it to their children : nor yet of the will of the
jflesh, — man cannot produce it in himself: nor
yet of the will of man, ministers cannot give it
you by baptism. Holiness comes from Christ.
It is the result of vital union with Him. It is
the fruit of being a living branch of the true
vine. Go then to Christ, and say, " Lord, not
only save me from the guilt of sin, but send the
Spirit, whom thou didst promise, and save me
from its power. Make me holy. Teach me
to do thy will.''

Would you continue holy ? Then abide in
Christ. He says Himself, " Abide in me and
I in you, — he that abideth in me and I in him,
the same beareth much fruit." (John xv. 4, 5 )
aiDleased the Father that in Him should all
of sais dwell, — a full supply for all a believer's
throw ii He is tbe Physician to whom you


must daily go. if you would keep well. He is
the manna which you must daily eat, and the
rock of which you must daily drink. His arm
is the arm on which you must daily lean, as
you come up out of the wilderness of this world.
You must not only be rooted, you must also be
built up in Him. Paul was a man of God in-
deed, — a holy man, — a growing, thriving Chris-
tian, — and what was the secret of it all ? He
was one to whom Christ was " all in all." He
was ever " looking unto Jesus." " I can do
all things," he says, " through Christ which
strengtheneth me." " I live, yet not I, but
Christ liveth in me. The life that I now live,
I live by the faith of the Son of God." (Phil,
iv. 13. Gal. ii. 20.) Reader, go and do like-

Now may you and I know these things by
experience, and not by hearsay only. May we
all feel the importance of holiness far more
than we have ever done j^et. May our years
be holy years with our souls, and then I know
they will be happy ones. Whether we live,
may we live unto the Lord ; or whether we


tiie, may we die unto the Lord : or if He come
for us, may we be found in peace, without spot,
and blameless.

And now, if I have erred in anything that
I have written, may the good Lord pardon
me, and show me what is the mind of the
Spirit. But if, as I believe, I have told you
the truth, may the Lord open your heart, and
make it a word in season to you, and all who
read it.

(£)nlt[ m Wavi.


Act8 It. 12.

Reader, —

These words are striking in themselves.
But they are much more striking, if you con-
sider when, and by whom they were spoken.

They were spoken by a poor and friendless
Christian, in the midst of a persecuting Jewish
Council. It was a grand confession of Christ.

They were spoken by the lips of the Apostle
Peter. This is the man who a few weeks be-
fore forsook Jesus and fled. This is the very
man who three times over denied his Lord.
There is another spirit in him now. He stands
up boldly before Priests and Sadducees, and
tells them the truth to their face : " This is the
stone that was set at naught of you builders,


which is become the head of the corner.
Neither is there salvation in any other : for
there is none other name under heaven, given
among men, whereby we must be saved."

Now, I need hardly tell you, this text is one
of the principal foundations on which the Eigh-
teenth Article of the Church of England is

That Article runs as follows : " They also are
to be had accursed that presume to say that
every man shall be saved by the law or sect he
professeth, so that he be diligent to frame his
life according to that law and the light of na-
ture. For Holy Scripture doth set out unto
us only the name of Jesus Christ, whereby men
must be saved."

There are few stronger assertions than this
throughout the whole thirty-nine Articles. It
is the only anathema pronounced by our Church
from one end of her confession of faith to the
other. The Council of Trent in her decrees
anathematizes continually. The Church of
England does it once, and once only. And
that she does it on good grounds, I propose to


show you by an examination of the Apostle
Peter's words.

In considering this solemn subject, there are
three things I wish to do.

I. First, to show you the doctrine here laid
down by the Apostle.

II. Secondly, to show you some reasons
why this doctrine must be true.

III. Thirdly, to show you some conse-
quences which naturally flow from the doc-

I. First let me show you the doctrine of
the text.

Let us make sure that we rightly understand
what the Apostle Peter means. He says of
Christ, " Neither is there salvation in any
other: for there is none other name under
heaven, given among men, whereby we must
be saved." Now what is this ? On our clearly
seeing this very much depends.

He means that no one can be saved from
sin, — its guilt, power, and consequences, — ex-
cepting by Jesus Christ.

He means that no one can have peace with


God the Father, — obtain pardon in this world,
— and escape wrath to come in the next, — ex-
cepting through the atonement and mediation
of Jesus Christ.

In Christ alone God's rich provision of sal-
vation for sinners is treasured up. By Christ
alone God's abundant mercies come down from
heaven to earth. Christ's blood alone can
cleanse us. Christ's righteousness alone can
clothe us. Christ's merit alone can give us a
title to heaven. Jews and Gentiles, — learned
and unlearned, — kings and poor men, — all alike
must either be saved by Jesus, or lost forever.

And the Apostle adds emphatically, " there
is none other name under heaven, given among
men, whereby we must be saved." There is
no other person commissioned, sealed, and ap-
pointed by God the Father, to be the Saviour
of Sinners, excepting Christ. The keys of life
and death are committed to his hand, and all
who would be saved must go to Him.

There was but one place of safety in the day
when the flood came upon the earth, and that
was Noah's ark. All other places and devices.


— mountains, towers, trees, rafts, boats, — all
were alike useless. So also there is but one
hiding-place for the sinner who would escape
the storm of God's anger, — he must venture his
soul on Christ.

There was but one man to whom the Egyp-
tians could go in the time of famine, when they
wanted food. They must go to Joseph. It
was a waste of time to go to any one else. So
also there is but one to whom hungering souls
must go, if they would not perish forever, —
they must go to Christ.

There was but one word that could save the
lives of the Ephraimites in the day when the
Gileadites contended with them, and took the
fords of Jordan. (Judges xi.) They must say
" Shibboleth" or die. Just so there is but one
name that will avail us when we stand at the
gate of heaven. We must name the name of
Jesus as our only hope, or be cast away ever-

Such is the doctrine of the text, " No salva-
tion but by Jesus Christ ; — in Him plenty of
salvation, — salvation to the uttermost, — salva-


tion for the very chief of sinners ; — out of Him
no salvation at all." It is in perfect harmony
with our Lord's own word in St. John : " I am
the way, the truth, and the life ; no man com-
eth unto the Father but by me." (John xiv. 6.)
It is the same thing that Paul tells the Corin-
thians : " Other foundation can no man lay
than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (iCor.
iii. 11.) And the same that John tells us in
his first Epistle : " God hath given to us eter-
nal life, and this life is in His Son. He that
hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not
the Son of God hath not life." (1 John v. 12.)
All these texts come to one and the same point,
— no salvation but by Jesus Christ.

Reader, make sure that you understand this
before you pass on. Perhaps you think, this
is all old news. Perhaps you feel, " these are
ancient things : who knoweth not such truths
as these ? Of course we believe there is no
salvation but by Christ." But mark well what
I say ; make sure that you understand this
doctrine, or else by-and-by you will stumble
and be offended at what I have yet to say.


Remember that you are to venture the
whole salvation of your soul on Christ, and on
Christ only. You are to cast loose completely
and entirely from all other hopes and trusts.
You are not to rest partly on Christ, — partly
on doing all you can, — partly on keeping your
Church, — partly on receiving the sacrament.
In the matter of your justification Christ is to
be all. This is the doctrine of the text.

Remember that heaven is before you, and
Christ the only door into it ; — hell beneath
you, and Christ alone able to deliver you from
it ; — the devil behind you, and Christ the only
refuge from his wrath and accusations ; — the
law against you, and Chfist alone able to re-
deem you ; — sin weighing you down, and
Christ alone able to put it away. This is the
doctrine of the text.

Now do you see it ? I hope you do. But I
fear many think so, who may find before laying
down this paper they do not.

II. Let me show you^ in the second j)lace,
some reasons why the doctrine of the text must
he true.


I might cut short this part of the subject by-
one simple argument, " God says so." " One
plain text," said an old divine, " is as good as a
thousand reasons."

But I will not do this. I wish to meet the
objections that are ready to rise in many hearts
against this doctrine, by pointing out the strong
foundations on which it stands.

1. Let me then say, for one thing, the doc-
trine of the text must be true, because man is
what man is.

Now, what is man ? There is one broad
sweeping answer, which takes in the whole
human race, — man is a sinful being. All chil-
dren of Adam born«into the world, whatever
be their name or nation, are corrupt, wicked,
and defiled, in the sight of God. Their thoughts,
words, ways, and actions, are all more or less
defective and imperfect.

Is there no country on the face of the globe
where sin does not reign ? Is there no happy
valley, — no secluded island, where innocence
is to be found ? Is there no tribe on earth,
where far away from civilization, and com-


merce, and money, and gunpowder, and luxury,
and books, morality and purity flourish ? — No !
Reader, there is none. Look over all the voy-
ages and travels you can lay your hand on,
from Columbus down to Cook, and you will
see the truth of what I am asserting. The
most solitary islands of the Pacific Ocean, —
islands cut off from all the rest of the world,
— islands where people were alike ignorant
of Rome and Paris, London and Jerusalem,
— these islands have been found full of im-
purity, cruelty, and idolatry. The footprints
of the devil have been traced on every shore.
The veracity of the third of Genesis has every-
where been established. Whatever else savages
have been found ignorant of, they have never
been found ignorant of sin.

But are there no men and women in the
world who are free from this corruption of
nature ? Have there not been high and ex-
alted souls, who have every now and then
lived faultless lives ? Have there not been
some, if it be only a few, who have done aU
that God required, and thus proved that sin-


less perfection is a possibility? — No, Reader,
there have been none. Look over all the
biographies and lives of the holiest Christians.
Mark how the brightest and best of Christ's
people have always had the deepest sense of
their own defectiveness and corruption. They
groan, they mourn, they sigh, they weep over
their own short-comings. It is one of the
common grounds on which they meet. Pa-
triarchs and Apostles, Fathers and Reformers,
Episcopalians and Presbyterians, Luther and
Calvin, Knox and Bradford, Rutherford and
Bishop Hall, Wesley and Whitefield, Martyn
and M'Cheyne, — all are alike agreed in feeling
their own sinfulness. The more light they
have, the more humble and self-abased they
seem to be. The more holy they are, the
more they seem to feel their own unworthi-
ness, and to glory,* not in themselves, but in

Now, what does all this tend to prove ? To
my eyes it seems to prove, that human nature
is so tainted and corrupt that, left to himself,
no man could be saved. Man's case appears


to me a hopeless one without a Saviour, — and
that a might}' Saviour too. There must be a
Mediator, an Atonement, an Advocate, to make
such poor sinful beings acceptable with God :
— and I find this nowhere excepting in Jesus
Christ. Heaven for man without a mighty

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Online LibraryJ. C. (John Charles) RyleLiving or dead? : a series of home truths → online text (page 10 of 16)