J. C. (John Charles) Ryle.

Living or dead? : a series of home truths online

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live." (Ezek. xxxvii. 9.)

3. Let me, in the third place, speak to those
who are living.

Are you indeed alive unto God ? Can you
say with truth, I was dead and am alive again,
I was blind, but now I see ? Then suffer the
word of exhortation, and incline your heart
unto wisdom.

Are you alive ? Then see that you prove it
by your actions. Be a consistent witness. Let
your words, and works, and ways, and tempers
all tell the same story. Let not your life be a
poor torpid life, like that of a tortoise or sloth ;
— let it rather be an energetic stirring life, like
that of a deer or bird. Let your grace shine
forth from all the windows of your conversa-
tion, that those who live near you may see
that the Spirit is abiding in your hearts. Let
your light not be a dim, flickering, uncertain
flame, hi it burn steadily like the eternal fire
on the altar, and never become low. Let the


savor of your religion, like Mary's precious
ointment, fill all the houses where you dwell.
Be an Epistle of Christ, so clearly written,
penned in such large bold characters, that he
who runs may read it. Let your Christianity
be so unmistakable, — your eye so single,-your
heart so wiiole, — your walk so straightforward,
that all who see you may have no doubt whose
you are, and whom you serve. Oh! dear
reader, if we are quickened by the Spirit, no
one ought to be able to doubt it. Our conver-
sation should declare plainly that we seek a
country. It ought not to be necessary to tell
people, as in the case of a badly painted pic-
ture, " This is a Christian.'' We ought not to
be so sluggish and still, that men shall be
obliged to come close and look hard, and say,
"Is he dead or alive ?"

Are you alive ? Then see that you prove it
hy your growth. Let the great change within
become every year more evident. Let your
light be an increasing light, — not like Joshua's
sun in the valley of Ajalon, standing still, — nor
Hezekiah's sun, going back, — but ever shining


more and more to the very end of your days.
Let the image of your Lord, wherein you are
renewed, grow clearer and sharper every
month. Let it not be Hke the image and super-
scription on a coin, more indistinct and defaced
the longer it is used. Let it rather become
more plain, the older it is, and the likeness of
your King stand out more fully. I have no
confidence in a standing-still religion, I do not
think a Christian was meant to be like an ani-
mal, to grow to a certain age, and then stop
growling. I believe rather he was meant to be
like a tree, and to increase more and more in
strength and vigor all his days. Remember the
words of the Apostle Peter, " Add to your faith
virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowl-
edge temperance, and to temperance brotherly
kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity."
(2 Peter i. 5, 6, 7.) This is the way to be a
useful Christian. Men w^ill believe you are in
earnest when the}^ see constant improvement,
and perhaps be drawn to go with you.* This

, * " Men who are prejudiced observe fictions a great deal
more than words." — Leighton.


is one way to obtain comfortable assurance.
" So an entrance shall be ministered unto you
abundantly." (2 Peter i. 11.) Oh! as ever
you would be useful and happy in your re-
ligion, let your motto be, " Forward, forward,"
to your very last day.

Reader, I speak to myself as w^ell as to you.
I say the spiritual life there is in Christians
ought to be more evident. Our lamps want
trimming, — they ought not to burn so dim. Our
separation from the world should be more dis-
tinct, — our walk with God more decided. Too
many of us are like Lot, lingerers, — or like
Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh, borderers, — or like
the Jews in Ezra's time, so much mixed up
with strangers, that our spiritual pedigree can-
not be made out. It ought not so to be. Let
us be up and doing. If we live in the Spirit,
let us also walk in the Spirit. If we really
have life, let us make it known.

The state of the world demands it. The
latter days have fallen upon us. The kingdoms
of the earth are shaking, falling, crashing, and
crumbling away. (Isaiah xxiv. 1, etc.) The


glorious kingdom that will never be removed is
drawing nigh. The King himself is close at
hand. The children of this world are looking
round to see what the saints are doin^. God,
in His wonderful providences, is calling to us,
— " Who is on my side ?" Who ? — Surely we
ought to be, like Abraham, very ready with our
answer, " Here am I."

"Ah!" you may say, "these are ancient
things, these are brave words. We know it
all. But we are weak, we have no power to
think a good thought,_we can do nothing, we
must sit still." But hear me a little. What is
the cause of your weakness ? Is it not because
the fountain of life is little used ? Is it not be-
cause you are resting on old experiences, and
not daily gathering new manna, — daily drawing
new strength from Christ ? He has left you
the promise of the Comforter. He giveth more
grace, — grace upon grace to all who ask it.
He came that you might have life, and have it
more abundantly. "Open thy mouth wide,"
He says this day, " and I will fill it." (Psalm
Ixxxi. 10.)


Reader, if you want your spiritual life to be
more healthy and vigorous, you must just come
more boldly to the throne of grace. You must
give up this hanging back spirit, — this hesitation
about taking the Lord at His own word. Doubt-
less you are a poor sinner, and nothing at all.
The Lord knows it, and has provided a store of
strength for you. But you do not draw upon
the store He has provided ; you have not, be-
cause you ask not. The secret of your weak-
ness is your little faith, and little prayer. The
fountain is unsealed, but you only sip a few
drops. The bread of life is before you, yet you
only eat a few crumbs. The treasury of heaven
is open, but you only take a few pence. O man
of little faith, wherefore do you doubt ?

Awake to know your privileges ; — awake,
and sleep no longer. Tell me not of spiritual
hunger, and thirst, and poverty, so long as the
throne of grace is before you. Say rather, that
you are proud, and will not come to it as a poor
sinner. Say rather, you are slothful, and will
not take pains to get more.

Cast aside the grave-clothes of pride, that still


hang around you. Throw off that Egyptian
garment of indolence, which ought not to have
been brought through the Red Sea. Away
with that unbeHef, which ties and paralyzes
your tongue. You are not straitened in God,
but in yourself. Come boldly to the throne of
grace, where the Father is ever waiting to give,
and Jesus ever stands by Him to intercede.
Come boldly, for you may, all sinful as you are,
if you come in the name of the Great High
Priest. Come boldly, and ask largely, and
you shall have abundant answers, — mercy like
a river, and grace and strength like a mighty
stream. Come boldly, and you shall have sup-
plies exceeding all you can ask or think. Hith-
erto you have asked nothing. Ask and receive
that your joy may be full.

Reader, I commend you to God, and to the
Lord Jesus Christ. While you live, may you
live unto the Lord. When you die, may you
die the death of the righteous. And when the
Lord Jesus comes, may you be found ready, and
" not De ashamed before Him at His coming."

(Cnnsthr tjonr !Bni[i


Philip, i. 8.

Beloved Friends, —

I wish to write a few words to you
about your souls. I want those souls to be
saved. And I invite you all to take the advice
I give you to-day, and that is, to "consider your

I write to you, because the time is short.
The day of grace is slipping away, — the day of
judgment is drawing near, — the thread of life
is winding up, — a few more short years, and
every soul of us will have gone to his own place,
— we shall each of us be in heaven or hell !

I cannot reach your hearts, I know well. It
is not me, — it needs the finger of God. But
I can set before you my earnest wishes for


every class among you, and I will do it, the
Lord being my helper. Bear with me if I say
things that sound sharp and hard. Set it down
to my anxiety for your salvation ; — I mean it
all for your good. I write none other things
but what I have gathered from the Bible, and
as such I commend them to your consciences.
Consider what I say, and the Lord give you
understanding in all things.

L First of all let me say, there are very
many among you whom I long to see awakened.

You are those who have the name of Chris-
tians, but not the character which should go
with the name. God is not King of your hearts.
You mind earthly things. I want you to " con-
sider your ways."

I grant you may be quick and clever about
the affairs of this life : you are, many of you,
good men of business, good at your daily work^
good masters, good servants, good neighbors,
good subjects: all this I fully allow. But it is
the eternal part of you that I speak of; it is
your never-dying soul. And about that, if a
man may judge by the little you do for it, you


are careless, thoughtless, reckless, and uncon-

I do not say that God and salvation are sub-
jects that never come across your minds ; — but
this I say, they have not the uppermost place
there. Neither do I say that you are all alike
in your lives ; — some of you doubtless go farther
in sin than others ; — but this I say, you have
all turned every one to his own way, and that
way is not God's. Brethren, when I look at
the Bible I can come to only one conclusion
about you, — you are asleep about your souls.

You do not see the sinfulness of sin, and
your own lost condition hy nature. You ap-
pear to make light of breaking God's com-
mandments, and to care little whether you live
according to his law or not. Yet God says
that sin is the transgression of the law, — that
His commandment is exceeding broad, — that
every imagination of your natural heart is
evil, — that sin is the thing He cannot bear, He
hates it, — that the wages of sin is death, and
the soul that sinneth shall die. Surely you are
asleep !


You do not see your need of a Saviour. You
appear to think that it is an easy matter to get
to heaven, and that God will of course be
merciful to you at last some way or other,
though you do not exactly know how. Yet
God says that He is just and holy, and never
changes, — that Christ is the only way, and
none can come unto the Father but by Him, —
that without His blood there can be no forgive-
ness of sin, — that a man without Christ is a
man without hope, — that those who would be
saved must believe on Jesus, and come to Him,
— and that he who believeth not shall be
damned. Surely you are asleep !

You do not see the necessity of holiness.
You appear to think it quite enough to go on
as others do, and live like your neighbors. And
as for praying and Bible-reading, making con-
science of words and actions, studying truth-
fulness and gentleness, humility and charity,
and keeping separate from the world, they are
things you do not seem to value at all. Yet
God says, that without holiness no man shall
see the Lord, — that there shall enter into heav-


en nothing that defileth, — that His people
must be a pecuHar people, zealous of good
works. Surely you are asleep !

And, worst of all, you do not appear to feel
your danger. You walk on with your eyes
shut, and seem not to know that the end of
your path is hell. Some dreamers fancy they
are rich when they are poor, or full when they
are hungry, or well when they are sick, and
awake to find it all a mistake. And this is the
way that many of you dream about your souls;
you flatter yourselves you will have peace, and
there will be no peace ; you fancy that you
are all right, and in truth you will find that you
are all wrong. Surely you are asleep !

Dear Brethren, what can I say to arouse
you ? Your souls are in awful peril : without
a mighty change they will be lost. When shall
that change once be ?

You are dying, and not ready to depart ; —
you are going to be judged, and not prepared
to meet God ; — your sins are not forgiven,
your persons are not justified, your hearts are
not renewed. Heaven itself would be no hap-


piness to you if you got there, for the Lord of
heaven is not your friend. What pleases Him
does not please you. What He dislikes gives
you no pain. His word is not your counsellor.
His day is not your delight. His law is not
your guide. You care little for hearing of
Him. You know nothing of speaking with
Him. To be forever in His company would
be a thing you could not endure ; and the
society of saints and angels would be a weari-
ness, and not a joy. At the rate you live at,
the Bible might never have been written, and
Christ might never have died, the Apostles
were foolish, the New Testament Christians
madmen, and the salvation of the Gospel a
needless thing. Oh ! awake, and sleep no
more !

Think not to say, You cannot believe your
case is so bad, or the danger so great, or God
so particular. I answer. The devil has been
putting this lying delusion into people's hearts
for nearly six thousand years. It has been his
grand snare ever since the day he said to Eve,
" Ye shall not surely die." Do not be so weak


as to be taken in by it. God never failed yet
to punish sin, and He never will. He never
failed to make his word good, and you will
find this to your cost one day, except you re-

And think not to say, You are a member of
Christ's Church, and therefore feel no doubt
you are as good a Christian as others. I
answer, This will only make your case worse,
if you have nothing else to plead. You may
be written down and registered among God's
people ; you may be reckoned in the number
of the saints ; you may sit for years under the
sound of the Gospel ; you may use holy forms,
and even come to the Lord's table at regular
seasons ; — and still, with all this, unless sin be
hateful, and Christ precious, and your heart a
temple (Jf the Holy Ghost, you will prove in
the end no better than a lost soul. A holy
calling will never save an unholy man.

And think not to say. You have been bap-
tized, and so feel confident you are born of
God, and have His grace within you. I an-
swer, You have none of the marks which »^.


John has told me in his first Epistle, distinguish
such a person. I do not see you confessing
that Jesus is the Christ, — overcoming the
world, — not committing sin, — loving your
brother, — doing righteousness — keeping your-
self from the wicked one. How then can I
believe that you are born of God ? If God
were your Father you would love Christ : if
you were God's son you would be led by His
Spirit. I want stronger evidences. Show me
some repentance and faith ; show me a life
hid with Christ in God ; show me a spiritual
and sanctified conversation: — these are the
fruits I want to see, if I am to believe you
have the root of the matter in you, and are
a living branch of the true vine. But with-
out these your baptism will only add to your

Beloved Brethren, I speak strongly, because
1 feel deeply. Time is too short, life is too
uncertain, to allow of standing on ceremony.
At the risk of offending, I use great plainness
of speech. I cannot bear the thought of hear-
ing any of you condemned in the great day


of assize; — of seeing any of your faces in
the crowd on God's left hand, among those
who are helpless, hopeless, and beyond the
reach of mercy. I cannot bear such thoughts,
— they grieve me to the heart. Before the
day of grace is past, and the day of vengeance
begins, I call upon you to open your eyes
and repent. Oh ! consider your ways and be
wise. Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die ?

This day, as the ambassador of Christ, I pray
you to be reconciled to God. The Lord Jesus
who came into the world to save sinners, —
Jesus, the appointed Mediator between God
and man, — Jesus, who loved us, and gave Him-
self for us, — Jesus sends you all a message of
peace ; He says, " Come unto me."

"Come" is a precious word indeed, and
ought to draw you. You have sinned against
heaven, — heaven has not sinned against you ;
yet, see how the first step towards peace is
on heaven's side, — it is the Lord's message,
" Come unto me."

"Come" is a word of merciful invitation.
Does it not seem to say, " Sinner, 1 am waiting


for you, I am not willing that any should
perish, but that all should come to repentance.
As I live, I have no pleasure in the death of
him that dieth. I would have all men saved,
and come to the knowledge of the truth.
Judgment is my strange work, — I delight in
mercy. I ofler the water of life to every one
who will take it. I stand at the door of your
heart and knock. For long time I have spread
out my hands to you. I wait to be gracious.
There is yet room in my Father's house. My
long-suffering waits for more of the children
of men to come to the mercy-seat before the
last trumpet is blown, — for more wanderers to
return before the door is closed forever. Oh !
sinner, come to me."

" Come" is a word of promise and encour-
agement. Does it not seem to say, " Sinner,
I have gifts ready for you ; I have something
of everlasting importance to bestow upon your
soul ; I have received gifts for men, even for
the rebelhous ; I have a free pardon for the
most ungodly ; a full fountain for the most
unclean ; a white garment for the most defiled ;


a new heart for the most hardened ; heahng
for the broken-hearted ; rest for the heavy
laden ; joy for those that mourn. Oh ! sinner,
it is not for nothing that I invite you! All
things are ready, — come, come unto me."

Beloved Brethren, hear the voice of the Son
of God. See that ye refuse not Him that
speaketh. Come away from sin, which can
never give you real pleasure, and will be
bitter at the last. Come out from a world,
which will never satisfy you. Come unto
Christ. Come with all your sins, however
many and however great, — however far you
may have gone from God, and however pro-
voking your conduct may have been. Come
as you are, — unfit, unmeet, unprepared as you
may think yourself, — you will gain no fitness
by delay. Come at once, come to the Lord
Jesus Christ. ^

How indeed shall you escape, if you neglect
so great salvation ? Where will you appear
if you make light of the blood of Christ, and
do despite to the Spirit of grace ? It is a
fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living


God, but never so fearful as when men fall
from under the Gospel. The saddest road to
hell is that which runs under the pulpit, past
the Bible, and through the midst of warnings
and invitations. Oh ! beware, lest like Israel
at Kadesh, you mourn over your mistake
when it is too late ; or like Judas Iscariot, find
out your sin when there is no space for re-

Arise, beloved Brethren, and call upon the
Lord. Be not like Esau: sell not eternal
blessings for the things of to-day. Surely
the time past may suffice you to have been
careless and prayerless. Godless and Christless,
worldly and earthly-minded: surely the time
to come may be given to your soul.

Pray, I beseech you, that you may be en-
abled to put oif the old ways and the old
habits, and that you may become new men. I
yield to none in wishes for your happiness,
and my best wish is that you may be made
new creatures in Christ Jesus. This is a
better thing than riches, or health, or honor,
or learning. A man may get to heaven with-


out these, but he cannot get there without
conversion. Verily if you die without having
been born again, you had far better never have
been born at all.

II. The second thing I have to say is this,
— there are many among you whom I long to
see decided followers of Christ.

You are those who are wavering and halt-
ing between two opinions. You seem not to
have made up your minds. You appear to
stand in doubt which is the true way of serv-
ing God, and which the false. One day a man
might think you loved Christ, — another he
might suppose you did not care for Him at all.
You are like the twilight, — I cannot call you
darkness, — and yet you are not light in the
Lord. There is so much right about you, that
I cannot speak to you among the openly un-
godly ; and yet there is so much wrong about
you, that without a change you will never be
saved. I want you also to "consider your ways."

Wavering Brethren, of all classes in the
Church, you are the most difficult to address:
and no state is so dangerous as yours.


You see something of the evil of sin, and its
awful consequences, but not all. You have
thoughts about judgment and hell, and you
would like to avoid them; — but you never
really try.

You see something of the blessedness of
heaven, but not all. Its peace, and rest, and
joy, and happiness, are things that come across
your mind ; — but you never really seek to ob-
tain them.

There have been times when you have ap-
peared convinced ; there seemed to be much
melting and softening going on in your heart.
You have been at Sinai, and been alarmed.
You have been at Bochim, and wept. You
have been at Calvary, and had pricking of
conscience. And yet those times have passed
away, and your old things still remain.

. You have often looked like men going on
pilgrimage : — you seemed ready to come out
from the world ; — and then you have suddenly
stopped, and gone no further.

You have done many things that are good,
' — but unhappily, like Herod, you leave many


undone. You give up many habits that are
bad, and yet you keep sufficient to make it
plain you have no true grace in your hearts.

Oh ! wavering Brethren, what can be done
for your soul ? — I am distressed for you.

Many of you are so like true Christians, that
the difference can hardly be seen. You are no
opposers of true religion. You have no ob-
jection to the preaching of the Gospel, and
often take pains to hear it. You can enjoy the
company of believers, and appear to take pleas-
ure in their conversation and experience. You
can even talk of the things of God as if you
valued them. All this you can do.

And yet there is nothing real about your re-
ligion, — no real witnessing against sin, — no real
separation from the world, — no peculiarity, —
no warfare. You can wear Christ's uniform
in the time of peace, but, like the tribe of
Reuben, you are v/anting in the day of bat-
tle. Times of trouble prove that you were
never really on the Rock. Times of sickness
and danger bring out the rottenness of your
foundations. Times of temptation and perse-


cution discover the emptiness of your profes-
sions. There is no dependence to be placed
upon you. — Christians in the company of
Christians, you are worldly in the company of
the worldly. One week I shall find you read-
ing spiritual books, as if you were all for eter-
nity, — another I shall hear of your mixing in
some earthly folly, as if you only thought of
time. And so you go on, beating about in sight
land, but never seeming to make up your mind
to come into harbor ; showing plainly that you
have an idea of the way of life, but not de-
cided enough to act upon your knowledge.

O ! wavering Brethren, what can be done for
you ? I tell you solemnly, I tremble for your
souls. In your present course you will never
taste peace, — you will go on without comfort,
and go off without hope.

Truly you are a wonder in creation. You
stand alone. The devil wonders at you, how
you can see so much of the way to heaven,
and not walk in it. The angels wonder at you,
how you can know so much of the Gospel, and
yet stand still. Ministers wonder at you, how


you can march up to the borders of the prom-
ised land, and yet not strive to enter in. Be-
lievers wonder at you, how you can taste so
much of the good word of God, and yet not de-
termine to eat and live forever. Take heed,
lest at last you. prove a wonder to yourselves.

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Online LibraryJ. C. (John Charles) RyleLiving or dead? : a series of home truths → online text (page 3 of 16)