J. C. (John Charles) Ryle.

Living or dead? : a series of home truths online

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this is not the place for your soul.

Reader, remember these things, and you will
be wise. I have set before you the way of life.
I have told you where pardon is to be found.
O beware lest an offer being made you of free
forgiveness, any of you should come short of it.

III. Let me, in the third place, encourage
all who loish to he forgiven.

I dare be sure this paper will be read by


some one who feels he is not yet a forgiven
soul. My heart's desire and prayer is, that such
an one may seek his pardon at once. And I
would fain help him forward, by showing him
the kind of forgiveness offered to him, and the
glorious privileges within his reach.

Listen to me then, while I try to exhibit to
you the treasures of Gospel forgiveness. I
cannot describe its fulness as I ought. Its
riches are indeed unsearchable. (Ephes. iii. 8.)
But if you turn away from it, you shall not be
able to say in the day of judgment, you did not
at all know what it was.

Consider then for one thing, that the forgive-
ness set before you is a great and broad for-
giveness. Hear what the Prince of Peace
Himself declares, " All sins shall be forgiven
unto the sons of men, and blasphemies where-
with-soever they shall blaspheme." (Mark iii.
28.) " Though your sins be as scarlet, they
shall become white as snow ; though they be
red like crimson, they shall be as wool."
(Isaiah i. 18.) Yes! though your trespasses be
more in number than the hairs of your head,


the stars in heaven, the leaves of the forest, the
blades of grass, the grains of sand on the sea-
shore, still they can be all pardoned. As the
waters of Noah's flood covered over and hid
the tops of the highest hills, so can the blood
of Jesus cover over and hide your mightiest
sins. "His blood cleanseth from all sin." (1
John i. 7.) Though to you they seem written
with the point of a diamond, they can all be
efl^iiced from the book of God's remembrance
by that precious blood. Paul names a long list
of abominations which the Corinthians had
committed, and then says, "such were some of
you, but ye are washed." (1 Cor. vi. 11.)

Furthermore, it is a full and complete for-
giveness. It is not like David's pardon to Ab-
salom, — a permission to return home, but not
a full restoration to favor. (2 Sam. xiv. 24.) It
is not, as some fancy, a mere letting oflT, and
letting alone. It is a pardon so complete, that
he who has it is reckoned as righteous as if he
had never sinned at all.* His iniquities are

* " It is not therefore, soul, a mere negative t^^xcj that
God intends thee in the pardon of thy sins : it is not Uicr^lv


blotted out. They are removed from him as
far as the east and the west. (Psalm ciii. 12.)
There remains no condemnation for him. The
Father sees him joined to Christ, and is well
pleased. The Son beholds him clothed with
His own righteousness, and says, " Thou art
all fair, there is no spot in thee." (Cant. iv. 7.)
Blessed be God that it is so. I verily believe
if the best of us all had only one blot left for
himself to wipe out, he would miss eternal life.
If the holiest child of Adam were in heaven
all but his litle finger, and to get in depended
on himself, I am sure he would never enter the
kingdom. If Noah, Daniel, and Job, had had
but one day's sins to wash away, they would
never have been saved. Praised be God that
in the matter of our pardon there is nothing
left for man to do. Jesus does all, and man

the removing of the curse and wrath which thy sins have de-
served, though that alone can never be sufficiently admired.
But the same hand that plucks thee out of hell by pardoning,
grace and mercy, lifts thee up to heaven by what it gives
thee together with thy pardon, even a right and title to
the glorious inheritance of saints above." — Bishop Hopkins,


has only to hold out an empty hand and re-

Furthermore, it is a free and unconditional
forgiveness. It is not burdened with an " if,"
like Solomon's pardon to Adonijah, " If he
will show himself a worthy man." (1 Kings i.
52.) Nor yet are you obliged to carry a price
in your hand, or bring a character with you to
prove yourself deserving of mercy. Jesus
requires but one character, and that is, that
you should feel yourself a sinful bad man. He
invites you to " buy wine and milk without
money and without price," and declares, " Who-
soever will, let him take the water of life
freely." (Isaiah Iv. 1. Rev. xxii. 17.) Like
David in the cave of Adullam, He receives
" every one that feels in distress and a debtor,"
and rejects none. (1 Sam. xxii. 2.) Are you
a sinner ? Do you want a Saviour ? Then
come to Jesus, just as you are, and your soul
shall live.

Again, it is an offered forgiveness. I have
read of earthly kings who knew not how to
show mercy, — of Henry the Eighth of Eng-


land, who spared neither man nor woman ; of
James the Fifth of Scotland, who would never
show favor to a Douglas. The King of kings
is not like them. He calls on man to come to
Him and be pardoned. " Unto you, O men, I call,
and my voice is to the sons of men." (Prov.
viii. 4.) " Ho, every one that thirsteth, come
ye to the waters." (Isaiah Iv. 1.) "If any
man thirst, let him come unto me and drink."
(John vii. 37.) "Come unto me, all ye that
labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you
rest." (Matt. xi. 28.) O Reader, it ought to
be a great comfort to you and me to hear of
any pardon at all ; but to hear Jesus Himself
inviting us, to see Jesus Himself holding out
his hand to us, — the Saviour seeking the sin-
ner before the sinner seeks the Saviour, —
this is encouragement, this is strong consola-
tion indeed.

Again, it is a willing forgiveness. I have
heard of pardons granted in reply to long
entreaty, and wrung out by much importunity.
King Edward the Third of England would
not spare the citizens of Calais till they came


to him with halters round their necks, and
his own queen interceded for them on her
knees. But Jesus is " good and ready to for-
give." (Psalm Ixxxvi. 5.) He delighteth in
mercy. (Micah vii. 18.) Judgment is his
strange work. He is not willing that any
should perish. (2 Peter iii. 9.) He would fain
have all men saved, and come to the knowledge
of the truth. (1 Tim. ii. 4.) He wept over
unbelieving Jerusalem. " As I live," He says,
" I have no pleasure in the death of the
wicked. Turn ye, turn ye, from your evil
ways: why will ye die?" (Ezek. xxxiii. 11.)
Ah ! Reader, you and I may well come boldly
to the throne of grace. He who sits there is
far more willing and ready to give mercy than
you and I to receive it.

Beside this, it is a tried forgiveness. Thou-
sands and tens of thousands have sought for
pardon at the mercy-seat of Christ, and not
one has ever returned to say that he sought
in vain. Sinners of every name and nation,
— sinners of every sort and description, have
knocked at the door of the fold, and none


have ever been refused admission. Zacchieus
the extortioner, Magdalen the harlot, Saul the
persecutor, Peter the denier of his Lord, the
Jews who crucified the Prince of life, the idola-
trous Athenians, the adulterous Corinthians,
the ignorant Africans, the blood-thirsty New
Zeaianders, — all have ventured their souls on
Christ's promises of pardon, and none have
ever found them fail. Ah ! Reader, if the way
I set before you were a new and untravelled
way, you might well feel faint-hearted. But
it is not so. It is an old path. It is a path
worn by the feet of many pilgrims, and a path
in which the footsteps are all one way. The
treasury of Christ's mercies has never been
found empty. The well of living waters has
never proved dry.

Beside this, it is a present forgiveness. All
that believe in Jesus are at once justified
from all things. (Acts xiii. 38.) The very
day the younger son returned to his father's
house, he ^as clothed with the best robe, had
the ring put on his hand and the shoes on
his feet. (Luke xv.) The very day Zacchaeus


received Jesus he heard those comfortable
words, " This day is salvation come to this
house." (Luke xix. 9.) The very day that
David said, " I have sinned against the Lord,"
he was told by Nathan, " The Lor^also hath
put away thy sin." (2 Sam. xii. 13.) The very
day you first flee to Christ your sins are all
removed. Your pardon is not a thing far
away, to be obtained only by hard work, and
after many years. It is nigh at hand. It is
close to you, within your reach, all ready to
be bestowed. Believe, and that very moment
it is your own. " He that believeth is not
condemned." (John iii. 18.) It is not said,
*' He shall not be," or " will not be," but " is
not.^^ From the time of his believing condem-
nation is gone. " He that believeth hath ever-
lasting life." (John iii. 36.) It is not said, "He
shall have," or " will have," it is " hath:'' It is
his own as surely as if he was in heaven,
though not so evidently so to his own eyes.
Ah! Reader, you must not think forgiveness
will be nearer to a believer in the day of
judgment than it was in the hour he first


believed. His complete salvation from the
power of sin is every year nearer and nearer
to him, but as to his forgiveness and justifi-
cation, it is a finished work from the very
minute he first commits himself to Christ.

Last, and best of all, it is an everlasting
forgiveness. It is not like Shimei's pardon, a
pardon that may some time be revoked and
taken away. (1 Kings ii. 9.) Once justified,
you are justified forever. Once written down
in the book of life, your name shall never
be blotted out. The sins of God's children are
said to be cast into the depths of the sea, — to
be sought for and not found, — to be remember-
ed no more, — to be cast behind God's back.
(Mic. vii. 19. Jerem. 1. 60, xxxi. 34. Isaiah
xxxviii. 17.) Some people fancy they may be
justified one year, and condemned another, —
children of adoption at one time, and strangers
by-and-by, — heirs of the kingdom in the begin-
ning of their days, and yet servants of the
devil in their end. I cannot find this in the
Bible ; — as the New Zealander told the Romish
priest, I do not see it in the book. It seems to


me to overturn the good news of the Gospel
altogether, and to tear up its comforts by the
roots. I believe the salvation Jesus offers is
an everlasting salvation, and a pardon once
sealed with His blood shall never be reversed.

Reader, I have set before you the nature of
the forgiveness offered to you. I have told
you but a little of it, for my words are weaker
than my will. The half of it remains untold.
The greatness of it is far more than any report
of mine.* But I think I have said enough to
show you it is worth the seeking, and I can
wish you nothing better than that you may
strive to make it your own.

Do you call it nothing to look forward to
death without fear, and to judgment without
doublings, and to eternity without a sinking
heart? Do you call it nothing to feel the world
slipping from your grasp, and to see the grave

* Who is a God like unto thee ? None can pardon as thou
dost. None can pardon so freely, — none so fully, — none so
continually, — none so eternally, — none so indifferently, —
whether in respect of sinners or sin, as thou dost. It is all
one to thee what the sins are, and all one to thee whose the
Bins are, so they come to ask thy pardon." — Joseph Caryl.


getting ready for you, and the valley of the
shadow of death opening before your eyes, and
yet not be afraid ? Do you call it nothing to be
able to think of the great day of account, the
throne, the books, the Judge, the assembled
worlds, the revealing of secrets, the "final sen-
tence, and yet to feel, " I am safe ?" This is the
portion, and this the privilege of a forgiven soul.

Such an one is on a rock. When the rain
of God's wrath descends, and the floods come,
and the winds blow, his feet shall not slide, his
habitation shall be sure.

Such an one is in an ark. When the last
fiery deluge is sweeping over all things on the
surface of the earth, it shall not come nigh
him. He shall be caught up and borne securly
above it all.

Such an one is in a hiding j)lace. When
God arises to judge terribly the earth, and men
are calling to rocks and mountains to fall upon
them and cover them, the everlasting arms
shall be thrown around him, and the storm
shall pass over his head. He shall abide under
the shadow of the Almighty.


Such an one is in a city of refuge. The
accuser of the brethi'en can lay no charge
against him. The law cannot condemn him.
There is a wall between him and the avenger
of blood. The enemies of his soul cannot hurt
him. He is in a secure sanctuary.

Such an one is rich. He has treasure in
heaven which cannot be affected by worldly
changes, compared to which Peru and Califor-
nia are nothing at all. He need not envy the
richest merchants and bankers. He has a por-
tion that will endure when bank-notes and sov-
ereigns are worthless things. He can say like
the Spanish ambassador, when shown the
treasury at Venice, "My master's treasury
has no bottom."* He has Christ.

Such an one is insured. He is ready for
anything that may happen. Nothing can harm
him. Banks may break, and governments may
be overturned. Famine and pestilence may
rage around him. Sickness and sorrow may

* This was said boastfully, at a time when the gold mines
of Mexico and South America formed part of the possessions
of the Spanish crown.


visit his own fireside. But still he is ready,
for all, — ready for health, ready for disease, —
ready for tears, ready for joy, — ready for pov-
erty, ready for plenty, — ready for life, ready for
death. He has Christ. He is a pardoned soul.
" Blessed" indeed " is he whose transgression is
forgiven, and whose sin is covered." Psalm
xxxii. 1.)*

* " If we have Christ, thea have we with Him and by Him,
all good things whatsoever we can in our hearts wish or de-
sire, — as victory over death, sin, and hell ; we have the favor
of God, peace with Him, holiness, wisdom, justice, power, life,
and redemption ; we have by Him perpetual health, wealth,
joy, and bliss everlasting." — Church of England Homily of
the fear of death. 1547.

" He that hath got a view of Christ, and reads his own par-
don in Christ's sufferings, can rejoice in this in the midst of
all other sufferings, and look on death without apprehension,
yea with gladness, — for the sting is out. Christ hath made
all pleasant to him by this one thing, that He suffered once
for sins. Clirist hath perfumed the cross and the grave, and
made all sweet. The pardoned man finds himself light,
skips, and leaps, and through Christ strengthening him can
encounter any troubles, yea he can submit patiently to the
Lord in any correction. Thou hast forgiven my sin, there-
fore deal with me as thou wilt : all is well." — Archbishop
Leigh ton. 1670.

" A believer is a rich man and an honorable, even if he
be a beggar on the dunghill. Christ cannot be poor, and
he is a fellow-heir with Christ." — Rutherford's Christ Dying.


Reader, how will you escape if you neglect
so great salvation ? Why should you not lay
hold on it at once, and say, Pardon me, even
me also, O my Saviour. What would you have,
if the way I have set before you does not sat-
isfy you ? Come while the door is open. Ask,
and you shall receive.

IV. Let me give you, in the last place, some
marks of having found forgiveness.

I dare not leave out this point. Too many
persons presume they are forgiven, who have
no evidences to show. Not a few cannot think
it possible they are forgiven, who are plainly
in the way to heaven, though they may not see
it themselves. I would fain raise hope in some,
and self-inquiry in others ; and to do this, let
me tell you the leading marks of a forgiven

Forgiven souls hate sin. They can enter
most fully into the words of our Communion
Service, " the remembrance of sin is grievous
unto them, and the burden of it is intolerable."
It is the serpent which bit them : how should
they not shrink from it with horror ? It is the


poison which brought them to the brink of eter-
nal death : how should they not loathe it with
a Godly disgust? It is the Egyptian enemy
which kept them in hard bondage: how should
not the very memory of it be bitter to their
hearts? It is the disease of which they carry
the marl^s and scars about them, and from
which they scarcely recovered: well may they
dread it, flee from it, and long to be delivered
altogether from its power. Remember how
the woman in Simon's house wept over the feet
of Jesus. (Luke vii. 38.) Remember how the
Ephesians publicly burned their wicked booke.
(Acts xix. 19.) Remember how Paul mourned
over his youthful transgressions, *• I am not
meet to be called an apostle, because I perse-
cuted the church of God." (I Cor. xv. 9.) Ah!
Reader, if you and sin are friends, you and
God are not yet reconciled. You are not meet
for heaven, for one main part of heaven's ex-
cellence is the absence of all sin.*

* " If thou have no mind to leave sin, and sin grieveth thee
not, and thou art content to go forward in the same, and thou
deUghtest in it, and hatest it not, neither feelest what sin is ;


Forgiven souls love Christ. This is that one
thing they can say, if they dare say nothing
else, — they do love Christ. His person, His
office, His work, His name, His cross. His blood,
His words, His example, His day, His ordi-
nances, all, all are precious to forgiven souls.
The ministry which exalts Him mo^, is that
which they enjoy most. The Books which
are most full of Him, are most pleasant to
their minds. The people on earth they feel
most drawn to, are those in whom they see
something of Christ. His name is as ointment
poured forth, and comes with a peculiar
sweetness to their ears. (Cant. i. 3.) They
would tell you they cannot help feeling as they

— when thou art in such a case, then thou hast no faith, and
therefore art like to perish everlastingly." — Bishop Latimer,

"The real Christian is an avowed enemy of sin. Shall I
ever be friends with that, says he, which killed my Lord ?
No, but I will even kill it, and do it by applying His death.
The true penitent is sworn to be the death of sin. He may
be surprised by it, but there is no possibility of reconcile-
ment between them. Thou that livest kindly and familiarly
with sin, and either openly declarest thyself for it, or hast
a secret love to it, where canst thou reap any comfort ?—
Not from Christ's sufferings." — Archbishop Leighton. 16*70.


do. He is their Redeemer, iheir Shepherd,
their Physician, their King, their strong De-
liverer, their gracious Guide, their hope, their
joy, their all. Were it not for Him they would
be of all men most miserable. They would as
soon consent that you should take the sun out
of the sky, as Christ out of their religion.
Those people who talk of " the Lord," and
"the almighty," and " the Deity," and so forth,
but have not a word to say about Christ, are
in anything but a right state of mind. What
saith the Scripture ? " He that honoreth not
the Son, honoreth not the Father which hath
sent Him." (John v. 23.)* "If any man love
not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathe-
ma." (1 Cor. xvi. 22.)

Forgiven souls are humble. They cannot
forget that they owe all they have and hope for
to free grace, and this keeps them lowly. They
are brands plucked from the fire, — debtors who
could not pay for themselves, — captives who

* " He that lifts not up Christ above all hath no interest
in Christ at all. He that sets not Christ above all is not a
disciple of Christ," — Thomas Brooks. 1660.


must have have remained in prison forever,
but for undeserved mercy, — wandering sheep
who were ready to perish when the Shepherd
found them, — and what right then have they
to be proud ? I do not deny that there are
proud saints. But this I do say, they are of all
God's creatures the most inconsistent, — and
of all God's children, the most likely to stum-
ble and pierce themselves with many sorrows.
Forgiveness more often produces the spirit of
Jacob : — " I am not worthy of the least of all
the mercies, and of all the truth which thou
hast showed unto thy servant." (Gen. xxxii.
10) ; and of Hezekiah, "I shall go softly all my
years" (Isaiah xxxviii. 15) ; and of the apostle
Paul, " I am less than the least of all saints, —
chief of sinners." (Ephes. iii, 8; — 1 Tim. i. 15.)
Reader, when you and I have nothing we can
call our own but sin and weakness, there is
surely no garment that becomes us so well as

Forgiven souls are holy. Their chief de-
sire is to please Him who has saved them, to
do His will, to glorify Him in body and in


spirit, which are His. " What shall I render
unto the Lord for all His benefits," is a leading
principle in a pardoned heart. It was the re-
membrance of Jesus showing mercy that made
Paul in labors so abundant, and in doing good
so unwearied. It was a sense of pardon that
made Zacchaeus say, " The half of my goods
I give to the poor, and if I have taken any-
thing from any man by false accusation, I re-
store him fourfold." (Luke xix. 8.) Reader,
if you point out to me believers who are in a
carnal, slothful state of soul, I reply in the
words of Peter, " They have forgotten they
were purged from their old sins." (2 Peter i. 9.)
But if you show me a man deliberately living
an unholy and licentious life, and yet boasting
that his sins are forgiven, I answer he is under
a ruinous delusion, and is not forgiven at all.
I would not believe he is forgiven, if an angel
from heaven affirmed it, and I charge you not
to believe it too. Pardon of sin and love of
sin are like oil and water, they will never go
together. All that are washed in the blood


of Christ, are also sanctified by the spirit of

Forgiven souls are forgiving. They do as
they have been done by. They look over the
offences of their brethren. They endeavor to
walk in love, as Christ loved them, and gave
Himself for them. They remember how God
for Christ's sake forgave them, and endeavor
to do the same toward their fellow-creatures.
Has He forgiven them pounds, and shall they
not forgive a few pence ? Doubtless in this,
as in everything else, they come short ; — but
this is their desire and their aim. A spiteful,
quarrelsome Christian is a scandal to his pro-
fession. It is very hard to believe that such an
one has ever sat at the foot of the cross, has
ever considered how he is praying against him-
self every time he uses the Lord's prayer, and
saying as it were, " Father, do not forgive me

* " Are you in a willing league with any known sin ?
Yea, would you willingly, if you might be. saved in tliat
way, give up yourself to voluptuousness and ungodliness,
and not at ail desire to follow Jesus Christ in the way of
holiness ? Then, truly I have not anything to say for your
comfort." — Archbishop Leighton. 1670.


my trespasses at all." But it is still harder to
understand what such an one would do in
heaven, if he got there. All ideas of heaven in
which forgiveness has not a place, are castles
in the air, and vain fancies. Forgiveness is
the way by which every saved soul enters
heaven.^ Forgiveness is the only title by which
he remains in heaven. Forgiveness is the
eternal subject of song with all the redeemed
who inhabit heaven. Surely an unforgiving
soul in heaven would find his heart completely
out of tune. Surely we know nothing of
Christ's love to us but the name of it, if we do
not love our brethren.

Reader, I lay these things before you. I
know well there are great diversities in the
degree of men's attainments in grace, and that
saving faith in Christ is consistent with many
imperfections. But still I do believe the marks
I have just been naming will generally be found
more or less in all forgiven souls.

I cannot conceal from you these marks
should raise in many minds great searchings
of heart. I must be plain. I fear there are

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Online LibraryJ. C. (John Charles) RyleLiving or dead? : a series of home truths → online text (page 7 of 16)