J. C. (John Charles) Ryle.

Living or dead? : a series of home truths online

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thousands of persons called Christians who
know nothing of these marks. They are bap-
tized. They keep their church. They would
not on any account be reckoned infidels. But
as to true repentance, and saving faith, union
with Christ, and sanctification of the Spirit,
they are names and words of which thty know
nothing at all.

Now if this paper is read by such persons, it
will probably either alarm them, or make them
very angry. If it makes them angry, I shall
be sorry. If it alarms them, I shall be glad.
/ want to alarm them. I want to awaken them
from their present state. I want them to take
in the great fact, that they are not yet forgiven,
they have not peace with God, and are on the
hio;h-road to destruction.

I must say this, for I see no alternative. It
seems neither Christian faithfulness, nor Chris-
tian charity, to keep it back. I see certain
marks of pardoned souls laid down in Scrip-
ture. I see an utter want of these marks in
many men and women around me. How then
can I avoid the conclusion that they are not


yet forgiven ? And how shall I do the work
of a faithful watchman, if I do not write it
down plainly in so many words ? Where is
the use of crying peace, peace, when there is
no peace ? Where is the honesty of acting
the part of a lying physician, and telling people
there is no danger, when in reality they are
fast drawing near to eternal death ? Surely
the blood of souls would be required at my
hands, if I wrote to you anything less than
the truth. " If the trumpet give an uncertain
sound, who shall prepare himself for the battle."
Examine yourselves then, before this subject
is forgotten. Consider of what sort your re-
ligion is. Try it by the marks I have just set
before you. I have endeavored to make them
as broad and general as I can, for fear of caus-
ing any heart to be sad that God has not made
sad. If you know anything of them, though it
be but a little, I am thankful, and entreat you
to go forward. But if you know nothing of
them in your own experience, let me say in all
affection, I stand in doubt of you. I tremble
for vour soul.



1. And now, before I conclude, let me put
a home question to every one who reads this
paper. It shall be short and plain, but it is all-
important, — " Are you forgiven ?"

I have told you all I can about forgiveness.
Your need of forgiveness, — the way of forgive-
ness, — the encouragements to seek forgiveness,
— the marks of having found it, — all have been
placed before you. Bring the whole subject
before your own heart, and ask yourself, "Am
I forgiven ? Either I am, or I am not. Which
of the two is it ?"

You believe, perhaps, there is forgiveness of
sins. You believe that Christ died for sinners,
and that He offers a pardon to the most un-
godly. But are you forgiven yourself? Have
you yourself laid hold on Christ by faith,
and found peace through His blood ? What
profit is there to you in forgiveness, except you
get the benefit of it ? What does it profit the
shipwrecked sailor, that the life-boat is along-
side, if he sticks by the wreck, and does not
jump io and escape ? What does it avail the
sick man, that the doctor offers him a medi-


cine, if he only looks at it and does not swal-
low it ? Except you lay hold of your own soul,
you will be as surely lost as if there was no for-
giveness at all.*

Reader, if ever your sins are to be forgiven,
it must be now, — now in this life, if ever in the
life to come, — now in this world, if they are to
be found blotted out when Jesus comes again.
There must be actual business between you

* " This sweet truth, that Christ died for sinners, and rose
again for their justification, will not help thee, unless thou
hope for thyself; yea, thou wilt remain in thy old skin, while
using this blessed saying, as a cover for thy sins. Do not
take this consolation ; for although He died for all and rose
again, yet, to thee He is not risen, for thou hast not yet
apprehended by faith His resurrection ; the words thou hast
heard, but their power thou hast not experienced." — Martin

" This is it which bringeth comfort unto the wounded
soul and afflicted conscience, — not that Christ is a Saviour,
for what am I the better for that ? — but a Saviour unto me.
What is it to my belly that bread is prepared for others, \m-
less I be assured that my part is therein ? What is it to
my soul that Christ died for others, unless I know that my
sins are washed away in His blood ? It may be good for
Moses, or Paul, or Peter, or James, or Stephen, but what is it
unto me ? It is " mine" and " thine," as Luther did well
teach ; it is " my" God and " thy" Saviour, which doth
satisfy thirsty consciences." — George Abbott, Archbishop of
Canterbury. 1612.



and Christ. Your sins must be laid on Him
by faith. His righteousness must be laid on
you. His blood must be appl.ied to your con-
science, or else your sins will meet you in the
day of judgment, and sink you into hell. Oh !
Reader, how can you trifle when such things
are at stake? How can you be content to
leave it uncertain whether you are forgiven ?
Surely that a man can make his will, insure
his life, give directions about his funeral, and
yet leave his soul's affairs in uncertainty, is a
wonderful thing indeed.

2. Let me next give a solemn warning to
every one who reads this paper, and knows in
his conscience he is not forgiven.

Your soul is in awful danger. You may die
this year. And if you die as you are, you are
lost forever. If you die without pardon, with-
out pardon you will rise again at the last day.
There is a sword over your head that hangs by
a single hair. There is but a step between
you and death. Oh ! I wonder that you can
sleep quietly in your bed.

You are not yet forgiven. Then what have


you got by your religion ? You go to church.
You have a Bible, you have a prayer-book,
and perhaps a hymn-book. You hear sermons.
You join in services. It may be you go to the
Lord's table. But what have you really got
after all ? Any hope ? Any peace ? Any
joy ? Any comfort ? Nothing, literally noth-
ing! You have got nothing but mere tempo-
ral things, if you are not a pardoned soul.

You are not yet forgiven. But you trust
God will be merciful. And why should He be
merciful, if you will not seek Him in His own
appointed way ? Merciful He doubtless is,
wonderfully merciful to all who come to Him
in the name of Jesus. But if you choose to
despise His directions, and make a road to heav-
en of your own, you will find to your cost
there is no mercy for you.

You are not yet forgiven. But you hope
you shall be some day. I cannot away with
that expression. It is like thrusting off the
hand of conscience, and seizing it by the throat
to stop its voice. Why are you more likely to
seek forgiveness at a future time ? Why should


you not seek it now ? Now is the time for
gathering the bread of life. The day of the
Lord is fast drawing near, and then no man
can work. (Exod. xvi. 26.) The seventh
trumpet will soon sound. The kingdoms of this
world will soon become the kingdoms of our
God and of His Christ. Woe to the house
which is found without the scarlet line, and
without the mark of blood upon the door!
(Josh. ii. 18. Exod. xii. 13.)

Well ! you may not feel your need of for-
giveness now. But a time may come when
you will want it. The Lord in mercy grant
that it may not then be too late.*

3. Let me next give an earnest invitation
to all who read this paper, and desire forgive-

I know not what you are, or what you may
have been in time past, but I say boldly. Come

* " Those poor who are without a covering for their bodies
are to be pitied ; but with what tears should we lament
those, — how rich soever they are in this world, — who are
without a covering for their souls, and so stand naked in the
storm, and under the dreadful droppings of the wrath of
God." — Joseph Caryl. 1650.


to Christ by faith, and you shall have a par-
don. High or low, rich or poor, young men
and maidens, old men and children, — you can-
not be worse than Manasseh and Paul before
conversion, than David and Peter after con-
version, — come all of you to Christ, and you
shall be freely forgiven.

Think not for a moment that you have some
great thing to do before you come to Christ.
Such a notion is of the earth, earthy ; the Gos-
pel bids you come just as you are. Man's idea
is to make his peace with God by repentance,
and then come to Christ at last : the Gospel way
is to receive peace from Christ first of all, and
begin with Him. Man's idea is to amend and
turn over a new leaf, and so work his way up
to reconciliation and friendship with God : the
Gospel way is first to be friends with God
through Christ, and then to work. Man's idea
is to toil up the hill, and find life at the top :
the Gospel way is first to live by faith in Christ,
and then to do His will.

And judge ye, every one, judge ye which is
true Christianity ? Which is the good news ?


Which is the glad tidings ? First the fruits of
the Spirit, and then peace ; or first peace, and
then the fruit of the Spirit ? First sanctifica-
tion, and then pardon ; or first pardon, and
then sanctification ? First service, and then
hfe ; or first life, and then service ? Reader,
your own heart can well supply the answer.

Come then, willing to receive, and not think-
ing how much you can bring. Come, willing
to take what Christ offers, and not fancying
you can give anything in return. Come with
your sins, and no other qualification but a
hearty desire for pardon, and so sure as the
Bible is true you shall be saved.

You may tell me you are not worthy, you
are not good enough, you are not elect. I an-
swer, you are a sinner, and you want to be
saved, and what more do you want ? You are
one of those whom Jesus came to save. Come
to Him, and you shall have life.* Take with
you words, and He will hear you graciously.

* " The longer thou dost live without Christ, the more
grains dost thou collect to make the mountain of thy sins
higher." — Martin Luther.


Tell Him all your soul's necessities, and I know
He will give heed. Tell Him you have heard
He receiveth sinners, and that you are such.
Tell Him you have heard He has the keys of
life in His hand, and entreat Him to let you in.
Tell Him you come in dependence on His own
promises, and ask Him to fulfil His word, and
do as He has said. Do this in simplicity and
sincerity, and, my soul for yours, you shall not
ask in vain. Do this, and you shall find Him
faithful and just to forgive your sins, and to
cleanse you from all unrighteousness.

4. Last of all, let me give a word of ex-
horlation to all forgiven souls.

You are forgiven. Then know the full ex-
tent of your privileges, and learn to rejoice in
the Lord. You and I are great sinners, but
then we have a great Saviour. You and I
have sinned sins that are past man's knowl-
edge, but then we have the love of Christ,
which passeth knowledge, to rest upon. You
and I feel our hearts to be a bubbling fountain
of evil, but then we have another fountain of
greater power, even Christ's blood, to which


we may daily resort. You and I have mighty
enemies to contend with, but then the Captain
of our salvation is mightier still, and is ever
with us. Why should our hearts be troubled?
Why should we be disquieted and cast down ?
O men of little faith that we are ! Wherefore
do we doubt ?*

Let us strive every year to grow in grace,
and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is sad to be content with a little religion. It
is honorable to covet the best gifts. We ought
not to be satisfied with the same kind of hear-
ing, and reading, and praying which satisfied
us in years gone by. We ought to labor every
year to throw more heart and reality into every-
thing we do in our religion. To love Christ
more intensely, — to abhor evil more thoroughly,
— to cleave to what is good more closely, — to
watch even our least ways more narrowly, — to
declare very plainly that we seek a country, —
to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and be cloth-

* " A great many believers walk upon the promises at
God's call in the way to heaven even as a child upon weak
ice, which they are afraid will crack under them, and leave
them in the depth."— 7Vai/Z. 1690.


ed with Him in every place and company, — ■
to see more, — to feel more, — to know more, —
to do more, — to pray more ; — these ought to be
our aims and desires, every year we begin.
Truly there is room for improvement in us all.*
Let us try to do good to the souls of others
more than we have .done hitherto. Alas ! it is
poor work indeed to be swallowed up in our
own spiritual concerns, and taken up with our
own spiritual ailments, and never to think of
others. We forget that there is such a thing
as religious selfishness. Let us count it a sor-
rowful thing to go to heaven alone, and let us
seek to draw companions with us. We ought
never to forget that every man, woman, and
child around us will soon be either in heaven
or hell. Let us say to others as Moses did
to Jethro, " Come with us, and we will do thee
good." (Num. X. 29.) O it is indeed a true say-
ing, " He that watereth shall be watered him-

* " A soul clothed with Christ, stooping to any sinful de-
light, or an ardent pursuit of anything earthly, though law-
ful, doth wonderfully degrade itself, Methinks it is as a king's
son in his princely apparel playing the scullion, sitting down
to turn the spit." — Archbishop Lekjhton. 1670.


self." (Prov. xi. 25.) The selfish Christian has
little idea what he is missing.

But above all, let us learn to live the life of
faith in Jesus more than we have hitherto.
Ever to be found by the fountain side, — ever
to be eating Christ's body by faith, and drink-
ing Christ's blood by faith, — ever to have be-
fore our minds Christ dying for our sins, —
Christ rising again for our justification, —
Christ interceding for us at God's right hand,
— Christ soon coming again to gather us to
Himself, — this is the mark which we should
have continually before our eyes. We may
fall short, but let us aim high. Let us walk in
the full light of the Sun of righteousness, and
then our graces will grow. Let us not be like
trees on a north wall, weak and unfruitful, and
cold. Let us rather strive to be like the sun-
flower, and to follow the great fountain of light
wherever He goes, and to see Him with open
face. Oh for an eye more quick to discern
His leadings ! Oh for an ear more ready to
hear his voice !*

* " Look not for any blessing out of Christ ; and in and by
them lu


Let us say to everything in the world that
interferes between ourselves and Jesus, " stand
aside;" and let us dread allowing ourselves in
the least evil habits, lest insensibly they rise up
like a mist and hide Him from our eyes. In His
light alone shall we see light and feel warmth,
and separate from Him we shall find the
world a dark and cold wilderness. We sholud
call to mind the request of the Athenian philoso-
pher when the mightiest monarch on earth asked
him what he desired most; "I have," said he,
" but one request to make, and that is that you
would stand from between me and the sun.'*
Let this be the spirit in which you and I are
found continually. Let us think lightly of the
world's gifts. Let us sit calmly under its cares.

and from Hini look for all blessings. Let Him be thy life ;
and wish not to live longer than thou art quickened by Him.
Find Him thy wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, re-
demption ; thy riches, thy strength, thy glory." — Bishop
Hall. 1640.

" All our work now is to be well acquainted with Christ
in the way. Christ is both the way and tlae home. We must
be walking in Him and travelling towards Him : and He is
our §uide and leader in the way. The soul and life of grace,
is in living on Him by fixith, and the happiness of heaven ia
in living with Him forever." — Traill. 1690.


Let us care for nothing, if we may only ever
see the King's face, if we may only ever abide
in Christ

And now, Reader, with every kind and Chris-
tian wish for your soul's happiness, I commend
you to the only wise God, our Saviour. He is
able to keep you from falling, and to present
you faultless before the presence of His glory
with exceeding joy.


Ileb. xii. 14.

Reader, —

I offer you this text as a subject for
self-inquiry ; and I invite you this day to think
over the question before your eyes, " Are you

It is a question that 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
keep silence, and a time to speak ;" (Eccles.
iii. 4, 7.) but there is no time, no, not a day, in
which a man ought not to be holy. Reader,
are you?

It is a question that concerns all ranks and
conditions of men. Some are rich, and some
are poor, — some learned, and some unlearned,
— some masters, and some servants ; — but there


is no rank or condition in life in which a man
ought not to be holy. Reader, are you ?

I ask to be heard to-day about this question.
How stands the account between your souls
and God ? Stay a little, I beseech you, while I
reason with you about holiness. I believe 1
might have chosen a subject more popular and
pleasant. I am sure I might have found one
more easy to handle. But I feel deeply I could
not have chosen one more important and more
profitable to your soul. It is a solemn thing to
hear God saying, " Without holiness no man
can see the Lord." (Heb. xii. 14.)

I shall endeavor, by God's help, to set before
you what true holiness is, — the reasons why it
is so needful, — and the way in which alone it
can be attained. The Lord grant you may see
and feel the importance of the subject, and lay
down this paper, when you have read it, a wiser
and a better man.

L First then let me try to show you what
true holiness is, — what sort of persons are those
whom God calls holy.

A man may go great lengths and yet never


reach true holiness. It is not knowledge, —
Balaam had that : nor great profession, — Judas
Iscariot had that : nor doing many things, —
Herod had that : nor zeal for certain matters
in religion, — Jehu had that : nor morality and
outward respectability of conduct, — the young
ruler had that : nor taking pleasure in hearing
preachers, — the Jews in Ezekiel's time had
that : nor keeping company with godly people,
■ — Joab and Gehazi and Demas had that. Yet
none of these were holy. These things alone
are not holiness. A man may have any one
of them, and yet never see the Lord.

What then is true holiness ? It is a hard
question to answer. I do not mean that I find
a want of matter on the subject. But I fear
lest I should give a defective view of holiness,
and not say all that ought to be said ; or lest I
should speak things about it that ought not to
be spoken, and so do harm. Suffer me, how-
ever, to say a few words that may help to clear
your mind. Remember only, when I have said
all, that my account is but a poor imperfect
outline at the best.

176 AHE rotr HOLY.

Holiness is the habit of being of one mind
with God, according as we find His mind de-
scribed in Scripture. It is the habit of agree-
ing in God's judgment, — hating what He hates,
— loving what He loves, — and measuring every-
thing in this world by the standard of His
word. He who most entirely agrees with God,
he is the most holy man.

A holy man will endeavor to shun every known
sin, and to keep every known commandment.
He will have a decided bent of mind towards
God, — a hearty desire to do His will, — a greater
fear of displeasing Him than of displeasing the
world, and a love to all His ways. He will
feel what Paul felt when he said, "I delight in
the law of God after the inward man," (Rom.
vii. 22,) and what David felt when he said, " I
esteem all thy precepts concerning all things
to be right, and I hate every false way." (Psalm
cxix. 128.)

A holy man will strive to be like our Lord
Jesus Christ ; to have the mind that was in
Him, and to be conformed to His image. It
will be his aim to bear with and forgive others,


even as Christ forgave us, — to be unselfish, even
as Christ pleased not Himself, — to walk in
love, even as Christ loved us, — to be lowly-
minded and humble, even as Christ made Him-
self of no reputation and humbled Himself
He will remember that Christ was a faithful
witness for the truth, — that He came not to do
His own will, — that it was His meat and drink
to do His Father's will, — that He w^ould stoop
to any work in order to minister to others, —
that He was meek and patient under undeserv-
ed insults, — that He thought more of godly
poor men than of kings, — that He was full of
love and compassion to sinners, — that He was
bold and uncompromising in denouncing sin, —
that He sought not the praise of men, when
He might have had it, — that He went about
doing good, — that He was separate from worldly
people, — that He continued instant in prayer,
— that He would not let even His nearest rela-
tions stand in His way when God's work was
to be done. These things a holy man will try
to remember. By them He will endeavor to
shape his course in life. He will lay to heart


the saying of John, '■ He that saith he abideth
in Christ ought himself also so to walk, even as
He walked ;" (1 John ii. 6,) and the saying of
Peter, that " Christ suffered for us, leaving us
an example that ye should follow His steps."
(1 Peter ii. 21.) Much time would be saved,
and much sin prevented, if men would oftener
ask themselves the question, " What would
Christ have said and done, if He were in my
place ?"

But time would fail me if I were to mention
all the things which go to make up holiness of
character. Still I must ask you to bear with
me while I name a few things which come up-
permost in my thoughts. The days we live in
make me anxious that there should be no mis-
take upon this subject. How can we know
whether we are holy, unless we have a clear
view of what holiness takes in ?

A holy man will follow after meekness, long-
suffering, gentleness, kind temper, government
of his tongue. He will bear much, forbear
much, overlook much, and be slow to talk of
standing on his rights. You see a bright ex-


ample of this in the behavior of David when
Shimei cursed him, — and of Moses when Aaron
and Miriam spake against him. (2 Sam. xvi.
10. Num. xii. 3.)

A holy man will follow after temperance and
self-denial. He will labor to mortif}^ the de-
sires of his body, — to crucify his flesh with its
affections and lusts, — to curb his passions, — to
restrain his carnal inclinations, lest at any time
they break loose. Oh ! what a word is that
of the Lord Jesus to the apostles, " Take heed
to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be
overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness
and cares of this life ;" (Luke xxi. 34,) and that
of the apostle Paul, " I keep under my body
and bring it into subjection, lest that by any
means when I have preached to others, I my-
self should be a cast-away." (1 Cor. ix. 27.)

A holy man will follow after charity and
brotherly kindness. He will endeavor to ob-
serve the golden rule, of doing as he would
have men do to him, and speaking as he would
have men speak to him. He will be full of
affection towards his brethren, — their bodies


their property, their characters, their feelings,,
their souls. *•' He that loveth another," says Paul,
"hath fulfilled the law." (Rom. xiii. 8.) He
will abhor all lying, slandering, backbiting,
cheating, dishonesty, and unfair dealing, even
in the least things. The shekel and cubit of
the sanctuary were larger than those in com-
mon use. Alas ! what condemning words are
the thirteenth chapter of the first of Corinthi-
ans, and the Sermon on the Mount, when laid
alongside the conduct of many professing

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Online LibraryJ. C. (John Charles) RyleLiving or dead? : a series of home truths → online text (page 8 of 16)