Skip to comments.Bishop J.C. Ryle on "The Importance of Counting the Cost"
Posted on 11/21/2005 12:52:33 PM PST by sionnsar
Here is another excerpt from Holiness by Bishop J.C. Ryle--this one on "The Importance of Counting the Cost":
I might easily settle this question by laying down the principle that no duty enjoined by Christ can ever be neglected without damage. I might show how many shut their eyes throughout life to the nature of saving religion and refuse to consider what it really costs to be a Christian. I might describe how at last, when life is ebbing away, they wake up and make a few spasmodic efforts to turn to God. I might tell you how they find to their amazement that repentance and conversion are no such easy matters as they had supposed, and that it costs "a great sum" to be a true Christian. They discover that habits of pride and sinful indulgence and love of ease and worldliness are not so easily laid aside as they had dreamed. And so, after a faint struggle, they give up in despair, and leave the world hopeless, graceless and unfit to meet God! They had flattered themselves all their days that religion would be easy work when they once took it up seriously. But they open their eyes too late and discover for the first time that they are ruined because they never counted the cost.As Bishop Ryle said in our previous excerpt, "a religion that costs nothing is worth nothing." It is only when men and women are told the full truth about themselves and their sins, and about the saving work of Jesus Christ, that they are able to count the cost of the Gospel. A religion that does not tell this truth is no true religion.
But there is a certain group of people to whom especially I wish to address myself in handling this part of my subject. It is a large class, an increasing class, and a class which in these days is in peculiar danger. Let me in a few plain words try to describe this class. It deserves our best attention.
The people I speak of are not thoughtless about religion; they think a good deal about it. They are not ignorant of religion; they know the outlines of it pretty well. But their great defect is that they are not "rooted and grounded" in their faith. Too often they have picked up their knowledge secondhand, from being in religious families, or from being trained in religious ways, but have never worked it out by their own inward experience. Too often they have hastily taken up a profession of religion under the pressure of circumstances, from sentimental feelings, from animal excitement or from a vague desire to do like others around them, but without any solid work of grace in their hearts. People like these are in a position of immense danger. They are precisely those, if Bible examples are worth anything, who need to be exhorted to count the cost.
For want of counting the cost, myriads of the children of Israel perished miserably in the wilderness between Egypt and Canaan. They left Egypt full of zeal and fervor as if nothing could stop them. But when they found dangers and difficulties in the way, their courage soon cooled down. They had never reckoned on trouble. They had thought the promised land would be all before them in a few days. And so when enemies, privations, hunger and thirst began to try them, they murmured against Moses and God and would sincerely have gone back to Egypt. In a word, they had not counted the cost and so lost everything and died in their sins.
For want of counting the cost, many of our Lord Jesus Christs hearers went back after a time and "walked no more with Him" (John 6:66). When they first saw His miracles and heard His preaching, they thought "the kingdom of God would immediately appear." They cast in their lot with His apostles and followed Him without thinking of the consequences. But when they found that there were hard doctrines to be believed and hard work to be done and hard treatment to be borne, their faith gave way entirely and proved to be nothing at all. In a word, they had not counted the cost, and so made shipwreck of their profession.
For want of counting the cost, King Herod returned to his old sins and destroyed his soul. He liked to hear John the Baptist preach. He observed and honored him as a just and holy man. He even "did many things" which were right and good. But when he found that he must give up his darling Herodias, his religion entirely broke down. He had not reckoned on this. He had not counted the cost (Mark 6:20).
For want of counting the cost, Demas forsook the company of Paul, forsook the gospel, forsook Christ, forsook heaven. For a long time he journeyed with the great apostle of the Gentiles and was actually a "fellow laborer." But when he found he could not have the friendship of this world as well as the friendship of God, he gave up his Christianity and cleaved to the world. "Demas has forsaken me," says Paul, "having loved this present world" (2 Tim. 4:10). He had not "counted the cost."
For want of counting the cost, the hearers of powerful evangelical preachers often come to miserable ends. They are stirred and excited into professing what they have not really experienced. They receive the Word with a "joy" so extravagant that it almost startles old Christians. They run for a time with such zeal and fervor that they seem likely to outstrip all others. They talk and work for spiritual objects with such enthusiasm that they make older believers feel ashamed. But when the novelty and freshness of their feelings is gone, a change comes over them. They prove to have been nothing more than stonyground hearers. The description the great Master gives in the parable of the sower is exactly exemplified: "Temptation or persecution arises because of the Word, and they are offended" (Matt. 13:21). Little by little their zeal melts away and their love becomes cold. By and by their seats are empty in the assembly of Gods people, and they are heard of no more among Christians. And why? They had never counted the cost.
For lack of counting the cost, hundreds of professed converts, under religious revivals, go back to the world after a time and bring disgrace on religion. They begin with a sadly mistaken notion of what is true Christianity. They fancy it consists in nothing more than a socalled "coming to Christ" and having strong inward feelings of joy and peace. And so when they find, after a time, that there is a cross to be carried, that our hearts are deceitful, and that there is a busy devil always near us, they cool down in disgust and return to their old sins. And why? Because they had really never known what Bible Christianity is. They had never learned that we must count the cost.
For want of counting the cost, the children of religious parents often turn out ill and bring disgrace on Christianity. Familiar from their earliest years with the form and theory of the gospel, taught even from infancy to repeat great leading texts, accustomed every week to be instructed in the gospel, or to instruct others in Sunday schools, they often grow up professing a religion without knowing why or without ever having thought seriously about it. And then when the realities of grownup life begin to press upon them, they often astound everyone by dropping all their religion and plunging right into the world. And why? They had never thoroughly understood the sacrifices which Christianity entails. They had never been taught to count the cost.
These are solemn and painful truths. But they are truths. They all help to show the immense importance of the subject I am now considering. They all point out the absolute necessity of pressing the subject of this message on all who profess a desire for holiness and of crying aloud in all the churches, "Count the cost."
I am bold to say that it would be well if the duty of counting the cost were more frequently taught than it is. Impatient hurry is the order of the day with many religionists. Instantaneous conversions, and immediate sensible peace, are the only results they seem to care for from the gospel. Compared with these, all other things are thrown into the shade. To produce them is the grand end and object, apparently, of all their labors. I say without hesitation that such a naked, onesided mode of teaching Christianity is mischievous in the extreme.
Let no one mistake my meaning. I thoroughly approve of offering men a full, free, present, immediate salvation in Christ Jesus. I thoroughly approve of urging on man the possibility and the duty of immediate instantaneous conversion. In these matters I give place to no one. But I do say that these truths ought not to be set before men nakedly, singly and alone. They ought to be told honestly what it is they are taking up if they profess a desire to come out from the world and serve Christ. They ought not to be pressed into the ranks of Christs army without being told what the warfare entails. In a word, they should be told honestly to count the cost.
Does anyone ask what our Lord Jesus Christs practice was in this matter? Let him read what Luke records. He tells us that, on a certain occasion, "There went great multitudes with Him: and He turned, and said unto them, If any come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me, cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:2527). I must plainly say that I cannot reconcile this passage with the proceedings of many modern religious teachers. And yet, to my mind, the doctrine of it is as clear as the sun at noonday. It shows us that we ought not to hurry men into professing discipleship without warning them plainly to count the cost.
Does anyone ask what the practice of the eminent and best preachers of the gospel has been in days gone by? I am bold to say that they have all with one mouth borne testimony to the wisdom of our Lords dealing with the multitudes to which I have just referred. Luther and Latimer and Baxter and Wesley and Whitefield, and Berridge and Rowland Hill were all keenly alive to the deceitfulness of mans heart. They knew full well that all is not gold that glitters, that conviction is not conversion, that feeling is not faith, that sentiment is not grace, that all blossoms do not come to fruit. "Be not deceived," was their constant cry. "Consider well what you do. Do not run before you are called. Count the cost."
If we desire to do good, let us never be ashamed of walking in the steps of our Lord Jesus Christ. Work hard if you will, and have the opportunity, for the souls of others. Press them to consider their ways. Compel them with holy violence to come in, to lay down their arms and to yield themselves to God. Offer them salvation, ready, free, full, immediate salvation. Press Christ and all His benefits on their acceptance. But in all your work tell the truth, and the whole truth. Be ashamed to use the vulgar arts of a recruiting sergeant. Do not speak only of the uniform, the pay and the glory; speak also of the enemies, the battle, the armor, the watching, the marching and the drill. Do not present only one side of Christianity. Do not keep back the cross of selfdenial that must be carried, when you speak of the cross on which Christ died for our redemption. Explain fully what Christianity entails. Entreat men to repent and come to Christ; but bid them at the same time to count the cost.
Wonderful piece, thank you for posting it.
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