Skip to comments.Further from Bishop Ryle on counting the cost
Posted on 11/23/2005 9:29:30 AM PST by sionnsar
This is another portion, the final one, of Bishop Ryle's discourse on counting the cost:
Sorry indeed should I be if I did not say something on this branch of my subject. I have no wish to discourage anyone or to keep anyone back from Christs service. It is my hearts desire to encourage everyone to go forward and take up the cross. Let us count the cost by all means, and count it carefully. But let us remember that, if we count rightly and look on all sides, there is nothing that need make us afraid.As the Prayer Book says, we live in "this transitory life"; I believe these points from the good Bishop make it most clear that what we do in this short span of years has eternal consequences. May God grant us the grace to serve Him now that we may serve and enjoy Him forever.
Let me mention some things which should always enter into our calculations in counting the cost of true Christianity. Set down honestly and fairly what you will have to give up and go through if you become Christs disciple. Leave nothing out. Put it all down. But then set down side by side the following sums which I am going to give you. Do this fairly and correctly, and I am not afraid for the result.
a. Count up and compare the profit and the loss, if you are a truehearted and holy Christian. You may possibly lose something in this world, but you will gain the salvation of your immortal soul. It is written: "What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36.)
b. Count up and compare the praise and the blame, if you are a truehearted and holy Christian. You may possibly be blamed by man, but you will have the praise of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Your blame will come from the lips of a few erring, blind, fallible men and women. Your praise will come from the King of kings and Judge of all the earth. It is only those whom He blesses who are really blessed. It is written: "Blessed are you when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven" (Matt. 5:11, 12).
c. Count up and compare the friends and the enemies, if you are a truehearted and holy Christian. On the one side of you is the enmity of the devil and the wicked. On the other, you have the favor and friendship of the Lord Jesus Christ. Your enemies, at most, can only bruise your heel. They may rage loudly and compass sea and land to work your ruin, but they cannot destroy you. Your Friend is able to save to the uttermost all them that come unto God by Him. None shall ever pluck His sheep out of His hand. It is written: "Be not afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom you shall fear: fear Him, which after He has killed has power to cast into hell; yes, I say unto you, fear Him" (Luke 12:5).
d. Count up and compare the life that now is and the life to come, if you are a truehearted and holy Christian. The time present, no doubt, is not a time of ease. It is a time of watching and praying, fighting and struggling, believing and working. But it is only for a few years. The time future is the season of rest and refreshing. Sin shall be cast out. Satan shall be bound. And, best of all, it shall be a rest forever. It is written: "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:17, 18).
e. Count up and compare the pleasures of sin and the happiness of Gods service, if you are a truehearted and holy Christian. The pleasures that the worldly man gets by his ways are hollow, unreal and unsatisfying. They are like the fire of thorns, flashing and crackling for a few minutes, and then quenched forever. The happiness that Christ gives to His people is something solid, lasting and substantial. It is not dependent on health or circumstances. It never leaves a man, even in death. It ends in a crown of glory that fades not away. It is written: "The joy of the hypocrite [is] but for a moment." "As the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool" (Job 20:5; Eccl. 7:6). But it is also written: "Peace I leave with you, My peace give I unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27).
f. Count up and compare the trouble that true Christianity entails and the troubles that are in store for the wicked beyond the grave. Grant for a moment that Bible reading and praying and repenting and believing and holy living require pains and selfdenial. It is all nothing compared to that wrath to come which is stored up for the impenitent and unbelieving. A single day in hell will be worse than a whole life spent in carrying the cross. The "worm that never dies, and the fire that is not quenched" are things which it passes mans power to conceive fully or describe. It is written: "Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented" (Luke 16:25).
g. Count up and compare the number of those who turn from sin and the world and serve Christ, and the number of those who forsake Christ and return to the world. On the one side you will find thousands; on the other you will find none. Multitudes are every year turning out of the broad way and entering the narrow. None who really enter the narrow way grow tired of it and return to the broad. The footsteps in the downward road are often to be seen turning out of it. The footsteps in the road to heaven are all one way. It is written: "The way of the wicked is . . . darkness." "The way of transgressors is hard" (Prov. 4:19; 13:15). But it is also written: "The path of the just is as the shining light, that shines more and more unto the perfect day" (Prov. 4:18).
Such sums as these, no doubt, are often not done correctly. Not a few, I am well aware, are ever "halting between two opinions." They cannot make up their minds that it is worthwhile to serve Christ. The losses and gains, the advantages and disadvantages, the sorrows and the joys, the helps and the hindrances appear to them so nearly balanced that they cannot decide for God. They cannot do this great sum correctly. They cannot make the result so clear as it ought to be. They do not count right.
But why do they err so greatly? They lack faith. Paul advises us on how to come to a right conclusion about our souls in Hebrews 11, revealing a powerful principle that operates in the business of counting the cost. It is the same principle Noah understood, and that I will now make clear.
How was it that Noah persevered in building the ark? He stood alone amid a world of sinners and unbelievers. He had to endure scorn, ridicule and mockery. What was it that nerved his arm, and made him patiently work on and face it all? It was faith. He believed in a wrath to come. He believed that there was no safety, excepting in the ark that he was preparing. Believing, he held the worlds opinion very cheap. He counted the cost by faith and had no doubt that to build the ark was gain.
How was it that Moses forsook the pleasures of Pharaohs house and refused to be called the son of Pharaohs daughter? How was it that he cast in his lot with a despised people like the Hebrews and risked everything in this world in carrying out the great work of their deliverance from bondage? To the eye of sense he was losing everything and gaining nothing. What was it that moved him? It was faith. He believed that the "recompense of reward" was far better than all the honors of Egypt. He counted the cost by faith, as "seeing Him that is invisible," and was persuaded that to forsake Egypt and go forth into the wilderness was gain.
How was it that Saul the Pharisee could ever make up his mind to become a Christian? The cost and sacrifices of the change were fearfully great. He gave up all his brilliant prospects among his own people. He brought on himself, instead of mans favor, mans hatred, mans enmity and mans persecution, even unto death. What was it that enabled him to face it all? It was faith. He believed that Jesus, who met him on the way to Damascus, could give him a hundredfold more than he gave up, and in the world to come everlasting life. By faith he counted the cost and saw clearly on which side the balance lay. He believed firmly that to carry the cross of Christ was gain.
Let us mark well these things. That faith which made Noah, Moses and Paul do what they did, that faith is the great secret of coming to a right conclusion about our souls. That same faith must be our helper and ready reckoner when we sit down to count the cost of being a true Christian. That same faith is to be had for the asking. "He gives more grace" (James 4:6). Armed with that faith, we shall set things down at their true value. Filled with that faith, we shall neither add to the cross nor subtract from the crown. Our conclusions will be all correct. Our sum total will be without error.
1. Now, let us make the serious inquiry: "What does your Christianity cost you?" Very likely it costs you nothing. Very probably it neither costs you trouble, nor time, nor thought, nor care, nor pains, nor reading, nor praying, nor selfdenial, nor conflict, nor working, nor labor of any kind. Now mark what I say. Such a religion as this will never save your soul. It will never give you peace while you live, nor hope while you die. It will not support you in the day of affliction, nor cheer you in the hour of death. A religion which costs nothing is worth nothing. Awake before it is too late. Awake and repent. Awake and be converted. Awake and believe. Awake and pray. Rest not until you can give a satisfactory answer to my question: "What does it cost?"
2. Think, if you want stirring motives for serving God, what it cost to provide a salvation for your soul. Think how the Son of God left heaven and became Man, suffered on the cross and lay in the grave, to pay your debt to God, and work out for you a complete redemption. Think of all this and learn that it is no light matter to possess an immortal soul. It is worthwhile to take some trouble about ones soul.
Ah, lazy man or woman, is it really come to this, that you will miss heaven for lack of trouble? Are you really determined to make shipwreck forever, from mere dislike to exertion? Away with the cowardly, unworthy thought. Arise and play the man. Say to yourself, "Whatever it may cost, I will, at any rate, strive to enter in at the strait gate." Look at the cross of Christ and take fresh courage. Look forward to death, judgment and eternity, and be in earnest. It may cost much to be a Christian, but you may be sure it pays.
3. If any reader of this message really feels that he has counted the cost and taken up the cross, I bid him persevere and press on. I dare say you often feel your heart faint and are sorely tempted to give up in despair. Your enemies seem so many, your besetting sins so strong, your friends so few, the way so steep and narrow, you hardly know what to do. But still I say, persevere and press on.
The time is very short. A few more years of watching and praying, a few more tossings on the sea of this world, a few more deaths and changes, a few more winters and summers, and all will be over. We shall have fought our last battle and shall need to fight no more.
The presence and company of Christ will make amends for all we suffer here below. When we see as we have been seen and look back on the journey of life, we shall wonder at our own faintness of heart. We shall marvel that we made so much of our cross, and thought so little of our crown. We shall marvel that in "counting the cost" we could ever doubt on which side the balance of profit lay. Let us take courage. We are not far from home. It may cost much to be a true Christian and a consistent holy man; but it pays.
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