Skip to comments.Bishop J.C. Ryle: "Do You Believe?"
Posted on 05/03/2006 5:03:47 PM PDT by sionnsar
In this essay by J.C. Ryle, the Bishop is writing about what true belief is. As you will see, he has hard words for Protestants and Catholics alike:
"God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." - JOHN III. 16.Tomorrow, I will post another excerpt--this one on Ryle's second point--regarding the gift of God's only-begotten Son to the world.
Look at the well-known text which heads this page. Its words are probably familiar to your ears. You have very likely heard them, or read them, or quoted them, a hundred times. But have you ever considered what a vast amount of divinity this text contains? No wonder that Luther called it "the Bible in miniature!" and have you ever considered what an immensely solemn question arises out of this text? The Lord Jesus says, "Whosoever believeth shall not perish." Now, reader, DO YOU BELIEVE?
Questions about religion are seldom popular. They frighten people. They oblige them to look within and to think. The insolvent tradesman does not like his books to be searched. The faithless steward does not like his accounts to be examined. And the unconverted Christian does not like to be asked home-questions about his soul.
But questions about religion are very useful. The Lord Jesus Christ asked many questions during His ministry on earth. The servant of Christ ought not to be ashamed to do likewise. Questions about things necessary to salvation,questions which probe the conscience, and bring men face to face with God,such questions often bring life and health to souls. I know few questions more important than the one before you today. DO YOU BELIEVE?
Reader, the question before you is no easy one to answer. Think not to thrust it aside by the off-hand answer, "Of course I believe." I tell you this day that true belief is no such "matter of course" as you suppose. I tell you that myriads of Protestants and Roman Catholics are constantly saying on Sundays, "I believe," who know nothing whatever of believing. They cannot explain what they mean. They neither know what, nor in whom, they believe. They can give no account of their faith. Reader, a belief of this kind is utterly useless. It can neither satisfy, nor sanctify, nor save.
I invite you in all affection to consider the question which heads this tract. I ask you to give me your attention while I try to place it before you in its full proportions. In order to see clearly the importance of "believing," you should ponder well the words of Christ to which I have already referred. It is by the unfolding of these words, that I shall hope to make you feel the weight of the question, "Do you believe?"
There are four things which I wish to show you, and to impress upon your mind.
I. God's mind towards the world,He "loved" it.
II. God's gift to the world,"He gave His only begotten Son."
III. The only way to obtain the benefit of God's gift,"Whosoever believeth on Him shall not perish."
IV. The marks by which true belief may be known.
Reader, I invite you to follow me step by step through the four points I have just stated. Do not throw down this tract in anger or impatience, but read it to the end. One thing I desire in writing it, and that is YOUR SALVATION.
I. Let us consider, in the first place, God's mind towards the world,He "loved" it.
The extent of the Father's love towards the world is a subject on which there is some difference of opinion. It is a subject on which I have long taken my side, and never hesitate to speak my mind. I believe that the Bible teaches us that God's love extends to all mankind. "His tender mercies are over all His works" (Psalm cxlv. 9). He did not love the Jews only, but the Gentiles also. He does not love His own elect only. He loves all the world.
But what kind of love is this with which the Father regards all mankind? It cannot be a love of complacency, or else He would cease to be a perfect God. He is one who cannot bear that which is evil. Oh, no! The world-wide love of which Jesus speaks is a love of kindness, pity, and compassion. Fallen as man is, and provoking as man's ways are, the heart of God is full of kindness towards him. While as a righteous Judge He hates sin, He is yet able in a certain sense to love sinners! The length and breadth of His compassion are not to be measured by our feeble measures. We are not to suppose that He is such an one as ourselves. Righteous and holy and pure as God is, it is yet possible for God to love all mankind.
Think, reader, for a moment, how wonderful is this extent of God's love. Look at the state of mankind in every part of the earth, and mark the amazing quantity of wickedness and ungodliness by which earth is defiled. Look at the millions of heathen worshipping stocks and stones, and living in a spiritual darkness "that may be felt." Look at the millions of Roman Catholics, burying the truth under man-made traditions, and giving the honour due to Christ to the church, the saints, and the priest. Look at the millions of Protestants who are content with a mere formal Christianity, and know nothing of Christian believing or Christian living except the name. Look at the land in which we live at this very day, and mark the sins which abound even in a privileged nation like our own. Think how drunkenness, and Sabbath-breaking, and uncleanness, and lying, and swearing, and pride, and covetousness, and infidelity, are crying aloud to God from one end of Great Britain to the other. And then remember that God loves this world! No wonder that we find it written that He is "merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth" (Exod. xxxiv. 6). His compassions fail not. He is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." He "would have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth." He "has no pleasure in the death of him that dieth." (2 Peter iii. 9: 1 Tim. ii. 4: Ezek. xxxiii. 11.) There lives not the man or woman on earth whom God regards with absolute hatred or complete indifference. His mercy is like all His other attributes. It passes knowledge. God loves the world.
Reader, there are divers and strange doctrines abroad in the present day about the love of God. It is a precious truth which Satan labours hard to obscure by misrepresentation and perversion. Grasp it firmly, and stand on your guard.
Beware of the common idea that God the Father is only an angry Being, whom sinful man can only regard with fear, and from whom he must flee to Christ for safety. Cast it aside as a baseless and unscriptural notion. Contend earnestly for all the attributes of God,for His holiness and His justice, as well as for His love. But never allow for one moment that there is any want of love towards sinners in any Person in the Blessed Trinity. Oh, no! Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father loves, and the Son loves, and the Holy Ghost loves. When Christ came on earth, the kindness and love of God toward man appeared. (Titus iii. 4.) The cross is the effect of the Father's love, and not the cause. Redemption is the result of the compassion of all three Persons in the Trinity. To place the Father and the Son in opposition one to another, is weak and crude theology. Christ died, not because God the Father hated, but because He loved the world.
Beware, again, of the common doctrine that God's love is limited and confined to His own elect, and that all the rest of mankind are passed by, neglected, and let alone. This also is a notion that will not bear examination by the light of Scripture. The father of a prodigal son can surely love and pity him, even when he is walking after his own lusts, and refusing to return home. The Maker of all things may surely love the work of His own hands with a love of compassion, even when rebellious against Him. Let us resist to the death the unscriptural doctrine of universal salvation. It is not true that all mankind will be finally saved. But let us not fly into the extreme of denying God's universal compassion. It is true that God "loves the world." Let us maintain jealously the privileges of God's elect. It is true that they are loved with a special love, and will be loved to all eternity. But let us not exclude any man or woman from the pale of God's kindness and compassion. We have no right to pare down the meaning of words when Jesus says, "God loved the world." The heart of God is far wider than that of man. There is a sense in which the Father loves all mankind.
Reader, if you never took up the service of Christ in real earnest, and have the least desire to begin, take comfort in the truth now before you. Take comfort in the thought that God the Father is a God of infinite love and compassion. Do not hang back and hesitate, under the idea that God is an angry Being, who is unwilling to receive sinners, and slow to pardon. Remember this day that love is the Father's darling attribute. In Him there is perfect justice, perfect purity, perfect wisdom, perfect knowledge, infinite power. But, above all, never forget there is in the Father a perfect love and compassion. Draw near to Him with boldness, because Jesus has made a way for you. But draw nigh to Him also with boldness, because it is written that "He loved the world."
Reader, if you have taken up the service of God already, never be ashamed of imitating Him whom you serve. Be full of love and kindness to all men, and full of special love to them that believe. Let there be nothing narrow, limited, contracted, stingy, or sectarian in your love. Do not only love your family and your friends;love all mankind. Love your neighbours and your fellow countrymen. Love strangers and foreigners. Love heathen and Mahometans. Love the worst of men with a love of pity. Love all the world. Lay aside all envy and malice,all selfishness and unkindness. To keep up such a spirit is to be no better than an infidel. Let all your things be done with charity. Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and be not weary of doing them good to your life's end. The world may sneer at such conduct and call it mean and low-spirited. But this is the mind of Christ. This is the way to be like God. GOD LOVED THE WORLD.
Orthodox ping. I think I may have pinged the list to the sermons of +Ryle, a 19th century Anglican bishop. His sermons are truly wonderful spiritual works of the the English language and thoough they were written 150 years ago or so, they are quite contemporary. Well worth reading and thinking about, gang.
See, Anglicanism, at least at one time, really did get the point. :)
Thanks for the pings. I really am liking these. Makes me nostalgic...
LOL, that was the point I was trying to make.
So I was right. It has been lost. Early in the linked page it says: "The idea of divinization, of redeemed human nature somehow participating in the very life of God, is found to a surprising extent throughout Christian history, although it is practically unknown to the majority of Christians (and even many theologians) in the West. In Orthodox theology, however, it is the controlling doctrine."
You had mentioned that the Mennonite/Amish might know this?
" You had mentioned that the Mennonite/Amish might know this?"
Me? I'm sure if I did I was kidding!
I must say it is astonishing to me that that as recently as the 19th century Anglican hierarchs understood and preached Theosis. Think for a moment on what effect that belief, regularly preached and believed, might have on a church!
With the growing interest in Eastern Orthodox/Evangelical rapprochement, it is essential that theosis studies be pursued. Evangelicals may receive considerable benefit from a clear understanding and judicious appropriation of the doctrine. This is so particularly in light of the crying need for a robust, biblical theology of the Christian life that will refute and replace the plethora of false spiritualities plaguing Church and society.And elsewhere
A more Westernized definition comes from Philip Edgecumbe Hughes, the deceased evangelical Anglican clergyman, biblical scholar and theologian in the Reformed tradition. Like a fair number of older Anglicans, he understood and saw considerable value in the doctrine of theosis.
I need to go away and get some work done, but will be back in a couple of hours.
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