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J.C. Ryle: "Do You Believe?" continued
Prydain ^ | 5/05/2006 | Will

Posted on 05/05/2006 7:05:40 PM PDT by sionnsar

In this next excerpt, Bishop Ryle addresses "whosoever believeth shall not perish":

III. The third thing I propose to consider, is the way in which man obtains the benefit of God's love and Christ's salvation. It is written that "whosoever believeth shall not perish."

Reader, the point before you is of the deepest importance. To bring it out clearly before your eyes is one great object of the tract you are now reading. God has loved the world. God has given His Son "to be the Saviour of the world" (1 John iv. 14). And yet we learn from Scripture that many persons in the world never reach heaven! Here at any rate is limitation. Here the gate is strait and the way narrow. Some and some only out of mankind obtain eternal benefit from Christ. Who then, and what, are they?

Christ and His benefits are only available to those who believe. This is a doctrine repeatedly laid down in Scripture, in plain and unmistakeable language. Those who will not believe in Him have no part in Him. Without believing there is no salvation. It is vain to suppose that any will be saved, merely because Christ was incarnate, or because Christ is in heaven, or because they belong to Christ's church, or because they are baptized, or because they have received the Lord's supper. All this is entirely useless to any man except he believes. Without faith on his part, all these things together will not save his soul. We must have personal faith in Christ, personal dealings with Christ, personal transactions with Christ, or we are lost for evermore. It is utterly false and unscriptural to say that Christ is in every man. Christ no doubt is for everyone, but Christ is not in everyone. He dwells only in those hearts which have faith, and all, unhappily, have not faith. He that believeth not in the Son of God is yet in his sins, the wrath of God abideth on him. "He that believeth not," says our Lord Jesus Christ in words of fearful distinctness, "He that believeth not shall be damned " (Mark vi. 16; John iii. 36).

But Christ and all His benefits are the property of anyone of mankind that believes. Everyone that believes on the Son of God is at once pardoned, forgiven, justified, counted righteous, reckoned innocent, and freed from all liability to condemnation. His sins, however many, are at once cleansed away by Christ's precious blood. His soul, however guilty, is at once clothed with Christ's perfect righteousness. It matters not what he may have been in time past. His sins may have been of the worst kind. His former character may be of the blackest description. But does he believe on the Son of God? This is the one question. If he does believe, he is justified from all things in the sight of God. It matters nothing that he can bring to Christ nothing to recommend him, no good works, no long-proved amendments, no unmistakeable repentance and change of life. But does he this day, believe in Jesus Christ? This is the grand question. If he does he is at once accepted. He is accounted righteous for Christ's sake.

But what is this believing, which is of such matchless importance? What is the nature of this faith which gives a man such amazing privileges? This is an important question. I ask your attention to the answer. Here is a rock on which many make shipwreck. And yet there is nothing really mysterious and hard to understand about saving belief. The whole difficulty arises from man's pride and self-righteousness. It is the very simplicity of justifying faith, at which thousands stumble. They cannot understand it because they will not stoop.

Believing on Christ is no mere intellectual assent, or belief of the head. This is no more than the faith of devils. We may believe that there was a divine Person called Jesus Christ, who lived and died and rose again, eighteen hundred years ago, and yet never believe so as to be saved. Doubtless there must be some knowledge before we can believe. There is no true religion in ignorance. But knowledge alone is not saving faith.

Believing on Christ again is not mere feeling something about Christ. This is often no more than temporary excitement, which, like the early dew, soon passes away. We may be pricked in conscience, and feel drawings toward the Gospel like Herod and Felix. We may even tremble and weep, and show much affection for the truth and those that profess it. And yet all this time our hearts and wills may remain utterly unchanged and secretly chained down to the world. Doubtless there is no saving faith where there is no feeling. But feeling alone is not faith.

True belief in Christ is the unreserved trust of a heart convinced of sin, in Christ, as an all-sufficient Saviour. It is the combined act of the whole man's head, conscience, heart, and will. It is often so weak and feeble at first, that he who has it cannot be persuaded that he has it. And yet, like life in the new born infant, his belief may be real, genuine, saving, and true. The moment that the conscience is convinced of sin, and the head sees Christ to be the only One who can save, and the heart and will lay hold on the hand that Christ holds out, that moment there is saving faith. In that moment a man believes.

True belief in Christ is so immensely important, that the Holy Ghost has graciously used many figures in the Bible in describing it. The Lord God knows the slowness of man to comprehend spiritual things. He has therefore multiplied forms of expression, in order to set faith fully before us. The man who cannot understand "believing" in one form of words, will perhaps understand it in another.

1. Believing is the soul's coming to Christ. The Lord Jesus says, "He that cometh to Me shall never hunger." "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (John vi. 35; Matt. xi. 28). Christ is that Almighty Friend, Advocate, and Physician, to whom all sinners, needing help, are commanded to apply. The believer comes to Him by faith, and is relieved.

2. Believing is the soul's receiving Christ. St. Paul says, "Ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord" (Col. ii. 6). Christ offers to come into man's heart with pardon, mercy, and grace, and to dwell there as its Peacemaker and King. He says, "I stand at the door and knock" (Rev. iii. 20). The believer hears His voice, opens the door, and admits Christ as his Master, Priest, and King.

3. Believing is the soul's building on Christ. St. Paul says, ye are "built up in Him." "Ye are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets" (Col. ii. 7; Ephes. ii. 20). Christ is that sure cornerstone, that strong foundation, which alone can bear the weight of a sinful soul. The believer places his hopes for eternity on Him, and is safe. The earth may be shaken and dissolved, but he is built upon a rock, and will never be confounded.

4. Believing is the soul's putting on Christ. St. Paul says, "As many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ" (Gal. iii. 27). Christ is that pure white robe, which God has provided for all sinners who would enter heaven. The believer puts on this robe by faith, and is at once perfect, and free from any spot in God's sight.

5. Believing is the soul's laying hold on Christ. St. Paul says, "We have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us" (Heb. vi. 18). Christ is that true city refuge, to which the man fleeing from the avenger of blood runs, and in which he is safe. Christ is that altar which provided a sanctuary to him who laid hold on its horns. Christ is that almighty hand of mercy, which God holds out from heaven to lost and drowning sinners. The believer lays hold on this hand by faith, and is delivered from the pit of hell.

6. Believing is the soul's eating Christ. The Lord Jesus says, "My flesh is meat indeed. He that eateth of this bread shall live for ever" (John vi. 55, 58). Christ is that divine food which God has provided for starving sinners. He is that divine bread which is at the same time, life, nourishment, and medicine. The believer feeds on this bread of life by faith. His hunger is relieved. His soul is delivered from death.

7. Believing is the soul's drinking Christ. The Lord Jesus says, "My blood is drink indeed" (John vi. 55). Christ is that fountain of living water which God has opened for the use of all thirsty and sin-defiled sinners, proclaiming, "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (Rev. xxii. 17). The believer drinks of this living water, and his thirst is quenched.

8. Believing is the soul's committal of itself to Christ. St. Paul says, "He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day" (2 Tim. i. 12). Christ is the appointed keeper and guardian of souls. It is His office to preserve from sin, death, hell, and the devil, anything committed to His charge. The believer places his soul in the hands of the Almighty treasure-keeper, and is insured against loss to all eternity. He trusts himself to Him and is safe.

9. Last, but not least, believing is the soul's look to Christ. St. Paul describes the saints as "looking unto Jesus" (Heb. xii. 2). The invitation of the Gospel is, "look unto Me and be ye saved" (Isaiah xlv. 22). Christ is that brazen serpent which God has set up in the world, for the healing of all sin-bitten souls who desire to be cured. The believer looks to Him by faith, and has life, health, and spiritual strength.

One common remark applies to all the nine expressions which I have just gone through. They all give us the simplest idea of faith or believing that man can desire. No one of them implies the notion of anything mysterious, great, or meritorious in the act of belief. All represent it as something within reach of the weakest and feeblest sinner, and within the comprehension of the most ignorant and unlearned. Grant for a moment that a man says he cannot understand what faith in Christ is. Let him look at the nine expressions under which faith is described in Scripture, and tell me, if he can, that he cannot understand them. Surely he must allow that coming to Christ, looking to Christ, committing our souls to Christ, laying hold on Christ, are simple ideas. Then let him remember that coming, looking, and committing our souls to Christ, are, in other words, believing.

And now, reader, if you love peace of conscience in your religion, I entreat you to grasp firmly the great doctrine which I have tried to set before you, and never let it go. Hold fast the grand truth, that saving faith is nothing but simple trust in Christ, that faith alone justifies, and that the one thing needful in order to obtain an interest in Christ is to believe. No doubt repentance, holiness, and charity are excellent things. They will always accompany true faith. But in the matter of justification, they have nothing to do. In that matter, the one thing needful is to believe. No doubt belief is not the only grace to be found in the heart of a true Christian. But only belief gives him an interest in Christ. Prize that doctrine as the peculiar treasure of Christianity. Once let it go, or add anything to it, and there is an end of inward peace.

Prize the doctrine for its suitableness to the wants of fallen man. It places salvation within reach of the lowest and vilest sinner, if he has but heart and will to receive it. It asks him not for works, righteousness, merit, goodness, worthiness. It requires nothing of him. It strips him of all excuses. It deprives him of all pretext for despair. His sins may have been as scarlet. But will he believe? Then there is hope.

Prize the doctrine for its glorious simplicity. It brings eternal life near to the poor, and ignorant, and unlearned. It does not ask a man for a long confession of doctrinal orthodoxy. It does not require a store of head knowledge, and an acquaintance with articles and creeds. Does the man, with all his ignorance, come to Christ as a sinner, and commit himself entirely to Him for salvation? Will he believe? If he will, there is hope.

Above all, prize the doctrine for the glorious breadth and fulness of its terms. It does not say "the elect" who believe, or "the rich" who believe, or "the moral" people who believe, or "the Churchman" who believes, or "the Dissenter" who believes, these, and these only shall be saved. Oh! no, it uses a word of far wider signification: It says, "Whosoever believeth, shall not perish." Whosoever, whatever his past life, conduct, or character, whatever his name, rank, people, or country, whatever his denomination, and whatever place of worship he may have attended; whosoever believeth in Christ shall not perish.

Reader, this is the Gospel. I marvel not that St. Paul wrote those words, "if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed" (Gal. i. 8).
And I do not think one will find a clearer explanation of the Gospel than this. May the Lord grant that many will rediscover these truths--or discover them for the first time.

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant

1 posted on 05/05/2006 7:05:43 PM PDT by sionnsar
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To: ahadams2; meandog; gogeo; Lord Washbourne; Calabash; axegrinder; AnalogReigns; Uriah_lost; ...
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Speak the truth in love. Eph 4:15

2 posted on 05/05/2006 7:06:47 PM PDT by sionnsar (†† | Iran Azadi 2006 | SONY: 5yst3m 0wn3d - it's N0t Y0urs)
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To: sionnsar
He slips in too many slams against the Catholics for me to read him with enjoyment.

In the last installment you published, there was a doozy. And it was wholly unnecessary to his argument too - just thrown in there.

Gives me the same kinda feeling I get when I read Charles Kingsley's novels (The Water Babies and Westward Ho!, e.g.). Great books, but he just can't resist throwing in totally gratuitous uglies against the Romans.

3 posted on 05/06/2006 10:30:35 AM PDT by AnAmericanMother ((Ministrix of Ye Chase, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment)))
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