Category Archives: J.C. Ryle

“A zealous man lives for one thing” by J.C. Ryle

“A zealous man in religion is pre-eminently a man of one thing. It is not enough to say that he is earnest, hearty, uncompromising, thorough-going, whole-hearted, fervent in spirit.

He only sees one thing, he cares for one thing, he lives for one thing, he is swallowed up in one thing; and that one thing is to please God.

Whether he lives, or whether he dies,—whether he has health, or whether he has sickness,—whether he is rich, or whether he is poor,—whether he pleases man, or whether he gives offense,—whether he is thought wise, or whether he is thought foolish,—whether he gets blame, or whether he gets praise,—whether he gets honor, or whether he gets shame,—for all this the zealous man cares nothing at all.

He burns for one thing, and that one thing is to please God and to advance God’s glory. If he is consumed in the very burning, he cares not for it,—he is content. He feels that, like a lamp, he is made to burn; and if consumed in burning, he has but done the work for which God appointed him.”

—J.C. Ryle, Practical Religion: Being Plain Papers on the Daily Duties, Experience, Dangers, and Privileges of Professing Christians (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1878/2013), 174-175.

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“The priceless merit of His sufferings” by J.C. Ryle

“We must not be content with a vague general belief, that Christ’s sufferings on the cross were vicarious. We are intended to see this truth in every part of His passion.

We may follow Him all through, from the bar of Pilate, to the minute of His death, and see Him at every step as our mighty Substitute, our Representative, our Head, our Surety, our Proxy, the Divine Friend who undertook to stand in our stead, and by the priceless merit of His sufferings, to purchase our redemption.

Was He scourged? It was that ‘through His stripes we might be healed.’

Was He condemned, though innocent? It was that we might be acquitted though guilty.

Did He wear a crown of thorns? It was that we might wear the crown of glory.

Was He stripped of His raiment? It was that we might be clothed in everlasting righteousness.

Was He mocked and reviled? It was that we might be honored and blessed.

Was He reckoned a malefactor, and numbered among transgressors? It was that we might be reckoned innocent, and justified from all sin.

Was He declared unable to save Himself? It was that He might be able to save others to the uttermost.

Did He die at last, and that the most painful and disgraceful of deaths? It was that we might live forevermore, and be exalted to the highest glory.

Let us ponder these things well. They are worth remembering.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Matthew (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1856/2012), 314. Ryle is commenting on Matthew 27:45-56.

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“Without Christ crucified” by J.C. Ryle

“The cross is the foundation of a church’s prosperity. No church will ever be honored in which Christ crucified is not continually lifted up.

Nothing whatever can make up for the want of the cross. Without it all things may be done decently and in order.

Without it there may be splendid ceremonies, beautiful music, gorgeous churches, learned ministers, crowded communion tables, huge collections for the poor. But without the cross no good will be done.

Dark hearts will not be enlightened.
Proud hearts will not be humbled.
Mourning hearts will not be comforted.
Fainting hearts will not be cheered.

Sermons about the Catholic Church and an apostolic ministry,—sermons about baptism and the Lord’s supper,—sermons about unity and schism,—sermons about fasts and communion,—sermons about fathers and saints,—such sermons will never make up for the absence of sermons about the cross of Christ.

They may amuse some. They will feed none. A gorgeous banqueting room and splendid gold plate on the table will never make up to a hungry man for the want of food.

Christ crucified is God’s grand ordinance for doing good to men. Whenever a church keeps back Christ crucified, or puts anything whatever in that foremost place which Christ crucified should always have, from that moment a church ceases to be useful.

Without Christ crucified in her pulpits, a church is little better than a cumberer of the ground, a dead carcass, a well without water, a barren fig tree, a sleeping watchman, a silent trumpet, a dumb witness, an ambassador without terms of peace, a messenger without tidings, a lighthouse without fire, a stumbling-block to weak believers, a comfort to infidels, a hot-bed for formalism, a joy to the devil, and an offence to God.”

–J.C. Ryle, Startling Questions (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1853), 295–297.

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“We have Christ, and having Him, we have all” by J.C. Ryle

“Last of all, if it be right to ‘hold fast that which is good,’ (1 Thess. 5:21) let us make sure that we have each laid hold personally upon Christ’s truth for ourselves.

It will not save us to know all controversies and to be able to detect everything which is false. Head knowledge will never bring us to heaven. It will not save us to be able to argue and reason with Roman Catholics or to detect the errors of the Popes’ Bulls.

Let us see that we each lay hold upon Jesus Christ for ourselves, by our own personal faith.

Let us see to it that we each flee for refuge, and lay hold upon the hope set before us in His glorious Gospel.

Let us do this, and all shall be well with us, whatever else may go ill.

Let us do this, and then all things are ours.

The church may fail.
The state may go to ruin.
The foundations of all establishments may be shaken.
The enemies of truth may for a season prevail.

But as for us, all shall be well. We shall have in this world peace, and in the world which is to come, life everlasting; for we shall have Christ, and having Him, we have all.

This is real ‘good,’ lasting good, good in sickness, good in health, good in life, good in death, good in time, and good in eternity.

All other things are but uncertain.
They all wear out.
They fade.
They droop.
They wither.
They decay.

The longer we have them the more worthless we find them, and the more satisfied we become, that everything here below is ‘vanity and vexation of spirit.’

But as for hope in Christ, that is always good. The longer we use it the better it seems. The more we wear it in our hearts the brighter it will look.

It is good when we first have it.
It is better far when we grow older.
It is better still in the day of trial, and the hour of death.

And it will prove best of all in the day of judgment.”

–J.C. Ryle, Knots Untied: Being Plain Statements on Disputed Points in Religion (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1874/2016), 60-61.

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“Let us never make ministers Popes” by J.C. Ryle

“If a man’s religion hangs on ministers, whoever they may be, and not on the Word of God, it hangs on a broken reed.

Let us never make ministers Popes.

Let us follow them so far as they follow Christ, but not a hair’s breadth further.

Let us believe whatever they can show us out of the Bible, but not a single word more (Acts 17:11-12; 1 Thess. 5:21).”

–J.C. Ryle, Knots Untied: Being Plain Statements on Disputed Points in Religion (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1874/2016), 55.

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“At the time when He Himself was dying, He conferred on a sinner eternal life” by J.C. Ryle

“First of all you are meant to learn from these verses Christ’s power and willingness to save sinners. This is the main doctrine to be gathered from the history of the penitent thief. It teaches you that which ought to be music in the ears of all who hear it,—it teaches you that Jesus Christ is mighty to save.

I ask you if any man’s case could look more hopeless and desperate, than that of this penitent thief once did?

He was a wicked man—a malefactor,—a thief, if not a murderer. We know this, for such only were crucified. He was suffering a just punishment for breaking the laws. And as he had lived wicked, so he seemed determined to die wicked,—for when he first was crucified he railed on our Lord.

And he was a dying man. He hung there, nailed to a cross, from which he was never to come down alive. He had no longer power to stir hand or foot. His hours were numbered. The grave was ready for him. There was but a step between him and death.

If ever there was a soul hovering on the brink of hell, it was the soul of this thief. If ever there was a case that seemed lost, gone, and past recovery, it was his. If ever there was a child of Adam whom the devil made sure of as his own, it was this man.

But see now what happened. He ceased to rail and blaspheme, as he had done at the first. He began to speak in another manner altogether. He turned to our blessed Lord in prayer. He prayed Jesus to ‘remember him when He came into His kingdom.’ He asked that his soul might be cared for, his sins pardoned, and himself thought of in another world. Truly this was a wonderful change.

And then mark what kind of answer he received. Some would have said he was too wicked a man to be saved. But it was not so. Some would have fancied it was too late, the door was shut, and there was no room for mercy. But it proved not too late at all.

The Lord Jesus returned him an immediate answer,—spoke kindly to him,—assured him he should be with Him that day in paradise,—pardoned him completely—cleansed him thoroughly from his sins—received him graciously—justified him freely—raised him from the gates of hell,—gave him a title to glory.

Of all the multitude of saved souls, none ever received so glorious an assurance of his own salvation, as did this penitent thief. Go over the whole list from Genesis to Revelation, and you will find none who had such words spoken to them as these, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

Reader, the Lord Jesus never gave so complete a proof of His power and will to save, as He did upon this occasion. In the day when He seemed most weak, He showed that he was a strong deliverer. In the hour when his body was racked with pain, He showed that He could feel tenderly for others. At the time when He Himself was dying, he conferred on a sinner eternal life.

Now have I not a right to say, “Jesus is able to save to the uttermost all them that come unto God through Him?” Behold the proof of it. If ever sinner was too far gone to be saved, it was this thief. Yet he was plucked as a brand from the fire.

Have I not a right to say. “Christ will receive any poor sinner who comes to Him with the prayer of faith, and cast out none?” Behold the proof of it. If ever there was one that seemed too bad to be received, this was the man. Yet the door of mercy was wide open even for him.

Have I not a right to say, “By grace ye may be saved through faith, not of works,—fear not, only believe?” Behold the proof of it. This thief was never baptized. He belonged to no visible church. He never received the Lord’s Supper. He never did any work for Christ. He never gave money to Christ’s cause,—But he had faith, and so he was saved.

Have I not a right to say, “The youngest faith will save a man’s soul, if it only be true?” Behold the proof of it. This man’s faith was only one day old, but it led him to Christ, and preserved him from hell.

Why then should any man or woman despair with such a passage as this in the Bible? Jesus is a physician who can cure hopeless cases. He can quicken dead souls, and call the things which be not as though they were.

Never should any man or woman despair! Jesus is still the same now that He was eighteen hundred years ago. The keys of death and hell are in His hand. When He opens none can shut.*

What though your sins be more in number than the hairs of your head? What though your evil habits have grown with your growth, and strengthened with your strength? What though you have hitherto hated good, and loved evil, all the days of your life?

These things are sad indeed; but there is hope even for you. Christ can heal you. Christ can cleanse you. Christ can raise you from your low estate. Heaven is not shut against you. Christ is able to admit you, if you will humbly commit your soul into His hands.

Reader, are your sins forgiven? If not, I set before you this day a full and free salvation. I invite you to follow the steps of the penitent thief,—come to Christ, and live. I tell you that Jesus is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. I tell you He can do everything that your soul requires. Though your sins be as scarlet, He can make them white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. Why should you not be saved as well as another? Come unto Christ by faith, and live.

Reader, are you a true believer? If you are, you ought to glory in Christ. Glory not in your own faith, your own feelings, your own knowledge, your own prayers, your own amendment, your own diligence. Glory in nothing but Christ. Alas! the best of us knows but little of that merciful and mighty Saviour. We do not exalt Him and glory in Him enough. Let us pray that we may see more of the fulness there is in Him.

Reader, do you ever try to do good to others? If you do, remember to tell them about Christ. Tell the young, tell the poor, tell the aged, tell the ignorant, tell the sick, tell the dying,—tell them all about Christ. Tell them of His power, and tell them of His love. Tell them of His doings, and tell them of His feelings. Tell them of what He has done for the chief of sinners. Tell them what He is willing to do to the last day of time. Tell it them over and over again.

Never be tired of speaking of Christ. Say to them broadly and fully, freely and unconditionally, unreservedly and undoubtingly, ‘Come unto Christ as the penitent thief did,—come unto Christ, and you shall be saved.'”

–J.C. Ryle, Living or Dead? A Series of Home Truths (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1851), 258–265.

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“Do you want an unfailing friend?” by J.C. Ryle

“Do we want an unfailing friend? Such a friend is the Lord Jesus Christ.

The saddest part of all the good things of earth is their instability. Riches make themselves wings and flee away; youth and beauty are but for a few years; strength of body soon decays; mind and intellect are soon exhausted.

All is perishing. All is fading. All is passing away. But there is one splendid exception to this general rule, and that is the friendship of Jesus Christ.

The Lord Jesus is a friend who never changes. There is no fickleness about Him: those whom He loves, He loves unto the end. Husbands have been known to forsake their wives; parents have been known to cast off their children; human vows and promises of faithfulness have often been forgotten.

Thousands have been neglected in their poverty and old age, who were honoured by all when they were rich and young. But Christ never changed His feelings towards one of His friends. He is ‘the same yesterday, today, and forever.’ (Heb. 13:8.)

The Lord Jesus never goes away from His friends. There is never a parting and good-bye between Him and His people. From the time that He makes His abode in the sinner’s heart, He abides in it forever.

The world is full of leave-takings and departures: death and the lapse of time break up the most united family; sons go forth to make their way in life; daughters are married, and leave their father’s house forever.

Scattering, scattering, scattering, is the yearly history of the happiest home. How many we have tearfully watched as they drove away from our doors, whose pleasant faces we have never seen again!

How many we have sorrowfully followed to the grave, and then come back to a cold, silent, lonely, and blank fireside! But, thanks be to God, there is One who never leaves His friends! The Lord Jesus is He who has said, ‘I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.’ (Heb. 13:5.)

The Lord Jesus goes with His friends wherever they go. There is no possible separation between Him and those whom He loves. There is no place or position on earth, or under the earth, that can divide them from the great Friend of their souls.

When the path of duty calls them far away from home, He is their companion.

When they pass through the fire and water of fierce tribulation, He is with them.

When they lie down on the bed of sickness, He stands by them and makes all their trouble work for good.

When they go down the valley of the shadow of death, and friends and relatives stand still and can go no further, He goes down by their side.

When they wake up in the unknown world of Paradise, they are still with Him.

When they rise with a new body at the judgment day, they will not be alone.

He will own them for His friends, and say, ‘They are mine: deliver them and let them go free.’ He will make good His own words: ‘I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.’ (Matt. 28:20.)

Look round the world, and see how failure is written on all men’s schemes. Count up the partings, and separations, and disappointments, and bereavements which have happened under your own knowledge.

Think what a privilege it is that there is One at least who never fails, and in whom no one was ever disappointed! Never, never was there so unfailing a friend as Jesus Christ.”

–J.C. Ryle, Practical Religion: Being Plain Papers on the Daily Duties, Experience, Dangers, and Privileges of Professing Christians (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1878/2013), 327-328.

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