“Let others, if they will, preach the law and morality. Let others hold forth the terrors of hell, and the joys of heaven. Let others drench their congregations with teachings about the sacraments and the church. Give me the cross of Christ!
This is the only lever which has ever turned the world upside down hitherto, and made men forsake their sins. And if this will not, nothing will. A man may begin preaching with a perfect knowledge of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, but he will do little or no good among his hearers unless he knows something of the cross.
Never was there a minister who did much for the conversion of souls who did not dwell much on Christ crucified. Luther, Rutherford, Whitefield, M’Cheyne, were all most eminently preachers of the cross. This is the preaching that the Holy Ghost delights to bless. He loves to honour those who honour the cross.
The cross is the foundation of a Church’s prosperity. No Church will ever be honoured 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 a lack of food.
Christ crucified is God’s 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, Old Paths: Being Plain Statements of Some of the Weightier Matters of Christianity (London: Charles J. Thynne, 1898), 257-259.