Highlights: Forgiveness by J.C. Ryle

I think my blog is technically still considered in it’s infancy, and one of the things I’m very excited to begin doing is book reviews, and in some cases sermon highlights. I’ll mostly focus on books, but I recently read through this sermon by J.C. Ryle, simply titled “Forgiveness”, that is just so full of great quotes that I want to share some of the highlights.

If you were to ask me who my favorite preacher is right now, I’d have a hard time deciding between J.C. Ryle and Charles Spurgeon. The name of Charles Spurgeon is well known among many Christians across many denominations, and for good reason! Ryle however, writing around the same time, is much lesser known. I hope that will change though. Ryle, like Spurgeon, is pastoral and practical. He is very easy to read, straightforward, and full of Scripture quotations. While some of his works consist of commentaries, most of his books are simply compilations of his sermons. And now Ryle, though dead, speaks:

 Where then must a man go for pardon?

That way is simply to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior. It is to cast your soul, with all its sins, unreservedly on Christ; to cease completely from any dependence on your own works or doings, either in whole or in part; and to rest on no other work but Christ’s work, no other righteousness  but Christ’s righteousness, no other merit but Christ’s merit, as your ground of hope.

Ryle does not muddle the simplicity that is in Christ. The Gospel is hard in the sense that it is difficult for those who love the darkness to come to the Light, but it is not hard in the sense that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. The way of forgiveness is not complex, but easy to understand.

It is not orders, endowments, liturgies, or learning that will keep a church alive. Let free forgiveness through Christ be faithfully proclaimed in her pulpits, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against her. Let it be buried, or kept back, and her candlestick will soon be taken away. A church is only useful so far as she exalts free forgiveness through Christ.

There may be comfortable pews; there may be good singing; there may be learned sermons. But if Christ’s Gospel is not the sun and center of the whole place, do not pitch your tent there. Say rather with Isaac, “Here is the wood and the fire, but where is the Lamb?” (Gen 22:7). Be very sure, this is not the place for your soul.

Forgiveness is at the heart of the message the Church has been entrusted with, and is responsible for spreading as far and wide as possible. We are not called to proclaim the psychology or philosophy of our day, but rather, “repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” The ministry Christ has given us is not necessarily the message people want, but the message people need: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor 5:18-20)

Praised be God, that in the matter of our pardon there is nothing left for man to do! Jesus does all, and man has only to hold out an empty hand and to receive.

It ought to be a great comfort to you and me to hear of any pardon at all; but to hear Jesus Himself inviting us, to see Jesus Himself holding out His hands to us-the Savior seeking the sinner before the sinner seeks the Savior-this is encouragement, this is strong consolation indeed!

The modern notion of being “seeker sensitive” is not really found in the bible. I think all churches should be seeker sensitive in the sense that we are very careful to be sensitive to the Spirit of our Holy God. For Scripture says that “no one seeks for God”, but “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Rom 3:11, Luke 19:10)

Thousands and tens of thousands have sought for pardon at the mercy seat of Christ, and not one has ever returned to say that he sought in vain…The treasury of Christ’s mercies has never been found empty. The well of living waters has never proved dry.

Such an one is rich. He has treasure in heaven which cannot be affected by worldly changes, compared to which Peru and California are nothing at all. He need not envy the richest merchants and bankers. He has a portion that will endure when bank-notes and sovereigns are worthless things. He can say, like the Spanish ambassador, when shown the treasury at Venice, “My Master’s treasury has no bottom.” He has Christ.

The riches of Christ are past finding out! There is mercy in the blood of Christ to blot out every sin, by every person who has ever lived, for all of time. The sin of men will never outweigh the grace of God.

Those people who talk of “the Lord,” and “the Almighty,” and “the Deity,” and so forth, but have not a word to say about Christ, are in anything but a right state of mind. What saith the Scripture? “He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father which hath sent him” (Joh 5:23). “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema” (1 Co 16:22).

I do not deny that there are proud saints. But this I do say, they are of all God’s creatures the most inconsistent, and of all God’s children the most likely to stumble and pierce themselves with many sorrows.

When you and I have nothing we can call our own but sin and weakness, there is surely no garment that becomes us so well as humility.

Pride is most unbecoming to Christians, and most contrary to what our demeanor should be. When all I do is look to others around me, it’s really easy to begin thinking that I am somehow better than others. Whenever that happens, I find myself constantly coming back to this verse: “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:3-6)

Pardon of sin and love of sin are like oil and water-they will never go together. All that are washed in the blood of Christ are also sanctified by the Spirit of Christ.

Consider that Jesus “gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works.” And it readily appears that we weren’t saved in such a way as to make us lazy, or indifferent to sin. As Paul says, we have been set free from sin, and “become slaves of righteousness.” The redemption that Christ provides should manifest itself in a passionate motivation for good works, rather than a license to sin.

Man’s idea is to amend, and turn over a new leaf, and so work his way up to reconciliation and friendship with God; the Gospel way is first to be friends with God through Christ, and then to work. Man’s idea is to toil up the hill, and find life at the top; the Gospel way is first to live by faith in Christ, and then to do His will.

I believe this is a deception humans will be dealing with until Kingdom come. This innate need we have to try to make things right on our own, and then come to God, pervades religion. We try to make ourselves clean before approaching God, in part probably because by natural revelation from Him we understand that He is holy. But that isn’t the gospel. When coming to Christ, we can only bring our filthy rags, and then He will make us as white as snow. On this subject I heartily recommend “Sit, Walk, Stand” by Watchman Nee.

Finally, let us say to everything in the world that interferes between ourselves and Jesus Christ, “Stand aside”.

*If you enjoyed these excerpts, you can read the full sermon here.

**This sermon is also included in Ryle’s book “Old Paths”, which there is a free eBook link to on the Resources page.


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