Treason? The evangelical Bishop J.C. Ryle raises the alarm for those Christians who at “at peace” with the enemies of their soul, the enemies of Christ….
I fear much for many professing Christians. I see no sign of fighting in them, much less of victory. They never strike one blow on the side of Christ. They are at peace with his enemies. They have no quarrel with sin. I warn you, this is not Christianity. This is not the way to heaven.
I often fear much for those who hear the gospel regularly. I fear lest you become so familiar with the sound of its doctrines, that insensibly you become dead to its power. I fear lest your religion should sink down into a little vague talk about your own weakness and corruption, and a few sentimental expressions about Christ, while real, practical, fighting on Christ’s side is altogether neglected. Oh, beware of this state of mind. “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22). No victory—no crown! Fight and overcome!
Young men and women, and especially those who have been brought up in religious families, I fear much for you. I fear lest you get a habit of giving way to every temptation. I fear lest you become afraid of saying, “No!” to the world and the devil -— and when sinners entice you, think it least trouble to consent. Beware, I do beseech you, of giving way. Every concession will make you weaker. Go into the world resolved to fight Christ’s battle — and fight your way on.
…Let me warn all formalists and self-righteous people to take heed that they are not deceived. You fancy you will go to heaven because you go regularly to church. You indulge an expectation of eternal life, because you are always at the Lord’s Table, and are never missing in your pew. But where is your repentance? Where is your faith? Where are your evidences of a new heart? Where is the work of the Spirit? Where are your evidences of regeneration? Oh, formal Christian, consider these questions! Tremble, tremble and repent.
…Let me warn all careless members of churches to beware lest they trifle their souls into hell. You live on year after year as if there was no battle to be fought with sin, the world, and the devil. You pass through life a smiling, laughing, gentleman-like or lady-like person, and behave as if there was no devil, no heaven, and no hell. Oh, careless Churchman, or careless Dissenter, careless Episcopalian, careless Presbyterian, careless Independent, careless Baptist, awake to see eternal realities in their true light! Awake and fight hard for life! Tremble, trembleand repent. [emphasis added]
I came by this passage (from Ryle’s book Holiness) from a well-known pastor in Africa, Conrad Mbewe — who said when he first read this passage as a university student, he made a poster of that first paragraph and put it up in his room. This quotation carries deep, penetrating questions for every reader. If it makes us anxious for our spiritual standing, then come before the Lord in prayer to make things right. Resolve to believe, and act, and persevere in our faith as a Christian must.