Saturday, March 18, 2006
Weekender -- J.C. Ryle, "Forgiveness" (Part 1)

I have found the blogosphere to be somewhat slow around the weekend, so I have decided to post some kind of edifying work from the past on Saturdays.

My first post will be a series from J.C. Ryle (1816-1900, Bishop of the Anglican Church): "Forgiveness." It is a wonderful, gospel-centered work.

THERE is a clause near the end of the Belief, or Apostle's Creed, which, I fear, is often repeated without thought or consideration. I refer to the clause which contains these words,” I believe in the forgiveness of sins.” Thousands, I am afraid, never reflect what those words mean. I propose to examine the subject of them in the following paper, and I invite the attention of all who care for their souls and want to be saved. Do we believe in the “Resurrection of our bodies”? Then let us see to it that we know something by experience of the “Forgiveness of our sins.”

I. Let me show, first of all, our need of forgiveness.

All men need forgiveness, because all men are sinners. He that does not know this, knows nothing in religion. It is the very A B C of Christianity that a man should know his right place in the sight of God and understand his deserts.

We are all great sinners. “There is none righteous, no, not one” — “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:10, 23). Sinners we were born, and sinners we have been all our lives. We take to sin naturally from the very first. No child ever needs schooling and education to teach it to do wrong. No devil or bad companion ever leads us into such wickedness as our own hearts. And “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6: 23). We must either be forgiven, or lost eternally.

We are all guilty sinners in the sight of God. We have broken His holy law. We have transgressed His precepts. We have not done His will. There is not a commandment in all the ten which does not condemn us. If we have not broken it in deed we have in word; if we have not broken it in word, we have in thought and imagination, — and that continually. Tried by the standard of the fifth chapter of St. Matthew, there is not one of us that would be acquitted. All the world is “guilty before God.” And “As it is appointed unto men once to die, so after this comes the judgment.” We must either be forgiven, or perish everlastingly (Rom 3:19; Heb 9: 27).

And then what is the Lord God, whose eyes are on all our ways, and before whom we have one day to give account? “Holy, holy, holy,” is the remarkable expression applied to Him by those who are nearest to Him (Isa 6:3; Rev 4:8). It sounds as if no one word could express the intensity of His holiness. One of His prophets says, “He is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity” (Hab 1:13). We think the angels exalted beings, and far above ourselves; but we are told in Scripture, “He charged His angels with folly” (Job 4:18). We admire the moon and stars as glorious and splendid bodies; but we read, “Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not, yea the stars are not pure in His sight” (Job 25:5). We talk of the heavens as the noblest and purest part of creation; but even of them it is written, “The heavens are not clean in His sight” (Job 15:15). What then is any one of us but a miserable sinner in the sight of such a God as this?

Surely we ought all to cease from proud thoughts about ourselves. We ought to lay our hands upon our mouths, and say with Abraham, “I am dust and ashes;” and with Job, “I am vile;” and with Isaiah, “We are all as an unclean thing;” and with John, “If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (Gen 18:27; Job 40:4; Isa 64:6; 1Jo 1:8). Where is the man or woman in the whole catalogue of the Book of Life, that will ever be able to say more than this, “I obtained mercy”? What is the glorious company of the apostles, the goodly fellowship of the prophets, the noble army of martyrs, — what are they all but pardoned sinners? Surely there is but one conclusion to be arrived at: — we are all great sinners, and we all need a great forgiveness.

See now what just cause I have to say that to know our need of forgiveness is the first thing in true religion. Sin is a burden, and must be taken off. Sin is a defilement, and must be cleansed away. Sin is a mighty debt, and must be paid. Sin is a mountain standing between us and heaven, and must be removed. Happy is that mother's child amongst us that feels all this! The first step towards heaven is to see clearly that we deserve hell. There are but two alternatives before us, — we must either be forgiven, or be miserable for ever.

posted at 6:30 PM  

About Me


I am a former Mormon who has been saved by Jesus Christ. Now I am a missionary involved with the Africa Center for Apologetics Research (ACFAR). I seek to live in light of Paul's words: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21 ESV)

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