J. C. Ryle (1816-1900)
There are two ways by which a man may lose his own soul. What are they?
1. He may lose his soul by living and dying without any religion at all. He may
live and die like a beast, prayerless, godless, graceless, faithless. This is a sure
way to hell. Mind that you do not walk in it.
2. He may lose his soul by taking up some kind of religion. He may live and die
contenting himself with a false Christianity and resting on a baseless hope. This is the
commonest way to hell there is.
What do I mean by useless kinds of religion? I will tell you. The first thing I wish
to say is this. A religion is entirely useless in which Jesus Christ is not the principal
object and does not fill the principal place.
There are only too many baptized men and women who practically know nothing
about Christ. Their religion consists in a few vague notions and empty expressions.
“They trust they are no worse than others; they keep to their Church; they try to do
their duty; they do nobody any harm; they hope God will be merciful to them! They
trust the Almighty will pardon their sins and take them to heaven when they die.” This
is about the whole of their religion.
But what do these people know practically about Christ? Nothing: nothing at all!
What experiential acquaintance have they with His offices and work, His blood, His
righteousness, His mediation, His priesthood, His intercession? None: none at all! Ask
them about a saving faith—ask them about being born again of the Spirit—ask them
about being sanctified in Christ Jesus. What answer will you get? You are a barbarian
to them. You have asked them simple Bible questions; but they know no more about
them experientially than a Buddhist or a Muslim.
And yet this is the religion of hundreds of thousands of people who are called
Christians all over the world.
lf you are a man of this kind, I warn you plainly that such Christianity will never
take you to heaven. It may do very well in the eyes of men; it may pass muster very
decently at the [church] meeting, in the place of business, in the House of Commons,
or in the streets. But it will never comfort you. It will never satisfy your conscience. It
will never save your soul.
I warn you plainly that all notions and theories about God being merciful without
Christ and excepting through Christ are baseless delusions and empty fancies. Such
theories are purely an idol of man’s invention. They are all of the earth, earthy: they
never came down from heaven. The God of heaven has sealed and appointed Christ as
the one and only Savior and way of life; and all who would be saved must be content to
be saved by Him, or they will never be saved at all. I give you fair warning. A religion
without Christ will never save your soul (Joh 14:6)!
But I have another thing yet to say. A religion is entirely useless in which you
join anything with Christ in the matter of saving your soul. You must not only depend
on Christ for salvation, but you must depend on Christ only and Christ alone (Eph 2:8-
There are multitudes of baptized men and women who profess to honor Christ,
but in reality do Him great dishonor. They give Christ a certain place in their system of
religion, but not the place which God intended Him to fill. Christ alone is not “all in
all” to their souls (Eph 1:23). No: it is either Christ and the Church, or Christ and the
Sacraments, or Christ and His ordained ministers, or Christ and their own goodness,
or Christ and their own prayers, or Christ and their own sincerity and charity—on
which they practically rest their souls.
If you are a Christian of this kind I warn you also plainly that your religion is an
offence to God. You are changing God’s plan of salvation into a plan of your own
devising. You are, in effect, deposing Christ from His throne by giving the glory due to
Him to another.
I care not who it is that teaches you your religion and on whose word
you build. Whether he be Pope or Cardinal, Archbishop or Bishop, Dean or
Archdeacon, Presbyter or Deacon, Episcopalian or Presbyterian, Baptist or
Independent, Methodist or Plymouth Brother—whosoever adds anything to Christ,
teaches you wrong (Gal 1:6-8).
I care not what it is that you add to Christ. Whether it be the necessity of joining
the Church of Rome, or of being an Episcopalian, or of becoming a Free Churchman,
or of giving up the liturgy, or of being baptized by immersion, whatever you may
practically add to Christ in the matter of salvation, you do Christ an injury.
Take heed what you are doing. Beware of giving to Christ’s servants the honour
due to none but Christ. Beware of giving the Lord’s ordinances the honour due unto
the Lord. Beware of resting the burden of your soul on anything but Christ, and Christ
alone. Beware of having a religion which is of no use, and cannot save.
[Christ] left the glory He had from all eternity with the Father and came down
into the world to provide salvation. He took our nature upon Him and was born as a
man. As a man He did the will of God perfectly (Mat 17:5), which we all had left
undone (Rom 3:23). As a man He suffered on the cross the wrath of God which we
ought to have suffered (Rom 6:23). He brought in everlasting righteousness for us
(Dan 9:24). He redeemed us from the curse of a broken law (Luk 1:68; Rev 5:9). He
opened a fountain for all sin and uncleaness. He died for our sins. He rose again for
our justification (Rom 4:25)). He ascended to God’s right hand, and there sat down,
waiting till His enemies should be made his footstool (Luk 20:42-43). And there He sits
now, [calling] to all who will come to Him, interceding for all who believe in Him, and
managing by God’s appointment all that concerns the salvation of souls (Joh 3; Eph 1-
2; Rom 3-5).
It is an awful thing to have no religion at all. To have an immortal soul
committed to your charge and neglect it—this is dreadful.
But it’s no less an awful thing to be content with a religion than can do you no
Do not let this be your case!
"Afresh, precious, precious Jesus, I resign this body to You, for doing or suffering, for living or dying. Will You accept it? Will You use me for Your glory more than heretofore, that You may have some little return for all the benefits You have done to me? Oh, do grant this request; my heart longs for it, my spirit pleads for it; and "if You will, You can." You know the hot temptation of which I am the subject. Bring Your glory out of it, and keep me from the evil, and it shall be well." - Ruth Bryan