I Have Something to Say to You
by J. C. Ryle
Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." Luke 7:40
Reader, I do not know who you are. I know not whether you are old or young, rich or poor, learned or unlearned. I only know that you are a child of Adam, and have a soul to be lost or saved. And therefore I say, "hear me! I have somewhat to say unto you!" Reader, I have four things to say, and they shall soon be said. The Lord make them words in season to your soul.
I. Firstly, I have a word of WISHES AND DESIRESfor every one into whose hands these pages may fall. I tell you it is my heart's desire and prayer to God for you, that you may be saved. I want you to be convinced of your sinfulness in the sight of God, to feel your need of a Savior, to know Christ by faith, and to have eternal life in Him. I wish you to be one who knows his own lost condition by nature, his own corruption, guilt, and danger of eternal ruin, his need of a righteousness far better than his own, wherein to appear before God at the day of judgment. I wish you to be one who actually applies to Christ for peace, and casts the burden of his soul upon Him, who believes on Him for forgiveness, who trusts Him for deliverance from all transgression, and forsaking all other hopes and confidence, draws from Him all his comfort and strength. I wish you to be one who lives by faith, stands by faith, walks by faith, who receives with the heart that grand truth, "He who believes on Jesus is not condemned," and rests securely upon it. This faith is the only principle that produces inward peace and real holiness. This is the faith that sanctifies a man, "that purifies the heart, that overcomes the world, that works by love, that brings forth fruit. He who has this faith is born of God and an heir of glory. He who has it not, is not of God, knows little of true vital Christianity now, and will be lost forever hereafter.
Reader, my best desire is that you may be a new creature in Christ Jesus—led by the spirit of God—conformed to your Master's likeness, and not unto the world—loving, much, because much forgiven—having communion with the Father and the Son—one with Christ and Christ in you. Then I should feel that you were safe—safe, though the Lord should come in glory, and heaven and earth be dissolved, and the elements molt with fervent heat—safe, because ready for every condition. Judge for yourself, can I feel that for all who profess and call themselves Christians? Then I should feel that you were truly happy; happy, because the springs of your happiness would be in heaven and never dry—happy, because your peace would be that blessed peace which the world can neither give nor take away. Judge for yourself, can I feel that for all who profess and call themselves Christians? Reader, I make no secret of my wishes, whatever you may think of them. God is my witness, these are my wishes, these are my desires for everybody.
II. Secondly, I have a word of SORROWFUL WARNINGfor some into whose hands these pages will fall. Some of you know in your own hearts and consciences—though I could say it weeping—you know well, that you are not walking with God. You, to whom I now speak, know well that God's ways are not your ways—that although you profess and call yourselves Christians, your hearts are not right in His sight. You have no heart-felt hatred for sin. You have no heart-felt love for God's commandments. You have no delight in God's word. You have no pleasure in the company of His people. His day is a weariness to you. His service is a burden. His ordinances are not precious to your soul. Your first and best thoughts are given to the life that now is—you spend but the wreck and remnant of them on the life to come. Your treasure is on earth and not in heaven. Your affections are set on things below, and not on things above. Your friendship is with the world, and not with God. Oh! reader, what has the Lord God done to you that you should treat Him in this fashion? What can the world do for you, that you should love it better than Christ? Would the world die for you? No! but Jesus did. Can the world put away your sins? No! Jesus alone can. Does the world give true peace in this life? No! but Jesus does. Will the world give comfort in death? No! but Jesus will. Can the world help you in the day of judgment? No! No! none can help you then but Christ!
Reader, what will you do when God rises up, except you alter? when He visits, what will you answer Him, except you change? Do you not know that whatever a man sows he shall also reap? He that sows to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; He only that sows to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life eternal. The world you think so much of now passes away. He only that does the will of God abides forever. But God, our Savior, still loves you. God is not willing that any one should perish. He sends you by my mouth a message of peace this day. Turn from the broad way and come unto Christ while there is yet time. Turn before the fountain is sealed, now open for sin and uncleanness—before the Father's house is closed forever, and not one more allowed to enter—before the Spirit and the Bride cease to invite. Be wise, repent, return, and come.
Reader, you cannot prevent my grieving over you, although you maybe at ease yourself. God; is my witness, this day I have given you a warning!
III. Thirdly, I have a word of QUICKENING for all true believers, into whose hands this tract may fall. Believing reader, I trust I may say of you, you love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Know then that I want you to be a bright and shining light to those around you. I want you to be such a plain epistle of Christ, that all may read something of God on the face of your conversation. I want you so to live that all may see that you are one of the people of Jesus, and thus to glorify your Father which is in heaven. Alas! I say it with shame, we many of us bring little glory to the Lord who bought us; we are far from walking worthy of our vocation. How weak is our faith! How fleeting our sorrow for sin! How faint our self-denial! How soon spent our patience! How thin and thread-bare our humility! How formal our prayers! How cold our love!
We are called God's witnesses, but truly our witness is often little better than silence—it is but an uncertain sound. We are called the light of the world, but we are—many of us—poor, glimmering sparks, that can only just be seen. We are called the salt of the earth, but we scarcely do anything to make our savor felt and known. We are called pilgrims and strangers, but those who observe us might sometimes think this world was our only home. Often, too often, we prove to be one thing in name, and another in reality—high in our professions, but low in our practice—giants in our resolutions, but infants in our actions—angels and spiritual in our talking, heathen, or little better, in our doing—goodly, like Naphtali, in our words—unstable, like Reuben, in our works. Oh! believing reader, these things ought not so to be.
We must not be content with a low measure of holiness. We must not rest satisfied with a little sanctification. We must not think it is enough, because we have attained a small degree of grace, and are just one step better than the world. No! indeed, we must go forward from strength to strength. We must shine more and more unto the perfect day. We must strive to bear much fruit. Christ did not give Himself to us that we should be a sleeping generation—trees that grow not—always standing still. He would have us be 'a peculiar people, zealous of good works—valiant for the truth—fervent in spirit—living not unto ourselves, but unto Him. Freely saved, we should freely and willingly labor. Freely forgiven, we should freely and cheerfully work. Freely redeemed from more than Egyptian bondage, we should count it a pleasure and a privilege to serve the Lord. Our lives should be books of evidences. Our acts should tell out whose we are. "You are my friends," said Jesus, "if you do whatever I command you."
Brother or sister, what are you doing in the world? Where is the proof of your growth in grace? Are you awake, or are you asleep? Are there no tempers you might keep under more strictly? Is there no sort of besetting sin you are shamefully sparing? Is there no time you might employ more usefully? Is there no kind of selfishness you are secretly indulging? Is there no good you have the means of doing, and leave undone? Are there no daily habits you might alter for the better? Are there no spots upon your spiritual garments which you never seek to have washed out? Are there no friends and relations you are letting alone in their sins? Oh! that you may deal more honestly with yourself than you have done hitherto! The Lord is at hand.
Brother or sister, look within. Take heed lest a deceitful heart, and an ensnaring world, and a busy devil, turn you out of the way. Study a tender conscience. Beware of indolence under the cloak of false humility. Make not the old Adam, and the devil, an excuse for little sins. Let the least things of your daily life be done well—like the shekel of the sanctuary, let them be good measure—let them be even more than full weight. Remember the Apostle's advice, "Watch, stand fast in the faith, be courageous like men, be strong." (1 Cor. xvi. 13.) Those who follow the Lord fully are those that follow Him most comfortably. Be zealous though the world may sleep. Brother or sister, I give you this word of quickening in love. I would not have you be the least in the kingdom of heaven. I would not like you to be the palest and dimmest among the stars in glory. I want you not only to be scarcely saved, and so as by fire, but to receive a full reward. Then lay these things well to heart.
IV. Fourthly, I have words of ADVICE for every one that desires to be a real Christian. One part of my advice is this—"Search the Scriptures." They only are able to make you wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus. They are the truth of God. They must be fulfilled. They cannot be broken. And yet they are the book which many have, and very few read. Reader, beware lest an unread Bible be an awful witness against you at tho last day. If you would have your soul saved, read the Bible. If you would not be always wavering and carried about by every wind of doctrine, read the Bible. Read it regularly. Read it all. Be a Bible-reading Christian, whatever the world may say. Make time for this, whatever others may do. Remember my advice. If you would not lose your own soul, read the Bible.
Another piece of advice is this—"Pray without ceasing." Prayer is the only way by which man can approach God. Prayer is the only messenger we can send to tell God what we want; and if we would have good things for our souls, we must ask for them. Prayer opens the treasuries of God's mercies like a key; if we ask, we shall receive. Prayer is the means that every one can use if he will—and yet for all this many people never pray.
Reader, beware lest your neglect of prayer should prove your condemnation. If Jesus is to save you, you must pray. If your sins are to be forgiven, you must pray. If the spirit is to dwell in your heart, you must pray. If you are to have strength against sin, you must pray. If you are to dwell with God in heaven, your heart must talk with God upon earth by prayer. Oh! do not be a prayerless Christian, whatever others may think right. Begin to pray this day if you never prayed before. Remember if you and I are to meet each other with joy at Christ's appearing, you must pray.
Another piece of advice is this—"Attend regularly on the means of grace." Go to some place of worship where the Gospel is preached. Faith comes by hearing. Those who never hear are never likely to believe the Gospel. Reader, beware lest you are ruined forever by neglecting the means which God has appointed for your salvation. Alas! it does not need to be a murderer, or an adulterer, or a thief, or a liar, in order to be in the way to hell. You have only to sit still, to do nothing, to profane the Sabbath, to refuse to listen to instruction, and in hell you will find yourself at last. Oh! do not let this be your end. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Walk in the road where Jesus loves to walk, and who can tell but He will one day make you one of His believing people.
Reader, I commend these things to your special notice. I know they are worth thinking over. The Lord grant if you never thought of them before, that you may go on thinking, thinking, thinking about them until your soul is saved. The Lord grant, if you have thought of them, that you may think of them more and more every year you live. The more you think of them the happier you will be.
I remain, your affectionate friend,
J. C. Ryle