Don’t Presume

J. C. Ryle, 1816-1900

“But I wish here to expose the folly of all those who talk in a loose and general way about God’s mercy. Men will often say, when urged to think about their salvation, “Indeed I know I am not what I should be; I have broken God’s law very often, but He is very merciful, and I hope I shall be forgiven.” Truly, I do believe that the religion of many goes no further than this. This is the only point they can lay hold of; this is the only rock on which they build: press them for a reason of their hope, and there is no answer; ask them to explain the ground of their confidence, and they cannot do it. “God is merciful” is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last, of all their Christianity. Now, I am bold to say, beloved, this is an immense delusion; a refuge of lies that will not stand being compared with Scripture, and, more than this, it will not last one instant in the fire of trial and affliction.

Have you not ever heard that God is a God of perfect holiness—holy in His character, holy in His laws, holy in His dwelling-place? “Speak unto the children of Israel,” says the Book of Leviticus, and say unto them. “Ye shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy.” “He is a holy God,” says Joshua; “He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.” “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evils, and canst not look on iniquity,” says Habakkuk. “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” And the book of Revelation, speaking of heaven, says, “There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth.” “It shall be called the way of holiness,” says Isaiah; “the unclean shall not pass over it.” And will you tell us, in the face of all these texts, that man, corrupt, impure, defiled—as the best of us most surely is—shall pass the fiery judgment of our God and enter into the heavenly Jerusalem by simply trusting in the mercy of his Maker, without one single rag to cover his iniquities and hide his natural uncleanness. It cannot be: God’s mercy and God’s holiness must needs be reconciled, and you have not dlone this yet.

And have you never heard that God is a God of perfect justice, whose laws may not be broken without punishment, whose commandments must be fulfilled on pain of death? “All His ways are judgment,” says the book of Deuteronomy; “a God of truth and p 83 without iniquity, just and right is He.” “Justice and judgment are the habitation of Thy throne,” says David. “The just Lord is in the midst,” says Zephaniah; “He will not do iniquity: every morning doth He bring His judgment to light; He faileth not.” “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets,” said Jesus: “I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled.” I cannot find that these verses have ever been declared useless; I cannot discover any place which says the law is now let down, and need not be fulfilled; and how, then, can I teach you that it is enough to look to God’s mercy? I read of only two ways in the Bible: One is, to do the whole law yourself; the other is, to do it by another. Show me, if you can, one single text which teaches that a man may be saved without the claims of the law having been satisfied. An earthly prince, indeed, may forgive and pass over men’s transgressions; but God never changes. “Hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good?” I tell you, then, God’s mercy and God’s justice must be reconciled; and this you have not done yet.”

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Sin’s Failing War

Newton, Sin's war

Romans 8 (ESV)

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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