We Must Be Holy
J. C. Ryle
First published as a "Helmingham Series" Tract in Helmingham, Suffolk
We must be holy on earth before we die, if we desire to go to heaven after death. If we hope to dwell with God for ever in the life to come, we must endeavour to be like Him in the life that now is. We must not only admire holiness, and wish for holiness: we must be holy.
Holiness cannot justify and save us: holiness cannot cover our iniquities, make satisfaction for transgressions, pay our debts to God. Our best works are no better than filthy rags, when tried by the light of God's law. The righteousness which Jesus Christ brought in must be our only confidence,—the blood of atonement our only hope. All this is perfectly true, and yet we must be holy.
We must be holy, because God in the Bible plainly commands it. "As He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy" (1 Peter i. 15, 16).
We must be holy, because this is one great end for which Christ came into the world. "He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again" (2 Cor. v. 15).
We must be holy, because this is the only sound evidence that we have a saving faith in Christ. "Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone." "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (James ii. 17, 26).
We must be holy, because this is the only proof that we love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. What can be more plain than our Lord's own words? "If ye love Me, keep my commandments." "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me." (John xiv. 15, 21).
We must be holy, because this is the only sound evidence that we are God's children. "As many as are led by the , they are the ." "Whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God" (Rom. viii. 14; I John iii. 10).
Lastly, we must be holy, because without holiness on earth we should never be prepared and meet for heaven. It is written of the heavenly glory, "There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie" (Rev. xxi. 27). St. Paul says expressly, "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord" (Heb. xii. 14).
Ah, reader, the last text I have just quoted is very solemn. It ought to make you think. It was written by the hand of inspired man: it is not my private fancy. Its words are the words of the Bible: not of my own invention. God has said it, and God will stand to it: "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord."
What tremendous words these are! What thoughts come across my mind as I write them down! I look at the world, and see the greater part of it lying in wickedness; I look at professing Christians, and see the vast majority having nothing of Christianity but the name; I turn to the Bible, and I hear the Spirit saying, "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord."
Surely it is a text that ought to make you consider your ways, and search your hearts. Surely it should raise within you solemn thoughts, and send you to prayer.
You may try to put me off by saying you feel much, and think much about these things,—far more than many suppose. I answer, This is not the point. The poor lost souls in hell do as much as this. The great question is, not what you think and what you feel, but what you DO. Are you holy?
You may say, It was never meant that all Christians should be holy, and that holiness such as I have described is only for great saints, and people of uncommon gifts. I answer, I cannot see this in Scripture. I read that "every man who hath hope in Christ purifieth himself" (1 John iii. 3). "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord."
You may say, It is impossible to be so holy and to do our duty in this life at the same time: the thing cannot be done. I answer, You are mistaken: it can be done. With God on your side, nothing is impossible. It has been done by many: Moses, and Obadiah, and Daniel, and the servants of Nero's household, are all examples that go to prove it.
You may say, If you were so holy, you would be unlike other people. I answer, I know it well: it is just what I want you to be. Christ's true servants always were unlike the world around them,—a separate nation, a ; and you must be so too, if you would be saved.
You may say, At this rate very few will be saved. I answer, I know it: Jesus said so eighteen hundred years ago. Few will be saved, because few will take the trouble to seek salvation. Men will not deny themselves the pleasures of sin and their own way for a season; for this they turn their backs on an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away. "Ye will not come to Me," says Jesus, "that ye might have life" (John v. 40)