Two Separate Systems

The plain truth is, there are two distinct and separate systems of Christianity in England at the present day. It is useless to deny it. Their existence is a great fact, and one that cannot be too clearly known. According to one system, religion is a mere corporate business. You are to belong to a certain body of people. By virtue of your membership of this body, vast privileges, both for time and eternity, are conferred upon you. It matters little what you are and what you feel. You are not to try yourself by your feelings. You are a member of a great ecclesiastical corporation. Then all its privileges and immunities are your own. Do you belong to the one true visible ecclesiastical corporation? That is the grand question. According to the other system, religion is eminently a personal business between yourself and Christ. It will not save your soul to be an outward member of any ecclesiastical body whatever, however sound that body may be. Such membership will not wash away one sin, or give you confidence in the day of judgement. There must be personal faith in Christ, personal dealings between yourself and God, personal felt communion between your own heart and the Holy Ghost. Have you this personal faith? Have you this felt work of the Spirit in your soul? This is the grand question. If not you will be lost. This last system is the system which those who are called evangelical ministers cleave to and teach. They do so, because they are satisfied that it is the system of Holy Scripture. They do so, because they are convinced that any other system is productive of most dangerous consequences, and calculated to delude men fatally as to their actual state. They do so, because they believe it to be the only system of teaching which God will bless, and that no church will flourish so much as that in which repentance, faith, conversion and the work of the Spirit are the grand subjects of the minister’s sermon.

~ J.C. Ryle (1816-1900)

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