This is a summary of a paper written by J.C. Ryle, and published as the first chapter of his book Practical Religion.
Text: Acts 15:36
We live in an age of peculiar spiritual privileges. There is a great deal of interest in the Christian faith, and in the way of salvation.
We live in an age of peculiar spiritual danger. There is a great deal of nominal or superficial Christianity.
Questions for self-inquiry
1. Do we ever think about our souls at all? Or are we absorbed in the pursuit of business or pleasure, seldom thinking about the issues of eternity and the world to come? There are thousands who, though they have not not decidedly rejected the Christian faith, never think about God at all.
2. Do we ever do anything about our souls? There are multitudes who do think about the things of God, but do nothing about it. There are good intentions, but no action.
3. Are we trying to satisfy our consciences with a mere formal religion? They may be regular attenders of places of worship. But their hearts are not in it.
4. Have we received forgiveness of our sins? Few, perhaps, would deny that they are sinners. But do they know what it is to be forgiven? Can you say of Jesus that he is ‘my Saviour’, ‘my Redeemer’?
5. Do we have a personal experience of conversion to God? Without conversion, there is no salvation. We all have a natural tendency to turn away from God, and need to experience the radical change that Scripture variously calls ‘the new birth’, ‘regeneration’, ‘new creation’, ‘repentance’, and ‘conversion’.
6. Do we know anything of practical holiness? This is the invariable fruit of saving faith. Weak and imperfect as it might be, our holiness must be real.
7. Do we enjoy the means of grace? What are the manner and spirit in which we read the Bible, pray, attend public worship, and take the Lord’s Supper? Are they mere duties, or do we take some delight in them?
8. Do we try to do some good in the world? If we do not have the attitude of Christ in this matter, we have reason to doubt that we are his disciples.
9. Do we know anything of habitual communion with Christ? Do we have ‘joy and peace in believing’?
10. Are we ready for Christ’s return? Are we content to do our daily duty, but with a heart packed up and ready to go?
1. To the reader who gives no thought to the things of God: wake up!
2. To the reader who feels ashamed of his sins, and that there is no hope for his soul: cast away your fears, and accept the offer of the Lord Jesus to sinners.
3. To the reader who is a professing Christian, but who feels little joy, peace, and comfort: make a bold decision to be thorough in your Christian faith.
4. To the reader who is oppressed with doubts and fears, on account of a sense of his sin and the weakness of his faith: look less to self, and its weakness, and more to Jesus, and his power and grace.
5. To the reader who is sometimes downcast by trails of various kinds: look up to a sympathising Saviour at God’s right hand, and pour out your heart to him.