BISHOP J. C. RYLE
I feel deeply that this is a painful subject to touch upon. I do so with reluctance, and with a constant remembrance of my own unprofitableness. Nevertheless truth ought to be spoken. The plain truth is, that many believers in the present day seem so dreadfully afraid of doing harm that they hardly ever dare to do good. There are many who are fruitful in objections, but barren in actions; rich in wet blankets, but poor in anything like Christian fire. Truly, in looking round the Church of Christ, a man might sometimes think that Godís kingdom had come, and Godís will was being done upon earth, so small is the zeal that some believers show. It is vain to deny it. I need not go far for evidence. I point to societies for doing good to the heathen, the colonies, and the dark places of our own land, languishing and standing still for want of active support. I ask, is this zeal? I point to false doctrine allowed to grow up in our midst without an effort being made to check it, while so-called believers look on, and content themselves with wishing it was not so. I ask, is this zeal? Would the apostles have been satisfied with such a state of things? We know they would not.
Think of precious souls which are perishing, while you are sleeping. Be taken up with your inward conflicts if you will. Go on atomizing your own feelings, and poring over your own corruptions, if you are so determined. But remember all this time souls are going to hell, and you might do something to save them by working, by giving, by writing, by begging, and by prayer. Oh, awake, be zealous, and repent.
Think of the shortness of time. You will soon be gone. You will have no opportunity for works of mercy in another world. In heaven there will be no ignorant people to instruct, and no unconverted to reclaim. Whatever you do must be done now. Oh, when are you going to begin? Awake! be zealous, and repent.
Think of the devil, and his zeal to do harm. It was a solemn saying of old Bernard when he said that "Satan would rise up in judgment against some people at the last day, because he had shown more zeal to ruin souls than they had to save them." Awake! be zealous, and repent.
Think of your Saviour, and all His zeal for you. Think of Him in Gethsemane and on Calvary, shedding His blood for sinners. Think of His life and death - His sufferings and His doings. This He has done for you. What are you doing for Him? Oh, resolve that for the time to come you will spend and be spent for Christ.
Now let me also say something to encourage all readers who are truly zealous Christians.
I have but one request to make, and that is that you will persevere. I do beseech you to hold fast your zeal, and never let it go. I do beseech you never to go back from your first works, never to leave your first love, never to let it be said of you that your first things were better than your last. Beware of cooling down. You have only to be lazy and sit still, and you will soon lose all your warmth. You will soon become another man from what you are now. Oh, reader! do not think this is a needless exhortation.
It may be very true that wise young believers are very rare. But it is no less true that zealous old believers are very rare also. Never allow yourself to think that you can do too much - that you can spend and be spent too much for Christís cause. For one man that does too much I will show you a thousand who do not do enough. Rather think that the night cometh, when no man can work - and give, collect, teach, visit, work, pray, as if you were doing it for the last time. Lay to heart the words of that noble-minded Jansenist, who said when told that he ought to rest a little, "What should we rest for? have we not all eternity to rest in?"
Fear not the reproach of men. Faint not because you are sometimes abused. Heed it not if you are sometimes called bigot, enthusiast, fanatic, mad man, and fool. So were the best and wisest of men. If you are only to be zealous when you are praised for it - if the wheels of your zeal must be oiled by the worldís commendation, your zeal will be but short lived. Care not for the praise or frown of man. There is but one thing worth caring for, and that is the praise of God. There is but one question worth asking about our actions: "How will they look in the day of judgment?"