jc-ryle-hg-contJ.C. Ryle

Ignorance of God is one grand cause of mistakes in religion. If people did but know what kind of Being He is, they would not treat Him as they do. Why do so many see no beauty in the Gospel? Why do they see so little use in preaching Christ and the atonement? It all comes from this,—that they have never really considered what God is. Their religion is wrong at the very foundation, and hence they see no fitness in the doctrines of Christianity.

Reader, give me your attention while I try to tell you a few things about God.

Now, what is God? That is a deep question indeed. We know something of His attributes: He has not left Himself without witness in creation; He has mercifully revealed to us many things about Himself in His Word. We know from Scripture that God is a Spirit,—eternal,—invisible,—almighty,—the Maker of all things,—the Preserver of all things,—holy,—just,—all-seeing,—all-knowing,—all-remembering,—infinite in mercy, in wisdom, in purity.

But, alas; after all, how low and grovelling are our highest ideas, when we come to put down on paper what we believe God to be! How many words and expressions we use whose full meaning we cannot fathom! How many things our tongues say of Him, which our minds are utterly unable to conceive?

How small a part of Him do we see! How little of Him can we possibly know! How mean and paltry are any words of ours to convey a clear idea of the Eternal Being who made this mighty world out of nothing, and with whom one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day! Yet this, remember, is the God with whom we have to do!

How faintly can our corrupt minds understand a Being who is entirely and always holy: holy in all His ways, and holy in all His works; a Being who is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and in whose sight the very heavens are not clean! Yet this is the God in whose hands we are!

How weak and inadequate are our poor feeble intellects to conceive of a Being, who is perfect in all His works: perfect in the greatest as well as perfect in the smallest; perfect in appointing the days and hours in which Jupiter, with all his satellites, shall travel round the sun; perfect in forming the smallest insect that creeps over a few inches of our globe! Yet this, I say again, is the God with whom we have to do!

How little can our busy helplessness comprehend a Being who is ever ordering all things in heaven and earth by universal providence: ordering the rise and fall of nations and dynasties, like Nineveh and Carthage,—ordering the exact length to which men like Alexander, and Tamerlane, and Napoleon shall extend their conquests,—ordering the least step in the life of the humblest believer among His people,—all at the same time; all unceasingly,—all perfectly,—all for His own glory! Yet this, I say once more, is God!

The blind man is no judge of the paintings of Rubens or Titian; the deaf man is insensible to the beauty of Handel’s music; the Greenlander can have but a faint notion of the climate of the tropics; the Australian savage can form but a remote conception of a locomotive engine, however well you may describe it. There is no place in their minds to take in these things; they have no set of thoughts which can comprehend them. And just in the same way, the best and brightest ideas that man can form of God, compared to the reality which we shall see one day, are weak and faint indeed.

But one thing, I think, is very clear, and that is this: the more any man considers calmly what God is, the more he must feel the immeasurable distance between God and himself; the more he meditates, the more he must see that there is a great gulf between him and God. His conscience, I think, will tell him, if he will let it speak, that God is perfect, and he is imperfect; that God is very high, and he is very low; that God is glorious majesty, and he a poor sinful worm; and that is ever he is to stand before Him in judgement with comfort, he must have some mighty Redeemer, Mediator, Friend, and Helper, or he will not be saved.

Reader, mark well what I say. With such as one as God to give account to, we must have a mighty Saviour. To give us peace with such a glorious Being as God, we must have an Almighty Friend and Advocate on our side,—an Advocate who can answer every charge that can be laid against us and plead our cause with God on equal terms. We want this, and nothing less than this. Vague notions of mercy will never give true peace. And such a Saviour, such a Friend, such an Advocate is nowhere to be found excepting in the person of Jesus Christ.

I lay these things before you. I know well that people may have false notions of God, as well as everything else, and shut their eyes against the truth. But I say boldly and confidently, no man can have really high and honourable views of what God is,a nd escape the conclusion that we need a great Redeemer. There can be no possible salvation but by Jesus Christ.

Reader, take the advice I give you this day. Go and pray God would teach you to know these things aright. “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent” (John xvii. 3).