I draw towards a CONCLUSION [concerning Acts 17:16-17]. I pass from the consideration of what Paul saw, and felt, and did at Athens, to points of practical importance. I ask every reader of this paper what ought we to see, to feel, and to do?

(1) What ought we to SEE? It is an age of sightseeing and excitement. “The eye is not satisfied with seeing” (Ecc. 1:8). The world is mad after running to and fro, and the increase of knowledge.

The wealth, the arts, the inventions of man are continually gathering myriads into great Exhibitions. Thousands and tens of thousands are annually rushing about and gazing at the work of men’s hands.

But ought not the Christian to look at the map of the world? Ought not the man who believes the Bible to gaze with solemn thoughts on the vast spaces in that map which are yet spiritually black, dead, and without the gospel?

Ought not our eyes to look at the fact that half the population of the earth is yet ignorant of God and Christ, and yet sitting still in sin and idolatry, and that myriads of our own fellow-countrymen in our great cities are practically little better than heathen, because Christians do so little for souls?

The eyes of God see these things, and our eyes ought to see them too.

(2) What anything we to FEEL? Our hearts, if they are right in the sight of God, ought to be affected by the sight of false religion and heathenism. Many indeed are the feelings which the aspect of the world ought to call up in our hearts.

Thankfulness we ought to feel for our own countless privileges. Little indeed do the bulk of English people know the amount of their own daily unpaid debt to Christianity. Well would it be for some if they could be compelled to dwell for a few weeks every year in a heathen land.

Shame and humiliation we ought to feel when we reflect how little the Church of England has done for the spread of Christianity hitherto. God has indeed done great things for us since the days when Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer went to the stake—has preserved us through many trials, has enriched us with many blessings. But how little return we have made Him! How few of our 15,000 parishes do anything worthy of the cause of missions at home or abroad! How little zeal some congregations show for the salvation of souls! These things ought not so to be!

We ought to feel compassion when we think of the wretched state of unconverted souls, and the misery of all men and women who live and die without Christ. No poverty like this poverty! No disease like this disease! No slavery like this slavery! No death like this, death in idolatry, false religion, and sin! Well may we ask ourselves, Where is the mind of Christ, if we do not feel for the lost? I lay it down boldly, as a great principle, that the Christianity which does not make a man feel for the state of unconverted people is not the Christianity which came down from heaven 1800 years ago, and is embalmed in the New Testament. It is a mere empty name. It is not the Christianity of Paul.

(3) Finally, what ought we to DO? This, after all, is the point to which I want to bring your mind. Seeing and feeling are good. But doing is the life of religion. Passive impressions which do not lead to action have a tendency to harden the conscience, and do us positive harm. What ought we to do? We ought to do much more than we have ever done yet. We might all probably do more. The honor of the gospel, the state of the missionary field abroad, the condition of our overgrown cities at home, all call upon us to do more.

Need we stand still, and be ashamed of the weapons of our warfare? Is the gospel, the old Evangelical creed, unequal to the wants of our day? I assert boldly that we have no cause to be ashamed of the gospel at all. It is not worn out. It is not effete. It is not behind the times. We need nothing new, nothing added to the gospel, nothing taken away. We need nothing but “the old paths,” the old truths fully, boldly, affectionately proclaimed. Only preach the gospel fully, the same gospel which Paul preached, and it is still “the power of God unto salvation to every one who believes,” and nothing else called religion has any real power at all. (Rom. 1:16.)

Need we stand still and be ashamed of the results of preaching the gospel? Shall we hang down our heads, and complain that “the faith once delivered to the saints” has lost its power, and does no good? We have no cause to be ashamed at all. I am bold to say that no religious teaching on earth can point to any results worth mentioning except that which is called doctrinal, dogmatic theology. What deliverance on earth have all the modern schools—which scorn dogmatic teaching—what deliverance have they wrought? What overgrown and semi-heathen parishes in the metropolis, in our great seaports, our manufacturing towns, our colliery districts, have they evangelized and civilized? What New Zealand, what Red River, what Sierra-Leone, what Tinnevelly can the high-sounding systems of this latter day point to as a fruit of their system?

No! if the question, “What is truth?” is to be solved by reference to results and fruits, the religion of the New Testament, the religion whose principles are summarized, condensed, and embalmed in our Articles, Creeds, and Prayer Book, has no cause to be ashamed.

What can we do now but humble ourselves for the past, and endeavor, by God’s help, to do more for time to come? Let us open our eyes more, and see. Let us open our hearts more, and feel. Let us stir up ourselves to do more work ruby self-denying gifts, by zealous co-operation, by bold advocacy, by fervent prayer. Let us do something worthy of our cause. The cause for which Jesus left heaven and came down to earth, deserves the best that we can do. (Online source)

J.C. Ryle

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