"SUPPOSE AN UNHOLY MAN WERE TO GO TO
by J. C. RYLE
Suppose for a moment that you were allowed to enter heaven without holiness.
What would you do? What possible enjoyment could you feel there? To which
of all the saints would you join yourself, and by whose side would you sit?
Their pleasures are not your pleasures, their tastes are not your tastes,
their character not your character. How could you possibly be happy, if you
had not been holy on earth? Now perhaps you love the company of the light and careless, the
worldly-minded and the covetous, the reveler and the pleasure-seeker, the
ungodly and the profane. There will be none such in heaven.
Now perhaps you think the saints of God too strict and particular and
serious. You rather avoid them. You have no delight in their society. There will be no other company in heaven.
Now perhaps you think praying and Scripture reading, and hymn singing, dull
and melancholy and stupid work, a thing to be tolerated now and then, but
not enjoyed. You reckon the Sabbath a burden and a weariness; you could not
possibly spend more than a small part of it in worshipping God. But
remember, heaven is a never-ending Sabbath. The inhabitants thereof rest
not day and night, saying, 'Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty,' and
singing the praise of the Lamb. How could an unholy man find pleasure in occupation such as this?
Think you that such an one would delight to meet David and Paul and John,
after a life spent in doing the very things they spoke against? Would he
take sweet counsel with them and find that he and they had much in common?
Think you, above all, that he would rejoice to meet Jesus, the crucified
One, face to face, after cleaving to the sins for which He died, after
loving His enemies and despising His friends?
Would he stand before Him with confidence and join in the cry, 'This is our
God...we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation'?
(Isaiah 25:9) Think you not rather that the tongue of an unholy man would
cleave to the roof of his mouth with shame, and his only desire would be to
be cast out? He would feel a stranger in a land he knew not, a black sheep
amid Christ's holy flock. The voice of cherubim and seraphim, the song of
angels and archangels, and all the company of heaven, would be a language he
could not understand. The very air would seem an air he could not breathe.
I know not what others may think, but to me it does seem clear that heaven
would be a miserable place to an unholy man. It cannot be otherwise. People may say, in a vague way, they 'hope to go to heaven', but they do not
consider what they say...We must be heavenly-minded, and have heavenly
tastes, in the life that now is, or else we shall never find ourselves in
heaven, in the life to come.
And now, before I go any further, let me say a few words, by way of
application. 1) For one thing, let me ask everyone who may read these
pages, are you holy? Listen, I pray you, to the question I put to you this
day. Do you know anything of the holiness of which I have been speaking?
I do not ask whether you attend your church regularly, whether you have been
baptized, and received the Lord's Supper, whether you have the name of
Christian. I ask something more than all this: are you holy, or are you
I do not ask whether you approve of holiness in others, whether you like to
read the lives of holy people and to talk of holy things, and to have on
your table holy books, whether you mean to be holy, and hope you will be
holy some day. I ask something further: are you yourself holy this very
day, or are you not?
And why do I ask so straitly, and press the question so strongly? I
do it because the Scripture says, "Without holiness no man shall see the
Lord." It is written, it is not my fancy; it is the Bible, not my private
opinion; it is the Word of God, not of man: "Without holiness no man shall
see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14).
Alas, what searching, sifting words are these! What thoughts come across my
mind, as I write them down! I look at the world and see the greater part of
it lying in wickedness. I look at professing Christians and see the vast
majority having nothing of Christianity but the name. I turn to the Bible
and I hear the Spirit saying, "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord."
Surely it is a text that ought to make us consider our ways and search our
hearts. Surely it should raise within us solemn thoughts and send us to
You may try to put me off by saying you feel much, and think much about
these things, far more than many suppose: I answer, "This is not the point.
The poor lost souls in Hell do as much as this. The great question is not
what you think, and what you feel, but what you do."
You may say, it was never meant that all Christians should be holy and that
holiness, such as I have described, is only for great saints, and people of
uncommon gifts. I answer, "I cannot see that in Scripture. I read that
every man who hath this hope in Christ purifieth himself" (I John 3:3). "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord."
You may say, it is impossible to be so holy and to do our duty in this life
at the same time: the thing cannot be done. I answer, "You are mistaken."
It can be done. With Christ on your side nothing is impossible It has been
done by many. David and Obadiah and Daniel and the servants of Nero's
household are all examples that go to prove it.
You may say, if you were so holy you would be unlike other people. I
answer, "I know it well. It is just what you ought to be. Christ's true
servants were always unlike the world around them - - a separate nation, a
peculiar people, and you must be so too, if you would be saved!"
You may say, at this rate very few will be saved. I answer, "I know it. It
is precisely what we are told in the sermon on the mount." The Lord Jesus
said so eighteen hundred years ago. "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the
way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matthew 7:14).
Few will be saved because few will take the trouble to seek salvation. Men
will not deny themselves the pleasures of sin and their own way for a little
You may say, these are hard sayings; the way is very narrow. I answer, "I
know it. So says the sermon on the mount." The Lord Jesus said so eighteen
hundred years ago. He always said that men must take up the cross daily,
and that they must be ready to cut off hand or foot, if they would be His
disciples. It is in religion as it is in other things, there are no gains
without pains. That which costs nothing is worth nothing. J. C. Ryle
In this modem age of easy-believism when churches and evangelists proclaim
that it costs nothing to be a Christian and that if you have "accepted Jesus
as your personal Savior" you are saved, regardless of how you live
thereafter: Have you considered "that without holiness no man shall see the
Lord"? This leaves no room for the modem concept of the "carnal Christian."
He who lives a carnal lifestyle will go to Hell, regardless of what he says
he believes. Are you holy? - JSW