And when I see men going toward this place of torment [hell] - for all must be who are not walking with God - when I see the loving and tender-hearted Lord Jesus holding out His hands and saying, "Come unto me: why will ye die? I can and will cleanse you from all sin!" - when I see all this, and find you cold and undecided, and flattering yourselves you are in a middle path and tolerably safe, I must cry aloud and spare not, and run the risk of being thought uncharitable, if by any means I may awaken you and deliver you from the power of satan and guide you unto Christ. Oh that your hearts may be stirred within you, that you may never rest till you are in Enoch's way and have some portion of Enoch's faith!
Think not to put off the question by saying these things cannot be true. Go to your Bibles and see what they testify. They that are utterly deceived and blind may tell you that punishment is not eternal, and hell is a delusion, and the devil a lie; but they will find to their cost they are all true, most fearfully true, and so long as you attend the worship of the church, which only appeals to scripture, you must not expect to hear of any other way than that which Enoch took.
Think not to say, "We cannot walk with God: we mean well in church, but when we get outside the world lays hold upon us, and acquaintances and evil company turn us aside." Oh, be honest with yourselves! This is as much as saying "If all the world be religious we will be religious too, and not till then"; in the meanwhile you do not like to be singular, you cannot make up your minds to be in earnest, you think I may be mistaken, you will go with the stream, you will walk according to the course of this world. But look at Enoch: his heart was naturally like yours; the same grace which strengthened him can strengthen you, - the Lord's hand is not shortened; by grace he walked with God three hundred years, and surely you may trust the power of God will keep you also through faith unto salvation for threescore years and ten. But know that if you cannot be saints on earth you never can be saints in heaven!
Think not I am shutting you up without hope. What though it be true that few are saved and the way is narrow? - there is nothing to prevent any of you entering it, except your own unwillingness, your own unbelieving heats, your own indifference. Oh, begin to walk as Enoch did! Come to the Lord Jesus Christ! He that cometh to Him shall never hunger, he that believeth on Him shall never thirst: though your past life may have been that of Esau or Manasseh or Judas or Mary Magdalen, come to Him repenting of everything, and He will never cast you out. Take with you words; and say, "Lord Jesus, I have sinned; I do repent, I put all my trust in thee: Lord receive me, Lord increase my faith," and then the word of God is my warrant for saying He shall give you His Holy Spirit, and you shall walk with Him and before Him and after Him, and rest with Him.
Are you old? - then walk with God; and be in haste: your next step may be in hell; thank the Lord you are not there yet. You have but a short time; you hang by a slender thread; Jordan is before you, and you will never cross in safety unless the ark is with you, and the ark is only with those who walk with God.
Are you young: - then walk with God, and be in haste. Do not put it off a single day. Young people die as well as old. Young people have precious souls to save as well as others. The devil, who rejoices to see so many of you neglecting private prayers and private reading of the Bible, has a especial eye to you: he knows if he can only prevent you thinking while you are young, he has a better chance of making you his own forever.
O let it not be written of you in the books of God that on this Sabbath day you came together not for the better but for the worse; you were invited to walk with God, and would not: let it not be in vain you have heard this history of one of the Lord's elect; but cast aside your old habits, arise to newness of life, even as the face of the fair country around you is renewed at this season of the year; and be ye followers of Enoch even as he followed God.
Remember, all of you, the prophecy he spake: "the Lord cometh, to execute judgment." This earth, lovely and fair and shining as it seems, shall be burned up; but your soul shall live for ever, either in heaven or in hell: the church shall crumble into dust, but they that sleep around it shall rise again, born shall come together unto bone, and all stand before the throne and be judged according to their lives. The Lord grant you may all find mercy in that day; but if you would find it, you must walk with God, and then indeed you shall live by faith and sleep in Jesus and have your portion with the spirits of just men made perfect.
~J. C. Ryle~
(continued with # 6 - "Running the Race")