How many clergymen work hard in their profession for a few years, and then become lazy and indolent from the love of this present world. At the outset of their ministry they seem willing to spend and be spent for Christ: they are instant in season and out of season; their preaching is lively and their churches are filled. Their congregations are well looked after: cottage lectures, prayer-meetings, house-to-house visitation, are their weekly delight.

But, alas, how often after “beginning in the Spirit” they end “in the flesh,” and, like Samson, are shorn of their strength in the lap of that Delilah, the world! They are preferred to some rich living; they marry a worldly wife; they are puffed up with pride, and neglect study and prayer. A nipping frost cuts off the spiritual blossoms which once bade so fair.

Their preaching loses its unction and power; their week-day work becomes less and less; the society they mix in becomes less select; the tone of their conversation becomes more earthly. They cease to disregard the opinion of man: they imbibe a morbid fear of “extreme views,” and are filled with a cautious dread of giving offence.

And at last the man who at one time seemed likely to be a real successor of the apostles and a good soldier of Christ, settles down on his lees as a clerical gardener, farmer, or diner-out, by whom nobody is offended and nobody is saved. His church becomes half empty; his influence dwindles away; the world has bound him hand and foot. He has walked in the steps of Lot’s wife. He has looked back.

It is sad to write of these things, but it is far more sad to see them. It is sad to observe how professing Christians can blind their consciences by specious arguments on this subject, and can defend positive worldliness by talking of the “duties of their station,” the “courtesies of life,” and the necessity of having a “cheerful religion.”

It is sad to see how many a gallant ship launches forth on the voyage of life with every prospect of success and, springing this leak of worldliness, goes down with all her freight in full view of the harbour of safety. It is saddest of all to observe how many flatter themselves it is all right with their souls when it is all wrong, by reason of this love of the world. Grey hairs are here and there upon them, and they know it not. They began with Jacob, and David, and Peter, and they are likely to end with Esau, and Saul, and Judas Iscariot. They began with Ruth, and Hannah, and Mary, and Persis, and they are likely to end with Lot’s wife.

Beware of a half-hearted religion. Beware of following Christ from any secondary motive—to please relations and friends—to keep in with the custom of the place or family in which you reside—to appear respectable and have the reputation of being religious. Follow Christ for His own sake, if you follow Him at all. Be thorough, be real, be honest, be sound, be whole-hearted. If you have any religion at all, let your religion be real. See that you do not sin the sin of Lot’s wife.

J.C Ryle


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