Everybody is going to be saved — and nobody is going to be lost!
(J.C. Ryle, 1884)
One great danger of the church today, consists in the rise and progress of a spirit of indifference to all doctrines and opinions in religion. A wave of latitudinarianism about theology, appears to be passing over the land. The minds of many seem utterly incapable of discerning any difference between . . .
one belief — and another belief,
one creed — and another creed,
one tenet — and another tenet,
one opinion — and another opinion,
one thought — and another thought,
however diverse and mutually contrary they may be!
Everything is true — and nothing is false.
Everything is right — and nothing is wrong.
Everything is good — and nothing is bad — if only it comes to us under the garb and name of religion. Most think that it is kind and liberal, to maintain that we have no right to think that anyone is wrong, who is in earnest about his creed.
We are not allowed to ask what is God's truth — but what is liberal, and generous, and charitable.
Most professing Christians make cleverness and earnestness the only tests of orthodoxy in religion. Thousands nowadays seem utterly unable to distinguish things that differ. If a preacher is only clever and eloquent and earnest — they think that he is all right, however strange and heterodox his sermons may be.
Popery — or Protestantism,
an atonement — or no atonement,
a personal Holy Spirit — or no Holy Spirit,
future punishment — or no future punishment
— they swallow all! Carried away by an imagined liberality and charity, they seem to regard doctrine as a matter of no importance, and to think that everybody is going to be saved — and nobody is going to be lost! They dislike distinctness, and think that all decided views are very wrong!
These people live in a kind of mist or fog! They see nothing clearly, and do not know what they believe. They have not made up their minds about any great point in the Gospel, and seem content to be honorary members of all schools of thought. For their lives — they could not tell you what they think is truth about . . .
forgiveness of sins,
or saving faith,
or the future state.
They are eaten up with a morbid dread of doctrine. And so they live on undecided, and too often undecided they drift down to the grave, on the broad way which leads to eternal destruction.
They are content to shovel aside all disputed points as rubbish, and will tell you, "I do not pretend to understand doctrine. I dare say that it is all the same in the long run." They are for a general policy of universal toleration and forbearance of every doctrine. Every school of false teaching, however extreme, is to be tolerated. They desire the Church to be a kind of Noah's Ark, within which every kind of opinion and creed shall dwell safely and undisturbed, and the only terms of admittance are a willingness to come inside, and let your neighbor alone. Nothing is too absurd to concede and allow into the church, in the present mania for complete freedom of thought, and absolute liberty of opinion.
The explanation of this boneless, nerveless condition of soul, is perhaps not difficult to find. The heart of man is naturally in the dark about religion — has no intuitive sense of truth — and really needs divine instruction and illumination. Besides this, the natural heart in most men hates exertion in religion. Above all, the natural heart generally likes the praise of others, shrinks from collision, and loves to be thought charitable and liberal. The whole result is that a kind of broad religious anythingism just suits an immense number of professors.
Ignorance, I am compelled to say, is one of the grand dangers of professors of religion in the present day.
Who does not know that such people swarm and abound everywhere? And who does not know that anyone who denounces this state of things, and insists that we should be loyal to Scripture truth — is regarded as a narrow, bigoted, intolerant person, quite unsuited to our times?
When there is no creed or standard of doctrine, there can be no church, but a Babel. Let me venture to advise all true Christians to never to be ashamed of holding Evangelical views. Those views, I am quite aware, are not fashionable nowadays. They are ridiculed as old-fashioned, narrow, defective, and out of date — and those who hold them, are regarded as illiberal, impracticable old fossils!
What the final result of the present state of things will be, I do not pretend to predict.
"Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths!" 2 Timothy 4:2-4