The Grand Peculiarity

From Christ Crucified(ca. 1850).

There is no doctrine in Christianity so important as the doctrine of Christ crucified. There is none which the devil tries so hard to destroy. There is none which it is so needful for our own peace to understand. By “Christ crucified,” I mean the doctrine that Christ suffered death on the cross to make atonement for our sins, that by his death he made a full, perfect, and complete satisfaction to God for the ungodly, and that through the merits of that death all who believe in him are forgiven all their sins, however many and great, entirely, and forever…

The doctrine of Christ crucified is the grand peculiarity of the Christian religion. Other religions have laws and moral precepts, forms and ceremonies, rewards and punishments. But other religions cannot tell us of a dying Savior: they cannot show us the cross. This is the crown and glory of the Gospel; this is that special comfort which belongs to it alone.

Miserable indeed is that religious teaching which calls itself Christian and yet contains nothing of the cross. A man who teaches in this way might as well profess to explain the solar system and yet tell his hearers nothing about the sun…

The doctrine of Christ crucified is the foundation of a church’s prosperity. No church will ever be honored in which Christ crucified is not continually lifted up. Nothing whatever can make up for the want of the cross. Without it all things may be done decently and in order; without it there may be splendid ceremonies, beautiful music, gorgeous churches, learned ministers, crowded communion tables, huge collections for the poor; but without the cross no good will be done. Dark hearts will not be enlightened, proud hearts will not be humbled, mourning hearts will not be comforted, fainting hearts will not be cheered.

Sermons about the catholic church and an apostolic ministry, sermons about baptism and the Lord’s supper, sermons about unity and schism, sermons about fasts and communion, sermons about fathers and saints — such sermons will never make up for the absence of sermons about the cross of Christ…

The doctrine of Christ crucified is the grand center of union among true Christians. Our outward differences are many without doubt: one man is an Episcopalian, another is a Presbyterian; one is an Independent, another a Baptist; one is a Calvinist, another an Arminian; one is a Lutheran, another a Plymouth Brother; one is a friend to establishments, another a friend to the voluntary system; one is a friend to liturgies, another a friend to extempore prayer… Does a man really and sincerely glory in the cross of Christ? That is the grand question. If he does, he is my brother: we are travelling in the same road; we are journeying towards a home where Christ is all.

  1. C. Ryle (1816-1900) was a gifted teacher and preacher, one of the great leaders of the evangelical movement in 19th century Anglicanism. He served in a series of parish posts and became the first Bishop of Liverpool in 1880. During his 20 year leadership of the diocese, he made great strides in connecting the church’s ministry with the needs of the working classes. His sermon The Cross of Christ was originally published among the Helmingham Tracts, a series written in his early ministry for mass distribution. The text has been adapted for contemporary readers.


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