From Practical Religion (1878)
Self-righteous people who think that they will be saved by their own works, have no business to come to the Lord’s table. Strange as it may sound at first, these persons are the least qualified of all to receive the Lord’s table. They may be outwardly correct, moral, and respectable in their lives, but so long as they trust in their own goodness for salvation they are entirely in the wrong place at the Lord’s Supper.
For what do we declare at the Lord’s Supper? We publicly profess that we have no goodness, righteousness, or worthiness of our own, and that all our hope is in Christ. We publicly profess that we are guilty, sinful, corrupt, and naturally deserve God’s wrath and condemnation. We publicly profess that Christ’s merit and not ours, Christ’s righteousness and not ours is the only cause why we look for acceptance with God. Now what has a self-righteous man to do with an ordinance like this? Clearly nothing at all.
One thing at any rate, is very clear: a self-righteous man has no business to receive the Lord’s Supper. The Communion Service of the Church bids all communicants declare that “they do not presume to come to the Table trusting in their own righteousness, but in God’s numerous and great mercies.” It tells them to say, “We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under your table,” “the memory of our sins is grievous to us; the burden of them is intolerable.”…
I will never tell anyone to keep away till he is perfect, and to wait till his heart is as unruffled as an angel’s. I will not do so, because I believe that neither my master nor his apostles would have done so. Show me a man that really feels his sins, really leans on Christ, really struggles to be holy, and I will welcome him in my master’s name. He may feel weak, erring, empty, feeble, doubting, wretched, and poor. But what does that matter?
The Rt. Rev. J. 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 twenty-year leadership of the diocese, he made great strides in connecting the church’s ministry with the needs of the working classes. His Practical Religion was a book about Christian discipleship based on his sermons as a parish priest. The text has been adapted for contemporary readers.