And, behold, one came and said unto him,
Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
A person may have desires after salvation, and yet not be saved.
Here is one who in a day of abounding unbelief comes of his own accord to Christ. He comes not to have a sickness healed; he comes not to plead about a child: he comes about his own soul. He opens the conference with the frank question, 'Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?' Surely we might have thought, 'This is a promising case: this is no prejudiced ruler or Pharisee: this is a hopeful inquirer.' Yet by and by this very young man goes 'away sorrowful'; and we never read a word to show that he was converted! We must never forget that good feelings alone in religion are not the grace of God. We may know the truth intellectually; we may often feel pricked in conscience; we may have religious affections awakened within us, have many anxieties about our souls and shed many tears: but all this is not conversion. It is not the genuine saving work of the Holy Ghost.
Unhappily this is not all that must be said on this point. Not only are good feelings alone not grace, but they are even positively dangerous, if we content ourselves with them, and do not act as well as feel. It is a profound remark of that mighty master on moral questions, Bishop Butler, that passive impressions, often repeated, gradually lose all their power; actions, often repeated, produce a habit in man's mind; feelings often indulged in, without leading to corresponding actions, will finally exercise no influence at all.
Let us apply this lesson to our own state. Perhaps we know what it is to feel religious fears, wishes and desires. Let us beware that we do not rest in them. Let us never be satisfied till we have the witness of the Spirit in our hearts, that we are actually born again and new creatures; let us never rest till we know that we have really repented, and laid hold on the hope set before us in the gospel. It is good to feel; but it is far better to be converted.
- from "Day by Day," a devotional collection of J.C. Ryle's writings