A Question about Absolution


J. C. Ryle

“Make me to know my transgression and my sin.”—Job 13:22

“Cleanse me from my sin.”—Psalm 51:2

“The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.”—1 John 1:7

“Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in His blood.”—Romans 3:25


First published by Drummond's Tract Depot, Stirling, Scotland

The question which forms the title of this tract ought to stir up many thoughts in your heart. It concerns every man and woman born into the world. You ought never to rest till you can give it a satisfactory answer.—“WHERE ARE YOUR SINS?”

I ask you this day to look this question in the face. I ask you to give me your attention for a few minutes, while I try to enforce it on your conscience. A time draws nigh when the question must be answered. The hour cometh when all other questions shall seem like a drop of water in comparison with this. We shall not say, “Where is my money?”—or, “Where are my lands?”—or, “Where is my property?” Our only thought will be, “My sins! my sins!—Where are my sins?”

Reader, I am going to offer you a few remarks, which may help to throw light on the mighty question which is before your eyes. My heart’s desire and prayer to God is this, that this tract may be greatly useful to your soul. I entreat you to give it fair reading. Do not put it in the fire; do not tear it in pieces. Read it: read it! Read it to the end! Who can tell but the Holy Ghost may employ this tract for the saving of your soul

I. My first remark is this. You have many sins. I say this boldly, and without the least hesitation.

I know not who you are, or how the time past of your life has been spent. But I know, from the Word of God, that every son and daughter of Adam is a great sinner in the sight of God. There is no exception: it is the common disease of the whole family of Adam, in every quarter of the globe. From the king on his throne, to the beggar by the roadside,—from the landlord in his hall, to the labourer in his cottage,—from the fine lady in her drawing-room, to the humblest maid-servant in the kitchen,—from the clergyman in the pulpit, to the little child in the Sunday-school,—we are all by nature guilty, guilty: guilty in the sight of God. “In many things we offend all.”—“There is none righteous: no, not one.”—“All have sinned,” “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (James iii. 2; Rom.10; v. 12; 1 John i. 8.) It is useless to deny it. We have all sinned many sins!

Reader, do you doubt the truth of these words? Then go and examine the law of God, as expounded by the Son of God Himself. Read with attention the fifth chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel. See how the commandments of God apply to our words as well as to our actions, and to our thoughts and motives, as well as to our words. Know that “the Lord seeth not as man seeth: man looketh at the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh at the heart.” In His sight the very “thought of foolishness is sin.” (1 Sam. xvi. 7; Prov. xxiv. 9.)

And now turn to the history of your own life, and try it by the standard of’ this holy law. Think of the days of your childhood, and all your waywardness, and selfishness, and evil tempers, and perversity, and backwardness to that which is good.—Remember the days of your youth,—your self-will, your pride, your worldly inclinations, your impatience of control, your longing after forbidden things.—Call to mind your conduct since you came to man's estate, and the many departures from the right way, of which you have been guilty every year.—Surely, in the face of your life’s history, you will not stand up and say, “I have not sinned!”

And then turn to the history of your own heart. Consider how many evil things have gone through it, of which the world knows nothing at all.—Remember the thousands of sinful imaginations, and corrupt ideas, which your heart has entertained, even while your outward conduct has been correct, moral, and respectable.—Think of the vile thoughts, and deceitful intentions, and false motives, and malicious, envious, spiteful feelings, which have walked up and down in your inward man, while those nearest to you never dreamed or guessed what was going on.—Surely, in the face of your heart’s history, you will not stand up and say, “I have not sinned!”

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Revelation 22:12 And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.