Puritan Board Senior
To make a beginning in religious life is comparatively easy. Not a few mixed motives assist us. The love of novelty, the praise of well-meaning but imprudent professors, the secret self-satisfaction of feeling “how good I am,” the universal excitement attending a new position―all these things combine to aid the young beginner. Aided by them he begins to run the race that leads to heaven, lays aside many bad habits, takes up many good ones, has many comfortable frames and feelings, and gets on splendidly for a time. But when the newness of his position is past and gone, when the freshness of his feelings is rubbed off and lost, when the world and the devil begin to pull hard at him, when the weakness of his own heart begins to appear, then it is that he finds out the real difficulties of vital Christianity. Then it is that he discovers the deep wisdom of our Lord’s saying now before us. It is not beginning, but “continuing” a religious profession, that is the test of true grace.
We should remember these things in forming our estimate of other people’s religion. No doubt we ought to be thankful when we see any one ceasing to do evil and learning to do well. We must not “despise the day of small things.” (Zech. 4:10.) But we must not forget that to begin is one thing, and to go on is quite another. Patient continuance in well-doing is the only sure evidence of grace. Not he that runs fast and furiously at first, but he that keeps up his speed, is he that “runs so as to obtain.” By all means let us be hopeful when we see anything like conversion. But let us not make too sure that it is real conversion, until time has set its seal upon it. Time and wear test metals, and prove whether they are solid or plated. Time and wear, in like manner, are the surest tests of a man’s religion. Where there is spiritual life there will be continuance and steady perseverance. It is the man who goes on as well as begins, that is “the disciple indeed.”
―J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John, Vol. 2, pp. 74-75.