by J. C. Ryle
"Except you repent, you shall all likewise perish." Luke 13:3
The text which heads this page, at first sight, looks stern and severe, "Except you repent, you shall all perish." I can fancy someone saying, "Is this the Gospel?" "Are these the glad tidings? Are these the good news of which ministers speak?" "This is a hard saying, who can hear it?" (John 6:60.)
But from whose lips did these words come? They came from the lips of One who loves us with a love that passes knowledge, even Jesus Christ, the Son of God. They were spoken by One who so loved us that He left heaven for our sakes—came down to earth for our sakes—lived a poor, humble life, for three and thirty years on earth for our sakes—went to the cross for us, went to the grave for us, and died for our sins. The words that come from lips like these, must surely be words of love.
And, after all, what greater proof of love can be given than to warn a friend of coming danger? The father who sees his son tottering toward the brink of a precipice, and as he sees him cries out sharply, "Stop, stop!"—does not that father love his son? The tender mother who sees her infant on the point of eating some poisonous berry, and cries out sharply, "Stop, stop! put it down!"—does not that mother love that child? It is indifference which lets people alone, and allows them to go on each in his own way. It is love, tender love, which warns, and raises the cry of alarm. The cry of "Fire—fire!" at midnight, may sometimes startle a man out of his sleep, rudely, harshly, unpleasantly. But who would complain, if that cry was the means of saving his life? The words, "Except you repent, you shall all perish," may seem at first sight stern and severe. But they are words of love, and may be the means of delivering precious souls from hell.
There are three things to which I ask attention in considering this text of Scripture.
First of all, I will speak of the nature of repentance—What is it?
Secondly, I will speak of the necessity of repentance—Why is repentance needful?
Thirdly, I will speak of the encouragements to repentance—What is there to lead people to repent?