“One Blood” as a Point of Doctrine

Excerpts taken and adapted from, “One Blood”
Written by J.C. Ryle

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 “And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation…”
—Acts 17:26

THIS is a very short and simple text, and even a child knows the meaning of its words. But simple as it is, it supplies food for much thought and it forms part of a speech delivered by a great man on a great occasion.

The speaker is the Apostle of the Gentiles, St. Paul. The hearers are the cultivated men of Athens, and specially the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. The place is Mars’ Hill at Athens, in full view of religious buildings and statues, of which even the shattered remains are a marvel of art at this day. Never perhaps were such a place, such a man, and such an audience brought together! It was a strange scene. And how did St. Paul use the occasion? What did this Jewish stranger, this member of a despised nation, this little man, whose “bodily presence was weak,” and very unlike the ideal figure in one of Raphael’s cartoons, coming from an obscure corner of Asia, what does he say to these intellectual Greeks?

He tells them boldly the unity of the true God. There is only one God, the maker of heaven and earth,—and not many deities, as his hearers seemed to think,—a God who needed no temples made with hands, and was not to be represented by images made of wood or metal or stone. Standing in front of the stately Parthenon and the splendid statue of Minerva, he sets before his refined hearers the ignorance with which they worshipped, the folly of idolatry, the coming judgment of all mankind, the certainty of a resurrection, and the absolute need of repentance. And not least, he tells the proud men of Athens that they must not flatter themselves that they were superior beings, as they vainly supposed, made of finer clay, and needing less than other races of men. No! he declares that “God has made of one blood all nations.” There is no difference. The nature, the needs, the obligation to God of all human beings on the globe are one and the same.

From the point of fact in our text I now pass on to the point of doctrine. Are we all of “one blood”? Then we all need one and the same remedy for the great family disease of our souls. The disease I speak of is sin. We inherit it from our parents, and it is a part of our nature. We are born with it, whether gentle or simple, learned or unlearned, rich or poor, as children of fallen Adam, with his blood in our veins. It is a disease which grows with our growth and strengthens with our strength, and unless cured before we die, will be the death of our souls.

Now, what is the only remedy for this terrible spiritual disease? What will cleanse us from the guilt of sin? What will bring health and peace to our poor dead hearts, and enable us to walk with God while we live, and dwell with God when we die? To these questions I give a short but unhesitating reply. For the one universal soul-disease of all Adam’s children, there is only one remedy. That remedy is “the precious blood of Christ.” To the blood of Adam we owe the beginning of our deadly spiritual ailment. To the blood of Christ alone must we all look for a cure.

When I speak of the “blood of Christ,” my readers must distinctly understand that I do not mean the literal material blood which flowed from His hands and feet and side as He hung on the cross. That blood, I doubt not, stained the fingers of the soldiers who nailed our Lord to the tree; but there is not the slightest proof that it did any good to their souls. If that blood were really in the communion cup at the Lord’s Supper, as some profanely tell us, and we touched it with our lips, such mere corporeal touch would avail us nothing. Oh no! When I speak of the “blood” of Christ as the cure for the deadly ailment which we all inherit from the blood of Adam, I mean the life-blood which Christ shed, and the redemption which Christ obtained for sinners when He died for them on Calvary,—the salvation which He procured for us by His vicarious sacrifice,— the deliverance from the guilt and power and consequences of sin, which He purchased when He suffered as our substitute. This and this only is what I mean when I speak of “Christ’s blood” as the one medicine needed by all Adam’s children. The thing that we all need to save us from eternal death is not merely Christ’s incarnation and life, but Christ’s death. The atoning “blood” which Christ shed when He died, is the grand secret of salvation. It is the blood of the second Adam suffering in our stead, which alone can give life or health and peace to all who have the first Adam’s blood in their veins.

I can find no words to express my deep sense of the importance of maintaining in our Church the true doctrine of the blood of Christ. One plague of our age is the widespread dislike to what men are pleased to call dogmatic theology. In the place of it, the idol of the day is a kind of jelly-fish Christianity—a Christianity without bone, or muscle, or sinew,—without any distinct teaching about the atonement or the work of the Spirit, or justification, or the way of peace with God,—a vague, foggy, misty Christianity, of which the only watchwords seem to be, “You must be earnest, and real, and true, and brave, and zealous, and liberal, and kind. You must condemn no man’s doctrinal views. You must consider everybody is right, and nobody is wrong.” And this creedless kind of religion, we are actually told, is to give us peace of conscience! And not to be satisfied with it in a sorrowful dying world, is a proof that you are very narrow-minded! Satisfied, indeed! Such a religion might possibly do for unfallen angels. But to tell sinful, dying men and women, with the blood of our father Adam in their veins, to be satisfied with it, is an insult to common sense, and a mockery of our distress. We need something far better than this. We need the blood of Christ.

What saith the Scripture about “that blood”? Let me try to put my readers in remembrance. Do we want to be clean and guiltless now in the sight of God? It is written that “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin;”—that “it justifies;”—that “it makes us nigh to God;”—that “through it there is redemption, even the forgiveness of sin;”—that it “purges the conscience;”—that “it makes peace between God and man;”—that it gives “boldness to enter into the holiest.” Yes! it is expressly written of the saints in glory, that “they had washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,” and that they had “overcome their souls’ enemies by the blood of the Lamb” (1 John 1: 7; Col. 1:20; Heb. 10:19; Eph. 1:7; Heb. 9:4; Eph. 2:13; Rom. 5:9; Rev. 7:14; 12: 11). Why, in the name of common sense, if the Bible is our guide to heaven, why are we to refuse the teaching of the Bible about Christ’s blood, and turn to other remedies for the great common soul-disease of mankind?—If, besides this, the sacrifices of the Old Testament did not point to the sacrifice of Christ’s death on the cross, they were useless, unmeaning forms, and the outer courts of tabernacle and temple were little better than shambles. But if, as I firmly believe, they were meant to lead the minds of Jews to the better sacrifice of the true Lamb of God, they afford unanswerable confirmation of the position which I maintain this day. That position is, that the one “blood of Christ” is the spiritual medicine for all who have the “one blood of Adam” in their veins.

Does any reader of this paper want to do good in the world? I hope that many do. He is a poor style of Christian who does not wish to leave the world better when he leaves it, than it was when he entered it. Take the advice I give you this day. Beware of being content with half-measures and inadequate remedies for the great spiritual disease of mankind. You will only labour in vain if you do not show men the blood of the Lamb. Like the fabled Sisyphus, however much you strive, you will find the stone ever rolling back upon you. Education, teetotalism, cleaner dwellings, popular concerts, blue ribbon leagues, white cross armies, penny readings, museums,—all, all are very well in their way; but they only touch the surface of man’s disease: they do not go to the root. They cast out the devil for a little season; but they do not fill his place, and prevent him coming back again. Nothing will do that but the story of the cross applied to the conscience by the Holy Ghost, and received and accepted by faith. Yes! it is the blood of Christ,—not His example only, or His beautiful moral teaching,—but His vicarious sacrifice that meets the want of the soul. No wonder that St. Peter calls it “precious.” Precious it has been found by the heathen abroad, and by the peer and the peasant at home. Precious it was found on a death-bed by the mighty theologian Bengel, by the unwearied labourer John Wesley, by the late Archbishop Longley, and Bishop Hamilton in our own days. May it ever be precious in our eyes! If we want to do good, we must make much of the blood of Christ. There is only one fountain that can cleanse any one’s sin. That fountain is the blood of the Lamb.