Saving from Sorrow

This is from J.C. Ryle’s Thoughts For Young Men, Chapter 1: Reasons for Exhorting Young Men: Saving from Sorrow


For another thing, young men need exhorting because of the sorrow it will save them, to begin serving God now. Sin is the mother of all sorrow, and no sort of sin appears to give a man so much misery and pain as the sins of his youth. The foolish acts he did, the time he wasted, the mistakes he made, the bad company he kept, the harm he did himself in both body and soul, the chances of happiness he threw away, the openings of usefulness he neglected—all these are things that often embitter the conscience of an old man, throw a gloom on the evening of his days, and fill the later hours of his life with self-reproach and shame.


Some men could tell you of the untimely loss of health brought on by youthful sins. Disease racks their limbs with pain, and life is almost a weariness. Their muscular strength is so wasted that a grasshopper seems a burden. Their eye has become prematurely dim and their natural force reduced. The sun of their health has gone down while it is yet day, and they mourn to see their flesh and body consumed. Believe me, this is a bitter cup to drink.


Others could give you sad accounts of the consequences of idleness. They threw away the golden opportunity for learning. They would not get wisdom at the time when their minds were most able to receive it and their memories most ready to retain it. And now it is too late. They have no leisure to sit down and learn. They have no longer the same power, even if they had the leisure. Lost time can never be redeemed. This too is a bitter cup to drink.


Others could tell you of grievous mistakes in judgment from which they suffer all their lives long. They would have their own way. They would not take advice. They formed some connection that has been altogether ruinous to their happiness. They chose a profession for which they were entirely unsuited. And they see it all now, but their eyes are only open when the mistake cannot be retrieved. Oh, this is also a bitter cup to drink!


Young men, I wish you did but know the comfort of conscience not burdened with a long list of youthful sins. These are the wounds that pierce the deepest. These are the arrows that drink up a man’s spirit. This is the iron that enters the soul. Be merciful to yourselves. Seek the Lord early, and so you will be spared many a bitter tear.

This is the truth that Job seems to have felt. He says, “Thou writest bitter things against me, and makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth” (Job 13:26). So also his friend Zophar, speaking of the wicked, says, “His bones are full of the sins of his youth, which shall lie down with him in the dust” (Job 20:11).

David also seems to have felt it. He says to the Lord, “Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions” (Psa 25:7).

Beza,1 the great Swiss Reformer, felt it so strongly, that he named it in his will as special mercy that he had been called out from the world, by the grace of God, at the age of sixteen.

Go and ask believers now, and I think many a one will tell you much the same. “Oh, that I could live my young days over again!” he will most probably say. “Oh, that I had spent the beginning of my life in a better fashion! Oh, that I had not laid the foundation of evil habits so strongly in the springtime of my course!”

Do not give the most precious season of your life to things which will not comfort you in the latter part of your life. Instead, sow seeds of righteousness; clear your heart of weeds; and do not sow among thorns.

Davis, 24


Young men, I want to save you all this sorrow if I can. Hell itself is a truth known too late. Be wise in time. What youth sows, old age must reap. Give not the most precious season of your life to that which will not comfort you in your latter end. Sow to yourselves rather in righteousness;2 break up your fallow ground; sow not among thorns (Jer 4:3; Hos 10:12).

Sin may go lightly (easily) from your hand or run smoothly off your tongue now, but depend on it, sin and you will meet again by and by, however little you may like it. Old wounds will often ache and give pain long after they are healed and only a scar remains—so may you find it with your sins. The footprints of animals have been found on the surface of rocks that were once wet sand, thousands of years after the animal that made them has perished and passed away—so also it may be with your sins.

“Experience,” says the proverb, “keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.” (Davis: “In other words, experience comes through costly mistakes, but fools will not learn in any other way.”) I want you all to escape the misery of learning in that school. I want you to avoid the wretchedness that youthful sins are sure to entail. This is the last reason why I exhort you.


1 Theodore Beza (1519-1605) – Swiss/French Protestant theologian and scholar who played an important role in the early Reformation. According to Shawn Wright, author of 40 Questions on Calvinism, “John Calvin was undoubtedly the father of Calvinism, but Beza very well may have been the first Calvinist. He also gave form to what we now call Calvinism by explaining and defending the biblical doctrines Calvin had rediscovered. Through his teaching and writing ministry, Beza defended the imputation of Christ’s righteousness as essential to a sinner’s justification, he explained the justice of double predestination, and he expounded the comfort a believer receives from Christ’s definite atonement.” (The First Calvinist)

2 righteousness – characteristic of being right with God: uprightness; moral purity; virtue.

Study Questions (from Chapel Libary) :

Very Important Note: We ask you to always get your answer from the text, but use your own words in your answer. Please do not merely quote the text for your answer. Rather, read what the text says, think about the meaning of what it says, and summarize the meaning of the text in your own words for your answer. In this way, you will learn much more than simply a “search/find/quote” method for answering the questions.

Read: First, please read the reading text. Please answer the questions below from the information in this chapter. 
Read the Scriptures: The author will refer to Bible verses, it is to your utmost benefit to read the verses.
Read Slowly: Please read slowly enough so you understand what you read. 
Read Prayerfully: Please also pray before each lesson asking the LORD for wisdom to apply what you learn to your life, and to enable you to love Him with all your mind, heart, soul, and strength, for this is the greatest commandment (Mar 12:30).

Making It Personal: The author lists four areas that can cause much grief in later years: wasted 1) health, 2) time, 3) decision, and 4) youth.

a. Which of these areas do you think maybe your biggest grief when you are older?

b. Briefly explain why you chose it.

To God be the glory!


Ryle, J. C., & Davis, M. (2018). Thoughts for Young Men: An exhortation directed to those in the prime of life. Ep Books.

Published by Jeff Chavez

Sinner saved by grace

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