This is no doubt a delicate point, but a very serious and important one. I repeat here what I have remarked before. We do not say that men who are not professedly Evangelical ignore and disbelieve the leading doctrines of the Evangelical creed. We say nothing of the kind. But we do say confidently, that there are many ways in which the faith of Christ may be marred and spoiled, without being positively denied. And here we venture to think is the very reason that so much religion called Christian, is not truly Evangelical. The Gospel in fact is a most curiously and delicately compounded medicine, and a medicine that is very easily spoiled.
You may spoil the Gospel by substitution . You have only to withdraw from the eyes of the sinner the grand object which the Bible proposes to faith,—Jesus Christ; and to substitute another object in His place,—the Church, the Ministry, the Confessional, Baptism, or the Lord’s Supper, and the mischief is done. Substitute anything for Christ, and the Gospel is totally spoiled! Do this, either directly or indirectly, and your religion ceases to be Evangelical.
You may spoil the Gospel by addition . You have only to add to Christ, the grand object of faith, some other objects as equally worthy of honour, and the mischief is done. Add anything to Christ, and the Gospel ceases to be a pure Gospel! Do this, either directly or indirectly, and your religion ceases to be Evangelical.
You may spoil the Gospel by interposition . You have only to push something between Christ and the eye of the soul, to draw away the sinner’s attention from the Saviour, and the mischief is done. Interpose anything between man and Christ, and man will neglect Christ for the thing interposed! Do this, either directly or indirectly, and your religion ceases to be Evangelical.
You may spoil the Gospel by disproportion . You have only to attach an exaggerated importance to the secondary things of Christianity, and a diminished importance to the first things, and the mischief is done. Once alter the proportion of the parts of truth, and truth soon becomes downright error! Do this, either directly or indirectly, and your religion ceases to be Evangelical.
Lastly, but not least, you may completely spoil the Gospel by confused and contradictory directions . Complicated and obscure statements about faith, baptism, Church privileges, and the benefits of the Lord’s Supper, all jumbled together, and thrown down without order before hearers, make the Gospel no Gospel at all! Confused and disorderly statements of Christianity are almost as bad as no statement at all! Religion of this sort is not Evangelical.
J.C. Ryle “Evangelical Religion” 1877 see the full tract here.