“A right view of sin is the best antidote to that sensuous, ceremonial, formal kind of Christianity, which has swept over England like a flood in the last twenty-five years, and carried away so many before it.  I can well believe that there is much that is attractive in this system of religion, to a certain order of minds, so long as the conscience is not fully enlightened.  But when that wonderful part of our constitution called conscience is really awake and alive, I find it hard to believe that a sensuous ceremonial Christianity will thoroughly satisfy us.  A little child is easily quieted and amused with gaudy toys, and dolls, and rattles, so long as it is not hungry; but once let it feel the cravings of nature within, and we know that noting will satisfy it but food.  Just so it is with man in the matter of his soul.  Music, and flowers, and candles, and incense, and banners, and processions, and beautiful vestments, and confessionals, and man-made ceremonies of a semi-romish character, may do well enough for him under certain conditions.  But once let him “awake and arise from the dead” and he will not rest content with these things.  They will seem to him mere solemn triflings, and a waste of time.  Once let him see his sin, and must see his Saviour.  He feels stricken with a deadly disease, and nothing will satisfy him but the great Physician.  He hungers and thirsts, and he must have nothing less than the bread of life.  I may seem bold in what I am about to say; but I fearlessly venture the assertion that four-fifths of the semi-Romanism of the last quarter of a century would never have existed if English people had been taught more fully and clearly the nature, vileness, and sinfulness of sin.”

Holiness, p. 14

Classic:

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What Not to Say at My FuneralAround-the-Horn[1]
Because I do care now, and will care even after I’m with the Lord, here are some things I hope and pray are not said at my funeral. I care about those who will be there, about what they will hear. I want the truth to be spoken, the truth about sin, the truth about death, and, above all, the truth about the love of God in Jesus Christ.

Three Reasons You Should Not Try to Bind Satan
There is a pernicious paranoia that permeates churches today: folks think Satan can hear them speak. Some people unwittingly pad Satan’s résumé to include God’s unique attributes of omniscience and omnipresence. Yes, Satan certainly is ambulant (1 Peter 5:8), but he is confined to one place at a time. He can’t read your mind, and he doesn’t perk his ears when he hears his name mentioned in your prayers.

J.R.R. Tolkien Reveals True Meaning of The Lord of The Rings in Recently Found Audio Recording
Over 20 years ago, a lost recording of J.R.R. Tolkien was discovered in a basement in Rotterdam, but the man who found it kept this important reel-to-reel tape hidden away. Until recently, only he had heard the recording. But now, I am one of those lucky Middle-earth lovers who has listened to this magical magnetic tape, and I happily declare that it is awesome. For it proves once and for all that Professor Tolkien was, in fact, very much the hobbit that we all suspected him to be. What’s more, we get to hear Tolkien reading a lost poem in the Elven tongue which he translates into English. And to top it off, he states in unambiguous terms (cue Rohirrim war trumpets) the real meaning of The Lord of the Rings!

Pastors Are Not Born But Formed
Cruising through Bruce Gordon’s masterful biography on Calvin, I’ve been struck to see that pastors aren’t born but formed. It’s easy when reading the final edition of the Institutes or the later commentaries, at such a historical remove, to forget the development and the formative influences involved in turning the proud young legal scholar into a mature churchman and theologian.

Should A Theologians Life Affect How We Regard His/Her Theology
Over the decades of studying and teaching about not only the theologies of Christian theologians past and present but also their biographies I’ve run into a common question. How should we relate their lives to their theologies? To be specific, if there’s something negative in their life story, should that affect how we value their intellectual contributions?

Religious Freedom In Peril
From the NYT: Religious freedom is one of the most basic of human rights, and one in peril in much of the world.

A Chilling New Front In The War On Religious Liberty
What does this mean? It means that the ACLU and company are pursuing a zero-sum strategy against religious groups and individuals. They have declared an all-out culture war and will offer no quarter to sincere religious dissenters. They are ready to use the coercive power of the state to trample the religious consciences of their countrymen. This is radical and chilling. Let’s hope and pray this intolerant strategy does not become the new orthodoxy among the American Left. It is toxic.

Wrestling With That Old Anglican Timeline, In South Carolina 
Anyone who follows news on the religion beat knows the drill when it comes to reporters framing the global, national, regional and local conflicts between Anglicans: The battles are about homosexuality, period, and all heck broke loose in 2003 when the tiny Diocese of New Hampshire elected an openly gay and non-celibate bishop.  The problem with that news template is that it’s simplistic.

Christian Eschatology and the Planet of The Apes
A Christian vision of the future proves the dystopian movies to be right, in some sense. There’s a fire being kindled somewhere, and not even the Statue of Liberty can withstand it. But, after that, there’s the kind of new creation that makes everything new.

A Company Liberals Could Love
From the NYT: For a generation now, liberals have bemoaned the disappearance of the socially conscious corporation, the boardroom devoted to the common good. Once, the story goes, America’s C.E.O.s recognized that they shared interests with workers and customers; once wages and working hours reflected more than just a zeal for profits. But then came Reagan, deregulation, hostile takeovers, and an era of solidarity gave way to the age of Gordon Gekko, from which there’s been no subsequent escape.  There are, however, exceptions: companies that still have a sense of business as a moral calling, which can be held up as examples to shame the bottom-liners.  One such company . . . .

Get With the Program – The Church of England Votes to Ordain Women Bishops
Writing about the age of John Milton, the British author A. N. Wilson once tried to explain to modern secular readers that there had once been a time when bishops of the Church of England were titanic figures of conviction who were ready to stand against the culture. “It needs an act of supreme historical imagination to be able to recapture an atmosphere in which Anglican bishops might be taken seriously,” he wrote, “still more, one in which  they might be thought threatening.”  Keep that in mind as you read the news that the General Synod of the Church of England voted yesterday to approve the consecration of women as bishops of the church.

Arminianism 101: An FAQ
From Roger Olsen

Fleeing Gangs, Children Head to U.S. Border
From the NYT: The killings are a major factor driving the recent wave of migration of Central American children to the United States, which has sent an unprecedented number of unaccompanied minors across the Texas border.

When the Bricks Start to Fall
It is worthy noting that the Lord Jesus describes one of the features of hypocrisy as being manifested in an inability to read the culture. A hypocrite does not know what is coming down because it does not suit him to know what is coming down. It is always handy to say, when things are comparatively calm, “well, that’s not my interpretation.”

This summer our staff will be reading JC Ryle’s book, Holiness.  The original book, written in 1877, had 7 chapters.  Ryle would update the text in 1879 adding an additional 13 chapters to the volume.  I chose this text as our summer reading project for several reasons, not the least of which is that Ryle remains one of my favorite Anglican bishops and writers.  Here are a few more reasons for my choice:

First, having read Sibbes (Bruised Reed) and Augustine (Treatise on Grace and Free Will) the two previous years, Ryle, standing in the same stream, brings us close to our own century.  and, while he wrote in and used the language of the Victorian era the challenges he faced are strikingly similar to those we face.

Second, Ryle was a clear, strong and discursive thinker who emphasized his points by cumulative effect.  Often, today, Ryle is excerpted.  I think it helpful to read him in context and in whole to feel the effect of his intellect and communucative skills.

Third, in this volume Ryle lays out afresh, biblically, systematically, and in practical terms, the true fundamentals of scriptural holiness.

Fourth, much of what Ryle has to say with regard to the interior aspects of personal holiness is of perennial importance and is uniformly relevant to Christian living here and now; challenging our own shallowness and superficialities.

We would love to have you read along with us this summer and I’d welcome your comments and questions.  I will post on my blog every Monday a link to the section of text we will be discussing.  This week, we look at chapter 7, “Assurance.” Following is a snip:

Assurance, such as Paul expresses in the verses which head this paper, is not a mere fancy or feeling. It is not the result of high animal spirits, or a sanguine temperament of body. It is a positive gift of the Holy Ghost, bestowed without reference to men’s bodily frames or constitutions, and a gift which every believer in Christ ought to aim at and seek after.

In matters like these, the first question is this—What saith the Scripture? I answer that question without the least hesitation. The Word of God appears to me to teach distinctly that a believer may arrive at an assured confidence with regard to his own salvation.

I lay it down fully and broadly, as God’s truth, that a true Christian, a converted man, may reach such a comfortable degree of faith in Christ, that in general he shall feel entirely confident as to the pardon and safety of his soul—shall seldom be troubled with doubts—seldom be distracted with fears—seldom be distressed by anxious questionings—and, in short, though vexed by many an inward conflict with sin, shall look forward to death without trembling, and to judgment without dismay. This, I say, is the doctrine of the Bible.

Such is my account of assurance. I will ask my readers to mark it well. I say neither less nor more than I have here laid down.

Now such a statement as this is often disputed and denied. Many cannot see the truth of it at all.

The Church of Rome denounces assurance in the most unmeasured terms. The Council of Trent declares roundly that a “believer’s assurance of the pardon of his sins is a vain and ungodly confidence;” and Cardinal Bellarmine, the well-known champion of Romanism, calls it “a prime error of heretics.”

The vast majority of the worldly and thoughtless Christians among ourselves oppose the doctrine of assurance. It offends and annoys them to hear of it. They do not like others to feel comfortable and sure, because they never feel so themselves. Ask them whether their sins are forgiven, and they will probably tell you they do not know! That they cannot receive the doctrine of assurance is certainly no marvel.

But there are also some true believers who reject assurance, or shrink from it as a doctrine fraught with danger. They consider it borders on presumption. They seem to think it a proper humility never to feel sure, never to be confident, and to live in a certain degree of doubt and suspense about their souls. This is to be regretted, and does much harm.

I frankly allow there are some presumptuous persons who profess to feel a confidence for which they have no Scriptural warrant. There are always some people who think well of themselves when 104God thinks ill, just as there are some who think ill of themselves when God thinks well. There always will be such. There never yet was a Scriptural truth without abuses and counterfeits. God’s election—man’s impotence—salvation by grace—all are alike abused. There will be fanatics and enthusiasts as long as the world stands. But, for all this, assurance is a reality and a true thing; and God’s children must not let themselves be driven from the use of a truth, merely because it is abused.

My answer to all who deny the existence of real, well-grounded assurance, is simply this—What saith the Scripture? If assurance be not there, I have not another word to say.

Read it all.

This summer our staff will be reading JC Ryle’s book, Holiness.  The original book, written in 1877, had 7 chapters.  Ryle would update the text in 1879 adding an additional 13 chapters to the volume.  I chose this text as our summer reading project for several reasons, not the least of which is that Ryle remains one of my favorite Anglican bishops and writers.  Here are a few more reasons for my choice:

First, having read Sibbes (Bruised Reed) and Augustine (Treatise on Grace and Free Will) the two previous years, Ryle, standing in the same stream, brings us close to our own century.  and, while he wrote in and used the language of the Victorian era the challenges he faced are strikingly similar to those we face.

Second, Ryle was a clear, strong and discursive thinker who emphasized his points by cumulative effect.  Often, today, Ryle is excerpted.  I think it helpful to read him in context and in whole to feel the effect of his intellect and communucative skills.

Third, in this volume Ryle lays out afresh, biblically, systematically, and in practical terms, the true fundamentals of scriptural holiness.

Fourth, much of what Ryle has to say with regard to the interior aspects of personal holiness is of perennial importance and is uniformly relevant to Christian living here and now; challenging our own shallowness and superficialities.

We would love to have you read along with us this summer and I’d welcome your comments and questions.  I will post on my blog every Monday a link to the section of text we will be discussing.  This week, we look at chapter 6, “Growth.” Following is a snip:

To every one who is in downright earnest about his soul, and hungers and thirsts after spiritual life, the question ought to come home with searching power. Do we make progress in our religion? Do we grow?

The question is one that is always useful, but especially so at certain seasons. A Saturday night, a Communion Sunday, the return of a birthday, the end of a year—all these are seasons that ought to set us thinking, and make us look within. Time is fast flying. Life is fast ebbing away. The hour is daily drawing nearer when the reality of our Christianity will be tested, and it will be seen whether we have built on “the rock” or on “the sand.” Surely it becomes us from time to time to examine ourselves, and take account of our souls? Do we get on in spiritual things? Do we grow?

The question is one that is of special importance in the present day. Crude and strange opinions are floating in men’s minds on some points of doctrine, and among others on the point of “growth in grace,” as an essential part of true holiness. By some it is totally denied. By others it is explained away, and pared down to nothing. By thousands it is misunderstood, and consequently neglected. In a day like this it is useful to look fairly in the face the whole subject of Christian growth.

In considering this subject there are three things which I wish to bring forward and establish:

I. The reality of religious growth. There is such a thing as “growth in grace.”

II. The marks of religious growth. There are marks by which “growth in grace” may be known.

III. The means of religious growth. There are means that must be used by those who desire “growth in grace.”

I know not who you are, into whose hands this paper may have fallen. But I am not ashamed to ask your best attention to its contents. Believe me, the subject is no mere matter of speculation and controversy. It is an eminently practical subject, if any is in religion. It is intimately and inseparably connected with the whole question of “sanctification.” It is a leading mark of true saints that they grow. The spiritual health and prosperity, the spiritual happiness and comfort of every true-hearted and holy Christian, are intimately connected with the subject of spiritual growth.

Read it all.

This summer our staff will be reading JC Ryle’s book, Holiness.  The original book, written in 1877, had 7 chapters.  Ryle would update the text in 1879 adding an additional 13 chapters to the volume.  I chose this text as our summer reading project for several reasons, not the least of which is that Ryle remains one of my favorite Anglican bishops and writers.  Here are a few more reasons for my choice:

First, having read Sibbes (Bruised Reed) and Augustine (Treatise on Grace and Free Will) the two previous years, Ryle, standing in the same stream, brings us close to our own century.  and, while he wrote in and used the language of the Victorian era the challenges he faced are strikingly similar to those we face.

Second, Ryle was a clear, strong and discursive thinker who emphasized his points by cumulative effect.  Often, today, Ryle is excerpted.  I think it helpful to read him in context and in whole to feel the effect of his intellect and communucative skills.

Third, in this volume Ryle lays out afresh, biblically, systematically, and in practical terms, the true fundamentals of scriptural holiness.

Fourth, much of what Ryle has to say with regard to the interior aspects of personal holiness is of perennial importance and is uniformly relevant to Christian living here and now; challenging our own shallowness and superficialities.

We would love to have you read along with us this summer and I’d welcome your comments and questions.  I will post on my blog every Monday a link to the section of text we will be discussing.  This week, we look at chapter 5, “The Cost.” Following is a snip:

In buying property, in building houses, in furnishing rooms, in forming plans, in changing dwellings, in educating children, it is wise and prudent to look forward and consider. Many would save themselves much sorrow and trouble if they would only remember the question—“What does it cost?”

But there is one subject on which it is specially important to “count the cost.” That subject is the salvation of our souls. What does it cost to be a true Christian? What does it cost to be a really holy man? This, after all, is the grand question. For want of thought about this, thousands, after seeming to begin well, turn away from the road to heaven, and are lost for ever in hell. Let me try to say a few words which may throw light on the subject.

I. I will show, firstly, what it costs to be a true Christian.

II. I will explain, secondly, why it is of such great importance to count the cost.

III. I will give, in the last place, some hints which may help men to count the cost rightly.

We are living in strange times. Events are hurrying on with singular rapidity. We never know “what a day may bring forth”; how much less do we know what may happen in a year!—We live in a day of great religious profession. Scores of professing Christians in every part of the land are expressing a desire for more holiness and a higher degree of spiritual life. Yet nothing is more common than to see people receiving the Word with joy, and then after two or three years falling away, and going back to their sins. They had not considered “what it costs” to be a really consistent believer and holy Christian. Surely these are times when we ought often to sit down and “count the cost,” and to consider the state of our souls. We must mind what we are about. If we desire to be truly holy, it is a good sign. We may thank God for putting the desire into our hearts. But still the cost ought to be counted. No doubt Christ’s way to eternal life is a way of pleasantness. But it is folly to shut our eyes to the fact that His way is narrow, and the cross comes before the crown.

Read the rest.

Dear St. Andrew’s Family,

As many of you will know I am just home from the Anglican Church in America’s electing conclave, Provincial Council and Assembly. Thank you for your prayers.

As a bishop in the church I joined with 50 of my colleagues for 3 ½ days of prayer and conversation as we sought to discern the Lord’s will as to who would succeed Archbishop Bob Duncan. I wish I could tell you more of our time together – I wish I could tell my kids of our time together. It was rich. It was honest. We clearly saw the Spirit bring us to a profound unity. And, the consequence was the unanimous election of +Foley Beach, the Bishop of the Diocese of the South, as our next Archbishop. We did, though covenant with one other to keep the details of our time together private amongst ourselves – a commitment I believe which allowed the depth and honesty of our conversations to unfold and ultimately bear fruit.

The days following saw the genuine enthusiasm of the wider church gathered as we both conducted the necessary business of the church and were fed by some of the finest teaching I’ve encountered.

One of the highlights of the week was Archbishop Bob’s report to the Provincial Council in which he noted the various signs of our growing Province’s maturation. Spiritually, ++Bob noted that in these past five years we have seen the development of liturgical texts to assist our congregations in the deepening of their spiritual lives. Additionally, we have developed a catechism to assist our congregations in Christian formation. The fruit of these efforts? The fruit of the Spirit’s life and ministry in our churches? ++Bob reported to us the overwhelming news that in in the past 5 years we have planted almost 500 congregations! And, in the past year we have seen over 3000 conversions to Jesus Christ and a 13% increase in membership. Incredible!

On the last day of our Assembly, our Archbishop-elect, Foley Beach, had a 30 minute time of Q & A. He began his conversation with us by sharing his testimony. It was quite moving. I’ve included the video, below, so that you might see and hear for yourself the man whom the Lord has tapped to lead our church:

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Lastly, in his first sermon as Archbishop at the closing Communion service, ++Foley presented a challenge to the church. Noting that Christ’s command was to go and make “disciples” (not Christians and certainly not Anglicans) he commended to every delegate – and I would say to every member of the ACNA – that over the next year we each befriend one person who does not know or follow Jesus. And, as our friendship with this person grows we commit ourselves to praying for that person and to sharing our faith with that person. Additionally, ++Foley suggested that each person come along side one younger believer for the purpose of encouragement and discipleship. Two very good suggestions, I think.

And so I commend his encouragements to you, my St. Andrew’s family. Develop a friendship with someone who does not name the Name of Christ and in the course of your friendship, undergirded by prayer, gently share what Christ has done in your life. Come along side a younger believer and encourage them. Walk with them. Teach them what it means to be a disciple.

Friends, I am thrilled at where the Lord has brought us – as a parish, as a diocese and as a larger North American church – these past several years. I am overwhelmed by His faithfulness and His goodness. I hope you, too, know the joy of Christ in your life and I pray your continued obedience to Christ’s words, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28.19-20)

In the family,

+Steve

PS – It would be impossible for me to report the above to you without noting my profound gratitude for our now retired Archbishop Bob and his wife, Nara. Very few understand the sacrifices made and wounds received as he – as they – sought to create a home in North American for displaced Episcopalians/Anglicans. ++Bob led with vision and courage and Nara was there each step of the way. And, to them, I say, “thank you.”

Here’s a snip:

That liberalism, political or theological, is not enjoying good health is obvious to even the most causal observer.  The rise of religious extremism, particularly that of Islam, has present the Left with a series of choices which have pushed it towards incoherence.  Theologically, the picture is little different: liberal Christianity is in decline as it does little more than offer a vaguely religious vocabulary for expressing ideas that are, to be frank, more compelling when stated in secular terms.

In this well-written and fascinating book, Reinventing Liberal Christianity, Theo Hobson laments the parlous state of liberal Christianity and, after an extended historical narrative, offers a plea for its reinvention.

At the heart of Hobson’s book lies a fundamental distinction which he makes within liberal Christianity: there is liberal Christianity which, taking its basic cue from Schleiermacher, seeks to redefine the faith in a way that a conservative like myself would say disembowels it of its content by purging away the supernatural and redefining doctrine in psychological or social categories.  That is the definition of liberal Christianity with which most evangelicals operate.   Yet Hobson also offers another definition, that of liberal Christianity as affirming the liberal state, with its traditional values of personal freedom.

To summarise Hobson’s historical narrative, he sees John Milton as offering an account of Christianity which affirmed the liberal state and also set forth a model of the relationship between the sacred and the secular which allowed for dialogue without the kind of dogmatic universalizing of reason which actually triumphed and placed a basic dilemma at the heart of the liberal state which we live with today: individual freedom versus a totalizing vision of the truth.  What Hobson wishes to do, therefore, is not reinstate classic Christian liberalism but to call it back to its roots in people like John Milton.

There is much to enjoy in this book.  It is good to be reminded that the Roman Catholic Church only decided to jump on the religious liberty bandwagon in the 1960s (after Elvis had past his peak, if you want a pop culture marker to remind you of how recently that was).   Hobson’s treatment of Hauerwas is stimulating: he appreciates Hauerwas’s (for want of a better word) sectarianism but dislikes his repudiation of the liberal state.  It is hard to argue with that: Hauerwas only enjoys his opportunities to write as he does because he lives in a liberal state.  North Korea presumably offers less attractive opportunities for its resident Christian ethicists.

One thing that struck me, though, is that the model offered is not distinctively liberal in terms of its theological commitments.   While Milton is the poster child of the seventeenth century for Hobson, there were other voices calling for an understanding of church and state which certainly pointed towards the modern liberal state.  John Owen, for example, a high Calvinist if ever there was one, argued for toleration of Protestant sectarianism in 1660s.  That his argument served his own personal cause does not render it invalid or insignificant.   ‘Good liberalism’ can easily be held by the most theologically and traditionally doctrinaire of people.  Further, one might point today to certain branches of Reformed theology, such as that elaborated by David VanDrunen in his recent book, Divine Covenants and Moral Order, which offer a very nuanced account of the relationship of church and state, such that the identity and task of the church is not confused with that of transforming society.  Interestingly enough, it seems to me that there are a number of practical similarities between that position and that of, say, Scot McKnight.

The other matter which Hobson does not really address and yet which is so germane to the current situation is the role of the law courts.  With so many competing visions of what individual freedom actually looks like (as opposed to what it is in theory), the liberal state has arguably ceded significant power to the judicial branch of government in a manner which is set to increasingly limit democracy and also ultimately to redefine what is actually meant by freedom.  As a Christian in America today, I fear judicial rulings more than I trust in elections.

Be sure to read it all.

This summer our staff will be reading JC Ryle’s book, Holiness.  The original book, written in 1877, had 7 chapters.  Ryle would update the text in 1879 adding an additional 13 chapters to the volume.  I chose this text as our summer reading project for several reasons, not the least of which is that Ryle remains one of my favorite Anglican bishops and writers.  Here are a few more reasons for my choice:

First, having read Sibbes (Bruised Reed) and Augustine (Treatise on Grace and Free Will) the two previous years, Ryle, standing in the same stream, brings us close to our own century.  and, while he wrote in and used the language of the Victorian era the challenges he faced are strikingly similar to those we face.

Second, Ryle was a clear, strong and discursive thinker who emphasized his points by cumulative effect.  Often, today, Ryle is excerpted.  I think it helpful to read him in context and in whole to feel the effect of his intellect and communucative skills.

Third, in this volume Ryle lays out afresh, biblically, systematically, and in practical terms, the true fundamentals of scriptural holiness.

Fourth, much of what Ryle has to say with regard to the interior aspects of personal holiness is of perennial importance and is uniformly relevant to Christian living here and now; challenging our own shallowness and superficialities.

We would love to have you read along with us this summer and I’d welcome your comments and questions.  I will post on my blog every Monday a link to the section of text we will be discussing.  This week, we look at chapter 4, “The Fight.” Following is a snip:

It is a curious fact that there is no subject about which most people feel such deep interest as “fighting.” Young men and maidens, old men and little children, high and low, rich and poor, learned and unlearned, all feel a deep interest in wars, battles and fighting.

This is a simple fact, whatever way we may try to explain it. We should call that Englishman a dull fellow who cared nothing about the story of Waterloo, or Inkermann, or Balaclava or Lucknow. We should think that heart cold and stupid which was not moved and thrilled by the struggles at Sedan and Strasburg, and Metz, and Paris, during the war between France and Germany.

But there is another warfare of far greater importance than any war that was ever waged by man. It is a warfare which concerns not two or three nations only, but every Christian man and woman born into the world. The warfare I speak of is the spiritual warfare. It is the fight which everyone who would be saved must fight about his soul.

This warfare, I am aware, is a thing of which many know nothing. Talk to them about it, and they are ready to set you down as a madman, an enthusiast, or a fool. And yet it is as real and true as any war the world has ever seen. It has its hand-to-hand conflicts and its wounds. It has its watchings and fatigues. It has its sieges and assaults. It has its victories and its defeats. Above all, it has consequences which are awful, tremendous, and most peculiar. In earthly warfare the consequences to nations are often temporary and remediable. In the spiritual warfare it is very different. Of that warfare, the consequences, when the fight is over, are unchangeable and eternal.

It is of this warfare that St. Paul spoke to Timothy, when he wrote those burning words, “Fight the good fight of faith; lay hold on eternal life.” It is of this warfare that I propose to speak in this paper. I hold the subject to be closely connected with that of sanctification and holiness. He that would understand the nature of true holiness must know that the Christian is “a man of war.” If we would be holy we must fight.

Read it all.

This summer our staff will be reading JC Ryle’s book, Holiness.  The original book, written in 1877, had 7 chapters.  Ryle would update the text in 1879 adding an additional 13 chapters to the volume.  I chose this text as our summer reading project for several reasons, not the least of which is that Ryle remains one of my favorite Anglican bishops and writers.  Here are a few more reasons for my choice:

First, having read Sibbes (Bruised Reed) and Augustine (Treatise on Grace and Free Will) the two previous years, Ryle, standing in the same stream, brings us close to our own century.  and, while he wrote in and used the language of the Victorian era the challenges he faced are strikingly similar to those we face.

Second, Ryle was a clear, strong and discursive thinker who emphasized his points by cumulative effect.  Often, today, Ryle is excerpted.  I think it helpful to read him in context and in whole to feel the effect of his intellect and communucative skills.

Third, in this volume Ryle lays out afresh, biblically, systematically, and in practical terms, the true fundamentals of scriptural holiness.

Fourth, much of what Ryle has to say with regard to the interior aspects of personal holiness is of perennial importance and is uniformly relevant to Christian living here and now; challenging our own shallowness and superficialities.

We would love to have you read along with us this summer and I’d welcome your comments and questions.  I will post on my blog every Monday a link to the section of text we will be discussing.  This week, we look at chapter 3, “Holiness.” Following is a snip:

The text which heads this page opens up a subject of deep importance. That subject is practical holiness. It suggests a question which demands the attention of all professing Christians—Are we holy? Shall we see the Lord?

That question can never be out of season. The wise man tells us, “There is a time to weep, and a time to laugh—a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Eccles. iii. 4, 7); but there is no time, no, not a day, in which a man ought not to be holy. Are we?

That question concerns all ranks and conditions of men. Some are rich and some are poor—some learned and some unlearned—some masters, and some servants; but there is no rank or condition in life in which a man ought not to be holy. Are we?

I ask to be heard to-day about this question. How stands the account between our souls and God? In this hurrying, bustling world, let us stand still for a few minutes and consider the matter of holiness. I believe I might have chosen a subject more popular and pleasant. I am sure I might have found one more easy to handle. But I feel deeply I could not have chosen one more seasonable and more profitable to our souls. It is a solemn thing to hear the Word of God saying, “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” (Heb. xii. 14.)

I shall endeavour, by God’s help, to examine what true holiness is, and the reason why it is so needful. In conclusion, I shall try to point out the only way in which holiness can be attained. I have already, in the second paper in this volume, approached this subject from a doctrinal side. Let me now try to present it to my readers in a more plain and practical point of view.

I. First, then, let me try to show what true practical holiness is—what sort of persons are those whom God calls holy.

A man may go great lengths, and yet never reach true holiness. It is not knowledge—Balaam had that: nor great profession—Judas Iscariot had that: nor doing many things—Herod had that: nor zeal for certain matters in religion—Jehu had that: nor morality and outward respectability of conduct—the young ruler had that: nor taking pleasure in hearing preachers—the Jews in Ezekiel’s time 35had that: nor keeping company with godly people—Joab and Gehazi and Demas had that. Yet none of these was holy! These things alone are not holiness. A man may have any one of them, and yet never see the Lord.

What then is true practical holiness? It is a hard question to answer. I do not mean that there is any want of Scriptural matter on the subject. But I fear lest I should give a defective view of holiness, and not say all that ought to be said; or lest I should say things about it that ought not to be said, and so do harm. Let me, however, try to draw a picture of holiness, that we may see it clearly before the eyes of our minds. Only let it never be forgotten, when I have said all, that my account is but a poor imperfect outline at the best.

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