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.
Read the rest.