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Monday, September 17, 2007

Book Review - Holiness

For years now in my reading I have read authors who have quoted J. C. Ryle. In particular earlier this year I read a book that quoted extensively from his book entitled Holiness. The quotes were compelling so I went shopping. I found the book on ebay and managed to win the bid for, if I remember correctly, around $15.00. The book I have was published in 1952 and I have a copy from the 1962 printing. It runs 331 pages in 21 chapters.

J. C. Ryle was an Anglican bishop who lived in the latter part of the 19th century (1816-1900). This would make him a contemporary with C. H. Spurgeon. He, like Spurgeon, had drank deeply from Puritan writings. Consequently he was Calvinistic in his theology and was a strong believer in practical holiness, thus the book that I just finished reading.

Although he ministered in a sacramental church there were several things he wrote in this book that could raise questions about his view of the sacraments. In the last chapter he clearly defended the proposition that salvation was in Christ alone without the aid of any religious ceremony. The following quote is notable in that connection:

"There are multitudes of baptized men and women who profess to honour Christ, but in reality do him great dishonour. They give Christ a certain place in their system of religion, but not the place which God intended Him to fill. Christ alone is not 'all in all' to their souls. -- No! It is either Christ and the Church - or Christ and the sacraments - or Christ and His ordained ministers - or Christ and their own repentance, or Christ and their prayers - or Christ and their own sincerity and charity, on which the practically rest their souls."

This seems to be a remarkable paragraph coming from a sacramental church and minister!

He dealt with the sins of the days by addressing card playing, theater, dancing, etc. . . .

He clearly emphasised the reality of a changed life in one who truly believes. It is technically a book dealing with sanctification and holiness in the life of the believer. It is a very thorough and practical treatment of the subject. He begins the book dealing with sin and ends dealing with the sufficiency of Christ. In between there is a wealth of thought-provoking ideas presented for our consideration. It is in fact a much needed message for our present generation. If he was discouraged by the low of practical Christianity in the late 19th century what would he think about the early 21st centuries brand of Christianity. I feel quite certain after reading this book that he would be lifting up his voice like a trumpet and showing Israel their sins.

It is well worth reading and mostly engaging. There were a few slow spots, but not enough to discredit the work. There was enough engaging material to keep you reading and expecting! While I am sure that Bishop Ryle and myself would disagree on numerous things and while I did not even agree with everything I read in the book, I do give it a hearty recommendation for those who have not read it.

Following are some of the things I underlined in the book:

Chapter 1 - Sin

"The tendency of modern thought is to reject dogmas, creeds, and every kind of bounds in religion. It is thought grand and wise to condemn no opinion whatsoever, and to pronounce all earnest and clever teachers to be trustworthy, however heterogeneous and mutually destructive their opinions may be. Everything forsooth is true, and nothing is false! everybody is right, and nobody is wrong! Everybody is likely to be saved, and nobody is to be lost!"

"Stand up for these great verities, and you are called narrow, illiberal, old-fashioned, and a theological fossil!"

"I am convinced that the first step towards attaining a higher standard of holiness is to realize more fully the amazing sinfulness of sin."

Chapter 2 - Sanctification

"A regeneration which a man can have, and yet live carelessly in sin or worldliness, is a regeneration invented by uninspired theologians, but never mentioned in Scripture."

"It is nonsense to suppose that we have the Spirit, if we do not also 'walk in the Spirit'."

"A 'saint' in whom nothing can be seen but worldliness or sin, is a kind of monster not recognized in the Bible!"

"God who has given them grace and a new hear, and a new nature, has deprived them of all excuse is they do not live to his praise."

"The holiest actions of the holiest saint that ever lived are all more or less full of defects and imperfections."

"In fact it is sickening and disgusting to hear the cool and flippant language which many pour our about 'conversion - the Saviour - the Gospel - finding peace - free grace' and the like, while they are notoriously serving sin or living for the world."

"There is no greater mistake than to suppose that a Christian has nothing to do with the law and the Ten Commandments, because he cannot be justified by keeping them."

"Let us never be ashamed of making much of sanctification, and contending for a high standard of holiness."

Chapter 3 - Holiness

"He know his own hear is like tinder, and will diligently keep clear of the sparks of temptation."

"But it is the excellency of a holy man that he is not at peace with indwelling sin, as others are. He hates it, mourns over it, and longs to be free from its company."

"I dare not call anyone holy who makes a habit of wilfully neglecting known duties, and wilfully doing what he knows God had commanded him not to do."

"The great question is not what you think, and what you feel, but what you do."

Chapter 6 - Growth

"God has wisely linked together our comfort and our increase in holiness."

"We ourselves are to blame, and none else, if we do not grow."

"Nothing perhaps affects a man's character more than the company he keeps."

"Whatever the world may please to say, we may be sure there is no danger of any of us becoming 'too good'."

"let us never measure our religion by that of others, and think we are doing enough if we have gone beyond our neighbors."

"At our very best we are far worse than we ought to be. There will always be room for improvement in us."

Chapter 7 - Assurance

"There are degrees in our sanctification. In our justification there are none."

"A hope that does not purify is a mocker, a delusion, and a snare."

"A vacillating walk - a backwardness to take a bold and decided line - a readiness to conform to the world - a hesitating witness for Christ - a lingering tone of religion - a flinching from a high standard of holiness and spiritual life - all these make up a sure receipt for bringing a blight upon the garden of your soul."

Chapter 8 - Moses an Example

"Better to suffer and obey God than be at ease and sin."

"There is a common, worldly kind of Christianity in this day, which many have, and think they have enough - a cheap Christianity which offends nobody, and is worth nothing."

"A faith that does not influence a man's practice is not worthy of the name."

Chapter 9 - Lot a Beacon

"Make a wrong choice in life - an unscriptural choice - and settle yourself down unnecessarily in the minds of worldly people, and I know no surer way to damage your own spirituality, and to go backward about your eternal concerns."

". . . . beware of needless mingling with worldly people."

Chapter 10 - A Woman to be Remembered

"Nothing so hardens the heart of man as a barren familiarity with sacred things."

"It is impossible to leave out any portion of God's truth without spoiling the whole."

"Are you making some professions of religion, and yet clinging to the world? Alas, many do! They aim at being though regular Christians, church-going people; yet all the while their dress, their tastes, their companions, their entertainments tell plainly they are of the world."

Chapter 12 - The Ruler of the Waves

"No one can say how much weakness might appear in himself if he was placed in circumstances to call it forth."

"I hold strongly that the ways of the believer should be as distinct from those of the unbeliever, as bitter from sweet, light from darkness, heat from cold."

"You must not hastily conclude that a man has no grace merely because you see in him some corruption."

Chapter 14 - Visible Churches Warned

"I fear much for many professing Christians. I see no sign of fighting in them, much less of victory. They never strike one stroke on the side of Christ. They are at peace with His enemies. They have no quarrel with sin."

"Come out boldly from the world, and the world will be obliged to let you go."

Chapter 15 - Lovest Thou Me

"May we never think that we can love Christ too well, live to Him too thoroughly, confess Him too boldly, lay ourselves out for Him too heartily! Of all the things that will surprise us in the resurrection morning, this, I believe, will surprise us most; That we did not love Christ more before we died."

Chapter 16 - Without Christ

"There will be a day when your place will be empty and you will be only spoken of as one dead and gone. And where will you be then, if you have lived and died without thought about your soul, without God, and without Christ?"

Chapter 17 - Thirst Relieved

It is not when we begin to feel good, but when we feel bad, that we take the first step toward heaven."

Chapter 18 - Unsearchable Riches

"Let us all seek humility. No grace suits man so well. What are we that we should be proud?"

"Never is a land in worse condition than when the minsters of religion have caused their office to be ridiculed and despised."

"I ask what you think of the faithful minster of Christ, who honestly exposes sin, and pricks your conscience."

"They like a ministry which does not make them uncomfortable, and send them home ill at ease. Oh, believe me, he is the best friend who tells you the most truth!"

Chapter 19 - Wants of the Times

"When you cannot answer a sceptic, be content to wait for more light; but never forsake a great principle."

"The difficulties of the Christianity no doubt great; but, depend on it, they are nothing compared to the difficulties of infidelity."

"Christianity without distinct doctrine is a powerless thing."

"You may see scores of religious people (so-called) continually doing things which in days gone by would have been thought utterly inconsistent with vital religion. They see no harm in such things as card-playing, theater going, dancing, incessant novel-reading, and Sunday travelling, and they cannot in the least understand what you mean by objecting to them!"

"Try to do a little good before you die. Strive to be useful."

Chapter 20 - Christ is All

"Look less at yourself and more at Christ, and you will find besetting sins dropping off and leaving you, and your eyes enlightened more and more every day."

"No hope is reasonable which is not scriptural."

Book rating ****
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