John Charles Ryle (May 10, 1816 – June 10, 1900) was an evangelical Anglican clergyman and first Bishop of Liverpool. He was renowned for his powerful preaching and extensive tracts. John C. Ryle was a big man, physically, intellectually, scripturally and spiritually. The fact is that Ryle, though very definitely a Victorian of the Victorians, seemed to be able to leave behind him the verbosity and sentimentality of many of his contemporaries so that his writings still speak today, not only to the older generations, but to younger Christians as well.
The Necessity of Holiness – 1
Follow . . . holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. – Hebrews 12:14.
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,” – Ecclesiastes 3:4, 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 “Holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.”
I shall endeavor, 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 approached this subject from a doctrinal side in a previous teaching. Let me now try to present it to my readers in a more plain and practical point of view.
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 had that: nor keeping company with godly people,—Joab and Gehazi and Demas had that. Yet none of these were 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.
(a) Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture. It is the habit of agreeing in God’s judgment,—hating what He hates,—loving what He loves,—and measuring everything in this world by the standard of His Word. He who most entirely agrees with God, he is the most holy man.
(b) A holy man will endeavor to shun every known sin, and to keep every known commandment. He will have a decided bent of mind toward God, a hearty desire to do His will,—a greater fear of displeasing Him than of displeasing the world, and a love to all His ways. He will feel what Paul felt when he said, “I delight in the law of God according to the inward man,” – Romans 7:22, and what David felt when He said, “All Your precepts concerning all things I consider to be right; I hate every false way.” – Psalm 119:128.
To Be Continued