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 – 3
Follow . . . holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. – Hebrews 12:14.
What true practical holiness is, what sort of persons are those whom God calls holy – continued.
From last week: (f) A holy man will follow after charity and brotherly kindness. . . . Alas, what condemning words are the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians, and the Sermon on the Mount, when laid alongside the conduct of many professing Christians!
(g) A holy man will follow after a spirit of mercy and benevolence towards others. He will not stand all the day idle. He will not be content with doing no harm,—he will try to do good. He will strive to be useful in his day and generation, and to lessen the spiritual wants and misery around him, as far as he can. Such was Dorcas, “full of good works and charitable deeds, which she did,” – Acts 9:36; not merely purposed and talked about, but did. Such an one was Paul: “I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved.” – 2 Corinthians 12:15.
(h) A holy man will follow after purity of heart. He will dread all filthiness and uncleanness of spirit, and seek to avoid all things that might draw him into it. He knows his own heart is like tinder, and will diligently keep clear of the sparks of temptation. Who shall dare to talk of strength when David can fall? There is many a hint to be gleaned from the ceremonial law. Under it the man who only touched a bone, or a dead body, or a grave, or a diseased person, became at once unclean in the sight of God. And these things were emblems and figures. Few Christians are ever too watchful and too particular about this point.
(i) A holy man will follow after the fear of God. I do not mean the fear of a slave, who only works because he is afraid of punishment, and would be idle if he did not dread discovery. I mean rather the fear of a child, who wishes to live and move as if he was always before his father’s face, because he loves him. What a noble example Nehemiah gives us of this! When he became Governor at Jerusalem he might have been chargeable to the Jews, and required of them money for his support. The former Governors had done so. There was none to blame him if he did. But he says, “I did not do so, because of the fear of God.” – Nehemiah 5:15.
(j) A holy man will follow after humility. He will desire, in lowliness of mind, to esteem all others better than himself. He will see more evil in his own heart than in any other in the world. He will understand something of Abraham’s feeling, when he says, “I who am but dust and ashes” (Genesis 18:27), and Jacob’s, when he says, “I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies” (Genesis 32:10), and Job’s, when he says, “Behold, I am vile” (Job 40:4), and Paul’s, when he says, “sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15). Holy Bradford, that faithful martyr of Christ, would sometimes finish his letters with these words, “A most miserable sinner, John Bradford.” Good old Mr. Grimshaw’s last words, when he lay on his death-bed, were these, “Here goes an unprofitable servant.”
(k) A holy man will follow after faithfulness in all the duties and relations in life. He will try, not merely to fill his place as well as others who take no thought for their souls, but even better, because he has higher motives, and more help than they. Those words of Paul should never be forgotten, “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord” (Colossians 3:23), and “Not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11). Holy persons should aim at doing everything well, and should be ashamed of allowing themselves to do anything ill if they can help it. Like Daniel, they should seek to give no “charge” (occasion) against themselves, except “concerning the law of his God” (Daniel 6:5). They should strive to be good husbands and good wives, good parents and good children, good masters and good servants, good neighbors, good friends, good subjects, good in private and good in public, good in the place of business and good by their firesides. Holiness is worth little indeed, if it does not bear this kind of fruit. The Lord Jesus puts a searching question to His people, when He asks, “What do you do more than others?” – Matthew 5:47.
To Be Continued