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 – 4
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: (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 [because he has] more help than they.
(l) Last, but not least, a holy man will follow after spiritual mindedness. He will endeavor to set his affections entirely on things above, and to hold things on earth with a very loose hand. He will not neglect the business of the life that now is; but the first place in his mind and thoughts will be given to the life to come. He will aim to live like one whose treasure is in heaven, and to pass through this world like a stranger and pilgrim travelling to his home. To commune with God in prayer, in the Bible, and in the assembly of His people, these things will be the holy man’s chiefest enjoyments. He will value every thing and place and company, just in proportion as it draws him nearer to God. He will enter into something of David’s feeling, when he says, “My soul follows close behind You,” and “You are my portion, O LORD.” (Psalm 63:8; 119:57).
Such is the character which those who are called “holy” follow after. Such are the main features of a holy man.
But here let me say, I trust no man will misunderstand me. I am not without fear that my meaning will be mistaken, and the description I have given of holiness will discourage some tender conscience. I would not willingly make one righteous heart sad, or throw a stumbling-block in any believer’s way.
I do not say for a moment that holiness shuts out the presence of indwelling sin. No: far from it. It is the greatest misery of a holy man that he carries about with him a “body of death,” that often when he would do good “evil is present with him,” that the old man is clogging all his movements, and, as it were, trying to draw him back at every step he takes (Romans 7:21). But it is the excellence 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. The work of sanctification within him is like the wall of Jerusalem, the building goes forward “even in troublesome times” (Daniel 9:25).
Neither do I say that holiness comes to ripeness and perfection all at once, or that these graces I have touched on must be found in full bloom and vigor before you can call a man holy. No: far from it. Sanctification is always a progressive work. Like the stalk of corn, some men’s graces are in the blade, some in the ear, and some are like the corn in the ear. All must have a beginning. We must never despise “the day of small things” (Zechariah 4:10). And sanctification in the very best is an ongoing and imperfect work.
To Be Continued