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 – 5
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: (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 aim to live like one whose treasure is in heaven . . . to commune with God in prayer, in the Bible, and in the assembly of His people.
The history of the brightest saints that ever lived will contain many a “but,” and “howbeit,” and “notwithstanding,” before you reach the end. The gold will never be without some dross, the light will never shine without some clouds, until we reach the heavenly Jerusalem. The sun itself has spots upon its face. The holiest men have many a blemish and defect when weighed in the balance of the sanctuary. Their life is a continual warfare with sin, the world, and the devil; and sometimes you will see them not overcoming, but overcome. The flesh is ever lusting against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, and “we all stumble in many things” (Galatians 5:17; James 3:2).
But still, for all this, I am sure that to have such a character as I have faintly drawn, is the heart’s desire and prayer of all true Christians. They press towards it, if they do not reach it. They may not attain to it, but they always aim at it. It is what they strive and labor to be, if it is not what they are.
And this I do boldly and confidently say, that true holiness is a great reality. It is something in a man that can be seen, and known, and marked, and felt by all around him. It is light: if it exists, it will show itself. It is salt: if it exists, its savor will be perceived. It is a precious ointment: if it exists, its presence cannot be hid.
I am sure we should all be ready to make allowance for some backsliding, for some occasional deadness in professing Christians. I know a road may lead from one point to another, and yet have many a winding and turn; and a man may be truly holy, and yet be drawn aside by many an infirmity. Gold is not the less gold because mingled with alloy, nor light the less light because faint and dim, nor grace the less grace because young and weak. But after every allowance, I cannot see how any man deserves to be called “holy,” who willfully allows himself in sins, and is not humbled and ashamed because of them. I dare not call any one “holy” who makes a habit of willfully neglecting known duties, and willfully doing what he knows God has commanded him not to do. John Owen, the brilliant Puritan theologian, stated:
“I do not understand how a man can be a true believer unto whom sin is not the greatest burden, sorrow, and trouble.”
Such are the leading characteristics of practical holiness. Let us examine ourselves and see whether we are acquainted with it. Let us prove our own selves.