Monday, November 29, 2010
It was published in 1879 and yet remains extremely relevant. Controversies over anemic doctrine and slothfulness in our pursuit of holiness are not something birthed in our modern age. Ryle laments, “I have had a deep conviction for many years that practical holiness and entire self-consecration to God are not sufficiently attended to by modern Christians in this country.” He is writing to those living in England in the 19th century, but could just as well have been writing to us.
He continues: "Yet sanctification, in its place and proportion, is quite as important as justification. Sound Protestant and Evangelical doctrine is useless if it is not accompanied by a holy life. It is worse than useless; it does positive harm. It is despised by keen-sighted and shrewd men of the world, as an unreal and hollow thing, and brings religion into contempt. It is my firm impression that we want a thorough revival about Scriptural holiness…."
These are strong statements, but I believe Ryle is correct. Sanctification is important and sound doctrine is useless unless accompanied by a holy life. Neglect of holiness is a stain upon the church.
There are many gems found throughout even the introduction to the book as he gives some glimpses into the themes he will be covering in its pages. For instance, he addresses those who believe one can simply “Let Go and Let God” (a slogan still seen in many Evangelical churches and retreat centers today).
Ryle responds: "…is it wise to teach believers that they ought not to think so much of fighting and struggling against sin, but ought rather to "yield themselves to God," and be passive in the hands of Christ? Is this according to the proportion of God's Word? I doubt it…. But, on the other hand, it would not be difficult to point out at least twenty-five or thirty distinct passages in the Epistles where believers are plainly taught to use active personal exertion, and are addressed as responsible for doing energetically what Christ would have them do, and are not told to "yield themselves" up as passive agents and sit still, but to arise and work. A holy violence, a conflict, a warfare, a fight, a soldier's life, a wrestling, are spoken of as characteristic of the true Christian. The account of "the armor of God" in the sixth chapter of Ephesians, one might think, settles the question."
And in the remainder of the book, Ryle issues his call to spiritual arms, to engage in the first of one’s life…the struggle for holiness. It is our goal at Bethany Community to engage in that fight as well with similar ardor.