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J. C. Ryle’s “Holiness”

October 21, 2010

I’m reading J. C. Ryle’s Holiness and partly wondering why I did not pick this book up before now in my life, but mostly thankful that I finally have. It is gripping.  It is biblical.  It is clear.  It is engaging.  It beats with life.  No wonder most Christians consider it a classic.

Ryle begins his book on holiness by first addressing the truth about sin.  “He that wishes to attain right views about Christian holiness,” writes Ryle, “must begin by examining the vast and solemn subject of sin.  He must dig down very low if he would build high.”

Later in this first chapter I swear Ryle is a prophet and talking about today’s thinking, but he is, of course, addressing his era (the 19th century):

The tendency of modern thought is to reject dogmas, creeds, and every kind of bounds in religion.  It is thought grand and wise to condemn no opinion whatsoever, and to pronounce all earnest and clever teachers to be trustworthy, however heterogeneous and mutually destructive their opinions might be.–Everything forsooth is true, and nothing is false!  Everybody is right, and nobody is wrong!  Everybody is likely to be saved, and nobody is to be lost!

. . . . Now I know nothing so likely to counteract this modern plague as constant clear statements about the nature, reality, vileness, power, and guilt of sin.

J. C. Ryle, in J. I. Packer’s Faithfulness and Holiness, pp. 104, 115.

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