"There is a common worldly kind of Christianity in this day, which offends nobody, and requires no sacrifice, which costs nothing and is worth nothing."
As lamentable as this observation was two centuries ago, it is even more so today—because it is still true. In this book, Ryle walks the "old paths," he teaches the "law and the prophets." And the net result casts light on true Christianity, revealing the glorious "beauty of holiness."
John Charles Ryle (b. 1816) once believed that Christianity must be one of the most disagreeable occupations on earth—or in heaven. But one day in 1837 he happened into a church where, hearing Scripture read aloud, he was transformed. One verse, and the emphasis made in between each clause, gripped him: "By grace are ye saved . . . through faith . . . and that not of yourselves . . . it is the gift of God." (Eph. 2:8.)
Four years later, the Church of England ordained him as a minister of the gospel. In 1880, after serving 39 years in the ministry, he became the first Bishop of Liverpool, a post he held for twenty years. He was affectionately known as "the working man's bishop."
Ryle was a theological vertebrate. He never suffered from what he called a "boneless, nerveless, jellyfish condition of soul." His convictions were not negotiable. Indeed, his successor described him as "that man of granite." Archbishop Magee called him "the frank and manly Mr. Ryle." Charles Spurgeon said he was an "evangelical champion." Ryle simply observed, "What is won dearly is priced highly and clung to firmly."
J. C. Ryle died on Trinity Sunday, 1900. Today, more than a hundred years after his death, his works stand at the crossroads between the historic faith and modern evangelicalism. They are signposts directing us to the "old paths." And holiness is not least among them, for without it no man shall see the Lord.
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