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Faithfulness and Holiness (Including the Full Text of the First Edition of Ryle's Classic Book, Holiness / Redesign): The Witness of J. C. Ryle Paperback – December 20, 2010
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About the Author
J. I. Packer (DPhil, Oxford University) serves as the Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology at Regent College. He is the author of numerous books, including the classic best-seller Knowing God. Packer served as general editor for the English Standard Version Bible and as theological editor for the ESV Study Bible.
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The large (6'3" tall) Anglican bishop, with his affection for the Puritans and commitment to the historic evangelical fundamentals, was a staunch opponent to the creep into theological liberalism within the Anglican Church. Though some found him to be not unlike a bull in a china shop, Packer describes Ryle as "a single-minded Christian communicator of profound biblical, theological, and pastoral wisdom, a man and minister of giant personal stature and electric force of utterance that sympathetic readers still feel" (p. 11).
Packer's biographical survey definitely backs up this claim by highlighting 12 aspects of Ryle's character and ministry. In these chapters, Ryle's affection for the Puritans, high view of Scripture and great love of the gospel shine forth, as does Packer's admiration. Perhaps the best example is found in the following passage:
"Nobody in Ryle's time idealized pastoral ministry as the work of the wounded healer, in the manner so common today, and Ryle himself would have dismissed the idea as improperly shifting interest from the message to the messenger. Nonetheless, one may guess that Ryle's expositions of Christ-centered, cross-focused, covenant-oriented comfort and encouragement in the face of trouble and disappointment would have been less solid and strong had Ryle's own heart not needed to taste the power of this message so often, and at so deep a level." (p. 25)
Painfully familiar with poverty and a widower twice over, Ryle suffered enormous tragedies in his personal life. Yet God used it for His glory and to benefit others through Ryle's ministry.
As much as I appreciated Packer's survey in part one of Faithfulness and Holiness, it only gives you enough to whet your appetite to learn more about Ryle. As much as I love learning from men like Ryle, it's equally fascinating to learn about them, too. I want to see how their doctrine plays out in their lives, to understand what experiences shaped their identities. The 87 pages of this book devoted to this pursuit are just enough to get you hooked (which means that shopping for good biographies of Ryle is in order), and as long as you don't go into this book expecting a full-fledged biography, you won't be disappointed.
Part two of Faithfulness and Holiness reprints the first edition of Ryle's best-known work, Holiness. This inclusion makes this book a must-read. Indeed, it actually caused me to stop and read the book over the course of three months. Ryle's insights into what it means to be holy, to be set apart for Christ and His service, are powerful as he looks at everything from sin to the necessity of biblical assurance of salvation. Ryle reminds us that this is a doctrine that is sorely misunderstood, as many claim that having an assurance of faith leads one to sit on their hands. Ryle corrects this view, writing that assurance "tends to make a Christian an active working Christian."
"A believer who lacks an assured hope, will spend much of his time in inward searchings of heart about his own state. Like a nervous, hypochondriacal person, he will be full of his own ailments, his own doubtings and questionings, his own conflicts and corruptions. In short, you will often find he is so taken up with his internal warfare that he has little leisure for other things, and little time to work for God." (p. 215)
Because a believer who has an assured hope is free from these distractions, he is "able to give an undivided attention to the work of the Lord, and so in the long run do more." This ideal of having a biblical view of assurance is something that we should strive for as we wrestle with what the Scriptures say on these matters and grow in our faith.
Faithfulness and Holiness is an inspiring and profound introduction to the life and ministry of J.C. Ryle. I would highly encourage reading this book to any reader--especially a newer believer--who desires to dip his or her toe into the depths of Ryle's work. I trust it will offer you great encouragement and inspire much appreciation for Ryle and the call to holiness.
A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes by the publisher
So Ryle's life is one of personal trials and professional testing, yet always remaining true to his convictions. He readily refers to the Puritans and their works, way of life and doctrinal standards, as those he clearly espouses and refuses to do away with. Dr Packer spends several valuable chapters in painting the 19th century on the canvas of Ryle's life.
The second portion is the well-known book, Holiness, which Ryle published in 1877. It is true of this modern classic that Ryle wished he 'might have chosen a subject more popular and pleasant...but I...could not have chosen one more seasonable and more profitable to our souls.' p 139 This is a favorite read. Not too theological, yet inspiring of great good that can be achieved by the hand of a holy God. Bishop JC Ryle's view of justification and sanctification stand in stark contrast to Bishop Moule, who stated that 'We are not to think of the giving of the Spirit as of an isolated deposit of what, once given, is now locally in possession'. Said Ryle: 'I fear it is sometimes forgotten that God has married together justification and sanctification. They are distinct and different things, beyond question, but one is never found without the other.' p 153 And in distinction to Rome who made salvation dependent upon sanctification, JC Ryle made it indispensable to a life of holiness: 'A holy man will strive to be like our Lord Jesus Christ. He will not only live the life of faith in Him, and draw from Him all his daily peace and strength, but he will also labour to have the mind that was in Him, and to be 'conformed to His image' (Rom 8:29).' p 140
'The Puritans taught that a 'regeneration' that leaves men without the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit and without the practice of holy living is not what is promised in Scripture.' Joel Beeke, Living For God's Glory p 292
He defended the doctrine of justification by faith in clear and supremely biblical terms, yet entirely in opposition to Rome: 'In justification our own works have no place at all, and simple faith in Christ is the one thing needful. In sanctification, our own works are of vast importance, and God bids us fight, watch and pray, and strive, and take pains, and labour. Justification admits of no growth or increase... sanctification is an imperfect work, and will never be perfected until we are in heaven.' p 134 He underlined the perseverance of the saints in bold print: 'Better suffer and obey God, than be at ease and in sin.' p 138
Bishop Ryle denied what many charismatic teachers preach as standard truth today: 'I do not for a moment say that holiness shuts out the presence of indwelling sin. No: far from it.' p 144 Even in his day perfectionist claims were disseminated amongst the common people as if it were biblical truth. 'In the 1800s, JC Ryle quoted extensively from Traill's little book, Justification Vindicated, using its clear distinctions between justification and sanctification to defend the church against the holiness movement led by Hannah Pearsall Smith.' Meet The Puritans, eds. Beeke & Pederson p 585 He retorted: 'I question the wisdom of making new-fangled divisions which the Bible has not made, and I thoroughly dislike the notion of a second conversion. Are they not, when they urge on believers the 'higher life' as a second conversion, underrating the length, and breadth, and depth, and height of that great first change which Scripture calls the new birth, the new creation, the spiritual resurrection?' p 101