Thursday, June 14, 2012

Journaling Holiness, part 1

Not my edition, but the prettiest cover 
Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots. J.C. Ryle. (1816-1900)

He who wishes to attain right views about Christian holiness — must begin by examining the vast and solemn subject of sin. He must dig down very low — if he would build high. A mistake here is most mischievous. Wrong views about holiness — are generally traceable to wrong views about human corruption. I make no apology for beginning this volume of messages about holiness, by making some plain statements about sin.

J.C. Ryle was a Victorian theologian--preacher, teacher, writer. I am currently reading his book entitled Holiness. I don't think this will be a quick and easy read, though I fully expect it to be challenging and thought-provoking and wonderful. I thought I would share quotes as I go. I've read the introduction and the first three chapters so far.

I would never say that this book is an easy read. The topic alone--holiness and sanctification--make it an uncomfortable read at least part of the time. But is it biblical? Is it sound doctrine? What does the Bible say on the issue of holiness? of sanctification? of the believer's life and lifestyle? That is what matters most. Not a reader being made comfortable, being made cozy and secure. But an accurate reading and interpretation of the Word of God.

From the introduction,
True holiness does not consist merely of believing and feeling, but of doing and bearing, and a practical exhibition of active and passive grace. Our tongues, our tempers, our natural passions and inclinations--our conduct as parents and children, masters and servants, husbands and wives, rulers and subjects--our dress, our employment of time, our behavior in business, our demeanor in sickness and health, in riches and in poverty--all these are matters which are fully treated by inspired writers. 
True holiness, we surely ought to remember, does not consist merely of inward sensations and impressions. It is much more then tears, and sighs, and bodily excitement, and a quickened pulse, and a passionate feeling of attachment to our favorite preachers and our own religious party, and a readiness to quarrel with everyone who does not agree with us. It is something of "the image of Christ" which can be seen and observed by others in our private life, and habits, and character, and doings!
But I have yet to learn that there is a single passage in Scripture which teaches that a literal perfection — that a complete and entire freedom from sin, in thought, or word, or deed — is attainable, or has ever been attained, by any child of Adam in this world. 
Let us never forget that truth, distorted and exaggerated — can become the mother of the most dangerous heresies! 

The Word of God always speaks of only two classes of people ...
the livingand the dead in sin;
the believer — and the unbeliever;
the converted — and the unconverted;
the travelers in the narrow way — and the travelers in the broad;
the wise — and the foolish;
the children of God — and the children of the devil.
Within each of these two great classes there are, doubtless, various measures of sin and grace; but it only the difference between the higher and lower end of an inclined plane. Between these two great classes there is an enormous gulf; they are as distinct . . .
as life — and death,
light — and darkness,
Heaven — and Hell. 

But the theory of a sudden, mysterious transition of a believer into a state of blessedness and entire consecration at one mighty bound — I cannot receive! It appears to me to be a man-made invention; and I do not see a single plain text to prove it in Scripture!
Gradual growth in grace,
gradual growth in knowledge,
gradual growth in faith,
gradual growth in love,
gradual growth in holiness,
gradual growth in humility,
gradual growth in spiritual-mindedness
 — all this I see clearly taught and urged in Scripture, and clearly exemplified in the lives of many of God's saints. But sudden, instantaneous leaps from conversion to entire consecration — I fail to see in the Bible! 

I think it wiser and safer to press on all converted people the possibility of continual growth in grace, and the absolute necessity of going forward, increasing more and more, and in every year, dedicating and consecrating themselves more, in spirit, soul, and body to Christ. By all means let us teach that there is more holiness to be attained, and more of Heaven to be enjoyed upon earth — than most believers now experience.
In justification, the word to address to man is believe — only believe. In sanctification, the word must be "watch, pray, and fight!" What God has divided — let us not mingle and confuse.
From chapter one, "Sin"
He who wishes to attain right views about Christian holiness — must begin by examining the vast and solemn subject of sin. He must dig down very low — if he would build high. A mistake here is most mischievous. Wrong views about holiness — are generally traceable to wrong views about human corruption. I make no apology for beginning this volume of messages about holiness, by making some plain statements about sin
The plain truth is, that a right understanding of SIN lies at the root of all saving Christianity. Without it, such doctrines as justification, conversion, sanctification, are "words and names" which convey no meaning to the mind. The first thing, therefore, that God does when He makes anyone a new creature in Christ, is to send light into his heart and show him that he is a guilty sinner!
God "shines into our hearts" by the work of the Holy Spirit — and then spiritual life begins (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Dim or indistinct views of sin are the origin of most of the errors, heresies and false doctrines of the present day. If a man does not realize the dangerous nature of his soul's disease — you cannot wonder if he is content with false or imperfect remedies. I believe that one of the chief needs of the contemporary church has been, and is — clearer, fuller teaching about sin.
Sin is that vast moral disease which affects the whole human race, of every rank and class and name and nation and people and tongue-a disease from which there never was but one born of woman that was free. Need I say, that One was Christ Jesus the Lord?
I say, furthermore, that "a sin," to speak more particularly, consists in doing, saying, thinking or imagining anything that is not in perfect conformity with the mind and law of God. "Sin," in short, as the Scripture says, is "the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4). The slightest outward or inward departure from absolute mathematical parallelism with God's revealed will and character, constitutes a sin, and at once makes us guilty in God's sight.
We will do well to remember that, when we make our own miserably imperfect knowledge and consciousness, the measure of our sinfulness — we are on very dangerous ground.
Sin is a disease which pervades and runs through every part of our moral constitution, and every faculty of our minds. The understanding, the affections, the reasoning powers, the will — are all more or less infected. Even the conscience is so blinded that it cannot be depended on as a sure guide, and is as likely to lead men wrong as right — unless it is enlightened by the Holy Spirit. In short, "From the sole of your foot to the top of your head, there is no soundness — only wounds and welts and open sores!" (Isaiah 1:6). The disease may be veiled under a thin covering of courtesy, politeness, good manners and outward decorum — but it lies deep down in the constitution!
For my part, I know no stronger proof of the inspiration of Genesis and the Mosaic account of the origin of man — than the power, extent and universality of sin.
We, on the other hand — poor blind creatures, here today and gone tomorrow, born in sin, surrounded by sinners, living in a constant atmosphere of weakness, infirmity and imperfection — can form none but the most inadequate conceptions of the hideousness of sin. We have no line to fathom it, and no measure by which to gauge it. The blind man can see no difference between a masterpiece of Raphael — and a child's scribbling. The deaf man cannot distinguish between a penny-whistle — and a cathedral organ. The very animals whose smell is most offensive to us — have no idea that they are offensive; and are not offensive to one another. Fallen men and women, I believe, can have no just idea what a vile thing sin is in the sight of that God whose handiwork is absolutely perfect — perfect whether we look through telescope or microscope; perfect in the formation of a mighty planet like Jupiter, with his satellites, keeping time to a second as he rolls round the sun; perfect in the formation of the smallest insect that crawls over a foot of ground. But let us nevertheless settle it firmly in our minds...
that sin is "the abominable thing that God hates";
that God "is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and cannot look upon that which is evil";
that the least transgression of God's law makes us "guilty of all";
that "the soul that sins shall die";
that "the wages of sin is death";
that God will "judge the secrets of men";
that there is a worm that never dies and a fire that is not quenched;
that "the wicked shall be turned into Hell" and "shall go away into everlasting punishment";
and that "nothing that defiles, shall in any way enter" Heaven! (Jeremiah 44:4; Hab. 1:13; James 2:10; Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 6:23; Romans 2:16; Mark 9:44; Psalm 9:17; Matthew 25:46; Rev. 21:27). These are indeed tremendous words, when we consider that they are written in the book of a most merciful God! 

No proof of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, after all, is so overwhelming and unanswerable — as the sufferings and cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the whole doctrine of His substitution and atonement. Terribly black must that guilt be, for which nothing but the blood of the Son of God could make satisfaction. Heavy must that weight of human sin be, which made Jesus groan and sweat drops of blood in agony at Gethsemane and cry at Golgotha, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me!" (Matthew 27:46). Nothing, I am convinced, will astonish us so much, when we awake in the resurrection day, as the view we will have of sin, and the retrospect we will take of our own countless shortcomings and defects. Never until the hour when Christ comes the second time, will we fully realize the "sinfulness of sin." Well might George Whitefield say, "The anthem in Heaven will be: What has God wrought!"

Sin rarely seems sin at its first beginnings. Let us then watch and pray, lest we fall into temptation. We may give wickedness smooth names — but we cannot alter its nature and character in the sight of God.
There is a remedy revealed for man's need — as wide and broad and deep as man's disease! We need not be afraid to look at sin and study its nature, origin, power, extent and vileness — if we only look at the same time at the almighty medicine provided for us in the salvation that is in Jesus Christ. Though sin has abounded — grace has much more abounded . . .
in the everlasting covenant of redemption, to which Father, Son and Holy Spirit are parties;
in the Mediator of that covenant, Jesus Christ the righteous, perfect God and perfect Man in one Person;
in the work that He did by dying for our sins and rising again for our justification;
in the offices that He fills as our Priest, Substitute, Physician, Shepherd and Advocate;
in the precious blood He shed which can cleanse from all sin;
in the everlasting righteousness that He brought in;
in the perpetual intercession that He carries on as our Representative at God's right hand;
in His power to save to the uttermost the chief of sinners, His willingness to receive and pardon the vilest, His readiness to bear with the weakest;
in the grace of the Holy Spirit which He plants in the hearts of all His people, renewing, sanctifying and causing old things to pass away and all things to become new —
in all this (and oh, what a brief sketch it is!) — in all this, I say, there is a full, perfect and complete medicine for the hideous disease of sin!     
Men will never come to Jesus, and stay with Jesus, and live for Jesus — unless they really know why they are to come, and what is their need. Those whom the Spirit draws to Jesus — are those whom the Spirit has convinced of sin. Without thorough conviction of sin, men may seem to come to Jesus and follow Him for a season; but they will soon fall away and return to the world.
From chapter two, "Sanctification"
It is a subject of the utmost importance to our souls. If the Bible is true, it is certain that unless we are "sanctified," we shall not be saved. There are three things which, according to the Bible, are absolutely necessary to the salvation of every man and woman in Christendom. These three are justification, regeneration and sanctification. 

Sanctification is that inward spiritual work which the Lord Jesus Christ works in a man by the Holy Spirit, when He calls him to be a true believer. He not only washes him from his sins in His own blood — but He also separates him from his natural love of sin and the world, puts a new principle in his heart and makes him practically godly in life. The instrument by which the Spirit effects this work is generally the Word of God, though He sometimes uses afflictions and providential visitations "without the Word"

The Lord Jesus has undertaken everything that His people's souls require: not only to deliver them from the guilt of their sins, by His atoning death; but from the dominion of their sins, by placing in their hearts the Holy Spirit; not only to justify them — but also to sanctify them. He is, thus, not only their "righteousness," but their "sanctification"
If the Savior of sinners gives us renewing grace and calls us by His Spirit — we may be sure that He expects us to use our grace and not to go to sleep. It is forgetfulness of this which causes many believers to "grieve the Holy Spirit" and makes them very useless and uncomfortable Christians.
Believing all this, I shall never hesitate to tell people that inward conflict is no proof that a man is not holy, and that they must not think they are not sanctified because they do not feel entirely free from inward struggle. Such freedom from conflict we shall doubtless have in Heaven — but we shall never enjoy it in this present world.
Most men hope to go to Heaven when they die; but few, it may be feared, take the trouble to consider whether they would enjoy Heaven if they got there. Heaven is essentially a holy place; its inhabitants are all holy; its occupations are all holy. To be really happy in Heaven, it is clear and plain that we must be somewhat trained and made ready for Heaven while we are on earth. 
1. Justification is the reckoning and counting a man to be righteous for the sake of another, even Jesus Christ the Lord.
Sanctification is the actual making a man inwardly righteous, though it may be in a very feeble degree.
2. The righteousness we have by our justification is not our own — but the everlasting perfect righteousness of our great Mediator Christ, imputed to us, and made our own by faith.
The righteousness we have by sanctification is our own righteousness, imparted, inherent and wrought in us by the Holy Spirit — but mingled with much infirmity and imperfection.
3. 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 and watch and pray and strive and take pains and labor.
4. Justification is a finished and complete work, and a man is perfectly justified the moment he believes.
Sanctification is an imperfect work, comparatively, and will never be perfected until we reach Heaven.
5. Justification admits of no growth or increase: a man is as much justified the hour he first comes to Christ by faith — as he will be to all eternity.
Sanctification is eminently a progressive work and admits of continual growth and enlargement so long as a man lives.
6. Justification has special reference to our persons, our standing in God's sight, and our deliverance from guilt.
Sanctification has special reference to our natures and the moral renewal of our hearts.
7. Justification gives us our title to Heaven and boldness to enter in.
Sanctification gives us our fitness for Heaven and prepares us to enjoy it when we dwell there.
8. Justification is the act of God for us and is not easily discerned by others.
Sanctification is the work of God within us and cannot be hidden in its outward manifestation from the eyes of men.
I commend these distinctions to the attention of all my readers, and I ask them to ponder them well. I am persuaded that one great cause of the darkness and uncomfortable feelings of many well-meaning people in the matter of religion, is their habit of confounding, and not distinguishing, justification and sanctification.
It can never be too strongly impressed on our minds, that they are two separate things. Yet, they cannot be separated, and everyone that is a partaker of either — is a partaker of both. But never, never ought they to be confounded, and never ought the distinction between them to be forgotten.
It matters little what we wish and what we hope and what we desire to be, before we die. What are we now? What are we doing? Are we sanctified — or not? If not, the fault is all our own.
If we would be sanctified, our course is clear and plain: we must begin with Christ. We must go to Him as sinners, with no plea but that of utter need, and cast our souls on Him by faith — for peace and reconciliation with God. We must place ourselves in His hands, as in the hands of a good physician, and cry to Him for mercy and grace. We must wait for nothing to bring with us, as a recommendation. The very first step towards sanctification, no less than justification, is to come with faith to Christ.
From chapter three, "Holiness"
Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture.It is the habit of agreeing in God's judgment, hating what He hates, loving what He loves, and  measuring everything in this world by the standard of His Word.
A holy man will endeavor to shun every known sin, and to keep every known commandment. He will have a decided bent of mind towards God, a hearty desire to do His will, a greater fear of displeasing Him than of displeasing the world, and a love to all His ways.
To reach the holiday of glory — we must pass through the training school of grace. We must be heavenly-minded and have heavenly tastes in the present life — or else we will never find ourselves in Heaven in the life to come!
We must not merely have a Christian name and Christian knowledge — we must have a Christian character also.

There is not a brick nor a stone laid in the work of our sanctification — until we go to Christ. Holiness is His special gift to His believing people. Holiness is the work He carries on in their hearts by the Spirit whom He puts within them. He is appointed a "Prince and a Savior, to give repentance" as well as remission of sins. To as many as receive Him, He gives power to become sons of God (Acts 5:31; John 9:12, 13). Holiness comes not by blood — parents cannot give it to their children; nor of the will of the flesh — man cannot produce it in himself; nor of the will of man — ministers cannot give it to you by baptism. Holiness comes from Christ. It is the result of vital union with Him. It is the fruit of being a living branch of the true Vine. Go then to Christ and say, "Lord, not only save me from the guilt of sin — but send the Spirit, whom You promised, and save me from its power. Make me holy. Teach me to do Your will." Would you continue holy? Then abide in Christ. (John 15:4, 5). It pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell — a full supply for all a believer's needs. He is the Physician to whom you must daily go — if you would keep well. He is the Manna which you must daily eat, and the Rock from which you must daily drink. His arm is the arm on which you must daily lean, as you come up out of the wilderness of this world. You must not only be rooted — you must also be built up in Him. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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