“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)
John Charles Ryle (10 May 1816 – 10 June 1900) was an English evangelical Anglican bishop. He was the first Anglican bishop of Liverpool. He was a writer, pastor and an evangelical preacher. Among his longer works are Christian Leaders of the Eighteenth Century (1869), Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (7 vols, 1856–69), and Principles for Churchmen (1884). Arguably, his greatest literary work is Holiness (1877).
In referencing Hebrews 12:14, Bishop Ryle wrote, “The text which heads this page opens up a subject of deep importance. That subject is practical holiness. It suggests a question which demands the attention of all professing Christians: are we holy? Shall we see the Lord?”
In writing about the nature of true practical holiness, I find Bishop Ryle’s perspectives to be thoroughly biblical and practical. As such, they are timeless. In answering the question about what is true, practical holiness, Bishop Ryle offered the following observations. I share them with you. I trust you will be as edified as I was.
First, 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 hating what He hates, loving what He loves and measuring everything in this world by the standard of His Word. He who most entirely agrees with God, he is a most holy man.
Second, a holy individual 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 great fear of displeasing Him than of displeasing the world, and a love for all His ways.
Thirdly, a holy individual will strive to be like our Lord Jesus Christ. That person will not only live the life of faith and draw from Him all his daily peace and strength, but he will also labor to have the mind that was in Him and be conformed to His image (Romans 8:29).
Fourth, a holy individual will pursue meekness, patience, gentleness, patience, mild temperament, and control of his tongue. He will bear much, forbear much, overlook much and be slow to speak in demanding his rights.
Fifth, a holy individual will follow after temperance and self-denial. He will labor to mortify the desires of his body, to crucify his flesh with his affections and lust, to curb his passions, to restrain his carnal inclinations, lest at any time they break loose.
Sixth, a holy individual will follow after charity and brotherly kindness.
Seventh, a holy individual will pursue a spirit of mercy and benevolence towards others. He will not be content with doing no harm; he will try to do good.
Eighth, a holy individual will follow after a pure heart. He will dread all filthiness and uncleanness of spirit and seek to avoid all things that might draw him into it.
Ninth, a holy individual will follow after the fear of God. This is the fear of a child who wishes to live and move as if he was always before his father’s face, because he loves him.
Tenth, a holy individual will pursue humility. He will desire, in lowliness of mind, to esteem all others better than himself. He will see more evil in his own heart than in another other in the world.
Eleventh, a holy individual is a faithful individual.
Finally, a holy individual will follow after spiritual-mindedness. He will set his affections entirely on things above and to hold on to things on earth with a very loose hand.
Lest anyone think that Bishop Ryle’s list is beyond anyone’s reach, he comments: “This I do boldly and confidently say, that true holiness is a great reality. It is something in a man that can be seen and known and marked and felt by all around him. Such are the leading characteristics of practical holiness. Let us examine ourselves and see whether we are acquainted with it. Let us prove our own selves.”
Let us do so indeed.
Soli deo Gloria!