Profiles of Holiness: J. C. Ryle

14 “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14–16)

For the next several days, I will be profiling several individuals who not only preached about, but lived a life, of personal holiness before the Lord. While these pastors, evangelists, and hymn writers lived in different centuries and countries, they all shared a common bond which binds them together: holiness. These profiles will provide an introduction to our impending study of holiness. Today’s profile concerns theologian and author John Charles (J.C.) Ryle.

John Charles Ryle was born Macclesfield on 10 May 1816. After a period of private schooling, he entered Eton in February 1828, where he excelled at rowing and cricket. Going up to Christ Church, Oxford in October 1834, he continued his involvement in sports, and captained the First Eleven in his second and third years, achieving a personal 10-wicket bowling triumph in the 1836 Varsity match at Lords (which Oxford won by 121 runs).

However, various circumstances and incidents in his own and others’ lives awakened Ryle to the knowledge that all was not well with his soul. Matters came to a head not long before he took his Finals in 1837. He was struck down with a serious chest infection, and for the first time in fourteen years he turned to his Bible and prayer. Then one Sunday, arriving late to church he was in time to hear the reading of Ephesians chapter two. As he listened, he felt that the Lord was speaking directly to his soul. His eyes were opened when he heard verse 8, ‘For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.’ He was converted through hearing the Word of God, without comment or sermon.

Ryle’s intention was a career in politics, and he went to London to study law, thinking this would be helpful for him. However, he had to give this up after six months due to a recurrence of his chest problems, caused by the London smog. When his father’s bank crashed in 1841, Ryle had to give up all hope of a political career, as he now had no money.

With his Oxford degree, Ryle could enter the ministry of the Church of England, and it was to this he turned, being ordained by Charles Sumner, Bishop of Winchester on 21st December 1841. Long afterwards Ryle wrote, ‘I have not the least doubt, it was all for the best. If I had not been ruined, I should never have been a clergyman, never have preached a sermon, or written a tract or book.’

Ryle started his ministry as curate at the Chapel of Ease in Exbury, Hampshire, moving on to become rector of St Thomas’s, Winchester in 1843 and then rector of Helmingham, Suffolk the following year. It was this time that he began publishing popular tracts, and wrote commentaries on the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke for his series Expository Thoughts on the Gospels. These were published in successive years (1856-1858).

His final parish was Stradbroke, also in Suffolk, where he moved in 1861, and it was as vicar of All Saints that he became known nationally for his straightforward preaching and firm defense of evangelical principles. It was at this time that he wrote several well-known and still-in-print books, often addressing issues of contemporary relevance for the Church from a biblical viewpoint. He completed his Expository Thoughts on the Gospels while at Stradbroke, with his work on the Gospel of John (1869).

In 1880, Ryle became the first bishop of Liverpool, at the recommendation of Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. His episcopate was marked by his efforts to build churches and mission halls to reach the rapidly expanding urban areas of the city. He retired in 1900 at age 83 and died later the same year in Lowestoft. His successor in Liverpool described him as ‘the man of granite with the heart of a child.’

A classic work by Ryle is his book Holiness. Many would consider, as I do, his work on this subject to be his Magnum Opus. In it, Ryle devotes over twenty chapters concerning this important and biblical doctrine.

In his introduction, Ryle states, I have had a deep conviction for many years that practical holiness and entire self-consecration to God are not sufficiently attended to by modern Christians in this country. Politics, or controversy, or a party spirit, or worldliness, have eaten out the heart of lively piety in too many of us. The subject of personal godliness has fallen sadly into the background. The standard of living has become painfully low in many quarters. The immense importance of “adorning the doctrine of God our Saviour” (Titus ii. 10), and making it lovely and beautiful by our daily habits and tempers, has been far too much overlooked. Worldly people sometimes complain with reason that “religious” persons, so-called, are not so amiable and unselfish and good-natured as others who make no profession of religion. Yet sanctification, in its place and proportion, is quite as important as justification. Sound Protestant and Evangelical doctrine is useless if it is not accompanied by a holy life. It is worse than useless: it does positive harm. It is despised by keen-sighted and shrewd men of the world, as an unreal and hollow thing, and brings religion into contempt. It is my firm impression that we want a thorough revival about Scriptural holiness, and I am deeply thankful that attention is being directed to the point.”

Ryle continues by writing, “It is, however, of great importance that the whole subject should be placed on right foundations, and that the movement about it should not be damaged by crude, disproportioned, and one-sided statements. If such statements abound, we must not be surprised. Satan knows well the power of true holiness, and the immense injury which increased attention to it will do to his kingdom. It is his interest, therefore, to promote strife and controversy about this part of God’s truth. Just as in time past he has succeeded in mystifying and confusing men’s minds about justification, so he is labouring in the present day to make men “darken counsel by words without knowledge” about sanctification. May the Lord rebuke him! I cannot however give up the hope that good will be brought out of evil, that discussion will elicit truth, and that variety of opinion will lead us all to search the Scriptures more, to pray more, and to become more diligent in trying to find out what is “the mind of the Spirit.”

Ryle’s book remains in print in various forms. I am currently reading, and enjoying, it on my Kindle. I encourage you to give consideration to read Holiness by J.C. Ryle.

Soli deo Gloria!  

 

Profiles of Holiness: Charles Hodge

14 “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14–16)

For the next several days, I will be profiling several individuals who not only preached about, but lived a life, of personal holiness before the Lord. While these pastors, evangelists, and hymn writers lived in different centuries and countries, they all shared a common bond which binds them together: holiness. These profiles will provide an introduction to our impending study of holiness. Today’s profile concerns theologian and author Charles Hodge.

Charles Hodge (December 27, 1797 – June 19, 1878) was a scholar, educator, churchman, and distinguished American Presbyterian systematic theologian of the nineteenth century, Charles Hodge was born in Philadelphia in 1797. Following his father’s untimely death a few years after he was born, Charles and his brother were raised by their godly widowed mother. In 1812 Hodge’s mother moved the family to Princeton in hope of matriculating her sons at Princeton College.

Hodge graduated from Princeton College in 1815. During the 1814-15 school year a revival broke out on the college campus: Charles was one of a number of students converted during this time of spiritual refreshing. At the encouragement of Archibald Alexander, he enrolled at Princeton Theological Seminary, graduating with the class of 1819.

Ordained in 1821, his scholarly gifts led to an appointment by his denomination in 1822 to serve as the seminary’s third faculty member. As Professor of Oriental and Biblical Literature, Hodge’s primary responsibility was instruction in biblical languages, hermeneutics, biblical criticism, and study of Old Testament texts. During 1826-28, he traveled to Europe to study with the leading European biblical and theological scholars. He would continue to serve the Lord at Princeton until his death in 1878.

Regarding the holiness of God, Hodge wrote: “The Holy One of Israel,” is He who is to be feared and adored. Seraphim round about the throne who cry day and night, Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts, give expression to the feelings of all unfallen rational creatures in view of the infinite purity of God. They are the representatives of the whole universe, in offering this perpetual homage to the divine holiness. It is because of his holiness, that God is a consuming fire. And it was a view of his holiness which led the prophet to exclaim, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the king, the LORD of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5)

“It is in their application to the moral attributes of God, that the two methods of determining his nature come most directly into conflict. If we allow ourselves to be determined in answering the question, What is God? by the teachings of his Word, and the constitution of our own nature; if we refer to Him, in an infinite degree, every good we find in ourselves, then we can have no hesitation in believing that He is holy, just, and good. But if the philosophical notion of the absolute and infinite is to decide every question concerning the divine nature, then we must give up all confidence in our apprehensions of God, as an object of knowledge.”

 In other words, the only confident source to discover the holiness of God is what God has revealed in the Holy Scriptures. Therefore, it stands to reason that a diligent study of God’s Word regarding God’s holiness will infinitely benefit the student in seeking for himself to be holy as God is holy.

Soli deo Gloria!  

Profiles of Holiness: James Montgomery Boice

14 “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14–16)

For the next several days, I will be profiling several individuals who not only preached about, but lived a life, of personal holiness before the Lord. While these pastors, evangelists, and hymn writers lived in different centuries and countries, they all shared a common bond which binds them together: holiness. These profiles will provide an introduction to our impending study of holiness. Today’s profile concerns pastor and author James Montgomery Boice.

James Montgomery Boice, Th.D. (July 7, 1938 – June 15, 2000) was a Reformed theologian, Bible teacher, and pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, PA from 1968 until his death. He continues to be heard on The Bible Study Hour radio broadcast. He was also a well-known author and speaker in evangelical and Reformed circles. He served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy for over ten years and was a founding member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.

Regarding holiness, Dr. Boice was convinced that the church must first return to a biblical understanding of the person and nature of God. It is only when this occurs that the church will begin to understand what it means to be holy as God is holy. Dr. Boice writes:

“In any discussion of reformation in doctrine one must come to the realization that the real problem of our time is that there is hardly any doctrine at all to reform. So when we talk about reformation we must focus on a recovery of theology, period. Certainly in the liberal churches there is a lack of exposition of Scripture and sound doctrine, and unfortunately, this is rapidly becoming the case in evangelical circles as well. Now you might ask which doctrines are missing? I argue that primarily what we need is a recovery of the doctrine of God. You have to have some kind of starting point and that’s the point where I think we should begin. People have lost any real sense of the fact that when we come to church we come to worship and learn about God.” 

“If there is any doctrine that rivals God’s sovereignty in importance it is the holiness of God. But do we have any sense or appreciation of the holiness of God in our churches today? David Wells writes that God’s holiness weighs “lightly upon us.” Why? Holiness involves God’s transcendence. It involves majesty, the authority of sovereign power, stateliness or grandeur. It embraces the idea of God’s sovereign majestic will, a will that is set upon proclaiming himself to be who he truly is: God alone, who will not allow his glory to be diminished by another. Yet we live in an age when everything is exposed, where there are no mysteries and no surprises, where even the most intimate personal secrets of our lives are blurted out over television to entertain the masses. We are contributing to this frivolity when we treat God as our celestial buddy who indulges us in the banalities of our day-to-day lives”.

“Perhaps the greatest problem of all in regard to our neglect of God’s holiness is that holiness is a standard against which human sin is exposed, which is why in Scripture exposure to God always produces feelings of shame, guilt, embarrassment and terror in the worshiper. These are all painful emotions, and we are doing everything possible in our culture to avoid them. One evidence of this is the way we have eliminated sin as a serious category for describing human actions. Karl Menninger asked the question years ago with his classic book, Whatever Became of Sin? He answered his own question by arguing that when we banished God from our cultural landscape we changed sin into crime (because it is now no longer an offense against God but rather an offense against the state) and then we changed crimes into symptoms. Sin is now something that is someone else’s fault. It is caused by my environment, my parents or my genes.”

“But once again, this is not simply a problem outside the church. We too have bought into today’s therapeutic approach so that we no longer call our many and manifold transgressions sin or confront sin directly, calling for repentance before God. Instead we send our people to counselors to work through why they are acting in an “unhealthy” manner, to find “healing.”

“David Wells claims that “holiness fundamentally defines the character of God.” But “robbed of such a God, worship loses its awe, the truth of his Word loses its ability to compel, obedience loses its virtue, and the church loses its moral authority.” It is time for the evangelical churches to recover the Bible’s insistence that God is holy above all things and explore what that must mean for our individual and corporate lives. To begin with we need to preach from those great passages of the Bible in which people were exposed to God’s awe-inspiring majesty and holiness. If nothing else, we need to preach the Law without which preaching the Gospel loses its power and eventually even its meaning.”

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

Profiles of Holiness: A.W. Pink

14 “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14–16)

For the next several days, I will be profiling several individuals who not only preached about, but lived a life, of personal holiness before the Lord. While these pastors, evangelists, and hymn writers lived in different centuries and countries, they all shared a common bond which binds them together: holiness. These profiles will provide an introduction to our impending study of holiness. Today’s profile concerns pastor and author Arthur Walkington (A.W.) Pink.

Born in Nottingham, England in 1886, A. W. Pink was converted to Christ while a spiritualist medium. He briefly attended the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois, in 1910, before taking up his first pastorate at Silverton, Colorado.

Little-known then to the outside world, he pastored churches in the United States and Australia before finally returning to his homeland in 1934. Settling in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland, it was there that he served and eventually died almost unnoticed in 1952.

By that date, however, the magazine he had started in 1922 – Studies in the Scriptures – was feeding several of the men who were leading a return to doctrinal Christianity, including Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Douglas Johnson (founder of Inter-Varsity) and, in book form after his death, his writings became very widely read across the world. His books The Sovereignty of GodGleanings from PaulProfiting from the WordThe Life of Elijah, and a number of other titles remain in print today. With respect to the subject of holiness, Pink wrote:

“Because God is holy the utmost reverence becomes our approaches unto Him.”God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all about Him” (Ps. 89:7). Then “Exalt ye the Lord our God, and worship at His footstool; He is holy” (Ps. 99:5). Yes, “at His footstool,” in the lowest posture of humility, prostrate before Him. When Moses would approach unto the burning bush, God said, “put off thy shoes from off thy feet” (Ex. 3:5). He is to be served “with fear” (Ps. 2:11). Of Israel His demand was, “I will be sanctified in them that come nigh Me, and before all the people I will be glorified” “The “god” which the vast majority of professing Christians “love,” is looked upon very much like an indulgent old man, who himself has no relish for folly, but leniently winks at the “indiscretions” of youth. But the Word says, “Thou hatest all workers of iniquity “(Ps. 5:5). And again, “God is angry with the wicked every day” (Ps. 7:11). But men refuse to believe in this God, and gnash their teeth when His hatred of sin is faithfully pressed upon their attention. No, sinful man was no more likely to devise a holy God than to create the Lake of fire in which he will be tormented for ever and ever.

“Because God is holy, acceptance with Him on the ground of creature doings is utterly impossible. A fallen creature could sooner create a world than produce that which would meet the approval of infinite Purity. Can darkness dwell with Light? Can the Immaculate One take pleasure in “filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6)? The best that sinful man brings forth is defiled. A corrupt tree cannot bear good fruit. God would deny Himself, vilify His perfections, were He to account as righteous and holy that which is not so in itself; and nothing is so which has the least stain upon it contrary to the nature of God. But blessed be His name that (Lev. 10:3). The more our hearts are awed by His ineffable holiness, the more acceptable will be our approaches unto Him.”

In conclusion, Pink writes, “Then as God alone is the Source and Fount of holiness, let us earnestly seek holiness from HIm; let our daily prayer be that He may sanctify us wholly; and our whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of the our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Thessalonians 5:23).

Soli deo Gloria!

 

Profiles of Holiness: Thomas Watson.

14 “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14–16)

For the next several days, I will be profiling several individuals who not only preached about, but lived a life, of personal holiness before the Lord. While these pastors, evangelists, and hymn writers lived in different centuries and countries, they all shared a common bond which binds them together: holiness. These profiles will provide an introduction to our impending study of holiness. Today’s profile concerns the Puritan, Thomas Watson.

Thomas Watson (c. 1620 – 1686) was an English, Puritan preacher and author. He was probably born in Yorkshire, although the exact place and date of his birth are unknown.

He studied at Emmanuel College, Cambridge (BA, 1639; MA, 1642), where he was apparently an excellent student. His profound intellect is apparent in his writings, which show a mastering not only of the English language, but also a solid understanding of Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. He quotes from the early church fathers, and possessed a familiarity with the breadth of the scriptures. Cross-references from the Scriptures are found throughout his sermons, revealing a deep understanding of many texts. Watson also had a solid understanding of history, botany, medicine, physics, the classics, logic, and various other disciplines.

After living for a time with the Puritan family of Lady Mary Vere, the widow of Sir Horace Vere, Baron of Tilbury, in 1646 Watson went to St. Stephen’s, Walbrook, London.  It was there he served as lecturer for about ten years, and then as rector for another six years. In about 1647, he married Abigail Beadle, daughter of John Beadle, an Essex minister of Puritan convictions. They had at least seven children in the next thirteen years, four of whom died young.

During the English Civil War, Watson began expressing his strong Presbyterian views. However, he had sympathy for the king, He was one of the Presbyterian ministers who went to Oliver Cromwell to protest the execution of Charles I. Along with Christopher Love, William Jenkyn, and others, he was imprisoned in 1651 for his part in a plot to restore the monarchy. Although Love was beheaded, Watson and the others were released after petitioning for mercy.

Watson was formally reinstated to his pastorate in Walbrook in 1652. Pastor Charles H. Spurgeon says of him: “He executed for nearly sixteen years the office of a faithful pastor with great diligence and assiduity. Happy were the citizens who regularly attended so instructive and spiritual a ministry. The church was constantly filled, for the fame and popularity of the preacher were deservedly great. Going in and out among his flock, fired with holy zeal for their eternal welfare, his years rolled on pleasantly enough amid the growing respect of all who knew him.”

With the Act of Uniformity in 1662, Watson was ejected from his pastorate. He continued to preach in private whenever he had the opportunity. In 1666, after the Great Fire of London, Watson prepared a large room for public worship, welcoming anyone who wished to attend. After the Declaration of Indulgence took effect in 1672, Watson obtained a license for Crosby Hall, Bishopsgate, which belonged to Sir John Langham, a patron of nonconformists. Watson preached there for three years before Stephen Charnock joined him. They ministered together until Charnock’s death in 1680.

Watson kept working until his health failed. He then retired to Barnston, in Essex, where he died suddenly in 1686 while engaged in private prayer. He is buried in the same grave as his father-in-law who served as a minister at Barnston.

Regarding the subject of holiness, Watson wrote that “God is holy intrinsically, primarily, efficiently and transcendently.  It is above holiness in saints. It is a pure holiness. The saints’ holiness is like gold in the ore, imperfect; their humility is stained with pride; he that has most faith needs pray, ‘Lord, help my unbelief:’ but the holiness of God is pure, like wine from the grape; it has not the least dash or tincture of impurity mixed with it. It is a more unchangeable holiness. Though the saints cannot lose the habit of holiness (for the seed of God remains), yet they may lose some degrees of their holiness. ‘Thou hast left thy first love.’ (Revelation 2:4). Grace cannot die, yet the flame of it may go out. Holiness in the saints is subject to ebbing, but holiness in God is unchangeable; he never lost a drop of his holiness; as he cannot have more holiness, because he is perfectly holy; so he cannot have less holiness, because he is unchangeably holy.” 

Soli deo Gloria!