Holiness by J. C. Ryle
Holiness, by Bishop John Charles Ryle, is an enduring classic Christian theological and devotional work. Written as a response to the movement of Keswick Theology sweeping the British Isles in the late 1870s, it offers a thorough grounding in progressive sanctification, while inspiring religious affections at the same time. Ryle’s pastoral heart for his people and the evangelical Church is apparent throughout. He is convicting, yet encouraging; systematic, yet practical in his approach.
This edition of Holiness contains the original twenty papers written by Ryle and his Introduction from the 1879 expanded edition. The first seven chapters are a serious exposition of biblical doctrines related to holiness. Ryle handles these topics in a theological progression, covering “Sin”, “Sanctification”, and “Holiness”. Next Ryle turns to practical applications as he discusses the fight for and cost of pursuing holiness, the ultimate aim of holiness – spiritual growth, and the assurance that a Christian pursuit of holiness produces.
The remainder of the book is comprised of a collection of sermons that extend and apply the principles of holiness. In chapter 8, we are introduced to the example of Moses. Next a pair of negative examples are offered: Lot and Lot’s wife demonstrate the dangers of failure to pursue holiness. Ryle’s sermons on the penitent thief (“Christ’s Greatest Trophy”) and the example of Christ stilling the storm (“The Rule of the Waves”) point us to the power of Christ to impart holiness and His example of holiness in both His humanity and deity.
In the final section (chapters 15-20), Ryle shifts his emphasis to the church. He begins with a discussion of Christ’s founding of the church (“The Church Which Christ Builds”). He skillfully applies the warnings to the seven churches in Revelation to today’s visible church. He turns to individual Christians and calls upon them to love Christ and find their spiritual satisfaction and unsearchable riches in Him. Finally, Ryle looks to the future of the church and calls for a return to and firm stand upon holiness – both doctrinally and devotionally. Although the times have changed since then, Ryle’s call is as relevant today as it has ever been.