“Men who were certain they had found out truth, and content to die for their opinions…”

18 04 2013

This Sunday at St. Andrew’s we continue our series on the church with the “Persecuted Church.”  As the logic has gone for the past several weeks, the church is what it is because the Lord is who he is.  We had (have!) a persecuted Lord, therefore we have a persecuted church.  In the West we are fortunate that there is so little persecution of Christians, and of such little consequence, that it is hardly worth mentioning compared to our brothers and sisters scattered abroad.  But it was not always so!  Only a few hundred years ago it cost men and women a great deal to confess the name of Jesus Christ.  Below is their story, written by J.C. Ryle, the first Bishop of Liverpool.  You should read it.  You should learn it.  If you are an Anglican it is your story and that is all the more reason for some of you to settle in and work your way through the text.

It is fashionable in some quarters to deny that there is any such thing as certainty about religious truth, or any opinions for which it is worth while to be burned. Yet, 300 years ago, there were men who were certain they had found out truth, and content to die for their opinions.—It is fashionable in other quarters to leave out all the unpleasant things in history, and to paint everything of a rose-coloured hue. A very popular history of our English queens hardly mentions the martyrdoms of Queen Mary’s days. Yet Mary was not called “Bloody Mary” without reason, and scores of Protestants were burned in her reign.—Last, but not least, it is thought very bad taste in many quarters to say anything which throws discredit on the Church of Rome. Yet it is as certain that the Romish Church burned our English Reformers as it is that we are assembled in St. James’s Hall. These difficulties meet me face to face as I walk up to the subject which I am asked to unfold today. I know their magnitude, and I cannot evade them. I only ask you to give me a patient and indulgent hearing.

After all, I have great confidence in the honesty of Englishmen’s minds. Truth is truth, however long it may be neglected. Facts are facts, however long they may lie buried. I only want to dig up some old facts which the sands of time have covered over, to bring to the light of day some old English monuments which have been long neglected; to unstop some old wells which the prince of the world has been diligently filling with earth. Give me your attention for a few minutes, and I trust to be able to show you that it is good to examine the question, “Why were our Reformers Burned?”

Read the whole thing here





Get to know John Wycliffe

23 02 2012

Over the next several weeks I will be highlighting a section from J.C. Ryle’s Light from Old Times.  This book is a collection of essays about Christian men who made significant contributions towards a Gospel centered English church.  If you speak English and are a Christian, odds are these men contributed in no small way to your Christian life.  Take the time with me over the coming weeks to learn about these men, that you might be made grateful to God for them and inspired by their faithfulness.  And now…

John Wycliffe

Every wonder where that Bible on your shelf came from?  I’m not seeking to get us into heavy questions of inspiration, but rather, where did that English Bible come from?  That is, who took that wonderful Hebrew and Greek text and translated it into English so that we could read it?  Well, the first Bible written in English was translated by a man named John Wycliffe.  He was a remarkable man, who not only translated the Scriptures into English but he also used his spare time teaching illiterate peasants to read as well as training lay preachers to evangelize both Britain and the continent.  

Last in order, but first in importance, let us ever gratefully remember that Wyclif was the first Englishman who translated the Bible into the English language, and thus enabled it to be understood by the people.

The difficulty of this work was probably something of which we can form no conception at this day. There were probably few, very few, that could help the translator in any way. There was no printing, and the whole book had to be laboriously written in manuscript, and by written manuscript alone could copies be multiplied. To inspect the machinery and apparatus of our blessed Bible Society in Blackfriars, and then to think of the stupendous toil which Wyclif must have gone through, is enough to take one s breath away. But with God s help nothing is impossible. The work was done, and hundreds of copies were circulated. In spite of every effort to suppress the book, and the destruction of it by time, fire, and unfavourable hands, no less than 170 complete copies were found extant when it was reprinted at Oxford some 40 years ago, and no doubt many more are in existence.

The good that was done by the translation of the Bible will probably never be known till the last day, and I shall not attempt to form any conjecture about it. But I shall never hesitate to assert that if there is any one fact more incontrovertibly proved than another it is this, that the possession by a people of the Bible in their own language is the greatest possible national blessing.

J.C. Ryle, Light from Old Times pg 26

If that whet your appetite, click here to read Ryle’s chapter on Wycliffe





J.C. Ryle: The Gospel and Personal Joy

25 01 2012

True religion was never meant to make men melancholy. On the contrary, it was intended to increase real joy and happiness among men…The Christian who withdraws entirely from the society of his fellow-men, and walks the earth with a face as melancholy as if he was always attending a funeral, does injury to the cause of the Gospel… It is a real misfortune to Christianity when a Christian cannot smile. A merry heart, and a readiness to take part in all innocent mirth, are gifts of inestimable value. They go far to soften prejudices, to take up stumbling-blocks out of the way, and to make way for Christ and the Gospel.

J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John’s Gospel





J.C. Ryle on the importance of song in the Christian’s life

17 01 2012

The following is taken from the Preface of J.C. Ryle’s little known Hymns for the Church on Earth, a collection of some 300 hymns selected by Ryle for their potential for spiritual edification.  In Ryle’s words he hopes this collection of hymns “shall do good to the weakest lamb in Christ’s flock.”  I have linked through to the book at the bottom so that you could enjoy Ryle’s selection, which is largely meant for private edification rather than public worship.

Of the value of the hymns, it is needless to say anything.  The children of the world may regard psalm-singing, or hymn-writing, with indifference, or ill-disguised contempt.  But the true-hearted servants of that Saviour, who “sung a hymn” before He went out to the Mount of Olives, have ever loved, in every age, to “teach and admonish one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs.”  (Coloss. iii. 19).  The Bible, on which they love to feed daily, abounds in hymns of praise.  The heaven, which they hope to inhabit one day, will be the abode of eternal praise.  A thankful, hymn-singing spirit has always marked the days of a Church’s spiritual property.  It is a pleasant thought, that, however much Christians may disagree in pulpits, on platforms, and in prose writing, they are generally of one heart, and one mind, in praise and power.

Click here to access Ryle’s book





J.C. Ryle: How laxity in doctrine damages the church

20 12 2011

Thanks to Bruce Geary for passing this along

“I cannot withhold my conviction that the professing church of the ninetheenth century is as much damaged by laxity and indistinctness about matters of doctrine within as it is by sceptics and unbelievers without. Myraids of professing Christians nowadays seem utterly unable to distinguish things that differ. Like people afflicted with colour blindness, they are incapable of discerning what is true and what is false, what is sound and what is unsound. If a preacher of religion is only clever and eloquent and earnest, they appear to think he is all right, however strange and  heterogeneous his sermons may be. They are destitute of spiritual sense, apparently, and cannot detect error. Popery or Protestantism, an atonement or no atonement, a personal Holy Ghost or no Holy Ghost, future punishment or no future punishment, high church or low church or broad church, Trinitarianism, Arianism, or Unitarianism, nothing comes amis to them: they can swallow all, if they cannot digest it! Carried away by a fancied liberality and charity, they seem to think everybody is right and nobody is wrong, every clergyman is sound and none are unsound, everyone is going to be saved and nobody is going to be lost. Their religion is made up of negatives; and the only positive thing about them is that they dislike distinctness and think all extreme and decided and positive views are very naughty and very wrong! “

JC Ryle Holiness





J.C. Ryle: Five Dangers for Young Men

20 12 2011

via theresurgence.  Read the whole thing here

5 Dangers from Thoughts for Young Men by J.C. Ryle

1. Pride
“Young men, take to heart the Scriptures just quoted. Do not be too confident in your own judgment. Stop being so sure that you are always right, and others wrong. Don’t trust your own opinion, when you find it contrary to that of older men, and especially to that of your own parents. Age gives experience, and therefore deserves respect. “

2. Love of Pleasure
“Youth is the time when our passions are strongest—and like unruly children, cry most loudly for indulgence. Youth is the time when we have generally our most health and strength: death seems far away, and to enjoy ourselves in this life seems to be everything… “I serve lusts and pleasures:” that is the true answer many a young man should give, if asked, “Whose Servant are you?” “

3. Thoughtlessness
“Not thinking is one simple reason why thousands of souls are thrown away forever into the Lake of Fire. Men will not consider, will not look ahead, will not look around them, will not reflect on the end of their present course, and the sure consequences of their present days, and wake up to find they are damned for a lack of thinking.

Young men, none are in more danger of this than yourselves. You know little of the perils around you, and so you are careless how you walk. You hate the trouble of serious, quiet thinking, and so you make wrong decisions and bring upon yourselves much sorrow.””

4. Contempt of Religion
“This also is one of your special dangers. I always observe that none pay so little outward respect to Christianity as young men. None take so little part in our services, when they are present at them—use Bibles so little—sing so little—listen to preaching so little. None are so generally absent at prayer meetings, Bible Studies, and all other weekday helps to the soul. Young men seem to think they do not need these things—they may be good for women and old men, but not for them. They appear ashamed of seeming to care about their souls: one would almost fancy they considered it a disgrace to go to heaven at all. “

5. Fear of Man’s opinion
“”The fear of man” will indeed “prove to be a snare” (Proverbs 29:25). It is terrible to observe the power which it has over most minds, and especially over the minds of the young. Few seem to have any opinions of their own, or to think for themselves. Like dead fish, they go with the stream and tide: what others think is right, they think is right; and what others call wrong, they call wrong too. There are not many original thinkers in the world. Most men are like sheep, they follow a leader. If it was the fashion of the day to be Roman Catholics, they would be Roman Catholics, if it was to be Islamic, they would be Islamic. They dread the idea of going against the current of the times. In a word, the opinion of the day becomes their religion, their creed, their Bible, and their God.”





J.C. Ryle: What is the role of the New Testament pastor?

20 12 2011

Now here is a lively emblem of the work which a true minister of the New Testament is meant to do.  He is not a mediator between God and man.  He has no power to put away sin, or impart grace.  His whole business is to receive the bread of life which his Master provides, and to distribute it among the souls among whom he labours.  He cannot make men value the bread, or receive it.  He cannot make it soul-saving, or life-giving, to any one.  This is not his work.  For this he is not responsible.  His whole business is to be a faithful distributor of the food which his Divine Master has provided; and that done, his office is discharged.

J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels vol III, John chap VI pg 325





J.C. Ryle on the many voices of Scripture

20 12 2011

Stumbled upon this little gem while preparing to preach…

“The waters of the sea have many different shades. In one place they look blue, and in another green. And yet the difference is due to the depth or shallowness of the part we see, or to the nature of the bottom. The water in every case is the same salt sea. The breath of a man may produce different sounds according to the character of the instrument on which he plays. The flute, the bagpipe, and the trumpet, have each their peculiar note. And yet the breath that calls forth the notes is in each case one and the same. The light of the planets we see in heaven is extremely various. Mars, and Saturn, and Jupiter, each have a individual color. And yet we know that the light of the sun, which each planet reflects, is in each case one and the same. Just in the same way the books of the Old and New Testaments are all inspired truth, and yet the aspect of that truth varies according to the mind through which the Holy Spirit makes it flow. The handwriting and style of the writers differ enough to prove that each had a distinct individual being; but the Divine Guide who dictates and directs the whole is always one. All are inspired. Every chapter, and verse, and word, is from God.

Oh, that men who are troubled with doubts, and thoughts about inspiration, would calmly examine the Bible for themselves! Oh, that they would take the advice which was the first step to Augustine’s conversion, “Pick it up and read it! Pick it up and read it!” How many difficulties and objections would vanish away at once like mist before the rising sun! How many would soon confess, “The finger of God is here! God is in this Book, and I did not know it.”

-J.C. Ryle, “Bible-Reading” in Practical Religion pg 99





J. C. Ryle: Christianity without distinct doctrine is a powerless thing

20 12 2011

The mainline denominations in North America are in systemic decline.  Why?  J.C. Ryle, long dead Bishop of Liverpool has some thoughts on the matter that might be worth investigating.  ”Christianity” he says, “without distinct doctrine is a powerless thing.”  I think it is powerless for two reasons.  First and foremost, I do not believe the Holy Spirit will be present in power to assist the proclamation of the Gospel when it is not the Gospel that is presented to us in Scripture and handed down for centuries  in the church.  Second, from a purely practical perspective, when the borders of an organization are not clearly drawn people have a very difficult time discerning what the organization is, why they should join it, or even if they have already joined it!  The mushier doctrine becomes in a denomination the more rapidly it will decline.  God will not bless it, nor will people take the time to investigate it.

“Mark what I say. If you want to do good in these times, you must throw aside indecision, and take up a distinct, sharply cut, doctrinal religion. If you believe little, those to whom you try to do good will believe nothing. The victories of Christianity, wherever they have been won, have been won by distinct doctrinal theology, by telling men roundly of Christ’s vicarious death and sacrifice, by showing them Christ’s substitution on the cross and His precious blood, by teaching them justification by faith and bidding them believe on a crucified Saviour, by preaching ruin by sin, redemption by Christ, regeneration by the Spirit, by lifting up the brazen serpent, by telling men to look and live, to believe, repent and be converted. This, this is the only teaching which for eighteen centuries God has honoured with success, and is honouring at the present day both at home and abroad. Let the clever advocates of a broad and undogmatic theology — the preachers of the gospel of earnestness and sincerity and cold morality — let them, I say, show us at this day any English village or parish or city or town or district, which has been evangelized without ‘dogma’, by their principles. They cannot do it, and they never will. Christianity without distinct doctrine is a powerless thing. It may be beautiful to some minds, but it is childless and barren. There is no getting over facts. The good that is done in the earth may be comparatively small. Evil may abound and ignorant impatience may murmur, and cry out that Christianity has failed. But, depend on it, if we want to ‘do good’ and shake the world, we must fight it with the old apostolic weapons, and stick to ‘dogma’. No dogma, no fruits! No positive evangelical doctrine, no evangelization!”

J.C. Ryle Wants of the Times, from a sermon preached at St Margaret’s church, Ipswich, 11 June 1879





J.C. Ryle: “Suppose an unholy man went to Heaven…”

19 12 2011

Suppose for a moment that you were allowed to enter heaven without holiness. What would you do? What possible enjoyment could you feel there? To which of all the saints would you join yourself and by whose side would you sit? Their pleasures are not your pleasures, their tastes are not your tastes, their character not your character. How could you possibly be happy, if you had not been holy on earth?

Now perhaps you love the company of the light and careless, the worldly-minded and the covetous, the reveler and the pleasure-seeker, the ungodly and the profane. There will be none such in heaven.

Now perhaps you think the saints of God too strict and particular and serious. You rather avoid them. You have no delight in their society. There will be no other company in heaven.

Now perhaps you think praying and Scripture reading, and hymn singing, dull and melancholy and stupid work, a thing to be tolerated now and then, but not enjoyed. You reckon the Sabbath a burden and a weariness; you could not possibly spend more than a small part of it in worshipping God. But remember, heaven is a never-ending Sabbath. The inhabitants thereof rest not day and night, saying, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty,” and singing the praise of the Lamb. How could an unholy man find pleasure in occupation such as this?

Think you that such an one would delight to meet David and Paul and John, after a life spent in doing the very things they spoke against? Would he take sweet counsel with them and find that he and they had much in common? Think you, above all, that he would rejoice to meet Jesus, the crucified One, face to face, after cleaving to the sins for which He died, after loving His enemies and despising His friends? Would he stand before Him with confidence and join in the cry, “This is our God… we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation” (Isaiah 25:9)? Think you not rather that the tongue of an unholy man would cleave to the roof of his mouth with shame, and his only desire would be to be cast out? He would feel a stranger in a land he knew not, a black sheep amid Christ’s holy flock. The voice of cherubim and seraphim, the song of angels and archangels, and all the company of heaven, would be a language he could not understand. The very air would seem an air he could not breathe.

I know not what others may think, but to me it does seem clear that heaven would be a miserable place to an unholy man. It cannot be otherwise. People may say, in a vague way, they “hope to go to heaven”, but they do not consider what they say…

read it all here








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