But I didn’t pay much attention to it at that time. I didn’t pay much attention to the author, either. Though I knew J. C. Ryle sounded familiar, I had never read any of his writings. I assumed it was yet another book on eschatology that had become so popular in these…well, end times!Are You Ready for the End of Time? I had seen the title when I checked the book into my bookstore.
A few months ago, I received a book order for Ryle’s book from my on-line bookstore. I got ready to mail the book off, and as is my practice, I looked it over to be sure the condition was as I stated on the website. I paid more attention this time, and saw that the author was not a current author at all, but one from the mid 1800’s. This made me curious, so I decided to do a quick reading before I sent the book off to my customer.
I scanned the chapters and saw Mr. Ryle had written a good deal about Israel. Because I was unsure how much time I would have to read it, I started by reading these chapters first. I could not have been more excited about all that Ryle had written. It was as if he was living at this very time. He had understanding that was amazing considering this book was written in 1867. Just think; Israel had not yet been restored as a nation at this time, yet because of what he had read in Scripture, his faith was without reservation, that one day soon, Israel would be restored. I quickly decided I had to read this entire book before sending it to my customer. I knew I had two days according to the contract before it had to be mailed. So I sat down and devoured Ryle’s book.
Even more important than his view of the end times, was his rock solid theology on all matters. I felt like I had come home. I am not afraid to say, I have been very discouraged by much of what is taking place with our Christian faith. Never in my life have I seen such blatant misinterpreting of Scripture, diverse doctrine, and confusion among Christians. I have been very discouraged by it, but continued to be encouraged by my belief that Christ will not lose His church.
As I read this book written all those years ago, I became so uplifted. This is it, I thought to myself. This is the faith of my youth. This is the doctrine and beliefs with which I was raised. Ryle writes with truth, and strength, and love. He unashamedly writes centuries’ old beliefs with clear understanding.
He acknowledges from the beginning of his book that he understands there are different doctrines and beliefs among Christians and that unless it is a matter of salvation and the core foundational truths of the Bible, he will not expound upon those issues. He will only write about what is clearly laid out in Scripture. He had no attacks for anyone, no attempt at finding some new spiritual truth to make himself appear some how more knowledgeable and in tune with God than others. (Yes, sometimes we Christians do that!) He only wanted to write about the truths of the Bible and show the importance of God’s Word.
In the preface of his book he states:
One thing only I wish to premise, before making my statement. The reader must distinctly understand that I do not put forth my prophetical views as articles of faith, but only as my private opinions, I do not say that nobody can be saved who does not agree with me about prophecy. I am not infallible. I am very sensible that holier and better men than myself do not see these subjects with my eyes, and think me utterly mistaken. I condemn nobody, I judge nobody. I only ask liberty to hold and state distinctly my own views. The day will decide who is right. It is the new heart and faith in Christ’s blood, which are absolutely necessary to salvation. The man who knows these two things experimentally may be wrong about prophecy, but he will not miss heaven.
I love that. Where a teaching does not hurt the truth of the Gospel message, or distort verses for a private gain, then I believe we should allow acceptance of one another in matters that are not entirely clear. The Bible says without a doubt, there is only one correct interpretation of Scripture, but in our human nature, we sometimes make mistakes in our own interpretations. (2 Peter 1:20-21)
I felt like other than the Bible, this was the most accurate accounting I had read in a long time. I could hear my grandpa and grandma in Ryle’s words. I could hear my mom and dad. I was simply reading rock solid faith; no doubts, no questions; just faith unshakeable and it made me feel like I had come home. I don’t know how else to explain it, though I feel that description isn’t very accurate. I don’t want to leave the impression I have been away, or that I don’t get good teaching at my church. I do! And I love my church and pastor for that reason. I believe my pastor is one of the most gifted in our area. But with all the books, television, radio and internet, we are also exposed to a huge amount of diverse beliefs. I get discouraged with that. Someone’s always looking for something new to say, or some new view to share, it seems. We don’t need that. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13: 8) The Bible is all we need. And I may not agree with every thing Ryle believed, but I absolutely loved this book – its simplicity in sharing profound Biblical truths. I didn’t want to let it go, but I mailed it off, and then went on line to look for another one for myself. It was one I wanted to be sure to keep in my library.
The next Sunday, when I went to church, I decided to walk over to our church book store; I wanted to see if there was anything by my new favorite author. My church is very careful with the books they sell there, not wanting to promote anything that isn’t entirely Biblical. I was curious to see if J. C. Ryle would be among the authors the church bookstore is comfortable in carrying. Sure enough! There was a copy of Holiness - Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots. I bought it. Oh boy, that book is for a whole other post. It’s awesome.
I usually hesitate to write about Spiritual issues, knowing that there are sometimes many differences of thought among family and friends, but if I could explain as Ryle did in the above quote – “… I only ask liberty to hold and state distinctly my own views. The day will decide who is right. It is the new heart and faith in Christ’s blood, which are absolutely necessary to salvation.” – then, I know I will write more about this author later.
I have also found some of his sermons on line, and there is one specifically that I have wanted to share. Not because I believe there is anyone that needs to read it or to force my views on anyone; but simply for the fact we all want to share that which we love. In things that are not related to a salvation message, we share mostly for ourselves, I guess…out of our own excitement. But I wanted to write about this first…simply the joy in being part of the body of faith that Gods’ Word says is based on something that never changes and is forever the same. Despite the fallible efforts of man sometimes, the infallible Word of God remains.
In regard to my disillusionment and discouragement with today’s church that I mentioned earlier, let me borrow a nugget from Ryle:
I believe that the widespread unbelief, indifference, formalism and wickedness, which are to be seen throughout Christendom, are only what we are taught to expect in God’s Word. Troublous times, departures from the faith, evil men waxing worse and worse, love waxing cold, are things distinctly predicted. So far from making me doubt the truth of Christianity, they help to confirm my faith. Melancholy and sorrowful as the sight is, if I did not see it I should think the Bible was not true.
(Matt. 24:12; 1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 3:1, 4, 13).
And a comment from Ryle that is so very important to me, and why I remain so very involved in politics in my life:
I charge every reader of this address never to forget the close connection which Scripture reveals between the time of Israel’s gathering and the time of Christ’s Second Advent to the world. (That’s now, folks!) In one Psalm it is expressly declared, ‘When the Lord shall build up Zion, He shall appear in His glory’ (102:16). Where is the true believer that does not long for that blessed day? Where is the true Christian that does not cry from the bottom of his heart, ‘Thy kingdom come’? Let all such, work, give and pray, so that the gospel may have free course in Israel and be glorified. The time to favour Zion is closely bound up with the restitution of all things. Blessed indeed is that work of which the completion shall usher in the second coming of the Lord!
This is exactly why I believe our nation must support Israel. This is why I try to remain active in our nation’s politics; to help ensure that we do “favour Zion”. As I have said before on this blog, I believe this is one of the most powerful witnessing tools, available to the Christian, today. What a time-clock we have in Israel! What amazing Biblical prophecy is being revealed as accurate! When we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, we are ushering in the Kingdom of God. “The time to favour Zion is closely bound up with the restitution of all things.” When the Lord shall build up Zion, He shall appear in His glory.' As Ryle so factually points out, the same way that the degradation of society and the church point to the accuracy of the Bible and help confirm our faith, the restoration of Israel as a nation and the stumbling block to the world it has become, should also cause us to consider the accuracy of Scripture.
One more gem from Ryle’s book, if I may, which should encourage us all:
The one point, on which I desire to fix the eyes of my own soul, is the second personal coming of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To that ‘blessed hope and glorious appearing’, I wish, by God’s help to direct all who read this volume. God forbid that anyone should neglect present duties! To sit idly waiting for Christ, and not to attend to the business of our respective positions, is not Christianity, but fanaticism. Let us remember in all our daily employments that we serve a Master who is coming again.