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J.C. Ryle: Advice for Episcopalians today? (from “Hold Fast the Form of Sound Words”)

September 26, 2007

After reading the text of the latest statement coming out of the House of Bishops’ meeting in New Orleans, I really do not think that document is going to satisfy the Global South Primates such as Archbishop Akinola. Christopher Johnson, as he so often does, pretty much hits the mark in his post here on MCJ; I suppose we will have to see what comes out of the Common Cause meeting in Pittsburgh this week.

I think J.C. Ryle, if he were with us now in the flesh, would likely reiterate these words which he wrote in “Hold Fast the Form of Sound Words”:

Can sin be pardoned in any other way than through the atonement of Christ, or the sinner be justified by any other means than faith in the Lord our Righteousness, or the depraved heart be renewed and sanctified by any other agency than that of the Holy Spirit? Are not all the motives of evangelical doctrine as adapted, as powerful, and as efficacious, now, as they were then? No alteration of subject then can be called for now, to meet the advancing state of society, since the Gospel is intended and adapted to be God’s instrument for the salvation of man, in all ages of the world, in all countries, and in all states of society.

The moral epidemic of our nature is always and everywhere the same, in what ever various degrees of virulence it may exist, and the remedial system of salvation by grace, through faith. is God’s own and unalterable specific for the disease, in every age of time, in every country of the world, and in every state of society.

Men may call in other physicians than Christ, and try other methods of cure, as they already have done, but they will all fail, and leave the miserable patient hopeless and helpless, as regards every other means of health, beside that which the cross of Christ presents. We reject alike as delusive and fatal the ancient practice of conforming the evangelical scheme to systems of philosophy, and the modern notion of the progressive development of Christian doctrine by the Church…

A Scriptural view of sin is one of the best antidotes to that vague, dim, misty, hazy kind of theology which is so painfully current in the present age. It is vain to shut our eyes to the fact that there is a vast quantity of so-called Christianity nowadays which you cannot declare positively unsound, but which, nevertheless, is not full measure, good weight, and sixteen ounces to the pound. It is a Christianity in which there is undeniably “something about Christ, and something about grace, and something about faith, and something about repentance, and something about holiness”; but it is not the real “thing as it is” in the Bible.

A Scriptural view of sin is one of the best antidotes to the extravagantly broad and liberal theology which is so much in vogue at the present time. The tendency of modern thought is to reject dogmas, creeds, and every kind of bounds in religion. It is thought grand and wise to condemn no opinion whatsoever, and to pronounce all earnest and clever teachers to be trustworthy, however heterogeneous and mutually destructive their opinions may be. Everything forsooth is true, and nothing is false!

Everybody is right, and nobody is wrong! Everybody is likely to be saved, and nobody is to be lost! The Atonement and Substitution of Christ, the personality of the devil, the miraculous element in Scripture, the reality and eternity of future punishment; all these mighty foundation-stones are coolly tossed overboard like lumber, in order to lighten the ship of Christianity, and enable it to keep pace with modern science. Stand up for these great verities and you are called narrow, illiberal, old-fashioned, and a theological fossil!

As much as I wish it were not so, Bishop Ryle’s words ring even more true today than they did in his time.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 26, 2007 11:33 pm

    I agree Will. The final three paragraphs of this post could have been written last night.

  2. September 27, 2007 12:12 am

    Yes, and I have also been thinking about what Bonhoeffer wrote before World War II: “Only he who believes is obedient, and only he who is obedient believes.” I would have to say TEC’s House of Bishops fails that test.

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