Cast in the same mould as the Puritans before him, and true to their way of life, JI Packer honors the life of Bishop JC Ryle, who gave nothing to compromise and asked nothing of modern criticism. His constant want was to see Christ glorified, evidenced in his battles with opposing views and the rise of liberalism. Bishop Ryle was appreciative of another Victorian Puritan, Charles Spurgeon, and JI Packer is brief, but shares their healthy respect for the other. This godly man suffered because of his preaching of uncompromising truth, and suffered a similar fate as Spurgeon as they were both ousted by their own denominational leadership, who gave in to the demands of rationalism.
So Ryle's life is one of personal trials and professional testing, yet always remaining true to his convictions. He readily refers to the Puritans and their works, way of life and doctrinal standards, as those he clearly espouses and refuses to do away with. Dr Packer spends several valuable chapters in painting the 19th century on the canvas of Ryle's life.
The second portion is the well-known book, Holiness, which Ryle published in 1877. It is true of this modern classic that Ryle wished he 'might have chosen a subject more popular and pleasant...but I...could not have chosen one more seasonable and more profitable to our souls.' p 139 This is a favorite read. Not too theological, yet inspiring of great good that can be achieved by the hand of a holy God. Bishop JC Ryle's view of justification and sanctification stand in stark contrast to Bishop Moule, who stated that 'We are not to think of the giving of the Spirit as of an isolated deposit of what, once given, is now locally in possession'. Said Ryle: 'I fear it is sometimes forgotten that God has married together justification and sanctification. They are distinct and different things, beyond question, but one is never found without the other.' p 153 And in distinction to Rome who made salvation dependent upon sanctification, JC Ryle made it indispensable to a life of holiness: 'A holy man will strive to be like our Lord Jesus Christ. He will not only live the life of faith in Him, and draw from Him all his daily peace and strength, but he will also labour to have the mind that was in Him, and to be 'conformed to His image' (Rom 8:29).' p 140
'The Puritans taught that a 'regeneration' that leaves men without the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit and without the practice of holy living is not what is promised in Scripture.' Joel Beeke, Living For God's Glory p 292
He defended the doctrine of justification by faith in clear and supremely biblical terms, yet entirely in opposition to Rome: 'In justification our own works have no place at all, and simple faith in Christ is the one thing needful. In sanctification, our own works are of vast importance, and God bids us fight, watch and pray, and strive, and take pains, and labour. Justification admits of no growth or increase... sanctification is an imperfect work, and will never be perfected until we are in heaven.' p 134 He underlined the perseverance of the saints in bold print: 'Better suffer and obey God, than be at ease and in sin.' p 138
Bishop Ryle denied what many charismatic teachers preach as standard truth today: 'I do not for a moment say that holiness shuts out the presence of indwelling sin. No: far from it.' p 144 Even in his day perfectionist claims were disseminated amongst the common people as if it were biblical truth. 'In the 1800s, JC Ryle quoted extensively from Traill's little book, Justification Vindicated, using its clear distinctions between justification and sanctification to defend the church against the holiness movement led by Hannah Pearsall Smith.' Meet The Puritans, eds. Beeke & Pederson p 585 He retorted: 'I question the wisdom of making new-fangled divisions which the Bible has not made, and I thoroughly dislike the notion of a second conversion. Are they not, when they urge on believers the 'higher life' as a second conversion, underrating the length, and breadth, and depth, and height of that great first change which Scripture calls the new birth, the new creation, the spiritual resurrection?' p 101