The problem with Christians and their ministers, that I am liable to as well and that Bishop Ryle addresses in this text is summed up in the following statements:
"... we live in a day of weak and feeble statements. The danger of the state of nature is feebly exposed. The privileges of the state of grace are feebly set forth. Hesitating souls are not encouraged. Disciples are not established and confirmed. The man out of Christ is not rightly alarmed. The man in Christ is not rightly built up. The one sleeps on, and seldom has his conscience pricked. The other creeps and crawls all his days and never thoroughly understands the riches of his inheritance." (p. 454)
"But to have religion enough to be saved, and yet not go into extremes, -- to be sufficiently good, and yet not be peculiar, -- to have a quiet, easy-going, moderate kind of Christianity, and go comfortably to heaven after all, -- this is the world's favorite idea. There is a third class, a safe middle class, the world fancies, and in this middle class the majority of men persuade themselves they will be found." (p. 446)
He answers the challenges of the above statements through systematic forceful compassionate stinging offending bold unashamed essays on what the Scriptures say about what Christianity is, and what true Christians are like. The readers will not only find systematic treatments on what the Bible teaches about Jesus Christ, the gospel, zeal, happiness, heaven (under the heading "Our Home") and hell, the church, holiness, charity, formalism, the absolute necessity of spiritual disciplines of prayers, Bible reading and ordinances, the end times (the great gathering and the great separation), but also piercing questions to the point that I feel as if he were forcing you to deal with the questions at hand in often an obnoxious manner which I think is very good, appropriate, and necessary. The readers will find heart-searching, self-examining questions as:
"Is your religion a matter of form, not of heart? Answer this question honestly, and as in the sight of God. And if it is, consider solemnly the immense danger in which you stand.... I earnestly beseech you this day to know your danger, to open your eyes and repent...if you only have a name to live, and a form of godliness without power, awake and repent. Awake, above all, if you are an evangelical formalist... There is no formalism so dangerous as evangelism formalism.... Whatever religion you have, never be content with wearing a cloak." (p.281-282)
There are few indeed, ministers with uncommon wisdom and vision of the signs of the times, the dangerous ones particularly; of whom Ryle is one of them, not only in the 1800's but O how much still and even more applicable today, the sober warnings from the Scriptures of the necessity of earnestness, serious, fight of faith to enter the strait gate and narrow way. "Practical Religion" is a Christian jewel that needs to be in every Christian family's library.