The true Christian is called to be a soldier, and must behave as such from the day of his conversion to the day of his death. He is not meant to live a life of religious ease, indolence, and security. He must never imagine for a moment that he can sleep and doze along the way to heaven, like one travelling in an easy carriage. If he takes his standard of Christianity from the children of this world, he may be content with such notions; but he will find no countenance for them in the Word of God. If the Bible is the rule of his faith and practice, he will find his course laid down very plainly in this matter. He must “fight.”
With whom is the Christian soldier meant to fight? … The principal fight of the Christian is with the world, the flesh, and the devil. These are his never-dying foes. These are the three chief enemies against whom he must wage war. Unless he gets the victory over these three, all other victories are useless and vain. If he had a nature like an angel, and were not a fallen creature, the warfare would not be so essential. But with a corrupt heart, a busy devil, and an ensnaring world, he must either “fight” or be lost.
He must fight the flesh. Even after conversion he carries within him a nature prone to evil, and a heart weak and unstable as water. That heart will never be free from imperfection in this world, and it is a miserable delusion to expect it. To keep that heart from going astray, the Lord Jesus bids us “watch and pray.” The spirit may be ready, but the flesh is weak. There is need of a daily struggle and a daily wrestling in prayer. “I keep under my body,” cries St. Paul, “and bring it into subjection.”—“I see a law in my members warring against the law of mind, and bringing me into captivity.”—“O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”—“They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”—“Mortify your members which are upon the earth.” (Mark 14:38; 1 Corinthians 9:27; Romans 7:23, 24; Galatians 5:24; Colossians 3:5)
—J. C. Ryle
Holiness (London: William Hunt and Company, 1889), 76–77.
True holiness does not consist merely of believing and feeling, but of doing and bearing, and a practical exhibition of active and passive grace. … True holiness, we surely ought to remember, does not consist merely of inward sensations and impressions. It is much more than tears, and sighs, and bodily excitement, and a quickened pulse, and a passionate feeling of attachment to our own favourite preachers and our own religious party, and a readiness to quarrel with every one who does not agree with us. It is something of “the image of Christ,” which can be seen and observed by others in our private life, and habits, and character, and doings (Romans 8:29).
—J. C. Ryle
Holiness (London: William Hunt and Company, 1889), xiv, xv.
If this world and the good things of the same could be enjoyed forever, it would be but of small value. We have seen that riches are so, inasmuch as they afford no solid satisfaction to the mind and generally bring more vexation than comfort, and when they are in abundance are more of a burden than a delight. We have seen that worldly honor and pomp is so, and that the pleasure that is enjoyed therein is but a mere shadow and vanity. We have seen that worldly pleasures are so, inasmuch as they always bring disappointment and always cheat and deceive those who pursue them, and because they are naturally incapable of enduring long and generally bring distaste and loathing after them. We have seen that friends are also so, inasmuch as their love is not very profitable to us, they being unable to save us from misfortunes, and besides, they are uncertain and inconstant. And in short, that all this world, with all its riches, glories, pleasures and delights, is but the greatest of vanities, and a mere vexation of spirit.
But the life and salvation of the soul is of inestimable worth and value. Though the whole world is good for nothing in comparison, yet the life of the soul is of inestimable worth and value, insomuch that the value of the same cannot be conceived of nor imagined. This appears to be so, firstly, because the salvation of the soul is the deliverance of it from so great a misery, and secondly, because so great a happiness is to be enjoyed in the salvation of the soul.
Sermons and Discourses, 1720-1723, The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Yale University Press, 1992), 319–320.
Fearfully and wonderfully, therefore, am I made, and designed for nobler ends and uses, than for a few days to eat, and drink, and sleep, and talk, and die. My soul is of more value than ten thousand worlds.