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.
He that wishes to attain right views about Christian holiness, must begin by examining the vast and solemn subject of sin. He must dig down very low if he would build high. A mistake here is most mischievous. Wrong views about holiness are generally traceable to wrong views about human corruption. …
The plain truth is that a right knowledge of sin lies at the root of all saving Christianity. Without it such doctrines as justification, conversion, sanctification, are “words and names” which convey no meaning to the mind. The first thing, therefore, that God does when He makes any one a new creature in Christ, is to send light into his heart, and show him that he is a guilty sinner. The material creation in Genesis began with “light,” and so also does the spiritual creation. God “shines into our hearts” by the work of the Holy Ghost, and then spiritual life begins (2 Cor 4:6). Dim or indistinct views of sin are the origin of most of the errors, heresies, and false doctrines of the present day. If a man does not realize the dangerous nature of his soul’s disease, you cannot wonder if he is content with false or imperfect remedies. I believe that one of the chief wants of the Church in the nineteenth century has been, and is, clearer, fuller teaching about sin.
—J. C. Ryle
Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots (London: William Hunt and Company, 1889), 1–2.
Today, vast stress is laid on the thought that God is personal, but this truth is so stated as to leave the impression that God is a person of same sort as we are—weak, inadequate, ineffective, a little pathetic. But this is not the God of the Bible! Our personal life is a finite thing: it is limited in every direction, in space, in time, in knowledge, in power. But God is not so limited. He is eternal, infinite and almighty. He has us in his hands; we never have him in ours. Like us, he is personal; but unlike us, he is great. In all its constant stress on the reality of God’s personal concern for his people, and on the gentleness, tenderness, sympathy, patience and yearning compassion that he shows toward them, the Bible never lets us lose sight of his majesty and his unlimited dominion over all his creatures.
—J. I. Packer
Knowing God, 83.
We mortify sin by cherishing the principle of holiness and sanctification in our souls, labouring to increase and strengthen it by growing in grace, and by a constancy and frequency in acting of it in all duties, on all occasions, abounding in the fruits of it. Growing, thriving, and improving in universal holiness, is the great way of the mortification of sin. The more vigorous the principle of holiness is in us, the more weak, infirm, and dying will be that of sin. The more frequent and lively are the actings of grace, the feebler and seldomer will be the actings of sin. The more we abound in the ‘fruits of the Spirit,’ the less shall we be concerned in the ‘works of the flesh.’ And we do but deceive ourselves if we think sin will be mortified on any other terms.
Works of John Owen, 3:552.