Saturday, April 19, 2008

PART 2 - Practical uses of the doctrine of sin (related to holiness)

Bishop Ryle continues his explanations of the practical uses of sin. This is important to meditate.

In the third place, a right view of sin works as an antidote to a ceremonial and formal kind of Christianity which has carried away so many in its wake. Unenlightened minds may find such a view of religion attractive in a certain sense, yet I cannot see how a sensuous and formal religion can thoroughly satisfy the Christian. A little child is easily quieted and amused with playthings, toys and dolls, as long as he isn't hungry. Let him feel the cravings of nature within, and you will discover quickly that only food can nourish him and satisfy his hunger. Likewise, a man's soul will not find satisfaction in music and flowers and candles and incense and banners and processions and beautiful vestments and confessionals and humanly contrived ceremonies.

He may amuse himself with such, but let his soul awaken and rise from the dead, and he will not rest content with these things. They will seem to him mere solemn triflings and a waste of time. Let him see the scope of his sin, and he will also see his need for his Savior. He hungers and thirsts, and nothing will satisfy him but the bread of life. The prominence of this form of formal and sensuous Christianity, I dare to say, would not exist if Christians were taught more often in fullness the nature, vileness and sinfulness of sin.

In the fourth place, a right view of sin is one of the best antidotes to the overstrained theories of perfection of which we hear so much in these times. If those who press on us perfection mean nothing more than an all-round consistency and a careful attention to all the graces which make up the Christian character, reason would that we should not only bear with them, but agree with them entirely. By all means, let us aim high. But if men really mean to tell us that here in this world a believer can attain to entire freedom from sin, live for years in unbroken and uninterrupted communion with God, and feel for months together not so much as one evil thought, I must honestly say that such an opinion appears to me very unscriptural.

I go even further. I say that the opinion is very dangerous to him that holds it, and very likely to depress, discourage and keep back inquirers after salvation. I cannot find the slightest warrant in God's Word for expecting such perfection as this while we are in the body. I believe the words of our fifteenth Article are strictly true: that "Christ alone is without sin; and that all we, the rest, though baptized and born again in Christ, offend in many things; and if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us". To use the language of our first homily, "There be imperfections in our best works: we do not love God so much as we are bound to do, with all our heart, mind and power; we do not fear God so much as we ought to do; we do not pray to God but with many and great imperfections. We give, forgive, believe, live and hope imperfectly; we speak, think and do imperfectly; we fight against the devil, the world and the flesh imperfectly. Let us, therefore, not be ashamed to confess plainly our state of imperfection".

Once more I repeat what I have said: the best preservative against this temporaty delusion about perfection which clouds some minds -- for such I hope I may call it --is a clear, full, distinct understanding of the nature, sinfulness and deceitfulness of sin.

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