Saturday, May 03, 2008

PART 3 - Practical uses of the doctrine of sin (related to holiness)

Bishop Ryle concludes. If we compare the situation he speaks about from his times to ours, we must admit that it has deteriorated even more today.

So the reading of this book so well written on the subject of holiness is greatly needed today and is necessary before we share any experiences or struggles in the field of holiness. Everyone knows that sound doctrine must precede practical application.

In the last place, a scriptural view of sin will prove an admirable antidote to the low views of personal holiness, which are so painfully prevalent in these last days of the church.

This is a very painful and delicate subject, I know, but I dare not turn away from it. It has long been my sorrowful conviction that the standard of daily life among professing Christians in this country has been gradually falling. I am afraid that
Christ–like charity, kindness, good temper, unselfishness, meekness, gentleness, good nature, self-denial, zeal to do good and separation from the world are far less
appreciated than they ought to be and than they used to be in the days of our fathers.

Into the causes of this state of things I cannot pretend to enter fully and can only suggest conjectures for consideration. It may be that a certain profession of religion has become so fashionable and comparatively easy in the present age that the streams that which wer once narrow and deep have become wide and shallow, and what we have gained in outward show we have lost in quality. It may be that our contemporary affluence and comfortable lifestyles have insensibly introduced a plague of worldliness and self-indulgence and a love of ease. What were once called luxuries are now comforts and necessities, and self-denial and "enduring hardness" are consequently little known.

It may be that the enormous amount of controversy which marks this age has insensibly dried up our spiritual life. We have too often been content with zeal for orthodoxy and have neglected the sober realities of daily practical godliness. Be the causes what they may, I must declare my own belief that the results remains. There has been of late years a lower standard of personal holiness among believers than there used to be in the days of our fathers.

The whole result is that the Spirit is grieved and the matter calls for much humiliation and searching of the heart. As to the best remedy for the stage of things I have mentioned, I will venture to give an opinion. Other schools of thought in the churches must judge for themselves. The cure for evangelical churchmen, I am convinced, is to be found in a clearer apprehension of the nature and sinfullness of sin. We need not to go back in Egypt and borrow semi-Roman "Catholic" practices in order to revive our spiritual life. We need not restore the confessional, or return to monasticism or asceticism. Nothing of the kind! We must simply repent and do our first works.

We must return to first principles. We must go back to "the old paths". We must sit down humbly in the presence of God, look the whole subject in the face, examine clearly what the Lord Jesus calls sin, and what the Lord Jesus calls doing His will. We must then try to realize that it is terribly possible to live a careless, easy-going, half-worldly life, and yet at the same time to maintain evangelical principles and call ourselves evangelical people! Once we see that sin is far viler and far nearer to us and sticks more closely to us than we supposed, we will be led, I trust and believe, to get nearer to Christ. Once drawn nearer to Christ, we will drink more deeply out of His fullness and learn more thoroughly to "live the life of faith" in Him, as St. Paul did.

Once taught to live the life of faith in Jesus, and abiding in Him, we will bear more fruit , will find ourselves more strong for duty, more patient in trial, more watchful over our weak hearts, and more like our Master in all our little daily ways. Just in proportion as we realize how much Christ has done for us, will we labor to do much for Christ. Much forgiven, we love much. In short, as the apostle says, "With open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image... even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3: 18).

Whatever some may please to think or say, there can be no doubt that an increased feeling about holiness is one of the signs of the times. Conferences for the promotion of "spiritual life" are becoming common in the present day. The subject of "spiritual life are becoming common in the present day.

The subject of "spiritual life" finds a place on congress platforms almost every year.
It has awakened an amount of interest and general attention throughout the land for which we ought to be thankful. Any movement, based on sound principles, which helps to deepen our spiritual life and increase our personal holiness will be a real blessing to the Church of England. I will do much to draw us together and heal our unhappy divisions. It may bring down some fresh outpouring of the grace of the Spirit and be "life from the dead" in these later times. But sure I am, as I said in the beginning, we must begin low, if we would build high. I am convinced that the first step towards attaining a higher standard of holiness is to realize fully the amazing sinfulness of sin.

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