The Bishop: The Lever Which Turns the World Upside Down

“The cross is the strength of a minister. I for one would not be without it for all the world. I should feel like a soldier without arms, like an artist without his pencil, like a pilot without his compass, like a labourer without his tools. Let others, if they will, preach the law and morality; let others hold forth the terrors of hell, and the joys of heaven; let others drench their congregations with teachings about the sacraments and the church; give me the cross of Christ! This is the only lever which has ever turned the world upside down hitherto, and made men forsake their sins. And if this will not, nothing will. A man may begin preaching with a perfect knowledge of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew; but he will do little or no good among his hearers unless he knows something of the cross. Never was there a minister who did much for the conversion of souls who did not dwell much on Christ crucified. Luther, Rutherford, Whitefield, M’Cheyne, were all most eminently preachers of the cross. This is the preaching that the Holy Ghost delights to bless. He loves to honour those who honour the cross.” —J.C. Ryle, Old Paths

The Bishop: The Old Way the Only Way

“This is the old way by which alone the children of Adam, who have been justified from the beginning of the world, have found I their peace. From Abel downwards, no man or woman has ever had one drop of mercy excepting through Christ. To him every altar that was raised before the time of Moses was intended to point. To him every sacrifice and ordinance of the Jewish law was meant to direct the children of Israel. Of him all the prophets testified. In a word, if you lose sight of justification by Christ, a large part of the Old Testament Scripture will become an unmeaning tangled maze.” —J.C. Ryle, Old Paths

The Bishop: A Compass without a Needle

“Let every reader of this paper mark what I say. You may know a good deal about the Bible. You may know the outlines of the histories it contains, and the dates of the events described, just as a man knows the history of England. You may know the names of the men and women mentioned in it, just as a man knows Casar, Alexander the Great, or Napoleon. You may know the several precepts of the Bible, and admire them, just as a man admires Plato, Aristotle, or Seneca. But if you have not yet found out that Christ crucified is the foundation of the whole volume, you have read your Bible hitherto to very little profit. Your religion is a heaven without a sun, an arch without a key-stone, a compass without a needle, a clock without spring or weights, a lamp without oil. It will not comfort you. It will not deliver your soul from hell.” —J.C. Ryle, Old Paths

The Bishop: The Substitute

“Christ, in one word, has lived for the true Christian. Christ has died for him. Christ has gone to the grave for him. Christ has risen again for him. Christ has ascended up on high for him, and gone into heaven to intercede for his soul. Christ has done all. paid all, suffered all that was needful for his redemption. Hence arises the true Christian’s justification,—hence his peace. In himself there is nothing, but in Christ he has all things that his soul can require (Col. 2:3; 3:11).” —J.C. Ryle, Old Paths

The Bishop: People Generally Die Just as They Have Lived

“I know well that many do not believe what I am saying, because they think there is an immense quantity of deathbed repentance. They flatter themselves that multitudes who do not live religious lives will yet die religious deaths. They take comfort in the thought that vast numbers of persons turn to God in their last illness and are saved at the eleventh hour. I will only remind such persons that all the experience of ministers is utterly against the theory. People generally die just as they have lived. True repentance is never too late:-but repentance deferred to the last hours of life is seldom true.” —J.C. Ryle, Old Path

The Bishop: The Bible Is The Word of God

“From all these views I totally and entirely dissent. They all appear to me more or less defective, below the truth, dangerous in their tendency, and open to grave and insuperable objections. The view which I maintain is that every book, and chapter, and verse, and syllable of the Bible was originally given by inspiration of God. I hold that not only the substance of the Bible, but its language,—not only the ideas of the Bible, but its words,—not only certain parts of the Bible, but every chapter of the book,—that all and each are of divine authority. I hold that the Scripture not only contains the Word of God, but is the Word of God. I believe the narratives and statements of Genesis, and the catalogues in Chronicles, were just as truly written by inspiration as the Acts of the Apostles. I believe Ezra’s account of the nine-and-twenty knives, and St Paul’s message about the cloak and parchments, were as much written under divine direction as the 20th of Exodus, the 17th of John, or the 8th of Romans. I do not say, be it remembered, that all these parts of the Bible are of equal importance to our souls. Nothing of the kind! But I do say they were all equally given by inspiration.” —J.C. Ryle, Old Paths

The Bishop: Don’t Trade Truth for Peace

“Controversy and religious strife, no doubt, are odious things; but there are times when they are a positive necessity. Unity and peace are very delightful; but they are bought too dear if they are bought at the expense of truth. There is a vast amount of maundering, childish, weak talk nowadays in some quarters about unity and peace, which I cannot reconcile with the language of St Paul. It is a pity, no doubt, that there should be so much controversy; but it is also a pity that human nature should be so bad as it is, and that the devil should be loose in the world. It was a pity that Arius taught error about Christ’s person: but it would have been a greater pity if Athanasius had not opposed him. It was a pity Tetzel went about preaching up the Pope’s indulgences: it would have been a far greater pity if Luther had not withstood him. Controversy, in fact, is one of the conditions under which truth in every age has to be defended and maintained, and it is nonsense to ignore it.” —J.C. Ryle, Light from Old Times

The Bishop: Take True Christians as They Are

Richard Baxter was a minister at Kidderminster for seventeen years in the 17th century. While Baxter’s views on justification depart from reformed orthodoxy, he was an exemplary model of pastoral care and faithfulness.

“I do not ask men to regard him as a perfect and faultless being, any more than Cranmer, or Calvin, or Knox, or Wesley. I do not at all defend some of Baxter’s doctrinal statements. He tried to systematise things which cannot be systematised, and he failed. You will not find such a clear, full gospel in his writings as in those of Owen, and Bridge, and Traill. I do not think he was always right in his judgment. I regard his refusal of a bishopric as a huge mistake. By that refusal he rejected a glorious opportunity of doing good. Had Baxter been on the episcopal bench, and in the House of Lords, I do not believe the Act of Uniformity would ever have passed.

But in a world like this we must take true Christians as they are, and be thankful for what they are. It is not given to mortal man to be faultless. Take Baxter for all together, and there are few English ministers of the gospel whose names deserve to stand higher than his. Some have excelled him in some gifts, and some in others. But it is seldom that so many gifts are to be found united in one man as they are in Baxter. Eminent personal holiness, amazing power as a preacher, unrivalled pastoral skill, indefatigable diligence as a writer, meekness and patience under undeserved persecution, all meet together in the character of this one man. Let us place him high in our list of great and good men. Let us give him the honour he deserves. It is no small thing to be the fellow countryman of Richard Baxter.” —J.C. Ryle, Light from Old Times

The Bishop: Beware the Middling Unprotestantizer

William Laud, the bane of the Puritans, was Archbishop of Canterbury under Charles I from 1633–1645.

“Laud’s real policy next demands our attention. What was it? What was he driving at all his life? What did he want to do? What was his object and aim? I do not believe, with some, that he really desired to Romanize the Church of England, or meant and intended, if possible, to reunite it with the Church of Rome. I think those who say this go too far, and have no sufficient ground for their assertions. But I decidedly think, that what he did labour to effect was just as dangerous, and would sooner or later have brought back downright Popery, no matter what Laud meant or intended. I believe that Laud’s grand idea was to make the Church of England less Protestant, less Calvinistic, less Evangelical, than it was when he found it. I believe he thought that our excellent Reformers had gone too far; that the clock ought to be put back a good deal. I believe his favourite theory was, that we ought to occupy a medium position between the Reformation on the one side, and Rome on the other, and that we might combine the ceremonialism and sacramentalism of St Peter’s on the Tiber with the freedom from corruption and ecclesiastical independence of St Paul’s on the Thames. He did not, in short, want to go back to the Vatican, but he wanted to borrow some of its principles, and plant them in Lambeth Palace. I see in these ideas and theories a key to all his policy. His one aim from St John’s, Oxford, till he was sent to the Tower, was not to Romanize, but to unprotestantize the Church of England. Some may think this a nice and too refined a distinction. I do not. A ‘Romanizer’ is one thing, an ‘unprotestantizer’ is another.”

The Bishop: Pernicious Trifles

“Now, I say there can be no greater mistake than to suppose that the great controversy of our times is a mere question of vestments and ornaments; of chasubles and copes; of more or less church decorations; of more or less candles and flowers; of more or less bowings and turnings and crossings; of more or less gestures and postures; of more or less show and form. The man who fancies that the whole dispute is a mere aesthetic one, a question of taste, like one of fashion and millinery, must allow me to tell him that he is under a complete delusion. He may sit on the shore, like the Epicurean philosopher, smiling at theological storms, and flatter himself that we are only squabbling about trifles; but I take leave to tell him that his philosophy is very shallow, and his knowledge of the controversy of the day very superficial indeed. 

The things I have spoken of are trifles, I fully concede. But they are pernicious trifles, because they are the outward expression of an inward doctrine. They are the skin disease which is the symptom of an unsound constitution. They are the plague spot which tells of internal poison. They are the curling smoke which arises from a hidden volcano of mischief. I, for one, would never make any stir about church millinery, or incense, or candles, if I thought they meant nothing beneath the surface. But I believe they mean a great deal of error and false doctrine, and therefore I publicly protest against them, and say that those who support them are to be blamed.” —J.C. Ryle, Light from Old Times