Once again, Ryle speaks like a man acquainted with the goings-on of current evangelicalism. As he discussed the repercussions of never taking a hard line on anything, of the idea that assurance is arrogance before God, I thought of the emergent/emerging conversation that wants to demand that the only certainties are uncertainties, and that to take a stand on truth is arrogance.
Interestingly, this chapter seems to have more scripture references in it than any of the others. If there is one thing that Christians can seek and aim for it is assurance of salvation. Ryle writes that assurance is “a true and scriptural thing.” Though there are many presumptuous people who abuse this truth, professing “to feel a confidence for which they have no Scriptural warrant…God’s children must not let themselves be driven from the use of a truth, merely because it is abused.” Furthermore, using the examples of Paul,Peter, and Job, Ryle states that “deep humility and strong assurance are perfectly compatible, and that there is not any necessary connection between spiritual confidence and pride.”
How can he write that with such confidence? Because the Christian who is most assured in his faith and right standing before God understands perfectly that his assurance is not “resting on anything he sees in himself…Assurance after all is no more than a full-grown faith.”
Ryle then encourages us to pray with the words from Mark 9:24, “Lord, I believe; help Thou my unbelief.”
Ryle writes with such grace and patience toward his audience: never condemning, always encouraging. Much like Paul, he wants us to press on and attain that for which we have been called. No matter how weak we may feel at present, we can pray to our Heavenly Father.
One other point Ryle makes that I found very interesting is that the most assured Christian will make the most active Christian. Because the issue of their standing before God is settled, they are able to make decisions and move forward.
“Indecision and doubt about our own state in God’s sight is a grievous evil, and the mother of many evils. It often produces a wavering and unstable walk in following the Lord. Assurance helps to cut many a knot, and to make the path of Christian duty clear and plain…That a child of God ought to act in a certain decided way, they quite feel; but the grand question is, ‘Are they children of God themselves?’ If they only felt that were so, they would go straightforward, and take a decided line. But not feeling sure abut it, their conscience is forever hesitating and coming to a deadlock…They feel no assurance that they are Christ’s, and so feel a hesitancy about breaking with the world”
Ryle also writes that assurance makes the holiest Christians. “He that is freely forgiven by Christ will always do much for Christ’s glory, and he that enjoys the fullest assurance of this forgiveness will ordinarily keep up the closest walk with God.” As John 3:3 states, “He that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.” Ryle goes further: “A hope that does not purify is a mockery, a delusion, and a snare.”
I began reading Holiness with the hopes of growing, not just in terms of knowledge and understanding, but in grace and holiness. I will confess that several tests came my way as I read this book. I did not pass every test, thereby, turning the test into temptation. At times I failed miserably. Then, other times, God helped me to fight, to yield to his Spirit rather than to my own desires. So, I come away from this book greatly encouraged. I won’t say that all that much has changed in the last seven weeks, but I think I have a better understanding that the root is in me (the doctrine of justification), and God promises that the flower will grow (the doctrine of sanctification).