What Does Holiness Look Like?

Ryle JC 4If you know me well, you know that my extra-biblical hero is J.C. Ryle, the English pastor and Bishop of Liverpool from the 1800’s. And if you know J.C. Ryle, you have either read or heard of his magnum opus entitled Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots. This is a book I attempt to read annually, because the importance of the subject of holiness and killing sin is as central to the Christian life as anything else I can fathom.

In Chapter 3, which is simply entitled “Holiness,” Ryle describes what makes a man holy. He explains what he looks like, what he thinks about and what motivates him. The following 12 descriptions are summaries of what a holy man looks like, according to Ryle.

First, a holy man is in the habit of being of one mind with God.

Second, a holy man will endeavor to shun every sin, and to keep every known commandment (Ps 119:128; Rom 7:22).

Third, a holy man will strive to be like our Lord Jesus Christ (I Pet 2:21; I John 2:6).

Fourth, a holy man will follow after meekness, longsuffering, gentleness, patience, kind tempers, and the government of his tongue (Num 12:3; II Sam 16:10).

Fifth, a holy man will follow after temperance and self-denial (Luke 21:34; I Cor 9:27).

Sixth, a holy man will follow after charity and brotherly love (Rom 13:8).

Seventh, a holy man will follow after a spirit of mercy and benevolence towards others (Acts 9:36; II Cor 12:15).

Eighth, a holy man will follow after purity of heart.

Ninth, a holy man will follow after the fear of God (Neh 5:15).

Tenth, a holy man will follow after humility (Gen 18:27; 32:10; Job 40:4; I Tim 1:15).

Eleventh, a holy man will follow after faithfulness in all the duties and relations in life (Dan 6:5; Rom 12:11; Col 3:23).

Twelfth, and finally, a holy man will follow after spiritual-mindedness (Ps 63:8; 119:57).

“Do you want to attain holiness? Do you feel this day a real hearty desire to be holy? Would you be a partaker of the divine nature? Then go to Christ. Wait for nothing. Wait for nobody. Linger not. Think not to make yourself ready. Go and say to Him, in the words of that beautiful hymn,

Nothing in my hand I bring,

Simply to Thy cross I cling;

Naked, flee to Thee for dress;

Helpless, look to Thee for grace.” (pg. 60)


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