Old Paths, Apostasy, and True Faith
19th century Anglican bishop J.C. Ryle is one of my favorite dead pastors and theologians. He is consistently pastoral, always eminently practical, and had a certain stodginess of spirit about him that I have come to appreciate. Here I will give three quotes from his work “Old Paths.”
This first one is a lengthy quote from the beginning of “Old Paths” in which he seeks to explain and defend these “old paths” of evangelical doctrine and religion. His stodginess comes out in the best of ways.
The name which I have selected will prepare the reader to expect no new doctrines in this volume. It is simple, unadulterated, old-fashioned Evangelical theology. It contains nothing but the “old Paths” in which the Apostolic Christians, the Reformers, the best English Churchmen for the last three hundred years, and the best Evangelical Christians of the present day, have persistently walked. From these “paths” I see no reason to depart. They are often sneered at and ridiculed, as old-fashioned, effete, worn out, and powerless in the Nineteenth Century. Be it so. “None of these things move me.” I have yet to learn that there is any system of religious teaching, by whatever name it may be called, High, or Broad, or Romish, or Neologian, which produces one quarter of the effect on human nature that is produced by the old, despised system of doctrine which is commonly called Evangelical. I wilingly admit the zeal, earnestness, and devotedness of many religious teachers who are not Evangelical. But I firmly maintain that they way of the school to which I belong is the “more excellent way.” The longer I live the more I am convinced that the world needs no new Gospel, as some profess to think. I am thoroughly persuaded that the world needs nothing but a bold, full, unflinching teaching of the “old paths.” The heart of man is the same in every age. The spiritual medicine which it requires is always the same.
This second quote deals with spiritual ruin.
But does it take much trouble to ruin a soul? Oh, no! It is a down-hill journey. There is nothing required at your hands. There is no need of exertion. You have only to sit still, and do as others do in the circle in which God’s providence has placed you—to swim with the tide, to float down the stream, to go with the crowd—and by and by the time of mercy will be past forevermore! “Wide is the gate that leadeth to destruction.”
And now for a final and quote on saving faith. This one is especially rich.
True faith has nothing whatever of merit about it, and in the highest sense cannot be called “a work.” It is but laying hold of a Savior’s hand, leaning on a husband’s arm, and receiving a physician’s medicine. It brings with it nothing to Christ but a sinful man’s soul. It gives nothing, contributes nothing, pays nothing, performs nothing. It only receives, takes, accepts, grasps, and embraces the glorious gift of justification which Christ bestows, and by renewed daily acts enjoys that gift.