24 March 2006

A word from the late Bishop of Liverpool

posted by Phil Johnson

The Banner of TruthJ. C. Ryle's book Warnings to the Churches contains a sermon preached in August of 1858, titled "Not Corrupting the Word." The following excerpt from that sermon was published exactly ninety-nine years later, in the August 1957 issue of The Banner of Truth. That issue of the magazine is included in a wonderful compilation recently re-released by the Banner of Truth Trust: The Banner of Truth: Magazine Issues 1-16, Sept. 1955—Aug. 1959. (The following excerpt may be found on page 265). I highly recommend the whole book.

Ryle's words here offer some much-needed advice that certain nominally-evangelical bishops ministering in the morass of modern and post-modern Anglicanism would do well to heed.

Phil's signature

Not Corrupting the Word

"For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ" (2 Corinthians 2:17).

Bishop RyleWhen can it be said of us, that we corrupt the Word of God in the present day? What are the rocks and shoals which we ought to shun, if we would not be of the "many" who deal deceitfully with God’s truth? A few suggestions on this head may not be without use.

We corrupt the word of God most dangerously when we throw any doubt on the plenary inspiration of any part of the holy Scripture.

This is not merely a corrupting the cup, but the whole fountain. This is not merely corrupting the bucket of living water, which we profess to present to our people, but poisoning the whole well.

Once wrong on this point, the whole substance of our religion is in danger. It is a flaw in the foundation. It is a worm at the root of our theology. Once allow the worm to gnaw the root, and we must not be surprised if the branches, the leaves, and the fruit, little by little decay.

Secondly, we corrupt the Word of God when we make defective statements of doctrine.

We do so when we add to the Bible the opinions of the Church, or of the Fathers, as if they were of equal authority.

We do so when we take away from the Bible, for the sake of pleasing men; or, from a feeling of false liberty, keep back any statement which seems narrow and harsh or hard.

We do so when we try to soften down anything that is taught about eternal punishment or the reality of hell.

We do so when we bring forward doctrines in their wrong proportions.

We do so when we exhibit an excessive anxiety to fence and guard and qualify such doctrines as justification by faith without the deeds of the law, for fear of the charge of antinomianism; or when we flinch from strong statements about holiness, for fear of being thought legal.

We do so, not least, when we shrink from the use of Bible language in giving an account of doctrines. We are apt to keep back such expressions as 'born again,' 'election,' 'adoption,' 'conversion,' 'assurance,' and to use roundabout phraseology, as if we were ashamed of plain Bible words."
J. C. Ryle


thearmoury said...

John 10:27 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me."

It is crucial that we speak the Shepherd's words and not our own, so that those who are His will follow Him rather than we ourselves.

Bishop Ryle also said:

"False doctrine does not meet men face to face, and proclaim that it is false. It does not blow a trumpet before it, and endeavor openly to turn us away from the truth as it is in Jesus. It does not come before men in broad day, and summon them to surrender. It approaches us secretly, quietly, insidiously, plausibly, and in such a way as to disarm man's suspicion, and throw him off his guard. It is the wolf in sheep's clothing, and Satan in the garb of an angel of light, who have always proved the most dangerous foes of the Church of Christ." [Warnings to the Churches, Beware of the Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, Matthew 16:6, pp. 56-57].

With this, if one were to say to the late Bishop: "but Bishop Ryle, it is only a little leaven!" - his response would most likely resemble this one: "Exactly!"

Thanks for your post Phil...

Mike Ratliff said...

I believe Dr. James White sells those plastic braclets that say, "No Compromise". Perhaps we all need that reminder throughout each day.

In Christ

Mike Ratliff

Gordon said...

Liberals and post-modernists would do well to heed this.

donsands said...

J. C. Ryle was/is such a man of the Word. The Church would do well to listen to this great man of God.
Thanks for sharing such a fine spiritual meal for the soul.

You can straight away tell this Pastor/Bishop loved the sheep of God, and that he esteemed our Savior and His Holy Word.

NPE said...

My favorite prelate in the world!

Kay said...

I do have a fondness for dear, soppy old Jack Lewis, but it's true to say that Ryle is my favourite Anglican apart from the lady who runs the toddler group on a Tuesday morning. Plus, he would have had Lewis for breakfast, with a side order of any particular contemporary compromise nonsense you care to name.

Matthew said...

Wow! They don't make 'em like they used to...

4given said...

Excellent post.

Jason Robertson said...

Very encouraging words. Thanks.

jerarbw said...

Thanks for the encouraging post. God's Word is truly sufficient.

Dan Edelen said...

There's only one problem:

If we wait until our doctrine is perfected, no one would ever preach or teach.

It takes a lifetime to perfect a believer, and even then the stains and drips are apparent this side of eternity. I would even venture to guess that J.C. Ryle honed his craft over time and at some point said the wrong thing or supported the wrong supposition.

The other thing about this is that it allows no grace. Someone can't say, "I used to think this way, but God has dealt with me and now I think this way." That can never happen. Everyone has to be perfect right out of the box.

Kay said...

If we wait until our doctrine is perfected, no one would ever preach or teach.

Dan, perhaps, while acknowledging this point, it is also possible to hold ourselves continually to a high standard. It seems to me that this is where a humble, teachable spirit is vital.
Ryle challenges preachers to a high standard, but it isn't condemnation so much as holy fear, because of the responsibility of the task.

That's the way it appears to me, who wouldn't be preaching anyway, lol.

Steve said...

Dan said, "There's only one problem:

If we wait until our doctrine is perfected, no one would ever preach or teach."

Dan, that doesn't seem to be what Ryle is saying at all.

Rather, Ryle is reminding and challenging us that at every step of the way, as we interact with doctrine, we need to be ever cautious, making sure we are handling it correctly. Teachers and preachers are particularly accountable that the divide the Word of truth rightly. That's a very healthy fear to have.

Kate said...

Wow, another great reminder that it is to be all of Him and none of me. Let Christ increase and man decrease.

Thank you for such powerful words.