Monday, June 30, 2014

Old Paths

Author: J.C. Ryle
Publisher: Banner of Truth (May 1999)
ISBN-10: 0851517609
ISBN-13: 978-0851517605

First published in 1877, this volume systematically leads us through 19 important doctrines of the faith, which were originally given by J C Ryle, as individual papers. These doctrines are of the utmost importance and therefore must be heard, believed, and defended most earnestly. Rightly, J C Ryle, wrote, “It contains nothing but the “Old Paths” in the which the apostolic Christians, the Reformers, the 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.”

In the first paper, Ryle begins, much after the fashion of Thomas Watson, to labour, from the Bible's 'internal evidences' for the case of inspiration. He writes, “I shall bring forth the Book itself, and put it in the witness box”. The first argument He brings forth, is the extraordinary fullness and richness of the contents of the Bible. Under this first point, he has a number of sub-points: 1. The Bible alone gives us a reasonable account of the beginning and end of the globe on which we live. 2. The Bible gives a true and faithful account of man. 3. The Bible alone gives us true views of God. 4. The Bible alone teaches us that God has made a full, perfect and complete provision for the Salvation of fallen men. Another internal evidence for inspiration which Ryle gives, is the fact that, there is an extraordinary unity and harmony in the contents of the Bible, which, is entirely above man. He then continues this section with four further evidences. In the second half of the paper, he makes known the extent of inspiration, that is, 'full verbal inspiration'. In doing so he sets forth reasons and arguments in favour, and dangers that arise from those who deny it. On a practical note, he argues that those who deny the full verbal inspiration destroy the usefulness of the Bible in regards to preaching. If the text is open to debate, the hearer will care little for its instruction or reproof.

In the second chapter entitled 'Our souls', he draws attention to those words of our Lord recorded for us in Mark 8 : 36 “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Under his first remark, he states, “Every one of us has an undying soul.” He stresses the importance of looking beyond the things of time to eternity. His second remark, which, he declares “is a sorrowful portion of my subject” is, “Anyone may lose his own soul,” that is bring great harm upon it and be eternally lost. He attempts to answer this truth by stating, you can “murder your soul by running into open sin, and serving lusts and pleasures, poison your soul by taking up some false religion, starve your soul to death, by trifling and indecision”. In his popular commentary on Mark, he makes this comment, “Many are the ways that lead to the pit. How vital it is that the sinner flees to Jesus for the saving of the soul.”

In the third chapter, he deals with the subject of 'few saved', taking the text in Luke 13: 23 “Lord, are there few that be saved?” Here, having underlined the meaning of what it is to be saved, he exposes those false notions that existed in his day, concerning the state of the world and the number that were saved. He refutes such a notion by plainly stating there are many careless sinners, many hypocritical professors of religion, and many who had a mere head knowledge of the gospel. Are we not saddened along with Ryle, concerning this painful reality with which we are also confronted with today. We recognize the truth of the words of our Lord in Matthew 7: 14, “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”

Before moving on, let me say, though everything which Ryle has said is right, we must be optimistic, for 'the few' comprises of millions upon millions; a great multitude which no man could number, Revelation 7 : 9. Consider what has taken place in recent years in parts of the world such as, Africa and China. Let us rightly remember that few will be saved in comparison to those who are not, however, let us pray earnestly for the growth of the church. Dear friends, pray earnestly that in this beloved country of ours, multitudes will be found crying out for mercy; that our churches and chapels might be filled with men and women, boys and girls praising God. May He speed the day.

In his paper on, 'Our sins,' He deals firstly with the reality of sin, and that one's sins are numerous. 2ndly, the utmost importance to have our sins taken off us and put away; for God is infinitely Holy and hates sin, death is before us, and the day of resurrection and judgement awaits.

Having stated the reality, the seriousness, and the deadly nature of sin, he then, with a thankful heart, sets forth the almighty remedy; “the blood of Jesus Christ can cleanse away all our sins”. Here, in a heart warming way, he speaks of the precious blood of Jesus. Near the end of this paper, in his application, he speaks a word of invitation, and exhortation. He writes in one paragraph, “Cling to Christ, I say and have high thoughts of the atonement made by His blood upon the cross”.

The precious subject of forgiveness is addressed in the following chapter. In giving encouragement to a man who desires to be to be forgiven, he speaks of 'the treasures of gospel forgiveness'. Under this head, he has a number of points. 1stly 'a great and broad forgiveness,' 2ndly, 'a full and complete forgiveness', 3rdly, 'a free and unconditional forgiveness, 4thly 'an offered forgiveness', 5thly 'a willing forgiveness', that is, the Lord delighteth in mercy. 6thly 'a tried forgiveness'. 7thly, 'present forgiveness'. and 8thly and finally, 'an everlasting forgiveness'.

The next paper, in a moving and affectionate manner he opens up the all important doctrine of Justification by faith, stressing, (quoting his own words,) “Without Justification it is impossible to have real peace”. As in his day, so in ours, it must be set forth before the people, acknowledged and owned by men, and further, defended against those whose would seek to, attack, diminish, subtract, or change this glorious and so vital doctrine.

Time nor space permits, but briefly, the other papers, are as follows; The Cross of Christ, The Holy Spirit, Having the Spirit, Conversion, The Heart, Christ's invitation, Faith, Repentance, Christ's power to Save, Election and Perseverance.

In a day when the truth is under attack, and many are giving an uncertain sound, we can be further assisted and prepared for the battle by listening afresh to this well known, affectionate, and godly man, whose writings are well received and understood by many. I heartily and warmly recommend this book to you.

To conclude, let me pass on to you, his great and stirring conviction; “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, bold, full, unflinching teaching of the old paths.”

Aaron J Lewis