February 18, 2017

Holiness: It's Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots

"I know not who you are, into whose hands this book may have fallen. But I am not ashamed to ask your best attention to its contents." J.C. Ryle  

Holiness... what does that mean biblically?

I just finished J.C. Ryle's book, 'Holiness: It's Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots'' and I absolutely loved it! It was so encouraging, one of those rare works of non-fiction, that literally draws you to God's Word.

There are nine chapters:

1. Sin
2. Sanctification
3. Holiness
4. The Fight
5. The Cost
6. Growth
7. The Ruler of the Waves
8. "Lovest Thou Me?"
9. "Christ Is All"

Each of these chapters were beautifully written and filled with Godly wisdom and grace. You can't just read one or two. They all flow together.

This book was written over 100 years ago, yet it felt like it could have been written today (other than the beautiful 19th century writing style) : )

It just goes to show how the truth has not changed.

I'd like to share a few quotes from each chapter, but just know that these quotes are just a taste of the beauty in this book.


In chapter one he explains the reasoning for God exposing our sin...

"The plain truth is that a right understanding of sin lies at the root of all saving Christianity. Without it such doctrines as justification, conversion, sanctification, are 'words and names' which convey no meaning to the mind. The first thing, therefore that God does when He makes anyone a new creature in Christ is to send light into his heart and show him that he is a guilty sinner.

The material creation in Genesis began with 'light' and so also does the spiritual creation.

God 'shines into our hearts' by the work of the Holy Spirit and then spiritual life begins."

"For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." 2 Cor. 4:6


In chapter two he talks about sanctification...

"If there is any point on which God's holiest saints agree, it is this: that they see more and know more and feel more and do more and repent more and believe more as they get on in spiritual life, and in proportion to the closeness of their walk with God. In short, they 'grow in grace' as St. Peter exhorts believers to do; and 'abound more and more,' according to the words of St. Paul."

"Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God." 1 Thess. 4:1

"Sanctify them through Your truth." John 17:17

He also shares in this chapter the differences and similarities of justification and sanctification. I found this part of the book extremely helpful in understanding between the two. I'm not going to share that part because it would make this post even longer than it is!


In chapter three he elaborates these points on holiness...

1. Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture.

2. A holy man will endeavor to shun every known sin and to keep every known commandment.

3. A holy man will strive to be like our Lord Jesus Christ.

4. A holy man will follow after meekness, patience, gentleness, kind tempers, government of his tongue.

5. A holy man will follow after temperance and self-denial. He will labor to mortify the desires of his body, to crucify his flesh with his affections and lusts, to curb his passions, to restrain his carnal inclinations, lest at any time they break loose.

6. A holy man will follow after charity and brotherly kindness.

7. A holy man will follow after a spirit of mercy and benevolence towards others.

8. A holy man will follow after purity of heart. He will dread all filthiness and uncleanness of spirit, and seek to avoid all things that might draw him into it.

9. A holy man will follow after the fear of God.

10. A holy man will follow after humility. He will desire, in lowliness of mind, to esteem all others better than himself.

11. A holy man will follow after faithfulness in all the duties and relations in life.

12. Last, but not least, a holy man will follow after spiritual-mindedness. 

"It is written, 'Be holy, for I am holy.' " 1 Peter 1:16

These points can be overwhelming and the author does talk about God's grace and patience with us as He conforms us to His Son.

"For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren." Romans 8:29


In chapter four he says here of true Christianity...

"In earthly warfare the consequences to nations are often temporary and remediable. In the spiritual warfare, it is very different. Of that warfare, the consequences, when the fight is over, are unchangeable and eternal."

"The principle fight of the Christian is with the world, the flesh, and the devil." 

The author goes into detail of these three fights the Christian has in his Christian walk. The world being things like greed, success and fitting in, the flesh being the lusts and temptations and the devil being the enemy of mankind.

Here's a quote from each:

The World - "The love of the world's good things - the fear of the world's laughter or blame - the secret desire to keep in with the world - the secret wish to do as others in the world do, and not to run into extremes - all these are spiritual foes, which beset the Christian continually on his way to heaven, and must be conquered."

"Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." James 4:4

The Flesh - "To keep that heart from going astray, the Lord Jesus bid us 'watch and pray.' The spirit may be ready the the flesh is weak. There is a need of a daily struggle and a daily wrestling in prayer. 'I keep under my body,' cries Paul, 'and bring it into submission.'"

“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Mark 14:38  

The Devil - " The old enemy of mankind is not dead... An unseen enemy, he is always near us, about our path and about our bed, and spying out all our ways. 'A murderer' and 'a liar' from the beginning, he labors night and day to cast us down to hell. 

Sometimes by leading into superstition, sometimes by suggesting doubt, sometimes by one kind of tactics and sometimes by another, he is always carrying on a campaign against our souls... This mighty adversary must be daily resisted if we wish to be saved."

"Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." James 4:7

"Fight the good fight of faith; lay hold on eternal life." 1 Ti 6:12


He says here of chapter five: The Cost...

"What does it cost to be a true Christian? What does it cost to be a really holy man? This, after all is the grand question. For want of thought about this, thousands, after seeming to begin well, turn away from the road to heaven, and are lost forever in hell. Let me try to say a few words that may throw light on the subject."

He then share these 3 points:

1.  I will show, firstly, what it costs to be a true Christian.

2.  I will explain, secondly, why it is of such great importance to count the cost.

3.  I will give, in the last place, some hints that may help men to count the cost rightly.
This chapter is not about what it cost to be saved, but rather what it cost to serve Christ. He writes here:

"I am not examining what it costs to save a Christian's soul. I know well that it costs nothing less than the blood of the Son of God to provide an atonement, and to redeem man from hell. The price paid for our redemption was nothing less than the death of Jesus Christ on Calvary."

“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it" Luke 14:28

*At the end of this chapter there is a special note on revivals that was extremely interesting. On the downfalls and dangers of mass revivals and the beauty of true revival.


In chapter six he explains growing in grace...

"When I speak of growth in grace, I do not for a moment mean that a believer's interest in Christ can grow. I do not mean that he can grow in safety, acceptance with God, or security. I do not mean that he can ever be more justified, more pardoned, more forgiven, more at peace with God, than he is the first moment that he believes. 

I hold firmly that the justification of the believer is a finished, perfect, and complete work, and that the weakest saint, though he may not know and feel it, is as completely justified as the strongest. I hold firmly that our election, calling, and standing in Christ admit of no degrees, increases, or diminution...

...in the matter of justification before God every believer is 'complete in Christ' (Col.2:10). Nothing can be added to his justification from the moment he believes, and nothing taken away...

...When I speak of growth in grace... I mean simply this - that his sense of sin is becoming deeper, his faith stronger, his hope brighter, his love more extensive, his spiritual-mindedness more marked. He feels more of the power of godliness in his own heart. He manifests more of it in his life. He is going on from strength to strength, from faith to faith, and from grace to grace."

"Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." 2 Peter 3:18


In chapter seven he shares the importance of knowing Christ...

"I want professing Christians to know more about Christ. It is well to be acquainted with all the doctrines and principles of Christianity. It is better to be acquainted with Christ Himself. It is well to be familiar with faith, and grace, and justification, and sanctification. They are all matters 'pertaining to the King.' 

But it is far better to be familiar with Jesus Himself, to see the King's own face, and to behold His beauty. This is one secret of eminent holiness. He who would be conformed to Christ's image, and become a Christlike man, must be constantly studying Christ Himself."

He teaches five lessons in this chapter...

1. That Christ's service will not secure you against troubles. The holiest saints are liable to them.

2. That Christ is very Man as well as God.

3. That believers may have much weakness and infirmity and yet be true believers. 

4. That Christ has all power.

5. That Christ is full of patience and kindness towards His people. 

I thought I'd share a quote from the first lesson...

"If you profess to be a child of God, leave to the Lord Jesus to sanctify you in His own way. Rest satisfied that He never makes mistakes. Be sure that He does all things well. The winds may howl around you, and the waters swell. But fear not, 'He is leading you by the right way, that He may bring you to a city of habitation.' (Psalm 107:7)"

"We know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life." 1 John 5:20


In chapter eight he discusses the question, 'Do you love Christ?'...

He says here of the necessity of a Christian in loving Christ:

"It is no answer to tell me that you believe the truth of Christianity, and hold the articles of the Christian faith. Such religion as this will never save your soul. The devils believe in a certain way, and tremble (James 2:19). 

True, saving Christianity is not the mere believing a certain set of opinions, and holding a certain set of notions. Its essence is knowing, trusting, and loving a certain living Person who died for us - Christ the Lord." 

"Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen." Eph. 6:24


In this final chapter he talks about Christ being all...

"Christ is the mainspring both of doctrinal and practical Christianity. A right knowledge of Christ is essential to a right knowledge of sanctification as well as justification. He who follows after holiness will make no progress unless he gives to Christ His rightful place. "

He shares these four points:

1. 'Christ is all' in all the counsels of God concerning man.

2. 'Christ is all' in the inspired books that make up the Bible.

3. 'Christ is all' in the religion of all true Christians on earth.

4. 'Christ will be all' in heaven.

As I grow as a Christian I'm amazed at how God not only has shown us Christ throughout the New Testament, but also the Old Testament.

I thought I'd share the 11 points under number (2) 'Christ is all' in the inspired books that make up the Bible'...

a. It was Christ crucified who was set forth in every Old Testament sacrifice.

b. It was Christ to whom Abel looked when he offered a better sacrifice than Cain.

c. It was Christ of whom Enoch prophesied in the days of abounding wickedness before the flood.

d. It was Christ to whom Abraham looked when he dwelt in tents in the land of promise.

e. It was Christ of whom Jacob spoke to his sons, as he lay dying.

f. It was Christ who was the substance of the ceremonial law, which God gave to Israel by the hand of Moses.

g. It was Christ to whom God directed the attention of Israel by all the daily miracles that were done before their eyes in the wilderness.

h. It was Christ of whom figures of old were types. Joshua, David, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson...

i. It was Christ of whom David the king was a type.

j. It was Christ of whom all the prophets from Isaiah to Malachi spoke.

k. It is Christ, I need hardly say, of whom the whole New Testament is full.

The author goes into each of these points and I found it so fascinating. Christ is all!

“Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 

But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. 

The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all." Acts 10:34-36

I'll leave you with these final lines of this book...

"Christ loves His people to lean on Him, to rest in Him, to call on Him, to abide in Him.

Let us all learn and strive to do so more and more. 

Let us live on Christ. Let us live in Christ. Let us live with Christ. Let us live to Christ. 

So doing, we shall prove that we fully realize that 'Christ is all.' So doing we shall feel great peace, and attain more of that 'holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.' (Heb. 12:14)"

I highly recommend this Christian classic. It was truly one of the best books I've ever read.

Buy it HERE on Amazon


  1. Amazing synopsis! I've never read anything by J.C. Ryle, but I guess it's time for me to check him out!

    1. It's the first book I've read by him and it was so helpful and encouraging!

      Thanks for stopping by Michele!

  2. That sounds like a fantastic book! I'll have to check it out!

  3. What a great and thorough review... just giving enough to leave us wanting more! I'll have to keep my eyes open for this book!

    1. Thanks Karrilee! It's a book filled with much wisdom. Glad you stopped by!

  4. His books, his words, the Truth he shares always draw me in and closer to God. Thanks for reminding me of this particular book.

    1. It's one of those books that encourages us to know what we believe, to grow in our faith and help us understand God's Word. I loved it. Glad you did too!

      Thanks for stopping by Linda!

  5. Thanks for such a thorough look at this classic. I probably would have never read it had I not seen this post. It's on my list now. Currently I'm reading The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee. Very good!

    1. Glad you've added 'Holiness' to your reading list!

      I haven't read anything by Watchman Nee. I think my daughter may have one of his books. I'll have to check it out.

      Thanks for stopping by Ginger!

  6. Wow, so many powerful quotes. I will have to check this book out for sure.

    1. It's a book filled with these kinds of quotes. Hope you enjoy it!

      Thanks for stopping by Barbie!

  7. Thank you for a warming outline of this book in such detail. I will have to check into it. Linking up over at Christian blogger.

    1. Hope you get a chance to check it out. It can be a bit dense at times, but really worth the work of getting through it.

      Glad you stopped by Tammy!

  8. Excellent outline and review, Cathy! I love the classic works and will definitely add this one to my read list! Have a blessed week!

    1. I'd love to read more classic works from this Moody Classics series. I've read a few and loved them all! Hope you enjoy this one!

      Thanks for stopping by June!

  9. This book moves the Christian from the milk to the meat of The Holy Word. Thanks for sharing your thorough review on the #LMMLinkup this week.

    1. You said it perfectly! It really does.

      Thanks for stopping by Mary!

  10. Thank you for all the effort you put into this post. Great book you have shared with us! I feel like I have received a very thorough review of it:)

    1. Glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for stopping by Gretchen!

  11. Cathy, I thought I was familiar with most of the classics, but you just introduced me to a new one. Loved your thoughtful review and will find a copy of this book soon. An ebook version is available for 99 cents on Amazon, but I don't think it's the abridged copy like you have. Thanks for sharing your thoughts in such detail.

    1. Hope you enjoy it Carole! I started reading it on my e-reader, but needed to underline so much, so went and bought the book!


Feel free to leave your own thoughts in the comments. I try to respond to all of them by the end of the week. : )