Dr. Campbell has written an important work on the Decree of God. This work begins by telling readers the story of his wife dying and he articulates that is what pressed him into studying and examining the scriptures. His story will grip every reader and those seeking to search through these truths with him throughout the rest of the book. He then addresses some of the potential reservations for Calvinism. But sees that suffering strengthens faith (pg. 11), good has come from his wife’s death (pg. 14), and the existence of God deals with evils and sufferings (pg. 16).
He then walks throughout the various challenges to the decree of God from theism – polytheism – pantheism – atheism. He describes each term and shows the differences that exist between each term. He discusses compatibilism and libertarianism. Dr. Campbell defines the doctrine of election and says that election is compatible with love (pg. 71). He gives one of the best biblical cases for the doctrine of election and walks through the scriptures.
I believe his story of his wife and how he wrestled through those things during her death is worth the price of the book. But this is one of the most helpful and soul-stirring arguments for understanding biblical election that I have ever read.
As he moves forward, he gives a critique of Arminianism and then continues to give a strong case for unconditional election. He spends time discussing infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism. He says that God’s love is an act of free grace (pg. 220). He shows how the decree of God is incompatible with Molinism and then ends this work with an epilogue (pg. 281).
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JC Ryle was born in 1816. He was ordained in the Church of England in 1841. He became the rector of St. Thomas’s, Winchester in 1843, then to Helmingham, Suffolk the following year. From 1843 to 1879, he wrote various works and gospel tracts. In 1880, Ryle became the bishop of Liverpool and retired in 1900 at age 83. He died later that year.
I have benefited from the writings of Bunyan, Calvin, Luther, etc. But none have been more beneficial than JC Ryle. In his work Practical Religion, Ryle cuts to the heart of the Christian life. He saw problems in his day and addressed those. But those same problems are present today.
Practical Religion is divided into 21 Chapters: Self-Inquiry, Self-Exertion, Reality, Prayer, Bible Reading, Going to the Table, Charity, Zeal, Freedom, Happiness, Formality, The World, Riches and Poverty, The Best Friend, Sickness, The Family of God, Our Home, Heirs of God, The Great Gathering, The Great Separation, and Eternity.
Ryle addressed the skewed views of the gospel of grace such as “nominal Christianity”. Ryle calls it “churchianity”. But it is the same problem that still exists in many of our Churches today. Some claim Christ when it benefits them, but when life is tough, those “nominal” believers are found not to be true. In reading Practical Religion, the Christian will be encouraged in Praying and Reading their Bible. But they will also feel conviction on living this life for eternity, not for the “here and now”.
I am thankful to God for the life of JC Ryle and his influence in my life. But I am also thankful for Banner of Truth for publishing his works and other various works that are so important for the Christian life.
If you would like to purchase Practical Religion, you may do so here.
Banner has recently released Ryle’s Autobiography, you can purchase it here.
Evan Knies is a student at SBTS, grad of Boyce College, and Minister of Students at Bullitt Lick Baptist Church in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. He is married to Lauren and you can follow him on Twitter at @Evan_Knies.
John Charles Ryle was born in Macclesfield, Cheshire (1816) and educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford. He entered ministry around the year 1841, and served many churches up until his retirement in 1900, when he was aged 83. He died later that year.
Ryle was a minister that wrote many popular gospel tracts in his day, but he is known for his books. His Expository Thoughts on the Gospels are very helpful for young and old ministers alike. He has also written books such as Holiness, Practical Religion, and Light from Old Times.
Reading Ryle, I have learned two primary things this summer that I’d like to share with you:
1. Ryle pushes you to the text and draws theology from it.
Ryle writes in a way so that the Christian reader must rest in the Scripture. His examples in Holiness are straight from biblical examples (i.e. Lots wife). Ryle was a minister who rested in the sufficiency of Scripture because he rested in a sufficient God.
2. Ryle points to the martyrs as an example for the Christian life.
In Light from Old Times, Ryle allows the martyrs to speak for themselves. They suffered and died because of what they believed. Ryle has written this work to encourage the church on its mission in declaring the truths of the gospel of grace. Ryle has a chapter on “Why the Reformers were Burned,” the conclusion is that they were burned because of their view of the Lord’s Supper:
“The end of Rowland Taylor’s weary imprisonment came at last. On the 22nd of January 1555, he was brought before the Lord Chancellor, Bishop Gardiner, and other Commissioners, and subjected to a lengthy examination. To go into the details of all that was said on this occasion would be wearisome and unprofitable. The whole affair was conducted with the same gross unfairness and partiality which characterized all the proceedings against the English Reformers, and the result, as a matter of course, was the good man’s condemnation. To use his own words, in a letter to a friend, he was pronounced a heretic because he defended the marriage of priests, and denied the doctrine of transubstantiation. Never let it be forgotten in these days, that the denial of any corporal presence of Christ’s body and blood in the elements of the bread and wine at the Lord’s Supper, was the turning point which decided the fate of our martyred Reformers. If they gave way on that point they might have lived. Because they would not admit any corporal presence they died. These things are recorded for our learning.” – pg. 109-110 (Light From Old Times)
May we learn from these martyrs the importance of doctrine, and also the sanctity of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Doctrine matters. In a day where doctrine seems to go by the wayside, we can read first and foremost our Bibles and see that martyrs died because of what they believe about Jesus (Acts 7, Hebrews 11). We also learn from Ryle that men before us, many reformers especially, died because of important doctrinal issues. This should cause us to think more deeply about what songs we sing on Sundays, what books we hand out, etc. Doctrine is not dead. Orthodoxy did not die at the cross. But the cross influences orthodoxy. Sound doctrine is tied up in Paul’s Statement, “I wish to know nothing but Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2)”. To say you don’t desire sound doctrine, you don’t desire Christ. What you believe matters.
From the works of Ryle, we are able to see the importance of preaching, ordinances of the local church, deaths of martyrs and a clear gospel. I am thankful to God for men like Ryle who have helped the church long past their life here on earth.
Friends, you only get one life and it will soon pass. Only what is done for Christ will last!
Evan Knies (B.A., Boyce College) and his wife Lauren are originally from Louisiana. He is a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is serving as as student pastor at Bullitt Lick Baptist Church. You can follow him on Twitter at @Evan_Knies.