The Prevalence and Awfulness of False Religion

Written by, John Flavel, Puritan, 1679.
Taken from, TOUCHSTONE OF SINCERITY, or True and False Religion.
Edited for thought and sense.


“Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich…”  

–Rev. 3: 17, 18.



The members of the Laodicean church had a name to live, but were dead.

In regard to their spiritual state, they were emphatically described as lukewarm. They had drawn around them the form of religion, but never heartily engaged in the practice of its duties; they were strangers to its transforming efficacy, its living influence, and heavenly consolations.

To this lifeless indifference the Lord Jesus expressed his aversion: “I would that thou wert cold or hot, etc. The word cold, here, denotes the moral state of those who are wholly alienated from religion; the term hot, relates to the pious temper of those who fervently love Christ and his institutions; the lukewarm are such as are in reality also destitute of religion to be called spiritual and, yet, externally have, too much the appearance of it to be esteemed carnal. The form of religion they affect as an honor, or a safeguard; the power of it they Imagine would be burdensome: they choose not to appear openly on the side of error and impiety, but are more unwilling to live conformably to their profession: their policy is such that they venture little, and such is their folly, that they lose all.

In the text the Laodiceans are accused of being in this deplorable state, and a remedy for their spiritual maladies is pointed out.

  1. Their moral disease is exposed in its symptoms, its character and its aggravations.

    1. Its symptoms are formality, indecision, listless stupidity. Lukewarmness; with all the various traits of those professors of religion who love supremely their temporal interests and private happiness.
    2. Its character is thus noted: “Thou art wretched and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” All these epithets relate to the unsoundness of their foundation. The two first, ”wretched and miserable,” are general, describing their condition to be lamentable, if not hopeless; the three last, “poor, blind, naked,” are more particular, referring to  those great defects in the foundation upon which they were building, which rendered their state so pitiable and dangerous. Thou art “poor” –or devoid of righteousness and true holiness before God. These are the true riches, the riches of Christians: and he that does not possess them, is poor and miserable, howsoever large be his mental gifts or earthly treasures.  Thou art “blind” –without divine illumination, void of spiritual light; and so neither knowing the disease nor the remedy: the evil of sin, or the necessity of Christ. Thou art “naked” ” in a shameful defenseless, and exposed condition: without the garments of salvation, the robe of righteousness and shield of faith.
    3. The aggravations of this deadly Laodicean disease are thus stated: “Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not…etc.”  Alas, to what absurdity and impiety does spiritual delusion lead! To be destitute of holiness, and without Christ, were sufficiently awful: but, while in this state, to boast of spiritual riches, is most miserable. To have the very symptoms of death, and yet confidently profess that we are healthy and safe, is lamentable indeed!
  2. A REMEDY is prescribed: ” I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich ; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see.”

    1. Let us consider what is here recommended. These metaphors represent the most superb and valuable things. Gold tried in the fire–true holiness, Christian graces that have been tried and proved. White raiment–the righteousness of the saints. Eye-salve–the illumination of the Holy Spirit.
    2. Whence may these blessings be obtained? Buy of me, saith Christ. Ordinances, ministers, angels, cannot communicate them to you. Christ, the repository of all graces, alone can confer them.
    3. How are they to be acquired? Not by purchase, as those pretend who build the notion of merit on the words “buy of me.” The exigency of the case destroys this conceit; for what can they who are poor, and wretched, and miserable, and in want of all things, offer in return for these divine riches? Doubtless to “buy”, as the phrase is used here, is cordially to receive, in the way of his own appointment, which Christ offers to bestow. Thus it is elsewhere written: “He that hath no money, let him come and buy wine and milk, without money, and without price.”

In view of what has been said, three observations offer themselves to our consideration.

  1. That many professors of religion are under very great and dangerous mistakes in regard to their character.
  2. That true holiness is exceedingly valuable, and greatly enriches the soul.
  3. That we may safely account that only to be true holiness which will endure all the tests appointed for its examination.

The first observation naturally arises from the scope of the text, which is to awaken and convince unsound professors.

The second is suggested by the use which the Holy Ghost makes of the richest things in nature, to represent the unspeakable worth of Christian graces.

The third is derived from the very significant metaphor of gold tried in the fire; by which I understand a real work of grace, manifesting and proving itself to be such during the closest inspection, or under the severest trial. For whatever puts the reality of one’s holiness to the proof, whatever scrutinizes and tries it, is to him what fire is to gold. Hence we read in Scripture: “Thou hast tried us as silver is tried.” Again: “I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and try them as gold is tried.”

The Death of a Royal Christian Princess, and the Hope of Eternal Life

Elizabeth_tombThe Princess Elisabeth,

The daughter of King Charles I, of England, lies buried in Newport Church, in the Isle of Wight During the time of her father’s troubles she was a prisoner in Carisbrook Castle, in the same beautiful island.

She was found one day dead in her bed with her Bible open before her and her finger resting on these words,

“Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” A monument in Newport erected by Queen Victoria, represents the young princess with her head bowed in death, and her hand rests on a marble book before her, her finger pointing to the words.

The concluding lines from The Death of The Princess Elizabeth in the 1866 book Lays of the English Cavaliers by John Jeremiah Daniel commemorated Victoria’s actions:

“And long unknown, unhonoured, her sacred dust had slept
When to the Stuart maiden’s grave a mourner came and wept.
Go, read that Royal Martyr’s woe in lines the world reveres
And see the tomb of Charles’s child wet with Victoria’s tears.”

Meet the Royal Christian Princess of our story:  Elizabeth Stuart (1635 – 1650) was the second daughter of King Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland and his wife, Henrietta Maria of France. From the age of six until her early death at the age of fourteen she was a prisoner of Parliament during the English Civil War. Her emotional written account of her final meeting with her father on the eve of his execution and his final words to his children have been published in numerous histories about the war and King Charles I.

On the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642, Elizabeth, along with her brother the Duke of Gloucester, were placed under the care of Parliament. Guardianship was assigned to different nobles, among them Philip Herbert, 4th Earl of Pembroke.

After guardianship of the king’s younger children was given to the Earl of Northumberland in 1642, their brother, Prince James, Duke of York, the future James II, came to visit, but was supposedly advised to escape by Elizabeth, who was concerned about him being around the king’s enemies for any length of time.

In 1643, the seven-year-old Elizabeth broke her leg, and soon moved to Chelsea with her brother, the Duke of Gloucester. She was tutored by the great female scholar Bathsua Makin until 1644, by which time she could read and write in Hebrew, Greek, Italian, Latin and French. Other prominent scholars dedicated works to her, and were amazed by her flair for religious reading.

She was called “Temperance” in the family for her kind nature. The turmoil under which she had grown up had produced a young woman of unusual character. When she was eleven, the French ambassador described the princess as a “budding young beauty” who had “grace, dignity, intelligence and sensibility” that enabled her to judge the different people she met and understand different points of view. Her strength of character was in contrast to continued poor health.

When Parliament decided to remove Elizabeth’s household in 1648, the twelve-year-old princess wrote a letter of appeal against the decision:

“My Lords, I account myself very miserable that I must have my servants taken from me and strangers put to me. You promised me that you would have a care for me; and I hope you will show it in preventing so great a grief as this would be to me. I pray my lords consider of it, and give me cause to thank you, and to rest.

Your loving friend,

The Lords were sympathetic and condemned the Commons for presuming to intervene with the Royal Household, and the decision was overturned. However, the Commons demanded that the royal children be brought up strict Protestants; they were also forbidden to join the Court at Oxford, and were held virtual prisoners at St. James’s Palace.

Charles also gave his daughter a Bible during their highly emotional final meeting. Her father told his sobbing daughter not to “grieve and torment herself for him” and asked her to keep her faith in the Protestant religion. Charles then told her to read certain books, among them Bishop Andrew’s Sermons, Hooker’s Ecclesiastical Polity and Bishop Laud’s book against Fisher, to ground her against “popery”. After Charles’ execution, the royal children became unwanted charges of the State.

Following her death, her grave was largely unmarked until the 19th century, with the exception of her carved initials: E[lizabeth] S[tuart]. Queen Victoria, who made her favourite home at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, commanded that a suitable monument be erected to her memory. In 1856, a white marble sculpture by Queen Victoria’s favorite sculptor Carlo Marochetti was commissioned for her grave that depicted Elizabeth as a beautiful young woman, lying with her cheek on a Bible open to words from Gospel of Matthew: “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Above the sculpture is a grating, indicating that she was a prisoner, but the bars are broken to show that the prisoner has now escaped to “a greater rest.” The plaque marking the sculpture reads:

“To the memory of The Princess Elizabeth, daughter of King Charles I,
who died at Carisbrooke Castle on 8 September 1650,
and is interred beneath the chancel of this church,
this monument is erected as a token of respect for her
 virtues and of sympathy for her misfortunes,
by Victoria R., 1856.

Character excerpts taken from Wikipedia

Just a Bit O’ History… Psalm 6

david_nathanO Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure. Have mercy upon me, O Lord; for I am weak: O Lord, heal me; for my bones are vexed. My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O Lord, how long?  Return, O Lord, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies’ sake. For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?  I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears. Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies.
Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping.  The Lord hath heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer. Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed: let them return and be ashamed suddenly.
                                                                               — Psalm 6

 This psalm might have a history to itself.

It has a wail of pain and sorrow, deepening into anguish, running through it; but comfort dawns at the close, like an angel turning the key of the prison. It is the first of the seven penitential psalms, the others being the 32nd, 38th, 51st, 102nd, 130th, 143rd.

One of the strangest things, though not the happiest, in its records is, that, along with Psalm 142nd, it was the choice of Catherine de Medici, who was the Jezebel and Athaliah of the French monarchy. She was irreligious and superstitious, profligate and devoured by ambition; though the fact that she had no children, seemed likely to deprive her of the control which she hoped to gain in the counsels of the kingdom. The psalm was the expression of mere worldly disappointment. She became at last the mother of Francis II. (the first husband of Mary Stuart) and of Charles IX., whose character she corrupted by ministering to his vices, and whom she urged to the massacre of St. Bartholomew. ‘Her desire was realized’ says a French historian, ‘for the misery of France;’ and that family, which then took pleasure in the Psalms, put to death thousands of the Reformed for singing them.’

It has a more pleasing association with another princess, allied to the French royal family. Elizabeth Charlotte was niece of Sophia, Electress of Hanover, and grand-daughter of Elizabeth Stuart, after whom she was named. She had remarkable abilities, and was carefully educated by her aunt Sophia, under the eye of the great Leibnitz. Her father, the Elector Palatine, constrained her to a marriage with the Duke of Orleans, brother of Louis XIV., in the hope that the union might save his principality from the aggression of the French king. But it helped Louis to fresh claims ; and, when her beautiful native land, beside the Ehine and Neckar, was wasted by the French armies, its towns laid in ashes, the Castle of Heidelberg, the home of her childhood, shattered, and the people she loved driven out in winter to die houseless and famishing, she could not sleep for the visions of havoc, and for the thought that she had been cruelly sacrificed to a vain policy. Her letters, lately published, are deeply interesting for the light they throw on the time, and on the Court of France. Her heart went back to her early Protestant faith, and to the old Castle of Osnabruck, where she had spent her happiest days with her aunt.

In a letter to her she relates an incident connected with this psalm. She was walking one day in the orangery at Versailles, and was singing it in the translation of Clement Marot, as an expression of her feelings, a noted artist of the time, warmly attached in heart to the Reformed religion, was engaged in painting the roof, and heard her. ‘Scarcely’ she writes, ‘had I finished the first verse, when I saw M. Rousseau hasten down the ladder and fall at my feet. I thought he was mad, and said, “Rousseau, Rousseau, what is the matter?” He replied, “Is it possible, madam, that you still recollect our psalms and sing them? May God bless you, and keep you in this good mind.” He had tears in his eyes.’ It is interesting to know that Louis XIV., broken-hearted in his old age by defeats and disappointments, recognized her worth, and leaned on her for comfort.

Another woman, of our own time, with trials in a different position, and yet like in kind to those of Elizabeth Charlotte, has put her heart into some of the words. The wife of Thomas Carlyle inserts verses 2-4 in her Journal, 1855, when in sore trouble of body and mind, amid weakness and weariness and sleepless nights and wounded feelings.

‘Oh, dear! I wish this Grange business were well over. It occupies me (the mere preparation for it) to the exclusion of all quiet thought and placid occupation. To have to care for my dress, this time of day, more than I ever did when young and pretty and happy (God bless me, to think I was once all that!), on penalty of being regarded as a blot on the Grange gold and azure, is really too bad. Ach Gott! if we had been left in the sphere of life we belong to, how much better it would have been for us in many ways!

Ah, the spiritis willing, but the flesh is weak as water. Today I walked with effort one little mile, and thought it a great feat. Sleep has come to look to me the highest virtue and the greatest happiness; that is, good sleep, untroubled, beautiful, like a child’s. Ah me! “Have mercy upon me, 0 Lord; for I am weak: 0 Lord, heal me ; for my bones are vexed. My soul is also sore vexed : but thou, 0 Lord, how long ?”

This same verse 3 was the common expression of Calvin when he was in trouble, ‘Tu Domine usque quo?’ ‘Thou, 0 Lord, how long?’

‘Thou, 0 Lord, how long?’ and parts of the psalm, with the last verse of Psalm 70th, were also among the dying words of Robert Rollock, the first Principal of the University of Edinburgh, a man remarkable for power of administration and deep piety.


Written by the Rev. John Ker, D.D.

Published 1886

The Reproof of Forgiving Kindness

franz-liszt-400x245A young pianist was giving concerts in the provinces of Germany, and, to add to her renown, she announced herself as a pupil of the celebrated Liszt.  

Arriving at a small provincial town she advertised a concert in the usual way; but what was her astonishment and terror to see in the list of new arrivals at the hotel the name of ” M. L’Abbe Liszt! What was she to do? Her deception would be discovered, and she could never dare to give another concert.

In her despair she adopted the wisest course, and went direct to the Abbe Liszt himself. Pale, trembling, and deeply agitated, she entered the presence of the great maestro to confess her fraud, and to implore his forgiveness. She threw herself at his feet, her face bathed in tears, and related to him the history of her life. Left an orphan when very young and possessing nothing but her musical gifts, she had ventured to shelter herself under the protection of his great name, and thus to overcome the many obstacles which opposed her. Without that she would have been nothing–nobody.

But could he ever forgive her? “Come, come,” said the great artist, helping her to rise, “we shall see what we can do. Here is a piano. Let me hear a piece intended for the concert tomorrow.”

She obeyed, and played, at first timidly then with all the enthusiasm of reviving hope. The maestro stood near her, gave her some advice, suggested some improvements, and when she had finished her piece, said most kindly, “Now, my child, I have given you a music lesson. You are a pupil of Liszt.” Before she could recover herself sufficiently to utter a word of acknowledgment, he added, “Are the programmes printed?” “Not yet, sir.” “Then let them add to your programme that you will be assisted by your master, and that the last piece will be played by the Abbe Liszt.”

Could any reproof be keener than such forgiving kindness–such noble generosity as this?  The illustrious musician would no doubt have been questioned, and it would have been impossible for him to speak anything but the truth. But charity is ingenious in covering “a multitude of sins.” —Christian Chronicle.

[How very much are we like that young girl!  We strut around claiming to be Christians while acting very ungodly, and yet when confronted by our own maestro, we weep in horror of our own actions and repent deeply of our sins.  And then begging forgiveness, we receive assurance that we are his children, we are his pupils, and then He sends us out to tell others that He, God, will be playing in the concert of our own lives! Is this not humbling? Is this not love that covers a multitude of sins? Is this not truly the work of our Savior?  May God bless us, and may we forgive others even as He has forgiven us. –MWP]

Just a Bit of History… Psalm 4


Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Be gracious to me and hear my prayer.

O sons of men, how long will my honor become a reproach? How long will you love what is worthless and aim at deception? But know that the Lord has set apart the godly man for Himself; The Lord hears when I call to Him.

Tremble, and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, And trust in the Lord.

Many are saying, “Who will show us any good?” Lift up the light of Your countenance upon us, O Lord! You have put gladness in my heart, More than when their grain and new wine abound. 

In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety.


Augustine quotes this psalm as of special value,

and worthy to be sung aloud before the whole world for an expression of Christian courage, and a testimony of the peace God can give in outward and inward trouble . ‘In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety.’

James Melville quoted it, among others, when he was dying.

‘This being done, he comforted himself with “sundrie speeches” out of the Psalms, quick he rehearsed it in Hebrew ; as, namely, a speech out of Psalm 4th, “Lord, lift up the light of thy countenance upon me.” Psalm 27th, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, what can I fear?” Psalm 23rd, “Albeit I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, yet will I fear none evil,because God is with me.” The candle being behind back, he desired that it should be brought before him, that he might see to die. By occasion thereof, he remembered that Scripture, Psalm 18th, “The Lord will lighten my candle; He will enlighten my darkness.”‘

Meet part of your Christian heritage: James Melville (26 July 1556 – 1614) was a Scottish divine and reformer, son of the laird of Baldovie, in Forfarshire. He was educated at Montrose and St Leonard’s College, St Andrews.

In 1574 he proceeded to the University of Glasgow. There his uncle, Andrew Melville, the reformer and scholar, was principal. Within a year James became one of the regents.

When, in 1580, Andrew became Principal of St Mary’s College, St Andrews (then called New College), James accompanied him, and acted as Professor of Hebrewand Oriental Languages. For three and a half years he lectured in the university, chiefly on Hebrew, but he had to flee to Berwick in May 1584 (a few months after his uncle’s exile) to escape the attacks of his ecclesiastical enemy, Bishop Patrick Adamson. After a short stay there and at Newcastle-on-Tyne, and again at Berwick, he proceeded to London, where he joined some of the leaders of the Scottish Presbyterian party.

The taking of Stirling Castle in 1585 having changed the political and ecclesiastical positions in the north, he returned to Scotland in November of that year, and was restored to his office at St Andrews. From 1586 to his death he took an active part in Church controversy.

In 1589 he was moderator of the General Assembly and on several occasions represented his party in conferences with the court. Despite his antagonism to James’s episcopal schemes, he appears to have won the king’s respect. He answered, with his uncle, a royal summons to London in 1606 for the discussion of Church policy.

The uncompromising attitude of the kinsmen, though it was made the excuse for sending the elder to the Tower, brought no further punishment to James than easy detention within ten miles of Newcastle-on-Tyne. During his residence there it was made clear to him by the king’s agents that he would receive high reward if he supported the royal plans. In 1613 negotiations were begun for his return to Scotland, but his health was broken, and he died at Berwick in January 1614.

Meet one of the most important Christian theologians in history and part of your Christian heritage: Augustine of Hippo was born in 354 in the municipium of Thagaste (now Souk Ahras, Algeria) in Roman Africa. His mother, Monica, was a devout Christian; his father Patricius was a Pagan who converted to Christianity on his deathbed. Scholars believe that Augustine’s ancestors included Berbers, Latins, and Phoenicians.  He considered himself to be Punic. Augustine’s family name, Aurelius, suggests that his father’s ancestors were freedmen of the gens Aurelia given full Roman citizenship by the Edict of Caracalla in 212. Augustine’s family had been Roman, from a legal standpoint, for at least a century when he was born. It is assumed that his mother, Monica, was of Berber origin, on the basis of her name, but as his family were honestiores, an upper class of citizens known as honorable men, Augustine’s first language is likely to have been Latin. At the age of 11, he was sent to school at Madaurus (now M’Daourouch), a small Numidian city about miles south of Thagaste. There he became familiar with Latin literature, as well as pagan beliefs and practices. His first insight into the nature of sin occurred when he and a number of friends stole fruit they did not even want from a neighborhood garden. While at home in 369 and 370, he read Cicero’s dialogue Hortensius (now lost), which he described as leaving a lasting impression on him and sparking his interest in philosophy.

At the age of 17, through the generosity of his fellow citizen Romanianus, Augustine went to Carthage to continue his education in rhetoric. Although raised as a Christian, Augustine left the church to follow the Manichaean religion, much to the despair of his mother. As a youth Augustine lived a hedonistic lifestyle for a time, associating with young men who boasted of their sexual exploits with women and men. They urged the inexperienced boys, like Augustine, to seek experience or to make up stories about their experiences in order to gain acceptance. It was during this period that he uttered his famous prayer, “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.”

At about the age of 19, Augustine began an affair with a young woman in Carthage. Possibly because his mother wanted him to marry a person of his class, the woman remained his lover for over thirteen years and gave birth to his son Adeodatus, who was viewed as extremely intelligent by his contemporaries. In 385, Augustine abandoned his lover in order to prepare himself to marry an heiress.

In the summer of 386, after having heard and been inspired and moved by the story of Placianus’s and his friends’ first reading of the life of Saint Anthony of the Desert, Augustine converted to Christianity. As Augustine later told it, his conversion was prompted by a childlike voice he heard telling him to “take up and read” (Latin: tolle, lege), which he took as a divine command to open the Bible and read the first thing he saw. Augustine read from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans – the so-called “Transformation of Believers” section, consisting of chapters 12 through 15 – wherein Paul outlines how the Gospel transforms believers, and the believers’ resulting behavior. The specific part to which Augustine opened his Bible was Romans chapter 13, verses 13 and 14, to wit:

Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.

He later wrote an account of his conversion – his very transformation, as Paul described – in his Confessions (Latin: Confessiones), which has since become a must-read classic of Christian theology.

Ambrose baptized Augustine, along with his son Adeodatus, on Easter Vigil in 387 in Milan. A year later, in 388, Augustine completed his apology On the Holiness of the Catholic Church. That year, also, Adeodatus and Augustine returned to Africa,Augustine’s home continent. Augustine’s mother Monica died at Ostia, Italy, as they prepared to embark for Africa. Upon their arrival, they began a life of aristocratic leisure at Augustine’s family’s property. Soon after, Adeodatus, too, passed away. Augustine then sold his patrimony and gave the money to the poor. The only thing he kept was the family house, which he converted into amonastic foundation for himself and a group of friends.

In 391 Augustine was ordained a priest in Hippo Regius (now Annaba), in Algeria. He became a famous preacher (more than 350 preserved sermons are believed to be authentic), and was noted for combating the Manichaean religion, to which he had formerly adhered.

In 395 he was made coadjutor Bishop of Hippo, and became full Bishop shortly thereafter, hence the name “Augustine of Hippo”; and he gave his property to the church of Thagaste. He remained in that position until his death in 430. He wrote his autobiographical Confessions in 397-398. His work The City of God was written to console his fellow Christians shortly after the Visigoths had sacked Rome in 410.

Augustine worked tirelessly in trying to convince the people of Hippo to convert to Christianity. Though he had left his monastery, he continued to lead a monastic life in the episcopal residence. He left a regula for his monastery that led to his designation as the “patron saint of regular clergy.”

Much of Augustine’s later life was recorded by his friend Possidius, bishop of Calama (present-day Guelma, Algeria), in his Sancti Augustini Vita. Possidius admired Augustine as a man of powerful intellect and a stirring orator who took every opportunity to defend Christianity against its detractors. Possidius also described Augustine’s personal traits in detail, drawing a portrait of a man who ate sparingly, worked tirelessly, despised gossip, shunned the temptations of the flesh, and exercised prudence in the financial stewardship of his see. Shortly before Augustine’s death the Vandals, a Germanic tribe that had converted to Arianism, invaded Roman Africa. The Vandals besieged Hippo in the spring of 430, when Augustine entered his final illness. According to Possidius, one of the few miracles attributed to Augustine, the healing of an ill man, took place during the siege. According to Possidius, Augustine spent his final days in prayer and repentance, requesting that the penitential Psalms of David be hung on his walls so that he could read them. He directed that the library of the church in Hippo and all the books therein should be carefully preserved. He died on 28 August 430.  Shortly after his death, the Vandals lifted the siege of Hippo, but they returned not long thereafter and burned the city. They destroyed all of it but Augustine’s cathedral and library, which they left untouched.


Are YOU Holy?

Written by J. C. Ryle
Edited for thought and sense.

9B5A3D28-BA8F-4FC8-8EEA2E8D9ABB57A8_articleChristian, We must he holy on earth before we die, if we desire to go to heaven after death. 

If we hope to dwell with God for ever in the life to come, we must endeavour to be like Him in the life that now is.  We must not only admire holiness, and wish for holiness: we must be holy.

Holiness cannot justify and save us: holiness cannot cover our iniquities, make satisfaction for transgressions, pay our debts to God.  Our best works are no better than filthy rags, when tried by the light of God’s law.  The righteousness which Jesus Christ brought in must be our only confidence,—the blood of atonement our only hope.  All this is perfectly true, and yet we must be holy.

We must be holy,

because God in the Bible plainly commands it. “As He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15, 16).

We must be holy,

because this is one great end for which Christ came into the world.  “He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:15).

We must be holy,

because this is the only sound evidence that we have a saving faith in Christ.  “Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”  “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:17, 26).

We must be holy,

because this is the only proof that we love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.  What can be more plain than our Lord’s own words?  “If ye love Me, keep my commandments.”  “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me.” (John 14: 15, 21).

We must be holy,

because this is the only sound evidence that we are God’s children.  “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”  “Whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God” (Rom. 8:14; I John 3:10).

Lastly, We must be holy,

because without holiness on earth we should never be prepared and meet for heaven. It is written of the heavenly glory, “There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie” (Rev. 21:27).  St. Paul says expressly, “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).

Ah, Christian, the last text I have just quoted is very solemn.  It ought to make you think. 

It was written by the hand of inspired man: it is not my private fancy.  Its words are the words of the Bible: not of my own invention.  God has said it, and God will stand to it: “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.”

What tremendous words these are! What thoughts come across my mind as I write them down!  I look at the world, and see the greater part of it lying in wickedness; I look at professing Christians, and see the vast majority having nothing of Christianity but the name; I turn to the Bible, and I hear the Spirit saying, “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.”

Surely it is a text that ought to make you consider your ways, and search your hearts.  Surely it should raise within you solemn thoughts, and send you to prayer.

You may try to put me off by saying,

–you feel much, and think much about these things,—far more than many suppose.  I answer, This is not the point.  The poor lost souls in hell do as much as this.  The great question is, not what you think and what you feel, but what you DO. Are you holy?

You may say,

–It was never meant that all Christians should be holy, and that holiness such as I have described is only for great saints, and people of uncommon gifts.  I answer, I cannot see this in Scripture.  I read that “every man who hath hope in Christ purifieth himself” (1 John 3:3).  “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.”

You may say,

–It is impossible to be so holy and to do our duty in this life at the same time: the thing cannot be done.  I answer, You are mistaken: it can be done.  With God on your side, nothing is impossible.  It has been done by many: Moses, and Obadiah, and Daniel, and the servants of Nero’s household, are all examples that go to prove it.

You may say,

–If you were so holy, you would be unlike other people.  I answer, I know it well: it is just what I want you to be. 

Christ’s true servants always were unlike the world around them,—a separate nation, a peculiar people; and you must be so too, if you would be saved.

You may say,

–At this rate very few will be saved.  I answer, I know it: Jesus said so eighteen hundred years ago.  Few will be saved, because few will take the trouble to seek salvation.  Men will not deny themselves the pleasures of sin and their own way for a season; for this they turn their backs on an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.  “Ye will not come to Me,” says Jesus, “that ye might have life” (John 5: 40).

You may say,

–These are hard sayings: the way is very narrow.  I answer, I know it: Jesus said so eighteen hundred years ago.  He always said that men must take up the cross daily, that they must be ready to cut off hand or foot, if they would be His disciples.  It is in religion as it is in other things, “There are no gains without pains.” That which costs nothing is worth nothing.

Christian, whatever you may think fit to say, you must be holy if you would see the Lord. 

Where is your Christianity if you are not?  Show it to me without holiness, if you can.  You must not merely have a Christian name and Christian knowledge, you must have a Christian character also: you must be a saint on earth, if ever you mean to be a saint in heaven.  God has said it, and He will not go back,—”Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.”  “The Pope’s calendar,” says Jenken, “only makes saints of the dead, but Scripture requires sanctity in the living.”  “Let not men deceive themselves,” says Owen, “sanctification is a qualification indispensably necessary—unto those who will be under the conduct of the Lord Jesus unto salvation: He leads none to heaven but whom He sanctifies on the earth.  This living Head will not admit of dead members.”

Surely you will not wonder that Scripture says, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7). 

Surely it is clear as noon-day that many of you need a complete change, —new hearts, new natures,—if ever you are to be saved. Old things must pass away, you must become new creatures.  Without holiness, no man, be he who he may,—no man shall see the Lord.

Christian, consider well what I have said.  Do you feel any desire to be holy?  Does your conscience whisper, “I am not holy yet, but I should like to become so”?  Listen to the advice I am going to give you.  The Lord grant you may take it and act upon it!

Would you be holy?  Would you become a new creature?  Then begin with Christ. 

You will do just nothing till you feel your sin and weakness, and flee to Him: He is the beginning of all holiness.  He is not wisdom and righteousness only to His people, but sanctification also.  Men sometimes try to make themselves holy first of all, and sad work they make of it: they toil, and labour, and turn over many new leaves, and make many changes, and yet, like the woman with the issue of blood before she came to Christ, they feel nothing bettered, but rather worse.  They run in vain, and labour in vain: and little wonder, for they are beginning at the wrong end.  They are building up a wall of sand: their work runs down as fast as they throw it up.  They are baling water out of a leaky vessel; the leak gains on them; not they on the leak.  Other foundation of holiness can no man lay than that which Paul laid, even Christ Jesus.  Without Christ we can do nothing.  It is a strong but true saying of Traill’s, “Wisdom out of Christ is damning folly; righteousness out of Christ is guilt and condemnation; sanctification out of Christ is filth and sin; redemption out of Christ is bondage and slavery.”

Would you be holy: Would you be partakers of the Divine nature?  Then go to Christ.  Wait for nothing: wait for nobody: linger not.  Think not to make you yourself ready: go, and say to Him, in the words of that beautiful hymn,—

“Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, flee to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace.”

There is not a brick nor a stone laid in the work of our sanctification till we go to Christ.  Holiness is His special gift to His believing people; holiness is the work He carries on in their hearts, by the Spirit whom He puts within them.  He is appointed a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance as well as remission of sins: to as many as receive Him He gives power to become sons of God.  Holiness comes not of blood,—parents cannot give it to their children; nor yet of the will of the flesh,—man cannot produce it in himself; nor yet of the will of man, —ministers cannot give it you by baptism.  Holiness comes from Christ.  It is the result of vital union with Him: it is the fruit of being a living branch of the true vine.  Go then to Christ, and say, “Lord, not only save me from the guilt of sin, but send the Spirit, whom Thou didst promise, and save me from its power.  Make me holy.  Teach me to do Thy will.”

Would you continue holy, when you have once been made so?  Then abide in Christ.  He says Himself, “Abide in Me, and I in you.  He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit” (John 15: 4, 5).

He is the Physician to whom You must daily go, if you would keep well; He is the Manna which you must daily eat, and the Rock of which you must daily drink.  His arm is the arm on which you must daily lean, as you come up out of the wilderness of this world.  You must not only be rooted, you must also be built up in Him.

Dear Christian, may you and I know these things by experience, and not by hearsay only!  May we all feel the importance of holiness, far more than we have ever done yet!  May our years he holy years with our souls, and then I know they will be happy ones!  But this I say once more, “We must be holy.”


Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage:  John Charles Ryle (10 May 1816 – 10 June 1900) was the first Anglican bishop of Liverpool. Ryle was born at Macclesfield, and was educated at Eton and at Christ Church, Oxford, where he was Craven Scholar in 1836.  The son of a wealthy banker, he was destined for a career in politics before choosing a path of ordained ministry. While hearing Ephesians 2 read in church in 1838, he felt a spiritual awakening and was ordained by Bishop Sumner at Winchester in 1842. For 38 years he was a parish priest, first at Helmingham and later at Stradbrooke, in Suffolk. He became a leader of the evangelical party in the Church of England and was noted for his doctrinal essays and polemical writings.

Ryle was a strong supporter of the evangelical school and a critic of Ritualism. He was a writer, pastor and an evangelical preacher. Among his longer works are Christian Leaders of the Eighteenth Century (1869), Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (7 vols, 1856–69), Principles for Churchmen (1884). Ryle was described as having a commanding presence and vigorous in advocating his principles albeit with a warm disposition. He was also credited with having success in evangelizing the blue collar community. His second son, Herbert Edward Ryle also a clergyman, became Dean of Westminster.