The Best Antidote to Bad Theology Part IV: ‘We give, forgive, believe, live and hope imperfectly’

Posted: February 20, 2012 by boydmonster in Uncategorized

In today’s dose from Bishop Ryle, we learn that a proper knowledge of our sinfulness protects us from a vain and discouraging doctrine of Christian perfection.  Ryle is dealing here with a teaching that came from the Wesley’s that a Christian could attain a state of Christian perfection where they perfectly loved God and neither sinned nor acted with sin in their hearts.  Ryle handles this idea wonderfully.  Enjoy!

‘A right view of sin is one of the best antidotes to the overstrained theories of perfection of which we hear so much in these times. If those who press on us perfection mean nothing more than an all–round consistency and a careful attention to all the graces which make up the Christian character, reason would that we should not only bear with them, but agree with them entirely. By all means, let us aim high. But if men really mean to tell us that here in this world a believer can attain to entire freedom from sin, live for years in unbroken and uninterrupted communion with God, and feel for months together not so much as one evil thought, I must honestly say that such an opinion appears to me very unscriptural. I go even further. I say that the opinion is very dangerous to him that holds it, and very likely to depress, discourage and keep back inquirers after salvation. I cannot find the slightest warrant in God’s Word for expecting such perfection as this while we are in the body. I believe the words of our fifteenth Article are strictly true: that “Christ alone is without sin; and that all we, the rest, though baptized and born again in Christ, offend in many things; and if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” To use the language of our first homily, “There be imperfections in our best works: we do not love God so much as we are bound to do, with all our heart, mind and power; we do not fear God so much as we ought to do; we do not pray to God but with many and great imperfections. We give, forgive, believe, live and hope imperfectly; we speak, think and do imperfectly; we fight against the devil, the world and the flesh imperfectly. Let us, therefore, not be ashamed to confess plainly our state of imperfection.” Once more I repeat what I have said: the best preservative against this temporary delusion about perfection which clouds some minds—for such I hope I may call it—is a clear, full, distinct understanding of the nature, sinfulness and deceitfulness of sin.’

J.C. Ryle, Holiness, 13.

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