Bags of Bran


J. C. Ryle on Worldliness
February 15, 2014, 10:00 am
Filed under: Biography

Bishop J. C. Ryle, a figure inexplicably popular with New Calvinists, has this to say about the world:

Let us turn to the testimony of the Holy Scriptures. If the texts I am about to quote do not prove that the world is a source of danger to the soul, then there is no meaning in words.

(a) Let us hear what the Apostle Paul says: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).

“We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God” (1 Corinthians 2:12).

“Christ gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age [world]” (Galatians 1:4).

“You were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world” (Ephesians 2:1-2).

“Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me” (2 Timothy 4:10)

(b) Let us hear what James says: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).

“Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

(c) Let us hear what John says: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world– the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15-17).

“The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him” (1 John 3:1).

“They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them” (1 John 4:5).

“Everyone born of God overcomes the world” (1 John 5:4).

“We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19).

(d) Let us hear, lastly, what the Lord Jesus Christ says: “The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life [this world] and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22).

“You are of this world; I am not of this world” (John 8:23).

“The world cannot accept Him [Holy Spirit], because it neither sees Him nor knows Him” (John 14:17).

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first” (John 15:18).

“If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:19).

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

“They are not of the world, even as I am not of it” (John 17:16).

I make no comment on those texts. They speak for themselves. If any one can read them carefully, and fail to see that “the world” is an enemy to the Christian’s soul, and that there is an utter opposition between the friendship of the world and the friendship of Christ, he is past the reach of argument, and it is a waste of time to reason with him. To my eyes they contain a lesson as clear as the sun at noon day. I turn from Scriptures to matters of fact and experience. I appeal to any old Christian who keeps his eyes open, and knows what is going on in the Churches. I ask him whether it is not true that nothing damages the cause of Christianity so much as “the world”? It is not open sin, or open unbelief, which robs Christ of His professing servants, so much as the love of the world, the fear of the world, the cares of the world, the business of the world, the money of the world, the pleasures of the world, and the desire to keep in with the world. This is the great rock on which thousands of young people are continually being crushed against and destroyed. They don’t object to any of the truths of the Christian faith. They do not deliberately choose evil, and openly rebel against God. They hope somehow to get to heaven in the end; and they think it is proper to have some religion. But they cannot give up their idol: they must have the world. And so after running well and longing for heaven while boys and girls, they turn aside when they become men and women, and go down the broad way which leads to destruction. They begin with Abraham and Moses, and end with Demas and Lot’s wife.[1]

Are we ready to say that things have improved in the century since Ryle wrote these words? Or that culture has grown less dangerous? My hope, dear reader, is that you’ve not gone so far down the road of cultural redemption that nothing looks dangerous to you anymore.

I am grateful to Dr. Mark Minnick who reminded me of this passage in Ryle in this excellent lecture


[1] J. C. Ryle, Practical Religion: Being Plain Papers on the Daily Duties, Experience, Dangers, and Privileges of Professing Christians, 4th ed. (London: William Hunt and Company, 1897), 291-94. Also available on Kindle.

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[…] from criticism while trying to keep them from burning the house down around them. The Bible says, rather strenuously, that Christians should be different from the world. The intended audience for this book  are […]

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