The Copybook | On Love

From the book Practical Religion, by J.C. Ryle, 1878:

Now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. – 1 Cor. 13:13.

“Charity (love) is rightly called ‘the Queen of Christian graces.’ …. It is a grace which all people profess to admire. It seems a plain practical thing which everybody can understand. It is none of ‘those troublesome doctrinal points’ about which Christians are disagreed….If men possess nothing else in religion, they always flatter themselves that they possess ‘charity.’….But I am bold to say that in many minds the whole subject seems completely misunderstood.

“He that would take down ‘charity’ from the high and holy place which is occupies int he Bible, and treat it as a matter of secondary moment, must settle his account with God’s Word….[T]hose who despise the subject are only exposing their own ignorance of Scripture.

“The charity of the Bible will show itself in a believer’s readiness to bear evil as well as to do good. It will make him patient under provocation, forgiving when injured, meek when unjustly attacked, quiet when slandered. It will make him bear much and forbear much, put up with much and look over much, submit often and deny himself often, all for the sake of piece. It will make him put a strong bit on his temper, and a strong bridle on his tongue.

“True charity is not always asking – ‘What are my rights? Am I treated as I deserve?’ but, ‘How can I best promote peace? How can I do that which is most edifying to others?’

“The charity of the Bible will show itself in the general spirit and demeanor of a believer. It will make him kind, unselfish, good-natured, good-tempered, and considerate for others. It will make him gentle, affable, and courteous, in all the daily relations of private life, thoughtful for others’ comfort, tender for others’ feelings, and more anxious to give pleasure than to receive. True charity never envies others when they prosper, nor rejoices in the calamities of others when they are in trouble.

“And yet, be it remembered, our blessed Master never flattered sinners, or winked at sin. He never shrunk from exposing wickedness in its true colors, or from rebuking those who would cleave to it….He called things by their right names. He spoke as freely of hell and the fire that is not quenched, as of heaven and the kingdom of glory. He has left on record an everlasting proof that perfect charity does not require us to approve everybody’s life or opinions, and that it is quite possible to condemn false doctrine and wicked practice, and yet to be full of love at the same time.

“Charity, such as I have described, is certainly not natural to man. Naturally, we are all more or less selfish, envious, ill-tempered, spiteful, ill-natured, and unkind….The heart in which charity grows is a heart changed, renewed, and transformed by the Holy Ghost.”

Yet another beautiful and thought-provoking (convicting) chapter in J.C. Ryle’s book. I really appreciate his brotherly manner of addressing his readers, and the sense of his true heartfelt concern for the spiritual wellbeing of his audience.

The Copybook | On Prayer

From the book Practical Religion, by J.C. Ryle, 1878:

“Prayer is the most important subject in practical religion. All other subjects are second to it. Reading the Bible, keeping the Sabbath, hearing sermons, attending public worship, going to the LORD’s table – all these are very weighty matters. But none of them are so important as private prayer….[T]here is no duty in religion so neglected as private prayer….I have come to the conclusion that the great majority of professing Christians do not pray at all….It is one of those private transactions between God and our souls which no eye sees, and therefore one which there is every temptation to pass over and leave undone.”

“Prayer is the surest remedy against the devil and besetting sins. That sin will never stand firm which is heartily prayed against: that devil will never long keep dominion over us which we beseech the LORD to cast forth. But, then, we must spread out all our case before our Heavenly Physician, if He is to give us daily relief: we must drag our indwelling devils to the feet of Christ, and cry to Him to send them back to the pit.”

“There is a friend ever waiting to help us, if we will only unbosom to Him our sorrow – a friend who pitied the poor, and sick, and sorrowful, when He was upon earth – a friend who knows the heart of a man, for He lived thirty-three years as a man amongst us – a friend who can weep with the weepers, for He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief – a friend who is able to help us, for there never was earthly pain He could not cure. That friend is Jesus Christ. The way to be happy is to be always opening our hearts to Him.”

“Once having begun the habit [of prayer], never give it up. Your heart will sometimes say, ‘We have had family prayers; what mighty harm if we leave private prayer undone?’ Your body will sometimes say, ‘You are unwell, or sleepy, or weary; you need not pray.’ Your mind will sometimes say, ‘You have important business to attend to today; cut short your prayers.’ Look on all suggestions as coming direct from the devil.”

“Faith is to prayer what the feather is to the arrow: without it prayer will not hit the mark.”

“The wheels of all machinery for extending the Gospel are oiled by prayer.”

“Oh, let us keep an eye continually upon our private devotions! Here is the pith, and marrow, and backbone of our practical Christianity. Sermons, and books, and tracts, and committee meetings, and the company of good men, are all good in their way; but they will never make up for the neglect of private prayer. Mark well the places, and society, and companions, that unhinge your hearts for communion with God, and make your prayers drive heavily. Then be on your guard. Observe narrowly what friends and what employments leave your soul in the most spiritual frame, and most ready to speak with God. To these cleave and stick fast….I offer these points for private consideration. I do it in all humility. I know no one who needs to be reminded of them more than I do myself….I want the times we live in to be praying times. i want the Christians of our day to be praying Christians. I want the Church of our age to be a praying Church.”

We are reading Practical Religion for our church book club, and so far it has been a really good read, albeit somewhat challenging. This chapter in particular had me wanting to put Band-Aids on my hurt pride, as I realized how guilty I am of neglecting my own prayer life! Prayer should be our first line of defense, our surest prevention, and our chief source of comfort – I have free access to the God and Creator of the Universe through prayer. Why in the world would I not exercise that privilege as often as I can?

The Copybook

We’ll see how this goes, but “The Copybook” will be a new blog category for excerpts from books or articles that were important, convicting, or inspiring. For certain books, I highlight as I read, so I’ll be sharing from that highlighted material.

Copybooks used to be used to teach penmanship, but in conjunction with teaching penmanship, good morals and Christian beliefs were also modeled, through the text that was being copied.

I hope it is encouraging!