We’ve been enjoying JC Ryle’s insights into the preaching that shook England in the 18th century, and which led to many thousands coming to Christ.
In this post we’ll look at the content of the messages that were given. In outlining these for us, Ryle is obviously suggesting that there was a need, in his own day, for a revival of such preaching.
It may be that in quaint 19th century England the ministers and evangelists had softened their message, taken the edges off, in order not to offend those outside the churches.
If we really believe that the message should stay the same, even though we should package it appropriate to the context, then it is surely helpful to hear good old Bishop Ryle’s warnings and exhortations.
Ryle gives seven essential truths that the Methodist preachers all agreed on and asserted to their hearers. We’ll look at the first three in this post.
1. The Authority of the Bible
Ryle says that they ‘taught constantly the sufficiency and supremacy of Holy Scripture.’
‘They knew nothing of any part of Scripture being uninspired.
‘They never flinched from asserting that there can be no error in the Word of God.
‘To that one book they were content to pin their faith, and by it to stand or fall. This was one grand characteristic of their preaching.’ (p.26)
2. The Sinfulness of Man
‘They taught constantly the total corruption of human nature.
‘They never flattered men and women…They told them plainly that they were dead, and must be made alive again…
‘Strange and paradoxical as it may seem to some, their first step towards making men good was to show them that they were utterly bad; and their primary argument in persuading men to do something for their souls was to convince them that they could do nothing at all.’ (p.26-27)
3. The Necessity of Christ’s Death
Ryle says that the Methodist preachers of the 18th century ‘taught constantly that Christ’s death upon the cross was the only satisfaction for man’s sin; and that, when Christ died, he died as our substitute – ‘the just for the unjust’.
‘This, in fact, was the cardinal point in almost all their sermons.
‘They never taught the modern doctrine that Christ’s death was only a great example of self-sacrifice.
‘They saw in it the payment of man’s mighty debt to God.
‘They loved Christ’s person they rejoiced in Christ’s promises; they urged men to walk after Christ’s example. But the one subject above all others, concerning Christ, which they delighted to dwell on, was the atoning blood which Christ shed for us on the cross.’ (p.27)
It would probably be a good exercise for every preacher who is attempting to present the Christian message to their culture to review these points (and the three to follow) and see if any adjustment ought to be made in the content, if not the style, of their messages.
For Ryle’s next four points click here
All quotes are from JC Ryle, Christian Leaders of the 18th Century, Banner of Truth edition.
© 2010 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides