No “Spiritual Gains without Pains”—J. C. Ryle (1816 - 1900)
J. C. Ryle was a prominent evangelical leader in the Church of England during the second half of the 19th century. A champion of orthodox doctrine in an age of theological decline, he never divorced dogma from holy living. In fact, his book Holiness, from which this excerpt is taken, argued that no true Christian lacks practical godliness. And developing godliness requires practicing the spiritual disciplines.
Sanctification, again, is a thing which depends greatly on a diligent use of scriptural means. When I speak of “means,” I have in view Bible-reading, private prayer, regular attendance on public worship, regular hearing of God’s Word, and regular reception of the Lord’s Supper. I lay it down as a simple matter of fact, that no one who is careless about such things must ever expect to make much progress in sanctification. I can find no record of any eminent saint who ever neglected them. They are appointed channels through which the Holy Spirit conveys fresh supplies of grace to the soul, and strengthens the work which He has begun in the inward man. Let men call this legal doctrine if they please, but I will never shrink from declaring my belief that there are no “spiritual gains without pains.” I should as soon expect a farmer to prosper in business who contented himself with sowing his fields and never looking at them till harvest, as expect a believer to attain much holiness who was not diligent about his Bible-reading, his prayers, and the use of his Sundays. Our God is a God who works by means, and He will never bless the soul of that man who pretends to be so high and spiritual that he can get on without them.1
J. C. Ryle, Holiness: It’s Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots, rev. ed. (Moscow, ID: Charles Nolan, 2001), 25.