Bishop Ryle on making worship services more attractive

Bishop Ryle on making worship services more attractive

This is a great danger in these days. It is a sunken rock, on which I fear many are striking, and doing themselves immense harm. The plausible pretext of making our services more attractive, and cutting the ground from under the feet of Ritualists, too often induces Evangelical ministers to do things which they had far better let alone. New church decorations, new church music, and a semi-histrionic mode of going through church worship, are things which I suggest that we must watch most narrowly, and keep at arm’s length. They are points on which we must take heed that we do not let in the Pope and the devil. Tampering with these things, we may be sure, does no real good. It may seem to please the world, and have a “show of wisdom,” but it never converts the world, and makes the world believe. We had far better leave it alone.

Let us carefully observe how little good they do who attempt to mix up Evangelical preaching and a Ritual ceremonial. Little, did I say?—they do no good at all! The world is never won by trimming, and compromising, by facing both ways, and trying to please all. The cross of Christ is never made mole acceptable by sawing off its corners, or by polishing, varnishing, and adorning it. Processions, and banners, and flowers, and crosses, and excessive quantity of music, and elaborate services, and beautiful vestments, may please children and weak-minded people. But they never helped forward heart-conversion and heart-sanctification, and they never will.

Popularity obtained by pandering to the senses or the sentiment of our hearers is not worth anything. Worshippers who are not content with the Bible, the cross of Christ, simple prayers and simple praise, are worshippers of little value. It is useless to try to please them, because their spiritual taste is diseased.

– J. C. Ryle from Knots Untied

Some thoughts on religious experience

Some thoughts on religious experience

In judging of religious experience, it is all important to keep steadily in view the system of divine truth contained in the Holy Scriptures; otherwise our experience, as is too often the case, will degenerate into enthusiasm. Many ardent professors seem too readily to take it for granted that all religious feelings must be good. They therefore take no care to discriminate between the genuine and the spurious, the pure gold and the tinsel. Their only concern is about the ardour of their feelings; not considering that if they are spurious, the more intense they are the further will they lead them astray.

There is no necessity for any other proof of native depravity than the aversion which children early manifest to religious instruction and to spiritual exercises.

Of two persons under conviction of sin, one of whom has had sound religious instruction, and the other none, the former will have an unspeakable advantage over the latter in many respects.

There is a common practical error in the minds of many Christians in regard to this matter. They seem to think that nothing has any relation to the conversion of the sinner but that which immediately preceded this event; and the Christian is ready to say, I was awakened under such a sermon, and never had rest until I found it in Christ; making nothing of all previous instructions and impressions. So, when a revival occurs under the awakening discourses of some evangelist, people are ready to think that he only is the successful preacher whose labours God owns and blesses; whereas he does but bring forward to maturity feelings and convictions which have been long secretly forming and growing within the soul, but so imperceptibly that the person himself was little sensible of any change.

We know very little, however, of what is passing in the minds of thousands around us. The zealous preacher often concludes and laments that there is no impression on the minds of his hearers, when, if the covering of the human heart could be withdrawn, he would be astonished and confounded at the variety and depth of the feelings experienced. Those impressions which manifest themselves by a flow of tears are not the deepest, but often very superficial; while the most awful distresses of the soul are entirely concealed by a kind of hypocrisy, which men early learn to practice to hide their feelings of a religious kind from their fellow-creatures.

If there be a truth established beyond all reasonable question by uniform experience, it is that lovers of pleasure are the enemies of God.

– Archibald Alexander, 1844, Thoughts on Religious Experience