J. C. Ryle on What Evangelical Religion Is (Part 5)

Reading further in Ryle’s Knots Untied, here is a fifth – and final – installment from Ryle on what evangelical religion is:

( e ) The fifth and last leading feature in Evangelical Religion is the importance which it attaches to the outward and visible work of the Holy Ghost in the life of man.

Its theory is that the true grace of God is a thing that will always make itself manifest in the conduct, behaviour, tastes, ways, choices, and habits of him who has it. It is not a dormant thing, that can be within a man and not show itself without. The heavenly seed is “not corruptible, but incorruptible.” It is a seed which is distinctly said to “remain” in every one that is born of God. (1 Peter i. 23; 1 John iii. 9.) Where the Spirit is, He will always make His presence known.

We hold that it is wrong to tell men that they are “children of God, and members of Christ, and heirs of the kingdom of heaven,” unless they really overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil. We maintain that to tell a man he is “born of God,” or regenerated, while he is living in carelessness or sin, is a dangerous delusion, and calculated to do infinite mischief to his soul. We affirm confidently that “fruit” is the only certain evidence of a man’s spiritual condition; that if we would know whose he is and whom he serves, we must look first at his life. Where there is the grace of the Spirit there will be always more or less fruit of the Spirit. Grace that cannot be seen is no grace at all, and nothing better than Antinomianism. Note, in short, we believe that where there is nothing seen , there is nothing possessed.

Where there is no fruit, there is likely no grace.

This post originally appeared at the Prydain website. It it republished here with Will Prydain’s permission.


Will Prydain lives in Birmingham, Alabama, and attends an Anglican church nearby. By conviction and training he tends to look at things from an evangelical, Reformed Anglican perspective.


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