Means of Grace
Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
—2 Peter 3:18
Ryle wants us to know that this growth in grace does not happen as we sit passively waiting. If we are to grow spiritually, there can be no “Let go and let God” mentality. God is pleased to use means, which he has ordained and provided, to accomplish his ends.
Let me ask the special attention of my readers while I try to set forth in order the means of growth. Cast away for ever the vain thought that if a believer does not grow in grace it is not his fault. Settle it in your mind that a believer, a man quickened by the Spirit, is not a mere dead creature, but a being or mighty capacities and responsibilities. Let the words of Solomon sink down into your heart: ‘The soul of the diligent shall be made fat’ (Prov. 13:4).
(a) One thing essential to growth in grace is diligence in the use of private means of grace. . . . I include under this head private prayer, private reading of the Scriptures, and private meditation and self-examination. The man who does not take pains about these three things must never expect to grow. . . . Here is the whole reason why many professing Christians never seem to get on. They are careless and slovenly about their private prayers. They read their Bibles but little, and with very little heartiness of spirit. They give themselves no time for self-inquiry and quiet thought about the state of their souls.
. . . Private religion must receive our first attention, if we wish our souls to grow.
(b) Another thing which is essential to growth in grace is .carefulness in the use of public means of grace. By these I understand such means as a man has within his reach as a member of Christ’s visible Church. Under this head I include the ordinances of regular Sunday worship, the uniting with God’s people in common prayer and praise, the preaching of the Word, and the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. I firmly believe that the manner in which these public means of grace are used has much to say to the prosperity of a believer’s soul. It is easy to use them in a cold and heartless way. . . . Let us strive to use the old prayers, and sing the old hymns, and kneel at the old communion-rail, and hear the old truths preached, with as much freshness and appetite as in the year we first believed. It is a sign of bad health when a person loses relish for his food; and it is a sign of spiritual decline when we lose our appetite for means of grace. . . .
(c) Another thing essential to growth in grace is watchfulness over our conduct in the little matters of everyday life. Our tempers, our tongues, the discharge of our several relations of life, our employ ment of time—each and all must be vigilantly attended to if we wish our souls to prosper. Life is made up of days, and days of hours, and the little things of every hour are never so little as to be beneath the care of a Christian. When a tree begins to decay at root or heart, the mischief is first seen at the extreme end of the little branches. ‘He that despiseth little things,’ says an uninspired writer, ‘shall fall by little and little.’ . . .
(d) Another thing which is essential to growth in grace is caution about the company we keep and the friendships we form. Nothing perhaps affects a man’s character more than the company he keeps. . . . It is hard enough to serve Christ under any circumstances in such a world as this. ‘Evil communications corrupt good manners.’ ‘The friendship of the world is enmity with God’ (1 Cor. 15:33; James 4:4). Let us seek friends that will stir us up about our prayers, our Bible-reading, and our employment of time—about our souls, our salvation, and a world to come.
—J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Banner of Truth, 2014), 124–127.
What It Means to Be a Christian
What I Believe