Friday, 6 February 2015

Knots Untied

For the past two or so years, since I stopped attending church at night, my general routine has been to read a sermon (or chapter of a book) by J. C. Ryle. My wife calls this my "Ryle time". Last year was not different. I wanted to read Knots Untied as it's sub-title is: being plain statements on disputed points in religion which to me sounded interesting. The issue was that it didn't seem to be in print. But for my birthday, my wife managed to find a company that would custom print it, since it is out of copyright. True love indeed.

I think a more fitting sub-title for this book would be A defense of the doctrine and practices of the Church of England as Ryle pretty much defends all things Church of England such as the 39 articles, the prayer book, infant baptism, their statements regarding the Lord Supper, the ministers/priests and their observance of the Sabbath. Some of theses issues are pushing against the Catholic influences of the day, others are pushing against the independent or other Protestant ideas of the time.

Ryle argued that it is the 39 Articles and not the prayer book that defines the doctrine of the Church of England. More people may participate in the use of the prayer book, but that should always be held against the 39 Articles. After reading this chapter I included a link to the 39 Articles in my daily prayer app for more Anglicans to read. I also included a link to the 1968 Lambeth decision which officially un-links the 39 Articles from the Prayer Book. I think Ryle would have a conniption over this decision. It seems modern arguments for what is Anglican is the exact opposite of what Ryle was saying back then. Today it seems that it is the Prayer Book that defines Anglicanism and not the 39 articles.

While I am not in favour of infant baptism, Ryle put forward a good point in that all Prayer Book services, it treats the people in the best light. For example, after a confession of sins in the service, the leader assures people that their sins are forgiven. This doesn't mean across the board that everyone who said something by rote is now forgiven, it just rests on scripture and assume the congregation in the most charitable light. The baptismal service is no different. It assumes the candidate, infant or otherwise in a charitable sense, knowing that it is not the water, but faith which saves you. Anglicans do baptisms, not christenings.

Ryle's chapter on the Sabbath may come across quite dated. During his time, some establishments were only starting to open on a Sunday, causing quite an uproar for this meant people were buying and selling on the Sabbath. While Ryle was not opposed in going out on a Sunday, he didn't like that it meant some people in the service industry wouldn't get a Sabbath because they had to work for the people going out. In his Christendom mentality the idea that these employees could take another day off a week was beyond him.

In the other chapters on the Lords Supper, Priests, the Church, confession etc, his position should not come across as very surprising considering that he was a British reformed evangelical living two hundred years ago: he was strongly opposed all things Catholic.

Since this was a book in defence of all things Church of England, his application in more than one chapter was for a churchman to read the 39 Articles at least once every year (see pic to the left). This, he thought would keep the church on the right path. Maybe he was right, maybe people stopped reading them so now they are seen just as something of history. Although, there is more at work than just a lack of reading the articles, considering that the they were only for the ordained; the layman didn't have to say or sign anything subscribing to them.

This book is free online, and occasionally it pops up in book sites to buy. There is probably a kindle edition, there always is.

Other books by J. C. Ryle that I have read
Holiness - This is most famous one, if you are going to read anything of his, start here.
Practical Religion - This lived up to it's title and challenged you to think about your practical religion


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