This is the fifth installment in a series of posts from Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots(Hardcopy/Kindle). J. C. Ryle’s classic book on Holiness.

First Post: 12 points defining sanctification.

Second Post: 10 points on the visible evidence of sanctification.

Third Post: 13 points distinguishing Justification and Sanctification. 

Fourth Post: 6 points regarding Reflections on Sanctification.

Starting off with Hebrews 12:14 Ryle asks the question “what is true practical holiness?” It is Ryle’s contention based on Scripture that this question “can never be out of season” and it “concerns all ranks and conditions of men.” Before giving 12 answers to this question Ryle briefly mentions what it is not: Not knowledge (e.g. Balaam); great profession (e.g. Judas Iscariot); doing many things (e.g. Herod); zeal for certain matters in religion (e.g. Jehu); morality and outward respectability of conduct (e.g. young ruler); taking pleasure in hearing preachers (e.g. the Jews in Ezekiel’s time had that ); or keeping company with godly people (e.g. Joab and Gehazi and Demas).

Rather, practical holiness is this:

1. Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture .

2. A holy man will endeavor to shun every known sin, and to keep every known commandment (Romans 7:22; Psalm 119:128).

3. A holy man will strive to be like our Lord Jesus Christ (1 John 2:6; 1 Peter 2:21).

4. A holy man will follow after meekness, longsuffering, gentleness, patience, kind tempers, government of his tongue. He will bear much, forbear much, overlook much, and be slow to talk of standing on his rights.

5. A holy man will follow after temperance and self-denial (Luke 21:34; 1 Corinthians 9:27).

6. A holy man will follow after charity and brotherly kindness (Romans 13:8).

7. A holy man will follow after a spirit of mercy and benevolence toward others (Acts 9:36; 2 Corinthians 12:15).

8. A holy man will follow after purity of heart.

9. A holy man will follow after the fear of God (Nehemiah 5:15).

10. A holy man will follow after humility.

11. A holy man will follow after faithfulness in all the duties and relations in life (Colossians 3:23; Romans 12:11; Daniel 6:5); Matthew 5:47).

12. Last, but not least, a holy man will follow after spiritual mindedness. He will endeavour to set his affections entirely on things above, and to hold things on earth with a very lose hand. He will not neglect the business of the life that now is; but the first place in his mind and thoughts will be give to the life to come (Psalm 63:8; 119:57).

He concludes this section with two important clarifications about these 12 points:


I do not say for a moment that holiness shuts out the presence of indwelling sin. No far from it. It is the greatest misery of a holy man that he carries about with him a ‘body of death;” –that often when he would do good ‘evil is present with him’; that the old man is clogging all his movements, and, as it were, trying to draw him back at every step he takes (Romans 7:21). But it is the excellence of a holy man that he is not at peace with indwelling sin, as others are. He hates it, mourns over it, and longs to be free from its company.


Neither do I say that holiness comes to ripeness and perfection all at once, or that these graces I have touched on must be found in full bloom and vigour before you can call a man holy. No: Far from it. Sanctification is always a progressive work. Some men’s graces are in the blade, some in the ear, and some are like full corn in the ear. All must have a beginning, We must never despise’ the day of small things.’ And sanctification in the very best is an imperfect work. The history of the brightest saints that ever lived will contain many a ‘but,’ and ‘howbeit,’ and ‘notwithstanding,’ before you reach the end. The gold will never be without some dross–the light will never shine without some clouds, until we reach the heavenly Jerusalem.

After these important clarifications about what he sees to be “practical holiness” he concludes with two statements that these clarifications do not change the very evident reality of practical holiness in each true believer:

But still, for all this, I am sure that to have such a character as I have faintly drawn, is the hearth’s desire and prayer of all true Christians.

And this I do boldly and confidently say, that true holiness is a great reality. It is something in a man that can be seen, and known, and marked, and felt by all around him.  It is light: if it exists, it will show itself. It is salt: if it exists, its savour will be perceived. It is a precious ointment: if it exists, its presence cannot be hid.

May the Lord help us in Christ to live lives of flourishing practical holiness.