by JC Ryle
J. C. Ryle’s book Warnings to the Churches contains a sermon preached in August of 1858, titled “Not Corrupting the Word.” The following excerpt from that sermon was published exactly ninety-nine years later, in the August 1957 issue of The Banner of Truth. That issue of the magazine is included in a wonderful compilation recently re-released by the Banner of Truth Trust: The Banner of Truth: Magazine Issues 1-16, Sept. 1955—Aug. 1959. (The following excerpt may be found on page 265). I highly recommend the whole book – Phil Johnson.
Ryle’s words here offer some much-needed advice to pastors ministering in the morass of modern and post-modern churches would do well to heed.Not Corrupting the Word
“For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:17).
When can it be said of us, that we corrupt the Word of God in the present day? What are the rocks and shoals which we ought to shun, if we would not be of the “many” who deal deceitfully with God’s truth? A few suggestions on this head may not be without use.
We corrupt the word of God most dangerously when we throw any doubt on the plenary inspiration of any part of the holy Scripture.
This is not merely a corrupting the cup, but the whole fountain. This is not merely corrupting the bucket of living water, which we profess to present to our people, but poisoning the whole well.
Once wrong on this point, the whole substance of our religion is in danger. It is a flaw in the foundation. It is a worm at the root of our theology. Once allow the worm to gnaw the root, and we must not be surprised if the branches, the leaves, and the fruit, little by little decay.
Secondly, we corrupt the Word of God when we make defective statements of doctrine.
We do so when we add to the Bible the opinions of the Church, or of the Fathers, as if they were of equal authority.
We do so when we take away from the Bible, for the sake of pleasing men; or, from a feeling of false liberty, keep back any statement which seems narrow and harsh or hard.
We do so when we try to soften down anything that is taught about eternal punishment or the reality of hell.
We do so when we bring forward doctrines in their wrong proportions.
We do so when we exhibit an excessive anxiety to fence and guard and qualify such doctrines as justification by faith without the deeds of the law, for fear of the charge of antinomianism; or when we flinch from strong statements about holiness, for fear of being thought legal.
We do so, not least, when we shrink from the use of Bible language in giving an account of doctrines. We are apt to keep back such expressions as ‘born again,’ ‘election,’ ‘adoption,’ ‘conversion,’ ‘assurance,’ and to use roundabout phraseology, as if we were ashamed of plain Bible words.”
J. C. Ryle