The following excerpt is taken from J.I. Packer, Faithfulness and Holiness: The Witness of J.C. Ryle (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2002), pp. 78-79. Here, Packer quotes at length from Ryle’s book, Holiness, which was originally published in 1877. John Charles Ryle (1816-1900) was an evangelical Anglican priest and, from 1880-1900, the bishop of Liverpool.
Victory is the only satisfactory evidence that you have a saving religion. You like good sermons perhaps. You respect the Bible, and read it occasionally. You say your prayers night and morning. You have family prayers, and give to religious societies. I thank God for this. It is all very good. But how goes the battle? …Are you overcoming the love of the world and the fear of man? Are you overcoming the passions, tempers and lusts of your own heart? Are you resisting the devil and making him flee from you? How is it in this matter? You must either rule or serve sin and the devil and the world. There is no middle course. You must either conquer or be lost.
I know well it is a hard battle that you have to fight, and I want you to know it, too.… You must make up your mind to a daily struggle if you would reach heaven.… Sin, the world and the devil must be actually mortified, resisted and overcome.
This is the road that the saints of old have trodden.… Moses…overcame the love of pleasure.… Micaiah…overcame the love of ease.… Daniel…overcame the fear of death.… Matthew…overcame the love of money.… Peter and John…overcame the fear of man.… When Saul the Pharisee gave up all his prospects of preferment among the Jews, and preached that very Jesus whom he had once persecuted, this was overcoming: he overcame the love of man’s praise.
The same kind of thing which these men did you must also do if you would be saved. They were men of like passions with yourself, and yet they overcame. They had as many trials as you can possibly have, and yet they overcame. They fought. They wrestled. They struggled. You must do the same.
What was the secret of their victory? Their faith. They believed on Jesus and, believing, were made strong…and…were held up. In all their battles, they kept their eyes on Jesus, and he never left them nor forsook them. “They overcame by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony” and so may you (Rev. 12:11 [KJV]).