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We’re studying J.C. Ryle’s “Holiness” in my Sunday School class.  Here’s an excerpt from chapter three:

Are you yourself holy this very day, or are you not?

And why do I ask so straitly, and press the question so strongly? I do it because the Scripture says, “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” It is written, it is not my fancy; it is the Bible, not my private opinion; it is the word of God, not of man—“Without holiness no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).

Alas, what searching, sifting words are these! What thoughts come across my mind, as I write them down! I look at the world, and see the greater part of it lying in wickedness. I look at professing Christians, and see the vast majority having nothing of Christianity but the name. I turn to the Bible, and I hear the Spirit saying, “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.”

The book of Hebrews contains some of the strongest warnings and most sobering exhortations in all of Scripture.  Hebrews 12:14, quoted by Ryle, is one example, and Chapter 3 of “Holiness” is essentially an extended meditation on that one line of Scripture.  Ryle probes every corner of his readers’ hearts with it.  It’s uncomfortable.  And it’s a kindness.

Let a righteous man strike me–it is a kindness; let him rebuke me–it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it. (Psalm 141:5)