All Ryled Up
I’ve been reading Ryle’s Light from Old Times. It’s always enjoyable to read history from a pastor. The book’s subtitle is Protestant Facts and Men. And the book is just that. He outlines the history of the English Reformation, the major principles, the major players, and the consequent reign of Bloody Mary which sought to undo its progress. While, Ryle is never bitter, he is unceasingly brutal to the Roman Church, holding it responsible for the judicial murder of those executed during those turbulent years. He, writing in the nineteenth century, can imagine no greater atrocity than for the English church to give any ground back to the Papists.
A couple of brief thoughts:
First, Ryle pin points the center of the English Reformation in the doctrine of the Eucharist. Ryle maintains that heart of the Roman doctrine sought to put Christ (in any way) in the bread and wine (he calls this the doctrine of the real presence), while the reformers, he contends, held that Christ was only present in His people. He calls those in the English church who he believes to be secret papists ‘extreme ritualists’. He particularly condemns the ‘ritualists’ of his day for attempting to undo the very things that the early English reformers died for. Ryle is not willing to go anywhere near this real presence doctrine as he sees it as the heart of ritualism and ultimately the papist church. He goes so far as to condemn those who make a distinction between ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’ presence or carnal vs. spiritual. Christ is only in the Eucharist in so far as Christ is in His people. It should be noted that this is what Ryle says concerning the early Reformers, though based upon some quotations he supplies, I’m not sure it’s quite as cut and dried.
Second, nevertheless, I’m stirred by the courage and fortitude exhibited by those men who were burned at the stake for what many now consider trifles. And while I may well differ in some particulars, I am challenged. These faithful men prayed and sang psalms while flames scorched their legs and arms. Some were partially burned, when wind or rain subdued the flames, and they waited patiently for new fires to be ignited. These men stood firm while evil men did their very worst, and they blessed their executioners and forgave their enemies. That noble band of martyrs, who scorned the grave and mocked the flames, did not spill their blood in vain. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church, and we are the direct descendents of the English Reformation, here in America.
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