Back in the 19th century the great Anglican Bishop of Liverpool, J.C. Ryle (right) wrote the following words, which make far more sense of the state of our world than most of the pronouncements of Christian leaders today. These are the chief articles of his ‘prophetic creed.’
I BELIEVE that the world will never be completely converted to Christianity by any existing agency before the end comes. In spite of all that can be done by ministers, churches, schools and missions, the wheat and the tares will grow together unto the harvest. And when the end comes, it will find the earth in much the same state as it was when the flood came in the days of Noah (Matthew 13.24-30, 24.37- 39).
I BELIEVE that the widespread unbelief, indifference, formalism and wickedness, which are to be seen throughout Christendom, are only what we ought to expect in God’s Word. Troublous times, departures from the faith, evil men waxing worse and worse, love waxing cold, are things distinctly predicted. So far from making me doubt the truth of Christianity, they help confirm my faith. Melancholy and sorrowful as the sight is, if I did not see it I should think the Bible was not true (Matthew 24.12, 1 Timothy 4.1, 2 Timothy 3.1, 13, 14).
I BELIEVE that the grand purpose of this dispensation is to gather out of the world an elect people, and not to convert all mankind. It does not surprise me at all to hear that the heathen are not converted when missionaries preach and that believers are a little flock in any congregation in my own land. It is precisely the state of things, which I expect to find. This is a dispensation of election, and not of universal conversion (Acts 15.14, Matthew 24.13).
I BELIEVE that the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is the great event which will wind up the present dispensation, and for which we ought daily to pray. ‘Thy Kingdom Come’, ‘Come Lord Jesus’ should be our daily prayer. We look backward, if we have faith to Christ dying on the cross, to His resurrection from the dead, and we ought to look forward no less, if we have hope, to Christ’s coming again (John 14.3, 2 Timothy 4.8, 2 Peter 3.12).
I BELIEVE that the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ will be a real, literal, personal, bodily coming; and that as He went away in the clouds of heaven with His body, before the eyes of men, so in like manner He will return (Acts 1.11).
I BELIEVE that after our Lord Jesus Christ comes again the earth shall be renewed and the curse removed; the devil shall be bound, the wicked shall be punished; and that before He comes there will be neither resurrection, judgment, nor Millennium, and that not until after He comes shall the earth be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord (Acts 3.21, Isaiah 25.6-9, 1 Thessalonians 14-18, Revelation 20).
I BELIEVE that the Jews shall ultimately be gathered again as a separate nation, restored to their own land and turned to the faith of Christ (Messiah) (Jeremiah 30.10-11, 31.10, Zechariah 12.10, Romans 11.25-6).
I BELIEVE that the literal sense of Old Testament prophecies has been too much neglected by the churches, and is far too much neglected at the present day, and that under the mistaken system of spiritualising and accommodating Bible language, Christians have too often missed its meaning (Luke 24.25-6).
I BELIEVE that the Roman Catholic Church is the great predicted apostasy from the faith, and is Babylon and Antichrist, although I think it highly probable that a more complete development of Antichrist will yet be exhibited to the world (2 Thessalonians 2.3-11, 1 Timothy 4.1-6).
I BELIEVE that it is for the safety, happiness and comfort of all true Christians to expect as little as possible from churches or Governments under the present dispensation, to hold themselves ready for tremendous convulsion and changes of all things established, and to expect their good things only after Christ’s second advent. I am well aware that the views I have laid down appear to many persons very gloomy and discouraging. The only answer I make to that charge is this: Are they Scriptural?
Yes, Bishop Ryle, they are Scriptural. The question we would ask is ‘Would J.C. Ryle be a Bishop in the Church of England today?’