J.C. Ryle is one of my favorite dead Christians. Every Christian needs favorite dead Christians, so says my pastor. I think he’s right. Christians who have lived their lives outside our contemporary experience somehow help us think clearer about following Christ in the present. Ryle is a master at unveiling truth in our modern era. His works are gold. I just finished rereading his Thoughts for Young Men. If I were to share all that I underlined/highlighted, there would be serious copyright violations. So, I’ll share this one (for now).
Ryle is talking about how important it is to watch our habits. Since he is primarily writing to young people, he emphasizes doing the right thing in every circumstance because habits are formed by repetition, whether good or bad. While we may be unwilling to kill sin in its’ infancy thinking, “It’s not that big a deal right now,” it will become a big deal. Ryle says,
“Habits are like stones rolling down hill–the further they roll, the faster and more ungovernable is their course. Habits, like trees, are strengthened by age. A boy may bend an oak when a sapling — a hundred men cannot root it up when it is full grown. A child can wade over the Thames river at its fountainhead — the largest ship in the world can float in it when it gets near the sea.”
What an insight! What we do matters. I bet we all know by experience how much harder it is to change a bad habit as opposed to starting a good one. Why? Our natures are bent towards evil and are being fought four by Satan and his hordes. It is imperative we start young developing a pious, devout life. It is imperative we learn to love the Scriptures young. It is imperative we learn to pray while we are young. It is imperative we see the significance of the community of Christ young. Because, if we have not set in place these good habits, they will be like trying to wade the Thames river when it reaches the sea.
Habits need not always be bad. Lord, help us set habits that push us on towards Christ. Make our habits too strong for the forces of evil to uproot, like an oak that is full grown.