This book is very good, but it does need your full attention. J. C. Ryle was bishop of Liverpool in the 19th Century, and it is the language of that era that you are dealing with. Having said that Ryle is easy to engage with. It is clear from his writing that he has a passion to see those who read his work get to know Jesus. He is in no way an arrogant writer. At times he admits that he may be wrong, but he explains why he thinks the way he does. When he points out what he sees as errors in the church his motivation is concern for those involved.
He takes twenty one chapters to talk about the different aspects of holiness. The first couple talk about sin and its seriousness. What struck me was how little I worry about the sin in my own life. This book was like taking a flash light to illuminate the parts of my life that I keep hidden. There was no hiding the fact that I have become complacent about sin and the price that Jesus paid to free me from its grip. It is this complacency that Ryle is urgently trying to warn his readers about. For me it was the first four or five chapters that hit home. I have a list of attitudes that I need to be working to change. Ryle doesn't leave out the grace of God, but it wouldn't hurt to start living like I believed that Jesus has died for me.
In the middle of the book come a few chapters about different people in the Bible. I learnt most from the chapter about Lot. It had never occurred to me the danger that Lot put himself in by the lifestyle choices he made. The application I'm working on from this is to keep running from sin and not take my eyes off Jesus.
The chapters on the church are interesting partly because I wonder what Ryle would say if he saw the church now. The consequences that he warns of in these chapters are visible in the church today. What I'm not sure he would be prepared for is the amount of people who don't attend church. In these chapters he assumes that his readers and most of the population would attend church.
What stood out to me in this book was Ryle's love for Jesus and how he wants everyone to be trusting Jesus and not religion or their own efforts. As I was finishing this book I received news that some friends had been killed in a car crash. They loved Jesus and you could tell that from the moment that you met them. It was a joy for them to do what they could for Him, they really meant it. They were pursuing the holiness that Ryle talks about. That is what I want to be like. I'm sad that their lives ended like this but I'm glad that they are now with Jesus, receiving the reward that they worked for. I would also like to acknowledge the work the students who were on the scene did to try to save their lives. You can read about their efforts here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-26764878