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OLD PATHS

OLD PATHS

By J.C. Ryle

STUDY QUESTIONS

Chapter 1

1. What do you think about Ryle’s style after one chapter? Do you like this book so far?
2. Does Ryle make a convincing argument for the Inspiration of the Scriptures? Why or why not?
3. On page 3 Ryle says that the Bible is stamped with “Divine Authority”. What does that mean?
4. On page 11 Ryle says the Bible is a “well never dry, and a field which is never barren.” Yet many people think that the Bible IS dry! Why is that?
5. On page 12 (pt. F) what do you think about America and the direction this country is headed?
6. Are we on the defense to much when it come to the Bible? (page 14)
7. How do you view Inspiration (page 16)? Like a photograph, Master painting, finger painting, none of those?
8. Why is “every word” important (page 20) in the bible? Can you think of a time when a single word impacted you from the Scriptures?
9. On page 22 Ryle talks about Biblical statements which seem to “contradict history”. Can you think of examples where the Bible has been proven right?
10. Ryle seems to think that if we can prove the resurrection, the other miracles become easy to believe. Do you agree?
11. Read page 28 – Does this convict you? Will anything change because of it?
12. On page 30 Ryle says the Bible cannot be understood without the Holy Spirit’s illumination in the reader’s heart. Why is this?

Chapter 2

1. On page 40 Ryle says “We live in an age when there is a false glare on the things of time, and a great mist over the things of eternity.” What does he mean by this and what examples can you think of?
2. On page 41 Ryle describes the inscription inside of us telling us that we have a soul. Can you think of any Bible verses that prove this?
3. On page 43, how can we use the undeniable fact of our having souls for evangelism?
4. Ryle calls it the “highest charity” to warn people that they could lose their souls, and yet the world doesn’t see it this way. “Fire and brimstone preaching” they call it. Do you think that our culture has changed so much in the 140 years since this book that this kind of warning is no longer effective?
5. Ryle says that in order to lose your soul you don’t have to exert yourself, just float down the stream and go with the crowd (page 46). What are some easy ways that people do so today?
6. On page 47 Ryle discusses the “Minister’s Fear.” How does this distinguish between good and bad shepherds? What should be the outworking of this fear?
7. How are you taking care of your soul?
8. On page 49 Ryle talks about unbelievers who are fearful when their end is near. Where does this fear come from?
9. How does Jesus’ death on the Cross comfort you in your everyday life?
10. Read page 59. After reading this chapter do you have a greater desire to evangelize? How will you do it?

Chapter 3

1. On page 61-62 Ryle describes people in different phases of life, and with different concerns, but he makes it clear that death is coming for all, and that the grave is not all there is. Before reading this chapter, what was your opinion on how many are going to be saved? Has it changed?
2. On page 63-64 there is a thorough explanation of what it means to be saved. What part of that explanation is most familiar? Do we ever neglect to explain what the fullness of salvation entails? How?
3. What does it mean to be “saved from the fear and love of the world” (page 64)
4. How do people generally speak of the dead today? Is it the same as Ryle says on page 67, 69? Why is this so?
5. Page 70, there is a very plain statement about how many will be saved. Jesus says, “Few.” And yet the Scriptures say there is a multitude in heaven which no man can number (Revelation 7:9)... How can we reconcile these verses?
6. Is the world better, worse, or the same as any other time in history> in what direction is the world moving? (page 71-74)
7. What did you think about pages 76-79? How can we gently and lovingly take a look at ourselves in this light?
8. What do you think about Ryle’s refutations of the objections to his doctrine on pages 79-82? Let’s briefly look at each one.
9. Ryle says on page 83 that he knows this is an offensive doctrine. But he also says, “You do not count him an enemy who gives you a bitter medicine to save your life.” How may this doctrine of “Few Saved” help us to better reach our neighbors?
10. Does the fact that there are only a few saved cause you to rejoice that you are among them?

Chapter 4

1. Why does Ryle say that it is so important to be able to explain our hope? Can you explain yours?
2. Ryle says on page 91 that ignorance ought never to be the characteristic of a Protestant Christian. Why does he say that as opposed to Roman Catholics?
3. Ryle says sometimes it is NOT a good thing to give someone assurance of salvation. He says on page 93, that it can be like feeding someone poison. Why is that?
4. “Church membership is no foundation of hope. We may belong to the best of churches and yet never belong to Christ.” Do you think there should be more stringent guidelines for church membership> is it too easy to become a member and thus possibly gain a false assurance?
5. What is the place of feeling in salvation? Did you have certain feelings when you were saved? (page 98)
6. How can “mere animal excitement” be mistaken for the work of the Holy Ghost?
7. How has your outward behavior changed since you became a believer? (page 100)
8. Page 104 is a profound truth about the brevity of life. Did it have any impact on you?
9. How does Satan steal away hope from true believers? Has your hope ever become dimmed by your circumstances? How have you overcome?
10. On page 112, Ryle says that he devil hates believers because they have escaped from him. In what ways can we fight him? What tools can we use?

Chapter 5

1. Have you previously thought about what it means to be spiritually alive or spiritually dead?
2. Ryle says on page 116 that what we like in religion is of very little consequence. However, that does not seem to be the feeling of many churches today. Why is this?
3. Being a born again Christian is more than just a little mending and alteration says Ryle. It is having a new heart! What has that looked like in your own life?
4. Read pages 124-125, are these true of you? What must you do if they are not?
5. Who can make a dead soul alive? (page 128)
6. Which was the most impressive conversion in your mind on pages 130-131?
7. Are you dead or are you alive?
8. Do you mourn over the souls of your lost loved ones?
9. On page 136, I was struck with the thought that THIS is true evangelistic preaching! Why does Ryle preach this way when it is God who makes a person alive?
10. How do you prove your being alive by your actions?
11. On page 140 Ryle says that those of us who are alive should strive to carry ourselves that men may know whose we are. Are we doing so?

Chapter 6

1. Do you have more sins of omission or commission? Have you thought about Matthew 25 in this way before?
2. What do you think about Ryle’s math on page 144?
3. Ryle says that the first preparation for heaven is to know that we deserve nothing but hell. How does this play into our evangelism?
4. The top of page 148 has now been true of Ryle himself for over 100 years. Let’s meditate on how many are now in their graves that even we once knew.
5. Read page 150. What is the difference between being happy and being blessed?
6. Sorrow, Mending one’s life, and Forms of religion have no power to cleanse away sins. What does? Why?
7. Can you name some of the “Quack medicines of religion?” (page 154)
8. How is true faith different from mere intellectual assent?
9. Ryle says that there are no half-way Christians. Why?

Chapter 7

1. Was your concept of forgiveness affected by this chapter?
2. On page 171 Ryle says that with all our statesmen, we have not altered the nature of our people. Why is it that so many still have confidence in politics? What should the Christin’s place in politics be?
3. On page 172 Ryle quotes Luther when he says that the very best actions of Christians are nothing more than “splendid sins” so you agree with this? Why does he say this?
4. Why is faith the one thing that is required to be forgiven?
5. Is Justification by Faith Alone too easy? (See page 178)
6. Read the tope of page 180. Has this been your church experience?
7. Why do you think that churches throughout the ages have sometimes gone off the rails concerning this teaching of free forgiveness in Christ by faith?
8. How does Biblical forgiveness keep a person from licentiousness?
9. Is the middle of page 186 your experience?
10. See the marks of a forgiven soul on page 188-190. Do any of those make you question your forgiveness?
11. Read the bottom half of page 194. Does this affect how you view the Christian life? How about how you view non-Christians and their behavior?

Chapter 8

1. Look at the second paragraph of page 201. Does this describe your feeling? If no, why do you think that is?
2. Since God in Christ has forgiven us our sins and given us peace with him, we also should be at peace with others. Is there anyone in your life with whom you do not have peace? What can you do to remedy that?
3. On page 203 Ryle gives the definition of Justification about half way down the page. Is this how you understood it? What response does this evoke in you?
4. Read the bottom of page 204 and the top of page 205. Do you know people like this?
5. Have you previously thought that Justification was a difficult topic?
6. Read the last paragraph on page 209. Have you thought about the Old Testament in this way?
7. Why is faith alone the requirement for justification? (page 213)
8. What does it mean that “True saving faith is not a bare assent of the intellect to the fact that Christ died for sinners?” (page 214) How is saving faith different from that?
9. How does Justification by Faith alone, sanctify us? (page 217)
10. Do you find page 222-223 helpful?

Chapter 9

1. After reading this chapter, do you understand the cross better? Do you appreciate what Christ did for you more?
2. On page 226, Ryle says that our eternal destiny depends upon our answer to the question: ‘What do you think about the cross of Christ?’ So, what is your answer to that question?
3. Do you agree with the footnote on page 229? What does Hooker mean when he says, “To name merits then is to lay their souls upon the rack.”?
4. Toward the bottom of page 231, Ryle shows his 4 point Calvinism. Did Paul really say what Ryle says here? (Also see the bottom of page 239 where Ryle says, “What Jesus paid for, Jesus will surely keep.” How does this play into the matter?)
5. At the top of page 236, Ryle quotes Acts 2:23. How does this affect your reading of the Gospel accounts?
6. Who killed Jesus?
7. What does Ryle mean on page 237 when he says that the cross is not the cause of the Father’s love but the effect?
8. How does the footnote on page 240 comfort you?
9. The bottom of page 242-243 is the basis of true ecumenism. Do you see other Christians this way?
10. Is the Cross your only comfort as Ryle says on page 245?

Chapter 10

1. How has this chapter affected or changed your understanding of the Holy Ghost?
2. Ryle says that “The place which the Holy Ghost holds in the minds of most professing Christians bears no proportion to the place which he holds in the Word.” Why do you think this is so? (See footnote on page 249).
3. On pages 250-251, Ryle describes how the Spirit is/was involved in every aspect of salvation and the Christian life. Have you thought about this before?
4. Ryle says on page 254 that “Without the Holy Ghost no man ever turns to God, repents, believes, and obeys...” If this is true, which comes first, belief or regeneration?
5. Did the second paragraph of page 257 jar you? Do you agree?
6. Read the bottom of page 259-260. Why are some saved and others not? Is it anything in themselves?
7. Ryle says on page 262 that “there are thousands whose religious feelings are mere delusion. But bad money is no proof that there is no such thing as good coin/” Where have you seen the genuine work of the Spirit of God In your own life?
8. On pages 264-266, Ryle describes five marks of having the Holy Spirit. First, do you see these in your own life? Second, are these the typical marks that people use to discern the Spirit? Why or why not?
9. On page 268 Ryle says that we can KNOW if we have the Spirit or not. How does this comfort you or cause you to fear?

Chapter 11

1. On page 274 Ryle says that he considers that “clear views about the work of the Holy Spirit are among the best preservatives against the many false doctrines which abound in our times.” Why do you think that this is the case?
2. Have you thought about what Ryle says at the bottom of page 275? Some say you can be a Christian without having the Spirit, but is this true?
3. What do you think about Ryle’s description of Heaven (276-277)? Is the last sentence on page 277 your desire?
4. Read the middle of page 279. Do you agree with Ryle?
5. Read the top of page 286. How did you feel when the Spirit first worked in your heart?
6. Does the Spirit teach you? Does he illumine the Scriptures to you? What was the last thing He showed you in the Bible that you hadn’t seen before?
7. Do you “delight in the Law of the Lord”? Did you before you knew Jesus and had the Spirit?
8. What do you think about the 10 marks of the Spirit that Ryle lays out? Do you agree with them? How are they different from what many say the marks of having the Spirit are?
9. Read the middle of page 294. How is this different from modern evangelicalism and its “sinner’s prayer” mentality?
10. Read the bottom of page 298. Do you ever struggle with assurance? Did this help you?
11. What must we do if we have the Spirit? (Hint: page 299-300)

Chapter 12

1. Many people think of “conversion” is simply switching from one religion to another. While this has some truth in it, it is not what the essence of conversion is. What does true biblical conversion mean?
2. On the bottom of page 304, Ryle brings up proof-texting. Do you agree or disagree with him?
3. Read the story of Manasseh in 2 Chronicles 33:1-19. How is this a picture of conversion?
4. Read the second half of page 308. Is this true of your church? Has it been previously?
5. Look at the bottom half of page 312. Is this the impression we give? Why do people think this way?
6. How can we better express our Joy in the Lord?
7. Ryle says “conversion is not perfection” on page 318. But do we really believe this? Do we beat ourselves up for not being perfect? How should we feel about this?
8. How do you personally “promote the conversion of others”?

Chapter 13

1. Ryle says, “The heart is the main thing in religion...the head is not the principle thing.” What does he mean by this? Do you agree with him?
2. Toward the bottom of page 321, Ryle says, “The heart is what the husband desires to have in his wife, the parent in his child, and the master in his servant. And the heart is what God desires to have in professing Christians.” Why do we want that, and why does God want that?
3. Do you know people about whom the bottom of page 322 is true? Was it ever true of you?
4. What do you think about Ryle’s description of the natural man’s heart as a stone? Did you examine your own heart against his description?
5. Look at the description of the “New Heart” (pages 327-328). Are there any of these that you struggle with?
6. Ryle is always encouraging us to examine ourselves. Do we do so regularly? He says, “A Christian may always be discovered by his habits, tastes, and affections.” How can those “discover” us?
7. Read the top of page 332. How is this different from the “sinner’s prayer?”
8. Ryle says we should never despair of anyone being saved, so long as he is alive, because we ourselves have been saved and changed! How does this encourage you?

Chapter 14

1. Has this chapter helped you to find rest in Jesus? Even if you are a believer, are there times when you have felt weary, and have needed a reminder to “rest in Jesus”?
2. Why does Ryle say that Matthew 11:28 should be written in letters of gold?
3. Read the first 2 paragraphs of page 338. How does this impact our worldview? How does this impact our politics?
4. Look at the bottom of page 341. What is Ryle talking about? How can we come to Christ in that way?
5. On page 342, Ryle says that the true Christian is not an angel or half-angel. He is referring to the Christin’s weakness. How does this encourage you?
6. Why is it that creature comforts do not give true rest, as Ryle says on page 344?
7. How does resting in Christ make us “independent”? (page 346)
8. How does resting in Christ make us free from anxiety?

Chapter 15

1. On page 353 Ryle says, “The unconverted Christian does not like to be asked home-questions about his soul.” This is a strange term! “The unconverted Christian” what could he mean by that?
2. Ryle says that God, the Righteous Judge, hates sin, and is yet able “in a certain sense to love sinners!” How can we practically do the same?
3. Have you ever had any problem with the Trinitarian theology of love that Ryle expounds on page 356? If so, why?
4. How do you reconcile what Ryle says at the bottom of page 356 and top of 357 with Psalm 5:5-6, “The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evil doers. You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.” Or psalm 11:5, “The LORD... hates the wicked...” or Proverbs 6:16-19, “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devised wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”
5. Read the last paragraph on page 359. How does that affect you?
6. Are trusting and believing the same thing, as Ryle says on page 363?
7. Was Ryle’s description of what believing in Christ looks like helpful (page 365-366)?
8. Does this doctrine of justification by faith alone comfort you (read page 368)?
9. What does Ryle mean when he says on page 369, that a “believer has no longer the same nature with which he was born.”?
10. Do you agree with the 7 marks of belief on pages 370-371? Are these evident here in this church?
11. Ryle says that if we would have more faith we should seek to become more acquainted with Jesus Christ. How can we practically do that?

Chapter 16

1. How is the command to repent a command of love from Jesus’ lips?
2. Ryle says that “we naturally take to sin as soon as we can act and think, as the bird takes to flying, and the fish takes to swimming.” Why is this? Why do human beings love sin so much?
3. What is the difference between worldly sorrow over sin and Godly sorrow over sin? (see Judas)
4. Ryle says on page 390, “So long as you do not quarrel with sin, you will never be a truly happy man.” Why is this?
5. Read the middle of page 391. This is anti-nomianism. Why is this position wrong-headed?
6. What does Ryle mean on page 394 when he says that sinful habits are at first like cobwebs and at last they are iron chains?
7. Read the bottom of page 395. Does this comfort you?
8. Have you ever heard of anyone who repented of repenting?
9. On pages 400-402, Ryle talks about the folly of remaining an impenitent person, and how riches etc. cannot help when it comes to dying. Since this is the cases, why do we place so much value on gold and money?
10. Are there things we need to repent of currently? Let’s take time to pray and repent.

Chapter 17

1. Why must we come to God through Christ alone?
2. How does it comfort you that Christ makes intersession for you? (Page 413)
3. Why do we need Christ’s intersession?
4. Do you think of Jesus Christ as a friend? He is God and the Lord and the Savior, but he is also a Friend of sinners! Is this a difficult concept to understand?
5. Read the top of page 417. Do your old sins ever try to creep up and condemn you?
6. Someone has said, “If you could fall away, you would fall away....” Or “If you could lose your salvation you would...” Does page 418 seem to lend credence to this?
7. Read #4 on Page 419. How was this the case when the 21 Christians were beheaded by ISIS in Libya?
8. How is the intersession of Christ, the secret of Perseverance?
9. Read the second half of page 422. Have you experienced this?
10. Why are some people afraid to come to Christ?

Chapter 18

1. What is God’s Election and why is it important?
2. Read the first two paragraphs of page 432. Do you understand what Ryle is saying here? Do you have questions about it?
3. What is the difference between national election and personal election?
4. How does the top of page 435 help to overcome some objections to the doctrine of election?
5. Why do some people think that this doctrine is “arbitrary, unjust, unfair, partial, and unkind?”
6. What are the two ways Ryle points out that people twist the doctrine of election? Page 437-438
7. How are men “free agents” who are accountable to God, if election does not depend on them?
8. Why is it a good thing that we do not know who the elect are? If you could, would you want to read the “Book of Life?”
9. How do we approach the doctrine of election “from the right end?” Page 433
10. How can we make our calling and election sure?

Chapter 19

1. Ryle gives his definition of perseverance on page 449. Is this how you have understood it?
2. Look at point “b” on page 450. What is the difference between a religion that consists in talk and words only, and real Christianity?
3. Does point “a” on page 452 comfort you?
4. Ryle says, “To be safe is one thing; to feel sure that we are safe is quite another.” Why is this the case? What causes us to lose our assurance even if we are true Christians?
5. Read point “c” on pages 453-454. What does this mean?
6. Were those 39 texts of Scripture that Ryle cites convincing? Which struck you the most?
7. Does point “c” on page 463 comfort you?
8. Read the last paragraph of page 466. Is this not the majority of contemporary American Christianity? Why don’t many like strong doctrines?
9. Page 467 is why we need biblical and systematic theology. How can we better fill this nee din our church?
10. Read the last paragraph of page 468-469. How is saving faith more than feelings?
11. Read the second paragraph of page 474. How would this make the beauty of the Gospel fade?

 

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