J C Ryle – inspires us to study deeply to teach clearly
1816 – 1900
John Charles Ryle became one of the most influential English clergyman of the nineteenth century, whose legacy of clear and courageous evangelical ministry lives on today. Born into a wealthy family, Ryle achieved academic and sporting success at Eton and Oxford. However his gospel conversion aged 21 and the sudden collapse of his family’s bank changed his life’s ambitions dramatically. No longer able to pursue a career in Parliament, he was ordained as a young clergyman.
Early in his ministry, Ryle discovered his preaching was too academic and complicated for his hearers; so he resolved to ‘crucify my style’ – to keep studying the Bible deeply but to teach it more simply for the sake of his audience. This learning with simplicity means his ‘Expository thoughts’ (commentaries on the gospels) are still enormously helpful today. After 33 years serving in rural Suffolk – in parishes and communities far removed from his own privileged background – Ryle was appointed the first Bishop of Liverpool. Whether in a village of 300 or a bustling city of 1.1 million, his ministry was marked by dogged commitment to the ‘old’ truths of Scripture (with bold resistance to those wanting to adapt the faith to fit in with contemporary culture}, alongside creative and ground-breaking efforts to reach the lost. Biblical convictions, pioneering evangelism and crystal-clear preaching were hallmarks of the “frank and manly Mr Ryle” whose biographer described him as “that man of granite with the heart of a child”.
Hear his commitment to the authority of Scripture: “Show us anything plainly written in that Book, and, however trying to flesh and blood, we will receive it, believe it, and submit to it. Show us anything, as religion, which is contrary to that Book, and however specious, plausible, beautiful, and apparently desirable, we will not have it at any price … Here is rock; all else is sand.”