Though it’s a bit embarrassing to admit, I have never read anything by J.C. Ryle, including his classic book, Holiness. Though I have heard innumerable good things and praises about all of Ryle’s works, I’ve just never taken the time to read anything by him.
Until now! And boy do I regret that I’ve waited this long. As I have been reading through Holiness, I am discovering gem upon gem in Ryle’s writings. His thinking is careful, his writing clear, his application practical, and his theology sound. As I have been making my way through this book, the Lord is greatly using the writing and teaching of J.C. Ryle to draw me closer to Him!
With that said, I would like to share some of what the Lord is teaching me and drawing out for me through Ryle’s book. So, for the next few weeks (or months), I will be posting quotes, excerpts, and outlines from Ryle’s book in order to help you benefit from what the Lord is teaching me, as well as to encourage you to pick up a copy of Ryle’s books for yourself.
But I thought it appropriate, before beginning those posts, to introduce you to the man in case you aren’t familiar with him.
Who Is J.C. Ryle?
So who is J.C. Ryle? John Charles Ryle (1816-1900) was an Evangelical Anglican Bishop in Liverpool, England. Ryle grew up in a nominal Anglican home, but it was not until his time as an undergraduate at Oxford that Ryle was converted and become a follower of Christ. After leaving Oxford, Ryle returned home to help with the family business, assuming that he would inherit the estate and the career. However, God had other plans. In 1841, Ryle’s father was bankrupted and John’s plans were radically altered.
Ryle decided to pursue ministry in the Church of England and was ordained in December, 1841 at the age of 25. Ryle went on to pastor a couple of churches in his first couple years of ministry, until moving to Helmingham, Suffolk and pastoring from 1844-1861. It was during this time that Ryle began much of his studying, especially among the Reformed and Puritan theologians. It was also during this time that Ryle produced most of the writings that made him famous, including his Expository Thoughts on the Gospels. After some quarreling at the church in Helmingham, Ryle felt it was time to move on, and he entered his final parish ministry at Stradbroke, also in Suffolk. From 1869 to his death in 1900, Ryle held various positions within the Church of England, including the rural dean of Hoxne, the honorary canon of Norwich, select preacher at Cambridge and Oxford, dean of Salisbury, and finally see of Liverpool, which he administered until his death.
What did Ryle Write?
In addition to pastoring local parishes and serving in the hierarchy of the Church of England, Ryle was a prolific author in the latter half of his life. Below are the works that he published during his ministry
J.C. Ryle was a pastor at heart, which meant that all of his writings were aimed, first and foremost, at helping everyday people practically understand the Word of God and how it should apply to their lives. As J.I. Packer has said of Ryle, “Alongside the question ‘Is it true?’ the question ‘What effect will this have on ordinary people?’ was always in his mind.” So let me encourage you – don’t get intimidated by the fact that, in reading Ryle, you are picking up a book that is 150+ years old. God’s truth is true all the time, no matter how old or new. If you decide to read Ryle, you will find his writing to be very clear, practical, and applicable to your life, even now in the 21st century. I am excited about what the Lord is teaching me through the writings of Ryle, and I hope that the articles that will come in the days ahead will be as profitable to you as they have been to me.