John Ryle

J.C. Ryle, 1816-1900, Bishop of Liverpool, tract writer, evangelist, contender for the truth. 

Early Life

Born to privilege, to Macclesfield silk manufacturers and bankers.

Attended Eton then Christ Church Oxford

Converted during his finals; laid low with illness, he reads his Bible and prays for the first time since childhood.

One Sunday, arriving late to church he was in time to hear the reading of Ephesians 2: 8, ‘For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.’

Unsure what to do with his life- politics and the law? However, ill-affected by London smog

1841: Family business goes bust: ‘We got up one summer’s morning with all the world before us as usual, and went to bed that same night completely and entirely ruined. The immediate consequences were bitter and painful in the extreme, and humiliating to the utmost degree. The creditors naturally rightly and justly seized everything and we children were left with nothing but our own personal property and our clothes… I…as the eldest son, twenty-five, with all the world before me, lost everything’

Reluctantly enters the clergy:

‘I have not the least doubt, it was all for the best. If I had not been ruined, I should never have been a clergyman, never have preached a sermon, or written a tract or book.’

Takes curacy at the Chapel of Ease in Exbury, Hampshire, moving on to become rector of St Thomas’s, Winchester in 1843 and then rector of Helmingham, Suffolk the following year.



He began publishing popular tracts, and Matthew, Mark and Luke of his series of Expository Thoughts on the Gospels were published in successive years (1856-1858)

Stradbroke, also in Suffolk, where he moved in 1861 remaining till 1880, when appointed Dean of Salisbury

He married three times.



Diocese of Liverpool created

1880: appointed Bishop of Liverpool

Benjamin Disraeli- pipping Anglo-Catholic William Gladstone to the choice

Consecration, at York Minister

“The views I held as a presbyter, I still hold as a Bishop.’

He was sent a beautiful cope with mitre to match. It is recorded that he returned it with thanks and in his letter stated that he had no intention of “making a guy of himself”

St. Paul's Cathedral, where Ryle was once the preacher. The rest of those in the Choir turned to the East in the Creed, Ryle leaned forward a little so that everyone could see he did not turn!

Built churches and mission halls rather than a cathedral, which was begun in 1904, after his death, and finished in 1978.

Trained far more clergy than neighbouring dioceses



  • Boosted the evangelical wing of the state church
  • Prolific writer- books still in print: Holiness, Warnings to the Churches, Light from Old Times, Christian Leaders of the Eighteenth Century.
  • Popularised the puritans and rehabilitated them.
  • As a churchman, he vigorously upheld the reformed, anti-Roman Catholic theology of the 39 Articles, along with the Protestant catholicity embodied in the Book of Common Prayer.


  • Defender of the state church
  • As part of the Church Association, prosecuted fellow clergy when they excessively ritualist
  • James Bell-Cox case; prosecutions discredited and ineffective.
  • Attended Church Congresses, and urged other evangelical to do so- even though they were ‘mixed’.
  • Herbert Ryle, his son, though possibly saved, was rather more liberal and a disappointment to his father.
  • “Though thought of as a mover and shaker when he was young, he was widely written off as a dinosaur in his last years” (J.I. Packer)


“Happiness does not depend on outward circumstances, but on the state of the heart.”

 “Do nothing that you would not like God to see. Say nothing you would not like God to hear. Write nothing you would not like God to read. Go no place where you would not like God to find you. Read no book of which you would not like God to say, "Show it to Me."

Never spend your time in such a way that you would not like to have God say, "What are you doing?”

 “Praying and sinning will never live together in the same heart. Prayer will consume sin, or sin will choke prayer.”

 “Beware of manufacturing a God of your own: a God who is all mercy, but not just; a God who is all love, but not holy; a God who as a heaven for every body, but a hell for none; a God who can allow good and bad to be side by side in time, but will make no distinction between good and broad in eternity. Such a God is an idol of your own, as truly an idol as any snake or crocodile in an Egyptian temple. The hands of your own fancy and sentimentality have made him. He is not the God of the Bible, and beside the God of the Bible there is no God at all.”

 “There is a common, worldly kind of Christianity in this day, which many have, and think they have enough-a cheap Christianity which offends nobody, and requires no sacrifice-which costs nothing, and is worth nothing.”

 “Hell is truth known too late.”

 “Be very sure of this, -people never reject the Bible because they cannot understand it. They understand it only too well; they understand that it condemns their own behaviour; they understand that it witnesses against their own sins, and summons them to judgment.”

 “Fear not because your prayer is stammering, your words feeble, and your language poor. Jesus can understand you.”

 “A true Christian is one who has not only peace of conscience, but war within. He may be known by his warfare as well as by his peace.”

“Better to confess Christ 1000 times now and be despised by men, than be disowned by Christ before God on the day of Judgment.”

 “I am one of those old-fashioned ministers who believe the whole Bible and everything that it contains.”

 “He does not regard the quantity of faith, but the quality. He does not measure its degree, but its truth. He will not break any bruised reed, nor quench any smoking flax. He will never let it be said that any perished at the foot of the cross.”

 “Laughter, ridicule, opposition and persecution are often the only reward which Christ’s followers get from the world.”

 “I entreat my readers, besides the Bible and the Articles, to read history.”

 “Let us never measure our religion by that of others, and think we are doing enough if we have gone beyond our neighbours.”

 “One single soul saved shall outlive and outweigh all the kingdoms of the world.”