Bishop Ryle’s Legacy

This is the day that …Bishop Ryle heard the Saviour’s “Well done, good and faithful servant!” It was 1900.

Born in 1816 at Macclesfield, England, John Charles Ryle was educated in his native town, then attended Eton and Oxford. It was in 1837, while finishing his Oxford studies that Ryle found faith. He was attending a parish church and, although there was nothing memorable about the sermon or the service in general, the New Testament Bible reading impacted him profoundly. The reader took pains to pause between each phrase of the same truth that so impacted Luther, ‘By grace are ye saved – through faith – and that not of yourselves – it is the gift of God.’ Four years later Ryle entered the Church of England ministry.

In 1880 Queen Victoria appointed him to the bishopric of the newly created Diocese of Liverpool. His evangelical and Protestant stance was soon evident. And the work flourished. Forty-two new churches and fifty new mission halls were opened during his ministry.

But it is as a writer his fame has continued to spread.

Three hundred tracts came from his pen – many of them defending the “glorious truths of the Reformation”. Larger works include his commentary on the Gospels (which is still in print!), Old Paths and Knots Untied … this latter volume often crossing swords with Romanist and Anglo-Catholic teachings.

His Christian Leaders of the 18th Century contains the biographies of some of England’s spiritual giants.

“It has been said,” writes B.C. Mowll, “that few in the 19th century did so much for God, for truth and righteousness, among Englishmen, as Bishop J.C. Ryle.”

Bishop Ryle served as Bishop until he was 83 years old, dying just four months after he retired.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at

John Charles Ryle

This is the day that … John Charles Ryle was born in Macclesfield, England, in 1816.

As Bishop of Liverpool from 1880 to 1900 he became “one of the greatest and most influential Anglican evangelicals of all time”.

Educated at Eton and Oxford, where he showed prowess as a fine sportsman, his thoughts turned to the ministry after a very real conversion experience.  He was 21 years of age at the time and had attended a parish church.

It was not the sermon that influenced him, but the second reading of the Scriptures.  It was from Ephesians chapter 2:  “By grace are ye saved, through faith …” “It was in the simple hearing of those words of Scripture that he grasped the secret of the Gospel” writes Marcus Loane (J.C. Ryle, page 32).

For a while he worked in his father’s bank.  But by 12 December, 1841, he was ordained a clergyman in the Church of England.  Various ministries followed.

He married in 1845 … was widowed in June, 1847;  married again in 1850, widowed again ten years later; and remarried in October, 1861  (J.C. Ryle, by P. Toon, pages 42, 44, 52).

Ryle was not a good mixer – the two places where he was “genuinely happy” were in his pulpit and when he was “in his study surrounded by books” (ibid, page 43).

Thirty books came from his pen, including a vigorous defence of Anglican theology – Knots Untied.  And a classic work on “Holiness”, from a Reformed perspective.  His commentaries on the four Gospels are still in print.

In his preaching “he was at heart an evangelist whose sermons always sounded the note of a singularly clear call to forgiveness of sin and acceptance with God” (Loane, page 105).

This great Bishop heard his Master’s “Well done!” on 10 June, 1900.