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Who was J. C. Ryle?

J. C. Ryle

John Charles Ryle (May 10, 1816 — June 10, 1900) was an evangelical Anglican bishop, and his writings are still in print and available today.

Ryle came to faith in Christ while at Oxford, as he turned to the Bible during his recovery from a chest infection. He was an outstanding athlete at Oxford and then went on to study law in London with the intention of a run for Parliament. However, the smog in London exacerbated earlier health problems, and then his father suffered financial ruin, which meant that Ryle would not have the necessary financial backing for a political career. Instead, he turned to the ministry and was ordained in the Church of England.

Ryle started his ministry as a curate (ministerial assistant) and then became rector, serving at two different churches in succession. During this time he was married and widowed twice. He also began publishing tracts (eventually over 200 with a circulation of over 2 million and translations into other languages) and a series on “Expository Thoughts” on the Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

In 1861, he became vicar of All Saints Church in Suffolk. There, “he became known nationally for his straightforward preaching and firm defense of evangelical principles” (, accessed 9/25/2021). He also finished his “Expository Thoughts” on John, which completed the Gospels series. In 1869 he married his third wife, Henrietta, who lived until 1889.

In 1880, Ryle became the first bishop of Liverpool. He retired in 1900 and died later that year at the age of 83.

After Ryle’s death, a contemporary pastor had this to say about him: “He [J.C. Ryle] was great through the abounding grace of God. He was great in stature; great in mental power; great in spirituality; great as a preacher and expositor of God’s most holy Word; great in hospitality; great as a writer of Gospel tracts; great as a Bishop of the Reformed Evangelical Protestant Church in England, of which he was a noble defender; great as first Bishop of Liverpool. I am bold to say, that perhaps few men in the nineteenth century did as much for God, for truth, and for righteousness, among the English speaking race, and in the world, as our late Bishop” (Rev. Richard Hobson, quoted in The J. C. Ryle Archive,, accessed 9/25/2021).

Ryle is best known today for his writings. His expository series on the Gospels is still in print, as are a number of other works on holiness and practical aspects of the Christian life.

Here is a sampling of quotes from J. C. Ryle:

“Men fall in private long before they fall in public.”

“Doctrine is useless if it is not accompanied by a holy life. It is worse than useless; it does positive harm. Something of ‘the image of Christ’ must be seen and observed by others in our private life, and habits, and character, and doings.”

“The saddest road to hell is the one that runs under the pulpit, past the Bible, and through the middle of warnings and invitations.”

“Unity without the gospel is a worthless unity; it is the very unity of hell.”

“Abide in Me says Jesus. Cling to Me. Stick fast to Me. Live the life of close and intimate communion with Me. Get nearer to Me. Roll every burden on Me. Cast your whole weight on Me. Never let go your hold on Me for a moment. Be, as it were, rooted and planted in Me. Do this and I will never fail you. I will ever abide in you.”

“How can we love sin, when we remember that because of our sins Jesus died?”

“Whenever a man takes upon him to make additions to the Scriptures, he is likely to end with valuing his own additions above Scripture itself.”

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This page last updated: January 4, 2022