The ambiguity and obscurity of statements from religious leaders today often confuse ordinary Christians. J.C. Ryle’s writings were of a different character. His outspoken comments can still help us towards clear Bible-based convictions.
The church’s doctrine and practice are in constant danger of being corrupted from their original divinely-given character. Seeing this, Ryle felt compelled to utter a warning, however controversial this might prove. As he observes, ‘There are times when controversy is…a benefit. Give me the mighty thunderstorm rather than the pestilential malaria. The one walks in darkness and poisons us in silence…The other frightens and alarms us for a little season. But it is soon over, and it clears the air’.
Strong convictions and clarity of expression always mark Ryle’s writings. Nowhere is this more evident than in the addresses and articles brought together as Warnings to the Churches
John Charles Ryle, born in 1816 in Macclesfield, excelled in sports at Eton and later at Christ Church, Oxford, where he captained the First Eleven and achieved a remarkable 10-wicket bowling triumph in 1836.
Various circumstances and incidents in his own and others’ lives had awakened Ryle to the knowledge that all was not well with his soul, but matters came to a head not long before he took his Finals in 1837. He was struck down with a serious chest infection, and for the first time in fourteen years he turned to his Bible and prayer. Then one Sunday, arriving late to church he was in time to hear the reading of Ephesians chapter two. As he listened, he felt that the Lord was speaking directly to his soul. His eyes were opened when he heard verse 8, ‘For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.’ He was converted through hearing the Word of God, without comment or sermon.
Ryle's transition to the Church of England was a pivotal moment in his life. Ordained in 1841, he served as a dedicated curate and rector, emphasizing clear evangelical preaching and authoring valuable religious tracts and Gospel commentaries. Despite personal challenges, including the loss of two wives, he left an enduring legacy of faithful biblical teaching and pastoral care. This path culminated in his appointment as the first bishop of Liverpool in 1880, where he continued to strengthen the Church and its mission.