The life of J.C. Ryle has only to be heard once to be remembered. His 84 years (1816–1900) included remarkable contrasts—the promise of a fortune, then the poverty of a bankrupt; a Suffolk country pastor, then bishop of the leading seaport of the British Empire. But there was a still greater change—from the successful youth at Eton and Oxford, who did not pray or read his Bible till he was 21, to become a Christian ‘bold as a lion for the truth of God’s Word and his Gospel’.
Although one of the most widely read evangelical authors of the nineteenth century, Ryle’s writings lost influence after his death. The world had moved on, as was supposed. Then, fifty years later a ‘rediscovery’ began. Research on his life was accomplished by able authors, and from a new wealth of material Iain Murray has put together a compelling biography. Ryle believed in definite doctrine, in a message which does not adjust to the times, in revival, and in the living Christ. He knew that all the great turning points of church history have been attended with controversy, and that ‘there are times when controversy is not only a duty but a benefit’.
J.C. Ryle’s life is convincing evidence that Christianity stands or falls depending on its relation to the word of God and to the Holy Spirit. That he is being read widely again at the present time gives hope of better days.
Iain Hamish Murray, born in Lancashire, England, in 1931, was educated at Wallasey Grammar School and King William’s College in the Isle of Man (1945-49). From 1956 he was for three years assistant to Dr Lloyd-Jones at Westminster Chapel and there, with the late Jack Cullum, founded the Banner of Truth Trust in 1957. He left Westminster in 1961 for a nine-year pastorate at Grove Chapel, Camberwell. With the world-wide expansion of the Trust, Iain Murray became engaged full-time in its ministry from 1969 until 1981 when he responded to a call from St Giles Presbyterian Church, Sydney, Australia. Now based again in the UK, he and Jean live in Edinburgh.
‘That man of granite with the heart of a child.’ — F. J. Chavasse
‘Ryle was at heart an evangelist.’ — Marcus Loane
‘Famous, outstanding and beloved exponent of the evangelical and reformed faith.’ — D. M. Lloyd-Jones
‘A single-minded Christian communicator of profound biblical, theological and pastoral wisdom, a man and minister of giant personal stature and electric force (‘unction’ was the old name for it).’ — J. I. Packer
‘Bold as a lion for the truth of God’s Word and his Gospel.’ — Richard Hobson