Heroes of the Faith: John Charles Ryle

Two figures dominated the evangelical church of Britain in the late nineteenth century: the nonconformist preacher Charles Spurgeon and the Anglican preacher, writer and bishop, John Charles Ryle.

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Ryle was born in 1816 to a banking family in Cheshire. His parents had little religion and the young Ryle had little awareness of spiritual matters. Gifted with intellect and a tall physique, Ryle went from Eton to Oxford University where he distinguished himself both as a student and a sportsman. In his final year at Oxford, Ryle was converted to Christ. He graduated in 1838 with first class honours and, despite the opportunity of an academic career, began pursuing a life in politics.

In 1841 Ryle’s plans were destroyed in hours when his father’s bank collapsed. His world overturned, Ryle sought ordination in the Anglican church. After training he served in rural parishes in south and eastern England for nearly four decades. Everywhere, Ryle’s powerful presence, his lively, clear and biblical preaching, and his genuine concern for his parishioners resulted in filled churches. To multiply his efforts as an evangelist, Ryle took to writing short tracts which were given away in vast quantities. The tracts had all the qualities of his preaching: urgency, clarity and a challenging demand f