I came to this biography not knowing a lot about Ryle. I knew he wrote Holiness and 5 English Reformers which I have read. I knew he was an English evangelical Anglican bishop who wasn’t martyred. But that’s about it.
I need to confess that I am a fan of Iain Murray as a biographer and historian. His 2 volume bio of Martyn Lloyd-Jones is among my favorite books ever. This book was good, not great, but good and still worth reading.
What I liked…
It is readable and well researched. This is one of Murray’s strengths and this is what makes him a great historian and biographer.
The biography explains Ryle’s context in writing. He was one of the few evangelicals at a time when the Anglican church was headed towards becoming more Roman Catholic. The movement known as tractariansim had its height during Ryle’s time. Ryle was dedicated to seeing people saved through the faith of Jesus, the authority of God’s word, a reminder of the historical roots of the Anglican Reformation and seeing evangelism move beyond the walls of the church building. All of which stood in opposition to the majority of Anglican clergy wanting ecumenical, Anglo-Catholic liberalism, including, towards the end of his life, one of his own sons Hebert.
I have to confess one of the things that I admired about Ryle is that he received his ministry principles from the gospel early in his conversion and never wavered. He faced great opposition from leaders within the church and from contemporary media. This was during a time in history when people were becoming enamored with the “new”. Yet, Ryle knew what the Gospel was and did not change.
One of the encouraging things for me is that ministry was not plain sailing for Ryle. His ministry in Suffolk was hard work and undermined by a key leader. For those who could be experiencing this or have experienced this in our ministry, this is a sign that even the great ones have experienced this as well.
There was a lot of interest in his life before he was in pastoral ministry, which is a yarn: the story of a business dynasty that heads to bankruptcy. And there was a lot of interest in his role as an evangelical leader, especially his last 20 years as the bishop of Liverpool.
What I would have like to see is more of insight into his work in the pastorates of Winchester and Suffolk. Not that Murray ignores this, but his focus was more on how Ryle was perceived as a wider evangelical leader and writer. Nevertheless, I was interested to see how this impacted his day to day life as a pastor.
Read it if…
You should read this if you are Anglican (period). This guy is important for us to understand if we want to understand our heritage.
If you are not Anglican and are interested in why evangelical Anglicans are opposed to Ango-catholicism then this is also a read.
But you may want to read it for the same reason I wanted to and got a lot out of it: what is it like for someone to stand for principles, godly ones, without human support and lead others in the same.