Book Review—J. C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone, by Iain Murray

Of all things, Ryle was first and foremost an evangelical.

Murray notes, “The gospel itself was ever the most important part of whatever he spoke or wrote, and the gospel meant the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Richly rooted and built up in Puritan theology, Ryle desired to present biblical content in a clear and accessible manner, especially the doctrines of grace.

 

One of the greatest Christian leaders to come out of England in the nineteenth century was John Charles Ryle. Famously known as “the man of granite with the heart of a child,” Ryle stands out as a towering example of Christian fortitude and pastoral excellence. Although he died more than a century ago, he still has much to say to our generation. And perhaps no one is better suited to teach us about Ryle than renowned biographer Iain Murray.

In Prepared to Stand Alone, Murray tirelessly pursues this task.

An Example of Evangelical Resolve

Of all things, Ryle was first and foremost an evangelical. In his own ministry, he focused on high doctrinal content mixed with evangelistic zeal. Murray notes, “The gospel itself was ever the most important part of whatever he spoke or wrote, and the gospel meant the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Richly rooted and built up in Puritan theology, Ryle desired to present biblical content in a clear and accessible manner, especially the doctrines of grace.

Facing a tumultuous Protestant crisis in his own day, Ryle notes that his foremost goal was “to provide for preaching of the Gospel to souls now entirely neglected.” With liberalism sweeping across the European continent, Ryle stood strong against the waves of change, ever holding out the gospel as the sole saving grace. Even in our day, we need more ministers like Ryle.

Faithfulness Amid Suffering

Perhaps no pastor in church history has descended so low from such a towering high. Having been raised in a wealthy, aristocratic family, Ryle wanted for nothing. He resided in a glorious estate, attended the best schools, and hobnobbed with societal elites. However, a poor business decision by his father reduced the Ryle family to ruins nearly overnight. This was a crushing blow for John Charles, one that would haunt him for his entire life.

However, he entrusted himself to the Lord. Murray notes, “The truth was he was being taught by the Saviour who ‘openeth and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth’ (Rev. 3:7), and who promises, ‘I will bring the blind by a way they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known’ (Isa. 42:16). There is nothing unforeseen and unplanned in the lives of God’s people.”

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