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Raised in a nominal Christian home, John Charles Ryle (1816-1900) was of the distinct opinion that Christianity must be one of the most disagreeable occupations on earth -- or in heaven. One day in 1837 he happed into a church where, hearing Scripture read out loud, he was transformed. One verse, and the emphasis made in between each clause, gripped him. "By grace are ye saved ... through faith ... and that not of yourselves ... it is the gift of God."
Of his conversion Ryle said, "nothing to this day appeared to me so clear and distinct as my own sinfulness, Christ's presence, the value of the Bible, the absolute necessity of coming out of the world, the need of being born again, and the enormous folly of the whole doctrine of baptismal regeneration."
At one time, Ryle actually pursued a career in banking. However, in 1841 his father's investments collapsed, and instantly his whole future changed. "We got up one summer's morning with all the world before us as usual, and went to bed that night completely and entirely ruined." By autumn of that year, Ryle applied himself to the Christian ministry. He was ordained in 1841, and after thirty-nine years of faithful service he was made the first Bishop of Liverpool.
Known for his exceptional writing skills, he once commented, "In style and composition, I frankly avow that I have studied as far as possible to be plain and pointed and to choose what an old divine calls picked and packed words. I have tried to place myself in the position of one who is reading aloud to others."
J.C. Ryle was a man of extraordinary fortitude. One of his biographers described him as a "man of granite." Indeed, Ryle himself said, "Nothing I believe roots principles so firmly in people's minds as having to fight for them and defend them. Argument, controversy, and combat are of course very disagreeable things, especially about religion. But God overrules them I believe entirely to our good; they help to make us know what we believe and to develop more distinctly our religious system." Again, "What is won dearly is priced highly and clung to firmly." Minister of the gospel, evangelical champion, man of granite -- simply put, J.C. Ryle was one of Christ's gift to His church (Eph. 4:11).