Books about dead Christians are always fun and fascinating to me. Personally, it allows me to see that these faithful men and women in the past were mere mortals. Often times, when we hear about famous Christian figures, they are often in a positive light. But as I read some of these autobiographies I see that they, too, are people constantly in need of desperately depending on the Lord.
I just finished reading the autobiography of J.C Ryle and it was enriching for my soul. I am thankful for his complete transparency of his own life. Ryle wrote this with his own children in mind so that they can have an account of his life once he is with the Lord. These are just few of the lessons that I learned from his autobiography.
His Lack of Educational Desires
I find it quite amusing that JC Ryle, who wrote some of the most helpful books for the church, was not a fan of school. This should be helpful to know that a prestigious education is not required for someone to be used mightily by the Lord. For those who got saved later in life, this should be an encouragement to you, knowing that God can still use you no matter your background. God does not care so much about you’re past achievements as much as He cares about your present faithfulness.
His Salvation Testimony
His conversion was the highlight of this book. I was encouraged to find that when he got saved, there was a radical difference in the way he lived his life. Every aspect of his life changed, which caused a schism between his friends and family, who were not too fond of his faith in Christ. I especially liked his observation of the Christian life. He writes,
“I have often observed that young Christians who are brought up in the midst of ease and freedom from controversy hold their opinions very weakly, and hardly know what they believe, or why they believe it. My experience therefore is, that however painful it may be, it is useful for us to have our religious opinions rudely assailed.” (72)
What an encouragement to all of us who seek to hide our Christian faith. The willingness to be challenged should be welcomed as it does force us to test if we truly believe what we believe.
His Call to Ministry
I admit, I was somewhat shocked by the fact that the main reason why he went into the ministry was simply because he had nothing else to do and could not do anything else. It was not that he could not imagine himself doing any other profession, but rather he was unemployable in any other profession. He went through a trial where he lost all of his money, and the only profession that he was able to find was in ministry.
“I became a clergyman because I felt shut up to it, and saw no other course of life open to me” (98)
I am a recent candidate at a church, and I can’t imagine what the elders would have thought if I told them the reason why I wanted to serve at this church was to make a living because there was nothing else I could do. That is essentially how J.C Ryle got into ministry. He just simply needed to survive. Yet, what man meant for evil, God meant it for good (Genesis 50:20).
His Darkest Time
Without getting into too much detail (I’d rather you read this on your own), I was humbled by Ryle’s account of the darkest moment in his life. He spoke of it in much detail and the trial did what trials are suppose to do for all Christians, to force them on their knees and bend their wills to the will of God.
“I believe that God never expects us to feel no suffering or pain when it pleases Him to visit us with affliction. There are great mistakes upon this point. Submission to God’s will is perfectly compatible with intense and keen suffering under the chastisements of that will. Troubles in fact not felt, are no troubles at all. To feel trouble deeply, and yet submit to it patiently is that which is required of a Christian… I was submissive to God’s will, and had a firm and deep conviction that all was right, though I could not see it, and feel it at the time.” (94-95)
I appreciate his willingness to balance feeling pain and trusting in God in light of all trials. Often times, I find myself thinking that emotions must mean a lack of trust in the Lord, but in reality, that is just not true, as even Jesus felt scared before He was crucified.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to get to know one of the greatest writer’s in Christian history. JC Ryle contributed much to the church, and I am thankful that God allowed him to write about his own life. His candor and honesty about his struggles should encourage us not to hold great men of the faith in high esteem, but rather rely on the Lord for true strength and motivation in life.
You can order the book here.