J C Ryle was born in Macclesfield in 1816, and was educated at Eton College, and Oxford, obtaining a first class degree. He had set his mind on a career in politics but God gave him a clear call to enter the ministry, which he did and his first parish was in Fawley, in Hampshire. Many years later in the year 1880 he was the vicar of Stradbroke in Suffolk, where he had been for the previous 19 years. He was 65 years of age, and was of an age when most people are thinking of retirement. He had, by this time achieved the reputation as being the best known evangelical leader in the Church of England, being both a popular preacher and author, and one also who had been active in the 1859 revival in Suffolk. One day he received a telegram from Disraeli’s secretary to go to London the next day but did not say why. When he saw Disraeli he was amazed to find that he was offering him the newly created bishopric of Liverpool, which he immediately accepted. Disraeli had lost the election and as outgoing Prime Minister he had the power to appoint the new bishop.
He had discovered that the High Church Anglicans had supported Gladstone, so in order to seek revenge on them he sought to appoint the most outstanding evangelical of the day. The appointment was one of dismay to the high churchmen, but the cause of much rejoicing to the evangelicals both in Liverpool and nationally. J C Ryle was an outstanding bishop for Liverpool for nearly 20 years, and during this time constantly strove to secure well-trained evangelical preachers for his new diocese. He also continued to preach widely and wrote between 200-300 tracts as well as several books. He was a great supporter of the Moody/Sankey crusades in the 1870’s and 1880’s, and took part in the 1883 Liverpool Mission. When he died his close friend Canon Richard Hobson preached a funeral sermon in which he paid the following tribute: -
He was great through the abounding grace of God. He was great in stature; great in mental power; great in spirituality; great as a preacher and expositor of God’s most holy Word; great in hospitality; great in winning souls to God; great as a writer of Gospel tracts; great as an author of works which will long live; great as a bishop of the Reformed Evangelical Protestant Church of England of which he was a noble defender; great as the first Bishop of Liverpool. I am bold to say that perhaps few men in the nineteenth century did so much for God, for truth, for righteousness, among the English speaking race and in the world as our late Bishop.
He died in the year 1900 and was buried at All Saints’ Church in Childwall.