This book is subtitled – ‘Being plain statements on disputed points in Religion from the standpoint of an Evangelical Churchman’ and is written by the most evangelical bishop in modern times in the Church of England. Ryle served as Bishop of Liverpool for twenty years from 1880 to 1900. The book is really a compilation of a range of tracts that Ryle wrote in 1877, as the vicar in the Suffolk village of Stradbroke.
The other thing that is worth saying at the outset is that there is a freshness and a clarity in the writing of Ryle which sits well with the modern reader. Many of his contemporaries are not that easy to pick up and read and similarly some of the big Puritan names are often difficult to just pick up and dip into, however, in Ryle’s case this is not true. He writes in simple sentences with persuasive arguments and if you have not read any Ryle before, then now is the time to start.
This compilation, as the nature of such a book suggests, is perfectly capable of being read one chapter at a time. They can be read out of sequence or with chapters missed without losing the sense of each individual chapter – as they were originally meant to be standalone documents.
The topics that are covered are: what is meant by evangelical religion; the only one way of salvation; the role of private judgement; the thirty nine articles; baptism; regeneration; the prayer book on regeneration; the Lord’s Supper; the Real presence; the Church; the Priest; confession; worship; the Christian Sabbath or Lord’s Day; Pharisees and Sadducees; divers and strange doctrines; the fallibility of ministers; apostolic fears; idolatry.
Clearly, this is an interesting list and some contain classic arguments that I have often seen repeated by others, for example the article on baptism. Others such as, those on the articles and the prayer on regeneration strike a distinctly Calvinistic tone – which is lovely but is always done with a pleasant evangelical winning manner, and the articles at the start are done with the same evangelical zeal for lost souls. Topics on Sabbath keeping and the fallibility of ministers are often neglected concepts in the modern world that likes to minimise the Biblical command around the day of rest and place ministers on a pedestal, that is above that we should give them based on their office, and negates the role of private judgement.
If you don’t own a copy of this book – then it is worth having and is worth dipping into regularly.