J. C. Ryle – Life, Ministry, and Wisdom

Iain Murray’s new Banner of Truth biography on J. C. Ryle, 19th century British Anglican pastor, gives an outstanding glimpse into Ryle, which many Christians would enjoy and greatly benefit from, who have profited from Ryle’s writings, but know nothing about him. In this newly-released biography, J. C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone, Murray gives a close-up look at the entire life and ministry of Ryle, with a very valuable insight into how Ryle had to choose to stand for the truth against increasing liberalism within his own church denomination.

I strongly encourage you to get the book and read it as part of your summer reading. It is not a big book (259 pages) and can easily be read over a 2 week period.

Some of my Daily Thoughts for now will be some choice gleanings from Ryle in this wonderful book.

J. C. Ryle’s life (1816-1900) included remarkable contrasts — the promise of a fortune, then the poverty of a family bankruptcy; a Suffolk country pastor, then bishop of the leading seaport of the British Empire. But also there was still a greater change–from the successful youth at the elite schools of Eton and Oxford, who did not pray or read his Bible until he was 21, to become a true Christian, who was ‘bold as a lion for the truth of God’s Word and his Gospel.’ Ryle’s life is convincing evidence that Christianity stands or falls, depending on its relation to the Word of God and to the Holy Spirit. That Ryle is being read widely at the present time gives hope for better days.
– Iain Murray

Some perspectives on Ryle —

F. J. Chavasse called him “that man of granite with the heart of a child.”

Marcus Loane said, “Ryle was, at heart, an evangelist.”

Martyn Lloyd-Jones called Ryle a “famous, outstanding, and beloved exponent of the evangelical and reformed faith.”

J. I. Packer says Ryle was “a single-minded Christian communicator of profound biblical, theological and pastoral wisdom, a man and minister of giant personal stature, and electric force (unction was the old name for it).”

Richard Hobson, Ryle’s pastor in Liverpool while he was bishop there, said Ryle was “bold as a lion for the truth of God’s Word and his Gospel.”

“We want more boldness among the friends of truth; there is far too much tendency to sit still and wait for committees . . . . we want more men who are not afraid to stand alone. It is truth, not numbers, which shall always in the end prevail. We have the truth, and we need not be ashamed to say so. The judgment day will prove who is right, and to that day we boldly appeal.”
– J. C. Ryle


What Repentance Truly Means

There was a day when I died; died to self, my opinions, preferences, tastes and will; died to the world, its approval or censure; died to the approval or blame even of my brethren or friends; and since then I have studied only to show myself approved unto God.
– George Mueller

Many mourn for their sins that do not truly repent of them, weep bitterly for them, and yet continue in love and league with them.
– Matthew Henry

True repentance is no light matter. It is a thorough change of heart about sin, a change showing itself in godly sorrow and humiliation, in heartfelt confession before the throne of grace, in a complete breaking off from sinful habits, and an abiding hatred of all sin. Such repentance is the inseparable companion of saving faith in Christ.
– J. C. Ryle

Unless you have made a complete surrender and are doing God’s will, it will avail you nothing, even if you’ve reformed a thousand times and have your name on fifty church records.
– Billy Sunday

Repentance, as we know, is basically not moaning and remorse, but turning and change.
– J. I. Packer

People who cover their faults and excuse themselves do not have a repentant spirit.
– Watchman Nee

God in Christ

God in nature is God above us; God in providence is God beyond us; and God in his law is God against us.

But God in Christ is God for us, God with us, and God in us.

– William Jay

Remembering a Friend

A delightful man’s body was buried under a beautiful tree in a lovely country cemetery in rural Kentucky this past Tuesday. Mike Morrow’s soul had taken its heavenly flight the previous Friday, and his earthly ‘tent’ was laid to rest in Union Cemetery, immediately beside the Union Baptist Church building, where Mike had pastored for sixteen years.

I use the word ‘delight’ about Mike Morrow. It might sound like a strange word to those who knew him to describe him as ‘delightful’, because he was a serious-minded, spiritually-minded, tested, deep Christian gentleman who had suffered deeply in life over the years. But I use that word intentionally simply because it was spiritually delightful and spiritually rich to be with him.

I cannot even remember the very first time I met Mike. It must have been around 2003 or 2004 when several of us went to Eastern Europe to do conferences for Heartcry Missionary Society in Romania and Ukraine. This began a deep and lasting friendship and bond of fellowship among the various preachers who began to labor together in Eastern Europe for a number of years. The times together there were tremendous, and the more we returned there over the years, and the more we saw the Lord do wonderful things in Eastern Europe, we developed a feeling well-expressed by Charles Leiter: “We somehow felt that those times [in Romania, Ukraine, and Moldova] would always continue.”

Mike Morrow’s last trip to Eastern Europe was last year, when he and Charles Leiter ministered there together again. It proved to be the last time they ever preached together, and the last time they saw one another on earth. 

It was in 2005 that Mike preached one of the greatest sermons I ever heard. It was at the Heartcry Missions Conference in Metropolis, Illinois. And it was one of the finest conferences Heartcry ever had. The conference theme was the attributes of God, and each sermon dealt with a different attribute of God or Christ. Mike’s message was the greatest sermon I have ever heard on the love of God in my 42 years as a Christian. There was a powerful movement of the Holy Spirit during the conference, with a long period of brokenness, tears, repentance, and confession of sin by many in the conference.

Mike’s preaching was always devotional, deep, theological, experiential, and pastoral. It was the presence of Christ upon him and his loving pastoral heart that made his ministry so edifying. But his heart of love and interest in people one-on-one was exceptional as well; some preachers, the more they are used of God, grow more aloof and unapproachable. But Mike never evidenced any of that. He was always humble; he loved people, was interested in anyone who approached him, and had a loving and kind heart, especially in nurturing, mentoring, and encouraging young preachers who would gather around him with questions.

Mike had a gift of speaking with spiritual authority on various subjects, whether when preaching or talking personally with a small group. When he spoke, wisdom was communicated and people listened. He was at his finest when gathered with a group of men who were talking about the things of God and the Bible. He was a man of the Holy Spirit; he knew what it meant to walk in the Spirit, commune with the Spirit, and preach in the power of the Spirit.

In the 2015 Fellowship Confence in Denton, Texas, Mike preached on gospel conversion and genuinely coming to Christ. That morning, he passionately exhorted everyone to make sure they had truly come to know the Saviour. It was one of the finer messages of the conference.

Five months later, in August, 2015, four of us had the privilege of preaching together in Maine at the Fellowship Conference New England, held annually in Portland, Maine. Tim Conway of San Antonio, Jesse Barrington of Dallas, preached the three-day conference with Mike Morrow during that first week of August. Mike preached three marvelous sermons: The Sovereignty of God and the Choices of Men, Seeing Him who is Invisible and Don’t Doubt in the Darkness what God Promised You in the Light. I sat on the front row, loving and soaking up his rich preaching that week, which was as good as any series I ever heard by him. Even toward the end of his life, his preaching was getting better and better. (The New England sermons of Mike Morrow are available to watch at www.fellowshipconferencenewengland.com.)

While making plans for New England, we decided we would spend some extra time together after the conference, so we planned a three day drive to various parts of New England, not only to see some church history sites, but also to share 3 days of friendship. If one doesn’t plan such times, they will not happen. So we planned and set aside three days after the conference was over. 

Tim, Mike, and I had three days of relaxed time, sharing long conversations, driving through the New England countryside, relaxing meals together, times of prayer, and visiting church history sites. It began on Sunday afternoon, as we drove south from Portland one hour to Newburyport, Massachusetts, to the Old South Church, founded in 1746 by George Whitefield. Here we saw the vault cript in the basement under the pulpit where Whitefield is buried, and we discussed the great revival that occurred under Whitefield’s ministry in the First Great Awakening.

We then drove one hour further south for the evening, sharing dinner at a New England inn. The next morning, we drove west to Northfield, Mass., the home and ministry site of D. L. Moody, the 19th century American evangelist. At Northfield, we saw his birth home and museum, the summer conference buildings, and the graves of Dwight and Emma Moody, which sit on a hill on the beautiful grounds. Our visit was approximately 2 hours long, spent with pleasure in looking at the history and museum of the anointed Moody, who pledged to be a man who was totally surrendered to God.

Next we drove another hour southwest to Northampton, Mass., and stood at the graves of Solomon Stoddard, grandfather of Jonathan Edwards, and also those of David Brainerd and Jerusha Edwards, Jonathan’s daughter. As we lingered in the cemetery, we reflected on the sacrificial and holy lives of Brainerd and the Edwards’ family. 
We then made our way southeast toward Boston, arriving mid-afternoon, and drove directly to Harvard University in the suburb of Cambridge, Mass. Harvard was founded through the financial gift of John Harvard in 1636. Harvard, a young British minister who came to the new world, lived only 31 years, and left his earthily means to be used for the establishment of the college for the purpose of training gospel preachers, which became Harvard College. 

Our visit at Harvard was brief, but heart-felt, as we thought of its gospel foundation and early heritage, as well as the powerful revivals that took place in past centuries locally, not only in the greater Boston area, but on that very campus, when during certain years of the 17th and 18th centuries, movements of the Holy Spirit swept across such colleges as Harvard and Yale. Oh, for God to do it again in our day!

We then shared our evening meal at a diner on the Harvard campus, famous for its Boston burgers, and then retired to our accommodations, for a relaxed visit until bedtime prayers. 

The next day, we toured Boston by trolley car, getting off and on all day around town, seeing what we wanted to see, including a boat ride around Boston Harbor, and some historic Boston churches. We were reminded that George Whitefield preached in Boston to at least 12 thousand or more people, at a time when the city’s population was only 14 thousand.

I have vivid memories of Mike, standing or sitting in the center of historic Boston one afternoon, and I remember thinking at the time how much he was taking in and enjoying it, and how thankful I was that we were there together. We then enjoyed a lunch down near Boston harbor, and hopped back on the trolley for another 4 hours of seeing more of the city’s history.

The final evening on Tuesday, we settled in earlier to enjoy a relaxed time to review and reflect on our entire week together and talk about how much we had enjoyed being together. We spoke of living life fully, and finishing well our Christian pilgrimage, regardless of what amount of time we had left. The next morning, on Wednesday, we then headed to the Boston airport, and parting ways for different flights home, we expressed love and appreciation for each other.

That was last August. Little did any of us know that now, eight quick months later, Mike would be in heaven. He had eight months still to live when we enjoyed New England together. After that week, he and I spoke on the phone and prayed together regularly, and we always remembered our New England time together. Now that he is gone, I miss him even more and am so thankful that we planned a time to enjoy friendship. 

When I realized in these recent weeks that Mike might not make it through his sickness, I felt more grateful for our friendship, sensing we were losing a great preacher and a dear friend; I also felt more thankful for the time we had planned to spend together. Then a week ago Friday, when I received the call telling me of his home going, I treasured him all afternoon, his life and ministry, and the memories even more. And I felt great peace and appreciation that we had not neglected our friendship. How I praise God for the life and legacy of Michael Morrow. Paul Washer said at the funeral last Tuesday: “Mike Morrow was one of the greatest men in the world.” Those who knew and love Mike Morrow feel the same.

We should make time to spend with those we love. It is a great lesson to learn and a great truth to realize, that life is not meant to be lived by rushing from one responsibility to another, rushing so much that we are always under pressure in our schedules and can never plan to be with dear friends. Such times have to be planned, and when they are, and when we have special times with such friends, we will never regret that we took time to enjoy and treasure such friendships.

Someone has said, “Give flowers to the living, so they can enjoy them, not to the dead, when they are already gone.” Leonard Ravenhill, in the same vein, used to say, “Do your giving while your living, do you’ll be knowing where its going.” Now is the time to choose the best and choose to show love to friends. Nine months ago, 2 friends wanted to spend some time together in New England, so we planned it. I am so glad today that we made that choice then.

— Mack Tomlinson

Elizabeth Prentiss – An Encouragement

Elizabeth Prentiss lived in a different century, but the challenges she faced, and the way she responded to those challenges, speak powerfully to us today.

Early in their married life, Elizabeth and her husband, George, suffered the loss of two of their six children. Eddie died at age five and Bessie died when just a few weeks old. In addition, Elizabeth experienced ongoing ill-health and insomnia through much of her life.  In 1857, George temporarily resigned his pastorate of a large New York church due to a health breakdown brought on by overwork. Shortly after he and Elizabeth resumed their duties in 1860, the Civil War commenced (1862-65), with all the accompanying heartbreak and suffering.

Elizabeth was a prolific writer of letters, stories, poems, hymns, novels and children’s books, but the impulse behind all of her writing was pastoral. She believed that there are resources in Christ to meet every challenge and comfort every grief. She discovered in her own experience that the deeper the heartbreak, the deeper one can be drawn into experience of the love of God. The greater the challenge, the more one can grow in confidence in the still greater goodness of God. She wanted to point others to those never-failing resources of grace.

She could testify that it is when we surrender to the will of God, and trust his sovereign wisdom in every circumstance, that the worst trials can be transformed into the richest times of fellowship with God. She wrote:

God never places us in any position in which we can not grow. We may fancy that He does. We may fear we are so impeded by fretting, petty cares that we are gaining nothing; but when we are not sending any branches upward, we may be sending roots downward. Perhaps in the time of our humiliation, when everything seems a failure, we are making the best kind of progress.

As a busy mother and pastor’s wife, Elizabeth found that the busyness, interruptions and difficulties of everyday life are the ‘school of Christ’, where we learn to react with patience and good humor. At times she felt as if her family life was falling to pieces, as she didn’t have the physical resources or energy she longed for to make a peaceful and well-organized home. But in the midst of all of it, she was well-known for her warm welcome, generous hospitality, sense of humor, and her artistic gifts.

I have been inspired by Elizabeth Prentiss as one of the most ‘real’ role models of practical holiness I have ever come across. She discovered that the harsh realities of everyday life, far from hindering our growth in grace, can be the means by which we grow. The theme of her life is summed up in these words:


To love Christ more – this is the deepest need and the constant cry of my soul.  Down at the bowling ally, out in the woods, on my bed, or out driving, when I am happy and busy, and when I am sad and idle, the whisper keeps going up for more love, more love, more love!


– Sharon James

Some Wisdom from Mike Morrow

– Everything of eternal value is birthed out of pain and suffering.

– Christ mediates a new covenant for us. The new covenant  is not ‘I will if you will,’ but ‘I will, I will, I will.

– Longsuffering and patience means having a long fuse before you blow up.

– Pray that the Spirit of God will come upon you.

– Some people say we should not glean doctrine from the Book of Acts. I say: ‘All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness’ (2 Tim 3:16).

– Mike Morrow

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8) 

Purity, even purity of heart, is the main thing to be aimed at. We need to be made clean within through the Spirit and the Word, and then we shall be clean without by consecration and obedience. There is a close connection between the affections and the understanding: if we love evil we cannot understand that which is good. If the heart is foul, the eye will be dim. How can those men see a holy God who love unholy things?

What a privilege it is to see God here! A glimpse of Him is heaven below! In Christ Jesus the pure in heart behold the Father. We see Him, His truth, His love, His purpose, His sovereignty, His covenant character, yea, we see Himself in Christ. But this is only apprehended as sin is kept out of the heart. Only those who aim at godliness can cry, “Mine eyes are ever towards the Lord.” The desire of Moses, “I beseech thee, show me thy glory,” can only be fulfilled in us as we purify ourselves from all iniquity. We shall “see him as he is,” and “every one that hath this hope in him purifieth himself.” The enjoyment of present fellowship and the hope of the beatific vision are urgent motives for purity of heart and life. Lord, make us pure in heart that we may see Thee!

– C. H. Spurgeon